For the next day the party waits. Their only hope of communicating with the prisoners is if Hazrad regains consciousness, and his wound was great indeed. Fortunately, Glöð has bestowed upon Ember the divine power to heal. This, in addition to her natural healing and herbalism skills, will have him conscious and restored to full health in roughly a day. Most of this time the party waits, taking turns on watch. At first they drink and eat their fill from the masked men’s stores. The food is an odd mix of obvious and unrecognizable. Dried mushrooms predominate. There is also dried fish and some cubes of what might be dried pork. There is a soft, crumbly flour of unknown origin. Later, sated but exhausted from days of dehydration and wandering, most of them drift off to sleep, some on the beds where they are and some dragging mattresses into the “bee room”.
Before too many of them are lost to Morpheus’ embrace, Morgan organizes a body detail. The seven slain men, stripped of their gear, are taken to the empty cleric’s quarters across the hallway from where the giant lizard was seen. The bodies are curious upon inspection – alabaster skin, more pale than that even of Thrud and Ember. Pupils so large that no iris is visible and almost the entire eye is deep and dark. Each man has a lightning bolt tattoo on his left shoulder.
For all their food, the masked men seem to have no sources of light. Most of the group, when awake, stay in the bee room where the faint light filtering in from the long access hole provides some illumination. Throughout the night, a lantern is kept lit but burning slowly, so as to conserve oil.
Chamberpots are found and used by the party, but there is no obvious sign of a latrine. Morgan suspects that the trapdoor in the floor of one bedroom is used as such, but weights it down with several suits of chain armor just in case. Someone suggests emptying the pots in the green slime room, and after a day’s accumulation everyone is ready to do so.
The prisoners are given half rations of food and water, but mostly left alone. They wait stoically, occasionally conversing in low voices.
Bhelgarn claimed the leader’s fancy helm for his own, and no one objected. However, when he donned it, the queer sensation it gave him was obviously magical. His suspicious dwarven nature impelled him to abandon it immediately, whereupon it was taken up by Thrud.
In the early morning hours of the next day (day 21 since they left Selenica), when Hazrad is beginning to slip in and out of consciousness, most of the party is waiting in the bee room. Jon sits alone in the lower bedroom, humming Atruaghin songs to himself in the darkness. He hears the door open and the pad of unshod feet enter the room. Grabbing his new sword, he charges at the noise while shouting for the others. Battle is joined in the hall, with Morgan, Bhelgarn, Odleif, and Iris eventually coming to his aid. The scuffle is brief as seven goblins fall to the party. They are clad in filthy rags and bear rusty blades. Iris searches them but finds nothing for her trouble. Their bodies, too, are moved to the clerical room, whereupon the party finds that several of the men are already eaten, and bloody lizard tracks in abundance.
Several hours later, in the early afternoon, Hazrad announces that he is feeling fit to travel. While he stretches and regains his balance, the others, under Morgan’s direction, break apart one of the bunkbeds, wrap the wooden fragments in torn bed linens, and soak them in the thick machine oil recovered from the foundry. Each member of the party takes several of these makeshift torches.
Hazrad then has a brief conversation with the prisoners. There are a few simple words exchanged and much gesturing. In the end, the leader simply kneels and stretches out his open palms, in some gesture of supplication. Hazrad explains that these are evil cultists, and that they worship the lightning god of the statue above, whom they call “Gorm”. He says their source of food is lower in the pyramid, but it seems somehow connected to the helmet, which the leader is asking for. No one in the party believes it is a good idea to return an obviously magical item to the prisoners. Hazrad also cautions the party against eating the mushrooms among the food stores, and says the men appear crazed to him and the mushrooms may be part of the reason.
Morgan announces that with Hazrad well and having confirmed that they need to explore deeper, there is no reason to wait longer. This sets off a debate among the party as to whether it is less cruel to leave the men, knowing that they face dehydration, starvation, or possibly attack by lizards, or to simply kill them outright. Voices are raised and the exchange goes back and forth. Jon, oblivious to the finer parts of the discussion, simply draws his sword and asks, repeatedly, “Stabby-stab?” In the end no consensus is reached, but among those who oppose the killing none are willing to step forth to prevent it. Hazrad affixes the blade to his pole-staff and approaches the cage. The men, sensing that their end is near, exchange words briefly, the leader enjoining them to be brave. The two cultists kneel by the edge of the cage and are dispatched as quickly as possible. The leader points to the bodies, holds his hands forth pleadingly, and says “Zargon.” He then moves forward to the bars. As he too is slain Hazrad offers him some words in Ylaruai. Even as he slips into death’s coil, his eyes go wide in shock.
Jon and Bhelgarn lead the way down the trapdoor, where an iron ladder takes them to the third layer of the pyramid and a small, empty chamber. To Morgan’s relief, it is not a latrine. Bhelgarn cannot find an exit, but when Odleif lowers his lantern, Jon finds a loose stone that triggers the opening of a secret door.
The party files in to a large, almost empty room – the largest they have seen yet in the pyramid. The walls and ceiling are all painted sky blue. Directly across from where they entered, there is a large golden marble alter, set with precious metal candleholders and a bowl of water. A single door leads out – a hinged iron door, with a lock and handle, the first such door they have seen in the pyramid. When they approach, lightning plays across its surface. Though they spend many minutes searching, they can find no way to disable the electricity, even by throwing the bowl of water at it.
Finally Bhelgarn ties the key for the cage above to the end of his pole and Iris dexterously inserts it into the lock. With a deft click, it turns and the door opens – although the door still sparks and glows. Carefully passing through, Jon leads the way down a long stone corridor ending at one of the standard stone doors.
This time, however, a row of eight buttons is beside the door. Jon presses four in turn, and after each one a rough grinding noise is heard, but the door cannot be pushed open. Finally he tries one that allows the party access to a short hallway. Fearing a trap, Odleif spikes the door open as the others walk past him. Jon and Iris are the first out the door on the other end.
The elf spots a secret door and entreats Jon to open it, but the Atruaghin ignores her and continues down the hall, lighting his way with one of the candles he removed from the altar of Gorm. Undaunted, Iris shows her door to the other party members as they enter. They pass through and find a small chamber with another door and a large wicker basket.
With the rest of the party far behind him, Jon enters a room at the end of the hall and is immediately set upon by a giant draco lizard. As the creature mauls his leg in its huge jaws, Jon screams and then passes out from shock. The rest of the party comes running, with Bhelgarn managing to drive the lizard away from Jon’s body before he, too, is wounded and unconscious. With two mighty cleaves of his battle-axe, and a bit of assistance from Hazrad, Thrud dispatches the reptile and Ember and Iris attempt to rescue Jon, who is on death’s very doorstep. A quick search of the room finds a half-eaten body behind an altar – the body has a full water canteen and a sack of coins.
“Why was he off by himself?” asks Morgan, but receives no reply. Muttering disgustedly, she takes Odleif and Hazrad and returns to the room with the basket. She tips the basket over, and immediately they are set upon by giant pit vipers. Although the snakes are deadly poisonous, Morgan’s sword proves quicker and deadlier still. In the bottom of the basket are a tumble of coins and even a few gems.
Morgan opens the door and is met by a bare chamber with another door. As the three of them search for possible secret doors, Morgan steps on a stone that locks the doors and begins to flood the room with water! Their frantic search for a means to turn the water off is useless, and their poundings on the door have no effect. Fortunately Thrud, having heard the fight with the snakes, was already on his way. No hearing their desperate struggles, he manages to smash the thin stone slab of the door, shattering it and destroying his war hammer with the same blow. Water floods the basket room.
Possibly in response to the noise, a scrabbling and scratching can be heard at the other door. Hazrad opens it with his spear, and a cloud of giant bats enters. He immediately allows it to shut, keeping more bats out but already five are with them. Thrud is bitten and falls to the ground before all of the bats are slain.
With three men down, even Morgan agrees it is time to rest. Odleif spikes both the button door and the bat door closed, and the entire group retreats to the far room where Ember is still systematically washing and bandaging Jon’s savaged leg.