The adventurers spent the rest of the day scouting out the hillsides surrounding the ruined temple and securing it as their base of operations for further forays into the dungeon below. They identified a few items, watched in horror as Seebo ate the preserved yuan-ti heart, and generally steeled themselves for taking on whatever other challenges awaited them.
The following morning they reentered the dungeon through the secret passage behind the bat-like altar. They returned to the antechamber where the green stone wall still leaned against the doorframe, and Sylus manhandled it back down to the floor. The centaur mummy had returned to the marble slab and stood unmoving once more. It did not animate when they entered the chamber, nor when Nin stepped back through the door to the hall. When Seebo set foot on the steps past the door to the east, however, the undead creature turned to attack. The party made short work of the monster, and proceeded on to the Land of the Dead.
Once more, Nin and Seebo were shoved off of the top of the hill and into hazardous terrain, inspiring Neurion to once more grow wings and fly from the tunnel in the ceiling to the safety of the path. The adventurers reentered the hall to the west and took a closer look at the walls. Near the center of the hall, the floor had worn smooth and they found a secret door in the north wall there. They found a second secret door on the north wall in the corner near the bloodstain on the floor near the pile of false treasure.
Through the first secret door they found a short dogleg hall that opened into an unoccupied room. Strangely shaped and colored mirrors hung on the walls, and a large, oblong stone basin stood in the middle of the floor. The basin was about ten feet long, five feet wide, and three feet tall. It was filled with a steaming golden liquid.
The red mirror on the eastern wall seemed to be composed of fiery glass and framed in bronze. On the northern wall were two mirrors: a striking black one of obsidian framed in lacquered wood and a stark white mirror with a wrought iron frame. The mirror that hung on the western wall is in a stone frame and was blue in color. Seebo cast detect magic noting that all four mirrors as well as the liquid in the basin gave off a magical aura.
Nin moved to inspect the white mirror in the northeast corner. It had a pungent odor of nutmeg and spice, and its depths were gelid and smoky. His reflection appeared blurred by a fine mist. Neurion stood nearby the dragonborn, gazing into the red mirror with disturbed fascination. Light beams were broken by the mirror into myriad flames, and ghostly shapes seemed to flicker in its depths. He saw a white form next to its own reflection, which took on the appearance of a wide-mawed monster. A moment later, the apparition assaulted and killed the elf’s reflection.
While two of his companions examined the mirrors, Seebo experimented with the golden liquid in the basin. He dropped one of his rations into the fluid, but nothing appeared to happen. He dipped the end of his pinky into the liquid next and lifted it out. The gold turned clear when it left the basin, and tasted bitter in the dwarf’s mouth. Unsure what to make of it, he shrugged and glanced back over his shoulder where Sylus stood quietly by the door, awaiting his companions’ investigations.
Nin crossed the room to the blue mirror, finding that his reflections rippled as if he were looking into a pool of water. It actually looked more like a glass window that offered a view of a pool of water. The dragonborn touched the glass, but nothing happened. After a moment he grew bored and stepped over to the final mirror.
The black mirror had a distinctive earthy odor and the blackness of subterranean caverns, but it seemed of crude construction and reflected the bard when he came close to it. Nin saw his reflection blur and then reappear in ancient garb as if depicting a previous incarnation. The image spoke in a foreign tongue, presumably Olman. The bard cast tongues, and translated for his companions: “Command me to answer, and I shall.” He asked several questions and even tried saying, “I command you to answer my questions,” but the image only stared at him impassively.
Seebo stepped into the basin and immediately his feet felt heavier. He got back out and noted that his boots had turned to gold. The dwarf felt around in the basin until he’d found his rations and they too had transformed into the precious metal. With this discovery, the adventurers spent a little time submerging various items in the liquid only to have them emerge transformed into gold, as well. This put them all in a pretty good mood.
Sylus found no secret doors, but when he couldn’t find a way to pry the blue mirror from the wall, Seebo suggested that he smash it. When the swashbuckler’s pry bar crashed through the glass, the water from the pool poured into the room, filling it to a depth of a few inches. A gray tank where the reservoir had been could be seen behind the glass, but nothing more. Seebo shrugged and applied his hammer to the white mirror. Rather than shattering, the hammer bounced off and the “mirror” oozed out of the frame onto the floor, aggressive pseudopods raised. The party made short work of the slime, and after it stopped moving they noted the door behind the frame where it had been hiding.
Another short hallway doglegged to the east and terminated in another door, which they opened. In the center of this diamond-shaped room was a dais on which a weirdly formed altar rested. The altar was made to resemble a many-armed and beaked octopus-like creature with a large purple-red stone its forehead. The altar and floor were covered with dust. The walls of the room were decorated with paintings of the sun and moon in motion. Other images showed people standing about a temple making sacrifices of flesh and blood, while the figure of a priest held the heart of his latest victim above his head.
At his companions’ request, Nin entered the room and stood on the altar. It started to rotate and the bard found his feet held fast. He slammed into the wall a couple of times before Sylus was able to lasso him, but the altar was spinning so fast that it tore the rope out of the swashbuckler’s hands. Nin managed to free himself from the altar a moment later and bounced hard to the floor. He stood up groaning and returned to the relative safety of the hall.
Neurion entered the room next, thinking to search the walls for more secret doors. He accidentally brushed up against one of the tentacles of the altar at one point and was subjected to the same treatment Nin had received. Once he was free, he remembered that he had wings and flew around the room. He didn’t find any secret doors but decided he would at least take the gem for the trouble and pain the altar had inflicted upon him and his friend.
The others were confused when the elf began a frantic spinning dance mid-flight. A moment later, the gem came loose and Neurion’s motions became much more graceful, although he did not stop his airborne dance. “Drop the stone!” Seebo suggested.
“I don’t want to!” Neurion replied, still in motion. The dwarf exchanged a look with his other companions, then entered the room. He wasn’t able to jump high enough to touch the flying elf, and so he returned and asked Sylus to lasso the man. They managed to get the rope around him and towed him closer to the door. There, Seebo managed to cast remove curse on Neurion. The elf reasserted his will and released the gemstone. As soon as he was no longer touching it, the compulsion to dance faded, and he stilled himself, setting down gently on the floor. They all agreed to leave the gemstone where it lay on the floor.
Beyond the other secret door, the passage bent around to the south. At the end of a narrow corridor hung an ornate mirror, and a door was set in the eastern wall next to it. Sylus caught his reflection in the mirror, but nothing bad happened other than the others’ being momentarily subjected to the swashbuckler’s vanity. The door seemed to be very heavy, and it had many glyphs carved upon it. In the center of the door was carved an eagle killing a serpent. Two stone warriors dressed in loincloths and wearing panther masks were sculpted into the door posts. Seebo informed the others that the glyphs on the door told a story in ancient Olman of a journey to find truth and light, which ended in failure and imprisonment in the land of the dead.
Beyond the heavy door they found a wide foyer that led into a circular room. Taking up the middle of the chamber was a cross-shaped dais with sets of stairs leading up to it along each of the four ends. In the center of the dais arose a cylindrical structure that appeared to be made of transparent walls of crystal enclosing an oddly carved, stone pillar. Tucked into each nook where the arms of the cross came together was a low shelf on which were placed small offerings: silver bracelets, earrings, neck collars, anklets, piles of coral beads, and silver and jade statuettes.
The stairs that faced the room’s entrance were carved with the heads of many gods. The steps on the north side were bloodstained, and atop the landing stood a statue of a warrior. The stairs to the east, across the room, were partly obscured by shadow. The southern staircase was luminescent, appearing to change colors in the light. On the south wall of this hall was a jade death mask affixed at chest height.
Seebo headed for the mask while Sylus approached the nearby western steps. When the swashbuckler set foot on them, the heads carved into the stairs began to babble. He sat down right there, feeling as week as if he’s spent the whole day doing hard labor under an unforgiving sun. Neurion helped the man to his feet about the same time as Seebo took the mask from the wall. The lever it had hung on pivoted up and three sets of iron bars dropped, caging the dwarf. It took some doing, but they managed to lift the bars enough for Seebo to escape.
Neurion and Nin approached the northern steps and as they drew close, the statue animated. It completely ignored the lightning bolt from the bard’s wand, and Seebo’s spiritual weapon proved likewise ineffectual, but the helmed horror was otherwise defeated with little trouble. When Neurion stood atop the dais, they heard a voice seeming to come from everywhere in the chamber. In Common it said, “Interlopers! You have trespassed on my sacred chapel. For this affront, retribution has already begun, for you are now breathing a toxic gas which will kill you shortly. It is possible your actions were not from malice or greed, but just idle curiosity. Therefore, you will find the cure upon the stone in the middle of the dais, if you can solve the puzzle to reach it by the proper route. You have passed the first test, but it will take the best tool of your most clever person to breach these crystal walls. Your time is running out.”
Nin wasted no time returning to the hallway to escape the poison promised by the voice. The others were more interested in the crystal. The surface of the cylinder was cold to the touch and appeared impervious to all blows. They hit it with a crowbar, a warhammer, and even the spiritual hammer. When Seebo scooped some of the offering from the shelves into his bag, the door slammed closed, separating Nin from the others. Replacing the offerings and even adding more did not resolve the situation. Neurion flew up and down, placing his hands on every square inch of the crystal’s surface, but he found no gap anywhere. They spent a long while attempting to come up with some method of opening the wall, but there efforts were fruitless, and they could feel themselves growing weaker. Finally, they gave in and spent another couple of minutes breaking down the door.
They descended the stair back to the room where they’d faced the giant two-headed snake. Beyond the door in the northwest corner they found a narrow hall. The walls of the passage glowed magenta, bathing the corridor with a ghastly hue. After fifteen feet, the floor dropped away to a pit that filled the hallway ahead. The pit was twenty-five feet deep, and eight large, spidery bushes with thorny stems, white leaves, and enormous yellow blossoms grew across its bottom.
Five feet beyond the nearest edge of the pit was a bronze bar, set level with the floor and embedded in the pit walls to either side. Farther out over the pit could be seen other similar bronze rungs, set at five-foot intervals. On the floor by the edge of the pit was a scattering of broken, rotting wooden planks. After a few minutes of deliberation, they decided to try the other obvious exit from the snake room before testing their balance.
After a short hallway they came to an extremely dusty chamber. The floor of the room was covered with a layer of fine gray dust and ash, three inches deep. Across the room, opposite where they had entered, was another set of double doors. There were two empty alcoves to the north and south. On small ledges in each corner of the room were pieces of what appeared to be broken pottery.
As Sylus moved into the room, his steps sent motes of dust and ash swirling into the air, and these clouds formed into shapes. First, from the ash, a dusty phantom assumed the shape of a woman. Her face was forlorn and tear-streaked. She threw up her hands in despair, rushed into one of the alcoves, and disappeared. Immediately afterward, two more dusty phantoms emerged – mighty warriors armed with jagged-edged swords and bearing fierce countenances. They moved to block the doorway opposite where the party had entered.
When he approached the phantom guards, they raised their swords threateningly. Meanwhile, other phantoms – in the shapes of priests, sages, and mourning young women – briefly formed out of the dust and then dissipated. Neurion understood the phantoms’ nature first, moving through one of the guards and causing it to collapse. The others passed through the dusty chamber similarly unharmed.
The hallway past the far doors turned north and deposited the party back in the chamber where they’d faced the werejaguar. The statue still lay on the floor unmoving where they’d left it. In the chaos of that encounter, they realized that they hadn’t searched the room very thoroughly. Thinking to remedy that Seebo began a careful inspection of the southeast wall. He found a secret door in the middle that opened up on the far side of the pit hallway they’d recently left.
Sylus remembered the hole in the ceiling to the north and the party returned to the chamber with the giant statue and the liquid light. Neurion sprouted wings again and took the end of Sylus’ rope before flying up through the hole. He found himself in the middle of a large round room, with the walls about thirty feet from the hole in the floor. It was lightly furnished, but more astonishing was the blue-skinned giant occupying the chamber. The oni sneered as it took a couple of experimental slashes at the elf with a massive glaive.
Neurion evaded the weapon and used telekinetic force to send the rope to tie itself off on the leg of a heavy-looking low table. Then the elf maneuvered to the wall, hoping to keep the giant’s attention away from his companions as they climbed up the rope and into the room. While he stood alone against the ogre mage, it cast a spell, which the elf resisted. Sylus was first to make it up, wasting no time in joining the fray. The oni disregarded Neurion’s psychic distractions and laid into the swashbuckler with the bladed staff.
Sylus’ blood mingled on the floor with that of the ogre mage when Nin managed to make the climb, but the monster’s wounds were healing even as they watched. The bard healed his human companion a bit, but then Sylus made the mistake of drawing the oni away from Neurion’s side. The mystic quickly remedied the situation, using an ability that would compel the giant to remain beside him for a crucial moment. Nin and Sylus retreated, and though it couldn’t follow them physically, the oni cast another spell that conjured a sleet storm that swiftly froze the floor and made it more difficult to maneuver.
The swashbuckler came out of the magical ice storm to stab the oni once more, then took a short step away. Nin’s cloud of daggers nearly finished the giant, but it managed to keep its feet long enough to make one final attack on Sylus before Neurion stepped between them and ended it with a psychically enhanced thought.
A moment after the giant fell dead to the floor, Seebo heaved himself over the edge of the hole. “What? You killed it without me?” he complained.