The Djinn of Al-Qadim
Campaign Session Report #11
By MARK WILSON
Setting: Al-Qadim (aka the continent of Zakhara)
System: D&D 5e
Levels: 3-?? (probably 12)
Dalia, the Mother – Rune Knight Fighter
Nezima, the Aunt – Hexblade Warlock
Atareeza (Atar), the Daughter – Divine Soul Sorcerer
Telchak, the Son – Soulknife Rogue
For full setting, campaign and character notes, please start from the beginning of the session report series.
Previously, the party had discovered the pyramids deep in the Zakharan desert that the djinn forces had been shunting prisoners toward. They rescued the party’s father (Dalia’s husband) from this captivity, and plotted to glean more information about the pyramids’ intent.
Infiltrating the Pyramid(s)
Rather than an assault, the party enlist the aid of one of Zarin’s (the husband/father) friends, who is a fellow prisoner and was a chief architect of the completed pyramid. The top portion of this pyramid glows with a dull arcane light that suggests it’s being used for They kidnap him, explain the situation, and he leads them to a secret back entrance to the pyramid.
Inside, they find their way to a hallway outside a main, central chamber. Telchak is made invisible and he scouts the room.
Inside is Bakada himself, the leader of the djinn lords, speaking with a priest of The Brotherhood of the True Flame. His large, fiery presence immediately draws Telchak’s attention. Telchak immediately beats a path out of the room, and the party attempts to listen in to the conversation.
Before leaving, though, he gets a glance at the rest of the room, in which work is still being done to the walls and ceilings. Four mid-sized pillars support the center of the room, and fire elementals patrol the area silently. In the center, Bakada and the priest, adjacent to a swirling grey portal about 15 feet in height. The portal is murky, and hums rhythmically, surrounded by runes.
Bakada inquires about the other pyramid, not yet completed, and asks about the ritual circle at its heart. The response from his minion is that they have not yet fully cracked the magical code, but that it will be completed soon and able to channel its power through the pyramid. Bakada seems pleased at this, and remarks that the power of Kossuth (elemental god of flame) will soon be his to command.
And what of this pyramid, he asks? Is the portal strong enough to bring “The City” across. No, is the response, though it grows in power daily, and in mere months will breach the barrier between planes as easily as tearing a sheet of paper.
Bakada tells his priest that he has business to attend to, and that when he returns, he will be in command of a force capable of bringing all of Zakhara to its knees, and that he’ll have no need of the other djinni lords or the land’s power structures. With that, there’s a flash from the room, and the party doesn’t hear Bakada’s voice anymore. The priest barks orders to the workers in the room…
Undermining the Operations
Returning back out of the secret passage, to their tents a safe distance away, they unpack these words and try to discern if they can thwart these efforts.
They muse that they are in possession of some magical chalk that creates temporary doorways in walls, and if they use the chalk on the four main pillars in the completed pyramid, it may collapse.
They enlist the aid of the goblin architect they’d previously kidnapped. Patrols in the area are light enough that a single invisible creature can move around unnoticed quite easily. Guards aren’t needed to keep prisoners from escaping, since they’d die in the desert if they attempted an escape. So Telchak – with the magical box capable of holding a creature – is able to transport the goblin architect back and forth.
The goblin – Thuunk – tells them that though the structure wasn’t designed to easily collapse, weakening a couple key areas, in addition to their pillar idea, could compromise the structure to the extent that it would set their work back several weeks or perhaps even months. Thuunk also mentions that if they collapse the areas he points them to, he could be suspected in this plot and killed as a result. He makes the party promise to take him with them when they leave, before he’ll reveal any specific information to them.
Fatima, the wizard caravan leader who brought them here on her magic carpet, also agrees to help directly, realizing that the danger is to the entire realm.
Through a variety of sneaky means, including dual invisibility spells and disguise spells or abilities, they make their way into the pyramid. Dalia and Nezima have to talk their way into the front (with Atar invisible), while the secret back entrance is used by the others.
Chalk & Fire
A fire elemental paths past Dalia and Nezima, who wait until it is safely away. Dalia then goes to work on a passageway indicated by Thuunk, hammering at the foundations and corners. With the wall and ceiling sufficiently damaged, a Fireball is cast to cause the area to implode.
It doesn’t quite work, but a few more quick spells do the trick and the hallway collapses.
Meanwhile, Telchak telepathically links with his mom to coordinate his attack, which involves silently “chalking” each pillar in rapid succession. A cultist priest, a couple hell hounds and two fire elementals sit in the room, confused. More so since Nezima manages to fire off a spell that causes one of the elementals to view anyone around it as an enemy. It begins attacking the hell hounds…ineffectually, since they’re immune to fire. But it provides a distraction.
One of the fire elementals bumps into Telchak, and the plan is revealed, though he remains invisible (though discernible for a bit since he was on fire). The enemies in the room frantically swat at him while he tries to hide and also do his appointed task.
The chalk is successful, though it takes time to create each doorway. But the room begins to cave in, though this becomes increasingly hard for Telchak to avoid as he collapses the ceiling above him. Twice he takes considerable damage from falling debris, and a couple lucky fire elemental attacks put him near unconsciousness. Several other attacks miss, though, and he’s able to barely escape.
He failed in a sub-task though, that of stealing a ritual book he’d seen previously, which Fatima suspected would be valuable in discerning the nature of the pyramid and portal. The cultist was reading it when he attacked, and he never managed the time to attempt to swipe it during the chaos.
With a controlled retreat, they partially collapse one more tunnel that Thuunk had indicated, in order to further undermine the integrity of the pyramid’s structure. While the main room didn’t entirely collapse, a large portion of the structure cracks and groans, and screams of the cultist, hell hounds, and unfortunate few workers caught in the crossfire, indicate that the incursion was mostly a success.
As they leave, Dalia tries to see if the arcane portal is still active inside the main room, but the debris cloud is too thick to confirm.
At this point, the entire camp is roused, and the party begins hearing screams and calls for action. Realizing that the full might of their enemies in the nearby encampment is too much for them to handle in combat, they flee out into the desert, sprinting toward their supplies and small camp about a half mile away. Hopping on the carpet while enemies pursue them, they begin flying back into the desert’s wastes, realizing that they won’t get a chance to similarly assault the other pyramid, the one designed to siphon Kossuth’s power into Bakada…
An amusing turn of events. I had to prepare for them using the portal inside the pyramid, which would have led to the City of Brass, and had at least a couple sessions worth of material planned for that locale. Alas. But I’m also not surprised at how they reacted.
I also didn’t anticipate them using the chalk, which I’m not entirely sure would actually work as it did in the session. But it was too clever not to reward, and they still needed to execute on the plan.
Had Telchak been knocked out – and he was a bit lucky not to be – it would have been a much more dicey encounter. But it was a well-conceived plan, one that incorporated a lot of oblique spells and abilities to create stealth and confusion.
They also deduced it was the City of Brass through the portal, but had no interest in visiting, nor taking the prisoners into a city infamous for its slave trade. So they settled for a minor victory, mixed with information gathering, even though they ultimately couldn’t save everyone at the pyramids or thwart the intent of both pyramids.
With their father in tow, they’re likely headed back to Jarallah, the boy who would be king, to report back on their findings. They want to free everyone at the pyramids, but didn’t believe they had the resources to successfully transport 200-300 workers (most working on the other pyramid) without them dying, nor to take on the full might of their enemies.
I need to get them into “The Resistance” entirely, so there will be a couple things nudging them in that direction once they get back to civilization, and they’ll have their option of other cities/regions of Zakhara to explore.