I’ve heard of few deaths that I consider worse than that which befell poor Piu. But my new companions seemed to shake it off quickly enough (is the loss of their fellows so routine for them?) and began a search which took in the room infested by rats, and that where we encountered the spiders. A sinkhole in the spiders’ chamber also took some time to investigate.
The net result was a modest amount of coinage, a healing potion, some books of limited interest and poor repair, a Totem of Hungry Spirits (claimed by Whiskey, whose taste for the macabre is all too evident) …and the third piece of the key.
Having thus exhausted the possibilities of that wing, we proceeded back through the Room of Sarcophagi to the opposite door. An anteroom lit by two magical braziers led to a jammed inner door. Klang applied himself to it and quickly had it open.
The room thus revealed could only be the work of someone with an extreme statuary fetish. No less than twenty statues of bugbears defended that of a winged and beaked demon. Our hearts sank as we spied the fourth and last piece of the key at the feet of the demon statue. Experience suggested there was little chance that each of these figures would not come to life to prevent us gaining the key.
Though success seemed improbable, an attempt to retrieve the key with a simple Mage Hand spell was worth making. I moved into the room to bring the key within range. Unfortunately this took me close to a bugbear statue, which predictably came to life. Less predictably, with a single Scorching Burst I succeeded in both escaping the hold it had on me and killing it outright.
To everyone’s surprise, the Mage Hand successfully picked up the key and carried it to my hand without further incident. We left the room not at all sorry that facing the nineteen remaining bugbears and the demon had proved unnecessary.
With the newly assembled key in hand, we advanced into the mist.
The sight that greeted us on the other side was daunting: a ghost in command of a formidable cohort of skeletons. If we had had any doubt, the ghost quickly made it clear what we might expect; “Thank you for freeing me. Your reward is death”.
My memories of the battle that followed are hazy. I remember Klang turning on us, clearly in thrall to the ghost. Rhada was brought low, insensible, but seemed somehow able to stave off death indefinitely. Klang returned to himself, only to fall. Did he rise again? I think so. Traevus fell and did not rise. I know that I fell – Once? Twice? Could it have been more? I lost count.
So much blood. And skeletons don’t bleed.
Yet somehow we won through. Whiskey seemed impervious – and imperious. Salth held his own and survived (which is good; I need what he knows). They may have saved us all, though as it emerged, none of us could save Traevus.
When it was over, someone found the strength to search the two sarcophagi around which the bodies lay heaped. Along with some magical items, coins and the like, it seemed that our reward was possession of the Malarethi Codex. It is not a comfortable thing to own.
My dress is ruined. I’ll never get the blood stains out.