3.5 THE HEROES OF DYVERS CHAPTER 7: CLARE'S ERRAND

Diarmadhim

Explorer
"While I originally gathered some of my companions together to clear the undead from an abandoned village, we are on a task for Respen right now. He is the current de facto leader of our campaign. I think of us more as a free association - or an informal group. We help each other in endeavors and benefit because of it, thereby helping ourselves. As far as the braggadocio is concerned, exaggeration is a trademark of storytellers."
 

Aust Thale

Explorer
Respen Seeks To Visit With Tokwan...With Reservation and a Good Deal of Tact

~ I wonder.... ~

Respen flashes back to what Dame Clare's instructions were in her mental message:

~ "Serindak is in trouble. He sent me a mental message about a week ago; he is helping me find an item of extreme importance.... It is an artifact known as the Helm of Selreen. Serindak went to seek the aid of a Sphinx known far and wide as Khubsheth The Prophet, hoping he might know something about where the helm could be or about who could have it. Khubsheth attacked him, forcing him into gaseous form. Serindak slipped past the Sphinx, and discovered that the statue that he rests in front of conceals a hidden passage, which leads to some sort of tomb. Serindak decided to explore the tomb, in hopes of finding something there that might be useful. The last mental message that Serindak sent to me was that he no longer cared to seek Khubsheth's advice, when he could have the counsel of the Dark Queen. Then, I suddenly lost contact and have not heard from him since. I can feel that his essence still exists, that he has not been destroyed, but I can no longer feel his thoughts, nor his blood connection. It's as if he no longer has a physical form. I am not sure what to make of that, except that it cannot mean anything good."

...Finding the Helm of Selreen is a far more important task, one that cannot be put aside. I would like for you to seek out this Khubsheth, and find out what happened to Serindak. I doubt he would attack one so amiable as you. I think Serindak probably fell victim to the prejudice borne of his eight-legged form. In that regard, I would surmise that you could succeed where he failed. The priority is to discover whether or not Khubsheth knows anything about the Helm of Selreen. If he does not, then your second priority should be to ask him about the tomb below the statue, and inquire as to what fate Serindak might have met by venturing into that place. The Perch of Khubsheth is at the base of a large, sandstone statue, in the Kingdom of Ull, in the hills just south of Kester. The statue is a remnant of a fallen kingdom; it is a depiction of the Sphinx Queen, Ankharet. I suspect that she might be the Dark Queen that Serindak was referring to, which probably means that she is some form of powerful undead being.
"~

Snapping to, Respen listens to Tokwan as carefully as Tokwan obviously chose his words, and Dewydd chose his. He very much understated the risk everyone was taking, clearly not inclined to tell Tokwan the real reason for their being here. Respen preferred to remain silent, not particularly inclined to camels, but understanding that they might need them; the same with food and rations.

He contemplates asking Tokwan a question, or thanking him. He chooses instead to simply nod his appreciation.

~ I wonder why, if they knew this Khubsheth and had such a familiar relationship with it, why Tokwan wouldn't try to find out why the Sphinx reacted in such a fashion? And what the hell happened to the spider? Respen had never met Serindak before. However, he couldn't help but think Serindak being here and the Sphinx behaving so erratically were coincidences. ~
 

Tellerian Hawke

Defender of Oerth
Taii Dan adds, "Our Chieftain has spoken, but if you have questions, you can ask me. It is my job to provide counsel to those who are seeking enlightenment. I don't offer this counsel to just anyone, but the Chieftain has shown you favor, therefore, I shall do likewise. Is there anything you'd like to ask me?"
 

Aust Thale

Explorer
Taii Dan adds, "Our Chieftain has spoken, but if you have questions, you can ask me. It is my job to provide counsel to those who are seeking enlightenment. I don't offer this counsel to just anyone, but the Chieftain has shown you favor, therefore, I shall do likewise. Is there anything you'd like to ask me?"

Seeing the others without a plan, and considering it was his misfortune to be dragged into this grand errand, Respen turns to Taii Dan and speaks, "Indeed, we would be well-served and pleased to take up Chieftain Tokwan and Taii Dan on their offers of both assistance and counsel. The counsel first, if you are so inclined, as it will bear on our need of pack animals, rations, and the like. What's between this encampment and Khubsheth the Sphinx, in the way of physical or magical barriers? What kind of encounters might we expect between here and there?"

Respen watches Taii Dan, albeit unsuccessfully, for signs of deceit. [sblock= Rolz.org Roll] Sense Motive Roll = 7 [/sblock]

Continuing, Respen decides to query Taii Dan, "Taii Dan, with respect, might I ask you why, if your people had the relationship with the Sphinx that you did, why did you simply leave the Sphinx to this unusual behavior without investigating its source? Given your Chieftain's description of the Sphinx as, how did he put it, 'not his usual self', it would seem to me that you wouldn't have simply left his mercurial slaying of one of your people without so much as a question, even at your peril. That makes little sense. Can you provide more detail of this change? How long ago was it? Was their evidence of a slow slide to this state, or was it quick?"

Respen, thinking of Serindak, tip-toed around his existence, "Could the Sphinx have encountered someone, or something, that could have inspired this change? For that matter, are you certain it's still Khubsheth?"

Casually turning less serious to mask his interest, Respen finishes his thoughts, "And turning to more terrestrial counsel, have you encountered anything out of the ordinary between here and the Sphinx's perch? Anything unusual? Anything...perhaps...an aberration...or non-terrestrial? or Undead?"


To Taii Dan's undoubtedly quizzical look to his questions, Respen replies simply, "Implicit in your Chieftain's assessment of our being here is that we are here for a reason. That is true enough. I do have a quarry, of sorts. A mission. I am not at liberty to share much in detail, but I will tell you that I am hopeful to find your Khubsheth in more of a good humor than less of one. Your counsel, Taii Dan, toward that end is invaluable. Thank you for that counsel. Truly. "
 

Tellerian Hawke

Defender of Oerth
Respen's Questions, Taii Dan's Answers...

"What's between this encampment and Khubsheth the Sphinx, in the way of physical or magical barriers? What kind of encounters might we expect between here and there?"

"Taii Dan, with respect, might I ask you why, if your people had the relationship with the Sphinx that you did, why did you simply leave the Sphinx to this unusual behavior without investigating its source? Given your Chieftain's description of the Sphinx as, how did he put it, 'not his usual self', it would seem to me that you wouldn't have simply left his mercurial slaying of one of your people without so much as a question, even at your peril. That makes little sense. Can you provide more detail of this change? How long ago was it? Was their evidence of a slow slide to this state, or was it quick?"

"Could the Sphinx have encountered someone, or something, that could have inspired this change? For that matter, are you certain it's still Khubsheth?"

"And turning to more terrestrial counsel, have you encountered anything out of the ordinary between here and the Sphinx's perch? Anything unusual? Anything...perhaps...an aberration...or non-terrestrial? or Undead?"


"Implicit in your Chieftain's assessment of our being here is that we are here for a reason. That is true enough. I do have a quarry, of sorts. A mission. I am not at liberty to share much in detail, but I will tell you that I am hopeful to find your Khubsheth in more of a good humor than less of one. Your counsel, Taii Dan, toward that end is invaluable. Thank you for that counsel. Truly."
Taii Dan smiles, and replies, "Your questions are those of an astute and accomplished investigator, and I am pleased to see that you are not one of the usual clueless adventurers, wandering around out here with no sense of purpose, chasing your own tail in pursuit of mere riches."

[sblock=Remember this? From the first page of the thread?]
The DM said:
...Past the camp, far in the distance, at what you estimate to be another 5 miles or so travel, you can see a large structure which you recognize to be a pyramid. You are fairly certain that the pyramid is your intended destination. And of course, the shortest route to it leads the party straight through the nomad camp.
[/sblock]
Taii Dan says, "I'm sure you saw the top-section of the pyramid to the south of here, as you approached our camp? There is nothing between us and it, besides rolling sand dunes, and of course, whatever lives here in the desert. You're looking at 5 miles of travel, and the only real threat you might face would be a sand worm. Our glorious chieftain protects our campsite from the worms through the use of a spell. And I know that he has sold that spell to many adventurers in the past, and would sell it to you, as well. The usual charge is 10,000 gold pieces."

Taii Dan continues, "The Sphinx is an enigma; he is an earthly vessel of enormous, unearthly power, a conduit through which the gods themselves impart their knowledge to us. He is a sacred being. He is divine. And as such, he is beyond question. One does not ask the sky why it is blue, nor the clouds why they rain, nor the sun why it shines. One simply accepts the occurrences of these things. If he has chosen to test the strength of petitioners, then we must accept that decision. To question Khubsheth is to question the gods themselves. The change happened recently, and it was swift and sudden. Many of the tribesmen believe that it signifies a coming season of judgment for which we must all be prepared."

Taii Dan replies, "No one can change the unchangeable. One could not change Khubsheth, any more than one could change the color of the sky. Of course it's still him; he is not subject to mortal influences."

Taii Dan chuckles, "Undead beings are not uncommon here; the desert is a vast ocean of buried corpses, filled with travelers that it has swallowed up into death. Many forms of undead roam the desert at night, which is why my evening ritual includes casting wards upon the outer edges of our encampment. If you're traveling through the desert at night, it's a good idea to have a cleric with you."

Finally, Taii Dan says, "Khubsheth's will, and his disposition, are his alone; you will find him in whatever mood you are meant to find him in. You cannot escape your destiny. None of us can. It is better to face your destiny head-on, like a man; no one is without fear, but fear can be controlled. Use that fear as your WEAPON. Fear that is controlled becomes what we commonly call courage. And it is written, that cowards die a thousand deaths, but courageous men die only once. Good luck to you, friend Respen."

EVERYONE: What do you do?
 
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Sylvar B.

Explorer
Sylvar finishes his current story, bows at the appropriate angle to the chief first, then offers a head nod to Taii dan. He gathers his gear (making sure to grab the bottle of spirits paid for by Tam) and follows Respen out the door.
 

Waynan

Explorer
Tam follows Sylvar out of the tent, also grabbing all his gear along the way, and smiles at seeing Friend Sylvar make sure he had his bottle of fine drink.
 
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Damionte

Explorer
Duncan & Company

As Respen exits the tent, Duncan shushes Ebony by tapping the top of her helmet, waves to the twins and falls in step with Sylvar.

"So we learn anything useful?"
 

Tellerian Hawke

Defender of Oerth
What Happens Next

Respen replies, "Oh yes, Duncan, we sure did."

GM:
Respen gives a brief explanation of what's been happening since the party entered the tent.


The party stocks up on foodstuffs and waterskins, which the nomads freely provide, in lieu of the party's generous monetary donations to their chieftain.

GM:
The water and rations were free; anyone who wants one can buy an exceptional (trained) camel for 100 gp., or a normal camel for 75 gp. Just make a note of it on your sheet, and subtract the appropriate amount of gold. I am not going to keep track of minutia such as this.


GM:
Since I am not a mind-reader, and since I cannot guarantee that everyone buys themselves a camel, I am going to assume a mixed party (some bought, some didn't) meaning that some camels will have two riders. It will therefore take 4 hours to reach your destination. Results of random encounter checks: 0 (no encounters.)


The party, somewhat mounted, and well-stocked with food and water, are grateful to give their feet a rest as their camels take them slowly but steadily toward their intended destination. The trip is short, and uneventful. You surmise that the scarcity of wild beasts has to do with the proximity of the nomad camp, which is an effective deterrent against all but the mightiest of magical beasts.

After hours of toiling over dry wastes, you notice the terrain becoming much more broken with jagged hills and treacherous gullies. Soon, you arrive at the mouth of a narrow valley with sheer cliff walls: The Valley of the Queen.

The Valley of the Queen lies just inside the borders of the Barren Hills, about 5 miles south of the Nomad Camp. As the dry earth of the wastes begins to rise into the rocky hills, a narrow valley cuts into the stony hillside. The valley itself is about 1,200 feet long, and 350 feet wide, with steep walls that rise up to nearly 300 feet.

In the center of the ravine are the ruins of an ancient pyramid, which look crumbled and unapproachable; in front of the pyramid stands an ancient statue of a crowned Gynosphinx, slightly worn from millennia of desert winds, but otherwise unmarked. The colossal sculpture stands 150 feet tall, 75 feet wide, and 300 feet long, and is made from a strange, gray stone that seems almost luminescent in the bright sunlight. The stone is unlike any native to this area, and the workmanship is extremely fine. You surmise that during the dark hours, this statue probably glows brightly enough to illuminate the entire valley as if by torchlight.

The statue of the majestic female sphinx depicts her wearing a simple crown, and special attention has been paid to her facial details and muscular tone; she is shown with her paws extended in front of her, which form a shadowy alcove at the base of the statue, perhaps cloaking a doorway...

EVERYONE: What Do You Do?
 

Damionte

Explorer
Duncan

As the crew dismounts Duncan and company begin to prepare for an underground excursion. They re-secure their packs, making sure loose bits are not hanging irresponsibly, so as not to make unnecessary noise or catch on jagged things. They restring their bows and check the spacing on their arrows and bolts. Being human with human eyes they make sure their light sources are at hand. The foursome had stocked up on magical light after the previous cave encounter.

Kneeling in the sand, while they prepared Duncan humored himself with one of his past times. Working tactics in his head. He looked over the group, imagining a marching order, as he normally did with his own troops. Ebony saw him scanning the group and knowing he wants to spit it out asks out loud "Well my love .... what do you think."

Duncan procedes to spit it out. "Well our friend Tamtam and his companion will likely take point. His skills plus her nose is a no brainer for sniffing out trouble. We witnessed first hand just how capable the trio of Kleborn, Thallock and Dewydd are. I'm sure they'll work out for themselves which of them holds the front line."

"Being softer targets." He flirtingly knocks on ebony's breastplate with his knuckles making it gong to emphasis the word soft. An old joke that makes her grin. "Sylvar and Respen, will likely hold the center. That leaves us, being able to fight at medium range as rear guard."

Ebony replies knowingly: "The cave of shadows."
Duncan: "Yes ..... the cave of shadows."

Lenny chimes in. "That sounds ominous what's The Cave Of Shadows?"
Ebony: "It was a cave, full of shadows. Ha!"

Duncan: "Early on when we first took to the road as teens we joined up with some other fresh faced hopefuls to look into a situation with green orcs raiding local farms. We tracked them down to a series of caverns in the nearby hills. I made a mistake. I thought putting all of our warriors up front would present the most powerful front. Which it did but the orcs were not fools. With their superior vision they simply waited in the dark for us to pass them. Then jumped on the party from the rear. They devastated a third of the group before we even realized they were on us."

Ebony: "Ever since then, when one is available we always put an extra warrior at the back to act as rear guard."
Duncan: "And today ... we're that extra warrior."

Trav: "Well you were a kid then. We've all had to learn lessons the hard way boss."
He gestures towards those examining The Sphinx. "It won't much matter though if we can't get inside."
 
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Waynan

Explorer
Before anyone can stop him,Tam quickly, and quietly, takes the initiative and cautiously has Dammara pad between the forelimbs of the Gynosphinx statue. Tam is actively checking for traps and snares along the way, and only going far enough to definitely see if there is an entranceway into the colossus.

Search d20+12=29
Spot d20+8=23

If anything goes amiss and/or awry:
Reflex d20+15=30
Ride d20+16=21 (Erp!)
 
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Tellerian Hawke

Defender of Oerth
As Tam reaches the front paws of the statue, and turns the corner to be able to see into the hidden, shaded area, he is met with an awesome sight: glaring at him from the shadow recess is a GARGANTUAN Androsphinx! The fact that the sphinx could be so well-hidden is a testament to the size of the statue! The sphinx is lying prone, stretched out, as if it had been relaxing. When it spies Tam, its brow furrows into a grimace of anger, and it rises to its full height of 17'6" tall!

Khubsheth roars, "It has been decreed, little one, that your blood, and the blood of your companions, spilled upon the sands, shall deny thee access to the tomb below. Only my sacred life-blood, spilled upon the sands, shall grant thee passage. It brings me no joy to kill any of you, but it must be so. The weak must be scared away from this place; what lies below, is only for the strong."

TAM: The sphinx intends to attack you. You need to roll initiative.

GM:

INITIATIVE COUNT:

Respen: 29a
Dewydd: 29b
Khubsheth: 21
Vale: 16
Tam-Tam: 14a
Damarra: 14b (Delayed from 16)
Sylvar: 8a
Thallok: 8b
Kleborn: 5
Duncan: 4a
Ebony: 4b
Lenny: 4c
Trav: 4d



GM:

Tam, you are a mere 40 feet from the Sphinx.
The rest of the party is a good 150 feet behind you.
Battle map coming soon.

 
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Waynan

Explorer
Tam tries to back peddle, verbally:

"Woah! I thought you were supposed to be a Font of Wisdom and Instruction. Why the want for blood?"

He says this to make up for the shock of the sphinx's declaration of battle which has caught him a bit flat-footed (Initiative roll: 14); however, Damarra seems to have known that something may have been amiss (Initiative: 25) and performs an instinctual wheeling maneuver to place a little more distance between the sphinx and the Outrider team as she completes the circle and refaces the potential attacker.
 

Aust Thale

Explorer
Respen & The Khubsheth

~ What the hell? Tam, NO! ~

Dismounting from the camels and surveying the large Sphinx statue, Respen quietly re-donned his backpack and moved laterally to inspect the statue from a distance. Concerned about the reaction of Khubsheth, he was remembering Dame Clare's instructions in detail. Serindak avoided the Khubsheth after being attacked. Perhaps the sphinx was cursed. He was starting to discuss with Vale when out of the corner of his eye, Tam and his mount headed directly toward the front paws of the sphinx. Hearing what obviously was Khubsheth threatening the halfling, Respen was ready. He didn't want a fight with the sphinx. He wasn't sure they could win a fight with the sphinx. But he wasn't sure whether the party could accomplish their reason for being here without one.

OOC: Initiative per Rolz = d20+10=29
 

Tellerian Hawke

Defender of Oerth
The Battle Map: Khubsheth The Prophet vs. The Heroes of Dyvers

GM:
Sandy yellow squares are loose sand (x 1.5 movement cost.)
White squares are hard sand (normal movement.)
Grey squares are stone (impassable.)


GM:
00-Sphinx-Base-Battle-001b.png
 
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Aust Thale

Explorer
Respen Attacks Khub

In a moment that seems like a day, Respen commands his belt to charge his body in with an energy otherwise reserved, and he whispers his transmutation toward his friends, “ Sei schneller und beeile dich ... wie mit Flügeln an deinen Füßen. Eile! Be hasted or be dead! . With efficiency of movement being what could only be called magical, Respen made a beeline toward the rock due west of the party’s position, hoping Tam would notice him and head the same way. In the middle of his movement, he paused and cast a second spell toward the Khubsheth, “ HALT! Sei NOCH Khubsheth! , continuing his movement until reaching a position southeast of the rock barely in sight of the Sphinx, awaiting evidence of his spell’s effectiveness. Almost simultaneously, Respen’s bowstaff jumps to life in his hands, nocking an arrow from his magical quiver. He looses the arrow in a single motion toward the androsphinx.

OOC: Activating Belt of Battle (immediate action) to allow additional standard action, castes Haste on the entire Party as standard action, then movement with haste (70 ft) activating skirmish, and then casts Hold Monster (DC 20 I think) as additional standard action, finishing his total movement to space N9. Final arrow shot on Rolz.org #1d20+15 = 22. I did not include haste bonus in Rolz.


GM:
Respen's arrow does not fail to hit the Sphinx, but it DOES fail to penetrate his thick hide.
Attack roll: (22) = "Miss."

Hold Monster: DC 20:
Save: (34) = Success.
Khubsheth resists the Hold spell.


GM:
Respen's actions are tactically sound, and flawlessly executed; however, it was not until this very moment that Respen realized the true power of the being that the party was now facing. The arrow, which would have skewered a normal man, bounces harmlessly off of his flanks; the spell, as potent as Respen can possibly make it, fails to affect this beast, seemingly possessed of an iron will.


DEWYDD: It is now your turn! What do you do?
 
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Diarmadhim

Explorer
Beginning to cast some of my longer lasting protections before we investigate the area, I am momentarily caught off guard by the current events. I quickly shake off my hesitation, casting Nerveskitter to prepare for the threat. Hearing that Tam might be in trouble, and then the words of the sphinx, I cast my Abjurant Armor and then bellow, "Stay yourself Khubsheth! I will gladly challenge you to single combat to prove our strength and determination, but I will not fight an individual as noble as you are lauded to be to the death. Let our battle be honorable but non-lethal so that we may part this day as friends."

OOC: I move to X12.


GM: +1,000 xp. for uncommon bravery.
 
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Tellerian Hawke

Defender of Oerth
Khubsheth's Counter-offer

GM:
Combat rounds have ceased.


Khubsheth moves out of his "stall," into the open to face Dewydd. The proud, regal Sphinx is a wonder to behold. He is definitely the largest of his kind, and the most magnificent. He stares down Dewydd with a stern glare, as he speaks his peace:

"I have tried it your way before, adventurer. None of them ever returned. If my queen's curse is to end, it must be by a mighty hand, a hand mighty enough to put me down. Your courage does you credit; for a split second, I considered simply killing you anyway, or killing the curious one here, and his pet wolf. Examples must be made! Battles must occur, to inspire bards to spread the legend of my queen! The world must know the danger she poses! I need strong, noble warriors, who would LAY DOWN THEIR LIVES to end her evil reign! Thrill-seekers such as yourself probably aren't interested in that... well? Are you? No matter. I will---wait. I have an idea. I will make you a counter-offer, brave one.

You say that I am too noble to kill, and that for this reason, you do not want to face me in mortal combat. But what if I told you that I not only do not fear death, but that I welcome it? Would you face me, one on one, in a duel to the death? Or is your generosity merely a guise, to hide your true fear of being hurt or killed yourself?

I offer you this choice: face me, one on one, and I shall spare the lives of your friends. Refuse, and I shall kill them all, each one dying in front of your eyes, before I turn my attention to you! Show me your true resolve! Show me your true commitment of purpose! Show me courage like no other! What say you?"


DEWYDD: What do you do?
 

Diarmadhim

Explorer
As he talks, I continue to cast spells buffing myself.

"If you truly seek the release of death to further your goal, then you are a fool and the tales of your wisdom are lies. Wishing for death instead of living to right the mistakes one has made is the act of a coward. That being said, the option of my life for those of my companions is no choice at all. It is a decision I would make - and gladly - every time. If not, I wouldn't have spoken up and instead would have used the distraction of others to cover my escape. Now, if it's a fight you want and a release from your duty to right your wrongs committed while supporting the wrong ruler, then let us begin."

While talking, I periodically pause to continue casting buffs before continuing my statement. My black and red plate armor quickly appears. My helm then takes on a sort of lizard-like visage. The faint outline of a shield forms and then vanishes in front of me. My armor gains the look of a chromatic dragons' scales. A mithral circlet appears on my helms' brow and I become blurry.

OOC: Abjurant Armor - w/ Abjurant Armor, Swift Abjuration, & Extended Abjuration. Alter Self.
Shield - w/ Abjurant Armor, Swift Abjuration, & Extended Abjuration. Dragonskin.
Protection from Evil - w/ Abjurant Armor, Swift Abjuration, & Extended Abjuration. Blur.
 
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