The Lost Seas

Deep Cover: Altaruk
Paying the Levy 5

Recorded by scholars studying the life of Vilsis.

After witnessing the return of the Gulgan guards and hearing horrific stories of the trip to the Dragon’s Altar, the party decides that the best course of action is to infiltrate the remaining band of slavers outside Altaruk, and hopefully gain access to Eenga, the party approached Galad of the Night Runners, who was quick to offer party 50 dragons each plus food and water to take on guard duties through the trip to the Dragon’s Altar.

Vilsis tried to suss out whether The Red Chord leader was among this group of slavers by feigning a distaste for tareks. Indeed she was, though this bit of subterfuge may have been unnecessary – Galad immediately went on to assign each member of the party to a different guard commander, including Eenga, the tarek in question.

For the final night before the arduous journey is to begin, each of our heroes took a turn on guard duty.

Vilsis had the first shift on duty, alongside Dibb, a Balican human member of the Cloud Rays. Playing up the role of the callous slaver, he mashed the hand of a disobedient slave with a standard-issue knout, much to the enjoyment of this fellow jailers.

Birel, working under the command of Gretz of the Daughter Seizers, considered getting some water for a dying elderly slave, but was ultimately dissuaded by the threat of attracting skepticism from her commander. It seemed at least as if this old man wouldn’t fall victim to the Dragon’s fiery embrace.

In a joke from the fates, Bost was assigned to work under Eenga, who looked suspiciously at the armor he had recovered from her former partner’s corpse, but wasn’t quite able to place it. During his shift, Bost was approached by a rotten-toothed half-elf who wanted Bost to stand guard while he assaulted a female slave. Bost was having none of it and intimidated the brown-toothed fiend into submission. Later, when the half-elf was caught attempting to entice the female slave over to the fence, the other Red Chord members beat him savagely for “fraternizing”, against Galad’s rules. Bost gladly joined in.

Zuri took the penultimate shift under the watch of Cecilyn of the Silent Arrows. Having a rock thrown at him from within the slave pen, Zuri projected a fearsome threat into the slave’s mind rather than identify him to his fellow jailers for retribution.

Finally, Dazeel took the final shift with the gith Nan-ya-Boruud of the Murder Tribe.

There was also plenty of activity away from the slave pen:

Zuri was able to locate Swann, his undercover Veiled Alliance contact. Using a game of dice as a cover, had a quiet conversation about how he might find Agma, their captured colleague.

Vilsis snuck into the Red Chord camp in order to inspect the tent of Ko-Tok, the Red Chord’s thri-kreen defiler. Finding her inside the tent, Vilsis snuck around to the back and stealthily set fire to the back of the tent in hopes that he might be able to injure the defiling scum – or at least sow disorder among the slavers. The fire caught, but was quickly doused by a swarm of insects – issued by Ko-Tok herself, do doubt – and Vilsis barely snuck away unnoticed.

Shortly before dawn on the day of departure, the party witnessed Ko-Tok heading alone into the dunes to the north, clutching a large tome of some kind.

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Arrival at Altaruk
Paying the Levy 4

Recorded by scholars studying the life of Zuri.

Famished and exhausted from their arduous journey through the desert, our brave heroes first sought food and comfort upon their arrival to Alturak. They settled upon a nearby tavern by the name of The Four Bits where they feasted upon roasted goat and quenched their thirst with a sampling of local broy. Amidst their feast, the party noticed a small group of Gulgan officers partaking in the pleasures of the Four Bits before their impending departure for the Dragon’s Keep. Sensing opportunity, the party purchased a few rounds of broy for the Gulgans and began inquiring the leader, Idowu, about the state of the slave camps outside the city walls. They learned that the rag-tag group of Night Runners and slavers that had interested the party was currently “hiring anybody” to fill their un-seasoned ranks. After more broy, and a slightly misunderstood performance by Dazeel, Orchid of the Dunes, our heroes retired for the evening hoping to witness the departure of the Gulgan camp in the early morning.

The march of the Gulgan levy provided little practical insight, but was an altogether pleasant way to spend the morning of 27 Sorrow. The party then elected to visit the local merchants of Altaruk in hopes of procuring new supplies and equipment. They first began at the Elven market, where they encountered Panril Windchaser, a member of of Birel’s clan, selling various ritual components of tenuous legality. Panril had nothing of use to the party, but after questioning he revealed that a Thri-Kreen affiliated with the suspicious slavers outside the walls had been frequenting his stand of late and purchasing illegal arcane components. Additionally, the mysterious Thri-Kreen had last visited his stand in the company of an imposing female Tarek. The party then ventured toward the general markets and merchant houses where some purchased new weapons and equipment to replace those lost in the desert.

Our heroes then elected to split up in order to further their investigation of Altaruk. Vilsis accompanied Zuri to a Veiled Alliance safe-house where they met with Zuri’s contacts Tawa Tomblador and The Lirr. Zuri enquired about the slavers outside the gate and the whereabouts of the halfling Agma, a recently captured veiled alliance recruiter from Tyr. They knew nothing of the captured halfling, but they did inform Zuri that the Altaruk alliance had a man inside the group of slavers in question, a human named The Swan.

Chat’G’Hak spent this time offering her services to a local theatre group struggling to assemble a production scheduled for later that evening. The troop was more than thrilled at the prospect of having a performer of Chat’s caliber and reputation take part in their humble production.

Meanwhile, Bost and Birel had ventured toward Altaruk’s gladiatorial arena. There they met the gladiator Petal and other members of the Mericles stables, all once-enslaved affiliates of Bost now freely competing in for-profit combat. After a brief reunion and a light sparring session, discussion turned toward the slavers outside the walls and a plea for help in putting an end to the Red Chord once and for all.

At this point, Zuri, Vilsis, and Chat’G’Hak had all arrived at the arena to reconvene and share their findings. While talking, they were approached by Two-Bit Grisk, the promoter in charge the Bloodsand Arena. Apparently five of his gladiators had taken ill and the evening’s fight was now in jeopardy. Grisk offered to pay our heroes handsomely to compete in the arena and save his skin, a challenge they were more than willing to accept as long as they made it out in time to attend Dazeel’s highly anticipated performance.

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The Approach to Altaruk
Paying the Levy 3

As remembered by Birel Windchaser

When the dust cleared nothing seemed to remain of Mahindrazal or its inhabitants, and many of our personal possessions had been lost in the chaos as well, including our provisions. We were up the dune without water. Fortunately we had a rough idea where we were, I regained my knack for recognizing the cardinal directions, and despite the harsh conditions my companions displayed an almost elven resilience. When we finally began to approach Altaruk, we were hungry and thirsty, but still vigorous. Which may have saved our skins.

The first people we saw on the road to the city were a ragged bunch running towards us in a frenzy, with pursuers close on their trail. The slavers called out to us for aid, but tired from the journey and not wanting to offend Bost, I had no interest at all in getting involved in this particular tussle, and stepped off the road to let the commotion pass. To my astonishment, once they realized we were not going to help some of the slavers (who were covered in desert garb but were of Elven stature) turned to attack us.

A couple archers climbed up on a ridge while jhakar handlers confronted us in the road. My plan was to help Bost dispatch the ground force before climbing up to deal with the archers, but between fatigue and being forced to fight with a staff (my trikal disappeared with Mahindrazal) it felt like I spent half the battle swinging at thin air. Fortunately Bost was as unshakable as always, and the archers were no match for Vilsis’ bow (although he did have a bit of help from one of the escaped slaves). Chat’G’Hak had taken off after a couple of the slavers who continued to pursue the fugitives. When she returned she was covered in blood, and though I’m never sure if I’m reading the Thri-Kreen correctly she seemed almost jubilant in a way that made me thoroughly distrustful. I can guess what might have put her in such a good mood.

We spoke briefly with the slave who had attacked the archer and I tended his wounds as best I could. Slaves were being gathered around Altaruk for the Dragon’s levy, which explained their desperation, and his adamant refusal to go anywhere near Altaruk again. Despite our warnings he was intent on wandering into the desert. Though it pained me a bit to see precious water wasted on what was most likely a hopeless cause, we let the slave take what meager provisions the slavers had been carrying and depart on his way.

The slavers themselves had had their faces covered by desert headgear, but when we searched the bodies we discovered that behind the desert goggles their faces were marked with kohl. I don’t know what surprised me more—that my first encounter with N ight Runners was an overt attack, or that my side was victorious.

Finally in sight of Altaruk, we saw a great commotion outside the city walls. Three great slave camps were stationed there, although one looked emptier than the others and seemed to be preparing to dismbark. As we approached, Balican soldiers marched out of the mountains. None were injured, but all walked with a weariness that was almost painful to watch. They met the remnants of the empty camp, boarded a craft with no wheels, and glided away across the Sea of Silt.

The second camp was Gulgan and seemed large enough to include the Dragon’s thousand slaves and a triple complement of guards to handle them.

The third camp was curious. It seemed neither as organized nor as uniform as the others, and from what we could tell it included members of the Red Chord as well as more elves similar in bearing to the Night Runners we had just encountered.

We came across La-Tik, a Thri-Kreen peddler wanting to sell us overpriced (albeit useful) desert gear. While haggling we got some information from her as well—apparently no one seemed sure exactly where the third camp came from, although most presumed it contained Nibenay’s levy. It also seemed they may have been a bit under their quota, which would explain why slavers would be willing to risk attacking an armed party. I wasn’t sure that I found the Nibenese explanation convincing, but at the moment I was more interested in entering the city to acquire water, food, and a new trikal. We donned our new goggles and masks to keep about the abrasive mist that gathered around the sea from time to time, and approached the city gate.

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Saga of the Mahindrazal
Paying the Levy 1 & 2

Recorded by scholars studying the life of Vilsis.

It seems as if months have passed since the party first set off southeast from Tyr across the sand wastes. They had received information that Eenga, the remaining leader of the Red Chord, could be found in Altaruk. Having extensively weighed the pros and cons of purchasing mounts for the entire party to ride, they decided to purchase a single shiny kank to carry food and water, stocked up on survival days, bought breathing masks and goggles, and began their trek.

Travel through the sand wastes continued uneventfully for a couple of days, until the party found themselves in the midst of a massive sandstorm. Luckily, shelter was within sight – a squat structure amidst the dunes, with the name “Mahindrazal” written in Elven script on the wall. Along with a multitude of other travelers, the party led their kank into the stables and took shelter inside.

Soon after entering the crowded way station, the proprietor of the Mahindrazal, a woman named Zindriel, introduced herself.

Among the travelers within the Mahindrazal was a group of Red Chord slavers, including an elf clad in armor made from the chitin of a slain Thri-Kreen, marking him as a Thri-Kreen Slayer.

The party had a long conversation with Idi, a dwarven trader from House Inika of Gulg.

Over the course of several days, the sandstorm continues unabated. Beyond some entertainment gained by dunking the Red Chord rations in the shitter, the waiting is becoming a bit stale. More to the point, the Mahindrazal seems to be gradually emptying of guests, despite the fact that the sandstorm prevents anybody from leaving the premises. Stranger still, the party begins to notice that the ranks of the Mahindrazal’s (oddly silent) servant staff are expanding will oddly familiar faces.

On the morning of the third day in the Mahindrazal, the party notices that Idi has disappeared…but a new silent Dwarven servant has joined the staff.

After a oddly tense, but wordless interaction between Zindriel and Vilsis, the main hall of the Mahindrazal descended into chaos. A wave of psionic energy, seemingly emanating from Zindriel, washed over the room, laden with the bizarre suggestion that she was being attacked…by our party! Most of the remaining crowd seemed panicked beyond rationality by the blast, but the Red Chord sprung into action – offering to defend Zindriel by vanquishing our heroes.

Zindriel quickly exited through a side door and while most of the party engaged the Red Chord in the main hall, Vilsis rushed through exterior hallways in pursuit. Vilsis eventually returned downstairs, and informed his compatriots that our seemingly-gracious host was actually a power-mad villain who had manufactured the sandstorm to trap and ultimately enslave all of the Mahindrazal’s visitors.

Having defeated the Red Chord in the meantime, the party quickly rummaged for loot amidst the corpses before making their way upstairs to confront Zindriel.

Procuring a key from his sleeve, Vilsis attempted to unlock the door to Zindriel’s chambers, only to find them already unlocked. The party charged inside, where Vilsis was immediately consumed in the transparent, acidic mass of a gelatinous cube! While they party hacked away at the slimy, but highly geometrical beast, Zindriel mysteriously transformed her limbs into columns of sand bashing at our heroes and excreting waves of psionic pain. At one point, the party used their powers to knock the acidic cube straight into Zindriel, engulfing her and giving her a taste of her own medicine.

The party eventually prevailed, but had no time to celebrate their victory. The very structure of the Mahindrazal, seemingly sustained by Zindriel’s power, came crashing down. The party managed to claw their way out of the ruin, though many of their supplies were lost in the process. Luckily, Zuri managed to keep hold of the coin, even while his precious zatla was lost to the infernal sands.

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Brain Matter
Returning to Tyr 2

Recorded by scholars studying the life of Zuri.

Our heroes arose early on the morning of 18 Sorrow with quite an eventful day ahead of them.

Anzo had news: Choum had left a chit at the bar accounting for the party’s credit at House Shom, and it looked to be on the up and up. Anzo then informed Dazeel that he had been able to arrange a last-minute gig for her later that evening, which she gleefully accepted. Birel told the group that she had a few buyers in mind for the treasures they had found in the Place of Forgetting, and that she would be off to the the markets and emporia for the day to ensure top dragon for their wares.

The rest of the bar however, was swept up in the buzz and excitement regarding the morning’s execution. Three members of The True were to be held accountable for their crimes against Tyr and King Tithian. Bost was eager to attend and urged his remaining companions to accompany him to the event. Having little else to do, and intrigued by the spectacle, they agreed. The execution would be under strict guard, so they left their larger weapons (save for Zuri’s staff) in the custody of Birel and Dazeel. Surely they would have no need for them this day.

The three made their way to the gladiator’s arena and found room for themselves amongst the unruly crowd of the “sun seats”. The ceremony began. Wild cheers arose from the crowd as Tithian emerged onto the King’s viewing platform. With him were other Tyrian VIPs (including Neeva, Agis of Asticles, Sadira, and Strategos Gevello), and curiously, two Dray. Notably absent was the mul hero Rikus. Meanwhile, on the blood-stained grounds of the arena, three prisoners were brought out bound and under guard to a reception of jeers and stone-throwing. They did not appear to be having a good day. Suddenly, the magically amplified voice of a Templar was heard.

From the official record of the royal stenographer:

“House Dyan has been an important part of Tyr for centuries. So it grieved King Tithian greatly to discover that its scion, Senator Murter Dyan, had helped to found The True, an organization dedicated to effecting the return of the tyrant and dictator Kalak. Refusing to admit his crimes despite months of imprisonment and interrogation, Dyan’s pride and insolence poses a continuing danger to Tyr.”

He steps back and King Tithian speaks:

“Murter Dyan, for the crime of counter-revolutionary activities, I strip House Dyan of its estates. Furthermore I sentence you and your associates to death.”

The crowd explodes into roars and cheers as Tithian nods to an eladrin who has emerged from the shadows on the arena floor. He strides toward the captives (who hang their heads in defeat and exhaustion) and stops in front of them. Placing his hand at his temple for a moment, he suddenly drops it. As he does, fountains of blood and brains explode from the ears, noses, mouths, and eye sockets of the three captives. They sink to the ground as the crowd goes wild. After an appropriate time, King Tithian’s hornblowers again silence the crowd with a blast and he speaks:

“Citizens of Tyr, I have worked hard to ensure the safety of Tyr in the face of the forces threatening our new and free society. The danger of war with the other city-states of the Tablelands is ever-present, as is the threat of the Dragon—not to mention internal perils such as the True, who hope to return slavery and tyranny to Tyr. In the past weeks, I have stood firm in negotiations with the Dragon’s emissaries, and for the first time, the Dragon—and therefore the city-states of the Tablelands—accept the new Tyr as an equal to be respected. As Tyr is a city without slaves, we cannot be expected to pay the Dragon his levy this year. The emissaries of the Dragon agree with me, and therefore the Dragon will have to go without once again. The season of the Dragon will pass Tyr by peacefully.”

This news sent the crowd into an unbelievable frenzy. Cheers of joy and support for Tithian filled the air. Eventually the elation subsided, though, and the arena emptied out onto the streets of Tyr, where everyone appeared notably relieved and joyous. The group decided that their next action would be to contact the Crimson Legion and to pass along their intelligence regarding the Red Chord, and perhaps discover why Rikus was absent from the execution. Bost took them all to The Red Kank, a nearby broyhouse frequented by members of the Crimson Legion. There they happened to run into his friend and former gladiator (and current Legion member), Hojar. Zuri showed him the map they had discovered on Darok’s corpse, and they all agreed that Rikus and the others should be made aware of it immediately. Hojar quickly led them towards the noble district, and then to the abandoned mansion (former residence of the exiled Strategos Haamdan) that currently housed the headquarters of the Crimson Legion.

There they were introduced to Rikus, currently occupied in a meeting with his lieutenants, apparently discussing the Revolutionary Council’s decision to implant Dray among the Tyrian Guard. After introductions, Rikus dismissed his inner circle to meet privately with the three adventurers. The map shocked Rikus, who commissioned Bost and his allies to follow the trail of the Red Chord to Altaruk. As they were discussing Rikus’ distaste for his role in Tyrian politics, and his refusal to allow Dray into his ranks, a loud crash was heard. Suddenly three Grell appeared in the room. Rikus leapt to battle and crushed one of the grell before the others could process what was happening. Bost and Vilsis grabbed weapons hanging from the wall and began to engage the other two as Zuri sent balls of chaos energy flying from his staff onto the squishy exposed brains of the grell. Soon the room was clear of threats, but the sounds of battle continued to fill the halls of the mansion. Rikus ran towards the entrance and shouted back to the others to check the back door.

The group found an exit leading to the rear courtyard and stables. Awaiting them there was a terrifying sight: three more disgusting grell beasts encircling a dark mist. Above them, atop the rear wall, stood a mysterious hooded figure; on the ground, a black circle of dead earth extending from its vile form. Vilsis sprang out the door in a rage. “Foul defiler!”, he screamed as he drew his borrowed bow and sent a blast of arrows directly into the opening of the fiend’s hood. It cried out, clutching its face and abruptly vanished in a cloud of smoke, the strange mist departing with it. Without missing a beat, Vilsis turned and directed his rage toward the three remaining grell, volleying a barrage of swarming arrows down on them. Bost ran one of them down, wrestling the mass of tentacles and beaked brain, valiantly drawing the attacks of the other two. Zuri called down a storm of jagged ice shards, slowing their terrible advance. Finally, after some struggle, the final grell fell. The party sped around the front to check the state of the mansion’s entrance. There they found the remains of more grell amidst a handful of fallen gladiators. Bost spotted Hojar amongst the fallen and quickly ran to his aid assuming the worst. Hojar was not dead, however, just gravely wounded, and would have surely bled out if not for Bost’s quick action.

The battle had ended, and the party found Rikus inside the mansion attending to his partner Neeva as the other gladiators paced cautiously about the halls. Sekh, a seemingly disinterested half-elf, informed the group that this was not the first attempt on Rikus’ life, and that more assassination attempts were inevitable. Rikus offered the party lodging and protection for the night, which they accepted. (Word was sent to Dazeel and Birel to meet them at the mansion as soon as they were able in order to depart for Altaruk.)

Later that night, the party awoke to the sounds of combat and struggle. They sprang from their room armed and ready to face another onslaught of attackers, but all they saw was the night watchman shaking his head as he pointed to Rikus and Neeva’s chambers. Awkward.

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The Lame Kank
The Place of Forgetting 7/ Returning to Tyr 1

Recorded by scholars studying the life of Bost.

They finally did it. Snake-Fuck Dungeon was utterly annihilated. Scores of abominations, including hejkin knuckleheads, anthropomorphic mushrooms, despicable slavers, and even a sentient tornado and a telekinetic wyrm, were wiped from existence. Felix, who turned out to be a lovable yet smelly rapscallion, was rescued. And best of all, the party recovered the curious relic that they sought out for: a copper-hilted stone sword. Immense wealth seemed imminent.

Triumphantly, the party of adventurers emerged from the unholy temple and ventured into the ominous sun. They were soon reminded that Athas is as much of an enemy as those they had recently defeated. Bracing themselves, they were forced to pass through the sandstorm that they encountered when they initially approached the Place of Forgetting. Chafed by the swirling earth, they emerged and noticed a camp on the horizon.

Stealthily, Chat’G’Hak and Vilsis crept up the dune and approached the objects in the distance. They found a sleeping Red Chord tarek! What a dope! With him was a lame kank. The rest of the group joined Chat’G’Hak and Vilsis. The group surrounded the sleeping slaver before he could awake. Bost then greedily placed his foot over the tarek’s crotch and pushed down with the determination of a charging ram. The tarek awoke with a pitiful yelp. In the interrogation that followed, the group learned several important details. When asked about the map that was found on the slavers encountered within the temple, the tarek indicated that the Red Chord had been mapping the movements of the Crimson Legion in the Tyr Region. The tarek also indicated that the mul who was killed inside the temple was none other than Darok, a founder of the Red Chord. The party grilled the tarek as to the whereabouts of the rest of the slavers. On this, the tarek was unhelpful and could only tell us that the headquarters of the Red Chord is nomadic. As the party debated what to do with the tarek captive, Bost pulverized the tarek’s skull with the hammer that once belonged to his boss.

The party continued on to Bellinga. As we approached, a lone farmer noticed our return. Felix and this man started to run towards each other before they joyfully embraced. “Papa!” exclaimed Felix. “Felix!” exclaimed Papa. It was adorable.

Bellinga treated the adventurers as heroes. Although their wealth was meager, a huge feast was arranged on our behalf. A treasured artifact – a bronze bell – was rung to celebrate our exploits. Chat’G’Hak again wowed an audience by adroitly performing amazing feats of puppetry. Zuri shrewdly sold the kank that was recovered from the Red Chord camp to a farmer for much more than what it was worth. The party was good and inebriated when Felix and Elissa excitedly informed the party that they decided to get married, and that we were welcome to attend the wedding. Being crafty and unscrupulous Athasians, we successfully finagled +1s to the offer. They agreed. We slept off the food and booze, and made our way to Tyr.

On the outskirts of Tyr, the party was slowed by a giant traffic jam. Investigating, the party noticed a giant fortified argosy belonging to House Stel of Urik. The argosy, while appearing sturdy, clearly looked as if it had been attacked by something very large and very angry. A guard informed the party that a so-ut had attacked a caravan on its way to Tyr. The party loosened their collars as they sauntered through the gate and into the city itself.

Immediately, the party encountered an animated demonstration. The leader of the demonstration appeared to be a halfling. The halfling was screaming into the crowd, demanding that the laborers be given representation on the Revolutionary Council of Tyr. The guards watched nervously, with their hands ready at their hilts. The party sprang into action, in a farcical attempt to assuage the unrest. Chat’G’Hak began to juggle chairs. Bost decided to lay in the street, in an apparent attempt to convince the demonstrators to embrace a nonviolent resistance type of protest. Others cozied up with the guards and the demonstrators alike, attempting to charm key players into passivity. Somehow, it worked. The demonstrators, satisfied that they made their point, dispersed and relocated to the Kestrekel’s Loft on top of The Golden Inix.

The party began to work to unload the goods they found in the temple. Birel suggested that the group attempt to have the sword appraised by Rhey Khal, a former acquaintance of Birel’s and the owner of Rhey’s Apothecary. Rhey looked at the sword with interest. He told us that while it was obviously magical and from a long-forgotten era, there was nothing especially notable nor sinister about the sword. He indicated that the price initially offered for the sword was fair. While there, the group exchanged a liquid-potion found in the temple for a number of dune runner’s fruits and healing fruits.

Next, the party sent a messenger to inform Choum that the sword has been recovered, and that the party would be waiting for him at The Golden Inix. While a bit annoyed, Choum came to the party and began to negotiate for the transfer of the sword. The party eventually agreed to 1,300 pieces of Nibenese ceramic and 10,000 credit at House Shom in exchange for the sword and for the gold-laced staff that was found in the temple.

The party then retired for the night, planning what to do next. Ideas include speaking with the Crimson Legion or possibly witnessing an execution that is supposed to take place by the hand of Tithian himself.

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Snake Eyes!
The Place of Forgetting 6 (revised Marauders of the Dune Sea)

Cavern of Ignored Powerups

Recorded by scholars studying the life of Vilsis.

Having awoken in the pitch black of the hejkin lair and finding their stock of glowworms dwindling, the party quickly set to work putting together some sub-par torches in order to light their way. As they gathered their belongings, it seemed clear that the task at hand was to return to the chamber of glowing eyes scouted earlier by Vilsis and Zuri and confront whatever lurking evil awaited them there. However, as the group passed by the mouth of the caver, Zuri was overcome by a premonition of ambush and decided to stay and keep watch while the other adventurers continued onward.

Retracing their steps though now-familiar passageways, now clogged with bodies of various dead foes, the party took the time to search for items of value and managed to recover an iron fire-poker that should fetch a pretty penny. After an extended period of anxious negotiation, they also smashed the large burial urns warning of Ningishzida’s wrath and found a couple of perfectly nice jade pendents amongst the charred remains.

Passing by the chamber of the myconids, the adventurers cautiously made their way down the long passageway to the final chamber. The interior was much as the scouts had described – the walls carved with undulating snakes whose eyes glowed a ghostly green, a high domed ceiling, and a steep dais in the middle of the room, topped with a large bowl-shaped altar. On the far wall, a trickle of water flowed from the mouth of a fountain carved in the shape of a snake’s head, flowing into a puddle near a mound of bones and rags, including what seemed like a fresh set of bloody remains.

The party split in two, attempting a pincer maneuver around the dais in order to flank any creature the might be concealed in the back corner of the room. Unfortunately, the room’s primary occupant had no need to hide behind the altar…suddenly a silk wyrm materialized directly behind Bost and blasted the party with a wave of psychic pain! And as if that weren’t enough, the light glowing in the eyes of snake carvings coalesced into floating balls of ghostly aggression.

A long and brutal combat commenced, wherein all of our heroes were periodically slowed and immobilized by ropes of acidic silk and the mysterious ejaculations of the glowing balls. The adventurers wished dearly they had the benefit of Zuri’s burning spray. It seemed as if Vilsis’ bow had been mis-strung as a series of deadly powerful primal arrows slammed uselessly into the walls and floor.

Regardless, the adventurers eventually prevailed over their foes. Searching the room, they found a young man – alive – hidden in a small crack running along the bottom of the far wall. Felix finally discovered. Despite Birel’s hints for tact, Felix was made aware that the party had followed him from Tyr on behalf of House Shom. Meanwhile, Vilsis examined the inside of the bowl altar. Despite clearly having room for at least 19 magical items, the true contents included a wooden bow exuding arcane power, some small but valuable-looking knick-knacks, and the ultimate object of this quest: the rose-tinted stone sword. After some initial distrust, Felix eventually told the adventurers that he had brought the sword here, to the Place of Forgetting, in order to cleanse himself of the memory of having used it to slay a group of thugs in Tyr. He then allowed the adventurers to help him rinse some of the urine out of clothes and return him to Elissa in Bellinga.

On the way out, triumphant in their victory over all manner of foes, the party finally stopped to explore the irregular crack in the wall left undisturbed thus far. Inside, they found some glowing moss that was identified as a key ingredient in a tincture of poison resistance. Wouldn’t that have been useful! Bost and Chat’G’Hak finally threw caution to the wind and tasted the aquamarine and maroon liquids inside the stone basins (why anybody would think to do such a thing, we don’t know) and discovered that both were invigorating potions. The ultimate lesson of the day: when you find mysterious colored liquids and strange plants growing deep inside a monster-infested snake-fuck dungeon, immediately consume them.

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Dazeel gets her groove back
The Place of Forgetting 5 (revised Marauders of the Dune Sea)

From the diary and future autobiography of Chat’G’Hak AKA Dazeel: Orchid of the Dunes.

I am not accustomed to being unconscious. What caused my blackout I do not know. Place of Forgetting indeed! Not even able at first to recall the names of my clutchmates in training, I had enough sense to grip tight my precious metal blade and fall into the darkest corner that my strange surroundings afforded me. Slowly I regained the higher functions of my fractured mind. The taste in the air was foul. Not the kind of putrid foul of the Chuul pit with its rotting and unbuffed chitin within. Not the kind of putrid sweetness of an oasis hiding a bitter enemy… The taste on the air was musky. Old. Like music from a dusty lyre.

My beautiful eyes settled on the black within black in the center of a room that my team (privately dubbed “Team Sparkle”) has entered. I wished not to voice a warning so loud as to alert Team Sparkle for I knew not what slithering tympanic membrane may detect my presence from the pit punctuating the room like the pupil of a man’s eye. Darkness in this moment was my friend. If I were needed to spring into action, I’d have to orient myself to the surroundings first and gain sure footing.

It turned out that the musky taste was a frutescent cluster of mushrooms. Though surprised I was when they started MOVING, they hardly looked threatening. For a moment they looked as if they would not attack, but instead offer us rest and a snack of whatever it is that animated fungi enjoy orally.

NAY! They did not offer us a morsel. They instead offered us GLORIOUS BATTLE. It seemed from my vantage point that a mul warrior, shardmind wizard, eladrin, and sexy elf could easily handle these phallic knaves. How tough could their skin be? Then the TRUE threat to Team Sparkle’s safety arose from that black and most musky pit. I’ve never actually seen a mushroom before, so I can’t honestly say that I know what I’m writing about, but this creature had to be the second-largest—no, largest—mushroom ever to exist. From its blade-like gills spewed a dusty semen that caused the rest of Team Sparkle to more than flinch. At first, disgust was in their expressions…then repulsion…then as if the spores spattered across their mouths like a creamy mustache was casual business attire, they relaxed. Fortunately, I was not in the spray zone, so I decided to take action.

Without a sound I sprung into…well…actions, actually. The aforementioned “action” included:

A backflip, a flourish, drawing of my sacred metal blade, a check of my six to see if anything was behind me, a glance of admiration in the glinting reflection of myself in the dagger, a check to make sure I still had my chatkcha, and a deep plunge into the fleshy domed cranium of what had to be the mother of all shrooms.

The battle was so inglorious that I fail to remember much of it. I’m sure it will come to back to me eventually, but I certainly can’t foretell the need to bore an audience with the recounting without some much-needed embellishment. Perhaps the advances made by our spore foes were misinterpreted? In town they could be real “fun-guys” to cavort with…get it?

When the room fell silent and my mates came to their senses, we looked around for treasure and found a few supplies and curios. Perhaps it is my cosmopolitan indoctrination that drives me to enjoy the quest for treasure. It is doubtless however that what I consider a treasure and what the others in Team Sparkle consider a treasure are conceptually disparate.

What follows next I find difficult to interpret. At least, I find it hard to put into words that folk with soft vocalization could understand. Restless as usual, I crept up the unexplored fork in our path. I noticed the sounds of a struggle ahead. My homuncular friend Bost sensed danger. I hadn’t even noticed him with me. He’s quiet for such a brute. I’m growing to like him very much. He shows bravery that is unmatched, but it is his drive that opens his character to me. He seems compelled to adventure for reasons somewhat similar to my own. I would say that he is marginalized like me, but then our party has a crystalline entity, and a speedy little thing that smells like food. I suppose that makes us all a bit “marginal.”

Usually adept at sneaking and the art of remaining unheard, if I’d had a vertically oriented jaw surely it hitting the floor could have been heard the dungeon over, and throughout the Ringing Mountains. What I saw was a sight to behold for sure. I thought I’d seen it all. Some ancestral memory of skyward-bound kreen had seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, or so I hear… Here were we, crammed in a doorway watching a bone snake attack monsters thrown into a pit by a tornado! Egad! Of course, I’ve dealt with the odd structural support beam spitting cyclones, but never cyclones that toss you into a pit with a magic snake.

I’m still not sure what got into Birel. Perhaps she was as hungry for treasure as I was for her. She darted into the room with speed typical of elfkind. She headed straight for a staff near some sort of throne made for the buttocks of skinned folk. I suppose it was the object’s glimmer that caught her eye. Some sort of arcane tug of war with her desires was no doubt afoot. When she approached one of the columns with its tornadic breath, she too was cast into the pit (without her treasure.)

I must interject an observation: we have uncovered a few rarities in this place. I with my precious metal blade, Birel with her golden stick, Vilsis with his bottle of goo… it seems this place is giving to us what we desire. One by one. I can’t help but think that next, Zuri will find a rock tumbler. All joking aside. I adore the blade. Almost too much. It’s distracting me from my chatkcha.

Bost had issues of his own. He was distracted by an ill-tempered mul thrashing about with another bone-fiend. It turns out this lump of endoskeleton was some sort of slaver. The slaver called for help in a tongue that I couldn’t understand and sounded like someone was draining a dead kank’s intestinal tract of a bit of remaining gas. A haglike hunkered yet wizardlike being appeared and started battling bonething and Team Sparkle with magics that I scarcely understand, and that I probably don’t need to. My first instinct wasn’t to fend off attacks from bone stack, or tornado, or witch hag, or even the sweaty hairless slaver. It was, oddly enough, to save the life of Birel. I’m willing to admit that when short on survival days, I would be tempted to make one of her, but I just as easily admit to starting to respect her. Her ability to heal and grant advantages to those in my party are as valuable as as our weapons. Using my superior dexterity, cunning, wisdom, sneaking, and attitude, I slip myself into the room and to the edge of the pit. There I found Birel, waist deep in a pit being immobilized by the stings of a chattering snake. Reaching in and pulling her out was effortless really, so I will bore you no longer with that part of my tale. However, I did save her tail. …get it?

I would love to say that we survived by the skin of our teeth, but I have no teeth and the skin on the floor was theirs. Bost did a lot of hammering to the Mul fiend’s skull… like after he was dead… it was totally gross. We found an interesting map in his belt pouch. In the end, we learned a valuable lesson:

YOU NEVER KNOW WHICH COLUMNS ARE HOLDING UP THE CEILING AND WHICH ONES WILL TRY AND KILL YOU.

-Dazeel

Also, Birel got her stick. I was unimpressed, but Birel was happy beyond belief. This made me “happy.” I plan to write a one-act play about Birel’s happiness called “Birel finds a stick.” Perhaps, dear reader, one day you shall see it on stage at the Pleasure Argosy, or if my fortunes are so voluminous, on stage at the regular Argosy just up the road.

For the first time in nearly a day, or night, I forget which, I sheathe my precious and glimmering blade… but I can’t take my mind off it.

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Snake-fuck Dungeon
The Place of Forgetting 4 (revised Marauders of the Dune Sea)

9 Sorrow, continued, as remembered by Birel

After defeating the remaining hejkins in their lair, we were able to take a breather and claim what loot was to be had. Most of the hejkins had nothing of value, but we scavenged about a hundred dragons from the bottom of the chuul pit, and the leader had a couple magic items of note—Zuri identified gauntlets of braxat power which Bost took (along with a non-magical but lavishly dyed belt) and a safewing geode amulet which I claimed. There was also a small room off to the side containing a table and some ink which Zuri appropriated, explaining that it could be used for rituals.

We were tired from the battle but still too wound up to sleep, so Vilsis and I headed back out to check on the door we saw earlier that seemed to have some sort of ward or rune trap on it. When we approached this time all signs of magic had disappeared, presumably due to the death of the hejkin chief. We left it locked for the time being and returned to the hejkin lair. It stank, but at least it was cooler than the desert, and it had only one entrance to guard. We slept.

Upon waking we proceeded back to the door—there was nowhere else to go—and forced it open. A short way down the hallway a pair of alcoves branched off to either side, each with a basin of liquid and a cup. One was maroon and the other aquamarine, which brought to mind the story of Junius and Crespa, but we could find no sign of Felix or his sword, so we continued on.

Eventually the corridor opened up to a large chamber where we encountered some reptilian-insectoid creatures known as kruthiks. The first few were ornery but not especially dangerous, but we soon found out that those were just hatchlings, and when the parent appeared things became much more interesting. Vilsus was quite successful at picking off the runts, but the large beast boasted a sturdy carapace which seemed nearly impossible to penetrate. Fortunately most of its attention was focused on Bost, who does not bleed easily himself. Eventually we took the creature down, but the battle was fatiguing.

In addition to the door through which we entered the chamber, there were two more doorways, but one was blocked by debris from what appeared to be rather thorough cave-in, so we went the other way. This took us through a corridor that had off to one side a tiny room with robe scraps and broken jars, and a sizable crack in the wall on the other side. The first substantial room we came to contained the remains of the kruthik eggs. (Looks like kruthiks may have arrived relatively recently through the crack in the corridor and set up house, after which the hejkins locked, reinforced, and trapped that door to avoid fighting them.)

Continuing on we came across another pair of alcoves with urns and some grim-sounding warnings, possibly to discourage looting of the following chamber, which was quite a find. The chamber itself was unsettling, with statues depicting some sort of hybrid snake people, and a shallow pit full of small snake skeletons which produced a hissing sound despite no visible signs of life. But most importantly, there was a chair on which was set, nestled in a pile of bones, a magnificent sceptre with a golden pommel. I was about to reach for it when some of my companions brought up misgivings, going so far as to suggest that we just leave it alone. Zuri claimed that there was real magic still at work in the room, but that sceptre is probably worth at least as much as Felix’s sword, and I’m sure we could sell it to Choum for a good price even if we never find Felix. The discussion started to get heated when Bost, who had been looking pensive, finally declared, “Well, the adventure is scaled to our level.” This halted the conversation while we all tried to figure out what he was talking about. I guess it must have something to do with primal energy. In any case we all agreed that we could leave the sceptre alone for now while continuing our search for Felix. It should be easy enough grab on the way out.

Delving deeper into the caves we entered yet another corridor, which forked into a mossy door on one side and a passageway with a dim green light on the other. Vilsus and Zuri, being the quietest of our troop, ventured off to investigate the light. They described it opening into a large room with an altar in the center and walls covered with carvings of snakes, each of with a pair of dimly glowing green eyes, casting an eerie glow about the room. We went through the mossy door.

The room this entered into was covered by fungus, as were a few crouching shapes off to one side. We stepped along the pit to investigate, keeping our distance from the amorphous masses, which brought to mind stories some of us had heard of myconids, walking fungi noted for completely inscrutable behavior. According to legend they behave neither like people nor like animals, in some cases staying inert and aloof despite cajoling and even threats, and in other instances flying into a fury without provocation.

While we were discussing this I looked back and noticed that the shapes were now blocking our exit, although none of us saw them move.

Until they opened their eyes.

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The Claw of Peace
The Place of Forgetting 3 (revised Marauders of the Dune Sea)

Recorded by scholars studying the life of Zuri.

Now that our heroes had discovered what they believed to be the Place of Forgetting (albeit hidden behind a violent and mysterious sandstorm), they took the opportunity of a brief respite to rest and recover after their perilous battle with the Red Chord. Thus it was in the predawn hours of 9 Sorrow that further investigation of the sandstorm began.

A survey of the sandstorm’s perimeter revealed a collection of tracks and footprints leading in and out of the storm’s center, and after an initial testing of the storm’s severity using Birel’s polearm and Bost’s real arm, a plan was put into motion. The group sent in Zuri (with a rope around his waist), hoping that its Shardmind form would protect it from any ill effects of exposure to the sands. After Zuri returned relatively unhurt and only slightly polished, the party decided to brave the sandstorm as a group, using the cliff wall as a guide and a well tied rope as insurance. The sandstorm proved to be a dangerous violent maelstrom, but the party persevered and pressed on until they reached the storm’s edge.

Once the party emerged safely from the ravaging winds of the sandstorm barricade, they found themselves facing the arched gateway of a dark cavern. Some of the party were quick to notice that this arch, carved handsomely with the figures of snakes, was crackling with electricity. Something was amiss. Bost observed that the electrical energy seemed to be emanating from a Rune at the rightmost bass of the arch. “A room?”, asked Birel. “No, a Rune, R-U-N-E.”, replied Bost, as they both slowly approached the offending artifact to investigate further. Now closer to the entrance of the cavern, signs of motion in the darkness were observed. After a moments thought, Chat’G’Hak was able to deduce that this was assuredly a Rune Trap, easily bested by her thieving prowess. As the others stood guard against the unknown motions, Chat masterfully disarmed the Rune Trap, even taking a moment to glance back to her allies with a boastful wink. Success.

Upon entering the cavern, it was revealed that the mysterious motions in the darkness were in fact a pack of adorably hideous hejkin. The battle was engaged at once and the hejkins quickly displayed their mastery of electrical attacks, but the impressive light show did very little to contain the mighty assault of our noble heroes. Even brave Vilsis (tasked with guarding the cavern’s entrance) played his part by tricking one of the hejkin into believing that it had been flanked, a ruse that would surely not work again. As the final blows were being dealt, a lone bloodied hejkin managed to escape the fray retreating down a passageway to the left.

After catching their breaths above the battered hejkin bodies, the party was set to choose between the two passages that lay before them. Using their far-hearing talents Bost was able to report that all was silent down the rightmost passage, while Zuri claimed to hear what sounded like wind chimes within the leftmost (presumably hejkin filled) passage. The group chose to begin with the silent route, but all that met them there was a mysterious closed door, recently barricaded by planks and electrically charged in a manner similar to the Rune Trap encountered earlier. No rune could be seen however, nor any other means of disarmament. An apparent dead end.

The party then backtracked and continued down the leftmost path. Soon they discovered the source of the wind chime sound that Zuri had described. It was not chimes at all, but in fact a stream of water running down the wall of the cave, a sight that shocked and astounded the party who took a brief moment to fill their canteens with this amazingly fresh spring water.

The passage eventually opened into the corner of a large room, littered with refuse, and with a large open pit at its center. Across the room sat another group of hejkin, including the cowardly fiend that had escaped demise earlier. The hejkin chief called out in Dwarvish inviting the party to “parley” and accept their “claw of peace”. Bost, the only one among the party that spoke Dwarvish, carried on diplomatic talks from afar. Eventually Chat’G’Hak, sensing deception (or perhaps simply not understanding the Dwarvish peace talks), flung her chatchka toward the head of one of the advancing hejkin and the battle began. The hejkin chief struck a large carapace hanging from the cavern wall which made a sound like a gong. This called forth a vicious Chuul that emerged from the pit intending to make a meal of our brave heroes.

The battle was a fierce, but one by one the hejkin underlings fell until only the Chuul and the Chief remained. Eventually the Chuul succumbed to a barrage of attacks from all sides, putting an end to its miserable existence. The hejkin chief continued to mount his stubborn assault, but the party gradually surrounded the fiend and the writing was on the wall. Bost demanded that the near dead chief cease his attacks, offering him a swift death and a respectful burial if he would lay down his arms. The chief was unable to respond however, as Bost’s request ended not with words, but with his blade, separating the chief’s head from his newly christened corpse.

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