S&S: Session 17 – Cracking the Rock

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!

Ultimately, their encounter with The Deathknell had occurred only two days from Tidewater Rock. The Rock had a long history of changing hands and being a launching point for renowned pirate captains. It was a very defensible position, and while not as profitable as it once was… Pirates were a superstitious lot, and Dolce and Mirielle felt sure taking the Rock would earn them further renown in the Shackles.

Unfortunately, the current Lady of the rock was said to be interested in a marriage alliance. Something Mirielle had no interest in entering into considering she had only just started enjoying the prospect of choosing her own future. The plan, as such, was to see if Lady Smythee could be convinced to consider some other alliance, and failing that, to take the Rock by force from within.

They were sure they’d been seen from a distance. After all, being an excellent vantage point was what Tidewater Rock had been prized for when Sargavan vessels were still commonly preyed upon. The girls were met by Lady Smythee’s commander at the dock. Dolce noted the man seemed displeased when Mirielle informed him they were here to see if Lady Smythee would consider an alliance. The elf had suspicions he had feelings for his Lady.

Still, he was dutiful and showed them inside. They were taken up to the fourth floor, where the dining chamber was. Royster, the commander, knocked upon Lady Smythee’s door, and soon enough the lady joined them. They supped with her and discussed at length her interest in the current situation in the Shackles. Mirielle broached the topic of an alliance carefully, but found that Lady Smythee would not give ground.

The woman would only be satisfied with a marriage contract to a strapping young captain like the man she’d lost. With a sigh Mirielle began to announce that their goals were at odds. Dolce, Revel, and Nasha, who had all been informed Mirielle would not consider a marriage contract, began to rise, but Smythee reacted first.

She seemed to relish the opportunity for combat, drawing her rapier with almost shocking grace for a woman of her age. Mirielle was nearest her, and she nearly knocked the aasimar unconscious with a well-placed blow from her cutlass, but the captain returned the favor with a fiery ray of magical energy.

Revel charged across the table to join Mirielle in assaulting Smythee while Nasha closed with Royster to keep him occupied. It did not take long for further soldiers to start assembling.

Lady Smythee used the soldiers for cover as she attempted to flee the room, but she was not fast enough and Revel’s teeth laid her low by the door to the chamber. One of the soldiers attempted to lift Lady Smythee, but Revel bit his arm and ceased his first attempt. He grunted and bore the pain to lift her again, this time successfully, and retreated into the downward stairwell.

Royster ordered two of the soldiers to go above and fire on The Lady’s Purr. He closed the distance between himself and Mirielle, but did not have the chance to kill her before she used her Vanishing Wayfinder to turn herself invisible. Revel pursued the soldiers with the fallen Lady Smythee into the stairwell, tearing into them as she did so.

Dolce ordered Nasha to go above and stop them from hurting The Purr. She said a silent prayer to Besmara that there wouldn’t be more soldiers above than Nasha could handle.

Above

Nasha obeyed Dolce’s order, going in pursuit of the two soldiers who had run above. They had gotten to the top much faster than she’d expected, but her speed was greater than theirs. A puzzle for later. She had thought to fight them, but one realized she was giving chase and told the other to fire the ballista before meeting her in combat.

Nasha took a blow from his blade and felt the wiser course was not to engage the two, but rather to disable their weapon. Unfortunately the soldier’s comrade did fire off a shot before she tumbled through his legs and made her way to the ballista. She could see The Purr below and that the ballista had struck true. Nasha severed the ballista’s cord. That would stop them from using this one, but there was another on the other side of the roof. She made toward it.

The two men cursed and both started firing at her with crossbows. Bolt after bolt struck true, and Nasha began to fear she might not accomplish her task, but she did with just enough time to spare. When the second cord was severed the lizardfolk climbed over the battlement and clung to the wall, carefully moving around the corner while she was out of their sight. This would, she hoped, at least buy her time as they tried to locate her.

Besides the terrifying fall that awaited her if her grasp on the wall should slip, Nasha saw sailors below with a battering ram. Shade’s doing, no doubt. He’d proven rather useful and skilled at his job.

To her surprise, Nasha heard the men say, “Fuck it, let’s help the Lady,” rather than pursuing her. She waited a short time to climb back onto the roof, and sure enough, they were gone. She looked at her wounds for a moment and steeled herself. If they were rejoining the fight, she would as well, and if luck was on her side, Mirielle would restore her strength.

Nasha made her way toward the stairwell across the rooftop.

The Battle of the Stairs

As Nasha gave chase and made for the roof above, Dolce retrieved Lady Smythee’s sword since her own had not been allowed in the tower and joined Revel in the stairwell. She saw, to her delight, the recently roused Lady Smythee still in the arms of one soldier with a group of others clustered around them. The elf moved directly into harm’s way so she could cast Chilling Spray and catch them all in the spell’s effect.

Her ploy worked. It hardly hurt them, but Lady Smythee had only regained a small amount of vigor from whatever they’d brought her back with and fell into unconsciousness once more. The rest were chilled to the bone and their movements hampered. Still, they were retreating.

Royster snarled in agitation, joining the stairwell combat. He targeted Dolce with one attack before tumbling past her to run to his lady’s side. Revel and Dolce pressed the combatants hard on the stairs while Mirielle stealthily moved along as well, making sure her friends were still standing.

They’d gone down an entire flight of stairs, halfway around the tower’s perimeter, before one of the guards poured a healing potion down Lady Smythee’s throat and stopped in shock. “It’s no use, Commander. She’s– she’s not breathing.” The commander was enraged upon hearing this. “What do we do?”

“I don’t care what you do, but I’m going to kill them all!” He shouted, turning back to face Dolce and Revel now. Dolce expertly slew one of the remaining soldiers as Revel moved opposite Commander Royster, climbing along the walls to get there. The hobgoblin was delighted her prey had stopped running and happily attempted to sink her teeth in him.

She missed. He was quite an experienced veteran and skillfully dodged her attacks. It didn’t deter Revel, but when Royster returned her onslaught Dolce saw to her horror that Revel fell from nearly top condition to sagging on her feet in a single quick exchange of blows. Dolce fished a wand out of her pack as Mirielle cast healing magic on Revel from a distance, breaking her invisibility.

Thankfully, Royster seemed fixated on the hobgoblin and didn’t turn his attention on the injured captain. Revel managed to land a blow on him now that Dolce was in position to distract him, but it was not the strongest hit. Royster struck her savagely again and Dolce swore her hobgoblin companion teetered on her feet. It was now or never!

The elf invoked the magic of the wand, shrouding herself with Mirror Image before saying, “So vulgar. It’s no wonder your lady didn’t return your affections.” It worked. She could tell it by the rage in his eyes as he wheeled toward her. She took advantage of his wild shift in attention to stab him once with his lady’s sword to decent effect, but he was still standing.

Mirielle spent more of her healing energy on Revel since Dolce hadn’t been injured yet. She too sent up a prayer to Besmara that the Mirror Images would hold out since Dolce was not nearly as hardy as Revel was.

Royster sliced into Dolce relentlessly, twice erasing an illusory image. The third blow struck the elf with shocking force and she found the wind knocked out of her as blood gushed from her wound. Still, she held her ground and returned his assault with her own, another good strike. Revel also bit into him as his attention was turned on the elf.

Mirielle’s healing magic flowed into Dolce now, knitting her fresh wound and restoring her vigor. Another strike from Royster dispersed the last illusion. His second miraculously missed, but the third struck true. Dolce felt certain she would meet her end if the fight continued much longer. She stabbed back at him, but only one blow connected.

To her relief, he fell to Revel’s teeth just before his blade fell on her again. Dolce’s hand reached out for the wall, trembling, and she steadied herself even as Revel’s attention turned on the last remaining soldier. “There’s no need for further death, Revel,” Mirielle said.

Revel looked back at her captain, disappointed. The soldier didn’t seem convinced. He’d yelled at someone named Birney to stay in the room he now guarded. Mirielle talked him down. They were not here to claim lives, she explained, but to take the Rock and that was accomplished without slaying him or the occupant of the chamber.

The soldier dropped his weapon. Mirielle bade him stay there and she took Revel and Dolce to seek out Nasha above.

They encountered the soldiers before they found Nasha, making Mirielle’s eyes tear up. Revel screamed in fury, saying “I’ll KILL you!!!” and bit wildly at them, but managed to get her teeth stuck in the frame of the door they were passing through.

The soldiers, while rattled by Revel’s fury, didn’t hesitate to strike back, and one landed a solid blow that resulted in a sickening crunch. Revel wrenched her fangs free of the door, but her jaw hung awkwardly open and it was clearly broken.

Mirielle’s healing repaired enough of the damage for Revel to bite anew as Dolce caught up and stabbed into her attacker. The two took the soldier down with little trouble and turned their attention on the last one. This one exclaimed, “Fuck this!” And bolted, though not before feeling the gnash of Revel’s teeth.

They didn’t give pursuit though, because just as he ran for the stairs Nasha landed softly beside them. Seeing Mirielle, she smiled weakly and said, “Good. I have made it.”

Mirielle healed Nasha and Revel both even as the hobgoblin hugged Nasha, her rage subsiding. “I thought you were dead!” She exclaimed, tearing up a little herself.

Even Dolce’s eyes were watery, though she hid the gesture of wiping the tears away as one meant to brush her hair out of her face. “Indeed. When we saw the soldiers we thought the worst.”

“No. But I could have been. Their bolts were sharp,” Nasha said calmly. She had returned Revel’s hug and placed a hand on Mirielle’s shoulder. “Thank you again, Captain.” The respect and gratitude was clear in her voice. “Your sailors are breaking down the door below.”

Mirielle blinked, dashing the tears from her eyes openly. “Are they?” Nasha only nodded, and the four headed back down.

Survivors

Only four of the inhabitants of Tidewater Rock survived The Purr‘s assault. Mirielle let them leave, with their personal possessions. One cursed her and she coldly told them to go before she changed her mind. They even allowed them to take the ship’s boat that had been docked here since there was no other way off the island.

Within the Rock, they found a number of spoils, including a magical spyglass and magical breastplate. The Rock had clearly seen better days, for what wealth was within it seemed meager compared to what a successful captain would have accrued. Of course, Lady Smythee’s husband had been gone for quite some time.

With this wealth, and the last of the stores still below the waters on The Deathknell, Mirielle believed they could impress the Hurricane King enough to earn her the title of Free Captain. So they returned The Deathknell‘s underwater resting ground, using Mirielle’s magic to guide them, and spent another day’s labor bringing up the last of the wealth below. They left no one at the Rock for the few days it took them to retrieve the sunken treasure, thinking nothing would try to take it in that short a span of time.

During this time, Dolce finally took note of Shade purposefully avoiding her. She eventually confronted him and forced him to tell her why. When he removed his gloves and she took in his dark skin her first instinct was to stab him with her rapier… For she recognized the distinct hue of drow skin without ever having seen it before. It made his strange accent make sense as well.

The elf restrained herself, imagining the hassle of explaining to Mirielle why she’d attacked the bosun when he’d been doing such good work, but she did make certain he had nothing else to hide from them and interrogate him regarding why he was a pirate and not below with his kind. The drow revealed to her that he had been part of a heretical society, one which worshiped the devil, Moloch, rather than the demons they usually prayed to.

As a result, surrounding drow settlements had deemed his a threat and murdered all but a few of them. He was among those who escaped and now sought out a new life far from the underground. Dolce snarled that he should watch himself, because she certainly would be, and hastily withdrew from him to go and inform Mirielle.

As the elf predicted, Mirielle was not on board with the idea of murdering Shade outright. Rather, she said they would continue with him and see if he gave them reason to. He did his job well, and was a capable combatant. He’d proven useful once or twice already, and until he did give them cause she would let him continue to do so. The two debated this at some length, but ultimately Mirielle pulled rank on Dolce, ordering her to stay her hostilities unless directly merited.

OOC Notes

So, as it turns out, the people of Tidewater Rock are supposed to take a hostage, unarmored and unarmed. Likely I would have chosen Nasha since she doesn’t need armor or a weapon to be devastating as a monk. My husband didn’t read that paragraph of the module though.

I figure this is fine, cause he also accidentally converted both Lady Smythee and Commander Royster as one level higher than they were supposed to be, and that battle was terrifying. We’ll call it even, huh?

Shade being a drow was sort of my doing. I had found a picture of a really cool drow swashbuckler and had commented that it would be cool if they recruited another elf since Dolce is quite young. In Golarion an elf reaches physical maturity and adulthood at around age 20, but aren’t considered emotionally mature by other elves until they are closer to their first century. I thought it would be fun to have someone aboard who might note that Dolce is still young (she’s 85). Owlbrarian decided to use the cool drow pirate and put him aboard our ship to give Dolce another elf to interact with.

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