- landmarks from the vision lead to the ruins of the stone platform
- a guardian wight is bested in combat, producing a moon-sigil key
- the companions enter the Shadow Realm
- Capital Sil’s assistance is required to defeat a mechanical serpent construct, a colleague of the Captain is killed during the confrontation
- the 2nd of the mighty men is activated
- the spell segmenting this “pocket” of the Shadow Realm fades, the companions retreat to the surface with the body of the Captain’s colleague
- when coming into contact with sunlight, the body of the old man solidifies into a broken compass
- the companions return to Freeport
The companions continue north along the track towards the farming community of Cabbage Crack. Many years ago, the land was infused with magical energy, enhancing the fertility of the ground. Today, this area produces a large harvest responsible for feeding much of Freeport. The group passes many wagons burdened with laborers travelling back to the city after a long day’s toil in the fields.
A youth approaches from one such wagon. He advises that he was instructed to give the group a package, and once delivered, he rejoins the wagon train. The leather parcel is dusty from the road. Inside is a map of Freeport, with various locations highlighted. It seems that someone has been tracking the group’s adventures. There is also a wand and a note:
Dear adventurers – I have been tracking your progress and must say I am quite impressed. I have some items that I wanted to provide you as a token of my appreciation for your efforts. In this pouch is a map and wand of raise dead that I expect will prove useful in your adventures. I look forward to your continued competence in the honourable task set forth for you. I can be contacted at The Honey Pot when you return to the city. – Captain Sil
The surrounding environment has changed much from the vision, a result of the damage inflicted by The Great Green Fire as well as the urbanization of the region over time. The group follows the road north until it splits into two trader tracks that lead towards distant mountains. At the intersection, the companions leave the safety of the road for the woods, allowing their instincts to guide them.
The wooded area is easily traversable although thick enough that the road is soon lost from sight. As the companions continue farther into the trees, wispy fragments of shadow can be seen coalescing at the edge of their vision. A transparent floating skull appears ahead, quickly closing on the group. The animated skull chitters as it sails through the air streaming shadowy tendrils. The skull dissipates forcefully in front of Lando, the concussion knocking him from his feet. The team prepares for further confrontation, but the threat has passed. Lando detects magic and advises that the skull was the result of necromantic magic.
Continuing into the woods, the companions sense of direction proves true and they stumble upon the stone platform. Sunken into the ground, the edifice is located in the midst of a small clearing surrounded by great trees. Limbs branch high overhead, nearly blocking the sky from view, resulting in an unnatural darkness. Moonlight manages to trickle through in places, creating ephemeral shapes on the ground. The elf statue from the vision is in ruins, the top portion on its side, obscured from view by shadows. The base of the statue remains standing at a height slightly taller than a man.
Lando steps forward and, in his most diplomatic voice, addresses the general vicinity of the platform. He states that the companions are on an honourable mission and require the assistance of the great spirit of the glade. From behind the statue, an ancient cloaked figure steps forward. It is a creature straight from a nightmare – the skull pokes through its sinewy skin, the lower half of its jaw removed, red eyes glow from under the shadows of its hood. A key can be seen handing from its neck.
A ghostly whisper responds – it seems the creature doesn’t care for honour and beckons the wizened wizard forward to retrieve the key with a wagging skeletal finger. Courage brimming, Lando moves with confidence towards the dais. Seeking to overcome the wight’s distrust, he produces the letter of reference from Martin Hawks proclaiming the companions gentlemanly reputation. Standing tall and pointing directly at the appropriate passage, Lando conveys the group’s goodwill and honourable intent. A rattle slowly builds in the creature, likely an attempt at laughter. Never in a hundred years has a writ been produced, causing confusion in the creature.
Red eyes dripping with murderous intent, the wight decides it best to entertain the gnome’s request. Leaning forward to review the referenced passage, the key dangles on a rusty chain within reach of Lando. Seeing this as confirmation of his discourse, Lando thanks the wight for his cooperation and attempts to remove the key. Pulling with all his might on the decrepit chain proves unsuccessful unfortunately, although it does result in the wight losing its balance.
Magus Mike and Barnical Bill rush to the aid of the wizard as the wight reaches with its skeletal hand to touch Lando on the forehead. Visions of his life flash through his mind in reverse chronological order. Pure gnomish stubbornness comes to Lando’s aid, for once, and he is able to shake off the disconcerting experience. Magus Mike engages the creature with his elven curved blade while Bill channels positive energy. Through the ensuing melee, Lando continues to pull on the rusty chain. A chalky feeling threatens to incapacitate Lando as he holds onto the key.
From the four cardinal directions, shadows begin to coalesce into the form of skulls. In the distance, green lights pop and the buzzing of a thousand flies announce the arrival of two devilish imps through diamond-shaped portals. Understanding the extent of the trouble about to be faced, the magus chops down and through the chain, snapping it into a hundreds of small pieces. Lando and the wight are launched into the air in opposite directions, Lando landing on his back with key in hand. As the skulls rapidly close on the group, the cleric channels again, an energy wave rippling through the approaching skulls causing them to dissipate.
The moonlight breaks through the cover of the trees to reveal a keyhole at the base of the dais. Lando crawls toward the platform as Magus Mike and the wight engage in melee again. The key inserted, the base of the platform opens in a motion reminiscent of a lunar eclipse, revealing a stairwell. Magus Mike scores a wicked slash to the wight, carving its skull neatly. The group sprints down the stairs as the imps gain the platform. The devils curse and wave their fists menacingly, but come no closer to the stairwell.
Descending the stairs, the outside world quickly disappears. Pale whitish blue light emanating from the key illuminates a shadowy gate. No breeze blows, a heavy silence permeates the area deadening all sounds. It is as if the world is dead.
As the companions continue forward, their footsteps kick up shadow-like fog from the stone floor. The hallway leads to a large chamber, the rattle of bones can be heard in the distance. The sound is somehow mechanical, producing a rhythmic pattern. The group decides to investigate, quietly sneaking forward in the hazy room.
The clattering of bones begins to get louder. Suddenly from the fog, a giant serpent creature made of bone lunges forward. The snake construct features a burnished human skull, recognized from the vision, with large fangs soldered into its mechanical jaws. The creature begins to shift from side to side, the movement mesmerizing the group. Dazed, the companions are easy prey for the serpent. It clamps down on the magus, the fangs digging deep into his body. He drops to the cavern floor, paralyzed from the attack.
Lando takes a coin from his pocket, one with an eye-patch etched on its side, and flips it into the air. As it approaches the apex of its flight, the coin vanishes from sight. A great dark flag with the now familiar eye-patch logo flutters to the ground, where Captain Sil appears. Surveying the scene, and noting the large serpent construct looming over Magus Mike, he pulls an unusually long weapon from his belt, a sword featuring a diamond-shaped tip. “I see you’re in a wee bit of trouble then. You’ve spent precious currency, but you’ve done so wisely.” He steps over the body of the magus and attacks the serpent.
As the two combatants engage in melee employing deadly feints with graceful technique, Lando drags Magus Mike away from the battle while Barnical Bill supports from distance. From the corner of the cave, a doddering old man in maritime attire, bespectacled and near-bald, approaches the confrontation. “Captain – is that you? Set a course for the north-east!” The serpent is buffeted by several spells, and is pushed in the general direction of the newcomer. The large jaws of the snake envelop the old man, producing a sickening crunch. “20 leagues, 40 leagues, 60 leagues, 80 leagues, good-bye Captain.” The body of the old man is dropped to the floor in a crumpled, motionless heap.
The Captain, becoming more transparent by the moment, attacks with fury. Magus Mike, who has managed to overcome the effects of the snake’s bite, and Barnical Bill join the fray. Lando provides magical aid to the magus, granting him good luck on his next strike. It proves true as the elven curved blade scythes through the scales of the serpent, a timely strike as Captain Sil fades from sight. The material binding the construct together comes undone, the creature collapsing in on itself.
The immediate threat taken care of, the companions check on the old man. He appears peaceful in his motionless state. Lando crosses his arms and recites a sailor’s prayer to aid his spirit on the journey it is about to embark on. A quick search of his body reveals that he wears similar gear as the captain, utilitarian and functional clothes of fine quality. He is wearing a mariners cloak, the various pockets filled with reams of paper that include star charts and other nautical calculations. Lando, interested in the notes and quite fond of the style anyway, dons the coat.
Wishing to give the old man a proper burial, Lando fashions a travois from the remnants of the mechanical construct. The companions lift the body gently onto the make-shift sled so that he can be pulled along with minimal encumbrance. Noticing an opening on the other side of the chamber, the companions continue on with their investigation of the Shadow Realm.
The opening leads to a smaller cavern. A squat statue dominates the center of the chamber, an ornamental construct that appears to be pulling something – it is easily recognizable as one of Ironjack’s mighty men. Intricate runes are carved into the floor, angling towards the wall in what is perceived to be the direction of the city.
A key is inserted into the chest of the statue. Once turned, the runes on the floor light up one by one in quick succession moving towards the wall. The room fills with magical energy and the construct comes to life, slowly pulling an unseen weight along the line of the glyphs. A pocket in the construct’s belt buckle opens to reveal a small compartment with a package wrapped in parchment. Similar in size to the package found in the chest at Pier 23, it is taken for further investigation.
The walls begin to shimmer becoming transparent as energy flows through the confines of the chamber. Lando becomes frantic, recognizing that the spell holding together this pocket of the Shadow Realm is quickly fading – it is only a matter of time before this area is returned to the earth. With the body of the maritimer in tow, the companions run to the gate and exit the cavern.
The sun peaking above the eastern horizon, the companions find themselves alone on the stone platform – the imps likely fled prior to sunrise. As the light of the new dawn touches the body of the old man, the figure begins to coalesce, solidifying into the shape of a badly damaged compass. The large rectangular object is encased in brass, the glass belly of the apparatus broken, the compass points and needle askew. It is a somber moment as the companions realize they were successful in rescuing the compass, but at a cost.
The companions retrace their steps to the road for their return journey to Freeport. The morning light feels surreal after their time in the Shadow Realm. Hitching a ride on an empty wagon, the companions enjoy some down time which they use to investigate the package. Within is found a key, decorated with the theatrical masks of tragedy and comedy, as well as a piece of parchment that says:
In the opera house on the 3rd balcony,
a pillar to reveal a secret to see.
Peals of silence can be deafening,
patterns to repeat again and again.
As drab as a fool, as aloof as a bard.
Returning to the city, the companions decide it best to check in with Garvey and provide him an update. He is excited with the progress and wonders aloud about the significance of the mighty men moving toward the heart of the city. He is intrigued by the compass and advises that it is alive – it is the physical manifestation of a powerful entity. He would love to study it, as it would be of great benefit to the guild, but understands that it is required for other endeavors. He recommends seeking the assistance of a cleric, who might be able to heal it. He has little information about the opera house or The Honey Pot beyond common knowledge. He provides Lando with a letter of reference to gain entrance to the Temple of Knowledge. As they exit, he recommends that the companions try to keep a low profile and not to trust other factions in town.
The group also checks in with Carson to provide him with an update. He is impressed and congratulates everyone on the progress – it is making him look good and providing him opportunities to get audiences with influential people. He analyzes the compass and senses unholy work, a contract is involved that binds this person to the present form. Discussing the cabin boy and his race, Carson retrieves a book from the archives. It is a historical work – the city of Freeport was built on the bones of a prior civilization of serpentine descent. The features described sound like a mixed human-serpentine race. In terms of historical context, he has access to information from the guild’s prior manifestation as the Church of Retribution. The layout of the city has changed over time, which may prove important depending on the district. He doesn’t know much about the opera house or The Honey Pot, but he does have influence at the Fortress of Justice should the companions wish to seek entrance. He can help impersonate acolytes providing confession/atonement time for prisoners. He advises Lando that he has the taint of the occult, that a curse has been set upon him. They confer and believe that it is the imps that are targeting him. It will be difficult to do away with them.
Near exhaustion after an eventful night, the companions head back to the tavern to rest. Lando studies the papers found in the old man’s cloak, but they prove indecipherable. Frustrated, he hides them away for future research.