Fury in Freeport

Part Sixteen
All good things come to a happy-ish end

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The bloody fight in the bottom aft of the ship continues. Two dretches and two city guards have already expired. Lucern, badly injured by one of the demons, casts a healing spell on herself. O’Tarkan pulls back further into the small room while the First Mate pushes the bound Aporcus aside and springs forward to close the door to hold up the arrival of the enemy re-enforcements thundering towards them. Izzard, moves forward in a lizard fury and attempts to attack the First Mate but fails in his attack and falls inside the room as the door is closed and bolted from the inside. He quickly picks himself up and springs at O’Tarkan, his deadly claws flashing – but he is deceived. He failed to notice the evil mage casting an illusion spell mere seconds before – and therefore passes through the projected image and smashes into the rear wall, falling to the ground. O’Tarkan, standing only a couple of feet away, rushes over and stabs the prone figure with the cursed dagger, killing the unfortunate Kobald conman where he lies.

The rest of the boarding party come rushing up to the closed door. Before they can smash it down Gito tells them all to stand aside as he will pick the lock; which he subsequently does – but the door is bolted from the inside so the city guard have to go back to their original plan and break the door down. As they rush in one of the guards in stabbed in the neck by the First Mate and falls down dead. The remainder of the city guard pile in, delivering strike after strike at the veteran sailor but he is extremely swift and skilled, taking only a single wound as he fatally carves up yet another of their number. O’Tarkan joins in the fray and plunges the dagger into the heart of another guard. Gito, observing that his group are making very little progress against the Mazzin slaver hierarchy decides to stealthily steal into the room and creep around to the back – staying out of the way of the fray. The frantic lethal fight continues unabated and as the guard lieutenant desperately tries to halt the steady decimation of his men by killing the mage he witnesses his final man receive a fatal stab wound. A flurry of sword swings later and O’Tarkan dodges the blows and then slices the Lieutenant’s throat.

Things are now so desperate that Lucern has no choice but to join the fight with her dagger drawn. Just as it looks like the diabolical forces might prove victorious, Gito, unobserved by O’Tarkan, springs onto the mage’s back from behind and delivers a devastatingly powerful killing blow. Shocked by the demise of his master, the First Mate fights on but less effectively – Lucern managing to avoid all his knife swings but equally not sufficiently capable to land a blow herself; it’s only a matter of time before she to falls victim to the Mazzin slavers. The Goblin thief leaps from the body of the dead mage and swiftly launches an equally deadly attack at the First Mate’s exposed back. Seconds later and the Goblin thief stands victorious on a pile of his comrades’ and enemies’ bloodied bodies. Only Lucern is left standing to witness her colleague’s triumph; and Aporcus, who they manage to stop sneaking out, still bound.

They emerge on the deck of The Narwhale, which is still littered with the corpses of its slain crew (only the cook has managed to survive the onslaught and he has crept away while everyone was fighting bellow deck); they are just in time to witness Tarmon’s arrival accompanied with a large city guard contingent. The sagely mage and council member regales the sight of the bloodbath with shock and asks the two survivors what occurred. Gito, dodgy individual that he is, gives a very vague and unconvincing account of the event, largely pleading ignorance. Tarmon, concerned about having the cursed dagger loose in his city asks about its location and the foolish Goblin attempts to convince him that the Mazzin slavers threw it in the harbour at the beginning of the battle. Hoping to gain himself some credit with his future captors, Aporcus openly contradicts Gito and tells Tarmon that the Goblin thief has the item on his person, which is hotly denied by the individual. Not knowing what to believe, Tarmon orders the city guard to search all three of the individuals and it is only then that Gito comes clean and hands the lethal weapon over. Tarmon is shocked and offended by the deceit but is largely so relieved to finally have possession of the dangerous supernatural blade that he refrains from punishing the petty criminal and even concedes to Gito’s request of taking ownership of The Narwhale.

With a parting gift of gold, Tarmon carts Aporcus away to The Keep while the city guard set about removing all the bodies from the ship. Over the proceeding days Gito will use the money to hire a ship’s crew in Freeport with the intention of becoming a Goblin pirate on the high seas; Lucern, for her part, wants nothing to do with the criminal’s errant plans and opts to wander the streets of Freeport, looking to give aid to those most in need of it. Whether the two survivors of the small contingent that so recently arrived in Freeport aboard The Black Rose will give much pause for thought for their recently deceased comrades in arms – the valiant Edward, the resourceful Izzard, the lethal Willard, the mislead Malefice and the deranged Zan’thire, will remain a mystery. Life in Freeport however will almost certainly continue as normal, nearly all its denizens blissfully unaware of the causes of so much recent bloodshed and disruption and the narrowly avoided local apocalypse that would have been unleashed by an evil foreign mage and a cursed emerald dagger.

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Part Fifteen
All hands on deck

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With all immediate demon threats dealt with the group realise that they have lost sight of the creature holding the dagger. They check the nearby alleyways and soon notice some disturbed trash and decide to follow the trail where they quickly come upon a number of lit houses whose weary occupants are peering out into the dark streets from their bedroom windows. The woken witnesses point the group in the general direction of the demon and a short time later they emerge at the Old Town gates, which are standing open, unguarded by the two nearby bodies of the city guard. Edward investigates the corpses which bear talon marks matching those inflicted by the demons and takes a discarded halberd. The group follow the easily detectable path of the two Dretches all the way to the Merchant District docks where they spot the Narwhale and what appears to be a lot of activity around it.

Not entirely sure what they are up against Izzard makes the decision to call on Tarmon using the talisman he gave them. For once they appear to have caught the worldly wizard at a good time, perchance due to the dirty lizard’s magical touch. They quickly inform the mage that they briefly had possession of a enchanted dagger that was in the box and that it has been stolen from them by unholy creatures and they have chased it down to the docks. Tarmon agrees to dispatch a contingent of guards to assist in the matter. Once more left alone to their devices, Gito opts to scout forward and observe what is transpiring on the Narwhale; he sees a number of the exotic sailors standing guard at the front of the jetty while the rest of the crew appears to be on deck making preparations to set sail. The Goblin thief creeps around all the crates until he reaches the bow of the ship where he then climbs one of the mooring ropes and reaches the starboard side of the vessel; peering over he sees many of the sailors are unfurling the sails and that a loaded ballista is affixed the forecastle. He then decides to stealthily handrail along the outside starboard side of the vessel until he reaches the aft; he then jumps onto the deck, where he is finally spotted by members of the crew.

The rest of the group, losing sight of the Goblin thief, decide that they need to make a distraction. Izzard takes the initiative and strolls boldly over to the guarded jetty and attempts to talk his way onto ship once more; this time he has even less success and one of the foreign sailors comes at him with his curved sword. The Kobold conman quickly turns and hides amongst the nearby crates and pallets while three scimitar wielding guards search for him. Lucern and Edward observe the distraction working and use this moment to creep over to the same spot where Gito climbed aboard the Narwhale. Edward scales the mooring rope and peers over the rails, eyeing up the ballista. After several minutes hunting one of the mariners finally locates Izzard and attempts to strike him, but the slippery lizard avoids the blow and then uses his claws to gouge the man in the face – bizarrely the man does not scream, but simply frantically flails; one of his colleagues comes rushing over and manages to deliver a vicious sword blow to Izzard’s back. Edward, spotting his colleague in imminent danger, springs aboard the vessel, races over to the ballista, manages to swivel it at two of the nearby forecastle guards and fires – one of the sailors is killed outright and the other is sent flying down the stairs to the deck, breaking his neck. Lucern also jumps onboard and draws her dagger. A number of the sailors on the main deck come rushing forward to defend the vessel. Gito races past a number of deckhands and reaches a door to the lower decks; he shoots through the door and slams it shut behind him, races down the steps and into Farastay’s cabin, and barricades himself inside – he is too fast for his pursuers, who have failed to observe where he went and instead they head down into the bowels of the ship. While safely hidden in the cabin the Goblin opens a window and then sets about searching the contents of the room where he eventually locates the Captain’s log; a quick read of this handwritten journal reveals that the vessel is from the notorious slave port of Mazzin – and if there’s one thing not abided in Freeport it’s Slavers.

Tarmon’s city guard are searching the Merchant District docks for the adventurers when they spot commotion up ahead. The eight guards go running in and encounter a badly injured Izzard who informs them of the situation. The two sailors turn and run back for the jetty but one of them is taken out by a sword to the back as the city guard give pursuit. A skirmish ensues and although one of the guardsmen is sent sprawling they do manage to gain the upper hand in the fight from their superiority in numbers. Edward meanwhile straddles one of the foredeck stairs and defends it against the approaching deckhands, swinging the halberd in sharp arcs; however, he is not adept with the new weapon and one of his adversaries is surer with his scimitar and manages to dodge all oncoming blows while deliver a couple of savage cuts to the musketeer. Lucern, defending the other set of stairs on the forecastle, fares better and manages to plunge a knife into the chest of the first attacker, knocking down the second, and she skips down to deliver a coup de gras. At the same time Edward is finished off by the sailors and they return to the deck to deal battle with the cleric, only to find the victorious city guard storming aboard. A short battle ensues and the sailors are dealt with. Gito hears the sound of combat and climbs out of the cabin window, scaling the aft castle and meets up with the guards. Lucern pops her head inside the forecastle and discovers the ship’s mess and a pre-occupied cook before returning to join the others.

The top deck is now secure but there is no sign of Farastay or the dagger. The group, led by the city guard lieutenant, head into the ship and down the decks, where upon they encounter four sailors blocking their progress. A narrow fight erupts and the lieutenant is injured, but the rest of the group manages to push through the melee and deal with the opposition. They are now at the bottom of the ship and there are two closed door at either end; the large group divides into two with each going to a different door. The first group only encounter a storeroom. The second group, consists of Izzard, Lucern and two guardsmen; they open the door and see the shocking sight of Aporcus on his knees, being held at swordpoint by the First Mate while O’Tarkan Farastay, enchanted emerald dagger in hand, is mid-spell in front of a swirling red vortex over a pentagram. The two guardsmen rush forward and attack the slaver mage, disrupting the spell, which results in two Dretches materialising. Farastay makes short work of both of the guardsmen but is then himself attacked by one of the unbound demons. The other Dretch bounds towards Lucern and Izzard, injuring the former with a vicious swipe of its claws. Izzard then manages to take the hell-born creature out with his own deadly claws.

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Part Fourteen
Flailing lizards and frenzied goblins

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Trapped in Sardaine’s burning bar, Willard recalls that it is only a flimsy shack and uses his strength to push through the left wall and emerge safely outside; his actions however have the unintended consequence of causing the middle of the shack to collapse, trapping Sardaine at the other end of the structure. The barkeep in turn decides to copy Willard and pushes through the right hand wall; however, this causes more of the burning building to collapse and the two Molotov cocktails he has left under the bar explode, engulfing him in flames. Sardaine emerges outside but collapses face down on the ground, still on fire. Pilchard comes running around the side of the building and promptly beheads the unfortunate barkeep.

Willard turns the corner to the front of the shack and charges Monkfish who has just reloaded his crossbow. The Fishmonger gang enforcer manages to avoid Willard’s sabre blow and promptly shoots him in the chest, killing him outright. The fight finally over, the two surviving members of the Fishmonger gang dust themselves off and wonder how they will manage to maintain control over Bloodsalt’s rotten fish supply.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Freeport, the group approaches the gates of the old city and manage to bribe their way past the city guard. They reach the Street of Dreams at dusk and search for Uri Tasovar’s abode which to their surprise turns out to be the tailors shop next door to the Knorbertal house. The shop is shut and locked up for the night and they rap on the door; Uri is spotted peeking from the upstairs window and appears panicked. The group beckon him to open the window which he does and he asks them what they want. Izzard informs Uri that the tailor is the last living descendent of the Dockside guardhouse during the time of the Back Alley War and that he is in imminent danger from Aporcus Beedle; the Kobold conman convinces the nervous tailor that it is in his interest to let the group in and that they will protect him. Uri, impressed at how much Izzard knows about him, duly lets the group into his home and shop. After a discussion on tactics the group decide to hide Uri at the rear of the stockroom, behind some boxes while posting Lucern and Izzard nearby ready to ambush any attacker – Edward goes up to Uri’s room and lays in the man’s bed, axe at the ready and Gito hides under the bed with his dagger drawn.

Darkness falls and an hour later something slams against the locked shop door, alerting everyone. A second impact busts the door open and they all hear someone come stomping into the house; the footsteps quickly ascend the stairs. Edward and Gito hear the doors to the two other rooms upstairs being kicked open while Lucern and Izzard come out from the storeroom and creep up the stairs. The door to Uri’s room bursts open and Edward screams in terror as he beholds the terrible sight of Aporcus Beedle with green glowing eyes standing in the doorway, clutching an old wavy dagger with a emerald pommel. The greasy faced petty criminal comes rushing into the room dagger raised, ready to stab Edward but Gito lashes out from under the bed and lands a severe wound to the attacker’s leg, sending him flying into the far corner. Edward leaps up from the bed and swings his axe but Aporcus is still too swift and blokes the blow. Lucern and Izzard come rushing into the room to join the fray and the former quickly picks up the small lizard and propels him at Aporcus – the Kobold delivers a claw attack to the face that badly wounds the demented attacker. Aporcus attempts to stab the lizard but Izzard jumps back onto the bed; Gito takes another lunge with his dagger but misses. Lucern, observing the green glowing eyes of Aporcus realises that the young man is probably possessed by some sort of spirit, so she casts her banishing spell. A shimmering green apparition of a young woman instantly emerges from Aporcus, she screams in rage as she is drawn into the emerald pommel of the dagger. Aporcus is suddenly himself again and he is left standing in the corner, badly wounded and utterly confused as to where he is and what’s going on. The group, still surrounding him, shout for him to drop the dagger, which he does.

The group then quiz the errant and bewildered evil-doer and Aporcus confirms that the case and the dagger were always his and that he has no recollection whatsoever of the murders he has committed. Satisfied that Beedle has indeed been possessed by the strange dagger the group ties the young criminal up and carefully retrieve the enchanted weapon, placing it in a sack. Uri is retrieved from his hiding place and the terrified tailor issues some choice insults at Aporcus as the criminal is lead out of the shop. The group emerge out into the dark night of the Street of Dreams intent to march Aporcus and the dagger straight to Tarmon, who is located a short distance away. A minute later as they walk away Lucern, Aporcus and Edward are all sent flying as something big slams into them; Gito and Izzard spin around to see two Dretches, the same type of demonic creature they encountered in the MAH. One of the creatures lunges at Gito and attempts to grab the bag containing the dagger but the goblin thief is too nimble and he turns and runs away down the street, leaving his comrades to their fate. Izzard jumps up at one of the creatures at and claws it in the face, badly injuring it. Realising that it is facing capable adversaries as well as being on a mission, the first Dretch refrains from attacking and instead casts a summoning spell and another Dretch appears halfway down the street, blocking Gito’s path. The injured demon attacks Izzard and the Kobold crim receives a swipe from its claw, injuring him, but Lucern comes to the rescue and delivers a blow with a knife that ends the monstrosity. The first creature lunges and grabs a-hold of Aporcus and carries him away from the group, kicking and screaming.

Gito darts past the freshly summoned Dretch but as he passes it manages to hit the dagger bag out of his grip. The goblin stops in his tracks, turns and snatches the bag back up, avoiding a blow in the process; he then resumes his flight but the demon summons forth another of his kin and he is now being closely chased by two of the nightmare creatures. Edward, injured badly in the attack repeatedly tries to pick himself up but he is terribly weak; ignoring Aporcus’ now distant screams Lucern rushes to the musketeer’s aid and uses her holy magical abilities to heal him of his wounds. Izzard also chooses to leave Aporcus to his fate in favour of running after Gito and his pursuers. As they reach the end of the street one of the Dretches manages to catch up and grab the dagger bag while its colleague attempts to attack the goblin. Gito avoids the creature’s claws and manages to land a strike with his blade, he then turns to chase after the monster with the bag; this creature, observing that it is being pursued summons another of its number to deal with Gito. Face to face with the newly summoned monster Gito enters combat once more and avoids its strike while managing stabbing it. Izzard manages to catch up to the melee and assists the goblin thief deal with the two wounded demons; once both threats are dealt with they realise that they have lost sight of the Dretch with the dagger.

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Part Thirteen
Questions & Coin = The Path to Truth

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Mote’s bodyguard who fled, Pilchard, runs over to the FishMongers Gang’s Fish Cannery, where Karcil and Mote’s adopted Orc brother, Bailey, is slumbering. Pilchard informs Bailey about brother’s death, killed in a deadly attack by members of the Bloody Nose gang. Bailey, conferring with the gang’s only other remaining footsoldier, a Hobgoblin called Monkfish, concoct a plan of action – they decide to head over to Sardaines, lay a trap out front, set fire to the rear and shoot and slash anyone who comes out of the establishment. After gathering their equipment they head off.

Willard arrives back at Sardaines, tired and worn, carrying a number of looted firearms. The barkeep enquires how the raid went and asks where all his men are; the half-orc recounts events and apologises for the fact that all the Bloody Nose gang’s muscle is now dead. A short time later, Goldie, the gang’s goblin messenger, bursts into the bar and reports that his sources have told him that Bailey has been informed of his brother’s death and is out looking for revenge. Sardaine and Willard decide that they will head off this threat by launching a counter attack; they task Goldie to go out and scout for Bailey’s whereabouts and to return with the location while the duo remain behind, Sardaine preparing their weapons, including two Molotov cocktails, and Willard keeping watch outside the rickety shack.

A short time later an eagle-eyed Willard spots a very angry Orc emerging from a lane opposite, accompanied by a couple of others behind – Bailey, realising he has lost the element of surprise, charges at the half-orc duellist while Monkfish steps to the side to take aim with his crossbow; Pilchard heads of in the opposite direction to set fire to the rear of Sardaines. Monkfish fires a bolt but misses; Bailey comes rushing at Willard with his sword ready to cleave him in two. Willard however, is too nimble for the Orc and manages to dart aside at the last moment, sending Bailey flying into Sardaine’s, which alerts the barkeep to the attack. Sardaine pulls out the first of two pistols under the bar and opens fire, hitting Bailey in the ribs. The enraged Orc brute bellows in rage and takes a swipe at Willard with his sword but the duellist is once again too nimble and avoids the blow and strikes back with his own sabre, seriously wounding his attacker. Sardaine then pulls the other pistol and proceeds to shoot Bailey square in the head, killing him. The rear of the shack then erupts in flames thanks to Pilchard, and Monkfish arrives at the threshold of the bar and fires his crossbow at Willard, this time managing to hit him in the left arm. The duellist tries to rush Monkfish but the Hobgoblin manages to repel him; Sardaine tries likewise, striking out with a knife that lightly wounds Monkfish. Pilchard comes rushing around the side of the building and pulls Monkfish outside and slams the door shut, sealing Sardaine and Willard inside the burning building.

On the other side of the city, in the Docks District, the group wake up in the Sea Hag tavern and work out what to do next. They decide that the murders reported in The Shipping News need to be investigated since they are implicated in them, but they also need to meet up with Otarkan Farastay at 8am as arranged the night before. They decide that Gito and Edward will keep the appointment with Farastay while Lucerne and Izzard head off to Rose Alley to learn of one of the murders. A short time later the Kobalt conman and delightful druid cleric are standing in the rough streets where the first murder occurred – they spot a couple of prostitutes sat on a nearby doorstep and approach them. The two rough-looking comfort ladies are wary of the pair at first but the production of coin soon gets their tongues wagging and it is revealed that Old Sasha, the murdered prostitute, was last seen in the company of a greasy faced young man who took her down a side alley. They also reveal that Old Sasha’s murder was doubly surprising as she had nothing to her name and in all probability would have died from the rot within the year. Intent on being thorough, Lucern and Izzard bribe the prostitutes further to gain access to Old Sasha’s shared flat; once there they learn from the other denizen’s that Old Sasha has no surviving family and that the only relative they knew of was her father, Henry, who is long deceased.

Edward and Gito arrive at the Merchant District docks and spot the Narwhale. The goblin thief, delighted with his skilful stalking of Farastay the day before decides to show off his art some more and is determined to sneak onboard and surprise the foreign merchant prior to their meeting; Edward tries in vain to talk the thief out of this silly plan but eventually gives up and decides to wait by a pile of crates. Gito’s first attempt is unsuccessful but he is determined and so walks a short distance away, dives into the water, swims over to the ship, climbs the anchor chain, creeps on deck, sneaks into the aft quarters, heads into Farastay’s cabin, and upon noting the merchant’s absence, decides to sit and wait in the man’s chair. Outside, Edward note’s that 8am has long gone and there’s been no sign of Farastay.
Lucern and Izzard leave Rose Alley and make their way over to Kergen’s Kradle to learn about the second reported death. Inside the tatty and rundown residence they encounter the proprietor, Kergen, once more. The pair approach him and find that the man is shaking in fear so much that he doesn’t even recognise Lucern (who’s actually disguised). They ask him about the murder and he reveals that the victim was Rene Montblanc, an adventurer from the continent who’s family came from Freeport. He says that he saw Aporcus Beedle come rushing into the building late at night with green glowing eyes and clutching a dagger. Again, determined to be thorough, they pay to see Rene’s quarters and spend some time questioning the other residents but learn little else.

One of the Narwhale’s crew comes to clean Farastay’s cabin and spots Gito sitting in the boss’ chair. The crewman grabs ahold of the goblin and drags him onto the deck, where he then throws him overboard, into the harbour. The goblin swims ashore and joins Edward at the crates. At a loss at what to do next and with no apparent sign of Farastay, they decide to wait some more and eventually fall asleep.

Rather than go to the scene of the third murder Lucern and Izzard opt to go to the city’s Office of Public Records, where they proceed to have a row concerning Izzard’s repeated thefts of the cleric’s money. The Record Keeper, Old Reed, hears the commotion and ejects Lucern; Izzard manages to buy his way in by donating generously to the institute, which also buys some of Old Reed’s assistance and time. For the rest of the day, and with a top up of donations, Izzard learns of a link between all three victims – their fathers, Henry, Montblanc and Proy, were all City Guards who inhabited a guardhouse in the Dockside District, alongside a guard called Rue during the notorious Back Alley War some fifty years ago. Additional research shows that after the war with the Thieves Guild, Rue was convicted and executed for being a cultist of some dark god. There is only one living descendant of the old guard house’s residents, Rue’s son, Uri, who changed his name to Tasovar. Another check of the records reveals that Uri Tasovar lives on the Street of Dreams, the same street where Knorbertal House stands. Believing they know where Aporcus will strike next, Lucern and Izzard head over to the Merchant’s District and locate Edward and Gito and give an account of all they have learned before setting off for the Old Town and the Street of Dreams.

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Part Twelve
Just Dessert(s)?

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In the small hours of the night, deep in the rickety shanty town of Freeport’s Bloodsalt district, Willard, the half-orc duellist, having learned of the location of Sardaine, makes his way to the end of the lane and finds a large shack bearing that name, accompanied with the symbol of a fish. There is then, however, a slight problem; Willard is unable to locate the front door to the establishment – he can see light coming from within and the sound of people drinking, but after completing a full circuit he is at a loss. Searching more intently he finally finds the edge of what he thinks is the door and gives it a hearty tug – as a section of the tavern’s wall is ripped away the duellist is greeted with the astonished faces of the stunned patrons and the somewhat angry face of the owner, Sardaine. The Orc barkeep, spiked club in hand, demands to know what is going on and Willard manages to avoid a severe beating at the last moment by disclosing that he has been sent by Nargil. Sardaine takes Willard aside at the back of the bar-shack and is given the message from the Bloody Nose gang leader, that Mote is dead and that Karcil should now be taken out. Sardaine mulls over the information and reveals that he is the gang’s quarter master; he then tells Willard that he will need his help in executing the plan as he is short of men. He then sends Goldie, his goblin runner, to fetch the gang’s Orc foot soldiers, all six of them, and then suggests a suitable plan of action to Willard. While waiting for the gang members to turn up the barkeep supplies Willard with a rusty but very sharp sabre and two firebombs. A short time later the foot-soldiers turn up and are given instructions to follow Willard’s commands and to take him to Mote’s residence – Addocks.

After a quick manoeuvre through the shanty town, the group arrive outside of Addocks. Willard, not wanting to unnecessarily expose himself to danger, orders one of his Orcs to walk up to the building and throw a firebomb at the front door, thus trapping all the inhabitants inside. The Orc gang-member receives detailed instructions in how to accomplish this straightforward task and duly bimbles over to the front door of the establishment and promptly manages to accidentally set fire to himself, thus waking up the inhabitants. As a puzzled Orc opens and looks out of the upstairs shutters, Willard throws the remaining firebomb, which falls desperately short of the window and instead sets the bottom left hand corner of the building alight. At this, two armed defenders burst out through the front door and a frantic melee ensues in which Willard manages to kill them both with his sabre, but also receives a grazing shot to the ribs in the process. One of his gang then manages to catch himself on fire whilst trying to put out the first casualty, and another member of the Bloody Nose gang is shot in the back following a very specific order from Willard concerning a door. In the middle of the savage fight Willard spots the goblin leader, Mote, inside the burning fishmongers, surrounded by a trio of bodyguards, one of whom is taken out shortly after running one of the Bloody Nose boys through with a pike. Willard then springs into the shop and manages to intimidate one of the bodyguards to leave without a fight and then attacks the remaining one, killing him. Unprotected, Mote attempts to defend himself but he is little match for the battle-hardened duellist who makes short work of him. Once the desired target has been illuminated, Willard loots the weapons of the fallen, securing a flintlock pistol and a musket; the last standing member of his attack party then enters the building and is about to tell him something when flaming timbers fall down and kills him; seconds later the entire entrance collapses into a burning heap and Willard is seemingly trapped, until he remembers how flimsy and fragile all the building s of Bloodsalt are and simply breaks down the nearest wall and walks out into the night air. He then departs the scene, cold bloodily killing the last surviving member of his gang and carries a bundle of weapons held in his arms. He slowly makes his way back to Sardaines, tired and slightly annoyed from all the action and mishaps along the way.

Elsewhere, emerging from the ruined temple, treasure chest in hands and pursued by zombies, the pirates of The Golden Ram attempt to flee back to the row boat on the beach. Crossing the open plain and reaching the jungle edge proves no difficulty for the group but a gathering stream of the undead is spilling out from the temple entrance and giving pursuit – their shambling steps steady and unrelenting in their progress. Etienne and Menage take turns to give covering fire as they enter the jungle and many of the pursuing undead fall, but the is plenty other re-animated corpses in their stead to take their place. As they struggle through the undergrowth with the laden chest the zombies close in and as the frantic defensive firing continues, Etienne drops his flintlock on a reload; something he does repeatedly over the next few frantic bloody minutes. Zan’thire, depleted of most of magic, still has enough energy to cast one last illusion spell which succeeds in leading off the vanguard of the approaching undead; which buys the group some precious time to keep pushing on through the dense foliage and trees.

As the group pushes on, Smiling Jack becomes aware of something rushing at him through the jungle undergrowth – he spots its flailing spindly limbs and recognises it as the Arenea that he fought earlier. He turns and flees in terror and manages to catch up with the main body of the group and the chest but the unholy creature springs at the First Mate and grasps him in its many legs, delivering another venomous bite, this one paralysing Smiling Jack. Etienne manages to shoot the creature off Smiling Jack and Menage quickly finishes it off; the murderous Zan’thire, strangely affected by recent events, uncharacteristically begins to aid the helpless First Mate by pulling him along after the chest. Disaster strikes as the group suddenly find their path to the beach blocked by a deadfall of trees which will be difficult and time-consuming to move around. At this, Perdin appears to be struggling with the chest and a seemingly impatient Captain Lubbock orders the exasperated mage to exchange places with Menage – the frantic group, all fearing for their lives at this point, shout their protests but it proves fruitless as the angered Captain appears to be in no mood to listen.

With all the internal wrangling, the lack of defensive fire and the time lost trying to get around the deadfall, the undead horde catches up to the group; Zan’thire, finally coming to his selfish senses realises that death is approaching and chooses to abandon Smiling Jack to his fate and runs away from the group, ignoring the Captain’s threats. Etienne, bold and brave pirate crewman, tries to come to the First Mate’s rescue but is overwhelmed by the number of zombies and receives a series of fatal bites; his body falls on top of Smiling Jack and this saves the First Mate from dyeing immediately, but as soon as the horde has finished chewing through Etienne it moves on to him and he is helpless to stop them. Zan’thire’s intention is to get to the row boat first but in his terror he makes a fatal mistake and heads off in the wrong direction; realising that he has gone wrong he changes direction again and only manages to meet back up with the group as the finally clear the deadfall. Perdin,having watched his arch nemesis, Zan’thire, flee into the jungle, tries to follow suit but the Captain holds him at gun point, threatening to shoot him dead if he makes a move – he also keeps trying to command Perdin to go back and help Etienne but the mage is having none of it as he knows that it would be certain suicide. While held at a stand still, arguing, the stream of undead reaches the group once more and Perdin suddenly finds his path blocked and he is surrounded by the unwholesome creatures who make short work of him. Lubbock urges the horrified Menage onwards and they are suddenly clear of the jungle and are finally on the beach – the row boat is now in sight.

Zan’thire tries to sprint ahead but only succeeds in tripping up in the sand and suddenly he too is surrounded by the revenants who quickly tear him to shreds – an ignoble end to the deadly disgraced royal murderer. As the undead cover the beach and continue their relentless deadly pursuit Lubbock and Menage manage to lift the heavy trunk into the rowboat before quickly diving into it themselves. Fortunately for the frantic matlos it’s dusk and the tide has begun to rise, enabling them to avoid having to push the boat out; instead they grab the oars and manage to push the boat out just as the lead zombie reaches out for them. The last two surviving members of the party row to freedom; the beach and its zombie horde receding in the darkness and the distance. And thus Captain Lubbock’s lethal schemes concerning the treasure horde of Captain Scarmanger (whom he recently murdered in Freeport) has come to bloody fruition. He rows back to The Golden Ram with a satisfied smile, secure in the knowledge that he has managed to dupe his whole crew as to the reason for coming to the Archipelago of Shadows & Strife and then deliberately wiped out nearly all of the away party that helped secure the chest full of treasure – thereby avoiding any requirement to share his new found fortune. Hopefully Menage, a savvy and now battle hardened pirate, will be able to successfully negotiate a new role for himself as The Golden Ram’s new First Mate.

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Part Eleven
The Temple of Doom

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The group of pirates approach the sunken entrance of the ancient jungle temple. They are apprehensive and quibble about who should lead the way; after several minutes Captain Lubbock loses patience and orders the two mages to lead the way. Perdin and a very reluctant Zan’thire shuffle forward and the former casts a Detect Trap spell that tells him that while there are no physical traps in the immediate vicinity there is definitely something very dangerous inside the dark unlit interior of the ruins. The experienced mage decides to follow up his spell by casting Illumination which reveals a long wide stone corridor with three passages leading off on either side and some steps leading upwards at the far end of the corridor.

The group descend and briefly debate how they are going to tackle the many passages before them; they vote against separating and opt to investigate the passage to the right together. The first aperture turns out to be a short tight passage that leads into a circular chamber containing a multitude of shelves carved into the stone. Each of the shelves contains what appears to be silk wrapped corpses of different sizes; in the middle of the room is a slender, chest height carving of a serpent coming out from the ground. They decide not to probe this room too deeply due to suspecting a trap and opt to explore the passage opposite which duly reveals itself to be an identical room, complete with wrapped corpses and serpent statue. Feeling a bit braver than the rest, Etienne, the young crewman, cuts through the silk wrappings of two of the nearby bodies and finds the old decayed corpse of a naked Devil Lizard and the fresher corpse of an Orc sailor; there is no apparent cause of death for either body. Captain Lubbock meanwhile, is impatient for the group to locate a mysterious stone sarcophagus, and he urges them onwards. Zan’thire casts a Clairvoyance spell and sees a Serpentman priest praying in front of a altar with a massive stone snakes head – this is accompanied by a sensation of utter terror.

The group cautiously check out the next two passages which also lead to identical death chambers with stone serpent carvings. Perdin is determined to find the cause of death and decides to check another body and cuts through its wrapping, revealing the body of an Elf. A thorough check reveals large puncture wounds in the body’s chest. With four passages down, there are only two left and the group opt to check the one on the right. Etienne once more leads the way, followed by Menage and then the rest; they expect to find another burial chamber but are shocked to find what appears to be living quarters; worse still, sat behind a stone desk is what appears to be a human-sized snakeman, dressed in robes. The serpentman senses the intruders and rises up, meeting Etienne’s gaze. The priest of Yig emits a mind bolt of psychic power that paralysis the young sailor, and then rushes forward; Menage fires his flintlock at the attacker and misses – the monstrous noise alerts the inhabitant of the chamber opposite. Before anyone can react the serpentman delivers a venomous bite to Etienne who falls to the floor. The serpentman turns to round on the rest of the group but Perdin steps in and blasts it with a powerful fireball that kills it where it stands. As the commotion goes on in this room, out in the corridor Captain Lubbock yells in alarm as a second Serpentman emerges from the room opposite; he fires his pistol at it but misses; as the snake priest prepares to attack, Zan’thire casts a Drain Life spell that sucks all life from the serpentman and heals his own savage back wound in the process. The group then picks itself up and takes stock of the situation; Etienne manages to get back to his feet but he is poisoned and struggles. A quick search of both rooms reveals a lot of strange articles and three stone beds.

There is now only one place left to check – the steps leading upwards at the end of the corridor. Lubbock tells everyone to get a move on as there is only an hour of daylight left. Etienne is no longer in a fit state to lead the way so Menage steps in; he carefully climbs the steps with pistol and cutlass in hand. Once he reaches the top of the flight he sees that it leads into a large circular chamber in which a stone sarcophagus sits on raised steps beneath the large stone head of a serpent. In front of this “altar” prays a third serpentman who has heard the commotion below and is now casting a summoning spell. Thinking that he hasn’t been detected, Menage creeps back down the stairs and informs the rest of the group of what he has seen. Lubbock is ecstatic that he has finally located the stone sarcophagus he has been hunting for many weeks; he orders the group onwards into the chamber. They duly head up, weapons at the ready, prepped to take out the serpentman inside; they are shocked to find the chamber seemingly deserted. Lubbock is in no mood to wait and tells them to get over to the sarcophagus. Smiling Jack and Etienne both hang back with the captain as they are both poisoned and sluggish- Zan’thire also holds back fearing a trap and looking out for his own skin; Haskins, Ménage and Perdin head over to the sarcophagus and begin to slide off the stone lid, which is very heavy. As the lid slides off it reveals an old double clasped trunk sitting amongst a seething nest of vipers – Lubbock yells at them to lift the chest out and they struggle to do this, with Hastins being bitten in the process. At the same moment the serpentman priest comes out from his hiding place behind the massive serpent head and attempts to bite Perdin, but fortunately the mage manages to dodge the attack while Zan’thire casts a Steal Soul spell which sends the serpent man flying against the wall and stuns it long enough for Menage to shoot it in the head with his pistol.

Just as the group thinks that the worst of danger is behind them a summoned Shadow Serpent comes out from the left hand side of the massive stone snake head and attacks Hastins, draining all his strength and vitality from him. While this occurs Lubbock shouts at ménage and Perdin to retrieve the chest from the sarcophagus, which Menage achieves by throwing a torch into it and driving out all the vipers. Meanwhile Perdin casts an Illumination spell at the Shadow Serpent which strikes it accurately, momentarily stunning it; realising that physical attacks are unlikely to harm the creature, Zan’thire casts another Illumination spell that sends the Shadow Serpent fleeing back behind the stone snakes head for safety. The group then engages in a frantic struggle to get a-hold of the chest and drag it to the exit; Etienne attempts to stay behind and assist Hastins but is reprimanded by the Captain who is now desperate to get his treasure back to The Golden Ram. Hastins eventually manages to get back to his feet, but by this time the rest of the group has already left the chamber. As he struggles to limp over to the steps the Shadow Serpent, sensing that the danger has left, comes out from its hiding place and attacks Hastins once more. It grabs hold of the veteran pirate cook and he fiercely attempts to break free of its lethal grip – but before he can do so it drains his entire life force, leaving him an aged and ravaged corpse.

Back down in the corridor Lubbock spots three ominous silhouettes in the mid-distance, blocking the group’s exit. He opens fire with his two pistols, a shot taking down one of the figures. Etienne swaps places with Ménage in carrying the chest, giving the sailor the chance to clear the path with pistol and cutlass. More figures are slowly spilling out from the passages on either side and as the group pass one of the passages several of the group spot a sea of figures squirming free of their silk wrappings in one of the chambers – by Zan’thire’s calculations there could be in excess of one hundred reanimated bodies in the temple. Perdin, alerted by Zan’thire, rushes forward and casts a powerful Push spell that sends all the shadowy figures to their front flying through the air like gnats; but still more figures come spilling out into the corridor. Etienne drops the chest and begins to complain about the situation; Lubbock is about to execute the unruly young sailor when Perdin agrees to swap places and the chest once more begins to make slow forward progression. Etienne then joins the fight, first rushing forward to fire on the strange figures before then rushing back to help Zan’thire deal with an increasing number of approaching undead to their rear; in the melee the maniac Elven mage is bitten in the leg by one of the loathsome creatures. Battling through the tide they manage to fight their way to the front steps of the temple, but they are still being followed by a horde of the zombies and still have two thirds of a mile to make to the beach and the row boat.

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Part Ten
Wanted & Found - All in a day's work

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The pirate shore party of The Golden Ram hastily leave the jungle island, thankful of leaving only one casualty behind – for it could have been so much worse. They row back to the ship and Captain Lubbock, eager to reach his target set sail immediately for the next island, which is the centre-most in the archipelagos. An hour later and the ship has once more dropped anchor and the same party plus one new seaman, row two boats ashore of the almost identical island before them. Once ashore on another scrubby beach they are faced with the same dilemma before; Hasting s wastes no time though and once more dispatches the three crewmen across the length of the beach with instructions to head a little way into the jungle and locate a path. Etienne, a crewman who has been on the ship only for a few months, cautiously enters the jungle which is shaded by the canopy above and very quiet; within seconds he has lost sight of the party on the beach. He pushes forward when he suddenly hears something rustle in the bushes in front of him – a moment later and whatever it is comes rushing directly at him. The young sailor, unsure of the nature of the threat turns and runs as fast as he can back towards the beach, his adversary quickly gaining ground on him. As he exits the jungle his foot catches a tree root and he falls face down into the rough sands of the beach and moments later a wild boar comes shooting out after him. The rest of the group witness a frantic duel to the death as the frantic savage pig makes repeated charges at the newbie pirate; Etienne for his part manages to escape being gored and lands several blows on his porcine enemy before finally running it through. Meanwhile, Menage, one of the other seamen sent to scout for a path also cautiously explores the dark and quiet jungle interior with pistol and cutlass drawn. A short time later he stumbles on a dirt track intersecting the jungle – and spots a mysterious old man clutching a staff and dressed in rags, staring at him from the other side of the path, amongst the trees. Menage hails the old man, who in turn tells him to go back to where he came and that the pirate doesn’t belong there. Menage decides that it would be wise to head back to the beach and report the find and encounter to the rest of the party.

Captain Lubbock, upon hearing the news of the discovery of a path, duly orders the party to travel over to it. The First Mate, Smiling Jack, fails to notice that one of the three scouts has not returned. The party head into the jungle and a short time later come across the dirt path and spot that the same old man is still stood on the other side of the track, watching them intently. The Captain hangs to the back of the group, not wishing to expose himself to any risks; there is a quick discussion about what to do before Smiling Jack, tiring of the talk, decides to take a lead in the action and walks straight over to the old man with the intention of murdering him. As he approaches the old man once more tells the stranger to leave the island as he does not belong there; Jack is interested enough to ask why and is told by the old man that only death awaits them if they continue on the path. Jack then swings his cutlass at the old man, who is in fact not what he appears to be. The shape-shifting Arenea is far faster than the average human and responds by dodging the blow and striking forward in turn. The rest of the pirate party witness the Spiderkin drop its illusion and reveal its horrible human-spider hybrid form just as it leaps forward and delivers a poisonous bit to the First Mate, who promptly drops to the ground screaming. While a couple of the crew quickly retreat away from the horrifying team, and a couple of them futilely fight amongst themselves in the face of danger, Hastins lifts his flintlock pistol and fire an effective shot into the monster. The Arenea spins and bucks from the pain and reacts by spraying the group with is web fluid, managing to entrap several of them. It then begins to retreat, dragging its bound victims behind it. Zan’thire, who managed to dodge the web attack responds by casting a flashbang illusion at the creature, followed up by a cutting spell that manages to free half of the captives. Etienne, who also managed to avoid being encased, cuts the remainder of the group free and the ghastly Spiderkin turns and flees deep into the bush. The group are in no shape to pursue, and so they busy themselves freeing each other from the sticky webs and dusting themselves off.

Twenty minutes later and the party is once again ready to move. Everyone is miraculously unharmed with the exception of Jack, who is still very much suffering the effects of the venom. Lubbock is aware that they only have a few more hours of sunlight left and so orders them onwards, down the track. A short time later the path ends at a large clearing, in which sits the moss-covered ruins of an alien-looking temple complex. The group observes that the visible carvings and architecture is the same as that of the underground chamber on the previous island.

Back in Freeport the group is still determined to learn who the mysterious merchant seen with Tarmon is. They walk down the street and spot a corn exchange; Lucern heads inside the busy centre of agriculture commerce and attempts to quiz one of the sellers but learns nothing; she then moves on one of the buyers who proves to be better informed of local personalities and occurrences. The buyer reveals that the man’s full name is O’takan Farastay, that he’s not from the continent, but from somewhere else, and that he sails on the Narwhale which doesn’t fly any nation’s colours. Armed with the newly acquired information the group debates what to do next – they feel that the antique dagger is central to the recent events and that they should perhaps either learn of its provenance or better still, acquire it themselves, by visiting the local antique dealers, of which there are several. After some time spent walking the streets they do manage to find The Rusty Junk, a small shop crammed full of expensive and not so exotic bric-a-brac. Edward takes the lead in the talking while the other s wait outside; he asks the shopkeeper about the emerald pommeled dagger but the man is at a loss to say anything about it other than to try to sell the musketeer similar ruby and sapphire daggers that he has in stock. Unsatisfied, Edward leaves empty-handed, and upon stepping outside the shop and rejoining the group they are accosted by three very large thugs who ask politely for them all to follow them for a chat. Lucern and Edward demand to know where it is that they are supposed to be going and with whom they are to talk with – things that the three thugs are not at liberty to reveal. Gito uses the opportunity to slip quietly away from the group unseen while Izzard takes advantage of his small size to shoot out between everyone and leg it. The three thugs instantly react by grabbing the two remaining humans; Edward, weighing up the situation decides to be chivalrous and offers to come along without a struggle if they just take him and release Lucern – and the thugs agree to this.

Edward is then ushered into a nearby coach and driven to the docks and then whisked into The Golden Rivet tavern, a nondescript drinking hole, patroned by individuals who know to turn a blind eye. Edward is led through a rear door to a private room at the back of the bar and finds himself facing Demetrios, a key player and facilitator of The Black Mark, the organised smuggling outfit of Freeport. News of the groups questions around town concerning Farastay have reached his ears and he is eager to know what all the fuss is about. He easily menaces and persuades Edward to reveal everything about the group’s activities, including who they are, who they work for and what they are after. The awol musketeer for his part is so keen to avoid harm or further trouble that he blabs away and asks nothing of his inquisitor in turn. Satisfied that he what he has heard is the truth and that nothing further can be learned, Demetrios informs Edward that he is free to leave. Once outside, separated from the rest of the group, Edward decides that it would be best to try and locate the Narwhale by walking along the dockside. Within the hour he has walked back into the Merchant District, and spots the Narwhale, a sleek caravel in excellent repair, moored up on a pier; directly in front of it sits or stands a sizeable contingent of bronze skinned, dark haired sailors. Edward weighs up the options and decides to return to the Sea Hag back in the Dockside District and get a good night’s sleep.

When Edward was whisked away by the thugs the rest of the group reconvened and tried to decide what they were going to do about the situation when a paperboy selling the latest edition of The Shipping News wanders by, shouting of the headlines of multiple mysterious murders and fugitives sought. Lucern buys a copy and reads of three seemingly random murders, linked by bloody notes left at all the scenes. One of the victims was a prostitute killed in Rose Alley, another victim was an adventurer in Kergan’s Kradle, and the last was a well-respected member of the City Guard, called Reinholt Proy, who was found floating in the harbour. Six suspects are now being sought by the City Watch, a goblin, a lizard, an elf, a half-orc and two humans; a unspecified reward is being offered by authorities for any information leading to the apprehension of the suspects and there are two sketches that bear striking resemblances to Gito and Lucern. The pair quickly set about disguising themselves with what they have at hand; they then all discuss what to do next and decide that locating the Narwhale is the most sensible step and head for the Merchant District docks.

It is dark by the time the trio locate the Narwhale. Lucern once more decides that her innate beauty and charm will enable her to gain access aboard the vessel and she approaches the six crewmen sat blocking access to the gang plank. But no matter what she says and explains the crewmen appear to not understand her and merely motion for her to leave. Izzard then steps in and tries to use his skills as a conman and seasoned communicator to also get past the group but the silent men also refuse him access. Gito decides that while the other two are distracting the men he will use a mooring line to creep aboard the ship. Stealthily he manages to get onboard undetected and better still he also creeps past some of the crew still on deck. He lets himself into the aft of the ship and begins to explore the interior, aiming for the captain’s quarters; which he manages to find within a few minutes. He creeps ninja-like into the captain’s quarters where a tall bronzed man in white robes sits oblivious, reading a book. Gito clears his throat and makes a quip about the ineptitude of the ship’s security and O’Takan Farastay looks up with cool alarm. The foreign merchant asks who Gito is and the goblin thief attempts to bluff his way onto the ship’s crew as a security guard. Farastay thanks Gito for demonstrating the inadequacies of the ship’s security arrangements but firmly informs him that there are no job openings available. Gito then changes tack and reveals that he is working on behalf of Tarmon and asks Farastay about what he knows of Aporcus Beedle and the mysterious Emerald dagger; Farastay denies all knowledge of these and insists that he will meet with Gito outside the ship first thing in the morning and go and see Tarmon to discuss what this is all about. He then calls for a crewman to escort Gito off the Narwhale. Once back with the other two they decide it’s time to head back to The Sea Hag and get a night’s sleep before facing a new day.

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Part Nine
Daggers, Detections and Disapointments

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Gito, Lucern, Izzard and Edward continue to interrogate the low level local drug dealer and known associate of Aporcus, Slick. The young man is suitably intimidated by the group but is also confused by their disjointed line of questioning and internal bickering. Several questions concerning how he came by his burns and what he did with the contents of the case are asked and followed up with slaps; Slick reveals that he was ambushed by a wizard and the group conclude that this was probably Aporcus. They are very confused as to how he came by the case and after length Slick reveals that he heard that Aporcus’ late aunt’s house and its contents were being auctioned and he informed the rogue lay wizard associate of this and that the man was visibly excited by the news. Slick states that he went into Old Town to scope out the house and found the case just lying in the road nearby – which seems highly improbable to the group. After lengthy debate over what they have heard and what to do next they finally realise that they have asked about everything in the case but have missed an object out – a dagger. The dagger is described by Slick as being rather dull looking but having a mesmerising green emerald in its hilt. Slick admits that he was entranced by the blade but that it spooked him out as he kept seeing a woman in the corner of his vision and it felt like the knife wanted him to do bad things. The group once more debate what to do next with this news, during which Slick manages to crawl away undetected.

The group decide to call up Tarmon using the talisman issued to them, as they were instructed to, and update him of their progress. The wizard is impatient for news of the location of the box and tells them to get back onto tracking it down and not to bother him again until they’ve obtained it. The group rationalise that the next obvious step is to visit the Knorrbertal house in Old Town to verify the story and to see if there’s any further leads waiting there for them. They head across town and soon approach the open gates. Lucern and Izzard manage to simply walk past the chatting gate guards but one of them spots Gito walking alongside Edward and challenges them both. The goblin thief and awol musketeer are unable to provide convincing explanations and are duly refused entry, forcing them to make time consuming alternative routes in. Meanwhile Izzard and Lucern make their way to the Street of Dreams and locate the Knorrbertal house which is locked up tight and apparently devoid of life. Thinking about what to do next they opt to check on the neighbours and head over to the house on the right which turns out to be a tailors. Lucern introduces herself to the friendly and very chatty middle aged man and makes enquiries about the house next door and is told that Aporcus used to live with his aunt, Delinda, who was a respected mage, but he was thrown out several years ago. The man also says that the Knorrbertal house has been very busy since Delinda’s passing with lots of people coming and going, including Tarmon, who was in the company of a hard-eyed, black haired, tall bronze skinned man dressed in flowing white robes. The man also mentions that he saw the city authorities packing up Delinda’s belongings in preparation to transportation to the MAH, during which he then saw Aporcus sneak aboard one of the wagons and attempt to steal the much sought after case; the man reported this to the city guards who duly kicked Aporcus out of the wagon and placed the case precariously back inside. Lucern thanks the man for the information and leaves, just as Edward and Gito manage to turn up; the religious mage informs the group of all she has learned and they decide that the next step is to search the Knoberrtal house from top to bottom – but they can’t do this until night falls.

With some time to kill a couple of the criminal members of the group declare that now is the time to carry out a quick burglary on Zan’thire’s nearby hotel room where they hope to find the mad mage’s treasure trunk. Izzard, expert grifter, manages to talk his way into the hotel and obtain the room key. He slips into the room and locates a trunk which he then walks straight out. The group then whisk the purloined trunk down a nearby alley and cautiously break into it and explore its contents. Much to their surprise they realise that the case is not that of Zan’thire (this had been stolen long before by some of the hotel staff and its contents either pocketed or sold off to various pawn shops!); the meagre contents of this case appear to belong to some sort of prospector with the initials YBH.

Night falls and the group scuttle back to the Street of Dreams and scale the back wall of the Knorrbertal house and break in. The interior is completely bare since everything has been transported. The group carefully check the house for any secret compartments or rooms and Edward duly finds a small cavity under the floorboards that perfectly match the dimensions of the stolen case. With the house checked and all the discernible pieces of how the case came to be stolen and what it contained now in place, the group discuss how to proceed; the mysterious stranger seems to be the next and only logical step. Once more they call up Tarmon and report everything that’s transpired; the senior wizard and Sea Lords Council member is perplexed by the call and somewhat irritated – he freely admits to having visited the house with his merchant friend, Farastay, but fails to see what it has to do with the missing case. He harshly rebukes the group for wasting his time and once more instructs them to hurry up and locate the missing case.

Dawn arrives after an eventless night spent in the Knorrbertal house and the group decide that since the mysterious Farastay character is a merchant then a visit to the Merchant’s District is the surest way to locate and question him. A short time later they enter the Plaza of Gold in the heart of the district and attempt to enter the Merchant’s Guild, an imposing mansion house on a hill; they are turned away by the guards, but are told that the best place to enquire about specific individuals is in one of the taverns on the plaza. Izzard and Gito wait in the large and wealthy square while the more socially acceptable Lucern and Edward make their way into the Scales of Wealth tavern. The tavern is exceedingly busy, even early in the morning and Lucern unsuccessfully attempts to learn something from one of the barmen. Edward enquires at the other end of the bar and is rewarded with an account that the mysterious man in white is often spotted around the district and is often seen in the company of a wizard. Leaving the tavern the group believe that locating a wizard’s shop would probably be the best place to ask about Farastay; a short time later they manage to find The Firmest Wand. Lucern enters and makes her acquaintance with the fusty old man inside; after an exchange of pleasantries the attractive mage asks about Farastay and the old man vaguely recalls that the man’s name is “O-Tark-“ something; definitely a foreigner and not from Freeport.

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Part Eight
Rogue seamen venture down a dark tunnel and come to grief

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Sat aboard the Golden Ram, the wayward Zan’thire watches and listens as there is a flurry of frantic activity as the pirate crew set about dragging their booty back to their quarters, disengaging their own ship from the Questalis and then making ready for a swift departure. A young seaman, Jonas, comes into the galley, which is serving as the Elf Prince’s makeshift and not very secure brig. The young man looks quizzically at the stranger and asks a few pointed questions which are honestly, yet snootily, answered. Shortly, a huffing and puffing fat and bald man clutching various cooking utensils and crockery ambles into the galley. This is Hastins, the longest serving crewmember of the pirate vessel. He too enquires as to the identity and purpose of the stranger sat in his galley. Upon learning that Zan’thire is a new ship’s mage, he sets about keeping the newbie busy with a number of menial tasks and kitchen duties, dubbing the Elf “Sir Ponce” along the way. Zan’thire for his part decides to knuckle down and do as he is told, marvelling in the novelty of carrying out manual tasks as he does so.

After he has fed the crew his freshly cooked broth, the Elf prince hears the call to make sail from the deck above and soon feels the ship moving and the smell of burning as the pirates set fire to the Questalis. Returning to the galley the Elf begins to relax after having finished the last of Hastin’s tasks, but before he can fall asleep the veteran pirate enters the galley and tells Zan’thire to follow him. Walking to the aft of the ship he is taken to the Captain’s quarters. Inside the room Captain Lubbock is sat around his table with Smiling Jack and Perdin. The men have been looking at a map – Lubbock tells Zan’thire that it is time for him to prove himself. Lubbock wants Zan’thire to look at the map and tell him which island in the small archipelagos is the one he needs to get to. The pirate captain refuses to reveal the origin of the map or what it is he is seeking, merely saying that the map is of the Archipelago of Shadows & Strife, and that Perdin has been unable to perform the task. Zan’thire looks at the small plain and blood stained map and observes that it has been produced by an amateur hand and omits any labelling with the exception of sea depth measurements and the location of several surrounding reefs. There are ten almost identical small islands arranged in a vague arrow head shape for him to choose from. After several minutes of deliberation the Elf mage casts a divination spell that conjures up an image of Lubbock, Smiling jack and two crewmen surrounding another older pirate of stern features inside a tavern and murdering him and then removing the map from inside his pocket; Zan’thire then sees the a vision from the dead pirate’s memory of being onboard a vessel approaching a small jungle island with two other islands on either side; then he is pushing his way through a dense jungle with his crew and coming upon the ruins of a strange looking temple complex. It’s not much to go on but the Elf mage is being pressurized by Lubbock and after a moment’s hesitation he casts a clairvoyance spell and shares the vision with the Captain and with a bit of rough guess work based on what he saw he opts for the second island in the middle of the archipelagos.

The prince sleeps soundly that night and when he awakes he resumes his job as second cook and prepares breakfast and serves it to the crew. Early in the morning while going about his duties, Zan’thire hears a cry of land ahoy from above deck. A short time after he is fetched by Hastins and joins a party of ten getting into row boats while the Golden Ram weighs anchor off a small jungle island similar to the one in the prince’s spell vision. Soon it’s all hands to the oars as the group rows to shore; once they are all stood on the rough and slightly muddy sands, Lubbock enquires which of his two mages will lead the way. There’s a lengthy argument before Perdin relents and casts a divination spell to indicate the direction they should all head in – however, it soon becomes clear that the ship’s mage is not as good as he makes out as the results are very vague and inconclusive. A weary Hastins decides he’s had enough of the nonsense and tasks several of the crewmen to run along either end of the beach and pop into the jungle to see if they can find a path; and sure enough, one of them does. Minutes later the group is cautiously making its way through the muddy and rough hacked “path” through the dense bush. Everyone, less Smiling Jack, becomes aware that the island is eerily silent and devoid of the normal sounds of wild life; this prompts Perdin to cast a “Detect Trap” spell that only reveals a vision of a couple of tree snakes and an ominous pit in the middle of moss covered ruins that may or may not be the same one’s Zan’thire saw via his spell. The captain is anxious to reach his goal and pushes the party onwards and after ten minutes they stumble into a treeless clearing and upon the ruins Perdin recently saw in his vision.

A careful study of the fifteen foot wide pit sitting amongst the ruins reveals it to have been constructed by someone or something a long time ago and that it was once inside a building that had since vanished. There’s another lengthy debate as various people squabble about who’s going to approach the pit first and once again a tired and vexed Hastins commands one of the seamen to peer over the edge. Musket and cutlass in hands the pirate scuttles over to the pit and reports back that it is too deep to discern the bottom and that there are large regular steps leading down. Satisfied that there is no immediate danger the group surges forward and observe that the steps do indeed wind their way down along the wall of the pit, which is constructed from large well engineered grey stone blocks, and is without an inner banister. Again still, there’s a debate about who’s going down first and neither Zan’thire nor Perdin fancy the job much and begin slinging mud at one another; for a third time Hastins takes command of the situation and instructs two seamen with oil lanterns to lead the way with weapons drawn. An irritated and impatient Lubbock orders the two bickering mages to take second place and then the party descends the slimy moss covered steps, surprisingly without any dramas despite their alien seemingly non-human dimensions. The steps keep coming and it’s fifty feet down before the group reaches the muddy and filth-caked bottom.

The two lanterns reveal that there are four arched doorways in the chamber and there’s another discussion about how best to proceed before Hastins instructs a seaman through each of arches. After two makeshift torches are hastily made the four pirates ready their swords and pistols and head through the arches which all quickly reveal themselves to lead into lengthy corridors. The first man to reach the end of a corridor shouts back that he has found what appears to be the remains of some kind of storeroom, largely due to the number of empty weird-looking metal pots strewn about the floor. The second man reports a similar room, also containing metal pots. The third shouts that he has found an odd looking room with a stone pedestal and walls covered with strange swirling bas-reliefs. Smiling Jack tells the first two men to come back and bring a metal pot back with them just as the fourth and final man reports back with a shout. The fourth man has found a long room covered in ornate swirling bas-reliefs and more disturbingly, there are four people sat there in the dark with their backs turned to him. Smiling Jack orders Zan’thire into the fourth corridor to determine just who and what is in the room. The reticent Elf, cursing his current predicament, tries to order the pirate into the room but the crewman is having none of it and tells Sir Ponce to go to hell; the ship’s First Mate instructs Zan’thire to go into the room and investigate. The mad Elf persuades the crewman to at least lend him his torch so that he can see into the room better, which he begrudgingly does. Zan’thire sees that the room is twenty foot long by ten feet wide and that the floor and walls have strange swirls and channels carved into them. He observers that the four figures with their backs to him appear to also be pirate crewmen, comprising of an Orc, a Dwarf and two humans. They are all sat stock still with their legs dangling down into something. There’s no other choice but to get closer and Zan’thire skilfully creeps into the room and slowly approaches the figures, seeing as he gets nearer that the pirates appear to be sat on the ledge of a shallow pit or empty pool. Close enough now to touch them, Zan’thire opts for subtlety (not!) and kicks the Dwarf pirate off the edge of the pit where he disappears from view and lands with a crumple. At that exact moment a sentient brown-black ichor shoots up from the pit and onto the wall in front as if on fire; the three other sitting pirates turn and cry out, revealing eyes coloured the same dirty brown as the ichor. Zan’thire wastes no time and turns and runs back towards the doorway with the ichor in close pursuit – the seaman also doesn’t hang around and also flees back along the corridor.

The rest of the group hears the shouts and yells from the dark archway and moments later the frantic fourth seaman comes diving out, shortly followed by Zan’thire, just as the ichor creature flaps out and shoots out a pseudopod which grasps the Elf mage around the ankle and brings him down to the floor with a crash. Hastins leaps forward and slashes the tentacle with his cutlass, severing it. The creature flaps back into the darkened tunnel and Perdin shoots a fireball in after it; seconds later a flaming possessed pirate, the Orc, emerges with a roar. Hastins and two of the seamen fire their flintlocks but only the veteran cook finds his mark and blows a hole through the Orc, but this doesn’t prevent the burning pirate from leaping upon one of the seaman and bathing him in flames; it takes a savage blow from Smiling Jack’s cutlass to end him. Another two possessed pirates, humans, emerge from the tunnel with swords drawn; one engaging Hastins and the other landing a blow of his blade across the prone Zan’thire’s back. Steel clashes against steel and Captain Lubbock determines that this isn’t the place he was looking for and that it would be prudent to leave; he heads straight for the steps and heads back on up, taking one of the crewmen with him. Perdin goes to follow suit but confuses himself when he tries to pick up a discarded sword enroute and manages to spectacularly fall flat on his face in the mud. A badly injured Zan’thire scrambles to his feet and over to the steeps, and frantically attempts to race up them, only to slip down. The third crewman emerges like lightening from the third tunnel and sprints past both Perdin and Zan’thire, flying up the steps. The first mate and the cook are still battling the possessed pirates and manage to run them both through; the latter then runs up the steps as fast as his legs can carry him. The first mate walks over to Perdin and helps him up just as a Dwarf pirate with a broken nose emerges from the fourth tunnel and comes at them with sword swinging. Smiling Jack avoids a couple of blows and manages to strike the Dwarf down with a couple of sharp swipes; he then turns and runs up the steps just as Zan’thire manages to pick himself up and scramble, bleeding, upwards to safety. Figuring on the threat now being gone, Perdin decides to look around and perhaps search the bodies, just as the brown ichor comes flapping out of the tunnel once more. This is Perdin’s queue to run for his life; he turns and flees with the creature in rapid pursuit. The pair keep perfectly apace going up the stairs and it becomes clear that if Perdin slips then it will be the end of him. He makes it, just; reaching the midway point first where there is enough sunlight to drive the deadly ichor back.

The group is now on the surface and free of the pit – they sweat and breathe a sigh of relief at so narrowly escaping a terrible fate. Deciding that it was just a bit of a scare and only the loss of one man, Lubbock wastes no time and reprimands Zan’thire for his poor divination skills. He then instructs the wounded and beleaguered Elf prince to pick another island so that they can make tracks to it. Studying the hated vague map again the weary mage plumps for the middle island.

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Part Seven
Planks, Perverts & Pursuits

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The pirate with the musket asks if he can shoot Zan’thire but the weasely-looking pirate refrains and asks a series of questions so as to ascertain just why the elf with the badly swollen eye is trussed up like a xmas turkey and banged away in the brig. The maniac elf reluctantly reveals the truth and the two pirates duly leave. Sometime later they come back and remove him from his cell and take him up to the deck where a loud crowd of pirates are cheering and jeering as their Captain, Lubbock, makes the crew of the Questalis walk the plank. Zan’thire, psycho that he is, shows no sympathy or regard as the noble Sea Captain Xilther, is thrown overboard nor when the gallant and stoic Lieutenant Falthar and his subordinate, Marine Trillane, are tossed to the sea beasts. He even jeers when the young seaman, Silderus, who had shown him nothing but compassion in bringing him his meals, is also drowned. It’s about to be Zan’thire’s turn to walk the plank and as he’s pushed forwards he begins to feebly beg for his life, vaguely boasting of being worth a lot of money, and when that fails to impress the very busy Pirate Captain, he then offers his skills as a practitioner of the black magical arts; this serves to alarm the pirate crew’s current battle mage, Pierre Ledoux – there’s no way he wants any type of competition that could threaten his comfortable position. The pirate mage tells Lubbock that Zan’thire is dangerous and not to be trusted and urges that the elf should be immediately tossed overboard. A vigorous debate ensues as the two mages try and convince Captain Lubbock of the wisdom of their suggestions; it’s a close call but Zan’thire just manages to convince the veteran pirate that two wizards are better than one and that he is keen to make himself useful. Lubbock warns Zan’thire not to disappoint him and has him taken aboard the pirate ship – The Golden Ram, where he is stowed in a makeshift brig and warned by the First Mate, Smiling Jack, to behave himself.

Willard navigates his way stealthily through the entire Eastern District without any mishap until he arrives at the outer wall and spots a guarded gate. After vainly scouting around for a means to scale the wall he resigns himself to approaching the gate guards. They are suspicious of the half-orc but he manages to convince them that he is merely returning home from work. After being searched he is admitted through the gates and finds himself in foul-smelling Bloodsalt just after midnight. He heads the instructions Nargil gave him and weaves his way through the rough and unpaved alleyways and rat runs through the shanty town until he reckons he is in the proximity of the hub. He knocks on the nearest shack door and the door duly gives away with a loud crash. He hears the sound of a least one of the shack’s occupants clambering out of bed; the individual sounds mean and angry so Willard decides to move on to the shack next door and knock on that door (but much gentler!). There’s muttering as someone gets up from bed and answers the door just as a figure appears in the open doorway of the first shack and swings a club at Willard. The half-orc duelist is nothing if not swift and nimble on his feet and he manages to spring back, avoiding the club, just as the occupant of the second shack sticks his head out and receives the clobbering blow. Willard swiftly enters the second shack and picks the dazed inhabitant up; a shocked orc wife asks who he is and he tells her that he is just looking for someone called Sardain. As Willard begins to bandage the injured inhabitant up the wife informs him that she’s only just moved into the area and doesn’t really know anyone; she suggests that he asks around in the nearby bar. Willard asks for the directions and the wife tells him that it’s just at the end of the lane and is called “Sardaine’s”(!!!).

The group meanwhile are standing outside Kergan’s Kradle, a filthy looking two storey block with bars on all the windows. They enter and find themselves in a dingy looking foyer. Behind a barred reception a greasy looking man sits reading a book. They approach him and he assumes that they are merely seeking to rent a room for a couple of hours; he becomes wary when they inform him that they’re actually looking for Aporcus Beedle. He at first simply tells them that Beedle has left and that he has confiscated the man’s belongings; this excites the group and they bribe him with a generous amount of coin to buy possession of the bag. The first thing they note is that the bag reeks of snake weed – a quick rifle through the contents reveals a bloodied shirt, a wooden token, a loaded dice, a broken dagger and a small pouch with the initials “D.K”. They explore the contents and theorise what the items might mean – they then ask the proprietor what Beedle has been doing. The creepy guy demands additional payment to spill the beans but the group is running short of coin; Lucern tries to use her feminine wiles to illicit further info but the man wants a little show of flesh. Izzard, a seasoned bargainer and grafter is able to cut a favourable price which means they get some coin back – but unfortunately Lucern has to completely strip right there and then in the foyer. While the seedy owner ogles Lucerne’s fine form he informs them that Beedle has been visited several times by a local snake weed dealer called Slick. He gives them the dealer’s description and tells them that Slick can often be found peddling his wares down on the dockside market. The group also works out the initials “D.K” probably stand for “Delinda Knorbertal”, Beedle’s well respected aunt. It’s late at night and the market doesn’t open until morning so they leave the rat-infested establishment happy in the knowledge that they now have two leads to follow up on. Lucern leaves knickerless and with a sense of shame and violation – she has paid a heavy price for this progress.

The foursome spend the night in the favourite local haunt – The Sea Hag. The next morning they head straight for the market and start asking the stall holders if they have seen Slick before splitting up into two groups to systematically sweep through the site. Halfway through Gito spots the man they are after – there’s a quick discussion and they decide that Lucern will approach him pretending to be interested in making a purchase and will lure him into a side alley where the other three will jump him. With a solid plan of action formulated Lucern sidles up to the scrawny and rat-like Slick, noticing some fresh burns about his face and neck, and starts to speak to him. Unfortunately Slick is super wary and is immediately alarmed at being approached by the attractive stranger; he makes his excuses and begins to walk away at speed. Lucern follows, asking the man what the matter is but this serves only to alarm Slick more and he dives into an ally and then breaks into a run. The rest of the gang have been tailing close behind and as soon as Slick turns the corner they sprint after him and upon seeing him running away a full blown pursuit is on. Slick and the pursuing group race through the winding alleyways, turning this way and that. The drug dealer is surprisingly fast and nimble and three of the group slowly fall back, unable to keep up such a demanding speed. Edward, the musketeer, possessing a superior military standard of fitness not only manages to keep up but also makes ground and rugby tackles Slick to the ground with a crash.

Edward restrains the sobbing Slick while the rest of the group catches up to them. They are in no mood for any nonsense and immediately threaten him with violence. They ask him where Beedle is and he tells them that he doesn’t know. He says that the last time he saw him it was when Slick had informed him that the Knorbertal house and its possessions were being put to auction and Beedle had become excited, talking about a case. All the belongings had been taken to the MAH but Slick had come into possession of the case Beedle was so interested in. He revealed that the case contained only some money, a bag of teeth, a jar of paste, a scroll and a dagger. The group ask him where the belongings were now and the drug dealer says that he sold the bag of teeth to a hedge-witch in the market and the charm to a man on the docks who had just got off a ship and who appeared to be a wizard. They ask Slick how he came by the burns on his neck and face and he tells them that he was hit by a fireball two days ago while walking down a quiet alleyway.

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