- the companions are invited to a meeting of the Shadow Council
- they are introduced to Dune Glintmoss
- the Council is concerned about the intentions of Sealord Milton Drac
- allies are needed, the companions are tasked with seeking out the assistance of the Dwarves
- the onyx shards are tied to the summoning of the Unspeakable One
- the Council’s meeting is interrupted by Yarrash, former 1st mate of Besmara, the companions flee
- following orders, the companions set off from Freeport to gather allies
- one of their newer crew members is afflicted with a curse
- the companions head for the Cannibal Isles to deal with the Blood Queen
Returning to the Bard & The Bastard for the night, the companions are given a package by the barkeep Spencer. He mentions that an official looking person had dropped it off earlier. The package contains an invitation to the Sealord’s Ball during the next full moon cycle a month hence, which coincides with the opening of the lighthouse. The city has laboured intensely and at great expense to complete the spectacle, which is hoped to bring great fame to the city of Freeport. The companions plan to attend.
The next morning, a summons is received from Thuron to meet at a discreet location. The companions make haste to the area and are invited to join a meeting of the Shadow Council, a committee of patriotic individuals that believe that the Pirate’s Council, the governing body of Freeport, is not acting in the best interests of the city. The Shadow Council is comprised of the following:
- Thuron – leader of the Swords of the Edict order
- Lord Brack – member of the Captain’s Council and head of House Brack, one of the older noble houses of Freeport; staunch supporter of the Shadow Swift
- Dune Glintmoss – a nobleman of dwarvish decent and newly appointed leader of the Searlord’s Guard (given the demise of Hollister); former Captain of the Winter Warg mercenaries
- Marcus Garvey – fast rising member of the Mage’s Guild
Having already met Thuron, Lord Brack, and Marcus Garvey, the companions are introduced to Dune Glintmoss. As a member of the Searlord’s Guard, Dune represents the eyes and ears of the group in government. The other members assure the companions of his trustworthy nature. The companions learn that Dune is a son of Highhelm and has ties to King Bologrim the Hale, the High King of the Dwarves. Not surprisingly, he is devoted to Austri, Father of Dwarves. Lastly, he was previously involved for many years with the Winter Warg mercenaries, a military-oriented group where he met Hollister and Nicola Cage.
Through Dune’s contacts in the mercenary group, he advises that border clashes between the elves and barbarians are likely to soon escalate into all out war, which is expected to create instability in the Freeport region. The Shadow Council is concerned about the Sealord’s intentions for Freeport – the attack on the Temple of Knowledge is just one example of his attempts to destroy those not loyal to him – and believe that Drac may take advantage of instability to make a move for control of the city. They wish for the companions to seek out allies for Freeport – Dune can likely count on the backing of the Winter Warg mercenaries, but the Sealord’s Guard are a lost cause.
One such potential ally is the Dwarven nation. Regarding their relationship with Freeport, the dwarves have always benefited from Freeport’s success throughout history, right back to the marauding days of Thrall Thangar lore. Dune implores the companions, and Romica in particular, to travel to Highhelm to seek their assistance should Freeport fall into civil strife. Directions are provided to the trade town of Augustana, where Dune’s brother Grin Glintmoss resides. They are to seek his assistance in travelling to dwarven lands. As foreigners, the companions will need a large monetary sum (25k gp) to gain entry into dwarven territory. Further, a tribute will be required to present to King Borogrim. Dune advises that a powerful magical weapon or magical armor, an artefact, or the head of a mythical beast would likely suffice.
The next topic on the agenda relates to the increased activity from the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign in Freeport and the dangers posed to the city and the Swords of the Edict. Thuron advises that parties related to the Brotherhood, connected through their worship of the unspeakable one, have been active in Freeport for millennia. In fact, the last time their cult attempted to summon their god it resulted in the apocalyptic events that preceded the downfall of the serpent folk civilization. Through his readings, Thuron has uncovered evidence of a ritual that the cult invoked to summon the unspeakable one to manifest in physical form through a magically crafted onyx statue. More research is required, but he believes the onyx statue was destroyed by the cult as a means to protect it and the shards scattered throughout time and space. This intrigues Marcus, as he recalls several records in the Mage’s Guild that may help to shed light on this theory. He enters a trance like state and telepathically links with the guild to research further.
An attentive Lord Brack relates that the artefacts are a key part of the equation, and represent a clear and present danger to Freeport. At the Captain’s Council yesterday, the Sealord himself presented evidence that Hollister was linked to the cult, that he was amassing artefacts from the cultist’s temple found within his personal residence. Interestingly, Drac credited the companions with uncovering the plot. Brack is aware of the Sealord’s personal invitation to the companions to attend the Sealord’s Ball a month hence. He advises it is likely to be a trap, but recommends that the companions plan to be there. In the interim, it is best to leave town as Dune suggested, to curry support for Freeport. The nobleman has in fact already set events in motion, recalling Shadow Swift crew members on shore leave, providing monetary means to re-equip the ship with armour and weapons, and having the companions war-room transitioned to their Captain’s quarters. All in all, the ship is ready to leave port post-haste. Lastly, should the companions find themselves in Port Peril, he recommends that they seek out Misty at the Maroon Doubloon for safe harbour.
The companions thank Lord Brack for his efforts and advise that their interests are aligned with those of the Shadow Council. With that in mind, they have some information to relay about a potential orc uprising in the Blood Salt. The companions tell of their chance meeting with a group or orcs on one of the islands in the Glencarnie Chain and their ties with the Orc Liberation Army of Freeport, backed by monetary support from the Belkezen Hold. The Council was not aware of this potential uprising and thank the companions for the information which they will investigate.
At this time, Marcus Garvey returns from his trance-like state. He advises that the Mage’s Guild has records that mention smaller pieces of onyx statue throughout history. Most relate to the common gentry finding a piece and gaining immense eldritch powers. Several mention mages that have sought out pieces to study or to harness their power, all of which end terribly for those involved. Interestingly, the pieces are quickly acquired by others with a similar outcome. That said, the Guild’s records contradict Thuron’s thesis that the statue was destroyed to protect it – the Mage’s Guild believes that it was destroyed and scatted across space and time as a means to counteract its sinister designs and evil intent. Both he and Thuron ask for more time to research further.
Turning to Anton, Marcus appears to sense something in the general direction of the baby sleeping against the halfling’s chest. Before he can investigate, a shimmering gray rift rips open in the middle of the room. A shadowy figure steps through the portal, he appears to be phasing in and out of the physical plane. The creature is adorned in pirate garb, with a tricorn hat sitting atop his horned head, his one eye glowing red. He is chanting as he enters, causing mental duress to all in the room. Freight recognizes him from her vision as Yarrash, former 1st mate of Besmara.
Marcus takes command, “I sense great evil. Our Shadow Council has been compromised. Flee! I will hold this creature here. Please make haste!” Needing no further goading, the companions race from the room as great magics explode from behind them.
The companions return to the Shadow Swift. The quartermaster advises that the ship has been prepped and is ready to leave port at their command. Of note, the membership drive was fairly successful, as the crew now numbers about half complement. The ship’s weapons and armaments have been restored. And lastly, Draghor has left the crew, his spot was taken by Tartalk of the orc clan. A directive is forwarded to the Bloody Vengeance to meet them outside of port, and the order to set sail is given. The ship pushes off from the dock.
After rendezvousing with the Bloody Vengeance, the ships sail for the open sea. Soon thereafter, Zwicket requests an audience. During the ship’s return to Freeport, the crew picked up a sailor of lizard folk origin who was adrift on a makeshift raft. The sailor, named Zaros, was in possession of a cursed magical bow that was poisoning him, resulting in a slow transformation into a shambling mound. Zaros hastily agreed to join the crew believing that it would counteract the effects of the poison. It has not.
Digging into the lizard folk’s story, Zwicket has ascertained that, as a rite of passage, lizard folk brethren are dropped off in the Cannibal Isles and tasked with bringing back the head of a monster. During his hunt, Zaros happened upon the Chieftan of one of the local clans that was in the process of being consumed by the Blood Queen. A bargain was struck, and in return for his help, a powerful magical bow was given to Zaros. He accepted the quest, but then immediately left the isle. The bow has subsequently attached to his arm, seeping magical poison into his body. To stop the poison and his transformation into a shambling mound, the Chieftain must be rescued and his clan saved from the torment of the Blood Queen.
The life of a crew member in jeopardy, the companions change course for the Cannibal Isles, representing a journey of about 2 days. From their discussions with Zaros and knowledge of the history of the region, they understand that:
- in the days of the serpent folk dynasty, the Cannibal Isles were home to a race of Cyclops known as the Ghol-Gan
- although they died out many years ago, the ruins of their civilization are still evident across the Isles
- generations of slavers and pirate attacks have pushed the indigenous peoples further and further into the Cannibal Isles, and the grasp of the Blood Queen
- the Queen is rumored to be an evil demonic creature with powerful mind controlling abilities
- she injects her subjects with a venom that allows her to create a psychic link
- there are several locations of interest on the Isles:
- Ghang Zu – a site of massive ruins and central seat of the Blood Queen where her rituals are enacted
- Coachella and Bonaru – neighboring villages in a perpetual war for the amusement of the Blood Queen; after decades of constant battle for the entertainment of the Queen, there are few warriors remaining
- Ahk’ea – rumored to contain the lost treasury of the Cyclops nation, the location is unknown
- Zeb’ra – most independent of the Cannibal Isles; the Blood Queen’s influence is weak in this area, many of the Kuru that manage to escape her grasp originate from here
- Bennoch Maud – an ancient temple overrun by rot grubs; Zaros advises not to journey there
The companions decide it best to visit the villages of Coachella and Bonaru first. Scouting from a distance, the companions see the village of Bonaru under siege by the Coachellans. It appears they are waiting for dawn to attack. Several bands of soldiers skirt the village on guard duty. Zaros tracks a small band, and with the companions help, sneak up and incapacitate them when they are vulnerable. Of note, the Kuru warriors are relatively weak individually, but Zaros advises they are strong when in numbers.
Given the influence of the Blood Queen, the companions would prefer not to kill the Kuru and instead devise a plan to lead them astray. When the Kuru warriors awake, the companions advise they are an advance force for a fleet of ships that are readying an attack on the Isles. The first wave (being the Shadow Swift and Bloody Vengeance) are already here. This message commences a hive of activity, the primary effect of which is the Kuru forming up to march for the coast. The villages are left defenseless.
The cloak and dagger tact successful, the companions strike out for Ghang Zu, where lies the seat of the Blood Queen.