The walk up to the Vault of Silence was coincidentally a quiet one as all were still digesting the topics shared a short while ago. Curious how our lives have changed so much. It was not long ago that Khaine and I were merely trying to figure out what was next for us, what tavern to frequent, how to make a living… Now, now we are at the heart of plots both political and powerful. By warring factions and ancient evils known and unknown. We have been touch my mighty magics and seemingly become chosen by the gods themselves that I look back and think how small our lives once were. How simple. A part of me morns the loss of that time as I know there is no going back. At least not for me and wonder, not for the first time, for Khaine as well. We are both very different people now.
Skyyfang’s grip tighten on my shoulder as I too noticed movement ahead. I singled the others to hold as my bodyguard and I crept forward to get a better look. It seemed we were not the only ones with sharp eyes for as we approached serpentine speech could be heard and Aspari Warriors advanced from their hiding places to engage us. With my voice but not my words I swore at them in their wicked tongue and felt but rage and surprise when they replied back. It was clear these were not the barbaric Aspari we have encountered here. Their dress and speech was different and they had a look of a scouting party. We ended our dialogue as we drew weapons and met them head on. After exchanges of steal and spells we ended them as well.
They were indeed an advanced scouting party and seemed to show signs of having traveled far and of recent battles. Based on the journals we found, there might have been more of the them at one time. They were sent from their serpent city, again confirming the treat deep below, to capture Julivar and most likely try to find the portal room. Clearly that trek had dangers unknown and explains why the portal was so important to them. It is good that we have kept its location secret from everyone, including our allies. At least for now.
The entry area pacified we continued our way into the vault proper. The Vaults of Silence had been used as burial tombs for ages and the first room bore a sarcophagus of a fallen eleven hero. The place itself felt… wrong. There was an oppressiveness here that spoke of evil. Something very dark and dangerous inhabited this place and as always we proceeded with caution. Once in the first chamber Khaine looked at Ebonfang then called out warring. He pointed with his blade as he said there was undead in the sarcophagus. I had not known the Ebon Pool dipped blade could do that. It seems its powers are growing.
We surrounded the stone sarcophagus and readied to attack what sprang forth. With a little pushing I managed to get Moonshadow to shove the heavy stone lid off, revealing what lay within. As the stone slid aside a dark shade leaped to attack us. And it was not alone as other dark and twisted sprang forth to attack from the walls around us. Fortunately we had seen shades like these before and knew the treat they posed. Largely due to Grune’s channels and Khaine’s Moneva touched blade we were victorious will little damage to ourselves and able to send these twisted souls to their final rest.
Taking a moment to search this room we found a bit of history regarding this fallen hero, and a magical spiked chakram he wielded in life. The throwing weapon had Enmity scribed in elvish and instilled with magic that would making it a bane to monstrous humanoids such as the Aspari. Knowing what we faced I could not leave such a useful tool behind. I gave a prayer to this fallen hero and swore that Enmity would again serve The People and spill the blood of our most ancient enemy once more.
Moving deeper into the vault we encountered a level of traps of which I had not seen before. Both mechanical and magical in nature. While I have continued to hone my skills in this area there were still at the edge of my ability to detect and disable. Even then only with the aid of Skyyfang who I have been training in this art. My little bodyguard is becoming quite the little rogue as well.
Bypassing these traps we encountered new dangers on this level of the vault. First were physical undead whose bodies were stripped of skin exposing muscle and tendons. Their revolting stench aslo threatened to sicken and nauseate those close to them. They also could expel a batter of blood, bone bits and bile in a disgusting torent from their mouths. These revolting vampiric creatures certainly left us worse for wear and will certainly disrupt my dreams a for while. In the end they too were destroyed with significant effort, leaving only a pair of undead dire cats to guard a set of stairs going down.
With a wave of his hands and a few arcane words Almaran froze the undead cats in place as they pounced forward. This trick of his allowed Khaine, Moonshadow and I to easily destroy the bodies of these animated corpses. The battles now over we took the time to heal our hurts and take account of ourselves and this level. Only once we were certain the crystals we sought were not on this level did we delve deeper into this tomb of horrors, with Ari and Zort remain above to guard our exit.
Hoping the worst was behind us, but knowing that would not be the case, we headed down the stairs into the darkness below.
The lower level of the vault continued to live up to its name. The silence was such that I was completely aware of heartbeat and the sound of my breathing. So still was this place that I even could hear the others waiting in the room behind me. Grune most of all. The sense of wrongness was stronger here and had me on edge as I scouted further ahead. Again altering my eyes I moved in complete darkness unhindered. Soon the faint sounds of water dripping floated to my ears and a moment later to my eyes as I peered around a corner. The room I saw was large with an alter on the far wall and a 40’ pool of… thick… cooppery smelling liquid. Skyyfang began to tremble on my shoulder unsettled by this place. I could feel his discomfort through our link as well and I tried to send soothing thoughts to keep him calm.
A stir in the pool caught my attention. It was clear something was in there but when after a moment nothing revealed itself I returned to my companions and updated them. We prepared as best we could and moved forward. I lead the way keeping to the shadows this time with my allies a short distance behind me. When again I peered around the corner I could see the pool was moving and this time with the aid of the light approaching from Grune I could see the reddish hue to the brackish thick liquid. Instantly I know it was blood, and risen from it was another of the those skinless vampric creatures but this one had a the gleam of intelligence in its eyes and a smile of delight on its face. It did not seem to be aware of me, but was aware of my parties approach.
As my friends rounded the corner Khaine charged, as is his way, meeting the creature head on. Almaran began to cast and Grune realized we faced a the master vampire of thralls from above. It spoke and we battled with words as well as martial and mystical might. It moved with such speed that it closed on Grune and Almaran with ease. Khaine and I had to fall back to give our mystics room to cast and heal. After a few hits we started to get the better of it and it fell back and around a corner. Khaine went in pursuit and I with Moonshadow went the opposite way to cut it off. Or so I thought.
This chambers entrance was a T section hallway that lead to this same pool area. We had followed the right side passage originally and I now raced back and down the left. However for the second time today we were mistaken in thinking a creature was alone and we were surrounding it. Two more of its thralls were actually with it and sneaking up this hall. Had I not headed down this path they would have surprised Almaran and Grune, as well as cut off our escape.
These creatures presence had an immediate effect on the battle, turning it from a route by the Alliance to a desperate stand. In these close quarters their vile auras were stronger here and immediately both Moonshadow and Khaine become nearly helpless with nausea from them. Grune trying to help Khaine closed to cast a spell but also fell victim to the debilitating since of wrongness that emanated from them. Only Almaran and I, with heroic effort, were able fight off the effects of these unnatural auras.
Alamran kept his distance and began a summons while I, surrounded, tried to stay alive. Taking a defensive combat stance I focused more on keeping their attention and not getting hit. The former I did very very well, the later not as well as I liked. Still I was able to buy the time Almaran needed to summon positive energy beings from the planes and allow Khaine and Grune to fall back. The battle was a close thing with the outcome uncertain and possibly going to either side even in the last moments.
Fate continued to smile on us however as the summoned creatures slams took their toll on one of the thralls as I finished the other. And even as the master tried the get to Almaran, with numbers again in our favor and it already severely damaged by Khaine, the Alliance was able to put an end to this monster.
The battle… was over… and victory… ours!