Mustafa and his companions start exploring the temple further. Beyond the room where combat raged, stands a hallway bracketed by two altars. Upon the altar is a small pile of ashes, with medium sized statues watching over them. The statues are masterfully carved black stone that gives the impression of a humanoid wreathed in smoke. As Mustafa approaches, it almost feels like the statues keep their eyes on him. He asks Kailey to inspect the altars, suspecting a trap. She reports that there is nothing out of the ordinary and the pile of ashes is of regular wood offerings. Satisfied, Mustafa moves past the altars and is surprised when a strong gust of air springs up in front of him to blast past the altars, whisking the pile of ashes away. The statues seem to shift and the carved smoke whips in the sudden wind before the statues themselves start to blow away in the gust, just as the piles of ash had. Mustafa and the others are on high alert as the wind dies down, but no attack is forthcoming. Resigned to a state of paranoia, Mustafa carefully advances down the hall to continue exploring; every step expecting some ambush.
The group reaches an intersection in the temple, and Mustafa heads north first. At the end of the short hall, he finds the ruined section of the temple he had originally investigated from the outside. To the side of the hall, Mustafa sees a sleeping area with about a half dozen aged, dusty, frail looking beds with small chests beside each. Mustafa steps forward to investigate, kicking up dust as he walks. Since the chests are unlocked, he is able to simply open them to check the insides. Old clothing one would expect on a human man-at-arms, spare bedding, leather and metal odds and ends, and dust. The more Mustafa rifles through the old belongings, the more dust and grit he kicks up. He searches three more chests, before asking Kailey to use her arcane abilities to check for any magical auras in the room.
Kailey sensed no strong magical auras except a growing malevolence that suddenly manifested as a swirling form of aggression with red glowing eyes that rushed Mustafa! Combat was quick and flashy as Mustafa used his abilities with runes and sigils, along with Jacob and Kailey, to batter and scatter the hostile presence, until a shadow seemed to rise up from the floor to inhabit the swirling form. It’s attacks were fiercer now with necrotic dangers added. A second raging whirlwind sprang up and joined the fray, trying to grab Kailey from behind. She was able to retreat behind Mustafa and Jacob and pelt the foes safely out of melee. Mustafa’s sword rose and fell, charged with the power of the runes and combat was quickly ended. No further attacks were forthcoming, so Mustafa moved to leave, when he heard a whisper chiding him for destroying the wind monsters. Mustafa questioned the voice loudly, and was able to gain some information. The voice belonged to the caretaker of the temple, and that Mustafa was the only one he deigned to communicate with. Mustafa couldn’t get much else from the voice, so he continued with the hallway to the south.
At it’s end there was another sleeping area on his right, and a slab of bronze like a table upon a stand in an area to his left. The bronze slab had four braziers at it’s corners, each lit with an eerie green flame. The slab depicted a huge serpent strangling the world in it’s coils and piercing continents with it’s fangs. Mustafa’s strange voice told him that this was a concession to the followers of Zehir while they were staying at the temple and that it had some interesting properties. He offered to show some of them to the group and immediately, the bronze tablet started to belch green smoke that quickly filled the close surrounding. Mustafa tried to hold his breath, but to no avail as the noxious fumes forced a coughing fit and thus gained access, poisoning him. His boon from the Sea God helped him fight the worst of the effects, but they would have to disable this evil effigy if they wanted safe passage in the temple again. The group jumped into action, trying to counter the unholy power of the slab, using their knowledge of religion and Mustafa’s power with runes. Eventually, there came a turning point, where Mustafa mustered his ingenuity with the runes and his strength to cleave the slab in two and use the earth and the fires to obliterate the remains of the slab all at once. Unfortunately, the power of a God is not to be underestimated and Zehir spent the last of his influence to counter all of Mustafa’s efforts and steal absolute victory by crumbling the slab to dust. Feeling unsatisfied, Mustafa moved back to the intersection and continued deeper into the temple.
Shortly after the intersection, the hall opens up into a room with a spiral staircase leading underground. Mustafa decides to see what else the temple has to offer on this floor and passes the spiral staircase by for now. Through an adjoining hallway, Mustafa comes across two more statue and altar pairs bracketing the hall, each looking like a smoke-shrouded humanoid. Mustafa fully expects to have to fight them manifestations again and begins to trudge through the two, but stops at a suggestion from Kailey. She mentions the piles of ashes and pulls out her fire starting kit which has several pieces of tinder in them. “Why don’t we burn an offering?” Mustafa sees no problem, so he does and almost immediately, the stick is consumed by flame and joins the pile of ashes upon the altar. With the offering complete, the statues no longer seem to watch Mustafa and the gang. Feeling relieved, Mustafa checks the last room to find a wide stairwell leading underground. After a little pondering, Mustafa decides to move forward down the larger stairwell, and upon taking the first step, feels a great wind spring up. It rushes past him and blows the piles of ashes off of the altars. This affront to their offerings animates the statues, but rather than attacking immediately, the smokey forms dissipate, leaving Mustafa on edge and expecting an ambush that doesn’t come. He decides to continue down the stairs taking him dozens of feet under the earth. Eventually, he finds himself in a room clad in floor to ceiling stonework, with a pit in the center of it. As he steps off the stairs, the voice returns to welcome him to his parlor…