Skull and Shackles

Interlude V

The following memories is for Mary:

The human mind is a fragile thing. It can only sustain so many memories before they are lost in the tide of time and experience. For many centuries, you have been the herald of Besmara, the Soul Reaper, the Captain of the Black Rose, and a ghost story in the Fever Sea. You have been dead for so long that you have forgotten human comforts. The touch of the wind on your skin. The taste of fine wine. Even your memories are your foe.

The curse left behind by your husband still burns in your bones. You often confuse yourself with being another being. Two souls in one body. Ancient memories of fighting eldritch horrors from the dark space between stars. Leading your people to freedom, holding aloft a blade of blazing silver. The soul of the silver sword muddles your mind and further divorces you from reality. But you have Gage, your monkey. Gage has always been at your side. He is there to help you or amuse you. The monkey is a gift from Besmara, your patron. He was there when you were rescued.

You remember it clearly now. Thanks to this trip to this strange realm. The memories are becoming more clear, less murky. You were a Azlanti Queen named Athyra Cassadega of the free-city state of Ankeshel, the youngest bride of Priest King Thalassos IV. You were an ambassador of good will that brought salvation to the starving giants of Sumitha. You even took a fancy to the religion of Wendo, practiced by the giants of Ghol Gan.

You also remember the day when Sumitha hosted the summer court of Ankeshel. Priest King Thalassos IV met with a foreign diplomat from another world, the immortal herald of a foreign goddess. His name was Gage. You were assigned to be his tour guide. You took him around the island, shown him the mighty halls of Ghoral Rey where the oracles sought answers from their celestial gods, and listened eagerly to stories of his adventures in the Great Beyond. He fought ancient dead gods, armies of clockwork horrors, rescued a goddess from the depths of the Abyss, and was a philosopher-warrior in the great war of ideas in Sigil.

His words were sweet as honey. You were young. Naïve. He promised you many things and you believed every word of it. The promise of freedom. He was going to take you to the stars and beyond. Your heart belonged to him.

Oh how you hated him.

Another memory comes to the surface. You remember the day that your husband was going to give a gift to the immortal outlander. A sword of pure silver. You never seen such an amazing weapon before. You could hear the sword singing. Singing in your mind! When you inquired as to the sword’s origins, your husband only mentioned that he acquired it back in the capital from an adventurer. He would speak no more on the subject. The mystery of the blade intrigued you.

You recall sneaking pass your sleeping husband, sneaking pass his other wives and putting the guardian constructs at ease with a password that you puzzled out on your own. You often would sneak away to play with your husband’s treasures. This moment was no different. You still remember the blade’s touch. Ancient and powerful. Memories of another life time. A dozen life times. The promise of freedom.

You blacked out.

You believe that the sword took control of your mind at this moment. Again, your memories are muddled. You believe that sword was using you in order to see a play at the local theater. The sword wanted to experience life.

You vaguely remember returning to your home. Your husband’s guards were waiting for you. You cried out as they snatched your arms and carried you away, struggling against their grip as they took you down to the depths of the ancient ziggurat. In the bowels of Sumitha your husband was waiting for you. He wasn’t alone. Several priests of the god of Ankeshel, Abadar, were in attendance to cast the ritual that would bind the sword’s soul to your body. You cursed them in the sword’s ancient language as they placed a necromantic curse on your struggling lithe frame. Priest King Thalassos IV said this was your duty. A duty to the world. Wherever the Silver Sword of Gith goes, death follows.

You were entombed in a pocket world. Provided with all the luxuries of your station. Left behind. Forgotten. Gage never came back for you. He never rescued you, much like how he rescued all the other damsels in the stories he told you. But you still had hope. You clung to the idea of your hero coming to save you. To rescue you. The promised fairy tale kept you going in the endless cycle of days within the pocket world. Besides, he wouldn’t leave behind the child growing in your belly. At least you were not alone. You, the voice in your head, and your baby. It was a miracle that the child survived.

And then one day, Besmara rescued you. This was back before Besmara was truly a god feared and respected in the world of man. She was a fickle water spirit, a creature of the Wendo, and above all else… a pirate. She plundered the treasure of Ankeshel and took you along with it. You and your son. You sailed the Great Beyond by her side, granted freedom and a promise at adventure. She even bestowed her familiar to protect you, a nameless monkey that made you laugh and smile. You named him Gage.

You wanted to keep the child, but Besmara insisted that you give him up. The sea was no place for a baby. She promised that you would be able to visit him from time to time. Shore leave she called it. You gave him up to a loving family on the mainland of Azlanti. And from time to time you did visit him, watching him grow from afar. You spoke on a few occasions when you had the sly opportunity to do so. You had plans for him to join you on your adventures. Adventures in the Great Beyond.

But somewhere in your adventures you took a knife in the gut. The wound killed you. Slew you dead on the spot. You vaguely recall imagining what it would be like to be a mother in those last moments. And then you died.

You awoke four days later aboard a ship that you would soon call the Black Rose. Your husband’s curse made sure that even the embrace of death would escape you. All so that you would continue on to perform your duty. Even in undeath. Besmara gave you a ship to captain and a crew made up of dead sailors. She even gave you some mercy by bestowing you with the illusion of life. You were now a soul reaver. A ghost story.

You left your son behind and went on to become legend.

The following dream sequence is for De’de:

You’re dreaming. The black abyss of the sea beckons you. It writhes like a lover, twisting and turning against a blanket of blue and foam. An endless expanse of dark blue until you reach the very edge of the world. A plunging waterfall into the great below. You hear it calling you. A sea of mist. A cave with teeth. Blue lights. A parade of the dead. And an island with dead trees. Each tree bares a face, itched in sorrow and regret. A great library of lost souls.

Each of the trees bare a symbol on their forehead. You continue on passing through the dead forest until you find a tree with a symbol you recognize. The same symbol you have been seeing over and over again in your dreams.

The Azlanti Sign. A ward against the alien darkness between the stars.

You touch the tree and its eyes begin to weep sweet honey that reminds you of blood. You feel a bond as queer as you feel the odd kinship you possess with the undead champion of the Pirate Queen.

The tree moans and you find yourself sitting in a cabin alone in the dark with a single candle providing a small comfort of radiance against the darkness. The scent of ink and brine is strong in the air as you pick up a quell and scribble down a litany of words written in a foreign language. You recall vaguely that the language is Elven.

You read aloud the words as the quill’s tip sings across the paper, “among the Sahuagin, pure physical power determines rank. As a male ages and amasses more physical power, he is eligible to advance to higher rank in the hierarchy. This advancement cannot take place unless circumstances create a vacancy in the hierarchy. Relationships between Sahuagin ranks remain essentially feudal. The elite dispense justice to, and receive tribute from, their subordinates. Likewise, the nobles derive military power from the ranks of their subordinates and often exercise that power against enemies too powerful for their subordinates to face on their own.”

“A Sahuagin defers to all other Sahuagin of higher rank in almost every matter. The sea devils, however, do not tolerate indiscriminate killing among themselves, so commoners need not fear summary executions – as long as they behave themselves. Likewise, a Sahuagin can expect deference from all Sahuagin of lesser rank. Sahuagin of the highest rank receive first choice of food, treasure, and (usually) mates.”

“Sahuagin priestesses represent a separate hierarchy paralleling the male one. Under priestesses rank above commoners but below lieutenants and baronial guards. Senior priestesses outrank everyone in their villages except the barons. Officially, the priestesses act as advisors to the nobility and as the spiritual counselors and protectors of their communities. In practice, their superior status gives them considerable political clout.”

“Sahuagin are oligarchic; an elite group of senior males direct the commoners’ activities. A Sahuagin prince rules an area consisting of about twenty villages. A baron oversees each village. Beneath the baron is his chieftains, acting as military leader of a band. A band often numbers in the hundreds. All princes in an area report to a single king. And a Sahuagin king never has more than nine princes under his rule.”

“In most cases, a Sahuagin must seek out a higher ranking Sahuagin and defeat it in a duel to the death. It is not possible to “skip” a step in the hierarchy. That is, a common warrior cannot challenge the village baron. He must challenge a lieutenant or baronial guard for his position. Likewise, the male and priestess hierarchies remain completely separate; the senior priestess cannot challenge her baron, only her high priestess. Duels do not always prove necessary for advancement. A position in the hierarchy might already exist through the advancement of a higher ranking Sahuagin, the death of a higher-ranking Sahuagin – whether accidental or war-related – or through expansion. Once a Sahuagin attains the age and power required to advance a step in the hierarchy, it has an obligation to seek advancement through a challenge. Failure to do so is taken as a sign of cowardice and ultimately leads to banishment or execution for the timid sea devil.”

“The sea devil has a few rules governing challenges. Every sea devil has the right to challenge any other sea devil. However, the relative difference in rank precludes certain types of challenge. For example, a warrior can accuse his king of cowardice and challenge him. If the warrior wins, his accusation must be true However, the same warrior cannot challenge the king for his throne because it is clear that a warrior isn’t fit to rule – though a king who suffers defeat at the hands of a warrior will quickly receive a challenge from his nearest rival.”

“Sahuagin must fight their challenges before the entire community; they forbid private duels, as such conflicts deprive the community of great entertainment and leave room to doubt the validity of the battle. In addition, a sea devil cannot withdraw or refuse a challenge once it is issued.”

The sylvan scholar stops writing and turns his attention to you. He looks like Quade. He smiles sadly at you and remarks, “We are all connected by blood.” His eyes begin to bleed like a tree’s sap.

And then you hear a cat’s howl.

26 The Last Word

Session Twenty Six

In this session of the Skulls and Shackles campaign, the pirates arrive in the ancient Ghol Gani city of Sumitha. They decide to take their time to explore the city before determining their next course of action. Mary leads the companions to a steep-sided amphitheater springing from the rocky southern slope of Pantheon Hill, where the pirates take in the archaic culture of Ghol Gani poetry. De’de takes rubbings of the ancient amphitheater’s architecture, planning to sell the rubbings to a historian when they return back to the Prime Material.

Tidus roams the city, unaware that he is being followed. He attempts to visit the Celestial Temple in the Seer quarter of the city, but sensing his undead nature, the oracles of the Temple bar him from entrance. Wynter learns about an inn known as the Shuttle and Sein through gossip, and decide that the Inn is a good place then any for the companions to rest in.

While resting at the Shuttle and Sein, Quade experiments with his ability to manipulate the mindscape and manages to create a pocket environment for Wynter, so that she can conduct research into an incantation that will bring about the destruction of the mindscape and Quade’s resurrection. Wynter, and her familiar Bertok, begin their studies within the pocket realm, but Bertok argues that they should be focusing on the destruction of the mindscape and not the resurrection of Quade. The psychopomp believes Quade should join the river of souls and be judged by Pharasma. Wynter disagrees and argues for her companion’s second chance at life.

On day five during their stay in the city, Athyra and Mary approach the Pleasure Palace of the Sun God where they notice legions of petitioners attempting to gain the hero god’s attention. Mary tells one of the cyclops templars guarding the temple her true identity and to pass the information back to Turpin Irons. When a messenger from the temple comes rushing out to greet Mary and Athyra that the Sun God will see them, Mary refuses as she believes that Turpin Irons should come out and seek her attention. Quade becomes aware that someone is stalking and killing his pirate companions. He immediately dismisses the astral constructs of the crew of the Femme Fatal.

Meanwhile Wynter later learns from Seraix, her eidolon companion, that the eidolon has been struggling with her emotions. Apparently Seraix fears that Wynter is going to die if she performs the ritual. This fear was the reason why Wynter and Seraix were having problems merging. Seraix then reveals a revelation: Wynter’s family is still alive.

Back in the Shuttle and Sein, Mary notices a strange barmaid that no one else in the tavern notices. She follows after the barmaid into the Shuttle and Sein’s wine cellar and comes face to face with the six-winged angel Thais, herald of Cayden Cailean. Thais tempts Mary with the promise of life and freedom from the curse placed down upon her by her husband, but Mary refuses. While the two are talking with one another, Mary’s familiar is possessed by Besmara and the monkey assassinates the herald. Mary appears annoyed, but doesn’t question the monkey’s possession.

On the ninth day of their down time, Quade notices that time itself has stopped. He is greeted by a familiar devil that he encountered on the shores of Smuggler’s Shiv, and is told to remember. Quade suddenly recalls who he truly is: the immortal adventurer Gage, reborn. Gage remembers awakening from the Dead Man’s box on the shores of Smuggler’s Shiv, where he made a bargain with the memory devil in order to fool Gage’s son, Bikendi, the wizard who was seeking the Book of Confessions. When Gage agreed to the bargain, he lost all memory of he who was. When he meets up with the memory devil again aboard the Magpie Princess’s captain cabin, Gage recalls again his encounter with the memory devil and the devil’s plan on having Gage kill his son, Bikendi. With Bikendi’s death, the archdevil would be free from his enslavement. Back at the Shuttle and Sein, the archdevil warns Quade about Bikendi’s plan on finding the Last Word, a weapon used by the demon lord Orcus during the events of Dead Gods. Bikendi believes he will find the answer within Gage’s memories since the immortal champion was among the adventurers who fought and survived the encounter with the demon lord. The nameless archdevil tells Quade that Bikendi’s mercenaries are hunting them even as they speak.

Once the archdevil leaves Gage’s presence, Gage loses all memories of himself once more but recalls the information provided by the archdevil as Quade. Quade gathers the rest of the companions just as the shadow fey mercenaries attempt to lure the group outside with a trap. The pirates manage to evade the lure and with magical divinations provided by De’de, find the hidden fey assassins lurking in the shadows. There is a quick battle and many of the fey assassins are dispatched.

As the last fey assassin falls, suddenly the entire city of Sumitha is wracked with an earthquake and the sky begins to change. Their entire surroundings shift and transform as the city becomes engulfed within an underground cavern. The planar experts among the group recognize that they have been shifted into the chaotic plane of Pandemonium. The pirates interrogate their prisoner and don’t learn too much, other than that Bikendi is behind the change in their surroundings. They release their prisoner and continue forward into the depths of Pandemonium.

Sometime in their journey, Mary questions Athyra, confused as to why her younger doppelganger didn’t disappear like the other astral constructs. Athyra isn’t sure as well.

As they travel across a field of bones made of dead fiends, they come across two dark elves blocking their path. De’de recognizes them to be followers of an obscure dark god known as Kiaransalee. Mary attempts to communicate with the drow but her voice is drowned out by the strong winds within the tunnel. The drow then attempt to communicate with the pirates with sign language, but when that fails, they beckon for the pirates to come closer. De’de and Quade sense that the drow are attempting to influence their minds with magic and instead decide to strike back. Their attacks reveal the drow to be undead minions of Orcus known as the Visage. The pirates manage to defeat their undead opponents and then continue to press on to the next challenge.

Their next challenge happens to be Gage’s son, Bikendi, who is accompanied by the mysterious memory devil. The pair watches a battle occurring within a cavern beyond the pirates’s sight. But as they draw close to engage the Chaneque, Bikendi’s guardians move into place to defend him: frog demons! The pirate companions fight a fierce battle against the fey summoner and his minions. During the fight, the memory devil restores a portion of Quade’s memories, allowing him to remember who he truly is: Gage. Gage strikes down his son, but doesn’t kill him. The archdevil is disappointed in Gage’s actions and even more so to learn that Bikendi’s quest to learn the power of the Last Word was a dead end. The memory devil reveals that he was never truly a slave to the Chaneque and departs back to the Nine Hells.

The companions stand triumph over Bikendi as they witness the second death of Orcus, the demon prince of undead.

25 Battle of the Tritons

Session Twenty Five

In this session of the Skulls and Shackles campaign, Dalvika, De’de, Mary, Quade, Tidus, and Wynter along with the other pirate companions face against a threat that they left behind in the ruins of Imerta’s Aerie. The group is able to defeat the legendary chimera with a combination of team work, magic, and martial skill. Once the chimera was defeated, the astral construct of Tidus immediately attacked his Prime Material doppelganger. The other pirates watched on as the two tritons fought against one another to determine who is the true Tidus. It wasn’t until Quade was reminded that if the astral construct version of Tidus was destroyed, he would lose all memory of the triton pirate. Quade attempted to stop the Prime Material Tidus from delivering the death blow, but he was too late as Tidus slew his astral construct counterpart. Quade then was momentary confused as his memories of Tidus were now gone. The two psions determined that due to Quade’s emotional ties to the triton, those memories were quickly expended unlike the memories of fallen crew mates: Magic Mike and Jack Scrimshaw, who Quade had no emotional connections what so ever.

The group argue among themselves as to determine a course of action, until it is decided they would move on to the city of Sumitha. As they journey along the great road to the Ghol Gani city, the group continue to share their opinions and concerns on the current problem at hand. Wynter convinces the group to take a side trek to go find her missing familiar and psychopomp mentor, Bertok. Meanwhile the group is able to determine that the night hag Lodhotha is the reason why they were drawn into the mindscape. A legendary night hag often has the ability to evade death by leaping into the mind of their killer. With the destruction of the Immortal Dreamstone, it must had drawn the other companions in the room with the night hag as she entered Quade’s mind.

They journey into the wild jungle where Mary recalls legends about the place being haunted by nature spirits that are angry against the cyclopean natives of the island. As the group journey further into the jungle, many of their numbers are lost as the trees move and shift in place to confuse them. Luckily enough the officers and Athyra remain together as they are confronted by treants. The group attempts diplomacy, which ends in failure and the tree spirits attack! The group is able to fend off the animated trees and find the real treants among their enemies, eliminating the intelligent plant creatures with fire magic.

Athyra is able to help regroup the pirates with their missing companions, and all together they leave the jungle. They arrive in Nereid’s Grotto, where they meet Wynter’s two mentors: the nereid Illenya and the psychopomp Bertok. Bertok greets the companions and explains that he has been waiting for them. He confirms that the night hag Lodhotha is still alive and is currently occupying the body of Quade on the Prime Material Plane, and is now allies with Avimar Sorrinash, the lord of Shark Island. The psychopomp warns the group that the night hag is still obsessed with the Immortal Dreamstone and will seek to recreate it, using the lost souls trapped in the mindscape.

The group fall into discussion about a plan on how to defeat the night hag and to destroy the mindscape in order to free the lost souls within. Bertok warns Quade not to trust Besmara or her agents, while Mary warns Quade and Wynter not to trust Pharasma’s agents and their agenda.

The session ends with the group heading to the city of Sumitha.

24 Imerta's Aerie

Session Twenty Four

In this session of the Skulls and Shackles campaign, Dalvika, De’de, Mary, Quade, Tidus, and Wynter return to base camp with the rescued captives. The group is alerted by Quade’s first mate, Cut Throat Grok, and the other pirate companions that the master rigger, Magic Mike, was murdered. When the pirates conducted a head count, they found that the half orc was missing. The group’s tracker, Sasha Nevah, found his corpse stashed in the bushes not too far away from the camp. Sasha was able to determine that the culprit killed the master rigger sometime before the scouts journeyed up into the mountains. All evidence suggests that Tidus is the culprit. De’de and the others decide that there isn’t enough information to act upon.

Meanwhile, back in the Prime Material Plane and aboard the Femme Fatale, Cut Throat Grok is holding a meeting with Tidus and Royster McCleagh. Magic Mike and the formidable Frankie K is also in the room, acting as security for the half orc first mate. Grok informs Tidus and Royster that the remaining crew held a vote, and Grok was voted in as captain of the Femme Fatale. Tidus is upset at this news, and demands to know why he wasn’t given a vote. Grok explains to the disgruntle triton that when Tidus disobeyed Captain Quade back at Blackblood Cay, Quade had Tidus removed from the ship’s charter and marked him down as a mutineer. Grok then explains to both Tidus and Royster that she is willing to give them a chance to sign on to the Femme Fatale, but under her command. Both Royster and Tidus refuse.

Suddenly both Tidus and Grok receive a magical message from Wynter, alerting them that the officers of the Femme Fatale are alive. Wishing to seek answers, Captain Grok sets a course to Plumetown.

Back in the mindscape, the scouts attempt to rest and train. But their rest is interrupted by the arrival of the Daughters of Imerta. The pirates defend themselves and manage to defeat the giant fiendish harpies. Only one of the pirate companions fell, Jack Scrimshaw, a lowly swab. Quade orders Jack’s body to be buried while the scouts head up into the mountain to confront the leader of the harpies.

Once in the Aerie, the pirates face off against more giant harpies and suffer very few injuries. When they confront a second wave of defenders, primarily made up of cyclops slaves, Quade surrenders. Quade convinces the cyclops sentries to spare their lives and take them to see the Aerie’s leader, the gray slaadi known as the Eel. Due to Quade’s mythical charisma, the cyclopes don’t remove the weapons from the scouts but peace bind them. While being escorted into the great hall, Wynter senses Bertok’s presence.

In Plumetown, Tidus is searching the small port town for a mercenary wizard. He finds one, and manages to pay the wizard off to learn the command word for Quade’s glove of storing. Once out of the shop and out of sight, he commands the glove to deposit its treasures onto the floor. He is surprised to find the corpse of Duchess, the cleric of Gorum. Quade’s carnivorous dinosaur familiar, Irons, who was left behind to watch over Duchess, had been eating her! Irons quickly flees, leaving Tidus alone to search Quade’s treasures. The triton then finds the item he was obsessing over: the Jawbone of Kaho Ali’i. Tidus once more hears the seductive words of Blackwarn, the herald of Besmara, whispering in his ear. Blackwarn instructs Tidus to wait at the docks at night and wait for a ship that will bring Tidus to the herald. While Tidus is waiting for his ride, Slippery Sly, a crewman of the Femme Fatale, informs Tidus that Captain Grok wants him to bring the glove so that they can free Duchess. Tidus tells Slippery Syl that Duchess is dead and directs him where the swab can find her corpse.

In the great hall of Imerta’s Aerie, the scouts meet the leader of the harpies: The Eel. The Eel is a haughty frog-like protean squatted on top of layers of dinosaur hide. He is surprised to see Quade within the mindscape. De’de is the only member of the group that can see a silver cord protruding from the Eel’s stomach. He shares this information with the others, and Mary suggests De’de to use the piece of Eight to cut the cord. Quade uses his uncanny diplomatic skills to draw out information from the chaotic outsider, learning that the harpies are being used to search the island and the nearby islands for “a place with dead trees.”

While Quade speaks with the Eel, Mary convinces the cyclops sentries to turn against the foreign outsider that rules over them. Suddenly bored with the conversation, the Eel attacks! De’de uses the piece of Eight to shape it as a dagger, and moves into position to attack the protean. But he soon realizes he lacks the skill in melee combat to cut the cord!

With a combination of magic, blades, and hacking away at the Eel’s defenses, it was the Eel’s very own cyclops sentries that brought the gray slaadi down. Mary notes that the Eel isn’t dead, merely defeated, as he was just an astral projection. The group soon returns back to camp, with the knowledge that Bertok is back and alive on the island, and that the Eel’s master, a fey creature, is searching for the Island of Dead Trees.

Meanwhile back in the Prime Material Plane, Tidus notices the weather growing worse and a fog rolling in from the ocean. From the fog he spots a silhouette of a ship, and a small life boat being rowed by the draugr. As the undead crew escort him across the bay, he soon realizes that the ship ahead of him is the Black Rose. Aboard the ship’s cabin room, he meets with the barnacle encrusted decapus known as Blackwarn, and the Black Rose’s undead officers: Captain Bloody Tampon, Barnabas Lanteri, and Alton Devers. Blackwarn demands for the scrimshaw necklace, and reassures Tidus that he will be rewarded immortality. Tidus hands over the Jawbone of Kaho Ali’I to the decapus, and learns to his error that Blackwarn plans to betray the Pirate Queen!

The decapus rewards Tidus for his actions by welcoming him as a member of the Black Rose, and then teleports away with his prize. The tricked champion of the Pirate Queen is surrounded by the undead and is nearly defeated as he attempts to fight back against the horde. But as Bloody Tampon is about to bring down his cutlass to end Tidus’s life, the triton is transported away by an unseen force!

Tidus awakens aboard the Kelpie’s Wrath, finding himself face to face with his goddess: Besmara. The Pirate Queen orders her minions to strap Tidus down onto a nearby table’s surface. They begin the ritual to bind his soul and flesh to his armor. Besmara is clearly upset that Tidus gave up the necklace to her fallen herald, but informs the dying triton that she is willing to give him a second chance to serve her. She orders Tidus that he must find Quade and bring him back to Golarion. Along with her monkey, Gage. Tidus learns that Besmara has been tormenting the immortal creature over the centuries, releasing him from the Dead Man’s Box in order to see what sort of new creature would emerge. She wants Tidus to help tutor Quade to be her agent, and to reforge her silver sword, Alestrom.

With Besmara’s magic embedded into Tidus’s flesh and soul, he commits the ritual suicide to complete the incantation into becoming an eternal undead champion of Besmara. She then transports Tidus to the mindscape.

Back in the mindscape, Mary’s familiar, the monkey known as Gage, begins to have a seizure. The pirates watch on with disgust and surprise as the little spider monkey vomits out Tidus. The newly emerged Tidus tries to explain to the crew that he is the real Tidus and that he was sent by Besmara to rescue them. Wynter, still merged with her eidolon, can sense Tidus’s undead nature due to the psychopomp’s spirit sense. Tidus hands over to Quade his glove, while Quade suspects the triton may have information on how Quade died in the Material Plane.

Before anyone could question the triton further, they all notice a forgotten enemy they left behind in Imerta’s Aerie flying towards them: a chimera!

23 The Bridge

Session Twenty Three

In this session of the Skulls and Shackles campaign, the pirates of the Femme Fatale leave behind the temple of Ghoral Rey with answers but are troubled with more questions. They struggle to determine who among their numbers may be a figment, an astral construct created by the mindscape, and who among them are real. The group decides to journey on to the city of Sumitha to seek answers.

On their way to the city of Sumitha, they cross a great bridge near a mountain aerie populated by flying dinosaurs. As they make it half way across the bridge, they’re suddenly attacked from the air by fiendish giant harpies, the Daughters of Imerta. The harpies attempt to captivate the pirates, but many of the officers manage to shrug off the enchanting song, while many of the crew fall victim to the harpies’ siren call. Mary saves the enthralled pirates with a break enchantment spell. While Quade, De’de, and Tidus finish off the harpies with their blade and magic. The fleeing harpies snatch away two of the pirates, Doc and Fishguts, and their new companion, Athyra.

The crew of the Femme Fatal wish to take chase, but the officers who entered Ghoral Rey are troubled at the idea of chasing after people who could potentially not be real but figments of Quade’s memories. Dalvika decides to use her magic of true sight to determine the truth. She is shocked to learn that the whole crew, including Tidus, are astral constructs. The only real people among them were Quade, De’de, Wynter, Seriax, Mary, and her monkey Gage. Dalvika also determined that Quade was a petitioner of the mindscape, and that Mary is undead!

With these revelations, the group argue among themselves on what to do. Cut Throat Grok advises Quade, that she may or may not be real, but she is going to go after her friends. After listening to his officers, who wish to continue on to the city of Sumitha, Quade decides to head after the harpies.

Everyone follows after Quade, and they head off to rescue the captured companions.

Meanwhile, back in the Prime Material Plane. Tidus emerges within the fallen shrine room of Dagon where his companions previously fought and defeated the cult leaders. The triton adventurer was busy looting the dead in the tunnels adjacent to the shrine when he heard the loud destruction of the Immortal Dreamstone. He rushes around to look for his companions, only finding the dead remains of the cultist, and the floating body of a unconscious sylvan male: Quade.

Recalling memories of his humiliation at the hand of his Captain aboard the Femme Fatale, Tidus rips out Quade’s throat with his bare hands. He doesn’t have time to bask in his murder as a new arrival is drawn to the carnage of the fallen shrine. Avimar Sorrinash, the pirate lord of Shark Island and the lord of Ollo. Appearing as a monstrous wereshark, Sorrinash admits that he is impressed by the Magpie’s deeds in taking out his rivals and putting half the dock to sleep with their mythic magic. But he still demands the return of his property: the scrimshaw whale jawbone of Kaho Ali’i. Tidus admits he doesn’t have the item, bluffing the canny shapeshifter. Avimar then informs that Tidus is allowed to take one item from the room and leave with it, watching carefully as Tidus takes Quade’s glove. The same magical glove storing the sacred necklace along with Quade’s familiar, Irons, and his bound cohort, the cleric of Gorum, Duchess. Tidus leaves the sahaugin tunnels and heads back to the Femme Fatale.

The pirates arrive at the base of Imerta’s Aerie and make camp. As they rest, they once more dream the same troubled dream dealing with the Island of Dead Trees and the brown tabby cat. While the rest of the crew slumber, Quade assembles Dalvika, De’de, Mary, Tidus, and Wynter along with Seriax to join him in scouting the mountain.

Quade easily avoids a trap at the entrance to the aerie as it malfunctions, but alerts the giant harpy guards nearby. The pirates engage blade and magic and song against the giant harpies and their cyclopes slaves, and emerge victorious. They investigate the slaughterhouse adjacent to the guardhouse, and find their missing companions in the meat locker.

The session ends with a scene back in the Prime Material Plane, where Tidus boards the Femme Fatale. Cut Throat Grok demands to know what happened to the other officers, worried that the triton had returned alone. Tidus explains that the others are gone, and that Quade is dead. Fishguts advises Grok that they should leave port, as the Blood Moon is in town. Conflicted with her decision to leave Quade’s body behind in the fallen temple of Dagon, she orders the Femme Fatale to set sail and find a cove where they can hide their ship. “We’re not going to leave our companions behind.”

Tidus slips Quade’s glove on. Noticing the glove, Grok suggests that the glove should return to Jayhalle Messierre. Tidus smiles, displaying his predatory teeth, and agrees.

Back in the fallen shrine of Dagon, Avimar searches among the dead in his futile attempt to find his obsession. It soon dawns on the pirate lord that Tidus has the relic he is after.

And nearby, the body of fallen Quade begins to reincarnate.

22 Island of Empty Eyes

Session Twenty Two

In this session of the Skulls and Shackles campaign, the pirates of the Femme Fatale made up of Dalvika, De’de, Quade, and Wynter found themselves drawn up into a fiery vortex after Quade slew the night hag Lodhotha and destroyed the unstable Immortal Dreamstone.

They awoke to find themselves on a foreign beach beneath a relentless sun. Among their fallen numbers were their comrade Tidus, who they left behind in the Sahuagin tunnels beneath Ollo, and their old companion and former ship chaplain of the Magpie Princess, Mary. Quade was the first to awaken from his ordeal but he was still disoriented from the journey. Mary soon awoke next and nearly killed De’de when she mistook him for a sahuagin. For some reason, De’de now found himself resembling a sea devil. Tidus was next to awaken and he soon rushed on over to defend the fallen Wynter and her eidolon cohort against a monstrous beast that arose from the shore: a seven-headed hydra. Wynter was the last to awaken and she quickly used her supernatural talent to place a slumber hex on the incoming hydra. De’de then used his psionic magic to catapult Mary towards the fallen hydra and she quickly slew the beast while it was sleeping with her blades.

Once they recovered from fighting the hydra, the group surveyed their surroundings and attempted to figure out where they were. Wynter was distressed that she couldn’t fuse with her confused eidolon, and the pair was attempting to find Wynter’s missing mentor, the raven Bertok. The group found Dalvika sleeping beneath a palm tree at the edge of the beach, along with the crew of the Femme Fatale who emerged out of the jungle. The crew claimed they were aboard the Femme Fatale one moment, and then next they were pulled into a fiery vortex. Mary believes they are not on the Prime Material Plane anymore.

Not far away from the marooned pirates was the only sign of civilization; a stone hut built beside a wooden pier. De’de, Tidus, and Mary searched the hut and found scavenged furniture from a ship known as the Indep. Mary managed to recognize many of the items in the hut to be Azlanti in origin, and collaborating with De’de and Wynter, the Indep was an Azlanti ship from the city of Ankeshel. The Indep was on a mission to deliver supplies, primarily food, to the struggling Ghol Gani port city of Sumitha. Before Earthfall, the lands that now compose western Garund extended much farther into the Arcadian Ocean, and the islands of the Shackles were once a sprawling mountain range that connected to Mediogalti Island and Rahadoum. Sumitha was a noteworthy port, and as a result served as the first taste many travelers got of Ghol Gani culture and hospitality. Here, Azlanti traders and diplomats lived among giants. And it was here that the Ghol Gani and the Azlanti worked together to wage a war against the serpent folk. For all the bounty the sea brought, however, the water also threatened to destroy all that the city represents.

Powerful tides had swept in from the north, flooding several neighborhoods that are now disused. The harbinger of these waves was an immense black shark that arrived every year, thrashing violently until appeased with offerings of gold, livestock, incense, and other valuables. The populace dared not resist, having failed once to save the city-state’s sister city from the monster a century ago. Sahuagin have since occupied the lost sister city’s ruins, using them as a launching point for raids against the coast.

When the great black shark Dajobas swallowed Liachora’s navy only months later, 10 of the greatest heroes of Ghol Gan challenged the beast, lost their lives, and failed to save the silver-arched city.

Refugees have crowded the city of Sumitha ever since, fleeing from Liachora, whose ruins have since been claimed by sahuagin, or the fallout of other tragedies. Not content with the conquest of Liachora, Dajobas returns to Sumitha every year, gobbling up the tribute the city’s people throw into the sea to appease its wrath and buy another year of peace.

In history, according to Mary, the Indep made its journey to the city of Sumitha and managed to help the Ghol Gani. Led by the Azlanti ambassador, Princess Athyra Cassadega of Ankeshel, the seventh wife of priest-king Thalassos IV, the Ghol Gani and the Azlanti combined their resources drove out the black shark Dajobas back into the Arcadian Ocean. And from this victory forged a lasting relationship between Sumitha and Ankeshel.

The officers of the Femme Fatale pirates then decided to form a scouting team, made up of Captain Quade, Tidus, Mary, Wynter, and De’de, to explore the island. They leave behind Dalvika and Cut Throat Grok in charge of the others.

Spotting a tower far ahead on top of the high sea cliffs, the scouts decide to venture in that direction instead of traveling down into the lowlands. They use magic to circumvent the dangerous sea cliff’s height and journey to the tower from the south side. Once they reach the Ghol Gani lookout tower, Quade, Tidus, Wynter, and De’de recognize the immense statues of eyeless cyclopes staring off into the sea from the tower’s battlements. The same statues they saw as ruins on the tiny Island of Empty Eyes back home in the Fever Sea. Mary hails the cyclops sentries on the battlements and thru a successful parley, learn that they’re on the Island of Sumitha. It then dawns upon the pirates that they’re on the Island of Empty Eyes, 4,000 years in the past. But history isn’t exactly correct. The Azlanti ship, the Indep, was originally supposed to reach the city of Sumitha and deliver its cargo. But according to the cyclopes of the lookout tower, the Indep never arrived, and the people of Sumitha have suffered ten years of famine. Mary, De’de, and Wynter begin to suspect the pirates may actually be in the Dimension of Dreams. Quade decides to head back to gather the entire crew and then head south for the city of Sumitha.

Traveling the road south, the pirates spot a flying creature two miles behind them. The creature has been following them for some time. De’de is able to determine that the flying creature is a giant harpy with a single eye, much like a cyclops. Many of the historians among the scouts’ recall legends of giant harpies that once dwelled on the Island of Empty Eyes in the Fever Sea, known as the daughters of Imerta, whose powers derived from an accursed bloodline. The story goes that the oracles of Ghoral Rey proclaimed a prophecy, that the sorceress Imerta would give birth to a son, and that child would bring about the destruction of the cyclopes of Sumitha. Imerta, hoping to avoid the doomed prophecy, made a wish with a water genie, to give birth to a female child. But the fickle water genie warped Imerta’s wish, forever tainting her progeny, and the cyclops sorceress gave birth to monstrous daughters instead. Thankfully the giant harpies are long since extinct, but not in this era.

The daughter of Imerta follows after the scouts for a time before flying to the west once the pirates reached the grand stairwell leading down from the high plateau and into the lowlands. Once in the lowlands, the pirate scouts come across dinosaurs ranging across the high grass savannah. They decide to avoid the great thunder lizards and continue their journey back to their home camp.

After they leave the dinosaurs behind, Wynter manages to spot a stranger in the high grass stalking the party. They’re surprised to find that it is a barbaric woman that resembles Mary, riding atop a raptor steed. After a tense meeting with this feral woman, Mary is able to convince the angry teen that the pirates are a rescue party searching for survivors of the Indep. They learn that the woman’s name is Princess Athyra Cassadega of Ankeshel, the only survivor of the Indep left alive on the island. Athyra was just a child when daughters of Imerta lured the Indep to the island’s western shoals and slew everyone aboard except young Athyra and her father, who managed to escape into the surrounding hills. Her father built the pier and the small stone hut that the pirates found when they first arrived on the Island, but Athyra’s father eventually succumbed to disease and died, leaving Athyra alone. She was forced to scavenge for food in the wilderness. Ten years later, Athyra is now a grown woman and accompanied by her faithful raptor companion, Jagi. With Mary’s help, Athyra is convinced to join the group, but is reluctant to leave the island without making the daughters of Imerta pay for their crimes.

The scouts return back to their home camp and report their findings to the other officers of the Femme Fatale. With everyone in agreement, the entire camp ventures south into the lowlands and towards the grand stairwell. Once they reach the top of the stairwell, the pirates decide to rest for the night. But night never comes. Instead, eight hours of endless rain pelts down from the clouds above that provide twilight and some relief from the harsh sun. Many of the pirates are surprised to learn from Athyra that the Island of Sumitha has no true night fall. This is due to the arrival of the Sun God a few years ago, who saved the city of Sumitha when he defeated the great black shark, Dajobas. The Sun God now rules the city, and as long as he rules, there will never be night fall.

While they slept, many of the pirates have a familiar strange dream. In the dream, the pirate is wandering on an island covered with dead trees, and is searching for something very important but can’t remember what it might be. The dreaming pirate then spots a small brown cat sitting on a gravestone ahead, and realizes that this cat knows what the pirate was looking for. Unfortunately, the pirate can never catch the cat, it evades them and runs away only to perch on another gravestone. This chase continues until the cat leads the pirate to a large bronze mausoleum at the highest point on the island. The front of the mausoleum seems partially melted, and the cat perches on the highest step, where several humanoid bones have partially melted into the bronze. The cat howls, its screech deafening and pitiful, forcing the pirate awake. No one in the group is sure what the dream means, and consider it another mystery among many that needs to be solved.

The pirates eventually arrive at a small clearing where they recognize a familiar stone obelisk marking the direction of the hidden temple of Ghoral Rey. Captain Quade decides the pirates should explore the hidden temple and orders everyone to remain behind. He assembles the scouting team once more and they enter the mountain.

At the gates of Ghoral Rey they encounter a mysterious pilgrim, an outsider they recognize as a creature native to the Maelstrom, an Githzerai. The pilgrim warns the pirates that the oracles of Ghoral Rey will only open their gates to giants. But much to the pilgrim’s surprise, Quade uses the Three Reasons to Live and plays a few musical notes that activates the gate’s magic. The gate opens and the rest of the pirates rush inside, closing the gate behind them to prevent the githerzai from entering.

They travel through the familiar tunnels, recounting the time of their previous adventure in the ruins of Ghoral Rey. The pirates are stopped by cyclops templars, defenders of the temple, who seem surprised to find the pirates within their sacred halls. Quade manages to negotiate a meeting with an oracle of Ghoral Rey, and after some tenacious diplomacy with the oracle, the party is given access into the inner sanctum of Ghoral Rey to meet with the high mystic, Svingli.

Svingli reveals that he has been expecting Quade for some time. The cyclops mystic is aware of the identities of the other pirates and Quade, and he acknowledges that the group are within an demi plane. A mindscape created by the human wizard Thaiyanathan.

“In ages past, a human wizard of great power traveled into the Great Beyond in search for a way to become immortal. He joined a sect of like-minded beings, and they called themselves the Prolongers. He is known as Thaiyanathan.”

“Unlike the other Prolongers, who extended their lives by consuming the life force of their victims, Thaiyanathan was a body thief. He would prolong his life by possessing the body of another. He was also a thought eater, capable of devouring thoughts and assuming the knowledge those notions represent for himself. He consumed a victim’s identity, mind, body, and soul. But in the end, Thaiyanathan was still human. And a human mind can only handle so much information.”

“So Thaiyanathan created the mindscape of Mnemosyne in the Astral Plane. The mindscape was where he stored his excess knowledge and memories in an elaborate esoteric library. The memory palace was filled with nearly all of his experiences from his millennia of existence.”

“But came the day that Thaiyanathan grew tired of stealing bodies. He wanted an immortal body. Healthy, handsome, and powerful. He was obsessed with the fey of the First World. Thaiyanathan wanted their power for his own. He even managed to recruit a fey cohort, an exile of the Seelie Court.”

“The fallen nymph queen and Thaiyanathan sired a child, one shaped by magic to be born as a boy. And upon the child birth, Thaiyanathan worked great magic to transfer his being into the child’s body.”

“But he did not expect the treachery of his cohort, nor the unpredictable nature of the First World. He became a passenger in the mind of the new born child, powerless to intercede in the child’s life.”

“The child matured and became a man, the man lived his life, and of course the man died. But thanks to the unpredictable wild nature of the First World, this being was reborn, time and time again. Each time he was reborn, he had a new soul. A new mind. A new body. A new identity.”

“But the old personas did not join the river of souls. Instead, they found themselves in the mindscape of Mnemosyne. The mind palace grew to become an island, and then a series of islands. And it kept growing and growing, until there was an entire archipelago surrounded by an infinite sea filled with his memories.”

Svingli explains that people like Quade, personas who strive to know who they are and their place in the world, have always come to him for answers.

Each of the scouts ask their questions from the cyclops mystic.

Wynter inquires as to why she is suffering from her current state of separation with her eidolon and why De’de looks like a sea devil. Svingli explains that the mindscape brings forth their internal mental struggles to the surface. The mystic explains that Wynter and De’de must resolve their personal issues in order to overcome their current challenge.

Wynter then asks how is her ancestor involved in all of this? Long ago, when the pirates were adventuring in the ruins of Ghoral Rey, Bertok mentioned that Wynter’s ancestor started all of this. The mystic explains that Wynter’s ancestor, Chinoy, was an Azlanti adventurer who traveled the Great Beyond. In his planar adventures he found a silver sword in the Nine Hells. He brought the blade back along with other treasures he acquired on his adventures and sought to sell the blade to the Abadarian priest-king Thalassos IV of Ankeshel. Thalassos IV acquired the blade, and in his divine wisdom, recognized the blade’s curse, and the doom that would follow the blade. The Azlanti priest king then made arrangements to remove the blade from the world of Golarion, by meeting with a herald of a foreign god in the city of Sumitha. This herald was originally one of Quade’s early alter egos, an immortal fey like being known as Gage.

Mary asks why are things different in this era. The cyclops mystic reveals that the mindscape they’re in is made up of memories, and like a lake of water, they ripple and change when an outsider attempts to manipulate events in the realm. Svingli reminds the pirates that they’re not the only outsiders in this mindscape. When the group inquires as to who these outsiders are and how many, the cyclops mystic reveals that currently there are three factions of outsiders on the Island of Empty Eyes alone. One is led by a twisted fey creature and his pack of fiendish cohorts, who have taken over Imerta’s Aerie. Another is the Githerzai pilgrim waiting outside. And finally the last group is the pirates themselves. Each action these strangers bring to the world, the world adapts and progresses with these changes. But once the strangers leave the realm, everything will return as it was.

Wynter leaves to speak with the Githerzai outside.

Mary inquires as to how to manipulate the mindscape. Svingli isn’t sure how to manipulate the mindscape, as he is merely a figment, a construct created from the mindscape and drawn from Quade’s memories. Nor does he wish to manipulate the mindscape. The mystic is aware that his people will have a terrible future waiting for him. But in this one place. This one moment in time, Ghol Gan is still alive. The only one capable of manipulating the mindscape would be Quade.

Quade inquires as to the identity of the Sun God of Sumitha. The mystic reveals the Sun God to be none other than Turpin Irons, the first Hurricane King. Quade then asks where Gage is, and the mystic reveals that the herald of Waukeen is on his way in his city ship to the city of Sumitha. Quade then asks about the dreams that the pirates have all shared. The mystic grows silent for a moment before explaining that the group is dreaming about the Island of the Dead. It is where all the personas go to die.

The pirates then begin to argue among themselves, trying to determine what to do next. Mary believes they should kill the Githerzai outside and only vaguely hints the reasons why the pirates should do so. De’de and Quade inquires as to how to reach the Island of the Dead.

“To reach the Island of the Dead, you must journey to the End of Eternity. If you are brave enough to cross the threshold and you survive the fall, you will find yourself in the Silver Void. Do not trust the lights, they’re there to lead you astray. Follow the river of souls until you arrive upon an island where all the statues bare the same face. That is where you will find the Island of the Dead. But beware of the dead gods, they will be jealous and hungry for life.”

Meanwhile outside, Wynter meets up with the githerzai pilgrim. He rises up and greets her politely. Wynter explains to the githerzai that she speaks on behalf of the oracles and knows the knowledge the pilgrim seeks. This prompts the githerzai to ask, “where is the Silver Sword of Besmara?” And Wynter tells him the truth. That the sword is shattered and remains on the world of Golarion, and warns him that he should leave, as the others are planning to kill him. The githerzai pilgrim bows in thanks and fades away, his astral projection spell effect coming to an end.

And so ends this session of Skulls and Shackles.

The End of Eternity


The next chapter of the Skull and Shackles Adventure Path!

The crew once more find themselves stranded on a mysterious island, a realm of mystical wonders, mythical beasts, and legendary treasures. Yet time, ancient magic, and bitter rivalries work to corrupt the incredible realm, turning it into both paradise and prison. Can they tame the powers of the magical islands and best the masters of the wondrous land? Or will they forever be prisoners of paradise?

Exploring the Fever Sea 09

The next session for Skull and Shackles is Sunday the 1st of May, 10 am, Hawaii time. The officers of the Femme Fatale have defeated the cult of Dagon beneath the port city of Ollo. The Immortal Dreamstone was destroyed, freeing the lost souls and stolen memories kept within the magical artifact.

But the destruction of magical artifacts always comes with a price.

The pirate adventurers now find themselves drawn into a magical vortex and banished into the Great Beyond.

21 The Eye of Serenity

Session Twenty One

In this session of the Skulls and Shackles campaign, De’de, Quade, and Wynter advanced ahead deeper into the sea devil tunnels while Tidus and Dalvika stayed behind to loot the dead. As the trio journeyed further into the tunnels, they encountered a barrier of magical darkness blocking their path. Quade managed to see thru the magical darkness, while De’de and Wynter had their own methods to pierce the darkness with magically and psionic bestowed enhanced senses. Only Wynter was not surprised as a pair of babau demons and their summoned minions attempted to ambush the Femme Fatale pirates. Quickly driving the fiends back, the party continue on until they found another barrier made up of seaweed blocked their progress. Beyond the barrier of seaweed they could hear the chanting of the cultists attempting to call upon their dark god, the Shadow in the Sea.

Spelling up with their magical defenses, the group attempted to sneak in and disrupt the abyssal ritual. Quade began combat by charging in with blade and magic, while Wynter possessed one of the cultists with a magic jar spell, and De’de used his energy bolts to blast the altar of Dagon and sea devil cultists alike. From the central pit of the cathedral, the sea devils managed to summon a manifestation of their dark god, a swarm of black tentacles that attempted to engulf the enemies of Dagon. Quade dueled with the high priestess Wulvera, while De’de and Wynter provided support with their magic. Dalvika eventually arrived in time to help turn the tide of battle, and Wulvera was struck down by a combination of precision strikes by the sylvan swashbuckler.

But unknown to the others, the night hag Lodhotha was watching the battle within the comforts of the Ethereal Plane. Once the high priest of Dagon fell in battle, the night hag emerged from her hiding place and used the Immortal Dreamstone to bind the malenti’s soul into her gemstone.

She cackled and thanked the pirates for helping her complete the dreamstone, as they were instrumental in providing her the needed sacrifices required for crafting the magical relic. The manifestation of Dagon roared with anger and attempted to reach out for the night hag, distracting the witch from testing the power of the Immortal Dreamstone on the companions. De’de then realized that all of his visions led him to this precise moment. He realized then that he is a sahuagin, the perfect Malenti. More human than sea devil. That Wulvera was his true mother, and that Tidus was his uncle. The ugly truth of why the sea always beckoned to him. As horror eclipsed his mind, Lodhotha banished the manifestation of Dagon by destroying the altar. This gave Wynter the opportunity to blind her with a glitterdust spell, and Quade the chance to disarm the hag.

The dreamstone fell into the pit.

Dalvika reached the edge of the pit, and used her magic to blast the dreamstone, cracking it. But it was Quade who saved the day, delivering the death blow to the blinded night hag. The spiritual connection between Lodhotha and the Immortal Dreamstone was enough to rapture the magical relic. But the destruction of the artifact rent asunder the fabric of reality in the area.

The pirates were drawn into a fiery vortex… only to discover themselves in a new destination.

Exploring the Fever Sea 08

The next session for Skull and Shackles is Sunday the 27th of March, 10 am, Hawaii time. The adventurers have released many of the slaves and killed scores of sea devils and mutants. All that is left is for the temple of Dagon itself, where they must face against the Shadow in the Sea’s champions.


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