The staircase actually led them past the beholder, ending at a portcullis, which they teleported through and opened from the other side. Beyond, they found a skeleton-run restaurant, a skeleton-run hotel, and then a huge, HUGE, skeleton-run bazaar. It looked like the skeletons were combing all of Stonekeep for valuables and piling everything up in the appropriate stalls.
One of the stalls near the beginning was a library, with some ancient books in good condition. The skeleton propritor wanted payment in teeth, though, and no one in the party wanted to give up their teeth for old books. Varnix traded a difficult-to-use ritual for some basic useful rituals, though -- Remove Affliction (to cure petrification, disease, etc.) and Create Food and Water, in case they were trapped wandering around this ludicrously huge dungeon forever.
They got a room at the skeleton hotel to do the copying, Beware and Varnix staying behind while Heyyou and the rest of the party (to protect him, since he was the bearer of the root) wandered around looking at more shops. They found a rickshaw driver who offered to take them to the roof (but they couldn't all fit, so they decided maybe later), a four-armed skeletal blacksmith who traded them a couple nonmagical two-handed swords to transfer enchantments onto for some gold nuggets they'd picked up earlier (he had a whole ROOM full of magical weapons, but it was guarded by a death knight), a skeleton slave trading post where they decided not to buy any skeleton slaves (despite the thought of mining them for teeth), and lots and lots of other stuff.
Including a rough map, when they returned to the bookstore to pick up the rituals that were being copied for them -- the bazaar apparently filled most of this level of stonekeep. There was a park inside towards the center, with a stream, surrounding the 'protection zone', which surrounded the inner courtyard, where they needed to go. The 'protection zone' sounded dire -- they still kind of wanted to get to the roof as the elf had advised them. But there were some strange marking on the stream on the map, so they decided to go check it out.
At first, it was a walk in the park -- there was a path to follow, roughly parallelling the stream, and everything. They passed skeletal joggers, and skeletal lovers in a boat, and then... they found a garden of suspiciously lifelike statues. They were jsut going 'oh crap, something here turns people to stone' and backing away, when the cockatrices attacked. The skeletal cockatrices.
It went poorly for them. They were completely overmatched, and being already vulnerable to radiant really didn't help against Varnix, in particular. They did get in a few pecks, though, and one particularly persistent pecker pecked Asm enough to actually turn her to stone. Good thing Varnix just got that remove affliction ritual!
So, back to the hotel, with Varnix and the one statue that hadn't gotten smashed to pieces during the fight (the statues were very old, and fragile, and unstable -- just walking near one of the mwas enough to knock it over and break it!). Fortunately, she managed to shake off the petrification on her own after about fifteen minutes, so they put the last old statue carefully to rest in the hotel room's bed, and decided they'd come back for him later. Maybe. Instead of spending like 8 hours mastering the remove affliction ritual as originally planned.
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