As we approached the Temple, I looked for traps, but didn’t see anything, so we stepped across red sign circle onto the white flagstones, and started the cart up the Path of the Dead ramp. The doorway looked like it had once been very large and impressive, but was just an open hole.
There was a large-ish circular indoor courtyard inside, with a hitching fence to one side, and a space that had probably been a garden in the center, with a statue of a woman with her head bowed. The courtyard was illuminated by a faint blue glow.
There was a door ahead and to the right with a dock in front of it for a casket. It was stuck, but we got it open, and saw a wide, simple hallway extending into the gloom. About ½ way down it looked like there was an open area, and another door about 60 feet ahead.
Everyone else started shimmying the cart up onto the dock area, and I headed down the hallway to scout it out. There was an open area partway down, which turned out to be a well-appointed waiting room, in really, really good shape. I mean, there was some decay, but not nearly as much as everything else, especially given rotted front door. Also, no dust. There was a carafe on the table, with steam rising out of it, and a plate of spicy appetizers. Interestingly, the number of plates and cups exactly matched the number of living people in our party.
Looking more closely at the furniture, I realized that it had been actively maintained in good shape – pieces of furniture had been cannibalized to make “new” looking pieces. And then I saw a door hidden, a servant’s door, over on one wall. It had your standard small device with the bell on it that rings when the door opens. I figured it would be boorish to intrude, so I let it be.
And then… the food changed when I was thinking about bacon. Byron had come up by that point to join me, and you know Byron, he ate it without hesitation. It seemed to do him no harm, and it smelled delicious so I tried a bit — it was actually really good. When Byron started thinking about bacon-wrapped scallops, I saw a small dumbwaiter window open beyond him, and a plate of hot ones floated out and came to rest on the table behind Byron.
Well… good servants aren’t supposed to be seen. That’s a damn good servant.
By this point the rest of them had managed to wrestle the cart up to the hallway. Raisa didn’t think it really made sense, given that priests of Calleich are known for making really bad sandwiches. Jake wished for turkey legs with gravy, and in a few seconds, a plate of them floated out. Raisa wished for meat on a stick, which took about 2 minutes — it wasn’t quite right like our own lost and lamented unidentified-meat-on-a-stick-guy’s meat, but it was better than most wannabe vendors can do.
After stuffing our faces full of delicious (safe, but non-nutritive, said Lady C) food, we eventually we remembered that there was a door at the end of the hall. It was about 8 feet wide, and showed signs of having been forced open from this side with a crowbar. We opened the door to find an oval shaped room, bowl-like, with a large raised area in the center featuring a large block of white granite, with another door on the far side. It looked to be a place for funerals, with the body of the departed on the granite slab in the middle. The room was filled with benches, which were suffering from rot – intact, and in better condition than wood in rest of city, but still decomposing.
Immediately in front of door was a small pile of … metal? bits and pieces… heavily rusted… armor? There were no apparent traps to have killed someone there. The door was rigged to close slowly and quietly, but that makes sense, given the purpose of the room. The metal closer to the door was more rusted than the bits further away from door. All of the other decay and rust in the room was equivalent, so this pile was unusual. Bastian said the metal closer to us looked 10 years more corroded than metal closer to the center of the room. After more investigation we figured that it was a suit of armor – a child, or a hafling, dwarf, or gnome. It had been well-made at one point, according to Bastian.
Cinnamon started toward the center of the room toward the door on the far side, and one step in froze, caught in time bubble. Suddenly what happened to the little guy in the armor became clear – the armor bits inside the bubble had aged more slowly. The odds of making it across the room in time to do any good with the seal seemed vanishingly small, so we had to get Cinnamon back. I tied a lariat with a bit of rope, and tried to catch her. It took 4 tries, but then the loop settled slowly – creepily – down around her shoulders. It took about 20 minutes to get her out. The rope disintegrated, and Cinnamon found herself suddenly hungry, although she didn’t remember any time passing.
We realized we couldn’t get any further on the Path of the Dead, so we loaded up on bacon from the invisible servitor, and went to try the path of the Seeker.
Inclined to gorge myself on bacon, I was a gentleman and let Cinnamon and Chip eat first. I packed up some sandwiches to take with us – Lady C said they’d probably only last a matter of hours, but hey, they were tasty in the meantime.
We headed back outside the hallway. It took awhile to get the cart back down from the ledge in the courtyard, and then we wrestled the cart back up to the path of the Seeker. This path had a stone door. I looked, but didn’t see any traps.
Raisa opened the door, since she had the Gaze.
Inside, there was a room full of rubble, heavily rotted wood, stone… table tops? So much rubble that it was hard to tell what the room was supposed to be. There was a wood and iron door across the way, so we cleared a path for the cart, and were just barely able to squeeze the cart through.
On the other side of the door was… a mess. It had once clearly been grand and beautiful, but… now it was destroyed. Carved columns were either completely destroyed or heavily defaced. The ceiling mural looked like it had once been brightly colored, but now was mostly scorched. There was a dais in the center of the room, and several steps lead to a raised door area in the far wall. The door in the far wall had been blasted by something – there was a jagged gaping hole in the wall instead of a door. Obviously there had been a fight in the room – Byron kept on talking about what kind of powerful magics could do the things we were seeing. The door/hole had parts that looked smooth-bored, some looked percussively punched out, and other parts looked exploded, scorched, and jagged.
The columns appeared to be damaged in similar styles as ways the wall. The damage seemed to be too concentrated on columns to be random. They had scrollwork which depicted gravestones and Calleich’s face, each column basically the same. The area between 3 and 5 feet high on each column damaged. Most of the ones still intact were closest to the first door, furthest from the hole. Byron said it looked like powerful magic – force punch, disintegrate. He didn’t think they wanted to collapse the column, could have disintegrated the top and bottom and pushed the middle out. We didn’t linger to puzzle on the columns much longer.
Through the hole we could see a simple room on the other side. There were three archways, although they were hard to focus on. There was lots of blood on the floor, and a blood trail on the floor to a corner where there was a large pool of dried blood – Raisa said it was maybe a week old. There were bootprints of blood going to all three arches, but all of us started getting headaches trying to focus when we tried to figure what order they’d gone in. Once we entered the room, it grew less unfocused. It was very plain, really, no interesting features except the arches. And the blood trail, of course. It seemed like something humanoid had bled heavily in the corner, then stood and walked through all of the arches with others. There were more than three sets of two different sizes of footprints – at least 10 folks, said Byron. Some were burly, some were smaller-framed, but not tiny.
When we were closer, we could see that the blood trail had gone into the left-hand (red) archway first.
The opening of the left hand archway glowed faintly deep red, and there was a sound like a drumbeat or a very slow heartbeat.
The middle archway was lit evenly with a soft silvery blue light – the same color as vault wards, we realized.
The archway to the right was bright golden color that flickerd like a candle out of the corner of the eye. There was a faint scent of incense.
We realized that the three arches were like the three pieces of the seal – the one drawn in Raisa’s blood, the original piece, and the gold divination light that we’d used to find it at the Builder’s The seal had been separated out with methods that meshed with the nature of the seal — but C didn’t think we should try to separate it out again, given how difficult it was to put it back together the pieces we’d had..
[[ In recap, the Builder built a version to study it – he’d given it up because he had what he needed from it – and said he had left his mark on the city and the world. ]]
It seemed like the center blue gate was the most logical place for the seal’s rightful place to be, so we tried that one first. It started out normal, about 10 feet wide, then got rougher and more natural as we progressed, more winding, like a cavern that had been partially worked. The floors were smooth, but the walls were not.
We came around a corner, and found ourselves almost face-to-face with what looked like a little girl, about 10 years old, dressed in formal clothing, ready for morning tea. She had stringy black hair, and her irisies were completely black, deeper than they should have been, almost like pits. She was holding a stick in one hand, and waved it at us threateningly, telling us to get back.
We tried talking with her, but she said she didn’t want us to be nice.
Byron said we wanted to return something, and she replied that she hadn’t lost anything.
Raisa played jacks with her.
Then the little girl got the idea that we’d stolen the seal, and started beating on Byron with her stick. Around then we saw that the area behind her had a hopscotch court and a fuckload of blood, with at least two bodies. None of that seemed to concern her.
I gave her a ham sandwich — she didn’t want the crusts, so I broke them off for her.
She said she’d let us pass if we swore on Mr Bunny:
“I swear hereby on Mr Bunny that we did not steal the seal.
I swear hereby on Mr Bunny that we’re trying to return it to its rightful place.
And terrible pain if we’re lying.
She told us she didn’t usually play there, but had come there “because it was broken – the whole place.”
She told us to watch out for the fast runners – they’d tried to shoot her with stuff. It sounded like she’d been playing hopscotch, some people ran past her really quickly, and she’d gotten two of them. One looked to be bludgeoned to death, and the other’s chest cavity was exploded. The bodies were less than a day old.
She said “If you see the liar, tell him he’s a poopyhead.” – apparently the Builder?
We asked her name, and she said “I don’t have a name, don’t be silly.”
She glared at most of us, but never at Raisa – maybe because she held the Gaze… or maybe because she was the closest thing to her aspect.
The floor transitioned to street cobblestones… in a cave… A short ways thereafter, we began to hear an argument between two women and a man. I started to sneak up to hear a bit more of what they were saying, but I didn’t get far before the man’s voice said “what was that?” There was a woosh, the smell of sulfur, and the sound of something clangy heading in my direction. I scuttled backwards. The clangs came about halfway to where I was, paused in a long silence, then turned and clanged back.
Two minutes later, the conversation started up again, but too far away to hear. Byron said the scent of sulfur was conjuration from another plane – like summoning an… interdimensional suit of armor…?
We discussed the little girl, then. Callech is too far removed by her nature to be able to interact with the world logically, so goes by vagueness and emotion. She can’t have avatars because of that, so just has limited servants – essentially avatars of specific aspects of her. Byron said that the little girl wasn’t a guardian, because she wasn’t doing a great job of guarding – which meant that she was acting outside of her domain.
Gaze – a reference to Calleich’s work with the watchers – looking into the unknown and preparing for something.
Raisa went back and had tea with the little girl, and somehow convinced “Mr Bunny” to come on a daring adventure with us. The girl came along with her bunny, telling us that “Mr Bunny is a bad influence.” Lady C was definitely avoidant of little girl.
Raisa and the girl went hopping down the hall, and we followed them.