The Mural on the Wall

Temple of the Sleeper

The darkened hallway bearing the six bronze hands unfolds into a massive ritual chamber. Incense laden braziers light the room in a faint glow. Six sepulchral pyramids rise twenty feet towards the obsidian ceiling before cresting and being capped with serpentine statues. Trenches of human bone pile on the floor four feet high, damming thousands of gallons of blood from washing across the black marble floor.

A tide of undead troops stand silent before an elevated altar crouched beneath a depiction of Seth, the slumbering serpent. The skeleton host is heavily armored in dark gear that contrasts with bleached bone. Unmoving, their hollowed sockets stare straight, awaiting commands from their necromancer lords.

Five adventures guard a heavy stone bridge connecting the two ends of the chamber. The three in front, a dwarf and two humans, are encased in plate while a tiefling and elf stand further back. Despite their protections and obvious merits, as one their eyes are glassed over, containing nothing but void. Their faces hang slack. Whatever sentience formerly animated their bodies has been purged. Now they are no more alive or independent than the flanking horde beside them.

Two lumbering cyclops hold position near the altar. Their darkened flesh stretch like tarps to cover decayed contents. One giant holds a 15ft barbed khopesh in the remains of his hand while the other grasps a black morningstar, the vicious club possessing the girth of three men. Like the skeletons spread about the chamber, the undead giants take no notice of your entrance. They stand silent as statues.

Nearly two dozen Yuan-ti stand towards the back of the room. Some carry recurving long-bows and jagged sheaf arrows. Others are bedecked in crimson robes bearing sacrilegious symbols of tyranny, death and enslavement. And still more leisurely finger the scimitars strapped to the sides of their lithe, coiling bodies.

A lone pure-blood, beautiful in a sinister, alien way, awaits before the altar of her god. Her skin has an amber sheen and her emerald eyes bare the “V” shaped slits of an adder. A shoulderless violet dress of finest silk drapes across her small, subtle frame. Whether from her or the altar behind, power- clever and malevolent- radiates into the air.

“Thelek… pariah…,” she calls, her whispered voice carries across the chamber and is echoed from the statues topping the pyramids, “I’m saddened to see you dawn slave flesh. Why dishonor yourself so? There are so many more pleasurable ways to defile oneself.” She walks over to a ceremoniously armored guard and gently caresses his scaled face, “I have prepared a proper form. One that more closely mirrors your venomed soul. Let Kess’Slar slay you; take his body. Come back to us… to me. The ritual comes grows ripe…let us awaken father and together we shall bring these warmbloods crashing to their kneesss.”

In response, a disembodied voice rolls through the chamber, “No.” The reverberation of the word is enough rattle the stone necropolis, cascading dust into the air and cracking the skulls of a few decrepit skeletons.

The Yuan-ti priestess smiles. “You act as though you had a choice. The spirit is strong, but the flesh is weak. And I will see it broken.” Her eyes glint as she waves a hand. The puppet adventures draw their weapons and adopt martial stances. “Yet only four,” she whispers counting your numbers, her voice mockingly seductive. She sets her eyes upon on an imprisoned gnome and speaks a word of power. The chains restraining his malnourished form unclasp and fall. “Now six.” The gnome smiles but is oddly little phased by his turn of fortune. Quick to realize his fate entwines with your own, he stands and gives a quick nod. Chanting, a small orb of power manifests in his palm. Now armed, his smile broadens.

Satisfied the match has been balanced enough to prove interesting, the priestess continues, “Your followers prove resilient Thelek. Survive again… and again. Prove them worthy of the ritual.” Finished, her voice fades as the dominated adventures attack, their motions unfortunately betraying none of the sluggishness often coinciding with mental control.

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