As we harvest the dead Yrthaks for body parts and trophies, there’s some argument about whether their sonic weapon is a horn, or something else. Since they’re covered in skin instead of keratin, we decide that they must be related to giraffes.
Deserts are also so quiet that we hear a distant commotion, far across the wasteland. Climbing to the top of the nearest hill and getting out the spy-glasses, we can see distant campfires and the shape of numerous people running around in some uproar. But it’s so far away that even running, it would take hours to get there.
Zenobia: I knew we should have bought those Speedy Camels from Crazy Hassan.
GM: Crazy Hassan only shows up when people really, really need him.
Zenobia: Ah, so if he doesn’t show up there was no real reason for us to hurry.
Onka: Breakfast first. We should have kept some of that meat.
GM: You want to eat Yrthak?
Zenobia: …. I’m not really sure I want to.
Nemat: As a general rule, don’t eat anything listed as ‘Aberration’.
It was a nomad camp, and there are survivors. They’re wary - probably because one of us is a gnoll and we’re only carrying one small tent - but they don’t attack us on sight. They’re understandably more concerned about a second attack by the land-sharks that chewed them up last night. Multiple land-sharks, which is really unusual for these normally solitary monsters. Nemat determines which way they went, while Zenobia patches up the wounded.
GM: You MAYBE might be able to create a Bulette if you have a big armadillo, a big snapping turtle, a bunch of spells, and some demon ichor.
Zenobia OoC: It doesn’t just take a romantic evening, a few bottles of wine, and some lube?
The Bulettes get identified as B1 and B2.
Zenobia OoC: They’re bulettes, in pantalettes, and they’re coming down the stairs.
Of course, there’s still the problem of trying to find anything out here, let alone mapping it. Sending Onka up in a hot-air balloon a few times a day can only get us so far, and we can hardly tow him along behind us.
Nemat OoC: As I said previous session, I’d really like our GM to be familiar with compass directions.
Zenobia: We need to commision some kind of marker obelisks out here.
It would probably be worth the expense of enchanting them with Continual Flame, so people can find them at night. Our next encounter is a village of Maftet, a curious race related to sphinxkind. They’re not supposed to be found in flat country like this.
Maftet: Who are you? What is your business?
Nemat: Our goals are three - to end the machinations of the cult determined to resurrect the Forgotten Pharaoh, to return the effects of a dead scorpion-man to his tribe, and to talk to you. This doesn’t seem to your usual kind of country.
Maftet: It isn’t. Drop your weapons and wait here.
Zenobia: We haven’t drawn any.
Onka: And we’re all spellcasters.
Nemat: I can stick my fingers in my ears and go lalalala if that will make you more comfortable.
They’re quite interested to hear we’re seeking the Forgotten Pharaoh, suspect we’re seeking the temple of the Faceless Sphinx, but are reluctant to tell us any more unless we can prove our worth. We’re happy to tell them everything we’ve been up to for the last year, and they're glad that their friend Tetisurah the sphinx survived her run-in with the cult.
GM: how to phrase to the next bit … blah blah, you sound pretty awesome, can you give us some assistance too?
Nemat: That’s why we came here.
Maftet: Also, if I were you I’d burn that scorpion-man’s belongings - they’re mercenaries hired by the cult.
The Maftet have a problem with giant, horned, red-skinned fiery humanoids blocking access to one of their temples. Asrian is not happy, since these are clearly ifriti, a kind of djinn.
Zenobia: I won’t let them hurt you.
Asrian: I’m not afraid of being hurt, I don’t want them changing me again!
Zenobia: Onka, try and stand back a bit when I call down a Holy Smite.
Nemat: Yes, your somewhat flexible morals leave you vulnerable to heavenly fire.
The ifrit try to intimidate us with a wall of fire. We’re not impressed, since Zenobia cast Resist Energy on of us earlier.
Nemat: We wish to parlay.
Ifrit: Parlay? What could you possibly offer us?
Nemat: Your lives. Let us talk face to face.
Entire Party: *step through the flame without taking a point of damage*
Nemat: Shall we talk now?
Ifrit: Uh … let me go get Kixexa.
Nemat: Thank you.
Onka: Is he gone yet? That singed my underwear.
He comes back with two others, Kixexa, who is clearly fiery in nature, and one Picasi who is blue, and looks like more of a problem if we rely on our fire resistance.
Nemat: I come as an Inquisitor of Wadjet, and Living Monolith of the Temple of Chisisek. I come negotiate access to the temple of Sekhmet for legitimate worshippers.
Kixexa: The temple of who?
Nemat: *launches into an extended explanation of Wadjet, Chisisek, the River Sphinx, etc etc etc.*
GM: You don’t need to explain this.
Nemat OoC: Yes I do, this is Nemat talking.
Nemat: Sekhmet? The goddess of fire, vengeance and war! Are you seriously trying to tell me you’re living in her temple and none of you worship her?
Kixexa: Well, she’s cool, but we don’t worship her.
Nemat: Shall I tell you the story of her first visit to the world?
GM: Time for another TED talk.
Picasa seems to be the more level-headed of the pair. Possibly the story of how Sekhmet got her jets cooled will help her deal with her angry counterpart. Large amounts of beer were involved.
Nemat: I could give you the primer on the worship of Sekhmet, but I’m a follower of Wadjet.
Onka: And we don’t have four hours.
Nemat: … I’d only have four hours?
Nemat convinces them that actually operating the temple properly, and thereby attract worshippers, and caravans, and tithes, is probably better than chasing off anybody that comes near it. An ice spell on a nearby rock, on the way out, proves that we came loaded for bear.
Nemat: Remind me to tell the Maftet that the nomad camp has Ice Bolts for sale.
Of course the procession of humanoid skeletons carrying a palanquin that we run into on the walk back might be distracting. The passenger is a Div - a race of evil Outsiders. We’ve run into one before and they didn’t make a good impression.
Asrian: This guy dies.
GM: It looks like he thinks you’ll be perfect minions. The procession is coming towards you.
Zenobia: Maybe he saw the gnoll in our party and assumed we’re evil.
Div: Oh ho ho, more things to add to the collection!
GM: He’s Neutral Stupid - his first action is to demand your obedience.
Party: *look at each other and burst out laughing*
Div: Wait, What????
The spell destroys the skeleton minions.
Div: Well, if you’re going to be that way, I’ll just make some more!
He attempts to turn Asrian into a bunny rabbit. It doesn’t work.
Div: *looks down at his finger* That usually works.
It certainly worked in the other game some of the players are involved in, where the PCs Polymorphed Cthulhu into a bunny. Happily it doesn’t seem to work the other way around. The rest of the battle does not go so much in our favour - Sepid Divs are powerful spellcasters, and shrug off most attacks, even after we break his jaw and disembowel him. Onka is mortally wounded, and the rest of us are not much better. Only Asrian is still standing by the time she manages to finally kill the creature.
Onka: *after using Hero Points and massively applications of healing magic from Zenobia* I don’t like being dead. On the plus side there’s a Feat I can take now.
The Div was also carrying an insane amount of stuff in the palanquin with him. So much that we’re going to have to dump a lot of our own coinage just to handle the weight.
Zenobia: Those poor skeletons. At least we can tell the Maftet where to find it so they can pay the tithe at the Sekhmet temple.
Nemat: …. In pennies. Fine. I’m not carrying 16,000 copper coins anyway - just dump them on the palanquin.
Zenobia OoC: Those cultists won’t know what hit them when we catch up. Because we’ve picked up so much XP in the last few days, and I bet THEY haven’t been running all over the desert on sidequests.
The Covenant of Wati have narrowly avoided a TPK at the hands of the Sepid Div.
Zenobia OoC: SEPID Div, not Tepid Div.
Onka OoC: Well, it COULD be lukewarm.
GM: If you WERE riding horses, they’d at least have names.
Nemat OoC: ‘rode through the desert on a horse with no legs’ wait, that doesn’t work.
Zenobia: When we get back to civilisation we’ll send a priest of Sekhmet out here.
Nemat: A priest and an inquisitor.
Nemat: Inquisitors are better at converting people.
We return to the waiting nomads and their spokesperson, Erayu, who offers his gratitude, hospitality, and information.
Erayu: You have indeed proven your worth. It takes strength and purpose to survive the Parched Dunes, and I see now that you have both.
Nemat OoC: I’m not going to tell him I don’t eat or drink anymore.
Erayu: I thank you, and I will help you in your quest.We lived for many generations in the shadow of the Sightless Sphinx, guarding and preserving it, though never entering it, for ancient evil lingered within its crumbling walls. But several of our younger kin, led by a rash youth named Userib, decided to explore the Sphinx. Of the dozen who ventured within, only one returned, her face white with fear. She told us that Userib had awakened the evil within the Sphinx and that it had corrupted him and the others. Her words held truth, for before we could
initiate a rescue, Userib and his followers attacked. Many of my tribe fell under their assault, leaving us no choice but to abandon the Sphinx. I could say that in our weakened condition, and with the children to consider, we could not expect to win the day in an attack on the Sphinx. This would be true. But it is also true that our own kin still reside within the Sphinx. Can they be saved and returned to the pride? I do not know. I cannot imagine facing those we have raised from birth and making the decision to end their lives. You are strong and I believe you are worthy souls. We shall direct you to the Sightless Sphinx. May Sekhmet grant you power in battle, and Thoth give you the wisdom to do what is necessary.
Zenobia: *hopefully* Does that mean we try and take them alive?
Asrian: Corrupted usually means we cut them into little pieces.
Nemat: Generally, but the goddess Saranrae wants us to at least give them a chance.
Zenobia: I can understand the need to kill some things swiftly, but when my goddess AND the relatives of the target ask me not to, I feel bad about not obliging them.
We eventually find a ravine, stuffed with cultists, and some kind of big metal statue thing. They do have a few sentries on duty, but they were looking the wrong way as we crept up.
Zenobia OoC: I come from a long line of sneaky desert ambushers. To my regret.
Zenobia: Is anybody else wondering who erected a statue at the bottom a ravine?
It’s a good question, but not worth pursuing until we’ve dealt with the cultists. Happily, when these cultist explode they have a tendency to set off their comrades as well.
Asrian: What idiot makes a Wand of Prestidigitation?
Zenobia: An apprentice learning how to make wands?
Nemat: No no, this is somebody’s doctoral thesis. ‘Seriously? I have to make a wand? Ok then. Here’s a wand. I’m not one of you rich bastards, I had to scrape together every coin to get into this school, and you expect me to pay for all the materials for this too?’
Examining Panel of Wizards: Is there an activating word?
Nemat: ‘No, just a gesture - extend your middle finger’
Examining Panel of Wizards: … alrighty then.
The statue is clearly some kind of automata, and Zenobia finds a button on the back. The design suggests it served the ancient Osiriani, and used Shory technology (the people the Forgotten Pharaoh declared war on) and we do have that power core we found earlier. We decide to risk pressing the button, and the back opens up, feeling what anybody not living in a fantasy setting would recognise as a cockpit. Onka decides to climb in, insert the power core, and pull a few levers. We pass up a few days of rations, and Onka’s Scroll of Teleportation, just in case.
Nemat: Can you hear us in there?
Onka’s Amplified Voice: YES.
GM: Why did this game give you a mecha suit?
But it should give anybody at the Sightless Sphinx a nasty surprise - such as the scorpion-men on guard.At least we can return the belongings of that dead mercenary we found.
Nemat: At some point I need to sit down and list all the kinds of undead you can get from improper burial.
Asrian: Hello there! May I discuss two points of interest with you?
Scorpion-man: Go away! This area is off-limits!
Asrian: That’s one of the things we need to discuss - the other is more intimate!
Zenobia OoC: ‘We don’t do humanoids!’
Scorpion-man: You wish to parley? I give you one minute to state your case.
Asrian: Simply, we found the body of your kinsman.
Nemat: And for the past half-month we’ve been carrying his stuff, wishing to return it to his people. His remains we buried under a cairn.
Scorpion-man: So Dakuri didn’t make it then. The sands are treacherous.
Nemat: But we did avenge his death, by destroying the creatures that killed him.
Asrian: There are many dangerous things in the desert - which right now includes us. We know you’ve been hired by the cult of the Forgotten Pharaoh. They are our enemy. We will be entering that temple to destroy them. But we’d rather not go through you first. We know you are an honourable people, but in this circumstance you are on the wrong side.
It also helps that Nemat knows how the scorpion-men were treated during the era of the ancient Osiriani.
Nemat: You do know you’re working on behalf of Hakotep the First, right?
Nemat: Yes, Hakotep. The Sky Pharoah?
Scorpion-man: *swears violently*
The scorpion people certainly remember how the Sky Pharoah treated anybody who wasn’t human. So will the late Dakuri’s aunt.
Scorpion-man: Do you have a place we can talk further? They’ll be changing the shift soon.
Nemat: We’ve got the Iron Spike of Safe Passage and the Adventurer’s Pavilion. Look for the hill that wasn’t there yesterday. It still won’t be.
Nemat: May I make a suggestion? Tell the cultists that it is a holy night and you all have to carry out a ritual for the gods.
Asrian: I’m sure Nemat can forge some convincing religious texts.
Zenobia: Why forge them? Your knowledge of the old gods is comprehensive enough - it must be a holy night for somebody.
Rubila: You are a crafty one, for a human.
Nemat: I’m sorry?
Rubila: Former human?
Nemat: *holds up his Uraeus symbol, symbol of Wadjet*
Rubila: Ah, that explains it.
And Onka can reinforce the forgery with a Contagious Lie spell, even if the Forgotten Pharaoh himself is in the temple and checks it against his first-hand knowledge of ancient religion.
Nemat: Just burn these documents later, I don’t want this to become an ACTUAL religious observance next year.
GM: And you’ve talked your way past another threat. *sigh* Get 2500XP. Each.
Asrian: Fear our diplomancy!
Nemat: For it is strong!