The Freeport Chronicles

A River Runs Through It

West is not best, the companions alter course

Summary

  • a holy site is visited, a vision warns the group to turn back
  • a horn signalling the imminent arrival of the dreadful wendigo is heard
  • the companions retrace their steps and instead follow the eastern route
  • the weather turns colder the further east traveled
  • ice eventually impedes the journey near a small encampment
  • the companions cleverly learn of local ruins, another Urataqui holy site
  • monoliths are engaged and a powerful energy is released
  • the cold weather is counteracted
  • the companions sail to the southern end of Lake Encarthen

Details

The river widens again into a broad expanse. In the centre of the waterway sits a small island populated by an ancient circular stone building two stories high. The doors of the dilapidated structure are long gone, allowing the companions to see several rows of pews inside. Freight advises that this is an Urataqui holy site – the word chapel is displayed over the mantle, although it has recently been scrawled over in rudimentary goblin script. The building apparently now serves as an armory.

Their curiosity piqued, the companions set a course for the island. In discussion with Wes, the group learns that the Urataqui people were well known for the shamanic abilities. Wes believes that this particular holy site was likely used for divination purposes to foretell future events.

Activity can be seen inside the building, causing the companions to alter course. While the ships are tacking for a nearby alcove to hide, the group launches into action. Magus Mike flies magically to the chapel while Lando creates a dimensional doors for the remainder of the group to travel to. The chime of silence is sounded allowing the companions to climb an exterior staircase to the second level. Between wooden slates, several goblins and orc-kin can been seen hard at work. They appear to be deconstructing their wares, plying apart armor into individual plates of mail.

The companions move toward the middle of the floor where it opens to the room below. This vantage provides a better view of both the top and bottom floors, and the opportunity to understand that the structure of the building is important to its purpose. There are three windows on each floor, their positions staggered. Each window is identified by a pictogram, similar to the sacred stones seen earlier – three wavy lines, a flowing feather, and an eye with a line above on the top floor; a crude drawing of something on fire, a sharp object, and a bird can be seen on the bottom floor.

A horn sounds in the distance, a menacing cacophony that resonates to the bone and leaves a repulsive aftertaste – the dreadful wendigo is near. With little time to tarry, the companions focus on the task at hand. Magus Mike and Romica drop to the floor below, the dwarf landing next to a large square stone in the middle of the room. The element of surprise working to their advantage, they cleave easily through the vulnerable foes. Sudden silence descends.

During the attack, an arc of blood was sprayed across the room. A growing energy builds, emanating from the stone, which the companions can now see is an altar. The blood, attracted by the altar, flows freely to the stone. Light blossoms in through the windows, now aligned, striking Romica who happens to be the closest to the altar. The dwarf is granted a fleeting vision – a dark dungeon, Romica can see himself breaking heroically through several stone walls, calling for others to follow him. The vision fades.

The companions discuss the altar and decide it best to attempt a further divination. Lando places his hands on the altar and opens his mind to spiritual enlightenment. Romica senses that something is not right, the building has not shifted as it had during his experience. With the blood on the walls now dry, Romica cuts his own hand to provide a fresh offering. The altar drinks deeply – the house shifts violently and warm light streams through the windows, hoisting the small gnome into the air. The gnome is filled with an intense longing to travel east, immediately. Only then will the way forward be opened.

Once the vision passes, Lando relays the message to the others. Despite some misgivings, the companions agree to adhere to the offered advice and follow the eastern route. Before they leave, however, Freight and Lando conspire to leave a parting gift for the Wickawack. With the aid of Lando’s magical talents, the interior of the building is restored to its natural splendor as an Urataqui chapel. When the invaders return, the illusion will fade revealing the present macabre scene. Although unlikely, the companions hope it instills uncertainty and perhaps rekindles some of the natural enmity between the different tribes that have banded together under the Wickawack banner.

Hoping to avoid a potential engagement with the Hellknights, the companions retrace their route as quickly as possible. Returning to the first junction, they set course for the eastern route this time. Following Lando’s premonition, they avoid several sites of interest, including a mysterious lagoon and a village decorated with the wreckage of several ships. The ships later pass by a large waterfall, the liquid completely frozen into a glacial stalactite structure. Wes confirms what is on the minds of all – the Wickawack are responsible for the unnatural weather patterns, a powerful cold spell that has descended from the north. It has magically dammed several waterways, resulting in limited river access on the eastern route. They’ll have to follow their present course and see where it leads.

Continuing east, the ships begin to encounter standing ice as the river widens into a broad loch. Several huts can be seen on the opposite side of the lake. The ice thickens as the ships travel into the waterway, the crews are forced to use their oars to break the ice as well as to row, making for difficult navigation.

Closer to the encampment, movement can be seen on shore. Several signs warn that this is a restricted area, those that do not have business are not welcome. As they near the shore, Lando magically alters the appearance of Romica to look like an elite warrior from the Wickawack tribe. Impeded by the ice and unable to travel further, the companions walk the remainder of the distance to camp on the frozen surface.

Three orc shamans and their acolytes await their approach. As they step onto shore, the largest of the orcs addresses the group, “Turn back now, you not supposed to be here. We not get orders to say you coming to see ruins.” As they interact with Romica, the illusion fades revealing the dwarf’s ruse. The shamans appear confused – wishing to push the advantage, Lando engages the head shaman, “Dear sirs, thank you for the generous welcoming party. I apologize for our attire, we simply did not expect the three most fearsome shamans on this shore to await our arrival else we would have wore something more appropriate. As you mention, we do indeed have appropriate written consent to investigate the ruins yonder. I present to you a writ of safe passage.” The gnome presents the document to the shamans with a flourish.

The orcs are further confused by the gesture. Eyes glance at the document, then to a beaming Lando, and back to the document. Before they have a chance to interact again, the companions push past the baffled orcs to get a look at the ruins.

Not far from the huts, a series of six monoliths ring a small mound. An investigation reveals that each pillar is identified with a separate pictogram encompassing the six images seen in the chapel. Also of note, each pillar has a crude lever that can be adjusted to an up or down position. The companions confer and decide to array the positions of the levers to replicate what was seen in the chapel – the levers corresponding to the three wavy lines, a flowing feather, and an eye with a line above it are pushed up given they were seen on the top floor; the levers above a crude drawing of something on fire, a sharp object, and a bird are positioned down as they were on the bottom floor.

An invisible aura suffuses the group, linking the monoliths with a magical energy. The spiritual force builds with an animalistic intensity until, reaching a fever pitch, the energy is discharged from the ring of stones. A powerful arc mushrooms across the face of the land, producing a heat severe enough to distort vision similar to what would be experienced on a hot summers day. The ice infusing the bay recedes rapidly.

Able to sail again unimpeded, the group returns to the safety of the ships. With Wes’ assistance, the area’s intricate loch system is navigated without further incident, bringing the companions to the southern end of Lake Encarthen.

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