Monday 26 June 2023

Hex Crawl 23 #177: Lair and Tomb of Dragotha

Thirteen hexes north, two northeast of Alakran.


"Dragotha" is a semi-translation of the ancient Urig name Ushummatta, but also refers, like "Razisiz," to a famous canonical creature from the early days of D&D. This dracolich was born, as a green dragon, some 1000 years ago, and lived 300 more before encountering the rites of the ancient Urrummittu that potentiated his transformation. In life and undeath this place was his lair -- a cavern complex at the end of a long canyon, surrounded by low but steep mountains. A thin river trickles through the canyon amid green trees and shrubs, before emptying out into the poisoned wastes northward.

The canyon is patrolled by Antallu, "the Mordant Claw", a green dragonborn ranger of considerable skill even leaving aside his two bar-lgura demon sidekicks. Antallu goes hunting to feed his half-brother, hidden in the tomb-lair: the young green dragon Ushumgallu, one of three children of the green dragon queen Oholibah, who in human disguise is the high priestess of the cult of Tiamat in Dulshamar. The existence of Ohobilah's heirs is a closely guarded secret, and when they reach maturity she intends to let them contend for her throne.

The complex itself is based on Bruce R. Cordell's late 2nd edition-era adventure Tomb of Dragotha which can be found by poking around the dim corners of the Internet. The entrance is set in a cliff wall: a mammoth stone slab, ten feet wide and thirty feet tall, and on it carved in bas-relief a skeletal dragon, as if embedded in the rock, head pointing downward and mouth agape with finely carved teeth. The door is triple wizard-locked but can be opened by inserting three missing teeth into the carved dragon's jaw -- teeth which Antallu carries with him. Draconic inscriptions on the slab read:


Beyond the door, Ushumgallu waits patiently, in an antechamber where rest the wing bones of Dragotha, 12 mighty objects each 12 feet long. Beyond that are further wonders and horrors which the module details well, but which the Band of Bronze never reached.

To be specific, aided by an outright abuse of the Fly spell and various magic items, the Band flew in an unwieldy agglomeration straight over the back mountains, bypassing Antallu, and brute-forced the wizard locks. Ushumgallu breathed reflexively, sending Nepelope into the afterlife for a brief while, but then was terrified to behold the green-skinned saurian Korth, whom she took to be another halfbrother like Antallu. Confused, the dragon panicked and called out for Antallu, then fled the scene. Nura turned into a great ox, for whom the great wingbones they found were just about at dragging capacity. This even more bizarre menagerie took to the air once more before Antallu could press the issue.

There is one more feature I prepared in the very last chamber for the Band, which I may as well describe, as a nice little piece of dungeon cheesiness. The soul of Dragotha was hidden in a black egg, among six others. If the necromancers had gotten hold of that object, Dragotha's full consciousness and sorcerous power would have inhabited the body they raised. The six other eggs were empty soul jars that would drink the soul of whoever touched them. 

To find the one with the soul, the following riddle was set, with the opening verse inscribed above and each egg declaiming its verse when spoken to. The seven eggs are numbered left to right.

One of the eggs holds the soul of Dragotha
The other six will consume your soul forever
Each egg lies or tells the truth by nature
A lie that is only partly true is still a lie
Speak to the eggs and they will reply

Egg 1: All lying eggs are even numbered;
With the soul am I encumbered!

Egg 2: You'll hear only lies from 5 and 6;
An even number's where the soul's fixed.

Egg 3: The eggs next to me always lie;
And just in the middle the soul you'll scry.

Egg 4: No honest egg has an honest neighbour;
And next to a truth teller the soul is harboured.

Egg 5: The honest eggs are three and all adjacent;
And one in from the left end, the soul waits, patient.

Egg 6: Liars outnumber honest by exactly three;
In an odd numbered egg is where the soul will be.

Egg 7: Only one out of all of us doth tell the truth;
And the soul is just one egg off centre, forsooth!

No comments:

Post a Comment