Savage Tide, Pathfinder Edition

Introduction:
This is a Pathfinder edition of the popular Savage Tide campaign path published by Paizo Publishing. The adventure path starts in Sasserine, a medieval fantasy pastiche of merchant prince-era Venice with level 1 PCs and eventually leads the party across the ocean, into dangerous and wild jungles, to far-off colonies and coves, to the heart of darkness, and even to the Abyss itself, culminating in an epic-level adventure that the fate of the world will turn upon as the Prince of Demons, Demogorgon makes the master stroke of his thousand-year plan to spread limitless chaos throughout the Prime Material Plane and make whole his fractured self.

Synopsis:
Four young men hailing from the sheltered, remote trade hub of Sasserine find themselves compelled into the employ of Lavinia Vanderboren, a beautiful and recently orphaned daughter of one of the city’s noble houses. Charged first with aiding her in recovering her family’s wealth from the varied scoundrels about the city who would see their fortunes made on the backs of her family’s misery, these young men quickly become Lavinia’s trusted troubleshooters and agents of her will and make short work of sorting her affairs.

With her family’s station secured, she then asked the group to locate Vanthus, her estranged brother, whom they soon discovered had taken up with a prominent, local thieves guild known as the Lotus Dragons, but not before he made an attempt on their lives. Charged with bringing Vanthus Vanderboren to justice, the group scoured the streets of the city until at last they found the underground lair of the Lotus Dragons. Stalking through its halls under cover of darkness, they found and bested the leader of the guild, a daughter of one of Sasserine’s noble houses. Though she managed to escape, her guild was shattered and her plans of taking control of the city’s sea trade ruined.

Of more significance to their employer, the party discovered through their investigation that Vanthus was the author of his Lavinias parent’s murder. On Lavinia’s grim prompting, the party sets out for the Bay of Blood, where evidence indicated a meeting between her brother and some pirates. But when they arrive they find pure bedlam in the form of scores of dead and diseased pirates, plagued by an infection that seemed to spread even to the flora and fauna. Putting the clues together as they fought, it was discovered that Vanthus attempted to steal some sort of artifact from the pirates of the Crimson Fleet but was caught in the act, and during the struggle the artifact was destroyed, spreading a wave of abomination over the area, turning most people and creatures into horribly disfigured monsters. Fighting their way into the caves the pirates used in the search for answers, they encountered Captain Harliss Javell, a Crimson Fleet captain who told the party she had already dispatched her men to Sasserine to kill Vanthus and his entire family for the slight against the fleet. Fearing for the safety of Lavinia and knowing Vanthus would not return home, the group made haste for Sasserine. In spite of being waylaid, the group breached the grounds of Vanderboren Manor and managed to defeat the Crimson Fleet hit squad, save the Jade Ravens, the Vanderboren private guard who had been defeated during the siege of the home, and save Lavinia from certain death.

Briefly availing themselves of a rest to solve a string a serial killings in the city who turned out to be the relative of a former foe, the party’s attention turned with Lavinia towards a prolonged sea journey to the far-off colony of Farshore, a settlement established by Lavinia’s parents before their death. The open sea before them and Sasserine behind them, the party found themselves aboard a commandeered Crimson Fleet vessel taken as plunder, headed for the aptly named Isle of Dread. Many small adventures and troubles met their months-long voyage across the Vohoun Ocean, but most terrible of them came near the end of their journey, as they ran aground on a massive, choking clot of sargasso, a hellish myth-made-real aptly known as Journey’s End.

Dispelling the curse that made that salt-caked hell, the party sailed on for Farshore. Their momentary victory over nature was short-lived, however, as the weather turned foul and tossed their ship to the roiling sea. Crashing on the rocky bluffs of the Isle of Dread and losing most of their crew, the survivors of the Sea Wyvern marched south across the isle through perilous jungles full of giant beasts before reaching a tainted coil of a jungle glade, clearly crafted by demonic influence. Being forced to cleanse the wicked place both to move on and to recover members of their party who had been taken as hostage, the group finally made it through the Isle of Dread and to the far side of the Great Wall that separated the isle’s inhabitants from the beasts within. But the cost was great; the Gang of Five’s long-standing healer and friend, Tobin Grey, was murdered, and magic proved unable to revive him.

With heavy hearts, the party at last glimpsed the fires of Farshore in the distance, but only to find that the colony burned even as they reached it. A scouting force of Crimson Fleet pirates were in the middle of sacking Farshore, but thanks to the group’s fast intervention, the colony repelled the attack, and claimed as hostage a lone pirate who swore that the small force that came to siege that day was only the tip of a horrible iceberg, and that the rest of the Crimson Fleet – a conquest-level force – was due only two months hence.

Finally reunited with their employer, the group found that even before the Crimson Fleet attacks, all was not well in Farshore. Lavinia campaigned against Manthalay Meravanchi, a former traveling companion of her parents who wished to rule the region through force, and his xenophobic style of leadership had burned many bridges with the Olman, the indigenous people of the Isle. Moreover, Farshore itself was woefully unprepared to weather a massive attack, leaving the group scrambling to bolster her defenses and recruit help from across the isle and acquire resources to aid the people of Farshore in repelling the invaders. Through a series of daring maneuvers and with the might of their new Olman allies, the invading Crimson Fleet – commanded by Vanthus, now twisted by demonic influence – was routed and beat back to the sea. With Lavinia having won the election that guaranteed her leadership over the colony, Vanthus dead, and the Fleet taught a harsh lesson about the fortitude of the tiny colony, Farshore at last had purchased itself some room to breathe.

With a shred of calm returned to the colony, our heroes sorted and inspected the booty from the felled Fleet vessels, and found within the flagship a log that indicated the artifact they encountered at Kraken’s Cove months earlier was only one of many such devices called shadow pearls, which the Fleet had been shipping throughout the world at the behest of some dark force that had only just begun to make itself known. Using the log to follow the trail of custody back to a troglodyte tribe that dwelt beneath the Isle of Dread, the group eventually came to Golismorga, a massive cavern-city beneath the Isle of Dread that had been rendered dry by an Olman artifact used to end a millenia-done war with the aquatic aboleth. In the absence of those foes and the husk of that great city, the final step in the production line of shadow pearls had been established by those demonic forces who would profit off their production, and in a series of brave raids, the malignant temple responsible for their creation and the cultists who oversaw the operation were shut down.

Upon returning to Farshore, our heroes were presented with still another piece of the puzzle: Farshore’s chaplain had, in their absence, been visited by a mad apostate who told the chaplain of the horrors he had seen atop the island’s central plateau, and of the demons who haunted the ancient Olman ruins. Believing that the island and the remains of the first Olman city, Thanaclan, may provide further clues as to the identity of their opponent and the provenance of the shadow pearls, the group trekked there, finding themselves too late to save the last remains of a slave Olman tribe kept in thrall by the demons who took over Thanaclan after the Olman exodus from the city over a millennium prior. With the production line of Golismorga halted and the shadow pearl production operation nearly completed in any case, the demons there had begun to pull up stakes, starting with the mass sacrifice of their chattel slaves. Only a few dozen corrupted Olman warriors – demonically-invested beasts called ‘skinwalkers’ – remained, overseen by the aspect and identity of their tormentor; Khala, aspect of the Prince of Demons, Demogorgon. While Khala was defeated, she claimed it was too late to stop her lord’s plan, which included nothing short of the transformation of every mortal creature to that of a mad, blood-starved, savage parody of its self. With this unsettling news in mind, the group returned to Farshore to face even worse news: while away at Thanaclan, Lavinia had been kidnapped by her brother, Vanthus, who had somehow defied the gods themselves to crawl up from his own grave. While the Jade Ravens, the Vanderboren family protectors, had already given pursuit, it was a missive from Harliss Jevall, formerly of the Crimson Fleet, that revealed Vanthus’ destination. He had taken his sister to the home base of the Crimson Fleet, a notorious and bane pirates paradise called ‘Scuttlecove’.

Assuming false identities for their trip to the cancerous port of Scuttlecove, it became apparent that many revelations yet awaited the group in the days ahead. In their search for Lavinia, they found themselves embroiled in a drug-trafficking struggle between crime boss and wizard Kedward Bone and the upstart madame of a notorious brothel named Wulvera. Resolution of that squabble got them the information they sought – the location of Harliss Jevall, who had been kidnapped and detained since sending her letter – but also alluded to a disquieting possibility: that they, the heroes, were being manipulated by outside forced, as though they were following a script.

Recovering Harliss allowed them the knowledge to sack the Crimson Fleet on their own turf, a feat that, they discovered, was only made possible by the fact that the Fleet had fractured in the wake of their defeat at Farshore and Vanthus’ spontaneous resurrection. The leader of the Fleet, a massive man named Captain Wyther, waxed contrite about his wicked life and the nature of fate and free will before throwing himself upon our heroes’ swords, bidding them to take an artifact given to him by his demonic patron that would allow them to follow Vanthus to his destination: to the arms of his demonic patron, in the heart of the Abyss.

Following Vanthus to Demogorgon’s Abyssal home, a teeming jungle hell known as Gaping Maw, he was tracked to a structure known as Divided’s Ire, a prison colony where Demogorgon disposed of undesirables. Finding that Vanthus had lost custody of Lavinia to one of the other powerful inmates shortly after his arrival, the group reluctantly set about resolving a fomenting power struggle that had been festering within the prison walls for many years. Ultimately, they were able to slay or barter with most of the powerful demons who called portions of the prison their domain and finally defeat Vanthus, but it came at a terrible cost: during the struggle to rescue Lavinia, she was murdered by a demonic agent and hitman working for Demogorgon, a woman named S’Sharra. While she, too, was defeated, it did little to return Lavinia to life, and so Lavinia was taken with them until such a time as she could be returned. More importantly, they had gained a powerful piece of information: Orgosh, one of Demogorgon’s disgruntled former confidants, knew of a woman who could impart to the heroes the source of Demogorgon’s weakness, and offer them a means to defeat them. Unfortunately, this woman was, aside from being the former queen of all succubi, currently interred in the Wells of Darkness, a interdimensional oubliette that very powerful entities used to ensure that their prisoners remained silent and unreachable for eternity.

Recovering Shami-Amourae – Demogorgon’s former lover and his prisoner of the Wells – would prove a nearly impossible task, but there remained no other way to get the information to defeat Demogorgon and stop his plan to effectively kill and render mad all life on the plane. After much struggle and much research, the heroes fought their way to a massive, red cathedral at the heart of the plane and made a bargain with the only entity in the multiverse capable of releasing creatures from the Wells, a demon lord named Ahazu, himself both the jailor and jailed of the Wells of Darkness. The deal as struck required our heroes to bring Ahazu a greater prisoner in sixty-six days, else their collective souls would be forfeit to the Wells, themselves. Buying Shami-Amourae’s freedom won them the information they sought: Demogorgon’s two heads were, it was revealed, distinct personalities unto themselves, personalities who constantly plotted against each other for dominance. If his attention could be sufficiently divided, his mind would fracture, leaving him vulnerable. Shami-Amourae suggested a multi-stage assault on Gaping Maw by the forces of his enemies, and left to reconsolidate her power.

It was at this point that Charon, Ferryman of the Styx, made his presence and his grudge with Demogorgon known to the heroes. Seeing in them a mutual hatred for the Prince of Demons, he directed them to speak to the powerful witch and scholar of the Abyss Iggwilv, who could guide and advise them in their goal. Iggwilv took an interest in the plot for reasons that remain her own, but her advice was sound: in turn, with Iggwilv’s help, our heroes recruited the armies of Orcus, Demon Prince of Undeath; curried the favor of Charon, the Ferryman of the Styx; captured and imprisoned the aspect of Obox-Ob, Demon Prince of Vermin and the terrifying creature that Demogorgon usurped his power from; turned General Bagromar, Demogorgon’s clone and ranking General, against his own brother; and gained the help of Malcanthet, Demon Queen of the Succubi and lover to the Prince of Demons.

The last of these came at the highest cost, for it was through Malcanthet that our heroes learned that the feeling of unease they had received in Scuttlecove was justified. Their entire quest – indeed, much of their lives – had been orchestrated by Malcanthet’s agents, specifically to oppose Demogorgon’s plans. Echoing Captain Wyther, the Demon Queen of Succubi scoffed at free will and named herself arbiter of the men’s fate, laying bare her motivations and making plain that she had orchestrated their hardships and strife, she had slain their friends and put them into harm’s way, and she had ruined their lives and set them on this path, only so that she could stop Demogorgon’s plans. The revelation came as an incredible shock, so much so that when Malcanthet offered to return Lavinia – her “favored pawn” to them – they agreed, only to have Malcanthet resurrect Lavinia as a succubi in the demon queen’s service. At the group’s protest of this, Malcanthet offered them Lavinia’s return; if they play nice and do their jobs.

With their army assembled, the fateful hour drew nigh. But there was two more armies yet unaccounted for: that of the people of Prime Material Plane, lead by Othar’s mentor Vincent Marcos and staffed by the likes of the group’s mortal allies, among them Moxie Blackrose and Harliss Jevall; and coming as a surprise to the men themselves, the forces of Irori, god of knowledge, who committed many thousands of his perfect legions to the battle. Though the emissary of the cryptic deity would brook no question at the time, it was strongly suspected that the intercession of the god was provoked somehow by their fallen friend, Tobin, who was one of his votaries. With little time to lose before the appointed hour at which Demogorgon would unleash his savage tide, the time to take the fight to Gaping Maw had come.

As the battle began, the pieces aligned to distract and confuse the Prince of Demons: his cloned son and general turned on his brother; his beachhead was broken and shattered; the capital of Wat Dagon, Lemoriax, was devastated by the arrival of the insane god, Obox-Ob; his son, Arendagrost, slain by the marauding forces of Orcus; his armies laid low by the perfect legions of the god of knowledge; and even as Orcus fought the Prince of Demons in his own throne room, Demogorgon became dimly aware that forced had aligned against him to sunder not only his home, but his plans. As the group ran all across Gaping Maw to bolster their forces and set off key sieges, their travels eventually lead them to Wat Dagon, an Olman ur-temple that straddled the non-space between Demogorgon’s Gaping Maw and the realm of another demon lord, that of Dagon, a place called the Sunless Sea.

It was here, within the wall of Wat Dagon, that the men’s prize was kept: the master pearl, the massive shadow pearl that would permit Demogorgon to trigger the savage tide, channeling it through the scores of pearls spread throughout the Prime Material Plane. The pearl was well-guarded by the forces of both Demogorgon and Dagon, and it was from the minions of the latter, a fully-mad abomination and ancient Olman traitor named Nulonga, that the group learned that the Prince of Demons was merely a pawn on the board of a cabal of obyrith lords, Dagon among them, who sought to use Demogorgon to destroy not only all life on the Prime, but all of demonkind and the gods, themselves, leaving only behind the terrible, alien beings known as the obyrith.

This knowledge did not change their mission, however, and after dispatching the guardians of the master pearl and being reunited, albeit briefly, with Tobin, who confirmed their suspicions of his involvement, they fled Wat Dagon only to be interrupted by the Prince of Demons himself, who was enraged at the affront to his might and dedicated to a course of murder, even with his attentions – and therefore his power – severely divided by the assault on his plane and person. The final and most unkind cut was administered by the Demon Queen of the Succubi, herself, who revealed the truth of her betrayal and further insinuated to the Prince of Demons that he was worthless, weak, and impotent.

In the battle that followed, the heroes were very narrowly victorious, thanks in great portion to the concerted efforts of Orcus, Iggwilv, Charon, Obox-Ob, Bagromar, Irori, Malcanthet, and their mortal allies, and the Demon Prince fell.

With Demogorgon defeated, the group attempted to offer the fallen Prince to Ahazu to satisfy the terms of the bargain that freed Shami-Amourae, but they were too late; Iggwilv, holding the Iron Flask of Tuerney the Merciless she recovered after the release of Obox-Ob over Lemoriax, drew up all that remained of the Demon Prince’s essence, a few motes of darkness, and, declaring the group’s debt to her paid, vanished, warning them that the next time they meet, it would likely not be as friends.

All that remained was for the mantle of Prince of Demons to go to another: the men stood and weighed their options, no one willing to take the mantle upon themselves for fear that it would mean the end to their sense of self. Ultimately, their hesitation became a choice unto itself: Orcus arrived from his home plane of Thanatos to claim the prize, crushing the larval form of Vanthus beneath his cloven hoof. While Traxen and Dorian set out to stall Orcus, Kizziar and Othar lunged for the crown.

No one, however, could have anticipated what came next. Even as Kizziar and Othar had almost grasped the crown, Malcanthet, Demon Queen of the Succubi, materialized before them and snatched the crown for herself. The Demon Queen of the Succubi had become the Princess of All Demonkind.

As pyrrhic a victory as this seemed, our heroes were victorious: the Savage Tide had been averted, the Prince of Demons slain, and the obyrith plot to eradicate all life on the prime and leave the planes a barren carcass for them to rule eternally stopped cold.

Only they would know the truth of what that victory had cost. But they returned home as heroes all the same.

Savage Tide; Pathfinder

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