DISCLAIMERS AND DISTRIBUTION RIGHTS: Ultima and all of the characters in this story belong to Origin Systems and Richard "Lord British" Garriott (and I hope both of them take this in the affectionate spirit in which it was intended), but the story itself belongs to me. You may add this to any noncommercial electronic archive and/or repost this to any free newsgroup/forum/BBS/whatever, as long as my name and this disclaimer are not removed. This story has adult sexual situations, so if you are under 18, go away.
A few more feet, and she'd be at the top. With the aid of a rope that Iolo had tied to a column, Tansfora pulled herself out of the dungeon crevice. She looked down at the man who had been following her up the rope.
"Dupre, I saw you looking up my gown."
"Did you?" He crawled up the last few feet of the crevice, armor clattering, and sat down on the dusty floor with his legs dangling over the edge. "And why, pray, should I have ignored the rare opportunity to see an Avatar's drawers?"
"Because the Avatar that you're referring to isn't wearing any," said Tansfora. "Now get your mind out of the brothel, and help me pull Shamino up."
"This reminds me of a story. A woman was in bed with her lover while her husband was away at his shop..."
"No, don't hide under there, that's where everyone looks." Shamino emerged from the crevice and sat down on the ledge. "Why don't you get some new jokes, Iolo? Some jokes from the current century, perhaps?"
"Maybe he'll get some jokes that aren't as naughty, slimy, and all out icky as that one," Tansfora said. She took a rubber duck out of her pack and threw it at Iolo.
They sat on the edge for a while, tired and panting from the exertion and talking. Tansfora looked over the area that they had climbed into. It had looked like a simple narrow ledge from the bottom of the crevice, but, instead of stopping at the wall, it led into a cave that was separated from the ledge by a crack the width of a human hand. She stood up.
"I don't remember this part of the sewer dungeon. Are you sure we're going the right way, Shamino?"
"This way doesn't seem to have any headless in it, unlike the other way we were going. However, I don't remember ever being here, either. Can you find it on your map?"
"No. I suggest we set up camp for a while, so that we can regroup, heal, and figure out where we are." She turned again to Shamino, who had been picking up the duck and putting it back into her pack. "Do you hear any monsters in that cave?"
"None that I can hear."
"If that's so, we should go inside and out of sight," said Dupre, who had been inspecting some wounds that the headless had inflicted on him a few hours earlier.
"I agree. I feel exposed on this ledge. We could be picked off by any passing archer," said Tansfora. "Let's go."
They drew their weapons and walked slowly into the cave entrance. After waiting for a while to see if any creatures were going to jump out at them, they moved into the cave itself. Iolo raised his torch high to light up the entire area.
It was a small cave, about the length and breadth of six large feather beds arranged in a grid. Light from the torch glittered off of crystal formations on the ceiling. The far side of the cave was obscured by a grey mist that drifted and fluttered as if it was being blown about by a wind. However, there was no wind in the cave.
"Oh, no, not another magical..."
Just then, the cave started to shake and rumble. Dust rose from the floor and fell from the ceiling. The entire party dropped to the floor and held their shields over their heads, to protect against falling rocks. After a while, the shaking stopped.
"Is everyone all right?" Tansfora rose from the floor and pushed her red hair out of her face. Iolo had dropped his torch right after the quake had started, and it had gone out. The cave was in near darkness, broken only by the faint phosphorescent glow of her magic shield.
"I'm all right."
"So am I."
"Good. Any..." She stopped. She'd been close to the opening of the cave, near the ledge. There was no opening or ledge there any more, though. How, she thought, had she been moved over to one of the walls without noticing it? The quake hadn't been quite strong enough to bounce her that far. She took off her shield. Using it, dim as it was, as a light, she rummaged through her pack for a torch.
The cave lit up. Startled, she looked up and saw Shamino in the center of the cave, holding a torch. He was staring past her with a stunned expression on his face. Turning back to the wall, she saw that it wasn't one of the walls that had existed before the quake, but a new wall that seamlessly sealed the cave opening. She looked for the crack that she'd noticed before, but it was gone, with only a line of disturbed dust to indicate that it had been there.
"We're entombed," Shamino said. Iolo and Dupre, who had been shaking the dust and crystals off of their armor, went over and looked. Dupre kicked the wall. "Ouch!" He grimaced and grabbed the toe of his boot. "It must be at least five feet thick!"
"Looks like we won't be able to get out that way."
"Why don't we try the door?"
"Turn around and look, milady."
Tansfora turned around and faced the far side of the cave. The mist was gone, and the wall was now visible. In the center of the wall was a wooden door, painted blue. The door had an ornate silver mortice lock that gleamed in the torchlight. To the right of the door was a triangle-shaped sheet of clear crystal the size of a dinner plate, fastened to the wall by three strips of colored metal. Surrounding the door and crystal were hand-sized patches of black moss. Suspended behind the crystal, like an insect in petrified amber, was a key. Dupre reached out and tried the door handle. It was locked, and locked tight.
"Let me pry that crystal loose." Iolo pulled a thin strip of metal out of his pack and wedged it between the crystal and the wall. The metal was sucked out of his hand and into the center of the crystal, where it vanished. The crystal emitted a puff of smoke.
"Well, that didn't work." Shamino took a couple of spare throwing axes out of his pack. He threw one at the crystal. The axe hit it and turned into more smoke, which blew into his face. Angrily, he threw the other axe at the door. The axe got halfway to the door before turning into smoke.
"Let me try now." Turning his face away, Dupre rammed his body hard against the door. The door didn't budge.
"We may not need the key," said Tansfora. She got a small wooden box out of her pocket, opened it, took out a tarnished brass stick with a keylike handle, and slipped it into the keyhole. It was yanked out of her hand and disappeared completely into the lock.
"That was our last lock pick." Turning around, she took a smooth black stone out of her pocket, measured out a one foot space in front of her with her hands, and put it down on the ground. It vanished, and a red moongate appeared in its place. "We'll tell our lord about this when we get to the castle." She walked into the moongate, followed by her companions. Moments later, they reemerged. "Hail, Lord Br..." She stopped. They were still in the cave. She sank down onto a stump-sized rock that was near the door and sulked. Iolo went over to her and put his hand on her shoulder. "What about the spell we used to get away from the gargoyles at the Shrine of Honor?"
"You mean Help?" She shuddered. "It hurts so much to cast it. However, it looks like there's no other choice. Join hands, everyone." She took her spellbook out of her pack.
They formed a circle in the middle of the cave. Tansfora concentrated on the words of the spell she was about to cast. She felt Shamino's and Iolo's palms sweat as she held on to their hands. Death, she thought, even a quick painless death followed by a resurrection, was never easy to get used to. The mana rose in her, and she knew she was ready.
"Kal Lor!" Her senses went out, one by one, as her consciousness faded away. The last thing she perceived was a clear quiet whooshing coming from the direction of the door.
A while later, she returned to life. She was lying faceup on the floor. "My lord, we..." She opened her eyes. Castle British was always at least partially lit, yet they were in the dark. Had the gargoyles put the castle under siege? Shaking off her resurrection fog, she lit a torch and looked around. She saw the same walls, dust and door that she had seen before she'd cast Help; they had come back to life, but they hadn't gone anywhere.
"That spell never fails."
"It didn't fail, Tansfora. Only part of it failed. Think of how tragic it would be for all of us if it had completely failed." Iolo got up, slowly and stiffly, from the ground a few feet to the right of her. Her other two companions were still on the ground, unconscious. Remembering that fire required oxygen, which was in short supply, Tansfora took her reagent pouch, cast Light, and doused the torch. The ball of light hung in the cool air, casting random shadows over the cave walls.
"No, if we'd been transported dead to the castle, Tiberius could have raised... Does that door look different to you?"
"Different?" Iolo turned to the door. It was now covered with glowing silver runes. They read:
1: I am a lock. Sometimes I only need one key to unlock me,
sometimes I need two, and sometimes I need many. The
bearer of the key and the bearer of the lock must work
together to prepare me. What am I?
2: If you do not have a bearer of the lock, you have no chance
.... There is more of this story ...