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The Unwelcome - Part 3

Merlin went on. "I was standing here in this room. In fact I was sitting right here in this chair. You see Treguard, I used to be Dungeon Master."

Treguard was still startled by Merlin's shock revelation. He couldn't believe that Merlin had once sat in his large wooden chair and commanded the goings on in the levels below them. He decided to leave Merlin to go and make a drink and think over what had just been said.

As Treguard left the chamber, Merlin looked around the old room. It had changed slightly from when he once stood there decades before, but the basic layout was the same. Just then, he remembered something. His facial expression changed to one of curiosity, and hope. He looked around the room as if trying to work out where he was. He slowly made his way over to the fireplace, and felt along the brick paneling along the top. Nothing. Slowly, as he bent down onto his knees, some joint or other in his old twisted skeleton giving a loud crack. Merlin moaned as he got down on the floor, and felt along the tiling around the fireplace. Nothing.

Merlin sighed. Slowly he got back up onto his feet, huffing and puffing. Leaning against the mantelpiece he pulled himself up and straightened up. Just then, under Merlin's weight, a piece of the mantelpiece crumbled and fell to the floor. Merlin jumped out the way to avoid the brick landing on his bare feet. As he did so, Treguard came back in and seeing the commotion asked Merlin what on earth he was doing. Merlin simply replied that it was an accident - not his fault.

Treguard walked over to the door, and rubbed his forehead, closing his eyes.

"Merlin," he said, "I think it's time you left."

"But Treguard… I still haven't told you what you summoned me here to tell you!"

"I've taken in about as much as I can today. I don't think I could handle any more."

"That's understandable."

"So I shall let you get back to bed. Sorry for disturbing you."

"But Treguard, it is vitally important that I tell you what I know. If you are to have any hope of restoring the dungeon back to normal then you must listen to me. This is not a small obstacle that u need to overcome. I know you have long thought that you are a great and powerful dungeon master, but you are not. You are but a man. And you must be prepared for what is going to take place over the next few days."

Treguard was taken aback by Merlin's abruptness.

"Treguard, this is serious. The dungeon is in great danger, and as dungeon master it is your responsibility. You must listen to me, Treguard. I am your only hope!

"Treguard, what I am about to tell you is a long story. We may be up all night. Are you ready?"

Treguard gave a sarcastic laugh. "After today's performance already I don't think I'll be shocked all to easily any more."

Of course, he was wrong!

"I'll just go and make us both some hot chocolate first, I get the feeling we're both going to need it."

Treguard left the room again and went down the long cold spiral staircase, towards the kitchens, the echo of his footsteps bouncing off the gray, stone walls. When he went through the arch at the bottom of the stairs, into the corridor towards the kitchen, something caught his eye. A dark shadow slid silently across the wall in front of him. Treguard spun round on the spot but there was nothing there. He looked back and there was no sign of any shadow anymore. He went slowly along the dark corridor, watching where he tread on the cracked stone floor. A gust of wind blew in from the staircase behind him, causing him to shiver, and prompting him to hurry towards the kitchen door.

As he made his way along the corridor, holding with one hand onto the wall, he heard a faint murmur under the floor beneath him. He could hear voices and footsteps. They were surprisingly loud. Treguard bent over slightly, tilting his head to one side so that he could listen with one ear. It occurred to him that he was on the lowest floor in the castle, and that the only place underneath was in fact level one of the infamous dungeon. Occasionally he had heard faint noises from down there before, on his way to and from the kitchen, or the library, which was also along this corridor. Once, he had even heard Sidriss singing along to a lullaby when she was still a child! But this time it was different. The voices were yelling. Suddenly there was the sound of something breaking, and a scream. What on earth was going on down there in the dungeon? Treguard couldn't begin to imagine.

When he realized he was making himself feel even more scared, he stopped listening and continued along to the kitchens.

"Treguard…"

What was that?

Treguard stopped dead on his feet.

"Treguard… help me… please…"

The voice was coming from the kitchens. Treguard ran faster than he had run in many years and burst open the 2 swing doors into the old, metallic room. He instantly saw the person who had been calling him, standing at the far wall, with her arms outstretched.

"Majida!" he called.

"Treguard!!!"

He ran around the center workbench of the kitchen to where she was standing. Where had she been all this time? But just before he got to her, he stopped. Majida seemed different. Like she wasn't really looking at him, but was gazing into the distance.

Treguard realized that this wasn't Majida at all, but an image of her, cast over the wall. The genie was using what little power she had to contact her dungeon master.

"Majida! Where are you?" called Treguard.

But it was too late… Majida's image faded into the stones behind her.

"Majida! Come back!" Treguard called desperately. "Majida!"

It was no good. She had vanished. Forgetting all about the hot chocolate he was there to make, Treguard turned round and ran back out the room, along the corridor where the voices in the dungeon below could still be heard, and up the stairs.

As he charged into his chamber, he yelled "Merlin! I've got to talk to you now! This is going too far! I need your…… help……" But Treguard's voice faded as he looked around the room to find that Merlin wasn't there.

"Merlin? Where have you gone?" he yelled? "Merlin please!"

He looked around the room, it was colder and darker than he had ever seen, the fire was still not lighting, and the rubble from the piece of mantelpiece that had fallen was still lying on the floor.

"Merlin," Treguard said sadly. "I need you…"

And with that Treguard put his hands over his face and kneeled down on the floor, quietly sobbing to himself.

It was the following morning; Treguard was asleep in the chamber where he had lay sobbing the previous night. A hand gently rubbing his shoulder waked him. He opened his eyes to see Merlin standing there smiling.

"Merlin!" "That's my name, old man! As far as I can remember anyway" Merlin chuckled.

"I thought you…" Treguard stumbled to his feet. "Where did you go?"

"When?"

"Last night. I came back and you had left."

"Left? Treguard I only went to the men's room, and when I got back you were fast asleep there on the floor! I figured you must have tired yourself right out with all the excitement yesterday so I left you alone."

Treguard straightened himself up, and told Merlin he was ready to hear what Merlin had been waiting to tell him.

"Treguard, I was dungeon master here for a good part of 20 years. However, my name was deleted from all records and all information of me ever being in charge at Knightmare Castle was burned. I watched over many an adventure, I saw many people come and go; I saw wars begin and I saw peace treaties made. I was here long before the dungeon settled to the peaceful place it is now."

"Peaceful?" yelled Treguard in disbelief! "I fear you have been away from the dungeon for too long, Merlin. The dungeon is never a peaceful place. Only last year I saw the return of Malice to level 3, quickly ending any quest that crossed her path. Luckily a short feud with Lord Fear saw her being banished into a book!"

"Yes, yes, Treguard," interrupted Merlin. "Such petty arguments are nothing compared to what went on while I was in charge. Violent battles between good and evil, and even between different evils took place on a regular occurrence. I myself had to often intervene with individuals in the dungeon who were not abiding by rules. When was the last time you had direct consultation with someone down in the levels?"

"Well… I haven't for years now. Most people are particularly well behaved. Well, as well behaved as they can be!"

"Exactly. When I was in charge the dungeon was a busy old place. There would be organized crime, muggings, even murderers roamed free in the lower levels. And when I say lower levels, I mean lowest. The dungeon consisted of 5 levels when I was in charge. If you think level 3 is bad, Treguard, think yourself lucky you didn't have to witness what went on down in level 5. Even level 4 was horrendous. Come to mention it, it was rumored at the time that through an old derelict cave in level 4 was where they came from…" Merlin drifted into a deep thought.

"Who?" asked Treguard, deeply intrigued.

"They have no real name, as they are not real people. They are neither creature, nor legend. They are a power. A strong power and they call themselves…"

Suddenly there was a loud crash. Merlin and Treguard both jumped up immediately and wondered what on earth had happened. They looked over at the other side of the chamber to discover that the door had been kicked down, and in the doorway stood too extremely large beings. A man and a woman shadowed over Treguard and Merlin and glared down long and hard at them, without blinking. They did not say a word, but merely stared at the two rather small and old looking men as if to make them more uneasy.

Finally, Treguard said, "What is the meaning of this!"

The large man at the door raised his hand and boomed "SILENCE, foolish one! Do NOT speak to me, as you have nothing I wish to hear."

The woman then continued "HOWEVER, what we have to say, I'm sure you'll find MOST interesting."

"Allow us to introduce ourselves," the man said gently, but not at all kindly. "My name is Olgore, and this is Magda. You may as well leave now, as the dungeon is now ours."

"Certainly not!" replied Treguard "I don't know who you think you are, but I am the rightful master of the dungeon, and resident of this castle."

"SILENCE! I WILL NOT TELL YOU AGAIN!" Yelled Olgore.

"If you do not keep your pathetic mouth shut, I will make sure that you have no choice but to keep it shut," added Magda, with a little smile, before continuing.

"You may think you are the rightful master of the dungeon, but Treguard, the dungeon is no longer the dungeon over which you once ruled. We have changed the dungeon back into the way it was in its glory days. We have set all prisoners free and allowed our old "acquaintances" back into their homes. If you want to be master of your dungeon then that is no problem to us. But the dungeon below your feet is no longer your dungeon, Treguard. It is OURS. And you have no business here any more."

Treguard was shocked to silence. He didn't quite know what to say. He wasn't afraid, but he was stunned.

"ALSO" echoed Olgore "You can put a stop to your pathetic little quests now. They are pointless and a waste of OUR dungeon space. Besides, there is not a chance that a so-called dungeoneer would last a moment in our new dungeon. In our new dungeon there is no room for sympathy. As I think you already found out, at the expense of little Mark's life. If you are foolish enough to allow another human into level one, I will see to it personally that the same fate awaits him!"

"We are leaving now!" Magda went on. "When we return, we shall be here to stay. But first we have a few finishing touches to make to level 3. And soon, we shall be re-developing levels 4 and 5 again! Won't that be fun? When we return we do not wish to be greeted by your presence. I think I have made myself clear!"

And with that, they vanished in a glorious flash of light. "Good Grief!" Yelled Treguard. Well actually he yelled words which were a little stronger than that! "What on earth can we do?"

"I was right," said Merlin. "It IS them. They must have escaped from prison. They've been hiding in the dungeon all this time subtly making their little changes and developing it into their own. That explains the cold, eerie feeling that has been drifting up to the castle all this time. This is an exact repeat of what happened before! Treguard, these two powers are the most evil presence you are ever likely to find. I dread to think what they have done to the dungeon. They will have completely reformed it into a place reflecting their own evilness."

"Well what can we do?" demanded Treguard. "What did you do last time?"

"I can't remember Treguard! All I can remember was that it was something magnificent. However all records of it have been destroyed…"

"That reminds me Merlin." Treguard paused for a moment. "Exactly why were all records of you being dungeon master destroyed?"

There was a long silence.

"Well…" said Merlin. "I did something terrible. I went against my better judgement and I let a dungeoneer break the most important rule of all. I let him turn back, and as a consequence, he died. I mean he really died, in real life as well as in the illusion of the dungeon."

A lump formed in Treguard's throat. He couldn't believe what he had just heard. Merlin had been banished from the castle, and all records of him were burned, because he had been responsible for a dungeoneer's death? But that is exactly what Treguard had just gone through. He too had told Mark to turn back, and Mark had died. Does this mean Treguard will also be banned from the castle? Will all records of this once brave and glorious Knight be burned in the fire? Will Treguard be forced to become disgraced and leave the castle forever?

"Absolutely not!" announced Treguard, as though answering his own thoughts. He walked over to the portal and told Merlin it was time he did his duty.

"This is my dungeon, Merlin. I mastered it, and it is up to me to look after it. There's only one thing I can do."

"And what's that?" said Merlin, yawning.

"I have to go in, and fight for it. I have to fight for the dungeon, and everyone in it."

This shocked Merlin, and his eyes widened to the size of marbles. "Treguard…" he stammered, "You don't know what's down there anymore. There's no saying what Olgore and Magda have done to the dungeon… especially level 3! They may even have started work on reviving level 4 by now."

"This is no time for What Ifs or Maybes," interrupted Treguard. "I have to do this. I have to go down there."

"And most importantly, I have to rescue Majida…"

Stephen Reid (a.k.a. Spiderman) 03.06.2001

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