Returning to Al Shiraz, the group consulted immediately with the Sheik, telling him and his remaining generals everything that had transpired in Ghammas. They noted that the Asherati had not returned, nor had Amhapar. The Sheik told them that the Asherati all left at once, rather suddenly, and nothing had been heard from them since. He worried that their underground cities had been overrun by the Harssaf, who were their old enemies, but he worried even more that Amhapar himself had either fallen in battle or been taken prisoner. The loss of Amhapar would be disastrous for all desert dwellers.
The group also asked the Sheik about Malaxder, and whether one of his advisors or court magicians could perhaps allow them to speak to his shade, which seemed to be following them. The Sheik took them to yet another room in the palace, this one filled with scholars, wizards and mystics of all kinds. The desks and tables they sat at seemed to be constantly floating around the room, each on their own level of gravity, while the various servants and messengers stumbled from level to level, adjusting their balance carefully as they stepped from table to table. Moving up to one of the sages, a tall green-skinned man, the Sheik addressed him in an unfamiliar tongue before turning to the group and announcing that he could help them.
They followed the odd green-skinned sage outside the palace walls, to a small garden within the city. There, he cast a ritual spell around a candle, and after a short time Malaxder appeared within the light cast by the candle. He told them what he had endured since his death, and told them he would follow them ethereally and try to continue helping them. He was slowly getting better at forcing himself to become material, and he would try to participate as much as possible.
Returning to the palace, the Sheik asked them if they would go into the desert and try to determine what had become of Amhapar. The absence of the Asherati was disturbing enough, and if anyone could bring them back to Al Shiraz as allies, he could. The next day, the group left to try and find the surface markers for the city of Ansena, and perhaps find a way into the city. Only a few short hours after heading into the desert, they encountered Ahnkeru, Amhapar’s ashworm mount, who seemed to want them to follow her. Taking the hint, they set off into the wastes with Ahnkeru in the lead.
After a few days travel, Anton realized they were heading in the direction of a dangerous ruin they had been warned to avoid – the ruined temple city of Dendera. As they grew closer to the cyclopean ruins, it became more and more clear that Ahnkeru was leading them directly there. Anton immediately cast his protective magics, while the sky overheard darkened at their approach.
Coming closer to the city, the air around them seemed to grow darker, and Anton’s magical light grew dim as they crossed the gigantic threshold. Within the city it was constantly black as night, and odd noises could be heard all around. Storm informed Ral that she could almost pick up the scent of Amhapar, but it seemed to be vanishing and reappearing at random, which she couldn’t explain. As they passed though a hallway lined with massive stone pillars, Tierel and Baph noticed that the carvings on the pillars depicted massive sacrifices, terrible atrocities perpetrated by the ancient giants. Some of them still seemed to have blood on them, somehow, and as they grew closer the sound of weeping could be heard.
Investigating the weeping sounds, they were suddenly ambushed by a trio of demons, the skin flayed from their bodies by a constant halo of sand that scraped the flesh from anyone they got close to, as well as their own regenerating bodies. The group fought back with all their strength, but the demons were powerful as well, and the battle was very difficult. Finally striking them down, the group gathered their courage and continued into the ruins.
As they went further in, more strange smells and sounds attracted them into more traps, and the sense of terrible evil grew stronger and stronger. Demons ambushed them repeatedly, their unholy power making them harder and harder to fight off. Mal remembered that the ancient Giants used to sacrifice their elf slaves to power their magics, especially the epic spells that allowed them to lock the plane of Dal Quor permanently away from the material plane. He and Anton both suggested that this city must have been a nexus of those sacrifices, and the evil taint had not lessened over the millennia, continuing to attract the most foul creatures from across the worlds.
Storm picked up Amhapar’s scent once again, and they followed it to a small ziggurat. On top, a large demon had placed Amhapar’s unconscious form on an altar, and was clearly preparing to sacrifice him, while two other demons guarded the foul ceremony. The group quickly advanced on the unholy rite, Anton, Tierel and Arsen distracting the guards while Baph focused the full power of his mind on the leader, shattering him with a single powerful thought and saving Amhapar. With the leader down, the remaining demons were easily dispatched and the group took Amhapar’s still unconscious form and fled from the terrible city with all speed.
Escaping from the city, they traveled as far as they could into the surrounding desert, trying to put as much distance between themselves and the evil within as possible. After some rest and a bit of healing magic, Amhapar recovered well enough to express his eternal gratitude, and tell them a bit of what happened. He explained that he left his people to wander the desert when a political shift happened within the Asherati community. Several members of his order were murdered, and the people turned against them, driving them out. Only Amhapar survived. He knew that something terrible had happened to his people somehow, but he did not have the strength to fight it off alone.
When Montu Chezzak returned, Stikuchi told him they would probably need to consult with the great dragon that laired in the City of Glass. The dragon normally broached no visitors, but Amhapar knew his people had a map to the City, and a token that might allow it’s bearer to get an audience with the ancient beast. When he returned to the underground city, he found the map and token, but he also discovered that the city leaders were possessed by fiends, which explains the actions taken against his order. Unable to simply leave, he attacked the fiends who summoned the Asherati warriors back to the city to defend them. During the battle, Amhapar convinced the other Asherati of the threat, and the people united to drive the demons out. The battle was successful, but Amhapar himself fell in the conflict and was drug away from the city by the demons, who no doubt planned to sacrifice him to some dark power.
Reaching into his pack, he produced a small leather roll. Unfurling it, he explained the map to Shackleton and passed the token to Anton – a shard of glass, supposedly taken from the walls of the city itself. The map would led them to the city’s location in the desert, and the shard would allow them to see the ancient ruin, and perhaps gain an audience with the great dragon Sunataderapophis.