Jumping at Shadows
The day begins on Crispin Bay in newly acquired distillery. The crew is busy getting the fresh teams of workers in place and ready for their first day. Casia tagged along to see the operation and did her part by preparing a barebones breakfast of biscuits, eggs, slices of Minga Melon , and a cask of cider from the coastal villages.
Figwit spent some time speaking with the giant frog that lives in the nearby pond, doing his best to get it to agree not to swallow any of the workers. Mr. Dodd did his best to review the new staff and find someone competent to oversee the brewing operations (though sadly he only rolled a ten on insight to figure out who would be best to take up the task). He settled on Anastasia De Bolbec, the Saucier at Baron Falco Servanti's estate. She seemed very confident that she could handle this, expressing that it didn't seem much different from some of the pickling recipes she'd worked on.
Up to Speed
During the breakfast Figwit takes the time to catch both Fuckpile and Patches up on what they'd missed recently (Patches was at the brewery the last few days working on the boiler and mastering the art of building one should the need arise). The last time they were all together they'd watched the Baron topple into a volcano and the titan-beast Cinderwing crush Count Fenring under it's claw before taking off to burn down the Servanti Manor. They returned to Far Harbor after that where they learned of two very important things. One, that refugees from the Baron's estate were in desperate need of rescuing. Two, one of the region's most important holidays was about to being... the Dead Man's Jubilee. Coryn manages to plot a course that will allow them to get to the refugees and back to Far Harbor without missing more than a few days of the celebration. The Paradise Lost makes record time and reaches Falco's island only to find the entire thing a raging inferno and Cinderwing having made a new nest out of the manor itself. They quickly rescue everyone they can and manage to grab a few things from the Baron's collection before escaping with their lives.
Figwit then goes on to explain that the rest of the time was spent partaking in the Jubilee. Casia was able to get them invitations to the party held by the Pirate Lords thanks to a client that approached her. His name was Shark Skin Aloeis, a rather old and run-down criminal who used to be an top competitor in arm wrestling contests around the island; however, he participated in the last Jubilee held by the Pirate Lords and lost his arm in the Crimson Torque competition to Trevor "Spider-Bite" Penrod who cheated to win. Shark Skin got them in the invitation (because they are the famed Heroes of Crispin Bay, after all) with the hopes that they'd make sure Spider-Bite lost his arm this time.
Figwit, John Dodd, and Fuckpile all won big in their events and reaped a hefty sum of gold for their efforts. They were invited to an afterparty for the winners and for the Pirate Lords where they put some of their winnings to use buying private pieces owned by the Emerald Lady. Its there that Kasim makes peace with the Rushov's (and where Zhalyssa asks for permission to eat them all, which he more or less gives). They ask Kazim to join them on a mission to guard an expedition team on their jungle excursion as a sign of good faith. It's also here that Potato reveals to Figwit that she's snuck in here to steal some of the Frostmerite Mead that's being served. She thinks that it shouldn't be in the hands of pirates and Figwit agrees to help her out with that. The rest of the crew learn about the final event of the Jubilee, which takes place tomorrow morning, from the hostess of the event... The Infernal Staircase. After a long talk they decide that a shot at the 15,000 gold pieces and the mystery chest are worth the risk.
Patches is incredibly interested in the permanent whirlpool and tries to force the recap along faster to hear about it. They explain to Patches the rules of the event - 1) Whoever makes it the deepest into the whirlpool and returns alive is the winner of the main event. 2) ships are not permitted to fire upon eachother or board each others vessels. 3) If anyone can reach the actual bottom of the whirlpool and retrieve the ship's bell from Captain Whistler's wreck they earn the mystery chest. The Crew of the Paradise Lost manage to win the event and reach the deepest rung of the whirlpool, beating out the other three participants, and thanks to Figwit taking the risk to lead into the bottom of the anomaly they retrieve the bell as well (managing to escape the whirlpool by four points higher than they needed on their combined skill roll!).
The Job at Hand
Kazim head's back to Far Harbor to secure gear for the jungle expedition while the others take the ship to the current location of the expedition team to pick them up. An Island known as Battleaxe Bay. Figwit knows it to be a mostly empty parcel of rocky land a day or so north of Crispin Bay. He also can tell a dangerous storm is moving in and they're going to have limited time to get this team and get out before it hits. They're able to plot a swift enough course and guess they're twelve hours ahead of the brewing hurricane. As they get within a mile of the island they spot a makeshift raft with a single unconscious passenger. Fuckpile fishes the victim out with boathook and realizes it's a young woman and very ill. Her skin is pale, her veins blackish, and when he tests her blood it too is a grim dark ichor. He takes her below to his lab (while briefly having a conversation with Bess about the difference between "sick" and "sssiiiccckkk") to see what else he can learn. Topside, Figwit is able to identify the area around the island is very rocky and dangerous to the boat's underbelly, forcing them to take to shore on rowboats.
The woman Fuckpile brought onboard is too delirious to be helpful and his studies only reveal that her affliction is both magical and getting worse. He joins the crew as they make their landing on Battleaxe Bay's desolate beach. They're treated to a rocky landscape knotted with bitter, tangled, clumps of vegetation as well as thorny bramble bushes that snag at them as they make their way. In all, a very inhospitable. Yet, they quickly identify a path leading from the beach toward inland and deduce it to be a well traveled one that must have been made by the expedition team. However; they quickly realize they're not alone on this trail, something is rummaging around in the brush nearby. Before they can investigate closely something emerge opposite the noise in the tangle, a trio of shrieking shadowy entities that rush toward the crew with fiendish vigor. Perched upon one of the larger pieces of bramble is another being, this one dark as pitch but more solid and far more monstrous.
They beat back these awful creatures but not before losing a great deal of their own strength to them, especially Patches and Figwit. Fuckpile defuses the threat of the master shadow (who identifies himself as the demon Barabus) by using one of his new alchemical infusions and shrinking the beast down to the size of house cat. Now holding the adorable little demon like a pet, Fuckpile proceeds to question the helpless beast and learns that it was hunting someone through the brush and is also eager to learn of the ship the crew came here on. It seems Barabus and these shadows are trapped on Battleaxe Bay. As the infusion runs it's course the demon leaves them rather than fight alone. Once free of combat the crew investigates the noise in the bramble and discovers another young student, Fira Maseline, who seems to be carrying the same illness that the victim on the Paradise Lost also has but not direly progressed. Fira says that she's one of the students on the expedition team and that they're all with the university of Ghal Pelor. She explains that this illness has been running rampant for the last four days or so but she's not able to get much further in her revelations before Fuckpile cuts her off.
The normally morose construct seemed to temporarily have his fill of living things getting themselves into foolish predicaments and starts asking what tomb they opened, what strange forbidden object they touched that shouldn't have been touched, or what grime discovery they hauled up from the depths of whatever lost temple they've been studying that caused all this. Fira is a bit taken back but then goes on to say that they have in fact recently opened a new section of a hidden Scaly Folk stepped pyramid where they discovered a cache of ancient relics amid a cluster of skeletons that seem part of prehistoric mass suicide. If Fuckpile could have sighed they would have. Fira leads the mechanical doctor to their camp, trying to catch them up on who's who and what's what. Patches, Figwit, and Mr. Dodd start to understand the difference between "sick" and "sssiiiccckk" like Bess like was trying to politely push earlier and keep their distance incase this illness is contagious.
Fuckpile learns from Fira that the expedition is mostly students under the care of a small handful of professors from the History Department of the university and that professor Malkyn Ganes is the one in charge, though she is deathly ill from the sickness as are about a third of the students and all the other instructors. She also explains that in addition to the professors one of the university board members is here too, a Halfling by the name of Clavis Fortwind, someone who oversees the artifact collection of the university and who happens to control the budget for this expedition as well. He too is ill. Once at the camp Fuckpile announces them self and that they are a doctor which immediately causes a stampede of those already ill and those desperate for some kind of inoculation. Through the commotion a rather battle-harden woman with a gnomish clockwork prosthetic arm steps forward to declare that she's the defacto one in charge right now, Seraphina Collier, and that she's the head of the security team trying to keep these students and staff safe. She has a team of three other people, none of whom are ill. She and her team are happy to be at the doctor's disposal and to not have to been charge of all these panicking college kids.
As the others slowly get more comfortable coming into camp Fuckpile begins his epidemiological investigation. Seraphina is able to present enough information that seems to suggest that anyone who went into the new chamber or handled the artifacts brought out were the ones infected. Conversations with the Gnomish equipment engineer Athalos Kittilerclade were also fruitful. The gnome, barely a year or two more mature than the students here, is an expert in blasting equipment and maintaining the digging gear. He was able to explain the equipment uses, who were some of the first people in the chamber, and what some of the first artifacts to be brought out were. Meanwhile, Figwit uses his arcane senses to probe the area and the artifacts all of which reinforces his gut feeling... necromancy and infernal magic are steep heavily in this blight island. With both the data and the magical confirmation in hand they decide to head to the temple to deal with the source of this curse directly.
Break my Chains
Fira and Seraphina lead them from the camp to the temple as the hurricane speeds toward the island. They're assailed by rain and unquiet skies from above as they finally step into the shadow of this massive stepped structure. Time has taken its toll on the exterior, having scoured away most of the runes and detail, leaving the barest of bones behind. However, the steps leading up to the top and the archway leading into the temple depths are both intact. Fira says its the door to below that the new chamber was found. Inside, Fuckpile's eyebeams illuminate an area scarred by Athalos' blasting powders but they also show legible runes on the walls along with magical inscriptions. The far wall is the one torn asunder by the gnome's explosion and inside this dark chasm is a circular room filled with more runic inscription on the walls, a large stone font in the center, and at least half a dozen sets of skeletal remains all belonging to reptilian beings. Each with a silver dagger in their ribs, the instrument of their communal suicide. Fuckpile can tell that the bones of these creatures show the withering scars of the same disease that is now afflicting Fira and the others. Figwit's attention is drawn to the font which is filled to the brim with a churning black ichor.
Figwit and Fuckpile try returning some of the recovered relics to their resting place, including some of the ritual silver daggers taken from the bones, and waiting to see if that has some effect on the curse. Instead, Patches and Dodd ready themselves as shadows begin slithering from the dark and slowly drifting closer toward the living (minus Fuckpile, obviously). Patches and Figwit continue to lose more of their strength to these creatures while Mr. Dodd is able to use the flaming sword he bought days earlier to keep them at bay. Soon, the filth in the basin starts to flow forward and take shape. Vaguely humanoid but with long set of horns jutting from the dripping head. Dozens of arms reach forth from the back, lengthening, scrambling over each other, knotting together into a twisted version of wings that slowly flap in the dead air. It announces its name as Namatar, the Nightmare Shepherd, before attacking as well. If not for Figwit realizing the radiance of his Moonbeam spells causes them extreme harm the crew would have quickly been overrun. However; despite the purifying power of the Moonbeam things are becoming increasingly grim. Fira is gripped by the shadows and her infection accelerated. Patches is gripped by Namatar and immediately her flesh blackens and she falls unconscious. Fuckpile can seen that Patches is dying, the infection quickly converting her into one of the shadows. As they carries her to safety some of her bones and tissue slip through the shadowy mass that's replacing her body and clatter on the floor. Fira, who already had been suffering from the sickness, evaporates completely into a shadow, leaving only a pile of wet bones and organs behind.
By the time Fuckpile returns Figwit has collapsed as well. The doctor prepares to make a deal with the demon, as it wants to leave the temple and the basin that it has been magically chained to all these years. It wants them to take it to a new place, a place with people. And if they do, Namatar will spare Patches and the others. Dodd says the prize isn't worth the cost in lives and continues to fight. Fuckpile prepares to accept though when they see Figwit struggling to remain awake and trying to charge a final Moonbeam. Rather than accept, Fuckpile shoots a healing dart into Figwit, giving him the strength he needs to unleash a final column of purification. Namatar screeches and screams, recoiling from the light, before Figwit tosses a final gout of flame into the demon's face.
With Namatar gone the shadow wasting begins to break on those infected. While the scars of its impact will be long lasting for many, Patches included, all of the expedition (except Fira), will be able to carry on to their next dig site.
Expedition rescued and able to continue on with their planned dig. Meaning the crew will also be able to continue getting paid for this job
Namatar defeated. The Shadow Wasting is broken.
Character(s) interacted with
Fira, Athelos, Seraphina, Namatar, Barabus