The Embrace of Darkness
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Before we conclude Pathfinder Adventure Card Game designer Liz Spain's "romance novel" previews of the Mummy's Mask set with a look at Adventure Deck 6: Pyramid of the Sky Pharaoh—spoiler alert: it's going to end in tears—we have an announcement to make: Complete card sets for Season of the Righteous, Season of the Runelords, and Season of the Goblins are now available for sale at DriveThruCards!
Torchlight glimmered a pleasing peridot color through the alchemical soup that ran through the tunnels of the Crypt of Water. The queen's husband, Hakotep, took great pleasure in the elaborately cruel designs that protected his great flying tomb. Richly painted in scenes of the River Sphinx and guarded by mighty hydrodaemon marble statues, the crypt was a stately home to rest one's soul for eternity.
Queen Neferuset glided along the passages in a glass barge, disabling the many traps without a thought. A thousand times she had made this journey; her hands moved of their own accord with practiced grace. Ingenious in their design, the hidden traps that lined the opulent tomb had been their creators' last. A short career was the price of eternal honor in the service of the pharaoh. Behind, her sister's mournful wails echoed and shrieked with the sound of a human soul breaking. The queen had insisted her sister's souls be captured within his pyramid. The pharaoh assumed it some form of punishment for Nailah's betrayal and attempted coup. But no. The banshee was necessary to serve the weaving of the Dark Tapestry.
Visits to Nailah were always painful. Her sister's wails summoned forth festering memories of family and sunshine. But the queen's gods demanded pain in sacrifice. Death and thousands of years within this tomb had left Neferuset hollow. She fed them what scraps of soul she could scrape together. Her gods were hungry.
The glass barge bumped against a wall as it entered the vast limestone Hall of the Crocodile Kings. Sehela, the engineer who designed the pyramid's vast propulsion mechanisms, stood there waiting, silent and ethereal. Tracks of ghostly tears shimmered on the old woman's face, her brow knit with a pained scowl.
The queen took her time gracefully stepping out of the glass barge. Sehela would wait to be acknowledged before speaking. What had once been decorum had been replaced by a habit of fear. Sehela remained silent and stared. With a word, the withered, ectoplasmic remains of the old engineer's heart could be sacrificed to the Void. As long as Sehela was useful, she would remain in bondage, cursed to watch over the machine of destruction she had given her life to build.
Queen Neferuset passed by the old ghost, gesturing her to follow with a wave of her cobra-headed staff. The gesture was small, but the authority the staff represented was deeply threatening; the ghost shuffled dutifully behind through many twisting passages, overseen by the ancient lords bedecked in their sacrificial wrappings. The curtain of chill and darkness that hung within the entry to the shrine stunned Sehela, causing her to stumble backward, her ethereal form wavering uncontrollably. The queen caught Sehela's wrist in a cold, hard grip that pulsed with overwhelming necromantic power.
The ghost shook with terror as the queen dragged her, helpless before the altar. Neferuset's chanting echoed with a deep malice that made the black stone of the altar quiver. One by one, the necromancer poured out the still-juicy contents of canopic jars: a victim of the queen's nastier spells.
As the viscera slid across the stone's surface, whispered voices joined the queen's from the dark corners of the room. The hushed rain of language hovered at the edge of comprehension. Utterly alien, yet familiar in a way that made Sehela's soul yearn for release, yearn to join them in the darkness. So long the work. So long the journey through the skies. So long.
And then, the ritual was over. The queen turned to the silent ghost and raised a withered, inquisitive eyebrow. "It's all over," Sehela sighed. "The word of Ra is spoken. The elemental channels are shut off. The pyramid is falling."
Tears streamed down the engineer's face anew. The admission that her life and death's work was now over was too much to bear. Queen Neferuset produced a small glass bottle engraved with the symbol of death from her elegant sleeve, uncorked it, and caught the tears that hung from the ghost's chin. "And with this," the queen grinned wickedly, "we shall prepare for new sacrifices to come to us."
Outside, as the fabled Sky Pyramid sank from its heavenly perch, the citizens of Wati looked up at the ever-burning sun. We must honor the departed, they said under their exhausted breaths. We must deem every slave's hut a memorial, they said. And above all, they said, we must remember how this came to pass.
Adventure Card Game Designer