Stepping carefully on the worn, slippery stairs, you pry open a long-abandoned entryway, entering into a dark, dismal hallway. Slowly, behind you, the sun sets, and with the last light of day, you reach into your Bag of Holding for a torch, and focus your failing mental energies into a small spark. Instantly, the torch lights, and you are blinded for just a moment as your eyes adjust to the torch's unnaturally bright light, for they had already adjusted to the surrounding darkness.

As your vision returns, you gaze around, staring in awe at the arcane designs etched into the walls of this sanctum. Quickly glancing back, you notice with some distress that the entrance had already closed as you struggled to light the torch, and the patterns etched into the wall continue seamlessly over the only exit. Resigned to your fate, you continue forward, holding the torch in front of your face, scanning intently for traps.

You blink once, and already it appears as if the patterns had already shifted. As you watch, the runes carved on the walls slither snakelike, dancing, forming new and more intricate designs. You hardly notice as a sudden draft extinguishes your torch, as the hypnotic runes now glow with their own light. Slowly, almost hesitantly, they peel from the wall, and circle around you, surrounding you in a field of glowing, writhing magical energy.






slowly fade as the light solidifies and envelopes you, and an infinitesimal eternity passes before consciousness returns. You find yourself standing on the center of a perfectly circular obsidian disc, suspended in the middle of an inky void.

Levitating slowly from high above, a single white rectangle lands in the centre of the disc. As it touches the ground, veins of white light issue forth from the disc's centre, forming a spider's web of illumination. The rectangle itself glows as well, with some mysterious, shadowy light of its own.

Taking slow, nervous steps, you walk to inspect this strange artifact. Nine perfect rubies, each the length of your arm and shaped into a perfect diamond form are embedded on the surface. Slowly, realization dawns that you are standing atop a huge playing card. Too late do you realize what the old man in the village meant when he warned you to beware the Cult of Mao, and you hear an almost tangible, thundering voice boom,

"Failure to play within five seconds."

All too late do you see another card fall from the heights, and though years of practice have honed your reflexes, still you are too slow to avoid the falling weight. For but an instant do you feel the crushing weight atop your puny body.

As your life-force slowly drains away, six black-robed figures gather in a circle above you, and laugh, all in the same voice, heralding your doom.

... and another one bites the dust...