Caeldrim let out a long, slow whistle.
“Not what I was expecting,” murmured Ava. The pair were standing in front of a sandstone edifice carved into the native rock of an expansive cavern and staring slack jawed up at its the ursin sigil on the tomb doors. The doors stood ajar splitting the bear down the middle with a channel of shadow.
“It must have gone inside,” said Caeldrim hesitatingly. His voice carried a sense of awe nearing reverence and his eyes had not yet left the crypt’s surprising grandeur.
“Must have,” Ava replied and then, after a pause, she added, “do you think this is where the boys went too?”
This thought sobered Caeldrim and a knot of guilt slid tight on his gut. In all the commotion, he had completely forgotten about Behr and Dust. How could I do that?
“All the more reason to follow,” said Caeldrim. He straightened and blinked away the innocent wonder to reveal something sterner beneath. A resolute line settled into his jaw as he marched forward, the sandy floor crunching under his boots.
At the threshold, Caeldrim peered into the darkness his eyes adapting easily and passing over the dusty floors, cobwebbed corners, and towering bear statue. He soaked in the subtle shades of grey with narrowed, hunting eyes before he pushed the slab aside and stepped into the ancient chamber.
There was an infinitesimal drop and the near noiseless metallic sound of a pressure plate triggering. Caeldrim breathed a slow pained exhale and screwed his eyes tight in frustration.
“Now you’ve done it,” sighed Ava rolling her eyes.
Caeldrim glared at her from over his shoulder. The young cleric opened his mouth to speak but Ava hushed him with a single manicured finger pressed to his lips. Ava held her breath and leaned forward, listening with all her body for the phantom of a sound that she thought she had heard.
First, there was a scraping noise like a large pot being dragged along a stone floor that was so faint and distant that she might not have heard it at all. Then a heavy clink, followed by a second, and then a third and then more. Slowly they resolved into a rasping shuffle and then steps before finally becoming a pounding gate growing louder with each passing second. Ava looked wildly between the two doors that lead deeper into the tomb. The sound seemed to come from both simultaneously. It reverberated through the room, rattling into confused echoes and dislodging streamers of hoary dust.
From the left door, four figures emerged out of the gloom. Their forms were bulky, thick with hard, rounded muscle. As the shadows melted away, the ruddy tan of terracotta pottery shone from where flesh should have been. Their earthen build was obscured by hide armor and they gripped wicked looking spears with shields rusting around metal edges. Free of the confines of the hallway, they leveled their weapons on Ava and began to spread with slow careful steps like a pack of wolves moving into position before a kill.
Hastily, Ava lifted her hands, thumbs linked, and fingers splayed wide. Her eyes flared a radiant gold and she called out an invocation in a booming infernal voice. A broad cone of flame burst from her fingertips washing over the circling warriors.
The two on either side leapt away from the jet with surprising agility, catching only the edge of the incinerating heat. The two in the middle were not so quick. Their bodies blistered and cracked like a clay road baked in the torrid summer sun. They shattered leaving only a pile of fragments spilling out from empty armor.
Ava let out a triumphant hoot as she looked from the jumbles of clay chips to the two remaining. Tendrils of smoke curled off their still smoldering armor and scorch marks blemished their arms and faces. They did not shout or scream or roar or growl. Their faces registered neither loss nor woe nor anger but instead remained lethally impassive. Ava’s exuberance faded somewhat, and chill wriggled down her spine.
“Hate to cast shade on your light, but we’re not out of this yet!” Caeldrim shouted his voice echoing off the stone.
Ava stole a backwards glance just in time to see Caeldrim, his divine amulet in hand, call down a pillar of swirling golden flame from on high. It enveloped one of the barbarians in a light so pure that at it might have been ecstasy incarnate. Only the singed, grim face of the earthenware warrior revealed the agony of the golden flames. The construct advanced, a cape of smoke trailing from its back as orange embers sluffed off the wood of its shield to dance in the air like fireflies.
The tiefling returned her attention just in time to narrowly avoid a vicious spear thrust from the left. The second warrior circled to flank and stabbed at her with a low, savage strike. It anticipated where she would need to move in order to avoid his companion’s attack and aimed its thrust toward the space. The tactic worked and the cruel spear head found buttery flesh, tearing a vicious gash into Ava’s side. She screamed and doubled over, gripping the wound. Taking a step back, she shook her head hard as if to rattle the pain free of her mind and began a second spell.
Meanwhile, Caeldrim danced and whirled to avoid being pinned in by his own gang of assailants. The first strike landed squarely on his shield with the force of a hammer, driving him a step and a half backwards. There, another spear thrust awaited him but mercifully glanced off his armor as Caeldrim spun to the side to regain his footing.
He anticipated the third strike which missed him outright but the fourth drove home. The rusted edge gouged his thigh leaving a bright streak of blood in its wake. Caeldrim growled an oath through gritted teeth and then with a desperate roar swung his mace in an upward arc catching the burned barbarian under the chin. Its head shattered like a plate dropped on the kitchen floor. The headless terracotta warrior sunk to its knees and then collapsed flatly to the flagstones. Its body smashed into thousands of tiny shards.
Behind Caeldrim, a pink glow swaddled Ava for but a breath before dissipating. Again, the warriors jabbed at her with the pitiless coordination of professional predators. However, with a flash, their weapons were repelled. Each thrust drove true but struck a barrier that blinked into existence just before the moment of impact. For that fraction of a second, neon spectral armor shimmered around Ava before dissolving into invisibility once more.
Brutal corroded blades rained down on Caeldrim, his flesh shielded only by his own mundane armor. Yet, the cleric of the Morning Lord danced like embers on the wind around the storm of thrusts and slashes. Still it was nearly all he could do to defend against the assault and the young half-drow knew with a growing cold certainty that he would not be able to hold out much longer.
A mote of flame sparked from nothing in Ava’s upturned hand. An even brighter fire raging behind her eyes, she pitched the ball and it blazed through the air following an unnatural serpentine path. With a flash, the mote struck one of the barbarians, blowing a hole through the unliving thing’s chest as a rock through a window. Also like a broken window, the clay creation collapsed into tinkling splinters.
“This way!” Ava shouted at Caeldrim and then set off at a sprint. With each step, her side flared in searing pain. Wincing, she shoved a hand into her shoulder bag and fished around for a extraordinarily long time. Finally, her fingers closed on a small glass vial as long as her palm was wide. The vial contained a throbbing crimson liquid that lent a soothing warmth to the glass. She thumbed off the cork stopper and gulped down the thick liquid like a shot. Within seconds, the wound on her side began to stitch itself together and the pain faded completely. A relief like sinking into a hot bath after a long journey swept over her face.
She paused for only the shadow of a moment before Caeldrim gripped her by the collar and tugged her back into a run. She and he fled down the cobweb crusted corridor, passed the empty alcoves, and into the gloom beyond. Pounding earthen footfalls thundered behind them as the remaining terracotta warriors took up the hunt.
Tomb and Tome is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.