The loss of two companions had been hard, but two of the freed prisoners declared themselves willing to join the companions. Both were physically impressive. Maropona, a mul warden, declared that there were defilers nearby and that he was sworn to destroy them. Mikar Zadackara Reharmal (“Call me Mik”), a goliath ranger and ex-gladiator, swore to protect Naivara against her foes in thanks.
After a night’s rest the party roped themselves together and began edging through the enormous dust devil, keeping against the rock face on one side. Maropona went first, followed by Ku-ki’cha, then Althaea, Naivara and Mik. It was impossible to see, and the only way they could communicate was through pulling on the rope that joined them. The sand tore mercilessly at the travellers, clogging their eyes and nostrils and making breathing difficult. Once or twice they stumbled over an object on the ground; too soft for a rock, they guessed it to be one of the bodies of the prisoners who they had seen tossed in earlier. Eventually they emerged out the other side of the sandstorm and stood for a few minutes shaking sand out of their clothing. Naivara thought longingly of the bath-house at the Golden Enix in Tyr, then stopped abruptly, staring across the flat expanse of desert on the other side of the sandstorm. It was the exact same thing she had seen in her vision – a huge carven humanoid face carved into rock, the mouth gaping open at ground level. “The Face of Stone!”, she cried out, “Aramil!”
– Face in the Stone
They advanced towards the cave entrance in a wide line abreast. As they drew nearer they saw that the opening was partially barred by two carved stone pillars that reared out of the ground like teeth. Past these, in the gloom, humanoid figures could be seen darting about; hejkin.
Periodically they would stop and look curiously at the newcomers. Maropona was able to pick out a few fragments of their speech: Who they? Why they come to our home? He tried talking to the creatures but they would not answer. Ku-ki’cha threw a few coins in past the obelisks, but the hejkin were not interested. Althaea examined one stela and noticed there seemed to a panel on one side with what might be controls. Carefully, she turned one knob one way and then the other, with no apparent result. The thri-kreen fiddled with the controls and was rewarded with a painful jolt of electricity which sprang between the pillars, blocking the way. Althaea reached out her lyre and played a sweet tune, hoping to calm the hejkin, but to no avail. Naivara tried a more robust approach and incited one hejkin to attack one of its fellows using telepathic control, but the injured party simply scuttled off out of sight. Several of the party tried approaching the obelisks and suffered electric shocks, and frustrated by their lack of progress, retreated a distance to make camp.
Maro looked thoughtful. “Friends, I think there is a way through those accursed pillars. I noticed that there is a space below the magic field which we might use to crawl under.” Five minutes later the party were worming their way beneath the crackling electrical field, with varying degrees of success; Ku-ki’cha and Maro both received jolts. No sooner had they reassembled inside the cave entrance than the hejkin assailed them from all sides, and a fierce fight followed. Eventually six of the creatures lay dead and the way further in lay clear. The party advanced down the rough corridor to a dead end. “What now?”, asked Mik. As if in answer, a whisper was heard in the air, What can make one man blind and another man see, makes one building strong and tears another one down? You have three guesses……