That night, nursing their wounds while camped upon Küsün Plateau, the party discussed their options. Young Lumétl was outspoken in his view that the underworld beneath the Circle of Columns was naught but a death trap. The others tended to agree, until the old scholar Panjáng (Lumétl’s NPC guardian, whose research in the library at the temple of Ksárul in Komoré sparked this expedition) argued that the traps they’d encountered implied that some secret worth protecting – and thus, worth discovering – lay within. Surely they should try to uncover that secret, and not write off their two week round trip from Komoré as a waste of time? The others grudgingly agreed, and they re-entered the site the next morning.
On their second visit they chose to leave their slaves behind, however – reckoning the liability of crossing room after room of subtle traps with them greater than the indignity of carrying their own provisions.
Exploring a different passageway, they encountered a chamber filled with smoke. Rather than risk its unknown hazards, they returned to the entrance to the Hot Room. Tying cloth over their faces to ward off the stench of the slain Gíriku (all the worse for having lain there dead overnight), they threw the bodies onto the room’s red-hot floor to create a series of grisly stepping-stones. Thus prepared, they crossed the Hot Room with relative ease – only to find themselves in a small antechamber to yet another ‘trapped’ room.
This new room’s walls were decorated with scenes from the story of the flame god Vimúhla’s torrid love-affair with Dlamélish, goddess of sensations. The singing swordsman Surundáno, himself a devotee of Dlamélish, volunteered to brave the room first. The moment he stepped within, he was engulfed in burning green flames! Two more quick steps brought him closer to the far door - but he would never make it before the green fire brought him down. Desperate, he stopped walking – and the flames went out! After several experiments, and some discussion regarding the theological implications of the legend, they discovered that ‘accepting’ the pain of the green flames (representing the painful passion of the Emerald Goddess’ embrace) - by pausing a moment in the room - allowed one to proceed without risk of further injury. Each character endured a moment’s embrace of the green flames, and then they all continued out the opposite door.
Several passage twists and turns later, they came face to face with a Thúnru’u – one of the treasure guardians of the Ancients! Ssúri held it fast with the Web of Kriyág, while Bálar hammered it with telekinetic blows and Panjáng’s phantasmal warriors surrounded it. The creature was swiftly dispatched – though at the cost of most of their psychic energy. It guarded an impressive treasure, consisting of thousands of gold coins, a large shield of precious steel, and a ‘Eye’ of unknown type. And yet our heroes sensed that that this trove was not the central secret of the place! They forged ahead…
…and were beset by two hideous fungal Sagún! The warriors Surundáno and Lumétl held them off while the others used up the last of their magic in vain. Lumétl was cut down by a slash of the lead Sagun’s thorny claws. And then the creature released a cloud of deadly spores, infecting everyone but Ssúri. As her companions fell back, gasping for breath and sprouting fungal growths while dragging young Lumétl’s prone form, she aimed the Eye at the creatures – which immediately became still. The party withdrew a short distance, but those infected were about to die. Ssúri grabbed Bálar’s hand, and together they called upon their god Ksárul, Doomed Prince of the Blue Room, Knower of Hidden Things, to save them so that they might discover the place’s secrets for His greater glory. They offered, in sacrifice, nearly everything they’d found so far – the Eye, the steel shield, and the small fortune in coins – yet the outcome remained quite uncertain.
But Ksárul’s inscrutable smile shone down upon them. The sprouting fungi turned to dust and fell away. Our heroes withdrew to the relatively safe antechamber between the Hot Room and the Room of Green Flames, and there they made their camp. Injuries were tended, psychic energy was recovered, and the few provisions they’d brought were consumed. Again their plans were discussed at great length. Should they not, now, flee this accursed place? Once again, Panjáng’s wisdom (or was it his sheer infectious greed for knowledge?) prevailed.
And so upon arising from their camp, they returned to the scene of the battle with the Sagún. The creatures had recovered from whatever effect the Eye had upon them, but this time our heroes were ready for them. Web spells held the monsters in place while Lumétl rained arrows and Surundáno sling pellets down upon them – at a safe distance, beyond the murderous spores. When the creatures had fallen, a spiral stairway was revealed…
…leading down to a chamber that hung from the ceiling of a vast cavern, whose floor was molten lava. A strange rhythmic thrumming wafted up to them from a great silvery edifice which protruded from the lava sea below. And then a swarm of flaming, coal-black winged monstrosities flew up to greet them…
Continued next episode!