There is only one way in or out of this room, which is largely empty. The walls splay outward, causing the room to widen further from the entrance. The back wall of the room is a gentle curve, upon which has been painted a detailed mural which has become chipped and faded with age, but not so much as to make the its subjects unclear.
The mural depicts a large army of of hardened warriors stretching halfway to the horizon. The figure’s shadows are long, indicating that the scene is either early morning, or late evening. Rather than doing battle or raising their voices in a cry of war, the fighters are depicted as bloody and beaten. Some even lie dead on the ground amongst their fellows. Their faces are forlorn, and every one of them faces out of the painting, with eyes downcast. Several standards blowing in the wind depict a black cloven hoof wrapped in green thorns, on a red field.
In front of the mural is a kneeling statue of a man who appears similar to the warriors behind him. Like his bretheren, his eyes are downcast. With both hands he grips the blade of a sword with the hilt held out in a deferential gesture. The statue has clearly been painted to match the mural, but like the mural much of the paint has been chipped away. In addition, the statue appears to have been brutalized. Chips and slices cover its surface. It appears as though someone brutally attacked the statue with a sword or axe. Closer inspection will reveal that some of these cuts have undisturbed red paint in them, indicating that these marks are intentional.
The nature of the sword being offered is up to the individual GM. For my use, it is a magical artifact sword of great power. If that were not to your liking, however, it can merely be a sword of great artistic and historical value. Regardless of the sword’s exact nature, though, it is a marvelous and tantalizing treasure to behold. The blade is of unblemished mithril. The crossguard is styled to resemble a lion, and the hilt itself is carved with depictions of 6 spearmen thrusting their weapons up into the lion’s belly. These carvings are heavily stylized, and beautiful in their simplicity.
However, the sword will not budge from the statue’s hands. What’s worse, powerful magics ward the statue against being smashed. The magic which holds the blade in place is also powerful, and cannot be affected by spells designed to loosen or release an object. Furthermore, these wards cannot be dispelled, though they might be overcome by a wish or similarly powerful effect.
The key to this puzzle is knowledge of a battle which occurred 300 years ago. Any characters with knowledge of warfare, history, or nobility will have heard of it. A sage will be able to offer information about it if they are given some relevant information about the scene depicted. Additionally, a room not far from this one in the dungeon should contain a history book detailing the battle and its aftermath.
It was called The Battle of Braeon Ridge. The combatants where the House of Krephis (or noble house relevant to your world), and the unstoppable armies of Fulnaf Thornfoot. It was a monstrous battle which lasted days and killed thousands. At its end, Fulnaf Thornfoot was killed, leaving his father to surrender to the conquering Krephis. Famously, while Fulnaf’s father offered the conquering leader his son’s sword, the patriarch of House Krephis (who had lost his own son in the battle) reached down from his horse and buried a dagger in the back of the old man’s neck. House Krephis rose from being only a minor noble house to being one of the more powerful families that existed at the time.
If the players take a dagger and begin pressing it against the areas where the stone has been cut on the back of the statue’s neck, they will discover that one of these slices was illusory. It in fact hid a large slot, which the dagger fits into nicely. Once the dagger is planted in the back of the statue’s neck, the sword will slide freely from his hands.
Note that the illusion covering the dagger slot is not warded as the statue’s other protective magics are. It can be discovered, and dispelled, by normal means.