Plamen decides to take a day off after his eventful foray, to have a chance to charge some holy water prior to returning to the warren. He feeds his remaining berries to Dmitri and Druvvaldis, and the two are now fully recovered. They have had a very successful couple of days trapping in the woods, and have managed to catch four hares, which Lionia cooks up into a stew.
Over the evening meal, Chonkorchuk relates the content of the visions he saw at his recent retreat. He is now more certain that the grain is not the treasure Baba Yaga seeks, and is willing to return to the warren to look for another treasure room. There is still disagreement about what to do with the treasure if and when it is found, and Plamen still displays a great deal of skepticism about working with Lionia and Rodion, but nevertheless, all are in agreement about returning.
|Should treasure hunting fail, another career awaits Raskel|
Rodion spends the next evening studying and playing Plamenka’s flute. Set to Druvvaldis’ accompaniment on the drums, it produces a mournful yet enchanting sound. Given what he knows about the magic contained in it, the workings of Plamenka’s other items (the sickle and sash), and its likely purpose, Rodion divines that it is likely a mechanism for calming the walking dead – probably a charged item, which is discharged by playing a particular sequence of notes. He questions Plamen about whether his mother ever sang to him, and the healer recalls a simple, three-note tune, which Rodion reproduces, and masters.
The following day, drizzle changes to light snow, and over the season’s first winter tapestry, the entire band returns to the warren. With the new earthworks, the way inside is clearer now, and the group, led by Plamen, moves in the direction of his previous skeletal encounters. Led by Rodion’s dancing lights, they make it to the entrance of the long tunnel leading to Tsibulka’s tavern, the band encounters the four skeletons fought by Plamen two days ago, though only one of them is still operational. He throws a spear at Dmitri, and puts up a good fight, but it ultimately smashed by the ranger’s spear, with an assist by Druvvaldis’ frosty blast. At the conclusion of the encounter, the group inspects the remaining skeletons, wondering whether Plamenka’s ghost has been reanimating them. Not these ones, it appears.
Plamen leads the group away from his family’s chambers, hoping to thereby save their lives. The way is now lit by Druvvaldis’ fire beetle, summoned up to replace the deer and raven. Thus illuminated, the band encounters four more animated skeletons in the maze. At this juncture, Rodion-Raskel slips past the boney patrol, and tries out the flute, succeeding in immobilizing three of the four. The remaining one is dealt with by spear and blasts, while the other three are finished off in due course, as they cannot effectively defend themselves from the party’s assault after being immobilized. So two questions appear answered: there are more animated skeletons, and Plamen’s song is effective when performed on his mother’s flute.A confusing series of mazelike tunnels, with several dead ends, terminates in a final dead end. This area is unfamiliar to Plamen, and Rodion, who has been mapping, thinks there are no other tunnels nearby. Chonkorchuk checks for the presence of magic. A massive aura of necromancy radiates from behind this wall…