Tomb of Annihilation

Session 3
Affairs of State

27 Jan. 2018

Tomb of Annihilation

Session 3

Scuffle in the Market

Finishing our conversation with Asaka Stormfang at Kaya's House of Repose, we see a familiar face emerge from the stairwell. It's Chames Gree, from the Screaming Gull! Chames is happy to see us too, it seems, and tells us about his time thus far in Port Nyanzaru.

Chames has been quite busy meeting with various figures, making deals on behalf of the Lord's Alliance. Many of these meetings, as it happens, have been in baths. He's had several already in the past day. Apparently this is a common custom of Chult – to discuss business and other formal matters in a bath together with the other involved parties. To be invited to a bath with someone is an honor, and an opportunity; thus, it should not be turned down.

Today, Chames has a meeting scheduled with Prince Wakanga Otamu to discuss investment in Waterdhavian trade routes. Wakanga Otamu is the Prince that Syndra Silvane recommended we contact. With that news, we make it known that we also seek an audience with his grace and ask Chames if we could accompany him, to which he agrees (thank goodness). Before setting off, Chames is going to prepare his materials and have some tea, which gives our party time to prepare, too. Torrok insists on a bath after the muddy melee he just had, but a bath and a trip back to the tavern to drop his armor would take too long… Whoosh! With a snap of two fingers and a wave of a hand, I'm able to clean up Torrok and Daala in an act of magical prestidigitation. Eclipsa knows the same trick and cleans herself on her own.

On our way en route to the Lizard to doff Torrok and Eclipsa's armor, we are nearly trampled by a pair of spike-tails racing through the street. Following them is a giant tritops driven by none other than Boldo (the self-proclaimed great). We move to the side, but still of course get accosted "Out of the way!" he yells at us. Torrok balks at this and refuses to let him (verbally) trample us. Daala meanwhile tries to speak to the tritops, but unfortunately ends up startling the beast even more, poor thing! This angers Boldo too, and he aims the beast at us with the intention of running us down. I attempt to cast dissonant whispers on the beast's brain, but it resists my spell. Rats! Torrok attempts to jump upon the beast and knock Boldo off the saddle, but it shakes him off as he makes a leap at it. The tritops runs through a stall of pottery, nearly hitting us all. The stall is destroyed and so are most of its wares. The vendor is furious, and sees us, a band of foreigners getting into trouble with a local bully, as blameworthy. Through some persuasive intimidation we affirm that the dented cueball on the dino that ran into his stall is the one to blame. As Boldo rides away Eclipsa casts chill touch on him while I launch vicious insults into his mind. Mildly successful, he turns back and looks at me before the beast  carries him out of sight. 

Back at the Lizard, Torrok doffs his armor up in his quarters. Eclipsa braids Daala's long, dark hair. I page through Syndra Silvane's field notes to find any information of use on the Pterafolk. They are large creatures, as big as an orc, if not bigger, with massive leathery wings and wide wingspans. Diagrams of a pteraman and a human side by side, with average physical statistics, illustrate the comparison. In the bar, some drunks are singing songs about us, while others are talking about happenings at the docks. We hear someone talk about the god Uptau who is in fact the god of Chult. Or is he a prophet? He died somehow. But how can a god die? He didn't really die, but became a spirit of the forest, so he has no corporeal form. The man in the bar didn't really know. But he does know that there are various temples and shrines around the city and the continent. There's also supposedly a floating rock in the middle of the rainforest that the faithful make pilgrimages to. How curious.

By the time we make the full round in return to Kaya's, the fish market is open. Eclipsa and Torrok are enticed by the vivid colors of seemingly magically pigmented and flavored fish. The vendor, Vishaz, convinces them to buy a serving of whatever color or flavor they desire. They each buy one of a color to match their Chultan robes, which stains their lips, teeth, beard, and fur. The man further offers a pungent, strong spirit of fermented jellyfish to clean off the pigment.

Seeking an Audience with the Prince

We meet up once again with Chames and finally make our way to the Goldenthrone to meet Prince Wakanga Otamu. It seems, though there's no direct route to the domed structure where the prince's office is located. Lost, we look around this way and  that, then again at a map (at the risk of looking like lost tourists, which we are), to determine how the devil one gets theirself there. Ah. We have to go all the way around through the Merchant Ward, past the Temple of Savras, and across a bridge to the next hill. On our way past the drydocks, we recognize a tortle working on a ship. It's not Yortle… where do we know him from? Ah well we don't know him, but we have seen his face. It's Eyal from the jungle guide posters at the tavern. He waves at us and wishes us good morning in his casual, laid-back tortle way. He seems like a pretty cool dude, bro. Across the harbor, we make out the form of a dragon by a boat with red sails. It's Zildar, at the embers. There appears to be a commotion, and plenty of guards around. We'll have to check on that later.

Climbing up the merchant ward hill, it is evident that we climb into a higher socioeconomic topography. The buildings are larger, more stately, and historic. Quite old, in fact. The architecture is not of Chult, either; yes, it's definitely foreign, but from where? Perhaps…Amnian? The inclined road eventually opens to a city plaza at the center of which sits a large dome hall that is very old. This particular dome is carved and painted to look like a giant eye. The air in the plaza around the structure smells like incense and temple spices. We learn (from Chames?) that it is the oldest building in the city, the Temple of Savras, god of diviners and fortune tellers. It is adorned with some kind of arcane script that looks engraved into the stone, but it also seems almost fluid and glowing. It is at once engraved into the stone and magically moving, alive.

We cross a skybridge to the next hill, at the apex of which is a plaza, and at the center of the plaza, just like on the previous hill, is another domed official building. It is the Golden Throne. It looks decades old . Gold Cloak honor guard stand at posts around the building. The building is in fact a complex of government offices, and several smaller domed additions, offshoots, and alcoves spawn from the central structure in every direction, one upon the other, like beautiful ornate gilded masonwork barnacles. At the center of the main hall is a single clerk sitting at a fully circular desk. "Teppen greets you" he says to us. Around the sides of the chamber are several benches where many other citizens, nobles, and travelers sit, apparently waiting for their meetings with various merchant princes and bureaucrats. Eclipsa approaches a couple of Amnians sitting at one bench with the full intention of making them uneasy. There's a bit of a wait to see prince Wakanga Otamu. However, as soon as we say we're a good friend of a friend, Syndra Silvane, Teppen sends a note via a page to Wakanga's office, and soon enough, we get our appointment expedited.

View
Session 2
Whispers in the Dark

11 Jan. 2018

Tomb of Annihilation

Session 2

<meta />

Rumor has it

In the baths, Daa’la overheard something. She tells us in the private of our rooms that there was talk in the baths, whispers, of pirate attacks, that there may be one in the morning, at sea. And they were talking about us, too. Two names were mentioned: Embers, and Leara, was it? She can’t quite remember. They also mentioned the fort, and there was a need for more cargo… They know what happened to the Screaming Gull, and mentioned the Fort. That’s what she remembers. But is it The fort at Port Nyanzaru or Fort Beluarian? –  And that two other ships were attacked in the morning before the Gull.

We knew that if anything was to be done with this information that it would have to be tonight, gathering that an attack is planned in the morning. Just before daybreak was when the Gull was attacked. We decide to go to the fort at the eastern end of the harbor. That’s our best lead right now, and with any luck, Zildar might be there (we heard he does spend time at the fort). We head downstairs to slip out unnoticed; the tavern is even busier than when we were down there earlier. We pass under the arched bridge to the coliseum that crosses about midway up the buildings’ height, toward the fort. There are a few dim lights on in the city buildings, and some strange, shady folk eyeing us from the shadows and alleyways. A few dinos of burden are drinking at the public fountain by the fish market, which is now closed.

The main entrance to the fort is monitored by two guards. I’m not sure how our party wants to address the matter when we don’t even know what the matter is! Who are we looking for, and what exactly are we warning them of? It seems that we acted on impulse, albeing with good intention. I would have rather snuck in disguised to gather more information than going up to the front door to announce a rumour… I defer to the Barbarian and the Druid to do the talking., which is probably not the best idea in most situations, but I’m quite ornery and put off by the rushed and uncalculated fashion in which our operation has begun to unfold. The guards are skeptical of our story, and inform us that Zildar is not there.  He could be either at the office or at home in the merchant ward, but Chumbo the Castellan is here at the fort. They are reluctant to reveal any further information (if they even have it) to a band of foreigners spinning a yarn about pirates and a couple of random names.

One of our party members (was it Torrok or Eclipsa, or Daa’la even? I’m not sure. It wasn’t me. I didn't’ really like this plan, but couldn’t think of anything else, so I stayed quiet, lest my bitterness get the better of me and I end up insulting a guard or one of my companions and unintentionally giving them brain damage with some vicious kind of…mockery….Anyway, whoever it was…) managed to bribe the guards to summon the castellan. After some time, a man in fine flowing Chultan robes appears through the portal at the top of the stairs. The good Lord Castellan Chumbo expresses that he is miffed to be interrupted during his dinner. Chumbo is a fat, swarthy man with a long, bristly beard of black hairs. We apologize for the disturbance, but he insists to hear us now that he’s up and away from his dinner table (that is to say, “this better be good”). He hears our warnings about pirates and our pleas for assistance in finding Zildar at this hour, as he did expressly ask us to keep an ear out for talk about pirates and spies. Chumbo addresses our leads, first. It turns out that Embers is the name of a ship in the harbor belonging to the Flaming Fists, the faction held up at Fort Beluarion. They’re scheduled to leave in the morning, but the Castellan does not see to order at the docks, that’s Zildar’s purview. Leara, our other lead, is not a ship, but a person. She’s the Lord Commander of Fort Beluarion. Chumbo knows not of any piratical doings related to either of the leads, but he does advise that we might still find Zildar at the Harbormaster’s Office, if we insist on pursuing the matter. And so it’s to there we go, by way of the harbor’s main docks.

On the way to the harbormaster’s office we notice a ship in port with red sails and banners, emblazoned with the image of a fist on fire. The Embers. It hasn’t left port yet, but it is being prepared, and seems guarded. We pass our friend Yortle, the Tortle, in the midst of reeling in a skate on his fishing pole. Rounding the far side of the harbor toward the royal docks, we hear some drunken shouting in Elvish and common. The bits of Elvish are mostly curses. Eclipsa and Torrok walk down a dock to investigate, and it seems that a drunken half-elf sailor is berating some young dock hands. Charming. They don’t bother addressing the sailor, who is mostly ranting to the universe about his problems getting good help around this town, and decide to catch up with us.

The Lights Are On, but…

The dim glow of a lone lantern illuminates a second-story room in the harbormaster’s office. We knock. No response. Louder yet. Eclipsa smells a familiar scent, but it’s not Zildar. It’s  an exquisite perfume. Steps and some shuffling are heard. Then, the closing of a few doors. The front door opens. It’s not Zildar, but the dark-haired woman from the front office, Meredeija. She is surprised, suspicious, and curt. Zildar is not in. He’s gone home. We press her to tell us where he lives, as it’s time-sensitive information, regarding pirates. She eyes us.. “Up the road. Third house on the right. Can’ miss it”. She shuts the door. Not long after, the glow from the second floor vanishes to darkness. The light is extinguished.

Eclipsa stays near the office to do some reconnaissance on Meredeija while the rest of us head for Zildar’s. She slips into the shadows behind the building. Just up the street, towards the Merchant Ward, is Zildar's home. It is nothing short of a manse. Better described as an ocean villa. Harbormaster is a demanding job, but it does apparently pay well. Zildar appears at the door, after our rapping at it, in billowy silken pyjamas colored a gold to match his brilliant scale skin.  He was about to have his bath before we disturbed him. He, too, is annoyed by the disruption, but the harbormaster’s work is never finished, and he agrees to hear us out. The house has an open-air design, centered around an inner courtyard that has its own garden and private bath. The basin is steaming and full of bubbles. A few vials of perfume and some soaps are arranged on a small side table. Proud pillars of a simple, sturdy, yet elegant design stand on each side of the courtyard to support the arched doorless portals that lead to it. The north-facing portal from the courtyard offers a glimpse of the mansion's view over the bay of Chult.

Zildar sits casually and invites us to do the same. His golden halfdragon body is toned with strong muscles, and Daala seems a bit distracted by his hulking physique. Zildar hears our report and understands our concerns, "But what am I to do? We need more evidence" He says. "And plus, you know, you're not the first band of adventurers to arrive in Chult and call themselves pirate hunters. The Sisters of the Silver Scale, [associated with some silver dragon?], now they were real pirate hunters! They took down the Jaws of the Sea."

We try to convince him that there are other pirates out there who are capable of attack, and not enough patrol ships. We can employ alternative ways to stop a pirate attack: for instance, stopping the ship from leaving on time. "Zildar, just this morning you told us of at least two ships. I remember, the Emerald Eye, was one of them? Are you willing to risk another ship leaving your harbor when you have information? You did ask us to listen for information around town.", I remind him.

"Yes. The Emerald Eye. Its captain…Sarunel Zaryale… she fancies gems and precious stones. Been disruptin the trade here. I tell you what, that Leara Porter who calls herself Lord Commander up at Fort Beluarion, she's a bit of a pistol. I don't mind if one of her ships gets delayed…"

With that, he walks into a neighboring room and pens a letter on a piece of parchment, which he rolls up tightly and stamps with golden wax. He affixes the scroll to a small tropical bird perched on a bar in a cage in the courtyard, and lets the bird fly free. The half-dragon turns to us, "Short-range message. I've ordered a second cargo inspection. That should hold things up."

We thank Zildar again. At least that should hold things up if a pirate attack is planned against the ship. Meanwhile, Eclipsa is in the shadows, observing any unusual behavior. She remains completely hidden. She recounts after we regroup at the tavern….

On the Prowl

Shortly after the party left the harbormaster's office, Meredeija put out the lamp and snuck out of the building under cover of darkness, wearing a hooded cloak and carrying a satchel. Eclipsa follows from a distance, under the cover of a cloak and hood, blending into the shadows and background of the city rhythms. Meredeija continues through the city, past the Grand Souk, and under the archway to the Harbor Ward. Eclipsa deftly scales the wall of the Harbour Ward to get a better view. Climbing is second nature for her, and no more easy or difficult than walking on her two feline hindquarters.

From the top of the wall, she can see Meredeija heading for the docks. She’s going down toward the docks, and enters a small structure. A shed or office of some kind. After a moment, she re-emerges. Her satchel, which seemed full when she entered, is noticeably lighter now, as if she dropped something off, emptying the satchel of its contents in the structure. 

From street level on Market Ward side of the portal, a passerby noticed Eclipsa upon the wall. “You must have a good view from up there”, she says. Eclipsa looks down to see the older Chultan woman who called to her from below. She has long dreadlocks with feathers woven into them, wears Nyanzarn robes, and carries a staff. Eclipsa jumps down to join her, distracted from her observations of the harbor. She recognizes the woman as Eku, one of the guides who had a poster in the tavern. Eku tells Eclipsa that she has seen many things and has much knowledge of the city and of the jungle. She would be happy to help Eclipsa and her party if they were to go adventuring or need advice around the city. Eclipsa can tell there is a certain level of wisdom Eku possesses. With that is a certain generosity and love for all living things. Eku explains that she only takes from the deposit what she needs; the rest goes to charity. She stays at the Temple of Savras, if Eclipsa needs to find her. Eclipsa thanks her for the offer, and Eku continues on her evening stroll.

Resuming her surveillance of the harbor, Eclipsa sees a hooded man, looking from a distance onto the docks, much like she herself is doing. The man is sitting atop a stack of barrels and crates up against the back of the wall. He is having a smoke and seems to be surveying the harbor, observing its movements. She approaches him and feigns ignorance as a tourist. As she faces him, she realizes that the man has a winged snake coiled around his neck in repose, under his cloak hood. They exchange some words, and he offers to walk back with her to the market ward. She stops at the thunderin' lizard, and he continues on toward the Tiryiki Anchroage. He seems suspicious of her, almost dubious of her status as a tourist, but does not press her on it.

The Calico Rogue

The rest of the party thanks Zildar again and exits down back through the Royal Docks. We stop again by the harbormaster’s office, but Eclipsa is not to be seen. She must have followed a lead…

We therefore make our way back through the city, without much else we can do about the pirate situation. I feel restless, and wish there could have been more concrete information to gather, more direct action to have taken.

We pass the Grand Souk, which is just about closed up except for a few lonely stalls still lit up. From the a corner a Tabaxi of patched orange, white, and black fur accosts us. He is obsequious and overly friendly. “Friends” he addresses us. “Oh no” i think “keep walkin” I think. The Tabaxi wants something. His name is Khajeet and he asks us, me in particular, as a fellow “minstrel” , to help him with a few gold. As if I’d deign to help him! I am even less inclined to help. Never seen a beggar with such a spring in his step. “Why don’t you busk or find your own gig if you’re a minstrel, then?” I propose

Khajeet spins us a story about how he hasn’t the time and is already late for a game. He’s a professional gambler it seems and needs gold. “Khajeet promises, good friend, what you pay Khajeet now will be tripled after the night is over! Please friend, you can help Khajeet, can you not?”  I hate Khajeet. I propose to come to the tavern to play with us and earn his keep like any other bard or minstrel. He is reluctant, but the promise of some silver is alluring enough for him to join us on the way back to the Thundering Lizard in the Market Ward.

The door to the Thunderin’ Lizard flies open and the giant bugbear we saw earlier stumbles out. He is shouting something in Goblin about how dumb all the goblins are around here. We learn his name is Landfill, perhaps because he can shovel anything down his gullet, or because he’s as big as a landfill, nobody knows for sure, but it works either way.

In the tavern, we see our friend Undril Silvertusk from the Screaming Gull, sitting alone. She seems concerned and is inspecting the jungle guide posters on the wall. We greet her and ask if she has a plan to go to Camp Righteous – she was so eager to get there just after disembarking from the Gull. There’s worrying news from the camp, not Righteous. Camp Vengenace. They’ve been overrun, by the undead and have retreated to a farther outpout. It appears that part of her feels guilty for having missed the first transport. But we reassure her, Daala in particular, orc to orc, it was not her fault, and she’s lucky to not have been there during attack.

Khajeet insists that we play a tune so he can make some coin, which is why he followed us. Torrok and I consent begrudgingly. He dances and sings and works the room, collecting tips. When the song is over, he collects 9 sp and tries to run out with it. We manage to stop him and divide it 3 ways. 3sp apiece. It turns out that he had a few other pieces of money on him, possibly from others whom he had stolen from… Khajeet then prances off into the night, the fool.

That night we all have the same dream. The Jungle is burning. Undead are walking out of it.

Disguised at the Docks

The next morning, I decide to do more reconnaissance on the pirate situation, unsatisfied by the results we turned up last night. I get up before dawn and head down to the docks, magically disguised as one of the guards, a human male, in green uniform. Apparently the green uniformed ones are part of the brave dominion. It’s raining. I stand at the harbor before the docks, and walk down toward the embers Two guards are on the ship. A man on the ship is arguing with one of them . Another approaches me and complain about the bureaucracy of this town, extra cargo inspections. He serves a commander, or perhaps a prince? named Thorton, who wields two blades. His last assignment was to Yphon, the merchant prince of beasts, but he grew tired of shoveling dino shit and requested a transfer. He hears that the Harpers are in town (oh, you don't say?), and that they’re up to something at the docks.  I move along and take another look around. Up, floating near the top of the Embers’ sail is a nearly indiscernible camouflaged winged snake, hovering above. It looks as if it’s being controlled by something or someone else. A man in a hooded cloak hanging near the docks is watching the docks from a distance.

After seeing this, I head to Kaya’s house of repose. I’ve gathered some more information but don’t know what to make of it. I think a spot of tea, some breakfast, and some writing in peace will do me good. Plus, Asaka Stormfang lives here. I’d like to make good with her and see if we can arrange passage through the jungle and help her retrieve her mask from the Pterafolk.

A Good-Morning Melee

My travel companions awake to find their Bard gone. Assuming the best, perhaps that I had risen early to get a head start on the day, they eat a hearty breakfast before returning to the arena for a good-morning scrimmage. From what I gather, Eclipsa, Torrok, and Daala had a melee with a small group of gladiators-in-training. It was a muddy battle under the tropical rains and the archer on their opposing team proved particularly challenging, but in the end our team succeeded at knocking the opponents unconscious or forcing them into submission.

Kaya's House of Repose

The city is beginning to stir and citizens on their early morning errands carry tall wide palm fronds and tropical leaves as umbrellas. The entrance to Kaya’s is elevated and one must climb a staircase outside to access its raised first floor. The sound of a lilting harp can be heard from a window. Its awnings are pulled in and there is a sign with a motif of chultan flowers. Before I enter, the halfling boys with beetle helmets race by on their velociraptors through the mud, which squishes and squashes with every step of the bipedal dino. BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM. Around the corner behind them is one of the Zenke sisters (the twins from the bar) following suit.

The interior of Kaya’s is of fine quality. I pass through beaded curtains to the main parlor, where there is a front desk, some tables, a harpist, and a doorway to a raised terrace that offers a grand vista over the city and bay. I meet Kaya, a half elf, and the proprietor, and order some figs with cheese and wasp’s honey. And a cup of tea. Earl grey. Hot. I ask Kaya about Asaka, and she fetches her. While Asaka and I discuss, I propose that we might have mutual interest in the Pterafolk and we agree that there is potential to work together. Asaka also tells me that she knows of other peoples and races in the jungle. During this conversation, my Dwarf, Feline, and Badger??! friend barge in unannounced, soaking wet, causing a ruckus, and join us. Daala had transformed into a badger and followed my scent to Kayas. I smile, slightly embarrassed at the scene, but glad to see my friends.

Asaka continues and tells us that there are goblins, Lizard Folk with poison arrows who do not like foreigners, the Drum Grun gange of the Grung – a frog-like species with skin that is poisonous to the touch, but are not necessarily evil folks themselves. There are also ther Tortles of Ogmar’s Bay and the Aaracockra in their monasteries hidden in the high places of the jungles. Both the Tortles and the Aaracockra make excellent allies in the jungle. Asaka warns us though that  we should speak with Jobo first about going to the jungle, as the moratorium on guides and adventuring is still in effect.

View
Session 1
Welcome to Chult

6 Jan. 2018

Tomb of Annihilation

Session 1

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

“By Aremag”.

“…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!

 

Bathtime

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…

View
A Bard's Journal
Testing the Waters

4 Jan. 2018

Tomb of Annihilation

Session 0

<meta />

At over two weeks undersail (or has it been three?), the seascape has come to dominate our perspective and daily routines. On a good day, the sea is a brilliant turquoise blue under the bright, proud disk of the sun. It is dappled by the occasional subtropical rains that seem to sweep unpredictably through the region. The rains are warm and sometimes leave color arcs in the sky upon their departure, as if to say thank you for their passage across our otherwise pristine azure course, as if we had any say in it at all.  Of late, however, the seas grow a little higher, a little darker, and the squalls, in tandem, become more frequent, more violent, and more enduring with each passing day. These are hallmarks of the tropical climate that awaits us, and so we press on, southward, toward the Chultan Peninsula.

Though unpredictable, this hot and humid weather is generally a welcome change from dreary old Waterdeep. We have since fled that cold, huddled port, sailing down the Sword Coast, past the Moonshae Isles, and around the eastern side of Lantan’s Rest. We certainly can’t be too far from Port Nyanzaru now. Our captain, the dusk elf Dmitri Krezkov, albeit a salty old fellow (he’s forbidden access to any cargo in the hold. C’est bizarre, n’est-ce pas?), has proven himself a fine pilot and captain. His crew includes, apart from a handful of minor deckhands, Rolio the first mate, who is a grizzled man with curly black hair and olive skin, and a befreckled cabin boy named Shekel. Other notable passengers on Cpt. Krezkov’s ship, named “The Screaming Gull”, include a half-orc holy roller Undril Silvertusk, a mister Chames (not James) Gree of the Waterdhavian nobility (yawn), and a halfling priest of Tymora named Erky Timbers (<- isn’t that a Gnomish name??). Although not members of our adventuring party, they do appreciate the company we’ve made with them.

Undril Silvertusk, we’ve learned, is a member of the Order of the Gauntlet (Helm worshippers). They claim to protect the simple folk from threats, and such. Apparently there’s an effort launched in Chult to root out undead creatures that have been spotted there recently. Their base of operations is at “Camp Righteous” (really?), just up the River Shosanstar (sp?). Undril missed her first boat to Chult and is visibly impatient to arrive and fulfill her oath to the Order. Chames with a Ch and not a J represents Waterdeep in the Lord’s Alliance. He seeks to negotiate trade deals between the Chultan merchant princes, of whom there are seven, and the Waterdhavian nobles. He  intends to head straight to the Golden Throne and arrange a meeting with the nobles. The first matter he intends to discuss is regarding Fort Beluarian (just north of Port Nyanzaru), and the Flaming Fists, a faction that has laid claim to 50% of all treasure and goods from the northern part of the Chultan peninsula. The claim directly affects trade with the rest of the realm. Our third co-passenger, Erky Timbers, is on a wellness trip of sorts to a shrine of Tymora somewhere in Chult. He appears to have had a rough time recently before this trip. Hopefully this sojourn will do him well!

As for our own adventuring party, it is a motley crew to say the least, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m accompanied by old friend Torrok. He’s a member of the Bear clan of the Lenape tribe and was the former bodyguard and native informant to a researcher (who eventually became my mentor) at the Bard College of New Olamn, Syndra Sylvane, during her first ventures in ethnographic fieldwork. Torrok regards all of us as his children, his pups even; there’s no doubting his loyalty to the pack and, for better or for worse, he will do anything to protect us. His colleague from the Harpers departed with us, as well. The ever-charming Eclipsa, a Tabaxi sailor, is a tricksy character with a wild history of escape from the faraway continent of Maztica. She is on a lifelong personal mission of revenge against the Omnians, a faction that murdered her parents when she was a but a kittenchild. Her travels have taken her around the world, even once before to Chult, and she may have some memory of the terrain or coastline that could serve us. Eclipsa is also amongst those whose loved one (a lover, in fact) has, sadly, perished to the death curse, which recent evidence indicates originates in Chult. Then, we have our resident druid and forest dweller Da’la’ . I do love that orcish sound to her name. It’s got real punch with those glottal stops and falling tones on each syllable. DA\- LA\-. Very satisfying to say aloud. Orcish is an interesting language and is wrongly labeled for being simplistic and violent but it actually is quite resourceful; it does so much with so little in a way that Common can only aspire to and that Elvish would never deign to even dream of. Anyway, Da’la saved my life once…. If it weren’t for her ways with nature, her half human wits, and  oh her 250 very toned pounds of half-orc woman, I wouldn’t be here today! It seems that she also has met Torrok in the past when they made a common enemy together. Fascinating! Da’la familiarity with forest biomes will surely prove helpful in the jungles of Chult. It is there where she also seeks a rare magical Chultan seed from a tree Ent. I’ll need to ask her again about that, as I didn’t quite get the full story.

Apart from our own personal motives, we are all united in cause to seek out the origins of the Death Curse. Honestly, I’d make any excuse, take any job to get the hell out of Waterdeep now that my witch of a sister Naivara Vyshann (yes she took our chauvinist elf clan’s name) is out for me. I imagine she’d like my head on a platter, or maybe a spike after my play went live…. Oathsworn to the Harpers, we have been charged by Syndra Sylvane to find out what the devil is happening in Chult, take care of it, and to do so before other factions do so. I owe my career to Syndra, who herself has come down with the curse, causing her to cut short an expedition to study the Pterafolk of Chult (or perhaps was that pretense for an assignment with the Harpers all along?). She returned in haste, with just enough time to send word to the Harpers and pen a letter to our party members detailing the mission, before slipping into a state of death-like incapacitation. Accompanying the letter is a partially charted map of Chult and a city plan of Port Nyzanzaru. In the text she mentions a merchant prince named Wakanga Otamu, a specialist and purveyor of magic and lore. He could be a source of supplies and information to us. Chult is largely unexplored, and Port Nyanzaru, a large, alien city of unknown creatures, customs, and cultures. Tantalizing! One could write an entire series of essays on just the subcultures of the port without stepping foot in the jungle. Or, perhaps a collection of fictional short stories based on real-life scenes of the city. Just imagine what characters could live there, what lives they would lead, what tales could unfold…!!  Tempting as such a notion is, the task at hand is much larger and much more pressing. Whistful sigh

After reviewing the letter and map together last evening, while snacking on fresh fish caught by Eclipsa earlier in the day, we decided to take a rest. The past few days have been turbulent as we approach the tropics. The skies have been heavy and humid and the sea swells large and unforgiving (although the crew seems nonchalant). A sudden change in the air pressure is accompanied by a crack of lightning. A tropical storm rages all around us. The Screaming Gull bobs over swell after swell, while the passengers struggle to find sleep. In  the pre-dawn light of the too-early morning it seems that the crew has been working all night to navigate the raging seas, when another ship appears from our portside stern….

Woken by the commotion, our party makes its way up to the deck. Da’la and Eclipsa spot on the approaching ship’s deck a tall, dark, bald man with a massive beard and a bone shirt. The man is grinning with pleasure, an eager thirst, at the sight of our ship, unbothered by the torrent around him. He is flanked by a woman wielding claws as weapons and another woman with an eyepatch who appears as if she is a maiden of the sea. On the side of the boat is written the words, “Black Fang”. … Pirates.

“Prepare to be boarded!”, yells Rolio. The pirate ship flanks us and several enemy crewmen emerge with shortbows at the ready. They fire at the Gull. And miss! Without a moment’s hesitation, Torrok leaps across the water, into the fray to smite the enemy pirates with a fiery barbarian rage in his eyes. The sea maiden magically grows a layer of coral skin around her body and summons seaweed up from the water, through the planks of the Fang to entangle Torrok as he is swarmed by large shirtless men with clubs- the tough muscle of the pirate crew. Da’la, from the Gull’s bow responds to the sea witch with a conjured shard of ice and launches it toward her, down the length of the ships, with cutting precision. It explodes on impact and sends thousands of frozen shards into the faces of the captain and nearby crewmen. Before I can even get a word out, a harpoon whizzes past me and Cpt. Krezkov, nearly impaling us. More pirates board the Gull and Eclipsa bounds out of hiding from up the mast to gracefully slash them apart, before leaping over to aid Torrok.

Unnaturally tall swells cause both ships to pitch, sending crewmen from either side off their feet. An enemy pirate who had swung over to the Gull falls before me, prone. I deftly end his pitiful life with the finesse of my rapier, only to be surprised by the claw-handed woman, who in the meantime swung over from the Fang. She mauls me on her way up to the aftcastle, but I manage to dodge the rest of her strikes. She retreats to the Gull’s cabin, frustrated with her inability to get by me. Inspired by words of encouragement, Torrok continues to beat down on the enemy muscle, wildly swinging his dwarven axe, and holding their aggression, while Eclipsa boards the Fang and crosses swords with the longbearded captain. Another ice knife flies across the deck from the half orc druid, again landing on the coralskin witch standing at the stern of the Fang. It explodes on her breast, sending her flying back, into the sea. Daa’la then transforms, as druids do, into a grey wolf. It’s always a raw, unsettling sight to see a druid become another beast. The wolf boards the enemy ship to assist the raging barbarian. But what’s that? Whoosh! Thunk! Another harpoon shoots from the opposing bow, again past my head, but this time it strikes Cpt. Krezkov who is knocked unconscious. By this point, our Captain is down, a marauding claw-handed woman is under our decks, and Eclipsa is in an all-out duel with the enemy captain, while Torrok and the wolf are swarmed by a new contingent of pirates who have surfaced from the lower decks.

Just as things started to look grim for our party, the sea swells rise from the stern and create an unnatural wall of water around the two ships. A whirlpool appears to form under us. An enemy pirate loses his footing, falls, and is sucked down into the whirling, watery hell. The enemy ship begins to buckle. It breaks in two as some supernatural force sucks at it. Large claws break the water to pull the Black Fang apart and into the depths. Daa’la, Torrok, and Eclipsa are all able to easily disengage from the melee and hop back to the Screaming Gull. Captain longbeard makes a last effort to climb up the sinking stern of his ship, but I manage to finish the job and mock his pathetic attempt, telling him simply to “Piss off”, which seems to cause his mind to break down. He loses his grip, and he is sucked into the depths.

As the Black Fang and its crew are ripped apart by the enormous claws and swallowed into the aquatic vortex, a thunderous, monstrous laughter rumbles from the deep,

MUAH HA HA HA…”  It reverberates across the waves. With its register so low, its volume so all-encompassing, the voice rattles the ship and everything on it. We can feel the vibrations in our guts, down to our bones. In Draconic, it speaks aloud, “WELL DONE”.

The Screaming Gull is apparently spared from the sea monster’s wrath… for now.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.