Pathfinder 1E Savage: Legacy of Fire

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Ten: Hail to the King

The party are low on Power Points, but every hour they spend loitering in the dungeon increases the risk of discovery. The heroes decide to take the fight to Ghartok, while they still have the element of surprise.

Following the stench of death, the party descend into the throne room of the Carrion King. The air here is foul beyond belief, but the heroes all pass their Vigour rolls to resist Fatigue. The southern half of the chamber is separated from the northern side by a deep pit, half-filled with the bones and the bodies of the dead. More bones clatter through a hole in the ceiling every few minutes, most likely dumped there by the slaves on the floor above. Narrow walkways along the east and west walls of the chamber traverse the pit, but these walkways are guarded by the Unchosen.

A huge, scarred gnoll sprawls across a seat fashioned from shattered bones and held together by lengths of ropey sinew. At his side stands a aged, grey-furred gnoll leaning heavily on a staff. These two must be Ghartok and Rokova, the party assume.

The heroes stealthily advance to the edge of the pit, using the columns for cover. They are close enough to eavesdrop on the conversation taking place between the two gnolls.

"How much longer must I wait?" growls the Carrion King.

"Difficult to say, your highness." Rokova answers, "My spies report the Heroes of Kelmarane have infiltrated the temple, but we seem to have lost track of them. Why degrade yourself hunting them down, when we know they will come to us? They are here to assassinate you, after all."

"A fools ambition!"
snarls the King, "I am blessed by Rovagug the Destroyer. All who oppose me feed the worms."

The heroes initiate hostilities with a surprise round! Zain bullrushes the nearest Unchosen and buries Tempest in its neck. Fuk pops out from behind a pillar and shoots the King. Ghartok soaks the damage, but goes Berserk!! The audacity of these cursed heroes, to oppose him here, in his throne room!! Misfar casts Sandstorm, centred on the Maggot Throne. Ghartok and Rokova emerge unscathed due to a less than stellar damage roll.

Rokova takes a step back and casts Armour on himself (+4). Two more Unchosen lumber forward to defend their king. Misfar casts a spear-sized shard of glass at the one charging towards Fuk. The Unchosen is Shaken, and Misfar is all out of Power Points. He spends a Benny to get some more. Fuk shoots the shaken gnoll in the eye, killing him outright. Ghartok leaps across the carrion pit, landing amongst the heroes! He swings his axe in a ruinous arc, both Nadiyya and Fuk must spend Bennies to avoid being wounded. Zain sweeps his own axe in a circle, disembowling the two Unchosen trying to gang up on him. They both topple into the carrion pit, clutching handfuls of their own spilt guts.

"Rovoka! Aid your king!" Ghartok commands, as the last of the Unchosen fall.

The treacherous mystic raises his staff and casts a bolt of flame at his master! The Carrion King is wounded!

"Treacherous cur!!" Ghartok roars, "So bit it! Die alongside these infidels! Awaken, avatar of Rovagug! Awaken, Thkot Tal!!"

The surface of the carrion pit ripples as a gigantic centipede monster
emerges from the loathsome depths! It is over 30ft long and covered with spikes!

The gnoll mystic shimmers and is replaced by a young, athletic man with fiery red hair.

"Help me kill it, then I'll explain!" the stranger cries.

Dashki takes a shot at the abomination, his arrow bounces off its hardened, carapace. Zain braves the spikes to attack, he practically cuts the thing in half, but it refuses to die! Misfar casts a magical spear into the centipede and finishes the job! Thkot Tal collapses across the battlefield. Not to be disheartened by the fact his monstrous pet got taken out before it could act, Ghartok sweeps his axe at Nadiyya and Fuk, hitting them both. They are seriously wounded.

The Carrion King is dealt a Joker! That is super bad news for the good guys! He is all done playing around and makes a Wild Attack against Fuk! The goblin is incapacitated! Fuk's Vigour is permanently reduced to d4 and he is Bleeding Out! Zain would just love to attack the King, but if he doesn't stabilize Fuk, the goblin will definitely die. Zain heals Fuk. Misfar tries to put the King to sleep, but Ghartok resists.

Rovoka holds his action. He seems content to let the heroes exhaust their resources battling the gnoll king. Dashki shoots Ghartok in the back, but does so little damage the King doesn't notice. Ghartok resists Slumber again. He is full of energy and not at all ready for bed!

"More healing please!" Fuk cries, after his lingering wound penalties cause another attack to sail wide of the mark.

"Drink your damn potions!!" Zain bellows, charging into melee with the King.

Misfar casts Slumber again.

"Sooner or later, this will work!" he says.

(Not this round, it doesn't. Keeping wasting your Power Points, wizard. Hahaha!)

Ghartok cleaves! He leaves a scratch across Zain's new breastplate that won't polish out anytime soon. Zain casts Dazzling Aura to blind the King (at least temporarily). Ghartok staggers back a step, shielding his eyes. Another step and he will be on the edge of the pit....

Seeing that the Carrion King is on his last legs, Rokova casts Bolt and finishes him off. A fireball burns a smoking hole in his chest! Ghartok falls to his knees and Zain kicks him into the pit. The King lies still, smoke, sprawled across the body of the dead centipede.

"Wow! You guys were lucky I was here to save your asses!" the red-headed stranger says, smiling broadly, "No need to thank me! It's all in a days work for a Templar of the Five Winds!"

TBC
 

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mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Eleven: Deals with Djinn

The Carrion King is slain, betrayed by his own treacherous vizier, who it transpires is more than he seems. Shedding his disguise, the gnoll mystic is revealed as Zayifid, one of the Templars of the Five Winds.

"So is this your true form, djinn?" Misfar demands, "Or just another layer in your rich and creamy lasagne of deception?"

"You see me as I am,"
Zayifid replies, "I must apologise for my subterfuge. It seemed prudent to keep my real identity a secret, at least until we had dealt with Ghartok. Bravo, by the way. Yes, I dealt the killing stroke, but you all helped tremendously!"

"We've read your journal, Zayifid."
Misfar interjects, 'We know you lied to us. There was never any army. You just needed to get us here to kill your boss."

"Oh, there would have been an army,"
Zayifid answers, "In my guise as Rokova, it was all I could do to delay Ghartok sounding the call to arms. The moment he heard how you defeated the Kullid tribe, he became obsessed with your destruction - but I convinced him I could bring you here, saving countless lives in the process. You're welcome!

"Now that Ghartok is out of the picture, I can take his place."


Zayifid's outline shimmers as he assumes the likeness of the Carrion King.

"The fine people of Kelmarane need not worry about the gnolls of Pale Mountain ever again! Job well done! Bravo all round! I imagine you're keen to get back and let the princess know how you saved the town! Safe journey, my friends!"

"We're not going anywhere until you tell us what you're searching for."
Nadiyya states, crossing her arms in defiance of Zayifid's dismissal.

"In the Tomb of Shirak." Misfar adds.

"You got me!" the djinn chuckles ruefully, "Long before this place was claimed by servants of the Destroyer, it was the palace of an elemental prince. Shirak served the prince and was entombed below with many powerful artifacts. A magical barrier prevents me accessing the tomb, hence the search for the secret entrance. Help me find the entrance and I will share the loot!"

The heroes go into a huddle to discuss Zayifid's proposition. They don't trust the capricious djinn any further than they could throw the lamp he crawled out of. Nadiyya believes the relic hidden beneath the temple could help her understand her ifreeti heritage. Misfar has developed a powerful dislike for Zayifid and wants nothing more to do with him. If there are still servants of the Destroyer occupying the House of the Beast, Zain is compelled to burn them from existence. Fuk abstains, he doesn't really mind either way.

When the party turn back to the Maggot Throne, it is unoccupied. Zayifid has turned ethereal and disappeared while they were talking.

"Son of a witch!" Misfar cries.

The party search the throne room for the secret entrance to Shirak's Tomb. Misfar notices that the Maggot Throne rotates on its base and that turning it 90' opens a secret door! The party descend into the Tomb of Shirak....

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Twelve: Tomb Raider/s

The heroes start down a flight of granite-hewn stairs, spiralling into darkness. A faint light appears, growing ever brighter as they descend. They emerge into an elaborate underground garden illuminated by large, glowing crystals. The verdant foliage rustles gently, caressed by cool breeze that seems to come from nowhere. A shallow stream gurgles across a pebbly streambed. The scene would be perfectly idyllic, if not for the four sandstone sculptures throughout the garden, each one chiseled into the form of a huge, angry face.

The water is refreshing and the fruit growing upon the trees is ripe. The party enjoy a short break to recover their Power Points. The stone heads are a little disconcerting and the heroes decide not to linger. An arch in the western wall leads to a smaller chamber. A heavy bronze plug seals the entrance to a lower level. Zain manages to get a good grip on the edge of the immense disc and lifts it up, revealing a deep, dark pit. Unsettling whispers emanate from the dark, tiny voices skittering about on the edge of hearing.

The heroes all pass their Fear checks.

"Let's get this over with." Nadiyya suggests, uncoiling a length of rope from her pack.

The heroes tie several ropes together and knot one end around the almond tree in the garden. The pit is 100ft deep and crawling with illusory spiders that the heroes do their best to ignore. Nadiyya almost loses her grip when several spiders seem to become tangled in her hair.

"Nadiyya, don't panic!" Misfar calls down to her, "It's only an illusion, they're not real!"

Nadiyya calms down and reaches the bottom safely, as do the rest of the heroes. Fuk is disappointed that he could not eat any of the illusory vermin.

The rope ends above a tall stone pillar, rising from the centre of a huge, subterranean cavern. Surrounding the pillar on all sides is a sea of treasure! Gold and silver pieces glitter in the light from Zain's torch and giant gemstones rise from the surface like icebergs in an ocean of coin. The hoard is vast beyond belief!

"Fuk rich!" Fuk sings, dancing on the spot, "Fuk wealthiest goblin in all world!"

"A person could not hope to spend even a share of this treasure,"
Nadiyya marvels, "Not even in a hundred lifetimes...."

"We can rebuild the ruined temple in Kelmarane, bigger and better than the one in Katapesh."
Zain says excitedly, imagining the glory of such an undertaking.

Misfar is silent, staring hard at the golden hoard.

"Something about this seems off...." he murmurs.

Misfar casts Dispel, but does not roll high enough to change anything. Not to be deterred, he stirs the surface of the treasure pile with his staff. He smears the image, as though he were tracing a brush across the surface of wet paint. The gold appears to have no physical presence whatsoever.

"As I suspected!" Misfar states, looking pretty pleased with himself, "Another illusion."

The other heroes are less pleased with this development.

"What wizard do to gold?!" Fuk demands, "Still spend good, right? Still legal tender?!"

"I'm afraid not, my smelly friend. No merchants will accept counterfeit coin, let alone illusory gold."

"Gaaaaaagghhh!!!"
Fuk shrieks, writhing on the floor in anguish.

Nadiyya and Zain are a little better at masking their disappointment.

Misfar pokes around the edge of the pillar and finds a narrow bridge of solid stone that crosses the cavern. He leads the party carefully, tapping his staff ahead of him to stay on the path. It's unknown what lies to either side of the bridge and the heroes are none too eager too find out. The party reach what appears to be a wall of solid rock, but they have noticed a trend and Misfar pokes the wall with his staff. Sure enough, it passes right through, as though the wall weren't even there.

Passing through the illusory wall, the heroes enter a sunken temple with a sandy floor. In the centre of the chamber looms a horrific statue of a multi-tentacled abomination. A string of runes around the base of the statue reads; 'And lo, those who speak not the truths of Rovagug shall be the first to be consumed by the Waiting Beast'.

The party put their heads together, but cannot determine what the 'truths of Rovagug' might be.

"Destroyers gonna' destroy?" Nadiyya guesses.

Wrong! Without warning, the statue surges into motion, covering the distance to the heroes so suddenly that it enjoys a Surprise round!

One tentacle whips out and sends Misfar flying into the cavern wall with a bone-jarring thud. A second tentacle coils around Fuk's scrawny body and wrenches him into the air. Fuk cries out, bloody spittle staining his pointy teeth, as the (no longer) Waiting Beast begins to squeeze....

Fuk struggles to escape the Waiting Beast's rib-splinteringly tight embrace, but he is securely Bound. Zain weaves between the writhing tentacles and makes a Wild Attack against the appendage grappling Fuk. Tempest strikes true and severs the tentacle, soaking Zain in a geyser of foul black ichor from the stump. The Waiting Beast howls in fury! A tentacle whips out and sweeps the warrior's legs out from under him. Zain rolls away as a second tentacle spears the ground where he had just fallen. Dashki cries out as he is snatched up by another of the monster's questing limbs. Misfar picks himself up and hurls a handful of sand toward the beast. It transforms into a scything blade of glass that cuts clean through the tentacle holding the gnoll whisperer aloft.

Zain staggers to his feet and continues carving into the Waiting Beast.
Misfar casts Slumber on the injured monster. It immediately falls limp and begins to snore loud, monstery snores. Misfar urgently gestures that the rest of the party should be really ****ing quiet. Zain gingerly edges away from the sleeping horror.

"Search the tomb, but be quick and be quiet!" Misfar whispers.

The only item of much interest is a sinister black sarcophagus, marred by crude carvings of a nine legged spider with a gaping maw. The party have spent enough time in the House of the Beast to recognise this as being the unholy symbol of Rovagug.

"Do you really want to open that?" Dashki asks, fearfully.

"Not really." Zain shrugs, but he does it anyway.

Working together, the party try to lift the heavy lid without waking the Beast. With agonising care, they slide the lid to one side, revealing the skeletal remains of a long dead gnoll priestess. A plain looking scroll case is clutched in her bony fingers. There is no other treasure in the box.

"Is this it?" Nadiyya asks, prising the scroll out of the dead gnoll's grasp, "Is this what Zayifid is looking for?"

She begins to unroll the scroll, but Misfar reaches out to stop her.

"Maybe we should pull back to the garden before we open that?" the wizard suggests, with a meaningful glance toward the Waiting Beast.

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Thirteen: Scroll with the Punches

The party retreat to the garden of the stone heads. Zain moves the heavy bronze disc back into position above the pit. Nadiyya unrolls the scroll, while Misfar cranes to peer over her shoulder. The ancient papyrus is marked by a single, sprawling rune. Neither Nadiyya or Misfar can comprehend or draw any conclusions about the nature of this rune or the purpose of the scroll.

"Zayifid might know more." Nadiyya suggests, "We could - "

BONG
!!!

Her train of thought is derailed by the sound of something huge crashing against the underside of the bronze disc covering the pit.

Zain (who had been enjoying a quick power nap) leaps to his feet and reaches for Tempest. Fuk staggers upright, still moving stiffly from his injuries.

"By the Starstone! What was that?!" Zain cries.

BONG!!! BONG!!!

"The beast from the crypt!"
Misfar shouts, hastily shouldering his pack, "It must have woken up and followed us up the shaft! Nadiyya, secure that scroll! We must flee!"

Abandoning their camp, the heroes race for the staircase ascending to the Carrion King's throne room.

BONG!!! BONG!!! SMASH!!!

The bronze seal succumbs to the Waiting Beast's onslaught, releasing the horror from the pit! Zain glances over his shoulder and glimpses the Beast emerging into the garden. A tentacle coils around the trunk of the almond tree and tears it out of the ground. The Beast spots its prey fleeing into the stairwell and surges after them!

This scene was treated as a Quick Encounter. Each player decided which skill their hero would use during the escape. As long as there were as many successes/raises as there were players involved in the scene (so in this instance, 4), the scene is a success and the party escape.

Muscles screaming in protest, the heroes sprint headlong up the long, spiral staircase. The Beast howls behind them, shaking the walls. Nadiyya rolls Athletics and outpaces the rest of the party. Misfar rolls Spellcasting to create barriers of solid stone behind them as they flee, slowing the Beasts' pursuit as it stops to smash through each wall the wizard raises in their wake. But he can only keep that up for so long and soon runs out of magical juice. The Beast begins to gain ground, writhing tentacles reaching for the flagging heroes.... Zain rolls Faith to blind the Beast with a flash of Sarenrae's radiant aura. The Beast shrieks, retracting its tentacles to shield its eyes from the light. The party keep running. They can see torchlight from the throne room up ahead, they're nearly there!! But the Beast has not given up the chase! As the heroes spill into the throne room, serpentine tentacles reach after them. The Beast is too huge to fit through the secret door, but its beaked maw fills the portal, waiting to rip apart anyone it can pull back into its mouth. Fuk rolls Shooting and fires arrow after arrow in rapid succession, straight down the Waiting Beast's yawning gullet! The Beast howls in frustration and withdraws back down into its lair.

The heroes take a moment to dust themselves off and catch their breath. That was altogether too close!

"Tell me you still have the scroll...?" Misfar gasps, looking to Nadiyya.

"Yes," interrupts a deep, guttural voice, "Do tell us you have the scroll."

The Carrion King steps out from behind the Maggot Throne, slowly clapping his furry paws in mock applause. Only, the heroes know the real Carrion King is dead, so this must be Zayifid, the treacherous and shapeshifting djinn. Along with their faux King, a half dozen gnolls emerge from hiding around the throne room; half are regular sized gnolls armed with bows, the other half are the hulking Unchosen.

"Hand over the scroll and you might yet leave this place alive," offers Ghartok/Zayifid, "Frankly, you've saved me a lot of time and effort and I'm feeling magnanimous."

The gnolls glance at each other. Magnaniwhatnow? Was their chieftain always this loquacious?

"So, this scrap of old papyrus is pretty important to you?" Nadiyya asks, holding up the scroll, "It must be, considering all the lies you've spun. Wouldn't it be just awful if it were destroyed now, when you were so close to getting your hands on it?"

Nadiyya snaps her fingers and a tiny flame appeared in her other hand. She holds the scroll inches above the fire and arches an eyebrow toward the King.

Ghartok/Zayifid grins back at her. Nadiyya feels her confidence waver.

"Go ahead. Try and burn it. I suspect you'll find it quite indestructible."

Misfar gasps as Nadiyya drives the scroll into the flame. True to the King's prediction, nothing happens. The scroll is impervious to fire.

"You have absolutely no concept of what you hold, do you?" Ghartok/Zayifid says, condescendingly, "How precious. I could tell you. It would blow your tiny minds - but why waste breath talking to the dead? Kill them!! Bring me the scroll!!"

Zain charges the nearest two Unchosen and kills them both in a single Sweep of his magical axe. He can hear the spirit of Vardishal whispering in his mind, insisting the scroll not fall into Zayifid's possession! The final Unchosen batters Nadiyya, she raises her shield to block the blow, but the force behind it still drives her to her knees. The huge gnoll raises its fist for a second blow, but Fuk shoots it in the armpit and it reels away. Nadiyya lunges forward and drives her sword into the Unchosen's groin!

Misfar advances on the Maggot Throne. A gnoll archer pops out and looses his bow at the wizard. Misfar ducks and obliterates the wretched creature in a burst of burning sand. Ghartok/Zayifid is caught in the damage field, but ducks behind his big chair to avoid the worst of it.

"No more hiding, djinn!" Misfar cries, stepping over the bleached bones of the dead archer.

He reaches the throne, but Zayifid has turned ethereal and escaped!

"Coward!!" the wizard shouts, not caring whether his enemy can even hear.

Noting that their King has vanished into thin air, the last few gnolls slink away.

"That treacherous lamp donkey might have escaped, but we still have the scroll," Misfar states, after the dust has settled, "I doubt we've seen the last of him, so stay alert! We should head back to Kelmarane and report to the Princess."

"If I had but the strength, I would bring this unholy place to ruin afore we leave,"
Zain muttered, piously, "No matter, we have slain many servants of the Destroyer this day. Praise be unto Sarenrae!"

"Fuk still a little sad about the not-gold,"
admits the little goblin, "But Fuk got to fight a big monster and that was fun!"

"Let's get out of here,"
Nadiyya agrees, stuffing the mystery scroll back into her pack.

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Fourteen: The Plot Thickens

Having defeated the Carrion King, the heroes return to Kelmarane. Felliped and the camels are relieved to see them all alive and well. We glossed over the return journey using the Quick Encounter rules.

Almost immediately, the heroes are summoned by Almah, who receives them in her luxurious suite overlooking the Victory Market. Garavel and Father Zastoran are also present, to offer their counsel. The heroes kneel before the Merchant Princess, who bestows a kiss unto each of their brows - even Fuk, which is a bit like kissing a camel's leathery ballsack.

"The sight of you all returned safely lifts a great weight from my heart," Almah says, "Tell me, what did you learn of this Carrion King and his intent toward our new home?"

"The Carrion King was a mighty gnoll warlord and follower of Rovagug the Destroyer,"
Nadiyya explains, "We fought and killed him in his throne room beneath the House of the Beast."

"Then he and his gnoll army pose no further threat to my citizens?"

"There was no army,"
Misfar says, "The Carrion King had many warriors, but their orders were to find the entrance to a hidden tomb beneath his lair. We discovered that Zayifid is a shape-changing djinn and part of an ancient order called the Templars of the Five Winds. He lied to us and to the Carrion King, pitting us against each other so that he could claim the contents of the tomb while we were fighting.
The Carrion King poses no further threat to Kelmarane, but I am concerned about these Templars and what their plans may be."

"Perhaps I can allay a few of those concerns."


A tall, muscular man stands framed in the doorway to Alnah's suite. It is Kardswann, the djinn who previously ruled the Kullid tribe from this very room! Until now, he had been lying comatose in the heroes waterfront mansion.

"Princess, stand back!" Garavel growls, reaching for his sword, "How did you get passed the guards?"

"Peace, friends."
Kardswann says, "I mean you no harm. In fact, I offer my gratitude for breaking the control that foul demon Xulthos had over me.
You speak of Zayifid and the Templars of the Five Winds. I am also part of that order. We served the djinni princess Nefeshti in her war against a wicked djinn called Jhavul. After Jhavul and his army were defeated, we five Templars went our separate ways. Zayifid was always a trickster, but the behaviour you describe gives me pause. You mention that he sought the contents of a hidden tomb?"

"Why should we trust you?"
Misfar demands.

"Because I was there, fighting alongside Zayifid and the other Templars when Jhavul fell. If this prize Zayifid seeks is a relic of that war, it could be very dangerous in the wrong hands."

"He sought a scroll, in the Tomb of Shirak."
Misfar says, warily.

"That could be very bad," Kardswann answers, "As well as her Templars, Nefeshti was allied with a human wizard called Andrathi. Andrathi possessed a powerful relic called the Scroll of Kakishon. In the final battle, Andrathi used the scroll to weaken Jhavul, but was destroyed in the process. Without his sacrifice, we would likely have been defeated. If Zayifid is seeking the scroll, he is seeking the power of Jhavul sealed within the relic. It is vitally important that he does not get his hands on it."

"What would you do, if you had the scroll?"
Misfar asks.

"Deliver it to my mistress Nefeshti," Kardswann answers.

"What would you do if I told you we have the scroll?"

"Do you have the scroll?"

"Maybe."

"If you did have the Scroll of Kakishon, I would advise you to share that information with no-one outside of this room. Zayifid is not the only person with an interest in claiming Jhavul's power. I would encourage you to use your most powerful magic to hide the scroll, until I can contact my mistress.
Do you have the scroll?"

"Yes."
Misfar admits, "But we have no magic powerful enough to conceal the scroll."

"There is a magi in Katapesh called Rayhan,"
Almah says, "He is a close friend and I would trust him with my life. If he cannot weave a spell powerful enough to conceal the Scroll of Kakishon, nobody can.
Garavel, I charge you with escorting the heroes safely to Katapesh and introducing them to Rayhan."

"As you will, Princess."
Garavel agrees.

"I will attempt to contact my mistress and notify her that the Scroll has been found and that Zayifid can no longer be trusted." Kardswann adds, "I will seek you in Katapesh, once I have her answer."

The party prepare for the journey to Katapesh.

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Fifteen: The Long Road to Katapesh

Having learnt that possession of the Scroll of Kakishon brings great peril along with it, the party journey to the city of Katapesh, to consult archmage Rayhan; re: containing the threat. The heroes are to be escorted by Garavel and a small contingent of the merchant princess' guard. Dashki volunteers to stay behind and protect the princess until her major domo returns. Garavel grinds his teeth in frustration at the thought of leaving the filthy gnoll whisperer alone with his mistress. Felliped will accompany the party to Katapesh, to deliver the sad news of Oxvard's death to his next of kin.

The camel train sets out at dawn, as the first rays of sunlight illuminate the gilded dome of the Victory Market. The party follow the bank of the Pale River east to the town of Hookford. Around midday, Nadiyya notices a body caught in the reeds on the opposite bank. Fuk creates a crude grappling hook and Zain manages to snag the corpse and reel it in. Two arrows protrude from the poor fellow's back. Fuk searches the body and finds a small pouch of precious rubies stitched into the lining of his robe (one character's Wealth die increases one die type). Zain burns the body and intones a prayer to Sarenrae over the ashes.

The party reach Hookford at dusk, but decide to camp outside the walls, rather than seek lodgings within. Garavel has already warned them that since Almah forbade the sale of slaves in Kelmarane, flesh peddlers seeking to trade with the gnoll tribes gravitate to Hookford instead. The mournful cries of their 'merchandise' can be heard into the night. Zain decides he is not cool with that. Garavel warns him that as distasteful as slave trading may be, it is still a legal enterprise governed and taxed by the Pactmasters of Katapesh. If the heroes interfere with or outright attack the flesh peddlers, the heroes would be in the wrong.

"You and I have very different beliefs on the concepts of right and wrong," Zain replies. He has already decided that he is going to sneak out and help the slaves when the major domo is not looking. He manages to get the rest of the party on board with his plan.

Misfar casts Slumber on Garavel and his guards as they gather around the campfire, putting them soundly to sleep. The party head into Hookford. The slave pens are lightly guarded, but there are more men carousing in a nearby tavern. Fuk throws the bag of rubies into the taproom. Blood red gemstones are scattered across the floor and a brawl immediately erupts as the slavers fight over the spoils. Zain and Nadiyya stealthily incapacitate the few guards still watching the merchandise and unlock the pens, urging the escaping slaves to head west to Kelmarane. Having completed their mission, the heroes return to their camp, wake the sleeping guards to take watch, then head to their bedrolls.

Rather than crossing the desert, the heroes wanted to get a boat ride down the Pale River, which would carry them all the way to Katapesh. A friendly NPC regretfully informed them that following a particularly dry spell, parts of the riverbed were impassable by boat. Grumbling, the party follow Garavel into the desert.

Fuk spots vultures circling up ahead and the party investigate. They find the wreckage of a merchant's caravan. The vultures feast on a pair of dead camels lying nearby. Nadiyya notices something hiding beneath the wagon. An injured man crawls out, pleading for his life.

"Please don't hurt me! Take whatever you want, just let me go!"

"Calm down, friend. We're not brigands!"
Zain says, "What happened here?"

The man introduces himself as Radi Hamdi, a travelling merchant who was on the road to Katapesh when his wagon was attacked by bandits. They slaughtered his camels, stole his goods and left him for dead. Fuk looks for tracks, but can't find anything.

"Which way did the thieves go?" Nadiyya asks.

Radi doesn't know. Nadiyya doesn't think the merchant is being entirely truthful.

"We should keep moving." Garavel says, shielding his eyes from the sun, "If we linger here, we won't make it to the next oasis before dusk."

"Please, take me with you - at least as far as the oasis!"
Radi begs.

"I don't trust this guy!" Nadiyya whispers.

"We can't just leave him to the vultures," Misfar answers, "We'll escort him to the next oasis and leave him there. I'll help you keep an eye on him until then."

The heroes continue eastward with Radi riding double with one of Garavel's men. Nadiyya manoeuvres Blaze close enough to listen to their conversation. Radi seems very interested in why the party are heading to Katapesh.

"What kind of merchant are you?" Nadiyya asks, suddenly.

"Mostly dates and other dried fruits." Radi replies.

Again, Nadiyya gets the impression that the merchant is lying to her. Before she can act on her suspicions, the ground rumbles underfoot. The dunes around the caravan erupt, as a gigantic worm-like monster explodes from beneath the desert floor.

"Death Worm!!!" Garavel shouts, struggling with the reins of his terrified mount, "We can't fight that thing!! Ride for the oasis!!"

The heroes spur their camels into desperate flight from the monstrous worm. Misfar turns in the saddle and hurls an arcane bolt at the pursuing behemoth. Miraculously, he beats its toughness and the worm is Shaken. The injured beast burrows back beneath the sand.

"You drove it off!" Radi exults, "Thank the gods! I thought we were done for!"

The worm reappears directly beneath the rear-most rider, rising from the sand and swallowing both the man and his camel whole!

"Arrgghhhhh!! We are done for!!!"

Sensing the tremors of hooves across sand, the worm turns its blind head after the riders and vomits forth a cone of acidic bile. Garavel's yanks on the reigns of his mount to avoid the toxic spew, but his camel stumbles and breaks a leg! Garavel is tossed from his mount as the injured beast goes down. The brave old warrior staggers to his feet and draws his sword, for all the good it will do against the monster bearing down on him.

Nadiyya turns her mount and races to reach Garavel before the Death Worm.

"Garavel!" she screams, reaching down to the old warrior. Garavel grabs her hand and allows himself to be pulled onto the back of her speeding camel. The Death Worm crashes into the sand where he had stood.

"Take my bow and keep it off us!" Nadiyya cries, thrusting the weapon into the old man's hands.

The Death Worm devours another of Garavel's men and begins to slow down. The surviving riders put some real distance between themselves and the monster. When they look back, the worm has given up the chase and disappeared back beneath the sand.

TBC
 
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mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Sixteen: Oasis Interlude

The heroes reach the oasis sanctuary, although not without casualties. Two of Garavel's outriders are dead, swallowed whole by a hungry Death Worm. The camels are exhausted and drink deeply from the natural spring bubbling up from beneath the arid earth. The party won't reach Katapesh for another day and they are all too drained to continue tonight. The heroes begin setting up camp, while Fuk climbs a palm tree to keep watch over the darkening dunes. The rest of the party gather around the cook fire to eat.

This presented the opportunity to run an Interlude!

Nadiyya stares into the flame, listening to its song. She has understood the language of fire since before she spoke her first word of Common. Her thoughts drift to the past, when a young Nadiyya plunged her hand into the hearth in her family home. She remembers her mother screaming and pulling her back, how her expression changed from maternal concern to bleak terror as the flames danced along her baby daughter's arms. Nothing was ever the same again, after that day. Nadiyya joined the party hoping to discover the truth about her strange elemental affinity, but is no closer to the answers now than the day she left Solku.

Misfar sits opposite the troubled young woman, lost in his own memories.

"You seem distracted, friend." Felliped says, lowering himself onto the sand next to the elven mage, "A burden shared is a burden halved, as a good friend of mine used to say."

"I was thinking about someone I knew, a long time ago."
Misfar replied, "A woman. Brilliant and beautiful, but so stubborn! Her name was Geminara and she was my teacher. I admired her even before I realised that I loved her, but she never saw me as anything more than a student. I did everything I could to impress her, but her mind could not be changed.
"I did something reckless. Stupid, even. I attempted to perform a ritual that was much too advanced for me. I was trying to prove something. The spell got out of control and Geminara was... hurt, trying to save me."


Felliped listens in solemn silence, waiting for Misfar to continue. For the first time since being rescued from the Kullid tribe, the bard is struck dumb.

"She doesn't teach anymore and she refuses to see me, or listen to any more of my futile apologies. I didn't know what else to do, so I left. One day, I just started walking and I've not stopped since. Maybe one day I'll find something to lessen her pain, or relieve my guilt."

While the wizard bares his bleeding heart, Zain Al-Sahli reflects on his own sad story. Many years ago, his village was attacked by murderous brigands. Zain's father was cut down trying to defend his family. Zain and his mother were taken by the bandits and sold into slavery. They became separated at auction and Zain has not seen his mother since, though he has searched for her throughout the land.

Each player who participated in the Interlude is awarded a Benny.

The party settle down for the night. Fuk maintains his vigil over the sleeping camp. The watchful goblin spots dark figures skulking in the shadows surrounding the oasis and raises the alarm. Battle-crazed gnolls charge into the firelight, as the heroes and their entourage frantically scrabble to arm themselves.

Thanks to Fuk's keen night eyes, the heroes are not taken unawares. Misfar rolls out of his bedroll and points an accusing finger toward the nearest cluster of gnolls, conjuring a burst of scalding sand to scour the meat from their mangy bones. Zain charges into the fray, cutting down a pair of gnolls in a single swing of his magical axe. Felliped runs his shortsword through a raiders chest, while the cowardly Radi hides beneath a wagon. While the majority of the gnolls are fighting tooth and nail, Fuk spots a half dozen archers hanging back to better pick their targets. One of Garavel's two remaining guards is shot in the throat and killed.

A huge shadow looms out of the desert, a pot-bellied ettin spinning a pair of spiky flails! The two-headed brute lumbers towards Zain and brings his weapons down with bone-breaking power. Zain is wounded.

Nadiyya is slowest to react. There are two gnoll raiders upon her before she can take up her sword! Felliped moves to back her up and is Shaken. Nadiyya draws her sword and the blade bursts into flame. Nadiyya drives her burning blade through a gnoll's heart.

Ignoring the pain (he took the Nerves of Steel Edge for this very reason), Zain disembowels the ettin! The two heads wails disharmoniously as their guts spill out across the sand. Zain revels in his victory and does not notice the gnoll skulking up behind him. Zain is incapacitated by a devastating stealth attack! His Strength is temporary reduced one die type and he falls unconscious.

The heroes drive off the few remaining gnolls. Zain regains consciousness, but is still weak and groggy from blood loss.

TBC
 
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mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Sixteen: Katapesh, Bazaar of the Bizarre

The heroes are now Veteran rank.

The party limp into Katapesh the following day. Of all the characters, only Zain has been to the city previously - and the last time he wore a slave collar around his neck. As the second largest city in the Inner Sea, Katapesh is impressive in its sprawling immensity. The ramshackle shanty town that has sprung up outside the city gates is larger than Kelmarane in its entirety. Tall sandstone walls enclose the city proper, beyond which can be seen the colourful spires of a thousand different temples and palaces.

"Welcome to Katapesh, Bazaar of the Bizarre!" cries Radi, who is still with the party, despite Nadiyya's misgivings, "They say anything that can be bought or sold - and even some things that can't - can be bought or sold here!
Thankyou for your protection on the road, but now I must take my leave. Ask for me in the Lower City if you ever need anything! Farewell, my friends! Farewell!"

"Good riddance!"
Nadiyya mutters, as the strange merchant melts into the crowd, "Let's find Archmage Rayhan and get rid of this cursed relic...."

A look of concern settles on Nadiyya's face as she pats herself down frantically. The Scroll of Kakishon is gone, lifted from her inner pocket without her noticing the theft!

"Radi! That snake!" Nadiyya curses, leaping to the most obvious conclusion, "He must have taken it! Did anyone see where he went?"

Garavel shrugs helplessly. Felliped looks nonplussed. Radi has vanished!

"He mentioned the Lower City," Misfar says, "Although that could have been a ploy to throw us off track."

Garavel heads to Rayhan's estate, to lay the groundwork for the heroes visit. The party will rendezvous with him there, after dealing with Radi and recovering the stolen scroll. Felliped departs to deliver his grim tidings to Oxvard's kin, leaving the party to fend for themselves in the (mostly) unfamiliar city.

To gather information on Radi's whereabouts, the party must make a Networking check, rolling Intimidation or Persuasion to find out what's what.

Zain is still too banged up from his fight with the ettin to be either persuasive or intimidating. Nadiyya takes the lead with Misfar supporting. Several hours and a few bribes later, the party learn that Radi is meeting with a representative of the One Source merchant guild to negotiate the sale of a valuable artifact. The meeting is scheduled for dusk and is taking place in the back room of a large, well guarded pesh den/brothel.

"Let's watch the entrance and snatch the thieving serpent when he crawls out of his hole." suggests Nadiyya.

"We can't just abduct a man in the middle of the street," Misfar says, "There will be witnesses and we'll be branded as criminals."

The party formulate a plan. Nadiyya will keep lookout for Radi approaching the pesh den (Notivce). Misfar will cover his face and approach the thief, pretending to be a beggar (Stealth). Once he is close enough to touch the target, he will cast Teleport on the thief, magically transporting him to a nearby alley (Spellcasting), where Zain will be waiting to grapple him (Fighting). Fuk will cause a distraction, to minimize the risk of being spotted (Performance). Their plan is played out as a Quick Encounter.

Nadiyya spots their target approaching the pesh den from the direction of the Lower City. Unfortunately, Radi is not alone, he is surrounded by a group of ruffians hired for protection. With no way of warning the wizard of this development, Nadiyya gives the signal. Fuk starts capering to draw the crowd's attention away from what's about to go down. He's an incompetent juggler, but a few people pause to watch. Radi's guards swagger on by. Swathed in rags, Misfar emerges from an alley, sees the wall of thugs between him and his target and does an immediate u-turn back into the alley. Instead, Misfar casts Burrow to sink into the street, moves into position beneath the group and sticks his hand out of the ground to grab Radi's ankle! The merchant trips and shrieks as he sees the disembodied claw groping at his leg! Radi's guards are too stunned to react. Misfar gets a good grip then casts Teleport, sending the target to the alley where Zain is waiting. Before Radi can get his bearings, Zain has grappled him in an unbreakable headlock! Despite his wounds, Zain is able to hold onto the squirming merchant.

The hired goons begin bickering over whose fault it is that their employer has disappeared. The party quietly withdraw with their prisoner, staying off the streets to avoid any unwanted attention.

Lies start spilling from Radi's mouth the moment Zain uncovers it.

"My friends! It is good to see you again so soon! But why - "

"Enough of your naughty word, thief."
Nadiyya cuts him off with a back-handed slap that rattles the merchant's teeth, "Give back the scroll you took from me, or I'll burn you until you'll wish you had."

Nadiyya takes an arrow from her quiver and blows softly on the metal head. Warmed by her ifreeti magic, the point begins to glow red hot. Radi's eyes bulge in fear and he struggles helplessly in Zain's arms. The big man looks troubled and exchanges a glance with Misfar, who is also concerned by the sudden slide toward torture and mutilation. Even Fuk has turned a slightly greener shade of green.

"Nadiyya, maybe I should take over...." the wizard suggests.

"The Roof Market!" Radi suddenly blurts out, "I have a shop! I hid the scroll there! I can go get it for you right now, just please don't burn me!!"

"Let's all go,"
Nadiyya says sweetly, "We wouldn't want anything bad to happen to you, now would we?"

TBC
 

smcc360

Explorer
First of all, this is a great write up! I'm enjoying it very much.

(Rules question, if anyone reading wants to chime in: does using the Burrow power in melee range of an opponent trigger an Opportunity Attack?)

The Teleport Power specifies that adjacent foes don't get a free attack when the power user teleports, but Burrow makes no such declaration. So I think that it does trigger an attack.
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
First of all, this is a great write up! I'm enjoying it very much.



The Teleport Power specifies that adjacent foes don't get a free attack when the power user teleports, but Burrow makes no such declaration. So I think that it does trigger an attack.

Thankyou for your feedback and your kind words! I'll try to remember that the next time it crops up. :)
 

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