… Ah, where was I…
Our heroes had entered a long chamber lined on either side with sarcophagi. Off to the left glowed the faint silver of natural light while to the right, shadows melded together into true darkness. The tombs held the names of honored paladin dead, written in Draconic script as benefitting the servants of Bahamut. Yet they seemed to rest uneasy, as a scratching could be heard from within. Though she used as excuse a desire to help her brethren sleep easier, it might have been pure curiosity that cause the dragonkin Istvara to disturb Sir Paeven’s tomb.
Whatever the cause, the lids of all the sarcophagi flew off in unison, and skeletons climbed out to battle those who trespassed there. Perhaps it was horror at the risen dead that caused our heroes’ slings and arrows to fly wide of their targets, but when Thom the Archer finally struck a skeleton, it dissolved instantly into a cloud of bone dust. Each successful blow struck by the goblin Splug, or by Thom, pulverized their enemies. Yet the skeletons hacked Allye the Thief and soon focused their mindless hate on the paladin who had first disturbed them. Istvara’s amber blood soon streamed down her scaled armor. Lucant Half-elven struck out again and again, but could not find the right rhythm to connect with the grim foes. The mage Reeft, whose intellect was not just used to fuel his fiery missles, sensed unnatural work at hand, beyond mere animate dead. Rather than stand and provide another target for skeletal arrows, he fled toward the light, with his goblin companion loping behind and Thom soon followed.
Reeft soon found himself within a domed chapel encircled by three altars. Above each altar was a tall narrow window, flooding the place with a pale peaceful light. The dome was painted with great beauty and artistry – a mighty silvery dragon stood upon a globe; to his left a great glossy raven, and to his right, the golden sun. Each of the figures were chained to a central lock, but around the figures, knights genuflected in reverence. Stone knights, carved in relief also circled the chapel walls, all shown kneeling before Bahamut. Elegant draconic script was carved into the wall above each altar.
Thom spun to fire down the hall where his companions still battled, felling another skeleton, but as he turned to gaze the chapel where Reeft had just entered, he took it all in in a glance. A flash of insight, perhaps a whisper from fading Pelor, dropped him to his knees and bowed his head. Silently he offered a humble prayer to the mighty dragon God. The skeletons vanished. The others soon limped to join their companions in the pearly chapel.
Reeft, following Thom’s lead, asked Lucant to join him in kneeling at the different altars. Istvara knelt at the third, but her head was bowed in prayer and shame at having not been lead by her devotion to Bahamut, but rather from a desire to impress through bold action and bloody battle. Her prayers healed her physically, but she remained kneeling for humility and healing of spirit. The others explored the chapel, and beyond admiring the craft, made a discovery on one of the altars. Five platinum dragon statuettes glimmered in the pale light. Istvara exclaimed it must be a sign, a gift from the Great Dragon, just as Pelor had gifted them their sun amulets. She bade them each take one and keep it always, but then shrunk inward again, disturbed by her own zealous feelings and unworthy actions.
The companions found a door at the back of the chapel, and decided to explore further. Reeft cast a light onto Istvara’s shield, and they ducked within what was revealed to be a shadowy crypt. A raised dais held another sarcophagus, this one carved with a sleeping knight clutching a long kingly sword. It appeared to all of them they had found Sir Keegan’s tomb. Reeft, feeling the air growing ever more dense with magical energies, knelt to offer a prayer for Sir Keegan’s soul. The coffin lid flew aside much as the others had, the ghostly form of a human skeleton, clad in chainmail, rose from the tomb, a hoarse gasping voice issued from its skull.
“I will never rest,” the skeleton rasped. “The rift must never be opened.” A dark cloud seemed to surround it in anger and accusation. “The rift must never be opened!”
Istvara bowed her head and lifted her dragon statuette up to the spirit, along with the medallion of Pelor. “I am a servant of Bahamut. Along with my companions, I come to stop the ritual.”
The spirit turned its hollow gaze to Thom. “You know me for Sir Keegan,” he said. Thom inclined his head with respect.
The spirit turned to Lucant. “Are you as fierce as you seem?” Lucant tossed his golden hair back and stood proudly, gazing golden and unafraid into Sir Keegan’s spirit eyes. Sir Keegan almost seemed to smile as he then looked to Reeft.
“Many powers abound in this place – can you face them?” Reeft nodded gravely.
The spirit lowered his head to the fierce halfling Allye. “Many traps remain from the Nerathi Empire, do you think you can evade them? Allye winked in reply with a wicked grin.
“Even the pure are driven to do unspeakable things… I killed my wife and children…”
Reeft, moved by the pain and regret in the spirit’s voice, said, “Is there anything we can do to give you peace?”
The spirit’s voice still rasped, but pride rang within it. “I am beyond redemption, but perhaps my blade can be redeemed. This is Aegris, given me by Sir Edril. It is a mighty blade.” A sword appeared in his hand and Lucant reached to take the offering. “Seek Bahamut’s boon and perhaps he will grant you aid.” Aegris shone brightly in Lucant’s grip, its pommel a dragon’s head and inlaid with three white diamonds and a platinum dragon.
Reeft asked if Sir Keegan could advise them in closing the rift. The spirit, quieter now, said, “If sorcery is involved, killing the sorcerer should prevent the worst from happening.” Reeft seemed about to ask another question, when the spirit raised one hand, “I will rest.”
Our heroes, bowed respectfully and backed out of the tomb. They admired Lucant’s new blade before asking Splug, who had not accompanied them, to lead them back to their turning so that they could hurry downstairs, the urgency of their task ever-growing.
Splug reluctantly agreed and led back towards the stairs. However, they soon came upon a terrifying blood rune painted on the stone floor. Thom recalled frightening stories his parents used to tell to instruct him – one where a man attempting to steal fell into a cave and while trying to find his way out, stepped onto a rune made of blood which raised an undead horror that killed him. Reeft, not liking the sound of this, decided to try out “Mom’s Remedy” on the rune. First he tried the blue substance, which cleared away the rune. When they came upon another, Reeft dissolved it with the pink goo.
The next room was larger, and had three passages leading from it: to the north, the way they had come; a passage to the east blocked by another blood rune; and stairs to the west. Thom checked the passageways for drafts, careful not to tread on the rune, but then noticed on the north wall a stone unlike the others. Allye examined it and found a lock, which she attempted to pick. Several more failed attempts later, Allye, with a lift from Istvara, figured out the mechanism, and they opened the door to a small secret room. All the treasure was gone, but one of the wall shimmered oddly. Reeft stuck his hand into the wall, and it vanished. He quickly withdrew it intact, to their amazement, and then, curious, stuck his face through. On the other side, he discovered four rotting corpses, two weapons racks, and a suit of armor with a plaque hung above it.
The others followed him into the hidden space, and the rotting corpses rose to give battle. Thus began another fierce battle, but emboldened by their recent victories and the urgency of their task, they are able to hack their enemies to bits. Splug, the little goblin, is particularly fierce after being both hugged and bitten by zombies, neither of which he had consented to. He unleashed his anger by spearing the final zombie in the back, where it slid down in its second grisly passing. Reeft claps Splug on the shoulder with a hearty word of praise, and Splug, pleased, turns a slightly orange shade of green.
They examined the weapons and armor, but none looked worth keeping—the armor seemed particularly rusted and worn. However, as they approached the plaque, a disembodied voice recited a riddle about “a wondrous treasure, valued above all.” Thom, who was clever at riddles, guessed “your reputation”? A flash blinded them, and when their vision returned, they beheld the armor had transformed into a glorious set of black iron scale armor, that shone in the light from Reeft’s spell. Awed by its beauty and rarity, they gazed at it, before suggesting that Istvara take it to replace her scale armor. The paladin was honored and humbled by her companions’ generosity and the generosity of Lord Bahamut. She promised to wear the armor with pride, and silently promised herself to prove worthy of her companions’ trust.
The companions then took their rest, exhausted from their trials, but little did they know the dangers they would soon face…