Tomb of Annihilation

Stop and Smell The Roses

- Seven ghouls attack the party, who defend themselves mightily until they hear screaming from the ship above
- Elbeneve casts a wave of water which upends the ship’s bow, sending two crewmates tumbling to their death, and hurtling the whole front of the ship 50 feet to a shuddering crash on the jungle floor.
- A wretched undead girallon attacks, who is destroyed after almost killing several members of the party
- Thallesandra Bravewing and Dragonbait, survivors of the wreck of the Star Goddess, thank the party and introduce themselves as reclaimers of the Ring of Winter, a powerful evil artifact meant to bring eternal winter to the world, currently in the possession of Artus Cimber, who has lived for over 100 years due to its magical influence.
- Thallesandra intimates that Xandala was not, in fact, Artus’s daughter, but was an agent of the Zhentarim, who want the artifact for their own nefarious uses.
- The party decides to help Thallesandra on her hunt for Artus and the ring, and put the quest for the black orchid in Nangalore temporarily on hold.
- They follow the frozen path through the jungle to a frozen swamp, where the brackish water hides a massive hulking shape underneath.
- Naux taps on the ice and the shape stirs, breaking through the ice with a huge tentacled arm. A froghemoth!
- Dragonbait is swallowed whole as is Ferros, who is slowly being eaten away by acid inside the creature’s stomach.
- The party fights valiantly, finally besting the humongous creature and freeing their trapped companions, reviving Ferros, almost at the brink of death.
- As the cold swirls and the snow falls, in the distance, a figure reveals itself: a bearded man with glowing blue eyes, looking passively at the scene of death and destruction. He then turns and walks over the crest of a hill, and out of sight.

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Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong

- Asharra welcomes the group to Kir Sabal, suggests they stay and rest as they are guests.
- Prince Na shows off his flying toys to Elbeneve, says he’s never left Kir Sabal
- Princess Mwaxanare flirts heavily with Ferros
- Galunir has (assumedly) drunken sex with an aarakocra
- Ferros has a vision of the city of Mezro, the barae, Ras Nsi, and of Dendar the Night Serpent swallowing the sun
- Elbeneve scouts in the building above, almost gets into a scuffle with Asharra’s wife Yingmatona.
- Asharra shows Ferros the mask of Princess Mwaxanare’s father that looks just like his, and tells the story of the two children being the last surviving royal heirs to the kingdom of Omu.
- Asharra tells the group that she needs a black orchid from the garden of Nangalore in order to perform the Dance of the Seven Winds. Group agrees to go three days down river, and then come back.
- On the river, zorbos attack them from the trees, but they escape.
- The river freezes over and forces the group to make landfall.
- On the shore of the river, they find an (air?)ship broken in three pieces in the trees and the group and trees nearby are completely frozen over.
- A female voice rings out from the ship above, and as it does, seven horrific undead creatures, all bearing blue triangles on their heads, jump out and attack.

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The Bird Is The Word

The stone golem, activated by Naux’s intrusion, reached out aggressively with a massive rocky hand. The companions backed away quickly, their spells and attacks pinging harmlessly against the golem’s rocky carapace. This was a foe too great for any one of them. Naux smashed his morningstar in the face of the stone construct, and it rebounded off with a hollow thud. Wordlessly, the golem grasped Wu’lolo by the neck and lifted her from the stony bridge. Naux held on to his companion, hoping their combined weight would keep his jaculi anchored to the ground. But the golem was too strong. The golem straightened up, walked with heavy thudding footsteps to the side of the bridge, and hefted both Wu’lolo and Naux off the side. Wu’lolo hissed with surprise and plummetted out of sight. Naux held on by his sturdy claws to the side of the bridge and watched with sadness and shock as his animal friend fell to her doom. Galunir skidded to a stop near the golem, then as it turned to face him, he ran to the other side of the bridge. The golem considered, then slowly walked back to the midpoint of the bridge and sat down, its eyes closing again. Under the bridge, Naux nodded at the nearby monkeys who had made the underside of the bridge their home, hopefully presenting himself as non-threatening. He grabbed onto some nearby vines and began to swing across to the other side. Elbeneve, seeing that her spells were useless against such a titanic foe, had to look for a different solution. She looked down at the stone masonry that made up the bridge and saw the mazelike imprinting going from one side to the other. Dipping her finger in the grung oil, she began to trace an unbroken line from one side to the other, past the golem, stopping carefully to make sure it would not animate. It did not. She smiled as she walked past, ushering the others to follow. They retrieved their tortle companion (who had entangled himself in vines on the way across) and stood across the 20-foot span to the other side. Ferros pulled out his nolzur-s-marvelous-pigments and drew a 20-foot ladder which the party used to climb precariously to the other side of the ravine and down to the basin of the river. Unfolding their grung boat, the entered the river at a high water point and sailed downriver towards Kir Sabal…

Two days into their travel, they encountered two carnivorous finned dinosaurs tearing into the flesh of a third dinosaur down the river. Seeing that these two gigantic predators had not yet seen them, they decided to land the boat and portage the rest of the way to the mountain monastery. Farther into the jungle, the rain began and deluged the group, slowing their traveling speed. The group fell afoot of a triceratops family, which they befriended and who offered to share their cave with them. While with them, the triceratops spoke to them about the hordes of undead that were rampaging through the jungle, and that other dinosaurs had been attacked by these undead foes, and had not been seen since…

Leaving their new friends, the party moved south towards Kir Sabal. Naux used his powers to bring back Wu’lolo, who was none too pleased about being resurrected after meeting his doom over the edge of Ataaz Muhahah. Finally, they reached Kir Sabal. The massive structure was built into the very cliff face of the mountainside, hundreds of feet over their heads. Seeing the aarakocra flying in and out of what seemed like the monastery entrance, they began the treacherous climb up the cliff face. Natural handholds made the path easier to see but it was still a dangerous ascent, fraught with jutting rocks, rotten timbers, and extreme height. By the time the group reached the monastery proper, they were exhausted and dizzy from the heights. They entered the ancient structure, which was only in a slight state of disrepair despite its vast age. They encountered a group of aarakocra and stated that Nephyr, the avian humanoid whom they had released at Firefinger, had recommended that they come to seek out Asharra, the leader of these creatures and obtain her guidance. A boy, no more than 10 years old, dressed in the colorful feathers of the aarakocra and wearing a stylized mask, came down the nearby steps and observed them. Elbeneve took to him immediately, sharing her arcane secrets and keeping him company while the others escorted the child’s sister, a pretty chultan calling herself Princess Mwaxanare up the main stairwell to the upper floors.

As she led them upstairs, the Princess spied Ferros, to which she smiled and made a flirtatious though imperious look. Ferros smiled back, though seemed ignorant or unknowing as to why this young woman was so focused on him. Reaching the top of the stairs, she opened the door to Asharra’s chamber and called out for the aarakocra leader. Ferros watched in awe as a red-feathered bird person stood before them, its wings nearly 8 feet across as she spread. Behind her was a statue of a tabaxi, one which Ferros recognized from his dream as a personification of the god Ubtao. Asharra scanned the group and folded her wings behind her. Then, in a low voice tinged with a strange accent, Asharra said, “Ah, good. You’re finally here. We’ve been waiting for you for a long time.”

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Everybody Was Grung-Fu Fighting

The grungs roared with fury as King Groak advanced on Caldur, seeting with rage at the loss of his beloved goddess. Krr’ook, unsure as to how this would play out, seemed to join sides with Groak until the sway of the battle turned against him. She lashed out with restraint at the heroes as they backed out of the temple with their backs to the wall. Orange grungs, diverted by the noise inside the temple, stalked towards the party, the poisoned daggers drawn. The party put up a valiant fight. Elbeneve waded through the grungs in the lake, and used subterfuge (and a hefty dose of magic missiles) to sever the arm of the statue, squishing two of the elite guards threatening her group as it fell.

Ferros painted a hole using nolzur-s-marvelous-pigments and pushed one of the grungs down a potentially bottomless pit. Weakened by poison and the deafening croaking of King Groak’s guards, Xandala had had enough. Her eyes glowing with yet unseen power, she focused her magic on the inside of the temple, and cast a glowing fireball, incinerating Groak and his allies. Although somewhat charred, Krr’ook was not killed and used Groak’s death as a sign to incite a revolution against the remains of Groak’s regime. Thinking quickly, Ferros painted Krr’ook gold with the magical paints and the grungs gasped. Never before had they seen a godlike sign as this – it was if Krr’ook was meant to be made the new leader of Dungrunglung. With her newly assumed gold status, she calmed the remaining grungs and had them fall in line under her, freeing the party and their companions.

With Dungrunglung freed from tyranny, the grungs were more than willing to help the party find their way to Kir Sabal. Krr’ook suggested that without a guide, that they do their best to make for the River Olung and row south for 5 days until they saw the mountain on which Kir Sabal was located. Fashioning a light boat from several lily pads, the grungs gifted the group also with a Rung of Jumping, which Galunir gladly accepted. After a day in the jungle, the temperature started to get drastically lower. They could ever see the breath freezing in the air before them! Something magical and not normal was happening nearby. Xandala had a very different reaction to this drop in temperature, almost as if she knew more than was letting on. That night, she seemed saddened but resolute about… something. The next morning, she was gone, with nary a trace of her to be seen. All that was left was a note saying “I’m sorry. – Xandala.” Galunir was hit hardest by this – he was fashioning a relationship with her and her leaving the group like this indicated that something more that she did not trust the group to share was going on.

The next day, they found themselves lost in the jungle, unsure if they were headed in the right direction. As they traversed through the foliage, an awful smell reached their senses, one of decay and the harsh coppery smell of dried blood. As they pushed past the dense foliage, a horrifying scene was brought to their vision – four bodies, completely skinned, hanging from a tree, their possessions in a pile a the base of the tree. Amongst the possessions of these unfortunate souls was a letter from Liara Portyr indicating these people were sent by her to retrieve a Cormyrian ambassador and were attacked by something… enormous. The huge gashes on the bodies indicated an edged weapon of immense size, wielded by something with incredible strength. Unfazed by this scene, the party continued their trek east to the river. The finally reached the gorge to the river Olung, a place called Ataaz Muhahah, or the Laughing Gorshriekings called so due to the sounds of the shrieking monkeys who made the bridge their home, nesting and roosting in the hanging vines under the bridge. As the party made their way across the maze enscribed stonework, they saw a massive 10-foot tall statue at the midpoint of the bridge, emanating magic. Clearly it was some kind of dormant stone golem, created for the purpose of protecting the bridge from attacks. Inset into its eyes were two glittering gemstones, and at its feet was a crushed and mangled skeleton. Past the statue, the bridge fell into disrepair and a gaping hole of 20 feet plummetted into the gorge over 100 feet below. They’d have to find a way across if they were to get to the path down to the river basin. Naux mounted his huge jaculi serpent, Wu’lolo and rode it past the statue to the edge of the bridge…. at which time, the statue opened its eyes! It turned and in a swift motion, grabbed at Naux, intent on crushing him with its huge stone fists….

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Grung-Ho

The frog people, or Grung, as they would soon be known as, approached the party with a wary, though unthreatening gait. It seemed that these creatures could not speak common or any other language, nor could they understand it. They spoke in deep-throated croaks, chirps, and clicks and some wore ceremonial garments of bone, wood, and palm leaves. They were of different colors – most were green, though some were red and one was orange, clearly the leader, due to the way that he ordered the other grung around.

El and Ferros attempted to communicate through gestures, mimicking sounds, and drawings and were able to communicate that they successfully drove out the evil terrorfolk in the nearby Firefinger. The grung seemed impressed by this, and the orange one drew a map in the damp ground to a place he called Dungrunglung, perhaps a nearby village where these creatures lived. They impressed upon the party the need to accompany them there. Hardly in the mood to refuse, the group began their journey south in the company of the grung, who formed a protective circle around them. During their trek through the hot, humid jungle, they encountered a large group of Chultan zombies but were able to fend them off with the help of their froggy friends. Clearly, the undead were a threat to the native grung just as they were to the Chultans of Port Nyanzaru. The most interesting thing about these zombies was that each of them had a blue triangle carved into their foreheads, apropos of some sort of ritualistic mark.

Finally, after two days, the group reached Dungrunglung, a village surrounded by a vast wall of writhing, thorny vines which served to protect them from the swarms of zombies that roamed the jungle. Entering through a secret door to the main village, they found themselves on the edge of a vast lake at the center of which was a 60-foot high clay edifice that resembled a grinning frog-like creature. They later learned that this statue was crafted by the grung civilians at the whim of their tyrannical king, Groak. King Groak had professed that he was enamored of the grung goddess Nang’nang, and had made several attempts (and with the assistance of other powerful adventurers that the grung had encountered) to summon the goddess to their village, where Groak could seduce and mate with her, producing powerful offspring. Thus far, however, he had been unsuccessful. The packs of roaming zombies made it difficult for the grung to forage for food and all efforts were turned to summoning the goddess. The grung, in short, were slowly starving to death.

After a brief encounter with the King and his majordomo, a red grung named Krr’ook, the party met a humanoid-turtle (tortle) prisoner of the grung named Naux and his snake-like companion, Wu’lolo. Communicating in a pigjin common, Naux stated that he was captured by the grung in the same manner that the party was, to help bring this goddess into being. Naux had residual magical powers and an affinity with nature, but he could not hope to survive the whim of the mad grung if he was expected to do this alone. Krr’ook, who spoke common very well through learning it in her interactions with prisoners, tacitly offered to help the party escape if they helped her fulfill a plan to overthrow the insane grung ruler.

If they could fool Groak into believing that Nang’nang had actually been summoned, then revealing it as a sham, belief in Groak as a stable ruler would falter and the oppressed peoples of Dungrunglung would rise up against him. As part of their ruse, Krr’ook gave them a set of magical paints which, when used, would create a magical apparition with which they would fool the grung king.

The night of the ritual came, and the party (now accompanied by Naux) set to creating the ruse with the help of their magical apparatus. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of green, purple and green grung gathered outside while King Groak eagerly awaited the return of his “love.” With the help of their magical paint, the group created a glowing facsimile of the grung illustrated out the temple outside. They even gave it a voice, but the King was not wholly convinced. Groak’s bodyguard, a massive red grung, suspiciously advanced on the glowing effigy, but was rebuked when Galunir gave Nang’nang a reproachful voice, at which Groak became apologetic and in an act of fury, bit the head off his bodyguard, sending its bloody corpse tumbling into the glowing pool.

As a final act to close out the summoning and at a signal from Krr’ook, Galunir nudged Caldur into the effigy, spilling its contents and painting Caldur with the glowing colors that made up the magical recreation. Caldur fell face first into the glowing pool, and the drums of the ritual went silent as the crowd stared in disbelief. Groak seethed with fury.

Caldur sat up, sopping wet and covered with glowing paint. He smiled, and said sheepishly, “Does this mean the party’s over?”

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Chokepoint

For Zeon, the world has suddenly gone into slow motion. He sees Azaka reaching out her clawed hand in vain for him, and as she streaks out of sight he can hear only her agonized scream transformed into a monstrous roar. Then, all that he can hear is the rushing wind and the sounds of the jungle. It’s peaceful, in a way. The raindrops whipping through the wind sting against his scaled skin. Although it’s only been a few seconds, he’s fallen for what seems like forever. In those few fleeting moments, he thinks of his family, of his friends who might never know how he died, and then of Ralkua. Who will take care of his little Thunder Buddy? And then his mind finally settles on Syndra Silvane. He only wishes he had a little more time, time to tell her…

And that’s when his body hits the canopy of massive trees surrounding Firefinger. And in that instant, before his vision turns to black, the last thing Zeon’s mortal body sees is the orange and white-furred form of Azaka clinging to the stone spire high above.

From one hundred and sixty feet up in the air, a body falling through space hits with the indiscriminate force of a truck going 60 miles an hour. The collision is gruesome, and Zeon’s bones shatter as he smashes full force into the thick tree branches and jungle foliage. His organs liquefy internally under the stress of the fall and all his worldly possessions scatter in a gory cascade. When the remains of his body finally make contact with the moist ground below, one can barely recognize the twisted corpse as anything resembling a humanoid form.

As blood pools around Zeon’s mutilated body, one can hear nothing but the sounds of the jungle and the gentle pitter-patter of rain on the mossy ground.

And then — Zeon is floating above his body, looking down on it. He’s certainly dead, no doubt about that. But his spiritual form, his soul, glittering with a ghostly pearlescent light, is very much aware of what’s going on. So this is what death — feels — like. He smiles. A gentle tug on his essence encourages his form to float upwards through the trees, leaving his body behind. And then, he sees it. The rift. A huge glowing portal of light high above in the skies, open, seemingly, just for him. HIs soul ascends, higher and higher, pulled towards the brilliant white light of joy, love and final peace.

And then something awful happens. It’s as if what makes Zeon, Zeon, is yanked with incredible speed and malice away from the rift. The ground below him speeds past as his soul is pulled with vicious swiftness to the south, a dizzying feeling faster than anything he’s ever experienced or would ever experience as a sentient being. And he’s falling now, falling towards an ancient city of stone and moss, older than the oldest civilization. And he falls through the stone and the earth, his soul passing through bedrock and limestone, passing the remains of monstrous tunnels and caverns, flashing by the forms of evil abominations that now lair there, things that were never meant to be.

And finally, he passes into a massive chamber of lava and stone, with a single cylindrical crystalline structure at its center. And in this clear structure are thousands, perhaps millions of white lights, floating, swirling inside, struggling vainly to escape their confines. Zeon’s soul screams in torment as he now joins these trapped living essences through the power of some colossal evil beyond the power of the gods. And as what was Zeon disappears into the crystal, a malign, coal-black presence reveals itself to the last vestiges of Zeon’s spirit from somewhere in the multiverse, bearing a face with malevolent, bright, green eyes….

“Welcome to the party, Zeon. I’ve spared no expense to make you feel right at home.”


The five remaining adventurers stood on the ledge, peering into the smoky, hot cave, waiting for Azaka and Zeon to climb up through the fog… but no one showed. Not able to wait any longer, they crept stealthily into the next room, seeing the bound and gagged aarakokra, clearly a prisoner of the terrorfolk, his wings unable to support him if they decided to casually toss him to his doom.

Elbeneve grimaced. She knew that these evil saurians had to be stopped. She looked at Ferros once, nodded, and then launched a blast of magical force that tore through two of the winged foes in the cave adjacent. Ferros leaped through the air, his greenflame blade igniting and stabbing home. The others gasped, their cover completely blown and now forced to fight. Hoping that the sound of their battle would not alert any other pterafolk, they ran into the cave, and taking a modicum of damage from their razor-sharp beaks and claws, tore through the remainder elders. The foes defeated, they tossed their corpses on the fire to burn.

The group now turned their attention to the feathered captive, who they freed from bondage and inquired if he knew of any other pterafolk nesting in the level above. Although he did not seem to know common, Xandala was able to translate (although a valiant attempt was made through body gestures by Elbeneve). The avian humanoid’s name was Nephyr, and he was captured by the pterafolk while flying far from his home to the southeast, an Aarakokra monastery named Kir Sabal. The pterafolk clearly were going to do him in, so his rescue was well received and Nephyr expressed his gratitude. Before leaving, he explained that if the group ever found themselves near Kir Sabal, they should petition the head of the monastery, an Aarakokra named Asharra, to perform a magical ritual called the Dance of the Seven Winds which would grant them the ability to fly for a short time. Bidding them farewell, he spread his wings and flew off into the rain.

The group now turned their attention to scaling the narrow chimney to the top of Firefinger. Caldur spider-shifted and scouted above, and found to his horror that there were five fully-grown pterafolk feasting on humanoid remains. If they took them on up at the precipice, chances were high that one of them would attempt to knock them off Firefinger 300 feet to the ground below. At the top of Firefinger was a ruined tower and at the top of that tower a magical pyroclast that radiated heat and light for miles. Caldur spied four chests inside the tower, but could not change back for fear the pterafolk would see him. He scuttled back down and informed his compatriots of the situation. Clearly, the mask, if it was anywhere was at the top of the tower, but they couldn’t get at it with the pterafolk in the way. They had to lure the pterafolk down and use their massive size against them. There was a chokepoint in the caves that if they could use to take out the pterafolk one at a time, there was a chance they’d be able to defeat them. Readying themselves for the battle, they cast thaumaturgy to make the sound of the aarakokra’s call the lure them down.

At once, five massive shapes descended on the cave, squawking and cawing, clawing and scratching at the cave’s entrance. Ferros put up a bulwark but did not see the javelins that the winged foes bore until it was too late. Moments later, he was peppered with spears and fell. Caldur screamed a magical incantation, and a vast thorny ground spring up from underneath the pterafolk, pinioning them to the ground as fire from Xandala, Galunir and Elbeneve routed their foes. One by one, the pterafolk fell to spell and sword. Finally, with no minions left, the leader of the pterafolk, a grotesque and scarred monstrosity named Nrak, flew off, abandoning his nest atop the tower.

Licking their wounds, the group climbed to the top of Firefinger and spied their rewards: chests rife with of coins of gold, copper, and silver. Too much to carry at once, the heroes spilled the contents and scooped up as much as could be carried without ladening themselves too heavy. They also found a strange wooden mask, clearly the object of Azaka’s quest, although her whereabouts, as well as Zeon’s, were still in question. The mask was clearly magical, and as Ferros tried it on, he realized its potential to calm and control beasts of the jungle.

Hoping that on their descent they would find their wayward companions, they were disappointed not to find them. Zeon’s pet dinosaur Ral’kua was also missing. Then from the jungle, a blast of psychic energy assailed them. Tracing it to its source, they found the mangled body of their erstwhile friend Zeon, who had clearly fallen from the height. Stifling their sadness, they said their goodbyes, buried his body in the moist ground and wandered into the jungle to seek out Azaka.

As they stalked deeper into the dank overgrowth, the persistent rain finally stopped, and the humidity increased ten-fold. Stopping to catch their breath in a nearby clearing, they heard the rustling of palm fronds around them. And from them in a wide circle surrounding the heroes, stepped a host of small green, red, and orange frog-like humanoids, all armed to the teeth with primitive knives and spears.

Xandala’s eyes opened, and she muttered, “What… the fuck… are those?”

As these frog-people advanced steadily on the party, the group backed up against each other, ready for whatever happened next….

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Falls To Climb

WHO ARE YOU?” Elbeneve slowly backed away from the group with a look of sheer terror on her face. Quickly consulting his book of Flora and Fauna, Ferros starting searching for a cure to the sickness tht El had contracted. But Caldur had another idea. Stepping slowly towards her, Caldur raised his hands and they started to glow with a bluish light. “It’s going to be OK, El. Trust me.” Elbeneve screamed as Caldur touched her gently on the shoulder. Memories came rushing back to Elbeneve – where she was, who her companions were, what the death curse was, everything. She staggered and tumbled on the ground from the vast weight of it all. Then, she looked up and said, “Damn. That sucked.” Caldur chuckled and helped her up.

While looking in the brush for a cure to the madness, Ferros noticed a small creature staring at him from a nearby bush. It was diminutive, no more than 6 inches tall, completely black-skinned, and with a visage more like a tribal mask than a face. From his knowledge of the legends of Chult, this was a Chwinga – an elemental spirit native to Chult that would give out hints and boons to the worthy. This chwinga, however, simply gave Ferros a nut and pointed him in the direction of Firefinger before disappearing into the jungle.

Night falls, and the group decided to split into group to keep watch. Galunir and Xandala exchane furtive glances and somewhat less furtive innuendo, but their relationship stays at a standstill as Xandala rebukes, albeit somewhat sadly, his advances. Even Zeon got involved in trying to “ship” the two, but Xandala charmed him and asked him to stay away and leave her alone.

During the 3rd watch, Elbeneve and Azaka encounter a lurking tiger whose roar wakes everyone up. Reacting quickly, El cast a magic missile but Azaka stepped in front of it and took the damage originally aimed for the tiger. Seemingly uninterested in being harmed or harming the party, the tiger wandered off after briefly conversing with Caldur.

In the morning, Azaka (now healed) ignored any questions about the tiger and said that they had to ford the river before it rained and flooded it. They reach the river, and the party finds out that Azaka doesn’t like the water. Sighing, Zeon carries Mountain Thunder (now called Ralkua) across the river, with a rope in his mouth. Zeon ties off the rope and with its help, the group successfully crosses the raging rapids to the eastern side.

Days later, the party arrives at the outskirts of Firefinger. They see this massive stone spire rising into the sky… and dozens of bodies and assorted decomposed body parts littered around the tower, some indicating that they were tied up before falling from the heights. A gentle rain starts. Azaka says although now is the preferred time to go up the tower when the terrorfolk cannot see them, she doesn’t want to go up herself – she’s afraid of heights. Ralkua stays behind. Caldur turns into a spider and scuttles up to a cave 80 feet off the ground. Ferros, Galunir, Xandala and Elbeneve all make the treacherous climb up a rickety ladder. Zeon persuades Azaka to go up with them, and he promises her that she will not fall with him guiding her. Azaka starts to climb, but Zeon himself slips on a broken ladder rung, falls down and badly hurts his back. Seems he’s not too good at this. Azaka stays suspended in mid-air due to Zeon’s psychic abilities. Smiling for the first time, Azaka thanks Zeon as he reattempts to climb and join his companions.

In the cave, Ferros disturbs a spider nest! Four large wolf spiders jump out from holes in the stone, and shortly afterwards, the spiders get blasted to smithereens. The group climbs up a nearby chimney 90 feet to the next level. Dark in here. Ferros and Caldur see a next of sleeping stirges around a dessicated body. Caldur failes his stealth check and the striges leap on his face, sucking the blood out of him. The group leaps into action, killing the stirges, and sleep-stomping the rest. Galunir heals Caldur who, truth be told, looks awful after almost being sucked to death. A short rest later the party tends to their wounds. The nearby body had some spare gold, a fashionable ring, and strangely enough, two chwinga effigies. They see a nearby ledge leading out into the driving wind and rain…

Ferros climbs out on the ledge, and hammers in pitons to secure a rope along the ledge. WIth it, he clambers over to the ladder going up while Caldur spider-changes and climbs up to the next level. Caldur scouts, and sees a nest of four terrorfolk sitting around a fire, speaking about what they should do to “the prisoner.” Caldur further scouts and find a tied up, blindfolded bird-person in the next room. He scuttles back and waits for the others to climb up to join him. Ferros steadies the ladder, making it easier for the others (Xandala, Galunir, and El) to come up.

Zeon stays behind with Azaka, encouraging her to go out onto the ledge. She refuses. He charms her and she begrudgingly does it. But the innate stress of her fear of heights reacts violently with the effects of Zeon’s spell as she steps out onto the thin ledge, grabbing the rope with both hands. She starts to shake violently and cries out in a strangled half-human scream. She begins to transform — fangs emerge from her jaw, bright orange, and black fur erupt from her skin, and sharp claws spring from her hands. The claws slash through the rope that both of them cling to and the weight is too much for the remaining rope to bear – it snaps like a thread. Through pure instinct, Azaka manages to secure herself to the stone face of the spire with her claws, but Zeon has no such luck. He is shocked by what he’s seen and flinches away, backward off the ledge, his feet slipping on the wet stone. Azaka roars in futility, and in her last act of humanity before completely transforming into a weretiger, she reaches for the falling form of Zeon.

But it’s too late. He’s gone.

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The Karaoke Trap

THREE HOURS AGO….

Ferros sat on his bed, tired of waiting for his companions to return from the dinosaur races. He began to write in his journal to his god, beseeching his aid and attempting to commune to obtain knowledge that might aid him in his quest. The next thing he knew, he was in a massive hall, filled beyond imagining with tables, books and magically floating quills. Each quill was writing in languages beyond counting, some known, most not. Ferros finally found one language that he recognized. And it told a tale of Chultan animal spirits who had served the god Ubtao in ancient times. After reading it thoroughly, Ferros searched the library for tomes of ancient lore, then communicated to his god by writing questions in the books which were cryptically answered via the same floating quills…

And then he opened his eyes – he was back in Chult and no time had passed. His companions were just now returning from the races. They sounded tired, hurt, but alive and most likely well off if he knew their wily ways…. he settled in and like his bruised and bloody companions, fell asleep.

The next morning, the party reconvened, and cleaning and preparing themselves for a day traipsing through the jungle with their new guide, headed downstairs. Two bulky minotaurs stepped in front of them, the concierge calling out with a sharp rebuff, “Where are you off to?” He presented them with a long sheet of rolling parchment that rolled onto the floor and beyond. A bill of all the additional fees that they had incurred in their short time there. Level of Filth. 20g. Food. 10g. No gratuity fee. 15g. Bath. Soap replenishment 15g Bath cleaning 10g. Bad attitude fee 20g, etc etc…

Totalling up the fees, it was clear that even with the winnings, they would never have enough money to pay their surcharges.

The concierge frowned. “No money, eh? Well then, you’ll have to sing for your supper, literally!”

It turned out that the concierge had scheduled the famous bard known as Vartak in the back theater, but they haven’t heard from him in days. The party, realizing that the would have to work as a team to make a show for the patrons of the tavern, leaped into action. Assembling their pyrotechnical, creative and magical forces, they performed three baleful songs that wowed the crowd and transformed them into the band to be known later only as… Swiftwind.

As they stepped away from the tavern hours later, satisfied if a little weary from the adrenaline rush of their concert, Azaka guided them down to where the jungles of Chult awaited them…

A day of travels through the steaming jungles later, they stumbled onto the mutilated corpse of a Flaming Fist soldier, stuffed into a tree. Azaka indicated that this was a telltale sign of the monstrous carnivorous apes known as girallons. Leaving swiftly, they traveled further on through the hot oppressive jungles. Azaka proved to be a good scout and guide, and helped to avoid the party from getting lost in the thick foliage. Days later, and they had observed various plants and small animals that were nowhere to be found elsewhere in the known world. In the late afternoon, Azaka stopped in her tracks – and gestured to a bank of slowly moving blue mist that was creeping along the ground in their direction. She shooed the group quickly away, mentioning that the mist was…. bad. Hacking through the brush with her scimitar, she stumbled into a roost of four massive boars! A fight ensued, and the boars were defeated, all the while the blue mist creeping up on them. Elbeneve noticed too late as the mist crept upwards, its tendrils curling around her boots. It was cool and tingling, and Elbeneve was fascinated. As her party ran from the mist, she stayed inside it, attempting to learn more about it.

SNAP! An iron trap closed around Galunir’s leg. He winced in pain as Xandala gasped and started to pull at the trap anchored in the ground by a heavy iron chain. Zeon stumbled into another trap, its iron teeth biting through his boot, pain lancing up through his leg. Ferros ran over to him and tried to pry the metal from his leg as blood pooled around his ankle. Azaka guided the group around the remaining traps, and Caldur used brute force to open Zeon’s trap while Galunir wedged open his trap with a crazed burst of strength.

Zeon took a deep breath, ran into the mist and grabbed Elbeneve (perhaps against her will) and ran into the underbrush. They ran for a good 200 feet until they were satisfied that the mist was not following them. Gasping for air, the party turned to make sure that everyone was no longer in harm’s way.

ZAP. Elbeneve lashed out with a blast of magic, knocking Zeon out immediately. The group gasped altogether. Caldur rushed to Zeon’s side and healed him. Zeon sat up, holding his head. “Ow….. what the hell, El?”

Elbeneve looked around at her compatriots, with a confused and frightened look on her face. “I don’t… what is… WHO ARE YOU ALL?”

Azaka hung her head sadly and indicated the magical mist that they left behind.

Her hand to her mouth, Xandala muttered, “Oh, no.”

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Easy Money

After the troubling news at the temple, the group decided to take time to rest up. Zeon, who was badly hurt in the last battle, appreciated the respite. While resting, Caldur asked Galunir something that had been on his mind for a while – his dealings with Kwayothe concerning going to Fort Beluarian and meeting with Shago – and didn’t really get a straight answer. Since they decided that going to Fort Beluarian would be a waste of time, they set straight with Zindar that they wouldn’t require a boat there. Zindar shrugged and nodded – although he said that if they needed a boat, they would only have to ask.

That said, the group decided that they would brave the jungle (with a guide of course) and not go to Fort Beluarian to obtain a charter – they were too expensive, and time was of the essence. Looking at their options for a guide, they decided to go with the chultan Azaka Stormfang, who stated that she would waive her fee if they would help her retrieve an item of consequence from the dangerous lair of the terrorfolk known only as Firefinger.

Attempting to find Azaka, they walked to Goldenthrone only to find that she had left and that she would most likely be found at the Thundering Lizard, the raucous tavern which they shunned on their first day in Port Nyanzaru. And for good reason! The bar was a loud, unsanitary, wretched hive of scum and villainy. At the bar, dodging bottles thrown in various directions was the solitary figure of Azaka Stormfang. They requisitioned her assistance, stating outright that they would help her find her item, which turned out to be a mask of some kind, of which she would not say more. Also at the bar were two other guides who insinuated that Azaka was a fraud and that she didn’t really know what she was doing in order to position themselves as her replacement. The party declined their offer as they seemed less than honest regarding their intentions, despite the fact that they had their own triceratops…

After accepting their offer, Azaka agreed to their plan to leave tomorrow. The only catch was that there was now 7 of them, including Xandala… and a canoe, if purchased, would only take 6 people. Deciding to not leave anyone behind, they determined that they would have to walk through the jungle to Firefinger, and that it would be a treacherous 9-day journey. Galunir purchased Insect Salve and also… LOTS OF TENTS. Elbeneve was more interested in a seemingly unending bag of garlicky breadsticks that she grabbed from the Thundering Lizard to be involved with any of the details of their journey – only that they would meet Azaka tomorrow morning outside Kaya’s House of Repose and begin their trek into the jungle.

Seeing that they had the rest of the day to waste, the party (except Ferros, who decided to commune with his deity) decided to go to the “Unchained Dinosaur Race” an attempt not only to bet on the dinos racing there but also ride one in the race!

Port Nyanzaru was famous for its weekly dinosaur races through the streets. Dinosaurs were routinely painted in bright designs, and their riders would try to steer them along a course that wound around the harbor and the city’s four hills. Although spectators were seldom injured, it was a dangerous sport for the dinosaurs and their riders. A typical race day had three races: one for four-legged beasts, one for two-legged beasts, and one no-holds-barred “unchained” race. Many of the dinosaurs involved were juveniles since fully grown versions were too large and too difficult for riders to manage. The dinosaurs were stoutly muzzled and their claws and horns blunted in all but the unchained race.

The four-legged race was dominated by young ankylosauruses and triceratopses, but dimetrodons also proved to do well when paired with Small riders. Most competitors in the two-legged race were hadrosauruses and deinonychuses (again with Small riders). The unchained race, on the other hand, had racers on anything, including young allosauruses and very young tyrannosauruses.

While Caldur and Zeon attempted to bribe riders to let them ride their respective dinos, Galunir and Elbeneve bet on the dinosaur races to help fund the jungle expedition and earn some extra cash. Bets at the race ranged from 1 cp to 500 gp to win, place, show, or do something specific during the race (like attack another racer or throw its rider)

Zeon and Caldur found themselves riding a young T-Rex named Big Honker, although it was in the group’s best interest for Mountain Thunder, at the lowest odds, to win. And they planned to rig the race to make that happen. The race was the unchained race, which meant that the muzzles were coming off. Dinosaurs began to attack other dinosaurs, becoming a straight-up dinosaur fight more than anything resembling a race.

Galunir used tactics from the sidelines such as using illusions of meat to distract dinos, while Caldur and Zeon attempted to distract other riders and make their dinosaurs attack each other. A scarred old dinosaur known only as Scarback defeated several other dinosaurs, emerging bloody but triumphant while Zeon hefted a young dimetrodon across the finish line, calling him “Thunder buddy” with a great deal of affection. So much so, that he wanted to purchase him! Although he took on some debt from his compatriots in order to buy him from I’fan Talroa, he did so. Afterwards, splitting their winnings evenly between them, they returned to Kaya’s House of Repose and collapsed exhausted and filthy on their beds.

The next morning, cleaned, refreshed, and with Azaka waiting outside, they gathered their strength and headed for the door.

As two bulky minotaurs stepped in front of them, the concierge of the inn called out with a sharp rebuff. “Where are you off to?” He presented them with a long sheet of rolling parchment that rolled onto the floor and beyond. A bill of all the additional fees that they had incurred in their short time there. Level of Filth. 20g. Food. 10g. No gratuity fee. 15g. Bath. Soap replenishment 15g Bath cleaning 10g. Bad attitude fee 20g, etc etc…

Totalling up the fees, it was clear that even with the winnings, they would never have enough money to pay their surcharges.

The concierge frowned. “No money, eh? Well then, you’ll have to sing for your supper, literally!”

It turned out that the concierge had scheduled the bard known as Vartak in the back theater, but they haven’t heard from him in days so there’s a spot opened up right at this very moment for them to work off their debt…

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Jeepers (Yellow Musk) Creepers

Waking from their separate nightmares at once, each of the five heroes found themselves back in their rooms in Kaya’s House of Repose, still in Chult. Clearly, their experience had been a waking nightmare, brought on by a sinister force.

Undaunted, they determined to go to Goldenthrone to meet with Jobal, the Merchant Prince in charge of guides who may be able to lead them through the jungle. If they were to determine the best guide for their adventure, their search must start there, especially as Wakanga O’tamu had put in a good word for them. Usually, merchant princes did not confer with visitors in such short notice unless the matter was indeed pressing. Leaving the inn, Galunir grabbed four more advertisements for other guides.

Once they arrived, they waited in the domed central hall as Jobal attended to two individuals – a scarred dwarf and a tall serious-looking Chultan female with long brown dreadlocks. Jobal took notice of their presence and allowed them to approach and consult as to which guide to pick. He did not care whom they chose, as long as that guide was under the beneficent patronage of Jobal and that they obtained a Charter of Exploration from the Flaming Fist captain operating out of Fort Beluarian, Liara Portyr. Fort Beluarian was 4 days through the jungle north east of Port Nyzanzru, or they could always charter a boat to get them there in a single night. Without the charter, there was a chance that whatever spoils of exploration that they found in the jungles of Chult would be co-opted by the Flaming Fist, the military arm of Baldur’s Gate, acting as the regional government attempting to maintain control over the island and its riches.

So now, they had to buy a charter (not a cheap prospect), or risk being arrested and their material riches and secrets taken from them by potentially more powerful individuals… Looking at the total gold they had scraped together, it was a little over 60 gold. That was barely enough to purchase gear and a guide, let alone a charter costing 50 gold by itself! They had to get some seed money.

Searching through the town, they scouted at the docks and made a new acquaintance – Zindar, a half-gold dragon who ran Port Nyanzaru’s docks and kept track of ship manifests. Bringing the party into his trust, he revealed that he was also a key member of the Ytepka Society and a great source of information about the city. Zindar stated that three pirate captains were attacking merchant ships heading to and from the Bay of Chult. Zindar had permission from the merchant princes to offer a bounty of 2,000 gp for each pirate ship that is captured and brought into port, and a bonus 500 gp for the capture of each pirate captain. Perhaps they could achieve this feat, but most likely not until they found the secret hideout of the pirates somewhere on the western side of Chult.

Leaving the dock area, they wandered into the Merchant’s Ward and arrived at the mighty colisuem, hoping that their prowess in battle might be able to earn them money as gladiators. They were disappointed to find that gladiators were mostly slaves and fought vicious beasts for their freedom, not monetary rewards. However a nearby guard noted thier need for lucre, and brought them to the shop of a local Chultan named Delonda, who supposedly was looking for someone to help her with a recent problem. Her “lazy son” was supposed to pick up a delivery of foodstuffs from their warehouse, but had yet to even show up for work. Delonda offered to pay the party 60 gp if they would pick up the shipment and bring it back to her shop. It was in a small crate located on the second row of lower level and marked with a large red “seven”. She also gave them a small trinket to show to the guards to allow entry to the warehouse. Upon seeing the trinket, the guards allow entry without incident. The upper level is mostly filled with large crates of old clothing with the door and steps to the lower level near the rear of the building. The area contained stacks of large and small crates with five, ten-foot wide rows for walking in between. The sweet scent of fruit and flowers lingered somewhere nearby. As the group approached the center of the room, hidden behind a huge crate in the center of the second row was a Yellow Musk Creeper which sprayed the air and began to control several of the PCs through its enticing scent. At the same time, four yellow musk zombies wandered around the crate stacks further toward the end of the row.

Resisting the beckoning enticement of the plant’s pollen, Ferros lashed out and severed the plant leaves from its stamen. Caldur, fearing the air was tainted, threw up a gust of wind which unfortunately interfered with any potential sonic spells that Galunir could issue. A thick green ichor issued forth as the zombies moved to attack the party. Zeon put up a telekinetic barrier but was easily shattered by the force of the oncoming zombie horde. The group stood back to back and lashed out with spell and steel. After a time, the battle ended, but not without harm that had befallen to the party. Gasping from fresh wounds and coated with greenish slime spurting from the plant-zombies, the party hoisted the box up the stairs – only to find that the door to the upper floor was locked. Bashing it in, they found that the guards that were there only minutes ago were no longer there.

Grimacing in pain, the party licked their battle wounds as they trekked back to the store to obtain their rewards — only to find Delonda’s shop had completely packed up and moved. Was it a test? A breeding experiment? Why the number “seven”? Cracking open the crate, they found it to contain a poisonous trap (luckily avoided), a decorative jeweled case (20 gp)
inside of which was a set of four gemstones (10 gp each). Finally, money!

At that moment, a young urchin sprinted in their direction. Wary not to be robbed, they pivoted in his direction as he skidded to a stop. “Masters! Please! Come with me! Grandfather Zitembe has news for you! Terrible news! Come!” They rushed back to the Temple of Savras and encountered a worried-looking Grandfather Zitembe and Inete, both of whom had visions aided by their deity. Zitembe stated that he had seen visions of “a jungle city far to the south, enclosed by cliffs and crawling with snakes” and “a black obelisk draped in vines.” He dared not peer any deeper, but he urged the characters to seek out this city and the obelisk. Inete, also having her own visions, stated that her visions concerned “red-robed wizards operating a secret base somewhere in the Aldani Basin.” Ferros knew what that meant all too well — Red Wizards of Thay….

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