The hail of Ettercap arrows from the south gets a bit too dangerous to continue diplomacy at that moment. Squaring his shield, Samuel barrels down the southern hallway, spear aimed at the Ettercap archers. He is blindsided by a burly, thick-skinned Fang Guard. Axe bites into flesh, blood sprays across the floor. Jurak is right behind, but he too is intercepted by another Fang Guard. With usual unerring precision, Koteth fires a volley over the brutal melee half way down the hall, grievously wounding one of the Ettercap archers on the far end. An Ettercap Spinner weaves thick strands of webbing around the Paladin and Warrior on the front line of the battle, immobilizing them and laying down a thick area of difficult, sticky terrain.
The three Lizardmen seem torn between fighting the Ettercaps and escaping through the door that the heroes entered from. The Lizardman Archer launches a volley of arrows as well, peppering the enemy archers, while the Marsh Mystic snarls and commands his allies to retreat while the warm-bloods deal with the spiders. Despite their dismal attempts at convincing the Lizardfolk, eventually the Marsh Mystic and Spearman both join the fight, supporting the heroes against the Ettercaps. Jacen’s holy chains wreak havoc amongst the Archers and Spinner, slowing the enemy to a crawl, allowing Koteth and Arjhan to finish up the remaining wounded creatures.
Despite taking a couple of grievous axe wounds, Samuel is able to strike back, splintering chitin and crushing the spider-creatures. The Lizardfolk Spearman seems particularly impressed, and approaches Samuel even as the Marsh Mystic is berating him. The Spearman shows his own spear to Samuel. While Samuel’s is wrought iron and the Spearman’s is wood, metal and stone, they bear a remarkable similarity. Both depict a coiling serpent around the join between the shaft and blade. Samuel’s depicts the Serpent biting into a fish. The Lizardman’s depicts the same Snake biting into the swollen abdomen of a fat spider.
As the three Lizardmen leave, the Marsh Mystic begrudgingly thanks the heroes. When pressed about what they were doing here, the Mystic responds that they “Seek Allies, Find Allies” and they were heading to the “Sky River Under Stone”. “Not Yours” he says, pointedly. “Fight Of Ours”.
He makes a sign on his own chest, a semi-circle that hooks down. Samuel frowns; he recognises it as a sign of Zehir, god of poison, serpents and assassination. But the Marsh Mystic and his allies seem to view the heroes as potential friends in this dangerous place, and the two groups bid each other farewell for the moment; the Lizardmen heading off to the western rooms, the heroes taking a northern, easily defensible room to rest and recuperate.
After their brief rest (a longer rest was considered to be unwise, so deep in enemy territory), the heroes follow the stairs down to the main level of the vault. The air is heavy with humidity and mold, the tile floor covered in mud and dirt. But looking past the filth of age, the inherent richness of the edifice is evident; patterns of intertwined serpents carved in long bands at the top, bottom and middle sections of each wall. Solid stone table and benches. Finely painted pottery, sadly smashed. Richly carved pillars.
The adventurers move from the stairs to an entry hall, noting that the doors are already open. Apparently the Lizardmen have left the building, out into the pouring rain. The party decides to go the opposite direction, deeper into the vault’s main floor, through waiting halls and council rooms.
A grim sight is discovered in one of the ruined halls at the back of the edifice; the corpse of an Ettercap, purposefully suspended by webbing before a door. Wondering whether the body is a punishment, or perhaps a warning, the heroes push past it into a broad hall with many pillars, each carved with thick serpents coiling around from floor to ceiling. On one end, a thick, very strong iron gate. On the other, a massive horizontal wheel-like mechanism, set half way into the wall; the wheel can be turned, and can also be moved up and down on the central bar that supports it.
It takes barely a moment before Koteth is struck by inspiration. Obviously, the mechanism controls the door, and that a sequence of movements would be required. Having observed both the Zehiran sign that the modern Lizardmen gave the party, and taking into account the myriad of Zehiran symbolism on the walls of this ancient Lizardfolk vault, he turns the wheel a half turn, then slides it all the way down, mimicking the hand sign.
The serpents carved into the pillars grind to life, each opening their mouths… and staying there, mouths open, a soft white glow issuing from their throats, lighting the path down the length of the hall to the metal gate which grinds and squeaks open.
Much wealth lies in the vault beyond, and the adventurers are quick to divide the “real” spoils; gold and silver pieces, many of which seem to have been previously looted or taken from human cities. There is also different currency, sadly more or less worthless; green shards of a glassy substance that the Lizardfolk used as money at the height of their last empire. A number of thick, finely etched glass Slips (probably worth a multitude of Shards) are pocketed, since they would fetch a price as pieces of art if nothing else. The group also spends a brief time distributing the magic armors that had been secured in the vault; a pair of suits of chainmail that survived the ages of rust and rot thanks to their expert crafting and magical enhancements.
Laden with wealth, the party leaves the vault through the main door, out into the rainy street. And right into a gaggle of undead lurching towards the preoccupied trio of Lizardfolk they had met earlier!