Broken rock littered the cave floor. Most of it was misshapen lumps but the occasional large piece was recognisable as a hand, leg or foot. Amidst the spoil stood myriad stone statues. I drew closer to the forms of two moon-elves. The detail of the carving was incredible, their haughty features captured perfectly. Moon-elves have this arrogant air about them, which is laughable considering high-elves, like myself, are clearly superior in every way. I’ve never liked moon-elves, always finding them distasteful, untrustworthy and offensive. “Itiff, you’re half moon-elf, what do you make of these?” I said.
The ranger picked his way through the rocks, his new pet wolf in tow. I sighed. As if it wasn’t bad enough that I had to put up with the whiff of Komgrirk, I would now also be treated to that special scent of eau de wet dog.
“Looks like they’re statues,” said Itiff helpfully.
“But quite clearly they are not,” I said. “It doesn’t take a genius to see that these are adventurers who have been petrified.”
Itiff examined the face of one of the statues. “He don’t look that scared to me.”
Apparently I was wrong, it did take a genius. “No. They’ve been turned to stone. Probably by some beast that lurks within this very cave.”
“Really glad we didn’t buy that potion of basilisk bile now,” said Lunar. “It’s not like it would be super-useful to be able to reverse the effects of petrification.”
“Don’t look at me,” I said. “I’m not the one who squandered the last of our money on Johnson’s magic – ”
“Ahem, let’s not argue about that now,” said Itiff fingering the worn leather pouch around his neck. “We need a plan.”
“The plan is we find it and kill it in God’s name,” said Lori.
“Excellent plan,” I said. “Or at least just kill it.” I’m not really a believer. I mean belief would imply there was some doubt to the existence to the Gods and I have no doubt they exist. Where my faith falters somewhat is that none of them seem to deserve my praise. At least not until I’m in mortal danger, then I can pray harder than anyone, and to multiple deities at once.
We crept into an adjacent cave. The sound of rushing water echoed from a black abyss in the cavern’s centre. Careful not to trip on the loose rocks strewn across the floor I peered into the hole. Far below rushed a river, white flecks cresting its torrid waters.
“Something’s following us,” whispered Lunar, pointing back in the direction we’d come. “I’m going to check it out.”
“Wait! It could be dangerous,” I said. “Send Komgrirk instead.”
My adventuring companions frowned at me. For some strange reason they seemed to have become somewhat attached to the little fellow, and far less inclined than I to use him as a mobile trap detector.
I shrugged. “Well at least use that conveniently shiny shield we found as a mirror so you don’t look directly into the eyes of the basilisk,” I said.
“Excellent idea. I wish I was as brilliant and clever as you,” said Lunar sincerely. (I am nothing if not honest, and so I feel it is only correct to point out that those may not have been her exact words. It was hard to hear because of the noise of the underground river but I’m pretty certain if not her exact words it would have been something very similar.)
Lunar took the shield and crept towards the cavern. Maybe she found the shield a little too heavy for her gnomish stature, or more likely she was still overwhelmed by the magnificence of my intellect because she stumbled into a ‘statute’ of a monk and sent it crashing to the ground. A look of terror crossed her face and she scurried back to us.
“I saw the basilisk. It’s eyes like deep pools. I thought I was going to die.”
“Should have sent Komgrirk,” I said.
Lunar shot me a look worthy of the basilisk.
“We should stab its eyes out,” said Itiff.
For once the ranger had made a sensible suggestion; the question was who was to do it? I daren’t mention Komgrirk, and clearly it wasn’t going to be myself or the vertically-challenged Lori, so that left the Ranger or the gnome. Either was an acceptable sacrifice as far as I was concerned but it was Lunar with her gymnastic like abilities that had the best chance of success, so the die was cast, metaphorically speaking at least. (Obviously we weren’t actually playing a game with dice, that would be ridiculous.)
To aid Lunar, I called upon the power of the weave and rendered her invisible while Lori offered up a blessing to her God.
What happened next is hard to tell, partly because Lunar was invisible, but mostly because I had taken a tactical position hiding behind a stone outcrop. I am prepared to face most dangers, but in the depths of that cavern a feeling of dread gripped me. Today was not my day and I knew should I face the beast I would surely be turned to stone. If that were not bad enough I was fearful that should I be petrified my fellow adventurers would either leave me there, or deface my statue, or most likely both.
The sound of battle ensued as Itiff and Lori joined the fray. With all my being I wanted to peer out and see who was winning but I knew it would be foolhardy to do so. Komgrirk sidled alongside me, something I would have normally rewarded with a slap to his head, but not today. Using a sticky substance, the origins of which I had no desire to know, he had attached a small mirror to a long stick that he manoeuvred so we could view the battle.
Atop the basilisk, impossibly avoiding the lethal spines on its back crouched Lunar. She clung on with one hand while stabbing at the beast’s eyes with the other. The basilisk tried to shake her off while clawing at Itiff with one of its eight, lizard-like legs.
Seeing the beast was distracted, Lori seized her opportunity and with holy vengeance smashed her war-hammer onto one of the creature’s feet.
Not being one to miss out on an opportunity to smite an enemy from a safe distance I sent a bombardment of magic in the basilisk’s direction. The beast shuddered under the onslaught and as Lunar stabbed a dagger into its eye it took its last foul breath and fell.
I emerged from my hiding place defensive tactical position, happy in the knowledge that I, Tarquin the Honest, had survived the day wholly unpetrified, and mostly unsoiled.