Chapter 10 - Temple Of The Ancient Ones

The next morning the group stocked up on what supplies the town offered. As the group packed Vertrum appeared and addressed Viselys.

"Are you sure you will not stay any longer?" Vertrum asked politely curious.

"No. We thank you for your hospitality, but we must be on our way," Viselys responded respectfully.

"Very well. I will lead you through the maze," Vertrum said graciously as he nodded to his daughter who had been standing a few paces away. She sighed as she looked towards the party then left.

As the group continued to pack the group began to notice movement throughout the town. Others were gathering with bags and other heavy burdens.

"Um, Vertrum, what are all the townspeople doing?" Viselys asked curiously.

"Oh, why they are preparing to leave, of course."

Viselys looked around. His eyes met with Saris's and they seemed to share a questioning glace.

"Leaving?" Saris asked confused.

"It is no longer wise to stay here. Your arrival and my dreams have made clear our path. Well, I should say that our time here is at an end. We will resettle elsewhere in the tunnels, or perhaps we will go to the surface. Either way, it is time we leave," Vertrum explained as if it all made perfect sense, and perhaps to him it did. The townspeople seemed to accept that they were leaving. No one voiced objections as they all readied to leave the town they'd been living in for who knows how long.

When the group was ready, Vertrum lead them through the maze. "I would like to show you something first, before we part ways."

"Oh?" Viselys asked.

"Yes, it will not take long, but I believe it would be of interest to you."

"Why do you think so?" Saris asked.

"My dream," Vertrum answered.

Not wanting to be rude and spurred on my Vertrum's assurances that it would prove beneficial. Vertrum lead them to a side passage to see what he called the Cavern of the Sleeping God. Another blue veil of Olman Warriors lined the farside of the cavern, and as the they looked they could see that water was on the other side, complete with a few fish swimming by. In the center of the cavern was a stone-like mound that resembled a petrified fish of sorts. Vertrum indicated that it was the Sleeping God of which he had spoken.

Urol hopped forth eagerly with burning curiosity in his eyes. "Absolutely fascinating! How long has it been here? What do you know about it?"

"It has been here as long as we can remember. We believe it to be one of the fish demons. It appears to be stone, but there is liquid movement within," Vertrum answered.

Without hesitation Urol put an ear to the stone fish demon. "It sounds like a slow sloshing, almost a gurgling," he said enthralled. Saris leaned down to listen, confirming Urol's observation.

Duxsil gave the thing a scrutinizing gaze with his glowing eyes enhanced with all manner of permanent sight a sorcerer of his level could cast. "It may be extra planer," he offered speculatively.

"Perhaps," Urol agreed. "It may be in some kind of suspended animation, unable to survive properly outside of water." He eyed the cerulean veil holding back the waters in the cavern. "It probably doesn't think in terms of good vs evil, but it would be evil. Let's study it!"

"I hope you don't mean to put it back into the water," Saris said unconcerned by Urol's eying of the veil.

"No, but I would love to take a crack at it."

"Irgzid, what do you think?" Viselys asked.

"I have never ssseen anything like it. It isss alien to me."

As the others had no real objections and the possibility of running into one of the creatures in the future seemed possible, Urol was permitted to conduct his study while the others watched. The unnatural stoniness of the creature was a challenge to get through, but after quite a bit of persistence Urol cracked it open with the aid of the only adamantine crow bar in the party's procession.

"Well, it doesn't seem so magical, as it is more immune to attack," Urol said after an hour or more of study.

"It's been here for a thousand years. Is it an immortal?" Liamae asked.

"Hm, perhaps," Urol mumbled. "It would be very difficult to kill, that's for sure. Adamantine seems the only thing to crack the outer layer, and many of its internal organs appear to be redundancy systems. It doesn't appear to have any defenses."

"How are you feeling after all that digging around its innards?" Liamae asked Urol as he began cleaning up.

"Quite fine. Obviously, there in nothing toxic, and given that it dwells underwater, nothing to inhale."

"Well, I think you've learned all you can for the thing, and it looks like you've successfully killed at least this one. We need to push on," Viselys declared.

The group continued on the way Ventrum had pointed before he departed to head back to his people. As they progressed the tunnel walls changed suddenly from rough natural stone to an intricately carved corridor bearing glyphs and mosaics of Olman design, just before they opened into an immense flooded chamber. The walls of the square chamber rose up in steps, forming an inverted ziggurat with an apex forty feet above the dark waters that flooded the room to just below the edge of the entrance. The floor was a ruin of smashed pillars and small islands constructed in the same roughly pyramidal fashion. In the center, a line of destroyed columns and altars protruded a few feet above the surface creating a makeshift bridge that dipped briefly into the water before reaching the continuing passage on the far side.

Irgzid animatedly proclaimed, "Thisss isss it! This is the meeting place where the pearls are exchanged."

"Do you think the kapru are still here?" Saris asked as he looked down at the dark waters.

"I do not believe they would ssstay. They only came at appointed timesss." Ergzid continued to move about with more energy than he had shown throughout their travels thus far. "Come on! Thisss isss the way to what you ssseek," he called as he headed towards one of the makeshift bridges, his reptilian lisp becoming more pronounced.

"Why are you acting so strangely, Irgzid?" Viselys asked suspiciously.

"Not ssstrangely, exc-sss-ited. I cannot help it. Sssee? I have led you to the right plac-sss-e."

Hesitantly Viselys followed with the others behind, crossing the bridge. On the other side a humanoid figure appeared, speaking to the party.

"What is he saying?" Saris asked.

"He said that he is the spirit of tortured souls and that the prophesy is coming to pass," Duxsil translated grimly.

"He's speaking Draconic," Urol said in surprise. "How is it that he speaks the language of dragons?"

"There is no need to translate," the spirit spoke so that all in the party could understand, "I can speak your language."

"Who are you?" Viselys asked.

"I am many. I am all who have sacrificed their lives to drive out the enemy that is no longer here," the spirit explained. "We are glad of your coming. You are the ones come to destroy Tleloc's Tear and free us."

"I am afraid we do not know about this Tleloc's Tear," Viselys said shaking his head slowly. "We have come to stop the Lords of Dread and their production of dark pearls that plague all who encounter them."

"That may be, but you must destroying Tleloc's Tear."

"Why? What will happen by destroying Tleloc's Tear? What do you know of the Lords of Dread or the dark pearls?"

"We know nothing, but destroying the Tear would stop the production of anything within these caves."

"Wait, why would that be the case?" Saris asked in confusion.

"Um, the tortured souls wouldn't be the Olmans in the veil, would they?" Liamae asked with a creeping awareness.

"Destroy Tleloc's Tear and free all the tortured souls," the spirit said in response.

"Bringing down the veil would bring back all the water," Ken-ji stated, clarifying the obvious.

"The enemy is gone. We have suffered enough for our cause," the spirit replied.

"Well, if the enemy was those demon fish the Barbas townspeople spoke of, and the sleeping god Urol studied to death, then they might not all be gone," Liamae said making a face. "Are there other sleeping gods lying around?"

"We do not know of what you speak. We sacrificed ourselves to drive out the waters and our enemies. They are gone. It is time the Tleloc's Tear was destroyed and we were freed of our suffering."

Everyone exchanged glances then looked to Viselys. "We will do what we can," he hedged, not willing to commit to the many-spirit, but unwilling to outright refuse. For all any of them knew bringing down the veil might be the only way to end the production of the dark pearls. Plus, it didn't seem wise to offend the suffering souls.

The many-spirit nodded then vanished, allowing the group to continue on.

Continue to Chapter 11...

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