Some time ago…
Stranded by a mighty, once-in-a-decade tempest, Dru, Aldara, Niskadora, and Arder spent the last week in the tiny village of Codcliffe, a hardscrabble fishing settlement perched atop a high cliff far from the reaches of Prince Jordanus and his tax-hungry Imperial Navy. The morning after the storm broke, the group was joined by Captain-Senator Balbus and his crew, castaways from the HMS Relentless, an indigo-sailed Imperial treasure galleon. The ship lay beached on a nearby tide flat shunned by the villagers; a place where the octopus folk gather to bellow at the comets.
Captain-Senator Balbus and his men come to demand the service due to to their beloved Empire. In the wreck, the Relentless lost a valuable cargo: the prisoner Mr. Hobart and his vicious crew of corsairs. Jordanus has commanded that Hobart’s marauders be presented to the Court in time for High Season, and the Captain-Senator will do whatever is necessary to fulfill his duty. He demands Codcliffe’s assistance.
The villagers are apprehensive. They loathe the Empire, are terrified of Hobart and his marauders, and have known for generations that it is unwise to trespass on the lands of the octopus folk…
The Village Square
Though Balbus and his men demanded assistance from the villagers of Codcliffe, none stepped forward. In a petulant fit, Balbus’s personal bodyguard, the sorceror Apothiko Vitula, polymorphed some villagers into chickens, promising to reverse the spell if Hobart is apprehended.
The group, unimpressed by Balbus and Vitula’s childish displays, decided to seek out Hobart on their own, separate from Balbus and his crew’s poorly organized search party. They made their way southward, past the wreck of the Relentless, run aground upon the silty tide flats. Her hull was unbreached, but her masts were cracked and fallen, and her rigging was in tatters. The deep indigo sails hung in rags from the yards.
Continuing further to the south, the group came upon a series of islets, almost entirely underwater in the high tide. In the center of these rose an enormous pillar of rock, three hundred feet in diameter and at least two hundred feet high. At its base, just above the high-tide line, a cave mouth offered entrance. In front of the cave mouth a tiny figure paced, agitated.
Aldara sensed that this place was a conduit of great magical power, and noticed that the magical energy of this islet extended far into the sky…
The tiny, pacing figure was a young halfling by the name of Talley. Talley sought entrance to the caves, but was chased out by the octopus guards every time he tried to sneak in. He claimed over and over that he needed to get into the cave to join the Migration.
Arder, already in a foul mood thanks to the weather and a week of unceasing rain, and out of patience for cryptic puzzles, compelled Talley to divulge what fueled the flames of his desire. Talley revealed that he had been stung by the Decaturge, the ten-armed High Priest of the octopus folk, and that the Decaturge’s sting was what was compelling him to join the Migration. He agreed to help in any way he could if the group could aid him in his goals.
Quietly, they sneaked into the mouth of the cave, beyond which was a long, dimly-lit tunnel, damp with rain and seawater. Dru shapeshifted into a penguin and shot off down the tunnel, sliding on his belly, past the two octopus folk standing guard at the end of the tunnel.
At the end of the tunnel, the floor dropped off, and he tumbled onto the floor of a great, round chamber, fifty feet across and a hundred feet high. From ceiling to floor hung huge rubbery vines, and the floor of the chamber was covered with a hundred soft, slightly gelatinous orbs, the eggs of the octopus folk. In the vines overhead, females swung from vine to vine, weaving lattices and nets from which they hung clusters of eggs. In the center of the chamber rose a spiral staircase, leading from the floor all the way out the top of the islet.
The octopus guards were startled and confused by the tiny penguin, and one of them swung into the siring chamber to investigate. Arder, Aldara, Niskadora, and Talley crept up behind the other guard, and Aldara reached out, touching the octopus so she could cast a spell to mimic its appearance. Meanwhile, Arder tried to overpower its weak mind, but its intellect was too foreign and it merely became confused and afraid. It reached out its tentacle to grab Aldara, now in the form of another octopus.
Talley recognized this gesture as a form of communication. He jumped forward and took hold of the octopus’s tentacles and communicated to it, in a series of nuanced twitches and grasps, that he and his friends were safe and meant no harm. The octopus calmed down and stood aside, allowing Arder and Aldara to enter the siring den.
Aldara, in the form of an octopus, had no difficulty swinging from vine to vine, but Arder’s clumsy claws were unable to grasp the rubbery vines well enough to make her way across the room. Instead, she managed to swing over to a narrow catwalk along the side of the chamber, but in doing so she attracted the attention of the guard who had gone looking for Dru, as well as two more guards from an entrance on the opposite side of the chamber. The first guard bore down on Arder and sprayed her with thick black ink, marking her for a target.
Dru, nestled among the eggs at the bottom of the chamber, was able to meditate on the nature of these strange octopus folk enough to be able to shapeshift into one. He called out to them, in a series of whistles and grunts, to apprehend the intruders—his party mates. Arder was beset now by not only the guards, but the females high among the vines as well. Conjuring a flaming blade, she slashed the nearest one in half, and it exploded in a burst of goo and ink.
Aldara and Dru, taking advantage of the confusion, made their way across the chamber to the other cave mouth, which opened into another similarly-sized vault, this one with smooth walls painted in golden alien heiroglyphs and black-ink frescoes. Down on the floor, in the center of the room, Mr. Hobart and half a dozen of his men were tied to a piece of mast from Relentless. The Decaturge and a handful of warriors were circled around them, painting strange sigils on the prisoners’ skin with black ink.
Dru called out to the Decaturge that there were intruders in the siring den. The Decaturge sent his warriors into the den to try to apprehend Arder. Seizing an opportunity, Dru called upon the elemental spirit of earth to shake the ground, and a huge portion of the wall and floor crumbled away, opening a gaping hole out to the sea. The floor beneath them gave way and began to slope out toward the waves, and Hobart and his men, tied to the heavy mast, began to slide away from Dru and Aldara.
Aldara, seeking some magical explanation for the octopus folk’s migration, attuned her senses once more to detect any magic present in the space. She discovered that the golden hieroglyphics were indeed quite potent magic, focusing to a swirling point at the center of the vault ceiling. The resonance of her spell, combined with the elemental power called upon by Dru, rent the fabric of reality and the walls of the vault began to melt and slide away. The Decaturge latched onto one of the massive pillars still clinging to the ceiling and tried to climb his way up toward the point of the vault.
Dru and Aldara decided to take this opportunity to attempt an escape.
Realizing that their safest means of egress was back through the siring den, Dru and Aldara, both now transforming back to their humanoid forms, leapt forward and swung across the chamber to the other side. Meanwhile, the octopus folk relinquished their attack on Arder, shifting their attention to saving as many eggs as possible from the falling rubble and melting walls.
Arder, still rattled from the onslaught, attempted to swing to safety but fell, tumbling down to the floor, her fall broken only somewhat by the eggs beneath her. Niskadora quickly cut down a length of the rubbery vine and swung it down to Arder, who climbed up and out to the relative safety of the tunnel, clutching a wobbly egg.
Seeing his opportunity to join the Migration slipping from view, Talley dived into the siring chamber just as a huge chunk of wall and vine came tumbling down, blocking off the tunnel.
Hobart and his men, to this day, were never recovered.