As the dust settles in the hallway, Morgan rests against the cool stone wall.
She drinks lightly from her waterskin, then asks the group what they are to do next. She ponders aloud, “We have, by Odleif’s reckoning, completely explored the upper layers of this pyramid. Mayhap the lower levels are filled with only poor pathetic creatures trapped by the Zargonites. If that is the case, I crave the sun on my face and the wind in my hair more than I want to kill mindless creatures of the dark. What honor is in that, after freeing a king, queen and a city? It may be time to make preparations to leave – to seek fortune and glory in the sun.”
Thrud, who has been loosening the straps on the recovered plate armor, looks at Morgan as if the answer is obvious. “Mistress Ember haf new armor, ya?”
“Ya…I mean, yes,” says Morgan, wondering where this is going.
“Wolfbane haf wand, Iris and Odleif haf new sword, ya?”
“Well, technically Odleif’s sword is not new, but okay…”
“Den it is obvious, ya? We are ready to face Zargon. Time to kill the god.” Seeing the doubtful look in Morgan’s eyes, he elaborates. “To die in glorious battle is any warrior’s wish. I haf this chance hundred times over already. But to kill a god? Not even the skalds sing of such things! How can we leave without that?”
Thrud made this argument before, in the Undercity, and managed to convince everyone but Remmy and Wolfbane. Does his view still hold sway? Morgan looks at the faces of the others. They are convinced. She takes another swallow of water, to give herself time to think. The desert crossing will be hard – they will be lost and will have only what they can carry. At the first difficulty, half of these “heroes” will want to return to the pyramid. Before she leads them away, she needs to make sure there is nothing to return to, that they all are truly desirous of leaving.
Morgan speaks, “If the barbarian (or others) has a burning desire to take on a god, I will aid him. Chances are it is just another monster trapped in room that was fed the helpless victims of the Zargonites.”
“What say you? Shall we continue our room by room slaughter? Find a god? Or seek out the sun?” She asks as if deliberations really need to be made, but she can see in their faces that it is already decided. So be it.
The party knows their way well by now – all the way around the fourth level – the tombs – and down into the fifth level – all along one side, and in to the secret room where they fought the wererats, down in to the chamber with the giant scorpion (61).
Only the scorpion is not here now – it is gone, though traces of exoskeleton do remain on the floor. The door to the west they have been through – they rested in that empty chamber (58). The two doors to the south are unexplored – though quick looks show then to contain long corridors. The door to the east – that was the direction the last surviving wererat ran. They will begin there.
While the pyramid above is built from immense limestone blocks, the under pyramid is carved from bedrock. So far, all of the rough-hewn chambers found are joined by connecting tunnels between them. Bhelgharn assures them that while all of the construction is ancient, the rooms themselves are much older than the pyramid above. What is contemporaneous with the upper pyramid, however, are the doors – all of the doors on this level have the counterweighted stone “swinging” mechanisms.
After traveling down the hall, the party enters the next chamber (64). In it are what appears to be the remains of a kitchen – several ovens, open grill hearths, a grain-grinding wheel, stone benches and tables. The ovens are nothing like the Cyndicians use now, and seem designed for a time when wood was still a fuel source (as opposed to pig dung).
Also in the room are two human females, each wearing the mask of a tiger. Bhelgarn steps forward and addresses them in Cyndician. They are no friends of the Zargonites, to be sure, and are interested in the news of their fall and the liberation of the Undercity. They tell the party that Zargon is on the bottom of the under pyramid, and that most of the rest of the rooms are used as magical prisons by the priests. When Bhelgarn specifically asks about the door on the other side of the room, they say that this section of the pyramid is empty and of no interest to the party – but they don’t volunteer to let them pass through.
The party respectfully retreats to consider their options. They don’t exactly trust the tiger-women, but they did not seem overtly hostile. They decide to continue exploring and see whether they can confirm their story.
They next try the southwest door. The room beyond the corridor (59) is completely bare, with not a trace of furnishings or equipment. Of more immediate concern is the huge mass of black goo just inside the door. It is animate, and eagerly starts at the first characters through. The whole party reverses direction. As the counterweighted door closes, the goo-creature moves into the door frame, and demonstrates that it has enough force and structural integrity to keep the door open as it seeps its way through, if not enough to actually open the door itself. Fortunately it proves slow, and by the time the party has dashed back into the room with the staircase up, it has been safely sealed in the corridor between rooms.
Hearts still pounding from the narrow escape the party opens the remaining unexplored door. This leads not to a single chamber, but to a branching corridor nexus. They first try a room that looks to loop back around the tiger-women (65).
It contains pottery and stone food storage containers – boxes, urns, vessels. All are either empty, or the food within has long since rotted away hundreds of years ago. Even the stoppered-containers have had their stoppers dry and crack, and what was preserved within long since spoiled.
The room beyond (68) appears to be an abandoned mess hall, with stone tables and long-rotted wooden benches. A few broken pottery bowls is all that remains. After a cautious peek through the door confirms that it does indeed connect back to the tiger-woman lair.
The party retreats and tries another room off of the branching corridor. This room has rusted and rotten tools all along the walls – the remains of axes, adzes, shovels, picks, and so forth. What may once have been racks have collapsed on top of the tools, but have rotted away as well. In the center of the room is a trap door in the floor – possibly an access for the next layer down. Next to the trap door are two crude wooden sculptures of people – and they are not wearing masks.
As the party enters the room, the figures animate and move forward to attack. They are slow and stiff, and the party quickly hacks them to pieces.
The party lifts the trap door, and indeed finds a rusty iron ladder descending into darkness. Not sure if they are ready to go down just yet, they agree to explore a bit more on this level and then take a rest. Backtracking to the corridor, they open the door at the end. This leads to a large chamber, but one that is half-collapsed (69). The eastern and southern “walls” are just a piles of loose stone debris from where the ceiling has caved in. Thick dust from the collapse covers everything, including the few bits of broken pottery and scraps of rotten cloth. The party is about to abandon the room when the rubble starts to move.
Slowly at first, stray rocks and boulders tumble aside, then the entire collapsed section seems in motion. Thrusting itself up above the rubble, a huge, gray, worm-like creature emerges. It has no eyes – or the ones it has are covered in dust and debris. It is narrow, but nearly as long as the room itself. Seeming to waken from torpor or starvation, it gradually becomes more active until it launches itself at the party. It is a simple creature, but its gaping maw packs a huge bite, and several of the party are seriously wounded.
One is is dispatched, everyone agrees it is time to rest, but Bhelgarn insists they find another place. The creature’s death-throes have set of ominous rumblings in the rock, and he fears another collapse is imminent.
The party retreats back down the hall and tries another door. This one leads to a long-abandoned chamber that appears to be the quarters of a captain of the guard (62). There are weapons, a cot, even two chests – but everything is rusted and rotten beyond use. It does, however, appear to be a safe and quiet place to rest, so the party sets up camp for some sixteen hours.
[DM’s note: During the rest, Iris levels to 4th, Odlief levels to 5th, and Ember learns the prayer to cast heat metal.]