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... 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

"The Chamber of Opposition" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 34


The party continued down a side corridor at the end of the hall of reflection. The passage turned right. There was an alcove ahead  on the right in the middle of the corridor. Argent stepped into and found a door which he opened.

Within he found a large stone cauldron filled with what appeared to be piping hot soup. There was another open doorway on the opposite wall that opened into another room of identical size but with no cauldron. The iridescent light cast by Zeynap's magic revealed a dark figure standing in front of a doorway on the far opposite wall of the other room. The dark figure was a silhouette of Argent, black as shadow but with form. It was a dark reflection of Argent, mirroring his every minor movement.


CHAPTER 34
"THE CHAMBER OF OPPOSITION"

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.
  • 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 Chamber of Opposition
Argent recited the phrase from the plaque, "Slake your shadow at the font". The dragon-man took a ladle from the wall and dipped it into the cauldron. The ladle passed through the steaming soup as if it were air.  He looked up and saw that his shadow-duplicate was mirroring his exact movements in the opposite room with a shadow ladle. As he examined the shadow so to did his shadow examine him.

He approached the doorway connecting the two rooms. The shadow approached him. They faced each other bearing empty ladles. He went back and forth, trying in vain to dip the ladle into the illusory soup, even plunging his head into the soup to no avail. Argent eventually gave up and left the room. His shadow likewise walked into the bare alcove in the far room and disappeared.

Zeynap entered the room. A shadow reflection of Zeynap appeared in the far alcove. Zeynap said "Zappow!" and hurled an eldritch blast at his shadow. The shadow evaporated and Zeynap doubled over in pain. After a moment, he got up and hobbled out of the room.

Apparently said, "My turn." She took the ladle off the wall, walked around the cauldron towards the open doorway. She and her shadow both turned sideways and passed each other through the doorway. She walked into the empty room while her shadow approached the cauldron. She mimed dipping her ladle into mid-air. Her shadow, meanwhile, dipped its black ladle into the cauldron.

Bramble rolled her eyes and exclaimed, "Finally! It took you people long enough!"

Apparently mimed drinking from the ladle. Her shadow sipped the illusory soup. Apparently felt invigorated by the action. She continued miming the action of drinking the soup. Eventually all the soup was gone.

Argent inspected the now empty cauldron and saw that an eye made of bright orange crystal remained in the bottom. He picked it up and examined it before storing it in a belt pouch.

DM Commentary- I re-wrote the Chamber of Opposition. In mine, I added the empty room and made it so miming the act of drinking the soup gave you one temporary hit point per liter consumed - so eight temporary hit points total. I also changed the trap part so that if you killed your shadow, you rolled a Wisdom save or dropped to 0 hit points. Zeynap obviously made his save. Were I to do it again, I'd have him lose half his hit points on a failed save. 

The Peephole
The party left the room with the now-empty cauldron and turned a corner to the left. Xoc-Wik noticed a a peep hole in the stone about shoulder high. He looked through it and saw the hieroglyph of a vulture. Argent looked around the corner and saw the painting of man with the head of a jackal on the wall that the peephole should have been looking at. The painting was surrounded by a painted swarm of thousands of locusts emerging from the mouths of painted sphinxes. Set in the chest of the jackal, about shoulder height, was a gold medallion. There was a hole the size of man's finger in the center of the medallion. He looked into it and saw a tiny vulture hieroglyph. He waved his hand in front of the amulet and blocked its line of sight but Xoc-Wik could always see the vulture.

Argent saw that the amulet was set into the stone. He took out Wongo's hammer and began smashing it in an attempt to gain access to the mechanism behind it. The amulet  was destroyed and so too was the image in Xoc-Wik's peep hole.



Xoc-Wik shouted, "Hey! What are you doing?"

Once Argent removed the remains of the amulet, he found mechanical gears and a disk with twelve hieroglyphs.

Xoc-Wik came around the bend and saw the mechanism. He also immediately noticed that one of the locusts concealed a hidden button. He pressed it and the entire wall sank slowly into the floor, revealing the tomb of I'Jin beyond, its floor covered in hieroglyphs and the force column surrounding the funerary barge still intact.

"Way to go, Argent! The vulture is the first step, see?" The jaguar-man pointed at the first tile in the room, "I bet once you stepped on that the dial spun and showed you the next step through that peephole!"

Argent sheepishly scratched the back of his head.

"What does this peephole do?" boomed the voice of Bramble through the  mouths of the sphinxes in the tomb. Bramble looked around the corner in surprise.

Xoc-Wik threw up his hands in frustration, "-AND I could have told you what to do from the peephole! Great! Just Great! Hey, everybody, give me those crystal eyeballs for a second."

"What for?" said Bramble as Xoc-Wik gathered the two crystal eyeballs.

"I think somebody is using these to scry on us," he held them up to his face and looked into the eyes, "Hello! Could you maybe send some of your little creepy caretakers down here to fix this room? Something happened to it and it got broken! We have no idea how it happened, it was this way when we got here!"

Xoc-Wik threw the crystal eyeballs back to Argent in disgust as he walked away.



The Rotating Corridor
Zeynap looked down at an access duct to the right of the entrance to I'Jin's tomb, "Where does this go?"

Argent shrugged.

Zeynap, emboldened by the strident spirit of Popozotl, began delivering orders, "Argent, I'm going to need you to explore that access duct and report."

Argent shrugged again, got down on all fours, and began crawling into the passage.

Zeynap looked at Apparently, "You go with him."

She reacted with horror at the idea of crawling into small tight passage. Being underground was bad enough, "Hell no! You go! You're so keen to be the leader now, how about you lead from the front? Besides, isn't Argent your wing-man? Aren't you a little vulnerable now that he's gone?"

Zeynap considered this and said, "You're right. Good thinking. Argent! Wait up!"

Zeynap caught up with Argent as the passage took its second right turn. It proceeded fifteen feet and stopped at a dead end.

"Go forward and investigate!" said the Eusebean.

The pair continued crawling until they reached the dead end. Suddenly the fifteen foot section of passage began rotating like a giant screw, cutting them off from the rest of the access duct.

"Well, that can't be good!" said Zeynap.



Escape from the Rotating Corridor
Ten minutes passed with no sound or signal from Argent or Zeynap. Bramble and Xoc-Wik decided to follow and investigate, leaving Apparently with Orvex.

They entered the access duct, took a right, and took another right. The passage ahead continued for forty feet and turned right again. There was no sign of Argent or Zeynap. Bramble's keen senses noticed a thin line in the floor, wall, and ceiling of the passage ahead. He stopped Xoc-Wik and the pair discussed their options.

Unwilling to continue past the line, Bramble transformed herself into a small flying reptile-bird and flew down the corridor, emerging into the long hall separated by the watery membrane. She flew up to Apparently and Orvex from behind and resumed her theran form. After filling them in on what happened, she returned to the Xoc-Wik's position in the access duct.

After several minutes of brainstorming, Bramble proclaimed, "Ah! Of course!" She summoned two wolves into being from the spirit world. The wolves advanced into the tunnel ahead. After a few feet, the entire tunnel rotated, trapping the wolves but revealing a fifteen foot dead end.

"Huh, well, what now?" inquired Xoc-Wik.

"I don't know. now I'm stumped." she said.

A moment later, Apparently called down the access duct, "Found them! They just crawled out of the tunnel behind us!"

Bramble figured it out, "Ah! I got it! Our tunnel went all the way through, but there were two dead-end tunnels at right angles, get it?" She crossed her arms and tried to demonstrate to Xoc-Wik.

"No, but it doesn't matter now. Let's go." They rejoined the party and returned to the atrium.

The Tomb Guardians
They circumnavigated the atrium and returned to the wide corridor at the bottom of the stairs. The corridor was ten feet wide and over fifty feet long. Two large figures wearing heavy spiked armor stood motionless in alcoves near the entrance. A heavy spiked chain draped across the corridor between them as if to say access to this corridor was off-limits.

Argent strode up and smote the chain with his axe. It sparked but his blow failed to sever the chain.

The two guardians came alive and attacked Argent in turn. Argent bore the onslaught under his sturdy shield while Xoc-Wik, Apparently, and Zeynap attacked the guardians at range. The two guardians were soon destroyed, revealing their true nature - animated puppets made of dead flesh clad in heavy armor!

A quick search of the corridor revealed a side passage on the right, double doors at the end, and a hidden door on the left.

Kubazan's Tomb
Zeynap commanded Argent to enter the hidden door to the left. Argent replied by turning around and entering the corridor to the right.

Within they found a kind of temple. The entire wall to the right was carved to resemble a massive tentacled frog-like god, the froghemoth  known as Kubazan. Within the carving were four smaller carvings depicting rituals performed to Kubazan. The first showed a devotee casting coins over an altar. The second showed a devotee consuming an insect over an altar. The third displayed a devotee holding the severed head of a reptile-bird sacrifice. The fourth displayed the ritual burning of a candle.

Beneath the carvings was a small altar. Scattered around the altar were several coins, some dead insects, a bowl containing the long-dead remains of a rat, and a half-burned candle.

On the far wall was a large sarcophagus resting on a wide plinth. On the left wall was a collection of bones and old weapons. Four masks resembling frogs with tentacles wriggling from the sides hung on the wall.

Argent said, "I think we must reenact the scenes in the carvings.

They each took and donned a mask from the far wall.

Apparently took the coins and scattered them over the altar.

Bramble gathered up the dead insects and ate one before the altar.

Zeynap picked up the bowl with the dead rat and scattered the bones over the altar.

Argent exhaled a tiny bit of flame onto the candle to light it.

They waited for some kind of response. Suddenly, all four celebrants were magically transformed into frogs!



Xoc-Wik, standing in the doorway with Orvex, had only a moment to register the event as the bones on the wall behind them gathered together into coherent bipedal shapes with glowing ethereal ectoplasmic bodies. The screaming creatures lunged for Xoc-Wik in the doorway.

The frog that transformed into Bramble shot its tongue at one of the ghost-creatures with no effect. The frog that was Argent moved to block their advance towards Xoc-Wik.

Xoc-Wik loosed a magical exploding arrow into the midst of the frogs. The arrow exploded, vaporizing the frogs and causing his companions to return with four audible BLOPs.

Xoc-Wik maintained his position in the doorway while his reformed companions came to his aid. The ghostly guardians were soon dispatched.

"What happened?" asked Xoc-Wik.

Bramble glowered at Zeynap, "SOMEBODY didn't perform the correct ritual!"

"What?" replied Zeynap, "What was I supposed to do?"

"The picture clearly shows someone offering a blood sacrifice!" said Bramble.

"Where am I supposed to get that?" said the warlock.

"Use your own blood!" growled Argent.

"Look, I didn't know! It's not like there were any instructions!"

"What- What do you mean there weren't any instructions?" Sputtered Bramble. She pointed stiffly at the bas relief carvings on the wall, "They! Drew! You! A! Picture!"

Zeynap threw up his hands in defeat, "Alright alright! Let's do it again!"

They repeated the ritual. This time, Zeynap drew his own blood which he captured in the bowl. Upon completion, the lid to the large sarcophagus in the back of the room slowly raised.

"Your turn," said Bramble to Apparently.

Apparently slowly approached the open sarcophagus. Inside she found a collection of flakes and ashes, an ancient and decaying quiver of arrows, and two bracers decorated with froghemoths.

The light from Zeynap's spell dimmed as the massive shadow of a tentacled froghemoth rose against the wall and ceiling, enveloping Apparently. Apparently welcomed the spirit of Kubazan without reservation. She felt a wave of strength and confidence wash over her. She felt like she could take on the world!

The party decided to rest for two hours. They had gathered a number of artifacts that needed to be examined to determine if they were magical and, if so, what sorts of properties they might possess.

Xoc-Wik took possession of the bracers. He found that the accuracy of his archery attacks improved. He also felt moist and uncomfortable.

Bramble took the staff of the ram's head recovered from the body of the goat-man in the ring-shaped tunnel.

Argent gifted Apparently with the flaming sword of Ras Nsi. Argent, meanwhile, studied the colorful glass eyeballs they had so far recovered.

While they were resting, Bramble spotted one of the hunch-backed tomb custodians in the hallway. The custodian saw that it was spotted and quickly turned and fled. Bramble told the others but gave no chase. Xoc-Wik called out, "Don't forget to reset the peep-hole!"



Curse of the Golden Skull
Apparently, invigorated by her newfound confidence, went to enter the hidden door. Argent stopped her and reminded her that it was his job to go first. She reluctantly obliged.

Argent opened the door and found a short set of steps leading to a very small closet-like room. At the bottom of the stairs was a pillar, atop which sat a small gold skull with gemstone eyes.

He walked down the stairs and picked up the skull.

Everyone jumped as a loud voice shouted, "Finally! It took you idiots long enough! What took you so long to find me? Are you incompetent or just stupid?"

They soon learned that the skull belonged to Yaka, the most famous and acerbic jester from Omu. After the destruction of Omu, Acererak kept Yaka alive for a while to serve as entertainment before eventually killing him and binding his spirit to his gold-plated skull. He explained that he was cursed to accompany the first group of mortals that found him.

"So, now since it was you stinking morons have found me, I'm stuck with you! Forever! This is a complete nightmare! Why couldn't I have been found by a group of COMPETENT adventurers? Such is my misfortune!"

Argent rolled his eyes, placed the skull on the ground, and smashed it with Wongo's hammer. The skull re-materialized a few moments later and continued its denigrating commentary.



DM Commentary- 
I played Yaka kind of like "Bad Janet" from the Good Place. In retrospect, I should have made him either more of a goof-ball that told nothing but bad jokes ala Fozzy Bear. 

The Veils of Fear
Apparently, still emboldened by the spirit of Kubazan, threw wide the double doors at the end of the hall. The doors were carved with leering and laughing skulls. Argent was forced to catch up. Within she found a tapestry hanging from wall to wall. The tapestry was decorated with a scene of revelry and merriment as nobles feasted upon a roasted boar with an apple in its mouth.

Argent stayed Apparently's hand and pulled the tapestry open himself. Beyond was another tapestry depicting a descent into madness. The nobles were attacking and raping each other. A third tapestry behind that portrayed a nightmare scene of cannibalism, immolation, and bestiality. The boar was now alive and laughing at their depravity.

Apparently pulled aside the final tapestry and found a table set with the rotting remains of the party. The boar was nothing more than dried rotting flesh covered in maggots. Its mouth wide open as if screaming. Its eyes covered in milky cataracts.

She looked at Argent with a mad gleam in her eye. He was puzzled and concerned. Before he could act she ran forward and shoved her entire head into the gaping mouth of the rotting boar's head.

Argent shouted, "Apparently, stop!"

The boar's head came alive and chomped down on her skull. She screamed in pain. She recovered her senses and stumbled backwards from the attack.

Argent caught her, "What the hell?"

"I- I don't know what just happened!" she stammered, "Hey! Look! There's stuff in the mouth!"

"Wha-?" said Argent, confused, but it was too late. She reached into the mouth to snatch the objects within. The boar's head snapped down, badly lacerating her arm.

"Got it!" she said proudly as she held up the various trinkets belonging to previous victims.

"Let's get out of here," said Argent as he led her out of the room to rejoin the others.



The Iron Barrier
Having explored all the known passages, the party decided to return to the tomb of I'Jin. On the way Argent decided to explore a access duct he noticed earlier. He told the others he'd be right back, got down on his hands and knees, and disappeared down the enclosed passage. Apparently called after him and followed him in.

Argent had barely made it fifteen feet before he encountered a closed partition blocking the access duct ahead. The partition was made of iron and was painted to look like a bull's head. The eyes of the bull's head were cut out and he could see the corridor beyond. The partition would not easily open but  with great effort he was able to push it open. The partition resisted as if pushed by a powerful spring. He got it open and it clicked into place.

Argent and Apparently passed through and emerged into a high-ceilinged corridor. The walls of the corridor tapered towards the ceiling. The corridor to the left was a dead end save for another access duct. The corridor to the right was likewise a dead end but light poured out of a large hole in the floor.

They investigated the hole in the floor. Looking down they saw that the hole opened into a room shaped like a truncated cone turned on its side.

"Want to go in?" asked Argent.

"Hell no!" replied Apparently indignantly.

They instead decided to explore the access duct at the other end. The access duct opened near one corner of a long hall, one hundred twenty feet from side to side and a hundred feet from ceiling to floor. The duct was located about seventy feet above the floor and ten feet from the nearest end of the hall. There were two balconies on either end of the hall. The near balcony had a large lever built into the wall as well as a set of stairs leading to an exit. The far balcony held the statue of a large winged demonic shang grasping something small in each of its tightly closed hands. Five disks hovered in mid-air at an altitude of sixty feet.

They retraced their steps and returned to the others to tell them what they found.

Winds of Pandemonium
Zeynap and Bramble followed Argent and Apparently through the many access ducts to the long hall. Orvex stayed behind with Xoc-Wik as the b'alam had succumbed to brain fever.

Argent emerged from the duct and, invoking the power granted him by Nangnang, simply walked along the wall towards the near balcony with the lever. Apparently crouched on the edge of the duct and threw herself through the air towards a floating disk, on which she landed adroitly. Zeynap made and effort to climb out of the duct and along the wall towards the balcony but was unable to find adequate footing. Instead, he blocked Bramble from exiting the duct.

"Ready?" called Argent.

"Ready!" replied Apparently with confidence.

"No, wait!" cried Bramble but it was too late. Argent pulled the lever.

The room was buffeted by howling magical winds with a sound like a million screaming souls! Zeynap was stunned and had to be pulled farther back into the duct by Bramble. Argent was momentarily overcome with madness and was unable to move or think.

Suprisingly, despite standing on a hovering disk, Apparently was unaffected by the winds. She saw that the hands of the statue opened, revealing two small gems in its hands. She leaped from disk to disk and made it to Argent's balcony where they turned off the lever.

She snapped Argent out of his state and told him what happened. Zeynap, however, was still stunned.

Argent said that he had a better idea. He told her to man the lever but not to pull it until he said so. He then, in defiance of gravity, casually walked along the wall towards the balcony with the statue. Once on the far balcony he could see another access duct behind the statue.

He told Apparently to flip the switch. She did so and both were assaulted by the winds of madness. With great effort they were able to resist the effects of the winds. The hands of the statue were open. Argent saw that the demonic shang held two crystal eyeballs, each a different color. He took the eyes and told Apparently to return the lever to normal.

Once the winds stopped Argent said he'd return in a moment. He crawled into the access duct, leaving the others behind. The duct made a hard left and opened into a small twenty foot by twenty foot room. The only other exit was another access duct. The floor of the room was covered in soft dirt and looked unfinished. Indeed, no one had been in this room for a very long time. He returned to the others to report his finding.

Room of Respite
The party decided to hole up in the small room. They soon found that the other duct opened into the hall of reflection. They used that entrance to find Orvex and Xoc-Wik and bring them to their secluded space.

This small room felt safe and secure. This was the first time in many days that they didn't feel as if their every move was being observed. They felt at peace. There they slept. No nightmares interrupted their slumber. For the first time in days they could really fully rest.

TO BE CONTINUED...
DM Commentary-
The players are doing a fantastic job of roleplaying the flaws inherited by the trickster gods. They are entertaining each other and myself and I'm happy to see them having a lot of fun with them. They're even roleplaying little one-sided conversations they have with their gods. 

There was a moment when Zeynap and Argent were trapped in the rotating corridor where the two characters started talking to each other in character, just passing the time while they waited to be rescued. It wish I could do a better job of capturing little moments like that in this blog, but I am constrained by the medium. As much as this reads like a coherent story, it is not a 100 percent word-for-word transcript of the session. 

I played up the idea of the tomb dwarves as IT staff going around fixing things and resetting traps. I'm going to use the chained tomb guardians as caution ropes from now on - as if to convey "Dungeon closed for repairs".  I wished I had thought of that in time to have a room in that section be in mid-reset. Maybe I'll add a bonus room in that hall to reflect that it was hidden by an illusion. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"The Skeleton Key" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 33


Bramble led the others through the narrow pipe. It was a tight squeeze but even Argent was able to make their way. The pipe ahead was sealed. Bramble pushed on it and the seal popped off. Within was another tomb. A sarcophagus adorned with carvings of frog-men known as grung sat atop a pedestal in the center of a large pentagram drawn with salt. Five waist-high pedestals, each topped with a magically burning candle flame. A pile of bones sat near one corner of the room. The pipe opened near the ceiling in the corner near the bones.

Bramble climbed out of the pipe head fist and fell to the floor. She rolled to the side to get out of the way and stood up. Zeynap tumbled out after her. Bramble pointed at the salt, "Don't touch that!"

"Got it," said the warlock.

The bones began to move and assembled themselves into an animated skeleton. A large bony growth shaped like a key protruded from the back of the skeleton's skull. The skeleton began shambling towards the sarcophagus. Its shuffling feet would soon violate the circle of salt!




CHAPTER 33
"THE SKELETON KEY"

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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Bhamut (Dragonborn Paladin) in the service of Bhamut, sent on a holy mission to join the expedition to destroy the Soul Monger. 
NPCs
  • Orvex Ocrammas - translator and guide for hire; rescued from the Fane of the Night Serpent.

Stop the Skeleton
Zeynap rolled to the right. He came up and loosed an eldritch blast at the shambling skeleton.

There was a flash of light within the tunnel and Apparently was magically  transposed with Xoc-Wik! The feline b'alam rolled out of the pipe and quickly stood up with arrow drawn, "What's happening? I have no idea where I am!"

"Shoot that thing!" shouted Zeynap.

Xoc-Wik loosed a magical arrow at the skeleton. It exploded, sending fragments of bone flying throughout the room. The key-shaped skull fell to the ground.

Zeynap picked up the skull to examine it while Argent pushed himself out of the pipe. The key was as large as a man's arm. It did not appear to fit anything in the room.

Bramble explored the perimeter of the room, running her hand along the wall and closely examining every detail. She found a section of wall on the far right that popped open revealing a hidden passage.

Bramble looked into the dark hallway. Bramble's bestial night vision saw a twenty-five foot long corridor. There was a niche carved into the left wall about halfway down the corridor. The passage was filled with draping cobwebs, indicating lack of use.

She turned to the others, "No one touch anything! Argent, come take a look a this!"

Argent carefully explored the dead-end hallway. When he reached the niche he saw a dusty glass bottle sitting atop a low table. He picked up the bottle and brushed away the dust. Inside he saw a tiny portly man wearing a white turban, loose silk pantaloons, and a short vest. He had dark black skin, pointed ears, and thick red lips. The little man was waving and gesticulating wildly.

Argent held up the bottle and said, "Hello?"

The little man replied in a language Argent did not understand. He appeared to be pleading. Argent shrugged, tied the bottle to his belt, and rejoined his companions.

"What is it?" asked Bramble.

"Nothing important." was his reply.

Awakening
While Bramble, Argent, and Zeynap stood by the secret door Xoc-Wik, standing on the other side of the room, asked if he could open the sarcophagus. Bramble told him to go ahead.

Xoc-Wik carefully stepped over the outer perimeter of salt.

A large creature appeared out of nowhere. It was seven feet tall with a bloated batrachian body and long muscular limbs, each terminating in wickedly sharp talons. It had lumpy gray skin and small fish-like fins on its back and elbows.

The creature looked elated, its thick rubbery lips smiled revealing rows of sharp triangular teeth. Everyone in the room heard a voice in their heads as if broadcast telepathically.

DM Commentary- I don't know why, I just wanted to play the grey slaad as a self-aware wise-ass foul-mouthed trash-talking douche-bag. Be warned, the following section contains some pretty graphic profanity.



"Thank you I was so bored! You have no idea how long I've been sitting in there with nothing to do." The creature pointed at Xoc-Wik, "I'll be with you in just a second.  You're very important to me so please hold on." It turned towards the others across the room and pointed, "Fireball on them!" The far corner of the room erupted in a fiery explosion. The creature turned back to the stunned Xoc-Wik and smiled, "Now, for you," It reached above its head, "I summon the great sword of FUCK YOU!" A red crystalline blade formed out of mid-air, he thrust it at Xoc-Wik and shouted, "Stab! Stab Bite!"

Xoc-Wik wailed in pain and retreated to the far side of the room. He quickly loosed an arrow at the monster. The arrow exploded into a thicket of thorny vines that quickly took root into the floor and ceiling.

Argent took a defensive position and said a prayer of blessing for Bramble and Zeynap. Bramble called upon the spirits of the forest to attack the griseous creature with no effect. Zeynap's eldritch blast found its target and its magnetic effect pushed the creature away, breaking the line of salt.

The grey monster roared in laughter, "Oh yeah! I'm out! Now I can leave this shit hole!" It pointed at Xoc-Wik and shouted, "But I'm not done with you, baby! I got a tattoo on my back that says SUCK MY DICK with an arrow that says SEE OTHER SIDE FOR MORE INFORMATION!"

Xoc-Wik winced.

The grey creature became invisible!

Bramble glowered at Zeynap. Zeynap sheepishly shrugged, "It tricked me!"

The party scanned the room but could locate no hint or clue to the monster's whereabouts.

The creature suddenly appeared next to Xoc-Wik and bellowed, "First I'm going to stab you, then stab you again, then wrap my mouth around your fat head because it looks SO MUCH like a BIG DICK! I might bite a little!"

Xoc-Wik whimpered a little as the large grey monstrosity continued its relentless attacks. 

Bramble closed her eyes and called upon a nature spirit to illuminate the grey foe with glittery dust. The grey monster became illuminated with a sparkly aura.

Surrounded as it was by the shining aura, the creature realized that it was pointless to try to become invisible or create an illusion. So, frustrated, it began ripping apart the vines and thorns impeding its movement. Xoc-Wik loosed an explosive arrow into it and Zeynap injured it with an eldritch blast. It looked around, becoming increasingly desperate. This wasn't any fun anymore.

It held up its hands, "Okay! Okay! I know we got off on the wrong foot. There was a misunderstanding. A miscommunication, whatever, it was my fault! Let's just pause for a minute and talk about this."

The others hesitated.

"Look, I don't want to be here, right? I was imprisoned here by that ASSHOLE Acererak! He kidnapped me and forced me to be the guardian of some stupid frog god. Except I'm a Slaad! I am NOT a frog! We just LOOK like frogs! That right there is what you call racial profiling!"

They continued to hear his offer.

"So, here's what I propose. I don't want to be here. You look like YOU don't want to be here. I say we get the fuck out, right? I can open a dimensional gate and take us all to my home- Slaad-land. No, wait, listen! It'll work! You can't go like that, obviously. For this to work I'll first have to transform you into tiny Slaad young. You'll have to crawl in mouth. Don't worry! During the journey you might experience some mild mastication followed by some moderate swallowing. It's perfectly natural, all a part of the plan! Do we have a deal?"

Everyone looked at Bramble for guidance. Bramble shook her head, "No deal."

Xoc-Wik terminated the slaad with a magical arrow. It exploded into glittery motes, leaving no body.

DM Commentary - The players LOVED the foul-mouthed slaad! He was very fun to play and the players hope he'll be able to return. Slaad can regenerate, so you never know. Maybe he isn't really dead! By the way, in my head-canon, his name is Chaad. Chaad the Slaad. 

NangNang
Once the grey slaad had been defeated, the party gathered around the sarcophagus. Argent removed the lid revealing an earthenware jar. He opened the jar and found ashes. Zeynap noticed Argent was tapping his foot. The tapping turned into head bobbing. The head bobbing turned into shoulder shrugging.


Zeynap asked, "Are you dancing?"

Argent stopped moving and clenched his fists, "No! Azi do not dance!"

Zeynap said, "Oh, I could have sworn-".

An ethereal green mist formed before Argent. The mist coalesced into the visage of an older humanoid frog. The grung smiled and did a little dance with its shoulders. Argent accepted the spirit into his body.



Argent now possessed the spirit of NangNang, the trickster god of the grung. He could hear loud boisterous music and felt a compulsion to dance. He also felt greedy and selfish. He looked into the jar and found a petrified egg slightly smaller than his fist. He put it in the pouch on his belt.

"What was that?" inquired Zeynap.

"Nothing. It's mine." replied Argent, uncharacteristically.

"What's that jar?" asked Bramble.

"Also nothing. Also mine." was his reply.

Zeynap distracted Argent while Bramble deftly and surreptitiously removed the jar from Argent's belt. She held it up and examined the little man within.

"I think he wants out," said the theran wise woman.

She uncorked the bottle and poured its contents onto the ground. Black sand poured out.

Black sand continued to pour - more sand than could possibly fit within the bottle. Bramble poured out a three-foot tall pile of black sand on to the ground.

The sand then began to swirl as if blown by a dust devil. It whirled and coalesced into a man-sized figure like the little one they saw in the bottle. The man had smooth glassy black skin like jet. Its clothing seemed to be made of colored glass but it moved as if alive.

The portly black man said, "Mekka-Lekka-Hi, Mekka-Hiney-Ho!" He then forced an exaggerated blink which made a cartoonish "Bloink!" noise.

"Can you understand me now?" he said. His voice was squeaky and friendly, like a charming uncle.

Bramble nodded.

"Ah, excellent! Thank you, good madam! Salaam to you! I am Mister Popo! I have been trapped within yonder bottle for who knows how long! In fact, do you know what year it is?"

Zeynap told Mister Popo the year by Eusebean reckoning. Argent corrected him and told him the year by Xanian reckoning. Bramble and Xoc-Wik, hailing from forest tribes, both shrugged.

Mister Popo looked momentarily confused, "No, no, that doesn't help at all. Oh well. If you don't mind, I will take my leave of this dreadful place and return to my home in the realm of Geos. As a reward, I will point out that there is another secret door at the end of that hall there. Now if you will excuse me."

Mister Popo raised his arms and a portal opened up above him. The portal was a black sphere that radiated a whirlwind of purple lightning. Mister Popo looked worried, "No! Wait! That's not right! That's not supposed to-" He was cut off as he was sucked, spinning, into the dark sphere and disappeared. The sphere of dark energy vanished.

Bramble shrugged, "Well, okay then. I am tired! Who else is tired? Anyone else up for some rest? This place seems perfect."

The party decided to rest for several hours to regain their strength and vitality.

Argent's Nightmare
Argent closed his eyes to get some rest. He was soon dreaming of standing on a dark lake of still water. He could see his arms and body illuminated as if by moonlight but no source of light could be seen. The gentle ripples in the water below reflected indistinct light. Ahead of him he saw a young human girl with long stringy wet black hair. She wore a wet night shift and water dripped from her pale skin. She held a red ball.

She spoke with a disturbing voice that echoed through Argent's mind, "You do not belong here. You will fail in your mission. You are doomed to die like the others."

"Who are you?" inquired Argent, cautiously.

"I am what lurks beneath. I will devour you, eventually. You will become - part of me."

"Are you the soul-monger?" He asked.

"No, though as I am tasked to defend it we shall come into conflict. So that I know what it is that I shall destroy, tell me your name."

"Argent" said the paladin.

The girl smiled, "Excellent."

Argent woke from his nightmare, his heart racing. He was drenched.

After their rest, Argent would tell the other members of the party of his dream. Zeynap recounted a similar dream he had experienced the last time he slept. However, unlike Zeynap's restless experience, Argent was able to slumber after his nightmare.

Papozotl's Tomb


There was no sense of day or night in the small room, so when the party felt sufficiently rested they prepared themselves for the next chamber.

They opened the secret door at the end of the short corridor and entered into a large dark room. At the center of the room was a tall platform atop which was a gilt chariot piled with gold and treasures. Atop the chariot was a medium sized sarcophagus decorated with images of long-legged birds known as iblises. The platform was surrounded by four pillars supporting bronze statues of warriors, each carrying different weapons. The face of one of the statues was featureless.

Along the perimeter of the room were six large cylinders made of thick glass. Each of the cylinders was filled with bones and weapons.

Behind the chariot and statues was a dais, behind which a large bronze shield embossed with the image of a Chultan warrior brandishing a spear was affixed high on the wall. Words written in ancient Omuan adorned a plaque below the shield. Bramble found that through the spirit of Moa she could read the text. "Bow before no one." She said.

Zeynap replied, "Bow as the dead god intoned. We should bow to the statue with no face."

Bramble looked incredulously at Zeynap, "Duh!"

Argent said, "I should go collect that gold."

Zeynap and Bramble both shot back, "No!"

Argent regained his normally stoic composure and sheepishly looked away.

Zeynap entered the room and climbed onto the dais before the shield. He solemnly bowed to the statue with no face. He then climbed the platform and onto the chariot and carefully opened the sarcophagus.

Strange shadows played against the walls, forming the silhouette of a long-legged bird with a long sharp beak. The silhouette spread its wings and collapsed back into Zeynap. Zeynap didn't get a choice as the iblis-god Papozotl took control.

Papozotl was a strident warrior. He demanded obedience and discipline. He encouraged Zeynap to take more command of the party and took umbrage at the "insubordination" of his "underlings".  Still, he saw potential and pledged to mold Zeynap into a proper commander and tactician.

Xoc-Wik, seeing the effect Papozotl had on Zeynap, wailed, "I don't know that I want a spirit!"

Further examination of the room revealed three animated zombies chained to a system of pullies at the door. There were holes in the door that allowed the zombies to see what was on the other side. If the zombies saw someone outside the door, their movement towards their victim would keep the door closed. The zombies were currently straining against their chains in an attempt to move towards their victims inside the room. This action caused the doors to swing open, revealing a passage to the atrium beyond.

The party quickly dispatched the zombies without incident and returned to the atrium. 

Wanderings
Sunlight filtered down through the vine-choked ceiling into the atrium.

The party discussed their next step. Proceed to the next level? Try again to open the sarcophagus of I'Jin?

They decided on I'Jin so they returned to the room with the green face on the floor. The sarcophagus was still there.

Orvex and Apparently sat there. Orvex looked bored. He looked up and saw the return of the party and he leaped up to greet them. He told them that Apparently magically switched places with Xoc-Wik over a day ago. She had brain fever and wasn't much of a conversationalist. He had to survive off her rations and he could only hope they survived. He was very happy to see them alive and well.

"Any luck with the sarcophagus?" asked Bramble.

"None," replied Orvex.

After some additional examination and experimentation and analysis of the clues, they once again abandoned the sarcophagus.

They decided to explore the ring-shaped corridor. They turned left at the four-way intersection and continued to the next four-way intersection. They returned to the atrium. Moonlight was now filtering through the ceiling.

They went into the room with the devil face on the floor. The mouth was once again cloaked by darkness. They could not see into the tomb below. The sarcophagus was gone.

"What? How?" stammered Bramble.

"Let's explore!" said Argent.

"No," replied Bramble worriedly, "We should go back."

They retraced their steps and returned to an atrium dappled in sunlight. The sarcophagus was where they left it.

The party decided to progress down to the next mezzanine. As when they descended from the first level to the second, the mezzanine magically grew darker as they descended - as if entering a different world. Instead of the smell of rot and decay of the second level, now the air was permeated by ozone. Weird purple moss grew on the walls. Dozens of small eyes popped open within the moss and followed their movements.

They passed near a wide corridor to the left. A few feet in two bronze statues stood along the wall facing each other. A heavy chain draped between them as to say this section was currently closed.

The Death of the Yellow Derro
Their objective was the tomb of I'Jin so they passed that corridor and continued to a smaller corridor beneath the one that led to the room with the devil-face in the floor.

The thirty-foot corridor ended with the statue of a man with a jackal's head facing the entrance. The jackal's mouth was open and light could be seen from the room beyond. 

Argent cautiously approached the statue. He looked into the mouth of the jackal and saw I'Jin's burial chamber. The sarcophagus once more sat atop the funeral barge! 

Before he could say anything he noticed that a section of wall to the right lowered. A squat derro with a yellow turban entered. He stepped onto the hieroglyph tile floor of the room. Before he could take a second step, swarms of locusts emerged from the mouths of the four sphinxes in each corner. The cloud locusts enveloped the derro, devouring him, leaving nothing but a pile of bones and clothing and a bronze shield - the same pile they saw when they first entered the tomb from above.

Argent realized he was observing an image from the past. He told the others what he saw. Bramble took Argent's place at the jackal's mouth and watched the scene replay. 

Seeing no other way in, they decided that the third corridor on the far side of the atrium must lead to the entrance to the tomb. They continued around.

Reflected Hall
The party explored the passage on the far wall. The passage split left and right. The right passage ended after only fifteen feet though some kind of small ventilation duct was visible. They opted for the left.

The left passage opened at the end of a long hall. The hall was bisected by a shimmering magical curtain of water. Four pairs of statues flanked the hall along the wall, each pair of statues staring across the hall towards its counterpart. Each statue had the body of a human but each pair bore the head of some animal. Each pair bore a different type of weapons. The weapons appeared to be removable.
The stork-headed males carried handaxes. The lizard-headed females bore maces. The panther-headed males brandished blowguns. The hawk-headed females were unarmed. The goat-headed males carried sickles. The frog-headed females bore tridents.

Argent grabbed a mace from the lizard-headed statues and tried to cross through the curtain of water. The water was released in a massive torrent that slammed Argent and the others into the rear wall. The water quickly drained through gaps and cracks in the floor.

Argent held up his hand to silence the others before they could talk, "Wait, I have an idea." He took the the trident from the frog-headed statues.

"Why the trident?" asked Bramble.

"It's used in fishing and is associated with water." replied the dragonic azi.

Bramble found that he couldn't argue with that logic.

Argent walked through the re-formed curtain of water with ease. He turned and shrugged.

The hall on the other side of the curtain of water was the mirror image of the previous side. Argent grabbed two tridents from the frog-headed statues on the far side and returned through the curtain of water, again with no ill effect.

Bearing tridents, Argent, Zeynap, and Bramble effortlessly crossed through the curtain of water. They turned around and handed the tridents to Orvex, Xoc-Wik, and Apparently who followed behind.


Chamber of Opposition
The party continued down a side corridor at the end of the hall of reflection. The passage turned right. There was an alcove ahead in the middle of the corridor on the right. Argent stepped into and found a door which he opened.

Within he found a large stone cauldron filled with what appeared to be piping hot soup. The iridescent light cast by Zeynap's magic revealed a dark figure standing opposite the font. It was the silhouette of Argent, black as shadow but with form. It presented its back to the party, as if it it were a dark duplicate of Argent facing away towards the far wall.

TO BE CONTINUED...



Tuesday, October 23, 2018

"Courage in the Face of Darkness" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 32


At Bramble's direction, Zeynap climbed into the onyx coffin, Bramble climbed into the rusty coffin, and Argent climbed into the silver coffin. Each turned their respective keys.

Orvex called out, "Hey! Shome buttonsh jusht appeared on the sharcophagush!"

"Push them!" was Bramble's reply.

Orvex pushed all three buttons.

Zeynap was bathed in life-draining energy. It was uncomfortable but he gritted his teeth and suffered no ill effects.

Bramble felt a slight tingle but suffered no harm.

Argent was flash frozen and barely survived the ordeal!

Orvex called out, "Shomething's happening! The sharcophagush is opening!"

The three adventurers reset their keys and opened their coffins. The lid to the sarcophagus had opened, revealing the desiccated remains of su-monster named Wongo, trickster god of Omu!

In Wongo's simian hands was a large heavy mace.

Wongo's mummified remains sat up and looked around. His eyeless face blindly scanned the room. It opened its mouth and emitted a silent scream.



CHAPTER 32
"COURAGE IN THE FACE OF DARKNESS"

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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Bhamut (Dragonborn Paladin) in the service of Bhamut, sent on a holy mission to join the expedition to destroy the Soul Monger. 
NPCs
  • Orvex Ocrammas - translator and guide for hire; rescued from the Fane of the Night Serpent.
Wrath of Wongo
Orvex fell backwards and cowered in the corner of the pit. Zeynap climbed out of his coffin and ran to the edge of the pit. He looked down and saw the ancient mummified remains of a su-monster weilding a stone mace. The mummy turned its eyeless face towards Zeynap. The Eusebean warlock clutched his head in pain and staggered under the power of the soundless scream. Zeynap was overwhelmed by the psychic power of the mummified su-monster.  The mummy climbed out of the pit and clawed at the stunned Zeynap.



Argent climbed out of his coffin and ran to Zeynap's aid, shouting a prayer of blessing to the dragon god Bhamut. Argent stood with Zeynap. The holy presence of the dragon-man knight buoyed the spirits of both Zeynap and Bramble and they were able to dismiss the aura of fear broadcast by the mummified god.

DM Note- I created a custom monster for the mummy of Wongo that combined a su-monster and a mummy and the magic powers of the Mace of Terror. I gave the mummy a fear aura that would have kept melee fighters away, plus the Mace of Terror's fear attack. As it turned out Argent is a Paladin and he and anyone standing within ten feet of him was immune to all fear effects. Well, poop! All my cool attacks were negated. Argent's player had never seemed so pleased! 

Bramble called upon the spirits of nature to create a sphere of fire next to the mummy.  Apparently, recovering from her brain fever, dashed down the hall, ducked under the broken fan blades, and stood at the entrance to the room. She sent several arrows into the mummy to little effect.


The mummy's eyeless face glared at Argent and performed its silent scream. Argent bared his draconic teeth and bore through the assault. The mummy moved away from the sphere of flame and engaged Bramble, clawing at the theran druid.

Zeynap regained his senses and attacked the mummy su-monster with eldritch blasts. Bramble called the sphere of flame and moved it into the mummy. The mummy burst into flame and fell to ashes. The stone mace fell to the floor with a loud thud.

Bramble picked up the mace and the spirit of the trickster god Wongo hovered before him. The su-monster looked impatient and angry and anxious to enter Bramble's body. Bramble took a chance and accepted the spirit.

Bramble found the she could converse with the spirit that shared her body. Wongo explained that the mummy was not his doing. He said that he had been defeated and killed by the necromancer Acererak and imprisoned within this tomb. He shared with Bramble his ability to broadcast a psychic scream that stunned opponents. In addition, Bramble felt a compulsion to act rashly without thought or concern for others.

Speak No Truth to the Doomed Child
Bramble spent an hour examining the mace while the others rested and recuperated from the fight. She decided to give the mace to Argent to carry.

They exited Wongo's tomb and made their way to the next corridor to the left.  The corridor was about thirty feet long. Thin beams of sunlight shone through the cracks in the ceiling and vines and bushes clung to the wall. A ten-foot tall skull occupied the entire wall at the end of the corridor. Two small flames burned in the eye sockets of the skull. Its jaw was agape and large enough for a man-sized creature to climb through. They could see a room beyond that was illuminated by other small beams of sunlight.

Argent approached the skull cautiously, gently testing each floor tile before putting his weight on them. He peered through the skull's gaping jaw and examined the room behind. He called Orvex forward to help identify anything important or read anything in ancient Omuan.

They saw a fifty-foot by fifty-foot room. A sarcophagus adorned with carvings of coiled serpents occupied the center of the room. Trees and bushes grew in the corner and vines and roots draped from the high ceiling. Shafts of sunlight shone through cracks in the ceiling. Since they were several hundred feet underground they knew it had to be magical.

DM Comment- Apparently's player calls them "Magical Solatubes".

Something was located on the far side of the room, obscured by the sarcophagus. Argent sent Orvex back to the corridor entrance. Argent crawled through the jaws and entered the room.

Bramble said that one of the flames in the eye sockets went out.

Argent now saw behind the sarcophagus a waist-high marble pedestal. The skull of a child floated above pedestal illuminated by a shaft of light.  A telepathic voice spoke to Argent's mind. It was the voice of a young girl. She was afraid and alone in a dark room. She could hear Argent but could not see him. She said her name was Nepartak, granddaughter of Queen Napaka of Omu. Despite Argent's attempts to calm her she became increasingly agitated and confused at being imprisoned within the darkness.

Bramble entered the room and strode towards the sarcophagus.

Nepartak asked, "Who is that? What is happening? Why can't I see you?"

Bramble could now hear the telepathic voice of the girl - and so could Wongo. Before Argent could say anything, Wongo replied, "Because you're a disembodied voice inside a floating skull!"

Bramble threw open the sarcophagus and saw within the remains of a large jaculi wrapped in silks. A staff carved of white wood lay atop the remains. The head of the staff resembled a serpentine jaculi.

The disembodied voice of the girl began to scream in shock and horror at the terrible news. The hovering skull burst into green and yellow flames and began to rise. Simultaneously, thousands of hideous discarded spider husks began pouring out of hundreds of small holes in the walls. The discarded spider husks were magically animated and swarmed towards Bramble and Argent.

Zeynap, hearing the commotion, called out, "I'm coming!" He dashed down the corridor and began to climb through the open jaws. The jaws clamped down, trapping him! Zeynap cried out in pain but could not force the jaws open. Apparently ran up and tried to help him to no avail.

The skull rose thirty feet into the air. A ball of fire burst from the skull's flaming aura, expanding with explosive force throughout the entire room. Argent and Bramble covered their faces against the fiery explosion. The spider husks in the room were incinerated.

More spider husks poured out of the walls!

Argent called upon the holy power of Bhamut to turn away the animated corpses before him. The bulk of the spider husks retreated into their warrens. Only a few dozen continued to advance.

Bramble called upon the new psychic powers imbued upon her by the spirit of Wongo to momentarily stun the skull. As she did so, she and Argent was swarmed by the dead spider husks!

Argent and Bramble did their best to remove the spider husks from their body but found the effort difficult.

The skull recovered from its momentary inaction and attacked Bramble and Agent with fiery beams from its eyes. Zeynap paused in his escape attempts to send an eldritch blast at the skull but the burning skull raised a magical shield and deflected it.

Argent and Bramble did their best to remove the spiders from their bodies while attempting to avoid the magical fire of the floating skull. Bramble called forth a small bolt of lightning from the ceiling that caused the skull to crack.


With Apparently's help Zeynap was eventually able to free himself from the jaws. He backed into the corridor and the skull's jaws reset to an open position. Both flames returned to the eye sockets. He leaned down to get a view into the room and attacked the skull with another witch bolt. Electricity surged from Zeynap's fingers into the skull. The skull screamed and exploded into a hundred small fragments.

Argent and Bramble destroyed the remaining spider husks. Apparently and Zeynap opted to stay outside the room.

While Argent prayed for the remains of Nepartak, anointing the skull fragments with holy water, Bramble picked up the serpentine staff.

A mist formed in front of her and coalesced into the spirit of Moa, the trickster god of the jaculi. Bramble eagerly accepted her entry. Wongo was less than pleased and the two spirits did battle. Wongo lost and was cast out.

Bramble said to herself, "Good riddance!"



Nightmares
Bramble became acquainted with his new spirit companion. Moa could tell no falsehood but she allowed Bramble to share her ability to become invisible. Moa expressed her disgust at the terrible mess left behind by that horrid brute Wongo. Bramble liked Moa. The party returned to Wongo's tomb to get some sleep.

During their rest each member of the party was plagued with nightmares. Zeynap dreamed that he hovered just above a placid lake surrounded by complete darkness. A dim indistinct light from no discernible source allowed him to see himself and the gentle ripples of the water below him. Ahead of him nearly forty feet away was a young human girl perhaps eight years of age. Her dark black wet hair clung to her head and draped over her tiny frame. She, too, was dimly illuminated as if by moonlight. Her face was obscured in shadow.  She wore a wet shift as if she had been swimming. In her hand was a dark red ball.

"Hello," she said.

"Hello?" responded Zeynap with trepidation.

"Will you play with me?" she asked.

"Um, no?" he replied.

The little girl looked crestfallen. Her lips began to quiver then curled up as she prepared to cry. She let out a horrid wail of sorrow which turned into a deafening scream of anger.

Zeynap bolted awake, covered in water. He would get no rest.

The Second Level
After their rest the party gathered their equipment and planned their next move. They decided to explore the underground creek. They crossed the mezzanine and carefully passed the green devil face. Their pitons had been removed and the inner door had been closed. The tall peaked window had been repaired and all the broken glass had been removed.

Bramble took a deep breath, "Alright, plan B,"

They returned to the mezzanine and descended the first flight of stairs. As they did so they paused to look down and examine the bottom of the atrium. The floor of the atrium was cloaked in darkness and mist. They could just make out four large pillars. The top of each pillar was decorated with a metallic square - each a different metal. Standing atop each pillar was a four-armed stone gargoyle.

The second mezzanine was darker than the one above. The walls were carved with devil faces and the air reeked of death and decaying flesh. A bronze plaque was attached to the wall at the bottom of the stairs.
The ring is a path to another tomb.
The dead abhor sunlight.
Only a jewel can tame the frog.
Bow as the dead god intoned.
Into darkness descend.
Into Darkness Descend
They entered the first narrow corridor to the left. The thirty foot corridor opened into a small fifteen foot by fifteen foot room. The walls of the room were decorated with more skulls. A large bas relief of the green devil face was carved into the floor of the room. The open mouth of the devil face formed a pit in the center of the floor. No light penetrated the open mouth. They thought they could hear the sound of a girl crying far away.



Zeynap dropped a glowing stone into the mouth. It disappeared. Bramble stuck an unlit torch into the mouth and removed it with no ill effect.

Apparently said, "Into darkness descend."

Bramble then tied a rope around herself, turned invisible and lowered herself into the devil's mouth. 

I'Jin's Tomb
Bramble descended through absolute silence and darkness for a bout fifteen feet and emerged through a shaft in the ceiling of a large room. She hung thirty feet over the floor of the chamber. The floor was covered in tiles decorated by strange hieroglyphics. Four large sphinxes sat in each corner of the room. Magical flames burned in the air above their heads, providing warm illumination.

In the center of the room was a fifteen foot dais on which sat a long thin vessel shaped like a canoe. The golden vessel was covered in beautifull and intricately carvings of the single-horned rabbits known as al-miraj. Atop the vessel was a ornately decorated gold chest encrusted with jewels. She landed on the dais and saw that it was safe. She tugged on the rope and was pulled back up.

She told the others what she saw. They tied the rope to a makeshift spike made from the remnants of the broken crowbar which they hammered into the stone floor. They climbed down the rope and landed on the dais.

There was a single entrance to the room located on one wall. Near the entrance was the desiccated body of a derro, an homely humanoid of short stature with misshapen teeth and thick fatty jowls from the subterranean cities of Polarion in the far north. The derro wore a yellow silk turban. A bronze shield lay near its body.

The party huddled on the dais and examined the chest. Argent picked it up. The dais was immediately surrounded by a shimmering column of force that extended from the floor to the ceiling. Argent put the chest back down and the column of force disappeared.

Zeynap asked the others for an indulgence. He was curious about the body of the derro.



He zapped the body with his eldritch blast. The blast had a telekinetic pulling effect that dragged the body towards the dais. He blasted it again. The body was close enough to grab and drag onto the dais. The body was badly damaged by the blasts. They found some gems and two crystal eyes in a carry-bag.

Apparently tied her rope around herself and gave the other end to Argent. She pushed off the dais and floated gently a foot or two over the floor. She drifted over the bronze shield and picked it up off the floor. She reached the wall and pushed off with her feet, propelling herself back towards the dais. She landed with dexterous aplomb.

They tied Apparently's rope around the chest and affixed it to the rope dangling from the shaft in the ceiling. They climbed back up and pulled the chest out behind them.

Back in the room with the devil's face floor they examined the chest. There were no keyholes or obvious method of opening the chest. Bramble called upon the spirits of nature to dispel the magic of the chest.

Suddenly the magical darkness within the devil's mouth became a swarm of bat-shaped shadows! The swarm filled the room like a cyclone of fluttering darkness, biting and cutting everyone within. The party responded by cutting and slashing at the darkness. With each counter-attack small bits of darkness would burn away into nothingness. Soon the swarm of darkness had been dissipated. The hole in the floor was no longer a dark void. The room below was clearly visible.

Unable to open the mystery box, the party decided to leave it and return later.

Spoilers
Bramble held her hand up to stop the others, "Hold on, I have an idea. I'll be right back."

She turned invisible and quickly ran downstairs to the third mezzanine. She passed a large door with three head-sized holes. The room within stank of rotting flesh. The walls of the third mezzanine were dark and encrusted with thick purple lichen. She quickly descended the stairs and found another bronze plaque on the wall.
Walk through water with weapon in hand.
Slake your shadow at the font.
The vulture is the first step.
Right the gods.
The walls of history tell all.
She ran back upstairs and became visible.

"Find anything?" inquired Apparently.

"Nothing useful. Let's keep going." said Bramble.

DM Comment- Because Bramble was invisible, I allowed Bramble's player to read the plaque but she couldn't write it down so I didn't give the player the handout. He had to memorize it.

The Ring
The party exited the room of the devil face floor back into the atrium. They entered the next corridor to the left. Halfway down the sixty foot corridor was a four-way intersection. Each corridor to the left and right arced upwards and out of sight. Ten feet down the corridor to the left was the dead body of a strange goat-faced man in yellow wizard robes.


Apparently levitated herself once again and pushed off down the corridor. She expected that she'd need to levitate up to follow the arcing passage but to her surprise gravity curved with the corridor. She continued drifting for about 160 feet and eventually reached another four way intersection. The intersection was identical to the previous four-way intersection. The atrium could be seen to the left.

She muttered to herself, "The ring is a path to another tomb." She pushed off the intersection and drifted back the way she came. She stopped her movement by grabbing the body of the goat-faced man. She searched his remains, taking a spellbook, a journal, a pen and ink set, and an ornate staff. She took a moment to read some passages in the journal. Bramble cleared her throat. Apparently gathered the goat-man's belongings and pushed off again towards her waiting party where she recounted what she saw.

Drown Your Sorrows
The corridor ended in a large room. The vaulted twelve-foot ceiling of the room was supported by four pillars. A coffin rested atop a plinth in the center of the room. The floor was tiled in alternating black and white marble squares. The room reeked of wine. The four corners of the room were each decorated with  a large devil face made of green marble , mouths agape and large enough to squeeze into.

Moa warned Bramble that this tomb did not look as if it belonged to one of the trickster gods of Omu and that the style was distinctly not Omuan.

The party cautiously entered the room. The floor was sticky. Argent walked up to the coffin and opened the lid. Within was a wooden plaque that read, "DROWN YOUR SORROWS".

Argent picked up the plaque, "Drown your sorrows? What does that mean?"

As if on cue, the ceiling outside the entrance began to descent. Orvex and Xoc-Wik managed to back up out of the way as the massive stone block sealed the only exit.

Valves opened in each of the green devil faces and thousands of gallons of dark red wine began to pour into the room. The wine spewed with the force of a cataract and the room began to flood. First ankle deep, then shin, then knee.

The party rushed to the sole exit and tried to remove the massive stone cube blocking the way. No one could lift it or move it. No weapon could damage it. Zeynap's spells had no effect. Bramble, transformed into a massive ape, was unable to budge it.

Without warning the wine came alive and attacked! The wine rose up and enveloped Bramble, Argent, Apparently, and Zeynap. Tendrils of wine lashed at them and grabbed their arms and legs. Each member of the party slashed and stabbed wildly at the animated wine around them as the room continued to fill.

The wine stopped attacking by the time it had reached their shoulders. Zeynap crawled atop the coffin to do his best to stay above the rising liquid. Soon the wine was nearing the ceiling and they were running out of air. Zeynap was feeling trapped and was becoming desperate. His temper began to fray.

Argent, as a holy knight of Bhamut, was immune to fear.

Apparently was unconcerned at her situation and maintained a calm demeanor throughout the ordeal. Her demijinn heritage allowed her to hold her breath indefinitely.

Argent, Apparently, and Bramble tried their best to push against the raging current of the wine in an attempt to find and stop the source. Bramble transformed into a small shark and swam up the current. She found the source of the wine in a large rapidly draining tank. She returned to the tile room and transformed back into her human shape.

The only remaining air was a small pocket at the very top of the ceiling. Zeynap, Bramble, and Apparently bobbed there while Bramble relayed the plan. Argent was busy pushing against the current at one of the mouths.

Bramble transformed back into a shark. As Bramble directed, Apparently tied her rope around the shark's tail fin.

The flow stopped when the wine reached the ceiling and there was no more air. Bramble swam up the chute in a different devil's mouth. She quickly found a branching pipe. She continued up the branch until she reached air. She transformed back into human shape, completely filling the narrow pipe, and tugged on the rope.

Apparently got the signal and sent Zeynap up the pipe. Zeynap followed the rope and squeezed himself up the pipe after Bramble, eventually reaching the branching pipe and air.

Apparently sought out Argent but could not find him. The wine was nearly opaque. Then she saw a moving glow. Argent had activated the mystical flaming sword of Ras Nsi. Apparently found Argent and led him towards the rope. It was a tight fit but Argent was able to climb up the rope and into the narrow pipe.

Apparently looked around one last time and followed Argent into the pipe.

TO BE CONTINUED...

DM Commentary- The players started to get really frustrated at the wine room. The inability to move or damage the stone block and the high DC (25) to swim against the rushing flow of wine led them to conclude that this was a badly designed death trap and that they were going to die. The appearance of the wine weirds gave them something to direct their frustration towards for a short while. 

 So, two minutes to fill up the room. After that the characters have 1 + CON modifier minutes (min 30 seconds) to get out. Although its not explicitly stated in the book, I assume that the flow stops once the room fills up. After that, they don't need to make impossible Athletics checks to swim against the current, they just squeeze up the right pipe and find an exit. 

I can definitely see less experienced players getting frustrated and losing characters in this room. I thought it was fun but my players would probably disagree.