Miara and Kyuskay broke their argument, turning away from each other, and Miara gathered us all together to sum up our situation. We have two possible tunnels, both of which had some sort of magic about them. We were surrounded by magic in the lake room. We have been warned, truthfully or not we didn't know, that there's at least one trap that could collapse the entire dwarven complex. We have the temple, with its own mysterious magic, and ancient dwarven scrolls that hinted, incompletely and not well understood, at a ritual that may or may not disarm the important trap. Goldrim confirmed again that the queen would not help us decipher the scrolls.

We were well and truly stuck. We needed to find the queen's bones to get her out of Goldrim and out of our way. Yet, we had been just about everywhere and no bones were anywhere.

As indecision froze us, the ground beneath our feet shook, just a a little, like a mild earthquake. That couldn't be good. Had we already tripped a trap, unknown, that would collapse after a certain amount of time?

As if spurred into desperation, Miara suggested two ideas. Go to the level just below us, which we went through quickly, escorted by the dwarves, and hadn't really searched yet. Against that, the rooms seemed to be mostly workrooms and probably didn't hold what we sought.

Her second idea returned to the argument she'd had with Kyuskay. The rest of us all leave the cave system, to safety. She (and I saw Kyuskay give her a dark look) trips the trap. After an agreed amount of time, if everything doesn't collapse, we return to the lake and continue. To my surprise, and hers, Sun said he would stay with her.

Kyuskay, of course, liked the second plan, but only if he were the one to stay and go through the tunnel. Miara said he could not, because he must return home. She said she couldn't sacrifice himself in such a perhaps pointless manner.

Goldrim said that in another place, a trap that would destroy the whole complex would be unlikely. But this is a special place, re-dedicated to be Hargrim's tomb, and so it very well could be that there's a spell that if we violate Hargrim's tomb, it would bring the whole place down.

I thought to myself, the holder of the Stone of Stone might be able to get through a collapsed cave in safely. But would the queen let him walk into the tomb? Probably not. Kyuskay tired of the indecision and began to walk into the tunnel. Goldrim let out the girliest shriek I'd ever heard, and Kyuskay stopped.

Goldrim said in his normal voice, "We've had a vision. Short and sweet, and it involved all of us being crushed under a mountain of, well, a mountain. This mountain. The rest of you are crushed. We are all buried.

So that was the big trap.

He explained, not just diving into the tunnel, but what we would do after. But yes, whatever we would do after entering the tunnel would not merely trigger not a trap, but would cause the entire mountain to fall.

Goldrim's stance changed ever so slightly, and he said to Miara, in a queenly voice, "I want you to do the burial ritual. Right now."

Miara replied, "Without your body?"


"You will have to help us.

"Yes, I will do it, but I need your help."

"Then let's do it now." Suddenly Miara looked alive again.

The queen said we must enter the temple from the other side, not from here. I knew the best way to get there.

As we walked there, Goldrim said, in his voice, "I think she wants to get buried. Her way." Miara nodded shortly. I suppose he meant that she didn't want to be buried by a mountain. Maybe it wouldn't count.

Once in the room with the robes, Goldrim and the queen looked over the scrolls. "I've never done this, thought I've seen it done", she said. "I don't know all the details. So it's very possible that I may do something wrong and things will go awry. So speak up if you have better ideas."

She suggested we each put on a robe and carry the associated staff. She didn't think we needed to really know "our" runes. The robes fit Goldrim just fine, but the rest of us looked a trifle ridiculous. On me and Carmella, the robes were about knee-length and very large. On the other hand, Prestley had to hike his up to keep from tripping on it, and he could have wrapped it around himself at least four times.

We looked into the room with the large rock, with silver-leaf-inlaid runes on its side. The queen said we must think pure thoughts. The runes were arcane dwarven, but the queen could read them. The stone was worn down by many hands rubbing it.

She says she needed to lie on the stone. The rest of us were to walk around the stone reverently. The priests she remembered chanted stuff she didn't know. She hoped if we each chant something appropriate, it will be enough. We speak the runes afterward. Goldrim lay down on the stone and closed his/her eyes.

One after another, Miara leading, we marched around the stone. Kyuskay and Miara spoke something in Nipponese I couldn't understand, although it sounded rather poetic. I said the burial rights for Biancan followers. Everyone else said whatever they thought best. As we finished the first circuit, I suddenly wondered how many times we were supposed to go around. No one had said. Interrupting the ritual to ask the pretend corpse did not seem like a good idea. Miara led us around again, and again. Eight times, touching the stone. Then we stopped.

Then Goldrim got up and read the runes. "OK, José, I need you to stand over there. See that shape?" She pointed to something that looked somehow different from the other runes. Maybe it wasn't a rune at all. "Don't touch now, but when I point at you, touch it." He nodded.

"Kyuskay", the queen within Goldrim continued, "you do the same for this one." Miara translated it for him. "Miara, you do the same here."

The three of them were spaced roughly equally around the stone. As we watched, I saw that the runes wound around and connected those three marks. The queen started at Miara's position, reading the runes reverantly around to José's position, and she pointed at him. He touched the mark, and she continued to Kyuskay, and then finsihed at Miara.

The silver inlay flickered a bit, I thought. That was all. Goldrim stood there a moment, and I wondered if the queen expected more, too. And what they might mean. "OK, I think it's done."

Miara asked if that happened last time she saw the ritual, and the queen answered she didn't remember the flickering. Kyuskay figured it was because we needed extra cleansing from a dwarven god's persepctive. Sounded good to me.

We continued on. Prestley again disarmed the trap, and we descended to the temple.

It was 20 feet tall; the walls and ceiling were painted black. Tapestries, and orc skeletons underneath the northern ones on the floor. Mores molds. I could write a monograph on the molds in this place. The tapestries had similar designs as the robes we wore.

We looked at the familiar 3-step stone dais, its top 2 feet over the floor. The stone block, about 8 feet by 5 feet by 3 feet, was carved with more arcane runes and mysterious symbols. Some gold leaf inlay left. Hideous stone figures all around. Two stone thrones facing away from each other. The north one was fancy, the south one plain. There were the remains of foolish orcs and wooden furnishings. It appeared there was some sort of fire or explosion damage. Miara muttered, "They didn't do it right." There were nine tapestries hanging, and three on floor.

Miara asked the queen, "What now?"

"Well, if we have properly done the cleansing, we will enter the room, someone will volunteer to play the dead person, and we will do the ritual. If we have not properly done the cleansing ritual, we will enter the room and die."

Miara asked if we actually have to bury the person playing the corpse,. The queen replied that no harm should come to that person, but it may be frightening, and she couldn't guarantee that something bad wouldn't happen. Miara and Kyuskay argued a little again, the same argument as before, Miara won quickly.

She told Kyuskay to be sure the statue got home if something did happen to her. Then she asked the queen for instructions. First, we were to enter the room.

We stepped in as one.

I heard a chorus of whispers racing around the rooom, as if spirits were alerted to our presence and were discussing us in hushed tones. After a moment, the whiserping sounds faded away, and we were left in a quiet temple.

The queen told Miara to sit in the northern throne. She did so, and then slumped a bit, as thought she were dead. It was a little creepy, since she kept her eyes open to observe what happened. The queen placed herself next to the large block and directed the rest of us to array ourselves around the room. As we positioned ourselves, she directed all of us, "Whatever happens, don't fight it." That sounded ominous. Was Miara's life in danger after all? Or perhaps her sanity?

Miara gave a quick nod of agreement, as did we all, and then translated the directive to Kyuskay, probably the most likely of us all to "do something". Then she returned to pretending to be dead. The queen began to read from one of the scrolls. With her first words, the four stone gargoyles at each corner creaked into life and surrounded Miara on the northern throne. None of us moved.

The gargoyles took hold of Miara firmly, but not violently, and laid her carefully on the block, with her head facing south. Then they returned to the corners and stood still, waiting. So far, so good.

I glanced at José and saw his lips moving. I guessed he was trying to remember everything the queen said. She moved onto the second scroll. That was one Goldrim had translated pieces of, and it involved large amounts of fire. This was where trouble might start, I thought, and I was not disappointed.

The biggest fire elemental I've ever seen, and by now I've seen a few, flamed into existnace right top of the stone, entirely engulfing Miara. The rest of us did nothing, as directed. I jumped a little, but restrained myself from going to help her. The queen certainly had her own agenda; did she lie to us to furhter her own ends? Was she sacrificing Miara? It sure looked like it. Yet, Miara made no sound when the fire surrounded her, and as I watched, she did not move. Nor did she burn within within the flames. As I relaxed, I remembered the dwarves didn't burn their dead anyway: they buried whole bodies. They also appear to view fire as a purifying element, so I guessed it made sense that an illusory flame would appear to purify the dead king. I guessed.

At any rate, all seemed to go smoothly as the queen finished reading the scroll. Then I saw Goldrim, with the queen's expression, stare at the scroll in surprise. Then she/he looked up in horror at the fire elemental, who began to move towards Goldrim/the queen. She started to back away and dropped the scrolls in fear. The elemental moved towards her menacingly. I heard Kyuskay say, in Nipponese of course, "You said not to fight it."

Then Goldrim said in his voice, "Ashe, stop it! Use the stone and stop it!"

Things were getting out of hand. Ashe apparently did something, and the fire stopped its movement. I admired Miara, who continued to lay unmoving on the block of stone despite everything. Goldrim asked Ashe if he had control of the elemental, and Ashe nodded yes. "Then tell it to continue the ritual!" The fire elemental moved back over to Miara, and the queen took over and picked up the scrolls again.

As the elemental again engulfed Miara, she let out a small scream of pain, but again was not burning, so I again did not move. And the elemental shrank into itself until it disappeared.

A few minutes later, the queen began reading the third scroll. The gargoyles picked up Miara again, and reverantly placed her on the other throne, the south one that was plain. They took up guard positions around that chair. Miara continued to pretend to be dead, although I could see her watching the proceedings. She appeared to unharmed.

For a very long time, what seemed like hours but was probably only 15 minutes or so, nothing moved. Then at last, the large double doors swung open, all by themselves.

The statues lifted Miara up again and carried her up the stairs to the lake, out into the lake, and they deposited her in the throne in the middle of the lake. Again, they took up guard positions around the throne. The queen followed out the room, and we all followed her.

The queen stood directly in front of Miara and looked at her. Her lips moved, but I couldn't tell what she said. Then Goldrim took over his body again, although he did not move.

All was quiet a moment, then Goldrim said, "She's gone." The gargoyles remained, and still Miara did not move. I began to wonder how long a king's body had to sit on the throne. Days? Surely not.

José said, "You know, we're all still wearing the robes. Maybe if we take them off, the gargoyles will go away, figuring the ritual is over." Miara made no sign, sitting utterly still and looking straight ahead. It seemed like a good idea to try, so we returned to the room they were kept in and hung them back up. We began to follow José back down to the temple, and Kyuskay suggested we go around the long way, and not through the temple. José agreed, as did we all.

By the time we got back to the lake, the gargoyles were gone, but Miara was still sitting on the throne waiting for us. We told her it was done, and nothing happened when she stood up and got off the throne. I looked at her, and she seemed unhurt.

Miara said when the queen stood in front of her, she had whispered to Miara not to resist, and then she exited Goldrim's body and entered hers. She said it felt very odd for a few moments, and then things settled down. She heard the queen whisper in her mind, as though she were talking to herself, "Thank you". Miara said she thought a "You're welcome" at the queen, and the the queen was gone. So apparently she didn't need her actual body for a proper burial after all.

The question was, did that also take care of trap on Hargrim's tomb, or was the queen simply making sure she was well and truly buried before we brought the whole mountain down on top of us?

We returned to the hole Goldrim had made, José looked to see if the magic had changed in any way. Sadly, it had not. But, he said, some bit of reasonably powerful magic was no longer there. So perhaps the ritual had helped us as well. At any rate, Miara apparently felt it was worth the risk, and she crawled through the hole before anyone else could. Of course, Kyuskay folloed immediately on her heels. We heard no rumblings, and the rest of us followed through the hole.

Once on the other side, a piece of lightning crashed down the hallway and smashed into Miara. She staggered, but still stood. A bit deflected in to me, as well, leaving me feeling icy and hot and tingly. The entranceway was blasted wide open behind us.

The hall looked awfully long, and I asked Kyuskay to let me through to touch Miara. He did so, and I immediately realized Miara was hurt far more than she appeared. I think the elemental did harm her in some way, although not visibly. I gave her back as much as I could and still remain on my feet. The effort exhausted me, but we needed Miara on her feet. There was no telling what more we were going to run into.

My healing took only a second, and we quickly re-arranged ourselves back into marching order: Kyuskay insisted on leading the way and Miara let him. He was followed closely by Prestley and José looking for traps of any kind. THen Goldrim, Miara, me, Caramela, Sun, and finally Bark and Ashe as rear guard.

Miara reminded Kyuskay to stop if Prestley stopped, and he nodded agreement. We followed the tunnel reached stairs down. Prestley said they went down about 20 feet, then the passage continued another 30 or so feet to a door.

Onward, and at the bottom of the stairs, another bolt of lightning crashed down the tunnel and hits Kyuskay, Prestley, Miara, me, and Ashe. Kyuskay paused to give first aid to himself, and I took care of everyone else. From behind me, Sun said, "It may be timed, and we should probably hurry." He was right, but Ashe keeled over before we could even start to move. Goldrim picked him up, and we continued down the hall at a faster pace.

We reached the door large stone door, which was carved with a roaring lion's head. Prestley said it was neither locked nor trapped conventionally, and José believed this this was the source of the devastating lightning. Kyuskay opened it and looked in.

Another octagonal room. Again, multiple bodies on biers: one against six of the walls. Oppsoite our entrance was an opening into another room, which contained a single bier. Miara voiced the thought we al had: "Ah, Hargrim and his warrior companions."

José said there was magic on each bierbut he didn't think they were traps. Just magic. Prestley also saw no traps. Kyuskay and Miara bowed respectfully to the dead.

All the bodies were dwarven, wearing armor. They were all richly dressed and the arms and armor still gleamed. The bodies were ancient and dried, not rotten. THey had been here a very long time. The single body in the middle of the next, square room was also well-armored and dressed. They all wore the neck band of royalty, Goldrim, said. The single body also wore an iron crown. I took a quick peek at the Crystal of Air. Still bright, but not brighter. I wasn't sure it could get any brigher, really.

Kyuskay moved into the next room, and we followed. None of us saw the rock, nor a glow that hinted at its presence. The crown was simply an iron crown, without the Pearl of the Lake we expected. Prestley said there was nothing within the bier, or anywhere else for that matter. Goldrim read the names on all the biers, and none of them were familiar. Finally, the king's bier bore the name Hrada rather then Hargrim. Goldrim didn't remember that name.

So an ancient well-honored king, perhaps, but not the one we sought. Kyuskay apologized politely to the corpses we distrubed, and backed out of the room. Miara suggested we leave quickly, trying to exit the tunnel before another blast of lightning hit us. Sun muttered worriedly, "If that's the traps on the one we're not looking for..."

Kyuskay led us, and Miara took the rear. I've just realized how often she places herself between danger and the rest of us. She closed the door behind her, and we make it out without further attacks.

We paused in the lake for healing. Those of us who had been hit by the lightning were badly hurt. Healing the damage took only a second, but many minutes in between gathering my strength again.

Only one remains. Surely we will find what we seek there. If not, what then?

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 ~