The group considered the steep, dark, descent under the statue, situated as it was in the room of screaming faces and considered what might be below.
And so they turned around, and had another look at the corridor of deadly pits/ Farshad, a rope tied to him, maneuvered the ledges and, with only a minor slip, prevented by Utana, he flipped to the end. With the rope tied taut to the doors at the other side the others were able to negotiate the way.
The room revealed was strange. A hemispherical room with a mosaic floor. Lit by a golden disc in the centre, over which hovered a golden key, a partner to the silver key recently found in the city model room. Around the golden disk is a series of concentric circles, each of which had a disk of its own.
The domed roof shows a night sky, though Utana’s nights of navigating by the stars showed that their positions were slightly off, as if from a long time ago.
Arpaesis saw this as a kind of map of the wanderers around the Sun, and thought to cross to the place corresponding to the world. In fact, as he examined the design, the wanderers seemed to slightly move, with no visible mechanism or moving parts. As soon as he crossed the outmost ring a strange creature appeared over the outermost disk, a flying serpentine creature, claws at the end of the bat like wings, the end of the tail like a knife, screaming at Arpaesis, the force of the focussed shout numbing him.
Utana loosed an arrow, wounding it. Farshad rushed to the rescue, crossing the line, and causing another flying monstrosity to appear. Arpaesis cast “Bar the Way”, keeping the beasts away from him, though Utana, Farshad and Jalabu entered the fray. Jalabu and Farshad soon found the creatures launching themselves at thems, claws rending at them, causing wounds and clamping to them.
Utana blithely stabbed at the creature wrapped around Farshad, luckily managing not to skewer his friend and ally, useful as Farshad was having some difficulty wrestling with a creature larger than he is, but, as Jalabu easily slew his odd creature, Farshad rallied and dispatched his foe, only to have it wrenched off his body by his best friend in the world, Jalabu.
Jalabu mulled over events, and started to walk, nor across the concentric rings, but from disk to disk. This seemed to be safe, as no other flying monstrosities, or anything else appeared. He crossed to the centre and took the golden key. The room dimmed, a little, and outside there was a noise, as the pits sealed with lids, making the way back safer.
There was nothing to do now but go down the dark, narrow, steep stairs under the statue. They emerge on a broad avenue in a city, lit from above by a pale, diffuse green light. To all intents and purposes, although with an unfamiliar architecture, they are in a recognisable city, except that the inhabitants going through their daily routine are not living, but ambulatory dedicated corpses. The look around, the city is walled, the soldiers there are not dedicated corpses but constructs as built by the grandfather of Rasghan Ilyhan Gharsemi.
Arpaesis, concerned that they could retreat, saw that where they had come was both simultaneously the gates to the city, and also the narrow passage back upstairs.
The group looked around and saw that the layout of the city seemed to fit the model they had looted upstairs. Being cautious, they went to the side streets and alleys, the better to hide from the soldiers on the walls though none of the inhabitant seemed to react to the group or even notice them.
In time they were forced by the wall of the Palace/Temple complex to come again to the main avenue to the palace, a colonnaded way that led to a raised pool surrounded on three sides by buildings,temple on the left, palace ahead and treasury and store room ahead.
(Being short of time, I created the floor plans for this with very simple sketching on a graphics package. Crude as anything, but better than nothing)
The square had better preserved and more richly dressed animate corpses, many bearing staves topped with five headed dragons, symbols presumably of rank.
The pool was decorated with reliefs of a five headed dragon and other, somehow disquieting, symbols. Looking in the pool revealed dark water through which glinted objects that exuded a pale, painful bright light, similar to that seen before at the stone circle and surrounding the impossibly huge gate to the mound. Utana listlessly prodded it with an arrow, the water didn’t dissolve the arrow, it touched the bottom, but still no one felt like reaching for any of them.
From there the group looked around for there to go next, and decided to go through the portico of the building that corresponded to the palace part of the model upstairs.
The portico opens into a large chamber, focused on a throne under a domed roof. The empty throne, which appears to be carved from a meteorite, has a back that rises up in the form of the five necks and head of a five headed dragon is surrounded by more living dead, richly dressed, but waiting and focussed on the throne. Elsewhere there are knots of scribes working together, and other courtiers mingling.
The group looked around and saw that the walls were a mural telling a story. From the left of the portico it showed a warrior who rose to become a king, codifier of laws, conqueror and student of the stars and observer of a comet.
A being depicted as a woman with the five dragon heads that have become familiar as a decorative theme came down from the comet, and the king kneeled to her, receiving a tablet from her hands.
With this tablet, the armies of the king defeated his enemies, his soldiers succumbing to the symptoms of the Freen Death, but his enemies stricken with the disease. Later the soldiers seem dead but yet still animated, until they were replaced with the familiar constructs. In the last sequence, the king succumbs to the Green Death whilst under the light of the returned comet. With the tablet, and led by the women with five dragon heads, he and his undead servants, descended under the mound to the new tomb-city.
Unlike in the main part of the city, the courtiers here seem vaguely aware of the group, but they did not seem interested in actively interacting with them.
Arpaesis walked forward to examine the throne and dome. He felt that the throne was made from a meteor, with glints of pure iron here and there. The dome is gold and the base is bordered with intricate designs, but the main decoration is a depiction of the night sky, with a comet streaming across it
The group considered the room, and decided not to engage here further, and to explore the Temple, heading through a side door. It turns out not to be a direct entrance to the Temple, but instead a passageway with two doors before reading the end.
Considering the options, the group opened the topmost door, finding a room with six couches arrayed around a relief map of these lands. The map itself was lit by six lamps, fitted with reflectors that guide a green light over it.
Five of the couches are plain, one is more ornate, but all have corpses lying on the them. The corpse on the ornate couch turned its head and staring at the group
And there we left it.