“We should attack the dragon now,” Theodora advised.
“What?” Milacent asked with a smirk, “you want to fight?”
“What I mean,” Theodora answered exasperatedly, “is that we’ve cast a lot of limited-duration spells to boost ourselves, and we should fight as many enemies as we can before they run out.” It was sound logic, and even Milacent didn’t immediately have anything negative to say.
Helanda was in the best position to attack the clockwork dragon, so she nodded her head, gave a yell, and charged toward it. As soon as she drew close, the dragon’s eyes flashed with a blue light, and its jaws shot out to bite her. They clamped around her shield, but she pulled herself clear and got up to its side, where her sword clanged noisily against its metal scales.
The rest of the party joined in the attack, spells and arrows pouring onto the dragon and having considerably more success than Helanda had. The thing staggered, then leapt upon a pile of golem parts in the middle of the room and exploded. Where it had been, the skeletal apparition appeared once more, then faded away.
Helanda lowered her shield and saw that Theodora had been knocked out by the explosion. She transferred the Sihedron to the party healer, and Theodora opened her eyes as her wounds began to fade away. Helanda turned to ask the others what they should do next, but Scratchy and Milacent were already moving to the next door.
That room held three axiomites, plus a large man who appeared to be part statue and part metallic. This time, the party made no effort to speak with the axiomites, not with their spell durations running out. Zelcor fired a ball of acid into the room, ruining most of the workbenches and equipment that lined its walls, but doing disappointingly little harm to the axiomites as they whipped about with preternatural speed. Arrows and magic missiles followed the acid, with Milacent and Helanda charging into to strike the creatures hand-to-hand. The metal man fell quickly, but the axiomites switched into their dust form and began attacking the party with lightning bolts and crackling cubes of energy. Milacent hated fighting these things – it was like fighting a cloud – but the Sihedron and Theodora easily healed them of the damage the axiomites did, and soon enough those creatures were dead too.
Without stopping, the adventurers rushed to the other side of the main hall and opened another door. They were greeted by the sight of thousands of gold and platinum coins floating in the air amid the remains of cracked crystal benches. When the party moved to retrieve the coins, semi-fluid blobs of obsidian that had been floating amongst the coins moved in to strike. As they did, they emitted a disturbing subsonic hum which stunned many of the party members, but not Helanda. She bashed them with her shield, knocking them away from the others long enough for everyone to recover, and soon the blobs were dead too.
With the spells about to expire the party rushed to the next door, and opened it to find: nothing. Or at least nothing to fight. There was only a chair and a strange rune-covered disc floating in front of it. As the spells ran out, the party decided that this particular interval of violence was over.
There was a final door to check, a double door at the end of the hallway. Opening this one revealed another chair with a floating disk in front of it, and at the opposite end of the room, thick jagged sheets of crystal covering a large archway like a malignant stone scab. On the stones of the archway itself, a complex rune twitched and shifted ominously.
It was time for study and experimentation. After some trepidation, Theodora sat on one of the chairs and found that they were for aiding wizards in spell memorization. When she sat down on one, the disk in front of it turned to face her and revealed knowledge of all the spells of a particular school of magic. They didn’t work for Scratchy or Zelcor, probably because their method of using magic was different, but for Theodora the chairs were useful indeed.
While Theodora learned about magic chairs, Scratchy conducted a more thorough examination of the rooms they had moved through before. When he entered the room with the musical instruments, they began to play a horrible, discordant symphony. Scratchy ran out of the room, bow drawn and rage in his eyes, shouting, “Gnome!!!!!!!!!!!!” He had the bow pointed at Zelcor when the rage disappeared and he looked around with some embarassment. “Um, the musical instruments make you angry,” he informed everyone, “you can go in there if you like, but I won’t.” Nobody took him up on the offer.
By now everyone was standing around looking at the rune-covered archway, and a debate began on what to do. Resting up in order to recover spells was mentioned, but there were problems with that. “We can’t teleport or dimension door across these walls,” Zelcor said, “I tried while you guys were investigating the chairs. That means we’d have to rest inside this building.”
“And that blue ghost guy will be messing with us,” Scratchy added, “we won’t be able to rest properly.”
Theodora turned to face the arch. “Well,” she said, “I guess that means we’re breaking through some crystals.”