Soanso's Serpent's Skull Campaign

N'kechi's Journal part 1
Racing to Ruin

Gozreh is strange in her ways. A few days ago, a tribe of Northerners appeared at my doorstep, asking for guidance through the Mwangi. I admit, I was amused, so I presented them with two challenges worthy of Gozreh’s guidance. When the Varisian produced a black diving pearl, I was impressed; I assumed Chirok would kill them all. Few visitors to this stretch of coast understand the storm-bird, or are quick enough to snatch a feather intact from the nest. Most interlopers see the storm-bird as a threat and intend to kill it, but she always bests them.

When the troupe returned unscathed, feather in hand, I knew that passing the Ijo clan that worship Chirok allowed the Intruders’ passage, I felt Gozreh’s blessing. When they told me of Tazion I knew that I had been called by Gozreh to attend these souls to their destination.

To be sure we participated in The Awakening; though the young caster was somewhat hesitant, we contacted out spirit brethren in order to become closer to Gozreh. Calamity, though, marred the ritual- a dream-snake appeared from nowhere! These Northerners have awakened some deep evil, I fear, though Gozreh remains silent upon my divination of this subject.

It is set, I am to lead this crew through the wilds of Sargava and the Mwangi Expanse. They never contracted me for payment; another blessing of Gozreh. Those who seek true ask no price; those with agenda demand pay.

We have contacted a local girl, likely a druid or ranger, judging from her docile saurian pet. Athyra has agreed to act as a forward scout if the crew can clear the salt mine of evil. I notice she has a particular, though vague, attachment to it. The young wizard has taken shine to the girl; if this were the proper North, the rules of courtship might apply. Alas, she is too wild and he too foolish for a courtship. She has noticed him before others, though, certain to be sure her eyes meet his on occasion.

The salt mine was an abomination of the highest accord. I doubt the Northerners would have survived without me; the volume of wights was immense. A large orb glowing with blue light, reeking of negative energy dominated a central cavern. Two powerful wights were destroyed, and the end of the mine found.

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Session 13: Racing to Ruin
Flurry of Recaps

The group meets with Klaus, who thanks them for their efforts to save the warehouse. He instructs them to find Nkechi, a wizened cleric of Gozreh a few hours’ boat ride north. The group hires a boat for a copper. Their guide refers to the cleric as “the Tempest,” and tells them to find a conch shell to sound, as this will alert the prophet to their presence. Max leaves a silver piece under his seat, recognizing the harsh existence of the Zenj fisherman ferrying them northward.

Carefully traversing the slippery rocks, the group arrives at the base of a sheer, imposing 300-foot cliff face. A small foot path leads upwards, but soon disappears. Arendel sounds the horn, and shortly a small figure appears from the mouth of a cave. After some banter, the cleric scurries down to greet them.

He is skeptical of their abilities and claims. Nkechi is an older man, with brown, leathery skin and chalk-stained feet and hands; his hair is clumped in wild dreadlocks and he wears only a loincloth. He tells them Gozreh offers 2 tests, one of water and one of wind. He will not divulge details, saying only they are simple and necessary.

The test of wind was chosen first. A short journey leads to a promontory known locally as Gozreh’s Crest. There is the nest of what the local Ijo tribe call Chirok the Stormbird. The ercinee is revered as a sacred totem. The party must retrieve one intact feather from its nest. Max is levitated up the cliff face by Arendel, and finds an intact feather in two minutes. He is able to levitate back down just as the spell expires and the stormbird comes in to roost, thus avoiding conflict with the intelligent, territorial animal.

The test is incomplete, though; a group of 4 Ijo warriors stop the group on their way back to Nkechi’s. They have seen what transpired, and demand that physical tribute is paid. Their largest warrior challenges Max to a wrestling match; the challenger proves wily but is pinned by the Shoanti champion. The warriors then thank Gozreh, and offer the party ceremonial necklaces of abalone and rare seashells. They promise the group safety within the Ijo’s lands.

The test of water proves more tedious. They must retrieve a black pearl and bring it to Nkechi. Traveling to a local pearl bed, the group is welcomed by the locals; several pointers are given freely and Max, the default diver, trades a few javelins for a diving belt. He and Kay’Es dive while the others root them on.

Though the dives are successful, no black pearl is found. Max encounters a beautiful elven maiden; unfortunately, it’s while he’s underwater and she’s made of seaweed. As he becomes obsessed with her, his mates realize he’s in danger and dive in to save him, splitting a water breathing potion beforehand.

Sadly, it becomes obvious why Max and Kay’Es were the nominated divers, as the strong tide pulls Ace, Taraz, and Arendel farther out to sea. Taraz casts spiritual weapon, summoning a ghostly scimitar to aid in Max’s latest charmed dilemma. The kelpie is defeated, and the handful of oysters collected by the now-buoyant Shiv Saviors yields a black pearl. This, along with the ercinee’s feather, is enough to convince Nkechi to serve as the group’s guide. His familiarity with the territory and customs of the local tribes will surely save them some time as they race to the ruins of Old Azlant.

They are able to travel five and a half days without incident, but a young woman and her dionychus surprise them. After convincing her they are not dinosaur hunters, she tells them to be wary of the approaching salt mine. “It is a gate to the Underworld, my father and mother went there and never came back. You find them, I help you.” She tells them she will meet them on the other side of the mine, hops on her dino, and takes off into the hills. A perplexed Arendel suggests they simply follow her, but Nkechi reminds them that they are trailblazing and must account their route for the mules, handlers, porters, and such who cannot, or will not, be able to follow such unorthodox routes.

Following the old trade route, they do indeed come across an abandoned mining facility. Search of the buildings reveals only and old log book, carefully opened, revealing that a strange blue orb was found while trying to connect this mine (the Fzumi salt mine) with an older, abandoned-and-supposedly-cursed mine. The last entry is in a different handwriting- “They’ve come up from below! They’re all dead, and their touch withers the flesh! May the gods have mercy on us!”

The trailblazers enter the mine, and are set upon by a crystal ooze. It is dispatched and they explore the flooded drift, crossing several old but stable wooden bridges. Max spots a few overturned mine carts, mule skeletons, and a rusted iron box. The wights spot Max and Arendel, and attack. One wight hits Arendel and it feels as if the moisture is drawn from his body; after the undead abominations are defeated, Nkechi casts lesser restoration on the mage, and he is cured. Max bashes the chest open, spilling gold pieces and a scroll tube containing the deed to the mine, naming one Athyra Crinhouse its rightful owner if and when its current owner, Feran Crinhouse, dies. The party decides to rest for the evening.

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Session 12: Racing to Ruin

Session 12 Recap

The Saviors of the Shiv finalize their agreement with the Pathfinders, though not before dealing with a halfling who was found tailing them. He claimed to have been hired by the Aspis Consortium to offer the group a deal; finding the Consortium in poor taste, the group dismissed the pitiful sneak and his master’s offer.

Amivor Glaur directs them to the Pathfinder warehouse to meet with Klaus, the agent coordinating the expedition. They should put special requests in with him and be ready to leave in a few days’ time. While finishing up some last minute haggling, a frenzied mob presses through the streets, shouting about an attack by the Freemen’s Brotherhood. A pack of wild, rabid dogs snaps at their heels. The dogs are dealt with, and Kay’Es notices several wisps of smoke in the city’s skyline- specifically from the direction of the warehouse!

The party arrives at the warehouse to discover a band of insurgent arsonists intent on torching the block. Several are killed and one is subdued; Ace summons a water elemental to help with the flames until several volunteer firefighters arrive on scene. The party is told by one volunteer that Umagro, the new leader of the Brotherhood, has taken a prisoner to the roof of the South Arcadian Whaling Company rooftop and is threatening war on all of Eleder!

Umagro has taken Ishirou, one of the Shiv Ten, prisoner and is in the midst of a tirade against slavery and foreign elements in the Mwangi. The party decides to force their way through the front office of the compound. Several insurgents are battled. Umagro slits Ishirou’s throat and sends him tumbling off the roof!

The reserved Tian treasure-hunter would have fallen to his death if not for Ace and Arendel. While Max and Taraz wade through several combatants, exchanging blows and curses- Max is wielding a dagger because his hammer is still being worked on- Ace summons an air elemental to stop Ishirou’s fall, as well as several eagles to harass the Brotherhood’s leader. Arendel casts invisibility on himself and sneaks up to the rooftop and is able to stop Ishirou from falling farther. A well-used mirror image saves the young mage’s life, as Umagro attacks him with raging kukris!

Umagro is killed, the fires extinguished, and 2 prisoners taken by the party. On Umagro’s body they find a coin-like emblem bearing the symbol of the Aspis Consortium. They rendezvous at the warehouse, and interrogate the prisoners. They find out that men bearing badges with the same symbol found on Umagro’s body visited their leader earlier, and that he declared war on the city after their departure. Finding little more, the prisoners are released.

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Session 11: Interlude

As the explorers make their way through the jungle back to the lighthouse camp, they notice a change in the usual jungle background. The twittering of birds is echoed back, as if the lone macaw’s mate has finally awakened from a deep sleep. The chatter of monkeys in the canopy sounds more like playful banter than wary warnings of territorial concern. The drone of insects sounds an octave higher, and the oppressive humidity itself seems to be moved along by subtle ocean breezes. Ferns sway and palm fronds wave as if in greeting.

Their arrival in camp is met by the excited chatter of the other five survivors. They relate stories of violent lightning sweeping through the sky, and how, the next day, the entire island was rocked by a wave of pure energy, and they could literally see the spirits of lost sailors rise from the ocean, beaches, and jungles surrounding the camp ascend into the air and disappear, and it was as if the entire island had breathed a tremendous sigh of relief, a weight older and heavier than any a simple traveler could ever know being lifted from its shoulders. These events, in addition to the lighthouse being fully repaired and the hatching of Bob, Sasha’s dimorphodon pet, left the camp in an unusually jovial air as the evening stretched long fingers across the day, bringing nightfall and a sky free of clouds and full of stars.

Before nightfall, the party decides to visit with Ayecenia the dryad. Visiting her grove, she thanks them for their service to the island, telling them that they have freed her island from the shackles of a great evil. They rest in the grove under her protection.

The following day brings another return to the lighthouse camp. Another exciting morning, as a ship has been spotted, moored about 200 yards offshore. A single longboat is seen making its way to shore. The ship is the Red Gull, a merchant vessel making its way to Eleder. Its crew, bewildered by the survivor’s stories of ghosts, ghouls, and cannibals returns to the main ship for several hours. Soon, four longboats are spotted rowing ashore. The Red Gull crewmen help the explorers load their gear and finally, themselves, aboard the boats and row back, ending the explorer’s grueling month stranded on Smuggler’s Shiv.

Arendel uses the trip to Eleder to continue deciphering Yarzoth’s notes, collected from Varisia and the Shiv. He and the rest of the group seem at ease, regaling the wide-eyed crew with tales from the Shiv, including the Ghost Pirate, the Treasure Pit, the cannibal’s stronghold, the mysterious Red Mountain Devil, and the large number of undead monsters encountered.

Yarzoth’s notes include entries highlighting a sector of the Mwangi Expanse east-and-north of Eleder, noting that a lost fortress called Tazion might hold the answers to the location of the fabled lost city of Saventh-Yhi. She lists “pillars of light” as being the key to the lost city’s whereabouts.

The journey to Eleder is complete. The castaways are detained on board for most of the day; the first mate wishes them well, telling them that the government of Sargava has purchased two days of lodging at the Sargava Club. Arendel, Taraz, Max, Chumba, and Ace take up the offer while Sasha, Ishirou, Ayeris, Gelik, and Jask are already engaged with their own, separate plans. Gelik mentions he’s staying at the Silver Urn, and wants the Five to accompany him to the Pathfinder lodge to turn in the log of the Nightvoice. Jask also mentions he’d like to buy the Five dinner that evening.

Jask also asks the company to join him in presenting the information found aboard the Brine Demon to Baron Utilinus. The journals and ledgers found aboard the ship are rife with evidence of corruption within the Sargavan government, and Jask is hoping for backup. The group agrees, and Jask’s evidence is noted and logged, and he is cleared of all charges by Utilinus himself.

The group then meets up with Gelik. They proceed to the Pathfinder lodge, where Amivor Glaur meets with them. He accepts the log from the Nightvoice and rewards the group.

The group goes shopping, taking in the wonderous and somewhat repugnant scents and scenes of Eleder. Ace purchases a long spear and Max leaves his family jewel, the meteor hammer, in the care of the dwarven smith Arlan Forgescar for enhancing. Arendel and Taraz purchase many magic supplies, including a healing wand and several scrolls. Chumba stays close to Sasha, shopping for sensible shoes in the barter markets, and attending several bardic one-woman performances in Eleder’s open courtyards.

After several hours in the and around the various markets in Eleder, the group returns to the Sargava Club for the evening. They are approached by Rotilius Havelar, an armed agent of the Sargavan government. He offers the survivors a deal- they can put their recent discoveries to use for the good of Sargava; the government is willing to fund an expedition into the jungle to find the lost fortress of Tazion. Havelar is met with a tepid response; despite his politeness he is excused from their quarters.

Amivor Glaur greets the explorers the following day at the Pathfinder Lodge, and offers them the Pathfinders’ assistance in finding Tazion. The Saviors of the Shiv, somewhat confounded by the accessibility of their shielded information, realize that Eleder is a sieve of secrets. Nonetheless, they accept the Pathfinders’ help in reaching Saventh-Yhi.

Chumba sadly tells the group she will not be joining them on the road to Saventh-Yhi. She has chosen to live a life with Sasha in Eleder; though she might be available for some extra muscle if they need her. The group waves good-bye to Chumba with heavy hearts. Perhaps she will be seen again, perhaps another will take her place, though she could never truly be replaced. (Because she’d probably kick the snot out of her replacement, on principle.)

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Session 10: Souls for Smuggler's Shiv
blurring the line between verb tenses

I have finally thrown off the skin of humanity to bask in the radiance of history buried in this wretched isle. My theory holds true, that there is a route to Saventh-Yhi, the resting place of Our Lord, Ydersius. Soon His legend will be known, and I will awaken the Sleeping to rally them to Victory!
- from the Journals of Yarzoth

After the fracas involving stone bridge scaling and pit trap tripping, the party decides to investigate a poorly hidden hole in the floor of one of the alcoves in the temple proper. It leads to a rough-hewn cavern, a pile of calcified bones lies beneath the entrance. Max leads the way into darkness, followed by KS and Arendel. Two small dolls are found, crafted from what appears to be bird, vermin, and even humanoid child bones, hair, and teeth. As the explorers deem the small enclave unfit for camp due to the stagnant, ankle-deep water, the dolls rise to life and attack, wielding poison-slicked daggers. The dolls are defeated, and each contains a fine ruby gem encased in the ribcage. Though found to be magical, no further information is gleaned from studying the stones.

The explorers take to the complex behind the doors of what was once the scriptorium. A series of alcoves leads to a small gathering place, where 4 humanoid skeletons are gathered. Once dispatched, the group decides to hole up in the old priest cells for the night.

In the morning, Arendel casts comprehend languages to further study the thousands of runes and writings on the walls of the scriptorium, learning that the stylized fanged symbols belong to Zura, an ancient Azlanti demon lord worshipped by cannibals and vampires. The runes and prayers are of Azlant origin, and four major pieces of information are found in the hodgepodge of prayers, limericks, insults, and unintelligible gibberish:

- this room was the scriptorium for the cult
- The temple to Zura was built over an older temple, dedicated to a deity referred to as the “Beheaded One,” an enemy of the Zura cultists
- Several prayers suggest that the cult used undead slaves culled from both humans and “slaves of the Beheaded One.”
- The cultists apparently had as much vitriol for the serpentfolk as they did for their own kind, the Azlant, whom they refer to as the “misbegotten of Saventh-Yhi.”

Arendel recognizes the name “Saventh-Yhi” as being that of a legendary lost city purported to lie hidden in the Mwangi Expanse. Knowledge of Saventh-Yhi is rare.

They exit the gaping doors of the temple, and seek a quick audience with Ekubus, the water mephit. He tells them that the doors last closed after 6 hours of inactivity, then excuses himself in order to deal with a spear urchin refusing duties in the galley. The explorers return to the temple, not worrying themselves with searching for a switch or other such device to let them out of the temple.

The explorers enter a room supported by 4 columns, with a pool of blood in the center. Small, chest-high holes stud the walls. After a brief search of the holes and the pool, bronze sheets drop over the doors, trapping Kay Es and Chumba inside. A deadly swinging axe blade drops from the ceiling, scything randomly across the room. Though panic besets the group, the horror is over nearly as quickly as it began, and the weird bronze barricades retract into the ceiling.

As they move to exit the room, a foul creature oozes from one of the holes. The gibbering mouther’s cacophonic blast confuses Max, who dropped his meteor hammer on his toe. It engaged and then engulfed Chumba, but was eventually destroyed. The macabre trap went off once more, again trapping the barbarian and the eidolon; escaping this nightmare brought the group to a set of double doors in a small hallway.

Opening the doors, the group peered into the dimly lit room. The air was oddly chilly. A river of blood ran from a stone altar at one end, exiting through a hole in the wall barred with brass, um, bars. Three alcoves sat recessed from the temple proper; near the altar, a gaggle of skeletons- some human, some serpentine- glittered in the low light. A robed figure, humanoid in appearance but bearing the head of a snake, studied the intricate carvings in the grotto where the altar stood, blood unnaturally weeping from the stone. The soft whispering of a thousand lost voices weaved through the air, a maddening dirge barely audible but fully witnessed in the mind’s eye.

“Ieana is dead,” the voice hissed. “As is the captain. I can only assume you are more foolish than I first thought. It is no matter, my work here is nearly complete.” She waved her hand and the skeletons advanced, forming a ragged wall between the chanting serpentfolk and the explorers. As Max, Arendel, Taraz, and Chumba advanced, Ace went invisible to gain a more strategic vantage point, and Kay Es stayed close to the Summoner. Max became immediately concerned for the protection of the priestess, and turned his deadly hammer towards the explorers. A great battle ensued, and the tide turned when the skeletal minions were vanquished and Arendel was able to deliver a protection spell to Max, who first attacked Kay Es as it tried to pass him.

Arendel’s spell was able to free Max from the serpentfolk’s control, and she was defeated. Taraz was compelled to smash the evil altar, and with help from Max and Chumba the stone altar was destroyed, spewing blood and the shrieks of the unseen voices in the temple. An intangible wave of force knocked the explorers back, but none seemed to suffer ill effects. A statue of the demon Zura was also smashed to bits for good measure. Among the gear they confiscate is a journal written in Aklo belonging to “Yarzoth”, presumably the serpentfolk priestess who used Ieana’s identity as a disguise.

Weary yet elated, the group exits the temple, finding a switch hidden near the entrance. They make haste to the lighthouse camp, hoping that rescue is on the horizon.

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Session 9: Souls for Smuggler's Shiv
Forgotten secrets turn in the surf

Returning to the caves below the lighthouse, the company continues exploration. A few more ghouls are destroyed, and it is discovered that the god behind the rituals depicted in the forgotten temple’s inner sanctum is Ydersius, a serpentfolk god long lost to history. Pictograms in the foul nest of what could only have been “Mother Thrune” depict a headless, enormous serpentfolk figure. Returning to the surface, Arendel is able to help the other castaways find the necessary items to complete the lighthouse. All signs point to Red Mountain, and the explorers depart without delay.

Camping about halfway between the lighthouse and the mountain, two axiomatic events occur- first, the beating of leathery wings is accompanied by a blood-drained cannibal carcass being dropped into the campfire. Hours later, lightning flashes and thunder erupts in the otherwise clear sky. The explorers knew that Red Mountain had to be the source of calamity.

Approaching the shore via a game trail, another body is dumped at the feet of the explorers, and the bearer is ready to fight. The winged, bloodthirsty terror swoops in and upon the group, whose meager range attacks did little more than annoy it. Toying with a set of summoned eagles, the Red Mountain Devil focuses its attacks on the meatiest prey, dodging deadly magic and the troublesome tanglefoot bags tossed its way. It is eventually taken down, though, after one too many trips to the well. The group found the abomination’s home, and within, a fair bounty for the fight.

They then turned their attention to the set of megaliths surrounding a low stone pyramid, as was depicted on the temple wall two days ago. After rehearsing the ritual as written, Taraz used his own blood to begin the ritual, while Ace summoned the required serpents, and Arendel poured salt water from his metal flask.

The sea fled from the bay as if called by terrible magic most unholy. The sky crackled and burned with electricity, and the waters of the lagoon laid bare a set of heavy stone doors, a slick rock bridge, and a ruined ship.

Approaching the shipwreck, Chumba and Max were greeted by a water mephit calling himself “Captain Ekubus”. He told them of a strange serpentine humanoid who’d passed through recently, and wore a jaunty pirate’s hat. The explorers thanked him and went towards the seaweed-clad doors.

Scraping away the seaweed, Arendel and Taraz were able to identify the carvings as Azlanti in origin- the ancient precursors to modern-day humanity. Further inspection revealed that the horrific scenes depicted were likely in honor of the ancient demigoddess of cannibals and vampires, Zura. The gates creaked open slowly, and the explorers proceeded.

Though slightly damp, the air inside the vault was surprisingly fresh. Four alcoves in the foyer were quickly searched; Kay’ess found a poorly covered trap door in one. The massive stone bridge ahead was guarded by three serpentine humanoid skeletons, who immediately began hurling javelins at the intruders. One even stepped off the bridge and fell forty feet, only to be taken out. Max tied together two 50’ sections of rope and managed to toss it over the bridge, where Chumba grabbed the other end. Taking his cues from Jack the donkey at Quellig’s Treasure Pit, he steadily hauled Chumba up the forty feet to the bridge, as the other combatants made several other strategic moves.

While Chumba battled the serpentfolk, Arendel and Taraz examined the odd bronze doors, which seemed to be weeping blood. While Max labored, Ace offered up spellcasting support to Chumba. Opening the doors revealed two sets of stairs, and both were explored. Arendel fell victim to a pit trap, while the others were able access the bridge and help the barbarian mop the floor.

While Max “helped” Arendel in the pit trap, a few two-foot wide passages were discovered in the pit’s walls. Finally scaling the pit walls, Arendel and Max went to meet up with their mates, but Ace and KS had triggered another pit trap, where they also noted 2-foot wide holes leading into darkness. With Taraz trapped on the other side, Max tossed him the rope and physically flung the oracle across the 30’ chasm to safety.

Once summoner and eidolon were safely out, the group was intrigued by a question from the wizard- “So, do we know for how long these waters recede?”

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Session 8: Souls for Smuggler's Shiv
"corrected spelling" version

Taking a brief moment to recuperate from the battle, the explorers notice the camp is eerily quiet. Fanning out to investigate reveals some clues as to the cannibals’ origins and daily lives. Jask the cleric is sent posthaste to round up the other survivors. A large but ultimately worthless pile of goods found in the lighthouse indicates that this was indeed the last refuge of the Thrune’s Fang crew, and their subsequent offspring. bits of pottery, rotten books, broken furniture, tarnished and battered candelabra, ruined clothing, and the large figurehead carved in the likeness of Asmodeus are all distinctly Chelish in origin and craft. A small hut belonging to the fell witch was explored and several potions and alchemical items found.

Exploring the top of the lighthouse reveals an incomplete light reflector; though the party surmised most of what would be needed to fix it could be scavenged. Arendel uncovered a hole at the base of the lighthouse, with wooden stakes fastening ropes of vine, hemp, and other fibrous materials coiled neatly beside. The remaining survivors arrived shortly after dusk, taking up defensive positions and exploring the ruined lighthouse themselves.

The morning brought the intrigue of the shaft, which the group quickly descended. The entrance opened to the cave’s bone-littered floor. Following the winding cave tunnel brings the party to a large cavern with an uneven ceiling, and six pod-like alcoves in the northwestern wall. They are set upon by foul undead, a rare but hazardous pair of festrogs, known to be covered with foul pustules that burst upon bladed sword or sharpened claw. These feral, humanoid near-ghouls are brought down. The alcoves are explored, but only moldering mats of straw and sailcloth are found, and a bowl of brackish water at each pod.

The explorers head through the passageway south, where they end up in a cistern-like room with a shallow pool of water at the center. Perched on the narrow, winding ledges is a pair of lacedons, who move quickly to engage their newest meal. The ghouls cause little harm, and the group chooses the first of two passages along the eastern ledge.

The short passageway opens into what looks like an ancient, dark temple with a serpentine motif. Wall carvings depict snakes walking upright, snakes coiled around and eating human women and children, and other strange scenes. Large columns support the ceiling, and are also carved in the shapes of coiled serpents. Dominating the southern portion of the temple is an eight-foot high pile of bones, flesh, and partially decayed bodies in the shape of a coiled snake. Two more ghouls emerge from behind the horrific statue, and are dispatched.

Arendel finds a scrap of leather armor. Written in blood he finds what appears to be Captain Kovack’s confession. Claiming he was dominated by the scholar Ieana, who was a ‘serpentine demon in a Varisian’s skin,’ he purposely wrecked the Jenevire, followed her to this island, and was subsequently abandoned here to succumb to ghoul fever and die. He implores anyone finding this to destroy what he has become and also to seek her out at Red Mountain, her seeming destination.

The door in the north wall opens, and a wall of darkness beseeches the group to join it in everlasting life. Not one to immediately rebuff dark offers, KS rushes what he can see that the humans do not; a ghoul with minions. Undead minions. She wears an amulet, and directs her “children” to attack. KS takes the brunt of the first assault, becoming paralyzed by the ghoul’s bite attack. Taraz dispels the magical darkness and Arendel hits her with a scorching ray. Chumba and Max wade into the fracas, while Ace removes KS and summons an octopus to grapple the ghoul. Max is paralyzed by the ghoul’s bite, and Chumba takes several hits before the foul undead family fans out to attack the non-smashy-wielding party members. Max’s paralysis wears off and he able to defeat the ghoul “mother” and Chumba paints the cathedral columns with ghoul parts. Having expended a tremendous amount of resources in the difficult battle, the group heads back to rest, and returns in the morning to continue exploring the foul temple.

Max finds the northern door caked in ash, and several empty vials on the ground. The door is unlocked, and he opens it to reveal a low stone altar, also carved in a serpentine motif. The walls contain more ancient, unsettling carvings depicting more images of the anthropomorphic serpents using pointed stone megaliths to work incredible feats of magic- turning human armies into zombies, calling down flaming lightning bolts from the sky, and parting the waters to dash human ships upon the exposed sea floor.

This last pictogram and Aklo inscription seems to have been recently cleaned and the inscriptions traced with either ink or blood. It reads:

“To Command the Very Tides to Rise Up and Eschew What Lies Below: Empower the Four Sentinel Runes with the Blood of a Thinking Creature Tempered by the Kiss of a Serpent’s Tongue. Anoint the Tide Stone with Waters Brought from the Sea in a Vessel of Purest Metal. Invoke the Lord’s Sacred Name to Wrap His Coils around the Sea Itself that He Might Lay Bare What Lies Below and Cast Down Your Enemies on the Waves above.”

Arendel recognizes the carvings depict Smuggler’s Shiv, and a smaller carving depicting the ceremony described in the writings bears resemblance to Red Mountain.

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Session 7: Souls for Smuggler's Shiv
(say that 5 times fast!)

The explorers head back into the jungle in search of the “girl in the tree,” suspected to be a dryad. Meeting little resistance, they arrive at the base of a large banyan tree, surrounded by others as if the smaller trees were supplicants of the large one. Aycenia, a dryad, approaches the party and thanks them for ending the blight of the Silent Isle. Her reward is the offer of healing and knowledge whenever the party needs it.

They learn from her that there is a ruined lighthouse to the south, inhabited by the cannibal tribe they have already encountered. They also learn that the cannibals have been on the island for nearly three-quarters of a century. She also knows of the Red Mountain Devil to the east, a bloodthirsty winged hunter on the Shiv. She also tells them that there is a sense of pervasive evil in the very soil of Smuggler’s Shiv. The party rests in her grove, deciding to approach the cannibal camp the next day.

Embarking at dawn, the explorers decide to search the wreck in the harbor, from which only a mast protrudes. Quaffing a potion of water breathing, the group finds a ship stripped to the tacks under the ocean, but identify it as the Thrune’s Fang, one of the lost ships from the Chelish armada that tried to retake Sargava nearly 75 years ago. Deciding to recon the lighthouse base from across the bay, it is difficult to see any activity through the foliage, and the group decides to cautiously approach the camp.


“Klorak, there is one to see you now.”
“Who be him?”
“Tatum, returned from the hunt.”
“Show him in.” Sheyla drew the curtain aside, and the strong warrior bowed low before his chieftain. The regent waved his hand, dismissing his consorts from the room.
“It is as Darusk predicted, Klorak. Ten survivors have moved to the old assassin camp, and half make their way here.”
Klorak swirled the potable in his goblet. “You have seen them?”
“Yes, Klorak, and they bear weapons, and a strange beast. They can breathe like fish, as they explored the Tomb. Perhaps they are a gift from the Mother.”
“If they are the ones that killed Darusk’s hunters, they are not a gift but a curse. Prepare the camp, and send me the hag.”
“Yes, Chief.” Tatum bowed low, loathe to summon the tired old woman, but he knew his place. For now.
He trotted past the campfire towards the old woman’s warren. As he approached the gate, the eerie skeletons rattled their broken scimitars against the wood in warning. Tatum bellowed into the air, “His Mightiness Klorak the Red seeks the counsel of Malikadna, Dame of the Mother and Keeper of our Salvation!” A few moments passed before the old woman appeared. Her vile, chattering companion sat upon her shoulder, munching on berries, the blood-red juice staining his white maw. The monkey grinned wickedly at Tatum, baring his crimson-stained teeth.
“What does that inbred fool need now?” she asked.
“His Mightiness seeks your counsel, Dame. The slayers of Darusk’s hunters approach.”
The old woman raised a crusty eyebrow, and smiled a wicked, broken smile. “Mother will have her dinner tonight then, won’t she?”

*

Max sneaks down the path into the camp, followed by Kay’es, who inadvertently snaps a twig, farts, and sneezes at the same time. Alerted to the intruders, a hectic melee ensues. The camp is sprawling and well-defended. Javelins hurtle down from the treetops as the explorers scramble for positions; blood-smeared warriors erupt from every door and path. Max, Arendel, and Taraz find themselves besieged by a few cannibals at the skeleton cage, which is opened by a foul old woman who tries to spook Max, who barely escaped the powerful gaze of her evil eye. He goes toe-to-toe with the crone, but she makes quick work of him with a draining wand. Arendel’s timely use of scorching ray and the oracle’s powerful healing keep the burly Varisian on his feet. The witch is knocked down and kept down by the wizard and oracle.

Meanwhile, Chumba, Kay’es and Ace wade neck-deep in crazed cannibals, as more seem to pour from every building. Ace uses the grease spell to keep the crazed natives confined, and Chumba makes quick work of them. The chief emerges from a door near the lighthouse, and his consorts enter the fray. Klorak announces himself, and declares the intruders sacrifices to the Mother. By now, Max has made his way towards this portion of the fracas, and Ace’s grease spells literally bottleneck the cannibals, who fall quickly to the Varisian and the Shoanti.

The sun begins to fade on day 18, 8 Arodus 4711 AE, stranded on Smuggler’s Shiv. Even the canopy is silent as the bruised warriors gather together, bracing themselves in the quiet of the cannibal camp.

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Session 6: Souls for Smuggler's Shiv
Sands in the Hourglass

“It’s been damned near 2 weeks we’ve been stranded on this wretched island, though I must say I cannot complain too loudly as to the accommodations. The others have set to keeping us sheltered and fed, while I have done my best to keep spirits up around here. Tough crowd, though. I guess the comedic tropes of the gnomes don’t translate well to human ears. I really thought that shady Tian was going to run me through; luckily the crooked cleric intervened. Lesson learned- don’t insult a swordsman with no appreciation of highbrow humour. I’ve since clipped my tongue, waiting for the Saviors of the Shiv to return; I only hope that my memory was correct and they aren’t off on a wild kobold chase for the Nightvoice. Ames was a hell of a chap, and a great captain, to boot. If it was here he was lost, I hope to at least bring his name- and his fellow Pathfinders’- to light, so they can be inscribed on the Wall. He was one of the few that stood by me when I was under scrutiny; a deed I can only hope to repay.” – G. Aberwhinge, 29 Erastus 4711

After a brief skirmish with a band of fungal monstrosities, the explorers decide to rest and strategize. The morning brings a new-found strength and determination, and the adventurers set off to explore the wreck on the eastern part of the island. While the ship appears to be intact, it is in fact covered in the same gray, almost colorless fungus that permeates the silent island. What appear to be fungal ropes stretch from the ship’s deck to the mainland; finding these fibers surprisingly strong, the group passes onto the top deck. Max, distrustful of all things moldy, picks his way across the kelp-choked rocks to the ship’s bow, where he wipes away the mold to discover that it is the Nightvoice, the lost Pathfinder ship Gelik had mentioned.

Below deck, the explorers find a tribe of mold-men, more vegepygmies like those encountered the day before. They and their leader are dispatched, and a thorough search of the ship turns up the captain’s log, a brown moldy mess in what is assumed to have been his quarters, and the horrific- and rarely encountered- vegepygmy ancestor worship site. Nineteen piles of neatly stacked bones, each ringed with bits of metal, coins, teeth, and other bits of ephemera occupy the hold. A wand, bracers, potion, and coinage are summarily packed away by the adventurers.

Circling the small atoll, a cave mouth is spotted atop a spire of rocks to the west. Another set of fungal ropes create a crude bridge to the site. The cave entrance is lined with bits of glass, shells, and other trinkets, as if these small baubles are offerings to a god. A low, eerie and inhuman moan can be heard echoing in the cavern. With a sickening wet peeling sound, a vaguely humanoid figure covered in a purplish fungus rises from its torpor to feed upon its latest sacrifices. Max takes a brutal hit to his physical well-being, but the slow, almost humanoid atrocity is killed before it can do further damage. The adventurers return to the island where they left the donkey to recuperate. In the morning, they can see visible signs that the fungus blight is already receding.

Returning to the main island, another shipwreck is spotted and explored. A small pack of zombies is given eternal freedom, and a search of the area uncovers a silver holy symbol of the god Achaekek (pronounced uh-CHAY-kek), patron god of the Red Mantis, with whom Sasha is suspected to have ties. Pezock is again encountered, and reassures the party that the Lady in the Tree is for real a dryad, and suggests they check out his old encampment. They do, finding a lot of broken weapons littering the ground, nest-like structures built into the branches of trees, and Max finds a fine dagger with the symbol of the Red Mantis on the blade. It is nonmagical, but very sharp and pointy.

Finally returning to base camp, the group helps Gelik overcome his fear of spores to cull information from the logbook. It is indeed Havner Ames’ log, and is full of information about the fate of his crew, and possibly himself. The Cocopalm seed they thought to have found on a brief stopover was in fact a deadly fungal pod that inflicted the crew with russet mold and then re-closed, pulsing with foul life. The captain crashed the ship, and then climbed to the top of the rock spire to deposit the foul seed, to keep it from humanity forever; the same location where the violet horror was met. Jask hastily received the nettle berries, eager to treat his patient. It is now just past dusk, 16 days stranded on Smuggler’s Shiv. Gelik stokes the fire; Ishirou and Sasha keep watch, the adventurers rest their bones and enjoy monkey stew, courtesy of Sasha (and perhaps a liberal sprinkling of prestidigitation by Gelik.)

“This disgusting tome! Ach, even its stench is enough to drive one mad! It is indeed Havner’s handwriting, and listening to the explorers tell of the island where they found the wreck assures me that Ames was not a treasonous legionnaire, but a good man who did what was best for us all. But the wizard’s description of the vile abomination in the cave, it sounds like the feared violet fungus, but touched by some deeper evil… There is something amiss on this island, too much chaos, too much sorrow in the bones of the soil itself.” – G. Aberwhinge, 5 Arodus 4711.

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Session 5: Souls for Smuggler's Shiv
Bird is the Word

After resting at the site of Quellig’s treasure pit, the explorers are again beset by cannibals, bearing similar ritual markings as the last band. Three are slain, but one manages to escape into the jungle, and is not pursued by the defenders. Each barbarian is wearing a crude necklace bearing a blood-red pearl. Ace decides to wear one, still intrigued by the mention of ‘Thrune’ in the last band’s pidgin Infernal rantings. What Ace hopes to discover is between him and his unsettling companion, Kay’ess.

Returning to camp, the explorers warn the others of the presence of cannibals. Ishirou is offered a full share of Quellig’s treasure, but he keeps only the cold iron short sword. His usually placid facade seems momentarily broken by the explorers’ kind gesture of a just and fair reward; he relates a brief and hasty history behind his treasure map fetish.

Gelik has been writing in his journal, and seems positive but antsy, ready to move on to a potential rescue. He wishes the explorers well in their travels, and returns to his writing.

Sasha trains the casters for one day in the art of surprise, but only after Chumba promises to watch over her dimorphodon egg.

The explorers then decide to take the western shore route, walking past the camp where the yellow musk zombie was encountered. They pass by a trail blazed into the jungle, likely a game trail, defeat some giant crabs, and happen upon a huge crab smack in the middle of a sandy beach. Giant claws flailing, coupled with an unearthly wailing not unlike the koan of a ghost or a dying man, the explorers cautiously approach the monstrous crab. Through further, tense observation, the crab appears to be in all likelihood the marionette of some deranged puppeteer.

“I already got one!” they hear echoing from the carapace. “I told him we already got one!”

Arendel cautiously approaches the monstrosity and identifies the group. A small door opens and a ravenesque tengu appears from the crab’s body. His name is Pezock, and he has been marooned on Smuggler’s Shiv for five years. He invites the group in for tea, and though somewhat maddened by his isolated predicament, offers the group several pointers regarding the Shiv. He mentions the Girl in the Tree, the Quiet Island, and that the cannibals take no heed of him. He also mentions that he’s seen a man and woman wandering the isle, independent of the group.

His farewell includes the warning to ‘watch out for bodies, falling from the sky.’ When pressed, he mentions it is likely the Dragon Child, but he has no need or want to further investigate the phenomenon.

The explorers decide to explore the ‘Quiet Island’, and along the way Chumba expertly collects viper nettle berries, which are nutritious and effective at treating withdrawal symptoms.

Encamped within a stone’s throw of what Pezock described as the Quiet Island, the 5 see that the half-mad birdman was correct- nothing grows on the island, but it is covered in a gray, fungal vegetation. There are no birds in the sky, and other than the crashing surf, the island is eerily silent.

Hitching the donkey to a tree at the viper nettle site, the explorers traverse the slippery rocks and arrive on the muted island. The gray fungal growths seem to wriggle and ripple even when there is no breeze present, and the whole place smells of foul decay. Further examination is interrupted by a squad of small, silent humanoids seemingly made of the same gray fungus which coats the island. They prove to be pesky adversaries, but the vegepygmies are dispatched. The 5 now must decide to either press on or rest and strategize how to approach this wierd island and its silent denizens.

It is mid-morning, day 13 stranded on Smuggler’s Shiv.

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