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Finishing Temple of Sekhmet, on to the Sightless Sphinx
We entered a one-story building that smelled of rancid oil. The scattered goods inside seemed to be about fifty years abandoned. There was a ladder to the roof, and a trapdoor in the floor. Amestri defused the trap on the trapdoor. Below, there was a big room with more old crates and ruined jars and a well.
A (Huge earth elemental) attacked from out of the wall! It fought for a while, then escaped through the walls. The goods in the room appeared to be at least 100 years old, not really preserved by the cool air from a well.
A bigger chamber lay beyond, with a dais at the far end. On it was a statue of a lion-headed woman warrior-- Sekhmet, patroness of fire, healing, and war. Beneath that was an altar, with a symbol: 7 crossed arrows. Here, we were attacked by a stone-skinned woman, who turned out to be a (shaitan genie). She killed Novid-- recovered by Breath of Life-- and shoved Amestri into the stone of a wall. After some minutes, I was able to talk her into just leaving, once she realized she was alone and the other efreets were all slain.
Beyond, there were hieroglyphs that referred to the "Lady of Slaughter" (Sekhmet?) and her blood-soaked dress. Behind the altar, we found a chest with some treasure inside.
Returning to the outside, we searched for more goods. In a corner of the courtyard, we unearthed the hoard of the desert drake. In the tower, there were maps and a box, which turned out to be merely table-settings. The maps showed us a Saerenrae temple and an obelisk, and the Garden of Symmetry.

25th-26th: we returned to the maftet tribe, and told them the coast was clear to their new home. They, in turn, told us about the Sightless Sphinx, where they used to live. They left its insides a lone for decades, until one of their young males, Userib, led others inside to explore. The lone survivor told that the Sphinx had corrupted Userib and 10 of his followers; these eleven drove the whole tribe away. The tribe asked that we try to save the souls of their former tribe members.

27th: we rode towards the Sphinx, finding a ravine with tracks going into it. THere were four more cultists, watining around a shiny metal statue. We defeated them, they again exploded rather than surrender. The statue seemed to have a hatch in it, and we realized that the magical key and control rod that we'd picked up earlier could make it go. Amestri had fun with this (bronze sentinel).

28th: We get near to the Sightless Sphinx, Ostog sends his Arcane Eye ahead to scout. We see that there are lots of mercenary girteblelu in sentry posts around it, and only one post with cultist watchers. Recalling that the girteblelu are honorable and that burial customs are important to them, we set up a covert approach to the guard commander. Showing him the pendant that we'd taken from a girteblelu that we'd buried earlier, we led him to think that the cultists had killed its owner, but we'd recognized the dead one (turned out to be his nephew) and given it proper burial. He agreed to let us make a covert approach to the Sphinx's entry, between its front paws. We were informed that more cultists were already inside.
Amestri recognized the Sphinx as dedicated to Ereshkegal, the demon lord of greed, portals, and riddles. When we got to the entrance, the door's lintel was decorated with images of the planets. Pressing the planets that also represented greed, portals, and riddles, the door unlocked for us.

Session: Game Session 26 - Saturday, Sep 28 2019 from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM
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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 5:00 PM to 10:00 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 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM
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Epic × 2!
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