If you're not caught up, check out the previous installments below:
Part One: The Desert Falcons, and The Littlest Pharaoh
Part Two: Undead Children, and Resurrected Puppies
Part Three: Enemies on All Sides
Part Four: Fight Night at The Necropolis
Part Five: Who is The Forgotten Pharaoh?
Part Six: No Harm Ever Came From Reading A Book...
Caught up? Good! Because it's into the furnace blast of the empty sands we go...
Finding The Needle In The Haystack
The Falcons left Tephu with a camel, supplies, and the remnants of their departed companion Caladral. They also hired a mercenary on their way out of town, a broad-shouldered archer with a good deal of orc blood in him. They headed south of the city to an oasis, where caravaneers from across Osirion were trading gossip, news, and goods. Gnolls were taking slaves, a Roc was entering its nesting season, and there were rumors about strange doings deep in the desert where few living people ever ventured.
The DM looked around the table, and laid out a huge hex map. Each hex was a day's worth of travel, and the men we sought were somewhere out there. We were each allowed to gather information, and to then randomly select a single hex that we had learned about. With over 70 possibilities, Mustafa took his index finger, and prodded a seemingly random location...
|I see something shiny!|
... which just happened to be the exact hex where the Cult of the Forgotten Pharaoh has summoned a small army of undead diggers to unearth a lost tomb.
With their destination located quickly, the Falcons packed up, and headed out across the dunes. They had no time to waste.
A Short Distraction
A week into the desert, no more than a day away from their destination, the Falcons were set upon by a pack of gnoll slavers. They mistook the Falcons for defenseless prey, and were sorely mistaken. While picking through their packs, though, the party discovered something strange. An urn of royal jelly... the sort used to feed the royal larva of the thriae, an insect race not too far to the north. So, as they're in the neighborhood, they decide to return the stolen property before continuing on their quest.
After a tense standoff with thriae soldiers, the Falcons are welcomed in, and given some horrific news. The queen is dead, and the larva were made off with by a group of slavers... a far larger group than the ones who attacked the Falcons in the night. They went to the south, and might be as much as a week in that direction. Longer if the Falcons veer around a noted Roc nesting in a spire of stone.
The tomb has been buried for a thousand years or more. The babies may not be able to wait.
|Slavers... why did it have to be slavers?|
There is no decision to be made in the minds of the Desert Falcons. They depart, moving fast on the trail of the kidnapped grublings, not even bothering to swing wide of the Roc's nest. The huge bird attacks, but doesn't even have a chance to come within melee range before it's brought down by a storm of arrows, and a hail of fire. Unperturbed, they continue on, pushing through the night until they see the lights of the gnoll encampment. Ra'ana recons it, and brings back an estimate of their numbers.
The solution? Walk right in, and let everyone go free.
The guards watching the desert night barely had time to get a shout in edgewise before they fell beneath the threshing blades of Ra'ana and Umaya. Those who tried to run were shot down by the archer. One managed to stumble into the chieftan's tent, and he and his lieutenants joined the fray. Cowardly and vicious, the gnolls tried to use the slaves they'd taken as human shields. The combined arcane might of the Chelish exorcist and the Osirion firebrand made short work of them, and once their captors were dead, the slaves were released. The grublings were crying, hidden in the tent.
A good deed done, the Falcons started the slow trudge back across the sands. They butchered the remains of the Roc, poured water from the air, and sent the kidnapped victims on to the oasis before returning the tiny princesses to the thriae. They had made allies of the hive, and the thriae assured us that if they could repay the favor we had done them, then they would.
What Awaits Beneath The Sands?
With so much time spent, the Falcons set off on the end of their initial journey to confront the Cult of the Forgotten Pharaoh... what awaits beneath the sands? Well, join us next week to find out whether the time spent on side quests doomed their efforts, or if they still managed to come upon the cult before they found the treasure they sought.
That's all for this week's Table Talk installment. The rest of this campaign is going to move pretty fast from here on out. Don't miss a single installment by following me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. And, if you want to help support Improved Initiative, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron. All it takes is $1 to buy my everlasting gratitude, as well as some sweet swag of your very own!