As the roar faded from the air, Autumn Oak stared into the jungle as the others all returned to Aurora. Petrichor grabbed his air rifle, making sure the cartridge was full and the rifle was loaded. Mara rummaged through her medical supplies and grabbed a few soporific tinctures she had, and Bartleby grabbed a crossbow that he had occasionally waved around during business deals that had gone sour. Even though it was more for show and had only been actually fired a few times, he figured it was better than nothing. When they gathered together, they spent a few moments wondering why it was that a terror wyrm was on the island, since at only ten miles wide it simply wasn't large enough to support one. Then, Petrichor concentrated and summoned up a mist to hide their passage through the jungle as Autumn Oak bent the plants around them to speed their passage and they walked into the thick jungle.
While Petrichor looked at the brightly-colored frogs croaking in the trees, Mara tried to balance remaining stealthy with examining the plants for anything that seemed to have medicinal or scientific value, and Autumn Oak concentrated on his thaumaturgy so as to blunt the worst excesses of Bartleby's inelegant attempts at stealth. After a few minutes, they came to a small clearing made by a fallen tree, in which several smallish lizards with brightly colored feathers were bent over and eating something that had been ravaged enough that it was unidentifiable.
Autumn Oak waved at them to hide, but the claw runners were intent on their meal and didn't seem to notice the group. After Bartleby remembered that the brilliantly-colored feathers are worth quite a bit among the Summer Empire's fashionable set, he asked Petrichor to shoot one, and he did so, killing it in two shots and making the others scatter. Before Autumn Oak could say anything, Bartleby walked out into the open and picked up the claw runner, admiring the feathers and getting some blood smeared on him. Then the island started to shake slightly.
Bartleby handed off the corpse to Mara, who quickly and expertly plucked the feathers as Autumn Oak hissed about the smell of blood in the air and how they needed to hide now
. Petrichor condensed a bit of water out of the air for Bartleby and Mara to wash themselves off, and they hurled the claw runner's body to the far end of the clearing and hid among the trees just as a foot crashed down on it and the terror wyrm
emerged from the jungle.
It completely ignored both the shreds of flesh that the claw runners had been feasting on and the claw runner's body itself, and as it swung its head back and forth, Autumn Oak was acutely aware of the smell of blood that still hung heavily in the air. It slowly lowered its head, looking at the spot where the group was hidden, and Autumn Oak looked across the clearing at the other side and, reaching out with his magic, made the trees rustle. The terror wyrm spun around and started moving, and he rustled the trees a bit further off in the jungle, continuing the pattern as the monster crashed through the trees until it was lost from view in the mist.
Bartleby immediately wondered how much the terror wyrm's body would be worth, but the others pointed out how infeasible it would be to transport it back to Aurora and also that they don't have nearly enough preservatives on board the ship--since the Sea of Shadows is freshwater, the salt trade is both highly lucrative and cutthroat enough to make the mafia lose their appetite--to keep the body from rotting, and no one wants to travel ten days with a multi-ton rotting corpse in the hold. So they kept walking through the jungle.
The group had almost made it to the ruined temple when they heard the crashing of trees behind them and felt the ground shaking. Autumn Oak told them to run and sprinted for the temple, making it to the door and turning to find that Bartleby had tripped over a root and Mara had hauled him to his feet and was half-carrying him toward the door. As Petrichor kept the terror wyrm busy, letting it lunge toward him and leaping out of the way at the last moment, Autumn Oak bent the trees down and picked up Mara and Bartleby, moving them toward the door of the temple. Seeing this, Petrichor leapt upward, using his wings to get over the terror wyrm and running for the door himself, and the entire group piled into the temple with the terror wyrm snapping futilely at the entrance. A close-range shot from Petrichor's air rifle convinced it that it should seek elsewhere for prey and it turns and vanishes into the mist as Petrichor says:
Terror wyrm charges
Its mouth a sea of sabres
The warrior leaps.
[Here's an annotated map of the temple made by Bartleby's player:]
Click to embiggen
The immediate danger taken care of, the group changed its focus to the temple. Autumn Oak enhanced his senses with magic and smelled rotting linens from the lefthand passage. Mara brushed some of the moss off the temple walls and recognized the carved lizard figures as Mazatl, a pre-First Empire civilization that was apparently composed of lizardmen, and as she started to make rubbings of the walls she pointed out that the temple location would probably be valuable for scholars trying to learn more about the past.
After the rubbings were taken, they entered the room with the linen smell. It was mostly empty except for a table, or possible altar, or sarcophagus, in the center. As Bartleby enters the room, looking for the egg or for any other valuables, Autumn Oak gazed into Twilight, but the room was empty of any spirits. Bartleby leaned on the object in the center of the room and jumped as the top shifted, and he immediately asked Petrichor to come help him move it, completely ignoring Autumn Oak's pointed warning not to disturb the dead. After they shifted the stone lid, they saw a mummified corpse inside, and Bartleby immediately wondered about the monetary value of the body, but Petrichor and Autumn Oak said that was terrible idea because it risks offending the creature's hungry ghost.
Just after Autumn Oak said this, his fur immediately began to stand on end. Looking around the room, he switched to the Dragon's Tongue, the language of spirits, and apologized for disturbing the grave, claiming that they were travelers seeking shelter from the jungle, meant no disrespect, and would be willing to offer sacrifices to make up for the transgression. The response was a wave of force that shoved him against the wall, causing Mara to run over toward him to see what was wrong. As she got close, her amulet began to glow, and she spun around and held it up as Bartleby and Petrichor moved to join the others and the feel of the air in the room got heavier and heavier until a spirit coalesced out of the air.
It was tall, with an odd feathered headdress atop it's iguana-like head. Reddish eyes burned as it gazed at those who had come to invade its tomb, and no breath disturbed the hole in its chest as it lunged toward Mara and the amulet, but it stopped as hitting a wall. Petrichor dropped into a combat crouch and made to lunge out at the hungry ghost, but Mara told him to stop and to get down on his knees in a respectful posture, pointing at the wall carvings that showed figures kneeling in supplication to Mazatl lords. Autumn Oak looked at the carvings and then asked Mara for a knife. When she passed it over, he slashed his palm, held his hand out, and let the blood run onto the floor. The hungry ghost stared for a moment, before crouching over the blood and drinking it, then crawled back into the sarcophagus and vanished. Bartleby immediately instituted a new policy not to open any more sarcophagi, to which Mara said nothing and Autumn Oak said he'd be sure to remember that.
The room across the corridor was filled with mushrooms, and Autumn Oak concentrated a moment and then pointed out several interesting specimens for Mara, including one that helps with joint pain, a potent toxin, and one that induces visions. Seeing nothing else in the room, the group walked back out into the corridor and turned right, going into the room straight from the entrance. In the light of their torches, they could see a glint in the far corner past the altar covered in dark stains in the room's center, but as Bartleby immediately started to walk toward it Autumn Oak grabbed for his arm. He merely brushed his sleeve, but Bartleby felt it and turned, and Autumn Oak warned him that it was probably grave goods and they should leave it alone to avoid more trouble from hungry ghosts.
Mara touched her amulet and walked into the room, and as she got a closer look she saw it was a knife, made of some silvery metal and still pristine and untarnished even in the slightly damp atmosphere of the tomb. Remembering her university training, she started to examine the murals on the walls, noticing the repeating importance of eggs in the iconography. She mentions it aloud, but Bartleby said it obviously wasn't important, walked into the room, and collapses as soon as he reached the altar.
Mara ran toward him and found that he was breathing, but she barely had time to examine him before he coughed and immediately started feeling his pockets. Petrichor dryly said that no one had time to take his money, but Bartleby snapped that he wasn't looking for money and then pulls an oversided coin out of one pocket, ancient and corroded without any design but a crude fade on one side. As the group looked at the coin, Bartleby said that the room was used for sacrifices and that they shouldn't touch anything and that he had a vision and thought he had the egg. The group briefly discussed visions, looking to Autumn Oak, but he said that it wasn't his area of expertise and that maybe they should consult and expert when they return to civilization. Petrichor said he was told to report all visions by his superiors and Mara remembered her grandmother telling her old tales about visions. Bartleby said that in the vision, he took the egg, but he felt like it was the right thing to do.
The group left the knife behind and continued down the corridor, entering another room, this one with beautiful murals that were perfectly preserved. The murals showed Mazatl in ceremony, with more prominent egg imagery and several focal points. One showed a winged baby Mazalt emerging from an egg, another showed the world appearing out of an egg, a third showed a cracked egg with a shadowy figure emerging from the crack. As Mara started to take rubbings of the walls, Autumn Oak examined the eggs, holding his hand near them to check for air flow. Near a carving of an egg being cut out of the chest of a Mazatl, he felt a faint stirring of the air, and he pressed down on the egg and the wall began moving inward and then to the side, though it didn't get far until it jammed. Fortunately, everyone together pushed it far enough that even Petrichor's wings could fit through, and they entered.
The next room was circular, with concentric rings on the floor leading to a pillar in the center with a beautiful crystalline egg on it. Autumn Oak gazed into Twilight and saw two Mazatl spirits, but both of them were looking directly at Bartleby. As they noticed his gaze and turned toward him, he shook his head and returned his gaze to the physical world, where Bartleby was wondering if they should actually take the egg, since they didn't know who their employer was and they might be aiding the Nobility. After they decided that, having come this far, they should see it through, Petrichor levitated the egg off the pedestal and grabbed it. Almost as soon as the egg moved, the ground started to shake and parts of the room began to collapse, and the group dashed past the half-open door and down the hallway, dodging falling rocks and diving out as a part of the ceiling collapsed, blocking the entrance to the temple. Though not collapsing it completely Mara noted, as she filed its location away as news for her professors.
Determining that they had gotten everything they needed and having no desire for a rematch with the terror wyrm, the group made their way through the jungle back to Aurora, where they captured a few exotic birds who were roosting in the rigging and immediately set sail back for Patria. On the ten-day trip, Autumn Oak had repeated dreams of being some kind of Mazatl priest. He could feel the fangs in his mouth elongating as he raised a bowl brimming with blood toward the sun and then drank it down before the exulting crowd. Then, the dream shifted, and he saw dirt-streaked claws and raised his eye toward an angry red sky and flaming rocks falling from the sky and crushing the temple cities until one of those rocks fell on him and the dream ended.
During the trip, Mara categorized the mushrooms, Petrichor fed the birds they had found, Bartleby arranged to preserve the claw runner feathers, and Autumn Oak communed with Aurora. The journey mostly passed in solitude with the crew only meeting for meals, but at one point Bartleby came to Autumn Oak and asked him how Aurora was. Autumn Oak said that she was agitated, maybe because the egg was on board, and in response Bartleby asked if turning over the egg is the right idea. Remembering the sunlight in his vision, Autumn Oak said that the egg itself probably isn't associated with the Nobility, but they might be able to use the egg as leverage to find out who their employer actually was. Bartleby agreed, and they lapsed back into their silence and made the rest of the journey to Patria.
When they arrived, the representative was waiting at the docks, having received the bird sent by Autumn Oak, and the group invited him on board and the negotiations began. Despite repeated questioning, he apparently didn't know anything about his employer's goals, saying only that he was given his orders from a man named Dario. As the egg was handed over, Bartleby mentioned that there were other artifacts around the temple that might be worth something, that the group could bring back if they had enough incentive. The man said he'd ask, then left, and the group wondered if maybe this "Dario" was worth tracking down to find out who they were really turning this egg over to.
A good old-fashioned dungeon crawl! schoolpsychnerd
had been thinking about this for a bit, but really settled on it when I told her about the existence of the One Page Dungeon Contest
that she could plunder for inspiration. She eventually settled on Ramsey Hong's Crimson Maelstrom
as a template, and you can probably see the outline of the Mazatl temple/tomb building in the map and session outline above. I'm glad we didn't run into any invisible carnivorous death fungus, though. Or the murder of crows.
A plot is taking shape! Who is this Dario and who does he work for? I mean, schoolpsychnerd
bounced the initial ideas off me, but I don't know what she's planning--the direction she took the Mazatl isn't something I came up with, since I didn't write much about them. I'm looking forward to see where this goes.
Oh, also, the game has an Obsidian Portal site
, if you're curious!