1499, Nigh-Zenith of the Age of Beasts
Upon the Southern Rim, between the vishkanya deserts and the islands of the Rapti, there lies the Sea of Shards. The mad god of the deeps, Raulani, has cursed the waters with waves of bladed steel, so only the strongest or swiftest of ships now brave its currents. Yet the Sea of Shards is a safer route for trade than any other, for not even the Rapti Empire would dare the chaos jungles of Tarat above, or the the beast-fraught Rimwaters beyond.
As the month of Jujanus dawns, the Red Twin haunts the southern horizon. Captain Kovacks, commanding the Rapti slave ship Menace, ignores ill omens and sets sail from Firstclaw, on the eastern fringe of the Empire. She is due at Low Simurgh in a fortnight. The gods have other plans.
- CALYPSO, a merfolk witch, tracking Cpt. Kovacks to recover a family heirloom
- ELDRIC, a Septi cleric of Ulcis, amnesiac passenger upon the IMS Menace
- KILLGORE BLOODGUTTER, a barbarian minotaur, framed for murder in Firstclaw
- KRENEK, a ratfolk gunslinger, slave owned by Cpt. Kovacks
- MAZIKEEN, an aasimar oracle of Jujani, fleeing from her own goddess
- NESHIRR, a catfolk swashbuckler and member of the Order of the Dragon, a resistance cell in Low Simurgh
- QITH VEHRTU, a sudur alchemist, condemned to die for public mayhem in Firstclaw
- AVRELL, an aasimar ranger, once favoured by Raulani, now exiled upon Kalasai
- THE BROTHERS MARL, two catfolk rangers, bounty hunters transporting Killgore and Qith
- CAPTAIN ALYSA KOVACKS, a Rapti (human) commanding the IMS Menace enroute from Firstclaw to Low Simurgh
- IVEANA, posing as a Dremven (human) cartographer; in truth, a vishkanya sorceress serving Hecate
- PEZZOCK, a sagu alchemist, shipwrecked on Kalasai years before
- RAMA, a vanara pirate, recently joined the Order of the Dragon
Episode I: The Drowning Menace
Sailing the Tarat Current through the dangerous Sea of Shards, the IMS Menace goes off-course and wrecks upon the rocks near Kalasai, a jungle island in the Shrapnels. The survivors include two prisoners (Killgore and Qith), one eerie passenger (Eldric), a slave in possession of his master’s pistol (Krenek), and a winged stowaway (Mazikeen) who wears chains about her ankles to prevent her patron goddess from whisking her into the sky.
The survivors are joined by a mermaid (Calypso), who helps them defeat some hungry sea scorpions before they loot the wreckage of the ship. The heroes find supplies, as well as evidence that somebody escaped the Menace in one of her lifeboats.
After retreating into the jungle to seek shelter from monsoons, the heroes discover an ancient ruin guarded by a necrophidian construct. When they defeat the metal serpent, its spine fuses into a greatsword, which Killgore claims as his own.
Episode II: Kalasai Nights
During their first night on the island, the heroes find their camp invaded by diseased and savage sagu leafbloods. The vegepygmies are in pursuit of Neshirr, a catfolk castaway. After defeating the sagu, Neshirr begs the heroes to return with him to the site of his wreck, in order to rescue any other survivors from the fungal plantfolk.
The heroes learn Neshirr belongs to the Order of the Dragon, a resistance cell in Low Simurgh that helps escaped slaves to obtain transportation and new identities. Recently, a new member of the Order presented them with an opportunity for great wealth — a map to the legendary treasure of Captain Quellig. Seven members of the Order set out for Kalasai, but their boat foundered in the blade-waves, and they swam to a tiny grey island adjacent to Kalasai.
The heroes retrace Neshirr’s steps, moving west along the coastline. Low on rations, they risk cliff and claw to rob some eggs from a pteradons’ nest. At dusk, they take shelter in a sea-cave, after evicting its scaly tenants. At one point, Calypso meets a fellow wave-dweller: a vast, tentacled devilfish, one of the many ancient beasts said to make their home in and around Kalasai.
Episode Three: The Grey Island
The heroes begin to build a raft, while Mazikeen unfurls her wings and flies up to survey the waters around Kalasai. Her flight draws the attention of an augur eye, one of Jujani’s clockwork minions. Mazikeen destroys it, revealing that her relationship with her god is not entirely friendly.
Under cover of darkness, the castaways paddle to the grey island. Its jungles, and even its very rocks, twist and bulge with fungal growths. Tribes of savage vegepygmies engage in bizarre alchemical rituals, churning the ground to release hungry spores. The heroes hunt for Neshirr’s fellow Dragons, and find two survivors in a shipwreck off shore, prisoners of a mad sagu alchemist.
The heroes defeat the alchemist, but his captives are infected; to spare them a grisly fate, the heroes rush to the centre of the isle, to destroy the towering stalk whose spores controls all the fungus. The monstrous kaava plant wounds Qith badly, but Eldric shatters its stalk with his mace; however, the heroes are too late returning to the infected Dragons, for they have been slaughtered by the demented sagu.
Episode Four: Gigglin’ Rasp and the Grindylows
While sailing south from the Grey Isle, the seven castaways discover they have an eighth traveling among them: a crystal skull, which Eldric recovered from the Menace, begins giggling and begging for water. The skull, possessed by the ghost of a mad pirate, tells the crew that he can help them breathe underwater — a magic they rapidly find themselves in need of.
On a second small island, the heroes find the only other surviving member of Neshirr’s expedition — Rama, the vanara pirate who bore the treasure map that brought them all to Kalasai. But Rama is bound to a tree, and part of a trap that deposits Killgor, Calypso, and Neshirr into a flooded pit. They are swiftly imprisoned in the undersea caves of the grindylows, vicious goblin-squid hybrids.
Using Gigglin’ Rasp’s magic, the heroes swim down to rescue their friends. The grindylows fight fiercely, bolstered by an elemental thread that radiates acidic energy. With Rama’s help, they defeat the grindylow queen and her bloated son, but another threat slips through the waters behind them — the ravenous devilfish.
Qith is swallowed whole by the beast. With wound from the kaava plant festering, the alchemist’s frail sudur constitution is failing fast; like all her race, she fights daily to restrain the electrical energies that surge through her. Now, knowing her allies cannot hope to defeat the devilfish, she releases the energies at once, exploding in a fulminous blast that obliterates both the beast…and Qith.
Episode Five: Requiem by Lightning
The heroes perform last rites for Qith, their fallen comrade. The elements share their grief, hurling lightning from both sky and sea. Through the rain, they see strange lights floating across the water from the Grey Isle. A silver-skinned devil greets them as Velix, the humble servant of Marakutis the Asura.
Velix explains that the powerful outsider planted the kaava plant herself, and he’s been dispatched to summon the mortal responsible for killing it. When Eldric admits to the deed, Velix tries to drag him to the Underreaches, but the heroes drive the little devil away.
By day, they explore the small island, searching for Krenek’s gunpowder horn, which disappeared during the storm. The culprit is a strange creature that eats black powder and belches flame; in the shadow of an ancient column, they defeat the beast and Krenek claims its gunpowder-filled heart. During the fight, Eldric’s veil is burned away, and the others catch their first glimpse of a mauled and decomposed face.
Reaching the southern shore, they see the find the tiny island is joined to Kalasai by a causeway. They await ebb tide; Killgore and Eldric fish, Calypso weaves rope, Krenek makes bullets on the fire, and Neshirr reads through Qith’s alchemical journal. Suddenly, a pack of elementals rise from the waters to attack them. Servants of Velix, they try to abduct Eldric, but the heroes drive them away, showing trust for their uncanny ally.
Episode Six: The Dry Eye
At low tide, the conclave make their way carefully across the slippery causeway to Kalasai. Their thoughts linger with Qith, their fallen ally, and so they fall prey to a carnivorous magical sea creature which enchants their minds to make them believe that Qith still lives upon the waves. During the fight with the animate kelp, Rama tries to push the unconscious Killgore into the water to drown, but his allies save him.
Suspicions of Rama run high, and the treacherous vanara begins trying to divide the party’s loyalties, whilst simultaneously promising them great wealth, as well as the means to reclaim Qith’s soul from the underworld. The conclave makes their way along the inner coast of Kalasai, following Rama’s treasure map, although he only shows it to Calypso, to win her trust.
Unexpectedly, the party comes upon an inhabited compound. Goats, chickens, and sheep surround a strange, ship-like structure; and the entire compound is protected by ingeniously trapped bridges. The owner reveals himself: it is Avrell, a childlike aasimar who once served Raulani, until the mad god of the waves exiled him to Kalasai, forbidding him from ever crossing the ocean again.
Avrell welcomes the conclave with abundant rum, and promises to tell them many secrets about the island, if they first help him to rid the area of a hydra. They stalk the creature to its lair, and using their hard-won teamwork, they lure the Titanspawn from its cave and defeat it.
The party returns to Avrell’s compound, but before the aasimar can tell them anything useful, he is interrupted by a terrifying voice from outside. Marakutis the asura has found the conclave, and demands that they hand over Eldric at once, lest all of them perish.
Episode Seven: The Turn
The appearance of Marakutis outside his compound causes Avrell to faint from terror. As Marakutis issues threats and demands, the conclave find a trap-door in the floor of Avrell’s home, and elect to flee. Marakutis sends a swarm of tiny silver devils to pursue them; Neshirr sets the compound on fire before the party seals the trap-door and escapes.
The tunnel connects to a subterranean labyrinth of ancient passageways, but Killgore’s minotaur instincts allow him to navigate the maze safely. Eventually, Avrell recovers, and frantically runs back towards his home, hoping to save it from destruction. Soon after, the conclave stumbles into a a pit of venomous snakes; they survive, but several members of the party are poisoned and weakened.
The silver devil swarm can be heard tracking them through the labyrinth, but Killgore leads them to a vast cavern containing a rune-covered pillar which seems to pierce the earth to the surface. By triggering an ancient device, the party uses the pillar as a spiral staircase; however, partway up, they spring a trap, and find themselves besieged by metallic snakes that emerge from the runes.
Desperately, the party makes its way to the surface, sealing the necrophidius and the devils inside the cavern behind them. They stand atop a mountain, nearly two miles southeast of Avrell’s compound. Beyond, in Whirlpool Bay, they can see the mighty asura, Marakutis, scanning for signs of the party. At this point, Rama turns on the party, preferring to turn Eldric over to Marakutis, rather than face her relentless pursuit. He uses his vanara shriek to draw her attention, and then leaps away into the jungle.
Episode Eight: Bleeding Heart
As Marakutis closes in upon the party, they attempt to flee across a rope bridge spanning a deep chasm. The asura manages to divide the party by landing in the centre of the bridge; but even then, the conclave refuses to surrender their ally. Instead, Eldric chooses to take himself out of the equation by leaping into the canyon. He falls into the churning waters below, and is dashed to pieces but quickly reconstituted, thanks to his deathless Septi nature.
Above, Marakutis is nonplussed, but demands another party member instead. Mazikeen flies into combat, but a wind from her furious patron, Jujani, sweeps her up into the skies. At this point, the conclave realize that this is not Marakutis the almighty asura, but Velix, her lowly servant, trying to safe face with his mistress after he allowed the party to destroy her kaava plants. His illusions shattered, Velix does not survive long against the party; however, as he plunges to his death, an elemental shred swallows him up, transporting him far away.
Still weak from serpents’ venom, and separated from Eldric and Mazikeen, the party deliberates on their next move. They decide to seek vengeance against the traitor Rama, who is almost certainly in pursuit of Quellig’s buried treasure. From Calypso’s memory of Rama’s map, they are able to track him to the site: another elevated heath, this time on the eastern side of the island. During their search, they are reunited with Eldric, who washed ashore nearby.
When they arrive at the treasure site. there is no sign of Rama, so they begin to dig themselves. Soon, they spring a trap which plunges Killgore, Neshirr, and Calypso into a deep, water-logged pit, where they are attacked by aquatic ghouls. Krenek stands watch while the others defeat the undead foes, and then recover the treasure of Captain Quellig — a bounty which includes instructions on how to perform the Ritual of Reclamation, a magic procedure that might return Qith to them.
Then Rama emerges stealthily from the jungle and subdues Krenek. Holding the ratfolk hostage, he demands the heroes in the pit surrender Quellig’s treasure to him, or they will all die. As the party scrambles for a plan, they hear Rama’s words cut short, and then the strange, ominous sounds of a harp from above. When they climb to the surface, they see an otherworldly, silver-skinned woman standing over Krenek and Rama’s unconscious forms. She introduces herself as Marakutis.
The conclave is dubious, but Marakutis demonstrates her power by hurling Rama across the island and far into the Sea of Shards. Rama, she says, was a false friend; the conclave needs another seventh member, if they are to “awaken her.” She recommends that the conclave “seek out a snake.”
Before she disappears, Marakutis turns to Eldric, and plunging her hand into his chest, she extracts a bleeding ruby. Amnesiac as he is, Eldric has no explanation of how it came to be there, or what its power might be.
Chapter Eight: Wind Above, Fire Below
The conclave is reunited in full when Mazikeen returns to Allu, having been abducted by Jujani, the Mother Goddess of the Winds. She plummets back from Heaven, tied to the back of a clockwork steed. The automaton malfunctions upon landing, and attacks the party. Once freed, Mazikeen reluctantly divulges her instructions from Jujani: “Awaken her.”
The party retraces their steps to Avrell’s compound, moving overland this time. They notice some signs of other travelers, perhaps other survivors from the wreck of the Menace. As it turns out, those castaways reached the compound while they were away, and two of them stayed behind.
Avrell signals the party from beneath the burned-out shelter, and leads them to an underground temple to Raulani, the mad god of the sea. Within, they are ambushed by The Brothers Marl, two catfolk bounty hunters who had been responsible for escorting Killgore and Qith to their executions in High Simurgh. But now, the Brothers Marl serve a vishkanya enchantress named Iveana—and Avrell has succumbed to her charms as well. The bounty hunters try to subdue the party, to bring them as an offering to Iveana, who apparently requires a conclave for some ritual. The heroes politely decline the offer.
During the fight, Neshirr knocks over numerous casks of rum, as well as a glass carafe containing a miniature whirlpool—a sacred relic of Raulani.
Chapter Ten: Broken Vessels
The shattered religious relic, combined with the substantial alcohol spillage, spawns a rum elemental which the heroes must overcome. Then they must calm Avrell, who fears the reprisal of both the conclave, whom he betrayed to the Brothers Marl, and his patron god, Raulani.
After come persuasion, Avrell reveals that another resident of the island can help reclaim Qith from the afterworld: a sagu alchemist named Pezzock lives on the west shore of Kalasai, and may possess the gems and reagents needed to perform the ritual of reclamation. They trek west, bringing Avrell along despite his conflicted loyalties.
Pezzock, it turns out, lives on the beach in an enormous crab shell, which he has rigged to animate and lash out at invaders. The heroes reason with him, and he agrees to trade the reagents required, and to serve as the seventh member of the conclave required to bring Qith back from the hereafter.
Altogether, the fellowship crosses the causeway to the Isle of the Grindylows. They are intercepted by Spur, a member of an aquatic half-octopus race called cecaelia. Claiming to be the guardian of the region, he is aghast when the party reveals they were responsible for killing the grindylows, since (according to Spur) they performed a necessary function, absorbing the earth energy generated by the underwater elemental knot.
Spur forbids the party from returning to the isle; when violence ensues, Avrell is accidentally knocked into the ocean. As the banished and disgraced aasimar touches seawater, Raulani’s wrath is unleashed, in the form of a tsunami rising from the nearby whirlpool. The heroes manage to get to land in time, but Spur and Avrell are washed away.
Chapter Eleven: Asoka’s Garden
Returning to the site of Qith’s demise, the conclave descends into the submerged tunnels formerly inhabited by grindylows. They encounter sticky, acidic earth elementals — presumably outsiders drawn into Allu through the elemental knot. Just as the heroes despair at overcoming the beasts, Spur the cecaelia returns to offer his aid.
In the tunnels’ inner sanctum, the heroes perform the ritual of reclamation. They succeed in retrieving Qith from Asoka’s Garden, the shadowy hereafter in which souls reside while awaiting transmigration. However, they do not bring Qith back alone: a dark naga called Asoka’s Fang pursues the sudur alchemist, intent on returning her to Asoka, the wraithlike goddess of death. Unable to defeat Asoka’s Fang, the heroes strike a deal: Qith will spend part of each day upon Allu, but the rest of her time must be spent in the Garden, performing alchemical experiments for the Sly Collector. To facilitate the crossings, Krenek is given a gold pendant that allows him to journey between planes.
Chapter Twelve: Hunger
With their friend Qith restored to them, the heroes turn their attentions toward Iveana, the vishkanya sorceress whose machinations brought them to Kalasai in the first place. Based on Avrell’s information, they head south, towards an ancient, abandoned tower where a group of cannibals dwell. Pezzock returns to his crab-house, having had more than enough excitement.
Enroute to the tower, the conclave attempt to harvest some coconuts, only to discover they are monsters in disguise. A flock of vargouilles, hideous flying disembodied heads, try to paralyze and infect the party; as they are driven off, their shrieks resound and echo across the southern jungles of Kalasai.
Alerted to the presence of intruders, the human cannibals called Shakaroon prepare an ambush. The conclave drives them back, but when they pursue the cannibals into their village, they discover several serious threats await them. A bestial chimera guards the settlement; a veritable horde of slavering cannibals descends upon them, goaded on by a grizzled witch; and the cannibals already have guests, including Alyssa Kovacks, Captain of the Menace, and Iveana herself. Disguised as a cannibal, Iveana lures Krenek, Qith, and Mazikeen away from the others, and uses her enchantments to place them under her mental command.
Chapter Thirteen: Hunger, Part 2
The battle against the Shakaroon cannibals continues. Neshirr narrowly escapes getting cooked alive in their giant cauldron; then Killgore, Eldric, and Calypso join him in clearing out the remaining combatants aboveground.
Meanwhile, Iveana lures the ensorcelled party members down a hidden staircase to a subterranean temple of Hecate. The vishkanya, joined by Captain Kovacks, informs the party that they are needed to aid her in a ritual to awaken Kali, the slumbering goddess of destruction.
While Iveana combs searches for instructions on how to awaken Kali, the other conclave members track their enchanted allies to the temple. A fight breaks out in the magical darkness; Captain Kovacks is dispatched with surprising ease, but Iveana manages to escape via magical flight. A collapsed section of the temple exposes what she has learned about the ritual, and points to the road down which the conclave must travel in order to stop her: the Red Mountain in the southeast corner of Kalasai.
Chapter Fourteen: The Red Road
The heroes return to the surface via the ancient, adamantine tower. They find it still inhabited by a handful of cannibals, all of them children save for one pregnant but viciously protective mother. After an uneasy truce and an exchange of weapons, they leave the surviving cannibals to their own fates.
The party moves west along the treacherous shores. In the distance, they see the Red Mountain; then, from its summit, they see a blast of purple energy which somehow triggers a massive tide along the southern coast. Half the party is swept into the tumultuous waters; they are spared from drowning by the intercession of Swan, a cecaelia claiming to be Spur’s sister. She uses her jet ability to transport the waterborne heroes around the island, into the Boiling Bay beneath the Red Mountain.
Meanwhile, the heroes who avoided the ocean surge find themselves contending with magma elementals, and with a mysterious, blood-drinking demon who dwells atop the mountain. The winged beast snatches Krenek into the air and flies away to its lair.
Chapter Fifteen: The Red Mists
After a difficult climb, the heroes are reunited atop Red Mountain. Krenek is held prisoner within a shattered tower; however, the heroes cannot seem to rally themselves to save him. Beneath the blood-red sun of Ulcis, they become possessed with suspicions and doubts, leading to accusations and, ultimately, blows.
Gradually, Eldric and the others realize that their paranoia is an effect of the red mists that pervade the mountain — and that the mists are controlled by Orlashi, an incorporeal servant of Ulcis, sent to test the conclave’s resolve. Orlashi reveals that, of the three gods who previously awoke Kali, in the Age of Gods, only Ulcis has seen the folly of a second awakening, and he bids the heroes stop Iveana at all costs. In the nick of time, the heroes rally to defeat the Red Mountain Devil and rescue Krenek.
Chapter Sixteen: The Shadows of Doubt
Reenacting the ritual which Iveana performed atop the mountain, the heroes are able to shift the tides below, exposing a submerged portal to the Temple of Kali. Inside, they fend off undead guardians, and become separated by a river of magma that winds through the unstable temple complex.
Dark, miasmic creatures begin to coalesce above the heroes, and they each find themselves assaulted by shadows of doubt — voices from their past, condemning their choices and urging them to harm themselves. The heroes are able to overcome these fiends, though not without some degree of bloodshed, and navigate the perilous and labyrinthine temple to gain access to the Chamber of Awakening, where Iveana has already begun the ritual to summon Kali the Destroyer to Allu.
Chapter Seventeen: Gods Plan, Men Laugh
The conclave acts quickly, knowing that Iveana’s solo summoning will have catastrophic consequences for Allu if allowed to continue. Noting the rivers of blood that empower Kali’s altar, they act to sabotage and redirect the channels, in order to prevent the towering statue of the Destroyer from coming to life.
While pursuing Iveana across the massive, lava-drenched temple, they also run afoul of an augur, sent by Jujani to punish Mazikeen for disobeying her, and choosing to halt the ritual. Ultimately, they are able to defeat both Iveana and the augur; however, the ritual has proceeded too far, and only a willing sacrifice will reverse its course. Neshirr volunteers to descend into the Well of Blood and end his life, thus saving Kalasai and possibly all of Allu in the process.
After the battle, the heroes notice some of the redirected blood has been drawn towards a secret passage, situated in Ulcis’s corner of the temple. They pass through a door to discover an underground river; there, half-submerged and drawing power from the stream of blood, is a dragonship — a submersible metal craft powered by the disembodied spirit of Charlashuk, a red dragon.
Charlashuk remembers Eldric, who was apparently on board the Bloodlust when it traveled through the Unraveling, from the future into the past. And, as the dragon resentfully points out, Eldric’s bleeding ruby is the key to controlling the vessel. At last, the heroes have found the means to escape Kalasai…and, quite possibly, to become a viable power in the Sea of Shards!