Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"Imbok and a Bag of Nails" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 21


The Forbidden City
The party woke with the dawn. It was now the fiftieth day since they left Port Nyanzaru. They had spent the night in the walled compound of the gatehouse in the southwest corner of the Forbidden City of Omu. It was sunny, warm, and humid. Feathered reptile-birds darted overhead chasing large insects. Apparently and Xoc-Wik had both contracted Brain Fever during the night. Vinnie volunteered to stay with them as well as watch over the two saurian beasts of burden.

The rest of the party- Bramble, Zeynap, Argent, and Eku - gathered their equipment to begin their exploration of the city. From their vantage point on the raised ledge they could see the waterfall to the northern third of the east side of the city, the circular walls and towers along the middle-third, and the lake of lava on the southern third. They could also see the elevated boulevards that allowed easy but conspicuous travel through the ruins. What were once city streets were now choked with jungle trees and dense foliage. Only the tops of the crumbling buildings rose above the canopy of the trees. They decided to avoid the boulevards and stick to the streets which concealed their travel.

They climbed down the steep slope of the ledge overlooking the city and avoided the ruined buildings. They made their way to the land-bridge connecting the promontory overlooking the lake of lava to the rest of the city.


They parted the palm fronds as they neared the land bridge and saw a group of small humanoid beings. The creatures appeared to be human-shaped but made of blue-gray mold. Each creature was no taller than a man's waist. Two of the mold-men were carrying a green-skinned frog of equivalent size. The giant frog was tied up so that it couldn't move and was gagged. The mold-men were led by a larger leader. They seemed to be a procession taking the frog over the land-bridge to the promontory. This tableau presented only one possible scenario - they were planning on sacrificing the frog to the lava!



CHAPTER 21, "IMBOK AND A BAG OF NAILS"

THE EXPEDITION
  • Bramble Wolf - a theran barbarian wise-man (Wildhunt Shifter Druid) searching for the legendary origin of his tribe.
  • Apparently Jones - a blue-skinned demijin caravan guide and animal trainer (Air Genasi Ranger) from Akasa, the land of sky mountains. Having failed to find work in Port Nyanzaru as an animal handler, she has joined the expedition to the interior as a scout.
  • Chak'sa - Apparently's honker (parasaurolophus) companion.
  • Xoc-Wik - a b'alam warrior (Tabaxi Fighter) from the jungles of Bres, searching for those responsible for the destruction of his tribe.
  • Zeynap Shiravadakar - a Eusebean smuggler (Human Warlock) bearing the spirit of a celestial unicorn.
  • Argent Truth-Sayer - a golden azi knight errant of Bahamut (Dragonborn Paladin) in the service of Bahamut, sent on a holy mission to join the expedition to destroy the Soul Monger. 
NPCs
  • Eku - a mysterious shape-changing wise-woman from Chult, hired as a guide.
  • Vinnie - rough and tumble dinosaur wrangler who wished to learn from Apparently, possibly from 19th century Boston on Earth. 
The Rescue
Argent stepped forward and gave a peaceful greeting. He then requested that the pygmy mold-men release their prisoner, offering the blessings of Bahamut over any gift they believed they might receive from the lava.

The chief of the mold-men cocked his turnip-shaped head and spoke in an unintelligible series of hisses and rasps.

"Anybody speak their language? Eku, how about you?" asked Argent.

"I'm afraid I do not." replied Eku.

Argent repeated his offer to the mold-pygmies. The chieftain became visibly annoyed and hissed orders to his compatriots, pointing angrily at the interlopers.

The two mold-pygmies holding the bound amphibian prisoner resumed moving towards the edge of the cliff accompanied by two guards. The chieftain and four others spread out in a semi-circle. They formed slings out of vines growing on their bodies, loaded them with stones, and began spinning.

Argent stepped forward and the slingers let fly. A few ricocheted off Argent's armor with a loud "PANG!" but a few found their mark. Two of the mold-pygmies then formed wooden talons and closed with Argent.

Argent whispered a prayer of protection to provide sanctuary to the bound prisoner. The two mold-pygmiesholding the prisoner began to hesitate.

DM Note- Sanctuary requires anyone who might attack the protected target to need to succeed against a Saving Throw. I ruled that both carriers would need to lose their saving throws in order to throw the prisoner over the side. If one succeeded and the other failed, the prisoner was safe.

Argent had received a few blows and was looking injured. Bramble called out, "How are you doing, Argent?"

"I've felt better!" was his labored reply.

"I'm not a great healer but I can see what I can do!" replied Bramble.

"Don't worry about it," shouted Zeynap, "I'm a great healer! I got this!"

Argent hewed through his foes with his axe. To his surprise, the injuries began to heal!

"Eku! What are these things? How do we kill them?" asked Argent.

"If I recall correctly, I believe their healing ability is curtailed by fire, poison, or necromancy!"

Bramble summoned forth a spirit of flame which harried the mold-pygmies holding the prisoner, forcing them to drop their prisoner and run away from the rolling ball of flame. Bramble then ran up and attacked one of the mold-pygmieswith his staff.

Zeynap created a magical hand of icy necromancy that floated around touching the mold-pygmies. Whatever the hand touched was shocked with powerful death magic.


The chieftain closed with Argent and Bramble. He planted his feet and clenched his fists as if in great physical effort. A bulbous shape worked its way up from the chieftain's core, through his chest and neck, swelling his head, and bursting out of the top of his head in a great explosion of pollen that engulfed both Bramble and Argent. The pair coughed and cleared the pollen out of their eyes but were otherwise unharmed.

The amphibian prisoner had been dropped as the ball of flame chased the mold-pygmies around the circular promontory. The prisoner was sliding towards the edge. Zeynap ran past Argent and Bramble and grabbed the prisoner before he fell over the side into the lava far below.

A mold-pygmy caught Argent off-guard with a sling stone to the head. Argent fell down.

Bramble stared at the fallen form of Argent in disbelief before turning his ire to Zeynap, "What happened? I thought you had this?"

"Uh, I was waiting for the sign." replied Zeynap sheepishly.

"What the hell was the sign?" demanded Bramble.

"Him falling over?" replied Zeynap as he carried the bound frog-man away from the edge of the promontory.

Bramble gritted his teeth and called upon the spirits of the forest to heal Argent. The dragon-man stood back up and continued fighting.

The chieftain was quickly dispatched and the rest of the mold-pygmies were soon defeated.

The amphibian's bindings were removed. He stood up to reveal a humanoid tree-frog with bright green skin. He thanked his rescuers with obsequious bowing and babbling in his native tongue which no one understood.

The little frog-man used a mixture of his own squeaking high-pitched language and pantomime to communicate that his name was "Imbok". After learning the names of everyone in the party, he implored them to follow him. The party agreed. They accompanied the little frog-man, whom Eku identified as a "grung", north along the west side of the lake of lava. The encountered a waterfall where the water that flooded the northeast portion of the city drained into the lava. Imbok took them to a large fallen tree that bridged the draining water about two hundred feet above the falls. He motioned for the party to follow him across.


The Ambush
The fallen tree was ten feet wide and crossing the flowing water proved easy. Something bothered Zeynap, however. He had a bad feeling.

Suddenly Zeynap was struck by a poisoned-tipped hunting arrow loosed from a hidden archer on a rooftop fifty yards away. Zeynap gurgled and staggered backwards clutching the arrow protruding from his shoulder. He looked at his companions who stared dumbfounded at the sight. Zeynap managed to take a deep breath and regain his composure. He was severely wounded but not fatally so. He saw his attacker leap from the roof of the building on the right to the roof of the building on the left. The archer was lithe with a long tail - a b'alam hunter from the continent of Bres!

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Zeynap and the others quickly moved off the tree to the forested bank. They had no line of sight on the attacker. Eku transformed into flying reptile-bird and took flight. She circled over a rooftop to indicate the hidden position of the attacker. A few more arrows flew past as they made their way through the trees.

As they neared the base of the buildings, the party members became wary. They moved cautiously, scanning the rooftops. There was a blur as the b'alam darted from the building on the left to the building on the right across the vine-choked streets in front of them. The b'alam climbed the building on right in a flash. He leaned over the roof and took aim.

Bramble was ready for him. He called upon the spirits of nature and engulfed the b'alam in a glowing nimbus of magical energy. Zeynap cast a powerful attack spell and the b'alam hissed in pain and anger.

The b'alam threw up his hands and called out in Atlantean, "I surrender! I give up!"

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Bag-of-Nails
The elderly b'alam hunter introduced himself as "Bag-of-Nails". It was clear to the party that Bag-of-Nails was a few candles short in his chandelier. Bag-of-Nails would speak a few sentences then forget where he was, then immediately begin speaking about an entirely different subject, then loop back again to the beginning. Sometimes Bag-of-Nails would seem to forget where he was entirely, believing he was back in his homeland of Bres in younger days. Other times he would react to the party as if he had just saw them all over again.

From Bag-of-Nails fragmented non-sequiters they gleaned that he had come here looking for the legendary artifact "the Navel of the Moon" which he planned to use to find his missing son. Bag-of-Nails had never heard of the Soulmonger and could provide no clues to its location. They also learned that he was accompanied by two other b'alam - Hooded-Lantern and Copper-Bell. All three were hunting a gargantuan beast known as the "King of Feathers" - a monstrous enemy that moved like a ghost and could walk through walls. He had attacked the party because he believed them to be rivals who had also come to kill the King of Feathers.

Bag-of-Nails insistently offered to cook the party some stew. They repeatedly declined. Eventually Argent agreed to have some stew so they entered the nearby structure in which Bag-of-Nails was camped.

The structure was formerly the home of a troupe of Omuan actors. Wooden and clay masks were mounted on the walls, many had fallen to the floor and were broken. Zeynap looked around while Bag-of-Nails prepared some stew for Argent. Zeynap found four gem-encrusted masks hidden away, each worth 25 gold coins. He stashed them in a sack to display later.

Zeynap rejoined the party as Argent finished his stew. They thanked the old b'alam for his hospitality and bade him farewell.


Chief Yorb
Imbok led the party onto a nearby elevated boulevard leading east. The party was wary of being so in the open but nothing bad happened. Imbok left the boulevard and turned north, towards the central tower surrounded by a great circular wall. Thousands of black leathery-winged reptiles slowly orbited the tower  giving the impression of swirling dark cloud. Imbok led them around the outside of round walls that surrounded the tower, warily looking in all directions as if he were afraid for his life.


The party circled around the back of the wall and arrived at Imbok's home, the flooded northeast third of the city. Imbok led them to a walled compound surrounded by knee-deep water. The walls were breached in several places, Two monoliths carved like frogs flanked the entrance. Within was a structure shaped like a trapezoid. Its ancient roof was covered in vines and trees. A hadrosaur fed on lake grass nearby.

Dozens of small frog-people crouched in the water, the tops of the heads and eyes peeking above the water. Fist-sized tad-poles swam around Argent's ankles.  Archers on the tree-covered roof appeared and drew their bows. Four orange-skinned warriors emerged from the lake. Imbok intervened and introduced his new friends. A large gold-skinned leader wearing a magnificent headdress emerged and greeted Imbok then addressed the party.

Though they could not understand his words, the party gathered that the chieftains name was Yorb and that he was grateful for the return of Imbok who was some kind of off-spring.

After the offering of thanks, it soon became clear that the two groups could not understand each other. So they stood there in awkward silence with nothing really to say. Argent smiled politely.

Zeynap finally got the hint, "I think we're done here and he's politely trying to ask us to leave."

Argent replied, "Yes, of course. We'll take our leave now."

In Search of the Soulmonger
Having delivered Imbok safely to his people, the party decided to resume their search for the Soulmonger. Their prime target was the tower within the circular inner walls orbited by the dark swarm of black leathery-winged reptiles. They retraced their steps along the outside of the wall until they found an entrance. They passed through the gate and carefully advanced.


The interior of the wall was composed of more jungle-clad ruins. Dozens, possibly hundreds of snakes of all types slithered on every tree branch and surface. Zeynap spun around as three humanoid figures with serpentine heads appeared seemingly from nowhere! The serpent-men were the twisted half-blooded warriors who served as the guards of the dreaded Nagina Samrajya! They had assumed the forms of snakes and were lying in wait with the other snakes in the area. The half-bloods abandoned their serpentine disguises, drew their bows, and loosed poisoned arrows at the party!

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One nagina warrior approached from behind the party. Two others emerged in front of the party. Zeynap engaged the warrior to the rear with magical spells while Argent and Bramble advanced on the enemies in front.

The rear nagina drew an ancient khopesh and rushed Zeynap. Bramble transformed himself into a massive snake and coiled around the nagina to the right, crushing the serpent-man in his powerful coils. Argent challenged the serpent man to the left to a duel. The serpent man threw down his bow and charged Argent with his khopesh.

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The nagina warrior struggled futilely against Bramble's constriction. Frustrated the warrior transformed himself into a snake and the two serpents coiled and twisted in mortal combat!

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Zeynap was able to dispatch the first serpent man and moved to support Argent. Argent warned him to stay away lest he interrupt the duel. Meanwhile Bramble had squeezed all life out of his opponent.

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Eventually Argent was able to defeat his foe and secure the area. They continued their search and discovered a tunnel leading underneath the tower. A foul stench emanated from the tunnel and many tracks showed recent movement into and out of the subterranean lair. The party, however, was exhausted from their exploration of the city and they many battles. They made a note of the location of the entrance and decided to retreat to a safe location to rest.

Exhaustion Sets In
The party returned to the grung compound hoping to rest within its walls. Orange-skinned guards intercepted them before they could enter. The party asked if they could rest within the compound. Chief Yorb, standing behind the guards, smiled blankly. He had no idea what they were saying.

When the party tried to advanced into the compound, the guards blocked their way. Chief Yorb stood resolute, still smiling. His meaning was clear. They were still friends but they were not welcome in the compound. Zeynap sighed and the party discussed their next plan.


The party decided to return to the basecamp from whence they began. It was mid-afternoon. They retraced their steps through the city, circling the outside of the inner wall, traveling down the elevated boulevard, crossing the fallen log, and climbing the embankment to the walled gate house. The route they traveled across the city took about fifteen minutes to traverse. There they decided to rest for the remainder of the day. They would return to the entrance to underground lair tomorrow.


To Be Continued...

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

"The Ring of Winter" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 20


The party traveled ten miles before encountering a cliff on the side of a plateau. The two hundred foot tall cliff stretched to the east and west as far as they could see. They climbed the most accessible section of the cliff and made their way to the top of the plateau. The top was a wide rocky plain with few trees. The edge of the jungle lay a few hundred yards to the south.

The party cautiously crossed the clearing. As they neared its center there appeared a trio of ice giants  about a hundred yards away at the edge of the clearing to the left.

One of the giants spotted the party in the center of the clearing and called the alarm. He bellowed at the party in Atlantean, "Artus Cimber! Surrender yourself and give us what is ours!"

Simultaneously about a hundred yards away to the right another group emerged from the jungle. It was the Ysian merchant Zalma Haik and his entourage of mercenaries and tribal warriors. He was accompanied by a unknown woman with fair skin and a pseudo-dragon perched on her shoulder. They too spotted the party.

Zalma angrily hailed the party, "Artus Cimber! Give us back our property!"

Artus nervously looked at his new friends in an attempt to assess their mood. They did not look happy. He smiled and shrugged.




CHAPTER 20, "THE RING OF WINTER"

THE EXPEDITION
  • Bramble Wolf - a theran barbarian wise-man (Wildhunt Shifter Druid) searching for the legendary origin of his tribe.
  • Apparently Jones - a blue-skinned demijin caravan guide and animal trainer (Air Genasi Ranger) from Akasa, the land of sky mountains. Having failed to find work in Port Nyanzaru as an animal handler, she has joined the expedition to the interior as a scout.
  • Chak'sa - Apparently's honker (parasaurolophus) companion.
  • Xoc-Wik - a b'alam warrior (Tabaxi Fighter) from the jungles of Bres, searching for those responsible for the destruction of his tribe.
  • Zeynap Shiravadakar - a Eusebean smuggler (Human Warlock) bearing the spirit of a celestial unicorn.
  • Argent Truth-Sayer - a golden azi knight errant of Bahamut (Dragonborn Paladin) in the service of Bahamut, sent on a holy mission to join the expedition to destroy the Soul Monger. 
NPCs
  • Eku - a mysterious shape-changing wise-woman from Chult, hired as a guide.
  • Vinnie - rough and tumble dinosaur wrangler who wished to learn from Apparently, possibly from 19th century Boston on Earth. 
  • Artus Cimber - an explorer on a quest to reunite with his lost love.
  • Dragonbait - a saurial from another dimension, friend and traveling companion of Artus Cimber.

Parley
Xoc-Wik and Bramble stood stiff and looked into the distance. They had been overcome by Brain Fever and would be useless.

Argent shouted across the field, "I demand a parley! Perhaps we can come to an arrangement!"

The giants paused, confused. Likewise Zalma's entourage.

Artus approached the dragon-man and addressed him quietly, "You can't be serious! I told you that Zalma wants Dragonbait as some kind of slave. I won't allow that to happen!"

Argent turned his head towards the human, "Do not worry. I am primarily addressing the giants. You say they want only the ring. What claim do they have on it?"

"None that I know of. I told you, the ring has been in Chult for five thousand years. I don't remember how I got it but I woke up with it on my finger and no memory of how it got there!"

"And why do you need it?"

Artus held his right hand with his left hand and looked at the ring, "I need to stay alive. I need to find a way to free my beloved Alisandre from limbo."

The azi smiled - a act that was little more than a frightening display of sharpened teeth, "And you will. You are motivated by love, and love is the most powerful force in the universe!" Argent turned back towards the giants and once more shouted across the fields, "What claim do you have over this ring?"

The largest giant bellowed, "It belongs to the giants of Polarion! It is our birthright! With it we shall plunge all of Antara into a new age of ice and the giants of Polarion shall reclaim the dominion of the giants of old! Enough talk!" The towering blue humanoid shouted commands to his two subordinates in their native language and screamed a deafening war cry. 

The two smaller giants in turn gave commands to their winter wolves, each the size of a horse, and all four began charging across the field towards the party.

Argent turned to the others, "Negotiations are over!"

On the other side of the field, the female wizard began to move forward. Zalma held his hand, "No, wait. Let's see how this goes."

The wizardess glowered at the bald merchant with seething impatience.

Charge
The three giants were three hundred feet away to the left. Two of the giants burst into a run. They were outpaced by their two giant white wolves.

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DM Note- I gave Eku's stats along with a list of creatures into which she could transform to Apparently's player, Artus to Zeynap's player, and Dragonbait to Argent's player.


Apparently drew her longbow and loosed an arrow. The arrow stuck out of the giant's shoulder like a needle in a pincushion. Artus raised his right hand. Snow and ice manifested out of thin air and engulfed the giants and winter wolves in a small blizzard. The white storm died down and the attackers continued their rush unabated. "Well, we know that doesn't work." quipped Artus.

Eku transformed into a spike-tail and prepared to hold the right flank.  Artus and Dragonbait prepared to receive the charging giants.

Artus next raised a magical wall of ice ten feet tall and a hundred feet wide to slow the approach of the giants. The wall was halfway between the party and the giants, a distance of only one hundred feet. One winter wolf bounded over the wall with ease. The other skidded to stop in confusion, sniffing the wall. One of the giants stopped two hundred feet away. He picked up a nearby boulder and hurled it through the air. It landed next to Argent with a thud. The other giant continued running and bounded over the ice wall.

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Argent and Dragonbait rushed forward to meet the oncoming winter wolf in battle. The giant soon caught up but was intercepted by Eku's swinging spiked tail. Chak'sa the honker ran forward to support Argent and Dragonbait, fighting alongside the spike-tail.

The other winter wolf finally bounded over the wall and continued its charge. The second giant continued hurling large rocks at range.
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The giant was trying to rush past to get to Artus. Artus dispelled the wall and created a giant magical hand of ice. The hand reached out and prevented the giant's approach. Argent and Dragonbait dispatched the winter wolf while the giant was held at bay by Eku and the magical hand. The giant swung his axe at Eku and bit deep into her saurian flesh!

DM Note - Natural Twenty! 6d12+6 damage! Yipes! 

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Once the winter wolf was finished they turned their attention to the giant. Zeynap had moved to the right and was zapping the giant with small bolts of magical lightning. The far giant threw a giant boulder which crushed Zeynap with a sickening sound of squelching mud. The far giant then started running to join his kinsman in glorious battle.

DM Note- Natural Twenty! 8d10+6 damage! Youch!

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Argent temporarily withdrew from battle in order to save Zeynap. Even still, it took several moments for Argent to reach his fellow. Luckily he found the human still alive. He rolled the rock off of him and restored him to consciousness.

DM Note- Ever since they were out hunting pirates I've been secretly raising the death save but I haven't told the players yet what it is. I stood behind Zeynap's player and told him if he passed or failed. His first roll was 4, obvious fail. His second roll was 13. I told him it failed. He looked shocked, "What? Seriously? Oh shit!"

Zeynap coughed up blood, "Love may be the most powerful force in the universe... second only to a rock thrown by a giant!

DM Note- Zeynap's player really said that. It was hilarious!

The giant swung his axe once more at Eku. The blow struck so hard that the great spiketail screamed and fell to the ground. 

DM Note- I got out the special mini I had bought just for this occasion. 

The spiketail glowed and re-formed into the shape of a large iridescent snake. The snake rose like an undulating rope and unfurled its chromatic wings. Eku revealed her true form - a celestial being known as a couatl!

The couatl bit the giant. Chak'sa followed up with his swinging tail and brought the first giant to the ground. Dragonbait soon continued the streak by slaying the second winter wolf.

A Quick Getaway

The female wizard standing with Zalma could take it lno longer. She cast a spell of flight upon herself and took to the sky. She darted across the field at an altitude of 60 feet. 

The third giant, watching the proceedings from afar, realized the tide of battle was turning against his kinsmen. He began running forward, stopping only to lob a few boulders into the midst of the battlefield.

The woman in green robes hovered over the battlefield near Artus. She appeared to be of mixed human and sylvan parentage. Her fair skin was covered in fine reptilian opalescent scales. A small pseudo-dragon was perched on her shoulder. Artus was busy controlling the magical hand. She called down to him, "Give me the ring, Artus! Let it go!"

Artus yelled back, "You'll never get this ring, Xandala!" 



The second giant was running towards Artus. The gargantuan magical hand grabbed the giant by the arm. The giant wrestled against the hand while Dragonbait ran over to engage the giant. The giant broke free and bore down on the human. 

Xandala cast a magical spell towards Artus. The spell exploded, engulfing Artus, the giant, and Apparently in a ball of fire.

Artus moved quickly from the left flank to the center of the party. He called for Dragonbait to join him. Dragonbait rushed over to his friend. He called out to the rest of the party, "I thank you for your help, but Dragonbait and I will take our leave now. Good luck!"

Artus took out a dagger he wore on his hip. The dagger glowed with magical radiance. He sliced the air, opening a magical rift in space. "Come on, Dragonbait! We're out of here!" Artus and Dragonbait stepped through the magical rift. The rift closed behind them and disappeared.

The frost giant, nursing severe burns from Xandala's fireball, was angry and confused. He looked around for Artus but found nothing. He bore his teeth and prepared to attack the remaining party. Xandala cursed. The pseudo-dragon spoke, "Let it go, Xandala! He's gone!" Xandala spat back, "No! He couldn't have gotten far! He's probably just inside the jungle!" She flew off towards the tree line in search of Artus.

The leader of the giants ran towards his remaining kinsman and shouted orders in their native language. The meaning was clear, cease fighting. Their objective was gone. 

Argent, Zeynap, Apparently, and Eku warily faced the giants, awaiting their next move. The party was injured, tired, and running out of spells.

The leader of the giants addressed Argent, "Where did the ring go?"

"We honestly have no idea," was his reply. 

The giant considered the carnage of the battlefield, "Uthgar and the wolves are dead. Gimur is injured. You, too, have suffered casualties. We could try to capture you and use you as hostages against Artus Cimber. But the cost would be great. You have fought honorably and given a good accounting of yourselves. We call a truce. We shall recover our dead and withdraw. We shall find Artus Cimber and reclaim the Ring of Winter on a different day."

Argent agreed. The giants dragged their fallen kinsman and the two winter wolves across the field and into the forest.

Argent turned and walked briskly and with purpose towards Zalma's entourage. Apparently and Zeynap followed closely behind.

A Warning
Zalma's entourage consisted of a handful of foreign mercenaries and a handful of Chultan warriors. They knew they would be no match for any group who just held their own against two frost giants and two winter wolves. The entourage anxiously gripped their weapons and shifted their weight from foot to foot as the party angrily approached.



When Argent approached within sixty feet of the merchant's entourage, Zalma defiantly called out, "Stop right there! That's quite close enough! What did you do with my property, the saurial?" His defiant bravado was a charade, full of nervous apprehension.

Argent held his draconic head high, "His name is Dragonbait and he does not belong to you! You will release any claim you have over him! You will cease your search for him and you will leave this place alive. If you choose to continue to capture him, your lives will be forfeit! Am I understood?"

Zalma silently considered his options before eventually offering his cold bitter reply, "Very well. We will leave this place and cease our search." The bald merchant nodded towards Xandala flying over the trees a few hundred yards away, "However, the sorceress Xandala has employed our services to help her find her father, Artus Cimber. We will continue to complete that task."

Zeynap was confused and annoyed, "His daughter? What the hell? Really?"

"Yes, or so she says. What did the frost giants want with Cimber, anyway? Something about a ring?"

"That is none of your concern. Leave and do not come back." demanded Argent.

"By your command," replied Zalma, bowing sarcastically. He turned to his entourage, "Back to the airship!" They departed the way they came.

No Rest for the Weary
The party was spent from the battle with the frost giants. They camped there in the field overlooking the cliff. Through the forest they could hear the funeral chants of the frost giants over their fallen kinsman and loyal winter wolves. Argent considered visiting the frost giant camp to pay his respects but ultimately decided against it.



Eku, once more in the guise of a middle-aged Chultan woman, asked the party for their discretion when they returned to Port Nyanzaru. She did not wish for it to be common knowledge that she was a couatl posing as a human. The party agreed but acknowledged that Zalma, who had also witnessed the transformation. may not be so accommodating.

Day 48
Despite their tents and comfortable sleeping arrangements, Zeynap could find no rest that night. He was exhausted the next day as rains and high winds lashed the camp, preventing any travel.



Day 49 - Arrival in Omu
Zeynap spent a second restless night in his tent.

DM Note- Camping is wet and miserable. I'm having my players make DC10 Survival checks when they camp in the woods. A failure means they did not benefit from the long rest. Each night of no sleep after the first failure will add a level of exhaustion until you fall unconscious from fatigue. A nice tent, sleeping blankets, etc. will give you advantage on the roll. Zeynap had advantage on the roll and FAILED TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW! 

The day was sunny and warm. There were no rain clouds to be seen. The party decided to continue their search for Omu despite Zeynap's fatigue.

The party marched a few miles south and encountered a break in the trees. Before them was a massive canyon, at least half a mile across from north to south and two miles wide from east to west and several hundred feet deep. At the bottom of the canyon were the ruins of a once great city - the lost city of Omu!

The cliffs overlooking the city were dotted with strange crystalline formations that grew from the rocky walls.



A waterfall poured into the basin, creating a swollen river that flooded much of the city before it drained into a deep rift filled with molten lava. A ruined palace lied a few hundred feet from the edge of the steaming pit.



Apparently paused and scanned the city. After a few minutes she declared she had sensed the presence of the spirits of Thanatos within the city. In addition, the cliffs were dotted with elemental beings. Eku pointed out that she must be sensing the crystals. She identified them as crystal gargoyles, horrid creatures from Geos who can take the form of crystal formations to hide in plain sight.

Zeynap addressed Eku, "We hired you to help us find Omu. We have arrived. What are your plans now?"

Eku smiled, "You hired me as a guide, not a pathfinder. I am here to answer questions, interpret, and provide you with context and knowledge. These are all things you will need in Omu, now more than ever. If you will have me, I choose to accompany you."

The party agreed.

The ravine descended into a series of cut steps that ended on a wide flat ledge that overlooked the city. A guardhouse was located in the middle of the ledge. Arrow slits were cut into its limestone walls. A lopsided iron portcullus hung over the gateway to the courtyard inside the guardhouse.

Apparently scanned the area and determined that many dozens of people had passed down the stairs and into the courtyard. The party entered through the gatgeway into the courtyard. The interior had collapsed into rubble. Creepers grew into the walls. Tall grasses sprouted between the flagstones. The remains of long-dead campfires littered the courtyard. One wall was covered in graffiti, each written by different hands.

"Fear the fangs of Ras Nsi"
"Erik, I've gone in search of the nine shrines. V."
"The puzzle cubes are the key"
"Beware the froghemoth!"
"Who is Unkh?"
"All hail the King of Feathers!"
"The snakes are not what they seem"
"Kubazan = bravery. Shagambi = wisdom. Moa = ?"

Zeynap looked around, "Well, as good a place as any, I guess." The party unloaded the macetail and established camp.



To Be Continued...

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"The Quest for Omu" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 19


After ten days of waiting the party finally saw a group of travelers in the distance. Artus, Dragonbait, Eku, Tony, and Vinnie were accompanied by the macetail and the honker Chak'sa. As the other group approached, thick purplish black clouds began to form and descend on the field. From one cloud emerged four four-armed undying girallons. From another emerged a large bipedal reptile with a long horizontal tail and a massive tooth-filled head. Its mouth was filled with half-eaten humanoid zombies- and it was charging towards them!


CHAPTER 19, "THE QUEST FOR OMU"

THE EXPEDITION
  • Bramble Wolf - a theran barbarian wise-man (Wildhunt Shifter Druid) searching for the legendary origin of his tribe.
  • Apparently Jones - a blue-skinned demijin caravan guide and animal trainer (Air Genasi Ranger) from Akasa, the land of sky mountains. Having failed to find work in Port Nyanzaru as an animal handler, she has joined the expedition to the interior as a scout.
  • Chak'sa - Apparently's honker (parasaurolophus) companion.
  • Xoc-Wik - a b'alam warrior (Tabaxi Fighter) from the jungles of Bres, searching for those responsible for the destruction of his tribe.
  • Zeynap Shiravadakar - a Eusebean smuggler (Human Warlock) bearing the spirit of a celestial unicorn.
  • Argent Truth-Sayer - a golden azi knight errant of Bahamut (Dragonborn Paladin) in the service of Bahamut, sent on a holy mission to join the expedition to destroy the Soul Monger. 
NPCs
  • Eku - a mysterious shape-changing wise-woman from Chult, hired as a guide.
  • Tony and Vinnie - rough and tumble dinosaur wranglers who wished to learn from Apparently, possibly from 19th century Boston on Earth. 
  • Artus Cimber - an explorer on a quest to reunite with his lost love.
  • Dragonbait - a saurial from another dimension, friend and traveling companion of Artus Cimber.
Day 37 - The Clouds of Death
Argent fell victim to the Brain Fever and was left at the camp. Bramble, Apparently, Xoc-Wik, and Zeynap rushed across the plain towards Eku, Artus, Dragonbait, Tony, and Vinnie. The massive bipedal behemoth, a long-tooth,  closed on them from behind while the undying girallons charged from the left.

The long-tooth opened its mouth and disgorged the half-eaten remains of its former victims - themsevles animated by the power of the undying!  Bramble summoned two celestial bears which engaged the long-tooth, blocking its charge. Dragonbat drew forth a glowing greatsword and charged at the long-tooth emitting the smell of wood smoke and baked bread. Artus moved to help his friend, creating a magical ice storm behind the long-tooth.

Tony and Vinnie formed the beasts Chak'sa and the macetail into a defensive wall against the girallons. Unfortunately Tony was caught by a girallon and his head was bitten off. Xok-Wik and Zeynap directed ranged attacks against the girallons while Apparently drew her swords and engaged in melee.

Eku provided some healing to Apparently then transformed herself into a spike-tail behemoth and engaged the girallons, destroying them with her thrashing thagomizer.

The long-tooth defeated the bears but Bramble simply summoned replacements. The long-tooth was defeated by a magical blast of radiant energy from Zeynap while Dragonbait took care of the remaining zombies.

After the defeat of the zombie creatures the clouds of death moved across the plain and eventually dissipated.

The party, now reunited, returned to the campsite for the evening. The party was reluctant to reveal any information about Valindra Shadowmantle in the Heart of Ubtao with Eku or Artus. They kept their stories vague.

When asked about his magical power to generate ice storms, Artus revealed that he possessed an artifact known as the Ring of Winter. He had no memory of how he obtained it. All he remembered is that he had possessed it for over two hundred years and that as long as it magically prolonged his life he would dedicate his immortality to finding a way to free his beloved who was trapped in Mezro.

Artus looked around the campfire and saw that no one but Dragonbait was listening.  Dragonbait emitted the scent of honeysuckle and patted his human friend on his knee. Artus sighed.

The Blessing of Restoration
On the night after the reunion, Zeynap took a deep breath and confided to Bramble that Zalindra Shadowmantle had placed a geas upon him. Zeynap gritted his teeth and took the hit. Afterwards, Zeynap called upon the Blessing of Restoration given to him by the Oracle of Orolunga to remove the geas.

Day 38 
The party traveled south-southwest. Rain showers and heavy winds during the day hampered their progress and they advanced only ten miles.





Day 39 
The party continued south-southwest encountering only occasional rain showers. They advanced twenty miles.

Day 40 - Yellow Musk Zombies
Rain and heavy winds again hampered their movement. The party advanced only ten miles. They camped in some ancient ruins covered in jungle. Bramble stood vigil over the sleeping party when he spotted the silohuettes of ten shambling humanoids advancing into the firelight. Unlike the other animated corpses they had encountered in Chult these were covered in yellow vines and flowers. The zombies were accompanied by three large orchids which shivered in the night. Each orchid was adorned with three flowers - one purple, one yellow, one orange.

Bramble sounded the alarm and ran around kicking everyone awake. True to form Zeynap groaned and rolled  over in his bedroll.

Artus, Dragonbait, and Xoc-Wik woke to find themselves being pummeled by zombies. They rolled to their feet and engaged the shambling corpses.

Bramble called upon the spirits of nature and summoned forth a storm. Lightning struck down many of the zombies. Eku transformed herself into a spike-tail. She waded into the zombies waving her thagomizer back and forth. Dragonbait cleaved through the zombies while Artus fired his pistol, a strange technological artifact from the Other World. After transforming himself into a bear and destroying a zombie, Bramble woke Zeynap with a forceful push.

The zombies were soon defeated and Zeynap finished off the three orchids with magical blasts of celestial glitter.

Eku transformed herself back into human form and explained that the orchids were known as "Tri-Flower Fronds", they were slow and easily destroyed, and the zombies were called "Yellow Musk Zombies", transformed by the pollen of a deadly vine. She warned that the camp must near the ceeper vine that spawned the zombies. They'd have to move the camp.

The group was forced to pack up their camp and move in the middle of the night. No one got any rest that night.

Day 41 
The next day was sunny and the party advanced twenty miles. The night was windy and rest was difficult to find.

Day 42 
The party continued south-southwest encountering only occasional rain showers. They advanced twenty miles.

Day 43 - The Ruined Gate House

The party trudged wearily through the rain the following day. During the afternoon they came across the ruins of an immense and ancient wall. The wall at one time had been twenty feet tall and ten feet wide. Now it was little more than a wide line of tumbled decaying blocks covered in trees. Eku noted that this was once the outer wall of the great kingdom of Omu - a sign they were nearing their destination.

They followed what remained of the ancient track to the ruins of an old gate house. The gate house was little more than a stone platform piled in stones and columns covered in vines, grass, and trees.

As they approached the jungle-clad ruins they spotted hunched humanoid forms scurrying over the debris. The ruins were haunted by ghouls! Two hulking skeletal minotaurs rose from the undergrowth, dirt and plants falling from their bones.

Zeynap directed spells at the fiends while  Xoc-Wik loosed his arrows at the many undying targets. Dragonbait covered the right flank while Chak'sa and Apparently engaged the left flank.

The skeletons and ghouls were soon dispatched and the party continued on their way, covering twenty miles that day.

Day 44 
The party advanced twenty miles through the rain showers of the day. Heavy rain and winds ensured no one found rest that night.

Day 45
The party traveled south-southwest. Rain showers and heavy winds during the day hampered their progress and they advanced only ten miles. 



Day 46
The party covered another twenty miles despite the rain. During the day the party caught sight of an Akasan airship flying low under the rain clouds heading south. Apparently did not recognize the ship. Heavy rain during the night made rest difficult.

DM Commentary - The Problem with Artus and Dragonbait
All during last week's session I got the sense that the group didn't care much for Artus and Dragonbait. I don't know if it was general paranoia or a bit of jealousy but they never trusted them, they never included them, they never relied on their skills or powers, and more importantly they never interacted with them. As a result, there was never a chance to communicate the story details around these NPCs. 

I didn't help matters any by buying into the distaste for these NPCs and making a joke about their story, "Oh, my backstory? Find out about it in the novel 'Ring of Winter' published by Del Rey books!" was the recurring joke.
I sent the following e-mail to my group AFTER this week's session.  

Let's talk about Artus Cimber and Dragonbait.
I regret including them.
They are powerful NPCs who are included in the setting because of their prominence in novels and earlier adventures that were set in Chult. They are included so people who read those novels can say "Hey! I know those guys!"
However, they are overpowered compared to the PCs and deflect the spotlight away from the PCs.
They also add a layer of complexity to fights that I hate. I loathe two things about NPCs - roleplaying interactions between NPCs and NPCs fighting NPCs.

They agreed on all points and we made some future plans on how we were going to deal with these NPCs going forward. 

However, the discussion led to some questions about Artus and Dragonbait and their story. This led to some retroactive interaction via e-mail that I will now insert into the chronology here.



Artus and Dragonbait
Artus and Dragonbait had remained mostly quiet and withdrawn during the journey from Orolunga to Mbala. They kept to themselves and made no effort to interact with the rest of the party.  Artus made an effort to be more open after their reunion with the others under the Heart of Mbala. The others, however, remained aloof and preferred to stay apart from the newcomers.

As they approached Omu, Argent Truthsayer approached Artus and Dragonbait to engage the pair in conversation. He inquired about their motives and their intentions. He needed to know if these two deserved his help or his judgement. 

Artus admitted that he was slow to trust. He had kept his secrets close to his vest at first. He also noted that after his attempt at friendship after the reunion was rebuffed he decided to keep to himself. 

Artus told Argent that he was a "Watcher", an agent of the Erelim. He scoured the world collecting and destroying powerful magical artifacts to keep them out of the hands of those who would abuse them.

He said he was sent to Chult over two hundred years ago to find the Ring of Winter. He obviously found it but he wasn't sure how. He had tracked it down to the Temple of Ubtao in Mezro, "the Forgotten City", where it was being guarded by the bara named Dhalmass. At that time Mezro was protected from the outside world by powerful spells and wards that rendered it invisible. 

He had planned to break in and steal it. He didn't remember what happened next but he woke up with the ring! 

Artus waved his hand as if to make a long story short, summing up the part about him falling in love with a Chultan woman named Alisandre and the city being trapped on an inter-dimensional demi-plane.

It was then that he abandoned his quest to destroy the ring and decided to use the ring to keep himself alive long enough to find a way to free Mezro and save his beloved Alisandre. After that, he planned to destroy the ring.

He spent the last two hundred years traveling the world of Antara conducting research. He spent a lot of time in Akwa-Obio - the City of Scholars, researching Chult and looking for ways to bring Mezro back from its inter-dimensional limbo. There he met and became friends with the scholar Maara Ihe. He left that city about ten years ago. 

Argent asked about the frost giants. Did Artus steal the ring from them like they claimed?

Artus replied that the ring didn't belong to the frost giants. If it ever did, it was thousands or millions of years ago. The ring was in Mezro for at least five thousand years. If the giants laid any claim to it, it was based on a very ancient and dubious claim. They probably only wanted it now for some byzantine political dispute between the giants. 

Argent then asked about Zalma Haik and the Ysian merchants. Artus replied that he had never had any dealings with the Ysians. The closest he could think of was that Dragonbait used to be a Ysian slave. 

That raised a few eyebrows.

Dragonbait nodded as Artus explained that Dragonbait, being a saurial from another world, was an oddity. He had been captured by Ysian slavers but Dragonbait had managed to escape. He met Dragonbait in Port Nyanzaru and the two became immediate friends. The Ysians probably only wanted to recapture Dragonbait and considered Artus to be a thief of their property. 

Argent replied with great earnestness, "Very well.  You have been honest with me.  I will stand with you and help to see you through to your one, true love."



Day 47 - End of the Road
The party traveled ten miles before encountering a cliff on the side of a plateau. The two hundred foot tall cliff stretched to the east and west as far as they could see. They climbed the most accessible section of the cliff and made their way to the top of the plateau. The top was a wide rocky plain with few trees. The edge of the jungle lay a few hundred yards to the south.

The party cautiously crossed the clearing. As they neared its center there appeared a trio of ice giants  about a hundred yards away at the edge of the clearing to the left.

One of the giants spotted the party in the center of the clearing and called the alarm. He bellowed at the party in Atlantean, "Artus Cimber! Surrender yourself and give us what is ours!"

Simultaneously about a hundred yards away to the right another group emerged from the jungle. It was the Ysian merchant Zalma Haik and his entourage of mercenaries and tribal warriors. He was accompanied by a unknown woman dressed in the robes of a wizard. They too spotted the party.

Zalma angrily hailed the party, "Artus Cimber! Give us back our property!"

Artus nervously looked at his new friends in an attempt to assess their mood. They did not look happy. He smiled and shrugged. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"The Heart of Ubtao" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 18


The small craft cut through the sky for over ten hours straight. The sun set behind the western mountains, illuminating a massive wall of thundercloud ahead of them. A storm raged over their destination. Apparently grimaced and took the air-skiff down into the darkening clouds. Lightning snapped and thunder roared as the party was pelted with rain riding in the back of the open-air skiff. It had become dark. Wind buffeted the air-skiff, causing it to careen, dip, and buck. Apparently struggled with the controls.

Apparently worried she might not see the- whatever it was the Heart of Ubtao was supposed to be. To her amazement she saw light ahead. It was dim indirect light filtering out of a doorway and through two openings in the top of a ball of stone nearly seventy feet in diameter, hovering in mid air over the dark jungle two thousand feet below. The monolith was oblong and shaped like a heart. A bare tree and a small cylindrical structure emerged from the top like aorta and venticle. Small roots hung to the side like veins. Red tinted rainwater poured off the monolith like blood.

"Is- is that it?" asked Apparently.


"I guess so." said Zeynap, "I'll admit, I thought it would be bigger!"

Apparently had a bad feeling about this. She concentrated on her surroundings and opened her senses. She felt the presence of her hated enemy - the power of Thanatos - the undying. She informed the others and they prepared themselves for battle.

As she got close she could see a humanoid figure in the backlit window, only it wasn't a window it was a doorway. A stairway led from the doorway to the flattened top of the rock near the tree. The humanoid figure invited Apparently to land there.

Apparently set the air-skiff down on top of the heart-shaped rock. The humanoid figure wore a heavy dark cloak as protection against the driving rain and winds. The figure beckoned the party to come down the stairs to escape the  weather. It called out in Atlantean, "Quickly! Come inside and be comfortable! Would you like some tea?"

Argent closed his eyes and concentrated on his surroundings. He could smell the animating force of the undying emanating from the figure. He gripped his axe. Zeynap laid his hand across the dragonid's arm, "Be careful. Bramble thinks its some kind of lich!"

The party hesitated. Apparently said, "No tea, thank you."

The cloaked figure sensed their hesitation. "Come now, you have nothing to fear." She removed the hood of her cloak, revealing a female face. Her skin looked as if it were made of polished alabaster. Her eyes were amber. Small deer-like antlers sprouted from her forehead. Her long hair was made of thick green ivy. She was an elioud, an immortal being from the other-dimensional realm of Aeon.

"Greetings, my name is Valindra Shadowmantle."


CHAPTER 18, "THE HEART OF UBTAO"

THE EXPEDITION
  • Bramble Wolf - a theran barbarian wise-man (Wildhunt Shifter Druid) searching for the legendary origin of his tribe.
  • Apparently Jones - a blue-skinned demijin caravan guide and animal trainer (Air Genasi Ranger) from Akasa, the land of sky mountains. Having failed to find work in Port Nyanzaru as an animal handler, she has joined the expedition to the interior as a scout.
  • Chak'sa - Apparently's honker (parasaurolophus) companion.
  • Xoc-Wik - a b'alam warrior (Tabaxi Fighter) from the jungles of Bres, searching for those responsible for the destruction of his tribe.
  • Zeynap Shiravadakar - a Eusebean smuggler (Human Warlock) bearing the spirit of a celestial unicorn.
  • Argent Truth-Sayer - a golden azi knight errant of Bahamut (Dragonborn Paladin) in the service of Bahamut, sent on a holy mission to join the expedition to destroy the Soul Monger. 
NPCs
  • Eku - a mysterious shape-changing wise-woman from Chult, hired as a guide.
  • Tony and Vinnie - rough and tumble dinosaur wranglers who wished to learn from Apparently, possibly from 19th century Boston on Earth. 
  • Artus Cimber - an explorer on a quest to reunite with his lost love.
  • Dragonbait - a saurial from another dimension, friend and traveling companion of Artus Cimber.
A Courteous Host


The elioud led the party down some stairs cut into the outside of the Heart and through an entrance. All but Bramble followed her through the entrance. The theran druid hesitantly shook his head and remained outside in the driving rain.

Inside was one large hollow chamber about sixty feet in diameter. There was a pool of water in the center.  Rain poured down through a chimney in the ceiling - the hollow interior of the petrified tree above. Three glowing crystals emitted wan yellow light.

Along the wall was arranged some book cases filled with large books, a desk, and some crates. On the opposite wall  was a cage large enough to hold a hippopotamus. The cage was currently occupied by six humanoid zombies. The zombies reacted violently to the entrance of the newcomers.

There was no place to sleep. Two heavy tapestries covered sections of the opposite wall.

"This place STINKS of decaying flesh!" snarled Argent. He stared directly at Valindra, "You reek of it!"

The androgynous being touched her sternum, "Oh, many apologizes! I must cloak myself in the aura of the undying. It is a magical spell I must cast daily so that I do not cause undue stimulation among my research subjects," she indicated the zombies, "I may dismiss the aura if you would feel more comfortable."

"That is unnecessary," replied Xoc-Wik.

Apparently coughed gently and stared vacantly at a wall.

Argent sniffed in disgust and made his way counter-clockwise around the chamber while Vilandra moved to a work table on the opposite side. He paused to inspect the books. They were old texts on history, culture, and geography.

With a flick of her wrist Valindra caused an alchemical flask filled with water to come to a boil. She crushed  a handfull of dry leaves and sprinkled into the boiling water. She levitated the concoction across the room to  Zeynap, "I believe this is what you humans call 'tea'. I hope it meets your approval." Zeynap took the hot beaker of leaf water and quickly passed it from hand to hand to avoid burning himself.



"NO MAGIC!" blurted Argent.

"Pardon?" responded Valindra.

The dragon-man reiterated, "No! Spells!"

The porcelain-skinned creature hesitated, its golden eyes were blank, "Very well, if it will make you feel more comfortable."

Unbeknownst to everyone in the room, Bramble had transformed himself into a spider and had made his way slowly into the chamber. He crawled along the wall searching for secret doors and hidden chambers. He explored the void behind the tapestry on the right and found it empty save for a magical teleportation circle drawn on the floor.

Zeynap and Xoc-Wik engaged Vilandra in conversation. Vilandra was forthcoming with information regarding her purpose in the Heart - she was searching for the Soulmonger! She explained that she represented a group of wizards who sought to collect and sequester devices of great power so that they could be safely studied. She had determined that the Soulmonger was the source of the mysterious outbreaks of undying and that it was located in a place caled Omu. However, she did not yet know where Omu was located. She had sent several groups of her personal agents in search of Omu and the Soulmonger. If they found it, they would bring it to her so that she could study it properly.

While she waits she studies the creatures reanimated by the Soulmonger. She hires locals to capture the reanimated dead. She offered a substantial award for each animated zombie, skeleton, or ghoul brought to her for study.

During their conversation, Valindra made an off-hand reference to Syndra Silvane. Xoc-Wik asked what she knew about the mysterious masked patron. Valindra said that Syndra represented a group called 'the Erelim'. The Erelim opposed Valindra's quest to find the Soulmonger. The Erelim wanted only to destroy the device. Valindra wanted to study it.

Xoc-Wik asked why Syndra wore the silver mask. He asked if she too was an Elioud. Valindra replied that while Syndra wore the mask because her body was dying. She had lived far beyond her natural lifespan and the Soulmonger was draining her life away and would eventually kill her. She made the case that Syndra's motivation for destroying the Soulmonger was selfish while her own goal would lead to a better understanding of the forces at work.

Valindra then asked if Syndra had hired them to find the Soulmonger. Xoc-Wik gave a dismissive non-reply. Valindra seemed unconvinced.

Argent made his way around the room while Zeynap and Xoc-Wik distracted their host. He peeked behind the tapestry to the left and was started to see the decaying remains of two four-armed white-furred simians known as Girallons! He almost choked as he jumped back.

"Be careful!" interjected Valindra, "Do not disturb those! They are dormant for the moment!"

"What are those for!?" demanded Argent.

"I have managed to pacify them and can now control them. Their strength proves useful. My magic can move naught but  trifles."

Argent stalked back around the room always remaining on the far side from Vilandra.

Vilandra apologized for the lack of accomodations but offered to share her chamber with the party while they waited for the storm to subside. She had no food to share but they could at least rest on the floor - as long as they didn't mind if she continued her research.

Argent bared his teeth, "I'll sleep in the wind and rain." He stalked out of the hollow chamber and climbed the stairs to the top of the Heart. There he met Bramble who had resumed his humanoid form. The pair compared notes about what they found and shared their suspicions. They could not bring themselves to trust the elioud wizard. They wrapped themselves in their tarps and huddled against the petrified tree. There they spent a restless night in the wind and driving rain two thousand feet above the ground.

Xoc-Wik, Apparently, and Zeynap likewise found little rest on the stone floor of Valindra's chamber. Valindra spent the night working at her alchemical table, cutting bits of flesh off the zombies, and writing notes in her books.

Zeynap had the last watch. Valindra finished her work and approached him, "The winds have subsided."

"We'll be leaving at dawn," said Zeynap, standing to better converse with his host.

"Zeynap, I can always use additional agents in my search for the Soulmonger. If you find it, will you bring it to me?"

Zeynap demurred. He spoke vaguely about checking with the others.

"I see. Now listen closely," she moved uncomfortably close to Zeynap, she reached out with her long slender fingers of porcelain and held his face gently by the chin, Her amber eyes began to glow. "You will do everything in your power to prevent the Soulmonger from being destroyed and deliver it intact and functional to me in the Heart of Ubtao. You will not tell anyone else about this. This will be our little secret. You will not allow anyone to interfere with the duties of my agents. You will know them by their red robes."



Zeynap stood silently for a moment. He stared deeply into her luminous amber eyes. "I understand."

"Excellent." Valindra smiled revealing black teeth.

Zeynap sat back down. He was unsure of what just happened.


Day 29 - Base Camp

The party established a base camp in the open grasslands beneath the Heart of Ubtao. They collected what firewood they could and leaned the overturned Atlantean air-skiff against a boulder to provide shelter to their fire. They spent the day as a group foraging the surrounding countryside for food. During their foray they managed to spot a bipedal saurian predator about a hundred yards out. The saurian stood about ten feet tall. It raised its head to sniff the wind and caught the scent of the foraging party. The predator moved quickly towards their position. The party did their best to hide themselves behind boulders in the tall grass. Neither Zeynap nor Argent could hide themselves, however, and the hunter targeted the former. Zeynap retreated while sending magical bolts of rainbow glitter at the beast and Xoc-Wik loosed several arrows from his bow. The beast was quickly defeated.

Day 30
Clear day, no wind, nothing to report.

Day 31 - Batiri Ambush
Rain showers persisted throughout the day. The wind picked up in the evening and had become a gale by dark. The overturned air-skiff rocked back and forth as the high winds buffeted against the tarpaulin and lines holding it down. The tall grass swayed and shuddered.



It was late and night and Xoc-Wik was on watch. He could hear nothing over the winds and was taking the time to groom his fur. The sound of heavy thuds and cries of pain alerted him to danger!

Ten diminutive humanoids wearing carved wooden masks and with skin the color of lemons had crept stealthily into the camp and had attacked each member of the party in their sleep. They had been ambushed by a hunting party of batiri!

Thankfully everyone had survived the initial assault and were now awake and ready for battle! Bramble rolled on the ground and sprang to his feet. He called upon the spirits of the forest to summon forth and direct the high winds that surrounded them. The winds formed a twisting wall of air that snaked through the party. The tornado-like wall of wind blew all of the small batiri away into the dark.

Xoc-Wik drew forth his bow and loosed several arrows at the leader. The attack killed him instantly.

The party dismembered the remaining bodies and scattered the parts to prevent reanimation from the Death Curse and resumed their rest.

Day 32
Rain in the morning. Clear and calm evening. Heavy winds at night. Nothing to report.

Day 33
Rainy and calm, nothing to report.

Day 34 - Centipedes
After a rainy day of foraging the party returned to their camp to find it crawling with centipedes. Zeynap blasted the swarms with celestial magic while Argent chopped into them with his axe. The centipedes were quickly dispersed.

Day 35 - Honker Herd
Xoc-Wik was once again caught off guard while on watch when he looked up from his late night reverie to notice that a herd of honkers had moved into the camp. The honkers were simply grazing and posed no threat so he shrugged and went back to his work. One honker licked  Zeynap's sleeping face. Zeynap slapped the Honker away and grumbled, "I said no, Chak'sa!"

Day 36
Rain all day. Heavy wind during the day. Nothing to report.

Day 37 - Reunion

After ten days of waiting the party finally saw a group of travelers in the distance. Artus, Dragonbait, Eku, Tony, and Vinnie were accompanied by the macetail and the honker Chak'sa. As the other group approached, thick purplish black clouds began to form and descend on the field. From one cloud emerged four four-armed undying girallons. From another emerged a large bipedal reptile with a long horizontal tail and a massive tooth-filled head. Its mouth was filled with half-eated humanoid zombies- and it was charging towards them!