As the party approaches the entryway from the previous session, the Ninja, the Druid, and the NPC Bard Archaeologist find themselves whisked away suddenly – after brief, strange visions, they find themselves sitting in a shadowy, cool tent. The sounds of a bustling Osiriani market are heard from outside the tent, and the opening of the tent flap lets the hot desert air flood in.
“Welcome to my fortune parlor, kind travelers. These cards, you know, they can tell anyone’s story. In this case, they tell your story. And here are the rules. If you die, that encounter is over and you will be returned here, having lost. If you succeed, the rewards are yours to keep. You cannot say no. Let us begin.”
The old lady began to shuffle her cards several times, the cards passing over and under each other randomly, before dealing eight cards onto the table in front of her.
“You shall choose one at a time.”
The first card drawn had the image of an effigy, being beaten and burned by three squat goblins. The text read “The Idiot”. The tent began to fill with a dense fog, and just as the party could not see each other in the room, the fog dispersed to reveal their standing in a crypt or mausoleum of some sort. A squat, rough-textured sarcophagus sat in the centre of the room. Oswyn, the archaeologist, immediately went to work examining the hieroglyphs – “This is the pyramid of Pharaoh Sekh-pa-Mefer III, the Pharaoh of Sphinxes! Tread carefully, these ancient pyramids always contain deadly traps.”
The ninja carefully approached the sarcophagus – but just as he went to examine the lock, it changed shape, seemingly growing a wide jaw of razor-sharp teeth, and engulfed the ninja, pinning it in place. Try as the party might, they could not destroy the mimic in time, and the ninja was killed – eaten alive, by the mimic – in less than 30 seconds.
As his soul began to leave his body, the party saw the same dense fog as before, and found themselves sitting by the fortune teller again. She seemed disappointed. “Well, now we know who The Idiot was that the card was referring to. Go ahead, pick another card.”
The second card they drew was “The Keep” – it bore the image of a castle perched on a hill – walking on great mechanical legs and belching black clouds of coal-smoke. The fog came once more and they found themselves in a long, narrow hallway. The floor was covered by a half-inch layer of dry sand, and they proceeded very carefully. Eventually, they saw a short stone pyramid at the end of the hall, blocking entry into the room beyond. The party understood this was their challenge. As they approached closer, it suddenly came to life and stampeded towards them – trampling over the ninja once more. The druid sent her lion leaping over to the other side, upon which the animated object turned, and would have trampled the lion – if it hadn’t been ready and leapt on top. The archaeologist poured stonebreaker acid onto it, doing considerable damage.
The party considered what to do – their slashing weapons were having no great impact, and the archaeologist was out of acid. The object threw off the lion and trapped it underneath, crushing it each round under several thousand pounds of stone. Seeing how the animated stone operated, the archaeologist leapt over and ran down the hallway at full speed – pursued by the object. The object rolled over the archaeologist, crushing him – and the party followed, striking at it with their most powerful abilities. It was close, but they eventually cracked it in half – the fog lifting again and depositing them in the fortune-teller’s tent. “No treasure? That’s it?” They complained. “That was meant to be the very first encounter of the module,” said the DM, “Do you see what I mean now when I said ‘very difficult and not suitable for new players’?”
The third card they drew was ‘The Lost’ – and they were back in the pyramid again, within striking range of several undead guards in a room with four clay carts. Some were flaming skeletons, another had four arms, and two skeletal archers stood on the carts, peppering them with arrows. The party worked together, and destroyed the skeletons easily, collecting grave goods, art, gold, gems and magic items from the four carts.
The fourth card they drew was ‘The Desert’ – and they found themselves huddling at mid-day under the shade of a small bush in the lee of some dunes with a small water source. They had been travelling all night, and were taking their sleep during the hottest part of the day. As the third watch approached, the barbarian spotted a young lady, bloodied and dressed in rags, stumbling towards them. “Help… water…” she cried out, coming close and greedily drinking a cup of water given her by the druid. Regaining her senses somewhat, she looked into the Archaeologist’s eyes – “Please… it has been so long since I felt the touch of another… allow me just one kiss, allow me to feel your touch just once…” The Archaeologist shook off this mind-altering effect, and refused her. This caused her to fly into a rage, growing talons and removing her disguise before pinning the Archaeologist to the ground and clawing him into unconsciousness.
When the ninja drove his blades deep into the Dune Hag, it turned towards him, adjusting its visage and body to that of the beautiful woman once more. “Please… why do you strike at me… your closest friend and lover?” The ninja did not as well against this mind-altering effect, and believed the hag to be his friend – he pushed her to separate her from the others, who were clearly trying to kill her, and pulled her out into the dunes. But before she could sink her teeth into the ninja as well, she was struck dead by the druid and her lion. Searching the body, they found some minor items, before fog unrealistically rose from the desert sand and engulfed them once more.
The fifth card they drew was ‘The Tyrant’ – and they were immediately thrust in the entrance to the Pharaoh’s inner sanctum. The jeweled, golden mummy was flanked by a zombie heiracosphinx. In proto-Osyriani, he demanded the party kneel before his power. Oswyn, the archaeologist, kneeled. After some resistance – including a summoned creature from the Druid – the rest of the party kneeled before the Pharaoh as well. He laughed, and through his rough, grating language told them he was only interested in subjugating the strong. He ordered them to kill each other – the survivor to serve at his side.
At this, the Archaeologist stood and pointed at the Pharaoh, speaking to him in the same ancient language – “Sekh-pa-Mefer, nurat la shakar!” he shouted, firing his heavy crossbow to good effect. He turned to the party: “I would explain, but it -loses a LOT in the translation.” The party leapt to action, joining the melee. After a harrowing battle that left one unconscious and one paralyzed with fear, the Pharaoh evaporated into dust, and the heiracosphinx followed. Searching the ground, they found and took the Pharaoh’s hand, a magic item in its own right.
The sixth card they drew was ‘The Whirlwind’. A force of nature. The party was presented with a set of pillars, and accidentally summoned a sand elemental – and was about to summon a fire elemental as well, but the ninja removed the fire elemental gem that powered the device just in time, absorbing the brunt of its energy.
The seventh (and last) card they drew was ‘The Winged Serpent’. A powerful creature of good and law in the midst of great evil. A small room. On a plinth in that room, a battered old brass oil lamp. “Do you think it’s a genie lamp?” one said. “I wish we were that lucky,” another replied, “rub it anyway and see.”
The barbarian rubbed the lamp, but nothing seemed to happen. They waited a moment. “Well, that was disappointing, nothing happened.” The Genie said. “Yeah, I wish that had been a genie’s l—” The party turned around, and behind them stood a grinning, ten foot tall being made of air.
“Well, so I expect you want a wish – everybody always wants a wish.” The Genie said. “And normally I’d say ‘no thanks’, but… here’s the story. So this pharaoh, Sekh-pa-whatever, don’t remember his name, he binds me and demands three wishes and I let him go. The first wish is that I should serve him until his destruction – fine, whatever, you humans only live a hundred years or so. Second, he wishes to become an undead mummy. That was three thousand years ago, and he never even used his third wish! Anyway, you will have been killed (you haven’t killed him yet when this event happens, but you did just a few cards ago so I know that you’re going to)”
The party consulted for a moment. “If we ask for a wish, are you going to disappear immediately? We have some questions you might be able to answer.”
“Nope, can’t go anywhere until the pharaoh is dead. Which I know is going to happen in about 30 minutes, because you did it a couple hours ago, but that’s beside the point. No reason for me to go, and I can’t help you destroy the pharaoh, because that would break my first wish (and my binding)”
“Fine. We wish that the red gems, that Karras put into our chests, were all safely and harmlessly removed from our chests, and safely placed in a small bag somewhere nearby. Safely. Also harmlessly.”
The genie drew himself to his full ten foot height. “jesus christ you guys, I'm a damn Djinn, not an Ifrit. These aren't damn monkey paw wishes, there's no trick – you released me from the pharaoh's service, and I want to thank you. I get it though, you want the gems out of you. Gotcha.” He snaps his fingers, and a small bag appears nearby – with all of the six small red gems inside. “There you go, safely placed in a very safe bag. There’s even some cotton balls in there for extra safety. You know, for padding.”
“We have some questions for you, Genie. First, if you hadn’t done that, would Karras have honoured his agreement?”
“Yes, he would – and I can tell you the reason he put the gems in you in the first place was because he thinks the mission you’re on is of monumental importance, and he needed a way to trust you absolutely.”
“So, an ends-justify-the-means kind of guy.”
“Exactly. He believes his end is good for everyone – including you, by the way.”
“What about this Reliquary we’re entering, back on Markham’s Isle?”
“That’s the secret, isn’t it. Won’t you be surprised when you enter the second part of the ruins.”
With that, the party returned once more to the fortune teller – but sitting across from them at the table was the genie himself. “Allow me – want to go rejoin your friends now? I’m very glad I was finally able to escape that pharaoh. You don’t know how many adventurers I’ve had sitting across from me at this table.”
With that, the party found themselves thrust from the heat of the desert into the cold of Markham’s Isle. They had just tripped the alarm, and were proceeding downstairs. The barbarian impulsively grabbed the torn alarm rope, and yanked on it repeatedly, creating even more noise somewhere deep in the dungeon.
Down the stairs, the party saw sconces for torches, and on the north wall a five inch square brass tile – with the symbol of Karras’ sect, the ‘New Church of the Master Builder”. It detected with a faint transmutation aura. As Oswyn, the archaeologist was examining the tile, the barbarian Runt stepped into the next room – and was struck with a poisoned blade, weakening him. The creature fled into the darkness.
The party stampeded into the next room. They found a priestly ritual area, with an overturned basin and a tiny silver symbol of the (regular) Church of the Master Builder. They saw a railing and beyond that a 15 foot wide great hall with crystals embedded in the ceiling. There they stood, ready for anything, but no additional strikes came until the barbarian looked over the railing into the other room. He looked down, at the thirty foot drop to the floor, and was struck by an arrow from off in the darkness. Chittering laughter echoed through the hall, and the party considered their options. Before they had decided, the barbarian took a flask of alchemists’ fire, and threw it off the balcony back towards the unseen archer – engulfing the archer in flames and driving him back into the darkness.
They proceeded down some stairs, and prepared themselves to storm a room they found. As the barbarian opened the door slowly, carefully, an arrow shot out and struck him again. He flew into a rage, charging through and cleaving the creature’s head in two. He also saw another of those creatures, desperately trying to escape through a trap-door set in the floor at the back of the room. As the one died, it burst in a flash of light, blinding its’ comrade and left behind its clothes – layers upon layers of ragged cloth and leather. The flash of light, the affinity for darkness, the big nose – finally, the Archaeologist knew what they were fighting. “Dark Creepers!” He shouted. “These are Dark Creepers! They are so attuned to darkness that they automatically fail any save against blindness!”
The barbarian peeked the trap door below, coming very close to being hit by an arrow. He threw more alchemists’ fire, burning several, and then they had an idea. “Oswyn! I saw his character sheet earlier during the fortune teller part. He can cast flare burst – does that do anything?”
Oswyn prepared to blind the room of creepers below, and the party got ready to storm in after. They counted down, the barbarian opened the door, and there was a supernaturally bright flash of light. The barbarian drove down the ladder and across the room, past four of them – cleaving the one at the end of the row in half.
The druid came through next, her lion leaping into action against the one at the front of the row. Next, the ninja, diving behind the one guarding the far door but missing.
The creepers shook out of their blindness after a short time, and turned their blades against the party – the barbarian took another hit, and so did the ninja, but the dark creepers were destroyed in short order thanks to good planning and good tactics.
Barricading the doors out of the room, the party settled in for a lengthy recovery time, surrounded by the miasma of sweat and feces that the Dark Creepers left behind. They search the room, finding four chests – the treasures of those creatures. The first chest contains a stash of about 12 to 15 severed cats’ tails, all with different fur patterns. The second chest contains a few dozen colourful shirt buttons – and 6 silver pieces with holes punched in them to be used as buttons. The third contains oats. Just oats. But the fourth contains some real treasures – a few potions of cure light wounds, a feathered headdress, and a dwarven rune crystal worth some real money. Searching the dirty rags of the creepers themselves, they found a brass key – with the head, amazingly, shaped into the symbol of Karras’ New Church of the Master Builder. It detected with a faint transmutation aura.