Skull and Blood (A Skull and Shackles Dragonlance campaign)


Campaign Journals

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That is very interesting! There is definitely something seductive about gaving Pierce seducing the half orc. Tastes are not universal. Kiani always insisted that she found Kroop attractive even if the attraction wasn't mutual (Kroop thought she looked too young for him).
I had fun seeing how Pierce tried to stick to the party and they kept ignoring him.
Caulky wasn't there when they defeated Harrigan, but she was among the ones who pulled the rope when he was keelhauled after they defeated Druvalia.
They kept Harrigan alive and tied to the Mustakrakish mast until the end, because they wanted him to see them victorious against his allies to destroy his hope before killing him.


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TESSA FAIRWIND
Next day the PCs were thinking of leaving Sea Reach. As usual, after a few days they already missed sailing again. They had also heard about the Free Captain's Regatta that was going to take place in a few months and, looking like something exciting to do, they wanted to prepare themselves not just to participate or to win but to metaphorically crush the other participants.

In the morning before they were leaving a messenger came to the Mustakrakish with an invitation to have dinner with the Free Captain Tessa Fairwind.

Everybody but Fox had heard about Tessa: she was one of the most influencial members of the pirate council as well as the ruler of the bigger pirate city in the minotaur islands, what made her even more politically relevant. And, for what they knew, she was also half elven and nobody seemed to care about it. Despite her race being supposedly hated by Zeboim and bringing bad luck to ships, she had earned enough respect as a pirate captain. She had a reputation of being a «lucky elf» of which she was really proud. With her ship, the «Luck of the draw» she had conquered everything that she had and now she was rumored to be the next one to claim the Hurricane Crown.

What could such an important pirate lady want of them? They were very curious about it. So all the PCs plus Sandara went to meet the pirate mistress of Cuda and let Rosie in charge of the Mustakrakish as usual. Isabella stayed too, as she didn't enjoy social meetings.

Tessa was somewhat different from what they had expected. Listening to her stories, they were prepared to meet a tough woman, not the well-mannered, witty and playful girl that she was. Her elven heritage made her look even younger than she was, and she listened to Kiani's story with an almost childish glee. She delighted in chatting and flirting with the PCs just for amusement, but behind her friendly facade they soon realized she was a quick thinking and witty woman. Kiani really liked her, as she thought Tessa wasn't quite unlike herself. Darren was a bit intimidated by Tessa's charm, as she enjoyed puns a bit too much.

After some small talk, Tessa told them the real reason for meeting with them. She was worried about the increasing presence of Nerakese ships on the Blood See and the unwillingness of the Hurricane King to do something about it. Tessa was sure that the Dark Knights had spies on the Blood Sea and had tried to get the Pirate Council to investigate a few times, but Kerdak had always dismissed her. Now she was willing to carry on her own investigations, but being so widely known she feared that she wouldn't be able to be subtle. The PCs were new to piracy and didn't have any previous relationship with any of the Pirate Lords so they were more likely to carry themselves with subtlety.

Tessa didn't even had to convince them. Fox hated the Dark Knights and wanted to teach them a lesson. Kiani had already seen her people's lifestyle threatened by the Dark Knights and didn't want to repeat the experience. Darren and Sandara didn't have personal motives to hold a grudge against them but didn't like them either.

Tessa couldn't provide a lot of information about the supposed spies, as she didn't know a lot either, but she had an idea about where to start investigating: Tessa had a friend in her city, Cuda, who suspected about Nerakese spies. She was the high priestess of a temple of Sirrion (the god of fire and passion) and probably could provide useful information. She also knew of a secret temple of Hiddukel (the god of Treason and Secrets) in Flotsam. Worshippers of Hiddukel were famed for knowing everything, so they might be of help even if they couldn't be trusted.

To help them to sail the Blood Sea in a faster and safer way, Tessa gave them also an enchanted nautical chart that would show them both the current weather and tides in all the Blood Sea.

Said that, they went back to chatting and telling stories for some more time, and when they parted ways she said goodbye with a passionate kiss to both Kiani and Fox, who had been flirting with her during the conversation, insinuating that they might get a personal reward when they were done.

Kiani felt motivated after their meeting with Tessa, and not because of the obvious. Many times she had thought she might look too young, too playful or not tough enough to be a pirate captain and that she might have some trouble earning respect from other pirates because of that. But seeing Tessa acting much like herself and still being respected and even considered the best candidate to be the next to bear the Hurricane Crown made her reassure on the path she had chosen. She didn't have to give up on being herself to earn respect. Not that she would have done it anyway.


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BURNT OFFERINGS
(Yes, this is still Skull and Shackles)

The PCs decided to start their investigation visiting the Temple of Sirrion in Cuda first. They didn't trust Hiddukel's cultists at all and they didn't even know where their temple was. Also, Sirrion's Temple looked like an interesting place to visit based on what Tessa had told them.

Most of the followers of Sirrion devoted themselves to his fire aspect, but the temple in Cuda focused on his role as the God of Passion. Aside from more standard religious practices, many of the priests from the temple served also as prostitutes at the temple. The PCs never had heard of anything like that and were very curious about it. Tessa had admitted being also a follower of Sirrion (and she looked like a passionate woman indeed) and being a personal friend of Dindreann, the head priestess of the Temple, so the PCs expected Sirrion's followers to be at least collaborative.

When they got to Cuda they found it to be a rather peaceful place, despite being in the Minotaur Islands. The city was thriving with people and minotaurs seemed to walk along other races without causing any disturbance. It didn't seem like a bad place to live.

The party split up to ask some questions about the temple and look for some rumours about the spies before meeting their contact. Darren and Kiani got some random information about the Temple, the town and Tessa Fairwind. She seemed to be not only respected but also loved in her homeport, as she kept it safe and used some of her raided treasures to make the city more prosperous. Fox didn't get any useful information and when Sandara came back she looked like she had been on a fight.
«I just asked about whores and, Zeboim knows why, she thought I was calling HER a whore, so I ended having to punch her on the face repeatedly and pushing her into the water» was all the explanation she gave.

At that time we still didn't know it but this ended being Sandara in a nutshell: each time that she was sent to pick up random information she'd end rolling a natural 1 and starting a fight with someone. And her solution for all the problems was throwing them overboard and into the sea.

Finally they headed to the Temple. It was a big stone building at the port that detached itself from other near buildings. The doors were widely open and they were greeted by some young priests as they entered. The ambient was warm and cozy and all the place was richly decorated in brigbt red, orange and yellow colors with braziers burning incense everywhere. In a bigger brazier in the middle of the room a large fire burned, it was the place where the offerings to the god of Fire were made.

As Dindreann was busy at that time one of the acolytes took the party to a large comfortable and private living room and told them to wait. I guess they thought that devoting themselves to passion while in a Temple of Passion would be thematically appropriate, because when Dindreann entered the room she found Kiani, Fox and Sandara passionatelt kissing, while Darren and Isabella clearly feeling a bit awkward about it.

(At that time, Kiani, Fox and Sandara were a bizarre couple of three. Sandara seemed to have feelings for Fox, but shared a strong complicity and deep connection with Kiani. Fox just wanted to be free and do whatever he wanted to and all the three were extremely liberal. So this kind of situations were not as uncommon as you could think.)

Dindreann seemed to find the situation funny and she laughed as she greeted them. She sat next to them as she asked them not to feel compelled to stop. She was an attractive and quite young woman dressed in the bright fiery colors of her God. She carried herself with confidence while asking them for the reasons for their visit. She wanted to help Tessa and by extension the PCs with their investigations but she had also her own issues to deal with: a ship belonging to the temple had gone missing while carrying a brazier that was both a valuable art piece and a holy relic. Divination magic had revealed that the ship had been lured into a trap by pirates who attacked other pirates. While she was putting together all the information she had about the spies they'd find the missing ship, recover the relic and burn the wreckers to ashes... in a non necessarily literal way. The party was OK with performing a task in exchange for the information and firmly believed that pirates who betrayed their fellow pirates should be punished (they might be chaotic but they were also loyal people) so they didn't hesitate to take the deal even if the route the missing vessel had taken was too wide to know where to start looking for it.

So they'd had to go and ask the Hiddukelites for information even if they were not too fond of them.

But before they left the temple Sandara, as a woman of faith, wanted to make an offering to Sirrion. Even if Zeboim and Sirrion were enemies, she actually found the Fire God's faith quite appealing. So she pulled out her best tobacco leaves and dropped them into the main hall's brazier. A heavy aromatic smoke cloud filled the whole place. Kiani, thinking her friend had the best idea ever, followed her guide and poured her best and strongest bottle of rum (looted from Palanthas) into the brazier, causing a big tongue of fire to erupt from it. The priests didn't know if the two pirate ladies were very devoted people or just a couple of vandals, but punishing them for just feeding the fire felt somewhat heretical, so they didn't complain.


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FLOTSAM

After quite a long trip, the Mustakrakish arrived to Flotsam. They didn't know how to find Hiddukkel's hidden temple so they didn't have much more options than splitting up again and start making some subtle questions.

The city was not the best place on the Blood Sea. It was governed by an allegedly immortal but decaying and decadent hobgoblin and most kind of illegal and violent activities were tolerated as it was the presence of Dark Knights even though they didn't hold any real power. There was also a big community of kenders, but they weren't the lighthearted cheerful troublemaking creatures that most kenders were. As most kenders in the Blood Sea, they were afflicted kenders, whose natural curiosity had been replaced by mistrust and grief after their kind were savagely ravaged by the Red Supreme Dragon Overlord (overlady?) and her world-shaping magic turned them into a very different kind of kender.

After half a day talking to different people subtely insinuating they were looking for someone to provide them with some obscure information, both Kiani and Isabella were given the same adress: a completely ordinary warehouse next to other completely ordinary warehouses. Fox and Darren didn't find anything useful and Sandara looked like she had been in a fight again.

«This guy told me he was going to arrange a meeting with someone who'd share some information. But he took me into a dark alley and the people I met there were only willing to share their knives with me. They tried to rob me, can you believe it? So I had to beat the crap out of them and loot them. They were poor as rats.»

As you can guess, she rolled another natural 1. At this moment the players were wondering if sending Sandara to search for information was worth at all. When even Isabella was being able to be subtle, it was clear that Sandara was doing something wrong.

After having a meal, the party decided to make a visit to the ordinary warehouse. They were very careful, specially after Sandara had been attacked in an alley. The door was open and the PCs feared they were heading to a trap. Inside the warehouse there was a single individual. He was dressing as a servant and wearing a cherubic mask to hide his features (I like this description too much to change it), but the most disturbing thing about him was that he was actually a kender! He introduced himself as «Slip» and the lack of emotions of his high pitched voice revealed him as an afflicted kender. He gave the PCs the creeps. They reluctantly followed him into an isolated closed room, and there he asked them about their business.

Slip revealed that he knew about the spies, but that his god demanded him to only reveal information as an exchange for other information. He spoke them of a ship called The Brine Banshee which had disappeared months ago. It had a reputation of being supernaturally fast and the Church of Hiddukkel wanted to know the secret of its famed speed. The PCs found it very interesting and wanted to investigate, but they weren't sure of wanting to share the information when they found it. They expected to be able to find the spies with Dindreann's help and not needing to mess further with Hidukkel's worshippers. After aggreeing to investigate the Brine Banshee's secret (but not to share it) they asked him about the lost ship of the Sirrionites and the wreckers. In exchange of the information they let Slip copy the map on Isabella's back (it was not like they would find anything useful there anymore) and he revealed them how to locate the wreckers in exchange. He knew that they were under the command of a renegade half ogre wizard called Vakarla and that they had already caught many pirate ships, all in the same zone.

Glad of leaving the unpleasant city of Flotsam, the PCs headed to the next place on their cruise around the Blood Sea.


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Stop saying I lack subtlety! I left those filthy thugs in the alley and with their clothes on!
You don't want to know what I would have done with them if I didn't want to be subtle!


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Drop them in the sea?

You should have done that!


Nahhh! I was too far from the port at that time. Those pieces of crap didn't deserve such an effort. I should have tossed them into the sewers where they belonged.


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WRECKING THE WRECKERS

After a few days of travel the PCs were close to the zone where Vakarla's wreckers operated. Knowing that they were probably trying to lure them into a trap, they were wary. So when they spotted an Ergothian merchant vessel in the distance the first thing they thought was that it was some kind of trick or illusion. Even if it looked very real, a closer examination with a spyglass revealed some inconsistencies, like the sails sometimes moving against the wind and even the waves making some awkward shifts.

«It's an illusion» declared Kiani, disbelieving what she saw after a careful examination.

They didn't want to leave the place, as they wanted to hunt down the wreckers, but they refused to follow the illusory ship, so they maneuvered to sail around the illusion. Suddenly they heard a deep female voice coming out of nowhere and the Mustakrakish crashed against a Wall of Force that appeared just in front of the ship.

Darren casted Glitterdust where he had heard the voice, but whoever was there before, she had moved. Not willing to waste more spells, he decided to ready an action to cast Glitterdust again as soon as he heard her voice. He hadn't to wait for long. He made her perception roll to realize where the voice came from and targeted her location with his spell. A sparkling silhouette was revealed floating above them just before all the party members but Darren were surrounded by a putrid-smelling fog.

Kiani had started a bardic performance last round, so she put an end to it to allow herself another saving throw against the Stinking Cloud, but Fox and Sandara were fully affected by the spell and started throwing up on the deck because of the foul smell.

Before Vakarla could cast anything else, Kiani sent her Aqueous Orb against her, trapping her inside it and moving her into her own Stinking Cloud. Vakarla struggled to release herself. Even though she succeeded at it she failed the save against the Stinking Cloud and the PCs defeated her without further trouble. Without their leader, Vakarla's minions were not an issue.

She was kept as a prisoner and then taken to Sirrion's Temple to allow Dindreann to decide what to do with her.

After some searching they found also the small island where Vakarla and her people had their base. They recovered the stolen item as well as some more treasure and Vakarla's spellbook. As she was a renegade wizard, they considered the idea of handing it over to the High Sorcery to get some kind of reward for it, but finally they decided to follow Sandara's advice and drop the book overboard as an offering to Zeboim. Sacrificing spellbooks from enemy spellcasters became a tradition to the PCs since then. As most of them were spontaneous spellcasters who were seen with mistrust and even hate from the Wizards of High Sorcery they didn't have any love for Wizards and their paraphernalia.

Back to Cuda, Dindreann was very happy of having the stolen brazier back. She gladly shared the information she had: one of Dindreann's patrons who worked as a scrimshaw in The Dragon's Point knew about the spies. The PCs weren't very happy about the payment, as they had thought that she new something about the spies, not just the name of a contact, but as they thought it had just been a misunderstanding they didn't complain. Dindreann also revealed some useful information about the Brine Banshee, as she knew of a man in Karthay who knew of its location and was looking for people to help him to ransack its remains.

So, having at least a couple of new places to visit, they left Sirrion's Temple satisfied.


Definitely having fun reading this. Makes me wish I could get into a game set in Dragonlance.


It made slight differences but I also had fun adapting it. The fact that there are so few gods in Dragonlance makes it sometimes more difficult to make them fit but then it gives some cool ideas.
I didn't like afflicted kenders a lot because they might be playable kenders but I found them a bit lacking. And this story gave me a great idea to have many of them worshipping Hiddukkel. Now I think they are far more interesting.

In the end, our Dragonlance setting has went kinda far from the original one, but we feel confortable about it.

I'm glad that you are enjoying the reading! I've been less inspired this days and I am not updating it as often, but I try to keep writing it.

I already have next part half written but I've been lazy these days and I've spent some of my free time in drawing my RoW party, which is my other project at this time.

Damn! I'm on the street right now and I've just crossed a big beautiful lizard that looked a lot like your avatar! XD


Awesome! Where is it you live, if I may ask? I have a pet iguana that was given to me and she is both huge and beautiful. I named her Ysera. Anywho... Keep up the good work, and no rush to do so. You have at least one fan reading it!


Ysera! I played WoW for too much time to not catch the difference.

I am from Northern Spain (having read me I suppose you realized I am not a native English speaker). I must say that a big lizard is to me a lizard of the length of a bit more than my open hand. We don't have huge lizards in Galicia AFAK. Just in case you thought my big lizard was like a Komodo Dragon xD.

And you don't know how glad I am of knowing you are enjoying! I am sometimes an insecure person.


We also a have a huge lizard on board! He's our carpenter/engineer and we call him Scaly. He claims to be a kapak draconian but he is just a huge lizard.


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Knowing where you live helps inform me what a "big" lizard might be. My Ysera is about 4 foot (1.2m) long, so she is pretty big in most the world. And yes, I suspected you were not a native speaker, but you still write better than a lot of natives, especially the younger generations. lol


Don't make me speak about younger generations. I'd sound like my grandmother. I have always been very perfectionist with writing, and my eyes bleed when I see someone metaphorically kicking the dictionary xD
No matter if it is in Cervantes' language or Shakespeare's language. But correcting people in English doesn't seem fair being mine so far from perfect.


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THE DRYAD'S GRAVE

The PCs sailed to Karthay looking for Haneilius Fitch, a retired ship surgeon who, according to Dindreann, knew the whereabouts of the Brine Banshee. He lived in a humble wooden house near the port and, as he was a fairly known person they didn't have much trouble locating it.

Fitch was an old man with a noble bearing. He invited them to enter his house without fear and spoke to them politely. When they asked him about the Brine Banshee he explained he didn't know its whereabouts but had a way of locating it. He'd tell them as long as they shared the benefits of ransacking the ship with him. He wanted half of the loot, not counting any magical items. He just wanted enough money to be able to enjoy a more comfortable retirement. The PCs thought it was a fair deal so they accepted and Fitch revealed his plan: he had been a friend to one of the members of the crew of the Brine Banshee, who had his leg amputated to avoid dying of gangrene. Fitch still had a preserved leg bone of that man and knew of a ring that could be used to locate a corpse using one of its body parts. The bad side (there's always a bad side) was that the ring belonged to another person: an unaligned pirate called «Milkshop» Morton who didn't mind to attack other pirates if needed. Even though the PCs didn't have any love for pirates who didn't respect others of their own kind, they were bothered with Fitch for not having revealed that they would have to do some extra work to find the Brine Banshee before setting the deal.

«Now we should just take that bone from you, get that ring and keep all the loot for ourselves.» said Kiani «That's what you deserve for trying to fool us.»

Fitch didn't have more options than apologizing for not revealing all the information before. He didn't want to trick them, he did it because he was wary about them, he said. In the end, they renegotiated with him so he got 40% of the loot instead of half of it. Knowing that he could also get nothing for being too greedy, Fitch had no option but agreeing to the new deal.

After making a few questions to the mistrusting people of Karthay, the PCs gained some information about Morton and his whereabouts. They learned about his hunting ground and also that he was some kind of spellcaster. He was really attached to his ship, The Dryad's Grave, and he always made sure it was in a perfect shape.

With some extra information, they set sails towards to Morton's territory. It wasn't a long trip and after a couple of days sailing it was Morton's ship which approached the Mustakrakish. It had a white flag, calling for parley. The ship, as they had been told, was a beautiful looking sailing ship, with a decorated hull and an intricately carved figurehead in the shape of a screaming satyr.

«I'd enjoy sinking that ship if I had my ballistas here» said Isabella.

(We loved making fun of the 10 ballistas of the Thresher because...who needs so many ballistas specially when they work so bad in ship combats?)

The PCs let the Dryad's grave approach, but they were wary. They wouldn't trust Morton and they already disliked him before meeting him because he was greedy and foolish enough to attack other pirates. And when he asked them to pay a tax for navigating his territory they just laughed at him. Who did this man think he was? He clearly didn't know who he was talking to! Morton seemed to be looking for an excuse to start a fight and the PCs were willing to give him one.

Both ships charged one against the other. Morton casted a Tiny Hut to avoid being targeted and then a Confusion on the Mustakrakish's crew. It didn't affect any of the officers (and by saying that I mean that the area of the spell wasn't wide enough to target Fox) but most of the other pirates were affected. Fox and Sandara focused on avoiding that the crew started killing each others, while Kiani casted Aqueous Orbs and moved them inside the Tiny Hut, engulfing Morton and pulling him out of his shelter.

Meanwhile , the figurehead animated and headed towards one of the ballistas. Darren targeted the satyr with a scorching ray that caused some extra damage to the wooden creature. The two ships crashed and the grappling hooks from the Dryad's Grave animated too, crawling into the Mustakrakish. One of them grabbed Kiani, who attacked it without causing visible damage.

The screaming satyr (that in fact was completely silent) charged into the PCs' ship using the animate grappling hooks and closed into melee with Fox. Even if the figurehead was carved on hard wood, Fox's attacks pierced its resistances but, not being alive, the construct didn't have weak points that he could take advantage of, so Fox wasn't able to cause his usual amounts of damage. Following Kiani's command, Sandara boarded the Dryad's Grave to take care of Morton in case he was released from the Aqueous Orb. She had invoked Zeboim's Divine Power to increase her melee abilities.

The three party members focused on the satyr, who was burned to ashes by another Scorching Ray, making the animate grappling hooks return to their former inanimate state.

Morton struggled to break free from the Orb, only to face Sandara, who delighted on giving Zul some action. She was positioned in a way that Morton couldn't step back, so he attempted to cast defensively. Sandara had a readied action to disrupt his spell and power attacked him. With a Zeboim enhanced human bane power attack, the result was an overkill. The rest of the crew surrendered.

So, with Morton's ring, a really cool new ship and some good loot, they headed back to Karthay. Of course, Morton's spellbook was offered to Zeboim as a sacrifice, as well as the black robes they found among Morton's belongings and that marked him as a member of the High Sorcery.

Darren was sent with some members of the crew to take the Dryad's Grave to Tidewater Rock while the rest of the group met Fitch again and went to ransack the Brine Banshee. Darren was glad of making a visit to his wife, and he wasn't as much of the adventuring type as his friends were.

(The fact that the player had to miss a session also had someting to do with it, of course. It was a logic way to take him out of the action for a while)


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THE METAMORPHOSIS OF FOX

After joining Haneilius Fitch in Karthay, the PCs started their search for the Brine Banshee. They followed its course to the proximity of the storm that raged on the north of the Blood Sea and there's where they found the shipwreck's location using the magic ring and the amputated leg bone.

Sandara had prayed for some specific spells to go underwater, so they started exploring the shipwreck place inmediately. They could see the bow of the Brine Banshee resting on its side next to a rift in the see floor. The stern was nowhere to be seen, probably fallen into the depths of the rift.

As they came near to the ship's bow, Kiani noticed something moving inside it, so they weren't caught unawares when the sharks attacked. There were three of them and they engaged into melee with the PCs. As soon as they did, a fourth figure appeared: he looked like he was half shark, half human. Kiani recognized him as a very strange looking merman with shark teeth.

«Nice teeth» said Isabella, forcing a jagged smile.

As soon as he appeared, the merman casted Dispel Magic on Sandara, making her lose the ability to breath underwater. Instead of rushing to the surface she rushed to him, attacking with Zul. Fox soon joined her, delivering a critical hit with his Brine Brine sting that started drying the water out of the merman's body. He didn't last long. While the other members of the group finished the sharks, Sandara drinked a potion of Water Breathing that Kiani had put into a special sponge so it could be used underwater. Undines know some useful tricks.

With no more sharks to worry about, they proceeded to explore the Brine Banshee's bow. They found some spare treasure and a giant jellyfish that poisoned and almost killed Fox. Nothing useful. The fight wasn't too interesting, but it was the beginning of a pure hate relationship between Fox and amorphous sea creatures. Since then, there wasn't any jellyfish or anemone that didn't put Fox into serious trouble.

After healing the damage and casting some light and protections against both pressure and cold spells the party descended into the depths, searching for the ship's stern.

When they were reaching the bottom they were attacked by the «giant» charda. Fox approached the gigantic creature, expecting having to avoid some attacks of oportunity on the way. They didn't know what kind of creature it was, so they didn't see anything wrong about it being so big, but Fox was intrigued by the fact that it hadn't used its superior size as an advantage. After delivering a couple of hits he was completely sure that there was something wrong about the creature and was able to see beyond the illusion: the charda was really smaller than it seemed.

When the fight was over he explained it to the other members of the party, but nobody was able to disbelieve the illusion, and being the one who always failed his saves, Fox wasn't taken seriously. They only thought that it was strange that Fox wasn't exaggerating but making things smaller this time.

The group approached the Brine Banshee's remains. From the way it looked, it seemed like something really big had hit the ship from below and capsized it. There were still some corpses scattered around and one of them, who still had a rotting peg leg, belonged to Fitch's friend. The captain's corpse was there too, still tied to the ship's wheel. After the experiences with the hanged man on the island, the Deathknell and the drowned mariner the PCs didn't trust the corpses not to start moving so they approached with caution. Fortunately this time the corpses decided to remain dead. A closest examination of the wheel revealed poweful magic on it. Maybe it held the secret they were looking for but they decided to continue exploring the sunken ship before taking anything from it.

While exploring the ship from inside they jumped unto another amorphous sea creature: a giant anemone. So, guess what? No, this time Fox made his save against poison, and he did it by his own (two successful saves in a row, Fox? Is that really you?), but that didn't keep him from being constricted to negative hit points while unable to attack. Vermins were not his thing.

Fortunately the other members of the party didn't have such a hard time with vermins. After killing the anemone they healed Fox and went on.

After searching some more, they got to the main cargo hold. Kiani noticed inmediately that the whole place seemed to be a bit smaller than it seemed from the outside, so she thought it could be some kind of secret smuggling compartment. But before they had time to start searching, they noticed a shark charging towards them.

Kiani activated her bardic performance and attacked the shark but missed the hit. Isabella casted a ranged vampiric touch that also missed, and Fox got into melee and attacked the shark, missing too. The shark, just to follow the trend, failed his attack too. Sandara spent her turn buffing, so at least she didn't miss.

«This is not normal!» shouted Kiani.

Suddenly, she felt her bardsense tingling: Fox had failed a saving throw! Not knowing what was going on, she used her Saving Finale to allow him to re-roll against the unknown and saved him from being Dominated.

«The shark is an illusion and there's someone else here!» she shouted, disbelieving the shark's illusion after trying to hit it.

Making now her perception roll, Kiani heard someone casting a spell on the other side of one of the walls. An hypnotic pattern was created but they weren't affected by it.

«The wall is an illusion and there's someone on the other side!» said the Undine captain. It was a blind guess, but with so many illusions going on, she was pretty sure that she was right. Both Fox and Sandara charged against the wall, hoping Kiani was right. Fortunately she was. Isabella disbelieved the illusion after seeing Fox and Sandara disappear into the wall.

«Yucks! It looks like a giant monkfish!» said the tattoed sorceress, before stepping back and casting a Lightning Bolt on it.

Fox got hit by an attack of opportunity as he went through the wall. That thing was gigantic. He managed to parry and close into melee and Sandara followed.

«It is the ugliest monkfish I've ever seen!» she said.

Kiani looked confused. What kind of creature could resemble a monkfish and was able to cast illusion spells? But as she didn't disbelieve the illusion she couldn't pierce the illusory wall. The giant monkfish attacked Fox, but he wasn't as good at melee as it was at casting spells. Finally Kiani crossed the wall and faced the «monkfish» too.

«ABOLETH!!!» she cried, almost panicking. None of her companions seemed to be specially scared.
«I don't know what's that but it's so damn slimy!» answered Fox in disgust, covered in mucus. «I think I have swallowed it!»

Surrounded and trapped, the aboleth didn't give too much of a fight after that, but Kiani was worried of what could have been an aboleth doing there and whether if there could be more of them. So they picked all the loot they could, removed the wheel from the ship, Sandara and Kiani said a short prayer to Zeboim for the deceased and headed to the surface.

Fox was worried because he was still covered in slime.

«Is this thing toxic or something?» asked he. Kiani had to make a big effort not to laugh.
«No, not toxic. It can just be mutagenic.»
«What? Are you kidding me?»
«It doesn't always happen. But it might turn you into something... different.»
«This is one of your stories, isn't it?»

Kiani looked mortally serious while talking to Fox, but she winked to the other two girls when he wasn't looking.

«Oh, I wish it was.» said Sandara.«I've heard about it too.»
«You are laughing!»
«I am not!» snickered Sandara.
«Well... You still can be safe. As long you don't lose your ability to breathe air. This is how it begings.» informed Kiani.
«You are kidding me.»
«And then you start growing scales.» added Isabella, making use of an unknown sense of humor.«Keeping swimming all the time might help. Or it might not. Just try. It cannot hurt.»

She was good at it. While Sandara couldn't avoid snickering, Isabella looked totally serious.

They reached the surface and Fox realized that indeed, he couldn't breathe air. He almost panicked.

«Uh-oh!» said Kiani «It has begun!»
«You are making it up!»
«It's obvious she is not!» answered Sandara with her hand over her mouth.
«Scales. Check if you are growing scales, quick.» commanded Isabella.

Fox checked. Everybody found it hilarious. They asked him to come on board and get into a barrel of water, but he found it humiliating and refused.

«OK, stay there. But don't complain when the albo-things come to get you.» Isabella was having fun with it.
«You are making it up. You don't even knew that thing before. You called it a giant monkfish.»
«But I have heard stories.»
«Kiani?»
«Hey, everything is true. And keep swimming, keep swimming if you want to delay the transformation.»
«They'll come for you when it's complete. So you'd better get into the barrel.» added Isabella.
«How am I supposed to keep swimming inside a barrel!?»
«Be creative.» said Sandara.

So Fox spent the next 6 hours inside a barrel of water, unsure of whether he was going to become some sort of human fish and enslaved by the aboleth. And he kept trying to swim while inside the barrel.

«You two are evil.» laughed Sandara as long as Fox couldn't hear them.

When the effect was over and he was able to cough out all the mucus he wasn't angry. He said ge never had believed they were telling the truth, and he'll never admit having been scared.


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DRAGON'S POINT

The PCs now had the secret of the speed of the Brine Banshee: the magic wheel . But, of course, they weren't so fool to think of handing it over to Slip. They did what everybody would do: get their ship into Tidewater Rock to pick up Darren and have the new wheel installed to the Mustakrakish.

Sandara didn't like the new wheel a lot, as she thought it was posessed by the deceased captain of the Brine Banshee, but as it seemed to be an interesting piece she was OK with it. The wheel didn't make the ship go faster, as the stories said, but increased its maneuverability. If a ship could sail faster it was only because the wheel made it easier to maneuver.

After joining Darren again they decided to sail to Dragon's Point to talk to Jaymiss Keft, Dindreann's contact. Slip could wait.

They arrived to Dragon's Point in the middle of a storm. It was close to the raging storm in the North and the weather was usually hot, damp and windy. The Master of the Gales, a mysterious man with a long experience in sailing, was the pirate Lord of Dragon's Point, probably the only one who would like to calm that dangerous waters as his own. He was famous for having won the Free Captain's Regatta for many consecutive years until he had decided to retire and host the one that was to come. After sailing near to the Storm to reach Dragon's Point, the PCs realized that the Regatta wasn't going to be safe or easy. The storm could easily crush the Mustakrakish.

It wasn't difficult to locate Jaymiss Keft, as he worked in a well known place near the port. At first he was a bit wary about the PCs, but as they started to talk, sharing a beer in the nearest tavern, he opened up quickly. He admitted being suspicious of a man called Haddon Pike. He knew he was a smuggler, but he had been traveling a lot to the south without carrying any goods and he rarely had anything to sell after his trips but still seemed to have a good ammount of money. Jaymiss was sure that he was some kind of spy. He gave the PCs the direction of Haddon's cottage and asked them not to tell anybody about himself. He feared that someone could want to silence him for knowing too much.

So they got into Haddon's residence, a cottage just outside of the town. They approached and knocked at the door. Nobody answered. The door was closed. They checked the cottage from the outside and discovered an open window. From it they could see the interior of the place, and a corpse with its head on what seemed to be a fishtank and two crossbow bolts in its back.

They were more disappointed than surprised.

«Someone found him before we did.» Said Darren.

They told Fox to wait outside and watch. Sandara knocked down the door and they entered the place. It was a humble place. From the smell it could be guessed that Haddon had been dead for some days, and they realized with horror that the thing in the fishtank had devoured his face. It was some kind of big exotic fish, similar to a piranha with huge glassy eyes and frilled spines.

«He's so pretty! Poor thing, he'd should been starving.» said Isabella who seemed to be looking at a cute kitten. «Look, he is called Grinner.» added, pointing at a metallic inscription on the base of the tank.
«You can keep it if you want.»
«He'd starve if we left him here. He has already chewed most of the flesh off. And I'm sure he'd like to greet some 'friends' of mine.» added Isabella with a sadistic smile.
«Won't Moto be jealous?» asked Darren
«Moto knows he's special. He won't mind. Aren't you jealous of you wife's seneschal?»

Darren smiled.

«I know I'm special.»
«Sure. Keep dreaming.»

Meanwhile, Sandara and Kiani were registering the cottage, and Kiani found something: there was a concealed compartment in the fishtank's base, behind the metallic plate with Grinner's name. Inside there was a scroll case with some scrolls inside. For the way it was written it seemed to be some kind of poetic composition or song, but it was written in an unknown language, so they couldn't decipher it. Kiani realized it seemed to be something awkward about the metrics, something that didn't match, but couldn't realize what. It was probably some kind of coded message but they didn't know how to break the code.

Sandara found, clutched in one of the hands of the dead man, a small scrimshaw figure of a man with a crow's head. They had never been a creature like that so they thought it could be some religious figurine. They asked Jaymiss Keft about it before they left, and he told him that it actually represented a real person: some sort of crow man called Corlan who lived in Death's Teeth. For what Jaymiss knew, he was a friend or associate of Haddon.

Even if they were curious about the crow-man, they decided to get back to Sea Reach to look for someone who could help them to decipher the scrolls. Tessa was pretty sure that she could crack the information from the scrolls by herself... but she was overconfident about it, so finally they put them in Tessa's hands so she could get someone to decode them and spent a day off on Sea Reach meanwhile.

In the end, they learned that it was a hidden message encrypted in an opera play written in Infernal that had instruction to spy on the movements of ships on Dragon's Point, specially the ones belonging to the Master of the Gales. Tessa said she'd warn him and the Mustakrakish departed to Flotsam to bargain with the information they had found about the Brine Banshee.


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A VISIT TO THE NAGAS

Back to Slip with the location of the Brine Banshee's sinking place and the secret of its speed, he gave them the information he had in exchange: he knew of a naga called Sarlis in the Ogrelands of the West who could guide them to the spies. The PCs weren't happy. For what they had understood, Slip knew where the spies were, and in the end all he had was the name and location of another contact. They felt like he was trying to take advantage of them. He had promised them revealing who the spies where. He had lied to them. In the end, to avoid further trouble, he aggreed to pay the PCs an extra favor in the future. For someone who needs to keep a low profile, having a bard talking too much about you is probably a bad idea.

The PCs didn't think that the information was very good, specially when they already had solid clues from their former investigations. But hearing about a colony of water nagas was the real motive of them wanting to go: Selissa was still living at Tidewater Rock's bay and she'd probably be glad if she could join her own people again.

So, as Slip had instructed them to do, they traveled to the coast and waited for Sarlis next to a tree. For what they knew, she could not appear in days, so they prepared for a long and boring wait. But Sarlis appeared much sooner than they expected, just a couple of hours later, and she didn't look happy. She seemed angry and willing to kill anyone at mere sight. But they realized that her anger wasn't directed at them, as she kept hissing insults in Aquan without seemingly ignoring the party.

«Are you Sarlis?» asked Kiani in Aquan, prepared to fight if needed.
«Who asks?» answered Sarlis in an aggresive tone.

Kiani was getting tired from getting from here to there and didn't want to tolerate being talked like that. She told her why they were there but she was starting to lose her patience. Sarlis wasn't in the right mood for negotiations so she just set her conditions:

«You want a spy? I'll lead you to your spy if you take that moron out of my lair!»
«What moron? The spy is in your lair?»
«No, your spy is dead near here. Munarei. He's a naga. He stole my lair. Get him out of there and you'll have your spy. Get out, not kill.»

The PCs suspected that there were some unsolved couple issues between Munarei and Sarlis but they didn't care. They weren't there to play the matchmakers, if she wanted Munarei out, they'll kick him out.

So they went to his lair, hit him with everything until he surrendered and forced him to leave, as Sarlis had demanded. He left mumbling and complaining to himself about Sarlis.

The female naga was satisfied, even though she was still angry with Munarei. She took them to the corpse of the spy which seemed to have died about a year ago. He had come asking too many questions, unwise questions, and demanding to buy naga venom from them, said Sarlis. Her kin had given him more venom than he could take. The corpse had a rope tied with a lot of knots. They realized it was some kind of message but again, didn't know how to decode it.

Now that Sarlis was more calm, the PCs told her about Selissa. They explained how she had lost her home and her people because of the draught. Sarlis looked surprised and for the first time she talked to them in a non defensive way. She told them she knew nothing about where Selissa's people could have gone, but that she'd gladly welcome her among her own. The PCs were surprised too when they saw the change on Sarlis attitude towards them and knew that Selissa was going to be treated well if she decided to stay there.

They say goodbye to the naga and sailed away, back to Sea Reach to look for someone to translate the code from the rope and then to Tidewater Rock to talk to Selissa.

They had the rope decoded, thanks again to Tessa's contact. «Go to nagas. Collect poison and information. Deliver both to the captain of the Diamond Star» it said. Some further investigation revealed that an age ago, where the message had been delivered, the captain of the Diamond Star was a young woman called Elliece Farhaven, who had retired a short time after, not more than six months ago. The party thought it was suspicious that she had retired being that young. There were two options: she had got rich or she had run into something she didn't like. They learned that she was living in a small boat house anchored near Cuda, so they decided that would be the next stop. And maybe they could make Dindreann a visit and make another offering to Sirrion too...


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ONE FLEW OVER THE CROW'S NEST

First, before getting to Cuda, the party went to Tidewater Rock to talk to Selissa. She was happy living at the bay, but also missed her people. After taking a few hours to take her decission, she chose to join the other nagas in the Ogrelands. They took her with them in the Mustakrakish one last time to take them to her new home when they traveled to Death's Teeth to meet Corlan, as the naga's lair wasn't far from there.

But first, they would meet Elliece Farhaven in Cuda. Her house, a small boat, was anchored where they had been told it would be. The first thing Kiani thought was that it was too small and humble. If Elliece had retired she hadn't done it because she had got rich. The boat was almost empty, but there was a dead imp inside. It had been beaten to death with an ichor and blood stained anchor that was lying next to it.

«Someone tried to kill her» Darren guessed.
«And she ran away. This place is clean. She took her stuff with her.»

They searched the place and found a message in a bottle in the water near the boat. The page was blank but they guessed there was something written in invisible ink. The message wasn't difficult to reveal. It contained orders to report her information back to a woman called Roweena Kellet in a warehouse at Death's Teeth.

As both of the names they had, Roweena and Corlan, led them to the same place, they headed there. But first they stopped at the coast of the Ogrelands in the territory of the nagas to say goodbye to Selissa. She wasn't prone to let her emotions come to the surface but she looked a bit sad. She joined with Sarlis (who was much nicer to them this time) and said goodbye.

When they arrived at Death's Teeth they first worried about the place having been taken by the Dark Knights. There were a lot of people dressing in Neraka's fashion and the city guards seemed too similar in their bearing to Dark Knights, despite wearing much lighter armors. Many ships of nerakese manufacture were anchored in the port. Fox felt very disturbed.

Kiani remembered that the place was governed by a renegade from the Dark Knights called Arronax Endymion, who was now a Pirate Lord and had his crew composed mainly of renegades from the Dark Knights. He was known for ruling the city and his fleet with Nerakese Lawful Efficiency and to welcome anyone who wanted to run away from the tyranny of the Dark Knights. The party were suspicious about both Endymion and Death's Teeth. He could be an spy as much as he could be their best ally for hunting the Dark Knights. They couldn't know.

After asking a few questions, they learned the location of Corlan's house. He was well known in the town, as he was the only crow-man that they had ever seen. Roweena's place was even easier to found, as she was known for being a quartermaster on one of Endymion's warehouses and her disappearance a few days ago was the subject of many rumors among the people of Death's Teeth.

The lock of Roweena's house had been broken and the place had been ransacked. As they know Endymion's guards had been there looking for her, the PCs weren't sure of how much of the mess had been caused by the guards and how many by the intruder. The place had already been searched, but the guards seemed to have missed a well concealed ledger with a list with names and numbers. All the names belonged to the members of the most prominent pirate lords of the Blood Sea. Only Arronax Endymion didn't have a number but a dash next to his name.

«It looks like some sort of paylist.» guessed Darren. «For the quantity of the numbers those are some big amounts of money.»
«Bribes?» asked Kiani.
«Maybe. Tessa is in.»
«The bribes could also be for someone to murder them. We cannot know.» shrugged Sandara.
«What bothers me is why Endymion doesn't have a number. He has too many spies on his domains.» Fox was inclined to be suspicious of Arronax just because everything looked so Nerakese at his town.

«Maybe he's already with them, maybe they know he cannot be bribed. We cannot precipitate.» stated Kiani«If he was behind this and wanted his name on a list to avoid being discovered it wouldn't be very intelligent to highlight his own name above the others.»
«That makes sense.» added Sandara.

The ledger had a last note on it: «Send with Corlan» So all clues led again to the crow-man. It was clear which their next step would be. And he wasn't living too far from there.

They got to his house and knocked on the door. The crow-man cautiously opened the door and got only his head out of it, suspiciously.

«Wow! You're real!» said Sandara, amazed by the man with a crow's head.
«Are you Corlan?» asked Kiani.
«Yes...»

His answer was cut by a well placed serrated bolt on Corlan's throat. He fell to the ground after a second of making gurgling sounds. For what they knew he could be dead.

«Get inside the house!» commanded Kiani.

Sandara charged towards the door, opening it. Fox got inside and grabbed Corlan's body to remove him from the line of sight of the attacker.

Kiani and Darren looked around, trying to locate the attacker before he left or attacked again.

«I'm seeing him! On that rooftop!» shouted Kiani.
«Great. Let me show you one of my new tricks.» smiled Darren. «Fox, come here, I need you to touch me.»
«Seriously? I thought you were not into that kind of things.» laughed the swashbuckler.
«Oh, shut up!»

They left Sandara behind to heal Corlan's wounds if he was still alive and used a Dimension Door to get to the rooftop where Kiani was pointing to. Even if the sniper tried to defend himself with the blade that was attached to his crossbow, the party overcame him with ease and took his unconscious body into Corlan's house.

When they got back, Sandara had stabilized Corlan. It was a miracle that he was still alive (a poor damage roll helped). First, they registered them while unconscious. The assasin, a human male, had a note on himself:

Haddon Pike
Roweena Kellett
Corlan

Use the supplied dosage on each. When done, return to the apothecary in Sea Reach. I can provide with more toxin with the payment if needed. Destroy this after reading.
-Z.

«It looks like someone has finished collecting information and is trying to cover their steps.» guessed Kiani.

They decided to wake Corlan before the assassin, just because they found him far more interesting. He didn't try to run away from them, and he even showed gratitude to them for having saved his life. After seeing the sheet that commanded his assasination he thought he owed no loyalty to his employer: he confessed that he had been working as a smuggler and a messenger for the spy ring, and that he always informed to a woman called Zarskia Galembar who had an apothecary at Sea Reach. She was born on the Great Moors, domains of the black dragon Mohrlex, and was an expert on herbs, poisons and all kind of alchemical concoctions.

The PCs also asked Corlan about himself. They had never seen another one of his race, that Corlan referred to as «tengu». He told them that he was born on a land far in the east. Minotaurs had started raiding their lands and taking slaves a few years ago. So he had been rescued from slavery and offeered a job as a free man. Always practical, he never cared a lot about who he was working for. He didn't know anything about politics in these new lands and he had to do something to survive so he was happy with his job until someone had tried to kill him.

The PCs asked Corlan if he wanted to go back to his homelands, but he seemed to be happy living among humans, so they offered him to join their crew. He aggreed with a condition: no jokes about him and the crow nest. They thought he was asking for too much but they took pity of him and accepted.

They healed the assasin to interrogate him after that. His name was Giles Halmis and he was a... very nice man. Even though it was Kiani who was carrying the weight of the conversation he kept addressing Darren all the time and ignoring Kiani to the point of making everybody feel uncomfortable. He confessed everything without concern, seeing himself as innocent: he had been only hired by Zarskia Galembar (to which he referred to as simply «the black woman») to assasinate three people. He was just doing his job. He had kept the note just in case he had to defend himself and prove that he was only doing his job.

In a few sentences, all the party already hated this man. Kiani couldn't understand anything, as she had always been accepted among humans despite being an Undine. She had a draconian, a minotaur, a gnome, a half kender, half elves, a dwarf, humans of all shapes and colors, and now a tengu on her crew and nobody seemed to have an issue with that (aside from the incident with the half elves that Kiani thought as a big misunderstanding). So when Kiani asked him about what was so wrong about working for a «black woman» as he called Zarskia (and he said «black» as it was some sort of highly infective disease) he answered in a totally sincere and guiltless way that black people where known for not caring about anything else than money and weren't to be trusted.

«How insightful, coming from a mercenary!» laughed Sandara.

Trying to defend his position and saying everything as they were known facts he ended offending most of the party: Corlan was almost an animal, Fox looked like a ragged shirtless pirate (Fox thought that taking off the «ragged» part it was an accurate description of himself), Sandara could have been pretty but her tattoos made her look like a whore, Isabella and Kiani weren't to blame for going around half naked as everybody knew Nordmaarians (Isabella's people) were savages without a culture that only knew how to ride horses, and he didn't even know what kind of thing Kiani was.

«Blue. I am blue.» was Kiani's only answer, getting tired of her friends being insulted by this man. «And the captain of the Mustakrakish.»
«What if I introduce him to Grinner?» asked Isabella with a jagged playful smile. «He loves everybody equally disregarding of their race. And he likes kisses.»
«Good.» smiled Kiani. «Then we should take him to Tessa.» She looked at Gilles «Tessa Fairwind. Do you know her? She's a half elf and the next Hurricane Queen. What do you think of that?»

Gilles shrugged.

«Nothing at all. You're probably going to have a lot of sunken ships if that happens.»
«Probably. But they will be the ships of our enemies.» sentenced Sandara.

Gilles was taken to the Mustakrakish, and until the end he was confident that he would get out of it unharmed. Tessa would probably spare him because he was innocent. That was before he met Grinner. As Isabella said, Grinner loved «kisses». Kiani aggreed that Isabella took Gilles as a toy until they got to Sea Reach as long as she didn't kill him. In the next days, Isabella went to Sandara quite a few times asking her for emergency healing and when they handed the assassin to Tessa his face was far from recognisable. His fate after that is unknown, but knowing his diplomatic abilities it can be guessed that Tessa disposed of him after being offended in at least five different ways.


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I've just realized thet Gilles reminds me of a guy I know in real life. Charming.


I can confirm it's not incidental nor accidental. I know the same guy.


That guy... That guy...
I am the most calmed man in the ship and I wanted to punch him in the face and break his nose.
I have four older sisters (who incidentally are a bunch of harpies but that's another story), I cannot stand some moronic bigot calling my friends «whores»!


Calm down, Mom. When Grinner was done with him he no longer had a nose to punch.


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Oh, Isabella, how I love you.


You are a pretty cool reptile too.


In the next books Darren started having to miss some sessions because of RL, and Isabella started being on the party quite often. She had some epic moments (and an overpowered Vampiric Touch that always rolled ridiculously high). At first she was always quiet and distant but at this point she was starting to get along well with the party and to demonstrate why she has a high Cha score.


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THE JASPERLEAF APOTHECARY
Zarskia Galembar and the Jasperleaf Apothecary. All the clues led there.

Some investigation about the place at Sea Reach rendered the party useful information: Zarskia had bought a mansion and started her business there about three years ago, but the place had been closed for a time. She was still selling her last goods to faithful clients and with the right password she'd still receive any customers. They learned the password from a former client, they had to knock on the door and ask for 'three jugs of terrap sap'.

All the windows in the house were nailed shut. The place seemed abandoned.

«She's preparing to leave.» said Kiani. l wish it's not too late.»

They knocked on the door and said the password. They were received by a couple of men who looked like pirate thugs. They asked them what they wanted.

«We have some deals to do with Zarskia Galembar. We're not speaking to anybody but her.» Kiani said.
«OK.» grunted one of the guards. «Do you have good money? If you don't, she doesn't want anything with you.»
«Do we look like we hadn't?» grinned the well groomed Darren, making the steel on his pouches sound (I'm surprised this hasn't come out until now, but the currency in Dragonlance is the steel, not the gold).

The guards led them into a big and comfortable waiting room and told them to attend for Zarskia there. As the guards left, they started casting some spells on themselves. As soon as they got a chance they would attack her.

Zarskia appeared a few minutes later. She was an exotic looking woman with a cold look on her face. The PCs thought there was something unnatural about the way she moved, with an awkward flexibility. They demanded to be left alone to negotiate, to which she aggreed.

When they were alone the PCs started making very obvious remarks about her implications with the nerakese spies, until she was completely sure that they knew too much. She had been staying next to the door, so she quickly swallowed a potion and disappeared.

«Guards!» screamed Zarskia. «Get them!»

Before the PCs could act, the door opened and they saw how the guards on the door were pushed aside by an invisible force. Darren casted Glitterdust, but Zarskia was no longer there. At least, he blinded the two guards that were posted outside of the room. Fox ran behind her, ignoring the guards. He had heard her heading upstairs so he followed her taking advantage of the flight spell that Darren had casted on him. Another couple of guards were on his way, so he had to stop. Kiani, ignoring the two blinded guards, went out of the room and removed the other two guards from blocking the stairs with an Aqueous orb so Fox could continue his chase.

They heard a voice from upstairs: «Shimerae!». They didn't know what a Shimerae was, but at least they had located the fleeing spy. Fox went upstairs flying. He was hit by an explosion that came out from nowhere, but he was able to avoid being caught in the middle of the explosion and knocked prone.

Reaching the upper floor, Fox realized what a Shimerae was. A giant bizarre cat-like creature with snakes on it back jumped onto him as soon as he appeared. The monster released a flurry of hits, but Fox dodged or parried most pf them. A critical counter-attack left the creature half dead. The rest of the party, all of them flying, followed Fox upstairs, just to meet with Shimerae's sleeping gas breath weapon. Nothing happened. Kiani started a bardic performance and Sandara finished the cat monster with a Zul Power Attack. Knowing that the alchemist was close, Darren readied an action to cast Glitterdust as soon as she heard or saw anyting. One of the doors opened itself. There she was! Darren outlined her, and Fox was able to do a full attack on her thanks to the Lunge feat and the extra range his magic scarf provided. Before the door was completely open Zarskia was dead with a key on her hand.

«Fox! We wanted to interrogate her!» complained Kiani.
«It was an accident, I swear! She grabbed my rapier with her heart!»

After checking the corpse and neutering the guards they registered the house in search for clues/loot. They fell into some poison traps that did nothing, as they had a Communal Delay Poison casted on them before entering the house, and had to fight some mandragoras that Zarskia seemed to have grown out of a Babau's corpse. They weren't a big menace. Aside from that, the house was clean of both dangers and clues.

They picked whatever loot they found. Sandara was specially excited when she found Zarskia's collection of cosmetics and jewelry. She had a vain side.

With no more places to register in the house and no proof of Zarskia's illegal activities, the PCs decided to take a chance on going down the chimney hole on Zarskia's room. They found a cellar that was only accesible through the fireplace and that had another passage leading outdoors. The spy had tried to destroy all evidence and then escape but had been stopped by Fox too soon.

There was enough evidence there to prove the existence of the spies to the pirate council. Many papers with the names of the main players of the spy ring were found, alongside a letter in Infernal language (Sandara had Comprehend Languages prepared this time) that worried the party:

«Silence is now key. Our plans will come into full force once our agent finishes his preparations. Destroy any remaining evidence and sell your business discreetly. Report to Nisroch for your next assignment.»

It was dated three weeks ago. That meant that they had finished collecting information and they were getting into action. They reasoned that the mentioned «agent» should probably be a well placed one, maybe someone in the Pirate Council or someone that was about to enter it. They also guessed that if the spy ring was retreating it should be because the agent was going to do some major move. Sho, what could it be?

After thinking about it, they had it clear: The Free Captain's Regatta. Whoever won it would have a place on the Pirate Council and an island placed on an strategical point to the defense of a possible attack from the Dark Knights. Whoever was the agent of Neraka could have been instructed to enter and win the regatta at all costs. When they entered the regatta, they'll have to pay a lot of attention to see if there was someone with way too much interest on winning, because they could be the infamous «agent».

They went to Tessa and told her about their conclussions, which she thought made sense. They'd need to keep their eyes open at the regatta. But that would be in two weeks. Until then, they had a lot of time to prepare themselves and relax. Mostly relax.

My players did a great detective work here. With not too much information they came into a conclusion that pretty much made sense and that made the Regatta much more interesting.


I never understood Sandara's liking for perfumes, make up and all that stuff. I don't respect any body paintings that can be just washed away.


C'mon, Isa, don't be mean! Who kept most of Zarskia's jewelry?


I did it. It didn't make me smell like a skunk.


We should have attacked Zarskia at first sight, but I had to troll her for a while; it was a compulsion!! Of course, at the end she understood why we were there and ran away.

Me and my big mouth!


Don't apologize! It was more fun like that! She was too squishy, she needed some advantage.


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It was funny. I regret nothing.


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That was eerily similar to how it went for my group. Also, I had forgotten the thing with steel in Dragonlance. I always liked that. So fitting for the setting that they would use a material with actual worth, as opposed to something that looks pretty. Of course, we had no females in our group, so the loot was just that to them. Loot. Though the wizard did get a new earring, as I recall.


My players tended to keep stuff from the loot just because they thought it was cool and also liked sharing it with the NPCs. As they had as much money they could want and more they never cared a lot for the value of things.
As a GM, I usually give them more value in loot because I know they sometimes give it away for roleplaying reasons or just destroy it because they think it's the right thing (Kiani's player once threw an artifact into a volcano just because it was made out of the spine and skull of an elf) so I try to compensate instead of punishing them for doing a good roleplaying.

In this case I didn't have to compensate. With loot as written they were rich as pirates!

I'm already starting to write the Regatta... I asked Kiani to calculate the perception and profession roll that she had at that moment because it was unbelievable. He wanted to do well at the regatta and used some buffs and all the enhancement items they had got in the adventures. In the end he only failed the rolls with a natural 1. It was crazy.


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Oh, my players have way more loot than WBL. For one, they have a floating brothel that they bring into port with them. For second, I made a chart they can roll on to represent captured/recruited ships bringing them plunder, as a way of tribute. One of those ships may or may not be actually a giant reanimated undead shark. And C, we use a home brewed crafting system that saves both time and money for the players.


Our crafting system was the basic one. And by basic I mean «ask Mom for it».
They kept complaining on how lazy I was, but they would go around naked if I didn't craft everything.
Well, to be honest, Sandara was the scroll girl. We had a huge collection of scrolls to remove all that nasty conditions from Fox. And also some of them to protect Fox from nasty conditions.


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THE FREE CAPTAIN'S REGATTA

And the great day arrived. The party had been preparing themselves for it. They had Sandara inscribing many scrolls of Make Whole, so they could repare the ship immediately if it was damaged during the competition. They knew the weather was going to be tough and they didn't trust the other participants to play fair.
They had also bought some elixirs of vision to enhance their perception and be able to spot any dangers on time. With Kiani's and Sandara's sailing skills they trusted to be able to at least face the storm and survive. Of course, that wasn't enough: if they entered a competition, they must win.
Before they parted to the competition they spoke to their crew. They would be risking their lifes, and not because they had to do it. This time it was just a game. Anybody who didn't want to take part on it wasn't obligated to participate. Everybody would be rewarded after the competition, no matter if they had taken part on it or not. The party felt really touched when they realized that everybody wanted to get into the competition anyway. Just for loyalty to their captain and for the thrill. In the end they had to choose among them because they had more volunteers than they needed.

The weather was rainy and hot when they got close to the neverending storm. All the pirate ships gathered around a near island, where the race would start. The Master of the Gales was there as a host, and many Pirate Lords who weren't going to participate had come just to watch the competition. It was a really big event.
One of the first thing they noticed was that the Wormwood was there too. The PCs thought it would be fun racing against him and demonstrating to him that they no longer were mere swabs. Before the start of the competition Sandara prayed for Zeboim's blessing to give them good winds and to have the waves pushing them ahead.

(Basically, they spent Disrepute to increase the speed. In this campaign, spending Disrepute basically meant praying to Zeboim to get some advantages. Spending plunder to increase Disrepute meant sacrificing it to the Goddess by throwing it overboard with a prayer to gain her favor)

After the course of the race and the rules (no rules but no interfering with other ships and first one to cross the finish line wins) were explained everybody was ready. The Master of the Gales (a mysterious, wild looking old man) rised his arms and when he lowered them, a crack of lightning appeared on the sky. The race started.

The ships started moving and suddenly the direction of the wind shifted, a gift from the Master's ability to control the weather. Many ships crashed against the others and the start of the race was chaotic. But Kiani maneuvered using the magic wheel, dodging flawlessly the other ships and took advantage over the other competitors, while laughing and screaming all the way. This was going to be some real fun!

Even if they had been worried about other ships attacking the Mustakrakish they soon realized that wouldn't be very likely, as the distance between ships was huge and the visibility, even before they got into the storm, not very good.

The first obstacle they ran into was a number of shallow sandbars. They could sail around them, but that would be losing too much time and a lot of fun. So they deviced a plan. Sandara took the wheel, while Kiani scouted ahead from underwater and Darren followed her flying. As soon as she spotted a sandbar, Darren would make a signal to the ship giving them indications on how to avoid it.

Sandara wasn't the kind of person who avoided to take some risks. She went full ahead at full speed while maneuvering like crazy following Kiani and Darren's instructions. When they got past the sandbars, Kiani and Darren got back to the ship. The weather was getting worse and it started to be dangerous to stay out of the ship.

The magic charts that Tessa had given to them indicated a reef barrier ahead, so they had to improvise a course to avoid crashing against the reef. They did the best they could, but that wasn't their speciality (only Kiani had 1 rank in Geography), so their course ended being something like «straight ahead, the shortest distance is a straight line».

They hit the first reef, as they were traveling really fast and failed to spot it until the last moment, but Kiani's skills avoiding the Mustakrakish to run aground. After that, they took the wise decision of lowering some sails and going slower. Maybe it wasn't as exciting like that, but at least they wouldn't end shipwrecked. In fact, with a slower speed Kiani didn't find a lot of difficulty to spot and avoid the reef. They thought they were doing OK, but they were still unsure, as they didn't have the other ships on sight.


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THE FREE CAPTAIN'S REGATTA
Part two

The storm was growing in intensity as they came closer to it. They had to sail now through a clash between currents in different directions, making sailing really difficult. If that wasn't enough, the storm was rising giant waves. Kiani made her best to keep the Mustakrakish on course, but she could do nothing against the wave that tried to engulf the ship and washed some of the crew members away. Four sailors fell overboard. The currents were too strong to swim on them and the ship was traveling quick.

Kiani didn't think twice. She commanded to stop the ship. They weren't leaving anybody behind, no matter if they lost the race. She sent Darren and Isabella to get them back to the ship. Both had a swim speed and knew spells to teleport back on board. She trusted them to be able to cast spells while in turbulent waters and she wasn't disappointed: even if they lost their advantage at the race they were able to rescue their fallen comrades.

The next step was sailing between a pair of twin rocks. If that wasn't difficult enough with all the wind and the waves, they saw a massive creature emerging between the rocks, hitting the hull of another ship with enough force to break the hull. With a spyglass, they could see it was a giant dragon turtle. It was said that dragon turtles had been created by Zeboim and were among her favorite «pets». They saw the other ship sink without being able to do nothing, too far to reach it on time or to take advantage of the distraction it could provide.
Kiani didn't want to lose more time, specially in unnecessary fights, so she decided to try just avoiding the creature. She commanded to unfurl the sails and go straight ahead. The monster tried to get them but they were too fast. They went past them, impulsed by the wild winds that were starting to tear the sails. As soon they were sure that the dragon turtle was gone, back to enjoy the prey it had previously claimed, Sandara casted Make Whole on the ripped sails. The Goddess was making it interesting, indeed.

But it was going to be even more interesting, as they were approaching the outer ring of the storm. The Mustakrakish was hit by lighting, its hull damaged by the force of the waves and the sails torn again by the winds. All the scrolls inscribed with Make Whole spells were being worth the time and steel spent on them. Remaining on the slippery deck was difficult, but all the crew managed to stay on board. Then, with the storm still raging strong, they got into a zone of sharp reef. Since they had stopped to rescue the crew members the PCs had the sensation they had lost too much time and were losing the race, so they didn't want to lose more time and decided not to sail around the reef, which ended with the Mustakrakish hitting against the second reef barrier. Not that it would stop them, just one more Make Whole spell and keep sailing. Barriers meant nothing at that point.

They were already close to sailing away from the storm, but they would have to face a last threat: the storm had attracted a lightning elemental from another plane. The creature formed itself on the sky above the Mustakrakish and attacked. As Kiani wore a chain mail, the elemental charged towards her. She asked Sandara to take charge of the wheel and joined the battle. The elemental had a great mobility and size that it used to attack and still stay away from the attacks of the party. Fox, with his increased reach was able to deliver attacks of opportunity everytime it moved forward and back and Darren helped with some blasting spells. The elemental didn't last long. After that, it was Sandara who stayed on the wheel until the end of the race.

And the end was close. The Mustakrakish sailed out of the storm, mostly intact (the wonders of Make Whole) and rushed to the finish line. There was nobody on sight. After many minutes a ship appeared behind them. It was the Wormwood, seriously damaged and with its infamous dragon figurehead missing. Kiani used her spyglass to check the deck of their adversaries. Harrigan was in charge of the wheel and was shouting at Peppery while pointing towards the Mustakrakish. She saw Peppery pulling out some kind of scroll and casting something out of it. Nothing happened.

After a while, Kiani realized there was something invisible approaching their ship. She couldn't see what it was, but it caused a strange distortion in the direction of the rain.

She pointed where the creature was and Darren targeted it with Glitterdust. The creature remained invisible but outlined. In the last moment Kiani spotted another one leaning towards Sandara.

«There!» she cried. Another Glitterdust spell revealed another invisible attacker.

Sandara adopted a defensive position and remained focused on the race (Sanctuary would have been the perfect spell here, but she hadn't prepared it).

«That scumbag cannot win without cheating!» she laughed.

Fox stayed near Sandara and waited for the creatures to approach. Kiani helped with her rapier, granting him flanking while Darren focused on the other one with Scorching Ray. He didn't fear to be attacked as the summoned creatures only had eyes for Sandara.

They crossed the finish line short after defeating the Invisible Stalkers. The Wormwood was still far away. With her spyglass, Kiani saw Harrigan. He was furious. He grabbed Peppery by an arm and yelled something at her. She stayed firm and said something, then Harrigan dragged her below deck and Kiani stopped seeing what was happening. Everybody in the Mustakrakish was celebrating victory, but Kiani was worried.

Everybody who was waiting on the finish line acclaimed the winners. The Master of the Gales, who had been watching from the skies in the shape of a bird landed on the Mustakrakish to declare them victorious.

«Good race. It has been the best performance I've seen since the last time I participated.» said the old man in a serious voice, looking genuinely impressed. The Master of the Gales had a reputation of being undefeatable when it came to the Regatta, so they took it as a big compliment.

He informed them of the location of their new island called The Island of the Empty Eyes, and told them that before they were acknowledged as Pirate Lords they'd have to face the challenge of conquering and taming their new island.

While this happened, the Wormwood had arrived. Harrigan wasn't even on the deck: a woman with a hook hand was on the wheel. Kiani was very worried at that time. She informed the Master of the Gales on how Harrigan had cheated and the other party members on how he had treated Peppery.

The Master of the Gales couldn't do anything, as there wasn't any proof of what the PCs were saying, but he believed them and looked like he really wanted to do something about it. After some minutes, Harrigan came on deck.

«You are so pathetic!» Yelled Kiani at him. «Even cheating, you cannot win!»

Harrigan gave her a killer stare.

«You are traitors and that is my ship. I don't tolerate traitors.»
«Traitors? You don't even know what happens in your own ship, do you?» Sandara was furious. «That bastard Plugg is better off dead!»
«We did you a favor by dealing with him.» smiled Fox «But you don't have to thank us.»

It looked like they were going to start a fight, but then another ship came out from the storm and headed to the finish line. A man holding a cracked dragon figurehead was on it.

«That bastard rammed our ship!» he cried as soon as he could be heard, pointing to Harrigan. «We sunk because of him! They are all dead!»

Harrigan said nothing but he looked furious. The man explained that Harrigan had attacked his ship and that he was ironically able to survive by grabbing the figurehead to stay on the surface until another ship rescued him. The Master of the Gales was mad at Harrigan. He announced he was disqualified from the competition.

«And I'll make sure that everybody knows what happened today.» added Tessa Fairwind, who was now on the deck of the Mustakrakish congratulating the winners, with a playful smile.
«All of this is way too strange.» said Kiani in a low voice. «Harrigan showed way too much interest on winning. He has killed people just to win.»
«Being him, I think it makes sense.» said Fox.
«Has he shown any interest on being a part of the Pirate Council before?» asked Kiani to Tessa.
«Not really.»
«This cannot be just for the Regatta. I think he might be the spy we are looking for.»
«We don't have any proof of it, but I'll keep my eyes open.» said Tessa.

Kiani was still worried that Peppery was nowhere to be seen. Harrigan was preparing to leave after being humiliated. They had to do something to check if she was OK. Darren casted Invisibility on Sandara, Isabella and Kiani. Isabella teleported them to the officer's rooms of the Wormwood, expecting to find Peppery there. They didn't.

«If he has done something to her he's a dead man.» grunted Isabella.
«You don't even know her.» Sandara looked surprised.
«I know him, people like him. They deserve to die.»
«She has a lab upstairs.» whispered Kiani, trying to get her companions to focus.

They sneaked to the deck were many members of the crew were working. There was a lot of noise, what was an advantage, but also a lot of people who could notice them. They were taking a lot of risks. They knocked on the door as soon as there wasn't a lot of people around. Peppery's soft voice came from inside.

«Come in. It's not locked.»

Peppery was sitting on her desk and she was shocked when she heard footsteps entering the room but nobody to be seen. She was about to give the alarm. Kiani noticed that she had been hit in the face and had a broken lip.

«I am Kiani. Calm down.» she spoke without revealing herself.
«What are you doing here? Harrigan will kill you!»
«We saw him attacking you. We had to make sure you were OK.» explained Sandara.
«Sandara Quinn? How many people is here? See, I am fine. Now leave. It's too dangerous here.»

Kiani asked Peppery to go with them but Peppery refused. Harrigan was not a bad man. He was her friend. He was going under a lot of pressure and had lost his nerves. He didn't meant any harm to her. She couldn't leave him in such a difficult moment for him. She'd be OK.

«Bullsh*t» said Isabella. Peppery was surprised as it was the first time that she spoke and she didn't know her.

Kiani told Peppery that they suspected that Harrigan could be a spy for the Dark Knights and warned her that she could be in real danger if she didn't leave, but Peppery was adamant about staying. She promised to keep her eyes open and inform them if she discovered something.

«It's your choice.» added Kiani with a sad voice «I just hope you don't end regretting it. Good luck.»

Knowing that there was nothing they could say to convince her, Kiani asked Isabella to teleport them back to the Mustakrakish.

«How did it go?» asked Darren as they arrived. «Is she OK?»
«We should have knocked her down and brought her with us by the force.» answered Kiani not really meaning it but feeling frustrated.
«She's an idiot. He'll hurt her. And we'll kill him. And I'll be happy.» that was Isabella again.
«I hope it isn't too late then.» added Sandara.

Without anything else that they could do, they went back to celebrating their victory. They had a lot of reasons to be happy and they wouldn't let Harrigan to spoil the party for them.


My group has yet to figure out, or even suspect, that Harrigan is the spy. It will just make the revelation when they attack his fortress all the better. I honestly think they have forgotten that there is a spy, or if not they are not concerned with it.


My players started suspecting from him so soon that I was amazed. None had read the AP so it was just intuition.

It was weird how in the end of Wormwood Mutiny they didn't hate him. They thought he had always been fair to them.

When Caulky told them that Harrigan wanted them dead they were genuinely surprised. They thought it made sense, but as all their issues were with Plugg I guess they mostly forgot about Harrigan.

Then in the Regatta they only wanted to have fun, they didn't care about a place on the Council or their own island, they did it for the thrill. And seeing Harrigan so obsessed with winning, ruthlessly killing people and (the worst for them) hurting the only person who followed him out of loyalty instead of fear, shocked them. At this point they started hating him.

I read at the forum about a GM who also had created a scene with Peppery at this point and I loved the idea and wanted to do the same, even if I knew they could try to rescue her or something similar. In the end everything went mostly as I had in mind and managed to foreshadow the later events with Peppery.

At what point is your story now, BTW?


We are about to finish book 5. The fleet battle is looming, all their allies are gathered, and they are ready to go kill him. However, they think they are just going to meet their fleet and head out, but they are in for a rough surprise when Harrigan's fleet meets them on their home turf. They did not really have any interaction with Peppery, as none of them where casters at the time and had no interest in her. I guess they figured there was no point in getting to know anyone too loyal to Harrigan, as they planned to escape or mutiny from the start. However, the surviving two from the Wormwood (alchemist and fighter), got to know Grok really well, and both she and they were disappointed that she didn't join them on the Man's Promise. I think her fate will really get to them. Also, I think I may replace Isabella with Peppery as a love interest for our wizard. Feel free to share any advice or interesting changes you made for the last book, as I may steal them for my own use. It is what a pirate-lizard does, after all.


My players went for Harrigan first and then confronted his fleet. At first I didn't know if it was OK but it worked.

About the fleet battle, I used the one against Harrigan to get some characters back joining his fleet, like Barracuda, who the PCs had offended.

On the one against Druvalia I let all the allies that the PCs had gained during the adventure to be relevant. If you think they are going to have a hard time against Druvalia or you just want to reward your players with some extra help you could do as I did. I had the nagas come to help, as some sea elves they had met in a side quest I added, and I gave them bonuses as they had another significative character on their fleet to reflect that they had some extra aid from their allies. That made them think that everything they had done before was relevant.

The battle against Druvalia is going to be tough probably. My PCs had astronomic charisma scores and good profession checks and still it was a tough fight. I tried to balance it so they had a good chance to win with a good strategy but it wasn't too easy. And with all their resources it was still kinda epic.

As they were traveling with Sandara I replaced her fleet for another character's so they weren't penalised for having recruited her. I used Mase Darimar, but I gave her more charisma so he could have a fleet because he has a charisma of 8!!!


By the way,if you want to know the big dinosaur-like lizards we have here... careful, they are huge!!! They could eat you!!!
Beware of the monster!
Danger ahead!


With my quick research I believe that to be some variety of sand lizard, though the coloration is off from what I could find. Very beautiful lizards though.


They must be grass lizards because... huh... they live in the grass. Nah, just kidding. They are kinda frequent here.


Half of the story has been already told! I never expected to get so far without getting bored of writing but I am still enjoying it!
I wasn't sure about how well will this part go as I thought it wasn't too related to the main storyline. In the end it ended being an advantage, as it was still related enough to not feel disconnected from the rest of the parts (the fort, the rum cargo, etc.) but allowed the PCs to take a rest on searching spies and worrying for invasions and do some good old exploring.
Some encounters at this book are among the most difficult ones in the whole AP and some of them are potential TPKs (the great mother, the gargoyle ambush, the Eye of Serenity) but it gave the PCs a feeling that they had got to a place full of hidden dangers.
Stay tuned to see pet dinosaurs, men tied to a bed, kisses of death, cyclops with nettles in their pants and more!


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THE ISLAND OF THE EMPTY EYES

After spending some time in Sea Reach making some business (the pirate way) and gathering some rumors about the island, they sailed to claim their prize.

In a few months some Pirate Lords would be there to make sure that they had claimed and secured the Island properly, so they'd have to do a good job.

All of them were excited about having their own island. Darren, having still strong connections to Tidewater Rock, was probably the one who cared the less about what to do with the island, but Fox saw it as a good safe haven and Kiani daydreamed about creating a small settlement for «her people» (basically everybody that she had met and liked) where they hadn't to worry about the constraints of civilisation.

Before starting to explore they decided to send Darren to scout ahead with flight and invisibility spells, to get an idea about where would be a better idea to approach the island. After more than half an hour he came back and informed about what he had seen from the distance: there was an abandoned fort near the beach next in the southern bay, a port in the eastern bay and a lot of jungle. All the place was full of statues with a single empty eye socket and there were some gigantic stares in the middle of the island that led to some sort of ancient city between the mountains. The city was inhabited by some sort of single eyed giants.

«Cyclops» said Kiani, the only one with non sucking knowledge checks.

Cyclops had been a prosper civilisation in the times of Istar, famous for their ability as seers. Their decadence had begun when the Prince of Priests started his crusade and they had to isolate themselves to avoid being prosecuted. After the Cataclysm only a few cyclops survived, with their territories now converted to small islands. This complete isolation accelerated their decadence even more, turning them into hungry beasts who barely remembered their glory days.

They had some hopes on being able to strike a peaceful deal with them but didn't count on it.

Aside from that, Darren wasn't able to see much more, as there were some giant featherless birds flying next and he feared they could detect him despite being invisible, so he had left.

After the scouting they decided to anchor the Mustakrakish outside of the southern bay, behind the cover of some rocks, and approach the island by boat to start exploring the fort. When they were on the boat they saw a shadow approaching from below. It seemed huge. The monster used its tentacles to try to grab them from the water. I'm not going to tell how the combat went, as it wasn't very interesting. But Kroop was very happy when they brought him something as exotic to cook as a giant octopus Cookie the grindylow wasn't as happy, as he thought that eating octopus was something barbaric and blasphemous.


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THE NERAKAN FORT

After having dealt with the giant octopus, the party landed on the beach near the fort. Fox confirmed that the architecture was Nerakan. It looked too similar to many buildings from his hometown.

It had already been conquered by the jungle, as the whole place was overgrown with plants, but the walls that surrounded it were made of strong and were mostly intact, with the exception of some crumbled parts that seemed to have been hit by some sort of siege engine. The door had been destroyed too so they didn't have trouble getting into the place.

For the look of it, the fort had been abandoned since months ago, maybe years ago. Still, they would be cautious when exploring it. It could still be a dangerous place. The first door they opened confirmed it. As bunch of servered giant hands crawled towards them. Fox positioned himself so they had to come one by one to attack and they dealt with the undead hands without even being touched, but they were still a disturbing view.

The next buildings they visited were empty, but as they were exploring a collapsed building the remains crumbled down and Kiani and Sandara fell into the cellar below, Sandara because she failed her saving throw, Kiani because she tried to catch Sandara. Fox was quick enough to avoid falling and Isabella hadn't come close enough to be affected.

(From this point on, Darren's player wasn't able to come to some sessions because of time compatibility issues, so Darren was replaced by Isabella whenever he couldn't come)

Though bruised, Kiani and Sandara were kinda happy, as they had found some treasure in the cellar. They thought it had been a lucky fall. Just some uses from their Cure Light Wounds wand and they were ready for anything that could come.

The next building looked like a chapel. Sandara recognized the stilized statue of a five headed dragon as the dead goddess Takhisis, who the Knights of Neraka worshipped. The place looked empty, but they entered with caution.

Suddenly four giant spiders with human faces came out from nowhere. One for each party member. They bite them and disappeared again before they could react. Nobody knew what kind of creatures they were but they had poisoned Fox (nothing new, he couldn't make a saving throw even if his life depended on it. And it usually did). The PCs prepared for another ambush. They cornered themselves so the spiders couldn't flank them. Sandara casted Righteous Might, enlarging herself. Everybody readied actions so they could hit the enemy as soon as it appeared.

They concentrated hits against one of them and managed to kill one of them before they left again: Fox did good damage as always, Kiani buffed and contributed to damage, Sandara made a good melee fighter while enlarged and Isabella's Vampiric Touch (with a reach rod) had the tendency to cause much more damage than average. Fox delivered an aditional hit to another one with Opportune Parry and Riposte. The next round they appeared they were able to bring another couple of them down, and the last one just shifted back to the Astral Plane and didn't come back. They waited for another ambush, but it never happened. The spider didn't want to commit suicide.

When they thought the spider wasn't going to strike again, they decided to continue exploring. The next building was bigger than the previous ones and had two stores. In the first floor there was a big kitchen, but it was completely empty. When they entered the next room, the mess hall, the PCs started hearing nightmarish voices in their heads.

«Where is the Immortal Dreamstone?» they whispered.
«Lead us to it» they commanded.

Of course, the group didn't have any clue about what the voices were talking about and they tried to discern where they came from. Kiani tried bluffing the voices:
«The stone? Oh, yes, the Dark Knights took it when they were here.»
«YOU LIE!» the voices screamed at unison.

Two translucent figures appeared through the walls. Their bodies shifted, reflecting the PCs' worst nightmares.

«Uh-oh! Incorporeals!» Kiani was worried. Nothing good came from incorporeals. «Do you know what they are, Sandara?»
«No clue. All I can say is they don't look like undead.»

They decided to retreat to face them on an open field so they couldn't gain the advantage of hiding in the walls, but before they could act one of them casted a Phantasmal Killer on Isabella. She didn't seem to be particularly affected.

«I got over that a long time ago.» she said with disgust. She looked angry.

They ran to the outside and Kiani casted Silence on the zone, so the creatures couldn't cast more Phantasmal Killers (if they targeted Fox, with the spell targeting his two cursed saves, he would have died for sure!!!), and mantained her bardic song by dancing instead of singing.

Isabella came out of the silenced area, while the other members of the party stayed inside. Sandara had already casted Spiritual Weapon as well as enough buffs on herself and didn't have the need to do more casting and Kiani needed to get into melee to be able to contribute to the damage input.

The first creature came out and tried to cast something, failing to notice the silence spell. Even though it could fly, it was close enough to the ground to allow the PCs to hit it. They didn't cause a lot of damage, as it was incorporeal. The other one, noticing the silence zone, decided to go into melee, attacking Sandara. Her body started withering as she started having nightmarish visions. She looked terrified and cried something that couldn't be heard.

The creatures continued to hit them with their touch and using flyby attack, but they made use of their attacks of opportunity to be able to hit them. Isabella and Sandara were providential with Magic Missile and Spiritual Weapon, as they dealt full damage to incorporeals. Realizing that she didn't deal a lot of damage at melee, Sandara decided to switch into channeling energy via selective channeling, but her charisma score only allowed to protect two creatures from being damaged, so she had to choose to harm one of the members of the party. Fox was the chosen one. Later he'd ask Sandara why him.

«Zeboim punished you for being an atheist.» she laughed.

(Even if this supposedly happened without Fox consent, the players aggreed that having Sandara channeling and harming Fox was probably the best option as he was the one with more HP and they were dealing so few damage to the Animate Dreams, so even if Sandara was a bit of an assh*le here it obeyed to strategic planning from the players.)

After one of the creatures fell, the other realized that Isabella was casting spells. It moved near her position, knowing it could use its spell-like abilities there, and casted a Confusion spell on everybody but Isabella (who was out of range). I'm not telling who was affected because you already know (Charmed Life? What's that?). Kiani couldn't use Saving Finale because of the silence, so things went interesting.

While the other party members fought the creature, Fox decided to fight some invisible enemy. Then he mistaked Sandara for the monster and attacked her (maybe in retribution for having dealt channeling damage to him?).

They finally killed the last enemy and Fox seemed to feel better.

«Are they gone?» he asked, confused.
«It seems so.» answered Kiani. «Feeling better, Fox?»
«Yes, I'm fine now that... Waaaaah! There's another one inside of me!» Before they could react, Fox cut himself with his rapier (which was actually meant for stabbing rather than cutting).
«Hey, what are you doing?» Sandara came close to him, worried, trying to make him stop harming himself. He stared at her panicked and attacked, mistaking her again for the enemy. Being as hurt as she was, he almost knocked her down and he could have possibly killed her on a critical hit.
«We better run and hide until he comes back to his senses.» said Kiani. So they hid behind the buildings waiting for Fox to get back to normal. Meanwhile he shifted from harming himself to fighting invisible enemies. After a few rounds he seemed to be back to normal.

«Hey, where have you gone? I am OK now!»

Sandara came out from her hiding place and... Fox tried to attack her again!

«F*ck! How long is this sh*t going to last?» she cried out of frustration.

After a few more rounds Fox was back to normal and this time for real. They were wary to approach him but finally they reunited and started healing the wounds.

«I am still seing things from the corner of my eye. It's disturbing. I cannot concentrate to cast my best spells.» said Sandara. A Detect Magic spell revealed she and Fox (who had also been hit by the incorporeals) had a curse on them. Fortunately they had some scrolls to remove both the curses and the 4 points of Wis drain Sandara had taken. Unfortunately they didn't have enough scrolls to restore Fox's Wisdom score too (he was at a Wis score of 6).

Then they gave to Sandara lot of cure light wounds potions (I counted more than 10), as their had way too many of them. Then they started talking about what they should do next: checking the other buildings first or going to the upper levels of the house where the incorporeals had been. While they were talking, Sandara went apart the rest of the group and started running towards the exit of the fort.

«Wait for me! I'll be right back!» she said.

They were confused. Had she seen something off? Was she under some confusion effect too? They went after her. They found her obeying nature's call in a corner.

«Too many potions. Now stop staring at me while I'm pissing! This is f*cking awkward!»

After Sandara did what she had to do, they rested for a while, had some laughs (most of them at Fox and his weak mind's expenses) and they decided to continue exploring the fort for a while. The fight with the Animate Dreams had consumed a lot of resources but they could still go on for a while.

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