The Watcher of the Mists

The Crystal Ship

Session 38

Starday, 19 Neth 4707, early evening
Magnimar: Dockway district

About three weeks passed after the Sandpoint Heroes defeated Xanesha. The Heroes remained in Magnimar, and while they stayed in close contact with each other, each individual member of the party pursued their own interests. Everyone spent a good deal of their treasure on new gear.

On this cool, clear late autumn evening, the six Sandpoint Heroes had arranged to meet for dinner at the Keel and Kraken, a friendly tavern in Dockway, Magnimar’s busy port district. About an hour after dinner, while watching a bard perform traditional Varisian folk songs, three officers of Magnimar’s navy walked in, looked around the tavern, then came straight to the party’s table.

“Good evening, friends! May we join you?” asked a middle-aged Chelish woman wearing a captain’s uniform. Charrone invited them to sit, and this officer ordered a round for the table.

“Thank Abadar we found you! I’m Captain Raddick of the Magnimar Navy, and this is Commander Breld,” indicating a young-looking Chelish officer, “and Lieutenant Prescott,” nodding to the other officer, a woman of Garundi ancestry. “We have a situation in the harbor that the Navy isn’t prepared to handle. General Odinburge suggested that we ask for your help, given the service you’ve recently done for the City by stopping the Skinsaw Murders.” She looked around again, “I’d be more comfortable discussing this further back at my office at the Wyrmwatch. It’s just down the street. We’re prepared to offer a reward for your assistance.”

The party agreed, and walked the two blocks to the Wyrmwatch. The guards let them pass, and they reconvened in Captain Raddick’s office. She opened the wooden shutters on a narrow window, which looked due north, into the harbor.

“I’ll give it to you straight. There is a strange, seemingly derelict vessel in the harbor, about a half-mile from shore. It appeared suddenly and without warning. It has a configuration unlike anything anyone has encountered before. It does not appear to be hostile, but we don’t want to take any chances. We need a team of experts on the unusual to assess the situation and let us know whether it’s safe, or possibly even useful.”

Commander Breld continued, “The vessel must have appeared just as the Harbor Patrol was changing watches, as no one saw it appear. Neither the Harbor Patrol nor any merchant ships or fishing boats reported seeing the strange ship approach. In fact, the only eyewitness we could find, a fisherman, said that he was pulling up crab traps when the ship just appeared, fading into existence right there in the water. He came to shore as fast as he could and reported it, and we sent a Harbor Patrol boat to check it out.”

Prescott took the story from there. “Our patrol reports no signs of life aboard, and no one responded to repeated hails. The strange ship appears to be made of a seamless opaque white crystal. The outer hull is carved with mysterious glyphys or sigils that no one can read. Instead of sails, it has two wing-like projections port and starboard, that are parallel to the water’s surface: which is very odd, as they won’t catch any wind!”

She continued, “With no apparent threat, we sent another patrol boat with a boarding party. The marines report that the top decks are completely deserted, and the only access to lower decks is a strange crystal door that they can’t open. They say that the deck is carved with more of the strange glyphs, but the bow has actual writing. They took a rubbing of that.”

She unfurled a large parchment to reveal a charcoal rubbing of a line of runes. Everyone in the party recognized the runes as Ancient Thassilonian, which several character could read. The runes said, “Emperor Xin.”

Breld said, “The runes are Thassilonian, and our sage says that it translates to ‘Emperor Xin,’ who was the founder of ancient Thassilon. We believe that this is the name of the ship. He went on to say that there have been stories told over the centuries by planar travelers of a strange crystal ghost ship that wanders the Great Beyond, a magical vessel from ancient Thassilon called… Emperor Xin.”

“We believe that this is the very ghost ship that the legends speak of,” said Captain Raddick. “If it is indeed an artifact from ancient Thassilon, it could prove very useful to us, but it also could be extremely dangerous. I don’t want all of the city’s scholars to get killed by an extraplanar monstrosity from beyond space and time. If you accept this mission, we need you to explore the ship, determine whether it constitutes a threat, and recover anything of strategic value that the city could use. You can keep any normal treasure you find. The Navy will pay you compensation of 250 gold ducats each, plus reasonable expenses.”

The party agreed to the terms, and Captain Raddick gave them one hour to gather supplies, and told them where to meet a Harbor Patrol cutter to bring them out to the mysterious crystal ship.

Starday, 19 Neth 4707, evening. Magnimar Harbor

The night was cool and clear— strangely clear for late Neth, which is a typically foggy time of year. Still, a few small fog banks had formed in the chilly air. The moon was three-quarters full and waning, bathing everything in shadowy silver light. The wind and sea were both calm. Half-foot swells gently rocked the Harbor Patrol cutter, as six sailors rowed the boat toward the Emperor Xin, glittering in the moonlight. They had just passed through a ring of about a dozen Navy ships that had cordoned off the strange vessel: the ship was clearly visible from shore, and Captain Raddick has said that the Navy needed to keep curiosity-seekers away from the potential menace.

As the cutter drew nearer, details of the crystal ship became clear. It only superficially resembled a sailing ship, with a sigil-covered hull made of milky white quartz that glowed with a bluish tint in the bright moonlight. A tall aft castle of strangely-faceted crystal rose from the stern. Sprouting from its sides, giant winglike sails of the same strange crystal hung parallel to the water’s surface. It bore a split bow, between which rose a gigantic blue crystal prism that towered about fifty feet above the deck. It was the only apparent part of the ship not made of the same milky white crystal. The main deck was uneven, broken into four subdecks. Two of these decks were about six feet higher than the others, connected with staircases. The decks had no railings, and were smooth, except for a number of odd cubic plinths and crystalline obelisks that jutted from the deck’s surface. As the party approached, they could see that the tips of the obelisks were of the same blue crystal as the bow prism. The cutter circled the ship, and as they passed by the bow, the party could see that the bow prism extended below the waterline as well, but it was too dark to see exactly how deep it went.

On the ship’s port side was moored another cutter, and the party saw several Magnimar Navy marines on deck. Several marines appeared to be clustered around the one door on the abaft deck, presumably trying to open it. The boatswain suggested that they tie the cutter on the starboard side, opposite from the other cutter. “There’s no mooring post, but we can tie up to one of them obelisks.” The party agreed. While the crew brought the cutter alongside, the party started to hear a rhythmic pounding, as if someone were striking a large stone with a hammer.

The pounding continued as the sailors tied the cutter to the ship, and lowered a gangway. Just as the gangway was dropped, the sound of smashing glass was heard, followed by a loud cheer from the abaft deck. At the same time, a loud bell started clanging, and the blue tips of each of the crystal obelisks glowed bright blue. Energy crackled along the obelisks, and blue bolts of electricity shot out of the obelisks toward the nearest person— mostly sailors. Two fell. At the same time, two of the cubic plinths each unfolded themselves to form a humanoid crystalline creature, each of which marched toward a the nearest marine, pounding the poor sailor with razor-sharp crystalline fists.

McGregor identified the ringing bell as an alarm spell, and the party quicky boarded the crystal ship. Halfred ran up to one of the crystalline humanoids, and attempted to strike it with his ancient Thassilonian ranseur. While the creature’s crystal form seemed resistant to the weapon, Halfred did manage to chip it. McGregor cast shatter at the same creature, and it vibrated, shattering a fair amount of it, but it kept fighting. The other crystal golem marched around to the abaft deck, and went below deck. The rest of the party engaged the obelisks, knocking several out of commission before they could discharge more energy bolts. Still, the obelisks knocked out three more marines, and one zapped Durrok.

While the fight raged on, a fog bank rolled on to the abaft deck. Fearing that it was another defense mechanism from the ship, McGregor identified it as obscuring mist, and cast cast wind wall at it. McGregor’s spell blew the mist away, revealing dinghy bearing two passengers. One had jumped aboard, and was tying the boat to one of the plinths on the ship. It was a blue-haired gnome with a neatly-trimmed beard and mustache. He wore a strange round helmet with lenses that folded in front of his eyes, had a light crossbow decorated with images of dolphins, and a trident. Charrone recognized him: it was Nireed Wadincoast, the proprietor of the Aquaretum! Climbing aboard was a young Chelish woman with long auburn hair, who wore a black cloak. Charrone recognized her immediately as well: it was Larissa the Swift, her old adventuring companion!

An obelisk zapped Larissa, who shouted, “Hey! That’s not sporting!” She cast a spell at the obelisk, and it vibrated violently and exploded. McGregor identified the spell as shatter. She then climbed the stairs to the mid deck, and recognized her former companions. She smiled, “Well, I didn’t expect to see you guys here! How are you doing?” Meanwhile, the rest of the party had surrounded the crystal golem on the mid deck, and had worn it down with weapons and spells. Charrone struck it with her sword, and it finally fell to the deck, motionless.

Zandu had followed the other crystal golem below deck, and found it fighting four marines that had sought shelter from the obelisks. Two were dead on the floor. The marines fought with cutlasses, except for one that used an elaborate battleaxe. Zandu engaged the creature as well, and managed to get a lucky strike in the creature’s back, but the creature seemed intent on pounding the marine with the axe. Bleeding severely, that marine crumpled to the floor.

Back above, the party noticed that the obelisks stopped shooting when there was no target nearby, and they told the remaining marines, who had fled to the Harbor Patrol cutters, to cast off and stay a safe distance. They were more than eager to follow that order. The party then ran below deck to engage the remaining golem before it killed too many more marines. McGregor cast another shatter spell at it, and the golem’s head exploded. It fell over, lifeless.

[To be continued!]

Comments

Note on the direction of the campaign: It was about a year ago that I came up with the idea of running “Expedition to Castle Ravenloft” using Pathfinder rules. After starting to work on that, I decided that I wanted to start the characters at Level 1 so that everyone became familiar with the Pathfinder rules. So, I started to write some adventures for that level. Then, I decided that I didn’t want to go through the exercise of world-building, so I bought the Inner Sea World Guide. Looking through that, the land of Varisia seemed to be the best place to start the PCs, and I was intrigued by the one-paragraph gazetteer on the town of Sandpoint. Based on that, description, I started to write a series of adventures based in Sandpoint about problems with goblins (one of which was the original version of the Toadstool Goblins adventure that I ran in sessions 4-6).

After discussing my plans on the Paizo messageboards, several people pointed out that I was essentially re-creating “Burnt Offerings,” and that I should pick up the PDF of Pathfinder #1 for either source material or to just run it. I did, and was extremely impressed by the overall quality of it, and decided to run most of “Rise of the Runelords”, switching out Expedition to Castle Ravenloft for books 3 and 4.

After we finished Skinsaw Murders, and I began converting Ravenloft in earnest, I was struck at how inferior Ravenloft was to Runelords, in terms of plot, consistency, and logic. I turned to the the original 1981 “Castle Ravenloft” module for AD&D 1ed for inspiration, and began an intensive re-write, but then realized it was a bit thin. So, I re-tooled the plot again to incorporate chunks of Pathfinder #3: Hook Mountain Massacre, and finally concluded that I’d rather just run a straight “Rise of the Runelords” game.

So, that’s where we are: I have told the group that we’re dropping the Ravenloft idea altogether, and everyone’s OK with it. I’m also looking forward to the July release of the 5th anniversary edition Rise of the Runelords hardcover, which converts the adventure path to PFRPG rules. Hopefully, that will reduce the amount of conversion I’ll need to do, as events in my personal life are drastically reducing the amount of time I have for game design.

—Hal

The Crystal Ship
 

Oh, and about this interlude adventure: It’s an adaptation of the Pathfinder Society Scenario “King Xeros of Old Azlant”.

The Crystal Ship
Haladir

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