The party plus Captain Pikesear and Dr Nigel left the med bay and descended the stairs down to the bottom level of the Phantom Limit, where they split off and headed to their respective destinations. Linny, Gaius, and Nigel arrived at the opening of the ventilation system where Nigel set up a ladder for the gnome. He explained that he would navigate her through the vents using the ship’s blueprints and the Stones of Farspeech, and stressed that it was important she make it out quickly after reactivating the heating system so she wouldn’t be hurt by the high temperatures. While Gaius stood by keeping a watchful eye on the scientist, Linny climbed up into the vents and followed Nigel’s turn-by-turn instructions until she crawled her way to a control panel about 100 feet inward. He told her to flip a series of three switches, and as soon as she flipped the third one all of the lights in the vents went out. Accompanying the sudden darkness were whispers that echoed up and down the vents, and Linny could make out that they were quietly chanting her full name in the same sing-song tone that she usually hummed to herself. As she backed up and started to scuttle away, a small hand reached out of the darkness and grabbed her shoulder. When she turned around she was staring into the face of her dead husband Jeros, whose eyes were present but red. Pulling away, she blinked and Jeros was gone. The lights were also back on and Nigel was in mid-sentence on her Stone, asking where she had gone and telling her to get out as fast as possible. As she began scuttling back down the route she had come, something happened outside the vents that caused Nigel to stop talking.
At the same moment that Linny had originally entered the vents, Medivh, Osborne, and Pikesear entered the Core room. Pikesear reiterated that they were there to protect everyone in the event that the Core somehow activated again, so Medivh cast Arcane Lock on the door to make sure nothing could get out of the room and into the rest of the ship. As they waited and kept an eye on things, they heard the ship’s heating system whir back to life, signaling that Linny had flipped the switches — but the lights did not go out for them. Over the Stones they heard Nigel tell her to come back out, but the gnome did not respond. As the doctor frantically tried to reach her, Pikesear said they should return to the others in case Linny was in danger. As they moved toward the door, however, their path became blocked. Rising up through the floor in the front of them was something in the shape of a man, but this man was made completely of fire. They stopped in their tracks and over the Stones they heard Nigel stop short in the middle of a sentence. Back outside the vents, Gaius saw what had taken the doctor’s breath away: three large flail snails had appeared out of nowhere, and were starting to slime their way toward the two men at the bottom of the ladder.
Linny fortunately remembered the exact route she had traveled and was able to escape the vents without Nigel’s help, because the doctor was frozen in fear and hiding behind Gaius. The two party members battled the snails, killing their five flails one by one before finally bringing the beasts down. Back at the Core, Osborne attempted to strike the fire man but caught on fire himself and was forced to dive into the shin-deep ring of water that ran along the perimeter of the room. Now soaked and inflammable, the rogue continued swinging at the flames while Medivh and Pikesear tried ranged attacks and also got themselves wet to avoid potential fire damage (Medivh action-rolled through the shallow water before every single attack). Once the snails were dead outside the vents, Linny checked in and learned what the other group was up against. She, Gaius, and Nigel raced off toward the Core room while the fire man continued to attack the others, paying specific attention to Pikesear and screaming “you didn’t save me.” After Medivh failed a clothesline attempt that knocked him back into water, the wizard dismissed his Arcane Lock and allowed the rest of the group into the room. Linny used a Create Water spell to make it rain directly over the man of fire and douse everything else in the room, and Gaius finally vanquished the flames with a strike from his light blade. The man dissipated into several smaller fires and dissolved back through the floor.
Shaken by the confrontations and by the vision of her dead husband, Linny confronted Nigel and Pikesear for more information. Nigel continued to be flabbergasted by the unexplainable supernatural events occurring on his scientific masterpiece, while Pikesear seemed to be holding something back regarding the man on fire. When pressed further the captain ordered Linny to stand down, saying that his personal history had no bearing on the current mission. They all returned to the Nav Deck to regroup, where Feltongar was still working on deciphering the mysterious entry in the old captain’s log and Downey reported that all of the ship’s navigation systems were fried. Pikesear said he and his crew would be staying in the Nav Deck for the foreseeable future and that the party should go explore the ship and search for any survivors of the old crew. Gaius asked for Nigel to come along with them but Pikesear shut the paladin down, noting that he wanted to keep the doctor in one room so that he wouldn’t get in the way of the mission.
The group began exploring the ship room by room, finding a completely destroyed R&D lab and a supply warehouse with barely anything missing, implying that whatever happened to the ship happened early on in their journey. Their next stop was the crew quarters, which were a dozen identical individual rooms located directly beneath the Nav Deck. In the first two rooms they found nothing of note aside from a vape rig that Medivh took and the crew member’s jumpsuit, which the wizard also put on even though it was ill-fitting. In the third room they found the dead body of a crew member missing its eyes and tongue, and in the fourth room they found another crew member standing up and alive, though he was also missing his eyes and tongue and was holding a large kitchen knife. When the man began to slowly walk toward them, Osborne drew his swords and cut him down with a single blow. Through a combination of Gaius’ Detect Evil ability and Medivh’s arcane knowledge, they deduced that the man had not been undead but there were very faint traces of magic on his body.
The party continued to move through the crew quarters and found an assortment of interesting items: an onyx dog figurine that could come to life as a talking mastiff, kept by Gaius; a page seemingly ripped from an old spellbook containing dark and unpleasant sounding incantations, kept by Medivh; a necklace of beads of Blessing, kept by Linny; and an earring that granted knowledge of the Sylvan language, also kept by Linny. They also found another eyeless and tongueless corpse and another eyeless and tongueless living crew member who rather unthreateningly slashed at them with a kitchen knife. Instead of cutting this one down, Medivh webbed the man to the floor and they tried communicating with him with little success. After consulting with Pikesear, they agreed to restrain the crewmember and take him to the Med Bay for further examination. The final room of the crew’s quarters was the captain’s room, where Medivh found a large history book open to a page about a long and deadly war between two nations, and Gaius sensed the same kind of pulling sensation he had felt in Almamoon’s Ivory Tower that led him directly to his light blade. This time it led him to the chest at the foot of the bed, where he found a gold medallion emblazoned with a lion’s head that he remembered represented the god Hercules.
A few moments after donning the medallion and getting ready to leave the captain’s room, Gaius heard an incredibly loud banging noise echo throughout the ship. The paladin panicked but was confused when the rest of the group heard nothing. The banging was eventually accompanied by voices, which Gaius recognized as Dumock and Mal’Ganis, who had tortured him and drained his life force just two weeks prior. With the group behind him, he followed the sound upstairs to the Nav Deck and kicked the door in, startling Pikesear, Nigel, Downey, and Feltongar who were inside working calmly. Not finding the source of the torment, the group turned to leave but were surprised when the doors slammed shut on them and the banging began again, now perceptible to everyone in the room. While they all prepared to defend themselves, Nigel calmly stood up and began walking toward the door, looking like he was in some kind of trance. Through the cacophony Linny managed to hear the inventor whisper, “open the door.” Alarmed, Medivh webbed the doctor in place and Gaius tackled him to the ground, where he suddenly seemed like his usual normal and frightened self. The door burst open and a flesh golem entered and attacked, though the group was able to avoid its damage completely until Medivh brought it down with a Ray of Sickness spell. Upon investigating the body they realized it was made of stitched together parts of six bodies belonging to old crewmembers, meaning they had now accounted for the grisly fate of eleven of the twelve original Phantom Limit crew.
As Pikesear stood over the golem angered about this discovery, Lovelrunn’s voice came in over the Stones and frantically asked if anyone had seen Pip, who was suddenly missing from the Med Bay. The party and the captain rushed to her location and found that the halfling had seemingly unhooked himself from all of the medical devices and vanished. After a brief search the group tracked him to the airlock on the opposite side of the ship from where the Meriweather had docked, and found him standing inside naked with his back turned to them. The door leading in was locked and the door leading outside had been opened and broken off, meaning the icy winds and snow were swirling around the airlock. Unable to get inside, Pikesear ordered Osborne to follow him and told the rest of the group, which now included XO Downey, to keep Pip talking and keep him inside long enough for the two of them to repel down the ship and get into the room. The pair ran off and the remaining four began trying to coax Pip away from the ledge, but the young halfling only muttered solemnly about the things he had seen and “the dark inside.” Also appearing inside the room and only perceptible to Medivh was a vision of his mortally wounded mother, who grasped at her neck where her Periapt of Wound Closure should be but was missing because it was now worn by the wizard.
Meanwhile up on the observation deck, the geared-up Pikesear and Osborne began their repel down the side of the massive ship. The dexterous rogue had almost no trouble advancing downward, even when the haunted ship tried to show him visions of his dead little brother, but the captain struggled with the action and could barely make any progress without slipping and putting himself in danger. Back downstairs Downey and the group continued to plead with Pip, reminding him of his brothers and what he had to live for, and even though he repeatedly spoke of his desire to die to escape what was haunting him, their words occasionally got through and kept him in place. Medivh continued to have trouble shaking the vision of his mother but was aided by the disembodied voice of Ye’Kan, who granted the wizard inspiration via a Sending spell from his current plane of existence. Eventually Osborne arrived at the airlock and jumped inside, breaking the lock on the door and getting Pip back inside the ship, where he was returned to the Med Bay to recover.
Once they were joined by the captain and reconvened, Downey told Pikesear about the things Pip had been saying about the darkness and what he had seen. Confused because Pip had only disappeared for a matter of seconds, Pikesear felt they should go speak to Dr. Nigel and find out more about what happens in the other planes and why Pip was so greatly affected. They found Nigel pacing outside the the Nav Deck and Pikesear instantly pushed him and pinned him against the wall, demanding to know what was happening on the ship. Nigel guessed that when Pip disappeared he had gone to the same place the ship had gone during its own disappearance. After being threatened yet again by Gaius, Nigel said if just given a little bit of time he could figure out some kind of logical explanation, and went back inside the Nav Deck. Almost immediately, the captain dropped to his knees and covered his ears, beginning to panic as he muttered “I can still hear them.” After the initial panic passed and after some pressing from Gaius, Pikesear revealed his backstory. Before he came to Waterdeep he had been captaining a ship that got caught in a storm and was struck by lightning, causing the boat to catch fire. Unable to save his crew that was trapped below deck, Pikesear took a lifeboat and abandoned ship, leaving the crew behind and hearing their screams as the ship burned. He told the group that he kept that a secret his entire life, but somehow the Phantom Limit knew about it. He also apologized to Linny for their heated confrontation earlier, and just as amends were being made Feltongar emerged from the the Nav Deck. He asked everyone to come inside, because he believed he had made a discovery about the strange coded message from the original captain’s log.