"Gaze upon the situation you have wrought." Bhergom pressed past Isilda at the mouth of the chamber. "While your idiot-knight dragged us into almost having our souls ripped out, the little gremlin fleeced the entire place!"
The round room was illuminated by a single blue-silver crystal mounted into the domed ceiling. The walls were made of roughly hewn stone with a remarkable lack of ice present, although frost still coated many of the surfaces within. The floor was cracked and weathered stone rubbed bare by sparse but repeated traffic over millennia. Bhergom stood in the middle of the scene, his arms outstretched and facing a small stone altar near the curved wall at the other end of the room.
Isilda roughly pushed by Bhergom, almost knocking him to his knees. Her patience was gone with the old man's accusations, growing paranoia, and prevailing cowardice. Tyverus cautiously had to stoop into the chamber while glancing behind him repeatedly into the dark corridor backward.
"What is so important? No one expected there to be any artif-" Isilda's voice got caught in her throat as she realized what was before her. "By Tolesh's Light, there was something here."
Bhergom crossed his arms and stood defiant beside Isilda. He lifted his chin and nose in the air and gave a stern snort. He remained silent and stared from Isilda to Tyverus.
"What is it?" Tyverus pressed into the chamber yet kept aimed near the corridor. "I'm not familiar with artifacts, you'll have to describe them to me."
"It looks like a stone altar, but I'm quite certain it's a display dais. Exquisitely cut ignis stone, although it's been pockmarked with time." Isilda ran her hands above the stone before her but did not touch the surface. "There are six round indentations on the far side, and one larger one in the middle." She ran her finger across the frosted indentation near her right hand.
"The six smaller ones haven't been touched. I don't think anything has been there for some time." Isilda continued and then stopped for a moment. "The middle one is absent of frost and dust. Something was here. I can see hand-prints around it. The hands are small and clawed, much like Vhoggli's."
"You see!" Bhergom raised his arms above his head and neared Isilda. "You see, now!" He slammed his left hand on the surface of the rock which made Isilda jump. "He's stolen it. He was never with us as a guide, he was here to steal it!"
"What precisely is it? Why would he care about it so much?" Tyverus' voice was low and unemotional. He kept his eyes on the corridor behind him. He shifted his feet and crossed his arms momentarily. He stopped to give a quick look back to Bhergom to emphasize his words.
"One of the Nesharite Spheres, you dumb lad!" Bhergom gripped the edge of the rock with white knuckles and let his right hand dance in the air. "The very first Sphere ever made! The one that the ancestors of our order could never find!"
"Yes, he's right. The other indentations are the six other spheres that have been found. It is said that Vhaltenesh, the creator of our order, found all seven spheres. It is rumored he found them here, in the catacombs beneath the ruined city of Neshran. He stole them and fled for his life."
"If he took all of them, how would one return?" Tyverus looked over to Isilda for a moment. He pursed his lips and then looked back to the corridor he was nervously fixated upon.
"It is said that Vhaltenesh gave six of the Spheres to the Hoelatha people to help unify us. The six were given to the Grand Circle in Morrthault City. He kept one Sphere for himself, hidden away. When he grew old and had finished his training of the oracles, he became a hermit." Isilda continued her story while staring at the dais before her. "It is said the sphere was lost with him. Some members of the Order of Lanterns, our rival order, said they had found the ruins of his hermitage and his journals. They state that he had written that a great monster stalked him. That the Mad Oracle from ages passed wanted to steal the sphere from him and kill him for his earlier theft."
"So, the Mad Oracle stole it back and brought it here?" Tyverus filled in the rest for Isilda. His voice had a tone of impatience to it. "So, not only was there a priceless artifact here, but it proves that the Mad Oracle is real."
"Hah!" Bhergom interjected and crossed his arms again. "Hogwash! She is nothing more than a cautionary tale to frighten young oracles."
"The things we've seen thus far, prove that she did exist, Master. If not now, then in the past." Tyverus glared hotly at the old oracle. "I would recommend that we find Vhoggli as fast as we can. I have a hard time believing he would simply steal the artifact and run. He seems loyal to your order, if not to you."
"Actually, I agree, in part." Isilda turned away from the rock to look back to Tyverus. "Vhoggli may have taken the Sphere, but I trust its safety in his hands, far more than I would someone else." Isilda turned to glare at Bhergom and then turn away. "You seem so obsessed with him, so I suggest that Bhergom goes and finds him. I'll stay here and try to use what I can of my powers on the skulls. I believe they have a story to tell. Maybe I can find out what happened to Merithault the Mad, after all."
"Are you sure?" Tyverus offered a hand to Isilda, worrying about her safety. "I can stay with you here. Make sure you're safe."
Bhergom rolled his eyes and gave an audible snarl. He threw his hands into the air and stormed out of the chamber. The hard stomps of his feet began to echo back from the corridor beyond.
"No, I would greatly appreciate it, but you must help Bhergom find Vhoggli. Vhoggli may have gone back to another previous chamber, or even made his way back to the camp above. He will continue to hide from Bhergom, especially with the artifact in hand. You are the calm one, and I'm sure he would trust you." Isilda walked back to Tyverus and put a hand on his chest.
Tyverus gave a nod and a long sigh. "Alright. I'll stay with you a few moments, though. I want Bhergom to work off some of his steam. I can't stand the man, right now."
Isilda chuckled and stared up into Tyverus' eyes. "I can't stand him either. There is a lot to be found out in this place, but to be quite honest, I would rather be heading to camp soon." She let her vibrant green eyes hold on to the icy blue of Tyverus'. She pressed her head against his armored chest and walked with him down the corridor, back to the skull chamber.
"I don't know how you could have put up with him as a teacher for so long." Tyverus pulled back but reached out with his gloved hand to Isilda. She took it and pressed her chilled fingers into the warmth of his leather glove.
"He wasn't always this way. You didn't talk with us much when he traveled her from Morrthault City, but he wasn't this way then. This place is affecting him, as you mentioned. I think it's affecting us all in different ways." Isilda continued with Tyverus through the dark corridor and back into the glimmering light of the larger area. "For him, it must bring out his cowardice and temper. For me, it must bring out my detachment and longing. For Vhoggli, perhaps it is preying on his more animalistic instincts; to steal and to hide."
"And what of me?" Tyverus held her hand for a moment and then let her go. "I feel fear at this place, and a growing distrust of Bhergom, but I don't feel that strange."
"Perhaps this place won't affect you, because of your training." Isilda took a few steps towards the wall of skulls. "Maybe it only affects oracles. This land was once our birthplace, so long ago. Even when the oracles of that time faded away or were hunted down..." Isilda trailed off for a moment and let her hands run over the metal skulls in the alcove, again. "When the last oracle, Vhaltenesh, decided to bring our arts back, he came here as well. This place is powerful. It makes sense it would affect just us."
"Well, I don't mind being uncompromised." Tyverus chuckled to himself and began to fidget with his gloves. "We best get to this, then. I best help Bhergom find Vhoggli. As for you, find out what you can from those skulls. The faster we can get out of here, the better."
Isilda turned back to smile and nod in Tyverus' direction. He turned back to pick up the previous skull she had studied earlier. She carefully held it in her hands and began fluttering her eyes.
"You can really do as you said?" Tyverus became distracted and took a few steps towards Isilda. "You can read the past of objects?"
Isilda gave a nod and let her eyes return to normal. "Yes, I can." She took a few steps over to one of the smaller boulders and sat upon it. "It will be hard, as this place seems to drain my energies and continually distracts me." She placed the skull on the altar before her and began to run her fingers over it. "I shall try, however, to see what I can."
"Remarkable." Tyverus neared the altar and began to loom over it. "Can you do that with any object? Can you see the past, or the future?"
Isilda looked up to Tyverus with a playful crossness to her face. "I can look into the history of objects, and can cast spells through them to their owners. With skulls however, it would be different." She returned her focus to the skull before her. She stared intently into the empty sockets. "There is a chance, that if some essential energy still lingers in this skull, I may be able to see what the dead person saw in life. Some fragments of memories, some sympathetic connections to loved ones, and hopefully some inkling on who she was."
"Quite fascinating. Far more subtle than my arts, but no less powerful or practical." Tyverus continued to loom over the altar. He looked down his nose at the skull and then over to Isilda. "Is it demanding of your energies?"
"Yes." Isilda broke concentration to look up at Tyverus. "Even more so, given the nature of this place." She gave a smile and then crossed her hands on the rock. "Perhaps, it would be best if I had some quiet to focus my waning energies?"
"Oh, yes." Tyverus pulled back and gave a light slap of his gloves on the altar. "You're right. My apologies. It would be best if I find Bhergom before he kills Vhoggli." He gave a deep nod and a step backward.
"Let me know what you find out. I'll be fine here. Just me and the dead." Isilda gave another grin. "I know how to handle the dead."
"And I know how to handle the living." Tyverus gave a half-bow and turned away from Isilda. He began a slow walk towards the bridge beyond. He stopped to give one last look back at Isilda. He took in her form and then put his attention forward.
He had to find Vhoggli and ensure that Bhergom didn't take his temper out on the small fellow. He didn't want Bhergom getting hurt, either, as he could easily storm into a dark crevice and be lost. He gave a quick look up to the vaunted ceilings above.
It was strange that the crystals had to drain so much energy out of three people just to produce such a scant bit of light. Whoever created such artifacts must have had quite a well of personal energy to draw upon for such a simple purpose. He gave one last look to some crystals mounted above the far end of the bridge. It seemed the energies were slowly dissipating. Darkness was beginning to reclaim the room.
There was still enough light for Isilda to do her work, but he had to put some drive into his steps. Tyverus began to run across the last bits of the bridge and aim himself to the dark corridor ahead. He agreed with Isilda, they best get their work done expediently, and get back to camp before nightfall.