With Falco’s return the party makes ready for their next step.
By now, both Sheriff Grahm Aerlim and His Honor, the Alderman Gylan Vaughey have taken statements from everyone. Aerlim seems satisfied and thanks the adventurers for their heroic efforts but Vaughey is up in arms. He storms away and announces that all able-bodied free men of Oakmaul should gather at the grange at sunset.
The Great Moon is full and it is a night of festival within The Embyrian Calendar; Thunder’s Eve where everyone stays up all night and banishes evil spirits with drums, bells, chimes and songs. This is normally a happy occasion but the sad loss of six good men has turned it into a grim event. Only the men are out tonight, and they mean business.
The party joins the townsfolk and makes a big show while Falco (who Under-Sheriff Fulcrum Stonewarden has yet to meet) breaks into the corner apartment at The Horse and Toad. In the wardrobe he finds a mad array of documents, scrolls, drawings and maps pinned to the walls and spilling to the floor. He grabs what he can and slips out the window.
It is now morning on the 15th day of Stormwell, and the party has gathered again at their table in the common room of The Horse and Toad. While Falco gets some much needed rest, Melamber and Amaar pour over the stolen scrolls and papers and find repeated references to something called ‘The Three Wardens’ as well as many ancient language translation examples, some on old and crumbling, yellowed velum and others freshly penned on new sheets of parchment.
And there are maps of areas within the Gloomhallows of Byrnwood Forest, dark places where even the elves will not tread!
Brother Amaar collects the documents for later study and once Falco rejoins the group they set out for the ring of stones which they have learned has a name; The Archives of Tal Ziel. It lays within a few hours march of the tiny gnome settlement of Dyfeld, and is surrounded by warning banners and marked ‘unsafe and forbidden.’
They find the bronze man where Falco left it. Brother Amaar remembers the golden star dial and suggests that the group try to turn the giant over and retrieve it. Baragon, Essoq DeMaqir and Falco lever the monster onto it’s back and the dial is collected. Melamber can get no reading of magic from the thing. Aside from being made of gold and it’s artistry, The Star Dial appears mundane.
The party makes their way to the stones in a vanguard formation with Falco at the point, Baragon and Essoq at his rear flanks, and Melamber and Amaar at the rear edges. The stones that make up the ring are huge, each standing well over twenty feet high. The closer the group gets to the edge they notice that natural sounds become lessened, replaced by a low, eerie howl like wind through a cave.
The great stones surround a mound of sorts. At the zenith there is an opening and a spiral stare that circles downward along the edge into a large, circular pit lined with stone vaults. There are eight vaults in total. Five of them are sealed while the other three stand open. On the floor can be seen an encampment as well as all manner of excavation gear, winches, wooden scaffolding and crates. The fire pit is now cold, but clearly only a handful of days ago someone had been using it.
Shadows grow long as the sun fast slips behind the peaks of the Thunderspines to the west. The party elects to make a fireless camp on top of the mound for the night and a watch is set.
Just into the fifth hour, Melamber hears the sound of a man screaming! It emanates from one of the open vaults below! Everyone springs into position and readies for an attack from below, but nothing comes. It is decided that despite protests from Essoq the party should wait until sunup before they investigate further.
The sun rises and the adventurers make for the bottom of the mound. Melamber recognizes the symbols on the vaults immediately; each bares the glyph of a respective school of the arcane. Five remain sealed, but the three open vaults are marked Abjuration, Conjuration and Necromancy respectively.
In the center of the sunken area is an ancient stone table as old as anything in or around the mound. It is covered in strange markings. There is also a crude forge and bellows, a huge mold and several bronze ingots- clearly the Bronze Man was created here!
The stone that sealed the Conjuration vault was removed by someone with care and planning and remains suspended by a rope and wooden scaffolding. The other two stones seemed to have been shattered inward with rough tools and haste.
After thoroughly searching the sunken area the group finds a lockbox hidden under a tarp and crates. Inside they find trinkets of gold, some wands and a number of scrolls and potions!
No one likes the idea of exploring the Vault of Necromancy just yet, and venturing into the Vault of Conjuration with a still intact stone that might trap everyone also sounds risky, so the party proceeds into the Vault of Abjuration.
After exploring a few labs and recovering a few more scrolls they find traces of blood and shattered bones. A few rooms and a swarm of harmless lights latter they become trapped by a falling portcullis! To make matters worse, animated skeletons descend upon them! But no matter, for Brother Amaar reduces the monsters to dust with a holy word before the fight can even start!
Despite their best efforts, the group cannot unlock the portcullis from the floor, so they proceed deeper into the vault in the hopes of finding a key, clue or trigger.
After a time there is a light seen ahead surrounded by dancing shadows. As the group gets closer we see…
The light emanates from a brass brazier hanging from chains in the center of the chamber. Below it there can be seen a lone man sitting on the stone floor who is clearly terrified, and small wonder for he is surrounded by a score of animated skeleton warriors and more than a few, bloodied corpses who moan and shamble about. Behold the walking dead! Why they do not simply kill the man is not clear, but he spies the party and pleads for his life!
“Please! Save me! I’m sorry, I’ll do anything! Please!”
Game Session Ends