Tetsukichi and Beatriss-- the champions of the Sansar clan—together with their associates, plus their friend Bangqiu and his associates established a fortified base camp on a dry hillock in the swamp about a mile from the Tomb of the Lizard King and planned their next move. Thanks to their successful campaign, the terrifying raids on the Sansar clan seemed to have ended. And yet something was still amiss. Besides that swamp that hadn’t existed a few year ago, the creatures of the swamp—snakes, crocodiles, blood-thirsty seven-foot tall lizard creatures that walked on two legs and carried weapons— were venturing far out of the swamp and into the grazing lands. And despite through exploration of the ruined temple that they believed held Sakatha’s resting place, they had not discovered his actual tomb. So another expedition to the temple and tomb site seemed appropriate.
Beatriss, level 9 warrior with her associates:
Naron, level 7 warrior
Ju-Mei, level 7 cleric
Tetsukichi, level 8 bushi with his associates:
Al-Fitar, level 8 warrior
Mustapha, level 7 illusionist
Bangqiu, level 6 Wu-Jen
Erlo, level 5 shaman
Kafka, level 6 sohei, with his own retinue of 17 sohei initiates who were charged with maintaining the camp.
The company set out early in the morning and followed a familiar track to the ruined temple. As Beatriss and Ju-Mei climbed the steps into the temple, they heard the voices of humans arguing. Taking no chances, Beatriss commanded Ju-Mei to use his non-lethal transfixing magic and of course the priest complied.
The party charged up the steps into the temple. Besides the targets of Ju-Mei’s spell, two Zhou men in battered armor, one of them with his hand on his knife, both frozen, there were two other men, not frozen. These two, caught lounging on their bedrolls, were amazed, rather than belligerent. One jumped to his feet, while the other slid himself away from the unexpected invaders. Beatriss demanded—and received— answers.
The standing man, introduced him as Ta-Mi, and explained that he was not the leader of their band of 20 or 50 or so capable and somewhat unpredictable . . . guys, but he was very well respected by the others, probably the most underrated of the band, who were not bandits or brigands or soldiers, but just guys who had swords and other weapons and were reasonable but not to be trifled with. He introduced the two frozen ones.
The one with his hand on his knife had a long drooping mustache. He was Feng-bi, “the crazy violent one who thinks he knows everything but is actually more of a problem than he’s worth. Wait, can they hear us right now?”
The other frozen one, whose hair was dyed tea color and whose face was fixed in a sarcastic grin, that was Sick Boy, “The other one who thinks he’s the leader and knows everything when in fact he knows nothing.”
The fourth was Shu, “the stupid harmless one.” Shu nodded his agreement.
Beatriss revealed that they had been there before, but that they didn’t live there, they didn’t claim it or own it. They were looking for evil monsters to destroy. Ta-Mi assured Beatriss that she and her friends would find evil monsters. He (and the band of men who would likely be back any minute now) were also looking for someone. His name was Won Ton and he was a member of their band until he betrayed them and if anyone saw him, they should . . . well, if they see him and he has anything, it’s not really his and there’s someone else who wants it. . .
The party wished Ta-Mi and Shu a good day and passed through a shell-bead curtain that divided the front room of the temple from the inner room with three pools. Formerly three pools, but the ceiling had collapsed on top of the third. As before, soon after they entered, the pools began bubbling.
Bangqiu approached the demon bas-relied on the far wall and inserted a coin into the open mouth. Nothing happened. So he inserted a black gem. As he expected, the statue swung out from the wall on a hidden door. Not expected, someone was pushing it from the other side. Bangqiu ran, while Beatriss and Naron drew their swords. Two hideous green-creatures pushed out of the hidden room. Despite their emaciated, sickly appearance, these creatures were incredibly strong, swatting away the warriors swords to seize them with their long sharp claws and slash at their faces with sharp fangs. Beatriss ordered a full retreat. Mustapha sent a cloud of fog into the trolls faces and Naron broke free. The entire party, save Ju-mei ran out of the temple completely. Ta-mi and Shu seeing their terrified expressions, followed.
Once outside, Bangqiu, noticing that Beatriss and Ju-Mei had not escaped, returned to the temple, bringing Erlo with with him. They arrived in time to see one troll devouring Sick Boy. Ju-Mei was standing at the curtain, chanting. Beatriss screamed in pain and Ju-Mei abruptly rushed into the pool room. Bangqiu and Erlo followed. Beatriss was lying on the floor unconscious. The troll was standing over her, blood dripping from its mouth. Behind it, a snake creature made of water was writhing in the pool and snapping its jaws. Seeing a new victim, the troll lunged toward Ju-Mei. The priest dodged, and the troll stumbled. The water-snake seized its opportunity and dragged the troll into the pool. Ju-Mei stabilized Beatriss and helped pull her to her feet. She was alive. Erlo made Beatriss invisible and the four of them moved out of the pool room toward the steps of the temple. The troll that had killed Sick Boy was not feasting on Feng-Bi. Ju-Mei summoned a spiritual hammer to keep the monster at bay as he and his companions completed their narrow escape.