Hellfrost

Island of Mourning - Session 18
A Brutal Beatdown

The spirits attacked, fully coalesced forms of Lady Menesta’s Grief. The strong Spirit of the heroes quickly dispersed the threat. The remaining spirits then moved on down the road, out of town. Tabari went side and encountered the spirit of the distraught priest. He gathered up the now corporeal holy symbal of Tammuz. The group decided to investigate the palace. They met Gramel, a rather grumpy steward that gave them little information. They then followed the path of the spirits. It led to a small valley with stonework blended into the hill – an old style Hekata tomb. Investigation indicated no easy way in. The group goes back to town to ponder.

In talking with Seth the Innkeeper, they learned the Omar the Stonemason was the builder of the tomb. They find him and he is very boastful about how well built it is. They also learn more of Lady Menesta’s grief at the death of Lord Damotrix. They do investigate if it might have been foul play – a political move of some sort, but that is a dead end.

The group decides to attack the door in two ways. One is just back-breaking labor. Menevis starts in with heavy tools on the door. The other is through magic. Salim’s obsession with sand has led him to discover that for a very short period of time he can be a grain of sand in the wind (Teleport). He might be able to work his way through the nooks and crannies of the door and the wall. He is successful! The decides to break open the stone door as a precaution.

After poking around, they come upon the final resting place of Lord Damotrix and the grieving form of Lady Menesta. Tabari correctly surmised that Lord Damotrix had to be touched by the holy symbol of Tammuz. A punishing fight broke out. With only Lord Damotrix being truly vulnerable, the heroes had great difficulty in this fight. Menevis, Tabari, and Araceli all were eventually cut down by the pair. Finally, Ahmed maneuvered Lord Damotrix into position that Salim, having swooped around the room on Sirocco to get the symbol and avoid Lady Menesta, to finish him off.

Lord Damotrix’s earthly form crumples to the floor. In its place stands a spectral version of the long-dead lord. As his shade materializes, the same thing happens to Lady Menesta. The couple rush to each other and embrace, the love they share for each other clearly evident.

They then turn to the heroes. As all this takes place, a beam of light strikes the floor of the tomb, illuminating a circle two yards across. Hand-in-hand, the couple walk into the light.

“In my grief I forgot that death is just the beginning of a new life,” says Menesta. “The rage I felt toward you for harming my husband has broken the chains, and we are free to depart, along with those we once ruled over and I so cruelly bound
I pray Tammuz is merciful.” She then cocks her head, as if listening to a voice.

“You have done the powers that rule the universe a great service today. Go with their blessing and continue your lives. You will be called when the time comes again to journey beyond.”

With that, the beam suddenly vanishes, along with the spectral figures. As the light vanishes, so the heroes find themselves on Spirit out as sea, all back alive. In their hand is a lens that was on Lord Damotrix’s shield.

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Island of Mourning - Session 17
Perhaps I should not have tried to blind Adad's Son

Storm clouds gather after the Spirit of Suleiman escapes from the gargantuan Cyclops. The Cylcops is Bariq, the Son of Storms, and some believe to be the Avatar of Adad. The storms are very rough and heroes and crew alike fight seasickness…then a living storm itself!

The storm gets particularly fierce when Ahmed climbs up the center mast, girds himself in the rigging, and defies the existence of a “storm god” (he is Devoted). When eyes clear and focus after a massive flash of lightning, our heroes see living lightning surging towards them. Naji and the crew focuses on the herculean task of keeping the ship under control in the storm. The lightning jinn seem to focus on Ahmed and the crew.

As things seem to turn the heroes way, another blinding flash of lightning – Ahmed finds himself staring in the the huge eye of Bariq, the Son of Storms! Tabari overhears Naji mutter “Perhaps I should not have tried to blind Adad’s Son.” But there was no time to consider its meaning. Bariq proceeded so pummel the heroes. Ahmed takes two brutal blows to that destroys the main mast in the process. He leapt forward to try to stick the eye of Bariq, but is ineffectual. Bariq grabs Ahmed, throws him across the ship when he crashes into the captain’s quarters.

Bariq hammered Salim so hard it drove him through the deck into the hold. Tabari and Ariceli were similarly crushed under Bariq’s might. As Bariq turned on Menivis, there was a load crack – the keel had broken under the power of the storm and the weight of Bariq. Menivis sees the other half of the ship rushing to him as all goes black.

Tabari is the first to awake. He finds the ship intact and everyone asleep on the ship. The Spirit appears unharmed and they are in a strange port – the buildings and the people resemble descriptions Tabari had read of Hekata. After all are wake, Tabari orders Naji to stay with the crew and have the ship ready to depart.

But before leaving, Tabari asks Naji about his comment during the storm. Naji then tells what happened to the crew back on the island with the cyclops. They had not told their tale as the terrible weather had been non-stop. The crew had been overrun by the beastmen. They were forced to sail to another small cover and were then taken to a huge cave. There they found Bariq. There were other mariners there and they were being eaten for dinner. Clearly, the crew would be up for the next meal. Thinking quickly, Naji convinced Bariq that one could not just eat people, but one had to properly cook them. If he allowed them to build a fire, he could demonstrate.

Bariq, skeptical, allowed this. Naji then noted its always best to cook to music. One of the crew quickly took up a lullaby from her homeland. The combination of the warm fire, the recent food, and the song put Bariq to sleep. Naji and the crew then heated up a large log and attempted to blind the Cyclops. They were successful enough to escape, but Bariq managed to bumble along behind them only partially blind. Naji sent the crew to prep the ship whilst he led Bariq down another trail. Bariq must have heard, seen, or otherwise sensed something that took him on down the path the led to the stone cyclops fort.

Naji returned to his crew to rescue the heroes just in time, as Bariq somehow had stumbled onto them in all the excitement.

Back to the port of Ankhura, as the heroes learn of the locale’s name. The heroes disembark to explore. The people speak Hekata but do not seem all that interested in the new arrivals. Ahmed notices there are no signs of the Devoted. Tabari notes there is a large but run down temple of Tammuz, the god of dead and the afterlife. He eventually locates a shrine to Qedeshet and speaks with the lay attendant. Tabari becomes convinced they are trapped in the ancient past.

Meanwhile Salim meditates while Ahmed keeps an eye on him. They eventually see Naji nosing around, trying to communicate with the local women. A couple of teen girls seems interested, but at the same time distant.

The group discusses what to do next. Based on some local maps, this appears to be the island revealed by the lens recovered from the Island of Lightning. But something is not right here. As it nears sunset, the group decides to try to leave. But they cannot board the ship!

As the sun sets, they see a glow up on a nearby hill. It forms a processional of spirits that marches to the temple of Tammuz. The doors are open and, perhaps as a trick of the lighting, the temple looks more robust and kept up than it did during the day. A priest of Tammuz comes out to greet the gathered masses. The masses supplicate the priest to let them in, to let them pass. The priest mournfully shakes his head and closes the doors. The crowd wails, and dark tendrils form and weave their way through the crowd. They start to coalesce into dark shapes, and those shapes sense the heroes…

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Island of Lighting - Session 15 and 16
Electricfying

Session 15

Celebration

A big celebration – all the prominent members of Home. “Sounds as of Jabal got his comeuppance – that his fate is much that that of the foul Sultan Malik, the former ruler of the Jinn. Here, you shall always be ‘As favored as Martek’." says the Pasha.

The Pasha bestowes the following gifts on the group:

  • A coffee serving set – +2 to any Persuasion/Reaction for Al-Shirkuh natives/those entrenched in culture due to its fine craftsmanship and obvious favor the PCs
  • Blood of the Marid – A Bloodstone (see Gemstones) necklace for Areceli – the gem contains a single Bennie that can be used to re-roll a healing check once per session.
  • Marqod’s Blessings – A 2-Wound Healing Potion for each member of the group
  • Each PCs may obtain an Alchemical item of their choice (Novice or Seasoned Power) for free from the townsfolk.

After a night of festivities, the group sets sail for the new island revealed by the Blue Lens. As the Spirit of Suleiman pulls out of port, the group sees a crowd form. Capitan Rafiq shakes his scimitar at the departing ship. There are a number of women, some angry, some looking forlorn. A number of angry men are in the crowd as well. The group turns to Naji, who smiles sheepishly.

Island of Beasts.

Naji informs the group the island indicated on the map is one sailors all avoid – it is an island of foul humanoid beasts. As they approach, the island does not look inhabited. There is a ridge of hills running along the spine of the island. Upon circling the island, they do spot a lagoon with crude outrigger boats.

The group approaches the island at dusk with most using their Necklaces of the Sea. As they near the beach, an emaciated man breaks from the jungle cover and rushes to the surf. His is quickly shot by figures lurking in the foliage. A quick fight reveals them to be Orcs. They have unusually finely crafted weapons and all bear a symbol of an eye with a lightening bolt for an iris.

The group makes it look like the dead man killed the orcs and move to set up camp a distance away. They set double watch, but that does not seem to help them when Tabari and Salim were paired together. As they sat facing outward, someone darts between them and back into the jungle! Then the pursing orcs show up. A fierce hand to hand fight occurs with the heroes being victorious.

The next day, they follow the trail into the jungle. They come upon a small fort with a wooden palisade. After some scouting, they see a two prisoners lashed to posts in the center of the fort. Occasionally, a foul orc would wander over and whip one of the men.

The orcs are not all that observant and they pay for that lapse in judgement. After some plotting, the group decides they plan of assault. Tabari and Salim enter using Sirocco after Araceli takes out the guard in the tower with her bow. Menivis and Ahmed scale the wooden wall. Araceli then climbs the wall herself.

In general, things go to plan. Ahmed nearly bit off more than he could chew when burst into the barracks area, but the group was able to rally. The group then discovers the prisoners in the pit, about 20 in all. They learn of the mines and where the ore is taken, but they do not know the masters of the stone castle deeper in the island.

Here is the view of events from Ahmed’s point of view:

“Fine weaponry for their kind,” growled Menevis, kicking a sword from the grip of a dead beast man.

Ahmed was letting the dervish flows calm around after the heat of battle. He looked around the primitive fortification at the carnage. There were prisoners that needed attention but he took a moment to reflect.

The old map had led them here, following yet another X. This small island was nearly uncharted and the X had been fairly indiscriminate, giving them no guidance to their goal: the last page of the old man’s book, the way to open the door and discover the fate of the famous Sinbad.

“Why are creatures such as these in the middle of the ocean in a fortification against no one keeping prisoners alive? Were the escaped prisoners we saw let go for sport or did they actually escape? Where did they think they could go? We’ve seen no boats or ships. And where it that last page hidden. We’ll have to search here but this would be a strange place for it to be hidden.”

Ahmed wiped his swords on the cloak of a fallen defender and slung them over his back.

Their path was full of twists, turns and tests. He began to feel as if their search was like one of Sinbad’s journeys, full of challenge and death. That realization made him smile. He and his friends had become talked about in ports, their deeds retold. Was it hubris to think they could walk in the footsteps of Sinbad and solve the mystery to find the legend’s tomb? What if in Suleiman’s wisdom they could find Sinbad alive? Trapped by some enchantment they could break? The possibilities…

As they started to work on the chains securing the prison pits, his mind drifted unbidden to the dream of his tribe. The usurper and the thought of returning home to lead them had played on his mind ever since that night in Jabal’s Tower. What if it was not some fantasy woven by that foul necromancer? What if his brother and the tribe suffered that way even now? It had been long since he’d had word of his people and he felt the draw to home.

It just was not strong enough to overcome his need for adventure…

Session 16

Cyclops

(note, I was using a smaller scale map of the famous Moathouse from ToEE for this scene).

After a rough and sweaty trip, the heroes find the keep. They see a bit of smoke from one tower and hear the occasional ringing of a metal hammer on metal. The group decides to work they way to a secluded place, come down into the ravine protecting the keep, and work their way in to the rear of the keep. By late afternoon, they arrive to their desired point. Araceli easily scales the rocky crag and the wall of the keep. The rest are reluctantly ferried by Sirocco.

Once up to the roof of the keep, they come forward and see a pair of orcs across the courtyard. They are gathering up ore and taking it into the tower to a smelter. Araceli manages to pick off two orcs and two cyclops* before the alarm is raised!

  • funny silly moment – when the first cyclops appears, Ahmed’s Notice was rather poor – so the player jokingly called out “centaur!” So we redubbed this the Ilse of misfit Centaurs – a centaur with One Leg Hindrance (presuming it cuts the number of legs in half) and One Eye Hindrance would look like a cyclops.

What happened next is best described by Menivis:

It had sounded like a good idea at the time. Ariceli had already taken down two orcs and a pair of cyclops at the gate house. Now the doors to the main keep stood open but no one ventured out of the darkness within. Stalemate.

Menivis and Ahmed grabbed a rope, looped it over a vent pipe in the roof and together trotted to the edge above the doors. With deep breaths and a count of three they swung over the edge, letting the rope ends catch the roof line and swing them thru the open doors to land amid their foes, hoping to gain surprise.

And the world seemed to end in a blur of motion, the sharp twang of bowstrings, the clash of steel and the roaring crackle and flash of sorcerous lightning. In but a heartbeat both Menivis and Ahmed were wounded but three of their foes were down. More lightning, more clashing of steel, more blood on the stone floor. The indignant cry of a dark priest of Adad, the shattering of furniture. Then the rest of the party arrived in their own hail of spell craft and arrows. A few more moments and it was done. The keep was theirs.

[In game terms, the orcs and Cyclops in the keep were on hold. Both PCs, the orcs, and the cyclops all rolled 5s for Agility – a massive simultaneous fight!]

Flee!

In clearing out the keep, the group found yet another Lens, three of the Lightning Javelins, and one Orc survivor. The orc noted the Cyclops worshipped Adid, the Father of Storms. The orc tribe was known as the Eye of Adid. He knows that there is a monstrously large cyclops on the island, purported to be a offspring of Adid on the island. That is who the cyclops of this keep provided their labor.

It was then that an unearthly howl of rage and pain was heard across the island. The orc fainted in fright. The very walls of the keep rumbled. The group decided to flee, especially when they saw what was bellowing The Orc was right, it was a gargantuan cyclops. It seemed to be searching for something…or someone. But its eyesight seemed even more poor than the other cyclopes they had encountered.

It was a harrowing flight back to the ship. The Spirit of Suleiman was quickly turning the bend into the lagoon and barely made it out of there under the onslaught of the thrown rocks of the behemoth. With Tabari’s languages spell still running, he heard the beast call upon his father for vengeance. As the Spirit escaped to sea, a storm began to brew…

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Tower of Jabal - Session 14
Madness
Menivis recovered enough to make the trudge to the tower. He found the door open and…welcoming. Cautiously entering, he found a room empty of life. Only bones on the floor welcomed the Mameluk. Advancing cautiously, a spectre of death arose, threatening his life. Menivis shrugged, the Cakali did not fear death. But then others rose from the bones …

The group was able to get Tabari back on his feet with some healing, but the situation was challenging. The threads of magic from the lessor Lantern of Asha * were elusive to Ahmed and Salim. Then, the sound of rattling bones approaching …

[*Side note – this is the Devoted name for the moon – in Sandspeech Al-Hemenat (The Cold One). The Faithful refer to the sun and moon as the Eyes of Shamash, with Iblis having partially blinded one of the eyes )]

Both groups battled the bony dead, with Menivis fairing poorly in his fight alone. It is then when the demons and foul spirits that infest the tower at Jabal’s bidding took notice of our heroes.

The spirits sought to torment with past sins and negotiate with desires:

  • Menivis – The demon took interest in the remnants of the spirit of Bayram alim-Kasaba that resides in Menivis’ Kopesh and Corselet. The demons brought forth the memories of the destruction of the Cakali homelands and the tough decisions the Bayram had to make to save a fraction of the survivors. The toughest call was his sister, who fell ill to the strange sickness that infected many of those that were near the cities during their destruction. Menivis was profoundly impacted by this – living through the events that so changed the Cakali view of life.
  • Ahmed returned to his tribe to find many things were not well. His brother Kalem’s health has worsened, deeping Ahmed’s guilt over the original injury that brought Kalem low so many years ago. He also discovered the Shiek had passed on. Somehow Abbad the Unclean had ascended to lead. Further, Abbad used the money that Ahmed had sent back to the tribe for his own vulgar pleasures. Ahmed boldly entered the Shiek’s tent and confronted his bodyguards. He got them to back down and Ahmed stepped behind the curtains to a retched scene of debauchery. He confronted Abbad and accused him of crimes against the tribe. While Abbad would not relent, he also had no support. Ahmed forced him down and maimed Abbad (cut off several fingers), and exiled him from the tribe, then taking control. As he exited this vision the haunting thought nags at him – was any of that vision true?
  • Tabari finds himself alone in the Tower of Jabal. Searching for his friends leads him to the library of the tower, where sat Jabal enjoying a coffee. Uncomfortable pleasantries are exchanged, at least from Tabari’s point of view. Jabal engages him about the nature of the Cakali and their lack of fear of death. He claims the Cakali do fear one thing – to live! They abandoned their culture, their endeavors, and their knowledge. They are no more than animals that wander the desert. Tabari counters with the tight bonds that the Cakali form – their strength is stronger than before, stronger than the false life and companionship that Jabal seems to be trying to create in his tower. Jabal finally counters with an offer of knowledge – knowledge to contact and perhaps even bring back Tabari’s beloved wife. Tabari meditates for a moment. It is not so much about his wife – he knows that would only bring torture and pain to her. But the knowledge itself. In thinking of what offends Qedeshet the most is the destruction of knowledge. He resolves to resist Jabal but if possible, to recover the dark knowledge here to send back to the university.
  • Salim finds himself trapped back in the same cave all those many year ago. He is that same boy and the same fears and rejections of his peers. While as a boy Salim really never knew what hid in the darkness and the stories were just that – stories. But Salim has traveled and knows what lurks in the dark. He finds it harder to center himself and meditate. The way out is elusive for him. Nazif, Salim’s chief tormentor, returns and taunts “what will you give to get out of there?” Salim finds his center, and then notices a lever point that might open the rockfall that blocked the opening of the cave. Using leverage, he bursts out of the cave! The rockfall pins Nazif, severely hurting his leg. Salim turns to the boy “What will you give….”
  • Araceli is back with her friends from the north. It is a surprise when one just looks around as it seems barren. But their is life here in the sands! That is, until they reached the Line. Everything is different across the Line. The sun is both more unforgiving yet the lands somehow appears darker. There is no sound. There is no life. The drain on one’s soul is palpable. Those of the group from the North are uneasy. Those from the South are on the verge of panic. Reaching the pyramid brings only more horror and no relief. Sinrilli Sunray, the priest of Sigel, is almost mad with power. The sun has driven him here. Here, he will find his god. The workers will not work now as they are terrified of these lands and the pyramid. They will not enter the pyramid. Sinrilli threatens to bring down the wrath of his god on them. Araceli goes to Raji, the leader of the workers. She convinces them to help. A bit at first, them more, then fully engaged. Most of them die horribly in the trap infested pyramid…but also to other horrors. And it was Araceli that sent them there…

After surviving the torments of the demons, the group finds itself back in the tower and in the moment. Unfortunately, that moment is near the critical hour for Shana, the daughter of the Pasha of the Island of Outcasts. The group surges up the multiple flights of stairs. Skeletal warriors stand in their way as they hear the chanting in the Black Tongue. Fighting their way to the the pentagram, they find a faint blue spirit bound. It is getting more substantial and cries for help. Jabal is nearing the completion of the ritual. Menivis charges forward and sweeps away all the arcane paraphernalia in hopes that weakens the ritual. But it is the Arecili’s Bow of Ammon that ends it.

The demons are enraged at Jabal’s failure – a black cloud in the shape of claws reaches up out of the floor and starts drag him into the stone. The Tower shudders violently. Not in the best shape to begin with, the heroes sense the tower is not long for this world. As the group begins to flee, Arecili notices the spirit is still trapped. She also notices the large hourglass near the pentagram. She quickly shatters the hourglass with a well aimed arrow then deftly climbs over the edge of the tower. Salim calls on Sirocco the Flying Carpet to get him out of the tower, and Ahmed clings on for dear life. Menivis gathers up the near immobile Tabari and races him down the stairs, although he nearly takes Tabari’s head of going through a doorway. All escape the doomed tower, which crumbles into the dark sea.

The group gathers at the dock and returns to the Spirit of Suleiman. There is a great celebration back at the Pasha’s compound. The group asks for only the blue lens and replenished healing supplies.

The lens reveals another isle…

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Tower of Jabal - Session 13
Those dice...

Ahmed ibn Zafir, Tabari alim-Yanalak, Salim al-din Yassan, and Araceli approached the ominous tower at midnight. Menivis Steeltooth remained on the ship to protect the crew (player could not make the session). There were thoughts of how to enter, other than just bash down the door. They even considered underwater scouting, but they did not have a suitable light source and it was unlikely even the foul dungeons of this tower reached that deep into the rocky crag.

Salim decided to scout around using Sirocco the Flying Carpet. He discovered the roof was set up in anticipation of a foul ceremony. He secured a rope and the group entered the tower from the top. They were careful not to disturb the setup as they were unsure of its purpose. Ahmed scouted ahead along one of the enclosed corridors on the roof area. As he neared the exit, he was attacked by sword and weapons lining the walls, wielded by skeletal arms! The battle quickly went in the heroes favor.

The group cautiously explored the next two levels of the tower, which was eerily quiet other than the occasional simmering cauldron of eyes or other body parts. The finally encounter Jabal the Black in his laboratory. He called upon his latest creation, an experimental Bone Golem, to attack the group.

The Golem took hit after hit, shirking them off with ease with the preternaturally strengthened bones, forcing the group back into the hall. Jabal nearly ripped Ahmed’s soul from his body (Bolt, 4-5 wounds, soaked back to 3 wounds), and dropping his shinning dervish powers. Salim and Tabari maneuvered past the golem to strike at Jabal, dropping his protections. Jabal retreated back into his lab and called upon the dark spirits to protect him, but not before he ripped part of Tabari’s soul away, leaving him Incapacitated. Salim tried to counter, but his magic drained away (Siphoning!).

The Bone Golem was finally destroyed and Ahmed, after potion of Healing, sprinted into the laboratory to end this nightmare. Salim, doing the only thing he could think of, kicked over the cauldron of simmering eyes. While gruesome, Jabal laughed and disappeared in cloud of black smoke just as Ahmed closed in on him.

The group looked around. Ahmed took the opportunity to spin up some protections…only to have his magic drain away, too! (another Siphoning).

Thus, we leave our heros battered and mostly Siphoned in the Tower of Jabal the Black, with about 21 hours to go until girl’s soul is forfeit.

==========

From Ahmed’s POV

Of Jabal the Black

They almost missed the island in the darkness. There was no moon that night and racing clouds obscured the stars more than not. Only Araceli’s eyes picked it out of the gloom by the froth of waves against its rocks. It was a spit of rock, barely large enough to support the dark tower resting upon it.

The Spirit of Suleiman anchored a quarter mile from the island with sails reefed to no sudden starlight would illuminate it. A cutter was lowered into moderate seas with four sailors on the oars and four of the Five peering toward the island. Menevis was too sick on the ship to stand so was better left behind. A worn, decrepit pier was found on the north side of the island. There appeared to be no guardians or watchers and no lights from the dark tower. The Five disembarked and the cutter withdrew to wait with the ship.

Sea spray washed over the stones of the tower relentlessly and it appeared as if it would crumble, disappearing beneath the waves in a moment, a year, but within a lifetime surely. An exploration of the single door on the ground level proved too challenging to overcome quietly so Salim harnessed his carpet to reach the top of the tower. Ropes were used and the group safely ascended.

The top of the tower was clearly a place of foul rituals: a pentagram in the center of the open space etched into the stone itself, covered braziers, chains to secure victims. A foul and twisted miasma surrounded the place no doubt spiritual remainders of the evil done there.

“I have a bad feeling about this place,” muttered Ahmed before lighting a torch and skulking down a covered hallway to find a way down into the tower. The hall way was ornamented with iron weapons (axes, maces, morning stars) held on mounts that looked like skeletal hands. Chilling but Ahmed ignored them until he’d gone thirty feet. Then skeletal arms emerged from the walls to wield these very weapons, smashing and slashing at Ahmed. His twin swords, Flash and Sing, lived up to their names as he destroyed one arm after another. Hearing the battle, the others joined it and soon the threat was over.

Creeping down into the tower, they passed seemingly mundane rooms… a library, a bedroom, a laboratory, a sort of trophy room. Refusing to be distracted, knowing that time was running out to save (DAUGHTER’S NAME), they went down one more level. Again the tower was divided by a center hallway though this time there was but one room on each side. Listening carefully, Ahmed picked the door where something was moving, nodded to his fellows, and opened the door to rush into battle…

Jabal the Black had been expecting them. His banter aimed to delay and confuse fell on deaf ears as Ahmed ignored him. But this battle was to be the most dire the FIve had fought. Within moments, a pile of bones had risen to become a hulking monster to attack them. Jabal hurled streams of blackness filled with biting skulls. Ahmed was grievously wounded again and again, shaken and unable to bring his swords to bear on the necromancer. He lost his concentration and felt his usual magics disappear. Salim had suffered the same fate, his face ashen after the loss of his powers. Tabari was beaten badly and knocked down. Just when they thought luck and Suleiman had truly abandoned them, they broke apart the bone monster.

Ahmed made a last ditch attempt, rushing headlong to Jabal to cut him down only to have the necromancer disappear in smoke. Unsure where Jabal had gone, our heroes secured the room and took some minutes to heal what they could. Ahmed attempted to dance and bring his powers back but stumbled and fell to his knees. He felt a horrible hole inside as he lost touch to all magic. Looking to Salim they could only share a sad acknowledgement. Fickle magics had cursed two of them this day.

Their powers clearly weakened, they saw no choice but to forge ahead and do anything they could to bring down this Jabal the Black!

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Isle of Outcasts - Session 12

While the heroes are in port, they discover that Naji really does know what he is doing when it comes to ships and seamanships. He quickly established himself as captain and the crew overall loves him, but there is an exception or two. The heroes also discover that the Spirit of Suleiman was recently purchased by members of the Brotherhood of Sinbad after the prior captain/owner was killed in an accident.

On the morning the Spirit is set to sail, Naji’s past once again catches up to him. As the port authority closed in on the ship, Naji yells out “all aboard that’s coming aboard” and orders the crew to cast off.

Menivis was a few piers over finalizing the last few supplies for the ship. Upon hearing Naji’s call, he dropped to all fours and sprinted along the docks, up the crates, and made a huge leap to cover the rapidly widening gap as the Spirit pulled away.

Salim, unfurled Sirocco the Flying Carpet and ordered him to fly to the ship. Sirocco grumbled at first, but surprisingly did what he was told. But lulled into a false sense of security, Salim was not ready when Sirocco suddenly accelerated at the last second. Salim bashed his head on a spar, and that left him sprawled on the deck (and a wound).

Tabari had spent the last couple of days writing up the hero’s tales under the sea to send off to the universities of Qarah. Fortunately, Tabari heard of the pending raid on the Spirit and slowly strolled onto the ship just as the gangplank was withdrawn from the pier.

Araceli, as usual, was a bit of a curiosity draw from the locals. The crowd was proving problematic as they were between Araceli and the Spirit. Thinking quickly, Araceli gracefully swung through some rigging on another docked ship to land gracefully on deck.

Naji gracefully and skillfully maneuvered the ship our of port, but not before several near misses with other ships in his haste to get out to sea. Travelling south, the Spirit came to the Isle of Outcasts. It was quickly obvious as to the naming of the island, – most people have a physical hindrance of some sort. They were discarded by their original society, but formed their own here on this pleasant island. Approximately 500 souls live in the town.

Not long after docking, a one-armed man of obvious authority (Captain Rafiq) invited the heroes (and Naji, as captain) to dine with Pasha Kutaiba. At the pasha’s house they are greeted politely by a servant, a cakali with a withered right arm and only two fingers on his left hand. He indicates where weapons and armor may be securely stored, and then leads the guests to meet his master. The house is richly appointed, but without being ostentatious or garish. Kutaiba Pasha is the wrong side of middle age, and his face, bald pate, and hands are vividly disfigured by deep burn scars. A banquet more befitting the table of an emir has already been laid out. During the meal, Kutaiba Pasha makes small talk, inquiring about the heroes reasons for visiting, their previous exploits, and news from the mainland. Once the characters’ bellies are full, he gets down to business. He invites the heroes to follow him to an adjacent room.

Laid out on a bier is a young woman of perhaps 20 years. Her face is relaxed, and she appears to be sleeping. What catches the hero’s eye is the girl wears a large, colored crystal lens as part of a necklace, identical to their amber lens other than the color.

“This is my daughter, Shana. A stranger came to our town and, on seeing her, desired that she become his wife. I refused such a marriage, for the stranger was of sinister disposition and my heart told me that he was full of wickedness. Oh, by the fates, how right I was! Angered, the stranger revealed himself to be Jabal, a wizard of the dark arts, and calling upon fell charms, he placed her in the magical sleep in which you see her now.

“The wizard said that unless I changed my mind within a year and a day, my daughter would never wake yet never truly die, condemning her soul to limbo for all time. That deadline is midnight a mere two days from now, and I fear I must make a decision no father should be called upon to make.

“I am a man of peace, but I now ask that you aid us. Kill the wizard and break his charm. There is no other way.”

After promises are made, the Pasha gets a bit conspiratorial. With the group’s permission, he wishes to “scare straight” Naji. Naji has been to The Island of Outcasts (or Home as they know it) in the past. And like most places he left quite an impression. He does not think about it until Captain Rafiq grabs Naji and the following proclamation is read:

“Whereas one Naji ibn Shakir did attain entrance to the quarters of the court vizer and made off with a prized Hooka and associated paraphernalia. Whereas one Naji ibn Shakir did use said stolen items to corrupt the virtue of a young maid or three of the realm. Whereas the fathers of said former maidens did capture one Naji ibn Shakir and threaten bodily harm, at which time Naji instigated a great commotion and inflicted monumental damage upon the local market. Therefore be it decreed that one Naji ibn Shakir shall be imprisoned in the dungeons of Pasha until such time that the Pasha decides to grant mercy upon his retched soul.”

After stern looks and Naji dragged off in chains, the Pasha and Rafiq laugh and assure the heroes that Naji will only spend a night or two in the dungeons for his past crimes.

The next day with a humbled Naji in tow, the Spirit departs for the nearby island of Jabal the Black. Despite ill winds, Naji and the crew do a masterful job. The Spirit arrives that the dark, gloomy spit of a rock capped with an ominous tower with 24 hours to spare.

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Of the Brothers of Sinbad - Session 11
Friend Naji

Of the Brothers of Sinbad
From Ahmed ibn Zafir point of view.

Clasping hands with each in turn Ahmed bade farewell to the friends and allies he and the Five had made among the merfolk deep under the sea. The Five had been greatly honored by the undersea people for their valiant defense of the kingdom and willingness to risk everything to help. Heavy pouches of rare pearls were tied to their gear, a tangible reward.

Glancing across the court, Ahmed saw Araceli embrace the Princess. Theirs was a a deeper bond and no doubt the Ilf would find herself here again someday. Whether the rest of the Five would still be tagging along with her was another question. Ahmed frowned. Araceli had been having the nightmares again. Her venture into the tombs had marked her deeply and he knew they needed to vanquish the evil spirit that was torturing her sleep.

But first they needed to return to the “lands above”. Keeping the merfolk kingdom a secret was paramount so a grand ruse was devised. At the next storm above, illusions of a foundering ship would be created by the merfolk mages, flotsam from past shipwrecks littered across the surface, and the Five let go close enough to swim to shore on an island passed by ships now and again.

“The surface? The real world? Sun on my toes? Brilliant!” exclaimed Pesci, the annoying engro. Ahmed frowned at the half-folk schemer and made sure to keep a fair distance. Tabari was more comfortable with deals and haggling and soon he and Pesci were in discussions about setting up trade with the merfolk in wine and pipeweed.

A few days passed waiting for the surface storm and then it was time. Final farewells, a truly rough time on the surface, and a very exhausted arrival on the beach of the small island. For a time Ahmed enjoyed the feel of the sand under him and then the sunlight on his skin as the storm passed.

“Survived that ‘wreck’, did you?” asked an old man who was quietly harvesting star fruit from some trees. He made it clear that he did not believe the story of the wreck though the Five would maintain it. “Come, let me give you sustenance.”

Over a generous meal of hard tack, bread, and fruit, the old man explained that he was a member of the Brothers of Sinbad, followers of the epic hero who had died hundreds of years before. Brought to the island by his ship which still stood anchored off shore, he believed that Sinbad was not actually dead but trapped by tricksey Jinn. On that very island, there was a cave in which the old man had found a book of equations, but one missing the last page. He believed if the equations were solved, the clue would allow a portal to open again in the cave and perhaps Sinbad could be rescued!

“I sent a Brother back to the mainland to track down the missing page but I fear he has been waylaid. If you were to bring the final page back to me, the Brotherhood would be eternally grateful!”

“Have you not thought to seek it yourself?” asked Ahmed bluntly.

“I have much to do here still to prepare. The equations are complex and I must divine the perfect order of solution…” mumbled the old man, his finger tracing in the air and leaving glowing numbers and letters that faded in a few moments.

“I think we should help him,” explained Tabari when the Five were alone. “It is the honorable thing to do for the generosity of his table.”

“It would also get us back home,” added Salim.

Quickly agreed, the old man offered use of his ship, The Spirit of Suleiman, to return to Akhmim to find Naji ibn Shakir, the wayward Brother. Traveling again in the ship they had come to know was of some comfort as it cut through the waves on a strong breeze. In only two days, they sighted the cliffside city of Akhmim and the ship’s crew deftly brought her into the docks. Ahmed truly breathed deep, savoring the smells of the land and the peace he found being once again in Suleiman’s first city.

After riding the platforms up the cliffside, they stepped off and around the massive stone golems who hauled the platforms up and down tirelessly.

“You ask around,” suggested Ahmed, knowing Tabari was much better than he at such things, “I want to have a word with Hiram the swordsmith.”

The afternoon passed with Ahmed crouched watchfully in Hiram’s workshop as the aged but excellent smith secured the Walkstone as the pommel of Ahmed’s favored scimitar (“Flash”) and rebalanced the weapon. The smith tutted here and there where the original smith’s workmanship had been less than perfect and by the end of the afternoon, Ahmed had a weapon worthy of a master. He practiced with it, feeling the balance and how quickly it moved in his hand, as if it were alive and aching to leap into battle. He gratefully left most of his pearls with Hiram.

By the time he tracked down the rest of the Five at an out of the way tavern called the “Last Port of Call”, almost all of his pearls were gone, given here and there as he saw mothers in need or left donation at a Kada. Entering the tavern, he saw that Tabari was engaged in a boisterous… negotiation with the tavernowner who could not stop crying about the dinar Naji owed him, the damage done to his tavern when Naji fought some people there. Eventually, Tabari paid for Naji’s overdue rent for a room which quieted the tavernkeep somewhat. Examining the wayward Brother’s room showed that it had been ransacked but the tavernkeep was able to point them to the home of a girl (Hawazin Bint Rizq) who was always at Naji’s side when he was drinking.

Outside the tavern, Araceli had met a street urchin she’d known from her first days in the south named Anis ibn Anis. For a small coin, the smartly dressed boy was willing to take them to Hawazin’s home. At first the girl’s mother was having none of these strangers asking after the ne’er-do-well Naji whom her daughter lay pining for in her room. Once again, Tabari’s wise words and Araceli’s pure heart softened the woman and they were allowed to speak to the girl.

“The men grabbed us both, roughly, and dragged us to the docks. I bit one and he let me go.”

“Where did they take Naji?”

“I can’t recall exactly, I was so terrified I just ran and ran until friends led me home. But it was a big building and there was a sign out front… something red with a blue stripe.”

“We’ll find Naji, Hawazin, though he needs to leave the city for a time.”

“Permanently?” whispered the mother hopefully, pressing five dinar into Tabari’s hand. Graciously, the wise one did not commit on that score but also did not commit to bring Naji back.

It was late in the evening before they found a warehouse with the incriminating sign. Eager to test his blades, Ahmed lobbied to move in quickly. “You never know when they might harm him!” With little opposition, Ahmed and Araceli crept into the building, the Ilf taking to the loft to get angle with her bow. Ahmed skipped neatly up one of the piles of crates, planning to swing down to two thugs in a manner that would be quite entertaining when Tabari told of it later. unfortunately the criminal gang had done haphazard work piling the crates. One tipped sharply sending Ahmed sliding and dropping to his feet next to the thugs.

Once the fight was on, Ahmed felt his blood race and his blades flashed and sang, slaying three of the heinous criminal gang. Salim and Tabari entered as well and soon a whirling cone of sand pummeled and tore at two more thugs. When they reached the far end of the warehouse, they found Naji hanging from his bound hands and threatened by one of the thugs, sword to his throat.

“One more step and I’ll kill him!” threatened the thug.

“I don’t care,” snarled Ahmed which gave the thug pause and Araceli a moment to take position. Without pause, she sent two arrows into the thug, his sword dropping to the ground un-blooded.

“Oh praise the gods!” squeaked Naji. The Five unbound him and quickly questioned him. Apparently Naji had gotten into debt with these men over a shipment of hashish he’d misplaced. Why Naji was doing work for dealers of the narcotic instead of securing the final page was unclear.

“I didn’t exactly find the page, but its the same thing.” Plucking a slightly bloody paper from the vest of the slain thug leader, he handed it to Tabari. “It’s a page that tells you where to find the page, I’m guessing.” He handed Tabari a small amber crystal. Holding the page to a nearby lantern and the crystal to his eye, Tabari saw it was a fine map of the land and islands of their region. A small X appeared on a tiny island not far from the Isle of Korsar.

“My obligation is completed!” declared Naji. The Five proceeded to explain to him the meaning of oaths and obligations. As they walked away from the bodies in the warehouse, they confirmed that Naji would be going with them until the true “Final Page” was returned to the elder Brother on the Island.

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Undersea - Session 10
Death of Two Kings

The final battle looms. Losses have been atrocious. King Mathias of House Taj is confident they will win, but the bleeding has to stop. Vizir Ja’far informs the group the Shamans protecting the Kreana King are at the Ironclad. The group volunteers for a surgical strike!

The King Mathias gives a heartfelt speech to the group and Princess Silana shows her appreciation. The group is given two Pearls – one will get them to the Ironclad, one will get them back. The group plots, as they know the layout of the accessible areas of the ship.

Girding themselves, the heroes flash in over the deck of the Ironclad…right in front of a Great White shark! Then crossbow bolts come out from the battlements on the deck! The group battles hard and clears the deck, but there is blood in the water from their own wounds.

They then go down through a massive hole in the deck to the aft-mid-deck area . An after-effect of the old water elemental engineering room is that this level has a counter-clockwise current. As the group hunts for Shamans, they catch sighted of a serpentine form off in the gloom of the water. They then engage a Shaman and his protector. As they attack, another set attack from behind the group. Then a young Sea Dragon comes around the corner and breathes is caustic water mixture! The battle is fierce, with Ahmed finishing off the dragon in a dizzying whirl of blades!

Healing up what they can, then enter the lower deck. In the central area is a circular dais. Tabari had tried to divine its use when the group was here previously but never really got anywhere. Now, there is a glowing purplish gem floating above the dais. Unbeknownst to the PCs, the dais nullifies up to -2 in maintenance penalties for spells that are cast from it (they are still Maintained, just reduces the penalties).

There are a number of Kreana around, and a battle ensues. Eventually, the other other four Shamans and their protectors engage the PCs. As each Shaman is killed, a protection on the Kreana King drops. Eventually, he notices and returns to the ship via Sanctuary! With him comes 4 Bloodragers. All are crazed with blood frenzy.

The battle is tough. Menivis is nearly killed. Salim is bleeding badly. Other have Fatigue effects of spells from the Shamans. All of the group pounds on the Kreana King. Ahmed, dancing through the water as if he was born there, cut the widest swath of destruction among the Kreana and finished off the King!

In the area there is a merman chained to a wall. It turns out to be Prince Albion! The group sweeps the area and returns to the Palace with the dead King in tow, spirits high…

…only to arrive to carnage! Members of the Coral Guard and King Mathias are dead! There are many Kreana bodies as well. It is hard to see with all the blood in the water. Tabari rushes over to the King and casts Insight. The scene replays itself in his mind. A secret panal near the throne opened and Kreana rushed out. The Vizir rushed out of the room to summon more of the Guard. The battle was fierce, but short. It was a suicide mission…there was not much that could be done.

At least the Princess was safe and the Crowned Prince had returned.

Of the Death of Kings (Ahmed POV)

Ahmed sat quietly on the floor next to the bed where his friend Menivis lay. The warrior had borne the brunt of the vicious battle with the Shark King, his body torn in countless places. That foul monarch had been slain but it was little comfort.

“Was he the Prince?” muttered Menivis. Ahmed took a cup of water and gave his friend a drink. Menivis’ body was covered in bandages and healing salves but he could still lean up a bit. Ahmed was sure if a kreana burst into this healer’s room, Menivis would pick up the sword and fight but there were times when you gave your body its due.

“Yes, though that muddies the waters. The sharks attacked the palace while we were gone and slew the king. The princess survived and is the most capable but they might elevate the son to be king. I don’t know how it works in this place. It is such a blend of traditions it is hard to know what they believe.”

Menivis took another drink and then lay still for awhile. Ahmed began to think he’d finally fallen asleep when the Cakali shifted.

“Our time here is done, isn’t it, brother.” Menivis’s dark eyes searched Ahmed’s face. The dervish warrior nodded.

“Good. It has been too long since I felt the sand underfoot and used the strength of the rock in my battle stance. All this swimming is a different world, one I’ve not trained to be a part of.”

“I agree. I long to feel the heat of the sun on my face and from the sand. I’m sure Salim feels the same way though Aracelindoliel and Tabari may still be enchanted by the strangeness of this place and its people.”

Ahmed rose. “I’ll talk to them. It is time to go.”

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Undersea - Session 9
Of course you know, this means War!

A few scenes around Madinat Almuhit as it readies itself for war.

  • In the Sward, Peschi Tenderfoot is haggling with a member of the Finfolk (who happens to have a necklace, but that allows him to breathe the air). Ulric informs the PCs that Finfolk are both oddly reclusive and also traders. They will trade with anyone and have been known to make contact with surface folk to act as their representatives. However, they do have a bad reputation on the surface. It is said that should a finman marry a finwife (the name for females of the species), the finwife gradually becomes uglier and uglier. For this reason, Finfolk prey on coastal communities, kidnapping lone fishermen or folk walking the beaches at night. Through their magic, they disguise themselves until they are close enough to their victims to grapple them and drag them underwater, whereupon they cast environmental protection on their captives to stop them drowning. The poor victim is dragged back to the finfolks’ undersea kingdom and forced to marry.
  • The Coral Grotto – families of the Merfolk quietly take in the beauty of the formations. People are solemn, but upbeat about the coming fight.
  • The Palace – the place is bustling with activity. Couriers rush about, key leaders provide advice to King Mathias Taj, and Princess Salana helps organize the citizens to prepare the city.
  • The Pearl Beds and Emerald Fields are quiet as the Merfolk have retreated to the city for protection.

Preparation

The city readies itself. Our heroes pitch in to help the city ready itself for the savage onslaught of the Kreana. Mechanically, the PCs partake in a Dramatic Task (with the Merfolk general doing the adjusted Knowledge (Battle Roll) to build up the Battle Tokens. The maximum is 9 due to their failure to prevent the summoning of the Avatar of Carcharas.

  • [Spade] – Probing skirmish in the Grotto. A Quick Combat (-2) for the crew. A Solid victory that results in a way into the city cut off, the Kreana repelled, and spirits raised.
  • [Diamonds] Mustering resources (Notice/Streetwise -2) – there is a feeling of security in the city, perhaps too much so. The PCs have difficulty mustering key resources to reinforce the defenses. Defensive points may not be as strong as needed.
  • [Club] Extraction at the Ironclad! (Quick Combat -4) The Kreana are on the move, and strike quicker than anticipated. The PCs lead a strike force to extract the Coral Guard stationed there. The fight is fierce and the losses are high for the Merfolk
  • [Heart] The gravity of the situation has sunk in as the military forces do not appear ready (Persuasion/Intimidation -2(. People need inspiration. The PCs do help rally the populace to keep preparations moving.
  • [Spade] A final skirmish before the main battle.

Things look grim (5 Battle Tokens vs. the Kreana’s 10). Will the city survive?

War!

Although badly outnumbered, the Merfolk fight more strategically. The Kreana use blunt assaults with a Kraken, a magically enhanced King, and the Avatar. Losses are high, but the Merfolk even the odds. (multiple rounds, the previously poor Knowledge Battle rolls heat up for the home town folks).

A key moment is the Battle of the Sward. The Merfolk in their planning had not fully grasped that the Kreana could spend extended periods of time out of the water and survive just breathing air. Fortunately, the Heroes were recuperating in the Sward when the assault occurred. The magical properties of the Sward both provide air but also a “feather fall” effect for those that happened cross over from the water side of the barrier. So suddenly, its raining Kreana! This also so that return of the water version of the fabled Vacuum Lung Death!

The Heroes work quickly to save the residents of the Sward. Some help in the fight as many are experienced mariners and no stranger to a weapon. The battle is fierce with Ahmed continuing to display his dervish style of combat! The heroes repel the force in a definitive victory!

[note: this replaced one of the Mass Combat rounds, with the winner criteria set by the number of people saved]

The Wizar then comes to the PCs during a lull in the battle. They have discovered the King of the Kreana uses spellcasters to enhance his abilities. They safely secured back at the Ironclad during the battle. Silara floats forward and gives the group a Pearl of Recall keyed to the Ironclad. She had one more keyed to the ship that she sent with her patrols – she figured they could get away as a group, but was worried a small patrol could be overwhelmed.

While they feel the battle is going their way, the toll the King is taking on them in the battle is horrific. If they can bring down his protections, they might be able to kill him and end the battle once and for all. The mission is simple – use the Pearl to get to the Ironclad when the Kreana next engage. Then kill every spellcaster. Word will be sent to Little Jon to have sea horses secured nearby in case haste is needed to escape (even the Kreana are wary of a Reef Giant).

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Undersea - Session 8
Of the Herald of Destruction

Of the Herald of Destruction

Ahmed gathered himself and breathed deeply. He looked around at the gathered nobles and great figures of the city, all waiting on his words.

“Landwalker, we have heard the warning call. We know the ”/wikis/kreana" class=“wiki-page-link”> Kreana are coming. But tell us what you saw. Tell us what happened."

Ahmed glanced over at Tabari. The old man usually told the tales of the Five but he only shrugged. He had not been asked this time.

’We are not of your world but we are learning. We have seen evil above the water, in the sands of the dry lands many times. We have seen darkness but we have never seen evil on this scale. An evil…" and he let his voice trail off to collect himself. He drew himself up and began again.

“While our allies the soldiers focused on securing the iron wreck as an outpost, my comrades and I chose to take a look in the Kelp Forest.” There were looks and whispers and he hoped he’d given Silara enough deniability for whatever political issues they feared. "It did not take long to spot the Kreana and many of them. We spoke to a hermit who said that they were massing by the ruins of an old temple. This was important but we had to know more. We had to understand the threat.

“Journeying directly to the temple would have been foolhardy. We never would have survived. Still we had to learn more. The hermit told us about a maze of caverns under the land that could get us close to the temple. She warned us that the caves weren’t empty and we would be tested. And she was right. The ”/wikis/morkoth" class=“wiki-page-link”>Morkoth ruled the caves and we were tried to defend ourselves from its heinous and mind-twisting attacks. In the end, we were forced to slay it, removing the threat from those caves.

“Reaching the cave mouth we sought, we looked across a small valley of kelp and ruins. And hundreds of kreana. They were everywhere, busy with their plans to assemble an army to destroy this city and many others. What truly chilled our blood was seeing the hermit who had helped us along with four other peaceful prisoners being dragged into the temple itself.

“Carefully, we approached the temple, clinging to shadows. I think the kreana did not suspect that any of their enemies could possibly be so close to their holy place so they were not watchful enough. The great sand wizard Salim conjured a storm of sand beyond the temple, distracting the host of kreana. We slew the temple guards and hurried inside. We still had hope to save the hermit and the other prisoners from whatever vile purpose the kreana had.

Ahmed stopped for a drink of water.

“The passage into the temple went down and turned back on itself before revealing a grand sanctuary of statues, wetglow fires, and temple guards. A priest of some type was carrying out a foul ritual with the hermit at his mercy as a sacrifice. We rushed forward, desperate to stop the evil incantation. We realized that the purpose of the ritual was a huge statue of a powerful shark and the longer the shaman performed the ritual, the more real that great shark appeared. Stone slowly gave way to the cold flesh of the beast. Patterns emerged all over its body.

“We did our best, slaying many kreana to reach the shaman and prevent the ritual from completing… but we were too late. He sacrificed the hermit to complete the ritual and the tremendous statue came to life, thrashing in the water and eating anything it could get to.”

“Our foray had failed. We had witnessed the birth of a terrible threat, perhaps even the Herald of the kreana’s foul god. We had to warn you, our friends, our second home. The kreana are coming and bringing a power greater than you’ve ever faced. We need a plan to destroy this Herald or this city will be a ruin and all of us merely food for their god…”

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