The Jeweled Desert

Session 3: Trial & Error

Sariel wanders through a forest, mist curling around her, tracking someone who is very good at hiding their tracks. She can sometimes see glimpses of red in front of her as she moves, tracking mostly in instinct to keep up. Howls and growls sound around her in the darkness, the moon massive and full in the sky. When her quarry finally stops, she barely has time to react when an arrow flies right past her face and embeds in a tree behind them. The tree drips dark liquid from the wound. The figure who shot the arrow wears a long red cloak and red traveller’s clothes—a young Sariel, from years ago. She smiles, and her teeth grow long and sharp and her eyes flash yellow and beastial. The howls around grow louder.

Ecstasy is in prison again, trapped and claustrophobic. A guard comes for her and leads her down a hall, walls lined with the corpses of her old gang in cut-outs in the walls. She is led outside, finding herself standing on a stage beside an executioner. As she is pushed down to be decapitated, she finds that the crowd around is nothing but more corpses, unable to listen or help her.

Mira stands in the Temple to Bahamut, staring up at the statue. It has grown in size, becoming so large that she cannot even see it’s head. It’s claw is as tall as she is, and wickedly sharp. Thunder and lightning shake the world around her, and she doesn’t have time to react before the ground underneath her opens up and she begins to fall into darkness. A voice echoes past her, “Watch your back, Frosty” as the hand of Bahamut stretches down towards her, claws gleaming.

Sariel wakes up with fabric over her head and hands tied behind her back. She is drowsy, the effects of whatever the drug still wearing off. She can feel other bodies around her, and kicks at one to see if it will wake anyone up. Then she manages to wriggle her hands to her front and pull her hood off, allowing her to see that she’s sitting inside a covered wagon as it rumbles along. Eventually, the wagon stops and the back is opened up, revealing Levi and his two friends, who just look annoyed that she is out of her hood and replace it.

Everyone begins to stir as they are carried from the wagon and set on the hard ground. Levi, his halfling friend with a large maul, and his half-elven friend carrying two scimitars free everyone in silence, then exit the large room they are all in and close the door behind them. The party finds themselves in a large stone room with one pillar in the center, one door, a chest, two sets of armor, and two swords on a weapons rack. There are three other initiates in the room as well: a human woman, a human man, and a short man who looks like he’s made of smoke.

Darius’ voice booms through the room from an unknown source, explaining that their goal is to leave the room through the door. He tells them that their things are all in the chest, and that this is their first trial. Sariel remarks, “Fuck yes, escape the room! Most people pay hundreds of dollars for this.”

Ecstasy doesn’t put her equipment on, but instead goes up to see if she can pick the door’s lock. She finds there is no lock, and Sariel discovers there is an arcane locking mechanisms. Sariel then looks over the armors and swords, touching a sword that begins to float, then swings at her. Ecstasy runs over to put her equipment on in a panic as the sword barely misses Sariel, who does a super sick backflip like in the Matrix to dodge. Ecstasy and Mira are unimpressed.

The two suits of armor animate to become Animated Armor, and the two swords become Flying Swords, moving to attack the group of six. The team struggles to hit and the fight drags on, where Mira complains that this is embarrassing to watch. Eventually, they manage to destroy the armor and swords, the party not taking any damage in the process. The other initiates rest for a little bit to recover as the party searches the animated objects, to no avail.

Outside, they find themselves at the bottom of a huge canyon, the building they just exited behind them. Sariel spots a tripwire and shouts “It’s a trap!”. At the end of the canyon, they can see a sort of opening. They move forward and all cautiously step over the tripwire, and one steps on a button. Mira hears rumbling right underneath her, and she runs towards the rest of the group. The earth erupts beneath them and a huge, roaring Sandwyrm.

As they run, helping each other along, they hit plenty of tripwires as they go, causing the canyon to explode behind them with the Sandwyrm. They manage to all work together to get to the threshold of the larger clearing, the walls collapsing behind them and the Sandwyrm smashing into it, roaring, then slowly rumbling away.

Sariel kisses the ground in relief. Three humanoid figures pull themselves out of the wall, made of stone and coming from indentations in the walls. There are twenty small pillars surrounding the wall, each with small stone figurines on them. In between each pair of pillars is another one of these stone golems, not activated at this point.

Mira tells the group: “don’t fucking touch anything.” Sariel notes the first stone object is a teacup, and says, “Oh shit, fancy! We got some posh assholes in here.” She tries to communicate with the golems by saying, “suh?”, to no avail. The shadow rogue tries to sign to the group what he sees on one pillar, making some incredibly phallic charades in the process.

The entire group argues a bit as they try and figure the puzzle out, until the man, Marcus, and Mira notice that the backs of the golems have indentations. They all find out that the rogue’s name is Shadow, which Mira makes fun of a bit, and the woman’s name is Lucia. The team works together to put the objects in the indentations of the golems, getting hit only when they get to close to them. The golems power down once all the objects are in, and then power back up to replace all the objects where they go.

Applause sounds from above them as they see Darius, Levi, and various other members of the Wolfshead framed by the sun. Sariel shouts up to them, “That looks dumb as hell, you cretins!” Levi shouts back down, “Fuck you!” Rope ladders get thrown down, allowing them to leave the canyon. Mira compliments the trials, and flirts a bit with Levi. Ecstasy winks at his halfling friend, who winks back.

They notice they aren’t too far out of the city, just south of it. They also spot the Emerald Tower in the distance, which they learned about in the library and from others as being cursed. Darius congratulates the initiates, and says they will return to the Wolfshead. Ecstasy worries about getting back into the city, but is reassured by the halfling. She and Sariel get the feeling of being watched. Ecstasy turns into a jackal, using her cape.

The entire group begins to head back, riding in the wagon and getting through the south gate without issue. They are applauded within the Wolfshead as congratulations, and Ecstasy unjackals. Darius passes out six Wolfshead cloak pins, inscribed with the names they were given, and are informed that they are used to identify members of the guild for their benefits, such as collecting bounties within the city walls without getting arrested. They are also given rooms, paired up with roommates. Sariel and Ecstasy room together, and Mira and Lucia room together.

Ecstasy feels something hot on her chest at some point, and takes out the topaz necklace she stole from Sharina. She finds that the eye pendant from the One-Eyed Khan seems to be glowing and moving somehow, and then it stops. Ecstasy surmises it’s some kind of spell to watch them. She wraps it in fabric and tucks it in her bag.

They go to the bar, and Mira flirts a bit with Levi. Sariel annoys Creed again by ordering a mango margarita because elves have “fine taste”. The half-elf man sits next to Sariel, laughing at that. Ecstasy heads over to watch the halfling and Welles, the man who had the basilisk’s head before, and looks really cool.

The group decides to get in a barfight. Mira invites Levi to come with. Ecstasy walks between Marcus and Lucia to ask only Lucia to come with them. Sariel invites the half-elven man, and the group finishes their drinks and heads out. They search for the shadiest bar they can find to start this barfight, finding a hole-the-wall called The Jolly Horse, where a drinking contest is going on.

Sariel decks the shirtless bartender, who tries to hit her back. Ecstasy goes off to join the drinking contest but Sariel protests, shouting, “No, we’re fighting!” Ecstasy joins the drinking contest anyways. Mira takes the strongest looking drink she can find from someone’s hand and downs it. A series of comedy of errors begin, where Sariel, Mira, Ecstasy, the half-elf, and Levi start to fight various people in the bar, knocking the bartender out and stealing some various bottles. Sariel considers stealing from the till, until thinking better of it. Ecstasy jumps over the bar and now acts as bartender. Ecstasy jumps on someone’s back, then falls flat on her face. Sariel hits someone in the gut with a barstool and Mira knocks a guy she’s been fighting out with a glass. Lucia plays the banjo really fast on the bar, and they hear Piano Man being played.

The police show up and someone shouts, “Scatter!” The group all flee out the back as people are getting arrested, ending up towards the center of the city. Sariel trades the bottle of whiskey she stole for the bottle of margarita mixer that Mira stole and drinks from it. Mira also drinks from the bottle of moonshine she ended up with. The half-elf is bleeding from the nose, and Sariel heals him. They learn his name is Lorcan.

Sariel notices Cyrus walking into the Temple of Ioun and runs up to him. He’s bewildered and Mira asks why he’s out of the House of the Dead because she “thought he couldn’t leave.” “I mean, I can leave… it’s not like I can’t. It’s that I don’t..,” he replies. Ecstasy hits him on the back, and Mira introduces Levi to Cyrus. He fumbles to shake Levi’s hand.

Cyrus wonders aloud what they’re all doing here. Mira invites him to join them on a barcrawl and offers him some moonshine. He takes a small drink and chokes on the alcohol burn. They tell him that they are staying in the Wolfshead, and he flees into the temple.

The group decides to go to a nightclub, called The Monkey and Bull. They get their weapons and spell components confiscated as they enter in a coat check, except Ecstasy manages to sneak in a couple of daggers. They disperse amongst the people, and hear some karaoke being sung in a private room. Levi and Mira grab a drink, Mira attempting to ensure Levi is just as drunk as she is. They all dance and party in the club. Ecstasy “looks for girls”, unsuccessfully.

Sariel gets the sense that she’s being watched, and grabs Lorcan to ask him to look around too. Ecstasy gets pulled over as well, and notices kind of a breeze that seems unnatural. They also drag Lucia over and she manages to dredge up a rumor of an invisible stalker that the One-Eyed Khan sends to follow people and keep an eye on them before he hires them.

They all eventually return to the Wolfshead. Lucia sleeps in Marcus and Shadow’s room so that Levi can stay in Mira’s room. They all eventually sleep through the night.

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Session 2.5: Wandering

The party wakes up at dawn, Sariel grumpy and still sleepy, and leaves the cellar. They all decide to head over to the Imperial Palace, despite the Emperor not being there, so that they can walk through the gardens. It’s pretty early in the morning still when they arrive, and find that the gardens are pretty empty except for guards.

Ecstasy asks a guard why they’re guarding the gardens, and he tells her that it’s so no one can just break into the palace. She looks around the statues and hedges to see if there’s anything she can take, to no avail. She does notice a pair of ladies, well-dressed with parasols, walking arm-in-arm, and comes up to talk to them. The ladies are disdainful and not very forthcoming, so Ecstasy leaves them after a stilted conversation.

Eventually, the three of the them head up to a young looking guard, Ecstasy noticing him and deciding she wants to bother him. She accuses him of being racist by watching them as they walked through the garden, making him nervous. Sariel and Mira ask him about how long he’s been a guard (a few months, after a year of training) and why he became a guard (because it pays well). Sariel also wants to know if she can become a guard, but is disappointed to learn it takes a year’s training. They learn this boy’s name is Tarvis.

Sariel tells Tarvis, “The three of us are in the asskicking business, and we’ve run out of ass. So where do we find some ass?” Mira says, “Whenever I’m around, you won’t ever run out of ass.” Tarvis is confused by all the asses, but tells the party that their best bet is finding a bounty board. They’re often in taverns, although there will be some in the streets of Avandra’s Walk.

Ecstasy wants to find a way to talk to “bird-face”, AKA the Emperor, and the party decides that the Grand Ball is their best bet. Mira winks at Tarvis, who is just confused and baffled and slightly afraid.

The party decides to find a bounty, and finally find a bounty board with three options: one for 50 gp, one for 100 gp, and one for 250 gp. They take the most expensive one, hunting what are called “ghost dogs” out in the desert as they’ve been plaguing travellers. They also look at where the bounties are being paid, wanting to get a reward for the Death Dog’s head that they still have.

They end up finding a three-story, puzzle-like building with a wolf’s head stuffed and mounted over the door, called the Wolfshead. It is a bounty hunter’s guild hall, and inside they find a line of people carrying monster heads, a bar, some pool tables, and people racing some sort of creature that they can’t see. All four of them (as Sharina is still stoically with them) get in line with the others turning in bounties.

In front of them in line is a man carrying a basilisk’s head, it’s eyes carved out. He and Ecstasy exchange pleasantries, then Ecstasy successfully removes all the head’s teeth. She then gives the dog head to Sariel and heads over to the race track, finding that people are racing rats painted all sorts of colors.

Mira heads over to the bar and orders a drink to put in her flask from the goliath bartender. Ecstasy then orders the cheapest drink, and a margarita for Sariel who shouts across the room for one. The bartender, not used to serving drinks more complicated than a whiskey, is annoyed that he has to go digging around for unopened bottles of mixers to make a margarita in a tankard. He has a thick scar across his jaw and an eyepatch, and is uncharacteristically small for a goliath.

Sariel asks the man with the basilisk’s head if he has any tips for fighting basilisks. He wisely says, “Close your eyes.” Mira looks across at the bar to find someone attractive, and notices a pale and black-haired young man sitting at the bar, sipping whiskey. She learns his name is Levi and his father is the guildmaster, the one paying for the bounties behind the counter.

Eventually, the party manages to reach the man behind the counter. They manage to squeeze 150 gold out of him as their reward for the dog’s head, and also he invites them to be initiates to join the guild so they can get first pick at the bounties. They all agree, and Sharina says that she can go her own way for now. “I know where I can find you,” she tells them. They are sent over to talk to Levi to learn what they need to do.

Levi explains that the initiates will live in a common room upstairs, securing them a place to sleep for the night. The trials can’t start until tomorrow, as there are three other initiates. He can’t tell them what the three trials are, but that they will involve combat so they should bring all their gear. Mira manages to flirt successfully and get invited to go drinking with him and his friends later that day.

They all head out, deciding to spend time until their engagements later. Sariel and Ecstasy want to try the test of strength again, and Mira has a date with Levi later. Sariel and Ecstasy head to the Temple to Ioun to do some research, as it is the massive library of the city, and Mira heads through Avandra’s Walk to find a place to get a tattoo.

Mira finds a tattoo artist with a shaved head, tattoos up her limbs and all the way up her scalp. Some of her tattoos glow, and she explains they have some basic enchantments. Tattoos like that are incredibly expensive, so Mira decides on a simple tattoo on her thigh that costs about 75 gp. It takes a couple of hours to do on her scales.

At the same time, Sariel and Ecstasy enter the temple. Sariel gets directed to the history section, trying to learn more about what happened to Sapphaya. She learns not very much more than she already knew up in the books, then goes to the publications section. Ecstasy tries to learn more about the creatures of the desert, and learns about few new things, such as Blink Dogs. She also goes to the publication section to look at information on the current guilds.

In the publications, Sariel reads an account from a witness to the destruction of Sapphaya. Notably, they had noticed an earthquake shake the desert and the smoke obscured the sky above it. She also learns that the few bones they had found in the city were taken to Rubaya to be buried. She reads about how, the day Emperor Korav was killed, the ground shook in Rubaya and everyone thought the city itself would be destroyed as well. Then, the current Emperor announced himself in the Imperial Palace, saying that his father was now dead and his brother was exiled for attacking the current Emperor after they both killed their father. She can’t find any real account of what Emperor Korav did to anger the gods.

Ecstasy finds that the Wolfshead guild is pretty reputable, and the owner’s name is Darius. She can’t find any record of what the trials are going to be, as they are secretive, to her disappointment. She and Sariel leave, meeting Mira outside.

They still have a few hours until their later engagements, so Sariel and Ecstasy go to compete in the Temple of Kord again. This time, Ecstasy competes in a shooting contest and wins. Finally, they enter the test of strength, ending up in the same heat. Ecstasy wins in her heat and gets first runner up overall, only winning 5 gold but feeling good about herself.

Mira wanders around, “looking for money”. She finds 3 copper pieces in the hours she wanders, then heads to the Wolfshead to meet Levi and his friends. They go bar hopping for hours, during which they all get pretty drunk and Mira asks about everyone’s life stories. A halfling woman tells the story about meeting a medusa out in a cave and having tea with her while on a bounty mission, a half-elven man talks a bit about his past in the western continent, and Levi describes fighting and killing a full-sized Earth Elemental as a teenager with his dad. Mira and Levi grow close.

She and Levi return to the Wolfshead pretty late, finding Sariel and Ecstasy already there. The two of them had chatted with the bartender, who they learn is named Creed and is from the north. He refuses to serve Mira and Levi, as “his dad will fire me, since you’re already wasted”. Sariel and Ecstasy go to bed, and Mira stays up later talking and flirting. They hit off really well, and Levi takes a shine to her. Eventually, Mira decides to go to bed alone, joining the others in the initiates’ room.

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Session 2: A Long Road Ahead

The party leaves the storeroom they were just in, and the door closes behind them. They can hear a commotion back in the main square, which Ecstasy takes off after. Mira and Sariel decide to check the dumpster for anything useful, but there’s just trash. They follow after Ecstasy slowly, disappointed.

Out in the main square, there is a large crowd of people on either side of two figures, standing off. They both have hand crossbows, ready to draw. Standing out of the crowd as well are three other figures: a cleric of Kord, with the distinct lightning bolt pendant, a regular civilian, and a town guard. They seem unbothered by this stand off. Ecstasy recognizes this as the Rite of Kord, an ancient dueling rite. She also notices the crowd passing around hats, placing bets. Ecstasy has a sudden existential crisis that they are all in fantasy Westworld and has a flashback about being a robot. Then she shakes it off.

The two dueling figures fire, and the woman on the right, an elf with a black hat and a red scarf around her mouth and nose, wins, shooting a crossbow bolt right into his throat. She wins the duel, and everyone quickly disperses as she bends down over the dead man, pulls his coin purse off his belt, then tugs his necklace off and pockets it. The cleric prays to Kord.

Ecstasy and Mira go to The Sword and Shield to find some new weapons. Ecstasy buys some throwing knives and Mira buys a quarterstaff. Then they go to Augury and Alchemy, and Mira uses her guild influence to get a discount on three healing potions.

As they shop, Sariel follows the elven woman into the Hideous Hawk, and sits across from her on the bar to watch her as she sips from an expensive glass of water. She eventually decides to sit next to the woman, noting her high elven look and the swirling tattoos down her chin and vanishing under her scarf. Sariel wants to steal the necklace that the woman took.

They have an awkward first conversation, until Ecstasy decides to come into the bar and join them. Ecstasy is more talkative and sits on the other side of the woman. Eventually, Sariel motions to Ecstasy to follow her to the bathroom. They go to the one-person bathroom together and make a plan to steal the necklace, with Sariel acting as distraction for the rogue.

Sariel asks the woman about where she’s from, learning that she is from the Nightshade Mountains to the west, the daughter of a witch up there. The woman’s name is Sharina and she dueled two men today, one because he was angry at her for taking his bounty and the other because the first guy was his brother. She is a bounty hunter, chasing down some large, dangerous beast in the desert, and still doesn’t know exactly what it is. She is here in the desert, on her way to Rubaya, to talk to the emperor on behalf of her mother. She does carry a very large greatsword on her back.

As they are talking, Ecstasy comes back from the bathroom and deftly and expertly lifts the necklace from the elven woman’s belt and pockets it. She doesn’t notice anything particularly special about it. Sharina bids them both goodbye and leaves the tavern. Ecstasy orders a shot of whiskey.

Mira wanders around the town as they steal from this stranger. She heads to the dead man, being dragged away by a cleric in black robes with a raven skull pendant. She kneels down to go through the dead man’s pockets, at the protest of the cleric of the Raven Queen. She manages to convince the cleric to let her take this man’s stuff and donate 25% of the gold to the poor. She finds 21 gold pieces, a deck of cards, some tacks, and a cigar. She gives the cleric 5 gold to donate, and he takes the body. As she leaves, she blows him a kiss to his embarrassment.

Mira continues to wander, looking for shady people, and notices a couple. Then she enters an inn, the Sleeping Crow, and asks the halfling innkeeper for information on the One-Eyed Khan. He grows increasingly nervous at her questioning, and advises her to drop the subject. She convinces him that the One-Eyed Khan is making a move soon in Rubaya, to his horror, and he tells her the Khan is not someone she should mess with, and abruptly leaves with a duster.

The party all meet up in the main square and take their horses, deciding to cut through Kord’s Cleaver instead of returning to the main road from Oasis. It’s a long and boring ride to the cliffs, during which Mira practically tells her life story when prompted by Ecstasy and Ecstasy sings a few songs horribly, including fantasy Lose Yourself but where every word that rhymes with spaghetti is just the word spaghetti, fantasy Closer but every word is instead boulder, and a song about the last emperor’s balls, where Sariel joins in. Mira whispers to her little red egg, “Kill me.” Once they are there, they find wooden bridges allowing them to cross with their horses.

Ecstasy and Sariel look around to see if anything is lurking nearby, spotting a dog-like creature in the center of the cliffs, who notices them drawing their weapons. The two-headed dog only gets a couple of bites in on Sariel before the party kills it, learning that it is a Death Dog. They take its heads, and Mira takes a tongue and some claws. Ecstasy also takes some claws. Sariel takes some of it’s flesh-eating saliva. Both heads are fastened to the front of Ecstasy’s horse.

They continue through Kord’s Cleaver without issue, and make camp on the other side. The next morning, the ride is particularly uneventful for a while, until Ecstasy sees a very large scorpion chasing a figure on horseback in the distance. Sariel’s elf eyes see that the rider is Sharina, shooting at the bloodied scorpion from the back of her black horse.

The party decides to chase after them, quickly sneaking behind the injured scorpion on their own horses. Ecstasy and Sariel manage to shoot it, as Sharina, noting their presence, jumps from her horse mid-run and swings twice at the scorpion, decapitating it with the second one after taking a cut from it’s stinger. The blood sprays and seems to sizzle when it hits her, which the party notes with suspicion. She is confused as to why they are there, and admits that this was her 500 gp bounty as she ties the head to drag behind the back of her horse. Mira manages to take the stinger, which is about as large as her torso.

The scorpion is much larger than a normal giant scorpion, with blackened veins that Sariel figures was something Sharina did to it as she fought it. When Mira attempts to take it’s heart, it has rotted from within, another symptom of whatever Sharina did to it. The party is pretty suspicious of that, but they decide to ride with Sharina the rest of the way to Rubaya.

The rest of the ride is pretty uneventful, and quickly they enter the Silk City, a tent city just outside the walls of Rubaya. They walk around a bit in the crowded area, as Sharina leaves to fulfil her bounty. Mira looks around for shady people but doesn’t really see anyone, and Ecstasy looks around for wealthy people and also doesn’t really notice anyone.

Ecstasy wants to find a shop selling magical items, and manages to find one that isn’t a hack, one that notably, no one is at currently. There is a small gnomish man peddling what looks to be an entire store of completely magical items, and Sariel manages to see through his disguise spell and notice he has blue skin. The party approaches, and begins to bargain for items.

Sariel trades the Death Dog’s saliva for a Cape of the Jackal, and the gnomish man offers her a very fancy and expensive longbow in exchange for a favor. She signs her name on a piece of parchment he seemingly pulls from nowhere and agrees, taking Oathbow.

Ecstasy manages to convince the shopkeep to give her a Cape of the Jackal and shortsword called Flame Tongue in exchange for one of the Death Dog’s heads.

Mira has her eye on a very expensive cloak that looks to be made of stars, and manages to trade a favor for it, like Sariel, getting the Cloak of Stars. The gnomish man does reassure Mira that the cloak is not worth the favor to kill her friends. He tells the party he will call upon their favors when the time comes.

When they party turns to leave, Mira notice that the tent itself completely vanishes, replaced by some other market tent that is well-trafficked. The gnomish man and his magical wares are completely gone. The party is sufficiently nervous about the transactions, and head to the front gate.

At the front gate, Sariel notices Sharina on her way over, and they all head towards the place where they are able to use the pendant to open the trapdoor. Ecstasy finds the indentation and activates the magic, then they all find the trapdoor further to the left. Their horses cannot fit, so they send Sharina and Sariel over to buy some stable room for their horses. They buy stables for a couple of days.

They all go through the trapdoor and come out into an alchemy shop called The Void and Nether. Mira steals a glass bottle from the back of the store. She then chats with the shopkeep, noting the alchemists’ fire burn scars on her arms and learning her name is Cynthia, until the entire party leaves and enters the city.

They head towards the Ruby Tower, where the Emperor lives, and pass by the Temple to Zoser on their way. They inspect the tower for entrances, trying to find a way for Sharina to get an audience, and find that the only entrance is a large gap at the very top. Sariel and Mira talk to a guard about it, learning that only the Emperor and his guards go inside, and that the Emperor only comes down for events. Mira decides the best way to get inside is to learn what the Emperor’s guards look like and impersonate one to get close. The guard also divulges that the next festival that the Emperor will come down for is the Grand Ball in a couple weeks.

The party then walks through the Golden Square, looking at each temple as they pass. They pass the Temple to Kord and Sariel and Ecstasy decide they want to go in later and see the tests of strength. As they pass the Temple to Avandra, they all stop inside to check it out.

Inside the temple, Mira goes to smoke hookah with some strangers as Ecstasy and Sariel ask a cleric of Avandra about the bowls of offerings on the altar. “Those who can give, leave offerings and those in need can take, with Avandra’s blessing.” Only those who Avandra knows is in need and the cleric allows can take from the table. Mira leaves some spider eyes, Ecstasy leaves one Death Dog claw, and Sariel leaves 2 gold pieces.

They pass the rest of the temples, noting them as they go, until coming to the Temple of Bahamut. Mira is interested in the large, marble statue of a dragon with golden eyes. They ask what people do in the temple and a cleric tells them that people pray to Bahamut to intercede for the Empire, the Emperor, and the citizens of the Emperor. The party all pray to see if they can get an audience with the Emperor, with Mira having the most heartfelt of the three.

Mira decides to go back to the Temple of Avandra and smoke more hookah as the other two go to the Temple of Kord and check it out. They see all sorts of training areas, as well as a statue of a grizzled man, a figure representing Kord.

Ecstasy challenges a man to a fist fight in one of the areas, and wins. Sariel challenges a half-elven man to a shooting competition, which he wins with a lucky bullseye. They both are blessed by clerics, and Sariel asks what the test of strength is. The cleric tells her that the test of strength is a boulder pushing race this week, and it will start at sundown. He also informs them that the prize for first place is a special blessing from Kord, that will give them strength for a year.

The group meets back up outside and all decide to stop by the tiny House of the Dead by the Temple to Ioun. It is a simple building with a painted black door, and they all walk inside with Sharina deciding to wait outside.

Inside the House of the Dead are a bunch of coffins, a dead man on a slab, and a short and lanky, white-haired man attending to the body. He wears black robes, a raven skull pendant, and has very large, round glasses. Flustered by strangers entering and the fact that his hand is covered in face putty, he demands to know what they’re doing. Mira immediately asks him for the brush he has left in his jar of putty, which he lets her take in confusion.

Overwhelmed by the strangers all asking him if they can enter the catacombs, Ecstasy finally convinces him to let them down with his escort. He is suspicious and nervous, and incredibly confused as to why anyone is inside the House and why these strangers are claiming to worship the Raven Queen, as she isn’t part of the of the Pantheon. They all go down, the man trying desperately to ensure no one steals anything.

Ecstasy heads towards the center, finding no door like there as in Sapphaya. The man has never heard or seen a door to the center. Mira asks about the catacombs in Sapphaya, but the man doesn’t know much about it. Eventually they learn his name is Cyrus. They ask what happened to Sapphaya, and Cyrus explains that Emperor Korav, the current Emperor’s father, had gone against the gods and provoked the ire of the gods, who razed Sapphaya to punish them all. The Emperor’s sons then killed him to keep Rubaya from suffering the same fate. The younger son then attacked his older brother, and was exiled.

Mira asks him about the One-Eyed Khan, but he doesn’t understand who that is. She tries to convince him to go to Sapphaya to see the other catacombs, but he doesn’t know why he would leave when he has responsibilities here, as the only cleric of the Raven Queen. She asks why he decided to become a cleric of the Raven Queen, and he says “it’s personal”. She also asks if he knows why there would still be rotting corpses in the Sapphaya catacombs, to which he doesn’t really have an answer.

They all decide to go back up, and Mira tries to split off but Cyrus yells at her to stay and not steal anything. He cannot stress enough that this is hallowed and holy ground to the Raven Queen. He make it clear he will defend it. Cyrus, strangely, seems sad when they all leave. Mira blows him a kiss, which just flusters him more.

It’s sundown, so Sariel and Ecstasy return to the Temple of Kord to try the test of strength. Mira and Sharina go look for a place to stay out Wallside, but are pretty unsuccessful finding a vacancy. Inside the Temple of Kord, Sariel signs up and puts down an insurance of 1 gold piece to enter the test. On her race, she gets second, not winning anything special, and receives her gold piece and a blessing. Disappointed, she and Ecstasy, who had bought a fantasy corndog, head Wallside.

They are also unsuccessful finding a vacancy, so Mira decides to head back to the Void and Nether and ask a fellow guild member for help. Cynthia is locking up when they arrive, and cannot offer them a room in her own home, but does lead them to a shack with a cellar that they pay 3 coppers each to stay inside. Mira thanks her, and they enter for the night. They set up their bedrolls and sleep until the next morning.

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Session 1: Under the Sapphire

In the Jeweled Desert, Holy Land of the Emperor, Vessel of the Gods, Hallowed is his Name, three strangers have received letters from the One-Eyed Khan regarding a job he has for them. He has them meet his representative in the Kindly Wraith, a tavern in a tiny town of Oasis. Oasis is a crossroads, with nothing to do but go to the tavern, although there is a tiny market stall that sells beef jerky. There is literally nothing to do there.

Inside the bar, Sariel, an elven ranger and bounty hunter, attempts, poorly, to flirt with the bartender. Ecstasy, the tiefling rogue and ex-con, takes a dump. Mira, a white dragonborn sorcerer and alchemist, takes inventory of her things on a table. A man plays fantasy Piano Man on a harpsichord in the corner, where he promptly passes out eventually.

A man kicks in the door and shouts, “Who’s here for the job?” He is a half-orc, wearing cowboy boots with spurs, a vest ensemble, and a cowboy hat. He takes a seat in a back booth, and the three adventurers join him. He wears a large pendant on a chain, shaped like an eye, and introduces himself as Ash Redbones.

Everyone finds him obnoxious but they hear him out. He tells them the job is to head to the Sapphire City, or Sapphaya, and find the catacombs. Sapphaya was destroyed about 30 years back in what everyone believes was the gods’ smiting the city, razing it to the ground for their transgressions. Now, no one heads there because there is nothing there but the massive, sapphire tower and ash. In the catacombs, the One-Eyed Khan knows there are three tests, after which anyone who passes the tests can receive “a single wish”. The Khan wants that wish in exchange for 300 gp total and passage into the Ruby City, or Rubaya.

Mira and Sariel try and convince Ash to give them half the gold up front, but he remains unconvinced. The group manages to wrangle three horses, some rations, and water from him, but are unsuccessful in getting any health potions. He tells them that they should meet him here when the return, but if they are gone a week and he never hears from them, he’s going to assume they died. He also warns them against stealing from the One-Eyed Khan, because they’ll “fucking hunt you down and kill ya.” The group all agree to the terms. Mira also asks why his last name is Redbones, and he gets offended.

Outside, they find their horses. Mira’s is dappled gray and she names it Freya, Ecstasy names her tan horse Mad Max, and Sariel decides to name her brown horse Turd. They spend a day riding towards Sapphaya without incident, during which Sariel attempts to play Katy Perry’s Firework on her ocarina and fails miserably. They camp in the desert, taking watches, and sleep without any problems. They finally arrive at the city ruins early the next morning, discovering that it was indeed razed to the ground.

A massive structure makes up the center of the city, made of some kind of blue material. Ecstasy punches it and bruises her hand a bit, finding it’s solid and hollow. It’s completely smooth, without any markings or doorways. It’s not actually made of sapphire, which disappoints Mira.

The party spends a couple of minutes looking around, hearing occasional chittering noises that they can’t pinpoint. Ecstasy also notices some spider webs, which freaks Mira out. Mira tries to poison spray a spider web, to no effect, although she does see a tiny spider run off into the sand. She notices that it doesn’t look like any other spider she’s seen before, and it’s the color of the sand. She rides her horse out to the edge of the city and leaves it there, just in case.

Ecstasy and Mira try and find the largest ruins, to see if any are a temple that might have access to the ruins. Ecstasy finds footprints, indicating that people have been around recently. While they search, the survivalist and expert tracker, Sariel, manages to immediately spot what seems to be a melted dagger buried in the sand, indicating a trap door; they found the catacombs. As everyone gathers around the trapdoor, they hear the chittering noise coming closer.

Ecstasy uses thaumaturgy to open the trapdoor. They all draw their weapons, and see something moving closer to them. They all hurry to enter the trapdoor, and Sariel closes it behind them. Mira worries that her horse will be eaten by spiders.

They go down the ladder, finding it goes about two stories down. Mira casts light, sending four blue glowing balls down in front of them so they can see the bottom. At the bottom is a small room made of cobblestone, with a puddle on the ground, two unlit torches on the wall, and a door. Mira confirms that yes, it’s water on the ground. Sariel and Ecstasy take one torch each and light them. Ecstasy uses thaumaturgy again to open the door and peeks through.

They are at the entrance to a tunnel, with the walls full of cutouts, where skeletons sit. The walls are three cutouts tall, and every single one is full. They walk down the tunnel, and Mira attempts to stab every single skeleton as they go. At the end, there’s a path to the left and a path to the right, both of which curve. They decide to mark their path with some poison spray, and go left. Mira also takes a skull, and Ecstasy takes a femur.

They continue moving alone, eventually turning right and heading all the way down the straight path until they hit only two curving directions. They walk for about an hour and a half around, before returning to the place they had entered this circle. Ecstasy and Mira figure out they are in a circle, and the group realizes they must be at the edge of the city. Mira attempts to message her horse to run away after hearing some chittering noises above them.

The party decides to head towards the center, and after about 45 minutes, find a door. Ecstasy and Mira notice that the bones here are much younger than the rest, with a little bit of flesh still on a few of them. Mira takes a bit of the flesh. Ecstasy opens the door with thaumaturgy, and Sariel scouts inside. Inside is a perfectly circular room, made of white marble, lit by some unknown source. It’s empty, except for a gold ring in the center marking a trapdoor. There is a sound of running water, the group notices, but they can’t tell where it’s coming from.

Ecstasy opens the trapdoor with thaumaturgy, but before the group goes down, Mira tries to pry up the gold ring. She falls on her ass the first time, then manages to use all her strength the second time to wedge her crowbar under the gold and pull. Instead of the ring coming free, she bends her crowbar a bit. She decides to leave it where it is.

The group go down some circular, marble stairs, then through a round marble door into another circular room, just like the one above them except this one has a marble statue of a sphinx at the far end. The trapdoor doesn’t open, even when Ecstasy casts thaumaturgy. The statue has gold eyes, and as the group goes closer, they see writing above its head, also in gold. Mira reads the draconic, which says “Something that you tell but should never be told,
Something that you keep that never gets old”. Sariel figures out that the riddle means, “a secret”, but when she says it out loud, nothing happens. She thinks that maybe what they need to tell the sphinx is an actual secret.

Ecstasy works on deciding what kind of secret to tell the sphinx. Sariel says “Tell the sphinx a secret,” but nothing happens. Mira tries to message the sphinx, but nothing happens. Finally, Sariel tells the sphinx that “the reason we had to throw away the dining room table cloth was because I cut a hole from it,” which makes the trapdoor swing open. Apparently, it was a secret she kept her whole life.

The stairs down lead to another room, but this time the statue is of a stone golem. It has gold eyes and a gold breastplate, with a target etched into it. The group each try their hand at hitting the center of the target, with Mira and Ecstasy simultaneously hitting it with an arrow and a dart. The trapdoor opens.

The last room holds a statue of an angel, with two golden swords. Mira manages to see that it is an illusion, and Sariel walks right through it to find that the wall behind it does not exist, and leads to a drop into darkness. Across the lip, in every language, is written the word “Trust.” Mira tries to send her lights in, to no avail; the darkness is magical. The group holds hands and jumps down.

They float down, having had featherfall cast on them by the puzzle, and land in a shallow puddle of clear water. It is not as well-lit as the rest of the puzzle, with a single spotlight on a pedestal across the room. Sariel approaches and finds a strange knife sitting on it. Ecstasy identifies the material it is made of is bone, and Mira remembers a legend about the first emperor receiving gifts from the gods, including a knife made of a wishbone, called “ the Wish”. This is what they were looking for. Ecstasy pockets it.

They all notice that a door has mysteriously appeared behind the pedestal, leading to a cobblestone staircase. They enter, and the door closes behind them. They climb up several stories of stairs, coming to a trapdoor which Ecstasy opens with thaumaturgy. Sand pours in a bit, filling the stairwell with dust, and the party notices that the chittering sounds have gone far away. They don’t notice anything amiss, so they all climb out.

When they are all out, they discover that behind them stand four bandits, who want to take whatever they found in the catacombs. Apparently, these bandits have been looking for the entrance for a while. They manage to persuade and intimidate the bandits into leaving them alone, and show them the exit they just left through. The bandits enter the catacombs through the exit, threatening to gut the party next time they see them. One is much younger than the others, carrying a crossbow, and when Mira talks to him he blushes, so she decides she likes him. As the bandits walk past the party, Ecstasy tosses the femur at the leader’s feet.

The party finds that their horses are still exactly where they left them, untouched by spiders or bandits. They begin to ride out of the city when they hear the chittering sounds get louder, and see large things moving under the sand towards them. They try and run away, and Sariel and Ecstasy draw their bows on the giant spider that leaps out of the sand. Two more emerge from behind it.

In the battle, Mira’s horse gets bitten badly and throws her to the ground, Ecstasy’s horse gets hit with webbing and bitten, and Sariel’s horse also gets hit with webbing. Ecstasy falls unconscious after killing one spider, and Mira attempts to stabilize her as Sariel kills the last two spiders, one of which was attempting to flee with Mad Max in its web. Ecstasy is stabilized, although poorly, and the group takes a quick rest, during which they patch up their horses and Sariel manages to calm them all down.

They ride the rest of the night to Oasis, then return to the Kindly Wraith. Sariel orders a fancy cocktail in a fantasy martini goblet (a drink that the bartender calls the Kindly Wraith, after the bar), Mira gets the strongest drink in the bar, and Ecstasy impresses the bartender with her wounds and her exaggerated story of the battle. Mira decides to chug her drink in response to the bad flirting and gets blackout drunk, then stumbles upstairs and passes out. Sariel takes the wish from Ecstasy and goes to bed, so she can keep an eye on it. Ecstasy flirts with the bartender, then hooks up with her that night.

The next morning, Sariel and Ecstasy have breakfast and mimosas while they wait for Ash Redbones to return. At noon, Mira wakes up and orders a hangover cure, which she reluctantly drinks. Finally, Ash kicks in the door and shouts, “Are y’all back yet?” The Piano Man man, notably, is still at the harpsichord, and receives a flask from the bartender before launching into a jaunty rendition of the Billy Joel song.

He is impressed to find that the party has survived and returned. He and the party engage in a quick exchange of negotiations, where they each ask to confirm that the other has their end of the bargain. Finally, Sariel confirms that they have indeed retrieved the wish, and Ash hands over half of their payment. He tells them that they need to deliver the wish themselves to the One-Eyed Khan, as he knows how to tell if it’s the real deal.

The party follows Ash out onto the road, passing the sign to a town called Deadroad up north. The party sees that Ash, despite wearing spurs, has no horse, and are incredibly confused by it. Sariel brings up Ash’s last name again, to which he becomes annoyed. She also asks who the One-Eyed Khan really is.

“The One-Eyed Khan killed the emperor, his own father, to appease the gods after the destruction of Sapphaya. And what did he get, huh? Exile. His own brother exiled him for it. But the One-Eyed Khan, he’s a smart man. He knows everyone, can get you anythin’ you want.” Sariel asks if he gets health benefits, and Ash confirms that he has “great dental”.

In Deadroad, the party leaves their horses tied up and follow Ash down an alleyway. He pulls his pendant out from his shirt and presses it into a tiny indentation in the wall. It glows a little, and the party hears stone grind. Ash goes around a corner and through a door, and the party follows cautiously.

Inside, they find themselves in a back storeroom of a bakery, with a long table and a mannequin sitting on the end, an eye the shape of the pendant etched onto the face. Ash says, “This is the One-Eyed Khan.” He asks for the wish, which Sariel reluctantly hands over. Ash takes a seat beside the mannequin, while the party lingers by the entryway. They ask who the mannequin is, and Ash says, “The One-Eyed Khan, of course. I mean, not really, obviously, it’s just his avatar. Did ya think you were really gonna see him? He’s up in Rubaya!”

The mannequin’s eye glows as it comes to life, taking the wishbone knife from Ash and inspecting it with jerky movements, it’s wrist spinning completely around. A tinny voice comes from it, completely monotone, who congratulates the party on their successful mission and authorizes the payment. It sets the wish down and the eye goes dark.

Ash tosses the second half of the payment towards the party, then pulls another pendant from his belt, one that matches his. He also tosses it to the party, and Ecstasy takes it. “To get into Rubaya, first go to the front gate, but don’t talk to the guards! They won’t let you in; they know who’s supposed to get in the city and who’s not, they have a list and you’re probably not on it. Go to the front gate, turn left, walk 15 paces. The guards shouldn’t be able to see you, but if they do, do not, under any circumstances, pull out this pendant. They will arrest you on the spot. Put it in the indentation on the wall, and it will unlock a trapdoor 20 more paces to the left. Through that trapdoor, you’ll come out into the basement of an alchemy shop. The owner knows people come through there, so you won’t have any trouble. Capiche?”

The party agrees. Their business with the One-Eyed Khan, at least for now, is complete.

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