The cairns didn't appear to be too interesting, moved into the room from the garden outside for some reason. Karas wandered further into the chamber, noticing a large door in one wall, the only part that wasn't covered in creeping ivy. He didn't have much time before an eyestalk emerged from the foliage and the plant wrapped him up in vines and dragged him out of sight.
The rest of the party didn't have time torush immediatelyto his rescue, and from the cairns three zombieladrin and a hulking corpse clawed their ways from the cairns to attack them.
Ungarth was snatched up by the hulk, which began draining his life-force as it leaped around the room. The barbarian stabbed holes in it and Pik joined in, the vicious poking of his staff finally deflating the shell to reveal an inflated and animated skin.
The zombieladrin chased half the team around the room in the meantime, Erik keeping them at bay with psionic blasts as Raina defended him. When the mul was also snatched up by the living ivy, Erik suddenly found himself suffering greatly from the swords of the undead.
The party attempted to rally against the ivy heart, but with the undead rampaging around in their midst it proved problematic. Erik threw one of the zombieladrin out of the room, and Pik summoned an elemental to block the doorway and prevent its return. They smashed down the other two, but they rose again to attack, and Pik went down.
He rose again, but with the ivy lashing around each of her heroes ventured into unconsciousness at least once, and the ivy heart was throwing them around with wild abandon.
The turning point came when Raina discovered that her exsiccating weapon could burn the zombieladrin to permanent death, freeing up a little space for Pik to tap into nature's healing energies to revitalise the party. Erik tossed the ivy elemental around behind one of the nonsensical walls that dominated the rear of the chamber, with each exit from that area blocked off by one of pik's summoned elementals. Time to recover a little, at least.
The ivy heart attempted to crawl across the wall to get to the party, but Erik blasted it back out of sight once, twice. The third time it broke through and dragged the psion into its embrace, preparing to drain his soul. Still, even as it clung to the wall it wasn't out of reach of Pik, and the druid called upon his powers to wither the plant. Ungarth followed up by knocking it to the ground with his fey strike weapon and then Karas invigorated his allies to finish the thing off. The ivy around the chamber withered and died, revealing magical runes that once again were focusing the energies that the rest of the complex was directing.
The door did look very tempting, but the party was so beat up that they decided to head back to the map room to recover. En route they took down the remaining zombieladrin which had taken to hiding around a corner to 'ambush' them.
After a rest - druing which Pik finally got over his death experience, but the team felt some of their life being siphoned to the runes - they headed back to the heart chamber. The door had a keyhole, so Raina used the key from the pool room, and invited a cascade of lightning that lashed her, Pik and Karas. It didn't open. The bear punched it a few times, yet this also had no effect.
They went back to the tapestry room to check the picture of the door, and noticed that the keyhole in the picture was larger than really required; about 'life-size'. Using that, the real door opened, and they headed back over to see what was within.
The tree of life was choked by a swirling apparatus of rods, spikes and gemstones, but even that was dwarfed by the crystal skull, now sporting a huge snake-body behind it that had been pulled from the stone of the garden and the bones of its dead. Perhaps destroying it wouldn't be so simple.
Laurence J Sinclair