Due to so many wounded, Berke insisted the barge stop at Azure to get medical aid. Upon nearing, however, thick smoke could be seen rising from the settlement. When the party arrived, it was clear that something had attacked Azure and carried off its inhabitants – Berke’s daughter among them! Tall-Leaper, one of the two blue Gelkari the party had befriended earlier, was wounded among the bodies. He had fought to keep the attackers – red Gelkari in the service of the Tolzec – away, to no avail.
The party set off into the jungle along the easy-to-follow trail left for them.
Eventually the party could see light and hear chanting off in the jungle. They slowed their pursuit, and it was a good thing too, for they spotted the enemy’s picket line of guards before the party was seen in return. The party banged their heads together and eventually came up with a plan to distract a pair of the patrolling guards, creating a gap in the line through which they could slip.
Past the picket, the party realized they had entered a Tolzec temple-city. Built entirely out of carved bright yellow stones, the buildings were squat blocky structures with no visible windows or doors. Motifs of giant feather-winged serpents were common, as were murals depicting the smaller reptilian Gelkari amongst giant reptilian monsters.
Nearing the center of the temple-city, where the light and noise were greatest, the party witnessed a horrific scene! A great ziggurat sat in the middle of a large courtyard, surrounded by pillars holding flaming torches. Near the ziggurat was a pit filled with the prisoners taken from Azure, silent in their acceptance of their fates. All around the courtyard were red Gelkari, chanting in unison. Large reptilian creatures reminiscent of primordial dragonborn ringed the structures, dressed as guards. Atop the ziggurat was an altar with an elf man tied to it, around which four red Gelkari priests knelt. Before the elf stood another of these primordial dragonborn, dressed like a priest in bone ornamentation and black paint over its albino scales. Flanking this scene was a gigantic reptilian humanoid, easily eight feet tall, with similar paint to the priest and a spiked stone club almost as long as the creature was tall. The priest raised a wicked dagger and brought it down into the elf’s chest. A moment later the huge reptile brought its club down to behead the dying elf. The chanting from the audience reached a climax as this sacrifice was carried out.
The party wasted little time before enacting their plan. Finnia conjured a group of illusory prisoners amongst the real ones, and made them scale the pit and flee across the courtyard in full view of the guards. Unfortunately, the illusion faltered before it had left sight. It had the desired effect, however: The priest cried out in an archaic form of draconic for whomever had created the illusion to be caught, and a great number of the onlooking red Gelkari and reptilian guards scattered amongst the buildings to find the party. The priest then commanded the remaining worshippers to enter the ziggurat, as now was not the time for outsiders to know of their presence. The priest, its gigantic bodyguard, and three of the Gelkari priests entered the doorway on the side of the ziggurat, and the bodyguard hauled a massive stone door closed behind them.
Remaining in the courtyard was a Gelkari priest, a pair of reptilian guards, and a handful of Gelkari warriors. Confident in their advantage, the party struck! A terrible fight occurred, with Finnia almost falling. G’Kar and one of the primordial guards traded blows, and G’Kar proved that he was stronger by eventually striking the reptilian creature down.
Foes defeated, the party freed the prisoners and led them in a hurried journey back to Azure. Once there, the freed prisoners decided to give up on Azure, piled onto Berke’s Barge with the _Seaworthy_’s survivors and the party, and the whole group left for Bell.