Today we cover the ubiquitous Forgotten Realms. Often considered the generic kitchen sink of settings, we go into why it isn’t just that, covering its history, recommending some books and games to get into, and doing a retrospective of our most Forgotten Realms campaign experience, Storm King’s Thunder.
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!
21 days to go, continued
Heading down the stairs to the final level, we saw the green glow from a smouldering cauldron in the centre of a dungeon room. There were three empty rocking chairs, haberdashery lying around and a spinning wheel. There was a caged prisoner in the middle of the room, and three little dolls made of various bits and pieces limped up to us. They warned us that the Sewn Sisters would come, and they asked us to free them. We said we would. Gathering the miserable looking things up, we moved into the room properly.
That was when the caged prisoner turned around and I got the shock of my life. It was me. I yelled out that I wasn’t going to be so easily spooked. But as we got to talking, she revealed to us what she was: a clone, created by the Sewn Sisters, and used to spy on our progress. Nanny Pupu, all that long time ago, had taken some hairs from me and sent them away to the Sisters, before we killed her. We freed and dressed my clone, and took her to be with our small band of refugees.
Then we settled into breaking the puzzle of the room we were in. At the end was a door that had five plaques on it: one triangular, one a square, a pentagon, a hexagon, and finally an octagon. Behind each of these would be a keyhole corresponding to the skeleton keys we had liberated. But to move the plaques, we had to solve the puzzle in each of the five rooms on the mezzanine level above us. So we started with the room with a triangle on the door.
This one did not take us too long. There was a lever, but it was behind a glass cylinder which we couldn’t lift or move. Zagmira used a misty step spell to get in and out of there. The first keyhole was revealed. In the next room, the square-plaqued door, we found pages of spells flying around. We were able to grab three spells: Alarm, Immolation, Unseen Servant, and Investiture of Ice, before the rest turned into a whirwind of dust mephits. One we dispatched that, we had to figure out how to touch the level, which was in an ethereal state. It took us ages, trying all sorts of methods, but finally Orvex thought to just try drawing a square around it. And that worked.
In the next room, the pentagon room, a gaunt man setting up a feast invited us to eat. Ignoring him, we inspected the tapestries around the walls. One patch was different from the others. It had a devil face, a motif common in the room, but the mouth was real. I had a skeleton poke its finger in, and that solved the puzzle. Unfortunately, we left the room without eating, which made the man lay a curse on us. We decided to rest up, and return once Hugo had asked the chwingas for a spell to remove the curse from all of us.
19 days to go
We wasted an entire day just removing the curse, and were finally ready to go again. The Sewn Sisters had not yet emerged, so we went to the hexagon room next. Within was a cracked six-sided mirror with the words ‘Piggy piggy piggy’ written above it, and five candles. I got the team to search for the sixth candle, and we found it, lit them, and then said piggy three times. A lever appeared in the mirror, and we pulled it (a bit weird, seeing oneself holding something that wasn’t actually there). Then it was onto the final room.
This one was where it nearly all went wrong. There was a leather tome upon a lectern with a rhyme written in infernal, and eight skeletons along the walls. We read the rhyme in our heads, front to back, and back to front, and were trying to decide which way it should be said aloud. Hugo, Flask and I were the only ones in the room when I accidentally triggered the trap while exploring the room. The gravity went upside down, the ceiling opened up, and beneath us was a giant metal blender. I cast Fly on Hugo and myself while Flask clung for dear life onto the lectern. We read the rhyme quickly, and the trap reset, and the lever appeared.
Outside, the rest of the team were standing there, watching the approach of the Sewn Sisters. I was fed up, not keen on talking, so we quickly dispatched them, focussing on the closest of the witches first so as to break their coven and diminish their spell power. With that done, the other two were easy to take down. The three little dolls were now inert, and free I suppose. And the five keyholes were now revealed. We decided to have one last rest before confronting Acererak.
18 days to go
We placed the keys in the door and unlocked it to reveal a huge chamber with lava beneath us. We were able to safely assemble on a wide ledge near the door, while Acererak was on another ledge to the right of us, and the Soulmonger hung suspended in the air by metal cables to the left of us. Some… thing… was attached to the Soulmonger, tube in mouth. It looked like it was made of different bits and pieces of different people.
Acererak started to speak to us. It was standard bad guy monologue, but Orvex whispered to me to keep him talking as long as possible, and then he whispered something long and complicated to Hugo. Meanwhile the rest of us tried to hide them, keeping Acererak going on and on about how he was using the Soulmonger to build a new god, a vessel for some being called Tenebrus, his master. Alas, we couldn’t keep him talking forever, and the fighting began.
He made a sphere of annihilation and sent it amongst us. It focussed on Zagmira, and she ran around the ledge jumping and cursing as bits and pieces of her voluminous robes got singed off into oblivion. Flask ran dashingly up the cables, all the way over to stab Acererak… and got killed in by single spell of Acererak’s, his corpse sent flying back to us with the impact. If that wasn’t shocking enough, my skeletons and zombies refused to attack Acererak! Hugo ran between us all, shouting to give him the Nine Gods, so we started doing so, and the more nimble and ranged amongst us started attacking the god-golem in the centre. It opened its eyes, and hit us with some sort of whammy that exhausted us all. Zagmira was finally overcome by the sphere of annihilation, and a second corpse lay on our side now.
We ignored Acererak, who seemed untouchable, and continued to stab and shoot the god-golem, until finally Ninya hit it, killed it, and leapt off it before it became insubstantial. Acererak was cursing us, but saying it would only delay him a little. Thankfully, he had been distracted enough by the flurry of the rest of us, to fail to notice that Hugo now had all the Nine Gods’ holy objects, and was starting to glow. Chwingas started to appear around the cavern. Acererak pointed a bony finger at Hugo, and annihilated him with another single kill spell.
Hugo died, but in that moment the Soulmonger exploded, and a giant laser shot for the sky from its heart, through all six levels of the tomb above. The laser resolved itself into a figure… a giant figure of a man… but was it Hugo? Or was it, as a celebrating Orvex cried out, the Nine Gods reconstituted into the original god, the one that ‘vanished’ before they appeared… Ubtao?
Acererak was mad now. All the power of the Soulmonger was wasted now, not given to Tenebrus, but instead to Hugo/Ubtao. Not only that, but Flask and Zagmira stood up, and all of us were refreshed by wave after wave of energy from the giant glowing figure above us. So we naturally attacked. It was still a hard fight, even with Hugo sending us energy and healing, but we managed to wear Acererak’s spell power down, and our tabaxi attacked with unrelenting energy even after Zagmira and I were well out of spell power ourselves. Above us, Hug-tao was growing, expanding his consciousness, testing his powers. Ninya became Acererak’s focus, as she was dealing him the most damage, and he managed to knock her down. But when we got her back up again, she finally managed to kick the stupid skull of his neck vertebrae, into the lava below.
My oldest friend, once Hugo, now Ubtao, but maybe still Hugo, wished us luck, and left. There was no corpse, so… maybe it was Hugo? Either way, the waters of Omu were starting to fill the dungeon so we decided to destroy what we could, save what was needed, and leave as soon as possible. We found, in the same cavern as us, a ton of phylacteries of the servants of Acererak, so we threw these in the lava. Further back in the cavern we found a teleporter that took us to Acererak’s private chambers. In his chapel of hate, we found some nothiks chained up, a font for the baptism of the new god, and an unconscious man in a body bag. We picked him up and kept exploring. There were many strange things, like a portal to Arcadia, a pool of black ooze, a music box that could sound like many instruments (I took that), and a library full of arcane texts, looked after by a man named Mr Fox. We tried to get him to escape with us, but he said he was bound here. Zagmira said she was staying too. When we said she had to escape before the tomb became a lake, she said it was fine, she’d go to Arcadia instead, and besides, she needed some other prize now that the Soulmonger had exploded. But we still had to get out before it was too late, so we fled the chapel of hate, out the teleporter, across the quickly cooling lake of lava and water, and through the tomb which was now a wonderland of waterfalls. I noticed, as we escaped, that the Starfallen had set free as part of the destruction of the works of Acererak, but Nepartak, the princess in the skull, was still with Copper Bell. That was confusing. Shouldn’t Acererak’s death have freed her? Of course we hadn’t killed him completely… he’d have many phylacteries in other places… but we’d ended the horrid spell on our plane, and that’s why we came here.
When we emerged in Omu, Mwaxanare received us happily. We gave her the chalice of Chigakare, and told her of the return of Ubtao. The yuan-ti had been purged completely from Omu. We travelled with her back to Port Nyanzaru, where she announced the return of the Omuan monarchy and of Ubtao. Later that first day, the man we carried out of Acererak’s chapel came to. He said his name was Volo, and he was very thankful to us. He seemed a little put out when none of us recognised his name. As we travelled he regaled us with many tales of his adventures.
On our way up the river-routes, we passed Camp Vengeance, only to find it in ruins. There seemed to be a colony of were-tigers living there now. Some on the bank shouted to us to leave them alone, unless we wanted to convert to were-tigers and join their free love colony. I recognised them as they spoke to us… it was Cipactonal and Oxomoco. Well, at least they seem happy. And they destroyed that abysmal self-righteous camp. Win-win.
My master Syndra was pleased to see me, and seemed to be at peace with the fate of Hugo. She said I seemed to be glowing. I couldn’t really see it myself. She invited me to come back with her to Waterdeep, but I told her I had promises I made here that needed fulfilling first. Besides… I don’t think I can go back to being servant to a master again. I’ve learnt too much on this adventure.
It was time for the band to go their separate ways. For River and Flask, this happened quicker than I could think. River only had time to say a quick goodbye to me, carrying an unconscious Flask over her shoulder, one week into our stay in Port Nyanzaru. Flask, bored back in town, had gotten in trouble with a merchant prince, and so she had arranged for them to get passage out of town on the first boat out. She refused to wait for me to organise something else for her, but I did at least see them safe on their ship, and I did manage to create a diversion on the docks so they got away safely. Who knows where they’ll end up? But they are so much more powerful now than when I first hired them. I’m sure they’ll be fine, wherever they end up.
Orvex chose to return to Omu with Mwaxanare. He couldn’t resist a chance to study aarakocra culture up close. She’s hiring him as an advisor, and paying in antiques! I can’t think of a happier place for him to be.
Copper Bell has held onto the skull of Nepartak and continues to communicate with her still. Nepartak has asked for her to find her ancestor, Zalkore, a former queen of Omu who may still be alive due to a curse. They think she might be able to help restore Nepartak to a living body. It’s believed she is in Nangalore, yet another ruined jungle city. So Copper Bell is off on another adventure, but she seems a lot happier and full of purpose now that she has a child to care for again.
I’ve given Fionn the Eye of Zeltec as she asked, and she is taking it to Halruaa with the survivors of the flying shipwreck to find a gemcutter and a workshop. Watch this space, she said to me before departing…
Ninya went back to Waterdeep with Syndra, thanking me for my help. I asked if she wouldn’t stay and adventure further with me, but she said she had to get back to her best friend and make sure she was still alive.
There are people who helped us who we may never see again, and some who I know we won’t. Eeyal and Inete seem like distant memories. Theeka’s loss is a little fresher, and I even still have her murderer’s corpse in my skeleton army (his bones always seemed to hold some memory of his excellent marksmanship). Those three I know are dead and gone, and because of the Soulmonger there was nothing I could do. Except, I hope, maybe their souls were freed when Hugo became Ubtao. I wish I’d thought to ask him. I feel like Artus and Dragonbait may have made it out though. I have no real evidence to base this on, except the fact that the frost giants haven’t turned the whole world into one big snowball. I’ll have to see if I can research a spell to contact them and see. But that will have to wait for my other promises first.
The first promise I have to fulfill will find me heading back to Wyrmheart Mine, to meet again with Tinder. There’s something we want to try…
So! That’s finally it for Tomb of Annihilation! Wow.
James and I didn’t enjoy it as much as the last two campaigns we’ve played through. There were moments in it that were amazing. I particularly loved the actual city of Omu itself, with all the different elements it had: collect the Nine Gods, beat the other people who are trying to collect them, watch out for the environmental dangers (e.g. Bag o Bones, King of Feathers) and defeating the yuan-ti and Ran Nsi. But as a whole it lacked the cohesion of Curse of Strahd, and the sandboxiness of it (a part of Storm King’s Thunder I loved) was ruined by the time limit (which James would not run with again, in hindsight). It meant we never tried the tortle adventure add-on, sadly…
Let me know if you want more of an in-depth analysis of this campaign (or any others) from James’s perspective as a DM. I’ve been trying to encourage him to write or vlog about it, as he’s very experienced and thinks a lot about what he chooses to play or not. He’ll have a much more in depth analysis, if you’re interested in hearing that.
What are the impacts for the meta-plot of our meta-campaign? Well, as you might have seen if you followed the whole campaign, TOA tied into our SKT playthrough with the presence of Artus Cimber and the ring of winter, and obviously the presence of Ninya, who was there to save Genora’s (second) life! But it did also tie into the Dirwin mega-campaign, with the mention of Tenebrus. This is very much James’s invention here, so don’t get confused. He rewrote parts of the ending of TOA, particularly the part with Hugo turning into Ubtao, but also with Acererak’s god-golem being intended for possession by Tenebrus. (Basically he likes to see me scream when things tie into the meta-plot, haha). Also with the Mechanus scene happening on level five of the tomb, that directly ties into what Dirwin is doing right now with the March of the Modrons. So this does complicate things if you’re trying to make our campaign stick to the popularised timeline of events in standard Forgotten Realms… but basically, don’t worry about it.
So what’s next for Sky Bear Games’s D&D games? We’re probably taking a little break from these one-player home campaigns for a little bit because life is busy, but we’re finishing off our home brew setting campaign very soon too… check out the blog for that here: http://dragonprincescarnevale.blogspot.com/
As for the one-player games though, I am very torn! We actually have three options. Comment if you’ve got an opinion on what you’d prefer to see:
- Get back to the main Dirwin storyline (currently he is halfway through the March of the Modrons)
- Return for a brief adventure with Genora/Serissa, who, having recovered from the soulmonger curse, has to now defend her throne from those who think her weak, and protect against mortality by… getting married and producing an heir?!
- Or start anew (but still part of the meta-plot) with a young tiefling girl in Waterdeep, and her plucky gang of friends, as we play through the very exciting looking campaign Dragon Heist?
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!
23 days to go, continued
Looking down into the next level, we saw a pentagonal room full of stinking plants. There were exits at two of the corners. I recognised this as the room I had seen when I hijacked into the eyeballs of a tomb guardian from the scrying pool. We decided to take Withers’ secret staircase down instead, and this was finally the end of that. There was a door off of it, leading to a small landing on an underground lake. There were some boats ahead of us, and further ahead, not just the walls of the one pentagonal room, but a few others of the same shape, and each of these were mounted on giant cogs. We figured there must be a way to rotate the rooms to open up new exits. Oz flew around and mapped out the giant cog rooms.
We left the lake for now and walked into a large corridor. On the wall were the following words in blood: Awaken Napaka. We considered whether this could have something to do with the mace we had. The corridor was large and sloping down towards a drape. We got a feeling, from the design of the corridor, that something might come out of the uphill part and roll down towards us. We backed out of the corridor and got Oz to check the drape for us. Opening it up, he found a four armed gargoyle statue, though one arm was broken off. It had the inscription “Three I need, then three more, then three more still to open the door.” Not keen to give up the nine gods just yet (or at least that was our assumption), we decided to come back later.
We made our way across the bridge from that corridor to the plant room we had seen from above. We looked into the next cog room, to the west. It had an acidic smell and grey slimy puddles. There were friezes of dragons on the walls with nozzles in them. But when we sent skeletons in and triggered the trap, we realised the acid trap had actually run out of acid! So we were able to cross into the next room. It was quite small, so for the time we just sent Oz in. There was an iron lectern with a control panel, and a puzzle on the wall. There was also another skeleton with a key head, and once we killed it we got the hexagonal key. Oz considered the puzzle and the control panel more, and we realised it was the control panel for the giant cogs, and the puzzle was a sort of map. We backed out into the plant room, the greatest extent of my psychic reach to Oz, and got him to test the panel.
This is where things started to go very, very wrong. Oz got something wrong and the room he was in started filling with green goo. At least he was flying… but then he touched another wrong button. The door slammed shut on the room. Then, through the psychic link, Oz and I were both paralysed by a voice in our heads. Something called Gora. It thought we were Acererak, but once it realised we weren’t, it took control of my mind. I ordered everyone to follow me down into the boats, and they followed! Then, when we were out in the middle of the lake, Gora the aboleth attacked! I was still under its control, but it didn’t realise we had so many allies with us. Ninya, as much as she hated touching it and being out in the middle of the water, was the one who managed to slay the hideous beast. My mind was freed. But for a moment there we were nearly very, very dead.
We went back up to the plant room, and Oz was no longer panicking: it seemed like the green goo had run out, and he was still able to work the control panel without touching the goo. So he figured out the rest of the puzzle, and the room we were in began to turn. At this, the shambling mounds made of plant matter in the room with us attacked. We had a misstep while fighting them at first – lightning attacks healed them! – but we were able to weed them all out. We noticed a small room at the northern end of the room, with a small cloud of gas billowing out and up. I sent a skeleton in, and it found the corpse of Lord Brixton, the final member of the Yellow Banners. The room was only a trap room. We were able to salvage from the ill-fated adventurer his backpack, some gems, and his draconic longsword.
We headed to the next pentagon room. On each wall was a wardrobe with different carvings on it, and a portcullis to the north that had five blood-drop shaped gems above it. We opened the first wardrobe, and an orc warband piled out from what looked like the plane of Acheron beyond. Once we defeated them, not only did the first of the blood-drop gems glow sanguine red, but I was able to replenish my zombie supply with orc zombies. In the next wardrobe was a portal to Gehenna, out of which flew four nasty Mezoloths. But we still overcame them, despite the horrible cloudkill spell they kept dropping on us. The next wardrobe, decorated with ornate clockwork, opened up into Mechanus and expelled a single monodrone. We didn’t want to kill the poor thing, so we decided to take a break from this puzzle, and see what other doors we could open around this cog.
There was a passage to the south, but I couldn’t follow, due to needing to hold onto the link with Oz, and my undead army could not follow into the much narrower passage. So the others went in. Within they found a semi-circular chamber with a life-sized golden statue of a mastodon on a stone cog, with jewelled tusks. The murals on the wall told us what we already knew: this was the tomb of Chigakare, which Mwaxanare had asked us to find, and fetch his chalice. We knew it would start a fight though, if we figured out what the puzzle was. Orvex was the one to spot it: there was a star-shaped indentation on the mastodon’s head. And where was a star-shaped key? Oz was looking right at one, the head of a lever on the control panel.
22 days to go
So after a rest, with some maneuvering, we got the star lever over to that group. Given that it seemed likely, with the evocation magic on the floor, that the floor would become lava, we could only fit six people in the room riding the masotodon, so Fionn and Zagmira left and came back to me. And then Orvex stuck the star key in.
I hear the fight was very hard. Yes, the floor was on fire. The mastodon started rotating, so Hugo and Orvex had to cling on for dear life (the tabaxis were all fine though). Wave after wave of devils came to attack, but the six within the room were able to defeat them all, and gain the chalice of Chigakare.
That led us back to our same old problem of the blood-drop gems and the monodrone. But Fionn had an idea. I gave her my magic pigments, and she painted the last three rubies. Unfortunately we were only able to trick the middle ruby, but that meant we didn’t have to kill the monodrone, so that was a success. We did still have to fight the last two wardrobes: bone demons from the Nine Hells, and will o’ wisps from the Shadowfell.
21 days to go
We were finally able to advance north, and found ourselves out of the cog rooms and in the caverns again. We came to a room that had scraps of metal and tarnished coins, so we went an orc zombie in to test the room. All of his organic armour – the leather, mainly – decayed away. There was a ring radiating necrotic magic out at the end of the room, and as soon as he touched it, it disintegrated. That made the magic effect stop, and we were able to advance.
Further on, we saw stairs leading down to the next level. We decided that we really should finish this level first though, so kept going. We came to a giant cylindrical room with two giant chains moving up and down within. They entered and exited the room from portals to what appeared to be Mechanus. We realised that was how Acererak was powering this whole, evil tomb… he was stealing power from Mechanus! That could not be a good thing… And then a squadron of modrons emerged from the portal above…
We managed to scramble our brains together (mostly me and Zagmira) to talk to them in their own logical language. It was very hard, but we were able to avoid conflict by showing them that we’d rescued the monodrone, and that we weren’t responsible for the theft of the chains. But they were struggling with holding two ideas at once: that Mechanus was perfect and impenetrable, and that Mechanus had been stolen from. The final result was that they tried to go back to Mechanus (including our little monodrone) and it ended up with them disintegrating on the portal below. It was sad… sort of. I mean, they seem like basically soulless androids…
The tabaxis and Oz were able to safely scout ahead, and they found an orrery. There were more continents on the representation of Faerun that we were aware of… There was also a nycaloth hiding inside a model of a moon, which they fought fairly quickly. Zagmira flew over to check out the orrery, and managed to unlock a secret hidden effect: we were all healed a small amount.
We decided to go back and figure out the corridor with the four-armed gargoyle before going down to the final level. We finally noticed a new detail: one of the wall murals had a croc-headed man carrying a chest… and the lock on the chest was real! We had a jade croc key from upstairs, so we tried that, and it worked, revealing a crawlspace. Oz went inside, and found a small hidden room with a strange massive green thing on wheels. Also there was a large red gem. Oz picked it up, and had to flee back into the crawlspace as the massive green thing started to wheel towards him and slam into the wall! He saw the writing on the side… Napaka II!
He tried to fly out the crawlspace back to us, but that made Napaka crash out of the wall towards the gargoyle. It kept trying to go for where Oz was in the wall, so we had to think quickly. Flask remembered that we had a mace that was supposed to destroy Napaka, so we lined him up to bat at the wheeled thing as it came by, and ordered Oz to fly out. As he did, Flask whacked the machine, and it disintegrated completely. A lucky guess! Finally, calm again, we were able to identify the gem as the Eye of Zeltec, another one of the famed treasures of the Tomb.
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…
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.
Sorry about the massive gap between posts! I’ve been both ill and very busy at work and outside of work. We’re still on Level Five of the tomb in real time, so I should have a little chance to catch up now with the Level 3 and 4 posts. Thanks for waiting!
27 days to go
Down on the second level, we were met with another plaque with one of Acererak’s clue or riddle things. This one said: The ring is a path to another tomb. The dead abhor sunlight. Only a jewel can tame the frog. Bow as the dead god intoned. Into darkness descend.
There were a number of corridors on this level, and we went down the first we came to. We came to a small room with reliefs on the walls of people falling. There was a demon’s head in the middle of the room, with its mouth open, and magical darkness within. Going in, Oz wound up in another room, beneath us, with one of the sarcophagi in it. By the iconography this one seems to be Ijin. The floor was a puzzle. We considered going down that way, but then we saw that there was a dwarf skeleton on the floor, so we decided to come back later, or see what other ways we could approach the puzzle.
In the next corridor we stumbled into a four way intersection. This was odd in two ways: first, there was a goat-headed corpse in front of us, and second, the two branches to either side of us seemed to go up in a loop above us. There was transmutation magic up there, and when I sent Oz, he never came back. I couldn’t see through his eyes, or contact him, or even summon him back again. He was just gone. We decided we couldn’t go up there, given that the corridor seemed to wipe him from existence. Perhaps if we learn some stronger magics down here we can figure out what went wrong and if it’s reversible.
Examining the goat headed man, we found it was one of the Yellow Banner, a Kalashite, and he was dead via axe and crossbow bolts (though, mysteriously, these had been removed). His diary was with him, and we learnt his name: Devlin Bashir. In it we also learnt of the others in his team and their fates. He himself was disfiguring himself by using the cursed goat-headed staff we found by him. We bagged that. We also bagged a self-refilling pot of ink from his pocket. We read further and learned about his companions: Lord Brixton from Cormyr, Bravis Boulderborn, presumably the dwarf we’d seen dead below, Seward, a ranger from Chondath, and Sephirius, a dragonborn paladin. As of his final entry, Devlin said he was the last survivor, though he would be dead soon. Seward had died and that meant they had lost something called the Starfallen. There was also reference to an elven princess, I wonder if the Starfallen is her? He also mentioned a doppelganger was in their midst. The last words in the diary were the most ominous, regarding Acererak: His final secret will lead to your doom.
Going through the corridor, we found ourselves in a room that smelled of wine, with a gilded tomb in the middle. There were four gargoyle heads on the wall. Moa warned us that the iconography of this room did not match any of the nine gods, and so was probably some form of trap. There was sunlight coming through a corner of roof, which made no sense. Checking it with magical senses, it was indeed an illusion. Investigating further, the tomb seemed to be glued to the floor, and there seemed to be valves in each of the faces. We decided to leave.
Going to another door on this level, it had three holes in it, which, as we approached filled with the faces of zombies who pushed against the door to get at us. I had our zombies push back, and when the door opened we fought the ravenous three on the other side. Down a short corridor, we found ourselves in another one of the gods’ tombs. It was clearly Papazotl, given the symbolism of the decor. There were cauldrons with bones, and three statues, one with no face. We recalled the line of the riddle: Bow to no one. So we bowed to the faceless statue, and the tomb opened. On a bright shield on the wall, suddenly an archer appeared as we touched the tomb, and shot bolts of light at us. Copper Bell leapt over and turned the shield around. We applauded her quick thinking, and allowed her to take the treasure within the tomb. It was an amulet with health boosting properties, and when she donned it, she was taken by the spirit of Papazotl.
Hugo managed to find a secret door to the eastern end of the room, and within was a dusty corridor. In the middle of the corridor was an alcove with an old bottle there. As I touched it, an earth-coloured woman erupted out of it, promising us riches if we freed her. She was some sort of djinn. Her name was Keshma al-Wazir. I told her it was fine, we didn’t need riches, we just wanted her to go in peace. She laughed at what she thought was our foolishness, and tried to teleport away. I can only imagine, by the look of horror on her face, that she realised she couldn’t too late. I don’t know where she is now. Possibly inside another room in the tomb? Maybe we’ll see her again.
At the end of the corridor was another secret door, through which there was a room that stank of brimstone. Inside, there was the sarcophagus of Nangnang! There was a salt circle surrounding it, and Fionn, possessed by Wongo, kicked it. From out of there erupted a slaad! It was a tough fight, and afterwards Fionn suggested looking for the jewel that should be in its head, which was like a control stone. Probably what the riddle referred to by the jewel taming the frog. But it was gone. We allowed River to pick up the treasure of this tomb: a frog egg that filled her with magical potential.
As we settled down to rest for the day, sure we had uncovered everything on the second level, we discovered another skeleton with a key on its head. After killing it, we discovered it was a square key.
Number of undead who died this episode: 14
Total undead after spell slots refreshed: 17
Warning: The following contains detailed spoilers for the final dungeon of the Tomb of Annihilation
28 days to go, continued
There was an obelisk before three tunnels leading deeper into the cliff face. I say three, because one which had been hidden by bushes was bared to the world by blast marks. Presumably the Red Wizards’ doing. On the obelisk was a passage of text in common, wiped down (possibly by Orvex, we’d seen him wipe down carvings and plaques like this). There were vague threats by this Acererak guy about we should fear him, etc. Then there was what we guessed were a series of clues. The enemies oppose. One stands between them. In darkness it hides. Don the mask or be seen. Speak no truth to the doomed child. The keys turn on the inside only.
We went through the blasted entrance. Flask saw recent footprints, probably those of the Reds. We sent the zombies ahead of us to place the cubes in the nine slots. We tried two different configurations, both times getting zombies electrocuted by the trap on the lock, before we figured out that the first two lines of clues were about this: The enemies oppose, one stands between. We put each of the enemy gods across from each other as according to the myth Orvex told us (the order of that didn’t seem to matter) and Unkh in the middle. That did the trick.
Unfortunately we fell badly for the next trick. Thankfully only the zombies took the hit. There was another door ten feet behind the first, and it had a lever and an hourglass, which started ticking away as soon as the zombies entered. I panicked, and order them to pull it. The floor fell away, and those zombies in the room fell onto spikes. One was fully dead under the others, but the rest were able to climb out with help. The cats climbed over the pit and together with them and the zombies, we all got across.
We continued down the corridor and came toward a t-junction. Ahead of us was a devil’s head mask taking up most of the wall. I sent my zombies ahead, and they felt out the floors and wall, taking some darts from pressure plates as they went. Seemed a good strategy, so I kept that going through the rest of the dungeon. When we reached the T, there was a crystal window down the left hand passage, and a balcony to the right. All around us were bones interred in nooks in the walls. At least I’ll never be short of skeletons in here. Especially if they are the skeletons of the Omuans who were forced by Acererak to build this awful place. A zombie of mine reached into the blackness inside the mouth of the giant devil mask, and out came a shadow demon, which my undead soon dispatched, though not without casualties to my undead army. In darkness it hides had been the clue! But it hadn’t hurt us too badly to trigger that trap.
We went right and saw that we were at a giant square spiral staircase. There were other exits branching of off this floor, and then the stairs descended to the next level. Looking below, a small masked figure saw us and scampered off. Was this what the clue Don the Mask or Be Seen meant?
We backtracked in the direction of the crystal window and found a metal grate on the floor. Only Oz was small enough to slip between the bars, so he did. Beneath, a small underground stream flowed. With a torch, he flew upstream. Then he exploded what I could only assume was a gas pocket up there. Summoning him back, I sent him back in with a light stone from Fionn. He was able to get to the end of the upstream section, and found stairs up to a dead end, then further along to another dead end, a strange locked casket, as long as a coffin. Unable to open it, I made him check downstream this time. The stream went on for a long time, and much further than my range to connect with him, so he came back.
Looking through the crystal window we could see into a room, but with no way for us to enter it. Inside was a sarcophagus, bear statues holding up a strange shield or disc with eyes on it, and six inert undead on thrones wearing masks. Since there was no opening obvious to us, and we didn’t want to smash the window, we decided to try and find a better way. We went through the nearest corridor on the spiral staircase, and found ourselves looking into a room, at the end of which stood a statue of a knight with a shield, with strange scraps of metal in the room. We called out, no response. My zombies lumbered in, and nothing happened to them, so I stepped forward. Immediately my scabbard holding the Flametongue began to pull me forward. I had the zombies grab me and drag me backward. I got my skeletons to fire a volley at the knight, and the strangest thing happened. The arrows gained speed as they flew towards it, and the arrowheads got absorbed as soon as they hit. We realised it was a magnetic trap. I had Oz scout. He could see, flying through the room, that there were corridors either side of the magnetic statue. To the north was a larger room with a sickly looking fountain, and to the south, what seemed an empty corridor. We decided for now to backtrack, rather than risk being unarmed in that room.
In the next nearest corridor, we were confronted with a giant skull with flames for eyes. Its open mouth showed us a room beyond, with another sarcophagus in it. I sent Oz through the skull, which made one of the two flames go out, and he saw within that the sarcophagus was kept company by bones in niches, tiny holes in the walls otherwise, and a crystal box with a skull floating within. As soon as he looked at this, I heard a voice in my head. It was a lost little girl, who started panicking that she couldn’t see anything. I had a horrible suspicion she was the skull Oz had seen, but I managed to repress this thought before she heard it, and reassure her that I was a wizard and would do everything to fix the curse on her that had turned her into ‘a crystal’. The others, looking through the giant skull mouth, were able to see the crystal box and Copper Bell was able to help me calm the girl, whose name was Nepartak. She was the daughter of Omek, an ancient king of Omu. Oz picked up the crystal box and brought it through, which made the other flame in the last eye socket go out. Surely, some sort of trap. Oz gave the box to Copper Bell and she carried it, telling Nepartak happy cat stories. In a quiet moment later, Copper Bell told me she no longer wished to die until she could exact vengeance on Acererak for doing this to the child. Speak no truth to the doomed child, I remembered too late. Thankfully, I had done that instinctively.
We backtracked to the magnetic statue, stripped off our metal and tested that it could be safely transported with Fionn’s bag of holding before continuing. Unfortunately we had to leave Al behind. We checked the northern room with the fountain. It had three stone maidens in the middle, and I could sense transmutation magic on it. I had some of my zombies drink from it. One was silenced for a while, and the other was sex-changed. We left the fountain and continued to what seemed to be an empty corridor to the south. Naturally, we found a secret door, and it led, as we thought it might according to our rough mapping, the room on the other side of the crystal window.
Peeking ahead, we could see the disc of eyes, and it was here I clicked. Don the mask or be seen. I summoned an unseen servant to grab a mask off one of the undead within, and it brought it back to us unscathed. Then I masked a skeleton and made it fetch us the other masks. With those masks, we were able to enter the room. On another hunch based on our mapping, Flask found the secret door at the south end of the room which led to the stairs from the river which Oz had found. So we took those down and waded through the mucky water to the dead-end with the casket. I could sense there was some odd magic in there, so we backed out far down the river, and using Oz, I cast the Knock spell to unlock it. Then Oz joined us, and I had a zombie go in and open the casket. There was no explosion or anything, so we went in. The casket had vanished into the mud! We had other zombies dig it up, and the zombie emerged from the casket, covered in mud, but otherwise fine (good thing it didn’t have to breathe!). Also in the casket we found 500 gold pieces, a golden tankard which shows a happy face when full and a sad face when empty, and a scroll with a spell to remove curses.
Backtracking to the sarcophagus chamber, I investigated the disc of eyes further, and determined that it would have awakened the undead on the thrones if we had been maskless. So we threw a blanket over it, and all the skeletons and zombies could come in. Then, using Knock again, we were able to open the sarcophagus. Inside was a small pile of bones and a beautiful ring with a blue shield design. Fionn identified it as a ring of protection. Hugo picked it up, and suddenly he could hear the voice of Obo’laka in his head!
Through Hugo, she was able to tell us a few things. All nine of the gods were of course buried here – it is called the Tomb of the Nine Gods after all. She wasn’t able to remember how the nine gods took over from Ubtao, only that they did, emerging fully formed from the jungle one day. They used to live in the forms of their chosen animal, and reincarnate, watching over their shrines as Omuans showed their dedication by doing the trials. But all that came to an end when Acererak came, enslaved the Omuans, and had them build the tomb. The gods died and were unable to reincarnate, and entombed here. Hugo’s personality seemed a little affected by housing the god. He was saying Obo’laka was nervous and wanted to leave the tomb. Naturally, there was no way to do that, so we ignored him and her.
We decided to see what was on the other side of the underground stream now, so we went back in and travelled all the long way that Oz could not alone. At the end of the river was a waterfall, and a treasure chest on a ledge opposite. When I sent Oz over to open it, it turned out to be a mimic! He managed to escape it, and we killed it at range, cramped as we were in the tunnel.
Back up the tunnel a little way was a set of stairs leading to a dead end, but we of course searched and found a secret door to the back of where we had found Nepartak. We could see the back of the giant skull, and how heavy the teeth looked. Remembering how each flame had gone out, we decided not to go through the teeth, but return instead by the stream. But first, we opened the sarcophagus in here. Within were the bones of a jaculi, and a staff of python. I picked it up, and heard the voice of Moa. She promised to be good and help us. I now find myself unable to lie, which means I cannot speak to Nepartak without giving away her fate. However, I can now turn invisible whenever I want. It is a thrill.
We went to investigate the final corridor on this level, and found a nasty bladed propellor cutting off our path. Whenever someone stepped in the corridor, it would start, and pick up speed quickly. Oz was able to fly through without setting it off, and within I saw a deep pit with a sarcophagus inside, three chests, and an odd looking skeleton walking around. Looking behind it, Oz could see its skull extended weirdly into a triangular key at the back! I cast fly on myself and went through. Flask took a great run up and dashed through before the blades started. We took down the skeleton quickly and took its skull. I flew back out, worried my fly spell would run out, and used Oz to detect magic on the sarcophagus. Trying Knock on it did not work. He detected magic on the chests: the onyx one was necromancy, the iron oen transmutation, and the silver one evocation.
We realised we were going to need to try and get more people in there, so we tried using heavy objects from around the tomb to jam the propeller. Eventually, the stone lid of Obo’laka’s sarcophagus did it, breaking the nasty mechanism completely, and we were all able to get in. We got zombies to open the three chests’ lids. Each of them had a key inside, and a lock inside too! So I made three zombies climb into the chests, and turn the locks with the keys. Three buttons popped up on the sarcophagus. We pressed them. Two of the zombies were killed, one turned to dust, the other frozen, and the last one was unaffected by whatever spell went off in its box. The sarcophagus began to glow, and we could see the mummy of a su-monster within. Fionn reached for the mace beside it, and we had to fight the spirit of Wongo! Taking him out, he entered into Fionn. Her manner changed immediately as she fought his violent and deranged tendencies. She now also seems to hate me, and I can feel Moa hating her back inside me. Her mace that she got from the sarcophagus has a magical effect of creating fear in her enemies.
We rested, having found everything we could on the first level of the tomb.
Number of undead who died this episode: 5
Total undead after spell slots refreshed: 21
35 days to go
We ran until we were close to the log bridge, and we slept. I dreamed that the mouth of the amulet from the last dream was drawing me in now.
When we woke, we had to decide what to do with our freed slaves. We all decided, on balance, that it would be easier if we all stuck together. It would still be dangerous, but less than them going off alone.
We set off to visit the last three shrines, the closest being the one on a lone rocky plinth some way off in the magma pit. I sent Oz to scout, and soon found there was no need for us to attempt it: the Red Wizards had been there already and disposed of the jaculis that lived there. Through what I could see through Oz’s eyes, Orvex was able to tell us what the inscriptions meant: Moa teaches us that secrets hide the truth. Since we seemed likely to run into the Red Wizards soon, Orvex told me he would probably change sides back to them if we ran into them. It was the best option for him, to save his skin. I told him I understood.
We sought the next one, moving swiftly under cover so as to avoid any patrols. There were signs of an earlier pursuit we had managed to miss. We found the shrine of Unkh the flail snail. The inscription here was: Unkh urges to contrast all actions before acting. There were two buildings: a side building full of many iron keys, all different from each other, and the shrine itself. We hid Spike in the key workshop, and the Chultans we had rescued spread out across the courtyard, hiding, where they could see any approaching enemies and warn us.
Within, from behind a giant statue of Unkh emerged three ghasts which all had the blue triangle on them. What does that symbol mean? One of my zombies got eaten to death before we were able to take them all out. Then we set to figuring out the puzzle within. There were 6 keys in here, and a keyhole. Using my Unseen Servant, we tried one, and it set off a horrible psychedelic effect of prismatic spray throughout the room. Those who got hurt by that went and rested out with Spike while the rest of us kept going. We stood outside of the door, out of range, while I sent in servant after servant to investigate. Finally I worked out: the 6 keys in here were not real keys, but 6 parts that showed what the real key would look like. So we went and found the real key in the workshop, and the cube was ours.
We crossed in secret to the shrine of Obo’laka, the Zorbo. Hugo noticed that the yuan-ti patrols we avoided didn’t seem to really be looking for us. At the shrine, we set up the chain of watchers over Spike again. Hiding him was harder this time. Inside, we saw zorbos hanging in trees, glaring down at us. Orvex translated: Obo’laka teaches us to tread wearily and stay in the light. We opened the door to the shrine to find a dark corridor with empty torch brackets. As we investigated the corridor, zorbos attacked Khoti and killed him before we could get to him. They devoured him with astonishing speed. We cancelled the chain of watchers and just brought Spike in, parking him in front of the door to the shrine, and the remaining Chultans with us.
Within the shrine, further down the corridor, was a door, and through that door a small chamber. There was a painted sun on the ceiling and a moon reflecting in the pool below it. After some mucking around trying to figure it out, I submerged myself in the pool and found myself in a reversed room: moon on ceiling, sun in pool. I brought the others through, and we saw the next room beyond. It was the altar chamber, and there was the cube on the altar, but a red wizard have been turned to stone on touching it. We tried a couple of things using unseen servant. Hitting the cube off the altar worked, but then when the unseen servant bent to pick it up, it turned to stone and then the spell ended. It wasn’t until we bagged the cube that we could walk out with it. Once we were outside, the unseen servant was able to touch the bagged cube without turning to stone.
We snuck through a narrow passage between the cliff and the wall of the yuan-ti compound, hoping to find access to the northern part of the river. What we found instead was the shrine of Nangnang, the Grung. And it was invested with his people. We camped out in a nearby building and waited for night, hoping to get the drop on them if we could. But while we rested, a bunch of kobolds came through our building. We quietly surrounded them so they couldn’t escape, and got them talking once they were calm enough. Turns out, they are shrine resetters! They were sent to reset the Obo’laka shrine after we had been there, but had gotten lost. They were servants of a kobold called Kakaroll, who believed he would one day become a dragon. They lived in a bazaar up in the northern part of the city. Their names are Gad, Mogs, Gos, Vug and Snekre, and for the time being, we’re travelling together to make sure we all get out alive.
Before heading to the Nangnang Shrine we took a quick detour to help them reset the puzzle in Obo’laka’s shrine. I was confused, and asked why they needed resetting. Once the cube was taken, wasn’t the puzzle pointless? The kobolds were amused by this. Did I think I was the first person to try and get into the tomb? No, three other groups had gotten in there in the last month alone. Once used at the gate, the cubes would reappear on the altars. I felt a slight fool, but no one had explained it to me before this.
When we arrived at the Nangnang Shrine, there were grungs sleeping and lounging in the pool. We decided not to attack them, even if they were evil. River and Orvex translated for me. Chief Yorb spoke to us and demanded tribute on behalf of Nangnang, so we laid out before him over 300 gold worth of gems we’d picked up in places like Orolunga. That wasn’t enough, so I tried to get him to accept the Rod of the Oath Keeper. But it still wasn’t enough. I planted a magic bean in front of him. It sprouted into 8 large colourful mushrooms that started screaming. We clamped down on the mouths and I said we offered these. He said he would take them and the rest of the bag of beans. I warned him about the tricksiness of the beans, but nevertheless he planted the last three, and got two multi-fruited trees, and a fountain of berry juice. He didn’t listen when I tried to tell him some of the fruit were poison, so we hurried past to get into the shrine before he could pin the blame on us.
Within the shrine was unbelievable amounts of treasure. The inscriptions, there were two of them, said: Serve only yourself, and Whoever is richest bring me your gifts. We tried all sorts of things to get the door to open, throwing coins, offering coins, but it wasn’t until I made everyone else leave and offered some of the treasure up alone that the door opened, and I got the cube. We left the scene as quick as we could and hid out in the same building we’d picked earlier that night.
34 days to go
I dreamed again of the hideous skeletal figure and his large mouthed amulet. When I woke, we told the kobolds we wanted to check out the northern side of the city and try to find the last two shrines. They led us reluctantly to the rafts they had used to get here, and with Spike swimming beside us, we made our way across the rivery-lakey mess of ruins.
After a little while the kobolds pointed out a shrine in the lake, the shrine of Papazotl the Iblis. But as we started towards it, there was a huge explosion. We rowed to hide behind other ruins to avoid being seen by the Red Wizards and yuan-ti fighting in the shrine. The reds soon won, and went flying off into the southern distance, cube in hand. We continued towards the kobolds’ home once they were gone, but not before I scored myself six new yuan-ti zombies.
Arriving at their home, we bid farewell to the kobolds and started looking for the final shrine. It didn’t take long for Orvex to recognise the iconography of Wongo the Su-Monkey on a building not far from the kobold compound. Within, we found the inscription, Better to be Wongo’s friend than his enemy. Unfortunately, under that, it also said See you at the Fane. The cube had been taken by the yuan-ti, who were taunting us now.
We set up a discrete camp in a fairly intact building and thought long and hard. I had an inkling of what needed to happen. We could probably sneak back into the Fane and take many yuan-ti out like we did last time, but it would be a hard slog. Even though they were evil, the Red Wizards were the lesser of the two evils, and besides, they had two of the cubes already, the Moa and Papazotl ones. Given the bloodbath we had seen at the Papazotl shrine, we wouldn’t stand a chance against the Red Wizards, and eventually either us or them would have to try and take the others’ cubes.
Flask had an idea, but it was risky. Why did we have to be the first people into the tomb? Why not just let the Red Wizards get in first? At most it would take us only a couple of days to gather the cubes back up again, since we had solved two thirds of the puzzles already, and the kobolds were unlikely to have been able to replenish the wildlife around the shrine by that time. I asked Orvex more about the Red Wizards, and if they’d believe us if we said we were fed up and just wanted to leave, but give them the cubes we had in exchange for their help getting vengeance on Ras Nsi and his brood before we left. He said it was risky but probably worth it. However, he knew they were going after the thing we sought to destroy: the Soulmonger, the magical item doing whatever it was doing to resurrection magic (which, he thought, was probably just a side-effect of what was really happening). We could say we were here to loot the Eye of Maztika from the Tomb, an object that was small fry and one the wizards wouldn’t care about. And that we’d be happy just leaving with the loot from the Fane after taking it out. He thought that might be enough, perhaps.
We decided to try and find them the next day, since it was sunset already. In the twilight, we saw a bunch of giant spiders run down the boulevard from the north. Then we saw the famed King of Feather, larger than we could possibly comprehend, leap down and eat a few. I was so glad we had not camped in the road that night in order to try and get the Red Wizards’ attention.
33 days to go
This time in the dream I was drawn into the mouth, towards a gathering blackness that was alive, malignant, and somehow familiar. I was shaken awake by the cats, and they showed me that Orvex had found the Red Wizards and led him to us. He was one of them again, and as grateful to him as I was, we all pretended to less familiarity with him than we had really established over the last half-week.
The head of this band of Red Wizards was called Zagmira. She had a face which was half teenager, half ancient crone. She had three other wizards besides herself, and eight mercenary bodyguards. Given our terms of handing them over the six cubes we had and leaving them to enter the Tomb alone, they were more than happy to help us retrieve the final cube and get vengeance on the yuan-ti who had been raiding and slaughtering them this whole time.
We hid Spike and the Chultans outside the secret tunnel, and took the wizards up the same sneaky way we had entered in the initial rescue. Zagmira said she had a spy in the harem, a shapeshifter, so we snuck through with that goal in mind. We fought our way past reinforcements at the edge of the lake, but met with no other resistance, and the cathedral was completely deserted. We took the opportunity to destroy their alarm gong by taking it off the hook and lowering it into the fountain of blood.
One wizard went with me, Hugo and River, and invisibly we slipped into the harem. We found the shapeshifter as a male slave, Ishmakahl, and we took him aside to an alcove to talk in private. He told us that the temple was in uproar after our rescue a few days ago, and even before that the priestess Fenthaza had been trying to overthrow Ras Nsi, who was not really a yuan-ti. She had managed to force him to kill his right hand man the other day.
Wanting to get out, we asked him if we should slay the other slaves or leave them. He said we should, but there was something about the way he said it that set off Hugo’s alarm bells. He started to quail under questioning, so the wizard with us dropped a Suggestion spell on him and we left, taking him with us. I won’t describe what happened next. It was nasty. Zagmira tortured and killed him for trying to betray her. Fired up, and encouraged by the emptiness of the cathedral, she ordered that we head for the throne room and end this.
Ras Nsi was there with three other yuan-ti, three broodguards and four ghouls – which had the blue triangle upon them! I finally understood, it was his symbol. At the same time, I finally realised why he didn’t look so good. Artus had killed him in the past. He was only here by resurrection magic. When we’d left my mentor a month ago, she had looked fine, but by now half her life must be drained away. Ras Nsi was also affected by the curse!
The fight did not last long. Every one of those four wizards cast a Fireball each at the combatants, and they all died. They found the secret door to Ras’s personal chamber, and the cube was within. We were allowed to pillage it, and found a flametongue longsword which I have picked up myself, a magic sending stone (though who has the twin of it, we don’t know), bracers of defense which I have also kept, and beautiful art pieces and treasure. We also got Ras Nsi’s spellbook. The Red Wizards took the six cubes we had, and bid farewell.
They got away just in time. We were forced to get ready quickly for waves of reinforcements trying to get into the throne room. Thankfully, they got stuck in the corridor, and we had the killing ground. Hugo tried a new spell, and found that he could summon chwinga Spirit Guardians to help us. It was insanely powerful, and we soon saw no reinforcements left. We decided to run through the rest of the palace complex and take everyone else out. We tried using Ras Nsi’s teleportation circles.
The first attempt took us to the highest spot in the main cathedral. Then our next journey took us to the prison, and in the pit there we found a new slave. She called out, and we got her out of the pit. Her name was Fionn MacHool, from the Moonshea Isles, and she showed her calm and cool by just going with us as we continued to flip from teleportation circle to the next circle. We ended up in the harem, where we ended up killing the rest of the slaves there anyway as they attacked. Then, running out, we fetched Fionn’s stolen gear from the storeroom. Going up to the other rooms in the Fane, we fought a guard in the stables, and charged the gate guards. Fionn had a bizarre and amazing weapon, a sort of hand cannon that shoots thunder. It was very effective and fun to watch.
With the gate in our possession we were able to open it and send two of the cats around to fetch Spike and the Chultans. When they were safe with us, we charged into the final remaining rooms: those of Fenthaza and the other priestesses. We fought her and her guards, including her summoned Air Elemental. With her dead, we smashed her holy symbol of Dendar the serpent god, and got more treasure from her chambers. Our final fight that day was against three priestesses doing some awful ritual in the next room. We rested, recouped our resources, and I was able to zombify Ras Nsi, Fenthaza, the priestesses and the slave master’s bodies for my personal bodyguard.
32 days to go
We used the spell Knock to get into the armoury, but were met by a bone naga who demanded the password. When we couldn’t give it, it raised up a couple of bone minotaurs to fight with it, but we dispatched all three of them quite easily. We were able to salvage ten longbows for future skeleton servants, and a shield, which Hugo has taken, which amplifies his voice.
The rest of the rooms were empty, so we decided to do the last thing: kill the hydra. We managed this by kiting it into the throne room where we had the advantage, and remembering that the Red Wizards had said to use fire against a hydra (I had mentioned it to them when we planned our raid). It was actually extremely easy, with our strategy, to take it down, with Flask taking my flametongue and me using Scorching Ray spells to stop it from regenerating. We were barely hurt by it.
We took the rest of the day to rest, and plan our route around Omu to take back the cubes. Meanwhile, Fionn uses scraps of metal around the place to build herself a metal allosaurus! We’re calling it Al. I meanwhile raised more undead, and had seventeen in my personal army by the end of the day.
31 days to go
Well rested, we hit the Moa shrine. Using Fionn’s Jump spell, she took me and Flask. The others all waited by the magma pit for our return. The jaculis were still all dead, but the shrine was reset. We found it harder to decode without Orvex, but remembered the phrase from last time: Moa teaches us that secrets hide the truth.
In the corridor of the building, there were arrow slits in there, but no attackers within. We could see the altar in a larger room beyond, and the cube, watched by twelve archer statues. We sent the unseen servant in to get it, and it vanished, and then it was shot to death. We thought about things for a while and investigated. Through the arrow slits we could see two more cubes. One was in the mouth of a serpent statue, and the other had been, but the statue’s head was on the ground. After a few hours, we figured out that there was a secret door to the intact statue, and we were able to take the cube from its mouth safely.
The rest of the day was spent clearing the kamadan, frogomoth, almiraj, flail snail, zorbo and grung shrines. The kamadan shrine had been reset, so we had to fight the statues again, and we had to pay another bag of gems to the grungs (but we were flush with those after taking the Fane). Other than that, we took our time, and I raised many more undead to join my army, including skeletons to arm with the longbows I found yesterday. That’s twenty three in my army now. I feel like I am starting to reach my mental limits though.
30 days to go
Going the same route we did last time, we went from the central city across the river to the Papazotl shrine. Thankfully, there were no alligators alive there. We slowly translated the phrase above the lintel: Papazotl teaches us to bow before no one. Within, there were six statues surrounding a pedestal. They had animal heads: a lizard, a jaguar, a lobster, a toucan, a bat and a frog. There was a riddle on the altar: Comes with sunshine, leaves with night, hides in darkness, does not bite. (At this point I’d figured it out, but it kept going…) Always joined to its caster, never strays from its master. We got out our torches, and the shadow of the bat remained, revealing a crawlspace.
We went through to find a bizarre new puzzle. It took an hour for us to figure out that the number of squares on the wall matched the number of letters in the riddle, and we counted using the nine highlighted tiles that the letters it wanted spelled out: Cover Eyes. So we blindfolded the statues, and the cube appeared on the altar.
Next was the Wongo shrine. As we approached the five arches and the message we already knew, Better to be Wongo’s friend than his enemy, I could hear the voice of the su-monster in my head. Heading down the central arch, we found a statue of Wongo himself with his hands and feet cupped. Under the statue it said “Wongo’s friend knows where to pour the water. On the wall were four masks, a zebra, a boar, a lion and a vulture. We could go and get behind these masks by taking each of the other arches.
We looked through the lion mask, and could see the right hand of Wongo. Above the lion it said, “I ate one of the boar’s friends.” The boar, looking at the left foot, said, “The vulture is lucky to be alive.” The zebra mask revealed the right foot, and said, “My only friend starved to death.” And the vulture was facing the left hand, and said “One of the others has no friend.” With all of this information, we were able to work out that it was the vulture who was the friend of Wongo.
Once we poured water into Wongo’s left hand, the cube appeared on top of his head, and his voice sounded in my head again, saying either I could receive his curse, or fight his children. Fitting, for our final fight in Omu, to be the same as our first. We took on the challenge of the su-monkeys, and this time it was pretty easy.
We camped up in the same building again where we had four nights ago. I have found myself one last zombie, taking my numbers up to twenty four. That seems to be the most I can maintain control of in a sustainable, daily way.
29 days to go
In the morning, we saw Omuan gargoyles fighting brightly feathered humanoids in the sky. We went to meet the bird people when we saw them land. The young woman leader said she was the Queen of Omu and expected us to bow. Rather than start a fight, I did, but said we weren’t from around here and didn’t know who she was. Her name was Mwaxanare, and she was the lost heir. She had been sheltered by the bird folk and was waiting for the day when the yuan-ti were cleared out of the Fane, which was her palace. I told her I was happy to be of assistance, and hoped she could take Spike and the Chultans from us, as we were about to enter the tomb and did not want to put them at risk either by taking them in or leaving them.
Her ancient bird woman guardian Asharra came forth, considered me with her beady eyes, and slapped me. I asked what she did that for, and she said I was underestimating her. But she also said others underestimated me, and I need to use that against them.
We spent the day with these new people, escorting them back to the Fane and checking it was cleared of yuanti. Mwaxanare asked me to look out for the Skull Chalice of Ch’gakare in the Tomb. It was a family heirloom, from a legendary Chultan hero who, it was said, escaped the nine hells on the back of a mastodon.
Asharra spoke with me too. She said that it wasn’t just resurrection magic anymore, but healing magic was also weaker. The living were now dying easier. She spoke of the circle of life and those who seeked to escape it. She wanted to stress to me that life comes from death, and death comes from life. I need to remember this circle, and Ubtao.
They also provided us with payment in advance, in the form of several magical items which we are to return to them if we did not use them. So we got four potions: invisibility, climbing, resistance and growth. We also got a jar of magical pigment that can make any object it paints a real object. And finally, for Hugo, a staff that he can use instead of his club, which turns into a giant constrictor snake when he wants it to.
28 days to go
Last night I had the dream again. I was begin sucked through the amulet’s mouth into the blackness. And then I felt Asharra’s slap, and that was enough to free me from the spell and fly away. I don’t think this dream will trouble me ever again.
It is morning. We now stand outside the doors of the tomb.
At this point, out of character, things are getting interesting for me and James. I’ve never intentionally played an evil character. I usually will take the most pacifist path I can find in any roleplay scenario. But Priscilla has been having a hard time in Chult, and her high moral standard of only using the undead to help them fulfill their unfinished business has slipped pretty far now that she actually has access to Animate Dead. I personally took a lot of glee out of wiping out the yuan-ti who had caused me so much pain and aggravation. It’s always a sticky situation, isn’t it? D&D has these evil races around for ‘good’ people to run around and murder. Is that really still morally ‘good’? It’s one of those hand-wavey things about D&D that I’ve always struggled with. Then again, it’s there in real life too. While I don’t know if I’ve have the guts to punch a neo-Nazi in real life, I was both amused and troubled by the moral implications when people did in recent years. Ideally I would like for us to be able to just sit down and talk through things, but when there are groups of people in the world denying the personhood of other large groups of people, based on ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion etc. and even going so far as to threaten violence against them… is violence to correct them really so wrong? I keep coming back to yes it is, on a personal morality level. I don’t think violence teaches a lasting lesson other than the lesson of violence itself. But there is a karmic part of me that enjoys watching a Nazi get punched, so… I dunno.
36 days to go, continued
In the twilight, we headed for the ruined palace, our enemy archer now a member of our ranks as my enthralled skeleton. Just outside the circular wall we hid Theeka’s body in a high up place, covering her with loose bricks. Using the spell Pass without Trace, we slipped past a number of yuan-ti guards and got into the secret tunnel.
Just by the lake at the end of the tunnel, there were some strange mutated yuan-ti. We managed to surprise them and kill them before they could sound the alarm. I used their bodies as zombies to protect us through the rest of the palace. We went straight to the slave chambers from there, and surprised more of the strange mutants, resuing the slaves there.
Hugo was amongst them. They were all fairly drug-addled. There were two young boys, Khoti and Tavo, a woman called Oloma Authdamar who survived the wreck of the Star Goddess, and a goblin called Mung. They were determined to come with us, but we made sure to keep them towards the back. They explained what the strange mutants were: they were ex-human slaves who had been converted into yuan-ti abominations call broodguards. The drums pounding from the religious ceremony were growing louder, so I said we had to leave, but the other slaves begged us to try and save the old and infirm ones who had been taken to the ceremony. Hugo said he had a friend that could help, so we set off deeper into the complex.
We bashed through the storeroom door adjacent and were sneaking through when a giant python slipped down and began squeezing Mung. Just as we readied to attack, it spoke to us. His name was Azi Mas, and he had been awakened by a druid a long time ago. He was intelligent enough to realise he only had the one hostage as a bargaining chip and that we would kill him if him killed Mung, so we stood at a stalemate and just talked for a while. I tried to figure out a way to get him to release Mung and let us go. He told us he was bored and wanted a bride. I said his chances would be much better if he came with us and looked for a druid or bard who knew the right magic. But we weren’t convincing enough. He started to leave with Mung in his tight embrace, but Hugo managed to use the power of the chwingas to charm him. He left without Mung, going to seek his bride. We all breathed a heavy sigh of relief. In the storeroom we managed to gather many supplies, and found a case of some gross incense which we figured might make a good smoke bomb at some future point.
We headed to the broad promenade on which I first saw Hugo in ethereal form. Down that way were more broodguards, two basilisks, and Hugo’s friend, Spike, a massive lizard mount. We striked with the element of surprise, and cut down the mutants quickly. A basilisk nearly turned Flask to stone, but our chwinga who had been helping us this whole time revealed itself and did something that somehow saved Flask from the horrible fate.
Hugo freed Spike, and we moved on to secure the gates before going to the main cathedral, so that our escape route would be clear. We fought more broodguards here, and then since we were not all in a good way, I got Flask and Copper Bell to try some of the mysterious fruits from the magic bean tree. Copper ate an awful amount, and then Flask ate a few and managed to choose a poison one! He fell unconscious a number of times while we tried to get the poison out of his body. We managed, but he was not happy afterwards.
Copper Bell meanwhile was lucky enough to become invisible and start flying! With this amazing power, she went off and scouted the main hall. When she came back, the news was not good. There were more than thirty yuan-ti – not broodguard, but proper, full-power yuan-ti – and even with our dinosaur and smoke bombs, she was sure it was a suicide mission.
I had to make the call. We fled out the main entrance and fought some yuan-ti guards. We were all momentarily distracted by a flurry of lightning on the opposite city of the city. ‘The Red Wizards!’ Orvex exclaimed. Once the guards were dispatched, with River’s Pass without Trace spell we managed to get back to Theeka’s body without incident. Hugo cast Gentle Repose. Her body will not rot now, so long as he keeps the spell up every ten days. I don’t know how much it will help, but we can only try.
Now to hit those three shrines we saw on the way here! I wonder what those yuan-ti will think happened, with no witnesses left…
37 days to go
We woke up after sleeping in the shrine to find a bunch of vegepygmies carrying a tied up grung towards the lip of the magma pit. Knowing that the grungs are evil, we left it to its fate, and continued north up the main boulevard.
I sent Oz out to scout to the east meanwhile. Through my familiar’s eyes, I saw a fallen log over the river, which would be the perfect way for us to cross to the yuan-ti compound – and then all went black. Something must have shot Oz out of the sky. I summoned him back again. He was not pleased.
We stopped at the abandoned campsite Copper Bell knew of, and investigated. We found a parchment which was a letter from a Lord Brixton from the Yellow Banner to someone called Rue, saying they had found an obelisk to the north that pointed to the Tomb of the Nine Gods. There was mention of some sort of Eye in there, and Brixton said to blow the swan horn twice and they would come running. We didn’t see a swan horn around.
We found the next shrine, the one of I’jin the Almiraj. The words here were that I’jin taught the Omuans to take the path least expected. Once we got inside the shrine itself, we found a corridor with a floor of tiles, seemingly random, depicting animal heads. The three tabaxi simply climbed the walls and mocked us from the other side. I experimented with unseen servants, until I found the right path: the one where you would only step on each different animal head once only. We then had to negotiate warren-like corridors, with the unseen servant feeling the way ahead of us and triggering traps. But we came to the room with the altar, took the cube, and left. Easy!
At this stage we had no idea where the next shrine was, so I asked everyone where they wanted to go. River and Flask wanted to save Hugo, while everyone else wanted to go north in the hopes of finding the obelisk. In the meantime, we explored the area around the shrine, putting off the decision. In one building we found two crystal statues, one of Nangnang the Grung and Wongo the Su-monster. We also found a massive dinosaur footprint… and nothing else before or after it.
Towards nightfall we found an upturned wagon with flowers growing all over it. I knew it had to be chwingas. I sat and prayed for them to save Hugo, and the little chwinga came over and climbed onto my head. It stroked my hair and I plucked a few strands out for it to keep, but it put them back as if they never left, and grew a flower from the end of one. I offered it the two crystal statues we found, and it lead us to unearth something under the wagon. It was a stone with concentric rings. Orvex started translating what was on it. He said it was a proclamation in both Omuan and ancient Mezran, saying that Queen Nopuka had rallied the Omuans, and that they feared nothing under the protection of their new gods.
36 days to go
I dreamed of the frightening face again, and this time I saw his amulet. I described the face on it to Orvex when I woke, and he said it might be a devourer of worlds, but one from another world entirely, according to his sources.
I decided we had to attempt the log bridge and rescue Hugo, after seeing the chwinga yesterday. But that turned out to be a deadly mistake, for Theeka at least. As we approached the bridge, she was killed instantly by a poisoned arrow. We grabbed her body and ran for cover into the largest building beside the bridge. Copper Bell spotted what it was: another elderly tabaxi. Presumably, gone mad.
We quickly scrambled to build defenses and stake out the basement of the building. We looked through our packs to see what we could use against him to get the upper hand. We found a bag of magic beans, so we planted one. It turned out to not be the wisest idea, as it erupted into a giant tree which dropped a number of different fruits. The tabaxi archer used that opportunity to leap down through the broken ceiling. But he didn’t last long, at close range.
We took stock of the situation and thought about what to do next. We gathered the fruit to have a look at later, and considered another object we had found in my pack: a vial of oil of etherealness. It seemed like the perfect thing to scout out the area and try and find Hugo. So while the others rested from the hard battle we had just faced, I took the oil.
It was hard to move and somewhat hard to see. But nevertheless I moved over the log bridge and found three shrines south of the yuan-ti compound, one of which was out on a rocky promontory in the middle of the magma pit. Making my way to the circular ruined city, I could see bats flying overhead and yuan-ti rushing to get ready for something. I found the entrance to the north of the main building. Inside the building was fairly awful. Immediately behind the giant front doors were grated snake pits, for guard snakes to slither out of when needed. There were literal fountains of blood. I caught sight of Ras Nsi on his throne, but he looked ill, and covered in bandages. I found an underground lake, and in the middle a giant snakey monster. I found a cave off that lake with a yuan-ti corpse with mushrooms erupting from it. To the south of the lake it met up with the compound again, and south of there was a secret entrance: our way in.
Going further in, I saw all sorts of horrors. Pits of snakes, hatcheries, slave chambers. Finally, in a stable not far from the front doors with the snake pits, I found the same chwinga, who waved me over and pointed out Hugo, shovelling the refuse of the stabled animals. He looked perfectly healthy and almost happy, being surrounded by animals. To be honest, he was often cleaning after the animals back in the temple of Jergal.
He might be safe, but then again, there was definitely something going on with the yuan-ti. The spell ended, and I reported back to my party. When I told River about all the preparations going on, she thought perhaps it might be preparations for some horrible religious event… potentially involving all that blood I saw being collected and circulated. With Theeka’s body 19 hours away from being unsalvagable with a Gentle Repose spell, and some sort of ritual coming up in the morning, we set out to invade the yuan-ti compound.