Previously in the Green Lotus, the Nemedians had met Petruso, a Zamoran thief and an expert in Stygian tombs. As Yunet had thoroughly seduced Dionysos, however much the young nobleman refused to acknowledge it, she had no trouble in persuading him to retrieve an item of interest to her, a jewel-encrusted mummified serpent, from the tomb of a high-ranking Stygian priest, with Petruso acting as the guide. Having been persuaded by the prospects of keeping any other treasures they might come across, the adventurers, less Barathus and Tyrus, set off back towards Tortoise Island, where Petruso was waiting for them with a small boat. For his own sinister purposes, Dionysos had purchased two mute slaves.
From a ruined keep between the Fangs of Set near the port, on a islet known as the Claw of Ishiti, the men sneaked down a hidden staircase that led to an ancient network of tunnels beneath Khemi. In passing, Petruso mentioned legends that the tunnels were older by far than Stygia, and were a part of an enormous maze of hidden underground passages that connected the secret places of the World. As the party moved in silence in the lightless depths, they witnessed from their hiding place a procession of priests, wearing carved masks of their bestial gods, moving in the opposite direction. After another similiar encounter, Alcemides, whether motivated by greed, curiosity or savage bloodlust, set upon the priests, and after a brief fight the Stygians were forever silenced. Hiding the corpses in an alcove, the tomb robbers continued their journey without further complications, with Alcemides proudly wearing his new Ape-mask, proclaiming it to be the countenance of Gullah, the Pictish gorilla-god.
Emerging near the burial grounds, with the great black pyramids looming menacingly in the moonlight, Petruso and the three Nemedians parted ways, with the Zamoran promising to meet the adventurers near the entrance to their point of egress. Darting from the shadow of one mausoleum to the next, the party halted as they heard the approach of a patrol of Stygian infantry. Though Dionysos failed to find adequate cover for his long frame, the soldiers were unwilling to investigate, no doubt fearful of tales of the restless dead and worse prowling the necropolis.
As the tomb of the priest had already been broken into previously, entry would not be a problem as such. At the door, Dionysos promptly sacrificed the two slaves, so that their life-energy would fuel his necromancy. He raised one of the corpses to act as a mine-canary of sorts, hoping that its shambling might set off any traps the previous thieves had not stumbled in or disabled. The robbers then walked down, after the shuffling corpse, mute even in death.
Inside the tomb, the party found the remains of one of the previous robbers, who had met a mysterious and gory death and had his mangled corpse set inside one of the sarcophagi. After exploring the tomb, finding many wondrous and terrible things befitting the final resting place of an accomplished sorcerer, Alcemides discovered a shaft, hidden behind a wall, leading downwards into a small chamber where the mummified serpent lay. Not satisfied by the trinkets they had recovered so far, and confident that the actual treasure chamber was yet to be discovered, Dionysos and Noam set about looking for it, while Alcemides explored the hidden tunnel. While the nomad and the nobleman struggled with false treasure chambers and their deadly traps and otherwordly guardians, Alcemides found an exit in the nest of enormous scorpions that opened into the necropolis beyond. At the lowest level, he also discovered an enormous Son of Set, resting upon a bed of countless bones. Only a well-aimed pouch of Black Lotus managed to confuse the great serpent long enough for the adventurers to make their escape into the breaking dawn. The party had failed to locate the primary treasure chamber, if there ever was one, but had at least lived to tell the tale.
Back in Khemi, the whole city was preparing for a great festival in honour of the lioness-headed goddess Bast. Hearing that blood-sports in her honour would be had, Alcemides became animated, wishing to test his mettle against great predatory cats. Even after witnessing the gory spectacle of lions mauling and butchering their human prey, the half-pict was undeterred, and proceeded to challenge one of the beasts with naught save his bare hands. At first, the uneven match proceeded as one might presume, with Alcemides inches away from a bloody end, but improbably, he was able to slay the lion, thrusting his fist down the bewildered animal’s throat, crushing the beast’s vitals. The horribly wounded Alcemides was tended to by the finest of Stygian physicians, so that he too, along with his companions, could spend the rest of the night in orgiastic revelry. A closed country though Stygia might be, the tale of this fantastic deed would precede Alcemides whereever he would set foot from now on.
Watching Alcemides get mauled by the cats was unnerving. Many a time I discreetly set my evil eye upon the beasts, sparing his skin a lot of torture. Naturally the ungrateful brute refused to acknowledge my aid, just blathering about how “those tricks of yours are but skin deep”. I expected no less, but as remote as it may seem to the pict, someday he’ll overestimate his might again, and I won’t be there to help.
So typical of those decandent scholars. They live in fear of beasts – and other men – and try to feel better by claiming other people’s conquests and spreading more fear.
I’ve seen the cheap tricks of conjurers, and some real sorceries too, and all I can say they’re cowards. Always trying some archaic and arcane deceit instead of confronting and conquering their opposition. My way is the way of Gullah, who lives on the moon. Their way is the way of serpents, sniveling and crawling through their miserable lives, full of alchemies and useless books.
Cut the snake’s head and rise, fools.
Also, the lion truly was an opponent worthy of a feast.