Sunday, January 28, 2018

Jungles of Chult -- Around the Head of the River Tiryki

In the first session of Tomb of Annihilation, the players decided that they would journey up the River Tiryki, which they can see entire on their copy of the hex map (much of central Chult are just blank hexes to be explored, but the Tiryki is "known territory"). They made this decision in large part because they hired two Tabaxi, River Mist and Flask of Wine, as their jungle guides, and the two mentioned that they knew directly of at least two sites near the head of the Tiryki--Firefinger and Dungrunglung. (the characters had otherwise been interested in seeking Camp Righteous and Camp Vengeance, up the River Soshenstar)

The Tiryki is the central of the three northern rivers

As a couple other reviews of ToA (at Dungeon of Signs and Against the Wicked City) make clear, the hex map of Chult is actually a kind of howling emptiness of hundreds of miles (dozens of days) of random encounters, interspersed with a sprinkling of interesting adventure locations. My intent is to create content for all those empty hexes--and because my players are headed up the Tiryki, I'll start with locations around its head.

The information is that which is known well enough locally in Nyzanzaru that rumors could be picked up just by mentioning the Tiryki, or is information directly from River Mist and Flask of Wine.


the Pilgrims' Guide
There is a statue on the bank of the river, a great idol like a stern king, River Wind says. That is when we know we are halfway up the River Tiryki. He is a stern king, but he points to the east directing pilgrims on their way to the City of Mists. Sometimes they leave offerings at his altar, but I do not touch them because he is a god.

There are other altars too, Flask of Wine adds. There are too many gods in these jungles.

Sailback Hill
There is an outcropping in a swamp shaped like a sailback, according to River Wind. We only saw it from afar, because it stands in a swamp, and we did not wish to wade there. But I think I saw a face at the hill's base, a gaping jaw with big fangs. There were many storks in that swamp, and I did not like the way their eyes looked at us.

The mouth is a cave, Flask of Wine says, but says no more.

A sailback, i.e. dimetrodon

It is a pinnacle topped with fire! River Wind explains. It lies on the right bank of the Tiryki--a finger pointed at the sky, with a pyre burning brightly, day and night, at its top. The dead lie thick around it--all those taken up by the pterafolk, and then thrown down from the top. We have climbed, Flask and I, and found a cave inside the finger--but we have gone no higher. Just the two of us, what would we do against the many pterafolk that nest at its top?

Flask of Wine only nods agreement.

Ataaz Ahiya ("the Weeping Gorge")
The head of the River Tiryki is in a gorge (other gorges are also named with "Ataaz" in Chult, so I assume that's what it means), approximately 25 miles long north to south, and ten miles wide east to west. Smaller tributaries to the Tiryki pour in around the gorge, either as high waterfalls cascading down cliff faces, or as narrower streams that have cut their way down through the surrounding highland. Many tribes of pterafolk roost in the heights of the cliffs around the gorge, ruled by an ogiso or king.

The face of Olokuna is said to have been carved into the southern cliff-face, with waterfalls pouring from its eyes, and a mouth that opens into a deep cavern and shrine. Olokuna is an androgynous water god, possessed of both male and female features, and idols to it often include both an erect phallus and a maze-like vulva.

Yes, yes, River Wind says, we have seen the face of the goddess. She weeps because she is forgotten by all but the monkeys who dwell in her mouth. I too would weep if stinking apes were in my mouth. Her servants, the lobster-men, peer with cold eyes from the waters beneath her shrine.

He weeps because he has waterfall eyes, Flask of Wine adds. There is gold and gems in his mouth, but the baboons are too many.

Dungrunglung is the greatest shrine of the grungs--the frog men, you know, River Wind says. We have looked on it only from afar, because it lies in the midst of a wide swamp, and it is closely surrounded by a hedge of thorns. The head of the shrine towers over the hedge like an evil frog, grinning at the swamp, and all the while the croaking of the frogs and the frog-men is sounding around you. It is southwest of the Weeping Gorge perhaps twenty miles--who knows? It is difficult to judge distance in the jungle.

And it is filled with treasures, I am sure of it, Flask of Wine mutters, almost to himself. Riches to make a man wealthy.

I might end up calling them grippli or bullywugs,
we'll see ...

City of the Faceless Men
Somewhere in the jungles south of the Ataaz Ahiya lies an ancient and ruined city, its name forgotten and only its curse remembered in tales and old epics. It was a city of the Eshowe, perhaps, before their slaughter; or a city of Omuans, cursed by God for the pride of their ways. Regardless of the origin a curse lies over the city--all those who enter are damned to contract a horrifying disease that slowly eats the flesh of the face until only a gaping hole remains where once were mouth, nose, and eyes. The legends vary about what lies within its cursed grounds--treasures untold, or only old broken stones? But one thing that is certain is that a tribe of cursed men live among the ruins (or eke out an undead existence)--the Faceless Men, the Mask-Wearers ... in every tale, they are said to haunt the ruins, perhaps as cannibals, perhaps as undead horrors, but always wearing masks to cover the horror of their hollow faces.

It is there, River Wind says, and her ears lower, and her eyes narrow. It is an evil place. I have forgotten the way, but I have seen the obelisks that mark its boundaries. They tell its curse, because the men there have no mouths behind their masks. I will not go back. She shakes her head after saying this, going to bathe in the river, and will not talk about the City any more after that.

I remember the way, Flask of Wine murmurs. There must be something there.

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