Last night James and I decided to take a break from Dirwin and try out the exciting new release Tomb of Annihilation.
Our starting cast is my main character Priscilla, and her colleague and friend Hugo. Priscilla was an orphan, found by Syndra, High Priestess of the ‘Cult of the Useful Dead’, a Jergal-worshipping cult. This is a cult invented by us, where they are good/neutral aligned necromancers and death clerics who believe in helping the dead achieve their unfinished business even if they are too poor to afford Raise Dead, by using Animate Dead instead.
Syndra made Priscilla’s dead parents into her zombie nannies, and so Priscilla is a quiet and socially awkward devotee of the cult, married to her job. I am going to try and reflect this in my blogging of her story by being more terse, in comparison with the gregarious Dirwin and Genora.
Hugo is the idiot son of a farmer who is clumsy, yet has a fanatical love for the gods and a sort of idiot-savant way of floating through life on instinct (high wisdom). The Cult of the Useful Dead is the first place he has really belonged.
The opening conceit of ToA is that everyone who was ever raised from the dead is now slowly dying, one hit point per day. And so, I am counting down each day towards Syndra’s demise… unless I can stop it in time!
79 days to go
Find myself in a strange land. It’s hot and smelly. I better start at the beginning.
High Priestess Syndra has been getting sicker and sicker for the last three weeks. She finally figured out what it was. She’s dying. Everyone who was ever raised from the dead is dying. Healing magic is weaker. Resurrection magic is dead. She has learned through divination that the answer can be found on Chult. Something called the Soulmonger. Without warning, she casts teleportation and she, Hugo and I are there.
Later I learned we are in Port Nyanzura. At the time though all I can see is sea, bright buildings and street markets, and the lizards bigger than any I have ever heard of. We set off to find the house of Syndra’s friend, a merchant prince. On the way, I was accosted by a cat-person (?) who said their name was Brightwhiskers and asked for a gold piece. Hugo seemed to think the person was a good person, so I gave them a gold piece and they scampered off. Said they’d pay me back.
We reached the great house of one of seven merchant princes, Wakanga O’tamu. He offered to take Syndra in, and gave us advice. He flirted with me, I think. It was unpleasant. I know I am not a beauty, so I am suspicious of any who accuse me of being so. Hugo was careful around everything in the house, mindful of his clumsiness.
His advice was to buy magic items from him that we could only get from him here, to get a guide registered by his friend Jobal, and to take plenty of supplies into the jungle with us. Not to share our very unfinished map that Syndra had given us. Make money betting on dinosaur races (not likely). He also told us a rumour of a lost heir to Chult held prisoner in a birdfolk monastery on the Olung River. He also gave us a battered journal belonging to a wizard who explored the jungle 15 years ago. He asked us to try and find that wizard’s golem guardian lost in the jungle and bring it back to him.
Left Syndra with him. A little way down the street Hugo and I were nearly taken out by a falling water barrel. We were okay, but Hugo left it late to say to me that he saw someone up on the roof.
Found a suitable inn in the Redmarket, so named for the stained bloody cracks between the paving stones. Outside Kaya’s House of Repose we saw a board of guides, and looked over it, then went in to pay for room and board. Two cat people in the bar had seen us looking at the board and told us not to bother with Jobal’s guides. Their names were River Mist and Flask of Wine and they offered to split the treasure with us rather than get paid up front. Hugo seemed to approve of them. I told them about the curse that seemed to be afflicting the raised, and they seemed a little concerned.
They told us a few rumours they’d heard about things in the jungle. There’s maybe a witch who knows things about making sentient zombies near Mbala, not far south of us. There’s a frog-person village and a prominence called Firefinger not far to the south east. Would have to watch out about going north east though as some stupid bunch of people called the Flaming Fist are mounting expeditions there and beat you up if you don’t have a licence. Also there are some ruins out there of temples for some old god called Ubtao.
They recommended we spend tomorrow buying up supplies while they went and talked to some of their contacts around town.
Have updated map. Now will read some of the lost wizard’s journal.
78 days to go
In the market, was attacked by madman. Raved about The Ancient One beneath an Ancient City, and that the snake men knew about it. We couldn’t find out about snake men when we asked people about it.
After all the shopping and nearly running out of money, a lady called K’halu asked Hugo and me to help her collect a debt. We failed. The guy was called Taban. After he let me carry away K’halu and Hugo, both unconscious, K’halu wrote off the debt. Before she left our rooms, she told us that the ruins of Mezro are only an illusion. Wrote that on the map. Also she said she had heard that whispered by a pale man to a lizard man who smelled of honeysuckle. Whatever that is supposed to mean.
Later when River and Flask returned they commiserated with us over our defeat. Taban apparently is some underground ring fighter. They had been busy talking to people and had a friend called Rokah who wanted an escort up to Fort Beluarian to spy on the Flaming Fist. A little digging and they told us their friend – and many of their friends – were Zhentarrim.
We aren’t going to have time to go northeast when the obvious clues are leading us south. They heard about another person who needed an escort, a half-orc called Undril Silvertusk, who wanted to get to Camp Vengeance, an Order of the Gauntlet fort. That was more in our direction so we agreed to escort her. I convinced her to go find medium armour before tomorrow unless she wanted to die of thirst, exhaustion or drowning.
Brightwhiskers found me at the inn and repaid me ten times over. Pleasant surprise to see anything back at all.
Updated map, and will read more of the old journal tonight. In a panic. Guides reckon trip could take almost three weeks. We don’t have that kind of time. Hopefully boating makes the trip faster, or we find what we need soon.
77 days to go
On the way to meet Undril to leave Port Nyanzura, was accosted by a priest of Savras, a divining god. He raved at me to speak to the wise guardian of Orolunga, west of Mbala, she can direct you to that which you seek. We helped the priest up and made sure he was all right, but he didn’t remember his raving.
We met up with Undril and started to leave town. She told us she had heard that east of Mbala was the Aldani Basin, where in olden times Ubtao had turned all the people there into monsters for eating all the lobsters. Marked that on the map.