“No, absolutely not.” Koriah repeated, “My father is absolutely not going down into those catacombs.”
Theodora’s plan to boost the party before their rapidly approaching showdown with Ardathanatus was, admittedly, less than everyone had hoped for. It essentially consisted of asking Koriah and her father to come down and join them in their battles.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Theodora replied, “you’re thinking that after you came here to save your father, he’ll go down there and be killed in the fighting, but I assure you: there’s a very good chance that may not happen.”
Koriah was unimpressed.
“He’s right,” Zelcor pitched in, “it’s not an absolute certainty. A definite probability at best.”
Theodora shot Zelcor a “you’re not helping” look.
“Forget it,” Scratchy sighed, “they’ll just stay here safe in the lighthouse while everything gets destroyed around them.”
“But the magic of the lighthouse won’t protect us from a qlippoth lord,” Casamir answered, “If Yamasoth comes through to this plane we’ll all be killed, lighthouse or not …” His voice trailed off as he realized what he’d just said.
Koriah realized it too. “Alright,” she sighed, “my father comes with us, but he doesn’t attack, only hangs back and heals.”
“But I have a starknife!” Casamir objected, “I can fight if I have to!”
And so the party returned to the catacombs, bolstered by the addition of Casamir, Koriah, and the now-healed hill giant. That hill giant quickly rediscovered his worth to the party as they passed beyond the room where they’d encountered the shadows and deeper into the catacombs. Scouting ahead, Scratchy found a corridor that appeared to be trapped along its entire forty-foot length. As good as he was at finding traps, Scratchy was less good at disarming them. He consulted the party for solutions, and Theodora came up with a somewhat ruthless solution.
“Hey hill giant,” she said, “walk through that corridor.”
“Okay, lady,” the giant replied, and set off down the trapped passage. When he was almost all the way through, the walls rippled with magic, followed seconds later with thousands of stony spikes lancing out of them. They caught the giant from both sides, and would have gotten anyone following behind him in the corridor as well. They held him for a second, then retracted back into the walls, allowing the giant to stumble forward into the room beyond.
“Um, Zelcor, can you put a Wall of Force along either side of the passage?” Theodora asked once her shock had worn off.
The rest of the party was able to make it through safely as the spikes jabbed harmlessly against the magical walls. When Theodora got to the other side she healed the hill giant. “Look at how good to you I am!” she exclaimed.
“Yes, the lady is good to me,” the giant agreed, and Theodora once again felt grateful for the Charm Monster spell.
Meanwhile, the room that they had entered was a square one, sporting rough walls decorated with luminous designs that created a lattice of spirals, accentuated by lunar symbols and tiny skulls adorning the ceiling. The room also had a pillar in its center, with what appeared to be a line of runes across its face.
Theodora examined the pillar closely and realized the writing was in Thassilonian. “Present a key to the End Times and utter the Groetan invocation favoring the dead and be counted as acolytes of the Harbinger of Last Days,” she read out loud.
“What’s the Groetan invocation favoring the dead?” Milacent asked.
“Um, uh, I’m not really sure,” Theodora replied.
It wasn’t any use. She was a follower of Nethys, not Groetus, and only knew the most basic tenets of that other faith. While she tried to remember, the rest of the party began searching the room. They were interrupted when, exactly one minute after they entered, the walls flashed with a cold blue light. Theodora recognized the aura of magical fear passing over them, but the party was fortunate in that most of them managed to resist, and the effects were minor. More troubling was the glowing skulls emerging from the walls. The fight was fast, but aggravating. These things were some strange variant of will-o-wisps: small, fast, hard-to-hit and immune to most magic. They fired blasts of electrical energy, once again incapacitating the giant and nearly bringing down both Helanda and Theodora before finally being dispatched. This time, they didn’t have to go back up to Casamir for healing, since he was right there. And Theodora made a point of thanking Koriah for providing an extra sword arm. Koriah was embarassed, but nonetheless pleased.
The will-o-wisp fight was worrying, but there was no time to pause, particularly if Ardathanatus was truly on the brink of calling his master through the door. The party pushed on, into another room full of sarcophagi. This time, instead of shadows rising out of them, the lids slid open and dead bodies wrapped in bandages emerged. “Mummies!” Helanda shouted, and began to hack at them.
“More mummies!” Zelcor shouted, and began flinging balls of fire at the additional enemies coming into the room from nearby corridors. Mummies were scary, but they were vulnerable to fire, and Zelcor had plenty of that to sling around. Soon all that was left were flaming piles of ash on the floor.
“Finally, something easy,” Scratchy said, then snuck ahead to see what was next. Turning a corner, he saw a tall humanoid wrapped in bandages, wearing a crown, standing in front of an open sarcophagus. One creature. Wearing a crown. Never a good sign.
“Why’d I have to say anything,” Scratchy sighed.