By Carey Sauerbrun
Deagan barely had time to get both feet on the floor before a young man pushed through one of the two doors leading into the room he had just entered. The man, little more than a boy really, was carrying a large sandwich in one hand and was contentedly chewing on a huge mouthful. The eyes of the two men met, the newcomer's opening wide in alarm and fear.
Deagan went into a swirl of motion, whipping two of his throwing spikes across the room even as the boy dropped his sandwich and tried to call out a warning. The mouthful of food hindered him briefly, but it was the spikes, one in his throat and the other lodged deep in his eye, which stifled his outcry for good. The boy slumped into a corner, quietly leaving Toril forever.
"Yer goin' ta take all the fun out o' this, lad, if you keep takin' all the bad guys fer yerself." Weber dropped to the floor, making considerably more noise than Deagan had.
Deagan was already peering through the door the young man had entered by. "Don't worry, Web. With the amount of noise you're making, we'll have the whole house awake and in here with us in no time." Deagan saw that the boy had come from the kitchen. Other than the remnants of the lad's sandwich makings, it was deserted. The rogue looked at the corpse, finally noticing how young the boy was. "Bad luck, lad. Sorry it had to be this way."
Justin had entered while Deagan was peering into the kitchen. He moved to the fallen young man and began a quiet, brief rite. "What'r ya doin' lad? He be no friend o' ours." Weber said, placing himself next to the only other entry to the room. He gripped his axe firmly, and it looked as if he was getting ready for all the hordes of Hades to come tearing through the door.
"The boy was likely a spellcaster, and a follower of the Lady of Mysteries. It is my duty as one of her priests to send his soul on to whatever afterlife awaits him." The priest finished the rite with a quick gesture, adding, "even if he didn't use his abilities as I would wish, in this life."
While Justin attended to his priestly duties, Corina and finally Rilladell, who had acted as a rear guard, came through the window. Once the elf had pulled her slim long sword from it's sheath, and Corina indicated that she too was ready, the dwarven warrior pulled open the second door. "Lead on, Deag'n. An' try ta leave one 'r two o' the bad guys fer me, 'kay?" The half-elf flashed the dwarf a smile, thinking that subtlety was a lost art with the dwarf.
The door through which the rogue passed led into a long hall that, from the looks of things, bisected the house and led right to the anteroom. It was a good twenty feet across, lined with fine tapestries and portraits, and had a number of open passages and closed doors along either wall. Along the centerline, two marble statues faced each other. They were spaced, Deagan thought, exactly the same distance from either end of the hall. The closest, a half-robed female holding a shield in one hand and a helmet tucked in the crook of the other, glared at the far statue. This one, a man, bare to the waist, carried a staff at the ready. Overhead, a huge crystal chandelier hung, unlit. Deagan also made out the balcony that wrapped around three sides of the long hall.
The adventurers clung to the left side of the hall, all eyes warily scanning every corner. As Deagan moved along, he briefly peered into the halls and through the doors that lined this side of the great room. When he finished peering through the last door before they reached the anteroom, he turned to the others and whispered, "up or down?" At their curious looks, he pointed down the short hall that the door had concealed. At the far end, a curving stairwell led both up, to the balcony overhead most likely, and down, to who knew where.
"Up," Corina whispered back. "We can always go down later, and the upstairs will not take long to search."
"An' thatís where the mage is mos' likely ta be!" Weber's whisper could be clearly heard throughout the huge hall. All four of the others hissed at him automatically, hoping to keep him silent. "What?"
"Quiet dwarf!" Rilladell gestured with her head from her position in the rear. "Up it is, Deagan."
The half-elf nodded, his sabre coming free of its scabbard. The mage, hopefully, was still asleep, but that might not be the case. There was no telling what they might run into. From behind him, Weber's voice rang out, only slightly more subdued than before, "That's da spirit, boy. Take 'em head on!"
The stairwell wrapped around and around. Deagan took it slowly, not knowing what might be around the bend waiting for him. Finally, the party arrived at the top. The stairwell opened on a small alcove that butted against the balcony. Deagan had a very good view of the crystal chandelier, good enough to see that there were no candles anywhere on it. His mind immediately concluded that it had to be lit by some sort of magic. Very handy really.
As the others gathered in the alcove, Deagan peered over the edge of the stylized railing. The great hall below him was laid out splendidly, and from this angle the half-elf could see where two more statues must have once stood. The lighter spots on the floor were clearly visible, one toward the anteroom, and the other closer to the kitchen, both equally spaced from the two remaining monuments.
Suddenly, a steady booming echoed through the hall. It stopped almost immediately, and Deagan saw that, like him, his comrades had dropped into combat postures. Then, a loud but muffled voice called out, coming from just outside the main doors to the mansion.
"Morloch! Wizard, I have dead men out here! And that patrol to the village is missing too! Wizard! Wake up and prepare! The foe is here!" The banging resumed.
"Damn, I'd hoped they wouldn't find the bodies for a while yet." Deagan quickly scanned the balcony, slipping back into the stairway alcove with the others.
Weber grinned, stroking his fledgling beard. "No help fer it then. We fight our way out!"
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