GRAVE OF GIANTS
THE WHALE TOMB
"The abyssal seas hold their secrets deep, and few living known more than a few of the terrible beasts that swim them, but the trawlers of the darkness know, they have seen and hunted the depths for flesh, bone and souls, dangling from their long thorny lines past light and into the crushing depths. They threaten to pull even the Leviathan to the surface with bony claws. These are not the skulking feral dead of the lost spaces, these are the ghoul nobility of the sea, loyal to their fisher queen Moab whose dead pearl eyes have gazed on the ruins of stone cities beneath the waves and whose oracular mind holds unwanted secrets of the past and future."
- From the confession of the Necromancer ‘Tenebrous’ on his treasonous dealings with the Ash Plague
Once a small cargo port for the transfer of incidental goods, the Whale Tomb is conveniently located near Spinal Rail and also provides access to the sea. For undead of Queen Moab’s “Trawlers” it offered a perfect space to gather the materials for and conduct the rituals to raise a “kraken”, the reanimated corpse of a whale or other large sea creature which the Plague uses as a siege weapon. Upon discovery of a clean rail connection to the Whale Tomb from her domains deep in steerage, Queen Moab dispatched a research expedition of intelligent ‘Hollow Men’ defended by a few Gun Wights and led by the rather scholarly Fyke Trawler, a Greater Revenant of Duty. Midway through the process of raising a Kraken the undead were stopped by the intrusion of a well armed gang of cultists from the Cult of the Ravenous, a cannibalistic swarm of demon worshipers loyal to the Hyena Headed Demon King of Slaughter (See Area C - The Roundhouse Tunnels for details). The undead have abandoned many of their ritual spaces and fight a stolid defense against the raiding tactics and sniping of the cultists. Fyke Trawler is crafty and experienced, but he isn’t a fighter and his dead aren’t really warriors. The Trawlers are in a desperate situation and uncharacteristically willing to ally with any third force they come across - even the living.
The Ash Plague
The Ash Plague, an endless swarming army of undead that have forced humanity from the majority of the hull. A various rotting multitude: simple bloated zombies, horribly mutilated abominations that combine man and sea beast, gunwights, mountains of the dead fused with rusted weapons into necromantic siege engines, elegant spirits, spectral warlords, and the plague tyrants. The general run of Sterntowners know little about the Ash Plague, beyond ghost stories and ancestral terror. With the fanatical persecution of necromancy by Sterntown’s elite, few living have pieced together any truths about the Plague and those that have will rarely tell. Still, children’s rhymes and tall tells can provide descriptions of the Plague legions and names of the ten Plague Kings and Queens: Ma'At the Golden, Languid Serhkat (or Scorpion), Mernieth, The First Unknown, Tsar Lud, Queen Moab, Jana Khrae, Blood's Lover, The Grey Philosopher and The Least King.
United, the Plague could overwhelm Sterntown’s defenses in a matter of days, and subjugate the various polities of the hull from the bands feral demon worshippers, to the remaining fortresses of the Black Gang and the warped dominions of the Free Barons of Hell. The truth is that while the Ash Plague now rules much of the ship from the Rustgates to the bowsprit, it is a factional and contentious rule. The Plague’s Queens and Kings are intelligent, ambitious and resourceful, but like any gang of successful conquerors they have split against one another for resources, followers and honor. Each King or Queen has his or her own goals, and degree of hatred for the living, some such as Serhkat and Queen Moab care little about Sterntown or living humanity, while others such as Jana Khrae and the Least King want to destroy it from within through infiltration and cooption. Only a few, like Tsar Lud, wish to prosecute the Plague’s vengeance through total and endless war.
The fraction of Ash Plague undead loyal to Queen Moab are some of the more distant and strange of the dead. Unlike the paramilitary or even democratic organizations of much of the Ash Plague, the Trawlers are much like a cult or religion, devoted to their drowned queen as to a goddess or prophet and channeling their necromancy through her. Also unique among the Plague, rather than bolstering their numbers by actively hunting or ‘recruiting’ living sentients, the Trawlers have turned to the sea to provide materials and souls to strengthen their faction. Using all the advantages of undeath they harvest sea life from the abyssal oceans and use it to create monstrous thralls and obscene hybrids such as undead sharks, and zombies armored within giant crab shells. Despite their revolting appearance, the Trawlers are not entirely opposed to Sterntown or humanity, seeing the living as another resource to manage, and because of their fishing, far less reliant on the souls of surviving humanity to sustain them.
Little remains from the Whale Grave’s time as a cargo depot, most of its spaces long ago stripped to the bare rivet orichalcum. The undead have redecorated it to suit their purposes, but it remains largely a dark, bleak maze of salt streaked metal walls where the overpowering stink of dead fish and corpse tallow incense hangs in the air. The doors of the Whale Grave are still mostly industrial hatches, narrow ovals of metal with dogging levers allowing them to be bolted from either side.
AREA B1 - The Balcony (outdoor) - The ladder emerges onto a small guano encrusted and sun baked balcony before a narrow, arched tunnel into the hull that terminates in a salt stained hatch of thick black metal. The balcony is stable, surrounded by a sturdy waist high railing where a few black gulls, possibly with several eyes and oddly hooked beaks, watch quizzically. A larger balcony, across a 10’ gap and to the fore stinks, covered in horrible globs and runnels of brown fly fly encrusted filth that rots beneath a creaking Derrick (Area B6).
- salt stained hatch - The hatch sticks slightly opening, but it has not been dogged shut with the sturdy bar on its interior. Examination of the hatch will reveal fresh streaks in the verdigris of the jam, indicating it has been in use recently.
AREA B4 - Offal and Crustacean Thralls - (dark) [monster] - Piles of rotting seaweed, small fish, cloth and tangled barnacle encrusted rope are piled against the wall. Hidden within this pile ready to leap out and attack are four (4) Crustacean Thralls.
- seaweed - Along the right (fore) wall of this chamber a great stinking pile of fishing waste: broken necks, tangled lines, rotten bait fish, and piles of stinking gelatinous seaweed. Poking through the pile is disgusting and awful, releasing terrible ever more revolting blasts of stink. There is nothing of value in the pile.
- Crustacean Thralls - Near mindless automatons, these armored guardians are concealed within the seaweed and waste with instructions to attack anyone who enters from the rear. The will burst forth in an explosion of vilely rotted weed and gain surprise on a 5 in 6. This advantage will be negated if the pile is doused with flammables and lit (it won’t burn enough to damage the Thralls but will drive them out) or investigated with reach weapons/poles.
Crustacean Thralls (4) HD 2 (HP 6) AC 16, ATK +3x2(claw)/(claw), INT 0, SV F2, ML 12, MV Normal (4).
The animated shells and armor of giant crabs, bleached white by time, covered in barnacles and with the withered skeletons of men bound within by rotten rope and great strands of kelp and weed. A skull watches, decayed and expressionless with dimly glowing eyes from beneath the lip of the protective shell. Thralls scuttle and hunch beneath the crab shell’s mass and attack with the crab’s claws.
AREA B19 - Workroom - (dark) [trap/supplies] Rusted gurneys on wobbly wheels, one covered by a grey gauzy tent, hold corpses and give this room the feeling of an operating theater, except for strong smells of decay and the ocean. A tall cabinet blocks at the center and behind its glass doors vague shapes of glassware glint.
- Rusted gurneys - simple pipe gurneys on metal casters and sheet metal tops. Atop each is a human corpse, indifferently preserved with salt and stitched over with various sigils and signs. Dirty surgical tools arrayed neatly beside them.
- grey gauzy tent - A tented off area big enough to contain another rusted metal gurney and a few feet of space around it. Atop the gurney is decaying corpse, bloated from immersion in seawater, covered in stitched sigils, and infested with small polyps, shrimp, fish and invertebrates. The corpse is missing one, which rests on the gurney, half covered in sigils and has a pair of pearls (100 GP each) stuck in its eye sockets. AN almost complete Hollow Man, the Wight Lord (Area B21) can raise it quickly, but imperfectly if needed.
- tall cabinet - Within the cabinet are surgical tools and bandages, as well as several large jars filled with a variety of liquids. The surgical tools and bandages are sufficent to create a Medical Kit allowing anyone with a Medicine skill to practice it (and are worth 100 GP). The selection of five unlabelled large stoppered jars filled with various liquids: bright green, thick and bloody red, viscous black, and two clear are all useful in the reanimation process. The first three contain deadly poisons - acid, ‘unliving blood’, and ‘black ichor’ which require a save vs. poison or result in death if sipped. The last two are strong denatured alcohol (Save v. Poison or take 1 pt of damage and spend a turn helplessly retching if drunk) and clean water, a full canteen’s worth.
AERA B31 - The Laughing Boy (dark) [NPC] - A waist high Automaton, made of brass and painted wood leans atop a precarious pile of debris, it’s red cheeked face and painted dead staring eyes facing the door. The piled and scattered detritus in the room appears to contain a wide variety of ancient and rotten goods.
- Automaton (Laughing Boy) F1 (Warrior), HP 3, Str 15 (+1), Int 12, Wis 9, Con 6, Dex 15 (+1), Chr 5 (-1), AC 17, ATK +2*, INT +0, SV F1, ML 6, MV Fleet (5)**.
* On first attack or after killing a foe, may make a leap attack, at the face of any enemy within melee or reach range, attack is a grapple that prevents enemy counter attack.
Equipment: small silver saber [close] (encumbrance 1 of 8).
** Laughing Boy is acrobatic, having a 4 in 6 Acrobatics skill which it will use to leap into and out of combat as well as climb up walls and chutes.
Laughing Boy the automaton will spring to life when approached by the living, and gladly speak to anyone. His brightly painted body is wood with polished brass joints, and despite dust Laughing Boy’s blue soldier’s uniform, heavily frogged and braided with silver, is almost immaculate. Laughing Boy’s speaks with a high cheerful lilt and he moves with humorous exaggerated gestures, but his soul and his words are filled with a cruel and capricious evil. Laughing Boy knows about Sterntown and the safety it represents, he would like to go there, to pursue his evil plans of murder and foolishness. He will provide advice (and perhaps sudden shout out a cheery song, alerting enemies) if the party promises to take him to civilization (his advice is not all bad, but he lies a lot and enjoys others' pain). Laughing Boy can walk and move quite nimbly (he will scamper off to escape if attacked - plotting murderous revenge) and he offers to serve anyone who brings him “The fresh and bloody head of a good man” for a year and a day once he is fattened with cruelty and blood. He has a small saber (close) and a tendency to leap like a spider monkey onto foes in a deadly grapple.
- pile of debris - A tangled mass of rusting drums, broken furniture, and fragments of broken drywall. To reach to top of the pile where the Automaton sits requires clambering up the entire unstable jumble, which will both require a 4D6 check against DEX and even if successful will result in an enormous amount of noise as junk clatters to the ground and triggers an immediate random encounter check.