Skull and Blood (A Skull and Shackles Dragonlance campaign)

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It's been longer than usual since my last update and this is not a very long chapter, but I haven't had a lot of time or energy these days. I'll try to keep this updated quite often but it's getting a bit harder. Well, here is some more, starting with one of the scenes that made me be more amused of my players: the cyclops and the nettles! XD


The pirates took the captured cyclops to the room with the mysterious dome, and prepared a dose of incense to blind him. With him still unconscious, they made him breathe the blinding smoke, and then healed him enough to get him awake.

But there were two problems with their plan: first, the cyclops wasn't willing to collaborate; and second, he couldn't understand common, so he didn't even knew what they wanted him to do.

At first, they thought that it could be enough just to press him against the dome until he crossed the gate, but after hitting him against the wall a few times, they began suspecting it wouldn't work. So they tried to convince him to do it by his own. As they couldn't explain it to him, they just kept pushing him against the wall until he understood. But he still wasn't willing to collaborate... so they went to the garden in the center of Sumitha, picked some nettles, and put them inside the cyclops' pants. In the end, beaten and with a serious rash in his butt, the cyclops decided that he'd rather do what the mad pirates were compelling him to do. He walked towards the gate that only he could see and disappeared through the wall of the dome.

For a couple of seconds, nothing happened. Then the walls faded and disappeared, revealing what they had been protecting. There was an oval room with a pedestal on its center. On the pedestal there was a single jewel, which distorted the light creating strange reflections. Flanking the pedestal were a couple of cyclops-like creatures. It was pretty obvious that they were undead. And just a couple of steps further from the place where he had crossed lay the corpse of the hapless cyclops, withered and still with some nettles popping out from his pants.

As soon as the wall disappeared, an energy pulse formed on the jewel, blasting a ray towards Sandara, who couldn't avoid being hit. Her flesh and skin started withering.

-It's sucking my life!- she announced, genuinely scared.

She wanted to cast Righteous Might, but she realized that the same energy that was debilitating her also cut partially the connection with her goddess, so she casted Divine Power instead. Kiani activated her bardic performance and casted Haste on everybody, while commanding Fox to enter the dome and remove the stone from the pedestal as soon as possible. The Haste spell proved to be providential, as Fox was affected by a Slow effect as he got into the dome, but it was countered by Haste.

Fox approached the pedestal, which was almost as tall as him (and taller than any other member of the party), taking a couple of attacks of oportunity. He was able to parry and counterattack the blow from the first undead cyclops, but the second one hit him with his claw. Nothing to worry about. Fox grabbed the stone with his free hand.

(I had an evil smile at this point. I thought: "I am killing my first PC on this campaign. It's Fox. There's no way he can make this saving throw." )

Fox felt the stone siphoning his living force. It was trying to trap his soul. He tried to resist, but it was too much for him. In an attempt to fight the power of the jewel, he made use of his Charmed Life ability... and he made the saving throw!!!

(It was DC21, he got a 19 before using Charmed Life.)

The undead cyclops fell over him, dealing massive damage with their rotting claws. They decided not to risk their lives and teleported away with the stone.

«What do we do with this thing?» asked Fox, looking suspiciously to the stone he was holding. «It tried to eat my soul!»
«It made me lose my connection to my goddess!» Sandara had never looked so furious and determined. She pointed to the stone with Zul. «Leave it to me!»

Kiani gave her a crooked smile.

«It's all yours!»

It took more than a couple of hits to destroy the stone: the powerful magic it held inside protected it. But in the end the jewel exploded, releasing the souls that it had trapped inside by Bikendi's ritual and the hag's magic.
Unknown to the party, both the sister of the hag that Bikendi had killed and the phase spider that they had left alive were spying on them, waiting to recover the Immortal Dreamstone from their hands as soon as they got it. But the pirates had been too quick on destroying it. With the Immortal Dreamstone destroyed and knowing that Bikendi would soon be eliminated too by the PCs, the hag hadn't nothing left there. She wasn't willing to risk her life for no reason. She left without revealing herself, and the party never knew they had been watched all the time.

After that, they realized that Fox had been infected by some foul disease from the claws of the undead creatures. Sandara still had negative levels on her. They decided to retreat and come back later to deal with the undead. Resting until the next day wouldn't be a bad thing to do. And the next day, they'd come back with full energy and teach those undead a lesson.
This time, Darren went with them. They were well prepared with spells to deal with undead, and also witb bows to finish the statues near the teleporters from the air (as they couldn't fly).
And how did they enter the dome again? Easy: Sandara blinded Darren with a spell and then dispelled the effect as soon as he entered the place with Invisibility on himself. This time, with all the party ready, it was an easy fight.

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Kileanna wrote:
«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.
Kileanna wrote:

She approached the triceratops again, waving the leaves in front of the animal's nose like a fan and hitting it with them.

«It is stupid! It won't open its mouth! Come on, silly beast, eat some leaves!»

Kileanna wrote:
As they couldn't explain it to him, they just kept pushing the cyclops against the wall until he understood.

Indeed, we are great communicators!

Kileanna wrote:

«Fox! We wanted to interrogate her!» complained Kiani.

«It was an accident, I swear! She grabbed my rapier with her heart!»

Diplomacy done the pirate way.

Orcish Diplomacy is what we call that. Oh, and you may be interested in leaning that my party has enchanted the ship against scrying. Took a page out of your playbook for that! Not that it will help them, as they still have a spy on board!

Who is the spy?

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Someone they will never expect. And someone who has been with them from the beginning. Also not a gnome, or a cook. May or may not be Sandara. (It isn't.) Truth be told, it isn't set in stone yet. But will depend on the parties actions/inactions. Hell, they may never find out to begin with. lol

Are you sure it isn't that Sandara? She seems suspicious. Redhairs are always into no good ;-)
And she worships Besmara, what kind of goddess is that Besmara? I wouldn't trust her.

She's just jealous of her alternate versions.

Why should I? I am the best Sandara Quinn ever! But having alternate versions everywhere is disturbing.

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With the Immortal Dreamstone destroyed and no more cyclops to deal with, they only needed to get rid of Bikendi and secure the rest of the island.

They fought prerodactyls, crabs, coconut throwing ents, and a giant anaconda. After fighting the undead cyclops and the animate dreams, these enemies looked easy.

Meanwhile, Darren had been studying the diaries of Bikendi and found a map drawn in invisible ink on the back of a page. They wouldn't need Bikendi to reveal the location of his hidden treasure. It didn't seem to be so far from the island, so they decided to go for it.

When they got to the place, they realized it was submerged, but Sandara had the right spells prepared so they could go and get the treasure inmediately. Darren Kiani, Sandara and Isabella were the ones to do the underwater incursion, while Fox stayed watching the ship.

They spotted the sunken shrine as soon as they submerged. The waters were infested by sharks, but they managed to avoid them as they dived unto the underwater ruins.

The shrine was surrounded by strong tides and sharp corals, but the sorcerers and Kiani were awesome swimmers and Sandara had Freedom of Movement casted on her. They found some statues covered in seaweed, some of them with jewels in their eyes. They resembled the ones on the island.

«They are representations of the Gods the way the cyclops see them.» explained Sandara. She was just guessing, but she recognized some symbolism that was common in representations of the Gods in any culture.
«Would it be blasphemous if we looted them?» asked Darren.
«This place was claimed by Zeboim a lot of time ago. Everything we find is free for us to take. With her consent.»
«How do we know if we have her consent?» suddenly, Darren was worried.
«We are alive.» said Sandara with a smirk. Then she realized that Darren looked still worried and added: «See, everything that is underwater belongs to her. She gives, we take, that is OK. She is generous.»
«Do you ever worry about taking the wrong thing and upsetting her?»
«Why? If she didn't want us to do something, she'd stop us. She's a goddess. There's nothing we could do against her.»
«And that doesn't make you worried.»
«Not the slightest. Should it?»
Not very sure of being following Sandara's line of thought, Darren just let it be. They had things to do and treasures to loot.

After having taken the gems from the statues, they approached the doors of the shrine, which were completely broken. Although Detect Magic didn't reveal anything, Kiani spotted a trap on the doorway. As they weren't able to disable it, they just decided to summon an octopus with their wand and make it cross the doorway.

And here comes the revenge of the octopus! The party deserved this, for using this hapless cephalopod for triggering all their traps. As soon as it crossed the doorway, an Insanity trap triggered. The area of the effect was wider than the party had guessed, so they were all targeted by it. Darren and Isabella were affected, but Kiani had an ongoing Bardic Performance, just in case something went wrong (as it did). She casted Saving Finale on Isabella, thinking that her spells could be more dangerous than Darren's.

(This decision was taken out of the game again. We had another mini session with Darren in the middle of the week again (so Fox was out), which consisted on basically slaying a few monsters on the island and I planned to finish it with the group raiding the sunken shrine with Darren to give him something relevant to do, but the session was slowed by some roleplaying among players that they were enjoying more than action. So it was getting late and Darren's player said: "allow Isabella a reroll, and use this as an excuse to remove Darren and bring Fox next day". So we aggreed that it would be a cool thing to do)

And what happened to the octopus? Our tiny little octopus was actually Cthulhu in disguise and was above mortal conceptions on sanity... or maybe it just rolled a natural 20 on its will save.

Soon Darren started to act funny. He had a vivid hallucination of being attacked by a bat swarm and tried to defend himself against them. In a moment of lucidity, Darren moved away from the party to avoid harming them, but the effect didn't seem to disappear. In the end, they restrained Darren until he was collaborative and teleported back to the ship.

As they didn't have a way to heal Darren from the effect, they tied him next to Ederleigh, who was already much better and also scared as hell of the raving maniac on his side.

With Darren incapacitated, they got back to the place with Fox. But the Symbol of Insanity was still active and the party hadn't counted on it. Again, Fox was saved by his Charmed Life ability. That was close!
He might have succeeded in overcoming one one of his worst nightmares (effects targeting his will save), but another one was coming on. As they entered the shrine, they crashed into a giant jellyfish which glowed with a ghostly blueish light.

As soon as they entered, it delivered an electric blast, which only affected Fox and Sandara. Both of them could overcome its damage reduction, but the massive size of the creature made it difficult to approach and its amorphous form made it immune to precision damage. Fox delivered some good hits, but when the jellyfish attacked he was unable to parry it. The poison soon started to debilitate Fox, and before the fight was over he was KOed. After that, the jellyfish focused on Sandara, who'd rather focus on slaying the creature than attempt to save Fox in such a risky position.
Meanwhile, Kiani focused on keeping her Bardic Performance going so she could keep allowing Fox to reroll his saves against the poison so he wouldn't die from constitution loss. It was a tough fight, but Sandara avoided being poisoned and she did well tanking the creature so Kiani and Isabella were safe to do their thing.

«What's up with men from our crew?» asked Kiani. «Why do they always end half dead or insane?»
«Because we are here to prevent them from being completely dead.» reasoned Isabella.
«Fair enough.»

Meanwhile Sandara was treating Fox's wounds. She was also badly injured, but he had almost died. Fortunately, Bikendi's treasure would soon alleviate all their suffering. They took their time collecting it and then got back to the ship. The poison had hit Fox badly and he'd need some time to recover (at least until next day, when Sandara could prepare and cast more Restoration spells).

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Three really hunky boys tied to their beds. Who said piracy doesn't pay?

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The next day, Ederleigh seemed to feel much better, though he hadn't got any sleep at all "thanks" to Darren, who hadn't stop babbling and yelling in all the night. Fox still suffered constant spasms because of the severe poisoning that he had suffered on the fight against the sapphire jellyfish.

They had already enough men tied to their beds (actually, their hammocks). They had to do something about that.

After Sandara prepared her spells she made good use of Restoration and Break Enchantment to heal both the bodies and minds of her crewmates.

Darren was confused, Fox felt humiliated, and Ederleigh was more lucid than ever but sleepless.

(We used sanity rules to help Ederleigh to recover, so Sandara spent a week casting Lesser Restoration on him everyday until he could make a check at a DC of 0 to get rid of his madness)

But before untying Ederleigh they wanted to interrogate him to see what kind of person he was and if he could be dangerous to them.

Ederleigh explained that Bikendi had taken him as an apprentice when he was still a pre-teen and tried to teach him magic, but he had always feared both magic and his master so he wasn't a very good apprentice. He watched horrified how his master got involved in darker practises of magic and accepted to help him out of fear, but he despised him and thought he had to be stopped.

Our pirates chose to believe him, as he looked like the kind of person who wasn't able to tell a lie if his life depended on it. He was a survivor, but also very shy and naive. They told him he could chose to join the crew (under test) or start from anew anywhere else.

«You have helped me. I want to stay. And if you're going to hunt my master, I'd like to go with you.»
«You know we are pirates, as Bikendi, right?» asked Kiani.
«I don't care. I've lived among pirates for many years. As soon as you aren't like him, it's fine with me.»

And that's how Ederleigh Baines joined the crew of the Mustakrakish. He was released from his knots, and the first thing he did was taking a good bath, getting new clothes and reluctantly allowing Sandara (who claimed to be an awesome hairdresser but wasn't) to cut his hair.

«But don't cut it too much! I need it!» he pleaded.

The results weren't impressive but at least he didn't lose an ear.

As morally exhausted as everybody was, they decided to sail away from the island for a time, so they could sell some plunder and also test Ederleigh to see if he could fit in the crew. He resulted to be a hardworking boy with some hidden talents. He seemed to be able to fly without casting spells (as Sandara was still keeping his spellbook) and Fox found out that he was also kinda proficient with a scimitar. So with hard work and martial training together he ended the days exhausted. He didn't seem to be able to measure his efforts.

When they got back to the island, they returned him his spellbook and told him that he was no longer under test. He was more than glad to join the crew as a full fledged member.

The next part deserves to be told both from IC and OOC. The party had decided to hunt Bikendi, and Fox's player had a good idea:
«We are going to hunt a Witch and Fox will be slumber hexed the first round if not something worse. Ederleigh must be there, he has asked us to take him with us. Fox has not doing very well lately and he will be useless here. Let me play the Magus.»

We had already been talking about letting him play Ederleigh for a time when he recovered, and the player had even been taking a lot of decissions on his definitive build. So I said OK to that and we got back in character. The other PCs told Fox their decision not to take him with them.

«Why?» asked Fox, annoyed. «You think I have been screwing up lately and that I will be useless, right? You fear that I will end falling to some of the ghost's mind tricks, don't you?»
«Nobody has said that.» answered Kiani.
«Those are your own insecurities popping out.» added Sandara.
«What insecurities? I don't have insecurities! I am awesome!»
«Fine, Mr. Awesome, but this time you are staying.» stated Kiani.
«OK... OK... I'll stay, watch Darren, and make sure he does something.»
«Stop saying that! I have done most of the magic stuff you are wearing!»
«Mom knits our clothes, how cute.» laughed Fox, still a bit upset.

Finally the group left. This was the last test to prove what was Ederleigh made of. Would he cower at the sight of his former master? Would he betray the party?

Previous to the battle, Sandara casted Anti-Incorporeal Shield and Magic Circle Against Law for everybody and Death Ward on Ederleigh. The young apprentice casted on himseld Mirror Image and Illusion of Calm, and also imbued his scimitar with eldritch power. They had never seen him doing that, so they were curious about what kind of powers the new recruit had. On the last moment, Kiani casted Haste and Good Hope and Isabella teleported them directly to the room that was Bikendi's prison.

The Witch wasn't surprised. He had already felt the destruction of the Immortal Dreamstone and guessed that he had been betrayed.

«Ederleigh. You?» he said with contempt. «What a laughable attempt.»

Before anyone else could act, Ederleigh charged his former master with a Bladed Dash, surrounded by a bunch of illusions of himself. Lightning cracked many times with the hits of Ederleigh's scimitar, but he seemed to be immobile at the place.

Not taking his apprentice seriously, the ghost tried to take control of Sandara's body, only to realize he couldn't even approach her and causing an AoO from Ederleigh. Not being able to do what he had planned, he casted defensively a Feeblemind spell on Kiani, but she made the save. Sandara casted a Spiritual Weapon to contribute to damage, while Kiani did something that I cannot remember and Isabella casted a Lightning Bolt.

Next round Bikendi tried to retreat, flying to the top of the room. He couldn't hide in the walls, as he was trapped, so his fate was sealed. Ederleigh could fly (actually, everybody had Air Walk again), and the other members of the party had ranged spells. There was nowhere he could hide and they were protected against everything he could do. He was defeated without being able to harm the party.

Ederleigh delivered the last hit. With a flurry of hits of his apprentice's scimitar, Bikendi was banished.

«Are you OK?» asked Kiani.

Ederleigh rubbed the back of his head, checking that the scar that Bikendi had placed on him had disappeared.

«Yes. It had to be done. I wouldn't feel safe until he was destroyed.» answered Ederleigh with determination.
«And you had to do it by yourself. It was your privilege.» added Isabella, looking at him approvingly.
«I... guess so.»

Kiani patted Ederleigh on the back, with such intensity that she caught him by surprise and almost made him into the ground.

«Hey! Cheer up! You did it! The bastard is dead! And you did a great job!»
«I... I am happy!» coughed Ederleigh, still surprised.
«Now let's get out of here.» said Sandara. «There are strange lights on the top of the wall too.» informed Ederleigh. «But they only come out at nights.»
«We'll get back at night, then. There's no hurry.» said Kiani. «Now, back to the ship.»

But before they got back to the ship, Kiani would face someone from her past... more or less. That will be told next time.

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I like how you have incorporated Ederleigh. My crew beat him unconscious and then kinda forgot about him. In my head he is still in that room, after it has been repaired, too afraid too come out. I also have a bit of head cannon that one of the serving girls they hired is taking care of him. As for Mr. Bikendi, they just helped him accomplish his goal. Mostly out of curiosity.

My group almost laughed in Bikendi's face when he said that he wanted to leave the world of the flesh to go the Astral Plane.
As a group of bon vivants they thought he was insane. The best things were on the world of the flesh!!!

I love knowing how things went for another groups and the view of other GMs. It's amusing how the same story can develop in such different ways.

Ederleigh became a frequent replacement for Fox in some of the next parts. Fox's player really try something different and he was happy to play Ederleigh from time to time. The fact that Fox was Ederleigh's trainer in swordfighting was something funny.

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As they were returning to the Mustakrakish, the party went close to a narrow bay on the South of Sefina's lair. The tides had washed a big amount of kelp and other seaweed. As they went by, walking on air, Kiani saw something among the weeds. She widely opened her eyes and tried to rush to the bay. Sandara tried to react and grab her, but she wasn't quick enough. Fortunately, Isabella and Ederleigh were.

-Don't go! Whatever you are seeing is not real!- warned Sandara, who had also noticed something messing with her head.
-I am seeing it too, but I know it's in my head.- said Ederleigh.
-But he's real! He's my father!
-Your father is not there! It's just a bunch of seaweed!- argued Sandara.
-You are the only one seeing that.- explained Ederleigh.

But Kiani wouldn't listen to reasons. She'd keep claiming that her father was there, bathing in the kelp field, and seemed confused of her friends claiming him to be nothing more than seaweed.

-I'm going to end all this nonsense.- grunted Isabella. She looked very upset.- One way or another.

She released Kiani and stepped away from her, casting a Lightning Bolt on the mass of kelp. Sandara called out a Lightning Storm and Ederleigh a Scorching Ray. Kiani released herself from the grapple and pulled out her bow. For a moment she looked like she was about to attack her own friends, but she shot whoever she thought to be her father.

The creature was made out of seaweed, and before it could take cover, it was defeated from the air. Aside from its hallucinogenic powers it wasn't so strong.

-I knew you would never harm my father so I was clearly making a mistake.- said Kiani with an unusual beatific smile after defeating the creature. A closer examination revealed that it was an amorphous being made of seaweed, but Kiani kept insisting that it slightly resembled her father.

They went back to the Mustakrakish, laughing and making jokes about Kiani being the daughter of a plant. She was the first to join the fun, but inside she realized that, after decades away from her people, she had started to miss them.

That night she confessed it to Isabella, and told her she was worried because nobody seemed to have seen an undine before.

-You should look for them.- said the sorceress.- If I had some family left I would like to know about them. We have an island and a lot of time before we have to greet the petty pirate lords. Maybe it's about time.
-You're right. I have never really tried before.

And that's how Kiani took the decission to start searching for her lost family. When all the crew was reunited, she told them about what she was willing to do, and asked them about their families. Did they know that they were now pirates? Did they miss them? Fox had lost track of them when they had departed Neraka years ago, and didn't really feel he had something to do with them anyway. Darren thought that his father wouldn't be very happy about his life choices and didn't want to have to confront him or his older sisters. He knew they'd be OK. Isabella and Ederleigh didn't even had a family. Only Sandara wanted to make a visit to her hometown and let her elderly mother that she was still alive. After almost two years she might have started to worry.

So the decision was taken: first they'd visit Sandara's hometown and then they'd search for Kiani's lost people.

They spent a couple more days to finish cleaning up the island of possible threats and then sailed away.

(I had planned in advance to take Darren to his hometown. I wanted to reflect a happy and tranquil life in a pleasant fishing village before I got to what comes next. I also had a short story arc for Darren. As Darren's player wouldn't be able to come, I had to cut that part, and I replaced it with a single scene visiting Sandara's home instead of Darren's. It got the desired effect, but I'd have liked to take Darren back home with his strict father and his pushy sisters xD)

Whoops! I forgot to give a title to last chapter!

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For those who want to know how our pirates look like here is the lineart of the party.
From left to right: Ederleigh, Isabella, Darren, Kiani, Fox and Sandara.

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Kileanna wrote:
Whoops! I forgot to give a title to last chapter!


Aaaah! The seaweed is talking!!! XD

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Sandara's town was a small fishing village. All the ships in the docks were small boats, so when the Mustakrakish dropped the anchor in the port it caused instant commotion among the peaceful inhabitants of the town.

Everybody seemed to know Sandara, but they looked at her with contempt and mistrust: she was in the company of obvious pirates and she didn't look much different from them. Sandara didn't look worried for the gossip of her neighbors, she just walked around like she owned the place.

They headed to a small wooden house next to the docks, where Sandara's mother lived. The old woman looked shocked at first, but she was glad to see her daughter back. She invited all the group to come in and have some snacks and hot drinks, while trying not to seem too overwhelmed by the fact that her daughter's friends were pirates. Honestly, she was not surprised at all.

Of course, the woman wanted to know what her "Sandy" had been doing all the time she was away, and Kiani and the others were too proud to share the awesome stories of their adventures... And you already know how imaginative can Kiani be with her stories. She told everything in her typical tavern boasting fashion, while Sandara's mother tried very hard not to judge. Meanwhile, Sandara didn't notice her mother's embarrassment and added her own details to the story. At least she made an (useless) effort to keep the curse words to a minimum.

They spent a full day there. Sandara's mom tried to play the matchmaker with Fox and Sandara, but she didn't get any success: Fox stated clearly that he wasn't interested in any serious relationships and Sandara looked strangely dismissive about that idea.

The next destination of the Mustakrakish was Sea Reach, to start making some questions about undine sightings. Being a pretty big settlement, it was a good place to gather rumors.

It was way more easy than they had thought. After just a few questions they were pointed towards a single male undine that had been trying to hire a passage to Tidewater Rock a few weeks ago. As Kiani was already (in)famous a lot of people had thought he was her family.

Kiani was intrigued: who was that mysterious male undine? He might be looking for her, as Tidewater Rock was known as her base of operations. The Mustakrakish lifted anchors immediately towards Tidewater Rock.

As they arrived, they were received with many news. Not only they had a guest who had arrived in one of Agasta's merchant vessels asking for the Captain Kiani "the Blue", but they also had heard a rumor that could be of interest for our pirates: a massive cargo of rum was being carried from Death's Teeth to Flotsam by a smuggler called Fargo Vitterande to be sent from there to Neraka.

-Isn't Death's Teeth the domain of a pirate lord who is a renegade from the Dark Knights?- asked Fox.
-Arronax Endymion.- recalled Sandara.
-This doesn't smell good.- added Kiani.- And serving rum destined to the Dark Knights in our feast for the Pirate Lords could be awesome.
The rest of the crew laughed hard and agreed.

After getting some details about the route of Fargo's ship, The Jester's Grin, Kiani asked to be taken to see the undine guest. As she was told, he had arrived a couple of weeks ago, looking confused, tired and wary, asking for Kiani. He had refused to answer to questions but they had allowed him to stay thinking that Kiani could be interested on him.

Kiani didn't knock at his door, as it was open. Inside the room was a shaved male undine. He was probably younger than Kiani. As he turned to face her, she recognized him as one of the former inhabitants of her old town. She also realized he had an ill-looking round scar on the back of his head. He looked at Kiani with a confused glare.

-Kiani... It has been a long time.- he spoke with some difficulty, like he was having a hard time finding the words on his head.
-Why were you looking for me, after all this time?
-I couldn't trust anyone. I ran away and I got to a human village. I asked about more undines. Everybody knew you. They told me I would find you here. So I came.

Kiani asked a lot of questions to her former neighbor: Where had they been? What had happened to them? Where her parents alive?

Even if he seemed to have a lot of difficulties making his mind clear, Kiani managed to get some useful answers from him:

After having to leave their town because of the Dark Knights, Kiani's people had tried to start from anew in a more isolated place. This made Kiani a bit upset, as she thought they were repeating old mistakes. They had lived peacefully for a time, until the sahuagins arrived. They attacked their settlement, killing many people. Then the sea elves arrived, offering them protection against the sahuagins. They would welcome the undines to their elven town under the sea, where they would be safe. Only Kiani's father could breathe underwater, but the elves promised that it wouldn't be an issue. Being in a critical situation, the undines gratefully accepted the offer from the elves.
As soon as they had arrived in the elven town, they had done something to them. The undine couldn't recall any details, more than having spent many months completely deprived of his will, working as a miner extracting some strange metal from the sea bed. He could barely have organized thoughts and he couldn't even think of rebelling against his programming. Until there was an accident on the mines and he was hit on the head. Suddenly he had regained his free will and, though confused, he knew he had to escape to avoid being caught again. So he had swimmed away looking for help. But, after his people being treated as they had been by other races he felt like he could only trust other undines, and that's because he had ended looking for Kiani.

-You are stupid.- said Kiani after hearing the story.- This is what you get for isolating yourselves. There is a lot of good people out there, but you don't get to know them because you keep hiding instead of facing the world.

She asked about her father and her mother too. As far as he knew, they were alive and fine, but they were also working as slaves. She examined the scar on his head too, it looked like some animal with a round mouth had bitten him.

Kiani joined the crew again to decide what to do next. They expected her to forget about everything else and go to save her people, but she surprised them when she spoke her will to go get the rum first: her people were being kept as slave workers, so they would be healthy, well fed and safe for now. There was a big risk of losing the opportunity to capture the ship if the rescue took too much time, so they'd go for the rum first.

Even if they were surprised for their captain's cold blood, they all agreed to her decision.

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The trip to the best location to attack The Jester's Grin took a few days, but the Mustakrakish managed to arrive on time. As the information they had about the ship's schedule was pretty accurate, they didn't have to wait for long.

As they spotted The Jester's Grin they started the chase. After winning the Free Captain's Regatta, boarding another ship was an easy task and the chase didn't last long. The Mustakrakish rammed The Jester's Grin and then the crew got on board using the corvus. While the rest of the crew dealt with the defenders, the party (consisting on Ederleigh, Kiani, Sandara and Isabella) started looking for the captain.

As they crashed to the main cabin they ran into four buff men willing to engage them in combat. They arrived just in time to see a long hairless tail slithering out of the room from the cabin's window.

The four men weren't too much of a threat, but they managed to keep the party busy for a couple of rounds. Meanwhile, they heard someone casting a Greater Invisibility above them.

The party went back to the deck, where they saw Fargo waiting for them at the other side of the ship. He seemed conciliatory, but Isabella casted a Snowball on him anyway. The spell went through him inoffensively.

-It's an illusion!- she announced.
-Glitterdust!- commanded Kiani.

Everyone but Sandara focused on casting Glitterdust on different locations of the ship, attempting to reveal the invisible captain. Isabella didn't know the spell, but she used a wand.

Meanwhile, Fargo casted Confusion, affecting both the attackers and his own crew. All the party members made their saves, but they weren't able to know where had the spell came from, as they didn't see or hear anything being casted.

A new wave of Glitterdust spells was released, blinding many of the people under the Confusion spell. Aside from revealing possible invisible creatures it also helped to stop the confused sailors from killing each other. Finally, with his only prepared Glitterdust spell, Ederleigh chose the right location and outlined Fargo with sparkling dust motes. But the revealed creature didn't look human at all: he had a long tail, limbs bent in an awkward way and a rat-like head. He was standing at the top of the rigging.

Using her Surge ability, Sandara got him to fall to the deck, and the rest of the party fell on him. Kiani used her Watersinger powers to sicken him.

-So you are a rat?- smiled Isabella.- Then behave like one!

She had been longing to tests one of her newer spells, but she never had an opportunity until then. She casted Feeblemind on Fargo Vitterande, who was specially susceptible to it, being a multiclass arcane spellcaster with a low Will save. Suddenly, the smuggler was reduced to an almost animal mind. He tried to fight his way out, but without any of his tricks he couldn't do too much and he was easily taken.

After having captured and looted the ship, given Fargo's spellbook to Ederleigh to copy (sacrificing it to Zeboim would have to wait) and tied him up, Sandara broke Isabella's spell to interrogate him.

Fargo (now in his human shape) admitted to have been paid to take the rum shipping to Flotsam and give it to a contact on Neraka. Knowing Arronax Endymion well, as he had worked for him in the past, he hadn't found much trouble in stealing the rum from one of his warehouses. He didn't know who had payed him to do it, as an intermediary had always been used, but Fargo suspected of one of Arronax rivals or Arronax himself (as a way to send the rum to Neraka while making it look like it had been stolen from him).

After getting all the information they could, Isabella feebleminded Fargo again, and he was taken to Tessa Fairwind in Sea Reach so she could interrogate her too. A second interrogatory was made there, with Tessa and the PCs more interested in making puns about rats and cheese than in getting real information out of him.

Our pirates pondered the idea of giving the rum back to Arronax to try to earn his trust, but in the end they considered that he might even feel humiliated, and they didn't even trust him. The most important reason not to give it back was that the rum was now theirs, it was high quality and they wanted to keep it. After Sandara casted detect poison on it and confirmed it was safe to use it, they decided they already had drinks and a good story to tell at the reception for the Pirate Lords.

Now, they'd go to search Kiani's lost people, but not before buying some stuff at Sea Reach. They had been planning for quite a bit time to buy a Lyre of Building to reshape the architecture of Sumitha to fit their needs and turn it into their perfect haven.

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And, of course, before all of that we had to celebrate with Tessa. Ederlaigh was not in the best mood to it (Why? Who knows...), but in the end I think he enjoyed it.

Fortunately, we had a lot of rum; one barrel or two less didn't make any difference for the upcoming party.

Now, to rescue the seaweed! Err... my father!

I guess he felt intimidated by the pretty half elf!

It was good to have Ederleigh around. Suddenly I was no longer the formal one.

You are the formal one. Ederleigh was just shy... and not for a long time!

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This story arc was ripped and adapted from The Age of Mortals trilogy AP from Dragonlance. When I GMed it there were large parts that were cut to add homebrewed stuff. This one was one of them. I didn't even think it was a specially brilliant plotline, but years later I had an idea to insert it into the Skull and Shackles AP so I went with it.


Our pirates were led to a place in the middle of the Blood Sea by the undine fugitive. He told them they were just above the settlement of the dargonesti, the sea elves.

After Sandara casted some spells on the party so they could move freely underwater, they went down to meet the elves. Ederleigh stayed on the ship to watch over it, and Darren had decided to stay for a few days in Tidewater Rock to start organizing everything to move their base to the Island of the Empty eyes as soon as they had made it inhabitable and given it a better name.

The dargonesti town was idilic. It was built on a coral reef and around a gigantic brain coral garden. In the middle of the garden an impressive tower carved on coral dominated the view. The elves had shaped the coral to build their homes, and there were also some coral spires that seemed to be some kind of watchtowers. At both sides of the town, carved on a rift that hosted the town, there were two open scars on the rock that spoiled the otherwise beautiful and organic view. A black rock formation had been exposed, and even from the distance, some workers could be seen working on mining the ore.

As the party approached the town, they were spotted by a patrol of dargonesti elves, who approached them. They greeted them and asked what they were doing there. They looked pretty welcoming and kind, considering the reclusive reputation that sea elves, specially dargonesti elves, had.

Kiani explained that she was looking for her parents and the elves admitted that some undines were living among them, and helping them working on the mines. Kiani asked to be taken to her parents, but the elves insisted that they had to take the newcomers to be presented to their chieftain, Lankaos.

Fox asked some questions about what they where mining and why. The "what" was clear: deep platinum. The "why", on the other hand, seemed to cause some kind of inquietude and distress on the elves. More than looking like they were hiding something they seemed like they didn't know and they didn't want to think about it... or weren't allowed to do it.

While they were talking, Kiani realized that there was something in the back of the neck of both dargonesti, something black and slimy, well hidden behind their thick manes and their coral armors.

Not wanting to be taken to their leaders, Kiani convinced the elves to be allowed to leave their baggage (as they had so much) on their new rooms. The elves looked like they wanted them badly to stay, so they finally agreed. As soon as they were taken to a private place, they stroke quickly, attacking not the elves but the slimy things attached to their backs. They were difficult to spot and hit, but not very resistant to damage, so both were destroyed by a single hit. The elves were apparently unharmed, but looking shocked and confused.

A couple of black leeches of the size of a human fist floated lifeless in the middle of the room. They looked like unintelligent vermin.

-So this things were controlling them?- said Kiani.- They don't seem so threatening.

They examined the leeches without discovering anything of relevance and then interrogated the elves. They were too confused at first, but soon they came back into their minds. They revealed all that they knew: there was a sea ogre called Marwuk-Sar who had brought the parasites. He was a priest of Zeboim, and he had used the leeches for controlling all elves, but they were unaware how. All they could tell was that they had felt how the turbidus leech (that was how they called it) had sucked away their resolution and implanted a subconscious urge to hide it, but in any case did the leech directly control them. It was probably Marwuk-Sar who had Charmed or implanted Suggestions on them, but they couldn't remember.

Sandara was furious. Zeboim represented for her the freedom to do whatever she wanted. Most of her followers were self centered enough not to care about other people's personal freedom, just about their own, but Sandara was different. To her, the idea of a priest of her own goddess bending other people's will was blasphemous to her personal faith. And the fact that the parents of Kiani seemed to be some of his victims only made it worse.

Isabella was pretty annoyed too. She held a personal grudge against slavers even if she didn't want to openly admit it, as she felt it went against her philosophy of "everyone should take care of themselves".

Kiani, on the other side, looked disturbingly calm and focused. Being the one that should be more personally touched, it was surprising to see her acting with such a cold blood. When she was later asked about that she just smiled and said: "You humans get so easily carried away by your emotions. Now it isn't of any use to let them blind us." Kiani was so adapted to living among humans that it was too easy to forget that she belonged to a much more long lived, more alien race (despite her having blue skin, blueish white hair and gills).

After getting some information from the elves and convicing them to accompany the party for a while, they went on releasing all the other elves on the watchtowers from the power of the turbidus leeches. It wasn't until they were done with that, that they decided to approach the workers on the mines.

Most of the workers were dargonesti elves, the ones more physically strong among them, but some of them were undines. They worked without paying attention to their surroundings, like there wasn't anything else on the world but extracting the ore. They weren't under watch, as they were unable of rebelling or slacking. Kiani spotted her father and approached him. He greeted her with an emotionless voice while he kept working. Kiani asked him a few questions, but he only asked in monosyllabes, like someone who is speaking in dreams. Kiani wasn't an expert on mind controlling magic, but she realized that the workers of the mines, unlike the other elves, were under a Dominate effect, not under Charm or Suggestion. But, due to their alien nature, undines were protected against all Dominate effects but the most powerful ones. What kind of mighty creature could have Dominated Kiani's father? A closer examination on the other undines casted more light on the subject: all of them but Kiani's father (who, like his daughter, had gills) seemed to be covered by an invisible coat of mucus.

-No, no, no, not again!- protested Fox.-Not mindcontrolling monkfish again!
-Aboleth.- growled Kiani.
-Be careful, Fox, they have already branded you as their property.- added Isabella with a wicked smile.
-Oh, shut up!- laughed Fox.

They freed all the workers on the mines from their leeches, what instantly broke the Dominate effects on them. But after so much time under mind controlling magic, they would need some time to recover. They commanded the released elves to take the workers to a safe place and headed to meet the chieftain, Lankaos. They still had to find Kiani's mother, who wasn't among the workers of the mines.

They found Lankaos in his coral cottage, in the company of Velyora, a female dargonesti who looked like a spellcaster of sorts. According to what the party was told, she was a foreigner who had come from the seas of Ergoth to get to know and possibly marry Lankaos. They were engaged a short time before Makwur-Sal and the turbidus leeches appeared, and they probably had their marriage delayed by all the ongoing trouble.

Knowing what they were looking for, it wasn't difficult for the PCs to spot the leeches on the neck of both dargonesti elves. It seemed that, despite of being the leaders of the elves, they had been victims too.

After being released they were able to provide some more useful information: Makwur-Sal had his lair on the tower in the center of the brain coral gardens, which had been a temple before it was abandoned when the gods left Krynn for the second time. Some of the undines had been taken to work there, and all of them were taken there too once in a week (but only one each time) to renew whatever magic allowed them to breathe underwater. They spent some hours there before they came back unharmed. Lankaos and Velyora hadn't been allowed to the gardens after Marwuk-Sal had arrived so they didn't know too much about what the party would find there, but they suspected that they were raising more turbidus leeches there.

With all the information gathered, the pirates didn't have a reason to delay more. Lankaos and Velyora would do the job of releasing the dargonesti who hadn't already been released, so they only had to find the missing undines and deal with Marwuk-Sar and the possible aboleth now.

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About the turbidus leeches: They are creatures that appeared on the original Dragonlance 3.5 story. The most relevant information about them is that the effect of having one of them attached allows any mind affecting spell to have a permanent duration no matter what was the original duration of the spell and also lower will saves. So they were being used to keep the elves and undines controlled. But the leeches themselves don't have any kind of control magic aside from a mild compulsion on the host to keep the parasite hidden.

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Very cool. I can't wait to see what happens!

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I am writing the next part but I haven't had a lot of time lately.

For now, I'll post the finished picture of the characters:
Behold the crew of the Mustakrakish!!! (At least some of them)

I bet that you recognize each one ;-D

The pirates entered the brain coral gardens, which looked like a maze. Not far from the entrance, they found a couple of magic traps, but they were surprised to find out that they did nothing at all. After a closer examination with magic, they realized that the traps were set to target lawful and good creatures, being useless against this bunch of chaotic and neutral people (Fox was still true neutral and Isabella Chaotic Evil, though both of them had strong tendencies towards CN too).

Despite the gardens looking like a maze, the right way towards the Coral Citadel was pretty straightforward, and our pirates didn't see the point on exploring the whole place.

They found out the Citadel was watched by a group of fishlike people which they recognized as Kuo Toa. As most of the non elven aquatic races, the Kuo Toa were known for being devoted to Zeboim. One of them was even carrying her holy symbol. He was probably some kind of priest or cleric, but the party never knew, because he was knocked out before he could say his prayers. The other Kuo Toa weren't hard to defeat either.

(I adapted the original 3.5 stuff updating it to Pathfinder, but it was still a couple of levels below the optimal encounter level for the party. I decided not to upgrade most of the encounters because I didn't want this sidequest to be too exhausting or time consuming for the PCs, so I didn't care if some encounters were a bit easier than usual)

The entry door to the citadel was closed and it looked difficult to break, but the insertion place to the walls looked somewhat soft and fleshy, much easier to break. The whole place looked organic, like it was built inside a massive sponge or a similar still living creature.

Sandara power attacked the door junctions and the pirates crashed into the citadel. As we already know, subtlety wasn't their specialty, and Sandara seemed to be specially eager to pick up a fight this time. She disapproved that other followers of her goddess were involved in all the mess. She could understand that Zeboim, as a goddess of freedom, gave her followers enough freedom to do whatever they wanted, but Sandara felt also free to punish them if she felt like they were acting like total morons. And that was what she was intending to do. She might be a cleric, but her loyalty was to her faith, not to other followers of her goddess (specially if they were oh so f*cking wrong).

The coral citadel had an organic radial symmetry on the inside. A round vertical tunnel went up and down, and there were many lateral doors on a circular structure. They just decided to start opening doors until they found something, but as they opened the first one a swarm of leech larvae fell on them. Fortunately, Sandara was blocking the door and the rest of the party prepared to attack. While the leeches fell on her and started sucking her blood, the rest of the party quickly focused on them and managed to bring them down really quick, avoiding further damage. Fortunately, even though the vermin had quickly drained a lot of blood from Sandara, a single Restoration spell was able to put her into full health.

The rest of the level was populated by kuo toa, who apparently lived there, and an otyugh that they were keeping on the kitchens for some reason. They also found a nursery full of kuo toa eggs, but they left them unmolested. If the elves didn't want kuo toa babies swimming all around their place let them do something about them, but our pirates weren't baby murderers.
They found also a room dedicated to be a shrine for Zeboim, with a small altar for the goddess, a statuette that represented her and luminiscent algae that gave a ghostly reflection to the room. Kiani made a silent prayer to Zeboim, but Sandara just got out of the room.

-Where are you going?- asked Kiani.

Sandara gave her a playful smile.

-You will know soon.

She searched specifically for the body of the kuo toa who carried Zeboim's holy symbol.

Sandara was disappointed to realize he was dead. So she picked up another one who still had a glimpse of life and dragged him into the altar.

-This one will have to suffice.- she said. Then she used the healing wand to get him back into consciousness, while the rest of the party just watched.

She grabbed Zul with both hands, with the forked part pointing down onto the kuo toa's chest.

-Goddess! I'm sending this faithful follower back to you! Take him!

And she impaled the hapless fish folk with Zul without hesitation or remorse. The other party members were shocked.

-Why have you done that?- asked Fox.

Sandara shrugged.

-It felt appropriate.
-Should I perform a sacrifice too?- wondered Kiani.

Sandara shrugged again.

-Maybe. Faith is personal, so I cannot tell.
-Should I sacrifice you to the Goddess?- added the undine, playfully- I'm pretty sure you'd make a worthy sacrifice.
-I definitely would. But that doesn't mean I'd let you. Feel free to try, though.- she added with a cocky smile while carelessly swinging Zul.

Kiani grabbed the spiky handle of Zul with her bare hand and pushed it aside while kissing Sandara.

-Trying to asphyxiate her to death, huh?- laughed Fox.- Good idea, but we'd better keep moving.

After dealing with all the kuo toa on the base level, the pirates had the option to go up or down. There weren't any stairs, just a vertical orifice in the middle of the building. Sandara casted some buff spells on herself, growing to large size thanks to Righteous Might (an all time favorite), and positioned herself first.

They entered a great room with a single creature: an aquatic ogre prepared to battle the party. He must be Marwuk-Sar, the ogre cleric. Sandara didn't lose any time, she got close and inflicted a Flesworm Infestation to him. A voice came from the other side of one of the walls, casting something that Kiani recognized as a Dominate Monster effect (which targeted Sandara who, having the highest will save on the group, made her roll without effort).

-There you are!- she gleefully cried.

Remembering their previous fight against an aboleth, she casted a Dispel Magic, focused on the wall in front of her, which instantly disappeared, revealing an aboleth. But it wasn't alone: a single undine, that Kiani recognized as one of her former neighbors, was held next to the slimy creature, covered in a layer of mucus. That was how they were given the ability to breathe underwater.

-Go for it! - she commanded, using her watersinger abilities to move the water inside the ogre cleric and sicken him. They wouldn't be stopped because the aboleth was keeping a hostage.

Using his lunge feat in combination with his magic scarf, Fox (who was the only one to notice the Bane effect on the room, as it only affected people who weren't Zeboim's worshippers) was able to do a full attack from his position. He was extremely lucky with his attacks, scoring two critical hits in a row. Aside from the massive amount of physical damage caused, the magic of his rapier (which used to be Isabella's) drained the water from its body causing additional damage.
Kiani casted Haste defensively, while Isabella readied an action to attack Marwuk-Sar if he attempted to cast a spell. Ignoring Fox, and fortunately its hostage, the aboleth attacked Sandara with its tentacles. Even if it missed some hits and didn't cause so much damage, Sandara's skin and flesh turned into a soft, clear and slimy membrane, weakening her. Strangely enough, nobody pulled out the joke about her being too pale at that time.

Marwuk-Sar stepped back from Sandara and attempted to cast a spell, but Isabella countered it by casting a reach Vampiric touch and making him lose the spell. Sandara stepped onto him and made a full attack, using Zul to start turning his body into coral. The Fleshworm Infestation was already sapping his dexterity, so he could barely move. The next round, Marwuk-Sar failed his save against the worms again. He made a good attack on Sandara, who was already pretty wounded because of her frail skin. Then she made her attack, and a fortunate roll for Zul's calcific effect dropped his dexterity to zero, permanently turned Marwuk-Sar into coral... worm infested coral.

-How appropriate.- said Sandara with a cocky smile. She had enjoyed the fight way too much.

Meanwhile, the other members of the group dealt with the aboleth in a much more traditional fashion: stab and blast until dead. The downside was that they wouldn't be able to interrogate them, and they were curious about what was the big deal with the deep platinum and the aboleth.

Later, after speaking to the elves, undines and a few kuo toa survivors, they would learn that the aboleth, called Oxpatcha, had came from the deep and made a deal with Marwuk-Sar to control the elves and extract the ore and send it somewhere on the oceanic depths. Marwuk-Sar seemed to be motivated by pure greed, but Oxpatcha's motivations were unknown. The only thing they knew is that it seemed to be the one more interested on the deep platinum.

After defeating Oxpatcha and Marwuk-Sar, they went down to the dungeon level, looking for a few undines that were still missing, among which was Kiani's mother. After fighting some more Kuo Toa, they found them there, unharmed, working at piling and packaging deep platinum to be sent elsewhere. There were rooms full of it. They took enough of it to fill their bags of storing: their charge for freeing the dargonesti. Pirates don't work for free.

But they found another interesting guest on the dungeon: chained on one of the rooms there was a young bronze dragon. He looked malnourished, weakened and sad, but he was still a dragon. He could barely move, but he took a defensive position as soon as he saw the pirates entering the room. Not only they were obvious pirates, but one of them openly worshipped Zeboim. He became instantly suspicious of the party, and for a moment it looked like they would have to end killing it, as in it weakened state he didn't look very reasonable.

But in the end, they realized that the dragon wasn't suicidal and didn't feel he was in conditions to pick up a fight, so they released it. The dragon, who called himself Seaquake, showed real gratitude for being released, and even agreed to help them to carry some more deep platinum to their ship. When they parted ways, they had earned the dragon's trust and he even visited them on their island later, as he was curious about what they were building there. He didn't want to stay with them, though. Such a shame, a dragon warden for their island would have been cool.

(Of course I'd rather don't do that to my players unless they insisted too much on it. Even if a dragon keeper might seem cool, it isn't if you think that the dragon is LG and they are pirates. Like trying to get a paladin into a full evil party, this couldn't end well)

They went out of the Coral Citadel, with the rescued undines and the dragon by their side. The Dargonesti wanted to reward them for their help, but they had already looted everything that they could and their bags were full. They had also got a Pearl of the Sirines from Makwur-Sar, which would be really useful, so they felt well paid.

But they couldn't leave yet. They wanted to take the undines with them, and most still had a week worth of aboleth slime on them. Sandara and Fox were also covered on it (at least Sandara didn't have frail skin for long). So they decided to keep the Mustakrakish around for a week and have some rest while Kiani closed ties with her family again.

Kiani's family was a bit more conservative than her and had some difficulties in accepting that she was now a foul mouthed pirate captain, but they tried their best to be tolerant (at first they were worried that the pirates were a bad influence on their daughter but they were relieved to discover that it was the other way around).

In the end, the pirates came to an agreement with the undines (who were just half a dozen), and they became inhabitants of the island, agreeing to work on its protection and welfare.

Hmmm... I may have to add a brine dragon to become a potential ally.

That could be cool!!!

I mostly followed the maps and encounters as written on the original story, which in some cases were pretty fun. The original story favors good characters, and some lawful factions, so there were many traps thought for them. Being mostly CN they didn't even spot some of the traps and never noticed them. But I thought it was too funny to leave it as it was. And the fact that they were fighting followers of their same goddess was cool. Sandara was mad with anger, Fox was really affected by the slavery thing and Kiani... was kinda calm for being herself.

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Slavery is a big no no for me. I do what I want and I'd be the greatest hypocrite if I didn't defend everyone's right to do whatever they want. Mind control is just ten hundred times worse.

About another topic... When Kiani met my mother I thought she was telling her all those stories to try to embarrass me or test me to see if I tried to play the good girl in front of my mother...

But when I saw her with her parents I realized that she just was being herself. She told them the same stories and damn! She was proud of them!

That's why you gotta love our captain.

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After capturing the rum and rescueing the undines, the pirates thought it was about time to fetch Darren from Tidewater Rock and get back to their island to start remodelling it as soon as possible.

But as they were approaching the bay, they spotted some figures camping on the beach. A closer look with a spyglass revealed that they were a small group of beautiful men and women dressed in fancy clothes who had their luggage with them and had set a small camp. The pirates were immediately suspicious of them.

They landed and talked to their leader, a woman called Audessa Reyquio, but they still found her story to be rather unbelievable.

Audessa told them that they all were former prostitutes from Cuda, who suffered continuous mistreatment from their abusive overseer. So they had secured their life savings and bought a passage on a ship to Kalaman, thinking of starting there from anew, as they no longer wanted to be prostitutes.

But how had they ended abandoned on the island with all their belongings? They had refused to have sex with the crew, resulting on them becoming violent and almost starting a mutiny. So the captain of the ship decided to solve everything by abandoning the former prostitutes on the closest island, which was our pirate's island.

Audessa offered the pirates to work for them to pay for new passages to Kalaman. They didn't want to work as prostitutes, but they all were also artists and entertainers, and they knew also how to attend an inn or a tavern.

Kiani thought this was too convenient. They were planning a party and some professional entertainers appeared from nothingness? She feared that someone was sending them as spies or saboteurs. But after questioning them for a while, they seemed to be sincere. The group still didn't understand how they had ended way north from the usual trade routes, but when Audessa explained that they were caught on a storm and lost one of the sails because a small fire was started on the ship Kiani had her own answer: Sirrion and Zeboim wanted to reward their faith and sacrifices by giving them prostitutes!

In the end, they decided to have Audessa and his people helping them at the banquet, and let them choose if they wanted to stay or leave after that. When planning the banquet, Audessa proved to be an intelligent and helpful woman who knew better than them what had to be done (our pirates were experienced on parties, but their celebrations were way too casual and improvised).

After getting Audessa's help, the crew spent many weeks planning the party and making the island into a good place to live. They reformed the Nerakese fort to look not like a fort but like a small settlement, with a classic architecture and even a fountain in the main place. They also started to work in reshaping Sumitha. With the lyre of building they were able to work incredibly fast.

While they wanted the former fort to be a welcoming place for guests, they wanted Sumitha to be a good place to live for the crew of the Mustakrakish and all their allies. Their island would be a paradise of peace and freedom. They built a dock on the bay too, and installed some siege weapons both at the fort and at the entrance of the bay. After all, they had lot of ballistae from the Thresher and Isabella was glad to put them into use.

While reshaping the fort, they found a hidden cave, which entrance they had to clear, that led to a big room that had a teleportation circle similar to the ones on Sumitha. Trying to check if it took to Sumitha, and following unwise advice from Darren, they all ended being teleported to the middle of the jungle... many feet above ground. When the whole party hit the ground but Darren (gods know why, he had Fly casted on himself), they were pretty upset with him.

After that, Darren managed to fix the portal, aligning it with the ones on Sumitha. Then they did the most logical thing: they both disrupted the portal again and then they hid it: They wanted it to be easy to fix, but not to be ready to use, as they didn't want unwelcome guests at Sumitha.

There was another room which also looked built by the cyclops, that probably was an old shrine, but water from the close sea had filtered into it and half of the room was drenched. They just decided to leave it as it was.

They spent the rest of the time accommodating their crew to live on the island. They even created some crops snd brought some farm animals. They wanted people on the island to be able to sustain themselves.

They rechristened the Island of the Empty Eyes as The Island of Broken Shackles (a small pun on the original title of the AP xD), and got rid of all those ugly, blind, cyclopean statues, using them as raw materials to build the docks and fix the walls of the fort.

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The great day came: the Pirate Lords would come to see the Island of the Broken Shackles and give their approval. Everything was set. Our pirates had saved some plunder by using their Lyre of Building, as well as from taking advice from Ederleigh (who knew the fort quite well), Sefina (who knew the bay) and Audessa (who helped to set the banquet and had her people working for them). But everything they had saved and more was spent on making the party really opulent: good and exotic food (cooked by Kroop and with Cookie's help, of course), lots of drinks, artists... In the end they decided not to bring real prostitutes because they feared the Pirate Lords were too distracted by them, but they later regretted that decission.

They invited everybody: from Tessa Fairwind and Merrill Pegsworthy to some people they had known in Palanthas. They wanted the banquet to be unforgettable.

The Pirate Lords arrived all on time. They were three: Mase Darimar, a mysterious half dargonesti elf with the dark skin of an Ergothian human; Avimar Sorrinash, who was well known for his ruthlessness and was said to be a werewolf; and Cerise Bloodmourne, a lady of Solamnic heritage who was rumored to have stolen her own inheritance before running away from her home to live a life of swashbuckling and piracy.

Sorrinash didn't waste his time. As he arrived, he demanded to know what defenses they had installed on their island. He seemed mildly impressed by what Kiani explained that they had done (and this time she didn't exaggerate, not even a little bit), but he still wanted to test their ability. He set a boat in the middle of the bay, just behind his own ship, the Blood Moon, and demanded them to sink it from the watchtowers at the former fort.

-Sandara, all yours.- smiled Kiani.

Sandara didn't think it twice. With a quick invocation to Zeboim, the waters of the bay arose around the boat and engulfed it.

-Do you want the other one to be sunk, too?- said Sandara to Avimar with a cocky grin, knowing perfectly that she was unable to sink such a big vessel.

Avimar laughed loud. He had expected them to use the ballistae or damaging spells, but seeing the boat sunk in such a quick and clean way kinda impressed him. As a welcome gift he had bought a magic miniature ship in a bottle, which the party would keep and use in their further ship battles, as it was able to be attoned to a ship and take part of any damage the attoned ship received.

After having some drinks, sharing some of the stories of their adventures and singing some of the songs they had composed, Cerise, who seemed to particularly enjoy all of this, decided to propose, half as an entertainment, half as a test, a swashbuckling duel. The rules were simple: the first one to be disarmed lost. The party thought this was something fun to do, and all of them wanted to make a try... but the poorly thought rules were a recipe for big fun, as nobody had stated that Cerise should be disarmed by a weapon attack.

For a swashbuckling contest, of course, the swashbuckler was first.

-I am the best at this. I cannot lose.- boasted Fox. But in this case it was true. At his level, a swashbuckler is already immune to disarm and able to perform an attack that automatically disarms if it hits. So it was an easy win for him. He allowed her the first hit, just to see her failing her attempt, and then effortlessly disarmed her. Cerise was shocked.

Sandara was second. She had casted some low level buff spells on herself to have a chance on beating Cerise, and she was able to avoid being disarmed the first round, but she couldn't disarme the Pirate Lady either. In the end, Cerise made Zul fly away from Sandara's hands.

Then came Kiani. She wasn't going to play by the rules as intended, of course. Before Cerise was able to act, she casted grease on her rapier, while moving the water (or more likely, the rum) inside her body to sicken her. Cerise resisted the Grease spell, a bit upset because of the sickening effect, and tried unsuccessfully to disarm Kiani, who just stepped back and used her Grease spell again, this time making Cerise lose her rapier.

The next one was Isabella, who was most likely going to attempt a similar trick, but didn't have the opportunity, as she was disarmed before she could act. Darren suffered a similar fate, after getting everybody interested on the duel by asking it to be fought outdoors as he feared his strategy had too much collateral damage inside, he was defeated without a chance. He later explained that he was about to summon mad monkeys to disarm Cerise. It was probably a good thing that he didn't got to act.

-Three victories, two defeats. I win.- said Cerise with a triumphant smile.- But you did fine.

Ederleigh timidly approached Kiani.

-Captain...- he said in a whisper.- Can I try? I... think I can win.
-Of course! Whatever you want!- answered her carelessly.- Hey, Cerise, you have another challenger here!

The last duel started, and Ederleigh was quicker. He stepped back and, using Spell Combat, he casted True Strike while his curls elongated to grab Cerise's rapier and pull it out of her hands.

-We didn't know he could do that!- Fox was amused, as he had been training Ederleigh.
-You are full of surprises, boy.- added Kiani.

After getting Darren to explain what he had been planning to do to disarm her, Cerise gave them also her welcome gift: a sword cane that could be used as some sort of periscope and that would prove to be useful many times later on their adventures.

The banquet went on. In opposition of the other Pirate Lords, Mase didn't seem to be willing to test the new pirates. He just remained silent and watching most of the time. He looked more of the contemplative kind. He did show interest, though, on their voyages across the Blood Sea, specially on their underwater adventures. Whenever Kiani shared her enthusiasm and love for the sea he silently approved. Being both people of the sea, they shared a common understanding nobody else at the table had.

Suddenly, one of Audessa's courtesans came out from the kitchen and approached Kiani, failing to appear calmed, and asked her if she could go to the kitchen to tell her if all the food was of her liking. Kiani instantly recognized this as an SOS call, as Sandara had been getting into the kitchen many times to test the food and cast Purify Food and Drink on everything non alcoholic.

Even if there isn't any clarification on it I always have ruled that Purify Food and Drink makes drinks non alcoholic as the spell doesn't make a distinction between willing and unwilling intoxication.

Kiani called Sandara and Fox into the kitchen, while commanding Darren to keep the guests distracted. Isabella and Ederleigh were left behind too, but they wouldn't make a good distraction (being Ederleigh too shy and Isabella too expeditious).

At the kitchens, chaos reigned. Kroop was chasing after a very fat rat trying to hit it with a frying pan. Cookie was enthusiastically yelling "bunny, good bunny! Stew! Stew!" (as an aquatic being, Cookie had some difficulties telling land creatures apart). Audessa's people was alternatively standing on chairs and tables or trying to block the rodent from getting out of the kitchen. As the party came in, another rat appeared out of nowhere.

"More bunny! How luck!" cried the grindylow.

The rats weren't a threat, just regular rats, so Kiani casted Silence on the room so the guests didn't hear suspicious noises coming out of the kitchen, and then the party finished the rodents with weapon attacks. But rats kept popping out of nowhere. A lot of them. They found out that the cellar was infested with them, something strange as they had checked the previous day that everything was fine. After killing the rats, they discovered a lot of small tunnels carved on the walls by the rats to get into the cellar. They also found residue of some oily substance with a strong sweet scent, but they couldn't figure out what it was. After calling Edereligh, who had some knowledge on alchemical substances, they came to the conclusion that it was some kind of lure to attract rats to the cellar.

They started worrying that they had a saboteur among them who wanted to ruin their party (on their rank of Capital Piratical Sins, ruining a party was probably one of the worst). But who could it be? Ederleigh confirmed that the lure had had to be used quite a few hours ago to be able to bring so many rats, as they weren't fast burrowers. So it had to be someone who was already on the island when the Pirate Lords arrived.

They decided to keep their eyes open and just go on with the party like nothing had happened. They told the guests that everything was OK, just the grindylow acting funny, and commanded the main course to be served.

They never learned about the next sabotage attempt. The food had an alchemical component on it that was meant to interact with another component on the looted rum to create a powerful substance that would make anybody who both ate the food and the rum feel sick. But Sandara had been casting Purify Food and Drink on everything and unknowingly removed the alchemical substance before anything happened. So the meal went on uneventful, if not for Sorrinash showing some uncalled interest on Audessa, who he seemed to know from another time.

Kiani and Mase Darimar engaged on a conversation about the Blood Sea and its creature, a topic about which Mase seemed to be specially passionate. He showed real interest in Kiani's people and looked genuinely impressed when he heard the story about how they had released the Dargonesti from the control of the Aboleth. Kiani also would have liked to introduce him to Sefina, but the nereid hadn't shown up, even though she had been invited.

In the end Mase was impressed, and also offered them his gift, a magic horn of calling.

Meanwhile, Avimar and his crew, now visibly drunk, where starting to be rude to service. Audessa's people were handling it well, but Avimar had clearly set Audessa as his prey, and he was throwing at her very rude words as some sort of innuendo. Sorrinash's words on what was going to do to her when he caught her up were disturbingly descriptive.

-I knew we should have hired prostitutes.- said Kiani.
-What a pity: such a hot guy, such an assh*le.- grumbled Sandara, who found Avimar really attractive.
-Do you want me to bring him down?- asked Isabella with a wicked grin on her face. She was looking forward to it.

Fearing that he could get violent, Kiani approached Audessa and told her not to get out of the kitchen. Audessa was sad and worried, thinking she'd never be able to leave her past behind.

Meanwhile, Fox and Darren distracted Avimar, encouraging him to drink and keep rambling to keep him from getting into action. They planned to knock him down by drinking.

Still, Avimar wasn't easy to deal with. He kept demanding them to bring him the whore, even when they told him she wasn't feeling well. He knew how to make her feel well.

As soon Sorrinash was (more or less) under control, a young man, one of Audessa's courtesans, approached Kiani, looking embarrased.

-Can we speak in private, captain?

Kiani wanted everybody to call her "Kiani", not "captain", but people tended to forget.

-What's wrong?
-I have to apologize for Lord Sorrinash's behaviour. It's all my fault.

Kiani raised an eyebrow.

-How is that?
-I gave something, a drink, to him and then he started behaving like that.
-And why did you do that?- the young man looked too embarrased to have done it with an ill purpose.
-A beautiful naked lady came to me when I was taking out the garbage. She told me to do it and... it seemed like a good idea. I didn't expect anything bad to happen.
-A naked lady.- Kiani had a clear idea about who she was.
-Yes. Very beautiful.
-She wasn't wearing a shawl, was she?
-No... She was naked.

Actually, Sefina didn't usually wear her shawl.

-I knew it! Someone has stolen her shawl! It always happens!- cried Kiani, triumphant. The young courtesan didn't understand.

This was a LOL moment, as it was a reference to the fact that, whenever a nereid appears on an AP, she gets her shawl stolen.

Kiani was convinced that something had happened to Sefina. She couldn't believe that the nereid had willingly betrayed them, as she counted her as a friend.

So she picked up Sandara, Isabella and Ederleigh to go after Sefina, leaving Darren and Fox behind to attend the guests and make sure that Avimar didn't cause trouble.

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Your group seems to have taken Sefina's betrayal a lot better than mine did.

Poison Dusk wrote:
Your group seems to have taken Sefina's betrayal a lot better than mine did.

They were pretty sure that she was being coerced and wanted to save her. They had her around and interacted with her a lot so they trusted her.

You still haven't seen it all. Some Sefina goodness is yet to come xD

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My group is also a lot less happy-go-lucky than yours. Only one character in the group was actually shanghaied by Harrigan, but they all want him dead. In the case of our wizard, just because he is tired of being interfered with. On a side note, we just did the fist fleet battle last Saturday, and no one enjoyed it. We are going to completely skip it in the last book. They really didn't like that they could not maneuver or really use any real tactics in the fight. How was your experience?

They loved it. They used tactics by assigning the benefits of each commodore and despite being in slight disadvantage they won, so they felt like the few tactics they could use won the fight.
I made some description of the situation at the beginning. The narrative really helped as they sacrificed an artifact to Zeboim and some things started to happen that were mainly ddescriptive but really set the mood. Then I made the rolls quick so it wasn't boring. And they really liked it.

If you want to skip the fleet battle against Druvalia my suggestion is to make them have a fleet anyway to face Druvalia's but only describe on the background what is happening. Make both fleets destroy each other while the PCs fight against Druvalia anand the other encounters, letting them approach her ship using their own fleet as a cover. Like that you can keep the cinematic battle while skipping the fleet battle.
Does it make sense?

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That is pretty much how I planned things. That way they get the experience and don't lose too much XP. One thing I would change if I did it again would be using the auto level system. It looks like I will be running Iron Gods next, as no one else wants to GM. I will use that method then. As far as Skulls and Shackles, I am not worried about the fleet battle, over all. Storming Harrigan's keep will be a load of fun. He is going to have his wizard and witch in the fight with him, as well as at least one of the erinyes. I want it to be the hardest fight of the AP. And if they fail, I will just insta level them and skip ahead to attacking Port Peril.

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Hey, Kileanna. Just wanted to let you know that I've just finished reading through your entire journal. I enjoyed it very much. Gracias.

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Oh, wow, thanks!!!
I am glad to know somebody enjoys reading it!
I am pretty insecure about my writing xD
I'll try to keep it updated ^.^U

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Finally! Final chapter for The Island of the Empty Eyes!


Out pirates feared that Sefina could be endangered, so they didn't want to lose time. They found her waiting for them sitting by the shore next to her grotto. She was holding a strange-looking stick on one of her hands.

-I am so sorry.- her face revealed real grief and her musical voice broke as she talked.- The tiny man made me do it.

The nereid lifted the stick and it released a line of bright fire.

Before the pirates could ask anything, she activated her beguiling aura, which could potentially affect all of them, as they all found her attractive. Unexpectedly, Kiani and Sandara were the ones to be charmed by her despite being the ones with the best Will saves.

Then she released a wave of poisoned water towards Ederleigh, debilitating and blinding him. Isabella touched her fellow party members and teleported them away, not too far so Sefina could spot them, but out of her beguiling influence. Coming to her senses, Sandara used a scroll to remove Ederleigh's blindness, and they prepared to fight Sefina.

The nereid jumped into the water and followed them. Despite her ability to turn invisible in water, she chose to remain visible. She wasn't fighting to the limit of her capacities.

The group had a couple of rounds to prepare for combat. They stayed away from her so she couldn't fascinate them with her aura, while they casted some ranged spells on her, trying to bring her down without killing her.

After having softened her a bit with long ranged spells, Ederleigh dared to get into melee with her (using his spell combat to approach her with Bladed Dash), with Kiani backing him up with her bardic performance just in case he needed a Saving Finale... which he did, as Sefina's charms were hard to resist.

Ederleigh made a full attack on her, with his scimitar cracking with lightning. He delivered accurate and powerful hits, but he made last one with the flat edge of the blade, knocking her unconscious instead of killing her.

They teleported with Sefina to the docks and brought her back to consciousness. They remained out of the area of influence of her aura, so she couldn't entrance them.

-I told you to protect your shawl!- said Kiani.- Who did it?

Sefina looked ashamed and broken, but when she spoke her words were filled with hate, not towards her pirate friends but towards the one who had stolen her shawl.

-A tiny man. He wanted me to lure you to my cave and keep you distracted and far from the docks.
-You did a good job, indeed, considering that we are now at the docks.- laughed Sandara.
-He is going to do something to the Lords' ships.- stated Ederleigh, with such an insecure voice that he looked like he was asking a question rather than making an statement.
-No, he is going to die a terrible death.- corrected Kiani.- That's the fate that awaits anyone who threatens my friends and tries to ruin my party.

Agreeing that the "tiny man" should be trying to sabotage the ships, Kiani commanded the party to split so each one swimmed towards one of the anchored ships to check if everything was alright. While they drank elixirs of vision and magical wine to increase perception rolls (!), Isabella and Sandara casted all the set of water combat buffs. Being the slowest swimmers, Sandara and Ederleigh were commanded to examine the closest ships, while Isabella and Kiani swam towards the ones that were farther.

Ederleigh arrived to the Blood Moon, Sorrinash's ship, before any of the other group members got to the other ships. He didn't notice anything wrong at the first moment, but as he examined the hull from a closer distance, he realized there was something suspicious attached to it, well concealed among the encrusted barnacles. Someone had placed a bottle filled with some alchemical mixture against the hull, using a tanglefoot bag. The young magus had his own basic knowledge of alchemy to realize it was some kind of delayed bomb. He called the other party members to watch over him while he dettached the bottle. He didn't know how to neutralize the components so the bomb didn't explode, but at least he could make it explode at the bottom of the bay.

Now that they knew exactly what they were looking for, they headed together towards the Wavecrest, Mase's ship, expecting to stop the saboteur, who was working at attaching another bomb to the ship at that moment. As he noticed the party approaching he had gone invisible. But he didn't count on them having amazing perception and being able to notice subtle changes at the flow of the currents that betrayed his position.

Isabella casted Glitterdust from a wand, while Ederleigh animated his hair and closed into melee with him. Kiani activated her Bardic Performance and casted Haste on the group.

The enemy was outlined as a tiny man, like Sefina had said. Even if only a glittery silhouette could be seen, his corpulence evidenced a kender. The party immediately thought of Slip, the Hiddukelite.

The kender saboteur stepped back, he moved effortlessly underwater, and pulled out some kind of alchemical beberage. But as he attempted to swallow it, Ederleigh hit him on the hand with his hair, making him spill the liquid.

Sandara, the last one to act, also got into melee and attacked with Zul. After a round of attacks, the kender was more dead than alive, so he surrendered, trying to save his life.

They tied him up and took him to the shore to interrogate him.

He confessed that he had been sabotaging their party, but it was Harrigan who had commanded him to do it. He tried to pose as just a pawn being used and manipulated by the terrible Barnabas Harrigan. He even confessed where he had his lair at the island, and that he was keeping Sefina's shawl there. He had got to the island on a merchant ship that brought food for the banquet and hidden on the caves below the former fort, getting in and out using Fluid Form. As Slip, he was clearly an afflicted kender who had no childish innocence left. But the pirates seemed to believe his version of the history. They let him do all his speech in front of Tessa, Merrill and the Pirate Lords, blaming Harrigan for everything, so everybody knew the kind of rat Barnabas was.

-I believe everything that you say.- said Kiani after he was done.- I could even be forgiving with you for trying to spoil our party, because you only made it more fun. But you attacked our friend Sefina in our own island. And that deserves an exemplar punishment.

Kiani's voice was charming and friendly, but it had a slight threatening tone. After leaving the kender (nicknamed properly as the Eel), naked and tied up in the middle of the dining hall, the party got out to recover Sefina's shawl and give it back to her. The nereid was ashamed for what she had done, but they didn't blame her, and told her that they wanted to let her do the honors in punishing the Eel for his deeds. The nereid gladly aggreed.

In front of an audience of sanguinary pirates, Sefina, the sweet and charming Sefina, tortured the Eel by repeatedly poisoning him with her touch and using her watery kiss to fill his lungs with water until he was about to drown. Then Sandara used her clerical abilities to help him to recover enough to go through another round of torture. When Sefina got bored, she just let him drown. Then, with an ethereal, playful smile, she said to her audience:

-This is what happens to whoever dares to mess with my shawl.

After that, the party was over and everybody retired to have some rest. Kiani and Sefina went out for a walk by the shore. Sefina wanted to apologize. Kiani was curious for Sefina watery kisses.

-They wouldn't harm you.- said the nereid in a soft voice. It's just water.
-Can you show me?- asked Kiani with childish glee. Sefina seemed excited: there wasn't many people she could use her powers with without killing or seriously harming them. She gave Kiani a really wet kiss, and then she took her by the hand and took her underwater. For them, the party wasn't over yet.

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Yeah, The Eel got similar treatment form my crew. Two things they hate are people messing with their rep, and betrayals. Sephina was ultimately spared, but she is on a short leash, so to speak.

Getting into the 5th book already! I cannot believe I got so far!
I wanted really bad to get into this part, as it had some of my favorite moments that I had been preparing from the very beginning.
From the beginning with a roleplaying event that is pretty uncommon at higher level prewritten stories to the conclussion with a fleet battle and the defeat of the PC's nemesis, this is a book that makes it easy to make the players interested on it.
I was also very excited to get my players to realize the kind of monster Harrigan really is. They didn't hate him at first, but with time they came to despise him, and I wanted them to really hate him after the events on this book. In the end, everything played beautifully, and this became a part I was really satisfied with.
You'll get to see also what happened to Aiger's Kiss and another crossover with Reign of Winter story! Stay tuned!

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After Harrigan's agent tried to spoil the party on the Island of the Broken Shackles, the PCs were convinced that Harrigan was way too much interested on having the island for himself and making them pay. In their mind, he had to be the spy.

The location of their island could be strategic for an invasion from Neraka, as long as they decided to attack from the North. If they weren't able to cross the storm, they would have to go near from the location of the island. If they were, the island would be perfect to launch a coordinated attack with Harrigan against Sea Reach and the Hurricane King. Whatever they had planned, the Island of the Broken Shackles seemed to be the key. And they had taken it from Harrigan. And playing fair, believe it or not!

Now our pirates wanted to make the other Pirate Lords realize the real threat that the Dark Knights posed to the Shackles. For what they knew, they were pretty sure that the invasion was imminent. So as they heard the Pirate Council was going to meet at Sea Reach, they decided to go there and warn them of the upcoming dangers.

After the party, both Kiani and Sandara had been named Pirate Lords of their own, so they would be able to be a part of the Council. Darren and Fox were still unprepared for such responsibility, as they were more followers than leaders, and didn't earn their places on the council.

Curiously enough, Darren's player was totally uninterested on his character becoming a pirate lord. He wanted Darren to retire from piracy when the story ended and use Agasta's contacts and his own earnings to start some semi legitimate business as a wealthy merchant. As for Fox, his player insisted that his character still wasn't prepared and that it would be better for the story if he had to struggle to prove himself worthy of it. So both players insisted on putting Sandara as a part of the Pirate Council instead of themselves. They also wanted to put Isabella, but I didn't think she was prepared either!

They got to Sea Reach the day before the meeting, and they went to Tessa to get some advice from her. She explained them how the meetings usually went: some of the Pirate Lords would make a proposal, it would be discussed and then voted. As the Pirate Lords were as easy to anger as it was to please them, Tessa suggested them to remain silent and not to go against other Lords in unimportant issues so they didn't make enemies who could vote against them in more important things. It was a politic game and they would have to learn to play it. Our pirates understood it, and seemed to be fine with it... but if you know them just a bit, you will already know that they don't play the games by the rules.

The next day they got early to the meeting place at Fort Lucre, the Hurricane King's fortress at Sea Reach. Kerdak, despite of being at his own home, arrived late and by the arm of a young raven haired woman. He took his time to say goodbye to her with a kiss and took his seat at the head of the table looking bored and annoyed.

Kiani and Sandara were sitting at the main table, next to Tessa, while the other members of the group sat on one of the smaller tabled set for other pirates that didn't have a vote but wanted to attend the meeting anyway.

There were many empty sites at the main table, as most Pirate Lords were uninterested in politics and only came to the Council if they had any personal interest on the topics that were going to be treated.

Tessa, of course, was there. She had too many politic interests not to be. The three Pirate Lords that the party had received at their island were there too, as well as the infamous Arronax Endymion of Death's Teeth and some other Pirate lords that our pirates had only heard of but never met. There was an empty site at the head of the table, an ornate chair decorated with sea monsters motives, which was reserved for Zeboim, just in case she decided to attend a meeting. She had never done it so far, but not reserving a site for her was the kind of thing that could raise the Goddess' anger.

The meeting started, and the main topic of the day was dividing the taxes earned from the inhabitants of the Desolation. When the dragon overlord Malystryx took over Goodlund turning into the charred waste called the Desolation, a lot of people would have starved if it wasn't for the Pirate Lords who had aggreed on allowing and even helping smuggling food and drink into the Desolation. But that help didn't come without a price, which was the tax collected each year from them.

Tessa brought the first suggestion to the council. Even if the new pirate lords were usually given a lesser share of the tithe, she thought that the deeds of Kiani and her crew were impressive enough to earn them a full share. The Master of the Gales aggreed, as he thought that deeds should be more important than age. And Arronax Endymion, who hadn't even met them, also claimed to be impressed by them. With the looks of a middle aged nerakese uptight nobleman, Arronax was a figure that really stood by in the middle of so many dirty pirates.

Kerdak, the best image of a dirty pirate, was against giving them a full share, as he didn't feel like they had proved anything. He didn't believe that the spies of the Dark Knights were a real threat or even existed, and winning a regatta and staging a mutiny against some unknown first mate weren't impressive deeds either.

The party didn't think it was wise to speak too passionately in favor of their own reward, but they didn't want to refuse to get a reward either. Kiani stated that she believed that their deeds should speak for themselves, and then she asked to the Pirate Lords in the room to tell, if they were so unimpressed, which one of them had attained so many deeds on the last ten years as they had done in barely two.

That convinced some of the Lords to change their minds and finally a full share was given to them.

The next issue was brought by Cerise Bloodmourn, and it will earn her the reputation among the whole party of being a boot licker. She wanted to use part of the tithe to build statues representing the Hurricane King in all main ports. Everyone remained silent, not daring to complain. Everybody but the Master of the Gales, who burst out in an access of dry humorless laughter.

-I'll take that as a joke.- he said with his deep voice echoeing on the room's walls.
-If it isn't a joke it's blasphemous! We don't build statues of our goddess and we want to build statues of an old man?- laughed Sandara.

Everybody stared with very open eyes to the young, ruthless lady who dared to speak against the Hurricane King.

-Building statues of the Goddess would be a stupid waste of money, but this is just stupid.
-It's definitely not the right moment to do it.- added Kiani, being more polite, but also surprised because nobody but the Master and Sandara had even attempted to speak against the proposal.- With an invasion at our doors we cannot make such a big unnecessary spending! The Hurricane King is already well known and respected. Why would he need statues?
-Morale is low.- explained Cerise.- They would raise it.
-Morale is low because people fears to have their homes invaded! What they need is to know that something is being done, not f*cking statues!
-F*cking statues would be an interesting sight.- giggled Sandara on a low voice.

The first one to change his mind was Arronax Endymion, who stated in a cold voice that he refused to have a statue built on his own port, and would rather have that money invested in building a fleet to repel the incoming invasion. Avimar Sorrinash, always a practical man, shrugged and labeled the statues as unnecessary. Tessa and Mase, who hadn't spoke a single word, despite Tessa being known as a passionate speaker, were the last to give their vote against building statues. The party was shocked by Tessa's inactivity against this issue, as she had always shown a lot of compromise in opposing the Hurricane King. She never explained her reasons, but in truth she expected the party to speak against him and become Kerdak's main opposition for the other Pirate Lords. Tessa had been labeled as Kerdak's successor, and she was eager to pass that mantle to another candidate. Kiani looked like a good one and Tessa was determined to put a crown on her head.

Much to Kerdak's disgust the proposition of building statues for him didn't prosper.
The next issue was brought by Avimar Sorrinash. It was the anniversary of the disappearance of the captain Tevenida Aiger on the Island of the Black Tower. We'll get to that story later, and the reasons why Sandara wanted to go there. Many people were interested too, attracted by the legend and the treasures that were said to be held in the tower. So, the island being at Avimar's territory, he wanted a share of the treasures of the island. Out pirates thought that his claim kinda had sense, but as they thought they might be going there, they chose to oppose him for purely selfish reasons.

They convinced Avimar that a real pirate should take what he wants, not expect others to give it to him. If he really wanted thay treasure, he should claim it by sending his own people after it or by taking it from whoever had put their hand on it. This reasoning fit too much Sorrinash's own philosophy, so he wasn't able to defend his own position without seeming hypocritical. They would have to be quick to get to the Black Tower, though, if they didn't want to have problems with Avimar, as they had convinced him to hunt treasure hunters.

The next issue, brought by another Captain called Hardluck Massey, was about putting a price to the head of a former officer from Harrigan's crew. Scrags Rotgram had managed to escape Harrigan before our pirates even got their feet into the Wormwood. Lately he had come back to the Blood Sea with his own crew and had been apparently attacking some merchant vessels that the Free Captains had aggreed not to attack. The Hurricane King suspected that Harrigan was behind the proposal of putting a bounty on Scrags' head. This time, our pirates aggreed with the Hurricane King. They thought Scrags might have useful information about Harrigan, his plans and his whereabouts and they would rather find him to interrogate him instead of risking someone killing him before they found him. So this time they didn't even have to defend their position, as they were already on the winning side.

After dealing with less relevant issues, Tessa finally brought the matter of the spies to the Council. She and Kiani explained to the Pirate Lords everything that they had found out, as well as their suspicions of Harrigan's betrayal. Arronax was furious to realize that someone had stolen from him just to try to make him look like a spy. He made a passionate speech on how they should fight the Nerakan invaders together. Their speech was coldly received, though, as many people suspected that Arronax was still loyal to his former allegiance: the Dark Knights. Anyway, his speech earned him a certain admiration from the PCs, who defended him against the malicious insinuations of many other lords.

Arronax demanded a raise on the funds for finding the spies and fighting the Dark Knights, which our pirates were quick to support, but the Hurricane King was dismissive again, not seeing a real threat and seeing it as an unnecesary spending. But Kiani's passionate speech, together with Sandara's foul mouth managed to get enough votes to be approved. And, what might be more relevant, made Endymion gain some interest on them. Arronax had an extensive knowledge of the Dark Knights and could become an useful ally.

After the discussion on the Dark Knights' issue became too passionate, Kerdak grew tired and he decided to dismiss the assembly, much to the pirate's surprise. He claimed to be sick and tired of all the nonsense and commanded everybody to leave. Everybody was shocked, as there were still many issues to deal with, but they did as they were told.

Before leaving Sea Reach, though, the group would have an interesting meeting with Arronax Endymion. But we'll get to that on the next chapter.

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After the meeting, Kiani wanted to talk to Arronax Endymion. The former Nerakan admiral had caused a positive impression on her, despite Fox being suspicious of him. After his forced recruitment as a child, Fox mistrusted anyone who could have any bond to the Dark Knights.

The undine approached Endymion to talk about the spies, and he invited the crew to share a meal with him at his ship. Despite having earned a place among the Free Captains, Arronax was still more knight than pirate, with a skilled and disciplined crew of rogue Dark Knights. Many of the emblems of the knightly order still decorated the ship, but all of them had been defiled in some way.

Arronax himself was a well-mannered, humorless man whose face seemed carved on stone. He still wore his old uniform from the nerakan armada, but like with the sigils on the ship, everything was worn upside down or obviously misplaced.

They had a long meeting, where they talked in an extensive way about the Dark Knights and the danger they posed to the Blood Sea. They held a grudge against the minotaurs and, having lost their grip on many of their territories in the continent, they had a strong need to conquer the Blood Sea and exterminate the Minotaurs.

Despiste still remaining faithful to many of the beliefs of the Knights of Takhisis, Endymion despised the Dark Knights in which his former fellows had evolved. After Takhisis death, some knights had turned into worshipping other gods of darkness, until the leaders of the order decided to forbid and punish worshipping any god but Takhisis who was, of course, dead. That led the order to get rid of all their clerics and wizards (who revered the gods of magic) and become a godless organisation.

All this changes didn't affect Arronax, who wasn't a man of faith, but he worried for the lack of purpose and direction that his order was taking. He even tolerated that some of the high ranks of the order turned into making deals with some of the creatures that had been Takhisis' most loyal creatures: the devils.

I just love all the Chelaxian devil worshipping stuff and I wanted to import it to my game, so I thought that having the now faithless Dark Nights turning into it would be a pretty cool thing to do, specially because Dark Knights have lost most all their identity after Takhisis' death and they needed something to spice them up.

But all this changes and questionable decisions had made Arronax gradually lose his faith on the Dark Knights and long for the good old days. He remained loyal only because of the oaths he had made, and he would have died a loyal Knight if he hadn't been betrayed. When Arronax found out that his direct superior had been having sex with his wife in his absence he was posessed by rage. He declared war to him and to the Knights, and he had enough men who were loyal to him or just as horrorized of the new direction of the Dark Knights as he was.

Arronax took the war to the streets, he burned houses and killed many of his former fellow knights. And when he was about to lose, he retreated to his ship with his men and flew away to the Blood Sea, resurfacing as often as he could to attack Nerakan ships, be them war ships or just merchant vessels.

It was his cold efficiency and devotion to attack and capture Nerakan ships which earned him the reputation to become a Pirate Lord and claim Death's Teeth as his own, but as he remained loyal not to the Dark Knights but to his personal code, he was always suspected of still being one of them.

Despite having a very different philosophy, the group liked him. He was a direct and honest man, who fought for what he believed in and didn't fear taking risks. He eagerly offered his inconditional alliance in fighting the Dark Knights or hunting their spies, as well as promising them to share any information about them that could be useful.
During the conversation about the spies, Arronax bought to account some problems he was having at home: there were a group of popular artists from Neraka who had bought an old tavern at Death's Teeth and refitted it into a theatre. Their shows were specially gorey and violent, and they used them to set the people against Arronax. He couldn't do anything against them, as they were increasingly popular and getting rid of them will make people think that all they said was true.

-Maybe we could do it for you.- said Kiani, always eager to get some action.

Arronax wasn't the kind of man to do favors or accept them, so he told them that if they did that job for him, he'll reward them. He had been capturing many vessels from the Dark Knights and he had a bigger fleet than he could benefit of, so he could put one of his squadrons under Kiani's control.

Kiani was really happy about that deal. She wanted to create her own fleet and that would be a good beginning. Impressed by Endymion's generous offer, they immediately accepted, though they explained to him that they first would have to deal with a more immediate issue. Arronax understood. This had been going on for many months already. He could wait for a week or two.

The AP assumed that Arronax comes to the PCs with this proposal after they have started building a fleet to fight Harrigan, but it didn't make sense the way the conversation went, that Endymion didn't tell them about his problems at this time, and as the players already wanted to build a fleet I thought it was better to make this happen at this point.

The group was excited to leave and follow Sandara's visions (again, everything will be explained on the next chapter), so they didn't lose time after talking to Endymion. But as they got to the Mustakrakish, a silver raven was waiting for them holding a message. It wasn't a real animal, but an animated figurine.

The message was from Tessa, who had been carrying her own investigations. She had just received the information that Harrigan was building a fleet to attack and claim the Island of the Broken Shackles. This didn't caught them by surprise, as they had reasoned that their island could be relevant for the success of an invasion by the Dark Knights and they were already convinced of Harrigan's treason.

Tessa suggested them to gather their allies and defend their island with their own fleet, but they had a better idea: scrying Harrigan and killing him before he attacked. Quicker and safer. But as Sandara hadn't prayed for that spell and the sorcerers weren't the peeping type, they would have to wait for at least one day.

For now, they were going to follow Sandara's visions and unveil the fate of the Captain Tevenida Aiger.

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The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

Sandara woke up from the same disturbing dream again. Kiani, at her side, looked at her, more curious than worried.

-Same dream again?
-Yup, same tower, same desperate scream. I cannot understand what she says, but I know she's calling for help. I can feel her desperation. The tower doesn't have any doors or windows. She is trapped inside.
-Do you think the Goddess wants us to release her?

Sandara shrugged.

-No clue. She wants us to do something. That's all I know. For now, we are going to find that f*cking tower.

Before departing Sea Reach, they had investigated the full story behind the Captain Tevenida Aiger. As it was going to be the anniversary of her disappearance, everybody was talking about it and it wasn't difficult to find information.

Captain Tevenida Aiger had belonged to the Knights of Takhisis, and her devotion was such that it was said that the Dark Goddess herself had granted her an artifact sword. The sword, named Aiger's Kiss, was able to keep outsiders away, ironically working in a fashion that evocated Huma's banishment of Takhisis using a Dragonlance.

It was said that one of the most devout priestesses of Zeboim, only remembered by the name of the Shrouded Queen, was the sole inhabitant of the island. When the gods went missing after Chaos War she had became obsessed with finding her Goddess, and had studied alternative ways to obtain both divine and arcane power to rip the barriers between worlds and reach the deeper places in the Abyss, where Zeboim had her realm.

Though she didn't succeed in finding the Goddess, who was far beyond her reach, her magic allowed many alien creatures from Zeboim's realm to get out and terrorize the seas around the island, blocking the trade routes. Captain Tevenida Aiger had sworn to stop her and sailed towards the Black Tower. That was the last time she or the Shrouded Queen had been seen.

Might the Shrouded Queen still be there? Was Sandara receiving a call of her Goddess to release her? And, depending on what they found there... would they have to release her by killing her? According to the stories, the Shrouded Queen played with dangerous forces, so they would have to be very cautious when they explored the island.

They got to the island after two days of sailing. It was a humid and warm tropical land full of mosquitoes and overgrown with all kind of exotic plants. A cylindrical spire of black stone was barely visible in the center of the island, covered in thick vegetation. The travel by land would have been difficult, but they had magic to overcome that difficulty. Sandara casted Air Walk on the party, and they decided to approach by air.

Darren and Fox stayed in the ship to protect it, just in case Sorrinash' people decided to do something.

It was evident that the Tower hadn't been built by mundane means. It was too perfectly shaped, with no cracks or marks from any kind of tool and built from a single massive block of an unknown kind of stone. It didn't have doors or windows so the access would have not been possible if it wasn't for the fact that the top of the building had crumbled and fallen. The tower's crown was covered in rubble and vegetation, but after a long examination they found a trap door under all the roots and dirt. They had to work for a while in clearing the entrance, but they were able to get inside of the tower. Despite being able to teleport, not knowing what they would find at the other side, they decided to do it on the traditional way unless there was an emergency.

Inside the tower was decorated by intrincate designs depicting different aspects of Zeboim. Carvings representing sea monsters were everywhere and they found a gigantic eye, resembling one of a squid or an octopus, that emanated powerful magic. Any attempts of blinding it didn't seem to stop the magic. Though they understood it had to be some kind of magic trap, they didn't know what they should do with it. Some more exploration revealed a statue depicting some kind of sea monstrosity that also emanated magic on a close room. It was holding a human-looking heart made of serpentine on its tentacle-like hands. A closer examination revealed that it was placed on a device meant to activate the trap as soon as the heart was removed. They also found a piece of stone of roughly the same shape and weight as the heart, so it was pretty clear to them that it was meant to replace the heart to avoid activating the trap.
There was also a grafitti on one of the walls, painted in charcoal, with the words "she lives", which made the pirates think that the statue might be alive. It wasn't. But the warning made them even more wary. It was signed by five parallel lines made with the fingertips of a hand, a common quick signature among Takhisis' worshippers, representing the five headed dragon aspect of the goddess. That had been probably written by Captain Aiger.

Another statue, representing a human male being devoured by flesh-eating eels, awaited on the next room. The fact that the chest wasn't covered in eels like the rest of the body made the group immediately search for something in ir and discover a concealed compartment at the place where the heart should be. Behind the statue they found a concealed door that presumably took them to the lower level.

Though the procedure to open the door was pretty clear, our pirates were not amused by this collection of traps and riddles. They were only making them waste their time. After seriously considering just teleporting to the other side of the door (which would have been a terrible idea as it would have activated the trap anyway) they finally decided to play by the rules and replace the heart for the lump of stone and place it in the statue's chest to open the door. After some careful manipulation to obtain the heart, they did it without further effort.

Still on the stairs, they heard something moving on the next room. The coils of the stairs didn't allow a clear view, so Ederleigh approached invisible trying not to be spotted. They saw a formerly fancy room who was now covered in mold and rot. There was a statue with glowing eyes in the middle of the room and a couple of floating creatures resembling masses of jawed intestines lurked inside.

Not having been noticed, the pirates stepped back to a previous room and casted a bunch of buffs to prepare for combat.

The creatures, chaotic emanations from the Abyss called Qlippoth, were highly resistent to damage, and each time they were pierced or cut they sprinkled corrosive fluids. When Sandara and Ederleigh got into melee with them, one of them released an acid cloud. Ederleigh grabbed Sandara, and both teleported back to the previous room, at the same time that Kiani and Isabella ran back to them.

Though the Qlippoth were able to cast Dimension Door to follow them quickly that made them waste a turn, that the group used to soften them up. Despite Ederleigh and Sandara taking a wild amount of damage, the nightmarish creatures were defeated. The party took some time to treat the wounds with their wands and continued their way at full health.

The creature started an attack. Despite not being able to get out of her prison, she had long jagged claws that could reach any place in the room. She couldn't see them, but she was able to pinpoint them by their scent. She attempted an attack on Ederleigh but missed.

-Ed, get us out of here!- commanded Kiani.- To the upper floor! I have a plan!

Ederleigh casted a Dimension Door to the next floor while Kiani pulled out the Lyre of Building. The big trouble with the Shrouded Queen was that she could reach them at any place where they could have line of sight with her. She was trapped. They had all the time in the world to defeat her. So if they didn't have a safe place from which to attack her, they could take their time to create it.

So Kiani started to play the lyre and the floor started to flow and move to the sound, opening a hole to the lower rooms to allow them to see the creature from the newly created "balcony". They also shaped the door to the shaft to allow a clear view of all its perimeter without still allowing the Shrouded Queen to get out. It took some time but it was worth it. They blasted the former priestess without her being able to hide or respond to their attacks.

After they were sure that the Queen was dead, they got into the shaft. They didn't have a way to avoid being hurt by the Forbiddance effect, but at least now there wasn't a ravenous monster waiting for them. They healed the damage caused by the spell and revised the place. There were many valuable items that were probably the Queen's former belongings, but the most remarkable thing was in the pool.

A short sword, black as midnight, was embedded at the bottom of the cracked pool, which still was full of foul water.

-That must be Aiger's Kiss.- said Ederleigh, with a hint of reverence.

Kiani approached the sword, decided to pull it from the crack, but stopped at the last moment.

-I am not touching that. It doesn't like me.

Everybody looked at her as she had gone insane.

-Have you noticed anything on it?- asked Sandara, worried.
-The whole thing. It's not good. It doesn't want me to pull it.

This was a fun scene. The sword, when holding a portal, casts an Antipathy effect against outsiders so they cannot pull it out. Kiani, as an undine, is an outsider, so she was unable to touch the sword. That made her instantly hate it and reluctant to hold it.

-Oh, come on!- protested Isabella- It's just a sword!

She approached, resolved to pull it out herself, but Sandara stopped her.

-I am doing it. The Goddess sent the dreams to me.- unusual for her, she looked mortally serious. She grabbed the sword, effortlessly, and suddenly the pool drained through the cracks, soon looking as if had been dry for decades.

A muffled surprise cry came came out of Sandara's mouth as she stared at Aiger's Kiss, puzzled. As Sandara touched it, the layer covered itself on a thin layer of frost, which could have damaged her if Zeboim hadn't blessed her with a certain resistance to cold damage.

-I've seen a storm. A blizzard. I don't know what it means, but I think it's some kind of warning.

The sword looked normal again, and it was no longer cold to the touch. Why had Zeboim guided them there and what was the importance of Aiger's Kiss was still a mystery, but they would soon know.

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I like how you incorporated the Dragonlance gods into this one.

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