The Freeport Chronicles

Pit Stop in Port Peril
Marooned with Misty

Summary

  • the hidden treasury of the cyclops is found
  • the companions journey to Port Peril
  • a disturbance is investigated, a second segment of dark onyx crystal fuses with Sil’s baby
  • the Marooned Doubloon is located and Misty Banghorse introduced
  • the companions agree to take care of a ship that is patrolling her territory

Details

A search of the cyclopean structure yields several documents, including a map outlining the location of Ahk’ea, where the lost treasury of the cyclops is rumored to reside. Lando delves wholeheartedly into the other scrolls which relate to the Cult of the Eye, a religious sect that worships the Eye of Abendego, which they believe heralds the return of the cyclops. The cult primarily works out of Tempest Cay, an island not far from the Cannibal Isles. The island is also home to Besmaran priests, who are known to keep a close eye on the Cult.

The companions collect the head of the Blood Queen, a trophy that they hope to present to Borogrim, King of the Dwarves, to gain his respect. Returning to their ships, the companions are happy to hear that a contingent of Kuru sailors, wishing to support the group’s anti-slaving objective, has joined the crew. As the ship’s prepare to sail, the companions row out to the location identified on the map. Searching under water, the pinnacle of a large building can be seen. Anton, who is able to breathe under water, explores the hidden temple and confirms the rumor – it does indeed contain the lost treasury of the cyclops (about 9k of gold and gems), which is quickly transferred to the ships.

All paths seem to lead to Port Peril, one of the larger ports in the Shackles, so the companions set sail for the city. The trip is supported by a steady wind and 3 days later the ships are able to moor in the main docks located within the Crescent Harbor. The ships are quickly inspected, coins exchanged, and the companions are soon on land again.

Their reputation preceding them, a gentleman in the employ of Misty, the contact that Lord Brack had recommended they seek out, introduces himself and offers to lead the companions to the Marooned Doubloon. The kind offer is accepted, and the companions follow the guide through the twisting alleyways and maze-like streets of Port Peril. On the way, the group learns that Misty has developed a reputation as a bitter and untrusting person and has earned the nickname the Thrice Spurned given her unfortunate history – she was abandoned by her father who was the captain of a ship based out of Port Peril, she called Freeport home for a period until she was expelled from the city, she became captain of her own ship only to have her crew mutiny but regained control before her crew mysteriously disappeared. All in all, she sounds like the kind of the person the companions would like to meet.

The alleyways open into local marketplaces from time to time. Marching past one such square, raised voices and fleeing gentry gain the companions attention. From a distance, the group can see a disturbance between a fish monger and a customer on the opposite side of the square. Their curiosity piqued, the companions decide to investigate.

Approaching cautiously, the group observes the fish monger acting strangely as if possessed. A second local, assumed to be a customer, stands inert next to the vendor. The fish monger makes several arcane gestures and an section of the market erupts into a heaving mess, vapors rising from the ground. Many from the crowd sag and fall unmoving to the ground. A purple aura pulses around the fish monger, reaching a crescendo and then dissipating as the spell is cast. The aura flares and appears to jump to the customer, who immediately becomes agitated and moves about in a threatening manner. The fish monger goes limp.

The companions bee-line for the customer hoping to grab his attention before he can kill more innocent townsfolk. Anton and Magus Mike engage the possessed creature in hand-to-hand combat. Up close, Magus notices an onyx shard, similar to the one that fused with Sil’s baby, lodged in the customer’s chest. The battle proves costly for Anton as the possessed creature transforms Anton into a stone statue. Distraught, Magus lands a mortal blow on the creature. As the body falls limp to the ground, the shard dislodges and flies into a crowd of onlookers attempting to flee the square, spearing one unsuspecting victim in the back.

Before it has an opportunity to act, Lando manages to catch the new host in a funnel of prismatic sand, the alternating patterns fascinating the creature. Hoping to end the conflict, Magus Mike grabs the shard and attempts to physically remove it from the creature. The shard comes out freely and takes advantage of the situation by spearing the magus in the chest. Dark tendrils appear, reminding the companions of their experience in the Temple of the Unspeakable One, and reach into the magus’ soul.

Compelled, the magus unleashes a fireball into the square. A second fireball explodes from the general vicinity of the fish monger, wreaking havoc across the square. Many of those not lucky enough to have exited the market are reduced to ash. Lando manages to avoid the majority of the chaos by ducking behind a building for cover. While the shard’s focus is concentrated elsewhere, Lando is able to dispel the magical effects causing Anton’s stone-like state.

The halfling immediately rejoins the fray. As he nears the magus, the baby on his back begins to squirm as events appear to slow. The magus falls to his knees as the shard, shaking vigorously, dislodges from his chest and floats directly toward the baby. The dark crystal is absorbed, fusing with the baby’ skin, this time on a different part of his chest. The outline of a shape begins to form, the outside smooth, the inside of the contours jagged. Further, the child appears to grow. Now a toddler, a frightened voice asks “Why?”. Innocent eyes survey the group.

With the sounds of the city guard quickly approaching, Lando casts invisibility sphere to assist in their escape from the square. The companions head to the Marooned Doubloon post-haste. The nautical-themed pub is easy enough to find. The proprietor of the business, Misty Banghorse, introduces herself soon thereafter. “Hear you folks had quite an adventure on the way here.” Her stern features are broken by a playful wink. “Well, I’ll make this short as I myself am on my way out. Brac sent word ahead that you would find me. I offer safe harbour to those in need, like yourselves. That said, I have a little issue that I think you may assist me with, a little quid pro quo as they say.” A knowing nod from Anton. “The Doubloon is a side business I operate to keep the appearance of being legit. My main operation is upgrading ships, it’s located not far from here. Recently, a ship has been patrolling the territory, keeping tabs on me I think. They haven’t attacked any of my customers yet, but I don’t want word getting out about my business, if you know what I mean. If you would take care of this problem, I’d be in your debt.”

The companions quickly confer and agree. Misty appears relieved. “Excellent. Alright, well here is a map to the Marooned Lagoon, a literal safe harbour. To reach the lagoon, you will need to access a sea cave here,” she points to a mark on the map, “at low tide and speak the words jibboom keelson.” She hands the companions a colorful flag, “And please fly this burgee when you are in the vicinity. It will let me know you’re friendly. Good luck.” Misty gives a sailor’s salute as she leaves the pub. The companions collect some supplies before heading back to their ships to commence the journey to the Marooned Lagoon.

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The Blood Queen
The Chieftan is rescued and Zaros' quest fulfilled

Summary

  • the Blood Queen is vanquished
  • Anton is gestated and in the process becomes Kuru
  • the Chieftain of the MacTavish clan is rescued, fulfilling Zaros’ quest
  • the chief is tasked with rebuilding the native civilization
  • in return, the companions agree to search for his daughter who was taken by slavers

Details

The ruins of Ghang Zu are dominated by a cyclopean structure. The edifice is made from massive stone blocks that appear craft-fully hewn, each stone marked by a rune. Although the engineering was likely to have been advanced for its age, the structure has seen better days with many blocks damaged or missing.

In discussion, Lando and Romica advise that the Ghol-Gan, a civilization of cyclops, inhabited these islands before the age of the serpent folk. Although the cyclops race has been extinct for some time, many ruins still exist today due to the quality and magically infused nature of their craft.

The companions enter the main structure, a pyramidal-style building. The entrance leads to a large cathedral-like room. Water flows freely, submerging most of the floor. Massive load-bearing pillars hold up a dilapidated ceiling, a dais is centered in the midst of the pillars. The Blood Queen, a gigantic creature resembling a cross between a maggot and centipede, lounges on the dais. Tentacles weave around its body, lashing out from side to side to taste the air. The companions do not believe they have long before they are detected.

Surveying the room, Romica points to one of the pillars and identifies it as structurally vulnerable. A well placed detonation would bring it down along with a portion of the ceiling. He also locates a rubble filled culvert that could be cleared to increase the outflow of water, allowing the companions easier access around the presently submerged room.

The companions quickly confer and decide it best to take advantage of the opportunities present. Their first plan of attack is to bring down the crumbling pillar. The magus directs a fireball toward the column, the detonation enveloping the Blood Queen while producing a force strong enough to topple the pillar. A large section of the roof falls onto the dais, crushing the writhing Blood Queen in the process. Further, the shock waves from the attack buffet the culvert, dislodging a portion of the rubble and increasing the outflow of water.

Lando and Freight cast buffing spells on the group while the others advance. Anton transforms into a gaseous cloud as he moves towards the dais, followed by a charging Magus Mike. Zaros, bow in hand, lines up for a clear shot. Romica navigates towards the main entrance to head off potential Kuru allies. Lando jumps onto the back of Freight as she makes her way through the waist-deep water.

The fireball and rain of stones from above invoke the wrath of the Blood Queen. In response, she unleashes a horrific bellow that lashes out with tendrils of demonic power. The chamber quakes from the sonic shock-wave. This has multiple effects – several of the companions are frozen in place, while the blast serves to call in Kuru combatants from outside of the room. Lastly, several segments of the queen’s body that were damaged glow amber and appear to heal instantly.

By this time, Magus Mike has climbed the dais and engages the queen. Up close, he is able to better observe the demonic maggot creature. The tentacles on her body appear to have a mind of their own, separate beings that exist in symbiosis. The queen’s body is made of tough scales on the outside, providing natural armor that would be challenging to pierce. As the queen screams, the magus notes that her mouth area appears vulnerable to attack. This information is relayed to the others.

While Zaros provides ranged support, Anton flies straight into the maw of the beast. Once inside her mouth, he transforms back into halfling form and begins to carve away at the creature from the inside out. Lando and Freight remain paralyzed beyond the dais. Several Kuru burst through the temple’s doors, only to be savagely cut down by Romica. The queen screams in rage, invoking a second sonic pulse. The companions are able to overcome its effects this time around. A globe of demonic energy emanates from the queen, pitching the room into unnatural darkness.

The companions continue their onslaught on the beast, with Anton and Magus hacking at the creature in complete darkness. Despite the handicap, they are both able to land mighty blows. Lando regains the use of his extremities and immediately dispels the magic holding Freight in a state of paralysis. The gnome rolls off the warrior cleric’s back to hide strategically behind a pillar as Freight sprints towards the dais to join the fray. Romica steels himself for another wave of Kuru as he holds the entrance way.

Anton’s position inside the creature has its advantages and disadvantages. He is able to dole out some serious damage within the creature’s unprotected throat; however, he has also left himself vulnerable to the creature’s unholy cannibal devices. The halflings’ attacks slowly subside as Anton’s body is encased in a mucus sack. Tentacles cut through the membrane and attach to his bellybutton, rendering him semi-comatose. As he drifts into a fretful slumber, the sack works it way through the gestational corridor, a transcendent process that defines what it is to be Kuru.

A second wave of Kuru is successfully repelled by Romica, the bodies of the cannibal warriors reduced to a red mist. The tentacles of the Blood Queen droop to the floor momentarily. Vulnerable for a short time to melee attacks, Magus Mike is able to land a critical hit in the darkness. The queen’s side pierced, a bubbling puss seeps from the wound sealing it shut. The creature responds with another demonic bellow, this time causing Freight to flee in fear. Zaros continues to fire blindly into the unnatural globe of
darkness surrounding the queen.

The incredibly fast gestational period complete, Anton ungracefully exits the maggot creature from the rear, one of several mucus pods that is ejected. From a distance, Lando informs the group that the Blood Queen has the ability to telepathically link with the pods in such a way as to cause them to explode in a burst radius.

Judging that she is likely weak from the damage already inflicted, the companions execute a concentrated effort to disable the queen. Romica joins the melee with Magus as Zaros provides ranged support. Using Romica’s attack as a feint, the magus is able to execute a savage slash to the underside of the creature’s neck, punctuated by a shocking grasp. The attack manages to rip open the maggot’s throat, sending the Blood Queen into a writhing fury. This proves short-lived as Magus Mike completes the job with a well placed overhead chop that separates the creature’s head from its body.

Lando and crew attend to the inert form of Anton well before the Blood Queen’s writhing body comes to rest. The mucus sack is removed and Anton is welcomed back to the world of the living, although the ordeal has changed him – he appears to have taken on some of the characteristics of the Kuru people.

The companions are also able to rescue the Chieftain of the MacTavish clan. The jubilant chief thanks the companions for their efforts in liberating not only his clan, but the Kuru nation. He is happy to remove the curse bestowed on Zaros, and allows the lizard folk sailor to keep the powerful bow. Understanding that the Kuru will require a leader in the days to come, the companions task the chief with responsibility for overseeing their rebuilding efforts.

The Chieftain is happy to accept responsibility, but for a price – his daughter has been taken by slavers. While the Blood Queen has been vanquished, and her influence over the clans removed, the Chieftainship is passed down through matriarchal succession. As an icon within the community, her return is needed to truly repair the damage done to the clan. The chief mentions that she was taken on The Burnt Saffron, a ship in the employ of the Hellknights. He believes that the ship was destined for Port Peril, a slaving hub in the region. She will not likely to be easy to find, but he adds that she is known for her ability to sooth and calm those in need.

Wishing to set things right for the MacTavish clan, the companions agree to search for the Chieftain’s missing daughter. The tearful chief waves goodbye before heading back to his clan’s village to commence with the rebuilding efforts.

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The Shadow Council
Marching orders are received

Summary

  • the companions are invited to a meeting of the Shadow Council
  • they are introduced to Dune Glintmoss
  • the Council is concerned about the intentions of Sealord Milton Drac
  • allies are needed, the companions are tasked with seeking out the assistance of the Dwarves
  • the onyx shards are tied to the summoning of the Unspeakable One
  • the Council’s meeting is interrupted by Yarrash, former 1st mate of Besmara, the companions flee
  • following orders, the companions set off from Freeport to gather allies
  • one of their newer crew members is afflicted with a curse
  • the companions head for the Cannibal Isles to deal with the Blood Queen

Details

Returning to the Bard & The Bastard for the night, the companions are given a package by the barkeep Spencer. He mentions that an official looking person had dropped it off earlier. The package contains an invitation to the Sealord’s Ball during the next full moon cycle a month hence, which coincides with the opening of the lighthouse. The city has laboured intensely and at great expense to complete the spectacle, which is hoped to bring great fame to the city of Freeport. The companions plan to attend.

The next morning, a summons is received from Thuron to meet at a discreet location. The companions make haste to the area and are invited to join a meeting of the Shadow Council, a committee of patriotic individuals that believe that the Pirate’s Council, the governing body of Freeport, is not acting in the best interests of the city. The Shadow Council is comprised of the following:

  • Thuron – leader of the Swords of the Edict order
  • Lord Brack – member of the Captain’s Council and head of House Brack, one of the older noble houses of Freeport; staunch supporter of the Shadow Swift
  • Dune Glintmoss – a nobleman of dwarvish decent and newly appointed leader of the Searlord’s Guard (given the demise of Hollister); former Captain of the Winter Warg mercenaries
  • Marcus Garvey – fast rising member of the Mage’s Guild

Having already met Thuron, Lord Brack, and Marcus Garvey, the companions are introduced to Dune Glintmoss. As a member of the Searlord’s Guard, Dune represents the eyes and ears of the group in government. The other members assure the companions of his trustworthy nature. The companions learn that Dune is a son of Highhelm and has ties to King Bologrim the Hale, the High King of the Dwarves. Not surprisingly, he is devoted to Austri, Father of Dwarves. Lastly, he was previously involved for many years with the Winter Warg mercenaries, a military-oriented group where he met Hollister and Nicola Cage.

Through Dune’s contacts in the mercenary group, he advises that border clashes between the elves and barbarians are likely to soon escalate into all out war, which is expected to create instability in the Freeport region. The Shadow Council is concerned about the Sealord’s intentions for Freeport – the attack on the Temple of Knowledge is just one example of his attempts to destroy those not loyal to him – and believe that Drac may take advantage of instability to make a move for control of the city. They wish for the companions to seek out allies for Freeport – Dune can likely count on the backing of the Winter Warg mercenaries, but the Sealord’s Guard are a lost cause.

One such potential ally is the Dwarven nation. Regarding their relationship with Freeport, the dwarves have always benefited from Freeport’s success throughout history, right back to the marauding days of Thrall Thangar lore. Dune implores the companions, and Romica in particular, to travel to Highhelm to seek their assistance should Freeport fall into civil strife. Directions are provided to the trade town of Augustana, where Dune’s brother Grin Glintmoss resides. They are to seek his assistance in travelling to dwarven lands. As foreigners, the companions will need a large monetary sum (25k gp) to gain entry into dwarven territory. Further, a tribute will be required to present to King Borogrim. Dune advises that a powerful magical weapon or magical armor, an artefact, or the head of a mythical beast would likely suffice.

The next topic on the agenda relates to the increased activity from the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign in Freeport and the dangers posed to the city and the Swords of the Edict. Thuron advises that parties related to the Brotherhood, connected through their worship of the unspeakable one, have been active in Freeport for millennia. In fact, the last time their cult attempted to summon their god it resulted in the apocalyptic events that preceded the downfall of the serpent folk civilization. Through his readings, Thuron has uncovered evidence of a ritual that the cult invoked to summon the unspeakable one to manifest in physical form through a magically crafted onyx statue. More research is required, but he believes the onyx statue was destroyed by the cult as a means to protect it and the shards scattered throughout time and space. This intrigues Marcus, as he recalls several records in the Mage’s Guild that may help to shed light on this theory. He enters a trance like state and telepathically links with the guild to research further.

An attentive Lord Brack relates that the artefacts are a key part of the equation, and represent a clear and present danger to Freeport. At the Captain’s Council yesterday, the Sealord himself presented evidence that Hollister was linked to the cult, that he was amassing artefacts from the cultist’s temple found within his personal residence. Interestingly, Drac credited the companions with uncovering the plot. Brack is aware of the Sealord’s personal invitation to the companions to attend the Sealord’s Ball a month hence. He advises it is likely to be a trap, but recommends that the companions plan to be there. In the interim, it is best to leave town as Dune suggested, to curry support for Freeport. The nobleman has in fact already set events in motion, recalling Shadow Swift crew members on shore leave, providing monetary means to re-equip the ship with armour and weapons, and having the companions war-room transitioned to their Captain’s quarters. All in all, the ship is ready to leave port post-haste. Lastly, should the companions find themselves in Port Peril, he recommends that they seek out Misty at the Maroon Doubloon for safe harbour.

The companions thank Lord Brack for his efforts and advise that their interests are aligned with those of the Shadow Council. With that in mind, they have some information to relay about a potential orc uprising in the Blood Salt. The companions tell of their chance meeting with a group or orcs on one of the islands in the Glencarnie Chain and their ties with the Orc Liberation Army of Freeport, backed by monetary support from the Belkezen Hold. The Council was not aware of this potential uprising and thank the companions for the information which they will investigate.

At this time, Marcus Garvey returns from his trance-like state. He advises that the Mage’s Guild has records that mention smaller pieces of onyx statue throughout history. Most relate to the common gentry finding a piece and gaining immense eldritch powers. Several mention mages that have sought out pieces to study or to harness their power, all of which end terribly for those involved. Interestingly, the pieces are quickly acquired by others with a similar outcome. That said, the Guild’s records contradict Thuron’s thesis that the statue was destroyed to protect it – the Mage’s Guild believes that it was destroyed and scatted across space and time as a means to counteract its sinister designs and evil intent. Both he and Thuron ask for more time to research further.

Turning to Anton, Marcus appears to sense something in the general direction of the baby sleeping against the halfling’s chest. Before he can investigate, a shimmering gray rift rips open in the middle of the room. A shadowy figure steps through the portal, he appears to be phasing in and out of the physical plane. The creature is adorned in pirate garb, with a tricorn hat sitting atop his horned head, his one eye glowing red. He is chanting as he enters, causing mental duress to all in the room. Freight recognizes him from her vision as Yarrash, former 1st mate of Besmara.

Marcus takes command, “I sense great evil. Our Shadow Council has been compromised. Flee! I will hold this creature here. Please make haste!” Needing no further goading, the companions race from the room as great magics explode from behind them.

The companions return to the Shadow Swift. The quartermaster advises that the ship has been prepped and is ready to leave port at their command. Of note, the membership drive was fairly successful, as the crew now numbers about half complement. The ship’s weapons and armaments have been restored. And lastly, Draghor has left the crew, his spot was taken by Tartalk of the orc clan. A directive is forwarded to the Bloody Vengeance to meet them outside of port, and the order to set sail is given. The ship pushes off from the dock.

After rendezvousing with the Bloody Vengeance, the ships sail for the open sea. Soon thereafter, Zwicket requests an audience. During the ship’s return to Freeport, the crew picked up a sailor of lizard folk origin who was adrift on a makeshift raft. The sailor, named Zaros, was in possession of a cursed magical bow that was poisoning him, resulting in a slow transformation into a shambling mound. Zaros hastily agreed to join the crew believing that it would counteract the effects of the poison. It has not.

Digging into the lizard folk’s story, Zwicket has ascertained that, as a rite of passage, lizard folk brethren are dropped off in the Cannibal Isles and tasked with bringing back the head of a monster. During his hunt, Zaros happened upon the Chieftan of one of the local clans that was in the process of being consumed by the Blood Queen. A bargain was struck, and in return for his help, a powerful magical bow was given to Zaros. He accepted the quest, but then immediately left the isle. The bow has subsequently attached to his arm, seeping magical poison into his body. To stop the poison and his transformation into a shambling mound, the Chieftain must be rescued and his clan saved from the torment of the Blood Queen.

The life of a crew member in jeopardy, the companions change course for the Cannibal Isles, representing a journey of about 2 days. From their discussions with Zaros and knowledge of the history of the region, they understand that:

  • in the days of the serpent folk dynasty, the Cannibal Isles were home to a race of Cyclops known as the Ghol-Gan
  • although they died out many years ago, the ruins of their civilization are still evident across the Isles
  • generations of slavers and pirate attacks have pushed the indigenous peoples further and further into the Cannibal Isles, and the grasp of the Blood Queen
  • the Queen is rumored to be an evil demonic creature with powerful mind controlling abilities
  • she injects her subjects with a venom that allows her to create a psychic link
  • there are several locations of interest on the Isles:
    • Ghang Zu – a site of massive ruins and central seat of the Blood Queen where her rituals are enacted
    • Coachella and Bonaru – neighboring villages in a perpetual war for the amusement of the Blood Queen; after decades of constant battle for the entertainment of the Queen, there are few warriors remaining
    • Ahk’ea – rumored to contain the lost treasury of the Cyclops nation, the location is unknown
    • Zeb’ra – most independent of the Cannibal Isles; the Blood Queen’s influence is weak in this area, many of the Kuru that manage to escape her grasp originate from here
    • Bennoch Maud – an ancient temple overrun by rot grubs; Zaros advises not to journey there

The companions decide it best to visit the villages of Coachella and Bonaru first. Scouting from a distance, the companions see the village of Bonaru under siege by the Coachellans. It appears they are waiting for dawn to attack. Several bands of soldiers skirt the village on guard duty. Zaros tracks a small band, and with the companions help, sneak up and incapacitate them when they are vulnerable. Of note, the Kuru warriors are relatively weak individually, but Zaros advises they are strong when in numbers.

Given the influence of the Blood Queen, the companions would prefer not to kill the Kuru and instead devise a plan to lead them astray. When the Kuru warriors awake, the companions advise they are an advance force for a fleet of ships that are readying an attack on the Isles. The first wave (being the Shadow Swift and Bloody Vengeance) are already here. This message commences a hive of activity, the primary effect of which is the Kuru forming up to march for the coast. The villages are left defenseless.

The cloak and dagger tact successful, the companions strike out for Ghang Zu, where lies the seat of the Blood Queen.

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Days of Future Past
Freight is faced with a difficult choice

Summary

  • an audience with Thuron is granted, he is warned of an impending attack
  • the companions help to defend the Temple of Knowledge
  • Hollister, Nicola Cage, Eagel, Thuron, Lando, and Magus Mike die during the battle
  • Thuron’s body transforms into that of a serpent person
  • the amulets of Yg sustain Thuron, Lando and Magus Mike
  • Sil is summoned, he identifies Thuron as K’Stallo, recommends that the companions seek assistance from Besmara
  • the Pirate Goddess provides Freight a choice – the lives of her allies can be saved, but it will result in increased difficulty on her Voyage
  • the Holy Grog is used to save Thuron, Lando and Magus Mike
  • Thuron introduces himself as K’Stallo, last priest of Yg
  • he translates a missive from the Master to Milton Drac, linking Drac to the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign
  • a snake person text is found on the cultists

Details

With the sun cresting the horizon, the Shadow Swift exits the time portal on the outskirts of Freeport. It is a short trip into port and the companions are on land not long thereafter. Of note, the altar is left in the care of J-Todd for further study.

With plans to meet back at the war room mid-afternoon, the companions go their separate ways to run errands, mend armor, sell gear, catch up on local gossip etc. Lando heads to the market to purchase materials and heads back to the tavern to spend the morning and early afternoon crafting. Despite the early hour, the city is already bustling, energy building in anticipation of the Sealord’s Feast and parade this very night.

The morning flies by and the companions are soon together again. As the time loop seems to be centered on Thuron, the group heads to the Temple of Knowledge, which is also home to the Sword of the Edict headquarters. The main gate leads to a large open courtyard that is ringed by cells for prayer, workshops etc. There are two towers in the back that house the quarters of the high priest, Thuron, as well as his right hand man, Eagel. The radiant arch dominates the background, leading to the chapel area.

The Temple is relatively empty this afternoon as many of the priests and clerics are preparing for the evening’s festivities. The page, Eagel, soon appears to greet the companions, who in turn request an audience with Thuron post-haste. Eagel returns shortly thereafter with Master Thuron, head of the order of the Sword of the Edict.

The companions update Thuron advising that the Edict is in danger, that the cultists were, at this very moment, readying an attack on the Temple. Thuron accepts the news calmly, “I had feared this day was near. Since I first heard rumor that the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign had returned to Freeport, I knew it would result in a confrontation, that it would hinder our efforts here. Should we survive this night, I have more to tell you. But we must focus on the present, on the battle to come. We will make our stand here, and god protect us, we will live to see tomorrow.” Taking Eagel by the shoulders, “Gather the clerics, we must prepare the protection wards.” Turning again to the companions, “You have assisted greatly in our time of need. But please forgive me, I would ask more. I may be a man of faith, but I also understand the power of the sword. Would you stay and fight in the battle to come?” The companions nod their assent and Thuron appears visibly bolstered. And with that, both Thuron and Eagel head to the tower to muster the troops.

Surveying the courtyard, the companions decide it best to focus their attention on the three entrances to the Temple – Freight heads to the main gate, Romica to a side gate, Anton and Magus to the other side gate, and Lando in the centre of the yard. The doors are locked and barred.

Soon thereafter, a knock sounds at the main gate. Freight looks through the eye-hole to see a handful of bloodied clerics who request entry. They were set upon by a roguish crew on their way to the parade and fear further attack. Freight permits them entry. Sensing that the battle is soon to start, Lando messages Thuron that his attention is required. A separate knock is heard from one of the side gates. Romica peers through the eye-hole to see another group of clerics, who also request entry. The burly dwarf directs them to the main gate, where they too are allowed inside.

While this occurs, the other side gate opens and closes quickly. Anton, who is able to see invisible creatures, notes three cowled figures sneak inside. One appears to be a large warrior, another a smaller thief type, and the last a tall slim character. Anton shouts to the rest of the group to notify them that the Temple walls have been infiltrated.

A coordinated attack soon unfolds, resulting in mass warfare in the courtyard. The attack is led by the three cowled figures – who are revealed as Hollister, Nicola Cage, and a grey-skinned caster. Further, several of the clerics the main gate transform into grey-skinned casters, who are able to influence the clerics to attack the now outnumbered companions. Thuron and Eagel soon join the fray, bringing some balance to the ensuing battle. The mind-affected clerics focus their efforts on the companions, while Hollister and Nicola attempt to assassinate Thuron. Heavy losses are taken on both sides.

With the companions beginning to make headway, a fireball is unleashed into the contested centre of the courtyard, damaging friend and foe alike. One of the grey-skinned casters succumbs to the attack, resulting in a secondary blast that sends many of the clerics, as well as Lando and Eagel, to the ground. The number of combatants significantly reduced, the companions are able to concentrate their efforts on one of the other grey-skinned caster, invoking another fiery blast that spells the end for Nicola, Thuron and Magus Mike. Romica and Freight skewer a near-death Hollister before sprinting for cover as Anton runs through the last of the grey-skinned caster. The halfling is somehow able to survive the ensuing blast and a sudden calm descends over the courtyard.

Although the battle was won, it came at a high cost – Lando, Magus Mike, Eagel and Thuron were all cut down during the fight. In death, Thuron’s corpse has transformed into the body of a snake person. Freight investigates the body and notes that he wears an amulet around his neck, one similar to those that the companions wear, that pulses weakly. Checking the body’s vitals reveals a weak heartbeat, a similar situation unfolds for Lando and Magus.

Unsure of how to proceed, Anton casts one of Sil’s coins into the air, summoning the wily pirate. A crash of lightning is followed by a descending flag, and the incorporeal figure of Sil is soon present. He notes that this must be important, as that was the last of the companion’s coins. Anton quickly updates him on the situation – that Thuron, head of the order of the Sword of the Edict, was a snake person, that he died in an attack by the Brotherhood of the Yellow sign, that several of the group perished in the battle as well, and that the amulets of Yg appear to be keeping them alive. Despite the melancholy backdrop, Sil appears somewhat excited as he looks at the body of Thuron. “Why I’ll be, I should have known it was him. Earlier, when I told you I was seeking the one, it was he – K’Stallo, one of the few serpent folk not tainted with the degradation that affected the others – that I was looking for. His healing is beyond my ability at this time, but he must live. Much depends on this. The amulet will not keep him alive indefinitely. You need to restore his life and soon.” Sil begins to fade. “I can smell the taint of Besmara on you. If you have received her blessing, I suggest that you call on her favour. Besides, you can let her know, from one god to another, that I’ll owe her one. I’m sure she’ll appreciate the gesture.” He winks as he fades from view.

Her companions lives hanging in the balance, Freight enacts a ritual to Besmara, beseeching her guidance. The Pirate Goddess graces the group with her presence, although she seems somewhat disappointed. “Freight, I find it strange that you would summon me far from the sea to a temple sanctified to another god.” Freight advises that she would not call upon her unless it was a serious predicament – the lives of two of her close companions, as well as that of K’Stallo, who she believes is important to the plight of Sil, the Shadow Swift, and possibly all of pirate kind, are on the line. As such, she seeks guidance on how to rectify the situation. “My dear Freight, you carry upon you the means to cure the lives of those you hold dear – the holy grog. That said, I will warn you – I had other designs for you. As you know, I am not known to be a benevolent god – so you will have a choice to make: you can use my blessing to heal your companions here now, but this will have repercussions when you pursue your Voyage.”

As much as Freight is devoted to Besmara, her companions play an integral role in her quest going forward. Her decision is made. “Today, you have had the opportunity to choose. In the future, you will not.” Freight thanks Besmara for her guidance, and confirms that Sil, on his word, owes her one, which brings a grin to her face. “So he calls himself a god now. I hope he does not share the fate of my first mate, Yarrash.” And with that, the goddess departs the temple. Freight uses the holy grog to return Thuron, Lando, and Magus Mike to the land of the living.

A grateful Thuron, weak and still in snake form, addresses the group. “I have a confession to make – I lied to you, I purposefully led you astray. Although I had nothing to do with what happened here today, I know of the Brotherhood. They are not the only ones that survived the fall of Thassalonia. Evil seems to survive better than passive worship through the millennia.” A tired glance to the scattered remains of Eagel. The eyes refocus, a decision is made. “As you have ascertained, I am not Thuron. My name is K’Stallo, I am the last priest of Yg. Your friend Carson found us far to the north. He was able to locate us through his knowledge of the worship of Yg. I followed him home, to Freeport. Visiting the Temple of Knowledge, I found Thuron dead at his desk. His heart had given way to the onslaught of time. I made a hasty decision, it is true, but one that I do not regret. I took his place among the Order, devoted my time to the pursuit of Knowledge. I should have spotted Milos, but so enamoured was I with the study of ancient scrolls I am embarrassed to admit I did not notice his undermining of my position. When you advised me of his death, of his true colors, I could of, no, should have walked away from this charade. From the dangers that the Brotherhood posed to me. But I was close to a breakthrough, close to finding answers. My study was too important. It almost cost me my life.” Another pause, further contemplation. “I owe you my life, and for that, I am grateful. My services are at your command. I hope that my continued study can aid you in some way.”

The companions thank Thuron for his kind words. They quickly search the dead cultists and lifeless forms of Hollister and Nicola and find valuable weapons as well as several packages, including:

  • The evidence that Hollister had collected to link the companions to the cultist uprising
  • A letter from the Master addressed to Milton Drac, his name is depicted with the mark of the Yellow Sign. It contains a speech that Milton is to provide at the Sealord’s Feast, blaming the companions for the death of Thuron and the attack on the Swords of the Edict, and linking Hollister to the cultists.
  • Lastly, a missive written in the snake person language. Although damaged, Thuron is able to translate the following – “…many a man can find the caves but they’ll never find my….and the lads and I were carried away by the rapids. Old Sven lost his balance and fell clear out of the boat. We never say him again. At last, we were on the beach. There was a huge stone doorway at least half a mast tall and 20 planks wide. All kinds of drawings of snakes were on the surface, big carvings of a snake and weird writing were on its front…the head was the worst part of it. I told Tom not to touch the damn thing but he wouldn’t listen…he will never be the same. Finally, we all gave up and rowed our way back. I told the men to forget about that passage, and we boarded it up so as none of us would go down in a drunken fit.”

Exhaustion setting in, the companions bid adieu to Thuron and head back to the tavern.

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Third Time's a Charm
The murder mystery is resolved

Summary

  • the pirate’s code requires a public trial
  • sufficient evidence and corroborating accounts point to Cecil’s guilt
  • the cabin boy attempts to rally the crew to mutiny but fails
  • the punishment for murder is death – Cecil is sacrificed to Besmara
  • notes found in his quarters reveal that Cecil was in league with Hollister
  • Ansor and Annabelle join the crew
  • in consultation with Annabelle, it is learned that the time loop centers on Thuron
  • the time engine is fired up and Shadow Swift returns to Freeport on the last day of Swag Fest

Details

The pirate’s code requires a public forum so that any member accused can have their fair say before due process is completed. The crew gathers and Mario describes that, for the benefit of all, a trial has been requested before punishment is adjudicated. The good Chaplin Fardell has been murdered and justice must be meted. The Captain’s word is law, but the Captains wish the crew to be engaged in the decision making process. The companions are given the floor and the trial commences.

  • The murder scene is described, the investigation of the deck detailed.
  • Zwicket is called to the stand. He discusses the cause of death and advises that there were two blasts – one that killed Fardell, and one that impacted Loquacious and ultimately the mast. He confirms that Loquacious, Gary Soldana, Creston Burge and Draghor Redblade were on watch duty.
  • Loquacious is summoned next. She confirms that Gary Soldana did not report for duty, leaving the rest of the watch in a challenging situation. A shadowy individual was interrupted while releasing something over the side of the deck. The suspect was responsible for the blasts that killed Fardell and destroyed the mast.
  • Of the evidence found on deck, most were ruled out. Two items – the crushed bird cage, with feathers corresponding to a long distance pigeon, and the strip of red brocaded material – have been identified as material to the investigation.
  • The crew’s quarters were searched, and stolen bird cages as well as a red embroidered jacket were found in Draghor’s room.
  • Draghor is called to the stand. He confirms that he has done a lot of bad things, and that some of the crew may have a beef with him. And that he holds sway over others. But he did not murder Fardell and has nothing to hide. He admits to the stolen birds in his room. He uses them to communicate with Freeport and Port Peril to conduct business. Given his station, however, he would have no use for the red jacket – official regalia – found in his room. He believes he is being frame. There are several in the crew that would have reason to do this – he identifies Zwicket and Loquacious, who owe him a tidy sum in recompense for him sneaking Loquacious out of Freeport and certain death; as well as Creston Burge, who he attempted to poison after she sided with Sil, despite an agreement to do the contrary. At the time of the murder, Draghor was in the tavern attending to an altercation that several of the crew confirm.
  • Creston is next to the stand. She confirms that Draghor attempted to poison her and that he deserves everything coming to him. With some creative questioning, she relates that Cecil, via hand written note, had asked her to plant the jacket in Draghor’s room. The note is produced and read aloud. It insinuates that she must do so by way of Captains orders. The handwriting is confirmed as that of Cecil the cabin boy.
  • Cecil is requested to the stand next. He begins by playing to the audience; bad things have happened since the new Captains have stepped on board – the former Captain Ancias died, strange things have been happening, and now Fardell. Clearly the crew have lost Besmara’s favour. The companions remind everyone that they are not on trial and commence questioning Cecil. He confirms that he was in his quarters alone at the time of death. The note appears to be written in his hand, but there is illusory magic emanating from the parchment. Zwicket confirms the illusory effects and dispels the magic. The hand writing is undisturbed, the illusory effects were there to misdirect.
  • At this time, Cecil attempts to incite the crew into action by accusing the companions of being orc sympathizers in league with Draghor the kingpin of the Bloodsalt. He calls on the crew members loyal to Ancias to rise up – only to be reigned in by Mario who takes command of the situation.
  • In closing, Cecil is judged guilty of Fardell’s death by the Captains and crew. Mario confirms that the crime is punishable by death. Cecil is granted an opportunity to speak but declines. As one of her own was cut down, Freight is given the right to exact retribution. She enacts a ritual to Besmara before running Cecil through. His clothes and regalia burn to a crisp, the ashes blowing away on the wind. His visage changes from that of a teenage cabin boy to a centuries old frail man. A small key falls from his vestments to the deck of the ship.
  • Bloodied and staggering, Cecil is pitched over the side of the ship in the ocean to complete the sacrifice to Besmara. The clouds part and sunlight bathes Freight in spiritual energy.

The companions wrap up the trial with a rousing speech to the crew – it has been a trying last 24 hours but they are proud of the crew’s resiliency in the face of adversity. With Fardell’s death still fresh, extra grog rations are granted in celebration of the Chaplin’s life. The crew seems appeased for the time being.

Key in hand, the companions return to Cecil’s quarters where they locate a number of items of interest that are assumed to have been magically hidden during their prior investigation. Of note:

  • Observations regarding various activities and people on board – besides the Ancias and Sil factions, Cecil was tracking the movements of elven crew members, noting arms trading that hints that border tensions with the barbarians is likely to escalate into war
  • Dossiers on each crew member – the folders for the companions, as well as Drughor, Zwicket and Loquacious, are thicker than most; the information on the group predates them coming on board
  • A message intercepted from the Sword of the Edict. It is from Carson and states that the Temple of Knowledge has been ransacked and that many, including Thuron, have died. Carson fears that the companions absence at the parade is connected, and that, if alive, the group should flee Freeport. Hollister identified the companions as cultists and blamed them for the attack on the Edict’s headquarters.
  • Communications revealing Cecil’s relationship with Hollister. Cecil joined the Shadow Swift centuries ago, he is one of the longer standing members of the crew. As a teen, he was indentured by Lord Brack – the Shadow Swift and noble houses of Freeport used to have a much closer relationship. Over time, Cecil has become disillusioned and made a deal with Hollister to help expose the cult and its leaders in return for his freedom. Their next move was to purge the Sword of the Edict.

Their investigation of Cecil’s quarters complete, the companions seek out Ansor and Annabelle to discuss next steps. Both agree to join the crew, Freeport is not safe for them to return to and the prospect of adventure on the high sea excites them. The companions dispel magic on the poodle that Ansor and Annabelle were safekeeping, transforming the creature into its original state. The disoriented changeling is given some basic rations and granted her freedom. She scurries up the beach in the general direction of the orc’s ship.

Relating to the time loop, the companions chat with Annabelle about her knowledge of time travel. She advises that the curse of the black goat has conferred her some special abilities. By taking some of the black goat’s blood, she can enter a trancelike state and view the parallel timelines around a certain event or decision that are possible. There is a cost, however – the process feeds on her and leaves her exhausted.

Wanting to break the time loop for good, the companions ask her to investigate where things began to unravel. With Ansor’s help, she consumes some of the black goat’s blood and enters a comatose state. She babbles in coherently and her body twitches a great deal, her eyes open and stare blankly, seeing something else not evident to those around her. She screams and falls to the floor. It takes her some time to regain consciousness, and when she does, she seems diminished somehow. She advises that the time loop is centered on our allies in Freeport, and specifically Thuron and the Sword of the Edict. The further along in the time loop things progress, the more dire the consequences for Thuron. The companions need to return to Freeport and bring the time loop to an end or else Thuron will die and the Temple of Knowledge will be destroyed, the Sword of the Edict disbanded. She advises that she saw a branch of possible timelines that prevented this from happening.

The companions thank Annabelle for her guidance and leave her to rest with Ansor. Considering their next steps, the group notes that her observations align with the letters received from Freeport – that they were becoming more dire and violent, with the last confirming Thuron’s death. They decide it best to travel back to Freeport.

Returning to the deck, the ship’s repairs have been completed. The companions advise the crew to prepare to sail. Orders are provided to Sprocket and Glurp to fire up the engines, there is enough chronos solution to travel back in time to the beginning of the last day of Swag Fest, the same day of the fateful Sealord’s Feast and parade. The engines are engaged and a massive portal blinks into existence just ahead of the Shadow Swift. The ship is guided into the vortex to begin its journey back to Freeport.

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CSI Shadow Swift
A breakthrough is made

Summary

  • the day is reset, the companions awake to the mast being struck by lightning
  • the murder scene is investigated
  • the Hellknight galleon is visited and a deal struck
  • the nearby island is visited, Ansor and Annabelle liberated, the orc encampment attacked, the altar procured, and the dwarf rescued
  • the dwarf is returned to the Hellknights in return for a tow into the lagoon
  • a breakthrough is made in the murder investigation – the red coat is found in Draghor’s quarters
  • evidence suggests that Cecil planted the coat
  • Mario calls the pirates to court to enact the Pirate’s Code

Details

The strange whirring sound fades, replaced by the splitting crack of lightning. The companions, somewhat nauseous, find themselves in the Captain’s Quarters again. Quickly dressed, the group heads to the deck to speak with Mario Poffal and collect clues to the murder of Chaplin Fardell. Orders are given to secure the deck and begin repairs.

With the dog in tow, the companions row to the Hellknight galleon to speak with its representatives. Lando negotiates a tow into the lagoon for the return of Steve the dwarf and a future mutually agreeable favour. The trip to the shore of the nearby island, part of the Glencarney chain, is completed by rowboat.

The companions traverse the shoreline to reach the opposite side of the island where they liberate Ansor and Annabelle. If they can wait a little longer, the companions must attend several tasks before returning. The dog is entrusted to their care. The group continues their travels into the interior where they ambush a patrol, before setting upon the orc encampment. The chieftan is knocked unconscious, the altar and chest procured, and Steve the dwarf rescued from his orc captors.

In discussion with the chieftan, the companions learn that the chest was obtained from waylaid pirates that were attacked by a lusca. The survivors of that battle were vulnerable and easily overcome. The chieftan is unbound and released.

The companions return to the rowboat and head back to the Hellknight galleon. They learn that Steve is from Freeport. He plans to head back to his family estate in Highhelm, the dwarven capital, in the not too distant future. He encourages Romica to pursue his dwarven origins, and provides an open invite should he require a place to stay in Highhelm. Lastly, he advises the companions they may call on his generosity if in need. Steve is dropped off on the galleon, and the Hellknights commence the process of towing the Shadow Swift into the lagoon.

With several hours to spare until the ship is safely hidden in the lagoon, the companions make their way back to the Shadow Swift to continue their investigation of Fardell’s murder. Upon their return to deck, the companions see the same carrier pigeon about to deliver a message. A sense of deja vu comes over the group, accompanied by a whirring sound and nauseous feeling. The bird is netted and the message received – it is from Thuron, in the same hand as the prior message, although the note is different. The message reads, “I fear the party’s absence is somehow tied to the trouble we’ve been having at the Temple. We have managed to capture one of their number, but fear a future attack from whoever is behind is behind this. Please come as quickly as you can, your assistance is appreciated.” A return message is crafted, “We will try our best. Please provide an update on the member captured and your guidance on the accomplice’s organization when you can.”

Continuing their investigation, the companions key in on three members of the crew that have not yet been interviewed – Cecil, Creston Burge and Draghor Redblade. The group visits Cecil, the ship’s bell boy, first. Cecil is an unassuming human male still in his younger years. He has many responsibilities on the ship, chief among them operating the messenger system. Given the different training regimes required, there are separate birds used for on board communication versus long distance communication. The bird cage on deck corresponded with a long distance bird, probably for communication to either Freeport or Port Peril. That said, it is hard to be exact, as the room that houses the birds was recently broken into and there are several birds unaccounted for. When he awoke to the sounds of the alarm, he noted that the door to the aviary was busted open and the room in disarray. There were many open bird cages, and he assumes that whoever did this was searching for a particular bird. Regarding who might be behind this, he mentions that he would search first among the officers, as they would have access to this area of the ship.

Next up on the list is Creston Burge, a female gnomish sailor, and one of the crew members on watch duty the night before. She admits that she witnessed the murder from afar. She saw several explosions in the distance, but not much else unfortunately. With Gary insubordinate, it made it more difficult for the rest of the watch to function effectively – they had to complete their watch duties without the ability of seeing each other. Regarding the magical display, she is unsure of who on the crew it could have been, although there are likely several officers on board with arcane knowledge. Of late, she notes, there have been many members at each other’s throats, so she is not surprised that this murder may have been carried out by one of their own.

The companions next chat with Draghor Redblade, a hobgoblin martial type, who was also on watch the night prior. He appears well dressed and debonair relative to others of his station, and the companions get the impression that not much gets by Draghor. He comes clean with the group – he needs to get back to Freeport as soon as possible as he has someone there willing to take on his contract on the Shadow Swift. As such, he will provide any information available to him to get back to port. He has contracts with many of the crew members and hears things, such as that there is a stowaway on board. He advises that the culprit has magical abilities, and therefore is likely an officer, which would provide them access across the ship. The companions ask about his need to get back to Freeport. Draghor supplies that he is a freedom fighter, one that is always looking to use his resources to further the pursuit of freedom across the land. He is based out of the Blood Salt, and has many contacts throughout Freeport. One of these contracts was with family members of crew member Betty. As compensation for freeing her family and providing them a life in Freeport, she promised that one would take his place on the crew. The Shadow Swift left port early, before this could occur. Even though Betty was likely to double cross Draghor anyway, he would like to get back to Freeport so that the exchange can be completed. Draghor has no further information for the group.

Wishing more information relating to time travel, the companions seek out Glurp and Sprocket. They group advises the two that they know about the enhancements to the ship and its special abilities – Lando has read the manual. As experts in their field, the companions discuss the present time loop and ask for guidance on how to break it. Glurp and Sprocket would like to assist, but they are more knowledgeable on the operations side, as opposed to the theoretical application. They can execute the Captain’s orders, but advise that is it best to consult someone with a better understanding of the complexities that may arise as a result of using time magic, someone such as Annabelle. The companions provide them their chronos and holy grog. With the present amount of chronos, they can likely travel back a couple of days. The holy grog can be distilled and converted into enough solution for two usages.

At this time, the tow is complete. The companions send part of the crew to the top of the hill to forage for food and to collect sufficient wood to effect repairs. The companions stay on board to search the officer’s quarters. Although not a popular decision, they have exhausted most other avenues and wish to put an end to the murder investigation.

The officer’s names are put in a hat and pulled randomly. The companions search through the rooms of the cook Potvin and quartermaster Mario and find nothing of note. The same can be said for J-Todd’s room; however, he has been studying through his records and has found some interesting information that he would like to relay. Relating to the onyx shard, he has found several references to an onyx tentacle, which seems analogous with the shard, that has popped up throughout history. There is no clear pattern to the references – they relate to various geographies and time frames; however, all they have one thing in common – the onyx tentacle has a corrupting influence of those that it has touched. The companions thank J-Todd for the information and Lando asks if he can continue his research to see if the onyx tentacle is related in any way to the Blood Queen.

The companions continue their search. The quarters of Tessinger yields nothing further, and Rockinsky’s abode is clean. Cecil’s room, spartan in decoration and design, is what you would expect of a cabin boy. There are many strings attached to bells leading to the various stations across the ship, as well as log books detailing ongoing communications. Next up is the room that used to be occupied by Buckwheat, the former 1st mate. It appears as if nothing has been touched since his death several weeks past.

With confidence beginning to wane, the companions enter the quarters of Draghor Redblade. Their investigation of the room uncovers many items of interest, including the red garment that is central to their murder case. The brocaded coat has a torn lapel that is missing material. Also in the room, the companions find a chest full of gold, promissory notes totaling 45k, a number of contracts with various members of the crew, and a number of bird cages. Lando reviews the contracts and points out two of note – one with Zwicket to assist in freeing Loquacious from the Fortress of Justice and bring aboard the Shadow Swift, and another with Creston Burge to liberate her family and resettle them in Freeport.

Draghor is summoned and asked about the items found in his room. He advises that everything in the chest is his – some of it has come about by unseemly gains. That said, he resolutely advises that the evidence linking him to the murder – the red coat – does not belong to him, he has never seen it before. Regarding the birds, he confirms that he has been using them to communicate with Freeport and Port Peril. He has been ferrying people between the two ports, acting in a similar capacity as an underground railroad (he is presently transporting the daughter of a pirate captain), and must maintain contact. He has many contacts in both cities and offers his services should the companions require.

Believing that Draghor may be telling the truth, the companions ask him who would have the motivation to frame him. He provides two: Creston Burge – he was to assist in bringing her family to Freeport in return for her voting against Sil and his lunatic mission to attack hell. She betrayed him and sided with Sil, helping to seal their fate. Draghor tried to poison her in retaliation but failed; Zwicket – he contracted Draghor to help Loquacious, his lover and a druid involved in the restoration project, escape execution and flee Freeport. They have not yet paid for his services and may not have the means.

The companions put Draghor under watch and converse next with Creston. When asked about her relationship with Draghor, she becomes agitated. She confirms that he tried to poison her, although she saw it coming and was able to avoid the feeble attempt. Everyone tends to write her off – Draghor, Cecil, Ancias – but Sil, he believed in her and never asked for anything. So when the vote occurred, she backed him like he backed her, despite the impact that it would have on her family. Intrigued that she would list Cecil with the other two, the companions investigate further. She advises that Cecil asked her to turn on Draghor and plant the coat in his room. But she didn’t want to get involved, so declined.

With the evidence shifting back to Cecil, and given his link to the birds and access to the ship as bell boy, the companions seek the guidance of Mario. They confirm that they have completed their investigation and that the evidence points to one of the crew. As administrator of the pirate’s code on board, Mario puts out the call to the ship’s crew to gather on deck for a public display of justice.

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Tomorrow Never Dies
Race for the rowboat

Summary

  • the orcs reorganize and are defeated
  • a treasure chest is found and identified as offering to Besmara – the companions plan to throw to bottom of sea
  • a dwarf with ties to Hellknights is rescued
  • Anton races through jungle, catches changeling before she can steal rowboat
  • scrolls found on chieftan reveal that altar was destined for Everstand – orcs had intercepted and slaughtered elven escort, planned to sell in Freeport
  • companions return dwarf to Hellnights
  • too late in return, watch Shadow Swift burn

Details

The altar is wrapped haphazardly in canvas and furs, allowing the companions a small glimpse of the object inside. It is rectangular in shape, with wings that extend from the top; the polished surface is ornately engraved with bands of precious metal throughout. There are poles on each side of the altar to assist in carrying the large object. Freight and Magus Mike position themselves to pick up the altar but it proves heavier than expected – it will take four to carry – forcing the companions to reassess their escape plan.

By this time, several orcs near the companions have regained their wits and appear to be organizing a counterattack. Anton wades into their midst and fells one with a mighty blow. Lando fascinates another with a colorful display of powder that changes patterns. Romica manages to chop down two more with a vicious swing from his axe; however, the weapon, acting of its own design, forces the dwarf to continue his swing, hitting both himself as well as Anton.

Many of the other orcs who initially ran away from the scene circle back to test the companions. The battle proves short lived as the companions control the engagement, although Anton, grievously wounded already, is knocked unconscious during the action. Freight uses her trusty wand of cure moderate wounds to ensure the halfing lives to fight another day.

The orcs dealt with, the companions take a moment to survey the scene and identify two things of note. Freight points out a burlap sack near the verge of the ocean, the medium sized bundle appears to be moving, albeit erratically. Romica and Magus Mike walk down to the beach to investigate. And secondly, Lando notices a treasure chest hidden under the altar.

The chest features a Besmaran emblem, so Lando calls over Freight to confer. The cleric immediately identifies the chest as offering to the Pirate Queen. Freight advises that it should not be opened, the chest belongs at the bottom of the ocean. The cleric makes plans to take the chest onboard the Shadow Swift so it can be returned to its rightful place. Lando next focuses his attention on the unconscious chieftan. A quick search reveals several scrolls, which include two sets of instructions as well as a map. Lando finds a comfortable perch and digs into the texts.

At the beachfront, Romica and Magus Mike catch up with the burlap sack just before it goes pitching into the surf. Removing the cover reveals a bloodied dwarf. Romica, who recognizes the surly character from his mercenary days, claps the dwarf, Steve, on the back and tells him that he is in good hands. They return to camp and he is introduced to the group. He has in his possession what appears to be a bundle of broken incense as well as accoutrement that reminds the companions of the regalia seen in the Temple of Holy Smoke. Romica advises the other companions that it would be beneficial to take Steve to the Hellknight galleon in the harbour. Steve has allies in Freeport that would grateful for his return.

At this point, the companions recall that the changeling was headed back in the general direction of their rowboat. Anton volunteers to race across the island while the remainder of the companions lug the gear. The plan – Freight, Romica, Magus Mike and Steve will carry the altar and treasure chest while Lando sits atop studying the scrolls. The orc chieftan is awoken and given the ultimatum of keeping pace or getting the sword. He chooses to keep pace and they all set off.

Anton decides to take the most direct route – through the jungle and up and over the hill – and receives some magical enhancements before racing off. Near the crest of the hill, a copse of trees moves to block his ascent, but the nimble halfling is able to acrobatically avoid their grasp. From the apex, the view of the beach at low tide affords a glimpse of a sea cave not noticed before, a faint stream of smoke can be seen indicating that someone likely inhabits the cave. During his flight down the hill, Anton notes a shrine complete with natural offerings and a stick figure lashed together with vine, but does not stop to investigate given that time is of the essence.

Gaining the beach, Anton can see the changeling attempting to launch the rowboat. The halfling screams at her to stop, and a quick sprint brings him alongside the skiff. The changeling takes Anton’s appearance in stride, she advises that she was getting the boat ready for the companions return in case they were being pursued. Anton notes that the group will be here shortly and they play tic-tac-toe in the sand.

The rest of the companions make an uneventful trip back to the rowboat, following the contours of the beach around the island. Lando is able to complete his review of the scrolls obtained from the chieftan. There are three separate documents:

  • the original writ of sale with instructions for delivery to Everstand; the altar’s construction in Port Peril was commissioned by the elven nation; the altar contains magical investiture to bolster and inspire, presumably to aid those fighting against the orc nation in the Hold of Belkzen
  • a set of instructions, in orcish, outlining that the altar is to be intercepted; the altar is to be taken to Freeport and sold to help fund an orc uprising in the Blood Salt; it insinuates that the Hold of Belkzen supports the uprising
  • the third scroll appears to be a treasure map complete with annotated notes on how to find a treasure; it is located on an island not known to Lando; this scroll is unrelated to the other two scrolls
  • Lando learns from the chieftan that he received the orders from his commanding officer; they are part of the underground orc liberation movement headquartered in the Blood Salt; he and his orc cell travelled through barbarian lands to the homeland of the elves, intercepted and slaughtered an elven escort, stole the altar and were on their way back to Freeport; they were on the island to resupply; they acquired the treasure map from the barbarians but no one knows how to use it

With nothing more to learn from the chieftan, he is unbound and set free. The companions load into the rowboat and set course for the Hellknight galleon, which is en route to the Shadow Swift. The Hellknights permit the companions to board and grant them audience. They are grateful for Steve’s return; however, they refuse to tow the Shadow Swift in recompense. Reason being, the Shadow Swift is presently under attack and the Hellknights do not wish to intervene.

The companions race topside to see coral golums and Kuru warriors wreaking havoc on the deck of the Shadow Swift. Too late in their return, they watch in silent regard as their crew mates fall one after another to Dunbar and his Hell Hound Social Club allies. Despite overwhelming odds, the Shadow Swift puts up a good fight. The sun sits low on the horizon when the last of the crew is slaughtered.

With the Shadow Swift aflame in the distance, a messenger pigeon flies overhead on its way to the ship. Lando shoots a web spell into the air to net the bird, which falls lightly to the deck. Within its scroll case, a message is addressed to the companions from Thuron, head of the Sword of the Edict. It reads, “You not showing up to the parade surprised many. Is everything ok? Please write back.” The companions confer – Thuron was at the parade and knew that they had attended as well. Confused at the implications of the message, the companions decide it best to write back, “All is not well. We were chased out of town by Hollister and his lackeys. We should have heeded your advice…”

The message entrusted to the carrier pigeon, the bird is set on a return course to Freeport. The companions follow the bird’s flight as the sun dips below the horizon. A familiar whirring sounds announces the end of the day as a thick fog picks up from seemingly nowhere. Vision obscured, the world goes blank…

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Answering the Call
Never trust a changeling

Summary

  • someone may be using the chronos and vorpal dust capabilities without the aid of Sprocket and Glurp
  • the companions learn that the poodle may in fact be a transmuted humanoid
  • dispel magic reveals an emancipated changeling
  • the ship’s curse is slowly killing the creature given she is onboard without signing the contract
  • the companions return to the nearby island with the unconscious changeling
  • she recovers quickly, she was onboard the Shadow Swift as it was the first ship leaving port and she must return to her mother
  • the orc encampment is attacked, the artefact (an altar) obtained and the chieftain taken for questioning
  • the changeling bolted during the attack

Details

The companions continue their conversation with Sprocket and Glurp. The two confide that the former Captain, Ancias, and 1st mate, Buckwheat, knew about the enhancements. Many of the officers were likely to have some knowledge as well, given the capabilities have been used on many occasions. Lando commiserates with the duo, as it likely difficult for them not to discuss openly these capabilities.

Thinking that the capabilities may have been used recently, Lando asks how long the tanks have been empty. The goblin and gnome share a look, and with a little cajoling, confide in the group and advise that they are somewhat perplexed. There were some dregs left in the chronos and vorpal dust tanks but they have recently been emptied. However, the fuel was not used within the ship’s mechanisms, or they would have recognized. They are powerful resources, so perhaps someone could have stolen the fuel. That said, it would be strange to have this occur out at sea – they can’t imagine what a crew member would use it for. It takes both magical and mechanical engineering knowledge to be able to use the capabilities.

The group returns to the main deck to check in with Mario. The quartermaster confirms that repairs are underway – the mast has been loaded on the ship and is being prepared to be raised. Work on the rudder is occurring concurrently. The companions advise Mario that they are concerned the ship will be attacked while in the present vulnerable state. With that in mind, the crew should be prepared for hostilities as the companions do not wish to be caught unawares. Mario agrees with the sound logic and sets a lookout in each direction.

Lando at this time remembers the message pad that is being dried in his scroll case. He removes it from the case and gently reviews the notebook for clues. It appears to be a duplicate record of the chief petty officer’s inventory. The book contains information on the ship’s grog rations, food rations, ship leave intervals etc.

A further chat with Tang McGallish is in order so the companions summon him. Magus Mike recognizes the woad tattooing and identifies him as part of the McGallish clan from his vision. The companions ask him about the notepad. Although not required, he keeps duplicates of his inventory in case the originals are compromised or tampered with. He admits that he misplaced the notepad while he was double checking stores – he is ashamed that he was not able to find the records and understands that punishment is likely necessary. The companions advise that no such reprimand is forthcoming.

Running out of clues to investigate, Lando detects magic again from the deck. There are four distinct types of magic emanating from the ship – evocation from the blast site, transmutation from the dog, divine magic from the infirmary, and necromancy from multiple sources below deck. In fact, the necromantic auras appear to be moving, many of which run through the cargo bay. The companions return there to investigate further.

As the group descends the ladder, they can see movement on the periphery of their vision as little creatures skitter away from the light. The companions follow the critters around until they have several cornered – they appear to be rat-sized poodles. Lando utilizes an orison to communicate with the tiny creatures. It appears they are transmogrified rats that were caught up in the radius of a transmutation spell cast on deck. Regarding last night, they advise that the saw a shadowy person with a cage at the side of the ship. The were very interested in the contents of the cage – a carrier pigeon – but before they had an opportunity to get close to the bird, it was released and flew away in the general direction of Freeport. The last thing they remember was a small humanoid creature, who was sickly looking, sneaking up on the shadowy figure and then a big blast. When they awoke, they were changed. They wish to be returned to their prior appearance.

Unable to help them, the companions return to deck to examine the poodle. Freight and Lando, with the assistance of Zwicket and Loquacious, manage to identify and dispel multiple magical effects afflicting the poodle. The form of the dog transforms into an emancipated being with long dark hair and claws. Freight identifies the creature as a changeling. From prior knowledge, the companions understand that changelings are the offspring of witches that visit and copulate with other races. They are raised among their father’s kin, but receive “the call” to return to their birth mother when they come of age. This changeling appears to also have some elven features.

The rigour of the transmutation has left the already weakened changeling in a state of unconsciousness. Freight performs a heal check on the comatose creature – she is close to death, her pulse weak, she seems to be afflicted with some kind of powerful wasting disease of magical influence. The affliction is hell-oriented. J-Todd comes forward to confirm that the disease occurs when someone is aboard the ship without signing the contract. He suggest the stowaway be thrown overboard so she can die of natural means as opposed to going through the process of dying on the Shadow Swift.

As this occurs, Annabelle enters a trance-like state, her eyes flipping back so that only the whites show. She speaks to Lando in short bursts, “My son, my son. I walked a long road. At the end was a hut. There was a stove in the hut. Inside the stove was bread. Inside the bread was a coin. The coin flipped, I caught it in my hands. It burned me. It left the image of a time bomb. Inside the time bomb is a magnifying glass and key. Inside the magnifying glass…there is nothing.”

Lando is unsure of what this all means but is shaken by the revelation. However, he is unable to think on it, as the companions debate whether the changeling should sign the contract. Before the moral dilemma of that decision can be discussed further, Lando advises that he will take the creature to shore. He asks that the companions journey with him – he tells the group about his vision, that he believes the artefact discussed by the orcs on the island has something to do with his destiny. The companions agree to escort him back to the island with the changeling in tow.

Once the rowboat is lowered, Freight prays to Besmara about the righteousness of their plight, and the potential benefit to pirate-kind, and asks for divine favour. Besmara grants her wish and provides a strong current that guides the rowboat to shore in short order. The companions disembark the rowboat with the body of the changeling. On shore, the creature’s color returns instantaneously, and a rather amazing recovery occurs.

The changeling regains consciousness shortly thereafter, “Mother, mother. I’m coming. I took the first ship out of port. Who are you?” The companions advise that they are agents of Besmara and have saved her life. She thanks them for their service – the last thing she recalls is sneaking on-board with the timber. Although not fully recovered, the call is strong and she wishes to return to her mother. She senses a ship not far away that she can guide across the ocean. The companions convince her to stay with them for the time being, the island is home to orcs at present and it is dangerous to be out alone. This sounds logical to her so she agrees to come along for the time being. She was a thief in Freeport and adept with ranged weapons so Romica lends her a longbow.

As they make their way towards the orc’s encampment, the changeling continues her story about her time aboard the Shadow Swift. She had run out of rations and was weak from due to an unknown disease so she decided to explore for food on deck. She saw several flashes and witnessed a shadowy figure harming people. She rushed the figure to interrupt what the person was doing and was transformed into a poodle for her efforts. Her eyes begin to shine and her voice takes on a different timbre – she advises that she does not know the person, but the figure was not foreign to her. “It is not what I saw, it is what I shared.” It was a crew member, someone that she had shared rations with on-board. The gleam leaves her eyes as the vision recedes.

By this time, the companions have closed on the orcs. It is twilight and they are in the midst of setting up camp in the jungle for the night. There appear to be maybe a dozen or so orcs. In the middle of the meager camp is a large fire, a chieftain attends to the flames. Lando casts invisibility sphere on the companions and they use the gong of silence to mask their approach. The companions move quickly to the centre of camp and attack the chieftain. Freight and Romica deliver vicious blows, rendering the orc chief unconscious. Several orcs flee, others freeze, unsure of what to do. Romica bellows at them, “Where is the artefact?” They point towards a large altar near the fire before joining their brethren on the run. The companions notice that the changeling is nowhere to be seen, she likely bolted in the commotion.

Lando directs Freight and Magus Mike to the altar, and Romica to pick up the unconscious orc chief. Lando and Anton deliberate on how best to get back to the beach, where they expect to find the changeling attempting to borrow their rowboat.

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Lumberjack Challenge
The companions have some wood to chop

Summary

  • the companions explore a nearby island in the Glencarney Chain
  • an orc boat is moored in the lagoon
  • Ansor and Annabelle are rescued, they wish to leave the island post-haste
  • sufficient hardwood is obtained to repair the mast and rudder
  • the companions learn that the orc crew have found an ancient artefact and are transporting it to their chief in the Hold of Belkzen
  • returning to the ship, repairs are commenced
  • Gary Soldana is questioned in the brig and crossed off the list of suspects
  • the companions learn that the Shadow Swift has extra capabilities that could be of interest to them

Details

With many clues already exhausted, Freight, Anton and Lando decide it best to focus on repairing the ship. They load into a rowboat with several crew and head to shore, conveniently meeting up with their other companions as they complete their conversation with the Hellknights. They journey to the nearby island together.

Lando has collected several tidbits of information regarding these islands. The Glencarney Chain is an archipelago, with two larger islands surrounded by many smaller ones. The island has few recreational visitors, and rumour has it that fewer still are permitted to leave. A hermit by the name of Jacku is known to inhabit the island. He is said to be the sole survivor of an anti-pirating mission out of Port Peril some 400 years ago. A sorcerer by trade, he allegedly performs strange experiments in his isolation. From time to time, a rumour of a castaway that escaped the island will turn up – the last of which traded an arm and four teeth for his freedom. Always interested in chatting with other wizardly connoisseurs, Lando asks the group to be on the lookout for the hermit.

The beach landing is performed successfully. The companions exit their rowboats in the shallows of a beautiful sandy beach. The tropical island is primarily beach and jungle, with a hill that rises in the centre of the island. Pretty Ike and Rockinsky advise that they will require hardwood for the mast and rudder, several stands can be seen on the higher ground.

Instead of progressing machete style through the jungle, the group decides to follow the beach around the island to search for a trail head. Rounding the corner of the island, the group spots a small ship moored just inside the mouth of the lagoon. The garish ship is similar in appearance to the Bloody Vengeance – a sleek, open-style vessel propelled by oars. Although empty at present, the companions assume it is crewed by orcs.

Understanding that time is of the essence, the companions continue on along the beach. The lagoon is larger than anticipated, effectively splitting what could be a larger island in two. The beachfront on both sides is open, and the companions can see a hut constructed on the strand. There appear to be several people inside the building, the side of the hut is open with a bar style facade. An orc lounges in a chair pulled up to the bar front.

The companions walk towards the hut, making no efforts to hide their approach. The orc notices the group as they near and becomes visibly agitated. From inside, a familiar voice attempts to calm the orc, “Do not be alarmed, these are good friends of mine, likely come to check in on me, eh? Please, come join us.” Ansor exits the hut and pulls up several chairs. Annabelle, the sister of Rooster Pumpernickel, can be seen inside the hut. Lando starts as he recognizes her from his vision. Ansor continues, “You are probably wondering what I’m doing here on a secluded beach in the middle of nowhere. Good ol’ Ansor, who always requires the big crowds and the limelight. Well, funny story that.” He motions towards Annabelle. “We had a tough go in Freeport after the news about Rooster. So we struck out for greener pastures. And really, what better place for some rest and relaxation than this beautiful beachfront?” Anton senses that the gamesman is not being entirely genuine. “And then destiny came calling. This orc crew just appeared out of nowhere, allowing me the opportunity to ply my trade in perpetuity here on this beach. They are happy to have me run my games of chance, and I am happy to do so. Over and over. And over again.” Anton again senses that he is being coy. And then it clicks – he is under duress and not able to communicate openly. Their eyes meet, and Anton slowly motions to the orc. Anton nods and brains the unsuspecting patron.

Ansor and Annabelle thank the companions profusely. They have been stuck on this island for over a week and weren’t sure if they would every leave. Their few belongings already packed, they beg the group to get them off the island. The companions agree to do so without hesitation and bring Ansor up to speed on why there are here. Ansor is happy to reciprocate. He introduces Annabelle, whom the companions have met in passing. Through her experience with the curse, the same that Magus Mike endured, she has received strange powers. They take the form of visions that allow her to see strands of the future providing some sense of consequence regarding present decisions. She is willing to use the granted powers, but to do so, she must enter a drugged up state that takes a great toll on her. The companions thank her for the offer. Regarding the island, the orcs have set up camp further up the beach. Further, a trail head to a path that leads to the hilltop is not far from the hut.

With that, the companions, with Ansor and Annabelle in tow, follow the trail to the top of the hill. The high ground is fertile, a spring at the top feeds a fresh water lake. There is abundant wild game and the companions take the opportunity to replenish their food and water stores. With the assistance of Pretty Ike and Rockinsky, sufficient hardwood is procured for a new mast and to repair the rudder. The group prepares for their trip back to the beach.

Anton calls for silence and motions to the trail, a patrol of orcs is walking up the path. The companions take a step back into the covering brush and ring the chime of silence for good measure. The patrol passes the group and stops at the spring for water. Several members of the group speak the orc language and eavesdrop on their conversation. The patrol is returning to camp on the opposite side of the island so that they can continue on with their mission. Ansor has gleaned that they are here to resupply on their journey back to their home far to the north. They have found some sort of artefact that they are transporting. The orcs attempt to one-up each other constantly, vying for the right to present the artefact to the Belkzen chief. Lando’s ears perk up at the mention of Belkzen – could this artefact somehow tie into the vision he received?

After the orcs vacate the area, the companions travel back to the beach without incident. The materials are loaded into their rowboats and the group returns to the Shadow Swift. Ansor and Annabelle are ecstatic over being liberated from the confines of the island. The ship’s officers are summoned and tasked with completing repairs as quickly as possible. They advise that they ship should be in sailing condition around noon.

Content that repairs are underway, the companions return their attention to the murder investigation. Thinking on the events of their engagement with the Hell Hound Social Club, it strikes them that the stowaway plays an important role in this mystery. The Hell Hound Social Club ship is much smaller than the Shadow Swift and would only have a fighting chance in combat if the ship were crippled, say due to damage sustained to its mast and rudder. With that in mind, they decide to focus on the shadowy figure seen on board during the night.

Believing that the individual may have dropped something overboard, Anton – chosen due to his ability to breathe underwater – is rigged with an anvil and dropped over the side. The ocean bottom is sandy and flat, affording good visibility in the clear water. Anton explores the general vicinity but sees nothing of note. He pulls on the rope and returns topside.

The companions next turn their attention to the poodle. The druid Loquacious and physician Zwicket join in the examination of the dog. The poodle is lethargic and sick looking, its coat of fur is shedding in large clumps. A strong hint of transmutation and evocation come from the dog. Zwicket advises that the dog is sick, something not associated with a natural disease, but different from what afflicts Anton and the Magus. Loquacious shakes her head constantly during the examination, seemingly struggling with herself. She advises that she may have exaggerated things, that this dog may have been what she saw. Perhaps the explosion made her see things that were not there. Lando attempts to detect illusory effects with no success. The companions thank them for their assistance.

With no other leads at present, the group travels to the brig to question Gary Soldana, the crew member who did not report the night prior. The brig is housed in a back segment of the ship and the companions must travel through the inner workings of the Shadow Swift to get there. The ship’s engineering is impressive, a feat of technology that is wholly unexpected. The companions pass Sprocket and Glurp on the way and mention that they are interested to speak about the upgrades – Lando specifically complements their fine work and asks if they would have time later to discuss further. Several looks pass between the two – Glurp seems keen to share, but Sprocket is less forthcoming. Lando assures them that he has the best interests of the ship in mind. A rather thick policy and procedures manual is shared with Lando, who is excited to have the opportunity bring himself up to speed.

The group continues on to the brig to speak with Gary Soldana. A lone crew member guards the imprisoned sailor. Gary is unrepentant of his insubordination, and doesn’t seem to care that a murder was committed on the ship. He is low on the shore leave list, has drank his grog rations, and will do anything to get more. It is clear he views his time on the ship as a curse. Romica, upset by his lack of forthcoming, pushes past his companions to confront the sailor. Gary is intimidated by the hulking mass of crazy approaching him and decides that it is easier to cooperate. Regarding the other clues on deck, he advises that he has no idea who owns the poodle, doesn’t know anyone with red embroidered fabric, and offers up that he left his trident on deck. The companions thank him for his honesty and send him on his way with a reprimand.

During this time, Lando has steeled himself away to read the policy and procedures manual. It outlines some of the amazing features of the ship such as the hydroplanes and stealth abilities, but also details some extra capabilities that other ships of this era would not have. Specifically, there are three fuel tanks that operate on precious resources whose iconography align with the beakers provided to the group through their visions. With manual in hand, Lando leads the companions back to the engine room.

The group excitedly discuss the fuel tanks with Sprocket and Glurp, who are somewhat relieved to be able to share information about the ship’s features openly. They are not responsible for the enhancements, but instead have been trained by their predecessors. The companions learn about the different types of fuel:

  • chronos fuel – identified by the image of a three-headed serpent, granted by the God of Time; provides access to time travel, the solution can be fed directly into the tank
  • vorpal dust – is represented by an image associated with Besmara, or more specifically, the Holy Grog; was previously obtained from Fardell in recompense for gathering tithes and sending them to the depths; the solution improves tactical abilities in martial engagements; the dust must be broken down and refined for use in the tanks; Lando explains from his review of the manual that pipes lead to different areas of the ship so that this tactical advantage may be applied to armour, weapons, reconnaissance from the crow’s nest etc.
  • a mystery tank – the group is unable to ascertain the iconography, which somehow shimmers as if from heat; Anton can see something purple-greenish from the corner of his eye when he turns his head back and forth; a strange distortion prevents the companions from hearing the description provided by Sprocket and Glurp

The tanks are not overly large, the companions estimate that each would hold perhaps 30 liters or so. Doing the mental math, they guess that the beakers they received from their visions would represent about 1/16 of the volume.

The gnome and goblin advise that all three tanks are empty at present, but they would be happy to showcase the features should the companions procure any fuel.

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Thunderstruck - Redux
It's deja vu all over again

Summary

  • the companions are transported back to the Shadow Swift as the mast is struck by lightning and critically damaged
  • they remain in possession of objects seen within their visions
  • several crew are tasked with rowing to a nearby island to find timber to replace the mast and rudder
  • the companions continue (restart) their investigation of Chaplin Fardell’s murder
  • a stowaway was found to be living in the cargo bay
  • Loquacious Winding-Tam, one of the crew on watch, advises that they interrupted a man wrapped in shadows throwing something overboard before being attacked by a giant wolf
  • J-Todd the bard provides guidance on the next steps of Sil’s rescue, he will prepare a ritual to allow the companions to speak with a contact in Hell
  • one of the crew, Gary Soldana, skipped watch duty and instead visited the tavern where he got into fisticuffs with the chief petty officer and was thrown in the brig
  • the crew speak with members of the Hellknights and learn of a secret lagoon

Details

A fog descends over the visions, consciousness slowly fades into the distance. A strange whirring sound resonates, seemingly occupying a space far away and yet close, followed by disorientation. The discombobulating experience ends abruptly with a loud thundering crash.

The companions finds themselves back in the Captain’s Quarters of the Shadow Swift. Anton holds a vial of green liquid with the insignia of a three-headed serpent, a block of cheese gripped tightly in his other hand. A coin is embedded in the cheese, a coin bearing the likeness of a snake-person. The other companions also have items clutched in their hands. Above, an alarm sounds to call crew to the deck, heavy footfalls can be heard from the hallway and stairs.

Dressing hastily, Anton notices that Sil’s child feels heavier and appears much larger, as if he has grown several months overnight. Further, Anton and the Magus are somewhat fatigued. Could the two be related – it dawns on the companions that the child may be feeding on the curse afflicting the two.

Topside, the sun peaks over the horizon revealing a chaotic scene. The main mast has been splintered, the sails aflame. The crew attends to the fire attempting to save the sail. Mario Poffal directs the crew while at the same time maintaining a cordon around a portion of the deck. The companions make their way to the quartermaster.

While they walk, Lando sees the Magus looking to the horizon and notes a strange galleon anchored off the coast of a nearby island. The wizards asks Magus Mike if he recognizes the ship – Magus is unsure of who they are, but advises that they have captives onboard and that they plead to him to help them escape. Although a strange response, the Magus’ conviction is resolute.

Before Lando can delve further, the companions get a status report from Mario. He advises that the mast was struck by lightning, the crew should have the fire under control shortly. That said, the damage has been done – without the main mast, the ship is unable to achieve any significant speed, and will have limited maneuverability. The Shadow Swift is a sitting duck until the mast can be repaired. Further, one of the crew, Chaplin Fardell, was killed by the lightning strike. The quartermaster has secured the area in case the companions wish to investigate the scene.

Acting quickly, the companions examine the scene and collect nearby evidence. Cecil is instructed to lock down the Chaplin’s quarters. In consultation with Poffal, a crew of sailors – including Pretty Ike, the carpenter Rockinsky, Romica and Magus Mike – is tasked with rowing to shore to obtain timber for a new mast and rudder. The cleric Freight is sent to the infirmary in case anyone else was injured. And lastly, Anton and Lando are sent to investigate the cargo bay as the large doors were left open a crack.

A ladder leads down into the hold. The bay is set up into several compartments, the large bulkheads have doors leading between the different areas. There is minimal cargo in the hold, primarily food stores, water casks, and mundane items. Walking the floor, Anton perceives something of interest behind some water barrels – a blanket has been left on the floor, several rations have been haphazardly discarded and the nearest water cask has been tapped. Seems that the Shadow Swift has a stowaway.

Believing that they are likely being watched, Lando addresses the room. Several small creatures flit away into the darkness, but there is no response otherwise. The remainder of the search of the hold provides no further clues. Anton and Lando return to the deck.

Meanwhile, Freight has made her way to the infirmary. The surgeon, Zwicket, is fast at work on one of the crew members. She has sustained many injuries in the past, she sports an eye patch and peg leg along with many scars. With Freight’s assistance, they are able to bring her back from the brink of death. Zwicket identifies her as Loquacious Winding-Tam, she was one of the crew on watch last night.

She comes to shortly thereafter. Freight asks about the events of the night previous, advising that there has been a murder onboard. With a knowing glance, the surgeon advises that the cleric is trustworthy. Loquacious is happy to be alive. She explains that the watch caught sight of a blurry individual that appeared to be tossing something overboard. They approached to find out what he was doing when they were suddenly attacked by a large ferocious wolf. The last thing she remembers is a blinding flash, and then darkness.

Unfortunately, she is unable to provide much more. Loquacious was unable to tell what the individual was doing given that she was fighting for her life. She does advise that the person appeared to be wrapped in shadows. As a druid with intimate knowledge of natural creatures, she is perplexed as to the origin of the giant wolf. And she detected similar magical auras as the companions did on deck.

Regarding the other sailors on watch, it is clear she is holding something back. With a little prodding, she advises that one of the crew members, Gary Soldana, did not appear for his shift – its not the first time that he has failed to report for watch duty. Freight also asks about some of the other clues found on deck; the gnarly staff belongs to Zwicket, she can’t recall any of the crew wearing embroidered red fabric, and tridents are common weapons amongst the crew. She is unaware of anyone staying in the hold and recommends that Freight ask Telecum and Pretty Ike for patrol reports. Lastly, it is not rare to see officers such as Fardell on deck at night. He was likely at the wrong place at the wrong time. She thanks Loquacious for her time and wishes her a speedy recovery before exiting the infirmary.

Making her way above deck again, Freight meets Anton and Lando mid-ship. In discussion with Poffal, the quartermaster advises that the fire is now under control. He is happy to hear that Loquacious and advises she is good hands, indicating that she and Zwicket are more than acquaintances. He was not aware of anyone living in the cargo bay. And lastly, Gary’s insubordination is not news. He abandoned post to go the tavern and ended up starting an altercation. He was thrown in the brig before the lightning strike.

With the fire under control, Freight, Anton and Lando move their investigation to the pub. Besides doing their best work there, they wish to speak with J-Todd the bard, who is known to frequent the tavern. The bard is easy to find and is happy to chat with the group. Anton gets straight to the point – he received a message from Sil advising that J-Todd would provide the group with information relating to next steps. The bard asks for proof and Anton produces the coin that was embedded in the cheese wheel. J-Todd is overjoyed, “Our master told me you would be in possession of his coin. He said that the one with the coin could be trusted, and trust you I will. The next step in the plan for Sil’s liberation involves gaining entry to Hell. We have made contact with a low level official that is agreeable to our cause and can likely grant us entry through Ironjack’s portal. I can invoke a ritual of communication so that we can finalize the details. The ritual takes several hours to complete, so if you don’t mind, I will begin shortly.

Before leaving, Lando wishes to benefit from the bard’s great stores of knowledge. Their discussion covers several topics:

  • Tensions in the immediate area have amped up in recent years, resulting in near open warfare. This has increased the need for slaves, a lucrative business in Port Peril.
  • The Hellknights as well as other slaving factions have increased their activity in the surrounding area.
  • The local islands are populated by Kuru clans, indigenous peoples known for their woad tattooing.
  • The Kuru people fear the Blood Queen. They see her as an evil force who corrupts the Kuru people to join her cause, which results in cannibalism.
  • Between the slaving ships and the Blood Queen, the population of the local Kuru tribes has been decimated.
  • J-Todd has no further information regarding the Blood Queen but will research further in the ship’s annals.

The strange whirring sound returns, causing a queasy feeling and forcing the companions to their knees. The experience fades as quickly as it started. A glowing J-Todd greets the group, “Great to see you again mates. What can I do for you?” Unsure of how to respond, the companions discuss the dark onyx crystal with the bard. J-Todd examines the child and advises that the glass shard appears to be from a larger piece, a statue perhaps. The though piques something in his memories and he excuses himself to return to his quarters to look through the ship’s annals.

The companions next speak with Tang McGallish, the chief petty officer responsible for the ship’s cargo. The lad has recently been roughed up and sports a black eye and split lip. The group knows from prior conversations with the crew that Tang descends from one of the local Kuru clans and was formerly a slave in the servitude of the Hellknights. He considers himself lucky to have escaped that life and is motivated to make things work on the ship to ensure that he is not put in that situation again. Tang is often described as keen, eager, and efficient, all the right skill sets to be an effective chief petty officer. That said, some of the other sailors are not happy with his rise within the ship’s ranks.

Tang is, not surprisingly, eager to chat with the group. He advises that he has accurate records of the food rations, grog, and other stores kept in the hold. He has reported on several occasions to management that there has been some slippage – not a significant loss, but he would estimate about the amount needed to sustain an extra crew member. He noted the difference shortly before the ship left port. Regarding the recently sustained facial injuries, he advises that he was assaulted by Gary Soldana last night. Tang has a favourable standing on the shore leave list and was willing to trade it to Soldana in return for extra grog rations. However, Gary had already consumed them, negating the deal. A scuffle ensued and Gary was thrown in the brig.

The companions thank Tang for his willingness to answer their questions. They quit the tavern and head to Fardell’s residence on the ship. His quarters are attached to the chapel and are situated behind the altar to Besmara. Spartan in nature, the companions quickly exhaust their search with little to show. Perhaps he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

By this time, the crew that has set out for shore is passing the Hellknight galleon – Magus Mike recognizes the ship from his vision. An official hails the rowboat and motions them closer. “Good day sirs, I can’t help but notice the plight of your ship. Given your state of affairs, I wonder if there is anything we may assist you with? We have many wares that you may find of interest – armour, cannons, labour – all at an agreeable price.” In discussion, Magus and Romica learn that the Hellknights are in the midst of an exploratory sailing, seeking slaves to sell to Port Peril. In addition to goods, the ship is capable of towing the Shadow Swift to a salt water lagoon hidden within the Glengarney Chain – the group of islands nearby. The offer is graciously declined, and the rowboat continues to shore.

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