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!
Rickety was quite polite to Mirielle and her crew, allowing them the use of a building they called “the commons” while their ship was dry-docked for him and his men to work on the rigging. Everyone was ready to catch a breath after their hard work under Mr. Plugg and their hellish experience on the uncharted island.
Soon enough Dolce’s stories of their accomplishments to date were taking hold with the people at Rickety’s Squibs, and Mirielle capitalized on it to recruit some new crew. A crop of halflings and humans. She suspected their eagerness to leave the hot, humid, drought ridden territory had as much to do with their joining up as her charm.
There was an incident while they were in residence. Some sailors, one of them future crew for Mirielle’s ship, invited Dolce, Mirielle, Revel, and Nasha to go drinking with them. They’d been impressed with Dolce’s tales and Revel’s relentless willingness to arm wrestle anyone.
They’d had the alcohol cooling in the water, but as one of the sailors was pulling up the line they’d lowered it on it whipped suddenly in either direction and he was pulled overboard. The four girls rushed forward to see what was going on and saw a female serpentine creature with a human-like face down below.
Revel leapt to action without delay, plunging overboard and swimming toward the two. She was too slow to really get between the creature and the man she’d pulled overboard, but Nasha was quick on her heels, and she made swimming look effortless.
Mirielle watched from the ship’s deck, ready to use her healing if it became necessary. “What is that?” she asked.
The creature took offense to Nasha getting close and struck out at her. Her attacks were haphazard, and she seemed very off-kilter, but one still found purchase and Nasha grunted as her scales were torn, but didn’t yield her position.
Dolce heard Mirielle’s question, but was too concerned for her friend and threw an Acid Arrow at the creature rather than answering Mirielle. The arrow struck true, but again, was far less effective than she’d hoped it would be.
Revel got close enough to strike now, her fangs sharp and gleaming. She bit the thing hard and tore off some of its flesh.
Mirielle’s healing energy reached out for Nasha, mending her wounds. That was when the other sailor’s cries pierced Dolce’s focus on the combat. “What’d you do to piss of the Water Naga, Jake?”
The shaken sailor stammered, “I-I don’t know.. It was just going crazy!” He was swimming toward the shore, taking advantage of the distraction Revel and Nasha had provided.
Dolce scowled, that was indeed a water naga now that she put her mind to it, but one that wasn’t even grown. It was an adolescent. And.. Hadn’t Rickety said he had a tenuous peace with the creatures? He was allowed to remain here because he didn’t cause them any trouble like the previous inhabitants of this area had. How would they take to one of their young being killed?
The elf sighed and muttered, “Fuck, this just got complicated.” The naga was suffering from dehydration, best as she could guess. Probably it was attacking because it was delirious and crazed by its thirst. “DON’T KILL IT!” She cried to Revel and Nasha, hoping her Acid Arrow‘s lingering effects wouldn’t do the job itself. Probably not, but there was a chance. Still, she threw her rapier at the creature with Hand of the Apprentice to try and aid them in taking it down, because the naga certainly wasn’t pulling her punches.
This was proven further true when she bit into Nasha, and this time Dolce saw Nasha pale. “Fuck,” the elf looked at Mirielle, “they have a powerful poison. Can you do any-” Mirielle was already shaking her head.
The fight continued, though the toll it took on Nasha became clearer with each sluggish attack she made. The combat was prolonged by the creature’s use of invisibility. Nasha’s scales were growing paler and her blood was flowing pretty freely before the creature had finally been bludgeoned into unconsciousness.
Thankfully Rickety had arrived and had brought his companion, Chandra with him. She, as it turned out, was able to rid Nasha of the poison. A good thing, too, for the lizardfolk didn’t seem capable of shaking it off on her own merit.
They had dragged the naga into a building and there helped it recover with water from their own ship’s stores. Rickety really didn’t have any to spare, and he’d informed them as much when they’d arrived. Her name was Selissa, and she was, indeed, quite dehydrated. She apologized profusely for the harms she’d inflicted on Nasha in her disoriented state, and explained that she had been following a legend.
Legend had it there was a temple nearby where once, in ages past, the priests kept a precious item… A Decanter of Endless Water. The legend was from many generations before Selissa herself, but she had hoped to save her tribe of water naga by retrieving the decanter. Of course, she’d gotten lost and disoriented and had ended up here.
Dolce sensed an opportunity. This drought was effecting not only the naga, but Rickety’s Squibs as well. Their relationship allowed him to keep his operation running, and the people responsible for making that relationship better by providing such an item to them to share between them would surely find this a hospitable port in the future.
She convinced the girls to look into it, and they in turn convinced the naga to stay and allow them to escort her back in the morning when she had recovered further. When they did so, the naga of her tribe informed her that this legend was indeed from their forebears and that they did not know how much truth there was to it. They did, however, tell them where they could find the temple and warned them of a perilous trap within.
The four set off for the temple the same day and made it before nightfall. Large, angular stairs led up to the top of it, and a smaller set of stairs had been carved in it more recently. Dolce explained that the temple had likely been built by the Ghol-gan, cyclopses, and was later inhabited by the Kuru, or native peoples of this region.
At the top of the stairs they removed two large stone slabs from the ground to allow them entry. Inside they saw more stairs, now leading down. And deep in the bottom the trap they’d been warned about. It was a wheel with six symbols on it, each supposedly linked to the power of a spell. Dolce only hoped she’d be able to disable it. Otherwise she might join the many skeletons littering the ground around it or near the bottom of the stairs. She instructed the others to remain above as she crept down the stairwell carefully.
She saw no glyphs or markings on her way down, but when she was at a certain point the wheel began to spin. Dolce cursed under her breath and took cover in a deep corner of the stairwell, hoping whatever spell effect followed would be disrupted or at least mitigated by the cover it provided her.
To her dismay when the spinning stopped the spell shot high above her and seemed to reflect off a shimmering field and aim back down toward her. It was unering, striking her, and she could feel its magic at work as her strength was leeched. But maybe it would provider her an opportunity to get closer…
No sooner had she finished the thought than the wheel began spinning again. Dolce cursed again and fled up the stairs. She made it fifty feet up, past where the lowest skeleton was, and the magic fired off again. It hit the shimmering “mirror” effect and tried to reach her, but seemed to fizzle before it did so. She stood there and watched as the spinning continued and each spell fizzled in turn, including what she was pretty certain was a Lightning Bolt.
It had stopped spinning, but there was no telling for how long. She suspected scratching the symbols might well break the wheel’s magical effects, but… Again, there was no telling how long she’d have to attempt it. Better to tackle this with brute force. She peered up at her friends and felt she was right. At the height they’d be at there would be plenty of momentum for anything they threw below.
Dolce returned to the top of the stairs and told the others what needed to be done. They started with two stone slabs that had kept the place sealed, sending them hurtling below. Neither directly hit their mark, but there were plenty of other rocks and bits of rubble on the ancient temple. They spent hours hurtling rocks down below, and eventually Dolce saw the whole of the ground was littered with stones.
It was an amusing sight, but also a reminder that she should probably invest more time in her efforts where traps were concerned. For that day they headed back to Rickety’s Squibs. The temple hadn’t been successfully infiltrated in years and no one knew what the girls were up to, chances were it wouldn’t be infiltrated that night.
Best Laid Plans
The next day proved eventful, and Dolce’s intent to return to the temple was delayed. First Rickety’s was swarmed by giant wasps, some men killed and carried off by them. Nasha was quick on the draw and saved one woman’s life by throwing a smoke stick at her to ward the wasp attacking her away. The ploy worked and she ran to shelter, her and her lover thanking Nasha profusely when they were reunited.
As the chaos of the wasp attack settled a new problem arose. At the docks was a ship, a Chelaxian warship. It was a beauty, so Rickety said before handing the spyglass to Dolce. Mirielle was asking what the protocol was for multiple ships being in harbor at once. Rickety said it normally didn’t happen and it came down to what Mirielle decided.
“Looks like Cap’n Pegsworthy’s got himself a new ship,” Dolce said, recognizing the famed pirate captain on the docks. He was one of the pirates she’d looked up to in recent years. He lost his leg in service to his nation’s military in an incident that also claimed the life of his best friend. The military then tried to take sailing from him, telling him he was not fit to captain and giving him the nickname Pegsworthy.
Pegsworthy took the name as his own and stole a ship in the night with his loyal crewmen, leaving the crew that had been aboard to guard it tied up on the docks, alive. He made his career since then pirating in the Shackles and was a recognized Free Captain. Dolce relayed all of this to Mirielle, since ultimately Mirielle was her captain now.
The four girls went out to meet Pegsworthy, Mirielle leading them even though he remained behind his crew on the dock. There was tension at first as Pegsworthy revealed he recognized their ship to be a Rahadoumi merchant vessel matching a description given by Captain Harrigan, but soon enough Pegsworthy revealed he hated Harrigan and just wanted to know the names of the ones who stole the man’s ship from under him.
It was ultimately Dolce who spent the most time with Captain Pegsworthy, but not before the girls agreed to check on the state of Rickety’s sentry at the tower for a discount on their squib. They found the man dead, his parrot Rotgut repeating the phrase “Shoo fly!”
They took his body back, as well as the parrot, whom Dolce gave to Fishguts since she knew he had a fondness for birds. He had owned a pet chicken before Mr. Plugg had made him serve it to him for dinner on The Man’s Promise. Thoughts like that made sure Dolce never regretted her past where they were concerned. Turned out though, Fishguts specifically liked chickens, not birds. He did agree to take care of Rotgut until a happier keeper could be found for him.
The girls returned to the temple the following day where they found the rubble they had rained down on the trap hadn’t managed to disable it. They only realized this when it started spinning. Dolce sprinted down the stairs this time, hoping she could get to it fast enough to disable it before any of her friends were injured, Revel close on her heels.
Nasha, meanwhile, immediately took hold of Mirielle and covered her, trying to shield her from any hostile spells. In the end Dolce was too slow to even reach it before a spell went off, but the heavy layer of rubble was enough that it obscured the spell’s path. The elf stopped, laughing nervously. Another spell, and another. They couldn’t fly free so they were in effect hitting the rocks piled atop the wheel.
The girls moved inside at that point, not wanting to give the wheel enough time to shake too much of the rubble loose or to destroy it. They followed a long corridor within, at the end of which was a massive pile of skulls. “Ominous,” Dolce whispered. They could hear movement beyond.
Slowly and carefully the elf climbed over the skulls, each completely clean of any tissue. It was tricky climbing this without sending any clattering. In fact, her hand knocked one loose, but she managed to catch it between her knee and the skull pile before it made much noise.
When she crested the morbid obstacle she saw within a cyclops… Except it wasn’t just a cyclops. The creature was half-rotted, zombified. It walked circles around an altar at the center of the room. Inside the room, Dolce saw various other treasures including a satchel on the floor.
After observing the creature a while longer the elf descended the skull pile and whispered to the others to tell them what she’d seen. It was decided they would ambush the creature and so they all began to scale the pile again.
This time it was Revel that knocked a skull lose, only she did it quite spectacularly, causing a great cacophony of noise as it and others cascaded down the pile and clattered on the stone floors. A great and horrible roar reached their ears and the sound of the massive cyclops charging toward the passage. Dolce looked at Revel, who smiled sheepishly and shrugged her shoulders.
“Right then,” Dolce said, “let’s let it dig its way out. Nasha, Revel, you’ll be on either side of the hall. Mirielle and I will stay back apace so she’s not threatened.” Nasha, Revel, and Mirielle all nodded, taking their places. They would pincer the thing as soon as it got through the skulls. Mirielle moved further up the hall and cast a Bless spell, using the time it took the creature to dig through the skull pile to further the area effected by her magic.
The battle was ferocious, and Revel nearly got knocked unconscious, but they managed to overcome it by exhausting almost all of Mirielle’s spells and Dolce’s. Searching the room with the alter they collected various treasures, including the satchel. It hadn’t been harmed by time at all, making Dolce suspicious it was magical. She was correct, it proved to be a Bag of Holding. Within it… the prized decanter.
The girls returned to Rickety’s Squibs sweaty and exhausted, but with much treasure to show for their efforts. Mirielle made the gift to Rickety mentioning she hoped it would ease his relations with the naga and describing it as an investment in their future business together.
Rickety was quite impressed, as was Captain Pegsworthy. The girls enjoyed a good night of drinking and games, for in the morning the good Free Captain would be christening their ship anew.