Chapter 14 - A Smashing Success and a Dead End
Fearing a confrontation with scores of skeletons, the group takes an hour break to strategize. While Dmitri watches the hall leading up to the room, Chonkorchuk has a vision about whether the chamber contains they seek. He sees a skull-topped key, and informs his companions that there may be a key in the room. He then recommends that they return to the surface for sacks to carry the treasure in, as no one sought to bring any. Lionia, however, opines that there is no reason to get sacks, as it’s unclear there is any treasure in the room – the task at hand is dealing with the skeletons. Raskel proposes using a Misty Step spell to enter the room behind the ranks of skeleton warriors to search for the key. However, this would leave many skeletons unharmed. Plamen proposes dealing away with many of them with his thunder magic, but Chonkorchuk fears there are too many. In the end, it is agreed that Plamen will instead attempt to summon a Flaming Sphere, which persists for a longer period of time, while the familiars search the room for a key. If the press of the skeletons proves to be too much, Raskel will play the flute to immobilize them. In his estimation, that would hold them at bay for an hour. Finally, with a plan in place, Dmitri outlines a doorway with Plamenka's sickle, and Rodion burns the final sigil on her sash. The outline glows green, and Dmitri, with Plamen’s help, pulls the portal open. Inside, the chamber is filled with skeletons top to bottom. There are perhaps a hundred of them or more. A few are dressed as Kochmak warriors, like the ones they have encountered around the warren previously. The bulk of them are unarmed, and dressed in rotting rags. While the warriors immediately begin to harry Dmitri, who is blocking the entrance, the unarmed ones begin to fling themselves at another doorway on the left-hand side of the room, apparently trying to destroy it. Another similar doorway glows on the right wall. While Dmitri holds the warriors back, Plamen conjures his flaming sphere in the middle of the room. Chonkorchuk and Rodion blast magic over Dmitri’s head, to relieve some of the pressure. Druvvaldis provides support, and bolsters the team’s élan by summoning a bear spirit. Kutkh, as well as Chonkorchuk’s invisible fefila sneak past the combatants to survey what’s happening. The room is too packed to see anything on the floor, and soon, one of the skeletons swipes at the crow, dispelling it. Dmitri and his supporters succeed in felling some of the warriors, but in the meantime, the unarmed skeletons smash through the left-hand doorway, and begin piling out of the chamber. This requires a change of plan, as the skeletons must be stopped from leaving. Raskel blows upon the flute, and all of the skeletons stop moving. The band moves into the room. There are too many skeletons to find anything on the floor at present. The fefila darts past the immobile skeleton sitting in the hole burrowed out of the doorway by its undead fellows. It discovers another chute on the other side, leading to the surface. It signals to its master that it has a very bad feeling about where they might be heading. The fefila returns, and stepping carefully so as not to provoke any frozen skeletons into action, the group opens up the third glowing portal on the right-hand side. Beyond it is yet another corridor. The six treasure hunters follow it behind Druvvaldis’ beetle, and find themselves in the most maze-like part of the warren. Dmitri suspects that the maze might not actually lead anywhere, and in the end is proven right – there are multiple dead ends, including one at the very end of the series of tunnels. A search reveals that there is nothing to find there. There is concern that the skeletons will reawaken, so the group hurries back. But near the last dead end, Chonkorchuk does detect necromantic magic behind a wall. It seems that there are more skeletons, and probably another chamber (though almost certainly not as many as in the place they just came from). Unfortunately, the sigils are all used up. Someone must learn the right spell, and find ingredients to inscribe more sigils on the sash – until then, it seems that there is no way in. The band hurries back to the skeleton chamber before the enchantment expires. Once there, they begin smashing the skeletons to smithereens using staves and bones – first the last of the warriors, then the others. Eventually, they stand in a foot or more of bone rubble. A search of the floor and what’s left of the bodies reveals a few peasant-type bundles, and the remains of designs on the linen shirts they were once wearing. These skeletons are almost certainly the peasants of Trofimovka that were captured in the raid forty years ago. Are they now heading back home? Raskel also finds a series of six impressions in the floor underneath the bones. Five are fully concave, but one is just an outline of a circle. He wonders if it represents the flute – with one open note, it would match the final note of the song he played to immobilize the skeletons. Perhaps each room with skeletons has such a key, he wonders. But there are more pressing problems. Raskel, Lionia, and Dmitri want to figure out where the escaped skeletons went, while the others hold down the fort in the bone room. There is freshly fallen snow in the meadow, so Dmitri can’t track them, but the trio head toward Lazarevo, and after coming halfway, hear shouts in the village. Almost certainly, the skeletons came here. What will happen now? Will angry villagers head toward the warren? The three return to the bone room, and then the whole band relocates to Plamenka’s chamber, sets up camp, and ponders its fate.
- The bulk of Plamenka's skeletons are discovered, and smashed