Chapter 10 - Boy, These Things Are HEAVY

It was about that time that Urol, the curious gnome wandered in carrying a large book in which he scribbled furiously. Amongst the unintelligible noises the gnome frequently made, one could occasionally hear him speaking words that were more familiar, "Fascinating…interesting…OOOH!"

"My, this statue sure is big. Look at the tusks on this thing," Urol muttered as he tried to draw a rough sketch of it in his journal. "Wow! Look! I can fit my whole head in it's mouth!"

Closing his eyes and wishing, perhaps just a bit too much, Saris could almost see the giant statue chomp down upon the little gnome's head. "If only…" he muttered to himself.

"Come on, let's not lolly-gag around here much longer…there's nothing to see and we've potentially got much more to explore," insisted Viselys. The "E" word caught Urol's ear.

"Oh, yes, let us get moving on…perhaps there's more excitement down that other passage," piped the optimistic little gnome.

"You guys go ahead, I'll be right with you," Ornrik insisted. He began to dig through the pile of bones left behind by the gibbering mouther, hoping to find evidence of…something.

"Alright, but don't be long," reminded Viselys.

Back in the forest clearing, Diamondback was still keeping an eye on Saris, wary of him losing his mind again. He seemed to be free from the effect.

"So, I'm thinking we ought to free two of these unfortunate souls who were turned to stone," suggested Adameus, "but it might be wiser to do it on our way back."

"True enough," agreed Viselys. "Let's get moving."

The band of heroes headed into the northernmost entrance. After passing through a rougher area, they found themselves standing before a wide landing that overlooked a large chamber. The entrance to the chamber was framed by an archway that appeared to be made of intertwined skeletons. A ripple of smoke seemed to dance amongst the bones. Adameus approached carefully.

"Oh, good. It's not what it seems. The skeletons are just carved into the stone. Still, it's a little creepy." Adameus began to inspect, "You know, I think…yes, I do believe that this stairway appears to be trapped. Stand back."

Reaching inside of his vest, he retrieved some odd-looking tools. Manipulating some of the stonework, he hears a distinct "clicking" sound and the rippling smoke dissipates. "It's ok. It should be safe to walk on it now."

"You know, this has the look of an ancient Olman burial preparation chamber," Ornrik recalled. "See that slab in the middle? That's where they'd prepare the bodies for the afterlife."

Looking further about the room, it seems that it, at one point, was a small scale model of the city of Tamoachan. Ironically, with the passing of time, the remains of that model now look much like the ruins above.

"Well, I suppose there's not much else to see here. Shall we move forward?" Saris was growing impatient. "It looks like there's another passageway on that side of the room," pointing eastward.

Carefully moving through the tunnel, it opens into a room covered with eroding images of, what appears to be, bat-like creatures feasting on humanoids. Further into the room, a huge sheet of iron seems to be blocking an archway into another room.

"Did you feel that?" Ornrik asked, sounding a little paranoid?

"Feel what?" asked Adameus.

Ornrik's eyes were closed, reaching out with his magic for an evil presence. He could sense that there was something moving away…quickly.

"It went that way," Ornrik warned as he began to pursue. Viselys followed.

"That was weird," commented Saris. "So what do we do about this wall?" Saris asked, tapping his rapier against it.

Puzzled, Adameus replied, "I don't know. Perhaps we can pry it loose? I've got a crowbar. An adamantine one."

"Hmmm…ok," Saris agreed.

Heading back into the large chamber, Ornrik could still sense the evil presence lingering about, but it was nowhere to be seen. Viselys moved ahead to cover the exit, wanting to ensure that it couldn't escape and cause some sort of cave-in.

"I know you're here…show yourself!" Ornrik demanded.

A ghostly voice rasped as if upon the wind itself, "No."

Concentrating for a little while longer, Ornrik was able to determine the creatures location. "Viselys, it's hovering above the altar." Suddenly, it revealed itself. It was a Will-o-wisp.

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"Intruders, you have come into my home, but I mean you no harm," the ghostly voice called out. "You are not the first to intrude, and that is the source of my problem. There is yet still another who invades beyond the wall, defiling what is mine."

Scribbling furiously in his book, Urol suggests to Adameus and Saris, "Adamantine? Maybe you should just try to bash through the iron."

"Bash through solid iron? You must be joking," scoffed Saris.

Back in the large chamber, "Who has invaded your home?" asked Viselys to the now-visible floating ball of energy.

"He's a winged demon of a beast from the Abyss…not of this world," informed the ghostly voice. "I don't know what he's doing here."

"Well, let's get through that wall, then, no?" Ornrik seemed eager to rid the world of such an evil.

They headed back towards the iron wall, where the sounds of clanging could be heard.

"Ok, ok…you were right, Urol," admitted Saris, "this does seem to be working."

"Here, let me finish that for you." Viselys took hold of the crowbar and, with a few more swings, broke a small opening in the wall. Peering through the hole, he could see another large chamber that looked like what the other chamber may have looked like at one time…a model of Tamoachan, but this one was in tact.

This one, however, had company in the room. A winged bat-like demon shrieked at the intruders as Viselys swung one more time, opening up a hole big enough to move though into the room. The beast flew in, breathing fire down upon the group whenever it could. The will-o-wisp joined the battle, striking at the demon as well.

It seemed that their attacks had very little effect as it was resistant to most of what they threw at it. One thing, however, that seemed to have great effect and draw it's attention was Ornrik's magical blasts. After several rounds of sending whirling energy missiles into the winged beast, it fell to the ground and, in one last final effort of destructive power, exploded in a burst of fire, burning all those who were around it.

Everyone was sighing with relief, pleased to have rid the world of the beast, when a ghostly voice called out, "Thank you for relieving my home from this evil. Now leave."

"Why can't things ever go smoothly?" Saris wondered to himself.

The will-o-wisp began attacking the group, but was no match for the united efforts. Soon, it fell before them.

"Gosh, I hope that's all of them," Saris chimed.

"No kidding," agreed Adameus.

Searching further into the ruins, the next room contained a huge, circular disk of stone on the floor, its face carved with dozens of concentric rings of hieroglyphs and shapes.

"Looks like a calendar," Adameus joked.

"Actually, I think it is," insisted Ornrik. "I'm quite certain of it."

"Uh…yeah, I knew that," Adameus continued to joke.

Beyond the calendar were twin statues of men dressed in strange, ancient armor and wearing towering headdresses made of coiled snakes and bat wings stood before an archway opening into a circular room. Inside the room was a large shaft that descended deep into the ground. Filling the well were the bones of many from ages before. Oddly, resting on top of the bones, as if recently placed in the arms of the topmost skeleton, is a glittering golden statuette of a bat.

"I'll take that," Adameus quickly chimed.

"Just hold on a second," Ornrik insisted. He picked it up, muttered an incantation, and began to study the item with his magic monocle. "Strange. This appears to be some sort of key…or at least that's the impression I'm getting."

"A key to what?" asked Saris.

"I don't know," Ornrik replied. "Could be to anything, I suppose."

"Well, let's look around. If we don't see anything here, I suppose we'll just hold on to it. It does look valuable, if nothing else," Viselys suggested.

"You know what…this place is giving me the creeps. I think I'd like to move on," Adameus began to head out. Saris, Diamondback, Viselys, and Ornrik followed.

A short while later, Viselys turns to Ornrik, sighing, "Can you go grab Urol. I think he's still in there sketching. I don't think Lavinia will be pleased if we come back without him."

Back in the clearing, the whole gang stands before the four statues.

"So, we've got two salves to heal these people. Which two should we save?" Viselys asked.

"Let's save the wizard first," Ornrik suggested. "Perhaps he'll be able to help us free the others."

"Are we certain he's a wizard?" Saris asked.

"Well, no, but it does look that way," Ornrik insisted.

"Sounds good to me," Viselys said as he poured the first stone salve over the statue of the old, robed man clutching a staff.

After a moment of two, the man began to shudder a bit, as if shaking off years of stiffness. He began to look around, as if in a panic.

"Where is it? Where is she? Who are you?" the man sputtered.

"It's ok. You're safe now. The basilisk is dead. We've slain it," Viselys reassured the man.

"Good…but where is she?" the old man continued to ask.

"Who?" asked Adameus.

"Ruby! My apprentice. Where is she?" the old man asked again.

"Well, I don't know." Viselys spoke, "My name is Viselys. You've been stone for…well, for quite some time now."

"Malcolm," the old man introduced himself, "my name is Malcolm. I came here seeking ancient magics…needless to say I didn't find anything."

"We're on a quest to help a noble woman establish a colony right now," Viselys informed. "Perhaps you'd like to join us for a while. We could give you some food, water, shelter, and even offer some protection."

"That all sounds very good. This is so confusing," the man continued, "perhaps you could help me get back to Cauldron eventually?"

"Sure. We'll be to Sasserine eventually. If you'd like to accompany us, just lend a hand when you're able and we'll gladly do what we can for you." Viselys' words seemed to comfort the man.

Ornrik and Malcom began to talk amongst themselves as Viselys, Saris, Adameus, Diamondback, and Urol agreed that the holy warrior of Acerion should be the second victim to be rescued from the stony prison.

After applying the salve, the warrior shuddered, much like the old man, as he began to regain control of his muscles. He looked around nervously.

"Where is it?" he asked frantically.

"It's ok…it's ok. The basilisk is gone. We took care of it. You're safe now," Adameus calmly told him. "My name is Adameus. This is Ornrik, Saris, Viselys, Diamondback, and Urol. What do you remember?"

The knight looked around cautiously. He closed his eyes for a moment, as if concentrating on something difficult. He reopened them a moment later, looking more relaxed as he said, "My name is Cedric…Cedric Venkman. I came here with a group of holy knights to rid the area of a great undead threat. I can only hope that they were successful where I failed." He paused a moment, looking almost ashamed. "I hope they are alright."

Saris tried to lighten the mood, "You must be hungry. Here, have some of this."

"Well," Viselys started, "if you're looking to get out of here, you're welcome to sail with us. We've been sailing with a noble woman from Sasserine whose family has been torn apart by treachery. We can always use another strong back on board, and perhaps it could be a new beginning for yourself."

"Perhaps? It'd be an honor to serve those who saved me," Cedric insisted. "Getting off this island would be a good first step towards seeing my loved ones again, too."

Rejoining the group after conferring with each other, Malcolm and Ornrik seemed pleased about something.

"I think," Ornrik stated, "that together, our magic can provide transport for these other two…statues…back to the ship, but we'll have to move quickly."

"Well," Viselys began, "we best be moving then."

Continue to Chapter 11...

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