Return to the Necropolis: Chapter 5

Michael O. Varhola

them. Pumayo took the bottle of semi-precious stone without objection from anyone else; it did not appear to be worth much and they had cached more loot than all of them would be able to carry anyway.

Their business in the vault concluded, Paros decided it was time to secure the tomb for the night and, accordingly, went and pulled the door shut; the locking mechanism was fairly sophisticated and was equipped with a device for locking or unlocking it from within — presumably for the benefit in ages past of family members who had come to visit their dearly departed — and he easily engaged it. Everyone else had unlimbered themselves of their backpacks, bedrolls, and other bulky gear. They then turned to the tall copper panel engraved with the life-sized image of Boreas, God of the North Wind, a burly, winged man with long hair and beard, flying through a snowstorm over a wintry landscape, a conch shell in his hand and a cloak flapping behind him.

Each of the panels was equipped with a spring mechanism that, when any one of them was touched, caused all four to abruptly slide open, and Paros had reengaged this system after they had cached their treasure and closed the portals. They did not expect skeletal warriors to come marching out of them again but, ever cautious, the four companions went back-to-back, facing out toward the other portals, as Paros reached out and pressed the metal surface bearing the image of Boreas. When he did, the panel abruptly slid upward into an aperture in the wall above it, and he could hear the other three do the same — followed immediately by a violent, reverberating metallic clanging, a flash of movement, and blinding pain.

Paros staggered, clutching at his gut, and then sank to his knees. Before him he could see that the five-foot-square aperture was empty save for one thing: a heavy crossbow that had been primed to discharge upon opening. He rolled over onto his side, gasping and with dark blood seeping out around his fingers, a heavy metal bolt embedded in his abdomen. Similar devices had been set in the other apertures, and two of the bolts had simply shot across the middle of the room and into the opening opposite them, threatening no one as the party had not been in the middle of the room. The