Once Vedis is finally healed from her bout with Mummy Rot, we gather up all of the scrolls that we’ve finished transcribing and head back to the temple of Thoth to return them. As I go through the process of undoing the ever increasing difficult traps and unlocking the library door I go over a passage from one of the scrolls in my mind.
Portals to the other worlds are deep in the waste caverns.
Where could these portals be? We’re in one cavern already… could they be those bigger portals that we saw when we came in, or could the entrance to the caverns be somewhere else? Perhaps investigating the Great Pyramid in more detail is in order once we’re done.
I set the scrolls back in their cases and notice with some curiousity that the traps have mysteriously moved out of the way in expectation of the scrolls return. What good is the knowledge of the universe if you don’t share it with people? I never could understand the gods.
Once we’ve finished our business with Thoth we all agree that since we’re here… the Great Pyramid is as good a place as any to start looking.
Making our way up to the entrance, there is an arched shape door with just the slightest detectible shimmer to it. Using what I’ve learned in my studies of portals, I am able to analyze it to see that it’s just a basic passwall… no teleportation magics involved at all. I’m almost disappointed, to tell the truth.
I offer to take point as usual to check for traps, with no complaints from the rest. Inching my way along I don’t find anything… but I do start to hear a noise, something like heavy breathing down a large set of spiral stairs at the other end of the room. I slowly creep down the stairs, feeling along with my toes until there is a soft sploosh noise. Grimacing and shaking my foot, I realize it’s me as I stepped into water at the bottom of the stairs.
I wait for the others to join me, and after testing the water with pebbles and sticks we decide to walk through it to the next room. Well… they decide to walk through it, I decide to ride on Word’s back as he hovers over the water.
The next room is blessfully dry… but seems to be occupied by the creature that I heard breathing earlier. Sitting on a mound of dirt and bones in the middle of the room with passages in each wall is a ragged old Sphinx with drooped head and torn wings. As we enter, however, it looks up at us with still sharp eyes and speaks.
“If you would pass then you must answer my riddle. Think well, travellers… for I am very hungry.”
“Very well, creature,” Ef Utan replies. We wish to head east from this room, so ask your question."
The Sphinx takes a deep breath and shifts into what was once an imposing pose before it begins.
My creator wants me now, and much in dread will I be bought. My cold embrace is fiercely fought, most all who need me know it not. What am I?
When it finishes it sighs and lays its head upon its paws as it waits for us to decide our fate.
“Well? What do you think it is?” Lenata asks as we huddle together.
“Hmmn… I think it’s death,” Vedis replied. The rest of us shrug and nod, as it sounds like a good answer to us.
“Is it Death?” Vedis asks as she steps away from us to address the Sphinx. Suddenly a pattern appears under her feat and glows, causing Vedis to drop to her knees in pain before it disappears. “Guess not…” she mutters.
Ef Utan steps over to check on her before addressing the Sphinx. “Is it Fear?”
I wince as the same thing happens to him and shake my head. “Damn… those would’ve been my first two guesses.”
Lenata hurries over to tend to the both of them as Word decides to take a turn. “Is it a tomb?”
The Sphinx sighs and gestures to the doorway. “You may pass. Should you come this way again, however, I will question you again… and then perhaps you will be more satisfying to my empty stomach.”
We make our way down the east tunnel to find it gradually getting covered by more and more algae and moss. I almost miss it when a large patch of it on the ceiling begins to twitch. I hold up my hand to signal the others to stop and point to the ceiling some 50 ft down the corridor.
“Let’s see if we can give that green slime the hint that it needs to go elsewhere,” Vedis says as she steps up and stares intently at the monster.
Within moments a spot on it begins to boil and catch fire. It’s twitching becomes much more obvious, enabling Ef Utan to target it with a telekenetic punch. I hold my breath as the corridor rattles and thank the gods for sturdy architecture. For a final touch I throw a flask of alchemist fire onto it, which finally gives it the hint that lunch would be better found somewhere else. After a few minutes it shambles down the corridor and out of sight.
“I’m glad that’s gone,” Lenata says as she brushes the dust from the ceiling out of her hair.
We carefuly make our way down the rest of the corridor, keeping an eye out for the green slime. Eventually we come to a locked door, but thanks to my improved skills, it doesn’t stop me for long. In the room is a muddy floor with different glowing balls hanging from the ceiling. For some reason I can’t seem to shake the feeling like I’ve seen this before… but I just can’t place it. In the meantime, Vedis scans it for psionics but comes up with nothing.
“Could they be magic?” Ef Utan asks, when suddenly the door slams and locks behind us.
“I hope so, because this door isn’t going to open again,” I say after checking the handle.
Lenata begins to search through the mud on the floor, looking for any signs or sigils on the floor underneath. A good idea… but unfortunately she comes up with nothing.
I start checking the glowing balls for traps, while Word uses his abilities to float above them for a visual inspection.
“They don’t seem to be trapped,” I call out. “At least not from the outside, anyway.”
“Interesting… these spheres seem to be hung in a way that corresponds with the worlds on our map of this sphere. In fact… they have symbols on top of each that match the map!” Word calls out excitedly. He reaches out to touch one of the wires holding up the spheres in curiousity, but gets flung back as the wire sends a charge through him.
“Perhaps they are teleportation devices?” Lenata suggests. “Maybe we should all touch one together?”
“Sounds like a good suggestion to me,” Ef Utan says with a nod as he checks our map. “How about #6 – The Sweet Forests? It sounds relatively harmless in comparison to the others.”
The rest of the group shrugs and nods as we all gather underneath the sphere and touch it… except nothing happens.
“Hmmn…maybe it requires an activation word?” I mutter to myself. “Let’s try this…”
With a flash of light we all look around to find ourselves on a floating rock surrounded by other smaller rocks held together with miles of dead plants…. with no other life other than a pod of large space whales floating near by.
“Well this is just great,” Ef Utan complains as he whips out a scroll and casts a Message spell at the whales, hoping that they understand his plea for help. No such luck.
Vedis and Lenata start whispering together and make me wonder if I should worry. They then nod to each other and begin singing a sweet little song that reminds me of much more peaceful times. To my surprise the whales seem attracted to this and the bull whale, some 110ft long, comes close to our rock to observe.
Lenata tries one of her language spells to see if she can talk to it… but all she picks up is curiousity and pleasure over the singing. She tries one of her cantrips to conjure up an image of the green pyramid sun that we’re trying to get to… but her gestures with it soon turn into some kind of interpretive dance between her and Vedis and that’s where I just can’t take it anymore.
“Ok, this isn’t going to go anywhere anytime soon,” I mutter before I take a running leap and land on the whale’s back with a whoop. Unfortunately I don’t have anything to hang on to him with before he bucks me off and launches me with his tail into Ef Utan and we both tumble into a pile against the rocks.
“Still better than interpretive dance…” I mutter before I pass out.