The Hammer of the Great Chariot Maker
Part 2: Beyond The Standing Stones
The crew headed back to the ship. Berun was still insisting on appropriating the fireball spell but the rest still ignored his advice. First they flew to collect the treasure they had buried in the north and then they headed out to where Gul’s vision was leading them. Eventually, after flying over a green carpet of jungle for many hours, they came upon more hilly terrain. In the distance two columns of smoke rose, just as the dream had shown.
"Make for the northerly one and land some distance away so we can approach on foot” ordered Gul.
Gol, the pilot, made a smooth approach and landing and the crew debarked. Leaving Gol to guard the ship they headed for the volcano. After some searching they found a way in and started down a tunnel. Soon they felt the temperature rising and they could see a red glow reflected on the rock wall. The passage led them to a cavern and as they approached the entrance they could hear the sound of metal hitting against metal. Emerging fully into the cavern they saw three salamanders at a forge, one of whom was beating a hammer against an anvil, fashioning a sword. One of the salamanders stepped forward. Gul and Brun, who were at the front of the party, were immediately scorched. The salamander retreated a few yards.
"My sorries, no mean to hurt. What we can do for you?”
Gul held out the gorgonite. "We would like this forged into a sword. A vision led us to your workshop.”
"Vision, yes. We do this, you get something for us?” the salamander said.
"Of course. What would you have us do?”
"You know of standing stones to north.”
"Go there and speak ‘Egyptus’. Pass through stones and find Hammer of Great Chariot Maker. Bring us here. You do this, we make sword, good?”
"We will do as you ask. We shall return for the sword, farewell.”
With that the party returned to the ship, eager to start on the quest. They arrived at the standing stones and the ever watchful construct stirred slightly but settled when Brun held up the trident. The party stepped between the twin pillars as Brun intoned "Egyptus” in a commanding voice. A bright, hot sun greeted them on the other side and a burning desert lay before them.
"This is not The Island” one of them said redundantly.
"Which way now, captain?” asked Gorlab.
"We will head east” replied Gul.
He strode off confidently and after a day’s hiking they settled down wearily to camp. As they watched the sun set they became aware that only one moon was rising where usually there were two.
"We shall have to guard our manna like misers.” said Zaen ominously as he realised they were in another world. The rest exchanged worried glances. The next morning they continued east, their confidence ebbing away with every step, despite Gul’s was constant words of encouragement. "Just over the next dune, boys!” After several ‘next dunes’ even Gul was beginning to have doubts. By some miracle they found themselves back at the standing stones. The crew looked at their captain and shook their heads. Gul was suitably chastened.
"What shall we do now? We can’t keep on wandering aimlessly and trusting to luck.” said Berun.
"We shall seek guidance from The Masked Lord.” Brun took out his ‘Commune’ scroll and spoke with Vhaeraun.
"The place you seek lies west of here.” The god revealed.
"Well I was nearly right.” Gul muttered as they trudged west. The others laughed mockingly but quietened as the captain glared at them. They soon came to a pyramid but their way was blocked by a sphinx. The beast spoke.
"Tell me a riddle. If I cannot answer it I will give you clues for your quest. Tease my intellect if you can.”
The travellers consulted together and eventually Gul stepped forward.
"Here is a riddle, what is it that walks on four legs, then on two and then on three?
The sphinx thought for a while. "I know this, it is man is it not? He walks on all fours as a babe, on two legs as an adult and uses a stick when he is old so he walks on three legs.”
Gul was disappointed. The sphinx spoke again.
"As that was a brave try I shall let you pass. It is one of my favourites and I enjoyed sparring with you. A few words to send you on your way: Firstly here is the door to enter the pyramid, it is wizard locked. Secondly, beware the guardians for they are immune to the powers of holy men. Lastly, watch for the Curse of Tehru.” The sphinx withdrew and the party stood before the tomb entrance.
Gul spoke the incantation to open the wizard lock and the stone block slid aside allowing the adventurers to enter. They moved carefully down the passage but had not gone very far when they discovered a pit trap. They assessed the situation and decided they could jump across. Zaen was the first to try and he cleared the pit without any trouble. Gul was next but he missed his footing, just managing to catch the edge of the pit with his fingertips before he fell onto the spikes below. Zaen helped to pull him onto safe ground. The others followed without mishap and they continued down the corridor. The entered a large burial chamber. At the far end they could see a sarcophagus and in one corner a chest. They smiled at each other. Treasure! As they contemplated the riches that might be on offer they were astounded to hear a block of stone descending to bar the passage behind them. They were trapped for the time being.
Suddenly a strong wind blew through the chamber, blowing all their lanterns and torches out. They stood in the darkness, not knowing what was going to happen. Then a banging could be heard. It was coming from the walls, all around them the sound of something trying to break out. The noise got louder, the bricks began to crack and mortar rained down on the floor. Brun managed to relight a lantern in time to see eight mummies emerge. A battle began. Brun tried to turn them away. Alas the sphinx’s warning turned out to be true and they would not succumb. The mummies were slow but hard to defeat and as they landed a hit they gave the target a disease. All were infected. It became clear that only magical weapons could harm these undead freaks. Gorlab, who only had his magic, was at a disadvantage. He found himself in a corner where all he could do was defend himself. At last some tactical manoeuvering gave him space and he unleashed his magic, helping to defeat te mummies. Ax, the barbarian, was mortally wounded. Despite Brun’s best efforts he could not save the brave human. After a hard fight the mummies were subdued and the party rested and recovered form their wounds. They resigned themselves to a long incarceration, but at least they had the treasure to keep them occupied. They opened the chest and to their delight found gems and other valuable items.
They also explored their temporary burial chamber. Gul found a secret door behind the sarcophagus which revealed a flight of winding, narrow stairs leading to a sealed door. He left it closed and returned to his comrades. An investigation of the mummies' bodies was also undertaken. On one,a dwarf, they found the object of their quest, The Hammer, and on a cleric was a snake belt. As the hours and days of their imprisonment passed slowly by, Gul became increasingly obsessed by the sealed door. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. Finally he could stand it no longer and he raced up the stairs, smashed the door down and broke the seals. A rush of foul air engulfed him and he felt clumsy and ham-fisted. He gazed at the site in front of him. There stood a huge Ibis statue. "It must be worth a fortune”, he thought to himself. He shouted to his comrades.
"Come and see this, we must take it.”
The others appeared and Brun said: "Captain, you have invoked the Curse of Tehru.”
"Cursed again, Gul.” said Berun, "Well done! That’s all we need, a cursed captain. That’s the third time. Don’t you ever learn?”
"Someone has to do it”, Gul replied, "and I always get out of it, don’t I?”
"You might not be so lucky next time.” Gorlab responded.
"How do we get it out of here?” Gul asked.
Zaen thought for a minute and replied "There are stout poles holding up that pit trap, we could use one of those.”
They went to the trap and pulled out one of the poles and tied the statue to it. They then took it back down to the chamber where the sarcophagus lay.
"We must try and get out” said Gul, rather obviously.
Then Berun became curious about the sarcophagus. He began to push the lid but was unable to move it. Gul lent a hand and slowly the large stone slab shifted. To their horror a black swarm poured out of the sarcophagus. Both Berun and Gul were bitten and, as more and more of the creatures emerged, the party tried to make their escape.
"Scarab beetles” cried Berun.
Brun poured oil in the beetles’ path and set it alight. The angry swarm swept around the edges of the firewall. As they retreated into the passage Brun again attempted to create a firewall but again the beetles avoided it by climbing the walls.
"I told you we should’ve got those fireball spells” shouted Berun.
"Lightning bolts will do just as well” Gul replied and projected an electric charge at the black mass. The insects were immediately incinerated and he and Berun fired several more bolts at the black tide. At last all the beetles were dead, but the party were still trapped.
Zaen spoke. "This might just be an illusion” he said, looking at the stone blocking the passage. Gul tried a ‘Knock’ spell and lo and behold the way was clear. Relieved, the party made there way out of the pyramid. Eventually they got back to the standing stones and returned to the Island and their own world. To their dismay the ship was nowhere to be seen.
"You never gave Gol orders to stay here did you” said Berun to Gul "We need a new captain, you’re useless.” Gul kept a dignified silence but his face was grim. As the tension reached breaking point they saw the ship approaching.
"I went to our volcano for safety and returned here each day to await your return” said Gol.
The ship took off and they returned to Tanaroa.