The Face: 5. Procopex

Chapter 5: Procopex

            The six of them stood in the dim light of the hallway. Looking left and right, the hallway curved away into darkness. The only light came from a torch in a sconce on the wall. The party members looked suspiciously at their newest member, Procopex.
            “How can we be sure you’re from the Mages Guild? What guarantee do we have that you are who you say you are?” asked Vera.
            “Hey, I know you. I saw you when I was at the guild earlier. Guys, I can vouch for him,” said Loran, speaking quickly to ease the tension.
            “I can offer nothing but my word, you’ll just have to trust me,” growled Procopex.

            “Hrumph. Well, now what? Procopex, do you know where these items are located?” Vera asked as he walked over to the wall sconce and took the torch into his hand.
            “I would assume in the Seafell family vault,” answered Eldaran.
            “Which should be here in the basement,” added Procopex.
            “Syre, why don’t you scout ahead and see if you find anything,” Eldaran said.
            “I think I’ll join you if you don’t mind,” said Procopex.
            Both Syre and Procopex started to creep slowly down the hallway out of the light from the torch. Soon they were out of sight and their footsteps grew fainter and fainter until silence greeted them again. They stood there waiting for what seemed like hours. Vera was fidgeting with the cuff of his robes and Eldaran and Jax stood alert, weapons drawn. Finally, Eldaran broke the silence.
            “Well, I suppose we should go after them.”
            “Do you think they’re in trouble?” asked Vera.
            “No, I haven’t heard anything for a few minutes though. All of this waiting around makes me anxious.”
            Eldaran started walking down the hall. Jax shrugged and started to follow. As they walked down the hall, it became clear to them that the hall was circular and there was a central room in the middle of the circle. There were a few other doors on the outside of the circle leading out of the hallway but Eldaran ignored these doors, focusing his attention on finding a way into the inner room. As they made their way around the circle, they spotted Syre and Procopex kneeling in front of a large ornate door leading into the inner room. Syre had her lockpicking kit out and she was fiddling with the keyhole.
            “Ah, I see you’ve found a way in!” said Eldaran.
            “Yeeeaaah. Juuust…a litttttle…,” Syre drew out each syllable as she focused on picking the lock, “There we go!”
            A loud series of clicks and thumps emanated from the door. Syre gently turned the handle and pushed the large door open. Light burst forth from the inner room, illuminating the hallway. Loran peeked in and saw the most wondrous sight he had ever seen. They had found the Seafell vault.
            The rest of the party shuffled into the vault after Syre. Jax, the last one through, closed the vault door behind them. As soon as the door was closed completely, the locking mechanism reengaged with the same series of clicks and thumps.
            “I hope you can get that open again, Syre,” said Vera.
            “I’ll get to work on it,” she said with a sigh, all her hard work undone.
            “Remember what we’re here for, we need to find these magical devices,” said Procopex.
            Now that he was inside the room, Loran took the time to take in the wonder around him. On one wall there were stacks and stacks of gold bricks, gleaming in the light. There were baskets full of ornate fabrics, bowls filled with jewels of every variety. On the other wall were five chests, their contents beckoning to be discovered.
            Vera and Jax started looking through the bowls and baskets towards the back of the room; Eldaran couldn’t take his eyes off the gold bricks; Loran and Procopex started towards the chests. Loran knelt in front of a chest and started to open it. A cold hand gripped his wrist as the chest opened.
            “Wait,” said Procopex, his hand gripping Loran’s wrist tightly. He pointed towards a barely visible filament running from the chest into the wall. “Booby trapped.”
            Procopex started fiddling with the trap as he slowly opened the chest. “DOWN!” he yelled as he dragged Loran to the floor. Arrows whizzed overhead. Loran heard a few bodies hit the floor behind him. He looked back and saw Jax on the floor with an arrow embedded in the plate armor over his arm. The arrows finally stopped flying overhead and Loran took a moment to focus on what he was staring at on the floor. He was looking down at a small door in the floor. He stuck his head up and looked around the room. Vera and Eldaran were looking around them trying to sort out what had just happened, Eldaran’s eyes kept lingering on the gold bricks. Jax was still lying on the floor seemingly unable, or unwilling, to get himself off the ground. Loran looked back towards the chest they had opened, inside were only silk fabrics and a few bags of spices.
            “I don’t think the objects are in here,” said Vera. He was staring at the floor near Loran’s feet and his eyes seemed unfocused as though he were lost in time and space.
            “What makes you say that?” asked Procopex.
            “Nothing in this room is giving off a strong enough magical aura.”
            “Uh guys, there’s a trapdoor right over here,” said Loran.
            “Well, it seems down is the way forward,” said Procopex.
            He walked over to the trapdoor and opened it with a great heave. A draft of cool, dank air wafted into the vault through the opening in the floor. Loran looked down and saw a ladder extending hundreds of feet downwards in to a dark cavern.
            “Here we go!”
            Procopex grasped the ladder and started climbing. Vera walked over to Jax and struggled to help him up from the ground. From some shadowy corner of the vault Syre moved to the trapdoor and down. Once Jax was on his feet, Vera, too, descended the ladder. Loran followed Vera and as he was mounting the ladder he could see Jax trying to get Eldaran’s attention.
            “Come on Eldaran, time to go,” he said.
            “Lemme take just one,” Eldaran replied. He reached down and tried to take one of the gold bricks from the pile in front of him. He tried to lift but the brick wouldn’t budge. He tried again, this time more vigorously. Still nothing. With a huff, he lashed out with a frustrated foot and still the bricks didn’t budge an inch. Finally, Eldaran turned and started walking towards the trapdoor. Loran began to lower himself rung by rung into the darkness and the vault ascended out of view.
            After what seemed like thousands of rungs and hours of climbing, Loran could finally start making out the bottom of the ladder. Vera and Procopex were already on the landing examining their surroundings. The ladder had deposited them in a huge, open cavern. They were standing on the top of a large column in the cavern and there were no discernible exits off of it. The only other visible objects were two unlit torches placed in the floor, upright, near an edge. Once the entire party had made it down the ladder, Syre walked over to the torches and started examining them.
            “Do you think we need to light them?” she asked as she held up a match.
            “It couldn’t hurt, more light is always a good thing,” replied Jax.
            Syre struck the match on her tinderbox and lit one of the torches. The dark cavern around the column became awash with a flickering yellow light. Between the two torches a rope bridge appeared as if it had been hidden by the darkness. It was connected to the edge of the column and extended out into the black of the cavern.
            “Ah, the path reveals itself!” exclaimed Eldaran.
            Syre handed the torch to Eldaran as he approached the bridge, clearly looking to lead the party onwards. Eldaran carefully stepped out onto the wood panels of the bridge, trying to judge their integrity. When his foot met firm resistance, he stepped fully out onto the bridge and started towards the unknown. Loran and Procopex followed next. As they moved farther and farther away from the column, the light began to fade around the remaining party members until the torchlight no longer shone on the column. Only the light from the trapdoor above shone on the column.
            “The bridge is gone!” Syre called out from the darkness.
            “No its not, we’re standing right on it,” replied Eldaran just a few feet in front of Loran and clearly visible.
            “Hold on, Eldaran, walk a few feet back the way you came. Towards us,” called Jax.
            Eldaran started walking back toward the column, torch in hand. The torchlight began to shine on the column again and the bridge reappeared at the edge. At once, Syre took another match and lit the other torch. The party had no other trouble once the two torches were lit. They made their way across the bridge and found themselves at the edge of another column. This column was barren except for another two unlit torches on the opposite edge. Eldaran and Syre put down their two lit torches and lit the other two. Another rope bridge appeared in front of them.
            After making their way across this second bridge, they found themselves on a wide outcropping from the rock wall of the cavern. In the wall was a stone archway, a door leading to another room built into the rock.
            “What do you think is inside the room? Is that where they are hiding their treasure?” asked Vera.
            Suddenly, a loud crash reverberated through the cavern. The light from the trapdoor was no longer visible from where they stood across the cavern.
            “We haven’t got all day. I think they’re on to us,” growled Procopex.
            “Quickly, inside the room! Lets find these magic devices and get out of here,” said Eldaran.
            “I’ll see if I can hold the Seafells off for a bit, buy you some more time,” said Procopex. He walked over to Syre, snatched the torch she was holding and started walking down the bridge, back into the cavern.
            The rest of party moved towards the doorway. As soon as Eldaran crossed the threshold, the torch he was carrying snuffed out and darkness enveloped them.
            “Huh, that’s weird,” he said quizzically.
            They all gathered around the sound of Eldaran’s voice. They quickly shuffled into the room together and stopped to get their bearings. Once everyone had quieted down, Loran could hear heavy breathing emanating from the darkness. They were not alone.

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