Thursday, July 6, 2017

Guest Editor Play Report: A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade Part I

After killing the lizard king Bangqiu and Kafka went to Pasar. There they met Gwinch who had heard of slavers near the village of Katoke (also spelled Quitokai). Gwinch and Bangqiu assembled a team to put a stop to the operation.

Gwinch the Foreigner, Abbot of the Monastery of the Two-Fold Path accepted responsibility for leading the strike force against the stockade. Years ago, when he was an agent of the Emperor, the people Quitokai had given him shelter for several months. And he had participated in an earlier successful raid against the slavers. He was assisted primarily by Saisho, his chief scribe and sage on arcane matters and “Beast,” a native son of Pasar and faithful bodyguard. Damai, a scout and skilled hunter from Quitokai, had volunteered his services and the benefits of several weeks spying on the stockade. Gwinch’s lieutenant was Kafka, a reserved, self-disciplined warrior monk, one of Gwinch’s first students from his days in Zipang.

The tempestuous Bangqiu was co-leader of the strike force. He had made a name for himself in Pasar, fighting alongside Gwinch and Beatriss to free the town from the domination of the Black Flowers gang. And, in the course of many battles against the Lizard King Sakatha, this unpredictable young magician had formed an unlikely friendship with Kafka the quiet sohei. Bangqiu’s success against Sakatha had also won him the allegiance of Erlo, shaman of the Sanasar clan. Finally, Bangqiu had taken on the services of the lovingly incompetent Shu.

Besides the six members of the lead strike force, six of Gwinch’s experienced sohei made up the rearguard. Their names were Lieu, Nguyen, Hoshina, Oshima, Sang, and Bulan. Finally, Onghai Wen a novice monk who showed much promised had been permitted to join the Company.

The group travelled from Quitokai to the slavers’ stockade by a circuitous route that avoided the main road. They went east to the sacred fishponds and then Bangqiu, based on his special status among monkeys, negotiated passage through the kingdom of baboons, climbing a rocky trail up the escarpment. On the plateau, Damai led the group into the jungle and to one of his many observation posts. Through a gap in the trees, the fortress could be clearly seen. Damai explained that the stockade had been built on the site of an older stone fortress, but only the northern section was even partially intact. A thick copse of trees had grown up in the middle of the older building and the slavers had surrounded this with a wooden palisade and built new buildings on the southern side. Damai relayed to the Gwinch and Bangqiu that he had seen a man sneak in and out of the stockade on the northern side by way of a hole halfway up the crumbling curtain of the old fortress.

Ignoring this information, Gwinch and Bangqiu decided they would enter from the south and selected a strike force of seven experienced explorers, all capable of stealth and climbing with minimal assistance. With the help of magic, this group was made invisible, and in the dead of night, they scaled the palisade to land on the roof of a stone building overlooking a courtyard dominated by a large firepit.        

Banqiu has boots that let him levitate. He used these to look around the stockade. Among the men gathered around the firepit was an obvious leader. He relayed this information to the others and Erlo decided to launch a fireball at them.

Unfortunately the leader was fire resistant.

So they left and the strike force joined the rearguard in their hiding place in the jungle and they returned to Quitokai together. The villagers were not inordinately impressed. None of their relatives had been rescued. The Black Flowers likely numbered more than 100 and their losses would only aggravate them. The villagers confirmed that yes, the dark-skinned man with the helmet covering his face was one of the slavers’ most fearsome leaders. His name was Eikhar (or Icar) and they too had witnesses his invulnerability to fire. Based on this new information, Bangqiu bought several pangas for Gwinch and Kafka to bless against their enemy. The two monks wrote Eikhar’s name on the weapons with dragon’s blood ink.

The heroes came back the next day. Very focused on killing Icar(the leader) they back stabbed him with the dragonblood weapons blessed to be super effective effective against him. After he died they heard a voice that told them of evils that took place under the stockade. “Well done. Most impressive.”

Gwinch looked at Bangqiu, “You’re hearing this, too?”

The voice was deep and sonorous, with a Zipang accent. “And what is your business here?” The voice queried. “You are agents of the Emperor? Or you had a personal feud with Eikhar?” Gwinch was cagey at first, but at last admitted that he and his companions were trying to free the capture villagers before they were sold into slavery. The voice told of evils that involved a witch named Marcessa (or Marquessa)who had an operation table. They were also told to meet a man named Toge who would lead them to marchesa. The voice directed them to drop into the courtyard below and to a door that would lead into the dungeons. “Toge will be expecting you. He will take you to meet Marquessa.”

“Why don’t you tell Marquessa to come up here?” Gwinch demanded. The voice didn’t answer.

So we just acted on our instinct and went to the doors they were raggedy and broken. So BANGQIU assumed it was a trap. He really felt an urge to go down the opposite door. Eventually they decided to go down the door they were told by the voice to use. After passing through the doorway was a vast flight of stairs they went down the stairs and found a magnet that was dragging them towards it. Then the group opened a door which led to some cannibals-- their room smelt of dead people. Then they started to fight and Toge appered down the lengthy stairs. He was a large man with rhinolike skin the creatures did everything he said which the party found to be oh so very perplexing. They followed him and saw some spiders along the way and Saisho made friends with them. Toge instantly picked this up along with the fact that half the party was invisible.

He then lead them to a room which had an operating chamber where someone was being tortured so the party saved him. In this room were many canibils who attacked the group but Toge politely asked to cut it out and said don’t attack the guests. At this point the group relized this toge guy was quite the threat.

He lead them to marcessa’s room and here they Saw a lot many operating taples and long tables and other stuff of that sort they saw many papers which were cut and tattered some where yellowish they also saw at the edge of the room two cages with animals that looked like a cross between a lion and an owl. The party pretended they wanted to be friends with Marquessa. Then they used magic that held her and she stopped being able to move. And the cannibils started cranking a crank that triggered the fence/gate to be opened but then they were killed Banqui So Gwinch and Bangqiu and their followers killed Marquessa’s cannibal friends and then killed her. Then they noticed the door was open and Saisho saw Toge hovering near the ceiling and being invisible to everyone except Saisho who passed the message around.

Using this information they watched him as they made their way back out of the dungeon until they reached the other torture room where they saw he was giving commands to the cannibal leaders. Then Saisho told Erlo where to shoot and Erlo threw a fireball at Toge and it hurt him badly and killed the cannibal leaders. Then Toge released a breath of cold that killed several members of the party: erlo,bulan,ongewen and shu. Then Banqui used a missle and it killed Toge so they escaped but there party was very injured. As they sneaked out of the stockade, they saw Black Flowers also packing up their belongings to flee.  

The people of Quitoka were not super grateful. Because still no rescue, just empty promises that the Black Flowers probably wouldn’t bother them anymore. Gwinch and most of his sohei vanished into the jungle for a meditative retreat.

But Bangqiu, Damai the scout, plus Nguyen and Lieu wnt back to try to free some slaves. This time they entered by way of the hole in the stone wall. Bangiqu surveyed the area while his companions kept look-out in the stone tower. The Black Flowers seemed to be gone, but they met some more people that inhabited it. These guys were both intimidating and friendly and told Bangqiu that he was a bad ass and asked him to help them look for treasure. Banqiu tried to buy all the slaves to set them free. A deal was struck, and Bangqiu tossed them a little bag of gems and the tough guys led him to stone building next to the firepit. But Bangqiu was finessed and the guys only showed him the stone building where the slaves were being kept but would not get them out. So Banqui hit their leader with a magic missle just to prove a point. He was injured but not killed; he and his men cussed out Bangqiu and ran for cover in another building.

Bangqiu and his companions entered the stone building and found about two dozen people. They were chained to the wall and staring into space as if hypnotized. They did not respond to him and Bangqiu decided to go back to Quitokai and seek assistance.     

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Spider Farm (2 of 2)

By the time Wolfgang returned to Hommelet (having parted company with Chrono somewhere along the way), things had gone bad at the spider farm. He learned from Vulpio and Gerrilynn that shadow goblins,

allies to the drow, and devotees of Lloth the spider goddess, had overrun the farm. According to the birds who made regular reports to the elves living under the moathouse, the shadow goblins had made their attack about a week after Wolfgang and Chrono left the farm. It was quickly resolved that Wolfgang, Vulpio and Gerrilynn should return to the spider farm and rescue the farmer and his family and laborers.

Wolfgang knew the best paths. Although his non-druid companions were some liability in trekking through the wilderness, they made good time, taking only a few extra days to complete the journey. Gerrilynn prayed for guidance and determined that because their enemies loved the shadows, they should attack in daylight. No other tactical decisions were made.

They reached the farm, and as they were crossing the yard, were pelted by arrows from the laborer’s dormitory. The party took refuge in Ulayah’s personal abode. It had clearly been ransacked. Gerilynn and Caitlynn, left the house and went to the stables. Gerrilynn was able to communicate with the frightened horses but did not learn any useful information. Inside Ulayah’s house, Wolfgang and Vulpio were threatened by a giant spider that dropped down the chimney and emerged from the fireplace. Wolfbang’s animal companions took no notice of the spider and by this strange fact, he deduced that the spider was an illusion. He further concluded that the noises on the tin roof were not more spiders, but spider goblins. He and Vulpio exited the house by a window. Sure enough, there were several spider goblins on the roof, and Vulpio, after taking cover behind a tree, picking them off with his arrows.. The goblins jumped down from the roof and proved to be no match for the party in hand-to-hand combat—and even worse at hand-to-bear-paw combat.

Gerrilynn and Caitlynn rejoined the party and they charged the dormitory together. They broke down the door and the goblins fled. Rather than pursue the enemy however, the party members were stopped in their tracks by the pitiful sight before them—the farm’s laborer’s, a dozen or so men, had been held captive in their dormitory. Shackled, bruised, famished, miserable, and delirious. They gratefully accepted freedom, food, and comfort, until one of them recognized Wolfbang. “Hey, he’s that one, the one who told all those stories to the boss!” Those who had sufficient strength were eager to fight him, convinced that he was the leader of the spider goblins.

Gerrilynn was sympathetic and acknowledged that Wolfbang might be annoying, but made it clear that she would defend him if necessary. Gerrilyn’s patience and loyalty were further tested as Wolfbang seemed willing to accept the challenge of anyone who wanted to take him on, but finally agreeing to go back outside. Vulpio asked the laborers if Ulayah was still alive. They didn’t know, but said the leaders of the goblins had taken one of the other buildings as their headquarters. Sure enough, Ulayah was there, shackled, but unguarded. He was also unfriendly toward Wolfbang. While not belligerent, he seemed to assume that there was a connection between the strange young man and the goblins who attacked his farm a week later. But none of that really mattered since his daughter had been taken from him the night before. It had been clear to him that the goblins were going to feed her to the spiders. But she had not been the first sacrifice and if the spiders weren’t hungry, they might have saved her for when the new spiders hatched. She might still be alive. Wolfbang and Vulpio volunteered to go into the spider trench and rescue her. Ulayah ordered the angry laborers to open the gate to the spider’s home. “This is my only chance!” He reasoned ot loud that if Wolfbang was risking his life to rescue Heri, then he likely was not the mastermind behind the Shadow Goblin invasion.

The trench was lined with thick, sticky webs. Vulpio led the way, slashing the webs with his sword. Bruno the bear, with his great strength, also helped clear a path. Neverthless, the way forward was narrow and twisting. Even smaller tunnels led off from the main trench. Following directions from Ulayah, who stood on the lattice above them, they made their way to the mother spider’s chamber. Dog-sized spiders emerged from the webbing and attacked from all sides. Wolfbang used his magic to calm the first ones, but more kept coming. The party shielded themselves and forced their way into the mother’s spider’s chamber. Here, there was more space, and the spiders could be fought with swords and spears. Bruno had been severely wounded. While WOlfbang attended to his animal companion, Vulpio advanced on the mother. Because of her enormous size, more than twice that of any of the others, she was nearly immobile. Vulpio stood far from her long, dripping fangs and shot her with arrows, then jumped in with his sword to finish her off.

A smaller chamber behind the spider mother was filled with egg sacs. Hanging from the top of the chamber was a large, quivering bundle, wrapped in silk. Vulpio cut down and unwrapped Heri. She was so disoriented that she couldn’t speak. Vulpio and Wolfbang helped her make her way out of the trench and she was re-united with her father. Some of Ulayah’s laborer’s continued to grumble, but over the next few days, it became clear that the boss had no ear for their suspicion or resentment. Ulayah rewarded the party with gifts, including several hundred feet of lightweight spider-silk rope. Besides being incredibly strong and lightweight, it was also just sticky enough to assist in maintaining a tight grip on it. After a few days, the party was ready to take their leave. Ulayah, with a meaningful and unsubtle nod at Heri told Wolfbang that he was welcome to return any time, “You might find you could have a good life here!”

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Spider Farm (1 of 2)

Jaroo asked Wolfbang and his friend Chrono, another initiate to take a trip to the southlands and to the Buiyab forest. This was a region known for enormous spiders, spiders that discouraged human settlement near the forest and thus allowed the wilderness to remain wild. Unfortunately (from a druidic perspective) there was a man who seemed likely to significantly alter the natural order. This man was attempting to domesticate the giant spiders, and had achieved considerable success in his unnatural endeavor, having quickly established a “farm.” Wolfgang and Chrono were to investigate and find a non-lethal way to encourage the spider farmer to find another way to make a living.

Traveling with their animal companions, Wolfgang and Chrono enjoyed their journey to the southlands and located the spider farm. They instructed the animals to remain in the woods while they approached the farm as labor-seeking travelers.

As they entered the compound, they saw other laborers struggling to drag a goat to what turned out to be the spider pen—a large trench in the ground covered with a thick lattice and with a gate at each end. The laborers were not welcoming to the newcomers, so Wolfbang and Chrono sought out the low building where they found the owner of the farm, a man named Ulayah. He was a confident and enthusiastic man, eager to dispel the arachnophobia he presumed in his visitors. Wolfbang and Chrono surprised him by asserting that they knew spiders to be as intelligent as humans, claiming to have come from another land across the sea where they had learned the spiders’ language. Ulayah was visibly torn by competing desires to dismiss and embrace these outlandish claims, but his daughter Heri, who seemed more enchanted by these men from “across the sea” than anything they knew about spiders, prevailed upon her father that they should be invited to stay for a meal and to demonstrate their abilities.

On their way to Ulayah’s living quarters, they passed the spiders’ trench where the laborers were still struggling with a goat. Wolfbang and Chrono, reluctant to use their druidic powers to befriend an animal they intended to feed to spiders, tried to wrestle the goat to the ground. While unsuccessful, their embarrassment seemed to give the laborers’ new zeal for the task. One seized the goat in both arms while the other flung open the gate. The goat was cast into the pit and the gate closed. The terrified bleating was soon silenced and all except Ulayah shivered at the successive clicking and sucking sounds of the feeding spiders. Wolfbang found that, with his druid magic, he could indeed talk to one of the spiders. It was still hungry and wanted more food. Ulayah looked particularly juicy, though the “fat sweet one” (presumably Heri) would also suit him. Chrono relayed this to Ulayah who shrugged cavalierly. “Of course, that’s why we keep them in the cages.”

Lunch, in a room festooned with all colors of silk, was agreeably bland and consisted mainly of fried vegetables. Ulayah quizzed the newcomers about their knowledge of spiders, and having satisfied himself that he knew more than them, offered them work. Wolfbang was eager to accept, but Chrono answered with cryptic insults that soon became not very cryptic. “Perhaps you’re tired,” Ulayah suggested, offering them his guest room. Wolfbang and Chrono slept until night. Wolfbang, thinking that his associate might forget the “non-lethal” part of Jaroo’s instructions, suggested that they slip away into the forest and return to Hommelet.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Sakatha DEAD! (For real this time)

Bewildered by the undead lizardwoman’s powers and concerned about what it had to tell them about Sakatha’s continued existence, Beatriss and Tetsukichi sought out a quiet place to discuss what they’d experienced, rest, and call on advice from a higher power. On their way back to the upper level of the pyramid, a swarm of bats swooped down on them screeching and scratching. The party followed the bats back to Sakatha’s throne room. Sakatha’s queen was there, but before Ju-Mei could raise his holy symbol, the bats descended on him a special vengeance. The lizardwoman charged at Naron, grabbed him with her claws and sunk her fangs deep into his neck. As Naron started to slip out of consciousness, his companions crowded around with their best weapons. They drove the blood-sucking fiend away from Naron, knocked her down and cut her to pieces. Again, she turned to a gas and the bats dispersed.

With the lizard queen(?) dead, the throne room itself became a seemingly quiet and safe enough place to rest. Ju-Mei and Erlo tended to the wounded. Naron had suffered a strange wound. She had taken something from him that he wouldn’t get back easily. Nevertheless, he was resolved to help Beatriss and the others to destroy Sakatha and his consort.

As Ju-Mei prepared to meditate, Beatriss and Tetsukich discussed what exactly they wanted to know. Was Sakatha gone? Would Sakatha return? Would the Sansar clan now have peace? The answer came from a lower power. A section of the wall slid open and Sakatha himself stepped out. Beatriss ordered the weaker member of the party to the back of the room, but Sakatha summoned a huge billowing cloud of noxious green smoke, cutting off the exits, and forcing the entire party to within striking distance. “Where is my crown?” he demanded, looking them over. Beatriss stepped in front of him, drawing her sword. He seized her and bit her, just as the queen had done to Naron. But even as he began to suck out her blood, Beatriss, drove her sword into his gut, holding him fast. Tetsukichi, Al-Fitar, and Naron surrounded him, stabbing and slashing him on all sides. Raking his claws down Beatriss’s arm, he forced her to drop her sword and turned to face a new opponent. He leapt on Al-Fitar, knocking the powerful warrior to the ground, but didn’t manage to find his way past his sword. Al-Fitar held the blade in front of his neck and forced it lengthwise across the lizard king’s mouth. Betriss and Tetsukichi attacked from the other sides and with a rain of blows, forced the monster back into gaseous form. They entered the secret room and found another coffin. Opening it, they watched Saktha’s wounded body reforming on the fetid mud inside


Suddenly, Ju-Mei knew exactly what to do, and Beatriss followed his instructions. On an ordinary sword, Ju-Mei wrote Sakatha’s name using ink made from dragon’s blood. With this sword, Beatriss cut off the lizard king’s head. Into his mouth she poured holy water and specially-blessed cake. The flesh rotted and shrunk from Sakatha’s skull and then the skull split in two. Likewise, his body disintegrated.

Using a similar procedure, the party went to the queen’s burial chamber and permanently destroyed her. They returned to the throne room once more and discussed whether there was anything else left to do. Bangqiu and Kafka returned to report that, upstairs, water was seeping in under the door. Beatriss wanted to leave, but Bangqiu remember something in a song about Sakatha’s ring and wanted to find it. He asked Naron and Beatriss and some others to take any rings belonging to party members and guard them in another room. With a series of spells, he determined that there was another closer ring behind the throne. Summoning once again the party’s strongest warrirors, Bangqiu asked for the throne to be moved. Still his magic told him that the ring was very close and not in the the throne but in the wall behind. Erlo used his own powers to locate and open the magically-hidden door, and behind it the party found Saktha’s secret treasury: a pile of ancient coins, each much larger and heavier than an imperial tael, and made of gold instead of silver. There was a box filled silk packets containing silvery dust. There was a book of spells. And there was a ring. Bangqiu claimed the book and the ring, while the others filled their backpacks with gold coins.

By the time the party was ready to leave the pyramid, water was flowing down the stairs. Upstairs, the food in the feasting room was rotten and the magical servants were nowhere to be seen. Erlo opened the bronze doors and a small wave of swamp water rushed in , splashing them up to the waist. Outside the pyramid, it was muddy, and the water was ankle-deep. There was a crack in the roof of the cavern; lizardmen were happily cavorting in the water and sunshine. The undead mob were nowhere to be seen. The dry streambed was filling with real water. The acid pools were still there. Ow! The party made their way up the stairs, avoiding the fifth step from the top.

On their way through the former lair of the brigands, there was a surprising and surprisingly cordial reunion between Won Ton and his old friends Shu and Ta-Mi! Visibly relieved about the death of Feng-Bi and sobered by the death of Sick Boy, Won Ton started to apologize about “you know, the silver chi’en” until he noticed the gold bulging from the others’ backpacks. And there is no need to tell anything else about this adventure except that the heroes returned to the main camp of the Sansar clan for feasting and celebration!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sakatha dead?? NOT CLICKBAIT

The throne room was large and nearly empty, with frescoes in the familiar, violent style and at the far end of the hall, a massive throne and a stone table. On the table was an oblong box of reeds and pitch, about nine feet long. Inside the box was Sakatha, an eight-foot tall, massively-built lizardman with long fangs, wearing a crown and gripping a trident. The heroes took a moment to plan their attack—Beatriss, Tetsukichi, Al-Fitar, Naron, Kafka, and the two sohei all surrounded the box, holding the weapons specially-prepared by Kafka. Ju-Mei said a brief chant and at one moment, all the warriors struck their target. The blessed weapons cut Sakatha’s body and it immediately transformed into a green gas that rose into the gloom of the top of the hall and then vanished. 

Bangqiu discussed with Kafka who should claim the trident and who should claim the crown while Beatriss and Tetsukichi discussed whether Sakatha was really gone. 

Beatriss and Tetsukichi, together with their henchpeople, decided to explore elsewhere, while Bangqiu and co. went to guard against any attack from the temple area or the “feast hall” above.

Immediately off the throne room, Beatriss and Tetsukichi discovered a library filled with sinister-looking books. They were glad that Bangqiu was not with them to be tempted. 

Next, they found a circular burial chamber, smelling of swamp rot and death, containing five of the reed-and-pitch coffins—noticeably smaller than the one in the throne room. As Ju-Mei began to chant a prayer of protection, one of the coffins opened and a lizardwoman sprang out, leaping onto Naron with her fangs bared. Ju-Mei sprang forward with his holy symbol and the foul monster turned into a gas. Beatriss was able to track the cloud as it flowed out of the burial chamber and toward the throne room. By the time the party reached the throne room, they found the lizardwoman again in corporeal form, wailing over Sakatha’s empty coffin. “What have you done to my king?” Ju-Mei answered with his holy symbol and again she turned into gas and vanished.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Tomb of the Lizard King: Inside the Pyramid, Beatriss has another brush with death

The party walked down along the dry riverbed until they reached the wall of the cavern. Now that the illusion of the river had been dispelled, this proved to be only about 100 feet away. The burial mounds were still within sight and as the party passed by, they noticed signs that something was stirring within—cracks appearing in the hard-baked clay, clods of dirt rolling off. As the party reached the bronze doors of the pyramid, they began to see blackened fists breaking through, and red-eyed heads popping out of their graves. Erlo and Ju-Mei called upon their diverse understandings of the divine good to send the wights back into their graves, while the rest of the group studied the doors. They were 20-feet tall, and remarkably well-crafted, and still disturbing in their depictions of Sakatha’s domination over humankind, despite the fact that these hardy adventurers had already seen similar artwork throughout the tomb. The problem of opening them was not immediately solvable. The doors had no visible lock or even handle, and could not be pried open. Beyond the mechanical problem—the double doors had only the narrowest seam between them, too small for any type to tool that might pry them open— Bangqiu surmised that they were magically closed. His associate Erlo knew a spell for opening locked doors, but would need some time to prepare it. Meanwhile, over a dozen wights had broken out of their mounds and although they recoiled from the sight of a boldly-raised holy symbol, it seemed only a matter of time before one Erlo and Ju-Mei let one slip by unnoticed, and that could quickly lead to catastrophe.

The party moved around the pyramid, Erlo and Ju-Mei, bringing up the rear. On the other side of the pyramid, they saw several bonfires on the slopes of the cavern, with figures gathered around. These did not seem to be undead, but-- by their natural movements and long, thick tails-- living, breathing lizardmen.

Tetsukichi suggested they could evade the lizardfolk and find their own safe place on another side of the cavern, far from both the wights and the lizrdfolk. This, they did. A low narrow hole, opened into a sizeable cave-within-the-cave where, with a couple sohei on guard, the rest of the party could rest and plan. There were tree roots hanging down from the ceiling of the cave and the party found it reassuring to know they couldn’t be too far from the surface. These roots also reacted similarly to the party’s presence or at least their light sources—the roots sprouted buds and flowers and murmured deeply and softly. This murmuring reminded everyone of the comforting trees of their camp and also of those tree’s warning that the y must tarry. After an hour or so, the party returned to the pyramid. Erlo recited his spell and the doors opened. The party entered the pyramid and as the wights, now assembled in a semi-organized mob, charged, the doors closed. Howling and gnashing of teeth.

From the entryway, there were three doors.

Beatriss led the way toward the middle door, which seemed to lead toward the heart of pyramid.  As she touched the door, she heard an oddly-familiar voice and felt a sharp pain on her neck.  A spear shot out from the wall and hit her on the neck—at the exact place where O-me-sa had bit her and left his scar. The spear bounced off. “Good bye, Beatriss,” the voice said. Other party members were also struck by spears that had shot out of the walls, but thanks to luck, preparation, or some other unknown protection, these spears were repelled by armor. The spears were coated with a sticky green substance. Beatriss shivered and touched her neck to be sure she hadn’t been wounded. Her skin was whole. Even the scar was gone.

The door opened into a grand hall where a large table offered a sumptuous feast.—all kinds of food and wine, and all apparently fit for human consumption. The walls were painted with uncharacteristically light-hearted frescoes of lizard men frolicking feasting. Within moments, several of these lizardfolk stepped out of the frescoes and invited the visitors to feast. Beatriss was extremely skeptical. The lizardfolk were courteous and dismissed her questions, instead repeating their invitation. Bangqiu and Tetsukichi restrained Shu. Al-Fitar and Naron located a trapdoor, and the party lowered themselves into a tunnel beneath the pyramid. The lizardfolk bid them farewell and asked them to return and feast another time.

Exploring the tunnels beneath the pyramid the party stumbled upon a darker celebration—about a dozen lizardmen and three human priests gathered around a blood-stained altar. Seizing moment, Erlo unleashed a ball of fire on the unholy assembly, incinerating the reptilian worshippers. The human worshippers, on the other hand, responded with their own magic. Beatriss dropped her sword and was put to flight and two of the party’s warriors were transfixed. Tetsukichi identiefied the leader and charged him with sword drawn. Bangqiu blasted the others with his magic. By the time Beatriss returned, shrugging off her sudden bout of cowardice, all the enemies had been killed.

A secret door behind the altar provided access to more tunnels, one of which led to Sakatha’s throne room.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Tomb of the Lizard King: Door you cannot find, stairs you cannot find, and the river of nothingness

The party returned to camp, planning to rest a couple days until Beatriss was strong enough to make the journey out of the swamp. Their plans changed the following night when they were attacked by scores of lizard men.  Those not on guard were awakened by the sounds of the attackers howling as they splashed through the swamp.  Those on watch saw the reptilian eyes approaching from all sides.  But as the scaled fiends charged into the clearing, the surrounding trees came to life, defending the party with branches and vines, beating off their attackers. 

The trees reassured the party, in deep murmuring voices that they were safe, for now, but that Sakatha was still alive and his power getting stronger.  The heroes decided that they would remain in the swamp, nurse Beatriss back to health in the camp and then return to the tomb and find Sakatha. 

Their new acquaintances Tami and Shu showed that they planned to stay, and also to return with the party to the tomb.  “We still need to get Won Ton and the money he took from us.”  The newcomers did little to earn their welcome.  Tami was very proud of his swordsmanship and practiced for hours, but the more experienced warriors saw limited skill behind the flash.  Shu, on the other hand, seemed to go out of his way to demonstrate his incompetence.  After being reminded too many times of the hazards of collecting firewood from living trees, he was ordered to lie in a hammock where he showed his talent for opium smoking.  Neverthless, Bangqiu took a liking to Shu and Beatriss tolerated Ta-Mi.

When the party returned to the temple two weeks later, they were much better prepared.  They encountered one troll in the antechamber.  Erlo ensnared it in a magical web and the rest of the party killed it with slings and arrows.  In the second room behind the shell curtain, they found the second troll still wrestling with the weird water snake. Bangqiu remember the trapdoor in the floor and Naron opened it, permitting the party entrance to the lower level where they’d fought the bandits and evil priests.

The company:

Beatriss, level 9 warrior with her associates:
                 Naron, level 7 warrior
                 Ju-Mei, level 7 cleric 
                Ta-Mi, level 4 bushi
Tetsukichi, level 8 bushi with his associates:
                 Al-Fitar, level 8 warrior
                 Mustapha, level 7 illusionist 
Bangqiu, level 6 Wu-Jen
                 Erlo, level 5 shaman
                 Kafka, level 6 sohei, with his own retinue of 17 sohei initiates, two of whom accompanied the party in the tomb while the others were charged with maintaining the camp. 
                Shu, level 3 bushi

Thanks to Beatriss’s excellent map, the party traveled quickly to the disgusting demonic altar and the passages behind it where they expected to find a secret door.  While they were searching, a fearsome group of undead burst out from under the floor.  They looked like long-dead human bodies, animated by a powerful negative energy, and they moved surprisingly quickly.  Erlo and Ju-Mei raised their holy symbols and forced the wights to retreat back under the floor. Bangqiu followed them and watched their flight down a steep metal staircase.  He noted in particular, that they avoided stepping on a particular step.  All eight of the monsters stepped over it.

After a brief conference, the party decided that all they needed to know was that the “bad step” was probably bad and that no one should step on it.  Beatriss and Tami carried Shu just in case.

At the bottom of the very long flight of stairs, the party found a pit of fire with a ledge around it.  Moving cautiously, they had little trouble moving around it, and emerged on the edge of an expansive and barren underground landscape.  At the edge of their torchlight, they could see a river.  It was wide enough that even when they approached more closely, they couldn’t see the other side.

They walked downstream some distance without seeing an end.  Looking back, they saw a large raft they hadn’t seen before.  It looked large enough to carry the entire party.  Bangqiu was cautious and objected that the raft might take them somewhere they didn’t want to go.  Beatriss allowed that it was magical, but argued that there were powers that understood that they were heroes on a quest and that if the raft delivered them to Sakatha, he was the object of their quest, and she for one, was ready to face him.

About halfway across the river, Beatriss, Naron, and Al-Fitar suddenly stumbled off the raft and disappeared beneath the water.  Suddenly the rest of the party realized this is not a big beautiful raft.  This is not a big beautiful river.  There is no water flowing underground. Instead they were walking across a dry riverbed.  Except for Beatriss, Naron, and Al-Fitar who were struggling to keep their heads up in a pool of acid.  Tetsukichi had a rope that disintegrated in the acid. Bangqiu had magic boots that allowed him to dip into the pool and one-by-one, rescue his friends.  Continuing on their walk across the dry river bed, Beatriss and Al-Fitar “discovered” one more pool of acid, disguised by illusion.  But everyone made it to the far side where they could rest for a minute and pour clean water over their burning skin.  Immediately before them were about a dozen burial mounds, and beyond them a pyramid.  The party decided that they would most likely find Sakatha in the pyramid, but they should try to circumvent the burial mounds.