THE DESERT OF DESOLATION: PHARAOH
Dendera, human curate of Osiris
Hrothgar Stoneheart, dwarven swashbuckler
Alrik Mastgood, human cutpurse
Isis Mercury, elven enchanter/swashbuckler
Sam, human hireling
Hrothrock Goldvayne, dwarven hireling
Gareth Longsleeve, human hireling
The party arrives at the city of Khapricapolis along with the ‘others’: rival groups of adventurers and mercenaries after the same thing — easy gold to be had mapping new areas of the Desert Of Desolation and to obtain of the Star Gem for the Pharaoah Amun-Re IX, may his eyes ever shine with the light of Osiris, Prince of A Thousand Years, Keeper of the Faith of Ra and Defender of The Realm.
Amun-Re IX, may the light of Ra ever shine upon his footsteps, is obsessed with having the Desert mapped out, locating the hidden tomb of his earliest ancestor, and obtaining the Star Gem in an attempt to restore the Desert to the state it was in 400 years ago.
After agreeing to meet at the temple of Osiris, the party separates to procure what gear they will need, gather information, and see how they can obtain Writs Of Passage into the Desert.
They quickly learn that the city is perhaps not as idyllic as it seems on the surface: rumours of secret police roaming the general populace have the appearance of everything being under control but have also created a secretive Thieves Guild run by three shadowy figures, one of which has never been seen. One of the leaders of the Guild is said to be cousin to the Pharaoh, may his beard be ever oiled with the fragrant scented oil of Isis.
Other rumours gathered are:
- Beyond the hills the world ends in a bottomless sky. There death stalks in ships that sail the clouds and attempt to bring the souls they capture to their ancient city of damnation.
- One of the greatest Pharaohs of the ancient days cursed his land and set to ruin all his fertile domain. Yet even after his death, the people worshipped him – for he had a power even from beyond the grave.
- The tales of the Pharaohs’ greatness were surpassed only by the tales of their wealth. Many great and wondrous items of antiquity vanished from the knowledge of men. These treasures are rumoured to be within the pharaohs’ tombs. Surely untold wealth must still be found there.
Heading straight for the seediest tavern he can find, Alrik makes the acquaintance of a fellow thief, unnamed, who tells him where to find the Thieves Guild Guildhall: the door with a red hand painted upon it, the password is ‘a locksleaf’.
Once the party is rejoined, they seek out the Hall Of Records to obtain Writs Of Passage and come under the employ of the Pharaoh Amun-Re IX, blessed be his eternal rule and godship, light be his guide, may Horus ever guide him.
Inside the Hall of Records, the party meets Salam, Chief Archiver, and Abdul, Lieutenant in the Symbayan Airlancers, an elite cadre of soldiers who fly upon Pegasi. The Airlancers’ chief mission is to ensure that the Star Gem be returned to the Pharaoh, may the light never falter where he walks, and justice never fail under his rulership.
The terms of their employment are simple:
- For each map they return of new or uncharted areas, the Hall Of Records will pay 200 gp.
- The Hall Of Records will retain a 10% fee for any treasure returned to the city, any items not deemed artwork can be kept by the party; other items are to be turned in to the Hall Of Records and in turn to the Museum of Antiquities.
- The Star Gem is to be returned immediately upon its discovery.
Abdul alerts the party to the fact that there are 14 other groups in the Desert at this time and it appears to be a race to whoever can get to Amun-Re’s tomb and the Star Gem first. He also tells them that a good place to start is a mysterious structure about a days’ travel south of the Pass and Entrance into the Desert. It is rumoured that those who can bypass the structure’s traps and solve its mystery will activate a beam of light that leads to Amun-Re’s hidden tomb.
Armed with this knowledge, the party sends out word that they are looking for retainers and find themselves in good stead when they hire Sam Turnkey, a particularly intelligent young man, though no soldier. His friends, however, make up for it in the form of Hrothrock Goldvayne a grizzled veteran of the Goblin Wars 100 years prior, and X, a former soldier for the Pharaoh’s army, may the light of Osiris touch all of his lands. The three friends share a common past somehow and it is hinted that Sam might be on the run which is why he was so eager to face the dangers of the Desert Of Desolation over the comforts of Khapricapolis.
Leaving the city and the final outpost behind, the party sets out into the scorching desert heat, heading due South. Their travel is quiet, aside from some stubborn camels and a rather ridiculous conversation between Dendera and one of the camels.
The end of the first days’s travel sees the party within sight of the mysterious structure they have heard about. As the sun sinks and the air quickly chills, they also spy fires not far off from the structure — fires from rival adventuring parties.
Waking Alrik, Hrothgar and he take the party’s flying carpet and spy out the competition. Using stealth and guile, they sabotage both camps in an effort to get the camps to suspect each other.
The following morning, the party sees two members of one of the camps approach the structure and stay for some time by the entry doors, then head back to their camp. As no one else is approaching the structure, they decide to investigate the entry, the building itself, and the worn hieroglyphs on the obelisks flanking the main structure.
The roof of the first section has slots in it allowing light to wanly streak in. It is through one of these slots that they lower Isis down into the room to investigate. The chamber within is supported by four huge statues of Anubis and not much else. There is a doorway beyond leading to the structure proper.
The party returns to their camp to debate their next course of action.
How can they gain entry into the tomb without falling victim to its traps and allowing the rival parties to access the puzzle hidden within which will lead them to the tomb of Amun-Re?
To be continued…