Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Mummy's Mask, part 6

4-10-2016
Session 10
Character level: 4th

New character introduction: Igby Marsh  – male, human, inquisitor

As the sounds of trouble receded into the distance and the Ruby Scarabs caught their breath, they realized they would have to leave the Canny Jackal auction house to investigate what was happening in the rest of Wati. One of the members of the Four Lanterns group, Igby Marsh, offered to accompany them. Uto chose to remain at the auction house looking after the auction participants who were still there.

When they entered the streets beyond the marketplace, the Scarabs heard distant sounds of distress. They followed a trail of destruction until they came to an intersection where a group of half a dozen zombies had congregated around a wagon. One of the zombies was devouring a corpse, presumably that of the wagon driver, while others were consuming the horse that had drawn it. Igby stepped into the intersection, presenting an immediate target for the zombies. Kaa charged one of the undead and with a slash of his kopesh it collapsed.

Sula produced a flaming sphere and sent it rolling toward a zombie, which burst into flame and was destroyed. Two zombies moved toward Igby, and two more approached Kaa. Sula moved her flaming sphere toward one of the zombies threatening Kaa, but this one proved resistant to the fire. She directed Nyema to attack a zombie that was trying to harm Igby, and the lioness’s claws brought it down. Kaa then destroyed the zombie nearest him that was not the target of Sula’s spell. Sula moved up beside Nyema to defend her while continuing to direct the flaming sphere against the other zombies, and drew out the curative wand she had recently acquired.

Nyema brought down a second zombie, while Igby and Kaa also slew their second opponents. All of the zombies were now gone. In the aftermath of the fight, Azzaria noticed that there was a dark compartment in the wagon. The wagon’s contents also seemed odd: a few poor quality pottery pieces, some long-dried paint, and moldering grain. She called out in case someone was hiding in the compartment, which was large enough to contain several people. But no one responded. Examination of the driver’s remains revealed that he wore a heavy, valuable silver chain around his wrist, which seemed significant, but no one present knew what it might mean. Azzaria also found that the driver had a fine silk pouch in his money belt that contained 50 gold pieces, in addition to seven silver pieces that were outside the silk pouch. Kaa then discovered a second hidden compartment in the wagon, this one near the driver’s seat. Inside the compartment he found a necklace with a mummified hand for a pendant, and some fine jewelry estimated to be worth 850 gold pieces. The jewelry resembled the funerary jewelry the Scarabs had seen in the Necropolis. They began to suspect that the compartment in the back of the wagon had been used to smuggle the zombies into Wati, but these zombies clearly hadn’t come from the ancient Necropolis; they appeared to be ordinary citizens of Wati, recently deceased.

Concerned that the corpses might rise as zombies, Kaa decapitated the wagon driver and the horse. The Scarabs could still hear noises to the northeast that sounded like more trouble. But they decided to return to the Canny Jackal instead of investigating the sounds. When they arrived, Uto told them that nothing else untoward had happened in the auction house after their departure. He also recognized the silver chain taken from the wagon driver’s wrist: it was the symbol of the Silver Chain gang, known for grave robbing and smuggling artifacts from the Necropolis. The group reviewed the items they had recovered from the wagon and determined that the mummified hand necklace radiated protection magic, but were unable to determine exactly what it did. Kaa decided to put it on anyway. The tengu didn’t find it as disgusting as his companions did.

After discussing what they had experienced, the Ruby Scarabs disagreed over what to do next. Uto wanted to remain at the Canny Jackal for the rest of the night, but there were two people present who wanted to go to the Sanctum of Silver and Gold, the temple of Nethys that stood near the Grand Mausoleum of Pharasma. These two were priests of Nethys and wanted to return to their temple. The Scarabs agreed to escort them back to the Sanctum.

As they crossed the marketplace, the group heard the sounds of something moving slowly in the darkness, and noises that resembled something heavy being dragged. They did not investigate the source of the sounds.

At the Sanctum of Silver and Gold, the guards outside checked the new arrivals carefully before admitting them, taking a second look at Kaa’s new necklace, but when the two priests vouched for the Scarabs the guards admitted them to the temple. Inside they found a few devotees of Nethys who had taken refuge there. The Scarabs and the two priests narrated their experiences to a senior priest. This priest identified the mummified hand as a Hand of an Honest Man, which would protect the wearer from being cursed.

When they finished talking with the priest, the Scarabs spoke with some of the other people in the temple. One person told a story of someone he knew being carried off by a giant mosquito prior to the zombie attack, but Sula felt this incident had no relationship to the appearance of the zombies, as giant mosquitoes did sometimes attack people. After they had learned what they could from the people in Nethys’ temple, the Ruby Scarabs decided to go on to the Pharasma temple to talk to the priests there. Kaa told them how he had seen Ptemenib leaving the auction, apparently following someone, and had followed but lost the trail. The priests at the temple expressed concern as Ptemenib hadn’t returned and his whereabouts were unknown.

That night they rested at the Grand Mausoleum. The next morning they learned that the troubles had continued throughout the night and were still ongoing. The town of Wati felt abandoned; the streets were empty and quiet. The Scarabs agreed to escort some of the people who had been at the auction back to their homes. Igby persuaded some of the wealthier folk to make a donation of a hundred gold pieces in return for this service.

When the group arrived at one of the homes in the wealthy district of town, they learned that noises could be heard coming from within the family crypt, and the crypt door had been barred. They also observed that a house not far away was issuing black smoke. At first they intended to go to investigate the apparently burning house, but they then decided to return to the Canny Jackal instead.

While on their way back to the auction house, they heard a thunderclap, which Azzaria recognized was an illusion. The group came upon a mob of local people surrounding a woman with a cart. A zombie had been lashed to the cart. The woman appeared frightened, and the crowd were accusing her of causing the appearance of all the zombies. Uto and Azzaria stepped in to reason with the crowd, and Uto cast a spell to calm them. Not all the members of the mob were affected by the magic, but Uto was able to persuade the people to let the woman alone and leave. The woman continued to be frightened and upset. She revealed that the zombie tied to the wagon was her recently dead husband. She was convinced that the gods had brought him back to her, and that if she could get him home she could use her magic to restore him to true life. She refused to take him to the temple of Pharasma. Finally Kaa stunned her with a blow, and then the others bound her with rope so they could take her and the zombie to the priests of Pharasma. Once they arrived at the temple, the priests told them that this was not an unknown occurrence. They had encountered other people who saw their newly dead relatives rising as zombies not as a curse but a blessing.

After leaving the distraught woman with the priests, the Scarabs decided to continue their escort duty, taking more people back to their homes. Along the way they encountered the adventuring band known as the Dog Soldiers fighting some ghouls, and they gave the Dog Soldiers their aid. The leader of the Dog Soldiers sadly told them that he had lost more of his dogs. The Ruby Scarabs had learned from the priests that people who died since the appearance of the zombies were also rising again as zombies, so they advised the Dog Soldiers to be sure to decapitate any dogs that died.

Several hours later, the Ruby Scarabs had delivered all the people from the Canny Jackal who wanted to go home back to their residences. They returned to the temple of Pharasma, where they learned that more outsiders like the duro div they had encountered in Pentheru’s house had been spotted in the town. The priests also told them that they had received no messages from the guards at the gate of the Necropolis, and couldn’t spare anyone to go and check. The Scarabs then offered to go themselves.

When they arrived at the Gate of Dawn, they could see through the openings in the gate that there were hundreds of undead congregated around the base of Pharasma’s Needle, the obelisk that stood just inside the Necropolis. Only the priestess Balthemm, who they had met there before, was present with two guards; the rest of the guards had stayed home to look after their families.

Suddenly, a dark insubstantial shape passed through the gate and moved toward Balthemm. When it touched her she screamed and went gray. Sula laid a hand on Nyema and imbued one of her paws with magic that would help her fight such creatures, as one of her companions had identified the thing as a shadow, which could only be affected by magic weapons. Uto then channeled positive energy toward the gate, affecting some of the undead beyond but also damaging the shadow. Balthemm stumbled away from it, and Sula moved to lay a hand on her to restore some of her lost strength. The two guards fled in terror. Despite her weakness, Balthemm was able to bless the Scarabs to aid them against the shadow.

The shadow touched Igby, but he wasn’t affected as much as Balthemm had been and was able to remain standing. He, Kaa, an enraged Azzaria, and Nyema all attacked the creature with their magically enhanced weapons. Uto then used a wand of magic missile the group had found to direct a missile of force at the shadow, and it vanished. After the shadow had gone, one of the guards returned. Balthemm then asked if the Scarabs would take a message to the Grand Mausoleum to ask for help. Before the group left, Uto levitated to the top of the Necropolis wall and positioned himself so that he could direct several bursts of positive energy at the undead below. While he was looking into the Necropolis, he saw a glint of metal and movement a short distance away. He then threw two vials of alchemist's fire at the undead before returning to his companions.

Once he had returned to the ground, Uto gave Balthemm a wand of disrupt undead to use while the Scarabs returned to the temple of Pharasma to deliver her plea for aid. The companions also helped her remove her armor, which was too heavy for her to wear in her current weakened state.

Back at the temple, Igby received healing to recover the strength he had lost to the shadow’s touch. Uto asked for another wand of disrupt undead, and was told he might be able to acquire one from Nethys’ temple. The Ruby Scarabs also discussed the possibility of checking the Necropolis walls that stood outside the town, as the Silver Chain members had clearly been able to get into the Necropolis somehow. They came to the conclusion that the Silver Chain hadn’t smuggled actual zombies into Wati, but instead had been smuggling corpses which had become zombies after the unknown magic had taken effect.

The Ruby Scarabs returned to the Gate of Dawn later to find more guards with Balthemm. They gave her the supplies the temple had provided, and in return she presented Uto with an unused wand of cure light wounds. She also gave the group a reward that had been collected by local residents, which included five platinum pieces, 483 gold pieces, 358 silver pieces, a gold ring, and an outlandish but expensive silk hat that was promptly claimed by Kaa.

When they had completed their business at the Gate of Dawn, the group discussed patrolling the streets to find out if the undead were everywhere or only in certain areas. They hoped this would help them identify the source of the magic that was raising the dead. As they were talking, a strange-looking bird wearing a mask suddenly appeared out of the air and began to babble at them frantically in what sounded like numerous languages. Uto realized the bird was actually a creature called a nosoi psychopomp, a denizen of the outer planes and steward of the undead. Uto managed to calm the creature enough that it could speak intelligibly. It then explained that it was a helper and guide to the priest Ptemenib, and that Ptemenib had been captured by the Silver Chain gang and was being held in an abandoned warehouse near the waterfront.

Loot acquired:
Wand of disrupt undead
Wand of cure light wounds, fully charged
5 platinum
438 gold
358 silver
Gold ring
Silk hat worth 75 gold

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