"Harald's coming down," said Ivo. "Let's wait for him. How are the others doing?"
"I'm fine," said Ghibelline.
"You are awake," Telenstil said to the reclining elf. "Good."
"Awake... I feel like I have returned from somewhere, but I do not know where. Is that sleep?" he asked.
"Doesn't sound like sleeping to me," said Harold. "We should get going."
"Patience," said Telenstil.
"Talberth might be putting his head in a dragon's mouth and ours as well," objected Harold.
Telenstil nodded. "I will go, Ivo please ask Harald to stay here. We need to find a more defensible place to camp."
"Right now it may be better to be close to the exit than further in," said Ivo. "Gytha asleep?" he asked.
They looked over at the cleric. She had finally lain down and now slept soundly beside the small fire. The scout Derue lay opposite, healed and exorcised but still bound hand and foot.
"I am glad to see her sleep," said Telenstil.
"So am I but let's go," Harold said impatiently.
"I do not delay," Telenstil told him, "lead me to Talberth."
"Where is your shadow?" asked Ivo.
"What?" said Harold. "Little Rat, where did he get to? Come on! Now I am really worried," the halfling grabbed Telenstil by the sleeve and tugged at him to hurry.
* * *
"These are the gibberling young," Telenstil stated with interest as they passed the small creatures piled in the hall.
"Yes," Harold said abstractedly and tugged the mage's robe, "come on we'd better find Talberth."
Telenstil laughed, unworried and amused at the thief's actions. "I will have to look at them closer, but I will do so later, yes, yes, Harold you can stop pulling at my sleeve."
"He is toward the center of the chamber," Harold said as he hurried Telenstil down the hall, "that is where we found the big pit."
They stepped quietly into the pillared hall; the glow of blue that had shown from the sculptures was gone, only the light from Talberth's amulet remained. Out past where Harold had seen the pit the light drifted ghostly, hovering above the floor and hiding behind the columns, playing hide and seek in the darkness. The orcs were nowhere to be seen, Harold looked for Little Rat, his head swiveled back and forth as he lead Telenstil toward the light, but he noticed the absence of their unlikely companions.
"Little Rat!" he called out. "Talberth!"
The light came their way; they could hear Talberth's voice calling back.
"Harold," Talberth called. "Harold, come get this little pest."
The young mage cast a chain of flowing shadows dancing among the sculptured pillars as he walked; his amulet bright on his chest. Little Rat ran behind him, he practically danced as he ran to keep up with Talberth's lengthy strides.
"Little Rat!" Harold yelled at the young orc. "What are you doing here?"
"Big bright magic," the young orc was wide eyed and grinning.
"Talberth," said Telenstil, the elf was smiling, enjoying the sight of the orc's pleased wonder, "Talberth what is it you have found?"
"Telenstil, this place is amazing. These are not mere carvings," the young mage told him, his voice controlled but tinged with something of the excitement that gushed from the orc, "there are strong enchantments laid upon these pillars, some still active though I know not what they do or how to make them work."
"Let me see what you have found," said Telenstil.
"See these carvings," Talberth pointed to a column, "that manticore... look at the style of the work, it almost breaths, and I think it once may have done."
Telenstil put a long-fingered hand on the stone and traced the lines of the monster's back. "I agree, this is unlikely to have been carved; An enchantment of some kind that turned the beast into a column of stone."
"I have heard of such a spell that can make flesh into stone or stone into flesh," said Talberth.
"This is akin to that," Telenstil touched the snarling face and drew back his hand, "but it is something different, something more. Perhaps the spell that is used today is a small part of the magic used to create this."
"You mean these were living creatures," said Harold. "That centaur, those giants, demons..." the halfling gulped, "Those dragons, they turned those dragons into stone... they were alive."
"This place is old," said Telenstil. "There was a time when great magics were used on Oerth, when mages held power that no one should possess."
"There is some of it left," Talberth said eagerly. "Telenstil look at these two here." he brought them to the carvings of an ogre and a minotaur. Both had the look of living things, now hardened into rock but frozen between the beats of a heart, unchanged since they last drew breath. The elf put out his hand again and placed his palm against the ogre's stony chest. "Ap-Par-Ere" he said. The ring he wore, perhaps older than the carvings or the pillared hall, gave off a white glow, a silver line appeared and lit the column's base. Letters could be seen where none had been before, a band of writing formed shining in the dark. "Lat-At Cen-Til-Ul Vor-San" Telenstil spoke the words, they echoed across the empty hall.