Skull and Shackles

The Ruins of Sumitha

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The party teleported back to the Nightmare to rest. Harghast was mildly appalled by the new crew members as they skittered about. For some reason.

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After rest, the party went back to the fort and went back through the portal. Immediately after going through a pair of huge crossbow bolts glanced off Harghast’s dark armor. Two cyclops had been waiting in ambush. Gork charged with Val and they took one down. The other ran terrified for the door and begged for mercy. The party took him prisoner and began questioning him. The cyclops guard didn’t know how many of them there were other than “not enough”.

The prisoner said that the current leader of the cyclops on the island after the giant one was killed by the party was Steve the cyclops since he was the biggest. Their real leader was Ummashtar, who was out with the fleet looking for food. The party told the prisoner to take them to his room so Dovahkiin could get one of his possessions for Scrying in hopes of reaching a peace agreement.

The party began walking through the halls with the giant. His stomach rumbled and Harghast offered him some food. The giant warily took the rations and scarfed them down. Harghast asked what kind of food he likes and the cyclops replied “A nice plate of Blarb-Blarb”. In the eyes of the party, the cyclops’ name immediately became Blarb-Blarb. Blarb-Blarb began to whistle and the party entered into a room where two more cyclopses attacked. Blarb-Blarb threw up his hands and yelled at them to stop.

The party opened fire and the two new cyclopses fled out through a nearby door and down some stairs. Cyclops seemed to have ceased to be the terrifying threats the party once saw them as. Harghast knocked out Blarb-Blarb with Admonishing Rays. Valignat walked over the fallen Blarb to outside the ruins. The party was in the cyclops ruins where Gork had been killed previously.

The dragon breathed and Dovahkiin threw a fireball and a cyclops fell. Gork leapt out of the building, over the dragon, and down the 50ft of stairs. The barbarian landed just behind the survivor. It fled through the building that Gork had previously died in. Val and Gork pursued and captured him.

Meanwhile Harghast and Dovahkiin woke up and talked to Blarb-Blarb and found that he had probably not intentionally betrayed them. Val and Gork marched their prisoner back to the party. During the battle and afterwards Harghast and Gork began hearing a woman’s voice in their minds begging for rescue from the well in the center of the ruins.

The party again began with questioning. The cyclops confirmed Val’s suspicion that there was a famine going on after Harghast fed the other prisoner. They blamed the Daughters of Imerta, a giant demonic harpy group. The party also asked them about the woman in the nearby fountain and they said it was Vailea, their boss’s pretty but mean plaything. They also said the rank and file cyclops avoid the fountain since she has a habit of being mean and drowning them. The party tied them up and advanced on the fountain. She telepathically asked the goodly party members if they would rescue her and claimed to be a genie. They agreed. Dovahkiin guessed correctly that she was a marid water genie and listed off a lot of information about them. Valignat hung back in the air and the rest of the party approached the fountain. A beautiful marid rose from the water

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Vailea promised the party her next annual wish if they would wish her free now. After cautious negotiations, Harghast made the wish and ended 10,000+ years of confinement and abuse. The Marid flew from the fountain and twriled in the air. She cast a few spells and answered Harghast and Gork’s questions about the history of the island. Dovahkiin’s question about evil magic chickens were irritably blown off. Harghast offered her a parting handshake and she kissed him instead. With that, she vanished into the planes. The party returned to their cyclops prisoners and found them dead by their lungs having been filled with water by the wrath of a vengeful genie.

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The party explored, looted, and killed through the rest of the ruins of Sumitha. The last four cyclops, a giant ancient trapper, and a flock of gargoyles all eventually fell to the party’s hand. The ruins were empty and the group was victorious. The party then returned to the Nightmare.

On the Nightmare a surprise awaited the party. Refreshingly it was not a tentacled monster (plant or cephalopod), nor a relative of Plugg, nor mercenary killers, nor angry fishmen, nor goblin squid, nor elder lightning elementals, nor even invisible assassins. It wasn’t even a chicken.

Instead, it was eight castaway noblewomen along with Harghast’s wife Agasta Smythee and, to Dovahkiin’s severe annoyance, Pierce Jerrel. Audessa Reyquio was the leader of the noblewomen and gave their story. They had attempted to barter passage out of the Shackles with a pirate captain in search of a better life. When they rejected the captain’s and crews crude advances he marooned them on this island.

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Pierce hugged the party and spoke with Gork.

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Cyclopes

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It was night on the Nightmare and the party was resting from the strenuous battle with the cyclops columns. The rest of the party was asleep and Dovahkiin was on watch at the wheel, his senses occasionally switching through his skull network. Toward the island he saw glowing will-o-the-wisps rise from the trees and advance toward the fort. Ghosts also rose up on the beach and went in the same direction. Dovahkiin decided to wake another party member in case something went wrong.

A wizard and his dog descended the stairs into a dragon’s dark lair. They walked past crates and approached a coiled, quietly hissing form. The dog began licking at it. Glowing yellow eyes snapped open, wings unfolded and the eyes raised high over Dovahkiin’s head.

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After a long moment a deep voice spoke, “If this is about the cook’s bird again, leave me to my rest.” Dovahkiin replied “No, the day of reckoning has not yet come. It’s nothing that drastic.” The dragon listened and Dovahkiin explained. “It’s just some specters on the island. I want you awake in case the problem gets worse.” Valignat rumbled “You woke me because you saw ghosts? Hrrr…Go bother Harghast. Undead are a paladin’s problem.” Dovahkiin said “He needs his rest.” The dragon emerged and they began heading up from the cargo deck. Valignat wondered aloud “You do know it’s only a chicken, don’t you?”

The next morning the party went back through the portal. Dovahkiin inspected another teleport circle in the same room and found it to be broken. The party began exploring the tunnels and went through a door to the right. Inside, the domed ceiling of this chamber rises eighty feet overhead. In the center of the hall, a thirty-foot- high egg-shaped structure
stands on the floor. Stone stairs climb the side of this domed structure, ending before a stone wall chiseled to resemble an immense eye, circled with strange runes glowing with an eldritch light. The stairs and eye are mirrored on the opposite side of the dome. Tiny stars roil across the top of the structure, their light projecting strange constellations on the ceiling overhead. Much of the northeast corner of the chamber lies in ruin, collapsed by obvious cave-ins.

Dovahkiin read the runes on the wall. They said that you had to be blind to see the path to enlightenment. The party approached the darkness. Harghast walked up the stairs to the darkness and stuck his hand in.

Suddnely, a giant skeletal hand grabbed him and pulled the warpriest in. A second cyclops skeleton partially emerged from the dark and barfed a blast of gas that blinded Dovahkiin. Harghast struggled against the skeleton that grabbed him trying to work dark magic on his mind and wriggled out of its clutches. The other skeleton grappled the dragon as Gork attacked it.

Meanwhile, the blinded wizard was now suddenly able to see the structures inside the darkness. Dovahkiin ran forward and dragged the warpriest out of the ‘egg.’ Now that he was able to see again outside the egg, Harghast quickly finished off Gork’s and Valignat’s opponent with his Holy Flaming Frost Greatsword. The party lined up and blew away the other cyclops when it emerged. Since Dovahkiin was the only one who could actually see the way since he was now blind, he was the one to explore the chamber. Dovahkiin approached the central chamber leading Valignat by the claw. There Dovahkiin saw the visibly corrupted Immortal Dreamstone.

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It looked like it might be glowing with heat so Dovahkiin asked Valignat to grab it. The dragon reached out and suddenly was attacked by magic that began to drain at his life force. Showing surprising strength, Dovahkiin quickly hefted the six-foot stone over his shoulder and resisted a force tugging at his soul as the dragon and the wizard frantically fled the chamber. As the group was quickly leaving the dungeon, Bikendi appeared to them. He thanked the group for retrieving ‘his’ Dreamstone and demanded they give it to him. After negotiation, the group and Bikendi agreed to leave the stone with Bikendi but the party got to rest overnight before the ritual.

The party went back to the Nightmare and Sandara cured Dovahkiin’s blindness. Once on the ship, Valignat suggested killing Bikendi. This provoked significant debate among the party. Eventually the party decided (on Dovahkiin’s insistance) to go through with the ritual but for Gork, Valignat and Dovahkiin to be given Protection From Evil spells by Harghast first.

The party returned to Bikendi. The ghost asked if they were ready and possessed Dovahkiin. Bikendi went through the clearly evil ritual as Dovahkiin took mental notes. The party looked on nervously, ready to strike if anything went wrong. At the apex of the ritual the Immortal Macguffinstone disappeared and Dovahkiin dropped to the floor. Before Dovahkiin could stand Valignat pinned him to the ground. The dragon demanded Dovahkiin state his opinions on chickens. The wizards rage proved that Bikendi had truly left to go live forever in the dream world.

Bikendi had given the party the location of his treasure as payment so the party went on a short voyage to find it. The party arrived and searched around underwater for a little bit before finding the magically concealed area.

The party went over to it and found a brass door with two statues holding gems next to it. The party took one of the gems and was moving on to the other when a pair of gargantuan megalodon sharks suddenly appeared and charged.

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The sharks swallowed Dovahkiin and Valignat whole. Harghast and Gork struggled against the sharks on the outside while Dovahkiin died. The shark that had swallowed Valignat found that dragon didn’t agree with its digestion as it was torn apart from the inside. Harghast was bleeding out in the sharks mouth and Gork was trying his best to save everyone.

However, the shark bit Valignat nearly to death which triggered his magic item to blast the shark with fear. It dropped Harghast and turned to run. Brutal hits from Gork and Valignat killed it. Dovahkiin’s body was cut out of its stomach and taken back to Port Peril to be raised, once again, bringing Miracle Max’s new wealth to untold heights The party went back to the treasure trove and got the rest of the treasure after a brief battle with a giant jellyfish. Among the treasure was a skeleton anchor.

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When the magic of the anchor was used 28 skeleton sailors emerged from the depths to serve aboard the Nightmare. The living crew were unnerved at first but got over it when the army of the dead took over all the menial work. This made for an extremely happy crew.

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The party went back to the Island of Empty Eyes. Dovahkiin didn’t see ghosts again that night and guessed it was probably because the Dreamstone was gone. The party returned through the portal to the room where the Dreamstone was stored and explored the side rooms. The rooms were a dark and magically silent sensory deprivation room, a closet full of drugs that make you go blind and a room the party couldn’t enter because it was securely and magically locked. Harghast wished Zan was still with them.

The party decided to come back to that one later when Harghast could cast Stone Shape to get in. The party went to the other side of the ruins to another door. Val opened the door and saw a huge cyclops, twice as big as the rest of his kind.

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Remembering how incredibly dangerous cyclopes are, Valignat and Gork hit the giant with everything they had. The great cyclops swatted Gork back with his club and ran for the door. Dovahkiin began trying to negotiate with the cyclops. The great cyclops Ishtoreth told him to leave now and he wouldn’t hold a grudge. Valignat took over as the primary speaker using Dovahkiin as a translator and very tense talks began. The two parties tried to lure each other into traps or otherwise gain the upper hand. After Valignat and Ishtoreth agreed on a meeting, Harghast shot him with admonishing rays. Ishtoreth collapsed unconscious. The party fell to arguing and Harghast ran off to go try to tie up Ishtoreth. Gork ran out and grabbed him. As they grappled, six more cyclopes led by a stronger-looking female entered the room.

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The cyclopes grabbed their leader and began dragging him out of the room. The party dropped their argument knowing they had to kill as many of the cyclopes as possible before they could use their near-automatic critical hits.

Valignat breathed fire and Dovahkiin reluctantly tossed fireballs killing one and wounding many. Harghast leapt on Valignat’s saddle for some reason and knocked out a cyclops with Admonishing Rays. Gork leapt in and cut down two of the giants. Six seconds had passed since the cyclops had entered the room. The woman tried her best to save the dying cyclops leader. The party then moved in and finished off the remaining cyclopes and killed them all.

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Who ya gonna call?

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The party left the crumbling mess hall and entered the building across the street. Inside telepathic voices demanding the Immortal Dreamstone started up again. Dovahkiin recalled from his studies that Dreamstones were typically used for magical rituals. The party entered the building and the voices declared “Give us the dreamstone. Last warning!” The party remained in the building and was finally attacked. Harghast was rendered unconscious by magic as three strange monsters floated through the wall.

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The dragon woke Harghast who turned his holy sword against a creature attacking him. Dovahkiin resisted deadly fear as creatures stabbed at him with illusionary knives. Gork added a pair of hits as the monster (an Animate Dream) disappeared. The party readied weapons as they waited for the monsters to come back. The monsters phased in and out of the wall as they attacked the party who responded with spells, weapons, and fire. Two Animate Dreams were killed. The party began to go outside on the dragon’s idea. As Dovahkiin was leaving a terrifying chicken illusion appeared and tore at his throat and eyes.

Once outside the dragon opened a door into another room but the Animate Dream didn’t appear at first. It soon appeared behind the wizard and hit him hard before the party converged and finished it off. The sun was going down and the party went back in to finish exploring the house. As they were about to take the stairs up to the second level, Valignat noticed a trigger for a trap. The party went back outside and threw a rock at it to set it off. Lightning lashed back and forth and up and down the stairs. The stairs being rendedered safe, they found themselves in a room with three doors. Valignat smelled stinky human nearby. The dragon opened a door and was about to walk through when Dovahkiin grabbed his wing. Dovahkiin erred on the side of caution and sent a summoned dog in first. Giant blades scythed out and tore the summoned dog asunder. As the trap clicked and reset, the party decided to go in a different door.

Valignat entered the next room and a hail of auto-fired arrows glanced off his scales. At the same time Harghast went through the opposite door onto a balcony. He meditated and had a vision of the fort’s commander giving orders from the balcony 600 years ago. As the dragon prepared to go into the room beyond the arrow room, Harghast heard the sound of glass shattering in the scythe room. Harghast opened the door and saw no changes—he also noticed that the windows appeared intact. Valignat walked over and sniffed at the room. Suddenly the door to the arrow room slammed shut and the sound of glass breaking happened again from behind the door. Gork rushed in and this time the glass was broken.

Gork ran over and looked out the window and saw a wild-eyed and filthy man climbing to his feet on the ground below with a wild look in his eye.

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Gork leapt out the window and pinned the man to the ground. The dirty man then yelled “Get offs us!” The agile madman squirmed out from under Gork and led the party on a frantic chase all around the buildings and into a nearby cellar.

Valignat noticed a secret door in the basement and the group rushed after him. The chase passed through a treasure filled chamber. A corpse was in the middle of the floor. Dovahkiin knelt to use his ring on the corpse and a ghost manifested. The ring told Dovahkiin it was one Bikendi, a human Illusionist. The ring also said he had been killed when cyclops burst in when he was doing a ritual with the Immortal Dreamstone.

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The ghost asked who had disturbed him. Dovahkiin introduced himself and asked the ghost if he was the one demanding the Dreamstone earlier. Bikendi said he wasn’t, that was his enemy Haetanga the night hag. Bikendi proposed a trade of all his worldly possessions for the Dreamstone. Bikendi was initially dismissive of Dovahkiin for being a half-orc. Dovahkiin shut that down by impressing him with magical knowledge. At about this point the dragon and the warpriest took off back to the surface to go chase the crazy man, leaving Gork and Dovahkiin alone with the ghost.

Dovahkiin asked for details on the ritual Bikendi was doing with the Stone. After a bit of surprise that Dovahkiin knew about that Bikendi said it would make him immortal. Bikendi also said there was one more requirement for the ritual. For it to work Bikendi would have to possess someone. Dovahkiin asked if the ritual would kill him (Bikendi said it wouldn’t) and added the condition that Bikendi had to teach him the ritual as well.

Meanwhile on the surface, Valignat flew around with Harghast on his back and zeroed in on the scent of the crazy man who had holed up in one of the Chelish fort’s tower.

In the hidden treasure room Dovahkiin asked the ghost who the man the group had been chasing was. Bikendi replied that it was poor Elderleigh Baines, his apprentice and the last survivor of the fort. Bikendi went on to describe the nightly torments Baines had been through since the fort fell. Dovahkiin agreed to be Bikendi’s host when the time came for the ritual in exchange for the magical knowledge he offered and all his worldly goods.

Back on the surface in the castle tower, human Valignat and a wearying Harghast were trying to talk down the mad Elderleigh. Dovahkiin and Gork ascended into the tower from the basement using the same route Elderleigh had used. Dovahkiin tried to sneak up with an admonishing ray but Baines heard him coming and bolted out the door and along the wall. The party ran up the stairs after him. At that point Harghast remembered he could cast hold person and instantly ended the chase.

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Dovahkiin got through to Baines with a promise to make the nightmares stop and teleported himself, Baines, and Harghast back to Port Peril. Back on the island, Valignat and Gork flew back to the ship. On the way, Gork filled the dragon in on what had happened with the ghost. In Port Peril Baines was taken to the cleric and healed of his madness. Harghast asked what had happened with the ghost and yelled at Dovahkiin for agreeing to the deal. Dovahkiin protested that the knowledge was worth it.

Two days later Dovahkiin teleported back to the island. Valignat struck him over the head on sight and subjected Dovahkiin to a second salvo of criticism for the deal with the ghost. Later in the captain’s quarters of the Nightmare, Dovahkiin spoke with Elderleigh on the ship. Baines talked about his nightmarish experience. He also expressed interest in Sandara. Baines also said he remembered seeing palm trees chase after him but he wasn’t sure if that was just his madness. As they spoke, a slight scratching noise started at the door. Dovahkiin opened it with a fireball ready and it was Kroop’s Chicken. Dovahkiin spit at it and slammed the door. Dovahkiin then explained his beliefs about the “evil” chicken to a skeptical Baines who responded, “Perhaps I’m not the only one touched with a bit of madness.”

Baines also listed off warnings about the various monsters on the island such as dinosaurs, cyclops, winged creatures in service of the night hag and a woman in the water.

The party returned to the island and got back to work clearing structures. The rest of the buildings were cleared mostly without much incident. The party found a bottle of wine that Dovahkiin and Harghast began to argue over. For some reason it’s impossible to share wine apparently. Dovahkiin got the bottle, for now.

The party explored another part of the basement and found a broken teleport circle. Dovahkiin recognized how to fix it and he and Harghast made plans to do it the next day when Harghast could prepare the correct spell. In the meantime, the party checked the remaining room for anything of note. A partially flooded amphitheater was found and Harghast turned the water into middling quality alcohol to purify it somewhat and decrease the fetid water smell.

The next day, after Hargast and Dovahkiin recalibrated the portal, Hargast wanted to go in first but, Gork joined him. When they went through they found a large cave. Harghast pulled out the wine he stole from Dovahkiin and drank it then tossed the bottle to the ground. Then they went back up and told the rest of the party they could come down. The party then began a search.

Suddenly, two animated cyclopes column constructs attacked and exchanged blows with the party. Dovahkiin cast fireball but this did not affect the creatures. The battle was tough. Harghast and Gork had been beaten severely, but then Gork took a mighty blow from his enemy that only a true warrior could survive. Harghast finished off a column just as Val came through the portal after hesitating a moment. Gork then tried to kill the creature but failed. Just before the cyclops column could put an axe through his head Dovahkiin teleported him out of reach. Valignat delivered the final killing blow to the column.

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"He's only mostly dead"

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The party’s spellcasters felt low on power after vanquishing the pteranodons so they returned to the Nightmare to rest. The next day the party set out and finished their journey to the ruins in the mountains. Two giant trees loomed over a path leading past giant stone ruins to a circular monument. Dovahkiin identified the ruins as cyclops constructions as Harghast and Valignat went up the path.

Suddenly a giant net caught the warpriest and the dragon, pulling them into the air. Cyclops hiding in a building opened up with their giant crossbows and badly wounded the dragon.

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Val and Harghast went for cover as Gork charged the giants. Gork pounced and cut down a cyclops. Suddenly, the rest of the cyclopes killed Gork in a string of supernaturally induced critical hits.

Shocked, the party began preparing to grab Gork’s corpse and retreat. Valignat made a strafing run at the cyclopes. One died in the fire but the others all survived. Just before the group could leave, the cyclops rushed up to the group. The cyclops looked down at their imminent victims. However, one of those victims was a cornered and desperate wizard.

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The party then collected Gork’s corpse and went back to Port Peril and paid to have him raised.

Upon returning to the island the group decided to dock at the island’s other natural port (area A) this time. The Nightmare was sailing in when giant tentacles slithered up the side of the vessel. The tentacles began grabbing almost everyone on deck and pulling them into the water.

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Gork stood in front of the monster’s face and fought it as Val bit down hard on the tentacle wrapped around him. Finally, Harghast finished it off and the crew climbed back aboard. The octopus was hauled aboard and delivered to Kroop for a feast. The Nightmare had deliciousand fresh giant octopus stew for dinner that night.

At 6am the next day the party went ashore at the Chelish fort.

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Dovahkiin invisibly flew around and scouted before Valignat carried Harghast and Gork over the wall. After landing behind the northernmost structure the party began carefully clearing buildings. Harghast took point on the first room. It was filled with rubble and giant severed hands. The hands rose and grabbed Harghast. As the hands pinned the warpriest to the floor and choked him the party moved and killed them off. The last hand was stomped to death by Harghast. The next building was an old chapel. A symbol of the dead human deity Aroden hung from the ceiling. Harghast was interested since he and Aroden were both Lawful Neutral. Valignat helped Harghast to reach the symbol and the half-orcs stood at the door. Just then, Phase Spiders suddenly appeared in the room.

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The spiders phased in and out of reality as they attacked the party. Dovahkiin killed one with fireballs that also burned Harghast. Valignat killed another as a important looking spider appeared.

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Paeta grabbed Dovahkiin and dragged him away. Paeta then killed Dovahkiin on the roof. Gork ran out and up the wall. Upon seeing him Paeta called out “Stop right there or I disappear and take the corpse with me!”

Gork briefly tried to talk it down before Valignat and Harghast arrived. The dragon began to speak with the spider. Paeta demanded that the party trade a magic orb for the corpse. Valignat asked for leads on the orb’s location and Paeta said she didn’t know. Valignat tried suggesting half payment up front and the other half after the job was done. Unfortunately, Paeta knew he was trying to raise Dovahkiin from only half the corpse and refused. She said the party already owned her two lives.

Valignat hovered in the air as he considered the deal for a long moment. Finally he spoke. “I shall swear to recover your orb by the greatest oath of red dragons.” Fire erupted from Val’s throat as he shouted “Die lesser beings die!!!” Wounded, Paeta disappeared as she passed Dovahkiin’s corpse off to her two remaining daughters. Harghast leapt off Valignat’s back and floated down safely due to magic safety mechanisms in the saddle.

The warpriest ran around the building and slid around the corner while activating his magic True Sight. He saw the two normal phase spiders in the normal world dragging off Dovahkiin’s body while Paeta accompanied them in the Astral Plane. He fired Admonishing Rays from his hands at the phase spiders while shouting “Let him go!”

A spider dropped and Gork dropped from the roof to kill the other spider. Paeta appeared behind Gork and bit down on him. Gork spun and launched her away in a bisected spray of blood and chitin.

Dovahkiin’s body was recover and brought back to Port Peril and the increasingly opulent home of the resurrection cleric. Once back to the island the party made sure the buildings they had cleared were still clear and then entered the next structure. It seemed like the ruins of a kitchen and mess hall. Once inside the party was soon harried by an insistent ghostly voice that demanded the party give it the “Immortal Dreamstone.” The voice mostly ignored their responses and continued to ceaselessly demand the stone, The party explored the building but found nothing else of interest…

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The Free Captains Regatta

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The incriminating documents the party found in the apothecary’s secret cellar were originally written using invisible ink, but Zarskia had already revealed the hidden messages. Many of the papers were encrypted or used ambiguous code words, but they nevertheless exposed the identities of a widespread network of spies throughout the Shackles. The papers also detail the primary players in the spy ring—Corlan, Elliece Farhaven, Haddon Pike, and Roweena Kellet, as well as their ordered assassinations (by an imp in the case of Elliece, and by Giles Halmis in the case of the others).

Also, recent instructions stored in a waterproof satchel were found in the cellar, dated 3 weeks ago and written in Infernal, read, “Silence is now key. Our plans will go into full force once our agent finishes his preparations. Destroy any remaining evidence and discreetly sell your business. Report to Nisroch for your next assignment.”

Although the documents in total do not outright prove Chelish involvement they do provide more than enough for Tessa Fairwind to present to the Pirate Council. Tessa thanked the party for the information and rewarded them with trade goods and booty worth 3 points of plunder. More importantly, she promised them her support and her vote in the Pirate Council, should they ever need to call on her. Tessa continued to mainly talk to Gork and gave him a more personal “reward” in the form of a kiss upon departing.

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The party took the next week to rest and recover. During the downtime Harghast returned from his long journey. He was happily reintroduced to the party and Dovahkiin began crafting a magic belt that Harghast needed. Meanwhile, in a dramatic and relatively unexpected growth spurt Valignat grew to over twice his previous size.

The day of the Regatta arrived and the party traveled to the starting point. The friends of the party also headed out to greet the party. Among them was Tessa Fairwind, Pierce Jerrel, Harghast’s wife Agasta Smythee, and Pegsworthy.

As the day of the Free Captain’s Regatta drew close and the last competitors arrived at Port Peril, the city’s populace buzzes with speculation about the course for this year’s race. A week before race day, the announcement flies through the city that the Master of the Gales has declared Cauldron Rock, the northernmost island large enough to be marked on most maps of the Shackles, as the race’s starting point. A huge flotilla of racers and spectators sets sail northward out of Jeopardy Bay.

Arriving at Cauldron Rock, the race fleet anchors northeast of the island. The captains of most of the competing ships disallow shore leave for their crews, but numerous spectators (including the party’s friends Tessa Fairwind, Pierce Jerrel, Harghast’s wife Agasta Smythee,Pegsworthy, Etc.) make merry on their ships or on a small sandy beach nearby, in spite of the intermittent rain and wind from the giant hurricane to the north.

The afternoon before the race, the Master of the Gales called a meeting of all competing ships’ captains and their senior officers aboard his xebec, the Kraken.

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An imposing man with tanned and weather-beaten skin and long, windblown hair and beard, the Master of the Gales outlines the course of the race to the competitors and supplies a simple route map to each participant.

Designed to test even the most rugged crew, the regatta will take ships along the fringes of the Eye of Abendego and even into the storm itself, ending at a small islet called Coaming Point. Fixing each contestant with a icy blue stare, the Master of the Gales reminds everyone that the Free Captains’ Regatta is a nautical race, not a battle or an opportunity to avenge past slights. He announces that he will be monitoring the race, and any ship caught attacking or unduly interfering with another competing vessel will be disqualified, or if necessary, sunk. Nature itself will be the most dangerous enemy the contenders will face, a fact the gathered captains would be wise to remember if they hope to complete, much less win, the regatta.

This year’s Free Captain’s Regatta attracted far more entries than the last few years. A wide variety of ships are taking part, from barques, brigs, caravels, clippers, and galleons, to galleys, junks, longships, and triremes. The following ships comprise the Nightmare’s main opposition in the Regatta: the Albatross, Barnacled Bitch, Bonny Witch, Chimera’s Teeth,
Darcy’s Pillage, Kelizandri’s Favor, Pharasma’s Price, Promise’s Bounty, Redcap, Sea’s Largess, Skullduggery, Stormrunner, Sullied Strumpet, Wave Wraith, and lastly, the Wormwood—captained by the Nightmare’s old nemesis, Captain Barnabas Harrigan.

Pegsworthy returned the rusty old dagger Harghast had given him. Jerrel kissed the party goodbye and kissed the hand of Agasta. Jerrel went to Gork and said that of all the Nightmare’s crew he had been the kindest to him. With that, Jerrel raised his eyepatch and popped out the Ioun Stone underneath and gave it to Gork as a gift. Finally, Harghast tried to spend some time with his wife before the race but Jerrel kept interrupting. Harghast also decided he didn’t want his wife Agasta to come along because of the dangers.

The ships lined up for the start of the Regatta when suddenly The Master of the Gales took to the skies in the form of an albatross and cast spells to to redirect the winds. The ships crashed together but Dovahkiin’s expert piloting got the Nightmare through unharmed and speeding out the gate.

The effects of the Eye of Abendego became obvious as the Nightmare approached. The dragon was struck by lightning and a loose catapult killed one sailor and injured another. Harghast tended to the injuries. Up ahead was the Raker Shoals where Dovahkiin’s risky maneuvers gained ground for the Nightmare. After that was Gozreh’s Flow. The waves crashed hard against the hull and suddenly the Nightmare turned on its side.

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The dragon took wing and Kroop, Harghast, and one nameless sailor managed to hang on at the last second. Dovahkiin remained at the wheel of the Nightmare as he had wisely strapped himself to the ship’s wheel in advance. Dovahkiin’s dog was in his backpack so it survived too. >sigh<

All others fell into the sea. Gork simply stood up and walked over on the surface on the raging sea to pick up Sandara and Grok. He then carried them both back to safety. As he dangled from the rails, Harghast tied a magic rope to the ship and tossed it to Owlbear. Dovahkiin summoned a fiendish dolphin to save Rosie. Kroop and his chicken fell into the water but the dragon immediately swooped in to grab him. Harghast fell in and was also saved by Valignat along with a random redshirted crew member. The Nightmare then righted itself, but 18 loyal pirates were lost.

The ships passed through violent waves, lightning, and sharp reefs as the Nightmare fought to overtake the Wormwood as they passed into the Eye. In the storm, a giant wave briefly submerged the Nightmare. Most of the crew and party were swept overboard again leaving only Val, Dovahkiin, and another lucky random pirate on deck.

The dragon flew out and snatched up Grok and Harghast in his claws while the Warpriest carried Sandara with him. Valignat dropped off his catches on the ship. Harghast began using the magic rope to attempt to save sailors. Kroop and his chicken sank into the ocean and the dragon dove in to get them. Dovahkiin began to feel a quiet excitement that Kroop’s chicken might finally die. However, he suddenly began to feel a strange sense of sadness and loss at the idea. Alarmed, Dovahkiin immediately began magically checking himself for symptoms of mind control.

Underwater, Valignat caught Kroop and his strangely unconcerned chicken but struggled to get back to the surface from inside the stormy thrashing ocean. Gork swam up to the surface and used his incredible strength to help the dragon. Val burst from the sea in a spray of water and steam and Gork strode awesomely out of the spray with what could only be called a crazed smirk on his orcish face.

Valignat dropped Kroop off on the boat and Dovahkiin used a magic treasure that would let him see briefly the true form of Kroop’s chicken.

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What he saw in a stunning instant looked like his own face—only older.

Everyone made it back to the ship except for 17 pirates who unfortunately drowned. Despite all this, the Nightmare somehow overtook the Wormwood—thanks in no small part to the sailing skills of Dovahkiin.

Out of the turbulent skies a giant ball of lightning began to coalesce in a glowing nimbus atop the crows nest. Dovahkiin shot a fireball and called out a warning as the elder lightning elemental appeared.

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Harghast, Dovahkiin, and Val blasted the elemental with fire and holy Searing Light. Gork charged up the mast to rain down blows on the giant creature of pure lightning but the elemental quickly got the upper hand. Valignat quickly made an opening and brought Gork back to the deck as the elemental swooped down and struck him across the back. Harghast healed Gork and then leapt onto the dragon’s saddle. The warpriest’s sword began to glow with holy power and the dragon blasted the elemental as he flew past and above it before swooping back down.

Unfortunately the elemental easily defeated Val and tossed the unconscious dragon into the sea. Harghast leapt off the saddle, stood face-to-face with the elder elemental and slew it. Gork leapt into the water and fed the dragon a healing potion and prevented the dragon from floating away until the crew hauled it aboard.

The Nightmare emerged from the storm ahead of the Wormwood but behind the Solid Strumpet. All of a sudden…

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…a massive dragon turtle burst from the ocean and tore the Solid Strumpet in half and breathed scalding steam from its mouth—killing any exposed crewman instantly. Harghast rode Valignat out to go and rescue sailors off the rival ship.

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The Nightmare was moving in on the finish line and Dovahkiin was celebrating his out-sailing the evil Captain Harrigan when he suddenly took a series of brutal punches from an unseen assailant. Valignat and Harghast returned just then and the party converged on the invisible stalkers.

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Sadly, the invisibility made the assassins too hard to hit, and they beat Dovahkiin to death at the wheel. Valignat killed the stalkers and then Harghast took the wheel to finish the race.

Harghast won easily with the massive lead Dovahkiin had built up. However, Dovahkiin and most of the crew had died. A celebration was held in the party’s honor and they were awarded a seat on the pirate council and the deed to the Island of Empty Eyes. However, the party was told that a deed is just a piece of paper, and they needed to prove their mastery of the island within the three months until the Pirate Council came to check on how the party was doing.

The party went and paid a cleric to resurrect Dovahkiin. There were celebrations of the party’s win and Dovahkiin finally married Grok in a small ceremony.

The Nightmare’s damage was repaired and a mostly new crew was hired on while Dovahkiin’s sickness from being brought back was cured. The party then traveled to the Island of Empty Eyes.

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The history of the island that Davahkiin learned through talking with Phineas and reading some ancient texts during his two weeks recovery time included: "Millennia before the formation of the Eye of Abendego, in the heyday of the Age of Serpents, the cyclopes of Ghol-Gan ruled over much of the territory now claimed by the Shackles. Many of their ruins still stand, including those on the remote island now known as the Island of Empty Eyes. During the days of Ghol-Gan, the cyclopes built a mountain retreat called Sumitha. This retreat contained an underground vault known as the Eye of Serenity, which held an artifact called the lens of revelation. The Cyclops seers of Sumitha guided their fellows in using the Eye and the lens therein for personal sojourns and divine introspection. But with the waning of their civilization, the lens turned dark and the cyclopes abandoned Sumitha.

Many cyclopes retreated into the Darklands, leaving only a handful behind, who gradually degenerated into brutish savages. Centuries later, sailors saw the eyeless statues on the island’s shores and hillsides and gave the island its current name. Long since prized away by opportunists and treasure seekers, the statues’ single eyes-once represented by fit-sized gemstones-are now just empty sockets.

600 years ago, Chelish explorers stumbled across the island and made landfall. The settlers explored the island’s interior and discovered the ruins of Sumitha, stirring up conflict with the few remaining cyclopes in the stronghold. The Chelaxians lost several soldiers in the ensuing battles, so they built a small fort overlooking the island’s inner bay to defend themselves. Eventually, however, the giants’ attacks grew too numerous and organized, spurring the settlers to abandon their island home and flee to the mainland, joining the larger and newer colony of Sargava.

The island lies in the northern part of the Shackles and has no known settlements, but Chelish warships have sometimes been scouted in the waters near the island. Sailors claim the island got its name from the large statues along its shores. The statues’ eyes are missing, though some say the bare sockets once held enormous gemstones.

Colonists settled the island once before and built a fort there, but they disappeared soon after. Some say they left on a treasure hunt, but others claim they perished and their spirits now haunt the island.

Some say giant-sized ruins stand in the island’s highlands. They’re filled with ancient treasure, but ravenous dinosaurs fiercely guard the ruins. The island’s ruins date back to the time of ancient Ghoi-Gan. An empire of cyclopes that once spanned the entire west coast of Garund."

Upon arriving at their new island after two long weeks at sea, Valignat carried Gork and Harghast to the shore as Dovahkiin took a rowboat to shore. The beach was lined with book-ended with jungles and mangrove swamps, but where they landed was best described as a tropical paradise. There were also ruined giant dock-buildings. Some of the damage seemed recent even as the docks seemed from a more ancient age.

Valignat took the Warpriest with him and flew high and far into the sky to get a birds-eye view of the island.

To the northwest of the Nightmare’s landing the dragon saw a massive stone bridge over a river with giant cyclops statues standing as sentinels over it. Unlike the others, these had gems in their eyes. Upriver from the bridge was a mountain and along the road was a fort, but before he could complete his circling reconnaissance suddenly four pteranodons swooped down from the sun.

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The dragon then proceeded to showcase the concept of invasive species by burning the pteranodons out of the sky. One managed to avoid the worst of the fire, but Harghast finished it off with a holy laser.

The dragon and the priest returned to the beach reporting to the others what they had seen. Valignat advised following the road, intending on getting to the fort. The party agreed and headed off. When they got to the statues Dovahkiin translated the runes. They said, in essence: the eastern statues represent the cyclopes who came to Sumitha for insight, who were expected to boldly announce their arrival here before submitting themselves to the seers of the mountain stronghold. The western statues represent those cyclopes leaving Sumitha in reverent benediction following their enlightenment there. Instead of continuing to the fort, the party decided to detour to go investigate the mountain instead.

As they scaled it a group of pteranodons came flying at the group. The party readied themselves for battle as the beasts closed in. Valignat released a breath of smoldering fire on the lesser flying creatures. Dovahkiin released fire upon them as well. Meeko was nearly killed by two of the beasts but his friend Valignat came in and killed one as Gork, with a mad look in his eye, put his axe firmly in the other’s head.

Harghast shot some arrows upon the creatures and did rather well. Soon the beasts laid dead before the party and Valignat began playing in the lifeless bodies (like a dog rolling in mud.) After he was satisfied, the party found their nest and a body recently nibbled by the pteranodons. The nest had a Ring of Improved Swimming and pteranodon eggs.

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Zarskia's Nightmare

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The party recovered as the invisible flying alchemist ceased her bomb chucking for the moment. Dovahkiin went to go grab healing potions off the already fallen enemies, and Gork healed as the dragon began sniffing around for the party’s hidden enemy.

As he searched for the attacker at the top of the stairs, Val saw a door open and shut. The party gathered around the door and the dragon went inside. The room revealed was a neglected library with a hole smashed through the wall into an old dining room. The barbarian and the dragon advanced into the library. When Valignat looked around the hole in the wall Shimerae, a Dusk Kamadan, leapt out and breathed a cloud of sleep gas.

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Fortunately, Gork and Val resisted the gas and the dragon scorched Shimerae with a massive blast of fire before finishing her off. Meanwhile, something crept up and slashed Meeko with a poisoned dagger. The dog ran back to the party as its strength drained away. Furious that someone dared hurt the puppy Gork ran down the stairs searching for whoever did it.

As Val followed Gork they saw a door across the room open and shut. Gork made a massive leap from the stairs up and over the balcony as Valignant sailed past as well. Back in the other room, as the other two opened the door, Dovahkiin was stabbed in the back by the same dagger. The group immediately converged on the spot. Although Gork’s axe drew blood, Dovahkiin’s admonishing rays narrowly missed and Val’s claws closed on empty air. Gork ran upstairs up to the third and last level of the building and Dovahkiin summoned a fiendish pony to drop out of the sky where the enemy had been—but alas it struck empty air.

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Val waited for Dovahkiin to go upstairs, but instead the wizard went into a nearby room to find a cure for the poison affecting his dog. The normally unobservant wizard was sufficiently motivated to roll a nat20 on his spot check. He picked up an important-looking chest and was burned by an acidic demonic slime just as sounds of explosions came from upstairs. Valignat ran upstairs to help Gork. The dragon spit fire down the hallway as Gork stepped through a nearby door.

Inside was a dungeon-like chamber containing the disgusting remnants of a demon corpse skeleton and hostile potatomen.

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Some spoilsport scholars insist that potatomen are actually called ‘mandragora.’

Val ran down the hallway and a large vicious blade popped out of the wall. Fortunately, it missed him. Gork killed the potatomen as Valignat and the invisible alchemist traded a brutal exchange of fire and force bombs.

Meanwhile, Dovahkiin got the chest open and found a pair of antidotes that he gave to himself and his dog. They recovered just before the dog would have been paralyzed by the poison. Dovahkiin went upstairs just in time to add a fireball to the dragon vs alchemist firestorm. The explosions and blasts ended when the alchemist retreated through a door and Val backed off to lick his wounds.

Dovahkiin got through the trapped hallway by sending his pony through to catch the impaling spike for him. Gork just charged down and avoided the trap through sheer luck and dexterity. Dovahkiin attempted to have his wounded pony bash open the door the alchemist was hiding behind, so it slammedinto the door—but died.

After the party briefly regrouped and drank potions in the blasted hall Val opened the door. Behind it was an opulent bedchamber which was immediately destroyed by another exchange of bomb and dragonfire.

The party noticed the fireplace seemed to have no bottom, (and was thus likely another escape route) so Gork ran forward and blocked off the chimney so it couldn’t be used. As he went for it, Gork was slashed by the invisible poisoned dagger and his strength began to slowly drain away. The injured dragon backed away momentarily as the enemy alchemist’s invisibility finally wore off which revealed it was, in fact, Zarskia the leader of the apothecary.

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Dovahkiin hit her with a ray and suggested a false truce as the dragon returned and grabbed her. Zarskia stabbed him and was blinded by his magic item. Valignat responded with a point blank blast of fire to the face. Val then fumbled his attempt to hang onto her and Zarskia stumbled over to the fireplace and shoved the poisoned barbarian out of the way before clumsily flying down the chimney. Skin and cloth was ripped off as she tried to fly blinded down the tight chimney. Dovahkiin then ingeniously decided to run over and cast Enlarge Person. The newly enlarged Zarskia was well and truly jammed immobile at the very bottom of the chimney. Val burned her one more time and then Gork leapt in face and axe fist after her.

The party offered her one last chance to surrender. Zarskia refused and chose to fight to the death. It came moments later from Gork’s axe. The party found a bolt bag and some incriminating documents in the hidden cellar room that Zarskia was attempting to reach. The party then followed the long hidden tunnel out to some fresh air, salty sea breezes, and the ringing distant calls of the seagulls.

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The Nightmare Detectives, Part 2

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The party left their unconscious prisoner, Giles, chained up in the bilge and headed out to check on Rowina Kellet. She was the last of Giles’ listed victims and the only one they hadn’t yet met. Val asked around in human form and the party soon found Rowina’s house. Inside, the party found the house ransacked and discovered a ledger listing the Free Captains and potential bribes to get them to turn to Cheliax. Only one name did not have a bribe listed, Arronax Endymion, the Free Captain who rules Hell Harbor and was once in the Chelish Navy. Rowina was nowhere to be found.

The party asked Kroop if he knew anything about Arronax, but he said he couldn’t recall. Other documents in Rowina’s house revealed she was a manager for a shipping company in the area, so the party went to her warehouses in search of her. The stock had been cleared out in a hurry and Rowina hadn’t been seen at either in a while. The party returned to her house, and after taking some hairs from her hairbrush Dovahkiin used his magic ring on it to find that she had been killed (likely by Giles) and thrown into the ocean.

The party turned Giles in to the pirate police and moved on to their other lead; Sarlis the water naga.

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After a short time, Sarlis appeared. Valignat explained that they were there about the foreign spies she claimed to have information about, and Sarlis demanded the party preform a task for her first in exchange. Another naga had taken her lair and Sarlis wanted the group to drive him away without killing him. The group agreed and Sarlis led them to the lair. When they arrived Sarlis slipped away and the party marched openly out to the lair.

The lair was a beaver lodge-like structure next to a swamp river. The other naga rose from the water and Valignat demanded he leave the area. The naga refused but was soon beaten off by Dovahkiin’s Admonishing rays and Valignat wounding him a little. The other naga vanished and Sarlis soon returned.

Sarlis thanked the party for doing as she asked and lead them to a rotting corpse. Sarlis said that he had asked too many impertinent questions that betrayed his intentions as a spy. Saying the party could do as they wished with the body, Sarlis left.

Dovahkiin used his ring on the corpse and found out he was a Sargavan smuggler named Varad (once in Zarskia Galembar’s employ). Also on the corpse was a rope with knots tied in it. Dovahkiin was able to recognize it as Sargavan naval code, but strangely poor luck prevented him from translating it. The party left the naga relationship troubles (that was the reason for Sarlis’ demand) and traveled back to Port Peril, where Phineas gave Dovahkiin the last bit of help needed to crack the code. It was determined to be a code used before the colony’s independence from Cheliax. In summary, the code outlines Varad’s orders: “Go to nagas, collect poison and information. Deliver both to the captain of the Diamond Star.”

Information gathered in port and from Kroop revealed that the Diamond Star was captured by the Rahadoumi navy 6 months ago. Several months before that, however, the Diamond Star’s captain, Elliece Farhaven, retired—an unusual occurrence, considering her relatively young age. Gathering further information revealed that Captain Farhaven’s current place of residence was a small fishing boat moored in the harbor of Port Peril.

Also at Port Peril, a message was delivered to the party, announcing the annual Free Captains’ Regatta. The missive goes on to explain that the regatta is a time-honored tradition in the Shackles, and one of the few opportunities that lesser, independent captains have to increase their station and status among the pirates of the Shackles. The Free Captains’ Regatta is a grueling nautical race held among the hazardous sandbars and reefs north of the Shackles among the dangerous currents and winds at the southern fringes of the giant hurricane called the Eye of Abendego.

The race is open to any Free Captain with a ship, and while many captains and ships do not finish or even survive the race, the regatta has no shortage of competitors each year, for the rewards are truly worth the risk—a hefty prize purse, lordship of a small island, and a seat on the Pirate Council of the Shackles.

Furthermore, common wisdom holds that this year’s regatta will truly be an open race. The druid-captain known as the Master of the Gales has won the regatta for the last 5 years, but this year he is officiating the race instead of competing, leaving its outcome in doubt.

To enter the regatta, a competitor must be the captain of his own ship and pay an entry fee of 500 gp.

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The group decided to check out the last known address of Cpt. Farhaven. Dovahkiin and Gork got into a small boat as the dragon towed them over to the captains home. Inside, they found a smashed imp next to a bloody anchor and all loose possessions taken. Dovahkiin’s ring found out the imp was an assassin sent to kill Farhaven but she had gotten the drop on him and beaten the devil to death with the anchor.

After waiting a day for Dovahkiin to prepare the spell, Scrying revealed that Captain Awesome had escaped, apparently to the other side of the world, and was currently piloting a new ship.

The party felt finished with that lead and went to the Jasperleaf apothecary in Port Peril mentioned in Giles’ orders.

The party entered the apothecary and got in with a password, but in the absence of an actual plan didn’t accomplish anything and were escorted out by the guards.

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Valignat found a new password and Dovahkiin made the dragon and Gork invisible while Dovahkiin magically disguised himself. The guards let Dovahkiin and the dragon and barbarian somehow made it through the door as it was closing.

In the lobby, a guard spotted motion just before Gork’s axe slammed down on him. Gork killed all the guards in the lobby. A pair of guards turned the corner and wounded Dovahkiin with arrows, who sent a fireball after them and summoned a dire ape. As the party checked carefully through the various rooms, the ape ran down the hallway and entered a large room leading upstairs. The three archers lying in wait at the top of the stairs and balcony made short work of it.

Gork and Val went into the ambush room and the arrows flew. Firebombs were targeted at the dragon. Although the dragon was immune, Gork was badly hurt by them and arrows. The dragon retaliated at the archers with fire and Gork ran up the steps. The archers tried to surrender but force bombs hurled at the dragon killed them.

The situation was dire, Dovahkiin and Valignat were hurt. Gork was barely standing and an invisible enemy was still hurling bombs at them.

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The Nightmare Detectives

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After dragging up the loot from the first half of the Brine Banshee, Dovahkiin, Gork and Valignat drank almost the last of the Nightmare’s supply of water breathing potions and reentered the ocean to get the rest of the ship and its treasure.

As they entered the dark chasm containing the back half of the Brine Banshee, the trio began to feel the effects of pressure and cold. The cold was especially painful to Val, being a fire dragon.

Suddenly, a giant four armed monster lunged out of the darkness and bowled over the dragon.

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Gork swam up and took a swing at the monster and Dovahkiin fired a pair of stun rays. The monster moved back behind Val and caught the entire party in a blast of freezing black bile that seriously wounded them all. The beast’s guts were then ripped open by the pissed off dragon.

The monster shrunk down into a smaller but still large size as it died, and Dovahkiin identified it as an oversized charda. The party returned to the Nightmare, and Sandara healed them. The party dived back in and this time reached the wreck. The party began exploring at the top and worked their way down finding various treasures. In the kitchen, Dovahkiin took out his frustration towards Kroop’s chicken on old chicken bones. As they worked their way through the ship, a huge shark slowly swam by.

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Gork charged out at it, but phased right through what turned out to be an illusion. The party couldn’t see anyone around who might have cast the spell. Back inside the ship they found a giant sea anemone.

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Gork charged and was grabbed by a tentacle. The anemone pulled him into its gaping maw that smelled of death and half-elf, swallowing the barbarian whole. Dovahkiin blasted it with stun rays and then Gork literally chewed his way out of the anemone’s side, pulled out his axe and finished it off.

When the party reached the ship’s hold a swarm of luminescent fish came out and began swimming in a hypnotic pattern that managed to mesmerize nobody at all. A second shark arrived, and Gork phased through that one as well. Mind control spells were thrown at the party, but failed. Dovahkiin detected magic, and realized the hold’s back wall was an illusion. An aboleth emerged from behind the wall.

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Dovahkiin turned and he perfectly cast a pair of admonishing rays that passed straight through what turned out to be yet another illusion. Valignat swept out his wings in an attempt to disrupt the mesmerizing fish, but they were also illusions. Eventually, the party ignored an aboleth leaving the ship, and entered the wall, finding nothing. Valignat realized from the fading smell that the last aboleth had been the real one, to the groups frustration.

Having emptied the ship, the party began looting. The ships wheel was magic, and likely the source of the ships reputation for speed. This information would fulfill the group’s agreement with the Norgorber cult.

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Lashed to it was the skeleton of the ship’s captain Xiribal Jalhazar. Dovahkiin tossed his corpse aside, and was cursed by the captains spirit until he apologized. Inspections to find the cause of the wreck found that it was probably brought down by something wielding steam and massive claws.

The party dragged up all the loot to the Nightmare and left. The party returned Fitch to Olo, (reluctantly) paying him his 900gp share of the Brine Banshee’s treasure. Returning to the Norgorber temple, the party gave him the information they had promised, and in return Sting the cult spokesman told them about a water naga named Sarlis who claimed to know the location of a foreign spy.

Sting told them that Sarlis lives in a cove on the slithering coast, and that to meet her the party would have to wait at a certain pool, possibly for several days, to meet with the naga. Sting also said that while Sarlis was a relatively social naga, careful respect and flattery would be wise in dealing with her. The dragon felt a sense of familiarity upon hearing this. They also stopped by Port Peril for a few days to upgrade the ship’s rudder, and bought various magic items.

The party decided to stop first at Drenchport, where the Calistrian priestess had told them Jaymiss Keft the half-elf scrimshander who had a lead on the Chelish spies lived.

The party disembarked at Drenchport, quickly finding Jaymiss as he worked on a piece of scrimshaw at the Carver’s hall. Dovahkiin bought everyone in the room drinks and Valignat in human form approached Jaymiss. Jaymiss started to get nervous when Val started asking about the Chelish, but calmed down when he said he got the info from the Calistrian temple. Jaymiss revealed to the disguised dragon that he had suspicions about Haddon Pike, supposedly a beachcomber, fisherman and smuggler. However, he never seemed to actually do any smuggling on his “Smuggling trips” to the town of Hell Harbor. He was also suspicious of Corlan, Haddon’s tengu(bird-man) partner in Hell Harbor.

The party went out to Haddon’s house and approached the window. Meeko smelled decay, and looking in the party saw Haddon dead, with two crossbow bolts in his back, and his head in a fish tank, being eaten by his nasty looking pet fish, Grinner. In his hand was a carving of Corlan. Apparently he liked to make fan-art of his business partners. The party entered and searched the room. In a hidden drawer was a bag of money and a old Chelish opera in a waterproof scroll case.

The opera was written in Infernal, which none of the party spoke. However, Dovahkiin used his linguistics studies to not only translate the opera, but also detect and crack the complicated cipher revealing secret orders to report on ship movements in Drenchport, especially the ones belonging to the local pirate ruler. from a woman named Rowina Kellet in Hell Harbor.

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26 intelligence at work.

On Dovahkiin’s request, Gork handed him the fish. Dovahkiin jabbed it with a crossbow bolt from Haddon’s back, revealing the bolts had been poisoned. The party took one of Haddon’s toes, so that later magics could use it as evidence if necessary.

The Nightmare set out for Hell Harbor. On arrival the party set out for Corlan’s house in a tengu part of town.

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Human Val knocked on his door and soon Corlan opened the door asking why a bunch of strangers had turned up at his house. Valignat was explaining what had happened to Haddon when two crossbow bolts to the chest suddenly cut down Corlan. Valignat transformed and took to the sky, where he saw a human with a crossbow crouching behind a ledge.

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The assassin tried to escape after risking a final shot at Corlan’s body, but was taken down before he could get away. A search of his possessions revealed a note, listing Haddon, Rowina and Corlan. Haddon and Rowina were crossed out. Underneath was a message from “Z” saying “Use the supplied dosage on each. When done, return to the apothecary in Port Peril. I can provide more toxin along with your payment if needed. Destroy this after reading.”

The assassin woke up chained to the wall in the Nightmare’s bilge. Dovahkiin tried and failed to intimidate him, earning nothing but racist insults. The dragon managed to scare him however, and the assassin, who was named Giles Halmis, said that he was a professional killer, currently getting most of his contracts from a Mwangi woman named Zarskia Galembar at the Jasperleaf Apothecary in Port Peril.

Despite the dire situation, Giles showed that he was an utterly racist idiot, and taunted the half-orcs until Dovahkiin snapped and splashed magic acid in his face until he passed out.

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The one where we meet an evil mermaid.

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After recovering the Golden Vespal from the ship-wreckers, the party, after minor debate, went back to the temple of Calistria to return it. The Calistrian priestess was grateful and told the party that to get information about the Chelish spies to see a half-elf scrimshander in Drenchport named Jaymiss Keft.

Also, in answer to their previous inquiry regarding the lost ship the Brine Banshee, she also told them that Hannelius Fitch in the town of Olo was trying to bankroll an expedition to recover the Brine Banshee and claims to be able to locate it.

Back on the Nightmare, the party discussed where to go first, and decided to go after the Brine Banshee for the Nogorberites first.

Soon, the Nightmare docked at Olo. It was a sad, run down little town, full of mildly distrustful peasants. As soon as they landed they began looking for Fitch.

Valignat attempted to talk a bartender into telling him where Fitch was, but was off his diplomatic game that day. Thankfully Dovahkiin took the lead and gave some peasant a pouch full of gold (10gp) for the address. It’s amazing what a little gold does to sway someone’s opinions and principles.

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Fitch was located at his surgeon’s shop which had a hanging wooden sign with “Fitch the Stitch” professionally etched upon it. The party brought up the Brine Banshee to Hannelius, and while he was initially evasive, the suggestion that the party wanted to pay for an expedition got his full attention and cooperation.

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Fitch rummaged around in a closet, drawing forth a preservative jar containing a human femur. He said that it had belonged to Captain Vargas, an old friend of his and captain of the Brine Banshee. He then told them that unbeknownst to most, the Brine Banshee had wrecked because Vargas had tried to skirt the Eye of Abendego (a vicious, permanent hurricane that serves as a barrier to the Shackles) to attempt to commit piracy and was sunk in the attempt.

Long before he died; however, Vargas had once needed his leg amputated by Fitch in order to save his life. Fitch still owns the severed bone, and has heard of an item that one could use to find Vargas’s body and, by logical extension, the treasure. It is called the Ring of the Iron Skull and unfortunately, was in the possession of the rogue pirate captain “Milksop” Morton. Fitch described Morton as a hostile captain who refused membership in or subservitude to the Free Captains.

The party decided to go after Morton and brought Fitch along with them as a surgeon, agreeing to give him after some terribly sloppy negotiating 1/6th of the Brine Banshee’s recovered treasure.

Morton was believed to be heading towards Olo at the time and so Dovahkiin used his impressive sailor skills to set a course to intercept. Soon enough, they met Morton and his ship, the Dryad’s grave.

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Valignat and Morton went to the bows of their respective ships as they closed together. Morton called out first, asking if the party was Free captains or allied with them. The party declared that they were enemies of the Free captains. The ships came still closer as Morton asked what their business was. Valignat replied that they were there to trade treasure. Morton said that, be that as it may, there’s a toll for sailing in his waters. Valignat was just about to suggest that there was no need for that as Morton opened fire.

The Dryad’s Grave’s figurehead, a wooden carving of a screaming satyr, came to life. It clambered aboard the Grave, wrenched up an entire ballista, and blasted Valignat the dragon with it.

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At the same time, three animated grapnels were shot onto the Nightmare where they crashed into and imbedded onto various parts of the ship and its masts preventing it from leaving. Valignat burned Morton, who summoned a movement restricting fog before retreating to the Grave’s deck. The Satyr leapt out and clawed the dragon before falling into the sea.

Gork smashed the grapnel attached to the mainmast as Dovahkiin tried ineffectually to pull one off the ship (if grapnels could laugh, it would have.) Valignat swooped above the Grave, but saw no sign of the now invisible Morton.

Suddenly, a fireball exploded on the Nightmare. Gork and Dovahkiin were wounded, and it seemed certain that Dovahkiin’s dog’s luck had finally run out. However, it takes more than being eaten twice by sharks and blown up to kill Meeko the annoying effing dog.

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As the smoke cleared, Gork tried to jump to the other ship and attack Morton, but just barely missed. Due to his magic armor, he landed atop the water below—no worries! The dragon landed on the Grave’s bow and thrashed around looking for Morton.

As Dovahkiin opened the cabin door to let his dog out of harm’s way and took cover, the satyr leapt out of the obscuring fog and impaled the mage on a salt-encrusted spear. Meeko struggled to distract the satyr as the dragon returned to try to save him. The satyr all but killed the dragon, and a fiendish grizzly bear appeared in front of Gork out of thin air.

The bear lasted all of six seconds against Gork.

Valignat released a desperate fire breath, badly damaging the wooden satyr and calling for Gork to finish it! Gork returned to the Nightmare ignoring an ineffectual electric eel sent by an increasingly low on spells Morton and cleaved through the satyr.

The crew began to hand out healing potions when a blast of Glitterdust temporarily blinded the dragon. The electric eel jumped up on the Nightmare and Morton called out to suggest a truce.

This was swiftly and soundly rejected.

The Dryad’s Grave tried to disconnect from the Nightmare and escape, and Valignat swooped in and scorched the controls in an attempt to find Morton. The dragonfire only connected with a group of hapless sailors, but a magic missile fired in retaliation betrayed Morton’s location. Dovahkiin blasted the area with a fireball finally killing Morton. The remaining grapnels and the eel were quickly finished off.

The party recovered the ring of the Iron Skull from the cold dead finger of one Milksop Morton and vacuumed up any relevant treasure and weapons from enemy ship. Fitch demanded it, but was refused as Dovahkiin slipped it on his finger promising, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.” The ring’s magic would take 24 hours to begin working, so the party took the Grave to port and sold off the ship along with its plunder and treasure.

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Due to the rings limited range, the party sailed back to the most likely region of the Brine Banshee at the time of its disappearance. Once close enough Dovahkiin pressed it to the femur and magically learned the Brine Banshee’s location. The party drank water breathing potions and swam down to the wreck which lay just 60’ from the surface on the edge of a large fissure in the ocean floor.

The group swam around the wreck, scouting it for threats. As they came out of one side, a pair of gigantic great white sharks rushed out to devour the party. This made Gork very angry. You really wouldn’t want to see him when he’s angry.

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Suddenly, the water breathing potions mysteriously stopped working. Valignat and Dovahkiin looked around for the cause as Gork used his magic devices to rise like an elevator to the surface and walk up the side of the ship, gather the remaining water breathing potions, and dive back in the water and head back to the party.

Meanwhile the party made saving throws against hidden spells, and eventually Dovahkiin spotted the caster. It was Ormandar, the evil druid mermaid serial killer with the mouth of a shark.

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The fight was soon over, as Gork planted his axe in Ormandar’s throat and the dragon shredded whatever detritus was left. Having secured the area the party forced the rusty cargo hold bars out of the way.

Inside was a large jellyfish, which they eventually killed. They then spent 5 hours clearing the sand and debris away from the bow starboard cabin entrance, which revealed more goodies once inside. Including, an expertly crafted sextant inlaid with silver (worth 1,000 gp) in a box inside the top drawer of a locker and an oil of slipstream (Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player’s Guide 244) in a battered case lying among other debris. Hidden under the rotten fragments of a mattress is a large iron-banded sea chest. The chest has two good locks that has, so far, foiled attempts to open it.

As they cleared the wreck, Dovahkiin advocated killing Fitch to avoid paying his share of the treasure, but Valignat persuaded him not to.

The group still has not determined what may have sunk the Brine Banshee, but there is still half the ship and perhaps half its riches laying on the bottom of the chasm yet to be explored and examined.

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Tendrils, contests, and conspiracies.

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The party crept up from the sea onto the eerily silent and vacant deck of the Nightmare. For Dovahkiin the stillness was broken only by his telepathic alarms.

Suddenly the door to below deck creaked open and Sandara urgently whispered for the group to get inside. Before the party could move though, green tendrils descended from above, grasping at them and dragging them into the air.

The plant monster dragged its furiously struggling victims closer and closer to its maw, and finally fell when it pulled up Gork and got a raging barbarian to the face.

For the next three days, the party dragged up treasure (mostly the gigantic throne of Krelloort) . Dovahkiin ceased to sleep due to newly learned magics. Harghast was feeling conflicted about his actions as a pirate and went on a pilgrimage to center himself. Similarly, Zan got a message implying his family who had been seemingly killed by slavers may have actually survived and left to pursue the lead.

As soon as the Nightmare left Mancatcher Cove a warship ambushed them. Gork leapt into the fray against the enemy crew as Valignat battled the rival leader Captain Gortus Svard.

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Eventually, Dovahkiin’s fireballs and Val’s savaging crippled the enemy Captain hobgoblin who surrendered. The hobgoblin was intimidated by Gork, and he said that he was a mercenary authorized by the ruling pirates of the Shackles to attack any pirate not affiliated with the Free Captains, and that he had waited until the party had done all the work of getting the treasure for him to strike and take their booty and bounty.

Captain Svard desperately tried to get the party to take him with them, but was abandoned on Mancatcher Cove. The party then proceeded to kick dogs, steal candy from babies, and prevent old ladies from crossing the street. This was done without Harghast’s knowledge

Deciding to become Free Captains (a decision made easier by the fact they would be under constant threat of attack until they did) the party set a course to the Shackles capital, Port Peril. On the way, some locathah showed up to thank the party for freeing their matriarch, and gave them a magic helmet as a gift.

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The Nightmare arrived at Port Peril, and the party sold treasure, while also sending out a tribute payment to the ruler of the Shackles, Hurricane King Kerdak Bonefist. They also met Phineas, who warmly greeted the party after relocating to Port Peril.

Dovahkiin purchased a silver mirror and the next day used it to Scry on Grok, finally regaining contact with the lovely half-orc.

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They caught up for a bit and Grok revealed that she and the Wormwood were also currently in Port Peril and that Captain Harrigan had become much harsher in the wake of the Nightmare being stolen. Dovahkiin offered to rescue her, but they couldn’t see how to do it without being crushed by Captain Harrigan’s reprisals. Dovahkiin also asked if, in her time with him, if she had noticed anything strange about Kroop’s chicken. As they talked, they were suddenly interrupted by Tsadok Goldtooth a pirate who bore an oddly close resemblance to Dovahkiin.

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As a crowd gathered, Tsadok explained that the party’s request to become Free Captains had been heard, and that they would need to complete a set of three pirate challenges. The first challenge would be a race to climb a mast and unfurl a sail, the second challenge was gambling, and the last one was having to defeat an attempted boarding of their ship. As Tsadok explained, Dovahkiin attempted to ask some questions, but Tsadok repeatedly insulted him for it.

First up was the race, and being the best suited for it Gork was chosen. His opponent was a human named Haynes.

Tsadok drew a pistol (the first one the party had seen to date) and fired it to announce the start of the race. Gork and Haynes took off. Despite Haynes skill and even outright cheating by his rivals, Gork won the race. Haynes fell from the mast and Gork wished him better luck next time.

Next up was the gambling, and Valignat was chosen for it. Various other contestants were gradually cleared out, leaving only the dragon and Tsadok. After many rounds, the dragon was ultimately victorious. Also, he scared Tsadok out of trying to steal back the prize money, and completely shrugged off 10+ drinks of extremely strong ale. Note to self: don’t get in a drinking contest with a dragon (or dwarf.)

Finally came the last contest, the combat trial. A huge cage under a curtain was rolled up to the ship. The curtain was pulled away, the cage opened, and Fishpork the marsh giant was released.

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After a brief but impressive fight, the giant fell.

Tsadok announced that the party was victorious, and invited them to a feast at Bonefist’s base that night. The party traveled out to the feast and the Hurricane King began a speech.

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Bonefist announced to the crowded room that the party was aspiring free captains and challenged the leaders of the nightmare to justify why they should be allowed the honor.

Gork responded by rising up and in a rage boomed forth, “Now listen well you bloodbag pukes! If you fail to recognize the mighty crew of the infamous Nightmare before you I will be your personal nightmare as I grab you up with my bare hands and rend your limbs from their sockets and beat your skull from your shoulders until your head rolls to the side. I will then spit down your trembling neck holes as I stomp whats left of you into pools of spasming piles of vomitous filth!”

Gork then grabs a hunk of venison, jumps onto the table and rips the flesh in two, and throws it violently to the table before stomping it beyond all recognition as the dragon transforms into his menacing natural form with a burst of dragonfear radiates out from Valignant.

“We have passed your tests, paid your tribute, and I stand before you now hoping against hope that one of you will please step forward and challenge our entry into the brotherhood of Free Captains so that I may rain blows down upon you and pulverize each bone in your wretched scurvy ridden corpses into fine powder. I beg of you…step forward and make your protest known you quivering poopstains!”

Gork stood trembling with rage on the table waiting and hoping that some fool would step forward.

A moment of utter silence follows as the echoes of his outburst ring and fade away.

A still moment later and the crowd erupts with cheers and raised tankards of ale. “Hazaah!” With a slow grin spreading across his face, Bonefist responds by making the party official Free Captains, “Welcome brothers!”

At the party, Dovahkiin attempted to fool Bonefist into believing Harrigan had spoken against him, but failed.

Later on, Phineas invited them over to his favorite tavern, the Riptide Alehouse. The party went over, (Valignat had to assume his human form, as the Riptide Alehouse has a strict “No dragons served” policy) and began to order drinks at the bar. In the corner Gork spotted Caulky Tarroon, Captain Harrigan’s old cabin girl, surreptitiously poisoning drinks, presumably to capture new crew members, much like most of the party.

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Caulky realized she’d been spotted, and tossed a drink at a sailor, provoking a bar fight to cover her escape.

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Dovahkiin attempted to rush over and cripple her with a curse, but then a friendly pirate named Pierce Jerrell stood up in front of him and tried to strike up a conversation.

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Val turned back into a dragon and swooped across the bar to cut off Caulky, who was running up some stairs and across a balcony. Unfortunately, a drunken sailor decided to punch him. Val dropped snarling to the floor, gnashing his teeth as he attempted to control the urge to slaughter. He succeeded this time.

Meanwhile, Dovahkiin continued to try to get past the confused sailor, threatening to forever remove his ability to drink alcohol when two brawlers took the sailor down.

Dovahkiin ran after Caulky and Gork stopped to swat away the attackers and help up the sailor, who introduced himself as Pierce Jerrel, swashbuckler extraordinaire

Regaining control of his psychosis, the dragon released an ominous hiss and the fight cleared out around him. The party rushed up to Caulky and brought her down, just as the sounds of the guards approached (apparently pirates have police.)

Pierce helped them escape, and they dragged Caulky off to question her. After a rather fruitless interrogation, the party let her go, but not before Dovahkiin stole a bit of her hair for magic spying. And also her eye-patch, for no particular reason.

Later on, at Phineas’s home, Dovahkiin contacted Grok. She said that the Wormwood was leaving the next day, and it seemed the two would be split up again when Valignat suggested faking her death. Dovahkiin responded excitedly to the idea, declaring he could alter any other corpse to look like Grok. A plan was worked out: Grok would fake being drunk, “accidentally” fall off the ship, and the party would slip in with a boat under Sandara’s summoned fog, then leave the altered corpse behind for the Wormwood to find.

After buying an old rotten corpse taken from a grave for 300gp (Dovahkiin was in a hurry) from Pierce, the party rowed out to the Wormwood and successfully rescued Grok, rowing away into the fog.

However, all was not well, as a pair of pirates heard the splash of Grok hitting the water and pulled the decoy aboard. One pirate was fooled but the other wasn’t so they dragged the corpse off to Captain Harrigan, who saw through the forgery.

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The party returned triumphantly to the Nightmare, where they quietly celebrated. Dovahkiin proposed marriage to Grok and she said she’d think about it. It was decided that Grok should keep a low profile until the Wormwood left town.

The next day, the party got an invitation to the townhouse of the popular Free Captain Tessa Fairwind that evening. The party went out to meet her.

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She talked about Shackles politics and mentioned that Bonefist was not the most popular ruler and that she wasn’t interested in being Hurricane King. Then she got to the reason she had called the party over. Tessa said that she had been hearing disturbing rumors that Cheliax had been sending spies into the Shackles in preparation for possible invasion, and that she needed the party, as relative unknowns, to investigate for her, if they would, and bring her concrete proof of the spies that she could present to the whole council of free captains.

Before she would part with her information however, she suggested the party should secretly join her fleet, and that when the time was right reveal their allegiance. She also flirted with Gork a bit. The alliance would mean the Nightmare would keep primarily to its own devices, but that if she called they should come to her aid and visa versa. The party agreed to the alliance, although Valignat was severely reluctant.

That settled, she revealed her primary leads were the temple of Norgorber (dark god of assassins and secrets) on Bag Island, a halfling settlement and the temple of Calistria (the morally ambiguous elf goddess) in Quent.

The party started with the warehouse “temple” of Norgorber, where the spokesman, a halfling named Sting, said that they would part with the information on Chelish spies if the party would go find the ship called the Brine Banshee and learn its secrets regarding its legendary speeds and disappearance. Sting said the party should go to the temple of Calistria to find out where it is.

The party headed over to Quent where they managed to sufficiently offend the priestess in charge enough that she demanded they go on another quest to first retrieve the Golden Vespal, a holy relic of their faith. The priestess said that, while she didn’t know where it is, the temple of Norgorber most certainly will.

Making a u-turn, the party headed back to the Norgorber temple again, where they traded the location of the Golden Vespal (In the hands of wreckers who had taken down the ship carrying it) in exchange for hearing about what had happened to the Infernus (the Chelish ship carrying ghouls from the island where Plugg died.)

The party headed out to where Sting had said the wreckers operate in order to find the Golden Vespal for the Calistrians to get the location of the Brine Banshee for the Nogorberite cult so they could find out where to look for the Chelish spies. After a while of searching, they saw a ship, the Shining Star, floating motionless in the water.

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The party moved in, not seeing anything suspicious, when they suddenly ran aground on a rocky reef hidden behind an illusion. The whole area was a disguised trap from the wreckers.

As the party picked themselves up and assessed the damage, Dovahkiin was almost slain by a terrifying Phantasmal Killer spell. The wreckers stormed the ship out of an Invisibility sphere, and were generally losing when Dovahkiin spotted a well hidden figure in the crow’s nest. It was Captain Varkarla, the wizard leader (with an abnormally small head) of the wreckers.

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The party began battling the flying mage, and Varkarla dropped Dovahkiin with a wall of fire. The fire-immune dragon swept into the flames to save Dovahkiin by carrying him off and dumping him in a rear window for Sandara to heal.

Meanwhile, Gork pursued after Varkarla, making a (unfortunately unsuccessful) attempt to reach her in the air by leaping off a catapult, and her pet monkey threw poo in his eyes in response. As Gork wiped his eyes clean, Val and Dovahkiin moved back into combat, and the fight finally ended when Varkarla approached Gork invisibly and attempted to drain his life force for healing. This plan didn’t work out very well at all, especially given that she was promptly cut in half. Good riddance.

The surviving wrecker surrendered, and was interrogated to find the wrecker base. The Nightmare’s damage was repaired, and the party looted the base, finding the Golden Vespal among other treasures and plunder.

They headed back to Quent to return the idol to the temple of the stolen kiss.

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