With only minor awkwardness we’re able to make our way through the portal in the chest of the clay golem to come out into a room covered in hieroglyphs with 15ft tall brass doors on one end.
“Perhaps if we follow the heartbeat we’ll be able to find what we’re looking for?” Lenata asks hopefully as she looks around.
“First things first, I’m going to check the door,” I reply as I crack my knuckles and kneel down to peer at the handles of the doors. As I am gazing over it I can’t help an odd feeling that comes over me like my stomach turning. I back up to my feet and gaze around the room only to find that the feeling hasn’t gone away… because there is something definitely wrong here.
I quickly step to Ef Utans side and whisper worriedly to him. “There’s something wrong here… I checked the door for traps… but… it’s like this whole place is a trap.”
Ef Utan swallows and nods grimly. “Well then… no sense worrying about the door.” He strides forward and pushes the door open to the hallway beyond.
As we walk down it something strange happens… the heartbeat changes rhythm and slows to a sluggish pace as we all seem to slow down to the point that Lenata actually grabs her chest and staggers against the wall. The only one who doesn’t seem to be effected is Word… it must be because he’s a construct like the golem and not humanoid like the rest of us. He lets Lenata lean on him as we continue our way down the hallway… hopefully to get ourselves out of this place.
At the end of the long hallway we come to another set of double doors. While Ef Utan may not be worried about any more traps than the one we’re obviously in, I have to follow my instincts and look. I run my hands along the edges of the doorframes and find the strangest thing when I come to a crack about eye height above the handles; there’s a poison dart trap, but it’s aimed to attack someone on the inside. Could it be to keep them from leaving? With some careful manuvering of my tools I manage to disable the trap and remove the dart for safe keeping in my pack. You never know when something like that might come in handy, after all.
I turn to the others to let them know of my discovery when the loud heartbeats stop… and Vedis keels over dead .
“No!” Lenata yells out and kneels down to try and tend to her. “What in Celstians name just happened?”
The rest of us are in silent shock as we stare at our friend lying prostrate on the floor. Indeed… what in the gods name just happened to her? We’ve got to get out of here… we’ve got to get out of here before another one of us…
Suddenly the heartbeats race loudly to the point that I almost want to cover my ears… when Vedis sits up with a gasp, knocking Lenata aside in surprise.
Ef Utan exclaims something that I am sure is a creative curse in a language that I do not know as Lenata helps Vedis up and checks on her.
“I don’t know what happened,” she tells her. “I just want to get out of here…now!”
We quickly gather our scared companion and make our way through the doors to discover a familiar scene… that of the cauldron with the purple mist rising from it that we saw when we examined the other portals.
“I guess those portals all just led to different places within the pyramid,” I wonder as I look about the room.
“What are you doing?” Lenata asks Vedis and I turn around to see the Maenad with a ladle in hand as she scoops out some of the purple fluid.
“I already died once, so I don’t give a damn what this stuff does as long as it gets us out of here!” she exclaims before gulping down the fluid and disappearing in a fuzzy haze.
“What the…” Ef Utan mutters as Lenata scratches her chin.
“Strange…unless I am mistaken, I think she’s now in a gaseous state,” she speculates.
I cover my mouth as I can’t help but snicker at her words. “That would explain the hole in the floor, then,” I say after I recover.
“I believe I can detect her presence,” Word assures us before he clutches at his chest. “It seems I am not immune from the effects after all.”
“Well then… let’s see what happens!” I declare as I scoop my hand into the cauldron and sip the strange fluid. For a moment everything seems to get fuzzy… and then… it’s hard to describe. It’s almost like I am part of the air… I can’t feel my hands and feet, but I can move what I think is still myself with my mind.
Ef Utan promptly fills 3 vials with the purple fluid before the rest of them drink and we all achieve a new state of being. I concentrate and focus my mind towards going down through the hole in the ground, and after a few twists and turns find myself with the others as it deposits us in a fan shaped room with even larger doors this time.
As the potion wears off I make my way to the door to investigate the carved reliefs of fireflies as Vedis checks out the tiled mosaic on the floor that seems to be in disaray.
“Strange… I wonder what they were looking for?” Vedis asks aloud. “It looks like the pried all of the tiles up looking for something and then just set them back randomly.”
A mist that must still be Lenata passes by us and goes under the crack in a small door off to the side… and after a few moments returns to form into the a troubled cleric.
“What did you see in there?” Ef Utan asks in concern. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, I’m ok… there is a large table in there with four thrones around it and a set of cards in the middle… almost like they just left the game and were coming back.”
“What’s got you spooked, then?” Vedis asks.
“It… it just left me feeling a little off, I guess,” she mutters as she looks away.
“Shall we open the big doors, then? I have to admit I am curious…” I offer as I gesture towards the large handles. “I checked them, and it doesn’t look like they are trapped.”
“By all means… after you, Kenari.”
“You’re such a gentleman, Ef…” I reply with a wry grin as I push the doors open to find another room with thrones… this time around a large basin of water instead of a table.
The rest of the group shuffles in behind me and as we seperate to investigate when the doors suddenly close shut behind us and the walls of the room fall away like backdrops to reveal that we are now on a plateau with steep cliffs looking out over dense tropical forests.
“Vedis… tell me this isn’t another one of those extended dream sequences like we suffered before,” Ef Utan mutters as he draws his sword. The Maenad concentrates for a moment and shakes her head.
“Lenata?” he turns to ask the cleric of Celestian for her input, who mutters a few words before her eyes begin to glow.
“There’s definitely magical influences going on here,” she replies after a moment as she strides forward to look at the thrones and water basin. “The walls are still there… they are just emanating a heady aura of illusion magics. As to the basin… it has something to do with clairsentience.”
“Ooo… maybe it will give me a vision like that space flower did!” Vedis exclaims excitedly as she sits in one of the thrones. “Come on, guys… sit down so we can see if we can activate this thing!”
The rest of us warily sit down in the thrones after I check them for traps as Word hovers above the water basin. “I suggest that we all focus are minds on one question.”
“How about where the Witchlight Marauder Key is?” Lenata offers. We all nod and close our eyes to focus on the question as the waters begin to bubble and swirl before Words eyes.
“Strange… I see a dark and dingy circus with people made from wax, a rabbit with clothes wielding a broadswords, and a swirling black and purple design,” he informs us. The image fades as we open our eyes and shake ourselves from the trance-like state.
“That kind of reminds me of a story I heard about as a child of ‘The Harrowing.’ It’s a demi-plane of dreams where stories come to life,” says Vedis.
A black and purple swirling design… where have I seen that before… that crystal with the cards in it!
I stand up and pull the odd crystal from my sash and peer at it excitedly to find that my memory served me right… there is indeed a swirling black and purple design on the backs of the cards encased within the crystal. Waitaminute….cards…
“Hey Lenata, you said there was a deck of cards in that side room, right? Did you get a good look at them?”
“No I… I did not… I am sorry,” she mutters evasively. I wonder what was in that room that upset her so much? Now I definitely have to check it out…
“While we’re here, let’s concentrate on the Dream Stone and see if we can learn anything,” Vedis suggests. With a shrug and a nod we all close our eyes again and focus on the question as the pool of water churns.
“I see a a circular room with stairs at the four quadrants, but nothing in the room,” says Word. “The floor is a smooth expanse and unlike anything we’ve seen in the tomb… perhaps, given the size of it, the floor itself is part of the Dream Stone? Could that be why they were removing the tiles in the other room?”
“Okay, one more, guys… let’s try focusing on the missing brain of Melchot. Gross, I know… but if he’s still alive somehow…”
“There’s a large archway into a wide room with no doors and a dozen iron bound chests. There is a large stone mantle with a red gem and another red gem spinning inside it.”
“Curious… I shall have to meditate on these visions when next I pray to Celestian,” Lenata mutters to herself.
“Since we know the walls and the doors are still there, I’m going to go check those tiles and see what’s underneath!” says Vedis.
“I’m going to see what’s in that other room… because I want a look at those cards!” I say to myself as we all feel our way back to the double doors and return to the previous room.
“I guess I’ll keep myself busy by watching all your backs so you don’t get killed,” Ef Utan mutters to himself.
After a quick check to the small door that Lenata passed through earlier in her gaseous form, I am able to discern that there’s nothing more than a simple lock and no discernable traps. I open it gingerly and peer in to see just what she described before… a large table surrounded by four thrones with a deck of cards in the middle of it.
It’s not till I step into the room that a feeling comes over me that I should just take the cards for myself and leave this pyramid and these people to their own fates. Besides… I’m sure the Clerics of Asmodeous would compensate me greatly for turning them in. Think of the adventures that kind of reward would fund! I could get my own ship, even!
With a sly grin I snatch the cards up and stroll confidently through the door… to find the feeling suddenly gone again. The Hells… is that what effected Lenata? Did she suddenly find herself going against everything she believed in because of that room? No wonder she didn’t want to talk about it…
“Um…well…” I clear my throat as I look at the cards I grabbed. “It looks like these cards have the same designs on the backs of them as the ones encased in the crystal,” I offer.
“No luck with the tiles, unfortunately,” Vedis replies. “I get the feeling that others had the same idea.”
“Well, I could always try using the crystal and see what happens… " I offer as I remove it from my sash pocket and stroke it with my thumb.
Suddenly there is a burst of light in front of me as a swirling vortex opens into a portal that pulls the cards out of my other hand and into its center. I grab onto the edge of the table as the pull grows stronger and the others are sucked through the portal one by one, when suddenly it occurs to me: I’m the one who opened it, for Basts sake… I should just go through it already!
And so with a whispered prayer to Bast I close my eyes and let go…