The morale of the party swelled at the sight of the miracle. Argosa had found within him the ability to do something most men only heard about in sermons and stories. Naat had been wounded by the skeletal man from the other room, Argosa called upon the power of his mysterious god, and as he did so a white glow emanated around his hands as held Naat’s injured arm. The soft light settled against the skin, as if it were the first flakes of winter snow and as they dissipated, the pain subsided, and the wound closed. Naat stood speechless in a shock, no one could believe the fortunate healing. Before anyone could ask, Argosa simply finished his prayers with thanks, and took up his long sword.
Everyone but Mors looked to the two exits from the room, he examined the cache under the stair. Meanwhile Argosa and Tinaroth held the lantern to a large iron gate that prevented passage into a larger room with an ascending stair. “That stair, probably leads out of this place.” suggested Tinaroth. Argosa pushed and pulled at the large iron gate, “No way we’re getting through this thing without a key, or switch.” He replied. Just then, Mors found something under the stair that made him grin. “I’ve found a lever in here!” came the small halfling’s voice from within the hidden passage. “Give it a pull then, and lets get out of here.” said the men.
With a yank Mors pulled the lever. The sound of metal clicked in the other iron gate. Mors emerged and approached the small gate that was opposite the stair. The four of them gazed beyond the gate, which now had been unlatched and swung slightly ajar. Thoughts of disappointment began to form their way into words for the group. Just then the temperature fell from cool to cold, as an ethereal figure emerged from the surface of the stone wall in the hallway beyond the gate. It was an image of nightmares and terror, a tall emaciated woman, her jaw hung low in a perpetual silent scream. Her hair waved above her head as though she was submerged in a watery afterlife, she wore a long gown that drifted beyond the ends of her legs, but hovered above the ground without touching. Extending from the ends of each finger were long ragged nails, The spirit passed beyond their sight down the hall, without turning to admire their living flesh, even so each of the group stood in fear, with the heavy pulse of their hearts strangling them in their throats. No one dared to move beyond the gate for fear of the emaciated spirit.
As the moments passed and the ghost no longer near, each of them began to gather the courage to move beyond the small unlocked gate, hoping the hall would lead them to another way out of the dungeon to the safety of their room at the Inn.
One by one, they moved past the small gate into the hallway which lead around a bend. Three doors, beckoned at the curiosity of the men, Tinaroth tried the handles finding all to be locked but the middle. With Argosa behind him holding the lantern in the hallway, Tinaroth entered what looked to be a small armory. There at the other side of the room a weapon rack with halberds stored upon it had remained untouched for many years. Tinaroth proceeded toward the weapons, when suddenly the heavy door slammed shut locking him in darkness. Tinaroth screamed to his companions who banged and collided at the door trying to free him in mutual panic. Just then, things went from bad to worse, as the approaching noise of the walking dead returned, approaching from either end of the hallway. Soon the hungry damned appeared, their hands and arms outstretched to rend the living flesh from the bones of the doomed mortals.
Tinaroth could hear the dreadful panic of the voices of his friends in the hall, the sounds of the undead closing in, and now he could feel the temperature lowering in the darkness around him. Then, the leathery grasp of ancient fingers wrapping around his forearm, fingers which ended in long hard nails, the terror overwhelmed him, it was more than contact, he could feel an invasion from the darkness laying siege upon his mind. His terror at it’s maximum, Tinaroth’s body collapsed upon the stone floor, his mind locked in a distant prison.
Mors drew his short blades, and Naat his sling, how he longed for the meadows of his youth were the sling was for amusement, and not here, in this wretched dark cold place where little more stood between him and the damned at both ends of the hall. Argosa, was afraid but he recalled the use of his sword against the first encounter he had earlier in the dungeon.
The damned corpses lumbered closer and closer to the trapped companions, filling the hall with the stench of their decaying flesh, and sounds of their broken bones chaffing against the stone. Even though there was only a few in either direction, the sound of coming reinforcements assured the men of their worst fears. The walking dead ambled at a pace that allowed the halflings and Argosa to act first. Each of them attacking with desperate ferocity. The blades cut through things, the smith who forged them never dreamed of, nor would he have wanted to, one by one the dismembered husks of former men and women laid in the hall, a scene of abject massacre. Beginning to get fatigued the group took a pause in the melee they shared to catch their breath. As they did, the moans of the undead began to stir and stumble their way from some horrid crypt towards the sound of the hallway clamor. Returning to the sturdy door that had swung closed imprisoning Tinaroth the three attempted their level best to rend it ajar.
The eerie groans of the dead grew louder as the damned approached. And still the door stood firm, pushing and pushing the men began to fear fervently for their fate.
The metal latch began to twist ever so gradually, the men pushed harder, further the metal bent and closer, louder came the horrible dirge of voices from just beyond the hall. The men groaned in a feat of strength, heaving their weight into the door again and again. Still the latch held. From the end of the hall the dead drug themselves from around the corner, groaning and shifting forward on their stiff limbs and decaying joints.
Again the men heaved, yet the door would not yield.
Tinaroth lay within the room beyond their reach, unconscious and drained by whatever ancient evil had invaded his mind. The men panicked with no idea how to escape, the dead lurched forward, swollen swamp filled orbs in their eye sockets fixed dreadfully upon their living victims. The men slammed against the door a final time, the metal tearing loose within the latch, the door breaking inward spilling the men into the room.
There Tinaroth laid, still and silent upon the stone floor without a sign of life about him. Argosa calls upon the mystical force that had answered his prayer before laying his hand upon the body of Tinaroth. Naat and Mors glance the room noticing a panel with three levers and an old rack upon which are stored old rusty pole-arms, but no doors or escape of any kind do they see, nervously they grip their blades and turn their attention to the approaching undead.
Argosa’s prayers claim a moment of grace for Tinaroth as he feels himself awaken from a cold dark place, he opens his eyes climbs to his feet clasping Argosa in sincere thanks. Argosa, turning his attention to the levers, pulls one in a leap of faith. An eerie moan of stone grinding against stone sounds from the hall, as the mouth of a pit opens up beneath two of the shambling undead who fall into it smashing their bodies unceremoniously hard against the rim of the pit as they disappear into the darkness. The four hurry from the small room brandishing the tips of their blades in courage against the doom of the crypt. Each engaging a foul unliving creature of the departed. A gnashing of teeth, melee the swift crescent arc’s of iron blades, as desperate throat clutching grasps lunge at the pulsing necks of the heroes. A head spins and rolls to the floor from Argosa’s deftly wielded longsword, Argosa kicks the decapitated corpse still writhing in blind rage, into the mouth of the pit. Below he hears the noises of at least two more clamoring to climb back into the hall.
Tinaroth lunges clumsily with a rusty pole-arm from the rack in the small room. He misses an abomination badly, placing his body within the reach of the rotting arms of an undead fiend. Before he can pull away Tinaroth is bitten hard between neck and shoulder, the swollen rotten gums and yellow shards of teeth pass into warm flesh. Tinaroth howls in extreme agony, Naat lunged at the monster short swords in hand and plunged them into it’s back as it ravenously fed upon Tinaroth.