Ziedon continued quickly through the tunnel. None of the other creatures followed him; they kept running about doing whatever they were doing before.
It was only a few minutes before he came to a fork in the tunnel. The left fork went down, and the right headed up. The two were identical in all other respects.
Ziedon sat and rested for a bit, examining his wounds and burns to make sure that they were not worsening. They were red and swollen, but he could not expect better. Then, feeling a bit self conscious but remembering what happened in the moss-lined tunnel, he said, “I am Ziedon and I seek the magical stone.” There was no response to his words, so he shrugged his shoulders, irritating a blister and causing him to jump back, regained his countenance, and headed down the left tunnel, dagger ready in one hand and torch in the other. Several more minutes later, he came to yet another split. This one was quite strange. One tunnel led steeply down into the ground and looked almost like a pit. The other was flat, but began on a ledge ten feet from the steep slope.
Ziedon looked for handholds on the wall, but found few. It would be very difficult, especially in his weakened state and with so little experience in such matters, to scale the wall and reach the flat, safer-looking tunnel. Therefore, he chose the steep tunnel.
He climbed down, wondering if it would not have been easier to scale the wall. At times, the passage was so steep that he had to crawl backwards, holding onto the floor and walls, to prevent himself from falling. After only a few minutes, however, the tunnel flattened abruptly. What kind of maze was this? He lay down in exhaustion on the hard stone floor. His wounds had swelled further from the strain of climbing, and Ziedon was weak and tired. He felt that if he did not find a good place to rest soon, he would not make it out of these tunnels.
From his position on the floor, he looked around. The tunnel had widened significantly. It was now a dozen feet wide and equally tall. Ziedon looked down the tunnel and saw a door on its side. As he continued to stare down the passage, he saw other similar doors lining the walls. In fact, it appeared as if the entire length of the tunnel, beginning fifty feet from where he lay, was lined with doors.
Ziedon squinted his eyes and looked down the tunnel as far as he could. Seing no end to it, he looked at the first door. It seemed the same as all the rest, like a normal, wooden door. It was better made than some Ziedon had seen, but it looked fairly plain otherwise. He listened at the door for a moment and, hearing nothing, slowly opened it. It seemed to lead outside. He saw a thick forest beyond the doorway. He looked at the trees for a while and noticed that there seemed to be homes of some sort in several of them. Someone about as tall as Ziedon must have lived in that area. He did not notice anyone about, however. As his eyes surveyed the scene, he was shocked to see Ardith, Sahlman, Kay, and another man (he assumed it must have been one of Balban's servants), looking at the same trees from a different angle. 'Could it be them?' he thought. 'What kind of powerful magic is this?'
Ziedon poked his head out the door and looked to the left and right. Nothing within changed. The doorframe remained, and beyond it, trees. He then shut the door, withdrew back into the hallway, and opened the next door, repeating to himself over and over “stone which glows with metal… stone which glows with metal.”
Behind the next door, Ziedon saw a large, brown, egg-shaped stone on a three-foot high stand. The stone itself was at least two feet from top to bottom, and was surrounded by other, smaller brown stones. Some were egg-shaped like the large one, and others were flat disks, like perfect stepping stones. Many had more obscure shapes. Most of them were smooth, but some were rough or even jagged.
Excitedly, Ziedon propped the door open with the scabbard of his dagger. These could be the stones he had gone through so much to find. He moved into the room cautiously. As soon as he stepped through the doorway, however, he found himself walking back into the tunnel, facing the other direction. Once he got over his surprise, he looked around and found that the doors seemed to continue endlessly in both directions. If he was in the same corridor as before, many more doors must have appeared in his momentary absence.
Ziedon looked back through the doorway and saw another, identical hall, also with endless doors in both directions. He thought for a moment, turned around, and walked backwards through the door thinking “stone which glows with metal.” When he got to the other side and looked around, he was disappointed. It was merely another tunnel, identical to the one he just left. Nothing changed from what he saw through the doorway, except… what was this? His scabbard was propping open a door about a dozen yards down the hall. He took the scabbard and propped open what would have been the second door in the series, were there not doors continuing endlessly in both directions.
He walked over to the open door and looked within. Inside was a dark-robed man. As Ziedon tried to make out his features, he found that he looked identical to Ziedon, and was looking right at him!
“Do you understand what I am saying?” asked Ziedon. “Nod your head if you do.” The other said the same thing, as Ziedon spoke. He reached out with his right hand to grab the other's left, and the other tried the same to Ziedon. Each dodged the other's grasp. Frustrated, Ziedon took a step foreward and grabbed onto the other's right hand with his own, interlocking their fingers. He pushed and pulled at his duplicate, but was met with equally strong resistance at every one of his movements. He gave up, removing his scabbord and letting the door close.
Behind the next door, he saw another identical hallway. There was yet another duplicate of Ziedon, but this time was opening the door accross the hall from the one Ziedon was opening. Behind that second opened door was yet another hall and another copy of Ziedon, opening a door. As Ziedon focused his eyes, he found he could see any number of his images opening as many doors in as many hallways.
Ziedon returned to the door that he had left after trying futilely to take the brown rocks, and saw, once again, the collection of rocks. When he got to the other side, there was just another door-lined hallway.
Ziedon was reaching the end of his wits. He tried to figure out the paradox of the doors and the hallways. He had believed that walking backwards would solve the problem; but alas, it did not. He then thought that closing his eyes may solve the problem, but it did not. He began to wonder if this entire maze was just one big illusion, imposed on his mind by some unknown source.
Ziedon looked at the hallway in a sense of disbelief. He could find no other explanation for what had been happening to him other than magic or illusion.
After shaking his head and blinking his eyes to assure himself that the scene around him was as real as he could expect, Ziedon determined that it must have been magical in nature. He walked back to the door he had seen his adventuring party through, opened it, and saw them again. They were in the same forested area, but were surrounded by hostile-looking, short pointy-eared beings that held weapons at Ziedon's friends. 'Perhaps,' Ziedon thought, 'I am the constant, and if I vary the situation, the magic will be broken.'
“Ardith! Sahlman! Kay!” Ziedon yelled. They looked in his direction, but did not seem to see anything. Their attackers looked about nervously. As Ardith, Sahlman, and Kay looked toward him, their faces seemed to melt away into their bodies, and their bodies into the trees around them. The entire scene gradually faded into a uniform green. The door in front of him closed, and expanded to fill the cracks on its edges. He took a step backward and saw that all the doors were expanding similarly. The far ends of the tunnel, which before had seemed infinitely distant, were now solid walls, only a few dozen yards apart. The new walls moved closer together until each was only a few feet from Ziedon's frightened form, and then the walls, floor, and ceiling all disappeared.
The new area around Ziedon was a large room, almost endless in its dimensions, but identical to one of the rooms he had seen through a door. There was a large, brown, egg-shaped stone in the center of the room on a stand, and various stones and rocks on the floor around it.
Ziedon quickly looked around to see if there were any egresses from this chamber, but saw none at his first glance. 'Hmm,' he thought to himself, 'Perhaps adding the other members of the party, if indeed it was all in my mind, was too much for the enchantment and it lost its power over me as a result. Very puzzling.'
The necromancer spoke out proudly. “My name is Ziedon. I have heeded the riddle and broken the enchantment. I claim my reward.” He slowly walked forward, afraid that there may be some final trap or the like, and picked up one of the smaller stones. When he lay his dagger against it, it lit up with a soft, warm glow. This was indeed the stone he sought. He lifted a variety of handsized rocks and placed them in his backpack. Each one was quite heavy, and, in Ziedon's weakened state, he found it impossible to lift his rock-filled pack, so he reluctantly settled for three of them.
To show that he was greatful for the bounty he took, Ziedon placed an offering of food and some coppers he found in his backpack before the large stone, watching it light up dimly when the small metal coins were placed near it. He began to walk away from the stone to search for an exit, when he heard someone else in the room. The momentary sound of fast walking was followed by the appearance of the old woman from above the tunnels. She looked at the large stone with admiration, as it began to glow brighter and brighter until they both had to cover their eyes with their arms.
The bright light dimmed again, and by the time Ziedon's vision had returned, the large stone was gone, as were all the smaller rocks and stones other than the three in his pack and the one in his hand. The coppers and food were gone as well. It seemed to take the old woman longer to regain her vision than it took Ziedon, but she finally stopped squinting and looked at his hands. “I see you've found it,” she said, “May I see it?”
Ziedon recalled the situation that his companions were in. “Can I be teleported to a scene which I saw through one of the doors?”
“Can you be what? I do not remember seeing a door anywhere,” she said in her shrill voice.
Ziedon looked distrustfully at the old woman but held up the stone that he was holding and said, “Yes, I found it.” He did not let the old woman take the stone but held it up for her survey.
She frowned. “May I hold it?” she asked, putting a shrieking emphasis on the word 'hold.'
“No,” said Ziedon, closing his hand around the stone, “You have not earned the right.”
Ziedon walked in the direction the woman came from, searching for an exit. Occasionally, he glanced at her, and each time she quickly looked away, as she had been watching him while his back was turned, only to look back at him as he turned his head away again. Ziedon did not trust her, as she apparently knew how to get into the room but did not offer any aid, instead forcing Ziedon to traverse fire, living moss, and a paradoxical hallway.
He soon found the tunnel leading out of the large, dark room. He walked towards the exit, but right before he could leave, a wall sprouted from the ground and blocked his way.
“You have done well,” said the old woman behind him. Ziedon looked back and watched a ring of fire form around her feet, break, and spiral up to the ceiling. When it passed over her withered form, her body straightened and became taller. After the fire passed, Ziedon saw a tall man in the woman's place. He had long, black hair, and a greying beard that covered his neck completely. He was wearing a long black cloak, much like Ziedon's, and carried an ivory staff topped with a darkened ivory serpent's head. He reminded Ziedon vaguely of his master, but this man's face was different.
The tall man smiled at Ziedon and walked over to him. When he was a dozen feet away, he reached out his hand. Ziedon's clenched fist opened, and the stone within floated out of his grasp and into the man's outstretched hand.
Oooh! The suspense is killing me! :)
Edit 1/8/2013: Not sure what day exactly this turn was played until, so I'm pretending it was the first of the month.