by CSyphrett and Martin Maenza
Simon Belmont swung the door open suddenly to the next room. Rose Psychic took in the settees in front of the fireplace and large windows as they charged across the long expanse. Ghosts moaned at them, trying to block their flight with their cold hands. Belmont smashed them out of the way with his whip as he kicked open the doors to the stairs.
The former adventurer slid along the metal railing to the bottom of the stairs. Rose stepped across the space instantly. She barely had the door open when Belmont pushed her through to three steps leading to a small yard. The gate for the garden maze stood in front of them, guarded by sitting carved hedge dogs.
“Take five,” Belmont said. He walked to the fence around the hedges gazed inside intently.
“Did you live here?” Rose asked.
“Just killed a lot of monsters around here,” Belmont said as an explanation. His attention still lay within the garden. “Place attracts them like dead men draw flies.”
“I’ll take your word for that,” said Rose.
“Ready?” Belmont asked.
“Yes,” said Rose.
“This part is going to be a little tricky, so I want you to stay right behind me, no matter what,” said Belmont.
“Understood,” said Rose.
Belmont turned a key in the garden gate and stepped inside. The old man ran down the central aisle and took a left, then a right to a door. He pushed the door open and led the way through various twists and turns to a door marked by a crest.
Clanking and the sound of a chainsaw paced them the entire jog, but Rose never saw the owner of the sounds as Belmont pushed the second door open to an underground crypt. They descended into the quiet burial place. Simon Belmont cautiously proceeded down the stairs and Rose Psychic followed silently. Abby Cable had told of her of this side of Belmont, but she hadn’t quite believed her.
“Vampires,” said Belmont, looking at the ceiling.
Two figures in ragged clothes dropped from the ceiling. The male rushed at Belmont, who stepped out of the way and drove his hand in the back of the former man’s neck. The vampire went down.
Rose waited as her vampire, a woman in a dirty frock, vanished in a cloud of mist. A swarm of bats flew at her from the shifting cloud. Rose concentrated, and the symbol of the Seven appeared in a wall, allowing the bats to smash against it before leaping across the room at the cloud of mist. When it exited, on the other side it held the woman vampire in its shining embrace.
Belmont pulled his sword, stabbing his vampire through and through. He poured some of the flaming liquid on the undead servant while it tried to pull itself up the blade to his hands. It writhed in agony before exploding.
“What is that?” Rose asked curiously, holding her vampire out of reach.
“Holy water,” Belmont said simply.
Simon Belmont dealt with the other vampire with cold efficiency before stepping to the single coffin on the platform at one end of the crypt. He pulled the lid off and let it drop on the floor. He punched the bottom of the coffin hard. Wood gave way under the blow.
“We’re going to have to cross through some tunnels and then work our way up into the proper tower,” said Belmont. “The spider-women will be active in the tunnels, so keep your eyes open. They drop from the ceiling, have a poisonous spray, and are usually armed. The cavern is their exclusive domain until we reach our exit.”
“Is there anything else I should look out for?” asked Rose.
“Bats and spooks,” Belmont said. “Ready?”
“Yes,” said Rose.
Belmont dropped into the bottomless coffin.
Joshua Cantrell clapped his hands together. He frowned as he realized that two of his friends were missing from the scene. “Anybody see where Tim and Kirk went?” he asked. Gray Murphy shook his head while rubbing his hands in the grass.
“I believe they went that-away,” said Alfred Twitchell. “It looked like they were going to the admin building.”
Josh rubbed his face and said, “Let’s see what they’re up to.”
“Haven’t we done enough?” said Murphy.
“You know better than that,” said Josh. “‘Bulldog’ Pike is out looking for trouble, and it is our sacred duty to keep him away from it and keep us out of it as much as possible.”
“Additionally, Tim doesn’t know the limit on his new abilities,” noted Twitch. “They might be overconfident that they can handle whatever they are trying to handle.”
Murphy shrugged in defeat.
Kirk Pike paused, examining the floor again. He frowned in concentration. Tim Hunter didn’t know what Kirk was looking at, but he knew they were heading toward the infirmary. He looked at the door to the room, thinking he saw a shadow behind the pebbled glass. He saw Kirk tense and knew the other boy had seen the same thing.
Walking silently to the door, Kirk threw it open, looking the room over. Tim stood at his shoulder. Patsy Ambrose lay in her bed on one side of the room. Everything looked normal, except the window was opened. Kirk walked over to the window and looked out. He turned in place, his face blank and neutral.
Tim closed the door, stepping into the room. He saw a pile of clothes next to Patsy’s bed and realized it was a nightgown just before Patsy sat up in bed. He threw himself to one side as a fireball struck the door. Another fireball flew at Kirk, who stepped out of the way.
Patsy sat up in bed, wearing her regular shirt and jeans. Fire burned in her eyes. Two more fireballs formed in her hands as she regarded her foes venomously.
“Give it up, Patsy!” Kirk said. “You can’t beat the both of us!”
“You two won’t get in my way!” Patsy swore, hurling the fireballs at Kirk. Glass flew out of the window as the energy struck, missing the spinning Kirk.
Time for that protective clothing, thought Tim.
Kirk Pike ducked another fireball while Tim Hunter gestured. A blue burst slid along Kirk’s body, changing his clothes into a smooth metal shell in red, white, and blue. Another burst performed the same task for Tim as he slid under the bed. His shell was blue on blue.
Patsy Ambrose leaped from the bed at Kirk, who spun in place and met her charge with a booted foot. Patsy crashed to the floor with a grunt. Kirk finished his spin, falling in an en garde position.
“Is this a private party?” Josh Cantrell said from the door.
“Oh, man,” said Murphy. “We’ll be in detention until the year is over.”
“You’ll be dead first,” Patsy said, hurling fireballs at the door.
“Kami Nomi Kai,” said Josh in response. His fists blocked the fireballs and returned to his sides so fast it looked like the fireballs splattered in midair against an invisible wall.
“Hey, Patsy!” shouted Tim from under the bed. The girl looked over involuntarily and was blinded by a flash of light from the conjured pistol in Tim’s hand.
Simon Belmont and Rose Psychic slid along a narrow tube and dropped into a lit cavern. Support beams held the roof up in certain areas. The rest looked natural, with rough columns formed from the solid rock. Belmont took the lead, pausing every so often to listen, then hurrying his steps.
The adventurers came to a pit with several platforms circling the inner wall. Belmont leaped from platform to platform easily. He paused at the other side to allow Rose to step over. They took a right and headed for a lift beyond a conveyor belt. Belmont paused to allow blades to crash down in front of him before leaping on the belt and letting it carry him to the other side, where he avoided two more blades. Rose stepped across easily. They boarded the rusty red lift and let it carry them up to the next level.
They traversed four more caverns in much the same way. The spider-women descended to the tunnel floor on webbing to stop them, but were defeated in every encounter. Belmont cleared a flight of bats to lead Rose to a numbered red platform on a rail.
“We ride on this until we reach a sort of switch station, and then we get off and board a blue one and ride that to the end of the line. Then we take a lift to the final floor of the underground and find the exit into the main keep,” Belmont said. “Any questions?” Rose shook her head.
They boarded the red platform, and it carried them down the dark tunnel.
Simon Belmont and Rose Psychic made their way cautiously. The platform rattled along at a brisk clip that was punctuated by the crack of Belmont’s whip. The stop came up, and the adventurers jumped to the flat stone. A sign stood, but it was unreadable through the dirt and grime that covered it. “Five minutes for the other platform,” he said, watching the overhead track.
Rose became aware of shapes floating in the air around the switch point. She reached out with her mind, inscribing the symbol of the Seven in the air. Some of the shades burst in a swirl of mists.
“Here comes our ride,” Belmont said. Seizing Rose’s arm, he guided her on the blue rectangle when it stopped. The platform took off after they boarded. “We’re heading to the final floor,” said Belmont. “As soon as we clear the underground, we’ll take a break.”
Simon Belmont waited for their stop. He seemed to be listening to the sounds of the surrounding tunnels. A blue signpost slid by on the left. The platform slowed down gradually. “Get ready,” he said as the platform slowed even more.
It stopped completely in front of a little alcove. Rose Psychic saw the familiar red lift in a corner as Belmont led the way. He boarded the lift, holding out a hand to help Rose. The lift began to rise a moment later.
Rose reached out with her mind. There were numerous things lurking along their route, but there was a human mind there as well. She could feel it far above them. She detected some beings there, formidable beings. They were waiting for Belmont and her. There was no doubt of that.
“You mentioned an Actrisse?” Rose said.
“Witch,” said Belmont. “Specializes in crystal magic. She usually works with a partner named De Ries.”
The lift ground to a stop. Belmont walked forward steadily. The rustle of the spider-women surrounded the adventurers as they looked around.
“The spiders are going to try to keep us from the door,” said Belmont. “I want you to keep behind me and watch my back. If I get stuck, the signs will point to a sun door, and that will be the exit.”
“Yes,” said Rose.
The adventurers searched the underground tunnels for a small amount of time before finding the first sign. They moved along cautiously, listening to the sound of chittering as they headed for their goal. A swarm of the spider-women dropped from the ceiling, striking with pole arms and venomous sprays.
Rose found herself surrounded and cut off from Belmont by the swiftness of the attack. She wrapped herself in the symbol of the Seven as she had been taught. An invisible dome blocked any more of the venom to hit her, but she found that she could not proceed forward without dealing with the intervening spider-women.