Arbiddance brought the second seating down into the room where the first group waited. A side of the shaft opened into the corner of a room and then continued down into the dark. This room was barely large enough to be comfortable for the six.
The Prince was merrily trying out his new light amulet Arbiddance had made for him several days ago. Ariya stood stock still in the shadows awaiting their next move. The Snake loomed in the shadows like death itself.
"Okay then," Hern gestured toward a single shrunken wood door in the room. "Let's get moving."
Ariya pushed ahead of him and stopped at the door. She gazed across its frame and down to the floor in front of it. Stooping, she lightly dusted the floor with her fingertips and tried the door handle from a crouching position. Turning to look behind her, she smiled to herself as she noted no one was standing directly behind her.
She turned it. It clicked and opened. Shifting to the side, she eased the door open.
Beyond it stretched a passageway, perhaps thirty feet long. Ariya checked the floor on the other side, and pronounced it clear. Hern drew his sword, straightened his helm, and bulled forward.
Ariya followed, then Qova, then Arbiddance. The Prince smiled at the Snake and waved him forward with his sword. The priest silently followed the party and the Prince brought up the rear.
The passage stopped suddenly. On the right was two gates of what appeared to be silver... chained and padlocked with a bar blocking both portals... and with a large hallway extending beyond into darkness.
Everyone shined their light sources down the hallway. Doorways decorated its sides, and very large flagstones made up the floor. Arbiddance peered closely at the fine sigils carved on the middle bar across the gates.
"Here lies the Hall of Xis," he read aloud.
"Who?" Qova popped up.
"Xis," the Snake replied. "An Anayari boogey man. A fireside tale of a death demon who slaughtered the lone traveler and took his soul below. A tale to frighten children."
Qova looked at the priest as if she wanted to say something cutting and thought better of it. Hern looked at the thief. "You think it's trapped?" he asked as she casually examined the gates.
"I doubt," she muttered. "Unless there is magic, I see nothing."
Hern snapped the chain with one blow to the lock. They pulled the chains free, lifted the bar, and opened the gates inward.
The gates didn't give easily. It took all hands to push both open, but after a minute, they were in the hallway.
Flagstones begin to rise up and down the area. From underneath them armored skeletons climbed up out of hiding spaces and whispered for blood. Hern readied himself for attack, and Qova pulled free her holy symbol.
But the Snake beat her to the draw. He produced his own holy symbol and held it high as it began to glow with a jade light, and his voiced boomed down the hallway.
"By Oiendun's Eyes I command thee!
By His fevered scales I command thee!
By the fangs of pain I command thee!"
Qova gripped the sides of her head as her temples throbbed.
"By His grip which brings slow death, I command thee!
From Hell's breath, I command thee!
Ye are creatures of my bidding now!"
The skeletons stood as if enraptured by the evil priest's words. The Snake swayed his holy symbol side to side, and their skulls followed.
"Now I command thee," the Snake snarled, "to destroy one another!"
The rest of the party watched in amazement as the skeletons began an arena-style combat... wading into each other in a frenzy of destruction. Within a few minutes, the one skeleton left, missing his sword arm... staggered toward the Snake like a dog seeking its master. The priest simply lifted his snake-headed staff high and brought it crashing down on the creature's skull with a force that gave Hern pause.
"Impressive, if not a little sick," Arbiddance admitted. "I doubt that's the worst of our troubles here, though."
"Indeed not," whispered the voice of death from the far end of the hall, where a door opened, and a large armored figure stepped out into the light. To each side, doors flew open, and various forms of undead slowly emerged. the armored figure laughed, "Welcome to my Hall and prepare to join my ranks."