Journey to Fate’s doorstep: X marks the spot

A solemn mood is heavy in the cavern as the Drow’s Bane take a moment to let everything sink in. Naismith moves slowly towards the fallen scimitars and quiver, letting the tears run down his face with each step. He crouches down and grips a scimitar allowing the many memories of his dear friend to cycle through his mind. Royce moves toward the great sword, picks it up and shows it to Mordrock, who looks down, nods, and walks away. “Where did Tusker fall?” asks Nong catching Royce pointing in the direction he felled Tusker. The monk walks over, bends down and touches the ichor remains of the undead pig; he does not move for quite some time.

Talina is beside herself on one hand surviving a treacherous battle and on another, realizing this fight seemed personal to her party. She needs to talk but after reading the room, she decides instead to walk the cavern alone. It is during their short rest she finds the right moment to open up to them,
“Did you know those undead creatures?”
Royce looks at her and says plainly, “Yes. They were our friends when they were living. Although, we haven’t seen the wizard in forever and thought he was dead.”
“We never figured Orcus got to them first,” replies Naismith.
“And it’s been over ten years since I last spoke with Rupert,” says Mordrock.
“I’m so sorry. How awful of an experience and very painful to endure. Thank you for not giving up. Orcus meant to break you back there,” says Talina.
Royce, Naismith and Mordrock just barely acknowledge her with a nod before staring off again towards nowhere.

Nong returns after the short rest to announce a southern path exits from the cavern. The party gets up and slowly moves in that direction, trying to remember why they are here in the first place. Nong takes the lead followed by Naismith and enters the southern corridor. They walk for many minutes before seeing light ahead. Nong approaches cautiously and peers out to see a huge cavern with a very large building erected in the middle; the circular exterior connects to a dome ceiling penetrated by an inverted pyramid, just like the sketch on the map, where ‘X’ marks the spot. The moment takes his breadth away as realizes what stands before him; he motions the others to the entrance.
“This…this…is the place on the map!” exclaims Royce, who pulls out the map to confirm.
Naismith notices even from this distance, small holy symbols etched everywhere on the structure. He focuses on the symbols and recognizes them to be the gods Amaunator and Lathander. He remembers from teachings years past, how the keeper of the sun was never in the same time period as the morninglord; even some historians believed these two perspectives represented the same god. He points out his findings to the clerics, but they fail to make the same connection.

The Drow’s Bane make their way into the cavern, recognizing it is lit by some mysterious ambient light. Talina gasps as she feels a subtle arcane energy flowing throughout the cavern. Royce notices and reaches out to her,
“What’s wrong Talina?”
“There is arcane energy in this cavern, maybe emanating out from the building. I’m not sure, but I feel it all over me.”
“What kind of arcane energy? I hope abjuration.”
“It’s strange as it is not abjuration but I think several energies combined. It feels more concentrated as we get closer.”
Royce grabs her hand and holds it for the remainder of the walk toward the building.

They approach and Mordrock is the first to run his hands across the smooth constructed stone work. He recognizes expert craftsmanship but is unable to discern anymore clues. The party takes a moment to examine the walls but are unable to locate hidden doors or an entryway. Naismith decides to fly the circumference, to get a better understanding of its dimensions; half-way around, he spots two large stone doors that appear open. He flies past them and sees an interior room, most likely the way in.

The party makes their way around the building eventually arriving at the stone doors. Nong and Royce are first to enter. The interior showcases a large dais in the middle of the stone floor, with a polished stone center. Three stone pathways originate from the dais and journey out across the room to three huge sphinx statues; one is made from copper, another from gold and the third from obsidian. Penetrating from the ceiling into the room and stopping twenty feet above the dais, is the tip of the inverted pyramid. Naismith is the last to enter the room, when he does, his mind is flooded with a vision:

“The tip of the pyramid hangs open, with a broken bent metal staircase hanging loosely from it. An oozing mass is pushing through from the chambers above, and as you attempt to puzzle out its origins, it unceremoniously plops onto the dais – a huge ball of green worms, covered in slime and unknowable detritus.”

Naismith blinks and sees nothing out of place in the room, especially the tip of the pyramid, which is not open. He flies up to examine the tip, but besides holy symbols etched all over it, nothing else is there. Startled, he flies back to the entrance and waits next to Talina. Nong points out that in front of each statue black ichor puddles exist, “Looks like demons were here but they weren’t so lucky.”

Royce and Mordrock approach the copper sphinx and speak to it. Unfortunately, nothing happens in response. Mordrock reaches out to touch it and hears a female voice telepathically speak to him,

“What can run but never walks,
has a mouth but never talks,
has a head but never weeps,
has a bed but never sleeps”

Mordrock turns to Royce, “Whoa, I just heard its voice speak to me in a riddle.”
“A riddle? This could explain our unfortunate friends around us. They obviously didn’t solve it.”

Mordrock shouts out the riddle and the group ideates on the best answer. Eventually with some coercing, Mordrock touches the copper sphinx again and says, “A River.” The eyes of the copper sphinx open in response and begin to shine bright. The clerics standing in front of it, go wide-eyed for fear of responding incorrectly. Laser beams shoot out of the eyes, piercing the center of the dais and persist. The party looks amazed by what just happened. “Well done! I told you that was the right answer. Proceed to the gold one next,” screams Nong.

The clerics duck under the laser beams and head toward the obsidian sphinx; Royce touches this one, waiting to hear the rhyme. A male voice telepathically speaks to him in response,

“Some try to hide, Some try to cheat,
but time will show, we always will meet.
Try as you might to guess my name;
I promise”

Royce shares the riddle with Mordrock and the two discuss. When Naismith calls out, Royce shouts the riddle back to him. The group can’t decide between two answers, and Mordrock pushes Royce to answer with what he thinks is correct. Royce touches the obsidian sphinx and answers with, “Death”. The eyes light up and laser beams shoot out, hitting the center of the dais, which is now beginning to smoke from the immense heat of four lasers.

They approach the final sphinx and Mordrock reaches out an touches it. He hears a female voice telepathically say,

“Never resting never still
moving slowly from hill to hill,
it does not walk, run or trot,
all is cool where it is not”

Mordrock shouts out the puzzle and it takes the party a bit of time to choose an answer. He touches the sphinx again and says, “Sunlight”. The eyes shoot a beam of white hot light into the dais and everyone hears a rumble from the center of the room. The dais rises five feet as it consumes the last bit of light; on top of it are now ten metal channels that pour into a silver bowl in the center. On the sides of the dais are words etched into the stone, however no one recognizes the language nor able to read the writing. The party is unclear on what to do next except for Mordrock who kneels down, concentrates and calls out to Kelemvor for aid. The party waits as they observe Mordrock deep in prayer; moments later, he rises and points to the writing,
“It says ‘From the gift of life, knowledge’.”
“Then it’s clear what we must do next, ” says Nong as he cuts his hand and lets his blood pour into the channel. Immediately, Nong feels his cut hand fasten to the channel where he is unable to move it away. He bites the other hand and attaches it to a second channel.
“You must do the same, see? There are ten channels and there are five of us.”
“I’m not so sure about this,” says Talina who is reluctant to approach the dais.

Mordrock, Royce and Naismith eventually acquiesce and attach their bloodied hands to channels; they wait for Talina who has not yet joined them.
“Talina, we can’t do this without you. Please help us. We can’t go back now,” pleads Royce.
She ponders on the words, “You know we probably could have placed water into these channels, as that gifts life too.”
The others digest her comment and agree but seeing them with both hands stuck to the dais pouring out their life force, makes Talina realize that idea is too little too late. She hesitantly approaches the dais and cuts her hands.

The blood from all ten channels pours into the silver bowl; it begins to boil until red smoke rises up to meet the pyramid. The party’s hands are freed as they see the tip of the pyramid open and from within, a metal staircase descends to meet the dais. A loud voice from the pyramid begins announcing something in an unknown language. Nong comprehends the words and dashes up the stairs shouting back at the party.

“It’s going to close in 5 seconds. Hurry up!!”