Luc pounded up the stairs after the fleeing monk, thoughts filled with nothing but taking down their enemy. Behind he could barely hear another set of footsteps—Adasunu, or Adder, or whatever he called himself now. Sir Nethri wouldn’t be following. Not unless Luc captured the monk.
But it was hard to keep up. The man had no armor, and it almost seemed that he taunted Luc as he barely waited beyond corners, or called mockingly to the fighter as he got himself farther and farther into the temple.
“Come and get me~”
The voice came from another room, and Luc charged forward only to be hit in the shoulder with an arrow. The monk laughed from atop a balcony, and Adder sent a spell up towards the other figure. When the smoke cleared the man was gone, and Luc got a good look at the room. Rotten food lined the large table in the center, and the skeletal remains of what could only be adventurers sat in the large chairs, some with still-rotting flesh hanging off their bones. The smell was enough to make him gag, and without thinking Luc broke the shaft of the arrow and ran and jumped, barely catching the balcony and hauling himself up. Adder teleported beside him and then they both ran again after the monk’s fading laughter.
Luc lost track of the twists and turns, and his lungs burned in his chest. His armor rubbed against the stub of the arrow, but he had no time to completely remove the projectile. I’ve gotten him killed, he thought, and forced his legs to move faster. Will I prove Mother right and get myself killed as well..? The same as those adventurers—
Adder’s voice echoed down the corridor, but Luc ignored him as he caught sight of the monk darting into a small, circular room. “No you don’t!” he yelled, anger surging up in him. He would end this cat and mouse chase here and now.
He dashed into the room, certain of victory, only for the heavy stone doors to slam shut behind him. The monk walked up the wall, laughing, as Luc looked for some way— any way—to reach him. A balcony jutted out halfway up the wall, and the monk casually jumped over and hauled himself up as Luc threw useless curses at him. “Will you enjoy this?” he asked, drawing his bow and aiming for the giant bell hanging from the ceiling. Luc’s heart leapt in his throat and he ran to the door, desperately trying to pry it open.
Too late. The bell tolled and the sound echoed violently through the room. The walls shook and Luc’s armor rattled as both him and the monk cried out in anguish, but by the second knoll the monk was long gone. With the door not budging, Luc charged the bell. There had to be some way to stop the sound, to keep it from ringing and stop the increasing pain racking his body. Blood dribbled from his ears and down his neck, and only when a spell barely missed him did he realize Adder stood with the door slightly ajar, beckoning him.
He dove through and they closed the door just in time. One last ring echoed through the chamber, nearly shattering the stone door, and Adder led the fighter back towards the way they’d come. Try as he might, though, Luc couldn’t understand a word the man said.
Adder took him back to the first balcony room with the rotting corpses, and by then some sound had returned to the stricken fighter. Everything was muffled, as though Luc were deep underwater or someone stuffed cloth in his ears. Dried blood caked the side of his neck and ears, but he was no longer bleeding.
“This way,” Adder said—or so Luc thought—and they entered a kitchen. The place reeked of decay and rot, but in the center of the room, on a small counter, stood a black orb. Adder, apparently overcome with curiosity, touched it. And then quickly ducked as knives and forks and other iron implements came hurtling out of a cupboard behind them. Luc took a hit in the back and grunted in pain as the knife pierced his armor near his shoulder blade. Adder came away with a small scratch on his cheek.
“Thanks a lot,” Luc muttered thickly and hurried on, making sure to give the utensil-covered orb a wide berth.
The passage leading from the kitchen was long and winding, constantly circling in on itself as they descended. The monk’s echoing taunts led them farther down until they reached a large room with floors more rotted than secure. A balcony hung along the left-hand wall, and a door stood beckoning directly across from them.
“Be careful,” Luc cautioned pointlessly, and they slowly made their way across the few secure boards they could find. Just as Luc neared the far door a piercing laugh echoed throughout the chamber, and the monk waved from the balcony before pulling some kind of lever. The entire floor, rotted and safe parts alike, collapsed to the storey below, taking Luc and Adder with it. Tired from the constant running, and with his wounds reopened, Luc fell harshly as the ground suddenly met him again. Adder groaned somewhere to his left. At least we’re alive…
A dull roar began to echo through the chamber, and Luc wondered if his ears had been damaged again. He turned to ask Adder when a huge torrent of water suddenly gushed from an opening in the wall. The waves crashed into him and threw him against the far wall hard enough to stop his breath. Something spongy blocked the brunt of the swell, though, and as the water receded Luc pushed the rotted floorboards away, now nothing more than moldy pulp.
“Show yourself!” he yelled, scanning the walls for a way to climb out of the pit they fell in. Adder gestured him over near where they fell, and Luc realized the wall was pitted just enough to allow them to climb. Sheathing his swords—thank the gods he hadn’t lost them—they began the arduous climb as the monk rained arrows down upon them.
Luc realized, halfway up the wall, that he’d be lost without the changeling. Adder teleported away as soon as he was close enough, and a scream echoed through the chamber as the warlock managed to land a hit on their target. Luc crested the wall in time to see the monk pushed back by a spell, and barely dodged one of the monk’s arrows. Swords unsheathed, he charged and tried to pin the monk in the tight corridor, but between his aching shoulders and near deafness he put up a pitiful fight. The monk harrowed him through a side corridor that sealed behind him, and Luc had no choice but to run back through a dark, winding corridor to the floor below.
Up above, Adder had somehow forced the monk out over the edge. Before Luc could begin to climb the warlock sent another spell flying, and the monk fell down to the ground, grievously wounded.
“Heal Nethri!” he demanded, and the monk gave a bloody laugh.
“Then tell us where Master Shu is!”
His cackle of glee sent chills up Luc’s spine. “I am Master Shu~ Or a part of him. I killed the real one, you know~ Snapped his neck like this,” he giggled and made a breaking motion with his hands.
This couldn’t be happening. Had they really come all this way for nothing? The monk laughed again, spitting blood, and Luc charged him and landed the final blow, his cry of rage echoing through the room.
“For a monk he sure has a lot of loot,” Adder said as he teleported to Luc’s side, and started doing as he said before the fighter had a chance to move. The monk’s armor was salvageable, and he carried enough in gold and diamonds to resurrect Nethri should it come to it, but there was no scroll to undo the dwarf’s petrification.
“Now what?! He lured us away and for nothing!” Disgusted, Luc began to climb the wall that led back into the maze and the exit, but Adder stopped him.
“Maybe he was lying.” He nodded his head towards the far door leading into the unknown. “Maybe the real Master Shu is right through there.”
Luc hesitated, his hands on the wall. Maybe… But they should regroup; they needed Nethri. But there was no way to bring the dwarf back unless they got Syral’s help, and Luc’s blood ran cold at the thought. He wasn’t ready to face her after this latest betrayal of her trust.
“Alright. But we can’t go far.”