Back from their shopping trip in Sasserine, the party met with the Farshore council members to discuss the next move. The consensus was to investigate the 'Lords of Dread' and the troglodyte caves on the northern shore of the island that seemed to be the source of the Shadow Pearls. Lavinia shared a little more information from her mother's journal on the dragon turtle - known by the natives as 'The Glutton', a particularly large specimen for his kind. Lavinia offered some of her family's treasures as a 'tribute' to try and buy passage, which the party accepted, despite Manthalay's protestations that the beast should not be negotiated with, and if anything it's carcass should be dragged in front of the villagers to let them know their place. The party ignored this, although did mull over killing the beast if the opportunity arose at low risk. Lavinia was keen that the party find some news to help avoid the suspicious whispering from the villagers since her brother's appearance.
Before the party set off, Lavinia called Antony to one side, and further to his efforts campaigning on her behalf, asked him to accept the role as emissary of Farshore, to act as her representative in fostering trade links with other ports and merchant guilds. To help with this, she gave him the command of the Brine Harlot, and appointed one of the newly freed slaves as its captain under Antony's command. Nosmo Beldan introduced himself as a Minrothad captain of some experience, whose had lost his ship off the coast of Ochalea to the Sea Reavers of the Crimson Fleet, and had pledged his service to the colony for a year in return for his freedom. The party worked with the captain to plot a route to the north of the island - following the eastern shore so they could also look in on the wreck of the Sea Wyvern. Joining them on the journey was another freed slave named Ji - an Ochalean monk in the service of Tarastia from the Jade Raven monastery.
They set off the next day, and had good winds and calm seas on the voyage north. The party decided to weigh anchor near anchor near on of the reefs to try and find a clan of Tortles to communicate with, and question about the dragon turtle. The eventually managed to catch the attention of a trio of tortle warriors, who came to the surface. The party quizzed them about the dragon turtle, learning that his lair included the tortle breeding grounds, which he guarded but at a heavy price from the tortles in terms of tributes and occasional slaves. Some tortles worshipped the power of Emraag the Dragon Turtle, but this was not a commonly held view, and these tortles would support an attempt to remove him. They also helped the party learn to use the sea skirl - the strange alpine horn type instrument which was mounted on the bow of the ship, and gave the PCs a few pointers on how to play it acceptably. Stefanie paid most attention to the lessons, more by a process of elimination rather than natural aptitude.
The next day, the party made it to the wreck of the Sea Wyvern. Keen eyes spotted some movement near the ship, and a large elasmosaurus in the waters. Nosmo took the Brine Harlot in closer, and as the party kept weapons trained on the ship, the elasmosaurus attacked. Another figure darted out from the ship into the water - a kopru that tried and failed to dominate one of the party. The party soon dispatched the large dinosaur, but the kopru summoned a swarm of sharks and shapeshifted into a shark itself, to confuse the party, as it rained bolts of lightning from the heavens down onto Mendel in the crows nest. The battle ended in a standstill, as the sharks swam off, the kopru unable to make much headway from the waters. The party investigated the Sea Wyvern to find the kopru had been using it as a base of operations, seemingly in the process of crafting a magical necklace.
A few days later, the party made it to Gallivant Cove, and the domain of The Glutton. Stefanie tried to play the sea skirl to call Emraag to the surface, but her poor attempt only angered the beast who rose from the waters ready to breath flame over the ship. Some quick talking, and the mention of the tribute, gave the beast pause, and it listened to the party's request for passage. Emraag was clearly a haughty creature, and eventually deigned to allow the lesser specimens past - on this one occasion - but also mentioned he found it interesting that the same ship he saw a few days ago had returned but with a different crew, leading him to surmise that there must be a new colony somewhere in the archipelago...
The Brine Harlot weighed anchor in the cove, with instruction to wait for a couple of days before returning to Farshore, and the party set off in rowboats to a makeshift jetty of driftwood and bones that was visible in the cliff face of the cove. The jetty was shrouded in a sickly green smog, arising from humanoid skulls being used as braziers and burning a potent mix of herbs and fungi. Some of the party struggled with the smell, as Ji snuck forward along the jetty. A dinosaur was visible in the cave, and began barking as Ji approached. Angered by the party, it broke its chains and charged down the rickety pier to attack. The pier shook and the vibrations threw Stefanie and Ji into the water. The dinosaur was a sickly beast, it's hide tough and blackened, and nasty looking cuts marring its skin around the joints. a dark paste had been liberally applied to the wounds, but the exposed flesh was an angry red beneath it. The battle with the dinosaur, and recovering the PCs from the water, alerted some troglodytes from deeper in the cave. They called out, realising the PCs were not the pirates after they told them they had no more pearls. Dacien sent a fireball into the cave, and the troglodytes scurried back into the darkness. In pursuit, the party found signed of the shadow pearl distribution - broken geodes with spherical hollows that once housed the pearls were scattered on the floor. The geodes looked valuable but seemed to be made of an alien substance that caused a mild headache when touched. Tracks lead to a passage deeper in to the caves, and crude frescoes detailed the troglodyte religions beliefs - showing a dragon raining black pearls from the sky down on to the land in a scene of destruction. What was noticeable was a crude second head had been added to the dragon since the carving was originally done.
The party followed the caves deep into the cliffs and down into the depths of the Isle of Dread. After several hours, they came across a larger cave, caked in filth and swimming in the stench of decay and troglodyte musk. A crude troglodyte settlement filled most of the cavern, but the troglodytes themselves barely registered the PCs presence, wallowing in a deep lethargy. Each wretched creature has the same dark toughened skin marred by deep red welt and exposed flesh, and were swaddled in bandages that drip a dark ichor. In the midst of their hovels, was a large pit filled with black bubbling decaying bodies of troglodytes and other humanoids. Hanging above the pit were several large cages containing the bodies of other troglodytes - including one live troglodyte and a human tribal native, covered in animal tattoos. The human was drooling and had a vacant look in his eyes that Dacien deducted was caused by a Feeblemind spell. The party resolved to send him back to Farshore until he could be healed. When the live troglodyte saw the party he scurried across his cage, and excitedly beckoned them over. He introduced himself as Irgzid, and begged the party to set him free.
Irgzid explained he was a priest of Pearl, the immortal rule of chaotic (evil) dragons, and he feared for his people as the clan had been infested by another malign influence, and he begged the party to help him. The disease that ravaged his fellow troglodytes was at first through to be a gift from Pearl as it toughened the skin and made them stronger. But Irgzid had noticed a change in his fellow priests who didn’t seem to be acting in the best interests of the tribe, and were devoting their efforts to the transfer of Shadow Pearls from the kopru in the tunnels below to the pirates of the Crimson Fleet. The disease was a curse not a blessing, and slowly encased the creatures in their own toughened skin, as revealed to Irgzid by the ghost of one of his ancestors in the caverns below. But when his fellows discovered that Irgzid had not succumbed to the disease, they branded him a heretic, and locked him in a cage before he could rally an uprising against his fellow fallen priests. Irgzid promised to take the party to where they sourced the shadow pearls and to meet the ghost of his ancestor, if they helped him return his tribe to the rightful worship of Pearl.
Irgzid led the party through the settlement to a sinkhole that led to ttunnels into the depths. A statue of a large dragon looked over this, again with a second head added more recently. Having fought their way past some sickly troglodyte priests, Irgzid led them down the lift in to the passages. |He told the party it would be a journey of art least a few days to get to the site. Barely an hour out from the settlement, the party were attacked by a beholder, and by several strokes of luck were able to avoid the most damaging effects of its rays and managed to kill it bya well-timed flame strike and then lassoing it to Faldak, who scraped the monster to death against the tunnel walls as he fled in fear, trailing the beholder behind him like a balloon.
(and as it seemed likely the party had used up all their luck for the day in that one fight, it seemed a good place to stop!)