The storm draws closer and closer, until it’s echoing right overhead. Lightning strikes the forest nearby. Looking around the room, they find it carved with stylised images, which show goblin-like creatures and geometric patterns. The carvings are clearly very old; traces of paint are barely visible in the glow of witchlights. There are three further doorways in the other four walls, each barred by a stone door carved in an ancient style. On closer examination, the Professor senses the faint tingle of magic barring the doors. It is no spell he recognises, and weak as it seems to have grown, none of the spellcasters know how to breach it. They sit for a while, manage to start a small fire after the Professor dries out some wood, and recover slightly from their journey, though conversation is all but impossible.
A brilliant flash and simultaneous cataclysmic rumble of thunder overloads their senses for a moment, and with ears ringing they hear crashes from overhead, and the solid thunk of falling stone nearby. The horses rear up madly and some nearly break their tethers. It seems the ruined tower has been struck by lightning. A coppery scent wafts through the room, and looking around, they see the stone doors have toppled, their aging wards finally overloaded by the storm. An ominous rustling sound grows louder under the howling of the wind, and all at once about a hundred large rats pour out of a doorway and rush across the room. The travellers scramble out of the way, kicking and swiping at the frenzied rodents, until they melt away into the stones or vanish outside. The odd painful nip aside, there’s no harm done, though it takes a while to calm the horses after the incident.
With the doors now open, curiosity and boredom overwhelm caution. Besides, the dark emptiness of the passages is a little unnerving; not something to have at your back in the middle of a stormy night. The group decide to quickly check there’s nothing else to worry about, before they bed down for the night. They retrieve weapons and armour from their packs and make ready.
They head down the corridor that the rats came from, Mr. Barky and Cedric ghosting ahead quietly to check for danger. A rat or two scuttles out of sight as they approach. At the end lies a smaller stone chamber, its floor covered with water that seems to be trickling from one wall. They conclude that the rats probably had a nest behind the wall, which was damaged by the lightning and started to flood, driving the rats out in a panic. The water seems to be draining away through the floor, so there’s probably nothing to worry about. At one end of the room is an oddly-shaped stone sarcophagus, showing a bat-eared figure. Cedric swoops close to it, intending to perch, but is startled away when the head abruptly rises from the sarcophagus and lets out a piercing shriek. Several of the party are momentarily dazed by the sound, and the vargouille swoops forward to attack them. Lawson manages to fend off the cackling head with his shield long enough for Raylin to send a bolt through one of its wings; while it flutters off-balance, he splits it in two with his sword. They’re rather alarmed by their encounter, but there don’t seem to be any more of the creatures lurking here. Examining the sarcophagus, Raylin finds the carven head has been worn away to provide a perch for the vargouille. The rest of the sarcophagus is ornate, in a crude, ancient style. Inside is mostly dust, but something glints in the light; a small ring of twisted bronze, which exudes a faint magical aura. The scholars examine it and determine that it aid the wearer in understanding other languages. Perhaps the owner was a diplomat of some sort?