Thursday, October 15, 2020

Merrow Mayhem - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 54

Relzagon slept with four other merrow in the cargo hold of a sunken ship, confident that the three guards she posted outside with two fighting sharks would be sufficient to defend their slumber from any interruption. 

Relzagon woke with a start as the water in half of the cargo hold suddenly drained away! Half of the cargo hold was now filled with air. A vertical wall of water divided the normally flooded hold from the air of the surface! One her merrow was caught in the air side. He gasped for a second as he woke up. He quickly moved over to the water-filled half of the hold.

Something odd was happening. She heard fighting outside the ship. Her warriors were engaged with intruders! The entire aft section of the wrecked ship was exposed to air. It was as if someone had lowered the surface of the ocean fifty feet, but only in a sharply defined area!

Suddenly the wall of air shifted further towards the bow, pushing Relzagon and her merrow warriors up against the bulkhead of the cargo hold. She heard the sound of battle and the screams of dying merrow. The wall of water moved further towards the bow. Now the entire hold was filled with air. The body of a massive shark fell on top of the grate in the ceiling of the hold, blocking their view of the action above. The shark flopped ineffectually before it was killed by a mighty blow and became still. Her warriors became nervous. She quickly ordered them to take up their harpoons and prepare for anything.

There was a moment of relative silence. She could hear surface dwellers speaking and walking over the deck of the rotten timbers of the deck. She signaled her warriors to be ready. Something heaved the shark off of the grate. Light poured into the cargo hold. A shadowy figure with glowing eyes loomed above. It reached down and lifted the wooden grate. 

It called out in the hideous language of the surface dwellers, "Hey! There's more merrow in here!"


The Crew of the Sea Ghost:

  • Alot Aname - Neutral Good Warforged Fighter, ancient sentinel of a wizard's fortress, spent several decades deactivated underwater, Captain of the Sea Ghost.
  • Avastana "Aella" Kádár - Neutral, Half-Elf  Outlander and Storm Sorceress from Ket, daughter of the king of the sea elves, deck sorceress and first mate of the Sea Ghost.
  • Craig "Blunderbuss" Oxworth - Lawful Good Dwarven Priest of St. Ogden (Cleric), sailor and shipwright, bosun of the Sea Ghost.  
  • Cai'luin Manaan - Chaotic Good Sea-Elf Bard, member of the royal family of the tribe of Manaan. Cook of the Sea Ghost.
  • Corvid Ravenson - Neutral Good Fallen Aasimar Paladin of Vengeance and Divine Soul Sorcerer, sent to Oerth to avenge those who wronged his angelic "brother", Auric Ravenson. Second mate of the Sea Ghost.
DM Note-
Still filling in the 8th level gap between the end of the Final Enemy and the beginning of Tammeraut's Fate with small mini-adventures. This time I decided to use the Merrow Scenario in the Wreck of the Marshall in Ghosts of Saltmarsh. It seems to me that my players always have more fun with these smaller adventures. 

Fight in the Hold
All five merrow hurled their harpoons at the armored figure above. The harpoons bounced uselessly off its impervious armor. The merrow warriors quickly pulled the chains attached to the harpoons and retrieved their weapons.

Suddenly a shadow loomed over the ship. Everyone looked up. Father Craig had created a void of air from the surface to the sea floor so that he could join his companions in battle. Unfortunately, he had done so underneath the bow of their ship, the Sea Ghost. The Sea Ghost now began to creep forward, threatening to crash down onto the wrecked ship on the sea floor which was now exposed to the air of the surface.

Alot looked up and said, in a moment of uncharacteristic panic, "Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!"

Father Craig turned towards the Sea Ghost and held out his open hands. He reconfigured the shape and position of the zone of air so that less of the bow was exposed. This slowed the advance of the ship but did not stop its momentum. However, in doing so he had made water more accessible to the floundering merrow in the hold. 

Corvid leaped down from a nearby coral reef and entered the hold through a breach in the hull on the starboard side. The breach was too small for a merrow but just large enough for Corvid to gain entry. Corvid engaged with the leader of the merrow and one of the warriors. Corvid was pierced by a harpoon but not impaled.

One merrow warrior fled down the corridor towards the wall of water in the stern of the ship. Another merrow smashed into the port hull, bursting through and creating a large breach. A third merrow dragged himself across the dry ground with his hands towards the breach in an effort to reach the edge wall of air/water beyond.

Aella, still standing on the quarterdeck of the wrecked ship, heard the crash below and looked over the port railing. She saw the merrow bursting through. She waved her arms and created a magical tornado just outside the breach. The two escaping merrow were caught up in the maelstrom and found themselves unable to escape the high winds and battering debris.

Alot leaped down into the hold and chased after the merrow fleeing towards the stern. He was soon followed by Cai'luin who climbed down the ship's ladder into the hold and began to play his lute to provide some bardic encouragement to his companions. 

Corvid meted out divine vengeance against the two merrow that attacked him, quickly dispatching them. 

Aella, likewise, let her spell do the work of killing the two merrow trying to flee through the breach.

Meanwhile Alot caught up with the final merrow in a water-filled section of the wreck as the massive beast tried to smash an exit through the hull with his harpoon. He turned to face Alot too late as Alot swung an arc of bloody destruction onto the merrow, repeatedly smashing the merrow's skull with a large dragon-shaped hammer until the creature was dead. 

The Cave of Lost Souls
Corvid examined the ship's hold. A large marble statue of Saint Cuthbert lay tied down on its side. There was a door leading to a cabin towards the ship's bow. The ship's hull was badly breached on the port side where it crashed into the reef. Corvid spotted a cave in the coral. He entered the cave and soon came across a small cavern illuminated by green glowing phosphorescent coral. The cave was filled with air still from Father Craig's miracle. The air suddenly became supernaturally chill. 

Two supernatural figures appeared before Corvid. They were the ghosts of two nuns of Saint Cuthbert who died as the ship sank - Sister Calimara and Sister Alina. They told Corvid that the ship sank when the harpies song overwhelmed the senses of the crew. The two sisters, along with the high priest and another priest, tried to save the ship but the crew locked them in a cabin below decks in the stern of the ship. Thus did they perish when the ship struck the reef. 

The two sisters implored Corvid to recover their remains and inter them in sacred ground at a temple of Saint Cuthbert. They warned him that should he refuse to do so he would be cursed for eternity. 

Corvid, himself a living avatar of the god of death and guardian of the gates to the afterlife, agreed to the task.

Corvid went directly to the aft section of the ship which was outside the area of Father Craig's miraculous zone of air. There were two doors - both were reinforced with iron bars. He chose the door on the right. It was locked shut. He shoved and kicked and the door broke off its frame. Within he found the remains of four individuals wearing the habits and robes of nuns and priests of Saint Cuthbert. He gathered them up and placed them on the door for transport. In one of the robes he found a jade amulet in the shape of a cross within two concentric circles - the symbol of Saint Cuthbert.

Bess the Crab
While Corvid gathered the remains of the dead, Cai'luin explored one of the cabins amidships. The center of the lower deck was still exposed to air. Cai'luin opened the door and a woman's voice cried, "Oy! Can't a girl get a little privacy while she's taking her nap?"

Cai'luin immediately blurted, "Oh, sorry!" and closed the door. Then he realized there was no one in the room. He paused to consider this before reopening the door and looking more closely. The room was covered waist high in detritus and broken wood. He said, "I'm sorry to bother you, but is someone in here?"

The flotsam and jetsam shifted and a humongous crab emerged, its claws held high.The crab said, "Of course there's someone in here! I'm in here! And I was trying to get some sleep, if you don't mind! It's bad enough with those fishy brutes lying around, you lot 'ave to come in here and start smashing things up and rifling through a girl's belongings!"

Cai'luin became suspicious, "And you are?"

"My name's Bess! I live here." Bess explained that she was given intelligence by a song from a bard named Clergol. He sang a hymn of Saint Cuthbert that was so beautiful that she miraculously gained a soul! "You, uh, you got a lute there. You wouldn't happen to be a bard would you?"

"Well yes I am," replied Cai'luin. 

"You wouldn't happen to know any hymns of Saint Cuthbert, would you?" inquired Bess.

"I think I remember a few from the bardic college." Cai'luin played a hymn dedicated to the saint.

"Oh, yes," declared Bess, "I think you and I are going to be VERY good friends!"

DM Note-
I voiced Bess as close as I could to Phoebe Waller-Bridge from Fleabag.

The Iron Door
Captain Alot asked his crew, "Anyone found any treasure yet?"

Craig said, "No." Cai'luin, still playing his lute to an enamored giant crab, shook his head. Corvid hauled a collection of wet bones towards the breach in the hull.

Alot considered the iron door in the stern section of the cargo deck. He examined the door closely. It was a reinforced door, the kind used to protect valuable cargo. He ran his two-fingered mechanical hands around it. He took out a crowbar and tried to wedge it open using his super-human strength. It wouldn't budge. He tried again but it was stuck fast. He rubbed his metal chin. 

Corvid, exiting through the breach in the hull, said, "Forget about it. Come with me up to the island. The ghosts said there might be treasure up there.

Alot said,  "Ghosts? There's ghosts?" and followed Corvid up to the island. 

Aella, still standing on the deck, called out, "Hey! Wait for me!"

The Iron Cobra
Father Craig opened the door leading to the cabin in the bow of the ship. Within he found a shrine dedicated to Saint Cuthbert. A large painting on a wood panel the size of a door was placed up against the very inside-bow of the ship. He looked around but found nothing. 

He called out to Cai'luin, "Come up here! I need you to check something out!"

Cai'luin entered the cabin followed by Bess the crab. 

"Who's that?" inquired Craig.

"Oh, that's Bess," replied Cai'luin, casually.

"You stay away from me elven pritt'y-boy, dwarfie! He's mine!" Bess waved her snapping claws around menacingly. 

Father Craig narrowed his eyes menacingly, "You'd be very nice with some butter and garlic."

"Wotch it!" she said. The two inched closer together.

Cai'luin separated them, "Father Craig, what did you need?"

"I think there's something hidden behind that shrine. I'd like you to take a look."

"I will, now if YOU could please go search the cargo hold, I would appreciate it."

Craig nodded and left the room, glaring at Bess as he departed.

"Thought he'd never leave," said the crab.

Cai'luin rolled his eyes and turned to examine the panel. 

Bess told him that the passengers on the ship all worshipped Saint Cuthbert and made this shrine during their voyage. She said, "Now what was it they used to say about that shrine?" She rubbed her maxilliped mouthparts with her claw as someone might rub their chin trying to remember something important.

The sea-elf bard found a hidden latch and the panel opened wide like a door, revealing a small niche. The niche contained a circular depression about nine inches wide where a disk or amulet might be placed.

The inside of the panel contained a large mirror. Cai'luin caught a glimpse of himself as he was about to close the panel. 

Instead of his own reflection he saw a segmented iron hooded cobra! The iron cobra launched itself out of the mirror and attacked Cai'luin's face. Cai'luin cried out in alarm as he staggered back, the iron cobra's metal fangs had pierced the flesh on his face. He threw the thing onto the deck and drew his rapier.

Bess pointed at Cai'luin with her claw, "That was it! Something about 'beware he who is vain' or something like that!"

Father Craig came running in. He brought his mallet down onto the cobra. The iron cobra was fixated on Cai'luin. The mechanical snake continued to bite the bard over and over again. Cai'luin, for his part, was unable to pierce the iron carapace of the iron cobra. Father Craig shouted, "Are you okay? Have you been poisoned?"

Cai'luin grit his teeth. "Not yet! WHY- WON'T- THIS- DAMNED- THING- DIE??!!" he spat as he continued to stab at the mechanical guardian with no success. Father Craig brought his mallet down and finally destroyed the creature.

Cai'luin glanced in the mirror. He could now see his own reflection. He shot an exasperated look at Bess, "Maybe next time try to remember a little sooner!" 

Father Craig knew his zone of air wouldn't last much longer so he and Cai'luin returned to the Sea Ghost and allowed the sea to once more cover wreckage of the Marshall.

The crew that were able to breathe underwater spent the next several hours spent recovering all they could from the wreck. On the island of the harpies they were able to find a holy symbol of St. Cuthbert made with gold and sapphires worth 150 gp, a jasper gem worth 50 g), a piece of obsidian worth 10 gp, a tiger eye worth 10 gp, 12 platinum coins, 164 gold coins, 641 silver coins, 320 electrum coins, and over a thousand copper coins which they left on the beach.

The crew rigged a block and tackle system to raise the statue of Saint Cuthbert from the hold. Father Craig assisted by controlling the water to help direct the statue and lift it onto the deck. Their plan was to return the remains and the statue to the temple of Saint Cuthbert in Seaton. The ghost nuns, visible only to Corvid, nodded their stern approval.

Aella, wearing her magical gauntlets of ogre power, was able to force open the stuck door in the cargo hold. They recovered fifteen sealed boxes. They brought them onto the deck and opened one. Within was a dozen copies of the book St. Cuthbert and Common Sense, a short book used to explain the tenets of the deity's faith to nonbelievers, as well as a small golden statuette of Saint Cuthbert intended to purchase the favor of local chieftains and tribal leaders.

The crew also recovered the shrine to Saint Cuthbert. Corvid, upon learning of the mirror, explained that he had found a jade amulet in the shape of the symbol of Saint Cuthbert that would fit it perfectly. He said that the mirror was likely a miraculous device that allowed the priests to perform scrying spells. 

Return to Saltmarsh
The Sea Ghost returned to Saltmarsh, arriving a few hours after sunset. The city was dark and its townsfolk had gone to bed. Aella spent the night in her house on the hill. She allowed Cai'luin and Bess to sleep in a guest room. Father Craig and Corvid returned to their quarters in the clergy house they had purchased. Alot returned to his gazebo on the site of the mansion he was building to replace the former residence of the smuggler Gellan Primewater that had burned down over a year ago. There he stood, motionless, for the rest of the night.

The Runaround
The following morning, the crew of the Sea Ghost began unloading the cargo of vegetables they had picked up in Niole Dra. Captain Alot, Aella, Father Craig, Corvid, and Cai'luin reported to the mansion of Baron Anders Solmor to report on the success of their mission to the capital and receive their payment.

They were met at the entrance by Skerrin, Baron Solmor's butler and secretary. Skerrin informed them that the baron was too busy to speak with them. The crew provided Skerrin with the receipt proving delivery of the baron's gift to the king by the allotted deadline.  They also reported that they had destroyed the Vengeful Tempest which had terrorized the Azure Sea. 

Skerrin sniffed with disdain and demanded proof of the destruction of the ship. Alot said that they had the figurehead of the ship - a red dragon, as well as a book that belonged to the ship's captain. Skerrin demanded to see it. Alot said that those were back on the ship but assured him he could bring it.

Skerrin rolled his eyes, "Very well. It seems you have met the terms of your agreement. Bring the proof to receive your compensation."

Alot said, "Okay, we'll be right back."

"Not HERE! Take it to the baron's warehouse. Be there in two hours. I will need time to prepare the payment. Three thousand gold pieces."

"Each." said Alot.


"Three thousand gold pieces. EACH. That was the arrangement." The other crewmembers nodded.

Skerrin paused, "Are you sure? That seems like a lot."

"I'm sure you wrote it down."

Skerrin had them wait while he retrieved his ledger. 

Skerrin sighed, "It seems you are correct. But only for three of you."

"What?" said Alot.

"The arrangement was made between the baron and Commander Fireborn and you, you, and you," said the secretary, pointing at Alot, Aella, and Father Craig.

"Fine. Plus five thousand for the Vengeful Tempest. That was the deal."

Skerrin once again checked his book. He sighed.

"I will verify the agreement and bring you the appropriate amount in two hours. If you are late, you forfeit your reward."

"We'll be there!"

The Note
Alot and Corvid returned to the ship to deliver the prizes to the appropriate warehouse at the appropriate time for the appropriate payment. 

Aella and Cai'luin were walking back to her house to check on Bess when Aella noticed a folded piece of paper in her pocket. She opened it. It said, in fresh ink, "I know a secret way into Manaan. Meet me at the Empty Net at Midnight and I will tell you. Come Alone. Ask the bartender for the Serpent's Tooth."

She looked around but no one was nearby. She showed the note to Cai'luin. He read it and said, "Do you think its a trap?"

She replied, "Of course it is."

He looked at her, "Are you going to go anyway?"

She looked back at him, "Of course I am. Are you coming with me?"

Cai'luin smiled, "Of course I am!"

The Raven's Message
Meanwhile, suspecting treachery, Father Craig bought his magical silver raven figurine to life. He gave the raven a brief message to deliver to Baron Solmor inquiring about his safety and requesting a face to face meeting at the town council chambers at noon.

A few minutes later the raven returned from its mission and relayed that the baron was busy but would be happy to meet with Father Craig. It would literally be the best thing about his day.

Father Craig and Corvid went to the council chamber. The baron failed to appear. A short time after noon a messenger boy from the village ran up and reported that the baron was too busy to join them. He said something about remembering his schedule right after sending the raven back and hoping for the raven to return to provide an update, but the raven never returned. Whatever that meant. He apologized on behalf of the baron. 

Father Craig told the boy to relay his understanding to the baron and paid the boy a silver piece, five times the usual amount for the boy's service.

A Visit to the Loyal Quartermasters of Iuz
That afternoon, flush with coin after receiving their payment, the crew paid a visit to the devil-touched Captain Xendros at the Loyal Quartermasters of Iuz. 

Captain Xendros was her usual cheerful self, happily greeting the crew as friends and asking about their adventures.

"Did you deliver your cargo to the capital in time for the king's birthday?"

"How did you destroy the Vengeful Tempest?"

"Where are you going to take the statue of Saint Cuthbert?"

"Are you willing to sell the magical Javelin of Lightning you recovered from Captain Morgana?"

It soon became apparent that Xendros possessed knowledge beyond what reputation and scuttlebutt would know. Captain Alot asked her how she knew all these things.

"Oh, you know, words get around." she quickly changed the subject, "Now, would you like to see my current inventory?"

They paid her fee and she allowed them entrance into her special storage room containing her assortment of magical items for sale. 

They purchased a few items and left - except for Father Craig and Cai'luin who stayed behind to inquire about her ability to obtain special order items.

DM Note-
I had been allowing my group to make special orders through Captain Xendros for a while. Upon re-reading her chapter that night I discovered that she can only special order items from Table F and G. Well, that was a HUGE restriction. Father Craig really wanted a Cloak of the Manta Ray, which had been previously available but was no longer in her catalog. So those two players spent some time looking over what was available on those tables to see what they could use. 

The Empty Net
That night, Aella took her companions - Captain Alot, Father Craig, Corvid, and Cai'luin - to the Empty Net, the seedy inn on pilings over the Kingfisher river. The Empty Net was a den of thieves, smugglers, and cutthroats. Aella was a member of the town council. She and her companions were responsible for the downfall of Gellan Primewater and his smuggling organization. She was also responsible for Anders Solmor becoming a baron and bringing the attention of the king's tax collectors to Saltmarsh. The last time she and her friends had come to the bar over a year ago, there was a brawl and several men died.

Needless to say, when Aella entered the inn without any hint of costume or discretion, all conversation stopped and every patron stared at her in contempt.

Aella cleared her throat. The bartender, a burly thug named Kreb Shenker, spat on the floor, "What do ye want?"

Aella approached the bar and said, "I'm here to see the Serpent's Tooth."

Kreb said, "You were supposed to come alone. They'll have to stay down here."

Aella looked at Cai'luin and the others and nodded. She turned back to Kreb, "Very well."

Kreb led her behind a curtain to a concealed door. The door led up a flight of narrow stairs to a small room with a bare table and two chairs. The walls were lined with heavy burgundy curtains. A hoarse voice said, "Greetings princess. Please have a seat."

She sat down. 

A hooded figure in thick red robes emerged from a curtain. It sat in the other chair. Red gloved hands pulled back the hood just enough to reveal that the figure wore a silver mask concealing his entire face. The mask was carved to resemble a snake's head with fangs. 

"Hello, your highness. I have information that can help you."

To be continued...

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