One by one the party awoke, blindfolded and bound at the hands and feet. Some had no idea how they had come to be here, just a memory of a brief stinging sensation and a sudden blackness. Others remembered watching helplessly as their companions collapsed, wordless, to the ground, before darkness overcame them as well.
Wry is the first to act, managing to shuffle his way over to the next prone body, Stout, then maneuvering his blindfold into position near her hands, so she can remove it. He sees his companions about him, bound, in a smallish room with stone walls. Everyone’s belonging have been taken, including all their armour and weapons. Wry frees himself from his bonds, then helps the others to do the same.
The door to their prison is solid looking, and locked. Pan orders Tink to fly into the lock mechanism and manipulate it from within. Her ministrations are successful, and the door swings open. Running in front of the cell is a hallway, at the end of which can be seen a pair of booted feet, which are attached to an unconscious guard. The party searches him but finds no weapons or identification, so steps over him and continues down the passage.
They come to a medium size room with high ceilings. Two tall and menacing sets of armour lean against the walls to the left and right, each with a long sword grasped in its gauntleted hand. There is a door in the wall ahead and on the floor in the centre of the room is a small bag. Opening it they are surprised to discover that, despite its size, it contains all of the party’s weapons and armour. “A Bag of Holding!” they exclaim in wonder. Once they have all put on their armour, and once they have managed to stop Pan climbing in and out of the Bag for fun, they turn to leave. At that moment, the suits of armour come to life, moving as one they heft their swords and swing them into an attack position.
The ensuing fight is swift and decisive, with most of the party performing well. Stout is the notable exception, she flails wildly but does not manage to land a single blow. It should be noted that while being clumsy enough not to hit anything, she is also nimble enough not to be hit herself, but this doesn’t do much to salve her wounded pride. However, the most important thing is that the fight is soon over, and with a minimum of damage to anyone not entirely composed of metal.
The companions continue on, out the door and down a hallway into a gigantic circular room. In the centre of the room, marked on the floor is a broad circle. Within it are the symbols of four gods, each associated with one of the four elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Evenly spaced around the wall are four doors, each also bearing an element symbol. After examining the symbols and the room for awhile, Pan opens the door marked with the Air symbol. Behind the door darkness falls like a veil. Light from the large room does not expose anything of what lies beyond the door, and any object that passes through the doorway immediately disappears into the impenetrable blackness. Pan is the first to go through the doorway, and he calls back that once you pass through the blackness, the room ahead becomes visible. He is standing on a platform, attached to which is a length of thick wire, which stretches tautly straight ahead and then disappears into another wall of darkness. Below the wire lies more darkness, with the disquieting feeling of unknowable depths.
Azura is the first to try her luck on the wire. She claws her way onto and across this and each of the three subsequent wires without too much trouble, and the first three times she passes through the blackness she finds herself on a new platform, attached to which is another length of wire stretching off into the darkness. Pan manages to follow Azura onto the first and second platforms, but falls attempting to reach the third. The rest of the party, who prudently remained on the platform near the door, hear him scream as he falls, and for a moment all mourn the loss of their cheery and fearless companion. Then from somewhere high above them they hear an answering scream, and suddenly Pan tumbles into view, narrowly missing other member of the party as he falls hard onto the stone floor. He jumps up, shakes his head from side to side and says “Weeeeeee!”, then has to be physically retrained from heading off after Azura again. Moments later she has reached the final platform, which juts out from a stone wall, set into which is yet another Air symbol. Azura touches the symbol and it glows blue. Sensing that this means she has passed the test, Azura begins to make her way back to the others, and almost reaches them safely, but a momentary loss of grip while attempting to reach the second platform swiftly deposits her back amongst her companions. She lands with a catlike grace (understandably) but is still shaken by the experience.
Returning to the larger room, the party finds that the air symbol on the floor is also glowing blue. They decided to tackle the Earth door next, and stepping through the blackness they find themselves in a small room, empty except for a table, on which sits a puzzle with simple rules and a difficult objective. Each member of the party attempts to solve the puzzle in turn until, while watching Stout’s thick fingered fumbling, Wry suddenly sees the solution. As expected, solving the puzzle causes the Earth symbol in the floor to glow, and buoyed by their success the party now feels brave enough to tackle the room marked Fire.
Behind this door they see a hallway leading to an open space with a signpost in the centre. The companions move towards the signpost, with Oriana, Pan and Wry at the front. As these three near the signpost, a wall of flame springs up behind them, separating them from the rest of the party.
Suddenly alone, the three begin to examine the space around them. They can see that the signpost has four arms, three of which point to corridors ranching away from this central area, and the fourth point back to way they came. The arm of the signpost pointing back towards their companions is labeled Frustration, the one to the left says Confusion, to the right is Danger, and straight ahead, Victory. At the end of each passage, crackling and casting sinister shadows, are three more walls of flame.
Pan wonders allowed if the walls of flame might not be like the walls of darkness with which they have now become familiar. Maybe these walls will also disappear once you have moved through them. To test this theory he moves away from the signpost and charges straight down the corridor towards Victory. However, as soon as he begins to move, the head of the signpost begins to rotate, and the second before he hits the wall of flame, it comes to rest. The arm pointing at the corridor has moved down now reads Danger, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, its wall of flames turns out to be distinctly flammable. On the other side of the wall Pan drops to the ground and rolls, he hurries to remove all his armour and clothing, and then piles it up and pisses on it, to douse the flames. He re-dresses, then examines the space he has found himself in. The walls either side of him are identical to those on the other side of the flames, and ahead of him is a third wall, equally bare. A dead end.
Meanwhile, back at the signpost, Wry and Oriana are studying the mechanism attached to the rotating head, and the area around the based of the post. With some arcane insight and a bit of trial and error, they were able to establish that the floor around the post was pressure sensitive, and the removal of weight from within this area would trigger the signpost and cause it to spin. Once Pan returned through the flames (mildly protected from a second scorching by his still damp clothes) the companions decided to split up, each moving simultaneously down one of the corridors not leading back to their friends. They set out, Wry towards Danger, Oriana Frustration, and Pan, once again towards Victory. This time, because they have been careful not to trigger the rotating mechanism, the flames disappear as Pan reaches them, and he find a now familiar Fire symbol waiting for him. Pan touches the symbol, and even as the other two swear and swat at their scorched limbs the flames behind them vanished, and the way back to their friends and the central chamber is once again clear.
The final room is clearly designed by the same twisted mind. This time it is four party members (Dugery, Pan, Texh and Wry) who are trapped away from the rest, in a sealed room that four fountains disguised as statues begin rapidly to fill with water. The four companions feverishly try to disable each of the statues, either magically, mechanically or with brute force. Eventually they are successful, but not before the water has risen to a level far above the halfling’s head, or before it has begun to swirl like the insides of a murderous, man-sized top loader. The Water symbol appears, and glows, and it is a relief to all that a near drowning seems to have washed some of the pungent urine smell out of Pan’s clothing.
Back in the large circular chamber, the companions are uncertain about what their next move should be. They have now tried all of the doors out of this room without finding an exit. Unable to think of a better option, but wary about triggering another trap, the party moves towards the centre of the room, where all four symbols are now glowing like beacons. Once the last member had stepped inside the circle there is a clank of machinery, the floor beneath them shifts, and the circle inexorably begins to rise. They look up and feel fresh air on their faces as above them a circular gap opens and widens, pulling them towards the next stage of their adventure.
To be continued.