Legacy Tales

Session 3
Land of the Dead

They decided to try one of the other exits from the chamber where they’d faced the werejaguar. Sylus disabled the electric polearm trap so that the adventurers could pass through the hall without further risk. Back in the cat-themed trophy room, they took the double doors on the northeast wall, which opened into another corridor that wound around and eventually ended in a door to the east. A strange sight awaited them in the chamber beyond.

In the center of the room was a withered tree that looked like a leafless willow, apparently rooted in a terraced depression. The bottom of the hollow was filled with oily water, a few inches deep. Across the room, beyond the dead tree, was another door. Around the sides of the room, a five-foot-wide ledge encircled the tree. The walls of the room were beaded with condensation.

Seebo suggested they try to light the water on fire, just in case. The swashbuckler nodded and cautiously approached the water. When he struck flint to steel to light a torch, the limbs of the “tree” came alive and whipped out, wrapping around all four of the adventurers! Just as swiftly, it “reeled” them in, until they all stood adjacent to the strange plant-creature.

Restrained as they were, it was difficult to fight the murderous tree. They managed to defeat it, but not before it had taken a couple of vicious bites out of Seebo and Sylus. While they rested to recover from the encounter, Nin commented about how much easier it would have been with the enchanted macahuitl they’d given to the slumbering monks. No one disputed it. They found a number of gemstones in the water near the corpse.

A door east of the fallen tree monster opened into another hall that turned south and terminated in another door. Beyond they found an enormous chamber, thirty feet tall with mighty buttressing and a vaulted ceiling. Parts of the ceiling and walls had collapsed, and raw earth spilled down from a gaping hole in the east wall. Crushed beneath a fallen bock in the center of the room were humanoid remains. Elsewhere around the floor were the chewed and decayed corpses of baboons. Through a hole in the eastern ceiling, daylight and fresh air filtered in. Above, through this gap, Neurion noted four living baboons staring down into the chamber. The creatures jumped around the hole and screamed in agitation, and as they did, dirt began to slide down the banks, and rocks in the walls shifted slightly.

Seebo approached the corpses, intent on recovering any valuables the unfortunate dead might have died with. He realized he was going to have to move a heavy block to get to most of it, and waved his companions over. Sylus made his way across the debris-strewn floor, and as he drew near rubble to the southwest shifted as a massive serpent stirred. The monstrous snake had a head on either end of its scaly length, and it hissed in challenge.

It slithered swiftly across the rubble, biting Sylus with one of its heads and coiling around the smaller Seebo, crushing him. Nin and Neurion attacked the snake with music and mind powers from a distance while Sylus struggled to find a vulnerable point to strike. Seebo lost consciousness in the serpent’s tight embrace, and a moment later the two-headed snake’s corpse stopped twitching. The baboon’s above shrieked excitedly and leaped down into the chamber. Neurion picked one off before it even hit the floor, and the rest were only a minor nuisance, easily picked off.

Nin’s healing word revived Seebo, and as the adventurers rested they realized that the air in this chamber was not tinted by the amber gas. They theorized that the opening in the ceiling allowed it to vent outside instead of accumulating. It was possible that they could vent the entire lower dungeon if they left the doors open. For the moment they decided it best to take advantage of the clear air to get some much-needed rest.

* * *

Behind a door to the southeast the adventurers found a staircase leading upward into the gloom. It seemed as though they had found the entrance to another layer within the complex. When they reached the top the wall ten feet in front of them opened to reveal a large statue resembling a dragon. A moment later boiling steam billowed forth from the stony mouth, burning the party and dampening the slick stairs. The adventurers managed to swiftly ascend and move to the south of the blast area, noting a corridor that headed back to the west. They followed this hall as it turned north and terminated in a T-intersection.

To the east they saw double bronze doors. At the western end of the corridor was a pile of golden coins heaped on the floor. On top of the gold rested a skull missing its lower jaw. In the right eye socket, a black spider had made a home. Several bones were piled with the coins, and the hilt of a broken sword thrust up from the mass. Sylus moved to investigate, casually noting a smooth section of floor just west of the T.

The swashbuckler was somewhat concerned by a bloodstain in the northwest corner of the small room in which the western hall ended – just beside the pile of gold. Reaching down, he picked the skull up to look at it more closely. Yellow spores exploded outward from the pile, choking Sylus and sending him stumbling back toward his companions. Once clear of the yellow cloud, the pain subsided and he managed to catch his breath. Seebo walked up beside his companion and said, “Yellow mold.” He eyed the pile more closely and after a moment added, “And an illusion. Rude.”

The adventurers made for the eastern double doors and opened them to find another large chamber. This room was decorated with a bizarre diorama depicting the land of the dead. Small, brightly painted clay statues had been placed about the room to represent the inhabitants of this realm and the unfortunate people they have taken into their care.

In the center of the room, the floor rose to form a small hill. A group of small figures seemed to be struggling to roll a boulder up the hill, while a devil drove them on. Above the hill in the ceiling was a glowing spot that illuminated the entire chamber with an eerie silver light. Nin noticed a chimney above the light and pointed it out to his companions.

A cobblestone path led from the western door where they stood to the foot of the hill. A similar path ran eastward and then veered south. It ended in a barred door in the south corner of the room on the eastern wall. Sections of the diorama around the perimeter of the room depicted different environments in the land of the dead.

The nearest was a region of burning sands, occupying the western end of the room. There devils tortured those who had been unfortunate enough to fall into their hands. Along the southern side was a grassy plain where people frolicked and hunted antelope and deer.

North of the grassy plain and south of the hill, the floor opened into a model of a canyon. A river of lava flowed down it while flames lick the walls. East of the hill, in a side area of the room, was a counterpart to this fiery canyon – an icy waste. To the north of the hill was a putrid, bubbling marsh where figures strive to keep their heads above the surface.

From out of the marsh a black, torpid river wended its way past the northern edge of the hill and flowed west to pour over the lip of a steam-filled chasm in the northwest corner of the room. Within this dark chasm, worms pursued the fleeing forms of naked people.

“Mictlan (Meek-TLAN),” said Seebo. “Land of the Dead.” Curious, he advanced into the burning sands but stopped when he felt pain in his head and blood flowing from his nose to stain his mustache red. He quickly retreated back to the path near the door where his companions stood.

“Perhaps we should stick to the path,” suggested Neurion. The others agreed and made their way toward the hill.

When they reached the base Seebo said, “I want to climb it.” The others shrugged and waited patiently while he did. At the top he felt a force trying to push him back down, but he managed to resist it. Not seeing anything else of interest – other than the glowing tunnel above – he made his way back to the path.

They continued along the eastern path toward the door at the end of it, but before they arrived Seebo pointed at the plains to the south, and the others nodded with a sigh. Once there, he said, “Okay, this place is nice. I’m staying here.”

“What?” said Nin, walking toward Seebo. “No, come on. We have things to do.” He took the dwarf’s arm but Seebo shook him off. The bard looked at his other companions with a questioning expression then returned to the path.

“I’ll get him,” said Sylus, entering the plains. Then he sat down beside Seebo and said, “Oh, yeah. I see what you mean. I’m staying, too.”

Neurion glanced over at Nin. “Something isn’t right here. Gentlemen, we have a task. We agreed to investigate these ruins to determine if it is the source of danger to the village. We cannot simply stay in this chamber, no matter how appealing it may seem.”

Seebo nodded as he considered this, gaining his feet and rejoining the others on the path. Sylus stayed put. “I’m a mercenary. I don’t remember them offering to pay us for this job. I’m staying.”

“I’ve got this,” said Seebo before uttering a short prayer of suggestion. “Sylus, follow me and I’ll make sure you get paid for your trouble.” The enchantment settled over the swashbuckler’s mind and overcame whatever force had caused him to want to stay in the plains area of the underworld. Seebo dropped his spell and led the way to the eastern exit.

Beyond the door was a modest-sized room with a lumpy pile of earthy material in the middle of the floor. Across from the door in the southeast corner, a glazed flask rested on a small shelf. In the northwest and northeast corners were two more shelves on which rested a small urn and a thin stone cylinder.

As Sylus took a step inside, the “pile” opened one eye, then another and another, until many eyes of different shapes and sizes stared at the party. All about the eyes opened fanged, drooling mouths that began a cacophony of babbling. The earth-toned gibbering mouther didn’t last long against the adventurers. They collected the flask, which contained another dried potion, as well as the stone cylinder. The urn held the dried heart, which Seebo said had belonged to a yuan-ti. He put it in a bag and the party returned to Mictlan.

They decided to try climbing the tunnel at the top of the hill. Sylus would go first and then drop a rope down to the others. He and Seebo made the climb and then the dwarf gave him a boost up. The swashbuckler had no trouble making the climb. At the top, he lifted a pewter cap and found himself in a shallow well. The room above didn’t seem to be occupied so he wasted no time lowering the rope to his companions.

Nin was the first to struggle with the hill, which pushed him down into the icy waste a couple of times before dumping him into the burning canyon. Each time he fell into one of those areas of Mictlan, the metal he was carrying became either painfully cold or painfully hot. He was burned so badly in the canyon that he lost consciousness, and Seebo had to revive him with his healer’s kit. The dragonborn patched himself up with a healing spell, then succeeded in staying on top of the hill long enough to climb the rope.

Seebo had his own problems with the hill, falling several times into the icy waste, the burning canyon, and once into the marsh, which threatened to suffocate him. He finally made it to the rope and climbed up into the tunnel. Having seen his companions troubles with the hill, Neurion decided it would be more prudent to fly. He sprouted wings and soared up the hill and to the rope.

Once they were all in the chamber above, they took a closer look at it. The room was small and plainly decorated. On the north and south sides were fountains made of bronze-inlaid marble. The southern one was cracked, and only dry limy deposits remained in it. The northern one contained about two feet of dark water, fed by a trickle that fell from the top of the fountain. In the water, the white, gauzy form of a crayfish lay on a bed of lime encrustations. To the west, steps led up out of the room, and to either side of the stairs along the west wall were narrow, dust-covered ledges.

They inspected the fountains, finding nothing of interest in the dry one. Nin reached into the water of the northern fountain and a large serpent apparently made of water rose up from the wet! It constricted the bard briefly before it was taken down by the adventurers’ combined efforts. With the guardian slain, Nin reached into the water and picked up the white crustacean. It was just a shell, but beneath it he spotted a platinum key on a chain. He pulled this out of the water and pocketed it.

In the middle of the chamber up the steps was what appeared to be the withered, preserved form of a centaur mounted on a slab of marble. Tinted green and decked out in lacquered leather, feathers, and copper wire jewelry, he faced the western entrance to this chamber. The centaur held a bronze-hafted pike tipped with a broad, blue-gray, flame-shaped spearhead.

Scattered around the room were jewelry and knickknacks made of beaten copper, cut and polished obsidian, shells, quartz, and coral. Much of this treasure was at the feet of the centaur, symbolically being trod underfoot. Two tall urns shaped like wicker baskets stood along the north wall, each one filled with river stones.

Nin showed an interest in the cheap trinkets, collecting a few and slipping them into his bag. Seebo and Sylus inspected the urns more closely noticing something beneath the river stones. They found two crushed silver masks, an electrum serpent bracelet, a broken marble statue of a monkey, and four silver hairpins set with jade. These too were collected and bagged. Finding nothing else of note or interest, the adventurers approached the western exit.

When Sylus opened to door, the centaur mummy came to life. Nin reflexively lashed out with vicious mockery, drawing the attention of the undead monstrosity. It stabbed the bard with its pike then spun around and kicked him solidly with its hooves. These hurt badly as the mummy’s curse took hold. Seebo turned the undead creature then said, “Let’s get out of here!”

Neurion didn’t have to be told twice, making for the door. However, just on the other side he found a wall of green, polished stone blocks barring the way. He stepped aside as Sylus approached and kicked the wall. It toppled surprisingly easy, and the swashbuckler led the retreat into a small antechamber. The others followed, with Seebo bringing up the rear. Then they lifted the wall back up and leaned it against the doorway to impede the mummy if it decided to give chase after shaking off the turning effect.

Deciding to put some distance between themselves and the undead guardian, they followed the hall to the west then north. The five-foot-diameter passage was dry and dusty, and it showed no sign of having been used for ages. Near the top of the corridor walls, about three feet from the ceiling, stone lintels ran the length of the passage. The hall abruptly widened to a cube fifteen feet on a side with a corrugated floor. In the ceiling of this area, a bronze, circular trapdoor was set. The cover was latched shut.

In the four corners of the foyer were sets of metal rungs forming a ladder that led up and across the arched ceiling to the trapdoor. The rungs were broken in several places, leaving rusty spikes. On the other side of the area, the corridor continued.

Seebo used mending to repair one of the nearby rungs but decided that fixing them all would probably take too much time. Sylus volunteered to open the trapdoor and climbed the rungs toward it. The latch opened easily, but when he pulled the trapdoor down he realized his mistake. A whirlwind came swirling down hurling him to the floor and settling into a miniature cyclone within the chamber. The adventurers exchanged concerned glances, then cautiously made their way across the whirlwind chamber to the calm of the hallway past it.

The corridor continued north for a short while, then turned east and back north again before ending in a foyer, ten feet wide and twenty feet long. On the north end a five-foot-wide staircase led up. A wheel was set horizontally half into the wall in the southwest corner. This wheel appeared to be a crank. Above the wheel, a bronze lever was set in the wall, angled downward.

Sylus pitoned the lever so that it would not – hopefully – be usable against them. Then the adventurers ascended the winding stairs until they came to a blank wall. Nin stayed there as the others returned to the foyer and Sylus began to experiment with the crank and lever. It turned out that the crank would not move until the lever was in the up position. When he turned the crank, several things happened at once: the western half of the foyer floor fell out from beneath Neurion and Seebo, dropping them into a thirty-foot deep pit, a portcullis fell, blocking the foyer off from the stairs, and a secret door opened in the blank wall at the top of the steps.

Nin reported the opening, which seemed to lead to a stone ruin outside. Sylus dropped his rope to help his companions out of the pit, then crossed the six-inch footbridge that spanned the gap. They managed to lift the portcullis by main force, then joined the dragonborn at the top of the stairs.

The secret door came out of the northern wall of the structure, which was apparently a large temple of some sort. Once a major building, all that remained were the back wall and enough of the roof to shelter the altar nearby. All else seemed closed off by fallen debris. Several pillars had fallen and they littered the floor. Sunlight filtered through holes in the roof, thirty-five feet overhead, which was a maze of chips and cracks. Holes in the walls led out to the grass outside of the hilltop temple.

The back wall was covered by a bas-relief of a giant bat-thing, nine feet tall, with a wingspan of twenty feet. In front of this wall was an altar stone, carved to represent a mass of squirming rats, weasels, and worms. On the front of the altar was the head of a screaming bat. Jutting above the altar on either side were a pair of sharp-edged, metal bat-wings, eight feet long. The floor in front of the altar was worn smooth.

“Representations of Zotzilaha, this culture’s vampire god,” said Seebo. “Let me take a closer look at the altar.” Close inspection of the altar revealed handholds along the front side and hinges at the back, indicating that the altar could be lifted from the front and tipped on its side. He reported this to his companions, and solicited Sylus and Nin to help him move the heavy stone.

Wary of the sharp-edged bat wings, the bard and the swashbuckler ducked in time to avoid them as they snapped closed when the altar was moved. Seebo was not quite swift enough and the wings sliced into his arms from either side. His companions helped him escape from this vicious pincer, and then the party stared down at the riches contained in the eight-foot-deep pit below the altar.

“Well, we’ve found a way out,” said Neurion. “I suppose now all we need to do is clear out the rest of the dungeon.”


The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan

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Session 2
The Lower Chambers, Part 2

Once they’d caught their breath, they waded through the water along the southeast wall of the soggy chamber to the double bronze doors on the east wall. Half of the L-shaped corridor beyond was flooded. After the path turned north, a set of stairs rose up out of the dampness, and the hall ended at another set of bronze doors. These opened into a hallway twenty feet wide with piles of rubble and debris scattered along its length. Down the hall to the west was an archway carved in the form of twining serpents. Beyond it, the corridor continued on into shadow.

The walls were covered with frescoes. The south wall displayed scenes of a battle between natives and invaders. The north wall depicted people questing for a new land. Their experiences during the journey included crossing treacherous mountains, sailing over storm-tossed seas, and receiving the guidance of the gods in their battles to keep their homeland free from invasions. In the center of the wall was a painting of a pyramid with a temple atop it and the sun shining over the land.

Nin inspected some nearby debris, while Seebo took a closer look at the pyramid depicted on the north wall. Neither adventurer found much of any interest there, so the party continued to the west end of the hall. The light from their lanterns did not extend further than five feet past the archway, and the gnome realized that was because it terminated in a wall, which was a cleverly painted mural designed to give the illusion of depth and reality. To either side, the adventurers saw a small niche. Seebo offered to check the northern one while Sylus inspected the one to the south.

The gnome discovered a pressure plate about the same time that Sylus set one off. A set of horizontal bars closed off the archway, trapping the party inside. They could see no way to reset the trap from within their sudden cell, so the alchemist started using prodigious amounts of acid on the bars. It took the gnome several minutes to melt enough of the bars to free the party, but he managed to get it done.

With no other apparent path forward, and not really wanting to go back, the adventurers took a closer look at the great hall. They discovered that the sun painted above the pyramid was separate from the rest and could be depressed. Pushing it inward revealed and opened a secret door in the wall. The floor of the passage that led north was eight feet above the floor of the great hall. Accessing the secret exit caused the remaining bars across the archway to retract into the wall. The party exchanged satisfied glances, then made their way up and through the secret door.

The opposite side of the secret door was a bas relief sculpture of a warrior armed with a spear and shield. The shield, which rested on the floor, resembled a sundial, complete with a marker standing out from the wall. Etched on the shield’s surface were runes in Olman script, which read, “Turn back!”

This corridor extending to the north was high-ceilinged and decorated with sculptures mounted on the walls. Two corridors branched off from the main hall, a narrow one to the east and another to the west. The statuary that adorned the walls consisted of four sculpted heads of animals. Each one was six feet above the floor and two to three feet in diameter. Near the south end of the corridor, the head of a bison was mounted on the east wall. Opposite the passage that led east was the stylized head of a coyote, and across from the hallway going west was the head of a grinning bear. At the north end of the area, on the west wall, was what appeared to be the head of an eagle, with its beak open. Something shined from within the eagle’s mouth.

Nin inspected the buffalo and the coyote, but found nothing of note. Seebo drew nearer the eagle head to take a look at the shining thing inside its mouth. He pointed out an intricately crafted golden bracelet wedged in the statue’s throat. Sylus agreed that moving the bracelet would cause the beak to snap closed, trapping whatever was inside it. They decided to use a crowbar but were unable to lever the jewelry free before the beak clamped down on the metal tool. After a liberal application of lantern oil, Seebo and Sylus were able to loosen the hinges of the stone beak, freeing the pry bar as well as the treasure within.

Neurion checked the north end of the hall to see where it led, noticing that it doglegged east then north again. Along both sides of the corridor, deep in shadows, human figures appeared to be floating above the floor. As he looked closer, he saw that the figures seemingly suspended in the air were actually withered corpses standing upright on a ledge two feet above the floor. He recognized the figures as something of an Olman honor guard, set to watch over the tombs. From their arrangement, he believed that the party was on the right track.

Expecting the corpses to animate, Seebo offered to cast his detect magic ritual once more. The others waited patiently while he did this, but the hallway was apparently possessed of no magical auras. The golden bracelet, on the other hand, was enchanted. The gnome gave the bracelet to Sylus, who put it on without hesitation. Nothing untoward happened to him immediately, so they resolved to tinker with it the next time they stopped to rest.

Neurion led his fellows into the corridor, but unfortunately, the undead guardians stirred when he was but halfway down the hall. More than a dozen zombies came to life and started attacking the adventurers. Ultimately, Nin’s well-placed cloud of daggers did the lion’s share of the work, but their victory did not come without a few injuries. The bard felt his scales begin to itch and burn where one of the undead had struck him. Despite a return of bloody coughing fits, the men stopped to rest and recover from the encounter. During that time, Sylus figured out the magic bracelet’s secrets – it could be used three times to turn a creature to stone! He would have to spend more time attuning to the bracelet, but he was excited about the unique magic item.

They opened the door at the end of the dogleg zombie hallway. All the doors bordering the lozenge-shaped room beyond were made of heavy bronze. Colorful glyphs were scribed on the western wall, and there were two sideboards against the walls to the east. In the middle of the chamber were two stone divans, each with a human figure stretched out on it.

The figures on the divans are a male and female, each about middle-aged and perfectly preserved. They were very still, dust-covered, and apparently dead. Their bodies were covered with dry snakeskin. The female wore a silver bracelet and held what looked to be an ivory wand. The male had an amulet of electrum resting on his chest, inset with a red stone of considerable size. Between the divans was a low stone table holding a flask and two goblets, all made of crystal. In the bottom of the crystal flask was a quantity of silvery dust.

To Seebo’s helm-enhanced eyes, the Olman runes on the west wall read, “Beware … many-eyed god will bring down a fiery death." Considering that the Olman people revered the vampire god Zotzilaha, it seemed likely that this was an oblique reference to the sun. Neurion drew the gnome’s attention to the substance in the flask. The alchemist surmised that when mixed with a potable liquid, the substance would create a poisonous potion that would put anyone who drank it into suspended animation for about 5,000 years. He shared this information with the group, and they all gazed down upon the sleeping forms of the man and woman.

Figuring the couple wouldn’t need their treasures, Sylus reached down to grab the platinum bracelet worn by the woman. Both figures stirred and kipped up to their feet, startling the swashbuckler. The woman spoke in Olman saying, “You have broken our glorious sleep; for this you must atone.” Seebo translated while the woman and man assumed fighting stances.

Once again, Neurion explained telepathically that the adventurers were trapped and only seeking an escape from the pyramid. The Olman warriors conferred briefly, and agreed to let the party pass if they would offer suitable tribute – a magic item or something of equal value. There was some back and forth before Neurion produced the enchanted macahuitl that they’d found. The warriors considered this offering sufficient, and advised the party to make their way generally north to the temple and eventual escape.

The northern door opened into a hallway that ended in a T-intersection blocked by a large sandstone cube. They could see no real way of moving it from the side they were on, so they backtracked to the sleeping couple’s chamber, and took the eastern doors instead. The L-shaped hallway turned north and ended in another pair of bronze doors.

A bitter stench assailed the adventurers’ senses as they laid eyes on the room ahead. Inside, amid a pile of rubbish, offal, and bracken, ghostly lights moved across the floor. Closer observation revealed that the light was emitted by giant beetles. There seemed to be around a dozen of the creatures in the room, each about three feet in length, and they didn’t appear to take notice of the party. From within the largest pile of trash, where most of the beetles were clustered, came glints of something shiny.

Seebo stepped into the room and began heading toward the pile, drawing the attention of one of the oversized insects. The gnome didn’t move as it inspected him with its feelers. He did, however, flinch when it bit him. That was to be the only injury the beetles caused, as they were rapidly dispatched by the adventurers. Seebo resumed his trip to the trach pile, pulling out the shiny bits it contained. There were odd pieces of metal, three large turquoises, and a dagger that looks like junk. No one else wanted the dagger, so Nin took it to sell.

There was a single bronze door to the east and another double door to the north. The party took the latter, which opened up into a corridor that ascended from south to north in a series of short, gently sloped staircases. They were nearly at the top when Neurion and Sylus stepped on another pressure plate. A millstone smashed through the wall at the uppermost landing and came rumbling down the stairs. The stone knocked the elf and human off their feet, but Nin and Seebo were able to leap over it, despite their surprise at the trap. The stone continued rolling down the stairs and crashed into the doors to the beetle room, breaking them open and destroying them. Magical healing was applied to the wounded, and the party limped forward.

To the west of the top of the stairs they entered a spacious, vaulted hall, weathered and cracked from the ravages of time. The walls were charred and scored. Scattered around the floor were several stone statues of baboon-like creatures, chipped and tipped over. The remains of a few once-living baboons, partially eaten, lie nearby, with fungus covering their corpses. Little remained to identify the room’s past purpose except for a carving etched in the center of the worn floor that depicts a silver sun with a single eye.

Ahead, something spherical floated in the air at about chest height. The sphere had a central eye and about a dozen tentacles growing out of its top. Each appendage had a white sphere with a black pupil at its tip. “Beholder” is one of the scariest words in any seasoned adventurers’ vocabulary, and it immediately sprang to mind. Then Seebo squinted and noticed a couple of oddities. He identified the spheroid as a gas spore, and his companions breathed a momentary sigh of relief. Then the floating plant creature began to advance.

It didn’t survive Nin’s vicious mockery, and it exploded, sending a cloud of spores into Neurion’s and Sylus’ faces. The swashbuckler was unscathed, but the elf felt the spores take root in his flesh, and he immediately recognized the deadly threat they presented. If he didn’t tend to the disease, he would be dead before the next morning. Reluctantly, he spent the last of his psychic energy to cleanse himself of the toxic spores. They found a sack made of fish skin near the center of the south wall. It contained seven silver pellets, each about the size of a sling bullet. Then they continued west and out of the scorched hall.

The hall turned north and split off into two separate western corridors. They bypassed the first and followed the second, which turned north again after a hundred feet or so. As they approached a bend in the passage, they saw a series of faint line drawings on the walls depicting people playing a game that uses a ball and has goals on either end of the playing field.

At the place where the corridor bent was a capstone that seemingly covered a hole in the floor. Etched into the top of the slab were several glyphs obscured by a layer of dust. This writing, in Olman, read, “Dare not open this pit unless you be willing to meet the challenge of pelota.” Seebo reported this to his fellows, and they all decided that until they had escaped the poisonous air, they weren’t in much of a sporting moved. They continued to the north.

After another hundred or so feet, the hall turned east again and ended in a bronze door. This opened on an oddly shaped room decorated in a cat motif. The center of the southeastern wall was carved to resemble the face of a snarling tiger with hollow eyes. Near the center of the room was a stuffed tiger, posed as if on the prowl. The tiger’s left ear had been torn off, leaving a jagged scar on the head. Also near the middle of the room stood a stone statue of a tiger-headed man holding a spear.

In several other spots on the floor were stuffed domestic cats in various poses: sitting, stalking, pouncing, and one is begging, pawing the air. One of these cats in the center of the room had been knocked over and chewed on; its stuffing was falling out. Hung on the walls were several skins of lions and leopards, tiger heads, and a cat-of-nine- tails. Along the northwest edge of the chamber a large calendar stone was mounted on the wall above a stone table or altar.

The statue of the cat-man depicted a tall human male with two extra sets of nipples. He seemed to be wearing a tiger-faced mask and was clad only in a loincloth. A jagged scar ran across the left side of his chest, above the heart, and his chest was sunken and bony. The spear was stone-hafted, but bore a silvery head.

All the items hanging on the walls are actually realistically painted stucco sculptures. Seebo moved to inspect the calendar stone, a great wheel carved from limestone. In the center of the calendar was a symbol of the sun surrounded with various sigils depicting seasons of the year. The stone was ten feet across and was mounted five feet above the floor over a stone altar. On the altar rested a ceremonial dagger of flint and a jade statue of a cat. At the foot of the altar was a stuffed cat, posed as if begging or attempting to catch something in the air.

The gnome could see that the calendar was held onto the wall by a smaller rod of stone behind it. Concerned that it might fall on top of him, he stepped to the side, while the others checked out some of the other stuffed cats. With a shrug, Seebo scooped up the dagger and jade cat, prompting the cat-man statue to turn to flesh and try to murder them.

Sylus discovered that any wounds caused by his blades seemed to heal immediately, and so he put some space between himself and the were-jaguar. It gave chase before changing targets to focus on Seebo. Then Neurion’s crown of rage drew the beast’s attention, and it bit him, tearing into the elf’s flesh. Despite its viciousness, the beastman was no match for the adventurers’ magic. When it died it reverted to human form and then turned back into stone.

They decided to rest and recover a bit while Seebo once more cast his detect magic ritual and Sylus attuned to the bracelet of rock magic. The ritual dagger and the junk dagger they had found proved to be enchanted, and both of the blades were given to Sylus so that the swashbuckler would not be caught helpless again. The gnome’s spell also found a magic scroll stuffed into the tail of the begging cat. Nin retrieved this and the party considered the exits from the room.

There were doors on the southwest, north, and northeast walls. They decided to head due north, which opened on a passage leading toward a set of double bronze doors bearing the engraved face of the jaguar god. Both walls of the corridor were carved to represent two lines of warriors in profile, holding hatchet-headed polearms and facing the northern doors. These figures were painted with vivid, lifelike colors: red, black, white, green, and yellow.

Neurion inspected the floor for pressure plates, while Sylus inspected the carved warriors. Neither noticed anything, and so it came as something of a surprise when their next steps triggered a trap. Two of the carved warriors pivoted out from the walls in front of the party, crossing their metal halberds before them to bar the way to the northern doors. The blades sparked and hummed when they were brought together. Seeing no way to reset the trap without risking electrocution, the party followed Seebo’s lead in crawling under the crossed polearms.

The gnome and human made it without incident, but Nin accidentally made contact with one of the weapons and started shaking as the lightning arched through his body. Sylus lassoed the trapped dragonborn and managed to drag him to safety with Seebo’s help. Neurion made the trip beneath the electric blades without incident. They opened the bronze doors to the north.

When the doors came open, a rush of warm, fetid air greeted them. The room was lit with a sanguine glow. On the wall opposite the door were tacked several human skins. A cat-o’-nine-tails hung beside them. To the west the room widened to accommodate a statue that towered almost to the ceiling. The statue was an ogre-like figure, outfitted in flayed skins and adorned with skulls, with a gaping mouth wide enough to swallow a horse whole. It was seated atop a huge basin of red-hot coals, more than ten feet in diameter. Around the statue was a pile of splintered bones, skulls with cracked pates, and broken weapons. In front of the display crouched a panther, deathly still, facing away from the statue.

To the east the walls were highly polished. They loosely enclosed an intricately carved well that seemed to be illuminated from within. Beyond the well, mounted on the wall, was a blackened mirror with a richly ornamented frame. Directly above the well, in the twenty-five-foot-high ceiling, a five-foot-wide opening could be discerned in the red light of the room.

Seebo immediately made his way to the well, finding within a sort of liquid light. He produced a vial and dipped it into the fluid to collect a sample, but when he pulled it out, he saw that it began to spread to cover the outside of the vial – and his fingers, as well. He dropped the vial, but that didn’t slow the spread of the oily substance as it crawled up his arms. Beginning to panic a little, he dropped an alchemical firebomb at his own feet, hoping to burn it away. He scorched himself, but saw that the light of the flames only seemed to expedite the spread of the liquid light.

He doused his torch, and the spread slowed somewhat, but Sylus’ lantern was still lit near the door. Neurion took a cue from the gnome and dropped his blanket over Seebo. The spread of the liquid finally stopped. Meanwhile, the swashbuckler approached the statue, at which point the panther stood and padded menacingly in his direction … before continuing past him, as though it hadn’t seen him at all. Nin reached out a hand to touch the panther’s face, whereupon the beast appeared to catch sight of the adventurers. It was felled before it had the chance to act on this sudden awareness, however.

Trial and error, a quarter of an hour, and a lot of soap finally saw Seebo free of the liquid light without further harm. They inspected the statue, finding nothing of interest aside from a well-crafted mace head attached to a broken haft. Then they turned their attention to the hole in the ceiling. They didn’t see sky overhead, so they assumed it to be another room above, but they weren’t exactly sure how they would make the ascent. They discussed a number of options, trying not to think about the amber-colored air slowly killing them….


The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan

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Session 1
The Lower Chambers, Part 1

As the four men headed toward the pyramid, they trod across cracked and overgrown flagstones, stepping over fallen and shattered pillars, pushing aside vines and briars. As they drew near the temple, the sound of creatures crashing through the underbrush came from behind them. They glanced back to see people moving through the woods toward the clearing around the pyramid. Suddenly, the earth shuddered and gaped open beneath their feet and they fell amid the roar of collapsing masonry. Dust filled the air and the sunlight disappeared as the darkness swallowed them.

The adventurers picked themselves up, glancing around the dark chamber to take in their surroundings. Though they could all see in the dark, either by nature or magical augmentation, a lantern was lit to assist in their exploration. A cave-in completely blocked the west end of the chamber into which they had fallen. At short intervals, small amounts of rubble and dirt came spilling down from the ceiling. Several large stones appeared to have wedged themselves tightly, closing the collapse. The companions then turned to consider the rest of the long, broad chamber.

The walls were covered by stucco, and the ceiling was made of the same material, supported by corbel arches. The two side walls appeared to have several niches cut into them, and the center of the room held some sort of spheroid. A blank-faced stone door was set into the east wall. The air was an amber color, and the entire chamber was lightly obscured.

Curious, they made their way around the shape in the center of the chamber, which from the front appeared to be a small half-dome with the open end facing toward the east wall. It was set in a recessed, shallow, tiled well, one foot deep and ten feet wide, and it contained a shelf standing roughly four feet high. The recess contained some sort of diorama depicting a mountain scene and featuring a hunting party of Olman warriors, in feathers and deer-hide garments. The six-inch-tall figures in all of the display appeared to be made of stucco, realistically and brightly painted.

The hunting scene in the half-dome included one group of warriors who had pulled down a stag with the aid of a dog, another group cleaning a small mule deer, and a third cornering a panther with their spears. A scout watched the panther from an outcropping above. He held a metal staff with a loop in its end, which looked like a shepherd’s crook. The crook in the figure’s hands looked like it could be removed, and so Sylus, the human former mercenary captain, took it and considered how it sort of resembled a stylized key.

Seebo, the gnome artificer, advised his companions that he was going to perform a ritual to detect magical auras and requested ten minutes for the effort. The others agreed while beginning to investigate the room. The wall displays were five feet wide and about three feet off the floor. Each contained a diorama depicting some aspect of tribal life – crafting, farming, fishing, religion, warfare, and even the tribe’s creation story.

Sylus first inspected a river scene, in which a dozen peasants gathered rushes, fished with nets, and carved a dugout. He inspected the figures, deciding they could be removed from the diorama without setting off any traps. He lifted a couple of the figures and looked at them more closely. Nin, the dragonborn bard, saw this and began his own perusal of some of the other niches.

Neurion, the elf mystic, decided that his companions had the exploration of the rest of the chamber well in hand. He headed over to the stone door to take a closer look at the only obvious exit from the strange hall. The door was carved with a sun symbol and appeared to open into the room. There were hinges on this side and scratches on the floor. There was no visible lock or handle on it, although a slight gap stretched across the top of the door. Eight holes seemed to have been bored into the door, each about an inch in diameter, but nothing could be seen in them. The lintel was arched, with a keystone at the top.

The most interesting of the dioramas featured the creation of the world, as imagined by the Olman tribe. Nin, an amateur historian, interpreted the scene for his companions. All of the stylized figures were definitively nonhuman. A god with green quetzal feathers mixed ashes with blood to form sculptures of a man and woman. Four towering figures painted red, black, blue, and white stood about a fire committing suicide with daggers. Two smaller figures were ringed by the four – the modest “Pimply One” was being consumed by the fire, while the braggart “Lord of Snails” cowered in fear.

When Seebo finished his ritual he reported that all of the figures – notably except those in the creation myth display – radiated transmutation magic that was somehow linked to the floor of the chamber. While they considered this, Neurion beckoned Sylus over to inspect the door. The rogue appraised the portal with a professional eye, but he didn’t notice any obvious legitimate method of opening it. Thus, he resorted to a more non-traditional approach, rolling out a set of thieves’ tools he might use to free the adventurers. His initial efforts were unsuccessful, unfortunately.

Nin and Seebo discovered that when the figures made contact with the floor, they grew to human proportions and became aggressive. Each of the three that came to life were swiftly dispatched, but the explorers decided to leave well-enough alone and focus their efforts on escaping.

The “key” didn’t seem to belong to any of the holes that had been bored into the door, and without some sort of leverage, they had no real way to pull it open. At a loss, Seebo instructed the others to step back from the door, and once they were clear he began applying acid to the hinges. In short order, they had melted enough to be easily broken, and the door started to fall toward them. Nin was not quite far enough back to avoid getting clipped by the edge of the stone, and he nursed a bruise as the group exited the chamber for the hall beyond the door.

The stone walls of this corridor were carved to resemble a stack of bamboo-like logs. The passage sloped down from the open doorway on its western leg, the lintel of which had been crafted to represent a stylized cavern entrance. It turned north after only ten feet, leading to double doors of beaten bronze worked to resemble a forest of seaweed. The gnome placed a clockwork dragon on the floor and sent it down the hall ahead of the party hoping it would set off any waiting traps before the adventurers did. It was a clever plan, but unfortunately the tiny contraption did not weigh enough to set off the pressure plate near the end of the hall. The gnome’s three companions, however, proved sufficiently heavy.

Several of the stone logs swung out from either wall, smashed into Neurion, Nin, and Sylus, and knocked them a little farther down the sloped corridor. They looked back to see the hallway was now blocked, with Seebo on the far side of the passage. Only a six-inch gap remained between the logs. Now aware of the pressure plate, Sylus kneeled down to inspect it more closely. He said that he thought he could reset the trap, given time. The others agreed to watch the bronze doors while he worked. It took another ten minutes, but the party was not set upon by any dungeon guardians. Seebo was relieved when the stone logs swung back into place on the wall.

They opened the bronze doors into a room constructed of large stone blocks, buttressed in the corners. The walls were wet and slimy, and mud covered most of the floor in a thin coating. Stone doors were recessed in the walls to the east and west, and to the north a set of stairs led down. A large polished boulder sat in the center of the chamber amid a pile of smaller rounded rocks. The boulder was five feet tall and colored brown with dark streaks and spots. Leaning against it was what appeared to be a bamboo staff. Of more immediate concern, however was a shape moving in the mud around the base of the boulder. A six-foot-tall crayfish faced them, clearly aware of their presence.

The adventurers exchanged uncertain glances before Neurion held up one finger to his temple to indicate that he would attempt to engage the creature telepathically. He greeted the crayfish in its mind, and it was immediately clear that it understood him when it spoke! Only Seebo’s helm of comprehend languages allowed him to understand the beast, which was speaking in a tongue none of the adventurers could understand – presumably the language of the Olman people. It said, “Who are you? Who dares to enter the chamber of the guardian? You had better go, or I will have to discharge my sacred duty! Be off with you before I lose my temper!"

The gnome paraphrased this message to the others, and the elf attempted to explain that the party was lost in the ruins and only sought a way out. Unfortunately, his entreaty was not well-received, and the crayfish repeated its warning. Seebo, perhaps tiring of the exchange, told his companions that the beast had insulted them, something that Sylus, for one, was not willing to tolerate. The fight was on!

The adventurers moved swiftly to the attack, maintaining their balance in the slick mud as they attacked the giant crayfish guardian. When it finally reacted, it tapped on the “boulder” with one of its claws and cried out for assistance to a being Seebo understood to be named “Kalka-Kylla.” The “bamboo” shifted and a moment later, the “boulder” rolled over to reveal a hermit crab just as large as the crayfish! The shellfish managed to score only minor blows to the adventurers before they were defeated, with Sylus crowing about cooking them up for dinner. He even collected some of the meat from the formerly sentient creatures – a fact none of the others commented upon.

They spent several minute to tend their injuries and recover their breath, though the latter seemed to be a bit more labored in the yellow-orange mist that seemed to pervade the ruins. One of them went to inspect the stairs to the north. The landing at the foot of the short flight of steps was filled with mud and silt that partially blocked a door leading north. The door was meant to open inward, for there were hinges on this side and a large grip to pull on. Neither the east or west doors appeared to be locked or trapped, and so they decided to forgo the muddier path and head west.

They entered another ten-foot-wide hallway and descended a handful of steps only to come to another door. Once this was checked for traps, it was opened to reveal yet another soggy chamber with walls covered with a slimy, white buildup. There was about an inch and a half of water and mud blanketing the floor. Many overturned pedestals and pieces of broken statuary lay partially buried in the muck. Only one pedestal remained standing, in the northwest corner. On it sat a small, metallic, three-sided pyramid. Overhead in the shadow-draped ceiling were inlaid colored tiles depicting a starry sky and forming strange patterns in the areas above the pedestals. Opposite the entrance to this room was another door in the center of the west wall.

Seebo went to investigate the pyramid, which was made of silver, and appeared to represent the god of the moon and lightning Apocatequil (A-poe-ka-TAY-kel). He collected it into his bag of holding, while the others inspected the rest of the chamber. The fallen statuary was made of stucco and depicted other Olman gods. These included a coyote, a crab-headed figure, an alligator-headed god, a feathered warrior, and a jaguar. Nin noted a patch of green mold or algae growing above the western exit, but he couldn’t tell if it was dangerous. The gnome assured the companions that while it might resemble the toxic green mold that sometimes threatened adventurers, this patch was completely harmless. The exited the chamber to the west and entered another corridor that turned north after fifteen feet.

The walls and ceiling of this hallway were coated with slime, and the floor of the passage was covered with a layer of mud. Through this muck a steady stream of water trickled northward. The stucco on the walls was flaking off, and there were glowing silver tracks in the slime crisscrossing the walls and ceiling.
Along the east wall of the passage stood a twelve-foot-tall stone statue of a man outfitted in fine clothing and holding a stone tray in his raised arms. Its eyes appeared to be black gemstones – the right one drooped out of its socket, balancing on the statue’s cheek. From behind the left shoulder protruded the hilt of a weapon, most likely a sword. The stone tray, as well as the forehead and the nose of the statue, were chipped and scratched.

Once more, they paused for Seebo to perform his detect magic ritual, while Nin looted the loose obsidian eye, and the others contemplated the sword. It didn’t appear to be part of the statue itself, but it was so high up that it couldn’t be easily reached. Once the gnome had finished his spell and declared the sword to be magical, Neurion reached out with his mind and telekinetically lifted the sword free. It proved to be a macahuitl made of laminated wood, inset with jagged teeth of obsidian. The elf shouldered the blade and the party continued to the doors at the end of the hallway.

The doors were made of bronze and were tinted blue from oxidation. Just inside the doorway were two small alcoves. Each space contained an old fountain, cracked and crusted with lime. Around the fountain in the eastern alcove, a heap of rubbish littered the floor. The fountain in the western alcove still held some green scummy water, in which something moved. Nin walked over to investigate and came back holding a bullfrog.

A short hall ending in descending steps led to the area’s central chamber, which was flooded. A dark, foul pool covered the entire floor. A central hall, flanked by narrow aisles, was defined by two rows of massive square columns. The walls were coated with slime, and there were glowing silver lines etched across them, much like they’d seen in the previous hallway. From what they could see of the chamber’s walls, the stone appeared to be crudely worked.

Two corroded bronze braziers stood in the pool. Toward the middle of the room, two broken urns, each apparently once about four feet tall, poked up out to the water. In the darkness on the eastern wall appeared to be an enormous growth of an overall greenish hue that gave off the same silvery gleam as the slime trails.

To help the party see the far side of the chamber, Seebo lobbed a container of alchemist’s fire at the central brazier. His aim was true and the brazier began to burn. The voice that issued from the glowing growth came as something of a surprise, and as it moved, the party realized it was some sort of massive slug! The gnome reported that it called itself Tecuziztecatl (Tay-COO-zeez-tay-COT-el), the Lord of Snails. Neurion repeated his telepathic request for directions on a way out of the ruins, but the slug apparently laughed about that and told the adventurers they were going the wrong way.

The elf was tired of standing around conversing, and he advanced into the room, only to fall into the deep water that awaited him at the foot of the steps. Unperturbed, the mystic manifested gills and fins to allow him to breathe and move in the brackish water. He could still see the glowing slug through the murk and advanced on his foe. Sylus leapt onto Neurion’s shoulders and brought his rapiers to bear against the massive slug. In response, Tecuziztecatl spat a stream of acid through the brazen adventurers, burning their flesh more than a little. Nin conjured a cloud of daggers to slice the slug and harry it away from his companions. Seebo cursed when his vial of acid proved completely useless against the Lord of Snails.

The fight only lasted a few moments longer before the giant slug’s corpse floated in the dirty water of his former chamber. With Neurion’s assistance, the party made their way across and up the steps to rest at another pair of blue-tinted bronze doors. While they rested, the bard sang a song of healing and the artificer performed an identify ritual to determine the sword’s specific enchantments. The blade, it turned out, was particularly powerful against plant-life.

Halfway through their rest, the adventurers noticed that they had each developed a bit of a cough. More alarmingly, they seemed to be coughing up blood! Neurion considered the amber haze with a bit more suspicion before his eyes widened in realization. The mist was toxic! If the party didn’t find their way out of the poisonous fumes, it was only a matter of time before it would kill them all. With this sobering revelation, the explorers decided to step up the pace a little, and passed through the bronze doors into the corridor beyond.

The passageway headed east for about forty feet before turning back to the south and ending in a bronze-bound wooden door. The walls of the corridor were slime-covered, and a stream of water trickled away from a door. There was condensation on the walls, door, and ceiling, some of which dripped down on them. A quiet sound of dripping and splashing echoed in the corridor. This door was tightly sealed and appeared to be warped outward or wedged shut. The hinges were mounted on the adventurers’ side, but even after Seebo melted them with acid, the door held fast.

Nin uttered words of magic-laced encouragement as Neurion stepped forward and, with a mighty heave, yanked the door free. This proved to be a bad thing when a wave of water came flooding out from the chamber beyond, washing everyone except Sylus back down the hallway. Annoyed and wet again, the adventurers entered the formerly flooded chamber and ascended the steps to the door on the south landing. It opened into another hallway heading east. It was strewn with mud and flotsam like most of the other sections of the dungeon they had seen. Water accumulated in the center of the corridor and flowed toward them in a trickle. On the south wall across from the door to the flooded chamber was a stone block that had shifted out of place. This proved to be a secret passage that terminated at the back of the statue where they had found the magic sword. Backtracking to the previous corridor, they proceeded to the east to another pair of bronze doors.

A faint, melodious sound came from ahead. It was difficult to tell whether it was someone singing or the echoing of dripping water in a great cavern. The room was lit by a soft light that revealed a section of rocky beach. Beyond the beach was a pool of glowing water, filling half the room and framed by a crystal cavern. Green fronds could be seen in the pool, and light seemed to flow from everywhere, the pool and walls glistening like soft moonlight. On the far side of the pool was a set of doors carved with a sun symbol. Sitting on the beach in front of the crystalline pool was a woman, young and slim, with long golden hair and pale white skin. She radiated a soft silvery light even through her shawl, white as the froth of waves. She was singing a strange melody in an unrecognizable language that even Seebo’s helm couldn’t translate. After finishing her song, she entered the water in a long, arching dive.

The party entered the room, considering the short hallway immediately to the south. A thin, muddy stream that trickled through the hallway flowed out from underneath a door that lay ahead to the south. The explorers surmised that they’d found the opposite side of the silt-blocked door from the chamber of the guardian shellfish. Neurion noted that the eastern door from that chamber, and the sun-marked doors of the crystal cavern were the only two paths remaining to them for now. Sylus was keen to try the nearer doors, since perhaps the sun carved upon them indicated that they led outside.

Their conversation was interrupted by silvery laughter. They glanced back at the pool and saw that the strange young woman had surfaced, her head bobbing in the pool as she giggled at the adventurers. She introduced herself as Dara Zots and asked – in Common – what the adventurers were doing. They explained their predicament and she laughed again, expressing little sympathy. She suggested that they might try the sun doors, but that she wasn’t sure where they led. Seebo believed her, but he caught a dangerous edge in her voice, perhaps a challenge. He tried to issue a warning to his companions, and the woman started laughing again, clearly having overheard.

Sylus approached the water’s edge, but it proved too deep to traverse, so he stood ready to strike anything that came within his blades’ reach. Then something did, but it was not what he’d anticipated. The waters before him began to heave and boil, and the watery form of a human with an elephantine head, wearing an elaborate headdress and holding a trident, rose up. With one hand, it struck the swashbuckler a blow that knocked him from his feet. Then it jabbed forward with its trident, lancing him with electricity.

Seeing their companion’s plight, the others came to his aid with their magic. Neurion came up beside Sylus and manifested a psychic thrust, lancing the strange creature with a mental slap, before rioting her emotions and compelling her to engage with him. Seebo conjured a healing draught which he passed on to Sylus before wrapping the man in a magical shield of faith. Nin uttered harsh criticism armed with bardic magic, vicious mockery that seemed to sting even the deranged water spirit. Then she turned invisible and the elf felt a sensation on his lips like a burning kiss. He gasped at the pain and the sensation of his lungs filling with water! Things were looking grim when a massive electric eel emerged from the water to aid Dara Zots! Its sharp-toothed maw tore flesh. Even so, the watery duo still proved no match for the seasoned adventurers. The woman fell first, and the eel fell shortly after, its rage making it sloppy.

The explorers sunk to the floor to recuperate, hoping that they could find a way out of the poisoned ruins before they breathed their last breath….


The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan

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