"When I was born, mother put me into a crystal ball at the bottom of sea, along with all my brothers and sisters. We were all very small then, no bigger than the smallest finger on the smallest man. It was a bit like falling asleep under the warm clouds, like dreaming without dreaming. Sometimes mother would visit and sing to us. The songs were very beautiful, and I believed that she must be beautiful, too.
When mother died we all knew it. It was awful, at first. I was cold and hungry and scared. All around me my brothers and sisters were thrashing in the dark, just as scared as me. Before we knew what we were doing, we all set about eating each other. It was such wickedness, I know now, and I dearly wish I had a brother or sister to visit. But, alas. After I had eaten one of them, I swam away. There was still such a great tumult in the water and I was so full I could hardly breathe.
I know we didn't have souls--Mother didn't. But when she passed, her spirit entered us, only it was split between so many of us that we only had a tiny piece to each ourselves. It was like the light of a candle pressing back the darkness all around. And I believe it was that wicked spirit that led us to devour each other, because only by eating one another could we find more of Mother's spirit.
For a very long time, we swam the length of the breadth of the lakes. We would hunt and devour each other whenever we crossed paths. Soon there were only a few of us left, all of us the biggest and smartest that had hatched from that crystal egg. I suppose we lived like simple animals, then, although I remember experiencing things like curiosity, and playing, and loneliness. I used to love to watch the geese return every summer, and I would sneak up on the fat ones whenever I could and toss them as far into the air as I could. At least, that was what I did when I wasn't too hungry.
That was also when I began to see the first men building their cities along the shore. They would come out into the lakes in with their boats and their nets and their white sails. They seemed so brave and clever to sail across the lakes when there were so many vile creatures in it. And Iasu forgive me, but I ate many of them, not knowing it was wickedness.
I would still be a monster today if I had not heard their songs. The humans and the smallfolk used to sing to each other when they were hauling the nets. When I heard them I was overcome by loneliness and I suddenly felt as dirty as a mud duck and as small as a minnow. So, I showed myself to the fishermen. I don't know what I was expecting, but they drove me off with arrows and spears. You must understand that I was still beastly then, covered with scales and teeth and spines. Actually, that was when I realized that I was ugly, and I hated myself for it. I never bore any ill will towards the humans for driving me off. It was my body that I grew to despise, armored and gruesome. I resolved that someday I would be beautiful and kind, and and in those days I ate far fewer humans.
I didn't know that there were only two of us left. But one morning, when the sun was still a cool glow in the east and I was hunting for catfish, my last unlucky brother--I'm almost positive it was a brother--swam down from straight above me, seeking my neck. He was larger than me and much stronger. But he only ever chased after my neck, never minding where the rest of me was. In the end, he ended up biting me on my forehead--to small effect, for we both had skulls as thick as warship hulls--while I was coiled around his neck and body. It took a long time to choke him, and the whole time he was thrashing like a thing possessed, pounding me against the green rocks at the bottom of the lake. And he was of such hideous strength that I feared that even my heavy skull would crack under his thick teeth. But at length, he was dead, and I wedged him under a rock and set about the slow task of eating him.
After I had finished eating him, I became aware of myself. It was like seeing a mirror for the first time. I felt strong and young and free. I realized that I could turn into other animals. I think I always could, if someone had shown me how. What is it like when a human first realizes he can wiggle his ears? I turned myself into a woman, the most beautiful one I could imagine, and went to where the people were. It was dusk, and the mayflies were dancing.
I walked into a muddy cottage and there was a man and he laid with me. I believe this was the first time I had felt happiness. It was startling and wonderful. I did this for a while in many of the towns around the lakes. I found that I could make the men breathe water so that they could stay with me on the bottom of the lake. Many people didn't like me for doing this. I remember one time, a large group of knights found me. I must have been stabbed half a dozen times before I made it back to the lake. I ate most of the knights in the end, Iasu forgive me. After that, there were many knights in the towns, and I decided that it was no longer safe to leave the lake. For that reason, I think, I can never feel truly safe when I leave the water.
Humans, especially their wives, I think, were fond of saying that I charmed my men. But I never did. I didn't know how. I just held them and patted their poor heads and listened while they told me their problems. They were so troubled most of the time, poor things. I did what I could for them. I fed them and loved them and gave them the kind words and kisses they so needed. And when that was not enough, I changed them so that they could be happier in the lakes with me.
One day I found a small boat anchored in the center of the Steely Sea. Dolmea was the only one aboard--this is before he was a saint--and he had been trying to find me. He had been hanging a side of beef off the side of the boat, thinking that I would come to eat it. In truth, I was eating less and less meat in those days, and besides, the beef had gone off and I believe that Dolmea was quite nauseaus from the smell, poor thing. I came on the boat and he talked to me, and he was not the least bit scared. He told me of the gospels of Hesaya, and he spoke with such clarity and conviction that I was moved. I realized how wicked I had been my entire life.
Dolmea, Iasu bless his soul, helped me to pray. And that was the day that the Authority entered my heart and I found my redemption."
-Lady Evica of the Three Secret Seas
A Quick Recap
So there you have it. Lady Evica was one of the many sea-monster children that hatched when her mother, the demigoddess Dendrola, died. She existed as a clever beast for many years, until she was the last of her mother's children, at which point she suddenly inherited self-awareness, intuition, and a few of the powers of her heritage. These powers included the ability to change form, seduce men into the lakes, and live with them there while they changed into amphibious demi-human hulks. During this time, the church attempted to destroy her, but to no avail. Evica, her seductions, and her monstrous lovers were a constant threat in the Three Secret Seas until an aspiring priest named Dolmea converted her to Hesaya, the religion of the Great Church. Now known as Lady Evica, she is the favorite adopted citizen of a small city call Havenholt, where she is known as a beautiful and devout member of the community, who speaks often about the chance that even monsters have at redemption.
Beauty and the Church
By other accounts, Dolmea did not convert Evica immediately. Rather, he left with her and lived with her for some time, probably as another of her consorts. When paladins found him, he pleaded for more time, claiming that he needed more time and was close to a breakthrough. The paladins didn't believe him and would have brought him back to account for himself if Dolmea hadn't escaped. Shortly after that, Evica presented herself to the church as a convert and begged to be forgiven for her sins. Dolmea swore that he had never had carnal knowledge of Evica, although he had lived with her. The church accepted this report, the wizard-priest who converted the monster of the Three Secret Seas found sainthood eventually (may he rest in peace).
A bit should be said about Evica at this point. She generally appears as a human woman, by all accounts, is impossibly beautiful. There are dozens of songs about her looks. In the water the usually appears as a mermaid version of her human form. When she needs to swim long distances, she travels as a much larger version of her mermaid for (a mer-giant, technically), but this is an extremely rare sight. She claims that her true form is repulsive and that she has sworn to never revert to it again. She dresses demurely and speaks softly, and she is incredibly warm and friendly whenever possible. She hates leaving the safety of her lakes, and claims that her unhappiest days were when she was required to go on the pilgrimages. For a while, there was talk of her becoming human somehow, but after a long visit to the capitol yielded nothing, she returned home to the lakes that she adores so much.
As a monster, the church has told her that she has no hope of rebirth, but she doesn't seem to mind. She helps travelers, and attends the church in Havenholt thrice weekly, unless she is away. The church in Havenholt manages her money, and finances many private campaigns against the fishfolk of the Zeban Sea, to either kill or convert them (with no success at conversions so far). Apparently, Evica wants to save their souls just as hers has been saved. She also feeds the poor and organizes orphanages--which reminds me: she's great with kids, which she adores. She's kind to everyone, and has a great memory of names and news. It's not an exaggeration to say that she knows nearly everyone in Havenholt, and is a loved and respected member of the community. Well, except among wives whose husbands love and respect her enough for both of them.
No One Is Perfect
However, Evica's conversion has been far from complete. Many mutter that she still takes men to live when her under the lakes. Monsters still appear at the same rate as menfolk disappear, although always far from her adopted home of Havenholt. And many whisper that she must possess some sort of magical appeal, a supernatural charm or bewitchment. No matter how much she denies it, they say, she must have potent powers. After all, she is over ninety and only seems to get younger and more beautiful every year.
These same gossips, far from the warm halls of Havenholt, also have theories about how she changes her paramours into other shapes, albeit gradually. They typhically end up as monstrous hybrids of small intelligence and great strength--apparently, this is either the type of lover she prefers or the best way to make a man happiest in life. Either way, she refuses to admit to having anything to do with these monster-men when they kill livestock or steal fish from nets.
And while she revered in Havenholt as helpful and sweet, it is suspected elsewhere that she hunts down anyone who traps or slays her lovers. Those that have harmed one of her mutant paramours would be wise to avoid the area around the Three Secret Seas for long, long time, as her true form is not something one generally lives to report.
It's a double life that only a supernatural creature could balance. She is universally loved in Havenholt, while more distant places still mutter against her for creating monsters and stealing their menfolk. In private, the Church has threatened her with excommunication and execution if she is ever to found guilty of seduction, witchcraft, or embarassing the Church. But that's just privately. In public, the Church is her biggest defender, and anyone seeking to prove Lady Evica's guilt can expect swift condemnation from the church. The story of a monster redeemed by a saint is just too good to pass up. And everyone adores her. Especially the men.
Top Secret GM Notes
Lady Evica is the daughter of Dendrola, the (now slain) demigod of sea monsters. Dendrola and her minions killed countless humans and made the Three Secret Seas uninhabitable for most of recorded history. Similarities spring to mind, along with contrasts. While Dendrola was powerful, proud, hideous, and cruel, Evica is powerful, proud, beautiful, and kind. And although Evica would disagree, she's doing the same thing her mother did--enjoy the adoration of a mortal race while still indulging her base instincts. And while Evica is generally a nice person-monster, her biggest flaw is selfishness. She wants the love of an adoring community that approves of her, but she still wants to have sexytime with her chosen beefcakes on the side. She's like a ninety-year old child; she still thinks she can have it both ways.
Note that she is not supernatually charming (unless she kisses you). She is just friendly, funny, nice, intelligent, and beautiful. Her seductions don't include kinky outfits and forbidden pleasures, they include sundresses and apple pie (OMG her pie might be supernaturally delicious om nom nom).
Her best known ability is shapeshifting. She can turn into any mortal race or sea monster. She changes into mortal races because she likes to feel pretty, and into sea monsters when there's. . . work to be done. And although she can turn into any sea monster, she prefers the giant mermaid (a mer-giant, actually) for swimming within sight of people (can swim really fast while still looking pretty). When out of sight, she might take her natural form: a large, black-green sea wyrm with blue, human-like eyes. Her eyes, actually, look completely the same. Except they are peering out from a creature that is 80' long, covered in spikes, swallows horses whole, and can bite through armor like it was candlewax.
Her other ability is a combo deal: faerie-style charm + waterbreathing. Although she can do it with a touch, she prefers to do this with a kiss, if possible. The charm isn't a big deal, you just fall in love with her for a little while. She's easy to love. The water-breathing isn't a big deal either--it only lasts a day or two. However, repeated uses of this ability will turn you into a sea-monster/boyfriend hybrid. If water-breathing persists for more than 8 days, consult a physician.
Those are her default abilities. She is her mother's daughter, and if she ever embraced her heritage, she stands to be exactly as powerful and terrible. Depending on how challenging you want to make her (and if she ever seeks out the Bident of the Abyss, her mother's symbol of office) she can have the following abilities: (1) Summon up hordes of angry fishfolk ghosts, (2) Instantly dominate a party member and turn him into a raging lobster-hulk, (3) Sing a pretty song to dominate an entire village, (4) Start sinking/flooding the building, (5) Summon the ghost of her momma, (6) Summon flying krakens (7) or just giant tentacles from clouds, (8) conjure seawater into a PCs lungs. She might even (9) have a mass of jellied eggs hidden on the bottom of one of the lakes. These are just ideas, some of which are pretty lame.
Plot Idea 1 - The Unoriginal Plot Idea
The PCs arrive in Havenholt to watch Lady Evica conduct a wedding. After she gives the newlyweds her blessing, she approaches the PCs, and asks them if they were troubled by bandits on the way in. Actually, first she'll try to hand-feed the most handsome male PC some cake. But eventually, she'll try to hire them to clear out some bandits in the surrounding hills. (Boring stuff, but she can be a low-level questgiver.) Afterwards, the PCs are confronted by townsfolk jealous of the attention Evica gave them, and the PCs get to learn a little bit of Evica's backstory. Later, while hunting for the bandits (who have a tame crocodile), the party is attacked by one of her mutant boyfriends. This can go many ways, but if the PCs kill the ensorcelled mer-hunk, I'd reccomend encouraging them not to tell Evica unless you want to set her up as an antagonist (and miss out on some blackmail opportunities). The party might learn about Evica's dark side when they encounter four women, armed to the teeth, looking for their menfolk that they claim Evica stole from them.
Plot Idea 2 - The Octopus's Wife
The party encounters four women around the lake, all armed to the teeth. They're all looking for their menfolk, who have been kidnapped/seduced by Evica. They're from small towns across the lake, and therefore don't have the same stupid adoration for her that Havenholt does. The older one, Medera, just want to find the cheating swine and cut his heart out before her arthritis sends her to bed. The middle-aged one, Bashmina, just needs to get his signature so she can be the sole proprietor of the tavern they jointly owned (The Sinking Duck) so she can settle in with her new boyfriend. The youngish one, Tremony, wants to bring him home so she can be a better wife, something she plans to do by reading him all the love poems he wrote her (She is, indeed, carrying a backpack stuffed with his poems). Lastly the youngest one, Heshesha, is only fifteen, and is looking for her father, who owns a magic sword called Wyrmstooth. She claims it was promised to her on her fifteenth birthday. She needs the magic sword to fulfill her dream of setting out as an adventurer (only the jerk took it fishing with him, and, well. . .)
The women are woefully undergeared, and would love to have the help of more seasoned adventurers. Tips from villager's various sightings will help the PCs locate with the 4 errant menfolk.
Heshesha's father is now a hunchbacked snapping-turtle and ten feet tall who lives in a wrecked ship, pulled 50' onto the muddy shore. He'll ambush the party by pulling one member of the party through the rotten deck and then killing him/her quickly. He'll stop attacking, though, as soon as he sees that Heshesha is with the party after only a little bit of combat. He'll give her the sword, after saying "I'm so proud of you. You grew up as good as I could have wanted. But never come back here again. This is my life, now." He can be pressed for a few details. He was fishing when Evica appeared as a mermaid, kissed him, and beckoned him into the water. He lived in a forest of golden seaweed with her at the bottom of the lake for over a week, before she asked him to find a place of his own where she could visit. Pressing him for more details will make him very angry. Implying that Evica has other lovers other than him will make him very, very angry, and he will certainly attack the party again (to maim, not to kill) while gurgling at them to leave. Under no circumstances will he attack his daughter.
Bashmina's husband has been preying on sheep, and badly injured a young shepherd a few weeks ago. He can be stalked, encountered, or even trapped (he's pretty dumb). This is a roleplaying encounter (hopefully), where the sharklike man discloses his regret, apologizes for all the times he's cheated on his wife, and signs the contract for the tavern. After he tells his wife he'd be intrested in a cure, she tells him that she's got a new boyfriend, That-one-guy-you-always-hated. The sharky hubby flies into a rage, and attacks the party, starting with Bashmina. Afterwards, Bashmina's tells you that drinks at the Sinking Duck are always on the house.
Tremony's husband is encountered when he comes to the shore. He appears while she reads poetry at the water's edge (something she does nearly constantly, even when walking). When Tremony asks him to read her one of his old poems, he bangs on his throat with a mottled claw--he now so resembles a monstrous crawfish that he can no longer talk. Tremony will ask him to return home. After something like confusion passes across his features, he rushes towards her, picks her up, and runs back into the water. After she screams that she'll drown, the crawfish-man will try to run along the shore with his shrieking cargo. Tremony does NOT want to go with her transformed husband, and will scream her lungs out for help. Actually, after seeing his face, all the thoughts of romance will drain from her head, and she'll try to get free by whacking him on the head with her bag of his poetry while sheets flutter into the water. If her husband is impeded by the party in his Bowser-like escape, he will attack them. His goal is to slay or drive off the party so he can run off with Tremony. Hopefully, this will end with Tremony begging for her husband's life, and her injured husband scuttling back into the water with only the tiniest of backwards glances. Tremony will throw the bag of poetry into the water after him, and begin to cry. She'll probably want to be taken home after this, as she is about to fall into a serious mope. Poor kid. At least she's still in her twenties and cute enough that she'll probably remarry.
The climax of the adventure comes when the party discovers that Medera's husband has been living beneath Evica's lakeside townhome. The best time to sneak in will be when Evica (and her extensive entourage) is in Havenholt delivering a speech about sustainable fishing practices. He's somewhere in opulent but halfway flooded basement, which is stocked with barely submerged waterproof couches, beautiful tilework, heated water, spells to keep the vermin out, and floating wine tables. It's a basement built for a mermaid to entertain guests in bathing suits. Medera's husband now resembles a young dude (Medera's husband was only 28) with tentacles for arms, a beak for a mouth, and a rugged set of pecs. He is extremely drunk from several bottles of wine, and will be extremely aggressive. He will begin combat by blinding the party with ink and throwing the two winebottles he is holding. After his throws, he will try to drag a PC into one of the basement's many deep spots and drown them. He will attack whoever is closest, and will fight to the death.
After his demise, the PCs will hear voices coming down the stairs. Give the PCs a chance to hide, and they'll see Evica discover the body, sink to her knees, and weep over him. She'll say something like, "Oh, Iasu! Oh, no! Oh, no! Poor man. You deserved better than this." She'll shed a few silent tears, while a woman's voice upstairs calls, "Come back upstairs, m'Lady! We don't need any wine with you around!" Then the PCs can watch her carry him to the water, turn into a monster, and swim off with him. If she discovers the PCs down there, the same thing occurs, except that she adds a terse, "Get out of my house."--with guests upstairs, she doesn't want to make any more of a ruckus. Not today, anyway.
If the party feels bad for Evica, they'll have a chance to help her in the next Plot Idea. If Evica hates them, she might give them a chance to redeem themselves in the next Plot Idea.
Plot Idea 3 - The Lady on the Altar
A bunch of fanatical fishfolk have traveled all the way to Havenholt with sinister intentions. They brought an ancient shrine and have set it up in the sewers beneath the city. The altar is ancient, powerful magic, and has been reconsecrated to Evica--the images of Dendrola have been replaced with images of her daughter. Having fortified the sewers, the fishmen brought Evica down there, fell on their knees burbling words of worship, and begged her to come back with them to the distant ocean so that she could bring a reign of terror the humans there. And eventually everywhere. She refused, of course.
The fishfolk cultists threatened her, and told her that the altar had the power to MAKE her come back with them. Such was the power of the altar. They could control her with it right now if they wanted to. And they said that she had three days to say her goodbyes, or they would crush her willpower like an old sand dollar and ride her out of Havenholt on a tide of human blood, as is her birthright. Evica said "Well, thank you so much for the offer. I'll have to think about it. Have a good night." Then she went back home and fretted. Lots of fretting.
She has approached the party because she wants the altar destroyed. She doesn't like the idea of being controlled by fishfolk. But she doesn't want to approach the Church because. . . well, they might want to control her too, and if they knew how to use the altar, they might do exactly that. And so she throws a bunch of gold and resources at the party, and goes to hang out on the other side of the lake with her most distant paramour. There's always the chance that the altar has a range limit.
And so the party explores the sewers, fighting fishy cultists and their pets. The altar wasn't where Evica said it would be, only an ambush--the piscine blaggards must have moved the thing. Perhaps the Church gets wind of it, and there are a few Lawful Stupid paladins down there, too. Perhaps the climax takes place when the head fishfolk cultist raises a semi-sunken fishfolk ruin on the water just outside the town (the Three Secret Seas are full of the darn things), and it all comes to a head with the Church, the fishfolk cultists, a big evil altar, and an angry coral golem, and a mind-controlled Evica eating paladins like shrimp scampi.
That's the kind of thing that'll make your adopted city stop trusting you. And your patron church decide you're suddenly a tremendous danger to the status quo. Heck, you might even start wondering if you are in the right place. Which brings us to my fourth Plot Idea.
Plot Idea 4 - Mapping the Mermaid
The Journey Over Land
Recent events have shaken Evica's faith. She wants to collect some of her mother's heirlooms, and hopefully discover more about her history. She wants to leave Havenholt in a hurry, and she wants to leave it in the disguise. The disguises should be easy--she's a shapeshifter. But she wants a party of adventurers to take her to a place she's never told anyone about. She's seen it in her dreams all the time and she knows exactly where to find it. She knows it holds the secret of her heritage, something she doesn't really understand. She wants to go on a journey of self-discovery.
This journey is going to require a long boat ride. Off the edge of the map, actually. Evica laughs when she reads "Here Be Monsters", and tells you that they got the spikes all wrong. They should be much thicker. Can she borrow a pen to correct the dockmaster's map?
The journey is going to include dodging the long arm of the Church. Evica is a symbol of the redeeming power of faith, and if she's goes rogue, they lose a lot of credibility. Maybe they've finally got fed up, though, and they're threatening to kill her if she doesn't return. They've make her a saint afterwards. It's a win-win.
The Journey Over Water
The journey is going to involve making sense of Evica's messed up sea monster dreams, which guide her though the west ocean (Evica has been having dreams of a white palace where a bident rests on a pillow). It will include sailors who don't want a woman on board. It will include pirates who turn around very fast when they see Evica turning into a sea monster. It will include sailor who don't want a sea monster on board either, and frankly they can't see why that's supposed to be any better. It will involve fending off over-amorous sea wyrms, who smelled Evica the moment she got in the water. It will involve promising the sailors a lot more gold, honestly.
The journey will end at a place called the Screaming Reaches. These are ancient pillars of coral, between 30-100 feet wide, the narrowest as sharp as teeth. Each pillar rises hundreds of feet from the ocean surface, towering over the boat. A handful of narrow, crumbling bridges connect them. A flock of what appear to be shiny grey birds burst from the water, circles around the ship once, and lands on the nearest pillar to chitter and chirp to themselves. Then another flock. The sailors mutter about these strange, amphibious fish-birds, and shoo a couple of them off the deck. One sailor yells about them having gills. Another sailor points out that there are small ledges and doorways hidden in the rugose folds of the pillars. The captain yells about tying ropes between the pillars to moor the boat, while the party explores the place. Evica points out one of the pillars, twice the size of the others and pitted with dark, visible openings. "I need to go there," she says.
Here Be Monsters
The first mate is sweating when he reports that the ocean floor is more than 120 fathoms, before reeling up the plumb line. When he pulls the line up, though, he notices it is heavier than usual. He asks for help to pull it up. Tied to the line are dozens of human skulls. Then the fishfolk attack.
Combat ensues. Evica, in her monstrous form, attempts to communicate to the party that there are fishfolk boring into the hull with drills. This might be difficult to communicate. Fishfolk swarm over the deck in seemingly infinite numbers. A freak wave batters the ship into one of the pillars, knocking many off the rails. Terrible tentacles reach out of the deep, and a truly gargantuan kraken pulls Evica beneath the waves. In all likelyhood, the boat will probably go down.
On the upside, anyone whose been getting magic smooches from Evica will find their newfound water-breathing very useful here.
The surfaces of the pillars is actually covered in incredibly ornate drawings of fishfolk doing nasty things to land dwellers--at least, the parts of the pillar that haven't been worn down by millenia. The fishfolk used to have the greatest civilization on the planet, and this place was the center of it. Back when the oceans covered the land, these pillars were completely submerged. The pillars are the honeycombed remains of an aquatic metropolis that menaced all the intelligent races, but now has risen above the waves to decay and fester at the world's edge. Sort of a reverse Atlantis. The carvings, recordings, and turtle-shell cuniform in the pillars will let you learn something about the city's decline and fall. For starters, the real name of this place is Barbodu. And the name the fishfolk call themselves is Garba-kure, which roughly means, "People Who See." Maybe someday I'll do a post on them, too, but not right now. Not while the party is being murdered a thousand miles from dry land.
Hopefully, the party will be able to climb to the nearest ledge, and pull a few sailors to safety as well. Evica hurtles herself from the water and clambers in the pillar as well. Several of her monstrous scales, two inches thick and hard as steel, were pulled loose in the combat. She is bleeding in many places when she resumes her human form. She just lost a fight with a kraken, and lived to tell about. "Here there be monsters," she says weakly, and smiles.
The party's destination is the largest pillar, the Imperial Palace at the heart of this dessicated city. As time goes on, more and more fishfolk gather at the surface of the ocean, making a toothy mass of slimy scales and flabby claws. They will point and hiss whenever they spot a PC in a window. Gods help the party if they try to swim to another tower. Hopefully someone will have a grappling hook or magic carpet. There are a few bridges connecting the towers (not all of the city's inhabitants could swim), but it's not the most direct way.
But, at least most of the fishfolk stay in the water, allowing teams of fish-commandoes sweep the pillars. They croak fishy nonsense about the return of Dendrola. They are accompanied by huge, benthic slimes that they direct like police dogs. One member on every team carries a conch, that, when blown, is immediately followed by kraken tentacles reaching in from any available windows. In places, jagged coral golems lurch from the walls, swinging sharpened claws. Acid-spitting crabs clamber in from the windows, and phosphorescent lobsters lumber up from the lower levels. And every time the party goes from one tower to another, more and more fleshy bodies crowd the water, throwing clumsy spears and croaking obscenities from froggish maws (they actually speak a promordial form of Elvish, since the two oldest languages share a common root). One of them throws an angry coral snake on the rope that a PC is crossing--a lucky throw. For the fishfolk anyway.
Then, when the fishfolk realize the party's destination, they perform an act of desperation. Without warning, the pillar that the party is inside topples over, crashes into the water sideways, and begins to sink. That kraken is strong, even if it is too blind to tell fishfolk apart from humans. If the PCs are ever within the kraken's reach, the tentacled monster will start picking up creatures at random, feeling them all over. If they have soft skin and clothing, they are crushed like PITIFUL HUMAN ROWBOATS! If they are covered in scales and croaking obnoxiously, they are thrown over the kraken's shoulder in annoyance. Or whatever the most shoulder-like part of a kraken is.
The giant pillar, the Imperial Palace, is close by, and hopefully everyone makes it in okay. The fishfolk don't pursue. The remains of the imperial palace is still haunted by the tragedy that consumed the aquatic empire, and the fishfolk know better than to tread on cursed ground. On the bottom level, some sort of corroded metal shark is locked in a circular room. Investigation reveals that it is a working submarine (with a fully functional bite), and probably the party's best chance of making it out of here alive. Dark shapes swirl in the water, and the remaining sailors offer to lock themselves inside while the heroes escort Evica to the top. Pale shapes appear on the surface of the water, like balls of translucent skin, each one to three feet across. The sailors quickly make good on their offer to lock themselves in the shark submarine. Through the closed door, they yell that the party has an hour before they start pushing buttons.
The white shapes in the water reveal themselves to be enormous jellyfish which quickly take to the air, buoyed up by some unknown power. Bolts of electricity crackle between their tentacles, and there are hundreds of them. It's encouragement enough to move. The path up goes through many varied rooms.
Scenes from a fallen empire: (1) A ballroom, every surface covered with shark's teeth, even the floor (you don't stand on anything when you're swimming) that quickly animate at the worst time. (2) Stone golems whose heads are composed of a single pearl, one foot across, and whose two fists are harpoons, built to reel in creatures and tear them in half. (3) A colossal bronze snake that slithers down a nacreous hallway towards the party, painfully slowly but with jaws that open wide enough to admit a wagon, while the party faces thousands of shambling human corpses clogging the hallway ahead. (4) Torture chambers (recognizable in every culture) from which bubble shadowy spirits of pain. (5) Art noveau balconies filled by a few shambling mummies of ancient fish-folk royalty, preserved by unknowable alchemy and animated by hatred for the living and the humans, shaking golden scepters and dragging the rotted remains of their less-well-preserved acquaintances. (6) Dining halls with human skeletons still chained to the floor that struggle to reach the party, while schools of skeletal barracuda fly in silence, looking for mortal flesh to rend. (7) An empty elevator shaft from which a massive benthic ooze erupts like a churning train made from black water. From the inside of the ravenous ooze, a skeletal fishfolk mage weaves necromantic magic.
When the final chamber is discovered, the Bident of the Abyss waiting for you in the hands of a lich. This is Zebiribeck, the last emperor of Barbodu and the source of Evica's misleading dreams. He intends to kill her with the Bident, absorb her power, and break the enchantments that bind him to this Palace. The fight is only slightly complicated when the lich disintegrates the floor, sending you back into the toothy ballroom (see above) where the only spots safe from the chewing mouths are atop the hunks of rubble. The jellyfish from the bottom level have been slowly following you up the tower, and by now have absolutely flooded this room, especially the upper half, making flight very difficult.
After the lich is destroyed and the Bident of the Abyss claimed by Evica, she is instantly possessed by the spirit of her mother, Dendrola, who has had enough time to regather her spirit . Evica/Dendrola laughs, long and loud. She realizes her destiny, now, and it is a very simple one. She must flood the earth once again, and drive civilization back to the mountaintops. She promptly turns into a 20'-tall, humanoid version of a deep sea, luminescent anglerfish and begins casting a perfect storm of potent, elder magics at the party. One of the walls crumbles, admitting a long tentacle--the kraken again--which gropes around the room for party members but also clearing it of rubble (a.k.a. places to stand). A few more fishfolk trickle in, slowly at first, but picking up speed when they see the reborn Dendrola. Glowing lights burn up through the floor, witch-candles of the black abyss that darken the room the brighter they glow, while the pressure raises to impossible levels. Eardrums shatter, blood pours from ears, and vision is distorted as the pressure of vitreous fluid in the human eye is overwhelmed by the pressure of the air. Even the vibrations of vocal cords are affected, giving everyone a deep, murky voice. In local spots, violent decompression occurs, and gases dissolve out of the blood, giving players intense pain, weakness, siezures, paralysis, and/or incontinence. An abyssal choir is heard, issuing from the whirling lights. The sound is ten thousand years of siren-song, given voice by the luminous globes--all the souls banished to the benthic deep by the Bident.
The combat can be resolved by killing her or (preferably) disarming her of the Bident. The fishfolk will flee as soon as she is disabled, and the tentacle will retreat a round later. If Evica lives through this, she'll still have all the knowledge of ancient secrets that her demigod predecessors possessed, but none of the immense power or cruelty. This will make her even more useful for plot hooks. She'll never want to touch the Bident again, leaving it to the party to wield, redeem, or destroy.
A few ominous rumbles and scrapings are heard from outside (the kraken peeling off more pieces of the exterior), but the way back to the sub is relatively unimpeded. The cursed undead of this place wouldn't attack the wielders of the Bident, but that probably won't stop the party from running back anyway.
Hopefully, the party hasn't killed Lady Evica. They'll be bombarded with apologies, gratitude, and kisses (if you'll let her). If they want to know where lost troves of ancient treasure are, she now knows of quite a few of them. Nothing to do for her then, but cuddle up with someone nice and tell stories on the long shark-ride back. Has she ever told you about St. Dolmea? He wasn't always a saint, you know.
The giant pillar, the Imperial Palace, is close by, and hopefully everyone makes it in okay. The fishfolk don't pursue. The remains of the imperial palace is still haunted by the tragedy that consumed the aquatic empire. On the bottom level, some sort of corroded metal shark is locked in a circular room. Investigation reveals that it is a working submarine (with a fully functional bite), and probably the party's best chance of making it out of here alive. Dark shapes swirl in the water, and the remaining sailors offer to lock themselves inside while the heroes escort Evica to the top. Pale shapes appear on the surface of the water, like balls of translucent skin, each one to three feet across. The sailors quickly make good on their offer to lock themselves in the shark submarine. Through the closed door, they yell that the party has an hour before they start pushing buttons.
When the final chamber is discovered, the After the lich is destroyed and the Bident of the Abyss claimed by Evica, she is instantly possessed by the ancestral spirits of her lineage. She realizes her destiny, now, and it is a very simple one. To flood the earth once again, and drive mankind civilization to the mountaintops. She promptly turns into a 20'-tall, humanoid version of a deepsea anglerfish and begins casting a perfect storm of potent, elder magics at the party. One of the walls crumbles, admitting a long tentacle--the kraken again--which gropes around the room for party members but also clearing it of rubble (places to stand). A few more fishfolk trickle in, slowly at first, but picking up speed when they see the reborn Evica. Glowing lights burn up through the floor, witch-candles of the black abyss, that darken the room the brighter they glow, while the pressure raises to impossible levels. Eardrums shatter, blood pours from ears, and vision is distorted as the pressure of vitreous fluid in the human eye is overwhelmed by the pressure of the air. Even the vibrations of vocal cords are affected, giving everyone a deep, murky voice. In local spots, violent decompression occurs, and gases dissolve out of the blood, giving players intense pain, weakness, siezures, paralysis, and/or incontinence. An abyssal choir is heard, issuing from the whirling lights. Ten thousand years of siren-song, given voice by the luminous globes--the souls banished to the benthic zones by the Bident.
A few ominous rumbles and scrapings are heard from outside (the kraken peeling off more pieces of the exterior), but the way back to the sub is relatively unimpeded. The cursed undead of this place wouldn't attack the wielders of the Bident, but that probably won't stop the party from running back anyway.