Adwin and Mokha had followed the priest’s direction and left the Temple of Thieves via the northeast door. Neither had spoken since the unusual encounter and they had made their way through a hall that was indistinguishable from the passage that had lead from the barn. Though at the end of the hall instead of finding a way up into one of the buildings on the Fingures’ property they stood in front of what appeared to be a solid plug of ice. Adwin could feel the cold emanating from it.
“What now?” Adwin asked his friend.
“Well, I guess I’m going to try and melt through the ice. I think trying to break through would be very noisy, not no mention very time consuming if we were to do so with our knives.”
Adwin nodded, and stepped back a couple of paces. “Sounds fair. I guess this confirms your suspicion of the presence of a mage?”
“Yes, in a disconcerting manner. That,” He gestured at the cold block, “is ice formed of the magical, essential essence, of what it appears to be. Let’s hope it is not too thick.”
Adwin nodded and stepped back another pace as fire flowed from Mokha’s hand. The Aggedrah moved the flames over the surface of the ice and after a moment water trickled down along the floor, running in the direction they had come from. Mokha moved the flame along the edges of the block for some time and then focused on melting the base of the block. A loud crack preceded the sudden collapse of the ice and as it fell to the ground Mokha was splashed, his flame whooshed out. He stepped back a couple of paces and leaned against the wall, obviously tired.
Adwin stepped forward, holding high the candle he carried and could see the scorch marks on the wall from Mokha’s flames. Beyond where the ice had been was a set of wide stairs leading up to a narrow door with a simple latch. Similar to what they had seen when they came down from the barn’s cellar.
“Just give me a moment.” Mokha said.
Adwin glanced back at him, gave a nod and waited at the bottom of the steps.
After a while Mokha moved passed him and stood before the door. He listened then held his hand up before the door, “Seems safe enough.”
“I’d guess this leads to the stone bunkhouse.”
“Well it should, though I suspect it no longer serves as a bunkhouse. If this mage is as powerful as they seem to be, we may find all manner of wards and defensive magic set to befuddle our efforts. I suggest we proceed with caution.”
Adwin nodded, “Best you lead the way then.”
Mokha lifted the latch, paused a moment then pulled the door open. The air was cool and the passage was dark. Mokha lit another candle and walked on down the hall. A dozen paces later they came to a stoat iron bound door with a brass lock. Mokha gestured and spoke a word in Tannican and the lock clicked open, he then took the time to inspect the door knob, the frame and the floor in front of the door. Then, after a quick glance back to Adwin, he opened the door.
The air was cold and the area beyond dark, except the few paces into the chamber where the light from their candles bit into the blackness. The stone work here seemed to be the same as the cellar under the barn. Mokha stepped into the room and Adwin followed. Near the doorway he found a shelf with a couple lamps, oil, candles and a striker. Adwin worked on getting the lamps going as Mokha explored further.
The light from the lamps revealed a low ceiling and two rows of columns running the chamber’s length. Along three sides of the room a vast collection of glistening statues were arranged in orderly rows and a broad stone stair lead up to a wide double door set into the ceiling. Mokha cursed.
On closer inspection of the statues, Adwin realized they were in fact people encased in ice, many dozen of them, close to a hundred. He felt the hairs along the back of his neck stand up and a great shiver wracked his body and fear flooded through him. “By the gods.”
With horrified fascination Adwin looked closely at a number of the frozen people, they appeared to have come from different walks of life, age, sex and culture, though the majority of them were male and likely from the local area. The ice that encased them was mostly translucent and a couple of finger widths thick, Adwin could not bring himself to attempt to chip away at the ice and wondered if they were still alive. He could not see how they would be but could not think of any reason a mage would just keep a bunch of frozen dead people in a cellar.
“That’s one way to hide the bodies.” Mokha commented dryly.
“So they’re dead?”
“I don’t think so. Well, I mean, I don’t know for sure. They might be alive but I have no idea as to how to revive them or thaw them out. But I’d expect that someone from the Arcanium would and this is just the sort of thing they would like to know about.”
“I thought you were trying to avoid the Arcanium?”
“Totally, but a message could be sent.” Mokha paused for a moment, “Or more likely messages could be sent.”
“So that’s it then, we run away and report our findings.”
Mokha snorted, “Hardly. We are breaking into a mage’s sanctuary, likely on the verge of discovering a great horde of treasure or lost lore. We’ll sort out this business after we have concluded out venture.”
“Okay. Can we get out of here then? It’s creepy.”
They moved to the stairs that lead up into what they assumed was the old bunkhouse, crouching below the doors, Mokha inspected them carefully. After a bit of hand waving and muttered incantations locks clicked and with some effort he pushed one of the doors opened. He moved upwards being careful not the let the door crash to the floor. Natural seaming light illuminated the area above and Adwin left the lamps on the top step and followed Mokha into the room.
Adwin had time to note that whatever the original purpose the building had served it now looked like a hall in some rich lords castle. Then Mokha pushed him to the side with a shouted warning and fire burst forth from the Aggedrah’s hand. Adwin stumbled and looked around wildly. Blueish-white forms, vaguely humanoid, moved in towards them from different directions. Mokha’s flames engulfed one of them and it seemed to let out a hissing screech and then collapsed with a loud cracking sound, to the floor as broken bits of ice.
One of the creatures closed in on Adwin, reaching for his throat. He ducked to one side but something deathly cold clamped onto his arm and spun him around. He cried out in pain and kicked, soon he was in the grip of two of the creatures and he was being dragged to the floor. Nearby he heard another hissing cry and ice breaking. He thrashed and kicked but the cold was seeping into him and he was soon pinned to the floor. He shouted in desperate anger but he was helpless against these ice creatures.
A wave of flame flowed over him. He closed his eyes and screamed. Hissing shrieks followed by exploding ice and then the heat of fire. Adwin nearly passed out, then Mokha was above him beating at him and turning him onto his stomach. In those few seconds he had been scorched and suffered multiple icy contacts that had blistered his flesh and had received numerous icy cuts. Pain washed over him and he sobbed occasionally. Mokha was on the floor nearby panting heavily.
A moment or two passed, he could hear the noise of crackling flames. Then Mokha was moving around and the flames were smothered, he moved back over to Adwin, “Are you alright?”
Adwin did not know what to say, it felt like the inside of his mouth and throat had been burnt and he did not want to answer.
“Can you open your eyes?” Mokha pleaded.
He did so, his eyelids felt puffy and sore. Mokha stood over him, dishevelled from the melee, with a look of grave concern, “Oh, thank the gods. Hold still, I’ll see if I can find something to help.”
Adwin started to calm down. He noticed that he was getting wet as the chunks of ice were melting around him. He sat up with difficulty, Mokha rushed back over to him. His friend held up a small crystal bottle with some blue liquid in it. He removed the stopper and held the drink in front of Adwin’s face, “This is labelled as a healing potion, it appears to be a healing potion, do you want to take it?”
Adwin paused, not really sure he wanted it but his pain motivated him to take the risk. He took the potion in a shaky hand and slurped it down. His mouth and throat instantly felt better and after another moment of two most of his other pain receded to tolerable levels. With a hand from Mokha he rose to his feet. He could not believe what he was seeing in this room.
Everywhere he looked there were treasures beyond imagining, fine rugs, heavy drapes, light orbs above each of the windows, three large chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Tables, coaches, chairs and shelves of various types of wood, a large throne of black wood on a dais at the far end of the hall. Around the throne various boxes, chests and other containers. The near end of the hall displayed clothing and armour on racks with a large freestanding mirror, the walls had numerous paintings hung for display while twenty or so more framed painting were stacked in a corner. There was so much more, he thought he must be dreaming.
Mokha had watched him as Adwin looked around, “I’m sorry I burnt you.”
“Don’t worry about it. What are we going to do about all this?”
“Well, I’m not sure how long we might be left alone in here, but whoever shows up next is unlikely to be very friendly. I’d suggest we take a quick look around, take what we can carry. I see elvish, dwarven and Eldra artifacts, as well; Tannican, Elquin and many others less familiar. Much of what we see here is magical. Then, after we get out of here and stash our loot we need to find a way to report this entire situation so that the local authorities will take action.”
It did not take Adwin long before he had more than he could reasonably carry and he had hardly given a quick look at a quarter of what was here. He was looking at the clothing, most of which seemed to be for women, hoping to find something Tipper might like. He caught a bit of movement to one side, startled he turned to see a woman in the silver mirror, not his own reflection. She was tall and pale and wore a sheer gown that seemed to reveal more of her body than cover, she held a staff in her left hand and she looked furious. Startled, Adwin stepped away bumping into one of the racks knocking it to the ground, then the mirror shimmered and his own reflection was looking back at him.
“Mokha, I think it’s time to leave.”