The Ingaran Adventures
“In the House of Zografos”
Lord Issic: Half Human, Half Gold Dragon Warrior
Lady India: A gypsy Bard/Shadow Dancer
Lord Phaidon: A Tamer of the Beasts
Lord Alexander Maximus: The Gauntlet of Athena
Zografos, Lord Domnhall: A yuan-ti slayer of mind flayers
Standing in Zografos' mansion, which was once Dr. Dalby's mansion, Alexander asked, "Zografos, do you have maps of the inside of the castle?" He was referring to Lord Nadam's palace in Alisander. Assembled with Alexander and Zografos were India, Phaidon, Issic, and several of Zografos' Yuan-Ti servants.
"No, I do not. I have the castle layout committed to memory."
"What can you tell us about the patterns of movement of people inside? Like Ool?"
"Nothing. Unless it is a mind flayer my spies have not been watching for it."
"Are there any mind flayers inside?"
"Not that I know of."
"This presents a problem as the castle is protected against most divinations. I will commune with Athena to discover what she suggests but before I do does anyone have any suggestion or observations, no matter how small the detail?"
"I am not certain what you are wanting to do exactly. If I did I may be able to give you a helpful suggestion."
He said to Zografos, "Lord Nadam is and this city is under Athena's protection. Therefore it is our duty to remove what is threatening him and this city. Ool seems to be responsible for bringing this evil into the city and is working with Larbius. Therefore, considering the information at hand, it seems to me that taking out Ool would great help."
"This city is cursed," said India.
"Why do you say that, India?"
She shook her head. "Just an intuition. This place is built on the corpse of a dead god. It will always attract evil."
"Aye. The city is built on the corpse of a dead god."
"What else do you know of this?"
"Very little. Just ancient rumors and old songs. An Old One was killed on this ground."
"No one knows for sure. The legends and tales have twisted around so much, that just about every mythological figure known on Inzeladun was the one that slew it."
Zografos joked, "I am trying to start a rumor that I was the one that did it."
India smiled. "You wouldn't be the first!" She paced around the room, thinking. "Perhaps you should commune with Athena."
Alexander said, "I have found that while many myths disagree when there is agreement among myths there is often truth in these myths. Tell us of these tales and what they have in common!"
"The stories have in common the following elements: A great god came to the world and enslaved it at the bequest of its summoners, horrible Kings of Angust. A mighty troupe of heroes, the mightiest in the realm, came and destroyed the god and smote his ruin upon the plains beneath our very feet. The heroes were led by one not entirely human, and another was served by automatons or zombies, and another commanded great armies. Most of the tales include a few women heroes too, warrior-goddesses who could unleash angry spells, and other strange things. One old, old tale tells of time travel. Another claims it was done at Athena's request."
Alexander said, "You know, I bet the tunnels under the city were dug by people try to get Gods-Blood."
"Or the people trying to bury the god," suggested Zografos.
"Or to get godsflesh," said India.
"This explains much about the city," said Alexander.
Phaidon sat there, staring at India. "I love the way you tell stories." He smiled.
"Oh, Phaidon. I haven't even told the tale, just the elements."
India started to sing, "Hear me! We've heard of Ingaran heroes, Ancient kings and the glory they cut For themselves, swinging mighty swords! How Rackham made slaves of soldiers from every Land, crowds of captives he'd beaten Into terror; he'd traveled to Angust with sixteen others, Abandoned horrors, but changed their own fates..." she let the song die off. "I think we have more important things to do than to hear the whole tale in its entirety."
"Before I commune with Athena is there anything anyone would like to add?" asked Alexander. He got out a traveling altar and began to place it on the table, lit candles and placed the dark Athena upon it and cast commune.
Blood started to drip from the grim statuette's eyes, trailing a bloody path down her black, carved cheeks as Zografos watched the beautiful shadows made by the candles.
Alexander heard Athena's voice echo pleasantly in his head, "Yes, my Gauntlet?"
"Oh Great Athena, Alisander is under siege from within this time and we know not where to begin reclaiming this grand city. Great Athena, where do you wish your wrath to first fall upon the champions of evil in this place?"
The disembodied voice said, "My wrath is hot, and burns against many in this dying city. A lich queen has taken one of my chosen and is spreading plagues. A lizard man in the guise of a lord is betraying all of humanity. A vampire lord is using forbidden magic to bring about a horrible transformation in Drychtnoth, and a trio of ghost kings have returned and are gathering their strength. I trust your wisdom, Alexander, to attend to these matters in any order you see fit."
"Oh Great Athena, my heart weeps blood, as doth your eyes for your captured champion. Which of your champions is bound and where is the person held?"
"My priests have been captured - and they are being held in the heart of the city's founding for a sacrifice, but my chosen one is being held by the Chaos Lord of T'bor - he has captured her soul, and the lich queen is allowed to possess her body."
"Oh Athena, Is Lord Ool the hidden lizard Lord of Alisander?"
"Yes. He is Iss'ul, the servant of Yam ibn Saud, who does the bidding of Ares."
"Oh Wise Warrior Athena, when is the hour of your priest's sacrifice?"
"I am uncertain. So long have I been away from Inzeladun, that I have lost touch with its cosmic rhythms."
"How do we get down there? What about the disease?"
"The paths have surely changed in the past centuries, but long ago the tunnels marked with the red eyes led to the heart."
"Knowing Athena, will you be able to help us find the path to your capture priests?"
"No, such magic is guarded against. The heart of the city's founding is too powerful to overcome."
"Oh Athena, what cure can your healing hand offer those who suffer the disease?"
"Deathsong and Life Blindness have infected your people here. They can be cured with magic."
"Oh Athena, though it was long ago since you last saw there, what dangers were that would still be on the path to the gods heart?"
"Echidna's children dwell there, as do were-rats and other filth. Beware the undead there. Vampires lurk there still, and things worse than vampires."
Alexander knew Echidna was the mother of many monsters, particularly with her union with Typhon. Her name meant she-viper. Echidna was killed in her sleep by the hundred-eyed creature Argus. She was depicted as having the head of a beautiful nymph, but the body of a serpent. The lives of her and her children were only spared so that they could be sport for future heroes. Her children included Ladon, the Hydra, the Chimaera , Orthus, Cerberus, the Sphinx and the Ingaran Lion.
Alexander asked the group, "Does anyone else have any questions for Athena? She awaits only your request so that she might impart knowledge to her champions."
"Any weaknesses Ool has," suggested Zografos.
"Oh Great Athena, does the hidden lizard lord have any weakness that might be used against him?"
"His greatest weakness is his greed, and his hatred of his own racial identity."
"Are there any more flayers in the city and where would Zografos go to slay them for you, oh Athena?"
"There are four flayers in the city. One hides within his house. Another is in the palace, hidden deep within illusion. Another pretends to be a prophet to the poor, and offers healing. The fourth is a gargoyle on the Dragon Wall."
The contact ended. Alexander prayed his thanks to Athena. He told the assembled group of his questions and answers. He asked India, "Do you know where the city was founded?"
"The city was founded on the corpse of a dead god."
"So they are in the heart of the dead god?"
"I think so."
After he revealed the information about the paths to the Heart, he asked Zografos, "Have you or your followers seen these eyes?"
"I haven't had them looking for them. I will have to check with them to see."
Phaidon asked, "What do you intend to do about the mind flayer hiding here, Domnhall?"
Phaidon stood up, "Lead the way."
"I suggest that killing the mind flayer should be our first action, then we go after the priests. If they have been held captive then they most likely have information about Ool.
Zografos' bones snapped and cracked as he changed into a were-rat. He started sniffing around for the 'flayer. India's hand reflexively went to her sword as she fought the urge to vomit. She turned and rushed out of the room. He was a damned lycanthrope! Tears welled up in her eyes.
Alexander ignored the change in Zografos. Apparently his friend had gone through some interesting life-changes. "After we save the priest though we must be quick in attacking Ool because we will know we are coming after him." He was a little concerned because he couldn't detect any mind flayers. "Does this plan sound good to everybody?"
"Yes, Alexander," said Phaidon. He looked around for India. She wasn't in the room. His brow furrowed. Where did she go? "Do you have more than one house, Domnhall?"
"Well, it must have heard Athena and fled."
"Issic?" asked Alexander. "Zografos? Is every servant here and accounted for?"
Issic said, "Who is to say that it is not disguised as some object such as the gargoyle on the dragon wall?" Cthaat moved close to the half-dragon.
"Perhaps it knows how to hide from our abilities," suggested Phaidon.
"Or possibly it hides in an area of the house yet undiscovered by Zografos," suggested Issic.
"If there is a place like that it would be in the lower levels," hissed Zografos through a rat-like maw. His tail twitched nervously. He darted off to go toward the lower levels of his bleak mansion.
Alexander Maximus looked around with is gem of true seeing. He saw an elegant woman standing near a window. She was otherwise invisible. Alexander walked over to her. "Who are you and what business do you have the house of Athena's Champion?"
She looked at Alexander sadly, and pointed at a vase. She faded away.
Alexander examined the vase, and noticed that something shiny was hidden in the dirt. Zografos started to slink out of the room, his rat-tail twitching. Phaidon, wondering where India was, asked, "Alexander, do you want me to go with Domnhall?"
"Not yet. Something is odd about this vase." He fished out the shiny element and pulled out a ring of keys. Light played around Alexander in a nimbus as he detected magic psionically. He noted that it radiated magic, except for portions still covered by the dirt. Somehow the dirt was masking the magic. He did an object reading. The key ring belonged to Dr. Dalby. The keys radiated abjuration and transmutation magic. He knew that Dalby called them "extra-dimensional closet keys."
"Are there any door you haven't been able to unlock in this house?" asked Alexander.
Zografos sniffed the keys. His rat-like snout and nose twitched, and the long whiskers trembled. They smelled of the grave. "I haven't even tried to go into every room."
"These were Dalby's and he called the keys extra-dimensional closet keys." Alexander looked at the Yuan-Ti servants. "Have any of you ran into anything odd in the house?"
Shahurashessil nodded. "Yes. Every now and then, in odd corners of the house, we occasionally see, out of the corners of our eyes, dark spots."
"What kind of dark spots?" asked Alexander.
Zografos cared not. "Show us which corners," he said. She pointed into the other room. Alexander peered at the room through his gem of seeing. Floating key holes lay revealed, hovering in the air in the corners of that room. Alexander took the keys and began opening the doors. "Be ready for anything," warned Alexander. "We don't know what Dalby might have hidden here."
The first one opened revealed a small interior space. In it were five shelves. On each shelf were three glass jars with tubes coming out of the tops. In each jar was a head. Some kind of mechanical pump was a the bottom of the closet. One of the heads was a mind flayer head. A note was taped to the front of the jar, right in front of its eyes, the writing facing inward. On the base was etched the words, "Experiment 625."
The tentacles moved on the head of the mind flayer as the eyes in the various heads opened and stared... their mouths moved up and down, but no sound issued out, just bubbled. Apparently they were in some sort of liquid. Alexander peeled the note off of experiment 625. The note said, "I hate mind flayers. You deserve this for what you did. "
It was signed by Dr. Dalby. It had been positioned so that it would be the only thing the mind flayer could see. They also noticed a hole drilled into its forehead. Dr. Dalby had removed the tissue that contained its psionic powers, yet, left it alive.
Zografos laughed. "Ha Ha! Put it back, Alexander."
Alexander tried to detect thoughts on the mind flayer head, but it was quite insane now, thinking only of incomprehensible, alien things.
The second door revealed a small laboratory, filled with gruesome corpses and viscera. The stench in that room was abominable. The third extra-dimensional door revealed a dark pit, and the screams of Hell echoed out of that pit. The mere existence of that black hole in the universe sent shivers down the spines of everyone present. The fourth door opened to a wall of fog that billowed out, flowing along the floor with grasping tendrils of gray vapor…