Session 66: Pawns in a Game of Chess

Yanliz waited just outside the boulder room for the rest of the group to catch up.

Ignoring how many passages they each saw in the seemingly enchanted boulder room, the group took the left passage. It was a dead-end after thirty feet and, waving the double bladed ax around, Valeria did not find any secret doors.

They returned to the boulder room and took the next left.

They marked the intersections, and soon found themselves at intersections they had already marked prior to reaching the boulder room. Yanliz was too busy scouting to notice, but it was abundantly clear to everyone else that they had already been there many times. They looped around, continuing on with Yanliz scouting ahead, just beyond their light.

"Are you kidding me!" Yanliz cursed, waiting for his companions to catch up. "I think I hear a Minotaur. I don't know where it's coming from."

Yanliz maneuvered into the center of his companions, but they did not hear anything. Eventually he concluded he must have been hearing things and they continued down the corridor, with Yanliz scouting ahead.

Just a little further down the corridor, they encountered the remains of the two Minotaurs that had ambushed them. The remains were still as dead as they had been.

They reached a dead-end, and waving the double bladed ax, Valeria revealed a secret door on the ceiling. Yanliz climbed up onto Prynhawn's shoulders and stealthily pushed the door up.

Yanliz peeked into what appeared to be a long, narrow, wooden room. There was barely enough room to open the door without hitting the top of the ceiling. It looked just big enough to fit a person lying down. He closed the door and dropped down to the floor.

"I'm not sure what that was," Yanliz explained. "It seemed like a small box. Maybe three feet by six or seven feet. Only a couple of feet tall. It looked like a place for small creatures to hide."

Valeria gave Yanliz the ax and told him to search it for more secret doors. He climbed back up and waved the ax around. He did not find any secret doors, but while he was squirming around, he banged the wooden ceiling and it lifted slightly.

He lifted it up and peeked outside into a narrow chamber, about ten feet wide. Thirty feet ahead was a pile of burnt debris and ashes, and a passage to the right. Otherwise it was empty.

He climbed back down and explained what he saw, but it did not sound familiar to anyone.

Valeria wanted to know what was behind the lid of the box, but they decided to explore elsewhere, closing the portal before they left.

They returned to the boulder room from the same passage they had taken, and took the next left, which was a dead-end with no secret portals.

They took next left from the boulder room, which appeared to be the last of the unexplored passages out of the room.

After following some sloped passages that seemed to overlap on itself, they saw Sapphira's chamber up ahead, but explored to the left.

They soon found a secret door in the ceiling, and Yanliz climbed back up onto Prynhawn's shoulders and pushed it up, but it didn't budge. There was no handle to pull it.

They turned around and continued on until they found a dead-end with the two greataxe's they had broken. They found no secret doors and continued on.

They soon found another dead-end, and Valeria revealed a secret door on the wall. Yanliz tried to open the door, but it also would not budge.

They continued on and returned to Sapphira's lavishly furnished chamber.

Valeria searched the chest for traps while Vernim searched the walls for secret doors.

Valeria did not find any traps and asked Jess to open it.

Inside, Jess found two bracelets — one of silver set with turquoise and the other of ivory links, a fine platinum chain necklace with a ruby pendant, and four rings — one of copper set with carnelian, one of white gold set with a single pearl, one of blackened silver set with a small diamond, and one of electrum set with a blue quartz. Also in the chest were a pack with a jug of lamp-oil, flint and steel, and several changes of expensive and becoming clothes made of various rare fabrics.

Jess showed everyone what she found and stuffed it all in her pack.

"It's clear Tymora is shining on our efforts," Vernim proclaimed. "What wonderful items in that chest."

"I found another secret door," Valeria announced, showing them a portal on the right wall that she had revealed with the ax.

Yanliz stealthily opened it. Peeking in, he saw a small chamber stuffed almost to overflowing with loot.

"It looks like a room full of treasure," Yanliz shared.

They opened the door and peered into the twenty foot diameter room. It was filled with almost two dozen man-high archaically designed jars. They were all filled with coins, and several of them were toppled over, the contents scattered around the floor, which could barely be seen beneath the treasure.

Leaning against a wall was a stone statue of a kobold.

At least a dozen suits of armor hung from the walls. Most were useless, bearing clear signs of the goring attacks that must have killed their previous owners, but a few were still intact and salvageable. They included a suit of human-sized ringmail, a suit of undamaged silver chainmail, and a suit of bronze plate mail of archaic design.

They also found a large shield leaning against the wall beside a broken staff. Two broadswords and a double-bladed battleaxe were mounted out of reach. A huge bronze greatsword hung point-down behind the door.

They saw no other entrances or signs of life.

"Thank you, Tymora!" Vernim exclaimed. "Should we search for traps?"

Vernim searched around the door, and Valeria searched further in the small chamber, but they did not find anything.

"Wait, guys!" Vernim proclaimed. "Take a look at this kobold statue. It looks a bit off, don't you think. It's not like a normal statue. You see how it's reaching for something? I'm guessing that there's a trap in here that can turn your flesh to stone. We might all become stone if we're not careful."

"That's crazy!" Yanliz responded.

"Either kobolds have an unusual style of art," Valeria guessed, "or there's a Medusa in this cave."

"Wait, wait, wait!" Yanliz replied. "We know someone in this cave with snakes. Just sayin'."

"Good point," Prynhawn agreed.

"Maybe," Vernim considered, "but we know that the kobold society here is centered around the dragon. So I don't think it makes a whole lot of sense to have kobolds depict themselves. I feel like it would be more centered on a dragon."

"Yeah, that's true," Valeria agreed. "I don't think this belongs to the kobolds, because they had a dragon egg surrounded by copper coins, painted gold. If they had this much gold, they wouldn't have surrounded their egg with copper coins painted gold. I'm pretty sure — according to the rumors, at least — these caves were filled with monsters before they were cleared out, and over the years they were filled with monsters again. So it's very possible that there used to be a Medusa like figure in here that made this, and was already killed or escaped."

"That's also possible," Vernim agreed, "but I definitely think we should look into the Bethany connection here. That's the strongest point we have so far. We know Apep is an evil god that wants to destroy the world."

"Are we taking anything from here?" Yanliz asked, looking around.

"We can't take all of this," Valeria noted, "and I don't think it's a good idea to stuff our packs too much. But we can take some coins, and if anyone finds any armor or weapons they want, feel free."

"I was about to say," Vernim accepted, "that bronze plate mail...either Brother Martin or I should take that, should we not? Or would you like it, Prynhawn?"

Prynhawn examined the suit, and found it to be in good shape and close enough to his size. It had an old fashioned design, and the bronze coat was unusual. He tried it on, and abandoned his old chain mail.

Philip examined the broken staff, which appeared to be more like a wizard's staff than one used for fighting.

Yanliz lifted up the silver chain mail and found it to be much lighter than he had expected.

"Does this chainmail seem light to you?" he asked.

Brother Martin confirmed it was incredibly light. "It's really flexible as well," he added.

Yanliz took off his leather armor and donned the chainmail. "This is awesome!" he declared. "It doesn't even impair my movement."

Vernim picked up the large shield, and decided he liked the protection offered by its size. He abandoned his old shield.

They closed the portal and left Sapphira's chamber with their newfound wealth and equipment.

They explored the last unexplored passage in the area and found that it connected near the entrance. They turned back and went back to the portals they could not open.

Prynhawn tried to use the crowbar to open the portal in the wall, but it still did not budge.

They went to the portal in the ceiling. Philip climbed onto Prynhawn's shoulders and tried to pry the portal open with a crowbar, but it didn't budge.

They passed through the boulder room, a couple of times, connecting two more unexplored intersections.

They took a newfound shortcut close to Bethany's chamber to the last unexplored intersections, and found that they connected to each other.

They went back to the portal in the ceiling that opened into a wooden box.

After Valeria had revealed the portal again, Yanliz climbed up onto Prynhawn's shoulders and opened the portal. He climbed up into the box, opened the lid from the inside. Looking behind the lid he saw a wall indicating that the box was at the end of this short corridor.

Yanliz stepped out of the box. Looking back, he saw that the box was a coffin, and on the lid were scratches he had missed in the dark. Realizing where he was he told the rest of the group to climb.

Using Jess' rope, they were all soon in the goblin cave, and Lawrence recognized the scratches as the Draconic writing.

They traveled through the goblin's cave, past the secret doors into the Zombire's chamber. They went to the tomb area in the back where they had found a secret door on the floor. Valeria waved the ax in front of it, and it revealed itself, but Yanliz still could not open it. He pulled and pushed, but it wouldn't budge.

They debated where to go next until Valeria decided they should return to the labyrinth and enter the room where Yanliz saw the two people playing chess, hoping to surprise anyone there.

It was early evening when they exited the cave and headed to the fungus cave, to use the portal there, which was closer to their destination.

"Are we going to say hello," Yanliz asked, "or are we going to shoot them?"

"I guess we can say hello," Prynhawn suggested. "They never were hostile to us, right?"

"One of their associates was," Vernim pointed out.

As they were heading toward the fungus cave, Yanliz glanced at the entrance to Duranki's cave, and it suddenly looked familiar. It looked like something he had seen in a dream. The cave entrance was formed from a lintel.

"You know how I was talking about my dream-like experiences?" Yanliz asked. "So it just came to me; the entrance to Duranki's cave looks like the gates to the underworld! Like the symbol that was carved on Duranki's necklace."

They entered the fungus cave and crawled into the secret door in the floor at the back of Lykos' chamber.

"So are we going to just attack them with the element of surprise?" Yanliz asked.

"Or are we going to talk?" Prynhawn offered.

"If they're good," Yanliz countered, "we can just catch them by surprise and knock them out."

"More like, the chances are," Prynhawn suggested, "they might get, although they might be good, they might get surprised and might attack us by their instinct."

"Well, if there's anything I've learned from our experiences in the caves," Vernim suggested, "it's don't trust people in the caves and don't try to talk to people we know are evil. And we've established that the followers of Nergal are evil. So, I don't know..."

"I don't want to just devalue life like that," Brother Martin countered.

"I'm not saying they're evil," Yanliz suggested, "but keeping our well being into concern, I feel like it would be better for us to have the element of surprise and try to quickly knock them out."

"Me too," Valeria agreed.

"Yeah, I mean, I'm sorry Brother Martin," Vernim replied. "I'm having a lot of trouble thinking this out. I agree with you. I think we should really value life. What do you think about knocking them out and not really giving them any long term harm."

"I'm assuming that since they were wearing the same things that were associated with the necromancers that they are probably definitely related," Brother Martin advised. "Maybe this is a different case, but I'd like to try to talk to them."

"Yes, that's kind of what I was thinking," Vernim agreed.

"Hopefully they don't kill us," Yanliz warned.

When they reached the portal, Valeria gave Jess the ax to open the door.
Seeing the two humans still focused on their chess games, Yanliz shot two arrows in quick succession, dropping them both.

Jess rushed in with her rope and tied their hands, gagging them as well.

Brother Martin cast spare the dying on one and Vernim cast spare the dying on the other.

Yanliz stood guard by the door opposite the portal.

"I'm taking their jewelry," Jess said, showing them the woman's ring of blackened silver and red gold and earrings, one with a red pearl and the other with a black pearl, and the man’s silver and gold bracelet and bronze armband.

They were only partially clothed and wore no weapons on them, but along with the rest of their clothes, there were two suits of chainmail in the room, as well as a scimitar and a mace.

"They both have some sort of holy symbol," Jess said, tossing two necklaces with bone pendants into the room.

Brother Martin picked them up and placed them on the chessboard.

The man's was the same as Duranki's. The woman's depicted a winged woman on a throne.

"That's the sign of Erishkigal," Yanliz recognized, pointing to the woman's pendant, "the goddess of death and the underworld! Nergal was Erishkigal's defender. I'm pretty sure they're bad. And why isn't there a ranger on the chess board?"

"Can we play chess?" Vernim asked.

"I would love to," Brother Martin agreed.

They reset the pieces on the board and, as they played, their focus was consumed with the game. Meanwhile, Yanliz watched intently, declaring that he was playing next.

"What are you doing with these pieces?" Jess asked, examining the board. "They look really valuable. I want to play next."

"Valeria, if we're going to stay here," Philip asked, "do you think I should make some food?"

"Sure," Valeria agreed.

"Valeria," Prynhawn hinted, remembering how late it is, "are we going to spend the night in the cave?"

"Yeah," Valeria agreed. "I think we need to find a more secure room to do it though."

 "Maybe we can bring these two to the bandit cave," Prynhawn suggested.

"Maybe we can secure ourselves in the goblin cave, behind the portcullis," Valeria considered. "Then we could always use the secret door into the labyrinth."

"We can do that," Prynhawn agreed. "but we have to take these two."

While Philip was preparing food, he noticed that the two had regained consciousness. "Valeria, it looks like they woke up," he whispered.

"What are you doing in here?" Lawrence questioned them, removing the man's gag. "Are you with Nergal?"

They didn't answer. They just looked around at the group and at each other. Then the man opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came out of his mouth.

"Are you okay?" Lawrence asked.

The man just kept trying to talk, but no sound came out.

"Valeria," Lawrence asked, "can I take the gag out of her mouth too?"

"Yeah," Valeria agreed, noting that the man did have a tongue.

Lawrence removed the gag from the priestess' mouth, and she looked at him and commanded, "Flee!"

The priest looked at Prynhawn and commanded, "Flee!"

Lawrence ran to the secret door, and ducked through it.

Prynhawn was unaffected, and struggled to put the gag back on the priest.

Philip ran after Lawrence, quickly passing the sorcerer.

"Untie!" the priest commanded Prynhawn.

The paladin quickly obeyed, and the priest's hands were free.

"Close!" the priestess commanded Valeria.

Valeria closed the portal before Philip and Lawrence had returned.

Meanwhile, Brother Martin, Vernim, Yanliz, and Jess were consumed with the chessboard.

"Tishpak, look out!" the priestess shouted as Prynhawn cast thunderous smite and struck Tishpak down.

"Flee!" the priestess commanded Prynhawn, but the paladin was unaffected.

Valeria tried to open the secret door, but realized she was no longer holding the ax. "Jess, unlock the door!" she yelled as she drew her sword and cut the woman down.

Jess ignored Valeria's instructions, too consumed with the chessboard to notice the battle that had just taken place.

Valeria tapped Jess on the shoulder, but Jess ignored her. Valeria took the ax from Jess' hand and opened the door. Philip and Lawrence were waiting outside and entered the room.

Prynhawn tried to knock the chessboard over, but saw it was built into the stone table it rested on. He grabbed hold of the base of the stone and heaved, tossing it across the room, scattering chess pieces across the room. It cracked in two as it hit the ground.

Brother Martin, Vernim, Yanliz, and Jess came to their senses, wondering why they had been so interested in playing a game of chess.

"Maybe we should play some time," Vernim pondered, "but we're in the middle of the caves!"

"I don't even play chess!" Yanliz insisted.

"I don't know if you realized," Prynhawn pointed out, "but we just killed them."

"Do you want us to cast spare the dying?" Vernim asked.

"No, it's fine," Prynhawn replied. "They attacked us."

"Sorry if I patronized you while I was playing chess, Valeria" Vernim apologized. "I didn't mean to."

Yanliz stealthily peeked out the door to the small room. He saw a hallway with stairs going to the left and a corridor extending into the darkness to the right.

They exited through the secret door and ate the food that Philip finished preparing.

They returned to the room with the dead priest and priestess and went through the door, into the corridor, with Yanliz scouting ahead.

They headed to the right.

After twenty feet Yanliz waited by a ten foot alcove. Valeria searched it for secret doors, with her ax, but found nothing. They continued on.

They reached an intersection that split left and right, and turned right.

They passed a twisting corridor to the left and turned right, going up a set of twisting stairs that ended in a large door.

Philip stealthily opened the door and peeked out into a wide corridor, the walls of which were illuminated by a soft red glow from its blood-red stones separated by black veins.

Seeing the door to the right, he realized it led to the room where they had encountered the kobolds with the ax.

Philip closed the door and they went back down the stairs and through the twisting passage to the right.

After turning left, right, left, and right for seventy feet they passed a ten foot deep alcove on their right and approached a door.

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