Chapter 6: Imtarumbar

 

Kal turned to the assembled party, minus Ranciryon. "OH MOTHER! This is getting bad...Ranciryan has just been swallowed from the floor here in front of this picture! We must save him! Let me have Pric; maybe he knows something about this strange house...We all should be very careful here...who knows what powers rule here? I fear we have to be quick..maybe Ranciryan is wounded and probably he's in danger!"
Ordain bent down to examine the floor. Eoras bent down as well, having handed Pric over to Kal for the moment. The floor was bade of tightly pressed boards of oak. The floor appeared to be in very good shape, hardly allowing for the description of descent described by Kal, but then, nothing in this house seemed "right."
Eoras took out his sword and began to hack with it at the oak.
"I would say that won't take more than a few years," Taurvantar commented.
"Well, if you can't think of anything better, why don't you help," the Rohirrim retorted. Taurvantar sighed, and started in with his own drawn sword.
"Look!" Fred yelled. All eyes bent toward the floor. In the shallow gouges and cuts that Eoras and Taurvantar had made, a red liquid like blood was welling up. It looked like the floor was bleeding. Eoras shrugged and continued, but it became evident that his weapon was either ill suited to the task, or that the floor was tougher than it looked. Indeed, after they had paused for a moment, Tirion pointed out that the floor seemed to heal itself, for as the blood disappeared, new wood took its place.
"I guess that rules out a trapdoor," Ordain muttered. The mage, still holding the Tarma child, turned to reflect upon the paintings. Muttering a few gestures, with a sweep of his hand the dust cleared away from both paintings and faint images could be seen through the cobwebs, but same webs still obscured them. However, labels beneath both paintings could now be made out. Each was cast in gold and the left hand one read imTar Koranthur, while the right read imTar Almarion. Fred started to wipe the cobwebs away with his hand on the painting with a dagger through it, while Eoras started in on the other. The paintings were so tall that Tirion and Daern had to be enlisted to help clear the tops away, even to the point of holding Fred aloft. Taurvantar stood guard while this was all done. When they had finished, they all stood back to examine what they had revealed.
The righthand most painting was a full size portrait, revealing an armoured knight clad in black plate. His crest on his shield and the helmet, which in the portrait was held in his hand, were both fashioned to resemble a sea dragon. The knight's other hand rested on the haft a very wicked looking two-handed sword, whose blade rested on the knight's shoulder. In the background behind the knight, the Sun was rising over a bronze coloured ocean on which rode ships of war.
The lefthand painting was also a full size portrait to match the other. It was revealed to be that of a beautiful woman with long dark hair and dressed in fine raiments of yellow and red. Her grey eyes seemed to have a cruel tint to them as they looked down on the party. Most captivating of all was the dagger imbedded in the portrait's throat, almost down to the hilt. The dagger was cast of some unknown metal, perhaps polished iron for it was black, yet even the elves had to admit the craft of its making, carved as was in the form of a snake precariously entwined around the thorned stem of a rose. The budding black rose itself formed the end of the handle but it couldn't have been a comfortable weapon to use for the metal "thorns" of the rose ran entire length of the handle except for the tip. Taurvantar even thought he could see hints of dried "blood?" upon it.
Kal, who had been examining the dagger intently the whole time, grabbed it's handle, intent on working it loose.
"Ow!" he cried, as one of the thorns pricked his finger. Determined, he set about grabbing the dagger by the rosebud tip and gingerly working it back and forth. He stopped when he noticed blood pouring out of the "throat" of Almarion's portrait.
"I don't know if that's a good idea," Ordain pointed out. Kal nodded and, for the moment, let go of the black weapon. It quivered and then slowly began to ease back into the portrait, sealing the wound. The blood remained for a while, but even it began to disappear, fading from the portrait's surface.
Looking down at Kal's feet, Fred noticed something. Kal had noticed it too and pointed it out for the party's inspection. Small drops of blood from Kal's pricked finger were dropping on the floor. Even as the collected, the disappeared as if the floor was drinking the blood like a sponge.
"I definitely do not like this place," Fred felt like stating. "It is not a decent place for a hobbit to be found in."
"You mean it isn't a place you would want to be found dead in?" Eoras chuckled, but his ill timed mirth fell on dead ears. No one was laughing.
Ordain tugged at Pric's rope. "Pric," he asked while pointing at the portraits, "Who are these people?"
Pric looked at the portrait of the man, but his eyes would not look at that of the lady. "I know not," was all they could get him to mutter.
Fred, still fascinated by the gargoyle statuette on the shelf above, looked at it as best as he could from the perspective that his small height allowed. The casing of the door was smooth, so he doubted he could get a better view. Finally, he just turned to Daern and asked to be lifted up.
"More than happy to comply, my little man," Daern replied.
"Little hobbit," Fred corrected him and Daern nodded.
"I stand corrected, Master Hobbit."

Fred gave the statuette a quick once over. It was covered with dust and its eye sockets were hollow. He tapped it with a tool from his lock pick kit, but nothing was revealed. Finally, gathering his fortitude, Fred picked the statue up. It was remarkably heavy and nothing more was revealed about it than the fact that it had an indentation in the base, a hollow space, as it were. Fred looked to the shelf and was surprised to see that beneath where the statue had rested there was a small bag. Fred picked up the bag. It also seemed heavy. After Fred replaced the statue, Daern put the hobbit down and both peered into the bag.
"Looks like gold dust," Fred guessed. "Certainly it sparkles." Daern agreed.

Kal was busy trying to glean information from Pric about the house, but it soon became apparent that the goblin would volunteer nothing more. It even seemed likely that he had not been inside the house at all and certainly he seemed as fearful and surprised as the rest of them at what they had found thus far.
"Please let poor Pric go," he begged. "It will not be good for Pric when She finds you. Please, oh please let Pric go."
Taurvantar tried to get more information from the goblin but Pric would only repeat his entreaty, casting a quick occasional glance in the direction of, but never at the painting of the lady.
Fred, having checked all the doors, pronounced everything safe as far as he could tell, though he pointed out that his own experience was limited. Breathing sharply, Taurvantar decided to try each of the doors, the western one first. Everyone watched, ready for action, but also curious as to what lay beyond.
Opening the western door, Taurvantar and then the others could see that this was the one that led to an inner walkway that ran parallel to the patio outside. There was so much glass in the doors and windows of the outer wall that everyone could see the storm raging outside as a blanket of whiteness. Tirion and Daern breathed sharply as they realized they could have found their deaths had they remained outside.
"This is where I think I saw the candlelight or whatever it was when we attacked the goblins," Taurvantar told them. Venturing only just into the walkway, they could see it continued down for several hundred feet, dead ending in a distant set of doors. Other doors were set into its side and other paintings of various size also, though judging by the cobwebs that covered them and the walkway, no one had come this way in years. None of the paintings seemed as large as the ones they had already revealed.
Eoras and Fred were listening at the door just to the left of the lady's portrait. Neither he nor the hobbit could hear anything. When Taurvantar tried this door, he found that it too was unlocked. Peering inside, they could only just make out the huge dimensions of some great room. Huge tables lined the wall and were arranged about the floor, but they could make out no other detail as there was no light in this room.
"Looks like a great feasting hall," Eoras commented. "This one would rival even that at Meduseld."
It could be seen that all the doors on the northern wall led into this room so after Taurvantar closed this door, he skipped the double door and the single door to the right of the knight's portrait.
The final untried door lay on the eastern side. This door was terribly scratched and scarred, strangely so given the house's ability to heal itself. Feeling more than a little touched by the supernatural, most everyone in the party held their breaths as Taurvantar tried to open. it. It wasn't locked but he could not open it at first.
"I think it's stuck," he told the others. Eoras and Daern strode forward and threw their bulk at the door and it gave way, though when they examined it from the other side, nothing could be seen which would have stopped it from opening. However, everyone in the party could see the crudely drawn rune which was drawn there. It's lines were blured and other lines led downward from those drawn as if it had dripped. Eoras sniffed at it.
"I think it's dried blood", he said.
"Well, that seems in keeping with the place," Fred snorted.

Ordain was the only one who seemed to recognize the rune. - Protection from Evil. It was a powerful, older form of the rune, not often used for it took great power to wield it.

What they did see was another long hallway, like the other, some thirty feet wide and several hundred feet long. This hallway differed in that great suits of armour, each different from any other lined both the northern and southern walls, while arms and shields of various sorts were propped along the northern wall. The southern facing was composed almost entirely of great glass windows and at the distant end of the hall, a set of rising stairs could be seen, in front of which was stationed another suit of armour. Three doors could easily be seen along the northern wall, the first one a double and the others a single. They seemed about equally spaced. The sharp eyed elves, Tirion and Daern, also spotted in the far distance, a fourth door tucked to the left of the broad stairway. This was the only door they could see on the far side.

Both Tirion and Daern could also see what they thought was a skeleton propped near this door.

Fred got out his chalk, ready to mark their passage. "I'm ready to go. Which way and who leads?" he asked.
Kal stated, "I think we can explore the central door,but better we don't separate. We are quite more vulnerable alone!"

Ignoring the liquid pool, whose light now glowed upward, Ranciryon tried the door and found that it easily opened. As he walked out, his face was tickled with cobwebs, indicating that no one had travelled this path for some time. To his left, a stairway descended while to his right, there was a hallway which seemed to zigzag.
Deciding to explore the stairway first, Ranciryon travelled carefully down its steps, holding aloft a torch which he used to burn away the cobwebs as he went. The stairway curved downward for a great deal of time such that Ranciryon wondered at its creation and felt like he was descending to the very bowels of the earth. Counting out 333 steps, he at last came to a large door make of oak with iron bands. The door was barred from his side, as if to keep something out and the bar had been nailed in place. Peering closely, he could see runes carved both into the wood of the door and into the heads of the nails. Ranciryon was puzzled, unable to make out the meaning of this find, so he decided to walk the weary way back up and explore the other way first, before making any decision.
Three hundred and thirty three heavy steps up and he finally came back to the landing from where he had started. Resting for several minutes, Ranciryon, lonely and ill at ease, walked carefully the other way after lighting a new torch, his drawn sword ready for danger. The hallway zigzaged but neither descended or ascended for all he could tell. After some 20 paces, it turned to his right and appeared to continue straight as far as the light from his torch would illuminate. Three arched doors presented themselves to him, all identically made of oak with iron bands. They looked like smaller versions of the barred door at the base of the stairs, but none of these were barred. Two of the doors were on his left and almost between their positions, but on the opposite was on his right was one door. Ranciryon paused, deciding what to do.

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