Come Hell or High Water – the Screaming Skull

So, the plan was to make some player buy-in by having them add in some details and faces for the next island, having been settled there for some time before we picked up the game again. I was thinking something a bit reminiscent of city creation in Dresden Files.

Unfortunately, it looked like most of the session would be centred around three players, one of them new to the group, so I decided to revive an adventure I last ran about fifteen years early (oh god, I had no idea it had been that long!)

As the characters headed away from the island of Bouyan, waving goodbye to old friends and bringing new ones along, they fell back into the life of sailors. After a few days, they saw a large storm on the horizon, with the wind pulling them towards it.

The Kobold decided to tie himself to the main mast to ride it out, but most headed below decks. The Gnome Fighter even fell asleep in a gently rocking hammock.
Both our new Human Rogue and the Kobold felt a bit sea sick after a Constitution save went wrong, but not too bad.

In short order, the rain began to pour and the weather got cold. After only a minute or so, the Kobold, now a sodden mess, decided to cut himself down, and was quickly aided by a floating dagger courtesy of the new Rogue’s Arcane Trickery and a Mage Hand.

The Gnome eventually woke up and joined the crew on deck trying to keep the ship afloat and upright, with all its masts and sails safe.
At one point, a large wave washed the Kobold and the Gnome off the deck, but the Rogue and other crew managed to throw them lines quickly and pull them back aboard.

As the ship sailed out into the eye of the massive storm, the crew spotted a large mat of seaweed at the centre, with the remains of a boat stuck at its centre.
The party were ‘volunteered’ to investigate. They took the Tabaxi along (as we were informed his player might show up later), and the Kobold’s new familiar Stephen, who was currently a crab.
Out in a row boat, they eventually to land on the mat and drag the boat up. It was eerily silent, with very little movement other than the waves and themselves.

Heading for the boat, they found the wreck of an old slave ship, holed in the deck and sat at an awkward angle, barrels and oars broken and distributed among the seaweed nearby. The Kobold managed to throw Stephen some distance ahead, and send him in to scout ahead.
It was dark inside the boat, but there was a strange vibration coming from somewhere in the boat wreck. Stephen had trouble actually climbing up the slanting floor however.
Heading inside, the group managed to spectacularly fail to climb up the benches lining the walls (for the slaves to sit at and row), apart from the Gnome who sprinted to the top and dropped a rope below, to the pile of limbs and pain that was the rest of the party.

As the rest of the party climbed, the Gnome descended into the next space. No seaweed down here, but the hull was partly flooded. In the depths of the water was a bright red glowing dot.

Throwing his spear into the water to check for traps, but finding none, the Gnome decided to dive into the water. Immediately hit with another Constitution save, which didn’t go too well, he screamed into the water himself as a high-pitched wail filled his ears. If his friends hadn’t arrived and fished him out, he’d have been in trouble.
Luckily everyone else passed their Constitution save to save him!

The Arcane Trickster decided to use his Mage Hand to reach towards the glowing dot, at more or less the same time realising that the ripples caused by the Gnome eerily ceased much quicker than he would expect.
The dot turned out to be some kind of circular handle, which turned until the light turned green, and then the box it was attached to could swing open.

When the door opened, however, the screaming got louder.

Inside the box was a skull, maybe slightly larger than human average, pinkish in places.
Using Mage Hand once again to lift the skull to the surface, the screaming got higher in pitch and much louder until all at once it stopped as the skull came free of the water.
The silence was eerie now too.

Going back to the water, now not filled with screaming, the group pulled the box free too. The Kobold used his Identify ritual to look at the box, finding only a weak illusion aura on the door handle.
The skull, however, seemed entirely non-magical, though it had been created somehow using an very high level Inflict Wounds spell.

With nothing left to investigate, the party left the boat.
Outside, the eye of the storm now looked unsettled, as the storm seemed to be growing ragged and dissipating in all directions. And life had returned to the seaweed mat.
Crabs crawled about, and suddenly the sound of seagulls could be heard.

As the gang headed back to the boat, suddenly the Gnome stepped into a puddle filled with swarming fish, and a few jumped up to bite him.
And everyone else for that matter!

Attempting to use the skull as a weapon, the Rogue pushed it into the water, but the screaming was too much and he dropped the skull.
The Gnome managed to rescue it, holding it under the water to slow the fish and he returned to the rowboat.
The Kobold also had some difficulties, and the swarm of fish began jumping to attack the party, especially the Tabaxi, even doing a nasty amount of damage with their bites.

Eventually freeing themselves and returning to the rowboat, the Gnome lifted the skull to find it had gotten patchy and green in places, and part of a spine seemed to have regrown.
Oh, and as they tried to leave, another swarm of seagulls began to dive at the boat and attack the party, particularly those closest to the skull.

Some well aimed Firebolts from the Trickster and Eldritch Blasts Magic Missiles (probably) from the Kobold helped see the seagulls off and they returned to the boat, to decide what to do next.

And that ended the session. A bit different to the last time I ran it (no giant crab, more saving throws and more of a mystery) but thoroughly enjoyable I think.
Not bad for a hastily prepared filler!

2 thoughts on “Come Hell or High Water – the Screaming Skull

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