Having secured the invaluable treasures in the vault, the party turned their attention to the lone surviving cultist. Alexius released him from the stone prison and they explained to the trembling figure that the only way he might live to see the sun rise again was to tell them what was going on and how to stop it. After a brief display of bravado the wretch broke down sobbing and begged for his life; he told them about Thorde Skull’s plan to release his mistress and the crimes he had committed in order to realize his goals.
Having heard enough, Donny brought his mighty hammer down on the benighted souls head, crushing it into powder. Wasting no breath, the group set off, following the cultist’s directions to the Academy library.
Their prisoner had told them it had been sealed off by a cave-in, but the evil cult leader had been gifted a means of making “Servants of GIldarthe,” a fire-aspected form of undead that was capable of incredible feats of raw strength. The drawback to this was a limited effective lifespan before the corpse simply burned itself to ash.
Arriving at the outer chambers that lead into the library proper, the group held up and listened. No sooner had they come to a stop then several flaming bright figures lurched out of the labyrinth of twisting tunnels and blind corners and set upon them. These were the servants of Gildarthe, corpses forced into burning undeath to serve as the instrument of their loved ones demise. The cries of horror and fury from the native members of the group made it abundantly clear that these pitiable figures had once lived in the village below.
As fearsome and prodigiously strong as they were, they were no match for the wizards and their boon companions. All was darkness and silence before them, but a pall of misery weighed heavily on the chambers and soon a barely perceptible sobbing sound could be heard.
Following the sound, the group discovered a walled off pit in which several dozen villagers huddled in terror. While some of them set to freeing the traumatized victims, the rest finished exploring the area. They found a smaller chamber that had apparently been used as a barracks for the cult leader and his minions, a large area that had been used as a dumping ground for the rubble being cleared, and opposite this, a ragged tunnel leading up to an ornately carved portal, beyond which could be seen the dim outline of bookcases and ancient tapestries.
Not wishing to subject the villagers to any further hardship, some of the group volunteered to lead them out through the catacombs to safety. The rest plunged ahead into the library.
The two wizards wept at the sight of so much arcane knowledge treated so roughly, ancient scrolls and tomes had been tossed about and ripped apart by a madman looking for the means to free his goddess. In the center of the massive chamber stood a broken open vault, with a massive stone sentinel standing nearby.
Knowing the risks, but needing to see if anything of value still remained, Anima cautiously stepped into the vault. As soon as he did the guardian stature stirred to life and turned to confront him. Having anticipated this, Anima dodged back out of reach and shouted for his companions to check the vault while he distracted the guardian.
Unfortunately the guardian was more concerned with protecting its charge than pursuing any interlopers, and it seemed the group was at an impasse; the golem unable to reach them and unwilling to pursue, them unable to hurt the construct or draw it out of position.
This went on for some time and Alexius and Anime came together in a desperate huddle, as they knew there time was running short. As they frantically discussed options, a great tremor ran through the entire structure and the sentinel, seemingly invincible a moment before, melted before their very eyes.
As Alexius and Anima sprinted over the bubbling remains of the guardian and into the vault to gather up what they could, they remembered a partially exposed tunnel in the vault chamber that looked like it lead deeper into the volcano. Rushing back out into the catacombs, they prayed it was not too late.
As they re-entered the vault, they were relieved to see that the tremor had re-opened the tunnel, stinking hot air blasted out of it, but they threw themselves into it heedless of the danger. They emerged into a bright circular chamber with a black stone floor with the imprints of a giant hand cracked into it, above them was a circle of glaring bright sunlight; they were in the caldera, the heart of the volcano.
They saw that they were not alone, a dozen or more of the cultists and the foul undead abominations turned as one a rushed forward, putting themselves between the wizards and the man in the ragged grey robes. He held a staff of smoldering black wood above his head and read words of power from a massive leather-bound tome in front of him. High above them all the sky raged in a swirling vortex of thunder and lightning, but none of the rain could reach the burning stone beneath their feet.
With a wordless cry of rage, Donny leaped forward to the attack, the rest of the party close behind, and they met the cultist blade for blade, spell for spell. The battle was long and dangerous, Alexius was almost incinerated by a jet of dark flame from Thorde Skull and Donny was dragged to the brink of death by a dozen separate wounds.
Anime looked and saw the stone seal beneath them beginning to crack and bubble, as if a great heat lay underneath, he knew they only had one last chance and he shouted for his compatriots to take down Thorde Skull at all costs. All looked hopeless as the cultists doggedly held the line, but at the last moment Thorfe bulled his way through the cultists and seized the cult leader in his massive fists. He lifted the man that had killed his entire family as easily as a child lifts a doll and, bellowing in inchoate rage, crushed his skull.
Seeing the demise of their leader, the cultists threw themselves down on the ground wailing, meanwhile the magic animating the servants began to unravel. The cool rain from above washed the blood and ash from them as they stood in silence.