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….