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Rivals of the Sun God:

The Lost Nation, Part III


by John Calvin




Prologue:

My time on this plane grows short, even as my memories flood back to me. Alas, I may not be able to utilize what was lost to me so long ago. Not even the blood of my father, coursing through my veins, can prevent the inevitable any longer. Soon the hands that write these passages will crumble into dust...into grains of sand, just as the Lost Nation did so long ago.

My time is up. And yet, I am so close to my goals. Perhaps I might have one final chance to unlock the secrets which I have sought all of my life. Much depends upon the abilities of strangers. In seeking the unknown, I am now forced to use means which are unknown even to me. I pray that they will suffice for the task ahead.



The Ankh:

The party has just returned from the Night of the Blue Sun [See Tome of Mystara issues #1 and #2 for the first two chapters of "The Lost Nation." -Ed.], hopefully having either destroyed Pharaoh Sematiffir, or prevented him from using the ankh for an extended period of time.

Myrrith will not let them rest however. She presses them for any information that they might have recieved while in the Night of the Blue Sun, about an ancient offshoot culture of the Lost Nation. The PCs should also be worried about future incursions through the ankh by others of Sematiffir's kind. Since the ankh can not be destroyed by mortal hands, the characters must find another way to deal with it. Myrrith will support them in whatever actions they decide to take. The following are but a few of the actions that PCs might come up with.

  1. Dump the ankh into the ocean. Myrrith is leery about this option, and will make her feelings known. The seas are inhabited and nothing would prevent a Pharaoh Mummy from using the ankh while it is under water. This would not prevent the Pharaoh or his kind from returning to Mystara.

  2. Place it in an area of anti-magic. This action would prevent further incursions into Mystara by the Pharaoh Mummies, however anti-magic areas are unstable, and there is no guarantee that the ankh would remain within the area of effect indeffinately. If the PCs can come up with a stable anti-magic area (such as in the World Shield, or one of the Polar Openings to the Hollow World), Myrrith will support their actions and help them in any way she can.

  3. Find those who might know how to deal with the artifact. This is the option that Myrrith pushes the party to take, since it furthers her own goals as well as the party's.

Whether or not the party comes up with a way to dispose of the ankh safely, Myrrith will seek their aid in finding her lost culture. If the party chooses to take action #3 above, then both Myrrith's and the party's goals can be accomplished at the same time, otherwise Myrrith will offer to acompany them while they dispose of the ankh, at which time she will expect the party to take up her quest. Myrrith is pressed for time, so she will try to expidite the disposal of the malignant artifact, even if the party insists on an unwise course of action (such as dumping it into the sea).

Myrrith's destination is one of the Polar Openings leading into the Hollow World. She has recently aquired several first hand accounts of its existence, and feels positive that her lost culture is residing there. She has never journeyed there herself so the pecularities of the Hollow World are, for the most part, unknown to her. The rest of this adventure will assume that the PCs choose course of action #3. If they do not, then modify all references made to the ankh during the rest of this adventure.

Finding Transport:

The ankh is a very heavy artifact, and the party will have great difficulty removing it from the mountains. If the characters can devise a way to transport the ankh great distances, then allow them to. Several possibilities follow:

The PCs may decide to use magic to transport the ankh.
The ankh can not be teleported, nor can it pass through a gate of any kind. Any attempts at doing so will result in failure of the spell at best, or the unleashing of destructive energies at the worst. The ankh will not be damaged in any way if the latter event occurs, but anyone caught within 20 feet of the ankh should receive 4d6 points of damage (save vs Spells for half damage). Any other form of magic (telekenisis, levitation, flying or air magic) should work normally. This is only a temporary solution, and PCs will quickly run out of spell components if they persist on this course of action.


The PCs may decide to use brute force in order to move the artifact.
The ankh can easily fit into the back of a wagon, or be strapped to a sled, or litter, of some kind. This is probably the safest method of transport, but it is also the slowest. If this is the only method of transport used, it is quite possible that Sematiffir, or one of his kind, will again be able to use the ankh's powers.


Myrrith knows of a skyship captain who will transport the characters and their cargo for a fee.
If the characters have their own skyships, or like vessels, then substitute their ship for Myrrith's. This is probably the fastest means to reach their destination, which should be an entrance to the Hollow World.

Charting a Destination:

Once the party has found a means of transportation, they should choose a destination.

Head toward one of the polar openings.
Several govenrments have already funded expiditions to the Hollow World. If the PCs are lucky enough (or skilled enough in the arts of diplomacy), they may be able to journey with one of these. Government officials from the Known World may even sponsor such an expidition, picking up all of the expenses in return for information about any cultures that the PCs come in contact with.


Travel through the Sundsvall Maelstrom.
Two issues must be taken into consideration if this option is to be followed. First the Alphatian government restricts the use of the Maelstrom, and they will have to be dealt with before it is utilized. Second, the Maelstrom is not the most stable conveyance into the Hollow World. If the party chooses to go this route, there is a possibility that one or more party members could be lost at sea while traversing the vortex.

The ankh, if lost in this manner, could bring ruin to the PCs at a later date. [Since the Maelstrom is a gate of sorts, it is up to the DM to rule whether or not the ankh can pass through it.]


Journey through the crust.
This option should be nearly impossible to accomplish with the ankh in tow. There are however, several possibilities through which this can be accomplished. If the party has access to the either the Aegos Pit, or Atraughin's Mystical Conveyance, it should be a simple matter to load the ankh onto one of these and make the journey. Gaining access to the conveyance should prove harder, and would most probably necessitate negotiations with the Alphatian government, or members of the Atraughin Clans respectively. Likewise if the party has access to a spell like Elemental Travel (see the HWA series for details) they should be able to reach the Hollow World with their cargo, although this option will be more difficult than using a conveyance, as the party must still phisically move the ankh through a cave system.




The Lost Nation


A Child's Toy:


Once the PCs reach the Hollow World, the danger from the ankh is neutralized. The small gate that it opens with the Night of the Blue Sun will not function inside of the Hollow World. Characters may not know this, and so may still be on edge about their cargo. If they do figure out that the ankh no longer poses a threat to them, then the rest of their journey can be more relaxing for them, and they can focus their attention on finding Myrrith's Lost Nation.

The first clue toward that lost nation is a child's toy. The toy is a small pyramid carved from wood, and inscribed with obscure symbols on each of its four triangular sides. The bottom is covered with concentric circular grooves. PCs can spot the toy just about anywhere that they journey to in the Hollow World (except for Alphatia, which has not been there long enough to aquire artifacts of this kind). A few examples follow:

The Beastman Wastes:
A rather large "child" has been huddled on the outskirts of camp all day. Twisted blue hair covers her back, and yellow horns protrude from various locations all over her body. The child is obviously playing with something, although what that is can not be readily discerned. Upon closer inspection, it can be seen that the beastman child is spinning a triangular object upon its tip. The sides of the object are covered with familiar looking hieroglyphics. Obtaining the toy from the child will be difficult, as it is her most prized possesion.


Azcan Roads:
Several children scurry past you on the hard packed dirt road, shouting and waving sticks. They appear to be playing a game of sorts, using the sticks to hit an object on the ground back and forth. The object of their attention is a small wooden pyramid, inscribed on four sides with intricate ieroglyphics. Grabbing the item will probably result in a bruised and battered hand. The children may complain to their elders if the item is taken and not replaced with something equally "hittable."


Milenian Streets:
The door of the villa swings open violently to reveal an angry woman followed by a screaming child. Tears run down the little boy's cheeks as his mother holds a triangular object out at arms length. The object she holds is a small wooden pyramid covered with heiroglyphic symbols. The boy tries to reach for the toy, byt his mother holds him at bay. Cursing and spitting at the object, she flings it as far as she can into the street.

Picture of the toy

Myrrith will describe the "toy" as a pre-dyanstic artifact (see below), although she has to admit that it is extremely young for such a find, perhaps being 200 to 300 years old. The toy is in fact, the youngest find that Myrrith has ever made, younger even than dynastic objects that she has found on the outer world.

Various Stopovers:

The characters can visit just about any location in the Hollow World while trying to accomplish their task. They should be able to find several more clues as to their destination, especially if they visit libraries or learned sages. Keep in mind that various cultures will react differently towards the PC's seeking out Nithia.


Once they enter Nithia, it should be obvious to them that they have reached their destination. If the ankh has not been disposed of yet, Myrrith will suggest doing it here. It should be unobtrusive enough, nestled in amoung so many artifacts of similar make.

Myrrith's History Lesson:

There are two distinct types of Nithian architecture. Myrrith calls the first type "pre-dynastic." This type of architecture is defined by very large stone blocks (even by Nithian standards) and an archaic form of heiroglyphics. Pre-dynastic architecture dominates many of the desert ruins, but is rarely found in the more populated areas of Nithia. The second type, "dynastic" archetecture dominates the Nithian cities, and more populous areas. Although still fantastically large by Known World standards, dynastic architecture pales in comparison with pre-dynastic architecture.

Although comprised of differing Nithian architectural styles (some of which even Myrrith does not recognize), the ankh has an appearance somewhere between pre-dynastic and dynastic ages. This will give Myrrith a good estimation of when the Nithian "schism" took place. Dynastic age monuments are dedicated mostly to the Nithian sun gods, while the ankh is covered with the symbols of the dark gods. Pre-dynastic symbols and artwork is devoted to what Myrrith terms the "true gods." PCs that study it will find it rife with serpentine references.

After about a month studying in Nithia, Myrrith will come up with an idea. Her plan is to map as many of the pre-dynastic ruins and then triangulate on their center. She feels that this will lead the PCs to the founding location of the pre-dynastic culture. Most of the ruins are located in the Serpent Desert, and PCs will have to make extensive preparations before travelling in that vast wasteland.

Following are some events that might happen in this section:

Myrrith neglects hiding her appearance more and more often.
Whether this is because she has immersed herself in her work, or simply because she is becomming senile, the PCs can not tell. While performing her research in a Nithian library, Myrrith is attacked by several of the librarians. They have seen her face, as well as the ancient texts that she is studying, and have determined that she is a worshiper of forbidden gods.
Librarians (5): AL LN; AC 7; MV 90' (40'); C2; hp 7, 6(x2), 5, 4; THAC0 19; #AT 1 weapon; Dmg by weapon ; ML 6; XP 10
They are armed with makeshift clubs. Three of them have the spell Cause Fear readied.

While traveling across the desert inspecting ruins, the party encounters a band of 15 sis'thik (see below for details on the sis'thik).
The creatures are not automatically hostile, but if they determine that the party is searching for the city of Pahat-Surah, they will terminate all conversations. Later the sis'thik will attack the party when most of the characters are sleeping. They may send for reinforcements from the city.



continued




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Copyright 2000, John Calvin, based on material copyright TSR/WotC, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.