At once, he vanished from sight. Nobody knew what had happened to him or where he had gone. Alurax sent Eristar to see if she could find him on the next level down and the hawk swiftly flew off through the passages down which the party had made its way. She soon found out that he had been washed down through a series of channels and ended up coming down the waterfall into the Pineapple room again. He had taken a bit of a buffeting on the way down but was otherwise all right.
While the party waited for Galadeus to make his way back to them again, they continued to investigate the question mark. Ferros used an exploding pineapple to try and damage the floor where the symbol was engraved, thinking that it might mark a trapdoor or secret entrance but his tactic did not bear fruit (sorry!).
In the end, it was Galadeus who stumbled across the solution. Shaking the water out of his armour, he walked into the room and hit upon the idea of standing on the question mark itself. It glowed briefly and from the water, a deep booming voice asked him his name, his quest and on whose holy ground he now stood. With the assistance of the rest of the party for the last two questions, he passed the test. The voice then told him to take its hand and a white watery hand emerged from the column. As Galadeus touched it, the waterfall changed from down to up. Galadeus stepped into the upward flow and was carried up through the hole in the ceiling. Alurax was right behind him but nobody else followed.
Unwilling to risk the water column, the rest of the party - Elysia, Ferros, Gullhar, Alagon and Lydia started to explore and decided to check out what lay behind the bronze doors at the top of a flight of stairs opposite the water. Ferros pulled them open and found beyond them, a huge fist of bronze in the middle of the room.
From behind the fist a deep booming laugh emerged, followed by a dark figure. Everybody backed quickly down the stairs. Elysia found herself in the front rank, ready to deal with whoever it was.
She used the Illuminate capacity of her wand to reveal the figure as a gaunt, leathery-skinned human, who was nevertheless emanating an aura of intense evil which Alagon and Lydia picked up at once. He announced himself as Munafik, high priest of the pyramid. He told them that they had violated his sanctum and now they must pay.
At this point, he raised his hands and fired a lightning bolt which hit Elysia, two zombies, Alagon and Gullhar. Nobody was killed but they were all damaged; Elysia was within a hair’s breadth of death. She had already cast Shield to protect herself against Munafik, unsure about what he might try next, then cast her Fireball into the room of the giant fist, filling it with searing flame and blasting heat. Munafik seemed completely unaffected and blasted Elysia with magic missiles but because she still had her shield up, this attack did not harm her.
Munafik switched targets at this point, firing a Web spell at Ferros, who did not escape its sticky, entangling strands. He was trapped along with two of his zombies. Lydia drew her sword and moved in to cut him free.
At this point the party, with a little reminder from Lydia about her last encounter with Munafik, realised the connection between the high priest and the heart that they had found in the glass jar. Alagon, Wolf and Relic headed off to the cave to try and destroy it.
Elysia, remembering that her Wand of Illumination had reduced vampires to dust in the past, tried Sunburst on Munafik but this had no effect either. She then tried to web him and succeeded in immobilising him while the rest of the party weighed in with their swords to try and hack him apart but this achieved little – apart, perhaps, from cutting through some of the strands of web.
It became obvious now that until the heart was destroyed, the party had little chance against Munafik and so Elysia, Ferros and Lydia fled the room. Gullhar sent Larsh in to delay the evil high priest but he managed to detonate a fireball in the chamber which inflicted damage on Gullhar, forced Larsh back into his figurine state and incinerated Ferros’ remaining zombies.
By now, Alagon had made it to the cave of the heart and was hacking away at the glass jar, finally breaking it open and destroying the heart. Once that happened, Munafik collapsed and rapidly crumbled away to fragments of skin and bone.
The party congratulated itself on the victory and licked its wounds – fortunately none fatal – before exploring the final passageway on the far side of the room. They found a book on a pedestal which emanated a strong sense of evil. Ferros fired an arrow at it and knocked it off its pedestal onto the floor, where Lydia unilaterally set fire to, declaring it so evil that it was a danger to the party.
But what had happened to Galadeus and Alurax?
At the top of the column of water, they had stepped out into a long corridor that ended in a set of bronze doors. They followed the corridor and carefully pushed open the doors to find themselves in a large room. In the centre of the room were four pillars; on the left-hand side, a thirty-foot long reed boat and on the right hand wall, a painting of the same boat, flying in the clouds. Beyond the pillars was another set of bronze doors.
The intrepid duo set to searching the boat and found within it ten vases. Having ascertained that these were not canopic jars, they took one out and opened it, to find that it was full of platinum coins. They tipped said coins out onto the floor and, having done a rough count, realised that there were five hundred of them. The other nine vases contained the same amount and Galadeus and Alurax’s eyes lit up when they worked out they had the equivalent of twenty-five thousand gold pieces’ worth of treasure.
They moved on to investigate the second set of bronze doors. Beyond lay a room that housed a stone sarcophagus and a huge statue of the King, holding the staff and a multi-faceted gem. On the sarcophagus was the actual staff itself; Alurax took it and was relieved when nothing happened. Galadeus, on the other hand, wanted to know what was inside the sarcophagus and levered it open, the heavy lid crashing to the floor.
|Can't a mummified King get any sleep?|
Alurax and Galadeus searched around the room for anything else of interest but could find nothing except an inscription on the wall, which Galadeus managed to decipher (albeit partially) to read
“A passage was always provided between the tomb of the King and his likeness, whereby his spirit may pass into his ordained statue and live within the stone we worship in the outer world.”
Neither of them knew what this meant, but Galadeus decided that the worship reference might mean that the statue would be responsive to prayer and so he got out the prayer mat that he had taken from the room at the top of the shaft some time ago and started to bow down to the statue.
This is the scene that met the rest of the party as they arrived in the boat room. They had used the same technique as Galadeus to ascend the column of water and were now given the low-down on what had happened to the two missing party members.
Despite everybody now joining in the search, they were able to turn up nothing new except a small alcove behind the King’s statue. Everybody wandered around, each investigating a different aspect of the rooms until people started to wonder how come it was nowhere near as stuffy as it ought to be in the heart of the pyramid.
Eventually, Elysia managed to get the staff off Alurax, who was very proprietorial about it (since he believed that he was the chosen one who had been told by the spirit of the King to find said staff). She discovered that when she touched the surface of the painting with the end of the staff, it went through. She tried with her hand and that passed through as well.
As the party realised that the painting was a portal to somewhere unknown, Galadeus declared that he was going to jump through the painting. He did so and promptly vanishes. Florin, his phoenix shot through after him.
Trying to find out what was on the far side of the portal, Gullhar poked his head through and saw that there was a floating version of the reed boat some way off, tethered to a cloud. At its prow was a glistening gem that the party realised must be the elusive Star. The portal appeared to open some ten thousand feet above the pyramid. Galadeus went hurtling towards the ground, saved only by the intercession of his phoenix.
Realising that there was nothing that could currently be done for him, Elysia used a Fly spell to get to the floating boat, casting Enlarge to detach the Star from its cradle of wood in the prow of the boat. She searched the boat but could find nothing else of interest. Before she flew back to the portal, she noticed that from her vantage point, thousands of feet above the desert, she could see a very long way indeed and saw, far off in the west, a range of mountains and beyond them, a hazy green-brown expanse. This would be of interest later, since the party was still supposed to be heading west to find the Holy Avenger.
|Either the party had found the Star or they'd just won five more seconds inside the Crystal Dome|
He appeared in another alcove of the same size, sealed off by what looked like a door of stone. He pushed at it and it slid away to reveal a torch-lit room with several hooded figures inside. As he stepped out, they looked up at him and gasped in wonder. They declared that the King had returned before and started to bow down to him.
Ever modest, Alurax explained that he was not the King, whereupon they accused him of stealing the staff and star (accurately, as it turned out) and moved towards him with daggers and swords. Alurax backed into the alcove again and vanished, reappearing back in the alcove in the pyramid.
When he explained to the party what had happened, they realised that the alcoves served as teleportation terminals. This was clearly a way out of the pyramid and the entire party crowded in there, familiars and all and laid hands on Alurax as well as they were able.
The next moment, they were in the second alcove. They emerged to the curious but hostile glances of the hooded figures. Elysia explained who they are and what they had just done. It looked as if her explanation was not going to convince anybody until another hooded man rushed into the room to announce that “the curse is broken”.
All thoughts of the party forgotten, the hooded men went rushing out of the room and the party followed on. They came out into a large lime-cement basin, which although dry and barren, was now being filled by water which rose to the overflow channel and poured out into the desert. Above them, the silent stone shape of the pyramid looked out across the timeless sands as it had done for centuries.
The hooded men, who worshipped the King as a god, celebrated as it was clear that the curse had been broken and their King had now passed on to the afterlife. They thanked the party but had little of material value to give them. Nevertheless, the party counted their adventure in the pyramid as a success; they had found a huge amount of treasure, including the Staff and Star, Elysia had acquired a Fireball spell and even Galadeus had survived, albeit dazed, battered and bruised by his descent which, by the look of him, had been partly down the side of the pyramid itself. He had a lot to thank Florin for.
The party had been lucky but would their luck hold as they pressed on across the desert towards the western mountains and the tantalising hint that their quest would soon be at an end?