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Sep 28, 2013

Skull and Shackles Interlude: The Tale of Bikendi Otongu

"Millennia ago in that heyday of the Age of Serpents, before there was an Eye, before humans even came to these lands, the Cyclops of Ghol-Gan ruled here.  Many of their ruins still stand, relicts of a lost empire whose greatness few today can comprehend.  One such ruin, a mountain retreat known as Sumitha, stands on this very island.  Here the Cyclops constructed a hidden vault known as the Eye of Serenity to hold a sacred artifact, the Lens of Revelation.  The Cyclopean seers of Sumitha guided their fellows in war to survey the lands and even to know the will of the divine, but when their civilization waned the Lens turned dark and they abandoned Sumitha to be forgotten.  Many of them retreated to the Darklands, and those who stayed degenerated into savagery.  The men who came centuries later saw only the eyeless statues on the Island's shores and hillsides, the fist-sized gems that once decorated these monoliths long since taken and lost.

"The fort you stand within was built by Chelish explorers over a hundred and fifty years ago.  They explored the island and discovered the ruins of Sumitha, stirring up conflict with the few remaining Cyclopean brutes.  Eventually, the Cyclopes succeeded in driving the Chelaxians from the island.

"The victory was not without cost to the Cyclopes, though--a few years after, an earthquake shook the island, collapsing the few remaining entries to the Darklands.  As the survivors emerged from the vaults of Sumitha, they discovered that the island could not provide for their tremendous appetites.  They were forced to build vast ships and travel to nearby islands to capture livestock or simply raid.  The tribe descended further into savagery, led by a great Cyclops named Ishtoreth.  They pose a grave threat to any who seek to make this island their own.

"That is when I came to this island, a pirate like yourselves.  I restored this fort, using mighty illusions to conceal my people from the Cyclopes.  In the ruins here, I found the opportunity to realize my one true desire: to free myself from the shackles of mortality.  Some seek the power of undeath, but I knew this was a sham.  True power lies in the mind, in dreams, prophecies and the realms from which they come.  I sought the magic of the Night Hags, who travel freely in these realms, and at last learned of their greatest creation, the one that lends them their power: the heartstone.  Using such a magical gem, I could bind my soul in arcane ritual, preserving it so my mind would no longer be tied to the limits of the flesh.  I could leave mortality behind and become the master of my own dreams.

"But even Heartstones are physical objects, with all the limits and dangers that entails.  I could not rest easy, knowing I was bound to some unexceptional stone any chance fool could destroy.  In the ruins of Sumitha, though, I discovered what I needed; the Lens of Revelation, if made into a Heartstone, would supply me with the power and security I required from my vessel.  The craft to do so escaped me, however, so I made contact with the Night Hag Lodhotha and offered her any price she cared to name if she would aid me.  The Hag readily agreed, but I sensed treachery in her, and laid my plans with care.

"Then Ishtoreth, returning to the Island from a raid, discovered the Lens was missing.  He sent his warriors against me, but my men held on, though I knew it would not last.  I sacrificed much to meet Lodhotha's price and demanded the Hag complete the stone.  When she was finished, I sprang my trap on her before she could betray me and take my soul.  My apprentice, Edereigh Baines, stole the completed Stone from her, depriving the Hag of her most significant weapon and preventing her from escaping into the Ethereal plane.

"I realized then that without attunement, my new heartstone--the Immortal Dreamstone--would not long endure.  I withdrew to complete the ritual, but it proved more demanding than I anticipated.  Without my magical assistance, the Cyclopes began to overrun my defenses, sinking my ship and breaking the gates of this fort.  Rushed, I missed a vital step in the ritual, shearing my soul and mind from my body but failing to open the pathway to the realm of dreams.  Before I could correct my error the Cyclopes gained entry to my sanctum, destroying my preparations and reclaiming the Lens.  Now my spirit lingers in the Material Plane, bound to this place.  Lodhotha's sister, Haetanga, sends her minions here to seek for the gem.  They lurk here, ready to attack and interrogate any who come within.

"If you seek to end the curse on this fort, you must return the Immortal Dreamstone to me and enable me to complete the ritual." 

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