Episode Seven - Into the Kelp Bed
Episode 7: Into the Kelp Bed (Level 6)
As Vash settles matters with Captain Harrethohl, aided by the silent Ichtaca, Tobias and Lyda see to their own wounds. With Tobias walking her through how to use her psionic healing, augmented by a healing potion, Lyda is able to heal Tobias’s shattered arm. Exhausted by the effort, she needs his help to get to bed, planning to rest awhile before she attempts the same on her broken ribs. He returns to the others to find them discussing how to rescue the trapped researchers below. What follows turns out to be a harrowing ordeal.
The kelp bed emanates a strange power, and each of them has already been exposed to the tainted water around it during the battle. They see the researchers beckoning, reaching out for help. Vash and Ichtaca dive into the water, and, as they descend into the kelp, they are each swept away in an illusory world. Tobias believes he can see them, but he too is already affected, telepathically communicating with his mind’s version of them, seeing them not trapped in the kelp, but swimming competently through it towards their goal. After a few moments of mentally communicating with the visionary versions of his trapped companions, Tobias steps from the decks in a trance and joins them. Their bodies are wrapped in tangling leaves, skin penetrated by tiny feasting vines, in their minds, each of them has a slightly different experience, rescuing the researchers, impressing the crew, sailing home to glory. As their minds fight the domination of the kelp, tiny details seem wrong to each dreamer, giving them chances to break free from the intoxicating visions. Snapping out of the imposed dream gives each of them a glimpse of the horrible truth; their limp, smiling, bodies being pulled deeper underwater, surrounded by hanging skeletons of previous victims, including the two researchers. Captain Harrethol keeps the boat in the beds, awaiting their return.
In Ictaca’s dream, he finds himself the needed key factor in rescuing the researchers, accoladed as a hero and a wise man by his friends and the crew. He hones his sailing skills on the voyage home, which is strangely untroubled by aberrant attacks. Finally, however, when the Coral Rose is greeted at the docks in Rue by a crowd cheering Ichtaca’s name, he manages to shake off the cloying illusion for a moment, thrashing himself free of the hungry greenery, only to be taken under again by a more realistic, but still pleasant version of the voyage home. In this version, it was harder to rescue the researchers, but they barely managed to do it in time. The ship is attacked, but the group always manages to fight the aberrant creatures away. The battles, however strike him as strange. Deja vu overwhelms him, each battle containing too many identical elements to the ones they fought on the way out. He struggles again, shakes free of the dream, and moves down the kelp columns to cut Tobias free. He is trying to remove the vines penetrating Tobias’s flesh without harming the the frail human, but finds himself falling again into a false version of reality. Ravenous leaves envelop him a third time.
In Tobias’s illusory world, he helps rescue the two researchers, including Hathan Shaern, a favorite professor of his. Shaern looks at him directly and, instead of responding to his questions, launches into a verbatim repetition of a classroom lecture Tobias particularly enjoyed and remembered from years ago. Tobias comes to his senses momentarily, finding himself pinned in the vines and leaves, seeing the others trapped around him. The vision-trap washes over him again, and he finds himself on the voyage home, having had a close call with the tangling kelp bed, but having escaped it. The researchers slowly recovering from their ordeal in the kelp, the research notes are cryptic, but beginning to make sense, and the shy Lyda is clearly falling in love with him. He finds himself back in Athelshoth, asking her father an important question, and then shakes himself free of the dream, but cannot escape the clinging vines. His mind is lost again, and he finds himself in a pleasant fantasy again, of he and Lyda on the voyage home, days spent together defending the ship, pouring over the research notes, falling in love. He loses himself completely in this dream, caught up in a private, tender, moment with Lyda, unaware that he is actually caught up in a passionate embrace with the kelp bed.
In Vash’s illusion, he rescues the two heathfolk men, helping a fumbling Tobias navigate the water. He sees dragonborn pirates below, trapped as well, but then sees the illiterate Ichtaca tracing letters on the deck of the ship. He fights free of the kelp and swims upward, only to be entangled again. He experiences a more realistic version of the same rescue, then spends voyage home studying the research journals. He believes he finds a cure for his mother in the pages, but becomes suspicious at how clearly the notes written in layman’s terms, and then suddenly realizes that they are written in his native language of Losandrae instead of the researcher’s native Rocurrish. He shakes free from the kelp again, struggling to free himself, then experiences a third version of reality, in which the kelp bed nearly consumed them all, but he escaped, and was helping the others to cut themselves free, struggling not to harm them. Realizing this too is a lie, he finally tears free from the visions, and is faced with the skeletal remains of not only the men they came to rescue, but the remains of many other hapless sailors and pirates, still tangled in the hungry leaves. Horrified, Vash shakes off the illusion of the kelp for good. He crawls to his friend, cutting the embarrassed psion free before Tobias can take full advantage of the kelp’s charms. Ictaca shakes off the dream, helped by Tobias and Vash, and the three of them escape, plunging through the surface of the water, each of them wondering if this escape is real, or if they are still truly trapped below, being slowly devoured. Hours have passed, night has fallen, and the Coral Rose is nowhere in sight.
After a panicked moment, they see the ship a ways off, anchored well out of the kelp beds, pouring smoke from a gaping cannon-hole in her hull. A ship full of dragonborn pirates is pulled up alongside the craft, and Lyda, Capt. Harrethohl, and one surviving crewman are bound and gagged, being forced at sword-point across a gangplank onto the attacking ship. A skeleton crew of pirates transfers over to the captured vessel, prepping it for departure, and the three men in the water are forced to move quickly. They swim up silently, boarding through the gaping hole, blind in the smoke, and stealthily assassinate the pirate crewman putting out the fire below decks. Dousing the fire themselves, the heroes feel the ship lurch into movement. Vash scouts the deck stealthily, locating their stolen gear, and then all three climb out under cover of his drow shadow-magic. Working quickly and quietly, the trio snap necks and slit throats, tossing the bodies into the water without alarming the crew of the leading boat. Using psionic magic to enhance an illusion Vash casts over him, Tobias is able to impersonate a dragonborn helmsman, and takes the wheel. Ichtaca creeps up on the final invader, and kills him, but not in time to avoid the man’s cry of alarm. The pirates on the boat ahead take up the alarm cry, and a high-speed, nautical battle ensues. The pirates slow their vessel, line up by the rails to fire off small harpoons. A harpoon strikes Ichtaca in the thigh, pinning him to the deck in a wash of blood. The captain, a master of draconic rune-magic, sets fire to the Coral Rose’s sails and deck.
Up in the crow’s nest, Vash finds himself caught up in the conflagration. He struggles for a moment to put out the fires, but the heat is overwhelming, and his clothes are beginning to smolder. He grabs hold of a rope, cuts it, and swings wildly across the heaving deck below, crashing through the burning sail, and landing squarely on the deck of the pirate ship, right in the middle of a ring of tough fighters. The drow swings hard and fast, but is soon overwhelmed by his attackers, who turn on him with fury. Vash, barely able to hold up his maul and keep fighting, bleeds out on the deck from dozens of wounds. He takes two pirates down, but is now on the verge of collapse, still facing the captain and two more.
Ichtaca, meanwhile, tears himself free of the harpoon only to be knocked down again; a glancing blow from a cannonball. He staggers to his feet, charges across the deck and mans one of Coral Rose’s cannons, firing an amazing shot into the other cannon, just as the enemy is loading it. They both explode in a shower of flame and debris. The barbarian charges across the deck, reaching the quarterdeck of the other ship only to find himself skewered again by a harpoon, from a crewman in the rigging above. Seeing that the dragonborn has his weapon tied to his belt, Ichtaca shrugs off the pain and hauls down on the rope, bringing his assailant crashing down onto the main deck. He leaps down onto the man, pinning him with his legs and splitting his skull with a mighty blow from his axe.
Tobias, meanwhile, embraces the illusion that he is one of the pirates, avoiding fire from the crew even as he steers the Coral Rose into a collision course with the other ship. He snags a pirate with his mind, dragging the screaming man across the deck and then crushing him between the colliding ships. Then, seeing Vash reeling under the blows of four attackers, Tobias abandons his pretense and reaches out with his power, choking the captain. As the man clutches his throat, Tobias lifts him bodily from the deck and wrings the life out of him with a crushing, invisible grip. As the captain’s head falls to the deck, Tobias clambers over onto the other ship, fighting off another assailant and taking a serious wound. He watches Vash smash into another pirate with his maul, slamming into the man with enough force to fling him bodily from the ship, dead before he hits the water. Another strikes the drow from behind, however, and Vash collapses, dying. Tobias cannot wade through the melee to reach his friend, but strikes psionically at the man who cut him down, while calling out to Ichtaca to go to the fallen drow. Suddenly, a horrible thought grips him. Is Lyda truly a captive below-decks, or did they leave her far behind in the kelp forest? He rips the life out of the man who is trying to kill him, makes it onto the decks of the pirate ship, and then runs below-decks, kicking open doors and searching frantically.
Ichtaca leaps to the rescue, finishing off the last two pirates and screaming his fury to the night skies. He binds Vash’s wounds, bringing him back into consciousness, and the two lash the ships together, putting out the fires still smoldering on the decks of the Coral Rose. Tobias, meanwhile, encounters a pirate cannoneer below-decks, and kills him casually, still searching for the prisoners. He finds them tied to a post in the deepest hold. It looks like they tried to fight back, all three are severely battered. Lyda is slumped over, unconscious, held up only by her bonds. Tobias cuts them loose, and as he examines her wounds, Captain Harrethohl and one remaining crewman run to help put out the fires on their ship. Tobias is appalled at the extent of the woman’s injuries. One of her broken ribs has now punctured her lung, and protrudes from her skin gruesomely. He pours a magical healing potion down her throat, forcing her rib bones to crack back into place with brute psionic force as he does so. She comes to, screaming and writhing in pain. After a few moments, however, the magic of the potion has run its course, and the two are able to join the others above-decks.
The battle over, the battered group scavenge the ships for supplies, managing to repair both vessels enough to sail them back into port. They are attacked time and again by aberrant sea creatures, but fend off the attacks and arrive safely at Rue’s harbor in five days. After giving his pleased brother the pirate ship to join the Loacheth shipyard fleet, Tobias and the others are met on the docks by an excited Abasi Dhambizao. The ravari buys them all drinks in exchange for the tale of their adventure. He regales them with several tales of his own recent exploits in fighting off dockside attacks by abberrant creatures, as well as his usual pursuits of thwarting the local branches of both the mob and the etholchan church. Impressed with the man, the heroes invite him to join them on the trip north, where he can come face to face with Magistrate Caral Viln, who has sent several unsuccessful assassins after him. Abasi agrees, but needs a day in town to wrap up some unfinished business with locals who have asked him for help. After a day’s rest, the party boards a northbound river-barge, booking passage in exchange for defending the ship from the inevitable attacks of aberrant bullywugs. Four days later, they arrive in Athelshoth, on the last day of the conference of Scholars.
The group seeks out Professor Jennish, who is just wrapping up the last panel discussion of the day. He nods to them, but goes instead to greet a mysterious cloaked man in the audience, seeming very impressed despite himself at whatever the hunchbacked old man was telling him. Seeing nervous bodyguards lingering nearby, the party sees through the disguise. The man is Tolebesh Buthe, the bastard king himself, there incognito to watch the last days of the conference. He greets them briefly, and seems impressed by all he has heard of their exploits. He invites them to a small, private ceremony in their honor later that evening. The king sneaks out with his anxious bodyguards in tow, and Vash, Tobias, Ichtaca, Lyda and Abasi follow Professor Jennish to his apartment to catch each other up on recent events.
Carnivorous Kelp Bed Skill Challenge: 1250 xp
Pirate Ship Combat Encounter: 1,628
Rescuing Captain Harrethohl, Lyda, and one crewman: 100 xp
Consistent, Solid, In-character choices despite of meta-game knowledge: 100 xp
Saving the Coral Rose: 100 xp
Role-play with various NPC’s: 50 xp
Total xp: 3,228, divided by 3 PC’s, is 1,076 each. Cumulative individual total was at 8,102, so it should now be 9,178. Still 822 xp away from the next level.
Professor Jennish gave the group one half of a set of “Pouches of Shared Acquisition”