The Traveler By Faelyn Rose Chapter Five The entrance to Doom was marked by two demon skulls. The walkway leading into the dungeon was paved with the same black stones which formed the city of Umbra. The White Wyrms glowed like torches in the darkness as the party made its way down the ancient steps and through a long hallway. Amanda wore a white dress for the same reason. If she needed help she wanted her husband to be able to find her in the confusion of a dungeon fight. As they moved forward Seamus and Og plowed through small groups of monsters, leaving a trail of corpses for the rest of the party to follow. A pit at the end of the hall dumped them onto a wooden platform with stairs descending to a dirt floor. Down the steps and through a maze of narrow passageways Seamus led them, his wyrm mangling everything that threatened his group. “The Gauntlet is but a small area of the dungeon Doom” Seamus said over his shoulder. “The fighting here is best described as organized chaos.” His voice echoed off the dank stone walls. “The Gauntlet is a large room surrounded by five smaller rooms. We must enter each of the smaller rooms in sequential order, killing all the monsters in that room before we move on to the next one. We will use a teleporter to enter each room but once we are inside a room there are only two ways to leave. Either we defeat all of the creatures within the room, in which case the doors will open upon the death of the last creature…or we die and leave as ghosts. But if we are lucky and defeat all of the monsters in each of the five rooms, the Dark Fathers will then appear in the main Chamber. That is where the real fight begins.” Bronson stayed close behind Jeanne Rose as they rode through the tunnel. She turned and smiled nervously back at him. They both had their bows in hand but didn’t fire at the monsters the group encountered, letting the wyrms crush them instead. The archers were saving their bolts and arrows for the battle ahead. The tunnel led to an enormous cavern. There they came upon an underground lake where a large grey ferry was anchored. Suddenly strange robed spirits sprang up from the ground around the lake. The wyrms began attacking the spirits two and three at a time. “Hurry! We must pay the ferryman, Chyloth, before we can board his ferry and cross the lake to the Gauntlet,” Seamus shouted. He rang a bell hanging from a stone arch standing near the dock. A mysterious figure wearing a hooded red robe appeared. Seamus quickly pulled a golden skull from his sleeve and handed it to the ferryman. Seamus then summoned his party to follow him aboard the ghostly looking vessel. From the bow of the ferry Bronson could see a huge battle taking place on the beach ahead. Corpses of undead creatures and warriors littered the golden sand. Further down the beach he could make out what appeared to be a small strip of land with a fixed moongate at the end of it. Here, trapped against the moongate was a huge monster with a long beak-like face surrounded by dozens of warriors and their pets. As they sailed closer and it became apparent that the gigantic monster could slaughter both dragon and mare with little effort as it moved through the crowd of attackers. The monster seemed to be an invincible opponent. “What manner of creature is that?” Jeanne gasped. “That is one of the Dark Fathers,” Seamus’ voice came from behind her. “We are witnessing the end of a Gauntlet hunt.” Bronson took Jeanne’s hand as they stood together in the bow of the ship. “Fear not, my lady.” Bronson spoke softly to her. “You are in good company.” She looked back at him with a brave smile. “Aye…the very best of company.” The ship came to a smooth stop near the shoreline. Seamus and his party made their way down the gangplank and up the beach. “Stay together.” Seamus ordered. “Wait til the Dark Fathers target the wyrms.” He put on his gold helmet as he led the way. “ALL FOLLOW ME!!” Seamus shouted as he advanced towards the fight. Og roared and hastened after his master. The others followed in his wake. But by the time they were close enough to enter the struggle the last Dark Father was defeated. The earth beneath their feet shook as the dead weight of the creature hit the dungeon floor. The surviving warriors scrambled to reorganize and resurrect their pets so that they could begin the Gauntlet cycle once more. Seamus gathered his small group near the entrance to the first Gauntlet chamber. He put his arm around Amanda, gave her a kiss on the cheek and said with a grin, “That is for luck, my dear.” As he released Amanda, she smiled back at Seamus like a new bride. Seamus turned just before he stepped onto the teleporter to the first chamber and bellowed a final directive to his warriors. “REMEMBER TO HEAL THE PETS!!” The strange creature towered above Bronson, its many arms waving with anger as it approached. He used his knees to guide Nox into a turn as he fired arrows at the Creeper. He led the monster back to where Seamus and Amanda waited at the center of the room. The Creeper followed him towards the two wyrms. Bronson circled behind the wryms and then cast invisibility upon himself. “OG KILL!!” Seamus commanded and the wyrm obeyed. Soon the Creeper was being attacked by the two wyrms, Nox and the archers all at once. It fought desperately before succumbing to the onslaught of pets and warriors. Immediately Bronson swung up onto Nox’s back and went to lure another Creeper into the trap. The process repeated itself and under Seamus’ direction the family managed to stay alive in the first chamber of the Gauntlet. As another group of warriors finished off the last Creeper the exit doors burst open allowing everyone to rush to the teleporter and into the second room of Doom Bosses. Seamus gathered his party together in the hallway before entering room two. “This next room is guarded by Flesh Renenderers. These monsters are very fast and very powerful. If you are targeted by one you must hide immediately.” “ALL FOLLOW ME!!” Seamus commanded and they were off again. Just outside the second chamber Bronson drew his mare to a halt. Jeanne, who was following close behind, pulled up right beside him. “My lady,” Bronson said quietly “have you any skill in magery? Can you cast the spell of invisibility upon yourself if necessary?” Jeanne shook her head. “No, my lord, I know little of the ways of magic. My path has followed the ways of warriors and archers.” Bronson reached into his pack and brought forth a folded green cloth. He handed it to Jeanne. “Use this cloak of invisibility, my lady, should the need arise.” “A cloak of invisibility!” Jeanne tried to give it back to him. “I could not take such a rare gift, Bronson! The value of this item is beyond my means.” Bronson firmly pressed the cloak into her hands. “I will hear no argument on this matter. My mind is set that you will have this.” He added gently, “Indeed, I cannot bear to see you slain by the creatures of this place. Please humor me, Jeanne Rose.” “It seems that you are as stubborn as your older brother,” Jeanne said with a sigh. “I will take this gift, but will use it only if I am in dire straits.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Thank you Bronson, you seem to be forever rescuing me.” “Remember to stay close to the wyrms and use the cloak, my lady.” Bronson said in a way which reminded her very much of Seamus. “Aye, my lord” Jeanne replied with a smile and a touch of amusement in her voice. Inside the second chamber of the Gauntlet Bronson quickly herded Jeanne to a spot beneath Og’s wing and positioned himself between the lady and the open area surrounding them. No sooner had he done this when a giant, beetle like Flesh Renderer charged towards them. Bronson slid from Nox’s back and commanded the mare to attack. He stayed beside Nox firing his bow at the monster and attempting to heal his pet at the same time. “Mist kill!!” Amanda ordered her wyrm to attack the large insect that was winning the battle against Nox. The wyrm immediately began to bite and claw the monster as Amanda cast a flaming spell upon it. “OG ATTACK!!” Seamus and his pet joined the fight. Soon they had defeated one of the Flesh Renderers but another one was racing forward to take its place. Og, Mist and Nox surrounded the monster and with the help of the two archers it fell to the ground as well. All around Bronson frightened warriors were running to avoid the powerful jaws of the huge flesh eating creatures. These monsters were so deadly that most warriors could not stand up to them with sword and shield. Many had not been quick enough to avoid death; their bodies were strewn across the floor of the room. Ghosts stood beside their corpses waiting for help. Jeanne Rose tucked her feathered hat into her pack and replaced it with a sturdy helmet. Then arming herself with sword and shield Jeanne left the safety of Og’s wing to help with her bandages. She made her way to the ghosts in need of her grandmaster healing skills. Before long she had resurrected several fallen warriors, allowing them to collect their belongings and return to the battle. “Lady Jeanne!” Bronson called to her just as she finished healing another newly resurrected warrior “I would have you stay near the wyrm!” he commanded, motioning to the spot where he wanted her to stand. Jeanne pushed back the face plate of her helmet and cast a questioning glance at her cousin Amanda. Her cousin smiled and nodded in agreement with Bronson’s order. Jeanne started to urge her mount forward when suddenly she heard Amanda shout her name. “NOX KILL!!” Bronson commanded as he started to run towards Jeanne Rose. Before Jeanne could react she was struck from behind by the razor sharp jaws of a Flesh Renderer. Blood began to gush from her wound and her vision grew dim. A second blow came so quickly she never felt it. The next thing Jeanne Rose knew, she was a ghost. Her body lay on the floor in a pool of blood and as she watched through the haze of death, Bronson commanded his mare to attack the monster that had murdered her. Amanda and Seamus also set their pets upon the creature and soon it was destroyed. “Come, Jeanne Rose,” Bronson’s voice seemed distant and muffled but Jeanne obeyed him. He cast the spell of Resurrection upon her and she felt the radiating heat of magic as her life force returned. Jeanne’s family formed a circle around her with their pets while she recovered her strength and her belongings. Bronson used a wand of greater heal to speed up the process. When she was once again ready for battle she positioned herself near Og and smiled gratefully at Bronson. He tried to look stern as he nodded his approval, but a good natured grin spread across his face and he winked at her before turning his attention back to the fight. Later that day, after firing countless arrows and bolts in what seemed like endless fighting, the exit doors from the last room were opened. Seamus led his family out into the large main room where the Dark Fathers had already begun the final fight. Bronson counted three of the hideous creatures within his range of vision. “We will lead them onto the beach one at a time,” Seamus instructed as rode his ethereal steed in front of the group. Bronson stayed far enough behind Jeanne and Amanda to prevent any attack by the army of undead which had appeared to defend the Dark Fathers. The Dark Father was led to the strip of land leading to the moongate on the beach, just as Bronson witnessed from the bow of the ferry upon their arrival. A dozen dragons and wyrms were ordered to kill the monster. The archers let loose waves of arrows to weaken it. But the Dark Father was the most powerful creature in Doom and many warriors and their pets fell before it was destroyed. Jeanne Rose stayed on the outskirts of the battle, arming herself with sword and shield. She and other melee fighters kept the undead creatures from attacking the tamers from behind as they were busy healing their pets. One of the benefits from Jeanne’s training as a melee fighter at the Ratman Fort in the Ice Dungeon was high resistance to magic, so the spells of ghouls and liches did not affect her very much. Bronson, Amanda and Seamus stayed close to the pets, healing the one which was taking the most damage. From time to time Bronson would look back across the beach to reassure himself the Jeanne was alive and well. He saw that she was holding her own while managing to heal and resurrect others. She did not seem to be in immediate danger. When most of the undead were crushed by the group of melee warriors on the beach, Jeanne took out her heavy crossbow and moved closer to the fighting near the moongate. She took aim and fired at the Dark Father. Arrows and bolts from the archers rained down upon the creature as it roared with rage. Finally, the Dark Father fell to the ground with a crash. Seamus mounted his ethereal steed and ventured back into the Gauntlet Chamber to lure another Doom Boss to the beach. In the short lull that followed, Bronson made his way to Jeanne’s side and smiled up at her as she sat upon her ethereal steed. “You are a mighty warrior, my lady,” he told her, “Who was your teacher?” “My father, Lord Angus,” she answered, lifting her helmet from her head. Two braids of golden hair fell around her shoulders “He wished for a son, but alas I was his only offspring. So my father taught me to defend myself and my family if need be.” “He trained you well, my lady, but I am glad that Angus did not get his wish. I prefer you as a lass, not a lad,” Bronson said, taking the end of one shiny braid between his fingers and tugging playfully. Bronson grinned at Jeanne with a twinkle in his eyes. She grinned back and pulled her braid away from his fingers with mock indignation. “You are very bold, sir knight,” she laughed. “I only speak the truth. Would you have me lie, Jeanne?” he asked. “Nay, Bronson” She smiled, “the truth is always best.” Her smile faded as she noticed a smear of blood on Bronson’s cheek “You are wounded!” She wiped the blood away with the finger tip of her glove. But his flesh beneath the blood was unscathed. The blood was not his. She smiled once more. “Well, it appears that something was wounded, but fortunately it was not you, my lord.” Bronson took note of her expression of concern when she thought he had been wounded in battle. This pleased him very much and his grin widened. At that moment Seamus emerged from the Gauntlet Chambers and broke through the crowd, leading the next Dark Father and his horde of undead followers out onto the beach. “Nox kill!!” Bronson commanded. He smiled once more at Jeanne before following his mare into fray. “Take care, my lord!” she called after Bronson. But the din from the battle was deafening and he did not hear her. Jeanne pulled her helmet back over her head, lifted her shield and with sword in hand returned to the fight. In the distance, a warrior dressed in a hooded black robe stood in the shadows of a boulder on the beach. His face was concealed in the folds of his hood. He sat atop an ethereal steed. The hooded rider had come ashore with a recent boatload of fighters bound for the Gauntlet. But while the other passengers hurried off to enter the battle, the hooded rider had stayed back in the shadows. His eyes scanned the army of adventurers until they settled upon a lovely female warrior dressed in blue. The rider’s eyes narrowed when he saw a handsome red haired man clad in a dark green cloak stride through the crowd to her side. The woman removed her helmet and her bright hair glowed like gold in the torch light. The couple exchanged words which the hooded rider could not hear. But the expressions on their faces and the way in which the man touched the woman’s hair spoke volumes. The rider watched intently as the woman reached down to touch the young man’s cheek. The scene was painful for the rider to watch. His grip on the reins tightened as the couple smiled at each other…his knuckles turned white. He snorted through flared nostrils as he gritted his teeth. The encounter between the couple was interrupted by the arrival of the next Dark Father. The deadly monster was led onto the beach and was immediately attacked by dozens of fighters and their pets. The hooded rider waited until the attention of every warrior was focused on the gigantic creature. Then he put his heels to his mount and galloped into the passageway leading to the Gauntlet chambers. Bronson applied another bandage to a red dragon near him. The dragon was taking heavy damage and every warrior with vet skills was working feverishly to keep it alive. Few pets had survived but the Dark Father showed no signs of weakening. Bronson glanced over his shoulder to see Jeanne Rose just finishing off a lich. She was doing a fine job keeping the undead creatures from attacking the tamers. He felt a sense of pride watching her helping others with her healing skills. Reassured that the lady was safe, Bronson turned his attention back to destroying the Doom Boss. Suddenly the sound of Jeanne shouting his name made him look around again. A rider dressed in a black hooded robe was racing towards him from the entrance to the Gauntlet chambers. Directly behind the hooded rider was another Dark Father in pursuit. Bronson recognized that the warriors on the beach would be slaughtered by two Dark Fathers at once! The rider in the black hooded robe galloped his steed to within inches of Bronson and then suddenly disappeared!! Bronson froze, looking up into the black eyes of a towering Dark Father. Only a few feet of sand separated him from the most powerful beast in the dungeon. He could feel the foul breath of the monster on his face. The Dark Father stood frustrated, sniffing the air over Bronson’s head searching for the now invisible hooded rider. Bronson drew an arrow from his quiver and aimed in the blink of an eye. He made a split second decision to attack the monster and drag it back into the chamber. He must lead it away from the warriors, away from his family…away from Jeanne Rose. But as he pulled back the bowstring to fire his arrow, a crossbow bolt slammed into the back of the Dark Father’s shoulder. He heard a rumble of surprise rise from the huge monster’s throat. Bronson shot his arrow but he knew it was too late. The Dark Father was turning around towards the warrior who had hit him first. As the creature slowly pivoted Bronson saw to his horror that it was Jeanne Rose attacking the Dark Father from behind. Jeanne whirled her mount around and galloped back towards the entrance to the Gauntlet chambers, leading the creature away. The gigantic monster roared with rage as it chased her into the tunnel. “God’s teeth!!” Bronson swore as he raced after Jeanne Rose and the Dark Father.