They’re gonna feel pretty stupid when they find out… That they’re fucking with the wrong people.
Picture a wide shot of our heroes – Dornas, Kishtari, Kor’lec and Kai, Monica, Likki – shoulder to shoulder with determined expressions, walking slowly down the trail from Aycenia‘s grove. Behind them, the sun forms a brilliantly-hued halo over the mighty hill, the drumlin’s crown and its monde, a ring of baobabs and the ancient tree that serves as Aycenia’s fetter to the mortal world. Around the tree in silhouette stand those the heroes are leaving behind – Aycenia, Sasha, Aerys, Jask, Gelik – perhaps never to be seen again. As the quintet watch the heroes vanish below the treeline, the thoughts of each turn to their personal remembrances of the friends and saviors who’ve ensured their survival.
A Seed Twice Sown
Aycenia the dryad, in many respects, is a symbolic representation of the tropical island known as Smuggler’s Shiv, a place where nature, virginal and virtuous, has struggled to take root in a soil tainted by ancient civilizations and eldritch curses. Though she recognized the contributions of all the Castaways toward ridding the isle of its evil, it was the druid Kor’lec on whom she’d been focused that morning…
“Something troubles you my love,” said the fey, hours earlier, as she and Kor’lec watched the stars subsumed by the multi-hued swathes of daybreak’s light. After a night of love-making, the two had slowly awoken in caress upon a bed of giant fronds, shaped by the dryad’s magic in the highest branches of her tree. Aycenia continued, “there is an anger in you.”
Kor’lec tried to convince the fey that the brooding was merely his tendency, and while that was correct, he added that it was mostly his mind preparing itself for the battle to come. “Yes, but there is more,” Aycenia nudged, her ages-old empathy and intuition undressed the druid’s thoughts as effortlessly as her petite golden-brown body and mint green eyes had divested him of his clothes. “You are so angry, and conflicted.”
As to his inevitable battle with Ieana, now known to be a dangerous serpentfolk, Aycenia said, “you will return, for the sake of your son and daughter.” Taken aback, Kor’lec stammered. The dryad put her forefinger to his lips, a very humanoid way to engender his silence. “It is what we wanted from each other,” she promised.
Aycenia revealed that she had gotten used to the isle’s corruption, and the curse upon it that assured her many centuries of loneliness. “But then you came, ready and willing to change what I could not.” The dryad went on to thank the druid and his friends, and added, “your journey will take you from me, from us, but I hope someday, you will return here to rest. Perhaps even establish a grove?” The suggestion seemed fitting to both Kor’lec and his fey paramour. The dryad continued, "you’ve already been responsible for healing this place. It seems the Will of the World is for you to become its protector.
“As to the conflict between yourself and your companions, despite your differences, you must know that they love you? You need each other.” Kor’lec agreed. Aycenia’s eyes narrowed a bit and she sighed. “We need to discuss your hatred for Gelik.” The dryad was sensitive to everyone’s (save Monica’s) bad feelings for the gnomish knave, and Kor’lec’s attempt to muscle Gelik off his feet in the hollow of her tree the night before evinced the half-elf’s disgust. Kor’lec defended himself and his actions to the nature spirit by explaining that Gelik was unrepentant and dangerous.
Aycenia assured him that her concern was mostly his ability to understand and be a parent to their part-fey offspring. “Gelik has a lot to answer for, true,” Aycenia countered, "but consider that he and his kind are not of this plane, and we fey are not separate from our natures. We ARE natures! In the First World, gnomekin were childhood, personified. Their bodies like children, the whimsy and imagination you value in children, and all the obsessions and selfishness of children that frustrate adults. Perhaps we were bad parents, because we let them wander out of our world. Aycenia sighed heavily.
“Know also, that to us, our magic is part of us, we use it with as much forethought as you have breathing, or picking up a utensil to eat with.” Kor’lec admitted that it gave him a lot to chew on. They spent the rest of the morning speaking of lighter things, just a woman and man enjoying the sunrise.
Kor’lec didn’t look back as he and his companions descended once again into jungles of the Shiv. But true to his own nature, he brooded and worried. This journey, this quest, the events yet to unfold that he and his party were all starting to feel inexorably bound to, would soon take him away from Smuggler’s Shiv. What would become of this place when they were gone? Truth be told, the island couldn’t hold any of them anymore, save in one way: the stone not turned. Ieana and her evil race had returned, and it was a good bet the Castaways were the only ones who knew anything about it. The island had changed them all, and it had whittled and carved Kor’lec and Kai into something like ironwood totems – unbreakable, unpretentious, and standing for nature’s forces.
A million years ago, Golarion grew too cold for the domination of reptilian life, and beasts of feathers and fur won the world from their scaly ancestors. Kor’lec was certain that Golarion had made its intentions to the serpentfolk clear.
The druid intended to remind them.
A Fool and His Honey
Gelik was still sore. Was this hurt he felt? Jealousy? His inability to put his feelings to prose – clever, obscure, florid, excessively aureate words – just made him feel worse. Last night the holier-than-thou druid had tried to trip him. Monica, his so-called girlfriend, had barely defended him! Gelik could scarcely contain his embarrassment at having a romantic partner less-than completely dedicated to his honor and wellness. He hoped all humans weren’t like that in love. I mean, sure, she’d probably been through a lot with those jerks as they traipsed around the jungle like idiots murdering monsters and taking their stuff…
Aw, that’s gotta be it… the gnome supposed. They’d saved each others’ lives a few times. His eyes rolled. It was like currency to them. Gelik struggled to wrap his head around it all once again while trying to recall the “eureka!” moment he’d had last night…
After deftly avoiding stumbling and then thoroughly trouncing the bullying half-elf (the male, not the other bullying half-elf) in a contest of speechcraft, Gelik realized he was losing Monica. Her indifference irked him, but she was still the love of his life, the only woman he could say believed that the heart of a gallant beat in his chest, and who was too nice or naive to pry out the truth. She got his jokes, too. Gelik knew he needed to put aside the sting of Monica’s emasculating affront, no matter how wrong she was, and act quickly lest his hopes and dreams of future fame, fortune, and glory slip away.
“So, yeah, I lied about being a spy,” the gnome admitted, in front of the barely surprised adventurers. It worked! Monica said she was proud of him! But Gelik needed to play against the human propensity to mistake pride for bad intentions. He left without saying a word to anyone, or sparing Monica a glance after making his shocking revelation.
Gelik chose to sleep alone last night. Let her try to suss that out! he’d mused. This morning though, he was at the archaeologist’s side silently helping her prep for the away team’s journey to Red Mountain. A few harrumphs and heavy sighs finally got him what he was after:
“What’s wrong, Gelik?” Monica asked. The gnome blurted out that he just didn’t get why she was leaving again. “We’ve got a safe place, rescue is inevitable, and you’ve made discoveries here to secure your place in academic history a hundred times over. Why are you risking all of that?” In spite of himself, Gelik suddenly realized that his trepid pleas weren’t part of the long con, they weren’t his usual romantic pandering, and were as close to the truth as he’d ever come. Wait, had the human ensorcelled him?
After a long pause, Monica tried her best to explain. “I feel, we all feel, that stopping whatever it is Ieana’s planned is important. More important than making a name, or discovering things.”
“You’re a scholar though,” Gelik argued. “These kinds of problems are for people a lot bigger and more powerful than us. I mean, you’ve really built up a lot of muscle in the past weeks but… I mean, you used to be afraid of bugs for gods’ sake!”
“Yes,” Monica admitted, playfully flexed her arm and giggled. “I always imagined myself the world-saving type, I am an archaeologist, after all. But fantasy is one thing and reality… I’ve grown, and I feel for some reason, I think this one falls on us.”
Gelik realized he was crying. Real, tears! He cared about her. Did he always care about her? Gelik decided it didn’t matter. “Just, just please come back in one piece.”
The gnome had thrown his arms around the human woman’s midriff, and in that embrace they remained until Monica was called.
As Gelik watched the perplexing, amazing, adventurer he’d come to love leave him that morning, an idea occurred to him that was probably as dumb as the one that nearly got him killed (and earned the ire of just about everyone around him). What the hell? They should expect it by now. The gnome suddenly clapped, shattering the silent pall that had overcome the b-team. Having everyone’s attention, with a mischievous look Gelik proclaimed, “something’s just occurred to me. Now, hear me out…”
“Boy it sure was nice of Kor’lec to bring you back, Hesediel,” whispered Sasha to her pet dimorphodon chic. “But it sucks they left Nemanji to get killed by the green-cloaked halfling.”
“Oh, I warned them! Over and over, and they thought I was crazy, or stupid, or whatever. ‘Just a figment of your imagination, Sasha!’ Even when the wretched thing shows up… admits he’s stalking me… and fucking reveals he’s an unholy beast-monster! Nemanji always believed me, yes he did! Except he trusted the assassin, too, didn’t he? What the hell, dorks?
“Gee, I sure hope they don’t all get killed,” Sasha feigned a sob and started giggling, then collected herself before furtively looking around to see if anyone noticed. “I wonder if the fairy can steal thoughts like the alien? Oh yeah, Bitch-Tari, I know exactly What. You. Are. The Men from Leng did brisk business in Ilizmagorti. Lots of slaves from space… all of them too weak and pathetic to stand up for themselves. Sure liked to talk about her dumb planet when they were on their knees scrubbing blood from the Citadel training floor.” Sasha returned her attention to her pet. "She said she was Nemanji’s friend? Yet she almost got him killed over a few dumb snakes? Not exactly leading the search for him, either, is she? So full of it, like the worst Riddleport con-artists and bad at it to boot. Right? Right.
“Omg, omg, omg … try not to laugh Hesediel, but I think Gelik’s tearing up.” Sasha sighed, "alas, there was hope for him. Finally, someone as clever and ruthless as myself. And even more hated by those holier-than-thou hypocrites. Milquetoast Monica must’ve gotten to him. ‘Oh my hero! please regale me with more morality fantasies you read about when you were a wee lass!’ You know what, Hesediel? The real world is cold and hard and laughs at heroes – just like Monica’s ‘tried and true’ friends laugh at her. I’d rather be eaten alive than hear about how much she cares about me, or any of us, one more time. Scratch that, I’d rather her be eaten alive. By spiders or ants or something small and crawly. Probably she wouldn’t even fight back, saying something like ’it’s okay, the ants need to eat, too.’ Oh, I’d love to see that.
“Dornas, how I wish I knew enough about him to hate him more. But I know enough that he might be the hardest to fool, the hardest to fight, and the hardest to kill. He’s playing a game, and maybe I’m just curious enough about it to let him live… ho ho! You’re right Little Wing, he almost got me, didn’t he? Almost. I must correct myself, I hate him just fine.
“Kor’lec, oh god. Poor dope. I guess I don’t hate him as much as I feel bad for him. He did reunite us, didn’t he Hesediel? I think he understands better than anyone the awful truth about the world. It’s a hierarchy, yes it is, isn’t it Baby Biteykins!” Sasha dangled a squirming grub above her immature companion’s toucan-like beak. The tiny reptavian jumped up from the young assassin’s forearm and gulped the treat down with a happy chirp, then glided in a spin down to her feet. “A devouring helix of predators… and the prey they shit out, lol”
Sasha looked up from her pet to see the Castaways enveloped by the tropical flora. “Maybe you don’t understand it yet, mister wisenheimer druid, but you will. And I hope you have the wisdom to stay out of my fucking way when I demonstrate it to your friends. But you won’t.” Hesediel squawked angrily at the ground, so Sasha picked him up and placed him on her shoulder. She no longer winced when the pterasaur dug and scraped his climbing claws into her flesh for purchase. Anything worth living for was worth spilling blood for, believed the titian-haired teen.
“Oh, Little Wing. All this blood-and-guts talk is making me homesick. Do you… do you think its time to go home?” Hesediel absently crowed in response.
“Why, yessir yessir! Thanks for reminding me! There is, in fact, something I need to pick up first.”
“Great Nethys,” prayed Jask, "many say that it is a fool’s hope to pray to you, for yours is the impassive mask and your burden the balance of the cosmos. But I pray to you now to see these men and women, skilled casters and seekers after knowledge all of them, through to their destiny. Their trials would please you, God-King, as their motives, collectively, span the breadth and depth of good and evil, law and chaos. You, Great Eye, hold the scales of creation and upon those a world, our world, of humans and our humanoid allies. That world, your great work, these mortals would see preserved.
“You may, or may not as your whim dictates, appreciate their methods and motives, but it is your great will to see the practice of magic persevere. That is where these, I hesitate to call them heroes as I entreat you, though they are certainly my personal heroes, these champions are worth your attention. That which they oppose; the First People, the Old Masters, yuan-ti, call them what you will, are of a kind who wouldn’t simply make slaves of humanity, elfkind, dwarfkind, and all others offensive to them. The serpentmen, if the tales are true, would ensure their dominion by making beasts of the fair, civilized, and learned of Golarion’s races. You were born a man of Osirion, my god, surely you wouldn’t allow this feral regression of humanity and the loss of every advancement we’ve made in magic and science to these reptilians?
“If that is indeed your desire, All-Seer, then perhaps I can sway you with another point in these peoples’ favor. They are all, my Lord, casters and lovers of learning, as I’ve said. Further, they are all of them quickly proving to be among the most naturally talented magicians this age has known.
“I have seen you smile upon Dornas, as he develops martial katas with the stave, your favored weapon, to work spells forgotten and obscure. I have felt your interest in Kishtari, who surprises even herself as she unravels her inner-mind’s phrenic mysteries. I have noted your hand behind Monica’s uncanny luck, surely you appreciate the woman’s knack for activating foci beyond her purview with nothing more than grit and imagination, and the sheer wonder she takes in discovery. Ah, yes, other great powers look out for her too, more than anyone I’ve known who wasn’t a priest.
“And of priests, I must make a case now for my fellows Kor’lec and Likki. Both have risked their lives and saved your servant from certain death, and their reasons for it are so simple, a cynical man might question it. Kor’lec, steward of nature; wild, capricious and cruel. Likki, prophet of a demonic jungle god. I have sensed darkness and ancient evils like cobwebs draped on their souls. They have slipped, done things cruel and selfish out of anger and ignorance. And yet? They are, at heart, good men. Good. Men. That in itself is so wonderfully confounding, I can only pray that the riddle this pair poses is as engaging to you, All-Seer, as it is to me?
The old Garundi squinted to make out the last of the adventures as they seemed to meld into the treetops partway down the hill’s scant trail. I need to get a pair of good spectacles he thought as soon as we get to the mainland. Too many years a scrivener’s killed these peepers. Despite the pain it caused to focus his sights – mundane and magical – Jask searched around for some signal from Nethys that his prayer had been heard. A mark in the auras, a cloud pattern, a twig in the shape of a rune, a black and white stone. Anything. Hells, I’ll be happy to see a snake right now. Least I’d know someone was listening.
But the aged cleric’s search was to no avail. His was a confusing, aloof god, and he’d just have to take the lack of a sign as a sign in and of itself.
Ship in a Bottle
If Found, Remit to Captain Kassata LeWynn
in care of The Offices of LeWynn Shipping and Repair
(North Pier Chancery)
My Dearest Kassata,
This is the last message I’m tossing into Besmara’s Chest. I hope the Lady of the Black Flag sees fit to get it to you when the rum I emptied from this bottle reaches her in the Maelstrom. I know, unthinkable, right? “Waste of grog you dingy sot!” you’d say. Its been over a week since I’ve had a touch of hooch, to my betterment. Senses are sharper, my reflexes are swifter. Still the fightin’ shitehawk you knew and loved, more of a sharp cutlass now than a blunt instrument. There have been temptations. I lost a foot, and it went gangrenous midway up the calf. Got a nice peg for it. Really wanted a swig throughout the whole grisly business. Good story there. I’ll tell you over tea. Ha!
It has been many months since you left the Shackles, and me, to take over your Pa’s business in Sargava. If you got the other messages, you’ve already heard me lament the fight that split us. In summary: I blamed the drink for the fist that dissevered your nose. “Don’t follow me,” you said. Promised I wouldn’t. Did anyway, cause the echo of those words kept knocking about my head and the drink wouldn’t hush them. Scuttled here on the Shiv, was certain this would be my grave. Now, I’m almost as sure it won’t. I don’t have to let those words you said be the last between us, or that face, that scowl of betrayal and blood and disgust, keep burning in me mind’s eye.
I’m not asking for a second chance, or begging on you to take me back. What I am asking is for you to take me on. Your crew, on the Last Hurrah I mean to say. I’m thinking the lot of the old river rats who served your Pa won’t like taking your orders. You’ve likely lost, what? half your hands? You know barges and waterways better than me, but I’m still handy with rigging, making and breaking tow, moving crates. Still just as good in a scrap, but less likely now to start one for no reason. Sobriety’s gettin’ me gentle, maybe, but not soft. Jask, the nice old priest here has been teaching me meditation. I’ll let you get a good laugh outta the image. Here’s another for you, I’m thinking of taking on the cloth myself. Ha ha! The black-jack of course! We’ll see if the Queen does me right by getting this note to you.
Also, I’m wanting your trust, maybe? A cautious friendship? I suppose I’d like that truth be told. Too much?
So, I’ve a new partner in crime, so to speak. Her name’s Kishtari, a pearl of a lass from Riddleport. Gorgeous, golden skin, elvenblood like me, methinks Vudrani and Varisian on her human side. Yeah, me and the “K” names and the swarthy little jeune fille out of water. Not sure it’s love in the making, though. She’ll look a might frail to you but the girl is a living fucking cannonade, I’m told. Some kind of mental magic she does the likes I’ve never heard of. No words, no gestures, or fetishes. The gnome says she can play tricks in the head, too. Peculiar, but I’ve heard that of Vudrani. Peculiar and useful, I’d think, in our business.
I think some of the others might be swayed, with the right spin on things. These people are brilliant. Cagey, brave, dangerous. Lots to offer the business. You’ve got Dornas the fancy Taldan; good skirmisher, knows a little magic, and I’ve seen he’s got sea-legs from somewhere but he doesn’t talk about himself much. Kor’lec’s an Expanse native I’ve heard. Might have some family in the interior we can partner with. He’s also a doc and a wild priest – I heard the predators inland grow as big as whales and have teeth like sabers, and there are mosquitoes the size of kites. I’ve heard of crocs and river beasts that can flip a hoy with as little as a nod. Not that I’m a’feared of all that, but a good wild priest on the crew would save a lot of time and ammunition. There’s an educated lass named Monica… not sure what she does, but I’ve seen her pull some clever of slight of hand that makes me think larceny is her trade. Never know when that might be useful, ha ha! We picked up a gobbie native too. A witch-doctor, I think. The gobbies here brew a liqueur that’ll knock you daft. Would fetch a tidy profit if we can get the recipe, or partnership with his folk.
The others – Jask, Sasha, Gelik – all say they’ve got plans when they reach the mainland, but those other five? I don’t think they know how they’re getting about the Expanse when we escape this accused isle. I overheard they aim on sticking together, though. A tidy package to raise the quality of any crew, I trust you’ll agree.
As I close this letter, I hope I’ve whet your interest, if anything, and we can at least negotiate an accord. I know that what we shared in the Shackles won’t sway you, I made sure of that when I struck you. That, that evil err, I’ll live with for all it pains me, and I deserve it. But I want to make it up to you, through usefulness, loyalty, and the promise of getting you the wealth your family business deserves, and vengeance on your Pa’s killers you deserve.
My fate and livelihood are as good as in your hands.
The Red Mountain Debacle
The Castaways’ overland journey may have been fraught with peril, but there was little remaining on Smuggler’s Shiv that could challenge the septet. Kor’lec guided his companions swiftly along the old Thrunefang hunting paths, and Likki had laid upon the party a dweomer that protected them from the midday heat.
They traveled almost in silence, though Kish had something she wanted to make clear to her druid friend. “Your amulet, I understand it creates a new body for the dead.” Kor’lec confirmed that his amulet could indeed restore the dead in a new form from the elements at hand. “I ask that you don’t use it on me.” Kish explained that as a being of two natures, spirit and humanoid, that she feared a loss of her bond to her ancestral spirit. Kor’lec wasn’t sure that would be the case, but agreed to his kalashtar companion’s request.
A spider the size of a pony descended from the canopy, but Kor’lec had taken it upon himself to know the dialect of vermin in the primordial tongue. “You won’t find a painless meal here…” The spider returned in peace to her web in the treetops.
After a half a day, the heroes finally reached the foothills surrounding Red Mountain. Descending a hill adjacent to the towering rise, the party noted a series of rope bridges going back and forth between the extinct volcano and its neighbor that took advantage of eithers’ natural ledges to ascend. Likki thought they looked like Mongrukoo work, though the bridges could have been built by the Thrunefangs, too. In between the rises was a perilously deep ravine, carved out by a trickling waterway.
Ancient statues, covered in lichen and moss, stood at the ingress of each of the bridges. The white marble effigies depicted nobly posed humans with fanged countenances and radiated faint abjuration auras. Monica said the style was clearly Azlanti, and the protective magic could be staving the stone’s decay. The motifs and habiliments depicted on the statues were used by Zura cultists, even in the present. One hundred centuries ago, was there an Azlanti Zura cult on Smuggler’s Shiv? “Looks like they moved in and kept some of the furniture,” guessed Kor’lec, after the Taldan scholars explained that the Azlanti humans of that age quickly displaced the serpentfolk as Golarion’s dominant culture.
Despite Kish’s fretful protestations, the adventurers ascended the ledges and bridges.
At around sixty feet above sea level, the Red Mountain Devil attacked!
The winged chupacabra swept down upon the party without sound and the sun behind him, making him nigh invisible until he struck. Kor’lec was a few steps ahead of the rest, and was picked out as prey by the ferocious monster. The Devil sank its fangs into the nape of the druid’s neck and grabbed him.
Monica, quick on the trigger as ever, drew irons and fired (temporarily deafening poor Kish who was standing in front of her) from the back of the bridge. The beast presented a difficult target, maneuvering on the wing to keep Kor’lec in front of him – but the gun-slinging historian’s aim was true enough to hole the Devil’s patagium.
Dornas struck a solid blow with his staff that must have rang the Devil’s bell, but he kept digging his claws deeper in his captive’s flanks. Tilting his wings to catch the canyon’s updraft, the Devil suddenly launched upward with Kor’lec in his grip!
At 85 feet, the flying chupacabra let go – and imagined the gory feast he’d have waiting at the crevice’s bottom.
But Kor’lec simply stood there in mid-air.
Back on the bridge, Kishtari had mentally taken control of Kor’lec’s gravity!
The chupacabra was confused and enraged; took another shot in the wing from Monica, and a defiant saber slash from Kor’lec. Likki tossed a tanglefoot bag and struck true, forcing the Red Mountain Devil to contend with a heavy, sticky goop that imbalanced his flight. Once the terrifying bogey of Smuggler’s Shiv, the so-called Devil of Red Mountain had finally met his match several times over.
Knowing he was licked, the chupacabra spun and struggled to keep flight as he fled away further along the vale.
The Castaways weren’t about to let the monster who’d taunted them from day one get away unpunished. The heroes gave chase, clambering up to Red Mountain’s apex with the intention of following the vale’s lip to the Devil’s lair. Once in sight of the circle of monoliths further up the mount, the adventurers started taking fire from hidden foes. Monica hesitated a second and tried to make out the javelin throwers in the shadows of the peak’s monoliths. “Later! focus on the Devil!” shouted Dornas. The hunt was on!
The magus was flying for the first time, not by wing, but by a magic honed into deadly efficacy through the dangers Dornas and his companions had overcome in their grueling two week ordeal on the Shiv. He reached the Devil’s lair first, a nest of reeds and driftwood wedged into a niche in the crevice’s corner. The chupacabra looked pathetic as he was trying to scrape the tanglefoot bag’s goop from his wings, but attempted a ferocious front of roars and raspy, unintelligible words. Amidst all his vocal posturing, the Devil paused to choke down a throatful of wood, ice, broken fangs and teeth as Dornas smashed the butt of his staff – enhanced by wizardly frost – into the monster’s face.
Coughing blood, clutching his chest, the Devil’s eyes grew wide as he looked beyond the magus to the entrance of his nook. Kor’lec was soaring toward him, scimitar in his outstretched hand. The druid was still under the effect of Kish’s “optional gravity” effect and had been hurtling himself by hand across the canyon’s rocky sides. Kor’lec coasted past Dornas and collided with the Devil as the druid’s saber ignited! The chupacabra was eaten inside out by fire and become a terrified effigy of ash that was carried away, top-down, by the swirling draft.
“We’ve killed this island’s gods. Fitting we’ve killed it’s devil too,” remarked Kish.
Time and Tide Don’t Wait
There was no time to loot the Devil’s nest. Kish had ascended an olden stairwell carved into the cliffside to the apex of Red Mountain with Monica close behind her. They were greeted by the sight of four obelisks etched with serpentfolk motifs surrounding a waist-high pyramid-shaped stone — the Tide Stone. It was clear that the pyramid was recently excavated – Ieana’s handiwork. There was also a pair of animated serpentman skeletons hidden in the shadows of the monoliths who leapt out hissing. Dornas flew over from the dead Mountain Devil’s lair and the others weren’t long to catch up. The skeletons fell quickly thereafter.
The heroes noticed that the pyramid seemed designed to catch liquid in bowl-shaped impression at its top and funnel it down through grooves at the edges. Monica brought up the ritual for the Tide Stone she’d duplicated from the Typhonian Proposals in the serpentfolk temple. The Castaways bandied about ideas for enacting the same ritual “to eschew what lies below” as Ieana must have done. Monica reasoned that there was something hidden below the surf accessible if the ancient serpentfolk ceremony lowered the water. With the party entirely comprised of magic-users, it wouldn’t be too difficult to wrangle the elder eldritch forces involved…
Kor’lec would have none of that, thank-you. With his weight or lack-thereof still being handled by Kish, the druid ran and launched himself off the peak of Red Mountain toward the sea, transforming into a porpoise before splashing down.
Beneath the waves, the undersea world in all its brilliance and majesty was opened to the druid’s metamorphosed eyes for what seemed the first time — a native, not a visitor. Kor’lec quickly noticed the presence of many dead fish, reasonably assumed to have perished when Ieana pushed the water out of the lagoon. There were quite a few wrecked ships. Less than a hundred feet south from him, Kor’lec found what he’d dove for. In the curve of the inlet was what looked like an archway with stone, spiked double doors leading under the island.
Kor’lec tried to make out the details and felt a slight ripple in the water around him. Then he remembered that assuming a new form didn’t mitigate a druid’s wounds, and he hadn’t completely recovered from the clawmarks of the chupacabra. And of course, all these dead fish attracted scavengers.
The silvertip shark seemed to erupt from out of the kelp forest beneath him.