The adventurers decided to backtrack into the dungeon to explore the hallways and doors that they had bypassed when they were still concerned with the poisonous mist that had pervaded the lower levels. The first place of note was the Tomb of Pelota. 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 used a ball and had 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. The writing, in Olman, read, “Dare not open this pit unless you be willing to meet the challenge of Pelota.”
Five feet above the capstone in the southern wall was a hemispherical depression 1 foot in diameter. Seebo and Sylus lifted the capstone, and beneath the stone lid they found a pit filled with skeletal remains. Atop the bones rested a plaque and several figurines made of jade and a glistening black ball one foot in diameter.
The ball appeared to be the same size as the depression in the wall, which they determined was one of the goals on the playing field. The ball was cool to the touch, and when the dwarf picked it up, it suddenly jerked free of his grasp and rebounded off the south wall, then sped thirty feet to the north and hovered. So animated, it waited, as though challenging the violators of the tomb to a game.
Nin approached the ball and smacked it with a fist. At the impact, the ball flew toward the south goal. Neurion followed suit, knocking it into the south wall and causing the depression in the wall to briefly glow orange. Another depression in the north wall likewise lit up, and the ball floated to the midpoint between the two goals. A sound like that of a trumpet indicated that the game was about to begin.
The ball seemed inclined to float toward the northern goal, and though it took a little practice, the adventurers managed to move it back toward the south. When they finally knocked the ball into the southern goal, the ball fell inert and the sound of triumphant drums erupted briefly. Then the area fell silent, and the southern goal went dark, though the northern goal continued to glow orange.
Seebo collected the jade items atop the bones, while Nin inspected the still-lit northern goal. Within he found a small panel that had opened in the back of the depression. There he found a small pouch made of fish skin that held ten pink pearls, a topaz and shell necklace, and a whistle made of eagle bone and feather. At the dwarf’s request, the dragonborn handed the whistle over, and Seebo promptly blew through the instrument, producing a shriek cry like that of an eagle. The cleric felt lighter, and discovered that while he blew the whistle, he was able to fly through the air on the wings of its magic.
Continuing on, they came to a hall to the west that they had passed by before. Around a corner, they found a ramp sloped gently down to the south. Set in the floor at two-foot intervals were smooth stone cylinders that apparently functioned as rollers. They descended the slope until it terminated at the north side of the large stone block they’d found earlier, which appeared to block the T-intersection.
They returned to the room where they’d encountered the glowing beetles and took the east door. The hall beyond turned south and in the distance they saw a glowing with no apparent source. Despite their understandable vigilance for traps or other hazards, they heard the ominous click of a pressure plate before they’d moved too far. This was followed by a loud crash as a pair of portcullises made of timber bound in copper came down, trapping the adventurers between.
Sylus could not find any mechanism to raise them back up again, so they wasted no time starting to try breaking through the southern portcullis. Thanks to Nin’s acidic breath, they were making decent progress when they heard the sound of stone slowly grating on stone from above. Looking up, they saw small panels near the ceiling had moved to expose four holes the size of a human fist on each wall. Dust trickled from the holes. It came as a relief when the portcullis finally broke and the adventurers exited the trapped space without delay. A few seconds later, sand began pouring from the holes to fill the area between the portcullises.
The glow had disappeared from the southern part of the hallway, which abruptly ended in a blank stone wall perhaps fifty feet later. Seebo hammered on the wall, which sounded solid. Nin examined the floor and noted scratches that scribed an arc from one corner to the other. He pushing on one side of the apparent dead end, causing the triangular pillar to pivot. This opened a passage about two feet wide that offered access to the south. Hopping over an open pit on the floor, they followed the corridor south then west, only to find themselves back in the Hall of the Great Spirits.
The glow disappeared around the corner of the hall to the west – one they had bypassed previously. They pursued it as it vanished around another passage to the south. At the end of the southern corridor was a small alcove holding a three-foot-tall stone pedestal on which rested a small silver coffer. Fifteen feet in front of the alcove, there was a single small step up in the stone floor. Inside the alcove, the floor was elevated an additional two feet. Sylus keeping watch at the T-intersection, while the others approached the alcove. Neurion could sense a source of psychic energy from the silver coffer, so he joined Seebo on the raised platform.
The floor inside the alcove immediately sank ten feet. At the same time, the fifteen-foot slab of floor north of the alcove rose up, pivoting along its south edge, dumping Nin on top of the elf and dwarf. The northern side of the slab sealed off the passage to the north, while the southern side sloped down toward the alcove. Fortunately, Sylus had not been trapped within and managed to disable the mechanism that locked the stone slab in place. He lowered a rope to his fellows, and they climbed back up to safety.
The silver coffer was unlocked, and inside they found a strange, narrow, fish-like copper figurine. Written on the side of the figurine were strange runes similar to Elvish that spelled out a name – Ilnedraw. On the slimmer end, Neurion found a small arched square panel. He opened the panel, revealing a hollow inside which was a wall of lighted, colored beads, which the mystic recognized as the source of the psychic power. This strange statue was the item he had sought within the ruins – one step along his quest to follow the prophetic clues in the epic poem that had brought him out into the world to meet his destiny.
The corridor continued west before turning north and ending in a massive bronze door, which opened into a grand chamber. The place was filled with rubble and life-sized statuary, much of it broken. Standing in ranks was an army of clay statues, in what must have once been an impressive array. Now, half of them were fallen and crumbled. Near the door were perhaps twenty spear-wielders outfitted only in scraps of leather. At their feet lay obsidian spearheads and bits of rotted wooden shafts. Behind these figures were archers in a scattered formation. Few of them remained standing. Their arrows were gone, but they held laminated bows, dried and worm-eaten.
On the east wall of the room were two carved stone columns flanking the remains of a covered sedan or litter, with statues of attendants standing nearby. Farther into the room were figures of warriors with war clubs and handaxes, wearing scraps of lacquered leather, sandals, and caps. Beyond all of this in the north end of the chamber were a group of statues that must have been an honor guard. These warriors wore feathered robes, a breastplate of shells, and headdresses and were armed with pitted bronze spears. They were standing near a domed structure made of stucco with no apparent openings.
Nin inspected the litter, finding the skeletal remains of a human, arms shackled to an arm of the sedan, and with three arrowheads in his rib cage.Mixed throughout the broken clay in the immediate area were nearly five thousand beads of coral and shell. The dragonborn noted a bronze door in the east wall behind the columns. It appeared to be barred shut with a pitted copper bar, as though to keep anyone out of this chamber from the other side. Removing this obstacle and opening the door, the bard found a corridor to the north that terminated in the south side of the massive stone block in the T-intersection. He returned to the tomb and reported this to his companions.
Seebo and Neurion were inspecting the stucco dome and determined it to be a cairn. It took the dwarf about a minute to get it open with his warhammer, and within he found the former occupant and his riches. In a dusty corner was a pendant made of silver and turquoise, and in the center of the floor is a bronze and chrysoprase lamp set into the stucco. A set of six jade bead pectorals rounded out the loot. When Seebo lifted the lamp, a hidden door in the floor opened and revealed the glowing red eyes of an undead guardian! The wight introduced itself as Ayocuan (A-YO-kwan) and rose immediately to attack, but he could not long stand against the adventurers, scoring only a single blow against Neurion before his defeat. Nin relieved the corpse of a pendant matching the one in the cairn.
The party returned to the chamber where they’d encountered the oversized talking crustaceans and exited through the eastern door. The walls of the corridor beyond were wet and slimy. The stucco covering had become saturated with water and was decomposing and sloughing off in spots on the southern wall, exposing the seams of one of the large stone blocks from which this structure was built. Around a corner to the north, they found a staircase that went up for only a few steps, before it was filled in with clay and stone rubble.
They turned their attention to the exposed block, and Nin burned his hand on the acidic slime on its surface. Seebo guessed that it was naturally occurring from the soaked limestone. They adventurers steeled themselves, and pushed against the stone for a full minute before they’d exposed an opening they could pass through. Beyond the plug was a small foyer holding three sealed urns on the east and west sides. To the south were double doors of bronze with glyphs worked into their faces. The others waited while the cleric performed his ritual to comprehend languages_. The ancient glyphs were scribed in Olman, and they translated as: "Here lies Tloques-Popolocas (_Tloh-kays Poh-poh-LOH-kahs), master of the others, who is like the wind and the night!"
Sylus made short work of the locked doors, and pushed them open to reveal the tomb proper. They found a chamber cut out of the rock with a veil of calcite and stalactites covering the walls. Buttresses rose from the corners, brown shot through with black, and triangular stone pillars supported the high ceiling. Occupying the center of the chamber was a colossal monument resembling a giant’s table, covered on all sides with intricate carvings and glyphs. Engraved on the floor in front of the entrance was a seal that displayed more glyphs. Opposite the entrance, a battleaxe was embedded in the wall, six feet above the floor.
Seebo reported that the glyphs in the floor seal were also written in Olman and translated as: “Ah, defilers! Now you shall join me in my eternal resting!” The adventurers entered the room to take a closer look at its contents. Nin found the battleaxe to be stuck fast. The great stone slab, twenty feet long by ten feet wide, rested upon a four-foot-thick monolith of rock of similar dimensions, and this, in turn, was supported by six huge blocks of dolomite. Every component had been covered with intricate carvings and glyphs.
The top of the slab depicted a struggle between a dark-skinned man and a mighty, knotted serpent. Engraved alongside this illustration were glyphs identical to those found on the door. Under these sigils were etched a series of four face-glyphs in a line. At the foot of the slab was a row of ten of these symbols, all different in form.
The glyphs on the top of the slab repeated the name Tloques-Popolocas, and the date he died, 54-3-9, was written in the face-glyphs. The ten face-glyphs at the foot of the block corresponded to the numbers 0 through 9. Seebo noted that these could be pressed, and posited that doing so in the correct sequence would open the tomb. Neurion suggested using the date on top of the slab. When the 9 glyph was depressed at the end of the sequence, a grating sound issued forth and the top slab slid back a bit. It was a simple matter to remove it the rest of the way.
The block beneath the slab was hollow, and inside was a crumbling skeleton decked out in decayed finery. It appeared to have been a man of taller than average stature, obviously of great importance. Gems and other small adornments of obvious value lay on and around the body. Covering the skull was a mask of jade with cowrie-shell eyes and obsidian pupils. About the corpse’s neck was a jade pendant carved with the face of a humanlike bat. The adventurers wasted no time relieving the body of its valuable, but when they’d removed the mask and pendant, the corpse began to move. Dust was stirred up into clouds and began to gather on the bones as they started to knit back together!
The adventurers attacked the apparent undead, hoping to destroy it before it could fully reform, but they found the effort to be quite difficult. Even after Seebo poured oil into the crypt and Neurion set it aflame, Tloques-Popolocas just kept coming! When he finally managed to get to his feet, he transformed into a bat and flew over to the battleaxe on the wall. Nin’s lightning bolt rendered the creature senseless for a moment, and Sylus wasted no time in removing its head. The fire did the rest, leaving a pile of ash and a few more jewels. The adventurers took these items and the rest of the loot in the tomb before returning to the corridor.
Having explored all of the possible paths and chambers that they had found, they deemed Tamoachan sufficiently cleared and returned to the village to report the good news, count and divide the treasure, and await a ship back to the mainland.
* * *
Two weeks had passed since the accursed invaders had pillaged the holy Shrine of Tamoachan. Nahual (NAH-wahl) had been instructed by Dread Zotzilaha to seek out the cursed intruders who had defiled the tomb of Blessed Tloques-Popolocas and been marked by their blasphemy. The Disciple came upon the village where his quarry had returned after their depredations. A disturbance in the village caught his attention and so he crept closer to investigate, assuming the form of a local peasant. His surprise turned to grim delight when he witnessed the werejaguar slaughtering village inhabitants without discretion. The doppelganger followed the beast after its bloodlust was sated and it skulked back to the rented yurt and fell back into his usual trance.
Nahual considered how best to serve his master when the beastman reverted to his usual bare-chested elven form. He decided to wait to see how the man reacted to waking covered in blood. The Disciple was pleased when morning came and he watched the elf clean up the blood and hide all evidence of his wanton slaughter. If this creature was content to hide this curse from his fellows and others, Zotzilaha’s will would be served better in the long term by letting the man return from whence he’d come and continue the monthly slaughter.
In his mind, he felt the approval of his dark god.