The group takes a well-earned rest behind the stone walls without doors. The topless box they nestle down in sits inside a much larger room with twenty foot ceilings and an octagon outer wall. After a peaceful rest Edrin lets out a yawn that is akin to a lions roar then stretches with his entire body. “Well then, let get to it.”
They pack up their gear jovially and depart from the safety of the room. They make their way back to the room with Seker’s altar. They enter the room to find everything as it was when they left it. The undead were unwilling to cross the threshold of the room. The illuminated domed ceiling projects light down to the clear glass or crystal alter below. As they group moves about the room each member individually gets an audible message that only they can hear. “Seker asks”. They discuss for some time as to the meaning but none can riddle it out. K’lara suggests that this is part of the puzzle with the obelisks that answer questions. Edrin is impatient with the riddle and is already ignoring it preferring to look to the doors for future challenges. Jay inspects the coins he left on the altar from afar to see if they had been disturbed. To the best of his knowledge, they had not, but now he wishes he paid more attention when he placed them there.
“Seker asks what” K’lara can be heard from the previous room with the obelisk. A hushed reply can be heard “Things are not what they seem”
“Gah…It’s like talking to a river. Babble, babble, babble is all you ever get.” Edrin looks like he wants to punch the riddle that vexes him as his friends. “I’ve had it. Jay pick a door and we can be off”
“Pick a door? Or, Choose a door” Jay stands with is thieves tools already in his hands. Jay moves to the north door and puts his ear to it. Only silence. The door doesn’t seem to be locked. Jay smiles and puts his palms flat on the door to quietly push it open. K’lara standing next to Edrin watches Jay intently. She looks around and sees Abdul standing a few paces away. All at once K’lara is filled with dread and foreboding. Instead of Abdul she sees Abduls corpse staring back at her. Startled she turns to Jay who is also rotting before her very eyes. His grin was all the more gruesome contorting his face.
“Are you alright” It was Edrin’s voice that woke K’lara from her nightmare in a cold sweat. “You look a bit… off”
“We shouldn’t go in there. I have a bad feeling about this one” K’lara said with a trembling voice. Her face was pale and tremors were in her hands. Jay smiles and remembers the day he met K’lara. She burned three halfing doppelgangers to death because she had a feeling about the situation. He knew from that moment to trust his instincts about her instincts.
After a moment the color returns to K’lara’s face, so they decide to move on to somewhere else. Jay moves to the remaining door on the west wall of the room and quietly opens it. Inside they find an octagonal room identical to the others. The center of the room has another black stone obelisk with small detailed ingraining etched into its base. The room seems exactly like the previous rooms. The western alcove ends in the familiar deep pit with infinite raining debris. The north and south alcoves appear to be dead ends.
“What question should I ask”? K’lara asks the black stone surface.
“Extreme caution must be used” Says the stone in a low whisper.
Edrin’s head almost rolls off his shoulders with the exasperation of his eye-roll. “Oh, Mercy”
“Are you useful at all”? K’lara continues.
“Do not assume too much” the stone whispers
Jay wastes no time with the riddling obelisk and moves to the dead end alcoves. His assumption is that they will be like the other rooms and be false walls leading to other rooms. Jay discovers that one wall is false and looks over the surface for safety. Edrin and Abdul move to the pit to inspect the endless falling rubble. Among the passing rocks a skeleton falls past with broken armor. They watch for a while and notice nothing of value in the chute.
Jay opens the passageway and enters a thirty foot square room with a twenty foot high flight ceiling. In the center of the room is a ten foot cube. This room is the mirror image of the room with the large stone box the group rested in a while earlier. An exit is on the east of the room. Jay cautiously approaches the cube and throws his grappling hook over the top. Just as last time the cube is hollow. This one was vacant and did not have a prize sitting at its center. Jay drops into the ten foot space and looks around but discovers nothing exciting.
“Now I bet…” Edrin says looking at Jay “If you jump into that pit…” Edrin pauses and Jay lets out a sigh. “I bet… you’ll come out from the top”
Jay looks at the pit and then rests the whole of his face in the center of his palm. “You bet huh? What do you bet”?
Edrin’s face lights up “I’d bet an entire Halfling, cause’ that’s what I’m out if I’m wrong.” Edrin laughs and claps Jay hard on the back. “Now don’t be chicken, I’ll catch you when you come through”
The flailing skeleton passes by again in its perpetual fall and Jay’s eyes go wide. “Ok ok, we can use a different shoot” Edrin Laughs
Jay grins “I think I’d rather be a chicken, they at least have wings to help with the fall”. Jay puts on his climbing harness and steps up to the mouth of the pit. “I’m going to try and climb up it. Maybe I’ll come up from the bottom”
“I think a chicken would taste better and squawk less” Edrin japes.
Jay prepares for his climb at another chute. He looks up the shaft and notices what could be a door to another level. He points it out to Edrin who has the best dark vision and he confirms it. Jay climes into the chute and begins his slow assent among the falling stones and rocks. They approximate the climb to be fifty feet up to the next level. The surface is smooth with little and less to grab but Jay moves upward. Jay’s foot slips and he is almost able to recover but then falls rapidly. He passes his friends and the entrance to the chute at full velocity with wide saucer eyes.
As Jay falls the rocks and debris appear almost weightless in the dim light retreating light of the group’s torches. Jay has a feeling of disorientation as the light above disappears into the black distance. Far below him he can see a torchlight exit that he assumes is his friends. Quickly he looks for the second exit, his true target. Rapidly it approaches and Jay reaches for the ledge of the exit. With a hard stop Jay grips the ledge and manages to hold on. After a moment he pulls himself into the short alcove that leads to an ascending stairway. At the top of the stairway is a brilliant light that illuminates the area. Jay calls down to the party alerting them of his safety and successful location.
“Good enough for me” Edrin Jumps into the pit almost casually, leaving Abdul and K’lara surprised at his brazen leap. They give Edrin time to land and pull himself up before they too take turns.
Once on the landing they group has to shield their eyes from the near sun like brightness that emits from the top of the stairs. Jay quietly moves up the steps to peer into the next room. Unable to see into the room Jay holds his star-gem up to his eye to see if there is any improvement in vision. There was no improvement. Edrin appears next to Jay wrapped up in his Cloak of Elvin Kind and puts his hand into the light. “Didn’t melt off, suppose it’s safe enough.” Edrin smiles and moves into the room. “Doesn’t help my eyes much, I think they are on fire”
Jay follows just behind Edrin. The brilliant light is near blinding and the party is only allowed vision a few scant feet in front of their noses. K’lara and Abdul follow quickly behind. “Gahhh…” Edrin lets out a wail. “Tha’s frigid, keep up the pace, there is something cold on the floor.” Edrin quickly moves forward.
“Gahhh!!!” Jay lets out a yelp, “It got me in the giblets” Jay quickly moves forward to get out of the trapped area and to keep up with Edrin. K’lara approximates how high Jay’s giblets are and steps over the trapped area. Abdul follows with a hop over the trapped space.
Edrin continues forward into the blinding light. Lighting flies unseen through the air and hits Edrin in the shoulders. Still smoking a little Edrin yells, “Eureka, it goes low to high. Everyone crawl the rest of the way.” They crawl through the blinding light to find a small stairway that leads to the room’s only known exit. Once safely through the room of lights the group bandages up their wounds from the traps before embarking into the next room. It takes time for their eyes to adjust to the dim lighting of the next room, but they eventually see. The only light in the next room is the glow from the brilliance of the previous room.
Jay cautiously climbs the steps toward the next room to peek inside. Just inside a beautiful lush carpet can be seen that disappears into the darkness of the room. Jay stops short and stairs at the carpets edge. The bright red with golden highlights caught his memory. Jay remembers scrying the through the crystal ball and seeing the princess with the Efreeti and he remembers them on this very rug. Jay pales and his eyes go wide. Jay very slowly and very carefully slinks down the stairs toward his friends. Before the can explain that he thinks the Efreeti is in the next room he needs to force himself to breath. Finally in a very faint whisper he manages “The Efreeti is in there, I think”
“You think?” Abdul says. “We need to rest a bit, do you think you can come back and be sure?” Jay recovers his breathing and his nerves and quietly ascends the stairs again. Peering in he sees a fifty foot square room. The room has exits on the compass points. Light from each exit shines into the large room except for the Northern exit. Lounging on a lavish pile of cushions lays the Efreeti in the center of the room. The Efreeti stares into his hands at a blue crystal lamp in deep contemplation.
When jay returns he whispers “He’s there alright, and he has the lamp the princess is in too. Is it really safe for us to rest her?” Jay is clearly unnerved by the current situation.
“It’s that or we fight him as we are” Edrin responds. “Not much of a choice. Breathe easy, we’ll be fine”. Jay does not appear to breathe any easier.
“How’s about we hold up in the bright room. We may be concealed in there.” Abdul suggests noting Jay’s unease.
“Brilliant” Edrin laughs at his own joke and crawls into the room. K’lara rolls her eyes at the pun but quickly follows. They make themselves as comfortable as possible and mend their wounds as best they can. They remain quiet in an attempt to stay hidden. Now and then they would hear something moving around in the room but were never able to make out what it was. After an hour Edrin says “there is something terribly sobering about all this light, I got to get out of here.”
They make their way back to the stairway and prepare to advance. Jay moves forward as stealthily as possible to sneak into the room. At first the room appeared vacant of the Efreeti but he was quickly discovered when Jay used the Star-gem to see. A hazy image of the Efreeti now sits on the pile of cushions and the Crystal lamp sits to his side. Jay sees an opportunity to snatch up the crystal lamp and quietly moves forward.
As he moves onward Jay tries to think of his assassins training. He wasn’t really trained to be a thief, but how different could it be. Instead of his mark to kill with a quiet smooth motion his mark was to lift a delicate item. Jay thought about his next few steps. Once the assassination is made, the assassin needs an exit. He looked to the exit opposite the one he entered noting that it does not have the glow the others do. Assuming the floorplan of this level matched the floor below, which was the most likely the escape he needed. Standing quietly behind the Efreeti, Jay notes that the Efreeti’s mouth is moving and is talking to someone. For a brief moment Jay wishes this were an assassination mission, it would be easier to just stab this fire God. Jay knew though that his best strike would likely not bring this God down, so he reached for the crystal lamp. Once Jay has his hand on the lamp the Efreeti shifts on his pile of cushions and glances at the lamp. Jay could have withdrawn his grasp and possibly gone unnoticed, however thievery is not is forte and he panicked. Impulsively he grabs the lamp knowing already he is already caught and is running before he is even aware of what happened. “Thief!” The Efreeti bellows as he becomes more material.
“Interloper” The Efreeti’s rage shakes the room. The room suddenly lights up as if it has sconces on every wall. Edrin charges in with his frost axe held high challenging the Efreeti with a battle cry and sees Jay fly ahead into the next room. Abdul runs into the room in quick pursuit of Jay. K’lara also moves in quickly. The Efreeti stands up from his lounging position and begins to follow Jay. A few strides into his pursuit he sees the light shine up from the room below.
Jay rapidly descends a flight of steps then enters another fifty foot square room. In the center is a pillar bathed in a column of light. Glistening on top of the pillar is a beautifully cut jewel with its facets shimmering with a fiery light. At a quick glance Jay recognizes it to be the last Star-Gem. A single arched portal is at the center of the far wall heralding the only exit. Fifteen feet into the room Jay nearly falls through an illusion floor. Frantically he pulls his star-gem up to reveal the non-illusory walkways. The star-gem revealed only two safe labyrinthine like pathways to walk through the room. The paths mirrored each other by moving to the outside of the room and joining each other at the center like a figure eight. Underneath the false flooring are dreadful pools of acid. The star-gem also shows the column of light to be something more than what it appears but Jay does not have the time or wherewithal to consider these developing events.
Taking giant leaps, Jay moves over the acid pools to the pathway that leads to the last star-gem. Jay grabs the star-gem with his body already in motion to continue his dash for the exit. Beams of light fall from the ceiling illuminating the once safe pathways to the pillar at the center and to the exit beyond. A curtain of light falls over Jay as his body twists towards his escape route. From Jays view everything seems to slow down. His ‘mad dash’ to safety seems a lot less mad. He sees his hands and feet petrify as he turns to stone. That last thoughts that go through Jay’s head “0 and 2 for stealing stuff today, oh hell”
The Efreeti turns slowly to the heroes and way from Jay and newly eliminated stairwell with a smile. “Fools” he laughs “You’ll never leave here alive” He waves his hand and a wall of flame drops into the room. A cylinder of fire rises from the floor to the ceiling to trap K’lara and Abdul. They manage to jump out of the way with only mild burns. Abdul recovers from the attack and stands ready and faces the Efreeti. The Efreeti stares intently at Abdul with recognition. “Interesting… Very interesting” The Efreeti regards Abdul with amusement and curiosity.
The flames seem to dance before Abdul’s eye putting him in an almost trancelike state. He does recover and runs to catch up with Jay. The Efreeti swings with a flaming scimitar as Abdul passes, the blade glancing off his shoulder. Abdul descends the stares to discover the room with Jay frozen in stone holding the star-gem. The figure eight pathway leading to the pillar and to the exit still lit up with brilliant light. At the bottom of the step Abdul unrolls the scroll of protection from elements and begins to cast it. Abdul places the center of the spell in the stairway thus blocking the Efreeti on the other side of the wall. K’lara and Edrin move passed the flaming obstacles and charge for the safety behind Abduls ward.
The Efreeti laughs “Mortals, Ha! Do you believe such a parlor trick will stop me? I will kill you quickly, for freeing me has earned you thus.” The Efreeti begins chanting to channel a spell.
Abdul moves to enter the room. K’lara shouts “The light is a trap, that’s what turned Jay.” Abdul moves to avoid the light and steps onto the false floor almost falling into the acid pools below.
“The floor is not safe, there is nothing there.” Abdul shouts back and moves to the path of light. Though Abduls footing found purchase on the solid flagstone he notices his movements slow. He senses the oncoming petrification spell. “Gahh!!” Abdul yells in as much frustration as agony in resisting the spells negative effects. Abdul runs toward Jay next to the pillar fighting the spells effects.
“Dammed if you do and dammed if you…” Edrin charges down the light path howling a battle cry while willing himself to move rather than turn to stone. Edrin grabbed the gem from Jay’s delicate fingers and placed it back onto the pillar. The lights that herald the trap retreat back into the ceiling and the punishing affects vanish.
“I wonder now… Where might you go?” the Efreeti calls out amused.
K’lara moves quickly to the arched portal out of the room following what she remembered from the path of light. Abdul grabs Jay’s statue and follows K’lara to the exit. Edrin Holds his position until everyone makes it to the exit. The Efreeti’s chanting stops abruptly with a curse.
K’lara and Abdul descend another flight of steps into darkness. They enter a room that is twenty feet long with an additional ten feet of cornered alcove at the end by thirty feet wide. The walls of the room are scorched, blasted, and pitted as a fierce battle took place here a long time ago. Discarded brass and copper weapons, scraps of cloth, and other junk is scattered a crossed the floor. K’lara yells “Dead end!” frantically.
Edrin courses in what was probably Dwarvish but with so much vile and venom in his tone Dwarves may not have truly understood his words… but they would all know his meaning. The Efreeti begins to magically appear in the room with Edrin. “You waste my time” the Efreeti complains. “I went from amused to bothered”
Edrin removes the stone from the pillar hoping to trap the Efreeti in the light and also hoping not to be turned to stone himself. “Ha!” the Efreeti barks. “You mortals are amusing me again. How clever, I may keep you as pets” The Efreeti begins to advance and Edrin begins to run.
K’lara and Abdul search wildly at the floors and walls for secrets levers or buttons or passageways. Jay seemed to trip into these things almost by accident but not when they truly needed to find one they were at a loss.
“In order for you to be a worthy slave, I must… heh, subdue you.” The Efreeti laughs. The Efreeti floats over the stone and illusory floor to Edrin and playfully swats at him with his flaming scimitar. “Wait, where are you going?”
“It can’t be a dead end, There HAS to be a way out of here” Edrin barrels down the steps to join in the search.
“You have nowhere to go mortals” the Efreeti laughs. “Surrender now and I won’t have to… BREAK you”
“There are really no doors” K’lara’s voice spoke only of disbelief. She was going to be a slave to an Efreeti. She had known victory; she had known impossible amounts of wealth. Now she knew vastness defeat. In a final desperate act she sends magic missiles at the unforgiving stone walls that trapped her and her friends to no avail.
“What about these star-gems, can’t we use them or something”? Edrin held the newly acquired star-gem up. That sparked something in K’lara’s memory. She remembered that the Sheik had given them an amulet with the palm sign. It was intended to help find the princess because she also has a matching amulet. K’lara looks briefly for the amulet without results.
“Surrender! Now! This is your last chance” the Efreeti appears walking down the stairs with both his hands glowing with fiery orbs.
Abdul begins to speak in an unknown tongue to the Efreeti and it seems to drop its guard a little, even smile a little. They go back and forth for a few minutes and Edrin looks very apprehensive of Abdul. Abdul shows the Efreeti a black iron amulet that seems to pacify the fire Lord. “I accept” says the Efreeti. “I shall allow all of you to leave, but the princess stays with me. That is the deal. My army of fire will not attack you and you may live within my kingdom. Accept it or accept your doom”
With a suspicious look at Abdul “We accept your terms”
The Efreeti provides them with magical carpets that fly them out of the crypts to the surface of the desert. As soon as they landed the carpets returned to their master. “I’m not so sure about you Abdul” K’lara’s eyes were on fire with suspicion.
“I just saved you” Abdul yells back defensively.
“You just talked that crazy fire lord into letting us go?”
“Yes, I did”
“He speaks common, we all heard him speak common.” Edrin interjects. “What was all that about?”
Abdul makes a somewhat shamed face “I made some promises to him… I … hope not to keep.”
Edrin stabs Abdul in the chest with a stout dwarven finger “I want us to get to the bottom of this business right now. What did you say to him… word for word”?
“I… I belong to a secret society, dedicated to combating the evils of the elemental planes, such as the Efreeti. I promised to reveal information to the Efreeti about the society. If I do so, they will surely be destroyed.” Abdul speaks softly.
“So you offered to betray your…”
“Yes” Abdul interrupts “because with the third star-gem he can be destroyed permanently. The Efreeti does not know this. If we succeed in this, all will be well”
“When does the Efreeti expect you to follow through on your cowardice?” Edrin asks sharply.
“I do not know” Abdul admits defeated “He will come when he is ready”
“And your friends” Edrin continues harshly “Do they know how we might use the star-gems”
Abdul swallows hard and his eye mist “They are all dead” A quite pause falls over the group. “I still have a contact in Dupar, but as far as the crusaders fighting at my side… they are mostly all gone, whipped out when this abomination was released.”
“Oh… How did that happen” K’lara asked knowing the answer.
“We were searching for the star-gems.” He replied. “We did not know we would become the instrument of the fire lords’ release”
After some time passes K’lara starts to look over the new gem. This gemstone has healing properties. Allows the user to Cure Serious wounds 3 times per day like the Potion of extra Healing.