Day 68 (89th Day of the Death Curse). Recovering from the gruesome battle against Fenthaza and her yuan-ti partisans, the party gathered what loot they could, bid farewell to Ras Nsi, and were once again blindfolded and led from the Fane. Gathering the freed prisoners and their pack dinosaurs, the party withdrew to Nangnang's Shrine to rest.
KOKO held private audience with Chief Yorb. Finding candied grung eggs on a fallen yuan-ti confirmed the evils she'd witnessed in the Fane of the Night Serpent. Swearing to destroy the Fane and annihilate Ras Nsi if she survived the Tomb, KOKO secured Chief Yorb's promise of aid for her crusade against the yuan-ti.
SCOMETT prepared several herbal brews, distilling the party's healing potions into potions of greater healing, and crafted ???.
RANDOLF (and his wizened associate Lomar Dral) erected tiny huts and an alarm to fortify the shrine as the party bedded down for a long rest.
However, during the night, on KOKO's watch with the rescued River Mist, a tabaxi yowling echoed from outside the shrine. River Mist chose to investigate, thinking it was her missing brother Flask of Wine, and when no one was interested in accompanying her, she set off alone. She never returned. RANDOLF was again haunted by the thumping peg leg and wheezy cackle of Peggy Deadbells, preventing him from resting and leaving the mage haggard by morning.
Day 69 (90th Day of the Death Curse).
Unkh's Shrine. Come morning, thick mists swirled about Omu, focused around the flooded river. Artus Cimber and an exhausted Dragonbait accompanied the PCs, along with an exhausted goblin Mung, exhausted tribal warrior Kanush Natombe, the wizened mage Lomar Dral, the firenewt Gorvax, and the boy Tahvo. SCOMETT noticed that Lomar Dral radiated enchantment magic and the boy radiated "matumbe" (possession magic). RANDOLF's identify spell confirmed that the boy was prepared as a vessel for possession. KOKO further noticed he was half-elven, and suspected he was intended to be a vessel for the baelnorn Alia teth Mihrael, but apparently the magic hadn't worked as intended. To the southwest, the party heard a deep horn sound, though no one recognized it.
Blades sharpened and spells prepared, KOKO cast water walk upon the party, who moved along the misty river toward the shrine of Unkh the flail snail. Along the way they noticed an island-ruin inhabited by cloaked yuan-ti and along the eastern shore a Batiri goblin encampment. SCOMETT scouted ahead, noting the charred bodies of a yuan-ti and a ghoul in the walled courtyard outside the shrine. He found a ruined workshop full of iron keys hanging on the walls, though some appeared to be missing from their hooks. Old Omuan cuneiform was written above a wrought-iron double door: "Unkh urges us to contrast all options before acting." SCOMETT detected illusion magic on the door. He reported the coast was clear, and the party approached.
Dragonbait and SCOMETT approached and pushed the heavy doors open. Within was a statue of a flail snail; in place of where antennae would be were five pseudopods ending in rocky clubs. Iron keys hung in small niches along the walls. Behind the statue, a carved pedestal in a wide alcove held a geometrically carved 6" wooden cube puzzle box. SCOMETT noticed the brief hallway was enchanated with abjuration magic, so he sent his archaeopteryx to scout the room, discovering 3 ghasts with inverted triangles tattooed on their foreheads hiding behind the statue. Persuading the hungering ghasts to reveal themselves, SCOMETT convinced them not to attack, claiming the party was allied with Ras Nsi. The ghasts revealed themselves and hung back to the corners of the shrine. Climbing along the walls, SCOMETT used mage hand to pull the puzzle box to him. A magnetic pull seemed to be exerted between the puzzle box and the pedestal, and SCOMETT detected evocation magic around the box. When SCOMETT entered the room to explore it further, the puzzle box was pulled back onto the pedestal by magnetic force.
SCOMETT then allowed the ghasts to leave, but as they scampered across the warded floor in the hall, the double doors closed on the ghasts and sealed with arcane lock. Thereupon, a magic mouth formed on the inside of the door, speaking in an accented arrogant feminine voice: "When you tire of being outwitted and behaving like troglodytes, come parlay. You have cubes. We have information on the Tomb. Enjoy the ghasts. –Zagmira" Fortunately, SCOMETT was able to keep the ghasts from giving into their ravenous impulses long enough for him to cast knock on the doors, releasing the stinking ghasts which ran through the party, temporarily poisoning a few, but no one was harmed. With the Red Wizards' trap sprung, KOKO and RANDOLF entered the shrine. RANDOLF identified the puzzle box as being trapped with a form of the force cage spell. However, it seemed heavy enough, and was designed to be slid about to be opened. KOKO found an eight-flanged keyhole on the pedestal, and though it seemed like several keys could slide together to form such a key, there were critical keys missing…likely taken or destroyed by the Red Wizards. SCOMETT and RANDOLF figured out how to pick the lock, and doing so deactivated the magnetism on the puzzle box. RANDOLF then ushered his companions out of the shrine and solved the puzzle box in 25 seconds flight, triggering a force cage which erected around him in a shower of ruby sparkling light. The puzzle box was empty. It was an elaborate decoy. Waiting for 1 hour, after which the force cage ended, RANDOLF rejoined the party and they departed Unkh's shrine.
Zoblin Encampment. YARGLE suspected Great Queen M'bobo – in a zombified form – was commanding a zoblin force in Omu. A flyover by Hootsworthy through the mists confirmed that the dread Batiri goblin queen was lurking in an encampment full of zoblins which had taken over a wide parade street. The party decided to approach in full force. Artus, who explained he'd previously killed the "god" Grumog once revered by the tribal coalition led by M'bobo, decided to avoid a face-to-face meeting and took and underground route with Dragonbait, hoping to trap the zoblins in a pincer move, should push come to shove. Steering his giant undead tyrannosaur over the pallisade erected by the zoblins, YARGLE approached with KOKO, RANDOLF, and SCOMETT. SCOMETT noticed there was something wrong with the ground in the center of the zoblin encampment, and that there was latent abjuration magic in the ruined skeleton statues they passed when entering the camp, quietly warning his companions.
The zoblins shook their heads in a strange rhythm, causing little rattles, beads, and drums attached to their masks to click, thump, and clack in an unnerving beat. M'bobo wore a fearsome red mask adorned with howler tentacles, and her once luxirant blonde hair was green with jungle algae and falling out in clumps; her left hand was missing and her left eye flared with fell red and purple light from beneath the mask. YARGLE's first question was whether they were speaking with M'bobo or Vecna. Speaking in a raspy voice, M'bobo expressed pleasure at seeing YARGLE who she somehow recognized, and attempted to begin the parlay by making the zombie tyrannosaur bend to her will. However, YARGLE's will proved stronger than the undead queen and so the parlay was conducted from the zombie tyrannosaur's back.
M'bobo explained it was Ras Nsi whose zombies killed her during the Battle of Mezro, and that she had come to Omu seeking vengeance against him. It seemed like there might be an opportunity for an alliance as the party held no love for Ras Nsi. She wished to see YARGLE take over the Gouged Orbs as her vassal, replacing the false "goblin" Ocha One-Eye who was a follower of Acererak who'd been "cursed into a warped form, like a diminutive cyclops." However, she cautioned that Widow Groat sought to subvert Batiri tradition where the wife inherits the husband's title, to gain control over the Batiri goblins. During the parlay, M'bobo mentioned "the entertainment" on several occasions, and at last she claimed it was time.
The zoblins stomped their feet, causing the leaves and mosses to sift through holes in a huge iron grate covering a 25-ft deep pit in which a massive undead reptilian centipede horror lurked, shaking its mandibles as dirt fell upon it. Artus and Dragonbait had just crept into the pit, and an iron portcullis slammed into place behind them! Artus shouted in terror: "It's Grumog!" The battle was on, with the party's companions being tossed about like rag dolls beneath their feet. YARGLE and SCOMETT attempted to negotiate with M'bobo and convince her that Artus was no longer her enemy. The undead queen seemed to be weighing their words, when KOKO begin casting call lightning, causing the zoblins to spring into violent action.
During the fighting, a horrible deathly aura emanated from M'bobo and she cast disintegrate upon KOKO, though the sturdy golden grung was able to withstand the devastating spell. When RANDOLF bravely misty stepped into the pit to the defense of Artus and Dragonbait, he succumbed to M'bobo's aura and was hit by a finger of death which killed him and turned the haggard mage into a zombie. YARGLE was able to deal a killing blow, but a wild surge caused the Eye of Vecna to carry M'bobo spirit into another zoblin, manifesting the red mask with howler tentacles on that zoblin. After more furious fighting, YARGLE tackled M'bobo and tore the Eye of Vecna from her mask, killing her and causing the zoblins to become non-hostile, roaming around the ruined camp listlessly. The rest of the party made short work of Grumog, liberating Artus and Dragonbait.
SCOMETT offered his seed pod of the dream tree to zombie RANDOLF, and when zombie RANDOLF ate it, he dropped dead for good. YARGLE contemplated the Eye of Vecna which may very well have been responsible for his tribe's eye-gouging tradition, as the party prepared a funeral pyre for their deceased companion. Words were spoken by each of the party members, Dragonbait, and Artus about RANDOLF before he was laid to rest in the flames. Divvying up the dead mage's belongings, the party decided now was the time to meet with the Red Wizards, going directly to the Red Wizard's camp.
As they made their way along the flooded river, the party heard giant voices echoing in the mists. Artus' jaw was clenched tight. Everyone knew the frost giants were looking for the Ring of Winter. Fortunately, the heavy mists kept the party concealed.
Red Wizard's Camp. SCOMETT sent his archaeopteryx to scout the Red Wizard's camp, spotting 3 cloaked Red Wizards around a bonfire, and eight crossbowmen on the rooftops. The party approached in full force, YARGLE cooly replying "No" when the guards asked them to dismount his zombie tyrannosaur. YARGLE called off her tense crossbowmen guards, and invited the party to parlay. Despite barbs traded on both sides, Zagmira presented a tempting offer: She sought the Soulmonger for her master Szass Tam, who wished to end the Death Curse and use the necromantic relic for another purpose. However, the Red Wizards ventured out with 8 mages and only a few survived, plus their Thayan mercenaries suffered great losses against the yuan-ti. Zagmira proposed that the party and Red Wizards combine their puzzle cubes and forces, retrieve the last puzzle cube of Moa, and enter the Tomb together. In return, Zagmira would share what they'd learned of the Tomb's magical conditions. Deliberating among themselves about just how little they trusted these Red Wizards, the party agreed with Zagmira that her terms were acceptable.
King of Feathers & Zane the Bladewind. Just as the party reached an accord with the Red Wizards, a thundering roar echoed from the west and the ground shook. A man with silken stringers attached to his half-plate armor ran down the streets, triggering an alarm spell, chased by a feathered tyrannosaur's silhouette moving through the mists. It was the King of Feathers!
A brief battle ensued, with the Red Wizard's hidden fire elemental leaping from the bonfire, and the King of Feathers turning invisible, misty stepping, and savaging Dragonbait with his bite. Zagmira conjectured that this was no beast, but rather the victim of a curse. SCOMETT snarled, "Then why is it attacking us?" The party and the newcomer ZANE tore into the King of Feathers, with Sir Spike (the zombie tyrannosaur) engaging in melee and KOKO dealing the killing stroke with call lightning. As the King of Feathers died, it shuddered and molted feathers, assuming the form of a dead elf wearing a helmet and a feathered cloak.
Breathing heavily, and surrounded by Red Wizards and seemingly monstrous humanoids, ZANE was on guard. Warily, he introduced himself as "the Bladewind", a gladiator who'd traveled to Chult to prove his worth against the fearsome King of Feathers.
Closer examination revealed the elf had pearlescent eyes, was 6'6", long ears, and was actually an eladrin, not an elf at all. Searching the eladrin's corpse that was once the King of Feathers, SCOMETT detected magic on its helmet which Lomar Dral identified as a helm of telepathy. As they traversed Omu, the party traded stories with ZANE and equipped him with several magic items including the vorpal sword / "blade of Omu." ZANE sought to end the Death Curse because his mentor was suffering from it. KOKO confirmed she was bound by the same motivation. Zagmira similarly said she was seeking to end the Death Curse afflicting her mentor (Szass Tam).
Magical Conditions of the Tomb. Additionally, the Zagmira shared what the Red Wizards learned of the Tomb's construction as the party trekked south toward Moa's Shrine. From various design documents, ledgers, and magical experiments, Zagmira explained that she discovered 4 magical conditions upon the Tomb of the Nine Gods:
- Divination Misdirection: An incredibly powerful misdirection was cast upon the Tomb. Any divination spells stronger than detect magic cast within the Tomb provide false readings, and perhaps even that. If the Sewn Sisters' lair was in the Tomb, this explained why the party's attempt to scry upon the night hags failed.
- Gorgon’s Blood Mortar & Bone Powder Bricks: Immense quantities of gorgon's blood were mixed into the mortar used in the Tomb, preventing spells passing through stone and preventing Ethereal creatures from move through surfaces and doors in the Tomb. Bone powder – made from the Omuan slaves who built the Tomb – was worked into the bricks, meaning they're not strictly "stone", thus preventing spells shaping stone and moving earth.
- Separated from the World: The Tomb is "in the world, but not of the world". Spells that communicate outside of the Tomb fail, such as sending or astral projection.
- Teleport Cage: An ancient and powerful spell known as teleport cage was cast upon the Tomb. Any spell attempting to leave or enter the Tomb via teleportation, spells like transport via plants or tree stide, or planeshifting will be interrupted, though teleportation within the Tomb itself should work.
Moa's Shrine. At the southern end of Omu, the party and their newfound Red Wizard "allies" reached the edge of the lava pits some 200 feet below. Moa's Shrine was built on a spire of rock separated from the edge by 60 feet, which the party traversed with their Dance of the Seven Winds ritual and the Red Wizards crossed with the fly spell. SCOMETT scouted ahead. Old Omuan cuneiform above the entrance read: "Moa teaches us that secrets hide the truth." When SCOMETT determined it was safe, the rest of the party and the Red Wizards approached the shrine, being careful of the lurking jaculi in the overgrown walled courtyard surrounding the shrine. Within the shrine – which had no door – was the final puzzle cube floating in a magical shaft of light. SCOMETT sensed illusion magic around it. Along the hallway leading to the inner shrine with the puzzle cube were arrow slits on each side, and a seam running down the center of the hallway as if part of a trio of pits. A moss-shrouded mosaic on the floor revealed bits and pieces of a story about Moa the jaculi fighting Wongo the su-monster.
SCOMETT entered by climbing the walls, finding 12 Omuan statues of archers facing the puzzle cube. ZANE was soon to follow, jumping the trio of pits and bracing himself alongside SCOMETT to peer through the arrow slits. To the east was a secret room with a serpent statue holding a puzzle cube in its jaws, while to the west was a secret room with a serpent statue which had been shattered and a puzzle cube lay upon the floor. Both cubes detected as magic, but the puzzle cube on the floor emitted a wispy greenish magical signature, like the puzzle cube in the magical shaft of light. SCOMETT misty stepped into the west secret room, mage handing the cube off the floor and into his hand, before misty stepping back into the main part of the shrine. As soon as he did, the puzzle cube dissolved in green vapors and the archers animated, peppering SCOMETT and ZANE with stone arrows. They quickly realized the real cube was actually in the east secret room, repeating the process there and being careful to climb around or jump over the pit traps on their way out.
Moa's puzzle cube was the final piece. With it and the cubes the Red Wizards gave them, the party had all nine puzzle cubes: Shagambi the kamadan, Kubazan the froghemoth, I'jin the almiraj, Wongo the su-monster, Nangnang the grung, Obo'laka the zorbo, Papazotl the ebli, Unkh the flail snail, and Moa the jaculi.
Back at Base Camp. Returning to their base camp along with their Red Wizard "allies", the battered party settled in for the evening. During the dead of night, YARGLE heard a thumping sound echoing in his nightmares and a wicked cackle right behind his ear, phantasmagoric images of Queen Ishba and M'bobo haunting him and depriving him of a restful night. SCOMETT stated their first order of business upon entering the Tomb should be killing the hags Peggy Deadbells and Widow Groat.
Day 70 (91st Day of the Death Curse). A sheet of rain falls over the Forbidden City, causing the flooded river's banks to swell. Without the jungle's thick canopy to catch the rain, the humidity is oppressive when the party breaks camp, preparing to face the Tomb of the Nine Gods…