ACT 1: Smuggler’s Shiv
Session 1: Shipwrecked! [Apr 9, 2020]
In the crowded docks of the bustling port city of Rizzi, a handful of passengers line up to board the merchant vessel, the Jenivere. The ship prepares for its continuing voyage from far eastern Mekphatis to the former colony, Viana on the western shores of the Dragon Peninsula. There are a number of interesting people lining up to board this vessel.
We first meet an intrepid minor nobleman from Loyolla, named Lox Blenderbottom. A sire of the Blenderbottom trade network working out of the small city of Servel in the wild forests of Loyolla. His family has been slowly growing their business empire in Loyolla and beyond, but the family’s enterprise has fallen short since the tragic disappearance of family’s leaders many years ago. Lox, blessed with traces of Nomen heritage, is a practiced sorcerer, who studied his innate talents under the famed sorcerer, Shin Fane. Lox is now seeking to find the whereabouts of his missing parents in Viana.
Next, we meet Flax Pinebriar, a fit and hardy half-elf warrior who travels with his younger, naive brother, a half-orc named Ginkgo. The two adopted brothers, both raised by a family of pixies and other fey creatures in the depths of the forest, now seek out their third brother, a dwarf named Bracken, in the colony of Viana, where he is rumored to have traveled in search of wealth and fame.
Next, we meet a hulking Noradrie warrior, a warpriest of the mighty God of Courage, Hethroth. His name is Hiorvard Tjorvisson and he is currently serving as a mercenary and bodyguard to the older Migaran merchant, Rambar Torillo, who also boards the boat with stacks of numerous wares. Hiorvard seeks only battle and the chance to prove himself for the glory of Hethroth and his village.
Last on board is Gor Ponga, of the international trade network, the Ponganese Trading Company, based in Ashara, Eshlien. Gor, an elf, serves as the Chief of Geological Prospecting and Mineral Acquisitions for the extensive merchant family. He is a well-practiced scholar and alchemist looking to assess a number of sites for mines in the region outside of the city of Viana. He also is quite eager to check out the ancient Xaya ruins in the area while he is there.
The first few days on the boat are rather quiet and peaceful, as everyone gets used to being in tight quarters with each other. Captain Alizandru Kovack and his first mate, Alton Devers, then invite all the passengers together for a meal in the ship’s galley. Captain Kovack is a boistrous, but friendly man. His first mate is quiet and calm. We then meet a few more passengers who were already on board the ship.
Aerys Mavato is a severe half-elf woman. Although quite beautiful in appearance, she seems to try and hide this fact and doesn’t appreciate the attention of men. She is often seen scribbling into her notebook, although she rarely left her tiny quarters the entire trip.
Next is, Gelik Aberwhinge, a sharply dressed gnome from Elmo. Gelik spends much of his time writing in the ships’ common areas, and takes every opportunity to tell long-winded stories, boast of past journeys, or quip about anything in his field of view.
The next passenger, is a painfully shy and bookish Astonian scholar named Ieana. Ieana is traveling to Viana to explore the ancient ruins there. Rumors aboard the ship alternately suggest that she’s the Jenivere’s owner, a Kalruan agent, or Captain Kovack’s secret lover. Ieana, however, keeps mostly to herself, and grows more intent on her studies with each mile the ship travels closer to Viana.
Next is Eilaf, a scruffy human of Noradrie heritage. Eilaf boarded at Korratus and waits to reach Viana with a quiet eagerness. Aloof and perhaps somewhat rude, he gives the impression of one who has had a hard life but finds himself currently without direction. He mentions of settling the last of his debts.
The next passenger is Sasha Nevah, a red-haired human who boarded the Jenivere in Korenhold. Over the trip, the woman’s somber demeanor has gradually faded, revealing a boisterous and optimistic personality. She is missing her left pinky finger and mentions something about her mother cutting it off.
The last passenger at the meal is Rambar Torillo, an up-and-coming merchant from Rizzi who hopes his new business venture, a plantation in Viana, will be his ticket to wealth and success. He seems desperate to make lucrative contracts with the other merchants on board.
During the joint meal, the passengers also learn that the Jenivere picked up a prisoner that sits in the brig. Hiorvard heads down there one evening to chat with the prisoner. His name is Jask Derindi and he is a Selicean accountant from Viana. He claims he was framed for treason and fled Viana nearly ten years ago, but has just recently been found again and caught. He awaits punishment and likely death when the Jenivere reaches Viana.
Everyone has a reasonably enjoyable trip over the many days the Jenivere sails the wide oceans of the Inner Sea towards Viana. Captain Kovack then calls for another dinner with all the passengers as the ship gets closer to Viana. However, as everyone begins to eat the meal, they suddenly feel nauseous and sick, their heads spin and everything goes dark.
Hiorvard awakens on a strange beach as a large crustacean, a eurypterid, bites at his leg. He immediately begins attacking the creature, both with his magic and pummeling it with his fists. Lox then awakens and blasts one of the other giant eurypterids. Gor rushes to a pile of items, mixes a quick alchemical mixture, and throws an alchemist’s fire at the third creature. Flax then grabs his sword and cuts the beast in half. The first creature then flees into the ocean.
As everyone awakens, they find that almost all the passengers are accounted for, strangely dragged onto the beach. All their belongings, too, have been brought up on the beach. There are many missing people from the Jenivere, however, including: Captain Kovack, First Mate Devers, the ship’s cook, all the ship’s ten crew members, Ieana the scholar, the half-orc Ginkgo, and the merchant Rambar. Flax screams out for his missing brother, but sees nothing. He does see the Jenivere, broken and shattered on the rocky shores to the north.
Hiorvard, Flax, Gor, and Lox head towards the ship as Aerys, Galik, Sasha, Eliaf, and Jask try to shake off the strange sickness affecting everyone. Hiorvard and Flax bravely climb the high cliffs near the broken ship and then leap into the violent waters to climb onto the vessel. Lox and Gor watch from ashore. The two warriors first find the broken remnants of one of the lifeboats, tied to the Jenivere. Someone must have used it recently.
Hiorvard and Flax then search the remains of the vessel, finding ample amounts of food in the larder and important camping supplies in the supply room. They also find the corpse of the cook in the larder, though they did not examine it closely. They then find Alton Dever’s corpse in the supply room, he seems to have been stabbed by a rapier, but then succumbed to eurypterid venom.
Flax and Hiorvard load up the remaining life boat with the supplies and Hiorvard lowers Flax and the boat into the waters. Flax then manages to ride boat through the violent waves to the beach where the other passengers awaken. Hiorvard then explores the captain’s cabin, finding important maps and charts, various items and trinkets, and the captain’s log. Hiorvard then expertly swims back to Lox and Gor, and they all return to the others.
The group of survivors then prepare a campsite, using the supplies they found, stringing the canvases between the trees in the nearby jungle and clearing underbrush with the shovels. As the late afternoon hits, rain pours down upon the island and everyone huddles under the shelter. During this time, the survivors figure out they are on the island known as Smuggler’s Shiv. A dangerous island known to house numerous shipwrecks, as its rocky coasts draw in dangerous waves. Most ships steer clear of the island and it has failed to be settled numerous times. Additionally, the heroes read Captain Kovack’s log and it seems he was slowly possessed by madness. He seemingly was in love with Ieana and grew possessive of her. Then by her request, he steered the Jeniver towards Smuggler’s Shiv on purpose, hoping to start a new life with her there. He then mentions “something must be done about the crew” in his last entry. He also mentions suspecting his first mate of being in love with her as well.
The survivors then begin to realize that it was likely Alton Devers who carried each of them to shore and safety. And perhaps it was the Captain who stabbed him in the wreckage, out of jealousy. Now, both Captain Kovack and Ieana are missing.
The survivors then allocate duties, deciding that Flax, Lox, Hiorvard, and Gor should explore the island, while Aerys serves as a guard, Gelik provides camp entertainment, Eilaf serves as a camp defender, Jask serves as a medic, and Sasha hunts and gathers for food and water.
The group chats much throughout the night and Hiorvard is able to get on Jask’s good side after vouching for his right to be unchained. Jask then mentions that it is likely that there is a ship, named the Brine Demon that wrecked on the island. It was commanded by Captain Kinkarian, a pirate from the Fire Islands, and a member of the conspiracy that framed Jask. Jask asks the explorers to find the Brine Demon and they may find proof of his innocence.
The survivors then get some sleep and prepare for another hot and arduous day surviving on Smuggler’s Shiv.
Session 2: Dinosaurs, Snakes, and Zombies! Oh My! [Apr 16, 2020]
The intrepid survivors rest the night away. Over the night, Hiorvard sees some strange glowing light in the surf and suspects it to be a phosphorescent algae in the water. Additionally, Lox has a horrible nightmare where he relives the shipwreck of the Jenivere in an abstract form and awakens to the sharp sting of a nightmare eurypterid.
The heroes prepare themselves for the day of exploration, and Lox, Flax, Gor, and Hiorvard head out into the wilds, following the tall rocky cliffside on the northern shore of Smuggler’s Shiv. After a few hours of hiking along the shoreline, they see a ruined ship wrecked along the rocks to the north. They decide to ignore it and press on. Then a short while later, they come to the end of the western cliffs where they find a nest of flying pterosaurs, specifically dimophodons.
The heroes choose to avoid these flying beasts and instead head back towards camp. As they do so, they are accosted by a large black-scaled snake, a black mamba. It coils up on its hind and leaps upon Hiorvard, biting into his arm. The wound is so painful that Hiorvard falls to the ground unconscious, as the venom pumps into his blood. Flax leaps at the snake and hacks it with his sword. Gor then rushes to Hiorvard and heals him with a powerful alchemical elixir. Lox then blasts the snake with magical bolts of energy, felling it.
The heroes are able to patch up Hiorvard somewhat and they return to camp. Jask tends to Hiorvard’s wounds and the heroes chat a short while with the others at camp. They then decide to return to the wilds, this time heading east along the cliffs.
They pass another dimorphodon’s nest and choose to sneak their way through the nearby jungle instead of upsetting the creatures. The heroes then follow the cliffs down the southeast shoreline where they find another ship wreckage. This time the heroes climb down the rocky trails towards the ruined vessel. As they reach the rocky beach, the afternoon torrential rain falls upon them and they rush towards the vessel to seek cover.
The four heroes huddle in the ruins of the overturned ship, the hot steamy air clinging to them, and a foul odor emanates into their nostrils. They then hear the shuffling of humanoid forms in the darkness, moving towards them. They turn to see four bloated corpses, zombies reaching for them hungrily. Flax calls for a retreat and flips out into the rain and readies his sword to strike and cover his friends’ exits. Gor then throws a burning bomb upon the creatures, blasting it with fire and setting it aflame. Lox rushes out into the rain and throws a ball of fire to a zombie inside. Hiorvard then bravely brandishes his axe and cuts down three of the zombies with furious slices. Soon the zombies are chopped to pieces and the heroes spend the rest of the rainy afternoon huddled in the malodorous wreckage.
After the rain ceases and evening draws near, the heroes continue southward along the coast. They soon come across another sandy beach, a small cove like the one they had awoken upon. They climb down to the campsite and find the remains of a makeshift shelter, a neat pile of firewood, and a burned out campfire. With some more searching, the heroes find Captain Kovack’s tri-corner hat and a few bright-colored scarves that belonged to Ieana. The heroes determine that Ieana and the Captain likely stayed here last night. The heroes also find vague remnants of tracks that lead on into the jungles to the south. They decide to follow the tracks and head deeper into the think jungle foliage.
After a mile of following the vague tracks in the wet soil, they come across a small waterfall and a flowing stream. The tracks seem to disappear into the flowing water and the heroes cannot ascertain where they went from there. With the sun sinking, the heroes decide to head back to the camp, follow the same path they took. Before long the four of them are gathered with the other five survivors.
For the next couple hours as the sun sets, the heroes chat with their fellow survivors and get to know them better. They eventually get on friendly terms with each of them.
Aerys confides that she is an alcoholic and desperately needs something to drink. However, she notes that the island may contain some rare viper nettle berries that are known to be a good cure for any addiction. She mentions an epic poem that she working on, but won’t say more at this time. She says that she was heading to Viana to secure employment on a pirate vessel, as she has always dreamed of having her own ship someday.
Gelik explains that he had to flee Elmo because he was caught trying to sell fake Arathian artifacts. He also lost his station with the Historical Society. However, he tells a tale of a Historical Society ship called the Nightvoice, that had ventured to the farthest reaches of the known world. THe ship had sent word via magic that it was returning to Viana shortly, but it never arrived. This was many years ago, and Gelik believes that the Nightvoice might have shipwrecked on Smuggler’s Shiv. If the heroes were able to retrieve the ship’s ledger, it would greatly restore his status with the Historical Society should they ever return to Viana. Gelik was originally heading to Viana to try and restore his status by exploring the Xaya ruins there.
Eilaf does say too much. But he elaborates that when he was a boy, his family sold him to the Ariana Consortium, a power, and seedy trade empire that spans the known world. He worked as a mercenary for the Consortium all his life to pay off his family’s debts. He was heading to Viana to sign the final contract confirming that his debts had been paid. He then mentions that after he paid off his debts, he intended to come to Smuggler’s Shiv anyway and seek out an old pirate treasure that was buried there. He suggests they retrieve the treasure while they are here. He shows the heroes the map and asks them to bring him along when they are ready to seek it out.
Jask mentions how he had no interest in going to Viana as he was likely to be hung for treason. However, he reiterates that if they can find the Brine Demon, which is rumored to have crashed on Smuggler’s Shiv, he may be able to find proof of his innocence and restore his good name with the Viana Government.
Sasha opens up as well. She explains how her mother is an influential member of the Crimson Blades, the notorious assassins guild. The Crimson Blades are known as ruthless killers, always willing to kill for coin, no questions asked. Sasha explains how her mother cut off her pinky finger for defying her as a child. Now, her mother has lost patience with her, since Sasha has made it clear she does not want to be an assassin. Her mother has given her one last chance to prove herself, with some sort of assignment in Viana. Hence, Sasha seems delighted to be stranded on Smuggler’s Shiv, away from her forced duties. She expresses her interest in animals and asks the heroes to find a baby dimorphodon in the jungle so that she can raise it as a pet.
The heroes then head to sleep for the night. During the long nightwatch, Gor and Eilaf see more than just the usual glowing surf of phosphorescent algae, they see a glowing humanoid form in the water. The two head out to the shoreline and peer in the water. The see a ghostly form reaching towards the surface at them, desperate to escape their watery doom. However, the ghost eventually fades away. Likewise, Flax has an awful dream that involved eating a meal on the Jenivere, but finding a horrid snake in her soup that bit her tongue.
The next day, the heroes prepare for another foray into the wild jungles of Smuggler’s Shiv…
Session 3: Omens of Darkness [Apr 23, 2020]
The intrepid survivors welcome a new day upon the island of Smuggler’s Shiv. Lox, Flax, Gor, and Hiorvard head out to explore more of the surrounding jungles. They head back the way they had gone the previous day, hoping to find more signs of Captain Kovack and Ieana’s trek. They reach the point where the two stream join. They find no more additional signs of the Captain and Ieana, but they do find a large patch of viper nettles. The tall herbaceous plants each have numerous blood-red six-inch thorns. In the center of the patch is an outcropping of the plant’s bitter red berries. Knowing that these berries could help Aerys with her alcoholism, the explorers try to devise a way to reach them. However, after much discussion, they decide to leave the berries for the time being.
The explorers then decide to follow the south-heading joined-stream, which follows the descending terrain into a small rocky cove down at the eastern shore of the island. As the explorers walk out onto the rocks, they see another large ship cast upon the jagged shore. Much like the others, this ship will never sail again. However, the explorers note that the visage of a large demon is exposed upon the boat’s front. They believe the ship to be the one Jask had mentioned, the Brine Demon, the ship of Captain Kinkarian, a pirate of the Fire Islands.
The explorers step into the ruined vessel to search for any signs of useful equipment. Hiorvard slams the door to the captain’s quarters open and finds nothing more than a ruined desk. There is a skeleton drapped over the desk clutching at a small wooden coffer that has been seemingly extracted from a secret compartment in the desk’s drawer. The explorers find the coffer to be locked and Flax expertly picks at it until it opens. Inside they find a few small coins; a black, curved dagger; a small elixir; and a golden heart-shaped locket. Inside the locket is a tiny picture of a beauty half-elven woman with red hair, the name “Aeshamara” is etched inside. Hiorvard then finds in another drawer of the desk, numerous ledgers and journals of Captain Kinkarian. He takes them, suspecting that these are the accounts that could help Jask prove his innocence.
The explorers leave the ruined ship behind and head west into the thicker jungles as the land rises back upwards. The explorers then find a wayward boot-print left in a spot of mud, believing it to belong to Captain Kovack. The continue through the hot and humid foliage as the sun ascends. Sweat drips from their brows as they press on. They then come across a muddy game trail heading perpendicular to their heading. It seems poorly used but does suggest that someone had made this trail and kept it somewhat clear from being overtaken by the jungle flora.
The explorers decide to follow the trail to the south where the land rises up gently. However, before they get very far, Hiorvard’s boot is snagged on a crude twine stretched over the game trail. Immediately, a number of crude stone spears falls upon the explorers, scratching them up but thankfully not impaling them. Additionally, Hiorvard finds he is lucky to have not caught his foot in the snare or he would have been pulled into the trees by his foot where more spikes awaited him.
The explorers grow a bit worried at these traps, but continue onward towards the end of the trail. They find themselves atop a high cliffside that overlooks a salty channel separating another part of the island. The southern outreach stands high, with a large looming mountain that bares would looks like red rock upon its peak. Also, near the cliff’s edge is a lone shack that seems to have been left unfinished. There is a pentagram scrawled into the side of the crude wooden planks. The explorers enter the shack and find a rusty, faded-blood colored pentagram upon the wall and numerous human teeth pressed into the wooden planks of the wall.
The explorers fill quite wary of their recent discovery, and head back north to find the grove of berries. The eventually construct a crude walkway of broken branches and logs to traverse across the thorny plants. They are able to successfully gather numerous handfuls of the soft, red berries. The explorers then continue back as the heavy afternoon rains descend upon the island. They decide to try and steal a baby dimorphodon for Sasha from the nest on the way back.
Hiorvard throws a mighty javelin at one of the adult beasts, but it only causes them to scatter and descend upon the explorers. The battle is quick and soon the adult dimorphodons are felled and the explorers are able to return to camp with two little babies.
There is much chatter and celebration as the explorers return to camp. Sasha is overjoyed with her two new dimorphodon pets and Jask is perhaps more joyful as he begins to comb through Captain Kinkarian’s accounts to find proof of his innocence. Aerys eagerly eats handfuls of the viper nettle berries, despite their bitter taste. She immediately seems to relax as her symptoms are reduced.
The survivors then head of to sleep and set the night watch.
Session 4: Hillside View [May 3rd, 2020]
The intrepid survivors find the night relatively uneventful, at least until just an hour before sunrise. Flax and Eilaf stand watch late into the night and see more of the phosphorescent algae floating in the surf. They think they see another humanoid form in the water. Eilaf hangs back as Flax steps up and looks into the water. He then sees a ghostly form of a pirate captain step out of the water and charge towards him.
Flax calls out for help as the ghost let’s out a baleful moan that sends Eilaf fleeing into the jungles. The other survivors wake up to the sounds and charge out to help. The ghostly captain is recognized as Captain Kinkarian of the Brine Demon. He keeps screaming for Flax to “give it back” as he laments his lost Aeshamara. Hiorvard suggests the captain may be looking for his lost dagger. Hiorvard, Gor, and Lox move in to aid Flax and together they are able to destroy the ghost quickly.
With morning now upon them, the survivors have a group meeting and decide that the four explorers would pack provision to allow them to stay the nights away from camp. They intend to explore father south and deeper into the island’s interior. The four explorers head out, promising to keep an eye out for the Nightvoice for Gelik and a bare hilltop facing the east where Eilaf’s treasure may be buried.
The explorers follow their previous paths heading far south down to where they found the game trail. They decide to climb the hill eastward, where they are soon accosted by a snake that attacks Flax, but the young warrior quickly dispatches the creature. The explorers then reach a large flat hilltop with a wide view around them. With the two jutted rocks rising out of the sea to the east, the explorers believe this spot to be the treasure site that Eilaf was looking for. The explorers also see a large mountain to the south on another spur of the island on the other side of the channel. The mountain seems to contain exposed red rocks at its peak.
The afternoon rains soon drench the group, but they decide to continue exploring rather than risk shelter in the dangerous shack they found previously. The explorers head back along the game trail, this time following it north and west. They come across another snare trap in the trail’s path and Lox is grab by the snare and pulled into a tree where numerous crude spears impale him. With Lox dying up in the tree, Hiorvard climbs up swiftly and cuts the sorcerer down where they are able to quickly revive him and tend his wounds. The explorers then press on, following the game trail to the northern bay.
The explorers come across a trio of driftwood shacks, mostly ruined and destroyed out on the bay’s sandy coast. They also notice a single humanoid figure standing out near the shacks. Flax and Gor sneak up to the edge of the foliage and look upon the figure. They find it is a rotted corpse, though its body is infused with a snaking vine plant. After much deliberation, Flax charges at the zombie as Gor throws alchemical bombs. They destroy the beast quite quickly. The explorers then search through the driftwood shacks, but find little of interest save a pale remnant of a bloody pentagram on one of the walls.
The explorers head back to the top of the flat hilltop and decide to camp there, hoping to see the rising sun in the morning and pin-point the digging spot for Eilaf’s treasure. As the explorers sit around the camp, they begin to consider the trials and tribulations over the past few days.