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Took a cautious look. Passage the workmen now called the "gateway to hell" was around fifteen feet long. Double doors in black stone at the end. Had been a rune over the doors before, but magic fading now. Eli offered to open it, tieflings being somewhat fire resistant.
Nothing happened. Smelt of old books and corpses inside. Led down to a large circular room, with a domed ceiling. Statue stood in the centre and paintings of scholars on the walls. Kal heard bat wings approaching. Three huge bats dropped from the ceiling, attacking us. They stayed up out of reach, swooping down to slash us with their wings. Kal bit the first one, but bled badly from the wounds they inflicted.
Xavian fey stepped into the air to grab a bat. It flew around, shaking him off. I tried to jump up and strike one with my staff but missed. Eli had more luck throwing bolts of fire at them. One flew lower, approaching us. We surrounded and killed it.
Their swooping attacks hurt all of us. I lost my patience; threw my twin lightning bolts at the remaining two bats. Knocked one to the floor. Kal charged in, bit its throat and killed it. Xavian tied a rope to the statue, tried to lasso the last bat. He missed, but caused the last bat to retreat through a crack in the ceiling.
No obvious exits from the room. The statue held a book and a lantern. The lantern looked intended to hold a light source. We cut a piece of bat wing, doused it in oil and Eli lit it with her magic. Found the base rotated. As we spun it around the room, spotted three secret doors at the cardinal points. Some testing revealed the doors only opened when the statue's light shone on them. Including from the other side. We headed west, wedging the door open with an iron spike.
Corridor lead to a huge library. Bookshelves stood on a raised level in the centre of the room. Heard movement between the bookshelves. Xavian and Kal started to creep up the stairs. Suddenly all the shelves toppled towards us. We all jumped out of the way, but were still hit by some of the books sent flying.
Two black humanoid figures had pushed the bookshelves onto us. Zombies, their bodies covered in red glowing runes. Four ghost-like apparitions flew at us as well. The spectres were hard to damage, but they didn't like the touch of my radiant scimitar. Eli was cursing them, at one point running in setting several on fire, transferring more fire damage from herself to them.
The zombies lashed out with magic from the runes under their skin. Kal had one pinned in a corner, protecting me. We were separated from our friends on opposite sides of the library. Xavian teleported across the fallen shelves and books on the platform to help me. His demon had appeared again, followed him across. Slowly we defeated them, Eli doing the most damage. She was starting to get hurt too, backed away to rejoin us. The last spectre she'd been battling fell to a final blow from my glowing scimitar.
Books and scrolls were scattered across the platform. Contained histories and prophecies, but so old they fell apart on touch. Three doors on the lower level led only to storage rooms. One had graffiti scrawled in blood on the walls. Found a silver and turquoise ring, and a pouch containing 160 ancient gold pieces.
Another door led off the raised platform. A marble bust stood in an alcove where the corridor split. Old magic lingered on it. Eli touched the bust, felt a temporary ritual for understanding languages given to her. Xavian and Eli started arguing the merits of turning left or right next. Finally they decided to just take a look each way. Right led to closed doors. Left opened up into a room, and Kal smelt burnt charcoal. Checked the left way first. Walls of the room were scorched and blackened, and a 10 foot wide chasm split the room in two. Whispering voices filled the room but no sign of the source. A pillar spanned the chasm, someone's idea of a bridge. Didn't like that idea; headed back to the other doors.
Six pillars in the room, a stone angel on the top of each facing in to the centre. Six rusted levers on the far wall. Made me nervous. Told the others not to go between the pillars. Edged round the room. First exit ended in small room, mostly filled with rubble. A statue of a robed scholar, we felt more relaxed in its presence. Eli identified him as the immortal Belestar, god of seers and scholars. Stopped there to rest a few minutes.
Avoided entering the pillars again, made our way to the other exit. Led to a scriptorium where books and scrolls would have been copied. Skeleton figure stood at a lectern, scribbling on sheets of paper with his own finger. He'd finish, scrunch up the paper and throw it away, only to burn up in crimson fire. Then he'd begin again. Didn't notice us at all.
Xavian went to say hello, the figure didn't respond. Xavian poked him; he looked annoyed. Eli suggested being a little more polite. Noticed the skeleton had small black horns, he was another tiefling. Eli tried to engage him in conversation, about magic and tiefling heritage. Seemed most interested in rituals, so Xavian and Eli talked about those, trying to get a response.
The skeleton looked up, and turned into a red-skinned tiefling. Thanked us for breaking the curse on him. Told us someone called Char-thon was causing the madness, using the Codex of the Damned. Advised seeking out the other custodians for advice before taking him on. Eli heard words spoken in her head, words with power. "Anurnadan" sounded like a creature's name; "Yeltonin" more of a password or for protection. The tiefling vanished, leaving a amulet on the lectern. Held a safe-wing enchantment to help when falling. The others decided was best if I wore it. With my record for falling, I was inclined to agree!
Xavian wanted to pull the levers. I warned him off, watched him back away from them. His demon appeared behind me and pulled a lever. One of the pillars opened, could see a scroll inside. Then all six angels came alive, headed for us. Knew that demon was trouble! Eli was trapped in the corner, so we ran to join her. Tried resetting the lever but no luck.
The angels surrounded us. They were beautiful, if a little dangerous. Turned back to stone once injured badly, slowly healing themselves again. By all striking at once we took out four of them. That left two in stone form. One we shattered after minutes of striking at it. The cracks trying to seal back up as we made them. We waited out the last angel. Eventually it came back to life, and we killed it quickly.
Each pillar contained a prophecy. One written on silver dragon hide by a black dragon. Eli's language ritual worked, she could read the draconic. It predicted the fall of an eladrin city to an undead army. That had happened hundreds of years ago. We'd take these when we left, would be valuable to the right people.
Reluctantly headed back to the other room. Peered down the chasm, about 30 foot to the bottom. The voices came from below. More spectres, they flew up to us. With them a robed figure filled with many kinds of energy, fire, lightning, acid and more. An arcanoshade.
Xavian used his magic on the shade, pulled it from over the chasm to between us. I lit up my scimitar and struck, the shade was very vulnerable to its radiant magic. Xavian protected me from the shade's retaliation. We killed it quickly. The arcanoshade exploded throwing out a huge magical burst, catching myself and some of the shades.
Eli had already pulled one shade away, backing out of the room. The others hovered over the chasm. Eli threw fire bolts; Xavian and I leant over the chasm to strike them.
After the shades, we had the chasm to deal with. Xavian just teleported across of course. I tried sitting on the pillar to cross, holding onto Kal in front of me. The pillar rolled, Kal slipped and fell. Holding on as I was, I followed him into the chasm. Kal didn't mind the fall, his physical body soon recovered. And the amulet we found worked! I landed on my feet, only a little hurt. Eli tried to cross after tying a rope to herself and the pillar; she slipped too, ended up swinging under the pillar. Xavian had to pull all three of us back up. Finally across, we continued down the next corridor. We weren't coming back this way if we could help it!
Hidious room, pools of acidic blood and writhing tentacles on the floor. Portal opened as we entered, humanoid figure with antlers came through. Demon, Xavian understood it. Two blood raptors came with it. Defeated them all, and Xavian took the raptor's teeth to use in rituals.
Searched the room. Eli found a magical orb, but no use to a warlock. Gold reliefs of bells on the wall; we'd take those relics back to the church. An ivory bound book of prayers. But otherwise a dead end, had to turn back. Tired, we headed to the small, peaceful room with Belestar's statue to sleep.
Back to the circular room with the statue holding a lantern and book. Words in elvish carved on the book; reading them aloud opened the east door.
Octagonal room, statue standing in a bathing pool. Arcanoshade hidden in the statue. More of the ghosts and zombies appeared; took those out first. Xavian hid behind a door while Eli blew up the arcanoshade from a safe distance; we knew to expect the magical explosion now.
Buzzing noise behind north door, Kal heard it first. Sounded like insects. Corridor split, led to two rooms. Sound came from both directions. Crept into one, a library. Enormous hive, giant iridescent wasps the size of a cat rested on it.
Persuaded Eli to fireball the hive then retreat down the corridor to us. She set it alight, burning the wasps too. A queen emerged and more wasps flew in from the other room. Killed them all, but Xavian was knocked unconscious for awhile and the queen wasp infected him. Library books seemed too decayed to read. Xavian hastily pulled one out, letting it crumble to dust. A book about demons I think; sure he did that on purpose though the eladrin wouldn't admit to it. Found one of the guards still alive inside the hive. Managed to wake him up, took him back to the safe room for now.
Room on other side was triangular. Magic circle in the centre and mirrors focusing light around the room. Found another gold church relic to return. And a vial of shining liquid. Note attached gave instructions; writing a prayer on the Codex of the Damned in this magical ink would destroy it.
Further in we found living quarters. Another bust in an alcove. Xavian starred at it, then screamed as it came alive and started pulling skin from his face.
Footprints led to a kitchen. Blood of another village guard covered the walls and floor. Shut the door and didn't enter.
Dining room had blackened bones piled up on the long table. Arcane magenta fire burned hot in the fireplace, hissing and spitting. Strongbox in the centre of the fire.
Small fire skulls flew out as we approached. Bones came alive, spinning around. Eli stood in the middle of the fire skulls, distracting them. Couldn't hurt the tiefling much. I blasted the bones with radiant magic from my sunblade scimitar.
Eli lifted the box from the flames once we'd cleared the room. Contained a magic quill for writing quickly and a belt of sacrifice which could help heal another.
Needed to rest again. Examined Xavian, who now had a wasp's egg growing on the back of his neck. Managed to extract it. He'd be fine in the morning.
Reached the last room in the living quarters. Whispering sounds behind the door. Cold inside. Skeletons and chains hanging from the walls, for restraining monks in the past when they lost their minds? Chains came alive, squeezing around us. Found some treasure in the room to sell back in Threshold, jade bracers and three gold rings.
Back to the entrance room again, finally took the south door. Long corridor headed deep into the vaults. Large room with statue of an eladrin scholar holding a bowl of water. Eli said it was for a ritual to ask a question, but very costly on ritual components.
Corridor split, we headed left. Kal smelt more zombies behind some doors; left them alone. Came to two large rooms, sounds coming from one. Asked my raven to look around the corner first. Esgal walked around staying close to the wall. Was a torture chamber, covered in blood. Three flayed human figures working on a zombie.
Xavian charged in, surprising them. Kal followed him. An iron maiden in the corner was animated by magic, swallowed Xavian repeatedly. The eladrin escaped the first a few times, then the iron maiden spat him out when unconscious.
Other large room had paper hanging down between pillars like a web. Esgal flew over the paper to scout the room. Voice in our heads told us to leave. Said "truth's an illusion". Then it ordered "kill them" and two arcanoshades flew out of the walls.
The paper formed into a humanoid creature. Apocrypha demon. It dominated Eli, made her shoot fire bolts at Xavian. Once free Eli turned on the demon, setting the paper-filled room alight. Xavian teleported to a source of magic in a corner of the room. Grabbed a vial there before the fire consumed it. A potion of vitality - very powerful healing. We dodged the expanding fire in the room as we finished the demon and the shades.
Exhausted we returned to our safe room to rest before pushing further. Checked on the guard we'd saved too.
Continued deeper into the vaults. Xavian picked a lock on a door, led to a large circular chamber. Floating balls of light lit the room. A wall of light on the far side had to be a portal.
Painting on the floor of three wizards, one carrying an orb, a wand and a sword. Rose from the floor, attacking us. Guardians of the portal and very strong, hurt us badly. Kal lost his physical body for awhile. The Eli remembered the password we'd been given, shouted out "Yeltonin". The wizards sank back into the floor and gave us no more trouble.
Stepped through the portal. Landed on a giant winding scroll of paper. Nothingness to the sides and above. The surface we stood on was scattered with spurting ink blots, flaming letters and crumbled heaps of paper. Xavian said the letters came from the abyssal alphabet.
Three freshly flayed zombies closed on us; they had been men from the village. Ripped into me, afraid of my radiant scimitar which struck them hard. We pushed one over the side; he fell into the emptiness. Moments later he dropped from above back onto the paper floor with us.
Finished off the zombies and crept up the strange scroll. Heavy book floated at the end, the Codex of the Damned. Shar-thom stood there reading from it. Said he'd flay us too, add our skins to the codex to escape from the vault.
Used his magic on Xavian, attacking his face. We struck back, Xavian, Kal and myself pinning him against the edge of the scroll. Unable to shoot magic at us, Shar-thom jumped over the edge. Before he fell back onto its surface, I shouted to quickly grab the floating codex, the source of this power. We ran back down the scroll, passing it to Eli. Shar-thom returned to see our warlock summon a giant fiery hand and throw the book back through the portal.
He was enraged, but weakened a little. We traded blows, wore each other down. My healing powers were exhausted. We used our healing bells and potions, and the vitality potion Xavian found. Xavian was still knocked down and nearly killed. Eli landed the final blow, not a moment too soon!
Returned through the portal. Performed the ritual on the codex, wrote a prayer from the book we found using the magical liquid and quill. Vaults fell quiet, background whispering of ghosts and zombies stopped. Slept another night in the safe room with our rescued guard to recover our strength before heading out.