Character level: 6th
Igby’s player absent
The Ruby Scarabs departed from the Necropolis via the smugglers’ tunnel and returned to the Grand Mausoleum in Wati, where they told the priests of Pharasma about the condition of the Elegiac Compasses. In return, the priests gave them information about various locations which lay along the line that the lone active Compass had pointed toward. Some of these locations overlapped with places where the Darkfolk had observed the golden-masked strangers. The list of places included the following:
· The Archives of the Ibis
· The Temple of the Risen Osiris
· The Ghoul Market
· The Tomb of Maatya
· The Woven Reed
· The Pyramid of Arithmetic Bliss
· The Dust Parlor
· The Observatory of Truth and Wisdom
Sula took the opportunity to hand the ankheg chitin she had been carrying over to an armorer and ask him to craft her armor and a shield from it. She also spent some time in the form of a young lioness, getting accustomed to her new ability. She claimed six gold bracelets from the items the group had acquired in the Necropolis. Because Uto had newly developed the ability to clothe himself in magical armor, it was decided that the magical mail he had been wearing would be sold, and part of the proceeds used to purchase a curative wand from the temple. The party members each bought vials of antitoxin and anti-plague preparations as well, and some members picked up bottles of alchemist’s fire.
On the following day, the Scarabs returned to the Necropolis, but they decided not to go back through the tunnel. They wanted to save their energy and spells for other foes rather than fighting the crowd of undead at the main entrance, so they made the choice to walk around the outside of the Necropolis walls to the gate on the far side and climb over the wall, aided by Uto’s levitation and ropes. A harness was prepared to allow them to lift Nyema over the wall, though the lioness clearly didn’t enjoy the experience.
They had already been to the Ghoul Market and the tomb of Maatya and crossed those off their list. They decided to investigate the Pyramid of Arithmetic Bliss first. The list of places where the masked cultists had been seen and the list provided by the temple of Pharasma both included this place, and it was a possible location from which the star chart the Darkfolk had found might have come. They Pyramid proved not to be an actual pyramid; it was the former headquarters of a stonemason’s guild, and the roof of the building was in the form of a pyramid. The Scarabs found that there were several small outbuildings that showed signs of having been broken open from inside. These were the burial places of those who had died at the Pyramid during the time of madness. But the undead that had escaped their tombs were not lingering around the main building. They had apparently all wandered off to join the gathering by the main gate between the Necropolis and Wati.
The Scarabs searched the grounds around the building, but the only thing of significance they found was footprints of shod feed leading in and out of the entrance to the grounds. These had been partially obscured later by the prints of the risen dead, so it seemed that if the cultists had come here, they had since departed. As the group prepared to enter the main structure, Kaa checked the porch for traps but found none. The doors were also unlocked. Inside the building they saw a long corridor lined with niches. They also heard whispering voices that seemed to be raving like madmen.
There were scrolls and scraps of papyrus scattered everywhere, which excited Uto. He began using his prehensile hair to pick them up. As the party made their way down the corridor to a large chamber centered around a stone table, two ghostly dark figures appeared. These were the source of the mad ravings the party members had heard. They were quickly identified as allips, and Uto warned everyone to avoid being touched by the things lest they begin muttering insane ravings too. One of the allips was swiftly dispatched by Kaa, while the combined attacks of Uto, Azzaria, and Kaa eliminated the second. After their enemies had been destroyed, Uto used a wand to treat Kaa and Sula, who had both suffered the caresses of the allips.
The large chamber appeared to be a hall of records and workshop. The remains of a campsite had been left behind there, and Uto suspected that the visitors had been searching for something, hence the scattered scrolls and papers everywhere. There were also several sarcophagi lining the room, interring more of the victims of the madness. It was very dark in the area, so Igby summoned a light. Then the group heard shuffling sounds, and Kaa spied a mummy approaching.
Azzaria heard more noises and went to investigate, discovering that a second mummy had arrived. Azzaria reminded her companions that they were vulnerable to fire, but Uto pleaded with his comrades not to use fire against them for fear it would damage the ancient documents the shaman was attempting to collect. To his great dismay, his companions ignored him. Kaa scorched one of the mummies with a ray of fire, while Sula sheathed her spear in flames to stab at a mummy. Uto called water to pour over the flames and sent out a wave of positive energy to aid his friends. One mummy exploded when Sula slashed it with her spear. When it was gone she ran to help Azzaria fight the second mummy. But Azzaria hardly needed the assistance and made short work of the other mummy.
With the mummies gone, the Scarabs returned to examining the remnants of the camp. It showed evidence that four to six people had stayed there briefly while they searched. It had been abandoned only a few days ago. In an open sarcophagus the group found five falchions of high quality. They also discovered a magical ring that had been left behind in the campsite. A corpse wearing a golden mask was found nearby, which still had in its possession a pouch full of spell components and three turquoise stones.
Once Uto was satisfied that he had gathered up all the documents that he could, the Scarabs decided to depart from the Pyramid of Arithmetic Bliss and go next to the Observatory of Truth and Wisdom.
The Observatory was a single-story building with an attached tower that stood three stories tall. It was dedicated to the ancient gods Maat and Thoth. On entering the building the party quickly found star charts similar to the one the Darkfolk had given them. As they examined the entry chamber, which had been inscribed with the tenets of Pharasma’s faith, Uto suddenly realized that a key portion was missing – not removed or defaced, but simply omitted. This seemed very odd to him. While he was looking at this, the other members of the group realized there was a door in the center of the floor, in the middle of the spiral emblem of Pharasma. Kaa could find no mechanism to open it. Uto had a moment of inspiration and recited the missing phrase out loud. Then the trapdoor opened, revealing a spiral staircase descending into darkness.
Before they descended, the members of the Scarabs swallowed the anti-plague potions they had purchased in Wati. Sula also armored herself with bark-like skin, and Uto surrounded himself with his new armor, which took the form of spirits swirling around him to defend him from harm. The stairs led them down into a pillared room occupied by a reflecting pool and jackal-headed statues. Enchanted lights that never dimmed kept the room bright. On the opposite side of the room were four sets of bronze doors. The reflecting pool was murky, but proved to contain a number of silver rods that had perhaps been placed there to purify it. Kaa used a spell from his gloves to lift several of them out, then Uto summoned his invisible servant to attend to that task. Uto also detected two magical objects in the pool. These proved to be a pair of bronze armbands.
Kaa then checked the bronze doors and found no locks or traps. He opened one door in the center, which revealed that what lay beyond was a large chamber with a very high ceiling, its walls lined with curtained alcoves. In the center of the chamber stood an altar that had clearly been desecrated, as it was covered with stains and residue of something unpleasant. There were also a number of zombies chained to the walls, as well as a dozen zombies roaming freely that immediately headed for the open door.
The Ruby Scarabs quickly decided that they would not open any of the other doors and would stand their ground in front of the door Kaa had opened. They hoped this plan would allow them to eliminate the zombies one by one. Uto sent a wave of positive energy through the doorway, destroying many zombies at once. But then the party members heard movement on the stairs behind them. A group of masked cultists had appeared. Sula turned and lobbed a handful of flames at one of the cultists. Uto used his hair to eliminate the last zombie, then shut the door and turned to join his companions in facing the cultists. Azzaria heard singing coming from the top of the stairs and suggested that Sula send Nyema up to attack the singer, but Sula was reluctant to send her companion out of her line of sight. The cultist Sula had burned sent a cone of fire at Azzaria, revealing that the cultists were also magic-users. Two of the other cultists sheathed their hands in lightning and one of them moved toward Azzaria, quickly followed by the other. Azzaria swung her weapon and one of the two fell.
Sula heard someone reciting the words of a spell to summon another creature into the chamber. The voice seemed to be coming from an alcove under the staircase. She warned her comrades. Azzaria moved into the alcove and swung at the unseen spellcaster, managing to hit the person and causing the spell to fail. Uto knocked another cultist unconscious and that person fell into the reflecting pool. The unseen spellcaster tried to afflict Azzaria with uncontrollable laughter, but failed. Then another person appeared. At the same time Kaa eliminated two of the cultists. Sula aimed her flames at the woman under the stairs. The cultist who had fallen into the pool stood up, and Nyema promptly afflicted a fatal wound on him with her teeth. Azzaria then became enraged and directed her fury at the unseen woman by the stair, who she realized had also been the singer up above. The woman’s invisibility faded, and Uto grabbed her with his hair, intending to make her prisoner and question her about the cult’s intentions. She attempted to cast another spell from within the binding of hair but was unsuccessful.
With the woman taken captive, the fight was over. Three of the other cultists were severely wounded, and one was dead. Uto used his magic to prevent the wounded people from bleeding to death. Afterward the Scarabs searched them and removed all of the belongings, finding that each one carried the same equipment: a dagger, five darts, a shortsword, a magical cloak, thieves’ tools, a brass mask, several turquoises, and a small amount of coin. They also had five magical scrolls containing the same spell, five vials of poison, and five magic potions with the same effect.
The woman they had taken captive had a different variety of objects in her possession indicating that she might have been the leader of the small group, or at least a person of greater status. She had a scroll of a different spell, a wand, a set of magical leather armor, a buckler, a dagger, a fine quality sickle, a magical tome, two lapis bracelets, a mask of gold rather than brass, and a larger quantity of coin. When questioned she was reluctant to speak, but she did mention the Sky Pharaoh, and enough to make it apparent that the cultists were trying to find a mask. The Ruby Scarabs realized that more than one group of people appeared to be pursuing the same mask – perhaps the mask that had been taken from the hidden room beneath the Sanctum of the Erudite Eye. But they still did not know why these groups desired the mask, or who the other group were.
After the woman was questioned, Uto took one of the scrolls her companions had carried and used it to send a message to the priests of Pharasma in Wati, telling them briefly what had transpired. Afterward the Scarabs bound their prisoners, intending to leave them in the reflecting pool chamber while they explored the desecrated temple further.
5 masterwork falchions
Spell component pouch
Several silver rods
Ring of feather fall
Bracers of armor +1
5 brass masks
4 cloaks of resistance +1
4 sets of thieves’ tools
15 turquoise gemstones
4 scrolls of whispering wind
5 potions of undetectable alignment
5 vials of taggit poison
33 gold pieces
Gold mask 50gp
Potion of cure light wounds
Scroll of expeditious retreat
Wand of invisibility, 11 charges
+1 studded leather armor
Tome of lesser extended summoning (evil)
2 lapis lazuli bracelets 35gp
Next: Part 13
Next: Part 13