Chapter 8 - The Inner Temple

Beyond the chambers of the late Skinwalkers, a hallway soon came to a flight of steps descending to a man-sized breach in a makeshift wall. Beyond this breach, Roark discovered a section of the corridor that had been badly afflicted by age to the point of collapse. They all took precautions to pass the section safely. The corridor curved around to an unlocked door beyond which was a dusty room containing only a three-foot tall, ornate pedestal set against the north wall. Several objects were neatly arranged on the flat, marble surface of the pedestal, around a stone statuette of a hideous, two-headed monster. Besides the statue were five ivory rhythm sticks worth 10 gp each, three inlaid and bejeweled bowls worth 500 gp each, a crumbling bamboo flute :and the remains of a feather fan. Roark took the ivory sticks and the bowls, leaving the rest.

A dozen man-sized niches shrouded with thick cobwebs occupied the north wall of the next chamber they came to. Ten of the twelve contained mummified corpses propped up in a standing position. The shriveled bodies wore the rotting garb of ancient Olman warriors, their feathered, painted shields blasted by decay and obscured by centuries-old dust. Most of them were also draped with golden masks, earrings, bracelets, pectorals, and other gem-encrusted pieces of glittering treasure. The west and east walls were dominated ten-foot-tall bas-relief carvings of Olman imperial warriors with ritual masks and feathered cloaks. Despite the temptation Roark felt, Viselys insisted that he not touch any of the treasure in this burial chamber.

The next hallway came to a T junction, and the party turned right into a chamber with a domed, seventy-foot-high ceiling; supported by a ring of pillars carved in the likeness of tree trunks embraced by coiling feathered serpents. A cycle of bas-reliefs on the wall represented battles between Olman warriors and flightless dragons. The Olman warriors were led by a heroic archer who wielded a bow that seemed to be made of lightning. He was crowned emperor after his victory in a carving on the southern wall. A design of three rings of circles was engraved in the floor. Three seven-foot-tall stone statues on circular bases had been placed around the circle, one to the west, one to the east, and one to the south. All three statues represented similar-looking men dressed in imperious robes and wielding scepters. The western statue's scepter ended in a sun, the eastern's a moon, and the southern's a star. Engraved on the floor between these three figures were three rings of circular depressions. Three stone spheres sat in three of these depressions. A sphere bearing a carving of 3 moons sat in the inner ring at the westernmost depression, while a sphere bearing a sun carving sat at the southernmost depression of the outer ring. The third ball bore a carving of the sun and sat in the easternmost depression of the middle ring.

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“You know,” Duxsil mused out loud, “I notice there are some thematic similarities between this room and Noltus’s stone disc. 

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Roark looked at the disc and then at the floor, “It’s a combination lock.”

“Combination to what?” Saris quipped.

Bending over to pick up one of the spheres on the floor, Roark replied, “Dunno; at least not until we enter the combination.” He looked back at the disc, “Okay, eight circles, eight pillars. If this is the room’s entrance at the bottom … then these three figures would match the statues.”

“Quetzalcoatl, Tezcatlipoca and Tonatiuh – Star, Moon and Sun,” Duxsil noted.

“Whatever,” Roark shrugged, “The important part is these symbols: 11 moons, 13 stars and 12 suns…”

Roark tried a few different combinations of those numbers, but when nothing happened he returned the orbs back to their starting points. I finally decided to that all three had to move in the same direction; around to his right. When the third orb was placed, blasts of wind blew through the chamber as the presence of the three ancient gods manifested as a spray of stars (Quetzalcoatl), a ray of sunlight (Tonatiuh) and a ray of moonlight (Tezcatlipoca) around each of the appropriate statues. Each manifestation began, in turn to communicate a telepathic message. As each message was delivered, the corresponding manifestation grew brighter.

"Our worshippers are few, and soon we will move on from this world,” Queualcoatl seemed to say, “Our worshippers are few, and soon we will move on from this world. None of our children survive to free our ancient home from evil and rebuild our glorious civilization. Still, we can help you, strangers, in a fight that is both revenge for the past and hope for the future. Heed our words."

"In time of need, call the hawk to hunt your enemies," Tonatiuh bade them cryptically.

"In time of need, call the wood to bend hostile weapons," TezeatHpoca added.

Quetzalcoatl communicated again, "In time of need, call the wind to down the wings of evil."

Then all at once their voices came in unison, "Take the bow of Macutotnal, hero of the Olman people and first ruler of Thanaclan, and use it well in your battle against evil."

After the final message, the lights streamed into the center of the room and condensed into the shape of a bow. This was the Nimbus Bow and it floated in the air…

… until Saris grabbed it, “Cool! I’ll take that!"

* * * * *

Returning to the T-junction, they went to other way to a square chamber that was bare of furniture, but its walls were almost entirely covered by friezes depicting processions of ancient Olman priests along pyramid-lined city streets. The floor was cluttered with hundreds of flat copper rings, each about two inches in diameter.

Examining the rings, Duxsil noted, “They’re not magical, but each is carved with mystical Olman symbols used for divinations.”

Roark bean collecting the copper rings. “Really?” Saris asked incredulously.

“Yeah, these things are actually worth about 1 silver piece each! There’s got to be, what? 350? I’m not leaving 35 gold pieces behind!”

“35 gold pieces,” Saris expressed soto voce, shaking his head.

Stairs led down from the chamber, and they weren’t yet read to leave this level, so they continued on to the next chamber, the stone walls of which were barren of carvings or decorations. Corridors led out of this chamber in all four directions. A horrible stench of decay hung heavy in the air, although a fresh breeze could be felt coming from the east.

The party attempted to continue north, but the stench became worse. The dead-end chamber reeked horribly of blood and rotting flesh. Under a domed, fifty-foot high ceiling, an enormous octagonal pit, apparently the source of the smell, occupied most of the floor, leaving a five-foot-wide ledge around the rim. Roark ran up and looked into the pit quickly, covering his nose and mouth.

“Ugh, there’s something moving down there. Some sort of giant blob,” he reported.

“Screw this!” Saris said and lobbed several skins of oil and a torch down into the pit. “Who says we have to fight every creature we encounter?”

After all the stink, the breeze of fresh air seemed inviting, so the party decided to head down the east passage. The northern and southern walls of the corridor were decorated with abstract designs made with brown, red, and deep green ceramic tiles. Suddenly Roark stopped short and held up his arms to indicate everyone else should do the same, and even step back. He took a staff and, stepping back himself, depressed a trigger in the floor, which caused a fusillade of spears to launch from the walls. He took one of the spears and examined it, “Yep, poison.”

Some light could be seen in the direction they were heading, like chinks between stone doors. Indeed, when the reached the wall, they found that was the inside to another entrance to the temple; two fifteen foot tall stone doors. Roark examined them and found that a device that had existed to open and close the doors was disabled, but he was able to restore it.

From the outside, the entrance appeared to be a monumental entrance is set in the rocky wall between two rows of seven-foot-tall stone slabs. The slabs were carved in the likeness or ceremonial Olman guards. The figure of a ten-foot-tall Olman warrior with a feathered cloak and a ferocious grin was carved on both out-facing doors.

Continue to Chapter 9...

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