Secrets of the Sands

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5. Write your first Adventure Log post

The adventure log is where you list the sessions and adventures your party has been on, but for now, we suggest doing a very light “story so far” post. Just give a brief overview of what the party has done up to this point. After each future session, create a new post detailing that night’s adventures.

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That’s it! The rest is up to your and your players.

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First Session
Conscripted

- Ship arrives at the Barge. Prisoners are herded inside
- Krom takes opportunity to attack his guard and jumps off the barge onto the new ship. Gets conscripted by tall dark elf.
- Elf surprises Faylen in the kitchen, tells her he’ll help with her “situation.” Conscripted.
- Surprises Saidi too cause we’re bad at perception rolls. Conscripted.
- Tells Nhobu they’ll be able to commune with nature again if they cooperate. Conscripted. Turns into badger and does a happy dance.
- Kane was waiting for the elf, is willingly conscripted. Creepy laughter was involved.
- We all get gold bracelets/collars.
- We’d all been on the Barge for 3-9 months.

- Elf’s name is Tehlmar, middle-aged, magical, powerful.
- Wants us to retrieve artifacts related to his ancestry (?)
- First stop is the Isles of Kri, four days away. Going to investigate underwater ruins of a city.

- Ship is magical, has a heartbeat, steers itself (needs a name)
- Two middle-aged human males (Vance and Harley) with tattoos of a pirate group whose ship went down. Harley drinks.
- Mug the Blue Shaman, male orc who hates Krom for tricking him into eating poison mushrooms (also cause Krom beat him up as soon as they saw each other on the ship)
- Mazoga, female orc guard, used to watch over Nhobu’s “sun time,” now here to keep an eye on us (?)
- Lucky, male tiefling, stood watch over Kane and converted to her religion. Tried to escape and got beaten up. Kane used the distraction to deface shrines to other gods.

- Vance helped Faylen practice fighting
- Nhobu brewed healing potions for everyone and won 2 gold from Harley after learning how to play cards from Faylen (cheated).
- We all outfitted ourselves with supplies for the upcoming expedition.
- Krom helped around the ship and hit on Mazoga.
- Kane drew more pictures of her serpent god.
- Spellcasters discussed spells to prepare.

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Conscripted
First Letter To Lysander

First Letter to Lysander (delivered via coerced seagull)

Change of plans. Off the Barge. Letters intercepted. Struck a deal. Possible solution to our problem? Details forthcoming. All my love, Faylen.

Followup letter (Written in thieves cant and illusory script, awaiting access to regular postal services)

Lysander,

I don’t know when this letter will reach you, or even when I’ll be able to send it. Hopefully by the time you’re reading this, you’ll have already figured out most of it yourself, or I will have gotten some other form of communication through to you. If not: Surprise! I’m no longer being held prisoner on the Barge. Two days ago, an elf named Tehlmar swept into the Barge like he owned it (he might – very powerful, very rich, very old, very magical, and everyone on the ship bent the knee) and started gathering up a few of the most notorious prisoners. I thought I’d been keeping a low profile (unlike the others, at least two of whom have outright tried to jump ship to escape), but Tehlmar called me for an introduction, presented me with the last letter I sent you, and asked if I was the one who wrote it. I can’t fathom how he got his hands on it – how attentively every last ship must be watched for him to have caught on – but he indicated that he was aware of our situation, and willing to help resolve it if I agreed to aid him in a task that would utilize my “unique skillset.”

Given that he had effectively cut off my line of communication – and the threat implicit in his knowledge of where the letters were going – I agreed. If he makes good on his word, so much the better, but at the very least he seems… well, honorable enough to leave you alone now that I’m bound to his service (fairly literally, in fact, by a magical cuff, the exact properties of which I’m still endeavoring to unravel). We have a crew of ten, not counting the elf: seven prisoners including myself, a guard transferred from the Barge, and two humans that came with the ship. The last two particularly pique my curiosity, because they bear the markings of the Black Pearl. They’re both good swordsmen and able sailors, but I can’t help but mistrust them (and the elf’s methods for keeping them here) every time I see those tattoos.

Three of our crew are orcs, and they have been – predictably – fighting constantly since we boarded, but the others are somewhat more… amicable? I use the term loosely. My friend from the kitchens is with us, and I seem to have befriended a small, rather feral gnome. One of our number I’ve hardly seen, as she’s spent the entire voyage so far underneath one of the bunks creating elaborate chalk drawings and mumbling under her breath. But at least she isn’t hurting anyone? There’s a tiefling standing watch over her, though I can’t for the life of me imagine what he’s doing here.

In any event, the parameters of our task seem straightforward enough: we are to sail for Kri, where we will investigate the submerged ruins of an underwater city, seeking the lost workshop of a sun elf our employer refuses to name. The great irony is that I would have taken this job in a heartbeat if he had approached me as a businessman rather than a captor; it’s laughable how well suited I am to the task (so much moreso than he seems to realize), and I’m as curious (if not as desperate) as he is to find out what’s hidden in the ruins. But given the circumstances, I can’t help but mistrust the situation. I dislike being bound, and despite his obvious knowledge of my situation and promise to remedy it, the only firm assurance he’ll give us about an end date is “when we find what he’s looking for,” which feels a bit like binding my soul to a ghost ship – especially given her existing crew, and the uncanny magic that-

Hm, apparently that I’m not supposed to share. She’s a hell of a boat, though, and a pleasure to crew. Whatever happens, at least I’m on the water again. The expedition is well equipped and thoughtfully manned, and as long as I’m with this elf, whatever his intentions, I believe that you and the boys will be safe.

Wherever and whenever this reaches you, I hope it’s in good health. With all my love,

Faylen

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Second Session
Under the Sea

- Our ship arrives over Auberdine, an outpost of the Sun Empire on the edge of one of Kri’s larger islands
- it sunk into the ocean centuries ago, under mysterious circumstances.
- “ground shoved it into the ocean”
- people stay out of this area, ship avoid it
- expeditions go missing

- Our assignment is to find the lab of a mage named Andrathath and retrieve his research
- Tehlmar was being super cagey about this “research,” we don’t know what its deal is
- He drew us a map of the city from memory, says he spent a lot of time researching the city. Does not seem old enough to have lived there himself

- After Saidi casts a water breathing spell, we ride the anchor down into the center of the city. NPCs stay behind.
- Nhobu turns into a hunter shark, tows Saidi and Faylen. Krom overestimates his swimming abilities and tows Kane.
- Giant sharks show up, try to herd us away from the cave we’re heading toward. We can’t out-swim them, so we let ourself be herded.
- Mermaids appear, who were controlling the sharks. Leira, their leader, says she can’t let us explore. They’re missing a group of twelve that usually patrol the area, last contact was about a week ago.
- Say that there are different accounts as to what happened to this city. Merfolk pulled city into the ocean? City launched an attack, destroyed tribe? Something about an experiment?
- City is at the edge of their tribe’s territory

- We split into two groups: Saidi, Faylen, and Nhobu go with three of the merfolk, Krom and Kane go with the other three.
- Kane senses a strong energy from one of the caves.
- The other group runs into corrupted merfolk (we’ve been calling them Naga). Twelve of them attack one of the other merfolk patrols. Three of the merfolk are dragged off, three escape.
- We fight eight of the naga. Take out a couple of them and the rest escape into the caves. Leira wants to call for reinforcements. We stay behind to explore without supervision.
- Saidi discovers that thunder-based spells are maybe not the best underwater.
- Nhobu gets a bit light-headed from ingesting corrupted flesh.

- Decide to check out the cave where Kane felt a powerful energy.
- Nhobu scouts ahead as an octopus, area is clear except for one extra-strong naga. Nhobu blasts ink at it, then the rest of the group attacks.
- Kane drains some of its lifeforce.
- Nhobu grapples its arm and whaps it with a tentacle.
- Faylen shows remarkable ability at darting around and doing a lot of damage, despite being underwater.
- Krom rages.
- Saidi casts some spells? Probably?
- We defeat it and climb up into an air pocket.

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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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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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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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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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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 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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