- Jacek came to, feeling a pain in his chest, which subsided
- Daechir started poking around at the caskets, opening one up to reveal a ghoul, whose keening woke several other ghouls, which you then killed. In the tatty rags and discarded gnawed bones in the caskets, you found some Spectral Armour and gave it to Vallessa
- You then headed down a steep ramp with sheer drops on either side; ahead you could see some bugbears and hobgoblins spear-fishing off the bridge over the massive chthonic maw, but you took a left turn towards a soft golden light
- You found the facade of a nice villa, which Volterra said was from about the 7th Age, whose gates had been blown open by a fireball or similar. There was a huge statue of a gold dragon, with deep black eyes that sucked in light, especially magical light. The inscription around the base talked about the Great Gold Wyrm greeting the dawn of a new age, so eventually you rotated the statue until it faced east and unlocked a large stone trapdoor behind the statue, revealing loads of gold and a Hero’s Shield (which no one wanted but you took anyway)
- Volterra used her Gloves of Adhesion and tomb-raiding skills to sneak under the narrow bridge and attack the hobgoblin warmage from behind, while the rest of you attacked the bugbears head-on (limited by only being able to get two people side-by-side on the bridge at a time). The fight was over pretty quickly but Volterra got knocked off by the hobgoblin’s dying spell – just managing to jump back on by some clever use of her magic boots!
- Across the bridge you came into a square room where two large statues flanked an obviously-blank section of wall where you might otherwise have expected a door to be. After a fair while searching for secret doors, traps, etc the blank area turned into a large stone face and introduced itself as The Doorkeeper, “Custodian of the Maw”
- It was curious about what was going on on the surface, and happy to chat for a while. It explained that the dungeon you were in hated being called the Stone Thief, and that it had a “cult” that called her The Devourer. Apparently said cult have a ritual that calls out to her to visit a location on the surface and, well, devour it – which she needs because the Queen of Shadows stole her eyes! That’s also why the Custodians are there, so The Doorkeeper didn’t seem wildly enthusiastic about the idea of her getting her eyes back.
- Eventually The Doorkeeper explained that there were two ways out of this level – either to get “swallowed” and fall into The Gizzard directly, likely getting crushed by swallowed buildings, or to answer The Doorkeeper’s riddle and, if successful, go through a door into The Gauntlet which is incredibly dangerous and eventually leads to The Gizzard, but doesn’t involve getting swallowed to do so. It also alluded to other “upper levels” of the dungeon, such as The Ossuary, run by The Flesh Tailor, and The Sunken Sea (which Jacek was especially excited by)
- However, if you got the riddle wrong, The Doorkeeper would be obliged to start vomiting up monsters until you died or left. It was very apologetic about this!
- It asked the riddle, and Volterra guessed at an answer, which reminded Jacek of having heard this riddle before in thief-haunts in Axis, confirming Volterra’s answer as correct.
- Just as The Doorkeeper opened its mouth wide to reveal the way forward, Jacek collapsed, clutching at his chest in pain…
38 - Further Underground Activities