Trish didn’t waste time wondering about the location of the other two vampires were, instead moving to keep them from using their coffins. While Trish was doing the work of Artol, the rest of the party observed the room. There was a statue in the middle of the coffins, another dwarven fountain which had been desecrated by Chaos. The roof of the chamber was high, and dwarven murals filled the walls. Simon searched around the room, coming quickly to a grate that covered a shaft filled with darkness. He glanced down through the grating, but could not make out how deep the shaft might be or where it might lead. He recognized flakes of color on the grating as dried blood and as he wondered where the blood might have come from, he fancied he could hear a skittering sound coming from the darkened depths of the shaft. Roku and Kabuto watched Trish destroying the coffins, now working on the third coffin she had come to, working her way around the room clockwise. Kabuto’s antenna began to twitch as he smelled blood, and he noticed the brackish water in the fountain beginning to roil. Suddenly, tentacles erupted from the pool, grasping and swatting at everyone in the immediate area. One of the tentacles slid across Trish’s armor, causing her to cease her prayers over the coffin she was working on and draw her swords. Kabuto leapt backwards, and in a fluid motion, three of his arms sent axes flying at the tentacles, severing one of them, which landed on the ground, flopping like a gutted fish.
Kabuto moved backwards from the tentacles, and noticed three pieces of shadow detach themselves from the darkness of the stairwell and head towards him, even as the missing two vampires materialized on the landing and entered the room. The skittering noise from beneath the grating grew louder, and with the sounds of many beating wings, a flock of blood crows erupted from the grate, followed closely by a swarm of rats. Roku cast invisibility on himself, and moved away from the shadow figures on the stairwell, but inadvertently stepped in front of the river of rats swarming from the grating. The rats couldn’t see what they were bumping against, but bit against his armor ineffectually as he moved against the tide of the animals.
Simon activated one of his sunburst shuriken and threw it into one of the nearby columns. A burst of brilliant sunlight filled the room, and as the blood crows shrieked and shied away from the light, Simon casually tossed a dwarven grenade into their midst, dispersing them completely. Simon then joined Trish in fighting off the tentacles from the fountain, but stopped and moved to engage the large dark knight that appeared at the edge of the battle. The knight wore pitch black armor and wielded a greatsword with flames flickering up and down the blade. Simon attacked the creature, but his attack was countered by the knight who swung his blade at Simon so quickly he barely had time to duck. Simon then leapt backwards, grabbing one of the flailing tentacles as it went by and landed behind the knight. He then executed a flurry of kicks and spins with his blades that became almost like a wall around him, hitting rats, tentacles and the knight. Simon could hear a quiet voice speaking in his head, but shook it off just in time to duck beneath a swipe of the knight’s sword, causing the knight to chop a couple of the tentacles behind him in two. The black knight began to mumble and chant, and suddenly, five feral looking demons materialized in a puff of greasy, gray smoke.
Almost as soon as Simon left to battle the black knight, one of the tentacles slipped under Trish’s guard and wrapped around her waist, lifting her off the ground. Trish began trying to hack at the tentacle holding her, but it tightened its grip on her and she could feel her armor starting to dig into her skin. Roku appeared out of nothingness and hacked at the tentacle, slitting it lengthwise and causing a black ichor to leak from the cut. From where she was being held in the air, Trish could see a pool of darkness at the base of the tentacles, where they appeared to be entering the world. Batting away three other tentacles that tried to wrap themselves around her, Trish finally hit the one holding her with enough force to sever it, and dropped to the floor. As she stood up, Gilliam cast protection on her, and she engaged the tentacles once more.
Kabuto spun around, doing a weird dance of sorts, as he feinted and dodged this way and that so quickly that the shades and vampire couldn’t follow what he was doing. He interspersed thrown axes with his feints, and the humanoid creatures, not used to dealing with anything with more than two arms, were having difficulty getting close to him. A deftly thrown axe caught the vampire directly in the chest like a stake, and dropped him. Roku pointed his wand at Kabuto, and Kabuto could feel his speed increase as he ran forward and did a back flip off the wall to land in front of one of the shadows. As he landed, Kabuto saw a hell hound, which he recognized from stories as a Kushna come up the stairs. He threw an axe at it, hitting it square in the head and killing it. His next axe throw whipped through the air at the black knight and neatly took his head from his shoulders, causing the armor to drop empty to the floor and then deteriorate into a greasy looking smoke.
Simon began destroying all of the rats he could reach, causing the ones he couldn’t to split up and attempt to go back where they had come from. Suddenly, he heard the voice in his head again, and he felt his will to fight leave him as he lowered his swords.
A second Kushna breathed fire at Kabuto, and he flipped out of the way of the stream, which caught a lot of the rats which had been swarming around his legs and dispersing the rest. He then feinted at the shades and Kushna, taking a moment to throw another axe into the tentacles Trish was fighting. His axe hit the middle of the tentacles, and they withdrew into themselves and popped out of existence.
Roku was fighting the green demons that the knight had summoned, and managed to cut two of them down before a third got in under his guard and slashed him painfully across the ribs. He watched as Simon, glassy eyed and with his swords held low, began to walk out of the room. Suddenly, Simon shook himself and then his body glowed briefly as Telpurr cast a shielding spell on him. Telpurr then commanded a gnome forth from one of Simon’s rings, and as the earthen creature rose beneath the remaining vampire, Simon pushed another sunburst shuriken into a nearby pillar, and the sunlight streaming forth burned one of the shades completely away.
A voice suddenly burst forth in both Trish and Simon’s minds; it was Kabuto, “Shades on me here! Save my ass!!”
Trish rushed across the room, Obsidian cutting through the closest shade and Keller’s Razor slashing a second, killing them both. Roku’s wand hit Trish and she felt faster than she had since the battle began. As Trish, Kabuto, and Roku finished off the remaining demons, Kushna and rats, Simon walked casually over to the vampire, drawing a stake from his belt, as the gnome caused it to sink to its waist in the rock beneath its feet. With a grin, Simon spun and his katana took the vampire’s head from his shoulders, and a stake suddenly sprouted forth from his chest.
With the battle over, Telpurr instructed the gnome to destroy the fountain. As the giant beast pounded the fountain to rubble, the tentacles sprang forth and began drawing it into the void. The coffins, bodies and rubble were sucked into the void, and with a booming sound, there was nothing left in the middle of the room where the fountain used to be.
Kabuto began to retrieve his axes from around the room, and as he pulled the axe from the chest of the vampire, it turned to mist and began laughing as it seeped away through the cracks in the floor.
With the aftermath of the fight over, the party looked at the statues on the far side of the room. As they drew closer, Roku said, “Go ahead and check them out. I’m in no hurry; I’ve bled enough for now.”
As the others drew closer to the statues, Roku noticed that they were set up as an altar. “Hey, all of these guys have their hands out. We should find things appropriate to each element and set them up as an offering.”
After a little discussion, the party placed the vampire’s head in the hands of the Chaos statue, pieces of the gnome in the hands of the Stasis statue, rubble from the ceiling in the hands of the Earth statue, a bedroll in the hands of the Law statue, and a magical belt in the hands of the Magic statue. The runes above the statues began to glow, and the chest in front of the statues opened with a crack, and all of the offerings disappeared. Inside the chest was a pair of gloves, a book, a circlet, and a stone headed war hammer with runes inscribed on it. Kabuto took the war hammer, Roku took the gloves and book, and Simon took the circlet.
The party once again began the trek up the stairs, and Roku had the feeling that someone was watching him. They climbed the stairs for hours, passing many open tombs. Their seals are broken and they lay open like dark yawning maws. Without fail, a small horde of zombies or skeletons vomits forth as the party approached. The climb became an endless succession of skirmishes with mindless undead and after each, the party turned aside with a shudder as Trish pushed them upward on the stairs towards the surface, away from all this death. Only she seems unaffected by the grinding monotony of endless restless dead. The simple prayers she mutters are calming and the party guesses that she and her dark god may actually be protecting them from falling into despair. They were glad of her company.
On the brink of exhaustion, the party decided to sleep on a landing. They rested for a few hours, but did not sleep well as each of them were haunted by terrible dreams of an endless spiral staircase and a march that leads from life to undeath.
Eventually the stairs end in a cave-in that has sealed off the next level of the crypts while exposing an adjacent tunnel from which a moist foul air wafts in. The sound of gently running water can be heard and something large splashes into the brackish murk as the party stands at the collapsed entrance. It is pitch black in the tunnel so by the flickering torchlight, they see a glimpse of hewn tunnels with dark green water below and walkways and catwalks above. The air is musty, damp and stagnant and a green grey moss grows on the stone walls.
Simon used the compass, which showed that Vargas was now below them. Kabuto, noticing the direction the compass is pointing, signed, “We will run out of supplies before we finish that errand.”
Kabuto then moved to the edge of the canal and stuck in his spear. “About chest deep,” he signed.
Kabuto and Simon lightly jump across the gap to the other side of the canal. Roku attempts to follow, but misjudged his landing and fell backwards into the brackish water. As he stood, ghosts began to materialize from the water around him. Trish ran forward and dispelled two of the ghosts, and Simon dispelled the third before he could take possession of Roku. Roku scrambled out of the water and stood on the other side of the canal, dripping and muttering to himself.
The party began to explore the canals, finding gratings every so often that covered both the edges of the canal and the canal itself. All manner of foul smelling detritus was washed into the grating in the water. Trish tried to bend one of the gratings, but was unable to, stepping away for Simon to have a go. Simon bent the grating back with ease and stepped through the opening. About five feet away from the grating, a flight of arrows came rattling in around him. As he recovered from the shock of the arrows landing around him, another volley came in from the darkness. Simon cast a spell and became intangible, then he tied one of his sunburst shuriken to his head and activated it as a headlamp. Gilliam cast a protection spell on Trish and she rushed out to the first skeletal archer she could see and attacked it with Oblivion. Kabuto came through on the other side of the canal, his thrown axes taking out four skeletons at the same time. Simon attacked one of the skeletons around the side of Trish, but was unable to hit it due to the awkward angle.
Roku, trying to get a better angle to engage the skeletons, attempted to jump across the canal again, but fell into the dank, smelly water once more. There was a splash nearby and he saw the head of a giant eel cutting through the water towards him. He cast a shadowbolt at the creature, catching it full in its open maw.