While waiting for Rhotan Vor to arrive in Silver Spring, Traven and Thoradin canvassed the local taverns and hiring posts, looking for additional help. After a few hours of searching, they had found two likely prospects: a human ardent named Lamont and a hulking Half-Giant barbarian calling himself Brick.
Once Rhotan Vor arrived, they reported to him about their meeting with Toramund that morning, and explained what the chieftain had told them about the Canyon of Gothay. Rhotan planned to stop over a full day to water, rest, and resupply the caravan, and requested that the party again scout ahead by half a day to deal with any threats. He seemed to approve of their choices for additional guards, and offered Lamont and Brick the same deal he’d given Thoradin and Traven – their pick of the treasure plus a cut of the sale once they reached Tyr.
Setting out the next morning, the party traveled for two days to the northwest through the scorching desert, to the edges of the Alluvial Sand Wastes. Toramund’s directions proved correct, and they soon found themselves standing on the lip of a ragged canyon. The walls were pocked with small caves along its entire half-mile length, an the bottom was covered in sand drifting in off the Wastes. The party spent some time searching the area at the top of the canyon, and soon discovered a set of recent footprints – booted feet, traveling towards one end of the canyon.
Following the footprints, they entered the canyon, but soon lost the trail in the blown sand of the canyon floor. They began to search nearby caves, and thanks to Brick and Thoradin, managed to avoid a few caves occupied by creatures, until they found one deep enough to shelter the party for the night, and empty aside from some sand and a few old bones. During the night, Brick heard a cry from farther down the canyon, cut off suddenly. Other than that incident, the night passed quietly.
Emerging from the cave the next day, they spotted an aarakocra scout circling over the canyon at the far end. They debated a course of action, but decided against confronting the creature, since aarakocra typically hunt in groups, and are more trouble than a small party can handle. Slipping farther up the canyon, they explored caves at ground level while trying to stay out of sight of the circling scout. Eventually they came to a deeper cavern filled with bodies.
There seemed to be two distinct styles of dress on the corpses, most of which were dessicated corpses or reduced to mere bones. However, a recently-killed gith lay on the floor of the cavern in a pool of blood. Thoradin investigated the gith, and determined that it was killed by a sword-thrust through the chest. Meanwhile, Brick tried to get an obsidian longsword he spotted in the grip of one of the older corpses, but the skeleton began to rise jerkily to its feet. The rest of the older bodies followed suit, and the group suddenly found itself fighting off a barrage of bone arrows from the skeletons, while confronting a pair of zombies, one of whom proved able to teleport and shroud itself in darkness. They were able to identify the insignias on the tabards and cloaks of the undead – the zombies were members of House Tsalaxa in life, while the skeletons had been members of House Madar.
After the fight, they explored the back of the cavern, where they spotted some worked stone during the battle. Farther back in the darkness, they discovered a pair of large doors, apparently made of some sort of greenish pitted substance. Bringing their sunrod close, they saw a reddish-orange gleam from some of the pits, and realized what the substance was – copper. Further investigation revealed that the metal was a thin foil adhered to stone, but in any case it was more metal than any of them had ever seen in one place.
They returned to the cave mouth and set up a tripwire using the shields of the fallen skeletons as a noisemaker, to warn them if anyone else followed them in. Thoradin found a spider in a corner of the cave and trapped it inside one of the bone tubes that formerly held salve against sunburn. Using his primal magic, he commanded the spider to bring a message to him, and then rigged the bone tube to tip over if something triggers their tripwire, freeing the creature.
Returning to the back of the cavern, Traven determined that the doors were neither locked nor trapped. Hearing nothing from within, they pushed the doors slowly open to reveal a large chamber cleanly cut into the rock, dominated by a large obelisk in the center. Carved all over with writing, the obelisk gave off a palpable aura of grief, sadness and anger. Three stone sarcophagi sat in niches along the left wall. Lamont examined the obelisk while Thoradin moved to check the sarcophagi. The writing on the obelisk proved to be names – the names of members of House Madar.
Thoradin heaved the lid off the first sarcophagus, revealing the desiccated corpse of a noblewoman in fine robes. Her eyes snapped open as an unearthly wailing filled the chamber. Ghostly forms swarmed through the walls and up from the floor, as the corpse lurched up from its resting place.