Wati, 2952 AR
After over 400 years, one would think the sands would have scrubbed away all traces of blood on the streets, but the first unpleasant discovery Nefru made was that this was not the case. Even centuries later, the streets and buildings had absorbed the rivers of gore that had run through the dead city’s streets, soaked into the sandstone bricks and grout, dark brown stains interspersed with pale streaks where sandstorms had stripped the stones. Nefru stared at the streaks that covered nearly every single building they’d passed in the ruins, his narrow, weathered face creased in sorrow for the carnage that had taken place here long ago. (He is played by Oded Fehr.) He found the stains to be more than physical; they penetrated to the very soul of the long-dead city.
That was only the first unpleasant discovery, though.
The second was the veritable swarm of small figures shuffling toward his retinue.
Skin-boilingly hot winds whipped through the sand-strewn ruins of the narrow street as Nefru Shepses and his Pharasmin acolytes watched in horror at the oncoming horde. It wasn’t the sight of over a dozen corpses shambling toward them down the street in a horrid mockery of life; it was the fact that they were all children. Their bodies were withered and desiccated by the ravages of time, but the arid desert climate had naturally mummified them, preserving their ripped-open throats and eviscerated bellies. One boy carried his bashed-in head in his arms, milky eyes lolling to and fro as he stumbled forward with his macabre compatriots.
The others in his retinue blanched at the horrid sight, weapons wavering. Two of the younger acolytes wept openly, dropping their daggers and fleeing for the safety of the encampment on the other side of the city ruins. A junior acolyte, a hard woman named Shati, raised her shield and khopesh, glanced at the elder cleric uncertainly. (She is played by Shannon Elizabeth.)
”Nefru?” she said, her khopesh momentarily wavering. ”They… they’re just--“
”They are not children, Shati,” he chastised firmly. ”The souls who inhabited those bodies died four hundred years ago. These bodies are echoes of the pain of their deaths, nothing more. Put these echoes down.”
Nefru stood back and let his charges work, watching their form. Abetat nearly fell in the first few moments when he was swarmed with four of the creatures, but the foreigner, Trianna, called Pharasma’s holy power in a burst of white light that disintegrated two of the four surrounding him. Abetat gave her a grateful nod and rallied his defenses against the remaining two.
Khaled went down next, and it was the only time Nefru interfered. He stepped up to the young man, his throat torn entirely out by the wicked claws of one of the little monsters, as he choked and gasped for air through his ruined esophagus, lifeblood gushing onto the dusty ground in arterial spurts. Nefru touched the spiral-painted silver disc around his neck and touched the man’s neck, whispering to the Gray Lady for her grace. The hole in the boy’s neck closed, and his eyelids fluttered and closed; he was unconscious but stable.
After no less than a minute, seventeen tiny, mummified corpses lay unmoving in the street, and Nefru’s acolytes laughed and clasped arms breathlessly in victory. Nefru held up a hand and called sharply, ”Samat limudat daqiqa.” The acolytes turned to him, immediately falling into a chastised hush. After a long, awkward silence, Shati finally spoke up.
”What is wrong, Elder Nefru? I hear nothing.”
Nefru sighed and twirled his finger, indicating she should turn around. Frowning, she did so, as did the other acolytes.
Towering behind them, a great animate cloud of bones had begun silently rising up out of the dunes piled in the street. The bones now began clacking and clicking as they jounced off each other in a steadily increasing vortex. Nefru strolled unhurriedly toward the bonestorm, drawing an ancient reed staff as he went. ”Return to the encampment,” he ordered. ”Inform the others that the cleansing of Wati will take considerably more time than we originally anticipated.”
As Shati began leading the other acolytes away from the gathering undead storm and back the way they’d come, she called over the rising din, ”How long, do you think?”
Nefru Shepses smirked at her over his shoulder. ”At this rate?” he yelled, the thundering tornado of skulls, femurs, and ribcages threatening to overtake him. ”A few decades!” He turned away from his acolyte, gathered holy power in the staff, and set to work.
The sun is like a living thing, its dry, crackling heat nearly palpable in the desert air as you make your way through the sandstone streets of Wati, the Half Dead City. Up on the northern edge of the city stands the world-famous Necropolis of Wati. Here in the Sunburst Market, though, the city is very much alive with a cacophony of sound, smells, and bodies pressed together as they move through the square, laughing, yelling, shouting, or just huddling in the shade of an awning away from the unforgiving sun. Most of the people in the market are native Osirians, but an inordinate number are clearly from all across the world: Taldans, Chelaxians, Varisians, Sargavans, elves, dwarves, halflings and gnomes, even goblins and a few Outsiders of unknown origin wander the market today. Because today is of great import: today, the Ruby Prince Khemet III has decreed the doors of the sacred Necropolis be opened to explorers. This is why the party has come, each for reasons of their own, but all of them to participate in a historical event.
The party has already registered with the church and have been entered into the lottery and now make their way down into the massive Sunburst Market where the lottery will soon take place. The bustling desert city of Wati is near bursting with excitement. Adventurers from every corner of the Inner Sea region have assembled here beneath the hot Osirian sun to explore the tombs of the Necropolis, waiting only to be assigned their first sites for exploration. Surrounding the participants, the public has gathered to observe the ceremony as well. There is a festival-like quality in the air, and numerous street vendors are hawking goods and refreshments to participants and spectators alike. Some merchants have even brought what can only be labeled as “adventuring gear” to sell as last-minute convenience items to explorers (rope, pitons, rations, waterskins, lockpick sets, and the like) while others advertise that they’ll buy recovered treasures and antiquities from those who visit their establishments.
Essentially any mundane good, weapon, or armor of 400gp or less can be purchased right here in the market.
In front of the imposing edifice of the Grand Mausoleum, an immense awning has been erected between decorated pillars in the market to provide shade for the priests of Pharasma overseeing the lottery. Beneath the awning, two urns sit atop a table elevated a few feet above the ground on a wooden stage constructed for the event. The High Priestess of the Grand Mausoleum, Sebti the Crocodile, sits behind the table, while two acolytes confer with her on either side. She is surprisingly young for a High Priestess, but holds herself with an almost regal sense of relaxed confidence.
She is played by Basma Hassan.
After a few moments, the High Priestess stands and raises her hands. A hush steadily falls over the crowd, and Sebti begins to speak.
”Welcome, travelers from all across Golarion! You come at a momentous time in Osirion’s history. The Necropolis of the Half Dead City has long been closed to native and outsider alike, in honor of the dead interred therein. Before we open this sacred place to you, I beg you lend me your ear and understand the history of that place, that you might understand the significance of its opening.
”Wati was first founded some six thousand years ago. This city is older than many of the nations of the world, and even of some of its sister cities here in Osirion. Over two thousand years ago, a cult of Lamashtu unleashed a plague of madness on Wati. Her benighted citizens were driven to horrid, violent insanity. Those not killed by the plague went on murderous rampages and slaughtered their neighbors, their friends… their families. Every last soul in Wati died horribly.
”The city was walled off, and for a millennium, it remained an undead-blighted ruin, a sad reminder of the violence unleashed by the cult. Until one day, a thousand years ago, a mighty priest of Pharasma arrived in Wati determined to cleanse it of its taint. Nefru Shepses, most honored priest of the Lady of Graves, and his retinue, spent some thirty years destroying the undead and slowly consecrating the ruins of the city. Upon completion of their work, the sanctified halls of the Necropolis were honored with the building of the Grand Mausoleum, and steadily grew into a new city, a living city, ever-abutted to the Dead City that came before. Now the Living and the Dead stand side-by-side in Wati.”
”Before we begin the lottery, one final word. All who partake in this event will follow the Three Rules. Violation of these rules may result in expulsion from the Necropolis, a ban on continued exploration, seizure of recovered valuables, or even arrest and prosecution. Violate them at your peril.
”First, Remember How This Came To Pass. This Necropolis was the site of unspeakable cruelty to the people who lived there, and a great tragedy. Nefru Shepses and his companions spent years of grueling labor to consecrate the site into a holy place. Any who dishonor that memory by bringing needless conflict or banditry into the Necropolis are not only criminals, but accursed.
”Second, Every Slave’s Hut is a Memorial. Every structure within the Necropolis is a testament to the people who lived and died in the city. You will not desecrate or vandalize the tombs, but preserve them as the memorials they were intended to be. Some structures may be decrepit or even trapped, but willful and unnecessary destruction will not be tolerated.
”Finally, Honor the Departed. Treat the dead with dignity and respect. Though consecrated, undead may still linger in the darker corners of the Necropolis. Deal with these creatures without pity; they are a mockery of both life, and the ones whose bodies they inhabit. But do not bestir the interred any more than is absolutely necessary, and remain reverent with their bones at all times.”
”Now, let the lottery begin! Although many of you have requested specific sites to explore, we must leave these matters to fate. The Lady of Graves is a far better judge of destiny than we of this mortal sphere. The gates of the Necropolis will open at sunrise tomorrow. Use this evening to prepare yourselves for the task ahead. Let those rules guide you in your endeavors in this holy place, and may you go with the Gray Lady’s blessing.”
However, the Church of Pharasma, and in particular the Grand Mausoleum of Wati, was not pleased about this decision. They claimed this “licensed tomb raiding” set a dangerous precedent and put Pharasma’s divine judgment on a mortal timetable. But Khemet III gave the church an ultimatum: either cooperate with the royal decree and have some limited authority over how the tombs are explored, or be overruled and have no say in the matter whatsoever. The church grudgingly agreed.
Filibus Malfestri, the awkward, gangly historian you picked up, turns excitedly to the group. "I can't believe we're actually going into the necropolis of Wati! This is so exciting! So much to learn in there. I wonder if we'll fight a mummy?" He stares off into the distance wistfully, scratching absently on the stubble of his angular Chelish features.
He is played by Paul Rudd.
Nevai scowls at Filibus. "Pray you don't, outsider. They are powerful undead. They would likely rip us limb from limb. The likelihood of meeting any undead in the necroplis is quite low, however." He gauges the awkward, lumpy historian in long, bland gray robes disdainfully. "Thankfully."
He turns to the others. "Meaning no ill will, I want to make it clear I am primarily here to assure your adherence to the Three Rules. I am pleased to find a follower of Pharasma among you; that gives me high hopes. Still, I will be keeping an eye. I hope you understand. Otherwise, I wlil aid you in battle as necessary, and heal our wounds as best I can, by Horus' grace."
(A "satrap" is sort of like a regent for the Padishah Empire, ruling over a conquered province, or satrapy, in the Katapesh Emperor's stead.)
Knowledge (religion): 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (2) + 5 = 7
Solid start to the campaign.
Melech is a tall, solidly built Garundi man. His skin is the color of mahogany; his eyes, thick beard, and medium-length dreadlocked hair black as the darkest desert night. The hair barely covers a patchwork of scars on his forehead. He scoffs at Filibus's ignorance; when he speaks, his voice is deep and throaty. "I have put down more undead than you will see in your lifetime, but the holy man is right: if we see a mummy, I will run. And you will run with me if you have half a brain."
The gnome beside Melech laughs, a high-pitched, almost maniacal sound. "If Melech is running, I am running." He looks down at his short legs. "Or perhaps I will jump on his back. You know what they say: you don't have to be the fastest; you just have to not be the slowest." He flashes a wink and a grin at the historian.
Ulysses stands almost exactly half the height of Melech, but nearly every square inch of his body is covered with vials, bottles, pouches, and various other accoutrements. His skin is nearly as dark as Melech's, but his hair color is a mystery, as it is hidden under an oversized black hat. His bushy eyebrows and carefully coifed beard, however, have long since gone gray. Very little skin is exposed, but that which is shows the unmistakable scars of traumatic burns. When he is lost in thought, he absent-mindedly flexes his hands and fingers the scars.
He looks up at the cleric. "I do hope you will be praying to -- who did you say it was? -- Horus? -- tonight. I have sold everything I own for this opportunity and frankly could use the help of a god on our side." He glances at Melech. "Other than this specimen, I mean."
Filibus offers a nervous laugh. "Yes of course! I'm not a match for a mummy. I just think they're fascinating. Happy to study them while on the run!" He laughs awkwardly again, a honking sound that reminds one of a swan being strangled violently.
Up at the stage, Sebti begins calling up adventuring groups one by one.
Nevai pays half an ear while listening for the party's name as he responds to the gnome's question. "You have my khopesh and shield. As to the sky god's blessing, that depends greatly on your actions within the necropolis."
A real riot, this guy. XD
Melech crosses his arms. "You have nothing to fear from me, cleric. I am here for protection; I have no use for dead bodies or their trinkets. And mark my words: you should not be so sure we will not encounter trouble. Undeath is a scourge and a virus, nearly impossible to eradicate. I do not know what awaits us, but it is more than silence and dust."
Ulysses laughs nervously, a strange titter that never reaches his eyes. He reaches up and touches Melech on the bicep. "Yes, yes, protection! Your reputation precedes you, my friend! I am not worried." He turns to the cleric. "And your rules are safe with me as well! I have control of my fingers, unlike most gnomes!" He does a flourish in the air, as if to prove his point. He almost manages to disguise the wince that comes over his face as a smile.
He hears the adventuring parties being called and claps his hands. "Ah! Our destiny awaits! Remember, we are called [color=red]Bomb and Blade[/color]!"
As if on cue, the High Priestess's voice booms over the marketplace. "[color=red]Bomb and Blade[/color], come receive your first exploration site!"
The party's representative steps up onto the stage as Sebti reaches into the second urn and pulls forth a piece of paper. She glances at it, nods, and turns to one of the assistants. "Tombs, northwest grid, number twenty-three." The assistant rifles through a stack of square parchment sheets before pulling one out from near the bottom and handing it to her.
Sebti turns back to you and hands you the parchment, which you quickly discover is a map of the necropolis. A small red "X" marks a location in the northwest corner of the map. "You will be exploring the tomb of one 'Akhentepi.' Do not ask me about them, we have no records. That is part of your task as explorers in this venture. However, if you can bring us information from this tomb--surviving records, rubbings, a drawn map, anything of this nature--we are willing to offer compensation.
"Remember the Three Rules. Also bear in mind, the gates close at sunset. No exceptions. You will be back behind the gates at sunset, or you will spend the night in the necropolis. Good luck." With that, she turns away from you, making ready to draw another name from the urn.
Ulysses takes the parchment, repeating "Akhentepi", then bows respectfully. He returns to the others, holding the map up triumphantly. "We have our assignment, gentlemen! Filibus, do you know anything about Akhentepi?"
"Well, let's not dawdle, then! We will be paid to make those records less spotty."
Melech follows the gnome, checking his weapons and wishing he had better armor. Maybe this will finally be the job to help him afford something decent. He knows he fools very few people with the "disguising" of his slave brand; and, for some reason, people are reluctant to employ a former slave. He hadn't seen Viqir in years but Viqir's influence on his life had only lessened, never stopped.
The gnome is almost certainly insane but he hadn't once mentioned or even looked at the brand. And his money was good; it paid for Melech's new flail. Maybe the cleric is right and they won't find any undead in a place called "necropolis". Maybe they will have an easy time and the historian can help them all get paid.
And maybe it will snow tomorrow.
Despite the gnome's enthusiasm, Sebti did say the gates would not open until sunrise tomorrow. That leaves three of you looking for lodging for the night (as a local, Nevai has a home in the Midwife district).
Flyers of all sorts are posted in Sunburst Market, advertising various local flavors where one can stay; some of them are quite solicitous. The one that stands out, however, features a stamped image of a grinning crocodile sinking its teeth into a hookah. "The Tooth and Hookah" advertises a week's room and meals for 5gp per person.
Nevai reads the many flyers, frowning in thought. "I have nowhere to lodge any of you; I stay at the shrine, and room is sparse. If you need money toward lodgings, I'm willing to spot you, so long as you can repay when you can."
Knowledge (local): 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (9) + 4 = 13
"I know this place. We will eat well there." He checks his pouch and frowns. "It seems spending all my gold on this flail was shortsighted. Though... if we run into any skeletons, we will be glad that I have it." He looks at the cleric sheepishly. "I will accept your offer. You have my thanks."
Ulysses holds up his single silver piece and laughs. "And I gave all my gold to him! Let us hope this tomb is profitable." He holds his hands to his chest, palms together, and bows deeply to Nevai. "You are most generous."
He looks at Melech. "Lead the way, noble protector! Let us drink to history! And to making some of our own!" A burn scar on his right cheek makes his smile somewhat crooked.
You make your way through the crowded market, still packed to the brim with excited adventurers eager to begin tomorrow's exploration, and soon begin to feel a bit like cattle crammed into a chute. After several minutes, you finally extricate yourselves from the throng of Sunburst Market and into a significantly quieter side street, though the road is still packed with foot traffic and the occasional goat or camel being led to market. Sporadic cloth awnings stretching out into the street offer erratic but much-appreciated moments of respite from the heat. Filibus, in particular, seems to be sweating profusely, though if it bothers him, he hides it expertly behind wide eyes taking in the sights.
Finally you arrive at a three-story mud-brick structure. A riot of colorful silks drape across the many windows on every floor, and a thick beaded curtain hangs over the doorway. Hookah smoke spills lazily out of the windows of the first floor, wispy and sensuous as they creep across the street and vanish in the bright afternoon sun. An expertly painted wooden sign hangs over the door, displaying a green crocodile in a silver-and-gold headdress smoking a golden hookah. Underneath, gold Osiriani hieroglyphs read THE TOOTH AND HOOKAH.
To those not of Osirion, the inside of this inn must look mighty strange. There are no chairs; instead, crescent-shaped cushions lie in haphazard arrangements around low circular tables. Roughly half the tables are empty save the mugs of drinks of those sitting at them, cross-legged and stooped to get as close to the cooler ground as possible. The other half of the tables have tall, bulbous vase-like objects with a bowl of smoldering, glowing ashes atop them, packed with lit shisha tobacco. Several long tubes extend from the objects like rubbery octopus tentacles, ending in metal mouthpieces, which several people take occasional slow, languid pulls off of. Smoke roils out of their lips as they smoke.
To native Osirians, hookah bars are no strange thing at all. Filibus is not native. He stares in slack-jawed wonder at the sight, as smoke slithers across the ceiling before bumping against the many draped silk curtains drooping from the walls and ceiling. A skilled young woman works a sitar in the corner, the instrument's twangy, weirdly bending notes blending into a surprisingly jaunty tune. A handful of patrons surround her stool, dancing and clapping to the music. All along the walls are tables set up with vendors hawking wares--most notably shisha for the hookahs--and offering many services, including purchase of Osirian relics and magic items. A cleric of abadar has also set up a stall, likely to offer paid healing once the excitement begins tomorrow.
The tables are not only occupied by hookah smokers, however. A veritable smorgasbord of people from all across Golarion mill about or sit at the many low tables, chatting excitedly, and nearly every one of them appears to be an adventurer of one stripe or another. At one table, an unbelievably buff redhead woman with recently-tanned skin sits with a pair of Keleshite women in colorful veils. Only their eyes can be seen, but those eyes seem to be identical. Elsewhere, a table full of halflings laugh boisterously, surrounded by armored dogs lapping at water bowls on the ground. Another table has three men in leather armor sitting with a woman in all-black, her pale skin contrasted by her midnight-blue lipstick and vibrant emerald eyeshadow, her slightly pointed ears just barely protruding from her jet-black hair. At another table, nothing can be seen of its four occupants but the tops of their heads, one of which is crowned with an obscenely large purple hat with a bright white feather.
You finally spot the bartender. A narrow, high table serves as a bar at the far corner of the room. It has no stools. At one end of the bar is a sand-filled glass enclosure. A small pond rests inside, and inside the pond, a tiny cayman floats, his beady eyes moving slowly from one customer to another. The man behind the bar is easily in his fifties, with a great girth of belly and shoulders and a thick black beard. He occasionally tosses little pieces of uncooked meat to the cayman, who snaps it up expertly and returns to his watery vigil. A hand-painted sign just above the small enclosure reads:
Do Not Pet Toothy
Mgmt Not Responsible
For Lost Fingers
As soon as the group enters, the girthy bartender bellows jovially, "More adventurers! You come for the opening of the necropolis, yes? You saw the flyers, yes? Wonderful! You want rooms! Of course you do! The Tooth and Hookah has the finest rooms in Wati! Clean water, strong beer, and the best dates in Osirion!"
Nevai buys three rooms for the others and distributes the keys. "I will return before sunrise tomorrow. We should get an early start. Good evening, gentlemen." He nods curtly to each of you before heading out.
Melech nods his thanks to Nevai, then approaches the bartender. He buys three beers and finds an empty table. He gives the beers to the others with a word of warning. "We drink one beer tonight. We must have our wits about us tomorrow. With luck, we will have much to celebrate when we return." He gives a meaningful look to Ulysses, ensuring that the gnome understands.
Ulysses accepts the beer and the admonishment. "Ah, wise as well as strong! I knew I had picked the right muscle for this job!" He turns to Filibus. "Regale us with a story, historian!"
Filibus blinks. "A story? Oh. Uh. There once was a man from Port Peril--wait, no that's a limerick. Um." He blushes furiously. "I'm not much of a storyteller. The other archivists at the Arcanomirium said I was too, uh... too, uh... I forgot the word, but it means I pause. Like, a lot. When I talk. Am I doing it now? I'm doing it now." He looks crestfallen.
From a nearby table, a female voice practically bellows, "Did someone say story?"
The redhead woman with the fresh tan stands from the nearby table and steps over. She's well over six feet tall, with lean, powerful muscles and an ample bosom. She wears furs and hides in the incessant Osirian heat, but it doesn't seem to bother her in the least. She grins at the trio and puts her hands on her hips. Though her size is imposing, she has an air of friendliness that is almost palpable.
She is played by Courtney Halverson.
"I please stories!" She is speaking Osiriani, but clearly she's not quite fluent. "Speak Taldane? My Osiriani still needs cleaning."
Ulysses takes a step back from the massive thigh that has just entered his personal space and looks up (way up). "Of course!" he shouts in Common. He grabs a stool and clambers up to stand on it. "Ah, that's better," he says as he takes in the newcomer. "My! And I thought Melech here was big! The mummies don't stand a chance, eh, Filibus?" He laughs and elbows Filibus, then looks back at the woman. "And where are you from? Not Garund, I take it?"
There are no stools here. People sit as low to the ground as possible. High up = more heat. Close to ground = less heat.
She sits cross-legged with a chuckle. "Not even close. I'm from about as far away from Osirion as you can get. Name's Sigrun." She offers her hand to the trio. "I come from the Land of the Linnorm Kings, far to the north. Such incredible heat is something I'd only heard about in stories; the peaks of the Linnorm Kings are capped in snow of the purest white. Linnorms haunt those frigid peaks; great, terrible dragons from a more primal age. Fierce and violent, stronger than any but the most eldest of the chromatic and metallic cousins, and far more evil and cunning. The Linnorm Kings must undergo a deadly trial to claim lordship over their lands; they must face a linnorm and live. And if that wasn't already a deadly enough challenge, they must also survive the Curse." She speaks very animatedly, with great sweeping gestures. She is clearly well-trained in storytelling. Just hearing her voice sends thrills of bloodlust and adrenaline coursing through your veins, if only for a moment. "For every single linnorm, upon its death, curses the one who slew it. Some curses turn food to ash in your mouth. Some turn your very blood to acid to eat through your veins! And only those of legendary willpower can resist the might of these curses. It is a rare and amazing thing when one manages such an epic feat, and is celebrated with weeks of feasting and drinking! Sweetest meads and headiest malt beers! Dwarven firewater from the Five Kings Mountains!" She sighs wistfully. "Damn, I do miss firewater."
She turns back to your group. "Listen. I'm planning on writing about my adventures here in Wati during the explorations, but I'd also love to get the stories of her native peoples, as well. Would you be willing to regale me of your adventures inside the necropolis when you have time? I'm hoping to build a series of chronicles to take home with me."
Ulysses grasps Sigrun's hand and gives it an enthusiastic two-handed shake. "I have heard of your people! Tell me, are all the women as impressively large as you are? And I propose an exchange! I will happily tell you of the dangers we face and the treasures we uncover if you will tell us more stories of your people. I believe that is a fair trade, no?" He looks around the table expectantly.
Melech shakes the woman's hand, impressed by her grip strength, but only says, "Melech," and raises his mug by way of introduction.
At Ulysses's question, Melech rolls his eyes.
Am I the only one taking this seriously?
Sigrun grins at the gnome. "You've got yourself a deal." She spends the next hours regaling those present with tales from the Lands of the Linnorm Kings: dead ships that sail on icy waters filled with draugr crewmen; horrid footless spirits that float through the winter snowstorms, haunting people's dreams and driving them to cannibalistic madness (Filibus visibly shudders at this one); the epic adventure of the heroes who saved the Wedding of Ostog the Unslain; and many, many others.
Before anyone realizes it, it's mid-evening and Sigrun's on her fourth mug. She bought a round for everyone earlier, which Melech has likely not touched. Filibus hasn't touched his either, but that's mostly because he forgot it was there. He spent the last hour and a half with his elbows on the table, resting his chin in his fists, staring wide-eyed at Sigrun as she spun her yarns.
"Oof," she says, emphasizing it with a belch. "I dunno about you lot, but it's time to hit the hay. Big day tomorrow. Sleep tight, fellas." She gives Melech a playful wink and wanders back to her own table, where the two identical veiled Keleshite women sit. She mutters a goodnight to them, which they acknowledge with an eerily synchronized nod, and the Ulfen woman half-stumbles up to the second floor, humming merrily to herself.
Filibus blows out a breath. "Yeah, that sounds like a swell idea. I'm off to bed too. Night, fellas. Big day tomorrow!" He honks another uncomfortably awkward laugh, then makes his way upstairs.
Ulysses watches the woman leave with a vague look of disappointment on his face, but when he turns back to the table, it has been replaced with his characteristic smile. "Well, she was a delight." He drains the rest of the ale Sigrun bought him, not noticing the disapproving look from Melech. "But, she is probably right. Time for bed! See you tomorrow!"
Melech lingers at the table for a few moments longer. He looks down at the full mug of ale in front of him, shrugs, then downs it. He slams the mug on the table, wipes his beard on his arm, and heads upstairs.
You awaken in the dark hour before dawn, sluggishly preparing yourselves with the donning of your armor, the mixing of extracts, and the grabbing of much-needed coffee from the hookah bar on the first floor. Nevai arrives shortly after, looking infuriatingly alert and not hung over, and leads the quartet eastward to the gates of the Dead City.
They loom high overhead, traced with silver and scaling well above thirty feet, set into the thick sandstone walls that surround the necropolis. Six men and women with halberds, bearing blue and white livery over finely-crafted chainmail bearing the bright spiral symbol of Pharasma, stand guard over it.
Several dozen groups stand waiting at the gates. Some of them you recognize from the hookah bar last night (the halflings with their dogs, and Sigrun with her twins and another woman who was not present last night, the mysterious woman in all black, and others) but the vast majority are unknown to you. Considering the exploration is intended to go on for multiple rounds (each team will get a second location after fully exploring the first, and a third after that, and so on until all have been explored) it makes one wonder just how many sites the Dead City has to explore.
A great obelisk looms near the gate, nearly a hundred feet tall, completely engulfed in early-morning shadow. The sun slowly crests the horizon, but due to the various structures in the way, it doesn't touch the obelisk. Despite dawn, the guards remain unmoved.
It is not until a few minutes later, when the first rays strike the tip of the obelisk and make it shine like a beacon, that the Voices unlock the gates and draw them apart. Dozens of adventuring groups rush into the necropolis, eager to find their first sites.
You make your way along the outskirts, keeping close to the wall, until you finally reach the location marked on your map. A rectangular stone mausoleum sits alone in what appears to have once been an actual cemetery. The trunks of a few dead trees poke out of the sand around the tomb, and a hot breeze whistles through their desiccated branches. A set of massive stone double doors is affixed to the northern side of the structure, beneath a facade bearing the likeness of an Osirian man. Windblown sand is heaped around the crypt, partially burying the doors that lead within.
Assuming you do not have any shovels, it will take the party over an hour of labor to clear the sand from the doors.
Knowledge (local): 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (15) + 4 = 19
As they walk past the gates, Melech nods respectfully to the Voices; he feels a certain kinship with them, though he imagines they are much stronger than he. When they arrive at their assigned crypt, he holds out a hand to Ulysses. "Hand me a shovel."
Ulysses blinks in surprise at Melech's request. "A shovel?"
"Yes! A shovel! Don't tell me you brought me on a tomb excavation job and didn't bring any tools!"
Ulysses looks up sheepishly at Melech and gives a small shrug. "I will help," he says, and begins moving sand with his tiny hands.
Melech curses under his breath, then removes his armor and uses his falchion's scabbard to assist in moving the sand. After half an hour, his waterskin is half gone. He looks at Nevai. "Please tell me you can create water."
Filibus and Nevai help out, but it's clear physical labor is not Filibus' strong suit. After about twenty minutes, Nevai plants him on the ground and shoves a waterskin into his hands. "Sip, don't guzzle."
He grumbles something about "outlanders" before continuing with the digging. His khopesh isn't much help, but he takes a cue from Melech and uses his scabbard for whatever it's worth.
Once the doors are cleared, and everyone is a soaked, sweaty mess, Nevai gives Melech a look like he wants to say something snappy but simply doesn't have the energy. Instead he nods and fills everyone's skins. He, like everyone, is winded and sweat-soaked. The proximity to dawn does little to ease the pain of labor under a sweltering sun. "Well," Filibus huffs, looking at the stone doors, "now what?"
The doors are sealed in one solid surface; there are no visible handles or hinges.
The intensive labor of digging out the tomb entrance leaves everyone fatigued.
Perception: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 4 = 7
Ulysses tries to find anything resembling a seam or handle, but the heat and labor have gone to his head. "I think I just need a minute to rest." He plops down right where he stands.
Perception: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (1) + 5 = 6
Melech shakes his head to try to clear the spots that are obscuring his vision. When that doesn't work, he mumbles, "That's a good idea," and sits on the ground next to Ulysses.
After a few minutes and another half waterskin, Melech is feeling better. He stands and begins methodically searching the façade for ways to get in.
Taking 10 for a 15.
After quite some time, Melech understands. "This tomb was sealed from the inside. It will take brute strength to open it from here." He looks at Ulysses. "I don't suppose you brought a crowbar?" The gnome shakes his head. Melech scoffs. "It may be impossible for us to open it, even with all four of us. I'm going to go buy one." Melech puts his armor back on and then walks away without another word.
Not sure how long that will take but it didn't seem like it was that far. Assuming he is able to get there and back unaccosted...
Melech returns n minutes later, dreadlocks plastered to his face with sweat, his face contorted into a scowl. The others move as if to help him and he just growls his dissent and waves them off. He approaches the doors.
Strength (+2 crowbar): 1d20 + 2 + 2 ⇒ (1) + 2 + 2 = 5
Strength (+2 crowbar): 1d20 + 2 + 2 ⇒ (2) + 2 + 2 = 6
Strength (+2 crowbar): 1d20 + 2 + 2 ⇒ (1) + 2 + 2 = 5
Strength (+2 crowbar): 1d20 + 2 + 2 ⇒ (7) + 2 + 2 = 11
Strength (+2 crowbar): 1d20 + 2 + 2 ⇒ (16) + 2 + 2 = 20
It takes several tries before Melech can even get a good grip on the crowbar. His hands slip several times. Each time his cursing grows louder and more creative. After the fourth try fails to find any purchase, he squeezes the crowbar until his knuckles go white, grits his teeth, and seems ready to scream.
Melech takes a step back, closes his eyes, and breathes deeply for a full 30 seconds. Then he steps forward, places the crowbar, and puts all of his weight behind the effort. The doors let out a small creak and dust and sand begin falling down the door. With a roar of effort, Melech heaves the door wide enough for fingers to fit in the crack. "HELP ME!" he cries desperately, face red with effort. The others rush forward, reach into the crack, and pull the door open. (Retcon that if you don't want me to speak for your characters.)
With the door finally open, Melech collapses to the ground, breath quick and ragged.
Aid: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (8) + 1 = 9
Nevai tries to help open the door, but the waves of exhaustion and continued sitting out in the heat while waiting for Melech to return has left him almost entirely without strength. His grip constantly slips and he's almost no help at all.
Stealth: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (16) + 8 = 24
Filibus Per: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (12) + 1 = 13
Nevai Per: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 4 = 7
Melech Per: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (8) + 5 = 13
Ulysses Per: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (15) + 4 = 19
Filibus almost makes matters worse by helping, and Melech manages to open the door mostly despite the historian.
A great waft of stale air blasts over the party as they finally manage to pry the doors open. Thankfully they're not on a spring mechanism or anything, and they sit open of their own accord, spilling light into a dry, dark antechamber.
This rectangular room is empty save for some engravings and fixtures upon the walls, a pair of heavy stone doors to the north where you came in, and an immense tone wheel against the south wall. A layer of dust and sand covers the floor, lying in a thicker layer to the south. All four walls bear sunk-relief engravings of hieroglyphs, while small stone faces are affixed to the walls at about shoulder height in each corner. The stone wheel to the south is engraved with a large spiral and is set in stone tracks in the floor and ceiling.
As the party makes ready to step into the antechamber, the sand erupts next to Ulysses as a huge scorpion with ghastly pale chitin emerges. It is easily three feet both in height and length, and must way near 50 pounds. Apparently alerted to the nice, cool interior suddenly opened, it is now clearly agitated that someone else wants to enter its new home and rushes forward to attack!
Filibus: 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (18) - 1 = 17
Melech: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (6) + 2 = 8
Nevai: 1d20 ⇒ 14
Ulysses: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (17) + 5 = 22
Ghost Scorpion: 1d20 ⇒ 10
Claw: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (13) + 2 = 15
Damage: 1d3 ⇒ 2
Claw: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (10) + 2 = 12
Damage: 1d3 ⇒ 2
Sting: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (4) + 2 = 6
Damage: 1d3 ⇒ 1
The scorpion charges at Ulysses and makes a bizarre, skittering leap, landing practically on top of the gnome in a flurry of claws and stinger. Thankfully only one of the attacks--a claw--manages to find any purchase through the gnome's armor, but it does leave a deep cut on his bicep.
Ulysses (8/10 hp, fatigued)
Filibus (0 dmg, fatigued)
Nevai (10/10 hp, fatigued)
Ghost Scorpion (0 dmg)
Melech (13/13 hp, fatigued)
Knowledge (nature): 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (4) + 7 = 11
"Ghost scorpion! Its stinger will sap your strength!" Finding himself completely unprepared for battle and smarting from the sudden and painful attack, Ulysses -- for lack of a nobler phrase -- runs away. Full withdraw.
Damage: 1d4 ⇒ 4
Filibus screams in a very unmanly fashion, draws his dagger, and stabs frantically at the beast. To his clear surprise, he connects with the creature's pale carapace and leaves a gash that causes it to hiss angrily.
ROUND 1, Cont’d
BOLD may act.
Ulysses (8/10 hp, fatigued)
Filibus (0 dmg, fatigued)
Nevai (10/10 hp, fatigued)
Ghost Scorpion (4 dmg)
Melech (13/13 hp, fatigued)
Nevai strides forward and draws his khopesh, waving it threateningly at the scorpion, hoping to draw its attention.
Claw: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (7) + 2 = 9 Damage: 1d3 ⇒ 3
Claw: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (13) + 2 = 15 Damage: 1d3 ⇒ 3
Sting: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (9) + 2 = 11 Damage: 1d3 ⇒ 1
The scorpion is uninterested in the aasimar, and only has beady eyes for the one who wounded it. It goes after the historian, who screams and throws up his dagger in feeble defense. Surprisingly, only one claw hits. Apparently the scorpion is in such a frenzy that it can't aim straight.
ROUND 1, Cont’d
BOLD may act.
Ulysses (8/10 hp, fatigued)
Filibus (3 dmg, fatigued)
Nevai (10/10 hp, fatigued)
Ghost Scorpion (4 dmg)
Melech (13/13 hp, fatigued)
falchion: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (18) + 3 = 21
damage: 2d4 + 3 ⇒ (4, 2) + 3 = 9
confirm: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (13) + 3 = 16
Melech walks forward confidently, pulling his falchion from its scabbard. With a battle cry, he sweeps the weapon in a horizontal arc, slashing the scorpion across its face.
CRITICAL: Across the Eyes
Normal damage and you are permanently blinded.
Somehow, the scorpion is not dead, but it does shriek in agony and thrashes wildly and without any aim.
BOLD may act.
Ulysses (8/10 hp, fatigued)
Filibus (0 dmg, fatigued)
Nevai (10/10 hp, fatigued)
Ghost Scorpion (13 dmg, blinded)
Melech (13/13 hp, fatigued)
Ulysses pulls his crossbow out and loads it.