The friends looked around the courtyard, then back to each other. Sister Carlotta raised a quizzical eyebrow, “Inside?” The others nodded and moved cautiously towards the doors of the inner keep. The doors were open and creaking in the light breeze that bristled through the courtyard.
“Hey,” Aidan looked at the others, “wasn’t this place supposed to be warded against magic?”
“It is…” Sister Carlotta waved a hand around her, “the place is built on a primal magic zone. Any casting here carries the risk of unexpected and catastrophic results. We’ve just been lucky so far…”
“So what’ll happen if we’re unlucky?”
“Ummm…raining fire…the ground coming to life to attack you…that sort of thing…”
Sir Fallon peered inside the main hall. Other than burn marks and bloodstains it looked like the keep had been stripped and abandoned. “The stairs at the end of this hall should lead down to the prison cells. Let’s check there first…”
The group approached the stairs slowly, carefully searching the floors, ceiling, and every passed doorway for traps or other surprises. Sir Robert took the lead as they neared the stairs, “It looks all clear up here, but I sense a great evil below, everyone be on your guard.”
Sister Carlotta nodded, “Yeah…I’m detecting a huge amount of magic…Abjuration, Necromancy, Conjuration. Judging from this we should be ready for more undead. Possibly even a bound demon or the like.”
Sir Willem waved his hand and said a brief prayer, “Alright, that should shield us all from evil.”
“Good idea,” Sister Carlotta nodded, “I can hide some of us from any undead below.” She began to chant and suddenly the entire hallway went black.
“Sh*t!” Aidan exclaimed, “We just got unlucky didn’t we?”
A roar rang out through the hallway behind them.
“Everyone downstairs!” Sister Carlotta yelled.
“What?!” came the collective cry.
“I don’t want to fight blind. The spell should be localized to this level. Our lights should work once we’re out of it.” She pushed past the others towards the stairs and gave a sudden cry of alarm as her feet stepped into open air. Sir Willem, able to see in the darkness, reached out but were unable to catch her as she appeared to tumble through the stairs.
As she struggled to her feet she felt something long and snake-like reach around her and bite her leg, causing her to feel suddenly weaker. Then a pair of jaws clamped onto her arm, and claws tore at her, bearing her to the ground.
Sir Robert leaped into the darkness, landing awkwardly, but still on his feat and stabbed blindly at the snarling thing tearing at the nun. It gave a hideous cry, but Sister Carlotta’s screams only intensified as a swarm of biting insects poured from the wound.
The others felt something large rush past them, Sir Fallon swung widely, feeling his blade connect, but it was Aidan that cried out. Below Sir Robert felt five-hundred pounds of fur and claws come crashing down on him, and his armor being crushed as a pair of mighty jaws locked onto him.
Sir Fallon quickly followed, his blade bursting into flames as he dove into the pit. This time his blow struck true and the lion let out a growl of pain, but did not release Sir Robert, but he quickly succumbed to the pain of the swarming insects.
Sister Carlotta managed to get out one last scream of “Fire!” before she the beast that was upon her drained the last of her life. Gritting his teeth, Sir Ainsley pointed his dragon-pistol towards the sound and released a goat of flame that dispersed both the bugs and the darkness, but which badly burned Sir Robert.
In the brief light from the flames, Sir Willem, Sir Ainsley, and Aidan could see the stairs, but not their friends. “Another f*cking illusion!” Aidan blurted, then charged headfirst down the stairs, tumbling into the unseen pit. Seeing their friend vanish before their eyes, Ainsley and Willem disbelieved the illusion and could suddenly see their friends engaged in a deadly struggle against the lion and another undead dog.
The lion tightened his jaws where they were clamped onto Sir Robert’s side and tore at him with its claws, shredding his armor and spilling his entrails over the already dead Sister Carlotta. Landing rather startledly beside the thing, Aidan swung wildly with his sword, landing a telling blow directly in the lion’s face. Sir Willem jumped down beside him, landing badly and twisting his ankle, which was instantly healed in a flash of light by a spell he had laid upon himself beforehand.
In moments Sir Fallon, Sir Willem, and Aidan dispatched the two beasts, but found that they were too late to save their two friends.