Dark Squad in the Secrets of Saltmarsh
Session #092: Interview with a Dhampir.
Dark Squad (in alphabetical order, no egos here).
Daktari/Dak (played by Haggis) Male Human Uthgardt Sky Pony Barbarian Lvl 8
New Tricks/Newt (played by Bear) Male Tabaxi Warlock Lvl 8
Nicholai Barbaros Kostyiev/Nicky (played by George) Male Dhampir Cleric of Twilight Lvl 8
Ramshambo/Ram (played by Kev) Male Half-Elf Rogue/Fighter Lvl 7/1
Vincenzo/Vinnie (played by Haggis) Male Shifter (Wildhunt) Druid Lvl 8
Ubmo (played by Goonalan) Supreme Being Lvl 1 (When we remember)
*Trapped in the Land of the Bad Dead Ancestors.
Gerald (Bat/Giant Bat) servant/mount of New Tricks
Owly (Owl) Vinnie’s familiar
The Dark Squad’s to-do list-
- Vinnie needs to be back for the next Saltmarsh Council meeting on the 1st Kythorn (June).
- Awaiting new answers to new questions from the priests at Fallowstone Holy, info will be sent to Saltmarsh for around the 10th of Kythorn (June).
- Find the other four Symbols of Ub, one was left in Deepbridge (Duergar fortress in the Underdark). The others need to be found, they belonged to- Rambles 'Shambles' Bowspirit (halfling killer from Lowhill), Antonio De La Crane (posh kid druid alchemist) & Giggles (crazy wood elf). All of these folk lived in the Saltmarsh region, the Dark Squad have found the De La Crane Manse (in the Dreadwood) and the De La Crane Crypt (in Saltmarsh Cemetery).
- Nightshade is in the Deep Dreadwood?
- Blackedge and the Goblin Stair?
- To join the Pact of the Wild Flame you need to find the hidden weapons left to fight Ashardalon, these are in a dragon-in-flight shaped barrow in Farrow Woods.
- To join the Pact of the Wild Flame prepare the Witch's Tor for the coming of the starfall, the Witch's Tor is in the Drowned Forest, in the Mere of the Dead Men.
- To join the Pact of the Wild Flame track down the last member of the Pact, a wild elf adventurer called Giggles- and finally put her spirit to rest, and also recover her maze button. Location unknown. SEE 2. ABOVE.
The Dark Squad are still sub-aqua swimming through ancient dwarven ruins situated beneath Salt Cave, which is just up the coast from Ashby (their favourite coastal settlement), they're saving the village from the sahuagin (Soggys) remember.
But first things first, because a lot of the PCs are broken, the adventurers huddle up for a bit more of Nicky's Aura of Vitality, and no-one needs healing more than Nicky, he spent time dirt napping twice in the previous session.
And after healing comes exploring, although the PCs are sore amazed that nothing has jumped out at them yet, they're expecting an end of level bad guy, but...
There are no more Soggys to be found, and nothing else tries to eat them.
However, there is a room to the south, it's hard to spot on the above map, but the Dark Squad find three sets of ancient stone double doors leading into the inaccessible chamber (it's all the way at the bottom of the map).
Furthermore, after a little investigation, Ram is certain that the Soggys were trying to break the stone portals open, although that's another mystery- the stone portals have no locks, and no obvious opening mechanisms, they're sealed fast. Also, this place is ancient- dwarven construction but any signs and symbols have long since faded or been eroded, there are no clues here.
Then however the Dark Squad discover this place (see below), and keep in mind Dak, Ram & Vinnie (unless he wildshapes into something aquatic) are on the timer here, they have approx. twenty five minutes left on their potions of water breathing.
The odd domed chamber is around twenty feet high, there are another pair of the stone doors to the west, however there's also a (very) large circular/oval stone object that has been chained upright in position upon a dais. And when I say very large... the huge convex/concave stone is eight feet in diameter, and roughly circular (not exactly though), the object must weight several tons.
A short while later Vinnie figures out that the chained object isn't made from stone, it is in fact a massive clamshell (or at least half of one). Investigations continue apace, but again Ram discerns that there is no visible way to open the doors here.
Note, at this point- after a series of spectacularly low skill checks (a variety of skills) Newt is getting irate/bored/whatever with the situation. He's getting sweary-
“What the ---- are we doing here! Ram, you ------- ---- ------ get the doors open or else my Lord, Belphagor, will...”, apologies but at this point the warlock's tirade descends into an unbroken stream of asterisks.
But, that doesn't work, and so...
The warlock Eldritch Blasts the chain indicated, the ancient and rusted steel breaks and the massive (8 foot diameter remember) clamshell gyres, pivots and thumps into... Dex saves follow, and Ram, Nicky and the Moonboar all make theirs. So, Newt! The tabaxi is lightly crushed against the wall of the chamber by the slow swinging giant shell.
Fate rolls dice, it seems. Who would have thought it.
However, the concave portion of the shell is now facing towards the floor of the chamber, which is a shame- that's the interesting bit.
Eventually, after a short row/argument, Dak- with help from the mighty Newt, who is now doing all he can to help, but pointedly not saying sorry for having got the Dark Squad to this point. Anyway, the pair manage to pull the chain back up and away so that the inside of the massive clamshell can be examined, and beneath the years of dirt is... a maze. By which I mean a simple circular maze has been etched into the palm of the great shell, it's barely visible (beneath the patina of dirt) and yet... it's there.
The maze looks a lot like the maze on the magic button that Vinnie keeps, the buttons that the Dark Squad are looking for.
Ram uses his finger to trace the maze, to map out the solution- from the outside to the centre, and is instantly rewarded- a puff of dust from behind him and the twin stone portals silently swing open wide.
The spacious high-ceilinged chamber is empty, although... there are strange markings upon the floor here, the markings are clearly visible because not a lot of the dirt and debris has accumulated here.
But what do the markings depict?
Best guess, and this after a series of checks by a variety of PCs- some good, some not-so, the Dark Squad believe the images show a progression of the planet on which they live (Toril), at some point in the future two moons will appear in the sky, and Toril will... well, it looks like it's going to collide with another planet.
But, and this is a big but- none of the PCs have any skills in this area, and so they're relying on a mixture of Insight, History, Arcana, Nature and Religion.
A little later, and keep in mind several of the PCs are now down to ten minutes of water breathing left, the PCs discover that the Soggys they fought to the north were exploring a series of ancient dwarven tombs. They recover the looted treasures from the dead Soggy blademaster, it includes a palm-sized black pearl. Newt is convinced that the gem is something special (it isn't but... I like that he's trying). The PCs best guess is the Soggy tomb-robbers et al were looking for a way to open the doors into the chamber that they have just explored.
Let's just take a moment to say that bit again, or better still to ask the question(s) of the players, here it comes-
“Why were the Soggy's in Salt Cave?”
“Why were they trying to break into a chamber full of ancient dwarven glyphs and sigils that depict... the end of the world? Or something similar?”
Or, I could have asked-
“Do you think this was random? That the sahuagin were just in search of treasure? But that can't be right because they had already found treasure in the tombs.”
“Why were the Soggy's in Salt Cave?”, and, “Why were they trying to break into a chamber full of ancient dwarven glyphs and sigils that depict... the end of the world? Or something similar?”
Note, the Dark Squad before departing the secret chamber use repeated castings of Prestidigitation to dirty the massive clamshell again, to obscure the maze pattern- this after they close the doors again (by tracing the maze again- in to out this time).
Then Dak, Ram and Vinnie depart, at speed, back to the surface.
But not Nicky and Newt, the tabaxi doesn't need to surface as he's wearing a Helm of Underwater Action, and Nicky... well, he doesn't need to breath air, he's a Dhampir.
Which is the subject (sort of) of Newt's discussion/interrogation.
Further note, during the fight in the last session- when the Soggy blademaster got close to cutting Nicky down, well... Nicky changed, his face and features became a lot more... what's the word? Feral? Vampire-like, certainly.
So, Newt wants to know- “What's the story, Nicky? What specific kind of freak are you?”
Nicky explains, and George (who plays Nicky has done a write up of this, before he even built the character- I saw it, but now he can't find it and neither can I). So, a summary of intro and events as explained by Nicky-
- He lived his life, a disappointment to his family, in a much less colourful place/world.
- His father barely spoke to him.
- His brothers mostly picked on him.
- Because Nicky is a wet, a nerd, a geek, and he speaks with a lisp. He's also very polite, he says things like- “I say, that's simply marvellous- is it a dwagon?”
- Nicky hated his life, or else he wanted to escape it.
- Then, in a long sealed room he discovered in the undercroft of the castle in which he and his family live, he found a magical mirror- and stepped into it.
- He fell (briefly) through worlds (and space and time).
- During his plummet through realities he appeared briefly in the Dragon Barrow with Dak, and then in an undead crewed ship (the Dreadnaught) with Ram, and then in a dark far-future (maybe) with Newt. These visions courtesy of the Moon Pool (Sessions 84 & 85).
- Finally, his fall through space and time was arrested when Sehanine Moonbow caught him, soon after he dedicated his life to the goddess who saved him.
- At which point, you'll remember, Vinnie turned up for a chat with Sehanine, and Nicky was sent back to Faerun with the shifter druid, to aid the Dark Squad.
- Oh, and Nicky is a sort of vampire.
“That's as maybe, and all very interesting. Not! Now, what you need to know is we're the Dark Squad, we're chasing down some mad prophecy... yada yada Primordial, yada yada, big dragon equals the end of the world. But, and this is very important, it's a prophecy- so it's going to play out whatever we do. So, don't bother trying to work any of it out, what we have to do is just keep killing everyone/thing that looks at us funny, and then somehow we'll get to the end.”
Nicky tries to argue- he's incredibly interested in the various prophecies, the nature of Ub, the... but Newt shuts him down again.
“LOOK! None of that is important. What is important is- me! Now, your job is to keep me alive, and even at the expense of the others. They're expendable, remember that. Besides, if you keep me alive then I'll kill everything else, ergo- the others will survive too. Now book up your ideas, and no-more snivelling!”
As Nicky said to the departing Newt's back- “that's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”
It doesn't take much.
The Dark Squad back-track, grab up the remains of the one member of the Hopscotch brothers that has not been entirely eaten by the Soggys, and then Water Walking again they rendezvous with Ludwig Clamzucker and row back to Ashby, after all they only spent about an hour in Salt Cave.
To Ashby, and the townsfolk there, and keep in mind it's still early afternoon when the Dark Squad return with half-a-Hopscotch-body and a story to tell.
There is much in the way of the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the villagers are distraught to learn that the two young fishermen (Bobby & Trevor Hopscotch) have been killed. In this moment of high drama Newt, of course, gives a speech- it's mostly well-received but it's a bit creepy, although the warlock only mentions genocide twice, which is probably a record.
Dak therefore steps up, and in front of the assembled masses he gives a much more stirring speech, about how in his culture (I am Uthgardt! I am Sky Pony!) the Hopscotch brothers would be celebrated as heroes, defending the tribe from deadly/evil monsters etc. It's a bit of a stretch, but it's heartfelt, and so the funerals of the dead Hopscotch brothers follow apace.
Note, Ram finds the mother of the two Hopscotch lads and presses the large black pearl the adventurers found earlier onto her, to sell, to make ends meet, to go on- he explains. The pearl has already been checked over- it's not magical, it is however valuable (worth in the region of 500gp).
Then Newt sings sea shanties in the Red Dragon Inn for the remainder of the night, and it's stirring evening (his adjusted performance check is a '30'). The drinking (and singing) goes on to the wee small hours.
However, Vinnie also takes the time to take Nicky aside- down onto the docks, and to ask a few questions of his own, the druid was also on hand to witness Nicky's feral change in the fight with the sahuagin blademaster.
We do another twenty minutes of Nicky's story, followed by Vinnie's introduction to the various members of the Dark Squad- Dak is loyal and steadfast, Ram is a cold-hearted killer (with a conscience, eh?) and Newt is a lunatic.
It's very moving- a proper introduction to events for the Dhampir, and a welcome to the journey, but, we move on...
The Dark Squad spend the night at the inn, and then early doors hit the road again- next stop is Farrow Wood. The location, they know, of the ancient Dragon Barrow that Dak (and Nicky) saw in the barbarian's vision in the Moon Pool. There is a weapon here, a two-handed sword, a dragonslayer; and recovering it is one of the tasks that needs to be completed for the Dark Squad to join the Pact of the Flame.
And so onwards, although... here's another little snippet.
Nice map, very professional. Salt Cave is situated on the coast (obviously) to the west of Ashby, see the bit that says High Top. Well, at this point the Dark Squad- thinking about ancient dwarven ruins, remember their time spent exploring beneath Squabblepot, the hidden gnome enclave.
Here's the thing, during their investigation they questioned Arty Swell about his movements prior to the murder he committed (remember, Arty was being controlled by Ian with one I). At some point during the Dark Squad's discussion with Arty he said-
“Three nights ago I got home from my work at the Farhill Mine. I did a little shopping at the market and said hello to a few folk on the way back into the burrow. I went back to my rooms, then prepared and ate dinner.”
Ram, very clever at the time- but he doesn't remember it now, asked, “How did you get back to the burrow?” And keep in mind the Dark Squad arrived at the burrow via a magical portal, and were sniffing around trying to find out where Squabblepot was on their map.
Anyway, Arty's reply back then was-
“I walked- it only took me a few minutes.”
So, Squabblepot is within walking distance of Farhill Mine.
The ruins accessed via Salt Cave are the same ruins (very likely) that the Dark Squad explored beneath Squabblepot.
But then, we move on- to Farrow Woods.
Which is still a beautiful place, at least to look at- remember the Dark Squad have been here before too, this is where they came to rescue Bang & Olafsson, their first adventure in the region.
So, Farrow Woods has changed, the Dark Squad (some of them- the ones with good rolls) have a feeling they're being watched, and then Ram spots a pair of floating eyes- a very hard spot, twenty or thirty yards away and hidden within the forest.
Then five minutes later another pair, and another pair- and now Vinnie and Nicky have spotted the watchers too.
But, when approached- and the floating eyes (as if set in a five to six foot tall humanoid's head) are always on the move, they dart away- disappear.
Just once, Ram is convinced, he sees the spectral outline of a ragged and torn elf.
Eventually, Vinnie grabs out his magic maze button- holds it aloft, and then explains- “We are 'ere to re-cover ze ancient weaponz to fight ze dragun. Fur ze Pact of ze Flamz!”
A much abused (very dead) spectral elf appears and points the way forward, the way in which Dak was leading his comrades, to the Dragon Barrow.
Note, the watchers however continue to observe.
Then we get here...
And the Dark Squad start exploring, the barrow itself is thirty feet above the forest floor, and the only clearing the Dark Squad have encountered within the forest so far.
Note, Dak has forgotten how he managed to get inside (it was all the way back in session #84 after all).
Charging out of the woods comes a centaur, of a sort- see the picture, although I don't have the exact image I need- the centaur here looks as rotten and dessicated but lacks the finery. The centaur shouts something about “trespassers”, but in elven- which only Ram (I think) understands.
Then it skewers Nicky with its pike, and then stomps on the Twilight/Moon priest and ruins the poor fellow's day.
Less than ten seconds later and there are now three of the centaurs in the fight, the first to arrive is almost destroyed (on the right) this after a raging Dak manages to land two Crits in a row (see the previous session).
However, Nicky is also suffering badly and down to less than half-a-dozen hit points- two of the centaurs have stomped and skewered the priest.
Note, I'm not picking on you George- I promise, the bad guys were always going to be coming on to the fight from off the map, you and Newt were the only two PCs I could get to- I rolled a 1d6 to see which of you got double teamed by the enemies. The dice came up Nicky.
Although, seconds later Newt is also skewered and stomped too, and that's about where we're at.
But that's all we did, but I promise we'll do some more of it next time, although the next session isn't until the 28th.
Stay safe and well you lovely people.
Cheers the Dark Squad and goonalan.