Campaign of the Month: September 2016

Age of Serpents

The Cricket Pitch

If you play good cricket, a lot of bad things get hidden.

The last things Dornas saw from the top of Black Widow Bluff was a makeshift bridge leading to a cavern on an adjacent, slightly smaller rise, and another cave mouth leading off the downward trail. After making certain that there were no threats potentially lying-in-wait, the heroes proceeded into the narrow gully where Likki and his companions were earlier ambushed. The goblin suggested that the mites could be tracked to their lair from the ambush site, though the group presumed that the hideous fey had probably withdrawn into one or both of the caves Dornas spied.

Starday, Bloody Starday

At the ambush site, the party saw for themselves the grisly results of the Klixarpillar mites’ assault against their monkey goblin foes. The Mongrukoo had been caught beneath a weighted net and peppered with arrows. Then the hive spider swarm had engulfed them and two of the goblins were utterly torn to pieces. Dornas inspected the net, and realized that it was made of strong, sticky silk fibers not unlike spider webs—though these would have been excreted by a very big spider. Likki noticed that the heads of the dead were taken away from the kill zone along with two injured captives. Likki dropped to his knees and growled an Abyssal prayer of vengeance to Mechuiti, and Nemanji joined him.

The party hunters—Nemanji and Kor’lec—effortlessly followed the mites’ trail down through the furrows of the sun-scorched summit. Unfortunately, not a few of their companions were being slow-roasted by the afternoon heat—worsened by the lack of shade so far above the treeline. Even Likki was stricken. He guessed this was why his grandfather had abandoned the area, “Mongrukoo belong in trees, maybe Klixarpillar belong in the rocks.”

Soon after, the grim mood was broken by a mocking voice that echoed and boomed across the chasms:

“The warm blood of your goblin friends will make delicious dinner wine!” and “This mountain is your tomb, foolish trespassers! I shall enjoy gnawing on your bones after you are gone!” While the castaways discovered a small-sized passageway just above the main trail that the mites could have been using to get around without being seen, a reconnaissance of the tunnel by Naga—Kishtari’s psionically-linked homunculus—showed no signs of the fugly fey.

It Actually IS Cricket

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Scouting ahead, Kor’lec cautiously approached the first cavern mouth while his ape-demonling colleague covered his position. The Klixarpillars’ trail seemed to continue past that cave and the only immediate sign of danger was a single large-ish insect print in the dust—yes, a giant cricket. But the druid also noticed that the thin pillars of rock outside the entrance weren’t entirely natural, and had some markings that might have been text. Monica confirmed the etchings were Sylvan; and when made out and translated appeared to be warnings and curses against trespass. This was most definitely a mite site, and the castaways conjectured that the big crickets within might be bound to the service of the bug-loving gremlins.

Still, the team of adventurers had reached a point where many of their capabilities were exhausted until they could rest, and the midday sun proved to be their most inexorable foe: the only enemy so far in which retreat was the only option. Risk or not, the cave needed to be secured.

Kishtari sent Naga to survey the cavern and fell into a trance—the psicrystal became her eyes. Monica cast a light cantrip on the serpentine construct intending for the party to follow behind it. After a short passageway, the crystal snake found itself in an expansive chamber. In the center was a big firepit that hadn’t been utilized in years. Several expansive recesses radiated from the central cavern. In one there lay the corpse of a large flying reptile that perhaps had crawled into the cave to die.

Naga came very close to sharing that creature’s fate when danger emerged from the dark.

Three giant cave crickets, their hunting instinct piqued by the tiny crawling construct, hopped toward Naga. Kish, standing with her companions at the mouth of the cave, abruptly abandoned her telepathic trance and babbled something about Naga being attacked—but her companions had already sensed trouble and leapt to action.

Nemanji’s demonic fury kicked in and he stormed the cave bow drawn; Dornas, Kor’lec, and Kai close behind. Even Likki noticed the sudden change in tempo and charged forward coconut in hand. Though she couldn’t really understand his Goblinoid words, “Your familiar is in trouble, yes?” Kish nodded affirmatively to the courageous intent. In that split-second exchange, the kalashtar regretted wanting to kill him earlier.

Nemanji took his stance at the narrow entrance to the main chamber and fired his bow at the giant insects. Naga wasn’t helpless though, and deftly rolled and sprung clear of its predators. Detecting intruders at the mouth of their den, two of the crickets hopped over to Nemanji while a third’s backlegs were used instead to affect a deafening chirp. Taken aback by that cricket’s racket, the tiefling took its den-mate’s kickback to the chin. But Likki was right behind him with a healing prayer that set the barbarian’s jaw back in place.

Nothing was getting past Nemanji’s chokepoint though, save Naga, who coiled back up into its creator’s arms; Kish then backed up outside of the cave to where Monica was waiting with her bow drawn. “Not going in there,” the archeologist made plain, “Bugs.”
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But Monica didn’t have long to fret about her phobias, as her companions made short work of the offending arthropods. After the rest of the team retired the other two, Kor’lec used his staff as a bat, and slog swept the vermin into the air, allowing hawk-eyed Nemanji to pull a hat-trick and clip off its legs with arrows. The insect landed with a splat on its stumps, and the match was over.

Web of Illusion

The cavern secured, the castaways had time to rest. Though Likki’s Mongrukoo companions were in grave peril, they had little hope of rescue with the team spent and suffering heat stroke. A search of the place showed that this lair was abandoned some time before. The explorers discovered a decanter in a tiny tunnel barely big enough for an adult mite to squeeze through. An inspection of the residue revealed that the container once held a few drafts of an invisibility potion and the remaining residue could be made active with a few drops of water.

Fresh after their respite, the heroes resolutely descended the path down to the bridge, which they saw strait away was woven of webbing. A hive spider spy scurried along the bridge’s underside to the lair entrance on the next tor. Knowing they’d been expected, the adventures took cover and considered their attack cautiously. Dornas’s cunning spellcraft emerged again, the magus suggesting using a cantrip to wobble the bridge while Monica created an illusion of something crossing on it. She fashioned a prowling cat, which was predictably fired upon from the dark cavern entrance. After a while, the hidden sniper ran out of ammo.

The invaders took advantage of the lull and crossed the bridge into the cavern entry and were halted by a crude but sturdy wooden portcullis. Beyond that, the darkness inside the cave seemed to tremble with the evil of gremlins and the almost alien nature of the spiders that doubtlessly awaited them within!




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Gob-Webs

I’m a little spider watch me spin
If you’ll be my dinner
I’ll let you come in
Then I’ll spin a web to hold you tight
And gobble you up in one big bite!

Our intrepid explorers were faced with a mountain to climb—literally! Though the ledge they were on appeared to gradually wind up and around the bluff they were ascending, a large encampment of monkey goblins ahead meant turn back, fight, or go straight up. Straight up it was.

The bluff at this point was too steep to scale by hand, so the party opted for a rope and piton system where Nemanji would climb ahead and assemble the rigging. The voices of the goblins ahead started to echo closer, so Monica wove an illusory rockslide that appeared to block the ledge and halted their approach.

Mite Get Ugly

At about 40 feet up, the tiefling wedged in his hoof and began pounding in a piton. There, the cagey hunter noticed a concealed outcrop and two small, ugly blue men with bows trained on him and his teammates. Once the mites realized that Nemanji had spotted them, they attacked. A large swarm of blue termite-spider things oozed out from the rocks around them and clambered toward the tiefling. “That’s a swarm!” exclaimed the archer, warning his friends below.
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Fortunately, the swarm was slow in its advance. The arrows of the mite snipers were considerably less so. Dornas got grazed and returned fire with his crossbow, but the unsightly fey were well-entrenched and thicker-skinned than they appeared—a result of their resiliency against weapons not forged of cold iron. Kor’lec began to insult the mites in Sylvan, hoping to draw them out for the benefit of the archers. The others drew bows or torches, and prayed to providence that Nemanji could get away from the swarm before he was engulfed.

The demonic savage slid down the rope and dropped amid his companions no worse for wear, but the chittering swarm turned toward the group. The mites’ arrows were raining down around them. Up the ridge, angry, loudening monkey goblin voices suggested that the illusory blockade had been breached. Caught between foes, the heroes considered their last words or the survivability odds of fleeing back the way they came.

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Kishtari was prompted to appeal to the very goblins she had advocated slaying only moments before. The startled humanoids limply formed ranks around their elder upon seeing the kalashtar approach, but did not immediately attack. They were, as Naga reported, severely injured.

Kish was quick to establish a telepathic rapport with the goblin leader, called Cenkil, and found his mind to be refreshingly articulate. The Mongrukoo — as Cenkil referred to his tribe, were accomplished tacticians, and as hurt as they were, turned the tide of battle in a moment. Kor’lec goaded the mites, who cursed their foes for allying with the Mongrukoo. But the revolting fey couldn’t line up a shot without being pelted by monkey goblin coconuts. They were soon routed, and in retreat averred in Undercommon that they must tell “Tlukkah” that the Mongrukoo had found new allies. While the nasty gremlins were ignorant of the fact that Dornas was very fluent in that language, they were clever enough to have the arachnid swarm cover their retreat.

But with some seamless teamwork between the monkey goblins and the castaways, no one suffered the stings of the flesh-starved swarm. The heroes pooled oil in the insects’ path, and when the bugs attempted to cross it, the goblins tossed their torches and engulfed the army of vermin in fire.

While the swarm was about broken, it might have rallied were it not for some inventive spellcraft from Dornas. The magus saturated his own torch with eldritch energies— and upon striking with it the nucleus of the swarm erupted into a tempest of flame, from which a torrent of carbonized arachnids fell like snow!

Climbing Climax

Not certain if their new allies were just using them, the wary monkey goblins surrounded Kishtari and pulled blades. The glib-tongued kalashtar appealed to their leader Cenkil and eased them to stand down, which the battered Mongrukoo did with obvious relief. Deciding they were all friends, the goblins agreed to go in peace. Before they did so, a notion occurred to the grizzled goblin hunter and he related to the castaways what they knew about the mount they called “Black Widow Bluff.”

Cenkil shared that his idiot brother Likki and he are the sons of the Mongrukoo chief, with a village at the base of the highlands. The chief tasked his sons with investigating an old shrine that their grandfather had captured from the mites, the Klixarpillar, twenty-five years before. The goblins thought they had wiped out the repugnant blue fey, but apparently not all of them. Cenkil lost five of his braves in an earlier ambush by the mites and a swarm of “hive spiders.” Most crippling was the death of the goblin party’s witch-doctor, whom the Mongrukoo warriors relied on for magical healing. Two other goblins were killed, and two more were captured by the mites. The latter issue led to the heated argument the castaways got a snippet of earlier.

Likki, the younger brother, wanted to try to rescue the captive braves, while Cenkil advocated a tactical withdrawal. The brothers parted in anger. Cenkil offered to share his tribe’s knowledge of disease panaceas if the castaways could safeguard his brother. The heroes readily agreed, with Monica in particular eager to lay human eyes on the old shrine. Kish sealed the alliance by offering Cenkil the expensive brandy recovered from the captain’s quarters of the Jenivere. The elder monkey goblin smelled the potent spirits, smiled as wide as a crocodile, and accepted the gift with grace. He offered a spell scroll in trade that could shield one against arrows, the only item of value recovered from their warbands’ dead shaman.

npc_-_Likki.jpegIt did not take long for the castaways to locate Likki, an oddly sophisticated goblinoid seer who began fawning over Nemanji right away. The monkey goblin spoke the scathing demonic tongue of the Abyss, which Nemanji understood and Monica happened to have letters in. Likki referred to the tiefling as the son of Mechuiti, a name Monica recognized as an avatar or herald of Angazhan, a demon lord of cannibalism and jungles worshiped by less savory savages across the Expanse.

Despite the not-entirely unexpected reveal that the Mongrukoo were demon-worshippers, Likki proved to be quite holistic in his outlook, believing that Mechuiti was present in the jungle’s splendor in addition to its savagery. The goblin oracle admitted that the shrine could be anywhere—his father was very vague and the highlands were riddled with gullies and caves. He agreed to take the party to the place where the Mongrukoo were ambushed near the apex of the bluff, hoping the mites could be tracked from there. Dornas was hesitant to enter the furrow where the goblins got bushwhacked, opting instead to climb up the last few feet and check out the view.

On the way, Nemanji was excited to talk shop with his little counterpart, ignoring his teammates’ warning not to reveal too much about where they came from. To the monkey goblin, the world ended at the seashore and visitors to the island were “born of the wrecks.” Regardless, Likki didn’t quite believe their fantastic tales of “other worlds” beyond the surf.

At nearly 300 feet up, the castaways were able to behold the breathtaking entirety of Smuggler’s Shiv, all (roughly) 40 square miles of it. To the far west was an islet with an unsettling, grey undulating terrain upon it the heroes dubbed “The Isle of Never Going There.” To the far southwest the adventurers could barely make out the only clearly man-made structure discernible on the island, a lighthouse. To the south, the eagle-eyed among them noted the tell-tale swatches of roads or rivers between the endless blanket of trees. To the southeast they saw an honest-to-goodness mountain that dwarfed the high hill they were standing on. Likki called it “Red Mountain” and casually pointed out “the Devil” lived there. When Kish asked about this devil, the snarky little beast retorted “THE Devil. I knew you were born of the wrecks, but I wasn’t aware you were born yesterday.”




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Monkey's Bum

Now goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones.

Breakfast was eaten, spells were prepared, wounds were healed, and the castaways discussed their agenda for the day. Monica, ever inquisitive, suggested it was time to explore inland. Dornas agreed that they had a lot of ground to cover if they hoped to find Ieana, and sharply deduced that the mesmeress must have made landfall elsewhere on the coast. It was put forth by Kor’lec that they should seek higher ground in order to get a better lay of the (is)land. Nemanji and Kishtari were likewise keen to venture into the jungle.

Meanwhile, the others were given tasks to maintain the campsite. Gelik offered to keep spirits up with stories and yarns. Aerys agreed to take her anger out on any threats. Sasha whined about scavenging for food because the camp was so far from the forest, so Jask agreed to fish so she could set traps instead.

Frayed Knot

So as to quickly ascend the cliffs to the mainland from their seaside base, the party came up with an ingenious system. Needing two knotted ropes expertly tied together, all turned to Aerys—who bestowed her usual piratey guff after being asked to help. “Just tie the fucking ropes,” Kish countered, tired already of that aspect of the sailor’s character.

Nemanji donned a gorilla-faced tribal death mask that allowed him to climb like an ape—an item he must have had on his person the whole time but no one noticed until now. It finally donned on Kor’lec that the demon-spawn was clearly involved somehow with the Angazhani, ancient enemies to his own tribe, the Kallijae elves. Heedless of the half-elf’s scrutiny, the tiefling scaled the 70 foot cliff and dropped a knotted rope for the others to ascend, or in Kish’s case, be pulled up.

The party struck west, along the apex of the cliffs overlooking the sea, toward immense forested hills. The going was slow, the topography was pocked and rutted and there were no trails through the enormous trees when the heroes were forced further inland—or rather, no trails on the ground.

The Coconut Effect

monster_-_monkey_goblin.jpg Kor’lec was the first to see it, then Dornas—but it was too late. The coconut had whirled out of the trees from the goblin’s hand like it was shot from a cannon. It cracked against Kishtari’s skull with a clang. The kalashtar’s head rang like a gong, but that ringing would waken a sleeping giant of psionic force.

There were three of them—monkey goblins—two youthful braves and an elder veteran by the look of the latter’s hairy, grizzled countenance. The coconuts flew fast and furious. Kai raced toward their raised position along a series of fallen trees, and her master followed close behind. Dornus was hit hard by one of the flung fruits, and began firing his light crossbow into the trees, wounding one of the aggressors. Monica and Nemanji drew their bows and returned fire—Nemanji summoned his demonic wrath, honed to allow for an archer’s precision. But the goblins had chosen their attack vectors well, and were occluded by the thick wood.

The elder monkey goblin growled a challenge and drew his pitted bone blade before bandy-leggedly ambling across the fallen tree to meet Kai in melee combat. He chose his path carefully, out of direct line of fire from the archers. But, the little velociraptor was right up in the primitive’s prognathous grill in a blink—raking with her foot talons and digging her teeth into goblin meat.

After a good shot struck down one of the monkey goblin braves, Kishtari focused her attention on the critically wounded goblin elder. Shards of crystal manifested in the air before her, as if she shattered a pane of stained glass with the force of a ram. The shards pincushioned the elder goblin whose standing remains then liquefied into acidic goo!

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The last goblin said “dhon den!1” and hightailed it through the canopy.

Goblin Bluffs

The heroes turned south, and began an arduous ascent up a overgrown slope that turned into a nearly sheer climb. This time, the group’s teamwork came together nicely and their combination of skills allowed them to overcome the challenge successfully. At about 100 feet, the group found a fairly wide ledge path. Traveling west along it’s length, the sea was all that was visible on their left while the mainland remained hidden behind the rise.

The sound of angry goblin voices halted the party’s egress. Kishtari then revealed her companion Naga for the first time. The psionically-crafted being resembled a tiny serpent, but was made of crystal. The construct slithered off, telepathically relaying to the kalashtar everything it sensed. After reaching the vicinity of the goblins, it reported that there were many, most injured, one dead, with two heatedly arguing among themselves.

An intense debate erupted among the quintet. Nemanji and Kishtari thought it was sensible to attack the goblins while they were weak—they were injured, out in the open, and their kind already demonstrated hostility. Better to be rid of them before they could pose a threat down the line. Monica and Kor’lec were totally against attacking, and rather disturbed that their fellow adventurers were so bloodthirsty. Kor’lec argued vehemently that they, meaning the castaways, were the intruders here. Dornas cast the deciding vote in the objectors’ favor when he made it clear he was disinclined toward unnecessary violence.

The matter was decided, but the argument underpinned what could easily become a rift in the adventurers’ ranks. Kish thought her old friend Kor’lec might be too soft to do what was necessary, while the druid mused that he might have been better off not getting involved with the group at all. Nemanji thought the peaceful ways of his urbane companions crazy, and demonstrated such when the group noticed they, in turn, were clearly being spied on. Before the tiefling’s arrow turned it into a blue stain on the rocky cliff face, their observer appeared to be an arachnid of some kind; a cobalt-colored cross between a spider and a termite about the size of a housecat. The party had been made, and in a compromising position, but by whom this time, or what?

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1 Goblin: fuck this!




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Eyes in the Night

Remember: A Paranoid is simply someone in possession of all the facts.

monter_-_zombie_Rambar.jpgWe left our heroes facing the podgy corpse of the Jenivere‘s mediocre cook, Rambar, who decided in undeath to expand his culinary skills to include humanoid flesh. But the only thing on the night’s menu would be Rambar himself!

Dornas reacted quickly by using a cantrip to shut the kitchen door, buying the party enough time to maneuver into advantageous positions within the constrictive halls of the aftcastle. As the zombie opened the door, who should appear to do battle but Nemanji! He quickly assessed the situation and chided “I told you boat no good!”

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Apparently the late hour had the demon-spawn worried enough to come to the aid of friends. And just in time too, to see the velociraptor Kai leap out from Kor’lec’s makeshift papoose and proceed to tear the dead chef several new orifices. While everyone moved to surround and assail Rambar, Kai was just a cyclone of teeth and claws and the zombie quickly collapsed in a heap of shredded flesh.

Though an autopsy was difficult considering the damage his dinosaur had done, Kor’lec concluded that the chef was killed by the fangs of a very large snake.

Spy Kai

Kishtari recalled a moment from her childhood, when her mother explained to her that the ability to take someone’s free will also enabled the psion to experience the senses of the thrall wherever they might be. With Kai awake and seemingly acting normal, the kalashtar had to explain her fears to the animal’s master with a heavy heart. The druid did not take the news well.

Kor’lec at first disbelieved his old friend, but scrutinizing his pet’s behavior proved to him Kishtari spoke the truth. Something seemed off about Kai. The half-elf was even more alarmed when Kish had to explain the hold on the little dinosaur’s mind could be endlessly reestablished from any distance, and that only a formidable psionic could effect animals.

Monica suggested that divine magic might be able to suppress or cancel the effect, and thoughts turned to Jask. In the meantime, the team agreed to watch what they did and said around Kai.

Back to the Beach

Great waves smashing against the Jenivere threatened to take her to pieces over the heroes’ heads. They grabbed what supplies they could from the kitchen, and salvaged some more essentials from the holed storeroom they came in. Tossed by the whorls, the galleon’s barely seaworthy jolly boat happened to float by just as the heroes were wondering how to get safely ashore. The presence of bloodstains on the inside of the hull was pointed out by the astute, and the heroes imagined that the small craft might have been the one used to ferry their unconscious bodies to the beach where they awoke. The desperate explorers boarded the flooded rowboat and used their staffs to pole it near enough to dry land to unload themselves and their supplies, just before the rocky surf finally took it completely apart. Behind them, the mighty Jenivere groaned her last, and behind a curtain of sea spray, buried herself and whatever treasure she might’ve still had in Besmara ’s Chest.

Once back, the adventurous castaways were able to release Jask and return to the others their gear. Gelik took the opportunity to graciously flirt with Monica, and when the Taldan archeologist reciprocated, the gnome swooned like a schoolboy. Aerys took her bow back and was pleased with the recovery of her poems, and if the half-elf was aggravated that the heroes didn’t recover anything from the galleon’s rum stores, she barely showed it. Sasha had a maniacal glint in her eyes when her blades were returned, and asked if any of them had seen the green-cloaked halfling. Though none had, Kishtari took the opportunity to inquire about the human girl’s fears. Sasha quickly turned defensive, and accused the kalashtar of not knowing what it was like to be hunted. After the moody teenager stomped off, an affronted Kish psionically knocked her out.

But none could be happier than Jask, whose release from the irons meant he was truly free. The old Garundi pledged his gratitude, and reverently kissed his holy symbol when it was placed back in his hand. After relaying the story of his incrimination, Jask offered to provide whatever help he could to the explorers. Kor’lec—barely holding it together—practically bit the priest’s head off in asking if he could free his animal companion’s mind. Jask admitted he could but only temporarily—their enemy’s control would resume after a few seconds. Once again, the druid cursed Ieana’s name and swore to end her.

And because things just weren’t bad enough, Nemanji chose a dramatically grave moment to reveal something he found earlier scouting out the nearby bush and dropped a maggoty carcass into his companions’ midst. The body was a small, tailed, green- and brown-splotched goblinoid—quite dead and drained of blood. Dornas quickly quelled the notion that the goblin was victim of a vampire, as there was no sign of necrotic energy. Unfortunately, that didn’t rule out many other kinds of terrible bloodsucking monsters.

Base Camp

Not knowing who or what rescued them or why, Ieana’s psionic shenanigans, a nearby goblin presence, and a mysterious vampire-like predator—all or any of these factors attested that it was time to move elsewhere. It was already very late in the evening when the castaways arrived at a shallow seaside abri they had passed earlier on the way to the Jenivere. There, Kor’lec and Nemanji lead the others to building a secure campsite—the tarp and lumber they recovered from the shipwreck were made into lean-tos while the grotto provided additional protection from the elements and hid their campfire. When it came time to determine how everyone would help contribute, Jask said he was a healer and a fair fisher. Gelic remarked he also knew some healing charms and would be happy to keep morale up with his gift for comedy. Aerys, though shaky from withdrawal, dourly countered that should they tire of the gnome’s humor, she had a way with words when inspiration struck. Failing that, the half-elf had a right uppercut that struck like a warmace and was itching to crack open a skull.

Sasha reacted with derision when Nemanji offered to teach her survival skills. When Kish called her on her rudeness, the fiery young girl casually tossed her kukri behind her, impaling a bat. Sasha said she knew full well how to hunt and set traps. She remarked her childhood wasn’t normal, and that’s when Sasha revealed her Red Mantis tattoo. If Nemanji was surprised or insulted by the young lady’s attitude, he didn’t show it. When the tiefling requested Sasha take watch with him, she quietly assented.

…And It Ain’t No Man

It would be nice to say at this point the rest of the night, short on hours as it remained, passed without incident. But Kor’lec was disturbed by a dream involving snakes in everyone’s soup back at the Jenivere mess. And Nemanji was even more disturbed by a pair of red eyes he saw in the upper branches of a cluster of banyans just beyond his night vision. When he moved closer, the eyes vanished to the sound of flapping wings.
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What he found instead was a dead goat, drained of blood, just like the monkey goblin. Bringing it back to camp, he threw it down and scared everyone awake. “Can you go half a bloody day without dropping something dead on us?” complained Aerys.

“No.”




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The Wreck of the Jenivere

The breakers were right beneath her bows,
She drifted a dreary wreck,
And a whooping billow swept the crew
Like icicles from her deck.

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In his delirium, Kor’lec remembers and dreams…

He recalls a moment during the voyage of the Jenivere, when he temporarily lost control of his velociraptor companion Kai. Kai leapt up into the arms of the normally unapproachable Varisian scholar Ieana. Ieana seemed uncharacteristically nonplussed and friendly with the animal, talking to the dinosaur as if she were a person. Kai seemed friendly with Ieana, too. Ieana asked what her name was, and Kor’lec said “its Kai,” but Ieana reproached him and said she was talking to the animal. After Kai made some chirping sounds, Ieana said the raptor’s name was really Rain of Talons—Whose Feathers Will be Bright. She then ordered the small theropod back to Kor’lec, sardonically ordering her “back to your master.”

Then, Kor’lec had a feeling he was in Kai’s head, seeing through her eyes, looking up and searching desperately for her druid friend as the ship was being tossed on a storm. She ran into Ieana again. “Little Rain, you are seeking your master. I am sorry. (She turned a moment toward a shadow) Lower your sword my love, the beastie and I have an understanding. Little Rain, you would be safest below. Yes, I know you hate the cages. But they will protect you. Go there, and rest—and if anyone should disturb you… (she whispered into her ear).”

Kor’lec awoke with a start, declaring that they had to return to the ship and rescue Kai! He was only slightly shocked by the fact that he was on a beach now instead of the ship where he was before going cataleptic—perhaps subconsciously absorbing his predicament through the debate his fellow castaways were having nearby about their next move.

Which was, in fact, to return to the ship. Mostly for their weapons and gear, but also for some salvageable supplies. And answers—Monica continued to conjecture that they were brought ashore by whoever caused the wreck, probably to serve as some sort of sacrifice. Most of the party agreed that that kind of made sense. Dornas, Kishtari, Monica, and Kor’lec set out for the shipwreck.

Nemanji refused to go, declaring that his first time on a boat demonstrated that “boats,” clearly, were “no good.” He would explore inland instead. Gelik, Aerys, Sasha, and Jask were still suffering from shock to various degrees but wished the others luck. Nemanji reiterated again his convictions that a) “ship no good” and b) “you all die” before the demonic savage vanished into the bush.

Boarding Delay

Though they set out in the early morning, a few hours were spent navigating the treacherous rocky surf that replaced the beach along the edge of the bay to the wreck. By the time the tide was starting to swell, the four reached the general area of the Jenivere, which was gored by rocks though her lower decks like the horns of an angry bull, and listing precariously against a tall cliff face. Taking a beating from the waves, it was clear that they didn’t have much time before the sea would claim her.

But hold steady she did, and fortunately so, for it took several hours for the quartet to figure out a way inside the Jenivere without being swept up in the violent whorls and rushes that swaddled her on all sides. Several attempts to telekinetically pull loose rigging lines to their position failed, as did any attempt to cross the ferocious surf. Finally, after some brainstorming, the team worked out a last ditch gambit that was so crazy it had to work. Calling upon Dornas’s extensive creativity regarding the applications of magic, Kor’lec summoned to the surface a mass of seaweed and kelp to provide a sort of carpet to walk on, while Kishtari identified the safest way to cross over to the ship. Monica was prepared to unlock a hatch they could access once there, but the heroes instead found a breach big enough to walk through.

Bittersweet Reunion

And so they did, as darkness descended on the rocking and groaning Jenivere, Monica created a magical light to guide the party through the gloomy lower deck. Carefully following the gutsy archeologist across the treacherous warped, tilted, and sea-sprayed deck, the heroes peaked in the crew quarters and then the main storage deck where several horses were secured—and all killed in the collision. Finally turning toward the area where the Jenivere kept cages for captive animals (which also served as a makeshift brig for poor old Jask), Kor’lec found his little dinosaur buddy. But the reunion between man and pet wasn’t the poignant moment everyone envisioned, for the beast acted scared and aggressive. Kishtari recognized the telltale signs of mind control, which had severe implications beyond Kai’s immediate hostility. Kor’lek was struck hard in the heart by the violation of his natural bond with Kai, and vowed to make the person responsible pay. With the druid’s permission, Kish gently put Kai to sleep so he could swaddle the animal in some canvas and netting found in the storeroom they came in.

Beating a Dead Horse

The quintet were then forced to make their way across a floor strewn with horse carcasses to reach the stairwell to the upper deck. However, one of the rotting equines was clearly ambulatory, and rose to face the source of the light. The beast’s back legs were broken, and it pathetically dragged itself toward the heroes by its forelegs, its horsey lips curling to reveal chomping teeth desperate to satiate a hunger it couldn’t comprehend. Though Monica pointed out it could easily be evaded, Kor’lec refused to allow the animal to suffer the agony of undeath. The druid, with a sleeping Kai strapped to his back, charged the zombie with a shovel he had grabbed in the storeroom and brought it down on the reanimated equine with an angry thwack. Monica likewise sprang across the rubble- and carrion-strewn deck and blasted the zombie’s face with healing magic—antithetical to undead. The horse somehow choked out a haunting neigh and lashed at the bardic academic with its front hooves and head, but Monica deftly weaved and parried.

Kishtari drilled the horse through its eye socket with a crystal dart. The fragile psion then bravely moved into striking distance of the risen animal to distract the creature. This allowed Kor’lec to sever it’s back with the business end of his shovel to a torrent of putrid cerebrospinal fluid. Dornas hopped over and shattered the dead beast’s face bones with his banyan tree branch, but was smashed in return by a mighty butt of the horse’s head. If the fight wasn’t soon finished, Dornas was done for…

Then something miraculous happened: Kishtari, demonstrating the frightening psionic potential of one descended from the terrifying spirits of Dal Quor, began to glow as an otherworldly light shone in her eyes. The rotting horse arose from the deadly ground and flew apart like tender roast meat shaken off the bones.

Answers Creating Questions

The victorious zombie horse-killing champions swaggered on up the stairs to the upper deck, though Dornas’s strut was mitigated somewhat by his shattered ribs, and Monica was a little shell-shocked by her first encounter with the undead. The party’s first stop was to recover their equipment from their bunk room, and as heroes should, they grabbed their fellow castaways’ gear too. Greed nearly got the best of Kishtari when she saw how much money the others had stashed, but Kor’lec reminded the former thief that she was no longer a criminal. However, curiosity succeeded where avarice failed, and the explorers wound up paging through Sasha, Aerys, and Gelik’s writings.

Gelik’s journal, read by Dornas, contained clearly embellished tales of his adventures as a member of the Pathfinder Society with more recent entries describing his trip aboard the Jenivere, complete with exaggerated descriptions of its crew, passengers, and his interactions with them.

Aerys’s papers, read by Kishtari, contained a draft of a poem, touchingly composed and luridly depicting a Sargavan riverboat captain named Kassata LeWynn. The essence of the work was the captain’s tumultuous, difficult courtship with an unnamed Shackles pirate that appeared to be an obvious stand-in for Aerys.

Sasha had an undelivered letter intended for Captain Kovack complaining about the presence of a green-cloaked halfling that no one aboard the ship would admit to seeing. The letter demanded the halfling be hunted, exposed, and removed at all costs, and suggested he was an agent of her mother’s that secretly boarded with her at Mediogalti Island. Kor’lec believed his superior elvish senses would have noticed a halfling skulking around the ship but suddenly recalled a few sailors joking about one of the passengers (Sasha) complaining she was being stalked by one.

Captain Kovack’s room was chock-full of treasure and information. A desk contained money and potions. An intact chest held Jasks’ gear, whose holy symbol to Nethys and spell component pouch exposed the old convict as a cleric to the god of magic. Dornas took one of the healing potions. On a hook hung the keys to Jask’s manacles. Finally, the captain’s log revealed a man slowly growing unhinged—he became obsessed with Ieana, paranoid that his First Mate Alton Devers and other members of the crew were eying her, and the final entry revealed his insane plan to change course to Smuggler’s Shiv so he and the Varisian could start a new life there together.

Though Ieana’s room was difficult to move through on account of the fallen beams, the investigators were determined to be thorough especially where she was concerned. They found the remnants of a small personal altar with a fang-shaped dagger and broken bronze unholy symbol that Monica identified as representing Ydersius the snake god. She pointed out this god was beheaded by an Azlanti hero ten thousand years ago.

Additionally, the heroes uncovered a book with a well-paged chapter on Smuggler’s Shiv:

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And containing these margin notes, translated by Kor’lec and Dornas from the black tongue of Aklo

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The discussion among the heroes turned grave as they realized that the introverted “Varisian scholar” Ieana might not be human at all!

Deciding to see if any clues about the previous night’s poisoning could be found in the kitchen, the heroes opened the door to find the corpulent cadaver of the cook Rambar, who arose with a meat cleaver in his clenched hand and murder in his eyes.

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Breakfast is Served

A tale of the castaways, here for a long, long time

monster_-_eurypterid.jpgDornas was the first to regain consciousness on a bright sandy beach with jumbled memories of how he got there, an angry beehive in his stomach and a throbbing head. Strewn about the beach were most of his fellow passengers aboard the Jenivere. A pinch in his feet awakened him to action, as several dog-sized sea scorpions tried to decide whether or not the bounty of meat they’d been presented with this morning was safe to have for breakfast. Dornas shrugged off the eurypterid’s venom… was the magus’s self-honed poison tolerance to thank for his timely awakening?

Realizing he was unarmed, the Taldan prodded awake the nearest body to him while backing away from the chittering vermin. This was his young countrywoman Monica Montana, who awoke with a start and shouted “Bugs!” Both Taldans realized that the nearby banyan tree presented some weaponry in the form of fallen branches and they quickly scooped up some promising clubs. Dornas also took note of the footprints and furrows leading to and from the water, and a deeper rut near the waterline that probably came from a rowboat. On the far side of the bay, he spied the Jenivere listing to port, the galleon scuttled and holed on some jagged rocks.

The next to awaken happened to be Kishtari, who realized that her mind-effecting powers would not work on the primitive arthropods. She tried hitting one with a crystal missile manifested from her mind, but missed. She wisely woke the hulking tiefling Nemanji who responded reasonably to the unexpected state of affairs by going ape-shit, erupting into a rage as if possessed by terrible Angazhan himself.

The demon-spawn hauled out a tree-trunk hunk of driftwood half-buried in the sand and brought it down toward the poisonous creepy-crawlies with an earthshaking smash—only to miss! Inspired to violence herself, Monica charged the menacing shellfish with a stick and—shouting “bugs! bugs! bugs!”—splattered one to bisque.

Dornas and Kish then took on the chore of waking the others, seeing that Gelik, Aerys, Sasha, and a manacled Jask were likewise unconscious heaps across the beach. Aerys awoke shaken and nauseous, but blasé enough to grumble “bloody hells, another shipwreck.” She then grabbed an empty bottle littering the beach, saw it contained no hooch, and threw it down in disgust.

Sasha freaked out, realized her blouse was in tatters and quickly turned her exposed back away from the others while demanding to be returned to her bunk. Gelik, citing his superior gnomish immune system, seemed to have the clearest memory of getting ill and falling unconscious at dinner. Old Jask was just happy to be outside, probably used to being shuffled around against his will and waking up in strange places. Dornas warned the convict to take cover in the foliage while the magus deftly leapt back into the fray to dispatch a eurypterid.

After another was smooshed beneath Nemanji’s comically large cudgel, the remaining killer crustaceans fled to the water, allowing the castaways to take stock of their situation. Most agreed that their dinner was tampered with. They found the half-elf Kor’lec curled up in a ball on the other side of the tree, deliriously murmering “Kai… Kai…” either still sick from the tainted food or suffering from some other ailment.

Monica, like some kind of human almanac, immediately deduced that they were on Smuggler’s Shiv, 40 miles from the mainland, and rattled off what she knew of the place—that it’s a shipwreck graveyard and believed by most to be haunted. She also speculated that the ship was deliberately scuttled on the Shiv—that there must be something on the isle worth a considerable measure of sabotage—but none could guess what that might be, who could be responsible, or why they alone out of the many officers and crewman survived.

Nearly everyone agreed that whatever crimes Jask was guilty of didn’t matter in their situation. Unfortunately, the tempered steel of the manacles binding the Garundi man’s hands and feet proved impossible for even the gorilla-armed Nemanji to break, and its locking mechanism just beyond Monica’s lock-picking skills even with utmost concentration. Meanwhile, a slowly calming Sasha began to lash together a makeshift cloak from drying palm fronds.

While Monica was curious to start exploring the forested interior, Dornas shrewdly observed that none of them were going to last long without food and weapons. He suggested that if there was anything that could be salvaged from the wreck of the Jenivere, they better get moving. The waves hitting the remains of the once-mighty galleon looked all-too eager to pull her into Besmara’s Chest.



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