In our last Empire of the Ghouls session we moved onto the final chapter, The Pure City of Vandekhul, which is one of the two that I wrote. It was a long time since I’d written the encounters we played, but it was good to see them work well at the table!
24th Deep Winter, 92 FY (contd.)
The imperial flagship, the Phantom, bears down on the characters in their stolen vessel, the Skin Trader, as they sail away from the docks. Zygmunt’s gust of wind spell is still running, and Bubbles and Herr Biegen go down below to use the oars to provide enough speed to outrun the darakhul ship. The Phantom launches bundles of exploding bones from its catapults which strike the Skin Trader and shower the characters with shards. Luckily, The Gears spots a shoal not too far away and they make for it. Once the Skin Trader sails into the shallows, the Phantom gives up the chase.
Down in the hold, the characters find the captain’s navigational charts and almanac, as well as the ship’s gruesome cargo of skins. Zygmunt is able to plot a course to Vandekhul via Chandelier Island with help from Bubbles.
Staying in the shallows, the characters take a short rest, as the three ghosts that accompanied them from the docks complain vociferously about their unburied bodies and The Gears’s promise to lay them to rest. The party sail the ship north, following the ghosts’ directions, watching out for the “faceless terrors on bat-like wings” the spirits warn them about.
In a forest of stalagmites sticking out of the yellow waters, the ship is attacked by a trio of nightgaunts and swarms of bats. Louthin and Penumbra are grabbed by the baleful creatures and carried off but use misty step and farstep to escape. The Gears is also whisked off to the top of a stalagmite. He can’t teleport so casts spirit guardians to protect himself. Meanwhile, Zygmunt is surrounded by swarms of bats but pays them no heed.
The nightgaunts fly in and out and must be brought down by spells and arrows. Penumbra is grabbed again, falling unconscious, but is healed by Zygmunt. The Gears tries to climb down from the top of the stalagmite, slips, and must cling on. Eventually he makes it to the bottom where he is picked up by the ship.
With the battle over, the party sail to the stalagmite where the ghosts are floating above their corpses and wailing. The Gears casts flame strike to set their bodies on fire and lay their spirits to rest at last. The Skin Trader sails north for a while, then drops anchor so the characters can have another short rest. While they are moored, they encounter Milos Guttersnipe, the ghoul who is charged with replacing extinguished lantern beetles with living, glowing ones, so that ships can find their way across the Sulphur Sea.
Milos tells the party that the Phantom is patrolling nearby, searching for dangerous fugitives. He also points out that their ship has gone off course if they are heading for Chandelier Island. They give him one of the skins and Milos gives them a caged lantern beetle in return. Afterwards, the characters sail north for a couple of hours before dropping anchor again for a long rest.
25th Deep Winter
The Skin Trader sails through the eerie darkness. After 12 hours, the ship nearly crashes into a reef, but The Gears spots it in time and Louthin turns the wheel fast and hard enough to avoid impact. Studying the charts, Zygmunt realises they’ve gone off course yet again. As he’s figuring out the correct route, the ship comes under attack by two tentacled sulphur krakes.
The larger one vomits half-digested food over the characters, while its smaller offspring grabs hold of the incapacitated Zygmunt and Louthin. Penumbra casts blight twice, killing the larger krake. Louthin escapes from the smaller one with misty step, but Zygmunt is flung through the air towards a lurking undead giant shark. He swims for the boat in his plate armour as the others attack the monstrous creature, allowing the paladin to haul himself back on board. Once the second krake is dead, the party sail off, leaving the shark to feast on its tentacles.
26th Deep Winter
Sailing through the gloom, the Skin Trader reaches Chandelier Island – a huge stalagmite island with a vast, white stalactite of sparkling sword-like crystals hanging like a giant chandelier above it.
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Main image by Roland Deaconu