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.
"THE VAULT OF THE UNSEEN WATCHMAN"
"THE VAULT OF THE UNSEEN WATCHMAN"
- 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.
- Orvex Ocrammas - translator and guide for hire; rescued from the Fane of the Night Serpent.
The voice whispered, "Where does that access corridor go? What do you mean you don't know?"
"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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?"
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.
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.
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.
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...