In the morning after we had a good night’s rest in real beds, we went off to fulfill the task that Harr’zun set for us. Just about midday, we caught sight of the ruins where the cultists had taken up residence. Approaching cautiously (with some resistance from Kiri, who just wanted to charge in and start killing things), we found several cultists outside, sunning themselves the way lizards do. None of them paid us any real attention until we were close enough to throw rocks at each other if we wanted to. Then, Caldren and I tried talking to them. It isn’t often that I find attempting negotiation to be wrong. However, it turned out that this time, there was nothing that could have been worse.
None of the languages Caldren used got any reaction from them, not even the batting of an eye. I tried the local language, as well as a couple of others, but when I spoke Infernal, they all looked at me. The cultists howled like wolves and muttered things in Abyssal when they attacked, and for a time, I myself was unconscious.
When I came to, we were starting to whittle away at their numbers, and after a time, we killed them all, including a rather nasty ogre. The cultist’s spokesman indicated that their leader was inside the ruins, beneath the ground, so we proceeded downward, hoping that there were no spiders.
Though we encountered no eight-legged obstacles, there was a large room with a floor that sloped down toward the middle of the room. Chains dangled from the ceiling, and from those chains hung the body of what must be one of the abductees from Daseri Outpost. Having gotten our answer as to what they were doing with the obducted people, we decided to proceed with killing the leader, wherever he might be. The walls were painted over in blood, Abyssal curses slithering over their surface, and on the floor was a riddle in an ancient language.
We took some time to decipher it, and once we had, it read,
Bright day conceals the phantoms of despair
While the setting sun reveals the stars of hope and guidance.
Step by step the future will unfold
Beneath the gaze of the watcher false steps will be punished.
The baleful light protected forever
While celestial orbs happily play
And moon seeks flesh and blood to free itself from the eclipse
And illuminate the path to the gates of eternity.
The path through celestial and earthly seas will lead you true
The heavens and earth will lead you astray.
Your guide will keep the path safe
Until you reach the heavenly and Earthly keys.
Released as one, the keys will open
The path that is and the end that is not.
Into the hallway ahead, we found a flagstone floor, carved with various symbols. We could only assume that they represented the lines of the riddle. While I’m good with translation, I was not of much use in figuring out the riddle’s practical application. The others figured out what sequence to step on the tiles through a combination of trial and error and erratic thinking. There was a statue that shot arcane bolts at anyone that stepped on the wrong square. That hurt some of us. Then some of us got hurt a bit since there was lots of jumping involved, but we finally made it past the tiled area of the hallway. There were two alcoves where we had to use the ‘heavenly and earthly keys’, and then we were able to open a door that led down.
The passage that the door opened into was like a tunnel, and it spiralled downward in a gentle slope. On either side, there were deep pits that were lined with spikes. One at a time, we started going down the tunnel, and before I got to go, a giant ball of stone hurled down the tube, bearing down on those that had already begun to descend. They got out of its path by jumping down into the narrow, tracklike pits, but the pits were lined with tiny, razor-sharp blades that cut Sivan’s hands when Kiri jumped onto him. The rest of us followed the rock, but another one started to chase us. The entire group ran down the hallway as fast as they could, but the ball was closing in. At the very end, there was nowhere to go, and the ball was still gaining speed. We knew we were going to die.
As the ball passed through us (because it was an illusion), most of us passed out from shock. Faewin was the only one that did not lose consciousness, and she proceeded to slap us until we woke up. It took us a few minutes to realize what happened, but then we went through a door we hadn’t seen in our panic, and there was an enormous statue. There was only the lead cultist and one of his cronies left, and they stood nearby the statue.
The fight was longer than it should have been, because there was a massive pool of blood on the floor, and when the cultists stood in it, they healed fully, repairing any damage we had done to them. Once we got them out of the blood, they were much more easily dealt with.
Now back in the Daseri Outpost, we are waiting for Harr’zun to give us our tattoos.