At the back of the school, two doors beckoned. The door on the right contained an office, complete with a note on the desk:
To my successor: I hope you find everything in order. I expect this regrettable evacuation will prove only temporary, and that the vile orc-kind will be driven out of our fair cities. When the students return, consult Tekin: he is the most trustworthy and level-headed of the bunch, and will assist you well. Regardless, the time has come for me to retire. My mind has become too old and brittle to teach younger, fresher heads. The password to the vault is the name of conqueror of Eniadar: you will want to change it to something more secure, of course. You will also want to deactivate the guardian that I have set up to discourage any would-be looters. You will find within the vault a few trinkets that may or may not prove useful to you – I have no attachment to them, and am leaving them behind. Once again, congratulations on your appointment, and good luck.
A skeleton on the floor had a helmet that seemed overly heavy and a rusty dagger, both taken by the party.
The next room contained some dog-size flying orange-shelled insects, which were quickly dispatched. It turned out to be some sort of magic lab: Benches and shelves stacked the walls, and jars of all sorts of magical and mundane reagents (or their remnants) lined the walls. In the middle of the floor, a large rune written in silvery metal on the stone floor surrounded a small cast-iron brazier, still giving off a faint heat. At the back of the room was a safe door with a handprint on the front.
After trying unsuccessfully to use the hand of the skeleton found in the school office, Donavan volunteered to try his own hand. He found it stuck, unable to move. Quickly recalling the words of the note from the office, the party started racking their brains to remember “the name of the conqueror of Eniadar:” Donavan recalled seeing it somewhere recent, and wondered if it was in the book of military tactics that had been stolen from Norgrug’s library. Darak started flipping through the book to find out.
About this time, there was a sudden flare of light from the brazier, and a seven foot tall figure made of glowing fire appeared: a fire elemental. The party quickly discovered that regular weapons were useless. Magus annoyed it by throwing a jar of something liquid obtained from a nearby shelf, then ran back outside, heading for one of the wells. Darak continued to flip through the book as fast as he could, while Donavan did his best to avoid attacks with one hand stuck to the safe. Arkan attacked the brazier, first trying to cover it with stone (foiled by some sort of shielding around the rune) and then simply kicking the thing out of the door, scattering the coals but not stopping the elemental. The elemental breathed a blast of fire, scalding the party slightly… finally, Darak found the name he was looking for in the book. “Tenzar!” he shouted, and Donavan repeated it. His hand was freed and the safe swung open. Donavan scooped everything he could find into his pack, then everyone ran for it. The elemental chased them to the door of the school… where it got a face full of water from the bucket Magus hauled, then was finished off by choking dust from the doorway collapsing on top of it, courtesy of Arkan.
The party continued to explore the city. They found a building that appeared to have been a general-purpose arena… and hiding in one of the back closets, a ragged-looking human. He seemed glad to see someone who wasn’t an orc, and introduced himself as Razius Hekodan. His story was that he had been part of an archaoelogical expedition to the ruins of Teledil, led by “the Professor” and bankrolled by Mazon Enterprises. He was the captain of the mercenary guards the professor had hired to help protect the expedition… and suspected that the Mazon contingent had somehow set him up to be captured by orcs. He’d managed to escape when the orcs were resting at the inn, and had been hiding out since then (several days ago). Razius offered to hire them on the professor’s behalf: he figured he could use all the help he could get keeping the professor safe, and wanted some skilled manpower to check the power of the Mazon contingent of the expedition. The Professor, of course, had enough discretionary funding to pay them well…
Darak was keenly interested in this: violently opposed to all things Mazon, he accepted Razius’ story and was eager to help with anything that opposed them. Razius joined the party, and indicated he would guide them to where the expedition was as soon as they got out of the tunnel.
Behind the arena, a large gated door was set into the back wall of the cavern. It opened to the name of Tekin Starshield, and revealed a vertical elevator shaft leading upwards. The elevator part, of course, had long since broken, but a set of deep grooves carved into the back wall formed a ladder leading to the top. Magus and Donavan climbed up to investigate further. At the top of the shaft, a passage led to a door with a small alcove nearby, around waist height, containing a silvery rune and some fine white powder.
On the other side of the door was a fairly large room, that had apparently once served to illuminate the city. An enormous stone sphere hung in the middle of the room, suspended by chains from four pillars set around it. The glass floor had long ago been covered in moss, as had the walls and pillars… the strange moss reacted to being stepped on by glowing, and sending ripples of light outward to other moss it was connected to. The creaking and cracking noises coming from the floor made it clear that it was not entirely safe to walk on. On the south side of the chamber, however, was their goal: a white-stoned coffin, untouched by moss.
Donavan headed for the coffin, army-crawling across the mossy floor, a rope tied around his waist and belayed by Magus, who stood at the entrance. Donavan found that some large gaps in the glass that had been covered over by moss, but managed to work his way around them. He finally got to the coffin, and proceeded to try to hoist the lid off… snake eyes on his strength check sent him tumbling to the floor instead, nearly careening through a hole in the glass. He managed to save himself, though, and made a second, more successful check to push the lid off to the side. The massive cracking and splintering sounds that ensued indicated that this might cause problems, but he had reached his goal. Inside the coffin, a dwarven skeleton lay, dressed in armor and missing its right arm. A gleaming silver shield lay on its chest, somehow reflecting more light than his feeble torch should have been making. Donavan took the shield and proceeded back to the entrance, crawling on all fours and pushing the shield ahead of him. The glass finally cracked underneath him, sending him and the shield falling into the dark void above the city. He managed to grab the shield as he fell, though, and Magus was able to hold Donavan in place and prevent him from falling to his death.
As Magus pulled him back up and Donavan finished crawling to the entrance, the dark shadows on the far end of the chamber began to move. The sound of massive legs skittering across stone and the foulest sour smell they had ever known gave them all the motivation they needed: Magus and Donavan ran for it, as a swarm of red-shells appeared to give chase.
Magus literally ran down the elevator shaft. In an incredible feat of daring and dexterity, he used his momentum and sure footing to run down the walls of the shaft in a steep spiral, push off of each wall in turn with his feet to redirect his momentum sideways instead of downwards. Donavan attempted to follow, but slipped, grabbing the ladder as he fell. He started climbing down normally as the red-shell swarm came at him from above. Gyth attempted to throw one of the glands to him, but missed. Arkan, after concentrating briefly to be sure of Donavan’s location, sealed off the shaft just above Donavan’s head with a barrier of stone.
The party fled, making for the tunnel. As they crossed the center plaza near the fountain, they found their escape cut off: a massive bug, similar in basic shape to the others they’d seen, stood between them and the tunnel. It was massive: the size of a bus, armed with sharp mandibles, clawed legs, and spiked tail. The dark purple shell dimly reflected the torchlight as it charged forward. To make matters worse, it drew a Joker for initiative.
The battle turned out to be short, however. The monster charged at Arkan, slashing with its mandibles and gashing him badly. Arkan staggered back, severely wounded. Donavan fired an arrow at one of its massive eyes, which bounced off harmlessly. Gyth took the cue, however, and buried his axe in the same eye, blinding and stunning the beast. Magus jumped onto its back, gaining a position to strike at it without being reachable. Darak, however, was the one to finish the fight. Gathering all of his energy and affinity with nature, he screamed a word of command, causing the monster to stop attacking but knocking himself unconscious from the effort. Magus revived him by shoving one of the insect glands in his mouth.
After a hurried debate, Darak ordered the temporarily-docile monster to go jump in a nearby underground river. Amazingly, it complied, and the party hurried onward into the tunnel, hoping to put as much distance between themselves and it before it changed its mind…