Warning: The following contains detailed spoilers for the final dungeon of the Tomb of Annihilation. Obviously.
Note: For brevity’s sake, I don’t say every time I check for traps, search for secret doors or use detect magic. Just assume stuff like that happens in every damn room!
26 days to go
Heading onto level three, we could see the bottom of the stairwell below us, another level down. On this level, there was purple mold everywhere, with eyeballs and spore puffs erupting from it. We were careful to avoid it. Checking it, we discovered it was from another plane, and if we were just careful to not step on it, we should be fine.
This level’s plaque said: Walk through water with weapon in hand; Slake your shadow at the font; The vulture is the first step; Right the gods; The walls of history tell all.
Going into the first corridor, we were confronted by two tomb guardians. Basically super zombies, these guys are immune to physical damage! It was an awful fight, and I lost all my zombies except for Ras Nsi. Going further in and north past more fungus, we came to a room with a sarcophagus. It was the tomb of Kubazan.
There was a puzzle within for us to figure out. On the altar, there was an inscription on a statue saying: Give thanks to me as others have done. All around the walls (the walls of history, we assumed, from the riddle) were frescoes of ways that Kubazan was worshipped. On the first wall, as people knocked down a statue of Ubtao, a frog masked woman held out five golden coins. On the second fresco, as Kubazan helped hunters fight a crocodile, a frog masked man ate a bug. On the third fresco, Kubazan rescued a small boy, and a woman’s figure, whose stone head was ruined, held a knife, and something below her was also ruined and hard to decipher. On the fourth fresco Kubazan was in a pool much like that of the shrine of Kubazan, and a woman in a mask held out a lit candle.
On the altar were four masks, five coins, four dead cockroaches, a copper bowl full of rat bones, and a green wax candle. Copper Bell went up to take the five coins and a mask, but touching the coins triggered wraiths coming out of the walls. We had to fight them, losing my Ras Nsi zombie in the process, and try again. She held out five of our coins instead this time. I offered myself as the tribute to eat the cockroaches. The next step, took us a couple of tries to figure out what to do with the bowl of rat bones, so we had to fight more wraiths, but eventually we realised it was tied to the woman holding the knife. It was about offering life into the bowl, so Flask cut himself lightly to bleed into it. Finally, River lit the candle, and the tomb opened. Within were some magical bracers designed for an archer, so we let Flask have those. He was filled with the presence of Kubazan, making him hugely strong, and more reckless than usual.
Through the corridor again, we came to some double doors. Beyond them was a heavy curtain of tapestry showing a feast. I got a skeleton to open it for us, and the next view was another curtain, this one showing the same feast scene, but this time devolved into depravity. Beyond that curtain was the same scene but now it was carnage. All of us except Fionn and River screamed and ran. They managed to catch us and slap some sense into us, and we returned. With a terrible anticipation, we had the skeleton open that curtain.
Beyond that final horrible curtain was a rotting giant boar’s head. Beneath it was a headless red wizard corpse. Dreamstruck, Copper Bell moved forward and put her head into the mouth of the boar. Hugo, panicking, unleashed his strongest damaging spell and the boar’s head all by exploded. Copper Bell was covered in gore, but otherwise unharmed. While we gathered our senses back, we realised there was someone hiding, cowering, by the wall. It was Orvex! He had gotten left behind when the red wizards fled this room. We took him out of there and cleaned him up.
25 days to go
Over the night, Orvex told us what had happened, and most importantly, how the reds had found a completely different route down from the way we took, so we got him to show us this route, but on the way, we checked out an alcove in the wall that had a viewport through to the tomb of I’jin. Within, we caught a glimpse of the past, with the dwarven member of the Yellow Banner entering the tomb, and after taking one wrong step, being devoured by locusts. We thought about this tomb for a while, even looking down at the puzzle from above, from the demon head portal on the level above. We noticed there was a tile the dwarf had stepped on which hadn’t triggered the trap. It was decorated with a vulture. We remembered the phrase “The vulture is the first step”, so decided we had to come from that same angle as the dwarf, and that would involve going further in and finding that door.
Orvex lead us back to the secret door the Red Wizards found on Level Two, and we realised we had missed this section completely! Immediately within the corridor to our left was a scrying pool. Looking into this, I was able to ride in the eyes of a tomb guardian on a different floor of the dungeon. It was in a giant pentagonal room filled with sickly plants. Walking on, the tomb guardian went onto a pathway over an underground lake. The pentagonal room had others with it, and each seemed to be on a cog or some form of machinery. Further down the guardian walked into a corridor with another key-headed skeleton, and a statue of a gargoyle with four arms. I was trying to read the inscription on it when the tomb guardian felt my presence and climbed through the pool to fight us. These fights against tomb guardians never get any easier…
Orvex pointed out to us two rooms, and a staircase going down. To the north was a forge full of tomb workers that the red wizards had come through, so we decided to go the other way. It was an office, occupied by an undead man wearing a black skull amulet. His name was Withers, and he was the one in charge of the tomb, Acererak’s second in command. He said he’d had enough of us messing up his work, and it was time to go and visit the master, so we attacked. We soon had him down between us all. There was a lot of treasure in his room, including an ornamental mask, the gem that could have controlled the slaad upstairs, a skeletal songbird, and his black skull amulet, which we dare not wear, since it seems to be enchanted to communicate with Acererak. There were three interesting books: his spellbook, which had in the back cover two words that may be passwords of some sort, ‘Khomara’ and ‘Blackfire’; a manual describing the method of making tomb guardians from corpses; and Withers’ journal. Within this he described whatever it was that Acererak was working on, this Soulmonger, as needing to be glutted on souls. It also said the ‘sewn sisters’ tend to it. Any clues as to what we’ll have to do will be very appreciated.
We decided to clear out the forge room too so no one could follow us from there. Within, five undead dwarves had just finished crafting a new tomb guardian, so we fought all of those. Once that was over, we destroyed the tomb guardian forge. We also found a load of tools that might prove useful later, and a strange magical lantern. Within was trapped the soul of something called the Starfallen, which we recalled from the diary of Devlin Bashir. I asked her if she was the elven princess mentioned in the diary, and she thought she might be. She said she had been imprisoned there by Formorian giants, and that the Yellow Banner had come here looking for the Eye of Zeltec, which was said to have the power to bring her back. We took her with us, hoping to find the Eye on our travels.
Going downstairs again to the third floor, but this time by the secret spiral staircase, we found a small room with a zombie guarding a lever. Through a window, which the zombie was facing, we could see another room. We dispatched with the zombie and pressed the lever. The room through the window started spinning violently! We realised we had uncovered a trap: if we had walked into the room through the window, the zombie would have hit the lever and we would have been trapped in that awful room. There was a crawlspace, which lead out to a small room adjoining the corridor between the Kubazan shrine and the boar’s head room. Unfortunately we also found in there a talking skull, which activated when I had one of my zombies pick it up. It wouldn’t shut up and said horrible perverse things, so we threw it in Fionn’s bag of holding.
We went back out past the fungi again and came to yet more corridors. After a few turns, we found something of interest: pools of water on the ground, a waterfall curtain in the middle of the corridor with more path beyond, and murals of animal-headed people holding weapons.There were also crawl spaces between these murals, so we decided to investigate these first. We came to a very large, long room with platforms between two balconies. We were on one, and we shared the space with a statue of a Nycaloth. On the opposite balcony we could see a lever. Also, Flask saw a crawl space along one wall, which he decided to investigate. He found it lead back to a corridor we had been to earlier, so we backtracked there. There was an odd minotaur face grate in the crawl space which we had to force open, and it did at one point slam down on one of my skeletons, killing it. But the rest of us got through and found ourselves in the spinning trap room. Through that, we went to a new room.
In this room there was a fifteen foot deep pit containing an eight foot clay golem with a key around its neck and a chest. Left and right of the pit were two statues, one each with a palm out. I recognised them as Azuth, god of wizards, and Turm, god of courage. We considered the meaning of the statues, and realised they could, with effort, be moved. We got the movement wrong at first and the golem blinked into existence beside us. While we held it off as best we could, Copper Bell and Orvex figured out the orientation and set the statues facing right – as the clue ‘Right the gods’ had told us to! Having done that, the clay golem got transported to a third plinth, and we were able to get the key and unlock the chest. Within were two glass eyeballs, one green, one pink.
Knowing the geography of the dungeon level, we were fairly certain there was a secret door to the level balcony on one wall, and searching revealed we were right. We pulled the lever, which set several things happening at once. An almighty howling wind started, I started laughing uncontrollably and continued for seven minutes, River screamed and attacked one of my zombies, Copper Bell was frozen still, Fionn dashed from the room, and Orvex screamed hysterically. Hugo was able to usher us out, and Flask, the only other one to keep his senses, tackled River out of the room before she could do more harm. We shut the door and trapped the howling wind within. But there was another thing that happened: the demon statue hands at the other end of the room opened, and it was holding something. But we knew the better way to get there, without going back in.
Before backtracking, we explored the room to the west. In there, we found a strange round mirrored door with ten indentations, the perfect size for the two glass eyeballs we had just found. Given the nature of the puzzle, Orvex felt it safe to say there would be a beholder behind that door. We realised we had to collect eight more eyeballs, and this was a puzzle for later, so we backtracked through the crawl spaces to the major corridor. We also backtracked to the balcony with the demon statue, sending one of my zombies through the crawl space so we didn’t have to encounter the horrible wind again. It returned from there with two more eyeballs, one pearly white, the other scarlet.
We found ourselves with nowhere to go but the corridor with animal-headed murals. We looked down the row and saw beast-headed people armed with real weapons which we could grab: axes, maces, blowguns, sickles and tridents. We sent two zombies through the waterfall curtain with the sickles in hand, and it caused a tidal wave to fill the corridor, washing us off our feet and back the way we came. Returning, we realised we had been stupid. The riddle wanted us to ‘walk through water with weapon in hand’, but not just any weapon: the tridents were the aquatic themed weapons on the wall. So with these we were able to all pass to the other side, finding an identical muralled corridor on the other side.
We found yet another crawl way, but this time it was a trap. As soon as a bunch of us were in the crawl space, it swung out, trapping us in the section. What the dungeon designer didn’t count on though was my psychic connection with my undead horde. They were able to go into the new section, triggering that, which let us escape. Then we threw a bunch of the heavy tools we found in the forge onto the trigger, and that swung again to reveal my trapped skeletons, as well as the corpse of Seph, one of the Yellow Banner Company. On his body we found a yklwa spear, a red crystal eye, a dungeoneering pack, and an ivory backscratcher.
We finally found ourselves at the door to I’jin’s tomb, after all that. There was something strange about the way the door was set up, with a little alcove opposite. We left figuring that out and checked out the smaller room in the corridor between the tomb and the waterfall curtain. Within that room was a font. As soon as I stepped in, a shadow version of me appeared, and there was green liquid in the font, but I could not collect any of it. Also, whenever I approached, the shadow backed off. We tried all sorts of things, like tying a cup to a pole and trying to reach the font, but eventually the Starfallen helped us with the solution. She used a magic hand spell as I stood in the entrance, carrying my cup to the font, and then lifting it to the lips of the shadow. With that puzzle solved, we found an orange eyeball in the now empty font.
Back to the tomb, we figured out how to use the door and the strange alcove behind it. We opened the door, sent a skeleton in, and I sat in the alcove, where on the door it pointed to the next step to take. With these instructions, my skeleton made it to the middle of the tomb with no trouble. The whole trap was disabled, and we were all able to enter the tomb. On the corpse of the Yellow Banner dwarf we found two valuable gems, and two eyeballs, one blue, one purple. Orvex picked up the magic wand in I’jin’s sarcophagus.
We were getting tired, but we realised we were short two eyeballs, so decided to get these before we slept. In the end, we found them hidden by illusions of hawks. In alcoves behind these, we found the purple and green eyeballs.
24 days to go
Well rested, we made our way to the mirrored door and placed the ten eyeballs in their slots. The room beyond was made of highly reflective marble. There were nine alcoves laden with treasure, and in the middle, a large sphere draped with black silk. We assumed it was the beholder, and attacked with arrows. But it was only a magnetic sphere, and Belchorzh the Beholder revealed himself flying above us. He hit us with an anti-magic field, knocking out all my undead, then he destroyed Fionn’s Allosaurus. We scrambled to crawl out of the anti-magic field against the slippery floor, but finally, with much blood, sweat and tears, we ended the horrid thing. There were many treasures for us to claim, including much gold, another skeleton key, art objects, a potion of diminution, a bead of force, and a magical shield. We surprised ourselves by not being too hurt, though Fionn was quite bitter over the loss of Al.