Welcome back friends, this is Kent. What a big surprise last week, right? That kinda came out of nowhere. New beginnings are good and I’m very excited. So far I have seen a Dudehammer and Poxmark Poe which makes me want to watch Con Air, so I think we are on the right track. As I’m not involved, I am strictly an outside observer, I will say that I straight up don’t trust Xilix. Never trust a name that has two non-consecutive X’s in it. These are rules to live by. In honor of Poe, I bring you one of my favorite under the radar songs of the 90’s….by Poe.
Tomb of Annihilation
Chapter 1 – Death Curses and Dinosaurs
As is tradition, four low level adventurers with no prior association, Hertz Cunningham, cleric of Talos, Young Tempest, pirate monk, Xilix Andethia, amnesiac wizard, and Ethelwynn Devir of Mantol-Derith, sorceress of pie, all arrived at the mansion’s gates at the exact same time. The four had been directed by their various patrons to meet with former adventurer Syndra Sylvane at her palatial estate. After engaging in forced and awkward pleasantries and introductions, the four entered the compound.
Knocking on the door to Syndra’s mansion, they noticed that the estate, while nice, was very quiet. The door was soon opened by Syndra’s man-servant Claud, who ushered the group into the dinning room. Sitting at the head of the table was someone who appeared to be dressed in Harry Potter Death Eater Cosplay, basically just a robe and metal mask. It was most unnerving.
The creepy figure, who introduced herself (himself? itself?) as Syndra, invited the group to sit and eat lunch while they discussed business. Claud was apparently a very good cook and the group happily ate their free meal, with Ethel eating triple portions of everything.
Syndra explained that she was dressed in such a creepy manner because she was recently afflicted with the “Death Curse,” a malady that appears to have been spreading across the globe. In explaining how the curse worked, Syndra noted that during her days as an adventurer she had been slain and clerical magic was used to resurrect her good as new. Unfortunately, the death curse, which appears to have first manifested within the past few weeks, specifically targets individuals who previously died and were resurrected through magical means.
The bodies of those who were previously revived through magical means, and were now subject to the death curse, were now beginning to necrotize and fall apart until the individual was no more. Basically, Syndra had super‑leprosy. Upon hearing this Hertz, Tempest, and Xilix lost their appetites, while Ethel cleaned their plates for them.
Syndra explained that she did not have much time left, and she gathered the adventurers together in the hopes that they could discover the source of, and destroy, the death curse. Why she entrusted a group of low-level adventurers who had never worked together with this task was not explained. She conveyed her belief that the cause of the curse was a magical artifact known as the “Soulmonger,” and that said artifact was likely hidden somewhere in the land of Chult. Obviously hesitant to undertake such a dangerous mission, the group quickly changed their positions on the matter when Syndra offered them each a magical item from her vast treasure hoard should they succeed in breaking the curse and saving her life.
With the greedy adventurers prepared to risk their lives for profit, Syndra and Claud prepared a teleportation spell which sent the six of them to Port Ninzaro, one of the few bastions of civilization in Chult. After the teleportation dizziness wore off, and Ethel finished puking up lunch, the group found themselves in a vibrant port city that was totally not just fantasy Brazil (spoiler: it’s totally just fantasy Brazil, please put that mental image in your head so I don’t need to spend time describing the the city’s details).
Before the group could even begin to consider how to proceed, Xilix saw some awesome flowers that he had not previously studied (or that were studied prior to his being an amnesiac). As Syndra was explaining to the group that she would be staying at a nearby tavern and that she looked forward to receiving regular reports of their progress, Xilix paid her no mind and went over to the flower bush, cutting one off for study. It was at this point that Xilix realized that there was an angry shopkeeper standing over him, holding the club he had named “Shoplifter’s Demise.” Xilix quickly apologized and paid the shopkeeper 1 gold for the flower, about 10 times its actual value.
As the four conversed with the now much more affable shopkeeper, the camera panned over to a tiefling (basically half-human, half-demon) warrior who had been intently watching the motley crew ever since they teleported onto the docks. The voiceover explained that this man’s identification code was “Compassion,” and that he was wandering knight in training. A montage then played of Compassion’s previous training exploits, including saving puppies from being eaten by wolves, saving puppies from a burning building, saving puppies from an evil wizard, and killing puppies that had been possessed by a legion of demons intent on using demon dogs to assault the heavenly stronghold of the god of cats. Basically, Compassion’s trainers had decided that his training had become a bit too puppy focused, and they decided to send him to Chult where it was exceptionally unlikely that his adventures would involve puppies, or even full‑grown dogs.
The voiceover also explained that Compassion was looking for the gold half-dragon quartermaster Zindar. By some stroke of coincidence, both Hertz and Ethel had been told that if they ever found themselves in Port Ninzaro they too should look up Zindar. As such, we he saw that the shopkeeper had directed the crew to Zindar’s location, Compassion shadowed their movements in the port.
Upon seeing the motley group approach Zindar, Compassion came out of the shadows to join their conversation. The group did not find this strange at all and acted as if Compassion had been with them all along. While not in anyway helpful in sharing information about the death curse, Zindar was able to inform the group about individuals looking to hire adventurers for work, specifically, Pockmark Poe and Alister Boll. Zindar informed them that Poe was in a rundown hut in the “old city.”
While on their way to the old city Compassion, now a full-fledged and accredited member of the party, because reasons, asked if they could stop off at an armorer’s stand so he could purchase some splint mail. Unfortunately, the party was quick to learn that all metal armor in Port Ninzaro had a 300 percent markup because GOD FORBID ANYONE NOT PLAY A DEX-BASED CHARACTER. Instead, the only thing they got of use from the armorer was knowledge about the political structure of the city, namely, that Port Ninzaro is basically run by a handful powerful merchant princes (and princesses). His merchant princess boss, Aquenieffa, might be able to offer the group a discount if they spoke with her.
Unable to purchase reasonably priced armor, the group continued to old town and easily found Poe’s hut. Entering the run-down and rather creepy hut, they soon found that Pockmark Poe truly lived up to his name. They also found that he must be rich, as he was attended by a number of scantily clad average to slightly above average looking women (and one man) fanning him and feeding him grapes. The group explained that they were looking for work and Poe immediately sprung up. He began to tell the group that he wanted them to enter a dinosaur racing competition . . . at which point everyone enthusiastically accepted. When asked if they wanted to hear more or if they wanted to know what they would be paid, Hertz replied, “fine, whatever, just hurry up, we have dinosaurs to race.” Poe explained that he had paid their entrance fees and gave them their competition tickets. He then told them that the purse would be gold and a trinket known as the oracle eye. The group was to win the race and bring him the eye, the winnings would be theirs to keep.
With a few hours prior to the race, the group decided to head to the House of Repose where Tempest had been directed by his faction, the Harpers, to meet with a contact. Upon arriving at the tavern Hertz pulled out his lute, got on the empty stage without asking, and began to play his latest hymn to Talos, “The Storm in Our Hearts.” Hertz was convinced he had at least 20 new converts by song’s end.
Meanwhile, Xilix, realizing he knew nothing about riding, much less racing, dinosaurs, decided to “make friends” with a group of patrons dressed in green who appeared that they might know a thing or two about dino-racing. Unfortunately, Xilix lacks certain social traits such as “personality” and “not being an annoying elf,” and quickly put himself in a position where he was about to get his butt kicked. Luckily, Compassion was nearby and quickly ushered Xilix the hell out of the tavern.
As Hertz was entertaining and Xilix was offending, Tempest was meeting with his contact, Sagi, master of the Body Beast Drinking Style of unarmed combat. While Sagi was very entertaining, he was also very unintelligible. By the end of the conversation, Tempest was pretty sure she learned that 1) the oracle eye was a smaller piece of the broken up Amulet of Dreamers; and 2) fellow Harper Urissa wants the eye. For the time, Tempest decided to keep this info to herself considering they had already been hired to deliver the eye to Pockmark Poe, and only an idiot would betray an obviously rich and somewhat-powerful underworld boss.
Nearing race time, the inexperienced and completely unprepared dino-racers headed for check in. Upon being assigned their individual racing velociraptors, the group headed to the starting line where, surprise, surprise, the green dressed men from the House of Repose where their competition. Each racer was then provided with a staff that could be used to beat the other competitors.
As the starting bell was about to ring, Ethel turned to one of the opposing racers and said something so insulting and utterly emasculating that the opponent immediately withdrew from the race in shame (his body was found later that evening after hanging himself from the tree outside his children’s’ bedroom window).
Knowing himself to be an average rider at best, Hertz decided to play a support role. He started his helping by using his quarterstaff to slap Tempest’s dino on the rear end in the hopes that it would go “super extra fast.” To his surprise, it worked, and Tempest’s dino ran out far ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, as Tempest was a former pirate with no real land-based mount riding skills, she was unable to control the beast, which decided to run off in the wrong direction, negating any benefit from the increase in speed. Xilix tried to use his “medicinal herbs” to inspire his mount to go faster , however, the herbs only served to nauseate the beast and cause vertigo, resulting in the dinosaur running into the stands and injuring five bystanders.
After a good 30 seconds of trying to regain control of her mount, Tempest was ready to race for the finish line, that was, until, one of the opponents came flying by and knocked her off of the mount with his staff. Upset that a man would dare lay his hand on a fellow female party member, Ethyl attempted to cast a spell to hinder the green rider’s dino. Unfortunately, the spell backfired, resulting Ethyl being teleported off of her dino and onto the opponent’s dinosaur. In the resulting confusion, a massive 5 dino-pileup occurred, taking out the majority of the competition.
It was at this time that Hertz noticed that Compassion had been ignoring any of the fun parts of the race and was instead racing straight for the finish line. Never one to miss an opportunity to exalt in the glory of Talos, Hertz pulled out his lute and began singing about how Compassion was inspired by the divine righteousness of Talos to embrace the power of the storm and to gust through to the finish like the wind. New converts by end of race – at least 16!
As Compassion crossed the finish line he dismounted and waived to the crowd. He then walked forward, ready to except the prize money and the Oracle Eye. Unfortunately, it was at this point that Compassion learned that he had only won round one. In the next round, he, and any friends he so chose, would enter the gladiatorial area and face its champion, Bro Dudehammer, and his pet dinosaurs, Snuggles and Baron Von StudDino, in hand to claw to tooth competition.
Upon finding out that winning the Eye would take more than winning the dino race, Tempest came up with a plan. It was then that he informed the group that he wanted the eye to give to his friend Urissa, who would pay them money for it. Hertz was particularly against this as they already had a contract, and betraying a man named Poxmark Poe would likely result in future assassination attempts and not getting invited to all the best parties in Chult. After five minutes of debate that went nowhere, the group agreed that whoever got the knockout blow on Dudehammer would get to decide what to do with the Oracle Eye.
As the group entered the area and set up a tight-knit formation, they were explicitly told not to kill Bro Dudehammer or his pets; nonlethal damage only please. As the war horn sounded, Ethyl responded to this directive by casting a firebolt spell directly at Baron Von StudDino’s face. The resulting explosion burned off at least half of the dinosaur’s face, with the good Baron falling to the ground, apparently dead.
Enraged at the harm done to his brother, Snuggles ran past the front line and bit deeply into Ethyl’s side, chomping off at least five years’ worth of fat accumulation in one bite. Ethyl fell to the ground and it was obvious she was bleeding to death. Seeing an ally in trouble, Hertz went over and prayed to Talos to stop Ethyl’s bleeding, stabilizing her condition. Xilix, thinking he was next on Snuggles’ dinner place, also shot a firebolt off at the dino, resulting in yet another charred and possibly dying dinosaur.
Meanwhile, aggrieved at the possible loss of one of his best friends, Dudehammer knelt down next to Baron to see if he was alive. By the grace of the gods he was! Baron was going to be ok! Seeing the joy in Dudehammer’s eyes, along with the fact he was distracted tending to his dino, Tempest also broke ranks, ran to Dudehammer, and began kicking him in the head repeatedly like Dudehammer owed Tempest money. Soon after the referee had to call the match in favor of the adventurers.
Compassion simply stood in the middle of the ring shaking his head in disbelief at the group’s utter lack of strategy and cohesion. Meanwhile, boos loud enough to be heard all throughout Chult rained down on the group, expressing their displeasure with the group’s lack of sportsmanship or adherence to the code of the gladiator.
The group strode out of the arena as the boos continued to ring in their ears.
Had they truly won the competition, would they finally get the Oracle Eye, and would Tempest really be fool enough to betray Poxmark Poe? Find out in Chapter Two of the Plunderbund’s new campaign, Tomb of Annihilation!
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