I came instantly alert, rolling to my feet when the sobbing began. My hands burned with the force I used to grip my gouge. I wheeled, looking for the enemy in our ranks – but I was too late.
There was Reza, lying limply on the floor unconscious. Abudari rolled slowly back and forth, perilously near to falling off the table at each turn. He clutched his belly and moaned as Azar tried to ease the pain. Hawadaa whimpered and mumbled between her terrible sobs. She clutched her spoon and plate and looked up at me pleadingly, tears streaming down her face.
The situation had grown desperate. I had only one solution to offer, and it truly grieved me that I must treat my bosom friend to this bitter fare. I knelt beside Hawada and gently brushed her hair back from her face. “Eat more,” I whispered. “You’ll feel better after you puke.”
When we left the poor unfortunates who had dared eat Hawada’s “Pyramid Pan-Fry”, they were on their way to recovery. They all looked green – except Abudari, who was an exceptionally handsome chartreuse flushed with blue. I felt it a shame that we could not keep him that color, which reminded me of my study. He would have looked good there against the golden background, among my collection of Sivanah’s holy symbols and mirrors. If he reverted to his normal, bland colors, I could possibly cover him with some of the more attractive veils.
We left in search of a medic hidden within the depths of the pyramid. Failing that, we would kill Karavakis’ third split, grasp his key, solve the puzzle, and take them all back to what passed for civilization in this barbaric land. It is beautiful in its own charming and rough way, but truly I wished to back in Katapesh to drink wine and plan another journey. I willingly save native peoples and artifacts from the clutches of ignorant brutes like G—- no…. I must put that from my mind. I am here in this hellish place, and I cannot afford to be sidetracked.
As I write this, my pen trembles. I am so tired!
We stalked through the corridors of the pyramid, backtracking only a little, finding the last two rooms in which we thought Karovakis might lie. The coward!
In the first room, we found a true opportunity to test ourselves – it was a trap awaiting the unwary or adventurous. In the room were four… statues? Creatures? Undead? Somethings! Somethings waiting to be awakened, fought, and triumphed over. I argued that our fortunes might lie in this room, where unknown magics could be seen and felt but were mysteriously held at bay. The others declined to join me in exploring that large and be-columned cavern. Azar counseled caution and care. Sumna and Zaci argued aggravation and ailment. And I? I am an adventurer but not a fool. One does not lightly charge where priests and demons fear to tread. Still, it grieved me to leave such an enticing battle unexplored. It could be said that I closed and blocked the door with more frustrated force than strictly necessary. Since this failed (alas!) to entice the figures to attack, we left unmolested.
The next room, though – THAT was a battle indeed! Karovakis was there, with tiny ferocious flaming skulls. (Skulls which will make lovely decoration to throw over my saddle horn when I return to my stables and polish my tack.) We killed him, of course, along with his flaming skills and some really rather repugnant skeletons. It took minutes? Hours? Forever. It took forever to finally defeat him.
In turn, his death yielded us a key.
Three keys! Finally! And a riddle…. a thrice-damned, three-keyed, three-doored riddle of malignant doom. A riddle, no less, that we must solve in an allotted time. In the nick of time, perhaps? That thought is the only thing that keeps me awake. We must, as adventurers, keep the nick of time in our mind’s eye – lest it one day be just AFTER the nick of time when we act. Let that day not be today, hmmm?
Now, I sit and document my adventures while the cast of characters debate the puzzle that will allow us exit. Perhaps I’ll nap when we make our way back to the others. And I will oh-so-casually ask Hawada what she put in the Pan-Fry. I have JUST the spot for Abudari if he manages to stay that color.