The elf only gave a snicker before stepping forward to examine one of the skeletons. “Not too damaged,” he said quietly, “it retains the durability for a raising . . . only should you think it necessary of course, Dendric.”
“Raising?” asked the thief, but the fighter was already shaking his head.
“I want no necromancy here, Rissien,” Dendric said with force. “This is a place of the dead, and the dead should never walk.”
Rissien gave a mocking bow, scarlet eyes glinting in the torchlight; “As you command.”
Dendric dismissed the elf’s attitude, thinking back to his actual reason for being in the crypt in the first place. The Helm of Redorand, an artifact worn by the fabled warlord in his final battle, had been buried within these earthen walls. It was believed that its magic had been crushed when its wearer fell, but Dendric possessed enough knowledge on magical items to know their enchantments would not “wear off” after something as simple as the death of their user. No, the Helm would be as powerful as ever, its call suppressed only by the weight of the world above.
They set off through the crypt then, Dendric taking charge of the torch and staying in the middle as Veasson scouted ahead for traps. Rissien was silent, but this was hardly a difference in the elf’s usual mannerisms. The three absorbed the sight of countless tombs set into the walls.
Some were closed-off by rotted wood, as though instead of a body being inserted alone there had been some form of coffin placed within. The thief ran a hand across the rough surface of one of these caskets, and gave a drawing whistle. The sound echoed down the dark corridors, and the three stopped dead.
“Please tell me you are not that stupid,” breathed Rissien, raising his wand and moving forward to stand beside Dendric.
Veasson turned a sheepish glance towards the other two, but not before a creaking, cracking sound became audible from the walls around them. Skeletal limbs, animated by some dark magic, reached from the walls to drag their fleshless bodies from their holes. Several of these arms smashed holes through their rotted coffins or slowly pushed open the rusted iron-hinged lids.
Dendric drew forth his battleaxe and reached with his other hand to pull Veasson back. The rogue’s daggers would be nothing to the skeletons, but his axe was heavy enough to shatter them. He turned his head to check on Rissien, but the elf had vanished.
“Rissien?” he whispered urgently, hoping that the elf had not abandoned them. “Rissien, what’s your location?”
His only answer was what sounded like somebody chanting unintelligibly, and then a sudden brilliant stroke of blue-white lightning that arced down the hallway. Dendric’s ears rang from the peeling clap of thunder that followed, and his vision was temporarily frozen with the moment of the flash. Bracing his battleaxe in front of him defensively, the fighter took several steps rearward and almost tripped over Veasson who had fallen backward to the ground from the startle of the spell.
“What in the fiery Hells was that?!” the thief yelled, pushing himself back to his feet.
“Lightning bolt,” coughed Dendric, for the smell of ozone had suddenly become overpowering. Broken and charred splinters of bone littered the hallway, and Rissien was suddenly visible once more and standing still with his black wand pointed down the corridor.
The fighter scrambled back to his feet, about to step forward to remind the elf to warn someone when he is about to release a spell like that, when he was knocked forward and nearly to the ground once more by a hard force on his back. He spun around to see that a skeleton had managed to rise behind them, and though its heavy mace had found no purchase on the fighter’s scale armor it had most definitely left a sizeable bruise.
Dendric searched the ground frantically for his battleaxe, which had fallen from his hands after the unexpected blow, and spotted it several feet ahead of him and directly in front of the skeleton. He dove for it, and the skeleton reared back for another downward-chopping swing that would shatter the fighter’s head like a melon.
Time seemed to slow as the rusted mace fell, but it was quickly knocked off-course by the thrusting leg of Veasson who swept the skeleton off of its feet to land hard on the floor. Dendric, with axe now in-hand, rose hastily and sent a heavy steel-clad boot down to shatter the undead’s skull.
“That worked out well,” laughed Veasson as Dendric helped him to his feet. After brushing the cobwebs and dust away that had been blown up from the ground by their falls, the two humans quickly fell into line once more and walked down the one-way hallways for what seemed almost an hour.
Dendric was getting excited—he knew that the Helm of Redorand would of course be housed in the main chamber, which could only be getting closer. Rissien was growing in more and more uneasy as well, his head sometimes twitching as though suddenly catching snippets of conversation from the walls. When Dendric questioned him on this, though, all he would receive was a quick “It is . . . nothing . . . it’s nothing. Let us continue.”