Session 59: Left in the Minotaur's Labyrinth

The Minotaur charges in the Caves of Chaos Labyrinth
"So, will you pray with me?" Bethany repeated again, specifically to Lawrence and Vernim, as the group tried to decide how to deal with the priestess of Apep.

"Thank you," Valeria said to Bethany. "We must take our leave now. It was nice to meet you, and we might be seeing you again soon."

Outside of Bethany's chamber, they decided to go back and confront Bethany about what Yanliz told them about her god, Apep.

"For all of those who don't know, she was lying," Yanliz warned. "Apep is known as he who shall devour the world, not the swallower of evils, like she said, and is an evil god, also known as Apophis. We should be aware that a bunch of snakes might jump out if we get hostile with her,"

"That sounds pretty bad to me," Philip said. "I'm sure we could all agree about that. Devourer doesn't sound good."

"Even if we're not going to fight her," Brother Martin suggested, "we really need some clarity as to what she's doing."

"Do you think we should seek advice from Abercrombie?" Prynhawn asked.

"Maybe we should avoid bringing this to Abercrombie," Brother Martin advised. "I don't think he would take kindly to the situation. He hasn't historically been the most tolerant of all people. He would probably want her put down, and I don't know if that's what she deserves, yet."

"She hasn't done anything openly violent," Valeria noted, "but it hasn't served her to do anything openly violent. If she was going to do something against us, it would make more sense for her to attack us if only one of us were in there, than if all of us are in there."

"Do you think I should try that?" Philip asked.

"No, I don't," Valeria replied. "Yanliz, how do you know so much about Apep?"

"Um, that's a long story," Yanliz responded. "It has to do with me back when I was in the caves alone. I can tell you the whole story when we have more time."

"I hope this question isn't insensitive," Philip said, "but maybe if we want to learn more about her, do you think one of us — and I'd be happy to do this — should do the prayer with her?"

"I don't know, I don't feel comfortable," Valeria explained. "If any of you want to do it, feel free, but I certainly don't feel comfortable praying to a god that I don't believe in."

"I was thinking about that, but we don't really know," Brother Martin admitted. "I assume if we take part in the ritual, we're going to end up getting bit by snakes, and I don't really fancy snakes."

"I don't know if you want to pray to this god," Yanliz stated, "Apophis seeks to prevent sunrise and causes earthquakes, thunder, darkness, storms, and even death! And Apophis is an enemy of sun gods, like Lathander."

"Yeah, I'm not entirely sure that would go over very well with The Morninglord," Brother Martin quipped.

"Yeah, I really wanted to ask you guys," Philip clarified, "because I don't want to do that, but I think if that's what's necessary, I think maybe I could square things first with everyone to make sure that you knew where I really am. Like, the gods know where I stand, you know? You think she would know that I would be lying?"

"No, you wouldn't be lying," Valeria surmised, "because you wouldn't be saying stuff, would you? You could just chant."

"I honestly think we should just confront her with what we know about Apep, and get her to be clear about what exactly she's doing praying to Apep," Brother Martin suggested. "And if she reacts badly, we can always use force. I don't feel comfortable trying to force her to stop believing in what she believes. That doesn't really make sense to me. The goal is to stop her from doing harm to other people. Are you worried that she's going to summon this massive snake god to come eat us up?"

"Well, yeah, a little bit," Philip admitted.

"That's unlikely," Brother Martin guessed. "He wouldn't appear here in full form."

"But if what she believes in causes harm to other people," Yanliz asked, "isn't that a bad thing?"

"Is it really?" Valeria wondered. "It hasn't actually devoured any worlds yet, it's going to, and this could all be fake."

"I don't think she's done anything evil yet," Brother Martin added. "I don't think I know enough."

Philip put his keg of wine back in his pack and started on a second.

"When have you ever known a cult to think extensively about the post god world?" Lawrence hinted. "It's all about the actions that will please the god, but what happens after that..."

"What's a cult?" Philip asked.

"A cult is like a religion," Brother Martin explained, "but smaller."

"Oh, like Cyrrollalee, my god," Philip realized. "I'm in a cult. That's a small god."

"Not that kind of smaller," Brother Martin clarified. "Cults are usually negative. I say we go back in and be a little bit more aggressive in our questioning, because I won't want to leave us vulnerable to anything she might do."

"Guys," Valeria urged, pointing further down the tunnel, away from Bethany's chamber, "I hear a rumbling from down the hall! It sounds like something moving. Something big!"

Soon they all heard a loud roar, and felt the ground shake from the hooves of a large creature that was charging toward them, taking up almost the entire width of the corridor. It lowered the horns on its massive bull-shaped head as it charged toward Yanliz.

Jess immediately sunk an arrow into its shoulder. Yanliz's first arrow skidded off its hide, but the second landed in its leg. Philip rolled through his friends, smacking his staff against the creatures legs before rolling past it.

The beast continued its charge, goring Yanliz with its horns, lifting him off his feet and knocking down Lawrence, before shaking the ranger off and dumping his limp body on the ground.

Brother Martin cast bless on Philip, Prynhawn, and Lawrence. Prynhawn cast thunderous smite as his companions let him through, and slashed deep into the beast's fur, releasing a loud boom throughout the cavern. Valeria hit the beast with an eldritch blast. Lawrence got up and hit the beast with an acid splash. Vernim revived Yanliz with cure wounds.

Jess backed up and sunk an arrow into the beast's massive chest. Yanliz got up and drew his short sword, stabbing the creature in the side. It snorted in rage.

Philip turned and ran at the beast from behind it, jabbing his staff into the back of the beast's hooved leg, forcing its knee into the ground, vaulted up on his staff, and landed with both feet stomping into the back of the beast's massive head, driving its skull into the ground, where it lay still.

Brother Martin cast another cure wounds on Yanliz, who was still reeling from the attack.

Jess retrieved their arrows and searched the creature, but didn't find anything of value except the double bladed greataxe, which she picked up.

"I think that was a Minotaur," Valeria stated. "And this place seems like a maze."

"I want to go back and talk to Bethany," Lawrence said, "and see if there's any information she wasn't telling us, because she didn't trust us."

They returned to Bethany's chamber.

Valeria approached Bethany, with Prynhawn glaring over her shoulder.

"Oh, you're back!" Bethany exclaimed. "Did you hear that thunderous boom? I've never heard anything like it before!"

"Yes, it was very intense," Valeria agreed. "With all due respect, from what we know about Apep, he's not exactly who you describe him to be."

"What do you mean?" Bethany asked.

"We've heard that Apep is known as he who shall devour the world, not the swallower of evils.

"No, that's not true," Bethany insisted, matter-of-factly.

"Also, we were wondering," Valeria continued, "who exactly will be taken to nirvana when Apep swallows all the evils?"

"All the faithful will be taken to nirvana," Bethany claimed.

"Is that true for me as well," Brother Martin asked, "being faithful to another god?"

"Honestly, I don't know," Bethany admitted. "The teachings say that the faithful will be delivered to nirvana, but that should apply to all good creatures. Only the evil will be swallowed."

"That's certainly interesting," Valeria responded. "Do you know anything about any large creatures in this cave? Like a large bull-headed creature?"

"No, I told you I hadn't," Bethany replied. "Didn't you ask me this before? I've been in this cave for a long time, and I don't venture out of here, but my pets do."

"Are your pets only those snakes, or do you have more?" Yaniz asked.

"Yes, no, just these pets here," Bethany replied, stroking the scales of the small snake wrapped around her forearm.

"Are the mice for the snakes?" Valeria asked.

"Yes," Bethany replied. "I catch them occasionally in here, and sometimes they're delivered to me with my food."

"So you eat rodents?" Yanliz asked.

"No, they're for my snakes, silly," Bethany replied. "I have to say, it's nice to have company."

"Yeah, I would guess so," Valeria replied. "I would imagine living here by yourself is very difficult."

"Well, it's not difficult," Bethany corrected. "Everything I need is provided for."

"I meant, on the conscience," Valeria clarified, "because you're all alone for so long."

"Well, I have my pets," Bethany replied, "and I pray. I have lots of time to pray."

"Is that all you do to get your meals?" Brother Martin asked. "You just pray?"

"Yes," Bethany answered.

Lawrence spoke with her for a while, asking her when and where she learned about Apep, how Apep defines being evil or bad, where Apep fit in the divine pantheon, and if she's seen any other creature or if anyone else has asked her about this recently.

Already enchanted with Lawrence's scales, Bethany was happy to converse with him further. She explained that even though she didn't know everything there is to know about the gods, or even Apep, she has always known about Apep and maintained her faith. She said that it is up to Apep to decide what is evil, that Apep doesn't appear to her or talk to her, and that she hasn't seen anyone else in the cave.

"Sorry, that's a little unsettling," Brother Martin interjected. "So Apep decides what's evil and gets rid of it?"

"When Apep is ready," Bethany reiterated, "Apep will swallow all the evil."

"I guess I'm struggling to understand where I would fall in that line," Brother Martin pressed. "I don't want to do a ritual for a god that doesn't believe in me the same way that I have put my faith in him."

"Oh, well, I can't tell you how Apep will see you," Bethany admitted.

"What can I do to be what is in his image, good?" Brother Martin asked.

"I don't know," Bethany conceded. "Apep decides what is evil, but you can pray with me. You can pray with me to Apep."

"I think I'll try to figure out a little bit more about what exactly he means by good and evil. It's an interesting query," Brother Martin eventually said. "Well, I guess we'll be going then."

"And thank you for your time," Lawrence added.

"Okay, I hope to see you again," Bethany replied. "If not here then in nirvana."

They left Bethany's chamber and headed north.

"Valeria," Vernim asked, "what did we gain from that?"

"We were trying to force her to mess up her words, because we thought she was lying," Brother Martin offered, "but it's honestly hard to tell."

"Well, I know for a fact she's lying!" Yanliz insisted.

"But she just seemed to profoundly believe in this god," Brother Martin considered. "I don't know, but I sense that maybe she's under some influence."

"I believe you, Yanliz," Valeria declared, "but it's possible that she just doesn't actually know what her god does, and she's praying to a god that's different than who she thinks it is."

"I don't buy that," Yanliz stated.

"Then why would the god offer her sustenance?" Vernim asked.

"Because whether or not she knows who she was praying to," Brother Martin conjectured, "she's still offering her body to the snakes, right?"

"So are we just going to leave her there?" Yanliz asked.

"Yeah, there's no need to mess with her if she's not doing us harm," Brother Martin reasoned, "and she said she doesn't leave that part of the cave — I don't know if I believe her — but if it's true, then we don't have to worry. That's a big if, though."

"Well I still think she's up to no good!" Yanliz affirmed.

"I think what we really discovered is," Vernim theorized, "I think she just doesn't — I think that someone said before how she really just doesn't know her god is bad. I think that's what it is, because I don't think she's lying. I think she just thinks that her god is really — he does what she thinks it does, and based off of what Yanliz has told us, he doesn't, or maybe she just believes in a different sect of the same god. I don't know."

"I think her view of what is good and evil is not the same as ours," Brother Martin offered. "When she says that Apep devours all evil, it could be what we define as good, or everything."

"Definitely her concept of good and evil is different if she thinks this destroyer is so good," Philip slurred.

"I believe," Lawrence concluded, "through my experience, that she means no harm to us, and she isn't dangerous to us. Maybe her god is, but she poses no harm, and I believe that she wasn't trying to deceive us in any way. And by the way, she never said he was a destroyer."

"I think you're right, Lawrence," Vernim agreed. "I don't think we have enough basis to take any direct action on her, even though we know we don't trust her. There's not really much more we would do as good, upstanding citizens."

"I say we get a move on," Jess suggested. "Arguing about it doesn't help us either way. We need to keep our guard up, as a general rule."

They continued on through the twisting and sloping corridors, until they eventually lost their sense of direction and realized they were lost. They were careful to be on guard from anything dropping down from above. Occasionally, they would find themselves in a dead end, where the tunnel tapered off naturally.

Eventually, they reached a dead end, unlike other more natural dead ends they had found, that ended in a straight wall. They searched for secret doors, but found none and reversed course.

Jess began scratching the walls every few feet with the Minotaur's greataxe.

At the end of one of the natural dead ends, they found a crumpled skeleton. Brother Martin determined that its lower rib cage had been crushed.

Eventually they turned into a corridor that had ax marks on it, and they followed them until they unexpectedly disappeared.

After they had been wandering through the caves for at least two hours, they saw a light ahead, and soon came to the cave entrance.

"I think we should go back in, and this time just follow the right wall," Brother Martin suggested.

They ventured back in, following the right wall, and this time Jess dragged the Minotaur's greataxe along the wall, making as solid a line as she could.

They found themselves back at the unnatural dead-end and turned around, continuing to follow the left wall.

They found the crumpled skeleton in another dead-end and continued following the left wall.

They found themselves in a familiar corridor and came across stains of blood from where they had fought the Minotaur, but the monster’s body was gone, and there was no trail.

They passed Bethany's chamber where they confirmed with her that she had not seen a Minotaur and did not know her way around the entire cave complex.

They continued along the left wall.

They eventually encountered another dead-end with a flat wall. Valeria noticed a three foot diameter metallic section of the wall that was separate from the rest of the stone wall around it. She found a smooth crevice in the wall that appeared to serve as a handle. The hinges were built into the door itself. Philip tried to pull on it, but it wouldn't budge. There was no lock mechanism on it. Prynhawn pulled with all his might, but it didn't budge.

They turned around and continued following the left wall.

After traveling down a particularly long and straight corridor, they found themselves in a natural dead-end where Valeria noticed a similar round metallic portal, but this one was in the ceiling.

Jess handed the greataxe to Philip and climbed on Prynhawn's shoulders, where she tried to open it, but it wouldn't budge even when she hung all her weight from it. She pushed up against the door as hard as she could until, surprised by the change in momentum, Prynhawn's knees buckled and she had to leap to the ground.

Lawrence hit the door with some fire bolts, but they had no effect.

They soon found an unnatural dead-end with another of these doors, this one on the wall. Yanliz suggested that Prynhawn use his crowbar, and Brother Martin cast guidance on the paladin as he heaved at the door, but it didn't budge.

After traveling a while, they found another skeleton huddled in a natural dead-end. Brother Martin was not able to determine the cause of death.

They eventually found two more of the round metallic doors in walls of unnatural dead-ends and they didn't bother trying to open them.

Vernim found another round metallic door in the ceiling of an unnatural dead-end and they decided to take rest and eat.

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