Thursday, November 19, 2020

The Sacred Coral Grove of the Sea Elves - Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Chapter 58

The party continued their exploration of the labyrinth.  Aella held her trident out in front of her as she advanced down the long straight hallway. She came into contact with some invisible force. It formed a clear pseudopod and attacked! 

Aella pointed her trident at the translucent mass and a bolt of chaos magic darted through the water, striking it. Cai'luin cast a bardic Shatter spell, causing the gelatinous mass to pulse sharply. The  mass moved forward in an attempt to engulf its prey but the party was able to retreat. 

Captain Alot struck the gelatinous cube with his magical draconic hammer. The cube burst, filling the water with torn bits of membrane and jelly.

The party advanced down the corridor and found an alcove. Searching the alcove uncovered a weak section of walls where the bricks had become loose. Captain Alot being the strongest member of hte party used his crowbar to try to pry the bricks loose but to no avail. He handed the crowbar to Aella. She got a good grip with her magical gauntlets of ogre power and was able to bust a hole through the wall. 

The hole was just large enough for a person to crawl through to the other side. 

Alot readied his hammer and shield and squeezed through. 


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. I'm currently running my own home-brew storyline regarding the royal family of the Sea Elf Tribe of Manaan. I'm using map assets from Quick Encounters: Aquatic Ruin Maps and Quick Encounters: Undersea City It seems to me that my players always have more fun with these smaller adventures. 

Grey Oozes
Captain Alot's artificial mind strained against the psychic onslaught. He pushed through into the next chamber and moved aside to allow Corvid to enter behind him. 

The stone floor heaved and writhed around him as the grey ooze lurched and undulated. He smashed at the putty-like floor with his magical hammer. 

Corvid crawled through the breach and slashed at the floor with his magical sword. A grey pseudopod grew out of the floor and smashed into Corvid's plate armor. The acid of the grey ooze's strike left a corroded scar on the armor. One of the plates crumbled into flakes!

Aella peered into the hole and cast a chaos bolt into the ooze while Cai'luin's made a vicious mockery of the slime.  

The oozes withered into flakes which were scattered in the submerged chamber. 

Father Craig, piloting the large undersea vehicle known as the Apparatus of Kwalish, said, "I'll never make it through that hole!"

Alot replied and Aella did their best to widen the hole enough that they could pull the apparatus through. Once on the other side the team began to move down the corridor to the right. 

Black Pudding
They saw a black lumpy mass clinging to the ceiling of the corridor ahead of them. 

Corvid said, "Ranged attackers, take care of it."

Aella created a magical swarm of snowballs around the black pudding-like creature which seemed to have no effect.

Cai'luin whispered magical words of dissonance and the black pudding retreated from the party. Corvid pointed his sword at the creature and uttered a prayer to the Raven King. A loud bell rang out but did nothing to the pudding.

The pudding yet lived and advanced along the ceiling towards the party.

Alot sighed and charged the pudding, smashing it repeatedly with his magical hammer.

Aella followed up by casting several glowing arrows from a magic wand. A final strike from Alot's hammer destroyed the pudding.

The Coral Snake

The party advanced. The corridor ended at a T-shaped intersection. Captain Alot saw a small coral snake swimming through the water - an odd sight in this labyrinth of slimes and molds.

The coral snake turned and fled towards the left - retreated from whence it came.

Alot hurled himself at the snake and grabbed it by the neck. The snake's tail thrashed about as it tried in vain to escape.

Alot summoned Cai'luin, "Hey, you can speak with sea creatures, right? Tell this thing I don't mean it any harm."

Cai'luin reassured the coral snake and it became calm.

Corvid, confused, asked, "What are you doing?"

Alot replied, "I think this might be a druid shape-changed into a snake or something. I'm going to try to talk to it. Cai'luin, do the druids speak Common?"

Cai'luin shrugged, "I think so."

Alot said, "Okay, translate what I say into Aquan anyway, just in case."

Alot held the snake up to his face and spoke in slow deliberate words, "We- mean- you- no- harm. Do you understand me? Can- you- lead- us- to- the- sacred- grove?"

The snake undulated slowly in his grip.

Meanwhile, Corvid scouted ahead trying to find where the snake was swimming. He found a breach in the labyrinth wall leading to a tunnel in the coral that had overgrown the ancient city.

"Hey, I think I found the way."

Alot shrugged, "Okay." He addressed the snake, "We- are- taking- you- anyway. Just- in- case."

Cai'luin added, wryly, "Alot, I think that might be just a snake."

Mysterious Burrows

The party followed the twisting winding path through the tunnel under the coral. They came across an alcove to the right. Corvid caught a glimpse of something large and dark quickly retreating into the alcove. Captain Alot took a careful look and saw several large burrows in the coral. Each burrow was the circumference of a man's waist.

Captain Alot informed the others and instructed them to leave the burrows alone. They moved cautiously past.

DM Note-
I like to include avoidable encounters when I can. The players recognized that whatever lived in those burrows hindered or helped them in their mission so they decided to leave it alone. Good on them! 

Also it made great foreshadowing for what came next.

Giant Eels
The tunnel opened up into a large room - possibly an ancient throne-room with a colossal statue that had fallen over and shattered into pieces when some great cataclysm sank this kingdom. The coral had since grown over the ancient city and the ceiling - an interlocking growth of thick coral - created a chamber thirty feet high. They were half-way through the circular atoll of coral reef that surrounded the castle of Manaan.

Father Craig, piloting the crab-like vehicle, examined the ruins through the port-hole. He identified them as belonging to the long-dead Suloise Empire - perhaps a colony built here nine hundred years ago by Sulouise immigrants of House Rhola fleeing the Rain of Colorless Fire. This city was later struck by a great earthquake which caused the entire coast to sink hundreds of feet beneath the waves. 

Alot spotted an alcove to the left. He entered it to investigate. Suddenly he was swarmed by several massive eels, each serpentine fish was as big around as a man's waist and nearly twenty feet long! 

Corvid and Cai'luin swam to aid Alot and the trio made short work of the giant eels.

Giant Coral Snakes

The party moved further into the chamber, swimming above the fallen ruins of the colossal statue. Suddenly two massive coral snakes darted out from niches on opposite sides of the chamber. One engaged Corvid on the left while the other did battle with Alot on the right. More giant eels swam out from another niche behind the party to create a battle with three fronts. Cai'luin battled the eels while Aella stayed in the center and cast rays of ice magic at the beasts. 

Once the coral snakes were defeated, Alot and Corvid rushed to aid Cai'luin against the eels. 

Alot did his best to knock the snakes and eels into unconsciousness. He was still worried they might be fighting shape-changed druids. The others, however, had no such compunctions and soon the room was littered with dead or unconscious snakes and eels. 

The Sacred Grove
The found the exit from the chamber of the colossal statue and followed the winding tunnel through the coral for a few hundred feet. The tunnel eventually ended in a massive mound of sand that blocked the passage. The sand was easily removed by the digging claws of the Apparatus of Kwalish and the party continued.

They eventually emerged into a main tunnel. In one direction the tunnel was smooth and lined with marble. In the other the tunnel was more rugged and magically glowed in places. Alot deduced that the sacred grove lay in the more rugged direciton.

The party came upon a chamber guarded by sea elves. The sea elf guards were prepared for intruders with spears at the ready. Alot stepped forward and attempted to speak to them. His sputtering attempt confused the guards and they prepared for a fight. Cai'luin tapped on Alot's shoulder and took his place. 

Cai'luin, as a fellow sea elf from the tribe of Manaan, spoke Aquan to the guards. He announced the arrival of Princess Aella, daughter of King Pelagius, and requested to speak to the druids of the sacred grove. 

The guards looked at each other nervously, unsure what to do. An armored sea-elf knight emerged from the network of passages behind them and ordered them to stand aside.

"Guards, before you stands Cai'luin, nephew to King Pelagius, and Aella, daughter to the king." He then saw that she bore the trident of Manaan, the founder of tribe, "She bears the trident! So the rumors are true! Kneel you fools! Show them proper respect." He kneeled before them and the guards followed suit. 

After some brief pleasantries and proper introductions of the strangers who accompanied Aella and Cai'luin, the knight, who introduced himself as Anapos, informed the party that the sacred grove had been sealed off by Princess Nix and a locked iron door was installed to keep people out. 

Princess Nix bore the only key on a chain around her neck. She must accompany the druids on any visit to the grove and they may only do so with her permission and attendance. In addition, he and his men were assigned to guard the grove. This was a security measure installed after the recent unpleasantness involving the Sahuagin or vengeful Koalinth. 

Of course, the princess was also wary that Aella might lead outsiders to this place, a fear which evidently had merit.

Cai'luin explained that they simply wished for the druids to perform a ritual for Aella to unlock the powers of the trident. Alot said that Princess Nix probably knows this and that was the reason for all the security.

Cai'luin asked Anapos if they could see the door.

Anapos led them to the rear of chamber where a heavy iron door was cemented into the coral. 

"Well, that should be no problem for us," said Cai'luin.

Anapos took a defensive stance before Cai'luin, "I will not allow that."

"Oh, come on. Can't you look the other way?"

Anapos grimaced, "My Lord. I am a knight of the royal guard of Manaan. Princess Nix gave me explicit orders to defend this door with my life and allow no one but her and those she so deems to enter. Though I believe that Aella is the daughter of King Pelagius and the rightful heir to the throne of Manaan, Me and my fellow knights and guards are honor bound to fulfill our orders with our lives. I will not prevaricate nor circumvent my orders. If you attempt to open this door I will try to stop you with my life."

Aella held up her hands, "Okay, okay. Look, I just want to talk to the druids." 

"My lady, the druids attend to the king and royal family in the palace. They will be there."

"Also, I have some kind of diplomatic message to deliver to the king. Can you take me to him? We've met. He'll remember me."

Anapos considered this. "My orders prevent me from abandoning my post. I cannot accompany you. But I will assign my two most trusted guards to take you to the king."  

Aella looked at the others for consensus. They nodded their assent - save for Father Craig in the Apparatus of Kwalish, who could not navigate the winding narrow passages of the sacred grove and waited back at the entrance while the guards eyed him warily.

"But be aware, my lady." Anapos continued, "Though I believe you are the daughter of the king, not everyone here does. Many believe you to be an imposter and usurper and will do everything they can to stop you, including the Prince Aegon and Princess Nix, and they are cunning adversaries."

To Be Continued...

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