Introduction: The Sphinx
Each of the PCs should receive a copy of the invitation from the handouts. Customize the salutation to suit your group.
Creatures in This Area
- Nazmi, celestial gynosphinx cleric (cardinal) of Abadar 3
- Risen Guards LN human fighter 6
On the appointed morning, you approach the Palace of the Forthbringer. Walls of gleaming white marble stretch up to the sky, studded at intervals with watch towers, each of which is topped with a dome worked with intricate mosaics of carnelian. Each of you in turn present your passes to the Risen Guard, who bow in acknowledgement and escort you deep within the compound. A light steady breeze carries the heat way from the lush gardens that you pass through along the way, and in short order you find yourselves seated in a cool meeting chamber. The guards leave you there, though one of their number stays outside. Shortly, a pair of servants dressed in simple white linens bring you light refreshment in the form of silver goblets of chilled water, and matching silver trays bearing slices of exquisitely ripe honeydew melon.
At this point, give the players time to introduce their PCs to one another, if necessary. Then proceed with:
You do not wait terribly long. After perhaps ten or fifteen minutes, you hear the tread of heavy feet in the hallway outside. The massive doors are flung open, and one guard cries: “All rise for her graciousness Nazmi, Chief Advisor to His Majesty Khemet the Third, lord of Osirion!”
As you rise, an enormous sphinx stalks proudly into the meeting room. Her wings gleam golden in the light, and the tawny hair of her human head is neatly combed. She wears a pair of spectacles, somewhat incongruously small, and about her neck you note a holy symbol of Abadar. A pair of servants follow her. “Please, be seated,” she says.
“I trust that you have introduced yourselves to one another, so let us get straight to business. His Majesty believes he has learned the location of an ancient — and important — treasure of his forebears. The reasons vary, but suffice it to say that we believe each of you to be a trustworthy and able agent. Thus, we would like to hire you to retrieve this treasure.”
The PCs will undoubtedly have many of the following questions for Nazmi.
- What is the treasure?
- “The Scrolls of Thoth, which contain the Precepts of Maat. These were the guiding principles of rulership, by which each pharaoh was expected to govern by the ancient gods of this land. According to legend, they were dictated by the goddess Maat herself, and written down upon imperishable papyrus by her husband Thoth. Each new pharaoh was expected to read and memorize their wisdom upon attaining the throne. Sadly, they were lost in ancient times.”
- When were they lost?
- “The last pharaoh recorded to have possessed the Scrolls of Thoth was the Song Pharaoh. Unfortunately, 7,716 years ago she was murdered and usurped by Jetrieti the First, and the Scrolls dropped out of the historical record. I think that we can safely say based on their barbaric behavior that neither Jetrieti nor his descendants ever read the Scrolls.”
- Where are they now?
- “What His Majesty has discovered is not the location of the Scrolls themselves. Rather, he has discovered the location of the Song Pharaoh’s tomb. He believes that the Scrolls must have been interred with her. To be honest, we don’t know if the Scrolls are there. However, it is a reasonable conjecture, and one which we want to investigate.”
- What can we expect there?
- “We do not know in any great detail. Our investigations, both magical and mundane, have been able to confirm the location of the tomb, that the Song Pharaoh is buried within, and that it does not appear to have been disturbed since ancient times. To be honest, we have not yet investigated the tomb physically. That is what we are hiring you to do.”
- What’s in it for us?
- “We are prepared to offer you a substantial sum — 10,000 gold pieces, each, regardless of whether the tomb actually contains the Scrolls. If you DO find the Scrolls, and are able to return them to us in good condition, each of you will get a bonus of a further 5,000 gold pieces. We will give each of you 1,000 up front, the rest upon completion, and we will provide transportation and some supplies. In exchange, you agree to enter the tomb, search it thoroughly for the Scrolls, and retrieve them if possible.”
- What about other treasure in the tomb?
- “You are free to collect and sell other treasure from the tomb, subject to the ordinary regulations, namely that you must submit your finds to our inspectors. Any of particular historical importance will be retained, and you will be paid for them, though at a somewhat lower rate than the open market might support.”
- Why us?
- “As mentioned, we believe you trustworthy and able agents.”
- Have Nazmi supply reasoning for each PC based on their backstory and accomplishments.
- What do we know about the Song Pharaoh?
- “Not a great deal. The records are fragmentary — we don’t even know her name! But by all accounts, she was a woman of exceptional power. If the histories are to be believed, she personally banished Ahriman, the demigod of the divs who had been summoned by her predecessor, the Pharaoh of Forgotten Plagues. As if that were not enough, she also fought and defeated the Daemonic harbinger Zelishkar. In the end, she did not die on the battlefield — she was slain in her sleep by an assassin.”
- Where is the tomb?
- “Do you agree to take the contract, then?”
- (Yes) “Wonderful. It lies in a canyon outside the village of Ben-Talu, in the southern reaches of the Pillars of the Sun. The entrance is buried under a thin layer of dirt and shale, and marked by a single djed hieroglyph engraved in the stone of the canyon wall above it. As mentioned, we will provide transportation.”
- (No) “A pity. I am sorry to have wasted your time. The guards will see you out. Good day!”
If the party does not accept the contract, they are pretty thoroughly off the rails, and you are on your own. However, they now have enough information to attempt to follow up on their own if they wish. A casting of Legend Lore would be sufficient to reveal the location of the tomb now that they know of its existence, from a scroll if necessary.
If the party accepts the contract, then Nazmi provides some supplies — most likely healing potions and such, but feel free to customize the supplies as you see fit. You may wish to give them a brief opportunity to purchase supplies of their own choosing before departing, but Nazmi is insistent on a quick departure (to keep things from dragging on).
When they depart, a wizard in the employ of the Ruby Prince uses Greater Teleport to deposit them at the entry to the canyon containing the tomb. His name is Ruzben Seliman, and before departing he studies the area carefully, and gives the party a small scarab amulet. Once per day it can be used to cast Sending, but only to contact Ruzben. When activated, the wings of the scarab snap open, and an insubstantial copy of it flies away at blinding speed to deliver the message. In this way, the party can call for him when they need a pick-up. Ruzben generally only prepares two greater teleports per day, and so while the party can use him to leave the area and return, he is not a ferry service and will likely become testy with them if they call on him too often.
Proceed to Part I: The Tomb.