Thursday 7 December 2023

South of Kambyra: The Sea-hag's Isle I

 HEX 3


The Sea-Hag’s Lair

As a continuation of the reef-strewn Cowdray Shoals (See Hex 1), this area is dominated by rough and treacherous channels between a small chain of rocky islets that are arranged in a ring around a sand-choked body of shallow water, at the centre of which is a small crescent-shaped isle. The isle is predominantly a brackish marsh, subjected to regular tidal inundations, backed by a serrated ridge of rock that curves for about two miles NE-SW, ranging in height from 30’ to 160’ at its highest point. This ridge ranges in width from a few feet at either end to approximately 200’ at the midpoint. A narrow beach of gravel slopes steeply up from the marsh to the ridge, where tough grass and stunted trees cling to a precarious existence in a meagre bed of soil at the base of the ridge. This unprepossessing stretch of land is home to Khaetos, a psionically-empowered  Giant Sea-Hag of particularly vindictive character, and a small clan of Sea-Grymne who serve her - quite willingly - as helpmates and guardians.

Khaetos herself dwells in a rocky cave at the base of the highest point on the rocky ridge that forms the spine of the isle. This cave is only reachable by a 200’ long tunnel, sandy-floored, with rocky walls veined with a phosphorescent form of coral that gives out a putrid purple luminescence. This unwholesome radiance causes those over-exposed to it (for a number of rounds greater than their CON score) to pass a Saving Throw or be sickened until they have been out in the open air for at least 1 minute per round exposed to the luminescence. Khaetos and her Sea-Grymne are, of course, not susceptible to this effect, and a favourite tactic of theirs is to pen intruders in the tunnel and wait until they are weakened before moving in for the kill.

Khaetos’ cavern home is a rounded sandy bowl some 40’ across, without a ceiling - it is in fact the floor of a 140’ tall chimney of rock, tapering to a very narrow slot, no more than 18” across at the top. It is thus dimly-lit during daylight hours. The floor of the cavern is just high enough to avoid the worst of the storm surges that occasionally sweep the rest of the isle, but it is still damp and unpleasant. The Sea-hag herself sleeps on a crudely-made bed of driftwood with a blanket of dried, loose-woven seaweed. She possesses little, but does retain trophies from her most precious victories, and these she treasures above all other things: a pair of minotaur horns, lovingly polished, sit in a rough hewn alcove above her bed, over which are draped a glass bead necklace. Beside these sit a pair of old, cracked spectacles and a one-armed porcelain doll. Although the minotaur horns have no special faculties, the other three items all possess minor magical power: the glass beads are lesser prayer beads which, when used by a Cleric or Priest of Good alignment seeking to prepare an Advanced spell, they lower by 1 the WIS check required to prepare the spell (effectively rendering the spell one level lower for the purposes of preparation only; this does not void the requirement to make a check in the first instance, even for first level spells). The lesser prayer beads can only be used to prepare one spell per day.

The spectacles belonged to Count Nilberth, a minor Khonoy nobleman who hoped to carve out some sort of island estate in the Malstedts, but never made it beyond the Isle of Horn (Hex 5): Khaetos and her Sea-Grymne attacked his ship upon his arrival, sinking it with nearly all hands lost. Count Nilberth, an Illusionist and antiquarian was captured and exquisitely tortured until, crazed with pain and horror, he was allowed to flee into the interior of the island, where he then fell afoul of the undead denizens of the ruined abbey, ultimately joining them. His now rather relaxed and philosophical shade remains in the ruins, having devoted himself - as is proper - to the preservation of the library there. Some of his hirelings and serfs survived and joined with the locals, strengthening their numbers against the undead monks and priests. Nilberth’s spectacles are enchanted with the ability to see invisible things, but only within 10’, and due to the damage they have suffered, have only a 1 in 6 chance of actually working on any given occasion. If worn too long, they will also ultimately give the wearer a headache, giving a -1 penalty to all attack rolls, mental skill checks (such as Lore or Alchemy) and spell preparation rolls. A Saving Throw must be made for every 10 minutes of continuous use, and the only way to ease the headache is to sleep it off.

Finally, the one-armed porcelain doll belonged to the (now-defunct) granddaughter of the  Witch of Arraskil (Hex 74 - much further north in the Archipelago). This aristocratic Witch was Khaetos’ first teacher - a cruel and vindictive individual, but far more powerful than Khaetos. When she ultimately rejected Khaetos as too weak and too vile (even for her), Khaetos took her vengeance by kidnapping and slaying the granddaughter. The doll, which was intended to serve as a disguised guardian to the granddaughter, is actually a polymorphed Ooze Mephit named Vekses. It has been locked in doll form ever since its arm was broken off by Khaetos. She keeps the arm hidden in the wreckage of the Hadmond’s Joy (see Hex 1), lashed to the remnants of the hull, and wrapped in seaweed. She continually taunts the unfortunate Vekses with promises of a returned arm and reminders of its failure to protect the deceased child. Should Vekses be reunited with his arm, he will be able to return to his normal form: after exacting any possible vengeance on Khaetos and her Grymne minions, he will leave, although - given his failure to protect the granddaughter - he is unlikely to return to his mistress.

Khaetos does, of course, retain a certain amount of treasure, although she values it more for use as a sweetener in her dealings with various pirate captains or their underlings - she is many things, but avaricious is not one of them. In a locked box under her bed, she holds, at any given time, between 200-500 gp worth of coins, gems and baubles (roll 1d4+1 and multiply by 100).

Khaetos is a servant of Zirakghir, a dark-hearted Kraken, whose great desire is to bring all the Volsturand Archipelago under its sway. Zirakghir dwells in the Bonedeeps (Hex 117) in the far north of the Archipelago, but is concerned even with such a seemingly minor area as the Malstedts. Khaetos - as probably befits the least of the Kraken’s lieutenants - is tasked with keeping the Malstedt Islands as poor, disunified, lawless and unappealing as possible, for Zirakghir realises that these sparsely populated islands are a potential stepping stone to power for prospective rivals, be they merchant princes from the Kanthéan mainland (Khonoy’s oligarchs most definitely favour a return to their ‘rightful inheritance’ in the Archipelago), or some other, less-foreseeable threat. The aim is to make sure that the Malstedts remain anything but a prize worth fighting for, until Zirakghir has consolidated power through proxies in the more desirable parts of the Archipelago.

The Sea-Hag accomplishes this end through some rather byzantine diplomacy with the various pirate captains who plague the region, using a policy of endlessly shifting and unstable alliances to keep any single pirate captain from gaining too great an ascendancy, whilst using them to keep external threats at bay. She pursues a variation of the same policy regarding raiders from Trukko - on occasion she will allow them to launch a successful raid (even going so far as to permit repeat successes) - but at other times, she and her Sea-Grymne attack them as soon as they appear, sometimes destroying them utterly, on other occasions settling for merely driving them off.

Her policy has, in general, succeeded, but she has created one lasting and significant enemy in the pirate captain Hadmond (see Hex 4). This cruel but clever brigand soon tired of Khaetos’ manipulations, and, thanks to his own fine seamanship and the skill of his astute aide, the Wizard Galmarn of Gnesse, has so far survived her efforts to remove him from her calculations. She is currently supporting the vile Grebbeth Grallord (Hex 12), ignoring Algot Stone-Eye (Hex 8) whilst providing encouragement and intelligence to the new ‘rising star’ of the Malstedt pirates, Birgamonte (Hex 11). She is uncertain in her approach to Khattriyuba (Hex 7), for she is convinced that his madness will severely limit any help he might give in furtherance of her Kraken overlord’s schemes. 

Khaetos, Sea-hag (Psionic, Giant templates) Type: Monster; Size: Large; HD: 5 (hp 19); AC: 14; Attacks: 2 claws (2d6); MV: 30’ (40’ swim); Save: 14 (MR 50%); INT: High; AL: CE; NA: 1; XP/CL: 1800/6; SP - detect magic, pyrotechnics, shield (1/day), empty mind, ESP, precognition, mind thrust (3/day); SA - revolting appearance (save or 2d6 STR damage), gaze 3/day.

The details of the remainder of the Isle - and more about the Sea-Grymne - will appear in the next post.

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