Serpent's Skull

Into Death's Maw

Savath-Yhe has yielded no treasure yet, only death. While exploring the ancient avenues we have fought so many dread creatures, including a crocodile the size of a small warship. As it approached us in all its terrible glory I saw Goyle waver slightly for the first time ever. As the croc’s mighty jaws snapped closed over him though, our armored dwarf stepped nimbly back and teeth the size of swords scraped down along his shield. Then the impossible happened. The creature that could have swallowed any of us whole shuddered and died. We must have stood there motionless, unbelieving for a full minute. Realization dawned for me then, and I looked back to see the gnome smiling, nodding his head. A queer look was on his face, as if dealing death were a childish new game he wanted to play over and over. Terrible, undeniable power in a child’s frame. What could be worse?
Other creatures we fought too, like a gargantuan bat that took wing with Goyle in its claws before dropping to the ground due to many wounds we gave it. Again Goyle looked shaken but his was the final sure strike before it died. Ape men like those we fought in Tazion fell to us too, though bigger and stronger. Strangely they made no sound in combat nor in dying.
The last fight was one of the toughest and most desperate I have ever been a part of. Bary and Boco did not come out of it alive. I have heard tales before of chivalrous knights who lay down their lives for their king or comrades. I have always thought of these stories as fancy, created to sell a book or gain trust where there should be none. However, Bary gave his life as if he were a knight in one of those tales. I would not have believed it if it did not happen right in front of me. While exploring a ruined keep, three hideous creatures assaulted us from on high. Massive three-headed beasts they were- one a goat, one a lion, and the last, a dragon. Before they closed they soaked us in acid that they coughed out from there bellies. We fought them as our flesh boiled. During the melee, Bary drew one away to fight it single-handedly, buying us the opportunity to take them out one by one. Goyle and I surrounded one and bled it dry within seconds, our battle tactics as precise as if we shared a mind. While we prevailed against the smaller two, Bary and Boco were holding out against the leader- an enormous black-scaled monstrosity that rippled with muscle. As we all turned our attention to driving it off, we saw Bary and his mount drowned in the beast’s acid. One moment they were there, the next they were smoking piles of charred steel and flesh on the ground. We avenged him as the beast fell to Glib’s fireball, the witch’s acid, my poisoned crossbow bolt to its eye, and finally Goyle’s decapitating strike. Bary’s actions were 4 parts brave, one part foolish, but because of him our task could continue. I hoped that if he were somehow watching from his afterlife’s reward, he wouldn’t mind if I rifled through his things.

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The Lost City

The time spent in Tazion was more useful than intended. While we tarried there, our caravan arrived behind us with goods to buy and sell. The guard captain- Rowtillius Havalar- told us of our rivals and how they had harried our smaller party. They consisted of those Aspis Consortium cravens and Red Mantis assassins. I understood their tactics and convinced Havalar to lay an ambush for them- their strength lay in shadows and traps, not in toe-to-toe confrontation. As our rivals entered the city, our guardsmen routed them with help from my sword, Glib’s magic, Ironbeard’s spear, Bary’s sling, and the witch’s hexes. During the fray, we spotted the leaders. It was the snake-fiend from the Shiv, followed by a wizard, a pirate, and two women we were shipwrecked with! One of the women there from the Shiv had spurned my advances those months ago, giving me an impressive knee to the groin. I don’t even remember her name, but her face dredged up that memory and I became very, very angry. A titanic victory ensued. Glib cast a dread spell at the flying wizard, turning his own worst fears against him. The mage died screaming 30 feet in the air, then plummeted to the ground. Our groups met then, and glib cast yet another powerful spell, this one on me. I became invisible and no one could see the eager smile on my face. The next few moments were truly a blur as I gave in to the orc-rage, but I do remember spells and sling stones whirring through the air, my scythe chopping, the warm blood of my foes covering me, and finally ripping the head off the snake priestess. The Shiv woman was still alive, surrendered, so I curbed my bloodlust and gave her a wicked shot to the face- with a fist, not a blade. It seemed as if the snake thing had magically controlled this group and with her end came the end of the spell. They surrendered to us, one and all, and we joined forces for the sake of mutual profit. I called for their deaths, but my companions convinced me to let them live. I hope trusting these snakes and insects works out.
The path to Savath-Yhe turned out to be less dangerous as Bary expertly guided us to the lost city. Once on the outskirts of the ruin, we encountered the ghost of a half-orc who had found the city, but died and never was credited for the find. After we destroyed the spirit, we told Amavor to make a note of this man in his Pathfinder journal. His spirit found peace after this credit, and he would not bother our camp any longer.
We are in remarkably high spirits now with our camp set up and the ripe fruit of Savath-Yhe laid out before us and ready for the picking. Its secrets and treasures await.

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Redirection

How am I to defend myself against something that assaults my senses? Since the shipwreck I’ve been dazed, mentally dominated, stricken with numbing fear, paralyzed, and stunned. Each one more than once. I am never worried about a physical confrontation but these foes we face are tricksy and cunning, capable of insidious magics. My companions have each suffered these effects as well. The most recent catastrophe occurred after some alluring succubus charmed me into bed with her. The next thing I know I am fiercely defending her, rushing out into the night to fight my own party. Luckily, my hazed mind did not think to put on armor. How terrifying I must have looked, swinging my sword at Bary’s giant bird- bloodied, angry, and stark naked. Terrifying or foolish. The next thing I knew I was being roused from unconsciousness, listening to my companions’ desperate but victorious fight against the succubus and her minions. It all makes me so… furious. Next time I will think of what happened here and my rage will give me clarity.
We arrived in Tazion to find it overrun with bizarre sentient apes. To a lesser group they would have been death with their supernatural speed and strength but again our little band impresses me. I couldn’t tell you how may we slew; lets just say they learned to fear us. Deep within the ruins of Tazion we came across another of those snake people! This one was even stronger than the first, hurling fire, lightning, and enchantments that nearly destroyed us all. The battle lasted many minutes mostly due to the snake mage’s damned illusory duplicates. We’d strike him down only to realize we’d hit the wrong one! After we finally overwhelmed him (with help from some summoned lions) we sacked and searched the place.
In a central chamber we found some 3-dimensional map that showed the location of Savath-Ye- the true lost city. It will be some time before we reach it, but this perilous journey is not a waste. The wild is turning us into killing machines. We are like whirlwinds in battle. By the time I go back to a soft human city it will be like living among children. Ha!
Noteworthy piece of info- apparently the snake man was a cast-off from Savath-Ye. We should expect more of his kind when we arrive. I’m looking forward to that.

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A Dangerous Path

The travel was not only slow, but FAR more dangerous than I imagined. We cleared the way for the caravan, slaying wights, giant apes, dinosaurs, wizards, a troll zombie, hostile natives, a meat-eating tree, and a strange ghostly shadow creature. Still, none of us have fallen. Well except for a few Sargavan soldiers. I have started honing my speed and power in combat, felling or maiming most foes with a single blow. Every so often I feel my orcish legacy fill my mind with violence, but I have learned to control it and use the rage to great advantage. Glib has come to surprise me yet again. The little bastard can now throw explosive fireballs that leave only burning death after their impacts. Who knew such power could fit into such a small frame? I am more glad than ever that he is my oldest companion. I don’t know why he follows me around but he certainly seems to enjoy himself. As it turns out, Goyle can definitely fight. He is nigh indestructible behind his layers of metal, and when a blow does land he seems to not even notice the pain or blood. He attacks with a large polearm skillfully in one hand. Bary- our scout- accurately flings stones with a sling staff. Funny I know, but our dead foes with neat little holes in their heads don’t find it so humorous. The bird he rides is a fast bastard with a nasty bite. All in all an unlikely but effective warband.
Unfortunately Kyara, our healer, was assassinated during a resupply stop in Kalibuto. They struck at night and managed to take her out before falling to our combined might. I quickly questioned one before slitting his throat- a more merciful fate than I would normally give, but I was in a hurry. It seems that we have competition. What once was an expedition to retrieve lost treasure is now a race. Bodies on the road corroborated the assassin’s information. It seems our foes are Red Mantises and The Aspis Consortium. Both powerful foes, worthy of our attention and anger. At present I am writing in our camp in The Screaming Jungle- a place of constant moisture and discomfort. We just killed some gnomish creatures who tried to ambush us. We are closer to the ruins than ever. Besmara willing, the next time I write we’ll be laden with treasure.

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Lure of Greed

We arrived in the Sargavan capital of Eleder with no complications. There we managed to sell our treasures and lore to various buyers. The question was, “Now what?”. Although I was rich by most men’s standards, still I was ill at ease. Languishing in this faltering city for the rest of my days was not an option. Then good news came. Apparently the lore we found was deciphered by the scholar Valinis and it hinted at a lost city far to the east. Who knows what lost treasures it contains? I sense even if this trip is successful my perpetual need for more will not be sated, but it is at least something to do. Why can I not be satisfied with my riches now? Then I think of the lost city and I cant wipe the smile off my tusked mouth.
To prepare for the long journey we needed supplies and allies. Joining us was the mercenary Goyle, who was perpetually clad in body-covering armor and shield. How does the dwarf walk in that, let alone fight? Also helping us organize was the pathfinder Amavor Glour, who was interested in the lost lore. Gained through the life of another possible ally was Nakechi, a wizened shaman and master of the wilderness. He would lead us to the ruin. Surprisingly we gained assistance from the Sargavan government. After coming to agreeable terms with Grand Custodian Byron Utilinus, we received a retinue of soldiers and a caravan to store the loot. To scout for us was a tiny little man who rode a giant bird. We keep strange company, but hopefully they can hold there own in a fight. Lastly, I bought a breastplate that the bards could sing about. A strong piece of mithril that is light but can stop a sword or arrow easily in its tracks. Right before we left we ran into some trouble with a terrorist group that burned our warehouse. Nothing violent retribution didn’t fix, but it costed us money and time. Also I should note that I now rent a space from the crimelord in Eleder, one Madam Dagastanna. Hopefully she wont get in my way should I decide to work in the city.

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Off This Rock

We explored the rest of the temple with Lanliss and the Nethys cleric. At the very end we encountered a woman who appeared to be half human and half snake. She spoke for a while and revealed that she was the Varisian woman who led the captain here. Clearly this situation would degenerate quickly into violence, and Lanliss acted first. I crept around to her flank to hopefully take her down fast, but found my faculties clouded by magic. I turned around, compelled to slash at Lanliss. As I raised by blade however, the wrongness of this compulsion assaulted me and I shook my head clear of her spell. Now doubly angry, I charged her. Her skeletal minions fell quickly, but she eluded us. Her magical defenses kept us from easily slaughtering her, and her poisoned fangs had Lanliss almost to the point of collapse. If it weren’t for the cleric and the oracle we would have been forced to flee. Eventually some of our blows landed and she hurriedly touched a statue behind her. Some magic turned her into insubstantial mist, and she glided out of the chamber. We also used this magic but she had a head start. We glided up to the surface and followed her tracks but they led to the coast and disappeared beneath the waves. Bitch is amphibious. Ugh.
Damn it! I’m glad it wasn’t me of course, but why do my allies have to die in the most horrific ways possible? This does not bode well for me. While exploring the dark, deep areas of the snake temple, we encountered a hideous creature of many eyes and maws. It bit Lanliss and within seconds sucked him into its body. Obviously fed for the moment, it retreated back into its watery lair. Of all the people on this rock, Lanliss was probably the best to have on your side. Quiet, reliable, good in a fight, and didn’t ask too many questions. I would say rest in peace but considering how he died I don’t think that’s an option.
The rest of our time waiting for a ship to spot our lighthouse was actually enjoyable. We ate Kyara’s catches, were entertained by Glib’s magic shows, and I was given a small gift from the gods. The women who fled the savage’s camp came back. Not only did they service the new leader, but they brought us a magic sabre from another dead jungle denizen. After a couple weeks, a ship from The Shackles came to pick us up. They were looking for that woman who rebuffed me. Starts with an “I”. Anyways we got picked up and now we’re headed for Sargava. Time to sell our treasures and old lore!

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Death and Mercy

Nagi died in the caves today. We came across a group of ghouls who promised us the gift of “eternal life.” Before any of us could respond, Nagi lowered his weapon and walked towards them. At the last moment he charged, but the radiant slash that should have killed the leader just grazed her harmlessly. The ghouls fell upon him. It was a sight that no one should see- I felt pity for the paladin even as I focused my burning rage upon the undead bastards. Again, my rage saw me through and I don’t remember much besides hacking them all down and tasting their rotting flesh. At one point I saw Glib bravely stand beside me. I saw him destroyed 5 or 6 times before dimly realizing that he was making illusions of himself. Clever bugger. When I came out of my state the only one left alive was the leader. She had summoned a darkness so deep that only I could see with darkvision. Regardless, I guided my blind companions and saw Kyara make a wild swing. Luck favored her, and the scythe struck the creature’s neck, cleanly severing her head and ending their little tea party.
We burned the bodies, just in case they rose as zombies or something. Without Nagi we were greatly diminished, but the other gnome offered his services to our explorations. Again, another companion who claims to be a spellcaster. Having two gnomes around will be irritating, but maybe they can entertain each other.
Well, the gnome bard’s time with us was short. We decided to search for the Chupucabra and in its lair we found 5 large standing stones. The bard somehow figured out what they were for, but told me with a smirk that it needed orc’s blood. I glowered at him and told him to piss off, but he kept asking. From that point on he would continue to berate me, my lineage, my mother, my teeth, my build, anything. I have killed men for much less but decided to curb my anger for the sake of the expedition, and for Glib. Wouldn’t want the trickster angry with me. Anyways when he finally activated the power of the stones, the chupucabra attacked us. It was a short and furious battle but we were the victors. We then realized that the water level here and dramatically dropped after we used the stones, and there was a set of double doors previously underwater.
Inside revealed some kind of complex with undead and traps- many traps. Mostly pits but there was also a devilish room that sealed itself- making whoever was inside a prime target for the axe that dropped out of the ceiling. Kyara was almost crushed by the door as it closed, but we managed to force it open. I then carefully disarmed the trap and destroyed the axe.
Oh yes, the gnome. Back in the entry room were skeleton javelin throwers. The group ran by them to escape through another door. The gnome proceeded to shut the door- sealing me and the oracle with the undead. We survived, obviously, and even after this I somehow cooled my anger and offered him his life for a healing spell. He insulted me again, so I stabbed him, bit out his throat, and fed him to a shark. He did a fine job avoiding me for a while. My companions half-heartedly tried to stop me but not hard enough. Perhaps in my book I can spin this in some dramatic way such as the bard betrayed us or we ate him for lack of other food. Hmmm, it deserves thought at a later time. Now we are heading back to camp to rest and recuperate. I plan on forcing my ex cell mate to accompany us this time.

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Lighthouse

We snuck up to the camp greeted by the sounds of many men chanting. Using the voices as cover, we crept in- only to be spotted by sentries. When the guards called out a warning, the battle was on in full. All of us sprang into action- Kyara with her scythe and her snake biting at Chelish flesh. Nagi and Lanliss formed a surprisingly effective team, mowing down enemies together that alone may have overpowered them. At one point Glib shouted a word and a blinding flash of color followed. In an instant three of the bastards lay motionless on the ground. I smiled at our group’s ability to deal punishment. Climbing onto a nearby structure, I scanned the battle for signs of the old woman leading them. I spotted her in the middle of casting a spell and threw a javelin hoping to disrupt her casting. The old crone dodged my spear and finished her dread spell. On the other side of the battle, Nagi burst into uncontrolled laughter- but luckily the battle was already tipped in our favor. I was looking forward to cutting her down but she turned on me and recited words of power. The next thing I knew, my heart was racing and I was running from her. Path clear, she and a few of her people retreated into the lighthouse.
We soon recovered from her spells and, as one, pursued her into the lighthouse. On my way up the stairs I passed by the corpse of some cut up monkey. Odd. The battle on the top floor brought me closer to death than I ever have been. Even now I feel the scars of the scimitars that nearly decapitated me and marvel at the tenacity of my orcish blood. The aftermath of the fight left the witch and the apparent leader of these cannibals in puddles of their own blood.
I thanked the little girl who healed me but she recoiled from my presence. No surprise there. Also I attempted to give Nagi a complement on his fighting skills but he rebuffed me. Again no surprise. For a peace loving paladin he seems to enjoy driving his blade into his enemies. If he continues to fight that well he can keep his pretenses. I truly enjoyed watching these people deal their special forms of death, and I look forward to watching them grow in skill. Maybe I can learn something from them. In this land, more violence is sure to come.
A boom of thunder resounded from the east, but before we could investigate we needed to explore a cave network that sprawled below the lighthouse complex. Oh yes, also we spent a couple days moving the dependents to this new, better fortified camp. For some reason there were skeletons penned in near the lighthouse, and we put them out of their misery. good practice.
In the caves we found the good captain. Dead. Among some creatures apparently called ghouls. There was a letter on him that explained the situation. Short version- he came here with his “woman”- a Varisian trickster who betrayed him and threw him in here to die. He was remorseful about his actions- but hey I would be too if my actions led me to complete darkness, betrayed and abandoned, my body nothing more than ghoul food. The Varisian has her reasons for coming here, none of which are known to us- though the captain says she would travel to Red Mountain. Also in the east, perhaps the thunder we heard was coming from that place. Hmmm. More notes to come after we finish with these caves.

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Natives

This island is HOT. We’ve taken to exploring this damned place and every hour in the sun is miserable. During peak hours we simply find shade and rest- or risk passing out. The druidess keeps us fed and watered- though hunger and thirst are never truly sated. The gnome we pulled from the ship has tagged along- he sweats like everyone else but has a stupid grin plastered onto his face as if he is entertaining himself in his own mind. At least he doesn’t chatter incessantly like most gnomes. Glib- as he calls himself- also claims to be a magic user. Now we have two “wizards”, a skinny elf, and a midget Tian warrior. What a mighty warband we are.
One of the survivors has finally made themselves useful. The other Tian man (Ishiro?) found a map to buried treasure! Digging on the indicated spot revealed a hole plugged by wooden boards. Nagi and I hacked away and it suddenly gave out. I managed to grab a hold but Nagi plunged into darkness. We heard a splash and a curse. I looked down to find undead creatures reaching for the paladin. In a flash of bright light Nagi annihilated one and the she-elf slung a stone at the other. I loaded my weighty crossbow and fired a bolt at the thing’s head. Guardians slain, we recovered a chest full of coins and re-buried it near our camp.
These natives really know how to make traps. We find a deadly new one every couple hundred feet. I really want to find where those cannibal freaks are and repay them for my latest scar. We assume they camp at the lighthouse, and the captain’s tracks lead there so perhaps I’ll get my wish.
Something about this island and its dangers has awakened some survival instinct in me. The Shackles has its own challenges to be sure but I was not prepared for the way of life here. The legacy of my father is rising to the surface as we need to react quicker, sleep less, and hit harder. There is also a deep, unfocused rage boiling inside me…
We came across some sentries today and Lanliss and I reacted immediately. Nagi wanted to offer them peace first but the ringing in my ears drowned out the sound of his broken common. Before they had much of a chance I plunged my sword into one’s chest and bit out the throat of another. It was over within seconds. Unfortunately one got away to warn the camp. Nagi was angry about the violence to the point where he looked ready to attack me- which would not have made much sense. I decided not to speak considering my few efforts at diplomacy in my past have not gone well. A war horn sounded and we wisely retreated.
A strange thing happened as we ran through the jungle. A girl came into our path and beckoned us to follow her. We did so and found ourselves in a cramped cave off the beaten path. Asking the girl questions proved useless because as fortune would have it, she was mute. She managed to draw/mime some tale about the cannibals killing her parents. I didn’t catch a lot of it due to my attention being drawn to her motley collection of weapons and armor. After her moving story, we had a single plan- kill cannibals.
Besmarra sail my ship! Our “wizards” are actually wizards! Our first skirmish against the naked Chelish cannibals was successful, and the gnome and elf showed their powers. Glib cloaked us in some illusory rock, and during the battle Lanliss channeled electricity through his blade. Nagi and Kyara chopped away with their scythed weapons, but other than that I don’t remember anything. I gave in to my orcish rage, devouring my foes with tooth and steel, enjoying the kill, not even registering as a scimitar slashed my arm. Glib also blinded a man with some magic, which I took full advantage of. I think that trick will be useful. The aftermath of the fight found us victorious with not a single loss.
Though many more await us at the lighthouse, I feel confidant that we actually do have an effective warband. May our enemies fear us.

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Shipwrecked
What a lucky break. Besmarra must favor me, or perhaps she likes to see me struggle. I am writing this tale to document a first hand account of survival, bravery, and prowess by people shipwrecked on an unforgiving land. If I make this out alive I’m gonna be rich!

The ship I was held prisoner upon crashed, throwing me to the relative safety of a sandy Sargavan beach. The surviving passengers and crew were quickly set upon by scorpion-crab scavengers. The men and women impressively worked together, some of them using only sharp sticks. I made a bad first impression- using my orcish teeth to bite one of the things in half. They seemed uncomfortable with that. Oh well. We quickly took stock of our gear and surroundings. I then realized that my hated captor was there, helpless on the beach. I began taking off his armor and upon inspection saw that he was dead. We didn’t have many supplies but saw The Jenivere shipwrecked about a half-mile off. After finding shelter for the weaklings not willing to help raid the ship, a strong group set out. Nagi- a simple, soft-spoken but muscled Tian man (helped me burst out of my manacles), Kyara- a she elf with a pet snake, and Lanliss- an arrogant man elf. On the ship we found many supplies- weapons, armor, potions, food- including Nagi’s favored weapon and Lanliss’ spellbook(apparently he’s a wizard). We also found a useless gnome who was in shock and had to be led out. Another mouth to feed.
The next few days were spent exploring our surroundings and following the tracks of the captain and some wench he is in love with. From the circumstances of our shipwreck we all suspect foul play, and the captain must have the answers. When we find him I hope I can stay my hand long enough to question him. I should note that Nagi is an expert with his scythe-like weapon, and Kyara healed me instead of letting me die. Staying on their good sides will be a challenge for me as I’ve never had a use for companions. This is different and none would survive long on their own. Plus, the promise of unfound treasures here puts a spring in my step. Lanliss so far has been quiet, but I think he is holding his spells for when it is necessary. I hope he is not lying about being a mage.
I have a new scar from a spike trap, and a broken rib from a wench who rebuffed my advances. Basically it’s like I never left The Shackles.

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