Well, at least the town of Tel-Al-Kebir seems to be fairly civilized. The low daub and mud buildings gleam in the hot sun, but the cool shadowed interiors seem to offer some respite from the elements. And that is exactly what the duo is looking for when they hear a feminine shout off to their left.
A well attired woman, maybe of noble station, seems to be berating a kneeling soldier of some type. Berating with a cane in fact! Not only is she shouting at him in the harsh desert tongue that is so common in the lands of Ylaruam, but she is beating him w/ each syllable. But the armored man doesn't seem to be suffering from the physical effects of the lashing...it's the tongue that seems to be doing the damage.
Standing to the side are what appears to be a few of his crestfallen companions. With a final flourish of the cane the woman stops and points away down the street. The men spring to obey, and casting looks over their shoulders as they retreat, they leave the panting woman be.
She shakes her head and turns, her eyes narrow as she spies the both of you, cooly appraising as if surveying horse flesh. An imperceptible nod and she approaches, at first rather warily, and then w/ more confidence. She lifts her chin as she speaks in halting, heavily accented common, "You are strangers here in Ylaruam, no?" And with that, the two meet the inestimable Yasmina.
It seems that there is need of guards for some type of family expedition into the desert. 37 people, supported by a sizable caravan will be traveling to a "dangerous location" and are in need of protection of the highest sort. Yasmina offers sanctuary from the desert heat in the Blue Moon Inn, which she apparently owns.
The pay will be 1 gp / day / person with a 5 sp stipend for every other able-bodied guard that they find w/in the next three days (the departure date). Food and water will be provided during the journey. Beyond that, the two know nothing else of what's expected of them.
- Ariana: A farm girl armed with a pitchfork and a throwing knife.
- Manha: A clumsy (think Arabic Gilligan) man who is eager to please...Unarmed.
- Rana: A young girl dressed in baggy clothes (men's?) armed with a rusty sword and a sitar.
- Aahil: An older man, missing his left hand. He's had experience adventuring and is armed w/ a scimitar.
- Fadil: A chubby, jolly middle aged man armed w/ a cudgel.
- Usman: A short, well-spoken man armed w/ an old short sword.
- Ahmad: A 13 year old boy who is eager to be part of a group. He is armed w/ a dagger.
Morning on the 4th day comes quite early, as the caravan is being prepared Fivel and Terramor are given orders to help out where they can. As they go about their duties, they notice that Yasmina is dressed for the desert in all black. And as she walks by they detect the smell of metal and oil...Armor! Fivel quickly scans her camel and spies the handle of what can only be some type of mace.
The other interesting traveler is a woman of indeterminate age dressed from head to foot in all white. She speaks very little and while the bulky, black-clad personal guards hover about her, they don't truly pay an iota of attention to her. While on the other hand Yasmina is very vocal and directs the caravan's preparations with an eye to detail, and the 8 personal guards pay obvious deference to the young woman.
Armed with massive falchions and dressed in well made chain mail, the personal body guards are quite obviously part of some official organization, or highly paid detachment of sorts. They play one role and one role only: To guard the two women.
The caravan is under way only a few hours past sunrise, but the heat is coming up quickly and armor proves to be quite the detriment. As the days pass, there are few noteworthy encounters upon the road heading west.
A caravan of beautiful slaves, heading east towards the city of Khadis, passes by slowly as the owner smiles and measures the group w/ the eye of a merchant, critically. The slavers themselves are an unruly lot and scowl and posture as they slink by, moving the merchandise along w/ obvious care.
The next evening a lion is encountered by one of the guards, but as he comes scampering back over the dune, the lion is nowhere to be seen.
Fivel has a hair-raising encounter with a few rattle snakes that had cozied up to him in the evening, but no one is hurt more than what a bit of a fright might induce. The snake cooks up nicely the next morning for breakfast...
Three days of travel and the caravan has come to a crossroads, this is where Yasmina takes long council from her three scouts. They pore over the maps they have brought and it is decided that they will strike due west, straight across the desert.
Sand, dust, heat and wind are the only companions after 6 days of travel...And that night is when the storm hits. It strikes w/out notice and its ferocity quickly scatters the camp and proves much more than the meager preparations are ready for. The only safety are the camels.
Most run off, chased by they handlers, the body guards and scouts. Tents are scattered to the four corners of the earth and Fivel and Terramor are saved only by the quick wits and experience of a few of their henchmen.
As the sun rises it sheds its relentless beams upon a scene of dire woe. Of the 46 original caravan members, only 8 have survived, along with two camels and approximately 2 days worth of water. Quick stock is taken and it is decided that the best course of action is to either find the rest of the caravan, any survivors, or try to find any gear. Fivel climbs a dune and spots what are obviously carrion birds circling high in the sky out over the desert a short ways from their current location.
An hour's travel and the group finds themselves in a small depression. Not far from them though is what appears to be three of the caravan...standing and looking out over the horizon. Fivel gets an odd feeling though so they approach with caution.
Nothing seems to stir in the ruins and Terramor yanks the door open to reveal a 30' by 30' room. The central attraction is three copper "pillars" of approximately 4' in diameter run from floor to ceiling. Appearing that the rest of the room is empty for the most part, nothing stirs or catches the eye upon initial examination.
A smear of blood in front of the central copper "pillar", which turns out to be some sort of tube, draws the curious halfling's attention and after careful scrutiny he finds a door and is able (w/ Terramor's aid) open it, revealing a ladder that runs 20' down into the floor and up, terminating in the central statue.
After climbing up Fivel finds levers, rods and gears that would allow a person to somehow manipulate the statue from inside, making it appear somehow animated. But the years and the elements have corroded the workings rendering them inoperable.
Meanwhile, Terramor has decided that it's time to explore the ladder's lower terminus. A dull red glow of some type illuminates the space below, drawing him down. Not able to view the room from his vantage point he hangs, and drops the few feet into the room, his 6' height making the fall a minor nuisance only.
This chamber's dimensions mirror that of the one above, 30' by 30'. Except this one is far from "empty", the walls are stacked with spare brass and copper parts used for repairing the statues 40' above, while a forge and urns partially filled with oil adorn the other walls.
A trio of large beetles are the source of the glow, their cherry red glands illuminating as if on fire. They scurry about looking for sustenance, but as soon as Terramor thumps into their midst they spring to the attack!
Above, the rest of the survivors crowd into the room in order to follow, but as soon as they leave the corridor, the door snaps shut w/ an audible click and the hissing sound of gas filling the room is detected. Fivel quickly ushers them into the tube and onto the ladder below him.
Rana and Ahmad are first in, their nimble hands and feet making the climb appear effortless. But it's the 10' drop below that proves an issue. With Terramor and the large beetles filling the space directly below the tubular entrance, Rana attempts to swing to the side and drop. But she lands awkwardly and an audible "SNAP" resounds as her leg folds. She falls in a heap and a beetle, seeing its chance springs upon her, rending the young woman's neck with its enormous pincers.
Terramor makes quick work of the first beetle and moves to protect the young woman, but alas it is too late. Ahmad attempts to drop into the chamber as well, with the burly guardsman and Yasmina crowding down from above. His hand slips though and he falls w/ a resounding "Woof", flat on his back, the air rushing from his lungs. He lies there stunned! What terrible luck...
Another beetle, sensing a free meal moves to attack the boy, but Terramor slays it in its tracks. All the huge insects now lay upon the floor unmoving. The immediate threat has been nullified, but the price is great. One of the original 6 survivors now lies dead upon the floor.
Moving her against the wall into a seated position, Yasmina pulls out a holy symbol and says a few words in order speed the young woman on her way to the afterlife. Exploring the room provides a small amount of oil that the party will use in their lamp... Perfect timing apparently, as the torches gutter and die.
Three doors lead from the chamber: Two lie in the west wall, while one lies in the east. It is the eastern one that Fivel selects as he listens carefully. He detects voices coming from behind it but can not decipher what they are saying.
As Terramor swings it open a group of 6 colorfully robed figures spin about to stare surprisedly at the group standing in the room. Human masks adorn their faces and they stan as if stunned... But are soon recovered enough to scamper around a far corner and south down a hall.
Fivel proceeds into the hall towards the northern door and listens there...A cracking sound can be heard and a shuffling afterwards. Again Terramor yanks it open while Fivel moves in to the 20' by 20' chamber. A bed, desk and small chest adorn the room, an ancient priest's sleeping quarters perhaps? Empty? Lo, it is not!
A massive lizard rears up from behind the bed as Fivel approaches. It lunges and grasps the small adventurer in its gaping jaws and shakes violently, letting the halfling go, flying into the far wall of the room. What a monster! Quick beyond belief the thing slithers up upon the bed and faces off with the rest of the group.
Ahmad rushes in to aid the halfling but the beast grasps him in its jaws as well and this time its damage is fatal...the young boy falls to the ground dead! The guard fires off a shot with his bone bow as Ahil yells "Gecko"! This confuses the lizard just long enough for Fivel to pick himself off the floor and beat a hasty retreat, whereupon the guardsman slams home the door, sealing the monster inside. Yet what a cost the gods have exacted so far, two lives in the span of that many hours. Danger dwells w/in this ancient ruin, there is now no doubt.
Yasmina approaches the direly injured thief and mumbles something about keeping him alive in order to keep her alive. She has him kneel and places her hands upon him, a surge of heat moves through the small figure as she finishes her prayer. Seeing that it is not quite enough though, she does it once more...But this is all she is apparently willing to spend as she appears slightly drained.
Opening the southern door another 20' by 20' sleeping chamber is revealed. Looking to be empty though, the group finds no interest and moves to the 'T' intersection, selecting the southern branch where the 6 colorfully robed figures disappeared. (A quick foray to the north proves that the corridor ends in a blank wall, a dead end.)
At the terminus of the southern hall lies two doors in the western wall as well as a glittering 6' statue of the stern-faced man. Fivel guards the gold painted statue as Terramor opens the northern-most of the two doors. Yet another 20' by 20' room. This one though is filled with bunk beds, and upon them are sitting 5 men, previously chatting, but now curiously and alertly staring at the new comers.
Each of the men (for it is assumed that they are just that) is adorned with iron chain mail over a blue tunic while a upon their faces they wear golden masks of the stern faced, bearded man. They stand and one approaches slowly, making no threatening gestures. He speaks but his words are unintelligible. Yasmina seems to understand a bit though, claiming that it's an ancient tongue still spoken by some of the priests at temple.
She translates best she can and negotiations occur. A few minutes later one of the men leaves the room through one of the other two doors, and returns w/ yet more of the masked men and an older, tall man who wears no mask. His skin is milk white as are his eyes, he squints in the light of the torch (a very low burning oil candle was the entirety of the illumination of the room before), the light seeming to hurt his eyes.
He wears an ornate helm but is dressed identically to the other men. Somehow he seems to clearly understand the party but is unable to speak the language. Yasmina though is picking it back up quite quickly and does an admirable job of clearly translating.
Seems that these are the Brothers of Gorm, an ancient priesthood of the Cynidiceans, a race that has long disappeared beneath the sands of the inexorable desert. And this particular man's name is Kanadius, the leader of this specific band. He asks if Terramor and the guard would like to join the Brotherhood, for they are in a fight to reclaim their territory and to bring glory back to their cult. Fighters are wanted...
The rest of the group, minus Yasmina, are also invited to become sub-members, for they are not fighters, but are welcome because they are male. Terramor agrees and Kanadius asks for them, again minus Yasmina, to remain in their care until the journey to the city is completed. For it is there that the proper ritual items are stored. He explains that after the ritual the two will be "accepted" into the ranks and marked by Gorm himself.
Choices, choices... Where to go now? There are 4 at the moment: Two doors in this small chamber, one (to the south) of which Kanadius and some of the Brotherhood of Gorm had entered from, and another heading west. While in the "gear / beetle" room two more doors were evident heading to the west.
After breaking fast w/ cold rations and sips of precious water, the party makes its way back to the "Gear" room and the two unexplored doors. Listening at the most northerly of the two reveals to the keen-eared Fivel that there are creatures beyond...somewhere in the darkness (there is no light revealed under the door), that are speaking in an odd, unintelligible language. Not one they've heard before. At least not here in the LOST CITY (Dun Dun Da!!! Queue dramatic music.)
Fivel gestures for the group to be silent...And Terramar approaches, motioning Fivel away. He takes hold of the door and gives a might grunt and pull. It seems it is not quite enough, but the it IS enough to quiet those voices from beyond.
Terramar and the Guardsman gives the door another go, and LO! It opens. And from the darkness pour crudely made, yet dangerous enough, arrows. Seven to be precise. And who happens to be standing there but the hapless Guardsman. Who quite quickly proves to be a proficient pin cushion. He drops to the ground like a sack of stones. Yet another falls to the depredations of the LOST CITY!! (Dun Dun Da!! Again, dramatic music.)
Trying to shed some light on the situation, Fivel lights an arrow and fires it down the pitch black corridor to reveal several bipedal shapes scurrying about. Standing not much over 4' tall, these creatures seem to have taken up defensive positions and are willing to fight. Which is quite enough for the depleted party. They shut the door and pull the heavy forge in front of it as a measure of safety. It appears though that the creatures on the opposite side have lost interest.
Yasmina takes up immediate position next to the fallen Guardsman's side and employs her sorcery. Chanting in a difficult tongue, she calls upon her god and brings the man to life! Or so it seems. He rises and apologizes to his mistress profusely for failing her. She seems to take no notice and goes about her business.
Meanwhile Fivel moves to the southerly door and listens their. Nothing is revealed and the warrior Terramar again plies the door with his mighty strength. It opens and the flickering lamplight reveals a 40' long corridor the ends in a turn to the south. Navigating past a doorway and ending in yet another doorway, the party moves into position and listens at the eastern door.
Again, nothing is revealed, but when it is yanked open a dusty room w/ tracks through the center is illuminated by the party's light. Lying in the center of what appears to have once been another priest's room, is a body not unlike the one from upstairs. After some searching three things are revealed, a purse that was likely accidentally kicked under the rickety bed (135 silver and 40 gold pieces of ancient design), a full water bottle (worth more than the gold and silver), and what looks to be some type of stinger, still lodged in the unfortunate victim's shoulder.
Across the 30' wide room lies another door. Fivel leans to and hears a low droning noise. Possibly the owners of the "stinger"?
Terramar pulls the door open. Therein lies a very strange sight indeed: A room w/ the same dimensions as the one in which they now stand (20' x 30') seems to host a cage in its center. Within which lies a great treasure. A heap of silver and gold lies on the floor but at the top, attached as if to a limb of a tree, hangs a large hive. Great one-foot long bees buzz about the room, initially taking no notice of the open doorway, and the characters w/in.
But this changes quite quickly as one of the bees, then others, sense the intruders. They fly to the attack, and in the face of this threat, the party slams the door home, cutting the large insects off.
Quickly coming up w/ a plan, the group forms large oil soaked bundles with which they hope to smoke the bees into a stupor. Cracking the door and flinging these inside, Fivel lights another arrow and fires. His first shot goes wide and the bees attack. They can not find purchase through the armor though and Fivel gets off a shot that strikes true. The bundles catch and fire and smoke erupt upwards into the room.
Again securing the door, the party waits the conflagration out.
Smoke seeps from under the door but the droning grows dim. Waiting another 10 minutes, the party opens the door to find the bees lethargically crawling upon the walls of the room. They easily pick them off. But as they're concluding the job, the door in the opposite wall opens and in pours the Brotherhood of Gorm.
It is obvious by the tones of their voice that they're furious and they want to know what's going on here. Yasmina translates and the party explains that they were attacked by the bees and just defending themselves. This seems to partially mollify the Gormians, but they tell the party that they must leave immediately and never return. For if they do, they shall be slain on sight.
Agreeing, the party backs out the way they entered, and begin to build a barrier. On the opposite side of the door, the noise indicates that the Brotherhood had the same idea.
Backtracking, the party finds their way to a stairway leading further downwards into the pyramid. Yasmina seems more and more eager to find her charge. She seems to be certain...or at least rather hopeful that they will succeed in this, and she opts to move further into the confines of the ruins.
They make their way downwards and emerge into a long u-shaped hallway which terminates in a door with a set of 8 studs next to it. There is something odd with the doorway though and Fivel proceeds to dismantle it, only to find a stone wall with grooves directly behind it. After many minutes of discovery and prodding the studs, Fivel finally depresses one of the buttons to discover that it causes the wall behind the door to move.
He pushes again, and this time a doorway appears. They listen, hear nothing and open it to find a long hallway leading off into darkness. Directly next to this door, on the opposite side, lies another panel of 8 studs.
They shut the door and push a stud. Again, the grating sound, the feeling of movement this time, and it stops. When the open the door they are looking down a distinctly different hallway. A shape dislodges from the wall and flits towards them... A giant bat! Fivel shoots it from the air and more are seen at the edges of the light, quickly making their way towards them. Thinking better of messing with them, they quickly shut the door and depress yet another button.
More grinding and yet more movement. Another hall yet again. This time they mark it, step back and press a different one again.
Same same. But this time, when they open the portal, a couple of statues of women warriors, resembling the woman warrior statue at the top of the pyramid, stand w/ spears crossed, forming an arch. Fivel, his natural halfling curiosity kicking in, moves to explore.
He finds a cleverly disguised pit just below the statues, uses his rope over their spears and swings across safely. Quietly sneaking down the long hallway to the door at the end he listens. And hears nothing. He opens that door and finds a large room with curtains hung all around. Apparently currently utilized (everything is scrubbed quite clean) as a temple, this room holds all sorts of wonderful curios for the thief.
Except for the burning candles, ceremonial equipment, the green carpet and white wall hangings, the room appears empty. Halfling curiosity is difficult to deter though. Fivel looks behind the hangings and sure enough, he finds another door. Prudence suddenly kicks in though and he decides against opening this particular portal. Moving back across the room, Fivel quietly shuts the door and moves back to tell the party of what he's found.
And this is where we ended it.