29 April, 103 CY
The party awoke and entered the doors in the southern hallway. They opened into a bending corridor that terminated in the other side of the trapped hall where they’d lost Soveliss. This confirmed, they made their way back to the wide chamber near the icy prison – the only door remaining to them. Kegan led the way.
A wide set of stairs rose before them, up into the gloom above. Ascending these proved to be a challenge, because each step was remarkably narrow, even for Cage’s small feet. They entered a wide chamber; more stairs wrapped around the walls of the room, leaving a deep pit some thirty feet across in the middle. The stairs and landings were dimly lit by some ambient magic, but the pit was deeply dark. Feh brought his everburning torch over to the edge and noted the bare stone floor of the pit was only twenty feet down. Still, the stairs had no railing and a fall from the increasing heights would certainly hurt.
The heroes began to make their way up the next flight of stairs – equally difficult to climb – but at the halfway point, the stairs rocked violently toward the pit! Tarrantus and Cage were thrown from their feet and slid toward the edge. Even Kegan and Feh were forced a step closer. As the stairs settled back, Belgarde ran swiftly to the next landing. Alert for threats, he sensed a presence hiding at the top of the next set of stairs. He relayed this to the others moments before a hideous creature with greasy feathered wings took flight and descended on the adventurers on the stairs.
The harpy emitted a constant song that burned the ears of the heroes – literally. It attempted to blind them with a blast of hot smoke, but its targets were all made of sterner stuff. The heroes made their way off of the steps and as they approached the next stair, a pair of gargoyles descended on them from above, knocking Tarrantus prone. He tried to charge up after them only to have his hoof crash through the first step and become lodged there.
At a severe disadvantage because of the terrain and with the harpy’s burning song steadily killing them, the adventurers fought fiercely and before too long they’d finished off the stair dwellers. Cage and Feh spent a few minutes disabling the stair traps, in case the party needed a swift retreat back down to the relative safety of the mirror chamber. When this was accomplished, they proceeded up the long stairs and opened the doors to the next floor of the pyramid.
Ahead, a twenty foot wide corridor stretched to the south ending in a set of double doors. Just north of the hall’s end, a second set of double doors led to the east. Seven leering, demonic faces hung on the walls there. Two flanked each door, and another three were evenly spaced along the western wall, across from the door to the east. The idols were vaguely humanoid, with long horns and mouths that gaped open, revealing darkness beyond. Each face was four feet tall, with the mouth accounting for three feet of that length. They paused briefly to consider the eastern hall just north of the first of the faces before Kegan led them straight ahead.
As he passed the first demonic visage, foulspawn erupted from the mouths of four of the faces. Two stood as tall as Kegan and wore chaos like armor, charging forward to devastate everything in their wake. The other two were four-armed creatures with purple flesh, holding a wicked bone knife in each hand. Melee was engaged, and it quickly became apparent why each type of foulspawn was dangerous. The berserkers’ chaos made it impossible to tell friend from foe, and Cage’s first attack struck Tarrantus as a result. The manglers stepped through the demonic mouths again – and the faces animated, beginning to gibber, taunt, and demand food or drink – then danced around Kegan stabbing him deeply with their small blades. A man of lesser fortitude would surely have fallen from the sheer number of stab wounds.
A diminutive foulspawn grue opened the eastern doors to join the fray, but by then it was too late. The heroes had gained the momentum they needed to destroy their foes, and the last of the foulspawn fell cowering against the wall of the inner chambers. Even after the aberrations lay dead, the demonic faces continued to whine, cajole, and then beg for food or drink. They rejected the corpse Feh offered, and after that the heroes just ignored the faces until they fell silent once more. They searched the inner chamber, finding nothing but a pair of filthy cots. After resting, they continued south.
Passing through the double doors, they came into an antechamber with two southern exits on opposite sides of that wall. Kegan chose the left door, and then proceeded through it. The door opened to reveal a chamber holding three statues. The closest statue was of a tiefling in plate armor carrying a greatsword. The other two statues depicted orcs. One wore the robes of a shaman or wizard, and the other carried a two-handed axe and wore scale armor. To the south, they heard the ragged breath of some large creature. Looking toward the sound, he saw a hulking ogre looming in the southwest corner. The scarred creature appeared to have had its eyes cut out – the lids were sewn shut in “X” patterns with coarse black string.
Belgarde took a couple of steps closer and asked, “May we pass?”
“No,” was the ogre’s terse reply.
The group attacked the ogre, and as they drew nearer, they could see that he wasn’t alone. A humanoid with green scales and what appeared to be snakes for hair and a curved longbow stood just around the corner, and she joined the fray with her poison arrows. The adventurers engaged the ogre, drawing closer to the medusa in the process. Not concerned about her blind ogre companion, she hit them with her petrifying gaze. They all felt their limbs begin to grow sluggish in response to the stony magic.
They fought with all their strength, but each of them felt the fear as their limbs began to refuse to heed commands. Thinking it his last act, Cage uttered a menacing prayer. He was shocked when he abruptly regained full control of his mobility. The medusa focused her gaze once more, and Kegan stole the strike intended for Tarrantus, who had also managed to shake off the petrification. The battlemind used his most powerful attack to injure the ogre before his flesh hardened completely, turning to stone.
The medusa fell trying to flee Tarrantus, Cage, and Feh. The ogre fell shortly thereafter. Demoralized by the loss of another companion, the heroes half-heartedly searched the bodies of the fallen. An enchanted gate blocked their path forward, and as they drew near it, they heard a voice boom out.
“Let those who embrace the darkness of ignorance walk forward, heedless of all knowledge. The blind and deaf fear no danger, for the Keeper of the Way shall guide their steps.”
They puzzled over these strange words for several moments, before Belgarde simply approached the gate. Large vipers animated and threatened the tiefling, discouraging him from going any closer. Then Tarrantus roughly shoved the psion aside and stepped forward. He closed his eyes and plugged his ears with his massive fingers, striding boldly toward the gate – and right through it. Frowning, the others followed his example. They found themselves in a rectangular chamber. Two plain steel plates were set in the northern wall and another was set in the south wall. Where the first gate had been, there was nothing at all.