"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.
There was a jarring sound, stone scraping against stone. The ogre came alive and stepped from the column; behind him he left a smooth curving face of rock. The monster stepped from the pedestal base and its foot banged against the tiles of the floor. Telenstil, Talberth, Harold and Little Rat, all took a step back then another as the ogre's other foot came down.
"Man-Zo!" Telenstil commanded.
The ogre stopped and did not move.
"We may have gained a powerful tool," the old elf said to the others.
"A golem do you think?" Talberth asked.
"Yes, finely made," Telenstil was silent for a moment. "Sek-Wa!" he told the figure. "Let us go back to where we entered."
"But there is so much here..." Talberth protested. "There is another figure, the minotaur it must be a golem as well."
"I think one is enough," said Telenstil. "This one seems to obey but would two, or will this continue to heed my commands? There is too much that we do not know."
Telenstil walked toward the entrance of the room, Talberth stood for a moment but ran to the mage's side. The ogre took heavy steps and followed. Little Rat ran around the walking statue till Harold pulled him aside.
"If that thing steps on you..." Harold scolded the young orc.
"Look, walking stone," Little Rat said in a voice filled with awe. "Magic make it walk?" he asked.
"Magic," said Harold, "sure... the kind that we best avoid. Your knives wouldn't even scratch it; come on let's get out of its way."
Harold had to pull the young orc away by a ragged sleeve. The ogre pounded across the floor but when it reached the entrance to the hall it stopped and would not step beyond. Motionless it looked to be just a statue once again.
"What is the matter with it?" asked Talberth.
"I cannot be sure," said Telenstil. "The enchantment may be on this room, or an old instruction that my orders cannot countermand. There is too much that we do not know."
Telenstil walked back into the room and went past the ogre, it swiveled as he passed and followed him once again while he stayed within the room.
"Maybe another command?" asked Talberth.
"I cannot tell, and experiment may prove dangerous," Telenstil said. "Since there is no need, at least for now I will leave it be."
"Have you ever built a golem?" asked Talberth. He circled the ogre, his eyes taking in every detail.
"No," Telenstil answered him. "That has not been my craft, I have created very little as a mage, destroyed too much."
"Are all of these pillars like this?" asked Harold.
Telenstil looked at the small forest of columns that ringed the curving hall; "Perhaps, perhaps once. Talberth what did your spell detect?"
"Magic, a small amount in each, but two burned bright with it," said Talberth.
"I cannot answer," said Telenstil, "Too much power, much too much. Creatures such as dragons turned to stone just to hold a roof, or golems of such size. Perhaps they are nothing but stone and finely carved and only this one and another are animated rock."
As they talked the old gnome joined them. Ivo gave a whistle when he saw the ogre standing near the entrance of the room.
* * *
"A Stone Golem, my, my, I should have known," said Ivo. The old gnome walked around the ogre and examined it with care; "An ugly brute, human work."
"Do you recognize it?" asked Talberth.
"I can tell the work of a human hand, but nothing more than that," Ivo told him. "The stones here are old; this golem is old as well."
"We can't get it out of the hall," said Harold.
"Bound to this place no doubt," Ivo replied.
"Too bad it cannot speak," Talberth mused.
"At least it still obeys commands," said Telenstil, "or so it appears."
"What a wonder we have found," said Ivo, "Too bad that we found it just now."
"I am glad to have seen this even if we can't make use of it," said Talberth.
"Yes, if it cannot leave this room I do not believe it will be of help," Telenstil looked wistfully at the wonders around them.
"Do we know that it can't?" Talberth waved at the dark corners of the hall. "We have not even explored this room. There are openings in the pit that we could try."
"It may be safe here for the night," said Telenstil, "but there is only one way in and the same way out. If the giants find us all they would need to do is to roll a boulder over that entrance and we will be trapped."
"Maybe there is another way out, a door or down through the pit..." Talberth objected.
Ivo shook his head. "That shaft was clawed from the living rock; the gibberlings could find no other way out." he paused for a moment to think about Talberth's suggestions; "There might be a hidden door."
"A door, there must be a door," said Talberth.
"We will have a few hours to search," Telenstil said. "But Talberth, this is a poor place for us to camp. Too close to the giants, too many things unknown, all this..." he waved toward the columns, "perhaps more dangerous than the giants are themselves."
"I will start searching now then," said Talberth. "Harold will you help me?"
"I will..." said Harold. Little Rat tugged at his sleeve. "We will," he corrected himself.
"What happened to the orcs?"
"What?" Talberth exclaimed, he twisted his head back and forth looking for them but they were nowhere in sight. "Where did they go?"
"They followed you here," said Harold, "they didn't go back down the passage. Maybe they fell down the pit."
"We aren't that lucky," said Talberth. "Let's go, they might have found something."
"I can wish, maybe they are lost," said Harold.
"If you find anything," Telenstil said to them, "come right back, do not explore on your own."
"We will," Talberth answered over his shoulder, he was already leaving them and following the curving wall to the left of the entrance looking in.
"Ivo, I think it is best if we bring the others here," said Telenstil.
"I agree," said the gnome, "but I do not trust this chamber or our new toy there," he nodded at the ogre.
"We have not found safety anywhere," Telenstil rubbed at the back of his head as he talked, feeling the slight scars of an old wound. "Better to be away from the entrance. The chance of danger seems greater from the outside than it does in here, despite all that we do not know. That is how I feel."
"I hope that you are right my friend," said Ivo.