Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Search For The Mummy's Mask Part Three: Enemies on All Sides

When last we left the intrepid adventurers known as the Desert Falcons, they had been excavating tombs, turning up ancient history, and doing their best to make friends with their fellow adventurers in the city of Wati. It was in their third delve into the necropolis, though, that they realized there was something deeper at work. That forces long buried were beginning to awaken...

If you haven't caught up with the adventures yet, the previous installments can be found here:

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

Caught up? Lovely! Now then, on to the Temple of Nethys...

A Great Treasure Beneath The Sands

The Desert Falcons had faced horrors, but they stood undeterred by ancient curses, and withered guardians. The third lot they were given by the Church of Pharasma was an ancient place that had gone untouched for years. A temple dedicated to Nethys, there were those who were particularly afraid of the fell curses the servants of the half-mad god of magic would have left behind.

I'm sure it's just fine after all this time.
Upon arrival, we immediately notice there is something amiss. The temple is a grand structure, kept whole and apart from the ravages of time by powerful spells that are only just now beginning to lose their force. Ra'ana, with her sharp eyes, notes there are some tracks in the sand that has accumulated. All of us notice the smashed bones and broken corpses of what were likely the temple's eternal guardians. They've been slain, and recently. Someone, it seems, was displeased with their lot and was trying to jump our claim.

So, displeasure warring with caution, we followed the path of destruction, and made our way down into the bowels of the temple.

Tomb Raiders, and Cult Leaders

What we found was a room nearly cut in half. One part of it clean and orderly, the other ruined. The first was light, the second dark, just as Nethys is, and a huge crack ran down the center of the room. On a dais at the far end stood an undead creature, sword bare and armor ancient, but serviceable. Between us and him, are the members of one of the other raiding parties.

And they look less than happy to see us.
A few words are exchanged, and the situation soon becomes clear. An ancient mask was left in the care of this guardian, and the other group tried to get to it before anyone else could. They won't budge, and when their leader snaps her whip, it's time to remind them why we are not to be trifled with.

B'wana reared from the sand, and smashed into the enemy's eidolon. Umaya threw herself into the fray, slashing and laughing as she traded blows with the enemy's fighter. Ra'ana intercepted the tomb guardian, using every skill she knew to slay the undead. Mustafa offered the wizard and the cleric a chance to surrender. When they did not accept, they were cut down with fire and force.

The battle leaves us bloody, but it is quickly clear we will be the victors. Which is when the whip-wielding bard abandons the fray, steals the mask, and bolts up the stairs. Ra'ana gives chase, but by the time we reach the upper floor our quarry has hidden herself behind a veil of illusion. Ra'ana drinks a potion we found in a previous tomb, and though old, the magic still lets her see the invisible. Just before we close in, though, a huge insect is summoned into our path. Worse, two of the tomb's true guardians who had hidden in the walls burst forth. In the chaos she escapes, along with our prize. Though she left a bit of herself behind, and we collect the blood we drew from her. Just in case we need it later.

The Very Last Straw

We emerged from the temple battered, bruised, and in sour spirits. Some of our enemies perished in the battle, and some survived. The survivors were stabilized, and taken prisoner. Once they're bound, and gagged, we return to Wati with them in tow hoping to bring the matter before the church to get to the bottom of what is happening.

That's when we were ambushed.

You picked the wrong day.
One of the Pharasman priests believes we are holding back items of value found at our previous sites. He captured Hakaar, and beat him badly to try and get a confession out of him. Archers stand on the surrounding rooftops, and foot pads step from the shadows, curved knives glinting in their fists. It was meant to intimidate us into surrender. However, despite being wounded and with many of our resources spent, no one was allowed to simply hurt our friends and get away with it.

They were given a chance to lay down their arms, and walk away. Forgiveness would be given, or so Mustafa promised. Their response was jeers, and a volley of arrows. Our response was much worse.

Ra'ana and Umaya rushed into the fray, cracking the hired muscles' skulls like they were made of candy. B'wana slithered under the sand, cutting off their retreat, using her reach and natural attacks to make sure no one escaped. Fire flew from Mustafa's hands, as well as his eyes, as he and Yana burned down the archers. Those few who survived surrendered, or were captured before they could bleed out. Mustafa knelt outside the tent, and healed Hakaar. The merchant, touched that we would respect his anonymity, re-donned his clothes, and his face covering.

The priest who took it upon himself to apply pressure to our merry band was thrown on the cart with the other prisoners, and we went to the temple to speak with the high priestess.

Did the crocodile show mercy? Did the Desert Falcons find out who stole the mask, and what purpose it served? Tune in next time for part four, The City of The Restless Dead!

If you enjoyed this week's Table Talk entry, feel free to check out the archive. There's some tasty stuff in there, and you might find a story worth sharing with your group. If you'd like to help support Improved Initiative, then you should stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, and consider leaving a donation. As little as $1 a month can make a big difference. Lastly, if you haven't followed me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter yet, you should. That way you won't miss a single update.

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