Cast of Characters Charlie as Emerson, the High Elf Rogue: Dino Liberator in Training Shiloh as Jax, the Half-Orc Barbarian: WILL Drink You Under the Table Tim as Carvey the Dwarven Cleric: Fool Me Once, Get Zapped Michael as Fingulfin the Wood Elf Monk: Strike and Sweep in a Blink Nate as Terrence the Half Elf Druid: Friend of Chultans and Vegepygmies And Introducing Garr the Sorcerer, played by Byron
Characters may change over the course of the first several sessions and death is for keeps in Tomb of Annihilation due to the Death Curse. Previously Ons for this campaign will contain spoilers for Tomb of Annihilation. If I deem these substantial, then you will be notified in greater detail. Some liberties have been taken for cinematic effect.
Image Credit: Monster Manual, Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast
With a few gemstones from bookie K'lahu in hand and squared debtor Taban subdued, the party revisits the Thundering Lizard Tavern to meet with Xandala who is searching for her father, Artus Cimber. The Thundering Lizard lives up to its name: Tables of dark grained wood sit on large stone pads with simple block chairs, horns of tej (the local honey ale) are plentiful, and a dozen dialects are spoken between peoples across Faerun. Locals include the pale-skinned dwarves, often adorned in powdered make ups and make ups of blue and green; various tall Chultans wearing copper reads, sky blues, and linen white clothing; an Aarakocra with bright red wings and blue-green facial plumage drinks quietly from a corner booth. Then there are the abundant peoples from the mainland seeking treasure and solution to the Death Curse affecting loved ones across the world.
Xandala's father, Artus Cimber, seems to be a bit of a treasure hunter and is somewhere in the wider Chultan wilderness. Xandala, a blonde Half-Elf with faintly reflective scales along her cheeks and hairline, is accompanied by Summerwise, a pseudodragon who whispers to her in draconic. Xandala explains that she is eager to set out but the guides make her anxious. It would be too easy for them to take her coin and leave her in the jungle, especially if undead were to attack. She can stand on her own much of the time, but it is dangerous to go alone.
Terrence is interested in pursuing her goal while learning more from the Chultan world beyond the walls. First, they seek one of his fellow Druids, Qawasha, who has been working from Fort Beluarian, a stronghold of the Flaming Fist. Unknown to the others, Emerson has been requested to uncover details about the head of Fort Beluarian, one Liara Portyr. Having taken his cue from his early interlocutor, he left a message with the flowermonger in the Harbor Ward.
The road to Fort Beluarian is cleared and well-traveled. Merchants pass along with carts to Fort Beluarian where prices can be steeper amongst the soldiers who keep a small bazaar busy. Carvey, needing a moment to relieve himself, walks toward the wood while his companions continue ahead. After his moment of repose, he turns to see a large blue flower just outside of arm's reach. One of its six petals has lowered and inside is a tiny figure with a dark black body, matching high swirls of hair, and a mask-like white face. Carvey reaches for it, but it tumbles out of the back of the flower, which blossoms wide, and onto the thick forest floor. Fingolfin approaches and sees Carvey stare out into the jungle, the ferns and clumps of grass shivering in a half dozen places from what, to Fingolfin at least is, an unaccounted breeze.
Fort Beluarian stands on an earthen hill of ten feet of bare, sloped earth, with twenty foot high wooden walls around it, with almost a dozen towers built in. The flag of Baldur's Gate flaps above the walls on a high pole and the bailey's thatched roof can be seen just above the walls. Smoke from cookfires, a smith, and the bailey's open center rise in the late afternoon light. The market within is close to closing, but a handful of merchants aim to make coin from the shift shortly to come off duty. Along the shore soldiers inspect crates that have come off of the ships acting as customs enforcement. One such crate, at least, is marked with a swirl of flame while the rest seems typical. Jax, Emerson, Carvey, and Garr enter the bailey, where they're told drinks can be found by the cook while Terrence and Fingolfin explore outside.
Terrence quickly spots his fellow of the Emerald Enclave, Qawasha, a local Chultan selling poultice and tinctures for joint pains, fevers, headaches, hangovers, and pep. His herbalism kit is dutifully watched by Kupalué, or simply "Weed," his vegepygmy companion who resembles a large green tuber with large yellow eyes and a radish like sprout of hair atop a green body with small, algal growths. Qawasha is not tall for a Chultan, but his slender build and curls of hair give him an imposing look. His bald head extends his severe, sun-beaten features. His staff, topped with green wrappings and stone shard like talon, accentuates his build.
Qawasha does not ask for payment as long as his companions agree to destroy any undead they come across. Weed is familiar with the creatures of Chult and he aids Qawasha in ridding the land of the undead menace who are a corruption of the Balance and threaten the "Chwinga" spirits. When asked about the Chwinga, Qawasha smiles knowingly and says they will be easier to show, then to explain.Terrence understands quickly that Qawasha is unafraid of the undead and has a fire to end them, similar to some holy knights or clerics.
Meanwhile, Fingolfin checks with the stables and briefly meets Thaeven the Bald, a salty keeper of the animals complaining of the inhospitable weather. The temple to Helm on the north wall is also simple and welcoming. Shilau, a local Chultan, maintains the temple and offers simple cots and a warm fire to sleep next to if needed.
Inside, the others have joined four soldiers for ales thanks to the cook and kitchenmaster Sigbeorn. Without much in the way of entertainment, Jax, Carvey, and Emerson easily coax them into a drinking contest of sorts. With a little illusory finesse, Garr suggests empty horns are rather full for his comrades, and with the humidity Emerson makes short work of an opposing wood elf guard who teeters over with a hiccup. Of course, not to be outdone by a human, Carvey drinks a Tethyrian under the table. Jax, opposite an imposing Illuskan with red hair and freckles, drinks steadily with laugh and gusto. And by the end, much of the off-duty guards are shouting for their fellows, spending their bonuses on Sigbeorn's meats, cheeses, and drink. Garr tries to get a song in the air, but is outdone by a trio of guards, leather armor straps loosened now, swaying back and forth with horns held high.
And down goes the Illuskan followed by Jax's mighty belch!
Attracted by the ruckus, Terrence and Fingolfin enter, though Terrence is intrigued not by the debauchery but by the raptors and other penned dinosaurs kept just to the left upon entering. They've been riled by the song and shouting and Rahl the Chultan wrangler is attempting to calm the riding beasts. A beaked hadrosaurus rears up in front of Terrence, who attempts to calm the beast as best he can. Fingolfin, however, is more interested in Sigbeorn's ale.
Fingolfin approached his acquaintance Thaeven the stablemaster who himself was eager for drink thanks to Garr's generosity. Thaeven complained of the horses failing to get along in this unfamiliar land. With a horn of ale in hand, Fingolfin suggested that the word from the others was that more horses were coming. With a leap of logic, Thaeven shouted in excitement. Perhaps they would tame this land! Cut through the jungle and make proper roads for the horses to really move on! As word spread of the great new road and the influx of horses, the soldiers eagerly downed their ale.
Minor Spoiler Ahead
Emerson, interested in the opportunity to skulk, starts upstairs to see Liara Portyr, in full plate with white formal robing over it, descend in a huff. Allowing her to pass she begins knocking ale-logged noggins about demanding her soldiers act appropriately. Emerson makes his ways upstairs in what is predominantly sleeping quarters without doors. The south room, however, has a simple wooden door left ajar and its minor improvements quickly suggest it is Portyr's. While the furnishings are austere, a small lockbox beneath the bed protrudes just enough to catch the overhanging sheet.
With his dextrous digits, Emerson opens the box while shouts below mingle with drunken song shunted outdoors, the rousing of dinosaurs, and the corralling of soldiers. Within is over two hundred gold coins and a runed stone that Emerson recognizes as a sending stone. By sliding his fingers along the lateral ring of carved stones and employing his own bit of illusory magic, Emerson does a convincing impression of Major Portyr.
A cut is ready for her. Emerson is eager to offer another, what was it? Manifest. They can meet along Raptor's Talon north of the Fort for the exchange. Oh! And it'll be someone new this time. Someone who just happened to match Emerson's description.
Below, the party seems to have concluded. Garr was offered the road back to town by Portyr if he continued to trouble. Terrence, however, was given kind words by Rahl for speaking down the hadrosaurus, whose repose seemed to calm the others, too.
Fort Beluarian, now into early evening, had fresh guards afoot. Qawasha would meet the party outside the south gate, or Ore Gate, come morning. Shortly however, Emerson had a meeting to get to. A cloud of fog and a few ropes over the walls would do the trick.
At Raptor's Talon, they waited. Jax had himself behind a large beachstone. Fingolfin, Carvey, and Terrence hunkered prone near the tree line. Emerson and Garr stood near the water's edge, peering into the darkness. Jax spotted the outline of a ship, a shadow in the night, some minutes before the others could see the wavering form of a rowboat approach. A sailor looked out from the bow while three others rowed toward shore.
After some confirmation that Emerson and his unexpected companion were his liaison, the sailors said that Zaroum was pleased with their recent work. A lockbox was brought ashore and they requested the latest manifest. For the Subtle Wind, as it turned out, as Emerson presented a tube with parchment inside. With hands held behind, gesturing in arcane ways as subtly as they could manage, Garr and Emerson worked together to make a facsimile of a ship's manifest while the sailor inspected it. Perhaps the moonlight was on their side or the sailor had had their own carousing, but it passed muster.
A wineskin was passed in quiet celebration, first taken by the lead, then handed to Emerson. A moment passed, but Emerson drank in turn and passed it to Garr, who was quick to it. The others drank and smiled and said their adieux. Pleased, the sailors pushed off from shore.
Their breath was held.
The others approached and within the chest was some 800 gold in coin and gemstones! Suddenly, the "bonuses" the soldiers kept referring to made a little more sense...
End of Minor Spoiler
Walking back to Fort Beluarian, a song resounded off the ocean waves. It caught Carvey's ear first, who dallied and watched as a young Calishite girl, no older than ten walked toward him from the water. She was singing and her fine dress was drenched through. Shortly she was joined by an older sister, fourteen or fifteen, and they came up to Carvey asking for aid. The others had taken notice by now and turned to find Carvey kneeling next to the youngest trying to dry her off while her sister stood nearby. A third, the tallest and somewhere near twenty, stood closer to the surf.
A ship had crashed, the work of a massive turtle they said, and they had swam as hard as they could to shore. Their parents were aboard the ship, they said, tearful. They had begun to sing to attract anyone that might aid them. And here! Adventurers to help them!
But Garr peered at them with suspicion. In the flicker of starlight, was that a bit of fish scale along the yougnest girl's neck? And Jax smelled something that was not Human. Garr approached with a calming word and set his hand on the girl, only to shove Carvey aside and send bolts of lightning through the girl! She shouted with a guttural, oceanic depth. Jax moved in and swung his axe down on the girl, still quaking from the electricity.
She fell and her skin... melted? And her body extended and beneath the fine clothes were sodden rags and beneath the skin were blue and green fish scales.
A bolt of lightning shot out from the girl at Garr and Fingolfin. Her sister acted, gesturing and casting a curse on Carvey, who was befuddled and woozy. And Jax saw something rise up out of the ocean. Could it be the eldest? It was a octopus like starlight and fog and he glared at it, letting its tentacles crash down around him only to see it evaporate in a cloud of psychic nothingness.
Emerson shot his bow from higher ground, but missed as the sparks obscured his aim. Fingolfin dove in, a flurry of snapping limbs against the hag that was once the youngest sister. Then in a snap of ancient magics, Terrence raised his hands and summoned the corals to grow in sharp relief. The beach sprang to life in jagged, thorny protrusions, catching the middle sister in the middle and the eldest at its edge. Garr shot out at the middle sister with a blast of fire as Jax leapt at her, tackling her into a thousand glass-etched branches of coral.
The eldest hag ran, still caught in the corals biting grasp. Fingolfin, moving like the wind, danced along the edges of the coral on his wrapped feet toward the hag and tackled her. Coral broke beneath her form and she gasped in pain. Carvey approached, head reeling, and raised his axe and ended creature.
Once complete, they fought back the nausea of the smell and terrible appearance. The coral bleached and faded without Terrence's magic to maintain it. They searched the coastline finding a cave partially concealed by waves. Animal and humanoid bones were in one corner with a small raised firepit in the center. A tiny hole provided minor ventilation. Most importantly, though, was a cloth wrapping, in which they found gemstones and a shimmering silver wand.
With Portyr's wrath awaiting them at Fort Beluarian, they claimed the shelter and rested.