Statheros accepts the skull from Heather, bowing deeply. The skull is easily larger than the pixie by twice, but he grips it by the nose. His wings flap, both he and the skull hovering effortlessly, as if the artifact weighed nothing. You feel a rush of power and see a bright flash. Statheros is gone! In his place is a large, winged figure, holding the skull in a massive palm.
"The bonds of Mondain's dark magic have been loosed. I thank you again. The Twelve Celestial Guardians shall see to the destruction of this accursed object. The many and diverse dimensions owe you a debt of gratitude, though most may not be aware."
The portal he opened yawns wider. He turns to pass through. As he approaches, you feel a tremble beneath your feet. He stops short and turns again. "This place is a construct born out of the magic of the skull. You will wish to depart very soon, as it will be unmade."
He glances over each face before him. "I will wait to pass through until you have collected your friend and your spoils. No doubt, you have earned the trophies of your victory."
He stands before the portal, skull in one hand, glowing staff in the other, and watches as you go about the collection and removal of the loot.
Through the portal behind him, you can see the other eleven beings are moving to action as well. Those with any arcane knowledge whatsoever would recognize the beginning of a ritual, though for what purpose is uncertain.
You begin moving through the various halls and rooms of the lair to pick the bones clean. The walls, still as black as a nightmare, seem less ominous. The glow from Statheros' staff seems to soak into the stone even through doors and around corners, and the resulting gentle light makes exploring much less depressing and allows you to see better.
Once you complete your pillaging, Statheros bows one more time. "I thank you once more. Be on your way, and be cleansed of this awful curse."
As you begin the last trip up the stairs, arms full of loot, you turn one last time to watch Statheros as he passes through the portal. There is another swell of power, the sound of a loud crack of stone, and a thunderclap. The view through the portal is strange and distorted. Statheros' form blurs into a gray shroud carrying a point of blackness. The other forms begin focusing visible magical energy on the pedestal around which they hover. Your vision ripples slightly as the portal closes, and the light begins to fade from the stone walls. Still, even in the darkness, the spirit is not so oppressed as it was during your entry.
At your exit, you notice the green flames have been extinguished, and the unnatural darkness and haze has begun to lift. There's a pinpoint of sunlight peeking over the eastern horizon. You collect the remains of your spoils from the topside combat and pick your way through the rocky path. As you reach the halfway mark, the earth beneath you trembles, the quaking starting as a shudder and gradually swelling to an earthquake. Though it is difficult going, you manage to find steady, if swampy, ground on the other side of the path. There awaiting you is Fundin's mountaineer and trailer, pointed back westward. Upon reaching the back of the trailer, the entire rock formation and island begin sinking below the swamp, the rocks themselves crumbling into dust. In a minute, the whole formation is gone, leaving no trace that it was ever there.
As you begin loading your spoils into the trailer, you hear a noise at the front of the vehicle. Before you can call out, Fundin shambles around the front fender of the mountaineer. His skin is blanched as white as a sheet, with dried red streaks of blood from his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. His open eyes are lifeless. A broken vibroblade dangles loosely in one hand, and an empty ion pistol rests in the other. A piece of vellum is pinned to his chest with a carved stone knife. In a violent, angular script, written in red ink, it reads:
You stole our prize, so we stole his soul. Yours is next, Gillead.
You realize now, of course, that the ink is Fundin's blood.
The creature nods to you. Statheros' familiar voice, larger, but still his, echoes out of the mouth of this being.