Dragon Watch

Episode 38: Shadow Over Illmarsh - Chapter Three


Orin had come to Illmarsh to find his gillmen brethren, whom he had sent to the coastal village to find answers. Now, Orin had found a part of that answer. He had reunited with an old councilman from his hometown of Tzim’chevaghol, Hagen, and killed the sorcerer for his troubles. He had found a village, not enslaved or oppressed, but enthralled with the very gods he sought to free his people from. And for all that trouble, his gillmen were dead – executed in cold blood.

Orin was not happy.

The traitorous Mayor Fineas, still alive despite the battle that had raged around him, was blinded and deafened at Anthony Arkwright’s hand, at the urging of our heroes, then bound and left aboard the Titanis, where he could be dealt with at a more opportune time. And then our heroes rested. And at dawn, Orin led his companions back to the Seaside Chapel.

A priest was there, and a villager. The former consoled the latter, who had quailed in fear at Orin’s display the evening before. Orin’s appearance now did little to dispel that fear, and the gillman ordered the villager to flee. The villager obeyed, leaving the priest alone to confront the party.

The confrontation itself was short, if humiliating. Orin knocked the priest out cold then drug his body to the front of the church, where he stripped and bound the aboleth’s servant to the podium, a display and a warning for those who had crossed him.

Another priest arrived, though he made no effort to stop Orin. His name was Oreon, the drunk priest from the tavern, and his crisis of faith had reached its zenith with the arrival of Orin and his allies. He told them of a secret door at the base of the cliffs, below the chapel, where he believed Father Gharol conducted his ritual – though Oreon himself did not know how to get from the chamber to that ritual. Orin, armed with the arcane remark confessed by his gillmen brethren in their prison, was less concerned with that part.

Dismissing Oreon to his affairs, our heroes came to the cliff face and found their way through the secret door – an illusion of a cliff wall, where in fact there was a cavern. Inside, they found themselves confronted with a rune – not one of the ritual, but a teleportation circle, similar to those they had found beneath Golushkin. Orin spoke the arcane remark, and the circle flared to life.

Our heroes soon found themselves in another cavern, though with no obvious connection to where they had just been. But they were underground, in a series of damp tunnels – and down the corridor, they heard the telltale voice of Father Gharol, continuing his sermon.

Our heroes stormed through the tunnels, but as they listened to Father Gharol’s voice, Hudson and Astrid found themselves overcome. At great effort, Orin and Anthony helped the others escape their mental prisons, while Thorgur charged ahead to confront the priest directly.

Thorgur found Father Gharol at the shore of an underground river. Preparing to strike, Thorgur was instead surprised to see the priest transform into a terrible creature – a great kyton, servant of the Prophet. Thorgur, however, swallowed his surprise and laid into the Apostate Gharol with his heavy flail, a compelling argument that the priest was hard pressed to counter.

The battle was short and violent, but soon all the party confronted the vile thing, and Apostate Gharol was forced to lay down to rest – permanently, as his corpse was set aflame.

The ritual remained – pulsing and feeding the great barrier that protected the vile skum – but it remained only for a moment. It collapsed of its own accord shortly, leaving our heroes to confront a strange vision. Something was stirring itself up from within the waters, something large. Our heroes readied themselves for another confrontation.

The creature emerged, brutal and quick, and shortly Orin realized what it was he now confronted. Not a servant, not an apostle or priest. Now he stood before her at last. For the first time in almost ten years, Orin faced the aboleth, Chevaghol.

Magic prevented our heroes from leaving, and the battle was again short and brutal – only not in our heroes’ favor. The aboleth made quick work of their defenses, ensnaring each one in her many tentacles. Yet when it should have ended in death, Orin instead found himself held firm, while he watched as Chevaghol dominated the minds of his companions. And through their mouths, Chevaghol spoke aloud to Orin for the very first time.

Orin, she claimed, was a true Azlanti, the successful result of a long aboleth experiment to recreate the old race that had once dominated Golarion, albeit this time not quite so free. He held great power as a result, and Chevaghol petitioned the gillman to give up his fight and serve at her side – as an equal.

Orin considered her offer only as long as it took to tell her to fuck off. Chevaghol accepted this answer, and revealed her full treachery to Orin. The tritons had long been her servants. Their were no skum. And Orin had been allowed to get this far only to distract him from the fall of the House of the Rising Tide, which even now fell to a surprise attack from that triton army.

Chevaghol then began to kill our heroes, squeezing their very life from their bones. As for Orin, he found himself assailed by Chevaghol’s mind. As he lost consciousness, he hallucinated a trident striking the foul beast directly in the eye. And then all was dark.

Orin awoke some time later, aboard the Titanis, to the sight of his brother Shalako. Shalako confirmed all Chevaghol had told him, then revealed a surprise: some tritons had come to the House of the Rising Tide and warned them of the impending attack. By this warning, many managed to escape, though the rest of the fighting force had remained behind to protect those desperate escapes. And so the House fell – but was not extinct.

Shalako offered one final surprise. Orin and his companions had themselves been saved by a triton, an ex-general, Theophania, who had found them and struck the aboleth. For whatever reason, the aboleth had then fled, and so our heroes had survived.

Orin left his bed and met with this creature. Theophania backed Shalako’s story and told him her own. Her people had defeated the skum many generations ago, but they had brought something back from that skum city – a corruption that festered and grew, until the tritons themselves were given over to worship of the aboleth they once opposed. And so the triton city, Taahla’i eh, became another servant in Chevaghol’s empire.

But not all tritons had fallen to this corruption. Theophania, and a handful of her friends and companions, escaped the city before it fell to the corruption. They took refuge in Lake Encarthan, hiding from their own people. And so they discovered the House of the Rising Tide, establishing itself against the aboleth.

Orin took all of this news with a heavy heart. Eventually, he dismissed Shalako to gather the rest of his people and meet in Tamran. And to Theophania, he promised that he would call on her people again, when the time was ready to face the aboleth.

And so our heroes sat with their defeat, and watched in silence as Orin retreated to his chambers, and let the hatred in his heart grow.


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