High-up Hi-jinks: Priscilla and the Tomb of Annihilation, Part 10

60 Days to go, continued

As we went up the stairs we could smell something like ham and baking bread. It had no connection to what we actually found: a gang of mercs, a man and a lizardman tied up against a massive sarcophagus, and the dead body of a naga – presumably the oracle of Orolunga we had come all this way to find.

The leader of the mercs started talking some generic bad guy stuff. I wasn’t in the mood to listen, until he thanked Flask for leading them here. Turns out, Flask ratted us out to the Zhentarim before we leave Port Nyanzaru. They said they’d pay us to leave, but I stood my ground, so they went to attack us. But suddenly a huge spike of ice surrounded the sarcophagus and then shattered, and from within came an abysmal growl.

We used the opportunity to attack while they were distracted. We dropped our spells as quickly as we could to take down their mage before he got a turn, and focussed on getting them all down as soon as possible. Thankfully they were already hurt from the fight with the naga and these two tied up guys. Flask got conked on the head by Hugo, saw how badly the fight was going for his gang, and hid. While we took the gang out, the two guys tied up got free and found their weapons. Meanwhile, the demon within the sarcophagus rose up, screeching, and used illusions to turn the room into a swamp. Oxomoco and Cipactonal pushed the gang members towards the demon as they fought, trying to create a barrier.

We managed to get all the gang members down but one, but then the demon leaned forward and bit his head off. The man who had been tied up yelled that the demon was not a god, and it could die, so we all attacked. It was down without too much effort, and only Oxomoco fell, but Hugo was able to revive her.

Before the new pair started talking, I went to River and told her to go find her brother and sort out whatever she needed to between them. I told her he could come back, if he was sorry and if he was ready to do our mission and not screw us over for the Zhents again. While she went off, the man introduced himself. His name is Artus Cimber, and his friend, who only speaks through smells, was a Saurian called Dragonbait. I told Artus why we were here, and he was amazed. He had only come to ask the oracle how to get his wife back. She had been in Mezro, the so-called city of illusion, which vanished in the spell plague a hundred years ago (yes, he is over a hundred, but I could tell he was a pretty experienced adventurer with some serious magical gear). The oracle told him the fate of the world relied on him going to the city of Omu. He found that weird, but before he could ask for more, the Zhents attacked.

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Artus Cimber, from the Tomb of Annihilation adventure book

Since it’s the last thing the oracle ever said, I guess we have no choice but to go with Artus and Dragonbait. It seems like the fate of the world the oracle spoke of could be our quest. Artus is fairly sure the city is between the Valley of Lost Honour and the Peaks of Flame, far to the south, and that it is the city of the snakemen and his enemy Ras Nsi, a yuanti warlord. They fought over a century ago, and Artus thought he was dead. He was the reason so many undead were still to be found in the jungle of Chult. In order to find Omu, we’d need to be high up, so I suggested we see if we could find the ruins of a skyship we’d seen from Mezro, halfway between here and where Omu had to be.

River and Flask came back and said they’d help us, but Oxomoco and Cipactonal said their journey with us was over. I could see them eyeing up the huge piles of treasure the demon had around its sarcophagus, but since we have no way of taking that stuff, we might as well let them enjoy it. So we’re leaving this gods forsaken ziggurat finally, and I can’t say I’ll miss those two ancients much, especially compared to my new party members.

(Out of Character note: All the ice effect stuff is Artus’s Ring of Winter which he keeps secret from the characters, so I know about it but Priscilla doesn’t. He was the reason that tree in the jungle was frozen, back in Part 2)

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Dragonbait

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Rock and Roll: Priscilla and the Tomb of Annihilation, Part 9

61 days to go

Well.

The day started off (is it day? Can’t tell down here) with me trying to teach our new friends Oxomoco and Cipcatonal some common language words so we could be a team. It wasn’t looking particularly hopeful.

We snuck through a room of beetles nesting without disturbing them. Off of that room was one with a pressure plate trap. I sent Oz flying forward and he found it just looped back around a way we’d already been, so we went through the beetles again to another set of doors. This one led to a massive staircase. Up we went, and when we finally got one flight from the top, a millstone began falling toward us. All but Inete managed to step out of the way. She, and the corpse of Eeyal, were completely squished.

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We didn’t have time to stop and think as the beetles’ nests were disturbed by the stone and they can charging out. We ran until we entered a vault with doors we could shut. In there we found charred remains and stone baboons. What looked like a small beholder started floating towards us. We prepared for battle and I sent a spell flying at its many-eyed head. That exploded it into a fine mist of spores. Thankfully we were far enough to avoid breathing whatever those were in, and we walked around and out, finding as we walked a sack with seven silver beads within.

A few rooms later, we found a door proclaiming that entrants would have to face the challenge of Pelota. Oxo and Cipac started laughing. It was a sports arena. We thought it might be a good place to get an easy shortcut, and we weren’t entirely wrong. We found skeletons and old trophies, and the ball for the game. As soon as we touched it, it whipped into the air, flew off, and sat there as if trying to entice us to follow. So we did. We found ourselves playing against it, trying to score goals with it against one wall while it dodged and weaved between us, aiming for the opposite wall. We beat it easily, and in reward we got a whole heap of pearls, a topaz and shell necklace which Cipac immediately grabbed for himself, and a strange whistle made of bone, which I took. Little did I realise, it made me fly when I blew it!

We continued through more and more ruined rooms. In one, a cat-themed room, we were attacked by a man-tiger who bit Cipac. He has felt well since. We found a very dusty room, and illusions tried to intimidate us into stopping, but we continued forward. We came into one very large room with baboons in it and shafts of sunlight coming down from far too high away for us to reach. We hurried across, but we were attacked by a huge two-headed snake! The baboons came to try and attack us after we killed it, but Hugo called on the power of the Chwingas to stop them, and we got away.

We encountered another large staircase and were understandably wary. At the top the trap we triggered was a giant dragon statue which breathed steam on us and made us tumble back. Flask managed to run clear of it and then trigger the sensors from behind. Having worked out their position, we threw objects past the sensor til it ran out of steam, and went up without any further pain.

In one of the next rooms we saw an illusion of treasure, but investigation proved it to be yellow mold, which we dispersed with fire. We found a crawl space so we sent Oz through, but I saw through his eyes as he got transfixed by a magic mirror. A feathered warrior emerged from it and killed him. I simply summoned him again.

We found a room showing dioramas of Mictlan, the land of the dead, and we stuck to the path there. In the next room was a thing called a gibbering mouther. It did a lot of damage to us but we defeated it, and found in the same room a warlock’s rod, and the heart of a yuan-ti. I had read that I could get magical powers if I ate one, so I did, and found I suddenly could speak and understand yuanti and the tongue of lowly serpents. We decided to take a rest, for we were quite hurt.

60 days to go

During the night, Cipac and Oxo had taken turns on watch, and claimed to have fended bats off in the night. Backtracking to the Mictlan room we found a chute going up and I sent Oz through again, but yet again something killed him. After summoning him back, we went up ourselves and ended up in a fight with a giant spider in the darkness. It was only as big as a man’s head though. We got all the way up and found a room of fountains. There a water snake thing attacked us, but we killed it. We found a platinum key and chain under the body of a dead crayfish.

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On the next level we met a mummified centaur. Hugo used the power of Chwingas to scare it away from us and we ran past it through more chambers. We foolishly opened a trap door which let forth a blast of wind which never stopped. We had to crawl through the room to stop being blown away, and the centaur caught up with us as we got further down the corridor. We kept shooting it, but it wasn’t until I sent fire its way as it caught up to us that it died.

Undead Centaur by OlgaDrebas

We found a room with a staircase leading up, but the ceiling above was shut. We saw a wheel and lever, so I got everyone to stand over on the stairs while I played with those. Good thing I did, because the floor opened up, except for where I was standing. But it opened the ceiling door too. I just used the bone whistle to get back over to the stairs, and we made our ascent to what I hope is the last level of this ziggurat.

It takes Two: Priscilla and the Tomb of Annihilation, Part 8

63 days to go, continued

We came into an new hall, with four animal head statues: a bison, a coyote, a bear, and an eagle. The eagle had something in its beak. We felt like we needed to sleep, so we went back to the room with the pool, but our sleep was interrupted by giant frogs that came out of the water. After dealing with them, we headed instead to the room with the oil vases and the trapped door to the tomb we never opened, and slept there.

62 days to go

We managed to get a full sleep thanks to Flask, who stayed up and watched, and fought off some fire beetles before they woke us. Heading back to where we left off, we found a trapped corridor, but we didn’t have Flask’s thieves’ tools anymore so we couldn’t comfortably get over and look at what was beyond (a small silver coffer).

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We kept going and found a huge hall full of life size clay warriors surrounding a dome. We cracked the dome open and found some skeletons amongst some treasure. We took some jade beads, a silver and turquoise amulet, and an antique lamp. When we touched that, it awoke a zombie warrior with another matching amulet. We beat him, and took his amulet too. They are both amulets of resisting turning. Could be useful once I start organising the dead to help us.

Going further down that corridor it was a dead end, so we backtracked to the four statue corridor, but found yet another dead end with gap we were too scared to jump. Coming back to the animal heads I decided to try and take the object out of the eagle’s beak. My hand got stuck as the eagle’s beak chomped down on it, but with some quick thinking, Hugo oiled the statue’s mechanism and pried it open. The object was a bracelet of rock magic. So I’m keeping that!

We went down the final branching corridor and ran into a lot of zombies, but we managed to fend them off pretty easily. Then we came to some bronze doors, and behind them were two ancient humans, but they hadn’t decayed at all. From the residue of a potion nearby we figured out they had drunk a sleeping potion, and given their clothing it seemed like they had slept for thousands of years. I touched the woman, and she and the man woke.

They spoke in an ancient language, but I cast a spell of language comprehension and bowed to them. They were saying they were the ‘Achieved Ones’, whatever that meant, and said we had to atone for waking them from their sacred sleep. They tried talking to us in what I thought was an old form of common, but even then they couldn’t understand my common, so I gave them my scroll of the comprehend languages spell. With that, they were able to understand when I apologised to them for waking them. But still, they were unhappy and demanding payment in the form of treasure. While I dug around in my pack I played for time by asking them about the temple around them, the fresco on the wall announcing some many-eyed god. But they were interested. And when Hugo tried compromising with them, they attacked.

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But they were not very hard for us to beat. We sat down and revived them, and tried to get the truth out of them. Their names are Cipactonal and Oxomoco (the man and woman, respectively) and a very long time ago they cheated their way into the temple. It was said that two champions would sleep in the temple forever, and they wanted to always be together, so when the two champions were chosen, the two of them poisoned them and took their place. We explained our quest and they didn’t seem much interested, but we still tried to impress upon them that they should come with us and help. It wasn’t until Inete stroked their egos and said that they’d be famous back in Port Nyanzura that they decided to come with us.

I realise of course that they are completely selfish and may betray us at any time, but still, we need all the help we can get.

Wet and Wild: Priscilla and the Tomb of Annihilation, Part 7

63 days to go, continued

Once we gathered ourselves from the fall, we found ourselves in an ancient ruin with no way back out. There were dioramas on the wall. Inete identified them as belonging to the Olman people, who are long gone now. The murals showed the way they lived.

We made our way down the hall to find a door which I needed to snake a rope through with magic and pull it towards us. We continued down the corridor, with Hugo getting knocked forward by some cane logs. We were locked out from going backwards. So we went forward through a bronze door with seaweed motifs to find ourselves face to face with a giant crayfish.

Hugo spoke with it in the language of animals, and he was able to communicate. He managed to convince it that we were friends and we would try and find some better food for them, after feeding him some rations, and bring people back to worship at the temple. He had a friend there too, a giant crab. They both let us pass with the promise of food, and directed us to go east where there would be a way out.

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Unfortunately the eastern stairs had caved in, but we did find a secret door. We took our time opening it, using unseen servants to do it, as the walls were covered in an acidic sludge. There were six urns within the chamber filled with oil, and a door with something magic up against it. Flask used his thieves tools and managed to move it so that whatever it was – a trap, we assumed – wouldn’t fall when we opened the door. But by that time Inete had translated some words in the chamber and revealed it was a tomb for someone called Tloques Popolocas, Master of the Others. We decided it was wiser to leave that well alone.

The crab directed us west next. Everything was slimy and wet. The tabaxi were not happy. We saw a pedestal with a small metal pyramid, which I pocketed just in case it was relevant. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with the star motif in the ceiling in that section. Next we found a massive statue, and Oz scampered up it any brought us back a magical longsword, which Flask now wears on his back.

Through the next set of double doors we ran into a pool of water with something moving within. It spoke, and I used magic to understand it – it was a giant slug, Tecuziztecatl! He spat horrible acid at us, but we soon beat him into submission. We let him slink away to lick his wounds once he started talking of surrender. Then we encountered a swollen door, and we opened it with Flask’s thieves tools, but the wave that swept through as we opened it made us lose his tools!

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We found a crawlspace after that which lead to the back of the statue where the sword was, and unfortunately we pushed it over and it smashed. We headed back, and now found a room with a much nicer pool of water. As we entered we swore we heard a woman’s voice, so Hugo had a look around, and got in the pool. He was attacked by a nereid who stole all his breath! She and her electric eel attacked us, and it was close, with Hugo nearly drowning, but we managed to vanquish them both.

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We went through the next doors and got out of the water and slime, finding a trick corridor that had to be a trap. It had a motif showing yuan-ti conquering the Olman people. We rested a while, then searched for another way out, and Flash found that a certain sun on the fresco was a button which revealed a new area.

Eye of the Tiger: Priscilla and the Tomb of Annihilation, Part 6

65 days to go

Headed due west.

64 days to go

Slow progress. Inete however was able to figure out that Eeyal is on the brink of slipping away even further somehow, like her soul will depart, even though we have cast a spell of gentle repose on her. So Inete puts purpose in to her divination in the morning, trying to help Eeyal stay with us.

Today we heard the yowl of what I knew at once was some form of large cat. Hugo could tell it was in distress, and Flask was able to lead us to it. It was a kamadan, and it was trapped in huge webs, unable to get out. We were just in time to see the giant spiders and their brood heading for it, so we fought them and tried to free the beast.

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We learnt some new things about using our powers appropriately. Inete and I were better at dealing with large groups of small targets with our spells, while the others were better off hitting the larger targets. Hugo healed the kamadan who was taking many bites from the spiders big and small. I foolishly set the forest on fire with my spells, but when we managed to get the kamadan free, a chwingas appeared and brought with it rain to kill the flames. We killed the spiders and the beast was free and gone. In the burning of the webs, an adventurer’s skeleton had fallen close beside me. He looked to be the sole member of his party, perhaps having absconded with all the loot we found in his backpack: 180 gold worth of coins, gemstones of obsidian, malachite, banded agate translucent and brown, and rhodochrosite, a vial of oil of etherealness, and a bag of mysterious beans.

We set up camp soon after, and Inete started teaching me the spell to summon the very useful hovering disc we use to transport Inete.

63 days to go

After packing up camp and moving further west, we ran into the kamadan again. It seemed to want to lead us, so we followed it, and it left us at a statue of Ubtao. Beneath the statue was another dead adventurer, this one a pirate and probably of the same party as the skeleton yesterday. All was rotted away but a waterproofed map which pointed to not only Orolunga, but a pirate hideout at some place called Jahaka Anchorage.

But we didn’t need a map to Orolunga. It lay before us down a widened path in the jungle. We walked towards the large ziggurat. As we reached its base, behind us we could see people. Before we could hail them, we were swallowed by the ground!

Turtle Soup: Priscilla and the Tomb of Annihilation, Part 5

66 days to go, continued

Mbala was a wreck inside. Inete and I sent our familiars out to scout. River wanted to leave, but that was when I noticed Oz wasn’t coming back. I looked through his eyes. He was being held by the witch we’d heard rumours about. She spoke to me through him, bidding us to come.

We found her outside her awful hut made of huge bones and hides. Her name was Nanny Pu-pu, and though Inete was very spooked, we took her offer to come inside. She spoke of old times and offered us a gumbo which we only pretended to eat, since she was blind. We told her about our quest, and she told us that she had a way around the broken resurrection magic – but it came with a price. We told her we didn’t need it right now, but maybe in the future we could make a deal.

Meanwhile, she asked us to go and deal with some flappy things that were troubling her, with their nest in the cliff just below the plateau we were on. So we went there, lead by River and Eeyal’s tracking, saw that there was a cave mouth in the cliff which we couldn’t reach, and found a chute leading down. All of us could fit except Eeyal, so Inete and her stayed up top and we warned them to look out and use the rope they were holding for signalling. Meanwhile we climbed down the rope…

… only to find ourselves faced by ten big winged lizard folk. These were the terrorfolk described in rumour. But luckily for us the cave was narrow at the back, so we slayed seven of them in the close quarters. Inete slid down the chute to help us. The other three flew off after the seven were dead. The others scrambled through the debris looking for treasure while I went back up to check on Eeyal. They found a silver dagger, some money, and a healing potion.

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And I found that Eeyal was gone. I called the others up quickly, and we ran to confront the witch, only to find a terribly familiar savoury smell wafting from her kitchen. She came out of invisibility and attacked us. Enraged by the loss of our friend, we managed to finish the hag off, which seemed a surprise to her as we dealt the final blows.

It was too late. Eeyal was beyond helping. Hugo has insisted we carry her behind us, and Inete gave in, creating a floating disk which trails behind her. Meanwhile, he has gone to sleep, having in his evening prayers asked the Chwingas for a spell of gentle repose so she may remain fresh and some magic may be able to bring her back. Maybe, in time, if we fix resurrection magic, and if we ever get magic powerful enough to do it, we can bring her back properly.

Later that night, while the rest of us morosely rested in the now complete quiet and safety of Mbala, River and Flask uncovered the hag’s treasure trove in a cistern. There were six onyx gemstones, a scroll of language comprehension, and ten dwarven adamantium ingots. Inete recognised the symbol on them; it was that of Hrakamar, the albino dwarf kingdom on the southern side of the peninsula. Perhaps if we go there ever we can return them.

Bingo Bango Bongo: Priscilla and the Tomb of Annihilation, Part 4

69 days to go, Continued

We quickly hit a rainstorm. We made up camp, and Inete told us more things she knew through rumour or had seen in visions, such as someone called Grandfather Zitembe in a jungle city full of snakes somewhere in the south, enclosed by cliffs; a black obelisk draped in vines; how she had come south with a guide who had been killed when they had been mobbed by some undead, and he subsequent rescue or capture by the Order of the Gauntlet. She really seems to enjoy gossip. We don’t have much in common.

We stopped for the night and noticed that the grass was very green and there was a sweet breeze where we were. Then we saw some of those nature spirits we’d heard of. They didn’t want to eat River’s goodberries, or listen to her play the flute, and they just ran away. But later I noticed a little gold monocle frame I had in my pocket for a long time past vanished into the ether during that time. We stayed there and tied ourselves up in trees to sleep. Inete summoned her familiar, an almiraj called Bongo, and they set up the alarm spell around our camp.

Lucky we did that, as those sea hags from before came back for revenge. They had brought a whole host of zombies to aid them, but this turned out to be their downfall. The nature spirits had left a little yellow gemstone in Hugo’s pocket, and it glowed very bright as he chanted the ceremony to repel the undead. As they tried to shamble away, the hags were trapped in a ring of dead flesh they themselves had created in their folly. So with this watching crowd of zombies pressing in around, they tried to climb the trees we were in. Thankfully this gave us a decent amount of time to snipe at them from our height. But it was a very close thing. Flask hit the ground hard at one point, but was revived. Bongo charged one, and it fell off the tree and broke its neck. We managed to finish the last one off before it could escape. So we won’t be chased by them anymore. Their undead dispersed, no longer controlled.

68 days to go

We reached deeper into the Aldani valley, and the swampy terrain held us up. We saw nothing much other than lizards and insects. We found an ideal tree to camp under. No disturbances.

67 days to go

We turned our course west and reached what could be plains in this humid country. We ran into a party of lizardmen and were not able to reach an agreement with them. They had a prisoner tied up on their beast, and they seemed to want to add us to their ration store. So we took them out. It was tough, especially when the shaman summoned a huge lizard beast to their aid, but we managed, with all our healing magic.

The prisoner was a turtle person (!) called Eeyal. She is going to travel with us, now that we have told her our tale. On her journeys from Port Ahoyhoy, the home of her people, she has seen many things: Lake Luo, and on its shores the ruined palace of Nangalore; the gorge of Ataz Muhahah and the ruins of Mezro; nearby, the ruin of a flying ship with a crazy man living inside; King Toba, the king of the snapping turtles, with his gemstone shell; the dragon turtle Aremag in the Bay of Chult, who demands specific treasures from passing ships. Also she knew a specific rumour we desperately needed to hear: that up the River Tath, past the Ataz Kahakla, is a ruined city where a naga guardian lives… and that city is Orolunga! So we redoubled our efforts westward, hoping we’d gain a vantage point to see south and west to look for the ruins.

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Eeyal is a tinkerer, and Hugo handed over the mysterious gemstone for her to examine. She knew what it was immediately: a stone of the Chwinga, those nature spirits, which will help defend people against undead. So Hugo held onto it, and that night by the time we had camped, he had yet again switched his religious allegiance, as he did only a few months ago by choosing Jergal, to the Chwingas. Oh well. I think it will be a better fit for him than Jergal, to be fair.

66 days to go

We finally reached M’bala, and it was a giant prominence sticking out of the earth, so we had to climb. River sensed something nearby, but she could not pinpoint it. As we climbed, we could see ‘The Heart of Ubtao’ to the south east, a giant heart-shaped piece of earth floating in the sky. We also saw a flying shipwreck to the south. And as we finally neared the entrance to the ruins of the once great city of M’bala, we saw in the west the distant ziggurat of Orolunga. We will go there next, but first we will see if the rumours of a witch in M’bala are true.