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.