Opelenean Nights


The Characters:
Ethlyn - Tirenean Swashbuckler Bard. Str 11, Int 9, Wis 10, Dex 14, Con 10, Chr 17.
Young, lithe, blonde, blue-eyed, and beautiful, a 15-year old former slave of an Opelenean sage who stole away on a ship for a life of adventure.

Raziel - Opelenean Bravo Assassin. Str 18, Int 9, Wis 11, Dex 16, Con 10, Chr 10.
A short, muscular man, aged 18 years, with a neatly trimmed beard and gravelly voice, he is dedicated to Kalefa, goddess of life and death. He carries and fights with two scimitars.

Sharik - Opelenean Deranged Alchemist Warlock. Str 9, Int 18, Wis 9, Dex 10, Con 13, Chr 11.
A dark-skinned man, 29 years of age, he affects a long beard, robes and turban. A sinister jinn in the form of a desert toad perches on his shoulder, marking him as a sha'ir.

Senef - Kemeshi Snake Handler Shaman. Str 13, Int 14, Wis 18, Dex 13, Con 10, Chr 9.
A heavily tanned man, aged 22, with skin weather from a life outdoors. He wears weatherbeaten desert robes and bears a twin snake rod. A small python coils around his shoulders.

Mahmud - Opelenean Champion Paladin. Str 13, Int 10, Wis 8, Dex 10, Con 13, Cha 16. 
A noble-looking man of 23 years with a fine beard, dark skin, and piercing eyes, wearing lamellar armor and carrying a scimitar and round shield. He worships Imran, god of law and light (whom the Aurans call Ammonar).

Tor - Dwarven Machinist Mechanic. Str 7, Int 18, Wis 13, Dex 13, Con 10, Cha 8.
Fated to die before his appearance could be recorded for posterity.


Session One.
A caravan en route to Alakyrum, Pearl of the  Desert, was struck by a terrible sandstorm. In the chaos, six members of the caravan were separated from the main body. When the storm finally cleared, the six strangers found themselves lost in the desert with the caravan nowhere to be found. 

Striking out east, they traveled for miles, burning through their water and food. Near death, the travelers stumbled upon the ruins of an ancient city. Rising from the wreckage of walls and buildings was a stepped pyramid, its pinnacle topped with statues of three great gods. Mahmoud, who had received religious training prior to setting off on his warrior's pilgrimage, recognized them as archaic representations of Orn, Lord of Storms; Annara, Goddess of Love and War; and Istanul, God of Secrets.

With few options, the travelers warily approached the pyramid. They were gladdened to find a secret door into the pyramid, but disturbed to find a beastman dead just within the entrance. Tor, a mechanic by nature, cautioned of the possibility of traps. Past the secret door, the travelers found three metal shafts stretching floor to ceiling. As they investigated the shafts, Sharik's toad began to croak unceasingly and the travelers felt nauseous. Fearing some sort of poison gas, the travelers randomly opened the middle shaft's hatch and clambered down the ladder they found within.

They dropped down into a chamber lit by the hideous glow of giant beetles. A brief melee ensued, in which one of the beetles knocked down Ethlyn, who hit her head on the hard stone floor. Raziel and Mahmoud proved formidable fighters, however, and the creatures were soon dispatched. Sharik greedly began carving the phospherescent glands from the dead beetles while Senef proved himself an able healer and roused  Ethlyn back to consciousness. She was a bit dizzy but otherwise unharmed. Tor busied himself searching the room, and found it filled with spare parts for automatons - a useful find for one with his inclinations. He also gathered up some vials of smoky oil, which he and the alchemist, Sharik, split.

The travelers were greatly concerned that as of yet they had found no water, so they decided to press further into the pyramid. It did not take long for them to plunge into danger. Entering into an abandoned bedroom, they were assaulted by two giant desert lizards who had been feasting on a corpse. The travelers fought the creatures off, but in the course of the fighting, Raziel the two-sword fighter had his hand bitten off. Senef was able to staunch the blood flow, but Raziel was in no shape for continued fighting, and Tor's gleeful offer to affix a blade to the stump did little to make him feel better.

The corpse that the lizards had been eating was that of a strange, white hairless man wearing a golden mask of a bird. The corpse was still wet, so the travelers surmised water must be nearby. Senef decided to risk communing with the jinn. A long and exotic ritual followed in which the Kemeshi shaman danced, chanted, and hissed at the spirits. When his ritual was completed, he announced with confidence that a source of water was nearby and to the right.

The jinn proved right: Within a few minutes, the travelers stumbled upon a band of men wearing bronze masks of a stern-faced god. These strangers, speaking an archaic dialect of Opelenean, pronounced themselves the Brotherhood of Orn and demanded to know whether the travelers were in league with Zargon. Fortunately, Sharik spoke Old Opelenean, and was able to communicate with the Brotherhood. The ancient desert guest-rites were honored, and the Brothers offered up some food and precious water to the travelers. The travelers spent the next few days with these strange, hairless albinos, allowing Raziel to recover from the loss of his hand, and learned some of the strange facts of the city they were in, called Cynidicea. While it was clear that the Brothers wished Mahmoud and Raziel to join their group, the travelers wished only to reach Alakyrum, and begged their leave.

Sadly the Brothers did not provide the travelers with anywhere near enough water to brave the desert, so the travelers were forced to venture further into the pyramid. By means of a circuitous route, they stumbled upon a large store of treasure guarded by a host of giant bees. This was surely a sign that Fate, whom even the Gods must serve, was smiling upon them! Perhaps with this treasure they could buy enough water from the Cynidiceans to make their escape? The travelers quickly developed a cunning plan: Tor coated a narrow hallway with the smoky oil that Tor had gathered earlier, and drizzled a fuse to it. Raziel then incited the bees into following him, even as Tor lit the fuse. The travelers had noticed that the stone doors of Cynidicea tended to slam shut quickly, and took advantage of this fact to trap the bees in the hallway, where the thick smoke choked and killed them. Fate laughed aloud at their cleverness.

After taking the treasure, the travelers found a passage to a lower level of the pyramid. After a brief but heated discussion, they decided to venture downward. They soon encountered a miracle of stonework, a revolving stone passageway. Tor was able to figure out how the mechanism worked, and the travelers decided to methodically work through the revolutions of the contraption. The first exit quickly lead them to the Temple of Istanul, where a dozen sorcerers in faceless masks where performing rites of worship. The travelers humbly introduced themselves and asked for guest-rights. The sorcerers obliged, introducing themselves as the Magi of Istanul. Their leader, Aytollah, was fascinated by the opportunity to speak with sorcerers and learned folk from outside Cynidicea, and the party enjoyed a lengthy discussion over kefir and mushroom kabobs. Ethlyn sang songs of the Auran Empire, which Aytollah had never heard of, his people's interactions with the surface world having ended not long after the fall of Zahar.

Eventually, Aytollah offered Sharik and Ethlyn membership in the Magi, and the two agreed. Swearing an oath by the Staff and Crescent of Istanul upon the crescent-shaped stone altar in the temple, the pair had Istanul's sigil burned into their palms and were given faceless masks to wear.

Aytollah then asked them if they would undertake an important mission for him. Somewhere in the tiers below, he explained, the great Queen Zenobia was buried with her royal scepter. It was said that the bearer of this scepter had such majesty as to be able to freeze a man in his tracks with but a word or gesture. Aytollah believed that with this scepter, he could defeat the priests of Zargon and restore wisdom and order to Cynidicea. None of the Magi had ever found the scepter. But, he explained, the travelers were clearly the Instruments of Fate, sent by that omnipotent power to serve at this moment! 

With visions of ancient treasure dancing in their eyes, the travelers agreed to undertake this quest, shouting "The Staff and the Crescent!" to show their enthusiasm. None could see the evil cast on Aytollah's masked face... 

I am very much looking forward to this.

This is great! I’m looking forward to see how another group handles this module.

Session Two.

Aytollah gave the travelers instructions how to reach the fourth tier of the ziggurat. Following these instructions led them back through the rotating passageway, and then rightward, down a sliding floor. They dropped down into the curious tomb of a jester, and amused themselves for a time with the tricks and marvels the long-dead clown had left behind.  Mahmoud and the other Faithful left coin in respect, and the party exited to explore the fourth tier.

They soon encountered a half-dozen beastmen who uttered fierce war-cries of “Zargon!” and attacked. Only now did the heretofore unassuming sha’ir Sharik reveal his power. As the beastmen charged forward, the very ground beneath their feet became as slippery as the shifting sands. Losing their balance, the beastmen fell in disarray and were soon dispatched.

Pressing past the corpses, the travelers came upon the sealed tomb of some long-dead warrior. While the warrior’s mummy lay in eternal rest, his skeletal guardians did not, and had to be dispatched through force of arms. After the leaving the warrior’s tomb, the travelers circled eastward to a tomb with eternal flames flitting from brass jars. The jars were immovable, but in searching near the jars the party found a map indicating there was some sort of trap door in the tier. They didn’t recognize the location on the map, so they decided further exploration was warranted.

As the party exited the tomb of flaming jars, they heard the thunderous sound of stone crashing on stone. Their torchlight revealed a granite boulder rolling down the corridor towards them, giving them barely enough time to duck back into the tomb and avoid being crushed. The dwarf, Tor, advised that he was an expert at finding traps, and offered to search the doors more thoroughly to avoid such incidents going forward.

In the next room they visited, the travelers were alerted to a lair of giant rats by the horrendous croaks of alarm coming from Barnabas, Sharik’s toad-jinn. There were almost a dozen of the foul rodents, and many of the party took fierce bites. Ethlyn, however, fought particularly well, impressing even grim Mahmoud, who shared his water with her afterwards. Sharik then asked Barnabas to explore the lair, prompting a series of croaks: “Oh, most investigatory and delegatory of masters, your humble servant thanks you for the opportunity to expose his tender skin to the pestilence these rodents litter their lair with.” There was, however, 300 gp and 4 golden topazes scattered in the lair, the rats having a penchant for collecting small shiny things.

The travelers were by now quite exhausted and laden with several wounds, so they decided to seal themselves up in the warrior’s tomb to rest. There was little rest to be had, however. Not more than an hour after they settled down, Brothers of Orn burst in upon them. The Brotherhood had been searching for the party ever since they stole the treasure from the bee-hive – as that was actually the Brotherhood’s treasure vault. In the Brotherhood’s eyes, this was a shocking betrayal from people they had given guest-rights to. Worse, the party had since joined the Magi of Istanul! Such treachery could only be repaid with cold steel. The fight with the Brothers was savage. Only fierce swordplay by Mahmoud and Ethlyn turned the tide, but Raziel, Tor, and Sharik were all incapacitated. Raziel and Tor proved only to be have been dazed, but Sharik took a shield-smash to his hip which left him lamed.

The travelers found themselves in yet more need of rest. This time they took the precaution of spiking the doors shut, and maintaining noise and light discipline. They were disturbed during the night to hear a strange wolf-like howling and shuffling, but their precautions held. The next day, the party re-mapped some of the areas around the warrior’s tomb, connecting up various tunnels and passageways to create a clearer representation of the fourth tier.

With the north-eastern portion of the fourth tier mapped, the travelers headed westward. The hall ended in a nobleman’s burial room. The nobleman’s tomb had become the lair of two savage white apes, who unleashed a barrage of hurled rocks at the party. Senef, the shaman, was struck down by stone to the groin; his immediate unconsciousness spared him the horror of knowing he’d been castrated. The beautiful singer Ethlyn took a rock to the face that reduced her teeth to porridge. Mahmoud, Raziel, and Tor charged in to melee with the creatures, but the carnivorous primates were even more fearsome in melee. Raziel managed to dispatch one ape, but was then struck down, his left eye a torn and bleeding maw, by its mate. The surviving ape then pounced on Tor, tearing his arms off. The machinist’s slender fingers were still twitching with finely-tuned muscle memory as he died in screaming agony a few feet away. Mahmoud, filled with the rage of Imran, finished the final ape off, but it was hard to call the battle a victory. The one consolation was a marvellous scimitar with a golden hilt carved in the shape of a falcon, its pattern-welded blade seeming untouched by the years. Mahmoud claimed the blade as his own. 

After catching their breath and doing what they could for the injured and fallen, the battered adventurers decided they had no choice but to return to the Magi of Istanul and report that they had failed to find the scepter of Zenobia.

Session Three.

When the party reached the sanctuary of the Magi, Aytollah expressed sympathies for their loss, but urged them not to abandon the quest for the scepter. “The Staff and the Crescent!” cried the travelers, swearing they would find it.

As a thank you for their efforts on behalf of the Magi, Aytollah gave them a gift of a Thrassian slave. The lizardman had been found wandering in the desert a few days earlier, manacled to a locked chest. While dehydrated and famished, the Thrassian was powerfully built, with razor-sharp claws, rippling muscles, and more than a few sword-scars. In halting common, the creature, Rakh, explained that it was an arena champion being shipped to Alakyrum to do battle in the coliseums there. It had been separated from its caravan during a sandstorm. Surmising that this must have been the same caravan and same sandstorm that had brought the party together in the first place, Mahmoud saw the Instrument of Fate at work, and claimed Rakh as a warrior-companion. The Thrassian, failing to understand that it was free, vowed to serve Mahmoud loyally. [Paul’s PC, Tor, was dead. He had rolled up Rakh, a 1st level Thrassian Gladiator, as his replacement.]

While Rakh was meeting the rest of the travelers, the mumble-mouthed Ethlyn tried to find an associate of her own. Fortunately her lisping voice was still attractive, and the faceless mask of Istanul concealed her disfigurement, so she was able to recruit a young mage, Majid, to join her.

After several days of rest, the travelers – now with Rakh and Majid in their company – felt confident enough to sortie again. Making their way back to the fourth tier, they found themselves face-to-face with another war party from the Brotherhood of Orn, ever-intent on revenge. Filled with hatred for the Brothers, Majid unleashed a cone of fire from his hands that left the Brothers badly burned. Those still capable of fighting were caught in the slippery sands summoned by Sharik, and soon dispatched.

Not long after fighting off the Brothers, the travelers found the burial room of a former high priest. This august chamber was the lair of a pack flesh-eating ghuls, but Fate smiled on the travelers again and the fight was speedily won.

From the high priest’s tomb, the travelers began exploring a long, twisting corridor. Their progress was halted by the dreadful appearance of long dead Iskander and Zenobia, the lost monarchs of Cynidicea, warning them to turn back or face certain doom. Many of the party members decided to head this advice and fled in panic, and it took almost thirty minutes for them to re-organize to continue their exploration.

Senef, wise in the way of spirits, deduced that the presence of the apparitions suggested that Iskander and Zenobia’s tombs must be nearby. He decided to commune with the jinn. After an exotic ritual involving much hissing and dancing, the shaman announced that a secret door was to be found on the south wall of the passage. Even armed with this knowledge, it took the travelers nearly an hour to locate the door; already they missed their fallen friend Tor, whose knowledge of stone mechanisms had been unparalleled.

Past the secret door found a long gallery with a floor marked in red and white checkerboard tiles. At the far end of the gallery, a narrow gap cut across the east wall, where the falling stone of some long-triggered trap had only partly sealed off the exit. Raziel was certain the room was heavily trapped, but trusting to Kalefa, led the way. Progress was slow, for at each tile he stopped to prod it with a spear before proceeding forward. All told it took almost two hours to traverse the room, but by being so careful the party was able to avoid the three dreadful scythes that might have otherwise sent them to their next life. They then cautiously scuttled through the narrow gap into what they assumed would be the tomb of the Cynidicean monarchs.

It turned out to be a false tomb, used to mislead tomb robbers. The travelers were not fooled, quickly ascertaining that the jewels were paste and rock, the coins counterfeit. They felt confident that the real tombs had to be close by, and commenced a thorough search of the false tomb. Still lacking anyone with skill at searching, it was a ponderous process, but they did eventually locate two secret doors, one on the north and one on the south wall.

They decided to traverse the southern door, and in this, they chose poorly. The tomb they came upon was none other than the resting place of King Iskander, who lingered in this world as a macabre spirit. As the ghostly king chanted lays of death, all of the adventurers felt their vital energies slipping away. Most fled immediately; only Mahmoud, Rakh, and Raziel stayed to fight. Mahmoud’s falcon-scimitar cut swathes of energy from the spirit, but Rakh and Raziel’s non-magical weapons couldn’t even harm the ghostly king. With their life energy beginning to ebb under the king’s chanting, Rakh and Raziel pried open the king’s sarcophagus and seized his ancient, gleaming blade, turning the ghostly king’s own scimitar against him.

At this moment, Mahmoud realized his vital energy was about to give away completely, and he turned to run. His knees buckled, and he pitched forward, his head smacking onto the edge of the sarcophagus. The grotesque angle the impact left his head in could only mean his spine had snapped. There was no time for pity or compassion: Rakh snatched up Mahmoud’s sword and he and Raziel continued to strike at the ghostly king.

A moment later the king chanted out a word of death, and Raziel and Rakh both fell stricken, their flesh blackening with necrosis. The chanting ended. In the next room, Ethlyn realized that her comrades had fallen, and resolved to avenge them. Chanting with all the elan her shattered mouth could muster, she charged into the king’s tomb, picked up the fallen magic swords, and struck. With a wail, King Iskander vanished! Rakh and Raziel were dead, however, and Mahmoud was paralyzed from the neck down. “Imran,” the paladin wailed. “Why did you not grant me the glory of death in battle?”

The survivors gathered up the bodies of the fallen and the treasures of Iskander and retreated to the sanctuary of Istanul once again.

This is great stuff, thanks for sharing! I meant to ask, how did the player of the two weapon fighter take it when they lost a hand?

Oh, he took it really well. Raziel's player is John Moulton. John Moulton was one of the original ACKS playtesters, having taken his fighter Marcus from level 1 to level 14 in our Borderlands campaign. He's pretty stoic about the ups and downs of RPGs!

Session Four.

[Session Four was a special session of ACKS: Opelenean Nights, as we had the participation of all but one partner in Autarch LLC. Tavis Allison had flown in from New York for our semi-annual strategy meeting, so Greg Lincoln, Newton Grant, and Greg Tito all came out to play, too. The additional four players meant our group numbered ten for the evening. Some of the course of the gameplay is best understood in this context.]

Again the party had returned to the Magi of Istanul without the scepter of Zenobia. However, their tales of confronting Iskander meant they were close, so close! It is possible that in his cunning mind, Aytollah had visions of seeking out Zenobia’s tomb himself, but surveying the wreckage of the adventurers, he decided it would better for them to continue the quest. Sadly there were in no shape to continue any sort of quest at all. Mahmud was a quadriplegic. Ethlyn was mush-mouthed and disfigured. Sharik was lame. Senef was a eunuch. Rakh was dead. And Raziel was one-eyed, one-handed, and dead.

Aytollah convened a quiet discussion among his elder brethren and returned with a plan. “Fellow Magi of Istanul, there is no power within our order that can heal your friends. You must seek the solace of the surface world. From our occasional forays, we of the Magi know where a caravan trail can be found. Majid will lead you there, and from there, perhaps you can get the healing you need. But you must pledge, in exchange for this guidance, that you will return to the service of Istanul!”

It’s likely that the battered and demoralized travelers would have agreed to sell their genitals to Iskara if it meant a chance to live whole and healthy, and all quickly swore oaths by the Staff and Crescent to return when their health was recovered.

A few days later, they were on a desert caravan trail, heading eastward. The paralyzed Mahmud had been strapped into a sand-sled, to be easily dragged; from his sandy litter, he prayed at dawn and dusk for Imram to take him to the Heavens. Rakh and Raziel were shrouded and also placed on litters, and the three survivors pulled the three casualties eastward.

It was here that Fate again smiled upon them, as a caravan of merchants came upon them from the west. This caravan was headed to the nearby town of Kirkuk, a day south-eastward. The youthful Ethlyn managed to convince the caravan master to allow the party to accompany the caravan. In the caravan, the party became acquainted with several fellow travelers, including Audarius, a Tirenean cleric of Ammonar; Avda, a veiled Opelenean priestess of Annara (Ianna); Kempt, a Zaharan ruinguard; and Kamishar, a Somirean mystic. These new adventurers were roused to great interest by the tales of treasure they heard, although the sorry state of the travelers seemed a cautionary tale.

Ten days after they had first gotten lost in the sandstorm, the travelers found themselves in the village of Kirkuk. Kirkuk had once been the site of a Thrassian temple, and ancient lizard graves pock-marked its hills. Subsequently it had become a Zaharan fortress, and the ruined remnants of castle walls still encircled the town. Now it was a thriving trade post en route to Alakyrum to the east. The oasis waters that fed Kirkuk were said to be holy, and a powerful cleric of the Empyrean Faith oversaw the village’s sacred grotto. It was to this cleric that the travelers turned to for aid in restoring their friends.

After two days of arduous spell-casting, all the travelers were restored. Sharik noticed that Raziel and Rakh had taken on a strange immaterial glow that he was worried would warn undead of their presence. Ethlyn and Senef, less grievously injured, both returned fine, save for the fact that their right arm seemed occasionally under the control of an alien entity. Mahmud alone seemed to carry no ill side effects.

All of the adventurers agreed that it was the Instrument of Fate uniting them, and that it was not for them to disagree with Fate! Thus they resolved to all go together back to the lost city. Still, 30 days passed in Kirkuk before the adventurers felt ready to travel again. Sharik used the time to learn a new dweomer from the local astrologer, while Mahmud, Ethlyn, and Avda recruited three young men – Abiram, Cleopas, and Wazir – to join the band. Kempt bought a camel and hired two light infantry to guard it.

It was now late summer, and the three day trek back to Cynidicea was miserably hot and desiccating. When the party accidentally stumbled over an ancient Zaharan cemetery and had to fight off a dozen skeletons, the fighting was almost reinvigorating compared to the sandy drudgery of travel.

When the party reached the lost city on the third day, they headed directly to the Aytollah’s chamber to let him know of their return. His words were kind, but his ever-present faceless mask denied them any sense of his true expression. He did have a heated conversation with Majid, Ethlyn’s mage, before sending them again to seek out Zenobia’s tomb.

The adventurers were confronted by seven giant bats that had taken roost on the fourth tier, but these were quickly dispatched. A trio of spitting cobras was shooed away by Senef the snake-handler. Thereafter the party reached the false tomb without incident, and moved towards the northern secret door, which they deduced to be Zenobia’s tomb.

Like Iskander, Zenobia lingered on in undeath. Her vile form was of a life-draining wight. Before the creature could even strike, however, the cleric Audarius strode forward with the Winged Sun in hand. “By the Law and Light of Ammonar, I condemn you!” the fiery priest shouted. The wight wilted before this unexpected display of celestial power, and was quickly cut down. [Audarius rolled a natural 20 to turn the wight!] With the queen sent on to her next life, the party was able to claim the long-sought scepter!

Strangely, they did not return immediately to Aytollah with it. Perhaps flush with their own success, they decided to further explore the fourth tier. Their continued wanderings led them into battle against a trio of giant blood-sucking varmints and against five shadowy creatures of chaos, a battle that led to a considerable horde of gold and a colorless, odorless fluid that Sharik identified as a potion of invisibility.

As they delved deeper into the fourth tier, the party now also began to encounter Cynidiceans who did not belong to one of the three religious factions they had heretofore learned about. These encounters were quite surreal. One such group they encountered, a half-dozen men and women wearing painted human masks, became absolutely convinced that Ethlyn was the reincarnation of Queen Zenobia. When she pointed the scepter at them, they were utterly awed, and henceforth began following “her majesty” around. A later encounter, with four Cynidiceans in feathered masks, was even stranger, as the dream-absorbed albinos invited the party to “come fly with them” as they flitted around the stone galleries of the tier. The last the party heard of them was the rumbling of a great stone boulder trap being triggered…

The next tomb the party opened  confronted them with a most hideous sight: A great centipede-like worm, reared up to the height of a man, its disgusting maw surrounded by writhing tentacles. “It’s ZARGON!” screamed the Cynidiceans that accompanied them. “Then Zargon shall die!” shouted Mahmud, charging into the fight.

The creature was not Zargon, merely one of that foul god-beast’s hideous spawn, and it fell swiftly. Still, the fight with the pseudo-Zargon had reminded the party of the risks they were taking. They decided to return the scepter to Aytollah to see what reward awaited their loyal service to Istanul. Aytollah met them with an honor guard of his most loyal mages, and took the scepter from them in gloved hands with a gracious bow. Raising the scepter, he pronounced they had done a great service to the “Staff and the Crescent” – and with these command words triggered the wand’s paralyzing blast. All but Senef, Audarius, and Avda were instantly held.

The three of them gaped in horror at the treachery, then drew their weapons. Senef launched a telling blow on Aytollah, but then one of Aytollah’s minions spoke a dweomer of slumber and put Audarius and Avda to sleep. Magical missiles slammed into Senef, but he managed to wake up Audarius with a swift kick.

The enraged cleric then proceeded to stave in Aytollah’s head, and the fight degenerated into a crazed frenzy of unskilled combat, as a horde of robed mages battled a shaman, a cleric, and a priestess. In the course of the fighting, the paralyzed Kempt’s throat was cut, and Kamishar’s throat was almost cut – a last-minute shove causing him to lose an ear instead.

When the fighting ended, the party was still standing and the magi of Istanul were not, save for one – Majid. Trembling in terror, he tried to explain that the party would not have been harmed, that Aytollah merely feared them, but his excuses carried no weight. Majid was judged a traitor, and Raziel ceremoniously broke all his bones in the most agonizing way possible before sending him to the next life.

With the Magi of Istanul dispatched, the adventurers scoured their quadrant of the third tier, gathering up a silver rod with a crystal tip, an ornate flanged mace, and many silver masks and daggers. This, combined with Zenobia’s treasures, was quite a haul, so the party decided to return to Kirkuk, bringing their dead and wounded with them.

There were on the road but a day when a terrible war cry pierced the sandy dunes. A dozen fanatics, wearing hideous Zargon masks, fell upon them. Unluckily, Raziel was cut down with a vicious blow, and their loyal henchmen Wazir and Abiram were also felled. Rakh’s inhuman ferocity became apparent as he made a mound of corpses around himself, and he and Mahmud carried the day.

Senef’s healing arts and Mahmud’s laying on hands were able to save Raziel, though his wounds healed stiff and scarred. As for Wazir and Abiram, naught could be done. The party decided to burn their bodies, and that of Kempt as well, that their spirits might be freed. Audarius gave a solemn service pledging their souls to Ammonar’s Light, and the travelers headed home.

Great session reports - I love the Lost City, and the modest reskinning adds wonders to the narrative. Low level games are so bloody.

Fate has a cruel sense of humor: with both hands I couldn’t land a hit despite having one of the best chances in the party, but once I lost one it seemed I couldn’t miss.

Session Five.

The party safely returned to Kirkuk, where some reorganization was in order. The fire of adventure seemed to have been exhausted in several of the travelers, and they spoke of heading on to Alakyrum for a more settled existence. [E.g. Tavis, Newton, Greg, and Greg were no longer playing.] Mahmud made a rousing speech, declaring that Fate had brought them together and each of them should serve as Her Instrument. Afterwards, Audarius agreed to serve as Mahmud’s chaplain and spiritual advisor, and Avda offered to guide Ethlyn in the ways of Annara. Kamishar surprised everyone by swearing to serve Rakh – the mindful Somirean apparently not sharing the prejudices of less-conscious men.

Stopping by the Mosque of Abundant Dreams to purchase holy materials, the adventurers encountered a merchant named Tavish ibn-Bahadur, who was supervising the treatment of several poisoned comrades. Tavish wove a great tale of woe, declaring that he had lost valuable goods to an attack by enormous scorpions on the caravan trail west of the village. His men were too afraid to go back, but he had heard from the Prayer Leader of the mosque that the travelers were men of repute and boldness who might help. After some haggling, the adventurers agreed to destroy the scorpions in exchange for a 50% share of the goods they recovered.

Setting off from Kirkuk on the now-familiar desert trail, the party soon encountered a large band of nomads led by Urabi al-Hussein. The two groups warily greeted each other and were already passing each other by when Raziel said “Beware masked desert raiders!” At this, Urabi al-Hussein wheeled around and demanded to know more. It turned out that Urabi’s cousin’s son, Mehmet, had been kidnapped by masked men that the adventurers recognized as Zargonites. “If you can find and return Mehmet to me, you would earn my eternal friendship in word and deed. And each of you shall receive his choice of a fine Opelenean stallion from my herd.” Solemn vows were sworn, and a nomad, Bechir, joined the party, so that they would have someone who recognized Mehmet and knew where the trail had gone cold.

The party knew that this new quest was likely to lead them back to the lost city, so they decided they should first recover Tavish ibn-Bahadur’s treasure, which was only a few miles away. The wreckage of Tavish’s caravan was easily spotted.  Horses and camels had been dragged away by the monstrous scorpions, each themselves the size of a horse. The arachnids were laired in a rocky cave a few dozen yards from the east-west trail. As the adventurers approached the scorpion’s lair, the sha’ir Sharik conjured up fanatical mujahedeen from the very sands. [Summon Berserkers!] These death-seeking warriors immediately engaged the scorpions. Sharik then muttered some words of power and the distracted scorpions collapsed into a torpor, easily dispatched. “Most mystical master, you have successfully deprived your comrades of great glory!” exclaimed Barnabas the jinn toad.

The next day, the adventurers were back in Kirkuk and had returned Tavish ibn-Bahadur’s share of the goods and coins to him. Tavish was very grateful and swore to introduce them to his friend Urabi al-Chukri, a traveling alchemist. Sharik took advantage of the stop-over to purchase a surgical saw, a scroll, and a potion from the local herbalist-astrologer-sorcerer-barber, while Raziel befriended Bechir the Leper, a beggar, and asked him to be on the lookout for ruffians.

The party stayed in Kirkuk only long enough to do business, then departed directly, taking advantage of the cool evenings to begin their westward march. During the second night of their travel, Mahmud and Bechir the nomad stayed up late, swapping fables and tales of heroism. Their pastime was interrupted by a horrendous cry coming from their pack camel. A monstrous grey sand-worm had erupted from the sands by the camel and was chewing its legs off! The adventurers succeeded in killing the creature, which Sharik dubbed a “caecilian,” but not in time to save the camel. Using his new surgical saw, Sharik sliced open the creature’s gullet. Mingled amidst the guts and gore were some old Zaharan coins and an pattern-welded jambiya with an upper panel on each side carved with animals in a gold inlaid border, and an ivory hilt chiseled with busts of Opelenean kings and birds of prey. Ethlyn had fought valiantly against the worm, and sought to claim the jambiya, but Bechir stopped her. “Only one with desert blood can wield a jambiya,” he intoned. The nomad then ceremoniously cut his and her palms with his own jambiya, mingling their blood. “Now you may claim the jambiya.”  

The following morning, the adventurers were greeted by a glorious omen: A flight of 7 lammasu, soaring amidst the clouds. “One for each of the 7 Empyrean Gods!” pronounced Audarius. Subsequently, the party reached the campsite where Mehmet had been kidnapped. Amusingly, the only skilled tracker amongst them was Barnabas, but despite considerable croaking and tongue-flicking, the jinn was unable to find a trail. It was an easy guess that Mehmet had been taken to the lost city, so the party headed off eastward towards Cynidicea.

Unfortunately, either Cynidicea was not eastward or the adventurers were not heading east. In either case, the adventurers became quite lost. Barnabas attempted to blame Sharik, but the rest of the party heard only the croaking of a mad toad. They blamed Sharik regardless for telling them that his toad could navigate. Senef made shamanic inquiries with the local jinn and discovered that the lost city was south east of their position.

Around noon the next day the adventurers reached Cynidicea. They promptly began descending, figuring that if the various brotherhoods controlled the upper levels, the Zargonites must control the lower. En route, they were attacked by vengeful Magi of Istanul. These sorcerers quickly enslumbered seven of the party, but their magics did not stop Mahmud and Raziel from wreaking death upon them.

At length, the party reached the fifth tier, a deep level they had not previously explored. In a well-furnished apartment on the fifth tier, they picked up a strangely-preserved white cloak, which they hoped would prove magical. While the others were arguing over who’d get the garment, Kamishar noticed a secret door and revealed a treasure vault with a huge locked chest. Raziel and Kamishar entered the treasure vault and began searching it for traps, neither realizing that the beautiful tapestry that hung over the chest was in fact a horrific shape-shifting abomination. The shape-shifter almost instantly incapacitated the two treasure-hunters, but the rest of the party members were able to slay the abomination. Raziel had merely been knocked out, but Kamishar was bleeding badly where two fingers had been crushed on his left hand. Sharik gleefully offered the services of his surgical saw.

After dealing with the wounded, Senef the shaman entered a mysterious trance. When he emerged from the trance, he declared that he had detected no curses or evil influences on the chest, though it was a source of magic. He also swore he had seen a spirit immanent within the white cloak they’d found earlier. Attempts to communicate with the spirit ultimately failed, however.

For the next two hours, Sharik slowly sawed through the lock on the chest (as they had no thief). The treasure within proved worth the effort, as in addition to substantial coin, they found a suit of seemingly ageless chainmail, a colorless and odorless potion, and a pattern-welded with silver wire inlaid leafy vine engraving on the blade and hilt. Audarius claimed the chainmail, Ethlyn claimed the jambiya, and Sharik identified the potion as one of invisibility.

Moving on from the treasure vault, the party made its way through the fifth tier. Senef guided the party past two ancient pythons that might otherwise have attacked them, and the party reached a gallery with beautiful iron statuary and tapestries on the walls. The party was suspicious that the statues were animated and would attack, and these suspicions were confirmed by a backhand blow that sliced out Rakh’s eyes. As the Thrassian went down in screaming agony, the rest of the party rallied to the fight. Non-magical weaponry got affixed to the statues with each blow, so only a few of the adventurers could reliably harm the constructs, but eventually they triumphed.

Senet and Mahmut were able to save Rakh’s life, but he was blinded and very weak. It was clear the party would have to fall back.

Five sessions in seven days. The envy, it burns.

No, no, no. We play once per week. I just hadn't written up my notes. Our next session is this Monday. :)

My personal delight has been that the bloodiness has been so ironic. The bard having her mouth crunched, the two sword fighter losing his hand, and the snake handler losing his snake... I couldn't make that up.

Seven sessions in seven weeks. The envy, it burns.


Session Six

With Rakh blinded and near death, the party decided to fall back to the surface. They had stationed a pair of mercenaries in a shady ruin not far from the pyramid, and it was to these two soldiers-of-fortune that they entrusted the life of their Thrassian friend, as well as the corpse of their nomad friend Bechir.

The party considered resting, but they were concerned that the nomad youth Mehmet might be harmed before they could rescue. They decided to gamble on pushing onward without Rakh. Descending back to the 5th tier, they advanced into a room guarded by a pair of monstrous winged statues. These gargoyles were invulnerable to non-magical weapons and would certainly have doomed at least one of the adventurers, had Sharik not unleashed the scepter of Zenobia, paralyzing the fell creatures.

The door from the gargoyles’ chamber led to a four-way intersection. As the party reached the junction, a trapdoor gave way beneath their feet! Mahmud, Raziel, Cleopas, and Senef all plummeted downward onto the spiked floor below. Cleopas had the misfortune to plunge downward in a cruciform posture in such a manner that the great iron spikes pierced his body where his upper arm bones fit into his shoulder blades, instantly shearing his arms off. His death from blood loss still took an agonizing ten seconds, during which Senef’s healing prowess offered no succor. They were barely even able to escape with Cleopas’s body, as giant lizards hungrily descended the pit in search of carrion.

Devastated, the badly hurt adventurers now had to retreat. Mehmet, wherever he was, would have to survive another day un-rescued. Back in the glittering light of day, the party came upon their mercenaries toying with the blinded Rakh. Had they not returned so swiftly, it was likely the hirelings would have hurt the “lizard thing”. To assure Rakh’s safety, Senef promised the mercenaries a bonus equal to 6 month’s wages should the Thrassian return home safely. The rest was otherwise uneventful, and the party returned to the lost city the next afternoon (10th Nethelen, Imperial Year 381, representing the 55th day of the campaign).

Now making sure to avoid the pit trap, the party advanced forward through the four-way intersection and entered a vast but ruined temple to the gods of Cynidicea. Beneath the shattered statues of the old gods were two red-haired Cynidiceans in fox masks, a man and a woman of magnetic demeanor. The pair welcomed the adventurers to the temple, and asked them to donate that the old gods might be restored. Senef was quickly bewitched by the enchanting female, Luin, and made a large donation to the “temple”. Avda and Ethlyn found themselves swooning for the male, Philistro. At Philistro’s request, Ethlyn donated most of her treasure and her marvelous dagger to “the gods”. Strangely, Philistro began swooning for the priestess, Avda, whose service to the Goddess of Love gave her a seductive allure and an enchanting aura. [Avda succeeded in a Mystic Aura reaction roll that charmed Philistro; meanwhile, Philistro had charmed Avda]. Mahmoud and Raziel interrupted the blossoming romance and demanded to know where they might find the priests of Zargon. Luin obliged and gave them detailed directions leading south-east. As the party prepared to leave, Philistro pulled Avda aside and warned her that his sister did not mean well, and to be careful. Avda warned Philistro to be careful as well, as not all of her comrades were enamored of him. Their mutual admiration was broken up by the rest of the adventurers departing.

Following Luin’s directions led the party through a series of rooms wherein Cynidiceans were dreaming together in strange and disturbing gatherings. One group seemed enthralled by a horrific nightmare; another danced to chamber music only they could hear. The third group was by far the most interesting, for they were engaged in extravagant games of chance. The adventurers began to participate in the games, and learned that the Cynidiceans expected priests of Zargon to come to collect a tax on the games.

Raziel, for the first time demonstrating that he was not merely a fighter, disguised himself as a Zargonite priest and began to ask where he might find the tax collector. This heresy infuriated the actual Zargonite priest, Darius, who had been watching the party through a secret door. Darius immediately attacked, accompanied by his retinue of eight hobgoblins.

The fighting was quickly and bloody. Kamishar was cut down, losing his left eye to a hobgoblin’s scimitar, but the other hobgoblins were dispatched without incident. Darius was seized by an invisible choking hand, courtesy of Sharik, and then disemboweled by Raziel. Throughout the fight, the Cynidiceans just watched, dreamily.

The secret door to Darius’s chamber was still open, so as the fighting ended the party advanced into it. There they found a naked, bound, and beaten desert youth – Mehmet. “Don’t tell my tribe! Don’t tell my tribe what’s been done to me,” he pleaded. The party agreed to let the youth save face and manufactured a story that he helped fight his way free.

Meanwhile, Raziel manufactured a story of his own, dressing up as Darius of Zargon and collecting over 7,000gp of “taxes” from the dazed Cynidiceans. The party decided to flee before they recovered enough from their hallucinations to realize they were paying taxes to a priest they’d just seen killed.

Unfortunately, the party’s escape route took them back through the ruined temple, where Luin and Philistro awaited them. The two “priests” asked for more donations to the temple, and Ethlyn, Avda, and Senef agreed to give them their share of the treasure. Mahmud, the paladin, detected evil at work. He, Sharik, and Raziel decided the time for cooperation with the wicked pair was over. When Luin asked “Why won’t you let your friends do what they will with their gold?”, Raziel drew steel. It might have developed into a snarling melee had Sharik not discharged the scepter of Zenobia. He had hoped to capture all of the charmed and charming characters, and avoid a fight. He was partly successful: Ethlyn, Avda, Raziel, and Philistro were paralyzed, but Senef and Luin escaped the wand’s effects.

The madness of friend fighting friend followed. Senef had seen his “beloved” Luin attacked without provocation, so he turned his shamanic power on Mahmoud, commanding he “DIE!” Mahmoud immediately passed out. Luin put her blade to Avda’s neck and demanded Sharik drop the scepter. Sharik responded by discharging the scepter again! Horrifically, Luin avoided the ray a second time, and incapacitated Avda with a vicious stab.

Luin then seized Ethlyn round the throat, and again demanded Sharik’s surrender. Again he responded by discharging his paralyzing wand, and again Luin avoided its dire effects. The paralyzed Ethlyn crumpled as Luin stabbed her. By this point Mahmud had roused himself and he charged Luin. As the woman desperately defended herself, she began to choke and wheeze – Sharik’s choking grip squeezed her life from her. Meanwhile Mahmud cut down Philistro. As the siblings dropped, they changed shape, revealing themselves to have been magical foxes in human form.

When Senef examined his incapacitated friends, he got good news. Ethlyn’s gorget had saved her life, and she was merely dazed. Avda had taken a critical stab wound, but not a fatal wound; her worst injury was damaged knee caps, broken where she had fallen on the granite floor.

The party quickly gathered up the treasures of the werefoxes, which were ample. Most marvelous of all was a gold-hilted scimitar with a moonstone set in the hilt, its blade engraved with the words “by the light of the moon.” Uttering this phrase caused the scimitar to emit a pale light.

Encumbered by the treasure and their wounded companions the party headed for the surface. En route they had a brief but friendly encounter with strange Cynidiceans who acted like insects, but when they safely reached their camp in the sunny lands above, they felt like they had achieved a great success. All that remained was to the trek home, where they could return Mehmet to his clan.

Imran seemed to be smiling upon them as they traveled home, for within a day’s walk they met a trio of traveling pilgrims, clerics of Imran. These men – Eliakim, Idan, and Ophir – offered to join them on the trip to Kirkuk. Alas, Fate had offered good fortune with one hand only to offer worse fortune with the other. On the second day of their trip, the party was set upon by a warband of gnolls, numbering three dozen. The creatures were armed with bows, and the party was encumbered with treasure and slowed down with wounded comrades. Battle was the only choice.

Sharik sent in waves of mujahedeen. These were slain. He emptied the scepter of Zenobia at the onslaught, but still they came. The heroic clerics that had joined the band charged forward, and were slain. Audarius, Ethlyn, Mahmud, Raziel, and Senef fought like caged lions. But slowly, slowly, the ceaseless tide of foes ground them down. After personally slaying a dozen gnolls, Raziel was hit from behind; his neck snapped and he fell to the ground limp. Mahmud cut a bloody swathe through champions to get to the chieftain, only to have a scimitar blow sheer off his manhood. He fell screaming in agony. Ethlyn revenged her friend, cutting the carotid and jugular of the chieftain at once with her magical daggers. Her victory was ephemeral; a moment later she was knocked to the ground and trampled, her beautiful legs shattered beneath the last gnoll champion’s clawed feet. In the dim swirl of the dust, Audarius felled this final foe. The battle was over.

But at what cost? Audarius, Senef, and Sharik began to tally the casualties:

·         Avda: Maimed knees. Incapacitated.

·         Bechir: Dead.

·         Cleopas: Dead.

·         Eliakim: 2 teeth knocked out. Incapacitated.

·         Ethlyn: Lamed legs. Incapacitated.

·         Idan: Dead.

·         Kamishar: Blind in left eye. Deaf in left ear. Lost 2 fingers in left hand. Incapacitated.

·         Mahmud: Manhood lost. Incapacitated.

·         Ophir: Leg lamed. Incapacitated.

·         Rakh: Blinded. Incapacitated.

·         Raziel: Paralyzed from neck down. Incapacitated.


 “Oh great and wise master,” mentioned Barnabas the jinn-frog. “I hesitate to bring this up at such a tragic moment, but it seems we strayed slightly from the trail and I am not entirely sure as to which way Kirkuk is.”


Damn that is a meat grinder! I’m really enjoying reading these reports. Some of my players have read them and said, yeah…uh, no. Interestingly, its merely luck so far that has kept things from being as bad.

Can I ask a few questions about the party make up? Is anyone level 2+ yet? Does anyone wear platemail or are they sticking to cultural conventions?
How did you run that swirling melee with the gnolls?


Levels: Level advancement has been rapid. The fastest-advancing characters reached level 2 on session 3, level 3 on session 5, and level 4 on session 7. In general my group is very aggressive. They will descended to deep dungeon tiers in search of treasure. High risk, high reward. 

As of Session 6:
Ethlyn, Mahmud, and Senef are 3rd level.
Audarius, Raziel and Sharik are 2nd level. 
Avda, Bechir, Kamishar, and Rakh are 1st level.
Cleopas is 0th level.

As of Session 7 (which we played last night):
Ethlyn, Mahmud, and Senef are 4th level.
Audarius, Raziel and Sharik are 3rd level. 
Avda and Rakh are 2nd level.
Bechir and Kamishar have left the party.
Cleopas is permanetly dead. 

Armor: Opeleneans do wear plate armor. I've described it as Turkish-style mirror armor.

Gnoll Battle: I ran it using standard ACKS rules. Each of the six gangs of gnolls (3-6 gnolls + champion) got its own initiative die roll. The gnoll chieftain also got his own initiative roll. The battle started at a range of 170 yards. The party charged and took one round of missile fire before closing into melee. The players took out one gang with hold person and one gang with a wand of paralysis. That left four gangs (24 total gnolls) and the chieftain versus the melee combatants, consisting of Audarius; the 4 summoned Berserkers; Eliakim; Ethlyn; Idan; Mahmoud; Ophir; Raziel; and Senef. The shifting tide of individual initiative led to clumps of 2-3 PCs each fighting one gang of 4-6 gnolls. As gnoll gangs got cut down, the victorious PCs would rush to join other clumps, or conversely, if a clump of PCs got incapacitated by a gang, the gang would swarm other clumps. The fight took about one hour.







Session Seven

Lost in the desert, with only three adventurers in fighting condition, the party was in grave danger. Their survival depended on getting back to Kirkuk without incident. They spent a day constructing litters for the wounded and dead, and prepared to make what they estimated to be a two-day march back to Kirkuk.

Unfortunately, Barnabas’s navigational skills seemed to collapse under the strain. Though Kirkuk lay to the south-east, he led the party north-east for the entirety of the 13th Nethelen. On the 14th, he realized his error, but over corrected and steered the group south-west. When the party sighted a gathering of vultures over a heap of gnoll corpses, they realized they had wasted forty-eight hours traveling to and from their own camp site. The party was furious with Barnabas’ failures, and only through deft diplomacy was Sharik able to save his familiar from becoming a toasty toad.

On the 15th, the party set off again, this time correctly heading south-east. Their trek led them through the hunting ground of a gigantic tuatara lizard, but the beast was speedily dispatched with the scepter of Zenobia. As night fell, Barnabas (wrongly) began to worry that they might be heading in the wrong direction, and Senef resolved to consult the local jinn to ask for directions. After minutes twirling in an exhausting shamanic ritual, he was able to summon the resident spirits of the sands, who confirmed that Kirkuk lay to the southeast.

The 16th found the party traveling across a stretch of sand dunes on their way home. As the dusty foothills that nestled Kirkuk came into sight, however, the dark shadow of some draconic monster fell over them. The party was in no shape to fight a bat, let alone a wyvern or dragon, and their only hope was to evade the creature. Sadly, their slow-moving and encumbered party had almost no chance of escape in the dunes. But almost no chance is not the same as no chance, and the Hand of Fate saw fit to grant them a reprieve in the form of a rocky hideaway out of sight of the beast. [Sharik rolled an incredible natural 20 on a Wilderness Evasion throw, saving the group from a party wipe!]

And so it was by this miracle of Fate that the adventurers were able to return to Kirkuk on the 17th. Urabi al-Hussein was overjoyed to have his cousin’s son Mehmet returned to him, and tales of the adventurers’ exploits and rich treasure soon filled the camps of the nomads. At the local mosque, the adventurers turned to the grim task of spending their treasure on restoring their maimed and slain comrades.

Here, the Fates did not smile upon them. Cleopas’ soul was lost to darkness. Bechir, the nomad, was barely restored, and his ruined flesh had only a bare pallor of life. He would live out what passed for the rest of his life as an outcast. Mahmud, too, carried the pallor of the grave with him, and Rakh spoke of an evil jinn that seemed to now inhabit his claws. Kamishar, the monk, awoke to terrible, bottomless hungers. Overcome with woe, he left the party, declaring “the gods have cursed me. I must spend my remaining years in ascetic contemplation to atone for the misdeeds of this life and those that preceded it.” Raziel was restored vigorously, though he seemed especially hirsute.

Ethlyn, alone, seemed unscarred from tampering with mortality. Since the rest of the party was exhausted and bed-ridden, she decided to meet with Urabi al-Hussein to secure the fine stallions that the party had been promised. Urabi had picked out a beautiful white steed for her, but every time she approached the animal, it reared up in a panic and fled. Belatedly she realized that she, too, carried a curse from tampering with mortality. Crestfallen, she settled on a camel and selected some fine horses for the rest of the party. In a gesture of generosity, Urabi also gave her a map of Southern Opelenea, showing the locations of many oases. The map ominously warned against visiting “the Howling Emptiness” to the south-west and “the Desolate Desert” to the south-east.

Though excited about the prospect of new areas to explore, the party nevertheless had to spend the next four weeks in Kirkuk, recovering from their wounds. As Raziel recovered, he sought out Bechir the Leper, who had promised to find a ruffian for him. Bechir sent him to meet a certain Zoya, a Celdorean “locksmith.” Quickly assessing how Zoya was motivated, Raziel recruited her by promising to double the size of her gold earrings.

Meanwhile, Ethlyn decided to hire a navigator familiar with the local terrain. The local caravan master recommended to her one Yaghoub, a caravaneer with a good reputation. Though pricey, Yaghoub was confident that he could help the party avoid becoming lost on their next wilderness trek.

Sharik, who was uninjured, was able to devote the month towards alchemical pursuits, working for the local barber cum sorcerer, astrologer, and storyteller. The barber was a font of rumors and fables. Among his many tall tales, he reported that:

·         A sealed tomb complex lay below the town’s Zaharan ruins

·         The Zaharan tower on the outskirts of Kirkuk is possessed of strange and powerful magics… It is always warm and stands in defiance of gravity

·         The Well of the Prophet in the center of town was a repository for efreeti bottles tossed there by the prophet Al-Sindor (Azendor) himself

·         The Well of the Prophet in the center of town was an ancient burial ground of Thrassian kings and priests

·         The bones in the burial caves of the Thrassians on the edge of town show signs of fighting…after death

·         A giant roc in the hills is the sacred guardian of a powerful artifact known as the Carnelian Idol

·         All babies born in the 5th month after the summer solstice always die

The party didn’t know whether these were the ravings of a mad old man, or credible information. Senef called upon the jinn of Kirkuk to give him answers, but what he learned did not bode well. Yes, there was a tomb complex below the town; but it was inhabited by powerful things. Yes, there was an efreeti bottle in the Well of the Prophet; but it, too, had powerful guardians. Yes, the Carnelian Idol was in the nearby mountains, but it was guarded by a roc, which was likely beyond their power to defeat.

On the 22nd of Innelen, the adventurers were finally fit for combat again. They had resolved to start by exploring  the alleged tomb complex below Kirkuk, and headed over to the ruined remnants of the Zaharan fortress that ringed the town. There, they found the living quarters of the local beggars, who found the ill-reputed ruins a comfortable haven from the hot sun. Strange, blind Mussa was heard babbling cryptic phrases – “she slumbers in the crystal prism…” Elemental fire…” but the party could make nothing of this madness. Buzurg, a middle-aged beggar with consumption, warned the party away. Strangely, Senef didn’t find any sign of consumption when he tried to treat the beggar, and Mahmud detected palpable evil from Buzurg. Buzurg left hastily before he could be questioned. The party’s friend, Bechir the Leper, led them through the surface ruins to a hieroglyph-carved bronze door within the last standing tower.

Try as they might, the party was unable to budge the door. Zoya the locksmith pronounced it magically sealed, and the dweomer was outside the powers of Sharik to dispel. The party would have to look elsewhere for adventure…