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!
24 days to go continued
As we went down to the fourth floor, we could see the ground below, with a trap door set between some statues. Bone dust and stray bones lay everywhere. We found the plaque for this floor, and it said: Death to fire, dine or drown, precious air, falling sand; The army sleeps in silence; The mirror holds twelve; Find the iron sceptre’s twin; The maze holds the key. We backtracked to the secret staff corridor to see what was hidden that way.
That way, we found a vaulted chamber. On the other side of the room from us was a throne of bone and skin, with an iron sceptre sitting on top of it. In a pit below us, three undead with all their eyes and mouths sewn shut were painting the walls with events that had happened. We spotted what we thought was Lord Brixton of the Yellow Banners on the mural, dying in some form of poison trap. Heading out of there through the next door, we triggered the trap that we could have disabled if we had gone the other way, which was two secret doors opening and disgorging a few ghasts. Since they were now between us and the pit, we thought we had a clever idea, and we used turn undead to make the ghasts run into the pit. Then we fireballed the pit. That turned out to be a mistake, and at the incineration of the three painters, a zombie dinosaur rose from the dirt of the pit. It was hard to fight with it eating my zombies and seeing them slide back out of its holey stomach, but we made it. One of my remaining zombies carried out the iron sceptre from the throne, and nothing happened when it picked it up.
Further down the corridor, before it met up again with the central chamber, another corridor split off to the north. Within was a dark chamber. There was a chest in the middle of the corridor, which we opened. As soon as we did, a boulder dropped behind us and started rolling down at us. Hugo quickly cast Wind Wall to slow it down, and Fionn cast a reduction spell. With the boulder diminished, we were able to roll it up the corridor again and down into the pit with all the zombie corpses. Coming back, we found an invisible key inside the chest. Heading into the chamber, my zombies triggered the second half of the trap: a pit just in front of the door. We took in the large chamber beyond while Fionn crafted a bridge over the pit from large scraps of metal from the forge.
Before us was another tomb, a crystal sarcophagus within, constantly changing colours. On the wall facing us was a huge painted maze. Going over Fionn’s bridge, we climbed the stairs to the balcony to reach the maze painting, walking past painted minotaur guards. While Orvex and I started to copy down the maze, Flask touched it, and vanished. Ten minotaur guards suddenly popped out of the walls from secret doors. After dispatching them, we decided to try and get in the maze and help Flask.
It turned out to be a foolhardy idea: we were all separated, and my undead army were not able to follow us in. Instead, I could see them above me, giant, with the rest of the room behind them. I ordered them to assign themselves each to a different one of us, and try to guide us out of the maze, since we could see them pointing. However, the maze shifted around me, and the others, stopping the zombies’ simple intellects from being able to help us.
Later, when we were all safely out, I was able to get the following information from the others. Fionn saw the skeletal remains of a child, and then ran into a minotaur. She attacked, but overwhelmed, decided to try the jumping spell to get out. It actually worked! Flask found a purple crystal key, and by taking it, vanished from the maze and returned to the big room. Copper Bell found a red crystal key and the same thing happened to her. Orvex found a gold key and the same happened to him.
As for me, meanwhile, I saw a figure ahead of me down the hedge corridor. It was Zagmira! Turns out she was the last of the red wizard party, and she was trapped in here too. Minotaurs started to come towards us, and the others outside the maze told the zombies to try squishing them with their fingers. It actually worked! So they tried something else: letting us climb out on the zombies’ fingers. That worked too. It was a great relief to be out of there.
We turned to the sarcophagus and watched its changing colours. As soon as it turned gold, Orvex thrust his gold key in and unlocked it. It was full of salt, but when we dug in the salt we found jewelled bracelets, and a cloak of scintillating colours. Zagmira took and wore this, and was filled with the spirit of Unkh. We took a short break to gather ourselves, and Zagmira told me she wanted to help destroy the Soulmonger, so long as she could keep the pieces of it in the end. I said yes, thinking it would still be bad to start conflict with a member of the Red Wizards, but in my heart I hoped I’d have the opportunity to destroy the thing so thoroughly that there would be nothing left for her to take.
Moving on, down more corridors, we came to a room with something glinting inside. We sent my undead in first to look, and suddenly some of my zombies and skeletons vanished, replaced by a drow, a minotaur, and some other shadowy figure. It was a mirror. I shouted at the others not to look in it, guessing at what had happened to part of my army. Then the newcomers attacked. The drow dropped a Cloudkill spell, and we all started choking and blacking out… until the figure in the shadows leapt out and punched him, dropping the spell. It was another tabaxi. The fight was quickly over, and we talked to her (though we covered the mirror first so none of us would look in there). Her name was Ninya, and she had come down here with an adventuring party as soon as she realised what was happening with resurrection magic. Her best friend was slowly dying, and Ninya was not going to let that happen. But all of her party had been killed already, and she got trapped in here. We offered her a place with us, and it turns out, she already has the soul of Shagambi! So our collection is now complete, with all nine gods.
Fionn figured out that the mirror was a soul stealing mirror, but before trying to figure it out, we decided to rest, as we were fairly hurt. When I told Zagmira about losing Oz to the strange loop, she looked disgusted at me, and couldn’t believe that I didn’t have the right spell prepared to get him out of there. So we popped back up briefly and she dispelled the strange enchantment long enough for me to get Oz back. He was not very impressed with me, but at least he’s back.
Out of Character note: It’s Ninya!!! Yay, crossover!! But it makes total sense that she would be here, trying to save Genora’s life (or second life!)
23 days to go continued
Fionn kept examining the mirror, and found that it had words for activation and/or release, we just needed to find them. Then Orvex realised there were two words in the back of Withers’ journal that we hadn’t gleaned the purpose of yet: ‘komarah’ and ‘blackfire’. So we tried these. We managed to free an ancient Omuan trapped inside the mirror. We struggled to communicate with him and calm him, until Hugo, with help from a chwinga, managed to soothe him. We managed to get my zombies and skeletons out, but also a few things we had to fight, like a troll, an invisible stalker, a gargoyle and a stirge. We also recovered Biff the Doppelganger, who had been travelling with the Yellow Banner. We took him and the Omuan up to a safer level, revisiting them to check they would be okay and have enough food every now and again. Fionn destroyed the mirror.
We came to a door with a figure with a hand extended. The trick was to high-five the figure, and the door opened. Within was a section of corridor shaped like a figure eight, with one of the key-skull skeletons, this one being hexagonal. Also in the room was another door similar to the one we’d come in via, which made us suspicious, as they seemed the sort of doors that would slam shut. So we wedged furniture in the doors before exploring further. In the middle part of the figure eight was a pedestal with a magic black opal crown. Orvex managed to make out that it belonged to Archmage Sadimar of Netheryl, who had tried to destroy the world somehow. At the far end of the figure eight from where we entered was a jade devil’s face on the wall, mouth open into complete darkness. Words seemed to come out of that mouth, threatening doom and oblivion. I got a skeleton to stick an arm in, and the arm just vanished. We all left the room except Oz and a couple of skeletons, and I got them to try picking up the crown. The doors slammed shut, or at least tried to with the furniture stuck in them. Through Oz’s eyes I could see four ghostly forms emerge from the devil’s mouth, and kill the skeletons and Oz. They did not try and come for us though, and when I resummoned Oz and opened the doors again, the crown was where it had been. We decided to just leave it.
Ninya showed us the room, or series of rooms on this level where she got Shagambi. It was an intense obstacle course, that Ninya showed us through at my insistence, with lava on the floor, and moments where we couldn’t breathe… but we got through, and saw a terracotta army – the one I guessed was spoken of in the riddle, so we walked past silently. We realised we had left something unfinished on his floor according to the riddle, something about the iron sceptre’s twin. After searching, we finally found it off of the room we found the sceptre in. There was a sun in the middle of the room smiling at us. When we covered it with a blanket, it frowned. Otherwise, it seemed harmless. Within the room was a sarcophagus, that said it held Nepaka, Nepartak’s grandmother. We opened it and found the twin sceptre. We took it, and it had inscribed on it that it was enchanted to destroy Nepaka (but oddly, not this Nepaka… weird). We also found a jade crocodile shaped key in a jewellery box.
Going to the centre of the level, we finally confronted the four gargoyles. We tried to figure out if they were linked to the elements, or what. We noticed they had different slots in front of them, shaped differently, and they were made each of a different metal. We kicked ourselves when we realised the metals were the same as the common currency. We put each type of coin in the appropriate slot, and the trap door opened. We could hear the ominous click of machinery below us…