The Desert of Desolation

Interlude: A wanderig spirit begs for aid...

The third night of your journey passed uneventfully. You spend the blistering day inside the tent…sleep is fitful, and you find yourself waking frequently, parched in the throat and sticky under the garments. Metal left outside must be cooled before you can touch it. No wind seems to blow in this cursed desert. After a meal of hard-tack, you gather your gear and start a fourth night of following the sand-sled tracks. You find little evidence of a camp for whoever is using the sled. The moon has been bright these past nights, making it easy enough to follow the trail. For the first time since entering The Anvil, you have heard the yell of a desert jackal. That such animals could survive here for any length of time seems unfathomable.

It must be near midnight, when you spot a lone figure cresting a dune, perhaps 100 yards away. The person (for it walks on two legs) slowly turns from his trek eastward and walks in your direction…has he seen you? The party hunkers down on a crest above the figure…as he approaches you draw steel…only when he is perhaps 15 yards away do you see that he is insubstantial and misty from the waste down….the face that should occupy the area below his ancient style of head-dress is empty…an unnatural dread seizes your spine…what does this wandering spirit want, that he manifests to the living? Suddenly he speaks, and his voice, though deep, seems to echo up from some great distance, as if talking from the bottom of a deep well…

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Session #2: Exodus

The people of Bek-Ptah prove an unfriendly and fearful lot, avoiding our intrepid adventurers for fear of upsetting the Lawgivers, those golden-masked enforcers who patrol the small city’s streets and alleyways.

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Even when valiant party saves the life of a soon-to-be-of-age Prince Jiann, the laws of Bek-Ptah proved immutable. A stay in the dungeon was only alleviated after much insistence and unseemly begging by Jiann to the steward of Bek-Ptah’s throne, his uncle Rexter the Stern. Or perhaps, the band might surmise, Rexter only relented when one of his advisers found a USE for the insolent foreigners….

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Rexter (seen below) was less than amused by what he feels are IL-bred commoners….

The telling of events follows in the Sand-voyager’s own words…perhaps their advise will be headed by those who come after…they have discovered some things are best left…buried…

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Ships of the Desert

The cantankerous camel…they have a mule’s attitude…

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For those who purchase one

N Large animal
Init +3;
Senses low-light vision, scent;
AC 13, touch 12, flat-footed 10
Saves: Fort +5, Ref +6, Will +0
Speed 50 ft.

Feats: Endurance
Skills Perception +5

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Bek-Ptah

Land at last! Late in the day, the walled city of Bek-Ptah looms over the harbor like a sinister vulture perched above a dying animal. The harbor itself if flanked by long man-mad shoals, keeping the smaller boats of Osiran safe from the ocean swells. The docks are busy with native vessels being unloaded, but much of the work stops when they see a foreign ship of the Demise’ size entering the protected harbor.

The locals are garbed in colorful robes (called Aba), when not indulging in heavy labor; the latter are garbed in loose linen and sandals. Strange beasts of burden are being fitted with packs (One of the crew tell you they are called ‘camels’, and are the preferred mount for these kingdoms of sand due to their ability to travel with little water) right off the boats. Merchants haggle over merchandise in a frantic tongue that grates on your nerves. The most disturbing thing you notice are the many shackled people…slavery is apparently an accepted practice here.

Your arrival has not gone unnoticed. A squad of warriors in leather armor, small round shields and, oddly bronze face masks push their way through the crowd, heading in your direction. They rudely shove the commoners out of the way as they approach.
“Lawgivers”, Red-Shanks mutters under his breath. “They are like a common city guard, with the exception that they can dispense instant justice for most offenses…being a noble is about the only defense someone has should they fall on the wrong side of these fellows…”
Red-Shanks moves down the gang-plank and converses with their leader. After a heated argument, he yells back to you.

“I’m off to see the harbor-master. The Lawgivers are sending two of their number up to the deck to monitor things until my return; worry not, lads. I’ll be back sometime tonight. Until then, stay on the ship. With that, he turns and departs, flanked on either side by four of the tall warriors. Two of their number come up the gangplank and wordlessly take positions to either side. Obviously they mean to bar the way of anyone who thinks to leave the Demise.

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INTERLUDE

You awaken the next morning to find the captain has altered course south. When asked why, he states he has some merchandise he needs to unload in Bek-Ptah, a closed-port city on the Scorpion Coast, the east coast of Osirian. He tells you that it should not take more than a day or two (“…you should arrive a good week before the festival of Pharisma in Wati”), and that he would also like someone to look over the damage to the hull, since Skinner is dead.

“Bek-Ptah is closed to most foreign vessels, but I know the harbor-master from of old…the folk there in general are distrustful of strangers from distant lands, and while their Emir is not what you’d call likeable, he keeps the city in good straights, and there’s little poverty…even if they’ve given up a freedom here or there. Mind you, it’s best you stay aboard the ship. Their laws can be stern, especially non-natives. I’ll see that food and supplies are brought on board…maybe even pick up some items you request…”
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The Gathering Storm

Setting out (for a 3-hour tour)…the Jezzel’s Demise saw fair weather for several days. The crew seemed amiable to the strangers in their midst. Long days of sunshine and hard work keeping the vessel serviceable were followed with laughter and singing at night as the crew shared their rum ration as well as a few farcical tales of Osirion with the band. Dinner aboard the Jezzel allowed you to meet and discuss plans with your new team-mates.

Alas, after dinner (a strange affair where items seemed to move of their own volition), things became…interesting when the lookout called ‘Bad Weather ahead!’ The sea turned foul, as massive waves sent the vessel rolling and swaying, reintroducing many of you to your recent repast. The Undine lookout, enjoying the weather above decks near the forecastle, spotted a large object rolling in swells, on a collision course…the wind drowned her attempt to war the Captain at his wheel, and with a mighty crash, wall of your quarters was pierced, wounding the paladin and letting seawater pour in, and nearly hurtling the unfortunate druid over the gunwale and into the ocean.

The ranger grabbed her just as her grip failed. Hasty repairs were made and the winds died down within a few hours (such being the nature of many a squall on the briney blue). The crews spirits were returning to normal when the gnome, poking about the cargo bay, discovered twisted and broken spectacles belonging to Rolo the quartermaster. A search of the ship, bow to stern and fore toa ft, turned up no sign of the kind old fellow. Maps and spilled ale were all that were found in his private quarters, and crew and captain assumed the fellow must have hit his head, stumbled above deck and got swept over the rail unnoticed by any.

Perhaps this would have been sufficient explanation, but the following day, the cook was discovered missing, when he failed to feed the crew at morning chow. Again the ship was searched, with similar results for the quartermaster. A mystery indeed! More men might have gone missing, were the party’s suspicion not draw to Pepperpot, the lame cabin boy, thanks to the Undine’s tiger, Nixxie. The cat hissed and recoiled when the boy approached. Accusations and interrogation of the lad proved fruitless and angered the crew.

Not to be dissuaded so easily, the ranger and oracle managed to get a concession from Captain Red-Shanks, whereby the ranger agreed to keep an eye on the cabin-boy (after the cabin boy’s hidden grins and taunts with several of the party when no one else was looking). That he was more (and undoubtedly evil) than he let on around the crew was obvious…but the little fiend was clever. That night, the cabin boy/fiend taunted the ranger. sending a chill down the warrior’s spine with calculated words.

It was when the party’s resident rogue decided to talk with the unfriendly ship’s carpenter, Skinner, that Pepperpot’s hand (fin?) was forced into the open. The rogue thought he was about to be accosted when the surly mule-skinner brandished a silver-edged cleaver and shouted “YOU!”, only to have the terrified handy-man rush past him at a grotesque shape that loomed out of the darkness….the stilted light from the lantern cast flickering shadows over a horrific fanged moth that could only belong to a massive shark…a shark that loomed on two stubby legs (one withered to the point of being vestigial) ..the shark thing laughed, its voice like wind rushing over exposed coral, as it smashed the carpenter aside with contemptuous ease. The thing laughed at the rogue, it’s mouth opening impossible wide as it rushed forward.

The agile thief, rolled away in terror, slamming the door between himself and the horrid thing. Toying with him, it scratched at the door and taunted him “Come out, little piggy….”
The ranger, finding his courage, came out with his bow drawn, but hitting the thing in the cramped, dark hold proved difficult. The noise of the battle was heard by the druid and her tiger, who roused the remaining party to action. Eventually the beast was cornered and surrounded, blows turned away by its tough shark skin, or ignored completely by its accursed nature. Realizing the silver cleaver was potent against such monsters, Bucket the fighter drove into close range, assisted by those who’s weapons were of no use, and after suffer a horrible gnawing, the group managed to lay the beast in its grave, its large finned body reverting to the hapless cabin-boy, covered in horrific wounds that would surely have killed him instantly, were he a normal child.

You later learned the boy’s leg injury was suffered when he was bitten some months ago by a monstrous shark while swimming in calm seas. Apparently the little monster had been more secretive in those he killed at first, taking sailors and crew while the ship was being refitted/scraped for barnacles in dry-dock…these crew-men were either assumed to have shipped out with another vessel, or relocated to greener pastures…

Now you are quite sure it will be a fine thing to feel solid earth under your feet again…the sooner, the better….
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What has gone before....

Your wanderings had brought you to the Island-city of Absalom, teaming crossroads of the world… wanderlust…a desire to find a sense of purpose, or perhaps you had other reasons to be elsewhere than the place you spent your youth, it makes little difference. Your fate has led you here, the jewel of the Inner-Sea cities. The city can be wondrous and dangerous, as well as full of opportunity.

The Pathfinder Grand Lodge resides here, home of that famous adventuring guild, and through one of their agents, you were contacted for a proposition by one Albrecht Quellhand. It seemed he had heard that the city of Wati, in far-distant Osrion, had decided to open the gates to its vast necropolis and was hosting a lottery for able-bodied adventurer to explore its ancient crypts and catacombs. Quellhand, you have since learned, is a collector well-versed in antiquities (as well as a proud sponsor of several museums in Absolam). He offered you each a share as well as free passage on a western-bound merchant-man (The Jezzel’s Demise) if you and several other skilled companions would represent his interests in the lottery. Quellhand guaranteed you a premium on any items you managed to obtain, and for lack of both funds and anything better to do, you found yourself sailing across the western oceans, slowly tacking south.

Captain Gorton Red-Shanks is a gruff fellow, prone to load talk and little smile. Despite your close proximity, you’ve had little chance to get to know your fellow explorers. It is for this reason the Captain has invited you to dinner in his private mess. The sun has set some time ago behind a scarlet sea that turns to purple in the twilight before the last rays bring on a blue night…the watchman at the forecastle raises his head (and lantern)in acknowledgment as you make your way from your quarters to the captain’s door. You have never seen so many stars, each almost perfectly reflected in the calm sea…the smell of fresh-roasted lamb draws you back as you rap on the oak portal…

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