The Djinn of Al-Qadim

Campaign Session Report #32

By MARK WILSON

GM: Me
Setting: Al-Qadim (aka the continent of Zakhara)
System: D&D 5e
Level: 9

Players:
Dahlia, the Mother – Rune Knight Fighter
Nezima, the Aunt – Hexblade Warlock
Atareeza (Atar), the Daughter – Divine Soul Sorcerer
Telchak, the Son – Soulknife Rogue

Notable NPCs:

  • Zumurrud al-Afyal, “Daughter of the Island” – Empress of the island of Afyal, capital city of Medina.
  • ??? (name unknown) – elephant god of Afyal.

For full setting, campaign and character notes, please start from the beginning of the session report series.

Session #32

Previously, the party had uncovered an Elder Brain (and minions) underneath the island of Medina al-Afyal and unsuccessfully attempted to bargain their way into the city. Instead, Atar teleported in and is now being pursued by the city’s authorities.

The Meandering Path to the Palace

Nezima is stationed as lookout for the djinn fleet, while Dahlia and Telchak try to break into the city and look for Atar. Telchak creates a distraction while Dahlia broadens a hole in a wooden portion of the wall that Telchak had spied earlier. Telchak leads some guards on a merry chase, then uses his limited magical ability to blink into the city.

Once inside, they begin trying to track down Atar, who has disguised herself and is running supplies throughout the city in pre-set supply chains intended to prep the city for the upcoming war. However, knowing magical disguises may be in play, the city’s guards set up a checkpoint with some wizards, and Atar knows she’s mere moments from being discovered.

Dahlia and Telchak arrive and Atar puts on a melodramatic display (she’s disguised as an older man), which Dahlia and Telchak corroborate. The group is believed, and they limp off, carrying Atar as though she’s gone into diabetic shock (or something similar).

In all of this, Atar spied a woman atop a giant elephant, barking orders and being informed of Atar’s incursion. The guards refer to her as Empress. Knowing this is likely who they need to speak to, they ask around to find where she is, and are directed toward a palace at the city’s rear (westward, furthest from the waters of the bay). Inside the palace grounds, they spy at least one elephant distressed and acting violent, with guards trying to subdue it.

None are being permitted entry, though, and despite a fanciful story about Atar being an elephant veterinarian, the guards are suspicious and “agree” to allow them in after announcing their presence to the palace, but are actually sending for reinforcements.

The party suspects this, so they bust in on their own. A chase ensues, with Dahlia being arrested and taken into the palace, Telchak trying (unsuccessfully) to corral the now-rampaging elephant, and Atar casting Cure Disease (picked up from a spell scroll earlier) on it, which actually seems to subdue it. The duo are herded into the palace shortly thereafter as well, complete with robed magic-users watching their movements.

Allying With Zumurrud

A “Zone of Truth” interrogation later and the city’s Empress – Zumurrud al-Afyal – trusts them provisionally, their story resonating with her recent struggles communing with the island’s elephant god. Dahlia does the talking, and is compelled to speak the truth, so Zumurrud recognizes them as allies. Nezima is fetched from outside the city and joins them sometime later, while they discuss happenings on and around the island.

They also collectively uncover some of how the brain’s control appears to be working (alchemically tainted food, delivered by the zombie-like thralls they’ve seen). This further builds trust in Zumurrud, whose subjects have been disappearing and whose elephants have been acting erratically. Knowing that the Cure Disease spell worked against this control is valuable information, which Zumurrud passes to her lieutenants and spellcasters.

Zumurrud confides that without the aid of their god, the city stands no chance against the djinn forces. A plan to wipe out the djinn fleet is contemplated, but ultimately they decide to take a strike force to attack the brain under the ground. Zumurrud realizes her citizens are being mind-controlled and the elephants corrupted, and she fears bringing a large force. But if she can free the elephant god, it will go a long way toward being able to defend the island long-term.

But only she retains the name of her god (which she says aloud, but all in the room black out for a moment at the sound of its name). She trusts that this will protect her from control by the brain. She and one of her personal guards agree to accompany the party.

Back to the Underground

Outside the city, the djinn invasion force begins to make landfall, while the party make their way back into the jungle on elephant mounts, leaving out the back end of the city furthest from the fleet, and descend into the subterranean maze in which they found the giant brain.

Reentering the underground, they feel watched as they did before, and Atar (sister/daughter) begins hearing voices after reading the thoughts of some of the brain’s zombie-like thralls.

Descending into the central, large cavern in which they saw the brain initially, they approach a robed figure who seems not to be zombie-like, hoping to magically coerce it into attacking the brain. It looks up from under its hood, and the head of a snake hisses at Atar as she tries to put it under her spell…

Dungeon Master Notes

They burned lots of resources and all took damage, but we were never actually in initiative-combat. So the session flowed pretty well. We were down Nezima’s player, so narratively she was in the background.

I kept flubbing Zumurrud’s accent (modeled after Shuri from the Black Panther movie). It’s not one that comes easily to me. Ah well. I have another week to practice.

Creatures Used

  • Guard (CR 1/8)
  • Veteran (CR3)
  • Elephant (CR4)

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