The party braced for action; Alurax and Olaf moved in to attack, the dwarf relying on his small size to avoid the attacks of the giant saurian. Alagon, Ferros and Gullhar (the elf formerly known as Cafaror) provided missile support and Elysia fired her remaining Magic Missile. Alurax and Olaf’s efforts paid off and between them the team managed to topple one of the mighty beasts. Behind it, another one came lumbering forward but an unerringly accurate arrow from Alagon and several other well-placed hits meant that this lizard too was soon a feature of the dungeon rather than one of its inhabitants.
The party heaved a sigh of relief, having taken little damage and escaped being trapped in a dead-end. They set to counting the treasure that they had gained from the salamanders and Elysia was particularly pleased when she realised that one of the prizes was a clutch of spells, precious supplements for her spellbook. With no further danger in sight and only the intermittent reappearance of the sinister floating black disc to worry about, the party settled down to rest and lick their wounds.
Don't touch it! It's eeeeeevil!
Once they had recovered their strength, they began to explore the side passages off the Great Avenue but found little to suggest there was anything of interest down there; merely about fifty feet of tunnel and then a blank wall. On two of the passages, there were open iron bars, on the other two, the same bars but this time closed. Nobody showed much inclination to prise open the bars and explore dead ends.
They headed off towards the hall of the Great Seal, to the door surrounded by the strange and seemingly moving carvings. Arriving there, they took a closer look at the carvings and realised that although they were unsettling and unpleasant to look at, they were not actually moving – they just seemed to be.
E pur si muove
Beyond the doors was a room dominated by a stone altar against the far wall, its top smashed in two. Several skeletons in faded and tattered robes littered the floor, some having fallen in the passageway on the far side of the room. Some dented chalices lay on the floor, as well as a knife that had been broken in two.
Exhibiting a rare caution, the party sent Zanurax the thief in first; his instincts and abilities were clearly operating at their highest as he very soon spotted that there seemed to be something wrong with a dusty and stained rug in front of the altar. As he probed it with the point of a spear, it rose up, writhed and made a grab for the offending implement. Zanurax was quicker and jerked his spear away, then ran for the door and burst into the hall of the Great Seal to regale the party with tales of a Killer Carpet.
So now even the floors aren't safe?
Intrigued (to put it mildly) the party entered the room only to find the dusty rug sitting there minding its own business, albeit looking a little smug. Zanurax insisted that it had tried to attack him but the party were having none of it and pressed on down the far passage, stepping over the skeletons until they came to a door which Elysia opened and used a charge of her Wand of Illumination to reveal the broken storage chests, the fragments of clay jars, the cobwebs on the walls and the flock of stirges in the ceiling rafters who were just waking up. She closed the door hurriedly and moved further down the passage
Round the next bend, a surprise awaited them. A vast dark chamber stretched out before them, cold and damp, the stagnant water reflecting the light of the torches as sinuous serpents of dancing gold. On the far side of the pool, Elysia could see a dimly lit flight of stairs leading up to a door beyond which was a strange glow.
Fairly certain that something unpleasant was waiting for them in the water, Elysia cast a Fly spell on herself and glided across the chamber to land on the steps on the far side. As she came in to land, she glanced down and noticed that at the submerged bottom of the flight of steps, there appeared to be a lime-encrusted skeleton in mouldering robes, which seemed to have the emblem of the seven-pointed star. She had taken a coil of rope and once across, attached it to the top of the steps. Alagon did likewise to his end and then he began to slide himself across. Unfortunately about halfway across, he lost his grip and half-fell into the water. As he pulled himself out again, there was a bubbling and a swirling and a huge maelstrom of agitated water began to form. As Alagon hurriedly pulled himself across to the far side, the massive form of a Water Elemental rose up and surged towards the remaining party members, who dodged back down the tunnel as the water surged up and drenched Gullhar and Ferros.
Early baths for the party are a real prospect
Eventually, the water subsided again and this time, Alurax crossed the rope, managing to arrive on the far side with the water undisturbed. Gullhar followed and the four of them moved through the doorway and into the chamber beyond.
The source of the glow was now revealed; on the floor of the chamber was a strange circular design that did not seem to have faded with the years and at its very centre was a staff which stood perfectly upright without actually touching the floor. The staff was made of ebony and shod with silver and platinum, topped with a large gem from which emanated the source of the glow.
The party assumed that this was the gem that they had been sent to find. Elysia noticed that beyond this room, there was a passageway off which five arches opened and they all seemed to be sealed by a glowing field which was the same colour as that which came from the gem. She cast Unseen Servant to try and move the staff but the spell seemed to be negated as it entered the vivid glow. The elves had said that only another elf could touch the gem without something bad happening, so Elysia sent Gullhar in to try and take the staff. Although the glow played across his skin like the Northern Lights, giving him a numb tingling throughout his body, Gullhar nevertheless reached the staff and found that he could touch the gem and grasp the staff itself. He pulled at it and it fell into his hands, whereupon the glowing was extinguished.
At that, the fields that had sealed the five archways similarly ceased. There was a snarling, slavering growling from within; something nasty was now free to emerge.
Using her Fly ability, Elysia ferried Alagon back across, quickly followed by Gullhar. Alurax stood his guard with his trusty magic trident while the magic user’s attention was drawn to another of the party that needed help; Ferros had been making his way across on the rope but had slipped and disturbed the water. As the elemental rose up to attack, Elysia swooped in to pluck him to safety but took a hefty blow from a fist of water that surged up. She was stunned for a few moments and managed to make it to the steps where Alurax was watching the advance of five very fearsome beasts, horrific shapes that seemed to have been constructed in somebody’s nightmares.
Don't forget me!
Hey! How you doin'?
Just because we can't fly doesn't mean we don't care!
Ferros swam for safety and was pulled up back into the passageway by Gullhar and Alagon. Meanwhile, Elysia managed to pick up Alurax and fly back across the chamber. If she thought that this would see off the opposition, she was badly mistaken as three of the five rose up and followed her across the water. She landed on the far side and the party prepared for action. Elysia cast Stinking Cloud but the lead attacker passed straight through it, only mildly inconvenienced.
Battle was joined, with Alagon’s circle of protection from evil fairly crackling as the creatures attempted to land blows on him. Alurax weighed in with his trident but was suddenly overcome with uncontrollable fear and fled shrieking up the corridor. Zanurax and Ferros were to join him in panicked flight, although the party did managed to bring down one of their attackers. This made little difference to the progress of the battle and soon Alagon was on the verge of unconsciousness, blood pouring from a dozen different wounds. He set off to try and find Ferros to get healed; meanwhile, the cleric, together with Alurax and Zanurax had come to their senses on the wharf and resolved to re-enter the fray.
Having forced their way past the party, the remaining creatures hurtled down the corridor towards the hall of the Great Seal but now, coming towards them was Alurax, with his fellows not too far behind. Alurax took on two of the creatures but was getting severely pounded when Alagon opened up with his bow; one of the creatures finally crashed to the floor, dead, whilst its fellow rose into the air and flew over the heads of the party and out into the daylight.
Battered and bruised but still mostly intact, the party decided that as they had got what they had come for, they should try to find the elves and hand over the crystal. They hurried along the wharf, across the bridge and up the steps into the ruins of the temple on the clifftop. Nearby were the eaves of the forest where they believe the elves would be waiting to take delivery of their precious artefact.
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