THE ISLE OF DREAD

Many years ago, Maztica princes sailed to the Isle and claimed it as their own.  They cleared vast stretches of the jungle to settle the area. The land was fertile and bounteous, perfect for farming. The settlers founded a large city on the Central Plateau naming it Thanaclan. For 300 years, the people of the Isle prospered.

Then came the Savage Tide.

Myth talks of a terrible earthquake, of a time when the earth opened and lit the skies on fire. A time when the god’s wrath cast down their ancestors from the lofty peaks. After that faithful day, the Thanclan Empire was no more. All that remained were ruins of a once great- city and a scattering of tribes destined to endure disease, famine, and monstrous predators. The people proudly point to the fact that they have survived, despite the trials there gods have placed before them. Their ancestors must have angered them greatly indeed and as a result, the people of the Seven Villages regard the ancient ruins, particularly the central plateau of the isle, as taboo. It is unwise to tread upon ground cursed by the gods. And so the Great Wall was built.

This is the Myth of the Isle of Dread.

The truth of what brought down the ancient empire is much different. In the weeks before the fall, their civilization was at the height of its glory. Its people had settled a wild frontier and constructed an incredible city atop the central plateau. This was Thanaclan. And yet the people of Thanaclan grew complacent, even decadent. When a new threat arose from the flooded tunnels below their isle, they were ill prepared to defend themselves.

The people did not realize that the Isle was inhabitated by native creatures known as Kopru, a degenerate race of heat-loving amphibians. As the Olman finished construction of a great temple to honor their gods, the koprus of the islands depths took action. Their prayers to the Prince of Demons were answered with a vile plot. For four decades, the koprus toiled in their subterranean lairs, cultivating and nurturing the largest black pearl the world had ever seen. Birthed from a fiendish giant oyster and poisoned with malign magic and liquid madness harvested from the ruined aboleth city, the koprus placed this first shadow pearl where the people of Thanaclan would find it.

Before long the irresistible beauty of the shadow pearl was ensconced within the great temple, and its fell influence began to surface. The religious leaders of Thanaclan grew wrathful and cruel, and powerful storms began to lash the island. At the height of a great typhoon, one of Thanaclans leaders woke from his fugue and realized what evil had come to Thanaclan.

He came to the chamber of the Great One, where the shadow pearl was kept on display, and smashed it to fragments to break its curse forever. Yet this act only sealed the empire’s doom. As the pearl cracked, it unleashed the first and greatest savage tide. Not only did the tide transform many of Thanaclans citizens, it also tore holes in reality between the Prime, Elemental Plane of Water, and the Abyss.

Legions of monsters assaulted the empire. The land itself rebelled. Earthquakes shook the isle, volcanoes exploded, and under the streets of Thanaclan burst massive geysers that brought scalding death. Many perished in that first night, and in a matter of months the kingdom of Thanaclan had all but vanished from the world, replaced by a prehistoric land destined to become the Isle of Dread.

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07: VANDERBOREN VAULT

Active Characters: Machavelli, Tia, Daehir, Matrim, Ragnir, Quarie

Having made good their escape from the Drow, the crew of the Black Drake turned their eyes North to the Vault. As they passed over the Southern shore, they noticed two ships there and several pirates (likely under Smee’s command) setting up a base camp. Ragnir decided not to engage, and sailed directly for the Vault.

Arriving at the Vault, they discovered that it was an ancient ruined stepped pyramid, likely used as a temple of some kind before it was converted into storage for the Vanderboren family. They saw that two ships were docked on the nearby river, and men were carrying crates into the Vault. Seadog guards were nearby, indicating further involvement by Smee. They also spied a railroad track leading away from the Vault in the general direction of the Northeast.

After a vote, the crew decided to find a suitable place to set down within the river, far enough away to avoid detection. They awaited until after dark, and returned to the Vault.

They used the rings to gain entry, finding a second door that required use of a ring as a key as well. Entering the third room, they discovered that it was an apparent dead end.

As they gathered in this third room to discuss their options, they were surprised to see several dark cloaked figures enter the room and begin flying around like birds of prey.

The crew put up a good fight against the swarm of Vampires, but without coordinated efforts, the creatures were too powerful for them. The crew began to fall, one by one, until only Quarie, the Goliath, remained.

Ragnir watched as his crew dropped like flies before him. He was powerless to save them. Before he could act, he was set on by a trio of vampires. They tore his throat out, and his life seeped away. Ragnir was dead.

Quarie ran. She ran headlong into the far wall, and bumped into the pillar there. With a screech of stone on stone, the pillar moved, opening a doorway into the next room. She ducked inside, finding a room stacked floor to ceiling with crates. In the center of the room was a stone statue, depicting the Vanderboren patriarch.

The Vampires continued to focus on the crew out in the other room. Most of them were weak or dying. They were easy prey. Quarie climbed up one of the pile and knocked one of the crates down, revealing Gold Trade bars, She knocked a second down, revealing a crate of the same.

Ragnir’s eyes flew open. He gasped, returning to life. He felt strange. He rose to his feet, realizing that he was now undead. He was a vampire. He moved quickly, pulling the fallen Matrim to the other room with Quarie.

The Goliath was busy dumping over crates, each one dumping out more and more golden trade bars. Every crate, it seemed, was full of them.

Ragnir reached down to his medallion he had found earlier. It was marked, he knew, with the symbol of Demogorgon. He placed his now cold flesh on the medallion, and willed it to work. He reached out within his mind, a whisper of help to the Prince of Madness.

Suddenly the sky was black and full of demons, The air was choked with smoke. The ground was jagged with cracked stone. The crew were all there, and Ragnir stood in their center. Somehow they all knew that they were in the Abyss. They were in the home of Demons.

“No,” shouted a shrill voice. “This will not do!”

Then the scenery shifted, and the world melted around them. When it reformed, they were standing in a Underdark cavern filled with huge crystals. They stood there, clearly disoriented and confused. They had just been within the Abyss and now they were in the Underdark.

“Idiot!” answered a second voice, this one low and growling. “Not here. Not NOW…”

Ragnir knew these were Demogorgon arguing with himself. Its two heads have individual minds, called Aameul (the left head) and Hethradiah (the right head). Demogorgon’s duality is that his two personas strive to dominate (and even kill) each other, but are unable to because they are aspects of one another. Fitting for the Demon Lord of Madness.

The world swirled again, and the crew found themselves standing at the entrance to the Vanderboren Vault again. Ragnir looked at himself, and realized he was no longer a vampire. He glanced around, seeing that all his companions were unharmed and well rested. In fact … everything was as it had been a few hours before.

“What in the Nine Hells,” muttered Daehir.

“We’ve been sent back in time.” Ragnir’s voice was quiet. “The demon is allowing us a second chance.”

06: CAPTURED BY THE DROW

Tarsakh 7-15, 1491

Deep beneath the surface of the world lies the Underdark, a realm of endless labyrinthine tunnels and caverns where the sun never shines. The Underdark is filled with races and creatures too numerous to count or list, and foremost among these are the dark elves—the drow. Hated and feared even by their fellow dwellers in darkness, the drow raid other settlements in the Underdark as well as the surface world, taking prisoners back with them. Rendered unconscious with drow poison, then collared and shackled, these prisoners are eventually sold as slaves or entertainment in the dark elves’ subterranean cities.

Ragnir and his crew have all had the misfortune of falling to such a fate. Captured by the drow, they are prisoners at one of the dark elves’ outposts, awaiting transportation to Menzoberranzan, the City of Spiders. alongside several others prisoners.
The drow divide their prisoners into three roughly equal-sized groups and put them to work for a third of the day, supervised by the quaggoths. Their menial tasks include filling and hauling water barrels, operating the lift, cleaning any or all parts of the outpost, emptying chamber pots, food preparation and service, washing dishes, and laundry. The prisoners are also given cruel or pointless tasks to occupy them, and for the dark elves’ amusement. Such labors include moving or stacking rocks, coiling ropes, and organizing supplies, with prisoners forced to redo work daily.

The drow and quaggoths are cruel and capricious, but also somewhat bored and looking for amusement. The quaggoths are poor conversationalists, hateful and mistrustful toward the prisoners. The drow are more inclined to talk, if only to boast of their superiority.

Somewhat unknown to Ragnmir’s crew, many of the other prisoners have been affected by a maddness-causing radiation called Faerzress which prevades most of the Underdark. This has caused a portion of their fellow prisoners to suffer from violent fits of rage as the radiation pours freely through the gateway linking the outpost to Menzoberranzan . More recently, this radiation poisoning was exacerbated by Gromph Baenre, Archmage of Menzoberranzan, who cast a foul spell intended to open a gateway to the Abyss. Instead, Lolth empowered the spell, thinning the planar layer between the Abyss and the Underdark.

Fortunately for Ragnir’s crew, only one member was affected by the exposure to the radiation. This member of the crew has been having fitful dreams and has become somewhat obsessed with a amulet which he believes is somehow linked to the Abyss. Although N has not acted out violently, the crew may have a ticking timebomb in their midst.
Although the crew were prisoners, they used ingenuity to plan their escape. Damoolah and Arlan bided their time with patience. Matrim and Daehir used their skillsin efforts to gather resources for escape. Ragnir managed to gather a rusted pipe for a weapon. N and V focused on distraction of guards and duscussion with fellow prisoners. Tia spent most of her time assisting others and pleading for their lives when things went bad.

The crew spent a little over eight days within the drow outpost. On Tarsakh 15 in the morning, the drow began to herd the prionsers towards the door leading to the gateway. They discovered that their were three ships that had gathered near the gateway to the City of Spiders. Later they would discover that two of the vessels had come from the Vanderboren outpost, and the third was Ragnir’s ship. The drow priestesses had sent for slavers from the Vanderboren outpost at the far side of the Isle of Dread, paying them to transport the slaves into the gateway. The drow priestesses had grown tired of waiting for the other drow to emerge from the City of Spiders to collect the slaves. This breach in protocol ended up being the crew’s salvation.

They were herded into a ship called “The Black Drake” which was marked with a symbol of a Black Dragon. In the cargo hold, they discovered that the Vanderboren “slavers” were none other than their allies, Solomon and two of the Sea Dogs named Morgan and Jake. Solomon explained that they used the confusion of the situation to move the arcane engine and the crew’s possessions from the other ship to this one. Solomon suggested that the heroes reclaim their things, and get ready to depart.

Clearly passing the torch to Ragnir, Solomon winked and said, “What are you orders captain?!”

Ragnir thought for a moment, realizing that Solomon was clearly establishing him as the captain of the Black Drake. “We’ll recover the Ring of Wishes, Mr. Neegan, but first let’s get out of the accursed drow outpost.” Solomon nodded, explaining that there was a egress point in the ceiling of the cavern that would lead to the surface of Albion.

Arlan took the spelljammer helm, casting magic into the ship to power it. Meanwhile, Solomon smiled to Morgan and Jake.
“Let’s give these drow something to remember us by, gentleman!” All three rushed off to prepare the cannons for a parting shot on the drow near the gateway.

Drink up me hearties, you ho!