Heading up the hall, since they’re pointed that way, they approach a door that suddenly opens. Goblins and a couple of tough looking wolves now occupy the hallway in front of them. They demand to know what they’re doing here and their spears and the wolves’ fangs give weight to the question. The party explains that they’re here looking for a woman and trying to avoid the orcs at the same time. When asked about the orcs, they tell the goblins that they are very definitely not their friends. In fact, some of the adventurers have been downed by a patrol of orcs, but they had paid them back in spades by killing one of their orog patrol leaders.
The goblins look impressed by this and they say to follow them into the room. Inside is the obvious leader of this small band who introduces himself as Reshen. He explains that they are called the Wolf Gang and they used to live in these halls in an uneasy peace with the Open Sores. That was, until a fierce Orc that calls herself Durgat, took over the leadership from the aging chief. She has plans to expand their territory and take “tolls” from the weaklings that would travel through to the lower levels. She saw the elimination of the Wolf Gang as their first step towards this end. Reshen and what remains of the Wolf Gang are now determined to exact revenge on her and her clan, even if it means their death.
Sieglinde tries to suggest that they just move somewhere else and not go on a suicide mission for no reason. Scott butts in and starts talking about how they should just go kill them all, so that the debate that seems to be starting in Reshen’s mind is put to rest. Frustrated, Sieglinde decides that there’s nothing else to be done at this time. Reshen excuses himself and opens a secret door to show that some kobolds are waiting to deliver a batch of crossbow bolts. He explains that they’re stocking up and regaining some strength before they attack. The party says that if they need any help, let them know, somehow. With that, they leave for now.
Back in the dusty room, Bractoon tries to climb over the small pile of chairs and shelves blocking the southern exit. He slips and gets a nasty bruise before they decide to simply move the junk out of the way. Heading down the hallway, they find two old storage closets and find a bit of adventuring gear that’s still viable. Rounding a couple more corners, they find an old audience chamber with moldering pillows in the corner with giant centipedes crawling all over them. Taking a careful look around, Sieglinde sees some notes and numbers scratched into the wall in dwarven script. She takes a careful charcoal rubbing of it with the idea of showing it to Snorri.
Deciding they’d like to go do that and talk to Rocky, they decide to head back north. The go into the lowest of the three round rooms, this one painted to look like a thick, dark jungle. As they take a bit of time to look around, they notice that painted into the scene is a clearing in the trees with a hill in the background. On the hill is painted what looks like a lion about the size of their palm with large white wings on its back looking away from them into the distance. Sensing nothing else here, they head north into the room painted like the sea.
Here, they take some time to look as they had been too involved with the pseudo-Beg before. This time, they see that there is an image of a large lion with wings standing on the wind swept cliff. But in this image, it’s about the size of a dinner plate and it appears to be looking towards the viewer. Taking a close look at the image, they see that it appears to be as old as the rest of the painting, covered in dust and definitely made of paint. Noting this, they head into the desert room.
There, they look around carefully, but don’t see anything in the painting except pyramids and the sparseness of the sand. Thinking back on her religious training, Sieglinde is reminded of the rooms in various temples that are called the pilgrim’s path. They were either painted, like this, or had some other iconography to represent one of the twinned moons. There were five rooms, one for each pair, and one room representing the beginning and ending of the pilgrim’s journey. The idea was the pilgrim would begin in the room designated for that purpose, then visit each room in turn, meditating and honoring the aspects. When they were done -a different moment for each pilgrim- they would move on to the next one, visiting each in turn and eventually ending up back where they started, having gained knowledge of themselves and, hopefully, peace upon their journey. In this way, they would make a pilgrimage in spirit, if not actually walking all over The Coin and back.
Deciding to leave this for now, they head back into the rooms they are more familiar with. On the way, they stop into the room they found the pseudo-Beg and Sieglinde picks up the acid pitted shield. Just before they get to Snorri’s chambers, they run into an Orc checkpoint erected since the last time they were down here. Doubtless, it’s in response to their rather violent attempts to get around the Open Sore’s normal way of conducting business. “Halt there! You’ve got to pay for passing through our territory!” To this, the party basically lies through their teeth, saying that they were in there hunting goblins and had killed many. The orcs buy this, since in their view of the world, of COURSE you’d be hunting goblins. They let them pass without incident after implicating themselves as being party to genocide…
Entering Snorri’s chamber, they find the dwarf busy poring over some documents. He looks up and says, “oh, hello again. I assume you’ve not found anything, as usual” and goes back to his studies. Sieglinde tells him that she actually HAS found something of interest and shows him the rubbing taken from the audience chamber. He gets very excited about this indeed and starts to copy it and take measurements and such. Sieglinde clears her throat a bit. “Ah! Yes, here’s your payment, my dear.” He says as he hands her a small pile of coin. “What is all that, anyway?” She asks, pointing to the rubbing. “Well, it’s probably not very interesting to you, but it looks like precise measurements of that room with plans for wings expanded in the back. Mostly, it just looks like architect’s notes. As I said, not very interesting. That is, unless you’re interested in such things, as I am.”
They decide to leave him to it for now and head up to talk to Rocky. They don’t run into anything else along the way, and he seems glad to see them. “Hey, thanks again for your help with that whole ‘walking dead guy’ thing last week. I mean, not like I was in danger, but they were pretty annoying. Could’a maybe used a bit of a wipe down, what with their rotting flesh all over me and whatnot, but you know… Thanks. What can I do you for?”
They decide to ask him about the girl, Esmalia. He seems to “look” into the stone below him then says, “yeah, I think she’s down below somewhere. Can’t be much more specific than that, I’m afraid. What else you got?” Then they decide to ask about the paintings of the Sphinx. He gets that ‘far away’ sort of sound to his voice again and says, “seclusion is magic’s watchword. Seek the room what ain’t got no doors,” then starts coughing a lot. Whoo! That one was a doozy. Anything else I can get for ya?”
They think a bit, then decide that they don’t actually have a third question they need answered at this time. So they thank him again and leave.
Back in the hall, Sieglinde tells the others that she thinks she knows what he was talking about with the secluded magic bit. She explains about the mage’s lab hidden through the teleportation glyph. She says there were a bunch of books in there. Maybe there is some information about the Sphinx in some of them? They decide to go check it out.
Heading back down, they run into the same Orc guard post. “Back for more, eh? Well, you’ll have to pay the toll this time,” one of the orcs says. They try to convince him that they’re going back in to kill more goblins, surely they could let them through for free for that? “We’re totally on your side, guys. Come on, we love killing goblins. We want to help you guys out.” These and other lies are thrown at the orcs. It’s layer on so thick that even an Orc sent to guard a dungeon passage is starting to get more than a bit suspicious. “Ok, look. I’ll let you through here on one condition. Next time you come through here, you all have at least one goblin head hanging from your belt or I’m taking our toll out from your hides. None of your kind ever helps orcs, especially in this sort of thing. There’s no reason for it. So, prove that you’re killing goblins or you answer to us. Now get out of here.” Then he opens the gate and the three slip on through.
Right around the corner is the glyph. Sieglinde explains how to use it and they all soon *BAMF* into the secluded lab. Searching around, they do indeed find some information about sphinxes. They manage to piece together the following:
Sphinxes test the worth of those who seek divine treasures, whether forgotten secrets or mighty spells, artifacts or magical gateways. Creatures that choose to face a sphinx’s test are bound to that test unto d….. ….destroys. Some sphinxes are high priests of th…… ….. ply embodied spirits, brought into the mortal realm by devout prayer or direct ……. A sphinx maintains its vigil tirelessly, not needing to sleep or eat. It rarely engages with others of its kind, knowing no other life except its sacred mission.
The secrets and treasures a sphinx guards remain under divine protection, so that when a creature fails a sphinx’s test, the path to the object or knowledge it guards vanishes. Even if a sphinx is attacked and defeated, a quester will still fail to gain the secret it sought- and will make an ene…… t placed the sphinx as a guardian. ……… sometimes grant a sphinx the power to remove supplicants that fail their tests, transporting them away and ensuring that they never encounter the sphinx again. ……ail a sphinx’s test typically meet a gruesome end beneath its claws.
Whether through the weariness of the ages, regret at the slaughter of innocents, or dreams of worship by supplicants that attempt to bargain their way to knowledge, some sphinxes break free of their divine command. However, even if a sphinx’s loyalties drift in this way, it never leaves the place it guards or grants its secrets to any except creatures it deems worthy.
Having gathered what information they could from the hidden lab, they leave and head back towards the elevator into the bandit’s hideout. Along the way, they decide to check out the room with the ore veins. Walking into the center of it, they feel a very strange sensation indeed, as if invisible hands were lightly plucking at them. Figuring this is something they want no part of for now, they ring the bell in the adjacent chamber, climb aboard and ascend back to the surface.
Soon, they are safely back in the common room of the keep, all except Sieglinde. She’s lying on her bunk, staring at the ceiling, trying to piece together a plan for how to deal with an impending Orc / goblin war that she’s suddenly found herself in the middle of. With these thoughts troubling her, she finally drifts off to sleep.