After hacking their way through the tangled undergrowth to the foot of the ziggurat, the Fellowship of the Forge found themselves at last at Orolunga. The edifice was a four sided stepped pyramid. Two sets of stairs angled up the face of the ziggurat, one from the left and one from the right, to a landing about 30 feet above. This layout was repeated on the second and third levels, but with each successive layer adding less height than the previous one. On the top level a shrine could be seen adorned with labyrinthine patterns.
All about the foot of the stairs to the first level were vines and creepers. Skopti took the lead and forged on ahead. After ten feet the creepers and vines got thicker and sprouted sharp thorns. The grim fighter stopped when a few of them pierced his armour and threatened to draw blood, what was this trickery?
The way was barred so the brave explorers set about resolving this mystery. The Alchemy Jug was brought forth and oil was poured all over the vegetation on the left stairs. However, setting it on fire had no effect as the plants grew back almost instantly.
Valdimir despatched Shadows to fly up and scout, but no matter how hard he tried, the invisible familiar was not able to get any closer, as if a strong head wind prevented him from flying nearby. Grom tried to hack apart the thorn bushes, using his magical axe but that too was no good and the thorns grew back as quickly as they were cut. The party then decided to try the right stairs, but the effect was the same.
Valdimir gathered his dark powers and channeled it into false life. He advanced into the thorns getting stabbed and stuck with every step but the shadowy power kept most of the damage at bay. He kept going and when he reached the halfway point he stopped and looked around, he was surrounded by dagger sized thorns which seemed to stab from every angle. He screamed in pain as he was pierced in several places, like a pin cushion. It was then that he saw a strange figure amongst the thorns, a tiny humanoid whose body was black and shadowy and instead of a face he had a mask that resembled a Triceratops. It pointed back down the stairs and Valdimir found that if he went down, he was untroubled.
At the bottom, as the party were getting exasperated and running out of ideas, the tiny figure appeared again. It was Musharib alone who noticed it and he swore in Chultan and pointed. The figure was a Chwinga, jungle spirits who are known to be playful but sometimes helpful. This one was holding an orange and purple orchid in it’s tiny hands and whilst clutching it was able to traverse the steps easily. The thorns parted in front of him and closed up behind him.
Luckily, Grom is an expert gatherer and within short time he had found the same orchids growing in the jungle, enough for everyone. The party ascended the stairs to the first level and looked about. The stairs leading up to the second level appeared to be crumbling from age and decay. Everytime Skopti or Nundro tried to ascend the stairs they would crumble to gravel under their feet. The gravel never piled up below them and the stairs never wore down entirely, but it was impossible to make any progress.
They took a rest to regroup and noticed around their feet were red parrot feathers. Without waiting for a Chwinga to appear, Skopti scooped up a red parrot feather and, still clutching the orchid, ascended the stairs to the second level and to the foot of the last set of stairs before the top and the shrine. The rest of the brave explorers did likewise and followed.
The third set of stairs were covered with swarms and swarms of poisonous snakes – “It had to be snakes” muttered Vald. There were too many to fight and too many to charm with the special potions they had acquired. Vald did try to imitate a Port Nyanzarun snake charmer and got bit straight away.
A Chwinga appeared again, this one with a mask resembling a mongoose, holding an orange and purple orchid and a red parrot feather. It used the orchid to smack the snake on the head and make it angry, then it used the feather to tickle it’s flank to calm it. Then the strange figure laid down on the floor facing the snake whereupon the reptile crawled through the mouth of the mask and inside the Chwinga who then slithered up the steps like a snake, untroubled by any of the other poisonous snakes.
Nundro went first and nailed it, easily swallowing the snake and slithering up. Musharib followed so he could be at the Great Nundro’s side. Then Skopti followed with Grom not far behind. Valdimir was unable (or unwilling) to eat one of the snakes in this manner so made camp on the second level. The rest were at the top and could smell a faint scent of incense coming from the seemingly barren shrine.
When they stepped through the door they saw a plushly decorated room with hanging lamps and incense burners filling the air with light and exotic smoke. Curled amongst the cushions and reed mats was an immense snake with iridescent scales and a remarkably human like face. “I am Saja N’baza.” it said “What do you seek in this ancient place? Speak truly, for I hear your hearts!”
Skopti opened the questions asking about the Death Curse. The naga asked to be told more and between Skopti and Nundro they told as much as they could. The naga listened and shared some visions it had had which involved them.
Saja shared details about visions that Ras Nsi and his yuan-ti followers are scheming to end the world from their lair in Omu. She also saw a vision of the PC’s talking to Ras Nsi, she could not tell if they were agreeing or arguing.
The naga explained how she remembered Ras Nsi’s first uprising, and she urged the Fellowship to kill him, both as punishment for his past atrocities and to prevent any possibility of a recurrence.
She didn’t know much about the death curse, but she confirmed that it fits with various omens tied to Omu.
Lastly, Saja said that Omu lies between the Peaks of Flame and the Valley of Lost Honor, and she also explained that it’s sunken below the level of the surrounding jungle, so the best way to spot it will be from the air or from the nearest high ground.
With this she bestowed magical charms on Nundro, Grom, Skopti and Musharib for agreeing to destroy Ras Nsi and end his diabolical plot to summon Dendar the Night Serpent, eater of the World!
When they emerged it was dawn the next day and Valdimir had been patiently waiting. In the meantime he had received another sending spell from Jarpetto: “Made it to Port Nyanzaru! Bought a Flying Broom! It’s awesome! Gonna head to Kaya’s then make some friends. Be safe! See ya soon!”
When they all reached the ground, blue tulips were blooming all around the base of the ziggurat. They were beautiful and Grom plucked one from the ground to keep.
Musharib tried to convince the Fellowship to go onwards to Hrakhamar his ancestral home currently occupied by fire newts. However, it was decided that the Fellowship would retrace their steps and return to their boats at Camp Vengeance via Mbala.
They past the winterscape again and came to the place where the Zhents had camped. There was signs of a scuffle though and the Zhents had moved away. Luckily Grom was able to track them and the Fellowship soon caught up with them. Vald was cagey and told them that at great personal expense, they had learned that Artus Cimber had been seen going South.
During the walk back to Mbala they came across an injured adult Triceratops protecting an infant. Nundro calmed the beast and healed her sufficiently so that she relaxed and went to sleep. Their camp was made there that night and in the morning the Triceratops and her baby remained. They walked with the party for some time before departing.
As the explorers approached Mbala they noticed that they were being shadowed by a Tabaxi, leaping from tree to tree. It appeared to be posing no threat though. When the Fellowship reached Mbala all was quiet until they saw a disturbance near Nanny Pu’pu’s hut. Something thrust an arm up from a shallow grave and pulled itself from the earth. A flesh golem. They party moved to defensive positions and were harried by a group of flying monkeys as the golem approached.
Grom was lagging behind and was surprised to see the appearance of Nanny Pu’pu seemingly from nowhere in front of him. She swiped at him with wicked claws and cursed them all as betrayers. Grom wasted no time and brought his axe around but the blow did not land.
Meanwhile the rest of the party advanced towards the lumbering mismatch of body parts that was making it’s way towards them. Skopti expertly hacked at it, tripping and felling the large creature as Nundro and Musharib bashed it with mac and maul. The golem’s resistances were no match for the magic weapons wielded by the heroic adventurers and it was destroyed at last.
As Nanny Pu’pu slashed another attack at Grom, he reached out and with considerably strength grabbed the evil hag round the neck and pushed her to the ground. She tried to cover her foul visage with an illusion of a pretty young half-orc girl but Grom was not convinced and struck a near fatal blow with his axe. With her dying breath Nanny Pu’pu’s eyes rolled back and she incanted a hex “Oh Sewn Sisters, hear my plea! The souls of these betrayers will belong to you. Indulge upon them your more gruesome visitations Sisters! Kill them, enslave them…. guck….”
All of a sudden they was a whoosh and a thud, an arrow was sticking out of Nanny Pu’pu’s throat. She was dead, killed by the arrow of the Tabaxi hunter who was spotted behind a nearby cistern. The Tabaxi introduced himself as Smoke (short for Smoke on Water). He offered to lead the party to Nanny Pu’pu’s treasure trove in exchange for a portion of the loot.