Secrets of the Sands

Sixth Session
Getting to Know Kri

- We head to Kri try to find more of the mysterious black rock from the mage’s lab (the rock the runes were carved into). It is shiny, hard, and brittle.
- Tehlmar doesn’t know exactly what we’ll find, but he’s hoping for a quarry or something along those lines.
- Nhobu gives Kane a doll pierced with needles, in hopes to make her feel better about the loss of contact with her patron.
- We know that the Kri people barter for things and Tehlmar gives the party a small lockbox full of gems just in case. Nhobu offers to carry it, the rest of the party says no.
- Nhobu is given a bag of holding, to their utmost delight, and immediately climbs entirely inside it. They emerge as, surprise! A bear! No one is amused :(
- The Kri town is in the jungle and surrounded by thick stone walls, but no masonry was involved. It is a single, seamless wall of rock.
- When Nhobu sets foot on the island, they experience a “druidgasm,” for the energy of the forest is incredibly full of life. They try to book it toward the woods, but Faylen catches them and Nhobu rides on her shoulders as they enter the market.
- With the use of Druidcraft, Nhobu predicts that the weather should be clear for the next day and a half or so, but there are days of rain coming after. Faylen does not appreciate the small rainstorm falling on her head.
- From their vantage point, Nhobu sees EVERYTHING. Most people are trading foodstuffs, locally-made jewelry…there’s not as much weapon trade, though all Kri are armed. Warriors tend to look down on the merchants. The Kri seem to be forgiving of outsiders; they don’t expect people to know their ways. 90% of the people have body paint or tattoos of some kind. The Kri people are minotaurs, about 7ft tall. Nhobu quickly decides that they’re glad to be on Faylen’s shoulders, unable to be stepped on.
- Though she is masked and hooded, people still give Kane a wide berth.
- The guards don’t seem to care about anyone except Kri from other clans. They’ll question people headed toward the residential area, but they don’t care if you’re headed into the jungle.
- Magic items are not being bought or sold.
- Nhobu asks a shopkeeper about how to make antitoxin that would work against common jungle animals, and he’s happy to tell them all about the ingredients needed. Doesn’t have anything that could make more mana potions.
- When asked about the black rock, he says he knows nothing and tries to edge us out of his shop. But because Nhobu SEES ALL, they can tell that he isn’t telling the truth.
- As night begins to fall, lanterns around the marketplace begin to turn on by themselves. Saidi is intrigued, for she’s seen similar things where she’s from, but these are not controlled by arcane means, nor do they contain lighting bugs.
- Nhobu is interested, and tugs on the horn of a passing Kri to ask about them. Thankfully, he perceives Nhobu as a child and is not insulted. He says that the Kri “have their ways,” that they can “harness elementals.” Nhobu is VERY interested and asks how they could learn to do the same. The Kri man points us to a building in the center of town, where we could speak with the elders.

- The party opts to return to the ship for the night, but Nhobu wakes everyone up the next morning at the crack of dawn with a masterful flute solo. Kane paps their head to shut them off.
- On the way back into town, Nhobu can feels like they’re being watched. Because they can SEE EVERYTHING, they know someone is in the tree above the party. However, we decide not to confront whomever it is (though Nhobu kinda really wants to). The presence stays on the edge of the forest and does not follow the party into the market.
- Saidi casts a spell to try to find more black rock. She detects several instances (or one moving around) and with Nhobu’s expert survival guidance, is pointed toward the elders’ building (?)
- Nhobu tries to talk the guards into letting us in, doesn’t do so hot. But once they make a flower bud bloom before the guards’ eyes, they decide we can enter.
- This building is the largest and prettiest we’ve seen, also seamlessly made. The rest of the buildings were made of large bricks, seemingly too large to move without much effort.
- Two guards escort us in. The large chamber echoes. There is a huge glass dome, which we would think to be impossible to construct without magic.
- Kane feels a presence, but is angry about it.
- There are older Kri people there, and one calls attention to our arrival. “We have guests,” she says. Nhobu waves, Faylen and Saidi bow/nod, Kane stands stiffly, Krom watches Kane.
- The island we are on is called Rau, and this minotaur woman’s name is Moana.
- She kneels down to talk to Nhobu (Nhobu is delighted), asks where they’re from. She knew the druids in Nhobu’s forest and is saddened to hear that they’re no longer alive/there.
- She approves that Krom is with Nhobu.
- Kane alarms and worries her. She asks what has happened to Kane, says that there is a hole in her. Nen took her connection to her patron.
- We tell her what happened under the water.
- She says that Nen was put there with purpose. The Sun Empire broke a pact with Kri. They wanted to corrupt and subvert the power of the islands, but their purpose was unclear.
- Moana says she will set us up with a storyteller to explain to us the basics of how Kri culture and society work. Then we will each face a trial relating to the element that most resonates with us. If we pass, they will teach us their elemental secrets of magic.
- Behind her on the wall, Nhobu notices spears (?) whose points are made from the black rock we seek. We (the players) have identified is as obsidian.

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Bushwhacking (Part 1)
Fifth Session

Written in orcish, in thieves cant, disguised with illusory script, with a very simple cipher

Lysander –

Please, please, please, for the sake of my dignity, pretend that these letters are coming to you in chronological order, over a span of weeks, rather than in a single parcel. I’m sure you’ve been waiting to hear from me and wondering what happened, but my options for communicating with you have been limited; postal service isn’t exactly reliable when you’re stuck on a ship in the middle of the ocean. Believe me, if I could have reached you sooner, I would have – and, clearly, I tried – though perhaps it’s for the best that you’re hearing from me now that things have settled somewhat rather than in the panicked confusion of the moment.

Letter writing has become something of a solace for me, moreso even than in the past. I get along with my fellow crewmembers just fine, but our magical bindings make me reluctant to speak my mind aloud, even among those who are both literally and figuratively in the same boat as me. Though I am less confined here, and my accommodations are certainly more comfortable, I feel more like a prisoner here than I ever did on the Barge – constantly watched, and without the same hope of escape. More than literal restraints, the threatening overtures Tehlmar has made in your general direction bind me to his service – a fact he knows too well, and that I know I’ve failed utterly to downplay. Despite the coercion, I can’t deny that the work he has me doing is fascinating. You won’t believe this, not until you magic it out of me, but already his research has brought me face to face with the spirit of Nen. Yes, that Nen, the elemental patron of our sea.

Andrathath – the mage whose research we’re seeking to recreate – managed to place some sort of binding on the elemental and, it seems, used it as a power source for his massive research facility. I wish I’d had more time to explore the complex before it was destroyed, but I haven’t had time to dwell on the loss; Tehlmar has had me working day and night to decode what research I managed to recover. The earliest entries are guiding us to the islands of Kri, where Andrathath’s research began, and as much as I dislike Tehlmar – and as much as he knows it – I can’t entirely suppress my own curiosity. I’m uneasy about where this path may lead us, and moreso because Tehlmar resolutely refuses to disclose more information about his goals than is absolutely necessary, but as I said, he’s done a superb job of tying my hands and forcing me to heel.

Not that that’s ever stopped me before, of course. For now, at least, I’m content to have a way to send these letters. It’s been many years since I last set foot on Kri, and I suspect this time we’ll be venturing much further inland than the costal marketplace. I look forward to bugs the size of my fist, ankle deep mud, and a solid week of swamp ass. Gods, but I would kill to be home. Adventure awaits &etc, but what I wouldn’t give for a bottle of wine, a wheel of good cheese, and a cool ocean breeze. When the work is done, I suppose.

By the way, you owe me 10 gold pieces. I was right, mermaids are real, though after meeting more than a few of them up close and personal, I will conceded that I do not, in fact, have any desire to bed one. I am owed a boon by there people now, though, for saving some of their kin and clearing the area of corruption, so if you’d rather not take my word for it and have an urge to find out for yourself, I suppose we’ll have to make the voyage back here together once I find my way home. Hopefully sooner than later.

With all my love,

Faylen

P.S. Apologies for any difficulty in decoding this letter. Though I suppose I haven’t said anything incriminating, I dislike the notion of my letters being read by unintended eyes, and secrecy is fast becoming a habit. Besides, you could use the practice. Your orcish is still shit. xo

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Journal Entries from Andrathath's Journal
First set of entries that were decoded

Journal Entry #1

Kri. Some have called these islands a mystery while others claim it to be a paradise. I shall soon see for myself, as the Emperor has sanctioned my research. Explorers claim that the island is strong with magical energies. It could be that the place is a nexus of ley lines… or something more significant. I need to understand that energy though, as it could be a great asset in strengthening our kingdom.

Journal Entry #2

I will admit, Kri is nothing like what I expected. The waters around the islands are filled with jagged reefs, deadly to those who attempt to get near. Clouds cling to the mountains that rise up from the islands, obscuring the peaks from sight. The islands themselves are covered in jungles, nothing like the great forest of Sadira. There, it was comfortable to stroll beneath the trees and feel a cool breeze. Kri is filled with life, it almost radiates with it. Its jungles seem to swallow you as you travel through them, the fauna and undergrowth too thick to casually walk though.

What has surprised me most are the Kri though. I had never seen their kind before and they are… impressive. Many of them reach 7 feet tall and most of them seem to be trained as warriors. What is more though, is that they seem to have a link to the elements that I have not seen anywhere else. We are masters of the Arcane and I have dedicated my life to expanding our knowledge and power with it. These Kri use their elemental gifts in a way that I could only dream of for the Empire. Many of their buildings aren’t constructed, but instead seem to have been called forth from the ground. They use the elements as part of their daily lives, from calling forth fire to light up the night to drawing water. But one thing is apparent to me, they are not from this island. They don’t seem to have spread out to each of the islands yet and their culture seems to have adapted to this place, not developed from it. It is just one more mystery that I’ll attempt to uncover while I am here.

Journal Entry #3

I attempted to get more out of the Kri elders about how they use this elemental magic of theirs. They rebuffed my offer to teach them the arcane knowledge of our people, some of them even seemed offended as I demonstrated and explained the basics of our arcane practices. Eventually I was able to get them to agree to teach me how they draw upon the elemental forces here, but they demanded that I prove myself first.

I’m not sure what tests they plan to put before me, but I don’t feel worried. I am Andrathath, Archmage of Solerael, Battle Enchanter of the Imperium and Advisor to the Emperor himself. I feel as if I am on the cusp of something and I refuse to be held back from that knowledge. Kri may be too far away to be part of the Empire itself, but the Imperium will never be denied.

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Fifth Session
Getting Out

- Nhobu provides Perception guidance to Faylen, who doesn’t sense anything outside the mage’s living quarters.
- Nhobu creeps out into the hall and immediately drops a pot. Thankfully no one is around.
- Halls to the south, east, and west. Head south following Saidi’s finding spell.
- We find a few smaller living chambers and a storage room. In one crate, we find 10 kinds of metallic dust in bottles, Nhobu takes one filled with gold dust. Also find some potions that potentially have something to do with magic, but they don’t look usable. Find slabs of stone, like unused plaques.
- Find a workshop with half-finished rune stones (6×6inch). Majority are the same rune. Faylen takes a sampling.
- Door at the end of the hall opens onto ledge overlooking a three story chasm. There’s a big building-like structure in the center, with another ledge we could potentially get onto.
- While we’re debating how to get across, Krom gets fed up and just jumps (successfully).
- Nhobu turns into a giant frog and jumps across with a rope in their mouth, Krom catches them.
- Faylen sloth-crawls across the rope, as does Saidi (who dreamed of her success). Kane yells at the rope, ties it around herself, and swings across.
- There are four doors into the mid structure. Inside, we go down some stairs and find a circle of runes. Some are cracked in half, which bodes ill.
- Figure it’s some kind of containment circle. Water starts coming into the room, suddenly Kane can’t move as the water swirls around her legs.
- Krom tosses her the rope, tries to pull her out, but the water only tightens its grip.
- Saidi casts dispel magic, the water releases Kane and the force of Krom’s pulling yanks her across the room onto her face
- The water rushes up the walls, we decide to run for it. Krom grabs Kane, and Nhobu jumps on his back. He heads toward the door, slowed by the water which is actively trying to inconvenience him.
- Outside, on the ledge, we see a floating block of water in the chasm. A wave of water, seeming to target Krom specifically, knocks him over.
- Krom gets up, the water wells up on either side of the ledge. He shoves us back into the room and blocks the door.

- Four water elementals show up, one at each of the four doors.
- Krom yells at his, trying to intimidate it, but is unsuccessful.
- One of the elementals charges Kane, but she dodges it. It regroups across the room.
- Nhobu is unable to doge the elemental that comes at them, and it pushes them across the room and into a wall. Starts crawling up Nhobu’s body and trying to get into their mouth/nose. Nhobu is NOT ABOUT THAT.
- Faylen is between the last elemental and Kane, so it knocks her over, then turns away from her.
- Nhobu attempts to spray the elemental with poison, but it’s too hardy to be effected. Nhobu turns into a bear.
- Saidi throws a fireball at the elemental on Nhobu.
- Kane does some necrotic damage
- Krom hears the sound of the ocean in his head, takes damage. “These ones must be purged.” The water tries to push past him but fails.
- Krom slices at the water, cuts it into two water.
- Elemental shoves Kane into the wall, tries to crawl into her mouth too.
- Bear fends off the water as it tries to get inside them again.
- Two of the elementals combine into a bigger elemental.
- Faylen tries to attack the elemental on Kane, misses.
- Bear breaks free of the water, slashes at it uselessly, runs away.
- Saidi tries to throw a firebolt, misses
- Kane does more necrotic damage, injects something dark into the elemental. The water starts going at her harder.
- Krom still manages to keep the water at bay. Hears “corruption cannot be allowed to spread.” Doesn’t know what that means.
- Krom…hugs? the water elemental (fails to grapple it but jumps on top).
- Kane’s head is engulfed by water, can’t get inside her yet
- The large elemental with Krom on its back shoves the bear, but the bear pushes it off.
- Faylen uses booming blade on Kane’s head.
- Bear tries to grapple the water with Krom, fails and gets stuck
- Saidi studies the elementals, remembers that they’re usually all about purifying and healing, and casts hypnotic lights on her party.
- It only works on Kane and the water overtakes her. The voices in her head are silenced and she is knocked unconscious
- Elementals form into one giant elemental, with Krom on its back.
- Krom tries to turn its head away from Nhobu, fails.
- Nhobu decides to stop fighting the water. It rushes into the bear and “cleanses” them. Nhobu is knocked unconscious and turns back into a gnome.
- Krom takes more mental damage as his head vibrates with the oceanic voice. It tells him that 1) It is done, and 2) It wants to be freed from this place
- Krom asks to be put down, the elemental drops him
- Faylen asks it who/what it is, takes damage
- Its name is Nen. Faylen remembers that her home sea used to be called the Sea of Nen before the Sun Empire renamed it
- Nen wants us to destroy the runes keeping it here, to free it. It was not the mage who trapped it. “The Creators brought me here.”
- The mage was foolish enough to try to draw power from Nen so Nen “brought ruin to the city.”
- Nhobu is woken up, overjoyed to no longer hear voices, hugs Nen.
- We take a day and destroy the runes. When we do, the ceiling blows out and the ocean crashes in.
- The merfolk, Mug, and Mazoga are in the water outside. Krom and Mug glare at each other (“Hey Mug, you douche.” “Oh, you didn’t die”)
- We have earned a boon from the mer princess
- We head back up to the ship. Faylen is very reluctant to hand over the findings without more information, but our employer is an asshat who refuses to give her any.

- We head toward the Islands of Kri next.
- Saidi and Faylen work to decipher the findings
- Kane tries desperately to reconnect with her patron, feels emptiness
- Krom helps with the ship, does push-ups, glares at Mug
- Nhobu makes some rad health potions and experiments to make some shitty mana potions

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Submerged (Part 3)
Fourth Session

On a sheet of parchment scavenged from the workshop:

Lysander –

You owe me 10 gold pieces. I was right: mermaids are real. Though I have to admit, after meeting one up close, I don’t

On a fresh sheet of parchment:

Silas –

You won’t believe

On a fresh sheet of parchment:

My dearest Silas,

I miss you, more than words can say. I don’t know if or when this letter will reach you, or even yet if it’s truly for you at all. I am, quite literally, in a deep dark hole miles underwater. The weight of it – on my shoulders, above my head – is a phantom, I know, but I feel it acutely. I could not guess the hour, and mark the passage of time by the slow death of my candle and the sound of my companions breathing. Like old times, they are asleep while I sit awake, pouring over forgotten texts. It is one of Those Nights, when the world feels small and empty, time slow yet achingly short. Everything is vaguely unreal, and in the back of my mind I think that at any moment I might wake by your side, if only I knew how to sleep.

Instead I’m stuck in a forgotten room that smells of age and stale air – the private laboratory of a long-dead sun elf mage, complete with lifetimes worth of his research. Everything else is dust – wine turned to vinegar in the bottles (yes, I was feeling morose enough to check), reagents on his workbench moldered to useless powder. But the research itself, what little of it I understand, is fascinating and terrifying. It concerns elementals, primarily, and means of controlling them. The particulars of his methodology are lost on me, but I have experienced the fruits of his labors first hand. You remember that temple with the sand trap? This mage, Andrathath, found a way to reproduce the results by controlling water elementals, and improved on the design. Rather than leaving a flooded room behind once the trap is triggered, the whole rig can be drained and reset, evidently indefinitely, and when operated properly, it serves as a secret entrance to the very workshop I find myself in now.

I’m torn between frantic curiosity – wanting to spend as long as it takes picking apart his research until I understand it – and feeling that the whole of it is better left forgotten. When I came across the first mentions of the djinn and the Elemental Planes, it was only a tenuous sense of self preservation that kept me from flinging every scrap of paper into the water and shredding it to nothing. I would not let any eyes but my own see these documents if I could, not without fully understanding them, but this is a master’s lab, and I would have hardly been fit to be Andrathath’s apprentice. My lack of understanding is only exacerbated by the massive gulfs of time and language between us; without context, without more information, there is little hope that I’ll ever truly make sense of any of it. I know Tehlmar will have the resources I need, but with the documents in hand, I doubt he would have any further use for me. I am wary of his intentions, and of what he seeks to accomplish with the research. Even if he allowed me access to his own records, to assist him in recreating Andrathath’s breakthroughs, I would not be in a position to prevent him from using the knowledge to whatever ends he intends.

And yet, I’m not certain I have a choice in the matter. The neat stack of papers at my elbow is the foundation of our bargain; my freedom – not to mention the freedom of my companions – hinges upon it being returned to him. If I return empty handed, I’ll be sent out again and again to renew the search. If I confessed to destroying the documents, I’m not certain I would survive the exchange. It seems the right thing to do – not less because I have reason to believe the agents of an eldritch god are also seeking Andrathath’s research, and may already possess some potion of it – but I’m not certain that I’m capable of being quite that good, or heroic. I have spent hours telling myself that there must be another way, that no matter how smart the man, he is not immune to being outsmarted. But I have yet to formulate a brilliant plan, or even a mediocre one. My path would be clearer if only I knew the full extent of what Andrathath had discovered – if his research really did lead to the destruction of this fallen city, or if time and the retelling have made more of it than it is. I know that the knowledge is dangerous, but the full extent of what it might make possible is beyond me.

Perhaps it is best I don’t truly understand. Given what Tehlmar knows of me, I do not doubt that he would suspect me of ferreting away Andrathath’s research to keep it from him, and the gold cuff on my wrist is reason enough to believe he would know it if I had a mind to try. At least by not knowing, if I do destroy the documents, he won’t be able to recover their secrets from my mind.

It’s such a human notion, falling on one’s sword. Snuffing out an already quick-burning candle. By elven standards, I am still a child. By human ones, an old woman who has lived a full and happy life. I suppose the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but it gives me little comfort. I am at a loss. Adrift. I think that you would be brave enough to do this thing in my place, and smart enough not to need to, but that knowledge only makes me feel your absence more keenly. Perhaps most upsetting is that, even after all these years, I’m not entirely certain what you would have me do, were you here to advise me. I wish you were. I wish I could ask. I wish I had left that damn dwarf to drown, and his ring to rot beneath the waves.

If this is the last message of mine that reaches you, I’m so sorry. If it never does, I hope that you know how much I love you.

Forever yours,

Faylen

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Fourth Session
Puzzle Room

- We run from where we killed the naga queen, hear a commotion behind us as other naga swarm in
- Find a stone door that opens into a stone room. Krom closes the door behind us, braces himself against it.
- Two capstans in the room, one on either side, with four wooden arms each
- Twenty-three gargoyles line balcony above us. Later we see runes that indicate they are bound water elementals.
- Faylen tries to turn one of the capstans, breaks it. Nhobu mends it and casts enhance ability on Saidi.
- Saidi manages to turn the capstan 1/4 of the way round, it clicks into place
- Water starts pouring into the room from the gargoyles
- Apparently it feels like 100 anxious people are in Nhobu’s head, but the feeling lessened when the door closed.
- Kane turns the capstan on the other side, water doubles
- Saidi and Kane turn them in sync, water increases to 4×.
- Balcony is 8ft up, ceiling 3ft higher than that
- The stones in the center of the room are different than the rest of the floor, no mortar connects them. Faylen happens to have a crowbar, but we can’t get them to budge. They seem to be connected magically to the capstans.
- Figure out that the door is sealed, Krom moves away and tries to turn capstan in the “wrong” direction. Fails.
- Krom helps Nhobu into the balcony.
- Water is starting to get hot.
- Turn one of the capstans again (3/4 way round). Water increases (knocking several people over) and poisonous snakes drop into the room.
- Nhobu freezes some of them. Faylen examines the stones under the water.
- Other capstan is turned (3/4) and more water and more snakes flow in.
- People in the water start taking heat damage. Faylen and Saidi are poisoned.
- Nhobu tries to talk to the snakes, convince them to stop fighting, only manages to convince two of them.
- Capstan is turned one more time (4/4) and the water stops on that side of the room. Other is turned shortly after. Water stops and the stones in the middle give way to form a drain, just as the door opens to let the naga in.
- Everyone jumps in before the naga can see or follow us. Nhobu is last, jumps onto Krom’s head.
- Ride the drain down into a pool in a dark chamber. Heal ourselves a bit, then examine the room.
- Find a desk, with a book that is writing down what we say. Faylen examines it. Also find a bed, wine, a work table, and a bigger conference-style table. Everything is extremely old and dusty.
- Figure out that this is the lab of the mage we were trying to find. He’d be doing experiments with binding water elementals. The puzzle we just went through was a test?
- The room seems safe, so we decide to take a long rest. Nhobu brews antitoxin and a few more potions, not very well. Runs out of ingredients. Shares rations with everyone. Kane sleeps under the conference table. Krom calls the big bed. Faylen mediates and examines the book.

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Submerged (Part 2)
(Third Session)

Mental note, while running very, very fast:

I changed my mind. I don’t want to fuck a mermaid.

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Third Session
In the Darkness

- We climb up into an underwater cave. There are purple mushrooms with green glowing spots and Nhobu takes a sample.
- The terrified screams of merfolk echoes around us.
- Nhobu casts Pass Without Trace
- Abruptly, the screaming cuts off and we fear for the worst.
- The presence that Kane has been feeling, which before was like a gentle beckoning in the distance, is now incredibly strong. Seems to indicate that we are in the home/lair of whatever creature/thing is the source.

- Krom leads the way into a cavern, where we find four naga (one a female spellcaster) and three incapacitated merfolk.
- Saidi casts Hypnotic Pattern, charming three of the four naga.
- Krom has a rule about taking out the spellcaster first (and apparently hasn’t attacked us yet because he can’t decide which one is the most threatening). He hits the female naga, snapping her out of her dazed state.
- She summons a huge wave of water that knocks most of the group prone.
- A fifth naga appears from behind us.
- He spears Faylen with a harpoon, tries to drag her toward him. She grabs onto Kane (much to Kane’s disgust) and manages to stay put.
- Apparently, Kane read Faylen’s diary (didn’t know it was wrong?). “She called me creepy.”
- The unhypnotized Naga goes to bite Krom, saying that he will make a good sacrifice for their goddess. Kane says she has dibs.
- Krom flexes the naga’s teeth away and laughs. Kane laughs too. Nhobu is disconcerted.
- The spellcasting naga summons some vines that ensnares Faylen and Kane. Faylen manages to cut herself free and Kane rips them off of her.
- After a good thomping, the fifth naga tries to flee, but is smited by Faylen’s thunder.
- Nhobu sprays poison at the naga attacking Krom. Tries to dart away, but the naga spears them with a harpoon and drags them back.
- Krom cuts down one of the naga, Saidi torches the other one? Krom goes after the spellcaster, who had tried to flee.
- Spellcaster summons a giant water bubble to attack Kane and Faylen.
- Nhobu turns into a bear, crunches the spellcaster. The corrupted flesh makes them start hearing whispers in their head (and it all goes downhill from there).
- Krom cuts down the spellcaster. Nhobu throws up in the corner.

- Try to figure out what’s wrong with the merfolk, but the voices are really messing Nhobu up and they can’t tell what’s wrong. The magic users can’t identify any foul magics.
- We go to interrogate the up-until-now charmed naga.
- Nhobu is Very Concerned about the voices, especially when the naga says “Welcome, sister.”
- Nhobu tries to hit themselves in the head with their staff, fails.
- Krom breaks a corpse over his knee to intimidate the naga.
- Naga says that he serves Ursula, who belongs to a higher power.
- The naga makes the mistake of saying there will be a great fight if we kill him and Krom immediately kills him. Nhobu hears screaming in their head.
- Nhobu fails to notice anything around them, too distracted by the voices. But Kane tells us to MOVE NOW.
- Krom grabs two of the merfolk, slings the third over his neck, and we book it into a side passage.
- Nhobu eats the mushrooms they gathered earlier, in another vain attempt to get the voices to go away. Takes acid damage for their trouble.
- Saidi grabs Nhobu’s hand, drags them along. Kane commands Nhobu to cast their stealth spell again. Nhobu also creates an illusory boulder to help hide us.
- Naga swarm into the main cavern.

- We try to decide what to do. Nhobu and Kane are pretty insistent about finding Ursula and killing her.
- We sneak into a cave full of crystals and a couple more incapacitated merfolk attached to the walls. The crystal feels good to Nhobu and they take some.
- Nhobu discovers a small passage and squeezes through to find more crystals and a couple more incapacitated merfolk. Nhobu has no memory of crossing the cave, but finds themself on the other side. The voices are stronger, beckoning them further, promising that they’ll never be alone again.
- Nhobu emerges into a large cavern where a giant hydra creature rests in the water at the top of a waterfall. She speaks in Nhobu’s head, trying to convince them to join her.

- The rest of the party notices Nhobu is missing, hears them talking in the next cavern over and comes running.
- She is angry to see Krom. Strikes fear into the hearts of Krom, Faylen, and Saidi and they all run away. Tells Kane “you have spoken to another in the depths” and invites her to join. Kane respectfully asks her to die.
- Her snake hair bites Kane.
- Ursula tries again to convince Nhobu to join her, but Nhobu remembers the warmth and their badger family and their loves of the forest and sky and throws an ice knife at her. Does minimal damage.
- Saidi keeps running away, but Faylen goes back, casts Witch Bolt.
- Krom runs back, throws axes at her. He’s raging hard.
- Saidi realizes no one is following her, turns invisible and creeps back.
- Krom cuts off one of the snake heads, two more grow back.
- Kane is bit a lot, passes out.
- Nhobu panics, turns Krom into an elephant.
- Faylen feeds Kane a potion. Kane is surprised to see an elephant.
- Ursula attacks Nhobu multiple times. Nhobu passes out.

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Corrupted

It’s cold. So dark and cold and she’s there, watching you, whispering in your head and you can’t escape. You scratch at the sides of your face, a weak gesture. Your blunt fingernails fail to find purchase on skin slick with sweat, blood, and frightened tears.

Alone again, so alone. How nice would it be, to never be alone again? Come closer, child.

You bite back a whimper, sinking your teeth into your arm. Your heaved breaths are stifled, and the pain helps clear your thoughts. Where are the others? You don’t want to open your eyes, don’t want to see her again. The hypnotizing sway of the serpents, so many eyes, so many voices in your head when there should be only one. These voices are not warm like Faylen’s had been, but icy cold and suffocating, drowning out your own.

Your stomach lurches. The taint of that creature’s flesh still sits, vile and corrupting on your tongue, in your teeth. You didn’t know, you didn’t know. You’re so sorry. You bite down on your arm harder, concentrating on the warmth and tang of your own blood as it sears from your skin.

Poor child, sweet child, why do you resist so? I can make this misery pass. Come closer.

A chorus of whispers accent her words and you flinch away from the wall. More of them are out there, searching for us, searching for the others. Where are they?

They left you behind. Why wouldn’t they? What care do they have for you? I care for you.

Stop, go away. Please, I don’t want this.

Oh, but I think you do. I’m here, in your head. Of course I know what you want. You miss them, your family, your friends? They don’t miss you. You did this to them.

Images of fire erupt behind your closed eyelids and you curl in on yourself, more tears sliding down to dilute the blood in your mouth. Your stomach lurches again.

Frantically, your other hand gropes for the totem around your neck, fist closing tightly around it. The carved designs dig into your palm and you try to remember. The sun, the sky, the green of the trees and the song of the birds. So long have these things been denied you.

Forget, child. I can show you much more incredible things, wonders you could never dream of. Let go, child. Let go.

A bellow echoes through the cavern and you freeze. No, they can’t be here, they left. They shouldn’t be here. Dread grips you, prickling across your skin. You led them here, you led them to her. They’ll die too and it’s your fault.

You. How dare you make yourself known to me here!

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Submerged (Part 1)
Notes For A Second Letter To Lysander

Note scribbled hastily in a journal

Nothing is ever fucking simple. I don’t know if that damn elf didn’t know better, or if he intentionally sent us in blind, but his supposedly easy search-and-retrieve mission went south about ten seconds after we found the underwater ruins. The place was full of big ass sharks, and – I shit you not – ANGRY MERMAIDS, both of them blocking our way. And if that weren’t bad enough, apparently we stepped in the middle of an underwater shitstorm – merfolk gone missing, corrupted by some kind of eldrich horror, and us caught right in the middle, dragged into a fight to save the merfolk captives not twenty minutes after we left the surface. Our best shot at getting into those ruins – and finishing this job and going HOME – is to get on the merfolk’s good side by fixing this problem for them. Our creepy warlock seems to be able to track the source of the corruption – or is, rather unsettlingly, drawn to it – and she’s led us to a cave system patrolled by the corrupted merfolk – ugly, scaly beasts that pack a hell of a punch. The cave, at least, is in a large-seeming air pocket and breathable, but who knows what we’ll find farther in. More to come, unless I’m eaten alive by fish men. – F

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