Pain. It surges through bone and blood. It tears at Belmarniss' heart, where the Relic of the Reaper once rested. A hole has been carved in her flesh, just above her heart, and raggedly stitched by an unskilled hand.
"I will see what I can do." Inconveniently she doesn't have any of the really advanced spells in here, she didn't get a chance before Mephistopholes mysteriously exploded. She can write in the new sorcerer stuff but that doesn't get her to ninth circle and she can TELL that she COULD CAST ninth circle spells if only they were HERE and it's VERY ANNOYING. At least this means prep takes less than an hour because she's not filling up.
Safiya occupies herself whittling a small block of wood into a humanoid shape. She's very good at it.
When Belmarniss is done, she looks up. "You're ready?"
"Unless you have a scroll of Shapechange or Time Stop or anything I can copy down real quick."
"Oh, I have them in my spellbook - " She pulls a hefty tome out of her bag and flips near the end. "Here, take a look. Did you level recently, then?"
"Yup. Right in between some shit going down on either side, so I haven't caught up." She flips through to the high-level stuff.
There's plenty of high-level stuff. Excitingly, Safiya also seems to be a transmuter. (Her barred schools, based on the available evidence: enchantment, illusion, and evocation. It's unclear why she has three of them.)
Well, she wasn't all that excited about any of those and she can scribe her own stormbolts. She wants Time Stop and Shapechange and Polymorph Any Object and everything else can wait till a better moment.
Those are all available!
Safiya takes her spellbook back when she's done and puts it away in her bag. "Anything else before we go?"
"No, I'm on board with plan Get Out Of Here And Learn Facts."
Safiya walks up the slope leading out of the cavern with the pillars and into the barrow proper. There's a rumbling in the earth.
"I think that's the elementals," she says ruefully. "Be on your guard."
"I hear you."
The elementals in question turn out to be earth elementals, massive creatures of stone that swing their clublike appendages slowly and clumsily through the air. Perhaps they're still recovering from their slumber. Safiya harries them with a stream of Magic Missiles out of her staff and, for those that last long enough to really annoy her, the occasional Disintegrate.
Niss can magically missile too. And Fireball if they cluster.
They cluster frequently enough to be worth Fireballing!
A short ways into the barrow, Safiya stops to examine... a campsite? "Who was camping down here? It's hardly the most hospitable destination."
"I've been known to camp underground if I had a long trip to make involving underground sections but I don't know if that's a reasonable explanation here. Also I hate sunshine."
"The barrow is enclosed, as far as I know." Safiya crouches and unearths a hefty tome entitled "The City of Judgement", which is heavily foxed and near crumbling. "They brought some light reading, as well."
(The book looks... somehow familiar.)
Belmarniss peeks at the table of contents.
It's a religious treatise on the fate of dead souls. No table of contents, but if she flips through there's only a couple of legible pages that aren't stuck together. The text of those pages includes:
In my dream I saw a city, gray and forbidding, beneath an empty sky. Before its gates came a hideous procession - all the dead of the world, of a hundred worlds, awaiting the judgement of the gods.
And around the gray city loomed the Wall. Its bricks were souls, mortared by a foul green mold. These souls were the Faithless, who had denied the gods in life, or had never truly believed.
I drew nearer the Wall, and at once I heard the screams of those Faithless souls. "Cursed are we," they cried, "who denied the jealous gods, and now are forsaken." And other voices answered them, saying "Remember the Betrayer's Crusade. Remember the Betrayer, who swore to bring down the Wall. Have patience, for the Betrayer may yet return..."
Someone has scribbled feverishly in the margin, slightly more recently but even less legibly: Another reference to the Betrayer's Crusade... though Myrkul's priests deny its existence. The truth is in their vaults[...] in the whispering scrolls[...] the Lamentations of the Dead[...]
"Seems to be about the Wall of the Faithless," by the way hello Eilistraee things have been crazy but Niss still likes you and everything, "but that doesn't explain why the campsite."
Safiya's mouth twists. "Ah, of course. That old saw." She stands and brushes off her robe unnecessarily. "I suppose it makes sense they'd be concerned about the afterlife, if we assume that the campsite is connected to that skeleton. Whether the camper killed its owner or was its owner, they put in a great deal of effort ensuring nothing in that rune circle could reach its debatable reward... or anywhere else."
"Trap the soul kind of situation?"
"Something like that - combined with a very potent dimensional anchor effect, and some wards against magical or physical disruption from the inside. A perfect prison."
"Is whoever's in there likely to be conscious?"
"I imagine that now that I've dispelled the enchantments, they've gone off to wherever they were going in the first place."
"This planet's afterlife system is stupid, by the way, and I don't say that out of any great affection for mine."