The Obelisk Prophecy
Ancient History of Har'Akir
Deir el Medina
Centuries ago, a mighty empire stretched across the land known as Har’Akir. Mighty and magnificent, this kingdom stood as a beacon of law, harmony and fealty to the Gods. Yet the crimes of the Pharaoh Ankhtepot drew the scorn of the Gods, and ended the harmony that sustained the Akiri. Plagues, famines, barbarians and blasphemy ravaged the Akiri culture, until the tiny city of Muhar stood alone to face the slow death of their civilization. In the aftermath of the apocalyptic decline, the Akiri of Muhar believed that they alone had survived. They were wrong.
Only a scant few travelers have ever laid eyes upon Deir el Medina, for it lies far in the Northern desert, at the very edge of the land itself, where the mountains touch the endless sandstorm of the border. The city stretches across the sand, a grand monument to the lost Akiri civilization. The silent statues and towering obelisks of the city stand alone and untouched by man. Yet though mankind forsakes the city, it is not abandoned. Beneath the sandy streets, in the depths of the endless crypts, enshrouded in the shadows, the last inhabitants of Deir el Medina live, and wait.
Deep within the bowels of the temple of Amon Ra, the clerics of Muhar have stored a papyrus scroll. The scroll is an unassuming document, similar to the hundreds upon hundreds of documents that hold the knowledge of the ancients. Yet this text is fairly new, scribed less than a century ago. This scroll is precious to the priests, for upon its surface was penned the last testament of a dying nomad. Only decades ago the scroll was brought to the death bed of a Pharazian trader, who, as his body was wracked by the agonies of disease, told of how he became lost in a sandstorm and took shelter in the ruins of a vast city. The scroll describes the nomad’s exploration of the city, as well as his study of the hieroglyph writings he found there. There upon the walls of the city he found the lost history of Deir el Medina, and deep within the city crypts, he found its lost inhabitants.
It is known that when the pharaoh Ankhtepot walked the earth, as a living mortal, he committed foul deeds in the search for eternal life. To end his cruelty and turn him from the path of evil, the Gods decided to punish him. Though small, Deir el Medina was amongst the most precious settlements of the Akiri culture, for it was home to the tomb builders who laboured in the canyon known as Pharaohs Rest. The Gods sent Ankhtepot a vision, commanding him to abandon Deir el Medina as punishment for his dark deeds. When Ankhtepot awoke he consulted his most trusted advisor, Inanamen, the priest who would one day betray him. Inanamen deduced the intentions of the Gods and hoped to foil their efforts. The treacherous cleric advised Ankhtepot to ignore the warning, in the hopes of bullying the Gods into granting him immortality.
Though the Akiri records lose track of the accursed city, the hieroglyphs found by the Pharazian describe the rest of the dreadful tale. As punishment to the pharaoh, the city was besieged by endless sandstorms. As the people suffered, the agents of Inanamen worked their evil upon the city. The secret priests of Set used their magic to sustain the people in their time of need, turning the city dwellers against the true gods of the Akiri, bringing them closer to the clutches of evil. As Ankhtepot continued his mad quest for godhood, the city began to fall ever steadily into depravity.
Unable to leave their city, even to burry their dead, the master tomb builders of Deir el Medina turned their talents upon the earth beneath them. The deceased were interred in the catacombs dug beneath their homes, joining a growing population of cadavers. For years the people cut into the stone, creating a maze of halls and galleries descending into the blackness. Even as they dug, the secret clerics of Set turned the people to the worship of their disgusting god.
In the outside world, Inanamen goaded his immortal king to greater acts of evil. Yet Ankhtepot would be betrayed, slain and mummified by the priests of Amon Ra. Exposed as a vile agent of evil, Inanamen fled into the desert, even as the Akiri culture crashed down around his head. Inanamen fled to the city of Deir el Medina, where he assumed lordship over the city of Set. Those few city dwellers remained had retreated into the darkness of the caves beneath their city, fearful of Ra’s retribution for their blasphemy. As they descended into the crypt, they recorded their dreadful tale on the stonewalls, leaving the secret history that would one day cost a Pharazian his life.In the years since Har’Akir’s appearance, the denizens of Deir el Medina have been “blessed” by their god, transformed into serpentine abominations. In the cool, damp depths beneath their city, they worship Set and the entropy he brings. Completely converted to his cause, these perverse cultists dream of the ever-approaching day when the gods shall forsake Har’Akir forever. On that day Set will claim the land, an unending night shall fall, and the faithful of Set shall slither out of their caverns and dominate the cosmos.
The cityscape of Deir el Medina is a sprawling mass of mud brick buildings and stone monuments. The stone has eroded in the constant barrage of sand, becoming uniformly smooth. The crumbling remains of the city walls border the edges of the city. Though they once stood as tall as thirty feet in some sections, the walls have decayed, now never higher than twenty feet. The four great gates of the city remain, marked by a pairs of massive statues that flank either side of the portals. Several of these statues have collapsed over the years; most are too eroded to determine the god they once depicted.
Four wide roads quarter the city, each beginning at the gates. Known to historians as “The Procession of the Gods”, these roads were once traversed by carts bearing the statues of gods, who were paraded through the city on special occasions. The four roads are lined by the greatest examples of Akiri architecture. Statues of gods and sphinxes stand silent guard over the abandoned roads, while towering obelisks slowly sink and the town houses of aristocrats crumble. The procession roads break into the tributary roads that lead to the forgotten merchant districts, or the courtyards. Deir el Medina is filled with simple mud brick houses still cluttered with a handful of artefacts of daily life. Intermixed amongst the houses are the wells that once linked the city to the vital waters that collect beneath their city. Cut into the streets of the city are small shafts, leading down into the catacombs below.
The four roads of the “Procession of the Gods” converge upon the hill that stands in the centre of Deir el Medina. Upon this hill stands the mighty ziggurat that held the temple of Amon Ra. Each road ends in a causeway that leads up the hill and to the four entrances of the temple. These causeways are bordered by walls and decorated with statues of stone gods and beasts that tower over those who dare to approach the temple mount. The ziggurat itself is massive, standing more than 50 feet above the top of the hill. Thick wooden doors once sealed all four of the entrances, but in this age of decline the doors lie broken in the portal. The temple remains a glorious example of Akiri spirituality; every room is adorned with colourful murals and wooden furniture. At the very centre of the temple is the inner sanctum, a massive chamber dominated by a gigantic statue of Amon Ra, which has been mysteriously decapitated. The lower chambers of the ziggurat lead to the stairway that connects the surface to the sepulchre below.
Though the city is forsaken by all life, the restless spirits of the dead haunts its empty streets. Before the creation of the catacombs, many city dwellers died and were cremated, rather than being properly buried. Though a necessary evil at the time, this irreverent sacrilege deprived the deceased of their place in the afterlife, dooming them to an eternity of sorrow. These spirits are the butu, disembodied souls driven to madness and violence. In many ways they resemble wraiths, though they are wickedly clever. The butu travel in packs of five to fifteen, always traveling through solid objects, only occasionally poking their heads out to see their prey. One or two butu lure their prey into a dead end, making noises not unlike sobbing to attract attention. When their prey bumbles into the trap, the rest of the group attacks from all sides, including above and below. The dread lord who rules beneath he city rules the butu, demanding that they alert him whenever an intruder is discovered.
Beneath the city streets lies a darkened labyrinth of crypts. In the aftermath of the punishment of the gods, these catacombs were cut into the rock to store the dead of Deir el Medina. The sepulchre is made up of halls and galleries, cut out of the rock and reinforced with mud brick in some spaces. The scent of the crypt is a nauseating stench, originating from the translucent green vapours produced by rotting bodies, collecting on the floor. The condition is made bearable due to the airshafts cut into the ceilings, which help to ventilate the area. During the day, sunlight glints through the shafts, providing illumination similar to dusk conditions, by night the crypts are as dark as any other cavern.
The crypts are hallowed ground, so the butu are forbidden to enter. Anyone fleeing from the wraiths will find the crypts a safe haven, though the stinking depths hide equal dangers. The residents of the tombs are restless in their sleep. Wights and mummies sleep fitfully in their graves, while shadow asps slither in the darkness. As well, the tomb builders of Deir el Medina were infamous for their expertise in devious tomb traps.
The catacombs descend three floors into the earth like an inverted pyramid. The stairs descending from the ziggurat open into the centre of the first level, which houses the bodies of commoners. Hallways are crammed with slots cut horizontally into the wall, which hold the ancient corpses of the dead, many of which are nothing more than skeletons bound in tattered funeral shrouds. Hallways meet each other at the galleries, small rooms with high ceilings. Galleries are more sophisticated than the halls; they are reinforced with masonry and are painted with vivid murals of daily life and carved with hieroglyphs. These glyphs record the grim history of Deir el Medina, telling the nostalgic tale of the city before the age of decline. Built into the corner of each gallery is a small shrine an Akiri god, though several shrines have been defaced and tagged with obscene graffiti markings.
In the southern corner of the first level stands the stairwell to the second level, resting place of the master tomb builders. Those few travelers who have seen the sepulchres of Pharaoh’s Rest may notice the similarities to the crypt of Deir el Medina. The crypt itself is reinforced with masonry and buttressed to support the crypt above. Nearly every wall is painted with murals of the Akiri gods and engraved with hieroglyphs depicting the descent of Deir el Medina and its slow fall into godless cult worship. In the northern most corner of the second level is the staircase leading the third floor.
The tomb hallways open into individual mausoleums, wherein whole families have been interred. Though master tomb builders lovingly crafted these family crypts, over the centuries these sepulchres were defaced as generation after generation squeezed their deceased into overcrowded tombs. These small crypts may hold as many as a hundred bodies, with coffins stacked atop on another, or bodies folded over and jammed into tiny slots in the walls. Valuable trinkets and family heirlooms are found on the bodies or piled in the corners of the tomb. As each family crypt was sealed, cunning devices were installed to prevent the reopening of the tomb, as a means of preventing future relatives from jamming any more bodies into the grave. Many traps are built into the rock, placed in the sealed doors of the crypt.
The third level was reserved for the bodies of the aristocrats and priests of Deir el Medina. As the city’s cult worship evolved into open Set worship, work on this level was abandoned for the construction below. Only a few mausoleums still stand on the third level, most having been opened and desecrated or left uncompleted. The walls of this level are made of the most finely crafted masonry, broken by patches of bare stone where the mud brick has collapsed, or was never installed. Hieroglyphs cut into the finished potions of wall describe the last years of decline in Deir el Medina, as the worship of Gods was abandoned. Graffiti markings carved over the glyphs at a latter date explain the rest of Deir el Medina’s grim history, starting from the appearance of Inanamen to the abandonment of the surface. This area lacks the airshafts and the rotting bodies of the first and second levels, so the reeking green mist is replaced with a musty atmosphere of dust.
This third level is built on either side of the long main tunnel leading from the stairs from above, southward to the tunnels below. Individual hallways break from the main hall, forking off and leading to the individual crypts of the ancient upper class of Deir el Medina. Nearly fifty tombs were built into this floor, built at different elevations and connected by sloping halls. Those few tombs that have not been defiled have survived only because of the presence of powerful magical traps. Lethal and enduring, these arcane devices offered too much trouble for so little award to grave robbers.
Temple of Set
At the end of the main hallway of the third level is the sloping ramp leading deeper into the darkness of the earth. These tunnels are noticeably cool and moist, slick with the moisture draining in from the desert for miles. This is the Temple of Set, a long series of serpentine tunnels cut into a spiral descent further into the rock. The tunnels stand nearly eight feet high, circular in shape. The walls have a smooth moist texture, not unlike the scales of a serpent though there are places where the smooth wall is broken by a section of masonry, on which have been built sconces for torches. Initial glances suggest that these spots are stone and mortar, though close examination reveals that these squares are made of hundreds of human bones, glued tightly together with ancient clay. These grisly torch holders illuminate the tunnels as well as warming them significantly. Between the moisture and the heat, the atmosphere in the Temple of Set is not unlike that of a jungle, or the belly of a gigantic snake.
The Temple of Set winds far down into the earth, spiralling like the coils of a colossal viper. At infrequent intervals the tunnel opens into a tributary hall, leading into different areas of the temple. The highest break leads to the living quarters of the Temple, containing bunks, training rooms and workshops for nearly fifty individuals. Living quarters are little more than circular rooms, covered in a soft carpet and surrounded by the chests and lockers that hold the few personal belongings of the mutated denizens of Deir el Medina. Beyond the living quarters are the spawning pits, the ghastly birthing chambers of vile creatures. These pits are cavernous rooms where the fiendish spawn of Set breed in a disgusting, reptilian orgy, producing corrupted egg after corrupted egg. These unborn soldiers of evil are taken to the hatching room, which is in actuality a storage chamber for thousands of eggs. The Temple of Set can hold but a few followers of Set, so the majority of eggs are left in hibernation.
Below the spawning pits are the farms that feed the depraved serpent people of Set. These farms are massive pits, filled with shrieking rats and mice, drawn to the tunnels by the vile call of Set. These rodents constantly claw at the towering walls of their prison, attempting to escape through the top, even as more of their kind pours through the tiny honeycomb of tunnels at the bottom of the pit. At any hour there are a dozen or so serpent folk, gleaning mice from the pit for latter consumption.
Further down the tunnel is the reptile pool. While the surface is arid and dry, the dark earth collects moisture and drains into natural chambers, such as the one used as a reptile pool by the mutated monsters of Deir el Medina. All manner of crocodiles, serpents and lizards swim through these natural pools of water, fed by the mice collected in the farms above. As the chosen of Set, these reptiles are culled from the surface world, so that they will be spared extinction when the Gods destroy the world.
Beyond the reptile pool is the end of the tunnel and the entrance to the inner sanctum of the Temple of Set. This portal is a gigantic stone door, more than fifteen feet tall. Four massive statues guard this door, shaped as mighty men with the heads of asps, cobras, lizards and crocodiles. These doors open rarely, only once a century, when a suitable candidate for the priesthood petitions for the right of mummification and eternal life. Any being who approaches the door way is asked four questions by the statues, who test his historical, philosophical and spiritual knowledge. If the loyal serpent can answer the questions correctly, the doors open and may enter the chamber beyond. If the petitioner will not, or cannot answer correctly, the four statues animate as mighty golems and crush him or her into a pulp. The golems themselves open the doors, so in the event of their destruction, the six-inch-thick stone doors would have to be forced open with some sort of lever.
The Well of Souls
Beyond the doorways of the end of the Temple of Set, lies the well of souls. This cavernous chamber is older than Deir el Medina, more ancient than even the Akiri civilization. Crafted after the resurrection of Osiris, the Well of Souls is the secret entrance to the afterlife, the final escape rout of the vile god Set. Deep within the blackest bowels of the earth, the undying priests of Set slumber, preparing for the day that they gods will finally forsake the world and their vile master will return. Its very presence in the world of the living spreads dissonance and entropy into the world, corrupting the ma’at of Har’Akir and bringing the earth ever closer to destruction.
Unlike the Temple of Set, this chamber is as dry as the desert above. The portal at the end of the Temple opens to a wide walkway that circles the well, overlooking the great floor nearly twenty feet below. A staircase of stone directly opposite the entrance leads down to the floor, which is made of thousands of stones, fit together into a massive mosaic. The startlingly advanced artwork stretches across the entire bottom floor of the well, creating a surreal picture viewable from the walkway above. In the picture writing of the Akiri, the mosaic depicts the story of Set, beginning where the staircase reaches the floor, and continuing along the floor in a massive circle, ending where the story begins.
The Well of Souls is made from ancient stone bricks, the finest ever seen in Akiri architecture. From the bottom floor, it can be seen that the walkway is supported by dozens upon dozens of columns carved into statues with fierce serpentine heads. Sconces holding ever-burning torches are placed every ten feet around the well, on the walkway and on the statues of the lower level.
The ceiling is a colossal dome, a feature never seen elsewhere in Akiri architecture. In the flickering firelight of the Well, a mural is visible on the ceiling. The massive picture is painted in vivid colours, drawn in a realistic style more similar to Dementlieuse artists than Akiri artisans. The mural depicts an army of serpent-creatures rampaging through human cities, as a massive snake slithers across the sky and swallows the sun.
Beneath the walkway, along the wall of the lower floor, stand the stone sarcophagi of the priests of Set. Evenly spaced along the wall are a dozen coffins, with all but four occupied. The stone coffins are ornately carved to resemble their inhabitant, a scaly humanoid with a disgusting serpentine head. In the centre of the Well is a sloping funnel made of slick rocks, thirty feet in diameter and leading down into a thirty-foot pit. At the bottom of the pit writhes a mass of swarming serpents. Deadly boa constrictors, venomous vipers and thousands of other slithering replies fill the bottom of the well, waiting for a victim upon which to feed. Careless invaders who walk within the funnel must make a balance check against a DC of 10 or fall into the pit.
Between the stairs and the pit lies a simple stone slab. The rock is stained with ancient blood and scratch marks from knife blades. Leather restraints are bolted to both ends of the slab. The sides of the slab hold hooks holding carving knives and other brutal bronze tools. Despite its appearance, this slab is not a sacrificial alter. This slab is the workbench for the ancient priests of Set, for the initiation of a worthy follower into their ranks. The initiate is mummified alive, his organs removed and his body filled with salt. The sacred organs of the initiate are stored within the bellies of Set’s chosen serpents, which wait hungrily in the pit.
Opposite to the staircase, at the other end of the Well towers the statue of Set. This figure is more than thirty feet high and made of sold gold. The sculpture is polished to a mirror like finish, reflecting the dancing firelight, creating the illusion that the statues is moving, even breathing. Two huge ruby eyes stare out into the chamber, sparkling with chilling malevolence.
The statue of Set depicts the serpent god as a humanoid with the head of an asp. In his clawed hands he holds the sword he used to dismember Osiris, wielding it above his head, as if to bring it down upon some helpless being at his feet. Rubies adorn the cutting edge of the sword, freezing the image of dripping blood for eternity. Ivory fangs are fixed into the serpent mouth, with sapphires and emeralds set into the edge, depicting the treacherous venom of the snake.