S&S: Session 4 – What Lurks Below

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!

They had kept a fire burning through the night as well as setting watches. The island had already proven quite deadly, and they didn’t particularly wish to be caught unawares in the night. The fire was to ward off mosquitoes as much as possible. After all, they really didn’t want to end up like the island’s other residents they’d met so far.

Dolce took the last watch so she would be awake before the rest. She spent the hours before they woke reviewing her spellbook, The Tome of Arcane Whimsy. She’d named it such so that it wouldn’t be obvious to others it was her spellbook and had taken great pains to come up with a magical shorthand closely resembling musical notation. One more deception among many, but it kept people guessing. Seeing the musical notes, most assumed she was a bard if they were even aware of her ability to wield magic.

Adjusting to waking before the ship’s day started had been difficult for Dolce. She’d always dreamed of being a pirate, but she’d lived by traveling from tavern to tavern singing shanties and bawdy songs for years, drinking and performing late into the night and waking late in the afternoon. Having time to study her book in the morning aboard the Wormwood had required her to wake before the morning bell. It seemed like this had taken months, but in truth she’d only been on that ship for about twenty days and had now spent a few on The Man’s Promise.

The elf considered their future as she sat there, between the old building and the walls surrounding it. Mr. Plugg hated Mirielle most, but his hate was shared with all four of them. Now they’d fought together and Mirielle, Nasha, and Revel were helping her try to find Quinn and Ambrose. It was not as though they needed to risk themselves. But… But this was the allure of pirating to Dolce. Sure, the riches were nice and the comfort they would afford her, but the sense of family and loyalty Besmara’s teachings and pirate stories told about…

Whole ships of people working in unison to one common goal, each soul aboard loyal to their captain for their own reasons. Most just simply to gain riches and enjoy a luxurious life at port. Dolce certainly planned to do that… But really, she wanted the sense of unity… family one could almost call it, of the crews in romanticized pirate tales.

Dolce ran her fingers through her fair hair and looked around at her sleeping companions. Saving Quinn and Ambrose would be a step in the direction of the crew she wanted someday. If they were still alive… She took a long, slow breath and began to wake her friends.

When morning comes
On gilded wing
We greet the sun
And songs we sing

Rise now my friend
There’s much to do
And I will lend
My aid to you

Dolce roused her companions with a gentle song. Nasha woke easily with the first notes of her singing, Revel required a shake to her shoulder. Mirielle required many. Dolce couldn’t help but smile. This one had defied all odds. She was timid, she was not very strong, she was not as enduring as the rest. All Dolce could say for her was that she had healing magic and she seemed to understand the principals of sailing. Perhaps because her family had been so involved in it before. Who would have expected her to last this long? Especially with all the hard assignments Plugg had given her. Bilge duty nearly every day, and almost every day she’d collapsed into her hammock, exhausted… Yet, here she was. Sure, Dolce had lessened the burden with her little bit of trickery, but really, Besmara seemed to be showing this one some mercy.

Mirielle roused, though she still looked quite tired. She’d had the first watch. Dolce’s logic being that of the four them she had the hardest time waking in the morning. Despite being tired, the aasimar got to her feet. Their little camp came to life and they had breakfast. When they had finished Dolce asked if everyone was ready, but she was paying the most attention to Mirielle. Mirielle nodded. “My spells are renewed. Let’s find Quinn and Ambrose.”

The four set off, going back down toward the fields. There Dolce decided to dig up one of the mounds, and to their surprise a body was under the ground. Nasha and Revel unearthed the remains and Mirielle sighed and said, “The survivors must have buried them in the fields to help feed the crop.” She ran her hand along some of the wildly growing plants. What a harsh reality they’d faced. Like Quinn’s harsh reality, even before being kidnapped by the grindylows. Or Badger’s life before coming aboard the ship. Mirielle had never felt so humbled and privileged.

At the same time, she’d spent her whole life daydreaming about what she would do with freedom. Now she was free of her father’s rules, but had committed acts of piracy and couldn’t return to any semblance of her life before. She watched as they reburied the body, but noted Dolce and Revel had stripped the corpse of its jewelry. She was thankful the two didn’t decide to unearth every mound there in the fields after finding valuables on the first. It made sense. If the girls survived The Man’s Promise under Plugg they’d need money to pay for their lives when they made port and escaped the pirates.

Escaped to what though? The thought of that made Mirielle feel hollow. She had no idea where she would go or what she would do, and it was almost overwhelming. For now though… She could focus on helping Quinn and Ambrose.

Sheer and Slippery Walls

The “cave” did not open the way Mirielle imagined most caves opening, with a large mouth one could walk into from the surface. Rather it was a sheer drop down. Nasha stood atop the ledge looking below. She’d attached a rope to a sturdy rock above and had pitons in hand for the climb down. They would make this a relatively easy undertaking.

“I would just jump, but with the tide out there’s no telling how deep the water is below,” Nasha said. Dolce and Revel gave a nod. “I will go first, then you.” Nasha pointed at Dolce, who nodded agreement again. “Then Revel, then Mirielle. This way we stagger the stronger climbers between the weaker, yes?”

Dolce smiled. The lizardfolk didn’t talk often, but it was nice to see that when she did it was to provide insight worth considering. “Sounds like a plan.” There were… currently… no grindylows in sight.

Nasha gave a nod at their agreement and then lowered herself over the ledge. She made it look so easy. Her and Revel both, really. Mirielle was the weakest link when it came to climbing. Nasha was right about that. Dolce waited. She was supposed to start her descent when Nasha was about fifteen feet along the wall.

The elf never got the chance to climb before a loud buzzing sound filled the air. “What is that?” She asked.

Nasha shushed her, hanging from the rope by one hand, her clawed feet finding purchase on the wall. She seemed to be straining to hear. “From the walls.” The lizardfolk said, and shortly after Dolce saw bloodseekers emerge from the walls. They swarmed at Nasha, three of the vile critters, the size of barn cats with horrid barbed legs and long, wicked proboscises with which to leech blood from their prey.

For those unfamiliar, Bloodseekers are Pathfinder’s version of Stirges from D&D. Both are basically mosquitoes the size of house cats. I, for one, am glad they don’t exist in real life. Check the link above for Pathfinder art and stats.

From atop the cliff face, Dolce, Mirielle, and Revel watched as Nasha fended off the Bloodseekers to the best of her ability. Even dangling from the rope, the lizardfolk proved quite deadly. She kept one hand firmly rooted and wielded the claws of her free hand with scary precision, but three to one odds were proving difficult. And worse, more of the vermin were coming.

Revel loosed the javelin she’d found in the bilges at the vile creatures, more grateful then ever for the Returning rune upon it as it reappeared in her hand after each throw. Dolce flung cantrips at them, for from this angle she really couldn’t hit them with much else. Mirielle, meanwhile, called upon her angelic blood. A halo of light appeared around her head and she carefully monitored Nasha’s condition, preparing to use her healing magic as required.

It seemed like the tide of bloodseekers would never end, healing magic was precious too, and Dolce was keenly aware as not one, but two of Mirielle’s spells were spent on Nasha. The lizardfolk, for her own part, seemed unwilling to climb back up the rope, perhaps thinking she could weather the onslaught better than the rest of them. She may have had a point, Dolce reflected when at last the tide was stemmed.

The buzzing had abated and Dolce instructed Nasha to return to the top of the rope before going down any further. It wouldn’t do to encounter the grindylows with her injured, and the finite spells Mirielle had at her command would need to last them through the caves if they were to find Ambrose and Quinn.

Dolce pulled her healer’s kit from her bag and tended Nasha’s injuries. It was clear the lizardfolk remained effected even when the fresh injuries were bandaged and salved. “Are you alright to press on?” Dolce asked in earnest.

Nasha had been bitten at least four times, but she’d managed alright with Mirielle’s aid, and rather than lead the swarm to her more vulnerable companions she had chosen to serve as bait of a sort. The price was feeling a bit of her tenacity sapped away. But just a bit. She would be fine. In answer to Dolce she simply looked at the elf and nodded.

It made Dolce smile a little. And without further delay the girls descended into the caves below. Certain items were left hidden above. Dolce’s lute and spell book among them. She didn’t particularly want those getting wet in the low tides of the caves. When they reached the bottom they found the water was just above their knees… Excepting on Revel, who was more than a foot shorter than even Dolce. The water was practically up to the hobgoblin’s waist.

Not long after their descent, Mirielle cried out and rushed to one side of the cave wall. There, resting amid some rocks above the water level was Quinn’s tricorn hat. She lifted it in her hands and looked over at Dolce. “It really is his hat.” She sounded hopeful.

Dolce smiled a little as she moved to the aasimar’s side. She took the hat from Mirielle and rested it on top of her blond locks saying, “Aye, it is.” Her keen elven eyes narrowed as she saw the hat’s fit adjust slightly. “And.. it’s magical..” She took it off of Mirielle’s head and examined it more closely. Perhaps it had some power that would prove useful to them.

Nasha and Revel kept watch at the entrance to the cave’s watery tunnel while the elf looked over the tricorn. About ten minutes passed before Dolce said, “Ah.. This could prove useful, but for now, I think it suits you.” She placed it back on Mirielle’s head, thinking her statement even further true considering the item’s magical properties. It was known as Besmara’s Tricorn, and if Besmara were the wearer’s deity, a command word would turn the hat into a boat for a period of eight hours or until the magical effect was dismissed. “Tell me, who do you pray to, Mirielle?”

The question seemed to surprise the aasimar, but she answered all the same, “My family gives prayers to Abadar primarily… Our fortune and holdings heavily relied on trade.” Her voice was quiet and disheartened. No surprise to Dolce, for she knew Mirielle had been a noble, and if her family prayed to Abadar then there was no way she could hope to return to them after participating in piracy. But maybe, with the right spinning of the tale, Mirielle could avoid being implicated in taking The Man’s Promise with the Wormwood‘s crew.

More puzzling though.. How did a worshiper of Abadar end up with Besmara’s blessing. “You spend a lot of time around ships then?” Dolce asked as they carefully passed through the watery tunnels. She was glad they’d come while the tide was low, swimming this far would have been exhausting.

Mirielle’s blue eyes turned on Dolce and she smiled faintly, “Yes. Enough at least to know my way around them and a good bit about how they’re run. The only thing I’ve had going for me in all of this aside from my healing magic.” She stumbled a little over the uneven cavern floor, but when she regained her balance she said, “Actually, I was born on a ship.”

Dolce studied the girl carefully. “Born on a ship? How did that come to pass?”

Mirielle chuckled, “My father had a new ship in his fleet and my mother wasn’t due to birth me for two weeks. The seas were calm and they loved sailing, so they went on a sail. I’m told one of the sailors had a pet parrot and it alighted on my mother’s shoulder just before her water broke.”

Dolce’s eyes widened slightly. Revel, Mirielle and Nasha took no notice. “So the bird scared your mom into labor?” Revel asked, sounding like she would start laughing any moment.

Mirielle brushed damp hair from her face and adjusted Quinn’s hat. “I don’t think it startled her. Father always said it was as if the bird had sensed my mother was going to start going into labor.” She shrugged her shoulders, then blinked a little and pulled her backpack off her shoulders. From the pack she drew out her turtle. “If we’re going to be trudging through water, might as well let you swim a little, huh Cupiir?” She didn’t speak in the Common tongue, but rather in the language of the angels.

Dolce blinked a little and laughed aloud. Revaress was resting on her shoulders, tentacles drooping around and clinging to her arms to help it stay in place. “You could swim too, you know.” The octopus made no response, but seemed to “nuzzle” up against the elf. “Or you could stay on my shoulder.”

Her laughter had not been about the octopus, though the others would likely think it was. Rather, she was beginning to understand. Those born on the sea were said to have Besmara’s blessing… And Besmara delighted in raiding the celestial and fiendish outposts of other deities. Perhaps it was then, destined, that Mirielle be press ganged. Destined she gain her legs as a pirate. Besmara was having fun, attempting to “corrupt” an angel-blooded worshiper of Abadar… Or… perhaps not a worshiper? Mirielle had said her family primarily offered prayers to Abadar. “What strange circumstances for an Abadar worshiper to find themselves in, ey?”

A small test. Mirielle smiled and shrugged her shoulders. “A bit strange for all of us, I’d say.” Not confirmation of faith, nor denial. But was there some sense of uncertainty about the girl? Puzzles for another day.

Perils in the Caves

“Watch your step.” Dolce cautioned the others, pointing ahead of them. “There are weapons tangled up in the seaweed on chains. Most of them hooked.”

Nasha hadn’t seen it before, but the elf was right. One of two paths before them was blocked by seaweed, and mingled in the long, waxy plants were glimmers of metal. Of course, Nasha could only see them because of the Light spell Mirielle had cast upon her belt. All of her companions had better vision in the dark than she did.

The second path was narrow. Intended for smaller creatures. It made sense. The grinylow would be able to swim through either passage with little trouble as small as they were. Dolce motioned toward the narrow passage and Nasha nodded, heading down that course.

It was a tight squeeze, but as long and lithe as Nasha was, it posed little trouble for her. Revel followed second. It seemed the hobgoblin was content to force her way through any area that threatened to trap her. Mirielle was third, and they hadn’t even reached the opening of the narrow passage when she grunted and whimpered a little. “I’m stuck!” She tried to pull her leg free, but seemed to have no success.

This was when the attack came. Two grindylow moving into Nasha’s sight at the front of the tunnel, another two appearing where Dolce could see them at the other end near the seaweed. The elf was grateful she’d decided to take the rear guard because Mirielle couldn’t take a hit to save her life.

The battle tactic, while seemingly sound, did not gain the grindylows much advantage. They each carried only a single spear and were hesitant to throw them, resulting in them having to close into melee with Nasha and Dolce. Nasha slashed with her claws, and though she seemed drained by their earlier encounter with the bloodseekers, she still proved quite lethal. Dolce, on the other hand, sent crackling electricity coursing through her foes until they closed to melee, then pierced skillfully with a rapier, catching her opponents off-balance by feinting.

Revel, frustrated to be caught in the middle, threw her returning javelin whenever she could see the creatures. It was tricky to aim, but the hobgoblin managed not to hit any of her companions. Soon enough the grindylow withdrew into the chamber at the wider side of the tunnel. Nasha broke free and gave pursuit, only to have four spears thrown at her. There had been eight once, but four still hurt plenty. They didn’t take her down, but they surely left her close. She returned their attack with vicious swipes of her own. Felling two more in addition to the two she’d originally slain from the mouth of the tunnel.

Revel joined soon enough, but the water was deeper in this room, and swimming was not as natural to her as it was to Nasha. It took her long enough to reach the foe and keep above the water that she wasn’t getting in nearly as many attacks as she might have otherwise. Dolce found it was the same for her. They hurt one, but couldn’t finish it off even between the two of them, and Mirielle barely got into the room and called forth her halo before Nasha fell unconscious.

One of the creatures dragged Nasha to the far side of the chamber and seemed to be trying to take her further when Revel managed to kill the other straggler. Dolce tried to fling a Ray of Frost at the remaining one, but the ray flew wide as she had to struggle to stay above the water’s surface. Mirielle had to swim into the chamber. Thankfully the magic of the steel, blue ring let her do so with little effort and she was able to get close enough to cast another healing spell on Nasha.

The last grindylow was angered and rushed Mirielle, striking her with its tentacles. Revel took advantage of the creature coming closer and managed to get on the other side of it to take a bite out of it, ending its life. Mirielle swam over and reached for Nasha even as she emerged from the water’s surface sputtering and coughing. When Nasha had caught her breath her eyes fell on Mirielle and she said, “Again.. Thank you.”

They moved to the shallow water where Dolce treated the rest of their wounds with bandages and salves, save for Mirielle. Mirielle she had drink a potion. They’d gotten a few and Dolce didn’t think it would do to force Mirielle to heal naturally and bear scars. They might earn her rebuke from her father, who saw her as a daughter he loved but also as a tool.

The chamber the girls were in was carved to look like a great sea monster. They searched it while recovering and found various knickknacks of interest within, including a scrimshaw map of the region. It would net a tidy profit if they survived this island.

Deeper in the cave they fought a devilfish, a creature similar to an octopus but whose blood is infused with fiendish magic. The fight left all of them injured when the vile creature spewed a cloud of blood into the water that burned their flesh. They managed to slay it, and again took to shallower waters to treat their injuries. Mirielle had been the farthest from it and was the least injured when the combat settled, so she simply bore her wounds for the time being, assuring Dolce she would heal them later if required.

Enter the Tide…

The girls continued searching the caves, still having found no further sign of their friends. They entered into a particularly deep cave and were searching through it when they began hearing a roaring sound. Nasha realized what was coming first, “Hold to the walls!” She cried, grabbing Mirielle around the waist as she tried to dig her claws into the cave wall. They barely found purchase and Nasha could only hope it would be enough.

Dolce and Revel followed her example, clinging to the wall, seeking handholds. The water came soon after. It came from both sides, flooding from behind and before them, sweeping into them with amazing force. Try as she might, Nasha could not keep hold of Mirielle and the assimar’s own grip on the wall was weak as she was torn away and swept along the current. “MIRIELLE!” Nasha cried as she released the wall of her own volition.

Dolce and Revel were similarly torn from their handholds, and try though Nasha might, she was unable to keep pace with Mirielle and to her horror saw the tides swirling in one cave with four passages. Mirielle was quickly washed down one passage while Nasha, Dolce, and Revel were swept in another direction.

When they regained their “footing” the water was quite a bit higher. Now swimming was required throughout the passageway. Nasha growled and looked toward Dolce and Revel. They seemed unharmed. “I’m going to find Mirielle.”

Dolce frowned. “It might be best if we don’t split up.”

Nasha regarded Dolce coolly and the elf wondered what was going through her mind. She didn’t have to wonder long for Nasha soon said, “She is the weakest of us. If I can reach her more quickly she is more likely to survive.”

It was true, Dolce knew, and she scowled. “You’re right. Be careful. Her healing magic will not do much to fend off enemies in this place and we’ve already used a number of her spells. Take these.” Dolce handed Nasha two of the remaining three potions. She and Revel would just have to take care of one another.

With that Nasha swam off ahead in search of Mirielle.

An Audience with the Queen

The force of the water was astounding and Mirielle found herself gasping for air at every opportunity as it pushed her along. She held one arm over her head to shield it from potentially crashing into the wall or low-hanging ceilings of the caves, and otherwise just tried to keep herself upright and breath when she could.

When the current subsided she found herself facing a large, circular chamber. In front of her were two occupants. One a grindylow female. The first female she’d noticed among them. She supposed she’d assumed they were like Nasha. So lean and wiry was the lizardfolk that it was hard to tell her gender, but Mirielle had been mistaken, for this grindylow clearly had breasts.

She coughed and sputtered as she regained herself, grateful for her blue ring and fearful for her life as she heard the other occupant speak in a deep voice, “Food?” He was easily four times the size of a normal grindylow, perhaps more than that. His body was bloated to such an extant that she wondered if he could even use the more narrow tunnels she and her companions had traveled through to get here.

The female smiled, her jagged teeth bared in the chamber. There was no light, but it didn’t matter. Mirielle’s angelic heritage allowed her to see perfectly even without it, and unlike many others who had what was known as darkvision, her bloodline’s vision even allowed her to see color. The female grindylow held her hand out toward the massive male and said, “No my, love, at least.. I don’t think so.”

They were speaking in Common. Mirielle’s heart pounded in her chest. Why wasn’t she food? She hardly had time to ponder that when she saw the large one move forward toward the female and behind him chained to the wall so their heads were barely above the water and blood was trickling from their manacles were Ambrose and Quinn! Her eyes widened and a gasp escaped her lips.

“Ah, yes, I think not. These are your friends, hm?” The female asked, cooing as she pet her companion.

Mirielle blinked, clearing her thoughts. She could lie, she supposed. She was gifted at deceit, a necessary tool for life at court… But, what would it gain her in this instance? And what did they want? They hadn’t attacked her yet.

“It is quite rude to keep us waiting. What is your name, Dear?” The female cooed again.

Mirielle was shaken and feeling particularly vulnerable and at least a little panicked. She swallowed and tore her gaze away from Quinn and Ambrose to meet the female’s gaze. “M-Mirielle.”

“Ah, that’s much more polite. Now, are these your companions?” She asked again.

The time to decide was now, and convinced that lying would gain her little Mirielle said, “Y-yes. I’ve.. I’m here to return them.”

The female looked amused. “Oh-ho.. Return them? I was expecting someone but not so few. Hmm, that is a problem, isn’t it, Son?” she was was looking at the bloated grindylow again.

“I’m so hungry. Eat her?” The son asked, drool dribbling from his lips. Despite his girth it was clear he wasn’t weak, for muscles rippled beneath the layer of fat over his limbs and torso. His teeth looked sharper and larger than any of the others’ had been.

“Not yet, Dear. Not yet. Tell me, Mirielle. Are there others aboard your ship you do not like?” The woman was looking at her again.

Mirielle blinked at the strange question. There were, it was true, but what was her motive? “Umm.. yes…”

The grindylow female looked pleased. “Oh wonderful! You see, my precious son, here, he’s so very strong and powerful. Lamashtu blessed me with him, yes she did.” She was baby talking the giant grindylow, and he was nuzzling into the affections of both her hands and tentacles as she did so. Mirielle felt both alienated and as though they were somewhat relatable at the same time. “He is always so hungry. Aren’t you, Dear?”

The male rumbled his response, drawing out the word as though he could gain sustenance from it. “Foooooddd…”

“If you bring me.. eight.. eight men you don’t like, then I will return to you these two.” The female’s eyes were on her again.

Mirielle blinked, her brain struggling to digest everything she was hearing and witnessing. Eventually she stilled herself and took in a long breath. She nodded, “I will lead them here. It will take… at least a day to get them to come.”

The female frowned. “Why so long?” The question was more demand than inquiry.

“I have to travel all the way back to the ship and convince them to aid me. But I can do it. And I will. Tomorrow you will have them.” She was, of course, bluffing.

“HUNGRY!” The male protested, seeming to at least understand what was being said despite his rather small vocabulary throughout the conversation.

The mother cooed and pet him more, her tentacles coiling around him partially, “It’s alright, my sweet, strong son. She will return and you will have more food. It is a good exchange. Just be patient.”

The son grumbled but nodded and the female looked at Mirielle again. “If you don’t return by midday, he will eat them both.” She gave Mirielle a cold smile.

“I- I understand.” Mirielle found herself thankful the men were unconscious where they hung. They wouldn’t be feeling the pain of their manacles biting their flesh or hearing the conversation regarding their fate. At least they would be spared some discomfort. “I will return by midday.” With that she turned and started swimming away.

“Don’t kill my children as you leave.” The female’s voice called from behind.

“I-I won’t. And I will return!” She said again, swimming more hurriedly up the tunnel. She had to find Nasha and the others!

Reunion

Nasha found Mirielle first. She caught up to her at the junction where they’d been swept apart in the first place and was happy enough to see Mirielle she actually hugged the aasimar. “We worried.” She said simply.

Mirielle found she was shaking a little and gave Nasha a sheepish smile. “I was worried too. Where are-” She felt something press up against her thigh and panicked for a moment before seeing Cupiir. “Oh, Baby! I’m so glad you’re okay!” She realized, with a little guilt, that she hadn’t even thought about her familiar since being swept away from Nasha and the others. She supposed that was alright considering how scared and rattled she was feeling, but the guilty feeling remained despite her logic. She lifted the turtle out of the water long enough to kiss the top of its head. She wiped her lips and looked back at Nasha. “Where are Dolce and Revel?”

“Behind,” Nasha said. “I made haste to find you.”

Though the lizardfolk didn’t say it aloud, Mirielle was able to discern why. They worried she couldn’t take care of herself, and they were likely right. She excelled at lifting up and renewing others in combat, but she had very little ability to inflict harm when required. “We need to get back to them. I found Quinn and Ambrose!”

Nasha seemed to smile, the scales around her lips stretching backward. She gave a nod. “This way.” She began to swim, slower than her usual pace to allow Mirielle to keep up. Mirielle felt Cupiir press himself up against her hand on occasion as they moved through the water and felt relief at his safety every time he did so.

When they reunited with Dolce and Revel it was several caves and passages toward the entry way. Dolce was looking haggard. “Boy am I glad to see you two,” she said.

Mirielle thought for a moment that Dolce might give her a hug as well, but to her surprise the elf took Quinn’s hat and put it on. She steadied herself in the accursed water and focused on the hat, “Windfall.” It was the word of power for the hat and coupled with her intent to activate it she felt the magic of the hat respond. She took it from her head and tossed it into the middle of the cavern as it began turning into a ship. The caves would prove tight for them, and in places require them to force it below the water, but being as the ship was magical in nature she supposed it would hold up well.

When it reached its full twenty feet the elf crawled aboard looking not unlike a drowned rat. Nasha and Revel got up easily enough and held their hands out to aid Mirielle, who joined them next. “Thank you.”

Nasha nodded and Revel flashed her a toothy grin, “No problem.”

Dolce now put her hands on Mirielle’s shoulders. “Well, it looks like you made it alright.”

“Yes! I found Quinn and Ambrose!” Quickly she explained what all she had seen and heard and how she’d gotten out of their alive with the lie of intending to return. While she was explaining Dolce was casting Prestidigitation on her pack and the healing kit and her clothing, getting everything all dried out with a few expenditures of magic, though she paused when Mirielle described the state of Ambrose and Quinn, heads just above the water, blood trickling down their arms from their manacles.

Ambrose didn’t deserve that. He’d suffered enough without falling victim to sea monsters. He’d once told Dolce the skin of his back was so callused from lashes that he couldn’t feel them anymore… And of course Mr. Plugg had lashed his chest when the officers had gotten sick from some of the leftover reefclaw aboard the Wormwood. It pained her to think of her friend suffering now too.

“Well then, I guess we know where we’re going. I’ve got… some ideas about this.” She’d been saving her more potent spells. The right application of True Strike and Acid Arrow would be almost certain she hit her mark. She also had one more Chilling Spray prepared. And she could yet draw on the magic she’d vested into her rapier to recast expended spells twice today.

“Nasha, we’ll have you hide in the water in front of the boat since you can hold your breath so long. Mirielle, we’ll have you in the water behind the boat since you have the Ring of Swimming and you’re the only one they’ve seen. Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll stop to talk to us to and we can catch them off guard.” It sounded like a good plan to Dolce and the others readily agreed.

Dolce took the time to dress everyone’s wounds since they weren’t expected until the next day. With that done they set off to save Quinn and Ambrose.

Confrontation…

The plan worked at least in part, for Revel rowed the boat and Dolce watched from behind, spells at the ready. Mirielle was holding on the back of the boat, using it to hide behind and to keep her afloat as well as drag her through the water so she could better keep up. Nasha was invisible to the untrained eye.

Unfortunately, it seemed the grindylow priestess… or perhaps druid… was not interested in talking again, for as soon as she saw the boat she said something in a strange language to her son and the male rushed forward.

After that chaos erupted. The female was the quickest into combat, using magic to call upon aid from the natural world and summoning a large eel-like creature to the combat. She sent it toward the boat, but it saw Nasha since it was in the water and engaged with her instead. Puzzled, the female looked below the water and saw the lizardfolk as well. More words in her strange language seemed to alert her son.

Revel rowed the boat, driving them forward into the room and closing the distance to Nasha somewhat. They ended their movement about ten feet from the lizardfolk as Revel was moving to draw the oars again. Dolce stood in the boat and cast her True Strike and Acid Arrow, focusing the attack on the female.

A cry of pain sounded out, though it was much less effective than Dolce had hoped, searing only some of the flesh from their enemy. Still, the spell had a way of lingering if you weren’t particularly resilient or particularly lucky. She pinned her hopes on that.

Even as she did so the son closed the distance between them and took the boat in his strong hands, flipping it over so that Revel and Dolce were deposited in the water. Nasha, meanwhile, was bleeding from the Eel’s attack and returned its attentions with her claws.

Mirielle emerged from behind the boat, squeezing between its overturned back and the wall. She got close enough she could reach Nasha and cast a healing spell on her, calling on one of her more powerful spells of the day.. Only one remained.

The female cursed and cast a spell all too familiar to Dolce, sending electricity coursing through her body and Revel’s. Dolce hissed in pain, but managed to keep hold of her rapier. Revel seemed to come alive from the pain, howling loudly and smiling crazily. Her jaw elongated the way it did when her blood started racing, and Dolce swore the veins were bulging from her skin as she said, “YESSSS! I LOVE A GOOD FIGHT!”

Revel moved behind the big guy, putting him between her and Dolce, and chomped down on his arm as hard as she could. The hobgoblin scored a deadly hit, nearly tearing his arm straight off with her vicious fangs. The male cried out in pain and alarm, but Dolce didn’t give him time to react further before stabbing at him with her rapier, not once, but twice.

Both attacks connected, the first leaving him bleeding in the water and howling anew, the second causing his eyes to roll back and his limp body to disappear beneath the surface as a pool of dark blood spread. Her eyes turned on the mother and she said, “You’re next.” Her voice held that steely and unnerving edge she so rarely used…

But the mother didn’t seem to care as she wailed aloud, “My BABY!” and began sobbing.

Nasha, meanwhile, had a few bites taken out of her by the eel, but managed to kill the thing, slashing its throat open with her claws only to see it disappear. She moved alongside the queen, whose skin still burned from acid, and struck mercilessly at the one who had kidnapped Quinn and Ambrose. It wasn’t quite enough to kill her, but she was looking to be in a sorry state.

Mirielle swam forward further, her eyes travelling from the relatively uninjured Revel and Dolce to Nasha. She didn’t look amazing, but she also didn’t look like she was in danger of passing out any moment. Still, Mirielle readied herself in case the worst should happen.

Revel swam forward, eyes still crazed and smile still wicked. She had no hesitation about biting into the female as she wept over the loss of her son. Her teeth caught the grindylow by the throat and more blood spilled into the water as she ripped them free. After her savage attack Revel said, sounding all too content, “Gods I love the taste of blood.”

Mirielle was unnerved in earnest, and once again grateful the hobgoblin was not her enemy. She quietly asked, “Can we turn the ship? We’ll need it for them.” She gestured to Quinn and Ambrose.

The girls righted their overturned boat and climbed back aboard, except for Nasha. The lizardfolk searched the bodies of the fallen grindylows and found the key to the manacles imprisoning their friends. They lowered them into the boat only to find they had been poisoned. Sea urchin poison if Dolce was correct. They would live, but it would take some time for them to recover… Which might complicate the story she planned to sell to Master Scourge and Mr. Plugg.

Still… for now she settled into relief that they had not only found them, but been able to rescue them. Getting them out of here would prove difficult if they went up the cave wall, but if they were lucky another exit would exist from the cave system and they could use the boat to go to the beach before returning it to Besmara’s Tricorn. For now she focused on tending to everyone’s wounds.. And there were a lot of wounds to tend.

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