If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.
By the following afternoon, the castaways had managed to move their camp into the cramped, listing remains of the Brine Demon. Though only the aft upper deck, captain’s cabin and parts of the officer’s mess remained dry, strung cots ensured a level of comfort they lacked in the old seaside abri. It was more secure, too. The point was made that the undead had been unmolested by the Shiv’s denizens for nearly a decade and weren’t likely to be trifled with now. The protection afforded by the new digs likewise allowed the weary away team time to train and hone their developing skills.
The riches discovered on the wreck forced the issue of divvying up all the loot accrued thus far on the accursed island. While no one was loopy enough yet to pretend that there were places around to spend their wealth, it seemed reasonable to pass the time waiting for Jask and Kor’lec to complete their treatment of Dornas’s leg by sussing out who got what. Naturally, Aerys made a case for burying the majority of it, and explained that whomever their rescuers turned out to be would probably want a sizable cut of (and be willing to kill for) the impossible-to-hide loot. Though everyone agreed that the pirate kinda had a point, when pressed Aerys did admit that, yes, she’d really always wanted to bury treasure and make a map.
With half of the coins, unwanted arms, and junk salvage to be buried and retrieved at a later date, everyone agreed that the remainder of the treasure should be divided as diplomatically as possible. Armaments went to those who could make best use of them, while coins and jewels were allocated more or less evenly – or rather, sort of evenly because Kish had called dibs earlier on a fat aquamarine when nobody else was around. Likki seemed surprised and moved to be given an equal share, too, though the notion that the goblin was truly an equal teammate didn’t exactly sit well with everyone.
After most everyone was settled, but before deciding the day’s course of action, it was time to hash out some pressing concerns.
Kish pulled Aerys aside, and after a little bit of small talk, showed the tough-talking pirate the locket the strike team had discovered in the small safe Captain Kinkarian ‘s skeleton had been clutching in death. Aerys thanked the kalashtar for the gift and commented on the gold pendant’s value. When prodded to open it, Kish was aghast when Aerys barely looked at the picture inside before shaking it out to the floor!
“Don’t you think that’s you?” Kish asked. “Nah, looks nothing like me,” replied Aerys, piqued. When pressed, the half-elven brawler admitted that maybe the image looked something like her, but she had no idea why. “I don’t know this Kinkarian,” Aerys huffed, “okay, maybe I do, by reputation. A Shackles captain. Hello, what’s this!” Aerys studied the engraving with her keen elven eyes. “The inscription says ‘To My Aeshemara.’” Aerys claimed she’d never gone by another name and wouldn’t be caught dead in “poofy” lace like the pictured woman. The pirate-poet replaced the tiny portrait in the locket, clasped it shut, and handed it back to Kish. “I suddenly don’t like the feel of the thing.”
Not quite satisfied, Kish continued to pry, but not out loud. Having recently developed the ability to pick up surface thoughts, Kish turned her psionic attentions toward Aerys. The surly salt was indeed being coy yet truthful – Aerys was confounded as to who her lookalike might be and what this woman’s relationship was to this old dead pirate. Kish opted not to turn her fun, newfound ability off when Nemanji abruptly horned his way into the scene.
The hulking tiefling had heard that Aerys was looking for him. The half-elf admitted that, as someone who did her best work with her fists, she had little use for her composite shortbow and felt it would better serve the jungle barbarian. Nemanji graciously accepted the gift, and took the stringy little scrapper in his big ape arms for a mighty embrace. Both parties survived the hug without (much) bruising or broken bones – which spoke volumes for how close this rag-tag bunch of misfits had become since the sinking of the Jenivere.
Nemanji however, reproached Kish after feeling the subtle ping in his savage brain that betrayed his friend’s mental intrusion. The telepath promised not to do it again, but couldn’t help but eavesdrop on Gelik’s stray thoughts when these clamored in from the next room…
Gelik and Monica were enjoying a romantic respite in the candlelit storeroom where the Brine Demon’s ill-gotten booty was secured. After sifting through the chest of gold, platinum and jewels, the gnome massaged his weary lover’s feet and amassed his not-inconsiderable charms before asking after the Nightvoice, the Pathfinder ship purportedly harboring the map to Lortch Quellig’s fabled buried treasure. Insisting that the treasure would make them legends in the Society and filthy rich besides, Gelik wondered what the Nine Hells the hold up was. “You went after Jask’s ship!” kvetched the gnome. “What sort of adventurers hate treasure‽”
Monica replied that she was already outvoted on the Nightvoice issue, because it was opposite the strike team’s exploration vector and probably located on the scary-looking “Island of Never Going There.” But the archaeologist was curious enough about the vessel to frame the suggestion to search for it differently at the next meeting.
“I just want the two of us to have a nice life together,” Gelik averred, whispering in the Taldan’s ear, “when we get out of here.”
“I need to tell you something,” answered Monica, after a pause. Monica revealed to her intimate friend her closest held secret: that she was born male and disowned by her noble family. Her body was magically transmuted to the sex she felt it should be via an expensive elixir. The revelation just excited the gnome, who seemed to explode with color and youth at every syllable of his lady friend’s tale. “You know my kind depends on new experiences for our immortality. Magic or not, you are every bit a woman to me. My woman.”
After a long kiss, Gelik’s eyes met Monica’s before his gaze wandered over to the hammocks in the adjoining room. Monica lifted the gnome up and leapt backward onto one of the hanging beds…
Preaching to the Fighter
“Might you spare a moment to speak of Nethys,” Jask asked of Dornas, who retained a slight limp that the magus compensated for with his staff. Dornas agreed, out of respect for his old Garundi friend, but with polite skepticism. The preacher, for his part, had thus far been generous with his prayers, his divine magic had provided the Shiv Castaways with fresh water, had kept their food stores from spoiling, and had healed their lacerations and bruises. Mending Dornas’s shattered leg was another matter. Jask felt strongly the god known as the All-Seeing Eye must have narrowed His gaze on the heroes of Smuggler’s Shiv.
Jask pointed out that Nethys, like Dornas, preferred the staff as a weapon. He explained that the god held the world’s salvation and destruction in either hand, and because the cleric saw much of Nethys in Dornas, he predicted that one day, the magus would face a similar choice. Dornas, however, was adamant in his unbelief, despite the power the so-called gods exhibited. His own spellcraft, the magus explained, came through rigorous study and precise ritualized exercise, not the caprice of some remote entity. Jask countered only by saying that all magic was a gift Nethys bequeathed to mortals, for His own reasons.
The aging cleric would not press the matter, but admitted his hope that Dornas’s inadvertent similarities to the god of magic might someday kindle interest. “For now,” Jask offered, “He has judged you fit to receive the mantras by which His initiates calm and focus their minds when working magic. I can never repay you and your friends for trusting and proving my innocence, for making me a free man. But I am honored to be the vessel of Nethys’s will, especially as it pertains to His stake in you.”
Dornas, unmoved by all the religious talk, nevertheless spent the next few hours practicing the mantras with Jask.
After a lengthy discussion, the Shiv strike team agreed that their next move would put them on Ieana and Kovack’s trail. During the meeting, Monica once again tried to make a case on Gelik’s behalf to go after the Nightvoice, but was once again voted down. Dornas especially hated the idea of prioritizing treasure over the immediate goals of finding Ieana and escaping; so Monica introduced the dodgy notion that the Nightvoice might contain information pertaining to safely navigating away from the Shiv. That dog didn’t hunt.
Though there were still some fears that Ieana may be leading the group to a trap, Likki pointed out an old Mongrukoo saying: “When sailback steps on trap, only the sailback remains,” implying that the group were so totally bad-ass they needn’t worry about ambushes. Of course, the context here also meant that there was some kind of beast on the island the monkey goblins considered too large to trap, which engendered its own concern. The scholars of the group gestured and drew different animals, pressing Likki to elaborate. Finally, Dornas guessed correctly that “sailback (Goblin: tach’rhan)” referred to a large, carnivorous mammal-like reptile called dimetrodon. As if the flying chupacabra and infernal cannibal clan weren’t enough to worry about!
Dangerous animals might’ve been less a concern had Kor’lec not chosen to remain behind that day, distracted or focused upon his meditations.
Trusting the druid would catch up to them later, the adventurers returned to Ieana’s camp and Nemanji picked up the trail westward. A steep ridge forced them south where a magnificent, rainbow-wreathed waterfall fed a shallow pool. Under the pretense of searching behind the waterfall for a hidden cave of wonders, Kishtari stripped to her skivvies for a refreshing dip in the pond. While there was no hidden cave, there were most certainly wonders to behold.
Following the creek south from the pool, the heroes took note of stubby shrubs that looked like sapling viper nettles. Unfortunately, these small bushes yielded none of the berries that Aerys had requested to calm her alcohol withdrawal symptoms. After a half mile following the stream to a u-shaped fork, the briers had grown to an immense patch covering a wide area across the opposite bank. The water was a dirty brown where the 6-foot high hedgerow clung to the creek’s edge. Wading across to the wall of writhing thorns, it became obvious to the explorers that whatever fruits the hedge had were going to be enclosed somewhere in the middle of the patch.
The Castaways circumnavigated the thorny growth to get a sense of its size, while Monica invoked a cantrip to focus her eyes past the exterior brambles. While there were no berries anywhere near the outer bounds of the nearly 100 foot wide patch, there were winding tracts within it a humanoid could possibly squeeze through – if said humanoid could take being lashed by the thorny, venomous vines. Not to be deterred, the heroes climbed up out of the creek to the dry opposite side of the patch and discovered there a thin gap into the deadly hedge maze.
At Dornas’s suggestion, Kish dispatched her crystalline homunculus into the brambles, hoping it could retrieve the berries within. But just as Dornas glimpsed a ropey, thorny plant or plant-wrapped creature slithering deep within the snarl of nettles, the overgrowth surrounding the party animated and attacked!
Episode 13 Bonus Content!
A distracting thought experiment of mine. Not intended to be insulting, tropes exist because they are fun to play with, are actually necessary in storytelling, and are inescapable, anyway. See if you agree with my picks…
|Character is||probably intended as a (genre role)||but wound up more of a (this);||or rather, a (this).|
|Dornas||Gentleman Adventurer||Only Sane Man||Jerk With a Heart of Gold|
|Kishtari||Ancient Astronaut||Space Elf||Mystical Waif|
|Kor’lec||Nature Hero||The Fettered||Knight in Sour Armor|
|Monica||Adventurer Archeologist||The Heart||White Magician Girl|
|Nemanji||Noble Savage||Proud Warrior Race Guy||Scary Black Man|
|Likki||Token Heroic Orc||Team Pet||Small Annoying Creature|