Dragons of Blackminster

ToA 17 - The Jaguar and the Bear
Unkillable Ront Rusthammer

RECAP … After a full day in the City, they have completed…
• Shrine of Koobazan the Froghemoth (balance beams and gas)
• Shrine of Unkh the Flail Snail (puzzle about the order of the gods on keys)
• Shrine of Moa the Jaculi (Snake) (pits and a puzzle and archer statues)
• killed Bag of Nails – the mad Tabaxi Hunter

Still to do…
• Shagambi the Kamadan (Jaguar with snake hair) Orvex knows where this is and it is some kind of gladiatorial challenge based on honour)
• Wongo the Su-Monster (Mad Psionic Monkey)
• Ijin the Al Miraj (Hare)
• Papazotl the Eblis (Crane)
• Ooblaki the Zorbo (Angry Bear)
• NangNang the Grung

They know there are at least two more Black Circle Wizards sneaking about (part of the Lich’s expedition, that brought Orvex in as a translator and history expert). Orvex knows these are called “Xandala” a half-elf sorcereress. and Dryax, a wizard, a fellow Arab with a flair for acrobatic swordsmanship!

Aerial saw a huge T-Rex with Feathers pass by in the night.

They know there are Yuan-Ti in an underground complex beneath the Royal Palace

They expect the Lich “Valindra Shadowmantle” to return with the Mask of the Flail Snail (stolen from Wakanga Otamu, the Merchant Prince of Antiquities back in Port Nyaranzu)

They know where the Tomb of the Nine Gods is located (area 14 on the map) and that they need the 9 puzzle cubes to open the entrance and that each intruder will need a Mask of one of the Nine Gods to protect them when they are inside (to protect them from some kind of death curse – probably not instant death, but inevitable and inescapable).

The next morning, they re-cross the 60 ft gap from the Moa Shrine’s pinnacle of rock, over the lava lake to the main city. Ariel crosses the damaged rope in the form of the small spider, then attaches another rope to patch up the section hacked by the mad tabaxi. Then, in an effort to preserve his Dimension Door spell, Juma attempts to tie a safety line over the rope, attached to his belt and then climb across. Part way he slips and his belt breaks and he begins to fall 200 ft to the lava! [GM: rolled a 1]

Fortunately, he dimension doors to safety before he hits the bottom.

Click follows Juma’s “safety-line” method and manages to get across.

Orvex decides not to risk it (he is a frail old man!) and reluctantly reveals that he has spells of his own. He unties the rope and then dimension doors himself and Ront across. He admits he was unsure whether to trust them until now.

[GM: Orvex has been re-written as a 7th-level Bard of Lore in order to be a player character for Frank (who then wasn’t able to make it to this session).]

They head through the cloud of steam, back into the city and to the Shrine of the Jaguar (Shigambi the Kamadan). Orvex had been here before with the Lich’s expedition and they had looked inside but not entered the gladiatorial pit.

Juma deliberately mis-translated the words above the door, telling Ront they said “The Champion of Torkas awaits inside”. One of Ront’s life-goals is to find the current champion of Torkas and fight him to the death. Orvex is clearly not happy with the deception and tries to talk Juma out of it, but doesn’t actually interfere.

Inside there are 4 statues with missing spears. Downstairs there is a small arena with a symbol on the floor you can step on to summon a Terracotta Warrior for a duel.

Ront faces the first one alone – after ceremonial bows, he rages and just (by the skin of his teeth) manages to defeat the construct. It drops to the floor, disintegrates immediately with all its armour and shield, but leaving the spear behind. Raging Ront charges further past the arena to find 4 small cells with portcullises down. Behind three of them are 3 more Terracotta Warriors (not animated).

When his rage subsides, he notices carvings on the walls that depict various forms of “honourable” combat. It seems it would be OK for more than one person to enter the arena. You can gang-up on the gladiator as long as nobody outside the arena interferes in any way.

They all enter the arena next time (even Orvex) and summon the next challenge. It is easier to defeat with all of them working together, but it gets a few good spear thrusts in against some of them and there is danger that the raging Ront will attack them when he runs out of enemies. Ariel (in giant spider form on the ceiling) bites and poisons it. Click mainly uses Sacred Flame. Juma and Orvex mainly use Eldritch Blasts, but Juma also spends time making preparations for escaping Ront (disguising himself as Orvex)!

Just before the next one falls, Juma summons a third, and then a fourth. Each is defeated and leaves its spear behind. They avoid doing anything from outside the Arena, so all the victories are “honourable”. There is a mad scramble to get away from Ront at the end as he chases them and nearly hacks Orvex to death, but he snaps out of it before delivering the death blow.

Putting the spears into the hands of the weapon-less statues above reveals the puzzle cube and they take it safely and then spend a short rest healing up. The fight used a lot of spells and almost all of their stamina [GM: Hit Dice]

They head for the next Shrine, that of Oobalakoo the Zorbo (a crazy-looking bear with razor-sharp claws). The words over the entry to this shrine are about “tread warily” and “the light”. Inside a tunnel with eight empty torch holders. There is a lot of confusion caused by magical pools that teleport people from room to room. They also find a secret door but are unable to open it, despite a knock spell from Orvex – it has multiple bars/bolts on the inside.

Ront takes the lead and goes through the pools to reach an inner chamber where a wizard appears to have been turned to stone when he touched the puzzle cube. When the others come through Orvex recognises the wizard as an earlier member of the Lich’s squad “A very, very dangerous bastard!” It is obvious from his petrified body that he has a magical wand in his belt and a satchel of spellbooks. They don’t touch him or the cube. [GM: very wise as doing so would have petrified them!]. There are eight lit torches in the room. Transporting the torches out via the magical pools puts them out. Returning them to the inner room re-lights them.

Juma cleverly uses a locate object spell from the outer pool to locate the puzzle cube and finds that the other end of the teleport is still inside the same small shrine and the inner chamber is in the middle. They know there must be another secret door and eventually find it. Through the tunnel they can transport the eight torches.

When they place the eighth torch in the holder, unknown to them, inside the central room the wizard is un-petrified and lights a torch of his own and pockets the cube. three of them (Juma, Ariel and Ront) head through the pools back to the middle where they find the wizard. Orvex remains halfway out while Click has retreated outside.

Ront attempts a deception to give them a chance to ambush him, but the guy is too wily [GM: Ront rolled only 2 and this particular wizard actually has a deception of +10]

The wizard fireballs them with a massive amount of damage. Only Juma manages to evade part of the blast [GM: saves and survives by 1 hp]. Ariel and Ront drop immediately, Ront’s Relentless Endurance got used in the earlier fight. Juma dives into the pool and teleports out screaming at Orvex and Click to run for their lives.

Click runs around like a headless chicken! In and out of the building in absolute panic but spots torch light coming down the secret tunnel then. Orvex tries to hide outside. Click and Juma circle back inside to try to aid their fallen comrades.

Juma uses another locate object spell to find where the wizard’s magical wand is and knows he has gone outside.

Ront (despite being at death’s door) asks Ariel for a Haste spell and Click for a Death Ward, then races off to try and kill the wizard single-handedly.

He races outside to the rough area described by Juma, and overhears Orvex and another man (the wizard) speaking in Arabic. When he gets to the outer wall, he can only see Orvex, who turns stiffly and says woodenly “The wizard has fled. Please gather your companions close together so I can cast a healing spell on them”.

Fortunately they don’t believe Orvex [GM:Who had been magically dominated by the evil wizard] so they don’t gather together into a convenient place for the invisible wizard to slaughter with another fireball.

Ront spots tracks in the grass and knows where the wizard must be standing. He runs over and attacks. The damage half kills the wizard causes him to lose concentration on the Invisibility and flicker into sight. The wizard responds with a cone of cold that should have totally killed the half-orc [GM who was only on 1 hp]. As the frost clears, Ront is still standing “Death Ward Bitch!” and his hammer crushes the wizard’s skull.

In the aftermath, Orvex apologises, but had been Dominated and told to get the companions to stand close enough together that they could all be killed at once. They find the cube in the satchel along with the wizard’s travelling spellbooks and notes. After an hour of resting, Juma attunes to the magical wand and learns that it grants the cantrip firebolt (even to a none spell-caster) and increases the damage of all fire spells cast by the wielder. [GM increases the dice type, so firebolt will goes from D10 to D12, Fireball goes from d6 to d8 etc.]

The Spellbooks contain…
1st: Detect Magic, Identify, Mage Armor, Magic Missile, Shield
2nd: Misty Step, Suggestion, Invisibility, See Invisibility
3rd: Counterspell, Fireball, Fly, Dispel Magic
4th: Ice Storm, Arcane Eye, Wall of Fire
5th: Cone of Cold, Dominate Person

The Journal has notes on the locations of all the Shrines, with translation of the words above their entrances

1. Froghemoth – Kubazan urges us to tread without fear and to give back as much as we take
Jumping across platforms

2. Jaguar – Shagambi teaches us to fight with honor.

3. Snake – Moa teaches us that secrets hide the truth

4. Flail Snail – Unkh teaches us that “The hare is first around Unkh’s clock. The bear is last to open Unkh’s lock”
Riddle, door is locked, lots of keys in garden

5. Horned Hare – l’jin teaches us to take the path least expected
Symbols on tiled floor?

6. Monkey – Wongo teaches us that it is better to be his friend than his enemy
Riddle (Dryax has the wording)

7. Crane – Papazotl teaches us to bow before no one
Crocodiles and a riddle (Dryax has the wording)

8. Grung – Nangnang teaches us to serve only ourselves.
Occupied by 10 Grung warriors, treasure room with illusory treasure?
I used Dominate Person on one of the Grung. It appears that the Shrine of NangNang does not currently have its cube. Each month, on the morning of the day after the new moon, one of the Yuan Ti (always the same one – Ras Nsi’s bodyguard) comes to the Shrine to collect the cube. The Grung dare not stand in his way. I presume this is to ensure that nobody can complete the set.

9. Bear – Obolaka teaches us to tread warily and stay in the light
Teleport through pools, seems harmless

ToA 16 - The Shrine of Moa

Click shot a rope into a tree in the garden of the Shrine (about 90 feet away). Juma dimension-doored across the 60-foot gap with Orvex (the Arab Scholar) and walked into the garden through a break in the side wall to tie the rope on securely.

From the tree, a jaculi (Javelin Snake) shot out to attack him. The wizard killed it fairly easily and retrieved the rope, but decided not to stay in the garden. He and Orvex instead hammered Orvex’s shortsword into the ground and tied the rope to that.

The others scrambled across the rope above the sickening 200ft drop into the boiling lava.

Entering the garden through the main gateway they were attacked by a couple more jaculi (easily dispatched). Ront tried to grapple one and wanted to make it a pet, but Ariel killed it.

The shrine had no door, just an archway leading into. A 5ft wide, 15ft long tunnel, with three arrow slits on either side. There were words above the shrine archway. “Moa teaches us that secrets hide the truth.”

Ront threw a dead jaculi onto the third flagstone (they are the size of pythons, so weigh nearly as much as a man). The floor opened and the body slithered in, dropping 10 feet into a pool of acidic green slime.

Juma concentrated on communicating with the Staff of Moa, asking for guidance. The Staff is very weak and barely responded. “if you hadn’t killed the guardians of my shrine, I would have helped you. Now you must prove your worthiness!”. It seems that the Staff is so weak (needing some kind of group fertility ritual!) that it might not be able to speak again [GM:The Arcana check to communicate with it is getting higher each time it is done, and goes up by 1 even if the check fails, so don’t waste the attempts unless you have an important question, the check is currently 15. It takes a full round action to make the attempt]

Ront attempts to “chimney-climb” above the arrow-slits, fails but manages to stop himself dropping all the way. He eventually manages to climb across at almost ground level, below the slits. Inside the ornately-carved chamber there are 12 statues of Omuan Warriors with bows, all pointing at a puzzle cube on a long stone block in the centre of the room.

When he starts trying to smash one of the archers with his hammer, they animate and begin shooting him.

Click tries to lasso the cube, but it is an illusion.

The half-orc rages but it soon becomes clear that the statues are tough and accurate. Half-dead before he manages to smash a single statue, He reluctantly shakes off his rage and ducks behind the stone block, out of sight from the archers.

Ariel, in the form of a spider, scuttles in along the ceiling. His greater perception allows him to spot the concealed doorways, either side of the inner chamber, leading to the rooms behind the arrow slits. He manages to scuttle and squeeze through the doorway on his right, out of sight of the archers.

There is a huge statue of a Jaculi in there, with a puzzle cube in its mouth. He webs it and then takes the Cube. Through the slits he can see into the chamber on the other side and spots a broken statue with another cube lying nearby.

Playing a deadly game with the archers, they dodge (and let Ront trigger the readied attacks) and Ariel fetches the other cube. When he is shot and knocked out, Click risks being shot in order to get close enough to Mass Heal. Juma risks a few shots with eldritch blasts too. Eventually They get out and one of the two cubes vanishes.

They have the cube of Moa, but are badly wounded and drained of spells, so decide to rest and sleep until morning. Ariel transforms into a tarantula-sized spider and goes back over the rope, finds a hiding place near the end of the rope and goes to sleep. The others camp on the pinnacle.

After a couple of hours (maybe 10:30 at night) Ariel is woken by the passing of a huge T-Rex, covered in bright feathers! After an hour more he transforms back to his half-elf form and has to adjust his hiding place. No sooner has he gone back to sleep (only needing another hour) but he is ambushed by a crazy-eyed Tabaxi (a cat man). The tiger-striped, grey-furred Tabaxi is wearing leather armour but a helm made of bright feathers. He shoots Ariel with a poison-tipped arrow [GM: getting a crit!] and almost kills him in a single hit. Transforming into a brown bear, the druid climbs back to the pinnacle. The Tabaxi calmly reloads, dipping his arrow into a pot and starts shooting the other party members from across the chasm.

All efforts to talk to him fail, he seems to be in a murderous rage (but in a focussed psychopath way, not the berserk kind). Arrow after arrow hits and poisons our heroes. When there are no targets available, he moves to the rope and begins to saw through it.

In an attempt to confuse the Tabaxi, Juma uses his disguise spell to make himself look the same, and then Misty Steps to the edge of the rope and begins mirroring the cat man’s actions. Ariel sees a second Tabaxi on this side of the chasm and tries to Thunderwave him off the cliff. Fortunately Juma/Tabaxi counterspells the thunderwave and starts swearing (in Juma’s voice) so they realise what’s going on.

Ariel cast a lightning bolt at him, but he dodges most of the damage. It destroys the rope.

Click uses call lightning to strike him, and because he is a Storm Cleric, has the power to maximise the damage (almost killing the Tabaxi) and also push his target 10ft off the cliff. Juma (for some reason!) tries to save the psycho-assassin with Featherfall, but only slows its fall into the boiling lava. Ront tries to save it with a javelin (to pin it to the cliff wall) but it is a hopeless effort. There is a brief flash as the floating tabaxi touches the lava and it is incinerated instantly.

Orvex is from an area in the south of Kesh near the land of the Tabaxi and has heard of this strange behaviour. As some Tabaxi get old, they become wild and irritable, wanting to kill EVERYTHING. The more honourable ones recognise their approaching maddness and undertake The Twilight Hunt. They head off away from civilisation to an area filled with enemies and go on a killing spree until they are killed. Once in the Twilight Hunt, everyone they meet is a target.

Next time they will have to cross back to the mainland they have two 50ft ropes left and about 20 ft of the original.

ToA 015 - The City of Omu

After 4 days struggle through the jungle to the south, they suddenly reached a cloud-shrouded valley with steep sides.

They were looking down 100ft from the cliff, onto the Lost City of Omu. Ruined buildings of a once-great city, broad avenues now choked with plants and rubble. At some point in the last 3000 years a pit of bubbling lava had erupted in the south-eastern quarter, forming a lake about 200 feet deeper than the rest of valley, in which the lava still bubbles and smokes.

At the north-eastern end of the city a mighty river falls 100 feet to the valley floor then snakes across the ruins to drop the other 200 feet into the boiling lava. A great cloud of steam rises and drifts across the eastern section. The water vapour and mirages form over the city, making it hard to pick out details from up here.

Where the ancient road used to arrive at the city (before the land collapsed), over centuries steps have been carved into the cliff-side to admit travellers. Ariel noticed there were six Aarakocra statues in alcoves half-way up the cliff, overlooking the steps and the southern portion of the city. The statues appear to be from the original ancient city, but the alcoves are rough-hewn and more recent.

Juma concentrates hard on the Staff of Moa, asking her to point the way. With some difficulty, he feels that it points at one of the ruined buildings – perhaps a Shrine. They walk along the cliff to find an alternative way down, away from the watchful eyes of the mysterious winged statues.

Using Juma’s Featherfall spell, they drift down to the city streets and approach the Shrine of Koobahzan (The Froghemoth God). There is a large pool, choked with chickweed, in front of the shrine with a toppled obelisk and broken wooden walkways. Again it is Ariel’s sharp eyes that spot something. There is a cluster of eyes on stalks, poking above the filthy water.

Ront hurls a stone and the eyes vanish under the slime. They see large ripples drawing nearer – something large is swimming under there. They hang back and cast spells at it when it bursts from the water – a Froghemoth – a monstrous frog-like body with a head made of tentacles (Cthulhu!).

Juma hits it with eldritch blasts, Click with a guiding bolt, but Ariel gets too close and is grappled by two longer tentacles. He has to use a thunderwave to push himself free (a boom heard over much of the city!). They continue hitting it with spells, Ariel focuses a moonbeam on it.

Ront charges in and attacks it with furious rage.

It is massive and tough and with only Ront in range, it grabs him, grapples him, bites… swallows him whole!

Inside the huge belly, acid begins to eat away at the half-orc, but the Mask of Wongo lets him cast a thunderwave which causes the creature to retch him up and spit him out. Naturally, he runs back to attack again.

By now the creature is reeling under the onslaught and can’t seem to hit Ront again. It dies and sinks below the slime. Ariel (able to breathe underwater because of the Mask of NangNang) swims around in the pool, investigating and finds a stone key. This once used to be attached to the obelisk.

The key lets them open the great stone door of the Shrine. Although they see the words carved above the door, Juma doesn’t want to waste his comprehend languages spell (stored in the Staff) so they are unsure what to do.

Inside there is a series of ledges at different heights, leading around a huge sunken chamber. The floor of the chamber is shrouded in magical darkness. [It’s a parkour course!].
It looks like they could leap from ledge to ledge to get to the other side where a strange puzzle cube sits on an opposite ledge.

Ariel uses dispel magic to get rid of the magical darkness (it is effectively cast at about 5th level so is tough to dispel). The 40 foot drop is actually a 60 foot drop onto poisoned spikes!

Rather than leap between the ledges, Ariel transforms into a giant spider and carries Click (tied by rope to Ront) along the walls and ceiling. The moment the Kenku snatches up the cube, the chamber door teleports shut and locked, snapping the rope Ront was holding. Outside, Ront and Juma are shocked, but inside corrosive gas begins to billow out.

Fortunately the stone key is still in the door so Ront can open it. The gas (and a heavily injured spider scuttles out with his heavily injured rider. The gas continues to billow out, burning and stinging for almost a minute. They keep backing away until they reach the cliff wall and just before it can catch them, Juma casts Rope Trick and they climb up into the safety of his extra-dimensional space. It turns out to be a waste of a spell as the gas subsides just before it reaches the cliff and dissipates.

They take a short rest in the Rope Trick before asking the Staff where to go next. It directs them to another shrine – The Shrine of Unkh the Flail Snail. Unkh is the patron god of Omu, wise and deliberate. He is famed as being the slow and careful mediator in disputes between the other gods – each of whom has a deadly rival.

The door of the shrine is heavy stone with no obvious way to open it. This time Juma does use the comprehend languages and reads…

The Hare is first around the clock
The Bear is last to open Unkh’s lock.

Hunting around in the ruined hut in the Shrine’s garden, they find hundreds of keys, each with a hexagonal head and a symbol. Some of the symbols are of the gods, indeed after a couple of hours searching they dig up 9 “god” symbols. It seems they can be fitted together in a circle (with Unkh in the middle). They just need to get them in the right order.

There is no obvious order based on the words, Hare, Bear, Snail etc.
There is no obvious order based on the god’s names I’jin the Hare, Obulaku the Bear etc.
Eventually they realise that the ancient Kushite names [actually the Fiend Folio names] for the gods’ species, are the answer.
Ijin the horned-Hare is an Al’miraj. Obulaku the Bear is a Zorbo. Soon they piece together what lore they remember and get the keys arranged. There is a click from the great stone door and it opens.
The keys immediately vanish, back into the untidy pile of rubble in the ruins.

Inside they find the next puzzle cube. Ront walks in and grabs it (no tricks, no traps!).

While the spellcasters are debating what to do next Ront (searching the garden) hears a faint moan (an old man’s feeble voice).
He sneaks off to investigate and finds a nearby ruin, recently collapsed (within the last few days). The bodies of half a dozen men (and one half-orc) all in studded leather uniforms have been piled up and burnt. The pile is still faintly smoking so within 2 days.

The feeble voice, trying a variety of different languages (none of which Ront knows) is coming from under the rubble of the building. He mutters in orcish “What the hell is another half-orc doing here!” and the voice switches to faltering orcish. “Would you mind getting this dog telephone off me?”


The conversation continues with the old man desperately trying to remember a few words of orcish, until he gets the meaning across “I’m not a fan of Heavy Rock. HEAVY ROCK!”

Ront digs him out and he is an old, dust arab (from the desert lands of Rysha far to the south).
“Are you sure you don’t speak any common?”

“Oh yes, I speak that”

Sigh! “Is it possible I could speak to your … handlers?”

Ront takes him back to meet the others.

Orvex Occramas is a scholar – a specialist in Ancient Kushite and the history of the Lost Continent.
He was forced to join an expedition led by Valindra Shadowmantle, a Lich and leader of The Black Circle (a renegade sect of an illegal organisation of evil spell casters). The Black Circle had allied themselves with the Cult of the Dragon in the recent failed attempt to summon Tiamat.

It seems Shadowmantle now wishes to take control of some evil necromantic power growing in the Tomb of the Nine Gods. Orvex has translated various writings in the city and determined that …
1. she needs God Masks to survive in the Tomb
2. They have to gather the nine puzzle cubes from the nine shrines
3. On the night of the full moon, the puzzle cubes teleport back to the Shrines and the traps all reset.

The heroes HAVE fought Shadowmantle already as Ront remembered – although Orvex dismissed the idea as Ront still has a pulse!

The Lich has teleported back to Port Nyaranzu to steal the Snail Mask from Wakanga Otamu. She told them she would come back after the reset and they would gather the cubes then. This should give them ample time to solve how to use them to enter the Tomb.

The Lich’s expeditionary force was wiped out in an attack by Ras Nsi’s Yuan-Ti (Serpent folk) who dwell somewhere in the City (probably in tunnels under the Royal Palace). However, two powerful wizards of the Black Circle had been missing when the attack came – they had sneaked off using Greater Invisibility to do some exploring.

Ras Nsi is “brewing something” in the Tomb – something harnessing the power of the Nine Gods. Something that will make him a God of Death! This magic is making Undead more powerful (including the Lich!) as it reaches its peak (maybe still more than a month away). Shadowmantle thinks she will be able to wrest control of it for herself if she can reach it, whatever it is.

When Juma explains that the Staff of Moa appears to carry the spirit of one of the 9 gods, Orvex is amazed. He thought they were all either DEAD or permanently trapped in the Tomb. It seems that somehow Moa has managed to trick one of the Yuan-Ti into carrying her artefact out (presumably by using her illusion and deceptive whispering).

Using up the last of her power, Moa reveals that this is the case and that the nine gods are alive but trapped. She was only able to bring a small portion of her spirit out in the staff. Just enough to trick the greedy serpent-folk into stealing the staff and then to find her way to Port Nyaranzu and into the hands of heroes who could possibly break into the Tomb and free the gods.

Orvex is able to translate the words over the Tomb of the Froghemoth…
“Tread fearlessly and give back as much as you take”
[It was indeed a Raiders of the Lost Ark moment and to prevent the trap springing, you had to use a bag of sand with the same weight as the cube!]

There are three more days – 2.5 nights until moonrise on the 3rd night when the Puzzle Cubes vanish back to their shrines. If they can gather all the cubes before then, they may be able to get in to the Tomb before Shadowmantle returns.

Click shrugs, “How hard can it be, we’ve already done two of them and it’s only taken about 5 hours”

Orvex is delighted at the chance to learn more about his favourite subject and is happy to join them. Ront offers him equal shares, but he says he won’t be able to help them in fights, he is just a scholar (and a fragile one). He shares the info he already has…

Moa’s shrine is on the pinnacle of rock rising from the lava lake.

The entrance to the Tomb is in the far north of the city, in a crack of the outer wall. There is a sort of obelisk there covered in writings which helped him work out about the need for the cubes and the full-moon reset.

The Royal Palace is the big circular area of ruins. The Yuan-Ti (and Ras Nsi) have some kind of lair under that.

He also knows the location of Shagambi’s Shrine (the Jaguar with the snakes for hair – a Kamadan).

ToA 013 - A Fatal Attraction

After a long rest, they crept back to the gardens in the early morning. Juma used his flaming sphere spell to burn out the dangerous vegetation from a distance before they crossed, but that alerted a few more Eblis.

They made short work of the creatures this time but then Queen Zakaloré herself arrived on the scene. She was wearing the Mask of the Crane and strips of golden cloth that revealed a perfect body, with smooth skin, almost glowing with health, youth and vitality. Rather than immediately attack, she warned them to leave, telling them it was too dangerous for them here. She seemed not to care too much about the destruction of her garden and the death of her allies.

Somewhat uncharacteristically, they decided to parlay with her, rather than attack. (Although Ariel, in spider form continued to sneak around and spy on her, rather than join the conversation).

They told her they had come to get the mask and needed it to destroy Ras Nsi. This proved to have been a key thing to say as Ras Nsi had brought about the Queen’s downfall 3,000 years earlier. Ras Nsi and the King of Omu had cast the spells that exiled the young Queen to Nangalore for her infidelity with General Thiru-Taya. She had thought she would become free when both these old men died, but when Ras Nsi was revealed as “The Immortal One”, she fell into despair. It was that despair and the thought of growing old and losing her beauty, had driven her to make a terrible pact with one of the Dark Gods (Morlock) to give her eternal youth and beauty. The pact had worked, but it turned out to be a Curse (she didn’t explain why).

She explained that Ras Nsi was using an ancient Omuan Ritual to sleep for hundreds of years and only wake for a few days at a time. When they told her that the Aarakocra (her old Queen’s Guard) had smuggled her two children out of Omu and used that same ritual to keep them safe, Zakaloré became willing to help them in exchange for a promise to bring her children here so she could see them.

She gave them directions to Omu.
She told them to leave the chamber and she would take the Mask off and leave it in the chamber. Then she would call them to come and get it, after she had left.
They all followed her instructions except for spider/Ariel who watched from the shadows near the roof.

When she took off the mask, Ariel saw that she was indeed the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. So beautiful that he wanted to look at her forever. So beautiful that every moment spent not looking at her would cause him physical harm. So beautiful that even sleeping would be impossible!

[He made his Wisdom save] He just managed to tear his eyes away before the Curse took hold of him and scurried away.

As she heard him gasp and knew she had been seen, Queen Zakaloré told them the rest of her sad tale…

Fearing that she would lose her beauty before her beloved General Thiru-Taya managed to find his way past the bounty hunters that sought him for the King’s reward, she made her pact.
She had only wanted to retain her own youth and looks, but Morlock twisted the words of the pact to make her as she appears today.

When Thiru-Taya returned (the very next day!) he was naturally delighted to see her and only after a few minutes did they realise just how obsessed he had become with looking at her. At first it seemed flattering and amusing, but soon they realised just how bad it had become.

It took him more than a week to die and by the end his mind had broken completely from lack of sleep. Each time his eyes closed for a moment, his heart skipped a beat, jerking him awake, desperate to see the Queen.

With the Mask of Papazotl, the Crane (Eblis), they now have enough masks for each of them to enter the Tomb of the Nine Gods.

Grey has fled back to M’bala and Nanny Poopoo (the green hag), taking the young Prince Na as a sacrifice for her. He took with him the Mask of the Froghemoth. Hopefully the Aarakocra will be able to catch him and save the Prince.

They head south, three days travel and reach the Lost City of Omu.

ToA 12 - The Pleasure Gardens of Nangalore

Two days trek across the Jungle brought them to the Pleasure Gardens of Nangalore.


Across the little river, the gardens rose in steps, leading back to three mighty domes. The central one has its dome almost completely collapsed and open to the sky. Further back and to the left a smaller dome was also cracked and half open. The only intact dome (another small one) was back and to the right.

Despite spotting that two of the “logs” in the river were drifting towards him, against the current, Ariel jumped into the water. This led to a fight with two giant crocodiles. At various points in the fight…

Ariel was an octopus, counter grappling the croc that had him in a death roll.
Ront was straddling a spinning croc.
Juma (the wizard) leapt into the water to bite a croc and try to use Vampiric Touch on it.
Click was left holding a rope, tied to Juma.

Eventually they killed the crocs, but the noise and firebolts had drawn the attention of some Cranes (actually intelligent crane-like creatures called Eblis). The Eblis flew in high and used spells (Hypnotic Pattern and Firebolts).


Click (I think) finished off the Eblis using a Call Lightning spell (but I may have misremembered this as something similar happened in another version of reality!).

Before they managed to rest, Ront swam across and climbed into the lowest terrace of the garden only to find that a dangling tendril of a plant tried to grab him. Just the touch of its tendril seemed to do considerable psychic damage. He fled away but the Creeper released a cloud of spores that seemed to possess Ront and the half-orc tried to swim back and climb the wall again. Then Juma was affected too and with some effort they managed to drag the two obsessed characters away and our heroes were forced to flee back into the jungle.

ToA 011A - The History of Omu

From Ashaara, High Priestess of the Aaracokra, you learn…

The Colony of Kir Sabal are descendants of the Queen’s Guard from the ancient city of Omu.
Just over 3,000 years ago, the King and Queen of Omu were powerful spellcasters and their city was the brightest jewel of Kesh. It was the only city where the Nine Gods were worshipped equally, each having a shrine and the factions living in peace. All the other Cities worshipped only 2 or 3 of the gods and the factions and the cities, were always fighting.

The great High Priest – Ras Nsi (pronounced RAZ NEE) built the Temple of the Nine Gods – greatest marvel of architecture in all of Kesh and called representatives of all the gods to a meeting (Peace Talks). Each of the gods placed their spirits into their representatives for the talks and then Ras Nee, revealing himself to be a Yuan-Ti, betrayed them all, killing or imprisoning them in the Temple – since re-named and known as the Tomb of the Nine Gods.

He tried to overthrow the King of Omu with his new-found power but was driven off for a time.

His agents (later also revealed to have been Yuan-Ti infiltrators) uncovered the infidelity of the young and beautiful Queen Zakalore, with the King’s best friend General Thiru-Taya. Even the King’s children were revealed to be Thiru-Taya’s!

The old King was still so besotted with Zakalore that he only exiled her for life to the Hanging Gardens of Nangalore (a lost outpost of beautiful gardens). Presumably binding her there by magic.

However, his anger against Thiru-Taya and his children was terrible! The Queen’s Guard fled with the children but that was 3,000 years ago and they were lost in time. Only the Colony of Kir Sabal remembers their distant ancestors and still hopes that Great Omu will rise once more – they still wear the symbol of Omu on their armour – a circular maze with nine dots scattered through the maze.

The General escaped into the jungle and for many, many years the King’s followers hunted for him while Queen Zakalore waited and waited for her lover to come to her. When she began to see signs that her beauty was fading with age, she foolishly made a pact with some Dark God for eternal youth and beauty. But something must have gone wrong and soon afterwards, Nangalore became a darker and more dangerous place – none who visited there returned.

The General was never found, but perhaps the tale of their reunion was swallowed up by the greater events.

Ras Nsi returned to Omu at the head of a vast army of Undead. The City was sacked and for a brief time Ras Nsi ruled Omu and increased the size of his Undead Horde ready to overthrow the other Cities and declare himself Emperor of Kesh.

Some small group of heroes (names now forgotten) managed to interfere with his plans and the would-be Emperor lost control of his Undead. The Undead destroyed Omu and spread out throughout Kesh, bringing about the Fall of the Cities and Kesh descended into a millenia of Dark Ages.

Ras Nsi was thought to have died, but has returned briefly many times in the subsequent millenia – it is thought that the Serpent-Priests of the Yuan-Ti bring him back from time to time. He is sometimes referred to as “The Immortal One”.

An ancient ritual from Omu sorcerer/priests was able to place people into a death-like trance for centuries at a time. The Aarakocra have been protecting the young children of Queen Zakalore for 3,000 years. They wake for odd days and recently the spells have weakened and they wake mor frequently. The same magic may account for why Ras Nsi seems to have returned many times and why he has become more active recently.

The Princess Mwaxanare is 17. Her brother Prince Na is only 4 and was only 1 when he entered the magical slumber. The princess suspects what has been going on, as each tome she wakes the buildings are more ruined and the Queen’s Guard have changed. The prince is convinced he is really an Aarakocra, and hopes to soon develop his own wings!

ToA 011 NangNang and the Brown Eggs

[GM – apologies, this is Note Form]
Finding the Frog Mask
Return of Grey, pursued by Wight and Skeletons
The Wight was the previous ambassador for the Morningstars (very quickly turned into undead)
The Wight and Skeletons demonstrated Turn Resistance (things are getting worse)
Avoiding a spiked pit in the Maze
Getting lost in the Maze
Finding the way out – asking the Morningstars to wait a little longer.
Finding their way through just as the Morningstars give up waiting and start to burn the Maze.
Audience with the Grung King
Juma disguised as a Grung female and wearing the Mask of NangNang so pretends to be the goddess.
Juma uses the Love Potion and falls for the King (King also falls for “her”).
Others go out to talk down the Morningstars
Juma convinces King to make peace (and even provide guides and scouts for the Moirningstars, saying it is important to drive out the Undead, not the Morningstars)
When asked to produce her eggs – Juma does the best he can (to much hilarity). Fortunately the other females of the tribe will deposit their eggs in the Royal Birthing Pools too, so nobody will notice!

They allow Click to lead them to Kir Sabal (three days south).
Meet the High Priestess of the Aaracokra – Asheera. She tells them they are the chosen heroes of destiny, only they can restore the glories of lost Omu, by defeating the Evil that grows in the Tomb of the Nine Gods.
They will need a mask each to survive in the Tomb.

They are told there is a Mask in the Lost Gardens of Nangalore. It is (probably) being worn by the ancient, immortal queen Zakaloré.

They explain the history of the Queen and how they are the descendants of the Queens’ Guard.

They explain how they have kept the two royal children safe for 3,000 years, but they are waking more frequently now.

Grey steals the young prince! He was given a magic item by Nanny PuPu and uses it to transform into a vulture and carry off the sleeping child. There is no time to mount a rescue mission, it is too far. The Aaracokra will go after him while our heroes head to Nangalore for another mask.

ToA 10 - Murder in the Maze

[GM: They are heading through the Thorn Maze because Ariel knows Grung Customs – anyone who makes it through the ordeal of the Maze, gets an audience with the King]
After a short and bloody battle against the Grung warriors, they killed most of them but took one alive. Ariel tried to reason with him but to no avail [GM:perhaps it was Ront walking about with the dismembered legs of the other Grung and threats about skinning him and using his skin as a disguise!]. As soon as he got the chance the desperate captive turned on Ariel, calling him traitor and tried to finish him off. Our heroes decided to kill him and dispose of all the grung bodies by grinding them to a bloody pulp against the razor-sharp thorn spikes, and agreed to try diplomacy with the next bunch. [GM: One of them was heard to say – “Perhaps we aren’t the good guys after all”]

Wandering around in the maze for another 30 minutes or so and Juma’s staff suddenly throbbed and seemed to be pointing towards a short dead-end. They approached to find themselves caught in a deadly combat with an animated thorn tree with long, powerful tendrils.
Once the thorn tendrils had wrapped around a target, they squeezed and tore at the flesh relentlessly [GM:even after two characters were grappled and unconscious! It became a race of spell-levels vs death-saves as Click repeatedly mass healed the two trapped characters, re-setting their Death Saves, while the others tried to kill the tree]

Finally the tree died and they managed to untangle their fallen friends. They ALMOST forgot about the Staff pointing them to the dead-end, but at the last moment Ariel remembered and searched in the soil beneath the deadly tree. In amongst the roots they unearthed the Mask of NangNang – goddess of the Grung.

Perhaps they will gain some abilities from the mask that will help them convince the Mad Grung King that he is getting his booty call from NangNang.

ToA 09 - The Cure for Arthritis!
The terrible crone Nanny Pupu

[[GM:As all players made it to this session, I ruled that Juma and Click and Grey all made it through the Portal too and arrived in the Ruins of Mbala, the City on the Plateau]]

Nanny Pupu, the ancient crone, needed help to kill a bunch of Pterafolk who were roosting close to the only water supply on the Plateau. The Pterafolk had arrived a couple of weeks ago, they are searching for people with magical ancient masks!

Before that, Nanny was the lone inhabitant of Mbala, she says she “tends to the skulls of the former people”. There are skulls everywhere, kept clean of weeds, clean and polished. Outside every ruined house a small family of skulls.

Ariel has agreed to help in exchange for a Love Potion.

Ront and Grey (hidden by the ranger’s pass without trace spell) manage to sneak up on the Pterafolk and slaughter them before they can take to the air. Juma sends a Fireball into the area too – catching all the Pterafolk in it, along with Ront.

There is some aggro between the party members again after the fight as the raging Ront goes toe to toe with Ariel (in bear form) until he shakes off his Rage. Then some unpleasantness between Ront and Juma as the half-orc punches him hard for the fireball.

The Kenku – Click, is able to heal everyone and for now the tensions seem to have settled down.

Seeing that Juma has the Jaguar Mask of “Shagambi” Nanny explains that, it is probably the proximity of the Mask that triggered the magical portal. The Jaguar (actually a creature called a Kamadan – a jaguar with a fringe of snake-like tentacles!) was the favoured god of Mbala.

It begins to dawn on them all that Nanny Pupu must be quite a powerful witch to survive up here on her own! A few of the things she says indicate that she might have known some of the townsfolk when they were alive (like naming some of the skulls!). That means she could be literally thousands of years old.

When Sister Lucretia isn’t around, Grey starts asking her what other Potions she can make and she offers to make one that restores the dead to life, but wants something in exchange. What she asks for is shocking – she wants a live human baby in exchange. Just to make it perfectly clear how hideous and vile and evil she truly is, she explains she wants to boil it down to make an ointment to rub on her aching joints.

It turns out that Grey is a hideously-vile creature too and readily agrees to go looking for the payment. Nanny explains the human child has to be aged 4 or under and delivered alive. [[GM:I’m going to assume the others don’t know about his agreement with Nanny Pupu, as in-character this should be enough to make them abandon him – or outright attack him. As he was seriously agreeing to do this, Grey has made some magical connection with Nanny P – maybe some kind of geas spell. Probably Grey will need to return to the City of Port Nyaranzu to find a child to steal]].

The next day they pass back through the Portal, expecting to find the corpses of the dinosaurs they slew before – however the bodies have gone. They travel another couple of days and finally reach Dungrunglung.

The Army of the Morningstars is camped around the circular Grung Royal Palace/Village. This is the settlement where Ariel was raised by his adopted Grung parents. He knows many of the inhabitants as friends and family and is known to the King and the female Shaman (who helped teach him his druidic spells).

The Morningstars agree to hold position and not start burning down the Thorn Maze until Ariel has had a try at diplomacy (Ariel appears to be the only non-grung who speaks the Grung language. The plan is to somehow trick the king into thinking he has had his booty call with Nangnang the Grung Goddess) . Sister Lucretia pays them 50gp each for delivering her, then she re-joins the Army. Juma can tell by the faces of the Army Commander, she has delivered the shocking news (that only Juma is currently aware of). If they can’t manage a peaceful resolution n 6 hours, the 300 Morningstar Troops (including some Inquisitor Priests and Albino Dwarf Berserkers and Native Guides) will declare the Grung to be in league with the Undead and commit genocide!

To actually get to speak to the Grung King, our heroes will need to pass through the defensive perimeter, the Thorn Maze.

They enter the Thorn Maze and soon find that the walls move, closing behind them, re-arranging. The walls themselves have razor-sharp thorns on them. Ariel knows that often undead wander into the maze, roam around and either die trying to force their way through the thorns or are killed by groups of Grung Warriors who roam the Maze, killing the undead (and other intruders) for sport and glory.

They are soon ambushed by a couple of ghouls, Ariel is in his bear form and gets paralysed and badly mauled before the others manage to deal with the creatures. They are hampered by the narrow passageways. The injured bear continues to lead them, but the noise of their combat attracts a band of Grung elite Warriors (members of the King’s Household Militia). They ambush the back of the line – almost killing Juma [GM:actually the poison on their arrows is non-lethal damage], forcing him to run away.

Ariel changed out of bear form [GM:I assumed so he could TALK to the Grung!] . He instead attacks them with a thunderwave, hurling one of them into the spikes. Click also thunderwaves (boosting the thunder damage to maximum). Any hope of a peaceful resolution is gone!

ToA 08 Zombie Dinosaurs!

Juma and Click’s players couldn’t make it so when dinosaurs attacked, they went into hiding. We thought Grey’s player was coming, so Grey was involved in the fight even though his player cancelled too.

There was a tough fight with two Yuan Ti warlocks riding zombie dinosaurs. The Yuan-ti were originally invisible but became visible when they started casting eldritch blasts. They were also disguised (as human zombies) but Ariel hit them with a Moonbeam spell which revealed them as Snake People.

Trying to evade pursuit, they discovered a ruined gate leading to a cave mouth. However, Ront is not a “run away” kind of guy, so he raged and charged! For the first time since getting the mask of Wongo, the rage worked in their favour, as he was knocked out by the monsters before he could turn on his companions. Ariel transformed into a bear and joined the attack – took so much damage he was forced to revert to his normal form – then did it again. At one point the bear picked up the unconscious Ront and took him up a tree, but the Eldritch Blasts took down the bear and then KO’d the druid. By then Ront was awake again and carried Ariel to safety.
Grey and Lucretia (off-screen) had run into two other zombie dinosaurs but all met back at the Gate.

Eventually out numbered by more enemies, Lucretia stepped into the cave and vanished (teleport)
The others followed and emerged from a similar gate but maybe 60 miles away and atop a jungle plateau at the edge of the abandoned city of MBala.

Wrinkled crone – Nanny Pupu welcomes them. She has a tent on top of a big rock to keep away from swarms of velociraptors that occupy the city. She seems to live by snares, trapping small birds and mammals.
The city itself is filled with the polished skulls of thousands of the former inhabitants.

Nanny lowers her ladder so they can climb up and join her. Says the Portal will probably re-open tomorrow allowing them to teleport back (it is one-way per day) but admits she has a problem.
A few days ago, some Pterafolk came to Mbala. They asked her if she had seen some heroes with ancient masks! Five of them are using one of the city’s crumbling ruins as a roost while they fly out each day searching the jungle.

She thinks they will attack her so wants them destroying.

Ront immediately agrees to help.

Ariel and Lucretia inspect Nanny’s tent and find lots of rare herbs and ritual implements – looks like she makes potions for the few natives that make the climb to Mbala – love potions, healing and even (probably illegally as far as the Inquisitor is concerned) raising the dead. probably just Revivify which is not illegal, but if you use Gentle Repose on a fresh corpse it extends the time from 1 minute to 10 days. Casting Gentle Repose again adds another 10 days but the Inquisition then count it as Raising the Dead instead of just healing! Because of the distance and difficulty of getting to Mbala, she probably is “raising the dead”.

Because they have already accepted Nanny’s hospitality, Lucretia is willing to let this slide for now. Ariel (very cleverly) asks for a Love Potion in exchange for helping against the Pterafolk. Intending to use it on the King of the Grung to help convince him to make peace. Nanny explains that you have to drink the potion yourself, then the first person (including Grung) you kiss, will fall in love with you.

Assuming that Juma and Click’s players can make it next time, they too will emerge from the portal to join them [Grey is currently Schroedinger’s Ranger – neither existing or not existing – if Frank can’t make it, Grey will have remained behind in the Jungle and there will be fewer Pterafolk]. Nanny says it hasn’t operated for many, many years and some ancient magic must have triggered it. [it seems the proximity of one of masks or the staff may be responsible]