The party stands with Noreeno and his men in the grassy fields of Vale Calma.
They explain that Beck will not be joining them, and that he has moved on. Noreeno explains that he knows, Beck visited him earlier today and appealed to him for travel papers. They will come to some other arrangement.
Once everyone is satisfied, Noreeno relates the details of the job he has for them, “Do not speak of this job in town. The people are very superstitious. If they found you have been here disturbing the tombs they will not be happy. Furthermore, I won’t be able to keep my end of the bargain if you get people riled up. Keep this secret and we can both get what we want. I need you to seek the deepest chamber and find a sphere inside. I don’t know what it looks like, but I’m sure you’ll know it when you see it. I want you to get it and bring it back. Any other loot you find is yours to leave or keep as you choose.”
Noreeno then brings out a necklace, affixed with a large gem. When worn, it seems to give off a warm glow. He explains that the gem gives off light according to the sun. At night, it gives no light. During the day it glows yellow, at sundown it glows red, etc. He explains, “I will give you this necklace that will glow while the sun is up. You must go in during the day. If evening comes, and you are still inside, I beg to to come back out and rest. DO NOT rest inside. Do not linger inside at night. If night draws near, escape to the surface and try again after the next sunrise. This is a tomb, after all. I don’t know what you’ll find inside. I have no map and no advice to give. I’m sure its dangerous, but I’m sure you figured that out already.”
The details thus revealed, he asks the party, “So, are we agreed?”
They confer together. They do not trust him, but they also want the travel papers and they want the information on where they can find their friend Endo.
Skeeve negotiates for the soldiers tents and food rations so they have everything they need for a camp. Noreeno has his men drop their tents and food where they stand, letting the party claim whatever they find useful. They can come out here and make camp at night if they feel the need.
Satisfied, at last the party agrees to do the job.
Noreeno seems satisfied. He moves onto how they will meet when the deal is through, “I can’t personally wait for you here. I do have a city to run. I will be back at sundown to meet you. If you are not here, I will come back at sundown the next day, and the day after. If I don’t see you after three sundowns I’ll assume you perished and we will have to put the lid back on the tomb to keep anything from escaping. This is not personal, please don’t be offended. I have a city to protect and we can’t leave this thing open forever.”
The party agrees that this is reasonable.
Noreeno bids them good-bye, “I’ll be back with your payment at sundown. You bring me what I want, and I’ll bring you the items we agreed on. Good luck.”
Everybody prepares to go in. As Noreeno rides off to town, they make their way over to the ruins.
A set of smooth stone steps goes down into the earth. There is a massive slab of stone to one side, which clearly went over the steps, but has now been pulled off. The exacting stonework reveal this place to be of expert craftsmanship. Perhaps it is of Dwarven make, or simply a very skilled stone-wright. Even after many centuries, the gaps between the stones is so slight that the walls are most certainly water tight, and there is a good chance the place could be airtight as well. The door at the base of the steps is fifteen feet wide and six feet high. It looks like a slab of solid stone. There are many writings and symbols all around and the door way has a huge lock in the center and many chisel marks all around. They cannot see which way the door opens. From here it looks like a solid stone wall. There is an ornate fixture in the center of this door. It is made from finely crafted metal, and surrounds a round hole about the width of a hand. This seems to be some sort of keyhole.
After Eomer attempts to pick the lock a handle suddenly comes out of the wall. The handle is very ornate. It is made from finely crafted metal, laced with intricate patterns of gold and silver. A lone gemstone is inset into one end. Eomer pulls the handle and the 15 foot door suddenly drops into the floor with a giant “Boom!” The way is now open.
The top edge of the door is now flush with the floor. There is no handle or any thing they might grasp, even if they could lift such a weight. They observe that there is no way to seal the tomb now that it is open.
Stale air flows from the dark chamber beyond. It is obvious the party will be the first to venture inside since it was sealed. They decide to hold onto the elaborately ornate handle. Eomer turns to everyone and reminds them, “Don’t touch nothing!” Thordek says he is not leaving here with nothing so Eomer gives him the handle.
Open stone room. Even the slightest footstep seems to travel down the corridors and come back to them as a dreary echo. Aside from the tiny amount of daylight that reaches in from the open door to the south, the place is utterly dark. There are four holes in the for, one in each corner of the room. There is a stack of metal torch-poles leaning in the south-east corner. There are open corridors to the east and west, and another massive stone slab doorway to the north.
They light some of the torches in the room.
This is a strange sort of tomb. There are no family markers or names engraved anywhere. There are no internment chambers to be seen. The walls don’t have any markings as one might expect in a typical burial chamber.
The stone door ahead is a featureless, smooth stone slab. Definitely undisturbed.
To sum up, most of the puzzles involved difficult stone doors that required groups of people to work together in order to open them. They passed a number of coffins, standing upright, which were held shut by many chains, binding them to the walls. They elected not to mess with these.
Afternoon arrives and the party has overcome a number of complex doors and traps. They find themselves in a large chamber with a curved north wall, covered in runes and various Human, Dwarven, and Elven names. Among the names they spot the name “Forwinol”, the last name of their friend and ally Sagemaster Teerin Forwinol. They know he is quite old, and wonder if he was involved in the building of this place.
They proceed deeper. Hours pass and they overcome more strange locking mechanisms.
At last they come to a great chamber. It has a long walkway of polished stone, like marble, leading from the door to the western side of the room. Pillars line the north and south walls. The room is unnaturally cold. The air is stagnant.
On the far western side of the hall is a raised Dias of pure white stone, which holds a single black coffin. It is chained shut with many (magical) chains and padlocks. It is on a tilted surface, leaning back at a forty-five degree angle. In the center of the lid is a single stone sphere, about the size of a grapefruit. It radiates both good and evil. It pulses with magical energy. This is clearly their goal.
Several trays of gold coins are arranged around the Dias. A few gems are scattered in with them as well. Thordek dumps these items into his pack.
Skeeve and Eomer approach the coffin. Everyone else stands back. Skeeve explains that he suspects that the magical sphere probably keeps the chains locked. They all suspect that taking the sphere will open all of the coffins they have passed. They talk about what kind of dangers they might face.
From their view, the tomb is divided into two areas. There are the outer chambers, which are just a few rooms. Then there is the inner chambers, which is everything else. Between these two sections is a single massive door that they can open and shut.
Their plan is that the entire party will wait near the door. Skeeve will stand away from the coffin, at a distance, and use his magic to quickly pull the sphere away and over to where he is standing, and then they will all dash for the entrance. Once they reach the outer chamber, they will shut the large door and hopefully seal these dozens of coffins inside once again. There are only three coffins in the outer chamber. Once the door is shut, they will visit the side-chamber with these coffins and see if they are open and, if so, what is in them.
They get into positions. They count to three, and Skeeve uses his magic. Skeeve finds his magic does not affect the sphere. Reluctantly, he walks over and grasps the sphere. It pulls free. Suddenly the chains break free and drop to the floor, just as they feared. They don’t even wait to see what happens, they just dash. As they run away, they hear a great echo throughout the chamber, the sound of someone drawing in a deep breath. There is a pause and the breath is let out once again, like a great sigh. They keep running.
They pass many coffins on their way out. As they feared, the locks have fallen off, and the chains now hang freely from the walls. The coffins remain closed, but they are no longer locked shut.
They reach the outer chamber and – after some messing around with switches – manage to close the door again. Before they leave, they visit the side chamber and examine the three remaining coffins.
The chains have indeed fallen off. They take positions around the coffin. Everyone gets ready.
Thu’fir pulls the lid away. The coffin is empty. The move onto the next one. Again the lid is pulled away, only this time the coffin is occupied.
The creature moves with inhuman speed and grace. It darts among them during the battle. While clearly undead, it is not a shambling, rotting zombie. Instead of a flimsy corpse, the thing is tough and hard. A dim red light comes from deep within the eye sockets.
The party was well-prepared, and they manage to bring the beast down after a short battle.
The next coffin has another. In this battle, Enoch gets stabbed by the cold, piercing claws and finds himself unable to move. Thu’fir brings his massive sword down and cleaves the thing in two. They take a deep breath. What were these things? They were too meaty to be skeletons, and much too fast to be zombies. They have never faced anything like this.
The mystery will have to wait. They escape to the surface and find themselves in the warm glow of late afternoon. All is quiet behind them, and the door to the inner chambers has remained closed. Enoch consecrates the area around the entrance, hoping that will prevent or impede anything that might follow. He then sees to the wounded and heals their injuries.
Evening is coming. Noreeno will probably arrive in an hour or so, assuming he keeps his end of the deal.
Eomer is concerned that Noreeno will betray them. Now that they have the sphere, Noreeno could simply have his soldiers kill the party and take it. Eomer suggests that they claim they don’t yet have the item. Once Noreeno leaves, they can slip into town and meet him in public the next day, where they can be sure he won’t try to double-cross them.
Enoch points out that his cleric may use Zone of Truth again. This would prevent them from lying about recovering the sphere. They discuss this at length. Eventually, Eomer devises the following:
Skeeve and Thordek will go back inside with the sphere and stand in one of the outer chambers. When Noreeno asks where the sphere is, Eomer will be able to (truthfully) reply that it is still inside. He will also be able to say that the others are inside. Since he won’t know what chamber they are in, he can also say he doesn’t know where they are. This will hopefully be misleading enough to satisfy Noreeno and persuade him to leave.
During this conversation, Skeeve has been studying the sphere. He has more bad news for the party. He has discovered what this sphere is.
This is the phylactery of a Lich named Mordan. It is (for some reason) infused with both good and evil magic. The object has an owner. To learn more about how this works, he will need to study the object in depth.
They party is shocked. What have they just done? It seems they have somehow freed or awoken a Lich. Does Noreeno even know what this thing is?
They have an hour until Noreeno arrives. Skeeve spends this hour studying the orb, examining the runes and trying to learn its spells and mysteries. He learns the following:
It’s a nice little reward. Better than just handing him a piece of paper with two sentences printed on it, at any rate.
They no longer want to turn this orb over to Noreeno. This is much bigger and more dangerous than they imagined.
They get into their agreed positions, and wait.