Tomb of Annihilation (TFTPB) – Chapter Two

It’s me, it’s me, it’s that K E N T.  I gotta say, my favorite line of this week’s blog is: “Subsequently, Ilana and the others met up with Alexa, Dimebag, and a pile of dead elves.”  How does that not tantalize you?  Speaking of tantalizing, I was watching a model dance to this song earlier in the night and now the damn song is stuck in my head.  Skip to 2:28 to get to the actual song.  You’re welcome.  Send all hate mail to somebody who cares.


Tomb of Annihilation

Chapter 2 – Ziggurats and Zombies

As the party took their places on the winner’s podium, the national anthem of Chult was played (because nobody cared where the group was actually from), the medals were placed around their necks, and the losers were awarded their participation trophies.  Merchant Princess Aquenieffa, who it turned out sponsored this tournament, invited the group back to her place for refreshments and the awarding of the Oracle Eye.

Upon arriving at the swanky digs, they were immediately treated as barely tolerated guests and potential future customers.  Once the Eye was in hand, Compassion inquired as to where she had acquired the item and why she was giving it away as a reward.  Aquenieffa told the party that it was a gift from a suiter and had little sentimental value to her.  Seeing a dinosaur set on fire during the gladiator match was worth the price.  When pressed for the suiter’s name, she told them to mind their gods-damn business.

After failing to get any useful information on the suiter, Compassion immediately began negotiating a deal to get cheaper armor and weapon prices from the merchant princess.  A tough round of negotiating was conducted, with Compassion successfully earning a discount of prices from, “you won’t be able to afford a damn thing before the end of the campaign” to “by the time you can afford this, you will have found a more powerful version after fighting the boss of the last dungeon.”

With negotiations concluded, the adventurers began asking if she knew anything about the death curse or the soul monger.  She knew nothing, other than the fact it would be awesome if somebody were to break the death curse.  When pressed, she told the group about Wukanga O-tamu, the merchant prince of magical artifacts.

Impatient, and having struck the last blow on Bro Dudehammer, Tempest insisted that they head back to the inn so that he could talk with Drunken Master Sagi about getting the Eye to the Harpers.  As they walked to the inn, Xilix informed the party that he had to go collect some “medicinal spell components” and that he would meet up with the group later.  When asked how he would be able to find the group, Xilix said he would simply appear when it was “narratively appropriate.”  Hertz translated this to the party as, “more addict wizard gibberish!”

Upon arriving at the inn, the party found that Sagi was as drunk as ever.  When Tempest approached with the Oracle Eye, Sagi seemed to kind of, somewhat, maybe recognize it.  Rather than simply had the Eye over, Tempest began to ask Sagi about what he said earlier, that the Eye was merely a part of the larger whole.  If that were indeed the case, Tempest wished to know where the other pieces could be located.  After a long, drunken tangent about “kids these days” and how he once taught a dragon to love, the group was eventually able to piece together that each of the major factions either had, or was looking for, a piece of the amulet.  

Sagi specifically noted that the Emerald Enclave was actively searching for a piece of the amulet.  Upon learning this, the party immediately looked at the door as it would have been the narratively appropriate time for Xilix, a member of the Emerald Enclave, to show up.  After staring at the door for a sold ten minutes, the group gave up, and decided to meet with Compassion’s contact in the Order of the Gauntlet.

Compassion brought Hertz, Ethyl and Tempest to see his OG contact, Alister Bole.  Traveling to the nice part of town, the party soon realized that Bole lived in a McMansion in a gated community meant to keep out demihumans, poor people, and other undesirables; prostitutes were good though.  Within minutes of meeting Bole, everyone, with the possible exception of Ethyl, was ready to punch him in the face repeatedly as he continually said things that made him sound like a d-bag.

Preferring receiving money to not receiving money, the party resisted the urge to get punchy and listened to what Bole had to say.  Unfortunately, Bole didn’t seem to have any info on the pieces of the amulet or how to stop the death curse.  What he did know was the fact that poor people were going missing in the poor district, aka Old Town.  One such poor person was his servant Daro.  As a healthy number of poor citizens are necessary to make the nobility look even nobler, Bole hired the group to find out what was happing to the missing lower-class peasants.  

As the poor people regularly went missing at midnight, the party waited until the sun was setting to head into Old Town.  Due to the danger that Old Town presents at night, the streets were nearly deserted, however, the group came across a young lady who was “totally not” a prostitute.  She made sure to let the party know that she was an intern with the Port Ninzaro Department of Social Services, and that she was currently earning money to finish her graduate degree in social work.  

When asked about the missing peasants, she told the group that the brother of one of her “clients” (social work client, totally nothing to do with prostitution, honest) had gone missing.  Supposedly, just before going missing, the victims would yell and scream that they could hear, “THE CALL OF THE DEAD!!!1!!11!”.  She advised the adventurers to head to the nearby tavern, The Shiv, if they wanted to know more.

Upon finding and entering The Shiv, the group’s suspension of disbelief was shattered as who should be sitting at a nearby table, but famous Forgotten Realms Dude Volo, who “in-game” recently published his guide to monsters which the party could buy for 50 gold.  By some stroke of coincidence, in the real-world Wizards of the Coast (a subsidiary of Hasbro) recently published its second monsters manual entitled “Volo’s Guide to Monsters.”  It the group was willing to pay 50 gold in game to buy the book, and then was also willing to pay $50 to buy the real world book, they would be allowed to use the information in the real book to get information on their future monster battles!  Despite the obvious, if not insulting, market ploy by Wizards/Hasbro, as the DM and the person playing Hertz already had copies of Volo’s Guide, Tempest immediately ponied up the cash to buy the in-game copy.  YOU WIN THIS TIME CAPITALISM!

After purchasing the in-game downloadable content (DLC), Compassion went over and chatted up the bartender.  Luckily for Compassion, the bartender liked his “I’m a half-demon, my heart is all dark and sad” look.  Upon Compassion purchasing a tankard of honey ale, the bartender was more than happy to share some actual useful information without putting the characters through a bunch of extraneous bullshit, which instantly made “Bartender #1” the group’s favorite NPC to date.  

As to the call of the dead, Bartender #1 informed the group that the previous night Daro, after having his death call fit, ran off in the direction of the area affectionally known as the “executioner’s run.”  The run was so named because criminals would be put in the dug-up channel and forced to run to the end while being pursed by hungry animals.  If the criminal could reach the end before being eaten, he would earn the right to be exiled to the jungle (where he would eventually be eaten by different animals).

Further, Bartender #1 told the story of Queen Zalquore, the most beautiful woman in Chult.  Stories tell of how hundreds of men would kill for her and would bring her all manner of shinny treasurers.  Rumer has it that many of these treasures remain in a vault in her abandoned castle deep within the jungles of Chult.  With no reason to believe otherwise, the party instantly assumed that another piece of the amulet must be contained within the vault!

With Bartender #1 dry of any additional information to share with the group, a loud crash sudden rang out from the back of the bar.  Xilix, obviously in a medicinal herb-induced fog, came rushing from the back yelling, “Narratively Appropriate Time Bitches!!!”

After Xilix’s triumphant return, the group headed out to continue its investigation, putting the jungle castle on their to-do list for another day.  Upon arriving at the executioner’s run, they saw that on the other side of the trench were two rundown and completely creepy huts, a small one and a big one.  Using “monk sense,” Tempest was able to discern that there were approximately four individuals in the small hut.  The group assumed formation, with heavily armored Compassion and Hertz in the front, Tempest immediately behind them, and the arcane magic users in the back.  Before Compassion could even knock on the door, four incredibly fast and tough zombies came rushing out at the party.

Prior to attacking the group, the zombies sized up their meal.  Realizing they could either try to rip into the walking tin cans (Hertz and Compassion) or immediately start chowing down on a half-naked chick (Tempest), all four immediately charged for the easily accessible morsel.

Unfortunately for the zombies, Tempest didn’t wear armor because she didn’t need it.  As the zombies jumped in and tried to bite her, Tempest was quick to dodge their pitiful attacks.  In very little time Tempest used her spear to stab the first zombie in the head while Compassion began chopping a second zombie up with his sword.  Hertz then used his holy light to burn those weakened zombies into cinders.

Realizing that Compassion, Tempest and Hertz were not going to provide them with an easy meal, the zombies turned their attention to the other two fleshies in the back after one of them was struck by Ethyl’s firebolt.  The two remaining zombies charged Ethyl and began chowing down on her delicious fatness.  

With Ethyl bleeding out on the ground, the zombies and Hertz began playing their own mini-game of “resurrection pinball.”  In round one, Hertz would use clerical magic to stop Ethyl from dying.  In round two, the zombies would continue to eat Ethyl.  This went on for several minutes as Compassion, Tempest, and Xilix huddled up to devise the most stylish way to end this farce of a battle.  Calling upon the power of the elements, Tempest summoned the winds to carry Xilix high into the air.  Upon Xilix reaching maximum height, Compassion ran in and clotheslined the two zombies off of their feet and onto the ground, while at the same time shouting at Hertz to grab Ethyl’s body and run.  Hertz grabbed Ethyl’s unconscious body while he and Compassion ran for their lives.  With his comrades out of range and the two zombies laid out on the ground, Xilix used his drug-induced power to call down a napalm death fire strike upon the two remaining zombies.  By the time Xilix was done, nothing was left where the zombies had laid other than a smoldering crater.  

The danger seemingly over, the group searched the zombie bodies and the small hut.  While nothing of particular note was found, it quickly became obvious that they were the bodies of the missing poor folk.  Despite Ethyl having taken a few licks (and bites), the group was still in pretty good condition and thought it was worth the risk to check out the nearby large hut.  Ethyl and Xilix stayed far behind, while Compassion, Hertz, and Tempest assumed their usual formation.  While battle ready, they unfortunately were not trap ready.  As Compassion turned the door knob, a poison needle jutted out and poked his finger.  The paralytic poison coursed through the tiefling, leaving him disabled on the ground.

Despite losing their tank, Hertz and Tempest pressed forward into the house.  Luckily, the house was deserted and had no other armed traps.  As such, the remaining conscious members of the group began searching for clues.  Soon into the search Xilix found a hidden compartment in a desk containing a leather-bound journal entitled “Viplo’s Evil Journal of Evil Machinations.”  Reading the journal, Xilix learned that a necromancer by the name of Viplo was using a hidden area underneath the nearby Ziggurat to create zombies.  Too beat up to confront Viplo at this time, the group headed back to the inn to rest and recover.

Early the next morning the party geared up and headed out.  Thanks to Viplo’s journal, the group was easily able to find the entrance to the secret underbelly of the Ziggurat.  Unfortunately, the journal did not warn them of the traps or inform how to open the secret doors to the rooms beyond.  Luckily, despite his amnesia and horrible, horrible drug addiction, Xilix is incredibly smart, and was easily able to solve the puzzles . . . until the last room.  Overconfident, and possibly suffering from withdrawal symptoms, Xilix completely botched the last puzzle, causing everyone but Ethyl, who was still three rooms behind due to her fat out-of-shape-ness, to get chopped to hell by whirling saw blades.

As the trap didn’t kill any of them, the party members bandaged themselves and walked into the next room, which turned out to be a giant alter/worship room.  Before they could take stock of their surroundings, a shout of “interlopers” rang out, and Tempest was immediately hit in the face with a firebolt spell (presumably cast by Viplo).  In response, Ethyl cast a spell causing a giant fog cloud to engulf the room, blocking line of sight, and allowing the group to retreat to the previous room.

Using “monk vision”, Tempest was able to determine that through the fog there were four zombies, Viplo, and three prisoners chained to the wall.  After forming a strategy, the group executed plan “take pot shots from the alcove until everything dies.”

After a few rounds of his zombies getting beating up by hard to see intruders, Viplo yelled, “my zombie minions, feel free to eat the prisoners as I’m sure you are hungry, if any of them are heroic enough to try and stop you, KILL THEM!”  Compassion then barked, “you heard them men, lets save those innocents,” and charged head-first into the fog.  Hertz then yelled, “uh yea, um Talos, please watch over those chained up innocents while I continue to say behind and just cast support spells,” while Xilix and Ethyl just continued to take potshots from the alcove.  It didn’t take long for Compassion to realize that not only was he alone in the zombie-fog pit, but he was also in danger of friendly fire from his teammates’ spells.  Compassion began to question his choice of teammates.

Compassion fought valiantly, but was unable to stop the zombies from devouring all three innocents, including Daro, ruining any chance of a performance bonus from their employer.  Mocking their failure, Viplo began laughing at the group’s pitiful performance, and how it would take more than some silly cloud of fog to stop him and his zombies.  Viplo, however, did not realize that Tempest had enacted plan “walk through the fog and kick the distracted necromancer in the head until it explodes.”  By the 5th kick, Compassion had about 30% of Viplo’s brain and skull pieces on him.  With the master dead, the group easily dispatched of the remaining zombies.  

Celebrating a job adequately done, the group began searching the room for anything useful.  As Ethyl approached the alter an uneasy feeling came over her.  She touched the alter and a vision appeared . . .

What will the vision show, will the group ever learn if the amulet has anything to do with stopping the death curse, and will the party ever again meet an NPC as helpful and straightforward as Bartender #1?  Find out these answers and more on the next exciting episode of Tales from the Plunderbund Consortium: Tomb of Annihilation!

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