Friday, October 28, 2016

The Search For The Mummy's Mask Part One: The Desert Falcons, and The Littlest Pharaoh

For those of you who have enjoyed such tales as The Ballad of Baldric Brimstone, where a mad, gunslinging alchemist forged a kingdom from lead and blood, or The Saga of Majenko, where one little pseudodragon changed the course of an entire city's history, I've got a new one for you. You see, my regular group is nearly done with the Mummy's Mask adventure path for Pathfinder, and I'd like to recount the tale of our deeds for you here.

Of course, this recounting comes with a warning. For you see, our DM often takes liberties with the source material. So just because something happened one way in our game, that doesn't mean you will find it anywhere in the adventure path's books.

Now then, our tale begins in a small, desert town, beneath the heat of a dawning day...

The Desert Falcons


Our tale begins in the small town of Wati, where an unprecedented event is happening. The government of Osirion has stated that parties may enter into tombs to reclaim relics from within. These relics will be reviewed by the church of Pharasma, and those who reclaimed them (after dealing with traps, monsters, curses, and a plethora of other ancient security measures) will be compensated for their time and hazard.

As always, though, these reclamation teams are warned not to damage the tombs, and to be respectful of their inhabitants, as well as the history of these burial places.

Of course. The utmost respect. Hand me that pry bar, will you?
The lots are handed out at random, and every team must come to claim theirs. This ensures that those who find the tombs filled with great riches, and those who finds the ones filled with great danger, are chosen at random. Of course, if a team meets a grisly fate, then their lot will fall to someone else.

Enter the Desert Falcons. The team is made up of a dwarven tomb guard named Umaya, who feels a great duty to preserve the respect of the dead throughout this process, an elven dune ranger named Ra'ana, whose face is veiled against prying eyes and the desert sun alike, her companion Caladral, an elf for whom thievery and panache go hand-in-hand, a ragged mystic from the depths of the desert named Yana, and his companion the Large-sized sandworm B'wana, and finally a big-bellied, red-robed priest of Sarenrae named Mustafa.

We are given an assignment of great worth, and allowed to go in before nearly anyone else. So, prepared for the worst (or at least as prepared as we can be), we make our way to our allotted tomb hoping to be its latest explorers, instead of its latest residents.

The Tomb of The Lost General


Upon arriving at our site, we find an impressive-looking tomb. Clearly the person who occupied this part of the necropolis was someone of great importance, and they had lain there undisturbed for an age or longer. Despite being the first ones allowed into the city of the dead, though, we find someone waiting for us. A peddler in a donkey cart, with his keffiyeh pulled across his face. His name is Hakar, and he is here to help us. Or so he claims.

Do you need rope? I have rope!
We make a few purchases, including an extendable 10-foot pole, and some minor necessities. More importantly, though, we ask Hakar for information. He protests that he knows nothing, but he offers us a deal. A better price on the treasures we find in this tomb than the Pharasmans would ever pay, and in gold. No questions asked. Or we could take it in trade, if trade was what we wanted.

Suspicious, but curious as to what could possibly prompt someone to sneak into the city of the dead early enough to get there ahead of us, we begin our first delve into the unopened tomb. Once, that is, the dwarf puts her shoulder to the massive stone blocking the entryway, and shoves the offending rock out of the way.

What we find is unexpected. Wide-open spaces filled with crumbling wall scrolls and murals of past glories, there is something unique about them. Mustafa carefully wipes the dust from the art, transmuting the faded paint and chipped stone back to a shadow of its former glory. It seems to depict a great general from thousands of years ago, in the prime of her career. It lauds her victories, and her accomplishments, letting everyone know exactly how important this tomb's resident was during her life.

Once we had an idea of how important she was, we proceeded with caution. We found mirrors that tried to trap us, switches in the floor that launched darts, and strange, glass scorpions that tried to kill us (and that was just in the first room). We found statues of the old gods, an altar to the lords of the afterlife, and a treasure chamber full of gilded tablets, depictions of great victories, and a war chariot.

Dear gods... dual-axle 52-inch rims with decorative scroll. Late period... do you have any idea its worth?
While Mustafa was enamored with the chariot, his magic already caressing the dust and age from it, the strangest finding was still to come.

The Littlest Pharaoh


In the lowest chamber of the tomb, we found a tiny city. It looked like it had been constructed for elaborate play by a child, but as we watched we realized that the tiny clay men and women who filled the place were moving. They were going about tiny, unknowable lives. They regarded us, and many fled in panic from these strange giants who descended from above, bearing fire in their hands, and dressed in strange garb.

We were unsure what to do, but in the midst of discussing it we saw a tiny parade coming toward us. So we waited, and emissaries from the pharaoh bid the new gods to come and speak with him at the pyramid in the center of the city. We agreed, stepping gingerly through the cleared streets, and leaving B'wana to guard our back trail, since she never would have fit through the tiny boulevards.

Though if there was a cavalier among the city guard, they could have trained an unstoppable mount.
What we found was a clay man, easily twice the size of the others, waiting for us. He spoke to us in the tongue of ancient Osirion, a language we were proficient in, and asked if we would help protect his people. A threat had come from beyond the boundary, which was a large crack in the far wall, and they were powerless to stop it. Even he, with his vaunted might, could not protect his people on his own.

Before we could ask any questions, or even talk about terms, though, the threat attacked again. Huge-sized beetles crawled out of the wall, snarling and snapping as they assaulted the tiny city. This, we decided at once, would not stand.

Small units of tiny soldiers rode to the defense of the city, and the tiny pharaoh's pyramid floated into the air, beams of light firing from its apex. B'wana lashed her teeth and tail at the interlopers, and Mustafa flung holy fire from his hands. Umaya roared as she fought, and Ra'ana's blades cut deep. Even Caladral, a god more of speech and song than of battle landed a blow. While the beasts fought, it was a battle that, seen from the perspective of the tiny inhabitants, was truly mythic in proportion.

The Terrible Truth


With the battle won, wounds healed, and even the damage to clothing and armor repaired to the priest's satisfaction, we explored this tiny place we had saved. We found two coffins, where the general's sons were buried. We also found a flooding trap that had malfunctioned, creating the lake and river that gave life to the city, and allowed the clay people to continue to be formed. We also found something else. Clues buried in the records, and in the images, that hinted at another child. An illegitimate baby the general had borne, but which had never taken a place in the record.

And beneath the pyramid we found a recess. And in that recess, the remains of the child.

Well... that got dark in a hurry.
This revelation strikes different chords in different party members. Caladral is upset, trying to avoid emptying his guts at what he's seeing. Ra'ana is horrified, but stoic. Umaya is unaffected, having seen stranger in her time as a necropolis guard. Yana is confused, trying to understand the city, its people, and what gave rise to this whole thing. Mustafa is intrigued, the implications of the transmutation of the soul something he is intimately familiar with, and more impressed by than horrified at.

Once we've concluded out investigations, though, the pharaoh bids us speak with him again. He has decided, after fighting by our sides, that he and his people have been down her for too long. That he should come with us, and see the world beyond in order to find a new place for him and his people.

Who could deny him such an opportunity?

This is, of course, just the beginning of this great tale. For more stories, tune-in to Table Talk. And, if you'd like to help support Improved Initiative (so that I can keep telling stories like this one), consider stopping by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page in order to leave a few crumbs of bread in my jar. Lastly, if you haven't followed me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter yet, why not start now?

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