Skull and Shackles

Lord Arronax Endymion

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The party prepared for their first meeting of the pirate council. It was set to take place in a month’s time. Also of note was the fact that Harghast’s year of marriage to Agasta was drawing to a close. He had to choose whether to continue the arrangement or let it end so he could be with Sandara.

The party returned Sefina’s shawl and forgave her. Sefina was grateful for their mercy and promised to patrol the bay as thanks. Dovahkiin teleported to his adoptive parent’s home and brought them to live at the castle. The party also placed an order for more siege engines. The time of the council approached and the party appointed Paarthunax and Baines stewards of the island in their absence.

The Nightmare went to Port Peril and the party took their well-earned seats at the table. Abundant high quality food and drink were served and also considered a major reason for the pirates’ attendance. The Hurricane King sat upon an ostentatious throne and at the other end sat an empty seat for the use of Besmara, goddess of pirates should she ever decide to attend. The other pirate lords sat around the table. Had the party not done so well at the trials some or all of them would be sitting at the ‘kids’ table.’ Harghast asked about Sandara and found she had become captain of the Queen Bes’s Own and a squadron of supporting ships. Apparently she had done very well in the short time she was away.

The first issue of the day was raised. The Shackles extorts money from Sargava in return for liberating them from Cheliax. Normally they would have to wait, but some said the party should be given their full share right away. Fortunately, through Gork’s surprisingly effective intimidation and the party’s level of disrepute the measure passed.

Next, Cerise suggested a measure to take funds from the defense budget and redirect them to build giant statues of the Hurricane King in every port. This was a horribly impractical and wasteful idea, but opposing the King was an obviously dangerous political move. Initially only the party (who count as one vote) and The Master of the Gales opposed the measure. Through significant expenditure of political capital and various means of persuasion the party just managed to stop this terrible idea from passing, but most likely made an enemy of the King.

The third issue was Avimar trying to gain salvage rights to Olo. On Olo was the black tower and a rumored epic magical sword. The party stopped him.

The forth issue was raised by Hardluck Massey for the absent Captain Harrigan. He wanted someone named Scags Rotgram declared an outlaw for preying on unauthorized Sargavan ships. The party looked into the situation. Scags was Harrigan’s old first mate who had parted on poor terms and Harrigan most likely was simply trying to exact revenge. After discovering this the party successfully blocked the measure.

The last issue of the day was raised by Tessa. She was presenting the findings on Chelish spies the party had gathered for her. Arronax Endymion immediately rose from his chair and demanded that an investigation be held. Rumors abounded of Arronax being a collaborator with Cheliax. He had been a Chelish admiral before becoming a pirate and his town, Hell Harbor, resembled Cheliax in culture and was often called, although not to his face, Little Cheliax. The evidence the party had found also pointed to him. The King was against investigating so he could keep the money for himself and make self-aggrandizing statues. The party got the investigation approved. The King was furious (again), the food was running out, and the pirates were tired of politics so the dozens of remaining issues were dropped and the meeting was adjourned.

The party returned to the Nightmare. Aboard was a note from Tessa clutched in the beak of a silver messenger raven. It said:"My friends! It pains me to darken your accomplishments, but I feel I must. Despite your triumphs of late, there remain those who do not accept you as deserving of the prize you have been awarded. If you expect to keep your isle, you’ll need to fight for it. Even as I pen this warning, know that your old nemesis Barnabas Harrigan is bolstering his own fleet, funded through his recent spate of successes raiding the Chelish shipping lanes.

And he will come for you as soon as he is ready.

War is coming to the Shackles, whether Bonefist wants to admit it or not. We have a traitor, or perhaps traitors, in our midst, and when the Chelish navy sails south, it will divide us through our own greed and betrayal if we are not ready.

I intend to survive this war—and to do so, I need all the help I can get. I hope to see you survive as well, but to do that, you must gather a fleet. In time, I will join my resources to yours, but for the immediate future I must retain a low profile—I fear I have drawn too much attention to my plans already. Hire mercenaries if you must, but seek out friends and allies if you can—they will serve better than those bought with coin. Bolstering your infamy can only help as well—some of the topics that came up in the council meeting seemed to me good places to start. Looting the Black Tower and recovering the sword Aiger’s Kiss from within would certainly increase your fame, and if you can track down Scags Rotgram… well, an old mate of Harrigan’s could be an invaluable ally, especially if he knows something about Harrigan’s weaknesses!

Until I contact you again, keep the silver raven figurine as proof of my word. Sell it off if you wish…after that party you threw at your fortress, I suspect you might need the spare coin to help pay for the fleet you’ll soon need!"

The party had two options for raising a fleet, mercenaries or trusted allies. Mercenaries would be very expensive and not very loyal. Among allies, there were Pierce Jerrel and his six longships, Sandara and her 5 warships and Pegsworthy with his 5 sailing ships.

Harghast’s marriage expired and he had to make the decision. With the parties support, he ended the political marriage with Agasta and they parted amicably. Among Agasta’s forces, Sergeant McCleagh seemed quietly overjoyed.

The party decided first to meet with Sandara and ask her about joining forces. Sandara and the party set up a meeting in Hell Harbor. The Nightmare sailed over and the meeting was held in an inn. After greetings and congratulations on her impressively rapid progress Sandara asked why the party had wanted to visit her. Before anyone could speak Dovahkiin bluntly stated “Because Harghast likes you.”

Sandara was amused and revealed she always had similar feelings for Harghast. After that event of immense emotional importance was out of the way Sandara asked if that was really the only reason the party had traveled out to meet her. The party then got down to business and it was agreed that she would join the fleet. And also Rosie Cusswell was there.

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A messenger entered the bar and approached the party. He introduced himself as the first mate of Arronax Endymion and said that Arronax wanted to meet with them on his ship. The party went to the meeting and Arronax said that he was the victim of slander. He said he was not a spy and that a local bardic troupe was deliberately spreading lies about him. He asked the party to “deal” with them discretely and with minimal collateral damage. The party agreed.

The first move was to send Dovahkiin and Gork to watch the show and scout out the theater. The show was a violent and disturbing one. It was tales of devils and the mortals who fell to their depredations. Arronax was implicitly among the foolish mortals. A crazed barbarian named Gorebeard tore apart the real summoned devils on stage.

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After the play, the party waited until 3am and then Zon snuck up to investigate. Zon crept up to the lock and picked it when a guard showed up. The guard demanded that Zon leave and Zon failed at intimidating him before leaving. Zon soon returned with Meeko in his pack. The dog smelled something invisible atop the roof. After much internal debate with a conscience that sounded like Valignat for some reason Zon fired at the invisible thing of unknown origin and intent. An innocent half-orc toddler rolled off the building with an arrow embedded in its forehead. Zon realized it was an illusion just as the guard showed up again. The guard sounded the alarm as Zon turned invisible and fled. The party returned soon and Zon saw no guards. Rather than go through the door it was decided that Dovahkiin should teleport the party in. Zon would have to find his own way and Valignat turned human to lower his mass for transport. With the plan in place, Dovahkiin teleported the party into the main theater.

They appeared in the middle of the buffed, prepared, and gathering enemy. There was Isawyn the opera singer from the play, Gorebeard, a merciless eryines, a babau assassin demon, two hell hounds, and a lowly goblin-like dretch. As the battle raged, Harghast heard a voice in his head saying “Arronax Endymion send his regards! Die fool!”

Various malevolent spells were thrown at the party but a set of great saving throws prevented potential disaster. A barbed devil joined the fray as the dragon transformed and immediately chomped the dretch. Dovahkiin Boneshattered the bard for some damage and Harghast healed while yelling “It’s a trap!” Outside Zon was trying to get in, but the door relocked itself.

Gork cut down the eryines and then engaged Gorebeard for an epic battle of the barbarians. Unfortunately, Gorebeard was quickly outmatched due to his terrible unarmed build and shortly thereafter blasted by Valignat and finished by Harghast.

A hidden foe shot Dovahkiin with a ring of the ram and knocked him down. The hell hounds tore into the fallen wizard. Valignat wounded the barbed devil and then Harghast killed it with a mighty divine blow from his holy sword. Zon finally flew in and was knocked to the ground. Isawyn whipped out her guitar and unleashed a tirade of heavy metal at Dovahkiin for damage before being shot dead by Zon as Valignat dismembered the hell hounds.

Dovahkiin rose and fired Disintegrate at the babau. It was shredded to near ashes before Gork smashed it soundly. A calm fell for a brief second and then a translucent tiefling appeared. It was Lady Nightshade, the third member of this wicked band.

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She cried “Lord Arronax Endymion curses you, may you die at his hand!” and then she disappeared. The party looted the building and found evidence that proved the bards were professional slanderers working for Cheliax to destroy Arronax’s reputation—or were they? Harghast remained unconvinced. Zon also figured out that the ‘guard’ outside was actually another illusion.

Arronax wanted the party to return to his mansion when the matter was settled. The party rested and then went to the meeting. Valignat wasn’t allowed inside the house in his natural form for some reason so he shifted to human. As is his job, Valignat did the talking. Harghast was still extremely suspicious of Arronax and so Valignat attempted to keep the proof by lying about it and informing Arronax the bards were dead. Arronax wasn’t satisfied. Valignat then admitted that the group had found “Something that might help” and presented Arronax with the proof. Confused, Arronax said “This looks like evidence. What are you doing? What is this?” The situation seemed about to collapse but then Valignat covered by quizzically asking “That’s evidence?” Somehow that worked.

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Arronax was relieved and promised his fleet would aid the party. The party went back to the ship. Lady Nightshade had fled into the planes, but the party chased her down over two weeks and finally captured her. Paarthunax read her mind for an interrogation. Paarthunax made a lion roar telepathically at lies and when she claimed she wasn’t a slanderer the contemplative said “She’s a terrible liar”. Valignat leaned in and said “Lord Arronax Eddymion sends his regards” and killed her. There was a brief commotion as Dovahkiin and Gork tried to stop the dragon and Harghast tripped the barbarian. But, when a large dragon sets his mind to something there’s not much anyone can do about it. A spray of gore left Dovahkiin and Gork stippled and frustrated.

The party discovered that Nightshade had been hired through an intermediary and recovered the Bard’s corpse to have Harghast speak with dead and learn who the contact was. He had to get past some evasive answers, but eventually learned that the contact was Caulky Taroon, the old cabin girl of Captain Harrigan. The bard’s corpse was stored so the spell could be cast again later as evidence against Harrigan. Fortunately, Dovahkiin still had a lock of Caulky’s hair and could scry on her at will. The first attempt was poorly timed and resulted in useless footage of Caulky sleeping. The next casting revealed her in the Captain’s cabin of the Wormwood. Harrigan was declaring that soon he would be at the Nightmare’s island.

The party then decided on their next move—the island of the black tower.

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Best party ever

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The Nightmare sailed out to intercept the Jester’s Grin, the slaver ship/trader vessel carrying the shipment of incredible rum Pierce had told Gork about. After a while of tracking the Nightmare was swiftly closing on the Grin. Dovahkiin sent out a fireball and blew up many sailors as Val carried Gork and Harghast out. Zon also flew in. Sailors tried in vain to bring down the dragon before he breathed fire and Zon fired arrows.

Gork leapt into the mix of fire, ice, and arrows and firmly planted his axe in a sailors head. After that Zon was paralyzed and fell into the ocean. Dovahkiin noticed that the captain was an illusion. Zon was shot by a catapult while unable to move before being saved by Gork. Valignant clawed at the captain and also realized it was fake. Hargast tried to find the real captain with his helmet but failed. Dovahkiiin also tried from the ship with Svingli’s Eye but failed as well.

Disappointed, Hargast cast Purge Invisibility from dragonback and revealed Fargo Vitterande, the wererat rogue wizard captain.

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Fargo fumbled a jump and soon had a dragon attacking him and a rider dressed in horrifying armor plunging a lance into him. Fargo managed to escape and fire some spells at the dragon before running into the ship where he took the form of a dire rat. Val and Hargast tried to go in after him but the door was locked. At that moment Val and Hargast heard a splash from the back of the ship. When they got there the captain was hanging from the back of the ship. Gork roared out at the crew of the Jester’s Grin to stop firing or he will rip their faces from their heads. Regardless, they kept loading the ballistas. Fargo fled up the side of the ship. Hargast cast a spell that sped up the dragon but Fargo escaped off the front of the ship. Fortunately Gork heard him and directed the dragon and Hargast to Fargo. Hargast and Valignant attacked the captain but missed him.

The party chased Fargo, but couldn’t see him for a long moment. Valignat went to the other side of the ship, where Harghast finally stunned the harried and wounded wererat. The spells Fargo had cast at the dragon had drained the magic item Val used for self control, and so Fargo was torn apart. Dovahkiin was able to use the remnants of the body to learn about Fargo with the Ring of the Iron Skull.

Once the party was back at the island they began getting the castle into shape by setting up defenses. They finished the dock, hired bards, and built a chapel and college for Hargast and Dovahkiin’s followers. Dovahkiin also made a painting and sculpture of Grok.

Meanwhile, Valignat took over the caves in the nearby Harpy Mountain and formed a lair of his own. Zon decided to live with Valignant in the humanless mountain. The party invited all the Free Captains including Captain Harrigan. The only pirates to decline were the Hurricane King and Arronax Endymion. They also invited Sefina the nereid. She said she would consider it.

The party plane shifted and bought food from heaven to serve at the feast. The party unanimously (except for Dovahkiin) said Gork should get to choose the name of the island. He decided to call it the Dark Island. Dovahkiin refused to call it that.

Soon three Free Captains arrived to judge the party. They were Mase Darimar the sea elf, Cerise Bloodmourne the human, and Avimar “Lobo” Sorrinash the secret werewolf.

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The Judges inspected the fort. Avimar asked about the defenses and told them to destroy a boat being towed behind a ship with the siege equipment. The party succeeded at destroying the boat, but failed to do it well enough and so failed the test. Next the party took the judges to the mess hall. The judges asked for rum and the party presented them with the fancy rum taken from the Jester’s Grin. The judges were impressed and Cerise asked the party about their adventurers so they brought out Paarthunax. The floating brain told a good story, but didn’t manage to impress Cerise. She then challenged the party to try to disarm her in a duel. The duel began and Gork immediately succeeded. Greataxe isn’t an official fencing style, but it is apparently effective. Cerise then gave the party a mystical sword cane.

The party still needed to impress Mase. They succeeded by introducing him to Sefina which Mase took as proof the party could get along with aquatic fey. As a result he gave them a powerful magic item known as a Horn of Triton.

Finally it was the day of the feast and all the pirates were arriving, including Captain Barnabas Harrigan. After catching up with old friends the feast began. Before the first course the party served the heavenly meal along with the strange fruit they found on the island. The pirates were impressed by this. The smells were driving Meeko insane with hunger. While the feast was going on Grok whispered to Dovahkiin that Audessa looked like something was wrong. Dovahkiin walked up to Audessa and she led him into the kitchen, where a swarm of rats was running about. Gork walked in and chopped the rats to pieces. Meeko could smell the rats so he walked up to the door to the kitchen. Harghast was guarding it to keep anyone from seeing the rats so Meeko had to be persuasive.

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As soon as Hargast opened the door a rat ran out. The warpriest loudly stomped it, drawing attention to himself. He covered by yelling out a toast.

“To the Hurricane King! Long may he live!”

The rat disappeared in a magical pop from nowhere and the chicken gave Harghast a “well played” look.

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Meeko ran into the kitchen to see a buffet of rat guts and brains. He then smelled something strange. He briefly tried to identify the scent but suddenly another rat ran through the kitchen and the serving girls screamed. Valignant asked Harghast what was going on. Harghast told him it was nothing to worry about. Meeko couldn’t stop the rat. It got through the door and was stomped by Dovahkiin and Harghast.

Tessa could see that something was very amiss during the banquet. She agreed to keep quiet, but refused to eat any of the food before Harghast told her that he could purify the food. Dovahkiin went and got Zon who also joined in on holding the line against many more rats and girlish screams. Meanwhile, Valignant, in human form was talking to Harrigan. This annoyed Old Harry who refused to eat any of the food.

Zon looked in the kitchen cellar to find 300 rats that swarmed around him. Zon called in Gork who swung his mighty axe. Zon was almost killed, but the rats were dead. After the rats were dispersed Dovahkiin figured out that the weird smell in the kitchen was an alchemical lure for rats. Meeko took all of the 300+ rats and buried them. Harghast purified all the food to get rid of rat contamination. This turned out to be a very good idea. Zon got healed at the chapel. Lobo started harassing Audessa. The party was able to get him to stop without starting a fight. This was a politically sound move, but perhaps a missed opportunity for a memorable werewolf fight scene.

After the feast, one of the cooks told the party that Sefina told them to drug Lobo’s drink. The party then went to question Sefina. Zon decided to stay behind to guard the guests. Something big seemed at play because when they got to Sefina she sent a signal flare into the air. When they saw her all except the dragon were so fascinated they couldn’t move. The Dragon slapped Hargast into his senses and the warpriest then did the same to Gork. Valignant demanded an explanation from Sefina. She said she was sorry for what the ‘tiny man’ made her do. He had taken her shaw and was blackmailing her into doing what he said as some of her life essence was contained in the shawl and if it were destroyed she would probably die.

Sefina summoned a water elemental and Val woke Dovahkiin who teleported himself and Gork back to the castle. Harghast refused to leave the dragon by himself and declined the easy escape. Val and Harghast escaped as the dragon rocketed back to the fort at top speed. Back at the fort, Dovahkiin and Gork told the guards to look for a tiny stinky man. Dovahkiin asked Zon to help and Meeko also sniffed around. Besmara must have favored Meeko for he was able to smell a very faint smell from the tower they went in.

When they got in they found an invisible alchemy lab which Dovahkiin blew up. The present party members were luckily only slightly burned. Meeko found some footprints leading to a small crack in the wall when suddenly Dovahkiin remembered the shaw and frantically looked for its remnants in the lab’s ashes. Fortunately it was not there and had not been destroyed in the hasty explosion.

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There was an explosion from the bay. The party, sans the still absent dragon and Oread, ran to see what was happening. Zon put Meeko in his backpack figuring they might need him for more tracking. The ship known as the Blood Moon had a big hole in it and was sinking. Zon saw another bomb on the ship. He disarmed it and Meeko began barking happily. Out of nowhere two bombs were thrown at them. Meeko was at deaths door once again and Zon was badly wounded. Zon ripped a piece out of the bomb. Meeko was bleeding out and the healer was still minutes away. Fortunately that dog is seemingly indestructible and stopped bleeding on its own. Zon also guessed where the invisible enemy hobbit bomber was and wounded him with arrows. Then the strix flew away, got healed by Dovahkiins healing potions and returned the dog.

They went to Harghast’s chapel where Meeko and Zon were fully healed. The absent party members finally arrived and were hurriedly filled in on the situation. The party decided to go back to the harbor to track the saboteur. Right before they left Meeko walked up to Zon and jumped at his backpack. Pleased by this, Zon picked up Meeko and put him in the pack.

When they got to the harbor, Valignant drank a water breathing potion so he could track the halfing bomber’s scent through the water. He tracked the halfing to a bunch of rocks blocking a tunnel. The tunnel connected to the spot where the party found the alchemy lab. The halfing had gotten through it by drinking a potion that turn him into a fluid which allowed him to pass through the rocks. Gork waited at the exit as the rest of party caught up to the halfling. It was the mercenary known as The Eel.

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The party unleashed a salvo of attacks and the eel went back through the rocks and got a barbarian to the face. He then tried to run away. Unfortunately for him, Dovahkiin had summoned a shadow demon. It caught up to him and The Eel heard its telepathic laughter as he tried in vain to escape. It then used its telekinesis to carry/drag his corpse to the party. And so the Dark Island truly earned its name.

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The party recovered the shawl from The Eel and returned it to Sefina. Stories of the great feast spread throughout the land and the group all got seats on the pirate council. It really seemed like a Great Success.

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Conquest

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Along with the other new arrivals, a supply ship called magically by Dovahkiin arrived at the island. On it were the very first students of Dovahkiin’s new wizard school and numerous people who wanted to serve under Harghast. Notable among Dovahkiin’s students was Paarthunax the Contemplative, a floating psychic brain.

The party started on repairing the Chelish fort and hired the stranded women to help with the festival. Sandara approached the party and told them that a vision from Besmara had told her it was time to leave and captain her own ship. The party sent her off amicably and she left with Agasta.

Two screams and a splash were heard off the stern of a nearby ship. The party spotted a strix archer on the crow’s nest. The strix flew over and bowed to the party, saying he had a message from Zan. Zan was busy with his own pro-strix efforts nowadays but had sent his ninja brother Zon to aid the party. The party demanded to know why Zon had murdered two of their crew and he said they were enemy spies. The party accepted this explanation and welcomed Zon to the party.

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Gork shared the news Pierce had given him. A ship called the Jester’s Grin was leaving Port Peril with a cargo of valuable alcoholic drinks that would come in handy at the party’s rapidly approaching festival. The Nightmare may soon actually commit some piracy after so long as detectives and contest winners.

The party headed out to destroy the harpies. Harghast rode on the dragon and the dragon carried Gork in his claws at first before the party bought a quick release strap for him to ride with later. Zon and Dovahkiin flew on their own power. As they approached the harpy lair, two of the creatures appeared before them.

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The party charged against the harpies’ hypnotic song and good smiting morning stars. Four more harpies and the last surviving gargoyle from the flock the party destroyed joined in. The party and the harpies clashed in the sky. After the harpies fell the gargoyle had only a moment to rethink its decisions before being annihilated by the collective charge of Val, Gork, and Harghast.

The harpies were gone, so the party returned to the Nightmare and asked Baines what he thought they should go after next in order to clear the island of threats.

He listed a tower, a lady in the lake, and odd thrashing in the mangroves. The party decided to go after the tower next. On the way they flew over a giant broken corral containing two triceratops.

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The party marked them on the to-do list and stopped by the cyclops statues at the bridge to take proper ownership of their gemstone eyes.

The party arrived at the tower. It was of cyclops make and had a quartz crystal atop it. Zon scouted ahead and saw movement inside the arrow slits. The party flew to the top of the tower where Harghast had the excellent idea to set up an ambush. The team got into position and Dovahkiin called out for help in cyclops. The four cyclops guards weren’t fooled but came running up to kill the intruders. Three were instantly killed. The last one standing ran at Gork and was dropped before it could swing. The last of the cyclops had fallen.

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The party went back to the ship to rest. Dovahkiin teleported back to Port Peril for a scroll of charm monster and learned the spell after teleporting back. On the ship, he saw Meeko talking with Kroop’s Chicken. Meeko told his master that the chicken had asked if Dovahkiin was doing alright. Dovahkiin told the chicken he was just fine and then danced around over the “proof” that the chicken was sentient. The rest of the party thought he might have been teleporting too much lately and had gone a bit doololly.

The party visited the mangroves and thrashing was found to be a giant anaconda. It couldn’t battle a flying party and was swiftly killed—snake boots for all.

The party next went to visit a clearing in the forest because Valignat wanted to. There they saw 70ft palm trees. One tree looked strange so Zon shot at it. This would normally be a wise and correct decision but unfortunately this was a good treant.

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Dovahkiin and Harghast recognized it for what it was as and yelled at Zon to stop. More of the creatures that resemble ents but due to trademarks held by the Tolkien estate, are not, emerged furiously from the trees. The party began hurriedly talking the treants down as the treants knocked Zon out of the air with a boulder, slammed him, and grappled him. Harghast healed the wounded tree and Val took over speaking to them.

The apparent leader asked what the party was doing and Valignat told them that they were rebuilding the fort on the other side of the island and wanted to see what was in this clearing. The leader said that the last people on the island had cleared forest and asked if the party was going to try that as well and if they were using wood in their fort. Valignat assured them they would not. Lastly, the treant demanded an oath that the party not cut the treant trees and stay out of their forest. Valignat concealed his contempt for oaths as he swore and the treant believed him.

The treants released Zon unharmed and returned to their place. Two of them turned back into palm trees and the party flew away, making a mental note to put up a “Do Not Enter” sign at that forest (M on the map).

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The party swept around the beach from there. They heard singing at the cove and swooped down to investigate. They saw a beautiful nereid bathing by the pool. Valignat hovered in the air above her as Dovahkiin followed and Zon hung back cautiously. Valignat roared a friendly greeting. The fey walked over and asked what the party was doing on the island.

Valignat gave a truthful explanation similar to the one he gave the treants. She repeatedly asked about stories of heroics the party had done. When asked who she was she introduced herself as Sefina. Eventually the party befriended her enough that she agreed to help with repairing the docks, especially with the promise of Dovahkiin’s contemplative telling her stories as she worked. The spectacle of the floating telepathic brain telling tales as a water spirit helped build and skeletons crewed the ship would certainly be a story to be remembered among the Nightmare’s mundane crew. She also warned the party of a creature in some water she liked to swim in nearby that was keeping her out.

The party moved on down the beach. Valignat spotted Kroop’s chicken following them along the beach and landed to go pick it up to return later. For now they would just carry it with them. Harghast was curious about Dovahkiin’s suspicions and detected alignment on the bird. It was flickering between grey and good. The party moved on to the place the naiad had warned them about. Zon and Gork saw a drowning child of their race in the water and were compelled to go rescue it. When Zon reached it a Sargassum Fiend attacked.

Gork and Harghast rode in for a brutal collective charge and Dovahkiin finished it off with a fireball. The rest of the day at the beach was uneventful, just unearthing sunken treasure and wiping out an army of crabs.

The next day the party moved out to the triceratops. Dovahkiin charmed them both and the party repaired the corral with fallen wood so as not to break the deal with the treants. After Dovahkiin charmed the triceratops he realized the chicken had followed him out. It touched heads calmy with the dinosaurs. Hmm…

The island now belonged to the Nightmare.

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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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