Bob's Serpent Skull

Serpent Skull 6

The party continued tracking after their buddy.
They came across some branches in the trail, but the scent of the witchdoctor was still rank, and we’d already previously established that he already had questionable hygiene and smelled horribly and strongly, so that was finally actually working in his favour now as his friends tracked down the kidnappers, and successfully followed the correct branches in the trails.
After about 7 hours of traveling, and going across most of the island to the other side, they spotted some smoke up ahead. The jungle broke up a little as the trail neared a river and began running parallel to it, so they could look down the slightly cleared corridor up the river, to where it emptied into a small bay, and off the side of the bay one side rose up as a cliff. A couple small smoke tendrils and one larger plume rose from the jungle at the edge of the cliff, and they could also make out what looked like a small tower. As they got closer they could determine it was actually a lighthouse, sitting on the promontory cliffs of that small bay. The trail they were on continued towards that lighthouse, and the smoke rising from fires around it.
The party traveled a bit more in normal speed, then went into sneak mode, as they neared what they presumed must be the cannibal village. The rat-kin had the best mix of perception and sneak, also he could try to look like just a giant rat if he were spotted, so he went forward and saw a large frill-necked lizard/dinosaur on a long leash, guarding what looked to be the entrance of the village, if one continued along the trail. Reporting back to the others, they successfully skirt around the lizard and around the village to figure out its general shape and size, location of noises and smoke, and any huts or other structures.

The Scout-ening
Meanwhile… the witchdoctor woozily woke up to find himself stripped naked, hands bound, and tied to a bamboo fence behind him. He was in a small prisoner pen of sorts. It was attached to an open-air stone patio attached to the lighthouse base buildings. A few cannibals were sharpening knives at bloody tables on the patio. Two other cannibals were holding up a sort of costume up to his body and fitting him. An old bent lady watched them as they worked making comments and snapping commands. It seemed they had a very old ship captain’s uniform, noble and fine in its day, but now patched and rotting and barely hanging together. The tri-corn hat kept its shape only thru a framework of bird ribcages sewn into its sides. The old crone noticed as he woke up, and started jibber jabbering at him, slowly trying a few languages, until he recognized some Polyglot words. She rattled some of his charms and poppets in his face, demanding to know what spirits he used, how did these ones work. He noticed the monkey crawling around her head and hair, the many charms and bones and necklaces she wore, the way she handled his more powerful trinkets and spell components. He proudly proclaimed his connections to a great spirit of the ancestors, but she only sneered at the name, merely a milquetoast version of her own patron of undeath and ever-life.
He gave her the evil eye! Oho! Her monkey squeaks but she barely flinches and evil-eyes right back at him!
It’s like a magic wand duel between two wizards in the finale of a six movie franchise. The spirit world around them crackles and boils. Finally, the crone leans in close, goaded by her monkey, and our hero falls backwards. Hexed. And shamed. She is too powerful. A witch like he, but double his wisdom and ghost-talking, at least.

Meanwhile, the party approached another bamboo pen, the vague figures behind the fence started rattling the cage. They decided not to come much closer, as they rattled the fence/cage louder and quicker as the party got closer. Maybe they weren’t prisoners? Scouting the southern part of the village more, they came across a secluded hut, farther away from the rest of the village in deep jungle, connected by a thin trail. They snuck up, but just an empty hut for the village’s Witch, who was already busy sizing up a young up-start. Sneaking in some more, then searching around, just an empty alchemical workshop of primitive proportions. And a small, messy bedroom, full of gagging old-person smell, and monkey. The RatKin had knowledge alchemy, and could figure out the weird gourds, and polyhedral carved stone, and sticky masses of spider web, and powdered leaves, and bowl of nachos were actually magic potions, a thunderstone, tanglefoot bags and smokesticks. And regular bowl of nachos. They couldn’t identify the potions without their witchdoctor, but figured the alchemical stuff right quick. Meanwhile, the voodoo witchdoctor has commanded his prehensile hair, with a Str of 18, to work at his wrist restraints, and after about 7 minutes manages to break the bonds. Meanwhile, the party loots the hut, and sets up a minor fire bomb. A small candle from the tables nearby as a fuse, to a bowl and wide puddle of lantern oil. They haven’t used this candle before, the place should go up in, oh, anywhere between 10-40 minutes. Meanwhile, the witchdoctor is taking better note of his surroundings. He hears the voices of many more villagers past the stone building in front of him, between his prisoner pen and the middle of the village, where a large fire is being built up. Over 20 villagers, the women sound as tough as the men. Heck. Even their inbred, slightly mutated kids sound tough. Meanwhile, the party look back at the other pen, the druid sneaks up to a door she sees from a different angle, and finds out its just 4 skeletons shambling around inside. The party also notice the 20-30 villagers, calling to each other, making preparations for some kind of big deal, children yelling and playing excitedly. The paladin/rogue, originally from Cheliax, recognizes some pidgin form of Infernal being used as their language.

The Prep-erring
The sun hasn’t started to set yet. The party started out early when they noticed their friend missing, instead of taking several hours to break camp and get ready like a normal adventuring day. They hear the villagers start up some rapid drum beats; some of the kids wonder if the Red Mountain Devil will come bless them.
The soundtrack changes to a pounding tribal drumbeat.
A few more villagers rock up, with killed goats on their shoulder poles. More cannibals? The kids and teenagers start shrieking, getting into fights, hitting each other, grabbing up burning logs from the central bonfire to hold in their hands as long as possible before passing out or run away screaming or searching for water.
Is there a perfect strategy for this? The village was obviously building towards a climax, getting more excited. Their friend would probably get trotted out of his prisoner pen in front of the whole village soon. They had no idea at what hour things might change or take a turn for the worse. They quickly located their friend in his prisoner pen, behind a bamboo fence attached to the stone building patio, guarded by a few cannibals and a crone witch. The dense jungle around the village encroached right up to that fence.
They snuck up to the fence. The pounding drums from the central village area, and the shrieking kids and ululating women distracted the cannibals in the pen, so sneaking wasn’t too hard.
The paladin/rogue decided to open with a sneak attack on the witch, the others agreed to the plan. Quick hit and run, kill the witch’s monkey if they’re lucky, get in there, grab their friend, get out quick. They didn’t even know if they could wait for the witch’s hut to catch on fire nice and proper.
It would be tough. A little DM advice didn’t seem out of line. I pointed out that killing the witch’s familiar wasn’t all that powerful. It wouldn’t stun her or cause Con damage or anything important within an actual battle.

The Spank-ening
A loud bang, and whiz chuk. The ratkin poked his pistol through the bamboo fence shot the witch for a few damage in the arm. 4 damage. Similarly the paladin/rogue concentrated on her evil and poked a heavy crossbow through the fence and shot the witch right between the breasts. Into the heavy bird skull necklace she wore. A bad roll on damage and sneak attack and smite evil dice, only 6 damage.
Initiative burst into action after their sneak attack. A couple cannibals rushed up and jumped over the fence into the dense jungle where the party was attacking. The witch backed off behind another cannibal, made a good intuitive guess and tried the Common language, and in a heavily accented halting question asked if they’d heard about the crone who insisted on ‘dry entry only’ (based on some in-joke earlier in the night between a couple of the players. ) The paladin/rogue could barely stand up with the gut-wrenching guffaws as he laughed hideously. For how many rounds? Oh. I’m not telling you. At least you get to try a new save every round.
The party kept to the dense jungle edge, and near the bamboo fence too, for hard cover, as the cannibals rushed them. Others ran out to call an alarm to the rest of the camp. The witch hid behind a cannibal tough guy, and tried Cause Fear on the Ratkin, who successfully resisted the images of her disembodied head floating towards him with a giant gaping maw of poison teeth.
The party’s witchdoctor whipped out his hands from his sides. Ha ha, suckers, I’ve been free for the last hour. His hair grabbed onto the fence behind him and flipped him over towards his friends. A couple cannibals chased after and climbed up and over the short fence, taking and dodging a couple AofO’s. The badger stopped trying to dig under the fence, and starting attacking the cannibals as they approached, on his master’s command. The druid strode forward easily through the heavy jungle to ready actions against approaching cannibals.
Most use double moves, a couple take a swipe at Barry the badger, as he tries to hold the front line. The cannibal witch crouches to cast mage armor, and also give them a short rest from her spells and hexes.
The party’s witchdoctor had scooped up a small bit of sand in the pen. He blows it outwards towards the evil witch in a Sleep spell. But it effects the lowest level enemies first, and downs 2 cannibals. The witch makes a spellcraft check, and recognizes the Sleep spell for what it is, and yells at others to wake the sleepers, while also screaming commands to the skeletons approaching from a distance, and runs behind a building. The others try attacking and holding a line around the guffawing paladin/rogue. The Ratkin is attacked by a bloodthirsty cannibal child. Ow, you bastard. Taste hot justice, he crams his gun into the kid’s disfigured toothless mouth and blows the back of his skull out.
“You’re killing the kids?”
“Damn right! In-bred sick perversions, deserve to die. Besides, maybe they have lower hit points.”
The evil witch came around a corner after spending another round “doing nothing.” She was actually summoning. A fire elemental springs up behind you. Oh crap, they are screwed now, in terms of their placement with setting a front against their attackers, a sudden new attacker behind their line can target their witchdoctor, and provide flanking to the cannibals. The witch also shot off a Ray of Enfeeblement which missed. I remind the party that there are more cannibals coming, and probably some skeletons. But they just can’t move; not until their paladin/rogue stops laughing. The badger becomes the star in his own bukkake video as he’s ringed by cannibals bashing him around and abusing him. Another bezerking brat runs up and guts the druid as she tries to reach over to heal her badger. The big tough cannibal chieftain runs around a corner, screaming and gesticulating and joins the bukkake circle and guts the badger, then uses a barbarian primal ability to bite for even more damage to tear out the belly with his teeth, and starts smearing guts and blood all over himself. His blood-lusting gives the party a round or so of reprieve from the new alpha who’s now appeared, but it’s not enough. The paladin/rogue is dancing around, trying to dodge the fire elemental, and Misfortune hexes thrown out by the witch. The party’s witchdoctor was flanked and finished by some cannibals that came slowly sludging through the jungle towards him. The gunslinger is hit down by more swarming cannibals. All around it’s evident the cannibals grab the unconscious heroes, to take them alive. Except the chieftain, who goes wild in blood rage and keeps tearing and eating at the badger. The paladin/rogue is the last one standing, unable to flank any bad guys, too many around to fight. If he tries to run, that fire elemental will probably catch up. The paladin/rogue says NO to hopelessness, and calls an intimidating challenge to the chieftain. Come on, pussy. You and me buddy. Mano e mano. Oooh, almost, missed it by 3. The chieftain waves dismissively as he gnaws thru the rest of the badger, and his soldiers come and down the last PC.

Sore butts
The party slowly wakes up, one member coming to consciousness, checking on his buddies. They were at 1 hit point. Stripped of all gear and naked. Stuck in a deep cave, a bit of sunlight filtering down from a hole 20 feet up, covered by some wooden planks. A single tunnel led away. They stumbled around, checked their surroundings, the old bones and scraps of leather and cloth in the area. They were pathetically weak, but safe for now. They’d killed 7 cannibals in their fight. From the sounds of pidgin Infernal shouts and drums and partying up high at the surface, they surmised that the cannibals they downed were deemed too weak to live, and readied for sacrificial rite and feasting. They’d been lowered down into a cave near the base of the lighthouse in the village and left alone, but for what?
Scrounging about, using Engineering and Tailoring knowledges they managed to fasten some primitive weapons from the bones, skulls, sticks and leather around them. About 1d6 damage, with -1 for poor manufacture. They could make simple shivs or clubs, or even whips or flails. And then they rested, regaining some hit points, spells and curing. After 24 hours, still nothing came to disturb them, they were mostly healed up, but poorly outfitted, and sent the ratkin ahead to scout with his darkvision.
He came across another cave, guarded by 2 obvious undead humanoid creatures with long arms that loped about on all fours. They growled and rasped, but only chased him to the edge of their cave, so he got back to his friends and warned them. They puffed themselves up, a few Mage Armors from the witchdoctor and ran in to join battle with the two bestial undead. They did a pretty good job, despite their pathetic armor and poor weapons, using tactics, flanking, and use of the paladin/rogues’s sneak attacks to kill one. The witchdoctor’s Chill Touch sent the other to run off in fear, so they could set up again in readied actions for when it returned to kill it in two turns. Whenever they hit the creatures, diseased pustules burst out, but everyone got lucky, and nobody got infected. This cave had a sleeping/eating type of area for the two undead, and a larger area with 6 alcoves built into the wall. It was a Birthing Room, where prisoners were kept in alcoves, under guard of the undead, with nothing but human meat around them as they starved. Searching around, they found a strip of leather armor, with writing on it in old dried blood.
It was a confession of sorts. From a captain of a ship. From the Jenivere. Their ship! Their captain! That bastard. As he starved for days, and realized his fate. He admitted being misled by the Varisian scholar, maybe under magic, whom he named as a snake in human clothing who fooled and beguiled him, and finally betrayed him. He felt guilty about wrecking his ship and his fine crew on this gods forsaken island, and while he didn’t expect any forgiveness he beseeched anyone finding his note to find that non-varisian to kill her for her evil magics. And, if possible, to find him and kill him, as he’d likely succumbed to his hunger, and would have a dark rebirth.

Mommy dearest.
The party went on, down the next tunnel, towards a large central circular cave with several exits. Searching found some small boot marks leading to one side. The decided to check another side. The ratkin went again as scout, since he didn’t need light. The tunnel led into another large long cave, and a ghoul spotted him and called out. He said Oh Fuck, and ran back towards the others. His Oh Fuuuuuu, easily telling them to set up a readied action ambush plan. As the first of three ghouls entered the other three struck, bam, killing it. Nice opening. The other two ghouls moved in, but missed on their single attack, or did small damage, with the paralysis resisted. More damage to one ghoul, while witchdoctor still had a charge of Chill Touch held in his hand/hair, to send the other one away. When it finally returned, against another readied ambush, with flanking and rogue attacks, it quickly succumbed. Pretty good tactical work for the party, killing off three ghouls, especially in their state without real weapons or any armor.
After killing those three ghouls, going into the long cavern they’d come from, they heard the pounding of surf, and realized there was a large tunnel going under the water, probably back to the outside. But there was also another narrow tunnel leading up north. Leave, or go investigate? Oh, what’s one more little room?
They sent the ratkin up north thru the narrow tunnel. He came across “nests” of bones and meat and refuse. The kind of crap a ghoul might rest in. Every 5 feet. There were over a dozen. He continued. The wall began to be carved, showing depictions of skeletons, and serpents. Still he persevered. His sneak roll wasn’t bad, but beaten by my bad guys’ perception roll. Nice for you that the module specifically dictates that this big boss isn’t outwardly hostile, and even offers a ridiculous compromise.
“Ah, sniveling rat thing,” the ghoul in the tattered dress spoke towards the dark quivering corner, "you have done well to get here, past my children. So many of them, my children, and the slaves above. Truly, you are worthy for my gift. Come! Come here, and join my family, revere me as your true mother, let me rebirth you as you were meant to be. "
Squeak! The ratkin jumped up and hightailed back to the others.
How rude.
The others waited for a round, as she cast Shield of Faith.
Then the Mother ghoul followed, sneaking a little, beat the other’s perceptions and cast Darkness on herself as she crept forward, casting them into confusion and blindness. They stumbled about, and tried to get further away, out of the radius. The Darkvision of the Ghoul and the Ratkin still worked, and he could see her creeping forward, casting more spells on herself.
The party backed off, trying to get out of her darkness radius, as their witchdoctor only had a weak cantrip Light spell his club.
The Ghoul mother cast Spiritual Weapon, calling on the power of Asmodeus to conjure his favored weapon. Not sure, a wavy dagger? The party planned to all back off, towards another narrow tunnel, to keep her contained, but as the ratkind tried running past she lashed out and paralyzed him. The others started running back to her again, to guard him, into the darkness. The paladin had been waiting around just outside the darkness, using Detect Evil in a way to determine the square she was in, to rush in to attack, and try to direct the others where to attack. Sure you can all tell what square she’s in. The darkness and concealment, with it’s 50% miss chance screwed them up a lot, many of their attacks just failed. The druid tried touching her with a CLW burning on his hands, but kept missing. The spiritual weapon only lasted for 3 rounds, but did some damage to the druid. She cast Cause Fear on the witchdoctor, and he ran away for 3 rounds, taking another 3 rounds to return. The Ghoul mother called on Asmodeus again, and pulsed out a wave of dark negative energy, but everyone saved and only took half damage, like 2 to 4 damage. The continued negative pulses hit everyone, but didn’t do too much damage. The party was really weak and faltering. But she seemed to be running out of spells. Try stalling? They’d hardly damaged the ghoul mother, and she knew it. She backed off, and called again, “won’t you just admit my superiority. Join my family. Come, be my children.”
The rest of the party stopped their blind attacks, and talked. They surrendered. Then soon realized, as they stumbled in the dark towards the Birthing alcoves, they really only needed to stall, until her Darkness spell ran out, so they could actually hit her. They made bluff checks about abandoning their old gods, and preparing their bodies, actually just making a few surreptitious cure spells on each other. Brought the ratkin back to consciousness, but he bluffed to look unconscious as the druid dragged him by the tail.
After a total of 3 minutes past, they could suddenly see. And attacked altogether. Oh! Those sneaky live-bloods. The paladin/rogue was still just at 0 hitpoints, tried a desperate charge to sneak attack, but only managed 5 damage. The druid reared up, and missed. The ratkin laughed, ha ha, thought i was out, did you, and missed with his makeshift weapons. Bang, bam, boom. Furious at their deception she just resorted to physical attacks. One after the other she just ran up and smacked them down, with damage, or paralysis. Two of them also failed Fort saves on her bite for Ghoul Fever. The witchdoctor was alone against her, nothing left but to try, oooh, boom, critical attack. Double damage and dex damage. Nope, she’s still up, and doing fine. Smacko, sliceo, stabbo, you’re down.

Desperate escape.
They woke later, at different times, in the alcoves of the Birthing Chambers, at 1 hit point, with some raw and cooked meat before them. And a ghoul in the central area, guarding them, making sure they didn’t leave their alcoves. They quickly figured they were meant to starve, and eat of the flesh, probably human. The witchdoctor and druid also had to contend with the extra powerful gut wrenches and tongue lengthening and nail-explosions of the Ghoul Fever, which could also eventually convert them. The ghoul mother walked in a few hours later, exhorted them to try their delicious dishes, reminded them she had all the time in the world to replace the children they’d already killed, and left. Since the party had already killed the two dumber undead that usually worked guard duty, the single smarter ghoul could be influenced with social rolls. The character’s convinced it that they were supposed to be in different alcoves, so they could move around to be within 10 feet of the witchdoctor’s hair, so he could heal them. They waited 2 extra full days. Tired, very hungry, but still refusing any sentient flesh, no Con damage from starvation yet. They waited a few hours after ghoul mother visited, and probably a few hours before she was set to return. They buffed with Mage Armors and some CLW, and the druid had meditated for 24 hrs to recall a boa constrictor as a new animal companion. With a word they pounced together and rushed the single ghoul guard, surrounding and flanking him, hitting him with grapples and snake constriction, and other tricks they’d figured, curing and kicking him to death, or stabbing with tiny sharpened bone fragments.
And they ran, and sneaked, and swam out of there, to get free of the ghoul mother and her horrible caves, back into the surf of the outside island, to plot their revenge and gear-reclamation, and that’s where we ended.

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