Chapter 67: Fire, Stone, Air, and Water
Stone, Fire, Air, Water--
Everything is made from them
And unmade by them.
~ Miyara Miwa
While Ravena healed us and rested from her exertions, the White Faerie, Hosei, and Res Li (after he was healed) carefully looked over the last tomb. There was magic, but Hosei did not know what kind. Res Li saw no mechanical traps or locks. There was a door behind the layer of rock over it. The White Faerie carefully chiseled a door-sized hole around the actual door, guided by Res Li. He was finished by the time Ravena was, and we all gathered around the last tomb. Harugim's tomb. It had to be.
The White Faerie opened the door, and we all saw what only Res Li had seen: A passageway heading straight away from us. I arranged our marching order: Kyosuke, Res Li, Hosei, The White Faerie, me, Ravena, Caramela, Sun, Baku, Ashe. Before Kyosuke could take his first step, Res Li shouted, "Stop!" The floor from here to as far as he could see was a whole series of pressure points. The ceiling above was only loose rock, and the pressure points would cause the ceiling to fall. Kyosuke considered suspending himself between the walls and inching along, since they were narrow enough. Res Li said the ceiling would not fall all at once, but would almost gently rain down. We could probably get through it safely, but it would be completely sealed behind us. Surely there was a better way.
Ravena sighed and took out her Crystal of Air and floated up off the ground. She picked up Res Li and said they would scout ahead and come back and tell us what was ahead.
Within a few minutes, they returned. The trapped passage was about 50 feet long, then there were stairs with a trapped landing in the middle, than another passage. One was a dead-end, the other ended in a room that was surely the room we sought. Res Li said it was filled with a swirling mist of greens and greys and whites and blues, and there were mysterious shadows over the walls.
And so Ravena used a single air spirit to carry us all, one at a time, safely down to the last passageway. At first I assumed the ornate door was our destination, as the other side ended in a wall. But no, it was more faerie misdirection. Res Li said the door opened onto a blank wall and was trapped. The blank wall was a wall, but only about three inches thick. On the other side was the passage that opened into the room we wanted. He was quite taken with the intricacy of the lock on the door, but resisted it.
The White Faerie said he could chisel weak points around the wall and open it pretty quickly. With the first touch of the chisel against the rock, dark, humanoid shapes dressed with glowing red eyes and dressed in shrouds appeared through the door. Res Li took out his dagger. Wonderingly, I saw Ravena's face pale, her eyes go blank, and her hair turned stark white in an instant. Later I realized her now-white hair had 6 black streaks, one for each wraith. I have heard of such frights turning one's hair white, but I had never met anyone who had that happen to them, and I certainly had never witnessed it. That was nearly as unsettling as the wraiths themselves.
Ashe was the closest to the wraiths, and he took out the Zogin Rock. One hit Baku with its sword, and he screamed in pain, as did Sun, and then Caramela, and then even Ravena, although the blow did not bring her to life again. As it came for me, I braced myself, but could not stop the scream of pure terror and pain as the icy sword sliced through me and sapped my strength.
All at once, a wall of fire appeared, segregating the wraiths from us. Ashe used the wall to herd them back. Each time one touched flame, it shrieked and withered a little. After a few moments, they decided to brave the flame and tried to come at us. Ashe expanded the wall, keeping it in contact with each wraith as is writhed and shrieked, and finally each one disappeared in a flare of smoke and ash.
The White Faerie had been trying to use the Stone of Stone to escape from the wraiths. All at once, all stone within about a 10-foot radius of him vanished into thin air with a sickening sound that was not a sound. We all fell a foot or so onto the ground beneath the rock that no longer existed. All around us echoed an evil, rumbling laughter that somehow merged with the rock that the White Faerie ripped out of existence.
We walked down the short hall and opened the plain door at the end. Inside, we saw what Res Li had described to us. But the room was eclipsed by the huge faerie head floating in the middle of the room. It scowled and grumbled at us in a booming voice. The White Faerie repeated its words to us: "Be warned! You approach the sacred tomb of Harugim. Go back! Go Back! Go back or bear the consequences of your impiety!" Beside me, Kyosuke fainted dead away. The head vanished.
The room was about 15 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide. Pillars lined the walls and ascended to a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The northern walls were covered with colorful mosaics depicting Harugim's many victories. Between the pillars at the south end stood four statues surrounding Harugim's sarcophagus, made of a shiny and luminous grey-veined white marble. Except for a big rune (an H, the White Faerie said) in the middle of the cover, it was plain. From the pillars, tapestries hung with verses singing his praises woven in gold and silver thread. Streaks of blue, white, and green mists swirled throughout the air.
Hosei said the obvious: the whole room stank with magic. Res Li said inside the sarcophagus was the perfectly preserved body of a dwarf, dressed in fine raiments. On his head was a simple, battered iron coronet with a single pearl, about the size of a humans' eye. His right palm faced up, and held a crystal. The mists in the room emanated from the crystal, which glowed brightly in response to its three sister crystals. Ravena suggested uneasily that three crystal-bearers ought to stand further away from each other.
As one, Ashe, the White Faerie, and I stepped forward, as the White Faerie said he was going to use the Stone to create a small hole in the sarcophagus to get the Crystal.
Specters of a dwarf, two orcs, an elf, a troll, and an ogre stepped down out of the murals to meet us. Beside me, the White Faerie staggered, and his eyes became rather wild-looking. Ashe was hit and fell to the ground as dead. The White Faerie and I were missed. He took out the Stone and concentrated on it. I did not fear the specters, and I knew I could not touch them with my weapons, so I simply continued forward. Perhaps I could dodge their weapons and make it to the sarcophagus. Perhaps one of my companions who could do something would do so. Instead, I was cut down at my next step. I lay on the ground, paralyzed, as I realized had happened to Ashe. Not dead, but immobile. I watched a wall of fire appear and eventually burn up the specters. Even paralyzed, Ashe could use the Zogin rock. Which meant the White Faerie could, too. I'd seen him fall just after I had.
Just before Ashe destroyed the specters, there was a loud and horrible rumbling noise, and the ground shook a bit. Was that the White Faerie? Something else? I could not move.
Then I saw Ravena bending over me. She shook her head and said she could do nothing for us, but she suspected we would regain movement again before an hour was out. I did not know if she knew that or was merely being hopeful.
Next think I knew, rocks rained down on us from above, bruising me terribly. Then the earth shook for a solid and very long minute. The rocks continued to bruise me, then finally stopped. I heard a loud rumbling, but fainted from my injuries.
Eventually I awoke to Ashe giving me first aid. Still weak and bruised, I looked all around. There was a long staircase up and out of the cavern. Rubble was everywhere. There was a 40-foot deep hole where the crushed remains of the sarcophagus lay scattered. I picked up the Crystal of Water for safekeeping, until we decide who is to bear it. Res Li was dead, of a poison that was within the sarcophagus. We gathered him and our bruised and battered selves, and exited up the long, long staircase that the White Faerie had inadvertently created with the Stone of Stone.
At the top, we looked down into the valley, on the scene of the battle. It was over, and everyone was dead. There was no easy way down, but we picked our way carefully and reached the cliffs just above the valley after a couple of hours. We were somewhat dazed and we spoke little.
Looking into the valley, we saw more. Many dead dwarves, from both sides. Nothing living but crows. The White Faerie was quiet and morose. We went into the valley itself and walked through the battlefield. We found Menduri's body, and Sundurimu's. Most had died of ordinary battle wounds. It appeared to me that the dead accounted for all but perhaps a few: both armies were utterly gone.