We waited for a few minutes, prepped for battle, but none of the skeletons rose to fight us. Once the initial surge of adrenaline had passed, we looked around at one another, confused. I had really been expecting a battle. Instead we found a tomb.
The air here was stale, but there was some way that it circulated because the dead that crowded the halls before us had all been reduced to bones and sinew. Bits of clothing remained, but the moment I touched a bit of a robe, it crumbled to dust. The room before me was large, three rods by ten, or so Bob estimated just by flashing the lantern around. Every square inch of that space was littered with bones. There was nothing else in the room, no furniture, no wall hangings, nothing. And like the cob webs in the passage that led here, the bones were brittle and crumbled to dust when I tried to pick one up.
I examined several of the skeletons as best I could without touching them and did not find any cuts or nicks that would’ve indicated death by a weapon of any sort. We speculated that perhaps some form of gas, or disease had killed them all.
The door on this side had been gouged but the door had not opened. The walls all round the door were stained brown with old blood but even that flecked off at a brush of my gloved hand. Everything here was ancient. After a bit of discussion we decided that the majority of the skeletons were human, with some dwarf and halfling scattered in and among the others. I asked if there was a discernible difference between my skeleton and Bÿglar’s and no one had a clue. We had approximately the same build, though I was a bit taller. So some of the skeletons could be hob, or not.
Opposite us, on the far wall, was another door. There was nothing for it but to trudge across the room. We all wrapped our cloaks over our faces as the bone dust grew thick in the air. A necromancer would have enough material components for a lifetime here. Liz estimated this room held over a thousand dead. It was damned spooky to walk through them. We went single file as to minimize kicking bones.
When we got to the doorway on the far wall, the door that had hung there was gone. The rusted hinges were there, twisted and hanging from their fixtures. The door itself was nowhere to be seen. I wished we had some form of scrying that could look into the past of a certain place. Or if we could raise one of the dead and ask them questions. I had heard of such magic, but these dead were far too old.
The next room was an antechamber which had six alcoves off, three to a side. There were marking along the walls that showed where rods had been fastened over each alcove, perhaps to hold a curtain for privacy, or some such. The alcoves themselves were devoid of anything at all. The antechamber held a smattering of dead, but these looked like they had been cut down. Shattered and rent bones showed that these individuals has died defending those who had been frantically attempting to escape the way we’d come in. There were a few shards of metal here indicating armor. By the placement of corpses it appeared that a rear guard had fought against overwhelming force before finally being cut down. The defenders had all been slaughtered, but the attackers had not gotten off lightly. There were more evidence of robes and other clothing here and it appeared that some of the defenders and attackers had been priests, acolytes or clerics. Bladed weapons had been the favored tool here, with a few blunt weapons like maces. Most of the blades had rusted to nothing, but that rust stained the floor along with great stains from blood.
Beyond the antechamber another grand chamber opened up, this one with sweeping staircases to either side which opened out onto a huge landing. From where we stood we could also make out tunnels running both north and south from the chamber. We needed to go up, so I pointed to the stairs and no one disagreed.
There were a scattering of bodies here as well, but they had been stragglers who were cut down as they tried to flee to the inner chamber. Most of those lay on the northern stair case where another skirmish had occurred. The north tunnel was clogged with skeletons as well, but the southern corridor had collapsed. Bob went to investigate the collapse and I the bodies to the north. The others ascended the southern stair case and set up watch on the landing above.
The northern tunnel did not go too far before it turned west. The entire length of the tunnel was filled with the fallen. I had no real desire to trudge through those rotted bones, to be frank. Bob returned and said that the tunnel collapse had been triggered by someone tripping a deadfall like the one he’d disarmed in the first passage. He followed me back to the north tunnel and we went part of the way in before he was confident that where the tunnel had turned westward another trap had triggered a tunnel collapse. Whomever had chased these people into this part of the fortress had not lived to escape.
That left the stair cases upward. Of course, in our haste, we had not considered another secret door at the base of the stair case, below the landing. Luckily the others were well above the lowest level when a door opened and s wraith slid into the room.
A wraith is a form of undead. Clerics and Paladins totally rule over undead. Bob and I exchanged a single look then drew our weapons. We had this. I quite enjoyed sending undead on to their final rest. It eliminated issues and helped put a restless soul to peace.
At least, that was the theory.