Like a Sinner before the Gates: Priscilla and the Tomb of Annihilation, Part 20

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.

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Unkh’s shrine, Tomb of Annihilation

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.

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Obo’laka’s Shrine, Tomb of Annihilation

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.

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Nangnang’s Shrine, Tomb of Annihilation

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.

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A red wizard, Tomb of Annihilation

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.

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Fane of the Night Serpent, Tomb of Annihilation 5e

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.

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Moa shrine, Tomb of Annihilation

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.

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Papazotl Shrine, Tomb of Annihilation

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.

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Wongo shrine, Tomb of Annhilation

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.

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Mwaxanare, Tomb of Annhilation

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.

Afterword

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.

Living on a Prayer: Priscilla and the Tomb of Annihilation, Part 19

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.

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Broodguard, Tomb of Annihilation

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.

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Basilisk, 5e

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…

Psycho Killer: Priscilla and the Tomb of Annihilation, Part 18

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!

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The Nine Gods, Tomb of Annihilation

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.

Bag of Nails, Tomb of Annihilation

 

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.

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Ras Nsi, Tomb of Annihilation

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.

I get knocked down, but I get up again: Priscilla and the Tomb of Annihilation, Part 17

38 days to go, continued

We went to the shrine of Kubazan, a froghemoth. The shrine had a rectangular pool before the actual internal shrine, which was a squat stone building. There was a collapsed monolith that seemed to be the way across. Theeka spotted a shining glint up in the mouth of a frog statue in the middle of the pool.

We sent Oz across first to try and see if the monolith would support us, as his little wings meant if he slipped, he’d be able to fly away. It was a good thing we sent him, because he did slip, and Orvex spotted two giant eye stalks come out of the pool. I yelled at Oz to fly straight up, and as he did, the froghemoth’s giant tongue shot out. Thankfully, Oz escaped, but we were in for a tough fight.

River and one of my zombies both got eaten by it, and Flask and my other zombie got squeezed into unconsciousness. Orvex got taken down too, and only Theeka and I were left, ineffectually attacking with fire, which did not affect its’ slimy hide, when a tabaxi came out of nowhere and attacked. She saved our lives, and we managed to save River from the stomach acid before it was too late.

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Froghemoth, 5th edition

Oz fetched the key from the statue’s mouth, and we went into the shrine and took shelter on the stairs down as we introduced ourselves to Copper Bell, our new friend. She told us that her tribe believe in a cat god that blesses the best tabaxi by leading them to Omu at the end of their lives, so that they might die in fierce battle with the strongest of beasts. She is indeed very old. She wears her old nursing blanket over her shoulders as a shawl, as she has raised many cubs in her time. It seems she has taken on us as her cubs now, because she’s not just going to try and die for nothing. She’s going to see that we survive.

After our rest, Orvex inspected the shrine. There were slender beams of wood suspended over spikes, and on the far side, an altar with the stone cube we were seeking. Orvex read an inscription: “Tread without fear, give as much as you take”. I figured that this meant we had to replace the weight of the stone cube if we took it. So I sent Oz over to the altar, and identified the weight of the stone cube through him, before replacing it with some leftover rations. For a brief moment the frog-head statues on the wall spat poison. I was glad we’d figured out the trap.

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The Shrine of Kubazan, Tomb of Annihilation

With our first victory, we started over to the shrine of Shagambi, the second shrine Orvex knew of. On the way, Copper Bell we knew where there was another shrine, though she didn’t know whose. She also said there was another old tabaxi to the north, hunting something called ‘The King of Feathers’. She also saw another camp of adventurers further up the causeway, but they weren’t red wizards.

We got to the shrine, and as we crossed the ruined courtyard, Orvex read another inscription, about how Shagambi taught the people to ‘fight with honour’. Within, we saw what that might mean: there was a gladiatorial pit in the centre of the room. There was also four statues with room in their hands for spears, but they were empty. The altar was also empty. There was also a pair of kamadan standing over their nest, hissing at us. Copper Bell threw some food and purred gently to them, and we were able to move past them, hugging the wall, to go downstairs.

Down in the room directly below, we saw that there were four portcullis, and behind them four clay men with shields and spears. We talked about how we were supposed to do this, which lead to me and Orvex having some interesting philosophical discussions. Basically, I thought we would have to do the gladiatorial trial ‘with honour’ in order for the stone cube to appear on the altar, but what did that mean, to fight with honour? And he argued that because we had probably cheated the Kubazan trial, and these were dead gods anyway, what was to stop us from cheating? I agreed it was the safer path to take, so we sent my unseen servant down into the pit to hit the button on the floor.

Once it did, the four clay men emerged and marched up, then stepped into the pit. We started attacking them from above, and then as they started climbing up, tried to keep them down in the pit. Working on a hunch that they had to die in the pit, due to the enchantments on the arena, we ended up all jumping into the pit to face them once they had all climbed out.

It was an extremely tough fight, but we achieved our goal. We took the four spears from the defeated clay men, and put them in the hands of the statues upstairs. The cube appeared. Thank goodness it hadn’t been for nothing.

Resting that night, I dreamt again of the giant blackness descending upon ancient Omu, and this time I saw a frightening figure flying over all. Could this be the person causing the resurrection magic to die?

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The Shrine of Shagambi, Tomb of Annihilation

Gone Baby, Gone: Priscilla and the Tomb of Annihilation, Part 16

Day 38, continued

We slunk away, waiting for the sound of Tinder’s wings to vanish into the distance. We found some buildings that were unoccupied, except for various inoffensive creatures, so we cleared ourselves some space upstairs in what appeared to have once been a customs building.

It was not a good sleep. I dreamt of Omu’s destruction a long time ago. The sleep was broken very early on by my alarm spell being triggered. We were surrounded by four monkeys. River moved a small snake that had curled up next to her, and tried to offer the monkeys some goodberries, but then Hugo, Flask and I all clicked that something was wrong. These were not monkeys at all, but something I had read of, called Su-Monsters. They attacked.

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Su-monster, 5th edition

I went down immediately, stunned by a psychic attack from one. I had to watch in horror as the following event unfolded. My companions fought the su-monsters, only to be ambushed during that by five yuanti. Two of them picked me up and ran. Another grabbed Hugo into a choke hold, and another bit River with its snake arms. The fight was awful. Everyone was so busy chasing the ones carrying me, that after they rescued me and the last ones ran off, we realised Hugo had been kidnapped instead.

We had to sleep. We were too hurt. This sleep was not disturbed, but when we woke we were all sick with worry about Hugo. There was a morning chorus of awful roaring from what sounded like mighty dinosaurs. Following the marks of Hugo and his captors, we found he had been dragged up the central concourse, but we lost the track around a ruined compound, in which wild dogs were eating fresh corpses. We went in there to investigate, hoping to find survivors and maybe aid and information about the yuanti.

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Yuanti, 5th edition

 

In the flaming ruins, we saw a symbol which I recognised. A religious symbol, that of Dendar the night serpent. Soon after we found a survivor, an old guy called Orvex. We got him out from under the rubble and gave him what little healing we could. He told us how he ended up here. He came with a red wizard delegation to investigate the ruins and look for the mythical Tomb of the Nine Gods. He told us of the nine gods of Omu, animalistic gods that superseded worship of Ubtao. He showed us his journal in which he had drawings of these gods’ symbols, and he said he knew the location of two of the nine shrines.

According to Orvex, there is something to be collected to each of these 9 shrines to get to the centre of Omu. It would seem that might be what we need to get into the Tomb, and that Tomb sounds like the place where we’ll find the thing responsible for draining the resurrection magic from the world. He also pointed out the large central city as the place where the yuanti would be likely to take Hugo.

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Orvex, Tomb of Annihilation

I don’t know what to do. The shrines are right nearby, and I don’t know how to get into the central city, but we need to rescue Hugo. But what if the shrines lead the way up there, and I need to explore them first? I hope he’s ok. Knowing him, he’ll be so inoffensive and harmless they won’t pay much attention to him… I hope.

Blaze of Glory: Priscilla and the Tomb of Annihilation, Part 15

43 days to go, continued

We travelled south. It seemed as if the giants were heading for the coast, according to their tracks. It’s night now. Theeka and Hugo say they can hear the dragon roaring far off, but the rest of us hear nothing. Artus just admitted something to me. Why are frost giants here in the jungle? He thinks it’s because of him. He has something called the Ring of Winter, which could cause an eternal winter in the wrong hands. I can see why frost giants might want that. He says hiding this from them is more important than saving this dragon, or even getting to Omu.

41 days to go

Continuing in the jungle. We’re gaining on the giants, as they have to fight a dragon the whole way. They seem to be heading to the ruined city of Shilku, according to River. We ran into an old battlefield with elf and human corpses. We didn’t stay to investigate, but I took two elven skeletons to guard me.

40 days to go

Further south now, there are more signs of struggle. Rocks burnt by dragon fire, broken scales and blood. Had an interesting moral discussion with Theeka. She asked me not to sacrifice her to the dragon when we got there, but when I said I wouldn’t she said she didn’t trust me, because she would throw me to the dragon if she had to. What then, I asked, was the point of asking me not to? She huffed and folded her arms and said only humans have the luxury of morality, at which point I pointed out yes, but since we do, that makes your chances of survival more than zero percent. And in fact, she didn’t need to go back to the cave if she didn’t want to. I left her to think over that.

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Red Dragon, 5th Edition

39 days to go

As we got closer to the volcano which ruined Shilku years ago, it got unbearably hot. Theeka, Flask and myself all struggled. Rocks flew occasionally from the volcano to land haphazardly. We could see the giants in the distance, heading into Shilku, and on the ocean past them, their giantish ship, with a hole in the sail – perhaps from the volcano. We pushed through our exhaustion, knowing there would be too many giants at the ship if we waited.

We came upon a dying frost giant. He raved as he saw us, and made little sense, besides telling us that the idea for using the dragon was to skin it and use its hide as rock-proof sails. The captain of the ship had gone in another direction, so the others who had left him behind would have to wait until she returned. So we had some time. He confirmed Artus’s suspicion; they were here looking for him, but they had lost the trail and thought he was gone. Artus showed the ring to him, and before he died, chilled him to he could have one last comfort.

As we went further into the ruins of Shilku, we were attacked by fire newts, a salamander, and their steeds. It was out of nowhere, and almost deadly, as four of us fell out of consciousness during the battle. Artus used the ring to try and end the fight before it was too bad.

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Salamander, 5th Edition

As we gathered ourselves, Artus took me aside. He came up with a dangerous plan. We could catch up with the giants who had the dragon, and he would reveal the ring and run from them, leaving us to free the dragon. Dragonbait was very reluctant, but Artus convinced him this was the play. I gave Artus the bracelet of rock magic and the bone-whistle of flight. Hugo and Theeka healed us up, and we were still quite hurt, but time was wasting. We had to go.

We caught up to them. Artus went ahead and revealed himself, riding a frost-crafted lizard strider. One of the two giants and both of their winter wolves charged after him, and he vanished into the forest. The dragon was terrifyingly huge, but unconscious. We snuck up and attacked the giant before he could even close the distance with us.

Realising it would possibly be bad to heal the dragon too much, River made some goodberries, and Theeka used alchemist fire to propel the bag of them down the dragon’s throat. That did the job, and we were now facing a very awake and very large red dragon.

Thankfully, Tinder, as he was called, was feeling magnanimous towards us for saving his life, and offered to take us for the much needed ride. We told him of our short and long term goals: first, rescue Artus if he’s able to use the bone-whistle to fly up to us, and second, to get us to Omu. He was reluctant to fly near the giant’s who could throw a rock or tree up at him, but Hugo promised to have the spell of wind wall ready to deflect the missiles.

Our best plans went awry. Up in the air, Artus saw us and zoomed up to us. A rock came flying, but not at Tinder – at Artus. It hit him before Hugo could protect him, and Dragonbait gripped my shoulder. Keep going, he told me, and drawing his sword, leapt from the dragon’s back. He was right. We had to keep going. Tinder did not turn back.

I don’t know what has happened to our two companions. They’re much stronger than us. I’m hopeful they’ll survive.

38 days to go

We’ve arrived. Tinder has left us at the entrance to Omu.

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Map of Omu, Tomb of Annihilation

Friends in Strange Places: Priscilla and the Tomb of Annihilation, Part 14

44 days to go

We headed down towards Wyrmheart Mine via the old ore cart tracks, my unseen servant pushing us, with occasional use of the alchemy jug to oil up the wheels. We had with us a heavy dwarven lantern gifted to us by the dwarves, and also a strange fireproof suit they made, which we’ve delegated to Dragonbait to wear when the time comes for the fight (living up to his name, hmm?)

Sleep tonight was uneventful. Only a large, gross centipede triggered the alarm spell, but it ran away.

43 days to go

As we continued down the tracks, the webs in the corners thickened until we were finally attacked by their creators. It was a hard fight, with both our tabaxi going down, paralyzed by their poisons. They were much tougher than normal spiders, and seemed well past normal animal state. We were able to finish them, and after a short rest Flask and River shook off the poison’s effect. I found some dwarven skeletons soon after and animated them to join us in reclaiming the mine.

Phase spider, D&D 5e

Then we reached the great cavern of Wyrmheart Mine… to find it empty. The pit style mine under the peak of a mountain had rails going in a spiral all around, leading up 250 feet, and down another 25ft. There was a pool and a waterfall on the level we were on, which we stuck close to, to hide our footsteps, as we explored further. There were many exits, and far up in the cavern Artus pointed out a dim shaft of light which may be the way out.

No one seemed to be hiding and waiting for us as we explored further. In fact, it looked as if there had been a battle quite recently. A 5ft diameter stone sphere was embedded in the wall, some sort of defense mechanism perhaps which had rolled or fallen down off the tracks below. There were many kobold corpses, and some discarded weaponry of gigantic proportions.

Hugo took a quick moment to augur and see if going downstairs would be safe, where there were signs of dragon habitation. But the augury said all would be well, so we did. The dragon was gone. Only signs of a great struggle, and few stray pieces of its hoard remained. Both dragon and hoard had been taken!

One happy thing we found was a magic axe Sithi has asked us to return if we found. When Artus read the runes on it, he laughed. The axe was called Bob, and it can float on water. We took it to return later.

Further up we found more exits to caverns, uninhabited, and signs of a kobold civilization, including ritual masks and costumes. We traverse the rails higher up, with the help of ropes at times when things got unsafe. But finally, when we were about 150 feet up the shaft, we heard noise from a side tunnel. There were kobolds holding a meeting, and from what Artus, Dragonbait and I (needing magic aid of course) could hear, they were in a panic about how their mine had been destroyed. I asked Dragonbait if he thought we should help them, and he and Artus had a brief argument, until Dragonbait won him over and nodded at me. We walked in.

Kobold, D&D 5e

We caused a brief chaos as kobolds panicked and ran away. One particularly brave female ran up to us, crying ‘You’ll never take us alive’ and threw a small cage of bees at me (which did neither me nor the bees any harm). Finally, when Dragonbait was able to calm them and speak to him, they hailed him as our leader (I’ll let it pass, in this context) and Theeka, the one with the bees, spoke to us. It had been giants after all, about a week ago. They were large, white giants. When the kobolds fled to their dragon, their god, at the start of the invasion, the giants simply came and stole the dragon!

And then they asked the inevitable question: would we please save their god?

Artus looks worried at what we’re about to do. I understand, naturally. What are we doing? Well, at the very least we have the beekeeper, Theeka, coming along with us as a guide. What could possibly go wrong?

OOC Notes:

1. Spoilers for the character Artus Cimber, please ignore if you don’t want to know, and highlight to see the faint text better if you do: The reason why Artus is worried about the giants isn’t because of the dragon necessarily, but because (as you may know from Storm King’s Thunder, and as Genora would know!) he knows the frost giants are looking for his ring of winter, which Priscilla still doesn’t know about!

2. James has truly outdone himself this time. All week long he was saying to me not to look at the character sheet he was writing, and mentioned extreme multi-classing. Theeka is a PC now, I have a character sheet for her. She is level one in bard (as the colony storyteller), inventor (her thing with the bees and other stuff I’m sure will reveal itself over time), ranger (you have to be pretty much to survive Chult), rogue (cos you have to be to survive being a kobold!) and sorceror (as a (very lowly) descendant of dragons). Because of course kobolds would not be good enough at any one thing! I can’t wait to see how terribly this goes!