Chapter 60: No End in Sight
Reader: The following takes place during the long search of Kadar Ravaning. As I previously noted, my account hits only the highlights, to avoid boring you with a page full of statements like "and then we turned east and saw a long hallway with five doors". I apologize for any confusion or disappointment that may result.
Deliver - Fire - Wash
To bury a king requires
Calling fire's magic
~ Miyara Miwa
As we stood before the door leading to the octagonal room with the thrones and something that looked like a sarcophagus in it, Res Li looked at everything closely. To our disappointment, he reported that the big stone that looks like a sarcophagus wasn't: it was a solid piece of stone. There was also a significant trap between us and that room, and he warned us not to wander over that way.
The things we found in the other room were almost certainly brought here by the expedition. Hosei opined that it was meant for rituals. Like for dealing with this octagonal room.
Kyosuke and I figured that the trap might protect a red herring: anyone without Res Li's ability to see inside of things and see their true nature would assume the sarcophagus was real, and not merely a solid block.
Res Li said the trap was a plate in the floor; if anyone walked over it, it sealed the door and released spores of some sort. He couldn't describe them well enough to Ravena for her to determine what they were. Nevertheless, it did not sound promising after all.
We decided to follow the spiral staircase instead. Kyosuke wished to test it himself, but I vetoed that: Res Li can see what is up there long before Kyosuke could, plus Res Li can see traps and hidden things that Kyosuke cannot. Of course, I neglected to recall that they cannot speak with one another, as Res Li had not learned to speak Nipponese. Apparently they made do with gestures and nods. Since they came back unscathed I supposed it worked well enough. Still, that was careless of me.
It was a very long way up, though, so I sent Kyosuke and Res Li up together to scout it. That way, the entire group didn't have to tire themselves out going nowhere.
When they returned, they reported to us what they found. Ravena carefully drew what they described on her map.
The stairs go up about 250-300 feet up, with no traps. There were no other exits until the top, which was at the same level with the secondary exit that we left 8 faeries guarding against Menduri. Res Li saw a new room off to the side, but near that exit. He saw no way to it from what we have so far seen.
At the other end of the room at the top of the stairs was another doorway. No traps, and it opened into a large room, about 15 x 25 feet with broken and crushed furniture. The walls were once carved with pictures, but have been severely defaced by orcs. The door would be a secret from the other side.
There were more doors, rooms, and passages, and they decided to return to us instead of continuing on by themselves. On the way down, though, Res Li noticed something: he found a hidden alcove with a parchment that he brought down to us.
It's a map with faerie words. Without even having the White Faerie read them to us, we recognized some of the map as where we were standing.
It showed a section with secret doors and several rooms that Res Li has not seen here. Ravena carefully inspected the map, and she and Res Li discussed it.
She said, "It doesn't line up with anything else I've mapped. Res Li says as far as he can tell, this place doesn't exist. The parchment doesn't look recent. It looks like maybe someone was leaving directions for someone else. But they're wrong."
The White Faerie read the words that described the places on the map. Several places near stairs said "up". Another bit said "up from lower levels". Some marks indicated secret doors. Res Li could see the whole area from this level all the way up, and there was nothing that matched the map. It was just blank rock. There was a note that said "93 steps", marking the spiral stair they went up. There was also nothing significant about step 93.
On my suggestion, I escorted Hosei into the hallway and he tried to see if there was something magical there, that might explain why we're not seeing what was on the map. He looked all along the walls, but found nothing magical. The map itself was also not magical, he said.
We gave it up: this found map must be wrong.
We all went up the stairs. The guards who had been there the first time we were mapping the tunnels for Sunrimu were all gone now: fighting Menduri and his forces. A trap blocked our way, and Res Li could see no way to defuse it, nor a way around it. Meanwhile, Ravena studied her map and said she thought there was a path that we hadn't explored on the level with the lake. We followed her directions there instead. We avoided the simple path that probably would have led us too near the battle, and instead wound our way up and down and through many passages and rooms.
Eventually, we reached yet another octagonal room. There were hooks all around the walls, and 9 of them hold more of those robes. They were well-made, expensive, modern copies of old robes. Beside each robe stood a wooden staff leaning against the wall. The staves were obviously antique and not new, and all were carved with runes. Hosei said none of them were magical, but all had that religious aura.
The runes were matched by runes above the pegs they were next to. The White Faerie said the runes don't mean anything. They're words, but there's no context to tell what they really mean. Someone who knows what they're supposed to mean would know what they mean. There are lots of empty hooks, each with its own rune.
There 20 hooks, 20 staves, 9 robes.
In a seeming dead end, Res Li, prodded by Kyosuke, found an alcove that was hidden by magic, which Hosei immediately realized when called to help. Hosei asked his patron Varena to remove the illusion, trying to invoke his goddess. A small section of the wall crumbled to dust. Knowledge is a powerful thing. Hosei reverently took some of the dust.
Inside was a scrollcase and several scrolls outside the case. The first one we touched crumbled to dust. Res Li looked inside the remaining rolled-up parchments and said he could see the writing, but couldn't read the faerie script. They were far too hard to transcribe, so we had to simply hope they were unimportant.
The scrollcase, however, was in good shape. We carefully opened it and looked inside. There was one parchment only. The seal seemed to have held, and it was solid. Hosei tested for magic before we went any further. The crumbling scrolls were not magical. The scroll inside the case was magical (the case was not). In getting the scroll case, the other parchments all crumbled, unfortunately.
Hosei looked at the scroll and said it was not written in Imperial, nor Elvish. It looked sort of roughly faerie. The White Faerie said he might be able to figure it out, but he can't just read it. It's ancient and archaic and will take puzzling out.
I asked him how long it might take him, and he figured hours rather than minutes. Hosei looked at the shape of the writing: it looked like it was written in verses. Hosei asks the WHite Faerie to decipher just the last verse.
We all rested and snacked a little while he puzzled over it for about 20 minutes. Then he said it's something like:
deliver fire wash king
He said it meant deliver in the sense of bring or call, and wash meant cleanse or destroy or burn.
We decided to wait while he looked at the rest of the scroll. He worked backwards, and once he got the hang of it, it went quickly. It sounded like a ritual to summon a fire elemental as part of a burial ceremony. It seemed to be part of a bigger ritual that wasn't detailed here.