Report Filed: Raining Leaves 17th, 3126
Raining Leaves 12th, 3126
Lieutenant Volstagg was down, feverish and shivering, the ghoul sickness eating him from the inside. Sergeant Amaroth was not better of, only the touch of Flame coursing through his body kept the disease away. Corporal Daynore stood, eyes glazed, issuing a silence scream. RFC Zathlan clutched her belly groaning. RFC Danica glared at her team, ready to strike any of use down in an instant. RFC Grendel retched in the corner. Trainee Ranna stared through the hole in the wall down the darkened path into the underworld.
Tempari was gone, eaten by ghouls or worse. We had no food or water. No healing or succor potions to save us. Trapped in a tomb, Xaos sandstorm above, and undead horror below.
Let us hope that this moment is a low point for the team.
Eyes blazing, Sergeant Amaroth took charge, and demanded I see to the Lieutenant. Then barked orders at the others.I stripped the armor, but there was little I could do against the ghoul’s touch.
And then, Volstagg started glowing White Silver. He is really getting into this whole Chosen of the Unicorn shtick. In a moment, he was up, ripping off his shirt to impress Nexus, who was too busy doubled over in pain. Perhaps taking a pregnant woman into a combat zone was inadvisable?
With the Lieutenant back on his feet we regrouped and assessed the situation. Not much better than before. Without any good idea of Tempari’s location, we had a choice of retreat back into the ghoul infested tunnels, stay in the room as slowly die of dehydration and starvation, or venture down, into the Nether?
Lieutenant Volstagg chose death below. So, we stacked up, Volstagg nobly taking point and descended into the bowels of the tomb complex.
At the base of the switchback ramp cut through solid onyx stone, we arrived in a much larger chamber. Our small lanterns provided little light in the gloom, but it was clear the room was HUGE. Larger than any previously discovered.
Sergeant Amaroth now took point and descended a wide set of stone stairs aiming for an alcove to the left. Volstagg, or Danica had spotted gold glinting in the shadows. Creeping forward, Amaroth called back he found an ornate box or case covered in gold filigree and jewels. The thing also had an ornate face.
Corporal Daynore opined that we were in a burial chamber of something called a Pharaoh, some ancient desert King. These were fancy coffins for the Pharaoh and his top people. Judging by the intense feeling of dread and evil oozing from the walls, the chance that one, or all, of these bodies were undead…
We proceeded further. Grendel sniffed another of the fancy coffins, then tried to bash it apart with his club. Lieutenant Vosltagg stopped him. Someone suggested stabbing it with White Silver. I was of the mind to leave the things alone, but kept quiet. No need making myself a target. With luck, when these things inevitably broke out of their little boxes and tried to kill us, they would home in on noisy team members first.
I noted with some dismay that the deeper into this chamber we moved, the worse Nexus’ pain seemed to get. Still, we passed another near dozen of those fancy boxes in half as many alcoves. At the far end of the LONG chamber, we found another set of stone stairs, wider than the entrance. Atop this dais was a massive version of those fancy coffins, this on twice the size.
Corporal Daynore informed us that this would be the tomb of the Pharaoh himself. About this time RFC Zathlan doubled over in pain, and the room was filled with a low guttural roar. That, and the sand began to move across the floor, gathering at our feet…
…before it exploded into a swirling cloud filling the room.
That’s when we hear heard the dull thuds echoing across the room as the undead, mummies, because that is what have now, broke free from their fancy boxes and lumbered toward us in the gloom of the dark room and the sand.
Only three of us had lamps, Volstagg, Daynore, and Zathlan, I think. They swarmed us as we huddled at the base of the stairs.
The mummies were tall, lanky undead, like zombies wrapped in rotting cloth strips, stained with gore and sand. They clawed and moaned as they staggered into our ranks. Everywhere they touched, unnatural rot seemed to spread. Worse, it turns out that in the ancient tomb, they regenerated like Trolls.
The undead Pharaoh, Mummy King, was also a Necromancer. And he flew.
Lieutenant Volstagg and Sergeant Amaroth made a run at the Mummy King, but his twin guards intercepted. The rest of us huddled together and tried to fight off the mummies, but every time we dropped on, it would crawl to its feet moments later.
Grendel stomped one, but it kept squirming. If we couldn’t find a way to put them down permanently this would be our last stand. And the Pharaoh kept hitting us with black magic. Things looked grim.
And then, Nexus spotted “blue lanterns” in the stairs and started firing back the other way. Here we were, overrun by mummies, and she starts firing off into the distance. Soon, half the team ignored the mummies litterally clawing our faces off. Sergeant Volstagg broke free and started making his way back to the stairs. Daynore followed, and Nexus sprinted for the exit.
She made it halfway before being blasted back by a massive gust of wind, nearly toppling me.
On the dais, Danica retreated before the onslaught of the necromancer Pharaoh and Lieutenant Volstagg battled the Mummy King’s guards.
About then, in desperation, Volstagg hit one of his mummies with a “Troll buster” from the WolfPack. Little more than an alchemically sparked fire bombs, nevertheless, the improvised incendiary did its work. The mummy died screaming.
These can be used with the Throw skill and have a range of 3/6/12 and do 2d10 damage to anyone in a Medium Burst Template. On a roll of 4-6 on 1d6, those hit also catch on fire. A miss means the bottle didn’t break, the alchemical primer failed. If the hero rolls a 1 on both his Throwing die and Wild Die, he drops the bottle, causing the burst template—and damage—to center on him instead. Each round after, for 3 rounds, anyone within or entering the MBT takes 1d10 damage, on a roll of 6 on 1d6 catches fire.
Pretty quickly, everyone is torching the mummies. Until Danica takes a hit and drops her “Troll buster” on herself. Sergeant Amaroth finds one of the oil braziers and lights it, filling the area with light. I use the rags of one of the burning mummies to light another.
About this time, we hear Tempari’s voice ring out and the chamber is flooded with arcfire, ripping the mummies to ribbons, and lighting them on fire. Tempari himself unleashes a torrent azure blue lighting into the Mummy King. When the necromancy was down, Tempari dispelled the sand, clearing the air. And like that, the arrival of Tempest meant an end to the mummies, but also put us in an awkward position.
Also, Tempari had found reinforcements. There were five Tempest soldiers with him. Two elite guards, two scouts and one…one looked like a killer, but not a commander. They had cover, the high grounds, and honestly, we were pretty much dead anyway.
Lieutenant Volstagg, unaware of the Tempest’s arrival, he had eyes only for his wife. During the fight, Danica, Ranna, AND Nexus had both taken hits and gone down. The rest of us were in little better condition. Sergeant Amaroth faced the Tempest. For a moment, it looked like they were going to finish what the mummies had started, but, in a moment of uncharacteristic charity, Tempari waved his men off…and disappeared into the tunnel.
Lit by the warm glow of burning mummy corpses we took stock of our situation, and I worked on reviving our fallen members. The simple fact that I am now our team medic should be far more disturbing that it is. With work, I managed to get Nexus, Ranna, and Danica on their feet. Though, I am also concerned about the sheer glee Grendel took in removing Ranna’s armor. I believe we need another meeting on appropriate touching. First to attend should be Lieutenant Volstagg.
With everyone more or less on their feet, we stacked up again and started making our way back out the way we came in, following Tempest. I was scouting ahead when I heard the snuffle and growl of ghouls in the chamber above us. I counted five.
By the time I returned to report, Ranna had noted a new draft in the Mummy room that had not been present when we arrived. Fanning out, we searched the room and eventually found ourselves BACK at the King Mummy’s coffin. High on the wall, roughly where Tempari had slammed the necromancer into the wall, one of the stone panels was cracked…and air whistled through.
This deep meant that hole reached all the way up to the surface. So, Ranna climbed up, held by a giddy Grendel. The ogress lifted Sergeant Amaroth up to the cracked stone and he went to work with Nexus’ hammer. In a few minutes, he broke away the rest of the cap.
As it turns out, the stone was a cap over one of the air shafts covered, presumably, just before the Pharaoh was mummified. When the necromancer slammed into the thinner stone, it cracked. Hence, draft.
Unfortunately, the air shaft was narrow, far too narrow for anything but a child, or a skinny elf. Nexus was the first choice, but being pregnant, Corporal Daynore was volunteered.
But first, he stripped and Grendel helped smear him with grease. Yet, another concerning element of this team, our frequency with getting naked and greasy. Now slippery as a…well…greased pig, Grendel helped the nude, greasy, hammer wielding elf up to the shaft’s entrance.
It took…a while for him to crawl out. Below, the oil and mummy corpses died down…and went out, plunging us into cave darkness. Volstagg took the opportunity to goose Nexus, hardly the appropriate time…but…at least they would die amused.
We waited in the dark, hoping for a miracle when Lieutenant Volstagg shouted for us to move away from the wall. We scattered, sort of, falling over each other as the room began to shake. Then, the air shaft sudden grew larger, into a tunnel and weak, sandy light filtered into the room. A figure also appeared, smallish, swaddled in desert garb from head to toe…
Moments later, a knotted rope rolled out of the new tunnel into the chamber. We needed no more encouragement. Quickly, we all scrambled up the tunnel into the sandstorm above. I found it curious that when I first entered the desert, seeing a sandstorm approaching was somewhat unmanning. At this point, however, the sand was, quite literally, the least of our worries.
Raining Leaves 13th, 3126 (Early Morning)
Topside, we found a curious sight. First, Daynore was still in his birthday suit, now looking something like a living, anatomically correct, sand golem, as a thick layer of sands had stuck to the grease. Someone had mercifully given him a cloak, which likely helped keep him from being flayed by the swirling sands, but also made him look that much more miserable. the only part I recognized was those small, burning eyes set into a ball of sand slightly resembling his head.
Second, we were not alone. In addition to the swaddled goblin that bore a hole through meters of sandstone, there were other swaddled figures, camels, and a curious human man, nearly as large as Volstagg with a white beard, blue eyes and a Galean accent. Emris. He was in charge.
Once we were all above, and being excoriated by sand, the big man suggested we all mount the camels and vacate the premises. Behind us, that little caster who bore the hole, used magic to cause an explosion which sealed the breach, then let the sand fill back in. That hole would never be found.
I climbed onto the back of the surly beast, and waited. As soon as the others were mounted, my camel started walking on its own accord. Only then did I note there were no reins. Apparently, I was no longer in command of my own destiny. Though, I have not been for some time.
We traveled for hours, though cocooned in the sand storm, wrapped in cloaks, and feeling the gentle sway of the camel beneath me, I drifted in and out of consciousness. Sometime just as the sky lightened, so I assume dawnish on the 13th, we arrived a large rocky ridge. Not quite a mountain, not quite a dune…just a long, large stone outcrop from the relentless deserts.
We were led under cover of the rocks and the wind mercifully was cut off. There, we found more Desert Riders, and mounts. We dismounted, and were ordered to drop our gear, all of it.
Normally, I would have protested. But, all they had to do was wait half a day and we would all be dead or out from dehydration. So, I stripped, and dropped everything I owned in a pile with the rest. I was given a surprisingly soft linen pair of pants, a tunic, and water. The rest followed suit.
Once we were all unarmed, unarmored, and completely helpless, we were led through the twisting, ancient tunnels to a sort of information where we were all bade lie down. Every instinct screamed to remain alert, ready, but after so many months of exposure and pain, the soft palliasse, linen sheets, cool breeze humming through the tunnels…I slept the sleep of the dead.
Over the next few days, we were treated well enough, fed, watered, and our wounds treated, but not magic. The food was all dried or dehydrated fruit, nuts, and some unleavened bread. Nothing has ever tasted so fine.
Raining Leaves 16th, 3126
On the eve of the Emris returned. He asked us all to follow and, doing so, led us up to the upper levels of the tunnel complex. There, he showed us an ominous sight. All three moons hung in the sky, each glowing an angry red. As the height of the 13th hour approached, the three come together, growing darker until all disappeared into a single black hole.
Here, under that sky, Emris repeated what the crazed Xaos assassin had repeated before being summarily executed by Lieutenant Volstagg,
_“Red sands stained,
Lord of Xaos and war,
We stand before the storm,
Preparing your arrival.”_
He then introduced himself. In his younger years, he was an adventuring academic in the desert researching the mysteries which consume all who come to this desolate place. Thirty years ago, his caravan was raided by Desert Riders. Most of the others were killed, but he was taken hostage.
It was difficult at first, but the Desert people knew more of the history of the sands than any of the “civilized” cities. And so, after a decade of living among the Desert Riders, Emris was taken into the tribe, not as a raider, but as a scholar. Despite knowing more than any other of his order, he elected to stay with his new “family.”
He also introduced himself as Sir Emris of House Kahnar, Master Knight of the Golden Torch. More bloody nobility. It would seem they lurk everywhere…
Still, nice to have someone from back east here.
Afterwards, he led us to a larger room and answered what questions he could. Once our curiosity was satisfied, he told Lieutenant Volstagg that we would be meeting his lord, the Supreme Amir of the Desert Riders in the morning. With that, he left us to discuss out fates.
Volstagg said things. It boils down to what it always does. Keep quite, follow his lead, and try not to get us all killed.
We rested, but I for one was plagued with thoughts about the situation, and how we came to this place. Emris had said that we had, “Powerful Allies,” and suggested that the message of our location had been passed all the way back east to Colonel Wolfhaven. He also suggested that forces normally inimical were working together on this?
Perhaps this is less unbelievable as the map Corporal Daynore has been following in his head was planted there by an ancient Shayakar. And, up until “departing company,” we had traveled with a Tempest Magus for the last few months. And now we were to meet with the true master of the Desert Riders, one of the most infamous bandits in Shaintar. The others seem to just accept all and move one, but I must be wary. For all our sakes.
Raining Leaves 17th, 3126
In the morning, Emris fetched us personally. He escorted us for what seemed like miles through the twisting tunnels of this rocky, ridge camp until we came to a large, natural cavern. The riders had taken the natural pillars and carved them into the semblance of ornate colonnades. At the far end under a silk pavilion, and reclining on pillows, the Supreme Amir of the Desert People.
We approached, bowed and formalities were offered. The leader of these people was introduced as:
Prince Romar, son of Romar, Lion of the Dunes, Bearer of the Three Moon Pennant and Supreme Amir of the Desert Riders.
Volstagg had his own word soup.
We were offered fruit, wine, water, and hospitality. Which is good as they are less likely to kill us out of hand if they offer water first. Less likely.
We sat, ate, watched. Lieutenant Volstagg offered up four items he had collected over our journey: Prince Velthana of Almahrad’s scroll, the Emissary’s Language medallion, the ancient Golden Sun gold coin, and the carved sandstone baton given him by the Desert Rider named rider we last saw on the banks of the Oasis Lake back in A’Tora.
Prince Romar seemed to puzzle over these things. Ultimately, he demanded to know who had given Volstagg the baton. Volstagg told the truth, and the Prince seemed content. After a bit more bull, we were bade to remain with his people. We would be given some free rein. He would feed, cloth, and provide for us. And, when the time was right, he would call us back to discuss next steps.
Then we were dismissed, and Emris escorted us to our “new rooms.” I have a feeling we are going to be here for a while. Still, good a time as any to learn more about the Desert Riders. I imagine few have gained this much access to their stronghold and manage to live long enough to report back…