(Igby’s player absent – Igby participating as NPC)
Before departing from Kawab Villa the next day, the Ruby Scarabs realized that their next option to get more information would be to visit the Anushet, the trio of lamia sister living in the Cenotaph of the Cynic. They needed to know if the three lamias knew anything about who was causing the dead to rise, or who the gold-masked figures the Darkfolk had seen might be. It was even possible that the lamias themselves were responsible for the increase in undead activity inside the Necropolis.
Sula and Uto both prepared spells that morning to allow them to relieve the effects of filth fever from Sula and Kaa. Once they had taken care of this, they set off for the location of the next Elegiac Compass that they had yet to check. They decided to avoid encounters with any undead if possible. Their map of the compass locations took them to an unknown building, which was marked with the symbols of Pharasma and of House Matya.
Once they had entered the building, Kaa spotted a trap door in the floor. There were signs that someone had tried to pry it open. The trap door led down into a small but well-appointed burial chamber. Next to a wooden sarcophagus stood the remnants of the Elegiac Compass, but all of the useful parts had been removed. Signs in the tomb chamber made the Scarabs think that the removal had been done recently. Disappointed, the group decided to investigate the sarcophagus. It proved to be trapped with a device that would emit a ball of fire on being triggered, but Kaa disabled it. Within the sarcophagus lay the well-preserved mummy of a man. He had clearly been preserved with magic to prevent him from rising from the dead. After examining him briefly, the group restored the sarcophagus lid. Uto took a few white hairs to make a wax fetish of the man who lay there.
When they had left House Matya behind, the Scarabs headed for the Cenotaph of the Cynic. This structure proved to be a large, impressive building with a domed roof. It had been built as a memorial for those who had died during the madness, but had been repurposed as a resting place for people who worshipped no gods. Some of the symbols of the gods decorating the building had been defaced.
The front of the building had two sets of doors. Kaa tried the first set on the right, but was unable to unlock them. The left-hand doors proved easier to open. The chamber beyond the doors had once held four pillars, but one of them had fallen. It also held an extremely large cobra, which raised up and flared its hood at them. Its hood had been decorated with gold rings inserted through piercings along the edges, indicating that the snake was a pet or sentry. The Scarabs had no desire to antagonize the Anushet, so Sula ordered Nyema to stay outside while she stepped into the room and tried to persuade the cobra to let them alone. She was able to convince the emperor cobra that not only should it ignore the Scarabs, but it should also slither over to one side of the room so they could enter without getting too close to it.
The cobra watched them as they proceeded toward the next set of doors, but it made no move toward them. The next doors were neither locked nor trapped, and admitted them to a narrow curving hallway lined with many doors. These doors opened on small alcoves in which many bodies in various states of mummification had been stacked. A little farther down the hallway Kaa found a larger room that was lined with cushions and shelves of books, and emitted a strong odor of perfume that could only partly mask an underlying animal scent. But the room was not currently occupied.
Not far from the doors that had admitted them to the hallway was another set of doors, in the opposite wall from the mummy alcoves. Nyema alerted that she detected something on the other side of those doors, as she and Sula were standing right in front of them. Suddenly one of the doors flew open, revealing a large circular chamber containing two very large lions, and an angry human man. The man appeared to be wearing the armor of the city guard, but it fit him poorly. He began to insist that the Scarabs should leave immediately. Then one of the lions pounced at Nyema.
Uto immediately cast a spell, causing the man to slump to the floor in slumber. The lion’s attack had hurt Nyema badly, so Sula stepped in front of her companion and raised her spear. Kaa darted inside the circular chamber and maneuvered himself so that he could blast one lion from behind with fire. The lion turned to face its attacker. Uto had linked his own life force with those of his comrades and absorbed some of the injury done to them by the lions. Azzaria’s body began to appear blurred as she moved to attack the lion that Kaa had burned, while Igby and Sula faced the second lion. Within a few moments both lions had fallen to the Scarabs’ blows. Still reluctant to rouse the ire of the lamias, Sula used her magic to prevent both lions from breathing their last breath.
The room in which the Ruby Scarabs now found themselves was full of objects: books, cushions, tapestries, clockwork devices, trinkets and jewels. Uto went to check the man he had put to sleep and found that some strong enchantment lay upon him, likely placed there by one of the Anushet, as the Scarabs had been told that the lamias sometimes took paramours from among the male population of Wati. A moment later the man awoke and began shouting for his ‘beloved’ Hepsushep, but no one responded to his cries. Igby slapped him and told him to be quiet and tell the party where the lamias were.
At one side of the room was a semi-circular raised platform, separated by its own door. Kaa stepped up to this platform, and after politely knocking as he’d done at all of the other doors, he opened it. Inside he saw a dais covered with cushions, on which sat a lamia. She seemed unperturbed by the sudden intrusion. Uto stepped forward, addressing the lamia courteously and telling her that the Scarabs had no desire to offend her and pointing out that they had spared the lives of the lions and her paramour when attacked by them. She reacted with a friendly attitude, commenting that she was growing bored with Tarek, her current paramour, and indicating that she thought Uto might be a suitable replacement. Uto responded that he wasn’t opposed to that idea as long as the decision was his own to make and he could finish his mission to stop the rise of the undead first. When Hepsushep agreed to provide what information she could in exchange for a gift, the party members readily agreed to give her the bolt of Qadiran silk they had recently acquired.
As he was conversing with Hepsushep, Uto suddenly realized that the figure he addressed was an illusion. Inside the chamber where the illusion sat was an iron stair leading up to an enclosed balcony. He suspected the real Hepsushep was inside. He did not give away what he had discovered and continued speaking to the illusion as though he thought it real. Hepsushep told the Scarabs that she knew nothing about the masked figures the Darkfolk had seen, nor the Elegiac Compasses, though she showed interest when told the compasses were clockwork. Uto then offered to fully heal the two lions, but Hepsushep declined the offer. Azzaria spoke up, offering any aid the Ruby Scarabs could offer to the Anushet, after which Hepsushep told the group to take a tome on the history of Wati that she thought might be of use to them. She also mentioned that her sisters were out hunting, and the group unanimously decided that they did not need to wait to meet the other two lamias.
After the Scarabs took their leave of Hepsushep, they turned their steps in the direction of the last unexamined Elegiac Compass. According to the map they had been given, it stood near a shop that had once sold glassware, by the name of Shiny Baubles. They found the shop long since looted, broken bits of its wares scattered in the street outside. Kaa was distracted by trying to pick up some of the glass bits. While Kaa was busy, Uto glimpsed a cracked wall at about the spot where the compass was meant to be, and he magically levitated himself to get a better look. Through the crack in the wall he saw something that might be the compass. He also observed that while there were some buildings next to the glassware shop, behind it was an empty space.
The shop was still structurally sound enough that Azzaria could climb the ladder up to the roof and look down into the small walled enclosure. The rest of the group climbed up to join her. Inside the walled area stood the final Elegiac Compass, its mechanism stil intact but its power supply crystal missing. There was evidence that something else had been on the rooftop recently: they spotted tracks that looked like the tracks of a dragon, but they were no bigger than the prints of a large dog. It was possible they were the tracks of a drake, but as it was unlikely that a drake would have taken the crystal, Sula wondered if the track-maker might have been a juvenile dragon.
Looking down beyond the compass enclosure, the Scarabs saw that a sinkhole had opened up in the ground. They could see a bit of bright blue silk scattered with coins at the bottom. Curious what might lie at the bottom of the sinkhole and hopeful that they would find the missing crystal there, the group climbed down into the depression. Uto used his prehensile hair to lift Nyema down while he himself flew into the pit. At the bottom he saw what clearly appeared to be a dragon's hoard: jewelry, armor, weapons, potions, vials of perfume, coins, goblets and serving dishes of silver, and many other treasures. Suddenly a feminine voice exclaimed, "Who dares despoil my lair?" The Scarabs all turned to look and found themselves staring at a young dragon, its body covered in glittering crystalline scales.
Uto attempted to speak diplomatically to the dragon, but she was possessive of her hoard and hostile toward the uninvited visitors. As she and Uto were talking, Kaa noticed a large crystal almost entirely encased in copper wire and realized that it must be the power source for the compass. The dragon spied him looking at it, and hoping to improve her hoard, offered to sell the crystal in exchange for gems or jewels worth at least 800 gold pieces. As it happened, the Scarabs had come into possession of some gold and lapis jewelry and a matching necklace and earrings of gold and onyx which had a combined value close to what the dragon demanded. When they offered these to her, she seemed pleased to accept them in exchange for the power crystal. This trade improved her attitude toward the Scarabs enough that she told them her name, Shardizad, and even offered to sell them other items from her hoard if they would bring her more gems.
When the Ruby Scarabs climbed back up to the compass enclosure, they began the task of trying to reconnect the crystal to the compass mechanism. Because they were not familiar with the workings of the compasses, this took some time. Kaa was standing watch near the ladder on the shop roof as dusk fell, while Sula and Uto were working on attaching the crystal. Kaa heard something moving on the ladder below. Something was climbing up to the roof. As the figure rose high enough for him to see, Kaa was startled to recognize Velriana Hypaxis, leader of the Scorched Hand, for he knew she had died in the underground chamber beneath the temple of Nethys. She was clearly undead now.
Just as Velriana climbed up the ladder, Sula and Uto got the compass working. A light shone out from it, in the direction of the ancient sealed gate that once had led out of the Necropolis. But it was too dark to tell precisely what location the compass was pointing at. Then the undead Velriana let out a horrific shriek. Kaa cowered helplessly in response to her awful scream. The rest of the Scarabs managed to escape the worst effect of this shriek. Sula sent a sphere of flame to burn the undead woman, while Uto blessed everyone with the power of the gods. Azzaria recognized that Velriana had beecome a revenant, a particularly vicious type of undead that would not rest until it had exacted revenge for its own death.
It was Velriana's misfortune that she didn't know which of the Scarabs had actually dealt her the final blow in the temple. Now all of the Scarabs but Kaa swarmed on her, and after a moment he recovered his composure and joined them. Within a very short time Velriana Hypaxis had died a second, final death.
The Scarabs examined her body and were surprised to find that whle she was waiting for an opportunity to exact vengeance she must also have been looting the Necropolis. She wore a magic belt that could transform into almost any variety of slashing weapon, as well as six gold bracelets, a gold necklace set with smoky quartz, and a ruby diadem. Perhaps the diadem was meant to replace the showy hat she had worn in life, which Kaa had claimed after her death.
As it was fully dark by this time, the Scarabs decided to leave the Necropolis through the smugglers' tunnel and rest beyond its walls for the night. In the morning they would return and determine what building the compass pointed to.
Tome on the history of Wati
6 gold bracelets
gold and smoky topaz necklacegold and ruby diadem
Next: Part 12