Day 68 (89th Day of the Death Curse). Fane of the Night Serpent. Led down a winding tunnel by Nazegeth into the humid underground yuan-ti lair, the cloaked and blindfolded party relied on their wits and keen senses to pick up clues of their environment. Along the way, they heard sensuous Draconic voices and someone slipping in a double message using Thieves' Cant claiming to have a secret offer for the party. A little further, and the blindfolds were removed…
Ras Nsi's Throne Room (Area 11). YARGLE, SCOMETT, RANDOLF, and KOKO found themselves in Ras Nsi's throne room. Ras Nsi, the fallen barae of Mezro, terror of Chult, genocidal necromancer-warlord, the one who created the Nsi Wastes, and whose undead roamed the jungles still. The ailing Ras Nsi had the lower body of a serpentine and the upper body of a Chultan man, though his skin was chalky and covered in bandages. The inverted dark blue triangle upon his forehead signaled he was an exile of Mezro. At his right was Salida, who'd betrayed the party. At his left was his bodyguard, the snake-headed Sekelok. Many ghouls with triangle tattoos and several yuan-ti guarded the throne room. Artus Cimber had been taken captive and was under guard by several devolved broodguard yuan-ti (like the kind the PCs had seen Soakosh turned into in Session #21); Artus seemed transfixed by poisons or magics, gazing toward Ras Nsi blankly. They party entered from the west. The only other exit was to the east – an ominous semi-transparent wall of poison with illusions of its skeletal victims floating within.
Welcoming the party to the Fane of Dendar the Night Serpent, Ras Nsi revealed that he suffered from the Death Curse but until Salida provided intelligence about the party, he had no idea that it's origin could lay within Omu. Ras Nsi explained that he had several close encounters with Artus Cimber that would have left a lesser man dead, but his powers kept him alive… Now, with the Death Curse, his past had come back to haunt him.
He informed the PCs that he made a deal with Acererak to keep the puzzle cubes from being used to unlock the Tomb of the Nine Gods; in exchange, Acererak offered to help Ras Nsi against the Death Curse and to keep power in the face of his rival Fenthaza (and potentially others). However, Acererak hadn't honored one word of his agreement with Nsi. In a twist of irony, the master betrayer Ras Nsi himself had been betrayed. He proposed a deal with the party.
When asked about the Company of the Yelow Banner, Ras Nsi slyly mentioned he'd captured and released them, sending them into the Tomb… unarmed and unarmored. This seemed unusual to SCOMETT – as Ras Nsi was guarding the puzzle cubes to prevent anyone from entering the Tomb. The details explaining this would be revealed later when they sealed their deal with Ras Nsi…
Foremost in the party's mind was negotiating for the release of Artus Cimber and Dragonbait. Additionally, Ras Nsi revealed that Fenthaza, a priestess of Dendar called a "nightmare speaker", had taken the puzzle cube of Obo'laka the zorbo, and he could compel her to turn it over to the party. While establishing terms, SCOMETT asked permissiong to cast a detect magic on Artus, and when he did he found Artus was not under the effects of charm magic and Artus winked at SCOMETT. It became clear through innuendo right under Ras Nsi's nose that Artus held neither love nor trust for the fallen barae. Ras Nsi offered to let the party meet with the prisoners to decide whom they wished to free, and promised the party would not be harmed while they considered his offer. He sent his trusted bodyguard Sekelok with them.
The Prisoners (Area 8). As the blindfolded party was led through the Fane, YARGLE made cunning use of his ersatz eye to see through it and get a better understanding of the dungeon complex. The party was led to the prison where ten hapless prisoners were chained to the walls, including:
- Dragonbait, beat-up and missing his holy avenger
- River Mist, the party's former tabaxi guide, with an injured hindquarter
- Tahvo, a scared Chultan boy
- Sev, an insane yuan-ti pureblood
- Oloma Authdamar, a female Turami human scout
- Gorvax, a male firenewt warrior
- Lomar Dral, an old male human mage from Waterdeep known to RANDOLF
- Mung, a goblin (3 exhaustion levels) bastard son of Queen Ishba of the Gouged Orbs, known to YARGLE
- Kanush Natombe (4 exhaustion levels), a male warrior of E'kama's tribe
- Zilla Atazi, a female Chultan pirate
It seemed that Ras Nsi would only let them liberate Artus and their choice of two prisoners, so as the party spoke with the prisoners they deliberated who was a priority to set free. The bloody urns made it clear that whoever was left would meet a grisly fate sacrificed to the Night Serpent. During this time, their guide Sekelok was drawn away when yuan-ti serving Fenthaza hinted that Sekelok's lover Neema was being pursued by others in the harem. Sekelok told the party to wait for him or his replacement and crept off.
Fenthaza's Counteroffer. Slithering from her chambers, Fenthaza approached the party with several yuan-ti at her side, to present a counteroffer. Fenthaza seemed to believe that Dendar the Night Serpent would do battle with the Forsaken One in some kind of apocalpyse. She wanted to see Ras Nsi overthrown and a relic from within the Tomb called the Black Opal Crown retrieved. Fenthaza claimed that not only could she give them the puzzle cube and liberate the prisoners, but she could also offer them limited protection from the nightmare haunting of the Sewn Sisters, and they could claim Ras Nsi's flame tongue rapier (flyssa) upon helping her kill him. She also extended a special offer to RANDOLF to abandon his humanity and join the yuan-ti in a transformation ritual. Fenthaza hinted that greater yuan-ti abomination from the Valley of Dread was outside the Fane and ready to strike against Ras Nsi when she gave the command. Encouraging them to consider her offer, but not to take too long, Fenthaza slithered away.
The Oracular Pool (Area 7). As she left, doors to an eerily glowing pool opened, flanked by three robed hooded yuan-ti priests. They beckoned the party to come within, that Fenthaza had granted them access to the oracular pool, and invited the party experience Dendar's visions for themselves. RANDOLF concluded the pool was formed of remains of a dead psychically active ooze which served as a conduit to some otherworldly entity. SCOMETT stood aside shaking his head while RANDOLF, YARGLE, and KOKO entered the slippery murkey waters of the pool. After a minute, they each were wracked by psychic pain and received a vision from the Night Serpent…
RANDOLF beheld conflict between the yuan-ti forces of Ras Nsi and Fenthaza, with a third faction forming around the abomination as it carved its way through the Fane. These seemed to be vague visions of the future.
YARGLE beheld further images of impending conflict, with Fenthaza unleashing an air elemental from an urn and Ras Nsi calling on his pet hydra.
KOKO saw some of the yuan-ti flocking to Zothiss and heard both Fenthaza's and Ras Nsi's voices. In the vision, Fenthaza said: "The hairless apes were amusing at first, but less so now. Dendar rests beneath them and the world will be consumed." In the vision, Ras Nsi said: "I have lost everything in service to a false god and Acererak's treachery."
The Harem & Ishmakahl's Offer (Area 10). An ingratiating yuan-ti named Nahth replaced Sekelok as their "guide" within the Fane, asking if the party was interested in visiting the harem while considering Lord Nsi's offer. SCOMETT was quick to agree, and again they were blindfolded and led within a sensuous opulent harem. Within they were introduced to Neema, Ras Nsi's favored and exclusive concubine who showed them around and poured wine. Neema was off limits, but a dozen other yuan-ti concubines were available for their entertainment. While SCOMETT maintained their cover with snakey love behind diaphanous curtains, YARGLE chatted up the guards as a distraction, and KOKO buried her head in the fountain in disgust, RANDOLF made contact with a gender-ambiguous cloaked yuan-ti pureblood named Ishmakhal who layered Thieves' Cant into an innuendo-laden conversation. In a side room, Ishmakhal revealed he/she worked as a spy for the Red Wizards and had been appraised by his/her masters of the party's rapid acquisition of puzzle cubes and their "unfortunate" altercation with the evoker Dyrax. Ishmakhal delivered a message from Zagmira that the Red Wizards were interested in parlaying with the party with an eye toward forming an alliance, hinting that the Red Wizards studied the magical conditions that were worked into the construction of the Tomb and were open to an exchange. Selling the deception that he was getting his jollies on with a snake cultist, RANDOLF whispered a 25-word message for Ishmakhal to deliver to the Red Wizards – stating that after a rest they could meet the Red Wizards where the incendiary cloud once was. Though RANDOLF's disheveled hair and unbuttoned collar was all an affect, SCOMETT's smarmy reptilian grin was not.
Deal with Ras Nsi (Area 11). Returning to Ras Nsi's throne room, the party cut a deal with him. They would stop the Death Curse and help Ras Nsi against the abomination Zothiss contesting Ras Nsi's rule (and potentially against an alliance between Fenthaza and Zothiss). In return, Ras Nsi agreed to get them Obo'laka's puzzle cube, and free Artus and 5 prisoners. Skillful negotiation also teased out further information from the ailing yuan-ti lord: The engineer who designed the Tomb of the Nine Gods was granted undeath by Acererak, and adopted the name "Withers." Withers tends the Tomb's traps and makes monsters from those who die within the Tomb. On very rare occasions, Withers leaves the Tomb to interact with the gargoyles surrounding Omu. Withers helped to create 5 skeleton keys that open the Tomb's innermost sanctum – these are literally undead skeletons. It was Withers whom Ras Nsi briefly interacted with when he sent the captured Company of the Yellow Banner into the Tomb unarmed and unarmored…as a sort of sacrificial offering, it seemed.
Ras Nsi further asked for the party's help finding a spy of the Red Wizards in the Fane and driving the Red Wizards from Omu, but the party was not interested in helping Ras Nsi anymore than necessary for their alliance of convenience.
With an agreement was struck, Ras Nsi ordered Fenthaza to his throne room and demanded she turn over Obolaka's puzzle cube. Playing the part of a servile priestess, Fenthaza gave the cube to Ras Nsi who in turn gave it to YARGLE, before dismissing her. Fenthaza slithered away with venom in her eyes.
During this time it became evident that Artus Cimber was only faking to be under Salida's suggestion, much to Ras Nsi's chagrin. Artus also urged the party to reconsider allying with the evil Ras Nsi who he felt certain would betray them. Though some had misgivings, the consequences of the party's choice were already unfolding…
It All Goes Monkey Fruit Shaped. As Ras Nsi issued orders to his loyal followers, news came that the abomination Zothiss was entering the Fane from the southern secret passage – the same way the PCs had been led in blindfolded. Readying themselves to do battle, the party heard unexpected sounds of clashing blades in the northern part of the Fane. Fenthaza wasted no time launching her coup!
Multiple fronts broke out across the Fane, with Ras Nsi using his teleporters to jump about the Fane commanding his forces against the two-pronged threat of Zothiss and Fenthaza.
KOKO held the front line against Zothiss' impending entry into the heart of the Fane, creating a wall of fire and readying to cast transmute rock to mud on the narrow hallway if the abomination were to squeeze through. The mechanically locked door of the venom distillery shuddered as Zothiss battered it down, dispatching zombies, and interrogating the venom-maker Xopal in Abyssal. Ras Nsi would join KOKO, launching a blight spell on the various poisonous plants in the venom distillery, causing an explosive gas fire which killed Xopal and singed the hulking Zothiss. However, Zothis was no fool, and realizing the danger posed by the wall of fire attempted to lure KOKO into approaching, though the golden grung queen remained steadfast. Thereupon, Zothis drew forth a massive longbow, nocking it two-foot long black-fletched arrows. However, the abomination would soon switch tactics and try a different means of entering the Fane, withdrawing from sight.
SCOMETT dashed up the ramps to fight through several yuan-ti, dove through the legs of a minotaur skeleton guarding the armory door, slashing it as he slid down a ramp. Artus was right there behind him, blocking the approaching minotaur skeleton with an icy interposing Bigby's hand. "What now?" yelled Artus. SCOMETT darted ahead, realizing that the abomination had gone around, and took an opportunity while Ras Nsi was blinded by magical darkness to launch an eldritch blast at their ally of convenience. Slinking back through the shadowy Fane, SCOMETT came face to face with a enormous talking constrictor snake named Azi Mas, falling under the power of its hypnotic gaze, luring the lizardman in close. Just then, another door broke down, and the abomination Zothiss began to squeeze through the archway, crushing a yuan-ti to death in its massive three-fingered hand. Artus came around the corner, creating a wall of ice through Azi Mas, the abomination Zothiss, and another yuan-ti in the rear. SCOMETT was able to free himself from the contrictor's coils and bring his blade through the underside of its head, dropping the dead constrictor to the floor with a loud whump.
YARGLE went to secure the prisoners' freedom, fighting a group of Ras Nsi loyalists and basilisks trained by Fenthaza along the way. Eventually he made his way to Fenthaza and her immediate forces, convincing the nightmare speaker that he'd made a false deal with Ras Nsi; with so obvious proof of YARGLE betraying Ras Nsi, Fenthaza was convinced and called off her surviving basilisk. At YARGLE's urging, she ordered her malisons to stop harassing the prisoners – two of whom were already dead as the prisoners were attempting a desperate escape. YARGLE ended up gaining access to the armory by tricking its bone naga guardian Ukurlahmu into believing its charm person spell worked on YARGLE; revealing it was in league with Fenthaza, Ukurlahmu eventually gave YARGLE the password to bypass the arcane lock on the armory door, thereby allowing Dragonbait and the prisoners to equip themselves.
RANDOLF accessed one of the mysterious teleporters, convinced he understood its operation, and promptly teleported into Ras Nsi's secret treasure room and bedchamber. Looting Ras Nsi's spellbook, a big heavy mirror, and a small fortune in gemstones, RANDOLF entered the teleporter with its serpentine sigil and tried a new command word in Draconic. He'd appeared right back where he'd been before! Humming to himself, he suddenly had a flash of insight about that anagram puzzle he'd been working on, scribbling some notes. A bit more trial and error as chaos engulfed the Fane around him, and he appeared in the teleporter connected to Ras Nsi's throne room, running right past Nazegeth who hissed in wicked understanding that clearly the mirror was needed to counteract the basilisks under Fenthaza's control. RANDOLF neither confirmed nor denied, running right through into the heart of the Fane where Ras Nsi's forces were engaged in a ranged battle against Fenthaza's on the balcony above. Her malisons sounded the gong twice slow, then several times fast to signal their move against Ras Nsi. RANDOLF approached Ras Nsi and KOKO, still scribbling, and KOKO admonished him to put his puzzle away. Thereupon, Fenthaza cast arms of hadar upon Ras Nsi, KOKO, and RANDOLF, surrounding the three spellcasters in magical darkness.
Sekelok's Petrification. While fighting his way up toward Fenthaza, Ras Nsi's champion Sekelok was approached by a basilisk following Fenthaza's commands. Overconfident that the basilisk would not dare look one of its yuan-ti masters in the eye, Sekelok was rapidly petrified.
Salida's Death. Salida succumbed to literal friendly fire from Ras Nsi's fireball and KOKO's wall of fire cast upon the balcony where Fenthaza's forces were gathered.
The Abomination's Death. SCOMETT dealt a devastating blow to the abomination Zothiss, running it through, though it still remained fighting with the ferocity of seven skilled warriors even as its dark green ichor spilled across SCOMETT's face. It was about to bite down upon SCOMETT when KOKO fired her koko's thorn (?) spell through the roof of its mouth, causing vines to sprout from its mouth as Zothiss collapsed with a rattling hiss and died at their feet. The abomination was dead.
The Nightmare Speaker's Death. Changing position, KOKO erected a searing wall of fire which engulfed Fenthaza's forces on the balcony and YARGLE along with them. In a sudden turn of betrayal, YARGLE smote Fenthaza, hurling the nightmare speaker over the balcony and through the wall of fire into the fountain of blood below, her charred corpse sizzling.
Wrap-up. With the chaos ending and the last of Fenthaza's rebels being hacked to death, Ras Nsi was now undisputed master of the Fane. He honored his word to the party, and agreed to let them leave with all the surviving prisoners for their going above and beyond by slaying both his rivals. However, there was the matter of 3 hidden traitors to be dealt with (or not)…
1. The bone naga Ukurlahmu who guarded the armory was secretly in league with Fenthaza rebels, though only YARGLE learned this. Extorting Ukurlahmu to let him take the choicest pieces from the armory in exchange for keeping its secret, YARGLE gained some interesting items.
2. Sekelok, Ras Nsi's own bodyguard, was sleeping with Ras Nsi's favored concubine Neema. Pretty much the whole party realized this. This was unresolved.
3. Ishmakahl, the spy in the harem, was actually serving the Red Wizards, though only RANDOLF and a few of the yuan-ti in the harem knew this; Neema attempted to expose him to Ras Nsi during the chaos. This was unresolved.
Loot. Four items are magical and need identification, but here's what the party acquired:
- RANDOLF took Ras Nsi's spellbook and 30 gems (50 gp each) from Ras Nsi's secret treasury and bedchamber; because of this theft, it behooves the party not to delay in the Fane longer than necessary, and certainly not try to take any kind of a rest there!
- YARGLE provided Dragonbait a means to recover his holy avenger and the other prisoner NPCs to regain their equipment. YARGLE also has his choice of 10 suits of scale armor, 50 scimitars, 20 longbows, 20 shortbows, 50 quivers (with 20 arrows each), as well as a tortoise shell shield +1 which magically amplifies the wielder's voice to ten times normal (it used to belong to Sekelok), and a serpentine pedestal holding a glass sphere (16 lbs, bulky, divination magic).
- SCOMETT took a quiver with 12 black-fletched arrows +1 off Zothiss' corpse; though exceptionally long, these arrows can both function in a normal-sized bow like normal arrows or in a Large bow as described below. Zothis also had a Large scimitar (2d6, other stats as per scimitar, Medium creatures suffer disadvantage to attack with it, Small creatures cannot use it) & a Large longbow (2d8, other stats as per longbow, Medium creatures suffer disadvantage to attack with it, Small creatures cannot use it).
- KOKO took a dagger of the snake god and dark shard amulet off Fenthaza's corpse.
- Each of you looting some additional yuan-ti corpses can roll 1d20 to see what you find on the DM's YUAN-TI LOOT TABLE.