Not nearly as stealthy as usual, Shalina nearly stumbles onto the edge of the water. Her eyes adjust slowly to the dark. As they do, she is astonished.
A large figure is there, right out of the old books she had seen. The supple, sinewy body of a lion, a set of vast eagles wings and the head of a ram. That massive head is pointed right at Shalina.
It is a sphinx, of some kind. Knowledge nature for more
"Greetings, human." it says in low Common, pitched so the caravan cannot hear it. "What brings you to my pool?" The voice is light but there is an edge of protectiveness to it.
knowledge,nature: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (6) + 4 = 10
I doubt that roll will tell me more.
Shalina's eyes widen as she takes in the sight. She is either very lucky or in grave danger, depending on how the sphinx responds to her presence. She bows very low before the sphinx and says in an equally low voice as to not alert the others, "I beg your pardon. I heard a noise and wanted to be sure there was no danger. If I had known this was your pool, I would have asked permission before approaching."
The sphinx smiles, ram's head bowing slightly, 'Your words do you credit."
"But why are you at this pool? Humans do not live here, except for that one in the hut." the lion tail flicks toward Tekk's hut, lost in the darkness across the oasis.
"Did you come seeking trade, some sort of petty merchant?"
Shalina chuckles softly, "No, not a merchant. Although I did travel with a caravan to this place. I'm an archaeologist, one who seeks to learn about history and preserve historical items."
Switching topics in case the sphinx had encountered less scrupulous archaeologists, she asked, "Have you met the human in the hut or just know of him?"
"You seek the pyramid?" the creature asks, with a knowing look in those huge, wise eyes. 'Do you know of the tests and traps set into the ancient stone? Of the watchful guardians?"
At Shalina's question the Sphinx seems to shrugs, claws extending and withdrawing. 'I have spoken to him. He is polite and courteous, if terse. He is a wholesome enough neighbor. "
Yes, I seek the pyramid. I assumed there would be many tests and traps but there was very little information available to me before I left. Would you be willing to tell me what you know? Such as, who are the watchful guardians?"
The word neighbor caused her to ask, "So you live here at this pool? Where do you go during the day? Or do you live somewhere else and just visit here?"
The sphinx smiles, sharp teeth bared. "For a price, human. Do you have coin, gold, jewels? We can bargain, but yes, I know much of the old pyramid."
He laps some more water before answering the rest, 'All this area of desert is mine. I often come here at night to drink, to think...to hunt." The tail whips slightly, like a cat watching a mouse, "Water is rare in this part of the desert., It is a valuable place, to me. Even Sphinx need to drink."
"Now, about that gold.."
Shalina swallowed hard at the sphinx's mention of hunting since she couldn't recall seeing any animals large enough to satisfy his hunger around the oasis.
There was always a price for information but Shalina was surprised that the price was requested in material wealth. "I have some gold to trade. I would have more but I've invested most of my money in my equipment. What is your price?"
The ram's eyes light up at the mention of gold. "Three hundred gold coins and I will tell you of the traps. One hundred more and I will tell you of the guardians." the sphinx says, his voice rising dramatically.
"Do you wish to offer this knowledge to your friends or just yourself?" The sphinx gestures tot he group, with one clawed paw.
Shalina's face fell at the amount of gold that was requested. "Alas, I don't have that much to trade." Looking over her shoulder she adds, "And those aren't my friends so I wouldn't be sharing any information with them. They're decent enough men, just not friends."
"Is there nothing else that you would take in trade? A song perhaps, or a tale, or a task?"
Cheapskate. You have nearly 2,000 on gold coins.
The sphinx smiles, "No such amount, in a whole caravan? This is a shame, but perhaps you meant, not enough gold to trade for such knowledge. Very well. Pay it as a toll, to use my oasis, and cross my desert. If you fail to pay...I will hunt."
A low growl sounds in the deep of his throat. "Pay now, and I may even tell you of your quest ahead. Assuming you don't die to save a few gold coins. "
Oops! I had a different amount on my character sheet that was on my computer than the one under her alias. Shalina will gladly pay...I honestly wasn't being a cheapskate :)
It was then that Shalina remembered a contingency fund that her uncle had given her that she had strapped to her camel, Hijen, but hadn't taken a look at. She just hoped as she spoke that it had enough to pay the sphinx. "Let me clarify. I don't have the gold but my camel, Hijen, has it. I can't be trusted with shiny things so I often leave him in charge of the money. Will you allow me to take my leave and get you what you've requested?"
Camel has a name!
The creature nods its head, "Hurry, and no tricks. You will find me..ill disposed towards them."
As Shalina hurries back to the pack animals, she hears Necho's voice call to her fromt he fire. "Everything all right? I thought i heard you talking with someone?" his voice is filled with suspicion.
Shalina's voice was as cool as the night. "Everything's fine. With the scarcity of pleasant company today, I was actually talking to myself because I needed to vent. Don't worry, I know the man in the hut is off limits. I just need something from Hijen's packs, I'll go to the washroom, and then I'll turn in. Anything else?"
As she spoke, she rifled through her saddle bags and found what she was looking for. Her uncle had conveniently separated the gold into a few bags so she grabbed one that had around 500 gold. She also grabbed a small shovel from the pack that she used to bury bodily waste, just in case Necho became too interested, and made her way back into the dark.
Since she's not going straight back to her bedroll, she'll make it look like she's going to the washroom.
Shalina gets her money and slips back out into the darkness by the pool. Necho sounds like he is going to ask more questions but the conversation around the fire drags him back in.
As she approaches the sphinx, Shalina can see the eyes light up with greed at the sight of the coins. "Excellent, excellent." the creature says, nodding the massive head. "Is it all there?"
Shalina nodded, "Yes it is all here. I have even brought you more than discussed as my way of apologizing for making you believe that I didn't value your knowledge or that I was wanting to save some gold. Meeting such a majestic creature as you is an honor and not something I will readily forget. You surely are a fount of knowledge to be revered and I hope the extra gold demonstrates that."
With that she bows slightly as she hands over the weighty pouch of gold and hopes that the sphinx tells her what he knows of the pyramid.
The creature sweeps up the coin,s obviously enjoying the jangle and clank as he slings the punch somewhere into it's mane.
It coughs, as if clearing its voice. "The traps are four, one for each of the directions. Oceans for the north with flooding rooms and slippery walls. Burning heat and sand for the desert lands to the east, falling rocks and sliding stones for the lands to the west and drugged caverns of pesh for the distant lands to the south, you call Katapesh."
b'They are dangerous places, but with this forewarning you have a chance. The guardians...the restless insects of the desert. Antlions, sandworms and the great scorpion, all guard this place. You will have to be very cunning to get past them."[/b]
he pauses, as if expected applause.
Shalina rewarded the sphinx's information with a winning smile. "Thank you for sharing this information with me. I would applaud you if it wouldn't draw the attention of the others." Shalina considered whether she should risk more questions but she did want a little more information based on what he said. "Can one avoid the guardians altogether? And since the traps are based on directions, is the pyramid laid out in a cross?"
The Sphinx gives her a hard look, "How dare you question me, wise sage of the wide desert! I have already told you enough, more then you should need to brave the terrors." The creature shake's its head as if annoyed. 'I wish you the best in your quest, human. Enjoy my pool." and it takes off, flying into the endless darkness of the desert night.
Shalina knew it had been a longshot but at least the sphinx hadn't been so annoyed as to eat her. She waved at the sphinx as it flew away, not that he could see her or cared if he did. Stifling a yawn, she made her way back to her bedroll and turned in for the night.
Shalina's plan is to wait until the caravan leaves and then seek out Tekk again. He knows where the pyramid is and so she can get a better idea of direction to go. She'll also ask him to tag along if he would like.
The dawn comes strong and hot, like all in the desert. The sky is a hard, endless blue, with no hint of cloud or wind.
As Shalina wakes up,s he hears the stirring from the camp. Glacning over, she can see Necho is already making ready to leave. camels are saddled, men are eating a quick breakfast, finishing up in the dawn light, and tents being rolled. Obviously the caravan master wants to head out, soon.
Showing that there were no permanent hard feelings, Shalina goes over to say goodbye to Necho. "Safe travels. May the sand stay out of your eyes and may your camel always have sure footing. Thank you for getting me safely to my destination."
As soon as the caravan was out of sight behind one of the sand dunes, Shalina makes her way to the solitary hut in the oasis. "Tekk? I said I'd be back. You still willing to talk to me?"
The caravan master looks Shalina right in the eyes. He was a good man, at the base of it, and he bows to Shalina. "The same to you. Stay safe in these empty lands. I think you are foolish to meet with Tekk, but as you are, watch your back. I will pray tot he real gods for you."
The caravan leaves, sending up a plume of desert sand as the camels make their way west, out of sight.
Shalina finds Tekk under the shade of a date tree, polishing a long sword. It gleams in the bright desert light, almost painful to the bard's eyes.
"I am willing to talk. What do you wish to discuss? Did the caravan leave you here alone?"
Shalina raises an eyebrow at how she finds Tekk. "So the caravan leaves, which I'd be surprised if you didn't know, and you think it best for me to find you polishing your sword and then ask me if I'm all alone? Seems rather ominous, don't you think?"
Shrugging her shoulders, she plops down on the ground beneath the tree and watches him work. "We'll get to the pyramid in a second. Did you know that a sphinx frequented this oasis? Have you talked with it? It seemed to know who you were...or at least that you were the human in the hut."
Curiosity about the sphinx satiated for now, the archaeologist switches to the real reason she has ventured this far into the desert. "So, you said you've seen the pyramid." She gets right to the point, "Can you find your way back there and are you interested in joining me? I won't insult you by asking whether you can actually use that sword that you're polishing. If you're as good with that as you are with a hoe then I already have my answer."
A twist of a smile flits across Tekk's face. "I apologize, mi'lady. It has been long since I had had to speak to others. My manners are rude and rough. Forgive me." he sets the sword on his lap and sets the polishing stone aside.
'I do it every morning, in the light of the dawn in order to honor Ra. It is not much, but the best I can do in these remote wastes."
His face alters a bit at the mention of the sphinx, "I have met him, yes. He comes once a month or so, I can usually convince him I have no gold and he leaves me alone. He is a great liar and braggart though, very dishonest. Did you run into him last night?"
"As for the pyramid, I am curious for myself, for my own reasons. I will join you." He says simply, weathered face shaded under the date tree.
The bard smiled, "Considering you've been out here relatively alone for what sounds like years, your manners are quite good. The fact that I haven't had to pull a weapon on you gives you a pass in my book."
Shalina thought about what she knew of Ra. "The altar you have in your hut is in honor of Ra? With how Necho was going on and on about your horrible character, I never figured you to be the religious-type."
Do I do the knowledge religion check or do you?
Tekk's confirmation of the sphinx and his assessment of the creature's character gave Shalina pause. "I did run into him last night. Alas I was not able to convince him that I didn't have any gold because he lumped me in with the caravan. To garner some information and to prevent him from 'hunting', I gave him some. His words about the pyramid seemed a little cryptic but maybe there is some truth to them. He warned of traps and guardians...but what pyramid doesn't have rumors of traps and guardians?"
It was a pleasant occurrence for Shalina to have company on the rest of her journey. Not that Tekk was really talkative but having someone to watch your back was always beneficial. "Good to have you along. When would be best to leave?"
Knowledge Rel.: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (10) + 4 = 14
"You saw inside?" He shrugs, 'No, Toth is who I personally follow. The god of writing, of knowledge. I have servd him for many a long year." His voice trails off, quiet and still.
Shalina knows the worship of the 'old gods' like Ra, Seth and Toth are frowned upon and increasingly rare in Osirion. Not unheard of, but unusual in the bigger cities or in powerful positions.
Tekk frowns, 'I am sure he lied to you. To be fair, he might have turned violent if you didn't pay him. Think of it more as a toll then a scam, if it helps you sleep at night, my lady."
He picks up the sword and holds it lightly, watching the harsh sun beat down on it. "Dusk. The heat of the day is foolish for anyone on foot. We can make good time. It'll take two marches though, to reach the pyramid, over open desert. Can you handle that?"
"That makes Necho's parting words make much more sense. Apparently he feels the need to pray to the 'real' gods on my behalf. What's the deal between the two of you anyways? Surely you can agree to disagree about religion, no?"
Shalina looked sideways at Tekk when he once again called her my lady. "If we're going to be traveling together, you should probably get used to using my name. Unless that's a subtle hint that you'd rather I call you something other than Tekk..."
Dusk sounds good to me but we don't need to travel by foot because we have Hijen! I'm sure he can carry us both."
Tekk's face doesn't grow hard, but it becomes distant, guarded. "I did not know the caravan master and he me. But he did know of me,t he things I did."
He says nothing more, listening to the quiet burble of springs pouring into the oasis.
He nods at her name 'Shalina, then. If you care." He shrugs, 'Tekk will do fine. I have no titles or lands, nothing of honor."
He considers, 'Yes, the camel. This is good. It will also allows us to take anything we find that may be valuable or worth saving from the elements. Still, dusk may be best. The desert is more lively then, but it is a risk I am willing to take."
Shalina was still curious about her new companion's past but didn't want to scare Tekk off by asking too many questions or seeming too pushy. She let that particular conversation drop.
"Do you think the kobolds will still be a problem near the pyramid? You said that you ran into them near there."
Nothing more in preparations to be made that I can think of.
'I expect we will run into them before we reach it. I assume you have a plan on how to deal with them?"
let us hope so!
As the blinding sun dips in the West, Shalina and Tekk mount Hijen and start the jounrey. Pressed agianst her (although not as close as a horse would be) Tekk seems unmoved by any emotion or passion, merely watching the quickly chilling dunes. He seems loose, lithe, aware of his environment, like a hunting cat beginning to stalk.
About half way through the night, the moon riding far overhead, Tekk stops the camel. He dismount and looks closely, "Footprints. The kobolds are near. Probably sleeping, they are active during the day. Shall we try to slip past them?"
Plan, shman. Does Tekk hacking and slashing count as a plan? :)
Shalina slipped down off of Hijen to join Tekk. Keeping her voice low she says, "Sneaking past will always be my first choice. Not sure how quiet Hijen will be but it's worth a try. If we run into any that aren't sleeping then maybe I can persuade them to with a lullaby."
Shalina plans to cast sleep if they run into any resistance.
Hacking and slashing is a great plan but you are playing a bard...
Shalina slides forward, acting as scout. Between her and Tekk, the lead Hijen over the sand and increasingly rocky land. Then, around a high crop of sandy stone she spots a kobold sitting by a bush, obviously awake watching the trail.
Hoping to sneak, Shalina tries to approach it downwind.
Stealth: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (7) + 10 = 17
She manages to get close enough, using a sand dune. She tries to cast Sleep on the creature. DC is 14, best I can work out.
Kobold Will Save: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (14) + 2 = 16
It fails and the kobold suddenly stiffens, and starts to blow a small hunting horn. The sound echoes throughout the canyon.
Tekk looks pained and shouts, 'Should I kill him and try to make off or should we run now?"
choice is yours? I just did the stealth roll to move things along. Ok?
Shalina shook her head in disbelief as the kobold shook off her magic. She obviously had made some wrongful assumptions on their strength of will.
"The horn has already been blown so they'll be here shortly. I say we run now and hopefully they won't follow if they realize they aren't under attack. If they follow then that's a different story. At that point I encourage you to kill them all. Besides, it'll be good to find out how fast Hijen can actually run."
You're welcome to make dice rolls for Shalina at any time to help with the story. Does the horn sound actually physically hurt Tekk or is he just pained at Shalina's failure? I'm beginning to think the dice roller in this game is against me.
It was a figure of speech
Tekk nods, 'Let's move!" He leads the way up a narrow side canyon, Shalina and Hijen at his heels. The camel does a good job of keeping up, but it isn't very quiet.
They climb upwards, doing their best to steer clear of jagged rocks in the moonlight. Only the distant sounds of pursuit come from behind, but it is getting louder.
Finally, they come to a high outcrop, surrounded by inky blackness. Tekk looks at Shalina, "Two choices. We can keep running along the ridgelines and hope they don't catch us. We keep moving till the sun comes up then try to find a shady spot to hide. It'll be tough but doable. Second choice, there is a system of caves near by. We could enter them and travel that way. It is more dangerous but it'll be easy to lose them that way. Thoughts? Choose quickly."
Do you mind the choices? If you have a Kirk third option, feel free.
I thought it was probably a figure of speech but characters I've played with have also had some weird weaknesses/quirks so just thought I'd ask.
Shalina's only other thought was to fight but considering she didn't know how many kobolds there actually were, running was still best. "If Hijen will do alright in the caves then I vote for that. If he can't fit in the caves then we keep moving along the ridgelines because I can't leave him to them. For all I know they'd eat him and that's just not right."
With the choices it reminds me of those choose your own adventure books from when I was young. I'm good with it :)
Tekk rubs his chin, "I am half tempted to let him go. They'll never catch him in the open desert and he can make his way make to the oasis no problem. But you are right,t hat and maybe we;ll need him at the pyramid."
He leads down a short slope to a rocky cave, black against the black night. "This will lead us toward the pyramid, luckily. It should come out a few hills over, close to where we want to go. I'll bring up the rear, in case the kobolds find us. You'll have to lead." he doesn't sound happy about sending Shalina into danger.
Stepping into the cave is actually warmer then the chilly night air outside.
What do you do for light?
As soon as the dark of the cave envelops Shalina, she draws her rapier while humming and waving her hand over the blade. Soon it begins to glow with a soft light. She keeps it out in front of her as a source of light and a means of protection.
Casting light on rapier
Shalina's rapier glows like a torch, and easily provides enough light. From the back, behind the camel, Tekk speaks, 'Good. I have some torches, if we need them."
Shalina is soon plunged into the winding network of caves and tunnels. Hijen's size actually helps them for it forces her to pick the biggest, widest paths and they seem to be the right ones.
The caves are rocky, but sandbanks cover many of the floors, and drifting many tunnels shut. The walls are rough, jagged stone where the sand exposes them.
Deeper and deeper. Behind them, they hear no sounds of pursuit, but Shalina has a nasty feeling things live int his cave. The desert is a harsh environment and caves this like are a hospitable place to rest during the blistering days.
They cross a chamber, larger then most, ringed in red sandstone, when she hears a shout behind her.
Tekk, following, apparently took a slightly different path and fell into a sinkhole of sand. Already he is up past his knees in sand, sifting downward as gravity pulls him down.
This is dry sand
No sooner had Tekk's shout roused Shalina's attention than the bard was uncoiling her whip since it was at hand and rope was not. She ran back and flicked the end towards Tekk, "Grab hold!" Running back in front of Hijen and to the other side so that her whip rested across his chest, she gave him the command to go. Hijen began walking forward while she pulled backwards and she hoped that between the two of them that they would gain enough leverage to pull Tekk out of the sinkhole.
If Tekk can't grab on, she'll cast animate rope so that her whip ties around him. I figured that this should work considering her whip gives her 15foot reach but if I'm wrong, she'll take the time to dig out rope and do the same. Not sure if I explained myself well so if you have questions, let me know.
It was perfectly clear
Tekk grabs hold, even as the sand rises to his waist, sucking him down. His armor seems to be making the effect much stronger and he grunts, trying to haul himself upward.
Shalina's light flickers and dances as she hurries to save him. Hijen is a strong beast, the finest Namut could find her. She blesses her uncle now as the creature surges forward, pulling the upward. The sand sinks to his knees and he struggles up.
As she does this, however, in between the shifting light and shadow, a bit of the floor, at the edge of the chamber starts to shift and ripple like water above a great fish. The ripple starts to move toward her and Hijen.
Shalina scrambles for her rapier. "Better regroup quickly, Tekk. We've got company!" Shalina tries to maneuver Hijen out of the way from whatever is lurking below the surface by pushing him back along the path they had come. Luckily it didn't take much prodding and she was able to turn back towards the incoming threat.
Assuming nothing good could come from the rippling in the floor, Shalina prepares to stab at it when it gets closer.
Tekk is left scrabbling at sand and trying to claw the rest of the way out on his own.
Just as Shalina is about to stab the rippling sand, a shape bursts out at her. Shalina has been to the seashore, in her youth. The shape looks like a huge...starfish, arms waving madly covered with burr-like spines She stabs at it, on reflex, the shining blade flashing.
Shalina Attack: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (14) + 6 = 20
Damage: 1d6 ⇒ 4
The blow slices between two arms, drawing a small amount of greenish blood. Still silent, the creature rears up and a biting mouth full of gnashing teeth lashes out at Shalina.
Bite Attack: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (9) + 5 = 14
The bite misses, and Shalina can see the creature re-coiling its arms, looking to ensnare her. Hijen snorts in terror and keeps backing up.
Knowledge Nature to ID the thing.
I'm so putting ranks into knowledge, nature when she levels. Do you get the +3 class skill bonus if you don't currently have ranks in the skill? I don't think so but thought I'd ask. Also, I think I may have omitted bonuses to my damage when attacking when I made her profile. It's possible it may have had another point of damage.
knowledge,nature: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 4 = 7 Nope, argh :(
Not knowing anything more about it than it seemed out of place in the desert, Shalina lunged forward with her rapier while ducking under one of its many arms.
rapier: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (4) + 6 = 10
damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (2) + 1 = 3 obviously I should get you to make all my rolls :)
The bard's focus was split between Hijen and Tekk who were both struggling behind her albeit for different reasons. She was unable to make contact with the creature but also didn't want to be grappled by the thing so she twisted right and slid away.
She didn't really make her move action before attacking so I'm hoping she can do it now and will use acrobatics to safely move away from the starfish...hopefully. If I'm wrong, let me know.
acrobatics: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (16) + 11 = 27
No, you don't get the +3 unless you put a rank in it. trust me, I've been burned by that in too many games as a player...
Shalina's next blow goes wide, merely slashing sand. The light flickers as the blade does its work, blocked by the shifting creature. With liquid grace she dances between the grasping tentacles.
The thing dives under the sand and starts rushing toward Hijen, who is backing up the tunnel in animal panic.
Tekk is finally getting clear and is now prone and crawling to safer ground.
Do you want a map? Good fight?
A map could be good - either that or distances. Shalina's plan is the following but I'm not sure how high the ceiling is or how far away Hijen is. She will use her expert leaper ability to jump in front of Hijen and cut off the creature. I know it's an acrobatics check but I don't know if the distance is feasible.
Any fight where I don't die is a good fight :) Although I may have a better gauge if I'm ever in a fight where my rolls aren't trying to kill me rather than my foe...
Shalina launches herself towards Hijen in an attempt to head off the creature that's making a beeline for her camel. "Oh no you don't!" she yells to motivate herself as she jumps to land with her rapier at the ready.
Moving to N8
acrobatics: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (2) + 11 = 13
Probably more like a skip over than a leap with that roll but she should still be able to get there
I thought it was still below the surface so wasn't sure I could attack it. It she can tell where it is then she totally will take a stab at it.
Shalina kept moving as she landed in order to get in front of the creature. It still hadn't surfaced but there was enough of a disruption in the ground that she had a good idea where it was. She stabs downwards with her rapier once she's in position before Hijen.
rapier: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (1) + 7 = 8
damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (5) + 1 = 6
I swear the dice roller hates me in this game. I'm assuming she tosses her rapier across the cave or she falls in a sinkhole or something? Sigh. It's all good though - we don't want Tekk thinking he's not needed or anything :)