Skull & Shackles

Grindylows in the storm!

Calistril 3, 4712

Early in the morning, the ship’s bell rings in alarm. A storm has hit the Man’s Promise and all hands are needed on deck! Zalamesh is ordered to climb up into the crow’s nest to act as lookout in the storm, while Faiz is ordered to assist with the linework in the riggings. Theodric is ordered up into the upper riggings to work, while Hamish is ordered to work in the lower riggings. The work is hard, wet, and slippery. After hours of struggling with the sails, the men are relieved when the sky brightens for a moment, but then the storm redouble in intensity.

Theodric slips from the riggings and falls on his left arm, injuring it badly, and Hamish tumbles from one of the spars, breaking his left hand during the fall. Zalamesh calls out a warning, as the ship is suddenly amidst a bevy of reefs, and Faiz cries out in dismay as grindylows clamber aboard in the driving rain!

Grindylows are vicious ‘sea goblins’, with wide-mouthed, sharp toothed maws. Their upper halves are goblinish in appearance, but below the waist, they appear to be octopus-like, with wrigging, grasping tentacles in place of legs. Two of the grindylows advances on the prone Hamish, thrusting spears at him, while another menaces Faiz.

Theodric calls upon Besmara to heal his injured arm, then stands and moves to assist the injured Hamish. The half-orc has stood up to fight, but one of the grindylows trips him with its tentacles and the other stabs him in the stomach, grievously injuring him. Hamish kicks one of his assailants, and it retreats overboard. Zalamesh, from the crow’s nest, calls out that other grindylows seem to be crawling aboard, but it is hard for the crew to distinguish anyone on deck in the driving rain and wind.

Giffer and Faiz attack the grindylows, and Hamish punches one of them overboard. When Giffer is stabbed back by one of the little monsters, Faiz conjures up a shock shield to protect him, then moves to help Hamish. Kroop, who has come up from below, shouts out that the grindylows have dragged Rosie overboard. Theodric, Faiz, and Giffer stab at the grindylows around them as Zalamesh warns the others that the spirits are warning him of danger.

Theodric moves to the side of the ship for a better look, but sees a shiny object on the deck, which, as he moves closer to investigate, proves to be Sandara’s obsidian holy symbol. The Man’s Promise suddenly jolts to a halt as it slams into a reef. The pirates cling to the ropes and masts, though Mister Plugg and Faiz loose their footing. The few remaining grindylows dive overboard into the whitecaps as Samms calls out from below that there is a lot of water belowdecks.

Plugg orders some of the crew belowdecks, where they find out that the Man’s Promise has a hole in the hull, but her freshwater barrel has also been smashed by the grounding. The ship is taking on water slowly, but still too much for the bilges to clear.

As the storm abates, the crew can see that they have run aground on a reef in the clear waters surrounding a small island. A high rock tor is on the northeastern side of the island, with a long spine of rock running to the south and west. Between the tor and the ridge is a low, swampy area, and dense jungle grows along the ridge. The rock has been worn away by the sea, leaving few places to beach a boat on the island, though ruined mud huts stand between a muddy beach and the swamp. Many spars and curls of coral jut out of the water between the ship and the island, though the waters appear clear. There is no sign of Rosie or Sandara,

Kroop recognizes the island as Bonewrack Isle. He doesn’t know of anyone living on the island, but says that ships avoid it because of the shallow waters and dense reefs. Plugg orders some of the crew to begin dismantling part of the deck to mend the hull. He summons Zalamesh and the other men and orders them to take one of the ship’s boats to the island and secure barrels of fresh water. The ship has grounded at low tide, and it will take the better part of the day and night to fix it. When the ship is repaired, the crew will cast off on the next high tide, whether the boat is back or not.

The men get their supplies and cast off in the cutter. Though the muddy beach is closer, they are wary of the collapsed mud huts, which must surely be abandoned. Zalamesh and Hamish row the boat around the northern tip of the island. As the boat weaves through the coral, the men see creepy totems affixed to the tips of the reef. Scrimshawed bones, some human, some not, are tied together with bits of rope and seaweed to form ghoulish sentinels, undoubtedly the work of the grindylows.

Drawing around the far side of Bonewrack Isle, the men see a long expanse of white sand beach, dappled with tall coconut palms. Further south, the dense jungle takes over again, before a cleared patch of land, which seems to be overgrown with untended crops. The men decide to beach the boat on the white sand beach. As they pull it out of the water, some of them notice that there are shattered coconuts below the palms. This seems suspicious to Shango, as the sand would not crack the hard coconuts, and coconut crabs would tear apart the hulls, rather than shatter them. He approaches the palms warily with Theodric to tie off the boat.

They are startled when huge crabs begin to clamber down several of the palm trees. Though only waist high to the men, the crabs are as big as dinner tables, with huge, sharp claws. Theodric and Shango rain down blows on one of the crabs, stunning it, before Shango fells it with a hefty blow from his axe. Hamish draws his sword and rushes at a second crab as Faiz holds back to prepare his baton and cast a spell.

Theodric and Zalamesh hasten to reinforce Hamish, who has staggered one of the crabs with a stout swing of his sword, while Faiz summons a gout of flame which only singes it. Zalamesh again finishes off a stunned crab with his axe, but the third crab evades the men and snips open a nasty wound in Faiz’s side. Theodric stabs the crab with his cutlass and Hamish smashes the injured creature to death with his sword.

Theodric heals what he can of Faiz’s nasty wound, but the injury is too deep for his relatively simple healing spells. The men take stock of the situation. Some want to search for fresh water first, while others want to disobey Plugg and search for the missing crewmen, in hopes of finding them alive. It is decided to climb to the top of the island, which will let us easily see all around, in hopes of finding either, or both, or our goals. Rather than entering the swamps to the north in hopes of reaching the tor, the men decide to follow a faint trail that enters the jungles south of the beach. It may lead to the fallow fields, or somewhere else, but it is at least a clear sign that someone has been on the island previously.

After a sweaty trek through the jungle, the men enter a clearing. Though the thick trees and creepers have been cut down, the clearing is overgrown with corn, and it is difficult to see more than a few feet in any direction. They begin walking through the clearing, staying to the right, but stop short when they find a blackened, rotting head impaled on a high pole. It is buzzing with fat black flies, and when Shango moves forward to investigate it, the spirits around him warn him of danger.

Zalamesh retreats from the gruesome marker, and looks around for the source of danger. Instead, he spies a corpse nearby. The men approach it cautiously, and Shango moves up to examine it. The body lies in a twisted pose, with one leg curled underneath it, and it clutches a pouch in one skeletal hand. When he reaches for the pouch, the wendifa is overwhelmed by a moaning chorus of watchful spirits, and narrowly twists out of the way as an immense, insect-like monster emerges from the ground!

The strange monster has huge, sharp mandibles, as well as dull claws on each of its six legs. The mandibles are coated with some dark liquid, and Shango realizes that his wicker shield is sizzling where the corrosive saliva has contacted it. He stabs at the monster, but its carapace is very tough. Hamish rushes forward with a battle cry and chops at the beast, but it does not reel until Zalamesh smashes it in the face with his axe.

Theodric prepares to bless his companions as Faiz incants a spell to shock the monster. Hamish finally lands a solid blow on the creature, dealing it a great injury, and in response it vomits forth a gout of acid, burning his buckler, but not injuring him. Faiz’s spell fails to penetrate the tough armor of the creature, but a few more sword blows and a final axe swing from Zalamesh finally bring it down. Faiz recognizes it as an ankheg, an insectile predator more common to plains and fields than deserted islands.

Zalamesh lays claim to the pouch, finding it full of gold coins and three polished obsidian gems. The men search around the field of fallow corn, finding several more of the severed heads atop posts. Each pole seems to be mounted around the perimeter of the field, but there are also several other bodies within the cornfield. One has a rusty dagger, but the scabbard is ivory and encrusted with pearls, while another has a rotted belt with a buckle of gold. The rotten belt holds a small vial of liquid on a peg, and the fluid within seems to be magical.

Scouting around the clearing, the men find another path leading into the jungle. It seems to lead up the ridge, and crude steps have been hacked into the stone. Though the heat and climb are strenuous, the going is much easier than blundering through the dense jungle and steep ridge otherwise. The men arrive at the top of the ridge in early afternoon, tired and sweaty.

They follow the faded path along the ridgeline and it soons runs parallel to a narrow stream of water. The stream and path lead to a timber stockade surrounding a small wooden lodge. An immense tree stands in the stockade and low branches hang over the lodge and the stockade walls. The stream flows under the wall of the stockade, and the door appears to be open.

Inside, the lodge abuts the huge tree on the far side, and there appears to be a telescope mounted onto the far wall of the stockade. The stream emerges from a small, bubbling pool of water between the tree and the door to the stockade. Hamish moves towards the lodge to investigate, while Zalamesh kneels down beside the pool to see if it is magical. Faiz and Theodric stand on either side of the door, on guard, but no one senses anything awry!

Suddenly, two green, ape-like creatures sway down from the limbs overhead. Though each is not much larger than a halfling, their long arms stretch out farther than a monkey or ape. One whips his limbs around Theodric’s neck, seizing him in a tight grip, while the other twists his vinelike arms around Faiz’s head, wrenching his neck violently and cutting off his air!

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