Serpent's Skull

Ch. 1.4 : Souls for Smugglers Shiv

Part 4: The Interior

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Under Rhovyn’s leadership, roles begin to develop and the group coalesces.  Morale rises as taks are assigned and executed.  Jask becomes the healer, curing minor injuries with his skill, caring for sick people, and using his cure spells for major injuries.  Gelik becomes the entertainer-in-chief, and organizes activities during the evening to bolster morale and keep it high.  Even Aerys begins to soften up, despite Arya’s claims that she stole her bottle of brandy.  Aerys begins to draw up plans for building a raft of some sort, but is afraid anything they build will not be able to withstand the waves.  Sasha is proving to be a capable fighter and trains the group how to act quickly before your enemy has a chance to act.  Ishirou is still his dour self, but his combat prowess has proven him to be the best combatant in the group, wielding his katana with deadly precision.  

 

The choice is made to abandon camp and head south.  Well supplied and well fed, the group begins their journey.

 

 

 

During their journey, they come across several shipwrecks, each time trying to make their way across the water for supplies.  About half the ships have undead on them, skeletons or zombies hungry for living flesh.  Ismur still has trouble swimming, but somehow finds on the beach a pair of swim fins, never used and still tied together from the manufacturer.  He hugs them and puts them on his belt.

 

The group finds the Brine Demon, the ship Jask was hoping for.  They’ve found it late, and decide to go in the morning.  That night, the group hears coming from the waves near the ship, “Alas my Aeshemara!”  They keep a vigilant nightwatch and go to the ship in the morning.  There are a few supplies, including a locket with a woman’s picture in it which Rhovyn takes.

 

From here, the group turns west into the interior.  That same day they encounter tracks, a pair of them, deducing them to belong to the Captain and Ieana.  They head inland further and reach a dirt path which they think belongs to the cannibals.  However, the tracks cross the path and pick back up, heading west, which the group follows.

 

The tracks lead west across a river and then south, following the shoreline of an immense bay, across which the party can see a large mountain.  After a day of tracking, the tracks cut west again where they meet up with another pathway.  This time, the tracks cease and cannot be followed on the path.  The party decides to go north along the path.

 

The path winds through a 10-foot-wide gulch here, flanked on either side by steep 50-foot-high slopes. Not quite vertical cliffs, these slopes host numerous scraggly plants and a number of hanging vines.  Arjin, though careful, nonetheless trips a snare, grabbing his ankle and flinging him into the air upside down.  This has happened before, and Gelik laughs, but this time an enemy comes out of the bushes and attacks.  A native to the island, wielding club, charges the closest person- Rhovyn.  The group springs into action, Arjin cutting himself down and joining the fight to knock the man unconscious rather than kill him.  Soon the man collapses and is tied up.  The group wants answers.

 

But he man isn’t forthcoming, answering Rhovyn’s questions with smiles and lip-licking.  They assume he’s one of the cannibals.  They continue north and reach another bay, this one much larger than the previous one.  They can see the curved part of the island to the north which they feel is the “blade” of the island they started on.  They debate what to do about the prisoner.  Rhovyn says if we can’t get information from him, to kill him.  Ismur and Drizzt say maybe we should let him go, but Arjin and Ismur wonder if he’ll come back and attack or at least warn more cannibals.  Rhovyn is convinced to tie the man up to a tree and leave him there rather than kill him outright.  However, the man begins screaming and cursing as they walk away.  Sasha ends the discussion by grabbing Rhovyn’s staff and bludgeoning the man’s brains out.

 

The group spends the night on the shore.  The next morning, they spot a series of partially ruined nests made out of palm fronds and driftwood. A large number of broken sawtooth sabres and daggers lie scattered about here. They uncover a dagger still in its protective leather scabbard under a mound of toppled driftwood. The dagger’s blade is etched with a pair of crossed
praying mantis claws—the mark of the Red Mantis.

 

Before heading back south, Arjin spots a giant crab on the shore and the group decides to avoid it.

 

The group heads south on the path.  They reach a fork, with the path splitting west and east and take the eastern path.  They reach a rope bridge which spans a river, crossing it to take the path that leads up into the dense foliage of the large mountain.  While on an overlook, they spot a temple buried under the dense canopy, its top poking through on the south shoreline, not far from the path they were on two days ago.  They also spot near their current position a large wooden-staked wall and decide to turn around and come back the way they came.

 

Backtracking takes several days and they reach the split again, this time moving west.  They reach another split in the path, this time going north and continuing west.  They remain on the western path until it veers south.  The group decides to get off the path and make it to the western shore instead.  They do so because in the distance they can see an incredibly large tree, and Drizzt says he has a good feeling about it.

 

When they reach it, a single, immense banyan tree grows atop this hill, surrounded by a smaller grove of trees that seem almost like supplicants gathered around a revered elder to bask in the wisdom of the ages.   Drizzt begins to speak Sylvan, in ways to alert any fey which he believes to be nearby.  A beautifl Dryad appears out of the tree, smiling at Drizzt and asks him how he came to know their language.  He explains to her- and the group- that he was raised by fey, and tells the tale of their journeys thus far.  The Dryad, Aycenia, is the only one of her kind on Smuggler’s Shiv.

 

After relating their tale, Aycenia says the Thrunefang cannibals avoid this region. Aycenia does not recall how she came to be on the island, only that she has dwelt here for many ages. She remembers when the Thrune’s Fang castaways first came to the island, when the first Sargavan
colonists began building the lighthouse, and even earlier times. Yet she also knows that she is a newcomer to Smuggler’s Shiv, for she can feel through her tree’s roots that even more ancient secrets and creatures lie under the soil of this island, but Aycenia does not know what or where these areas are. What she does know is that part of her realm is suffering a hideous blight. She can sense the foul intrusion on the “Silent Island” to the north, but is relatively powerless to do anything about it, for she fears what the fungal blight might do to her even if she were brave enough to abandon her tree to handle the situation herself. Aycenia offers to aid the group if they can travel to the island and rid the place of its colorless curse. In reward for this service, Aycenia
not only promises to allow them to rest here as often as they wish.  Aycenia knows much about the island’s inhabitants and tells the PCs about how the cannibals came to the island 70-some years ago.  

 

She tells them the large mountain is called the Red Mountain which holds an evil monstrous flying creature and where the cannibal camp is.  In return for their help, she will also try and seek out answers for where Captain Kovack and Ieana went.

 

The party heads north along the shore the next day after reaching the western limits of the island.

 

 

They reach the two islands known as the Silent Island.  The bigger one beyond the first holds the greater landmass and blight.  This bleak island stands out to anyone who casts her gaze to the west, for whereas the rest of Smuggler’s Shiv is a luscious green and a riot of jungle sounds, this island is a silent gray scar on the horizon. From afar, the island may look as if it is covered with trees, but up close the “trees” are revealed to be foul gray stalks of fibrous fungus, growing up into the air almost like stalagmites in a cave. Between these weird stalks, the “undergrowth” consists of thick wiry tangles of lichens and gray fungus, all growing on a foul-smelling muddy surface. With the exception of the waves crashing along the beaches, the island is eerily silent. The fungus that grows on this island is difficult to identify, but Drizzt’s underdark knowledge of fungi allows him to deduce similarities to various strains of fungi and mushrooms that normally grow in the upper reaches of the Darklands, yet none of the fungal growths on the Silent Island have caps like proper mushrooms. The fungus tends to wriggle and ripple even when there’s no breeze to
stir its filaments and dangling sheets.

 

While traversing the island, they are accosted by a group of small foliage-like men.  Ismur describes them as Vegypygmies, and they attack on sight.  The group makes quick work of the creatures and continue to find a smaller island connected by strange cords.

 

An ancient wreck lies wedged between a pair of rocks here, yet despite its age, the ruined sailing ship at first seems in relatively good condition. The ship has no color to its lines, and is completely covered in a layer of soft gray mold. Even its sails appear fully intact, although what hangs from the spars is not canvas but sheets of thick, pale fungus. Several thick ropes of fungus connect the ship’s upper deck to the island almost like crude rope bridges.  Gelik recognizes this derelict is the wreck of the Nightvoice, a large Pathfinder Society exploration vessel that originally hailed from Almas. The Nightvoice  mysteriously vanished on an attempted voyage around the southern coast of Garund.


The thick fungus ropes that bridge the shore and the ship were used to make the 60-foot crossing to the wreck.  The party reaches the ship and enters to find a horrific factory of sorts.  The Nightvoice’s cargo hold is a hideous scene—the skeletal remains of the ship’s crew lie enshrined here. In all there are 19 bodies here, each consisting of a mound of bones caked over with mold; each sits amid a small circle of personal objects, teeth, coins, bits of jewelry, and other objects that
the crewmember valued in life. The vegepygmies honor these bodies as their “birth corpses” in a crude form of ancestor worship. While many of the objects scattered around the skeletons have long since rotted or rusted away, a search of the hold reveals a moldy ship’s log. The pages are badly damaged by mold, identifies the ship as the Nightvoice, and relates the cause of the crew’s fate and, eventually, the captain’s decision to “carry the blasphemous pod up to the top of a rock spire to the east of this island” in an attempt to hide it away from the prying eyes of humanity.

 

Beyond the ship is a small outcropping of an island.  A fifty-foot-high pillar of fungus-covered rock thrusts up from the surf here, angling away from the main body of the larger island to the west. The rock is connected to the main island by thick tangles of fibrous fungus, perhaps providing a way to cross the churning surf below. As with the fungus strands,, the fungus ropes are used to make the 90-foot crossing to the pillar.  Near the top of the rocky spire on the northern face, obscured from the sun and 40 feet above the sea below, is a cave mouth. Numerous strange offerings lie around the cave mouth— brightly colored seashells, bits of polished stone, and many bones and skulls. The opening leads 15 feet inside the pillar through several thick curtains of
fungus to a 30-foot-diameter cavern.

 

Ismur is hit twice, but the teamwork under Rhovyn’s leadership prevails and quickly downs the creature.  Within minutes, the entire island’s fungal population begins to dim and whither.  Drizzt says the fungus is dying and should be gone within days.

 

Completing the Dryad’s task, they head back.  When they arrive, they tell the tales of the fungi’s defeat.  The Dryad is happy and relates that two individuals made their way from the north part of the island to the pathway belonging to the cannibals, then turned south and entered the cannibal camp.  The group prepares for that day, but wants to check out a ship they saw off the coast near the western shore.  They travel there and swim across to the ship, finding more supplies.  However, the trip was not without cost.

 

An Octopus saw the group and attacked.  It grabbed Gelik, who could not swim well, and dragged him down into the depths.  The group waiting anxiously for any sign, but they were not strong enough to fend off such a creature.  Gelik was gone.  They returned to the Dryad somberly.

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