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. 

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