The battle against the beholder was as difficult as they expected. The creature had four of its magic eye stalks damaged or missing, but it still had six others from which it could shoot various magical ray attacks. The party members found themselves charmed, paralysed , pushed away and gripped by telekinesis, and damaged with a necrotic blast. The creature also had command of the magic of the cavern and caused tentacles to sprout from the walls and grapple Zelda and Cundall, also he made the floor slick and slippery making the area difficult to traverse, and made an eye appear in the wall which could shoot out one of its own eye rays. Its central eye acted as a magic dampener, which suprressed (but didn’t dispel) all magic. The troglodytes died easy enough, but were vicious with their teeth and claws. One of the troglodytes was huge, some kind of champion of their race and was much harder to kill.
On the party’s side were two summoned brown bears – one was mobbed and killed by troglodytes – Minimus was affected by a haste spell which increased his attacks, and Marie unleashed her offensive magic when the magic suppressing eye was turned so the creature could bring its own magical rays to bear. Cundall had been hit most, but the others took advantage of this to press the attack. Minimus was severely injured but perservered. When the troglodytes were killed and the beholder started taking damage it flew up to the roof, only to be shot at with deadly accuracy by Zelda’s magical longbow and finally brought down by a lightning bolt from Marie. Everyone cheered when the beholder’s body crashed to the ground, including the escaped slaves.
A chest was found in a corner, with a substantial amount of coins of various types, some minted in the Underdark, others from the surface lands of the Sword Coast. There was a bag of gems, and a stone doll with an earth rune engraved on its chest. Marie had a strong reaction to the doll, she had seen this very thing in a dream where Cundall was holding the doll towards the ceiling of a large underground natural vault while the rest of the party looked nervously towards a river tunnel behind them. Over the years she had learned to trust herself when it came to situations or objects she had dreamed about.
“This is important,” she said, holding the stone doll. “I’ve had a vision when this is to be used. I think it will summon help for us in a particular situation.”
“Well, don’t die or get lost before we get into that particular situation,” said Cundall, “or we won’t know when to use it.”
Farewells were said to the ex slaves, and Jimjar enthusiastically shook everyone’s hand. Marie had an odd, but not ominous, feeling about the deep gnome, and suspected that they might see Jimjar again one day.
“Let’s get to this library then,” said Cundall, “so we can find a way home.”
“We’ll do so much more than that,” grinned Marie. “This is going to be a memorable experience, whether you know it yet or not.”
“Assuming we get there,” said Zelda. “Didn’t you say it chose who could find it and stopped those it didn’t want in its halls?”
“We’ll get there,” said Marie, excitedly. “I know it.”
Marie activated the ring. As before the others made sure they were touching her. This time there was no glow, one second they were in the cave, the next there was a feeling of vertigo, darkness and weightlessness and then they were standing in an intersection of tunnels. It was pitch black, and so Cundall cast darkvision on himself and Marie. Zelda could see in the dark with her elf senses, and Minimus held Companion which also gave him darkvision.
“There’s no teleport into or in the vicinity of Gravenhollow,” said Marie. “We’ll have to walk for a few hours. We just have to figure out which way.”
They took a few minutes to work out that the ring would show them the way. It glowed when Marie pointed it down one tunnel. They set off. The ring seemed to work less well the closer they got to the library, or when there was a fork in the tunnel and they had to guess which way to go, occasionally having to backtrack.
“What carved out these tunnels?” wondered Minimus, looking around. “They look too smooth and even to be natural.”
“Lava,” replied Marie. “Rivers of molten rock moving through other rock perhaps from some volcano or other. These lava tubes are formed when an active low-viscosity lava flow develops a continuous and hard crust, which thickens and forms a roof above the still-flowing lava stream. Tubes can be very deep if the lava digs a big groove in the channel, but usually they’re not too wide or deep before the lava cools and crusts over.”
Minimus nodded, absorbing that information. “So there’s no chance of there being lava still under the crust and no danger of us falling into it if we break through a thin bit of crust?”
Marie shook her head. “No, it would be unbearably hot in here if that were the case, no effective method of heat dissipation. The lava here is long cooled. Plus the smoothness of the floor makes me believe there has been centuries of travel down these tunnels, which supports that hypothesis.”
“What is a hyp… oh hello…” Minimus cocked his head to listen, as the rest did. They all heard someone singing strange tunes in various languages, the voice echoing down the tunnels. Approaching the sound revealed an unusual scene.
A many legged reptile stretched out across an intersection of passageways as if it had been sitting for a long while.
“A basilisk!” said Marie quietly. They had all heard of this creature which could literally petrify an enemy with its gaze. The party noted that the basilisk was keeping its eyes downcast as if trying to avoid petrifying anything. The creature shifted and got to its feet. It had become aware of them! The party made ready to fight, but the beast simply ambled up to them, avoiding their eyes as it looked to the rocky floor at their feet. And then another surprise. It spoke in several tongues, before trying the common language, albeit with a thick accent. Then it seemed happy with their surprised response and continued.
“About time you lot arrived! Come! The library bid me guide you to the gates, and I’ve waited too long for you already." Then it waddled off purposefully. The heroes just shrugged and followed along.
After its initial greeting, the basilisk seemed happy not to talk, but Marie wanted to know more. She caught up with the basilisk and engaged it in conversation. The creature said its name was Veldyskar. Untold years ago a visiting stone giant druid presented the librarians of Gravenhollow with a gift – an intelligent basilisk trained to serve the librarians as a guardian and general purpose helper. The basilisk adapted readily to the timeless nature of the library and embraced his new duties with dedication. Veldyskar is called upon to deal with trouble in the library, squabbling or fighting groups for example. His usual method apparently was to turn everyone to stone and then sort it out later. Marie resolved not to get into any brawls in the library, in fact up until that point the thought of fighting in a library was a foreign concept that did not even occur to her.
A few hours later they found a massive set of basalt doors, flanked by stone giant statues. They had arrived at Gravenhollow!