Blowing a mornfull note on his horn, Barthemus stood over the crumpled form of Kimmonen. Tears were in his eyes over his fallen friend. Captain Dolphus screamed in rage as he ran straight at the beast, followed by lumbering Haggar.
Swift, the newest member of The Exploratory Company, lost himself in the shadows while he moved around the perimeter of the ruined hall. Meanwhile, Masonair, Volo, and Jocster prepared themselves to aid the battle with magic and science. The exit blocked by a fallen portcullis of solid iron, they knew what their options were… win or die.
The fight was protracted and bloody. Swinging the ensorcelled Blade of Carmine da Rocha, Swift became a blur of slicing steel that left a spray of blood in his wake as he attacked the minotaur from behind. But his victory turned to horror as the damage to the monsters flesh reknitted itself like flowing water. Seeing the apparent regerneration, Jocster readied a vial of acid and hurled it at the beast. But his aim was off and the container shattered near the beast, not on him.
Lost in his anger and grief, Dolphus’s swings were wild and only left him open to the minotaur’s counter attack. Both of its massive axes slashed down and slammed into Dolphus, leaving him a bloody ruin on the dusty stone floor.
Seeing their captain fall, Haggar and Swift renewed their attacks as Masonair invoked The Cleansing Flame of Astor and burned the creature with its blue flame. But it was Barthemus who lost it as he dropped his horn and launched himself at the minotaur. He rushed past Volo who was trying to stabalize Captain Dolphus and attacked. Blinded by rage his attacks were clumsy and off balance… and the minotaurs axes fell again, cutting down another of the Explorartory Company.
It was then that they noticed the armband sized ring on the minotaurs left hand. It glowed red and was pulsating like a beating heart. Faster and faster it beat, in time to the damage the minotaur was taking…
Haggar charged the thing, collided with it, and surprisingly drove it back against the wall of a raised platform. All was still for a moment, just a moment, before the echoed clatter of the minotaurs falling axes broke the silence.
The monster was breathing hard, pinned to the wall by Haggar. It had willing dropped its weapons and looked at the warriors with what might have beeen sad resignation in its blue, all too human, eyes.
Without hesitation, Swift acted, and cut the fingers from the minotaurs left hand. Deprived of its magic, the minotaurs many wounds began to re-open. Gashes criss crossed its hide and blood seeped from between its battered patchwork of armor and it fell apart like a teetering pile of wet meat.
In seconds, all that was left was a pile of ash amidst rusty chain and dented plate. While Volo and Masonair tended to Dolphus and Barthus, Jocster rummaged through the pile. Two of the huge rings were mundane, whilst the third, which had glowed during the battle, possessed a rapidly diminishing dweomer. A fourth ring, human sized and engraved with the stylized head of a bull was found tied on a leather cord along with a glowing copper key.
Things looked grim. The way out was still blocked by the fallen iron portcullis and despite the ministrations of Volo and Masonair, Kimmonen and Barthemus were dead. Captain Dolphus, wounded but able to walk, helped Masonair and Haggar wrap the bodies and move them to one side.
Suddenly, an audible “click” was heard coming from behind the wall. It was followed by a whirring and a series of thunks and groans that worked their way around the room culminating in the grating of stone on stone as a section of wall in a shadowed alcove slid away to reveal a descending stairway. Swift had been investigating an eight foot tall marble statue of a regal king, presumably Mithradetes, and had realised that the arm holding a sword point down was in fact a lever of some kind. It was this that had triggered the secret door.
The stairs seemed to go on forever. The way was lit by brazieres containing flickering flames that gave off no heat. Swift scouted ahead nimbly and was the first to reach the bottom nearly a thousand steps down.
At the bottom, a corridoor took a ninety degree turn to the right and opened into a hallway about ten feet wide and one hundred feet long, ending abruptly in a stone wall. The right side of the hall was likewise worked stone unlike the left side, which featured doorways spaced at even intervals along its length.
There were five doors. Each of a different metal starting with Copper, Bronze, Silver, Gold and finaly Platnum. All the doors were covered in runes. Lines of numeric script and complicated equations banded the doors, and the center of each was a spiral equation that ended in a key hole.