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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 6 — The Ziggurat: Part II
At the end of the passage, Mythlos stepped into a large circular room between 70 and 80 feet in diameter. On the far side, directly opposite was another doorway from the room. Near the center were two odd flat stone objects. They were about three feet high and had curved sides, roughly in a bent teardrop shape. Atop each such "table" was a single glowing, violet dome, the source of the light. Mythlos immediately cast his divinatory cantrip and could see the aura of evocative magic about the domes.

   He stopped moving forward.

   "What is it?" asked Hakam, who was directly behind him.

   "Evocation magic is on those glowing domes," said Mythlos. "We should be careful."

   "I always am, unlike someone else that I know."

   Szordin looked past Hakam's shoulder from the passageway. "Can we find something to throw into the room to test what the domes do?"

   "Here is a loose brick," said Leokas, removing it from the wall and passing it up to Mythlos.

   The moon elf threw it roughly 40 feet into the center of the chamber. It struck the ground, and nothing happened. "It seems safe," he said.

   "Sprint across to the other side to make sure," said Belvin. "If you die, I can ask Thard Harr to reincarnate you in a new body."

   Mythlos decided not to risk it.

   "Belvin, can you summon something helpful?" asked Leokas.

   "Yes, I think I know just who," said Belvin. He began chanting.

   About ten seconds later, a satyr appeared just in front of Mythlos. It was the same satyr, in fact, that Belvin had called in Yrevkethend's lair. The fawn had a very large bottle in his hand, and, for some odd reason, his hair was tied with ribbon into a multitude of bows.

   "Krynn," said Belvin, "you are needed."

   "Elf-man!" said the satyr. Then he yelled out in surprise or pain and instantly bounded in an astonishing front flip directly over Mythlos' head. Two purple orbs of energy had come from the domes and struck him in the back. "Ow! What was that!"

   "Nice jump!" said Mythlos, quite impressed.

   "It's the hairy goat legs," said the satyr, smiling proudly. "It's why the dryads love me."

   "Quick! We have only a minute and a half with you," said Belvin. "I need you to run around the perimeter of this room to that other opening."

   "I think I'd rather jump in a dragon's toilet," said Krynn.

   "Yes, we're sorry about the dragon cave," said Leokas. "Remember though, you cannot die with us; you're invincible!"

   "I can still feel pain, and those things hurt like a hoof to the groin!"

   "I may have a spell for that," said Hakam.

   "Nah, there's no time for that," said that satyr. "I know my duty; plus the ladies like stories of bravery! Besides, I have my own 'magic'." He winked, and with that, he chugged the entire bottle of alcohol he was carrying. "Huzzah!" he shouted, smashing the bottle against the wall. Then he half ran, half hopped along the edge of the room in a clockwise direction. A constant stream of violet orbs shot at him, one every few yards the fawn stepped. "Ow! Ow! Ouch! Ah! Beshaba's... breath! Ach! Good gods! Ow!" Then he vanished.

   "That was probably overly cruel of us," said Leokas. "Belvin, I thought you would never summon the same creature more than once."

   "I won't summon the same animal more than once, but he seemed to enjoy being called so much last time...."

   "Fey are magical creatures," said Hakam. "Perhaps the defenses only respond to magical lifeforms. Mythlos, how much further can you step into the room?"

   Mythlos took another step forward, and a purple sphere launched at him, striking him in the chest as he stepped quickly back. "That wasn't so bad," he lied, touching his shoulder with the flat of his blade to heal himself quickly.

   "Let me try to destroy them," said Szordrin. He stepped forward and sent a burst of energy from his own fingertips at one of the domes. The dome fired a burst right back at him. "Ah!" Mythlos touched Szordrin with his sword as well.

   Nargroth, from the back, had been peering over the others' shoulders and contemplating. "Isn't Ubtao the god of mazes," he asked.

   "Not actually the god of mazes, but mazes do play into his imagery," said Hakam. "What of it?"

   "Do you think the tables are shaped like this?" Nargroth asked, holding out his hairy arm and pointing at the center of his tattoo.

   "Belvin, go get Jayce," said Leokas.

   "Should we have left them alone together?" Hakam wondered aloud.

~~~~


Belvin made his way back to the surface and descended the steps to find Jayce and Oma sitting on the opposite ends of the steps. Oma looked like she was pouting, but Belvin ignored this. "Jayce, you are needed. Oma, stay here with Kamil and the animals."

   "What if Batiri or something worse attack?" she protested.

   "Summon something."

   "Stormshadow will protect you," said Jayce.

   Belvin led Jayce down the multiple steps to join the others. "What is it?" Jayce queried. "I just see a circular room."

   "Drop your pants," said Belvin.

   "Come again?"

   "We need the map on your thigh," explained Hakam.

   Jayce suddenly understood. "It's a maze with invisible walls!"

   "We need to draw the tattoos side-by-side," said Leokas. "Hakam, can you spare us a sheet of paper and ink?"

   They set to work at meticulously copying the two halves of the "tattoo map" unto a single sheet of paper.

   "Which side is north?" one of them asked.

   "I got struck with magic when I stepped past that point," said Mythlos, "so the part with the straight vertical stretch must be at the top of the map."



   "Do we need to go one at a time?"

   "I hope not," said Hakam, "else we'd need to make yet another copy."

   "We'll try it all together first," said Jayce. "Everyone follow closely behind me and step exactly as I do."

~~~~


It was not an easy process crossing the circular room. It would have appeared to anyone watching them as if they were moving aimlessly, but it was the complete opposite. They moved cautiously, estimating the distances between the "invisible walls" as best they could. There were several painful missteps, but there was enough healing magic among all of them that no one suffered great harm.

   At last they reached the other side, entering another passageway that immediately descended another staircase.

   "How could Walker have passed this room without a map like ours?" asked Leokas.

   "He would have floated across on his carpet and not touched the wrong floor tiles," said Belvin.

   "How did you come upon a tattoo of half the map for a random temple in the jungle?" asked Szordrin.

   "Is it still not clear to you that the gods favor us?" Jayce replied.

   "I care little for the gods," said Szordrin.

   "They seem to care about us despite your views," said Nargroth, "and for that, I, for one, am thankful!"

   The blue glow from Mythlos' sword revealed the form of an enormous bipedal dinosaur looming over them. Thankfully, it was only a very lifelike statue filling most of a rectangular chamber. Immediately before them as they descended the steps into the room was a stone altar. The head of the large dinosaur statue hovered over it. Two other dinosaur statues also faced the altar, one on each the side. The leftmost was one of the horned, frilled dinosaurs they had traveled with in the Underdark; the other they had seen in the savannah. It had angular plates coming out of its spine and a spiked tail. Moonlight shone down on the altar from a four-foot-square shaft in the ceiling that opened to the night sky. There were also two small side doorways.

   Mythlos noticed gems in the largest dinosaur's eyes, and he drew his dagger and passed by the altar to approach it.

   "I do not think we should be defiling an ancient temple," said Hakam. "That's a somewhat universal law, is it not? Leave the gems."

   "Even I agree with that advice," said Jayce. "Taking gems from the eyes of statues never ends well for adventurers in the great tales."

   "Nothing in this room is magical," said Szordrin, after checking for auras.

   "That doesn't eliminate mechanical traps!" said Hakam, since Mythlos was still approaching the statue.

   Leokas had also crossed over to the statue and was examining it. "I think it is mechanical. See here? Joints in its thighs and at its jaw. It can lean over, and its mouth can open. Belvin, I think you are meant to go in its mouth!"

   Belvin nodded, also remembering his vision from Thard Harr.

   "The question is how to get the mouth to open?" said Hakam. "Is there perhaps some mechanism at the tail?"

   "Not that I can see," said Leokas, "but in fact the tail seems affixed to the ground."

   "Did Walker leave any tracks? Maybe we can decipher what he did to advance."

   "Nothing," Leokas replied after having Mythlos light the floor for him with his blade. "Perhaps we need blood again?"

   "There are no grooves in the altar this time," said Jayce, "just typical altar horns."

   "And the altar is void of any magic, remember," said Szordrin.

   "The side rooms are completely empty again," said Mythlos, having just checked. "All the stones in the wall were sound."

   "If not blood," said Hakam, "maybe something else needs to be offered on the altar.

   "Anachtyr's eye!" he then suddenly exclaimed, for Belvin had picked him up from behind and set him on top of the altar. There was a grinding sound, and the dinosaur leaned forward, its huge mouth simultaneously opening wide. It came to rest such that Hakam could have stepped onto the stone tongue of the beast.

   "Good idea," said Belvin.

   "I'm not going in there!" said Hakam.

   "I thought you were the 'Chosen One', Belvin," said Jayce.

   "I just needed to see how it worked," said Belvin. "Now we know. Out of the way, cleric, and let me up."

   When Hakam stepped off the altar, the dinosaur raised its neck back up. "Does anyone have a sunrod?" Belvin asked. Hakam handed one to him, and he climbed up. His weight caused the dinosaur to bend forward again and open its mouth.

   Fulfilling Thard Harr's vision, Belvin hopped into the giant statue's mouth, past its sharp stone teeth and onto its stone tongue. It was easily wide enough for a human or elf. As soon as his weight left the altar, the enormous carved monster raised back up, and shut its jaw. In the darkness within, Bevlin fell to a sitting position inside it and slid down its gullet to somewhere below.

   By the light of the sunrod, Belvin found himself in a final rectangular chamber. He had slid on a slide from an opening in the wall behind him. Next to the opening was a lever. On the other side of the chamber was the only other object present. It was a large construction, made from a speckled dark material, reminding Belvin of the strange metal pieces they had seen inside the one of Walker's crates. The structure consisted of a circular raised platform, surrounded by two curved archways that intersected each other at a right angle above the platform, forming a sort of open dome. It did not at all appear to have belonged to the original temple.

   Belvin turned his attention back to the lever and the slide behind him. He hoped that the lever would provide a way back up to report to the others, and so he pulled on it. There was a now-familiar sound of grinding stone, and the slope of the slide formed into steps, which he quickly climbed. He found himself inside the dinosaur's head again, peering down at his companions through the gaps in its teeth. He shouted at them. Once they had determined that the mumbling they heard from above was Bevlin trying to communicate, they pressed on the altar again to lower him, and Bevlin carefully stepped over the teeth and back out.

   Everyone was excited about the object he described, convinced it was a portal and that Walker had probably built it and gone through. So one by one, all of them — except for Nargroth, who had to remain to let them back out of the dinosaur's mouth — entered the statue's gullet and were "swallowed whole".

   They examined the potential portal, being careful not to touch it.

   "What are we waiting for?" said Szordrin. "We should step on the portal."

   "It is too risky," said Hakam. "We do not know whence it leads. It might even leave this plane. Would we be able to breathe? Would we be killed instantly?"

   "I remind us again," said Jayce, "that the 'Chosen One' was told to enter the dinosaur's mouth; he should be the one to step on the portal."

   "I could pray to Anachtyr tomorrow for some spells that would help us," said Hakam. "I could set a planar dimensional anchor on Belvin, so that the portal cannot take him from our world. I could also ask to know his status, which direction he is, how near or how far, and if he is alive."

   "We cannot wait until morning!" said Szordrin. "Walker is way ahead of us."

   "The crates have already been delivered," said Hakam. "Walker doesn't matter any more."

   "As you said, Szordrin, we are several hours behind Walker now," said Belvin. "A night won't make any difference. We have no chance of catching him today. Besides that, Kamil goes with me, and I'll need to pray for the power to shrink him so that he can fit in this temple."

   "We'll have to hope to track Walker tomorrow," said Leokas. "We should return to Oma and the animals for the night."

~~~~


That night, they had camped at the base of the ziggurat. In the morning, Hakam and Belvin prayed for their spells. Belvin used his magic to shrink down the camels and Cloud to the size of large dogs. Then all of them entered the temple again and descended the many steps down to the room with the altar.

   Only Hakam, Belvin, and Leokas entered the final chamber with the portal. Hakam readied Belvin with his selected spells. First, a ray of emerald-green magical energy shot from his open palm and enveloped Belvin in a shimmering field of green light. Then he laid his hands on the wild elf and said a further prayer for Anachtyr to watch over him. "You are ready," Hakam said.

   "Here, take the omlar gem," said Leokas, handing it to him. "Perhaps you will need it for the portal to activate."

   Belvin boldly approached the the circular platform and stepped up onto it, passing under the intersecting partial rings. The circular platform below him glowed subtly, and the "open dome" around him began to spin, accelerating as it orbited around him. Then, as the other two watched, Belvin vanished. The spinning arches slowed down and came to a halt.

   Leokas looked to Hakam for information.

   "Nothing," said Hakam. "I sense nothing."

   "Does that mean...?"

   "He cannot have left the material plane," said Hakam. "I should be able to sense his location and health. I do not know what this means."

   "What do we do?" asked Leokas.

   "I do not know."

   The two stood there waiting silently, afraid that Belvin had ceased to be.

   Several minutes passed. Suddenly, Hakam became aware of Belvin's life force. "He's alive!" he exclaimed. "Somewhere far to the southwest."

   "Is he safe?"

   "Yes. No! He... cannot move."

   "I'm going after him," said Leokas, and he charged up onto the portal.

   "Wait!"

   It was too late. The intersecting arches began spinning and Leokas vanished just as Belvin had, leaving Hakam alone.

~~~~


Belvin appeared on a similar circular platform with intersecting arches in what appeared to be the basement of a warehouse lit by torch light. Several yards in front of him, rising from his seat at a desk, was a man with medium-length red hair and wearing a maroon cloak. He had been writing in a small book, and when he heard the arches revolving, he leapt up from his seat to observe his intruder. As the spinning arches ceased their motion, the man raised his palm toward Belvin, and the wild elf felt an invisible force lift him from his feet and drive him back against the wall, pinning him motionless. The man turned and hurried toward a grandfather clock on the right wall and quickly turned the minute hand from the 5 to the 12. Then he fled down the hall before Belvin could get a good look at his face.

   Belvin hung there spread out and motionless, unable to turn his head or even move his eyes. Many minutes passed. Then, suddenly, the spell effect ended, and he slid down the wall to his feet, free. With a tribal yell, he rushed after the man down the hall, which led to a set of wooden stairs. These took him outside, though a basement exit hatch. He found himself in a dusty alley of a small town or village. Most of the buildings were made from logs with thatch roofs, much like many in Port Nyanzaru. He was immediately overwhelemed with the smell of salt water and aware of the cries of sea gulls. He was on the coast somewhere. Glancing quickly around, he noticed a couple hung-over humans hunched over on the ground with bottles still in their hands.

   Not knowing where he was or what to do, he covered his head with the hood of his cloak. Then he began running to and fro wildly, down the various alleyways, bumping into sailors, trappers, and Tabaxi natives. It seemed he was still in Chult, but where? He made his way toward the docks. It was a tiny port, not like Nyanzaru. In fact, there was only one ship in port, a smallish three-masted vessel, much like The Daisy... very much like The Daisy in fact.

   A familiar voice called his name. "Belvin? Is that you?" It was a woman's voice. She seemed shocked to see him.

   It was Loreene, the sailor from the The Daisy.

   "So you did make it to Shilku in time! I am surprised. Where are the others? We just arrived an hour ago ourselves. Shaundakul gave us favorable winds yesterday, and we are a day early."

   "I am here alone," he said. "Hopefully, the others will follow me here."

   "Om... the Captain went to one of the bars," she said. "I'll go find him and tell him you've already arrived."

   "I'll stay here," said Belvin. "I'm sure the others will be here soon."

   "It's so good to see you!" Loreene said.

   Belvin nodded, and she hurried off.

   The sun was low in the sky; it was clearly early morning still. Belvin sat on the deck of the ship and waited.

   Ombert came back with Loreene and greeted Belvin. Belvin explained much of what had befallen them on their adventure through the jungle. Ombert had many questions and wanted to know where Walker was. Belvin said that he did not know. Maybe an hour passed.

   "Didn't you say the others would be right behind you?" asked the halfling captain.

   Belvin had said so, but there was no sign of any of them....
Session: The Big Five-O Game Session (Double Marathon Session!) - Sunday, Mar 29 2015 from 2:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 6 — The Ziggurat: Part I
Mythlos found the crowbar in his pack and wedged it in the door. Nargroth and Mythlos alternated attempts at trying to force the door from its hinges. At last Mythlos succeeded. He smirked at Nargroth. "It appears I'm stronger than you," he said.

   "Just don't make me angry," said Nargroth.

   They flung the heavy doors aside, and everyone looked into the ancient temple. It was a small upper chamber, about 25 feet square. The space was almost entirely filled by a dais in the back, with steps leading up to it, upon which stood the statue of a Tabaxi figure with a feathered headdress. Two staircases, one on each side of the entrance, descended deeper into the ziggurat. Maze patterns were etched into all four walls and the ceiling.

   "Belvin, did you remember to pray for the ability to shrink our mounts?" asked Leokas. "They won't be able to fit down those stairs."

   "I did not," said Belvin. He asked Jayce if he would be willing to keep watch over the animals while the others explored the temple. Jayce agreed, and Oma stayed with him.

   Hakam climbed the steps onto the dais and examined the statue more closely. There was a large stone slab attached to the wall that extended out to nearly touch the back of the statue. It had a notch in it midway up.

   Szordrin had been examining the walls. "There is no magic here, just more maze designs."

   "I can find no more footprints from Walker except for these few here just within the entrance," said Leokas.

   "That's not surprising," said Belvin. "You'll never find any more; he just rode his magic carpet."

   Mythlos had already grown bored and descended the left set of stairs. "It opens up more down here," they heard his voice call up from below.

   Hakam placed his foot in the notch in the stone slab and was able to lift himself up higher to get a better look at the top of the statue. "It's head is not connected to the body," he told the others, "or at least it is a separate piece of stone."

   "Perhaps it can be turned," said Belvin.

   "If it can, I cannot budge it," said Hakam.

   "Let me try," said Nargroth, but it would not move for him either. However, when he climbed back down, he pressed on the statue's shoulders, and its body twisted.

   "The statue is not connected to the dais at its feet," said Belvin.

   "It really opens up down here!" they heard Mythlos shout.

   Nargroth pressed against the statue's side, twisting it counterclockwise. It continued twisting until its body faced east, yet its head did not move with it and still faced south.

   "That's as far as I can turn it," said Nargroth.

   "Its shoulder is stopped by this stone slab," said Hakam.

   "I hear grinding in this central pillar!" shouted Mythlos.

   "Clearly, we are affecting something below us," said Leokas.

   "Push it back the other way," said Belvin.

   Nargroth did so. This time, the head moved with the body. When the body faced south again, the head now was looking over its right shoulder to the west. When Nargroth pushed it again until the slab stopped it, it was facing west and looking to the north.

   "It's a ratchet," said Belvin. "Now push it back to face the front again." Nargoth obeyed. The result was that the statue faced south again, but its head moved with it this time and now faced east.

   "Why isn't its head still facing north?" asked Leokas. "If it were a ratchet, shouldn't it have stayed where it was when we moved it counterclockwise again?"

   "That piece of stone there prevents it from looking behind itself," said Hakam.

   "Just like how none of us can look directly behind us," noted Nargroth.

   "How do we get back to the starting position then?" asked Belvin.

   They soon discovered that if and only if the statue were facing east, they could climb the slab and turn its head one or two compass points in the counterclockwise direction. Having figured this out, they returned the statue to the orientation it was in when they first entered the temple.

   Then they heard Mythlos yell, and the sound of his voice faded away as if he had fallen a great distance.

   The others rushed down the steps after him.

   Hakam cast a light spell upon his shield. They were in a wider chamber, 45 feet square, with a 15-foot-square opening in the floor. Four staircases, including the one they just ran down, led up, and four led down into the center. They stepped to the opening and looked down into a massive chamber below. The lower chamber was divided into four sections by diagonal walls, except that in the center, there was a tall square column, 15 feet square. The staircases from their current floor all led down to this elevated platform. At its center, a cylindrical support column of stone stood and extended to the ceiling above them. From the platform a very steep staircase led from each side of the platform into each of the four separate sections of the larger chamber.

   There was no sign of Mythlos.

   "I should have restored his wisdom this morning and not Nargroth's," said Hakam.

   "I don't think it would have helped," said Belvin. "Even at his prime, Mythlos has not been the wisest among us."

   "Can you track him?" Hakam asked Leokas.

   "He went down these set of steps," said Leokas. "Come."

   They dropped a floor lower to the top of the central square column and stood around the central support beam. The four stairways from the platform descended perhaps three stories to the ground below. Directly across from the bottom of each of these steep staircases was an open doorway. Each staircase had waist-high walls.

   "This way," said Leokas, after examining the dust on the ground by Hakam's light. He stepped onto the staircase on the east side and Hakam followed right behind him. When Leokas was halfway to the bottom, there was a clicking sound, and every step in the staircase rotated to form a slide. Leokas tumbled onto his back and began sliding, but Hakam, managed to grab hold of the stair walls and struggled to support himself. Nargroth grabbed Hakam by his leather pauldrons and yanked him back up to safety. They watched unable to do anything as Leokas slid into a new opening in the floor below at the base of the stairs and dropped in. A stone slab swung back up and closed the floor off again.

~~~~


Leokas landed on his feet like a cat. He was in darkness, but he didn't think he had fallen very far. He confirmed this when he stood up and smacked his head on the ceiling above him. He felt that he was in a narrow tunnel only five feet wide and high. He called out for the others, but he could hear no answer. He tried whacking the pommel of his sword against the thick ceiling above him, but this too gave no reply.

   His eyes began adjusting to the darkness quickly, and he could see that he was at the dead end of a tunnel that led to the south. There must be some light source ahead, since he could see anything at all. Even so, he found his flint and steel and ignited one of his flaming arrows to use as a brief torch.

   He pressed forward, calling for Mythlos. There was no answer, but the tunnel made a sharp left after fifteen feet and only continued ten more before reaching another dead end. A slit of light was on the sloped wall. Leokas pressed against it. It was a stone door.

   Leokas pressed the door open and stepped up into natural light. It was dusk, but he was outside again at the base of the east side of the ziggurat. The door on the outside side was covered in thick moss. He let it fall closed again. To the south, he could see Mythlos talking with Jayce and Oma.

~~~~


There was no lack of surprise and confusion when Mythlos and Leokas revealed themselves to the others at the top of the stairs behind them. They had been busy tying rope to lower one of them down to where they had seen Leokas disappear.

   Before they tried to advance any further in the large area, they returned up a floor and investigated the two other staircases that led up besides the two that returned them to the entrance chamber with the statue. They found that these stairs brought them to a crawl space underneath the statue's dais, where they could see a series of gears and shafts. It was clear to them, after studying things for a while, that turning the statue or its head would rotate a shaft descending down through the central support column to somewhere below.

   "Before we change things from how they were when we arrived, let's first explore the open doorways at the bottom of the long staircases below," suggested Leokas.

   This seemed agreeable to the others, so they returned to stand around the central pillar at the top of the four staircases. They tied a rope around Leokas' waist and lowered him carefully off the edge on the east side to the ground below. He walked over toward the doorway at the bottom of the stairs. When he was about ten feet away, the floor below him gave way. He found himself falling and sliding again. He was hanging by his waist in the darkness by the rope, which was stuck in the trap door through which he fell. He cut himself free with his dagger and dropped only a foot or so to the ground. He was certain he was in exactly the same small tunnel he had been in previously. It seemed that the area all around the bottom of the stairs dumped a would-be explorer here.

   It was clear to the others that Leokas would join them shortly, and after walking back to the outside and re-entering the ziggurat, he did so.

   "I could probably leap over the trapped floors, if you lowered me down again," said Leokas.

   "Not all of us can jump that far," said Hakam.

   "We should try the other staircases," said Belvin.

   "I suspect that they are all trapped the same way," said Hakam.

   "Well, then we should prove that first."

   They tried the north staircase next. Leokas descended carefully, holding onto the sides, while the others held the rope tied around his waist. At the mid-point of the stairs, the trap sprung and the steps rotated to form a slide. Leokas braced himself, and the others pulled him back to the top.

   The same thing occurred on the western staircase.

   So they were pleasantly surprised when the south-facing staircase seemed devoid of any traps. Leokas descended all the way to the bottom without incident. The floor and the base of the steps also held firm. He passed into the doorway.

   "It appears safe!" he called back.

   "It would be the last one!" said Hakam.

   Everyone joined Leokas at the bottom. Their excitement faded when all they found were a series of side rooms, attached by narrow doorways, empty of anything except the small debris of rodents or tiny lizards. There were no hidden panels in the floors or walls, simply empty rooms.

   "Which way did we leave the statue upstairs facing?" asked Belvin.

   "It was both facing and looking south," said Szordrin.

   "We should rotate it clockwise and then try these stairs again."

   They climbed the stairs and then returned to the entrance room. Nargroth rotated the statue to face the west. Returning down once again, they had Leokas test the western stairs. They were no longer trapped.

   The rooms at the bottom were much like the others, small and empty.

   They ascended and set the statue and its head to face east. This led to them finding another series of empty side rooms.

   "The temple is not symmetrical," Hakam complained.

   "That bothers you, doesn't it?" said Belvin.

   "No temple of Anachtyr would be laid out like this!"

   Back at the top, at the entrance, they examined the statue once again. "It cannot face backward, so it must be its head that matters for the stair traps," said Belvin.

   They arranged it just so and descended again. Reaching the bottom of the fourth section of the large chamber, they saw immediately that they were at last making progress. The doorway opened into a long passage, not into further rooms. An eerie violet glow could be seen at the far end.

   Mythlos, once again, took the lead, and they walked in single file down the narrow corridor toward the light.
Session: The Big Five-O Game Session (Double Marathon Session!) - Sunday, Mar 29 2015 from 2:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 6 — The Totem
Belvin had already given the totem careful perusal by the time the entire party made it across the old rope bridge. Hakam took a particularly long time coming across, as the missing planks left three foot gaps in places. Below the bridge, a creek rushed violently through a steep ravine.

   Szordrin was the first to arrive, and he immediately checked for the presence of magical auras. "There is nothing magical about it!" he said, somewhat surprised.

   "Mechanical," said Belvin. "I think the whole thing slides up or down. See here? There is a gap in the stone all around the base. It's a giant peg in a hole."

   The totem was indeed peg-shaped, a thirty-foot-tall cylinder, ten feet in radius, with the abstract features of a male face carved into the stone. It had deep holes for eyes, smaller holes for its nose, and a shallow grove for a mouth. Also, over most of its surface were circular maze carvings.

   "This place was clearly sacred to Ubtao," Belvin continued. "Look at all the maze imagery."

   The others gathered around. "Does the path continue on beyond this giant face?" asked Leokas.

   "No," said Belvin. "It is overgrown beyond. It's easy enough to walk around the totem, but one would have to cut his way further."

   "What do your directions say, Walker?" Leokas asked him.

   "They say to continue on past the totem 150 paces to the edge of a cliff overlooking the temple below. Were I alone, I would simply take the carpet over the undergrowth and descend, but maybe there is another way. Besides, we are essentially at our destination; I will not dampen your curiosity about this totem."

   They all heard Hakam mutter a prayer. After fifteen seconds or so, he said, "Anachtyr has revealed that there is indeed a path forward through the base of the totem. The 'keyholes' are its eyes."

   Szordrin moved off and began searching the bushes.

   "Careful!" said Nargroth. "There may be more vines."

   "For what are you looking?"

   "A long stick, so I can press it into the empty sockets and see what happens."

   "I have just the thing for that," said Walker. He ripped a magical patch from his robe and procured a ten-foot iron pole. "This should reach."

   "I want to find a robe like yours!" said Hakam.

   "It was indeed a wise purchase of mine," said Walker.

   Szordrin pressed the tip of the pole into one of the sockets. "Something definitely moves in the back of the eye socket."

   "We need to get up and get a better look inside the holes," said one of them.

   "Belvin, in a small snake form, you could probably stick your head into the holes and examine them," Hakam suggested.

   This was agreeable to the druid, and shortly, his clothing collapsed to the ground and a small viper slithered out of the pile of leathers. Hakam used an orison to make Belvin glow, so he could see in the tight space. Szordrin leaned the metal pole against the totem, and Belvin climbed up it into one of the stone eye sockets. He poked his head in at various angles and then moved to the next eye, before slithering back down and over to his clothes. Climbing back inside, the clothes took shape again, as Belvin's elven body filled them anew.

   "What did you discover?"

   "There is definitely a mechanism in each eye," Belvin explained. "There is an octagonal slot about this big. You can push against the back of it, but it pushes back. I think if the right object were inserted, it would drop down into a grove I felt with my tongue, and this would block the back wall from springing back."

   "So we need some sort of key?"

   "Two," said Belvin.

   "Maybe the keys might be discarded around the area somewhere," said Hakam.

   "After hundreds of years? That's not likely," said Oma.

   "Every standard adventuring tale I know involves some hapless adventurer removing gems from a statue's eyes and activating a trap," said Jayce. "In this case, I think we need to return the totem his eyes."

   "What about the gems we just found in the pile of offal?" asked Nargroth.

   "The pearl was smooth," Mythlos replied, "and the other stone was cut like a diamond. Didn't the dwarves give you gems as their Chosen One, Belvin?"

   "We used the diamond to save your life," said Hakam.

   "There were two green stones as well," said Belvin, "and some gold ore."

   "Please tell me you did not sell them at Rumnaheim Rift," said Nargroth.

   "Belvin rarely frequents the markets of any town or city," said Leokas.

   Belvin removed the two green stones from his pouch. They were indeed cut in an octagonal manner.

   "Stand on the edge of the carpet," said Walker.

   Belvin did so, and Walker commanded it to lift him up. The elf reached his hands back into the deep eye hole and pressed the first green gem into the back. It fit perfectly and locked in place. The second fit equally well.

   There was a deep rumble and grinding sound. Belvin nearly fell off the carpet as the totem began twisting and raising, as if it were being unscrewed from its base. It twisted around two and a half times and rose up another eight feet to reveal a doorway.

   "It's an elevator!" exclaimed Szordrin. "How could it still be working after all these years without magic?"

   "The creek we passed over flows powerfully," said Walker. "I imagine its builders took advantage of that, but what are the odds that you would have not one, but both, of the right size and cut of gems?"

   "We are meant to be here," said Leokas. "It is our destiny."

   Walker stepped inside, the carpet and the crates following beside him.

   "Where are you going?" said Leokas. "I thought the temple was farther beyond."

   "It is, but I am not so dull as to not find this discovery intriguing. If others of you wish to go first, by all means...." He stepped back out.

   Leokas, Nargroth, Szordrin, and Hakam replaced him. It was a tight fit for four, but they managed. There was a lever on the back wall, which they assumed was the mechanism for lowering themselves into the earth. It was. They began twisting and descending, as the totem screwed itself back into the base.

   The four adventurers found themselves in a small room of stone bricks. The cylindrical stone walls of their elevator shaft filled the bulk of the room. They faced roughly north, since the totem had revolved 540 degrees. Before them was a stone door frame and through it a wide tunnel, carved out of earth, with stone support arches in place every seven or eight feet. The tunnel sloped steeply but maintained a straight course. It was not utterly dark, even without Mythlos' glowing sword, natural light was coming from somewhere up ahead.

   Hakam searched the room for any secrets in its walls but found nothing. "I can hear water behind the elevator shaft," noted Mythlos.


   "It probably powers the lift, as Walker suggested."

   They continued forward carefully down the tunnel. While the walls were roughly carved, the floor had been smoothed and covered with gravel. Shortly, they could see sunlight ahead and green color from its passage through jungle leaves.

   "This is certainly not a dwarven-made tunnel," noted Leokas.

   They stepped out at the bottom of a massive cliff, which circled around to wall off a valley about 100 feet in diameter. There before them, filling the whole area, was a stepped square pyramid, the ziggurat of Ubtao. It was covered in green vines and moss, and so many plants grew over them a hundred feet above that it was easy to see how the site would usually be camouflaged. A steep and wide staircase ascended to the top of the ziggurat, where a dark temple opening could be spotted several stories above.

   "It's not a very large temple," said Leokas.

   "Not above ground at least," replied Hakam.

   Szordrin returned to retrieve the others, while Hakam, Leokas, and Mythlos remained below, searching around at the base of the steps. A half hour later, all were at the bottom of the hidden valley; they had even managed to get the horse and the two camels onto the elevator. It was now late afternoon.

   They climbed the steep stairs to the top, and Walker directed the carpet through the ten-foot-wide stone entrance and stood in front of it. He removed some papers from his robe. "These are the writs of payment promised you. The moment I receive payment from the one receiving the packages and sign one of my company's magical receipts, they will each change into a platinum trade bar, just as before." He set the papers on the ground. "Your task is done here. I thank you for your service."

   "Not so soon!" said Szordrin. He had drawn his wand from his belt.

   Hakam drew his sword and held it to Szordrin's throat.

   "The payment has not been made yet," Szordrin protested. "We cannot allow him to go off until we have proof that we will be paid."

   "Walker has shown himself trustworthy the entire time I've known him," said Hakam, "regardless of what any of us may feel about him."

   "I must agree with Hakam," said Belvin.

   "You agree with Hakam about something?" Mythlos exclaimed.

   "Which should tell you something!" said Belvin.

   Walker took a step back under the door frame.

   "Not another step or I will shoot you!" warned Szordrin.

   "I would slit your throat before you could shoot!" said Hakam.

   "Friends! Brothers at arms!" called Jayce. "We have all fought together. What sort of spell has enchanted you? We can talk this out. Come now!"

   "I'm afraid I, for one, cannot," said Walker. With that, he waved his hand. The magical patch he held morphed instantly into a pair of thick iron doors that entirely filled the entrance to the temple.

   Mythlos rushed forward. The iron doors were bolted shut.

   Leokas suddenly recalled the words of Yasheira's prophecy:

"I see an ancient temple.
I see a door blocking your way.
I see a white island...."

   "Put your weapons down, both of you!" said Leokas. "Look what you've done! I think Walker is a good person, unlike the rest of you, yet at the same time, the fate of the world may be at stake. Have you forgotten the prophecies and the visions? If we do not follow Walker, we may never learn more of Samber."

   "Samber may well just be a random wizard who kept a journal," said Hakam.

   "Thard Harr has sent me west," said Belvin, "not through some old temple to another jungle god." He picked up the writs of papers from the ground lest they blow away. "We have our payment; let's be going."

   "I suspect they are not likely to change into platinum, now that Szordrin has threatened Walker's life," said Leokas.

   "I, for one, am fine waiting here to see if they change," said Hakam. "This is a well-hidden and easily defended spot in which to make camp."

   "How will we get back to Mbala without Walker's map?" asked Oma. "Or to Shilku?"

   "I'm sure Leokas can find the way," said Jayce, trying to sound hopeful.

   "Walker left the written directions for us here along with the writs," said Belvin.

   "See," said Leokas, "he was a decent fellow."

   "We won't be making it to Shilku," said Hakam. "Ombert arrives there in two days, and we are not yet halfway there. We'll have to make for the bay at the end of the Soshenstar River."

~~~~


They sat on the steps of the ziggurat, eating their trail rations in silence. Jayce tried to lighten the mood by beginning a story, but he was silenced by the others. The sun was getting lower in the sky; a few hours had passed.

   Suddenly, the pile of papers by Belvin turned into a stack of eight platinum bars.

   Hakam stood up. "The contract is over," he stated. "Let's go after Walker."
Session: The Big Five-O Game Session (Double Marathon Session!) - Sunday, Mar 29 2015 from 2:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 6 — Assassin Vines
~ third-day, 23rd of Flamerule, The Year of Wild Magic, afternoon
somewhere north of Mbala



Walker now led the group confidently through the jungle. From Mbala, he had written directions guiding him north to the site of the temple based on specific landmarks. Leokas offered to help with navigation, but Walker said he had things under control.

   It was another hot day, but time passed quickly for them. By mid-afternoon, Leokas was confident that he could spot a rope bridge up ahead and beyond that a stone structure. As they approached excitedly, only Szordrin was focused on the path. He noticed grape-like berries and very strange leaves on the plants surrounding them. They had five-pointed, asymmetric leaves, and some leaves were mirror images of the others, much like human hands. When Belvin, who was riding in the front near Walker moved forward, his magic failed to move aside the narrow vines in the way. They too were covered in the asymmetric leaves.

   Then Szordrin noticed something else. "Jayce, the vines are moving! Look out!"

   A bulky vine, about the thickness size of a man's arm, lashed out at Jayce like a whip from the side of the path. Jayce avoided it, drew his dagger, and tried to hack at it, but he could not cut through the stringy bark. A second vine struck him and in mere moments, it had wrapped itself around his neck and was strangling him. Szordrin instantly had his wand out and shot a ray of flame at the plant. The leaves burned away, but the vine itself simply steamed. It was so moist that it did not catch fire.

   While everyone glanced at the commotion to the left of the path, more vines from the right side of the trail struck Walker firmly, but he managed to duck and escape from being strangled.

   Then it seemed that the whole forest around them came alive. All of the smaller vines spread out over the jungle floor began moving about wildly, seeking for any prey to grab. The vines entangled Cloud's legs, and Leokas tumbled off his saddle and next to Walker, drawing his longsword in the same fluid motion. He hacked at one of the thicker vines, cutting it halfway through. It flopped over limp, but two others struck him hard and, soon, Leokas too was being choked by the plant as if by a constrictor snake.

   Nargroth, screaming wildly, rescued Jayce with several swings of his axe, while Stormshadow tried to free her master, but she could not catch the writhing vines in her mouth. Walker also tried to assist Leokas, swinging his thick walking staff.

   Belvin urged Kamil forward, and the camel charged out of the mass of grasping vines and over the rope bridge, while his master attempted to summon help. Thankfully, the bridge held, and the camel did not trip on the gaps in the planks.

   Missiles of magic struck the remaining vines that were near Nargroth and Jayce, and this seemed to still them. On the other side of the group of travelers, Hakam found himself thoroughly entangled, as smaller vines wrapped up as high as his thighs. He waved his hands to begin casting a spell, but one wrapped around his arm and disrupted the magic.

   Leokas was finding it hard to breathe, as the vine cinched tighter around his neck. He was not strong enough to free himself. Then two more lashed out at Walker. The second struck him so hard on the top of the head that there was a loud thud, and Walker was knocked out cold. Szordrin smirked at this.

   Leokas felt a little relief, as he felt himself suddenly covered in a slippery film, which allowed him to shove the vine a bit off his neck. Jayce had used his grease spell in an attempt to help him.

   It was an even more unexpected turn that ultimately saved the wood elf's life, however. A pile of bones appeared out of nowhere right beside him and formed themselves quickly into a nine-foot tall skeleton. The undead creature stood on hind legs and looked somewhat like a bear except that it had a razor sharp beak on its skull instead of a snout. It swung it large claws at one of the vines, knocking it away effortlessly, then it snapped down on the vine around Leokas' neck, severing it. Leokas was free.

   Oma stilled the carnivorous plant by sending two pulses of force into its two remaining main vines. All of the smaller offshoots relaxed and slid to the ground motionless.

~~~~


"What is that?" asked Mythlos, indicating the towering skeleton, which waited for mental commands from its caller.

   "It was an owlbear," said Oma proudly. "Now that it has died, it's my weapon."

   "Are you some sort of necromantic summoner?" asked Hakam, as he freed himself from the dead vines.

   "Do you have a problem with that?" asked Jayce.

   "I have a problem with the creation of undeath;" replied the cleric, "I know enough not to complain about the use of already created undead to save a companion's life."

   The skeleton vanished, and Leokas leaned over Walker. "He's alive. Hakam, can you wake him up?"

   Hakam approached, but Szordrin stopped him. "No, don't you see? This is our chance to search him and learn for whom he works!"

   "He's our employer!" Hakam replied. "We cannot search him unlawfully!"

   "It's nowhere in our contract that we cannot search him!" answered Szordrin.

   "No."

   "I will not steal anything; I'll only search."

   "No," Hakam said again, emphatically, as he bent over and touched Walker with glowing hand. "I've known you no longer than I've known Walker, and he's paying me!"

   Walker sat up and groaned. "I'm getting too old for this!"

   Szordrin gave Hakam a dirty look.

   "Is everyone alive?" Walker asked.

   "Yes, though I'm not sure whither Belvin rode off," said Leokas.

   "You trust him too much," Szordrin whispered to Hakam, as the cleric walked over to heal Jayce from the bruises around his neck. "Before this is over, I'm sure he will do something that will reveal his true character."

   "I think these are assassin vines," said Walker to Leokas and Mythlos. "See, large berries, hand-like leaves. Carnivorous plants, the bane of many jungle explorers."

   "This cluster of vines was the bane of at least a couple," said Mythlos. "Look here."

   He had found two skulls and a tiny, decayed leather pouch.

   "One of those was a goblin," said Leokas. "Good riddance!"

   "What's in the pouch?" asked Nargroth.

   "A good number of gold coins, a yellowish gem, and... Szordrin, weren't you hoping to buy a pearl? Here's a black one."

   "You might want to come look at this!" they heard Belvin shout from somewhere over the bridge. "I've found Ubtao's totem."
Session: The Big Five-O Game Session (Double Marathon Session!) - Sunday, Mar 29 2015 from 2:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 6 — Mbala
~ second-day, 22nd of Flamerule, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
Mbala



The second day of the third tenday of Flamerule found them safely in the trappers' town of Mbala.

   The rest of their journey through the Underdark, on the dwarven road as escorts to an ore shipment, had passed surprisingly without incident. After slaying the gauth, they continued on. Jayce's magically induced exhaustion had lasted less than ten minutes. At noon, they had feasted on their last portions of dinosaur meat beside a beautiful yet eerie underground lake, and at one time, they were caught off-guard when a massive swarm of bats flew overhead, but beyond that, nothing else memorable occurred until they reached the dwarven settlement of Tenmar Deep. This mining town was much like Rumnaheim Rift, the previous dwarven site they had visited, and they had found their accommodations for the night there just as refreshing as their stay at Belmara's Hearth.

   That night, Jayce, Mythlos, and Shrodinjer tried to perform at one of the dwarven pubs, but between Jayce not having a good grasp of dwarven musical taste and Mythlos forgetting the lyrics to the songs he once knew, it did not turn out so well.

   While their brief foray in the Underdark had been more pleasant than any of them expected, all of them — except perhaps Szordrin, who had seemed at home in the underground darkness — were delighted to see the sun again, despite the burning heat of the jungle. First-day, they followed the careful directions of the dwarves of Tenmar Deep and reached Mbala before nightfall.

   Along the way, however, Walker seemed to be slowing down, and had stepped aside a few times to vomit.

   "Did the heat finally get to even you?" Leokas had asked him, happy that he himself felt just fine.

   "No," Walker had replied. "I believe I have caught the same ailment as the little animals did the other day."

   On an occasion when Walker was off to the side vomiting, the others discussed whether or not to give him the periapt of health.

   "We should give him the periapt to wear as an act of good faith," Leokas had said.

   "Why? He is too proud to even ask for it," said Szordrin.

   "He's been of little help to us," said Hakam.

   "I think he's been softening to us," said Leokas, who was the one currently wearing the magical item.

   In the end, Leokas offered it to him.

   "Thank you," Walker had said, "and by the way, I have sensitive ears; I heard what you were all saying about me. I'll have you know that yesterday, when the beholder-kin attacked us, my intent was to hold the mirror up for you. I have seen you in action enough to trust that you could make a shot while glancing at the reflection of your target in a mirror."

   They had found Mbala to be a town in respect to population but not in regards to internal structure. It essentially was a typical Tabaxi village, only surrounded by a large expanse of northern-style log cabins and shacks inhabited by many trappers and explorers. Their lodgings were similar to the hostel they had stayed in back when they had first arrived in Port Nyanzaru, and once again, there was no escape from the biting insects, but then again, they were almost used to the constant itching by now.

   By the morning of second-day, after four separate castings of Hakam's restorative spell, Mythlos finally had all his memories and combat training back.

   Because he was sick and because he considered them to have made up lost time by taking the tunnel through the Underdark, Walker gave everyone the next day off, and so it was on second-day, that a few of them sought out the wisest and oldest native Tabaxi villager.

~~~~


They cautiously entered the wise man's hut, where he stood leaning on a twisted, wooden walking stick, his long, narrow beard hanging to the floor in a pool of white hair. Jayce, by means of his magic, greeted the old man in the Tabaxi tongue.

   Szordrin, speaking through Jayce, asked if the man knew anything about the temple that was supposedly nearby.

   The man described playing as a small child around a large totem north of Mbala. Nearby, further to the north a short distance was an abandoned temple to Ubtao. It was a ziggurat, built at the bottom of a hidden valley, a sinkhole some 150 feet deep, nearly invisible from above because of the tree cover. His elders had forbidden him and the other children from going down to it. Naturally, this made them ever curious to explore it, but the one day they tried to descend to it, one of his young friends fell to his death, and none of them ever attempted it again. Since that time, to the best of his knowledge, the location of the temple had been forgotten to the villagers, as they did everything they could to forget the tragedy. Now, he was the only one living who remembered that fateful day.

   When asked more about the temple, the man shared how centuries ago there were many temples of Ubtao in Chult. Over time, the religious viewpoint changed such that only one temple to Ubtao was permitted, and that was the one in Mezro that was created by the very hands of Ubtao. All other temples were considered sacrilege and were abandoned.

   The elders had taught him as a boy that, in its day, the site served both as a temple and as a training ground for new priests. Those who passed Ubtao's tests would be ordained into the priesthood.

   "What did the worship of Ubtao entail?" Szordrin asked. He was told that animals were sacrificed upon altars but assured that Ubtao has never approved of human sacrifices.

   "You mentioned a totem," Jayce asked. "Could you tell us more about that?"

   The man explained that he believed the totem had some connection to the temple, but he did not understand what. When asked about how to find it, he noted that the totem was just beyond a deep ravine and across an old rope bridge. If the bridge remained intact since his childhood, he did not know.

   "Did the temple have any connections to the Planes?" Nargroth asked. The man shook his head.

   "Have you ever heard of Samber?" was their final question. The man had not, nor had he ever seen the symbol Szordrin carried with him on the metal fragment.

   They asked the man to direct them to the town's priest of Ubtao, and soon they stopped to visit that man as well. He knew nothing of the existence of the temple, nor of Samber or the symbols, but he had strong opinions about the city of Mezro and the happenings there.

   "King Osaw be foolish!" the priest said in broken Common. "Leave old ways of Tabaxi. Open Mezro to strangers! Now, anyone go to Temple of Ubtao, not only priests. He go. You go. Anyone go. Osaw say peace; I say foolish. Mezro once be hidden; now it be not-masked. Wait. Batiri come and attack Mezro. Then Ras Nsi come and save city, be savior. People love Ras Nsi, not Osaw. Then, Chult be land of dead, not land of Ubtao. Osaw be foolish!"

   "What was he talking about," the others asked Jayce when they left the priest.

   "Mezro is the holy city of Ubtao," said Jayce. "Don't you remember the stories I told you about it the night we fought the Spectre? It was founded by Ubtao himself. Sometime after the great civil war between the Tabaxi and the Eshowe, the city was magically hidden. Only the Tabaxi could find its location. This all changed somewhat recently, however. King Osaw, one of the barae, one of Ubtao's Chosen, decided to reveal the city again to outsiders. I am not sure why he did this, but it has certainly helped in the area of trade with the people of Chult."

   "What's the story about Ubtao and that serpent again?" asked Leokas. "Something about the end of the world? Even Yasheira mentioned it in her prophecy about us."

   "He made a deal with the other gods to defend the Peaks of Flame from Dendar the Night Serpent, who is prophesied to bring the end of the world by eating the sun. That is why there are no other religions on Chult except Ubtao's and why they do not exert as much power here as elsewhere"

   "Some say he is not even a god in the truest sense," added Hakam. "They say he is a Primordial, existing even before the gods arrived. I do not believe this, however."

   "In any case, if the stories have truth, he must have great power," said Jayce.

   "Where are the Peaks of Flame relative to us?" asked Szordrin.

   "Far to the south, I think," said Leokas. "I don't think they concern us. If Belvin's visions mean anything, we are being sent to the west."
Session: The Big Five-O Game Session (Double Marathon Session!) - Sunday, Mar 29 2015 from 2:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Tags: Chapter 6 , Mbala , Recap
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