When the venturers and their three giant companions emerge into the open sky again, Attsu is nowhere to be seen. Abd discovers a short note written by the road — Friends, this hunt has become personal. I shall rejoin you when it is completed. Trusting in their companion to rejoin them when Fate allows, they set out into the desert.
Hashatur guides the group, listening for the shifting patterns in the earth that herald the pyramid’s movement. Again the giants aid their smaller fellow travelers with food and drink and shelter. During a sandstorm, they call up a wall of rock to protect the party. Kismet sees the silhouettes of desert elves moving camp during the storm, and courteously hails one. The elf, one of the Pale Scorpion tribe, exchanges a few succinct pleasantries. When she tells them of their destination, the nomad tells her to be cautious — “The masks are alive.”
Two days later, the group sees the sun rise in a featureless stretch of desert. As the sun warms the sands around them, the earth trembles. A huge stone point pushes itself out of the sand, and the pyramid rises up. The structure reaches nearly 350 feet high before it stops and settles, with a colossal mask near the summit of the pyramid glaring down at them — a mask worked in the form of a furious shaitan.
The group circles the pyramid clockwise. The mask on the next face is a horned cyclops with an expression of confusion; on the face after that, a solemn bearded and turbaned vizier, high above an opening at the pyramid’s base, a corridor that leads to a door tall enough to admit a Kholos-Sahar. Wind-of-Embers and Hashatur indulge their curiosity and go to look at the fourth face — a serene woman wearing a seashell tiara, who Hashatur proposes may be the sea witch who cursed Kabotol and diminished him.
The entry is flanked by two caryatids in the form of chained female shaitans. The door itself is an immense slab of stone, twenty feet tall, with no handles or rings to guide it. Beside the door stands a giant-sized bust of a lovely Kholos-Sahar woman; an ugly iron and lead mallet, sized for the hand of a desert giant, hangs from a hook on its pedestal. Hashatur recognizes the sculpture as a portrait of Taliyah, the legendary binder-chieftain. After some examination of the bust and the mallet, Aya recommends that one of the giants strike the former with the latter. Hashatur muses that if the pyramid was built by jann, then perhaps their loathing of Taliyah’s deeds might have led them to create such a key — and Tarrikis takes up the mallet while the philsopher is still contemplating, and strikes the face of Taliyah with it. The metallic sound vibrates through the group, and the stone door rises.
The entire party enters cautiously. A short corridor leads to an entry hall lit by old sorcerous lamps, with strangely twisted columns and walls painted with images of the war against the Shadow Viziers. Two hallways lead out — to the left, a hall at a human’s scale, to the right, a hallway sized for Kholos-Sahar. A great mask, the likeness of the vizier’s mask on the pyramid’s exterior, hangs on the far wall above a painting of the battle of the Zodiac Orrery. As the group approaches, the mask animates. “It has been such a long time,” it sighs, “since there have been visitors.”
The Vizier speaks with the group, its voice resigned and its answers sometimes enigmatic. It knows of the giant entombed within, though its knowledge seems somewhat hazy. It also tells them that the pyramid is not entirely safe for them. “I am not on speaking terms with I or I or I,” it says. “I can be… temperamental.” When the venturers and giants agree that they must press on, the Vizier mask says, “I will remain here. If I do not overwhelm you or drive you off, perhaps I can assist you.”
The group decides not to split the party. They choose the giant corridor to the right, which is decorated with elemental motifs and flanked with veiled statues of colossal height. The passage turns sharply after a moment and leads to another huge room, this one dominated by six massive statues dressed in ancient piecemeal armor and other odd garb. Reliefs along both walls show what appear to be two giant families or lineages, one Kholos-Sahar and the other a line of sea or storm giants. Hashatur notes that these are likely the two ancestral lines of Kabotol.
As they continue to look about the room, the stone on one of the statues’ faces shifts and spreads, forming the mask of a horned cyclops with an expression of despond. The mouth moves, and a deep voice rolls through the hall. “Why do I bear this on my back? Who was I? Who am I when I am not I? Why do others come… to laugh at I?” The statue lurches forward, and begins to strike out at the mortals around it.
The venturers attack the immense statue without hesitation. Abd strikes at its legs while Kismet rides one of its feet. Aya and Wind-of-Embers strike it with alternating frozen winds and javelins of fire, weakening the stone further for Abd and Kismet’s swords. The younger giant siblings move to assist with their stone spears as well. Ishurdur fights more fiercely than her brother, who seems to have difficulty striking at a bipedal target with no true vitals.
A stone backhand strikes Abd, sending the paladin skidding back. He remains standing despite the force of the blow, and a prayer from Wind-of-Embers floods his muscles with healing fire. He darts back into the brawl, and soon the giant statue is toppled. The cyclops mask cracks away from the statue’s head and rolls free. The venturers advise Hashatur to carry it with them, just in case.
The passageway forward corridor leads around a second turn to the left, into another large hall where life-sized statues of desert giants kneel in the four corners, heads bowed. Another human-sized corridor leads into the room from the far wall, mirroring the two corridors in the entry hall. A ten-foot-high archway marks a third wall, but it is wholly blocked by a featureless worked stone slab like the pyramid’s entrance. A smooth blue gem the size of a grown man’s torso is set into the stone above the arch’s keystone.
The venturers investigate the stone, and a giant lifts Kismet up for a closer look. Unfortunately, she doesn’t see the signs of a mechanical trap, and can’t tell if there might be a magical effect. Finally an impatient Tarrikis places his palm against the gem and pushes. Two things happen: the slab grinds upwards to reveal stairs going down, and Tarrikis seems almost to fall downward as he shrinks to the size of an ordinary human.
The venturers move down the stairs, followed by a much-chastened Tarrikis. Ishurdur and Hashatur crouch down and squeeze through the opening after them. They find another hall sized for humans — another twenty-foot ceiling, supported by four simple pillars and lit with phantom fires. The walls are hung with vellum scrolls listing a variety of proverbs and riddles of contemplation in almost every language Wind-of-Embers and Aya recognize. The far door is sized more for the Kholos-Sahar, and a recess in the center of the floor is filled with sand sifted in the patterns appropriate for a meditation garden.
Dust drifts from above to the sound of grinding stone. The venturers look up to see a third mask protruding from the ceiling — that of the wrathful shaitan. “Too much for I to bear!” it shouts. “Too long have I been imprisoned! I must be free! I am forgetting I!”
Two stone hands, each one the size of a sultan’s throne, erupt from the floor. Abd, Kismet, and the giants battle the animated hands as Wind-of-Embers and Aya throw elemental spells against the mask. One of the hands seizes Abd and slams him against the floor, the impact dulled enough by the sand to prevent actual broken bones. Tarrikis is badly battered by the other hand, and falls back to let his full-sized sister engage it.
The mask is the first enemy to perish, exploding into stone shards from the alternating assault of fire and ice. Abd draws on the strength granted by Jalisa to rally. They focus on one hand, breaking it with steel and spells, and then destroy the other. The broken mask shows no more signs of vitality, and the pyramid is still again.
They rest some minutes to bind and heal their wounds. The venturers decide to be thorough examine the human-sized corridors on the other side of the tomb. They find a room decorated with mosaics, the ceiling only twenty feet high. The mosiacs show more of the war against the Shadow Viziers, with Kabotol both as a giant and as a human-sized warrior. Another mask of the distraught cyclops hangs over the exit, but it does not stir. Their investigation is abruptly disturbed when a great shout echoes through the hall. “Something is happening!”
They return through the door of humility and down the stairs, where the odd slab has now risen, revealing another corridor beyond. The giants explain that Hashatur had settled down to contemplate the door, and once he had properly cleared his mind, the slab raised. “Your contemplation is useful for the first time,” says Abd.
They enter a room a simple crypt with a single bier, a twenty-foot slab of unmarked stone. Atop the bier rests a tall Kholos-Sahar man of powerful build with thick hair and a dark beard. One hand rests on the weapon laid down his body, a metal spear with a spade-like blade at its other end. The other hand guards a greenish gem. The only other feature in the room is the large mask on the far wall — the Sea Witch. As its fellows did, the mask animates as the venturers approach.
“I am fragmented,” the mask says. “I am resigned. Confused. Frustrated. And hopeful… that someday I would be free.”
The Sea Witch counsels the venturers to take Kabotol with them. “Take the stone. Ask him to come. He will awaken.” Tarrikis asks abashedly about the pyramid’s magic, and the mask tells him that his reduction will end when he leaves these walls.
Kismet is the one to invite Kabotol to wake up. The giant hero stirs awake, and sits up. He still grasps his weapon as he studies his liberators. They explain that some time has passed, and that although there has been peace with the fall of the Shadow Viziers, now a new cabal of wizards plans to seize similar power. Kabotol solemnly absorbs the tale, and respectfully places the Behemoth Jewel in Abd’s hand.
As the venturers and the giants depart the pyramid, the masks watch them pass quietly — the Shaitan mask reformed in the hall of meditation, the Cyclops in the hall of ancestors, the Vizier in the entry. None of them speak. The group walks free of the pyramid, and the sands begin to tremble beneath their feet. Once a distance from the tomb, they turn to watch as the structure rises up even further. An immense stone form, carrying the pyramid on its back, pulls itself free of the earth. Four crudely hewn faces about its head slowly merge into one, and with a sigh like a landslide, the elemental colossus and the pyramid vanish once again beneath the desert. Wind-of-Embers’ brassmane nuzzles her shoulder in the quiet.
Ishurdur glances down at her brother, who is still the size of the venturers. “Give it time,” she says.