Tuesday, July 24, 2018

"The Fane of the Night Serpent" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 22

It was an hour or two before dawn and Bramble had the last watch. Tomorrow would be the fifty-first day since the expedition left Port Nyanzaru. They were encamped within the ruined walls of the crumbling gatehouse. Trees grew within the courtyard walls. The well in the center of the courtyard was long dry and filled with grass and vines. The two saurian behemoths drowsed on the far side of the courtyard. The fat raindrops created a constant patter on the canvas tents in which the others slept.

Bramble noticed a snake slithering through the grass. Then another. Then two more. Something wasn't right. He stood and shouted, "Alarm! Alarm! Wake up! Somebody wake up Zeynap!"

The ancient shape-changing serpent-men known as nagina were upon them!


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

Eku, sleeping on the ground in the rain, was the first awake. She transformed herself into a mongoose and rushed a snake on the left flank. Bramble moved to the right flank while Zeynap and Argent emerged from their tents. Zeynap immediately began zapping snakes on the right flank with rainbow bolts of magical energy. Each of the three snakes was immediately transformed back into the form of a nagina warrior - a creature with a human body and the head of a cobra!  They were armed with long-bows.

An unseen snake coiled around Zeynap's leg and bit the warlock in the shin. Zeynap fell to the venomous bite. Bramble summoned the healing spirit of the wolf which rendered aid to Zeynap and Argent who had been similarly stricken by an unseen serpent. 

Both snakes were quickly dispatched before transforming back into nagina warriors! The nagina warriors spun their khopeshes and engaged Argent and Zeynap in close combat!

Eku's mongoose killed the snake causing it to transform into a nagina. Eku abandoned her mongoose form and resumed her natural form as a couatl. Argent meanwhile was supporting his comrades with prayers of protection and healing.

Bramble transformed into a gargantuan fifty-foot boa constrictor and coiled around one of nagina to the right. Zeynap fell under the onslaught of the attackers but was revived by Argent.

Suddenly Xoc-Wik emerged from his brain fever and burst from his tent, bow drawn. He begain picking off nagina at range, moving around behind the tents. One heavily wounded serpent-man was pushed away by Zeynap's blast. The nagina turned and fled. The serpent man made it through the outer gate and was escaping into the dark. Xoc-Wik stepped through the gate and loosed an arrow, killing the fleeing serpent-man at a range of nearly a hundred feet. Another serpent-man fled through the inner gate. Xoc-Wik turned and launched an arrow in a high arc, striking the serpent-man in the back and killing him.

Poison Stew
The serpent-men were all killed and the camp was secure. The party regrouped around the campfire.

Argent began coughing. The coughing became hacking. Argent then collapsed to his knees and began wretching and heaving. He regurgitated the stew he had taken from Bag-of-Nails the day before. It had been poisoned! He was feeling better but the poisoned stew took its toll. Argent decided to rest for the remaining hour before dawn.

Unseen to the party, a dark figure rose from a crouch atop the wall of the courtyard. Its feline eyes narrowed. Argent had survived his poisoned stew. Bag-of-Nails turned and disappeared into the rain and darkness.

DM Note- Yeah, the poison was supposed to strike at midnight. I had big notes written all over everything to remind me to resolve the poison BEFORE the ambush. I forgot anyway. Luckily I remembered immediately after the fight and it made for a good scene anyway. Bag-of-Nails made a great Stealth roll and no one saw him in the distance but I described the scene of Bag-of-Nails rising and disappearing into the pre-dawn darkness anyway because it was so cinematic. The players really appreciated it.

Bag-of-Nails Strikes Again!
The night rains ended and the sun rose over the eastern mountains illuminating the mist covering western portion of hte city. The party geared up for a new excursion into the city. They retraced their steps from the previous day, skirting the lake of lava and crossing the river on the fallen tree.

As they crossed the fallen log, a poisoned arrow flew through the air and struck Argent! Zeynap saw Bag-of-Nails leaping to another rooftop for better position. Zeynap ran across to the shore but lost track of the b'alam hunter. A cackling old voice echoed through the abandoned city, "Did I get him?"

"Yes!" replied Zeynap, "But he's not dead!"

"Gah!" came the unseen reply, "I'll try again later!" The feline assassin then fled the scene.

DM Note- the players joked that as they explored the city they would find little bowls of stew left out with a note that said "Free stew!" every few blocks. 

A Token Resistance
The party eschewed the elevated boulevard and traveled with stealth beneath the tree canopy. They reached the entrance to the circular inner wall without incident. As they passed through the arched gate they encountered two nagina archers who were guarding the entrance. Bramble, Argent, and Eku took cover behend the wall while Zeynap and Xoc-Wik eliminated the archers from range. They found not other guards and continued to the tunnel entrance they had found the previous day. Apparently the nagina believed their ambush would take care of the party so no further guard was necessary.

The Bronze Doors
The party entered the descending tunnel that led under the central tower. The tunnel was wide enough for a four-legged behemoth and cart. The tunnel ended at a pair of heavy bronze doors. The doors were embossed with a bas relief of a circular snake devouring its own tail - the symbol of Jivantaka the Destroyer!

There was a closed peep-hole at head level and small circular holes along the the base of the doors. The doors could be neither pushed nor pulled. Only when the Bramble, Argent, Zeynap, and Xoc-Wik all pulled at the doors in unison was there the sound of a chain breaking followed by the doors sliding open on runners.

Inside the door was a nagina warrior and four nagina degenerates! The nagina warrior hissed orders at his degenerate underlings. They immediately rushed forward and removed four grates covering a wide pit just inside the doorway. The pit was as wide as the corridor, five feet across, ten feet deep, and filled with live snakes! The degenerates then formed a line along the pit to prevent anyone from jumping across.

Xoc-Wik loosed arrows while Zeynap created a magical flaming sphere behind the degenerates. The degenerates dispersed to escape the flame and retreated from the side of the pit, allowing Argent to leap across the pit and engage the degenerates in close battle!

The nagina warrior attempted to escape down a side passage and sound the alarm but was dispatched by Xoc-Wik's arrows before he could succeed. The remaining nagina degenerates were soon defeated and the party made its way safely across the defensive pit.

DM Note- Technically, the PCs should not be able to force open those doors. The inability to force them open is meant to force the players to choose disguise or deception to gain entry. However, my players would never give up so I just adapted the rules for forcing open portcullises. Besides, Bramble or Eku could have turned into a snake, slithered in, and opened the door anyway, so the net result would have been the same.

The Hall of War
The passage narrowed to ten feet wide before opening into a sixty foot by eighty foot room supported by four columns. A large cage containing a three-horn occupied the corner immediately to the right. Carts were stored in the corner to the left. A large statue of a coiled serpent was located atop a stone base in the center of the room. Two alcoves were visible in the dim green light along the right wall.

Four nagina degenerates, having heard the battle in the entrance, were prepared. Two of the degenerates held leashes attached to two squat six-legged reptiles with glowing eyes. They were located at the front of the group awaiting the arrival of the party. The other degenerates, as well as their robed human-looking master, stood warily behind the reptiles.

Bramble immediately summoned two large ferocious bears to form a defensive line in front of the reptiles. The bears fought with the reptiles while Zeynap moved his flaming sphere towards the rear. The human master retreated behind the cover of the statue. The human shouted orders as he plucked small gelatinous eggs out of a sack. He ate the soft eggs like a snack, dribbling long trails of slime down his pointed chin from his lipless mouth.

The degenerates dispersed to avoid the flame. Zeynap cast a spell of shattering which not only injured several of the degenerates, it destroyed the statue! The robed human was suddenly without cover and facing the demise of his degenerate guards. The escaped down a passage to the left. 

DM Note - Zeynap's player was so proud he was able to cast Shatter on something inanimate! 

It soon became obvious that the reptiles possessed the magical ability to turn their opponents into stone! The bears were able to withstand this effect long enough to rend the reptiles and advance. The bears were soon able to destroy the remaining degenerates and the room was clear.

DM Note - Bramble's player called the bear strategy "Wall of Bears". It was the second fight he had cast "Wall of Bears" and he noted that it was very effective! It not only kept the basilisks from getting any closer, the bears kicked out a lot of damage!

Suddenly the entire complex echoed with the sound of two loud peals from a large gong. The alarm had been sounded. The complex was on alert!

To Be Continued!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And why do you need it?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

The wizardess glowered at the bald merchant with seething impatience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Quick Getaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The party agreed.

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued...