The Freeport Chronicles

Temple of the Unspeakable One
Klaatu barada nikto

Summary

  • the search for Carson continues at Gregor’s Brewery
  • feathers are ruffled, the Watch is called, the companions leave empty handed
  • the address provided by Enzo leads to a dilapidated building
  • a secret passage in the basement provides entrance to an underground temple
  • the companions summon an unspeakable evil
  • a treasure room is searched, booty is found
  • more secret passages lead to the heart of the temple
  • Milos addresses the companion’s upon their arrival

Details

With several options available to them, the companions decide it best to investigate Gregor’s Brewery next for clues relating to Carson’s disappearance. It is a short cab ride to the premise, located just inside the wall of the Old City. Entering the industrial building leads to an open reception area, massive kilns sit to either side of a large desk. Heat from the vats warms the room, providing a faintly aromatic smell that arrests the senses. Several laboratory work stations can be seen in the background.

An employee soon joins the group from the rear. He introduces himself as Derek, they are working on a large order that is required in a timely manner. Believing they are being asked, subtly, to leave, the companions advise that they are from The Honey Pot and would like to inspect the premise. Derek appears confused by the mention of The Honey Pot, he is not aware of any business with that group. He looks through a log book and, with a suspicious glance, asks again how he can assist the companions. Lando attempts to diffuse the situation diplomatically, advising that The Honey Pot is under new ownership, and perhaps that is why the orders are not recorded in the log book. The business is conducted through an employee by the name of Marcus. Derek calls to a second employee, Cayden, who joins the conversation. They confer and advise that they are unaware of any business with The Honey Pot. As Marcus is not here at present, and they are working on a large order that requires their attention, Derek suggests that companions come back tomorrow.

The companions are not pleased with the outcome of this situation, given that a life potentially hangs in the balance, and decide it best to push forward with their request to inspect the premise. Derek asks Cayden to take a look at Marcus’ workstation for any information relating to the order. Freight notes that Cayden, instead of heading to the workstations, leaves the premise through a door in the rear of the building. The group calls out Derek on his companion’s exit – he immediately becomes defensive and advises that he doesn’t want any trouble. The Watch will be here shortly and the group should leave.

Romica attempts to intimidate Derek, further escalating the situation. Understanding that time is of the essence, the companions leave Derek to his dithering and split up to investigate the cauldrons. There are two kilns with two cauldrons at each station. A chimney flanks each kiln, leading to the ceiling. Each member of the group inspects one cauldron. Nothing of note is found, and with whistles blaring in the distance, the companions swallow their pride and exit the building in an expedient manner. Before doing so, Romica picks up Derek by his scruff and promises hell to pay should he provide descriptions or any information that may lead back to The Honey Pot. The companions make a clean get away before the Watch arrives.

It’s a rare occurrence for the companions to call a visit to the brewery a fail. Spirits low, the group hops into a cab in hopes that the intersection that Enzo had mentioned will put them on Carson’s trail. The address leads to a derelict building in a shoddy neighbourhood in the older part of the Eastern District. The house appears uninhabited, the windows and doors boarded over. A quick investigation of the exterior allows the companions to detect foot traffic to and from the front door, as well as several tracks that lead to the a garbage bin around the side of the building. The bin houses food refuse from several days past. It appears that there has been activity here recently.

Interest piqued, the companions return to the front and use their chime of liberation to open the door. Stepping inside is like stepping into the past. The interior features furniture from a prior generation covered in linens. A layer of dust has settled across the room. Lando detects magic and senses a faint aura emanating from the other side of the building. Freight is able to identify tracks leading further inside. The companions follow the tracks to the kitchen and locate a trap door leading to the basement. The room is bare with the exception of 3 casks in the corner. The footprints lead to the casks and disappear.

Thinking it logical that the casks hide a secret door, the companions again use their chime of liberation. All three casks are tapped, two of them pouring out foul-smelling liquids assumed to be wine. Romica and Freight take matters into their own hands and tug mightily on the empty cask – it pulls free from the wall revealing a passage on the other side. Footsteps, faint in the distance, can be heard from outside followed by a flash of light. Lando detects magic and advises that he believes an incantation was completed just outside the wall. Nothing further is heard.

The companions forge ahead down the passageway. The tunnel appears to have been hastily dug, and is shored up with supports. It ends after about 40 feet with a ladder leading down. A short descent leads to another hallway, this one much different than the one above, with stone tiled floors and walls featuring craftsmanship by someone with an engineering background. A T-junction can be seen ahead, with doors leading east and west. The companions fall prey to a camouflaged pit trap as they travel towards the junction. Luckily, it inflicts more damage to pride than bodily harm.

At the junction, the companions decide it best to investigate the door to the west first. The large double-doors appear well used and swing open easily. The companions are greeted with a large octagonal chamber. The room is painted a deep black, with stars and constellations carefully arrayed on the ceiling. A large circular depression dominates the centre of the room. The far wall features a sturdy table with a gong, incense burners and a candelabra – all the equipment required to take part in a summoning ritual. The room radiates an evil aura offensive to the senses.

The companions enter the room and investigate the table. There are several books, one of which outlines the steps necessary to summon an unspeakable creature from the abyss. Unsated curiosity overtaking common sense, the companions follow the outlined steps in sequence – burning incense, lighting the appropriate candles, and striking the gong. The incense produces a euphoric feeling – the stars seem to twinkle a little brighter as a supremely evil and ancient presence enters the room. Black tentacles snake out from the depression to accost the companions, resulting in extreme mental anguish to all present via images of horror and unspeakable acts for an indeterminate period of time. After what feels like an eternity, the tentacles withdraw through the depression, but not before the damage is done. The companions are, across the group, impacted negatively by the experience, no more so than Magus Mike, who remains in a catatonic state, continuously tormented by the evil nightmares.

As is the case after prior unspeakably evil events, the companions attempt to walk it off. They return to the T-junction to investigate the door opposite. It leads to a treasury chamber, several chests with elaborate inlaid serpent figures can be seen scattered across the room framed by rich velvety purple curtains. The chests are not unguarded, as the companions enter the room a group of undead creatures rise from the floor to protect the treasure.

The companions attempt to fight their way through the mindless creatures. The effort proves fruitful, primarily due to the efforts of the cleric Freight and the martial prowess of Romica and Magus Mike. During the conflict, the companions note the sound of a group closing in on their location. To slow their pace, Lando creates a surprise for the approaching creatures with a grease spell conveniently located just ahead of the pit trap. The companions close the door and wait for the group to encounter the trap.

The sound of confusion and surprised agony alerts the companions that the approaching group has encountered the greasy trap. The door is opened to reveal several serpent folk attempting to regain their feet, a handful of their colleagues impaled on the spikes of the pit trap. The companions charge and quickly dispatch the disarrayed group. In its dying breath, one of serpent folk mentions the taint of the dark lord on Magus Mike. Searching the bodies yields masterwork daggers. Further, it is noted that the serpent folk wear the clothing of tradesmen, clerks/scribes, labourers etc. as if they had just left work. It is surmised that these serpent folk represent sleeper agents within the general population – the companions will have to keep their eyes open and take great care in their interactions with others as there are likely more agents around Freeport.

With time on their hands, the companions return to the treasury room for an in-depth search. There are five treasure chests in total around the room, most providing a cache of gold and gems, in addition to a heavy shield with arrow deflection abilities, a potion of cure light wounds, and a clay tablet of similar appearance as the one that summoned the accuser demon. Lando picks up the tablet to investigate it further – a shimmer of dark energy is followed by a chalky feeling that travels up the arms. The table disintegrates in the gnome’s hands and is replaced a book of the same design as those found on the table in the summoning room. Lando browses the contents and advises that it is a detailed history of the cult, with information about the unspeakable one, an evil god whose worship is prohibited in most nations.

Detecting magic reveals two additional points of interest in the room, one that turns out to be a magical short spear that was hidden behind a curtain, the second leads to the discovery of a secret door. The companions decide it best to see where the door leads – it opens to a passage that stretches into the distance. After several minutes of walking, the companions find themselves in a large natural cave that evokes a primitive feel, there is no exit in sight. There are bones and other scraps littered around the floor, a dark pool of unknown depth in one corner. Investigating the water’s edge reveals that there has been some traffic to and from the pool, but one touch of the dirty water deters any further interest in where it leads.

Romica points out an irregularity in the wall of the cave that leads to another hidden door. The passage curves around the cave and ends in a wooden door. The door is opened to reveal blazing torchlight and a large hall. Many pillars, adorned with giant snake creatures coiled around them, hold up a ceiling far above the companion’s heads. An altar of black basalt can be seen at the far end of the hall on a raised platform, a strange yellow symbol in view on the front of the altar – it appears to be a child’s scrawl, a big circle with a squiggly slash through the middle. Several statues of a tentacled horror can also be seen on the dais. Two robed figures lurk behind the statues framing a small man in plate mail. Their attention is trained on the opposite side of the room, crossbows at the ready as if awaiting the entrance of opposition.

The companions use their chime of silence as well as the cover of the pillars to sneak up quietly on the robed figures. The pillars stop about 25 feet from the raised platform – stepping out from the darkness provided by the pillars alerts the small man on the platform, who slowly turns to address the group. He removes his hood to reveal the face of Milos, a broad smile on his lips. “It is so nice to see you again. Let me offer my congratulations – you are the first outsiders to ever set foot in the heart of the temple of the unspeakable one. It is quite the achievement, but it also means your doom. I hope you understand.” The robed figures raise their crossbows and take aim at the companions.

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Trivial Pursuit
Speed dating at the Storm Raven

Summary

  • its Trivia Night at the Storm Raven – the companions participate and Anton wins the competition
  • information about Crick McGillicuddy is shared with Pumpernick, a bounty hunter,in return for half the bounty
  • Crick just happens to be at Trivia Night, Pumpernick follows him out
  • Milos’ contact, Enzo the trademan, is identified and apprehended
  • Enzo spills all – he confirms Milos is behind the contract and that he is part of a cult, an address is provided
  • a new mission is received from Captain Sil – a conduit needs to be smuggled aboard the Shadow Swift
  • the Bloody Vengeance is required for the mission, Kel agrees to captain the ship
  • the crew is given shore leave to fight in the Arena, the winner will be made 1st mate
  • condolences are passed along to Mark Hawks – running The Treasure Trove is not his cup of tea, a business proposition is discussed

Details

Exiting the gangway to the Docks District, the companions are greeted by a messenger raven. The message is short and to the point: Contact Captain Kel – urgent, Sil.

Nearing the appointed meeting time, the companions jump into a passing cab and travel to the Storm Raven Tavern. The pub is near the Hell Hound Social Club headquarters in the Eastern District. There is a crowd milling around the venue, a party atmosphere in the air. Posters adorn every lamppost proclaiming Trivia Night at the Storm Raven. Lando has heard of this event through local contacts – the venue is generally known as a watering hole for locals; however, this event caters to those seeking anonymity, and many people looking to conduct “business” away from prying eyes do so on this night. The poster is decorated with strange animal masks and confirms this eve as the “Season Finale”.

A bouncer blocks the entrance, turning back many more than he lets pass. On the way to the entrance, Lando drops a gold coin into a beggar’s lap. The disheveled man is beyond elated, the gold coin representing significant means. As a sign of gratitude, the beggar advises that a password – samdolf – is required to gain entrance this evening. The companions provide the password to the bouncer and are escorted inside.

The doorway opens to an interior corridor that leads into the establishment. Halfway down the hallway is a cloakroom. An old man in dark glasses, a white can beside him, slumbers at the desk. Above the counter is a sign that reads: Your anonymity is as closely guarded as your patronage is welcome. The old man wakes with a startle and provides a cornucopia of masks to the group – Magus takes one with fuzzy hair, Freight a mask with a torch, Anton a ridiculous rooster, and Lando a fine mask adorned with turnips.

The festivities already underway, the companions enter the main hall. A club official signals to staff to shut the door – everyone is accounted for. There are many tables around the room, but only four with one person seated. Seems like the competition is conducted in teams of twos. The companions split up and sit with those persons with matching masks. On stage, the MC for the evening spins a massive drum with trivia questions.

Anton: a solid looking fellow in a matching rooster mask ambles up and seats the halfling at his table. He’s not happy that Anton is late. He introduces himself as Pumpernick and explains that he is here to win, so the halfling better not get in this way. Making small talk, Anton learns that he is a bounty hunter and an acquaintance of Ansor. He hopes to win the jackpot so that he can use the money to pay for rumors to help him track down the Dockside Splitter or Crick McGillicuddy, bounties that he has been chasing for some time with no success. Sensing an opportunity, Anton cuts the gunslinger a deal – he’ll provide inside information leading to Crick in return for half of the bounty. Pumpernick agrees.

Freight: a gruff, sad voice greets Freight as she seats herself. Inquiring why her partner is down in the dumps, he says that he has had much tragedy in his life of late. When asked what she does, Freight advises that she is a dockworker. Her partner perks up at the mention and introduces himself as Chuck of the City Watch. They discuss a business opportunity – Chuck is looking for someone to distribute posters of the Dockside Splitter around the Docks District. It seems the reason for his melancholy stems from the brutal death of his brother, Charles, at the hands of the Splitter. Attempting to gain knowledge of whether Chuck is complicit in the yellow shields contract, Chuck questions where Freight may have come by such knowledge. He becomes confrontational and tries to imply that Freight was somehow involved in his brother’s death. The cleric talks him down and Chuck relents, believing that he is grasping at straws. He leaves the tavern to attend to some urgent business he has with the evidence locker.

Lando: the gnome sits at a table with a sprightly lass named Sister Sprout, the daughter of an incense trader. Although she works at the Office of Public Records, an esteemed career in Lando’s eyes, her world views are too narrow focused to permit productive conversation, likely a by-product of her religious background. They don’t get along. In fact, Sister Sprout feigns indecent conduct by Lando in an attempt to have him removed from the building. It proves unsuccessful and she is asked to leave as a result for causing a disturbance.

Magus Mike: the half-elf is greeted emphatically by a rather intoxicated patron. The magus is not impressed. His partner attempts to cut through the awkwardness by showcasing a card trick – seems he is interested in magic and wishes to someday entertain at the Mouth of Hell. The magus sends the cards flying via mage hand. A tavern employee asks them to keep it down. When asked what he does, the magus indicates that he kills people for a living. Silence ensues until Mike claps his partner on the shoulder and tells him he’s just joking. They make further small talk and the patron introduces himself as Enzo, a local millwright.

The drum spins and the MC reads out questions to the various tables. The companions are asked many questions during the evening, including:

  • Brought to you by the city’s fearless leader, Milton Drac: what at the names of the city’s two founders – Drac and Frisco
  • Sponsored by the Mouth of Hell: although proven false, what law official was rumored to be the leader of a famous mercenary band – Hollister (the MC takes note of the companions upon successfully answering this question)
  • On behalf of the Office of Public Records: what geological formation is the city built upon, and for bonus points, who was it named for: the city is built upon the Serpents Teeth Isles, named after the serpent people that originally inhabited the lands. A local myth tells of how the serpent god, Yg, broke off a piece of his body to create the land as a bastion of prosperity for his people.
  • Brought to you by the Swords of the Edict: what devastating event led to the Reclamation Project, and for extra points, who caused it: the Great Green Fire was the predecessor event and was caused by a young wizard from the Wizard’s Guild. He summoned a creature that wreaked havoc on the city, it took three full nights to get the fire under control.
  • Paid for by the good people at Gregor’s Brewery: what noble turned politician was said to have scared off an ogre by showing it his rotten teeth: Lord Brack
  • Brought to you by The Bard and the Bastard: the son of a humble lumberjack, who built the statues in the Sealord’s Palace: Ironjack
  • Sponsored by the Hell Hound Social Club: which city district houses a prominent business protected by the highly reputable Hell Hound Social Club: the business is the Opera House, which is located in the Eastern District
  • On behalf of The Horse’s Demise Drinking Establishment: which district was founded by an influx of labourers required to rebuild the city after the Great Green Fire: Bloodsalt

During the event, a pair of loud and obnoxious contestants wearing donkey masks continually poke fun of their competitors. The crowd is eating it up; however, after several warnings from ownership, the amorous couple are asked to leave. Pumpernick, reviewing the notes provided by Anton, suddenly drops the dossier, “Well I’ll be, he was under my nose this entire time.” He stands up from the table and follows the couple, now revealed to be Crick and Hollister’s significant other, as they are escorted to the exit.

His partner gone for the evening, Lando actively screens the crowd for a potential contact and overhears the guards speaking. Having four teams show up individually and late is a strange occurrence. Further, one of the companion’s partners was the inquisitive type, and not so subtle, attempting to gain intel before show started. The contact is here, and there is only one partner left, the tradesman Enzo.

By answering the last question correctly, Anton and his absentee partner Pumpernick seal the trivia night victory. The winnings are collected and the companions file out, keeping a close eye on Enzo. The tradesman waits patiently outside, keeping an active watch – it appears as if he is waiting for someone. The companions approach and Enzo gets nervous. He bolts down the street – Anton follows quickly behind him, and worried about the number of witnesses, insinuates loudly that Enzo is too drunk to run. Lando places him in a magical slumber and he falls to the crowd’s entertainment. The group loads him into a cab for questioning.

Enzo is justifiably scared for his life and, although somewhat concussed from the fall, happy to answer all questions. He doesn’t know much about Milos but confirms that he was the one behind the contracts – apparently he has it out for the companions. Interestingly, he refers to Milos as “master”. It becomes clear through the questioning that Enzo is merely a pawn in this game. He joined up with a local group, assumed to be a cult, because they promised to teach him magic although they haven’t come through on their end. He runs lots of errands for the group such as delivering food and supplies to a bricked up building in the Eastern District (the address of which he provides), as well as the packages to the yellow shields. All he wants to do is get away from the city. The companions are happy to oblige and arrange the cab to take Enzo to the docks where he can join up with the yellow shields mercenary group and leave town.

The companions are dropped off at The Honey Pot on the way. They greet Brughan before sitting down with Kel. His countenance quickly changes and the companions recognize the appearance of Captain Sil. He is impressed with their progress – he had hired a second group that has been largely unsuccessful in their endeavors. The serpent people under the Temple of Knowledge are discussed. He is surprised to hear of other sentient serpent folk and thanks the companions for the update.

To the news at hand, he has a high priority mission, one just as important as the mighty men, for the group. He requires the companions to smuggle something onto the Shadow Swift. A separate vessel is travelling into Freeport with the cargo. The companions are to hire a ship and crew to intercept the ship outside of the patrol perimeter and provide escort into the city. To do this, the customs agent for the harbour, Barnaby the Uncorruptible, will have to be bribed so that the ship not be inspected. The Shadow Swift is in need of repairs – the package will be disguised as timbers to service the haul. Of the crew, only Pretty Ike the boatswain and Rockinsky the carpenter can be trusted – all other crew members are to be avoided. Sil has it on good word that the captain is planning to be on shore to attend Swag Fest, which will occur in several days when the moon reaches its zenith above Freeport. This will provide a small window that should be sufficient to load the cargo.

The good captain seems nervous throughout the discussion. The companions press him for more information as they are concerned that their lack of understanding could jeopardize the mission. Sil agrees. He relates that Ironjack has enacted many useful rituals for the benefit of the city, some of which are also useful to Sil. None of this will matter, however, if the conduit, part of the cargo, is not in place – it represents the other end of a portal. Sil has created a narrow window of time, through his specific influence and continued loyalty aboard the Shadow Swift, to allow for this mission to be successful. The only person that poses a real threat to its failure is the current captain. The mission is vital and must be completed at all costs – if the captain gets in the way, he must be removed. When pushed on this point, Sil confirms that he was indeed cast off himself long ago when the crew mutinied against him. Time is short, he advises that Kel will furnish the group with 25,000 gold pieces to bribe the customs official and a further 7,500 gold pieces to hire a trustworthy ship and captain. His visage shimmers and fades.

Thinking on their feet, the companions decide that there is not a more trustworthy ship than the Bloody Vengeance. However, they need a captain. Kel is easily convinced – despite his reluctance to leave shore again, the opportunity to help the companions and Sil in turn is too much to pass out. With several tasks to complete before the full moon, the companions take their leave of Kel.

Before exiting the tavern, the group asks Brughan if he had any further insight on blackblood. He has little information other than Erick was tight-lipped about it. He imported the substance from an unknown source and shipped it to Gregor. Those that were press-ganged into helping with the shipment were killed after delivery and thrown into the harbour. He assumes that meant that secrecy was important and he did not pry.

The companions return to the Bloody Vengeance for the night and discuss plans for the smuggling mission. During the night, Freight has a vivid dream – Carson is in his room. His voice, only but a whisper, still dominates the space. He’s been abducted by serpent people and is underground, he is unsure where. He is close to death, his life energy slowly slipping away. He begs Freight to rescue him before he succumbs to his captors – his incorporeal image slowly fades away.

The companions take the dream to heart and decide in the morning to redouble their efforts in locating their good friend. Before exiting the Vengeance, they hold an impromptu meeting with the crew to announce upcoming shore leave. Most of the crew has been entered into a fighting competition at the Arena this very afternoon. The winner of the event will be promoted to first mate. The crew are excited for the opportunity to kill landlubbers without ending up in prison.

Crew morale at a high, the companions cab back to The Bard and the Bastard to check in with their contacts through the communication devices set up in their war room:

  • Garvey is fine, he confirms that the yellow shields were unsuccessful in their attempt on his life and have not returned to the Wizard’s Guild compound. He is happy to hear that the immediate threat has been taken care of and that the yellow shields are leaving town.
  • Chatting with Eagel, the companions ask about the papers and books that Carson collected during his time away. Eagel was not privy to his research, but confirms that Carson donated it to the Temple in good faith. Many within the order were concerned that Carson was exploiting his position to research arcane and dangerous subjects beyond his station – giving up the information collected helped to temper these concerns, which played a role in allowing him to rejoin the Swords of the Edict.
  • Lastly, the group passes along their sincere condolences to Mark Hawks. He is appreciative of the gesture. Besides the death of his brother, Mark is out of his league trying to run The Treasure Trove. He requests assistance in administering the shop – the companions are happy to assist, understanding the value of a reputable import/export business. Mark is open to putting his specific skill sets/knowledge of the underground economy to good use – the companions consider the opportunity to have Mark help them break into the pick-pocking ring or cab business.

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Ambush
A contract to repeal a contract

Summary

  • Ironjack’s journal is enshrined under the Radiant Arch, revealing a secret entrance
  • under the Temple of Knowledge, several serpent folk attack the companions
  • a mighty man in monk attire is engaged, a new package found
  • exiting in a back alley, the companions are ambushed by yellow shields
  • they manage to escape with an unconscious officer/wizard
  • through interrogation, it is learned that the yellow shields are a mercenary outfit that under contract by Milos to kill the companions, Martin Hawks and Garvey Holland
  • the wizard is released in return for calling off the contracts

Details

The companions jump in the first taxi they see to get away from the ensuing chaos. Early evening, they decide it best to travel back to the Temple of Knowledge with Ironjack’s journal in hand. On the way, Lando reads through the book cover to cover, noting the following passage:

There are a great many tomes in the vast library of the Temple.
The best known are represented at the feet of those gaining wisdom.
My first journal covers similar topics.

Norton meets the companions at the gates of the Temple. Requesting to see the Radiant Arch, the page leads the group into the main atrium. There, two massive statues flank the arch, both made of blue-gray marble. The monuments sit atop huge pedestals made to resemble great stacks of books. Norton leaves the companions to further inspection.

An examination of the fine carving reveals that the books are organized by author. Under the name Hammer is found a cleverly hidden hinge – a small amount of pressure slides the book inward, leaving a small space in the shape of a book. The journal of Ironjack is placed into the space. The base of the pedestal opens, the entrance leading to the top of a spiral staircase.

Following the stairs into the darkness, the staircases are intercepted every 15 feet or so by a landing. About five levels down, Anton stops the group – straining his ears, he can discern the voice of several persons below conversing in an ancient language. The companions use their chime to quickly close the distance in silence. There are two persons at the end of the hall, a third can be heard but not seen in the room ahead. The figures are in humanoid garb, but have scaly skin and serpentine heads.

Lando attempts to hail the strangers in good faith. A magical shimmer from the two at the door and their serpentine appearances are quickly replaced by human traits. A whiff of smoke drifts down the corridor.

The farthest of the two takes a step back and closes a door, shutting off its colleagues exit. Anton, anticipating the action, is already in full charge, acrobatically climbing the wall to spring past the guard and into the door. The impact shatters the portal and the halfling falls in a heap to the floor. Romica and Freight charge the guard and make quick work of the hapless foe.

The other serpentine creature, taking adventure of a temporarily stunned Anton, impales the halfling on a spear. Screaming in fury to its dark master, the spear takes on a dark glow as the creature twists the weapon in Anton’s body. The halfling slumps unconscious.

As the companions gain the room, the last serpentine creature, unseen to this point, drops a flaming piece of parchment and flees the room. Magus Mike blasts the paper with a ray of frost, extinguishing the flame. The concentrated efforts of Romica, Freight and Magus Mike quickly overcome the last remaining serpent person. Freight channels energy to revive his good friend Anton, also stabilizing the serpentine creature at the same time.

Surveying the room, it appears to be a makeshift barracks – the serpentfolk have likely lived here for a period of time. The companions are able to save several still smoking pieces of parchment from the flame. The pages make mention of the black blood of the goat and Thrall Thangar, the Hidden Temple. Further, Erick of The Honey Pot is identified as an importer and Marcus at Gregor’s Alchemy as a chemist. The group also finds 30 ancient doubloons minted with the head of a serpent person.

The adjoining room features a statue of a mighty man clothed in the robes of a monk, a large open tome is held in the palm of one hand. An exit is located on the opposite side. The key with an open tome motif is inserted in the statue and turned. Energy pulses through the room, flashes of light coruscating around the statue. A small compartment opens to reveal the next package – the companions grab it and exit the collapsing room. Romica throws the unconscious form of a serpent person over his shoulder as the companions ascend the stairs to the surface. The exit leads into the back of an alley.

As the companions discuss their next move, a crossbow bolt whistles by the ear of Anton. The halfling, barley conscious and fearing for his life, runs headlong down the alley. The remainder of the group charges toward the source of the shot. Several foes can be seen in the distance dressed in dark leather armor. They wield spears and bucklers that are adorned with the emblem of yellow flags.

Romica chops the first combatant clear in half, a mighty blow at pace. Freight and Magus Mike manage to take down a second assassin. A third, of wizardly talents, is mesmerized by the colored spray of Lando. Soldiers appear at the other end of the alley, blocking Anton’s exit. He quickly turns heel and rejoins the companions efforts.

With crossbow bolts raining down from above, Lando casts an obscuring mist before being skewered by a bolt. Anton drags the hapless gnome and Romica lifts the unconscious form of the wizard to his shoulder, picking up a fallen package in turn – the companions use the cloud to cover their exit as they bolt into a crowd in an adjacent plaza. The halfling warns the crowd of a fire, the growing mist rolling out of the alley playing on their fears. The whistles of the Watch can soon be heard as the group climbs into a waiting cab. Freight revives the unconscious gnome and enemy wizard, expending his last healing powers. The companions watch the growing crowd of milling yellow shield soldiers grow smaller in the distance as they travel to the Docks District.

With some time on their hands, the companions open the parcel that the wizard had dropped. Inside is an ornate dagger, not magical, with the characters L and SWC engraved in the ivory handle. A parchment contains a hand written note in common providing the address of a bar and time, presumably where the mercenary group was to receive payment. Further, the companions open the package found under the Temple of Knowledge. Inside is a new key topped with the crest of two alchemical jars, as well as a note that reads:

The craft of mixing compounds is the lifeblood of the alchemist. I sought invention, while others followed set formulas to provide simple wares to dispense. Ever creative, I managed to subvert the honest apothecary under his own cauldron. My inspiration was creation. Gregor’s motto? “Must sell at tallest sum.”

The group takes the bound wizard onto the Bloody Vengeance for interrogation. Understanding the precariousness of his situation, the wizard quickly agrees to spill everything. During the conversation, the wizard, Rhetodo, advises:

  • he is a sell-sword, the yellow shields a mercenary clan from a desert kingdom on another continent.
  • they have never worked in Freeport before, but several lucrative contracts were accepted that included not only the lives of the companions, but also of Martin Hawks and Garvey Holland.
  • the contracts were initiated by Milos. He is unsure of Milos’ interests. There was a great degree of discretion involved in the contracts, considering they were hired and brought in from a separate continent.
  • the size of the contracts were sufficient to cover their travel and a great amount of manpower.
  • the address in the note is that of the Storm Raven Tavern, where they were to receive payment for completion of the contracts.
  • the intermediary is a bit of a dunce and not a “pro”. The only reason that Rhetodo knows of the sponsor for the contracts is that the intermediary let it slip in conversation.
  • the wizard has never heard of Carson.
  • Garvey is still alive – the yellow shields were successfully rebuffed by the Wizard’s Guild during their first attempt on his life
  • the ornamental dagger was provided as down payment – he is unsure what the initials stand for.
  • the yellow shields are open to new contracts, but are likely to leave town soon.

If his life is spared, Rhetodo swears on his honor that he will call off the contracts. The companions agree and a binding contract is created by Lando and signed by both parties. Rhetodo provides the companions with his uniform and spellbook in good faith. A messenger raven is supplied in case he needs to get in touch with the group. The wizard is released from their care and exits the ship.

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The Mouth of Hell
RIP Martin Hawks

Summary

  • the barkeep and Captain Sil have outfitted the group with a war room
  • the companions learn about the Arena
  • a meeting with Milos provides little new information
  • Anton trails a contact of Milos to a group of desert tribesmen and witnesses an exchange
  • the tribesmen travel to The Treasure Trove and murder a defenseless Martin Hawks
  • Anton’s cover blown, he summons Captain Sil to deal with the tribesmen
  • the companions travel to the Mouth of Hell, a pleasure den
  • a trap door under the stage leads to a secret library
  • undead priests are incapacitated allowing enough time to find Ironjack’s journal
  • the companions escape the Mouth of Hell in flames

Details

The barkeep grins as he leads the group up the stairs and past the rooms where they had previously stayed. At the end of the hall, a large door opens to reveal an immense room – better described as a war room – complete with its own private entry. There are tables filled with ledgers detailing taxi routes and information on local factions (including the previously mentioned pick-pocketing ring), supplies for messenger ravens, secure chests for storage, communication devices to reach Garvey, Carson, and Hawks’ offices, and lastly a huge map of Freeport adorning the wall. The barkeeper has been busy in the companions absence. Regarding the group’s inquiring looks, he advises that Captain Sil was the mastermind behind the new digs. Whoever was responsible, sincere thanks are passed along.

A large package draws the group’s attention. Within the parcel is a note from Captain Sil, as well as several medallions of a similar design as the one Wanda wears. The pendants, in the shape of a snake scale, feature an inlaid key and magnifying glass motif. When worn, the scale fuses with the skin of the respective wearer. The accompanying band is replaced by ancient thassilonian script, seemingly tattooed upon the skin, that reads:

Breaker of madness, chains, and hearts,
born both of dust and heaven,
he shall be hatched upon the seas.

The note from Sil advises that the innkeeper has put much effort into the present accommodations and is deserving of significant gratitude, as well as recompense for expenses and continued security. Both he and the innkeeper hope that the war room will assist the companions in keeping a low profile. The medallions, which help to protect against effects that aim to create confusion, are provided as tokens of appreciation for the companions’ competent service. Lastly, Captain Sil requests that, should the companions come across any “degenerate” snake people, that they report back to him immediately. These persons are an unfortunate offshoot of an ancient race, driven mad by an apocalyptic event. They deserve pity, not pain, and Sil asks that the companions refrain from causing them harm so that he can administer reconciliation.

The companions call it a night and sleep well into the next day. Upon waking, a note indicates that Eagel is awaiting their presence with good news. The companions hasten to the pub for brunch.

As they enter the common room, the group notes several posters on the walls touting the One Ring Fighting Arena. In conversation with the barkeep, the companions learn that the arena hosts a gladiatorial competition daily at noon. The early rounds represent a free for all where anything goes, and once seeded, the competition becomes a single elimination style tournament. There is no entry fee and a top prize of 15 thousand gp. Despite the barbarian nature of the competition, the barkeeper advises that the competition is well run – there are spellcasters present to ensure the combatants live to see another day.

The companions locate Eagel and join him for brunch. They regale him with tales of their recent adventures and provide him an update on their progress regarding Carson. Eagel confirms that the last mighty men related note they received is linked to the Church of Retribution. Although the Swords of the Edict order is affiliated with the Church, their headquarters are located within the Temple District and not on the original site of the Church. In fact, the Church of Retribution was originally situated in Shantytown, and is now the location of a pleasure den named the Mouth of Hell. He provides the companions with a layout of the building for reference.

Several questions from the group motivate Eagel to provide a history lesson. The Church of Retribution was created during a time when various cults were a real threat to society. The mandate of the order was to seek out and destroy these cults, and therefore protect the general population. Fear mongering allowed the Church to gain notoriety and influence; however, as the ongoing threat from these cults diminished, the order fell into decline as society lost interest in their mandate. At this time, one of the cardinal priests made a deal with a duke of hell for reasons unknown. The clerics of the order maintained a protective aura surrounding the building. The foci of the aura was a grand bell in the church’s steeple – the priest cast the bell from the top of the bell tower and it shattered upon the ground below. The protective aura faded over time, the Church become vulnerable and was ultimately corrupted, leading to its demise.

The Swords of the Edict order was born from the ashes of the Church of Retribution. Whereas the Church was solely interested in opposing cults, the Edict maintains a more populist mandate seeking to protect the general population from malevolent interests.

Speaking of the order, Eagel is happy to advise that he has chatted with Milos and can set up a meeting this very day. Given it is the sabbath, Milos is praying for most of the day but would be able to accommodate a meeting early morning or late evening. There is no time like the present, and the companions decide it best to meet with him this morning.

The Temple of Knowledge is a short cab ride from the tavern. The companions register at the main entrance and Eagel leads the group into the Temple. The interior of the building is breathtaking, with vaulted ceilings over 100 feet high, providing an immense feeling. Statues of every known deity adorn the massive atrium. There are balconies above and books can be seen everywhere from floor to ceiling. An air of reverence dominates, and although quiet, a soft buzz of activity fills the hall. The group is introduced to Norton, the personal page of Milos, who escorts the companions further into the building.

Milos is awaiting the companions upon their arrival. He is recognized as the person meeting with Lord Brack in the courtyard of the Swords of the Edict headquarters from several days past. He is curt in introduction and it is soon clear that this meeting is solely a courtesy to Eagel. Milos is less than interested in the discussion and has very little to say about Carson, besides that he was a good librarian that made some poor choices. Regarding his breach of protocol, Milos confirms that Carson had no business viewing the documents that he did, especially at night. He was surprised that Carson was allowed to rejoin the order, mentioning that it was due primarily to the great store of rare books and records that he donated to the library. The companions had not heard of this, and ask to view the documents as it would aid in their investigation. Milos advises that the Temple is still processing the materials and denies their request. Lando volunteers his time as an experienced scribe but is also declined.

At this time, a trades person enters the hallway and seeks audience with Milos. The head of the library is clearly perturbed and takes him aside to chat in private. The companions overhear Milos advising it is not a good time and that the individual should leave. The newcomer glances over his shoulder at the companions, and then exits. Thinking this behavior rather odd, Anton quietly excuses himself and trails the tradesman at a respectable distance through the Temple.

The rest of the companions attempt to continue their conversation with Milos. He is fed up with the discussion and indicates that he has nothing further to add, and that he must leave for prayer. Feeling slighted by how unhelpful the head librarian has been, Romica reveals that the companions are in the employ of Hollister, and that it would do him good to assist the group in its investigation. Milos is unfazed by the mention of Hollister and briskly exits the hallway. The companions, no further ahead, leave the library.

While this occurs, Anton follows the tradesman outside of the Temple and into the streets. Not far from the library grounds, the individual, still unaware of Anton’s presence, meets with a group of 5 or 6 desert tribesmen in an open square. They are dressed in dark leather armour and carry spears and bucklers. Their faces are concealed by the hoods of their cloaks. On their bucklers can be seen an insignia featuring 3 yellow shields in a horizontal line. The tradesman conducts a brief conversation and then exchanges something with the group before leaving the plaza.

Anton follows the tribesmen through the city, no small feat, eventually arriving at a familiar location – The Treasure Trove. The group enters the shop and attacks a defenseless and surprised Martin Hawks. Fearing for his life, Anton immediately exits the building and calls upon a neighbor to summon the Watch. While he attempts to make his escape, Anton notices activity in a nearby alley as the shadows coalesce into 8 additional desert tribesmen.

His cover blown, Anton flips one of Captain Sil’s coins. As it reaches its apex, the coin disappears. A purple green tear appears in the sky, replaced by a flag floating softly to the ground. Captain Sil’s form steps from the flag as it touches the ground. Anton points to the desert tribesmen and asks Sil if he has knowledge of them – he does not, although he senses an ancient taint. Without delay, the Captain engages the group of tribesmen in melee, providing Anton the opportunity to slip away unseen.

Returning to the library, Anton quickly brings the companions up-to-speed on the events. The group returns to the scene of the crime, but are unable to get close to Hawks’ shop as the Watch is in the area. Passing the alleyway, a few smears of blood on the cobbles is the only evidence that the tribesmen were present.

Unsure of next steps, the group decides the best course of action is to investigate the Mouth of Hell. The companions travel back to Shantytown to visit the shop of vices, its primary purpose to cater to those that revel in hedonistic pursuits. The building is older in age, although tastefully renovated. The companions store there weapons in their bag of holding before entering the front door.

The entry leads into an atrium where a rather attractive night elf named Delilah introduces herself. She provides an overview of the premises – there are four distinct areas in the building each uniquely themed to satiate different indulgences, including a gambling hall (greed), exotic kitchen (gluttony), and entertainment area (envy) on the main level, as well as an entire floor dedicated to carnal devices (lust) above.

Hearing that Ansor is running the gambling hall, the companions decide to check in with their good friend in case he has any intel on where the secret library may be located. Ansor invites the group to a game of liar’s dice, which the group cannot pass up. During the friendly competition, the companions learn that:

  • The password for the night is “devil’s cry”, which provides VIP access to all that the Mouth of Hell has to offer.
  • The Bloody Vengeance is still in port, although the Captain and first mate were reportedly murdered, no doubt the result of an orc mutiny. The vessel is barely seaworthy, but worth its weight in gold given its writ of privateering.
  • Eyes from the Bloodsalt (the orc part of town) are looking longingly towards the Vengeance. As long as the sailors have coin for sex and drugs, their desires are sated.
  • There is a druid in town, once a member of the Renewal Project, that has pledged allegiance to the Wizard’s Guild. Rumour has it that he reports to the Head of the Sealord’s Guard.
  • Lord Brack, a savvy noble of significant wealth, has long stayed away from city politics. That said, Ansor has it on good word that he is vying for a spot on the Council. He is planning an event at the Swag Fest – his daughter, Gwendolyn, will not be attendance as she will be locked up.
  • The lighthouse debacle continues. Despite the time and expense dedicated to its building, it may not be of practical use to Freeport unless economic interests turn. The storms are generally a boon to the city, but the weather-towers are not as effective as they once were – they continue to keep the government ships away, but the perimeter to town is diminishing.
  • There is an unusually large reward offered for the thief Crick McGillicuddy. The bounty hunters are flocking to town, as the dockside splitter (aka Romica) has not been claimed either.
  • A small crew came in earlier and spent a lot of coin at dice. The were asking questions about a mechanical man. They came back later asking for someone who could pick locks.

The companions, a little short on cash and trying to gain influence with Ansor, provide him a rumor – a group of desert assassins are in town, they can be identified by an insignia on their bucklers with 3 yellow shields in a horizontal line. Ansor has no knowledge of this group and thanks the companions with a gift of 300 gp. Further, he is unsure where the secret library is located, but he mentions that the top floor holds many delights, but no library, and the money changing pit does not have underground access. That leaves the janitor’s closet, the kitchen, and the stage as points of interest.

After the janitors closet and kitchen are checked, the group heads into the entertainment area. The stage features a large altar with elaborate carvings. The next show – a rendition of the Freeport Follies – does not open for another 10 minutes. Thinking fast, the companions take the stage and Anton and Magus Mike entertain the crowd with a short performance. Finishing with a flurry, the other companions close the curtains to applause. A quick search of the stage reveals a trap door near the altar.

The trigger is flipped and the trap door opened. A ladder leads down into darkness. At the bottom, a long hallway with a glimmer of light at the end. The hallway opens into a large room, a library with an aisle leading down the middle and bookshelves with stacks of books to either side. The companions fan out to search the shelves.

As they do so, three priests in religious regalia appear, calling out to the companions to repent for their sins. Although human in form, they have the appearance of undead creatures. One of the priests is dressed in the robes of a cardinal.

Romica and Magus Mike concentrate on the cardinal, while Anton engages one of the other priests. Lando provides moral support from distance. The dynamic duo of Romica and the magus make quick work of the cardinal – the light fades from his eyes and his body disintegrates into two distinct piles of ash. One of the piles appears to be glowing, perhaps infused with the fires of hell. The other two priests fall soon thereafter.

The companions continue their search. Lando locates Ironjack’s journal, a bluish tome that is identified with the word Hammer on the binding. Behind them, the piles of ash begin to coalesce. Lando, unable to leave all this knowledge buried, screams for his colleagues to grab an armful of books – they scoop as many as possible into the bag of holding before they make their exit. The group makes a mad dash down the hallway to the ladder with the demon priests hot on their tails.

Dull applause greets the companions as they burst through the trap door in the floor, followed by a burst of hellish flames. The applause soon turns to screaming as the crowd is aghast at the appearance of the demons. The fiends of hell focus their attention on the entertainers as the companions run for the atrium. Their last view of the stage has the curtains aflame, the demons consuming the entertainers as guards converge on the stage. Lando makes a quick detour to the gambling hall to give Ansor a new rumor – the mouth of hell has opened and Ansor should close shop early for the day. He flips Lando his lucky dealer’s chip and joins the group as they exit the building.

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Bloody Vengeance
The search for Carson continues

Summary

  • notes are found in Erick the Entertainer’s office relating to blackblood shipments to Gregor’s Brewery
  • the companions become silent partners in The Honey Pot
  • dismantling the bookcase in Carson’s residence leads to a dead end
  • the companions visit the Bloody Vengeance
  • conversation quickly leads to confrontation, Scarbelly and his 1st mate are captured
  • Scarbelly confirms that Carson visited the ship but was turned away
  • the companions take ownership of the Bloody Vengeance after beheading Scarbelly and his 1st mate in front of the crew
  • the companions repay their loan to Eagel

Details

Brughan takes control of The Honey Pot, escorting patrons from the bar in an orderly manner. A search of Erick the Entertainer’s body provides a key as well as a handful of coins. The key unlocks the door to his office behind the bar. Inside is a small wooden desk, book shelves and a locked chest. A door leads to an inner room. Searching the desk provides plans related to products and the general business, as well as some notes mentioning a prepaid delivery of blackbood to Gregor’s Brewery.

The companions are unable to open the locked chest. Unveiling the Chime of Liberation, a simple ring opens both the trunk as well as the door to the back room. There are two containers in the trunk with liquor – one is an elvish absinthe and the other a fine dwaven fireale.

The back room is a simple bedroom with a small cot, bedside table and lantern, and locked footlocker. The footlocker is covered in etched runes. Lando confirms that the etching is decorative as opposed to magical. The chime is used again to unlock the footlocker, inside is a velvet container with 3 vials of a dark-grey powder labelled “highly illegal abyss dust”.

Back at the bar, Brughan and Kendrick are discussing what should be done with The Honey Pot. With the companions input, it is decided it best that the establishment continue to operate as normal, with Brughan and Kendrick managing the day-to-day activities, and the companions functioning as silent partners.

With the affairs of The Honey Pot in order, the companions head back to Carson’s residence to take care of unfinished business. With the tools acquired from Martin, the group dismantles the “newer” shelving. Removing the bookcase reveals a stone wall, the masonry behind the shelving of similar age and quality as the rest of the room. Romica, with his engineering knowledge, confirms there is no passage – this lead is a dead end.

Slightly disheartened, the companions take to the bookshelves to see if they can find any clues. The shelves contain many, many records and books, all of which appear to be handwritten by Carson. The collection is rather random in assortment, featuring travel charts, maps, geographical accounts etc. all of which is at least 4 years old. Reading through the texts, it appears that Carson was travelling rather haphazardly, with no recognizable pattern. The books note that he was interested in visiting libraries and universities on his travels. The last chart details his time on a ship travelling back to Freeport.

No further ahead in their investigation, the companions take a cab to the docks to locate Scarbelly’s ship, the Bloody Vengeance. It is where Ansor said it would be, and the group has no issues finding it. Perhaps speaking to its reputation, the ship is anchored by itself with no other vessels for some distance. The Bloody Vengeance is a crudely built vessel of orcish design, about 90 feet in length, it appears battle-scarred but seaworthy. There are two half-orc guards barring the gangway, swords barred, with armed lookouts in the ship’s various crows nests.

The companions attempt to engage the guards in conversation, explaining that they are looking for a colleague named Carson. He was last seen in the general vicinity. The guards are not forthcoming and tell them to get lost. Romica, not impressed by their candor, takes our his eyeballs and waves his war axe in the air, making grunting sounds. The guards are intimidated by the gesture and motion for their commanding officer, Agro, to come to the gangway.

From the forecastle comes a huge, rather disgusting looking half-orc. A foul odor precedes him by several feet. He appears rather unimpressed. The companions explain that they have a business opportunity that the would like to discuss with Captain Scarbelly. Further, they are looking for a colleague, Carson, that was on the ship recently. Agro asks about the business opportunity and the group discusses the abyss dust. He advises that Scarbelly is not interested, but Agro would offer 650 gp for the dust. The companions wish to discuss directly with the Captain. Agro tells the group that Carson was here last week and he told him to get lost, just like the companions should do before they get hurt. The half-orcs in the crows nests cock their bows and several shipmates can been seen in the forecastle brandishing weapons.

Not wanting to unleash the wrath of the half-orcs, Anton provides a distraction while Lando casts a spell. The performance proves sufficiently distracting and the enchantment is weaved without notice. Lando produces a writ to the now friendly Agro, knowing that he is unable to read it, that he explains grants them audience with Scarbelly. Agro nods and motions the companions to follow him below deck. The three shipmates from the forecastle trail behind.

The giant half-orc leads the group past the sailors quarters into the Captain’s cabin. Scarbelly is sitting behind a large table having dinner. He does not appear happy to be disturbed. The table, instead of legs, sits on top of a large chest.

The companions apologize for the interruption. In recompense for the disturbance, they would like to share with the good Captain a bottle of dwarven fireale to complement his meal. This puts Scarbelly in a good mood and he pours a round for the group. He chugs his mug after a boisterous cheers. The guards retreat to the door.

As he continues with his meal, Scarbelly inquires as to why the companions seek his audience. The group describes that they are looking for someone of repute to have business dealings with. They have abyss dust and are looking for a partner. Scarbelly is interested. Further, the companions are looking for information regarding a colleague named Carson who has history with the Bloody Vengeance. Scarbelly confirms that Carson was on board for some time but adds nothing further.

Lando tries to push his luck by casting another spell unnoticed, but this time he is unsuccessful. Scarbelly notes the spellcasting motions and immediately grabs his sword, yelling to his boys to seal the exits. Agro runs to a large bell in the back of the cabin to sound the alarm.

The companions engage Scarbelly and the guards in melee. Lando rings the Chime of Silence, effectively sealing off all sounds to the outside world. Not only are shipmates in the next room unable to hear the sounds of battle, but the peal of the alarm bell goes unheard. The half-orcs smile as the bell is sounded, thinking that reinforcements are on their way.

Anton and Romica concentrate on Scarbelly while Freight engages the three guards. The first falls immediately. Lando sprays the remaining two with a cone of colorful patterns, resulting in one falling to the ground unconscious. The third attempts to strike down the defenseless wizard but trips over his sleeping mate and stabs himself in the throat. Barnicle Bill wraps Agro in a net. With the remainder of the half-orcs neutralized, Captain Scarbelly is quickly overcome despite his martial prowess.

The companions bind and gag both Scarbelly and his 1st mate Agro. A quick survey of the room and half-orc bodies yields a nasty looking battle axe, scimitar, various rings and jewelry, coin and a key. Lando detects magic and locates a divine aura emanating from under the table. Removing the tabletop reveals a large chest, which is opened with Scarbelly’s key. Within is a small hoard of coins as well as a powerful staff that features a scale motif.

The clerics channel energy to heal the grievous wounds both Scarbelly and Romica endured during the combat. Scarbelly is a little more forthcoming during a second round of questioning and provides some information regarding Carson – he paid to join the crew, he acted a little odd but stayed out of the way. He was aboard for a total of 3 months and took extensive notes of the sailor’s daily routines and their ports of call. Scarbelly is unsure who this was reported to, but he was left at a random port of call at his bequest. He was not seen again for about 3 years until he showed up recently to inquire as to his whereabouts during his time aboard. He was promptly turned away.

The companions discuss their options with Scarbelly and Argo. Lando makes it known that he cannot condone some of the options under consideration, especially those that involve killing an unarmed prisoner. He excuses himself from the discussion and heads back to their tavern. The remainder of the companions, fearing the wrath of Scarbelly and his pirate crew, decide it best to cut the head off the snake. Scarbelly and Argo are marched topside, lined up on the gangplank, beheaded and thrown into the harbour in front of the crew. Cowed by the experience, the half-orcs quickly swear fealty to their new masters. The companions take de facto ownership of the vessel.

Before leaving the ship, the abyss dust is sold to the crew and the remaining alcohol is gifted in good faith. The companions hope it represents a first step in fostering a long-standing relationship with the half-orc sailors. The companions set off for Martin Hawks’ store to dispose of some gear before heading back to the Sword of the Edict’s guild to settle their debt with Eagel. Lastly, the group returns to the tavern to catch some shuteye.

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Enter Sandman
The Honey Pot revisited

Summary

  • travel to the Sword of the Edict’s guild for healing, find out Carson is missing, his office reveals several clues
  • on way to Carson’s residence, arrested by the Sealord’s Watch
  • back to Fortress of Justice, Hollister has orchestrated situation to ensure companions agree to favor – kill Crick McGillicuddy
  • investigate Carson’s residence, no new leads
  • return Mark Hawks to his brother Martin
  • on to The Honey Pot, see thugs loading suspicious kegs
  • return Kendrick to Brughan, secure entry to back rooms
  • play poker with Ansor, several rumors provided including that Scarbelly, someone Carson wished to speak to, is in town
  • battle sandman and imps in chill-out lounge, Brughan defeats Erick the Entertainer in combat
  • activate the mighty man in basement, new clue provided

Details

The dawn of a new day greets the companions as they leave the sewers. Besides Kendrick and Mark, a man-sized frog and its dishevelled druid keeper, Grin, also exit. Introductions are made and interests aligned, the group decides it best to continue on together. Fevered from the filth they just slogged through, the companions head back to town and arrange a cab to the Sword of the Edict’s guild.

They contact Eagel at the gates – he is distraught and advises that Carson is missing. Feeling a sense of duty to Carson, the group decides it best to investigate his disappearance. After arranging for healing through Eagel, the companions examine his study for clues. The room is tidy overall, with the exception of his desk, which is littered with papers. Upon inspection, the companions unveil a lot of unfinished work, and a to-do list. The list includes: sleep, talk to Captain Scarbelly, update journal, find turnips, examine travel logs, get some sleep!

In discussion with Eagel, he confirms that Carson was acting strange of late. He advises that his condition pre-dates the possession by the accuser devil. It seems that Carson has a history of leaving on short notice. Years ago, Carson was acting in a similar fashion and disappeared for an extended period. Before he left, his personality changed – he was caught accessing several books and records in the library that he didn’t have appropriate clearance to view. He left shortly thereafter and was not heard from again for 4 years. Upon his return, he begged the guild to let him back in. The head of the organization, Thuron, heard his plea personally and granted his appeal. Interestingly, Carson has no memory of his time away.

Eagel is worried about his mentor and offers the companions a reward for his return. The group respectfully declines his kind offer, but confirms that they are on the case and hope to track him down. With both of his superiors, Thuron (head of the guild) and Milos (head of the library), unavailable at present for questioning, the companions decide the next best course of action is to investigate his personal residence. Eagel provides a key and the group hail a cab.

Before achieving its destination, the cab comes to a skittering stop in front of a solid line of the Sealords Watch. The cabbie apologizes profusely and denies any connection with this turn of events. Within the cordon, the companions recognize a woman from the Pirates Council, Nicola Cage, someone that Hollister owes allegiance to. The druid exits the cab and attempts to engage in conversation with this woman. He is unsuccessful, but manages to discuss the companions plight with the captain of this regiment. He returns to the cab and advises the group that is in everyone’s best interest to lay down arms and let this play out.

Not wanting to make a bad situation worse, the companions follow the advise and are arrested. They are loaded into a paddy-wagon and taken back to the Fortress of Justice for processing. The companions are identified by the receptionist from the night prior, are matched to the sign-in log, and marched down to the Minister of Penance, who further confirms the group. The companions are then led to a discreet location in the jail, far from the prying eyes of the general population.

At some unseen gesture by Nicola, the guards back away to the end of the hall. While she chain smokes, Hollister appears from the shadows. A file with all the evidence the Watch has on the companions is handed to him. It is obvious to the companions that he has orchestrated this state of affairs to showcase his power and influence. He cuts to the chase – he can arrange for the companions pardon if they are willing to assist him with something. The group readily agrees. He advises he has a situation that needs to be rectified – his significant other has been cheating on him, and the competition needs to go, discreetly. A dossier is provided with information on the perpetrator, a certain Crick McGillicuddy. The companions are ushered out a back entrance to an awaiting cab.

The companions travel to Carson’s private residence. Gaining entrance with Eagel’s key, the group is introduced to a modest residence with two rooms on the man floor. A small stair leads to a basement. On a table in his room is a journal. A quick perusal provides the following:

6 years ago – this morning I am frightfully fatigued as if I was up all night fighting
5 years later – I awoke from a strange dream to find that I have been kicked out of the guild for violating sanctum, with no recollection of the last 5 years – what happened?
6 months ago – my life has resumed to relative normalcy. I feel like my old self – I have many questions, but would like to move on with my life. Milos is asking after me again
A week ago – the dreams are coming again, of a city as tall as the clouds with creatures alien in form. Is this connected to the lost years? I’m deeply concerned that I am possessed
Last night – I need answers. Thuron and Milos have discouraged me from researching, they are worried about the reputation of the Temple, and rightly so
This morning – I feel like I’m being watched, I will take my dagger with me today just in case

Descending the stairs to the basement reveals an old cellar filled with records and books, many of which have been translated by hand. The druid’s frog, with its keen sense of smell, identifies one of the bookshelves as being newly constructed. The companions surmise that there may be a passage behind the bookshelf, but do not have the tools necessary to dig through the wall. They decide it best to acquire the appropriate tools before continuing their investigation.

The companions take a cab to Martin Hawks’ store to reunite the brothers. Martin is overwhelmed by Mark’s return. He would like to properly reward the group for their efforts, but his first priority is making up for lost time with his brother. The group takes the cue and continues on their journey.

Outside of The Honey Pot, the companions witness the same 3 thugs from their prior visit piling out of the tavern. They have with them 5 press-ganged patrons that look to have had a rough night. The thugs each carry a keg, oddly heavy looking, and a leather bound package. The kegs are loaded onto a pushcart. Lando detects that the contents of the kegs are magic with some sort of transmutative and necromantic aura.

The companions wait for the thugs to leave before entering The Honey Pot. Brughan and Kendrick are very happy to see each other, and they offer a celebratory round on the house. The companions ask for access to the brewing room. Brughan advises that they don’t brew on site anymore, all alcoholic beverages are brought in from Gregor’s Brewery. The old brewing room has been converted into a chill-out lounge which the companions are free to check out. With that, the group continues on to let the two catch up privately.

Seeing Kel present, Lando heads over to chat with his good friend. Kel is happy to see him and recognizes the figurehead instantly. Although somewhat surprised, he readily agrees to take care of him and ensure he gets back to the boat. Speaking of the boat, Kel confirms that the Shadow Shift is docked in the harbour. He provides Lando the necessary hand signals and pass phrases to board the ship. It is in disguise in the eastern docks and is easy to find – it’s the largest ship in the harbour and looks like a freighter laden with goods. He congratulates the group for finding the bard and hints that Captain Sil is pulling out all the stops, the companions are probably not the only group in the Captain’s employ.

Lando is curious about the contract and how it works, given that it allows members of the ship to leave from time to time. Kel glosses over the reasons for signing, saying that some secrets are best kept, but advises that the terms are such that members are given 2 weeks of leave per year or they may leave the ship if given a mission as voted on by the ship’s council. Asking about Kel’s circumstances, his eyes become downcast and his demeanour takes on a sadly state – he left for private reasons at great personal cost, the contract can be passed on to a willing and informed party as his contract was. Trying to change the subject, Lando asks about the history of the ship. Kel was not the first captain as he inherited the title from a former mate. There have been many crewmates on the ship as the boat itself is over 2,000 year olds. Kel is uncertain on the number of crew, but estimates it as more than 100. A hit of opium is ordered and Kel is left to reminisce about old memories.

Luckily for the companions, Ansor is running a poker table this night and the companions decide to test their luck. A lively game ensues with plenty of ups and downs for the players. As before, Ansor proves a beneficial source for rumours, including:

  • Milton’s Folly, the large lighthouse being constructed in Freeport, will be completed in about 3 months time. A large celebration is being planned in honour of its opening. Ansor has access to VIP tickets and can provide them for 50 gp each.
  • The Sealord’s Watch has run into financial troubles. The budget for the Watch has been cut back such that thieves are running wild in the streets. Criminal organizations are attempting to take advantage of the situation.
  • A pirate ship by the name of Bloody Vengeance is in port. It’s captain is a large half-orc that has earned the name Scarbelly.
  • The construction of Milton’s Folly, which has taken near a decade to build, has basically bankrupted the Council.
  • This one an old tale regarding a Seacaptain by the name of Kel, rumor is he was forced to make a bargain for his daughter’s life at great personal cost. He has not been the same since.

Knowing that Ansor is always on the look-out for new rumors, the companions make mention of the general location of a temple called Throl Thangar. The dealer is excited by the news as it relates to an old myth. Many moons ago, dwarven soldiers formed part of the local pirate’s raiding contingent. They would embark on great invasions up and down the coast, ransacking other cultures. One time, they came back from a raid burden with much gold, the coffers of which were used to build a great dwarven temple. The companions are rewarded for the information.

The evening is still young, and the companions decide it a beneficial time to investigate the chill-out lounge before it gets busy. Brughan provides them entrance. A low fire burns in the center of the room, with many tables and couches arrayed haphazardly across the floor. There are several patrons already stationed in the room appearing in various states of inebriation. Brughan warns the companions that the room uses magical effects to aid in providing a “calming” ambiance.

Lando immediately casts detect magic and advises that the fire is imbuing a sleepy aura across the room. The companions, able to resist the temptation to make this an early night, investigate the fireplace. There are indentations on either side of the pit, although the heat of the fire prevents them from taking a closer look. Lando takes out one of the rods given to him by the bard and uses it to quench the fire. With the fire out, the light in the room dims considerably.

Sand from the base of the firepit rises up, coalescing into the form of a humanoid figure. The small elemental, the guardian of the room, attacks the companions with a magical aura. The druid, Grin, succumbs to the sandman’s effects and falls into a drowsy stupor. Two violet green portals pop open in the corner of the room, the buzzing of flies announcing the arrival of the two imps.

Lando screams in Grin’s ear through magical means, effectively waking him from his sleep. Several of the companions attack the sandman in melee, and Grin’s frog companion scores an integral attack. The small elemental collapses into a heap of sand as Magus Mike coup de graces the creature.

At this time, Erick the Entertainer, rallies the Pot’s patrons to attack the companions. Brughan stands in the doorway, barring the entrance to the chill-out lounge while Lando creates an obscuring mist in the main room to foment confusion. Brughan is able to single handily block the doorway, ensuring the companions sufficient time to focus on other priorities. Anton, the magus and Grin concentrate their efforts on the imps. They are unable to match the group’s ferocious onslaught and quickly fall to their blades. With their deaths, the curse on Lando is lifted, and the buzzing sound fades to memory.

With the chill-out room under control, the companions quickly quell the patron’s uprising with promises of free drugs on the house. Brughan and Erick battle each other in single combat with the half-giant smashing the Entertainer into a pulp.

Brughan takes ownership of the situation in the main room while the companions continue their investigation of the lounge. With the fire extinguished, the group can access the two indentations, that look about the size of the two rods. Putting them in place releases a mechanism – a hatch under the fireplace opens, revealing a ladder into the basement. The companions retrieve the rods before climbing down into the darkness.

The room below looks familiar to the companions, with similar features to other rooms associated with the mighty men. A large statue sits in the centre of the room with glyphs lining the floor. The construct is activated, the hatch above closes as the runes light up and magical energy suffuses the room. The thrumming builds to a crescendo pitch as the building begins to shake. An opening in the wall reveals the next clue and an exit, the companions take the package and return to the tavern.

In the safety of The Honey Pot, the companions open the parchment wrapped package. It contains a new key, this one with the emblem of an open book. The included message reads:

My first journal detailing my time away
was left in trust with the Church of Retribution.
Held in a secret library hidden below their altar,
the book is well regarded. Retrieve the book
and enshrine it within the sacred shelves
beside the radiant arch and the way will be opened.

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Judgement Day
Adventures in the Fortress of Justice

Summary

  • the package contains a key with clasped hands in prayer as well as a note that hints of the Fortress of Justice
  • Carson is visited and Lando healed, credentials and acolyte robes are acquired
  • Hollister, Commissioner of the Sealord’s Watch, is introduced – the companions services will be required in the future, an envelope of cash is given
  • entry is gained to the Fortress of Justice using the Sword of the Edict credentials
  • the brother of Martin Hawks, Mark, and Brughan’s lover, Kendrick, are requested for confession
  • a diversion allows for a secret passage to be opened behind the Mask of Judgement
  • a mighty man statue is found, already activated, the companions head into the sewers
  • a bard, one of Captain Sil’s colleagues is found on a similar mission to engage the mighty men
  • the maze of sewers is traversed leading to the outskirts of Drac’s End
  • the bard provides the next key before solidifying into a ship’s figurehead in the moonlight

Details

The companions have some time en route to their destination to investigate the package found in the basement of the Opera House. Untying the parchment wrapped bundle reveals a new key, featuring two hands clasped in prayer, a note, and a magical bag of holding. The note reads:

Above the scales of justice,
the mask of judgement watches.
Cast down judgement and
follow the path of penance.

Monetary resources being somewhat restrained, the group asks the cab driver to make a quick stop at Garvey’s residence to collect on the magical cocoons sent his way. Garvey is excited at the possibilities of studying the akatas and materiel and is happy to compensate for the opportunity. Further, the group disposes of some mundane items.

Coin purses noticeably heavier, the companions continue their journey to the Sword of the Edict’s compound. Ringing Carson puts them in touch with his page Eagel, who advises them that Carson is preoccupied. Eagel meets the group at the gate and escorts them into the building. While crossing the courtyard, the companions observe two figures of stature walking the grounds deep in conversation.

Gaining audience with Carson, the companions are surprised at his condition – he appears sickly. The onset of his affliction coincides with the possession by the accuser devil several days ago. He hopes to see a doctor in the near term for treatment, but has had pressing matters to attend. The companions bring him up-to-speed on their adventures and request magical aid for Lando, who is afflicted in his own right. Carson is able to procure a potion of remove disease – a costly concoction, but worth the price to heal the illusionist. Carson is exhausted and requires rest, he leaves the group in the care of Eagel. The companions bid him farewell and wish him a speedy recovery.

Before leaving the building, the companions wish to research the symbolism behind the stylized key. The page recognizes the praying hands motif as similar to that of the Chapel of Atonement, an institution where acolytes can administer repentance for prisoners of the Fortress of Justice. Eagel explains that the churches play an important role in Freeport, not a surprising revelation given that many of the city’s residents, having a sailor or pirating background, are known to be a superstitious bunch. As such, the Fortress of Justice allows its prisoners regular access to the faiths. Understanding that they will likely require access to the Fortress, the companions are reminded of a prior conversation with Carson in which he had mentioned that the Swords of the Edict has influence with the Chapel of Atonement. The group requests credentials as well as acolyte robes from the page, which he is happy to provide.

Crossing the courtyard, the companions again observe the two gentleman conversing in the garden and recognize one from their excursion to the Opera House. Approaching the two, Magus Mike yells, “Stop that man, he has my wallet – come Eagel, let’s get him!” as they near and Anton slaps the man jovially in the shoulder. The noble, the one with the official looking insignia, has a good chuckle as he excuses himself from his conversation with the Sword of the Edict representative.

Introductions are made and the companions assumption that the gentleman is indeed a high-ranking official is confirmed – he identifies himself as Commissioner Hollister, the head of the Sealord’s Watch. He mentions that this meeting is opportune as he may need the services of a competent and discreet group. The Commissioner and Romica engage in a short conversation via sign language. Angling himself in such a way as to disrupt line of sight, Hollister provides Romica an envelope that is quickly hidden – “I hope you can repay the favour. Always a pleasure gentlemen.” He turns and reengages in conversation with the Sword of the Edict official.

Eagel escorts the companions to the gate and helps to flag a cab. The group asks that he join them in their travels to the Fortress of Justice tomorrow – Eagel’s knowledge would prove beneficial on their “site-seeing tour”. The page is excited at the offer and agrees to meet the group in the morning at The Bard and the Bastard.

Travelling via cab to the tavern, Romica explains that he has a past relationship with Hollister. As Commissioner, he oversees the Sealord’s Watch, an elite faction of militarized soldiers within the Guard, but with separate and specialized duties. Hollister reports directly to the Sealord himself and has a seat on the Pirate Council. If the companions decide collectively to work for him, he can be trusted and they will be looked after – but he warns, he is not to be crossed. Romica also mentions that a meeting will be organized in a discreet location at a later time. Opening the envelope reveals a rather large sum of cash.

Arriving at the inn, the companions catch up with the innkeeper and ask his opinion regarding opportunities to earn some cash flow in the city. The innkeeper identifies several options of interest:

  • there are many nobleman/businessman that require a security detail from time to time
  • the Arena is a great area to test your brawn and wagers are popular
  • the local pick-pocketing ring was recently shut down and is looking for direction
  • the longshoreman’s guild is always hiring, its tough work but an honest paycheque
  • the Sword of the Edict and Wizard’s Guild could always use a hand
  • cabs are a great way to earn an income if one could be commandeered, they’re controlled by criminal organizations but it is likely tough to keep track of them all

The companions thank the innkeeper for his ideas and retire for the night.

In the morning, Eagel joins the crew at breakfast as they plan for the day. He is so eager he even brings bagged lunches for everyone. The companions ask him for information on the Fortress of Justice. The page advises that the fortress resides in the Old City, next to the Sealord’s Palace and Guardsman’s Barracks. The building is rumored to be impregnable, and there are many stories of prisoners trying to escape, unsuccessfully. The most famous is the legend of Sid the Sly, a skilled cut purse and lock-picker. He allowed himself to be imprisoned there so that he would have the opportunity to break out, thus proving himself a master lock-picker. He was shot many times trying to cross the courtyard to gain access to the gates. Even the very best escape artists avoid the Fortress of Justice.

The companions thank Eagel for his insight and take a cab to the grounds to scope out the site. Large walls surround the inner courtyard and compounds with only one gate leading in and out. There are throngs of people milling about, largely family members and friends wishing to speak with their loved ones.

Donning their acolyte robes and stashing their weapons in their bag of holding, the companions use their Sword of the Edict credentials to pass through the gate and gain entrance to the inner courtyard. There are heavily armed guards en masse around the grounds. A straightforward breakout seems destined to fail – finesse and wit, as opposed to bull’s strength, will likely be required.

The companions make their way to the reception area of the Fortress of Justice. Flashing their credentials again, the group identifies themselves as acolytes of the Swords of the Edict – they are here to administer repentance at the Chapel of Atonement, a multi-denominational church in the Fortress. Two guards escort the companions to the Chapel. Once there, they transfer the companions into the care of the Minister of Penance.

The Chapel represents a large room with no exits in sight, save the door the companions entered through. The room is split into a nave with rows of pews on either side of an aisle leading to the sanctuary. The Minister of Penance sits at a desk next to the altar. The companions note a large mask featuring the sigil of clasped hands on the wall behind the sanctuary. The Minister, a man well into his elder years, introduces himself and, recognizing the companions as new recruits, provides an overview of the Chapel. Lando compliments him on his guidance and they discuss best practices in administering repentance.
Minister_of_Penance1.jpg

The companions are ready for their first prisoner and request Martin Hawks’ brother. The guards return shortly thereafter with Mark Hawks who is entrusted into the group’s care. The door is shut and barred behind them. The companions advise Mark that they are here at the bequest of Martin and that they are going to break him out. He is more than happy to play along and is soon repenting for everything he can think of. The Minister of Penance seems pleased with the group’s competence and returns to his desk to take care of paperwork. The companions discuss with Mark that they are also here to break out the lover of a half-giant Brughan, but don’t know his name. Mark knows of the person in question – he is a dwarf named Kendrick, but the companions need to be careful as he is not the accommodating type.

With Mark finding his religion and putting on a grand performance, the companions request for the guards to bring Kendrick. The request is promptly refused – the companions were not aware that only one prisoner would be released into their care at a time. Lando attempts to reason with them – Kendrick is required for an intervention. They don’t care. The companions exchange their lunches for goodwill. Not good enough. Anton puts on a show – we’re nearing a break through and the other prisoner is needed! Nope. And finally Romica straight up invokes the power of the gods to intimidate them. The wrath of the gods is too much and they cave.

However, the Minister of Penance will not allow it – the rules are the rules and the reason that the Fortress functions as well as it does is because of them. Anton argues that the old ways are fine and dandy, but breakthroughs require faith. This strikes a cord with the Minister and he signals his acceptance to the guards.

The dwarf can be heard long before he is seen and the companions quickly learn that “cursin’ like a sailor” is nothing like prison language – especially when the prison is primarily populated by the sailor and pirating type. Kendrick is hauled kicking and screaming up the hallway and roughly deposited into the Chapel. The door is locked and barred behind him.

The companions welcome him to the Chapel and advise that he is soon to receive spiritual healing from “Saint Brughan”. At this mention, the dwarf quiets down and the group explains to him that they have been sent by Brughan to free him.

Continuing with their “intervention”, both Mark and Kendrick play the part, arms raised and praising Saint Brughan. “I see the light!” Barnical Bill casts dancing lights down the hallway as the group cries out in amazement – “It’s a sign from above!” The performance proves stirring, as the Minister of Penance races to the door, opens it, and bolts down the hallway after the guards, who in turn are chasing the lights.

The diversion tactic successful, the companions quickly close and bar the door. Removing the large mask from the wall reveals a keyhole. The companions insert the key with the clasped hands motif and turn – the wall begins to shift and a passageway opens in the stone wall. A ladder leads down into the darkness. The companions, with Mark and Kendrick in tow, descend down the ladder as the wall closes above them.

After about 50 feet or so, the ladder ends, forcing the companions to drop a further 15 feet to the room below. Putrid air fills their nostrils, a deep trough splits the room carrying open sewage through a grate to either side. A door can be seen on the opposite wall.

Kendrick explodes, “What madness is this? You seek to use my secret against me? This game ends now!” Lando, understanding that something is amiss, seeks to calm the dwarf via magical means. He puts on his most affable air and charms the dwarf, outlining the companions plans and soothing his fears. The dwarf calms down and explains that the door ahead leads to his cell – this escape plan has led him back to square one. His eyes suddenly alight – “Wait, there’s a keyhole in my cell that looks similar to the one above!”

Anton sneaks into the cell, careful not to alarm the guards, and opens the door. It leads to a short corridor and a chamber with blue-grey granite walls, similar to those of Ironjack’s workshop. An archway, streaming raw sewage, leads from the room. The flow travels through a channel before exiting through a grate on the opposite side. Anton signals to the rest of the group that it is safe to follow.

The companions file through the cell and into the next room. A quick investigation reveals little of interest. In the distance, a rumble and several sounds that remind the group of the mighty men statues – specifically, what would occur when the statues were engaged. The room begins to shake and soft music, slightly muffled but still distinctly bagpipe in origin, can be heard ahead as well as occasional swordplay.

The group runs through the archway toward the sound of the music. A shelf on either side provides the ability to traverse the short corridor without stepping into the sewage. The passage leads to a second room of blue-grey granite. The companions pile in as the door closes the passageway behind them. A statue of a mighty man – this one a dwarven figure with arms outstretched and hands clenched like they are holding the bars of a cell – stands in the middle of the room on a raised dais. Raw sewage streams into the room from a grate on the far side and flows around the dais, which acts like an island. With the passage behind them closed, the sewage is quickly beginning to fill the room. Under the filthy water, many lit runes can be seen, gently pulsating.

It is obvious that someone was recently here and has activated the dwarven figure. The companions investigate the statue. Instead of a face, there is a keyhole. Inserting the key unclenches the statue’s fists. There is an inscription on its chest that reads:

Two rods have I, one to quench and one to ignite,
2 keys will be needed to find the next knight,
beneath the brewing room in The Honey Pot,
revolved to find the secret sought.

As this is occurring, the doorway behind them begins to close. Suddenly, out of the filth darts a strange undead looking creature. It attempts to rake Lando’s face but misses, slamming into the wall next to the gnome. It quickly recovers and manages to pull Lando underwater. Magus Mike grabs the hapless gnome and drags him toward the exit on the opposite side. Romica and Anton focus their attention on the pustule-covered corpse while the rest of the companions scramble for purchase. The companions are successful in defeating the unsightly creature, but have little time to exit. Barnicle Bill calls upon the powers of his water god and summons a wave to push his colleagues through the doorway before it slams shut, sealing the room behind them.

The bard, still playing his bagpipes, can be seen in the distance fighting off another ghastly creature, “Help matties! Please destroy this abomination!” The companions drag themselves up onto the shelf of the passageway and make quick work of the undead monstrosity. The bard is grateful and takes a low bow. The immediate threat taken care of, the companions are able to get a good look at the bard – he is a tall fellow with tan skin and a rather well used bagpipe, wearing fine utilitarian garb that reminds you of Capital Sil.

“Good work fellow adventurers! We will require subterfuge to make it through this maze of sewers.” The companions confirm with the bard that he is working with Captain Sil, and that he has been tasked with activating the mighty men – between them, they have now engaged four of the statues. The sounds of other undead creatures snarling in the distance can be heard. It is quickly agreed that they should travel together.

The group follows the corridor until it ends in a cave-in. Anton is able to locate a safe route of passage underwater and leads the companions through. On the far side of the tumbled rock, the group finds several potions of anti-plague and anti-toxin. A short time later, a second cave-in impedes their progress. Anton again is able to find a way through, this time by climbing over the rocks. While completing the route, Anton sees a belt deep down in a crevasse. He is able to deftly draw it out, bringing with it a sheathed masterwork cold-iron kukri. The wily swashbuckler is amazed at the quality of the find.

Several forks in the road later, the companions find themselves faced with two passageways. The entrance to both lead through wooden arches. Romica points to the one on the right, and given his engineering knowledge, advises that the beams could give way at any moment. The companions smartly take the corridor on the left. Humanoid scuff marks are found shortly thereafter leading down the passage as well.

While trekking down this passageway, the companions locate a small piece of parchment in the lichen. It is hard to read due to age, but it mentions “mixing the refined elixir with Blackblood, and allowing it to harden will create perfect incense, which can be placed on bellows to achieve…” – Lando notes this in his journal for future reference. Several minutes later, Anton perceives a drop ahead. It appears as if a pit trap was recently sprung. At the bottom of the pit is the body of a gunslinger type. Lando detects magic and identifies the victims bandolier as magical. The companions retrieve the item for use for the magus.

The passageway continues to a streaming body of water. A rope is attached to Magus Mike who is able to swim across to the other side. Using the rope, the remainder of the companions traverse the stream without incident. Further down the tunnel, Lando finds several scrawls on the tunnel wall which describe “Throl-thangar, Temple of Holy Smoke” and point back the way the group just came. Inquiring with the bard, he has not heard of this temple, and the companions decide it too dangerous to investigate at this point.

After countless hours of walking, a light in the distance signals the end of the tunnel. Moving towards it, the bard begins to limp and complains of a cramp in his leg. As the light becomes brighter, the limp becomes worse. As the companions reach the end of the tunnel, the bard turns to the group, “My obligations are profound and worthy, more than life and death itself. I hope in time you will understand. I trust that you will provide these items to the good Captain.” And he hands the companions two rods and a key with an ornate beer stein motif. He folds his arms across his chest as he steps into the light of the moon – his body solidifies into a stylized wooden figurehead that would appear at the front of a ship.

A fever starting to set in for many in the group, not surprising given the amount of time spent in prisoner excrement and other filth, the companions exit the sewer tunnel on the outskirts of town near Drac’s End.

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Phantom of the Opera
The Opera House proves entertaining

Summary

  • the companions ingeniously agitate a mob to take care of their Hellhound Social Club problem at the Opera House
  • backstage passes are scored in return for a dance performance
  • Lord Brack and associate are invited backstage, earning prestige with the social elite
  • Gwendolyn, the lady-friend of director Burbage, gifts Wanda a serpent scale amulet for safekeeping
  • the companions dance performance earns a thumbs-down by the audience despite critical acclaim
  • a pillar on the third balcony reveals a secret door, leading underground
  • the companions subdue an akata attack, a magical bell is located
  • further underground, the 3rd mighty man is set in motion and a new key found

Details

Their cover blown, the companions take quick action. Lando puts the advancing thugs in a magical slumber, while Anton trips the street urchin as he passes the line. Given the attention it garners, Anton reaches into the street urchin’s pocket and produces his wallet – “Check you pockets folks, this boy has been stealing wallets all night!” The Hellhound members jump on their hogs. Magus Mike yells to the gathering crowd, “I’ve seen him passing wallets to those guys on the bikes – they have your money. Don’t let them get away!” Casting daze, the first member crashes as she tries to ride away. The crowd mobs the three gang members and street urchin as the companions blend into the mass of people. They notice two nobles watching them, giggling profusely and slow clapping, obviously enjoying the entertainment. Whistles are heard in the distance signalling that the City Guard are on their way.

The companions forego the ticket line and enter the Opera House directly. Huge double doors lead into a large lobby tiled in polished slabs of blue-gray marble. The companions continue into the auditorium. A massive chandelier dominates the interior of the building, hanging above the stage and the orchestra pit. Box seats are arrayed along the sides of the auditorium, while seats line from the pit nearly to the ceiling.

The group attempts to head to the balcony section but is stopped by an usher requesting tickets. Lando attempts to charm the usher into letting the companions through. The usher is holding his own until the two nobles seen earlier in the crowd vouch for the group as box seat owners. Introductions are made by Lord Brack and the companions note the insignia on his vest which identifies him as an official within the social elite.

Before heading up, a conversation is overheard between the director and stage manager of the night’s entertainment. It seems that one of the performers, a bard, has gone missing. Sensing an opportunity, Lando acts as an agent for the dancing duo of Magus Mike and Anton. They convince the director that they will look for the bard, and if he cannot be found, will perform in his stead. Passes secured, the companions head backstage and invite the nobles as guests. They are excited for the opportunity to lounge with the actors and stagehands, securing some prestige for the companions.

Behind the stage are catwalks, cramped spaces for stagehands to manipulate props and the curtain, a few dressing rooms, and a social area. The companions survey the scene, sipping on cocktails and eating hor d’oeuvres. Lando makes small talk with the director, Burbage, who appears on edge. They discuss the history of the Opera House and the vision that Burbage is executing.

A beautiful lady sidles up beside the director and kisses him on the cheek, interrupting the conversation. Wanda recognizes her as Gwendolyn, a member of a guild popular amongst the daughter’s of noblemen. It is purported that many in the guild are upset that their gender deters them from rising to prominence within the aristocracy. She has a private conversation with Burbage before he is summoned to the stage.

Seeing Wanda, Gwendolyn approaches for a chat. She is happy to see her, but asks that Wanda not tell her father, who does not know of her relationship with Burbage. Asking for a favour, she provides Wanda with an amulet for safekeeping. It has serpent scales on a wide leather clasp. Once around her neck, the scale fuses with her chest. The clasp also disappears and is replaced with a subtle tattoo of script.

The performance begins and it is soon time for Magus Mike and Anton to take the stage as the bard is nowhere to be found. The melancholy tone of the piece they chose does not go over well with the raucous crowd, and they are quickly booed from the stage. Returning to the back stage area, they can’t help but notice that the two nobles they invited are visibly shaking, unable to contain their laughter. They congratulate the group on providing such entertainment, both in the way they instrumented the pre-show riot out front, but also with the creative way they were able to get passes, and finally to nearly bring the house down. The nobles haven’t had this much fun at the Opera in decades. In honour of their performance, Lord Brack offers to clear things up with the Hellhound Social Club on their behalf via a large gift of contraband at their private party this eve.

The companions bid farewell for the evening and take a backstage passage to the balcony area. The third balcony is easy to locate, and to no one’s surprise, it features a large granite pillar of blue-gray marble similar to that seen in Ironjack’s workshop. The appropriate key is taken from the chain. It casts a bluish-grey light that reveals a keyhole on the pillar. A secret door is sprung, and the companions descend a spiral stair case within the pillar.

The staircase descends well below street level, opening to a large room. A chill permeates the room, so much so that the companion’s breath plumes in front of them. A second staircase on the opposite wall leads down further to another room. Less barren than the room above, the center of the room features a metallic bell suspended from a yolk that is supported by two stone rods. Slightly behind and to either side, metallic webbing dangles from the ceiling, hoisting shimmering pear-like cocoons of violet purple. Lando advises that something magical lives inside.

Cracks form and the cocoons burst open as blue aberrations break free. Identified as akatas, the hairless lion-like creatures feature twin tails and a mane of thick blue tentacles. Magus Mike and Freight charge forward as the akatas pounce, Anton and Lando stay back to provide aerial support. The group’s concentrated efforts prove efficient as the first akata is brought to heel, but the second creature avoids melee and grapples the defenseless Lando. Besides the slow constriction, the creature infects Lando with a magical disease, sending hundreds of larvae into his bloodstream. His life fleeting before his eyes, Lando accepts the embrace as the rest of the companions pummel the akata into submission. Escaping its grasp, Lando understands his dire predicament and urges the companions to push the pace as time is of the essence.

The companions catch their breath and investigate the room. The corpses of the still-shimmering akatas would likely be appreciated by Garvey for further study. The two bodies are re-packaged in their cocoons and sent via the rune directly to Garvey. Studying the bell in the middle of the room, it is made from similar material as the cocoons with a blue-violet metallic shimmer. A ring circles the inside of the bell inscribed with the words “Singer of Silence”. A mallet of similar material serves as the bell’s clapper.

Anton strikes the bell with the mallet, resulting in a chime of magical essence. Its peal can be heard by those close to the bell, but the companions farther away do not hear the note. A second strike has similar effect. Magus Mike notices an exit on the opposite side of the room leading to a staircase. The companions take the bell and hammer for further study and head down the stairwell.

The base of the stairs opens into a small room that appears to be a staging area. An exit can be seen on the opposite wall, leading to a long hallway. There appear to be many passageways intersecting the hallway. Further, shambling undead creatures can be seen walking between the corridors form time to time. At the end of the hallway is a larger room with what looks to be a statue in its center.

Watching the activity in the hallway, the group notes a pattern to the undead creature’s mindless walk. The companions wait for the appropriate gap and then run head long down the passageway, Anton chiming the bell every so often. It proves an effective strategy as the group is able to enter the far room without incident, although the bell no longer chimes – the companions assume they have exceeded its daily toll.

The far room is larger in size than the staging area and made of rock similar to that of Ironjack’s workshop. In the middle of the room is an ornamental construct, runes carved on the floor lead from its feet. It has one hand upraised, and the other, with a bell in hand, is lowered. The bell appears similar in size and appearance as the one from above. Studying the underside, a ring of script encircles the bell denoting it as the “Singer of Liberation”. Anton takes the clapper and strikes the bell, resulting in a magical chime. It is hard to discern its effect, although various companions note that their belts have come unbuckled – perhaps the chime opens locks.

The companions place the bell from above in the upraised hand. The arm of the construct lowers into alignment with its other arm and a keyhole appears in the center of its body. The key with the tragedy/comedy mask motif is inserted and turned, revealing a chamber in the statues body. The runes on the floor alight in succession as the construct begins to pull itself along the glyphs.

Pulsing waves of magical energy buffet the room, and a deep rumble signals to the companions that it is time to leave. Before exiting the room, the companions pocket the parchment wrapped package along with the two bells and clappers. The stairs prove moderately difficult to ascend while shaking, but the companions make it back to the interior of the Opera House in record time. The show is long over, the companions exit the near empty building and hail a cab to the Sword of the Edict’s guild – Sir William Carson’s services will be required shortly as Lando slumps in his seat.

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The House Always Wins
And other lessons learned at The Honey Pot

Summary

  • the companions travel to The Honey Pot
  • a message from the innkeeper Spence advises that Romica and Freight are persons of interest in the disappearance of Charlie
  • contact is made with Kel, Captain Sil’s representative
  • Lando receives a vision of seacaptain Kel signing a contract that binds him to the Shadow Swift
  • the companions play blackjack and lose a lot of money but gain a lot of intel
  • the compass is “fixed” and returned to Captain Sil
  • at the Opera House, the companions are recognized by members of the Hellhound gang

Details

Well rested, the companions decide their best course of action is to visit The Honey Pot. The establishment is easy to locate in the shanties of Scurvytown. The stone building has aged well, while the surrounding neighborhood has steadily deteriorated over time. Originally constructed as an inn a century or so ago, subsequent ownership has transitioned the scope of the business to more debaucherous vices. The sign outside reads “Bar tabs available, inquire inside.”

Before the companions enter the establishment, a messenger owl descends from the sky with multiple packages. The first is from Sir William Carson with payment for the week, some information on The Honey Pot, and 2 potions of wakefulness. The second is from Spence, the owner of The Bastard and the Bard. It contains a bill for the past week’s accommodations, and notes that Chuck from the city guard has inquired about the group. It seems that the companions were the last known persons in contact with Charlie from the Flaming Trunks before his disappearance. Spence recommends again that the companions keep a low profile. Understanding that the tavern owner continues to stick his neck out for the group, they ensure prompt payment is forwarded and also pre-pay for the next week.

Entering the grandiose building, the companions are impressed by the decor and general cleanliness. People of all races and stations, mostly intoxicated, peruse the room. There are plenty of tables, mostly occupied, and a large bar at the back of the room. The companions take a moment to observe the interior and note:

  • a huge half-giant mans the bar, a massive 2-handed lucerne hammer is mounted on the back wall with the name “Brughan” inscribed
  • behind the bar is a door leading to a separate room, there is a boisterous meeting presently in session
  • a party of upper class revelers partaking in the establishment’s fine wares
  • an old broken down seacaptain in utilitarian garb
  • a sly looking fellow operating a gambling table
  • a tall and charming server with an ashtray tattoo waiting tables

The companions seat themselves at a vacant table and summon the server. She is a self-identified sea-witch with an endearing personality. She provides a menu as well as an overview of the offerings. When asked about the available entertainment, she introduces Ansor, the man running the gambling table. He operates across the city and collects interesting rumors on his travels. She recommends a few rounds with him, as gambling helps to loosen his tongue. The companions decide a sample of the establishment’s wares is appropriate and order various items from the menu.

While this occurs, Lando approaches the seacaptain and observes that the hook and missing eye remind him of a famous captain named Sil. The seacaptain is tickled by the comment and introduces himself as Kel El-Masilado, representative of the good Captain Sil. He is stationed here awaiting the companions and the return of the compass – although he assumes that things have not gone well given the compass is not in sight. This worries him as Captain Sil is a hard master, someone that rewards his allies but crushes his enemies.

Lando and Kel hit it off, and Lando orders a round of opiates in return for stories of Kel’s travels. Kel warms up quickly, although he laments that many of his tales are sad. He was the captain of the Shadow Swift in a former life. Fate, and several ill-advised decisions, led to unfortunate circumstances and the acceptance of a terrible contract. Captain Sil helped to arrange his freedom, although at a terrible cost. He has great admiration and respect for Sil, and in return for his assistance, Kel acts as a host for the captain. When asked about how Sil lost the Shadow Swift, Kel loses some of his lustre and advises that it is not his story to tell.

Although he is genuinely happy for the opportunity to live the rest of his life on land, reminiscing about his former glory, he understands that the end is near. Lando commiserates with his plight and a deal is struck – Lando readily agrees to share with Kel his essence in return for a vision. Kel takes Lando’s hand and is instantly bolstered, while Lando descends into a trance. The Honey Pot fades from view and Kel’s grin is replaced by a blinding light:

Peering through someone else’s eyes, a tropical landscape appears – a long white beach framed by the ocean. Seated at a table, a contract written in an unrecognizable language is reviewed. There are many signatures on the paper, two of which are fresh. A glance up from the table – a large sleek ship with many masts can be seen in the distance sitting low in the water. Two shore-boats are rowing toward the beach. A shaking hand – the left hand – signs the document. The foreground of the vision begins to slow, while at the same time the background speeds up. A sudden storm approaches with gale force winds and green lightning buffeting the landscape. The shore-boats are torn asunder although the large ship in the background remains untouched by the storm. The hand visibly shakes as tears blur the vision, which fades from view.

While Lando socializes, the other companions take advantage of Ansor’s services for a lively game of blackjack. Ansor has the gift for gab, and over the course of many hands, proves to be a valuable resource for local information. Besides leaving much lighter in the wallets, the companions learn that:

  • there is talk that the water source in several neighborhoods is tainted, the locals call it the salt curse
  • the Opera House’s rendition of Freeport Follies, which has proved surprisingly popular, is coming to a close; its next production, Admiral of the Black, begins soon – Jeremy Welsin, stage manager, is accepting applications for audition
  • a local druid, well-known for his work in the restoration of the city in the aftermath of The Great Green Fire, was tried secretly by the Minister of Penance and hung publicly – it was apparently quite the show
  • a local gang, the Hellhound Social Club, is holding a party this evening at a farmhouse north of the Blood Salt – Ansor can obtain tickets if interested
  • be careful at The Honey Pot, its not uncommon to find oneself indebted after a long night of partying; many chose to “work” off their tab, pursuing criminal activities to fund their growing dependency
  • Brughan attempted to bribe the Minister of Penance, a member of the Church of Atonement, to smuggle a magical missive from his lover out of the Fortress of Justice but ultimately was unsuccessful in his bid; Ansor asks that the companions keep this on the down low as it could compromise his ability to deal here

Lando awakens from the vision and thanks Kel for his camaraderie by coordinating another hit of opium. Conversation returns to the compass and Kel advises that Sil is expected soon. Lando asks his opinion regarding the compass and Kel recommends that presenting it in a broken condition is a bad idea.

A brainstorming session is needed, so Lando, with Kel in tow, reacquaints himself with the group and they share what they have learned with each other. It is decided that the best course of action is to use their wand of raise dead to “heal” the compass. Freight and Barnicle, both clerics, retire to the bathroom to perform the rite. The compass quickly transforms into the form of the old sailor, somewhat startled, who yells, “It’s not hell again is it?” The old man becomes transparent and fades from view, returning to compass form, this time in a fully functional state.

The clerics return to the table with the compass, just in time, as the translucent visage of Captain Sil takes over Kel’s body. He congratulates the crew on their progress, noting the return of the compass provides a strong indication of their competence. He is excited as well as the compass represents an important step in the return of his ship, the Shadow Swift. When asked about the compass, Sil takes on a contemplative posture, “In this world, when you can’t trust yourself, how can you trust those you love, your crew mates, your family? We forged a contract long ago to bind us to our word – to bind us to the Shadow Swift. For good or ill, we are destined to accomplish the mission that we set out on many years ago, or die trying. You have helped to move us toward this goal, and for that I thank you.” The companions wish more information about the contract and who drafted it, but Sil waves the line of questioning aside, “I cannot give you that answer, yet. It is true that you have proved your competence, now we must work on trust. Our interests remain aligned, let us continue to work together as you seek to fulfill Ironjack’s legacy. As a token of my appreciation, I will ask Kel to furnish you with a weapon to assist you in your journey. Unfortunately, I must say farewell for the time being as I have pressing matters to attend.” Sil’s visage fades from view – in the reflection of Kel’s eye the companions can glimpse Sil turning to meet with several people in an alley, a yellow sky in the background. Kel is happy to oblige Sil’s offer, and the companions request a keen blade for the Magus. The old seacaptain nods in satisfaction and provides that it will be made available in the near future. Kel stumbles back to his table to enjoy the remainder of his opium.

The server returns to the table and advises that the companions resemblance to a notice posted around town – an artists rendering of a hairy dwarf and female cleric – are drawing the attention of several patrons in the bar. The companion’s coin and amiable spirit have won her silence, and she offers to coordinate a taxi discreetly. The group readily accepts her offer as they wish to make their way to the Opera House.

As they settle up, three thugs are observed leaving the owner’s office behind the bar. They take some money from the till and, in a concealed manner, exchange something with Brughan. The sleight of hand is well done, and whatever was swapped could not be seen. This piques Lando’s interest, however, and he makes his way to the bar. Overlooking Ansor’s request that the companions not pass along information provided, Lando attempts to commiserate with Brughan about his loved one in the Fortress of Justice. The large half-giant is equal parts furious and baffled by this turn of events. Brughan lifts the gnome from his feet and punches him about the face. Dangling several feet off of the floor, the half-giant threateningly advises the stunned gnome he must be mistaken. Lando is thrown to the floor, where he not-so-quickly regains his feet, brushes off his clothes, and marches indignantly out the door to the waiting cab.

The trip across town to the Opera House proves uneventful, although several patrols are seen – it seems that the City Guard are active on this night. The group, for once, wishs to keep a low profile, so they join the ticket line. While in line, a messenger owl descends from the sky with a package. Romica and Anton accept the package and duck into an alley to open it. It contains a note from Garvey along with payment for the week. The note advises that things are progressing well in his research, but he will require more artifacts to fund his investigation. He is maintaining discretion with his reports, which is delaying his progress, and funding, with the guild. As a result, the coffers are running thin. He has provided a rune of transport inanimate object in case the companions adventures turn up anything of interest.

Before the two can rejoin the line, several questionable looking individuals exit a back entrance to the Opera House. Insignias on their clothing identify them as members of the Hellhound Social Club, a sister gang to the Flaming Trunks. They instantly recognize Romica as a person of interest in Charlie’s disappearance. The three members walk hastily toward their steam punk bikes, while a street urchin runs in the opposite direction. Several thugs brandish weapons as they attempt to cover their colleagues escape.

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Too Writ to Quit
Journey to the Shadow Realm

Summary

  • 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

Details

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.

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