Spoiler Warning: Many spoilers for the Skull & Shackles adventure path are contained within these story recap posts. If you don’t want your campaign spoiled, don’t read these!
In the aftermath of the storm there had been some confusion on deck. It seemed neither Mr. Plugg nor Master Scourge had a compass. Mirielle witnessed them arguing over what direction they were headed and meekly offered, “I can tell you where north is.” The two turned on her and told her to do so. It was a simple cantrip, a practiced gesture and a word of power and she knew, unerringly, that north was directly behind the ship. She pointed in that direction, “That is north…”
The men cursed and barked out orders, turning the ship toward the island and trying to figure out where they had washed up. Regardless, someone had to be sent for fresh water. After dressing down Jape for his foolish mistake of not securing the water barrels properly, Master Scourge said, “You’re lucky you know how to use a hammer, or I’d send you to collect more fresh water for us… That being the case, the task falls to my favorite four volunteers.” His eyes fell on Mirielle and he smiled, “Mirielle, Dolce, Nasha, and Revel, go get fresh barrels and find us fresh water. Take one of the rowboats. You’ve got two days while we make these repairs. Better not come back empty handed.” He patted his whip for emphasis.
Dolce’s mood soared inside, though she didn’t display her joy outwardly. If she had Master Scourge might well have found a reason to keep her aboard. Revel, Nasha, and mostly Mirielle looked less pleased by the turn of events. They all retrieved barrels and got into a rowboat and moved to the island.
From a rocky outcropping Dolce and Nasha surveyed the land. There was a bonfire built here, but it had never been lit. A small metal container with three tindertwigs had been left close at hand. Dolce collected them and cast Prestidigitation to clean up their container. A Chelish symbol adorned the box and the wood in the bonfire looked to be from a Chelish ship. An interesting turn. Perhaps there would be survivors here, though the wood also seemed quite weathered.
Dolce and Nasha returned to Mirielle and Revel who had stayed below with the barrels and they pressed inward. Soon enough they found a village. The buildings were husks containing aged evidence of some pour souls’ previous lives. Here discarded wares and tools, there personal belongings. Nasha searched through one of the houses briefly and found a small, aged stuffed pig, a child’s toy, tucked into a drawer. She looked at it sadly for a time before placing it in her pack.
They left the barrels in one of the houses in the village, hidden away in case anyone came back home and found them, and followed a trail out of the village. It came to a large, muddy stream. Dolce dipped a hand in the slow-flowing water to take a closer look at it, but found it was quite salty. Still, if they traveled upstream… After an encounter with wild boars, they located the source of the spring, a waterfall of fresh water, and decided they would get the water here, but since they had two days.. They’d take a look for Quinn and Ambrose first.
Revel gave Dolce a little trouble about this decision, but not overly much. She was just probing and testing. Honestly she was pleased that the elf didn’t back down after a little challenge. It indicated she valued her friends enough to stand up to someone as intimidating as Revel. They forded the stream in the fresh water and started heading back to where the trail continued. Some giant frogs attacked them, swallowing both Revel and Nasha whole, but they regretted it soon enough. Tearing teeth and viscous claws freed the girls and split the animals from the insides out. Dolce promised they’d eat well tonight, for these frog legs would make a delectable dinner.
Continuing on, with the frogs in tow, they saw a tent in the distance. Heads swarming with flies were mounted on spikes along the trail here, and Mirielle lost her breakfast. They didn’t draw too close to the flies or the grizzly heads. Voices reached them from the tent.
An Unusual Parley
Dolce instructed Nasha and Mirielle to hide a ways off the trail in the trees. The two crept quietly out of sight. As she listened she heard voices complaining of hunger, hoping the storm would have brought them another gift. It unnerved her a bit, but they were clearly intelligent and had been on the island for quite a time if the tent was any indication. With one last look at the nearest mounted head she steeled her nerves and called out, “Hello?”
Quiet settled over the tent, though soon enough a man… or what was a man… emerged. He was a decayed corpse with a very long tongue, his flesh still clinging to his bones. The scent of him was as unsettling as the stench from the heads, but Dolce’s bluff was flawless and she appeared unperturbed by him.
Revel, on the other hand, looked shocked and then hostile, the hand carrying her rarely used javelin tightening. “Be still,” Dolce ordered, realizing her companion’s attempt to play it cool had failed. She took on a different role toward Revel, incorporating her discomfort into the narrative she would weave. As she made it seem Revel was working under her she saw two more emerge from the tent.
The trio were quite scantily clad, though their attire had been at one time quite beautiful. Ship whores, she suspected. They spoke in a language Dolce didn’t know, but the man silenced them and Dolce and he began to parley. Realizing she was dealing with ghouls had been a simple matter, and knowing their particular proclivity toward eating humans would serve her well.
She proposed that they could help one another, for she could give them the location of the pirate ship which had press ganged herself and her “guard” in exchange for information about the island. The man snapped at one of the women who seemed quite impatient. It must have been a while since they’d eaten.
Dolce accepted their invitation into the tent and convinced them that since there were three of them and only two of herself and Revel they should do the exchange by them giving up the information first. They shook hands on their deal. They learned that everyone who had survived the Chelish ship had been turned into creatures such as these. Likely because the ghouls carried on board to use in battles had gotten free in the storm and fled to the island before the rest had settled.
The man explained he believed it was the mosquitoes which now carried the disease, setting Dolce’s nerves on end. The three had indeed been whores aboard the ship. The man told them of a farm on the other end of the island, the possibility of someone living in the house above it, and the grindylow lair. Dolce’s heart soared even in the presence of their “pantry”, the piles of decaying corpses scattered throughout this chamber of the tent.
She told them where the boat was and they said they suggested she not be there when they finished as they turned to leave. Then she gave a nod to Revel, who looked utterly shocked as the elf drew her rapier. It seemed to Dolce she had fooled even the hobgoblin with her performance.
The combat went swiftly, with Revel and Dolce unaware that Nasha had crept in through the back of the tent and Mirielle was alone outside. Nasha, Dolce, and Revel engaged in melee with the ghouls, cutting them down with only a few minor injuries to themselves… Of course, even that could be deadly, but Revel seemed to fare well enough when inspected after the combat. Notedly, Revel did not use her shark teeth to bite any one of these, rather relying on her javelin.
Mirielle tended to Revel while Nasha and Dolce searched the tent. They found, among other things, alchemist’s fire, fine perfumes, jewelry, and the body of a child dressed in clothing made of the same fabric of Nasha’s stuffed pig. Nasha quietly took the pig from her pack and set it in the hands of the decaying child. They’d moved all of the bodies to the base of the tree and now used one of the vials of alchemist’s fire to set the tent ablaze.
The chemicals would allow it to burn despite the humidity in the air around them. The three stood and watched, making sure the flames didn’t spread too far. Nasha spoke softly and said, “May they journey back to their home in the second life.” It was how she referred to the afterlife.
What Once Was
On their way to the small farm plots the girls fought off some giant crabs. Dolce pronounced dinner was getting better every moment, as she had every intention of making them a delicious meal. But time was dragging on and only a few hours remained of the first day they’d been given. They needed to make progress faster.
The fields were not tended. They still were recognizable as farm plots with some clear rows remaining as the crops within grew wildly around the area. There were mounds in the earth too. Here and there a hedge had grown up, overtaking some of space that had been made for food.
They hardly got to look through it when a large creature burst from the earth and attacked Nasha. It spit acid at her and then burrowed through the ground to emerge right beside her and try to bite her. An ankhrav! Dolce cautioned the girls to be careful of the tunnels it left in its wake, and they fought the creature fiercely. Nasha was knocked unconscious just before Revel made the killing blow, biting off a chunk of its flesh.
Unlike in previous combats, the barbarian retched and spat it out, hissing as acid burned the inside of her mouth. She fumbled for her water skin and rinsed the liquid free, but not before incurring burns from the acid. Dolce sighed and set to tending Nasha, who was now conscious again thanks to Mirielle’s spells. It took some time to dress all of the lizardfolk’s wounds, but dress them she did and turned her attention on Revel’s mouth. She had to improvise a little, making a poultice and using Prestidigitation to cool the water of her own waterskin while Revel drank it. These in combination seemed to soothe the injuries.
The girls debated going straight to the grindylow lair, but they’d already used a number of spells and a night of reprieve would allow them to go into the lair fully prepared. Dolce had also spotted movement in the window of the house above the fields, and so they set off in that direction to see if they could learn anymore.
From the outside they could see a spyglass was positioned looking toward the coast, but little else. They began scouting around the building quietly, but found themselves in combat again, with plant-like creatures that assaulted them. They hadn’t realized the creatures were more than just vegetation.
A well places spell and some scuffs and bruises later and the plants had been subdued. They finished scouting the perimeter and went inside. They were greeted with another grizzly site. This time, a man hanging from the ceiling, a chain secured around his neck, nearby a stool toppled over on which he had presumably been standing. Flies swarmed around him, and the smell was strong enough Mirielle fled the structure to retch again as Dolce covered her mouth and Nasha and Revel looked queasy.
Dolce and Nasha decided to look the place over and began moving forward to do so, but the body suddenly swayed forward as its arms reached out to grab Nasha. She jumped back just in time, and Dolce looked at the creature more closely. Another once living man contorted into undeath. This one, a ghast.
Much like she had handled the ghouls, Dolce convinced him they would free him and claimed they left the ghouls alive. She gained the same information from him as she did from the ghouls, learning the grindylows were down below and this once-man had been observing them from the spyglass. Further he said he could help them, and seemed nervous by her looking over the papers on his writing desk. She continued searching through it, reading his body language as she did so, while talking about the other denizens of the island… Until at least she found in a drawer a simple, steel, blue ring.
The ghast grew frantic when she found it, and she examined it closely, determining it was a ring of swimming. Something that would prove quite helpful in dealing with the grindylows indeed. She pocketed the ring, and knowing there was no hope of restoring the ghast to the man he had once been, she and Nasha slew him where he hung.
They collected the spyglass, looking through it before doing so. Dolce saw below two grindylows playing in a cave entrance. One handling Quinn’s tricorn hat. She showed Mirielle, who was relieved to see that they were in the right place. They spent the night outside the house but within the shelter of the walls erected around it. In the morning they would see if they could find any trace of Quinn or Ambrose by the place the grindylows had been spotted.