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The Trial Of Allibor's Tomb
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The Trial Of Allibor's Tomb

by Jeff Sinasac


Background
Cave Entrance
Artwork © Russ Nicholson
In a time aeons before you were born, when the black mists of creation still enwrapped the world, some say, a magician named Allibor held rule over his mountain kingdom of Abir. Allibor was a cruel ruler, prone to whimsy and wrath alike, holding his subjects hostage to their own fears, executing swiftly, or torturing slowly, all who dared speak their opposition. He was also a gambling man, and would sometimes pit his poor victims in challenges, in arenas against summoned beasts and demons, or against himself where poor sword arms were never a match for his magic. But Allibor, like all mortals, aged, and death began to appear to him in every nightmarish shadow, creeping about his bedchamber and stalking his dreams. Realizing that death was inevitable, and knowing full well the desecration the people he had ruled would commit upon his deceased body, Allibor decided to preserve his reputation after death, and began construction of a great tomb in which he, and all his wealth, were to be laid. This tomb, designed as a great labyrinth, was stalked with vicious traps and made lair to the most horrid of beasts, in the hopes that trespassers would be forever denied, and that Allibor could escape the revenge of his subjects even in death. True to form, however, Allibor constructed the labyrinth as an admittedly uneven challenge. A path did exist to Allibor's body, and to an exit, but finding either was unlikely.

Unlikely, but not impossible. Fierce though the tomb was, man's greed was tougher, and less than three years after Allibor's death a brave party of adventurers infiltrated the tomb, looting its contents, and tossing the cruel magician's skeletal carcass to the townsfolk. The skull of Allibor was ensconced in a crystal cube and placed on display for all to see. Thus the people had their revenge.

But Allibor's vengeance soon came as well. Not long after the tomb had been looted, and Allibor's head forever displayed in the crystal case, strange noises began emanating from within the tomb. Shrieks and moans and horrid cries all filtered through the night air. And all who investigated these noises were never seen again. Furthermore, Allibor's desecrated body, which had been dropped down a dried well near the centre of town, was reported to be gone from the well, and several townsfolk even made the horrible and ridiculous claims that they had seen the decapitated body pull itself from the well and march back inside the tomb. These claims were dismissed until a dark summer solstice when the circumstances of the tomb were laid plain.

Townsfolk sprang from their beds and hustled outside at the sound of the most horrible shrieking arising from the centre of the village. Only when all of the town had gathered there did the shrieking stop, and by then Allibor had everyone's full attention. It had been Allibor shrieking - Allibor's head, at least - screaming from within the crystal cube where it had been imprisoned. And now that the townsfolk had arrived, the head began to speak.

"You who were my subjects in life, hear now my demands and answer them, or join me in death," the skull hissed. "My resting place has been desecrated, and I have awakened. My rule shall be as iron once more, unless you appease me. At the first of every month you will send into my halls a sacrifice, who shall wander my corridors until killed within. You who have dared to disturb me will now realize that Allibor is your ruler eternal. I shall not rest until one of your number can best me."

With that, the head of Allibor fell silent.

So began the tradition of The Trial. In the mountains of Abir, near the small town of Antir, volunteers have gathered at the first of every month since that time to enter Allibor's tomb and try to best him. In times when volunteers have been found lacking, prisoners have been forced into the tomb at spear point, or unwilling townsfolk have been drawn by lottery to enter. None have yet survived the strange game that Allibor has set up within his tomb, and Antir's infamy, as a place of death and challenge, have grown.

Near to the first of the month you made your way to the town of Antir. Despite the macabre circumstances, there is an air of festivity about the town. The Trial, as the challenge has come to be known, attracts many visitors and spectators each year, and Antir has grown in size and commerce.

Arriving early at your inn on the last night of the month, you decide to go to a nearby tavern. After ordering the cheapest ale available (you are rather low on funds) you seat yourself at a table near the bar. You sit for hours, talking with others, exchanging goblin jokes and reciting tales of adventure. As the alcohol and late hours begin to take effect, your eyes begin drifting shut, and your chin rests upon your palm.

You are startled from your dozing, however, when you hear a struggle behind you. Spinning on your stool you see a foppish and over-dressed man, obviously drunk, wrestling with one of the barmaids. Pawing at her, gripping her hair, he tries to draw her to him.

"Who is that?" you demand of a young man at your side.

The young man shakes his head scornfully and tells you, "That's Owen Wayford, the mayor. Can you believe such a lout runs things around here?"

"Why doesn't somebody help the girl?" you ask.

The man shrugs. "He's the mayor. The richest man in town." With that he turns back to his drink.

Owen Wayford has still been assaulting the girl all this time, and when one of his hooked fingers tears a large gape in the front of the girl's blouse and you see the tears forming in the girl's eyes, you are no longer able to control yourself. You leap to your feet and, knocking the man's questing hands aside, interpose yourself between Antir's mayor and the young barmaid. "Leave the girl alone," you instruct.

"Mind your own affairs," Mayor Wayford states haughtily, and reaches over your shoulder for the girl once more.

This time you grasp his hand, pulling back forcefully, holding it in a vice-like grip. "Leave the girl alone," you repeat.

Owen smiles weakly. He seems to relax momentarily, so you release him, whereupon he draws back a deep breath of air and lets a wad of spit fly into your face. Taking advantage of your moment of surprise, Owen gives you a heavy shove, knocking you back into a table behind you. As you are still getting to your feet he lunges for the girl.

Wiping his spittle from your face, you leap at Owen, grasping him around the neck and throwing him to the ground. When he stands again you draw back and swing your hardest punch which connects with his eye. Owen staggers back from the force, knocking over a table in the process.

The room has fallen silent and all eyes are on the two of you as Owen gets slowly back to his feet. He weaves slightly as he does so and you realize that the man is impossibly drunk. You wonder if you might have taken things too far. Putting one hand out to steady himself along one wall, Owen walks haltingly back to stand in front of you.

"I didn't want this to end in bloodshed," he tells you in a shaky voice, and the scent of whiskey on his breath is heavy and unmistakable. His eyes leave your face and wander over the faces of the others in the tavern. A moment of grave dismay passes briefly through his features, but it is soon replaced by a look of drunken certainty. He looks back to you, a sneer just beginning to form. "You leave me no choice," he tells you.

Owen tears a leather gauntlet from his arm and throws it at your feet. "I challenge you, stranger," he intones. "I challenge you to The Trial. The maze stands ready, chum. Be there at dawn... unless that sword at your side is only to impress the ladies." He lets out a single chuckle then storms past you, his face mixing with a red of rage and embarrassment, knowing that all the eyes in the room are following him as he leaves.

You begin to bend to retrieve the glove, but the barmaid, one hand clutching at the tear in her blouse, stops you with an urgent hand. "Don't," she whispers. "He is drunk. And I would not have you die on my behalf."

"I have to," you tell the girl. "It is why I came." Slowly, you bend and pick up the gauntlet. You accept Owen's challenge. Clutching it close to your chest you walk back to the bar and resume your seat.

"You've got guts," the young man you spoke with earlier tells you. "No one's ever lived through that thing, you know."

"Maybe this time it will be different," you answer calmly.

"No. It won't be," he responds. "And you've got the added burden of Owen's challenge."

"What does that mean?" you ask.

"You don't know? The Trial is tough enough. Like I said, no one has ever survived. A long time ago someone came up with a crazy idea to make it even tougher, though. Two men were having a heated dispute about property. Things were getting really out of hand, murdered livestock, that sort of thing. The magistrate decided to settle the dispute for them. He ordered them both into the labyrinth, and decreed that the first one to make it out alive would win. Sort of a race, you see. And inside the labyrinth, there would be no holds barred. Cheating was not an issue."

"Who won?" you ask.

"The magistrate," the young man chuckles. "Both men died inside, as the magistrate knew they would. Then the magistrate claimed both their land." He looks at you soberly, and shakes his head. "Drink up, my friend," he tells you. "Because this is your last night alive."

You finish your ale, then retire to the inn. You try to sleep, but The Trial is weighing so heavily on your mind that you cannot. You toss and turn fitfully, and dawn comes too soon.

You pick yourself up out of bed and ready your equipment before leaving the inn. Outside, a soft mist has arisen, muting the landscape and lending a surreal quality to all around you. Even the voices of the gawkers who have come to see a walking dead man seem distant, and you hardly notice as the leering crowd, some shouting luck, guide you to the mouth of the labyrinth.

There you see Owen Wayford, standing in the mist, staring at the ground. An advisor whispers to him at your approach and his head lifts in a surprised jerk. He obviously did not expect you to follow through, and now that you have, the dread and fear on his face are apparent. His challenge was made to you in a moment of drunken bravado, and were it not for his status in the town, and the crowd of townfolk gathered around, you are sure that he would suggest you both renege on the challenge. As it is, though, he only nods pompously toward you. A great bruise has arisen on his right eye where you hit him.

A man dressed in heavy robes and the white wig of a magistrate climbs to a small pulpit and addresses you and the crowd. "These two brave souls have made agreement to the challenge of Allibor's labyrinth. The first to exit shall be vindicated in this matter of honour. We wish them both well, for the future of our town rests in their hands, and through their bravery, may the curse of Allibor's Tomb finally be lifted." He raises his hands and a cheer goes through the crowd. You find yourself wondering how many of the townsfolk would honestly be happy to have Allibor's tomb beaten, and what loss to business and tradition this would really mean.

"After you," Owen says, with mocking politeness. He gestures to the gaping cave entrance of Allibor's Tomb.
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