The Freeport Chronicles

Lost and Found
The companions are reunited

Summary

  • distant rumbles announce another negative energy storm on the way
  • the companions seek shelter in a nearby cave
  • ghoulish shadow wolves ambush the group
  • wolves vanquished, the companions are visited by Ganyelt, a druid vampire
  • he advises the brotherhood of the yellow sign is excavating nearby ruins in hopes of locating an ancient artefact
  • they must be stopped or the island may be destroyed
  • as payment, Ganyelt will provide them the means to leave the island

Details

The animals of the jungle mill about in confusion, unsure of the sound emanating from all around them. The high-pitched screech, if it could be called such, borders the gap between awe-inspiring and death-defying, complete with an element of joyful elation and clear panic. The soprano timbre was soon joined by a rhythmic bass that shook the ground. The cacophonous episode was over as quickly as it began, as a deformed quadruped creature thunders past. Years later, the animals of the jungle would swear it was a demon dromedary from the plane of shadow that visited the island that day.

No camel was present, instead the galloping creature was the centaur Maydrane Vox and the demon hump an ebullient Lando. That said, not one of the many descriptors used to qualify the sound originating from Lando would have been incorrect as the old gnome hung on for dear life. Suffice to say, the two quickly covered the distance to arrive well-announced to the signal fire.

With a gorgeous sunset providing its fading light, Maydrane and Lando investigate the evidence of a battle at the signal fire. Soon thereafter, three Hellknight officers return. They advise that they were scouring the area for a band of orcs that had attacked a patrol. Perhaps they had double-backed to kill the remaining Hellknights in camp. On guard, commands are given to collect more wood to build the fire.

The distant rumble of thunder and flash of lightning draws the attention of the group. A coal black haze blocks out the horizon, massive clouds stream down from the mountain tops. Lando advises that the ominous clouds are unnatural and recommends that shelter be found before the negative energy storm hits. One of the Hellknights mentions a natural cavern not far from the beach and the Hellknight contingent, with Lando in tow, set out for the cave. Freight and Anton, who witness the exchange from the subterfuge of the jungle, follow cautiously.

As the group nears the cave, a hairy dwarf barrels out of the entrance intent on the lead Hellknight. Recognizing Romica, Lando steps into his path, forcing him to halt his charge. Magus Mike and his serpent folk companion Steve, who were also on their way to the cave for shelter, also step out of the jungle. Tensions on the rise, Lando steps into the middle of the fray before the situation escalates. In his most diplomatic tone, the gnome lays out the situation, “You all know this deep down, you can feel it in your souls, but I will voice it anyway – this island does not want us here. We are in hostile territory, one that will likely be the deaths of us. To survive the predicament currently faced, we will need every advantage, every resource at our disposal. I understand this is not a popular sentiment, but prior events need to be forgotten for the time being. If we wish to leave this island, we will need to join forces and work together.” To the surprise of her Hellknight company, Maydrane agrees and proposes a temporary truce. A begrudging peace is forged.

With rain as black as ink falling around them, Freight and Anton take stock of the situation. As they do, flashes of lightning provide a temporary glimpse of the surrounding hillside and the fleeting shapes of large predatory creatures quickly converging on the group. They bolt out of the jungle in time to warn the Hellknights and their companions of the impending attack.

An unnatural darkness descends as the hideously deformed creatures, reminiscent of shadowy wolves with misshapen protrusions, engage the group in melee. Maydrane charges a group of the ghoulish wolves, while others engage Magus Mike and Steve, the Hellknight company, and Freight and Anton. With a vicious snapping sound, one of the wolves wrestles Steve to the ground. The wolf shreds the body of the serpent person despite a furious counter attack by the magus. A group of wolves ravage the Hellknight contingent, eventually slaughtering all three officers. Freight and Anton manage to cripple the beast before them as they move to support Magus Mike. Together they overcome another wolf through force of numbers. Romica drops several creatures as he carves a path to Maydrane, believing her surrounded. Hasted by her travelling companion Lando, the centaur is ringed by near-death wolves, with several more bodies at her feet.

A booming voice, sounding similar to that of a lightning strike, announces “Enough!”. The surviving wolves blend effortlessly into the jungle. A shape appears from the black haze, a humanoid figure floating several feet off of the ground. A purplish glow emanates from the alien being’s black leather armour. A massive beard and wild hair rings it’s face, a small set of coal black eyes contrasts the creatures bone white skin. The storm subsides around the group, although it continues to rage just outside of their immediate vicinity.

A deep voice that croaks from disuse addresses the group. “A mediocre effort, but you have survived the test. And for that I, Ganyelt, resident ruler of the Isle of Terror, may allow you to live yet. By stepping on to this island, my island, your life is forfeit. But I have need for you, so listen well.” The companions learn that:

  • There are others on the island that bear the symbol of the cult of the yellow sign – they are attempting to excavate a buried artefact
  • Should they succeed, the island’s delicate balance, and its very existence, would be threatened
  • The island was home to the Whispering Tyrant, a powerful and long forgotten despot, several millennia ago
  • The artefact is buried beneath the ruins of his ancient city – Zindafar, the city of golden death
  • The Whispering Tyrant, also known as the Wizard King, built a trap to lure and kill Aroden, the last Azlanti
  • The ploy was unsuccessful and ultimately resulted in the death of the Wizard King
  • The trap relied on a portal to the negative energy plane which remains active to this day, and is the cause of the negative energy storms that ravage the region
  • If the companions are able to stop the cultists from excavating the artefact, Ganyelt will provide them the means to leave the island
  • Given that Lando treasures knowledge above all else, he also negotiates for the vampire druid to answer one question as recompense

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Shipwrecked
Welcome to the jungle

Summary

  • Lake Encarthen must be traversed to get to Everstand
  • a supernatural storm brews, the epicenter lies above a large island
  • the movement of ice flows indicate criss-crossing currents – it will be challenging to navigate the lake
  • the Hellknight contingent appears and behind them the dreadful wendigo
  • the companions attempt to use the island’s current to propel them across the lake
  • an ice flow scuttles the ships, the Hellknights attack
  • a negative energy storm descends, destroying the ships
  • the companions wash up on shore on the mysterious island

Details

Exiting the river, the ships sail into a large diamond-shaped lake. The morning light reveals a dark grey overcast sky. An island dominates the middle of the landlocked sea, a swirling black mass hanging ominously above it. The lake itself appears partially frozen, large ice flows criss-cross its surface.

The group learns from Wes that the region’s main economic driver is trade. There are several town sites around the lake, the closest of which is Kerse, an opulent merchant town that resides a short distance to the east. To get to Everstand, however, the companions must sail north across the lake. The city lies a short journey up the Path River, which empties into Lake Encarthen near the town of Caliphas.

With some time to acclimatize themselves to their new surroundings, the companions perceive that something beyond natural means is influencing the climate. The region is known for its storms; this is not surprising given the massive black clouds that sit above what is known as the Isle of Terror. The clouds spiral violently, wreaking havoc on the waterways near the island. The companions note several other supernatural storm fronts in the area, creating separate and distinct weather patterns. Further, it is clear from the way the ice flows clash and collide that the underwater currents do not align with the weather. All in all, navigating the lake is likely to prove difficult.

As the companions consider a brief stop in Kerse to resupply, a shout from the crow’s nest draws their attention to port – seven Hellknight long-boats are in hot pursuit. Their hand forced, the companions set course for the eastern side of the island in hopes of using the currents to speed the ships progress and slingshot them well beyond the island’s pull.

Their course set, it dawns on the companions that local craft – fisherman and merchant vessels – have headed for shore. In the distance, a horn sounds. Behind the Hellknights, a fast moving grey and white cloud appears, much lower than the others. The cloud follows the ice packs, avoiding open water. The wind pick up noticeably and dark clouds form on the horizon.

The ships course takes them close to the island, revealing several landmarks on land. Forming the southern tip of the island, a dilapidated fort is seen with ancient stone wharves that extend into the churning waters. A ship is docked at one of the moors. The land quickly rises behind the old fort, with exposed cliff bordering the lake to the south-east before tapering into a natural half-moon harbor. A stone jetty pushes into the harbor, creating a small peninsula. In between the two points of interest lies a stone tower.

The ships’ crews are pushed to their limits as the companions attempt to navigate the constantly shifting ice flows. Despite the crews efforts, the Hellknight long-boats slowly close the gap. A low-lying storm front drifts overhead, causing a preternatural darkness. With limited visibility, the ships are vulnerable to the ice flows and are soon broad-sided. All momentum lost, the Bloody Vengeance and Kraken’s Spite prepare to defend themselves from the Hellnights advance.

The ships are able to launch a successful opening salvo, their ballistae fire sinking one of the Hellknight vessels. Before the artillery can be reloaded, however, the enemy has closed the distance and has commenced boarding protocol. The Hellknight contingent, led by the champion Madron Vox, stream onboard the ships to engage the crew in combat. The intensity of the battle is only exceeded by the rising fury of the storm. Waterspouts materialize from the clouds, picking up crew-members from both sides into the air and pitching them violently into the water. Darkness descends, reducing already limited visibility. The wind howls incessantly, the timbre reaching a cadence sounding eerily similar to whispered voices. The building cacophony stops, a ripple cascading across the water negating all sounds, and everything goes black.

Eyes open to a calm, serene scene – the companions have washed up on the shore of the mysterious island along with the wreckage of various ships. The golden sun sits low on the horizon. The storm appears to have moved on, the sky is calm, a surreal image after the intensity of the storm. A tropical jungle invites investigation.

Magus Mike

A low, raspy voice invades the Magus’ slumber, beseeching him to return to consciousness. Inspired, the magus awakes to find himself splayed across a figurehead about 20 feet off of land. On a collision course with a rocky abutment, the magus manages to untangle himself from the wreckage and successfully swim to shore.

Attempting to orient himself, the magus believes he has washed up close to the ruined fort at the southern tip of the island. The sounds that one would identify with a small settlement – people in conversation, animals being tended – can be heard nearby.

A serpent person suddenly crashes through the brush and slumps down next to the magus. The out-of-breath creature is burdened with riding gear. Whispered introductions are made – the magus learns that he, Steve, is attempting to steal a horse and make for the coast. He is tired of serving the “masters”, those that enslave marooned sailors and force them to help excavate nearby ruins.

The sounds of several pursuers follow shortly thereafter. Magus Mike uses a ghost-sound incantation to produce scrambling sounds on the other side of the trail in hopes of confusing the search party. As this occurs, the magus and serpent person leave stealthily along the coastline.

As they put some distance between them and their pursuers, Magus Mike engages the new acquaintance in conversation. The serpent person hints that the mining operation is well-resourced, that many shipwreck survivors find their way to the island. It is rumoured that the masters are searching for an ancient artefact, a glowing purple shard of some kind. The Magus, with Steve in tow, sets off to find his colleagues.

Romica

A swaying motion wakes Romica from a fitful slumber. The dwarf quickly ascertains that he is tightly bound and being dragged by several reptilian creatures. They speak to each other in hushed discourse in a language unknown to Romica.

In a feat of strength, the dwarf rolls violently against his ties and manages to dislocate himself from the travois. Hands and feet still bound, Romica gains his feet in time to parry multiple attacks as two serpent folk engage him in close combat. A third stands slightly away making arcane motions.

As Romica does his best to dodge and feint, a large tentacle extends from the jungle to grapple the caster. The tentacle squeezes viciously and the serpent person’s body explodes under the pressure. The remains of the corpse disappear with the vine-line apparition into the underbrush.

The two attackers glance at each other, uncertain how to proceed. Romica takes advantage of their hesitation to wrench one of the creature’s weapons from its possession. The tentacle reaches out again, lashing around the calf of one of the serpent folk. The creature attempts to flee, unsuccessfully, causing it to fall the ground. It is pulled unceremoniously into the jungle, leaving deep gouge-marks in the dirt track. The last serpent person throws down its weapon and sprints down the trail. A subtle thrashing in the undergrowth follows.

Alone for the time being, Romica dons his gear and drinks a healing elixir. Unsure of where he is, he sets off down the path, pursuing his would-be assailant. The lush jungle suddenly opens up, revealing a large mountain framing the horizon. Dark clouds ring its peaks, as lightening flashes provide brief glimpses of the surroundings. In the distance, Romica spots the entrance to a cave, a suitable retreat to wait out the storm.

Freight & Anton

The sound of crashing waves shakes Anton from his slumber. The halfling has washed up on a rock outcropping, the extension of a promontory that abuts a natural harbour. Freight lays face down in the sand several feet away, unmoving. Anton attends to her and she regains consciousness.

From their vantage, they spy six or so Hellknight soldiers on the beach. Several are collecting wood while others assemble the debris into a signal fire. Understanding that the fire will assist the Hellknights in mustering their companions, Anton and Freight set out to stop them from achieving their objective.

Using the rock wall as cover, they skirt the beach and reach a well used path that runs parallel to the water. A patrol of two Hellknights approaches, forcing the two to blend into their surroundings. With the assistance of the chime of silence, Anton and Freight take the two soldiers by surprise. Their uniforms and armor stripped, the two bodies are disposed of in the dense underbrush of the jungle.

Wishing to assume the guise of Hellknights, Anton and Freight dress in their spiky armor and splash themselves in blood. Rushing into the small encampment, they relate that they were ambushed by several orcs. Three officers leave the camp to pursue, while the other three continue to tend to the fire. Anton and Freight again use the element of surprise to subdue two unsuspecting officers, before overcoming the third in melee combat. The signal fire is scuttled before it can be lit.

Lando

Giggling profusely, the ticklish gnome is awaken by the tip of a lance to the ribs. Lifting his head, the outline of a centaur can be seen in perfect profile with the setting sun. “My, what good fortune this day! I thank you for saving this old bag of bones. I would have assuredly drown in those rough waters without your help.” The centaur’s steely gaze transforms into an inquisitive mien.

Introductions are made and Maydrane Vox, champion of Citadel Vraid, and Lando, bookish scribe, engage in small talk. With open honesty and good manners (and an understanding that the wizened gnome could not possibly pose a threat), Lando manages to temporarily appease the centaur’s need to skewer him on sight. An allegiance of convenience soon blossoms.

Their civil conversation is cut short by the appearance of several massive crabs at the water’s edge. Maydrane wheels around the small gnome and hefts him onto her back effortlessly as they gallop south along an inland trail.

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A River Runs Through It
West is not best, the companions alter course

Summary

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

Details

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Son of Highhelm
The companions time in Highhelm proves short lived

Summary

  • the companions are invited to a feast, Romica is to be recognized as a son of Highhelm
  • many dignitaries are in attendance, including a Hellknight contingent
  • Baelim the Black challenges the Hellknight champion, Romica participates in his stead
  • the Hellknight champion, Madrian Vox, makes short work of the battered dwarf
  • Grin updates the group at intermission – they must leave at once, Borogrim will attempt to extend the feast as long as possible to cover their exit
  • the companions sail for Everstand accompanied by Grin’s son
  • the waterways prove dangerous to navigate, various challenges are faced on the journey

Details

The companions are well rested by the time the dirigible returns. As they ascend towards the city once more, the pilot presents them with an invitation from Borogrim himself – Romica is to be honoured at a banquet feast this very day. With little time to spare, Grin meets them upon landing to escort them to Stonehall, the palace of High King Borogrim.

As they traverse the streets of the Inner City, Grim provides some background on the present political situation. Besides recognizing the companions service, the High King hopes the celebration will temper rising tensions in the region. Emissaries from all the major factions have been invited. Grin has heard rumblings that suggest the companions may be in danger, although he is unsure why. Romica is to be formally recognized as a son of Highhelm post-intermission, providing Grin some time to do so digging. He recommends that the companions keep a low profile until the intermission at which time he will provide an update.

Waiting in the wings, the companions watch the introduction of the various nobles and ambassadors from foreign lands. In attendance at the feast are emissaries from the human kingdom of Everstand, the Chieftan of the Shoanti, and the ambassador of the Elven Alliance. Several dignitaries from the Hellknights are also introduced, including Lektor Sevarious, Captain of Citadel Vraid, his centaur daughter Madrian Vox, and Retrievo Publari, Head Priest of the Impervious. Although not surprising given the Hellknights trade relations with the dwarven capital, the companions were unaware that they had made the trip from Augustana.

Before the Hellknights are seated, they are verbally accosted by a squat dwarf dressed in black leathers. Whispers from members of the court confirm his identify as head jailor Baelim the Black. The grim looking dwarf steps forward to address the crowd, “Why do we host these so called dignitaries? The Hellknights boast of their martial prowess and yet fail to lift a sword except against the most weak and vulnerable of the Inner Sea. If you wish to share a table, you’re going to have to earn your seat. Who amongst you would dare test your mettle with Baelim the Black.” Although they have not attended a dwarven feast before, it is obvious from the tension that decorum has been breached.

The reproach draws a slight sneer from the Captain of Citadel Vraid who waves his daughter forward. The centaur does not appear intent on a friendly skirmish, “Father, forgive this misguided soul. He clearly has no understanding that we raised from birth with weapon in hand to champion the ideals of the Hellknights. I do not wish to soil his reputation any further.” Baelim unsheathes his weapon at the slight.

With a nod from Romica, Lando attempts to intervene, “Dear friends, we are gathered here today to join in celebration with our dwarven brethren. If entertainment is to be provided, I would humbly request that Romica, a dwarven champion in his own right, be allowed to participate on behalf of our good hosts. If amenable to all, I would suggest a friendly duel for all to behold. The first to draw blood will be crowned honorary champion of the feast.” Although Baelim does not wish to back down, High King Borogrim, looking somewhat relieved, quickly agrees to the proposal.

Intent to please the hosts, Romica takes centre stage. Before he has time to set himself, the centaur charges. Her expertise with the lance quickly apparent, she scores a vicious hit on Romica, dropping him to a knee. Madrian looks to her father, who swipes a finger across his throat. She reluctantly turns to face the battered dwarf again. Dropping her lance and pulling out an exquisite sword, she engages the battered dwarf in melee. Romica attempts to circumvent her advances with pure ferocity but fails. A well-placed lunge finds purchase between his armour, bringing him to a knee again. Madrian positions herself behind the dwarf for one last strike.

Lando quickly enters the informal ring, cup in hand, to toast the centaur. “Well done lass. I can truly say I have not witnessed such a feat of skill in this great hall before. Your dedication to the sword is a wonder to behold. On behalf of my colleague Romica and all gathered here, I would like to toast you and your father for the exceptional entertainment this evening.” A great cheer erupts across the hall. Unsure of what to do, Madrian accepts the offered chalice and knocks glasses with the gnome before returning to the Hellknight contingent. The companions carry a near-unconscious Romica from the hall in search of medical attention.

As the companions leave, High King Borogrim advises that a short intermission will commence after which food will be served and the feast will begin. Grin rejoins the group as Romica is attended to. His contacts advise that the Hellknights have come to Highhelm for the sole purpose of dealing with the companions – they are presently mobilizing in the harbour. The High King recognizes Romica as a son of Highhelm, granting Freeport the support of 100 dwarven knights. That said, with the Hellknights in attendance, he would prefer not to formally recognize him at the feast as it will be perceived as an invitation for war with Cheliax. As recompense, Borogrim plans to host an epic feast that will last well into the next day in hopes of keeping the Hellknights occupied for as long as possible, and therefore provide time to escape their grasp.

The companions acquiesce and return to the docks where their ships have been fully resupplied. As they plan to head north to Everstand, Grin offers the services of his son, Wes Bestern, a young ranger in training with intimate knowledge of the waterways in the region. To get to Lake Encarthan, which borders the kingdom of Lastwall where Everstand resides, they must travel through contested lands. The companions believe it a good idea to have a local guide and agree to take Wes on.

Before they set sail, Captain Karl of the Kraken’s Spite requests a word. He has heard stories from the crew of the Bloody Vengeance relating to their brethren in the Belkzen lands. Rumours of orcs mistreated in Everstand, imprisoned and tortured, experimented on and worse. He would like to confirm that the companion’s remain dedicated to their anti-slaving mission. The group provides assurances that their objectives have not changed. Beyond the disruption of slaving operations in the region, the companions wish to return the altar they carry to Everstand with the credit and monetary reward to be shared with the crew of the Kraken’s Spite. Appeased, Karl returns to his ship.

Wishing to put some distance between them and the Hellknights, the companions set sail at once for the small mill town of Haven, the last friendly bastion on the trip north before contested waters. As they sail, Wes provides an update on the region. Historically, the area has been controlled by the Urataqui people, a clan of indigenous humans that reside in small communities; however, they have been pushed south by the Wickawack, a unified tribe of ocrs, ogres, and goblin offspring. The Urataqui, known as a hardy people, have been shaken by several brutal attacks on isolated border outposts. The assaults were rumoured to be orchestrated by a powerful wendigo shaman and were preceded by a strange horn that caused the locals to fall into such a maddened state that they attacked each other. No bodies were recovered leading many to believe that the Wickawack consumed them. Lastly, Wes warns that crossing Lake Encarthan will likely prove challenging this time of year due to dangerous weather patterns.

The companions enjoy an uneventful journey to the Urataqui hamlet of Haven, where they resupply. Wes advises that, from this point forward, there are two potential routes that lead north – a western route that follows a winding, slower course or an eastern leg that is more direct but challenging to navigate. Given their head start, the companions believe caution is best and chose the western route.

Not long thereafter, the group is faced with its first challenge – a long flight of rapids leads to a gruesome metal gate that appears to be forged from spare ship parts. The gate is constructed like a large mouth, with jaws that can shift both left and right as well as clamp down. A second gate can be seen on the opposite side of a still lake adjacent to a stone tower. The companions are able to successfully pilot the rapids and manage to slow the ships before encountering the gate. The companions row to shore to investigate the mechanism in person. They ascertain that the structure can be magically triggered from a distance, say from the nearby tower. Romica puts his engineering knowledge to good use to disrupt the closing mechanism such that the ships are able to pass unharmed. Once through, the jaws are allowed to close and the mechanism destroyed, thereby hampering the Hellknights ability to follow. The companions return to the safety of their ships to traverse the lake and assault the tower. The resident guardian is overcome and the second gate passed with ease.

Continuing west, the river leads to a large body of water with three massive stones piercing the surface. Wes notes that the stones are sacred to the Urataqui people. They have been recently defaced and now depict rituals of human sacrifice. The companions move forward with caution.

The windy river suddenly straightens out into a long, straight and narrow section. About half way through this segment, a trap is triggered resulting in a large amount of ice and debris tumbling into the river. The Kraken’s Spite manages to speed up sufficiently to make it through the danger zone unscathed, although the Bloody Vengeance is not as lucky and is damaged by the falling wreckage.

Rounding a bend, the river narrows again to a choke-point where a massive stone lays horizontally across the gap. Wes points to one side of the river where rollers can be seen onshore. The companions investigate and, with a feat of strength, manage to move the large rock just enough to allow the two ships to navigate the tight gap. The rock is returned to its original setting for the Hellknights to deal with.

With little time to waste, the companions return to their ships to continue the journey toward Lake Encarthen.

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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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