Chapter 14 - Planning A Tour Of The Pyramid

They scouted the kopru encampment and made their battle strategy.

“If you create a big distraction by attacking the living quarters,” Viselys said to Bob, “it should draw off the majority of the guards at the temple. Then the rest of us can access that pyramid and take care of whatever we find in there.”

“The kopru have dug canals throughout their residential district to accommodate their mobility,” Bob noted. “If I burrow below and come up in the center of town, I should be able to drain those canals and leave them as fish out of water. I will then 'go berserk' and eliminate as many of them as possible.”

“Don't forget the nagas – they have magical abilities. And the large kopru behemoths are really tough,” Viselys pointed out.

“I'll make them the priority,” Bob agreed.

“I will cast some spells on you that will protect you from their mind-effecting abilities,” Duxsil promised.

“Wow, that would be bad; a dominated purple worm turned against us,” Saris pointed out.

Bob heartily agreed, “I won't let that happen. I'll die first.”

“That may be the case, my friend,” Viselys noted, gravely.

“Friend?” Bob replied in surprise.

“Well, sure. Why not?” Viselys asked.

“I've never had friends before,” Bob answered, as a matter-of-fact.

“You surly do now,” Lavinia announced.

Saris chimed in, “I can't wait to tell people, 'Hey, look at my friend, the giant purple worm!”

“We will have the element of surprise,” Viselys said, bringing the conversation back to the task at hand. “I think we have prepared as best we can, let's go.”

Amid ruined towers of melted stone and malls of quivering ooze, a wide area lay clear of rubble and less wholesome debris. From these cleared acres rose a stone pyramid that looked out of place from the surrounding madness, its dimensions having the look of lucid design and bearing comforting right angles of masonry. The sides of the ziggurat were festooned with detailed carvings of reptilian and simian monsters wrapped and cradled in endless coils of tentacles. Steep steps rose into the darkened, noxious cavern air to a simple platform at the ziggurat's summit. Not all seemed right, though, as several cracks marred the ·pyramid's masonry, revealing sections of diseased purple flesh within. In addition, two sides of the pyramid looked to be partially overgrown, covered in putrid swaths of pale green mold. In places, great slicks of tacky, dried blood stained the ziggurat's sides.

Suddenly, the relative quite of the cavern was shattered as Bob exploded up through the ground in the center of the kopru community. Just as he had planned, the water drained out of the town and the kopru were left to slither on dry ground at a fraction of their normal rate. Also as planned, the ten nagas and all but three of the kopru behemoths were drawn off from the temple to deal with Bob.

“That's our cue,” Saris announced.

Although there were only three behemoths to deal with, they had several advantages. First, they held the high ground. Secondly, they were not bound to the ground; through the use of air walk magic, they were able to, in effect, swim through the air. However, while it was not easy, the party was able to dispatch these initial guardians.

They searched the base of the pyramid but could find no entrance. Suddenly, they heard a human voice calling to them.

“Hey, you guys,” said a man in a tattered loin cloth. “Maybe I can help.”

Viselys turned to him, “Um, maybe. Who are you stranger?”

“My name is Roark and I've been a prisoner since I was captured by the pirates of the Crimson Fleet; a scoundrel named Vanthus Vanderboren of the Brine Harlot,” he replied with obvious disdain for his captor and predicament.

“We know of Vanthus and his ship,” Viselys replied. “Were you one of the captives he sold to troglodytes?”

“Yes. They, in turn, traded us to the kopru. I'm the last one left – the others were sacrificed in their crazy rituals. I was able to survive because I could do menial tasks for them, but I'm sure they would have sacrificed me, too, when the next batch of prisoners arrive.:

“There won't be any more prisoners,” Duxsil stated vehemently.

“It's true,” Viselys agreed, “We have captured the Brine Harlot and it is currently berthed at Farshore on the far side of the island. Now we are here to shut down the production of Shadow Pearls.”

“I escaped when that purple worm attacked. I assume you lot had something to do with that?” Roark asked.

“His name's Bob” Saris noted by way of affirmation.

“Yeah, so I was able to escape, but I know I won't get very far on my own. I figured I'd team up with you.”

“Do you know how to enter this structure?” Viselys asked.

“Not specifically, but I can tell you that nobody enters it except their high priest, and he does so at the top,” he pointed upwards.

“So then, what good are you? Be gone, peasant!” Saris dismissed Roark with a sweep of his hand that, while very characteristic of the old Saris Van Sky, had been so long missing that the others suspected he was being facetious.

Unperturbed, Roark replied “I’ve got magic fingers,” wiggling his phalanges in demonstration.

Liamae arched an eyebrow, but it was Duxsil who responded, “What, like a masseuse?”

This prompted Roark to wink in Liamae’s direction as he answered, “Perhaps,” But then, more seriously he continued, “I have agility that affords me some skills you might find … useful.”

“A thief,” Viselys said by way of interpretation, his voice imbued with less of a judgmental overtone than the others had come to expect of him.

“I resent the implication!” Roark said with enough exaggerated disgust as to actually be a confirmation, “I prefer a procurer of rare artifacts, specializing in mechanisms and obstructions.”

“Good, we could use a thief,” Duxsil cut through all the double talk. Roark just grinned.

With that, they all climbed the steps, being careful to avoid the slimy growths and exposed flesh-like sections.

“You doing okay?” Duxsil asked Liamae.

“I'm doing better,” she replied, “The disgust and fear of contamination is more manageable; I'm making a concerted effort.”

Duxsil looked again at the slime that he strongly suspected was corrosive, "Well, perhaps some heightened trepidations is … healthy, under the circumstances."

Continue to Chapter 15...

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