The Song Pharaoh’s Coda

Part III: Through the Duat

At this point, Shemayet is an Akh — she regains a larger portion of the abilities that she had in life, including four mythic tiers. See the stats for Shemayet-Akh. However, during the coming encounters, you should avoid using her abilities to their full potential, in order to avoid outshining the PCs.

At this point, the PCs will no doubt want Shemayet to tell them where the Scrolls are. If the session is running low on time, you can agree, and have her depart on the Solar Barge alone, effectively ending the session. Otherwise, Shemayet wants their assistance in one final task — though she may tell them where the Scrolls are even if they choose not to assist her, as they have already made it possible for her to find her way to the afterlife.

Where are the Scrolls?
“Before I tell you, I need your assistance with one final task.”
What’s that? (plus grumblings of “OH, come on” and “Really? Really?”)
“I have existed in this world for far, far too long. I am overdue for judgment in the Halls of Amenti. But the journey there is perilous — please, I need companions for the trip.”
Wait, are you trying to kill us?
“No! Have you seen the barge in the final chamber of my tomb? It’s a powerful magic item. It will carry me into the Duat, the realm that leads to the Halls of Amenti. And it can send you along astrally. That is, your bodies will be here, safe, but your awareness will be sent along with the ship.”
Out of character explanation: It casts Astral Projection on anyone touching the barge when it’s activated. Because Shemayet is a soul without a body, she will simply be shifted to the Astral Plane, but the others get astral bodies as per the spell.
Will we be in any danger?
“Much less than you would think. The barge makes a new, astral body for you. If you are killed in such a form, all that happens is that you wake up in your original body. It’s not pleasant, I imagine, but it’s also not fatal.”
Out of character explanation: If you die, you wake up with 2 negative levels.
Shouldn’t you just be free to go like any other soul?
She shakes her head. “It’s a side-effect of having read the Scrolls. If you read them, your soul is judged in the Halls of Amenti instead of the Boneyard, and you have to fight your way there just to prove yourself worthy of being judged. It’s the price you pay for ... certain advantages that come with reading the scrolls. And if you don’t make it through the Duat to the Hall of Judgement, your soul is forever obliterated.”

If the PCs decline to assist Shemayet-Akh, she will sigh heavily and say “Very well. I thank you for all that you have done in any case.” A DC 20 Diplomacy check is enough persuade her to reveal the location of the Scrolls, and to allow the PCs to take them. If they attempt to take anything else from the tomb, however, she will order them out: “None of this is here for you. If you are not going to assist me on the way to Amenti, I will need every shred of what is left here. Begone.” If they persist in robbing her at this point, she will become hostile.

If the PCs agree to assist her, she will smile broadly at them and thank them.

Departure and the Intermediate Gates

The Duat consists of twelve gates: one for each hour of the night. In most of these, the PCs will not be necessary. Their role comes in gates five and ten.

You all clamber aboard the barge in the dark of the tomb, and find places to make yourself reasonably comfortable. Shemayet rises through the air to the deck, bows to the still statue of the boat’s captain, and begins a melodious chant in ancient Osiriani.

One by one, the walls fall away, leaving limitless black. With a sudden lurch, the boat shifts downward, then bobs up, and you can hear the slap of water on its hull. The ceiling above you plummets upwards into the distance, and the yellow stars painted on it kindle and grow bright. The boat expands, growing in size, once, twice over. The wooden boatmen, formerly the size of halflings, grow to full size humans, spectral figures glowing pale in the surrounding darkness and taking up the pharoah’s chant as the ancient oars bite into the dark waters for the first time, driving the barge through the emptiness.

Looking down, you notice a fine, silver thread leading out of your heart and vanishing into nothingness a few feet away. It does not hinder your movement, but you can feel that at the other end your body lies still and quiet, breathing shallow breaths in the silence of the tomb. Ahead, you can see an enormous gate looming out of the waters. It opens before you, and the boat sails through.

You sail through several such gates over the next hours. In each of them, Shemayet has something to do. She recites rituals; she awakens the mummies of her ancestors to gain their advice and forgiveness for her trespasses; she pledges her faith in the Precepts of Maat, and honors countless minor divinities by word and deed. In most of these, you play no role other than silent witnesses, or occasionally providing minor assistance carrying things.

Gate 5: The Lake of Fire

Map 2: the Solar Barge

Map 2: The Solar Barge. See maps for full size versions.

Finally, after the fourth gate is done, she turns to you. “Now comes the first trial for which I truly need you,” she says. “Soon we will pass through the Fifth Gate, into the Lake of Fire. There, we will be assaulted by beings of elemental fire, whose sole purpose is to turn back the unworthy. I will be able to do little to assist with this fight — I have to perform a ritual to keep the boat from being incinerated by the flames. It will be up to you to keep me safe, because if my concentration fails, the boat will burn, and we will be easy prey for the fiery guardians.”

Astute PCs may remember that this scene was depicted on the walls of the staircase in Shemayet’s tomb. Even if they don’t recall, they will likely have questions.

What exactly will we be facing?
Elementals of fire who dwell in the lake.
What should we do to prepare?
If you have magics protecting you from fire, now is the time to use them.
What other hazards are there within?
If you fall into the lake of fire, it will not burn you unless your soul is tainted with evil. But if you fall out, you are likely to be left behind. The boatmen will not stop rowing, nor can I make them.
Anything else?
I will not be able to help you defend the boat. There is a ritual I must conduct to keep the boat from being consumed by the flames. Hold strong. We will soon be through, my friends!

At the end of each round, the boat moves 120 feet forward. A PC who falls or jumps overboard is in serious trouble. Immersion in the Lake of Fire causes 4d6 fire damage per round to creatures of evil alignment. The flames of the lake do not harm creatures of good or neutral alignment. However, a swimming PC is likely to come under attack by more fire elementals, who can move through the Lake with no penalty. The boatmen are rowing a set course, and cannot be stopped or turned around. If a PC is left behind and cannot find a way to rejoin the ship, inform them that they have awoken in Shemayet's tomb with 2 negative levels and horrible memories of dying in the fiery clutches of the elementals.


The PCs will likely cast Resist Energy [fire] or Protection from Energy [fire] on themselves. This is fine, and negates the fire elementals’ burn ability. Bear in mind that their slam attack does normal bludgeoning damage, not fire, and so is not reduced by these spells.

The gates open and a wave of heat pours out over you. Shemayet begins a song, hands clasped before her, and the boat plows into the Lake of Fire. All around you are flames, but in between them you catch glimpses of the surface — it’s not water, but some black liquid that churns sluggishly under the oars of the boatmen.

On round 1, Shemayet will begin chanting a ritual in which she lists all of the sins she has not committed. This serves as an Inspire Courage (+2) for the PCs, but that is the limit of the direct assistance she can give.

Fire elemental tactics: The elementals start play in the lake of fire, and swarm the boat. The boat has a fairly shallow draft, and so it is only a DC 15 Acrobatics check to board the boat from the lake. The fire elementals have +14 Acrobatics, and thus can swarm the boat on their first round. They will target Shemayet first and foremost. Each time she takes a hit, she must make a concentration check (DC 15+damage dealt) or lose her ritual. Each time she fails a concentration check, a fire breaks out somewhere on the ship. Fires may be extinguished as a standard action by stamping them out.

If there are three active fires on board the ship at any time, the boat dissolves into flaming ruin and sinks into the lake of fire. You could play out this scenario on the map if you wish, but unless the PCs can come up with some alternative mode of transportation to get them and Shemayet through the Lake of Fire to the next gate, it inevitably ends with the destruction of Shemayet’s soul by the elementals and the PCs awakening in the deeps of the tomb with the scent of their own burning lingering in their nostrils.

Initially, there are five Large fire elementals. After the third large elemental is destroyed, tell the PCs:

You can see the gate in the distance, two pillars looming up into the sky, permanently stained with soot and ash. The boat is driving straight for it. The two remaining elementals see it as well, and you hear them cry out to the spirits of the Lake of Fire for power, even at the cost of their lives. Whips of flame lash out of the lake, hitting the elementals, who grow in size.

The remaining two transform into two Huge fire elementals, regaining any lost hit points in the process. However, once they do this they are doomed to be extinguished just one round later, as they burn up the last of their fiery reserves of power. They have one round to stop the ship. If they are still on the ship when it passes through the gate, they wink out of existence, and any remaining fires are extinguished.

Damage to the ship can be repaired using Mending. If the PCs do not happen to have it prepped, Shemayet does. Assume that the ship is fully repaired by the time they reach the next encounter.

Gate 10: The Heads of Apep

More gates pass in which Shemayet performs rituals. You watch her meet and speak with a vast panoply of small Osiriani godlings, elemental lords, and powerful beings of the outer planes. Some of the lesser ones even deign to speak with you as well, though most ignore your presence.

Finally, aboard the ship once more, Shemayet says “The next gate is the worst. The Lake of Cold awaits us, and within it lurks Apep.”

PC questions:

Who is Apep?
The Great Serpent — an ancient god of evil, chaos, and water. He will seek to destroy us.
What should we be prepared for?
His fangs drip venom, and he breathes acid. He has many lesser heads, and that is what we will face — we are unlikely to see his true form.
How do we fight him?
You can destroy his heads normally, or attempt to cleave them from their necks. As a creature of darkness, he is vulnerable to bright light, and as a creature of cold, fire damages him more keenly than it might otherwise. But really, our goal is to survive and make it to the other side. No matter how many heads we dispatch, he will always have more.
What about the lake itself?
It is cold, bitter cold. If it were ordinary water it would be solid ice, but it is not. Don’t fall in.

Just before entering the gate, Shemayet buffs the party with Communal Resist Energy [acid, 20 points]. She also resumes her Ka Song just before entering the gate (+2 attack, damage, and saves versus fear and charm). Allow the PCs enough time to cast any buffs they might wish and still have available.

The gate is made of ebony, with enormous carven serpents coiling up. Their eyes are enormous emeralds gazing balefully at you, and although they are stone, you can see twin drizzles of poison dripping steadily from their fangs.

As the boat slides through the gate, a sudden cold stings your face. Frost begins to form on the deck, and around you the spectral boatmen suddenly start moving faster. Torches concealed in the lotus decorations on the prow and stern flare into life, providing at least a little light. The boat surges forward into the inky blackness, and all around you, massive serpentine shapes begin to rise from the depths. Their eyes glow pale green, and you can hear them hissing.


Apep is a hydra of epic proportions. Each of his heads is itself the size of a Large creature. His body is elsewhere, as he has the ability to manifest heads anywhere within the Lake of Cold, sliding them through extradimensional portals. Engaging Apep’s body directly is beyond the scope of the adventure, but assume that it has enough heads for approximately a CR 30 encounter, with abilities and defenses to match.

Individual heads may be severed using a sunder attempt, as normal for hydras. The sunder attempt must deal 20 points of damage in one hit to succeed. It is, however, generally easier simply to kill them normally. The heads are vulnerable to fire, and take double damage from light-based damaging spells (such as Searing Light, Sunbeam, and Sunburst). In an area of bright light such as a Daylight spell, the Heads of Apep suffer a 50% miss chance (for simplicity, if the d20 in their attack roll comes up on an odd number, it’s a miss). Although the heads are technically part of one creature — Apep — treat them as separate creatures for most purposes, including spells such as Blindness/Deafness, qualifying for flanks and sneak attack, and so on.

If a PC falls or jumps into the lake, the cold of the water deals 4d6 points of cold damage per round, and beneath the surface all vision is cut off (as per Deeper Darkness, CL 30). The ship is moving at a rate of 120 feet per round at the bottom of the initiative order. If a PC falls into the lake and is unable to get back on within one round, they are effectively dead, and you should inform them that they awaken in the dark of Shemayet’s tomb with horrific memories of being torn apart by more Heads of Apep.

The heads of Apep have Frightful Presence. Have the PCs roll a Will save (DC 26). The save DC has been increased by +1 for each Head of Apep past the first. On a failure, they are shaken for the duration of the encounter or until the status is removed. Remember they have a +2 morale bonus on saves versus fear from Shemayet’s Inspire Courage.

The Heads of Apep have Devolution Venom, which causes strength damage. A creature whose strength falls to zero as a result of the venom ordinarily transforms into a chaotic evil river drake over the course of one round. However, because the PCs are travelling via Astral Projection, they do not have a real body to transform. If a PC’s strengh falls to zero due to Devolution Venom, inform them that they wake up in Shemayet’s tomb, but now have some cosmetic deformity related to river drakes -- perhaps their face has began elongating into a snout, or they have grown scales along their chests and upper arms, or similar. While permanent, the PC is at no risk of further transformation.

As a spirit, Shemayet-Akh does not have a Strength score. She suffers the effects of Devolution Venom as Dexterity damage instead. As she suffers points of Dexterity damage, describe her as growing black scales. If her Dexterity drops to zero as a result of Devolution Venom, she transforms over the course of one round into a mature adult black dragon in service to Apep. The boatmen vanish, the boat draws slowly to a halt, and the PCs are doomed.

Objective: This combat lasts five rounds. The objective is to survive, and to keep Shemayet from being destroyed. At the end of the fifth round, the boat passes through the gate, and the combat is over.

Heads of Apep tactics: The goal of the Heads of Apep is to destroy everyone aboard the ship, especially Shemayet. They have fairly powerful breath weapons. However, Apep prefers to sink his teeth into his targets, so he will use no more than two breath weapons per round. He will reserve these for dealing with flying PCs, or when an opportune target presents itself (which includes Shemayet and one or more PCs). Beyond this, they arrange themselves along the two sides of the ship and dart in swarm it.

Shemayet tactics: At the beginning of combat, Shemayet casts Blessing of Fervor and draws Rising Edge. Then she expends two uses of mythic power: one to negate her power attack penalties for the rest of the combat, and one to gain an extra standard action, which she uses to activate her Holy Lance ability, thus giving the Holy property to Rising Edge. These effects are reflected in her stat block. In subsequent rounds she will focus on attacking the Heads of Apep, taking full attacks when possible. If she scores a crit she will use Rising Edge’s songburst ability to add half of a Perform (Sing) check to the damage before it is multiplied.

After a harrowing battle, the battered ship passes through the gate. Looking back, you can see the Heads of Apep roaring in rage. The dark water foams around them, and then the gates close, cutting off the sight.

The Halls of Amenti

The penultimate realm of the Duat is blessedly quiet — a vast field of reeds. An ibis passes overhead, and in the distance you can see palm trees growing from small mounds scattered here and there. The boat follows a deeper channel in amongst the reeds.

In perhaps half an hour, you see an enormous wall up ahead, lined with statues. Each one depicts a different pharaoh, and the wall stretches as far as the eye can see in either direction. “Behold, the Halls of Amenti”, says Shemayet.

There is a boat dock ahead, and the barge slides gently into it. The spectral boatmen ship the oars, and then fade away into nothingness.

As you debark, you glance curiously through the final gate. An enormous hall stretches out on the other side, lined with pillars and open to the sky. At the far end, you can see two figures. On one side stands a serene, gloriously beautiful woman with a blue ostrich feather tucked into her hair — Maat, the goddess of truth. On the other side crouches a hideously ugly creature partaking equally of crocodile and man — Ammut, a daemon waiting to feast on Shemayet’s soul if she is judged and found wanting. Between them stands a set of scales decorated with a purple spiral: though Maat may have laid down the rules, as ever, the final judgment lies with Pharasma.

“My friends, thank you, a thousand times over,” says Shemayet. “This is the end of our road together.”

The PCs may have questions.

NOW can you tell us where the Scrolls of Thoth are?
The crook and flail that my mummy holds are made of lead, and hollow. Within you will find the Scrolls.
What will happen to you now?
My heart will be weighed against Maat’s feather. If my heart is lighter, or if they balance, then I will be sent on to the outer planes as any other soul might be. If my heart is heavier ... (her voice trails off and she glances at Ammut)
Which do you think it will be?
(She looks troubled.) I ... don’t know. If I had come here immediately after my burial, as I was meant to, then I believe I would have been judged worthy. I did much good during my life. But I was delayed, and in its thirst for life my Ba abused its power horribly. The women who served as Chantress — I stole their lives from them, and probably stunted their souls. Will the good I did by banishing Ahriman and imprisoning Zelishkar be outweighed by the evil I did over the centuries? I just can’t say.
Can we have your stuff? / Can you reward us?
Yes. Take anything you wish from my tomb. My sword, Rising Edge, is especially powerful, and I hope that it can serve Osirion once again.
How do we get back?
Find your silver cord. Grasp it in one hand, close your eyes, and let it draw you back to your body. That is all.
Is there anything else we can do for you?
Think kindly of me! That’s all. Oh, and please, if you could just bury Dedelion’s body somewhere near me, I would appreciate it.

When all is said and done, Shemayet thanks you all one last time, then turns and walks through the gate. You can see her for a moment, and then the gates shut before you. Whatever her fate may be, it is between her and the gods.

With nothing more to do here, you take a final look around at the idyllic landscape, and then find your silver cords. You close your eyes. There is a brief jolt, a sense of vertigo, and then you open your eyes to find yourself back in your usual body, lying atop the solar barge in the deeps of Shemayet’s tomb. Your muscles ache from inactivity, your mouth is gummy and dry, and your bladder requires urgent attention. But you are alive, and back from a tremendous adventure.

Ending the Adventure

At this point, your players have completed the adventure. There are just a few loose ends to wrap up.

Reading the Scrolls of Thoth
See the Scrolls of Thoth item description.
If Seni survived, she should be in a good position to take over as Chantress, and perhaps lead Ben-Talu in a new direction. If she perished, the village is left leaderless. If the PCs wish to deal with this sad state of affairs, use your best judgment about how well their efforts should work.
Rising Edge
The sword Rising Edge is a powerful weapon, and with Shemayet's soul finally laid to rest, it no longer has a bond to any creature. However, note that its most potent abilities only function for a mythic PC. If none of your PCs are mythic, then it is merely a +1 bronze short sword with a reliquary of Hathor, plus 4 times per day they can use its legendary surge ability to add 1d6 to an attack roll or a charisma-based skill check, and it’s unusually difficult to destroy. Its Adroit and Songburst abilities do not function unless the PC gains a mythic tier and takes the legendary item path ability to establish a bond to the sword.
As a tremendously important historical artifact, Rising Edge is the kind of item that Osirion's inspectors will confiscate if it is presented to them, with a token payment. If the PCs hand it in, I suggest a payment of the standard market rate for a +1 reliquary bronze short sword (1,228 gp, 3 sp, 3cp).
Returning to Nazmi
Nazmi receives the the PCs and their report with interest. She makes good on the rewards spelled out in the Setup, and thanks them for their assistance.