Hooks: Tomb of Horrors
“Durnan cannot possibly be human. He’s owned the Yawning Portal for more years than most of us can remember, and he’s always the only one behind the bar. Between the trying-too-hard bards and the brawling barbarians and the clerics that come in on a mission to save us from ourselves, I don’t know how he does it.”
I winked and waved the two good fingers on my left hand at the old coot, and in a short moment Durnan slid two potent mugs of bitter down the bar. Placing my coin on the bar top, I continued:
“He knows things. Seen things. When he talks, you would do well to shut your maw and listen carefully. He owes allegiance to noone, and yet everyone comes in here like it’s neutral ground. Even the old paladins don’t achieve that level of respect.” I paused and took a long draw. “He told me early on that my eagerness would cost me dearly, that I would get in over my head because I wasn’t careful – and sure enough, I did. Cost me a couple fingers and a handful of friends – see what I did there? – but I learned that sometimes there are wiser minds than my own. Stay awhile, and listen…”
I don’t know if the group of adventurers listened like I wanted them to, but I know that when Durnan came over mid-story and admonished them about their behavior they sat right down and got quiet. I was trying to tell them of the story of Skull Hill out in the High Moor; how it only appears during the total eclipse of the first blood moon of the season, of how it is always deathly silent, of how it was filled with traps beyond reckoning, and of how I entered that unholy place once many years ago only to see my friends get consumed by the traps and unknowable dark magic contained inside.
I fear, though, that they only heard “evil lich”, “lair”, “treasure”, and “unexplored” as I spoke. Despite the warnings delivered by both myself and old Durnan, they seemed positively giddy as they paid their tab (and mine, as Durnan slyly added my drinks to theirs). As he had once told me, I knew that their eagerness would get them injured – or worse. Far worse.
It would be several tendays before another adventurer would address me directly in the Yawning Portal. This time, a precocious young halfling woman that was hardly out of her formative years, her eyes as bright as gems and her experience sorely lacking, looked up at me hopefully:
“Silvane? Syndra Silvane? We’ve – my friends and I, that is, all of us – heard that you needed some help.” She produced a tattered broadsheet with my offer of rewards in both coin and exotic magical items in exchange for a trip to Chult.
I smiled, cleared my throat, and began:
“Child, please allow me tell you of the time that a group of adventurers went into the Tomb of Horrors. What they learned was purchased at the dearest of prices, a cost that was at once too great and yet insignificant in comparison to its value. If you make it to the end, then perhaps you will know what lies before you…”
Was I in the wrong for refraining from telling her about my wasting sickness? About the traps that dread Acererak had laid within the Tomb? That annihilation would welcome them, and that only death could be found within? That would be for you, dear augur, to determine.
As the vision faded out and the legend lore spell came to its end, Durnan smiled sadly and confirmed that every single adventure that had stepped foot in the Tomb of Horrors had failed to return. Syndra indeed sought allies, but she was seeking allies that could essentially sneak into Chult – where our abilities would be better used in an effort to bring down the Tomb.
Knowing that the odds were against us we decided to set out on our grim task in the morning. The blood moon eclipse was but three days away, and we were armed with her experience – what could go wrong?
For the DM:
Thinking outside the box: