The room was full of rowdy folk, all drinking and eating with an appetite that Callindra had never seen before. She had seen people engaging in excess before, but this was different. They ate as though they were desperate or starving despite the jovial atmosphere. They were offered any kind of food or drink, however for some reason she and her brothers felt disinclined to partake.
Eventually they made their way to a far corner of the room where other groups of capable looking adventurers sat at quiet tables. They picked an empty table and sat.
“I think this is part of the test.” Tryst said in a low voice.
“Yeah, those guys must be the dead wood.” Callindra said, packing her pipe with tac. “We need to just wait until they all pass out and Adbar comes out.”
True to their prediction, after a few more minutes the louder side of the room subsided to a dull murmur of voices and one by one the men and women at the tables there slumped onto the tables. A few seemed to experience a moment of panic before slumping onto the floor or into their cups of ale.
“I don’t like this.” Cronos said, looking at them with a critical eye. “They don’t look like they’re just sleeping.”
“Ladies, gentlemen and assorted other beings!” A voice from the dais on the far side of the room rang out, “Congratulations on passing round one. Now comes the time when you have the chance to prove your ability to fight!”
Attendants dressed in simple white robes came and dragged the bodies from the other tables out of the room. They didn’t seem to be paying too much attention to keeping them from being bruised either. The way the bodies flopped spoke of them being heavily drugged or, more likely dead.
“Take up your weapons and show me what you can do!”
Doors opened and misshapen creatures spilled in from all sides. The few attendants who were too slow were literally torn to shreds and the bodies they had been dragging did no better. The room erupted into chaos as they all drew steel and Weave.
Callindra spun Shadowsliver in a vicious arc, slashing one of the shambling creatures from gut to neck in a spray of ichor. She was conscious of Tryst raising his shield to protect her from another as Vilhylm picked one up bodily and threw it into two others. Cronos finished an incantation and blurred in her vision; making it difficult to see where he really stood.
Within a few moments, the strongest fighters had all backed to the center of the room, leaving a pile of corpses in their wake. Callindra spun her blade and flung him, letting the fine Mithril chain fly through her fingers. Shadowsliver slammed into the skull of another monster, felling it even as she yanked on the chain and brought her blade spinning back into her hand.
She spun and found herself back to back with Cronos, “Well, these things aren’t as bad as we thought they would be.” Cronos said, “Hardly worth the effort.”
Several of the other warriors were down, clutching bleeding wounds but the monsters were all down and bleeding on the floor. The other groups were eyeing one another warily but as of yet were not making any hostile movements.
“Well done!” A man in beautiful silk robes walked down the dais and into the light applauding as he came. “You have passed my first two tests and now it is time to change the game.”
“Game?” A woman shouted, aiming a spear at him, “This is just a game to you? Ledras is bleeding out on the floor because of your gods cursed game.”
A rumble of agreement came from the gathered warriors and the man held up his hands. “Of course it’s a game.” Adbar said with a benevolent smile, “What else is there but the game? Why would you be here if you did not believe in the game yourselves?”
“I am here for one purpose and one purpose only!” Tryst’s voice rang out in the room, cutting through the angry mutterings of the others. “I have come for the pieces of the Artifact you have gathered. I am here to beg you to give them to us that we may fulfill the mission given to us by the gods themselves!”
The room fell silent as the others all turned to look at them. Adbar’s face grew dark and he pointed at them. “These are ENEMIES!” He shouted, “Kill them and the reward shall be yours!”
“Will you listen to him or to those who fought beside you?” Callindra asked, lowering Shadowsliver to her side, the tinkling of Mithril as the chain landed on the floor a counterpoint to her words. “We spilled our blood beside you to kill the things he sent against us.” She leveled Brightfang’s dripping point at Adbar.
A few of the others looked between her and the Count, not certain where their loyalties would lie and Callindra took that hesitation as an advantage. She ran forward and swung her sword in a deadly arc, releasing him at just the right moment so that the chain flew through her fingers and the razor edge reached for his flesh. Count Adbar reached out a casual hand and caught Brightfang by the edge.
“She has made the decision for you!” Adbar shouted, “To the Pit with all of you!”
The floor vanished and Adbar stood on air as they plummeted down into darkness. A stench of rotting flesh and old bones assailed her nostrils and a moan of hunger and rage came from hundreds of unseen throats.
“Gods balls, what is THAT?” One of the other fighters asked, invisible in the darkness.
“Gode, lend your light of truth that we may see!” Tryst shouted and his shield began to shine with silver light. It revealed a monstrosity that seemed to be composed of equal parts black ooze and pieces of dismembered bodies.
“Sometimes the things that hide in the darkness are worse than our imaginations can create.” Callindra said, holding Brightfang in both hands. “I almost wish you hadn’t shown this one to me.”