The Chronicles of 'Team B' - Chapter 22 - A Curse Lifted and a Prophecy Fulfilled
With the serpent apparently defeated, the task at hand is to look for Yaqub's treasure. Not only was this Lokan's main motivation, but having the treasure on hand will help to bargain with the vizier. Lokan, Yuri and Agapia head down to the room with the pipes and the installation with the levers, convinced that figuring out how the artifice works holds the key to the serpent's secret cache. They carefully look at the levers, trying to see which, if any, bear the markings of wear. Lokan thinks he sees some signs of handling on certain levers, and begins to manipulate certain levers, but the result is as before - noxious gasses come out of certain pipes, causing him to choke. Soon, Agapia takes over the operation. She seems convinced that she understands the artifice, but is not able to produce better results. It is possible that some of the books contained information about this artifice, but they are now burned. Augusta, who leaved through some of them, is deep in meditation, and not to be disturbed. In the meantime, Agapia tells people to eat heart, and Alden takes the opportunity to tear it out, and consume it. Like Lokan before him, he is splattered by Yaqub's black blood, which makes him (and his companion) feel a little strange. There is still something off about this place - somehow, the spirit of Yaqub seems to permeate it, or to be lying in wait somewhere inside, ready to reemerge at any time. Agapia is not disturbed by any of this, and goes into the clock for inspiration. There, she promptly falls asleep, while the rest of the party retires to what used to be the library, while Alden, Zinovii and Yushko are sent to keep an eye on the prisoners, and Yaqub's offspring. The following morning, the rested Augusta goes with back to the room with the levered contraption and the pipes. She is pretty sure that the artifice is a pipe organ. One of the books dealt with music, but it was unfortunately destroyed by Hakim's fireball. The wear on the keys tell the sister nothing, but she decides to interview Yaqub's human wives, Zhelana and Shchuka, about the Master's favorite song. The first and second wives perform the song on the domra that Lokan had confiscated. Augusta records the song using musical notation. The song is full of dissonant chords that she does not recognize from the music she is familiar with. Perhaps playing this song will open the secret panel the party is convinced is somewhere in the dragon room. As the trio prepares to return to try out the organ, Augusta decides to use her divine sense on the bath again, to see if the bathhouse spirit is still within, and if the place is itself unclean. She learns that both are the case, and along with her companions, decides to see if the gremlin can be prevailed on to tell them about how to lift the curse on the women. After entering the bath, they call out to the bannik, but see nothing other than some ripples on the water of the pool. The air soon grows hot, as before, but a lucky dagger throw by Lokan manages to hit the creature, and it is soon subdued. After managing to get his vanquishers to pledge to release him if he tells them the truth, Augusta summons up divine justice to make sure the bannik is also held to his word. The creature says that the only way to lift the curse is to throw the Master's treasure into the pool. The party sticks to its promise, and releases the miscreant, who pads away invisibly. The interaction in the bath was witnessed from above by Agapia. When she awoke, the clock moved to open up to a passage which made the conversation audible. The passage was still dark, and opened to a straight drop into the pool, so the girl decided to stay put. On the way back to the organ room, Yuri and Lokan tried to search for her inside the clock, but to no avail - they saw only a dwarf statue, where the stump of the statue they had earlier destroyed had been the previous night. When they return to the organ room, Augusta spreads out the sheet music she had created, and begins to play the strange song she transcribed. Immediately after playing the first dissonant interval, there is a pop, and a door against the wall to her right begins to open. Here at last is the treasure room, with casks, bolts of cloth, a locked chest, and fine coats of mail, and weapons, stacked in the corner. Lokan manages to open the chest, which is full of silver (and occasionally, gold) coins. There is also an attractive-looking coffer. Lokan puts in a half-hearted argument about keeping the treasure, but he knows Yuri will prevail in the end: this is blood money, and blood wealth, and it must be used to lift the curse, so the women will be free to leave this accursed place, and return home. With difficulty, Yuri and Lokan haul the chest down into the lower part of the lair, and move it into the bathhouse, which now seems abandoned. Lokan ties a rope around the chest, and pokes around in the pool, hoping that after the chest is deposited into the pool to lift the curse, they can still pull it out. But he cannot find the bottom, and the impatient Yuri prevails on his companion to cut the rope, and just throw the chest in. Immediately, the pool begins to bubble, and the water level begins to rise. Agapia, who Agapia detected as a second unclear presence earlier, is urged to jump into the pool, which is losing its accursed properties. This she does, and then, she manages to swim out of the rising water. Fleeing the flood to the bedchambers, the party finds the captives to have snapped out of the enchantment. Svetlana rushes Yuri, and throws her arms around him. Yuri leads his beloved, the rest of the prisoners, and his companions back to the throne room, and they all climb up the shaft to freedom (though not before Lokan takes Yaqub's robe, turban, slippers, and a few silk robes from his room). Yet, after all are assembled at the top of the hill, the sight of several longships sailing upstream toward them deflates their earlier elation. The sails indicate that they are from Udyn, and soon, horses and the vizier's armed men are seen to be aboard. There is a distinct smell of a major fire downstream, so it's likely that the soldiers will not be happy. There isn't enough time to flee with all the prisoners, so the party decides to face the danger head on. Leaving Alden and Zinovii with the women, they walk down to the water, and see vizier Ilyas ibn Umar disembarking with his soldiers. Upon seeing them, the Vizier immediately informs them that the serpent-wife burnt Udyn last night, though his men managed to shoot her down and slay her in the end. And now, the people responsible for this turn of events will pay. All he wants to know first is where Anatoly is - he escaped from the Kochmak encampment, where he was to be executed, and is known to have crossed the river. The companions say they have not seen him, but in acknowledgement of their sins against Udyn, are willing to show the vizier past Yaqub's deadly traps and take him to the beast's treasure hoard, so as to provide at least some restitution for the damage caused. Nearly twenty men accompany the vizier and the party into the serpent's cave, and Agapia uses fire to open the portal in the back of the cave, leading the soldiers down the spiral staircase, and into the lair. Lokan instructs the soldiers about how to avoid the scythe pendulum, and then, the vizier's people are led to the organ room. Some take positions outside, but most enter along Lokan, Yuri and Agapia. Once inside, Lokan pulls a series of incorrect levers, causing most of the men to fall over because of the poison gas. The vizier attempts to prevent this cause of action, and recites scriptural verses to try to dominate Lokan into doing his bidding, but in vain. The party, along with just a few surviving solders flee the room, but the odds are now significantly more in the party's favor, and Ilyas ibn Umar sues for peace. He tells the party he does not want any more death, and is willing to allow them to return home. He will even provide two ships to take the women home as well, provided Yuri and the rest promise not to reveal the destruction of Udyn (the Noriki will learn about this soon enough). The bargain is struck, and the party shows the vizier how to access the rest of the treasure that has not been thrown into the pool to lift the curse. The vizier tells them that this was actually part of Botagöz' prophecy - the town will move to the site of a lake that holds a buried treasure, on the other side of the river. In response to Lokan's question about Yaakov, the vizier reveals that he was actually his agent. The companions exit the lair, and the vizier instructs the men still aboard the ships to let them, and the female captives board, and instructs several of them to take all of them to Ladeisk. As the sun sinks below the horizon in the late evening, the adventure that began with the burning of Vladykino, and ended with the burning of Udyn draws to a close. The companions, now heroes, ponder the events of the last month, supposing that in a way, some sort of justice has been served.
- Yaqub's robe, turban and slippers
- 2 silk kimonos
- The treasure chamber is opened
- The curse on the lair and the captive women is lifted
- The vizier is tricked, and pressured into allowing the party and the captives to return home