Ludo stopped and looked over into the sheer drop below, a few loose stones fell away into nothingness and quickly disappeared from view in the fading light. “I think we should stay here tonight before attempting to get over that”, pointing at the pillars before them. He looked up, it was going to be a cold night, “Stephan let’s look for some firewood while there is still some daylight.
Using loose stones and rocks Ludo quickly built a small shelter to protect the camp fire from the swirling wind and started work on lighting a fire that would last throughout the night. Later as the light faded, learning back against his backpack he chewed some dried jerky and finished the last of his flat bread, and washed it all down with some brandy. The climb tomorrow would be tough. He figured that Miklos’s new spell of flight would come in handy.
Sadly, there was scant wood to be found in the rocky cathedral that surrounded the party. The fire soon exhausted its fuel and the companions were soon without its merry light and warmth. There was, nonetheless, enough rations and jerky to quell quaking stomachs.
“Da,” Stephan said as the last flame ebbed into the windy night as if some conclusion had been reached. “You can fly,” he nodded to Miklos, “and see a stout rope across for us to follow.”
And with that, Stephan, took it upon himself to show the mage a reliable knot to be tied across the chasm; this despite any indications from Miklos that such knowledge was already well in the wizard’s mind.
Stephan spied across the distance. “It’s hard to say, but together we have some 150 spans of rope. It should be enough. But you’ll have to use some to secure to a boulder.” He looked at Miklos. “Be sure it’s not a teetering one. Find one that’s part of the living rock. He looked at Feldard. “Is there any way that Feldard can go instead? Plaushiba,” he uttered in his native tongue. “Possible. It should be possible. I trust Feldard with knots and rock. And that’s what we have before us. Knots and rock.”
Feldard sputtered in shock at the suggestion that HE be the one to be ‘flown’ over. He shook his head. “No, with my luck, his magic will give out while I am halfway between side and I will plummet to the gorge below.”
It would take some convincing to get the dwarf to change his stance on the subject.
Hasan watched impassively. “Stephan, you are right, but being right does not always matter. The dwarf will not be budged, I fear.”
As was his habit, Miklos rose early the next morning and studied his spellbook carefully. As he studied, the mage mused on Hasan’s intuitive approach to magic, which was far less taxing. But his smiled despite himself, for the young human knew his progress astonished the elf, and he had heard that human spellcasters had achieved levels of mastery no elf–in all their years–had imagined. The human shook his head. “Focus,” the sharp-eared elf heard the mage say to himself.
Later than morn, after nodding absentmindedly to Stephan’s well-intentioned advice, the mage began his second flight. The wind was calm, but the updraft was strong. Miklos nodded and laughed as he passed an astonished hawk, but the trip was otherwise uneventful, even as the enormous length of rope trailed behind. As Miklos approached, he saw there was not even a toehold on the far rim, except in the shadow of the great gatehouse itself. The mage alighted and found the ground outside the ancient gate firm. However, there was no rock—living or dead that Miklos could determine.
Miklos looked again. The walls were smooth and well formed. Hard and dark, they looked impermeable. Miklos continued to look for where to secure the rope. And then he saw them. The great gates were opened in days gone by huge rings. Or perhaps these were door knockers on an unimaginable scale. Even so, they hung intact today. Miklos flew up, and tied his tightest knot, directly the gates themselves. The mage waved over to his waiting friends and sat back to rest. The mage was well pleased with himself.
The time had come for one of the party to test the rope Miklos had secured. Hasan stepped forward. “I will go first. If this rope fails, I can save myself, I think.” With that, with the words to his levitate spell firmly in his mind, the elf pulled himself up onto the rope. He tried to balance on top of the rope and pull himself forward, but he soon gave up on that notion. The demands on his balance and strength were too great. “I have seen pictures in Elyas’s book, of a creature he named a sloth, that walked underneath the tree branch. And it is easier, I must say. Try this!” And the elf moved, hand over hand, laboriously and carefully, forward — hanging underneath the rope.
Ludo waited for Hasan to make his way across the gorge and when it was his turn pulled his gloves tighter onto his hands and stepped out over the edge. High work such as this didn’t faze him at all, nevertheless when he was dangling out over the gorge with the rope swaying precariously between his hands, Ludo felt that the risk that he was in was very acute.
Methodically he made his way hand over hand across the rope, resting and regaining his strength at each pillar. Eventually he made it safely to the other side and gratefully accepted Hasan’s firm grip to help him back onto terra firma. He sighed, turning to Hasan, “I am not sure that I would want to try that again, its a long haul across the gorge. Are you sure that Maruc and Feldard will be able to do this, there must be an easier way.”
The cleric took his turn reluctantly, knowing he would strain the rope. Hand over hand, the journey was incredibly arduous, with his heavy armor hanging below, packed in a backpack. “Why, Miklos,” the cleric panted, upon finally, safely arriving in the shadow of the gate, “could you have not flown these bags across?”
“I was studying, dear Maruc,” the mage absentmindedly replied.
Stephan readied to cross. Just before placing his full weight upon the rope, he called across the expanse. “How’s the knot? Holding well?”
His companions on the other side all turned in unison to inspect the integrity of the knot on the ring. Stephan watched with concerned curiosity as Miklos, Maruc and Hasan seemed to fuss over the rope’s end. In time, Hasan turned with an eager thumb raised in the air. Stephan made sure all his belongings were secured on his person and began the crossing. On the other side, he was grateful for the strong hands of his comrades that assured he made it to safety.
Last as always, Feldard jumped up for the rope tied well above his head height. The dwarf’s weight and heavy armour bowed the line heavily but the rope and knots held. For a moment the dwarf struggled to lift a leg up and over the rope but soon enough, he had both wrapped above and with pulling himself hand over hand towards the far end of the chasm. Feldard did not look down, he did not look to either side. Rather he kept his entire focus on the rope infront of his nose and the steady movement of his hands. So it was with a bit of startlement that he suddenly felt hands grab of him to help him down off the rope. He let himself drop and fell the 3 feet to the safety of the rock to which he turned over and hugged. Nevermore so happy to be on solid earth.
Ludo grinned a tired smile, happy to see everyone across safely, he decided that the ropes could stay where they were. They might be needed for the return journey.
The group stood now before the stone gates. They were 15-feet high and 20-feet wide, and were decorated with the geometric design patterns typical of the Hutaakan ruins the party have encountered. A congress of ravens was nested on top of the walls. They cawed aggressively as the group gathered in front of them.
Ludo finished his inspection of the gates, and found them to be trap free. They were shut tight however, and would not budge. Feldard surmised that they were likely to be barred shut on the other side.