Myrie was rather surprised to learn that I have become, at least technically, a parent. She was not entirely thrilled to learn about Zakaroth’s… allegiances. But nobody has tried to murder anybody yet, so I suppose that’s good?
We rode on towards our destination, and as we rode I gave some thought to our recent adventures. There have been a few occasions lately where a disturbance of the earth has released monsters previously unknown to the area.
Given what we previously learned about how the status of the gods aligns with worldly events, this is a little concerning. By my understanding, Rovagug – who may not be the official deity of monsters, but certainly has an affinity with destruction – was imprisoned under the earth. An association between seismic disturbances and monsters is, hence, troublesome. Perhaps something to mention next time we visit the Divine City?
After a couple of days further travel, we arrived at the site: a low flat-topped hill grown over with ugly weeds, thorns, and briars. There were some black rocks on the hilltop, which fascinated Chrysta, because rocks.
Zakaroth went ahead to scout the hill. It appears to have been heaved up from the earth quite recently; Myrie climbed up to the top and confirmed that from her vantage point, the resemblance to a human skull was far more than coincidental.
There were three indentations around the sides of the hill. Faye and Chrysta got to work on digging one out as a possible entrance, and Faye motivated the rest of us to join in, by singing, and the promise that when the job was done she’d stop singing.
On entering we found ourselves in a roughly-worked plain stone corridor. Vall found a pressure plate with a nasty collapsing ceiling trap; he avoided it, and investigated the two doors at the end of the corridor. Both of them opened onto a wall… ha ha, very funny, architect.
We returned to the surface and knuckled down to digging out another of the indentations. This one seemed more promising: a corridor with brightly-coloured stone, cement and plaster with illustrated scenes on the walls. Some had fields with cattle grazing, and in the background a copse with wolves. Others showed what appeared to be slaves, including humans, orcs, and some weird pig-hybrid things.
On the floor was a message in runes, surprisingly enough in Common:
“ACERERAK CONGRATULATES YOU ON YOUR
POWERS OF OBSERVATION. SO MAKE OF THIS
WHATEVER YOU WISH, FOR YOU WILL BE MINE IN
THE END NO MATTER WHAT!
Go back to the tormentor or through the arch,
and the second great hall you’ll discover.
Shun green if you can, but night’s good color
is for those of great valor.
If shades of red stand for blood the wise
will not need sacrifice aught but a loop of
magical metal—you’re well along your march.
Two pits along the way will be found to lead
to a fortuitous fall, so check the wall.
These keys and those are most important of all,
and beware of trembling hands and what will maul.
If you find the false you find the true
and into the columned hall you’ll come,
and there the throne that’s key and keyed.
The iron men of visage grim do more than
meets the viewer’s eye.
You’ve left and left and found my Tomb
and now your soul will die.
There are some obvious riddle/puzzle elements here, but leaving those aside for a moment, what does this tell us about the author?
#1: Writing poetry for his own tomb suggests that he may be of the not-breathing persuasion. The gigantic skull motif is also suggestive here.
#2: It’s not very good poetry. It rhymes, in places, and sometimes it even scans. But it doesn’t have a consistent rhyme scheme or meter. Suggests perhaps somebody with declining mental powers. I suppose that makes sense.
The name Acererak is vaguely familiar. He was a lich, a very long time ago. But as I recall, even liches don’t last forever, and given the suggestion of deterioration in his poetry it’s possible that by now he may have decayed into a demilich. Now what was it that Curzweil’s Compendium of Cursed Creatures had to say about demiliches?
“Run away.” I think that was it.
But I do like a challenge, and as Zakaroth reminds us, we are being paid for a service. So, let’s work through this.
Obviously, we can expect traps, and no doubt Vall will earn his keep. I would be surprised if there are a lot of critters here, other than perhaps undead and constructs that can survive without sustenance, but you never know with a powerful mage.
“You will be mine no matter what” – possible word-play on mine (digging, explosive?) but seems unlikely. More probably just braggadocio.
“Shun green if you can” – presumably we’ll find something with green in it, but “if you can” implies it might be hard to avoid. Will have to evaluate that when we come to it.
Pondering: would changing the colour of the green whatever-it-is, e.g. by prestidigitation, render it harmless? Seems very unlikely.
“Night’s good color”: was Acererak aware that black is technically not a colour, and if so, was he enough of a pedant to care? Probably yes to the latter but no to the former. Nevertheless, we should consider blue as a possible alternative.
Why good colour? Did he just stick in an extra word to make it scan, or is there some significance there?
“…is for those of great valor” – is that a good thing, or does it mean we’d have to fight something?
“stand for blood” – as in “signify”, or as in “rise up”?
“a loop of magical metal” – a magic ring?
“You’re well along your march” – well as in a hole in the ground perhaps?
“A fortuitous fall, so check the wall” – so we should check pit traps and the nearby wall in case they contain something valuable?
“beware of trembling hands and what will maul” – maul as in the weapon perhaps?
“iron men of visage grim do more than meets the viewer’s eye” – golems, or something else?
“left and left” – two turns?
“and now your soul shall die” – bleah, necromancy. Better check what spells Chrysta has to protect against that. Might be worth camping for a day or two to make some more scrolls; perhaps even enchant some weapons?
There was a meandering red path on the floor of the corridor. We (mostly Vall) found six pit traps in the floor: four of them on the path, two not.
Remembering the “check the wall”, we noticed that next to one was a painting of jackal-like creatures holding a box which stuck out slightly from the wall; another had a jail cell door with a monster behind it.
Chrysta summoned an earth elemental and had it poke at the box. It found a stud on the top; when it pressed it we heard a “click”, possible from a poison needle trap, which the elemental of course ignored. Meanwhile the bottom of the box fell open, and we could see there was a rod in the box connected to something.
I used my Mage Hand spell to yank the rod from a distance, and of course a pit trap under the box fell open. In the pit – not very deep, but designed to close again and lock the victim inside – we found a skeleton wearing enchanted goggles designed to protect against dazzling.
Hmm. Is this some random hapless adventurer, or is Acererak one of those smug “I gave you all the clues” types?
Shiny points: 30 carried over, -2 spent, +1 for summary = 29.