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.