6 Jan. 2018
Tomb of Annihilation
It Came from the Deep
The last screams of drowning pirates are muffled by the crunches and snaps of the Black Fang as it is devoured by the sea. The wall of water around us recedes, and a horrible, gargantuan figure rises above the ocean not twenty meters from the port bow of the Gull. Streams of water cascade down its mountainous surface like waterfalls from a rugged cliff. It is the gnarled, draconic head of the beast, and no doubt, the owner of that thunderous voice and those shipbreaking claws.
Torrok runs up front to get a better look. The sheer apocalyptic size and scale of the thing cannot be overstated. Its head alone is at least two, no, three times the size of the Gull, and the sight of it makes apparent the full scale of the sea monster, most of which remains unseen below the waves. Its features are dragon-like, but with elements of a turtle. A single giant, milky-white eye seems to leer at us (despite the congratulatory remark). The creature’s business with us is evidently not yet finished.
Captain Krezkov, wounded, comes to his senses. He looks around for Rolio, for his crewmen, nervously, but his gaze is obstructed by the hulking half orc attending to his injuries and a copper colored half elf standing watch above them. “Aremag…”, he proclaims, ominously.
“You know of this monster?”, I turn and ask in haste, still standing beside him on the stern deck.
“Aye.”, he says, wincing.“We were expecting this.” , he responds to me in his native tongue, Elvish, a language that we share. It is often difficult to communicate in second languages in such moments of pain and trauma.
“TRIBUTE”, the monster demands, in Draconic. It exhales through its nostrils and a warm, humid wave of salty mist washes over the ship.
Krezkov summons Rolio and redirects his attention to the crew, switching back to Common, “Alright, crew. We prepared for this. Haul it out!” Several seamen scurry around the deck, opening the hatch to the hold, while others run down below.
In the cabin, Eclipsa, who had rushed inside to pursue the claw-wielding pirate, is soon overwhelmed by the frantic crew milling about, making for the hold. “Where did she go? Where is the claw hand woman?” . Undril Silvertusk explains that there was a scuffle with her in the cabin, and she escaped using some kind of magic to blast a hole in the starboard hull, through which she vanished. Her fate remains unknown.
From the cargo hold, the crew hoists up two large chests to the deck. Torrok helps them lift them to the bow for the monster to see. “Open them”, commands Krezkov. One is opened, to reveal heaping amounts of gold and treasure. The other is opened. It, too, is teeming with riches. “Here is your toll!”, he shouts. A short silence follows.
“…MORE”., demands the Aremag.
Krezkov looks around to Rolio, to Daa’la, to myself, nervously. He replies “This is the amount we were told to bring for the toll”.
“MORE!” , it echoes. “OR DIE.”
Captain and crew are visibly at a loss for recourse. In a last effort, I run to the bow and try my luck at diplomacy, hoping my big mouth doesn’t get us all drowned and devoured.
“Oh, great Aremag!”, I address it at the top of my lungs in Draconic, “Captain Krezkov and the Screaming Gull have brought two chests teeming with treasure, just as was requested to pay the toll of passage! And yet, you require more! … Of course! Of course that is why we have in addition to this bounty of gold, given you the gift of the Black Fang herself, the lives of its captain and crew, and all the treasure held therein! … Surely this will satiate your needs, will it not?”
Silence. A pause that hangs heavy in the air. We stand attentive, hearts racing, waiting for our fates to be decided. Then, after an eternity, it replies,
“HEAVE IT OVER”. We do so, and it exhales another warm wave of salty mist, and recedes into the ocean to claim its toll. We are spared.
The Land that Time Forgot
The predawn light in which we were ambushed has soon become morning, and with only a short leg remaining, we aim once again for the southern continent before the morning escapes us. The skies have cleared, the morning sun is gentle, and a moderate wind fills our sails. The passing of the storm and the prospect of our destination within reach help to shake off the nerves of the early morning terror. No longer than a couple of hours undersail do we spot large, dark objects that emerge from the distance on the horizon. They are Land.
Tall cliffs covered in lush, verdant tropical jungle come into view. Small streams spill out of the greenery into waterfalls down the northern cliff faces. The cliff bottoms are lined with strands of white sandy beaches upon which vivid blue-green waves crash. Our heading steers us into a break in the coastline, through an inlet between two outstretched arms of land that seem to welcome us into the bosom of the newfound earth. The inlead leads to a bay, The Bay of Chult, according to our map from Syndra Sylvane. At the very far end of the bay, down a narrower inlet, stone structures rise above the coastal jungle. These are the walls of Port Nyanzaru.
As we turn into the harbor, we are greeted by the guardian of the city: a hulking, proud stone colossus in the figure of a Chultan warrior, with each foot on opposite landmass across the water. He stands over the mouth of the harbor, facing the sea. He is clad in a feathered helm and matching feathered warrior’s kilt, armed with sword and shield. Upon passing under the Titan of Chult, we are immersed in a symphony of sights and sounds.
The walled inner Harbor Ward lies in the foreground of our gaze. Cries of waterside vendors, fisherfolk landing a catch, orders from sea captains and docksmen, the bawdy laughter of sailors in port, a melody from some unseen busker are carried by the gentle waves of the protected harbor to our ears. Ship banners of a million different colors, representing a million different countries, kingdoms, and principalities from all across the realm flap in the sea breeze. Tropical birds fly overhead and chuckle (at each other or maybe at us), as we look up and marvel at the settlement. Behind and beside the harbor, ‘round the either flank of this corner of coastline, rises a veritable city. It is dense and built on several hills that are topped with magnificent golden-domed buildings. Some of the domes appear as if they magically float on their own, just above their respective supporting structures. Smaller buildings of all sorts are stacked upon one another rising up to the hilltops before the domes, as if clamoring for a better view, for fresher air than the last one below.
The Harbour Ward
The Gull is instructed to tie up at Dock 16. As the crew finds our spot, we pass several ships from across Faerûn with names like “Song of Selûne” from the Moonshae Isles and “The Good Samaritan” out of Neverwinter. Citizens of all races, colors, and social class seem to mingle and mill about the harbor. In addition to the wild diversity of sights, sounds, and smells that seems to characterize the Port, another salient feature of this place that soon becomes obvious is the presence of certain massively large, terrifying lizard-like creatures. “Dinosaurs” (terrible lizard!), they’re called, and they apparently come in a variety of species. Daa’la being the naturalist she is seems particularly interested in these specimens. Some walk on four legs, while others are bipedal. Some have long necks that rise above the ship masts, while others are more short and stout. Some have horns on their snouts, or on cranial crests, while others have dorsal sails. One kind has several bony plates along its back with giant thorns as long as a man’s arm protruding from its tail. The dinosaurs are used for similar purposes as our own large domesticated animals back home. Some are rigged as mounts with saddles and colorful banners draped over their flanks just as riding horses would be. Meanwhile, the stronger, stouter varietals are used as draft animals, not unlike donkeys or oxen or clydesdales would be.
Not a few steps off the docks is our party already distracted by everything that awaits us. It becomes obvious (to me at least) that, despite the diversity of peoples and cultures here, we are stick out foreigners. There is a distinct Chultan language spoken here, in addition to a dialect of common, and a myriad of other tongues. Whatsmore, the citizens all wear bright, multicolor clothes of light, flowing fabrics, and sandals with shin straps in favor of boots. We’ll soon need to change our appearance if we’re not to be mocked outright as tourists.
Torrok spots a large tortle that looks like a man (or is it a man that looks like a tortle?) fishing off the docks and – being the friendly Dwarf that he is – immediately strikes up conversation. I’m somewhat embarrassed by Torrok’s naïve trust in strangers in a big, unknown city, but I must commend the bluntness and confidence of the gesture. We learn that tortle-man does speak Common, his name is Yortle, and he is a member of a species called simply “Tortle”. Yortle the Tortle. Through Torrok’s friendly query of Yortle for local watering holes, we are recommended to two popular taverns in the neighboring district: either Kaya’s Repose or The Thunderin’ Lizard, both in the Market Ward, while less reputable places will be in the slums outside the city walls.
Our druid, who does not mix terribly well with people, has quietly walked over to examine a notice board in the harbor square. It seems that she’s having a hard time making out the text, but there is a drawing with a figure she recognizes. It’s a sketch of the sea witch whom we fought on the Black Fang. Daa’la soon discerns (with some assistance) that this is a bounty sheet for a wanted criminal. The reward is 50gp, and can be claimed from the Harbourmaster, Zildar. Another poster with the image of the claw-handed woman can be seen. She is here named Mad Kaleeta. The bounty for her is 100gp. We learn by asking a passerby that Zildar can usually be found ‘round the docks, at the Harbourmaster’s Office on the west side of the harbour, or at the Fort on the east side.
Whilst congregating around the bounty sheets, we appear to attract attention to ourselves. Nobody approaches us but we are certainly getting looks. Thankfully, our rogue is keeping a careful, perceptive ear and eye out for urchins, pickpockets, and any underbelly subculture. Eclipsa does not pick up on any immediate risks, but does notice som urchins scurrying about who spot us as newcomers. There is indeed some kind of rhythm to the underbelly that has yet to be learned.
The thunderous, rapid, earthshaking steps of massive beasts startle us. We turn to see two dinosaurs driven by riders careening down the street, nearly parallel, with one slightly ahead of the other. They ride right by us and several other individual, mere inches away. Commonfolk of the harbour are nonchalant about the whole thing.
The Market Ward
We proceed through the eastern gates of the walls that encapsulate the Harbour Ward, en route to a tavern, whichever tavern we can find. The gate opens to a grand intersection of avenues, in the center of which is a large, ornate fountain wherefrom more of the creatures, and some peasants, are drinking. Advancing down one of the avenues, the smell of fish fills the air. Vendors pop up along the streesides, and we realize we’re strolling through a fish market.
“Oysters! Cockles! Mussels!” shouts a young girl with a basket full of bivalves. A nice late morning snack sounds great, and we’re eager to try the local fare. We haggle a bit and buy a half dozen or so oysters. The girl offers to show us around town, but we convince her that we’ll manage. Instead we solicit advice on where to buy clothes in the local fashion. The Grand Souk is the place to go, in the Merchant Ward. We buy a few extra oysters for her trouble, and press on for the tavern.
Approaching the heart of the market ward, we’re overwhelmed by a sensory deluge. At first it’s the barrage of smells both pleasant and harsh: fresh meats, cooked food, sweat, soot, and thousand or so herbs & spices. Then, a cacophony of dialects and foreign tongues assails our ears. We look up and see steam rising from giant cauldrons of stew above the market tents, and down, to see streams of blood running through the gutters. This is the Red Bazaar, aptly named for the volume of blood spilled from butchered animals. It is an everyman’s market. A local Chultan human vendor we come to know as Chock lures us into his stall with the irresistible perfume of grilled spiced meats. “Grilled Brontosaurus steak”, states Chock. Torrok and Daa’la each buy a steak for themselves, while Eclipsa and I have a taste of theirs. I’m not one for strange meats offered by strange men (at least buy me a drink first! hah!), but the smell and sight is so irresistible, I dare not hold back. A great bard once told me “the only way to get rid of temptation is to give into it”. Good advice, in this case at least. The meat is exquisite. We pay the man and ask him how to get to the Thunderin’ Lizard. He points to a nearby building whose sign bears an image of a dino with a lightning bolt going through it. We see the door fly open and a drunk, disheveled bloke is tossed through doorway into the mud. Well then, this must be the place!
A Rowdy Watering Hole
The bar has a sweet honey smell to it and the floors are sticky with spilled beverages. A hurled tankard flies by us just missing our heads. It’s a rowdy place! Torrok and Daa’la make way for a table. I attempt to approach the bar, but am interrupted by a fat lumbering oaf who pushes me out of the way with his globe of a gut. Oh brother, a bar bully. I should have expected this. “Out of the way, I’m next!” he shouts. A brief verbal altercation with the dumb blob, who calls himself Boldo “the great”, begins to escalate. Eclipsa sneaks up on him and is deftly able to coerce him, using more physical means than I am capable of (a scratch with her jaguar claw), into backing down and going about his own business. This Boldo character, we later learn, is one of the best dinosaur racers in town, and rides the Tritops species of dino.
The local libation of choice is Tej. It is a very sweet, meade-like fermented drink, and is the culprit for the cloying odor and sticky floors. The time is a bout midday and the Tavern is stirring with clientele and conversation. A fiddler plays a tune from the stage. Torrok and Eclipsa are seduced by the sight of two beautiful, identical dark-skinned ladies. They are twins, and wear various pieces of interesting jewelry: bracelets up the arm, chains and beads around their necks, and gauges in their ears. They also wear an enchanting perfume that Eclipsa inquires about. It is of the blue nightshade flower. I only picked up bits of their interaction, though (there are so many things going on in here!); i’ll have to ask Eclipsa and Torrok later about these women.
Meanwhile, Daa’la and I overhear a conversation from a local guide apparently telling other travelers a story about a “Queen Zarkare [who] was the most famous of the former royalty of Chult”, then something about “The Garden of ??? down the Oklang River…”. We lose track of the conversation, distracted by posters on the wall beside our booth. They are adverts for jungle guides. Each one has a brief description of the guide and a portrait of the individual. In some cases is a pair of guides. Some promise riches, others adventure, and some ask to fulfill a favor in exchange for a waiver of fees to guide adventurers through the jungle to where or whatever it is they seek. Most require a deposit for 30 days worth of adventuring. We examine each and find three that sound a bit more appealing to us than the rest.
Eclipsa and Torrok ask our tavern boy, Jemby, about rooms. It’s 1gp per night, which includes a free breakfast. There are no baths at the Thunderin’ Lizard, but we’re welcome to wash up at the Public Baths or at the Temple of Sune. Torrok gets his own room, while Eclipsa and I split a double. Daa’la prefers sleeping outside, under the stars. We convince her that such is not safe in a big city, and she agrees to sleep on our floor.
Soon after we make arrangements for the room, a fight breaks out in the bar between two drunken patrons. A pirate in Luskan once told me there’s nothing like a good tavern brawl to get to know a city! I agree, but prefer to watch from the sidelines. The fight is broken up before long by an official-looking man in uniform and clad in armor (quite nice armor at that). “That’s enough!” he shouts. We thank the guard for stepping in. “Eh, those Brave Dominion guys had it coming.” , he remarks.
“Brave Dominion?” we inquire.
“Aye, a warrior syndicate o’sorts, mercenaries like, but some suspect them to be spies. They’re foreigners and have been taking Chultan jobs from locals going for the city guard or private security”., the man explains.
We learn the guardsman’s name. It is Soshen. He is in fact a city guard, but there are apparently other private security factions around the city. After some prying on my part, Soshen reveals that his exquisite armor belonged to his mother, a champion of the fighting arenas. Her name is Akenay Athah, and she now reigns as the Merchant Princess of Traveling goods, Armor, Arms, and Supplies. She taught him how to fight, but he is not interested in fame and glory. He prefers a quieter life, and to earn a life and name for himself, without his mother’s reputation. An humble, honorable man he is. Torrok asks about the Coliseum, and how to join lists. Soshen doesn’t know the exact protocol, but advises us to ask at an establishment called the Fist & Sickle, at the base of the Coliseum, where the gladiators spend their downtime.
By this time, we agree that more fitting clothes for the climate and culture are necessary before we pursue other tasks. A man at a neighboring table named Wajiro, who wears average looking clothing, confirms that the Grand Souk in the Merchant Ward will have a variety of clothes. We may also want to try the Dye House, where we can bring fabric and have it colored and cut, for more of a do-it-yourself project.
Project Jungle/Fashion Show
As we depart the Lizard for the Grand Souk, we notice heavy dinosaur traffic at the gate to the Tiryiki Anchorage, the neighboring slum to the Market Ward. The Thunderin’ Lizard is just at the intersection of streets that lead through the gate. On the way to the Souk, a madman runs into us shouting something about “the snake man”(?). We ignore it and continue to the Merchant’s ward. Things look a bit better kept in this part of the city. It seems to be the richer part of town, from what I gather. Having said that, determining the various socioeconomic strata that exist here, their respective indicators, associated subcultures (and all that culture entails), and relationships to the Merchant Prince/Princess polities will require much more thorough study for which I’m not quite sure we have the time.
At the entrance to the Souk are guards carrying strange bladed weapons. There are other sets of guards clad in green robes and armed with short swords. Some others are in uniform, but not the same as Soshen’s. The Souk is a large, indoor, covered marketplace with beautifully tiled, arched ceilings. It is like a temple that keeps sprawling out into labyrinthine hallways, or a dwarven mine town build in an above-ground structure. The market is abustle with the sounds of haggling, conversation, laughter, and minstrel music. We pass a stall with caged exotic beasts: monkey, birds, snakes, pythons. One of the snakes, as well as one of the monkeys, has colorful wings. It is run by a vendor named Rhu’por. Next, a stall full of metal gears, contraptions, and spikes. Another one, called “The Plumery”, specializes in fancy apparel made entirely from fine, colorful feathers.
A man at the end of an alley in the Souk invites us to look at his textile wares. His name is Jun-Tar and represents the Dye Works. Most Chultans refer to themselves by name in the third person, we’ve learned, so nobody ever has the need to ask strangers their names. That is, unless the stranger is foreign to Chult, and persists in using the first person pronouns that are more popular in other parts of Faerûn. I am wary of being lured into a tourist trap, but my traveling companions are eager to speak with Jun-Tar and change out of their northern adventuring gear. Jun-Tar shows us soft flowing fabrics that come in whichever hue or shade that one could desire. He shows us an even softer, silkier fabric that costs more, but we opt for the regular grade textile. I haggle with him a bit and get our new outfits down to 4GP apiece (3 for me!), which includes Chultan sandal footwear. He then shows us how many ways they can be worn, and we all agree on the deal. Eclipsa knows what she wants, and immediately requests a bright turquoise colored robe, while Torrok asks for a reddish orange one. I request a pinkish purple one. Jun-Tar shows us a variety of different examples of flowers, berries, and other materials to be used for the dyes. Daa’la is at a loss. It appears she’s never been clothes shopping before, and says she usually just wears animal hides, or nothing at all. We decide for her: a deep emerald green, the color of the forest, of the jungle! Daa’la consents and Jun-Tar readies our orders. We all wear our new outfits out of the shop, quite satisfied with ourselves and our new getups. Jun-Tar throws in a few small bags for us to hold our old traveling clothes. We are thankful Torrok left his armor back at the Lizard.
Seeing that Jun-Tar has been so friendly, we solicit additional advice from him before departing. Specifically, we ask him where to buy armor in Port Nyanzaru. He recommends the Scalarium, in the Temple of Gond (the Lord of Smiths), down by the Royal Docks. The bonesmith there is quite popular. They make a kind of scale (or is it splint?) armor, from bones! We then start out of the Souk, and witness a young boy being reprimanded by guards in green cloaks for stealing. A nearby vendor explains that he will be sent to run in the pits as punishment. The pits are long trenches in the slums where dinosaurs are made or driven to chase down criminals. It is a spectator event that also serves as punishment for crimes. We are not accustomed to such methods of criminal punishment, and Eclipsa and Daa’la both are quite upset at the sound of it (Daa’la a bit more about the treatment of the animals). The vendor explaining all this to us, Karakol, is a purveyor of perfumes and essential aromas. Eclipsa asks him about the blue nightshade perfume, which is very expensive. She manages to get a drop of some fine perfume (I’m not sure if she got the kind she wanted). Karakol apologises for the high prices, and explains that all the vendors need to pay a portion of their earnings as tax to the Merchant Prince Quayothe, the prince of perfumes and oils.
No Haggling in the Temple
We start out again for the Royal Docks where the Temple of Gond is located. On the way, the party witnesses another dinosaur race through the streets. A tritops rounds a corner, thundering on all fours, followed by two velociraptors, each ridden by a halfling. The halflings wear matching orange vests and giant beetle carapaces upon their heads. We reach the docks, and pass a drydock where a ship is getting the barnacles scraped from its hull. Daa’la shares a fun fact that the barnacle has the longest penis to body ratio of any beast in the animal kingdom. I keep learning so much today! A huge, long-necked dinosaur that is called brontosaur (thunder lizard), is helping lift heavy loads. The docks themselves are populated with many fine ships bearing colorful sails, and a heavy complement of security forces, both from the city guard and private-hire companies.
In the temple of Gond is a massive fountain structure. The sounds of gears turning, pistons firing, and hammers striking, echo through the hall. There are different stalls around the place, arranged almost as if they were small chapels arranged along the nave of the church. Each stall is a workshop for a different kind of smith, jeweler, armorer and any other kind of stone or metal worker. Here though, they have a bonesmith. Torrok and Daa’la approach the bonesmith’s stall. Everything is covered in a whitish fine dust in this area. An albino dwarf, also covered in the same dust, greets the two of them. His name is Chobo, and he makes armor out of collected bone from various sources. The two of them are interested in purchasing a set, but Chobo says that it does take some time to create a whole set, which is customized to the measurements of the client.
Meanwhile, Eclipsa and I, who prefer lighter armor for more mobility, have made our way to a leatherworker’s shop. A vendor name Gaela works the shop. She has many different pieces of dinosaur scale hides and leather fashioned into pieces of armor. The prices are steep, however: 25% more than the normal prices in Waterdeep. Trading in our lightly used leather armor would reduce the price only down to what we would consider the normal full price. She drives a hard bargain, or really none at all; as soon as we try to take other measures to negotiate a lower price, she is offended and reminds us that haggling in the temple is forbidden, pointing to an alter that she keeps in her stall. We have made a cultural faux pas (something we could have even done back home – none of us are particularly religious), and now there is no undoing what has transpired. Time to move along. Either we somehow make the money for new armor or find another vendor in the city.
The Golden Half-Dragon
We exit the temple and remember that we are now quite close to the Harbormaster’s office… Looking for the man named Zildar, we find nothing but weather warning signs, maps, various notices, and a surly secretary. An even surlier man is waiting outside, cussing and cursing the system of bureaucracy, with some story about not having the proper permits to hire a draft animal to pull his cargo. We wait a bit outside the office and I try to ignore the man’s griping. About twenty minutes later, no longer, do we see two men stride down the avenue and straight into the office. One is a tall, muscular, proud dragon-like man, with golden skin. The other is a clerk of some kind, a human man carrying a tower of scrolls and parchments.
Following the two of them into the office and up the stairs, the dragon-like man sits behind a desk. It is Zildar. He is not dragonborn, but rather appears to be half dragon. Upon sitting down, a pair of magnificent golden wings unfurls behind him. We can notice that his skin is actually scales, which glimmer in the waning afternoon light stretching through the windows. He recognizes us.
“Yes I’ve heard all about you! The whole damn dock hasn’t shut up about the story since the Screaming Gull came into port this morning”. He speaks loudly, and with conviction. Intimidating, but not hostile.
“We’d like to collect the bounty”.
“You killed her then? And the fang?”
“Our own Daa’la here hurled a knife that she conjured with her own nature magic clear across the length of the fang. It struck the sea witch, and sent her clear into the depths.” , I confirmed.
“Aye and the ship it sank into the depths, destroyed by the sea”, followed Torrok
“…Yes.”, we all affirm.
Zildar grants Daa’la a pouch of 50gp. She’s not the greatest at maths, though, and divides it unequally, giving herself the short end. He goes on to describe that there has been a rash of pirate attacks lately. There are at least two other ships he’d have destroyed or taken captive: The Stirge and The Emerald Eye. The bounty pays 2,000gp for a captive ship, 500gp for a captain taken alive.
“They seem to know about ships, when they’re coming in and when they’re leaving.”, he intimates. “The strikes are too accurate, it’s like they’re one step ahead”.
Zildar asks us to listen for any talk around the city about ships passing, about information leaked, to keep an eye out for spies. He mentions the less favorable folk tend to do business in slums. They work for the Beggar Princes in the Old City and in Malar’s Throat. There also may be a connection to Princess Jesomin, the Merchant Princess of Poison, Plants, and Assassination (legal assassination is permitted in Chult). He says that Princess Zant owes us for taking down the Black Fang and helping the Harbourmaster find out the secret to the premeditated pirate attacks. Zant is the Princess of Jems, Jewlery, and Armor, and she is the sponsor of the bounty on the Pirates.
The Fist & Sickle
Considering our first day in town a success, we decide at Torrok’s behest to stop at the Coliseum before returning to the Lizard to make it complete. Rather, to the establishment mentioned by our guardsman friend Soshen, the Fist & Sickle. This is the Gladiator and fanatic spectator hang out, where bets are taken. It also offers a prime view of the arena. There are weapon racks against the wall near the door (no fighting in the bar, save it for the arena!), but it seems that most of the fighting’s been done for the day.
Torrok orders a round and asks the bartender about the fighting guild. Upon asking, an arrogant laugh is heard from a corner. A huge half-orc with long, wild hair, enormous muscles, and a gold champion’s belt across his waist mocks us from his table. Torrok approaches the Half-orc, who is known as Zog Stormbreaker. This Zog hurls a few insults at Torrok, and Torrok decides to punch him in the cock. The two exchange a few blows, and Eclipsa joins in to hoist Torrok on her shoulders so he can reach the half-orc’s face. The bartender breaks up the brawl, realizing that there’s still some fighting to be had and asks around the room if anyone will fight Torrok and Eclipsa in the arena. A drunken man who has been silent with his flagon of tej this whole time volunteers. He is Rowan the Raucous, and seems like an easy match, but his self-confidence is disconcerting. Perhaps there’s more to him than we realise? Rowan gestures to another fighter in the bar, Timoa, to join him. Daa’la and I place bets at the bar in favor of Eclipsa and Torrok. Let’s hope we didn’t underestimate their opponents…
A red setting sun behind the arena gives off the last rays of light for the day. Torrok enters a Barbarian rage. He starts off strong and lands a critical hit on Timoa! With an enemy down, Eclipsa pounces in with advantage and lands yet another critical hit! Timoa is strong, though and she fights back. Eclipsa casts a spell of abjuration in reaction to shield herself. Magic doesn’t seem to be forbidden… but Timoa is clearly angry by its use against her. Rowan proves to be quite dextrous and hits Eclipsa with his staff in a flurry of blows. It’s as if his martial art relies on drunkenness to permit a certain unpredictability in movement. Both challengers to our friends are hitting hard. The bartender asks me and Daa’la to double the bet. Sure! They can do it! We cheer on our companions. We both start drumming and chanting, and I shout words of encouragement across the arena. Just when Eclipsa seems to be knocked down, she bounces back up! She swings back at Rowan with expert precision and shatters the drunken master’s staff in two. They exchange a few more volleys, but our friends, in the end are able to knock the challengers unconscious or force them into submission. They yield. We win!
Eclipsa and Torrok have won their first arena battle in Chult. They are awarded each a mug that is an empty skull, with a bone handle. This signifies membership to the gladiator’s guild. Whatsmore, Daa’la and Alexis have won their first bet in Chult, too! We all agree the achievements of the day call for celebration, and treat ourselves to a bath at the public bathhouse. Plus, after a long day of walking in the heat, drinking, and fighting… we stink!
Evening is a very popular time to go to the bathhouse here. All types of people, again, seem to mingle here. Nobles, commoners, humans, non-humans, women, men, and whatever other demographic of intelligent life one would find in this incredibly diverse city. The entrance is framed by giant ferns and palms. Priestesses of Sune tend to the Baths, which are heated by thermal vaults. The hot pools at least. The city baths also have a cold saltwater pool that is refreshed frequently with water from the Bay.
We strip and first try the hot pool. It feels good! I’m impressed with the Port Nyanzaru. Such a public service is a hallmark of an advanced civilization. Eclipsa is already speaking with a beautiful naked wood elf with long flowing brown hair that fans out in the water. She’s floating on her back. The elf is Kewyone, and she runs the pits in the Old City. She loves the thrill of it, and invites us to find her there sometime. There is a lot of conversation happening at the baths. We hear talk of a sunken city in Refugee Bay, down the coast of Chult. There is treasure there beneath the waves. There is also some discussion about the sulphur pools of Lake Luo… and a certain character named Jobal has put a band on expeditions due to the marauding undead in the jungle.
Next, in the cold saltwater pool, we meet one of the jungle guides who had a poster in the tavern. Shaka… something something. She said the Pterafolk stole a important tribal mask of hers. If we could help her get it back, she could lead us to Firefinger, the last remnant of the signal fire towers from the old Chultan Empire. It’s 5 days travel up the Tiryiki River, by canoe. Shaka knows the jungle well, however; she does not like the Pterafolk, nor does she like my neutral attitude on them and the lesson on cultural relativism that came with her denigration of their species as “savages”. “If you change your mind, you can find me at Kaya’s House of Repose”. I may need to re-approach her and this negotiation with more tact. Syndra was going to research the Pterafolk, so there could be a connection between them and the death curse. Plus, Syndra’s field notes may have some information that could be useful to all of us, including Shaka.
Dino on the Loose
As we towel off and thank the priestesses at the exit to the baths, there’s a commotion outside. An angry and bewildered hadrosaur has come loose from its harness and gone wild. It’s charging directly for us at the entrance to the bathhouse! I tap my mental mind powers and enchant the beast’s mind with dissonant whispers, which wrack its brain and force it to turn and run away. Torrok runs out and jumps on the beast trying to steady it, and Daa’la helps to calm her down. The owner of the hadrosaur is Belia. She thanks us, and apologises, explaining that her poor draft beast, named Sail of the Sun, is being worked overtime by Yphon (?) They live in the Anchorage, the slum, and Belia advises us to be careful; people take advantage of tourists. “In the slums, they pick to the bone!”, a saying she recites to us. Belia explains that the walking dead have appeared in the city slums, in Malar’s throat, and people took refuge in the Temple of Tymora. We remember that’s where our friend from the ship, Erky Timbers, was headed.
Nightcap at the Lizard
We return, finally, to the thunderin’ lizard. A boisterous upbeat band is playing. They’re called the Screamin’ Fish Pipes. What a name for a port town band! Shortly after we enter the bar, they play an original song in our honor for sinking the black fang… What cheer, netop! Now that’s a welcome. Suppose we’ve made somewhat of a name for ourselves already in this strange, colorful town. As we find a seat, we catch the tail end of a story from a nearby patron. It’s the man at the next table, and he is spinning a captivating tale about a jaguar beast (what was its name again?) with a medusa-like mane that he encountered in the jungle. It attacked him and knocked him unconscious, but spared his life for some unknown reason… Perhaps it manipulated or afflicted him in other ways that remain to be seen.
An albino dwarf sits solemnly in the corner. Torrok and Eclipsa approach him and begin conversation in dwarvish. He is happy to see Torrok, and surprised, but pleasantly, that Eclipsa speaks his tongue. It is the dwarf from one of the jungle guide posters, Musharib. I don’t get the whole conversation (I only just picked up Dwarvish, myself), but he tells of fire salamanders and kobolds and a lost civilization that once was his own, an abandoned Dwarven mining citadel full of treasure. If we were a bit stronger, and more experienced, we would be fit to join him on such a quest.
We notice some fighters from the gladiator's guild drinking from the skull mugs, and the nod at Torrok and Eclipsa. One, though, is drinking from a particularly enormous mug. He is also enormous, himself, and very hairy. He does not acknowledge us, or anything really ,except his food and his tej. Upon further examination, we realize that his body is even too big and grotesque to be humanoid. Its… goblinoid?! Yes, my science, it is in fact a shaven bugbear! It yells in Goblin for more food.
Tired, we retire to our rooms. Before we turn in for the night, though, Daa’la stops us. She needs to tell us something, something that is not safe to discuss down in the tavern. She seems concerned…