The Dragon's Apprentice

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Chapter 10

Cormyr (27th of Eleint, 1366 Dalereckoning)


After evening set in, they traveled west, back into Cormyr. At the border, a pair of guards had watched in horror and bewilderment at the sight of a massive flight of bats and two men pulled along with it, over two bowshots in the air.

When they reached a large, marshy lake, they turned north, to the base of the Thunder Peaks. Ryuu abruptly altered course, landing in a small clearing and reforming, Esmer rising shakily from the soft earth beside him. Her senses returning, Haidée glanced about curiously, then turned, alarmed, looking for Alexander.

"Next stop..." the priest groaned, hanging by his leg upside-down in an overhanging tree, "...We get horses."

Ryuu chortled.

"Sorry." Haidée replied sheepishly, using her claws to scale the tree. She was able to slowly lower him down with one arm, despite the fact that he no doubt outweighed her by fifty stones even without the armor.

"Why here?" Esmer asked, eyeing Ryuu as he pawed at the dirt.

"Because we can't go through the front door." Haidée replied for him, "Ryuu intends to become fog and reach the ruins through cracks in the earth. Right?"

"An appreciable guess." Ryuu noted, smiling, "But how, do you think, our Human fellows here will join us? And this isn't a rocky delve, its solid earth. No, I scoped this place out through divination. I know there is a connecting tunnel here, but, like the ruins themselves, they are carefully warded. Dwarves hide their civilizations well, as you may guess."

"If the ruins are warded, how did you find them?"

"I looked for the places I couldn't scry. Anyway, we would need a rune of dwarven make to enter the city through the front doors, which are collapsed anyways. I can bypass that with a hefty spell, but I need to reach the proximity of the ruins, and we can't teleport in for that same reason, so..."

Haidée blinked, "So..."

"So I'll call in a little help."

Ryuu clapped his hands together, and then fire erupted beneath him. Haidée jumped, blade halfway from its scabbard before she realized it was some form of evocation, and it had already settled.

At his feet, a series of interlocking rings were burned into the soil, lined with magical symbols she didn't recognize. But she sensed they were partially in draconic, and partially in demonic. Directly beneath him, was a small wax candle, inside of and protruding from a tiny burlap sack. Beside it was a small black gem.

After removing himself from the circle, careful not to disturb it, he clapped his hands again, and the candle lit.

"Jrgrlg..." Ryuu said, and it sounded like rumbling stones.

"Jrgrlg." he said again, more insistently. His expression pinched, strained by intense concentration.

The runes flared red, then blackened when the light touched, and was absorbed by, the black gem. A black sapphire, she imagined, determining the type of spell he was trying to cast. Most conjuration magic required a candle and a summoning circle. The black sapphire, a powerful necromantic focus, could alter the essential nature of a spell, just as her blood had altered the enchantment of her spell rod.

Wait...how had she known that?

The ground shook, then rose around the circle, lifting it.

Alexander and Esmer backed away. Their respective pulses suddenly increased. Haidée rubbed her temples, irritated by the noise.

The mound, dirt and stone and moss, coalesced into a rough Humanoid outline, though it was hunched, with thick, lumbering limbs and a face that pressed out from the torso. Grave stones jutted from its back.

An aura, pale viridian in color, bled from its eyes and maw, which was composed of jagged, gnashing stone. It reeked of evil.

"An elemental." Alexander noted warily, "But...different. Unholy."

"Made of desecrated earth." Ryuu added, nodding, "I scooped this one up from a graveyard infested with necromancers. I couldn't destroy their work, but I contained it in a form that was less threatening to the living."

"Two services remain, un-living." The elemental said in a deep, booming voice, "Name the service."

"Dig us a hole." Ryuu commanded, "Wide enough for all of us and deep enough to penetrate the tunnel below. And harden it up nice, so it won't bury itself."

Without pause, the elemental collapsed into the earth, which widened like an opening mouth. So much soil was displaced that they were forced to retreat a few paces.

"Right then. Now we wait. I will monitor our friend's progress. Alexander, why don't you show them a few things. It's going to take an hour or two."


Alexander stood with Esmer and Haidée in the small clearing. Even having prepared this lecture beforehand, he took some time to gather himself and better study his unlikely comrades.

He noted how they glanced to each other, the subtle emotions that played across their carefully veiled expressions.

The tenseness. Guilt. Regret.

Desire.

It was very clear to him that, whatever his faults, Tolon must have well thought out the union between these souls, in spite of the union's interruption. Though he saw the workings of a tragedy here, for all tales involving a Vampire were tragedies, especially between lovers. But he was determined to avert it if he could. If Ryuu could defy the hard truths of vampirism, perhaps they could as well.

He looked to the sun, just a thin line on the horizon, and nodded, "I would speak the words of my god, that there may be no confusion."

Haidée and Esmer both nodded.

"Help all who hurt, no matter who they are. The truly holy take on the suffering of others. If you suffer in his name, Ilmater is there to support you. Stick to your cause if it is right, whatever the pain or peril."

Alexander continued, "I am here because I feel it is right to do so. Ilmater is with me in this, and I have no doubts. Perhaps he is pleased by our mission to vanquish undead, or he sees a higher purpose in our work. I know not. There is no shame in a meaningful death. Emphasize the spiritual nature of life over the existence of the material body. If one of us is to die it will be me. I am not afraid to transcend this life, if I must do so. Do not take risks, Haidée, because of your nature. You do not yet know your limitations. Stand up to all tyrants, and allow no injustice to go unchallenged. Ryuu has told me much of this place, and I feel it my personal task to bring peace to the suffering beings we will find down there, as much as I consider it my duty to watch over and protect you. And Ryuu, despite the fact that I find him positively insufferable."

Ryuu winked at him from over by the pit, preening. Haidée and Esmer both held in their mirth.

He appraised them, all seriousness, "The undead suffer. It is always so. But these undead are beyond healing. It is our duty to Ilmater to put them down. Do you understand?"

They nodded.

"This isn't some exciting adventure. We are doing Ilmater's work."

Again, they nodded.

"Thank you, my friends." Alexander said, more softly, "I find it much more important to teach a person when to go into battle, not how. Assume your battle stance, facing each other."

Taking their places, roughly seven paces apart, each drew weapons; Haidée, her thin rapier, Esmer, a broadsword and shield. What a pair they looked; garbed in matching dwarven breastplates, thick cloth tunics, greaves, bracers, and boots, though Esmer's were thicker and backed with mail. Yet how opposing, as well; she, with her dark hair, tied into a bun, her unnatural maroon eyes, and her pale skin. How thin, even malnourished, she looked. Esmer, on the other hand, with his healthy tan, blue eyes, and golden hair, cut in a military fashion, seemed a knight from one of the old tales.

Thoughtful, they eventually looked over to him as he observed them without speaking further.

"Thank you. Now, there are many styles for each of your weapons. I will relay what I can..."


Judging by the course of the sun, now fully removed, the area lit by Glowballs to provide light, Esmer guessed they crossed blades for roughly an hour. Alexander showed him much of what he already knew, but for Haidée, who had been taught in a radically difficult style, it was a good learning experience. As their steel rebounded, Esmer quickly realized that despite her smaller frame, she was much, much stronger than him. Her rapier hit with the impact of a greatsword, and he'd long stopped trying to parry and instead took the brunt with his shield.

He didn't ask her to lighten her attacks, but Alexander noticed his increasing discomfort, and did so for him. He tried to ignore how emasculating that felt.

By the time they disengaged, he felt more vitalized than tired. Their bout, while long in duration, had been less taxing than an actual duel, and it loosened his muscles and left him in a pleasant state, his perspiration cooling him in the lower temperature.

He locked eyes with her, and how fearsome a sight, that unnatural shade! She returned the stare, all intensity and confusion and...longing?

They shared much in those brief moments, which only strengthened his determination, his belief that that little girl he'd been engaged to was definitely still in there somewhere.

Ryuu approached, appearing for all the world unmindful of their exchange.

"Gather 'round the pit, boys and girls..." Ryuu jeered, excited, "The party is just about to begin!"


Staring down, Haidée couldn't see the bottom. The hole was roughly seven paces by seven paces, perfectly round. It looked rocky, like a natural vent were it not so symmetrical. The elemental extracted itself, though it seemed more to flow than detach from the earth around it, "One service remains, un-living. Name the service."

"Not just yet." Ryuu replied with authority, "Return to your tortured realm. I will call you again when you are needed."

And in the flash of an instant, the elemental crumbled, indeterminate from a mount of upturned soil.

"What happens when it completes its service, Master?"

Ryuu shrugged, "I have to let it go. Worse things could have happened from that place than a roaming elemental, trust me."

Ryuu cast another spell, this one entirely composed of delicate, precise mystic passes. Something sizzled in his belt pouch, and a clear aura surrounded Alexander and Esmer.

"Basic slowfall cantrip. Get down there. We will follow as fog. Pleasant journey, friends."

Esmer went forward without hesitation, and slowly floated down the shaft. Alexander eyed it, rigid.

"You ready for this, Sunathaer?"

"Long and strong as Daern's devotion." he sighed, "I am with you."

He followed after Esmer, and was swallowed by the darkness. Nothing for it, Haidée became as fog, and gradually sank down, down, down....


The wagon came to a halt somewhere near the coast. He could smell saltwater. It had been days, several, actually, and they hadn't fed him, or the others. Two more had died on the road.

He'd noticed a weak link in his shackles; a rusted, incomplete weld on a ring where the chains linked. A weakness, perhaps, that he could exploit at a later time.

They were led out of the wagon and into a large wooden building, at the edge of a village of crude thatch huts. He heard screams from within. There were more Elves, Humans, and other races he didn't know. Some were in chains, mostly Humans.

Ryuu hissed. He should have guessed. Chung'yeh had freed them from chains, and their former masters had come for them. They were to be thralls once again.

They were sorted at the entrance, their shackles linked in groups. The females went first. His line was linked next, and he looked over his shoulder. The elderly weren't being taken in. They were being led further into the village.

"What are you doing?" Ryuu asked, confused, "Where are you taking them?"

The Dark Elves supervising their group didn't answer, though they grinned fiercely.

"Where are you taking them?!" he asked again, grunting as he was clubbed in the back, prodded forward as their group was led into the building. It was dark, lit by torchlight, and it took time for his eyes to adjust.

He wished they had not at all; there were all manner of creatures caged along the walls, and lines of the like being led beside his people.

Dazed, Ryuu held his egg tightly, pulled by his chains to a great fire pit. Abruptly, he was clubbed again, in the back of the head. Dark elves and Yuan-ti drew hot irons from the fire, and branded prone females on the upper arm. Their shrieks jolted him back to awareness, just as one of his captors had finished wrenching the egg from his arms.

He stared down, bewildered, at his empty hands.

"No!" he cried, eyes darting, searching for it. He found the egg being placed on a table to his right, where a Dark Elf studied it, taking measurements.

"No!" He screamed, pulling on his shackles. They held firm.

He bolted forward, and gasped, held fast. Immediately, he was surrounded by Dark Elves. They struck him with their prods. He doubled over, bloodied.

His vision turned red.

"LET ME GO!" he roared, the strength of one much younger throbbing in his veins at the sight of his child, Oki's child, threatened.

He screamed, lunging forward.

He would break these chains, and anything else, that got in his way!

Those behind him were dragged along. He was blocked by two Elves. Two Elves fell at his feet. Claw marks across their throats. His hands, while chained, were no longer conjoined. The link connecting them had snapped apart.

There was a sharp crackle. He cringed, but felt nothing.

Again, the crackle. He felt a line of fire across his back.

He screamed, and it sounded bestial, animal.

His captors struck at his face, at his hands.

The whip struck his back, again, again.

An elven voice cursed.

Bloodied, Ryuu closed on the egg. One arm was limp at his side, numb.

So close. So close.

He reached out his working hand. It was lacerated by the whips, bloodied.

Something struck the back of his knee. He toppled.

Sound became muffled, disjointed. He heard more screams, more cruel voices and that whip again and again.

Before the darkness closed about him, Ryuu glimpsed a Dark Elf woman with odd, piercing red eyes appraising him with a cruel smile.


"Oi! Wake up, sleepyhead!"

Haidée snapped to attention, to find her companions staring at her.

Ryuu grinned, "No time to doze off, sweetie. If you hadn't noticed, we're in the middle of an ancient ruin."

"That was so strange." she replied, "The visions, they..."

She trailed off, confused.

Ryuu didn't seem to know what to make of it either, "Must mean it's just taking to a little faster. That's good. It means you should be getting my knowledge much faster. Do you know the liquid blades style?"

"When faced with two opponents, the duelist will attempt to force them to intersect, tripping them up in each other's weapons."

Haidée blinked. When had he told her that?

"Good. Now let's go, before we wake the dead. Literally."

Eyes adjusting to the dim Glowballs Esmer and Alexander had lit, she found herself in a small passage, a hallway, perhaps. Behind her, there were signs of a cave-in. That way was blocked off with debris. Its sheer symmetry, equally as unnatural as the hole Ryuu's elemental had dug, told her it was indeed dwarven handiwork. Wide, precisely carved pillars and buttresses supported the hallway, and unlit sconce basins, spaced perfectly between each pillar, were embellished with a rough, blocky representation of a bearded face. The floors were square tiles, massive slabs of stone interlocking with each other and terminating beyond the walls, suggesting perpendicular corridors.

She couldn't begin to wonder how old this worked stone really was, or how far down they had descended. As fog, senses were dulled, after all. But it had felt like she'd drifted down for a very long time."

Ryuu taking point, they advanced further down the hallway, the path behind them blocked off. His tail flicked excitedly, back and forth, back and forth.

"I can't wait to see the dragon."

"How do you know the dragon's still here?"

Ryuu looked back, perplexed, "What do you mean? It's a dungeon. There's always dragons, aren't there?"

Down the hallway they crept, as quietly as an armed and armored party could. They reached a labyrinth of connecting corridors, but Ryuu kept his path true, ignoring the additional passageways, many of which had collapsed.

Despite the minimal debris, she noted a good deal of markings along the walls and floor; deep, perpendicular gashes grouped in threes and fours. Claw marks.

Then, they passed bodies, mummified in the dry surroundings. Armor, more ill-fitting plates and patches of mail than proper suits, hung loosely on thin, gangly bodies. One sported a cooking pot as a makeshift helm. Their faces, once pudgy, had shriveled into pained rictus', revealing fanged jowls.

"Goblins." Alexander noted uneasily, "Seeking a new lair, no doubt."

There were many of them; over two dozen. That their corpses were concentrated in such a small space told her they were either deposited here, or they all perished in a small space of time. That they were placed haphazardly, still clutching their weapons, made the former unlikely...

"No spell traps." Ryuu announced, "No residual ectoplasm activity. We go forward."

"Wait..." he noted, stopping their advance, "Blades out. Now."

They drew steel just as the Goblins found their feet, eyeless sockets appraising them. They advanced without a sound. The Glowballs fell to the floor, and cast uneven shadows all across the hallway.

That was fine; she didn't need light to see.

Haidée snarled, and lunged forward, covering several paces in a single stride, thrusting her rapier though a Goblin's left eye socket. Knowing this manner of undead to be immune to such injuries, for it lacked a brain, she held the blade with her covered hand, and twisted the head still attached to it, snapping it off with a dry crunch. A quick flourish hurled the thing off of her weapon and into another Goblin, toppling it.

Esmer charged in behind her, and stepping over the wretch and crushing its skull, blocked a thrusting spear, which snapped off when it struck his shield. With a mighty roar, he likewise decapitated a Goblin with a clean horizontal stroke.

Looking back, Haidée saw Ryuu completing a spell, dark eldritch passages bubbling from his fanged grimace, and four of the Goblins clutched their temples, shivering, before turning on their fellows, a peculiar sickly glow surrounding them. Alexander rebuked three more, and then, nothing for it, she turned back to the fray.

Esmer held a trio at bay, his shield up, his sword parrying rather than striking.

"Ixen!" Haidée hissed, drawing her rod, willing the Goblins to burn. Her implement, surging with dark energies, discharged a concentrated bolt, which travelled beyond Esmer and those he was dueling, and exploded a stone toss down the hall, immolating a group. Like dry kindling, they took to the torch, and collapsed into ash within moments.

The enspelled undead formed a barrier, keeping the horde from advancing more than one or two at a time, while Esmer held the front, with her, Ryuu, and Alexander raining evocations over and round him, punctuated by the thrusting of her rapier. Basic undead, the Goblins were reduced and then exterminated in short order, leaving the enspelled ones to stand idly.

A quick flick of the wrist separated the negative energy binding them and they fell, inert.

"You handle combat well, prettyboy. A little learned for a grape grower." Ryuu chuckled, examining the remains, before drawing a tindertwig, lighting it off his boot, and tossing it on one of the prone corpses. As it burned, he dragged another to it, and another, spreading the blaze.

"My family's Weaponmaster was a good teacher." Esmer replied dryly, sheathing his sword and assisting him.

When all of the bodies were burning, they left them behind, advancing down the hallway and to a vestibule, connecting several adjacent hallways. Before them was a great staircase, spiraling downward in a geometrically precise square formation, changing direction at the corners. There were no support rails. To slip was to fall a great, great distance.

"Hand it to dwarven architecture to make things less and less safe." Ryuu chuckled, "Watch your step."

Alexander went wide-eyed at the sight of the drop, but said nothing.

They took to the stairway, close to the outer wall. Alexander's hand brushed against it at all times, as if he intended to steady himself with it.

"I dislike heights." he told her, noticing her scrutiny.

"You killed a mass of undead Goblins, braved a necromancer's crypt and a stronghold of the Cult of the Dragon, and you are unsettled by this?" Ryuu asked, amused.

"Shut your mouth..."

His grin only widened, but he said no more.


Sirahani completed her cursory divination, isolating the densest pockets of negative energy throughout the ruins. Aurgloroasa, per their arrangement, commanded the physically manifesting undead to excavate these sites. With luck, she would have Aurus' notes of the artifact within the hour, and the means to use it. The Dracolich's price would seem paltry indeed...

Aurgloroasa hissed, her claws twitching, digging into the gold beneath her. As an undead being, she didn't sleep in the proper sense, but Sirahani had observed her in a meditative state for the majority of her time with the creature. Stirring from it in such a way betrayed intense concentration.

"Something is wrong." the Dracolich said softly, though from such a maw, it seemed loud indeed, "There are intruders."

"Paltry adventurers, surely. I imagine you've had more than your share of them."

"No." Aurgloroasa insisted, "Fellow undead. Vampires. Two of them. And...a cleric? Curious."

A cleric and a Vampire. Her memories flitted back to the Haunted Halls, where she had observed one of each.

Surely not. A mere coincidence. Nobody could have discovered her plans so quickly! Could they?

Troubled, the Vampire began to own inquiries, and formulated her own defenses...


How long they descended, Haidée couldn't say. The vision had distorted her sense of time. She wondered distantly how Dwarves could stomach being so far underground.

"Must be scraping the roof of the Underdark by now." Ryuu noted, as if reading her mind, "Silly Dwarves."

When they finally reached the bottom, they were blocked by a thick iron portcullis. Ryuu dissolved it into nothingness with a decay spell, which locally advanced decomposition and corrosion. Beyond, there was a great open area, rectangular in shape. The floor was cracked and pitted marble, and cubby holes all along the walls held small piles of coins, weapons, and other items. Great statues lined the entrance and the far corridors; a pair of armored dwarves holding forked polearms in crossed positions. Stone sarcophagi, come carved in the likenesses of their occupants, were placed about the corners, with a massive specimen at the precise center. It was held inside of a small, open structure, with a pointed, shingled roof.

"Don't touch anything." Ryuu warned. approaching the central sarcophagi.

"A trap spell?"

"Respect." he replied, distant, placing a hand on its surface, "This is perhaps the one chamber in all of Thunderholme that remains pure to its creator's intent; the tomb is still consecrated by Dumathoin and Moradin. I can feel it."

"If this is holy ground..." Alexander said, curious, "How are you and Haidée able to approach?"

"No idea." he replied, "Maybe the powers that be sensed our actions above. Or our intentions to slay more undead."

"Here lies King Emerlin III..." Ryuu said aloud, reading the runes inscribed on the side of the tomb, "Slain through treachery by the fallen Dagan, son of Belgin, Blood of Jangarak. May he be feasted upon by the rats eternally. May our ancestors forgive us our failure to safeguard our king and clan. May the gods hold close this tomb to protect the bodies of kings afore."

"Rest easy." the Vampire whispered gently, "If a heart still beats in the breast of Dagan, I'll pull it out. And I'll take care of the dragon, too."

"We don't know if there is a dragon." Alexander repeated.

"Damn it! Do you mind? I'm having a moment here!"

He sighed, "It passed. Let's go."


"It has been located..."

Sirahani snapped to attention, appraising her host.

"In the hall of mirrors, there is one out of place, tarnished." Aurgloroasa said distantly, "Its surface reflects more than merely the chamber surrounding it."

"What do you mean?" Sirahani asked, and the Dracolich was not forthcoming.

So be it. Their exchange was concluded.

Sirahani activated her psionimancy, manifesting as a clear ringing sound, and levitated upward, and through the ceiling.

She knew where to look.


Beyond the tomb, there were a great many chambers. A living space, barren. The beds had been removed, or stripped apart. A subterranean garden, overgrown with large mushrooms. A massive foundry, still active. They observed from a distance, hiding amid the shadows, animated skeletons working the machinery, churning out ore and forging arms and armor. The arsenal held up an entire portion of the chamber, and included siege weaponry and wagons. Ballistae, catapults, even a small armor-plated warship suspended on a series of massive chains and pulleys. Racks upon racks of weapons mundane and exotic, closed helms adorned with spikes, and layered breastplates and pauldrons.

Even Ryuu noted a few pieces with admiration, though their purely human companions would not have been able to clearly make out their detail in the gloom.

Ryuu tensed at the sight of them, then shook his head, disappointed. They numbered in the hundreds, if not more.

It occurred to her finally the true breadth of the danger here, and she eyed Esmer, dismayed. He was here because of her. If he died...she didn't know what she would do.

He noticed her, mustered a confident smile, but she could hear his pulse. It wasn't so reassuring.

"Why are they doing this?" Alexander asked quietly, "Do they intend to invade the kingdoms above?"

Again, Ryuu shook his head, "They are Dwarves, Sunathaer. Even in death, the forge and the mine speaks to them. They enact their passions, creating implements for a war that will never come. I have little doubt they engage in less alarming crafts as well. Let us go. The passageway continues beyond."

He locked his hands, eyes narrowed, and called upon a short incantation. A few of the passing skeletons turned in their direction, began to advance.

"Master..." Haidée warned, drawing steel.

He completed his spell, and a tangible field of energy washed over them. A small rune marked her palm, and daring a glance, she confirmed that each of her companions bore such a rune.

"More necromancy..." Alexander cursed, "But I know this spell. The cloister uses something similar. It repels and confuses the undead, preventing them from noticing those warded."

"Yup." Ryuu said with a smile, strutting directly into the path of the dwarven skeleton.

Like a human, but short and wide, its bared bones as thick as mature maple branches, the undead was partially covered in what looked like dark moss, and wore an ill-fitting iron breastplate and greaves, supported by rusted links of mail. Its boots, which must have been primarily leather, must have long rotted away, leaving its feet bare.

As she passed within inches of its empty face, Haidée looked away, overcome.

This had once been a person. Maybe it still was, in a way.

"Will killing the Dracolich free them?"

Ryuu eyed her askance, curious.

"Likely not. Too much death in this place. Spirits are drawn to that sort of thing when they don't pass on completely. They leave behind negative energy that forms little pockets in Toril, to attract more."

"Are they in pain?"

"This lot? They're just leftovers. A footprint that the spirits left behind. There's nothing to save here. Complex undead house a soul. These...well, they just don't. Nothing but dust and echoes."

"Could you collapse this place, as you did the halls?" Alexander asked.

Ryuu shrugged, "Likely not. That spell took a good deal out of me, even after using a scroll. Dwarven keeps are meant to last. They won't be so easy."

What were they talking about?

She blinked, confused, then shrugged, dismissing the matter. Before them was a great double-door, unhinged, large enough to accommodate the largest of the siege vehicles.

Across the foundry, there was a great ramp, leading up, likely, to the surface.

She paused, thinking.

Even if the powers that be never used the weapons, they would remain here for another to claim. This metal, so finely crafted, would last for centuries, maybe more.

She'd read enough stories to know the damage an army could do without such formidable equipment.

And if they just passed all this by, without doing their best to make sure that didn't happen, they would be responsible.

"Wait."

They stopped.

"We should check and see if that ramp actually leads back to the surface." Haidée noted, "Just to make sure nobody uses these weapons. Master, you said you sealed underground chambers before?"

He shrugged, "Not really our place. We're here for undead, which will likely notice such an effort."

"Please, Master."

He rolled his eyes, "Fine. The ward will last a few minutes. I can go take a look. Just stay together while I'm gone. This isn't the time to wander off.


Ryuu motioned for them to be still, and became a swarm of bats, the better to quickly traverse the foundry. A small village could have fit inside, after all.

Up the ramp, there was another wide chamber. It was, however, roofless; where its walls would have met a ceiling, there was only an endless ascending rise, without a stairway.

"An ascending platform?" Ryuu gasped, impressed by the technological advances of Thunderholme. These must have been local inventions, or something later concocted by the Dracolich.

Thankfully, most Ferromancy-based constructs were very fragile. He looked to the chain and pulley systems along the walls, and had a good idea on how to make the lift inaccessible.

He backpedaled, outside of the immediate chamber, and drew a flask of acid from his pouch; the reagent of the spell he was to cast.

"Gixustrat." he rasped, technically, a term more for a spell that would rip the organs from a living vessel. But focused against an inanimate object, the result was much the same.

The chains and more complex machinery pulled apart, and separated into component parts. The platform, deprived of its supports, slid downward at a prodigious rate, the squeals of metal on metal deafening. When it struck the bottom, after some time, the impact actually set him back on his feet. He nearly toppled, gripping the wall, his claws digging in.

"Whew. Well, if they didn't know we were here already..."


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