Here we are, into the belly of the beast! As I said in Part 17, I will be leaving this part up through November, so everyone will have plenty of time to get their vote in. Need a refresher with what has been going on? Go take a gander at the Vote Your Adventure page. Meanwhile, I’m going to get busy writing for NaNoWriMo
Bardulf walked up to the fire, and stood beside the barrels of arrows, worming his hands for a moment. A group of soldiers ran up, halting to grab weapons and arrows, before joining the fray.
“Don’t be standing around, you dolt!” one of the men called to Bardulf. “We have a battle going on!”
Bardulf warily watched the man approach. He was dressed for battle with leather armor, and a sword on his hip. “We can’t have any slackers in this army. Are you coming, or not?”
“I was outside the gate when the attack started and was told to get my wounds checked,” Bardulf countered. “I just stopped to warm up for a moment.” He felt a twinge of fear. This was not going as he had hoped.
“Don’t care. You can rest when you’re dead.” The man reached out and grabbed Bardulf’s shoulder.
Bardulf took hold of the man by the arm, knelt down and twisted, swinging him into the barrels. Arrows spilled out, and caught fire within seconds.
“You dare tell a commanding officer what to do?!” Bardulf bluffed.
The flames spread at an alarming rate, touching the spears and bows in moments.
The man pushed himself to his feet, moving burning wood around. The flames grasped the weapons, rendering them useless. “Officer?” he growled. “Everyone knows me, and I report to one person alone.” He tilted his neck, producing a series of snaps. “I should kill you, but I think Calyn Solym will want to talk with you.”
He made a motion, and two soldiers took hold of Bardulf’s arms. He tried briefly to pull away, but the men held him tight. The commander stepped forward and searched Bardulf. The hatchet was cast aside, but the fang dagger produced a different reaction.
Fear touched the commander’s face briefly. “No. You need to see the lords,” he murmured.
Suddenly, a cheer went up from the soldiers at the gate. “They’re being driven back!” “We’ve won!” Bardulf relaxed his body and let his head droop.
The commander took note of the movement. “You are allied with the natives?” He shook his head. “Such a simple people. We will have no problem overpowering them.”
The commander escorted him into the city. The dwellings were built into and carved from the rock. Bardulf noticed other levels above and below the path they walked. It was quite the sight to behold.
They stopped at a large building where a pair of guards stood. “Lord Solym is still asleep. He asked not to be disturbed,” one of the guards told them.
“He will be interested. I have someone for him to meet.” He handed the fang dagger to a guard. “Give him this and tell him we will be in the Halls.” The guard frowned at the weapon, but accepted it and walked into the building.
The commander didn’t wait, but continued to a large building that looked like a temple. Massive carved stone pillars opened into a wide cavern. Bardulf idly wondered if the pillars held the mountain up. It did not take long after entering the temple to begin the decent into the heart of the mountain.
As they walked, they passed through a large doorway flanked by two statues. They were obviously quetzal with their serpent bodies standing tall, and wings extended. One was white, the other black.
Voices echoed through the hall and stairwell as they descended. Soon two voiced could be distinguished, and the group rounded a corner, revealing a giant stone serpent head.
Bardulf flinched, and felt the two soldiers do the same. The mouth was wide open, with fangs as long as Bardulf was tall. But as detailed and intricate as the carving was, the snake only a stone carving.
Two men sat nearby. The closest, Bardulf identify by his features. His nose and hair marked him as the son of Lord Belmont, Thom. “I don’t understand why the doors won’t open,” he was saying. “We’ve been studying the script for years, it is clear that we need two quetzal to do this.”
“And yet, the two we have are not sufficient, it seems.” The second man was older, and wore loose fitting robes. His long hair was stringy, with gray streaks throughout.
“I have something you will want to see, lords,” the commander interrupted. The two men turned to look at the intrusion. The older man’s brow furrowed, his dark eyes penetrated the four men.
“This had better be important.”
The commander bowed. “It is. The natives have launched an attack against us, and this man seems to be part of it.”
Before anyone could speak further, a hiss echoed, and a large quetzal appeared before them. Bardulf’s eyes were drawn to the creatures white right eye. The scar from the cut he had given it was an angry red color. It turned its good eye to Bardulf, and smiled.
The quetzal shifted, and a man that Bardulf had not seen for years stood before them. He held the fang dagger in his hands. “Bardulf Sylvani.” He grinned, a wild look reaching his eyes. “I have waited for this moment.”
He held up the dagger. “We are missing a quetzal it seems. This is a tooth from Erol.”
The older man’s face contorted in anger, but he remained silent.
“Calm Leonard.” Thom Belmont looked at Bardulf. “Our scholar, Leonard Schuyler, has invested much in this endeavor. So you are the Ranger Lord?”
“Former!” Calyn spat. Thom gave him a single glance, and the man lowered his head.
“A great evil sleeps here, Ranger Lord. Leonard here told me of it, and convinced me that we should destroy it before someone woke it. I have one request of you. Will you help?”
Inventory: flint & steel, heart necklace
Health: some slight injuries from the battle
Will Bardulf agree to help Thom Belmont?