With a sound like a biting crack forming all at once in a slab of ice, a jagged beam of white-blue shot from Ava’s extended finger. All the heat drained from the air. The arcane words hung as a tiny white puff. The resulting beam slammed into its target forming a patina of frost over the construct’s terracotta flesh. Small fissures formed on the earthenware man as the ice penetrated into pores and his advance slowed visibly. Ava turned and sprinted away, flying passed Caeldrim as she did.
Once she was beyond him, the armored cleric turned and again presented his holy symbol. The sun flashed like an all-seeing eye and Caeldrim called out a prayer. A familiar swirling pillar of dawn’s golden radiance erupted from the ceiling and roared into another pottery barbarian. The blinding flames hit so hot and so fast that Caeldrim’s short pale hair fluttered in the gust of the attack. Singed and smoking, the warrior maintained his single-minded progression undaunted.
Caeldrim spun around and set off at a clattering sprint passed Ava who fired off her ray of frost again. When she had released her spell, she turned and ran a few dozen feet passed Caeldrim who again called down the wrath of Lathander before rushing off once more. In this fashion, the pair leap frogged their way down the corridor harrying their aggressors, firing off spell after spell with some hits, some misses, and no casualties. All the while, they could feel their lead gradually slipping away like sand through an hourglass.
Ava felt as though they had been running for years when, finally, she rounded a corner and skittered to a halt. Ahead in the dark, the upturned corpse of a man-sized wolf spider lay inert across the hallway. Its shaggy legs curled in towards its belly like an enlarged reflection of a deceased garden spider. A short distance beyond the carcass, an archway stood open in the bare sandstone of the corridor wall. Directly across from it, the likeness of a bear carved from obsidian loomed from a shallow alcove. A faint flicker of fire light from the inside the archway caught in the ridges of the glass-like stone.
Ava skirted the wall and crept tentatively towards the archway. Somewhere behind her, a whoosh of divine flame mingled with Caeldrim’s forceful prayer. She inched forward through the gloom clinging to the nooks and crannies like a talisman against harm. As she neared the bear, the clash of steel and the crash of pottery drifted out from the archway. Here and there, they were punctuated by a half-growled grunt or a violent hiss. Ava slinked across the width of the corridor to the very edge of the archway. Her back pressed up against the cool sandstone blocks as she shuffled the last few inches into place. She craned her head until one golden eye and a curling ebony horn crested the edge and peered into the chamber beyond. Her eye widened. The boys.
Behr and Dust were nearly back to back now amid a sea of pottery shards. Their steps were tightly spaced and creeping, doggedly winning inches towards the bottleneck of the hall. There the overwhelming numbers of the terracotta horde would become more of a pressing wave than a drowning flood.
We aren’t moving fast enough, Behr thought. The barbarians pressed their advance with a patience that he found disconcerting. Even in the cool of this underground vault, rivulets of sweat were running down his face forcing him to blink away the stinging salt. Yet the warriors he faced had lost none of their animal sharpness. They moved in silent concert. The main body of the horde pressed Behr and Dust just enough to keep them on the backfoot but never so much as to force them into flight. Meanwhile, their flanks bled around to the rear and were ever so slowly closing in to trap the pair.
A sharp snap sounded, and all the heat vanished from behind Behr. He parried a spear thrust with his sword and blocked another with his shield before taking a half step back. Pivoting on the balls of his booted feet, he turned towards this new threat but found only a rimed scattering of terracotta splinters littering the floor among patches of hoarfrost.
Ava stood in the doorway, the condensation from her breath still hanging in the air. Her golden eyes were wide and shone with an unearthly light. She called to them. “Let’s get the hells out of here!”
A radiant light of the purest white gold flared somewhere behind her, spilling brilliance across the stone walls of the hallway and casting Ava into silhouette. “Now, please!” added Caeldrim’s voice with more than some urgency.
Dust too would have seen Ava’s shapely figure cast enchantingly in the glow of the magical light. The breath might even have caught in his chest for that long moment, as it had for Behr. That, however, was unlikely for two reasons. For the first, Dust did not see much beauty in furless beings and for the second, he was looking in completely the other direction.
Even among the growing threat of evisceration from a veritable forest of rusty spears, a movement among the ceiling’s matted cobwebs had caught his eye. The spun sheets of ancient gossamer rippled like curtains in the wind and then a plume of something grey and silty flew out. It made quick, stunted runs before changing direction, seemly at random. As it neared, its thin bat-like wings, overlong boney limbs, and cruel face resolved themselves from the cloud. It darted behind the line of warriors – who were too resolute on their prey to be concerned with paltry things like dust devils – and then came to rest on the back of the throne. After a moment of exaggerated contemplation, the creature scuttled face first down the moldering bones of the august monarch until it reached the bear-headed horn.
Its long knobby fingers waggled in anticipation as the elemental extended them towards the horn gripping it where the bell tapered to the mouthpiece. The mephit pulled but the vuvuzela was stuck, still gripped tightly by the haggard hand after countless centuries. It tugged again but the trumpet still would not free itself. Finally, the little dust monster gripped the mouthpiece with both spindly hands, set its horned heels squarely against a thigh bone and strained with all its might until the trumpet popped free and both creature and horn tumbled into the skeleton’s lap. With a look of the most wonderous triumph, it put the vuvuzela to its dry lips and blew hard.
Curiosity drained from Dust’s feline features leaving a ring of horror around his eyes. From somewhere behind him, he dimly heard Ava’s voice and then Caeldrim’s. He did not register what they said. There was no time for that. Instead he spun around, grabbed Behr by the collar and hurled the pair of them with all the force he could muster towards Ava and the exit.
Meanwhile, the world exploded around them.
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.