Chapter 433: Arrive
The group explored as carefully as they could. Tomas Moreau built a complex chamber to prevent any intruders from coming in. It had a lot of forking paths and was split into multiple stories. Some were covered in beautiful marble tile, while some were dark and dank, not unlike the abode of shaelmaars. Some places had a deep, dark hole in them. They were about ten meters from top to bottom. Even a witcher with Quen on would splatter across the floor if they were to fall from this height.
And to make things worse, the place was laden with booby traps. Spikes that shot out of the ground, poisonous flames that lashed out from the walls, crossbow bolts that aimed for the victims' heads, and sharpened wood and boulders that fell from the ceiling.
Fortunately, witchers were no simple humans. They were explorers, adventurers, and hunters. One of them was a master of traps. Auckes disarmed at least a dozen traps on their way to the depths of this chamber.
They also collected a lot of mushrooms, longrube, and bloodmoss for the druid. It would make kickstarting the garden easier. They ran into another guardian, but it was defeated easily. And then they came to a dead end.
Auckes stared down at the cliff. Only a dark abyss awaited them underneath. Gusts of icy winds blew up into the air, and the witcher almost got vertigo from just looking at the abyss. A wooden stake with a rope that extended downward stood beside them. The rope extended across the abyss and was connected to a dimly lit prairie on the other side. Behind that prairie was a tall wall.
"I've been in the game of caves for decades, but this is the first time I've seen so many booby traps. You sure Tomas was a mage? Looks more like a maze fan to me." Auckes frowned. "Like building a chamber in the depths of a lake isn't safe enough. This is overkill."
"You say it like it's bad news. The tighter the security, the better the loot," Kiyan said. "Now I'm sure the chamber contains the secrets to powering up witchers."
"So who's gonna go first?"
"Nobody." Letho flipped open a yellowing book. He got it from the remains of a graverobber while they were on their way here. "See this? We need to find four square tiles and activate all of them."
He looked up and saw protruding tiles on the ceiling and walls. Then the bald witcher approached a shut stone door beside the cliff. "And the door would open. We need some ranged attacks here. Lytta, if you may." Letho looked at the mage.
But Roy patted her hand. He smiled and blew on his hand crossbow. "Just watch, people."
Roy fired a few bolts into the air. A few tries later, something rumbled in the air. Dust and debris fell from the wall as a staircase was slowly revealed before the group.
"Be careful, people. I have a feeling we’ll have a tough battle ahead of us. The panthers weren't the only guardians Professor Moreau had." Roy whipped out a dimeritium bomb, recast his magical shields, and unsheathed his blade. He then led the team into a circular, semi-enclosed chamber.
It was split into three stories. In the center of the bottom story stood a great statue of a saintly woman. Surrounding that statue were about a dozen statues of monsters. Fat monsters with round bellies and a pair of petite wings disproportionate to their bodies. They must have weighed a ton. And these monsters felt like the golem the witchers had fought before.
The moment the group entered this chamber, their pendants started vibrating. One of the statues wobbled around like a drunken creature and woke with a startle. It roared, "Intruder alert! Intruder alert! You are not welcome here!"
"Ah, shut the fuck up!"
Glass shattered, and dimeritium powder covered the monster. Five witchers charged straight ahead, while Roy pressed on his hand crossbow's trigger.
Status: Guardian (It protects this land, chasing away and killing any and all intruder)
Age: A hundred and sixty-four years old
Stone Wall (Passive): Made of marble and granite, gargoyles possess great resistance against physical attacks. Immune to poison and bleeding. They possess great strength and defense. +10 to Constitution and Strength. Gargoyles have no need for sustenance. They can absorb any elements lingering in the air to keep them running.
Blink Level 5: Expends a minor amount of mana to perform a short-range teleport. Perfect for evasion and ambush. Gargoyles can teleport to the air and slam down on their enemies, turning them into mincemeat.
Acid Spray Level 6: Expends a minor amount of mana. Sprays a jet of acid at its targets. Gargoyle acid has powerful corrosive abilities. Can easily break down flesh and armor.'
A Stun Bolt hit the gargoyle square in the head. The stun effect and momentum sent the monster flying backward. Its fall felt like a little earthquake. The chamber rumbled, and dust flew into the air.
Silver glints gleamed within the dust smoke, and sparks flew. The light of Yrden shone within, and wild eyes flickered. The witchers kept swinging their sword down at the monster, giving it no chance to attack.
Lytta chanted as fast as she could, then she pointed at the ground behind the gargoyle, creating a layer of grease on what was otherwise a rough patch of floor.
And the gargoyle was in a predicament. The dimeritium bomb locked it out of its mana reserves, preventing it from blinking away. It tried to get back up, but the floor was too slippery for it to even push itself up. All it could do was lay down and flail its arms in a futile attempt to block the witchers' attacks.
Roy hid behind the front lines, firing bolt after bolt at the gargoyle. They only managed to graze its skin, but the impact and barrage of Aard made sure the gargoyle was pinned on the ground.
Thirty seconds later, the witchers sheathed their blades all together. One final bolt whizzed through the air and buried itself in the gargoyle's eye, robbing it of its life.
And then only a cold corpse remained.
'Gargoyle killed. EXP +300. Level 9 Witcher (5800/6500).'
"This is what you get for coming at the brotherhood, fool." Auckes hunkered down and smacked the dead gargoyle's head.
"This is why teamwork matters." Roy crouched and picked up the loot. "Elemental essence, gargoyle dust, gargoyle heart…"
"Oh, I'll take that." Lytta huddled closer to Roy and took the gargoyle heart away. She then tucked it in her storage ring, and a smile curled her lips. "Kalkstein and I will research this thing. Maybe we can create a gargoyle. Then we'll have an absolutely loyal guard for our lab."
The witchers' eyes glinted. This would make their work in Novigrad more secure.
"Good idea." Aside from the gargoyle feet—that was the trigger for the entrance—Roy handed everything else to Lytta.
She tucked it away in her storage ring, her smile broadening. She then held Roy's cheeks and gave him a kiss.
"Ahem. Lytta, Roy's not the only one who killed the monster." Auckes sheepishly said, "You can't just reward him."
"Auckes is right." For some reason, Eskel joined in. "According to the creed of fairness, you should give all of us a reward."
"Oh, you want a reward? You'll get a reward." Lytta let Roy go and wiped her lips clean. Then she shot the witchers an icy look, and a ball of fire appeared in her hand. "A fireball for each one of you."
"Oh, whoops. I just remembered I made a promise to a Toussaint lady. I need to stay loyal. No dating other girls." Auckes turned around and searched for an exit.
"I-I prefer horned ladies." Eskel nodded. He whispered, "She's waiting for me back in Novigrad. I gotta save some energy for her."
"Hmph!" She dispelled her fireball and helped Roy up.
Letho and Kiyan exchanged a look of relief. And they shook their heads. "Women."
Coen chuckled, though he was a little envious.
Roy placed the gargoyle's feet in the little hole before the statue in the center. Something rumbled, and all the staircases shone blue. Portals appeared one by one, standing neatly on every story. In the end, eighteen portals appeared. Six for every story.
There were no stairs leading to the other floors, and every story was a tall climb. Should they wish to travel to the next floor, they had to choose the right portal.
"Tomas Moreau!" Auckes was infuriated. "You damned maze fanatic!"
Kiyan gave it some thought and blurted, "So if we're unlucky, we might have to go through the portals 216 times before we get the right ones."
And the witchers' faces fell. They would rather fight the gargoyle ten more times than run around like a headless chicken in this maze.
"No." Roy shook his head. He pointed his crossbow at the third floor. "Six times at most."
A bolt flew through the air. Ripples spread around Roy, and the witcher disappeared. He then reappeared on the third floor.
Most witchers weren't surprised about this. Lytta had a mesmerized look in her eyes. She was reminded of something, and her cheeks blushed.
Coen, however, was surprised. Roy never showed this skill to him before. Did he get that from his mutation as well?
Luck was on Roy's side. Twice he was sent back to the first floor, but on his third try, he took the right pointed arch, and he was led to a room. A room bigger than all the others he had seen. Old, dusty books littered the place. There were also crates and alchemical tools. He also saw a circle of telescopes as well as metallic containers about the size of a human. Some were shaped like gourds, some had their tips and base connected.
"This should be the place." Roy whipped out a crystal. It was supposed to be a waypoint.
A magical light shone around Lytta as she summoned another portal.
"No! Not again!" The sight of the portal made Auckes scream in terror. "I'd rather go through this maze 216 times!"
"Get in there!"
Letho put his leg behind him. He took a deep breath, braced himself, and leapt into the portal.
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