Write up 9th February 2023 – Journey from Babilim – Part 3

The group left some of their number to get accommodation in the palace complex sorted (ie folk who could not make it) the others approach the gates carved into the large rock in the middle of an unkempt area of trees and woody shrubs to the east of the penninsula.

In front of the gates are two braziers, like the gates and much in the complex, is down at heels, but maintained enough not to be falling apart. The braziers have ash and unturned wood, left there long enough for some of the ash to have turned to paste with rain and dew, but the remnants still giving off aromatic scents.

Under Utana’s knowing scrutiny, Farshad checks the gates, wooden with strong, complexly embossed hinges. He determines that they are both unlocked and well enough maintained that there are traces of lubrication on the hinges, all of which Utana established with a critical but perceptive glance.

The group remembered what the local spirit told them about the spirits under the earth demanding respect, and so gathered such dry fuel from the woody shrubs as they can and, sprinkle herbs and spices donated by Fetnah so that, when set alight, they gave off a pleasing scent. This they hoped would be appreciated by the dwellers underground. (Note. It was. It made the attitude of the dwellers below a notch friendlier)

With the offering being made, they opened the doors, revealing a short hallway coated with the clay they had spotted lining the wells before steps descended. The stairs were a square cut spiral down that went down 6 flights, a little over 3 metres per flight. At the base of the every second flight, two of the walls held three alcoves, five of which were occupied by painted, life sized statues of warriors.

The first set of statues  encountered were examined closely, though not destructively. The statues were clad similarly, but with slight differences of decoration, making each individual. The fabric of the statue proved to be plaster. There was no sign of the empty alcove that it had ever had a statue. These findings were repeated on the next two sets of alcoves.

The base of the stairs led to a short corridor, thoroughly decorated with complex designs. Close examination revealed to Farshad that what appeared to be a complex and confusing story, was actually five stories of different monarchs with spaces in the interlinked narrative for a sixth.

This carried onto the next room, a wide chamber with a grand exit ahead, but three doors either side, three on the left decorated, two on the left decorated, one plain. Each decorated door had a pair of guardian statues flanking the door. The symbology they had seen on the statues was put into more context here, a progression could be seen from the first door on the left, along the left them over to the right, suggesting some sort of inheritance or transfer of power,

From the grand entrance came music and voices, though indistinct. Stealing forward, Farshad saw a shrine, of an ancient style, but clearly dedicated to The Cold Ones as it looked similar to other shrines he had seen in Bardij and other places. With that in mind he recognised that the music was drums, some indifferently played flutes and some slightly off singing. The flutes and singing suffered no doubt because the musicians were actually desiccated corpses, dried out husks of mummies.

Upon Farshad’s return to the group, they examined the first door on the left. It was painted as a door, but actually seemed to be functional. Utana’s gentle but insistence shove did nothing to open it, but it did indicate that the door could open. Further prodding and scrutiny looking for secret switches or locks revealed that decorative beading down the side concealed a simple bronze knocker, disguised by the paint that fitted it to the rest.

Using it led to the door being opened by another desiccated corpse, a very well spoken door warden, though their diction was affected by their lack of lips and whatever state the rest of their mouth was in. Over a very civilised conversation the group learned that the mistress of that household was Yuwannah, once Sharatum. From that house were those of her nephew the Sharrum Shisuthrus (that name especially mangled)  his cousin the Sharatum Harekah then to the other side, Harekah’s son the Sharrum Navaah and then his daughter the Sharatum Uchani, the last door is for the one to come.

Questioned about the connection, it was confirmed that these were monarchs of the local kingdom. Though the warden did not volunteer its name. These monarchs were bound by family bonds, though that did not stop them removing other family members who threatened their reigns.

Although the group could see past the warden to see, at the end of a hallway, other household members, as dedicated and decayed as the warden, peer back curiously at the group, the warden makes no move to let them in, but instead points towards and past the chamber with the musicians, indicating that there the monarchs held Council.

The group took their leave, and moved on. The music had changed from religious to more maudlin, homely music, but it was not much improved. Beyond the shrine, the chamber proved to be an incredibly decorated audience chamber in which well dressed mummies stood in knots of conversation in front of a dais upon which were 6 stools. As before, five were decorated, 1 plain.

An entranceway stood at either side of the dais, three guards at one, two at the other. The whispering, croaky conversations died down and all, err, places where eyes might have been once, turned to face the strangers.

Juan José addressed one, and explained that the land above would soon be busy and possibly disturbing, and they would like to discuss this with those that ruled these halls. The one they spoke to beetled off through a doorway, leaving the group to make extraordinarily awkward small talk as they waited.

In not too long a time, the messenger returned and beckoned them into the Council Chamber, a well lit by magic that shone through coloured glass lamps and panels in the ceiling giving an illusion of a sunlit chamber.

Juan José opened negotiations, explaining what was to occu above, to apologise for the disturbance. He asked what might the dwellers here desire and if they would care tp send observers. The Council deliberated and responded. They thanked the group for the invite, though foresaw problems that might arise should they attend, so they thanked them, but declined.

As to what they could do, offerings from each feast, each celebration held during the conference, a portion should be delivered to the gates to the tomb, some burned as offerings, some left intact.

The group agreed, and received cups from the court as a gift, before they left. They climbed the stairs, and two realisations for Utana. Once, that the statues they had seen were not just statues, they were the right size for a mummified warrior coated in plaster, remaining in place perhaps for centuries. The other was that the complex extended from the rock towards the palace, his sense of direction made that clear.

The group ascended the steps out of the tomb, towards the accommodation prepared for them, and there we left it.

I wasn’t sure how this would go. I wasn’t sure what the players would do, it might have gone all dungeony, but it was all very social, explore and discussion. I enjoyed it, I hope the players did.

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