Skulls of the Serpent

Chapter 016
The First Strike

A much more thorough description of the session can be found here.

The party fought rabid hounds released by the Freeman’s Brotherhood and stopped several arsonists from setting fire to a tavern and inn. They returned to the warehouse where the Bellflower Network was staying, where they received news that Lord Easton Travant had been arrested by the local authorities.

Shortly thereafter, warriors from the Order of the Rack, a specialized military unit loyal to Baron Utilinus surrounded the warehouse, prompting the group to follow the lead of Janiven and flee through a secret door in the warehouse that led to the sewers that ran beneath Eleder.

The group made their way through the sewers, eluding the Order of the Rack for the most part, before emerging in a seemingly abandoned temple to Erastil in the heart of Eleder. There, they met up with Janiven and the rest of the Children of Sargava and devised a plan to free Lord Travant.

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Chapter 015
The Children of Sargava

A much more thorough description of the session can be found here.

The party spent four days in Eleder, waiting for Dhanga’s patron, Lord Easton Travant to arrive from a business venture in the distant city of Kalabuto. During this time, the group learned about Eleder and fully immersed themselves with the Bellflower Network operatives already in the city. Eleder was abuzz with talk of the survivors who escaped Smuggler’s Shiv. Exaggerated tales of cannibalism, undead cults, spiders the size of a house, forests made of giant mushrooms, and wrecked pirate ships still laden with treasure filled the taverns and markets of Eleder. As none in the party had spoken of their experience to outsiders, it was clear that at least one of the other survivors (Sasha, Gelik, Aerys, Jask, or Ishirou) was likely the source of the rumors.

The party also learned about the great societal divide in the city of Eleder and the nation of Sargava as a whole, in which a small number of descendants of the original Chelish settlers held nearly all of the power, while the majority of native Mwangi barely eked out an existence, living in horrible conditions in slums outside the city walls. Lord Travant, himself a Chelish descendent himself wielding no small amount of mercantile power, hoped to change this by constructing a more egalitarian government. To this end, he had gathered a small group of like-minded individuals who called themselves the Children of Sargava and had sent Dhanga to secure the assistance of the Bellflower Network operatives. For their part, the Bellflower Network hoped to assist in Lord Travant’s goals while simultaneously preventing Cheliax from regaining a foothold in its former colony, thereby denying House Thrune the gold of Sargava.

Ren and Dante discovered that the military arm of Sargava was run with a similar hierarchy to the Hellknights of Cheliax, with a man named Baron Utilinus at its head. Utilinus also commanded a large group of dedicated warriors named the Order of the Rack; these soldiers served as his personal guard and were among the most well-trained and well-equipped individuals in Sargava. However, where Baron Utilinus commanded the military, the true power of Eleder lay in the parliamentary merchant council, currently dominated by Lady Madrona Daugustana, an octogenarian whose various holdings in mines throughout the Bandu Hills made her the most wealthy and powerful person in Sargava.

Shortly after Lord Travant’s return and introduction to the party, word arrived that the Aspis Consortium was preparing for an expedition to find the legendary city of Saventh Yhi. It was clear that the other survivors of Smuggler’s Shiv had revealed what they had learned within the Temple of Zura. There was considerable discussion as to whether to attempt to mount a rival expedition using the knowledge written down in the captured notes of Ieana.

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Chapter 014
Escape to Eleder

A much more thorough description of the session can be found here.

The group killed the violet fungus and discovered that this act alone caused the death of all the fungal bodies on the islet, thus ending the threat to Aycenia and Smuggler’s Shiv. The party also found that the human corpse bore a ring with a bizarre connection to the fungal realm, and it was surmised that this connection was what brought the unnatural fungal growth to this island. The group vowed to destroy the ring once they left the island, but kept it within a magical quiver for the time being.

They then returned to Aycenia, and the dryad rewarded the party with several magical pearls and other items. Aycenia and Aerys had been working for the past several days on building a double-canoe with sails with which the party might attempt to navigate the open waters and make their way back to the mainland. After another week of effort, the vessel was completed and the group bid farewell to Aycenia and the Thrunefangs.

Aerys piloted the ship, successfully navigating from Smuggler’s Shiv to the shores of Sargava. From there, the group made their way to the capital city of Eleder, where they met with the other members of the Bellflower Network who were already there and were already working with the men of Dhanga’s patron, Lord Easton Travant, to promote equality among the populace and fight against the demon worshipping ruling class, as well as prevent any efforts from the Chelish government to reassert control over its former colony. In addition, the group located a priest of Iomedae to remove the curse on Issa, restoring her to her original form.

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Chapter 013
Land of Spores

A much more thorough description of the session can be found here.

Dante screwed up the courage to be lowered into the pit once again. This time, he was not attacked, and he found a side passage at the water level that led uphill to a large chest. The group hauled both Dante and the treasure to the surface, finding a large amount of gold and silver, as well as several magical items, including a scroll of raise dead.

Ren and Dante both argued that the scroll should be used to resurrect Cacciaguida, who had lost his own life saving theirs from the sinking Jenivere. The party agreed and they returned to Cacciaguida’s grave and exhumed the corpse. Vayla carefully recited the incantations on the scroll and managed to restore the man’s life. After a brief emotional reunion, the group filled in Cacciaguida with what had happened upon the island.

The party then made their way to the fungus-infested islet in the northwest section of Smuggler’s Shiv. The group used a spyglass to investigate the island from a distance, seeing small mushroom men moving about near the wreckage of a ship on the western side of the islet, and a tall spire covered in dense fungal growth on the eastern side. The group made their way to the spire and found a rope bridge composed entirely of living fungus connecting a cave in the spire to the islet. The group entered the cave and found themselves face to face with a giant violet fungus growing atop a human corpse.

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Chapter 012
Transformation and Treasure

A much more thorough description of the session can be found here.

The party searched the hidden room, discovering a secret compartment which was protected by a magical trap that permanently transformed Issa’s physical form into Zura. Outside, in the main worship hall, Ren destroyed a magical altar that radiated pure evil. With the destruction of the altar, the entire group felt a massive weight lifted from their shoulders and realized that the entire time they had been upon the island, they had felt an unnatural sense of impending doom and fear. This malaise was erased with the destruction of the altar.

The group returned to Aycenia’s grove to find the dryad teaching the Thrunefangs how to properly hunt and farm in a way that preserved and protected the natural and limited resources of Smuggler’s Shiv. It appeared that their plan for reforming the Thrunefangs was working better than they had hoped.

Ishirou convinced the party to seek out the treasure indicated by a map in his possession. The group traveled to the location indicated on the map and dug, revealing a wooden plug atop an impressively deep pit. Dante was lowered into the pit by a rope only to be attacked by a pair of zombies. The group killed the zombies and pulled Dante back up to safety without fully exploring the pit.

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Chapter 011
Revenge At Last

A much more thorough description of the session can be found here.

The group explored the extend of the underground complex. It was clear that the complex was dedicated to the vampire-demon deity Zura. It was also clear that the temple had been built upon an older foundation that seemed to pre-date some of the Zura-based carvings and inscriptions.

The temple hallways were heavily trapped, but eventually the party found their way into the main worship hallway, where they saw a serpent-woman poring over a pile of notes. The serpent looked up at the party and spoke with voice that informed the group that this serpent was actually Ieana. She warned the group to leave her alone lest they be killed, that she could not be distracted now that she was so close to finding the lost city of Saventh-Yhi, a fabled Azlanti city believed to be more myth than reality.

The party engaged Ieana in combat, eventually driving her to retreat. The serpent-woman used the magic of a nearby Zura statue to become gaseous, at which point she floated into a hidden chamber. The party followed suit and killed the shapechanger.

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Chapter 010
Sinking Seas

A much more thorough description of the session can be found here.

The party continued on to red mountain. At the base of the mountain, the group discovered a low pyramid surrounded by four monoliths. Before the party could inspect the structure, they were attacked by a creature that fit the description of the chupacabra, a winged dragon-like beast.

After defeating the creature, the party examined the pyramid and monoliths, soon realizing that they were the same structures described in the temple of Ydersius in the Caves of Mother. Using the instructions from that hall, the party managed to activate the ancient artifact, unleashing a bolt of lighting into the sky and causing the waters of the bay to recede, revealing a hidden, seaweed-covered doorway just below them.

The group entered the ancient hallways beyond the black doors and soon found themselves embroiled in a battle with skeletal archers, a battle that was eventually won but which nearly cost both Dante and Dhanga their lives.

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Chapter 009
From Friend to Foe

A much more thorough description of the session can be found here.

After nearly two stress-filled days spent prepared for a Thrunefang attack, the party decided to take the fight to the Thrunefangs. Just before they left the grove, however, the Thrunefangs rushed from the jungle to the east and west. The party split up to fight the two Thrunefang fronts, with Issa and Eva confronting the group led by the Thrunefang chieftain, Klorak the Red.

Eva and Issa managed to create an illusion of Mother’s head speaking directly to the chieftain. Through this illusion, along with cleverness and a good deal of luck, the pair convinced the chieftain to halt his attack and listen to the wisdom of the tree spirit. The group stood back as Aycenia emerged from her tree and began speaking with the assembled Thrunefangs, convincing them to abandon their old ways and accept her nature-based teachings.

The party left the newly pacified Thrunefangs with Aycenia as they made their way to the southwest of Smuggler’s Shiv, a region that fit the description of “red mountain.” As they drew near the mountain, the group made camp atop a long ridge overlooking an inner bay. That evening, a bolt of lightning struck the far side of the bay, on the base of the red mountain, followed by the prolonged sound of rolling thunder. The party soon realized that the noise was coming not from the lightning, but from the rapid emptying of the bay! After fifteen minutes, the waters of the bay stopped receding, ending up some fifty or more feet lower than they had been just previously. Later that night, the sound of rolling thunder filled the air, and the following morning, the bay was once again filled to its normal level.

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Chapter 008
The Fall of Mother

A much more thorough description of the session can be found here.

Mother was eventually defeated and the party left the Caves of Mother. Ren took the time to decapitate both Mother and Captain Kovack’s bodies, carrying the two heads in his pack as grotesque souvenirs.

The party returned to Aycenia’s grove, where they informed the Thrunefang captives what had happened. The Thrunefangs were angry, but expressed disbelief that the group had actually killed Mother. When Ren produced the head of their tribe’s matriarch, the Thrunefangs broke down. One violently attacked Ren, although the warrior was easily able to knock the man unconscious. The party then freed the other Thrunefangs, telling them to return and to inform their chieftain to abandon the worship of Mother.

Sasha cried in anger at this decision, and it soon dawned on the group that the Thrunefangs would likely gather their forces and assault the dryad’s grove en masse, possibly even going so far as to burn down Aycenia’s bond-tree.

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Chapter 007
Vengeance

A much more thorough description of the session can be found here.

The party explored the Caves of Mother, soon finding themselves in a large natural cavern, roughly spherical in shape. Here, they fought a pair of bizarre undead creatures resembling a cross between a ghoulish human and a dog. In an alcove of this room, they found a suit of leather armor, upon which was written a message in blood. The writer was apparently Captain Kovack himself! In the brief message, Kovack admitted that he had performed horrible deeds, but explained that such actions were the result of a spell cast upon him by Ieana, whom he described as a shape-changing serpent. He begged forgiveness and asked that any who read his message seek Ieana and kill her. Finally Kovack explained that Ieana planned to examine a “red mountain” upon the isle, believing that knowledge she sought could be found there. The group was bolstered by this finding and continued exploring the Caves.

Deeper in, they discovered a worked hallway connected to the natural caves – an ancient underground temple complex dedicated to the ancient serpent god Ydersius. In this room, the group fought and killed two ghouls, one of which was Captain Alizandru Kovack. In this hall, the group also learned that several monoliths had been constructed on this island by serpent folk, likely in ages past before humans dominated the lands. These monoliths appeared capable of controlling many aspects of nature, and the hieroglyphic instructions of how to activate one such monolith seemed recently cleaned of dust and debris.

The group continued exploring the caves, eventually finding and confronting Mother. She and her ghoulish minions fought the party, and Mother repeatedly offered the party her gift of eternal unlife.

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