Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 12

“Poison gas!” Hajima exclaims as he covers his mouth and nose with a cloth from his coat. He looks down at the gems, then looks over at the carvings once more. “Quickly! I believe these gems will unlock a secret door that will allow us to escape this foul odor!” He picks up the emerald and places it in the corresponding slot in the carving of the garden and the snake. “Try to match up the other gems and carvings!”

Tuskor grabs the sapphire gem and rushes to find its corresponding location, guessing it to be the thunderstorm. He gasps as he tries to jam the stone into place, taking in a lung full of the wretched gas.

Hajima suddenly exclaims out loud, “I’ve got it! They are the colors and scenes that represent dragons! Red is fire, white is ice, blue for lightning, green for poison, black for acid!” You can almost see smoke coming out of Hajima’s ears from using his brain that hard. He’s a man of action and not the go-to guy for riddles. There’s a definite sheen of sweat across his brow, but whether it’s from using his brain too much, or the poison, no one in the group can be sure. “The black gem goes in the laboratory carving, the red gem goes in the fire carving, and the diamond goes in the winter carving.” Hajima coughs a bit more and looks quite pale.

Vellk doesn’t even bother to cover his mouth, the poison is no match for his hardy constitution.  The warrior picks up the black opal and fits it to the carving in the laboratory scene.  Rowan rushes to place the diamond in the snowy scene, trying not to breathe. Unfortunately, she holds her breath so hard that she gasps for breath, breathing in the foul vapors.

“Think evil dragons yeah? That’s the ticket!” Lanaver clicks the ruby into the final slot.  “I hate dragons, their stupid cults and their THRICE DAMNED TRAPS AND PUZZLES!”  His tirade is spoiled by a racking cough as he expels the last of the gas from his lungs

As the gems are inserted the gas ceases and dissipates as the door to the crypt groans open. The sarcophagus too groans and shifts upon stone, making way to a staircase depending below. There is dust on the stairs, it appears to have been recently disturbed by two humanoids.

Brother Keefe wheezes and gasps for breath, “Please, I cannot continue as I am weakened by this foul trap.  This violation of the crypt must be investigated!”

The stairs descend steeply and curve off to the right, spiraling into darkness.  Tuskor moves forward to investigate, peering into the darkness with his keen Dwarven eyesight.  He looks at the footprints in the dust, doubtless humanoid but are they human? Or are we dealing with a more dangerous pair of foes?

“Since we are in no rush, I suggest you all let me administer a quick antivenom.”  Says Sebastian, We could take a brief respite before proceeding. I have quite the tonic to help poisoning, but it takes a few minutes to take effect.”

An eerie hour passes in the cold, stony crypt and they all begin to feel better as Sebastian’s tonic counteracts the poison in their blood.  At last, feeling more steady on their feet they move toward the staircase. Tuskor takes the lead, utilizing his darkvision as he cautiously descends the stairs with his tusk staff in hand.

The spiral staircase opens into a chamber. Five odd humanoid skeletons, topped with draconic skulls, stand at attention, holding swords. At the back of the chamber is a large throne-like chair, currently empty, on a mahogany dais. The skeletons stand perfectly still, not even twitching at the party’s approach.

Sebastian readies his sling in one hand, his arcane focus in the other while concentrates on casting a spell.  His eyes begin to glow a soft blue color and he can see Divination and Necromantic magic within the room, radiating from the throne.

“Bash the walking bones, as was said by our friend with the rolling pin.”  Tuskor mutters, “Swords and rapiers do less to those without flesh, blood and bone”

“Most likely the divination magic I’m sensing is going to be able to tell when something living comes in the room and the necromantic magic is going to animate those skeletons to prevent us from investigating whatever this room is.” Says Sebastian, his eyes still glowing.  “Ready yourselves before we decide to go further. Perhaps we should be ready to retreat back into this doorway, to limit their attacks on us.”

“Tuskor-Dwarven druid friend, are they all within the range of your entanglement spell?”  Lanaver asks with a shiver, “Did I mention I hate tombs?”

“Vellk use this”  Sebastian hands his quarterstaff to the large warrior, “It’ll be more effective than your axe.

“Many thanks friend Sebastian, I will put it to good use!”  Vellk says with a grin, hefting the staff one handed.

Lanaver takes a lead weighted sap from an inner pocket.  “Haven’t had to use the old’ gal in a fortnight, it’ll be good to get some practice in,” He takes a few practice swings. It’s clear he’s bludgeoned a few skulls in his career.

Tuskor mutters arcane words and the strange white root tendrils emerge from the stones of the wall and floor to wrap around the dormant guardian skeletons.  “That will hold them when we enter, but be on your guard; my grubs are not indestructible.”  His companions notice that they aren’t roots at all, but small segmented worms, some oozing a kind of sticky slime and others equipped with hundreds of tiny legs.

Entering the room quietly and carefully, Sebastian skirts the skeleton guards.  Shrinking back either from the writing worms or the quiescent undead, he makes his way around the large throne like chair, noticing a hinged panel at the bottom.

“Have a look at this lads!”  He says, crouching and reaching for it with a grin on his face.

“Hold up!”  The unusually sharp tone of Lanaver’s normally soft voice stops Sebastian’s hand mere inches from the small panel.  “These things aren’t always as they seem.”

The wood elf swiftly manifests the tools of his trade. Unrolling a tightly rolled leather bundle in a clear, safe space in front of him he whispers, “Lady Luck be with me.” and goes to work with his lockpicks.

After a few tense moments, a harsh metallic click announces that the lock has been picked and Lanaver leans back on his heels, taking a deep breath.  Vellk wipes an annoying bit of sweat off his brow and the rest of them let out a collective sigh.

“There was a poison needle trap on this one… it was cleverly done, however I’ve managed worse.”  Reaching inside, he withdraws a sparkling gemstone and holds it up to glitter in the torch light.  “Ahh… well worth it.”  

Sebastian, his eyes still glowing, reaches inside the opening and withdraws a wrapped and sealed Vellum scroll

Lanaver looks up from his kit as he puts it away and notices Hajima with the rolling pin for the first time.  “You gonna make ’em into biscuits with that, eh shooter?” He smirks.

Hajima just chuckles at Lanaver and pats him on the head as he kneels on the ground before him. “We’ll see how well you do trying to stab a skeleton. I’m sure that will be much more effective than bashing it to pieces. I look forward to witnessing your expert display of deadly skill.”

“Oh yeah, that’s why I got the nighty-night here.”  Lanaver grins, patting his sap, “It’s not very big but it packs a wallop!”

“Let’s keep moving shall we?”  Rowan asks, looking nervously at the skeletons and their strange restraints.

The group continues down spiraling stair, finding that it opens again into a chamber set up as a small laboratory.  Tables around the room are covered with beakers, vials, tomes, cauldrons, and pots full of alchemical agents. In the middle of the central table is a note next to a blue clay pot.

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