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"This way then," Pezock says, following an indication from Douena. He takes off to the southeast. The river soon turns to a more direct east route, then back southeast, and then due south. At first, the road you're following remains just as difficult to see as when you first discovered it, but as the river winds, the road becomes gradually more and more apparent. The stones that form it become large and more plentiful. It still remains ruined and overgrown, but nonetheless in remarkable condition considering how ancient it must be. It's not long before you no longer need people with tracking skills to see it.
Eventually, the strangely preserved road leads into a narrow cleft in the jungle-choked ridges, forcing the river into a swiftly flowing rapid through the gorge. The road splits again here, offering two methods onward. One route goes down to the bottom of the gorge to a slippery-looking path of wooden bridges connecting large rocks jutting out of the river. The second continues to the top of the gorge where a rickety rope bridge swings in the air. Both routes reconnect on the other side of the river.
Neither trail appears to have been used in a very long time, except by animals coming to the river to drink. It's been so long, it's impossible to say which was the more widely used trail.
DB3, maybe the fact that you've already played the adventure and know what is coming is sapping your enthusiasm for it? I know I turned down an invitation to join a RotRL game run by a great DM because I've already played through the first book and can't face going through it all again pretending I don't know what's going to happen. Turns a game from exciting to busywork for me.
I can't speak for Dragonborn, but if that is the issue, I can say that this next adventure is likely to turn out very differently from what he experienced with his other group. By its very nature, every group is likely to experience City of Seven Spears very differently.
The adventure is not so much an adventure as it is a location the PCs go to. I'm sure everyone's aware of its rather poor reputation, and I suspect much of that reputation comes from the fact that it tries to describe a location that is too big for the amount of space. As such, it has very little guidance for GMs on what to do with the location (for example, there are tons of NPC stat blocks that have no more than a sentence or two describing the personality and motives of the character; some don't even get that much). So GMs have to pretty much make up the adventure themselves using the book as simply a campaign setting.
So, Dragonborn may know what his previous GM decided to do with it, but he has no way of knowing what I'm going to do with it. :)
The trail winds down through thick foliage--thick enough that you have to cut your way through in a couple of places. Eventually, it emerges at the bottom of the waterfall. The river splits in two here, one branch heading directly south, the other heading southeast. The trail splits as well and follows both branches of the river.
"The river definitely seems our best option," Shokambe says.
Pezock gazes over the edge and the valley below. He nods his agreement. "Let's go."
It takes a couple hours to find your way through the jungle to the river. The quick-moving water is clear and fairly shallow--only two or three feet deep in most places, making it possible to wade through it, which is not only refreshing, but also much easier than pushing through the jungle. The depth provides a bit more difficulty for Douena, who has to not so much wade through it as swim, but this is also not much of a problem.
The river does indeed wind quite a bit, but it makes its way steadily down towards the valley. Eventually, it cascades over a cliff as a light waterfall. The jungle canopy overhead would obscure this location from your previous vantage point over the valley, explaining why you didn't notice it then. The cliff is only about 60 feet high, so nowhere near as high as the cliffs around the valley, but a climb down would be awkward as the rock is wet and slick.
However, a brief look around reveals an heavily overgrown trail leading through the jungle to the bottom of the waterfall. Those of you with ranks in Survival can find indications that this isn't merely an overgrown game trail. There are the barest hints of ancient cobblestone paving, suggesting that this may have once been part of a road.
Working on leveling on and off, but first: Would this be better than the current profile sheet system I'm using?
It looks fine to me. Honestly, I'm fine with people using whatever format they like as long as all the information is there somewhere. :)
Sildu takes the pearls from Douena, thanks her, and then hurries off to find the rest of her people.
You set out north from Tazion, back into the thick jungle. Although you only have a couple dozen miles at most to go, it's going to take a couple days of travel due to the tough terrain (it's very hilly as you're technically still in the foothills of the mountains to the south) with few trails to follow. As usual, it's hot and humid. Bugs pester you all the way, some of them rather big bugs, but none anywhere near as large as the giant wasps in the temple in Tazion.
The hills become a little more pronounced over the second day of travel and the terrain is somewhat jagged. You find yourselves having to climb over a number of shallow precipices--never more than a few feet in height, but the frequent climbing does become tiring. "There must have been a lot of earthquakes here in the past," Shokambe comments. The jungle remains thick throughout the area. The third day is much the same.
2 LAMASHAN, 4710 (55th day of journey, 4th day since leaving Tazion)
The fourth day starts out the same as the last two, as you continue searching for landforms like what you saw on the map in Tazion. However, in the late morning you emerge rather suddenly from the jungle at the top of a tall cliff. A jungle-covered valley nestles between the cliffs. Even the sides of the cliffs are covered in trees and other fauna. The view is identical to what you saw from the Pillars in Tazion before they revealed the illusion. You're quite certain this is your destination.
From where you stand (towards the southwest side), climbing down to the valley will be difficult, but not impossible. However, from this vantage point, you can see that to the northwest, a thin river meanders gently down into the valley. Following the river will likely be a much easier route, but could take longer as you'll first need to get to the river and then follow its winding course. Alternatively, you could try to find another way down.
We have officially begun City of Seven Spears.
I certainly don't want to kick anybody out of the game. I think we've got a great group and I'd hate to see that dynamic change. A lot of us have been slow with responses lately (myself included). Hopefully, we can get that turned around and pick up the pace again. So I see no reason why you should leave the game if you don't want to, Dragonborn.
Just get Makoa levelled up! :)
"Then let's get to it," Sasha says.
You find Sildu and explain the situation to her. She's not all that happy about abandoning Tazion, even temporarily, but also points out that her people have practically abandoned it already. She says she will talk to them and try to convince them to stay away a bit longer to allow the people following you to come and go.
Douena spends some time hiding the gems again (I'll let her decide whereabouts she wants to put them; was the plan to keep one with the party while hiding the others?). Once that's done, you're ready to leave.
"Which way?" Pezock demands of Shokambe. Your guide points in a direction, but before he can say anything, Pezock is striding off that way. "Onwards!" Pezock cries. "Treasure awaits us!" Shokambe hurries to keep up.
Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone's had a good holiday.
Makoa and Mahjik still need to be updated to level 7. Lorekeeper said he'd be back in early January, so that should be soon. Dragonborn, level up Makoa!
Even if not everyone is fully levelled up yet, I'll get the game going again tomorrow. There won't be another combat right away, so there's still time to get stats updated.
That looks like a reasonable swap. Go ahead.
Yeah, I'm fine with that.
Douena Trestleben wrote:
Douena would make sure that Sildu was healed up before she communed with Desna at starrise.
After a small breakfast, you pack up camp. Regardless of whether the columns produce a portal or just provide you with a map, you'll be moving on, so there's no point keeping the camp in place. Once everything is sorted, the full group of you make your back to the upper levels. It takes a little bit of time to get everyone up there, but eventually you do so and you crowd by the entrance to the room with the pillars and along the walkway outside.
With the knowledge he has gained from the idols downstairs, Urza begins adjusting the positions of the swivelling portions of each column, setting each up so that the holes fall into specific patterns. It's intricate work, so it takes a little while. Pezock begins pacing and grumbling about how long it's taking.
Finally, with the pillars properly set, Urza places each gem in its respective place, one in each of the pillars. When he's done, he steps back out of the way.
Nothing happens at first. "Well?" Pezock grumbles.
But it's only a brief delay, apparently caused by the cloud cover over head, as a moment later, a small break in the clouds allows some sunlight through to touch the column representing the sun. The column begins to glow and then three beams of light streak out from it, one to each of the other three columns. Those columns then emit beams of their own. The beams of light begin to shift about in different directions over the grid in the centre of the room, changing colours from red to yellow to blue to violet. The rain in the air reflects some of the light causing the entire room to become illuminated in shimmering patterns of light.
After a few moments, a beam of light from the northern column pinpoints a location on the grid, and above it a hazy image begins to appear. It shows a jungle-covered valley between two cliffs. But then the jungle fades slightly, becoming transparent. This reveals an ancient city of towering ziggurats and crumbling, vine-choked buildings around a central lake filling the valley and overlapping with the transparent jungle.
"Bah, it is just a map," Pezock grumbles. "I thought maybe we were finally getting somewhere."
Any of you with ranks in Knowledge (geography) can determine that the area pinpointed on the grid appears to be about 20 miles north of your current location.
Those of you with ranks in Knowledge (arcana) can reason that the jungle fading to transparency probably indicates that the area is protected by some sort of illusion making it appear from the outside to be nothing but jungle.
You settle down to eat the "lizard things" that Sasha caught for you and then relax for a while. The buzzing of the wasps is more incessant over the night, but while they might be more active, they don't bother you in the chamber where you've set up camp and the noise isn't quite so loud that you can't sleep through it. Smaller insects like mosquitoes, however, do prove a bit of an annoyance.
It rains during the night, but the roof over you helps keep most of it off you. Unfortunately, a few cracks in the ancient structure do allow some trickles of water through.
29 ROVA, 4710 (52nd day of journey)
It's still raining lightly in the morning, and the wasps seemed to have quieted down.
Is there any final thing people want to do before going to heading to the pillars or shall we just jump straight there?
The smell of cooking greets you as you arrive back at the camp set up by Sasha and the others. Ishirou is standing guard and nods at you as you approach.
"And they're back!" Sasha exclaims, standing up from where she was seated against a wall. "It's like old times! I tried to convince Jask that we should kill a giant wasp and cook that for dinner, but..." She shrugs. "It wasn't to be. Dinner is some lizard things I caught." She hugs Lorenz.
"We've eaten many things out here," Jask says, "but nonetheless, I don't think I'm quite ready for giant wasp."
"Food is irrelevant at the moment," Pezock declares. "First, we must decide our next course of action! The choice is obvious. We use those gem things now and then rest, not the other way round."
Urza Sha'rahad wrote:
Waiting for the DM to answer that question.
I was beginning to wonder if maybe that's what you were waiting for. Looking back, I see that while I made it clear that Urza now knows how to operate the columns, I didn't make it clear at all what else, if anything, he knows about what they do. My apologies for that.
Upon setting each of the columns into the appropriate positions, they will activate the Pillars of Light (a name your party has encountered before). These Pillars of Light will provide the location of Saventh Yi, the city you have been searching for.
Douena Trestleben wrote:
Sildu looks saddened, but nods. She remains quiet as you return across the tar pits again and back to the ziggurat.
As you approach the mains steps, you can hear the buzzing of the wasps and you see a few moving at the back. Sildu indicates that she'll climb up the side of the ziggurat and drop down some more food. She then scurries up the stone walls.
A minute or so later, the sound of buzzing gets briefly louder and the wasps dart back into the centre room, leaving the way clear to the room with the idols. You cross without incident and head down the stairs. Once again, a telepathic voice tells you to lay down your arms and approach for judgement.
When Urza approaches this time, all four idols become active, wrapping him in the strange energy. Once again, they begin imparting to him the secrets of how to activate the orrery. Much of it he already knows, but this time the secrets of the fourth column are not left out. When the idols release him a short time later, he knows exactly how to use the columns above.
Sildu leads the way back down the tree, where Urza and Mahjik rejoin the others. Sildu speaks.
"Issilar was very stupid," she says. "If he had told Raogru about the gems, Raogru would have shown him the one he had. But Issilar wouldn't tell us anything about what he was doing, so he didn't succeed." Her next words are quieter and sadder. "Instead he just got a whole bunch of us killed."
"Do we have what we need now?" Pezock asks.
The gem comes free of the carving quite easily. Close up, the gem appears to be just like the others and it seems likely that it is the one you are looking for.
Defacing the shrine is similarly easy. You only need to pull away a few bits of bark to make the carving unrecognisable. Sildu gasps when Urza first starts, but then laughs.
"You are very bold," she says.
The charau-ka picks up the coffer from the altar and opens it to look inside. She then holds it out to Urza and Mahjik. Inside is a collection of semiprecious stones, small ivory carvings, and pieces of decorative metals. There are also two golden statuettes of lions. A detect magic spell reveals the two lion statuettes as magical. The rest is not.
Urza Spellcraft: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (11) + 8 = 19 -- fail
The total value of the non-magical loot is 1500 gp.
Sildu repeats what she said after Urza casts his spell.
"There it is, although it used to be in the coffer, not the eye of the snake. Raogru must have put it there recently. He was working on carving the snake for a long time. Now he's dead, I guess he'll never finish it. Personally, I never liked the snake god very much."
Sildu leads Mahjik and Urza up and around the stone block trap. Above it, thick branches intertwine, and here and there, small platforms have been built into the sides of the tree as well as short bridges between branches. Climbing becomes easier as there are more branches and the platforms provide brief moments of rest--though Sildu doesn't pause and just keeps going higher.
High up in the tree, Sildu comes to a stop on a larger platform that completely circles the trunk here. A small altar sits against one side of the trunk here and above it, is a carving of a skeletal serpent, carved into the bark of the tree trunk. The head of the serpent is separate from the body, though the carving looks unfinished, so it may just be that the artist hasn't finished joining the body to the head yet. Set into one of the eye sockets is a moonstone just like the other three that operate the orrery. A stone coffer sits on the altar.
Sildu helps Mahjik and Urza onto the platform, and points at the gem. She chatters something in Polyglot, but unfortunately, neither Urza nor Mahjik speak the language.
Sildu nods to Douena, then goes over to the trunk of the tree and motions for Mahjik to come back down. She waits for him to do so, then moves away from the trunk towards a clump of vines, motioning for Mahjik to follow her. She grabs hold of particularly thick vine and gives it a tug. You hear a brief rustling in the leaves above. When that stops, Sildu climbs up the vine to a low hanging branch, and from there continues to climb up the tree. She calls back down.
"It's safe as long as you climb up from this direction."
Mahjik the Flink wrote:
Yes, you can take 10, but since you've already made a Climb check, it's moot. Of course, for the Perception check... Sildu only mentioned the trap, but didn't point it out. I'll be generous and assume you're taking 10 on Perception.
Sildu briefly protests as Douena pulls her away.
"But he's going the wrong way," she says. "The trap..."
Lorenz and Pezock move out of the way as well, as Mahjik begins his way up the tree. After only a few moments, he notices the stone block, hidden amongst the leaves up above. He realises that if he continues his climb, it will come down on top of him.
Sildu chatters on to Douena.
"Even if he gets past it, he won't know where to go to get the gem. Shouldn't I show him where to go?"
Douena Trestleben wrote:
A straight Climb check, although there are vines to assist with that. No stairs or ladders though... Well, if you examine the ruins a bit, there are some remnants of ancient stairs, but they don't go anywhere anymore. :)
Edit to Add: The Climb DC starts at 10, but once you're higher up where there are more branches and vines to grab hold of, it decreases to 5.
Sildu cowers away from Pezock's sword until he lowers it. Then she starts back up the stairs, calling out in her language as she goes.
"It's this way! Follow me!"
She pauses momentarily at the top of the stairs to peer through the door. Once satisfied that the wasps are still preoccupied, she leads you through and across the main hall, back to the entrance steps.
Once out of the ziggurat, she points south across the tar pits towards a group of large intertwined boab trees that stand in the centre of the ancient town. She then heads along the trail through the tar pits.
When you reach the trees, you can see that they have grown though, around, and out of an ancient building. A few ruined columns remain of the building as do some topple statues and even an ancient, weathered fountain (no longer operational, however).
Sildu point up into the leaves of the boab trees.
"It's up there in Raogru's shrine," she says. "I can climb up and bring it down for you if you want."
Sildu's scurries over to see what Urza is holding out. She nods excitedly when she sees the gem.
"Yes! Raogru had one just like that! I know where he kept it, too. I can show you if you want. It's not in this temple. It's in the big tree where Raogru lived. It's not far and won't take long."
The idols do not respond to Douena.
"A good suggestion," Pezock says to Mahjik. "We must break the other ones! Charge!" He raises his sabre and rushes forward, but just as he does so, the beams of light stop and release Urza, who looks none the worse for wear.
Pezock pauses. "A wise decision," he says to the idols. "You would not have survived a fight with us." The idols do not respond.
Nothing happens at first when Douena descends to the bottom of the steps. However, when Urza follows after and reaches the bottom of the steps, three of the idols begin to shake slightly and the glow where their faces should be brightens. Only the westernmost idol remains still and unchanged.
"Judgement is being considered," the voice says and Sildu gasps in surprise. "Judgement made."
Suddenly, beams of light shoot from the three agitated idols straight at Urza, surrounding him in bright light. He stiffens as the beams continue and the nimbus of light around him gets brighter. The westernmost idol, however, remains still. No beam of light emits from its face.
"A trap!" Pezock yells. "I knew it!" He draws his sabre.
As the light surrounds him, Urza's mind is filled with countless disparate images, all in a jumble and overlapping. At first, there's so much for his mind to take in, it's almost painful. But gradually, he begins to be able to separate the images and they begin to make sense. They form a kind of pictorial language that imparts instructions on how to set the orrery upstairs. Urza learns how to set each gem in its appropriate pillar and what configurations to move the pillars into.
Unfortunately, however, the information is incomplete. It only explains the settings for the sun, moon, and stars pillars. He receives no information about the pillar representing the Dark Tapestry.
"I'll go feed them quickly," she says.
Sildu hurries off to the west room. Pezock follows her, clearly not willing to trust her on her own. If anyone else follows, you see her take one of the animal carcasses and drop it into the hole. She then grabs another and drops it in as well. A loud flurry of buzzing can be heard through the hole.
She then returns to the rest of you and motions for you to follow. She heads over to the stairs you used to come up to this level, the ones that arch over the courtyard. When she reaches the lowest point before the descend into the blocked area, she stops, points over the edge and speaks.
"There's no proper way down anymore. Issilar used magic to go up and down. The rest of us usually climb the sides of the building or jump. Oh, there's a nasty plant in here somewhere. Watch out for it."
She then hops off the side.
Jumping down is easy if you wish to do so. It's less than 10 feet (DC 15 Acrobatics to negate any damage). For the rest of you, you can get a rope set up--or is your rope from before still hanging there? I don't remember. Either way, getting down is easy. :)
Once everyone is down, she leads you through the double doors on the west side of the courtyard. They take you into the main area of the bottom tier of the ziggurat. Most of this large chamber surrounds a smaller inner structure. Loud, frantic buzzing comes from the smaller chamber.
There are two doors along the north wall, and Sildu leads you to the eastern of the two. As you reach the door, you can now see there is an opening in the northern wall of the inner structure and within it, you can see a massive wasps' nest, where huge wasps are busy devouring the animal carcasses Sildu dropped down a short while ago.
The door leads into a sunken chamber. Stairs lead from the door (and the far west door) down into the chamber itself. The stairs are flanked by two broken columns. The entire room is set in white marble, trimmed with elaborate inlays of jade and turquoise. Along the south wall, four small, faceless humanoid statues carved from pale bluish stone hover above marble display pedestals. Where their faces should be, there is only a flickering glow.
Suddenly, a loud voice speaks, each of you hearing it in your own native language: "Lay down your weapons, approach, and await judgement."
"There is the room to the north with the four faceless idols," she says. "They hover above the floor and where their faces should be, there is only a glow. They tell us to await judgement, but they never say anything more. Some of my people used to spend days or weeks waiting for a judgement that never came. When Issilar arrived, he forbade us from entering the room again.
"There is also the flooded room to the west. It has strange carvings, and by that room, there is the room with the stone circle on the floor. It has many carvings, too. We do not understand them."