“Welcome to Hamzarai!”
At least, that’s what someone might have said thousands of years ago. This is Scarpa Lela on special assignment in Questionable Company, while the group explores what was once a sprawling metropolis. The company was joined in the early morning by Red Dragon member alJarl Reid, who claimed to want to help them in their venture. Willing to accept all the help they could get, the group welcomed him.
A short swim gained the group access to Hamzarai’s watery lower floors. In the company of an ancient, temple-dwelling Honoured Dead, Amin, the party investigated a dilapidated library as well as a room filled with wind and chaos – soon revealed to contain a portal to Pandemonium. While Chisisi, Mahshid and newcomer Jarl did battle with a hungry bullette, Kind Man investigated a room beyond the portal – revealed to be a laboratory.
Kind Man suspected the laboratory was once used to create magical ingredients – possibly for use in conjunction with the portal. However, any remaining ingredients had long since been destroyed by time. His attention was then drawn to a coldroom door, wherein he found a frozen – but alive – creature intent upon his demise!! Like the wise priest that he is, he fled. Meanwhile, further exploration led Mahshid to being magically afflicted by Dreamblight: her leg was overtaken by what was diagnosed as psychic fungus – all this around a portal connected to Pandemonium!
…or was it?
Upon reexamining the portal, it was discovered that a new plane lay on the other side: this time, a bright, sunlight plane.
While Mahshid took to (fruitless) meditation in order to calm her fears of amputation, Jarl and Kind Man continued their investigation of the coldstore and and portal, respectively. It was Kind Man’s actions which led to the sudden apparition of a dinosaur inside the temple, and the group was forced to come together in order to defeat the beast. It was mostly thanks to Chisisi’s powers of animal friendship that the dinosaur retreated to its previous plane.
With not much to show for their first day inside the temple, the company rested uneasily – least of all Mahshid, who was eventually convinced to give up her penchant for alcohol in order to be healed by Jarl’s gods. It remains to be seen if she can keep her promise (and her leg), but at least she was able to sleep through the night. The following morning, after raiding the coldstore for anything of value, the group passed through the portal into the plane of Shadows.
The plane of Shadows showed Hamzarai in its prime: far from being buried in sand, the buildings towered overhead and there was even some faroff motion. More interesting to Kind Man, however, was a voice summoning him towards the water.
Under the surface of which was an aboleth. For listeners not familiar with this creature, picture a many-eyed whale with tentacles and the power to invade your mind. This reporter must admit that she stayed far away from this particular battle, during which Kind Man nearly perished.
After the battle, the group rested and then investigated the non-ruins of Hamzarai. Inside the temple they discovered the ghostly echo of a dead priest. Ilothtar revealed a memory of his formation by a priest in similar clothes, before the room was invaded and everyone slain by the B’heist. The plot thickened. Kind Man determined that the echoed priest existed somewhere on the material plane, haunted by his own shade – doubtless they’d find him later.
The Company wandered deeper into the city, into an area now completely covered in sand. Hints among the shadow populace led them to believe that these ancient B’heist and drow had been at odds with one another; however, little discussion could take place before a much larger aboleth was spotted overhead, and the party hid.
Not wanting to planeshift into a dune, the party was forced to flee, using shapechanging abilities to help them outrun the aboleth. Towering over them as well as destroying the ground under them, the aboleth nearly finished the party off – until a last-minute planeshift carried them to safety and sunshine atop the sand. Once free from the Shadow plane, they rested, but Kzz-Aah revealed that Kind Man was suffering from a dangerous affliction.
Said affliction has left him slimy, somewhat translucent and rather disgusting, this reporter’s opinion. Sorry, ladies.
The following morning, the group revisited the portal only to find that it had closed – probably permanently. What remained, then, was the rest of the temple, and especially the location of the Shadow plane’s priest. After a brief battle against a pair of chuul (and a feast that consisted of their eggs), they sought entry to the priest’s room.
Upon blasting open the doors, the group was assaulted by a fire elemental (quickly banished) and the priest’s shade, who revealed that it was the B’heist who murdered him. The party did battle, and after a final ricochet of Kind Man’s lightning off Mahshid’s shield, the shade was silenced.
The priest had been brutally stabbed to death by a ritual B’heist weapon. In his room the party discovered a magical tome outlining methods for harvesting, distilling and mixing souls into a powerful ambrosia, and it was presumed this research was what spawned the drow/B’heist disagreement that led to so many deaths and, possibly, to the destruction/abandonment of Hamzarai.
After quitting the priest’s chamber, the group discovered a room that contained a giant machine, filled with clanking and clearly meant to house a body – for good or ill. Hoping the machine might cure him, Kind Man boldly strapped himself in. While the injection of ancient souls seemed to have made some changes to his person, he was not cured of his fish-skin affliction.
Later that night, once the rest of the party had gone to sleep, Mahshid visited the machine as well. While it’s impossible for this reporter to determine exactly what happened to her, there is something of a glow about her – no doubt longtime fans will be pleased at the difference.
On the final day at Hamzarai (and after another chuul breakfast), the group looked into the final room, a chamber closed in by four ornate doors, one of which was especially elaborate. The chamber appeared to be some kind of ancient chapel, and contained the remains of several dead drow, also brutally murdered. Kind Man used his ability to speak with the dead, and it was revealed that these researchers were killed because someone (the B’heist?) thought their research was dangerous and sacrilegious.
Meanwhile, Mahshid wasted no time opening the ornate doors, and inside found a library and reliquary. Also inside was a long-hidden half-drow researcher named Mehve, still alive thanks to the magic of her long-dead lover. This is not an exaggeration, though this reporter would scarcely have believed it had she not seen it for herself!
After welcoming this time-refugee to the party, Questionable Company retreated to the surface and Kind Man made quick work of burying the machine under the sands, with hope of hiding it from future evil-doers.
But will Hamzarai remain hidden? Will the party ever tire of chuul-cakes? What knowledge can Mehve impart relevant to the party’s goals or the situation in Alam? More importantly, how will she handle life in a society that exists thousands of years after her own?
This is Scarpa Lela of Questionable Company, and I’ll have answers next time.