Chapter 5 - Taboo Island

The center of the plateau, once the heart of Thanaclan theocracy, had become taboo to the Olrnans. The lake that surrounded the Great Temple expanded over the centuries to slowly swallow and flood much of the ruins. Known to those few who have seen it as Broken Lake, it blocks easy access to the ruins of the Great Temple; an underground complex built into the bedrock ofthe lake's only distinguishing feature - Taboo Island.

The first thing visitors approaching Taboo Island noticed was the sharp, 200-foot-high ridges of blackish rock that blocked access to much of the island's western shores. The island itself sloped down to the southwest, creating a triangular profile dotted with ancient ziggurats and half-crumbled statues. It was these once-proud but now broken idols of ancient kings and deities that gave the ruins their common name.

Enough outrigger canoes remained tethered to the low piers at the ruins of Mantru for the party to paddle to the island, and this was the route they took. Although, they soon were forced to reconsider the wisdom of this choice as they were capsized by a titanic alligator-like animal looking for an easy meal. Some quick thinking and magic on Duxsil's part had the boat re-purposed as an AIR flotation device, and they proceeded towards the shore of the island safely above the water.

A great entrance opened on the west side of a cliff wall, ninety feet wide and just as tall. The red marble walls within were lined with carvings depicting strange gods and ferocious animals. A pair of crude wooden piers extended over the waters of the lake from the entrance, where three canoes were tethered. A net stretched over a half-dozen thick pilings protected the approach by water, forming a semicircle around the stone landing. As the boat floated in the sky over this netting, a shrill howling began that likely could be heard for miles.

"Damn!" Duxsil cursed, "An alarm spell!"


As if in response to Duxsil’s exasperation, but more likely in response to the alarm, something big broke through the water, swimming through the air as if it hadn’t even changed environment. It resembled an immense eel with vaguely humanoid upper body. It was horrendous looking, with a long, serpentine lower body covered in inky looking scales. Its mouth was filled with sharp, needle like teeth, and it’s bulging, luminescent eyes made it appear to be constantly leering. Keeping its distance, it hurled spells at the heroes. Eventually, Saris scored the killing blow with an arrow. The demon faded away like the light of a candle being snuffed, only to be replaced by another incoming attack, apparently from nowhere.

Saris turned to see, "What? Another one?!"

"I think it's the same one," Duxsil replied, "the last one was an illusion."

"That didn't FEEL like an illusion," Saris retorted.

The second round of fighting clearly was taking its toll on the heroes, and people were about to start dropping if something didn’t happen soon. So, activating his magical Boots of Striding and Leaping, Viselys took a running start and jumped onto the back of the creature ….

…then held on for dear life. The creature flew high into the air, soon to be out of range of Saris’ arrows. Viselys knew that this was not a good position to be in, but he was committed, and he drove his sword into the creatures head. Then he considered preparing for death, as he would certain be crushed on the shore below. However, as he fell, he realized that he was not, in fact, above ground anymore, but over the water. Perhaps the creature was preparing to drown him, but in any event, this would be very much to his advantage. He activated the cloak of the manta ray and dove cleanly into the water. It was a quick swim back to shore and the others.

Beyond the great entrance, a monumental stairway climbed to a wide landing with an archway set in the east-wall. Pillars decorated with abstract and intricate carvings supported the ceiling of the chamber. In the middle of the cave, two square pedestals to either side of the center steps of the stairway supported the feet and ankles of a collapsed statue that once straddled the stairs. Some of the statue's features were still recognizable in the heaps of rubble scattered on the stairway, most noticeably the feathered texture of a huge pair of wings. To either side of the passageway to the east leered two bas-reliefs of men with feathered headdresses. The one to the north showed a man with a brilliant sun over his head, while to the south was a man beneath a smoking moon.

“Looks like the place,” Saris noted, referring to characters of similar motif on the disk that had gotten back at Farshore.

“Looks like Quetzakoatl has seen better days,” Duxsil added, referring to the broken statue.

“So, let’s try not to end up like him,” Roark said, stepping ahead of them to search for traps. Indeed he found one, though he did not recognize it as such until it was too late. Inscribed in the apex of the archway was a Symbol of Death and he fell dead.

The others pulled their friend back, and Duxsil evaluated the situation, “Well, that’s most unfortunate. A very effective magical trap.”

“Can you … deactivate it, or something?” Saris asked the mage.

He considered for a moment, “No, not as such. However, since we know it’s there, it’s easy to counteract. We just have to not look at it. Simply covering it so it can’t be seen will do.”

Viselys looked down at their fallen comrade, though he addressed his words to Bethesda, “Sister Beth, can you raise him?”

She shook her head solemnly, “I am afraid I cannot. I can raise the dead who have been killed by natural means, but I cannot counteract Death Magic. He will require Resurrection cast by a priest of higher level than mine.”

“And we all took a good beating in that last battle,” Duxsil noted. “Now that I know this place, I can teleport back to here, so I could take him back to Sasserine for resurrection. Maybe pick up a few things while I’m there.”

The next day, Duxsil returned with the returned-to-life Roark. After a brief greeting, they were ready to enter the temple. Saris began to chuckle, then laugh aloud.

"What's so funny?" Viselys asked.

Through guffaws and gasps of air, Saris explained, "It's a good thing Beth COULDN'T raise him! Could you imagine: He looks up, sees the symbol, falls down dead. She revives him, but he's lying flat on his back, so he dies again…" And he was overcome with another round of laughter.

"Yeah, hysterical," Roark groaned without mirth.

But Saris couldn't let it go, "Say, Roark, where was that Symbol of Death again? Show me!"

"Ha ha" Roark said, again without humor.

"Hey, Roark, look at THIS!" Saris said, point to where the now covered symbol was.

Roark started to seethe, but then stopped, grinned and began to chuckle.

"Now why are YOU laughing?" Viselys asked.

Not actually getting to a full on laugh, Roark replied, "I was just thinking how funny it would be if Saris actually did that, pointed to the symbol, but in doing so, looked at it and ended up dead himself." This elicited a chuckle from Duxsil as well.

"Okay, okay," Viselys said, refocusing the group, "Let's have no one else get dead. Move out!"

Continue to Chapter 6...

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