Copyright (c) 2016 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
The Tomb of Thalnos
By R. Peterson
No one wanted to leave Melania, but she insisted. “I’ll be perfectly fine,” she said. “Standing just outside the instance is the safest place.”
“I’d feel a whole lot better if you came along,” Sheriff Walker said. “But I know someone has to be outside to resurrect us if we should die.”
Melania laughed. “It’s not if, it’s when.” She took both the Sheriff’s hands and forced him to look at her. “Do you ever wonder what it’s like to die? You are going to find out inside that tomb that Creepas just disappeared into. That un-dead Rogue possesses powers and abilities that are beyond your comprehension. I’m sure that you all will die at least twice. The only thing I’m not sure of is the third time. If you can destroy this demon, many more lives can be saved in this world, if not …. God help us all.”
Sheriff Walker held up the sword Tugg had taken from the chest and rotated it in his hand. “This looks like a lethal weapon,” he said. “But I’m not sure it can take down whatever is killing people in Cloverdale.”
“Like the Mormon armor you’re wearing, you must believe in your tools and your abilities,” Melania told him. “Success depends on it.”
Tina shook her head at her cheap New Year’s Eve noisemaker while Tony chopped a huge jagged hole through the guardhouse door with his axe and David let fly a dozen arrows across the graveyard into a withered tree. “You can be serious,” she said. “Unless the stupid noise this thing makes can kill demons, I’m in a lot of trouble.”
“You have a very important part in this party,” Melania said. “You must distract the monsters from their prey before they can finish them off.” Melania smiled. “I’m sure Creepas will hate this sound.” She turned toward Sheriff Walker, Tony and David. “When she distracts the monsters, whoever is most healed must step in and fight the creature to make sure she does not get attacked. This is very important. Do you understand?”
“A typical bait and switch,” Tony said. “Me, David and Tugg have done this a thousand times in dungeons.”
Melania closed her eyes and rubbed her empty hands together for almost a minute then she carefully extracted five tiny glass vials from the wooden recipe box that appeared. “Use these to heal yourself,” she said as she handed a vial to each member of the group. “But only a single drop on your tongue, and only when you’re very weak. Too much … and you’ll swell up and burst like a balloon!”
“#%$&^# cool!” David said carelessly dropping the tiny bottle into his coat pocket. “It’s like an energy drink!”
“It’s more than a few B vitamins and a ton of caffeine,” Melania told him indignantly. “Each vial contains a thousand grains of diluted Apitoxin, or African honey bee venom mixed with wolf blood.” She said. “It will put that life-force pump in your stomach, that no doctor knows about, into high-gear … for about thirty seconds.”
Red and purple beams of light began to swirl around the moss-covered crypt entrance that Creepas had dragged Cynthia into. “You must go now,” Melania told them. Tugg handed the remaining skeleton key to Tony; the other key had dissolved when the chest was opened. “You go first,” he said. “We’re all right behind you.”
“We go together as a group,” Tony said. He waited until they were in a tight group then began to slowly cross the open space toward the glowing tomb. “No laggards and no gung-ho mob-pullers bringing every boss-monster in the dungeon down on us.”
They were midway between the gate-house and the tomb when David stepped on a hidden switch in the grass. A steel door covered with sod opened in the ground and a swarm of ravens vaulted from the gaping hole and attacked the startled party. Sheriff Walker was trying to protect his eyes with his arm and swung the sword in the air blindly, as three of the huge birds attacked his neck, back and side. Tugg dropped his axe when a raven landed on his arm and began to peck his hand and another landed on one shoulder and started to tear off his ear. David dropped his bow and ran screaming toward Melania. He was less than fifty feet from her when he collapsed under a huge pile of flapping wings and snapping beaks. Tina stood turning in a circle, blowing the noisemaker and scaring away one bird as three others attacked from different sides.
Sheriff Walker was no more than a huge mound of feathers when an especially large raven lifted Tina high into the air and soared across the graveyard with her still blowing the noisemaker.
Moments later, all five appeared before Melania, shimmering like ghostly apparitions made of white-smoke and broken mirrors. “That’s one life!” she shook her head as she produced a Tarot card showing naked men, women and children rising from open graves. “God help us all if I have to use this Judgment card more than once more.”
“It’s not so #%$^%# bad … death isn’t,” David said as he thrust his transparent arm through a stone wall and stared at the others.
Melania took another card from the Ombré recipe box, this time two Acolytes were shown kneeling before the Hierophant ready to hear and pass on his teachings. Melania read from the back of the card in Latin and then vocalized the recipe out loud. “A word of color to each I give, to protect from harm and let you live.”
Melania then placed her hands on Tony’s head and said “Blue”. She did the same for David, Tina, Tugg and the Sheriff giving them the colors black, pink, red and silver as they became once again living.
“#%$^%# black! I like it!” David danced around while a dark aura surrounded him. The others were haloed by their respective colors.
“If any member’s color should disappear or turn pale,” Melania said. “It means they are in trouble and need help.”
“And what color will you be?” The Sheriff asked Melania.
“White of course,” she said. “The color of spirit and resurrection. She began to radiate a somehow comforting cold and to glow like sunlight on a snowdrift.
This time the entrance to the crypt was without mishap. Tugg used the skeleton key to open the massive stone door and they entered through a swirling vortex of blue and magenta light. It took several moments for their eyes to adjust to the darkness. They found themselves in a long dim hallway lit by tallow-pots placed on candelabra imbedded high on walls lined with books every hundred feet or so.
A dozen sets of red eyes from three directions slowly turned and became aware of the intruders. They were huge rat-like creatures, with oriental faces, walking upright about six-foot long from the tip of the nose to the end of each fleshy tail. Each wore a red jacket with gold dragon-head buttons and carried a wicked looking knife half as tall as they were.
“We’re in the #%$^%# library … those are Gallants!” David gasped.
“Tina!” the Sheriff said. “Use your distraction weapon and see if you can draw one or two towards us.”
Tina muttered “weapon?” under her breath and then blew on the New Year’s Eve noisemaker. A long tube made of paper extended a foot from her face and made a sound like a drunken quacking duck. Three of the Gallants immediately screamed and rushed toward her.
The Sheriff and Tugg jumped between Tina and the charging enemies slashing with sword and axe while David stood back and let fly his arrows.
Two of the guards went down quickly. The last was a champion named Magnaphem. He had The Sheriff’s silver aura beaten to a dark grey before Tugg rushed to his aide and dispatched him with several strokes of his axe. “#%$^%# cool!” David laughed standing over a crumpled body. “I must have shot forty arrows and they’re all coming back.” The group watched as arrows began to re-appear in David’s quiver.
It took more than an hour to move through the library. The vast caverns filled with books contained small alcoves every so often that contained small pockets of Monks and Diviners plus groups of vicious guards that looked like Indian bears roaming the halls. Tina heard a growling sound coming from a small alcove. “I think we’re coming to the end,” she said.
Six horse-sized hounds, three on each of two chain leashes jerked a twisted old man wearing railroad coveralls from a doorway. Two rows of dripping fangs, each razor-like tooth at least six-inches long, gleamed from each struggling beast in the lamp light.
A cruel frowning mouth filled with rotted teeth omitted a green glow and radiated a vile rotting-cabbage stench as the man spit on the ground and then spoke. “You are visiting the library after hours,” he whispered, “… the penalty is death.”
“#%$^%# damn! It’s the Hound master!” David gasped.
The man with the cruel mouth released all six dogs and they lunged forward. Tina stepped out of the way and blew her noisemaker but the beasts would not be distracted. The Sheriff’s sword tangled in a mass of scrambling legs and gnashing teeth as one of the dogs pounced on him. David was just taking an arrow from his quiver, when a hound launched itself through the air and bit his bow in half just above the hand-rest. Tony and Tugg were each trying to fight two of the beasts at once and they looked like small whirlwinds of gnashing teeth and flying fur.
Tina screamed as the colored auras around the players began to dim and then go out. She had only run twenty yards down the hall when the two remaining dogs brought her down. Tina’s last memory was of the old man standing over her licking his lips. “Why ain’t you pigs!” he complained. Slobber dripped on her from his rotted mouth. “I have me a hunger for pork.”
Melania was already resurrecting The Sheriff and Tony when Tina appeared back at the guard house. David sat on the stone floor examining his broken bow. “There are two dogs, the old man and Creepas left,” she said. “This is the last time I can bring you back to life.”
“Damn that Hound master!” David cursed. “Why couldn’t that #%$^%# have had sheep on those leashes?”
Melania took another card from her recipe box and rubbed it between her fingers. David’s bow magically repaired itself.
“Stay in a tight group this time,” Melania told them as she looked at her cards. “I sense deception and behind a torn curtain, there is a treasure room that must not be entered.” The five were already running toward the swirling lights of the tomb entrance.
They followed Melania’s instructions and formed a circle as they moved together, with Tina in the center. The Hound master was in the same doorway as before. The two remaining dogs hunched on the floor before their master blood mixing with saliva as it dripped on the stone. This time the old man held a long gleaming knife in each hand. “I’ll cut your ears off,” he swore as he looked at each of them. “To show these mutts how it’s done.”
The dogs charged forward and the old man showed surprising agility as he leaped over them and attacked from behind. Tugg took a nasty cut to his shoulder before one of David’s arrows went through the old man’s neck.
The remaining dogs proved to be especially vicious. Their jaws still kept biting even when they both lay in a bloody heap on the floor. The five players were wounded badly and drank the rest of their vials before their colored auras went out completely.
“All we have left is to find Cynthia and then get out of here,” Tony said.
“Creepas must be destroyed,” The Sheriff told them. “If not he’ll just slink back and kill again, perhaps he’ll take Cynthia again just to spite you.”
‘This place is huge,” Tugg said. “How will we know where to find her?”
Just then a terrified scream came from the end of a hallway that veered to their left. It was unmistakably the voice of Cynthia Bowles. “This way I think,” Tony said. All five shuddered as they walked toward the sound.
Cynthia lay tied to a flat slab of stone high at the top level of what looked like an ancient altar. A figure wearing a red hooded-robe stood over her with a knife in its boney hand. The thing slid back the hood. It was Creepas. “You’ve brought an audience,” The female undead Rogue hissed looking directly at Tony. “Good! I was hoping you’d bring friends.”
“Stay back!” Tony told the others as he raised his sword. “This is something I have to do alone!” He charged forward swinging the sword and just as he reached the altar Creepas vanished in a puff of smoke. Sheriff Walker, David, Tina and Tugg were still gaping when the creature appeared behind them. A slash of the blade, now glowing blue, in the air above their heads stunned them all. “Wait right here,” Creepas said to them with a giggle. “I’ll get back to you!”
Tony dropped to the floor and rolled as the creature leaped into the air and pounced on the spot he’d been standing on a split second earlier. As soon as Creepas’s feet touched the stone floor Tony slashed with his sword striking both legs. The force of the blow dislodged the sword from his hands and it skittered across the stone floor and stopped just below the slab of rock Cynthia lay on. The Rogue screamed and began to leap like a frog as she hobbled away. The magic spell that held the others frozen was beginning to fade. David’s arms became unfrozen and he fitted an arrow into his bow and let it fly. Creepas shrieked as an arrow passed through her neck. She whirled-around in mid-air and charged toward the group, her blade flashing as if in a whirlwind. “A little Slice and Dice?” Creepas screamed. “… and lunch is served for all.”
The Rogue was too fast with too much agility. The group’s life-force auras were already beginning to fade to nothing. They were still mostly frozen and helpless. A moment later they lay in a helpless pile on the floor only moments away from death. “I should finish you now … but I want you to watch this before you die,” Creepas hissed. She slowly stalked toward Tony who was crawling toward his sword.
Creepas stomped on Tony’s hand and then used the other foot to kick-away the weapon. “This is all your fault,” she smiled at him and hissed. “I was just picking some flowers when you struck me down.”
Her bony fingers forced Cynthia’s chin upward exposing the white flesh of her neck. The gleaming knife was poised in her left hand. “I love to pick flowers and you destroyed that … now I’m going to destroy what you love!” She turned and stared at the helpless party members. “But not right away …” She ran a bony finger across the knife-blade drawing a dark bead of blood like old ink. “This weapon is coated with a special poison that will take almost an hour to kill its victim,’ she said, “We’ll all have a little party while we wait.”
A wailing cry as loud as a freight train came from the hallway and grew louder at an amazing pace. Melania burst into the room holding the Ombré box high above her head with one hand and a card with the other. The white aura that surrounded her was now as bright as the sun. “I am out of the power to heal and resurrect,” she said, “but that doesn’t mean I am without fight.”
Purple beams of arcane power flew from the card and enveloped them both as they fought. Melania fell rolling to the floor with the struggling Rogue on top of her. Creepas tried to force the blade downward only inches from her throat but was weakening. Finally Melania was able to push the creature off and then stand.
Creepas lay in a heap on the floor as her breathing slowly began to falter. Just as the others were coming unfrozen … she lurched once more and then her breathing stopped completely.
The entire chamber began to shudder as if from the beginning of an earthquake.
“#%$^%# … I thought for a minute we weren’t going to make it!” David blurted as he ran forward. Bits of stone and dust began to fall from the ceiling.
“Are you okay?” The sheriff was staring at Melania. She looked suddenly too pale.
Melania’s eyes shifted downward to where The Rogue’s dagger point lay imbedded in her ankle.
A tiny trickle of blood was already beginning to pool on the floor.
“We’ve got to get you to a doctor,” the Sheriff said.
“No doctor,” Melania told him. “Allison will know what to do!”
Tony untied Cynthia and then helped the Sheriff carry Melania and they started toward the entrance. “Where is David?” Tina looked around as a wall to her left collapsed scattering hundreds of books across the floor.
“I’ve found it!” David’s voice sounded from behind the altar. He had pulled back a red curtain and a large wooden door stood open. “The treasure of Thalnos!” Open chests filled with coins and other golden objects gleamed in the lamp light.
“We have to leave now!” Tony yelled to his best friend as they staggered toward the door, “this whole place is coming down!”
“%#$# that!” David called back. “I didn’t do all of this just to leave empty handed!” Tony turned and started back for him, but Tina pulled him back. “We have to get Melania back or she’ll die,” she said.
Tony thought he could hear laughter coming from deep inside the tomb of Thalnos just as they carried Melania and Cynthia through the doorway. A moment later the entire structure crumbled into a pile of dust and cut stone.
Lenard was standing beside the Buick Roadmaster with the motor running and all the doors open when they arrived. He was licking his fingers and smoothing his almost invisible whiskers. “Take this lady to her home,” the Sheriff said. “And don’t worry about breaking the speed limit.”
“I never do,” Lenard’s voice sounded like a purr.
The full moon floating above Motha Forest spotlighted the ancient car as it roared through the mountains headed for Cloverdale. Tony turned and looked back just once as they left the tree-line. Cynthia leaned over and kissed him. “What a night,” he said.
Author's note ~ I recently started playing "World of Warcraft" on the "Nostalrius Begins" realm ... along with more than 14,000 other players and my son after he returned early from an LDS Mission to the Philippines due to an illness ... my favorite character is a level 36 Undead Rogue ... "her" name is of course ... "Creepas."