Secrets of Mystara

Post 10 (It seemed like a good idea at the time)
It seemed like a good idea at the time


The women of the party, plus the still-prostrate Hazrad, spend several hours in the lair of the Madaruans. They eat and drink, and rest. The warrior maidens open chests and take out sleeping rolls, and several of the party lie down or even sleep, especially after some of the maidens do as well. Fluffykitty moves happily among the maidens, letting them feed her and brush her hair. Morgan stays by the side of the leader, asking her questions through Hazrad.

Asked about the Magi and the Brotherhood, Hazrad translates that the Maidens are at war with them. Asked about the Zargonites, the leader says that they are especially at war with them and are desirous of the party’s help in attacking them. Apparently they have a stronghold on a lower level of the period which the Maidens want the party to destroy. That accomplished, they would like to lead the party to the Undercity to join with the main group of Maidens, which supplies this outpost on a rotating basis. Asked about the population of the Undercity, the leader says it has many, many hands of people – apparently a higher number than can be said in their language. Asked whether there is any possibility of uniting with the other factions against the Zargonites, the leader ushers the other maidens away, and says quite privately to Morgan that that is not her decision to make, but that the Maiden hierarchy in the Undercity might be open to the possibility.

The party as a whole feels quite optimistic. They are in a much better position now then when they rested in the ape room. They have food, and drink, and allies. Rather than being outmatched by the creatures they face, only two of the party members have not leveled once, and a few have leveled twice. They are confident that they have completely explored the third level of the pyramid, and Remmy has given them some more intelligence, albeit vague, on the fourth level. They feel ready to face the Zargonites and whatever else awaits them on the levels below. The only nagging concern is that of obtaining spells. Morgan feels ready to attempt learning another spell; Iris and Wolfbane will be able to soon, they are sure. The Usamigares men surely have spellbooks and scrolls, but by allying with the Maidens, the party has made it rather unlikely they can obtain anything from the men through peaceful exchange. A few voices in the party suggest a raid against the Magi, but there are just as many voices against that idea, with Odleif being particularly vociferous.

For the time being, the arcane spell casters decide to simply exchange spells. Ember offers ink and a few quills. They are good quality, but not nearly as fine as those typically used to scribe scrolls or spell books. Iris attempts to write Sleep in her book, but fails to copy the intricacies of the magical script. Morgan uses Iris’ book to copy Magic Missile. She thinks she has done an adequate job, but several hours of study later reveal that she is not able to commit the spell to memory. Both women work with the lantern as low as possible, for the Madaruans make it known, as soon as it is polite, that the light bothers them.

After resting, Morgan asks whether the Madarauns will join with the party in fighting the Zargonites. Through Hazrad, the Maidens leader explains that they are some sort of “watch post” here in the upper levels of the pyramid, and they won’t be able to leave until they are relieved from the Undercity below. However, she does agree to send two Maidens with the party as guides to find the Zargonites.

With the Maidens in the lead, the party passes through the rotating corridor and down the ramp of the defaced temple to the fourth level. The Maidens seem surprised at the giant jester head sprung out of the opened coffin. From there they pass through hallways familiar to the party, passing in front of the rat room, the boulder trap, and beyond down the hall where the party had not gone. Everyone is impressed by the length of the corridor, and by how large the fourth level is compared to the third. They pass one open corridor to the right that goes off into darkness and a closed stone door on the left. Finally the Maidens pause, perplexed. At a corner in the hallway, a huge boulder is wedged, lodged firmly. It has been hewn so as to be perfectly round. Of course the party (except for Remmy) knows its origin, but the Maidens explain that they have never seen it before, and that it blocks the only way they know forward. When questioned by Hazrad, they reveal that perhaps their leader (named Pandora) knows an alternate route, but that they have only been trained to travel from the Undercity to their quarters in the pyramid by a single path.

Remmy scales the side of the boulder, gaining leverage by wedging himself between it and the wall, and just manages to slip over top of it in the narrow gap between it and the ceiling. He suggests that if he lets down a rope the rest of the party can follow him over it, but Bhelgarn is dubious he could squeeze through.

Morgan shakes her head. “We passed a hallway back there,” she says. “It has to go somewhere. We double back and see if we can’t recover the trail.”

The party returns to the previously unexplored hallway. Now that the Maidens are on unfamiliar ground, they give way to Morgan. Ninety-some feet from the intersection, the corridor dead-ends.

It doesn’t take Morgan long to find the mechanism for opening the secret door. What lies in the room beyond, however, stops her in her tracks. The room is filled with skeletons. The bones lie in piles on the floor. They cover the floor so thickly that it is impossible to walk
across the room without walking on bones. The walls are unadorned; there is a normal stone pivot door on the same wall as the secret door, and another directly across from it on the far wall.


Looking over Morgan’s shoulder, Remmy says, “Oh, I’ve been here.”

“What?” she responds incredulously. “Did you cross? Were you attacked?”

“Oh no, the bones don’t move. Look, I even burnt one to test it.” Remmy points at a skull near the door, which is indeed blackened with soot.

“Which doors did you use?” Morgan demands.

“I came in through this secret door, and left through the far door…I think.”

“You THINK?!”

Remmy shrugs. “I didn’t make a map. And it was my first day in from the desert. I was pretty thirsty, you know.”

Morgan shakes her head while the others mill about the doorway, trying to see in but not wanting to go in. Finally Bhelgarn strides forward. “No dwarf worth the name is afeared of some bones…” he declares, and takes several steps into the room. He pauses, looking back over his shoulder. “Of course, I would not mind if any o’ye wanted to come with…”

Iris goes in next, Pooches beside her, oblivious to the fear and dread of the party. He happily snuffs at the bones and selects a long femur to gnaw on. Iris stoops to retrieve a skull and holds it up to the lantern-light in the doorway. Examining it, she decides “Human,” and picks up another, and another. “Human,” and “human. All of them human, as far as I can tell.”

Bhelgarn grunts and shuffles through the piled bones. A faint dry dust swirls around his boots as the bones click and clack out of the way. Hazrad, his face as impassive as ever, follows the dwarf across the room and out the far door.

Remmy takes the lantern from Fluffykitty and proceeds as well. Once through the door the three go down a hall, past a door, and round a corner. The hallway then continues farther than they can see. But, somewhere up ahead in the darkness, is the faint but unmistakeable sound of scales sliding over stone – something large and serpentine.

Remmy immediately heads back to re-unite with the party, while Bhelgarn and Hazrad adopt a defensive position at the corridor corner. Eventually, the entire party crosses the bone room, though none with enthusiasm. The Maidens carry FluffyKitty rather than have her walk through the bones, which would be above her calves at least.

In the hallway, the party listens for quite some time, then Iris sends her cat down the hall. It returns a few minutes later, not agitated in the least. When she goes to the end of the hall, she can see the faintest trace of warmth on the stone floor from where the serpents past, but then the lantern arrives on the scene and spoils her vision.

The party coalesces in front of the door to one of the rooms. Hazrad, Remmy, and Bhelgarn push it open and enter.


The room contains several large tables. Around the walls on shelves are a number of large jars and casks. There is a bin in the northwest corner of the room. Hazrad nods and makes his way over to the shelves. The lantern light flickers and dances, creating shadows from the men and shadows from the tables. As the rest of the party watches from the door, some of the shadows detach themselves from the tables and begin gliding silently across the floor at Hazrad.

They shout a warning and the three men turn. The shadows are halfway across the room from them, but are gaining swiftly. They run for the door, arriving just before the shadows reach them and bolting into the hall. As the stone door pivots slowly back into place, they hear no sound but stone scraping against stone.

Morgan shudders. “Forget rooms, we are searching for a trail.” They continue to the intersection. The Maidens ask for the light to be turned down and spend a few minutes examining the hallway. They seem confident that they have recovered their way and can resume leading the party. Once they are in front, the lantern is turned back up and Ember takes out the map that was found in the noblewoman’s burial chamber. The shape of the hallways and locations of the doors seem to fit – the Maidens are now leading them down a hall that will, if Ember is correct, turn a corner and take them to the large “X” on the map. They pass a door, right where the map indicates one, and then turn that corner.


Halfway down another long corridor is where the “X” marks, but Ember doesn’t see anything. The Warrior Maidens stop and begin examining the lefthand wall. One of them finds a small stone and presses it – there is a grinding sound and a large section of the floor slides away. In a three foot square depression is a stone block with a large bronze handle bolted through the center and huge bronze hinges on one edge. One Warrior Maiden lifts the handle and the block angles open, revealing an iron ladder descending into a shaft of darkness. The second Maiden motions to the party to follow, and begins her descent of the ladder.

One by one the party members follow. While Iris works on a rope harness for Pooches, Ember uses her chalk to circle the trigger-stone on the wall. Eventually all the party are down, and the second Maiden lets the trap door close above her.

The ladder is only twenty feet high and the rest of the party are bumping elbows in a small square room at its base. After a moment’s search, the Maidens have located a secret door on the wall and opened it for the party. Ember chalks the outline of the door before she passes through.


The room beyond contains a bed, a table, a chair, a lantern, and a wooden holy symbol of two intertwined snakes. The furniture is made of wood. A hooded white robe is draped over the chair. Except for the furniture and the robe, the room appears to be empty.


Odleif manages to see that the main line of traffic in the rooms moves directly from the secret door to an obvious exit across the room before the party spreads out and obscures traces. Remmy and Wolfbane both make directly for the robe, but the mage arrives first and lifts it up to examine it. Those standing nearby wonder if they hear a “whooshing” noise, or whether it was just there imagination. Ember takes the lantern from the table. Wolfbane puts on the robe, adjusts it to her slim frame, points at the door, and immediately begins walking toward it. Hazrad barely has time to confirm with the Maidens that the door is indeed their destination before Wolfbane is pressing her slight frame against the stone to open it. As the rest of the party moves into file behind her, Iris asks, “You guys know there is another secret door in that corner, right?” but no one even looks over their shoulder.

The next room appears to be an abandoned kitchen and dining room combination. The cupboards, table, and chairs are covered with a thin layer of dust. Near the table, two large snakes with brown and yellow scales are coiled around the body of a woman wearing a rabbit mask.


Wolfbane moves cautiously to the wall and begins edging her way around the snakes. Morgan and the two maidens charge in, hoping to rescue the woman. Immediately the two snakes loosen their grips and assume defensive postures. They move with preternatural speed.


While one snake engages the women, Bhelgarn and Hazrad attack the other. The snake actually feints a strike, pulls back, and pounces on the unprepared Hazrad, wrapping him in its thick coils. His face goes blue and he passes out.

Ember rushes to the side of the woman, but it is obvious she is dead – with most of her rib cage broken. The next few minutes are frantic combat and trying to rescue Hazrad. The snake on him is killed, and the other turns to flee but is cut down. Wolfbane doesn’t pause to see about Hazrad before she is out the door, while Ember quickly applies her heart mending. Bhelgarn searches the body of the woman and recovers a necklace, a water bottle, and a small pouch. A few of the party poke their heads into the kitchen part of the room but no one has time to search before Morgan calls them back.

The Maidens are gesturing at the door and making running motions. “I think they are saying we need to get through the next room quickly. Hazrad, can you walk?”

The nomad is just sitting up, and looking about wearily. “Of course mistress, Al-Khalim be praised…” he mumbles.

When the party opens the door, they barely have time to see Wolfbane exiting through the next door. “So when did she get darkvision” Morgan wonders aloud as she leads the party forward.

The room they are moving through looks like a living room . It contains wall hangings and ornate divans. There are several pieces of sculpture in the room, as well as an iron statue of a warrior on each side of the doorway just inside the room . Everything is covered by a thin layer of dust except for a clear trail from one door to the next.


The Maidens point at the statues and encourage the party to move faster until they are through the next door. Wolfbane waits for them at the end of a short hall.

As Morgan draws up to her, she switches to Darokite. “OK mage, just what do you think you are…” but the woman turns her back on Morgan and enters the next room. Exasperated, Morgan beckons at the party to follow.

The room is paneled with wood, and a dusty carpet covers the floor. A large, heavy desk sits in the center of the room. Several wooden chairs are grouped north of the desk. Behind the desk is a large plush chair, while behind the chair on the south wall is a mounted lion’s head. Four large painted urns stand in the corners of the room. Finally, on both sides of the north doorway are stone pedestals with stone statues of winged beasts with claws, fangs, and horns.

Wolfbane is headed for the desk on one side of the room, but the Maidens, upon entry, begin heading for the door. The party splits, trying not to lose the Maidens or Wolfbane.


Wolfbane is attempting to open a cabinet in the desk, but finds it locked. Remmy steps up next to her and pulls out a curious set of small metal instruments, but he appears unable to open it as well. Iris, halfway across the room, attempts to identify the statues, but can come up with no name for them.

The statues begin to move, slowly and stiffly at first, but quickly becoming more fluid. The Maidens make motions to indicate that the party should try to draw them into the middle of the room and then make a run for it.


Thrud stares at the advancing statues as they hobble forward. Standing upright, they are taller than he is, and they spread their wings menacingly. “Knulle dette!” the barbarian swears, and shoves Remmy roughly out of the way. He brings his great axe up and over his head, and then down through the center of the desk, which explodes into fragments. A mix of splintered wood fragments atop a pile of strangely colored coins is all that remains.

The Maidens are acting like bear-baiters, egging the statues on with their spears, but falling back whenever they advance, while the rest of the party makes for the door. Wolfbane stoops and pulls a metal mace out of the shambles of the desk, while Remmy grabs a flask of some sort. Everyone else is in motion; he permits himself one rueful glance at the large pile of coins before he too flees.

Most of the party is at or through the door but Hazrad is moving slow, still disoriented from having his breath squeezed out from him by the snakes. A statue bears down on him, but Bhelgarn shoves him out of the way. In response, the statue savages the dwarf, ripping in to him with fangs, claws and horns. More than a few of the party are wounded by the time they make it through the door, but for some reason the statues do not pursue.

Wolfbane has paused in the corridor beyond just long enough to see that everyone has made it through, but is ignoring the questions and comments whispered at her. She turns and begins moving down the hallway, pausing only when she reaches a four way intersection. Gingerly she eases herself around the corner to the left without stepping on the floor of the intersection itself. The Maidens do the same without hesitation, so the rest of the party follows suit. Iris goes last, encouraging Pooches, next to last, to run and jump from one hallway to the next.

As the party reorganizes themselves in the hall, the sound of heavy boots marching in unison echoes toward them. The Maidens pull them back from the intersection and watch. A large group of men has come down the west hall opposite the party, but have turned at the intersection and are now headed south. The Maidens hold a hurried conversation with Hazrad, telling him that a Brotherhood contingent is coming from the Undercity to replace the ones in the pyramid. They must leave the party to warn Pandora before the Brotherhood men find that everyone in their watch above has been slain. The ask Madarua to protect the party. One Maiden kneels next to FluffyKtity. She lifts her mask for just long enough to kiss the halfling on the forehead, but in doing so reveals her strange features – the alabaster skin, the black eyes of entirely pupil set in an otherwise serene and feminine face.


The Maidens are not even around the corner on the trail of the Brotherhood men when Wolfbane sets off again. Down the hall, taking the left branch of a T-intersection, opening a secret door, taking the right branch of the hallway beyond, around a corner, down another hall…

“I don’t like this, I don’t like this…” mutters Morgan. “Our guides are gone and who knows what has happened to Wolfbane…Where is she taking us?”

“Trust in your kismit,” says Hazrad to her. “She is certainly taking us somewhere.” The desert nomad smiles enigmatically.

Just then Wolfbane stops. There is just a short section of corridor left before a door. Cautiously she eases her foot forward across the stone floor. Suddenly the walls of the hall begin to move, crashing together with alarming speed and force. Wolfbane darts back out of harms way; the shock of impact when the walls slam together is felt even in the back of the party. The walls then begin to slowly resume their open position, much more slowly than they closed. Wolfbane takes the opportunity to dart between them and reaches the far door. Half of the party is behind her, while the other half hang back. Hazrad, who saw where the mage stepped, holds back the others, most of whom were around the corner and did not even see. When Wolfbane opens the far door to proceed, Hazrad triggers the wall trap again, then waits for it to open as she did to lead the others through.

The room beyond is large and dark. Ten men wearing black robes and masks of fearsome,
imaginary (?) monsters sit in a circle on the floor in the center of the room. From their perspective, the walls and corners of the room are deep in shadow as if they were on a vast, featureless, dark plain. They are each staring straight ahead, but don ’t seem to be looking at anything in particular, or at one another. They are silent, and take as little notice of the party as Wolfbane does of them as she crosses the room to the far door. A second door is on the distant opposite wall.

When the party is about halfway across the room, one of the men gives a desperate, fearful cry, and falls over on his side. Everyone in the party jumps, even Wolfbane, but the other men seem not to notice. The man lays slumped on his side, knees drawn up to his chest, whining pitifully. Wolfbane gives him the briefest of glances before continuing on to the door.

As she strains to push open the pivoting stone, the sounds of conversation spill out from the next room. At first it sounds light, almost merry, but as the party follows her they realize there is a desperate, giddy edge to it.

A dozen brightly robed men and woman, masked as various animals are playing games of chance in the room beyond. Card games are being played at one table, dice games at an other. In the center of the room is a large wheel of fortune. Many silver and gold coins,
gems, and pieces of jewelry are changing hands as people win and lose. The people seem to be having fun, but there is an edge to their laughter that is not pleasant. They are not oblivious to the party, but mostly they react by gathering up their coins or looking quickly over their shoulder. No one attempts to engage the party in any way.


Wolfbane strides through the center of the crowd, ignoring them and proceeding directly to the south wall. There, she begins studying the stonework as if looking for something.

The wall opens and a man strides out, his mask of a horned, tentacled creature with gem eyes. Behind him well-armed hobgoblins surge forward, weapons drawn.


Wolfbane begins a spell as the party rushes forward to engage. Arrows fly, swords flash. The leader of the hobgoblins is paralyzed by a spell from Wolfbane and several hobgoblins are slain. Many in the party are wounded before the masked man falls to the ground, dead from Wolfbane’s mace. The remaining hobgoblins flee. The curious white robe spontaneously disintegrates and Wolfbane swoons, then falls. All the while the gamblers continue – not oblivious, but playing all the more so as not to react to the violence.

As the party binds wounds and searches bodies, a growing sense of dread comes over them. A distant “smash” indicates that the hobgoblins have made it past the crashing walls. There is a gasp from a card player, and a few shouts and accusations of cheating. Morgan surveys the party – they did alright, but are in no condition for another battle. They cannot wait here for the hobgoblins to return with reinforcements. “Grab the leader’s mask, and let’s go!” she commands.

Wolfbane is up and walking, but appears to have no memory of where they are or what is going on. The others shush her questions. She has left the mace lying on the ground, but Ember gathers it up as they retreat.


In the dark room there is a brief debate as to whether to try the far door or continue down the hall. The hall wins. They pass through the crashing walls – two more loud bangs echo through the pyramid. Poorly-bound wounds mean that some of the party are leaving a blood trail down the hall, mixing with that of the hobgoblins before them. “Keep going,” urges Morgan, “we need to hole up somewhere safer than the hallway.”

She is unprepared for what is beyond the next door, though. The room is huge, cavernous. It is safe to say just this one room is larger than the entire first level of the pyramid. It is obviously a place of worship. They are entering from the back, atop a large dais that fills the entire southern end of the room. Near a stone altar lie three large statues that look like the ones on top of the pyramid. The statues have been toppled from their bases and lie in huge sections and boulder-sized pieces of arms, legs, heads, and torsos. On each side of a broad center aisle are rows of high-backed wooden benches. Narrow aisles along the walls run past ornate mosaics to two small fountains set into the walls. The back of the room lies beyond the range of the lantern light.


Morgan sends scouts into the room while the wounded come forward. “Big enough to get lost in…” she murmurs. “This might do.” Nothing moving is within lantern light. She guides the party to a spot below the dais. Using the dais to shield their back, the rubble of the statues one flank and the fountain the other, they have only their front exposed. Iris’ cat seems fine with the water in the fountain, so she orders skins to be filled. “All watches have someone with infravision,” she orders, “but all lights are out for us. If we stay quiet, maybe we won’t be noticed. Everyone protect Ember – we need her rested to heal us up to get out of here.”

Hours go by. Sitting on the stone floor, surrounded by darkness. The gentle lapping of the fountain, the heavy breathing of the party. A few moments of relief, as Ember says her prayers and heals some of them. A few moments of terror, when they are attacked by giant tiger beetles. They kill one and drive the rest off, but now there are even more wounded than before. A few moments of trepidation, when the scouts report two figures walking down the center aisle, mounting the dais, and leaving through the door without noticing them.

Morgan turns the captured mask over in her hands, briefly considers putting it on, rejects the idea. ‘Success," right here in her hands. She has proof that they have defeated the Zargonites, just as requested by the Maidens. They can return as allies. Food, bed rolls, a safe place to rest. All of this is, as far as she can reckon, just sixty feet directly over her head. Only they can’t get there. Just Ember and Thrud are not wounded now. Half of them would not survive a single claw-swipe from the statues. They could try to race by, but odds are someone would get tagged. And then go down. And then be left behind to die, or be defended by the party – with the only result being more of them going down. And that is just the one statue room. The Maidens had them run through another room, as well. Who knows what is in that. No, they can’t go back. Not yet.

Of course, they can’t stay here. The Tiger Beetles showed that. Wandering monsters will get them wounded faster than Ember can heal them. One by one, they will succumb – and anyone unconscious means that the whole party is effectively immobile. No, they can’t stay here. Nor for that matter can they go elsewhere – exploring unknown rooms in their state? No way.

Morgan turns the mask over and thinks. She does not share her thoughts with the party. She reflects on how they started out – so confident they could beat some Zargonites and return as friends to the Maidens. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Post 11 (Of mice and men)
Of mice and men


Time passes, with nothing to mark its passage but the soft lapping of the fountain water in the dark.

Then Iris sees faint pulses of light. Approaching the camp are four large ants, each six feet long. Their bodies are dull, the same temperature as the cool air and nearly invisible to her infravision. But where their leg muscles move, their exoskeleton flexes and is warmed – Iris can see this as a faint orange and so notes their approach. They are scurrying back and forth across the room, searching – they have neither seen nor scented the party – yet. That will give them the time they need.

“Ants coming, pass it on,” whispers Iris to Odleif. Word travels down the line. Morgan begins a sleep spell, as does Wolfbane, although she has no targets in the dark.

Morgan completes her spell, and two of the ants collapse. The other two, hearing her voice the words of her spell, charge forward directly at her. The lead ant has just reached her feet when Odleif’s torch flares to life, illuminating the scene. With visible targets, Wolfbane utters the final words of her spell; both ants and Morgan fall asleep.

When the ants are slain and Morgan has awoken, she borrows a candle from Ember and a heavy blanket from Iris. She is able to re-learn her sleep spell “under the covers”, without giving off light into the room. After Morgan is done, Wolfbane takes a turn.

With no further interruptions, Ember is able to rest and pray for healing spells again. Another four hours then pass without incident, and this time rather than eight heart mendings, she chooses just four and some sort of enemy detection. Armed with this, she, Odleif, and Remmy set out to explore the rest of the cathedral-sized room while the others remain concealed in the rubble by the fountain.

No one on the exploratory team has infravision; they light the lantern and make their way along the east wall. Ember casts a spell, then tells them that she will be able to see hostile creatures even beyond the range of the lantern light. When they reach the far wall, they can see a 20’ wide corridor leading north, and two stone doors opposite one another on east and west walls near the corners.


Odleif studies the floor, but everywhere is a mix of dust, sand, and prints – the whole place is disturbed and well-traveled. Ember has Remmy check the doors and peer into the hallways beyond. They all look as far down the open northern corridor as they can see. Odleif believes that this open area is the source of the giant insects, doubting that they can manage the massive stone pivot doors themselves.

They work their way back along the west wall to the party. All the while their lantern light is tracked by Morgan, from a perch atop the broken base of the huge central statue. A brief conference is held upon their return. “We can’t stay here,” says Morgan, “We keep being attacked, and besides we are out of food. We have the Zargonite mask – let’s take it back to the Maidens.”

While there is general agreement from the party, Hazrad bows ingratiatingly until Morgan asks him to speak.

“We are now well enough to travel, mistress, "he begins, “and we should leave this place…but let us remember that we are not assured of returning to the Maidens. We have no idea what we are going back to. When that relief group of Gorm cultists we saw finds all of their companions dead, al-Kalim only knows what will happen. We could return to find the Maidens destroyed, or under seige…” He pauses, and everyone in the party feels the impact of his words. “Should we not search for our way down first, before returning? So that if we are forced to retreat from above, we at least know to what we are returning here?”

Most of the party finds this reasonable, so when they leave, it is with the goal of exploring a bit before the return to the Maidens. As they pack up and prepare to move out, Odleif wonders aloud, “I jess don’t unnerstand why we keep gettin’ attacked – we was hid well enough.”

Iris shrugs. “This is probably the only reliable water source in the whole pyramid. Certainly the only one we have seen. Everything must come here to drink.” Her tone makes it seem obvious, though no one else had even considered it before.

“So why didn’t you…” begins Morgan, but notices her raised voice echoing in the great temple. She thinks better of it and resumes packing.

The party leaves through the north-west door, and soon comes upon a branch in the passage. As they peer down each, both Morgan and Iris point out a secret door in the wall at the intersection. Past this door, Odleif confirms, the hallway is much less traveled. Down the passage and around a corner is a door. Through that, a chamber.


As the first of the party enter, four men wearing stylized rodent masks and red robes trimmed with fur leap to their feet. In the northeast corner of the room are stairs going down. Remmy immediately notices a large chest in one corner.


The party tries to act non-threatening as they enter, but the men are obviously agitated. They are also, everyone notices, reacting to the party itself, not some invisible world like the people of the casino or the nightmare hall outside it.

When Hazrad enters this room, he attempts to speak to the men. Through the desert nomad, the party learns that these men are traveling from the undercity to the top of the pyramid, and that they have chosen this secret place to rest. While Hazrad talks, Pooches growls lowly and stares at the men, fangs bared and hairs on end. It is all Iris can do to restrain him. When Hazrad asks them where the stairs lead, they respond with a question, “Where do you want to go?” Hazrad tells the party that the men are being evasive, and Ember gives the order to capture them, unharmed if possible.

Morgan moves to block the stairs while Remmy moves to secure the chest. (“What?” he later explains, when asked about this. “They weren’t wearing weapons – they could have had weapons inside the chest.”).

Odleif and Thrud attack, but using the back of the handaxe and the flat of the battleaxe. The men fall to the ground, robes and masks askew. Odleif begins to tie his up with a rope while the other two back cautiously away from the fray, hands open in surrender.

As Odleif works the knots of the man beneath him, he feels the body begin to ripple and shift. The exposed arms become covered in black, glossy hair. A long, hairless tail shoots out the bottom of the robes. Odleif looks to Ember for an explanation, and sees the same changes happening to the other men. In a few seconds, all of them are large, hairy, rat-men. Startled, Thrud turns his axe to the blade and swings at one. The edge of the great axe lands solidly in the rat-man’s shoulder, slicing his robe and knocking him back – but there is no blood, no wound: he is unharmed.

“This ain’t no good!” shouts Odleif. He rains blows down on the rat-man beneath him, who is even now thrusting out of the ropes, but the sharp, heavy hand axe has as much effect as if the woodsman were striking with a willow switch.

Their transformations complete, the rat-men fall upon the party, scratching and biting with huge, yellowed incisors. Wolfbane screams and retreats behind Morgan. When a rat advances on the half-elf, she swings at it and cuts a nasty gash across its chest. “Sorry, kid,” Morgan tells the mage, “my weapon works – I have to go in.” Ember, too has joined the fray, her new mace being used to great effect. A rat-man spots Wolfbane alone on the stairs and charges her. The mage screams again, turns and runs down the stairs into the darkness. The rat-man pursues, and Hazrad and Bhelgran follow him.

Iris shoots a magic missile and finishes off a wounded one, emboldening the party. Thrud grabs one from behind, attempting to bear-hug it into holding still long enough to receive a blow from Ember’s mace. The rat-man is both surprisingly strong and limber, able to turn its head completely around and bite viciously at Thrud’s shoulder. “Ah…Hit det, hit det!” the norseman cries.

Remmy has opened the chest and found a trove of silver coins. Silver? He tosses a handful to Fluffykitten, who finds they make fine ammunition for her sling. She begins to let fly a barrage of coins, though as many hit Thrud as hit the rat-man.

Wolfbane finds herself at the bottom of the stairs, enveloped in darkness. Behind her comes the scurrying steps of the rat-man, but ahead of her the clicking steps of something much larger echo in the chamber. This time, she doesn’t scream, but begins her sleep spell. Behind her, Hazrad and Bhelgarn have seized the tail of the rat-man and are restraining its pursuit of Wolfbane.

Above, a second rat-man falls, but the one remaining sinks his teeth deep into Thrud’s forearm. Below, a clacking crash can be heard as the creature in the chamber falls to Wolfbane’s sleep spell.

Finally the last rat-man above is slain. At that, the one below tears itself free of Hazrad and Bhelgarn and escapes through a door. They do not pursue.

When the lantern is brought below, a very different kind of room is seen then any before in the pyramid. The walls and floor are not made of massive limestone blocks like in the pyramid above; rather they are rough-hewn from bedrock and are slightly uneven. Indeed, Bhelgarn ascends the stairs and can show anyone interested the precise horizon where the pyramid ends and the rock begins – they are assuredly belowground. Only the four flat stone pivot-doors are the same as those above. There is also a giant scorpion asleep in the room. Remmy slays it and, after its death-throws have subsided, collects the venom from its tail-stinger.


With several of the party newly-wounded, but trusting that this level is more out of the way than the fountain room, the party proceeds through a door opposite the one through which the rat-man fled. Inside they find empty tool racks and little else. They spike the doors and wait eight hours, sleeping fitfully if at all on the rough, cold, stone floor, and with many keeping nervous eyes on Thrud.


After many healing spells, more than a few levels gained, and all on grumbling stomachs, everyone agrees that they are ready to make a rush past the statues. Odleif is able to retrieve one of his spikes but not the other. The party ascends to the pyramid and finds the bodies of the rat-men, now turned to just men, undisturbed. They exit the secret door back into the hallway, traverse a long corridor while ignoring side-rooms, and come to what they believe is the trapped intersection and then the door of the statue room.

Though they take quite a while in arranging themselves, in the end the door is opened and the party streams through. The first in line are through the next door before the statues animate, and the last in line are pursued but not caught. They catch their breath and prepare for another dash. This one will be more difficult, as the statues, if it is the statues, are on the far side of the room and will have more time to animate if that is indeed what will happen.

Indeed, the iron statues animate before half the party is through the door. Fortunately, they are slow at first and miss the last people through the door with swings of their massive iron fists.

Passing through the kitchen area, the party finds the body of the rabbit-masked woman, and the two slain snakes, have been removed. Thence into the bed-chamber where Wolfbane was possessed – they are careful not to touch anything more. There, a debate begins – some are in favor of proceeding directly to the Warrior Maidens. Others, concerned about the outcome of the fight with the rat-men, declare that before they can proceed, they need to make sure that everyone in the party is armed with some kind of magical weapon, and the best place to look would be the tombs of the fourth level. "But before we do any of that, declares Remmy, “we should check out the secret room that Iris found.”

Behind the door is a small chamber, in which is a large, padlocked, wooden chest. On the wall above the chest is a large tapestry showing a desert scene. “Jackpot!” exclaims Remmy, and enters the room. “Oh no,” say several others, “I’m not going in there.”

Remmy shrugs and gets to work on the padlock. Before he has it open, though, the tapestry, oddly thick, has peeled itself off of the wall and engulfed him! In a few seconds it is on the ground, completely wrapped around him – just one hand and part of a forearm stick out!


At this, the others begin to enter the room, led by Iris. As they strike at the tapestry, it launches pseudopods that strike back at them! After several rounds of combat, many of them are wounded and Iris and Remmy are unconscious. The tapestry-thing lies in a stange formless mass, oozing a pale green fluid from between layers of rubbery grey skin. Here and there bits of the desert scene are still visible but fading.

Ember ministers to the fallen and is able to revive Iris but not Remmy. He must have been unable to breathe for quite some time. Bhelgarn smashes the lock on the chest and gives a low whistle as he opens it. Inside are thousands upon thousands of gold, silver, and even electrum pieces, easily the largest hoard the party has found yet. Laying on top of the coins are a full potion flask, a set of human-sized chainmail, and an impressive-looking dagger in an ornate scabbard.

Post 12 (Return of the Prodigal Daughters)
Return of the Prodigal Daughters


Reasoning that the treasure has gone undiscovered centuries, the party makes camp in the secret room. First they roll up the tapestry creature and carry it outside to the kitchen area. Morgan donates her robe as a drop cloth to catch the ooze still seeping from its wounds. Once free of the creature, there is just enough room for them to sit side by side in the small chamber.

Four hours pass. There is little to do but sit in the darkness and try not to think of their hunger. It has been more than a day since anyone has eaten, and they have fought in several desperate combats, and marched up stairs and down halls in armor. At one point a snuffling and shuffling step is heard outside. Hours later, a heavy step, and a sound of tearing flesh. Finally Ember says that she is ready to pray. Her usually serene demeanor has become snappish.

After eight orisons Remmy is conscious and the party is in much better shape. He is given the dagger that Hazrad was holding in trust. Remmy notes that the coins in the chest are more than they can carry, but are worth more than the silver that many of them are currently weighed down with. As a party, they decide that this treasure will not be divided up – anyone is free to take as many coins as they want, and it will become their personal treasure. If they wish to leave silver behind in order to carry more, it is with the understanding that whatever they leave behind is no longer theirs, and is subject to division later as if newly found.

Ember tells them that evn though Remmy is now mobile, she will be resting again. Hungry voices object. Ember insists that they are not yet in a good condition to traverse the tombs. After a few brief objections, people settle in to wait. Ember tries to clear her mind and rest despite the gnawing in her stomach. When she last prayed, Glöð revealed to her a new spell, useful for turning spoiled food into healthful nourishment. She feels loved and supported. She tries to focus on that feeling, despite the grumblings around her.

After four more hours she allows the group to emerge. The carcass of the tapestry creature is gone, but pieces of its flesh are scattered in a sticky pool. Ember had thought to use her new spell on it to make it edible, but so much the better to get everyone moving. “There will likely be food for us at the Maidens,” she says in a voice that is meant to be encouraging but sounds chiding.

It is just a short walk to the ladder that will take them to the level of the tombs, but already an argument is brewing about who will haul up the dog. Fortunately Bhelgarn was able to find the mechanism that opens the stone trapdoor from below. A number of them feel dizzy or feint after the ladder climb. Back through the long stone corridors, and the room of bone. A curious thing – someone has cleared a path through the room, from door to door, so that it is not necessary to walk on the bones.

More hallways, the room with the jester coffin, activating the ramp. The party is halfway up the ramp when shouts sound out and they are pelted with rocks. Fist-sized pieces of rubble, taken from the broken altar above, rain down on them – one strikes Odleif, two Pooches. Morgan gets her sleep spell off, centering it on the room above, and the attack ceases. A few seconds later, WolfBane completes her spell and a body or two more hit the ground. The lead party members rush up the ramp.

By the time Ember makes it to the ruined temple above, most of the men are dead, throats slit by Morgan and others following her example. Only a few are left. Some of the party members are searching the bodies, a few are arguing about whether to kill or tie up the leader. The group appears nearly identical to the Gormites from the level above – same chainmail, blue tunics, gold masks. Eleven of them. As Hazrad mounts the ramp and attains the room, he seems shocked by the carnage. “In a Temple,” he mutters darkly, “Desecration! Doom!”

Ember shakes her throbbing head and calls Bhelgarn over to bind the men left alive, but in so doing catches Thrud’s eye. His face is ashen, his eyes wide in fear. “Blod…så mye blod…” he whispers, then turns and flees out the door. Ember, Odleif, and Morgan sprint after him. As Odleif pushes open the stone pivot door, Ember and Morgan simultaneously turn to the remainder of the party, “Stay here!” they both command, then dash out.

Thrud is far down the hall ahead of them, but they do see him turn the corridor toward the revolving passage, and not the yellow mold room, thank Glöð. He is ahead of them through the door as well, and by the time they reach it the door will not budge and they hear the grinding of stone against stone. “Go after him?” says Morgan.

“No,” says Ember, though her voice is choked with emotion, “we are in no condition to pursue and we have no idea which way he went. It could take us hours to search and the rest of the party needs us.” They return to the vandalized temple with heavy steps.

By the time they get back all of the gormites have been slain. Apparently they were camped out here – there are a few days worth of food and water, and a few bedrolls. The food has been gathered up into a pile and the others are clustered around it greedily, with no watch set on either the ramp or the door. Hazrad is arguing that the mushrooms have to be separated, but few are listening. “That’s alright,” says Ember soothingly, “Glöð has seen our need and has granted me a spell to protect us.” She begins her benediction, waving her hands generously over the assembled food. Later, as everyone is eating lustily, Hazrad is still picking mushrooms out of his share and throwing them bitterly on to the floor.

Having eaten, drunk, and rested, the party is in much better order. Morgan takes a gold mask from one of the men and encourages anyone without one to do the same. Iris relieves the apparent leader of his sword.

They move out and down the hall. Odleif studies his notes and with a push of a button is able to summon the revolving passageway, but Thrud is not inside. Odlief thinks he is pressing the button to the room of the Magi but the party finds themselves opening the door to the entryway of the Maidens. The males, less Hazrad, wait in the hall while the women enter.

Pandora is pleased to see the party, and overjoyed when they show her the dented Zargonite helmet. She congratulates them all and, through Hazrad, invites them to formally join the Warrior Maidens. “What do we have to do, and what’s in it for us?” demands Morgan, leaving it to Hazrad to translate more diplomatically.

With much back and forth, Hazrad explains that there would be a religious ceremony wherein the female warriors of the party would pledge their loyalty to the Goddess Madarua. Those of the party who are not female, or who are not warriors (WolfBane), or who are not of age (FluffyKitty) would be allowed to become lesser members. Once the party has been accepted into the sisterhood, the Maidens will supply them with food and drink, and will guide them anywhere in the pyramid they wish to go, provided it does not compromise their mission of guarding the upper level against the Gormites and the Magi.

Speaking of Gormites, Pandora relates that the Maidens who accompanied the party to the fifth level returned just before the Gormites did, and were able to warn their sister Maidens. Only because they knew the usual way was blocked, and that they would have to go around, before the Gormites realized it. The Gormites returned to their dormitories on the second level and found all of their comrades slain. They sent parleys to the Maidens and the Magi demanding to know who did it and the Maidens told them that it was the party. The Gormites demanded the return of the helmet and the Maidens told them that the party did not have it. They were very angry and vowed revenge upon the entire party, and threatened to attack the Maidens if they helped the party again. The Maidens sent them on their way. Pandora regrets that she was not able to warn the party, but the Gormites took to walking the halls and camping in rooms in large numbers, so that she did not think it was wise to send out Maidens in small numbers. She was worried that the Gormites might try assaulting the Maidens in revenge and she needed all her people together.

FluffyKitty interrupts the long and complicated narratives with “Cookie? I can have cookie?” pleadingly. Pandora waves her hand and maidens carry the “child” to the table to feed her, and offer the others food and drink as well.

At the end of the discourse, Pandora again offers membership in the maidens to Morgan, Iris, and Ember, and lesser membership to the others. Remmy shakes his head, Ember, WolfBane, and Odleif politely decline, but the others agree. Once they understand that Morgan and Iris are to join, there is much excited talking among the maidens, and Pandora sends three of them out. She explains that they must retrieve supplies from the Undercity for the ceremony, and that it will take half a sleep or so for them to go there and back.

While everyone waits, Hazrad continues to field people’s questions for Pandora. Many people want to know where the food comes from, and Pandora explains that it is all grown in the undercity. Because it needs to be brought up by maidens in small groups, Pandora can feed the party while they are here, but can’t really turn over a large amount at a time. She can request that the next time a relief group is sent up, and the next time and so forth, that they each carry some extra food, so that the party could build up a supply over time. In perhaps four tens’ worth of sleeps you could have enough for a week without re-supply. Water is available in the undercity, but it is too heavy for such a long journey, so it is fetched from the fountains on the fifth level to supply the maidens here.

Many people ask about the masks. This is harder, and it is unclear how much Hazrad is translating directly and how much he is filling in as best he can. Concrete items like food and weapons seem to have good correspondencies between the Alaysian he speaks and these people’s language. Theology and spiritual matters are not as obvious. He believes that the masks are totemic – that people wear the masks hoping to attain the powers of the thing depicted on them, though whether these powers are real, spiritual, or psychological is not clear. The maidens wear the face of the Goddess to become like the goddess. Other people have animal totems, and Hazrad says there is something in her tone for these people – something between pity and derision. Pressed about the rat-men, Pandora does not seem to indicate that wearing a mask can make you actually turn in to the creature, though her language is frustratingly vague. The masks are worn during all waking hours, except for eating.

Asked about Thrud, they say they have not seen him. Odleif asks whether he can keep the Zargonite helmet, and Pandora agrees.

The maidens who were sent for the ceremonial items have not yet returned. The party organizes a search for Thrud, delayed by Iris vacillating about whether she will or will not come with. This time, they do ask for two of the maidens to accompany them. They look first in the abandoned temple, where the draco lizard was slain. Thrud is behind the altar, with a tapestry half over him. He is weak from hunger and fear, and has dark circles around his eyes, but is quite human and is not wounded any more than when he ran off.

On their way back down the hall, the party is met by a group of humans in robes. Their masks are of leering, horned, but humanoid faces. They carry, and swing, incense burners. At the sight of the party some begin to chant, others to shout aggressively. Morgan looks to the maidens. They are hard to read, since their masks betray no facial expressions, but their bodies are relaxed, not tense. Morgan holds up her hand for the party to halt. The robed men advance on them, their chanting growing more fervid. “Hazrad, what’s going on?” says Morgan.

After a brief exchange with the maidens, Hazrad says, “Too many mushrooms. They think they are powerful clerics, and we are demons. They are trying to turn us. If we react accordingly, they should leave us alone.”

The party “cowers” as they slip by the “priests”. They seem quite satisfied with themselves, having “driven out the demons” and proceed on their way to the temple. The party returns to the maidens’ dormitory.

Some time later the maidens who were dispatched to the undercity return. Morgan asks whether the males of the party may stay in the dormatory rather than the hall. Pandora replies that they are welcome to move inside, but that she would like to use party members as guards (along with the maidens) on a rotational basis. The guards mostly wait in the hall outside and listen for the rumble of the revolving corridor. Morgan agrees.

Pandora and all of the maidens, as well as the party members who will be participating in the induction ceremony, leave. Ember, the recuperating Thrud, Remmy, Odleif, Pooches, and WolfBane remain in the maidens’ living quarters. Pandora sets the revolving corridor to the northeast, goes first under the statue archway, and presumably unlocks the door, though no one in the party sees her. The maidens remove their shoes and leave them just inside the door of the temple. As the last party member enters and does the same, Pandora locks the door behind them.

As the ceremony begins in the temple, those left in the dormitory can hear chimes and smell incense. Once he is confident that the ceremony has begun, Odleif asks WolfBane to accompany him, slips out, and manages to use the revolving passageway to attain the star-filled hallway before the temple of the Magi. After knocking on the door, Odleif feels his mind contacted. The Magi leader says that the lives of everyone in the party were spared in return for their promise to rid the upper pyramid of the maidens. Odleif acknowledges this, but points out that they also were promised a week’s worth of food for destroying the Zargonites, and that they did do this. He has brought the helmet to proove it. The Magi leader says that he is appreciative of this, but it does not make up for the betrayal of their promise to evict the maidens. He is inclined to call the whole deal a draw. Odleif and WolfBane leave the helmet outside the door and return to the maiden dormitory.


Near the northeast corner of the Temple of Madarua is an altar covered with a green and white cloth. On the altar sits a 3’ tall statue of a woman holding a sword and a sheaf of wheat. To each side of the statue is a large white candle, and these are promptly lit. In front of the altar itself are three small braziers with incense, and these are next made to burn as well. White drapes hang on all the walls and the floor is covered by a green carpet. The room is dust-free and has been scrubbed clean – it is easily the cleanest and most orderly room in the pyramid, and nothing betrays that it is hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years old. Even skeptical Morgan feels a sense of ease and peace here.

Hazrad, Bhelgarn, and FluffyKitten are kept back while Morgan and Iris are led to the altar, so no translation is possible. The maidens join hands in a circle around them, with Pandora behind the altar and the others forming a complete ring. They chant in unison and then pray, each saying something in turn. They release hands and demonstrate, by gestures, that Morgan and Iris are to draw their swords. As both women do, there are low gasps from some of the maidens. In the candle-light both blades are bright and reflective, Iris’ every bit as much as Morgan’s, both blades looking newly forged and keen-edged. Again by gestures, the women are given to understand that they are to cut their finger and smear the blood along the length of their blade.

That being done, they lay their blades on the alter and face the statue of Madarua. Pandora says words, slowly and carefully, and the woman repeat them. Iris’ diction is clear, though she has no idea what she is saying. Morgan’s pronunciation is terrible – almost deliberately so. Is it any less a sacrilege to swear to a god you don’t intend to worship if you deliberately blunder the oath? Or does that just make your transgression the worse?

[Later, in response to Iris’ query, Hazrad will tell them that she said “I swear to uphold the honor of Madarua, even with my own blood if necessary.”]

From behind the altar Pandora produces a green tunic and a bronze mask, one for each of the women, and fits them carefully. A maiden leaves the circle and goes to the three others, each in turn, fastening on them each a simple bracelet with a bronze bead carved into the image of a woman’s face. Pandora produces a short length of iron with a shape at the end, and holds it over one of the candles. In a few seconds it glows red-hot as if it were in a forge. With this she brands each of the women, and they come away with a sickle and sheaf of wheat on the inside of their left wrist.


The maidens join hands again around Morgan and Iris and offer closing prayers. After that the decorum of the ceremony is over, and the maidens rush to embrace their new sisters. “Yeah, yeah, I love you too,” says Morgan snarkily, “but I need to get drunk now so let’s go home.”

Once back in the dorm, Morgan uses Hazrad to request a fermented drink, and is pleased to find they they indeed have a store of a kombucha-like fermented mushroom-water. She tilts her newly-placed bronze mask back as she drinks. “Ugh, Alfheim red that’s not.” Then later, “Okay, I’m getting used to the taste, but it’s pretty weak. I’m going to have to drink an awful lot of that to get drunk.”

Hazrad uses her running commentary as an excuse to “translate” to Pandora. He asks her what the maidens expect of them now. Pandora says that while orders might come from her superiors in the undercity, she herself has no further requests – the party has completed everything she might ask of them. He asks if the party should go to the undercity, and she answers if that is what they want. He asks about whether the party should set up their own lair, rather than imposing further on the maidens. He hints that it might be helpful to them to control some place higher up in the pyramid. Pandora agrees, that it would be strategically valuable to have more pyramid territory under the control of the maidens. Now that the party has defeated two groups of gormites, securing their old quarters would be a great idea. If between the maidens and the party they can convince the gormites to abandon the upper pyramid, then they will all be more secure and will only have to worry about the Magi.

Hazrad turns to the other party members. “If we could clear the second level, the maidens would be happy to have us use it as our base. We would have to deal with the fairy-folk and maybe some lizards, but I think we are up to that, now. Then we would be near the surface and it would be easy for us to leave. We can amass the supplies we will need and store them there. We can either wait there and have the maidens supply us a little at a time until we have enough, or we can have them guide us to the undercity and we can haul out all the food we need in one go.”

Morgan nods and pulls at her drink. “Or,” she thinks to herself, “We can just make a quick raid on the Magi’s food stores and then high-tail it out.”

Post 13 (A day's worth of questions)
A day's worth of questions

While the party is resting with the maidens, Hazrad translates a number of questions for Pandora…

In the beginning the Three Gods, Gorm, Madarua, and Usamigares, were allies, and the rightful rulers of the people. This was as far back as history itself. The Gods cooperated so that the people had good lives. Madarua was the most important – she ruled over the natural cycles of life – birth and death, growth and decay. Gorm and Usamigares ruled over the people’s social and personal lives. Gorm was the power of working together and collective action, Usamigares represented individualism and creativity.

Then Zargon came, creeping out of the dark – void. This was long, long ago – before the grandmothers of the grandmothers. The evil of Zargon corrupted the people, and corrupted two of the three Gods. Only Madarua was able to resist it. Evil men became priests of Zargon and seized control of the people. Under the influence of Zargon, Usamigares and his followers have become selfish individualists – they use magic to attain personal power, and don’t care for anyone else. Under the influence of Zargon, Gorm and his followers have become mindlessly uniform, unquestioningly obedient to authority, and punish all dissent. Although all three of the Three Gods oppose Zargon, only the Madaruans do so for the right reasons, with the good intent of helping the people. (Madarua, and women, are more resistant to evil because, being mothers, they have compassion in their nature – they care for their children. Not all men are evil, and not all women are good, but it is far easier for a man to fall to evil than for a woman.)

Pandora only knows a little bit of the history. There are older, wiser women in the Madaruan Enclave in the undercity who could tell more. Also, there is a room off of the Great Temple on the first (lowest) level of the upper pyramid, near the entrance to the way to the undercity. It is said that the walls of this room talk, and speak of history. That is what is said, although Pandora has been through the room many times and has never heard the walls talk.

The Pyramid
The Pyramid (or what Pandora continually calls the “upper pyramid”) was built as a contact point, as a gate between the people and the light – void. People travel from the undercity to the light – void through the Pyramid. Before the coming of Zargon, the Pyramid was populated – many people lived there, but now it is mostly monsters.

The Pyramid contained many temples, like the Great Temple on the first (lowest) layer, the Common Temple on this layer, and the individual temples on this layer. The priests lived in quarters around the temples, like where the Madaruans are right now.

When Zargon came, his followers attacked the temples in the Pyramid. They destroyed the Great Temple and the Common Temple. They built a temple to Zargon on this level. At first, the followers of the Three Gods retreated to the Undercity. In the time of the grandmothers they were able to retake parts of the Pyramid.

The first level (lowest level; what you call the fifth) of the Pyramid is where the entrance to the undercity is. (It is in a room near the Great Temple.). This level is the base of operations for the Zargonites in the Pyramid, which you destroyed.

Pandora thinks that in “the tomb level” (or for her, the second level of the upper pyramid) are the remains of the court of rulers of the people from a time long ago, from before the coming of Zargon. She thinks their names were Queen Zenobia and King Alexander. She has only used it to travel through.

The third level (for you, the third level as well) is the level of the Three Gods. All of the factions have temples on this level (including gorm, the zargonites (though their temple is abandoned) and the Common Temple (now ruined). The Maidens and the Magi also have their dorms on this level.

The fourth level (for you, the second) is where the gormites have their dorms – or had them, until you destroyed them.

The fifth level (for you, the first) is where the door to the Light – Void is.

[Hazrad is unable to translate the word “map” to anything that Pandora understands. Ember shows her the map of the tomb level, and Hazrad says “marks on a paper to show a place.” Eventually Pandora understands that you mean a drawing symbolizing a real place. While she gets this, she seems unable to grasp the concept that a person could actually MAKE this. You might find such a drawing, you might read or understand such a drawing, but a person could not make one. She gets that Ember want to know where things are, and keeps falling back to “we can show you, and you will learn – then you will know.”]

To work the revolving door, from without, you press the symbol that matches where you are. This summons the door. Then you step within. Once within, you press the symbol of where you want to go. This brings that part of the pyramid to you and then you can leave. Or, you can walk to the other end and be at the opposite part of the pyramid.


S – The stairs to the next level up

SW – The storeroom of the Magi

W – The Temple of the Magi

NW – The Temple of Zargon

N – The Common Temple and the ramp to the next level down

NE – The Temple of Madarua

E – The Dorms of the Maidens

SE – The Temple of the Brotherhood

The Light – Void
[“Outside” the pyramid is not a concept that Hazrad is able to translate. Pandora calls it the “light – void” and seems to think of it as a vast, empty space that touches the topmost level of the Pyramid]

Pandora and some of the more experienced maidens have been to the top of the pyramid and looked out into the void. Sometimes monsters come from the void and occasionally food animals. People have never come from the void before – your group is the first.

The Undercity
The undercity is in a large open cavern along the shore of a great underground lake. There are many buildings and many, many people. There are mushroom fields and animal pens and fishing boats for the lake. [Pandora does not know the word for “tree”]. The largest building is the Temple of Zargon, but each of the Three Gods have fortifications as well. Most of the people live in individual or communal houses and there are civic buildings as well. People sometimes trade with each other, goods or services or coins, but there is no market. Anything of value is quickly noted and appropriated by the Zargonites.

Most of the population of the undercity are common people. They do most of the labor, grow the food, etc. They are controlled by the Zargonites. They are punished for disobedience and rewarded for compliance. Typically the reward is with mushrooms, so most of the citizens do not have a clear distinction between the dream world and the real world. The Madaruans use mushrooms to have visions, but only sparingly in religious ceremonies, when Madarua herself can guide what they see. Because the common people over-use the mushrooms, they are often very confused and live out fantasy lives (and here one of the maidens suggests the men you found who thought you were demons and they were priests). Their masks relate to their own inner fantasies, and all adults wear them. The children typically learn crafts and trades from their parents or the other adults around them.

The followers of the three Gods have sympathizers and spies among the common people. When they see that a youth is strong, is willing to reject the lash of the Zargonites and the escapism of the mushrooms, they arrange to have them taken by one of the groups and raised by them. Most of the Maidens are actually born as maidens, but many of them were born as commoners. Female children become maidens, but male children can become lesser members and still live within the Enclave of Madarua. The Madrauans have a spiritual leader (High Priestess) and a secular leader (Great Mother). The secular leader is chosen by a consensus of the adult maidens. The spiritual leader is chosen by Madarua.

The priestesses of Madarua can heal the sick and wounded and can make potions of healing, but Pandora has no experience with that and does not know how one would identify an unfamiliar potion. Hazrad struggles but cannot translate “lycanthrope” – there is no specific word for it in his Alaysian (it is just called “cursed”) and he does not know what the word might be for them, if they have one. When he tries to explain literally a person turning into an animal, Pandora gets confused and believes he is referring to the masks and mushroom-visions. When he asks about whether Madaruan priestesses can cure curses in general, Pandora says that Madarua can cure any ill, but the execution depends on the skill of the priestess and the worthiness of the cause.


Morgan: Do the Magi have a place where they keep scrolls?
Pandora knows little specific about the Magi.

Morgan: Do they have extra shields?
The people seem familiar with the concept of armor, but not shields.

Most animals in the undercity are food stock animals, but some commoner children keep smaller versions of them as pets. The maidens allow children to keep animals as pets as it encourages the development of their compassion and maternal instinct, but when they become adults they are expected to care for other people, not animals.

The words for “vegetables”, “fruit”, and “mushrooms” all seem interchangeable, or at least to have subtleties of meaning that are lost to Hazrad. As for milk, “children get milk from their mothers, or foster-mothers.”

They understand “bad air” and “good air” and that the candles cannot be kept going too long or the good air will become bad air, but they fail to see the problem inherent in Fluffy’s question.

The masks express who they are, or who they are trying to become, but don’t help them see out. They can see in the dark. It is actually easier for them to see in the dark then in the light – bright light is painful and disorienting. Low light is important for religious ceremonies and sometimes for fine work like sewing but little else.

Post 14 (All your base are belong to us)
All your base are belong to us


The party rests with the maidens a complete day, with Ember both tending wounds, changing dressings, and other mundane care, and curing people magically every four hours. At the end of the day of rest and recuperation, everyone but Thrud is at full health.

Besides peppering Hazrad with questions for Pandora, the party discusses their next move. The consensus is in favor of establishing a base on the second level. After rest, most of the party proceeds to ready themselves. Ember remains resting with the maidens, Thrud guarding her, and FluffyKitten playing at being a kid, but the others set out.

With the new notes to decode the revolving room symbols, it is easy to find the corridor leading to the Gorm Temple. From this side, the door is not electrified – until the party nears it! Bhelgarn tries his old trick of securing the key to the end of his pole and gets the door open. The Temple is little changed – but three bodies, wrapped in sheets, lie in front of the altar. After an initial scare, the party approaches. The bodies don’t move. The party recalls, some guiltily and some not, that although most of the slain gormites were fed to lizards, the three executed after interrogation were left locked in the bee cage. These could be those three bodies, removed and laid to rest in a more dignified manner.

Up the ladder and through the trap door, the party enters the complex of gormite rooms. The place has been disturbed – the cage is open and empty, the chain mail suits have been neatly piled, and the general mess and disorder left by the party in destroying the bunk beds for makeshift torches has been tidied. The rooms are otherwise empty, though. After some discussion, they decide to double-spike the bee-room door and one of the dorm doors, and leave the other dorm door open for access.

The team starts by having Bhelgarn and Odleif exit the bee room to spike the outside of the door. However, they are no sooner through the door when they see three giant centipedes in the room. Bhelgarn’s thrown axe cleaves one in two, but Odleif misses with an arrow. The remaining two centipedes scuttle away hurriedly and squeeze themselves under the far door. After securing the door, the pair do the same to one of the exterior dorm doors, so that only one dorm door, the one closer to the statue in the hallway, is free to open and close. They then unpack a bit and make camp.


After a brief break, they return to the central room where the ladders lead to the first level. This time they go through the items carefully, with an eye toward anything that might be useful. Leaving behind gears and other mechanisms, they come away with a sealed clay pot of thick oil, a set of tongs, two rods that are perhaps axles, and a large anvil that can only be carried by two of them at a time. All of these are returned to their base complex.

A second foray is made to a room that Iris has been in, but no one else. In it are bales of long-rotted cloth, and crates of what might have been food centuries ago. In the arid environment it has dry-rotted rather than moldered.

Continuing down the hall, Odleif cautiously opens the door to the room that had housed the pixies. They are nowhere to be seen, but the boxes and crates remain. Odleif is so intent on finding the pixies, that he fails to notice how the door scrapes the stone floor at the end of its arc, generating sparks which ignite a thin trail of powder on the floor. Bhelgarn though, just behind him, sees well enough. He pushes past the human and dashes into the room, stamping on the quickly burning powder until it is out, and then kicking the unburned trail to disperse it, a trail which led to one of the crates.

Opening all the crates, the party removes what they find from the sawdust packing and consolidates them all in one box. They carry the haul back to their base. It consists of 19 small sacks full of powder, 23 “candles” of powder wrapped in waxed paper (like the ones taken previously), 16 candles that are longer, slimmer, and have a wooden holder or support stuck in them, and 45 strings set with little clusters of cylinders, somewhat like bunches of grapes. Many of these strange items are leaking powder, have their paper rotted through, are cracked, etc., but some are intact. Bhelgarn believes that he could sort through them and separate out the good from the bad. Although they appear to be designed to be lit, he is not quite sure what would happen when a “working” one is lit.

After that they quickly check on the green slime room. The slime is still there, so they have a means of waste disposal for their base.


They again pass through the central access room and into the east corridor. They first check the room that had been abandoned, where they had stored the dead bodies. Before there had been bits and pieces of bone and flesh about, and lizard tracks in blood. Now there are just faded stains on the floor. Although they searched before, they confirm that all the furniture is empty and worthless, the sleeping pallets are dry rotted and useless, etc. For the last door on the level, they prepare to open the room that had a giant gecko lizard in it before. Two people can stand in the doorway, so Odeif presses himself against the great stone door to open it. Iris kneels and prepared her bow. Morgan stands above and behind her, with a bow borrowed from Odleif. The size difference between the two women is enough that they will both be able to shoot.

With the door open, they can clearly see the gecko behind the bed on the far side of the room, with just its head and tail sticking out. Iris’ arrow sinks deep into the mattress, raising a cloud of dust. Morgan’s arrow pierces the lizard’s tail, enraging it. It climbs over the bed and charges the door.

Iris shoots (again hitting the bed), then moves back; Morgan barely has time to set down her bow and draw her sword before the thing is on her, sinking its peg-like teeth deep into her arm and holding on. She slices at it with her sword, but it thrashes its head violantly, further opening the wound on her forearm. Blood flows freely and Morgan passes out from shock.


Pooches leaps over the scrambling Iris and bites the gecko in its flank, getting it to drop the unconscious and slumped Morgan. As the lizard turns to the dog, Pooches goes for its throat, and now it is the lizard’s turn to collapse. As Pooches savages the body, Iris binds Morgan’s wound and then listens for her breathing.

“She’s ok for now,” Iris pronounces, “but we need to get her to Ember.”

Bhelgarn volunteers to carry her, and Hazrad to guard him, since the dwarf’s hands will be occupied. Both the ladder and key for the electric door seem impractical, so they elect to go the not-yet-used route down the stairs and then look for the room of the maidens.

Meanwhile, only four of the party (not counting Pooches) remain on the second level. Odleif, Iris, and Remmy stride boldly into the gecko’s room, ready to claim its treasure. WolfBane waits outside in the hall, thank-you-very-much. They are halfway across the room to the bed when a second gecko drops from the ceiling in their midst and begins snapping at them. Although startled at first, in the room with space to maneuver, they soon have that beast slain as well, and Remmy has now learned of the power of his magical dagger.

Remmy finds a gold-inlaid mask of a bird-creature behind the bed, but nothing else of interest in the room. Besides the bed, there is a writing table, a chair, and a chest, but all are aged and worthless. The chest holds only rotting linens. “There aren’t even candles,” muses Iris. “I wonder how they wrote in the dark?” That is not something even elves with their infravision can do.

“I’m athinkin’ this room is from afore they can see in the dark, from afore they stopped writin’,” suggests Odleif.

Remmy adds, “I’ll bet someone took all the candles already.”


With the last room on the level clear, the four remaining party members retreat to rest in their base complex while they wait for Morgan. After several hours, Ember is able to use all of her healing on Morgan, restoring her to fighting readiness. Morgan tells Bhelgarn and Hazrad to return to the base via the gorm temple and ladder, rouse the others, then wait 15 minutes and set out from the west doors of the central room. She will take three maidens with her to come up the stairs, and they will meet in the middle. Thus, they will know the level is secure and will be able to show the maidens where their base is. Ember and Thrud go with Bhelgarn and Hazrad, but remain in the gorm base. FluffyKitten remains with the maidens, playing in the dark and eating as much dessert as she can beg and wheedle from them.

The timing works out well and Morgan and the maidens are halfway up the stairs when they meet the party coming down. The upper party turns around and they all make to return. As Morgan walks down the hall, she turns and asks, “Has anyone checked this door?” indicating a tracing of cracks in the stone on the north wall.

Remmy listens at the door and declares that he hears birds. Odleif opens the door a crack and sees pigeon-sized creatures with leathery bat-like wings flapping or roosting about the room. They all have a single long proboscis rather than a beak. He lets the door close as rapidly as he can: although some of the creatures were flying toward the door none make it through.


Everyone agrees that Wolfbane should come to the fore. She casts her sleep spell, but in the middle of it she grimaces and recoils. Years of apprenticeship have honed her concentration, however, and she is able to complete the spell. Remmy, ear to the door, confirms that small bodies can be heard falling to the floor.

Wolfbane explains that during her casting of the spell she felt her mind contacted, nigh-invaded, and it was all she could do to complete the spell correctly. Now, however, the malign influence seems to be gone. “Kin those things cast spells?” wonders Odleif, but Iris shakes her head.

“Based on your description, I’d say they were stirges. And no, stirges can’t cast spells.”

Still, the party carefully arranges themselves at the door before they open it, and carefully look inside before they enter. All of the stirges indeed appear asleep. Bhelgarn and Remmy are the first in. In the midst of crushing their tiny heads with his great dwarven boots, Bhelgarn spots three gems loose on the guano-strewn floor. He collects them, and makes as to tuck them away in a belt pouch when Iris, next to enter the room, interjects. “That’s party treasure, that goes to Ember.”

The dwarf harrumphs. “I’ll give this to Ember when everyone gives their treasure to Ember.” He stares hard at Remmy.

The man returns his stare coldly. “Since I joined you, I’ve split up equally among us all the coins I’ve found. The only thing I have found that can’t be divided is a mask in the lizard room. It’s true I still have that. But if I recall correctly, you have a mask of your own from that woman who was killed by snakes.”

The dwarf mumbles under his breath in dwarven, pulls out the gemstones, and thrusts them rudely at Iris. “You can give them to her, then.”

“Do anyone else smell that?” asks Odleif.

“What, bird shit?” huffs Bhelgarn. “It’s hard not to.”

“Nah, fresh desert air,” says the woodsman. “An’ I swear I feel a draft.” He raises his lantern and begins scanning the stone walls. On the west side is a small opening, tall and narrow and no larger than the one in the bee room. It slants upward and goes in deeper than can be seen. Sticking his head right up to it, Odleif says wistfully, “I kin see stars.”


After the others have had a turn at the slot, they take the maidens into the room where the dead hobgoblin was found, right up to the spiked door of the bee room. Hazrad explains that the party will be camping on the other side of this door, and that the maidens are to pound on it if they need to contact the party. They say they understand.

Once the maidens retreat down the stairs, the party goes the long way around to the open dorm door. Odleif pounds a stake on the outside, so the door can’t be pulled open from without (or pushed open from within), and then the party retires to their suite of rooms, setting up bedrolls where they wish through most choose the bee room. The recovered anvil is moved into position to block the door. In theory, the last door could be pushed open from the outside, but only by something strong enough to move the weight of the massive door plus slide the anvil across the stone floor.

The rooms, and apparently the level, secure, the party shares a meal together from the store of foods captured in the gormite ambush, sets up a watch schedule, and rests, secure in their new base. A few of them wonder out loud whether they should get FluffyKitten, but no one volunteers to go.

Post 15 (Long live the king?)
Long live the king?

When the party is ready to set out, Thrud and Bhelgarn are sent to fetch FluffyKitten. Once everyone is at the gorm base, there is a brief conversation about the next course of action. The consensus is that they will explore and open tombs on the fourth level in an attempt to obtain magic items.

Ember is against the idea of “tomb-raiding”, but is not willing to go against the others in their goal of equipping the party. She understands that Thrud may “turn”, and that they may encounter other creatures, more powerful than rat-men, who are harmed only by magic. She does say however, clearly and emphatically, that her goddess will not support thieves and looters. Anyone who wishes her ministries must take only items that are needed, not simply wealth, and anything that is taken must be replaced with something of equivalent value.

Once she has made herself clear, the party checks the anvil, then descends through the trapdoor. They pass through the gorm temple, the revolving passageway, and into the ruined temple. There they find the bodies of the gormites are gone. A quick examination shows that they were dragged out into the hall by others, but there the trail is lost as the party itself has just passed over and obscured it.

Down the ramp they go and to the fourth level, that of the tombs. Morgan declares that they will be searching the place WELL. She organizes the marching order, with herself and Bhelgarn on one side of the hallway, Iris and Remmy on the other. They will pass down the hallway examining the walls, with both people checking each side so as to have some redundancy in case one of the pair misses a door.

In front of the “searching square” are Odleif, Ember and Bhelgarn, looking ahead for hazards. In back are Thrud, FluffyKitten, and Hazrad, protecting their rear. They travel to just beyond the skeleton room before starting. Going slowly and carefully, they cover about a foot per minute, and it is nearly three hours later when they have reached the chamber with the ever-burning flames. They remove the stone lid from the sarcophagus. There is a mummified body inside, but no weapons or other items. Remmy notes that the bandages around the neck and forearms have been cut open – someone has already looted the jewelry.

Leaving the room, the party works their way back up the hallway toward the rat room. They are perhaps halfway back when Hazrad hears the sound of footsteps dragging along the stone floor. FluffyKitten turns up her lantern, shining it down the hall and revealing three once-human figures. Their clothes are in tatters, they have long claws and fangs, their bodies are covered in festering wounds, and their eyes glow evilly.


Hazrad is stunned for the briefest of moments, then fixes the spear-head on his lance. “GHUL!” he shouts at the top of his lungs as he charges forward. As his cry echoes down the stone hallway, he impales the lead ghoul squarely in its chest with his lance.

The creature looks down at the wound, then grins malevolently. Grasping the shaft of the lance with its clawed hands, it leans forward and strains, until with a great ripping of flesh the spear blade erupts from its back. Hand over hand it pulls its way down the nine-foot shaft, threading the lance through its body until it arrives at Hazrad. One swipe of its hand across his face, and the nomad is frozen rigidly in place. The other two creatures sniff greedily at Hazrad, but the impaled one snarls at them and they turn and advance on the party.

Meanwhile, the party has begun realizing there is a threat to their rear. Iris has stopped searching and has pushed her way to the back of the group, saying, “Ghouls! Paralysis! Elves are immune! Let me through!”

Once clear, she and FluffyKitten begin taking shots at the two advancing ghouls, she with first a magic missile then her bow and FluffyKitten with her stones. Behind them, Thrud readies his axe but does not charge in front of the missile fire.

By the time the ghouls reach the party, one has been wounded by the _ magic missile_ but the arrow and stones have missed wildly. The ghoul on Hazrad has spent most of the time stripping off his chain armor, but has begun to feed hungrily upon his flesh. A glancing blow from a ghoul paralyzes FluffyKitten, but Iris and Thrud make short work of the two ghouls. Then Thrud charges the remaining ghoul, his wild battle axe blade coming within inches of Hazrad’s face, lopping the ghoul’s head clean off, and spattering the paralyzed nomad with gore.

While most of the party listens carefully for any other monsters drawn by the sound of combat, Ember tends to FluffyKitten and Hazrad, using her healing skills on both and an orison or two on the nomad. Soon thereafter, they become able to move again. Hazrad sinks down to the floor, leaning his back against the wall. He points feebly at the ghoul-corpses and whispers, “the bodies…burn them…”

Bhelgharn arranges the three bodies in a neat row and liberally coats them with an entire flask of his oil, then sets them alight. The smell of searing, putrid flesh and a dense, acrid smoke fill the hall.

Morgan surveys the burning corpses and mentally ticks off their remaining resources. “One flask for the ghouls, and at least another one while we were searching…so much for slow and careful. I was sure their were secret rooms on this level, but our priority now is using what oil we have left on the rooms we know are here.” She looks over Odlief’s map. "Okay, we haven’t looked in the “dragon room”, or seen the end of the passageway beyond it. Hazrad, let us know when you are ready to travel."

Eventually the party gets moving, on beyond the ramp room and down the hall, around the corner and to the room with the burned outline of a human shape still on the wall. This time they actually enter the room. Along the walls are paintings of a priest performing ceremonies. On a raised dais in the middle of the room lies an open bronze sarcophagus. Bhelgarn and Remmy are first at the sarcophagus, checking for traps. They report that whatever body was once there has been torn apart – all that are left are bits of cloth wrappings and small fragments of bone. They find no treasure or weapons.


A quick search of the room concluded, the party continues down the twisting corridor, farther than they went before. After a long straightaway, they are approaching yet another corner. Suddenly, the shimmering, ghostlike figures of a man and a woman appear before them. The translucent figures are dressed in costly clothing, and both wear golden crowns. The man raises his hand and gestures for them to stop. Every member of the party finds themselves rooted to the spot, unable to move.

“Go no further,” he warns, “lest the curse of King Alexander overtake you!”

“I am Queen Zenobia,” the woman says. “Turn back; only death awaits you!”

(Later, when conversing about this, the party discovers that for each of them, the figure seemed to speak in their own native language, whether that be Hin, Dwarven, Elven, Darokite, Glantrian, Nordic, or Ylauri.)

A wave of terror overwhelms them all – as the figures fade, they are released from their paralysis but barely can contain themselves. Hazrad and FluffyKitten collapse on the floor, trembling in fear. The others turn and bolt pell-mell back up the hall, unable to think of anything but their desire to flee.

Post 16 (Looking for a lost kitten)
Looking for a lost kitten

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.

Post 17 (Mother? I'm home!)
Mother? I'm home!


The party organizes, then marches to the Maidens. Hazrad asks for guides to the room with the “walls that talk”, and then the Undercity. Pandora asks for volunteers and four women step forward; Pandora chooses three of them.

Pandora turns to FluffyKitten, then feels her forehead. Seeing the blood-encrusted robe the halfling has, she examines her side and finds the stab wound. Her tone is of great concern, and Hazrad translates that she is suggesting the “girl” remain with them. Ember decides to heal her completely, both as a practical matter and to demonstrate the power of her own Goddess – she uses six orisons of heartmending. Seeing FluffyKitten completely healed, Pandora gives her assent for her departure, but Ember declares that the party will rest before setting out so that she can recover her spells.

The maidens share their food and drink with the party and Ember keeps her lantern on low but it lasts for only two hours before her remaining oil burns out; FluffyKitten’s lantern is then lit and one quarter of her flask used before the group sets out.

The party leaves the Maidens with three of them as guides. The lantern is extinguished and torches are lit for the lead and rear of the party. They proceed down the ramp room to the tomb level, along their known route to the ladder down to the fifth level, and through the kitchen complex. They pass through the room with the iron statues, which are easy to outrun, and through the room with the stone statues, which are harder. Wolfbane trips and falls during the crossing; Iris scoops her up before the statues can get her. Thrud leaves a lit “candle” behind, and the group waits outside the door, but hears no explosion.

At the hallway intersection, the Maidens lead the party in traversing the “corners” without stepping into the intersection itself. Iris and Pooches go last – Pooches misses his jump, and when he lands on the floor of the intersection, his weight causes the floor to tilt along an axis. Iris dives, grabbing his forelegs, and the two people behind her grab for her legs. Everyone strains, and Pooches is pulled to safety, but not before Iris catches a glimpse of what lies beneath the trapped floor – a ten foot drop on to metal spikes! The party resumes their marching order and proceeds to the “Great Temple”.

[two hours, down four torches, thirty-eight left]

They pass the broken statues and descend the stairs of the dais. The maidens take deep drinks from their waterskins and then refill them in the fountain, indicating by gesture that the party should do the same.

As they fill their skins, a pair of figures approaches from along the central aisle. They approach unthreateningly, a man and a woman. The woman wears a sword, but it is sheathed. They have brightly-colored clothing, red hair, and bronze fox masks.

The maidens draw their swords, but at a few words from the woman, sheathe them again. The maidens begin talking with the pair. Hazrad listens intently, but much of the conversation flows too fast for him to follow. He does notice that the man is staring intently at one of the maidens.

Bhelgarn feels the gaze of the woman on him, and feels increasingly uncomfortable. “Time ta go,” he says, and begins to pack up.

“What?” asks Morgan.

“I don’ like them, an’ we need ta go.” The dwarf offers no further argument, but sets off. Most of the party begins to follow. Two of the maidens take their leave of the pair, but one lingers. Her two companions speak to her sharply, but she waves them off. Hazrad tries to speak to her as well. She answers him, but does not take her eyes off the man.

Hazrad and the other two maidens begin conversing, as the torchbearers retreat and light fades on the fountain. The maidens grow increasingly agitated. Hazrad takes the arm of the maiden lightly, and tries to lead her away, but she resists. The other two maidens draw their swords and start forward aggressively – though it is unclear whether they mean to menace the fox-man or Hazrad for his temerity at touching one of their own. Morgan, Iris, and Odleif had hesitated, withdrawing but not leaving with the rest of the party. Now, Morgan and Iris return, while Odleif nocks an arrow and draws. Morgan takes the maiden’s hand, replacing Hazrad, but the fox-man takes the other. For a second it looks as though they are about to have a tug-of-war, but then the fox-woman draws her sword and advances on Morgan. At that, she drops the maiden’s hand and draws her own sword. Odleif risks one shot, which flies over Morgan’s shoulder but misses the fox-woman. Then, as the party retreats further, the scene at the fountain fades into darkness.

In the dark, Hazrad grips his spear but can do little else. The fox-man begins to lead the maiden away. The other two maidens flank the pair, but do not attack. Morgan, Iris, and the fox-woman begin to fight, and with a few mighty slashes Morgan cuts the woman down, then turns and charges at the retreating fox-man and maiden. He is now moving quickly, having ascended the stairs and is making for the door. He still has the maiden’s hand in his own, but she is going with him quite willingly. They have just reached the door when Morgan catches up to them. Unarmed, and facing Morgan’s sword, the man pauses, shrinks, and turns into a fox! The maiden is left standing confused as the fox darts away to disappear among the rubble.


At the sound of combat, some in the party have returned. Light falls across Morgan just in time for those watching to see her wind up and slap the maiden hard across her face. There is a sharp intake of breath from all the maidens, but then the formerly enamored one begins thanking Morgan, rapidly defusing the situation. Morgan leaves her to talk with her sisters about what happened, while she goes to examine the body of the fox woman. There is little on it besides her mask and sword, but under her robes Morgan does find a necklace, which she turns over to Ember, though FluffyKitten clambers for it. Morgan is more interested in the sword, as is Bhelgarn. Examining it by torchlight, they find it is a fine, sharp, and well-balanced blade, with no signs of wear. Glyphs are etched along the base of the blade on both sides. Wolfbane identifies these as magic runes, and claims that she would be able to read them, had she prepared her read magic spell. Morgan agrees that Bhelgarn can carry it for the time being.

When everyone is back in order, the party proceeds through the open north corridor. After about eighty feet, it opens into the second largest chamber they have seen in the pyramid, after the great temple. The maidens assure the party that this is the room where the walls talk. The high, arched ceiling of this room is supported by a double row o f pillars. Each pillar is carved into a statue of what, from their crowns, the party takes to be a king or queen of Cynidicea . A series of mosaic pictures decorate the walls of the room. These start in the southwest corner near where the party entered and continue clockwise around the room. The maidens seem amazed by the mosaics, as if they had never seen them before. Gradually the party realizes that although they have been in and out of this room all their adult lives, they have never entered it with a light source until now.

In the center of the north wall is a pair of huge stone doors. At the base of the double doors, the floor is covered with sand. They are on the fifth level – the one that, from the outside, looked partially buried by sand. Furthermore, Bhelgarn noted the change from limestone blocks to bedrock as they descended to the next level. He is sure that they are now level with the ground, and that the doors are a second means of exiting the pyramid. However, the doors open out – after a few attempts, Bhegarn is equally convinced that they will only open if several tons of sand are excavated from the other side, first.


Remmy is left to watch the entrance, while the rest of the party examines the mosaics by torchlight. They are, in order…

(West wall)
1 . A tribe of squat, heavy-browed humanoids wielding crude stone weapons worship a lizard-headed god.

2. A large band of tall, black-haired people battle the humanoids and take over their hunting grounds.

3 . A village rises over the scene of the battle. The lands around the village are an open grasslands, not a sandy desert. There are fields of grain and vast herds of cattle sheep.

4. An army of snake-headed warriors marches on the village. A great leader arises from among the humans, uniting them in defense of their homes and fields and driving off the invaders.

5. The victorious leader is crowned king, thus founding a line of rulers. The likeness of the king is recognizable as being that of the man on the first of the pillars of the room.

6. A stone city is built on the site where the village stood. Bhelgarn spends a long time looking at this panel, and eventually pronounces his belief that the city represented is the city above, outside the pyramid. The pyramid itself is not shown, but he believes that many of the largest buildings, as well as the general layout, is the same.

7 . Scenes of the splendor of the kingdom at its height; abundant harvests, rich trade, wealthy nobles, lavish temples.

8 . The births of a king and a queen. Although depicted in their cradles, their “future selves” float nearby, presaging the rulers to come. Many in the party recognize their features as those of the ghosts they found in the tombs, which would make them King Alexander and Queen Zenobia. FluffyKitten points to the queen and says “boing, boing!” until the party realizes that she is referencing the queen in the mural in the burial room of the jester.

(north wall, west of doors)

9 . The great pyramid is built under the direction of King Alexander and Queen Zenobia. Worship of Gorm, Usamigares, and Madarua is now centered on the pyramid and the temples in the pyramid.

10. Workers digging under the pyramid uncover the foundations of a pre-historic temple. Priests exploring the ancient temple discover and begin to worship a great, tentacled being. This worship is not supported by the King and Queen but it is tolerated.

(north wall, east of doors)

11 . The death of King Alexander and Queen Zenobia and the burial of them and their court in the pyramid. Certain scenes are recognizable as being from the tomb level.

12. The worship of the old gods Gorm, Usamigaras, and Madarua is replaced by the worship of the tentacled god among most people. Even the new king and queen are shown taking part.

(east wall)

13. Life becomes a year-round carnival for the people of the city. Apparently the city now controls a vast hinterland, and the rural dwellers and trade routes are taxed so that the city folk can live in luxury. All city folk are now masked, and the pyramid becomes a permanent center of celebration.

14. A barbaric, golden-haired people contact the kingdom. Based on their appearance and weaponry, Ember believes that they are an attempt to represent the nordic peoples of her homeland.

15. The final picture is not a mosaic. It is a crudely painted sketch that shows the barbarians looting the city. Noblemen and priests are fleeing to take refuge in the pyramid.

There is room on the wall for more pictures, but the space is blank.

Odleif examines the tracks on the ground – they are a bewildering mix of human sandals and boots, snake tracks, lizard feet, and insect legs. The heaviest traffic runs along the central corridor, but few of them approach the sand of the blocked doors. Odleif pauses near the northwest-most pillar – there seems to be a heavy concentration of human feet in the area. As he carefully triangulates, approaching step by step, one of the maidens casually walks past him and pries open a stone plate from the floor, revealing stone steps leading down. She says something which Hazrad translates as, “This is the entrance to the Undercity.”

The party enters the stairwell, one at a time. Narrow at first, the stairs quickly become a broad spiral staircase, carved out of the bedrock that underlies the pyramid. The last one through is a maiden, and she carefully replaces the stone plug in the trapdoor above her. The maiden in the lead passes several turns more ahead, but then stops and sits on the stairs. Through Hazrad, she explains that it is a long journey to the Undercity, and it is traditional to rest here before continuing. The monsters and animals of the pyramid do not come this way, so they will be safe.

However, the party has not been resting long when they begin to feel a clammy coldness seeping into their bones. Several of them start to tremble from the chill. Hazrad asks the maidens about it, and is told that it is an effect of the stone that happens sometimes, not always. They say that it is best to keep moving to stay warm. The party starts up again, descending the spiral staircase for what Bhelgarn says is at least two hundred feet. Many are sweating, but despite the labor still feel cold.

Here there is a landing, leading to the side a bit, and then another staircase descent, though this one not as well-hewn. The party continues like this for quite some time, shorter descents and longer flat stretches. Natural caves and pockets appear in the limestone bedrock, and eventually natural tunnels and passageways. Eventually the cutwork all but disappears, except as necessary to link together these passageways. The result is that the pathway of descent is highly inefficient, traveling over a great distance and area to achieve a little net travel forward and down. It is rough going, for although the floor has been worn smooth by centuries of passage, many openings are narrow, stalactites hang from the ceiling, and the floor is often wet and slippery. There are several long stretches in between descents and ledges where there is a pronounced slope, and a fall would risk taking out everyone in front of the faller. Stairs are cut in the steepest parts, but many difficult passages remain. Eventually the cold sensation does subside, but it is at least three hours and innumerable twists and turns before the maidens again call for a halt.

[twenty-eight torches left]

The maidens tell the party, through Hazrad, that they are approaching the entrance to the Undercity. Sometimes it is guarded by Zargonites, sometimes not, but the party should be prepared for a fight. Furthermore, their torches will be a giveaway, alerting anyone in the city to their presence, so they ask that the party extinguish them now.

The party puts out their torches. Those without infravision grasp the cloaks, or place their hands on the shoulders of, Bhelgran, Iris, and Morgan. They creep ahead, traversing a few more twists and turns in complete darkness.

Senses heightened by the dark, everyone notices a distinct change. The air grows more humid, muggy even. There is a rich smell of loam, rotting vegetation, a slight tang of mushrooms in the air. As they round one last corner they hear or feel the tunnel open up into a vast vault in front of them – a huge open space where the sound of their shuffling feet is lost in the distance rather than echoed back to them along walls. Low but insistent are the innumerable sounds of a city – hundreds of people moving, working, speaking, singing. There are even animal sounds – distant lowing and squealing. Here and there the darkness is pierced by pinpricks of light, slits of red and yellow as of hearth fires. In the far distance is a different light – a dull red that is before and above them, as if of a vast fire on the side of a far-off mountain.

The maidens explain that the Enclave of Madarua lies before them, but that they must traverse a good part of the city to get there. The safest way is to go along the cavern wall, as far from eyes as possible. The party divides into three groups, each with a maiden as guide, a party member with infravision as leader, and two or three others holding a short length of rope pulled by the leader. They agree that they will give about five minutes time between groups, avoid any conflict, and re-unite at the Enclave.


As they work their way along the wall, the maiden in Hazrad’s group whispers what they are passing. First, the Stronghold of Gorm – a complex with a thick stone outer wall and two tall towers. Next a series of stone residential buildings, apartment complexes for the city dwellers. Third, a series of stone pillars with a thoroughfare between them. The cavern floor they tread on is rough, with stalactites to avoid. In between the pillars the rock has been hewn flat and worn smooth. Next, the Lyceum of Usamgares – a large complex with a low stone wall and corner towers no higher than the wall itself. Finally, the Enclave of Madarua.

The Enclave consists of a high stone wall with a single huge stone tower rising even higher above it. All three groups actually pass beyond the Enclave, then come back around the far side and meet up at the entrance gate, which is on the city-side of the complex.

The maidens with the party call up to guards along the wall and the gate is opened – an ancient, rusting, iron portcullis that is raised. The party proceeds into the courtyard surrounding the tower. The space is filled with hide tents and lean-to’s, and people. Several of the tents are illuminated from within – the wan, flickering light indicative of low fires, though it does not smell of wood smoke. Though a few armed and armored maidens are about, most of the people in the courtyard are men and children, with clothing only and tools, but no weapons.

The maidens speak with a woman who has the bearing of a watch officer, then explain to Hazrad that the men of the party must wait in the courtyard, but they may rest and will be brought food and water if they desire. Only women are permitted in the Tower, and generally only full members of the Warrior Maidens – an exception is being made for Wolfbane, FluffyKitten, and Ember, for some reason the maiden does not know. Hazrad starts to object that his mistress needs a translator, but the maiden tells him that that will not be necessary. The men watch as the women disappear into the Tower. Eventually they are shown to a cluster of tents that look like they have been hastily vacated by their former occupents. Floor mats and stuffed leather cushions are on the ground inside, but there is no other furniture. There is nothing to do now but wait, although Hazrad tries to make conversation with some of the nearby males.

The women of the party pass by guards at the iron door of the Tower and inside. The stone structure is thirty feet across, but the walls are easily five feet thick, so that the interior is a twenty foot-diameter circle. A single, narrow, stone staircase is set into the wall, and spirals up and around the circumference of the tower. Narrow windows are set at head height all along the spiral of the stairs but nowhere else in the Tower.

The ground floor is filled with leather bags and ceramic jars of supplies, and the maidens leading the party proceed immediately to the stairs. Ascending, they pass by three floors of dormitories. Morgan tries to count the crowded beds to estimate the number of maidens present, but they are moving fast and none of the rooms are lit. The fourth floor up is obviously a temple, and resembles the temple of Madarua the women know from the pyramid, but set in a circular room. There are two women there, obviously leaders, as well as a number of guards. The whole room is filled with a dim light of no apparent source.

One of the women, dressed in elaborately embroidered robes, says a prayer before the altar, and then turns to face the party. When she speaks, they find that she is speaking in their native language, each in their own. She welcomes the party to the Enclave of Madarua and introduces herself as the High Priestess, one of the leaders of the Warrior Maidens. She indicates the other woman, dressed in a full set of bronze plate armor and bearing a long spear, as the other leader, whom she refers to as the Great Mother.

The High Priestess thanks the party for their service so far, and says that she has learned from Pandora how the party eliminated the base of the Gormites, claimed it as their own, and defeated a priest of Zargon and his hobgoblin guards. She says that they are welcome to all the hospitality that the Maidens have to offer.

After they have been brought bronze and copper goblets with drink, the Great Mother motions the guards away – some depart to the stair above, some below. “There are things we need to speak of, which are not common knowledge among our people,” begins the High Priestess.

“I am told that you studied the walls that talk, so you know something of our history. And no doubt Pandora has spoken to you of our present. But I wish to speak of the future. I am told that you come here seeking supplies to leave into the light void, and healing for one of your own. You will receive these – now that you are here in the Undercity, you are welcome to as much food as you can carry out. And Madarua is a kind mother, and does not refuse healing to those who ask with a sincere heart.”

At this point, the Great Mother interjects. “But you must know something before you take our gifts and depart. Long have our people suffered under the rule of the Zargonites. Long have we opposed them. For more time than can be remembered. But three generations ago, in the time of the grandmothers, our wisest crone had a vision, a prophecy. She foretold that strangers would appear from the light void and that they would be able to unite the three factions. Together, we will be able to overcome the Zargonites and restore our city to peace. After this vision, we fought to retake our temple in the upper pyramid. For three generations now, we have sent maidens there, waiting for the arrival of the prophesied ones. Officers like Pandora know that they are to be watchful for the arrival of strangers, but only a few leaders of the maidens know of the prophecy.”

The High Priestess now continues. “We will not ask you whether you are the prophesied ones. Even if you were, that is no guarantee that you would know you were. But we will ask you this – are you willing to stay and aid us? No matter your decision, you are welcome to what we have to offer.”

“This is a decision of great import. You would do well to ask us questions, and speak among yourselves. Take the time to carefully consider your answer. We ask only that you not speak of the prophecy to any not of your group who do not already know of it.”

There is a stunned silence among the women of the party. The Madaruans are offering them everything they thought they wanted – but the situation has changed so much none of them are sure what to do.

“How big is the city? How do the Zargonites keep control? How many of them are there?” begins Morgan.

The Great Mother answers. “You will have to forgive us for not providing detail on some things. Tactical information is highly valuable, and highly guarded. I would be happy to share it with you, once we know that you intend to stay and help us. But not until then. For now, I can say that the Zargonites rule through fear and intimidation, through punishment, but also through reward. They organize the work crews that harvest the food-mushrooms, and distribute the vision-mushrooms. These are sacred, but the Zargonites misuse them to keep the people of the city deluded and disorganized.”

“I will not at this point tell you the number of Zargonites, or our numbers. But I can say this – although they are more than we are, they cannot stand against the three Factions united. This is the promise of the prophecy – together we can defeat them.”

Ember speaks. “But if that is such an easy conclusion, why have you not united before? Why do you need us?”

The High Priestess responds. “Ultimately, it is an issue of trust. Ever since Zargon appeared, the other two factions have been corrupt. Gorm is supposed to represent bravery and loyalty – but his followers have become blindly obedient to their leaders, who see every interaction as a contest of strength. Usamigares was supposed to represent individual will and creativity, but the Magi now are self-serving and manipulative. At least…” here she pauses, “…that is what we have been taught, and what we continue to teach. We do not deal directly with the other factions, we do not speak to them. But we sometimes do meet them in the city, do encounter them on raids. We sometimes even combine together to attack Zargonites – nothing planned, just by circumstance. I think we could work together, if we could trust one another. Sometimes, when there has been betrayal in a relationship, it takes an outsider to bring two people together again. Perhaps that is why the prophecy depends on strangers.”

Morgan asks, “If the Zargonites are stronger than you, why have they not destroyed you already? If you do not work together, what keeps them from wiping you out one Faction at a time?”

At this the Great Mother asks to see Iris’ bow. She holds it up, turns it around, examines it. “We know of such weapons – weapons that can throw things through the air – we have legends of them. But we have none of these of our own. This does not exist in the city, among any of the factions or the Zargonites. Their priests can cast spells, it is true, but most of their strength is in the swords, clubs, and whips of their hobgoblins. Our fortress is stone, and well-protected. They have tried to take it, many, many times. We throw rocks from the walls. They take great losses and leave. It has always been thus. When they find us in the city, or in the pyramid, it is different. There, we must be stealthy. There, we are vulnerable. But not here. It is the same with the other Factions. Though they outnumber us, they do not have the numbers to take our strongholds.”

The Madaruans wish the party well, and bid them discuss their feelings and return, rested and with an answer. In a louder voice, the Great Mother calls for guards, who escort the party back out of the Tower.

Confessions of a Half-Elf

As the companions sit in the semi-darkness outside the fortress of the Madarua huddled around the dim light of a lantern, a mantle of responsibility and indecision seems to settle over the group. For some this imagined weight may be welcome; others may be indifferent to it; but for Morgan, it is unwelcome and sobering.

Clearing her throat, she addresses the party. “Elendil, Friends, we are faced with a very important decision. One that we each must search our own hearts for the answer to. What we decide in the next few hours will be a decision that will affect not only our lives, but possibly the lives of the pale ones of this city.”

Looking out across the dim courtyard, Morgan continues, “I am heart sick of this place. I have not seen the sun or felt the wind on my face for too long. I feel trapped in a grave. — No, Bhelgarn, please do not tell me how far under the ground we actually are. — This place may be the death of us, and I for one want to die where the isilme, moonlight, may find my body.”

“I put little faith in prophecies. I am not a hero; I am not a chosen one; I am not a fulfiller of destinies. I am zenar – less than half. The priestess in the tower behind us sensed it in me – my halfness.” Morgan drops her head into her hands, “I am sorry my friends. It is the darkness of this place that has filled my mind with shadows and despair.”

Shaking her head as if to throw off her dark mood, Morgan continues, “ While I respect the gods, I have had little faith in them. But within the last week I have seen Ember do amazing things, all because of her faith and devotion to her goddess. She is a good person and obviously loved by Glöð. Thrud’s devotion to Ember is a rare and wondrous thing. Odleif has been a steady and stalwart companion. Bhelgarn, Remy, Iris, Fluffy and Wolfsbane have not faltered. None of us are cowards. But are we the chosen ones?”

“I am hesitant to take up the calling of another culture’s prophecy. Unlike Ember, I have no goddess watching my back. I ponder why these people cannot save themselves. I am motivated to look out for you, my companions, and myself. Who are the Gormites, Magi or even the Maidens to me!? …You may feel otherwise, and I respect that.”

“Haldamir put me in this ‘leadership’ role, but I am impulsive, impatient and make mistakes. I was the first to suggest and then execute the Gormites in the bee room. Maybe I am responsible in some part for the mess with the Magi, and joining the Maidens was only a means to an end – to get the hells out of this gods forsaken tomb. I, we, have made enemies of the ones we are to unite. How can we hope to be successful?!?”

Staring into the dim lantern light, Morgan seems lost in thought. Abruptly turning towards Hazard, she announces, “I may have wronged Hazard. My actions in the ramp room against him were impulsive, and my thoughts may have been clouded by the lingering dread of the ghosts. I thought I saw something, but this place plays tricks on the mind. Was the enemy Hazard? Was it a ghost? Was it something from the bottomless urns in that room? Was the room cursed or something in it? … Hazrad’s explanation of events could be true. FluffyKitten’s tale is a bit more difficult to understand, but it could be true as well. And it was pitch black in that room after the candle was dropped. Only the cat knows what really happened, and it is not talking…”

“It is true; I am not fond of Hazard, and we have had our differences from the beginning.” Morgan pauses and looks each companion in the eye, “But, Hazrad has saved each of our lives at least once: in the bee room, from apes, baboons, hobgoblins, rat-men, and ghouls. He has suffered grievous injuries while protecting each of us. Why would he risk himself then only to turn on a companion later? This makes it difficult for me — did he attack FluffyKitten or was it something else?…”

“And our future? If we separate, death most likely awaits us – either in the undercity or out in the hot sands of the desert. We still need each other; we still need to work together. Hazrad is the only one who can speak Cyndician, and he is the only one who knows the desert stars outside of the pyramid.”

Sighing Morgan says, “We know that battle awaits us in this dark place. And the soldier in me knows it is not right to send a man into battle unarmed. I would like to see Hazrad’s spearhead returned to him. Many of us are now armed with magical weapons that we took from the tombs — the taking of which Ember has cautioned against. Are those weapons evil? Are they cursed? Are they possessed? Are we?!? … Only the gods know.”

“Is there something about the spearhead that is different? Yes, but it belongs to Hazrad and he has used it to save our lives. If it is evil, he has carried it, understands it and controls it.” Turning to Bhelgarn, Morgan whispers, “And like the helm you tried in the bee room, does it not make you nervous – carrying a magical ‘evil’ object?!?”

Standing and dusting herself off, Morgan’s words drift over the party. “Whether we are to die in this place or out in the desert wasteland, we should be armed with the weapons that best suit each of us … ”

“There are decisions to make, so I will leave you, each with your own thoughts…I for one wish to see the sun again.”

“Abarad”, whispers Morgan as she walks into the darkness.

The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades


As Morgan walks off, Ember’s eyes close as she falls to her knees. Faint words begin to come from her lips, “Glöð…….Moter Hilda…..please hear me now. My friends are in need, I am in need. Please hear my words.”

With eyes closed Ember puts her finger to the floor and starts drawing symbols.




(Protection, Guidance, Courage)

There is a short pause before she mumbles, “Never have I encountered so much fear, pain and oppression. The darkness of this place surrounds me like a thick dense fog. It confuses my thoughts and chokes me like a candlewick under a douter. Please give me guidance, my thoughts are confused.”

“Morgan’s words burn my ears, I too am heartsick. I feel the darkness and despair of this place reaching for the light I hold within but I am confused, does this place mean to extinguish me? Have I been pulled here to replace something long lost?”

Her mind flickers, the verse for compassion and conflict surfaces through the fog, “Have compassion, always. Seek to help others, always.”

Embers pauses. She can hear the blood coursing through her veins. The rhythmic pattern of her heart calms her senses and she clearly chimes out, “I can not leave.”

Her words are sobering and she returns to the here and now. As she opens her eyes she can see 3 familiar faces looking down at her. Thrud, Bhelgarn and Odielf all look as if they’ve had the wind knocked out of them.

“I can not leave this place in such despair. No creature deserves to live in such fear.” she says.

Ember tries to stand but her legs pull her back to the ground. Thrud and Odielf grab her arms and pull her upright. Bhelgarn quickly offers her his water skin. Each face peering at her looks concerned, worn and tired. Ember sympathetically looks at her companions and announces, “Outlanders, NO, Hearthmates! in this dark and evil place, we need to be the light that shines in dark corners. You have much to think about.”

Ember gives Bhlegarn his water skin and walks off into the darkness.