Return to the Necropolis: Chapter 7 (Day 2)

Michael O. Varhola

the one they had battled in the embalming laboratory. Leaning into the open space and using his crowbar as a probe, he thoroughly searched around the body for any other contents the vault might contain but, to his disappointment, found nothing. This was not an auspicious start and, based on his experience with the vaults inside the tombs, he had expected more and hoped this would not become a trend; he began mentally calculating the expenses represented by the acid and sunrods he was using and determining the value of what they would need to find to offset them.

The next vault looked like it would be a little easier to deal with, as it had a recessed bronze handle that could be grasped and turned, apparently counterclockwise, to disengage the mechanism holding it in place and thereby remove the capstone. The rogue's careful examination of the device, however, revealed a number of tiny, almost imperceptible holes in the recessed demi-sphere into which the handle was set. After loosening the mechanism with oil, Paros turned it counterclockwise with a pair of tools, his hands well clear of the place they would intuitively be for this operation — and, when he did, a quintet of steel needles snapped out of the holes! Had his hand been there, the barbs would have been embedded in it, and the oily toxin he could now see oozing down them coursing through his veins. Further experimentation with the device indicated that pressing the handle and continuing to turn it counterclockwise caused the needles to retract, while pulling it and then turning it clockwise would allow someone to open it without engaging the trap. Within the tomb they found the embalmed body of a woman and were heartened to discover upon her finger a ring carved into the shape of tiny intertwining snakes from a single fine piece of semiprecious serpentine.

There was nothing of note associated with the next several tombs they examined in terms of either hazards or treasure — although Paros did gain some new insights on the way such things were constructed — and, as the hours went by, the process of searching for traps, opening the sealing stones, and searching the vaults became somewhat routine and tedious. Paros became considerably more engaged, however, when after they had completed their operations on a dozen tombs he discovered on the next one the