Wednesday, August 29, 2018

"Beware the Froghemoth!" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 26

The party rounded the jutting finger created by the cliff. Orvex pointed out the compound to the right in which his group had camped when they were attacked and captured by the nagini. They had arrived at their destination.

A rectangular pool of murky water stretched before the vine-draped shrine. Partially submerged docks made of rotten wooden planks sat just underneath the surface. The docks were covered with moss and water plants. The shards of a toppled monolith formed stepping stones to the middle of the pool, where a statue of a stone frog rose above the water.

The party carefully made their way around the left side of the pool. Bramble and Apparently noticed three eyes attached to a long eyestalk the size of a man's arm sticking out of the water. They had barely enough time to alert their companions when the massive bulk of a giant frog-shaped creature heaved itself out of the shallow murk!


  • 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.
  • Tony - rough and tumble dinosaur wrangler who wished to learn from Apparently, possibly from 19th century Boston on Earth. 
  • Orvex Ocrammas - translator and guide for hire; rescued from the Fane of the Night Serpent.

Zeynap reacted quickly by channeling the magical power of his celestial patron into a witch-bolt of electrical energy. Lightning began streaking towards the massive warty enemy. The froghemoth writhed in agony and lashed a tentacle out at Zeynap. Zeynap was caught up and lifted off the ground.  Xoc-Wik moved away from the froghemoth and climbed up the cliff wall behind them. Bramble summoned his "wall of bears" to block the froghemoth's movement.

DM Note- Zeynap getting his witch-bolt started on the first action of the first turn set the stage for this battle. Zeynap's witch-bolt does lightning damage. The froghemoth is resistant to lightning damage but if it does take any electric damage, it suffers -2 AC, half movement, cannot perform its multi-attack, and cannot perform any reactions. When Xoc-Wik moved away, I at first had the froghemoth grab him, but then realized he had no reactions, so I sullenly had to allow Xoc-Wik to escape. 

Zeynap managed to maintain a continuous stream of electricity arcing into the froghemoth. The froghemoth lashed out its long tongue, its bulbous tip slapped onto Zeynap and dragged him close. Zeynap was drawn into the creature's mouth but managed to avoid being consumed.

DM Note- In another strike against the froghemoth, I rolled a 3. Not a good round for Froghemoth!

The froghemoth soon fell to the continuous barrage of Xoc-Wik's arrows, Bramble's bears, and Zeynap's electrical witch-bolt. It exploded, sending blubbery chunks flying and splashing into the fetid pool.

The Stone Key
The door to the shrine stood closed.  A keyhole was clearly visible on the stone door. Rather than try to force the door, the party spent ten minutes poking the floating remains of the froghemoth with sticks hoping in vain to find some sort of key. Xoc-Wik thought about the rotting docks that led, submerged, to the frog statue in the center of the pool and concluded that it must house a hidden key.

Zeynap tried one of the docks with a gentle nudge of one foot. The dock plank was slick and rotten and gave easily under the pressure of his foot. Bramble sent one of the bears onto another dock. The dock gave way beneath the bear. The bear was forced to swim out of the murky pool.

Xoc-Wik positioned himself by the door to the shrine and got a running start. The feline archer hurled his body through the air. He landed against the side of the statue's base, slick with moss and slime, and slid into the water with a scrabble and an angry howl.

DM Note- Xoc-Wik rolled a 3 on his Acrobatics check. We all shared the vision of one of the funny cat videos where the cat tries to leap from one counter to another and fails.

Xoc-Wik managed to climb up the front of the statue. He found a stone key resting in the mouth of the statue.

"Be careful! It will probably try to bite your hand off!" shouted Bramble.

Xoc-Wik nodded and used an arrow to pry the key loose. The statue offered no response. He pocketed the key and swam back to the side of the pool.

Xoc-Wik looked like a wet cat, angry and disheveled. He took a deep breath and a wave of magic swept over him. He was suddenly dry! He held up his thumb and smiled a toothy grin towards his companions. 

Shrine of Kubazan
The party made their way to the entrance to the shrine adjacent to the pool. Two obelisks flanked the stone doors of the entrance. Carved into the lintel above this locked gate was an inscription written in Old Omuan. Orvex was called forward to translate. He informed them that the inscription read “Kubazan urges us to tread without fear and to give back as much as we take.”

Xoc-Wik opened the doors with the stone key. Steps descended to a ledge overlooking a pit of sharpened stakes. An alcove on the far wall held a pedestal with a stone cube resting on it. A relief carved into the back of the alcove showed a monstrous frog with tentacles fighting a crane. Wooden beams radiated from the walls at floor height, with four-foot gaps between them. Carved frog heads extruded from the walls above the beams.

Xoc-Wik suggested that the inscription referred to the cube. They had to leave something of equal size or value. Bramble suggested they leave an equal weight in valuable gems and provided a gem for Xoc-Wik to use.

Xoc-Wik, assuming the wooden poles to be trapped, used his retractable climbing claws to scramble along the walls to the far wall. He exchanged the gemstone for the cube and scrambled back. They retreated from the shrine and closed the doors behind them.

"Well, that was easy!" said Xoc-Wik.

DM Note- I didn't think about how light a gem could be. In retrospect, I regret not doing the Indiana Jones thing and have the trap triggered anyway. 

Shrine of Shagambi
The party retraced their steps and made their way to the next likely shrine - the walled compound located alongside the lava lake.

The party passed the obelisks flanking the entrance to the compound and saw a round stone building. The obelisks were decorated with carvings of jaguars with six snakes sprouting from their shoulders - the dreaded kamadans. Orvex translated the old Omuan inscription: "Shagambi teaches us to fight evil with honor." Reliefs on the monoliths further showed Shagambi overseeing Chultan warriors as they trained with spears and shields.

The entrance into the building was a heavy iron door. No single person could move the door so Bramble ran a rope through the handle. Everyone, including the two spirit bears, grabbed a section of rope and pulled. Together they were able to open the vault-like door.

Steps descended into a fifteen-foot-high, moss-covered room. Four statues of Omuan warriors stood in alcoves to either side, overlooking a barred gladiatorial pit in the floor. Each statue looked like it was meant to hold a spear, but its weapon was missing. On the far side of the chamber, a stone pedestal stood conspicuously bare. A relief on the wall behind it showed a monstrous jaguar
with six snakes protruding from its shoulders, fighting off a squat, frog-like humanoid armed with a spear. To the left of the relief was a narrow tunnel with stairs leading down.

Bramble was the last to enter the building. As he did so, he spotted a kamadan stalking along the roof of the structure. He entered quickly and informed the others. The spirit-bears squeezed in behind him.

Xoc-Wik led the way down the tunnel, followed by Bramble and Zeynap. Bramble assigned the spirit-bears to guard the entrance in case the kamadan entered.

The tunnel descended sharply and curved to the left, eventually opening into the fifteen foot barred chamber they saw in the floor above. Xoc-Wik stepped into the room and heard a clank, followed by the sound of chains and rising portcullises.

"Be ready!" he warned, "I think we're about to have company!"

Fight with Honor
Zeynap prepared to hurl magical hex bolts at anything that emerged from the tunnel on the other side of the chamber. Xoc-Wik clambered up the wall of the chamber and squeezed through the bars of the ceiling to take an archery position on the floor of the room above. Bramble transformed himself into a saber-toothed cat and moved in front of the far tunnel.

Soon the sound of marching feet could be heard from the far tunnel. Around the corner emerged two warriors made of terracotta and animated through ancient magic. Each warrior carried a bronze spear in one hand and a clay shield in the other. Xoc-Wik attacked the first terracotta warrior with two arrows. The first arrow struck home while the second arrow arced behind the warrior and struck another warrior around the corner. 

Bramble held the front but Xoc-Wik and Zeynap had difficulty hitting the target. The terracotta warrior kept striking Bramble and the theran druid was eventually forced to regain his natural form. Bramble then called upon the spirits of nature and transformed his shape into that of a colossal ape!

The massive gorilla completely filled the chamber! Bramble's new form began grabbing and smashing terracotta warriors.

DM Note- Bramble player was LOVING the new mini I made for him. He was also loving the damage his new form could rack out. 

Xoc-Wik leaped onto Bramble's simian back and climbed down, repositioning himself next to Zeynap in the opposite tunnel. From his new vantage point he had better visibility into the far tunnel and had better luck loosing arrows into targets that were previously unseen.

All four of the terracotta warriors were soon defeated. As each was destroyed a bronze spear clattered to the floor.

DM Note- and I JUST realized that the section states that they only leave behind their spears if the warriors are defeated INSIDE the 15' x 15' room. As all of these guys were defeated in the hallway, the spears technically should have disappeared and re-formed when they did. Dang it! 

Zeynap and Bramble collected the bronze spears while Xoc-Wik inspected the source of the terracotta warriors. He found four cells with a warrior slowly reforming within each cell.

They returned to the upper floor and placed the spears into the hands of the statues. There was the sound of mechanical gears and grinding stone. The pedestal rotated and a small stone cube arose from a hidden door. They obtained the cube and decided to take a short rest.

Attack of the Kamadans
An hour later, the party exited the shrine, minus the bears which had returned to the spirit world. The coast appeared clear. There were no apparent signs of the kamadan spotted earlier so  they made their way past some bushes and trees.

A kamadan appeared on the roof of the shrine. The party made haste to escape. A second kamadan appeared from the bushes and exhaled a cloud of white dust. Bramble, Xoc-Wik, and Zeynap turned their heads and covered their faces but Orvex fell unconscious. The other kamadan breathed its own cloud of white dust from the roof but the would-be victims remained unaffected.

Bramble transformed himself into a polar bear and engaged the kamadan in the bushes. The kamadan turned to flee but was brought down by Xoc-Wik's arrows. Zeynap attacked the kamadan on the roof and the creature turned to flee.

Xoc-Wik climbed onto the roof and gave chase. He followed the kamadan to the rear of the shrine and found it cowering under a cart protecting a clutch of cubs. He sighed and took the kamadan's life with an arrow.

Xoc-Wik hopped down and scooped the orphaned cubs into his arms. He brought them back to the rest of the party. Zeynap declared, "Ooh, those will be worth something back in town."

"No," interrupted Bramble, glaring at Xoc-Wik, "They're not for sale. I'm going to raise them myself."


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"The Nine Trickster Gods of Omu" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 25

The five serpentine heads of the hydra loomed over the rowboat. It paused, waiting.

The party froze, anticipating an attack that never came.

Two of the hydra's heads tilted curiously.

Bramble looked around, "Does anyone have anything to feed it?"

Everyone frantically looked through their satchels and backpacks but could find nothing substantive.

Apparently had a sudden realization, "Wait! I've got an idea!"

She had magically summoned two large spirit-bears during their fight with Ras Nsi. The two bears were currently treading water behind the rowboat. She directed one of the bears to swim towards the hydra.

All five heads snapped in the direction of the swimming bear. They dove onto the bear and the two creatures disappeared within frothing water. Argent rowed the boat as fast as he could!


  • 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.
  • Tony - rough and tumble dinosaur wrangler who wished to learn from Apparently, possibly from 19th century Boston on Earth. 
DM Note- As it happened, the bear gambit shouldn't have worked. The bear disappears in a poof once it reaches zero hit points. The hydra would have fought the bear for like one round, the bear would die, and disappear. However, nobody at the table realized this until later, so the hydra got to eat the bear - this time. The party now owes me a hydra fight! 

The underground lake narrowed to a passage barely ten feet wide. A light was visible past the narrows. Three serpentine archers emerged from a doorway and readied their bows. Arrows slipped into the water.

Bramble called forth the power of nature to direct bolts of sub-zero chill towards the archers while Zeynap cast rainbow hued hexes.

Apparently directed the remaining bear to swim towards the wall of the cavern. Once it reached the side, the bear grabbed the wall and launched itself at the archers in a torrent of water and speed. The archers were forced to drop their bows and draw their scimitars in order to deal with the bear. Meanwhile Xoc-Wik loosed arrow after arrow at their attackers.

The bear killed one of the archers but was quickly dispatched. The remaining archers directed their attacks at Xoc-Wik. The b'alam archer dodged the incoming volley but lost his footing and fell into the water. He quickly made his way towards the other wall, effortlessly climbed out, and dropped back into the boat.

DM Note- To represent the difficulty in fighting on the overloaded boat, I gave the players the option. Any time an incoming attack targeted them:

  • the attacker got advantage on the attack.
  • the defender had to make a Dexterity Save vs. 10 or fall off the boat, losing a turn to get back in. 
The remaining archers were soon defeated and the rowboat continued down the lake.

Once again, the lake narrowed to a ten foot wide passage. They turned a bend and came face to face with another rowboat. This boat was rowed by a humanoid initiate and carried a serpentine archer. The oncoming boat blocked their passage. The occupants of both boats exchanged bowshots. The occupants of the serpentine boat were soon destroyed by one of Xoc-Wik's magical exploding arrows.

Slave Revolt
The party arrived at the southern end of the lake to find several nagini degenerates waiting for them. Suddenly a mob of freed slaves rushed  out of the darkness from behind them and attacked them using clubs, shovels, and pick-axes. The degenerates were beaten down and soon defeated.

The freed slaves were a mixture of Chultans and b'alam. They were led by the Chultan Kanush Natombe, the English bomber pilot Commander Frederick carrying the sick boy Tahvo, the Eusebean watcher Lomar Dral, and the former Chultan pirate Zilla Atazi. With them was the b'alam minstrel Pottery Shard, the red-skinned newt-man Gorvax, and the yellow-skinned pygmy Mung.

To Xoc-Wik's great surprise, the b'alam slaves were the missing members of his tribe back in Bres! His people were alive!

After a brief exchange of pleasantries, it was pointed out that the barred doors wouldn't hold long and that they had best escape. The party, along with the newly freed prisoners and slaves, made their way out the southern passage and to freedom.

They emerged on the east side of the flooded river separating Omu. It was dark, only an hour or two before dawn. They took a risk and used the raised boulevard to quickly return to their camp.

The Nine Trickster Gods of Omu
The party arrived back at the base camp with their new guests as dawn broke over the eastern rim of the valley. Fifty-two days had passed since they left Port Nyanzaru. They found Vinnie Tony tending to the macetail. Eku was absent.

With no imminent sign of a nagina reprisal, the party decided to rest and recuperate. Food and water was provided to the escaped slaves. Newly acquired treasures were examined and appraised.

Zeynap was inspecting the cube he found among Ras Nsi's belongings. One of the escaped prisoners, Orvex Ocrammas, the translator, identified it as the puzzle cube of Obo'laka, one of the nine puzzle cubes of the Trickster Gods of Omu. He had studied the gods prior to the expedition to prepare for Omu. He asked if they wished to know more about them.

The party agreed and gathered around.

Orvex recounted the tale...
Long ago, the god Ubtao hardened his heart and vowed to weep for the people of Omu no longer. The rains stopped, the jungle withered and died, and death swept through Omu.
One morning, a wise zorbo emerged from her hollow tree and spoke to the dying Omuans. To convince Ubtao of their worth, she decided to cook him a stew made from all their good qualities. Catching such virtues wouldn’t be easy, so she asked a wily almiraj to help her. The almiraj snuck recklessness in the pot, which she saw as a virtue, and Ubtao spat out the stew when he tasted it. From that day on, Obo’laka the zorbo and I’jin the almiraj became terrible enemies. 
At noon, a brave kamadan hopped down from her rock. She saw the evil in the Omuans’ hearts and decided to lance it like a troublesome boil. The kamadan fashioned a holy spear, but she left it by the riverbank and a crafty grung stole it. In her rage, Shagambi the kamadan forgot all about the Omuans and chased Nangnang the grung forever across the sky. 
When evening came, a wily eblis stepped from his reed hut. He didn’t like the Omuans, but without them he’d have no one to play his tricks on. The eblis sent a marsh frog to reason with Ubtao, but the frog was angry and decided to wrestle the god instead. This amused Ubtao, so he gave the frog tentacles to make it stronger. When Kubazan the froghemoth returned to Papazotl the eblis, he chased Papazotl into the swamp with his new tentacles.
That night, a su-monster broke into Ubtao’s palace and stole a pail of water for the Omuans. When the god came running to find it, the su-monster hid the pail in a jaculi’s burrow. Ubtao asked the jungle animals where his water was hidden, and Moa the jaculi was too honest to lie. When Wongo the su-monster found out how Moa had betrayed him, he vowed to catch the jaculi and eat him up.
All the while, Unkh the flail snail lived deep under the earth. The noise of the other animals fighting made her slither up to the surface, and when day dawned over her shell, the light blinded Ubtao and made his eyes water. Life returned to Omu, and the people built shrines to honor the animals who’d saved them.
DM Note- Every time the story referenced a creature, I had to describe what that creature was to the players. A zorbo was a "crazy koala". An al'miraj was a "rabbit with a unicorn horn". A kamadan was "a panther with snakes growing out of its shoulders". An iblis was "like a stork". A jaculi was "a rainbow colored snake". And a su-monster was "an evil psychic monkey". 

The party spent the rest of the day looking out over the city below them. They identified specific structures they believed might be temples to the nine gods and made plans to explore the city on the following day.

During their rest, Apparently summoned a spirit-honker - a replacement for Chak'sa, and Argent's deity Bahamut blessed the holy warrior with a magnificent reptilian war-steed

DM Note - Level up! Level 7.  

Princess Mwaxanaré of Omu
On the dawn of the fifty-third day since leaving Port Nyanzaru, the party prepared themselves to begin searching the city for the puzzle cubes. The scream of a young woman in danger followed by the loud cracks of firearms spurred the team into immediate action!

The sounds were coming from some nearby ruins. From their vantage point overlooking the city they could see four crystalline gargoyles attempting to capture some humanoid prey in nets. They quarry consisted of two men wearing the jump suits of Akasanal air-nomads, two aarokan monks, a teenaged Chultan woman, and a young Chultan boy. The sky-nomads were shooting at the crystal gargoyles while the aarokans were defending the young woman and boy.

The party charged down the slope and towards the fray.

Argent, astride his new mount, was the first to engage the crystal gargoyles. Zeynap and Xoc-Wik remained behind and sent arrows and magical attacks towards the gargoyles in flight. After a brief but challenging fight the two surviving crystalline gargoyles fled in retreat, only to be picked off at extreme range by Xoc-Wik's arrows and Zeynap's spells. Unfortunately, one of the Akasanals had been killed by a crystalline gargoyle during the fight.

The group gave thanks to the party for the rescue and introductions were given. The young lady was Princess Mwaxanaré, heir apparent of the throne of Omu. The shy young boy was her brother, Na. Her aarokan companions were her protectors, monks from the mountain fortress of Kir Sabal. The surving Akasanal sky-nomad was named Voluntarily. His fallen companion was named Possibly.

Princess Mwaxanaré explained that she was the rightful leader of Chult and wished to pacify and rebuild Omu. The merchant princes of Port Nyanzaru opposed her. They had sent assassins to kill her in Kir Sabal and she and her brother was forced to flee.

She wished to unite the tribes of Chult to overthrow the merchant princes, but first she would need to legitimize her claim to the throne. For that she needed the Skull Chalice of Ch’gakare.

The Skull Chalice of Ch’gakare was crafted from the skull of a long dead Omuan king and once served as a symbol of office for the royal line of Omu. The legendary Chultan hero Ch’gakare was said to have beheaded the king after escaping the Nine Hells on the back of a mastodon.

DM Note - Accompanied by the wailing of rad guitars and roaring gouts of flame! 

The skull chalice was located somewhere in Omu. She did not know exactly where. She and her aarokan companions had hired an Akasanal skyship to bring them to Omu to find it. The airship was located three leagues to the west. They had seen another airship try to approach Omu two days previous and had observed as it was attacked by crystalline gargoyles and crashed in the city, so they decided to set down farther away where it was safe.

The party liked the young noble-woman and wished to help her in her quest. More importantly, they hated the merchant princes and wished to do anything they could to upset their power in Port Nyanzaru. The party explained that Omu was much too dangerous for her and her group. They offered to find and retrieve the skull chalice for her. In exchange, they asked that the princess and her entourage return to the sky-ship. In addition, they would be joined by the escaped slaves and prisoners. Those who wished to stay would help construct a fortified base-camp outside of Omu.

The party planned to find the chalice and return to civilization aboard the Akasan sky-ship.

The princess and her entourage agreed. The party led them back to the base-camp and explained the plan to the others. 

The Likely Temple
By noon, the party was once more preparing to explore the city. They had identified a likely temple and along the western cliff base.

The party rounded the jutting finger created by the cliff. Orvex pointed out the compound to the right in which his group had camped when they were attacked and captured by the nagini. They had arrived at their destination.

A rectangular pool of murky water stretched before the vine-draped shrine. Rope bridges that once spanned the water floated on the surface, tangled with other debris. The shards of a toppled monolith formed stepping stones to the middle of the pool, where a statue of a stone frog rose above the water.

The party carefully made their way around the left side of the pool. Bramble and Apparently noticed three eyes attached to a long eyestalk the size of a man's arm sticking out of the water. They had barely enough time to alert their companions when the massive bulk of a giant frog-shaped creature heaved itself out of the shallow murk!

To be Continued...!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

"Killing Ras Nsi" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 24

The party crawled out of the slave pits. The room above was empty save for a stack of neatly folded cultist robes and masks and a map of the subterranean complex. The party donned their robes while Bramble examined the map.  Orvex and Commander Frederick offered to come with them but Bramble ordered them to stay behind. He suggested they wait for the signal before they attempted an escape.

"What's the signal?" inquired Fredericks.

"The inevitable fighting and screaming," replied Bramble.


  • 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.
  • Tony - rough and tumble dinosaur wrangler who wished to learn from Apparently, possibly from 19th century Boston on Earth. 

The party, disguised as humanoid initiates of Jivantaka, made their way to the entrance. There entrance was now guarded by humanoid reinforcements. The new guards paid no attention as the party made their way to the left.

They found a similar situation in the war hall. A few bored humanoids were distracting themselves with unspeakable amusements in a corner.

They reached the door marked "Armory" on the map. It refused to open.

Apparently said, "Traapantaka" and the door opened

Within was a room filled with khopeshes, scimitars, shortbows, longbows, arrows, and shields. The floor was covered in large bones. A shield made out of a human-sized tortoise shell hung on the far wall. Their weapons and armor lay piled neatly on a nearby shelf.

Before they could retrieve their equipment, a serpentine figure emerged from the shadows. It was the skeletal body of a large snake. The skull was not that of a snake. It was instead more humanlike but with alien dimentions. The armory was guarded by the animated skeletal remains of a naga!

“They will tell us the passphrase! So Ukurlahmu has spoken!”

The party looked at each other, stunned, and replied, "Traapantaka"

"The initiates are not allowed to speak the holy language. The initiates will say the passphrase in their lowly gutter tongue."

"Uh, white feather black mask"

"Does Ukurlahmu look like door? Ukurlahmu does not require the phrase to open the door. The latter portion will suffice. What is it that the lowly initiates need?'

Bramble said that they came for the armor and weapons of the slaves.

"The initiate will tell Ukulahmu why they need the weapons and armor of the infidels."

Xoc-Wik interjected, "We lowly initiates do not understand the reasons. We are simply ordered and must obey."

"That is an acceptable answer. The initiates may depart with the equipment of the infidels."

Argent noticed the magnificent tortoise-shell shield on the wall. "We were also asked to retrieve that shield," he said longingly.

Ukurlahmu spun around and faced Argent menacingly, "That is the shield of Sekelok, the Holy Defender of the Commander of the Fane! It is not for a lowly initiate to touch!"

Argent backed away carefully, "Never mind!"

The party retrieved their belongings and left the armory.

While Bramble and Xoc-Wik gathered the equipment, plus a few quivers of arrows, Argent and Apparently stood in the long collonade inspecting the bas relief sculptures carved into the wall. The walls told the story of the giant serpent-god Jivantaka, coiled around the earth deep under the surface feeding on the nightmares of the world above. The carvings then depicted a Chultan hero wielding a flaming sword and bearing the symbol of the blue triangle. The hero showed the warrior undergoing an alchemical ritual to transform himself into a nagina. The hero later becomes leader of the nagini of Omu and, wearing a magnificent crown adorned with an opal, opens the gate that would free Jivantaka to lay waste to the world above.

The party, now reequipped, donned the loose robes over their weapons and armor and made their way to the great cathedral towards the door marked on the map as Ras Nsi's throneroom. 

The Throne Room
The party entered the "cathedral" where they saw Yahru, the serpentine spymaster, watching the portcullis that led to a room labeled "harem" on the map. Yahru shushed them and directed them towards the next door - a set of large bronze double doors.

"Quickly," he hissed, "Sekelok is distracted in the harem. The door to the throne room is unlocked! Beware the undying guardians!"

The party moved quickly but quietly. They opened the bronze doors and dashed down a fifty foot hallway that opened into the southwest corner of a large audience hall and throne-room supported by columns. A bronze throne sat atop a raised dais along the center of the north wall. The throne was set about five feet away from the wall itself. Large behemoth-skins covered the east wall like hung tapestries. There was a niche cut into the south wall. A silver disk engraved with intricate symbols was set into the floor of the niche.

The party moved into the room and spread out. Suddenly hunched figures with grey-green skin, clawed hands, and gruesome bestial faces emerged from behind the throne. The creatures reeked of decay and emerged one by one as if from a hidden door behind the throne. Six creatures ultimately emerged and spread out throughout the room with the intention of attacking the party.

Argent rushed forward and engaged the undying defenders of the throneroom. Apparently drew her swords and fought at his side. Bramble and Xoc-Wik remained in the hallway and attacked at range.

The ghoulish defenders proved no match for the party and were soon dispatched.

Zeynap, suffering from Brain Fever, tapped Bramble on the shoulder and said, "Be careful, I think there are ghouls nearby."

Bramble searched behind the throne and found a small access door that led to a chute that required one to be on hands and knees to navigate. It was from this chute that the undying defenders emerged. The team got down on all fours and entered the chute one by one.

Ras Nsi
Argent emerged from the chute into an opulent chamber covered in silk pillows and hung with tapestries. Jewels and gold lay strewn about the floor along with rare and expensive objects stolen from across Antara. There was another niche in the east wall set with a silver disk. The walls were adorned with five ancient shields.  Argent moved to the center of the room to allow the others to enter behind him. Bramble immediately summoned a spirit of flame to occupy the niche and the silver disk.

A large snake-human hybrid with the upper torso of a human whose lower torso had been replaced with the tail of a massive snake, lay coiled on a pile of pillows in the far side of the chamber. The serpentine man wore a silk robe with gold adornments. He held a large sword before him, point down on the floor with both his hands resting upon the pommel. The sword's blade was decorated with an iridescent pattern resembling flames.

The serpent-man's face was wrapped in heavy bandages. He appeared weak. His breath was labored. He reeked of illness and decay.

Argent concentrated on the figure before him. He could sense no necrotic energy. The being that rested before him was alive, though Argent could sense his life being drained away.

The individual could be no one other than Ras Nsi, immortal bara of Mezro.

“So, my assassins have returned! This time you have made it thus far without raising the alarm. I congratulate you. I have chosen to forego my usual escape in order to offer you a proposal! I can help you destroy the Soulmonger! Will you hear me out?”

Argent looked at the other members of the party. They were in agreement. Argent replied, "We will entertain your offer."

Ras Nsi continued, “I have been following your progress since Mr. Shiravadakar allowed Bright Mane to escape in Eusebea. My agent, Feldercarb, failed to discourage you all from embarking upon this expedition then and he later failed to assassinate you in Port Nyanzaru! Since then we have tracked your progress through the jungle. You dealt me a major setback when you killed Eth-To in the ancient mine! It was through the sending stones created by Eth-To that my agents were able to report your progress! The sending stones also served as payment for the pirates and smugglers who unwittingly acted on our behalf!

"But I have been played a fool! I have become the victim of my own misplaced trust! But it is not too late to undo my folly!

"You seek the Soulmonger. And here you, too, have been played a fool! For you will not find it here!

"Yes, my nagini servants went to great lengths to obtain the various components of the Soulmonger from the far corners of Antara but they did not assemble it and we do not possess it. You are not surprised? Yarhu must have told you this already. The one you seek is, in fact, the arch-lich known as Acererak!

"We had an arrangement, you see. In exchange for providing him with the various components for the Soulmonger, Acererak promised to help us," Ras Nsi paused to correct himself, "in our eternal fight against the naga." Ras Nsi took a deep breath, "He lied!"

"Instead, the very machine I helped him create is now robbing me of my immortal life! I am slowly withering! I am a pitiful shell of my former glory. So I seek to repay his treachery in kind. I want you to destroy the Soulmonger! I will not stop you. Indeed, I will assist you in any way I can!

"I will give you all the information I know about its location. I will tell you how to gain access to its protected vault. I will even provide you with one of the nine keys necessary to open the vault! In exchange, I ask that you spare my life!

"I offer a truce! Leave this place and do not come back. No nagina under my command shall cause harm to you or your allies so long as you cause no further harm to my nagini while you are in Omu.

"Once you have destroyed the Soulmonger, you will leave Omu and will never return.

"However, Should I die, you will never find the Soulmonger. I am prepared to direct you to the entrance of the tomb in which you can find the device as well as the location of the nine keys required to open the tomb! Without my help, you will never succeed in your quest!"

The party huddled and discussed the offer. Bramble and Argent were against it but decided to capitulate in order to obtain the information they needed.

Argent turned towards Ras Nsi and once more spoke on behalf of the party, "We accept your offer!"

Suddenly, two figures emerged from the secret passage. It was Artus Cimber and Dragonbat. Artus, his eyes wild with revenge, shouted, “No! Ras Nsi- you will die!”

The Revenge of Artus Cimber
Xoc-Wik grabbed Artus' outstretched arm and pulled him aside, appealing to him to stop. Artus ignored the b'alam archer and wrenched himself free while Artus' companion, the saurial named Dragonbait, sliced at Xoc-Wik's arms with his ridiculously long sword. Dragonbait leveled his sword at Xoc-Wik as a warning not to do that again. Xoc-Wik cursed in exasperation.

Ras Nsi sneered when he saw Artus, "Artus Cimber, my old enemy. I thought you would be dead by now. Well, that is no matter. That outcome can be arranged!" The snake-man held aloft his iridescent sword with two hands and it burst into flame!

Argent, who bristled at the idea of striking an accord with the evil snake-man, said, "That's all that I needed!" and charged towards Ras Nsi.

Bramble and Apparently stepped aside. They had no desire to intervene in this conflict and wished to remain neutral.

Zeynap, dazed, said, "Hey, it's Artus and Dragonbait!"

Dragonbait and Argent attacked Ras Nsi, cornering him on one side of the room. Apparently summoned two spirit bears to further  block Ras Nsi in.

The five shields mounted on the wall suddenly flew into the air. They surrounded Ras Nsi, forming a ring that blocked incoming attacks. Xoc-Wik and Apparently began shooting at the shields with their bows. Each time a shield was hit by an arrow, it fell to floor inert.

Artus used his ring to blast the area with magical cold and ice. In his mad fervor to kill Ras Nsi at all cost, he paid no regard to the safety of his allies.

Ras Nsi shouted, "You idiots! I was prepared to aid you! If you do not stop this fool, you will never learn the location of the the tomb! Your betrayal shall cost you dearly!"

The last of Ras Nsi's flying shields fell to the floor. In response, Ras Nsi disappeared into a magical puff of silvery mist. He reappeared next to niche in the far corner of the room. The niche was occupied with a sphere of magical flame, however, so he instead made his escape through the chute.

Artus was the first through the chute after him, followed by Argent and Dragonbait.

Ras Nsi emerged into the throne room and made for the exit. Artus used the Ring of Winter to summon a giant disembodied hand of magical ice. The hand formed a fist that smashed at Ras Nsi. Ras Nsi fell to the ground. Artus drew forth his magical dagger, Bookmark, and began stabbing Ras Nsi.

Ras Nsi was dead.

Artus did not stop. He kept screaming and stabbing at the lifeless body of the evil snake-lord.

Dragonbait looked helpless. Argent Truthsayer consoled the weeping Artus as best as he could.

The mute Dragonbait assisted Artus to his feet. He indicated to Argent that he would take care of the treasure hunter. Artus stopped crying just long enough to say, "I have to go. I- I have to go find her." He used his magic dagger to cut a hole in the air. He and Dragonbait stepped through and disappeared.

Argent picked up the iridescent sword.

The party regrouped in Ras Nsi's lair. They quickly made an account of the treasures located within.

There was a flask of Eusebean wine, a bejeweled doublet - also from Eusebea, a fine cloak from Avallonis, a gilded harp from Antumnos, three large cushions covered in silk from Horai, a leather-bound journal, a statuette of a frog god with amethysts for eyes, a clay urn filed with gemstones, and scattered gold and silver coins. The group took what they could wear or easily carry but left the coins on the floor.

Additionally, the party found a palm-sized stone cube with a carving on one side.

"What is it?" inquired Xoc-Wik.

Argent shrugged.

Bramble suggested, "It's obvious. It's one of the nine keys Ras Nsi mentioned. We should find the others."

The Challenge
The serpentine voice of Yahru shouted an alarm near the entrance, "Sekelok! Make haste! I fear someone has attacked the Leader!" The alarm was voiced in such a way as to warn the party that Sekelok was coming rather than to alert Sekelok of treachery.

The party moved to the throne room and prepared for battle. Sekelok and his henchmen appeared in the hallway, "The invaders have returned! And this time they have assassinated the Supreme Leader! They must pay!"

The party was trapped. There were no other exits from the throne room.

Argent and Bramble moved to block the entrance.

Argent stepped forward, "Ras Nsi is dead! We demand to speak to your new Supreme Leader!"

Sekelok looked sternly at Yahru. Yahru called back, "The Supreme Leader designate is in repose. She will not be disturbed!"

Bramble hissed, "I knew it! I told you all! I knew she would screw us!"

Argent then called back, "Then I challenge Sekelok to mortal combat! If I win, my companions and I leave without incident. If I die, my companions will surrender to you!"

Xoc-Wik said, "What??"

Bramble whispered, "Don't worry, there's a secret exit on that wall behind that hanging skin. Go. We'll distract them while the rest of you escape."

"Really," said Argent, "I just want a chance to see that that magic shield does!"

Bramble said, "I don't know. You didn't fight him before. Sekelok is tough. I don't think you'll make it. Let's start thinking of alternatives."

Argent called back, "Come on, Sekelok! You and me! Are you afraid? I'll give you a moment to go get that fancy magic shield of yours!"

Sekelok agreed, "I accept your terms! We shall meet in the Fane in one of your minutes!"

Argent knelt to pray to Bahamut. Bramble rubbed Argent's shoulders to loosen him up in preparation for the fight. "Just remember", the theran said reassuringly, "This is you fault."

The Duel
True to his word as a holy warrior of Bahamut, Argent Truthsayer entered the fane of the Night Serpent a minute later prepared to do battle with Sekelok the Defender.

The gone was struck once. Soon the entire cathedral was filled with nagini - humanoid initiates, hunched degenerates, serpentine warriors, and the more ophidian "masters" of the snake-worshiping cult.

Sekelok bore the shield seen earlier in the armory, the shield made from the shell of a large tortoise. He held it aloft and proclaimed, "I bear the Shield of the Defiler - the Assassin of Eth-To!"

Bramble's eyes grew wide from his position behind the partially closed bronze doors to the corridor that led to the throne room. It was the shell of their former companion Tohaku!

Yahru was to adjudicate the duel. Both opponents would begin on opposite sides of the pool of blood. It was to be a battle to the death. As was the custom of the nagini, the winner would be alchemically transformed into a higher level nagina.

Argent said, "Wait, WHAT?"

"Yes, it is the custom of the nagini. You have challenged a third-stage nagini warrior within the holy fane of Jivantaka the Night Serpent. According to our ways, the winner must undergo the transformation into a higher form."

Argent hesitated, "Got it."

Yahru continued, "Shall we begin?"

Argent looked at Sekelok and nodded. Sekelok nodded in return.

With a subtle wave of Yahru's hand the gong was struck.

Argent turned and ran towards the throneroom. Bramble opened the doors just wide enough to allow Argent to enter.

"What happened to the duel?" asked Bramble.

Argent shouted as he ran past, "They changed the terms on me! Didn't count!"

"Won't your god be displeased?" asked Bramble as he barred the doors closed behind them.

"He'll make an exception. THEY CHANGED THE TERMS!" yelled Argent as he fled towards the secret exit. Bramble followed close behind.

The Grotto
Xoc-Wik, Apparently, and Zeynap found a rowboat on the shore of an underground lake. Zeynap's magic provided the only dim illumination, revealing a chamber with smooth black flowing walls formed by ancient volcanic activity.

They hesitated before getting into the boat. There was only one. Xoc-Wik didn't like leaving Bramble and Argent behind. They'd have no way to get across the lake. He decided to wait for them.

A moment later, Argent and Bramble came running through the exit tunnel.

"Is the duel over already?" inquired Xoc-Wik.

"THEY CHANGED THE TERMS!" was Argent's hurried reply.

The party squeezed onto the small boat and pushed off.

They rowed gently across the placid surface of the black water, heading in a direction that Zeynap had previously described during his exploration of the fungus cavern the day before.

"Wait," said Bramble, "Didn't you say there was a hydra in here?"

A trail of bubbles disturbed the glassy water. A large serpentine head rose from the depths. Then another, a third, a fourth. Eventually five heads reared from the lake. The five heads of the hydra scrutinized them, waiting.

To be Continued...

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

"The Slave Pits of Fenthaza" - Tomb of Annihilation, Chapter 23

Apparently awoke from her brain fever. She had only a vague idea that several days had elapsed. She was in a familiar-looking camp within a walled compound with no roof. The ground was covered in blood. Vinnie was nearby grooming the behemoths. No one else was around. It was morning. Vinnie informed her that the others had left to invade some secret underground warren of snake-people. He told her the sign Bramble would leave for her to follow. She prepared herself and took Chak'sa to join them.

She followed their tracks through the ruins of Omu. She passed the giant lake of boiling lava. She crossed the fallen tree that spanned the river. Every few blocks she'd find a bowl of stew placed on a flat rock with a hand-scrawled sign that read "FREE STEW! EAT ME!" She raised a wary eyebrow and continued on.

She eventually arrived at the entrance to a ramp that led underground. Tracks showed heavy traffic into and out of the tunnel with piles of recently excavated debris nearby. She strung her bow and prepared an arrow, took a deep breath and a sidelong look at her companion Chak'sa, and descended into the darkness.


  • 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. 
Violence of Action

Apparently walked past a pair of bronze doors that had been forced open. Just beyond the doors was a pit of snakes. She and Chak'sa jumped across easily. Just beyond were the remains of several degenerate snake-men that had died in battle.

The entrance narrowed to a hallway at the rear. She could hear the sound of battle and shouting in the room beyond.  The battle died down, there was a quick shout, the sound of running, then two lound gongs that echoed throughout the subterranean complex.

She passed through the short hallway and rejoined the party. They were wounded. There were two large bears moving towards a passage to the left. There was a frightened three-horn behemoth.

"Oh, hi Apparently! Feeling better?" asked Zeynap.

She nodded, "What's going on?"

"We're killing snake-men and looking for the Soulmonger. They just sounded the alarm. Ready?"

Apparently soothed the tri-horn with a shush and a gentle touch. She opened the gate so it could leave its small enclosure. "Ready!"

Bramble moved the two large bears into the hallway.

DM Note- Wall of Bears!

The Fane of Blood
The bears pushed through the heavy curtain separating the hall of war from the large chamber beyond. Argent and Zeynap followed closely behind.

The large chamber measured seventy feet long and fifty feet wide. The ceiling was supported fifty feet above the floor by eight slender columns. The southern half of the floor was raised ten feet above the northern half like a stage. The north wall was dominated by five forty-foot stone statues of cobras arranged around a central pillar that formed a balcony forty feet above the floor below. The mouths of the stone cobras were stained with dried blood. A trough at the base of statues that drained into a wide shallow basin in the center of the room was likewise stained with dried blood.

The party emerged into the west wall of the chamber onto a balcony. The humanoid nagina that had recently escaped through the corridor stood near a large gong atop the balcony. The bears immediately set upon the nagina, killing him instantly.  Argent and Zeynap took up position next to the bears overlooking the chamber.

A set of double-doors on the northeast wall opened and out poured a large serpent-man carrying a seven-foot long curved scimitar. The  serpent-man was accompanied by two serpent-headed archers and three clawed degenerates. 

Zeynap cast some hex spells at the newcomers. In return, the archers loosed poisoned arrows at Argent. Argent grimached as the poison coursed through his draconic blood. The scimitar-wielding leader, accompanied by the degenerates, rushed across the room.

Bramble moved past the curtain and summoned the spirits of the sky. The spirits created a wall fo wind around the balcony that deflected the arrows. As a result, the spirit bears disappeared.

Apparently summoned her healing spirit. A translucent archaeopteryx formed and moved onto the balcony.

A group of ten robed cultists rushed through the exit to the south. Followed by three serpent-headed warriors, four strange warriors with thick snakes for arms, and three warriors with humanoid upper torsos and snake tails replacing their lower torsos, and two humanoid warriors carrying spears and shields and wearing leather armor.

Zeynap reported the situation to Bramble in the corridor. Bramble replied that they were out-matched. He called for a retreat. Zeynap immediately moves from the balcony into the hallway to escape.

Apparently directed Chak'sa to the balcony stairs to block the retreat. Several of the newcomers turned back the way they came, obviously to loop around and approach from a different direction.

The robed cultists loosed arrows from shortbows at Chak'sa. Chak'sa emitted sad howls in pain and fell before their assault. The leader, two degenerates, and two armored humanoids rushed the stairs and into the corridor, blocking Argent's escape. Argent shoved the humanoids and moved past them as the humanoids shoved him down with their shields. This gave the serpentine leader an opportunity to move past and block the hallway, trapping Argent.

Argent, having suffered several poisoned arrows, fell before the attack of a degenerate snake-man. The degenerate prepared to rip up Argent's fallen body but was stopped by a command from the leader. The degenerate snarled with displeasure. The two armored humanoids retrieved Argent's unconscious form and carried him away. The leader continued down the hallway after the fleeing party.

Bramble turned into a gargantuan anaconda and grabbed the leader with his tail, pulling him out of the hallway. The leader struggled against Bramble but could not escape. Xoc-Wik paused at the entrance to the complex to loose a few arrows into the leader.

A force of serpentine warriors rushed from the rear of the colonnade to the south. Apparently ordered the tri-horn to block their approach. The tri-horn stopped their advance but soon fell before their onslaught. By that time, Apparently, Zeynap, Eku, and Xoc-Wik had fled up the ramp and back to the surface. 

The serpentine leader finally broke free from Bramble's constricting grip. Bramble transformed himself into a sabertooth tiger and ran away up the ramp towards the exit.  The nagina did not give chase.

DM Note - the retreat was scary and confusing. Players kept second-guessing their actions or hesitating in their retreat. I had to enforce some decision making. I'd ask, "What do you do?" and each player would look at the other players all nervous and uncertain, "What are we doing? Are we retreating? What do I do? Do you need help?" and I'd have to step in and say, "I'm not asking what they're doing. I need to know what YOU are doing, right now! Quickly!" This served to increase the tension and confusion and uncertainty of the retreat. 

DM Note - I took Argent's player into another room for some one-on-one.

Argent woke in a dark room surrounded by nagina warriors. An elderly serpent-man with old cracked skin badly in need of a shedding hovered over him.

"Good, you live," said the serpent-man. "You may prove useful."

The serpent-man introduced himself as Yahru. He asked Argent to identify himself and to explain their mission. He asked some questions about the Soulmonger and what he knew of Ras Nsi. Argent answered truthfully and civilly.

Yahru then asked if his companions would be coming back to free him. Argent said that he did not think so and that he had no reason to suspect that they would. Yahru agreed.

"I have use for you, dragon-man. A use that will ultimately result in your freedom. But for now you are a prisoner of the Nagina Samrajya. You will assist Azi Mas in the storeroom. Cooperate and I will set you free. Resist and you will be sacrificed to the god Jivantaka."

Argent was shackled and a muzzle was placed upon his head. He was taken to the storeroom and left alone with a large talking python and a human named Orvex Ocrammas. The python held court over a room filled with supplies and stolen contraband. The python was named Azi Mas and Argent was to be the snake's hands.

Orvex was a translator who had been hired by the wizards in the service of Unglaub the Lich Queen. He didn't like his employers but their money was good. His camp had been attacked by the nagina two days earlier and he had been captured.

Azi Mas, for his part, was talkative for a python. The python was lonely and loved interacting with the slaves assigned to help him. He would speak at length about temple gossip, the invasion attempt from a few hours earlier, and other minor bits of news and information.

"You were one of the invaders from earlier," observed Azi Mas wryly, "That you are alive means old Yahru is up to something. He's probably out trying to recruit your friends as we speak. He's in league with the witch Fenthaza, you see." The python returned to reading his book, "They're probably planning a coup."

The party retreated to a spot near the grung compound. The grung made it clear they were not welcome within bow range so the party stayed clear. There they decided to rest and plan their next move.

Three figures came into view just over an hour later. One was a serpent-man with old cracked skin badly in need of a shedding. He carried a staff and wore the robes of a sage or scholar. He was accompanied by the two humanoid guards carrying spears. He introduced himself as Yahru and requested parley. The party warily agreed.

Yahru informed the party that the nagina had captured the dragon-man alive and were holding him prisoner. He had come to inform them that his  mistress, Fenthaza, mistress of nightmares, wished to employ their services as assassins. If they refused the offer, the dragon-man would be sacrificed to Jivantaka. The choice was theirs.

They discussed the options. Bramble and Eku were vehemently against dealing with the nagina. Apparently and Xoc-Wik considered the offer but were ambivalent. Zeynap, at the urging of the unicorn cohabitating within his mind,  spoke passionately in favor of accepting the offer if it meant saving the life of their companion. Zeynap's plea  swayed Apparently and Xoc-Wik. Bramble reluctantly agreed to accompany them.

Eku said she would stay behind.

Zeynap asked Yahru how they would get back inside.

Yahru provided several robes and silver masks, "Wear these. Wrap your weapons in these blankets. It will be assumed that you are nothing more than fellow pilgrims."

Yahru led the part of "pilgrims" into the temple complex. Slaves were already repairing the sliding bronze doors. Yahru turned down the corridor to the left, past a curtain, and into a door on the left.

The party entered a cramped room. A dense haze of incense hung in the air, masking the foul stench of the serpent men. Ancient murals and fine arabesque lattice work hung on the walls. The floor was covered with throw rugs and cushions. An engraved chest rested in one corner near a stone urn adorned with carvings of serpents.

A creature lounged on the piles of pillows. She had the upper body of a dark-skinned humanoid woman but possessed the lower body of a serpent's tail from the hips down. She lazily drew from a hookah pipe and exhaled decadently.

She was Fenthaza, the mistress of nightmares. She greeted them and offered them wine which they refused. Her voice was languid, drawing out every "s" like a serpent's hiss.

"I have a tasssk for you, if you are interessssted. I wisssh for you to assssassssinate our dear leader, Rasss Nsssssi"

"Ras Nsi was oncccce an immortal human from Mezzzzro who underwent the transsssformation and became one of the chossssen. His power and his immortality made him a valuable assssset and he eventually became leader of this outposssst.

"However, he sssstill longed to regain his humanity and wasss obsessssssed with his lossssst city of Mezzzzro. This hassss made him weak and has led him to make unwisssse choices in alliancessss that are counterproductive to our caussssse of resssstoring the glory of the Nagina Samrajya. He is a poor leader and needsssss to be removed.

"But Sssssekelok defends him, not out of loyalty to Rasss Nssssi, but out of devotion to the authority of the Commander. I cannot make a move against him. If it were known that it wassss I who killed the Master, Ssssekelok the Defender would challenge me and I would lose. Luckily, Sekelok has no ambitttion to become commander himssself.

"An outsider must kill Ras Nsi. YOU must kill Ras Nsi!"

"What do we get if we do?" asked Zeynap.

"Once I am Commander, you have my word that no nagina will cause you harm while you are in Omu. On one condition - so long as you cause no harm to a nagina while you are also in Omu. Once you leave this city, our arrangement will end. You may take your dragon-man and leave with any of Ras Nsi's possessions."

"Where will Sekelok be?" inquired Xoc-Wik.

"When the time comes, I will summon him and away along with the commander's advisssers. This will leave Rasss Nsssi with only his wretched undying protectors for you to deal with."

Zeynap said that if they tried now, they would fail. They needed time to rest and prepare themselves.

"You may rest with the ssslaves. For thisss to work you mussst pretend to BE a ssslave. But only for a day. When it is time, Yahru will open the grates to the slave pens. You will be allowed to exit. Yahru will leave a map to the armory where you can retrieve your weapons. From there, follow the map to Ras Nsi's quarters. He will be vulnerable. But do not take long. I cannot detain Sssekelok and the other advisers indefinitely.

Bramble gumbled, "How can this go wrong?"

Zeynap said, "Whazzat?"

"Nothing" smiled the theran wise man.

Zeynap agreed and the party turned over their weapons. They were disguised as captured prisoners, chained and shackled, and led to the slave pits.

Slaves of the Serpent-Men
The party was led past a chamber containing an evil looking sacrificial altar that collected blood. The altar somehow magically amplified the blood, creating hundreds of gallons from only a small amount.

A portcullis was raised and they were taken into a dank room with four metal grates on the floor. Weak moaning rose from the pits beneath the grates. Zeynap, Apparently, Xoc-Wik, and Bramble were separated and each was thrown in a separate pit.

The pits were filled knee-deep with foul water. Within each pit were other prisoners that had been captured by the nagina.

Zeynap was lucky enough to meet a human named Commander Fredericks. The commander appeared to be an Avallonian who spoke a strange dialect. Commander Fredericks wore a leather coat lined in sheepskin and covered in patches. He wore a strange flat hat with a short shiny bill. An embroidered symbol of an eagle decorated the front of the hat. He described himself as a "bumbar paylit" whose air-ship had crashed in the jungle. He had been found by these dastardly snake-men, captured, and brought here. Commander Fredericks described the other prisoners to Zeynap.

  • Tahvo, a ten year old Chultan boy showing signs of malnourshment. Talvo was constantly rocking back and forth praying to Justica, the protector of the innocent.
  • Sev, a deranged and drooling nagina taken by Monkey Madness.
  • Pottery Shard, a b'alam minstrel from Port Nyanzaru.
  • Gorvax, a strange red-skinned humanoid amphibian.
  • Lomar Dral, a Eusebean and a Watcher from the Erelim. He had been assigned to find and kill Artus Cimber.
  • Mung, a yellow-skinned pygmy from the forest.
  • Kanush Natombe, a Chultan tribesman who came to Omu to prove his bravery and win the hand of his beloved in marriage over his rival.
  • Zilla Atazi, a Chultan pirate who had been thrown overboard by Captain Jaharwon of the Dragonfang.
Soon afterwards, humanoids came and hauled the slaves out to perform their duties. No one paid any notice to the new slaves. Each was given a task.
  • Zeynap was assigned to help Xopal in the venom distillery. Xopal was a humanoid zealot with a bald head and scaly skin. Xopal assigned Zeynap with the task of going into the nearby grotto to gather fungi and slimes, trusting him to go unescorted. "Oh, and look out for the hydra!" warned Xopal. Zeynap gulped but performed his task without incident.
  • Apparently was assigned to clean the nests. While there she overheard two humanoid zealots speaking in common. One informed the other that tomorrow's password was to be "white feather, black mask", which translated into nagese as "Traaapantaka"
  • Xoc-Wik and Bramble were assigned to clean the baths. While there they overheard one humanoid zealot tell another that they had heard that Fenthaza had witnessed a prophetic vision of the Black Opal Crown, a treasure that would release Jivantaka to cleanse the world!
After their duties were completed the party was returned to their cells. This time the cells had been drained and food had been provided. There they found Argent waiting for them. 

Argent was amazed to see his companions. "What are you DOING here?" he said in disbelief.

"We've got a plan to rescue you!" replied Zeynap.

"Rescue me? I had a plan to rescue myself!" the dragonid said.

Zeynap explained the plan to Argent. Argent was hesitant. He had not met Fenthaza and was not a party to the arrangement. But he would play along.

Afterwards Argent told the party to Orvex and suggested his possible usefulness to the expedition.

The party was finally able to rest.

Later, after an indeterminate number of hours, they heard the sound of the portcullis being opened followed by the sound of the grates above them being removed. A chain was lowered.

It was time. 

To Be Continued...

RIP Chak'sa
Let's pause for a moment of silence for dear Chak'sa who gave his reptilian life for the team.