Morgan and Bhelgarn, with their infravision, are able to see where they are running, and surge ahead of their companions. They sprint down the hall, turn right at the first intersection, and push their way in to the room with the burnt door and empty sarcophagus. Hearts pounding, they race around the room looking for another exit, too panicked to realize where they are or remember that there are no other doors. Finally they cower behind the stone slab on which the sarcophagus lays, closing their eyes, holding their breath, clenching one another and praying the ghosts do not find them.
Wolfbane, Odleif, and Remmy, stumbling in the dark, flee the scene of the apparitions. All of them are lightly encumbered, but none can see. Separately they stagger forward, crashing into walls and each other. Without knowing it, they turn right at an intersection, and right again, until they separately push their way into the room that had housed the white apes. Someone collides with an upright sarcophagus, and it topples to the floor with a resounding crash. All three scream, and their screams echo in the room. Exhausted, they collapse into whimpering heaps in the darkness.
Ember, Thrud, Iris, and Pooches pelt down the hallway. The flame in Ember’s lantern gutters and flashes as she runs, casting long shadows that heighten their terror. They continue straight at the intersection and pile into the ramp room, blood pounding in their ears. Iris, barely lucid, crashes her fist into the tiny door on the mosaic to lower the ramp, but the others are scrambling up it before it has even touched the ground. Through the ruined temple they run, heedless of helping one another, tripping over one another. Out into the hall, and suddenly Thrud veers off into the darkness, his footfalls lost to them. Ember, Iris and Pooches plunge ahead until faced with a door. Iris is about to push it open when Pooches snaps at her hand. She turns on him, terrified herself but finally able to see his fear despite her own. In the pause, Ember looks about, realizing for the first time that they are on the third level, and that the door before them is the door to the fungus room. The two women slump to the floor, spent, while Pooches whines and circles nervously.
Several minutes later, Ember and Iris hear a man’s voice shouting “Hjelpe!” Although exhausted both from panic and from running in armor, they rouse themselves. Ember tends to the lantern, while Iris looks around the corner into the darkness with her infravision. The figure of a solitary man approaches cautiously, axe at the ready.
“Thrud!” both woman call.
“Iris?” he responds, and then the three of them are together, with Pooches at their heels. Although he wants to press on, the women tell him they need to rest more. After ten minutes or so, they decide to set out for their base on the second level, hoping the others will have the same idea. The rotating corridor opens to them, fortunately, which puts them out on the side of the stairs up. They would rather enter through the gorm temple, but none of them carry the two known keys.
They cautiously ascend the stairs to the second level, pass through the room under the statues, and go around to the hall outside their base. Thrud lays his shoulder against the door they know is blocked inside by the anvil and pushes with all his might. Muscles straining, the door moves slowly inward, with the sound of the iron anvil scraping across the stone floor echoing down the hall behind them.
They pass quickly inside and let the door close behind them. As Ember raises the lantern to inspect the room, Thrud hefts the anvil. Biceps bulging, he staggers across the floor mumbling, “Løft med bena, ikke med ryggen…” as he goes, and then carefully lowers it into place. He turns to the others, “We make sign for door, ya? Sign says knock, knock?”
Iris stifles a giggle while Ember says seriously, “No, Thrud, we will be in the bee room and are unlikely to hear anyone knocking.”
A brief inspection reveals that everything is as they left it several hours ago, so they pass into the bee room and find it lit! Sunlight, glorious sunlight, unseen by any of them for at least a week, is coming in the bee slit and filling the drab stone room with a wonderful golden glow. Ember immediately turns down the wick and blows out the lantern – this is her last flask of oil and it is less than half full. They make themselves comfortable on the mattresses on the floor, share food and drink, and wait.
Wolfbane, Odleif, and Remmy sit in the dark, each straining to hear the breathing of the others and hoping that their own labored breathing cannot be heard. Finally, Odleif ventures a cautious “Who’s there?”
Remmy has flint and steel; Odleif and Wolfbane have torches. Pooling their resources, they light the torches and look about, finally realizing that they are in the room with the white apes, slain nearly a week ago. The only sign of them is bits of fur and deep stains on the floor. The wooden sarcophagus has been knocked to the floor – Morgan’s old sword is here but the body she left it with is gone, save for scraps of bandages. None of them are keen on waiting around to find out what has eaten everything. Lighting a second torch, they proceed outward into the hallway. Odleif goes first, bow drawn, and the other two follow.
They proceed through the hallways, past the skeleton room, and out into the main hall.
Morgan and Bhelgarn slowly come to their senses crouched behind the sarcophagus slab, locked in a fearful embrace. Bhelgarn seems to come to full consciousness with a start, disentangling himself and leaping to his feet. “We speak of this to NO ONE,” he says with menace.
“Speak of what?” says Morgan coldly, rising to her own feet and turning away. Relying only on their infravision, they leave the room and proceed down the hall to the intersection. There, they pause and listen carefully, each waiting for the other to suggest returning to where the ghosts were seen, but neither wanting to make the suggestion. After a few minutes they can see torchlight approaching from the north corridor and hear footsteps. They retreat around the corner and peek.
Three figures, bearing torches and spoiling their infravision, come into view. One has a bow and could be Odleif, but it is hard to tell. Morgan and Bhelgarn toss coins toward the figures, hoping to attract their attention without being seen, but the figures seem not to notice. After a few minutes, they proceed east toward the ramp room. Bhelgarn hisses Odlief’s name and then the figures stop. They move toward one another and become a group of five.
Morgan, Bhelgarn, Wolfbane, Remmy, and Odleif proceed together to the ramp room, ascend, and wait twenty minutes on the upper level to see whether any of the other five appear. Finally they continue on. In the rotating corridor, they select the button leading to the gorm temple, and Bhelgarn uses his key to enter. They proceed up the trapdoor into their base, finding it undisturbed. Thrud, Ember, Iris, and Pooches are in the bee room, meaning they are missing only FluffyKitten and Hazrad. Everyone’s sense of time got a little hazy during the flight from the ghosts, but they estimate it has been about two hours since their flight, perhaps seven or eight since they originally set out.
Their rest is broken only by eating, and once when Remmy leaves to check on the things he has hidden in the secret room. They have all been at base perhaps an hour and a half when the trapdoor opens again, and Hazrad enters. They rush to greet him, but immediately ask about FluffyKitten. He shakes his head ruefully. “She was with me a while, after you all ran. She went ahead of me into the darkness – I heard her scream, and nothing more. I looked for her a while, but then thought it safer to return here.”
Ember announces that they will finish a rest period for her, then immediately return to the Tombs to search for FluffyKitten. However, she has not been three hours resting when, even from the bee room, they hear a frantic pounding on the anvil door. As they rush to the room next door, Thrud says contentedly, “I tell you, ya? Knock, knock!”
With weapons drawn, they surround the door but go no farther. The desperate pounding continues, accompanied by shouts. Hazrad exclaims that they are cries for help in Cyndician (as the pyramid dwellers call their language).
At that, Bhelgarn moves the anvil and the door swings open. Five humans push in as fast as they can, then help Bhelgarn to close the door. They wear tan-colored robes and masks with long camel faces; there are three men and two women. They babble excitedly before Hazrad can get them to speak slowly enough for him to understand. Finally, he says incredulously, “They say the hallway is full of snakes, more snakes than they could count.”
Members of the party start shouting questions at Hazrad – “Where are they from?” (Morgan), “What do they want?” (Odleif), “Will they serve as our beasts of burden?” (Remmy).
With much back and forth, Hazrad leans that they left the Undercity on a journey, but that they were plagued by snakes the entire way. They would like to rest here, safe from the snakes before the next stage of their journey. When pressed about where they are going, and what is the next stage of their journey, they will say only that it is the journey itself, not the destination, that matters. Few in the party feel comfortable with five strangers staying at the base, even friendly-but-delusionally-philosophical strangers. Bhelgarn opens the door to the hall, prompting the camel-people to cower. He swings his sword about (seeing nothing) and comes back in, then asks one to have a look. The man says he appreciates that Bhelgarn killed a few, but that the floor is still covered by snakes. Shrugging quizzically, Bhelgarn and Morgan both go into the hall, walking up and down, swinging their swords for several minutes, and even adding in sound effects that they imagine slain snakes would make.
The camel people look in to the hall, then cautiously move out. “Oh my,” translates Hazrad, “The carnage! The absolute carnage…” They continue talking among themselves until they are out of earshot.
With the camel people gone, Ember completes her rest and prays for spells, while Morgan takes stock of their supplies. They have plenty of food and water left from what they captured in the gorm ambush. The problem is light. Bhelgarn has a full flask of oil and Ember a nearly-empty one; less than eight hours’ worth. They fill their empty flasks with the machine oil they had stored at the base, but Bhelgarn cautions them against using it in the lanterns – it is thick and tarry, and could easily gunk them up. Instead, they plan on using the torches they made from the bunk beds. At one point they carried six each (except for Remmy); Hazrad used his to burn the corpse of Jon. Odleif’s group used three in their return from the Tombs. That leaves forty. Burning two at time; not quite a days’ worth. Although she does not express her concern to the party, Morgan is wrestling with the problem of what they will use for light in two days’ time.
With Ember ready, and torches apportioned, the party proceeds back down to the tomb level. Upon entering the ramp room, Hazrad goes immediately to the door, opens a bag, and lets a cat out into the hallway. At the same time, Pooches starts acting strangely, cocking his ears at a vase in the corner and whining. Then he yelps, and it is all Iris can do to keep him from slinking off, whimpering. Ember, Thrud, and Odleif make for the corner, and gasp when they find FluffyKitten’s body, her side damp with blood.
Ember drags her out to the center of the room and finds her breathing. At the same time, her torch dims unnaturally, then Morgan charges at Hazrad and strikes him with her sword. The room erupts in chaos. Several people try to come between Morgan and Hazrad, while she drops her sword and attempts to wrestle him to the ground. He slips out the door and begins sprinting down the hall. Iris lets go of Pooches (who slinks away into a corner), and then tries to take Ember’s torch.
Morgan pushes Remmy out of the way and bolts out into the hall, casting her sleep as she goes, and manages to target Hazrad just before he rounds the corner. By the time she retrieves his sleeping body and carries it back to the ramp room, Ember has cast two heartmendings on FluffyKitten. She oversees Hazrad’s hands being bound, then demands to know what is going on from both of them.
Morgan begins. “He looked like he was casting – the torches dimmed. I hit him with the FLAT of my sword to keep him from casting. What the hells was he doing with Fluffy’s cat?”
Hazrad’s tone is level, unemotional. “As I said before, I heard FluffyKitten scream just before she disappeared to me. I found her cat, but didn’t want to look for her until I was with the party. Now that we are together, on this level, I let her cat go thinking we could use it to find her. I didn’t know she was already here.” He darts a resentful glance to his former employer. "What mistress calls “casting” was me praying that the cat would help us find the halfling."
Ember considers the words of both of them. “Fine. Take his weapons, and keep his hands bound, but leave his feet free. Hazrad, I will want to cast a spell on you, but when we get back to base.”
After returning to their stronghold on the second level, Ember casts Glöð’s Wise Discernment. To her surprise, the spearhead of Hazrad’s staff glows bright blue, but she picks up nothing from the nomad himself. She speaks slowly and carefully; “Mother Glöð is revealing to me that you mean me no harm – but your spearhead has been evilly enchanted – can you tell me why?”
Hazrad shakes his head. “No, I do not know.”
“I think we must remove it from you, at least until we learn more.” Bhelgarn, nearby, takes the spearhead from the shaft, wraps it in a cloth, and puts it deep into his backpack.
Ember then turns to the unconscious form of FluffyKitten, laying on hands and praying through another four heartmendings. When FluffyKitten comes to, her eyes open wide. She sits up, and seeing everyone’s attention on her, points at Hazrad. “Hazzard stabby-stab a me! Stabby-stab a me!”
“Can you tell us more of what happened?” asks Ember.
“Oooooooh! Ooooooh! Then, pretty candle. Looky-look with Hazzard. Looky-look for don’t tell doors! Don’t tell! Then, come home. Come home, come home, but Hazzard stabby-stab a me!”
Her words seem incriminating, but also unclear. Ember says she needs to rest more, and wonders aloud what people want to do next. To her relief, no one is in favor of returning to the tomb level, magic weapons or not.
“The Maidens spoke of a room where the walls talk, on the way to the Undercity. I think we need to see that before we leave,” offers Morgan. There is general agreement to visit this room first, then proceed directly to the Undercity.
“At last, al-Khalim be praised! We have known for a week that this Undercity is the source of these heathens’ food. Let us be done with grave-robbing, find the Undercity, and get enough supplies to leave this accursed pyramid,” says Hazrad.
Ember indicates with a gesture that Hazrad’s hands are to be unbound, and then goes off to rest. Hazrad rests and prays, but more than one person in the party is watching him surreptitiously. FluffyKitten keeps herself as far from him as possible without leaving the room. The light coming in the bee slit indicates that it is late afternoon passing in to evening, and the walls turn red before going to black. Ember puts her lantern on low for the last two hours of her rest, and by the time she is ready to depart has less than a quarter of a flask of oil left in it. Morgan feels better, for having recovered FluffyKitten they have another full oil flask and six more torches, but she still counts out torches before they head out. They have forty-two, having used two in the process of recovering the halfling.