The Ashen Crown, the Lords of Madness, and the Queen of Death

The Blood of Emerald Claw

Dex collapses from the strain of contact with Belashyrra’s alien mind. While unconscious, she has a vision of Yeraa on the Shores of Death, at the Border between Death and Dream. Yeraa asks Dex to promise “not to leave me here” and hints that Ashurta might be able to help. When Dex regains consciousness, she finds that the Second Wind is under attack by a young blue dragon. The dragon claims to be of “the blood of Emerald Claw” and demands the pieces of the crown for his “queen”.

Over the course of the battle, Captain Arasinya makes several ultimately futile attempts at aerial manoeuvres to shake the dragon loose from her ship, then orders Keyleth, the first mate, to go below deck and get the goblins up to help. Keyleth quickly discovers that the hatches have been locked. As the battle dragons on (I’m sorry), the wyrm realizes he is outmatched and attempts to flee. Arasinya, grabbing the wheel from the pilot, steers the ship into the fleeing dragon. The dragon collides with the elemental ring, catches fire, and falls dead upon the ship’s deck.

Practically frantic by this point, Dex attempts to find a way to get below deck. The party helps Dex open the cargo hatch and they descend. There they find a grizzly sight: Yeraa and her warband, dead in the mess hall. It appears as if they had been sitting down for a meal when they were taken by surprise. The goblins have iron daggers stabbed into their bodies. The dagger from Akitani’s body is removed for inspection. On the blade are magic runes and the pommel is decorated with the roaring, fanged visage that is the symbol of the Blood of the Vol. In some cases, the wounds from the daggers are clearly lethal. In other cases, the wounds seem non-fatal, suggesting that the goblins died from other causes. In the air hangs a faint alchemical smell belonging to a rare catalyst, which is not in itself dangerous.

Tinker finds the body of several crew members, the manner of their self or mutually inflicted deaths suggesting the use of mind control.

Dex, hunting for the assassin, invokes the “blind sight” power of her coat of eyes, allowing her to see through walls and illusions. She soon finds him lurking in a locked cabin, working on creating a pentacle on its floor. Hearing them outside the cabin, the assassin makes an arcane gesture and in the mess hall the goblins rise.

Tinker picks the lock and Dex bursts into the cabin. She threatens the assassin, who remains carefully mute. The assassin as it so happens is invisible, and wary of giving away his location to Tinker.

Tinker, uncertain of the assassin’s location or distance, instead devotes his attention to the pentacle that Dex is standing on. The pentacle is part of a linked portal ritual in progress. Tinker carefully rubs out part of the pentacle, preventing the ritual from being easily completed. Then seized with a sudden and illogical fear for Dex’s safety, he pushes her off the disabled pentacle.

At that same moment, the assassin become visible. Now that Tinker is no longer between him and the door, the assassin makes his escape down the hall, directing one the zombie hobgoblins to block pursuit. As he flees, Dex lands a couple of blows on him, but the assassin downs another vial of the invisibility potion and makes good his escape. Dex forces her way past the goblin in the door, but loses the trail of the assassin.

During the battle, Bogs receives word from Bonekeeper that “Yog’s tattoo has disappeared” from her body leading her to believe that Yog is dead. Each bone tattoo on Bonekeeper’s body is a link to another field agent. When an agent dies, their tattoo vanishes. Bogs suggests another possibility: that Yog/Tikulti has turned traitor. Bonekeeper admits this is a “disturbing possibility”.

Pounding and shouts from the hatch down to the cargo hold indicate to Arasinya that some of her crew is still alive and has been trapped below. She frees them and they ascend to help fight the zombie goblins, or rather, they try. The two deckhands are quickly struck down, the chaplan, Valna, is knocked unconscious by zombie-Yeraa. By the time the fight is over, of the four crew who joined the fight, only Higgs, the ship’s bowson, is left standing.

The party notes that Akitani, the goblin they removed the dagger from, did not rise to join the fight. Realizing that the daggers contain the spell that animates the zombies, the party manages to remove the dagger from Yeraa’s body. Once she is still, Tinker ascertains that Yeraa is indeed dead. Dex is sad, then angry.

Just as the battle with the goblins ends, the ship’s crew appears at the top of the cargo hatch and Keyleth, the first mate, throws lightning at Dex. The deck crew seems to be convinced that Dex is the necromancer attacking the ship and responsible for reanimating the goblins. Their evidence: the fact that she is one scary looking gnome and she commands a group of zombies (deathgaunts, stored in the hold).

A fight almost breaks out, but Dex and the rest of the party manage to persuade the crew to give the gnome the benefit of the doubt. The party climbs back up to the deck with the hope of finding the assassin. As soon as they do, the dragon corpse stirs and rises. An iron ritual dagger has been embedded in its chest.

Just as Bogs finishes climbing up on deck he receives a mental command from the unseen assassin. The assassin bids him to kill Higgs, the hapless bowson climbing up after him. Bogs resists and the psychic force of the compulsion crushes Bogs’s mind and he slumps forward on the deck, slipping into oblivion.

As the dragon attempts to devour Arasinya with typical zombie clumsiness, Dex climbs up onto a cabin and leaps onto the dragon’s back. She stuffs Tinker’s resonance crystal into the dragon’s ear. Arasinya strikes the dragon with a blast of thunder so loud that Dex’s ears are left ringing, the crystal shatters explosively, and the dragon’s head is taken clean off.

Aurora notices that one of the crew on deck is Valna, the ship’s chaplan, the very same Valna left unconscious in the mess hall. Realizing suddenly that the assassin must be a shapeshifter, Aurora roars out a warning to the rest of the party…


MatthewKelly MatthewKelly

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