The Freeport Chronicles

Deep Scar Keep
The companions explore the famed dwarven keep

Summary

  • the companions travel to Deep Scar Keep
  • the towers outside of the keep are secured
  • the companions enter the keep through a secret door
  • a hell-oriented octagonal box is located in an ancient forge room
  • a creeper is tricked into signaling its clan outside the walls, providing cover for the companions to gain entry to the throne room
  • the leader of the creeper clan is defeated in combat
  • Deep Scar Keep cleared, the companions return to the platform for extraction

Details

Grin escorts the companions to the entrance to the underground – a vertical shaft leading straight down. A dirigible is awaiting their arrival, and the group is air lifted into the massive cavern. From their vantage point, the companions can see the walls of Deep Scar Keep in the distance. The entire structure appears hewn from the rock. Before them, there are two outer towers joined by an archway that frame a grand staircase. The stairs lead up to large ornate doors.

The dirigible lands expertly on a large platform. The pilot advises that he will return one day hence for pickup. Before leaving, the companions ask the operator if he can offer any clues as to what they will encounter in the Keep. He advises that the place is infested by dark creepers, small humanoids that have adapted to living in the darkness. The creatures are merely a nuisance in isolation, but he warns that they can be vicious in groups, especially when led by much taller brethren known as dark stalkers. He wishes the companions Austri’s favour in their mission.

As the dirigible heads back toward the entrance, the companions are pitched into near darkness. Freight and Lando create a magical nimbus to follow the group, providing some ability to see. The companions move cautiously toward the twin towers, aware that they are within firing range of the arrow slits in the heavily fortified structures.

Doing their best to travel swiftly, but quietly, the companions are soon surveying the bottom of the right most tower. There is no door evident and the exceptional stonework appears difficult to scale. Circling the tower, the companions are set upon by a group of creepers, the small creatures lunging out from the dark. Catching the companions flat-footed, the patrol, led by a dark stalker, scores several big hits. The battle-trained companions quickly turn the tide of the battle and overcome the creepers. The creatures explode in a bright flash of light upon dying, temporarily blinding the group. The companions note the occurrence for future encounters.

Movement is seen from the arrow slits above and the companions flatten themselves against the tower to avoid line of sight. In doing so, Romica finds a well-hidden door, the outline of which fits seamlessly into the tower’s stonework. Anton places his hands on the door and uses a special ability to see what is on the other side. He advises that there are two dark creepers tormenting a small goblin boy.

Using their chime of silence, the companions sneak into the tower undetected and dispose of the two creepers. The goblin boy bolts through the open doorway once untied. As he runs across the open cavern, the companions can hear several bows fire accompanied by laughing from above. While their focus is elsewhere, the group ascends the interior staircase and uses the element of surprise to take out several creepers. From the top of the tower, the companions cross the archway and finish off a separate group of creepers.

The towers explored, the companions climb the stairs to investigate the ornate gates that guard Deep Scar Keep. The massive iron doors, decorated with crossed dwarven smith hammers, are held fast by a large chain and padlock. Anton again uses his special ability to look inside the keep. He is able to see a long hallway lined with carved columns. Several dark creepers appear at the edge of his vision. It is quickly determined that the companions will be unable to enter through the front doors.

Thinking that it would make sense for the wall of the keep to have a door near the one found on the tower, the companions double back. The area between the Keep and tower resembles a small courtyard that is framed by the edge of the staircase. Having already found one well-hidden door, it does not take Romica long to locate another in the wall of the keep. The entryway opens into a musty hallway with several doors visible. Investigating the doors reveals:

  • A room for food storage that has been overgrown with a fungus cultivation. A pool of water encompasses a portion of the room. Although the fungus appears edible, the companions have no wish to try it. Magus Mike spots something shiny in the water and retrieves a Ring of Sustenance with his grappling hook.
  • A dusty storeroom lined with shelves containing old flasks and alchemy components that have long outlived their best before date. Romica locates a clever device that can be installed on the Shadow Swift to fire powder balls, a special type of cannon ball that explodes on contact dealing damage to those around it.
  • An ancient forge with several anvils coated in dust. A large statue of a dwarven smith stands in the middle of the room, it reminds the companions of the constructs that Ironjack created. In the back of the room, an octagonal shaped box phases in and out of the room. Lando detects magic and confirms that the construct is indeed a golem and sentient. The octagonal box appears to be phasing between the shadow realm, where it was most likely forged, and the material plane. Lastly, two of the various anvils about the room are magical and bear further investigation.
    • The companions decide first to speak with the golem. It advises that it must clear the keep of non-dwarves. Before it can attack the group, Romica commands the golem to halt, insinuating that he is one of the Keep’s founders. The ruse is successful and the construct accepts Romica’s authority.
    • The octagonal box is built of a similar material as the golem, one that Ironjack often used in his creations. The thin disc-shaped device is complete with hinged blast guards. A pressure plate on top appears to trigger the device if someone where to, say, step on it. Although unsure of its use, the companions take for further study.
    • Romica, a bit of an anvil connoisseur, takes a look at the two magical anvils in the room. Both are silver, one with a jade filigree and the other with garnet. The hairy dwarf chooses the jade one, which Lando advises has defensive benefits, as a replacement for the one he has be lugging from Freeport.
  • An armory filled with racks and racks of dwarven weapons and armor. The companions find two sets of dwarven scale mail as well as a weapon upgrade kit that modifies the hilt of a battle axe into a spear, similar to an urgosh.
  • A barracks that is empty save for one lone creeper. The companions sneak up on the unsuspecting creature. Instantly surrounded, the creeper is an easy target for Romica’s intimidation tactics. He advises that their leader, Annack, sits on the Keep’s throne. Each creeper is equipped with a whistle that they use to signal hostile intent. The creepers then swarm their enemies and overcome with them with sheer numbers.

Wishing to push deeper into the Keep, the companions devise a plan. They advise the creeper that they are concerned that the dwarves are mounting an attack. The logical first step would be to take out the towers. It would be much appreciated if he could investigate and signal them, via whistle, if the attack has already commenced. The creeper makes hast toward the towers eager to please.

With several hallways blocked by rubble, the companions find themselves outside the main hallway when the whistle is sounded. Anton, using his gloves to peer through the closed door, advises that a large group of dark creepers has exited the Keep to investigate the intrusion. Entering the room, the companions are discouraged to find themselves in a large hallway and not the throne room. The companions instruct the golem to lead on. The construct races past bunkrooms and barracks, assembly halls and banquet rooms. On the other side of the Keep, the companions push through large ornate doors to find themselves in the throne room. They are not alone, however, as three large creepers, much taller than the ones fought to this point, stand atop a dais in the centre of the room.

Understanding that the three represent the creeper’s leadership, the companions command the golem to stand guard as they shut the doors. Alone for the time being, the group attacks the dark stalkers. The creatures are able to withstand the initial onslaught and trade blows with the group. Freight and Anton are able to drop one of the stalkers, although they pay dearly for it. A troll and slime, attracted by the noise, join the fray and threaten to turn the tide of battle. Magus Mike casts several strategically aimed fireballs into the melee, leveling the troll and slime.

At this time, the barred doors leading to the throne room come under heavy onslaught. As the doors splinter, Romica steps into the gap to meet the charge of the returning dark creepers. His heroic efforts quell the charge, but leave him surrounded by a group of vicious creepers several heads deep. He attempts to engage them as the rest of the companions focus on the dark stalkers.

Despite being outnumbered, the stalkers hold their own against Anton, Freight and Magus Mike. With Anton grievously wounded, the halfling resorts to desperate measures by unleashing his Kuru fury. Jumping onto the back of Annack, leader of this dark creeper clan, the swashbuckler sinks his teeth deep into the stalker’s neck. With jaws clamped, the flailing creature is unable to dislodge the near-death halfling. It’s life-blood drained, the lifeless stalker pitches forward on the dais.

The resolve of the other creepers, who hold Annack in reverent regard, crumble at the sight of the deposed leader. As the last stalker is overcome, the creepers flee from the throne room, intent to leave the Keep for good. The companions take some time to catch their breath and enjoy the moment. The room searched, they each take a turn sitting on the ancient throne before exiting.

The halls of Deep Scar Keep silent once more, the companions make their way back to the platform to await the dirigible and the return trip to the surface.

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Hightailing for Highhelm
A swan song for The Dirty Swan

Summary

  • internal strife on The Dirty Swan results in the sails catching fire
  • the companions board the vulnerable ship
  • the monk officers are defeated, an onyx shard consumed by Sil’s child
  • with the Impervious on the horizon, the companions make for port in Augustana
  • they are met by Grin, plans are made to sail for Highhelm
  • the onyx shard on the Dirty Swan is confirmed as the one that the Mage’s Guild was investigating
  • the companions sail up the river to Highhelm

Details

A cry from the crow’s nest draws the attention of the crew. The lookout points vigorously in the direction that the Dirty Swan had sailed. Purple bands of energy arc across the enemy ship and combat can be seen on the aft castle. The rigging and sails are aflame, bringing the vessel to a stand still as the crew attempts to control the fire. The Dirty Swan is a sitting duck.

Wishing to take advantage of the situation, the companions issue orders to attack the vulnerable ship and signal their intent to their allies. As they close the distance to the Dirty Swan, the companions observe the monk officers overcome and subdue their captain. Soon thereafter, the crew loads cargo onto several longboats, which are let down violently into the water. The small boats orient themselves toward the shore and begin to row. The Kraken’s Spite breaks off to pursue.

One of the rowboats suddenly explodes. Given its proximity to the Dirty Swan, it results in critical damage to the hull. Upon further examination, the companions discern that the cargo that was loaded on the rowboats are large powder kegs. The small boats, manned by slaves, are a feint, a diversionary tactic to buy the Dirty Swan time. On the horizon, a large dark ship appears. Given its size, the group assumes that it is the Impervious, a slaving ship operated by the Hellknights and affiliated with the Dirty Swan.

Wishing to free the slaves, but understanding that time is of the essence, the companions devise a plan on the fly. Anton volunteers to be loaded into a ballistae and fired toward the rowboats. Before he does so, the swashbuckler gives Sil’s child to Lando. Anton gives the thumbs up and is launched into the air. As he nears one of the vessels, he uses an ability to transition into gaseous form, allowing him to slow his rate of descent. He positions himself above one of the rowboats before returning to halfling form. Landing on-board with a flourish, Anton deactivates the powder keg before it detonates. The swashbuckler’s bravado earns him much respect among the slaves. The cheering proves short lived, however, as the last of the rowboat explodes before Anton is able to act.

By this time, the Bloody Vengeance and Cetaceal have reached their target. Their respective boarding parties are met with little resistance aboard the Dirty Swan. The slave crew is, for the most part, busy combating a fire that appears to be growing. This allows the companions direct access to the aft castle, where they are met by a group of monks. The officers have a purplish aura about them.

The monk officers are engaged in a vicious melee battle. With the assistance of the crew of the Cetaceal, the officers are brought to heel. As expected, the purple aura emanates from a dark onyx shard thrust through one of the officers. The battle ends with the shard being consumed by Sil’s child. As in prior experiences, the shard fuses with the child’s chest, bringing further definition to a growing pattern on his body. The boy’s growth continues, reaching a size where Lando has trouble carrying him.

With the Impervious bearing down, and the battle with the flames lost, the companions direct the slave crew onto the Bloody Vengeance and Cetaceal. The slaves cheers as they leave the ship in flames – it is not likely that the Dirty Swan will make it through the day. The Vengeance and Cetaceal link up with Anton and the Kraken’s Spite as they race toward the Andoran city of Augustana. The coastal city is well protected by multiple forts, making it a dangerous expedition for the Impervious should they wish to pursue the ships. Further, the port is well known for its shallow-waters, which would pose a significant challenge for the Impervious to pilot. As expected, the Impervious abandons its pursuit, instead anchoring outside of the range of the fort’s artillery.

The companions are met at the dock by Grin Glintmoss, brother of Dune. The dwarf appears somewhat dumbfounded. He relates that he saw the group load into a ship for hire earlier this very day, which he assumed was destined for travel up the river. The companions advise that they just arrived in Augustana, and wanting to direct the conversation away from potential time distortions, ask Grin to speak in private. Retiring to a local pub, the group is brought up to speed on what is required to obtain the dwarves’ backing. They will need to prove their worth through a tribute of valour, duty, and trust:

  • Regarding valour, Grin confirms that the Blood Queen’s head will serve as an appropriate trophy.
  • The tribute of duty will require an exceptional service to Highhelm. Grin advises that the dwarven capital has outgrown its natural borders and is considering expansion into the Depths of the mountain. The dwarves, a subterranean race, originally dug their way up from the Depths in a journey known as the Quest for Sky. After building their mountain-top hold, a stronghold known as Deep Scar Keep was constructed to block off the Depths. Since abandoned, the Keep is now home to other subterranean denizens. Clearing the Keep would likely qualify as sufficient service.
  • Lastly, the tribute of trust will require gaining the acceptance of a friend of Highhelm, a tall order given the dwarves’ distrust of non-dwarven peoples. Grin suggests speaking with Balim Black, a jailor at the city prison, and a trusted source who can provide further guidance regarding an appropriate subject.
  • As a small token of appreciation for their efforts, and in recognition of Romica’s return to his homeland, Grin provides the hairy dwarf with a High Forged Helm (+4 vs blinding, +2 vs deafening effects).

The conversation returns to logistics. Grin has the ability to contract vessels to transport the companions up the river to Highhelm. The cost conscious companions prefer to go with the Bloody Vengeance and Kraken’s Spite. Given reports that the Hellknights are in the process of sending search parties into town, the companions wish to set sail as soon as possible. Grin is happy to oblige and bids adieu so he can attend to preparations to leave later this afternoon.

With limited time to spend in Augustana, the companions next track down the local agent, Hezband, that Garvey had identified in his research. The operative is not difficult to locate and a meeting is arranged. As he had reported to Felwicks, the Mage’s Guild representative that had travelled to the region, rumours of the onyx shard were traced to a local noble who was later found dead near the docks. Through some great deductive work, the companions piece together that the shard must have transitioned to the captain in port, before Sil’s child consumed it on the Dirty Swan. The companions thank Hezband for the information.

Mystery solved, the companions return to the docks for a status report. Grin has arranged for supplies, which are in the process of being loaded. The Bloody Vengeance and Kraken’s Spite will be ready to leave port shortly. Given its Andoran affiliation, the Cetaceal will remain in Augustana to help protect the city from the Impervious. While the officers are gathered, the companions brief them on the events that occurred on the Cannibal Isles. Those present are elated to hear that the Blood Queen has been overthrown and the local inhabitants put back in charge. They will do what they can to aid in the rebuilding of the Isles. Regarding the Chieftain’s daughter, someone matching her description was reportedly taken to Castle Vraid, a Hellknight stronghold located on the coast somewhere north of Cheliax.

The ships well stocked again, the companions, with Grin in tow, bid the crew of the Cetaceal farewell as they set sail for the dwarven city of Highhelm. During the trip, the companions discuss how best to raise Sil’s child. Given his rapid development, coupled with the inherent dangers faced during the companion’s adventures, it is decided that oversight of the child’s education and upbringing should be entrusted to Thuron and J-Todd. The decision appears to make all parties happy, although Anton, who has become quite attached to the child, sheds a few tears.

The journey proves uneventful, and the companions enjoy several well earned days of rest and relaxation. The Five Kings Mountains, at first a distant landmark, grow larger everyday and soon the companions find themselves on land again. Their guide, Grin, leads the group up to the summit of the Emperor’s Peak and the home of the fortress-city of Highhelm.

To know Highhelm is to know the history of the dwarves. Once the crown jewel of the dwarven empire, the city has endured countless orcish invasions, one of which resulted in the collapse of the dwarven nation. The primary reason for the city’s good fortune is its near-impenetrable natural walls – the city is literally built on the top of a mountain. Legendary walls aside, the city has also benefited from exceptional leadership, most recently under the watchful eye of High King Borogrim the Hale. As such, Highhelm plays an important role in maintaining, and perhaps one day building on, the dwarven nation’s once great legacy.

Once inside Highhelm, the companions decide it best to focus on completing the tasks that Grin laid out as necessary to securing Borogrim’s backing. With that in mind, the group heads toward the Inner City and the cavern that leads to Deep Scar Keep.

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The Marooned Lagoon
The Dirty Swan proves worthy prey

Summary

  • the companions locate the Marooned Lagoon
  • as recompense for their services, Misty agrees to repair the Shadow Swift and install upgrades
  • Thuron provides an update – Garvey is imprisoned in the Fortess of Justice, the Edict is in shambles, Thuron was barely able to escape town in one piece
  • unable to return, Thuron joins the crew of the Shadow Swift
  • Freight must travel to Everstand by the end of the week
  • a plan is set in motion, the companions will travel to Everstand and stop in Highhelm on the way to enlist the dwarves as allies
  • they will resupply in Austana and check in on the mage guild’s operative
  • on the way, the companions ally with the Kraken’s Spite
  • an attack on the Dirty Swan proves unsuccessful

Details

With the help of their crew, the companions extricate themselves and their new found plunder from the sinking ghost ship. They check in on the dwarf, he is still unconscious but Zwicket assures them that he will recover over time. Their task complete, the group directs the Shadow Swift and Bloody Vengeance toward the nearby island where Misty’s secret base resides.

From their vantage point, this side of the island is made up primarily of massive rock outcroppings that make for some imposing walls. Give it is low tide, the companions sail the Shadow Swift toward the point of interest identified by Misty. The sea churns fiercely this close to the wall, the crew snaps to attention and pilots the dangerous waters with ease. As the ship nears the rock wall, the secret words are voiced. A portion of the wall instantly disappears to reveal a large sea cave. The Shadow Swift and Bloody Vengeance sail through the cave which opens into a natural lagoon. After the short but tense journey, the calmness and beauty of the lagoon strikes the companions as surreal. Misty has chosen well her base of operations.

The lagoon is split into several berths and the two ships are moored. The companions are met by Misty as they exit the Shadow Swift. “Welcome intrepid adventurers to the Marooned Lagoon. As a friend of the Shadow Council, I extend you an offer of safe harbor. Do you bring news?” The companions recount their naval engagement, advising that the ghost ship has been subdued. Misty is relieved to hear that the ship was patrolling the area haphazardly, and that it was not on a reconnaissance mission. “Well my dears, I am grateful for your assistance. Brac spoke truly about your abilities, you have proven your wroth. My services are at your disposal.” She provides an overview of her ship-modification business and details some of the upgrade modules she has available. In recompense for their work, she will repair the damage sustained to the Shadow Swift during the attack and provide an rudder enhancement upgrade free of charge. Along with the ironwood hull reinforcements found in the cargo hold, she estimates it will take 7 days to repair and upgrade the Shadow Swift. The companions look forward to a little down time.

The wishful thinking proves short lived. As soon as Misty leaves to begin work on the Shadow Swift, the companions spot a rowboat rapidly approaching. With unnatural speed, the small vessel docks at an empty berth, allowing the lithe figure of Thuron to disembark. The leader of the Swords of the Edict walks with purpose toward the companions. “Dear adventurers, you are a sight for sore eyes. I am afraid that matters have taken a turn for the worst in Freeport. In fact, I consider myself lucky to leave the city in one piece. The assassination attempts have increased in scope and purpose, the last of which included a detonation that near leveled the main floor of the Temple of Knowledge. In the chaos of the attack, I was able to disguise myself as one of the assailants and escape unbeknownst. They assume that I died in the blast, and I have used that premise to leave my former life behind. It was difficult to leave the Edict in such a state.” A tear escapes his eye. For a moment, Thuron seems much older in appearance before he is able to collect himself and continue. “The Shadow Council is in good hands, I have faith in Brac and Dune and their ability to push forward our mission.”

Looking at each of the companions in turn. “Yes, I see the concern in your eyes. Garvey did not return to the Council. We had feared that he died to cover our escape. Well, Dune recently heard from his contacts in government that there is a new prisoner in the Fortress of Justice. One that is kept within a magic-negating cell. We hope it is he.” He hesitates, the companions remain silent allowing him time to collect his thoughts. “Shortly after the attack, I felt compelled to check on his work. I disguised myself and entered the Mage’s Guild. They were suspicious from the start, so I was not able to spend the time that I would have liked, but I was able to review some of his research regarding the onyx shards. As mentioned, there were documented sightings back to the founding of Freeport. Interestingly, he had identified a recent sighting that occurred in the Inner Sea near the town of Augustana. An operative by the name of Felwicks was sent to meet a local contact named Hezband to investigate. There were no further notes.” The statement lingers for a time, allowing for conclusions to be drawn, alternatives weighed.

The conversation soon returns to the Shadow Council’s missive regarding the companions’ travels to Highhelm. Although the Council’s efforts to thwart the cult are expected to succeed, it would be helpful to have a military ally as backup in case they do not. The companions advise they are making progress toward this objective – a suitable trophy has been acquired for presentation to the High King of the Dwarves, but they are still working on an appropriate gift to signify their sense of duty as well as to gain the dwarves’ trust.

This discussion strikes a chord with Freight. Unable to keep it inside any longer, she recounts a recurring nightmare. Although she is unable to recall details, the dreams include both Yarrash, the supernatural pirate that attacked the Shadow Council, and Besmara. She awoke from her latest episode to the smell of brine, seawater, and fresh gunpowder. The last image she can remember is a green and white chequered flag flying above robust city walls. Subsequently, Besmara visited her in person and told her presence is needed in Everstand by the end of the week. If she is unable to comply, the pirate goddess has threatened to disown her. Conferring with Lando, the pennant is identified as that of Everstand, a region that the gnome is interested in visiting given questions arising from his vision. Conveniently, the city of Highhelm resides on the route to Everstand.

This news is sufficient for the rest of the group to sign on to the task at hand – the companions decide to make their way to Everstand, visiting the dwarven capital on the way. Further, they plan to make a pit stop in Augustana to resupply and check in on the mage guild’s operative. Excited by the premise, Thuron agrees to join the crew of the Shadow Swift. The companions are thrilled at the offer and quickly accept. That said, their flagship is under repair and unable to make the trip in the required time frame. As such, the companions plan to sail with the Bloody Vengeance in the morning. When the work is complete, Thuron and crew will meet the companions up north.

Their plans set, the companions bed down for the night. The group sails with the Bloody Vengeance in the morning, leaving the sea cave at low tide shortly after sun rise. Another ship, a viking longboat, is attempting to enter and hails the Vengeance. Given the ship is flying Misty’s flag of allegiance, the companions answer the summons and parlay. The officers name the ship as the Kraken’s Spite. The companions learn that:

  • the longboat is crewed by barbarians from the north
  • they are on a mission to find a holy relic for Everstand in return for fame and fortune
  • they were part of a group of ships that was destroyed by an elven fleet, the survivors created the Spite from the wreckage of that battle
  • besides their search for the artefact, they patrol the region in an effort to disrupt slaving
  • they are presently attempting to track down the Dusty Rose, a ship in allegiance to the Cheliax nation

Given question about the Glengarry Chain, it becomes apparent that the artefact they are searching for is in the companion’s possession. As their interests are aligned – they wish to return to the holy relic to Everstand and are engaged in anti-slaving tactics in the region – the companions believe it best to seek an alliance. The group confirms that they are in possession of the holy relic and are in the process of returning it to Everstand. That said, the Bloody Vengeance is vulnerable on the high seas and a strong ally would be beneficial. In recompense for assisting in the return of the artefact, the companions are willing to spilt the reward. In the meantime, the Vengeance is dedicated to disrupting slaving in the region. The barbarians agree to the terms and an allegiance is struck. The companions split their stores with the Spite, who were hoping to resupply in the Marooned Lagoon, so that they can commence their journey immediately.

Feeling more confident with the longboat’s protection, the Bloody Vengeance strikes out for the Andoran city of Augustana. As the near the coastal town, the allies chance upon a naval engagement already in progress. Two ships, one of which is identified as the Dirty Swan, are locked in combat. The other ship is identified as the Cetaceal, known to engage in the area on anti-slaving missions with the backing of the Eagle Knights from Andoran.

A snap decision is made and the Bloody Vengeance and Kraken’s Spite join the fray. With the Dirty Swan already engaged, the companions are able to board the ship with ease. Further, the crew is busy defending the advances of the other ships, allowing the companions to close on the officers without interference. As the battle rages across the deck of the Dirty Rose, the companions strike at the vulnerable officers. The element of surprise is short-lived, and the officers of the Swan, a militaristic order of monks, quickly mount an effective counterattack. Although Anton and Magus are able to drop one of the two officers protecting the Captain, they are quickly overcome by the monk’s superior martial prowess.

His companions subdued in short order, Lando escapes from the battle to enlist support. Rounding up a group of allies, a counter surge pushes the Swan’s officers to the aft castle, allowing for the retrieval of the unconscious companions. Lando and crew quickly return to the Bloody Vengeance to nurse their wounds. They watch from the safety of the deck as the Dirty Swan deftly disengages the other two ships and sails toward the horizon.

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Ghosty McBoatface
Combat on the high seas

Summary

  • the ghost ship is located
  • the companions successfully board the ship
  • the spectral crew is dispatched
  • the dwarf captain, who was possessed, is saved
  • the ship is looted before it sinks

Details

Setting sail from Port Peril, the journey to the island identified by Misty as the location of the Marooned Lagoon takes most of the day. On the way, the companions gather intel from Ansor and J-Todd about the naval engagement they are about to undertake. They glean that the ship they are going to attack is haunted. It is rumored that, besides the captain, there are no mortal crew aboard.

The ghost ship is easy to locate and indeed appears to be patrolling the island. Looking through their spyglasses, the companions are amazed that the ship is still afloat. There are gaping holes throughout the structure of the hull. The sails are fully rigged and taking wind. After several minutes of observation, the companions are able to identify a ghost crew of about 30 on deck, ephemeral figures that appear to flit between the material and ethereal plans. A dwarf, assumed to be captain of the ship, stands astride the aft castle attended by two spectral officers.

Realizing that the ship is staying afloat through magical means, the companions ask that Zwicket and Loquacious bless the cannon balls about to be fired at the opposing ship. Using cloud cover, the companions are able to stealthily guide the Shadow Swift into range without being noticed by the opposing ship. The Bloody Vengeance hangs back out of sight.

The Shadow Swift opens fire on the ghost ship. The cannonballs shatter the physical hull. Underneath, a ghostly spirit force ripples fiercely under the bombardment. The spectral crew on deck appear shocked at the turn of events. Unsure of what to do, they look to the quartermaster and 1st mate for orders. Lando, closely observing the ship and its crew, notes that the captain appears to be possessed and that the officers are in charge. This information is relayed to the others.

The element of surprise on their side, Freight commands the Shadow Swift to close swiftly. The crew, a well-oiled machine, jumps into action, speeding the ship forward. As the gap closes, the ghost ship is able to fire off multiple rounds, the cannon blasts resulting in devastating damage. The companions focus the Shadow Swift’s return fire on deck drastically reducing the number of crew combatants in anticipation of boarding

The two ships crash together in an ear splitting cacophony. The crew of the Shadow Swift works quickly to lash the ships together as the boarding team clears the gap. With the remaining ghost crew posing little threat, the companions concentrate their efforts on the officers on the aft castle. All three appear spectral in nature with a bluish white aura.

Wishing to isolate the captain, Lando creates a web around the three officers. The quartermaster and 1st mate, both incorporeal, walk through the strands; however, the captain, who is still alive, becomes entangled within the mesh. The captain screams as a tall human form, ethereal in nature, strides from the inert body of the dwarf. The inhuman scream strikes fear in the companions, with all but Anton running blindly from the melee. Lando and Magus pitch overboard between the ships, Freight manages to make the gap as she flees to the opposite side of the Shadow Swift.

Suddenly outnumbered, Anton uses a special power to turn ethereal. The cagey swashbuckler takes advantage of the bewildered officers to score a big hit and drop the quartermaster. This proves timely as the captain joins the fray shortly thereafter, and it is all that Anton can do to hold off the two.

While they are engaged in melee, Lando climbs back on-board the ship by magical means. With the help of an invisibility spell, he collects the unconscious body of the dwarf and drags him back to the Shadow Swift. Entrusted to the care of Zwicket, Lando returns to the melee, along with Magus Mike, who has recently returned topside with the assistance of the crew.

The two head toward the battle to relieve Anton. The magus hurdles the railing and fires a magical hook that grapples an unsuspecting 1st mate. Using the hook to propel him through the air, the magus completes the manoeuvre by running the spectral officer through with his elven blade while unleashing a shocking grasp. The 1st mate’s ghostly form crumples to the deck.

With the momentum of the battle turning, the captain manages to grasp the halfling by the throat. The touch attack drains a fatigued Anton, rendering him unconscious. He is not down for long, as Freight announces her return by channeling energy. With the assistance of a rejuvenated Anton, the companions are able to overcome the supernatural abilities of the captain and gain control of the ship.

The ghost crew disposed, the soul is irreparably damaged. As the magical force maintaining the ship quickly fades, water begins to pour into through the damaged hull. Understanding they have little time, the team splits up to search the ship.

  • Magus Mike locates a key on the quartermaster. He heads through the sailor’s mess to the armory. The key allows him to bypass the reinforced door. Inside, there are racks of armor, weapons, and ship modules. A quick appraisal of the room narrows his focus on a magical ring (+8 vs poison, +2 to will). He grabs the ring and manages to exit the room before water fills it completely.
  • Freight heads into the cargo hold. The large room is filled with decades of random plunder and odds and ends. Surveying the room, she focuses on a pile of timber that appears valuable. She positions the timber in such a way that the rising water level pushes the floating stack through the door of the hold for easy retrieval.
  • The rest of the companions head toward the officer’s quarters. The locked entrance proves little challenge for Romica. The captain’s quarters are spartan, aligning with the companions understanding that he was basically a prisoner. Separate doors lead to the quartermaster and 1st mate’s quarters. Given limited time, the companions split up with Romica and Lando searching the quartermaster’s room and Anton the 1st mate’s.
    • The 1st mate’s room has three items of note: a treasure chest, a footlocker, and an armoire. Romica picks up the treasure chest for further inspection aboard the Shadow Swift.
    • Within the quartermaster’s room, Anton locates a haversack of holding filled with gems (27k) and an exquisite suit of armor (+3).

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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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