Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Search For The Mummy's Mask Part Ten: The End of The Forgotten Pharaoh

The Cult of The Forgotten Pharaoh has rampaged through Osirion. Skulking through the shadows, and massing in the light of day, they have tried to resurrect one of the region's more powerful priest-kings. They've assassinated political figures, broken into ancient tombs, summoned daemons, and destroyed an entire city. The Desert Falcons have been there every step of the way, arms and voices raised in negation.

It was inevitable that they would, in-time, clash with the Sky Pharaoh himself. Once they found him, that was.

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...
Part Seven: Needle in a Haystack
Part Eight: Lamias and Genie Lords
Part Nine: The Mind of The Forgotten Pharaoh
Part Ten: The End of The Forgotten Pharaoh

And now... the final chapter...

Getting The Band Back Together

After scattering the forces of the Forgotten Pharaoh's cult, and preventing them from summoning his Mind, the Desert Falcons freed Hakar. Once unbound, the masked merchant revealed himself as a lord of the efreet, and the ruler of the City of Ash. In return for the Falcons' aid Hakar offered his old friends gifts. To Moloch, he infused his undead bloodline with life, granting him more robust health, and removing some of the stains of undeath from his body. To Umaya, he gave one of his great scimitars; a weapon capable of being wielded only by those of djinni blood, or who are strong enough to be deemed worthy of their steel. To Mustafa, he gave the other blade... and as the master of magics easily hefted the weapon, the truth of his parentage was revealed. Ra'ana, though, had only one desire; to once more walk alongside her lost companion Caladral.

So Hakar led them on a journey through the planes, and into the realm of champion's reward. When asked by his old friends to return to life, Caladral finished his ale, and said he would be happy to. Especially since they needed him now more than ever.

Ancient mummified despot isn't going to depose himself, after all.
With the original crew back together, Hakar opened a portal from the City of Ash, back to the material plane. From there, he told them, they will be on their own.

The True Face of Mumanofra

Once they return to the world they left behind, the Desert Falcons cast for the trail of the Forgotten Pharaoh and his minions. Though they've suffered a major defeat, there is word they have been taking slaves (and converts) from all across Osirion. The Falcons follow the trail, and find themselves outside another excavation in the deep desert. An excavation where the only visible sign of a living presence is a single, well-lit tent, a hoard of gnoll taskmasters, and their pens of slaves.

Sounds like they're playing our song...
The camp was well-defended by gnoll captains and champions, but they were unprepared for the savagery that fell upon them. Hoards of summoned monsters rampaged into the gnolls' ranks, laying about them with brutal force as Moloch called them forth from the ether. Stone melted, exploding into searing magma that instantly cooled into vicious daggers of glassy stone as Mustafa let forth the heat of his blood's true potency. Umaya walked carefully, almost deliberately, through the ranks, leaving a wake of bloody bodies behind her. And Ra'ana cut a swath through the slavers, until she stood before their captain; the undead monstrosity that, when he lived, had been the one who made her a slave.

His head fell atop the pile, like a gem in the crown of the night's work.

Of course, the true task was still ahead. In the single tent, which was a gateway to a massive manor house in its own, small pocket realm, was the leader of this horror show. The dark, twisted soul for whom the suffering of the nation was but a passing amusement, and who intended to profit herself as much as possible from it. Lying upon a dais, attended by enchanted servants, was Mumonofra... the advisor to the Ruby Prince the Falcons had met ever so briefly in passing.

No sooner had she greeted them then she showed them her true face; the twisted, tiger-furred visage of a rakshasa. Not just any rakshasa, though... one of the rare Maharaja. Amused by their struggles outside, Mumonofra spread her arms, and invited the Falcons to revenge themselves upon her, if they felt they were able.

They did, indeed, feel they were able. Green lightning and screaming frost filled with the cries of the damned flew from Moloch's hands. Umaya and Ra'ana sprang toward the horrific creature, their blades striking true time and time again. Caladral's fast fingers drew forth wand, after scroll, after trick, pulling out every advantage he could manage. Mustafa, enraged as only someone with fire in his faith and his veins can be, systematically stripped Mumonofra's defenses, dispelling and removing every protection she had to keep her vulnerable.

And it was for that act that she slew him.

The Ruby Prince, and The Final Showdown in The Sky

Though Mumonofra was defeated, there was a greater threat looming. She was the one who found the ancient, flying pyramid, and she was also the one who excavating a smaller version in the deep desert. A missing piece of the original. It could, in theory, be used to hunt down the Sky Pharaoh, and to put an end to the threat he posed.

But first, the Desert Falcons needed to resurrect another of their fallen companions. And they did not have the luxury of calling on a djinni lord for his favor.

Well... there IS this one guy...
The Desert Falcons packed up the treasures of the campsite, and trekked to the capital city of Sothis. They hope that word of their deeds, the truth about one of the Ruby Prince's closest advisors, and the dire straits the kingdom was in would be enough for him to lend his aid. After all, as the risen guard can attest, Khemet is a master of resurrection magics.

The journey was grueling, but the Falcons managed to catch favorable winds, and arrive in Sothis in less than a few weeks. With some friends in high places, they managed to secure a secret audience with the Ruby Prince himself... though they had to come in the dark of the night, and in secret. Khemet met them with a smile, and gentle words. He knew of their deeds, and to the Falcons surprise, also knew of Mumonofra's true nature. As thanks for dealing with her, and for their willingness to risk their lives on behalf of his kingdom, he resurrected Mustafa.

Then, with his royal blessing, he sent them on to what would be their final battle in the skies... one way, or another.

A Challenge of Ages

Upon returning to the dig site, it didn't take the scholars and spellcasters long to understand the true purpose of the smaller pyramid. It, like its larger cousin, flew. It used life energy, and raw magical power, to defy the laws of the material plane on a grand scale. Unwilling to sacrifice huge numbers of living humans, as Mumonofra had been going to, they instead choose to unbind the power in relics, and in themselves, to provide the pyramid with the energies it needs. After several, grueling days, they took to the air, and were soon flying toward the Sky Pharaoh's palace.

And none too soon, either. For he was outside Sothis, attempting to loose the spawn of Rovagug onto the region once more.

When the Falcons got within range of the pyramid, their own ship offered to dock them. It fit into the underside of the Sky Pharaoh's vessel, securing itself automatically. With not a moment to lose, they quickly disembarked, and began climbing their way to the top of the structure.

Which is not to say there was no resistance...
The pyramid was filled with the living dead, and the Falcons had to navigate the colossal necropolis to finally find the throne room of the dead priest king. Shambling zombies, half-prepared mummies, and an undead blue dragon all barred the Falcons' way, but none proved a hefty enough barrier to their determination to end this thing once and for all.

In the highest room, at the pinnacle of the pyramid, the Falcons found the Sky Pharaoh attended by over a hundred ardent worshipers. They were bowed in silent contemplation and worship, their faith and life forces powering the ship's weapons as much as the pharaoh's magics. The tranquil scene wasn't tranquil for long, though.

Before the Falcons could close the distance, the Sky Pharaoh raised a hand. Three huge constructs rose to their feet, and marched toward them. The Heart, the Ka, and the Mind, all put inside a huge golem, each with its own, unique abilities. And, to make matters worse, the Sky Pharaoh began slaying his worshipers, raising their bodies as zombies, and their spirits as shadows.

What followed was a chess match as the Falcons tried to counter the two-pronged assault. Ra'ana and Umaya rushed the constructs laying into them with steel and raw might, dodging and absorbing blows that would have killed lesser adventurers. Mustafa and Moloch tended to the undead, putting them to rest before they could sap their companion's strengths, or overwhelm them with numbers. It seemed a hopeless struggle, but just as Caladral had fallen to one knee, and Moloch was shuddering, on the verge of spending the last of his arcane energies, Ra'ana broke through the ranks, and slashed her blade across the Sky Pharaoh's throat. His head tumbled to the ground, and two of the constructs vanished. The Ka and the Mind had been little more than half-real illusions, mimicked by the Sky Pharaoh's magic... only the Heart was real, as it was the only piece that the cult had managed to hang onto.

The End of The Adventure

With the Sky Pharaoh slain, and the massive pyramid under their command, the Desert Falcons flew it away from Sothis. With some difficulty, as they were still depleted and wounded, they landed it near the oasis outside the crystal dragon's cave. The undead had dropped where they were, and those people who yet lived stumbled into the daytime, as if awoken from a dream. The pyramid was too dangerous to be left unguarded, though.

So the Falcons took the wisest course of action they knew. They allowed the Littlest Pharaoh (the true manifestation of the Sky Pharaoh's pure ka), to move his people into the pyramid. They dedicated chambers to the storing of relics and books, and asked Matthew to be the custodian (since it was a far cry from hell). The crystal dragon was asked to allow it to stand within her lands, and the Ruby Prince was asked for his blessing.

Once all of that was dealt with, the Falcons went their separate ways. Ra'ana and Caladral to visit old haunts, Umaya to return to her people with tales of glory and honor, and Moloch went north to Ustalav to continue his trade as a freelance exorcist. And Mustafa? No one was quite sure what happened to the strange, form-shifting spellcaster. But there are those who say that, if he needs to be found, there is a masked merchant named Hakar who always seems to know just where he is.

And for folks curious about what happened to Mustafa afterward, well, he wound up on the Clerical Errors episode of Dungeon Keeper Radio's show Mythconceptions.

That's all for this week's Table Talk installment. Whew! The final tale. Hopefully you all enjoyed the journey. If folks are interested in more complete stories of other campaigns (and even other adventure paths), I'm about halfway through Rise of The Runelords with my group right now... so we'll see what stories come out of that one. Until then, feel free to follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter to get all my latest updates, and to check out my archive over at Gamers for additional gaming content. And, if you want to help keep Improved Initiative going, consider going to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron today! $1 a month goes a long way, and gets you some sweet swag in the process.

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