Silently, we returned to area where the queen found us to continue her search and ours. The first room was empty, although the faces were carved with baroque dwarven faces. Goldrim and the queen both recognized them, of course: the dwarven gods. Some were in bad shape, destroyed both by vandalism and time; some five others were untouched. At Miara's request, José inspected the room and reported there was nothing overtly magical in here, but that those of us who carried the three Crystals appeared as magical creatures to him. Not a happy thought.

Prestley said that the tongue of one of the heads was some sort of trap, but seemed to have been destroyed. It was supposed to do something in the next room, which he then looked into and described for us. The exit door opened into a stairway that lead into yet another octagonal room. In some way he couldn't quite figure, that room was linked to the metal tab in the first room.

Assured there were no traps to spring, we continued on into the next room, which was also empty and had similar carvings. Prestley reported that one of the walls was a fake one: it was actually door. Searching, he still couldn't see where the lever attached. It seems like it ended somewhere in the dirt between, which he said was very odd. José sang and danced, and then reported that the mouths of the carvings were magical.

We wondered if pushing the tab made something horrible come out of the mouths. Miara asked Goldrim, or rather the queen inside him, if we should push the lever. He/she nodded, then explained. This was the king's bedchamber, and it was trapped -- the lever disarmed the trap. Bark, from the back of the room, called, "I'll go push the lever!" and did so, thus ensuring we did not die horrible deaths.

José informed us that the mouths were still magical, and Miara asked the queen if it were safe to enter the room. He noded, and she stepped through the door into the king's bedchamber first. Nothing happened, and we followed her.

In contrast to the throne room, the king's bedchamber felt like a good room. Very cozy. No furniture, no bloody stains, no bones, no shrieking ghosts (besides the one we already had). There is no other exit besides the secret wall-door.

Miara immediately asked Prestley what was on the other side of the secret wall-door. He looked carefully and reported: Stairs back up, and the door wasn't trapped. The opening mechanism was easy; he stuck a finger into a deteriorated carving's eye, and the wall opened for us.

This time, Kyuskay went through first. The two cousins seem to compete for the privilege of heading into dangerous places.

At the top was a short east-west hallway. The west branch ended in a door that Prestley said opened into another octagonal room and was not trapped. The east branch ended in stairs back down again, which then ended in a wall. Prestley said that wall was actually another door into a square room, also not trapped. It was not secret from that side, only this.

The octagonal room appeared to have "been orced", Preatley said. Broken furniture and a huge pile of charred debris led him to that conclusion. Miara asked Goldrim/the queen what that room was: the vault.

We entered it, of course. If orcs were there, there was at least a small chance that the queen's remains were there, too. The door was heavy: the orcs had simply used the key to unlock it rather than try to break it down. They had left it unlocked.

With hope, Kyuskay dug through the debris, Prestley looked into and through it, and José tried to discover if there were anything magical. José saw nothing magical, and Prestley saw nothing if interest either. Kyuskay, however, picked out a piece of paper from the pile of crap, which he gave to Miara, who then showed it to me: another hand-drawn map, with dwarven runes on it. Then she showed it to Goldrim and the queen. The map matched where we'd already been: the back exit we entered through. Goldrim read teh runes, and the labels confirmed the names of the rooms that I recognized. So, a truthful map, but not particularly helpful. It wasn't as nicely drawn as the rather extensive map I had by then.

There was another door out of here, which Prestley said was ordinary. It was not trapped, locked, or even closed. More stairs down. Prestley said it went down too far to see the end of it.

The room contained a small amount of furniture: a table, two chairs. Nothing else. No markings on the wall. There was another exit, doorless, which was a hallway leading south. We entered and Miara asked José if there was magic in there. None, he reported, and she asked the queen what this room was: the Counting Room. There was a trapdoor in the ceiling.

Prestley said the hall went south about 20 feet, and then there was a pressure plate in the floor that dropped two portcullises to seal off the passageway. The disarming mechanism was in the trapdoor, so Bark stood on the table and boosted Prestley up to do so.

We followed the hall, which turned west after 30 feet or so, and then came to another door. Prestley saud the hall continued on the other side, turning into a north-south hall agin. Stairs down were to the north, and stairs up to the south.

We went up and to the south, at least for a short but until it turned back to the east. We continued through some more twisting halls and doors, and finally reached a room that opened via a hidden door into a natural cavern with a ladder down and two staircases. Miara asked the queen, who said the two staircases lead to the back and to the front of the main audience chamber. I could guess that the long stairs from the vault went towards the main entrance, which we did not want to visit at the time. The queen had no idea where the ladder went.

Prestley looked down, looking for traps and what was at the end. No traps, he reported, and at the bottom was a small room, a hallway, no traps, no orcs, and a few insects. Kyuskay led the way down.

At the end of the hallway was the non-secret side of a hidden door. Prestley said there was nothing difficult about opening it, and there was some sort of guard's room on the other side. A recent bedroll, but no dwarves, and one door out to the north. Once inside, Kyuskay searched the bedroll, which contained nothing of interest to us.

Not thinking, Kyuskau simply opened the other door, before Prestley could even look at it. Miara's sharp, "Don't open it yet!" was too late. On the other side was a stiletto holding a piece of paper in the door. Goldrim read it:

Fifth day of occupation. From exp leader to military leader... From Kranneg.

It contained a list of traps they'd found so far. Nothing surprising to us, of course.

It was a circular room with three other entrances. One into a room, one up (to the previous level -- the front entrance to the audience chamber), and one down. Goldrim told us the stairs down went somehwere the queen didn't know: maybe guards' quarters or something like that. I said it led in the direction of that part of the hold we were avoiding.

Miara, giving Kyuskay a rather pointed look, clearly stated our current operating procedures in both Old Worlder and Nipponese. First Prestley carefully checks out what's on the other side and looks for traps and things. If warranted, José looks for magic. Then we open the door.

Apparently Kyuskay didn't like the lecture: he stalked to the door with a room on the other side and flung it widely open. Luckily, nothing happened.

He stepped into the mostly empty room. There were three stone thrones at the west end, at least 15 feet high. All around were signs of long-gone hangings, curtains, tapsetries. All was carved and scratched with ocrish grafitti. The middle throne was slightly larger than the other two. Even through the crude grafitti, it was a fancy thone. We asked the queen why there were two side thrones, and José asked if there were two queens. The questions elicited a "don't be stupid" look from both the queen and Goldrim. The lieutenants sat there, we were told. It's interesting how we can tell whether it's Goldrim or the queen lookin at us and talking to us. Some indescribable difference in attitude or facial expressions.

Miara quietly asked Kyuskay to please don't do that again. He merely stared back at her, neither agreeing nor refusing. She sighed and we continued our way. I imagine she's worried, as am I, about the traps we've been warned about, that could collapse the entire place. Even if that's false, we've seen plenty of traps that would have killed some or all of us had we tripped them carelessly.

Kyuskay is young and impetuous. I think he tires of Miara's caution. But then, he isn't the one we follow. She is. I wonder what this minor sign of revolt will lead to.

At any rate, the room contained many bedrolls and neat piles of the personal belongings of dwarven guards. Nothing else of interest to us. No maps, no other notes, no dwarves, and no bones. Also, no magic and nothing secret. There was a side door that went up (the back stairs from above) and a tunnel to an overlook over the burial chamber (the lake!).

We followed the long and curvy passage to the ledge. Just before we get to ite, there was a pile of rocks that seemed to be there to no purpose. José reported no magic about them, and Prestley said they were just rocks, not hiding anything else. The pile was a partial barrier, about 4 fee tall, across the passage, but was easily gotten over. Prestley said there was no trap, and we climbed over and looked over the lake.

The ledge was a rough 15x10 area with no railing that overlooked the lake about 20 feet down. Prestley said the water was only about 2 feet deep. It was obvious that it wasn't intended as a lake: it was just a large chamnber that somehow collected water. The floor was a bit uneven. Considering what crystal is supposed to be here, I can guess why there's water down there.

There was a large throne sitting on a plinth rising out of the water almost undernesth us. We saw two other overlooks on our level and down at the water level were three obvious exits/entrances.

José said, "Everything down there is magic, but especially the throne. And including the area we were in. He backed up until he was out of the area, which was roughly the back of the cavern. On his return a few minutes later, he told us we were in a field of magic.

Prestley looked under the water. There was the ground, and some rocks that had probably fallen from the ceiling. It was a natural cavern with a somewhat cracked floor. He said there was nothing within the throne or the plinth. José asked the queen why it was magic and what it was for. He got another "stupidest person I've met" look, and she did not deign to answer him. Then Goldrim gave an odd look and left.

Prestley carefully inspected the room below at Miara's request, and said besides the obvious exits, there were numerous hidden ones as well.

We returned to the previous level, and I carefully looked at my ever-growing map of this place. I figured which steps went to the other overlooks, and which one went to the lake. Miara said to go straight to the lake. Kyuskay and Prestley led the way, carefully, followed by Miara and Goldrim. The rest of us were in the middle, and Bark was read guard.

Before getting anywhere, Prestley said the stairs were very seriously trapped. If tripped, a portcullis would drop, trapping us in place, and then the stairs would cave in. He disarmed the trap with no difficulty, and we walked down the stairs. At the bottom, he re-armed the trap.

Indeed, a few more steps, and we emerged at the lage, as I thought we would. At last! And without re-enacting any ancient, poorly-understood dwarven religious/magical rituals. On the other hand, Goldrim was still possessed by the dead queen, so weird rituals were not entirely ruled out.

At the edge of the lake, it was clear that someone -- probably our busy "host" dwarves -- have been gathering stones from within the water and placing them on the "beach" here, and studying the stones. José looked for magic again, but said the stones themselves were not magical. Scattered around were some tools and couple of pieces of paper for note taking. José picked up one with numbers and names:

3:2:1:1 Hargrim
6:4:12:26 Yala
4:3:8:31 Kadum
5:2:7:70 Jrenka
1:1:9:73 Fenni

The stones have been picked at, but there were no markings. There was nothing inside the stones, Prestley said. I looked at the way they were arranged, but it seemed to mean nothing.

Ravenna, A Monk of the Biancan Order

Part the First:
Blood and Mud

Part the Second:
Murder and Mayhem

Part the Third:
Puzzles and Crystals

Part the Fourth:
Dwarves and Rocks

Part the Fifth:
Diplomacy and Daggers

Part the Sixth:
Crystal and Chaos

Part the Seventh:
Sheer Insanity

~ The End ~