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Just as Caesare is about to step into the room he suddenly freezes. Looking down he sees an arcane symbol etched into the floor, a symbol of pain! However, looking over his shoulder, Risbeth notices several of the stones in the NE corner of the room look out of place, as if they could be depressed. Perhaps a secret door?
I had a local Con this weekend. I feel your pain.
You move onward, before the spirit can change its mind. Down a short hallway you can see two doors, one on either side.
On the left: The small iron portcullis that once blocked the entrance to
On the right: This room may once have served as some sort of private quarters. Only a few pieces of rusted metal furniture remain, the rest having long rotted away. The dirt has been swept clear from most of the floor, exposing the flagstones beneath.
Pinball is lowered safely down and back up. The dagger appears to be of the Jistkan style, but try as she might, Pinball can distinguish no actual spell or effect on it, just the odd aura.
Seeing that you've explored this floor, you head down the staircase. To the north, a winding stairway descends to the dim chamber below. Four alcoves hold marble statues of grim soldiers from ages past, two on either side of a faintly glowing statue of a regally appointed man who towers in front of the southern wall. Two golden lion statues stand at guard in front of the god. The roof has collapsed at the northwest corner, where a large stone slab lies on the floor below the opening.
Blanmieux and Manius study the pottery and something looks off about it. They're definitely ancient, but the clay is the wrong sort to be found in an area like this.
The Taldan Home site looks authentic.
Pinball looks down the well and can barely make out a dagger lying at the bottom of the 30 foot shaft. It's radiating a faint aura of abjuration magic. The satchel contains a scroll of resist energy.
You give the place a good searching, but find nothing more interesting. There is a stair to the north that descends into darkness.
Garett took a bunch of damage. Something in the satchel glows magic, as does something at the bottom of the well...
Looking around this room, Blanmieux and Theleb note the pottery and ruined building manufactured in ancient Taldan style that the list of notable archaeological items mentioned are in this room. Knowledge history, craft pottery, appraise or knowledge geography checks on the pottery; Knowledge history, appraise or knowledge geography check on the Taldan home.
Blanmieux thoroughly searches the camp room, but finds nothing more. After he's had his chance, Manius climbs down the ladder to examine the corpse. The corpse appears to relatively recent and wears modern clothes. The neck is snapped, probably from the fall. A satchel lies next to the body. Its clasp is marked with the symbol of the Athenaeum, a Chelish museum.
Blanmieux swings, but the skeleton slips to the side and dodges the blow. Theleb steps out of the way, allowing Manius to step in. Between Manius and Pinball, spell and sword do what sword alone could not, and the skeleton falls into a pile of ancient bones, and moves no more!
End of combat! You find a potion of cure moderate wounds and an iron-rope in one of the tents.
The campsite is suddenly quieter, save for the howling of the desert winds outside. There are ladders which lead downward, and anyone with darkvision or a torch can see they're about 15-20 feet down and open into a larger room. This cold, dark stone chamber has walls covered in ancient
Garret AoO: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (10) + 9 = 19 for 1d6 + 5 ⇒ (3) + 5 = 8 damage!
Garret smashes into the skeleton as it rises and Manius finishes it off, but not before the two skeletons lay into the halfling! Blanmieux attacks, but the skeleton dodges with a quick slide. Pinball further enhances Garret, armoring him for the next attack.
Theleb again calls upon the holy energies. Will: 1d20 + 3 + 4 ⇒ (2) + 3 + 4 = 9 and Will: 1d20 + 3 + 4 ⇒ (5) + 3 + 4 = 12 This time the skeleton below avoids the worst of it, but the one adjacent to Manius takes a hard blast.
Garett tries to trip the adjacent skeleton! Trip: 1d20 + 18 ⇒ (7) + 18 = 25
It tries to stand (AoO (Garret): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (19) + 9 = 28 for 1d6 + 5 ⇒ (5) + 5 = 10 damage!) and he smashes it to the ground, grinding it until it stops struggling. The skeleton below tries to climb again! Climb: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (7) + 3 = 10 It succeeds in hauling itself up and ends up adjacent to Theleb!
Blanmieux, Pinball and Manius are up!
Garret trips the skeleton nearest him and it falls to the ground, but his stomp is thwarted when it deftly dodges him!
Theleb calls upon the spirits and a blast of positive energy flows from him!
The red skeleton stands! Attack of opportunity from Garret! The other attacks Garret, moving with military precision! Attack vs Garret: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (18) + 7 = 25 for 1d8 + 5 ⇒ (4) + 5 = 9 damage!
AC 19 and DR 5/bludgeoning, 12 HP left. If it still lives after the AoO, it attacks!:
Attack: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (19) + 7 = 26 for 1d8 + 5 ⇒ (6) + 5 = 11
Possible crit: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (13) + 7 = 20 for an additional 1d8 + 5 ⇒ (5) + 5 = 10 damage!
The third skeleton moves over to the ledge and tries to climb! Climb: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (5) + 3 = 8 It fails to catch a break and lurks at the bottom of the cliff.
Pinball, Blanmieux and Manius are up!
Between Blanmiuex and Pinball, the tarp gets pulled down and retied, tighter than before. Outside the storm howls, but in here... in here is safe.
At least until the skeletons slide from the shadows, ancient weapons in hand.
init Manius: 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (1) + 0 = 1
Garret and Theleb are up! Please note the northern floor is 10 fete below the northern floor, and the dark area is a drop down into darkness!
With a little squeaking, you manage to make it!
The storm is raging as you stagger into the Chelish camp. Sand gusts into the building through the open door to the west and the southwest corner of the canvas roof, where the broad tarpaulin has broken free at one end. The canvas strains violently in the wind as the rest of the bindings begin to pull loose. Only half of the building’s original floor still exists to the south. A ladder descends ten feet to a ledge below, and another ladder descends further into a jagged crack in the ground. A campsite sprawls across both ledges, and several bloodied corpses are scattered throughout.
The canvas roof is threatening to pull away, which would expose you (and the site) to the harsh desert winds. If you wish to secure it down, I need a Climb check, followed by a STrength check to secure it!
"1,500 years my spirit has rested here, mortal. Long days and nights. This unworthy cur is but the newest of unworthy curs. So long ago did I walk the mortal realm that I remember but little of what my life contained. My bearer is distracted, or else I would be compelled to tear you limb from limb. Destroy the talisman that binds me, mortal and let my soul fly free. Now go. Your passage is not yet known."
You set sail at dawn. After a long day at sea, you approach your destination. The last rays of the setting sun light up a bluff to the southeast that towers over the desert. Ruined buildings and leaning towers jut up from the plateau on its top as ominous clouds loom to the south of Ibhir—a sandstorm roars across the desert toward the ruins.
DC 20 Survival check! If you succeed, you get a +2 on each of the following checks.
The only cover in sight is the Chelish camp’s sandstone building, and you need to reach it before the storm reaches you. Doing so requires a series of three skill checks that all of the PCs must attempt, and the PCs succeed at each of the three challenges as a group if at least half of the PCs succeed at that check.
First, the PCs must hurry their mounts toward the bluff with a successful DC 16 Ride check. Second, the PCs need to lead their mounts along the treacherous path that snakes up the side of the bluff, requiring a successful DC 19 Ride check or DC 17 Handle Animal check. Finally, at the top of the bluff, the PCs must navigate the stinging sand and locate the Chelish camp with a successful DC 19 Perception check. If a PC elected not to ride a mount, for the first two checks he must instead attempt a DC 15 Constitution check followed by a DC 19 Acrobatics or Climb check; he gains a +2 bonus on these checks if his movement speed is at least 40 feet.
Mavius lets out a squeal of delight as the bodyguard is dropped to the ground. "Excellent! I cannot wait to hear how your expedition will turn out, so I will help you get there quicker. I will expedite your permit and waive the permitting fees; you may leave upon the morning tide! Good luck, Pathfinders! May the god smile upon your quest!" Mavius claps and a clerk steps from an alcove and nods, heading off to fetch the paperwork. Your voyage is begun!
Finalize any purchases and we're start tomorrow!
Mavius claps his hand as Garret gives him a close game but 'loses' at the pivotal moment. "Excellent! Excellent! A great game and a great cause. I have heard some wild tales about the exploits of Pathfinders. I’d like to hear more of your adventures, or perhaps you’d like to showcase your considerable skills!”
Your last hurdle is impressing Mavius with your exploits or abilities. You may use any appropriate skill, ability or even attack, if you choose to demonstrate combat prowess. Be sure to describe what you do!
I will volunteer to GM as well. Ran this in person once and it'll be fun to do it again!
Hearing noises above, you head up the stairs. The archways open into a cavernous, pillar-lined amphitheater of crumbling stone with high ceilings and a rough dirt floor strewn with bones. The skeletons of deer and other larger game animals hang from several of the columns, all of which are painted with crude symbols and marred with scratch marks. The southern portion of the room contains an elevated dais, connected to the earthen floor of the amphitheater by short stairs on either side. To the rear of the dais, an open archway leads deeper into the ruins.
Crouching over the bones is a ghostly pale form, the vilkacis. It turns its eyes to you and there is a cascade of emotions there: pain, anger, hurt, despair, rage. But it does not immediately attack you.
Mavius claps his hand and motions to the board, beginning the game. Garret, Sense Motive check!
Sense Motive DC 15:
You realize Mavius does NOT like to lose. You're pretty sure you can beat him, though he is a clever player. Or you may make a Bluff check to 'lose' convincingly.
As the game begins, Mavius gestures to the rest of you. “Tell me about this expedition you are embarking upon. I have heard a little about it here and there—enough to get me intrigued. I’d love to know more.”
Bluff, Diplomacy or Perform (oratory), depending on whether you're telling him the truth and whether you're trying to impress the importance of this mission, which may make him more inclined to help you...
Mavius, his thick jowls bouncing, smiles and nods. "Excellent. Excellent! It's so nice to meet new people! Please, eat!" His meal proves to be sumptuous and tasty and Mavius is no stranger to a gluttonous appetite. The food is plentiful and quite tasty and Mavius makes it a point to show he's eating everything so you have no fear of poisoning.
Once the meal is windind down, the magistrate orders a servant to bring out an ornate board with several dozen ivory pieces, “Would anyone care for a friendly game of Siege—unless one of you can entertain us with some Chelish opera? Hah!”
Leaving immediately, then?
Having no good directions, you follow the howling dash of the wolves into the woods. The Stairs of the Moon lie only a few hours from Ascanor Lodge. The temple is essentially two buildings in one—a wedge-shaped, f lat-roofed, trapezoidal edifice attached to an immense tower of stacked f lat stones rising to a dizzying height. Also constructed from large stones, the wedge shaped building stands about 25 feet tall, though it contains only a single story. A series of arches in the north wall permits access to the interior of the building’s ground floor, while a pair of ascending ramps carved into stairs climbs to meet the spiraling stair that wraps around the tower. Along the south wall of the temple, the first ramp climbs from the forest f loor in a straight path until it reaches the roof of the low building at its western end, 25 feet above the ground. Along its north wall, the opposing ramp doubles back, climbing another 25 feet to connect with the tower and join the staircase spiraling around it. The tower forms a tapering column of solid rock that rises nearly 150 feet above the forest floor, capped with an open-air observatory at the top. At one time, the tower’s apex stood above the trees, but over the passing years the trees have surpassed its height, hiding the temple from view.
At some point the wolves outpaced you and you're not entirely sure where they went, though you can hear movement from inside.
You can show up in any dress you feel like showing up in. Obviously, consequences may apply depending on your choices.
It seems like you're headed to the invitation. I'll make the first post, and when you respond, describe what you're wearing.
The magistrate’s mansion is of modest size but well-maintained. Upon receiving the invitation, a halfling servant guides everyone through an iron gate with flowery designs onto a terrace overlooking the bay near the Arch of Aroden. A ring of sitting pillows and several water pipes furnish the terrace. At the end of the hall sits a handsome, dark-haired man with an easy smile, though years of indulgent living seem to have taken their toll on his physique. The air is humid as thundering clouds gather far from the shore.
Mavius beckons everyone to sit down, “My dear guests, please relax and enjoy yourselves. There are plenty of local delicacies, and the wine is quite exquisite. I’m sure you’re eager to get down to business, yet there’ll be time for that later.”
The Osirian man smiles grimly. "You have not heard of Chelish prisons? Hell is preferable."
Pinball asks around and is able to discover the following about Mavius:
Mavius is a cousin of the lord-mayor of Khari. The magistrate takes advantage of his station to enjoy all the pleasures the city has to offer, therefore his palanquin is a regular sight on the street as Mavius travels between the mansion and several high-end establishments and the opera.
The lord-mayor, Marsiol Giovenci, isn’t too fond of his cousin. He secured the post of magistrate for Mavius as a favor to Mavius’s father, yet Marsiol feels that his cousin doesn’t live up to the city’s standards. The lordmayor is concerned that Mavius might make him regret the favor by becoming entangled in some scandal.
Mavius has been involved in some dubious dealings with shady individuals tied to the Aspis Consortium, including the halfling, Tamrin Credence. You learned during yout previous investigation in Corentyn that Tamrin had also been involved with Zarta Dralneen. You have enough evidence to let you leverage this information to force the magistrate to cooperate—even become a long-term asset for future endeavors—though actually using information against a Chelish noble would be risky at best.
The man literally growls. "Estovion? This changes much." He throws his head back and howls, a long cry that is answered by other cries in the night. "My pack runs for the Stairs of the Moon. Blood runs hot, but I will do my part to ensure no innocent blood is spilled. I owe you." He spits out this last sentence, clearly not comfortable with this debt.
Now is a good time to have you all level up, before we hit the stairs of the moon!
The Osirian man smiles. "I am Markah ibn Alsan, humble merchant and professional waiter-in-lines, it would seem. These Chelish, with their rules and forms and paperwork! Ah! In a civilized country, a few bribes make all this go away, but if you try to bribe them here," He makes a sharp gesture across his throat, "Or worse, prison!"
Listening to the people standing around, Pinball hears a few interesting tidbits.
“Recently they’ve been cracking down on any shady business, so everyone needs a travel permit to leave the city. I hear the inspections of coming and going cargo are pretty thorough as well. Good luck at the magistrate’s office—the lines are bound to be as long as the Arch.”
A bored caravan guard provides information about the archaeological expedition. “They had plenty of scholars and soldiers as well. The number of tools and supplies they were willing to lug across the desert surprised me. Our caravan shared the road with them for a while, but they kept mostly to themselves.”
After a few hours of waiting in the slow-moving line, you finally reach the front. Scores of applicants hoping to procure official travel permits fill the bulky sandstone building, and clerks steadily work their way up and down the lines to identify each applicant and inquire about their business. Once a clerk confirms your authorization from the Athenaeum, she fetches a letter, lowers her voice, and tells you, “Magistrate Mavius Giovenci wants to handle this matter in person. This is an invitation to attend an evening function at his estate.” She forces a smile and then turns her attention to the next group in line. As promised, the letter requests that you join the magistrate at sundown for a fancy meal.
Leaving Madame Ivanja's tower, you head back downstairs to gather your things. Heading into the woods you are immediately buffeted by the feeling that many unseen eyes are watching you. You follow the werewolf's instructions and sure enough, a huge black furred wolf appears before you, slipping from the shadows. Its form blurs and a man appears, looking wary. He nods at you warily, but waits for you to speak first.
Niama shakes her head, still staring at Norbert. "They were very precise and left nothing. But I could describe them. Mahir is a good artist. He would draw them, if you wished." Mahir turns out to be a young man of around 16, who serves clients with a taste for younger men. He is shy, but proves to be a deft hand with charcoal and in a matter of hours, you have four portraits that are as good as anything you've seen in Museums.
Sorry for the delay, sick kid with strep. So, is the next stop the Stairs of the Moon?
Sorry, had a kid sick with strep. Back to the grind now. It's disputed ground. Picture a bit of land between Canada and the States. Say it's been Canadian land for a long time, but the US suddenly claims it. If the US found artifacts indicating that George Washington once lived there, it would mean that historically, it was US land and the Canadians stole it. Not the other way around...
Since Cheliax was once a part of the Taldan Empire, if they can prove there was a Taldan colony, it shows they have a historical claim.
You are given berths on a Chelish warship that patrols the bay between Khari and Cheliax. Aside from the Chelish navy not being at all happy to transport civilians, (and non-Chels at that!) your voyage is uneventful.
The Chelish frigate cuts through the waves by the Arch of Aroden as sunrise paints the harbor of Khari red. Vessels from all around the Inner Sea are moored at the docks, waiting for their cargo to be unloaded or for new goods to be brought aboard. The city spreads around the bay, with sandstone buildings and twisting minarets marking its Rahadoumi origin now emblazoned with red-and-white banners of Cheliax.
Most of the inhabitants dress in a Garundi fashion of colorful robes and billowing blouses, but occasionally a regiment of Chelish soldiers or a Hellknight parts the crowd. Several openair markets fill the city with clamor as merchants and patrons haggle loudly under many-colored stalls.
At one of the stalls, an exasperated man with an Osirian accent complains loudly, “It would be bad enough if it was just the damned dockworkers who take their time unloading my goods, but now I have to wait for those infernal bureaucrats to grant me a travel permit to even leave the city. I swear I’m about to lose my mind with the incompetence of these people!”
The Society has provided you with basic archaeological equipment (picks, shovels, brushes, sacks, parchment tags, and notebooks) and sufficient funds to cover essential expenses and purchase mounts; they can keep anything left over as a bonus. You may gather information and prepare for the journey as you interact with the local people, but before you leave the city, you must acquire a travel permit.
She smiles in a dreamy sort of way. "Them. I don't think they were wolves. Well, the first three weren't. They were nobles, from Cortaud. One of them had a wicked little stunted man-thing as a pet. It creeped me out. All they wanted was for me to dance. So I danced. Then the fourth one showed up, a big silver haired woodsman who smelled like a man... Deep and musky. Then they told me to leave them. So I left them. I came back after an hour and they were gone. But I saw more than they thought..." She seems to go blank for a moment.
"They weren't from Cortaud. Their accents were southern, probably from Caliphas. And one of them had a necklace he kept hidden. It was a gagged skull, very S&M. They didn't talk much, but the one with the creepy little homunuculus mentioned “the Stairs of the Moon” and something called “the packlord’s heart.” The others shushed him. Obviously they weren't supposed to talk in front of me." She seems to focus on you for a moment. "That's all I know about them. They had an ill look about them. You're cute. Want to play?" She suddenly focuses on Risbeth and licks her lips.
The aide comes back in with a small package. Zefiro takes it and hands it over. It contains: an official document that authorizes its bearer to inspect the archaeological site, a map of the Kharijite province that has a route to Ibhir marked on it, and an archaeological report that details the discoveries made at the site.
It also contains a note. It reads: "This is a report of the notable archaeological items discovered in the lost colony of Taldor—estimated to have been established shortly after the founding of Corentyn in 1520 ar—uncovered by the Athenaeum in Kharijite.
Note in google slide.
Once you've coughed up the gold, Ivanja claps and the same man who greeted you appears. "Take them to Niama. Make sure she's lucid." The man bows and leads you upstairs. As you head out, Ivanja pulls a Harrow deck out and begins to shuffle.
Niama proves to be a beautiful Vudrani woman who lies upon pillows in a room on the third floor. Her eyes are unfocused and she wears nothing save a silky nightdress that covers none of her shapely body. She barely seems to notice when you enter and you can catch the smell of Pesh smoke on the air.
She seems to focus slightly on you as you enter. She smiles, in a dreamy state and murmurs, "Usually I work more one-on-one, but I can be persuaded."
"Kharjiite is a province in Chelish-held Rahadoum. If they can prove we held it in the past, our claim on it now would be much stronger. The lost colony lies under a ruined Rahadoumi village called Ibhir, which is located a couple of days’ ride southwest from the city of Khari. A collapse uncovered the site as a fierce battle was fought in Ibhir during the Everwar. Centuries later, a forgotten war diary led the Athenaeum archaeologists to rediscover the colony and mount an expedition to exhume it. According to the Athenaeum archaeologists, Taldan colonists established the settlement as part of the Third Army of Exploration, sometime after Corentyn was founded in 1520 AR. This is being pushed personally by Ianareth Alazario. I've only met Ianareth in passing, and she's the shining embodiment of Cheliax’s values." He accompanies this statement with a grimace meant to convey that he doesn’t necessarily intend this as a compliment.
Ivanja smiles. "I dabble in the art of fortune-telling, but more to the point, I keep a keen eye or rather, many sets of eyes, on affairs." She gestures upward in the tower. "I employ lads and ladies to please and pleasure the various guests who come through this tower. Many people talk with looser lips when they're sleepy and warmed after a good evening's activities. You're here about those cultists who came through. My ladies tell me that Estovion fled at speed, which means he's been found out at some naughty business."
With the consensus of the group, you cut down the troll. He stretches, watching you as closely as you watch him, then lumbers out and heads away at speed, not looking back or taking any notice of the leshys.
With your finds, you head back to the ship and from there, chart a course back to Absalom, eager to report your success! However no sooner are you back, than you are once again sent to Corentyn, proving no good job goes unpunished!
Nevertheless, you find yourselves back in the Museum, meeting with a calmer Zefiro Ballinger!
Motes of dust float in the air as the midday sun shines through the skylights of the museum roof. Several scholars and students move about the bookshelves and display cases on the main floor and the balconies above, while some are hunched over tables piled with heavy tomes. Zefiro is in discussion with a colleague when he notices the visitors.
“Ah, you have returned. Welcome.” He shakes hands with everyone. “Right, we have that package for you.” Zefiro beckons to a student at a nearby table. “Run up and fetch the Athenaeum materials from my office.” He turns back from the student, though he occasionally glances nervously at the people going about their work around him.
“The ruin you’re about to investigate is certainly a major discovery, and it’s sure to earn great prestige for my colleagues at Egorian’s Athenaeum. A lost colony of ancient Taldor right within the Kharijite province would certainly give our beloved empire a strong claim to the region.” Zefiro steps a little closer and lowers his voice. “I would be very interested to discuss your findings when you return, with a bit more privacy. Come see me here in the evening and we can have a talk in my office.”
Zefiro takes a step back as the student returns with the package. He hands it over to the PCs, “If there’s nothing else, I must get back to my duties.”
There is a great deal of hem-hawing as the guests express their shock at your coarse words. One by one they deny any knowledge of these 'guests', until the Markiza's servant, her 'hound' Ostrovach steps forward and speaks in a low voice. "I was here when those men came through. I came early to make the Markiza's way ready. They kept to themselves and spoke to Estovion, but they also consulted the Madame Ivanja, for her girls' 'skills'. She may know more." The housekeeper is quick to point out that Madame Ivanja rents one of the towers in the courtyard and keeps to herself. You haven't seen her yet, nor have you had cause to visit her tower.
Armed with this information, you head to Ivanja's tower, where a perfumed man in revealing silks opens the door. He bows deeply and escorts you to an inner room on the ground floor, where carpets, silks and pillows line the walls. He offers you food and drink, bringing a plate of sweets and a sweet wine for you. He tells you in a low voice that the Madame will see you shortly.
Madame Ivanja is a slender Varisian woman in her early 30s. She's confident and carries herself with the air of someone who is used to commanding respect. She bows to you, smiling. "I wondered when you would get around to seeing me. Sooner or later, most everyone comes to me. How may I help you?" Her voice is thick and sultry, but her eyes are light and smiling.