Milacent took a deep breath. When they had pulled Theodore up, he had sworn that the pit was perfectly safe. He had said that it was merely a permanent magical darkness and silence cast over the pit to make it unnerving, and that you could float down through it, light as a feather, unharmed to the floor below. He had even volunteered to be the first down, jumping back into the darkness without even holding onto the rope. Zelcor and Scratchy went next, and after each one there had been the single tug on the end of the rope indicating they were okay. So it was fine, except for the disturbing leap into silent blackness. Milacent picked up Fleabait, Scratchy’s wolf, and sighed, “Well, here we go,” and dropped into the darkness.
From below the shaft, the other party members looked up and waited. They had decided that Milacent should come down last because she was the strongest (and heaviest), and she’d be best able to pull people up if they got into trouble. But now they had all made it down safely and were wondering what was taking so long. As they were watching, they saw the rope move, which they figured meant Milacent was finally using it to climb down, then suddenly it began thrashing about violently, which was significantly more mysterious. The reason for the thrashing soon became evident as Milacent descended out of the darkness, holding a wildly thrashing Fleabait.
“He doesn’t like the silence,” Milacent shouted, now that she was free from its effects, “and I’m not fond of it either.” She floated down to the ground and let go of Fleabait, who instantly skittered to a corner and began growling at everybody. For her part, she brushed off as much as she could of the wolf fur and got her first look at the chamber she had landed in.
The sight was impressive: the walls were of polished gray marble, reaching 25 feet to the ceiling. Every ten feet were columns whose central eight-foot sections had been carved to resemble a beautiful woman, and the whole thing lit by flickering glass spheres hanging from the ceiling on short chains. Two the north were two wide passages, and between them a white marble sarcophagus with the picture of a beautiful sleeping dark-haired woman on its lid.
“I wouldn’t go near that,” Theodore admonished as Milacent approached the sarcophagus, “It radiates powerful necromantic magic.”
“Um, okay,” answered Milacent, not really eager to fight whatever horrible undead abomination probably lay within. “Let’s check out these passages.”
The right passage led to a giant panel of red metal set into the wall. It was divided into one-foot-square frames that appeared to chronicle a beautiful woman performing magical incantations involving some sort of winged creatures, but overall the panel’s purpose was unclear. Its position seemed to indicate it was a door of some sort, but after finding no apparent way to open it, the party went back to the other passage.
This time the results were more interesting: the passage led to a slow-flowing underground river, and nearby a small landing with two boats. A little exploration of the landing found what everyone presumed to be the other side of the red panel, but this time it only had a single frame in the center. Theodore pushed on this, and the panel swung open to reveal the passage they had just been in. “Ha! It’s a door after all!” he congratulated himself.
With that little mystery solved, the party decided it was time to explore the river. They took the boats and went upstream as far as they could, and found the river started where water, presumably magically created, was pouring out of a hole in the cavern wall. With nowhere to go that way, they turned around and headed downstream. The river flowed sluggishly through a tunnel, then opened up into a larger cavern, and everyone let out a collective gasp.
The cavern was a natural one, its walls rising thirty feet to a forest of stalactites hanging down from the ceiling. Instead of being lit by globes hanging from the ceiling, the air was filled with dozens of tiny colored motes of light flitting and dancing in the air. The river widened out into a lake, and in the center was a seven-sided platform with a single glass statue of a woman at its center, poised as if she was about to leap off the platform. The light from the motes refracted through the statue, creating tiny echoes of light that danced within her body. Even for four people raised in Magnimar, the fabled City of Monuments, it was a sight to take your breath away.
But it was not as peaceful as it seemed. It was Milacent who first realized what the noise was, and who noticed the alarming motion of the boats. “Um, guys?” she said, “I hear the sound of falling water, like from a waterfall, and I think we’re headed straight to it.”
And indeed they were. The current had strengthened, it was rapidly pulling the party’s two boats toward a waterfall on the other end of the lake. They had been using poles to move the boats around, which hadn’t been any problem in the river, as it had only been about 3 feet deep. Now Scratchy put his pole into the water, and felt a twinge of panic as it hit nothing. “Paddle!” Milacent shouted, “paddle for the shore!” She was pointing to a flat sandy area set into the wall of the cavern, and she was using her hands to paddle toward it furiously. Zelcor was in the boat with her, and together they made it there safely. She turned around to see how the others were doing, and saw the boat with Scratchy and Theodore, both of them paddling furiously, and making no headway against the current. “Throw me the rope!” she shouted, and when they did she pulled them safely into shore.
With the excitement over, they looked around at the beach they had landed on. It was a small cavern set into the wall of the larger cavern that contained the lake, and nowhere near as picturesque. The first thing they noticed was two seven-foot long mounds of sand breaking the otherwise smooth contour of the beach, each with a long oval shield painted with a strange symbol sitting on top of it. “Those are graves,” announced Theodore, “and graves mean undead. Let’s not touch them.” Scratchy looked like he was about to say something, but stayed quiet.
The second thing they noticed was a door set into the wall of the cavern. After checking it for traps and other unpleasantness, the party opened it to find an empty room whose walls were covered with detailed murals depicting otherworldly beings of every description involved in numerous acts of wanton depravity. Everyone pretended to not be too interested in the mural, but instead turned their attention to the hallway leading out of the other side of the chamber.
“Wait,” said Milacent, “before we go that way, I want to check out the platform.”
“The one in the middle of the lake?” asked Theodore, “The one with the statue on it? We can’t get to it because of the current.”
“No, I can swim,” said Milacent, and she could. Growing up in Magnimar, as an aristocrat with a great deal of free time, Milacent had a lot of time to learn to swim, and she was a pretty good sailor as well. Being extremely strong didn’t hurt those skills, either.
Milacent took off her armor and tied a rope around her waist. She figured that if she did get into trouble, all three of the other party members would be able to pull her back to shore. Hopefully. She took a deep breath and plunged into the lake.
The water was cold, but not terribly so, and Milacent found herself unhindered by it. The current was more challenging, but she was ready for it. She set herself moving perpendicular to the flow, and cut across it swiftly. It pushed her a little bit more than she would have liked, but presently she was able to reach out her hand and grab onto the stone platform. She pulled herself up, and was about to cry out triumphantly when a glass blade cut into her side.
It was the statue. Much to everyone’s horror it had come to life and was now slashing at her with razor-sharp blades built into its hands. “Pull me back! Pull me back!” Milacent shouted, jumping into the water. Between her swimming and the rest of the party pulling, she was soon back on the beach. She was not safe, however. The statue looked at her, then leapt off the platform to chase her. Much to everyone’s surprise, it did not sink down into the lake, but instead strode across the water, and very quickly reached the shore as well.
“Through the door!” Theodore yelled, and everyone quickly retreated into the room with the murals. There was some banging on the door, and then silence.
“Well, that was awful,” said Theodore. He called forth some healing magic to deal with Milacent’s wounds, then they began to discuss what to do next. Scratchy opened the door just a crack to see where the statue had gone, and saw it back in its original position on the platform. He smirked a bit to himself – magical constructs could be powerful, but their downfall was their predictability. He notched an arrow and let it fly; as soon as it hit the statue, the thing came to life and charged toward the door. Scratchy shot at it until it was almost upon him, then they closed the door. The thing would bang on the door for a minute or two, but never come through. Eventually, it would go back to its original position, and the cycle would repeat again.
Scratchy was feeling pretty good about whittling down the statue, until he realized his arrows weren’t hurting it very much. At the rate he was going, he would run out of arrows before the thing was destroyed. As he notched his final arrow, he hoped that it would be the one that finally broke the thing. Alas, it was not. The not-destroyed statue charged, and they slammed the door again. When the statue went back, they all stared at each other trying to come up with ideas. It was then that Scratchy remembered something. “Wait, what was that Scarab you had?”
“A Golembane scarab”, Milacent answered.
“What does it do?”
“It lets me detect nearby golems and also lets me damage them as if they were made of flesh.”
“AND YOU DIDN’T USE IT??!!”
“Well, it didn’t help against the statues around the pit before.”
“BUT THEY WEREN’T GOLEMS!”
At that point the conversation degenerated into a general shouting match over what was or wasn’t a golem, with the eventual decision being that Milacent should just use her scarab to find out if the statue they were fighting was indeed a golem or just another construct. They all came out onto the beach, and Milacent looked at the statue, held the scarab, and concentrated on the question, “Is it a golem?”
Yes, it was.
With that knowledge in hand, Zelcor shot an acid dart at the statue (now identified as a glass golem). The dart did no damage, but the golem came to life and charged across the water to the beach, where Milacent promptly shattered it into a million pieces with her ranseur.
“Wow, golems are easy!” said Milacent.
“Help me recover my arrows,” muttered Scratchy.