Chapter 65: The Forgotten Dead
I am forgotten
As a dead man out of mind:
A broken vessel.
Adapted from a psalm*
The White Faerie and Ravena consulted over her master map and a couple of maps he'd found earlier, comparing them with the lake room. It seemed that some of the expedition's notes might prove useful to us.
The cavern was large very large and tall, and full of water. Res Li said it range from no more than ankle-deep to a maximum depth of a couple of feet deep. Safe even for him. The throne on rising from an outcropping of rock was at one end of the lake and faced the other. There were four beaches in each rough corner that were either exits or alcoves.
We asked the queen several questions about the lake and discovered little we did not already know or could have guessed. This room was used as the burial chamber for kings past, and it was not originally a lake. Since we knew the Crystal of Water had to be here somewhere, it was obvious what had attracted the water. To guard their buried kings from grave-robbers (these people are truly barbaric: who would dare raid the dead?), they do not clearly mark there graves. Since Res Li had already found many well-hidden tunnels, they seem to do their best to hide them utterly. I was certain that the scrap of paper we found had some sort of code that described the locations of the listed tombs, but it was of no use to us. She did let slip one interesting note: before being conducted to his final resting place, a dead king was first placed on the throne for an unspecified amount of time. I feel sure the throne will be a key, but I do not know how yet.
We walked around the lake, allowing Res Li to find, and Ravena to mark on her map, all the tunnels we needed to explore. Res Li also searched the lake for the queen's bones, but found none. He reported that the throne and its rock were both utterly solid objects with nothing inside. We already know it is imbued with magic of some sort. And so we decided to explore each tunnel, going around the cavern to the right.
First was a spiral staircase that led up to a partially collapsed room. A sarcophagus was crushed beneath it, but there was neither the Crystal of Water nor the queen's bones. Truthfully, I do not expect to find her bones here. I hope we can find another way fulfill her natural desire for a proper burial. On the other side of the debris was what Ravena was certain was one of the other overlooks. It did seem worthwhile to paw through the rubble just for that, since Res Li said there was nothing else up here.
The next led to two places: the third and last overlook, and the room with the statues which we fought.
The next door was that of Feni's tomb. He was the king who buried Harugim and renamed the place for him. He was carefully buried and sealed, but there was nothing else of interest to us, so we exited and let him lie in peace.
The next corner had many exits. One went to a tomb that had been opened at some point: it reeked of death and decay, and dangerous molds covered the surfaces. We went only far enough for Res Li to confirm at a distance that this was not the tomb for which we sought. Another exit from the corner led to the temple. Another was not quite an exit: there was a tunnel, but it was covered by a wall rather than a door. We will have to bash our way through it. This one looked promising: hard to find, hard to enter. We marked it as a possibility to come back to, and moved on. The last exit from this corner was a tunnel that led to nothing but a trapped dead-end. We skipped it.
Continuing around, we discovered another open tomb, although one without the molds. This one had eight kings simply laid out on biers. Although they were probably royalty, none of them were Harugim.
Next was another strong possibility: we went through a well-hidden door, through a long tunnel, and then down some stairs. We found ourselves at a place where a door ought to be, but it appeared to be a blank wall. Res Li eventually discovered the runes spelled out Harugim's name, and he said he could detect some sort of door that the rest of could not. Hosei said there was magic here, different from that which covered the lake cavern. We marked it for later.
The last hidden door led to a tunnel that descended and turned around, taking us to a room that was actually underneath the lake cavern. Before we entered through its door into the tomb beyond, Res Li warned us off: it was trapped. Opening the door would bring down the ceiling and incidentally flood the room. He said the tomb contained nothing but an empty sarcophagus with Harugim's name carved on it. A decoy.
For a moment, the White Faerie stood, dumbstruck, as he does when he has his Visions, but he said nothing when he returned to himself. Perhaps it was a personal Vision.
And so we came to two options. The White Faerie decided to open the first one, using the expedition's equipment to bash his way through the wall. Res Li and Hosei both searched carefully: Res Li found nothing, and Hosei said there was probably some sort of magical trap, but he could not tell anything else about it.
I idly wondered what would happen if I sat on the throne. Would that trip the trap? Disarm it? Do nothing? Bring the wrath of the faerie gods down on us all?
Discarding that idea for the moment, I seriously considered for a moment just going on through myself. If would surely be worth the life of one to recover the Crystal of Water. But, I said, the trap was likely to not just take the life of me, but of the whole group by collapsing the tunnel. Kyosuke said it would take his life, not mine, and we argued the point for a minute, rather heatedly. He does not understand that the sacrifice is mine to make, by my responsibility to the group which I lead. I cannot fault his courage, of course. He is a credit to the Miyaras, even though he does not bow as he ought to my authority as the ranking Miyara. Still, I like him and am probably not firm enough with him. His faults are my own, I fear. At any rate, we both agreed that now was not the time to plunge boldly ahead. Later, perhaps it will be.
Psalms 31:12, King James Bible:
"I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel."