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Further north and further in
We explored more of the Parched Dunes, moving north-northeast. We left most of our captured camels with Tetisurah, along with the weapons and gear taken from the cultists we'd defeated. The sphinx offered to record the history that she had carved on the canyon walls for Amestri.

We fought an undead baykak, shooting it with multiple spells and missiles as it rose from the corpse it was feasting upon. The corpse was of a half-man/half-scorpion, a girte-blelu. We buried that creature in accordance with its tribal customs, and kept its scorpion-tail gold amulet, so that we could return it to the tribe.

We found an abandoned Sarenrae temple, currently occupied by a grumpy archaeologist, Zaid Fayad. He turned out to be a royal naga, wishing only his privacy. Amestri flattered him, and offered our service to recover his lost crown. He said he'd lost it while bathing in a river just north of here.

At the river ford, we found 4 stymphalidies, metal-crafted ibis-like birds. Careful observation showed that they didn't like insects. Jes invisibly scouted closer, and triangulated more or less where the lost golden crown was using a rod of metal detection. The next morning, Hadia cast an insect plague to push the birds further downstream, enough that Ostog could swim invisibly (using water breathing cast by Khisimia) to recover the crown.

Back at the temple, Zaid thanked us and offered a selection from some antiquities he'd recovered. Amestri selected a magical triangle, which she and Hadia suspected was perhaps a power source for a golem? Ostog agreed to study it further, but couldn't turn up anything in his memory.
Session: Game Session 24 - Friday, Jul 26 2019 from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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The Sixth Passage

...It was determined that Quill did, in fact know something. This was established to be a moot point as 2.5 members of the remaining party did not, and were perfectly contented to make up their own explanations for the situation.

...Ilitica entrusted the party with the knowledge that a High Priest of the Church of Three - Jessime - has conspicuously vanished from his diocese in Roun, supposedly between there and the woodlands near Ellis. Magical determinations of his whereabouts have thus far been to no avail.

... The herbicide of Ellis - known now as Agent Green - was found to be afflicting everything within one mile of the village, despite only being spread to the extent of 1000 feet. Trees were nearing death standing, underbrush wilted to nothingness, soil showing no sign nutrients, air was stilled and empty from all sounds of life. While in the village itself, the Agent Green was found to further afflict the people by ways of the produce and the air; the vapors accelerated by the burning of polluted cords of firewood. Strangely, the poison was found to primarily affect the mind, endowing a single-minded certainty before all reason. Lifting the affliction from the village elder gained the party free range to investigate and purge the poison, purifying the Ellisian foodstocks and uncovering the lab where Leopold distilled the tainting liquid. Besides the corpses of the village's previous clergy, the party found clear signs of demonic influence; abyssal mushrooms, unusual and uncomfortable indications the clergy's death, spines in the corpses indicating postmortem manipulation, and a symbol along the wall rank with the residue of planar travel. Quill took note to harvest a selection of the atypical mushrooms, while Mersire collected a sample of the distilled poison for experimentation purposes. Purging the remaining lot with a rain of holy water and reintegrating the corpses with the land, the party likewise neutralized the Agent Green with blessed waters, rendering it ineffectual without its vile components.

... The party departed Ellis to continue their pursuit of Lyle, the gray tiefling, leaving behind Wrunukt and Dobul, who refused the accompany Ilitica ("the cops, the MAN, the authorities). Tepra also left instructions with village elder Cary to fell and haul a series of trees towards the lairs of the hibernating perytons for the purpose of sealing them in, and to cut a ring around the edge of Agent Green's influence so they can establish a controlled burn of the timbers within, restoring the nutrients to the soil.

... The party travelled down the road to Roun, a fortress-city and one-time dragon lair still primarily populated by kobolds. Within the fortress monastery the party encountered Ilitica's investigative partner Nadiznya - or Naz, for short - and between her and the guard captain Hiida, found that the priest Leopold and was still belligerently holding up at the outskirts of town where he was hawking a disturbingly scented liquor. Also Spiders. Many abnormally large spiders.

... Half an hour was dedicated to bartering for lemons, in a fortress, on a mountain, that was once a white dragon's lair, on the northern side of the continent. Successfully. They were quite pricey.

... The party, accompanied by the paladin Naz, proceeded to the garden district to investigate Leopold's last know location. Wandering into the lemon greenhouse, Naz detected a vile influence afflicting the city's crops.

... The vile influence turned out to be spiders. A whole lot of hatching infernal spider eggs. Quill called them Neogi.

... The lemons are under attack.
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The Fifth Passage
The party cautiously approached the village of Ellis, warned so by Tepra upon noting how there flew a deviated flag of Pelor's symbol upon a red field. Dividing the party to investigate further, Izetti, Tarquinius, and Quill advanced to the village center, learning that said village was currently barricaded and under assault from an unknown entity. Sending a pantomimed warning to Mersire, Tepra, and the goblinoid thief pair, the exterior four hurriedly sought shelter within the village, harried by the entity.

Within, the party discerned the village's assailant to be predatory perytons which appeared after they undertook the teachings of the militant Pelorian cult. The hypothesis for their enhanced aggression was the village's application of a curiously powerful herbicide, destroying the natural cover of foliage and exposing them as easy prey. Determining the general direction the perytons were ranging from, the party set off to dispose of the creatures.

Along the way, found victims of the perytons were seen to deny the natural influences of rot that beings of the cycle would be subject to. Purification by fire seemed to resolve the issue. Likewise, the villagers were found to have been exceptionally prolific with their herbicides, decimating an unnecessarily wide swathe of the forest. This, however, was found to be and issue for another time.

Uncovering the perytons' abode, the party found a flock in hibernation with two more still active. Upon dispatching the pair, the party fell into a discussion over how to eradicate the remainder, when on the horizon they spied a concernedly portly man approaching astride a worryingly exhausted pegasus. He introduced himself as Ilitca.

Ilitica then proceeded to exposit at length - from there and for most of the way back to the village of Ellis - in exchange for inquiring as to the party's role in recent events concerning the cult of Mephistopheles in Prinlac. From this the party learned of the enforcers from the Church of Three (specifically this pair of Ilitica and Naz), some formal information on the perytons, the name and whereabouts of the Pelorian cult's local leader, and the casual - if rapidly silenced - acknowledgement of Quill as a warforged.

More important than all of this, however, is that this is the day that Mersire learned she's furry.
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Chisisek's Pyramid
Desnus 2 Our assault on the pyramid began with 4 cultists shooting at us from across the gorge with their crossbows. Between our fly potions and other magic, we were able to defeat them fairly rapidly. As soon as we finished fighting them, the lamia matriarch began to fight from her tent. She had very strong melee skills, but we were able to overcome her by main force.

We searched her tent once the fire was put out (Ostog's fireball that drove her out of it) and found food and cooking supplies. This is about when we saw the seps, a very venomous snake-like creature, crawling across the floor of the gorge. We were able to run it down with multiple ranged weapons and magic missile spells.

Outside the pyramid, we found many carvings in the walls of the gorge behind the pyramid. Tetisurah said that they were carved over 2500 years by the guardian sphinxes, Tetisurah and her mother, covering the history of Chisisek and his guardians.

Inside, Ostog scouted by Arcane Eye, finding one chamber emptied and two with closed doors.

Desnus 3 Amestri led us into the pyramid-tomb, confident that any traps in the first hallway would have been set off or disarmed already by Jamira and her cultists. Instead, we were hit from behind by a rolling boulder! That took quite a while to get around with a stone shape spell. Tetisurah was unable to get under the boulder, since it was a tight squeeze even for humans.

The second chamber contained grave goods and many, many, scrolls. These turned out to be architectural plans, the fruit of Chisisek's lifetime, except there was nothing from Hakotep's reign.

The third chamber had Chisisek's cartouche on it, and it was his tomb. The sarcophagus, lying under a statue of Ptah the creator or architect patron. The sarcophagus was empty, and the statue was a golem that we had to defeat. Amestri had a good time reading the walls of hieroglyphs, which covered Chisisek's life, but --again-- nothing from his years of working with Shori technology on behalf of Hakotep. She also suspected from experience that Chisisek's greatest treasures lay elsewhere.

Finding the secret door to the treasure chamber wasn't hard, and it led to a short hallway to double doors. Those were defended by a clockwork golem, perhaps built by Chisisek himself? We left it alone, to restore spells and health.

Desnus 4 With prepared spells, it wasn't hard to defeat this golem. Amestri rushed in as soon as the cloud of gears and debris cleared. This was his architectural library, and also held some magical devices.

Reading in the library, Amestri and Jes learned:
- Chisisek's greatest achievement was the flying pyramid of Hakotep.
- It was probably constructed in an area that also held a great earthwork, built with bound elementals to fight the Shori. Many slaves died in constructing this weapon.

We suspected that we needed to go north, to find the remaining cultists and their camp, and a divination with Pharasma confirmed that our quest led in that direction.

Through all of this, we were unable to find any larvae from the bee-folk that we'd met weeks ago, even though it was the cultist who had taken them.

Amestri plans to take a few days to digest more of the historical riches found here, before we head out. Ostog will take some of that time to finish learning some new spells.
Session: Game Session 23 - Saturday, Jun 29 2019 from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM
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Into the cliff-face temple
Jes set out to silently kill the 4 sleeping cultists on the 2nd floor, using Fly, Silence, Invisibility spells or potions. Once she killed the first one, we remembered that these guys explode when they die. Jes was able to kill two of them before the other two got into action.

By then, Sallah and Novid were into the upstairs fight, and the others were at the entrance to the temple.

The lamias sprinted to there, where they were quickly defeated as soon as Jes and Sallah flew down from the upper floor.

Ostog scouted the pyramid while the other stripped the bodies and studied the sphinx frozen in the spell effect. It was determined that she could receive healing, but only if it was applied the instant the spell was dispelled. This was done, and Tetisurah was saved.

She told us that she was the guardian of the tomb of Chisisek, and had inherited the role from her mother. She knew of fewer than ten cultists (we've killed 11 so far here), two lamia, and one lamia matriarch (seen by Ostog in a tent at the pyramid). She'd overheard that the cultists had another location (base? camp?) at someplace to the north named "Sightless Sphinx", but no one knew where that might be.

Ostog's arcane eye spell revealed that the pyramid on the hill overhead had no visible guards. There was a tent on the hilltop near the entrance that had been recently tunneled into the pyramid. A cave behind the pyramid (Tetisurah named as her home) was seen to have a Large snake inside. The tent had stores inside, some accounting papers, and a half-snake, half-woman figure that Amestri identified from Ostog's description as a Lamia Matriarch.
Session: Game Session 22 - Friday, May 24 2019 from 3:00 PM to 6:30 PM
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