This Way To The Scenic Vista!
(children under the age of 90
must be accompanied by
Parent, Guardian, Priest
or Demon - NO EXCEPTIONS!)
The sign had all the trappings of a trap. They were inside of an underground dungeon; there was no way there could be a scenic vista. At least, not normally. Werdna had seen plenty of signs that this place had been crafted by magic. Even so, the dungeon wouldn't be so nice as to give a pretty view for nothing.
Still, it made him curious. This was the Temple of the Dreampainter, somehow transported into his entombment prison. Every room was stuffed with ornate, colorful, and elaborate decorations. While it helped distinguish one room from another, one could easily lost track of time just looking over all of it. The smooth lines and geometrical designs were enchanting before magic had been used upon them. A place called a scenic vista within this extremely Art Deco temple was surely worth a look even if it was a trap.
Werdna snapped his fingers and looked down at the slithering squirming vines that had followed him up to this level. "Strangler Vines, stay within this doorway and keep it open."
A ruffle of leaves responded as two of the vines decided to clamber up the frame. They couldn't communicate, but plant monsters like them generally weren't fond of moving around. Having a place to settle up in should make them cooperative as long as they remained alive.
"It's probably a trap," one of the priestesses he'd summoned said, lingering by the door without crossing it. The beads on her jewelry jangled; they had elaborate outfits to fit the temple. Even the goblin shamans were altered to fit the Art Deco look while keeping their bones and charms.
"That's why the vines are keeping the door open," Werdna said, going out of the ziggurat himself.
As they were underground, this was no vista of the great outdoors. The walls were clearly visible even at a distance. But it managed to a grand vista nevertheless. For lighting, huge glittering chandeliers were hung on gold-plated chains. The light sparkled off blue stones set into the ceiling; curling lines of white depicted pillowy clouds for this false sky that lay almost within reach. The smooth curved concrete that made up this ziggurat was covered in designs, mosaics, and murals, with inlays of gold and jewels. From up here, the geometric floor designs flowed along each level like water spilling gently over everything.
But that was a long ways down, without a door back inside in sight or a railing to keep one from falling.
Out to the distant walls, one could see an abstract yet busy depiction of a forest. Angels flew statically among the swirling clouds, large birds soared still over a forest of nymphs, centaurs, and fairies. There was even a shining sea in one corner with whales skimming the surface. Actually, this was quite a cruel trap, almost impressively so. The door should have shut, trapping him out here in this false landscape where getting back into the ziggurat could be deadly.
A chill came to his spine as a ghostly voice said, "You cannot escape me..."
Thinking quickly, Wernda replied, "Hold off, I'm enjoying this wonderful vista right now."
"Oh... all right." The faint misty form of Trebor passed through the wall, withdrawing the ominous chill. "Appreciation of natural beauty is to be respected."
"Not that it's natural, but it is beautiful," Werdna said, making a show of gazing back over the forest. "I probably lost a lot of time just admiring all the work put into this level."
"That's the Dreampainter's power," Trebor said. His ghost seemed to sit on the edge to admire the view too.
"But this was of the Amulet's make, wasn't it?" It might indeed be the Dreampainter's work, but that god working on his own would have placed his temple somewhere that most people could access it. This temple shouldn't be inside a sadistic dungeon full of monsters and do-gooders.
"Yes, the Amulet helped me craft your tomb here," he said. "Killed me in doing so, but it turned out far better than your incomplete dungeon."
"At least my dungeon didn't end my life to create," Werdna said.
The ghost shrugged. "Perhaps, but I had to actively make the first four levels interesting. It seemed so empty, except for the traps and monsters."
"I had big plans, but that was as far as I got before it got too dangerous."
"Well I managed this," Trebor said, gesturing to the chandelier-lit vista. "And the upper levels are even better; I'm very proud of how it all turned out." He chuckled. "I can't wait until you reach the next level, or any of the rest."
"You know, I always wondered why you'd never accept an Evil alignment," Werdna said. "We could have done even crazier stuff together if you had."
He shook his head. "After I became a ruler, I had to be mindful of my reputation and all. People tend to not like Evil rulers and rebel against one whenever they can."
"They already called you the Mad Overlord," he argued. "It would have been a natural move."
"I was not mad, just misunderstood. I always had Llylgamyn's best interests in mind, especially when it came to tourism."
"You were still stuck on that?" Even back to when they'd worked together, Trebor had always had this strange idea that making the kingdom a place where people would come and gawk at things would make things better.
"I certainly made my castle an adventurer magnet," Trebor said proudly. "Even to this day, long after my death, adventurers still come seeking fame and fortune, as well as experience. But the joke's on them since Llylgamyn makes a mint off them with the training grounds, the inn, the trading post, and even this dungeon."
"You're sending the novices down to the tenth level, though," Werdna said. "There must be quite the mortality rate; it's well in line with Evil intentions."
"No, because the Pyramid of Entrapment is tamer than a newborn pup. There's nothing down there and the monsters are dead easy to make dead. Still, they come out feeling so accomplished in what they do down there. Besides, before they even get in, they have to pass a reasonably priced beginner's adventuring course and gain a starter's dungeon exploring license. That includes an insurance waiver that means Llylgamyn can't be sued for deceased adventurers, and a personalized pass that makes it so you can't simply warp out of here like they can. By the time they make it up to the expert's adventuring license, the experienced ones are glad to have easy access to the top three levels. It's all legal and Good."
"I've always thought bureaucracy was more conducive to Evil: bribes, obstruction of progress, wasted time, and all that." Although Werdna never had the knack for manipulating bureaucracy that Trebor had.
"If it's legal, it's Good," Trebor insisted. "And it did a lot of good for us. Being a magically created dungeon, it can make its own treasures and equipment for adventurers to find. A lot of it ends up traded to us, then we sell it at a profit to other kingdoms. They may have called me mad for allowing your dungeons so close to my castle, but they can't deny that I made Llylgamyn prosperous."
"Still sounds like Evil to me, profiting off of the work of others," Werdna said. Then he gestured to the indoors visa around them. "But if you really wanted a lasting boom in tourism, you should have called on this place as a proper temple above ground where you don't have to battle for your life just to get to see this magnificent sight. We could have been great together."
"If it wasn't for you stealing the Amulet from me, I would have done something more like that," he said. "If I didn't have to make this tomb prison for you, I would've made use of the ability to call on a godly rave to make Llylgamyn famous. Can you imagine the sort of profit we'd make off pilgrims and thrill-seekers if the gods partied here?"
Wernda raised an eyebrow at that. "That's what you intended to do with the Amulet? It's so short-sighted. I was going to take over the world once I unlocked its secrets."
Trebor's ghost seemed to look back up at him. "If I had the gratitude of joyful gods, I could have ruled the world and still be considered Good."
"You're only Good on technicality, I see," Werdna said with a smile. "We really should have worked together." In the meantime, something had occurred to him. "I should be on my way. But then, if you touch me and return me to my grave, you'll never see my reactions to what's coming."
"Oh... right, right, I knew that." He got up off the edge of this level and drifted off. "But even if you give it your all, there's no way that you can escape this place."
"We'll see about that," Werdna said quietly.
He then spent the next couple of minutes convincing the Strangler Vines to give up on the doorframe they were greatly attached to. That was one problem with plant monsters: getting them to move from a spot they liked was a monumental undertaking. At least there wasn't a patch of sunlight there, because them it might have been impossible to continue on with the Vines.