They regrouped the next morning and headed into town as the shops were opening. Eager to head back to the cairn, they set out to complete errands at Venelle’s and the General Store, with its enormous cage stuffed with disgruntled canaries. After they had purchased all the necessary provisions, they made a final stop at the home of Master Delaron to see if he might have any insights to offer them about the cairn or the secrets within.
It was Illyon who answered their knock at the door. Amadi, Kraldar and Scruffin, who had adventured with Illyon in the past, greeted the young barkeep-turned-student and Illyon, pleased to see them again, ushered them directly to Master Delaron.
The teacher was excited to hear their accounts of the cairn’s artwork, traps, puzzles and creatures, but he frowned upon hearing about the corpses with their red leather armor and eight-pointed insignia. “Petty plunderers, seeking to put a price on history that belongs to everyone! They’d sell your cleric’s Defender’s bones for even a tiny profit. It’s deplorable!”
The sun was creeping higher into the sky and the party was getting anxious to proceed. They thanked Master Delaron for receiving them and he handed them a few sheets of parchment and some charcoal pencils. “Copy the glyphs for me. I’ll be able to tell you more after I’ve had a look for myself.” They thanked him and left.
Having already made the journey the day before, they set out sure of foot and made the journey in nearly half the time. They climbed down the path they had discovered the evening before and Kraldar led them into the entrance of the cairn and up to the shard of mirror frame they had discovered the previous morning. He turned to them and said, “I’ll have half an hour. We’ll need to be quick.” He took out a scroll he had purchased that morning and used its spell to help him recognize and read the languages they had earlier been unable to decipher. He inspected the fragmented frame and was able to read a name. “Icosiel,” he read out loud. Before anyone could ask what it meant or even think to copy down the characters as Delaron had requested, Kraldar turned and dashed back into the corridor and deeper into the cave.
“Apparently he wasn’t kidding,” Amadi quipped, and they all dashed off after the healer. When they caught up to him, he was already inspecting an engraving upon the great rotating sarcophagus in the chamber with seven archways. “Another name,” Kraldar translated. “Zosiel.”
“Hold up a minute,” Noth interrupted, before he could dash off again. “If we’re going down below again, Kraldar, let me lead the way. I’ll tie a rope. It’ll make it easier for everyone.” Kraldar remembered in annoyance the climbing troubles he had the day before and nodded, his face stony. Noth tied up the rope, shimmied down and one by one, the others rappelled after her.
They found still another glyph in the corridor at the bottom of the elevator shaft. “Nadroc,” Kraldar told them, and he frowned. “I think we’re out of time. We’ve been down here a while now and I can’t remember anywhere else to look. Can anyone else?” The others shook their heads.
“They all three were names?” Scruffin asked. She was the one who had recognized the Vaadi characters the day before. Kraldar nodded.
“What should we do?” Amadi asked. Nobody had an immediate answer.
“Since we’re already down here, we could have another look at that shower room,” Noth suggested.
“You and Amadi have the first look. Scruffin and I will stay here and discuss the glyphs. Maybe we can make some theories as to who built this cairn. Or, perhaps more importantly, who for.”
Amadi and Noth dropped their extra gear and waded down the stairs at the end of the hallway. “Come after us if we don’t pop up five minutes,” Amadi said to Kraldar.
“I’ll watch for you,” the cleric replied.
Noth led the way into the crystal-clear water that flooded the dark room down the stairway. She and Amadi swam slowly and awkwardly, encumbered by their heavy armor. As they neared the back, they spotted the place where Noth had seen the water elemental. They crept cautiously nearer and nearer, but the creature made no appearance. They were turning around to head back and discuss what to do next when Amadi felt something slam into the back of his head. Apparently the elemental had found a different hiding spot and had taken the opportunity to ambush them. But Amadi was too quick for it. Before Noth could even get into position to help him, he had pierced the weird creature twice and it floated, eerily and transparent, to the top of the room.
Damn. Bought this new sword for nothing, Noth thought to herself. And watched as Amadi swam back to the staircase. She was about to follow him when the light Scruffin had cast upon her sword illuminated a chamber to her right. She hesitated a moment, wondering if she should resurface for air. But, feeling she still had time, she decided to take a quick look. Passing through the doorway, she immediately noticed what looked to be some sort of changing room for bathers. The walls stretching away from her were lined with benches and stacks of cubbies. A bundle of old rags sitting in one of the units caught her eye, but before she could investigate, a ghoul crept out from the far, shadowy corner and slashed at her. Noth, startled, ducked out of the way and spun to attack at the monster. She managed to stab it through the thigh in retaliation, but the creature seemed not to notice. It gashed her cheek with a thrashing claw and, snatching her hand, sank its teeth into Noth’s wrist. Noth struggled to retreat back into the shower room but quickly realized, with a panic, that the bite had paralyzed her. And I’m nearly out of air!, she thought.
Just as her vision was beginning to dim, Amadi swam in and sank his blade into the ghoul’s belly, just at the kidney. Noth didn’t wait to watch the thing perish. With all of her strength, and with a couple of pushes from Amadi, she managed to reach the staircase, then the surface, and air.
“Hell’s bells, woman,” Kraldar said as she dragged herself, gasping, to the upper level. She collapsed upon the cold tile and he moved over to heal her. His magic restored her, and she pulled herself back to her feet.
“You’re a lucky lass, you,” he said, chuckling. “That was close.”
“Yes, but it’s over now. Shall we have another go, Amadi, this time WITHOUT armor?”
“I’ll go with you,” Scruffin said.
“Alright,” Noth said, and she waded back down the stairs. “It looked to me like there are exits in all four walls in this room. This staircase being the exit on this wall.” She gestured to the ceiling sloping down to the next level. Shall we take a look at each, one at a time, stopping for air after each room?"
“Sounds right to me,” said Amadi. “Let’s start with the one with that ghoul. He had more of that grave-robber gear on him. He might have something valuable on him.”
They all nodded in agreement and swam down into the room below. Amadi reached the chamber first and grabbed the creepy, bug-eyed ghoul corpse and began to search him. He discovered a signet ring upon the body’s finger, but could find nothing else of value.
Noth, meanwhile, had entered behind him and begun to examine the bundle she had spotted before being assailed. The old rags disintegrated upon her touch, but a leather pouch tumbled from the cubby and landed in the debris that had sunk to the floor. Noth stooped to pick it up and peek inside. It was filled with coins.
Scriffin entered last and attempted to detect a magical presence within the room. Sensing nothing, she turned around and swam back. Noth and Amadi, seeing nothing else to examine, followed her.
They surfaced just long enough to catch their breaths and plunged back in to explore the opposite chamber. Scruffin was the first to arrive this time, and she again attempted to detect magic. She sensed a strong presence in the vicinity of a skeleton that drifted in the center of the room, but knowing she didn’t have much time to tarry, she gestured to the others to search the skeleton before swimming back to the surface.
Noth and Amadi swam to inspect the chamber more closely. It was very much a mirror image of the opposite enclave. They spotted a sword upon the skeleton- one that clearly appeared to be a master craftwork. Amadi took it up and the two of them, seeing nothing else to investigate, turned back to resurface.
Scruffin, who was waiting at the top of the stairs, shouted in alarm as they emerged. “I told you to search the skeleton! There was a magic item on the skeleton!”
“We did search the skeleton,” Amadi said, bewildered. He held it out to her. “And found a very fine sword.”
“That’s not the item I sensed! It’s the wrong one!” Scruffin hollered. She smacked at the sword and Amadi dropped it in alarm. “Scruffin!” he complained. But she simply glared at him, and Amadi, sighing, bent to retrieve the sword from the water.
“Well, there’s one more chamber to search…” Amadi began.
“We have to go back to the last chamber!” Scruffin insisted, her voice raised. “There was something else in there. Something very important!”
“How about Amadi and I go have a look at the far side while you have another look?” Noth asked.
They proceeded. Scruffin paddled herself back to the chamber and noticed at once what the others had missed. Apparently their swimming about had kicked up a current, which had lifted the skeleton from the floor. It had shifted over to one corner, and it sat there awkwardly with its head grazing the tile and its feet leaned four feet up the wall. In the spot where it had laid was the red lantern they had been searching for. Scruffin smiled to herself, grabbed it, and returned to the surface.
“Well done, Scruffin,” Kraldar said, helping her up the stairs. “We can relight the lanterns now.”
The water stirred again. Scruffin peered down the stairs, hiding the lantern behind her. “What did you find?” she asked, sweetly.
“Nothing,” Amadi replied, sounding beaten. Dead end."
“What did you find, Scruffin?” Noth asked.
Scruffin swung the lantern out in front of her and brandished it at them. “What did I tell you?” she wailed. Amadi smiled, ignoring her frustration.
“That’s the way, Scruffin. Let’s go get these lanterns all lit back up again.”