Friday, May 18, 2018

Argent Truth-Sayer, Knight Errant of Bahamut

by Jeffery Low


My name is Hesssik Argent, Knight Errant of Bahamut.  Hesssik is the name of my clan, Argent is my proper name.  In case you are not aware how Azi names are presented. 

I have come to Chult at the behest of his noble draconic benevolence, the Celestial King of Golden Xan.  After 283 days aboard ship, I finally see the docks of Port Nanzyaru approaching. The end of one journey.  The beginning of another.  I cannot help think how I have come to be here.

The subjects of the Celestial Kingdom of Golden Xan are divided into rigid castes. The pure-blood golden dragons known as the azata rule the kingdom as nobles. Beneath the azata are the golden dragonids, or azi, such as myself. The golden azi are warriors, aristocrats, and scholars. Humans are treated well within they kingdom but for the most part they are relegated to the caste of merchants, artisans, and craftsmen. Beneath the humans are the minor dragonids, the kavrita. They are menial laborers and servants within the celestial hierarchy. Beneath the kavrita are the indentured servants, debtors, and prisoners of war.

I hail from a clan that derived its wealth and status from its ownership of a silver mine in northern Plaksha. My father is the patriarch of the clan. The clan employs many kavrita miners and dozens of human silversmiths and artisans. We lived comfortably in a remote but cosmopolitan city.

As a child, my mother called me her little Truth-Sayer, as she could always rely on me to tell the truth and never willingly tell a lie.  This trait did not make me popular with my clutch mates, however, and I was typically left out of play.  I spent much of my time among human craftsmen employed by  my father practicing the inlay of silver filigree, hammering steel, working the bellows of the forges, and reading up on human craft and culture.

My father felt that my habitual honesty would be a hindrance when dealing with the upper echelons of the silver industry. My father sent me to the forges of the Knights of Bahamut to work at my first apprenticeship as a silversmith.

As an order, the Knights of Bahamut are more egalitarian than most. Azi are expected to perform all work no matter how menial. More importantly for me, the azi of the Knights of Bahamut were expected to craft and maintain their own armor and weapons.

I was big, strong and was over-joyed to be working for the Knights in their stronghold.  I frequently worked on repairing the equipment of the knights in addition to my normal duties as an artisan inlaying silver filigree.  They appreciated my artistry and the skill that I put into repairing their equipment as well as my zeal for the Dragon King.

Then came that day when I was chosen.

The master of the forge, a former questing knight whose injuries had taken him from the field, had a feeling about me.  The master was an aged azi and had been responsible for the training of my hero, Rhogar Sun-Forger, the Platinum Knight, three centuries bygone.  The master knew that I had my weaknesses but felt that my knowledge of the history of the knighthood, my purity of spirit, and my faith in the teachings of Bahamut were sufficient to give me a chance - to see if I, like the Rhogar before me, had been chosen by Bahamut for greater things than silver-work.

The master of the forge asked me to work late on a masterwork weapon for a new Knight Errant that soon be initiated into the Order.  The master gave me no specifics and said to just let my creativity flow.  I chose the battleaxe, the favorite weapon of Rhogar Sun-forger, from three centuries bygone.  Hours into the job, as my hammer rang in rhythm on the axe-head, the ringing boomed like a thunderclap and, in a flash, I was snapped away to a far-away land.

From high above this unknown land I could see a darkness growing,  destroying every living thing it touched.  Men, women and children of all races, from pauper to king, cheerfully living their lives.  But when the darkness touched them, they turned to ash and blew away in the crimson winds of death.  Then, in the sun, I saw the back-lit silhouette of the Lord of Dragons pointing to a port city on the edge of a jungle, and then he spoke to me.

"In the Port of Nanzyaru,
In the land of Chult
I am sending you,
As my champion."

Suddenly, I was flying down into the city, through the throngs of the citizens, and into one of the inns.  Then faces, indistinct, yet familiar flashed past as he spoke.

"The Seeker from the air,
The Warrior from the jungle, 
The Shaman of beasts,
The Agent of the celestial."

"In this city of men,  
You will become the fifth,
Of the five who are one,
The Knight of the Dragon."

Then I was back in the forge.  As I lifted my hammer from the axe head, I saw the intricate web of filigree radiating out from the last impact of my hammer, the symbol of Bahamut seared into the steel.

Then he whispered into my ear.

"Take up your axe, Argent Truth-Sayer.  Go forth and strike down evil where you find it."


The forge master was impressed with my work and said my vision was a sign from Bahamut  himself! As it happened, the weapon was a test and I had passed. On the following day the master of the order presented the axe to me as I was initiated into the Knights of Bahamut.

My first task as a knight was to follow my vision and travel to Chult. There I would find the other four and become the fifth - the Five who are One!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"The Clouds of Death" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 14


The Emerald Eye sailed into Port Nyanzaru forty days after the Brazen Pegasus left to go pirate hunting. Zindar the dragon harbormaster flew out to intercept. He did a reconnaissance flyby at range and saw Zeynap and the others waving hello. He landed on the deck and greeted them.

“Well if it isn’t the heroes of the mutiny of the Karanja! Welcome back!” He looks askance at Captain Moleman, “Moleman, I see you’re coming back with a different ship and crew than what you left with - a known PIRATE ship no less. What happened to the Brazen Pegasus?”

Upon telling the tale, Zindar slapped everyone on the back, “Well done! Well done! I’ll have a payment voucher drawn up for you in my office! As well as paperwork for salvage. Welcome back  to Port Nyanzaru. I wish I could welcome you under better circumstances but these are dark days, I fear! Clouds of death are almost a daily occurrence! They spontaneously manifest, seemingly at random, and through them pour horrid animated corpses with a taste for human flesh!  Anyone caught within the cloud is sapped of vitality! The people are beginning to panic! It is grim, indeed!”

“But I heard that you were working on a solution! Have you any news to report? Any progress?”



CHAPTER 14, "THE CLOUDS OF DEATH"

THE EXPEDITION
  • Bramble Wolf - a theran barbarian wise-man (Wildhunt Shifter Druid) searching for the legendary origin of his tribe.
  • Apparently Jones - a blue-skinned demijin caravan guide and animal trainer (Air Genasi Ranger) from Akasa, the land of sky mountains. Having failed to find work in Port Nyanzaru as an animal handler, she has joined the expedition to the interior as a scout.
  • Chak'sa - Apparently's honker (parasaurolophus) companion.
  • Xoc-Wik - a b'alam warrior (Tabaxi Fighter) from the jungles of Bres, searching for those responsible for the destruction of his tribe.
  • Zeynap Shiravadakar - a Eusebean smuggler (Human Warlock) bearing the spirit of a celestial unicorn.
INTRODUCING!
  • Argent Truth-Sayer - a golden azi knight errant of Bahamut (Dragonborn Paladin) in the service of Bahamut, sent on a holy mission to join the expedition to destroy the Soul Monger.

ARRIVAL
Xoc-Wik told Zindar that they had followed up on some promising leads and had discovered some new information. They learned that the Ophidians of the ancient Nagina Samrajya empire, thought extinct for thousands of years, had returned and had assembled the device known as the Soulmonger. They had brought the components into Chult via the pirate hideout known as Jahaka Anchorage and moved them up the river Tath and into the interior somewhere in Southern Chult. He also revealed that the Ophidians could assume human form and that a cult of human followers served their serpentine overlords. Zindar said he would keep a close eye for any suspicious activity that might be related to the Ophidians and their degenerate cult.

The ship was towed into its berth by macetail behemoths and was the expedition disembarked. It was late afternoon. The party went to the temple of Trapezitam to cash out their payment voucher but there was a line. Dozens of merchants and traders were cashing in their payment vouchers and each transaction took at least an hour. Unsurprisingly, although the priests and acolytes of the temple of Trapezitam were swift in welcoming donations to the god of wealth and trade, they proved inefficient at processing withdrawals. The temple closed with the setting sun and the party left empty-handed.

ARGENT TRUTH-SAYER
The party spent the night, as they normally do, at Kaya's House of Repose and woke feeling rested and refreshed. They entered the common room to find a golden-scaled azi, a member of  the draconic warrior-caste. He wore the raiment and armor of the holy order of Bahamut of Plaksha.

The dragon-man introduced himself as Argent Truth-Sayer, holy knight of Bahamut. He said he had sought out the party for he had heard of their quest to find the Soulmonger. He asked permission to join their mission. After introductions they agreed.

The party spent the day preparing for an extended expedition into the interior.

APPARENTLY'S DAY
Argent accompanied Apparently to the  blacksmith to have the ten ingots of adamantine they obtained appraised. They learned from the stocky pale-skinned blacksmith, a member of the race known as ochahuma,  that it bore the mark of the mine of Hrakhamar in the Kavrita mountains.
The adamantine was unfortunately insufficient to craft into weaponry. The blacksmith would need five times that amount. The diminutive ochahuman smith looked to the south and began to wistfully recount the story of how his people had once left tons of adamantine in the mine when they were forced to abandon it many decades ago.



"Let me stop you right there!" interrupted Apparently, "We already got too many side quests and distractions. Sorry, we don't need another one. How much can we get for this metal?"

The smith sighed, "100 gold coins."

"Deal!" said Apparently. She completed the transaction and left.

She and Argent then visited Ekene-Afa and purchased a number of enchanted arrows and two enchanted gladii.

While they walked down the street, Apparently heard someone shout "Look out!" She barely escaped being crushed as a large stone block fell off an overhead arch cracked the pavement in front of her with a thud. She looked up but could see no cause for the block to have fallen on its own.

Apparently and Argent split up so that Apparently could visit the edge of town. There she was reunited with Chak'sa, her devoted honker, who had been waiting patiently for her in the surrounding jungle. She then stopped by the stables and took on the services of two loyal apprentices who had heard of her skill at handling animals and wished to learn from her.

Meanwhile Argent visited Jobal and arranged for a guide. He selected Eku and paid her advance.

MISCELLANEA
The rest of the team tended to various other duties.

Xok-Wik visited Syndra Silvane to report on what they learned from their trip along the western coast.  Afterwards he sold the final paintings of Hasegawa Tōhaku for two hundred gold coins.

DM Note - I had Tohaku's player make a craft roll and used the rules for criminal activity from Xanathar's Guide as a guideline to determine the amount. 

Zeynap took the bag of magic stones to Wakanga Otomu to be identified. He head each stone identified and learned that all but one was a glyph of warding which exploded if used. Three, however, were  stones of sending. Only the owner of the stone would know which stone was the correct one.  The pirates used the stones to communicate with each other while at sea and coordinate their attacks. Two stones would communicate with the two other ships. The third was a mystery. He also learned that the all of the stones were created by an serpentine wizard from the ancient Chultan city of Hisarii, the City of the Ophidians.

Zeynap delivered the sending stones to harbormaster Zindar so that he could capture the remaining pirate or learn more about how they operated. Zeynap spent the rest of the day purchasing tons of supplies for the expedition - canvas, rope, insect repellent, tents, cooking equipment, etc.

With his leftover personal funds, Zeynap arranged to have payment sent to Eusebea to erase the debt held by his parents. Zeynap's unicorn patron was pleased at this gesture.

Bramble spent five hours in line at the temple of Trapezitam but eventually obtained coinage for the payment voucher. While in line he learned of the random nature of the clouds of death that had begun to strike the city. The run on the temple, in fact, was because everyone was withdrawing their money from the vault and evacuating the city on any ship on which they could book passage.

Zeynap spent the night before their journey celebrating his good deed. He made two new friends among the merchant class of Port Nyanzaru and learned from them two bits of previously unknown information about the jungles of Chult.

DM Note - Used the carousing rules from Xanathar's but with a compressed timeframe. 

THE CLOUD OF DEATH
The party gathered the next morning outside the west gate in the Old City. It was gently raining and mist clung to the muddy ground. The macetail, whom despite Apparently's efforts Bramble refused to name, and the honker Chak'sa bore heavy loads of supplies and equipment. There they met the Chultan guide Eku. A few locals were going about their morning rituals preparing for the day.

Suddenly a black cloud shot through the crackling bolts of purplish energy formed out of mid-air a mere thirty feet away! Eku prepared herself and shouted a warning to the others, "Be aware! It is the cloud of death!"

Several locals were caught within the cloud. They screamed as if they had caught fire then abruptly fell silent as what sounded like animals ripped apart their flesh.

With blinding speed, Xoc-Wik climbed to the roof of a nearby building and prepared to loose an arrow at anything that emerged from the cloud.

Argent Truth-Sayer stepped forward to the edge of the cloud and held his holy symbol high, ready to call upon the blessings of the god of dragons. Suddenly clawed hands with gaunt grey skin appeared from the cloud and grabbed Argent by the shoulder, sinking its claws into the dragon-man's flesh. Argent inhaled sharply and was pulled into the cloud!

DM Note- I had just killed Hasegawa Tōhaku last session. I had previously killed Nova Scotia Blackman. The player was starting to wonder if I had it in for his characters. Now, on the debut of his third character, I paralyze him and drag him into a cloud of death! Everyone thought he was going to die on his VERY FIRST TURN. The irony was commented upon and not lost on me.

A line of animated corpses and skeletons emerged from the cloud and rushed the party. Bramble turned into a bear and engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the skeletons while Eku called on the spirits of the forest to protect Aregent before she transformed into a large winged serpent and took on some zombies. Zeynap and Apparently held their own with hex and sword while Xoc-Wik took aim from his sniper's nest. Chak'sa joined the fight and helped protect Eku while the two animal handlers moved the macetail to the rear. One of the skeletons climbed the building to get to Xoc-Wik. The b'alam archer was forced to abandon his post and climb down. He continued placing arrows into the heads of zombies from range behind the line of combat.

Zeynap managed to find an opening in the line of zombies and skeletons and deftly made his way into the cloud where he was able to find Argent. Zeynap momentarily lost his breath as the cloud of death sapped his very strength and vitality. He could only imagine how Argent might be feeling. He channeled the heavenly powers of his unicorn patron to heal the dragon-man and helped him escape from the cloud.

DM Note - The cloud was 40 feet by 40 feet. Anyone who ended their turn in the cloud lost 1 maximum hit point and had to make a Constitution Saving Throw vs. 13. On the first failure you went Prone. On the second failure you were Restrained. A success ended the Restrained condition but you had to stand up from being Prone.  

Upon defeating the first wave of undead monsters, a second wave appeared from the cloud. A sound of alarm rose up from the city behind them and the gates were closed and barred. By the time a militia of volunteers from the Old City arrived, the incursion had been stopped and the cloud dissipated.

The party was thanked for their contribution to the defense of the city and were rewarded with several gallons of tej - a distilled spirit made from honey - and a potion of healing.

When asked about her shape-changing ability, Eku simply replied that she was a guardian of the forest like Bramble and, similar to his abilities, could change her shape into the creatures of the jungles of Chult.

After an hour of rest and recuperation, Eku stood and inquired, "Excellent. Are we ready to begin? Where would you like to go first?"

TO BE CONTINUED...

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Ptera-Folk Lair of M'bala - a side quest for Tomb of Annihilation

INTRODUCTION
Page 74 of Tomb of Annihilation offers a small side-quest to raid a Pterafolk nest for Nanny Pu'pu. I created the following short dungeon to flesh out that quest. It was a challenging dungeon for four to five characters of 2nd to 3rd level.  I included more pterafolk the first time I ran this - 4 in the shrine, 6 + 2 elders + 1 leader in the common area against 4 PCs at 4th level which pretty much ended with a TPK, so I reduced the number of pterafolk in this write-up. I also explicitly call out that the pterafolk wish to capture some prisoners alive in case you need to further dial back the carnage.

HOOK
"Oh... you seek knowledge! Nanny Pu'pu knows many things. But knowledge has a price. There's ALWAYS a price!" The old woman's cackle sent the flying monkeys scattering.

She wheezed for a moment and regained her breath, "You want to know about the DEATH CURSE! Yes, the little monkeys have told Nanny Pu’pu about the dead things in the forest. Nanny Pu’pu does not cause it. Nanny Pu’pu can return life to the dead but only when the price is paid."

"Nanny Pu’pu knows the answer to your questions. But she will answer no questions unless you bring Nanny Pu’pu a gift. Yes. Bring her a gift and pay the price."

"Hidden in the rocks on the south side of this tepui is a nest of pterafolk, wretched things that eat Nanny Pu'pu's little monkeys. Bring to Nanny Pu’pu one of their wretched eggs, or better one of their wriggling young, and Nanny Pu’pu will answer your questions. The price must be paid. Yes."


BACKGROUND
The city of M'Bala is located on top of a type of large granite monolith called a tepui. The tepui rises a thousand feet above the surrounding jungle-clad hills. 


The flock of Pterafolk that Nanny Pu'pu detests make their home in a cave 30 feet below the southern lip of the plateau. Nanny Pu'pu finds them annoying because they catch and eat her flying monkeys. 


The entrance into their cave can be reached by climbing down the cliff face. Climbing down is automatic but anyone who fails a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) check takes 1d6 bludgeoning damage while doing so. 

Characters who carefully scout the area overlooking the cliff face and succeed on a DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check will locate a fissure in the rocks 70 feet back from the cliff. This narrow fissure is wide enough for a Small creature, or for a Medium creature who's wearing nothing heavier than light armor, to squeeze through. After worming down 30 feet, it connects to the fissure in Area 4. No climbing check is necessary.



The pterafolk post no watch. They believe that the inaccessibility of the entrance is sufficient to deter intrusion.  

The caves are unlit.  Pterafolk seem to lack fire so they do not illuminate their caves with torches or campfires. Since pterafolk cannot see in the dark they simply move through their darkened lair blind, feeling their way around with their hands like animals in any burrow, . Characters with darkvision may fight in the complete darkness while pterafolk suffer Disadvantage on all attack rolls, saving throws, and skill checks. Indeed, characters with darkvision, operating in the complete darkness of the cave and with sufficient Dexterity (Stealth) skill checks, might infiltrate the lair and move about unnoticed by the pterafolk around them.  

Characters who bring illumination such as torches or lanterns or light spells will eliminate Disadvantage for both sides but will also eliminate any chance for stealth or a surprise attack. 

KEY




1. Entrance 
Pterafolk enter and exit the lair via this ledge overlooking the sheer face of Mbala. the entrance is located 75 feet below the lip of the flat top of Mbala. The entrance is covered in white lumpy excrement that trails down the face. Much of the excrement contains the partially digested remains, fur, and bones of animals, batiri, and people. There are two pterafolk utilizing the ledge. The passage in the rear climbs a steep ten foot tall ledge leading to Area 2. There is no line of sight between Area 1 and Area 2 and the howling winds outside the area mask most loud sounds such as that of a battle.

At the conclusion of any battle, one of the pterafolk from Area 2 will shout an inquiry in the Common tongue asking what all the noise was about. They are busy eating and will accept any reasonable response. An inadequate answer will alert the pterafolk in Area 2 that something is afoot. One will rush to Area 5 to warn the others.

Ten minutes after the player characters enter Area 1, one of the pterafolk from Area 2 will enter the area to utilize the ledge.

2. Shrine
The pterafolk worship a dark god (in Faerun they worship Shekinester, goddess of spirit nagas, but the precise identity of the deity is not important). A totem to their dark god stands erect in the center of the room surrounded by small offerings. Any pterafolk standing within five feet of the totem gains advantage on attack rolls, saving throws, and skill checks. Any non-pterafolk standing within five feet of the totem gains disadvantage on attack rolls, saving throws, and skill checks.

There are currently three pterafolk (two if one left to investigate Area 1 or if one went to Area 5 to warn the others) eating a ritual meal of raw meat. At the first sign of intruders, if it hasn't already done so one will immediately disengage and flee towards Area 5 to warn the others.

3. Storage
Pterafolk store their meat in this dark cool chamber. It is filled with the half-eaten bodies of dead animals, batiri, and two human explorers.

Treasure: Among the human bodies is a backpack that contains 6 gp in a pouch, a journal*, a silvered dagger, and a potion of greater healing.

* The journal allows the DM to provide any additional exposition they wish regarding the quest for the Soulmonger, the state of Camp Vengeance, or any hooks that might lead characters to places such as Orolunga or the Heart of Ubtao.

4. Fissure
This fissure is twenty feet wide and leads all the way to the top of Mbala, allowing sunlight and rain to filter down through the cracks. Medium sized creatures can squeeze through the crack at the top and climb down 75 feet. Crossing the fissure by clinging to the walls and climbing around requires a successful DC 10 Strength (Althetics) check. A failure results in the character taking 1d6 bludgeoning damage as they fall 10 feet and hit their head before they catch themselves. Leaping across

5. Common Area
This large chamber is where the pterafolk sleep and breed. The ceiling is 40 feet tall. The passage from the south descends 30 feet like a ramp and opens onto the floor of the chamber. The passage on the east wall opens onto a stone platform 30 feet above the floor of the chamber. A 10 foot tall barrier juts from the west wall towards the northern end of the chamber. The floor is littered with debris, twigs, sticks, branches, and other detritus used to make the pterafolk nests.

There are nests for up to twenty pterafolk but at any given time one can expect to encounter four pterafolk, two elder pterafolk (13 hp), and one leader pterafolk (40 hp). If a group of intruders were to enter from the south passage, the pterafolk will split into two equal groups. Half will advance on the intruders to keep them in the south passage. The other half will fly to the east passage and looping around via Area 4 to trap the intruders.

The pterafolk will attempt to capture any intruders alive if they can for interrogation and possible consumption.

6. Hatchery
This chamber is a communal hatchery where all the pterafolk eggs are stored. There are a handful of batiri and grung as well as few native Chultan human children held captive here. They were captured from the jungle and carried here. They were meant to be served as a first meal to the newly emerged hathlings.

Treasure: A handful of  precious gems are encrusted in the wall. These precious gems may be pried loose and removed. Each gem is worth 100 gp. Both the gems and the prisoners are suitable for use in Nanny Pu'pu's Ritual of Stolen Life. The exact number of gems and prisoners is up to the DM and should be used to tempt players into considering performing the necromantic ritual.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Snake's Head Cave - a side quest for Tomb of Annihilation

INTRODUCTION
The following is a side-quest for Tomb of Annihilation. I originally wrote it back in 2014 for Dungeon Crawl Classics. The characters in my ToA campaign decided to go hunting pirates and they captured the Emerald Eye under the command of Captain Al-Saryak. Captain Al-Saryak had no treasure so I rationalized that of course he wouldn't keep his treasure on his ship, he'd keep it hidden somewhere. So I quickly found my old dungeon and updated it for Tomb of Annihilation. 

The adventure was prepared for four or five 4th level adventurers. Be warned that the Yuan-Ti Broodguard are tough and the Yuan-Ti section is intentionally designed to be difficult. My player characters were forced to retreat from Area 18 and I had the yuan-ti, who themselves were pretty injured, let them leave. It could have easily ended in a TPK. 

HOOK
The players come into the possession of a key and the following mysterious drawing. In my campaign the map was among the possessions of Captain Al-Saryak on the Emerald Eye and indicated the location of his hidden treasure. The map and key could just as easily belong to a dead explorer found in the jungle or sold by a desperate fugitive in Port Nyanzaru. 

The lines inside the snake represent the many branching passages inside the Snake's Head Cave, indicating which direction to take at each branch in order to find the hidden treasure. 


I located the Snake's Head Cave where a mine is indicated north of Jahaka Bay but the caves themselves can be located anywhere in Chult or anywhere in any setting really.


BACKGROUND
The cavern complex known as "Snake's Head Cave" was once a mine that served the Yuan-Ti city of Hisari. The mine was abandoned centuries ago and other creatures have since taken up residence within the chambers and passages.

A few years ago, a yuan-ti wizard named Eth-To took up residence within a part of the cavern. The wizard needed a safe location to conduct his arcane experiments. Taking human form, he struck a deal with the local pirates operating out of Jahaka Bay. He would manufacture and supply the pirates with magical sending stones in exchange for captured slaves. The pirates could use the sending stones to communicate over long distances in order to coordinate their activities. He would transform some of the slaves into Yuan-Ti Broodguard to act as guards while the rest would work to seal off his reclaimed portion of the caverns from the areas still inhabited by wild creatures.



KEY
1. Entrance. The carved snake’s head dates back thousands of years. A few harmless snakes slither about.

 2. Snake Pit #1. The entire chamber descends 20’ at a sharp angle like a funnel leading to a 10’ diameter pit of snakes at the bottom. A swarm of snakes occupies the 10’ diameter area at bottom of the pit. Anyone hugging the wall and inching their way around the outside of the pit at half-speed must make a Dexterity Saving Throw vs. DC 15 to avoid falling into the pit. Strength (Athletics) vs. DC 10 to climb out at half speed.

3 . Snake Pit #2. The entire chamber descends 20’ at a sharp angle like a funnel leading to a 10’ diameter pit of snakes at the bottom. A swarm of snakes occupies the 10’ diameter area at bottom of the pit. Anyone hugging the wall and inching their way around the outside of the pit at half-speed must make a Dexterity Saving Throw vs. DC 15 to avoid falling into the pit. Strength (Athletics) vs. DC 15 to climb out at half speed.

4. Crumbling Pylons. Crumbling pylons of stone rise from the foggy darkness of this seemingly bottomless chamber. Jumping to a pillar requires a success Dexterity (Acrobatics) skill check vs. DC 10. Failure results in a fall of 100 feet. The northeast edge of the largest pylon as well as the landing at the northeast exit is crumbling and will collapse under the weight of any medium-sized creature or larger. Anyone standing on the crumbling area must succeed a Dexterity Saving Throw vs. DC 10 or fall 100 feet. A nearby friend can make a Dexterity Saving throw vs. a DC 10 to catch the character and prevent their fall.

5. Falling Debris. The ceiling of this passage is dangerously unstable. For every 20 feet traversed in the passage, a character must pass a Dexterity Saving Throw vs. DC 10 to avoid 1d6 damage from falling rocks. Anyone with a Passive Perception of 15 or better may attempt the Saving Throw with Advantage.

6. Makeshift Barricade. The human slaves were forced to build this makeshift barricade out of sharpened sticks and rocks to keep the zombies out. It takes 1 hour minus 1 minute per Strength + Constitution to remove the rocks.

7. Slime Passage. Anyone entering this chamber automatically notices that the floor and walls are coated with slime. 2 ochre jellies lurk on the ceiling in the center of the passage.

8. Secret Door. A carved niche shows a blank wall, concealing a secret door that opens outward. No skill check is required to see the door. It is meant to allow an easy escape from the northeast corner of Area 22.

9. Spider Nest. 1d4-2  giant spiders lurking in the ceiling. If no spiders are present, they are out hunting the rest of the caverns (see Optional Encounter #2).

10. Goreto's Sword. An old rusty sword stands upright in an empty cavern filled with sand. Anyone attempting to remove the sword finds it difficult to move. Anyone who wants to remove the sword from the sand must make five Strength (Athletics) skill checks vs. DC 15. If they score three or more failures, they sprain a muscle and take 1d6 damage. If they score three or more successes they successfully remove the sword from the sand. The sword belonged to Goreto whose ghost inhabits Area 30. It is not magical and is useless as a weapon.

11. Pirate Treasure. 30’ deep pool of clear cave water. Captain Al-Saryak’s treasure chest lies at the bottom of water, guarded by 2 giant octopuses. Treasure: 1600 sp, 1000 gp, 40 pp, Box of Perfumed Candles (25 gp), Feathered Talisman (25 gp), Iron Brooch (25 gp), Fine Cloth Sash trimmed with Leopard Fur (25 gp), Copper Cloth Hunter's Cap (25 gp), Silver Cloth Hunter's Cap (25 gp), Spell Scroll (Ensnaring Strike) (common, dmg 200), Potion of Greater Healing (uncommon, dmg 187), 3 x Potion of Healing (common, dmg 187).

Note - The pirate treasure above was a level 4 random treasure hoard from the DMG. However, the initial results didn't seem adequate for a pirate treasure so I multiplied the coinage by 10. All the randomly generated copper became silver. All the randomly generated silver became gold. Gold became platinum. The gems and potions and scrolls remained the same. Generate your own.

12. Cave In. The cave ceiling has collapsed, resulting in a pile of debris. The daily passage of bats from area 13 has covered the debris in bat guano. A medium sized creature must squeeze through the gap. 1 swarm of insects emerges from the debris to crawl over and attack anyone squeezing through the gap.

13. Bat Cave. Floor covered in guano. A swarm of bats reside on the ceiling. They will emerge and attack each creature in the room once before fleeing through area 12.

14. Human Excrement. Floor covered in excrement, both human and yuan-ti, indicating habitation within. Anyone disturbing the excrement gains the attention of the otyugh that dwells within. The otyugh is friendly and will answer any questions about the yuan-ti and human slaves dwelling within. If left undisturbed, the otyugh minds its business and remains hidden.

15. Guard Post. 2 yuan-ti broodguard stand guard. If one reduced to half its maximum hit points, it will disengage to warn the others in area 18.

16. Transformation Chamber. Room where human slaves are transformed into yuan-ti broodguard. There are six writhing semi-humanoid maggot-like beings in mid-transformation, chained to the wall, begging to be killed.

17. Storage Chamber. Area where food and water is stored.

18. Yuan-Ti Chamber. 1 yuan-ti pureblood and 4 yuan-ti broodguard have orders to defend the lair from any intruders.

19. Slave Chamber.  7 Human slaves (commoners) chained to the wall.

20. Yuan-Ti Chamber.  1 yuan-ti anathema, 1 yuan-ti pureblood, and 2 yuan-yi broodguard have orders to defend the lair from any intruders.

21. Guardian Chamber. 1 shield guardian protects the entrance to area 22.

22.  Chamber of the Summoner. The chamber is squared like a proper civilized room. The walls are covered in silk tapestries. A work desk is located in the southwest corner. At the center of the room is a 10' diameter summoning circle containing a bound vrock. The yuan-ti mind-whisperer named Eth-To stands near the desk, in the process of performing a ritual that binds the demon to a rune stone on the desk. The Mind Whisperer summons demons and binds them into rune stones to create the stones of sending. Anyone standing within 5 feet of the vrock who makes and attack action or is attacked must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity Saving Throw to avoid accidentally breaking the circle and freeing the vrock. If attacked, the Mind Whisperer will call for help. The Shield Guardian will arrive and join the combat on the following round. The yuan-ti from area 20 will arrive and join the combat in 1d4+2 rounds. Once the Mind Whisperer loses half its maximum hit points, it will attempt to disengage and flee through the concealed door, hidden by tapestries in the northern corner of the east wall, into area 8. If that way is unavailable, it will attempt to disengage and flee through the entrance to area 21. Treasure: a matched pair of sending stones.

23. Mushroom Grove. Mundane mushrooms of prodigious size.

24. Mushroom Grove. 2 gas spores and 4 violet fungus hide among the mundane giant mushrooms.

25. Sandy Cave. Floor covered in harmless insects. 1 giant centipede lurks within.

26. Empty Cave. Nothing of interest here. See optional encounters below.

27. Giant Lizard. 1 giant lizard is munching on the corpse of a dead slave.

28. Dumping GroundDumping Ground. The bodies of dead slaves were dumped here. The Death Curse has caused them to spontaneously rise as undead. 6 skeletons and 4 zombies rise from the pile of decaying human remains to attack anyone who enters.

29. Dumping Ground. The bodies of dead slaves were dumped here. The Death Curse has caused them to spontaneously rise as undead. 2 ghouls, 2 zombies, and 4 skeletons rise from the pile of decaying human remains to attack anyone who enters.

30. Ghost Pirate. Goreto, a deranged ghost of a dead pirate killed by Captain Al-Saryak, haunts the chamber in which he was killed. His decayed remains lay on the floor. A successful Intelligence (Investigation) skill check vs. DC 15 reveals that Goreto was stabbed in the back over a year ago. Goreto's ghost will attack anyone that enters the chamber. Returning Goreto's sword from area 10 will placate the ghost. He will become friendly and will answer any questions about Captain Al-Saryak or the pirates of Jahaka Bay.

Optional Encounter #1. If the player characters find the treasure in area 11 and are making their exit from the caves without having previously defeated the vrock, they encounter the injured and lost vrock with half its maximum hit points and having expended its daily stunning screech action. The vrock is lost and looking for the exit. It is frustrated and enraged and will attack anyone it sees.


Optional Encounter #2. If no spiders are encountered in area 9, that means the spiders are out hunting and the player character may encounter the spiders elsewhere.


BY SPECIAL REQUEST
I was asked to include the original map with the snake head at the top, so here it is.



Monday, May 7, 2018

"Escape from Jahaka Bay" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 13


As Tōhaku and Bramble readied the heavy chest filled with pirate treasure for transport, Apparently coughed a few times and acquired the vacant gaze of someone afflicted with Brain Fever! The pair sighed and told her to follow them and stay out of their way. Tōhaku and Bramble each took a handle of the chest and carried it together up the rough hewn steps of the subterranean passage.

They made their way out of the twisting serpentine tunnels of Snake's Head Cavern. They took a few wrong turns but quickly reoriented themselves. One of the wrong turns led into a passage with an unstable floor. The floor crumbled and fell away beneath Tōhaku's feet and threatened to send both into the darkness of a seemingly bottomless pit. Luckily the pair were able to catch their fall and back out of the dangerous passage.

DM Comment- Dexterity Save vs. 15 or fall 100 feet!

They made their way around using a different passage, following the arrows left by Captain Al-Saryak to verify the path to the exit. Down one side passage Bramble heard the sound of heavy frustrated panting - the kind a lost and frightened animal might make. They had just decided to take a different path when they heard Zeynap cry out, "Ah! Oh Shit!"


CHAPTER 13, "ESCAPE FROM JAHAKA BAY"

THE EXPEDITION
  • Bramble Wolf - a theran barbarian wise-man (Wildhunt Shifter Druid) searching for the legendary origin of his tribe.
  • Apparently Jones - a blue-skinned demijin caravan guide and animal trainer (Air Genasi Ranger) from Akasa, the land of sky mountains. Having failed to find work in Port Nyanzaru as an animal handler, she has joined the expedition to the interior as a scout.
  • Chak'sa - Apparently's parasaurolophus companion.
  • Xoc-Wik - a b'alam warrior (Tabaxi Fighter) from the jungles of Bres, searching for those responsible for the destruction of his tribe.
  • Zeynap Shiravadakar - a Eusebean smuggler (Human Warlock) bearing the spirit of a celestial unicorn.
  • Hasegawa Tōhaku - a Horaian kamenin monk (Tortle Kensei Monk), a traveler, explorer, and artist. He was a friend of Nova Scotia Blackman in Akwa-Obio, the city of scholars.
A COMPANION FALLS
They put down the heavy chest and rushed towards the the sound. They encountered a three-way intersection where the passage widens. They saw the large vulture-like creature they encountered earlier in the chamber of the nagina wizard. It was a shang demon and it was released!

The shang demon looked injured and lost, perhaps desperately seeking the exit. No doubt it was accidentally freed by the naginas and fought its way here. Across the way they saw Zeynap and Xoc-Wik back-lit by a glowing blue-white spell of illumination. Xoc-Wik was already drawing his bow and Zeynap was preparing his celestial hexes. They instructed Apparently to stay behind and hold the torch.

Xoc-Wik loosed a magically-charged arrow at the shang-demon. It struck with an explosion of magic, leaving the shang covered in vines that held fast to the ground. The shang forced its way through the weeds and vines that held him down and made his way towards Xoc-Wik and Zeynap! The pair quickly found themselves in close quarters with the shang and were forced to relocate.

Tōhaku charged the creature and fought it hand-to-hand though his attacks had little effect on the extra-dimensional horror. Bramble channeled the spirits of nature into his staff creating a magical shillelagh.

The shang demon took a deep breath and held it. Suddenly a disgusting plume of noxious gas emerged from its posterior and enveloped everyone within fifteen feet, catching Zeynap, Bramble, and Tōhaku. Zeynap and Tōhaku coughed but were otherwise unaffected. Bramble, however, began retching and staggered a step. The shang laughed a raspy wheezing guffaw and proceeded to perform the same disgusting maneuver.

Tōhaku took a defensive stance, hoping to draw the creature's attacks away from his unarmored companions.



The stratagem worked and the vulture-like shang turned its attention towards Tōhaku. The creature roared in rage, grabbed Tōhaku's shell with both hands, and ripped with all its might, tearing the shell apart! The foul demon then plunged its toothed beak and head fully inside Tōhaku's shell and mutilated the tortoise-man's fleshy interior! Tōhaku died instantly and gruesomely!

DM Commentary - Tōhaku paid ki for a defensive stance which made all attacks against him at Disadvantage. This, plus a high Armor Class, was a safe bet for the player and should have worked well for him. Unfortunately, I rolled two natural twenties for the claw attack! 4d10+2 damage! That put him below zero hit points. Being a demon, I followed up with the bite attack. Since Tōhaku was "dying" and had the helpless condition, that gave the demon Advantage on the attack and a hit meant automatic critical. I obviously hit. This meant 4d6+2 damage. Tōhaku was reduced to -27 hit points, which was more than his positive hit points. He was killed instantly! 

I described the death as gruesomely as possible, with the Vrock ripping the shell apart like a crab shell and plunging his head into the meaty insides.



Bramble transformed himself into a giant octopus and grappled the vulture shang, restraining the demon. Zeynap and Xoc-Wik released attack after attack against the bound target until it began to disintegrate into ash!

They had defeated the foul demon but at a great cost.

DM Comment - The demon was a vrock. A full-powered vrock is way to high a challenge rating and would have likely wiped the floor with the party. The vrock instead had half-hit points and had already expended its daily screech power. Even still, it was a dangerous opponent and killed Tōhaku!

RETURN TO EMERALD EYE
It was in somber silence that the surviving members of the party dragged Tōhaku's remains down to a nearby chamber and tossed them into the seemingly bottomless pit. They exited the caverns into the grey haze of day in the valley overlooking Jahaka Bay. They returned to the camp they used the previous night and rested. Xoc-Wik took Zeynap's watch and allowed him to recuperate.



The next day they hiked down the slope to return to the Emerald Eye. They took the rowboat and the newly crafted home-made canoe back to the waiting ship.

DM Comment - Okay, long story. 

Before I reunited them with the vrock fight, I asked Zeynap and Xoc-Wik's players, "Okay, the only rowboat was on shore. How did you get from the Emerald Eye to shore?" 

They said, "We made a canoe out of the ribs and hide of the spinosaurus we killed!"

Okay, longer story. Last week, I used the Random Encounter tables in "Jungles of Chult Factbook" to generate some encounters. The two encounters I rolled were:

1. Kraken
2. Spinosaurus 

We joked about the Kraken. It's a CR 23 encounter! At the time I said they saw a kraken heave out of the water near the horizon followed by storms and squalls. 

We also joked about finding the spinosaurus swimming fifteen miles from shore, exhausted.

So when I asked them where they got the extra boat, they said they had coaxed the tired spinosaurus to the side of the boat, harpooned it, and used its hide and ribs to make a canoe.

I said, "Sure, okay, why not." So they wrote that shit down.

At the time we thought spinosauruses were strictly land dinosaurs. But just now while looking them up I just learned that they were aquatic like crocodiles, living in rivers and estuaries and maybe some coastal areas.  I guess that random encounter was legit!

From National Geographic
They set sail back to Port Nyanzaru. On the second day, hurricane strength winds blew from the west, clearing the mist and forcing the Emerald Eye to drop anchor to wait out the storm. Zeynap scanned the shore for any sign of the secret pirate hideout but found nothing.

Once the winds died down the ship resumed its journey. On the morning of their fifth day under sail, a dolphin swam around the ship playing and vocalizing. The dolphin looked like it was trying to communicate something but no one could figure out what it was trying to say.

DM Comment - As it happened, Tohaku spoke Aquan but alas.

The following morning, the ship sailed past a giant seahorse floating sideways in the water as if dead. The poor creature was exhausted and starving but alive. Bramble jumped overboard and swam to the dying creature. Captain Moleman shouted curses and invective at having to lower the sails and stop the ship. Bramble healed the giant seahorse and fed it a magic berry. The seahorse was rejuvenated. It stuck out its long tongue and licked Bramble's face before it swam away.

DM Comment - I assume, based on no information, that since the snout of a sea-horse resembles the snout of an aardvark, that the two disparate animals share a similar tongue anatomy. Assuming sea-horses even HAVE tongues.

On the tenth day of their journey home Captain Moleman was able to take advantage of storms to the west and get better speed out of the sails, reducing the length of their voyage by a day.

GHOST SHARKS
On the 14th night of their return journey, Zeynap was on night watch while the ship traveled slowly at half-sail in the dark. The only light came from the three dim lanterns on the deck. Ahead of the ship he thought he saw a dim glow. As they approached the dim glow resolved itself into another ship - a ghost ship!

The ship looked like it had been sunk and resided at the bottom of the sea. It was covered in coral and trailing seaweed. Then, to Zeynap's shock and amazement, he saw five ghostly reef-sharks swimming through the air around the ship! As they drew near, the ghostly reef sharks turned their attention to the Emerald Eye, swimming right at Zeynap!

Zeynap rang the alarm bell. The skeleton crew took cover in the hold while Bramble and Xoc-Wik came on deck and took positions on the stern to prepare for the attack.

"What are those?" asked Xoc-Wik.

"Ghost sharks!" answered Zeynap.

"What??" yelled Xoc-Wik incredulously.

"How are they above the water?"  wondered Zeynap dubiously.

"THAT'S what confuses you??" replied Xoc-Wik.




Zeynap directed celestial hexes at the phantom sharks as two surrounded and bit at him.

Xoc-Wik loosed a magically charged arrow at one of the ghost sharks and it exploded into ectoplasm and slime. One also swam through the air towards Bramble. Bramble took the form of a large bear and engaged the ghost sharks in close combat. 

Zeynap maneuvered in and around the two sharks until Xoc-Wik could destroy another one with a charged arrow. Zeynap then destroyed the other shark at the bow.

Soon afterwards, Bramble, with Xoc-Wik and Zeynap's help, was able to render the remaining two ghost sharks into incorporeal slime.

AREMAG'S DUE
20 days after the party left Snake's Head Cave, the Emerald Eye arrived in the Bay of Chult. The gargantuan dragon turtle Aremag rose before the ship and demanded tribute. Xoc-Wik put all the 1600 silver coins from the pirate treasure into a sack and threw it overboard.


Aremag considered the offering and demanded, "MORE!"

Once the waves had subsided, Xoc-Wik added 40 gold coins to the offering. Aremag considered this a long time and reluctantly accepted.

The Emerald Eye sailed into the harbor of Port Nyanzaru. Zindar the dragon harbormaster flew out to intercept but was delighted to see not pirates but friendly faces. He welcomed the party home and congratulated them on their mission. Once they had docked and made their way to the harbormaster's office, Zindar wrote them a payment voucher for two thousand gold coins which they could exchange at the Golden Temple of Trapezitam.

They received their payment and paid Captain Moleman one thousand, as agreed. They bade farewell and retreated to Kaya's House of Repose to rest.

TO BE CONTINUED...


RIP Hasegawa Tohaku

Sunday, May 6, 2018

"Trouble in Atlantis" - Stories from the B-Team, Part 2

by Trevor Hanson


Contrary to the perceptions of outsiders, the City-State of Atlantis is not a utopia of content commoners catered to by slaves and watched over by an opulent and sophisticated upper class gathering favors from their immortal rulers. There is dissension. Plans are in motion to change the society that Atlanteans know. The Order of Hauruss plans to remove the power that their psychic rulers hold over all Atlanteans.

This Order does not want power for powers sake, nor to gain the abilities the immortal rulers of Atlantis wield, but followers of Hauruss want a free society without a drug induced populace. To flourish and spread the glory and thinking that makes Atlantis great throughout Antara. To lead all of humanity into a new age. They see the current conditions of Atlantis; drugged population, enslavement of other humans, and the destruction of cultures and those people in fighting arenas, as a waste of potential. Their society is stagnant, and their decadent rulers must be cast aside for progress to happen. The Order and its allies seek out any opportunity to disrupt the distrubtion of drugs in order to undermine the power of the Vril-Ya.

To this end The Order of Hauruss has made some progress. They have discovered that living beyond the reach of Atlantean cities for some time purges the mind of the drugs that are an everyday fixture of Atlantean culture. This constant drug use makes the populace vulnerable to the psychic powers of the Vril-Ya. In fact, it is speculated that without the continuous exposure to mind-altering drugs, the Vril-Ya would not have the ability to sway so many people, but only those with which they have direct contact. To this end, the Order operates in the wilderness outside Atlantis.

Since little is known of the Vril-Ya, progression into the upper castes of Atlantean society is needed. Information gatherers and spies are necessary. The most dedicated members of the Order train with the warrior-monks of Daqhal to learn the arts of unarmed defense, should the need arise, and the essential discipline of Still Mind. Only members of the Order that have achieved the Still Mind are allowed to undertake the missions within upper society. However there is much work to be done outside the city.

The Order of Hauruss seek out foreign allies to serve as additional resources to combat the influence of the mind control of the Vril-Ya. Many of their allies are not even human. Others are unaware that they are working on behalf of the Order at all. Secrecy and compartmentalization of information is of the utmost importance for the Order of Hauruss. No agent of the order is expected to withstand interrogation in the face of the formidable psychic abilities of the Vril-Ya.

THE STORY OF T'BALLID

Into this scene, T’ballid, a young agent of the Order that has started in warrior monk training, takes up his place in the struggle for decency within Atlantis.

Atlantis’ southern coastal bluffs are illuminated by the silver light of a spring moon on a clear windy night. At the base of the cliffs a small single-masted nautical ship is docked within a sheltered cove, hidden from any passing Atlantean air-skiff patrols. The shadowy figures of sailors swarm over the ship, preparing to embark under the cover of darkness.

Two individuals stand apart from the ship at the bottom of a winding path that leads up the cliff - one is a tall young man wearing the attire of a commoner preparing for a long journey, the other a short man with a bald pate wearing the robes of a member of the Atlenatean upper class.

The taller man speaks, “Master, I will find this, ‘Heart of Ubtao’, as you wish. How will I know if it is connected with the Vril-Ya’s power?”

The older man replies, “T’Ballid, if the rumor is correct, the stone is no mere earth-mote, no mere floating rock, but the heart of a dead god. Only one race we know of is that ancient and powerful. They gave birth to the Vril-Ya. If the ‘Heart’ is connected, I am sure that you will know when you are there.”

The two stopped at the gang plank of the ship. T’Ballid began to board the ship but paused. He turned and faced his mentor once more. “How am I to reach this floating rock if it truly not connected to the ground?”

His master grinned, “Yes, well thought. The cart with your supplies is not a regular cart. The wheels are for looks. Take them off when you need to reach the Heart”.

“An air-skiff!?” T’Billad exclaimed. His master nodded. “Won’t they miss it? Will they be able to detect it?” He asked, a little worry creeping into his features.

Shaking his head, his master withdrew from the ship. “It is damaged and was to be destroyed. Use it wisely; it will only fly a few times”. With that, T’Ballid’s mentor retreated into the shadows disappeared from T'Billad's view.

The ship cast off and sailed south towards Port Nyanzaru. When the moon was high, and the sea still, T’Ballid made one last reading of his destiny with the Cards of Fate he carried. He closed his eyes and asked his spirit questions to call upon the cards answers.

“How do I proceed when I arrive?” He focused on the question in his mind until he could see the words. T’Ballid drew a card from the deck, placing it face down next to him.

“What actions will lead to success?” he asked himself. Thinking of the words again he placed another card atop the first.

“What do I need?” A third card was placed on top of the small pile. Opening his eyes and turning the cards over, he read his fortune out loud.

“I proceed with, 'The Gale'. Meaning, 'Strong winds from the North, or Storms'.”

“I must act upon," he recited his second question as he pulled up the second card he drew, "The Quest. To 'Seek out, or find'.”

The third question and answer gave the warrior monk pause, “I must obtain, 'The Headsman. Revenge or Justice'.” That didn't sound like the way of the Order - Revenge.

“I must follow the winds and proceed South from the port and find justice? Or, seek Vengeance. “That is an odd path to take to a dead God’s heart." T'Ballid murmured as he replaced the cards and settled down to sleep. Vengance for the dying god, he thought?

Whatever was ahead, T’Ballid know there would be adventure.

"Enter Inara" - Stories from the B-Team, Part 3

by Trevor Hanson



Warmth. Harmony. Peace. Tranquility. Justice. Life. All emanating from radiant light. This is all that is known to a sunbeam in the service of Tzann the Sun Lord. An existence of hope and inspiration, keeping the tenets of the Sun Lords decrees to pass along to the faithful in times of need.

Can a sunbeam evolve?

Something had changed. Did Tzann, whose wisdom was infinite, just form an interrogative? To whom was it addressed? Was this a test? In all of creation, sunbeams had only been tested by devas.

The sunbeam, little more than a mote of light floating in a celestial void, formulated a response to its master's query. If it were Tzann's will for a sunbeam to evolve into a more useful servant then the answer would, of course, be yes.

“Yes”, was the sunbeam's cautious response.

Tzann’s intentions and directives came forth to the little sunbeam.

Darkness has begun devouring light and life within one of the realms upon which my light falls. The realm was claimed by the Ana known as Ubtao but Ubtao has gone missing. Does this sunbeam recall visiting the mortals? 

“This sunbeam delivered Tzann's blessings to them.”

This sunbeam did. For this task, this sunbeam will need to do more than provide hope to them. This sunbeam will have to guide them - possibly lead them to solve this enigma. This sunbeam  will need to fully enter their realm, not as a ray of light but as my messenger. This sunbeam  will need to evolve.

“How?” queried the sunbeam.

Go to the limbo realm of Devachan. Choose one of the souls currently awaiting reincarnation, one of the mortal heroes. You will  take a corporeal form with the appearance of that mortal before they died. 

The thoughts of the sunbeam were puzzled, “What is, ‘you’?”

Feelings of paternal amusement came from Tzann.

You now have self identity; an individuality all your own. Choose.

The glowing incorporeal mote of the tiny sunbeam spead across the infinity of the higher dimensions beyond space and time at the speed of light and chose a soul from the recently dead. That soul had once been a mortal being with corporeal form. The soul had memory of that form. The sunbeam absorbed that memory. The sunbeam had acquired an image and could now imagine a form.

You are no longer just an extension of my will, you are a whole and separate being; a Light Bringer! What will you call yourself?

The sunbeam's glowing mote of light spread and took the form from the memory it had acquired. The light solidified into torso, arms, legs, hands. feet,  head, eyes, lips. The form had musculature, organs, a mind, a heart. It inhaled for the first time. Words formed on newly made lips.  “Inara”, she said, and opened her eyes.

She floated weightless and naked in the celestial void but she was not alone. Before her hovered the grand figure of Tzann, towering muscular leonine figure, wearing gleaming golden armor. This was the first light to pass into the newly made body's eyes, through the lenses, across the retina, and into the mind.  The sunbeam had gained  the facilities to actually perceive the God that it served in a physical manner. The image filled Inara with purpose and power. Light beamed from Inara’s eyes, making Tzann’s armor sparkle brighter.

“How does this physical form enter the Realm of Mortals, my Lord? I need to bring your light to the darkness there!”  Inara was filled with purpose and wanted to expedite her Lord's desire to help the mortals and banish the darkness that brought cold, despair, and the unlife of Thanatos into the lands warmed by the light of the sun.

You descend from the light, my child. 

White feathery wings sprouted from her back.

These are your wings, Inara. They will deliver you safely to the ground, as you always have my blessings. When you complete you quest, they will also bring you back up into my light. If you are successful, you will become a deva, an Avatar of Light! 

An Avatar of Light, Inara thought to herself! She then marveled at no less a miracle than the fact that she had formed a thought! Desire filled her and she knew what she must complete to become an Avatar in the service of her god. “I am ready!” She stated enthusiastically.

Tzann beamed in mirth.

Not quite yet my child. You will need the items of mortals to survive in their world. You spirit is immortal, but your body is not. Pay heed to what it tells you. 

Sensing Inara’s lack of  knowledge in this matter, Tzann continued. You will need to clothe yourself, consume food and water, and you will need to sleep. Follow the actions of others that you meet in your quest.

“Others?”, Inara pondered. “Are other devas coming as well, my Lord?”

No, Inara. On this task, I send you alone.

She liked having a personal name that was spoken by her God to address her. It made her feel important.

Tzann continued.

You will meet others mortals that also are trying to rid their realm of this darkness. Find those that seek the same goals as you; these allies are the key to your success and u. 

Tzann’s next words  communicated to her a new concept.

You will also feel new emotions like the ones you just experienced: passion and pride. These are good to fuel your resolve to take the path of light. But be wary of temptations of the mortal realm. If the emotions you feel are self-serving, then you can become lost, and descend into darkness. 

"What is 'darkness'?" she asked.

Darkness is the absence of light, the place where even my power cannot reach.

The mere concept of the absence of light spurred her racing mind.

Good. This is the focus you should remember. Seek My light. Do this each day when the my Chariot rises in the sky and I will grant you power to sustain yourself and help you on this endeavor. 

Inara nodded dutifully. “Is there anything else that will be different, my Lord?”

You are my champion, and will possess some of my powers. How you develop them is a matter of your needs and your preferences.   Also, you will need the proper attire. 

Having no concept of clothing Inara was not sure what was expected. Golden light drifted from Tzann’s Golden Armor and formed sparkling motes that adhered to her n aked body. The lights coalesced into a golden shirt of mail that sparked with golden flecks. Belts with pouches and a small sack fastened on her back between her wings carried supplies, and something she came to understand was called “food”. A sturdy shield appeared in one hand and a sword materialized at her opposite hip to complete the ensemble.

Now proceed, my child. 

Tzann spoke the words and Inara passed from the light of the void into the cold air above the clouds high over the surface of Antara. She began drifting down on angelic wings.

ON A BEAM OF SUNLIGHT SHE DESCENDED
A wet, bright morning greeted the squatters inhabiting the abandoned site of Camp Vengeance. The rain clouds from the previous night had broken and warm light of the sun penetrated to the jungle floor.

Malcolm stepped out of the tent that had provided shelter from the rain for a few hours of sleep after the camps inhabitants battled off another zombie incursion the night before. The sleep was sparse. Food was stale and wet. Zombies had crossed the river somehow and had stormed the palisade.

He started gathering empty brass casings from last night’s battle so he could renew his ammunition supply for the Magnum-50. A shirtless man approached looking to Malcolm’s endeavors.

“I have read the cards. We must go.” stated T’Ballid. “If we are to reach the Heart and find the cause of these attacks, sooner may be better.”

"What makes you think the Heart of Ubtao is the key to these zombies?" inquired Malcolm.

T'Ballid shrugged, "It is always possible I have incorrectly interpreted the meaning of the cards. We shall see."

Malcolm looked out from the camp's walls. Clouds of diseased miasma drifted across the fetid swamps. Dismembered body parts continued to writhe and grasp in the mud, independent of their owners. “You are right. I don’t see how we can make it across that disguisting swamp, though.” He looked up at the Monk, unsure if the two of them journeying to the Heart of Utabo unassisted would result in any success. “It would take a miracle for the two of to make it alone.”



A golden, glittering light above drew the attention of the camp's current residents. A radiant figure, skin bronzed by the sun, descended on snowy white wings and landed in the middle of the camp. She stood six feet tall and radiated hope, “I am here to vanquish the darkness that plagues you!” proclaimed Inara.

T’Ballid glanced at his new companion, “The gods favor you! You should pray to your heathen gods more often!” Slapping Malcolm on the back, the Monk encouraged Malcolm forward. “Let’s go introduce ourselves to your miracle!”

Trevor's Commentary-
This character was a combination of interesting character classes and a mini that I built and never used. Essentially, the mini is a Viking warrior or Valkyrie wearing chain mail, wooden shield and a long sword.  I added white wings that were left over from another mini; and Poof! Instant Celestial!