Friday, December 14, 2018

"The Gears of Hate" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 38


The utilitarian service stairwell ended in a small room with a corridor for an exit and a large metal hatch. The corridor, like the stairwell, was illuminated with dim fluorescent glass tubes that buzzed and flickered. The walls were smooth concrete. Grey mucoid slime dripped from small cracks and fissures in the wall and collected into large puddles on the bare concrete floor.

Argent paused and turned to talk with the others behind him, "Should we take the hatch or the corridor?"

Bramble prattled on about both options without providing clear guidance. Apparently boldly suggested they push on down the corridor.

Argent turned and was shocked to see a small girl with long dark hair and wet pallid skin standing in the puddle. A red ball rested at her feet. Here eyes were sunken and dark. Her face betrayed no emotion.

"I'm so lonely. Will you play with me?" said the little girl.

It was the little girl from Argent's dream three days gone.

Argent, still frozen in uncertainty, asked those behind him, "Does anyone else the little girl?"

"The what?" said Bramble behind him, still descending the stairwell.

Argent turned his head and pointed at the girl, "That little girl there!"

"What little girl?"

Argent turned back. She was gone.



CHAPTER 37
"LAWRENCE THE LIZARD"

THE EXPEDITION
  • Bramble Wolf - a theran barbarian wise-man (Wildhunt Shifter Druid) searching for the legendary origin of his tribe, recently transformed into a woman by a magic fountain, slowly becoming a goat due to a curse from a bronze staff. Current bearer of the spirit of the trustworthy god Moa.
  • 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. Current bearer of the spirit of the foolhardy god of froghemoths named Kubazan.
  • 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. Current bearer of the spirit of the nimble god I'Jin.
  • Argent Truth-Sayer - a golden azi knight errant of Bhamut (Dragonborn Paladin) in the service of Bhamut, sent on a holy mission to join the expedition to destroy the Soul Monger. Current bearer of the spirit of the selfish god of wealth Nangnang.
NPCs
  • Orvex Ocrammas - translator and guide for hire; rescued from the Fane of the Night Serpent.
  • Lukanu - Omuan champion and former personal bodyguard of Queen Napaka; trapped within a magic mirror soon after the destruction of Omu more than 150 years ago.
  • Zaal - goshi (humanoid water buffalo) warrior and best friend of Lukanu; trapped within a magic mirror soon after the destruction of Omu more than 150 years ago.
  • Zorai - vyth (grey-skinned alien) explorer sent to Omu to investigate the massive seismic event that coincided with its destruciton; trapped within a magic mirror soon after the destruction of Omu more than 150 years ago.
Lukanu and Zaal
Moments earlier, as the party prepared to descend the stairwell, Lukanu and Zaal informed Argent that they planned on staying behind. Lukanu had dedicated her life to protecting Queen Napaka. Her queen was dead. In addition, Zaal was too large to fit down the narrow service corridors and stairwell. She vowed to stay behind with her loyal friend and serve as a distraction for whatever forces might harry the party as they descended further into the tomb. Argent nodded and bade them farewell.

Awaken Napaka
Argent ignored the metal hatch to the left and continued forward down the corridor. He hesitated at the puddles of grey slime. Zeynap tapped him on the shoulder and assured the dragon-man that the situation was under control. Zeynap summoned forth a magical sphere of flame composed of coruscating hues. The magical flame rolled down the corridor ahead of the party, turning the slime into blackened crust.

The corridor turned left and, after a passage of thirty feet or so, ended abruptly.

Bramble strode past Argent but paused a few paces away from the fiery orb. Bramble looked back at Zeynap with impatience.

Zeynap looked confused before snapping to sudden realization, "Oh, sorry!" He dismissed the burning sphere, allowing Bramble to examine the dead end.

The wall was false and easily removed, revealing a narrow corridor composed of riveted metal plates. Grey slime slowly dripped from the seams in the walls and ceiling and collected into viscid pools on the floor.

The corridor to the left continued for about sixty feet before bending at a shallow angle to the right.The sound of droning machinery, pistons, chains, and turning metal gears echoed down the corridor from that direction.

A few feet to the right of the secret door, the corridor opened into another wider hall. The wider hall was well lit and led to the left and right. The entryway to the wider hall was covered in cobwebs signifying a dearth of recent use.

Argent led the party to the right and breathed a plume of fire to clear away the cobwebs. Scrawled upon the wall in dried blood was the words
AWAKEN NAPAKA

The Eye of Zaltec
The hall was walled with steel plates and was lit by alternating magical glass bulbs every ten feet. The hall sloped from the right to the left.  The upper end of the hall ended in a blank wall about fifty feet to the right. The lower end of the hall was concealed by a curtain about fifteen or twenty feet to the left. The sloped floor was covered in patches of slime that oozed from the seams in the wall.

Argent entered the long hall alone. He examined the lights but saw nothing of note. He opened the curtain to reveal a statue of a large four-armed monster. Three of its hands were held outward and cupped as if awaiting some sort of payment or offering. The fourth hand was broken off and lay tightly clenched on the floor.

Words inscribed on the wall behind the statue read:

Three I need
Then three more
Three more still
Opens the door

Lawrence the Lizard began to panic, expressing great concern at seeing the statue.



Argent backed away and asked what had frightened the lizard.

Lawrence said that he can't remember what it was the statue did but that it was responsible for separating the Company of the Yellow Banner. His last memory was accompanying them as they approached the statue. He told Argent that they believed that the statue held in its hands the fabled Eye of Zaltec.

Orvex Orcammas gasped in disbelief. He explained that the Eye of Zaltec was a lost treasure of an ancient empire from the continent of Bres. He said that it could restore life to the long dead.

Lawrence confirmed that the Company of the Yellow Banner wished to use the Eye to restore life to "the Starfallen", an elioud who had lost her physical form.

Argent gave Lawrence to Zeynap and told the others about the riddle.

"Well, it obviously needs nine of something," was the consensus, "but nine of what?"

DM Comment-
The players spent about ten minutes trying to think of what it might need, guessing wildly. I knew they'd never guess.

As it happened, earlier that night we had joked about allowing microtransactions into D&D. One player asked if they could just buy a clue. I said, "Sure, why not?"

Zeynap's player said, "I'll pay you a dollar for a clue." I said, "sure."

He paid, I said, "gemstones."

It was a funny joke but I gave him his money back later.

Everyone in the party rummaged through their backpacks looking for gems. Bramble exclaimed, "We've found hundreds of gems! Where are they?"

DM Comment - 
No one had any written on their character sheets. Their notes were a mess. I told them if they couldn't find any gems, they were stolen by the doppelganger.

Apparently pulled out a clay jar, "Hey! This small jar contains like thirty gemstones!"

"Where did that come from?" inquired Bramble.

Apparently shrugged.

DM Comment - 
Ras Nsi's lair.

Argent put a gemstone into each of the three hands. the three hands clenched each stone tightly, crushing them to powder. Argent repeated the gift. The gemstones were once again crushed. He gave it three more gems which were again crushed.

The hand on the floor opened to reveal a lustrous ruby the size of a plum. The statue opened its mouth and exhaled a cloud of gas. Argent coughed and fell unconscious to the floor.

The top end of the hall slide into the floor revealing a massive mechanical machine pushing a heavy iron roller before it like a ten ton rolling pin. There was a squeal of machinery and a release of the steam as the machine began rolling down the hallway with gathering speed!


The Stone Juggernaut


Zeynap, standing in the side-hall, hurled a magical witch-bolt of lightning into the mechanical steam-roller.



Apparently shouted, "Move out of the way!" and darted past Zeynap. The blue-skinned demi-jin moved with startling alacrity. Her superhuman strength, enhanced by the spirit of the trickster god Kubazan, allowed her to left up the unconscious dragon-man with one hand, throw him over her shoulder, and grab the Eye of Zaltec with the other hand.

She looked up the sloping hall to see the steam-roller barreling towards her with increasing acceleration. She furrowed her brow and darted back to the side hall a split second before the giant machine rolled past, flattening everything before it.

The steamroller slammed into the statue and wall behind it with tremendous force! It stopped and slowly started backing up the inclined hall.

Bramble looked over Zeynap's shoulder, "Is that it? Is that all it does?"

Zeynap zapped the machine a few more times with his eldritch blasts, "I guess so."

Once the machine reached the top, it rolled down the hall again, once more slamming into the wall at the bottom.

Bramble and Zeynap both shrugged and turned to join the rest of the party as they tended to Argent. The party spent the next hour waiting for Argent to regain consciousness, studying the Eye of Zaltec, and regaining their strength.

Cog of Rot
The party continued down the narrow corridor to the slight bend. The corridor crossed a gap in the floor that opened into a dark space beyond. The gap was wide enough that someone could fit their head through it and look around. The warm humid air of the corridor escaped through the gap into the cold lower pressure outside. Argent looked through and around and saw an underground cavern filled with water and illuminated by small crawling arthropods.

On the other side of the gap was a pentagonal room made of metal. The entrance was located at the vertex of two facets of the pentagon. A metal pipe extended six feet from the floor in the center of the room, terminating in a sprinkler head. A mass of thorny vines covered in ivy grew out of a rotting mass of decaying compost all around the sprinkler head. Grey slime dripped from the seams of the metal plates along the wall. There was a narrow path from the corridor leading along the left wall to another exit at the next vertex to the left. The entire room stank of decaying plant matter and compost.

A ten-foot wide hole in the center of the ceiling opened to a shaft leading upward.

Argent moved through the dense vegetation and investigated the sprinkler head. Foul-smelling grey water dripped from the sprinkler. The shaft over his head rose over a hundred feet. He could see the atrium of the upper levels far above.

Argent rejoined the rest of the party as they navigated the narrow path into the second exit.

Cog of Acid
A narrow passage connected the sprinkler room to another pentagonal room with two exits. The two rooms were separated by another gap through which it was wide enough for someone to stick their head.  This room was decorated with friezes of five serpentine black dragons. The room was bare and possessed a chemical odor. A close examination of the dragons revealed small concealed nozzles in each of the dragons' mouths.

The room was quickly and nervously abandoned as the party moved through the second exit, across another gap, and down a short corridor into a small room.

Control Room
The room was twenty-five feet square. The center of the room was dominated by a large brass control panel. The panel possessed a blue knob and a red knob, a blue button and a red button, and a large level which was capped with a gold star-shaped handle.



A skeleton with a large octagonal key growing from the back of its skull was pondering an array of five groups of three circles illustrated on the far wall. Xoc-Wik disassembled the skeleton with a single bowshot.




Each of the five diagrams consisted of three pentagons arranged in a kind of triangle and five icons - a star, wavy lines, a steamroller, tusks, and a chain. Each pentagon in the diagram contained two open vertices. Beneath each diagram was a  glass bulb. The glass bulb beneath the third diagram was glowing.


Above the diagrams were three pipes.

The party quickly deduced that the diagrams represented the pentagon-shaped rooms through which they recently traversed and that the openings coincided with the exits in each room. They surmised that the third diagram represented the current configuration and that the openings matched their passage through the rooms. They further concluded that the rooms somehow rotated and that the panel in this room controlled their configuration.

Apparently wasted no time. She turned the blue knob to the left. The illuminated bulb switched to indicate the second diagram. She pushed the blue button and the entry to room just behind the control room rotated away to the left.

  Wheels in Motion
 Argent and Bramble observed the rotating rooms from the entrance way. They saw that the pentagonal rooms were situated atop massive rotating cogs rising out of pylons in the underground lake. The cogs turned against each other so that when the closest room rotated clockwise, the center room rotated counter-clockwise, and the far room clockwise.  There was a brief moment when the flat side of the pentagonal room was far enough away from the entrance that one could step out onto the cog and grab onto the exterior of the rotating room.

Bramble and Argent stepped out and climbed atop the closest room. They saw the ceiling of the cavern above them. Massive cogs and gears were driven by huge chains and drive-shafts. Small masked pallid figures climbed on catwalks and dangled from harnesses as they maintained the machinery. The figures noticed the pair standing atop the rotating room but paid them no heed.

They saw three enclosed catwalks atop pilings in the lake. One led to the center room - the corridor they had taken. The other two would connect with the previously unseen third room if the correct configuration was chosen. They also saw a large concrete pillar within which contained the stairwell they used to descend to this level. They saw the outside of the metal hatch. The outside was carved or cast to resemble the green devil face design so prevalent in the Tomb of the Nine Gods. The hatch led to a short dock made of metal grating. Two small rowboats were tied to the dock and an iron cage large enough for a man was suspended over the water by a gibbet.


The room eventually stopped rotating in a configuration matching the second diagram, the diagram that Apparently had chosen.

As they carefully made their way across the roof of the first room, Argent once more saw the little wet girl. She was standing on the water of the lake as if it were solid. She held the red ball in her hands.

Argent and Bramble froze. They could both see her.

The little wet girl communicated telepathically directly into their minds, "Would you play ball with me?"

Argent became stern, "No! Go away!"



The little girl threw her ball at Argent. It bounced with an audible "Tank!" off the outside wall of the pentagon and bounced across the water as if it were a solid floor.

Argent was nearly overcome with the urge to dive into the water to recover the ball. He held fast and shouted at the girl, "Be gone!"

The little girl vanished.

Bramble and Argent cautiously clambered down the side and hopped across to the middle room. He saw that the entrance to the previously unseen third room were open. However, when stopped, the corners of the pentagons nearly met. Since the entrances were located on the corners, the pair found the open entrances blocked by the proximity of the opposite corner of the adjacent room. The gap was large enough to look in, however, so Argent examined the room within.

The entrance was barred by a portcullis. The other entrance was likewise barred. Within they saw five wardrobes decorated by friezes.

DM Comment- 
We had continued to joke all night about micro-transactions in D&D. At this point, Bramble's player, frustrated at the puzzles and logic problems in this level, pulled out his wallet and just threw all his money and credit cards on the table - "How do we make this level go away? Just take it! Take it all!"


They climbed back to the control room. They found that the entrance was covered in slime which was pouring freely out of the three pipes in the control room.

"Wha-a-a-at-?" stammered Bramble.



"Well, we now know that when you pull the gold lever, it activates the slime dispenser!" said Apparently, exasperatedly.

"Wh- Why? Why is there a slime dispenser? And why so much?" said Bramble.

Apparently and Zeynap only shrugged.


The party set about planning possible room configurations that would connect them to the other passages. They knew that the third configuration  would get them to the center room but someone would need to stay behind to set the controls to the first configuration and operate the button. Orvex volunteered but the group overruled, choosing Apparently and Zeynap to stay behind.

Xoc-Wik donned his magical helmet obtained from beneath the arena in Omu. It allowed him to make a telepathic link with Apparently so that they could remain in contact.

Apparently set the rooms to the third configuration. Everyone moved back to the center room. There was a faint chemical smell and the plants were now glistening wet from the sprinkler. Xoc-Wike gave Apparently the signal to activate the first configuration. The room began to rotate. As it did so, the  sprinkler activated, spraying the plants with watered down ooze! The plants began to come alive! The vines writhed and twisted together to form huge woody tentacles!

The room came to a stop. The exits lined up with the third room and a mysterious smaller room. As the exit lined up with the smaller room, poisonous insecticide gas poured out. The gas spread through the room, causing those within to cough and gag.

The plants began to coalesce into animated behemoths. Bramble, coughing, ordered everyone to group up inside the small gas room, forcing the shambling plant-things to fight them one at a time. Argent would hold them off. Bramble said, "Don't worry! I have a plan!"

Zorai and Orvex led Xoc-Wik, who had succumbed to brain fever thanks to the gas cloud, into the small room. Bramble stood  behind Argent. Argent took a defensive position at the choke point.


Bramble called upon the spirits of nature to coalesce into a spinning maelstrom inside the small confines of the room. A massive swirling storm came into being, tearing the shambling plant-things apart with gale winds and torrential rain. Argent held steadfast as the vines could do nothing to abate the hurricane force winds and were eventually shredded into debris.


DM Comment-
There were three shambling mounds but they had a good choke-point. The Maelstrom had dispersed the gas. Only one shambling mound could attack Argent at a time and it could not get past his Dodge actions. After they destroyed the first shambling mound and had reduced the second to half hit points, I just called the fight. There was no point in continuing.

Once the plant-things were reduced to small bits, the party could investigate the small room in which they took refuge. The room contained the body of a male human, an Avallonian by his appearance and dress, wearing the livery of the Company of the Yellow Banner. He was obviously a nobleman and had died from the poison gas when he became trapped in this small room. Lawrence revealed that the man was the leader of the company, Lord Brixton. From the looks of him, he  had died two months ago. The party searched the body and recovered a sword with a pommel shaped like a dragon head and clothing bearing a minor magical enchantment that maintained their cleanliness. He also carried a pack of supplies and a pouch containing six gemstones.

G’lyh’rul
Meanwhile, back in the control room, Zeynap was becoming restless.

"Is it time to turn it?" He inquired impatiently.

"No!" replied Apparently, "I have to wait for their signal!"

The spirit of I'Jin inside Zeynap couldn't take it. Zeynap began tapping his feet. He then sprang to the control panel and started pushing the red and blue buttons.

Apparently shouted for him to stop but it was too late. A heavy iron door slammed shut over the single exit, sealing them in.

"Stop!" she cried.

Apparently used her super-human Kubazan strength to try to lift the door but with no success. "Well, we're stuck."



"What does this red knob do?" inquired Zeynap, bitterly.

"Might as well find out." She turned the red knob.

A telepathic voice spoke to her mind. It was the petulant voice of a young girl, "No, Gorra! No more slime!"

"Um, hello?" said Apparently.



"You're not Gorra! Are.. are you really somebody else? You aren't playing a trick on me, are you Gorra?"

"Who is this?" she inquired cautiously.

"My name is 'Goo-lah-rool'. What's your name? Would you like to play with me?"

Apparently and Zeynap looked at each other in panic. They gestured wildly but were reluctant to communicate any further with the telepathic voice. Apparently turned the red knob back to the opposite position.

"No! Wait! I can help y-" The voice was cut off.

Cog of Blood
The portcullis that once barred entry into the third room was now raised and the party made their way inside.

They found five wardrobes, each decorated and carved with a different theme. The second exit, however, was still barred. Mounted on the wall above the exit were five red glass spheres.

The first wardrobe depicted two inhuman armies clashing. One army consisted of Warlords, Marauders, Crushers, and Dregs from the Scourge of Ji-Go battling armies of Crimson Draconians.

The second wardrobe depicted an old woman with an evil countenance dangling an infant  over her open mouth as if she was about to swallow it whole.

The third wardrobe showed an ornate clock and complicated gears.

The fourth wardrobe depicted masses of screaming tortured humanoids bound by chains.

The fifth wardrobe was carved to depict a scene of ghouls gnawing on bones.

"Here we go." warned Argent as he opened the fourth wardrobe.

TO BE CONTINUED,,,

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

"Lawrence the Lizard" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 37



"'Allo!" said the lizard in perfect Avallonian, "Pleased to meet you! Name's Lawrence!"

Argent jumped back and hit his head on the ceiling of the confined space.

"What happened? Who said that?" inquired Bramble, worried.

Argent bent over and looked out of the devil's mouth, "It's a talking lizard! His name is Lawrence."

Argent returned his attention to the lizard, "Um, I'm sorry about that. I wasn't expecting you to talk. Have you always talked?"

"Oh no," said Lawrence, "I was given the ability to speak by a ranger named Seward!"

Argent extended his hand to Lawrence. Lawrence crawled onto Argent's hand and scurried up his arm to perch on his shoulder. Argent emerged from the niche behind the devil face and introduced Lawrence to the rest of the party.


CHAPTER 37
"LAWRENCE THE LIZARD"

THE EXPEDITION
  • Bramble Wolf - a theran barbarian wise-man (Wildhunt Shifter Druid) searching for the legendary origin of his tribe, recently transformed into a woman by a magic fountain, slowly becoming a goat due to a curse from a bronze staff. Current bearer of the spirit of the trustworthy god Moa.
  • 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. Current bearer of the spirit of the foolhardy god of froghemoths named Kubazan.
  • 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. Current bearer of the spirit of the nimble god I'Jin.
  • Argent Truth-Sayer - a golden azi knight errant of Bhamut (Dragonborn Paladin) in the service of Bhamut, sent on a holy mission to join the expedition to destroy the Soul Monger. Current bearer of the spirit of the selfish god of wealth Nangnang.
NPCs
  • Orvex Ocrammas - translator and guide for hire; rescued from the Fane of the Night Serpent.
  • Lukanu - Omuan champion and former personal bodyguard of Queen Napaka; trapped within a magic mirror soon after the destruction of Omu more than 150 years ago.
  • Zaal - goshi (humanoid water buffalo) warrior and best friend of Lukanu; trapped within a magic mirror soon after the destruction of Omu more than 150 years ago.
  • Zorai - vyth (grey-skinned alien) explorer sent to Omu to investigate the massive seismic event that coincided with its destruciton; trapped within a magic mirror soon after the destruction of Omu more than 150 years ago.

The Company of the Yellow Banner
Lawrence explained that he once traveled with a group known as the Company of the Yellow Banner. The company had come to Chult to find the fabled Eye of Zaltec, a magic item that could restore life to the long dead. They hoped to use it to free the elioud known as Starfallen from the ghost lantern in which she was trapped. They were separated by a teleport spell and that was the last he heard of them. That was nearly two months ago. Lawrence had survived on spiders ever since.

"How big was the Company?" asked Bramble.

"The company consisted of six adventurers. Let's see- there was Lord Brixton, knight of Avallonis and leader of the company."

Bramble and Argent nodded, sagely.

"Devlin Bashir," the lizard continued, "Uttaran wizard who looked like a goat and carried a goat staff."

"Yep," said Bramble, "We found his dead body. I have his staff."

"Ah, that's too bad," said Lawrence, "Let's see, there was Bravus, a terro cleric from Tsolin. He was known for his magnificent yellow turban."

"I'm sorry, but we found his remains in the tomb of I'jin. He was devoured by locusts." said Argent.

"I see. There was also Sephirius, better known as "Seph". He was an azi paladin of Bhamut from Plaksha like yourself."

Argent nodded, "Yes, we found his remains in the Chamber of Respite. He had starved to death."

"There was also the ranger named Seward."

"Haven't seen him," mused Bramble.

"And finally there was the fighter, Biff Longsteel. Oh! Be careful! Biff Longsteel is a doppelganger!"

The party dropped into combat positions and looked for Biff.

"Where's Biff?" shouted Argent.

Everyone looked around. There was no sign of Biff.

Zaal spoke up, "Do you mean the guy from the mirror? When the stone slab dropped upstairs and separated us, the merchant ran away screaming. Biff said he's go find him. Neither one of them has come back yet." 

Argent asked, "What do we do?"

Bramble replied, "Well, if I remember correctly, a doppelganger can't hold their shape if they're knocked unconscious. So, just in case one of us is the doppelganger, I'll have to turn into a giant ape and smash everyone until they're unconscious. Just to be sure."

Xoc-Wik tilted his head with scorn, "What ELSE can we do?"

Bramble set abut painting small X-marks on everyone's arms using Apparently's (formerly Devlin's) magical ink pot, "Okay, everyone be on the lookout for Biff. If you see any of us, look for this X. If they don't have an X, it's a doppelganger. Kill it."

Pay the Toll
The party exited the hall and returned to the atrium. They were at the very bottom. Four large statues of monstrous four-armed gargoyles were perched atop four square pillars. A small coin-sized slot was located at the base of each pillar.

"Coins? These things are coin-operated?" wondered Argent.

Bramble shrugged, "Feed them some coins."

"Wait!" Zeynap interjected, "Don't forget that the top of each pillar had a different color- copper, silver, gold, and platinum."

The party inserted coins of the appropriate type into each pillar and climbed the stairs to the next higher mezzanine.

They looked down the long corridor facing west. The corridor was at least sixty feet long. A skeletal silhouette staggered just at the edge of the magical illumination of Argent's shield.

The dark shape turned and charged the party. It was a skeleton with a large key-shaped growth emerging from the back it the skull. Xoc-Wik put an arrow into the skeleton which disassembled it. The bones fell lifeless to the floor. The b'alam picked up the skull. The key was shaped like a hexagon.

The Ghastly Door
At the end of the hallway was a large stone slab. On both walls next to the slab were bronze funnels shaped like snakes, mouths wide. The inner surface of both statues were stained with blood and emanated the stench of death.



Argent made a small cut on his hand and dripped a few beads of blood into the mouth of the snake on the right. The sound of chains rattling and frantic shuffling emerged from the bronze funnel, but nothing happened. He shrugged and suggested they instead explore the side corridor to the right immediately behind them.

Rolling Doom
Stairs led down from the main corridor. A closed chest sat at the bottom of the stairs.

DM Comment-
Bramble's player and Xoc-Wik's player simultaneously said, "Mimic!"

Xoc-Wik stepped forward and put a few arrows into the chest, just in case it was a trap.

DM Comment-
As a joke, I replaced the chest with a mimic miniature and said the mimic got up, walked back into the room, and returned carrying the real chest. It put the chest down and retreated into the room, nursing its wounds. That got a laugh.

Argent took Orvex down the stairs. The dragon-man asked Orvex to check the chest for traps. Behind him Argent saw a large room supported by four pillars with a raised area on the far wall. \

Orvex investigated and saw that a wire led from the lid down a small metal tube into the floor. Argent thanked Orvex and sent him back up the stairs to wait with the others. Once he was alone, Argent magically attached himself to the ceiling so that he hung down and opened the lid of the chest.

The ceiling at the top of the stairs unexpected dropped down like a ramp and down it rolled a large stone sphere. Argent withdrew quickly into the room behind him, using his magical gravity-defying  power to stay attached to the wall. The sphere crushed the chest and rolled past. The sphere crashed through the floor just inside the chamber, revealing a thin false floor concealing an acid-filled pit.

Argent looked back into the corridor and up the stairs. Bramble and Xoc-Wik pushed the ceiling back up until it clicked into place. Argent gave them a thumbs up.

Bramble examined the remains of the chest. He found a silk pillow which he proudly procured for his use. Doing so he heard an invisible clink of something metal fall to the floor. He searched around and found an invisible object in the shape of a key.

The party avoided the false floor pit trap thanks to Argent who carried them one by one along the wall. Argent, Bramble, Xoc-Wik, Lukanu, Zorai, and Orvex entered the room. Zaal was too big to fit down the stairs comfortably so he waited  in the hall with Apparently and Zeynap who were suffering from brain fever.

The Tomb of Unkh
Argent dropped everyone along the wall to the right of the entrance and the party began exploring the tomb counter-clockwise. The three walls adjacent to the entrance were made of ten foot panels decorated with scenes of goshi at work building the city of Omu and paying homage to a massive snail with ten eye-stalks. Each eye-stalk terminated in a spiked ball like a mace head.

"This is the tomb of Unkh the flail snail," explained Orvex, pointing towards the giant snail.

The back wall of the chamber was elevated above the rest of the chamber by a raised stage. The wall was adorned with an intricate maze-like pattern. As they looked closer they could see that the maze was a small model with two-inch walls. Closer examination revealed that the passages between the walls were filled with fog and that the walls of the maze were constantly and slowly shifting. Every few seconds, Argent could see a tiny colored dot appear and disappear in the maze.

Bramble pondered out loud, "Maybe we need to use that potion of diminution we found in the beholder vault?"

Xoc-Wik and Argent agreed that the idea sounded plausible bout wondered if there was a different way.

In the center of the room was a large sarcophagus made of opaque crystal. Every six seconds the sarcophagus would change color - blue, gold, purple, green, red, and black. There was a keyhole on the side of the sarcophagus. The invisible key was tried but did not fit.

Argent said, "Got it! I'm going into the maze!"

Xoc-Wik looked puzzled, "What?"

Argent climbed the stairs to the maze on the back wall and touched it. He disappeared in a flash!



Xoc-Wik ran after him and saw a tiny Argent in the maze. Argent likewise looked up and saw a giant Xoc-Wik peering down at him from above. Despite Xoc-Wik's attempts to communicate, Argent could hear no sound. Argent held his hands up to his ears and shook his head to communicate this to Xoc-Wik.

Suddenly, the panels along the other three walls of the room slid open to reveal piles of massive bones and water buffalo skulls. The bones began to magically assemble into large skeletal goshi wielding Chultan axes.


The goshi skeletons charged the party. Zorai was struck down. Orvex took a near fatal hit and was knocked into an empty cell vacated by one of the goshi skeletons. He hid under the bones to avoid further attention.


Lukana drew her yklwas and became a whirlwind of death, charging into the midst of the massive skeletons. She cleared a large enough path for Bramble to transform into a giant fifty-foot ape. Ape-Bramble waded into the room destroying skeletons, smashing them under her massive fists. Meanwhile Orvex was attacking from cover with his crossbow.


Xoc-Wik loosed arrows at the goshi skeletons. Some arrows arced around corners while others exploded, sending debris and bone fragments flying. Two goshi climbed the platform and bore down on Xoc-Wik. The nimble jaguar-man leaped off the platform onto Ape-Bramble's muscular back and continued attacking. Soon all the skeletal goshi were defeated and the room was secure. Xoc-Wik ran to Zorai and saved her from the brink of death.

DM Comment-
I normally don't worry about death saves for NPCs unless the players call for them. Players sometimes grow attached to NPCs they like so I'll allow them to roll death saves for them if they want. In the heat of battle we all forgot about the meatgrinder mode. Oh well, maybe she'll suddenly die mysteriously next week.

Edit- Argent's player just notified me that he did, indeed, roll death saves vs. 15. My mistake! 

Meanwhile Argent wandered the fog-shrouded maze. He eventually found a gold key. He took it and disappeared from the maze. He reappeared next to the sarcophagus. He waited for the sarcophagus to turn gold before inserting the key. The lid opened to reveal a box filled with salt.

Bramble ran her hands through the salt and found ten bracelets made of iridescent snail shell. She also withdrew a robe. The robe was made of a shiny iridescent fabric that gleamed in the light of Argent's shield. The collar of the robe contained ten tassels ending in soft spiked balls.

"Nice!" she said as she donned the robe.

Slime began to emanate from the inner lining of the robe. A voice spoke inside Bramble's mind, "Do you accept me?"

"No!" cried Moa, "This vessel is mine!"

The two trickster gods battled for occupancy of Bramble but Unkh won out. Moa was forced out and disappeared.



Bramble felt suddenly healthier, more robust, like she could take on the world.

Meanhile, the gold key in Argent's hand disappeared. A strange sigil magically appeared on the inside of his right arm. He found that he could suddenly smell the gold, silver, and other precious metals around him, along with all previous stones and gems.

Argent could feel the spirit of Nangnang dancing with joy at this newfound ability!

Grandfather Clock
Bramble was the first to notice the small passage at the back of one of the cells. Argent led the way. The party was soon looking at a tall grandfather clock sitting in an empty room. The pendulum of the clock terminated in a fist-sized pearl.

DM Note-
I normally play background music through a blue-tooth speaker. I replaced the music with a ticking clock channel on YouTube.

Argent carefully opened the door but was blocked from grabbing the pearl by an invisible barrier.

Argent concluded that the time on the clock face removed the barrier so he turned the minute hand to the next hour. The clock chimed. The sound was deafening and everyone but Argent was forced to cover their ears. When the chiming was done Argent found he had aged ten years!

The barrier was still there so Argent tried again! The clock chimed. This time, however, everyone covered their ears and was spared the premature aging.

The chimes had no effect on the barrier. Argent turned the minute hand one hour back. The clock chimed. The other members of the party shouted at him and pleaded with him to stop! They left the room, carrying poor Lawrence the lizard who had aged twenty years!

Eventually, Argent ran his hand along the invisible barrier. He found an invisible keyhole. He called Bramble back. Using the invisible key they opened the invisible door and took the large pearl.

Upon seeing the pearl, Orvex exclaimed, "It's the Navel of the Moon! It's a fabulous treasure rumored to reunite loved ones long lost! I believe that b'alam hunter was looking for this."

The Throne Room
The party returned to the end of the hall. Argent tried dripping some more blood into the funnels. Xoc-Wik and Bramble became impatient and shoved Argent aside, "Get out of the way! We've got this!"

They each held their arms out over one of the funnels. They cut their arms and a stream of blood flowed into the yawning mouth of the bronze snake. After a minute of steady bloodletting they heard the sound of chains rattling and vicious frenzy behind the walls. The heavy stone slab began to rise haltingly. It eventually opened wide enough for the party to enter the chamber beyond.

Within they found a large throne room with a vaulted ceiling supported by gothic arches and four heavy pillars. A narrow ledge ran around the perimeter of the chamber. The center of the chamber was sunken fifteen feet below the level of the entrance. The walls of the sunken section were decorated with painted scenes of adventurers dying from the traps of the Tomb of Nine Gods. 


Three humanoid figures stood near the walls holding brushes and palettes of paint. They were busy adding new scenes to the murals depicting the exploits of the party. One was painting a scene of Argent entering the very room in which they were standing!

The figures paused in their work and turned to the intruders. The party could now see that their skin was dry and leathery as if preserved by tanning and their eyes and mouths were crudely sewn shut using hemp string. The gruesome painters returned to their work.

Three niches on each side wall contained statues of Omuan warrior women wearing masks resembling the heads of hornets. Lukanu said, "They are the handmaidens of my queen, Napaka! What is this place?"

Directly opposite the entrance, on a ledge overlooking the sunken mural, was a large throne made of bone lashed together with leather thongs. The skull of a water buffalo was affixed atop the throne.


"That is the skull of a goshi!" exclaimed Zaal.

Argent made his way around the left ledge towards the throne, carefully passing each statue in case of attack.

A sign hung from the back of the goshi skull, "It says 'Karagos'!"

Zaal fell to his knees and began to weep. "Who was he?" asked Bramble.

"He was the leader of Zaal's people, he was a great engineer and architect, it was he that designed the defenses of Omu," explained Lukanu as he gave comfort to her friend.

There was a metal scepter on the seat of the throne. Its spherical head was made of adamantine. Argent picked up the scepter and began smashing the throne. He smashed the skull, sending it flying across the room. For a brief moment a flash of rage and revenge overtook him, but he quickly regained his composure.

Tomb of the Sun Queen
The rest of the party examined the statues. They were able to locate two concealed doors hiding secret passages. They chose the one behind the throne on the right to explore first.

Argent entered alone. He soon entered a secret crypt containing a fabulous sarcophagus made of gold. The word "NAPAKA" was inscribed onto the coffin in Atlantean.

A large golden sphere hung by a chain over the sarcophagus. The sphere was decorated with a friendly smiling face.  A box shaped like a jeweled scarab sat atop the sarcophagus. Argus opened the box and found a necklace of rubies.

DM Comment-
Everyone simultaneously said, "Necklace of Fireballs!" I sighed and rolled my eyes.

He also found a jade key shaped like a crocodile. Argent looked around but could find no keyhole.

Argent then walked up the wall and onto the ceiling so that he could better inspect the sphere. Again, he found no keyhole.

He walked back down and tried to lift the lid of the sarcophagus. It was too heavy for him. Argent went back to the throne room and asked Orvex privately about "Napaka". Orvex said that she was "the Sun Queen of Omu" and was likely the last queen of the city when it fell. Argent nodded.

Argent turned to the others and explained that he found a tomb and needed help lifting the lid. Lukanu volunteered but Argent held her back, "No, you better stay out here."

Xoc-Wik and Bramble entered into the small room and rendered assistance. They removed the lid to reveal the mummified remains of Queen Napaka wearing a golden hornet mask and a tattered black dress. An iron scepter identical the one on the throne lay clutched in her left hand.

Xoc-Wik took the mask from the remains. The smiling face on the golden sphere immediately changed to an angry grimace. The sphere began to glow as if building up to some kind of discharge. Xoc-Wik, Bramble, and Argent were able to quickly find cover as the sphere flashed. The intensity of the burst singed the edges of their clothing. The sphere was now glowing bright orange and radiating an uncomfortable heat, forcing everyone to flee the room.

Once outside, Bramble said, "Wait, I'll be right back!" She ran back in and grabbed the scepter out of the sarcophagus, then ran out as fast as she could.

DM  Comment- 
Dang it! I totally missed the gas trap in the sarcophagus! I'll make up for it later, I guess. 




The Service Corridors of Annihilation
The party then opened the hidden door on the opposite diagonal corner of the room. It revealed a utilitarian corridor of plain concrete. It connected to a spiral staircase that led up and down. The party followed Argent as he descended the stairs.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

"The Maze of Death" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 36


Having obtained the spirit of I'Jin, the party decided to retreat to the first level to replenish their water supplies from the magic fountain.

"Wait," said Bramble, "The custodians may have re-set the iron statue. Zeynap, you and I carry no metal, so let's go alone just in case."

The pair left the others in the atrium and did, indeed, encounter the iron statue, repaired and rest. They re-filled their water skins and containers from the magic fountain. Zeynap took a drink. Suddenly, she fell to the floor in a convulsing seizure.

The seizure subsided and Bramble saw that Zeynap had transformed back into a man.

"Huh". Bramble took a drink. Nothing happened.


CHAPTER 36
"THE MAZE OF DEATH"

THE EXPEDITION
  • Bramble Wolf - a theran barbarian wise-man (Wildhunt Shifter Druid) searching for the legendary origin of his tribe, recently transformed into a woman by a magic fountain, slowly becoming a goat due to a curse from a bronze staff. Current bearer of the spirit of the trustworthy god Moa.
  • 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. Current bearer of the spirit of the foolhardy god of froghemoths named Kubazan.
  • 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. Current bearer of the spirit of the nimble god I'Jin.
  • Argent Truth-Sayer - a golden azi knight errant of Bhamut (Dragonborn Paladin) in the service of Bhamut, sent on a holy mission to join the expedition to destroy the Soul Monger. Current bearer of the spirit of the selfish god of wealth Nangnang.
NPCs
  • Orvex Ocrammas - translator and guide for hire; rescued from the Fane of the Night Serpent.
The Mirror of Stolen Lives
The party regrouped and descended the flights of stairs in the atrium towards the fourth level mezzanine. It was getting darker, as if the light dimmed with each descent of stairs. The fourth level mezzanine was covered in dust and the bones of the long-dead lay scattered about. There was a narrow passage to the left immediately at the bottom of the stairs. Argent held his glowing shield before him and ventured into the passage.

Argent reached a T-shaped intersection. The passage to the left disappeared into darkness. When he looked to the right, he saw what appeared to be dim moving light eighty feet away. He took the passage to right to investigate. As he proceeded down the corridor he noticed the light was getting closer. He realized the light was his own and that he was looking at his own reflection in a mirror at the end of the hall.

He got close enough to see that the mirror was affixed to a wall in a small room, fifteen feet square. As he examined the mirror, he could see, in addition to his own reflection, the shadows of other beings trapped within. Argent felt a tug at his mind, like his soul was being drawn forward into the mirror. He immediately shut his eyes and shouted, "Don't look at the mirror!"

Zeynap, walking behind him, looked over his shoulder and said, "Don't look at the what?"

Zeynap's body began to stretch and extend towards the mirror like a silvery liquid. He was quickly sucked into the mirror. 

Zeynap was gone.

DM Note- 
Argent made his saving throw. Zeynap, having been warned, rolled his saving throw with advantage - and lost. 

Argent called the others, "Zeynap looked at the mirror and he got trapped inside it. What do we do?"

Bramble shrugged.

Zeynap was standing in a foggy featureless void. A small window high above him provided a blurred view of the outside world. Sounds were muffled and remote. He tried teleporting through the window. He only managed to teleport ten feet within the featureless void. He tried destroying the window with an eldritch blast. His blasts had no effect.

Xoc-Wik moved forward with his eyes closed. He felt around the mirror. It was affixed to the wall. He called out, "Zeynap Shiravadakr!"

Within the featureless void,  the window became closer - or larger, it was difficult to tell. He could see and talk with Xoc-Wik as if looking through a pane of glass.

Zeynap exchanged ideas with the party but nothing worked.

Argent finally said, "I think I know what to do!" He withdrew the magical mace of Wongo and smashed it into the mirror. The mirror shattered into a million pieces!

Suddenly several silvery figures poured out of the mirror into the room. As each figure took form it shoved those that proceeded it farther away from the mirror. The room was soon packed with people and monsters of various sizes! Argent and Xoc-Wik were pushed out of the room and into the corridor. Indeed the figures emerging from the mirror were likewise forced into the hall by the press of bodies behind them.

The room was jam-packed shoulder-to-shoulder! There was a hulking muscular humanoid with the head and hooves of a water buffalo. There was a large humanoid figure with a long nose covered in green warty skin. A massive four-armed gargoyle was shoved into narrow confines of the hallway. In between was a male Avallonian wearing a yellow tabard, a female Omuan warrior in bulbous plate armor made from the shell of a giant scorpion, there was a male Omuan merchant huddled in the corner, there was a mysterious humanoid with dolphin-smooth grey skin, a large almond-shaped head with large orb-like eyes and long slender appendages, and there was Zeynap - pressed into a corner. Finally, a small creature resembling an echidna with a long proboscis and several legs flitted around the room on four bat-wings.



There was a brief moment of confusion as the pressed mass got their bearings. Bramble called out, "Stay calm! We're not your enemy!"

The humanoid water-buffalo called out in Old Omuan, "Lukanu! What is happening? Where are we?"

The armored Omuan warrior, "I am here, Zaal! I am pressed between one of Acererak's gargoyles and an angry jungle troll!"

The Avallonian was pushed out into the hallway with Argent. He offered a handshake to Argent and said, "Greetings! I am Biff Longsteel! I seem to be standing next to some kind of large gargoyle-ish creature! Would you mind lending a hand?" Argent grabbed Biff and shoved him to the rear.

The grey-skinned creature simply spoke in its strange language of clicks and clucks.

The Omuan merchant, standing near the back corner, looked nervously at the bat-winged creature hovering near his face.

The large green warty creature - the jungle troll - began pushing against the others with its claws.



Xoc-Wik said, "Right, first things first!" He loosed an arrow through the throng, passing through small gaps and under arms and legs, to pin the bat-winged creature to the wall.

The merchant screamed in terror and slumped to the floor.

A melee ensued! The fighting was difficult in the enclosed space of the small room. Claws into faces, elbows into chests, knees into backs. Zaal the water-buffalo attacked the troll with a battle-axe while Zeynap zapped it with eldritch blasts. The strange grey creature huddled in the corner and watched nervously.

Zeynap and Zaal were soon able to subdue the jungle troll but the hideous monstrosity kept getting back up. Despite their best efforts, they were unable to defeat the creature as its wounds simply healed after each attack!


Lukanu engaged the gargoyle with her twin yklwas. Argent  backed away from the gargoyle, making enough room for Bramble to summon a flaming sphere into existence. The sphere rolled into the gargoyle from behind, enraging it further.

Lukanu was able to quickly dispatch the gargoyle. She faced the flaming sphere rolling towards her. Argent shouted, "Jump over the sphere! I'll catch you!" The dragon-man crouched down under his shield. Lukanu leaped over the fire and landed on Argent's shield, rolling off into a crouch directly behind him.

Once the corridor was clear Bramble was able to send the sphere into the jungle troll. The wretched monster caught fire. Unable to regenerate its burning flesh, the jungle troll perished under Bramble's magical spirit flames.

Prisoners of the Mirror
Having vanquished the jungle troll, the party introduced themselves to the people freed from the broken mirror.

They met Lukanu, champion of Omu and personal bodyguard of Queen Napaka. The man-buffalo, which the party learned was called a "goshi", was named Zaal. Zaal was Lukanu's loyal companion. He was a hulking brute but friendly and polite nonetheless. The pair had been trapped in the mirror defending the royal family from Acererak's minions in the aftermath of the destruction of Omu, an event that had transpired nearly two hundred years ago. She was desperate to learn the fate of the royal family. When she learned of princess Mwaxanaré, she pledged her life to restoring the skull chalice of Ch’gakare to the rightful heir.

The Avallonian was named Biff Longsteel, the lone survivor of the Company of the Yellow Banner. Biff was a friendly lout, long on charisma but short on critical thinking skills. He seemed little perturbed to learn the fate of his companions. He had been trapped for little more than two months.

The Omuan merchant was insane. A look of permanent terror molded to his ashen features. He rocked back and forth babbling incoherently.

The grey-skinned humanoid with the almond-shaped head spoke no known language. It was known that she was one of the mysterious beings known as vyth. Xoc-Wik donned the ancient Omuan helmet he found under the arena and made telepathic contact with the creature.

Xoc-Wik learned that the vyth's name was Zorai. Through a series of mental images, he was able to learn that Zorai hailed from one of the vyth bases located deep underground. There was a great seismic disturbance near the surface and Zorai was assigned to investigate what had happened. Zorai took a magical flying saucer-shaped vehicle to the over-world and arrived at the aftermath of the destruction of Omu. She saw the snake-things known as nagini capturing slaves and putting them to work constructing the Tomb of Nine Gods. She became invisible in order to explore and investigate. She unfortunately encountered the mirror and had become trapped within ever since. He could sense that she was grateful to have been freed and sensed no ill intent from her.

DM Comment-
My setting does not have traditional Tolkein elves. The closest thing are elioud, which are mysterious alien beings from a parallel universe called Aeon. In their home plane they are beings of pure energy and thought that take physical form when they visit our plane. Their descendants are the silvans, which are your traditional forest elves but with green skin and photosynthesis. Therefore, up until now I didn't really have a drow analog in my setting. So I at first described her as a pale-skinned silvan. 

However, I have my best ideas when I go to the bathroom. I took a quick break and while I was doing my business I had a great idea! 

My setting is heavily inspired by:

  1. Blavatskian Theosophy
  2. Hollow World stories
  3. The Shaver Mystery
  4. Various ufologisms and Erich Von Danikenisms. 

According to the Shaver Mystery, aliens come from deep within the Earth. In a flash it dawned  on me! The drow-analogs would be grey aliens! 

Thus I created the "vyth", which were subterranean descendants of elioud who came to Antara long ago. They are technologically advanced, as in- magic, a fly around in saucers kidnapping people and taking them back to their underground bases for research and to be slaves. 

The Maze of Death
The mirror chamber was a dead end so the party reversed itself and explored the other end of the corridor. The corridor ended in a stone slab decorated with a life-sized painting of a robed and hooded humanoid figure holding its right hand up palm out. The face of the figure was a featureless void of stars.

The reversal of the normal marching order put Xoc-Wik in front. He studied the painting on the door for a moment, smiled, and said, "High five!" He slapped the palm of the painting with his own palm.

The stone slab raised into the ceiling revealing a T-shaped intersection beyond.

Xoc-Wik looked over his shoulder with a smug sense of satisfaction.

"Seriously?" complained Bramble.

Xoc-Wik moved in and off to the right to let Argent and Bramble lead the way. The corridors created a complex pattern that bent outward and turned back inward towards a central hall, creating a butterfly shape. The walls of the corridors were decorated with bas relief carvings of a mighty black star destroying entire cities and turning all who looked upon it to dust.

On the left end of the central hall was another stone slab adorned with a similar painting of a hooded and robed figure. This figure, however, held up a right arm severed at the elbow. The figure held its dismembered right arm in its left hand.

Argent and Bramble winced at the implication.

In the center of the hall was a short pillar. A crown adorned with a large black opal sat atop the pillar.



Bramble thought for a moment. He had seen this crown before. He thought back to the hall in the Fane of the Night Serpent, "The Black Opal Crown! That's the crown the snake-people were looking for!"

In case the pillar was trapped, Zeynap used a minor spell to levitate the crown off the pillar and over to Argent's hands. No sooner had the crown risen into the air that a foul gust of wind blew from the unexplored corridors  on the far side of the hall. Argent stashed the crown in his backpack and the party moved into formation.

"Um, Hello!" called Zaal, "The door is closi-" Zaal was cut off with a heavy thud as the stone slab through which they entered slammed shut once more. Zaal, Xoc-Wik, Apparently, Biff, and the merchant were trapped outside.

Two dark vaguely humanoid forms glided into view from around the near corner and the far corner. Each wore long dark robes with hoods drawn. Under the hoods, their faces were starry voids.

Everyone felt a wave of sickening pain wash over them as the creatures entered.

"Bodaks!" choked Bramble.


Zeynap happened to look at the near one in the face. He could feel his soul being drawn out. He clamped his eyes shut and looked away, "Don't look at them!" he shouted.

"That's not all!" called Lukanu from the corridor behind them, "Something just attacked me! Something invisible!" Bramble, Argent, and Zeynap could hear Lukanu swing and thrust her yklwas at an invisible foe.

Bramble called on the spirits of nature to erect a flaming wall around the far bodak. The creature was forced to retreat back down the corridor from which it came.

"It's circling around! Get ready!" shouted Bramble.

The other bodak glared at Argent. Argent gritted his triangular draconic teeth and withstood the pain generated by the being's nightmarish gaze.

Zeynap reacted quickly, waving his arms about and creating a zone of sickly green light that permeated the area around the remaining bodak.

The bodak wailed in pain as the energy from the green light burned away its cloak, revealing a strange smooth-skinned humanoid being beneath. Its face now a chaotic tangle of dancing red and orange and white lights.  

The bodak continued its advanced towards the party even as they slowly withdrew into the corridor behind them. The second bodak, slowed by the burning green light, appeared in the corridor behind the first one. Despite their inevitable advance, the bodaks never came closer than fifteen feet from Argent. They simply continued to stare him down with their malevolent death gaze. Argent, for his part, kept his eyes averted and his shield held up.

Zeynap, Bramble, and Argent withstood the painful aura of the bodaks long enough for the green radiation to complete its work. The green light continued to burn away the bodaks - their body slowly disintegrating away and turning into large flakes like burned paper  - until all that remained of the bodaks dissipated into crispy ash!

Stalking the Invisible Stalker
"Could still use some help here!" called Lukanu. 

Argent moved to assist the Omuan champion. She was fighting an invisible opponent. Argent could deduce roughly where the assailant stood and blindly attacked that area. Argent and Lukanu finally heard a raspy screeching sound like broken glass pulled across violin strings. They were no longer being attacked. 

"Did we kill it?" asked Lukanu.

"I don't think so," replied Argent.

Bramble made a suggestion, "It retreated! Keep pushing forward. These corridors are narrow enough that you have to run into eventually! Zeynap, tell them what that green light does."

Zeynap smiled, "The green light will illuminate anything invisible within it!"

Bramble patted Zeynap on the back and pointed to Argent and Lukanu, "So keep going! Force it into the light or into a corner!"

Argent and Lukanu made their way down the corridor, weapons ready. They reached the great hall. Most of the hall was bathed in the iridescent radiance. The pair spread out to try to push  ]the invisible attacker into the radiance and keep it from escaping past them. The invisible creature was not in the hall. They pushed on down the rear corridor. They turned the corner and saw an alcove halfway down the hall on the right. A large green devil face was carved into the back of the alcove. Similar to the one at the entrance, its mouth was a dark void and large enough to crawl into. 

The coruscating radiance bathed the corridor up to the alcove. Argent pushed forward towards the alcove. As he approached, he was struck by an invisible attacker. He counterattacked and once more heard the thing scream in pain. He could feel the force drive the mass of the creature to the ground. He could feel its invisible solid form become soft and quickly evaporate into air. 

"Nice!" declared Bramble, "We stalked the invisible stalker!"

Vithi-Zorai
The area appeared to be free of opposition. They rested and took stock of their surroundings.

They examined the painting of the robed figure with a severed stump holding its dismembered right fore-arm.

They tried to high-five the severed hand. Nothing happened.
They put the equivalent weight of the crown back on the pedestal. Nothing happened.
They called for assistance from those outside. They heard no response.

DM Comment-
Realistically, if a PC was outside the door when it closed, they could just high five the painting again to re-open it. And I had two PCs and two NPCs outside. However, Apparently's player was out this week so Apparently had brain fever and Xoc-Wik's player had to leave just before the party entered the Maze of Death, so he too had brain fever. 

I justified it to myself by ruling that no one can open the door from the outside while there were people inside. 

Bramble wondered aloud if the void inside the mouth connected with the void inside the devil mouth near the entrance

DM Comment-
Given what was actually inside the devil's mouth, I almost choked when Bramble's player suggested that.

This fruitless experimentation went on for some time. It became increasingly clear that the only way out was for one of them to sever their arm. No one seemed willing to volunteer. Bramble, Argent, and Zeynap stood around the stone slab, pondering their options. Zorai quietly slipped away. Lukanu, suspicious, got up and followed her.

Argent stood up and took a deep breath, "I will-"

He was interrupted by an eerie scream of pain from the devil face.

The trio ran to investigate. They found Zorai on her knees before the devil's mouth, clutching her severed right arm. The hand and forearm had been cleanly removed and cauterized.


Lukanu stood looking impassively at Zorai, her arms folded.

No words were said. It was clear that the devil's mouth had taken Zorai's arm. It was also clear that Lukanu watched and made no attempt to stop her. Indeed, it appeared that Lukanu approved of the decision as the most logical choice. The look on Lukanu's face almost said, "It's what she deserved."

Zorai sobbed. Zeynap helped her up and carried her back to the center hall.

"Why didn't you try to stop her?" Bramble asked.

"Why would I? I didn't know it would sever her arm!" replied Lukanu, indignantly, "I thought she was just trying to find another way out."

Zorai held her stump up to the painting. The stone slab raised.

"That being said, I don't mind how it turned out. She's a vyth. The vyth kidnap Omuans as slaves. She probably deserved this. Besides, now we can escape."

"But I was about to voluntarily sever my arm! It should have been me!" said Argent.

"No, we need all the warriors with all their limbs right now." said Lukanu, "We don't need- THAT." she nodded her head towards Zorai. Zeynap wrapped a blanket around the frail grey-skinned creature.

Lawrence the Lizard
Once the party was reunited with those trapped outside the first stone slab, Zorai opened the second stone slab in the center hall. A narrow corridor descended a long flight of stairs.

Argent led the way down the stairs and down the remaining corridor. They emerged near the end of a wide hall that connected to the atrium far to the left. Immediately to the right, at the end of the hall, was another green devil face. The mouth of this face was not cloaked in darkness. One could easily see the space beyond. It appeared to be just large enough for a man to craw inside and stand up, which Argent did.

Argent looked around.

He saw a small colorful lizard of a type common to the jungles of Chult.

"Hello there," said Argent.

"'Allo!" replied the lizard in perfect Avallonian, "Pleased to meet you! Name's Lawrence!"

Argent jumped back and hit his head on the ceiling of the confined space.

TO BE CONTINUED...


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"The Vault of the Unseen Watchman" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 35


While the rest of the party slept, Zeynap stood watch. At least he had the spirit of Popozotl to keep him company while he sat up, alone.

A sound caught Zeynap's attention. He could hear someone whispering down the squat access tunnel that led to the Chamber of Reflection. He crawled on his hands and knees to the hard bend to the left. He carefully listened around the corner. He heard a whispering voice giving commands.

"There’s no time, just leave it. Wait! Did you hear something just now?”

Zeynap held his breath.


CHAPTER 35
"THE VAULT OF THE UNSEEN WATCHMAN"

THE EXPEDITION
  • Bramble Wolf - a theran barbarian wise-man (Wildhunt Shifter Druid) searching for the legendary origin of his tribe, recently transformed into a woman by a magic fountain. Current bearer of the spirit of the trustworthy god Moa.
  • 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. Current bearer of the spirit of the foolhardy god of froghemoths named Kubazan.
  • 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. Current bearer of the spirit of the proud warrior god Popazotl.
  • Argent Truth-Sayer - a golden azi knight errant of Bhamut (Dragonborn Paladin) in the service of Bhamut, sent on a holy mission to join the expedition to destroy the Soul Monger. Current bearer of the spirit of the selfish god of wealth Nangnang.
NPCs
  • Orvex Ocrammas - translator and guide for hire; rescued from the Fane of the Night Serpent.

The Caretakers
The voice whispered, "Where does that access corridor go? What do you mean you don't know?"

Zeynap froze.

"I believe that we're being observed. Quickly. Back to the forge. You can reset the tomb later."

Zeynap heard movement and shuffling. He decided to inch forward to take a look. He made his way close enough so he could see into the Hall of Reflection.

He saw a tall figure clad in tattered robes, draped in chains. The figure concealed its face behind a bronze mask. What Zeynap could see of the figure's skin was dry and desiccated with an ashen complexion and loose stringy hair. He was directing the evacuation of several waist-tall caretakers. After they had cleared out in the direction of the atrium, the tall figure paused and surveyed the room. Zeynap ducked back and hoped he hadn't been seen.

When he dared once more peek, he saw that the hall had been abandoned save for a lone skeleton staggering around confused. The skeleton had a long key-shaped growth emerging from the back of its head.

Zeynap retreated into the access corridor and returned to the chamber of respite.

Zeynap woke up the sleeping Bramble to tell her what he'd seen. Bramble dismissed Zeynap's account as a dream and told him to go back to sleep.

Zeynap looked around at the sleeping assemblage and sighed.

Life with Archie
Hours passed and members of the party eventually roused from sleep one by one. The party made time for Apparently to summon another animal companion from the spirit world. She decided to forego the large Chak'sa in favor of a smaller more portable specimen. Upon completion of the ritual there appeared from the ether a feathered reptile. The creature was the size of a large chicken with bright blue plumage and a reptilian head filled with hundreds of tiny needle-sharp teeth.

She named him "Archie".


Zeynap, looking on, took a long drink out of the water skin. He suddenly fell to the ground and began to convulse as if in a seizure. Xoc-Wik stood to attention, "Is he okay?"

Bramble could barely be bothered to look. Argent simply nodded, "It's happening to him now."

"What is it?" inquired Xoc-Wik worriedly.

Argent replied, "He drank some tainted water from the fountain."

"Did I look like that?" asked Bramble.

"Yes," said Argent, "Unfortunately all our water is tainted. This could happen to you to."

"WHAT IS HAPPENING?" demanded the b'alam.

Zeynap stopped convulsing. The celestial warlock sat up, dazed. She was now a woman.

"Welcome to the club," said Bramble, who raised the water skin in salute before taking her own swig.



Under Repairs
Suitably rested and refreshed, the party returned to the Hall of Reflection. The skeleton key was gone.

Bramble took a trident off the wall and passed through the curtain of magical water. Argent took down a trident and prepared to do the same.

"Wait," said Zeynap, "Could we all hold on to the same trident and cross over together?"

Argent paused and shrugged. He held out the trident and Zeynap and Apparently took hold. They attempted to pass through the curtain. The curtain released a torrent of water that slammed them up against the far wall along with Xoc-Wik who was still on that side of the room. The four regained their lost breath and picked themselves up.

"I guess the answer is no." muttered Zeynap.

"Hey! Quit messing around!" shouted Bramble.

The party continued through the curtain by passing the trident back through to those behind them.

They found the passage to the tomb of I'Jin to be blocked by two armored golems connected by a spiked chain.

"Guess its still closed," complained Argent, "Where to now?"

"Back to the windy room!" declared Zeynap.

The Golem Pit
Crawling through the access tunnels, they passed through the chamber of respite and returned to the long hall with the floating wooden disks. Argent used his newfound ability to defy gravity and magically walk along walls to carry the others across one by one.

They quickly located the secret door at the top of the stairs behind the far balcony.

The door opened into a room dominated by a pit, fifteen foot long, wide, and deep. Two large statues stood atop plinths on either side of the pit. The near statue depicted the god Amun Tor, god of riddles and mysteries. The far statue depicted Lorimes, Lord of Ravens, god of magic. To the left was an empty plinth.

At the bottom of the pit was a clay statue of a humanoid figure with smooth unfinished features. The statue loomed over a large lock box.

Argent stood atop the empty plinth. He offered greetings and deference to the statues of the gods. Zeynap walked up and ordered him off the plinth.

Zeynap climbed onto the plinth and looked around. Apparently walked up to the near statue and examined it. She determined that it rotated to the left. She turned it as far as it would go, which happened to be looking directly at Zeynap.

Zeynap disappeared with a strange "BOOMP!" noise and reappeared at the bottom of the pit.

The clay statue became animated and attacked Zeynap!

"Hey now!"

Apparently sent Archie into the pit to help Zeynap. The reptile-bird skittered off an invisible force field that prevented anything from entering or leaving the pit.

Argent climbed back up onto the plinth, "Send me in!"

Xoc-Wik, meanwhile, turned the far statue to the right until it pointed at Argent on the plinth. There was another "BOOMP!" as the clay statue disappeared from the pit, reappearing on the plinth and displacing Argent. The dragon-man fell off the plinth to the floor but quickly stood back up.

Bramble shouted to Zeynap, "Will your eldritch blasts go through the force field?"

"Let's find out!" replied the Eusebean. She hurled magical blasts at the clay statue which passed through and damaged the animated statue.

After a brief but intense battle, the clay statue was destroyed.

Zeynap opened the chest and found two more glass eyeballs, one green and the other pink, resting on a silk pillow.

Argent called down, "Hey! Dibs on the pillow!"

Beat the Drum
To the right of the pit was a round metal hatch. Argent deduced that the hatch led to the drum-shaped room they looked into earlier. Argent opened the hatch, looked in, and confirmed his suspicions.

"Anyone want to go in there?" he asked.

"Why? It's empty. What's the point?" asked Bramble.

Argent shrugged, "Maybe you've got to activate something?"

"I've got an idea!" exclaimed Bramble. Bramble summoned four translucent glowing wolves from the spirit world. He sent two of the wolves through the hatch and into the room.

The hatch closed of its own accord and would not reopen. The two remaining wolves exchanged a nervous glance.

About two minutes passed with no sound and no indication that anything was happening. The door eventually opened.

The drum was empty. The spirit wolves were gone. Bramble detected the faint smell of noxious gas.

Bramble turned around, "Apparently, maybe you can go in and hover in the middle. You don't need to breathe right? You'll be immune to the gas."

Apparently shrugged and hovered off the floor. She maneuvered herself into the drum, floating in the center.

The hatched closed behind her.




DM Note-
I took Apparently's player into a separate room so that her experience would be a secret from the others.

Apparently hovered in the center of the drum. The drum began to spin around her. After a few seconds six inch spikes emerged from the walls of the drum. The spiked drum continued to spin for several minutes.

DM Note- 
I honestly didn't know what to do here. The trap was activated and deactivated by a clay golem operating a lever. What would the golem do? She was immune to the trap!  

After spinning for about ten minutes the spikes retracted, the drum came to a stop, and the hatch opened.  She pulled herself out of the drum and recounted her experience.

"So the room didn't do anything? Its purpose was just to kill us?" inquired Bramble incredulously.

"Yep!" she said.

"This dungeon SUCKS!" exclaimed Bramble.

Nanny Bramble
The party decided to rest for an hour.

Zeynap looked closely at Bramble. As a theran, Bramble already possessed somewhat bestial features and a short coat of reddish brown fur. However, Zeynap noticed that Bramble's ears had grown longer and more floppy and were hanging perpendicular to her head, her eyes now possessed horizontal slits for pupils, and small horns were growing from the back of her head.

"Wha-a-a-a-a-t is it?" bleated Bramble.

Zeynap recoiled, "Uh, were you aware you were turning into a goat?"

"I a-a-a-am?" said Bramble, absentmindedly, She felt her ears and horns. "Huh."

"That doesn't bother you?" inquired Zeynap incredulously.

Bramble shrugged. "Na-a-a-a-ah. I'm a theran wise woman. I change shape a-a-all the time. I've turned into sha-a-a-a-arks and giant a-a-a-apes." She used her hands to illustrate her body, "Just two days ago I became a woman! Possibly permanently! Becoming a goat is no big deal."

"What's causing it?"

Bramble examined the staff she obtained from the dead body of the goat-man. "If I had to guess, I'd say this staff is probably cursed. Still, its no-o-o-o-ot a big deal."



The Skeleton Key Returns
The party now had eight glass eyeballs, each a different color. They didn't know for what the eyeballs were needed. They assumed they would unlock something later. Given that there were nine trickster gods, they assumed there were nine eyeballs. Therefore they still needed one.

They once more crossed the long hall one at a time. They crawled through the access corridor through the chamber of respite and returned to the hall of reflection.

The skeleton with the key growing out of its skull had returned. The skeleton was pulling weapons out of each statue on the wall. It tried to push against the unarmed statue with the head of a hawk. As it did so its skeletal fingers appeared to pass through the statue.

The skeleton noticed Zeynap crawling out of the access passage. It grabbed a mace from one of the statues and attacked! Zeynap made short world of the skeleton with a few eldritch blasts. He picked up the skull. This key was shaped like a pentagram.

Zeynap told the others about what she saw and searched the hawk-statue. She found a ninth glass eye!

She decided to check the other statues but found nothing. She then crossed through the water curtain.

"Zeynap! Wait! You forgot the-" was all Argent could get out as the water collapsed and a massive torrent crushed everyone against the far wall.

"Dammit, Zeynap!" shouted Bramble.

Zeynap apologized and picked a trident off the wall. She passed through the water curtain and searched the remaining statues, finding a tenth crystal eyeball.

"Ten eyes?" wondered Argent.

"Oh. Cra-a-a-a-ap." exhaled Bramble, "Think about it. What has ten eyes?"

Argent groaned.

Zeynap said, "The Tomb Guardians are still there. What now?"

Bramble replied, "Well, I think we have all the eyes we need. Let's go back. I have an idea."


Belchorz the Unseen
Having found ten eyes, the party retraced their steps once more back to the room of the golem pit. They proceeded to explore the narrow passage on the far end of the room.

The passage turned right and ended at a large iron door. Set in the center of the door, about head-height, was a round mirror. Ten empty sockets were located in a circle around the mirror. Each socket large enough to hold one of the glass eyes.

Apparently carefully placed an eye in the socket. Nothing happened. She continued placing eyes in the sockets. She noticed that her reflection in the mirror began to change. She became older, weaker, diseased.

She turned around and asked Argent, "Amd I getting older?"

"No?" said Argent, quizzically, "Is there a problem?"

"Nope. No problem. Thanks." She continued placing the eyes in all ten sockets. The heavy door clicked and swung open towards the room within.

DM Commentary-
The players said "Is that it? Nothing happens? It just looks creepy?"

I replied, "Yep. That's it."

"That's cool, I guess. Nice touch."

The door opened to reveal what appeared to be a spherical room made of marble. The room was sixty feet in diameter. The door was located at the sphere's equator. A hundred tiny glowing motes hovered in mid-air like tiny stars, illuminating the room. The perimeter of the room contained ten niches filled with glittering treasures.

It was soon discovered that the room was not, in fact, spherical but that the floor was polished to a mirror finish and was highly reflective.

Hovering twenty feet above the floor was a round object covered by a silk cloth.

Bramble exchanged a worried glance with Argent and nodded.

Apparently moved into the room first with Archie. The floor was very slippery and Apparently had difficulty holding her footing without falling or sliding. Archie flew up to the hovering orb and removed the silk covering. The covering fell to the floor below revealing a featureless iron ball.

All of Apparently's steel-tipped arrows suddenly flew out of her quiver, along with her short swords and her magic long-sword. All her metal weapons were magically drawn to the metal sphere where they stuck and held fast. All she had left was her bow and a single arrow that she was holding in her hand.

A deep evil voice laughed, "You poor deluded fools! You have entered the vault of Belchorzh the Unseen! You are about to die! It's just too bad you'll never see it coming!"

Apparently was struck by a sudden paralysis. Her body was then lifted off the floor and raised into the air as if held by a giant unseen hand. She was subsequently attacked by an invisible assailant biting her head as if chewing on a rag-doll.

Bramble, who neither wore nor carried metal, transformed into a fifty-foot tall ape and moved into the room, sliding until she hit the far wall. Zeynap moved into the room, albeit more carefully. Seeing the attack on Apparently, Zeynap sent some eldritch blasts into the general direction, but he had no idea if his attacks hit or missed.

The invisible attacker dropped Apparently who fell, paralyzed, to the floor with a thud. Bramble suddenly transformed back into her natural form as all magic in her vicinity was negated. Even her goat-like features were momentarily suppressed!

Bramble and Zeynap could feel their minds and bodies assaulted. Zeynap felt waves of sleep wash over her but was able to shrug it off and stay awake. Bramble was seized by multiple spasms of pain as her body began to disintegrate from within! She quickly dodged away from the effect but was severely injured each time.

Argent, clad in metal armor and carrying multiple metallic weapons, was standing in the entrance. He could feel the pull of the magical sphere. He was able to resist the pull and moved backwards into the hall, away from the entrance. Xoc-Wik, too, managed to keep well away from the entrance.

Archie picked the drape up off the floor and took flight, dropping the covering over the sphere once more. All of Apparently's weapons and arrows clattered to the floor.

Xoc-Wik and Argent moved immediately into the room. Argent drew his axe and said a prayer of blessing for his companions. Xoc-Wik estimated the position of their enemy and loosed an tangle-arrow. The arrow exploded into thorny vines and disappeared!

"I think I got him!"

The invisible voice laughed and mocked them as each member of the party was able to shrug off the effects of some unseen magical attack.

Bramble and Zeynap separated and kept moving around the room to avoid the areas of magic-suppression. While Zeynap found himself in the anti-magic, Bramble was able to call upon the spirits of nature to surround everything in one quarter of the room with magical glitter dust. The glitter dust outlined the form of an invisible beholder entangled in vines and thorns!

The laughing mockery came to a sudden end!

Xoc-Wik moved into position and launched a blinding volley of explosive arrows, each finding its target with spectacular results! Even Archie managed to fly up and get a few bites in!

The last act of Belchorz the invisible beholder was to telekinetically remove the drape covering the sphere, once more drawing all of Apparently's loose weapons as well as the armored dragon-man, Argent and all of Xoc-Wik's arrows.

Xoc-Wik held his last harrow in his paws. He drew his bow and let fly. The arrow pierced Belchorz and exploded in a shower of sparks and glitter!



Archie returned the covering to the orb and Argent fell crashing to the floor with Apparently's weapons.

DM Commentary-
I made a few minor mistakes in this fight. 

1. The invisible beholder should never have bitten Apparently. I should have just lifted her and dropped her for falling damage. Biting her gave away his general position and allowed the party to attack with disadvantage.

2. Everyone, including myself, quickly forgot about the slippery floor. That would have made the fight more interesting.

3. The beholder's anti-magic field should have dispelled Bramble's faerie fire.  But that's okay because there were a few times where I used an eye-beam and anti-magic field against Zeynap on the same round. 

4. I ran the beholder attacks old-school, rolling randomly. I should have been more tactical and just chosen the attacks. 

Still, despite my few mistakes, the players felt challenged and were worried about their chances. They commented after the battle that they really enjoyed the encounter and thought both the opponent and the setting were very interesting.

After the battle the team rested and recovered. They searched the ten treasure vaults. In all they found:
  • Thousands of coins of various types, more than they could carry.
  • A clay chameleon statuette covered in crystal beads that changed colors.
  • Three painted gold masks sized for children and shaped like the faces of a bat, a monkey, and a parrot, respectively.
  • A gold coronet shaped like an octopus with mother-of- pearl eyes (2,500 gp)
  • A potion
  • A small black bead
  • A bronze shield shaped like a green devil’s face which was dismissed out of hand for its association with Acererak.
  • A note that read-
CONGRATULATIONS! ENJOY YOUR VICTORY
FOR IT WILL BE SHORT LIVED!
I AM CERTAIN YOU GAVE OUR ETERNAL
MASTER MUCH ENTERTAINMENT.
YOU MAY HAVE DEFEATED THE
MIGHTY BELCHORZH BUT MY
FELLOW GUARDIANS WILL SOON
DESTROY YOU AND WHILE WITHERS WILL
RESTORE ME YOU WILL BE REDUCED
TO SHAMBLING AUTOMATONS
AND YOUR PRECIOUS VICTORY WILL
HAVE BEEN IN VAIN!
THINK ABOUT THAT AS YOU CELEBRATE!

The Tomb of I'Jin
Having defeated Belchorzh, the party returned to the tomb of I'Jin. The guardians were gone and the entrance to the tomb had been restored to its original condition. Zeynap looked through the peephole and saw the image of the crocodile. Argent pressed the secret button and the wall descended into the floor.

The sarcophagus was once more resting atop the funerary barge in the center of the room! The hole in the ceiling was cloaked in inky blackness. The bones of a long-dead body had been restored to its original location atop the tile representing a foot.

"Interesting!" said Bramble, "I guess they found where we left the sarcophagus."

Argent stepped onto the vulture tile. Nothing happened.

Zeynap saw that the vulture in the peephole changed to an image of serpent. Argent took a step. The image changed to a door, step, a reed, step, a scarab, step, a scepter, step, a foot, step, an urn, step. The image became a vulture again. By this time Argent could simply step on to the dais. As he did so the lid to the sarcophagus magically opened. He picked up the sarcophagus and the column of force returned. He put it down and told Zeynap to enter.

Zeynap followed the same path across the tiles and eventually stood over the sarcophagus of I'Jin, the trickster god of the unicorn-rabbits known as al-miraj.

"It's all yours, sir," said Argent with a flourish.

Zeynap lifted the lid. Within was a small straight spiral horn. He lifted it up and the rainbow-hued iridescent spirit of I'Jin leapt into him.

Papozotl refused to let go! The two spirit gods did battle. The stork-like iblis fought against the rabbit-like al-miraj. Eventually I'Jin won out and Papozotl was banished.

Zeynap glowed with rainbow hued power! He was a new man! -er, woman.

DM Commentary-
Zeynap's player was not happy with Papozotl and was DYING to get I'Jin. Zeynap is a Celestial Pact Warlock. Zeynap is already bonded to a unicorn. He really wanted to add a bunnicorn to his repertoire. Mechanically, Papozotl just gave Zeynap the ability to never be surprised - a power he already possessed thanks to a feat. The +2 to Wisdom skill checks was useless. Zeynap was able to swap that out for a Dexterity of 23! Zeynap's player was a happy man! 

On top of that, when I first read I'Jin's flaw, I couldn't stop laughing! 

"I never stick to a plan!" is about as close as one can get to describing Zeynap's player! It's fate! Kismet! Karma! 


TO BE CONTINUED...