Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Stronghold of the Sahuagin - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 44

Aella, the half-elf storm sorceress, shook her head as she emerged from the "Brain Jellies". She was in an underground corridor that reeked of fish. Alot and Bordar were peering around a corner anxiously watching a corridor with weapons ready. "Where are we? What's going on?"

Craig Oxworth, the dwarven shipwright, held his finger to his lips, "We're infiltratin' the stronghold of the sahuagin - the one what used to be the home of the lizard-folk. Its pretty empty so far. Here are some maps the lizard-folk gave us. They're very incomplete. This corridor here now links up to this room and there are some new rooms here."

Aella looked at the crude maps and rolled her eyes, "These are garbage. Give me that quill. Where's Captain Baylore?"

"He's scoutin' ahead. He's the stealthy one so he goes ahead to the end of the corridor and comes back to get us if its safe."

Aella shot Craig a suspicious look, "If it's SAFE?"

"Yeah. This is a scoutin' mission. We're not supposed to start killin' everything if we can help it. We're supposed t' revised the map, make a note of how many soldiers and leaders they got, and get get the info back to Saltmarsh so the assault can begin proper. If we're discovered, it could jeopardize the whole thing."

Aella looked out into the dark. Captain Baylore was returning. "Then what does the Captain need us for? He could probably accomplish this mission better by himself."


The B-Team:
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Storm Sorceress from Ket, daughter of the king of the sea elves, Deck Sorceress of the Sea Ghost.
  • Alot Aname - Neutral Good Warforged Fighter, ancient sentinel of a wizard's fortress, spent several decades deactivated underwater, Bosun of the Sea Ghost.
  • Captain Baylore - Neutral Human Pirate and Pugilist (Monk), Captain of the Sea Ghost.
  • Bordar Graniteshaper - Lawful Good Dwarven Bearer of Grudges (Barbarian), exiled from his clan, Ballast of the Sea Ghost.
  • Craig "Blunderbuss" Oxworth - Lawful Good Dwarven Priest of St. Ogden (Cleric), sailor and shipwright.  
Level One
Captain Baylore briefed the rest of the team on what he saw before exploring another corridor. He encountered the sound of digging tools hitting stone and the strong aromas of lizard, orc, and fish. He paused to briefly inspect a room on the right filled with supplies before looking around the corner to the left. He found a dozen slaves - mostly orcs and lizard-folk - digging and expanding an unfinished chamber. They were being supervised by a handful of sahuagin fish-men. He spotted a set of descending stairs behind a low wall.

Down another corridor he spotted another guard post. He could make out a portcullis just beyond

He retreated and conferred with the team. They had sufficient packets of the magical dust of disappearance that they could all slip past. However, they had no idea what to expect.

They decided to finish exploring this level before they descended to the next. They retraced their steps and looped back around. They took a previously unexplored corridor with three unoccupied officers quarters. The corridor eventually connected with the guard post with the portcullis. 

After further conference it was decided that Captain Baylore would descend to the second level alone in order to scout ahead. 

Level Two
Bordar sprinkled Baylore with some more magical dust and the pirate captain disappeared. He easily slipped past the overseers and workers and descended the stairs. 

To his surprise the level below them was flooded. 

He drew the hood of his magical Cloak of the Manta Ray over head head and descended into the water. The cloak not only allowed him to survive underwater without the need to breathe, it propelled him effortlessly through the water like its namesake.

He quickly scouted around the corridors at the bottom of the stairs. He put on a magic ring he had acquired from the Loyal Quartermasters of Iuz. The ring allowed him to see through objects like doors or boxes. He noted some occupied officers' quarters and a staging area where a group of sahuagin fish-men were preparing to go on patrol. Down another corridor he found a large temple where a group of priestesses were performing a ritual to appease a massive two-headed shark. 

Shern the Lobster
Baylore looked into a side room and saw that it was filled with coral, anemones, starfish, and other small sea life. He was prepared to move on when he sensed a presence within his mind.

"Hello there" said the voice inside his head, a strange voice that was not his own. He visualized a mental picture of himself entering the room. 

Baylore paused and examined the room, "Uh, hello?"

Baylore engaged in a kind of conversation with the alien voice within his head. A few thought were communicated as a kind of language mixed with mental images.

"Uh, what are you?" inquired Baylore.

"I don't know. I call myself Shern. What are you? I can't see you." was the reply.

"I am invisible. My name is Baylore. I am a human. Could you maybe come forward?"

A large lobster crawled into the center of the room and considered Baylore. Baylore thought, "
Don't be alarmed, I'm going to pick you up. Are you Shern?"

"I am." was the reply. 

Baylore asked, "Where did you come from?"

Shern replied with images of his memory at sea. The lobster then shared his memories of being captured by the sahuagin and forced to fight other lobsters for their entertainment. Shern's memories recounted how he escaped and made his way to this room where he had been hiding. 

"Is there anything I can do to help you?" inquired Baylore.

"Escape," replied Shern. 

"You bet, little buddy.  I'm going to put you in this sack. You will be safe and hidden. Is that okay?"


Baylore put Shern in a bag and quickly returned to report to the others. 

Aella, Bordar, and Craig each drank a magic potion that allowed them to breathe normally underwater. Alot was a mechanical automaton and had no need to breathe. They sprinkled invisibility powder on themselves and sneaked past the guard to descend the stairs. 

The rest of the team was much slower than Baylore underwater so the captain struck off down a corridor on the other side of the temple while the others took a different corridor to the right. 

A Close Call
Since the team was invisible, they each held onto the belt of the person in front of them as Aella led the way. 

The corridor revealed another barracks where a group of sahuagin soldiers were preparing to go on patrol. The patrol began to exit the room towards the corridor in which the team stood! 

Aella turned and urgently whispered to her invisible companions, "Get back! Quickly!" They scrambled invisibly back down the corridor as fast as they could. Craig the dwarf whispered in a panic, "Wait! Wait!" Aella grabbed the invisible dwarf and carried him down the corridor. Her magical ring of swimming propelled her and her dwarven cargo faster than the dwarf could manage on his own.

The two sahuagin in the front rank of the formation held up their webbed hands to pause the procession. There was some kind of commotion and some cavitation created by the fleeing intruders but their invisibility shielded them from view. 

The two sahuagin scanned the corridor. Unable to spot anything else unusual they eventually proceeded towards the stairs down which the team had descended.

DM Note-
The patrol was going up to level one but the players didn't know that. As they quickly retreated I asked them which way they wanted to retreat. Luckily they chose the corridor to the right because the patrol took the left towards the stairs. Not only that but the two sahuagin scanning the corridor each made perception checks but rolled miserably! 

Once the procession has passed Baylore checked in with the others. He told Aella what he had found so she could update the map. 

The team proceeded down a corridor to the right. A long corridor branched to the left. A set of stairs descended ahead of them.

Baylore told the others to wait while he explored the corridor to the right. He found a side room filled with armored attack sharks and kept going. He entered a long dining hall. He could hear noises down the large corridor to the right. 

He peeked within and saw a large ornate chamber - an audience hall or throne room. A muscular four-armed sahuagin sat upon the throne hearing the burbling and hissing entreaties of a bowing supplicant before him. Baylore didn't need to know the language to know someone was begging for forgiveness. 

Baylore noted the number of guards and armored attack sharks in the wings of the room and returned to the others. 

Baylore told the others to wait here. He would descend the to the level beneath them and map the entire level.

Level Three
Baylore looked into the room below and saw a sahuagin wizard and severl officers. Several sahuagin dozed as they floated within a small forest of long kelp. 

Baylore mysteriously appeared from a shadow on the far side of the room. He looked into an adjacent room and found a cage with two large fighting fish. Shern asked Baylore to free them but Baylore apologized and said he'd come back for them.

Baylore once again disappeared into a shadow and reappeared near the exit. He was still invisible for now. He knew he had only a few minutes so he had to move fast.

He stepped from shadow to shadow, disappearing and reappearing, all while invisible. He utilized his magic ring of X-Ray vision to peer through the door, note the contents of a room, and quickly move on.

He spied a dungeon to his right. He saw a locathah prisoner being tortured.

Baylore silently said to himself, "Sorry guy. You're not why I'm here."

He continued to move. He found a chamber filled with attack sharks and some stairs ascending to level two. 

He swam back and heard cheering down a side corridor to his left. He took a quick look. It was a large arena hollowed out of the rock in a diamond shape. Dozens of sahuagin were watching two warriors settling a dispute. He quickly dipped back and continued down the corridor.

He made a note of a barracks with six soldiers and two spell-casters. He then found a guard post with a closed portcullis. The guard post was sparsely manned. Baylore simply disappeared into the darkness and reappeared from a shadow on the far side of the portcullis.

Baylore came across a massive unfinished chamber with a long terrace. The limited visibility of his dark-vision allowed to see only a few dozen sahuagin sleeping in kelp beds but he could sense that the room was much larger. 

Uncertain how much time he had left before the dust of disappearance wore off, he retraced his steps and rejoined his companions on the second level.

Intruder Alert
The dust had worn off by the time he returned and everyone was now visible. They floated in the water at the top of the stairs leading down to the third level. 

Baylore recounted all that he saw and Aella updated the maps given to the team by the lizard-folk based on Baylore's description.

Suddenly there was a clamor from down a nearby corridor. Some sahuagin were hissing and gurgling in alarm. They were swimming as fast as they could into the audience chamber. Whatever it was that upset him was urgent and very important.

Had the team been discovered? They did leave a lot of dead bodies at the entrance on the first level. 

They were about to find out.

To be Continued...
DM Note-
Only later did I see that the doors in the complex were three inches thick and made of stone. That's too thick for Baylore's ring of X-Ray vision. Oh well.

Baylore pretty much soloed this entire dungeon. He's got the best stealth, the Cloak of the Manta Ray, and can teleport through shadows as a bonus action. The others were holding him back. 

I was worried the other players would become bored. I allowed Aella's player to continue mapping while Baylore explored. The maps above are what she compiled. I later told the other players about my concern and at least one of them said Baylore going on his own was their decision as a group and it made the most sense so they had no problem with it.

We're taking July 3rd off but we'll be back in two weeks with the escape from the Stronghold of the Sahuagin!  

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Final Enemy - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 43

The closing ceremonies of the Inaugural Games of the Aquatic Alliance were a muted somber affair. The event had not had the effect that Princess Orthokent intended. She had hoped to strengthen her fragile alliance. However, due to the murder of the koalinth delegation by the quessari sea elves of the tribe of Manaan, she was instead forced to sever ties with her hopeful allies the quessari and had lost valuable military support from the fearsome koalinth. The remaining factions - the merfolk, locathah, bullywugs, and other lizardfolk tribes, had become uneasy. 

In the weeks after the games the crew of the Sea Ghost had returned to their daily lives. Captain Baylore oversaw the completion of the repairs of the ruined abbey on Leper Island. Although it had dispensed with the pretense of being a monastery of cloistered monks of Procan it still served it long-time purpose - a place where smugglers and pirates could fence their stolen wares. In his spare time he completed his study of poisons and the use of a poisoner's kit. 

Two months after the closing ceremonies Captain Baylore received a summons. The services of his crew had been requested by the newly appointed Baron of Saltmarsh - Anders Solmor. 

The crew of the Sea Ghost sailed to the nearby town of Saltmarsh. When they arrived they were surprised to find a contingent of merfolk warriors and locathah hunters in the Kingfisher river. There were also several camps of lizardfolk outside of town representing various clans from the Hool Marsh and the Drowned Forest. 

Inside the town council hall was gathered representatives from each of the factions plus several military generals from Seaton, Captain of the Saltmarsh town guard Eliander Fireborn, Duke Obertus Feldren, Baron Anders Solmor, Gil, spokesperson for the locathah, King Gulpa'Gor of the Bullywugs, King Lir of the Merfolk, King Kosj of the Marsh Water clan of lizardfolk, and his daughter Princess Orthokent - ruler of the Marsh Water clan.

Baron Solmor thanked them for coming. He told them that Princess Orthokent had gathered everyone together to make an announcement. 

The room hushed as she stepped forward and began.

 “The Sahuagin have made a critical error and the time for our attack has come.

The information brought to us by the bullywug spies pinpoint the exact date the sahuagin are planning a full scale invasion of the Azure sea.

We also know that the accommodations for their massing forces  are not yet operational. The sahuagin forces have not yet arrived  and the unfinished fortress is relatively unprotected.

But most importantly of all, we've learnt that the Empress of the Sahuagin herself is personally overseeing the final stages of the construction of her fortress." 

She paused to speak the next words with appropriate gravity, "Many bullywugs died to bring us this information." 


The B-Team:
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Storm Sorceress from Ket, daughter of the king of the sea elves, Deck Sorceress of the Sea Ghost.
  • Alot Aname - Neutral Good Warforged Fighter, ancient sentinel of a wizard's fortress, spent several decades deactivated underwater, Bosun of the Sea Ghost.
  • Captain Baylore - Neutral Human Pirate and Pugilist (Monk), Captain of the Sea Ghost.
  • Bordar Graniteshaper - Lawful Good Dwarven Bearer of Grudges (Barbarian), exiled from his clan, Ballast of the Sea Ghost.
  • Craig "Blunderbuss" Oxworth - Lawful Good Dwarven Priest of St. Ogden (Cleric), sailor and shipwright.  
The Plan
Princess Orthokent took a deep contemplative breath. She stepped aside and gestured to Captain Eliander Fireborn, "Captain Fireborn, please.”

Eliander Fireborn hobbled forward, his wooden leg clunking on the floor, "As you know, sahuagin invaded and occupied the former home of the Marsh Water tribe, displacing Princess Orthokent and her -ahem- people. That home was a rocky island in the estuary of the Javan river thirty miles to the west. For the past few months the sahuagin then used the island as a base from which to harass shipping in the region.  A few weeks ago the harassment stopped. Their forces disappeared.

"The bullywug spies confirmed our suspicions. The sahuagin forces had withdrawn to the island. In addition, we have learned that sahuagin from across the Azure sea and beyond have been summoned to the island. They will arrive in a few weeks time. 

"In addition, two weeks ago there was a massive earthquake centered on the island. The entire island sank eighty feet! This was obviously some dark magic that partially submerged the island. They are preparing for something. We believe they are massing for a full scale attack 

"We must attack the sahuagin fortress before their forces are allowed to gather. The time has come and we are planning our own attack. What we don't know is how many forces are currently gathered within the fortress and where we should target our forces. 

"That's where you come in. We need you to infiltrate the sahuagin fortress. Once inside you have four objectives.

  1. Determine the strength of the sahuagin force: how many warriors. lieutenants. and other battle-ready troops are present.
  2. Locate important areas within the fortress: where are the warriors barracked. the officers quartered, and the leaders housed.
  3. Discover any significant defensive measures: traps, areas readied specifically for defense, and other dangers the attacking force must avoid or overcome.
  4. Discover how advanced the sahuagin preparations are and when they might mount their first attack.
"Ambassador Sauriv will brief you on what the lizardfolk can tell you about the stronghold."

The wizened lizard-man sage known as Sauriv unfurled a crudely drawn diagram onto a table.

"The fortress was once our home before the sahuagin drove us out. When we left it consisted of a series of natural passages and caves honeycombing the interior of the island. Our home occupied a three-level cave system inside a rocky island. All three levels were once above water. Whatever lowered the island seems to have flooded it. Only the top level is now visible above the water. The main entrance to the top level is now a large cave that faces the seacoast. The two other entrances are now submerged."

Baron Solmor spoke, "This is a dangerous mission that will require you to be circumspect and discreet. Get in, accomplish the objectives, and come back and report. If you succeed, our attack will have a much stronger chance of success. As a reward, I am prepared to offer you the land on which Gellan Primewater's house once stood. You will own it outright, rent-free, to do with what you wish. So, what do you say? Are you in?"

Alot's eyes got wide, "Did you say 'rent free?'"

Captain Baylore showed no hesitation, "We're in."

The Mission Begins
The Sea Ghost set sail the following day. It was just over 32 miles to the site of the island fortress and the Sea Ghost would arrive after only six and a half hours of sailing. They set anchor east near the coast, out of sight of the island. 

Just after nightfall Captain Baylore, First Mate Alot Aname, Deck Wizard Aella, Bosun Craig Oxworth, and Bordar the ship's ballast, set out in a rowboat. They had hoped to catch the sahuagin while they were sleeping.

They put aground on the shore. To their surprise they found a causeway leading from the shore to the island fortress. The stone causeway rose just a few feet above the waves and was unpatrolled. 

They gathered close together and Baylore sprinkled a packet of magical disappearing dust over them. The now invisible group crossed the causeway to the island fortress.

They stood outside the double doors made of heavy steel. There was a small opening where someone inside could look out. It was covered by a sliding hatch on the inside. 

Baylore threw himself against the door and made a sound like an injured animal. 

The hatch slid open and an inhuman being within peered out to investigate. 

The creature within saw nothing. 

Baylore made the sound again. This time he maneuvered just to the right of the door.

The door opened as the sahuagin fish-man within popped its squamous head out to take a better look.

Baylore disappeared into a shadow and reappeared out of a wall inside the room. He was standing near a large gong suspended from the ceiling. A hammer lay against the wall nearby. 

Baylore surreptitiously picked up and concealed the hammer. 

Alot and Bordar moved stealthily into the room and towards the the corridor in the rear. They found their way blocked by an iron portcullis.

A large sahuagin fish-man, clearly the leader, stopped what he was doing and looked around suspiciously. He barked a hissing gurgling order to the others in the room and they suddenly fell quiet. He sniffed the air and held out his trident in a wary stance. He moved towards Alot and Bordar.

DM Note-
The leader was suspicious of the door and was looking around. Alot and Bordar made Dexterity (Stealth) checks with Advantage. Bordar got a 16 and Alot got 13 - his heavy armor cancelled out the Advantage. The leader rolled a Wisdom (Perception) check of 23. 

The sahuagin leader pointed at the general area of the intruders and hissed orders.  

Alot and Bordar emerged from the protection of their invisibility and attacked the leader. They made their stand with their backs to the portcullis as half a dozen fish-man warriors combined on their position. 

A heavyset sahuagin fish-man in the corner reached down for the hammer to bang the gong but it was missing. He frantically looked around for the missing hammer.

Craig blocked the entrance and said a prayer to Saint Ogden. A maelstrom of hammers appeared around him as several sahuagin fish-men rushed his position. The hammers pummeled them but a heavy-set sahuagin armed with a warhammer landed a strong blow onto Craig. The blow rattled the dwarf and he lost his concentration. He, too, was soon swarmed by sahuagin.

A sahuagin guard in the room beyond the iron portcullis rushed  to attack Alot and Bordar with his trident. A second guard pulled a lever on the wall and a weighted net dropped onto the corridor. Alot and Bordar quickly stepped aside and the net fell to the floor. 

Suddenly Baylore appeared from the gloom behind the guards. How he managed to get past the portcullis was a mystery. With the blinding speed of a trained pugilist he quickly dispatched the guards. 

Craig was doing his best to say prayers of healing for his comrades but he was having difficulty defending himself against the multiple attackers.

Alot and Bordar waged a ferocious battle against their assailants - one of whom was larger than the others and clearly their leader. Eventually, one by one, they defeated their foes and were able to come to Craig's aid.

Seeing that the battle had turned, one of the heavy-set sahuagin fighting Craig at the entrance turned and fled, diving into the water. 

Baylore quickly looked at the mechanism that raised the portcullis. It would take too long. He stepped out of sight and reappeared from a shadow outside the fortress. Baylore pulled the hood of his cloak over his head and the sides of the cloak flared out like a leathery manta ray. 

The pirate captain dove into the water and sped like an aquatic dart towards the fleeing sahuagin. 

The sahuagin turned to face his foe but a few quick strikes from Baylore were sufficient to render him unconscious.

Baylore emerged from the water carrying the unconscious sahuagin. The others were dragging the bodies into the outer guard room. Alot took his dagger and quickly dispatched any survivors by severing their spines at the neck. 

The team closed the outer door and the portcullis and hoped no one would find the dead sahuagin within. 

A Cautious Exploration
The team worked out a system for carefully exploring the complex. 

First, they covered themselves with more magical dust of disappearance. 

Second, Baylore would scout ahead. If the way was clear, he would slowly tap the wall and the others would join him. They would tap the wall indicating their presence. Then he would scout out the next section. 

To their surprise, the complex was not the network of raw caves described by the lizard-folk. The passage was straight and smooth showing finished work by skilled workers.

As they explored to the left they found an empty room used as temporary storage. Digging and finishing tools were left propped up against the wall. 

In the far distance Baylore could hear the faint sound metal tools ringing against stone indicating digging. He had difficulty placing from which direction it came. 

The team took another corridor and found themselves in a large empty room supported by pillars. Several smaller cells were attached to the room. A passage led into an attached room filled with racks of hundreds of weapons - obviously meant for the coming attack. 

Alot and Baylore struggled to think of some way they could sabotage or otherwise dispose of the weapons. Anything they could think of would be too noisy or take too long. They considered dumping them into the sea but they knew the aquatic sahuagin would simply recover them. Thus they reluctantly left the weapons for now. 

DM Note- 
By this time it was near midnight and they weren't getting close to a good action cliffhanger. So I called it a night. So, um, I guess-

To be Continued.. 
DM Note-
Okay, I want to talk about Room 4.

Dark green tiles cover the walls and floor of this room. Many lidless coffers rest against the walls, though there are none near the northern wall west of the archway. One of the coffers glows, its blue light filling the room. 

A sledgehammer is propped against the northern wall.

Like most of the rooms on this level, this one has already been allocated to an eventual occupant (in this case, another champion currently quartered in area 60). The sledgehammer is one of the construction workers' tools.

What the heck is the glowing blue light that fills the room? I can't find anything else like it in the module. It bugged the shit out of me because I knew the players would want to know if it was important.

I wound up just saying it was a jar of bio-luminescent liquid which could be used as an underwater light source. 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Inaugural Games of the Aquatic Alliance - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 42

Brenna had spent much of the previous week recruiting a crew for the Sea Ghost. Of the forty applicants Brenna, with input from Captain Baylore, Aella, Alot, and Bordar, selected the ten best:

  • Anita "Four-Teeth" Chrom - a barbarian with a raspy voice and wrinkled leathery skin
  • Erving "Two-Toes" Charles - with thumbs that looked like oversized big-toes.
  • Radburn "Mad Eyes" Trollope - whose glassy googly eyes and a dopey grin.
  • Hockney "Crew Member" Seth - about whom little could be said, or even remembered.
  • Zelda "Phatasm" Outerbridge - wispy and mysterious
  • Katherine "Pirate" Stratford - who could not tell a lie or keep a secret
  • Minna "Devil's Grin" Reeks - with filed teeth and a wicket scar
  • Winter "White Hair" Ward - with long straight white hair and a long white beard and smooth alabaster skin.
  • Ewing "Shark Bait" Archer - who wore a red tunic. Though he was incompetent, you couldn't help but love him. He gave his best effort at everything he tried but nonetheless succeeded at no task he attempted.
  • Craig "Blunderbuss" Oxbow - a dwarven shipwright.

With that done, Brenna gave some bad news to her ship-mates. She was leaving them. She had come to Saltmarsh looking for her half-brothers only to discover they had died. Now she was off to find the other disparate members of her family. Before she departed, she entrusted the ring of wishes to Captain Baylore. 

With her departure, Alot was promoted to First Mate. In his place, Baylore appointed Craig "Blunderbuss" Oxbow as bosun. 

That left an open position among the crew. Baylore selected Torr "The Fierce" Theodoric. Torr reported for duty arm in arm with another applicant, Trudy "The Fierce" Amarant.

Baylore protested, "I only need one of you."

"I'm sorry captain." said Torr, "We're a package deal, you see, what on account of both of us being called 'The Fierce', that's why they call of 'the Twins' you know."

Baylore grinned, "I love it. Okay, you're both hired!"


The B-Team:
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Storm Sorceress from Ket, daughter of the king of the sea elves, Deck Sorceress of the Sea Ghost.
  • Alot Aname - Neutral Good Warforged Fighter, ancient sentinel of a wizard's fortress, spent several decades deactivated underwater, Bosun of the Sea Ghost.
  • Captain Baylore - Neutral Human Pirate and Pugilist (Monk), Captain of the Sea Ghost.
  • Brenna "The Sea Witch" Myrasdottir - Chaotic Good Human Sailor and Divine Soul Sorceress, long-lost daughter of Whaler, First Mate of the Sea Ghost.
  • Bordar Graniteshaper - Lawful Good Dwarven Bearer of Grudges (Barbarian), exiled from his clan, Ballast of the Sea Ghost.
  • Craig "Blunderbuss" Oxworth - Lawful Good Dwarven Priest of St. Ogden (Cleric), sailor and shipwright.  
Brain Jellies:
  • Bruma - Neutral Good Human Swamp Guide (Ranger) for the smuggling cartel known as "the Organization", given a mission to find and kill Sakatha the Lizard King.
The Inaugural Games of the Aquatic Alliance
Once the crew was on board and the ship outfitted, the Sea Ghost set sail for the Inaugural Games of the Aquatic Alliance. 

The village of Saltmarsh had received six invitations to the games several weeks ago. No one in town wished to attend so the invitations were given to the Alot and Aella. 

The Games of the Aquatic Alliance was an evolution of the Lizardfolk Games, an annual tradition organized by Princess Orthokent, monarch of the Marsh Water lizardfolk tribe. In previous years she would hold a series of athletic games to challenge the best warriors from each of the tribes of the Hool Marsh. This year she expanded the invitation to includes representatives from each of the aquatic races. The games were meant to bring together the various species and cultures in order to strengthen the alliance against the Sahuagin. Such a display of diplomacy was unheard of for the lizardfolk but Princess Orthokent has continued to surprise outsiders with her education, her worldliness, and strategic acumen - all uncharacteristic traits for a monarch of the lizardfolk. 

This year it was announced that the prize for the winning team would be a magical ring that allowed its wearer to control water elementals!  

The location of the games was a section of beach where once stood the ancient city of Warthalkeel, located on the coast beneath the Tower of Zenopus.

Let the Games Begin
The ship arrived on the day of the opening ceremonies. The bluff overlooking the rocky beach was lined with hundreds of lizardfolk and bullywugs. Dozens more merfolk and locathah bobbed in the waters off the rocky beach beneath the bluff. On the beach itself could be seen about three or four dozen people representing various groups. There were about a dozen lizardfolk - among them was Princess Orthokent and her advisor Sauriv - and a half-dozen each of locathah, bullywugs, aquatic elves, koalinth, and merfolk.

Captain Baylore, Aella, Alot, Bordar, and newcomer Craig, took a rowboat ashore to join the group. They were greeted and instructed to stand nearby as Princess Orthokent was preparing to provide opening statements to kick off the games. 

Princess Orthokent climbed a large rock along with her adviser and a few lizardfolk dignitaries. Her guards blew conch shells to gain the attention of the gathered throngs. 

"Welcome to the inaugural Aquatic Games!"

The crowd clapped their various claws and fins together politely.

"Traditionally, this event was held among the tribes of lizard-folk. This year, in the spirit of cooperation and comity with our fellows,  with the hope of uniting the tribes of the sea with the tribes of the marsh, I have invited representatives from the locathah, the merfolk, the koalinth, the bullywugs, the quessari, and the humans to join us in friendly competition and athletic achievement.

"Beginning at dawn tomorrow there will be five events: the turtle shell toss, driftwood surfing, quipper wrestling, sparring, and - in the afternoon - the main event - a hunt for the grand prize! Each team will submit two contestants for each of the first four events. No contestant may compete in two events in a row. The entire team will be expected to participate in the final event.

"Representatives, you may  introduce yourselves and your teams!"

A tall lizard-man stepped forward. He stood before a group of six muscular warriors from different tribes. "I am Nallasunt, subchief of the Marsh Spider tribe and these are the finest warriors from six tribes!"  The lizardfolk gathered on the bluff above hissed and slapped their tails.

Princess Orthokent then gestured towards a small unassuming creature that resembled a beautiful tropical fish with arms and legs. The fish-man huddled close to his four companions. He hesitated in nervous anxiety before speaking, "Uh, Hello. My name is Gil, I  guess I have been selected to speak on behalf of the Locathah School from Seadeep Shoals. We, uh, we are just so happy to be included!" There was polite hissing and slapping and croaking. 

Orthokent gestured towards a large merfolk noble bobbing in the shallow water in front of his six companions. "I am King Lir of the Mer. The merfolk welcome the competition! I present to you, champion of the merfolk and leader of our team - Ludon!" The muscular merfolk high-fived and howled among themselves.

Before Orthokent could gesture again, a tall armored green-skinned aquatic hobgoblin covered in nets and barnacles strode forward in front of his four teammates. He looked annoyed and in a threatening display shouted his name, "I am Warlord Zradrog and we will crush you all! I will lead my team! All will bow before our dominance!" His fellow koalinth warriors screamed and beat their chests. 

Orthokent cleared her throat and waited for them to finish. Afterwards she smiled and gestured towards the frog-men from the marsh. The fattest among them wore a crown and a dirty cape. He stood in front of a handful of frogmen warriors, one of which was taller than the others with red skin and four arms. "I, King Gulpa'Gor, "he paused to inflate his throat sack and release a bellowing "FRAP!" He took a deep breath and continued, " - am leader of the great Bullywug clan of the marsh. I give you our team led by Arrp." He paused again to allow Arrp to show off before the gathered bullywugs on the bluff. The crows croaked their approval with a deafening chorus. King Gulpga'Gor continued, "We are hungry!" He once again paused for effect, " - hungry for VICTORY!"

Orthokent next gestured to the delegation from Saltmarsh - a motley assortment of one human, one half-elf, one mechanical automaton, and two dwarves. The rest of the team looked at Aella to be the spokesperson for the team. She rolled her eyes at her team-mates, cleared her throat, and, in the language of the lizardfolk, introduced herself and her team. The gathered lizardfolk hissed and slapped their tails at the honor and Princess Orthokent nodded with approval before gesturing towards the final delegation.

Towards the back were a group of five elves with blue skin. The leader among them was older than the others. He had long hair and a white beard and wore intricate plate armor. Behind him where a prince and princess, an armored knight, and Oceanus, the sea elf spy once imprisoned aboard the Sea Ghost with Alot. Oceanus gave a friendly wave towards Alot in recognition.

The leader sighed as if he were bored with the whole thing, "I am King Pelagius of the sea-elf kingdom of Manaan. We object to the inclusion of these koalinth in these competitions. Let us get this over with." As an afterthought he introduced his team, "Oh, our delegation is led by my son and daughter, Prince Aegeon and Princess Nix."

Aella stared wide-eyed at the man who was her father.

The Feast
A large feast was put out for the guests. The feast consisted of fish, seaweeds, anemones, clams, shrimp and lobster, eels, and rotting whale meat, all prepared raw and served on dishes made of large oyster shells and platters made of mother-of-pearl. Drinks included various extracts, cephalopod inks, and liqueurs - the more potent of which included distilled toxins from various poisonous fish or liquids fermented from decaying animals. 

Alot made conversation with Oceanus and the two caught up. 

Oceanus then introduced the members the B-Team to the rest of his party - King Pelagius, Prince Aegeon, and Princess Nix. During the introductions he was careful to watch Aella. Did she wish to be forthright about her parentage or did she wish to be more discrete? He was careful not to reveal any secrets she did not wish to reveal.

King Pelagius and his children were friendly towards the delegation from Saltmarsh. Oceanus had told the king about his adventures with Alot and Aella. Nix and Aegeon seemed excited to meet the group of daring adventurers.

King Pelagius said that Aella looked familiar and asked if she had ever been to Ket. She replied in the language of the quessari elves that she was born in Ket. This piqued Pelagius' interest. He said that he had once spent some time in Ket where he had made the acquaintance of a human woman named "Ma'um". He owed Ma'um a great debt. 

DM Note- 
I asked Aella's character if she knew her mother's name. She said, "I don't know - 'MOM' I guess?" So for the rest of the game I referred to her by name as "Ma'um".

"My mother's name was Ma'um," said Aella pointedly.

King Pelagius did not take the bait, "What an odd coincidence! Well, its been a pleasure meeting you!"

Nix immediately understood Aella's message all too well. She asked her how many seasons she had known. Aella's answer confirmed Nix's suspicions. Aella was older than either she or Aegeon. Aella could become a problem should she decide to make a play for the throne. Nix eyed Aella with cold disdain.

Captain Baylore sensed the tension and interrupted the conversation to introduce himself to the beautiful sea elf princess. Nix became distracted by the human sailor. She soon forgot all about Aella as she became smitten with the dark and mysterious pirate captain.

Prince Aegeon tore Captain Baylore away from his sister so that he could speak to the captain in private for a moment. Once a short distance away from the rest of the feast, Aegeon told Captain Baylore that he had a business proposition for him. 

"I want you to kill Warlord Zradog and his men tonight. I don't want them to participate in these games and I don't want them to be part of this alliance."

Captain Baylore politely refused the offer. 

"But I do not understand, you are a human are you not? I mean, isn’t that what you humans do? Isn’t that your thing? Assassination? Intrigue? Oh, right. Humans want money! Look, I'm willing give you 1000 gold pieces.”

DM Note-
I got a big laugh out of that line. Several players were offended, "That's fucking racist!"

Captain Baylore laughed and once again politely declined, noting that under different circumstanced he'd oblige, but Baylore had no desire to disrupt the games and offend his host.

Nix found the pair and pulled Baylore away, "Leave him alone brother! Its my turn!" Nix dragged Baylore off by the arm and the pair spent the rest of a pleasant evening together.   

Event One: Shell Toss
The delegation from Saltmarsh, most of them anyway, spent the night on board their ship. The next morning they rejoined their captain, ahem, on the beach for the first of the day's events. 

Each team was given two large leathery sea turtle shells. Two contestants from each team would hurl the shell as far as they could. The team with the farthest throw won the event.

In the first round, the merfolk threw their shell 20 yards. Alot's throw measured 15 yards . In the second round the koalinth won with a throw of 24 yards, just beating out the lizardfolk and quessari throws of 22 yards. Bordar's threw for 11 yards. 

The koalinth roared in their victory and were awarded the prize, a dried out turtle shell painted in garish colors. 

DM Note- 
I made a Strength (Athletics) check for each team. Here are the results:
turtle shell toss round 1turtle shell toss round 2

I said the prize was a dried turtle shell that looked like it was found in the woods and painted by a five-year-old at summer camp. Every player knew exactly what I was talking about and were immediately smitten by the prize. 

Event Two: Driftwood Surfing
The second event required the contestants from each team to ride a driftwood log being pushed along by the surf. The contestant who stayed atop the log the longest won the event.

The merfolk won the first round with a total time of 126 seconds, though the lizardfolk posted an impressive challenge of 120 seconds. Aella used her innate magical powers over wind to cast a spell and aid in her run. Despite the magical assistance she was only able to stay atop the log for 90 seconds.

During the second round the Captain Baylore surprised everyone by staying atop his log for an impressive 168 seconds! His time eclipsed the next highest time of 126 seconds posted by the locathah competitor. 

Afterwards, Captain Baylore was awarded a ceremonial piece of driftwood similarly painted in garish colors. 

DM Note-
For the surfing, each contestant had to make Dexterity (Athletics) checks. The highest roll won the event. 

Aella's player asked if she could use her "Storm Guide" power to provide her favorable winds. I thought it was an imaginative solution so I gave her Advantage on her roll. She provided the same Advantage to Captain Baylore, who rolled a natural 20 on his check. Here are the results: 

surfing round 1surfing round 2

Event Three: Quipper Wrestling
For the third event, a metal bucket was produced. The bucket was filled with ravenous quippers. The challenge was to see who would hold a quipper in their hand the longest. 

The bullywugs both ate their quippers immediately. The merfolk, lizardfolk, and quessari could only managed a few seconds before the quipper escaped. The locathah likewise managed only a few seconds. Bordar held onto his for 12 seconds while Craig kept his for 18 seconds. The koalinth held theirs for 24 seconds and won the prize - the bucket decorated with shells and starfish and polished stones.

DM Note-
This event called for the contestants to grapple a quipper until it escaped. I wasn't about to roll multi-round grapple results for each contestant so I just rolled d4 for each NPC team. 

Event Four: Sparring
The fourth event allowed two contestants from each team to face an opponent in non-lethal combat. The two would fight in the surf. Each pair would fight until one side capitulated or was no longer able to fight.

Captain Baylore faced off against Warlord Zradog of the koalinth. Warlord Zradog wielded a long blunt wooden stick and Baylore decided to fight only with his fists. The conch was sounded to start the fight. Captain Baylore landed three lightning fast punches against Zradog and the koalinth leader fell unconscious into the surf. 

Alot faced the bullywug champion Aarp. Alot struck Aarp with a padded wooden sword twice and the four-armed bullywug fell down. 

For this event, every winner was rewarded with a pearl worth ten gold pieces. 

The Main Event: Find the Magic Ring
After a luncheon it was time for the main event. Each of the teams were to compete in searching for and finding a magical ring hidden somewhere off shore with the underwater ruins of Warthalkeel. 

Warthalkeel was once a city of an ancient empire. The citizens of Warthalkeel worshiped a mighty kraken. In time the priests of the sea god Procan came to the city and built a temple. The kraken became jealous and caused a massive earthquake. The port city sank one hundred feet beneath the waves while a mountain rose up and buried the areas further inland. It is said that the tower of Zenopus was built atop the hill that covers the ruins of the city. 

For this event, Baylore donned his magical manta ray cloak that allowed him to breathe and swim underwater. Bordar put on his ring of swimming. Alot was already adapted to living and working under the sea. Bordar, Aella, and Craig each drank a potion of water breathing that allowed them to survive underwater for up to an hour. 

The party entered the surf and joined their aquatic competition. 

The competitors gathered around Princess Orthokent just a few dozen feet off shore. They were ten or fifteen feet beneath the surface and standing on the precipice of a high cliff. They could make out ruined structures in the gloom at the base of the cliff under sixty feet of water. They could see a large four story structure that appeared to be some kind of temple. It was adorned with sculptures of coiling tentacles. Near it was a more mundane temple structure. Near the base of the cliff was a strong structure made of heavy stones indicating some kind of important civic structure - an armory of vault. On the other side of the temples was a deep rift. Near the rift was a ruined windmill. 

Princess Orthokent told the assembled group, "I have given the ring to a stone-faced guardian somewhere in the ruins of Warthalkeel.  Your task is to find the ring. The one who returns to me with the ring will keep it and win the event. Good luck!"

Bordar and Baylore looked at each other in confusion, "Is that it? That's our only clue?"

"That is your only clue. Begin."

Baylore immediately turned to Aella and Craig, "You are all slow swimmers. Stay here and try to keep whoever finds the ring from returning it. Bordar and Alot, you take the big temple, I'll take the little one. Go!"

Bordar and Alot immediately swam towards the roof of the four story structure. Baylore took off for the rear of the smaller structure. 

The quessari and koalinth both swam as fast as they could towards the civic structure. The merfolk swam for the front of the large temple. The locathah and bullywugs swam for the smaller temple. 

Prince Aegeon and Princess Nix, along with King Gulpa'Gor and Aarp of the bullywugs, stayed behind on the top of the cliff.

Craig wasted no time. He prayed for a miracle from Saint Ogden. A large swirling vortex formed in the open plaza between the cliff and the large temple. The vortex drew in the koalinth, bullywugs, and locathah. They were thrown around the swirling whirlpool and several were knocked unconscious. 
The Temple of the Kraken
Bordar swam into a gaping hole in the roof of the four story structure. He explored the rooms at the top, swimming past a ballroom and down a grand staircase. He encountered the lizardfolk swimming up from the collapsed wall in the first floor of the structure. The lizard-man shaman attempted to waylay Bordar with some totem magic while a handful of lizardfolk warriors attacked. Bordar evaded the combat and swam for some stairs leading up a side tower. 

As he was ascending he noticed a curious sight - the remains of several fish and crab tied to strings and attached to a metal loop driven into a nearby wall. He barely had time ti register what that meant when suddenly a massive octopus crawled out from under the stairs. 

Bordar swam as fast as he could to avoid the giant octopus only to run into the lizardfolk again. They had simply ascended through a gaping hole in the ceiling/floor. 

Bordar had no wish to fight the lizard-folk - that would only be a distraction from his goal. He decided to swim back up to the roof and try his luck elsewhere.

The lizard-folk stayed behind to explore the structure.

Alot was a slower swimmer than Bordar. He was soon surrounded by merfolk and was forced to fight them off. Alot fled and swam to the front door of the large temple. He was followed by the merfolk but Alot heard Bordar calling for him on the other side of the building. Alot swam away and allowed the merfolk to enter the front door. 
The Abyss
Captain Baylore swam into the crumbling hole in the wall at the far end of the structure. He encountered a room filled with kelp and a giant crab. He quickly swam past the crab and into the next room. It was a long chamber filled with quippers. He swam through them and winced as they bit into his flesh. He entered a room with what appeared to be an altar. He had  yet to see any "stone-faced guardians" so he left out another gaping hole in the wall.

He swam to ruins of the windmill. Inside the windmill he saw three long-dead bodies and three glowing spheres. The spheres whispered to him, "You'll not find what you seek here. Its in the abyss!"

"Got it!" replied Baylore. He left the windmill and began descending into the dark fathomless abyss within the rift. 

Captain Baylore continued to descend for almost a minute. He was in complete darkness. He had to be several hundred feet beneath the surface. Above him was the faint light of the surface. He continued to descend.

Perfidy Below the Sea
King Gulpa'Gor and Aarp attacked Craig with blunted weapons specially created for this competition. Craig was distracted and lost his concentration. The miraculous vortex created by his prayers and faith disappeared. While Craig fought off the two attackers, Prince Aegeon and Princess Nix attacked Aella with their very real and very deadly trident and rapier.

Aella shouted, "Hey watch it!"  

Princess Nix growled, "You'll never take our birthright! We'll kill you first!"

"Hey! I don't want it!" she protested.

"We don't care. We must take precautions! Please understand, its nothing personal!" said Prince Aegon as he thrust his trident with intent to kill.

Aella quickly threw out twin arcs of lightning at her attackers. Prince Aegeon quickly fell but Princess Nix pressed her attack, injuring Aella. Aella counter-attacked with a ray of magical frost. Nix twisted her body in pain at the icy attack and fell unconscious. 

Craig said another prayer and was immediately surrounded by a swirling vortex of celestial hammers. The hammers knocked Aarp unconscious and King Gulpa'Gor was forced to retreat. 

A False Alarm
Alot joined up with Bordar and the pair explored the smaller empty ruins along the edge of the abyss. There they found nothing but the detritus of the lost civilization.

Suddenly Bordar heard a loud croak coming from the smaller temple. A bullywug had found the prize and was swimming as fast as he could towards the cliff. Bordar used his ring of swimming to close with and tackle the bullywug. Alot swam behind and was almost knocked over as a locathah swam across his path clutching something. The locathah appeared to be swimming around the outside of the buildings and keeping a low profile. What was he up to?

Bordar wrestled the bullywug to the ground. Out of the bullywug's hand fell a silver trident - the holy symbol of the god Procan. 

Bordar rolled his eyes, "Never mind! The bullywug's an idiot!"

Murder in Warthalkeel
A few moments after entering the front door of the large temple with his merfolk companions, a long merfolk, injured and covered in bites, emerged and called for aid! His fellows were being attacked by a massive swarm of octopus and squid!  Princess Orthokent immediately ordered her lizardfolk, who had already exited the rear of the temple to render aid.

Meanwhile, Aella and Craig saw Oceanus flee the civic structure in a panic. He looked like he had seen a ghost. With Princess Orthokent distracted by the plight of the merfolk, they decided to leave their defensive position to help their friend.

Aella grabbed Craig's arm and said, "Hold on." She closed her eyes and a bolt of lightning struck down from the sky and into the sea. She disappeared in a clap of underwater thunder and a massive cloud of bubbles. Another bolt of lightning struck near Oceanus and from it emerged Aella and Craig. 

They checked on their friend. He told them that something horrible had happened. There had been a murder within the civic structure.

Craig went to the entrance and looked within. He saw the quessari knight removing his greatsword from the body of one of the koalinth. All of the koalinth looked as if they had been lined up and executed. 

The knight looked at Craig but called out to his king, "Your majesty, I am done here. Did you find anything?"

A voice came from another room, "No. It is empty." King Pelagius emerged and saw Craig.He looked down at the bodies of the koalinth, "Oh, Yes. The beasts attacked us, you see. We were forced to defend ourselves. Luckily no one else was hurt."

The knight glared at Craig as if saying "Are you going to be a problem?"

Craig backed away from the door, "Of course. I understand."

Aella looked at Oceanus. His slowly shook his head as if silently saying, "That is NOT what happened."

Aella whispered to Oceanus, "Do you need protection?"

King Pelagius overheard, "Don't worry, Oceanus. You are a trusted and loyal servant. I'm sure you have nothing to fear."

Oceanus retained his composure. He slowly returned to the side of his king. He meekly said, "I live to serve you, majesty."

Bordar, Alot, and Captain Baylore had by this time reunited and were swimming towards Aella and Craig. 

A conch was blown atop the cliff. There was a great commotion as Gil the locathah had returned the ring to Princess Orthokent to much fanfare. 

The lizardfolk warriors were helping the injured merfolk out of the temple of the kraken.

King Pelagius looked up at the cliff and said, "Well, it seems we've all lost."

Craig looked at King Pelagius with narrowed dwarven eyes, "You lost a long time ago."

To be Continued...

DM Note-
No, seriously, Craig's player said that exact line and I said, "Oh my god! That's the perfect line to stop on! To be continued!"

I ran the entire event turn by turn. The ring was on the finger of a statue of Procan in the far north room of the temple of Procan.  I really thought Baylore would find the ring right away. HE WAS RIGHT NEXT TO IT! But alas, he went right and didn't go into the room to the left. 

Instead, I pretty randomly split up the different groups. Gil was a favorite of the players. They love unassuming underdogs. They were rooting for him to win. I didn't plan on it. that was just the direction the locathah went. When the locathah found it, I had them split up and take a different route, each pretending to have the ring. Gil's a tactical genius that way I guess. They they all converged on the cliff. It just so happened that everyone else was very distracted. 

The players were happy that Gil won. Good for him! 

The players had been looking forward to the "Lizard-man Games" for weeks. They needed a nice role-play heavy and fun diversion after all the grueling deadly combat of the past few weeks.

A friend of mine asked me what I had planned and I told him. He said, "Oh my god! You're doing a beach episode! Like in every anime!" I hadn't thought of it that way at first but he was right.

Next Week - The Final Enemy

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Escape from the Tomb of the Lizard King - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 41

Baylore returned to the others to the throne room. 

Baylore said, "Where did the mist go? He came in here and just disappered."

Alot said, "Maybe he went into that crypt over there."

Baylore and Brenna looked confused. They replied in unison, "What crypt? Wait- What??"

Alot was likewise confused, "The one behind the wall in the corner. And over there is the treasure room. Do you not see that?"

Baylore and Brenna replied, "NO???"

Alot looked at them, "It's right there- ZZZZZZZZKKK!" Alot froze, his last word drawing out in an extended electronic buzz before he went silent. He stood completely still, frozen like a statue.

"Damn it!" said Baylore, "Where was he talking about? Here?" He turned and searched the corner to the right of the altar.

Brenna pondered aloud, "I wonder if the memory wipe they did to him caused some kind of damage."

Baylore found a section of wall that opened, revealing a concealed door and a secret room behind the wall. Within was another large nest made of bamboo, reeds, and mud. 

The nest was filled with mist. The mist was coalescing into bone, sinew, and muscle, slowly reconstituting the physical form of the vampiric lizard-king Sakatha.

"Ah-hah!" exclaimed Baylore, "Found the bastard!"

The B-Team:
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Storm Sorceress from Ket, daughter of the king of the sea elves, Deck Sorceress of the Sea Ghost.
  • Alot Aname - Neutral Good Warforged Fighter, ancient sentinel of a wizard's fortress, spent several decades deactivated underwater, Bosun of the Sea Ghost.
  • Captain Baylore - Neutral Human Pirate and Pugilist (Monk), Captain of the Sea Ghost.
  • Brenna "The Sea Witch" Myrasdottir - Chaotic Good Human Sailor and Divine Soul Sorceress, long-lost daughter of Whaler, First Mate of the Sea Ghost.
  • Bordar Graniteshaper - Lawful Good Dwarven Bearer of Grudges (Barbarian), exiled from his clan, Ballast of the Sea Ghost.
  • Bruma - Neutral Good Human Swamp Guide (Ranger) for the smuggling cartel known as "the Organization", given a mission to find and kill Sakatha the Lizard King.
Finishing the Deed
Baylore wasted no time in dismantling the nest. He spread the dirt about and ripped the reeds and bamboo to shreds. The half-formed body of Sakatha disintegrated and the mist dissipated. 

Meanwhile Brenna searched every inch of the wall behind the altar but found nothing. Baylore returned and said, "I already searched behind the altar. Check that corner."

Moments later the pair had located another secret door. Behind this door was a thirty-foot corridor. The corridor was a dead end. At the far end of the corridor was a tapestry hung on the wall depicting an ancient demon. 

"Yeah-" pondered Baylore suspiciously. He picked up Aella's staff and carefully pushed the floor in front of him as he inched forward. Ten feet ahead of the end of the corridor the floor dropped away revealing a twenty-foot deep pit filled with spikes. 

Baylore turned to Brenna, "There's got to be another hidden door. Can you reach that tapestry somehow?"

Brenna rubbed her chin, "Wait!" she said, "I have an idea!"

Brenna returned to Aella and took a small cane fishing pole off her backpack. Brenna used the pole to hook the tapestry. She pulled it off the wall but the pair found no secret doors or switches. 

A closer inspection of the wall on the right revealed to Baylore another false wall. He removed the false wall and discovered another short corridor and a heavy iron door. He had to leap diagonally over the pit into the concealed corridor. Baylore opened the heavy iron door. 

He stepped back, "Brenna," he said, "You better get over here."

Brenna leaped across the pit and joined him. They stood in awe at the site before them - a room piled high with thousands of coins and ancient artifacts! 

Alot, still frozen in the throne room, returned to consciousness, "Hey! Where is everybody?"

"In here!"

Alot soon joined them in admiring the treasure. 

Baylore eventually found a means to reset and disable the pit trap, allowing him, along with Brenna and Alot, to drag their unconscious companions Bordar the dwarf and Aella the sorceress, as well as the body of their dead friend Bruma, into the treasure room. 

"We'll rest in here," said Baylore, "It's defensible and we can spend the time sorting and counting the coins and studying the artifacts."

There they spent several hours. Alot counted 8000 gold coins and 3000 platinum coins.

Baylore found a javelin of lightning, 23 silk packets of dust of disappearance, a bag of holding, and a crystal ball. Baylore picked up a ring and examined it. It radiated power and potential. Brenna saw him holding it. Baylore said, "Want this?"

Brenna examined it, "That's a ring of wishes! You're giving me a ring of wishes?"

Baylore held up his hand, "I already have a ring. Its only got one wish left. You'll be careful?"

"You got it!" She took the ring.

"That reminds me!" exclaimed Baylore. He left the room to find the body of Patriarch Ul-Lon.

Brenna found a powerful healing potion, and seven scrolls with scribed with holy prayers - "greater restoration", "protection from energy", "find the path", "raise dead", and three scrolls of "cure wound". She also found a spell-book written in a draconic code. 

Baylore returned with the smaller ring that matched the one he wore, "Got it."

Brenna read aloud the prayer to raise the dead. Bruma was restored to life. He woke coughing and wheezing. "Did it work? Am I a vampire?" he asked enthusiastically.

"No. You are not a vampire," admonished Brenna.

"Damn!" said Bruma. 

The treasure room was not made for comfort and it was challenging to find rest on the bare floor but the group managed to eventually get some sleep and recuperate. 

DM Note-
Whenever the group tries to take a long rest in an uncomfortable location - such as camping or sleeping on the hard floor - I require them to make a survival roll vs. 10. Things such as pillows and tents and cots can give Advantage on the roll. Inclement weather and howling ghosts and the like will give the roll Disadvantage. My players made the case that being unconscious from injury granted Advantage and I allowed it. Everyone succeeded and were able to benefit from the long rest.

While the others rested, Alot expelled the armor that had been previously integrated into his artificial body. The old armor fell to the floor in pieces. He then took the draconic plate armor once worn by Patriarch Ul-Lon and began merging with it. The armor integrated itself into Alot's design. Alot took on a dark black-green hue and parts of him began to resemble leathery dragon wings. The process took several hours. 

Baylore, Brenna, and Alot filled the others in on the outcome of the battle when they woke. The team prepared to make their exit from the tomb. 

They made their way to the secret dungeon where Sakatha kept over fifty captives chained to the walls in darkness. Brenna was able to calm them down and inform the captives that they were being freed. She also explained that they were deep underground in the middle of the Drowned Forest and that they first would have to escape past an army of lizard-man warriors. 

What followed was an exercise in crowd control as Brenna, Baylore, Bordar, Alot, and Aella corralled the throng of people - mostly humans but with a few halflings and even lizard-folk among them - out past the miniature cathedral where they had battled dozens of foes the day previous. The bodies remained where they had been slain save for the two priests who had been knocked unconscious by Baylore and forgotten. They were nowhere to be seen. 

The team led the humans up in a long train. They paused in the room of eternal refreshment to allow each of the captives to eat and drink at the service of the mosaic lizard-men. Afterwards Baylore gathered the captives together into three groups. Each group was told to link hands and hold onto a rope that was provided them. Then each group was sprinkled by a packet of dust of disappearance. Each group became invisible. 

Bruma scouted ahead outside the mausoleum. He checked on the army of lizard-men camped in the back of the cavern. He saw the two priests attempting to rouse the lizard-men to battle, urging them to rise up and defeat the infidels. The lizard-men could not understand the common speech of the priests so they simply watched them bewildered. 

Bruma returned and led the invisible party across the dry river-bed and towards the stairs to the exit. Bruma was careful to disable each of the traps set in the stairs to allow the captives to escape. 

The group next gathered in the altar room where the B-Team had fought trolls two days previous. Again Bruma scouted ahead, this time accompanied by Baylore.

The first thing Baylore and Bruma noticed was that the bodies of many of the slain enemies had been dragged away, leaving a trail of dried blood on the floor. The bodies had all been dragged towards the main hall where they had battled the main force of the brigands. Down one corridor Bruma and Baylore saw several wolves eating the body of some brigands. The wolves did not notice the pair as Bruma continued on and Baylore returned to the others.

In the main hall Bruma saw the two trolls who had survived and fled their previous battle feasting on the gathered corpses of the brigands. A large group of at least a dozen bullywugs were picking through the bodies looting weapons, armor, and equipment. 

Bruma returned to the main group to report what he had seen.

The team decided to abandon this compound and risk going past the trolls and bullywugs in the hope that neither side wished for a battle.

The captives were once again lined up in a long train and told to hold on to a rope. Bruma, Alot, and Bordar entered the main hall ahead of the train.  The trolls and bullywugs paused and looked at them. There was a moment of evaluation. 

Bruma said, "You can just keep doing whatever you are doing. We're leaving this place. There's no need for trouble. Do you understand?"

The trolls looked at each other, shrugged, and went back to consuming the flesh of the fallen brigands. The bullywugs paused and watched the train of exiting captives warily but took no offensive action. 

The train emerged from the secret entrance on the stone platform outside the lair of Aulicus. It was warm and humid. They were surrounded by miles of dangerous swamp. The captives were instructed not to go near any of the large pools of water, no matter how thirsty they might be. 

"Is that understood, Bordar?" Brenna said to the dwarf, pointedly.

"What?" was his defensive reply.

Luckily, the brigands and lizard-men had left a sufficient supply of rafts tied up outside the entrance to accommodate all of the escapees. 

Return to Burle
The fleet of rafts bearing the adventurers and escapees made its way through the black waters of the Drowned Forest. The journey too two days and six of the escapees died during the journey, but they eventually returned to dry land, setting foot in the ruins of Waycombe. 

From there the caravan made the day-long hike to the fortress-village of Burle. They stood on the far bank of the Janustream river and signaled for a ferry but none crossed. Baylore, Alot, Brenna, and Aella left the escapees with Bordar and Bruma and swam across the river. When they reached the dock on the far side they were met by a contingent of elven guards with weapons ready.

"State your business!"

Baylore explained in his brusque no-nonsense manner that they had returned from their successful mission to kill Sakatha the Lizard King and that they had freed dozens of captives. He reminded them that the ancient treant Wanderoot had approved of their mission.

"How do we that you haven't been mind controlled like the other infiltrators?"

"Because-" Baylore paused, "uh, That's a very good point, actually."

Brenna interceded, pleading on behalf of the freed escapees. 

The guards were moved by Brenna's plea so they sent a runner to summon Castellan Kiara Shadowbreaker who had recently returned from her mission into the Dreadwood.

Kiara, wearing full plate armor, approached the party. She recognized Alot and Aella immediately.

She greeted Alot warmly and inquired what happened to his party. The last time she had seen him he had the brain jellies and she was surprised that an automaton could suffer from such an affliction. She questioned him about his previous companions and was sad to learn of the fate of Marlin Whalerson, for whom she had great affection. 

Upon hearing Alot's account of recent events she ordered her men to take sufficient supplies across the river to build a temporary shelter for the escapees. She said that the B-Team and the escapees could enter the walls of the town during the day and while accompanied by a guard but that they must leave by sundown and spend the night in the shelter across the river until it can be verified that they were not under the thrall of the lizard king. 

The team agreed. 

While in Burle the team saw Captain Xendros, the demonspawn merchant from Saltmarsh. She greeted them warmly and inquired as to their current disposition. In turn she told them that she was escorting a shipment up the road to Maidenstone Keep. When asked if she had any magical items for sale, she apologized and explained that she never did business while traveling but that she would return to Saltmarsh in a few days. 

The team tried to visit the Tree Maiden Inn but were disappointed to learn it had been burned down by Sakatha's agents. 

The team spent the night across the river from Burle. The following morning they left the escapees with the guards of Burle and set off down the road towards Saltmarsh.

The Ballad of the B-Team
The party stopped at the Robin's Breast Inn for lunch. They entered the establishment with weapons drawn ready for battle. The innkeeper William Brightboy and the handful of farmers within suddenly became nervous, "Look now, we want no trouble."

"Oh, sorry." said Aella, "We're just so used to being ambushed here."

They sat down and had a fine lunch meal. The minstrel Pluck was absentmindedly strumming nearby. 

"Oy! You! You want a story? I've got a story for you!" said Brenna loudly, "Come here and I'll tell you about how we defeated Sakatha the Lizard King!"

Pluck's eyes widened and he pulled up a chair.

Brenna told him in exquisite detail about their mission, starting with Aella and the A-Team and their battle with Aulicus the Black Dragon and continuing when Aella and Alot recruited the B-Team. The minstrel was transfixed. Brenna told the minstrel how they rescued the Duke of Seaton and were subsequently sent by the duke to kill Sakatha. Pluck began purchasing flagons of ale for the party. She recounted their journey into the Drowned Forest and their battles with brigands and cultists and undead lizard warriors and mosaic lizard-men. The minstrel furiously took notes and asked clarifying questions. Brenna finally reached the climax of her story with the confrontation with the vampire lizard king himself and how they finally defeated the foul creature.

By the time Brenna was done the crowd of farmers had grown to include every wife and child living around the inn. The crowd laughed and cheered and applauded. Brenna's story had lasted into the afternoon. They left late and arrived back at Saltmarsh just before sundown.

They spent the next day in Saltmarsh before returning to Seaton. While in Saltmarsh they learned that Anders Solmore had been awarded the noble rank of baron by the king of Keoland. All the land within the newly formed barony of Saltmarsh now belonged to Baron Solmor. 

"Wait a minute!" said Aella incredulously, "Does that mean the house I bought no longer belongs to me?"

"Correct," said Brenna, "You are now a tenant. Welcome to the wonderful world feudalism!"

"Dammit! I just bought that house!"

"And now you owe rent! Hey, aren't you happy you helped make him a baron?"
Baylore's Secret Plan
The team returned to Seaton and reported their success to the duke. The duke paid them their reward of 2,500 gold pieces each.

Once they had finished their report to the duke, Baylore told the others he had to depart to oversee his "project". Before he left, he wanted to know if anyone else wanted to invest in it.

"What is it?" inquired Brenna.

"Okay, I can tell you all about it now. But it's a secret. Bordar, do you understand, IT'S A SECRET!"

Bordar grumbled at the accusation.

Baylore explained, "Right. Well, after we broke up the secret pirate bank or whatever you call it on Leper Island and after we busted Gellan Primewater's little scheme in Seaton, I had an idea. I asked the duke if I could take over the operation on Leper Island, set it up as a haven for smugglers and pirates. In exchange, I would keep him informed on what's going on - you know - feed him information on who's smuggling what for who - who's working for the Sea Princes - that sort of thing. 

"He agreed, with a few provisions. Anyway, I'm now ready to hire some workers to start rebuilding the monastery on Leper Island. Its going to be our new base of operations. We've all got a nice bit of coin now. I'm offering you a chance to invest as partners. Who's in?"

"Of course I'm in, captain." said Brenna,

"Perfect. Anybody else?" inquired Baylore.

To be Continued...