Down the stairs of the dilapidated lighthouse and through a battered pair of bronze doors with a makeshift door-bar of three swords melted together, the party found the entrance to the disused Vault. The construction must have taken decades, a series of nine cathedral-sized rooms connected by 400-foot winding passageways, all built of stone mixed with the crushed bones of Clergy priests to sanctify the place against corruption, and laced with gold to prevent anything from ever teleporting in or out.
The first room was a sort of preview to everything that lay beyond. The walls were inscribed with the Clergy’s doctrines and an overview of the Vault’s purpose: to seal away evil that could not be destroyed, or objects and individuals for which destruction would only free the evil spirits inside them to wreak havoc elsewhere in the world.
Among lesser exhibits like a lawbook from the Demonocracy of Trigenes’ time and a spellbook of someone called Giovanni the Painter, there was little more than broken statuary and unsettling skeletons of Clergy priests with handprints scorched onto their bones. But the keystone exhibit was remarkable beyond words: a living (but emaciated) angel, driven half-mad by isolation.
She eagerly accepted water from the party, and engaged in halting conversation with them, mostly giving cryptic advice…
- “You have no torches. You’ll go blind.”
- “He travels in your breath, on your words, in the rustle of your hair in the breeze. You are not possessed. Don’t believe the voices in your ears. Believe only the voice in your head.”
- You’ll die of thirst, but drink with the left hand!"
Aside from that, she would only beg alternately for death or freedom, offering to “agree to their lies and call them gods.” It soon became clear that ‘they’ were the Clergy, though she would not say the word itself. Her advice would prove rather prophetic, though nigh-impenetrable. Nearly half an hour was wasted in determining that her third hint was aimed at telling them to drink holy water with their left hands atop the mosaic floor in each room in order to receive a healing blessing.
Kida brought all her strength to bear on the angel’s chains, but no force seemed able to shatter them. Vowing to return with something that could destroy the stone she was anchored to, Kida left toward Room 2 with her companions.
Just before reaching the end of the first hallway, Templeton (bringing up the rear of the group, heard a whisper in an unknown tongue, right behind him. He chose to ignore it. Seconds later, a curtain of deadly radiant energy shimmered into existence behind him and began to slowly sweep forward, obliterating even the dust that clung to the floor and walls.
Oscar ran ahead, puzzling over the strange lock on the door that was only ever meant to open for Clergy clerics. Calius’ curiosity got the better of him and he stuck his arm into the energy, nearly singing all the hair off the skin in the process. Before things got too dicey, Oscar dispelled the magic holding the door shut, and the party rushed into the chamber.
After they’d caught their breath, they realized that Oscar (the first one through the door) was now nowhere to be found! The arcanist had been teleported to the other end of the room, chained to an iron pole atop a massive pile of books which slowly began to burn. His comrades fought a small collection of dretches—lesser demons—while making their way toward his panicked shouts, and in the process were hit by a strange magic item; a scrap of the book of Lorem, which can tell no lies. All their light sources were doused, except for fire, and it would remain their only light for the next 24 hours.
Calius stomped his way through the flames and freed his coworker, taking minor damage in the process. Kida finished off the last few dretches, only to have them dissolve into smoke and force their way into her lungs, likely to enact some mysterious malady that has yet to take shape.
Taking the Lorem scrap and a fair few other armfuls of text besides, the party headed out toward room 3, bypassing a slightly-malfunctioning barrier involving a broken statue and an endless hallway. This new room was an armory, filled with twisted, rusted, and cursed weaponry and suits of armor. The keystone exhibit had been stolen; all that remained was a massive boulder with bent iron bars jutting out of it, as though something had been restrained against it, to weigh it down.
A disembodied female voice called out midway through their exploration: “Identify yourselves! Only friends of Giovanni may pass, and I know all of Giovanni’s friends.”
Recognizing the name from the spellbook in the first chamber, Beckman offered to bring the spellbook to appease Giovanni and thus be allowed to pass. The voice seemed intrigued by the offer, but ultimately grew impatient as the party seemed more interested in lingering around this room rather than making good on their promise to bring the book.
Hilde, a possessed suit of armor, stomped toward them, a single baleful eye glaring at them from the center of a wolfhead-shaped helm. Weapons near her spontaneously animated, swinging without wielders and inflicting all manner of curses while she pummeled away at the constables with iron fists. Even worse, her lack of weak points made her nearly impossible to wound with weak attacks, and the effort to bring her down was long and costly. Finally, her body was destroyed, and Beckman managed a shot clean through the center of the floating, retreating helmet.
Knowing that the train would leave without them (but counting on their previous arrangement for a teleport into Vendricce), the party set up camp in the cluttered armory to rest for the night.