For two days, Loli, Mirik, Raddak, Yaseino and Moon follow the path north along the river, then veer off towards the lush forests of the Serpent Hills. On the third day, they find an ancient shrine consisting of an obelisk surrounded by huge upright snake fangs, but when Moon stealths up to inspect it, she also sees humanoid skeletons artistically arranged in a circle around the central stone. However, as she can’t read any of the symbols that are carved into the obelisk, and because Raddak senses no magic from the shrine, they decide that it’s probably best left alone.
By the time the sun starts to set, the adventurers have entered the forest and are looking for an area to set up the Tiny Hut for the night. As the sunlight that has been filtering through the leaves begins to fade, Mirik communes with the trees to ask if it would be safe for them to stay and, when they don’t indicate any danger, Loli sits down to begin her ritual for creating the hut. While they are waiting, Raddak casts Commune to speak with his goddess, Aasterinian.
“Do the snake people have the white dragon mask?” he whispers quietly, before getting the distinct impression that the answer is ‘no’.
The Kobold continues.
“Do the snake people know where the mask is?”
“Does Varram the White know where the mask is?”
‘No’ again. Raddak frowns as the spell ends, pondering the answers he’s received.
Despite the reassurance of the trees, the friends set up a watch rota for the night just to be sure. It’s made a bit easier because the Tiny Hut appears transparent from the inside, so watches can be completed without leaving the safety of the magical dome. Raddak goes first. Although he doesn’t see anything, he’s sure he can hear a strange creaking noise and when he sends Ziggy out to have a look, the cat is destroyed by a large branch that whooshes across the path where he is walking. The Kobold swears revenge and hands over to Loli, who then passes the watch onto Mirik two hours later. Neither of them experiences anything unusual, but when Yaseino wakes to start his watch all hell breaks loose.
As an ascetic, the monk doesn’t sleep inside the hut with his friends, but beside it. Sitting up to gather himself for his duty, he’s surprised when a huge branch swipes down towards him, narrowly missing his head. He jumps up and tries to get into the Tiny Hut but, as he wasn’t inside when it was conjured, he cannot pass through the magical field and instead just bounces off it. Out of options, Yaseino runs screaming from the area, in the hope that his actions will draw the creature away from his friends.
By the time Moon has leapt from her bed and skidded out of the hut, Yaseino is long gone. She runs as fast as she can in the direction she believes she last heard his voice, but she’s attacked by a huge tree being and only manages to dodge out of the way at the last second. Raddak wakes too.
“We’re under attack!” he yells, watching as Loli and Mirik pull on their clothes and race after Moon. By the time he catches up to them, the friends have regrouped and are all looking around wildly as they try to spot their attackers.
A branch swipes down and strikes Yaseino, giving Moon the chance to leap at the tree and slash its bark with her daggers. They’re horrified to see that there are more of these tree creatures, six in all, but their numbers are reduced to five when one makes the mistake of attacking Loli and suffering her Hellish Rebuke.
Spells flash, fists fly and weapons glint in the moonlight as the adventurers fight for their lives against the enormous Awakened Trees. As they do so, they learn that flame spells seem to do the most damage, so Raddak sticks to casting Burning Hands and Mirik conjures a Flaming Sphere that she directs towards the closest of their enemies. Yaseino stuns a couple of the creatures so they have no defence against the fire and thus, working together, they manage to reduce all six of their attackers to burning twigs and splintered fragments of wood.
Loli conjures the hut again and, this time, Yaseino joins them inside. It may or may not have something to do with the fact that Moon is furious with him for putting them all in danger.
The adventurers rise with the sun the next day to continue their walk through the forest, and after a few hours the trees give way to a huge, ruined plaza with the remains of an ancient fountain in the centre. Behind this are two stone statues, twenty feet high, and behind them is a forty-foot high edifice carved into the cliff side, dominated by columns bearing reliefs of strange, otherworldly scenes. The friends gaze up in awe at this marvel of artistry and engineering, then make their way across to the statues.
The left is a male wearing exotic clothes, but his face is smashed beyond recognition. In his right hand he holds a balance, while his left hand is raised as if in warning.
The right is also a male in exotic clothing. The left side of his head has completely cracked off and lays at his feet, and his left hand holds a shepherd’s crook. His right hand is raised in warning as well, mirroring his companion.
Moon, ever the fearless one, dismisses Gotham to keep him safe, then steps between the two colossuses. She hears the grinding of stone against stone and looks up to see the two heads both simultaneously turn towards her.
“Halt,” two voices boom in unison. “You come before Diderius, ether walker and conduit of clairvoyance. Behold ye now his wondrous triumphs. Diderius extends wisdom, and Diderius offers knowledge. Which do you seek?”
Knowing that she’s not so wise, Moon answers that she seeks knowledge, and the voices of the statues boom again.
“Diderius shall grant you what you seek, but only if you heed him and continue to show proper respect!”
The rogue bows self-consciously and the heads of the statues return to their original positions, allowing her to pass. She waves to the others.
Each of them goes through the same ritual, choosing either knowledge or wisdom, and soon all the friends are standing safely at the bottom of a ladder that leans up against the edifice, allowing them to climb the ten feet to the entrance of the tomb. Moon stealths up first, but it seems safe so the others join her.
At the top is a stone door which looks as if it has been forced.
“Do you think that the Dwarf has passed this way?” says Mirik, scrutinising the damage done to the stonework.
Raddak cocks his head.
“This seems to be the most prominent structure here, so maybe?” he replies. “We should probably open this and see what’s inside.”
“I will go first,” says Yaseino, stepping towards the door and pulling it open. “Captain Larustah told me that I should use my spiritually for the benefit of us all, so I would be happy to lead the way into the tomb.”
The monk peers into the darkness before taking a step into the hallway beyond. As his eyes adjust to the dim light, he sees six hooded statues, three on either side of the corridor that he’s standing in, and another door at the far end. He takes one more step forward, and a sudden thought enters his head as if it was his own, but in another’s voice.
“Some secrets are not meant for mortal minds to know,” it says. “Look away from the darkness in which such knowledge hides.”
Yaseino lowers his head, averting his eyes from the covered faces of the hooded figures, and he only looks up again when he reaches the door at the far end. This one is old, but it does not show any signs of being forced so the monk pushes it open.
“Are you safe?”
He hears the voice of Raddak in his head and knows that he can reply to the Kobold’s message.
“Yes. Come through, but do not look at the faces of the statues. Just keep looking at the floor until you reach the door.”
Loli, Mirik and Moon follow, along with Raddak once he’s mended the damaged door a little bit.
Meanwhile, Yaseino is exploring the room beyond the corridor. Although dark, he can see that the beautiful mosaic floor depicts a sun and, a little further away from him, a knight in plate armour wielding a glowing sword against a chimera. As he walks further in though, the chimera rises out of the mosaic and turns, almost disappearing as it becomes almost two-dimensional. The monk shouts out. Moon and Loli rush inside and stand on the circular sun mosaic, but the chimera cares not. It spins around and attacks them with its fire breath, then with its claws.
“What the ‘eck is that?” yells Loli, as Raddak runs into the room and waves his hands to bless everyone.
“Not sure!” calls back Mirik, who shoots a magic arrow at it and then watches Yaseino punch it numerous times. Each time he lands one of his fists, there’s a strange cracking noise and a spray of mosaic tiles.
Getting far enough into the room to see the knight with the glowing sword, Moon shouts that maybe the suggestion is that light would counter the chimera, but Raddak misunderstands and instead fires a Word of Radiance spell at the knight himself. Nothing happens. The chimera spins around and attacks Moon who gives it a whack with her dagger in retaliation, then Mirik hits it with another magic arrow, making the most of Raddak’s blessing. Yaseino launches himself towards the strange mosaic creature, a whirlwind of boxing paws and feet that connect with its fragile body, distracting it just long enough for Loli to finish it off with a casting of Toll of the Dead. It explodes into a burst of tiny mosaic tiles that shower down onto the floor until the last one lands with a ‘plink’. The room is as silent as a tomb again.
The adventurers now have the chance to explore properly. On the north wall is a door on which someone has written the word ‘SAFE’ in chalk. On the east wall is a set of double doors that are made of eroded copper, decorated with the image of a man raising his hands over a pool of water, and appear to bulge unnervingly into the room. The last exit from the room is a tunnel that leads south.
Utilising her Ghostly Gaze, Loli peers through the eastern doors but can’t see anything at all. It’s as if the room beyond is full of something. She doesn’t have a lot of luck looking through the door in the north, either; the small room contains a well surrounded by bright red mushrooms, and it’s all the gnome can do to stop herself from retching repeatedly.
Meanwhile, Moon is creeping stealthily down the southern tunnel. She gets about halfway when there’s a grinding sound from behind her and all her friends cry out in shock: the sun mosaic has slid to one side and tilted to reveal a seven-foot sphere made of stone and bones, which begins to roll speedily towards the tunnel. It strikes the four adventurers on the way, snagging their clothes and dragging them along with it, then crashes into Moon who also shrieks in surprise. Luckily, they all manage to escape it before it shatters against the wall of the room at the end of the tunnel, scattering shards of bone and rock across the floor.
They emerge into this new room, rubbing their scrapes and bruises. It smells faintly of incense and the walls are adorned with six ornate tapestries, but again, they each hear the same voice in their heads as they heard when entering the tomb.
“Humility proffered in the manner of Mystril opens the way to those seeking knowledge.”
Raddak has heard of Mystril and knows that the gesture of humility is a lowered head and a hand raised as if holding a lamp, but when he tries it in front of the tapestries, there’s no discernible changes.
At the same time, Mirik is investigating the two exits from the room. She hears nothing from behind a set of double doors to the east, but behind a door to the south she’s disturbed to hear a woman sobbing.
Tired and in need of a rest and healing, though, the friends decide that this is as good a place as any to put up the Tiny Hut and get some sleep before they try to help anyone. Just before turning in, Raddak pulls out his incense and herbs, builds a small fire and casts Find Familiar to conjure Ziggy again, this time as a Tressym. The cat looks at his wings in slight confusion, but the Kobold is already lighting the last of his incense and preparing to make an offering to his goddess, casting Divination.
“Where is the white dragon mask?” he asks, his eyes closed in concentration.
There’s a pause before he receives an answer.
“The white dragon mask is near the well,” comes the whispered reply.