We took our new key, boots and knowledge that a few books were missing in hand and decided to try our luck with the supposed teleport platform. After a good night's sleep that is. I took the bulk of the watch, as usual. It is truly useful not having to sleep. The humans must love having an elf in the party for at least that fact. There was a slight bump in the middle of the night from somewhere in the tower, but we were in no condition to investigate, so we stayed on the defensive and it passed. Morning came and Barrill prayed to Pelor to remove our captured Astalonian paladin's evil helmet. It seems his prayers were in vain, as the paladin remained under the curse despite the earnest pleas. I want to save this man, but our mission looms ahead of us, not allowing us to waver. We fed him and left him bound as we began experimenting with the portal. Gathering together, including Kanar's new pet were-tigress, we tested the toy and found ourselves first atop a very strange building.
Firstly, we found our assumptions confirmed about the circle being a means of teleportation. Secondly, we found ourselves sweltering in the heat of the desert we now stood in. For some reason they decided to build a teleportation pad leading to an abandoned village (possibly a city, definitely a necropolis) sitting in the middle of a vast desert. In the distance we could even see the outline of a massive pyramid tomb, easily standing over a quarter mile high! It swiftly became obvious this was not going to lead us to Lord Baltron's vault, so we returned to the teleportation pad and tried another of the five symbols at random.
Our next destination was apparently a large square stone room with a door set in each wall. A freakish looking stone face in one of the corners began laughing at us as it preached our doom and caused the chamber to flood with water. We swiftly searched the walls and doors, but it was thanks to the gnome Adderwood's penchant for keeping his head to the ceiling. He found the switch located in the gargoyle's mouth and enabled us to find the one true door and move on. The next trial was a long hallway filled with unnatural darkness. We were either brave enough, or stupid enough, to try simply walking the path and ignoring the howls and screams on the edge of our hearing. Our captive, the cat woman, thrashed and wailed as we entered the shadows, screaming about ghost women and certain doom. Dukek experimented with the ancient axe he'd been entrusted with and it seemed to drive back the creatures she was seeing, but it wasn't until Barrill called upon Pelor's holy light to keep life sacred and repel beasts that refuse to rest in their graves that we were able to pass through unharmed and unshaken. And thus we found ourselves in the room that would be our home for the next few days, and very nearly be my grave.
The final test before the vault was a massive (easily over a hundred feet diameter with a fourty foot roof) circular room with a variety of strange features. The room itself seemed to be crafted completely of metal, with no stonework save a bit of the statuary. Set in the center of the room was a polished and colored sunburst pattern with four major points and four minor points, all set equidistant apart. On the opposite side of the room from that we entered was a pair of gigantic (20') metal doors with the runes set in the metalwork and a strange glass tube running just above it. Around the room stood eight statues of dwarves, although none of them seemed to be of famous dwarves at first glance. Finally, behind each of the statues was an alcove with some sort of mosiac in it. After much searching and contemplation we soon determined that there was a set of eight puzzles in the room, all of which must be solved within a few minutes of each other. They each seemed to have a price to pay for a wrong guess, as well. The worst price to pay by far was a summoned vampire creature that seemed to drain my very soul with its merest touch. The finger scraping across my arm felt more like spike driven through my heart. Between us, Dukek and I managed to dispatch the beast, although not before i fell into unconsciousness for the second time in as many days. Barrill once again revived me, but we all required rest before he was able to remove the feeling of a shadow cast upon my grave. Over the next few hours we figured out the puzzles somehow or another. I realize that we are the heroes, and are noble despite what i'm about to say, but i have to confess that we cheated on one of them and simply had Rufo fiddle with the mechanism. Once all of the puzzles were completed the eight statues animated and formed rank behind Dukek, apparently ready to follow his orders, or at least follow him into the vault we could now see beyond the opening doors that taunted us for so many hours. From the vault we have recovered the following: A single arrow; a ring imbued with elvish symbols; a torc; a broken blade i can only assume is Esserial; a dragon's tooth on a necklace; a set of elvish armor, including leggings and a shield, all emblazoned with a sigil representing the Star of Daimisan; the sapling tree of life Dukek promised to bring to the High Council; a silver apple that is soft to the touch. A number of new problems now present themselves. Primarily the ruby i was expecting to find in the vault was not there, nor did it appear to have ever been there. The other and considerably more minor problem is my own expectation that the dwarves had reforged Esserial in the eight hundred years since the battle of Tarimthol-Itl.
From here it seems we must take our new treasures and return to the black tower. Leptor surely has answers that we need, if not the objects themselves. We must be careful, however, for carrying such treasures upon our persons is much more dangerous than leaving them in the vault for anyone to find. Let alone the difficulty Dukek will have in fighting effectively while swinging an axe in front of him and protecting a small tree strapped to his back.