A Crimson Shore, ACT 3, Beyond the Still Waters

A Crimson Shore, ACT III

Introduction, A Crimson Shore ACT III

Found by your party in an as yet to be determined way….

Message to Governor Canton of the Royal Colony of New Cellinor:

His Majesty, Lord Borindin, Slayer of the Great Wyrm, Bringer of Light, and King and Lord of the Mighty Celn Empire bids you well among the strange isles of the Eastern Sea beyond the Still Waters.  It is well known to his Majesty the sacrifices you have made in order to carry on the work of the colony, to explore and report and to adapt to the demands of the colonial lifestyle you find yourselves in, especially among the dangers that dwell there.  

It is furthermore known that within your thriving colony, you have now turned both a profit and begun to establish a foothold among the natives that dwell there, and the monsters that roam the seas and islands.  His Majesty has been informed of the many dangers and perils it took for you, and your good sea-mates, Duchess Portia, and the Ordered Knight Fritz, now commander of his Majesty’s forces in the East to have made it past the Still Waters, Isles of Dread and to carve out the colony there. 

As you well know this venture is not simply a discovery expedition, or an enterprise to expand the wealth, but is a matter of the utmost urgency to the protection of the Crown and Realm and as such his Majesty himself will soon be sending an envoy, bearing the official seal and branded by the King, with certain secret affairs of Lord Duher, Commander Luger, and Ordered Officers Bearclaw and Flemin.

Although the magical correspondence afforded us is limited, we have understood your latest dispatch to include reports of both piracy against the crown by local natives as well as possible espionage among the inhabitants of the colony. Other reports of stranger beasts are as you know well documented throughout the wilds of our goodly realm in all areas, and as such, we bid you caution. As to the inhabitants in and outside the colony that may bid you harm, should you find and Inquisition said spies, it is ordered that you keep these criminals for the special envoy being dispatched.  More orders will be given at that time.

As briefed at your departure to the East, be wary of Sa’rasin exploration.  We know these usurpers to be well equipped, and should you encounter their ships, you are commanded to engage them until they are destroyed. Our previous reports that these isles first founded by the first expedition were unexplored by our Eastern enemies may have been inaccurate.  We recommend immediate palisade strengthening.

As always, should the colony fall into enemy hands, it is expected that you will honor the King with a complete destruction of these notes and decrees.  Nothing is more important than the protection of Celn interests on this good Lighted Earth.

Sincerely,

Lord Taryn, Duke of Carr Alpha and Senator of the Cillandrial Council

  1. A casket of the season’s best Dying God ale is en route along with the envoy and comes with his Majesty’s best wishes to your health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wield the Right of Way, Player Background

Magical Item STATISTICS

*CURSE BASE: Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate,

Additional Abilities: Perception, Stealth (Intentions), WILL :Roll statistics above for each! 3d6 no rerolls.

*Can die twice, but a third time separates the bond in the magical item from the soul of the queen/king.  You will essentially die, and so will the item.

*Should your CURSE work on a subject, consider this like a POSSESSION.  You may learn some things about the subject, but mostly, the subject will embody the will of the King or Queen. DM will tell you some things about the subject at his discretion. You can use your abilities to gain an idea of things, such as perception.

Item Name:

Item Description:

Bonuses:

Special:

Flaw:

FRAGMENTS OF THE KING AND QUEEN, Who are you?

The King’s EGO: The king’s EGO is what is left of the regal nature of what made the King the man he was.  Because Hasai destroyed his life, and his love, keeping all parts together is paramount. The EGO will do anything not to lose any other part. The EGO wants to fulfill it’s ambition to protect the queen. That means most likely seeing what is left of them to safety.

 

The King’s ID: The ID wants what the ID wants.  Hasai took your love from you. Now you want her dead. She has long since died?  Then, just give you something to kill in her stead.  You are not stupid, but you are driven by emotion.  You alone know why.  You feel completely responsible for what happened that night, because Hasai’s menace towards the queen was nothing short of…jealousy!!

 

The Queen’s Heart: Your “heart” is broken.  Loneliness has gripped you. You don’t know what you seek, but lies, deceit and treachery disgust you. You will endure through the goodness you find in the rest of the world. 

 

 

The Queen’s Brain: You are smart, and wise. A unique combination.  Plan and strategize. That is the hallmark of a good leader.  You must seek the highest advantage, and priority number one is to be in the strongest, and safest environment to thrive.  But first, you need to leave this island in order to do that.  Next, you need to find someone you can put your faith in.

 

The King’s Physicality: Legendary warrior blood runs in your veins.  It took an entire army to kill you.  Perhaps, you can now build your own. But you’ll need to be in a position to lead, and that means a strong wielder.

The Queen’s Super Ego: You are the voice that sooths the King’s rage, and your own. You are the voice of reason.  What is best done for the sake of exacting your curse, the whole reason to exist, to be at peace with your King?  You know best.  Now, you must convince the other parts that have separated to follow you.

 

The King’s LOVE: You are the embodiment of the King’s love for his queen.  You are incapable of doing things that would hurt her. You only wish to keep what is left of her alive, and you would sacrifice anything to do it.

 

The Queen’s LOVE: You are the embodiment of the queen’s love for her king.  You are incapable of doing things that would hurt him. You only wish to keep what is left of him alive, and you would sacrifice anything to do it.

An ALIND One Shot, Narrative Interlude

Wield the Right of Way

“My queen, he has come.”

“Send him to me,” replied the queen.

No sooner had the servant delivered the message, than a man dressed in glistening mail, holding a broadsword and accompanied by a contingent of look-alike soldiers, strode into the room. With purpose, the man, who removed his helm and whipped his long brown hair back from his face, fell to one knee, and took the queen’s hand.

“My queen, She has come.” To emphasize the announcement, the chamber shook with such force that mortar cracked in between some of the stones. The bowing man looked up and around at the others, whose expressions like his, looked both shocked and grave.  Most had drawn their swords, and here inside the queen’s dressing room, it seemed almost ridiculous.  It reminded Gidean of a play once the palace fool put on about a garment that caused a big war in the land.  A comedy that was. But this was no theatre.

“You must come with me, now, for your protection!” Gidean pulled the queen’s hand, who grudgingly followed him towards the chamber door. Gidean knew that this part of his mission would be the most important. The queen was like her husband.  Hot headed and strong willed.  She didn’t like to lose, and worse yet, was not keen on being told what to do.  And one must be careful, because the queen never forgot an injustice.  Ever.

She looked around as if she was forgetting something important. Even in this imminent danger, she was regal, Gidean thought.

“My husband, where is Lord…” The queen’s defiance was now tinged with worry.  All in court knew that unlike her father, the princess’ marriage was not one of politics.  Put simply, she had met her prince, and she had fallen in love.  Their wedding had been a blessing to the kingdom.  Unlike other royal unions, it was real and because of that, inspired it’s populace. That is, until the dragon came.

“The King is defending the Keep, he is…engaged. The beast has not come alone this time, m’Lady.

“Not alone?  But who has come with her?”

“My lady. It appears as if the dragon has amassed an…army.”

“An ARMY?? An army of what? From where? Gidean, what is this mad…” stammered the queen who stopped as if the shock of this statement was more than she could believe. But just at that moment, another tremor erupted around them as they were now moving through one of the palace passageways.  The bricks of carved designs all around them shook, the marblework cracked, and one section of the hall crumbled in a haze of dust. Great crevices snaked their way along the walls and floor.  The blast startled them all, and knocked one soldier to the ground.  Large stones piled on top of him, crushing the screams from his mouth.  His body lay still, arms and legs snapped in bent positions by the debris.

“NOW M’LADY!” Gidean’s face had become urgent and wide eyed.  More quakes around them blasted here or there and the soldiers, instinctively, moved into tighter formation. They were willing to give their lives for the queen, but each was driven by their mission. “MOVE! You men! The queen, move the queen to safety!”

Now in a full run, the soldiers, swords drawn held their shields in a way to protect their precious queen. They raced through the castle passageways, deeper and deeper in the keep, as dust and dirt from the giving stones above them fell in streams.  Gidean knew they were getting close. If they could make it to the treasure chamber, they had a chance.  They had planned for just such an attack as this, in fact, they had prepared for just this moment, and he knew that the dragon could not hold the keep indefinitely.

Onward he pulled his queen, onward the men followed. Gidean tried to remember the plan that he had reviewed so many times with the king.  Remember Gidean, to the chamber.  Make it there, and she will remain safe.  Until our troops from Tso Canth arrive.  Hasai will not be able to hold the keep, you will wait with her.  I will give you the time you need, and once I know she is there, will come with reinforcements. Do not fail me.

I will not, Sire.

The screams and yells were now audible. The fight was coming closer. They needed only to move to the next stairwell, descend and unlock the chamber.  “We’ll make it,” thought Gidean, and just then, from a side passage he saw a shadow of something that shouldn’t be.

“Halt,” he whispered harshly staying the others with his hand.  But it was too late, they were in full view of whatever was in the passageway’s shadow.  From the darkness beyond the light of the last torch, two sets of gleaming blue eyes appeared.  For a brief moment, they hovered in the air, and then grew larger as the forms they belonged to came into view of the flickering flames. Out of a nightmare, walked two impossible monsters.  Large reptilian faces, as if they were men and dragon mixed.  On their backs were folded wings like those of a bat, and each held a wicked sword.  In a guttural language, one spoke to the other.  And as the one advanced, the other fell back into the darkness.

“Defend the queen!” Gidean’s honor was unmatched among the guard and was none the different this eve. He flung himself into the beast, but it’s muscular arm simply swiped him aside.  One clawed hand grabbed the soldier’s throat and held him against the wall. It then slid him sideways near a lit torch in it’s sconce.  His ear’s flesh and his long curls began to sizzle and burn while he yelled. All the while the creature’s wicked sword slashed at the other soldiers who engaged it.

“Give me the keyssssss,” hissed the beast in a mockery of Common.  It’s snout full of sharp teeth was pressed against Gidean’s face, who could smell it’s coppery breath mixed with the smell of his flesh and hair, burning.

“Nevvvvver,” croaked Gidean. His face was enveloping in a fiery blaze and his eyes were bulging.

“My misssstreesssss will take the girl. Ssssheee comessssss…..”

With Gidean’s dying breath he yelled for the others to move the queen on.  He reached to draw a dagger from his boot, which was, like the rest of him, suspended above the ground.  But as his hand grazed the handle, the creature, watching the others move onto the stairwell, turned back in his direction.  It’s blue eyes gazed right at him, and Gidean saw that they were indeed the eyes of a reptile, of a snake. They were dragon’s eyes.  The eyes of the beast.  As the creature plunged his sword right through the noble soldier’s heart, Gidean knew only that he had failed his king. His eyes closed, and he knew no more. The creature came on towards them, while behind it Gidean’s body burned. The sword had been pushed so deep between the stones that he hung there, arms and legs limp, against the walls of the keep.

“MOVE!!!!” Shouted Gidean’s captain, and his men crab walked down the passage as fast as they could.

The others in the company wasted no time with the enemy coming on and they reached the stairwell quickly, stumbling upon the stones as swiftly as their feet would take them.  The soldiers in the rear spread out their shields, but it roared and slashed. They tried desperately to keep it at bay by slashing it with their swords.  The creature simply used it’s claws to swipe away the weapons and chased on. The yelling grew louder from all the different passageways above and they could now hear the distinctive sounds of battle. Men were dying.  But was the enemy? “We’re nearly there!  Open the Treasure Chamber!” screamed Gidean’s captain to one of his men. Producing a key, the man raced on in command. “Hurry, my queen, hurry!”

The Captain, like Gidean moments before, took the queen’s hand and ran on, while several other soldiers fell back. They would be the last defense. Or so he thought.

Their swords swung into action, as their comrades fell to the creature’s claws.  Luckily, one of them struck a mighty blow, and the beast fell.

Ahead, in the hallway, the captain knew his soldiers wouldn’t last long, but almost immediately a sound that was like sizzling meat tore through the halls and echoed in the chamber.

What the…?”

Rounding the final steps of the treasury stairwell, the Captain saw his guard in the torchlight, fumbling with the key.  He knew that the guard would be speaking the incantation that would peel the door away. Giving them only a few moments of time, it would seal itself off until another spoke them again. It was going to be close, but they would make it.  With the remaining guards, they could buy her the time she needed.  He had but a few paces left, and in the blink of an eye, he knew he would never make them.

It was the guard who was working the treasury’s door who first looked up, past him.  Back in the direction they’d come.  From behind, and above in the stairwell, where torchlight should be, was now darkness. But that was not all.  A dark, slick, and blue form like a wave of water rushed down towards them.  The form was fronted by a colossal mouth, with shimmering teeth and two eyes, like the smaller he had seen before, but vastly larger in size.  The dark blue scales rippling along it’s body scratched the stones of the chamber.  Through the darkness fell two gigantic legs, with claws that ripped the stones they fell upon.  The torchlight illuminated the full form of the beast they had trained for these many years. The beast that had terrorized them.  But nothing could have prepared them for this.

“Rear guarrrr……,” began the captain, but his words were never finished, for at that moment the air sizzled.  There was a metallic smell as when one enters a blacksmith’s shop, and something seemed to push him closer to the gaping maw that was outstretched not feet before him.  Raising his sword, the captain could perfectly see the dagger like teeth, the tongue whipping and in the very center, towards the back of it’s throat grew tendrils of sizzling energy. Like, tiny bolts of lightning they convulsed and centered and with a gush, they struck outward at him and several of his other guard, bolts of lightning stopping his heart, charring his flesh.  The captain died with his mouth open and an immense hole which burned outward right through the center of where his chest used to be. As the queen watched terrified, the burning fanned out to the rest of his body. In sickening speed, it blackened and flaked off of him like ashes from a fire. Behind were left  the white bones of what was only moments before the captain of the guard. The body of the captain fell over, and behind him, stood the queen in her dressing gown. Hair disheveled. Fear and defiance ablaze in her eyes. The queen looked upon the beast. The dragon moved the rest of it’s legs, wings and tail down from the stairwell, but kept it’s snout pointed at her.    With one strike it could bite her in two.  Never taking it’s plate sized eyes off the queen, it spoke not to her, but to the guard at the door, the only guard it had not destroyed.

“Pleasssssssseeee soldier of the keep, you musssttt  finisssshhh the incantation for meeee.  I would hate to leavvvee empty handed.”

The guard did not answer.  But nor did he finish the words.

“Your queen for a treassssssurry, young one. Sssspeak the wordssss, or I will kill her anyway, and peel the ssssskin from your body for ssssssport.”

Without looking up, trembling from the dragon fear. The guard rose and slowly turned his body from the dragon’s mouth until he was facing the treasury door once more.  His hands shook so violently that he inserted the keys, but his knees gave way and after completing the phrase, he fell aside as if struck on the head.

“After you, my dearest queen.”

The queen backed toward the chamber door.  Her breath was caught in her throat, she could smell the same metallic stench, and a rushing of wind began to pull her towards the dragon as before.

For the tiniest of moments there was an awkward silence, while above them men screamed and metal upon metal rang out. The queen knew if she could just squeeze inside the chamber, she would be safe once it closed.  For this is exactly what the chamber had been created for.  As her husband had planned, she would then wait for him and for Tso Canth’s guard to arrive.  She could do this.  She could live. She could see her love once more. Around her, the Captain and his soldier’s bodies lay in piles of charred corpses. Their bodies were nothing more than skeletonized bits of blackened flesh lying on the chamber floor. For her they had died, she must live, if only to honor them.

“HASAI! By the Light, what have you done to her!!!!”

The dragon turned it’s head, roping it’s neck backwards above it’s body and in between it’s wings. The queen looked past the dragons’ body too and up the steps, where a man in a golden suit of mail stood.  It was the king!

And he was badly injured. His sword was held behind him in an odd way.  His other arm, his shield arm, was missing.  Below the elbow there was nothing.  Blood was caked and matted all over his armor, and as he took the first step of the descent, she knew he wouldn’t make it.  Behind him even as he came, were more of the dragon men, and with what was obviously his dying moments, he walked step by step while they clawed at him, and hacked at him with vicious and sharp weapons. His ineffectual sword thrusts just slid off their scales.

Everything happened in an instant.  The king toppled then and slid down the final steps coming to rest at the base of the stairs.  He tried to lift his head, but got only as far as turning it in the direction of his treasury door sliding open.  He yelled the name of his wife.  It went on until it became a long drawn out whimper.  Perhaps he was trying to will her to the door, perhaps he was trying to keep her alive by keeping her name upon his lips as long as he could.  Perhaps, it was the agony of his failure.

The queen cried out, bending over with horrible agony and as quickly as she could, turned and made a run for the door just as it was closing itself. She screamed with rage and sorrow, as behind her the dragon roared.  Pulling herself in with a tug of the treasury wall, she landed atop a pile of the kings coins.

The dragon sprang and threw it’s might against the chamber door, realizing it had been tricked, and would not be able to open the door with her inside.

“We’ve beaten you, worm! Crawl back to where you’ve squirmed from!!!!! I’ve lived, and Tso Canth will come for you! My vengeance will be upon you!”

The beast roared, and the queen, all tears and sweat and torn garments, laughed at the sound.  She had just witnessed her beloved’s death, and for that, there was only her life as victory, but it was hers. And it was his too.

The door was coming to the end of it’s motion. The anguish of the defeated dragon dying beyond the magical enclosure. And just when it had all but evaporated, a lone talon stuck itself in the last of the door’s closing gap.

The queen stared at the talon, and she froze, the laughter dying in her throat.  Something began to push her from behind.  She realized then that it was the air, sucking out of the chamber through the small, miniscule gap where the talon was. Looking down, she saw, as if by some magic, some of the coins rising in the air, between them danced little bolts of energy.

“My life is my revenge,” she thought, “and somehow, my love, we will have our vengeance.”

Blarf and an Attack of Plak

Atop a dusty coated heap of dirt, crawled several creatures. Their twisted forms fell on the mound and their snarling faces called to one another in a grotesque way. They were looking for something, and were in a hurry.  As they dug, several bones and glistening and gleaming coins appeared below the dust and dirty layer on top.  Judging by what was revealed thus far, the entire mound was a treasure pile!

“Look, at all the shinies! Blarf was right, he was!”

“Zip it, Plak you rat droppings,” muttered another creature.   “You’ll send those blue ones in to find us. We ain’t got long. Besides, I’m taking the lot, and then I’m going to stick my dagger in Blarf’s….what in the Ketian…”

Several other voices hissed and garbled at each other, while these goblins slouched and squirched into the chamber.  All around them, lit by their flickering torches, were golden or silver coins, and other jewels.  The tribe had found the riches that Blarf had promised them.

At that moment, several of the hideous creatures caught sight of a magnificent axe lying atop a pile of gems and coins.  They fought and punched each other, but it was a small goblin who twisted his way and grabbed the axe by the hilt.  His name was Girbac.

Girbac swung the enormous weapon in an arc, “With my new treasure, I’ll show Blarf who the Tribe Chief is, I will, why I’ll…” And throwing his combined arms in motion with the axe he swung it in an uncontrollable circle, but the axe wasn’t quite the toy he thought it was. Coming back around, it swiftly and cleanly cut his left ear right off. The creature cried out in anguish. But he wasn’t done there.  The axe kept going and going, moving Girbac around in circles.

The other goblins shrieked and backed off.  One, a rather stupid fellow named Miffed, rifled through the coins, looking for his own axe. His hand fell upon a stick of some sort, which he at first was about to drop. “Stupid stick,” he groaned, but after speaking, the stick seemed to come to life, and as the little creature pointed it around the room, trying to regain his balance from the shock, coins grew in a wall, and then fell, and then grew into a wall once more.  Miffed smiled helplessly but each time the coins dropped he shook his new toy and grumbled unhappily.  Later, his look would be remembered by the bards as “being miffed” thus starting an expression for when someone is unfairly unhappy, but that is a tale for another time. While he began to become acquainted with it, he stood there, watching the coins rise and fall, rise and fall.

Blarf had many enemies in this tribe of island goblins.  Accustomed to having enough to eat, the occasional wild boar, or island human wandering too far b canoe, recently the island had been invaded by all sorts of other creatures seeking the ancient treasure, and his power was waning. Food had become less dependable and that meant more challenges, and less carrying him around on his bone stretcher. Then there was the shaking and the Great Belch.  Some said Blarf was to blame for not marrying his sister as is the goblin custom.  Instead he had fallen in love with his mother, which as all goblins knew caused an imbalance in tribe disfunction. Blarf didn’t care, his womather was his, so to Ket with the lot of them.

Two other goblins which seemed eerily similar, were fighting over what looked like a plain and simple whip. They were in a bit of a tug of war. “Give me that whip, curse you, you retched thing Lern!  I’m going to lern you some more, Zern!”  Beyond them, another goblin was pulling a truly magnificent sword from the coin pile. Once out, he held it high aloft, revealing it’s beauty despite the obvious age, but it’s weight made him lunge in a circle on the coins, where he soon sliced the head of another goblin clean off. The sword fell back atop the pile and slid all the way down the metallic heap of objects. Not feet from where he came to a stop, another goblin looked as though it were having an animated conversation with a coin.

“Blarf’s coming, you maggots, you better be ready to show him some shinies!” Came the shrieky voice of a goblin carrying a staff. On the staff were rodent skulls and atop it, in an impotent lean was what looked like the remains of some larger mammal’s genitals.  This was followed by a shrill horn of some kind, and a large fat goblin, being carried on a stretcher made of bones, entered the chamber.

“Well, well you mongrels, I see you have decided to steal my shinies. It looks like I will be eating your heads to….” But just then, Blarf paused while an immense quake shook the chamber.  Gigantic cracks broke through the ground, large enough that a tunnel below was revealed.  Coins fell into them like water cascading down a cliff.  A sulfuric odor filled the chamber and smoke billowed out of a few smaller veins etched in the ancient walls. But the goblins were in a frenzy, each trying to fill tiny sacks with coins. All except for those who had found something very special, something that they just could not part with. A coin. A whip. A sword. An axe, and a very interesting stick. Each of them was stopped, holding their items of magic. At that moment, footsteps came from the tunnel they hadn’t crawled from, and they stared at the sets of blue eyes that grew from the blackness.

Into the weak light they came, three dragon men.  Swords drawn, mouths open and snarling, dark and deep blue scales shining in the goblin torch’s flames.  They caught sight of the goblins swinging the axe, tugging on the whip, making the coins form a wall, and talking to a coin, and laughed in a guttural way.

“THERE! Mrakish! Alert the others, that the items we seek have been found.”

“But what do we do with this stupid lot. I’ve already got enough goblin blood on my blades to need to clean them for a few cycles?” Chuckled another.

“Have sport, Blight you, Gurlash.  But be quick about it.  We don’t have long. The volcano has been compromised in the blast.”

“Ok, you miserable maggots.  Who’s first?”

While the goblins huddled, waiting for leadership. The first dragon man drew his sword and plunged it into the heart of a small goblin whose eyes bulged while his mouth spat out deep red blood. Seeing this, shrieking, many of his friends jumped into the crevasse that had just opened, a few dropping Blarf’s stretcher, while he rolled like a river stone until he came to rest at one of the dragon men’s feet.   Even though smoke and heat was seeping through the fissure, in went the other goblins.  Several dying by their enemy’s blades, before they could make it.

Another rumble echoed in the chamber, and this time, everything shook violently, treasures and goblins were tossed around. The dragon men fought to keep their ground, and slashed at the helpless goblins, whose tiny daggers were no match. All that were left atop the pile, were the goblins who had found the special gear.

“We must kill them, or they will alert others to find us,” shouted Girbac to the others in a way that did not sound like Girbac at all!

“To your death!” cried Miffed, using a phrase he would never dare to speak!

That Island Feel

              In a way that they never would, the lot of these goblins, carrying their newly found treasures, set upon the dragon men. The Blues, were so overwhelmed at their un-goblinlike nature that they were abashedly surprised.  Two were even killed by the axe and the sword while a wall of coins kept several goblins from being slashed to pieces.  One of the dragon men, obviously shocked by this, ran off, for the first time a look of fear in his eyes. This was clearly the work of the magic his mistress had warned him of.  He must tell her, at once.

          “Why are you talking like Chief, Miffed, you damnable fool, and how do I know damnable?” Plak, sat and picked the decayed stumps of his teeth a bit. Later, when the story was told, his teeth as you well know would come to be seen as a horrid disease. His name then used to describe it.  But he wouldn’t sit for long, thinking whether he had time or not. Another rumble sent him into the crevasse, along with these new and awkwardly articulate goblin comrades.

Within a few paces inside the tunnel, nothing more than a hollowed and smoky tube, the gaggle of goblins began to cough and wheeze, gag and choke. This was not a goblin tunnel, sleek and narrow where one could grip and pull your way through, keeping your larger foes behind. This was a slick, and slippery tube, coated with something black and dark, like ash.  It smelled, if that were possible, even worse than the goblin’s own grottos.  Warmer than a goblin fire, and warmer than the mountain had ever been, they knew something was wrong, and there was little time.

Plak began to notice he was walking on something that felt like splintered wood, and indeed it was.  Large pieces of curved, splintered wood, that had once been barrels of some kind.  Although, he didn’t know quite what to make of them, he could tell inside they must have had something very smelly, something like the smoke from this quaking furnace below their feet! Further on in the cave, some wind had come alive, perhaps awakened by the blasts and eruptions, and was hurling the goblins that had gotten there before them around the cavern. That’s when they saw the dying light at the end of the tunnel.

Now ordinarily, goblins would never run towards the light. Away from it, but never towards. Light harms a goblin’s skin just as fire harms a humans.  But for some reason, these goblins were headed that way.  From time to time, they seemed to work in unison, almost as if they understood each other in a new way.  Girbac became tired and dragged his axe along the tunnel floor.

They lumbered and lurched as goblins do to the end of the tunnel, and although keeping safely out of the direct rays of sun, peered outward into thin air, and clouds.  The light hurt their goblin eyes, but no longer acting in the way they did, they allowed the discomfort. Beyond was just the sea. Looking down, they saw that they were high up inside a hill or mountain. Above them smoke was pluming into the air, while around them, oozing down the hillsides, were streams of lava, sizzling trees and bushes in a slow march of orange, and red.  Below was jungle, and in the distance islands.  There was also a beach, and anchored off of it was a large ship, with smaller boats nearby making their way to shore.  On the opposite side, they saw canoes in a nearby area, clearly kept hidden, but in view of where they were nonetheless.  Several winged blue dragon men circled the jungle floor below them, clearly looking for something.  The volcano belched again, and all around the hillsides rocks pummeled downwards, and more cracks ripped into the sides, uprooting trees, swallowing up shrubbery.

The queen, only now beginning to understand the depths of her despair, and the depths of the tragedy that had befallen her, gazed out upon the lands below through these eyes.  What was once lush and green farmland, fields of wheat and barley for House McBriar’s bread and beer, were no more. Instead, the ruinous outcropping of her lord’s castle jutted out in places from this gigantic mountain, and below, all around was a sea.  The various houses of the lands she once knew, were now nothing more than islands scattered in the far distances. Somehow, the realm had been swallowed by the sea. It was impossible to take in, and impossible to understand. All she could discern was it had been a great many eons since she had been queen.  How long had she been imprisoned in the treasure chamber.

And then she saw the blue wings and the dragon men, hovering over the treetops. And her vengeance came back to her in an instant.

But how to satisfy this vengeance, and against whom? For surely her adversary would by now be long since dead. Or would it? How long does a dragon live, anyway?

Girbac, leaned on the axe, and said to the others, “We must make our way to the ship at the beach.  Villian or ally, finding a way to leave this island is the only chance we have.  In this way, we can take stock, and plan our revenge.”

“Indeed,” whispered Miffed, in a very unMiffedlike way.

“What in the Ketian nights is wrong with you scrawny dogs!” yelled a shocked and horrified voice. It was Blarf and his emotions had gotten the better of him.  Somehow, he had gotten away as the dragon men were fighting, and made his way into the tunnel.  He had been observing their behavior since the treasure chamber, and then hid. When he saw them come through the tunnel, he thought following them was his best means of escaping.  After watching them attack in a coordinated fashion and subsequently kill the two dragon men, he decided it was best to follow them at a distance.  Something was wrong about them, but he could use them to get out of here. They all turned to see him squatted down in the darkness of the tunnel, looking horrified at both the light, and them as well.

Plak flipped a coin in the air, and held it to his ear.  He seemed to be listening to it, and when done, he nodded, and turned to look his old chief in the face, defiantly. “Blarf, we don’t need a chief anymore. We now have a king and a queen to guide us.”

But Blarf didn’t hear most of that sentence, he had turned and desperately run back down the tunnel, coins falling like rain drops out of his filthy rucksack.

The Beach and the Slavers

Guided by the spirit of the King, and his Queen, by her heart, and his soul, by his will, and her thoughts, the gaggle crept along the mountainside in the twilight, and entered the treelines of mangroves and palms in the swampy lowlands of the island.  Gazing back, they could see indeed, they were on an island, and rising in the center was a large volcanic mountain, still belching thick black smoke which blotted out faint stars appearing on the horizon as night came on.

Goblins are quiet, but they do make a few noises when they carry swords twice as long as they are tall, and so it was taking time, and the mountain was growing louder.  They came to an area of tall grass. They could tell they were getting closer to the shore, because they could hear the waves crashing gently beyond. Luckily for them, there was a gigantic crack just then.  Looking back an entire portion of the mountain broke off launching ash and geysers of red lava into the sky.  That’s when they heard men speaking, in the treelines.

Cervantes De Leon Sandurkan

It turned out to be a group of pirates and immediately explained the smaller boats leaving the big ship they had seen from the top of the mountain. From what they gathered, this group was sent to the island after others and to look for treasure. They were not allowed to come back until they had found it.   But when one of the pirates ran towards the goblins shouting “That’s my ticket off this place,” there was nothing left to do.   The spiritual remnants of the queen and king passed into the pirates. These new pirates then rounded up the confused goblins, and turned them into prizes for someone named Sandurkan.  Only Plak remained in their consciousness.  There was a plan, with Plak.

Back to the beach they followed the trail, and on the sand they saw a man raising a cutlass above another man. Behind him, the sea and a large ship at anchor. “It is simple, my friend,” spoke the man with the cutlass just before swiping off the kneeling man’s head. “You make a promise, and you keep it. Such is the code of the Carussa Darqueax.” He was dressed in strange garb, and speaking in a very odd accent, but it was, nonetheless, common. To another man on the sand, he asked, “Have any others reported finding treasure, have any returned with any?”

“No, they have not, Captain Sandurkan,” replied a quick and loyal voice.  The soldier looked like he was about to say more, but then closed his mouth.

“We have found something actually,” spoke one of the pirates hiding in the treelines. He walked out onto the sand, holding the axe in front of him like an offering.  Sandurkan admired the axe immediately, his greedy eyes finally breaking his calm countenance.  “This…where…did…” He reached out for the axe and touching it, found something he didn’t quite expect.

“There are others, Captain.” Sandurkan saw the other treasures and was about to ask where they were found. This is what he had come for.  Rumors had always abounded of the treasures of the ancients on this isle, and he knew the volcano would one day reveal them.  Once again, his slaves had rewarded him, without his lifting a finger. He was about to ask where these had been,so he could dispatch a crew of his soldiers, when the island shook so violently that palm trees were leveled.  Ash and fire erupted and huge boulders splashed into the sea, making waves that nearly capsized one of the small boats.

Sandurkan, always a surveyor of risk vs. reward, took the lot of the treasures, and ordered everyone back into the boats and back on the ship. Half way towards the vessel, the cursed slaves, not quite themselves, heard wailing in the lower decks.  Hundreds of voices, in agony. It was then, they noticed the manacles on their own hands and feet.

“We keep our promises on the Carussa. You have brought me treasure, and soon, I will set you free. Give these men a commission!” Sandurkan looked back at the island, gripping his new axe, a treasure of remarkable quality.

“Sir?”

“You heard me, put them to work above decks!”

Table for One

          Sandurkan did keep his word, but only he knew why.  These “slaves” were released and given assignments aboard the ship. In talking with the other pirates, they learned they had been slaves of the isles. They were captured and on route to where they would be sold to nobles in a great land to the West.

“Captain Sir, where do you want this lot?” Another soldier aboard the Carussa said.  He stabbed at Lern with his cutlass and kicked another of the goblins.  The goblin shrieked but didn’t speak.

“Put them down in the hold, with the general populace. That will teach our product to be silent while at anchor.  Make sure to do it before dawn, or you personally will be cleaning up after the sunscorching. Leave this one here though,” he said pointing at Plak. “I wish to parlay with it.”

Sandurkan, sat at a small table and placed a small white cloth inside his shirt collar. He sat down, crossed his legs and lit his pipe.  As was his custom, a table for one was prepared on the foredeck, a candle and cutlery, and a bottle of the best Circle’s Wine.  Tonight, he would dine alone, as he always did.  Below, hundreds of slaves lay in chains, dozens of his crew prepared the sails. And all around him, the island shook and bellowed.  The Carussa drew anchor and sailed out of the bay while he ate eel and roasted coconut with prawns.  Halfway through his meal, the captain would have been contemplating gathering information from the goblins before using them as “deterrents”.  He often encountered beasts such as the sea snakes in the shallower lanes on his way back to the circle.  A direct attack could lose him men, but Sandurkan had learned he could simply throw a shrieking slave or two overboard, and be on his way.  It cost him gold, but not employees, which were hard to “train”.  The goblins would do the same, but keep coin in his purse, and keep the soldiers focused on the business of slaving.

But this is not what Sandurkan was actually thinking anymore.  He was deep in thought, and he AND she were happy. They studied the axe, and the sword, the wand, and the whip.  The Queen and her beloved had made it.  Finally, they were safe from their enemy. Finally, they had won.

Table for Two

         While he was enjoying his meal, a loud shout came from the port side. Remarkably, a woman, had been found adrift at sea. Although it was the custom never to take in a woman without the captain’s permission, she was brought up anyway.  Her beauty was so breathtaking, that many of the men gathered around her still body.  She slowly began to take in air, and someone called out, “She’s alive!” Sandurkan told the others to place her in his quarters, and she was.  “She is to be MY prize, and may the fool who touches her wishes to lose that finger and nine more!”

The woman was placed in his quarters as the captain asked. Below decks, the goblins were thrown in with the slaves, while above, Sandurkan and the goblin Plak sat.  The air was filling the sails and one of the pirates, cursed, grabbed his whip and went to check in on the odd stranger.

And exactly then, several things happened at once. First, several pirates heard a shout from the slave quarters below and looked over to see blue winged shapes clinging to the starboard and port hull sides. Second, Plak, ran to the slave galley in an attempt to free the slaves.  The pirate who went to check on the newly arrived passenger opened Sandurkan’s cabin door to find his cabin empty, a port window open and swaying in the salty breeze. Sandurkan threw the items to his fellows, just as dozens of blue and monstrous dragon men flew onto the ship’s deck.

“To arms, Sarasins!  To arms!” Shouted the first mate.  The soldiers poured from the galley onto the deck and the clanging of blades commenced. Bodies fell overboard, and blood spilled on the wooden planks. Below, Plak came to the slave dcck. He killed the slaver in charge of the slaves and convinced the others to join in the fight above. Then he opened the slave gates and opened the manacle bars. One of the slaves, an ancient fellow from the isles, named Sanjour quieted down the others. Clearly, the native slaves respected him, and he was one of the few who could speak the slaver’s language.

“Why are you freeing us, creature of Ket!  Is this another trick of the Captain’s? We will not be used as sport like the others!”

In the most ungoblinlike way, Plak hastily spat out words in between breaths. “The others live. I cannot explain now, but we have taken over the ship. Sandurkan is not Sandurkan, but your native brothers need your help. Rise and join the fight. Rise and be brothers in arms. Rise up and this ship, and YOUR freedom, is yours!”

And they did!

In the Deep, Blue, Sea

         The slaves found the arms and ammunitions galley, and thus armed attacked in unison.  Using the battle as a distraction, Sandurkan, and his cursed friends hastily fell to the aft of the ship, lowered two lifeboats into the water and climbed aboard.  One of their number, a pirate wielding the McBriar sword was swept away, lost beneath the waves. Another nearly died, but used the wand to create a wave that hurled him onto the boat.  The Carussa Deaucaux sailed on, as the dragon men and pirates, and now prisoners fought on.  Into the darkness it sailed, while aboard a small dingy, clung a young slave.  He had once been a brave warrior, an Ata’uan brother.  Now, he was adrift in a frothy sea laying in the dinghy, holding a wand, peering over the side watching a man drown. Below him, out of reach in the water, he saw the struggling body gripping the sword, his iron manacles pulling him and the sword down, into the darkness.

Far away, on another dinghy lay Sandurkan, and another of the slaves that he had commissioned. Sandurkan gripping the axe, the other, holding a whip.  Strong winds had developed outside of the bay and the small craft was being rocked mercilessly away from the other dinghy.  Ahead, sailed the Carussa. Whichever side was winning the fight, he wasn’t sure. Maybe it would be neither. To the port, he could see the remains of the island, slowly falling into the sea like a kind of sunset. The last sunset there would ever be for what once was a noble house, and fortress.   He was about to call out in the direction of the second dinghy, when he noticed that some of the stars had winked out in the same direction. A perfectly dark night, it was as if some of them in a small patch were snuffed out and then appeared again.

Of course Sandurkan wasn’t Sandurkan, and he didn’t need to call out.  He knew what was happening, but this is what the slaver’s eyes saw.  Above the water, a bolt of lightning struck from the sky, sizzling the air and creating a thunderclap that knocked the man back into the dinghy.  It struck something upon the sea, something small, and sent shards of it hundreds of feet up into the sky.  The sound of the thunder was followed by a roar nearly as deafening.  A roar from where the lightning had struck.  A roar of anger, and of rage.

The small dinghy carrying Sandurkan and his passenger was swept in a fortunate current towards a distant isle.  During the night, portions of the night sky’s stars disappeared and reappeared once more, but as luck would have it, never the stars above his head.

ACT 1. A Crimson Shore, Player Information

Adventure 1: Mutiny and the Booty

 

Onboard a Celn Ship

Design and Layout:

A Celn vessel is ordinarily very high in the water, and is completed with a large grouping of sails. Tripled masted.  The vessels used to travel through the still waters have been equipped with oars and ride much lower in the water.  They travel in groups of 3.

 

Pockens, A Commoner’s Game, See the ALIND Gazetteer for more Details

Spottle, A Gentleman’s Game: Spottle is a game of chance.  Every game of Spottle is begun with the artificing of a Spottle Frog. Once properly treated, the frog gives dice to the users who may use decisions and luck to roll against one another.  Many a decision in nobility that cannot be argued against, is decided this way.  In Cellione, particularly, Spottle is considered the way in which gentlemen resolve their disputes.

Kill Devil’s Rum

A popular drink from the Crown’s Isles.  Kill Devil’s Rum often has a few unintended side effects.

Green Aid

A syrup given to the Celn sailors in order to avoid sea sickness and other issues related to sea travel.

Pirate Code of Lyra’s Song

All vessels in the Celn waters have an agreed upon set of rules known as a pirate code.  The Pirate Code of Lyra’s Song is simple.

  1. No member of the vessel shall cause bodily harm purposefully against another unless given permission by the captain OR a majority of the crew in voting.
  2. The Captain’s decisions are final, unless every other soul aboard the vessel declares his decision to be wrong via voting.
  3. Any member who raises a call to voting, when that vote has failed, shall be put to death.
  4. The High Inquisitor shall declare guilt or innocence in the absence of the Captain.
  5. Standard rank and file of captaincy should death occur shall be according to Celn Naval tradition.
  6. Any member of the crew or passenger who cannot perform the duties for which they were brought aboard to do shall either be given rations by voluntary members of the crew, or Inquisitioned.
  7. All members of Lyra’s Song shall diligently preserve the Realm, His Majesty, Lord Borindin and the Order of the Flame.
  8. The Captian has full authority for choosing in what ways are best suited to carry out the mission assigned to the vessel.
  9. The Captain’s orders are to be kept in the Captain’s quarters.
  10. The Captain is not obligated to show the crew the orders, unless he otherwise wishes to do so.

 

The Many Faces of A Crimson Shore

Cap’n “Cellinor”  Carpatchian: Carpatchian is a good man.  At least he sure seems that way. Appointed by Borindin for this special voyage, Carpatchian is all business.  He has clear orders and intends to keep them.

First Mate “Bones” McGrady: McGrady is a typical first mate. Never a word against the Captain, and the respect of the men.  He isn’t without a sense of humor though.  And no one uses the code better Bones.

The Player Characters

Kassim( kah-seem) Arames(air-a-me’s) Jesse: More things are unknown about Kassim than are known.  His exceptional skills with a pole arm notwithstanding, Kassim prefers to let his actions do the talking.  What is known is that he rose through the ranks of the Ala Madrin. The “Elders”, it is rumored, didn’t like the fact that one so young had gained so much power so they sent him out on an impossible mission, where he would die. More rumors exist of a wife and daughters. They were told that the sands had taken him about a week after he had left. But somehow Kassim did return and when he did, he was no longer welcome.  Kassim left his lands vowing to one day return.

Theadron Stormcrest, Tavish: A green elf convert to the Flame, Theadron’s story is typical of the encounters of the Flame’s sequestering policy decades ago.  Theadron, like so many others then, were brought to Cillandar, and he became a devout Cleric of the Flame.  His devotion unmatched, until the day that brought a doubt to his mind.  Now, he has joined in the order’s mission overseas.  To begin a life anew at Silvershore.

Telchar: Marcus, Dwarf Barbarian

See Bo: Leif, Orst Druid, See Bo doesn’t wear shoes. He prefers his bare feet against the beams of his ship.  For like all Orstman, he is mostly of the sea, and of the cold blood that runs through his veins.

Charlat Evone (Darlin’): aboard the Alphan Knight, Evo discovered some of the first Flora and Fauna of the isles: She believes that some animals on the Isles are non-native. Magical. Wants to know where they came from.

Candice: A Cellionan therapist. Moving across the sea can really take a toll on an adventurer. You should tell Candice about it.

Preston Singleshoe: At your service! Preston specializes in finding what you need.  At a price!

Isaac Brack: Celn soldier who partners with

Tecumseh: Native warrior, who hates the Sassers

“The Lawrence”:  “Don’t Give up the Ship!”

Francois L’Connaniase: Chef and Consumer of Fine Cuisine: a weird well dressed Cellionine who would eat the hearts of his enemies, if he were allowed.

Sid Hopper-AKA The Circus King.  Sid is looking for a variety of exquisite animals and other rarities on the Isles. He intends to capture them, magically seal them and bring them back to Cillandar where he will make a fortune featuring them in the Challenge of Champions.

Dread Pirate Roberts: Trapped in a picture frame. The DPR likes to tell tales and he has a hard time keeping things bottled up.

Alphoro d’Carr’nville: Traveling to the new lands of Cellinor, Alphoro is interested in writing about what he sees, exactly as he sees it. So far, he isn’t impressed. Neither is his friend Canton, who intends to bring a bit for Cellinor to New Cellinor.

Shagrac Byfield: Shagrac believes something is amiss on board The Song. He can’t prove it, but when he can, he may be willing to do something about it, and he’d like your help.

Davies: Nobody knows his first name. It might as well be Angry though.

Krinklemouse: A faun from the Inner Wilds. Krinklemouse is seeking a new philosophy, and wants to start his life anew in a new place away from the Flame’s glow, but he doesn’t want to get thrown overboard for saying so.

H.E. Pennypacker: H.E. is a rich industrialist.  He leads the Celn Ale Company, or C.A.C.  With his land grant, Pennypacker intends on making quite a bit of coin.  But he’s got some work to do first.

Dr. Van Nostrund: A wizard with a quirk. The doctor is sometimes in, and sometimes out.

Canton, the Governor of Far Realm

Portia, His Majesty’s Chief of Staff

Fritz, His Majesty’s Commander of the Order of Light, West

Sandurkan, the Sar’asin Captain with an eye on the Sara’circle.

Mary Carlton: Mary doesn’t like to be bothered.

Johr Winthrop: Johr believes the flame is not pure enough. He is bringing him family, fortune and everything he owns to Silver Shore.

Anne Hutchins: a simple pilgrim on her way to Silver Shore.

Roger Willflame: Roger is a member of the Iron Flame, a devout group of Flamist’s interested in beginning their new colony at a place they call Silver Shore.

The 44th Tribe-43 tribes are said to inhabit the isles of dread.  So say the native humans that make the isles their home.  But legends hold of a 44th tribe.  A tribe made entirely of women.

The Cult of the Great Mother-a mysterious urban legend. A group of Celns dedicated to the Trebian god of motherhood.  Idols to her are found aboard Lyra’s Song. What does this mean?

Uffda, a helpful rag-wearing fisherman who dreams of being a major trader of fish throughout the isles. He loves the party, and wishes them the best. He has an odd obsession with fish. He drinks cups of fish oil, and keeps making slight of hand checks to secretly place fish into player’s inventory (Raw and slimy, usually). He claims that fish are the reason that he has lived to be 57, when he looks to be mid 30s to mid forties.

Okracoke: for Oh Cock CrowA series of islets where Celn ships replenish supplies across the still waters on their way to Far Realm.

Pistol: Piss’t at y’all

Celkik-a castaway left for insubordination.  Celkik talks to ca

 

 

A Crimson Shore, ACT 1

Thaedron, A Ray of Hope

Kassim, Secret from the Sands

See Bo, Not the Worst Orst

Telchar, Vengeance in Axe Form

Session 1: The Re-supplies

On Board Lyra’s Song

         A grueling 8 weeks at sea, and the rations were running short.  The crew, though, was not worried.  All had been explained, and all had been planned, as far as anyone knew, well in advance.  There was some of what the crew called soft whispers of the bilge pumps in the belowdecks not keeping up, but this was typical chatter. If it wasn’t hardwhispered, it was often ignored by most of the men.  None of those who would later matter in our story cared for such minor distractions usually.  Even then, they were more interested in pursuits of the mind.

One of those, quite worthy of describing, was Thaedron.  A younger elf, of say 50 or 60 years, he was no simple Cleric of the Flame, no Cillandrian.  Instead, it was known he was from the inner wilds, near the Cairn lands.  His silver and green embroidered tunic flapped in the wind, along with his long braided hair. He was glad he had come, despite the politics aboard.

The Song “sang” in the water.  For this is how the crew described their lady of the sea.  The vessel taking them to New Realm was much more than any ordinary ship.  It was named for Lyra, an enchantress of the deep, who was now every green bloodied Celn’s fantasy.  She had indeed enchanted them all, from Captain “Cellinor” on down. The Lyra had been well equipped for the voyage, and that was just the parts that were known to the crew.  Thaedron knew, like all the men, that other parts of her, off limits to most crew, held even greater secrets of weaponry.  He hoped that he could see these weapons he had heard about in whisper in action, and also hoped he wouldn’t.

With the wind gusting by, Thaedron wondered what New Realm would hold for him.  He longed for the adventure, and to return to a place more remote, away from the vendors and criers of Cellinor’s packed cities.  A place of his youth, of trees, and nature.

Above him, working on a sail repair was the quiet man from the Sea of Sands, Kassim.  He was often given the assignment to repair sails “in situ”, a task it seemed he took great pride in.  It was said he was a last minute addition to the trip.  So far, Thaedron knew, the Captain and the first mate, Bones, were quite happy they had taken him, as the ability to repair a torn sail without taking it down, was essential to making it to their cache points in time before rations ran too low.  He figured, although, he had never been, that the Ala Madin knew what they were doing with their “wind ships”.  Kassim scrambled over the cross beams above him, flipped his torso over one, and hopped down onto the deck expertly.

Near him, a large and muscular man bent over, making rope. He was the biggest man that Thaedron had ever seen, who wasn’t a giant or ogre at least, and the palest creature too, even more so than his green elf kin.  His name was See Bo, at least that is what everyone called him.  He was an Orstman, from the frozen lands to the south.  Like all Celns, he couldn’t help himself keep his distance from this stranger.  The Celns were said to be at war with their neighbors to the South, a war that was now a simple truce.  He had spent many weeks near the man, but knew little of him. He wondered, if anyone on board did.  See Bo looked disapporovingly at Kassim when he landed aboard the deck, but went back to his work as he often did without a word. He got the feeling though, that this was a defensive measure he had taken aboard the Celn ship. He wouldn’t want to cross the Orstman on his terms or in his element.

Thaedron was about to head down to eat.  He heard that Lord Canton had ordered a meal served tonight in the elvish fashion, and wondered what Francois would be making this time.  Whatever it was, he planned not having the “wine” like last time.  But before he could round up his gear and head down, the dwarf Telchar approached him.  Eight weeks, and Telchar still gripped the side rails moving from one place to the other. No one commented though,  not with Telchar!

‘Thaedron, Kassim, and….,” he began in a gruff shout, “and See…Seee…”

“See…BOH!!!” grunted the Orstman.

“Right, See Boa, that’s what I said,” said the dwarf too seriously for Thaedron not to smile a bit, “You three and yours truly are wanted in the….counselor’s office.”

Immediately, all three of them groaned, and around them were many cat calls and whoops.

“Hey Thaedry!” Called a particularly snotty fellow known as Angry Davies.  “Candice has a lolli for you!  Whatever you do, make sure you don’t tell her what you been mumbling about in your sleeping hammock, k?”  The workers about the topdeck howled at this.  Even a couple of the Celn Shields cracked a smile.

“Let’s get it over and done with,” whispered Telchar perhaps more to himself than to the others.

Candice, the Counselor

The Lyra’s Song, as all hands knew, was the largest ship built by the Celns since the King’s flagship, The Vengeance. It was, in many ways reverse engineered from the mysterious ship washed ashore the Crown Isles some decade ago.  Many parts of the ship were off limits except to certain crew members marked with certain clearances in the form of colored badges.  There was the “green” area where all could be, in this area you could sleep, throw a game of Spottle, trade wares, or eat.  There was red, which was off limits except for those Shield members designated with red badges.  As Thaedron knew, these men and women were not very talkative about this area.  Each branded, their mission top secret.  It was well known that they were in charge of “weaponry” of some kind.  There were plenty of rumors about what the weaponry was.  Thaedron figured it was less important to know what it was and more important that they got to Far Realm without needing to use it.

One such area on the mezzanine deck, like the Captain’s quarters was neither marked red nor green. It was off limits but available to those only should a request be sent.  It was the Counselor’s office.  Assigned to the ship to keep an objective log for the War Council, the Counselor, Candice Curial, was as she liked to say “here as a friend.” In point of fact, most considered that her job was to keep tabs on the men so that the mission did not suffer a critical failure.  Each of the successive missions to the new isles was devastatingly important.  The King could not afford to lose a single one, not just for it’s sake, but for those that would come after.  Thus was Candice chosen to “guide the men”. Not spiritually, for each Celn was guided by the Flame once born “into the Light”.  Candice however knew that deep inside the sailors, there was harboring resentments and other emotional inadequacies. In a typical mission this could be considered an acceptable risk, but not on this voyage.  Life aboard a ship wasn’t easy.  Some said she considered this a special life mission, as her father had been a sailor.   Others, didn’t know what to make of her.

Telchar led them into her office. Candice was sitting behind her desk. Behind her, a small plaque hung that said “A Slip of the Lip Can Save The Ship”. Opposite her was a weapon rack, armor rack and several deeply cushioned chairs. “Good morning, gentlemen,” she spoke in her professional way, “I believe you know what to do. Please make yourselves comfortable and we can begin.”

“Ketain hells, this again,”muttered Telchar to himself. He, like the others, began to place their weapons on the racks, and remove their armor as well.  Candice called this, “deconstructing”, and they would not be allowed to continue the session without it.  Without the session, they would not receive their pay quota. So there was nothing for it.  Relunctantly, Telchar removed each piece of armor as though it were a personal insult.  Candice simply kept writing something on parchment with her quill.

As Telchar began to take off his belt in which he kept different pieces of gear, his trousers, which hadn’t been properly tailored before the voyage, fell around his ankles before he could swipe at them to hold them up.

“I see Alpha, and the Sea of Sands,” giggled Thaedron, who couldn’t help himself.

“I can see your under pants.” This perfectly timed follow up came from See Bo, and that made them all howl, all except Telchar and Candice.

“If you gentlemen wouldn’t mind, I’d like to get on here, I have a whole lot of seamen to take in.”

“I’ll be you do,” whispered Telchar, who holding his trousers with both hands, sat down on a chair which creaked beneath him.

Candice’s eyes narrowed but then relaxed. She gave him a quick smile.  “Well, master dwarf, perhaps we should get on with you first.  Are you still carrying your axe with you in areas not designated for it like the mess hall?”

“I like to cut through the red tape a bit is all,” Telchar said with a grin. He looked rather comical trying to look comfortable in his chair. Thaedron was pretty sure he never used a cushion to rest unless he was here.

“Fine, fine,” she quipped and wrote something down.  “And you are still upset I see. Can you add a bit more to this than our last meeting please?”

“Sure, I’m VERY upset. How’s that?”

Candice’s quill stopped and  simply jotted something down. Looking even more displeased with the dwarf she spoke to Thaedron.  However, her gaze stayed on the dwarf as if she was still unhappy about his last answer.

“Thaedron, glad to have you back.” She waited for a reply, but it never came.  Awkward seconds ticked by. “Well, then.  Let’s begin shall we?” Again no reply, so she pressed on.  “Are you looking forward to continue your lighted duties in New Realm, Cleric of the Flame?”

“Yes.”

“Hmm….,” more notes, “It may have come to my attention that you do not care to take your morning rituals with the other servants of the Order of Light. Can you explain what seems to be the problem there?”

“No problem, Madame. I prefer to give my will to the Flame later in the day is all.”

“I see….,” she jabbed the quill on the paper several times as if she were emphasizing something.  But then she looked up and smiled.

“Let’s move on to our friends from distant lands shall we.  See Bo, I know you are happy to be aboard our vessel, and as the only Orstman to be invited to the eastern colonies thus far, how are you getting on with the rest of the crew?”

“I haven’t killed any yet.”

“Rigggghttt…..I see the same notations apply….and let’s finish up with the Maden. Kassim? Are you still finding yourself useful?”

“Yes, mistress.”

“You may call me Candice, Kassim.”

“Yes, my mistress Candice.”

Candice looked up from her notes, and studied each of the men’s faces in turn.  As she looked from one to the next, she seemed puzzled at how serious each one of them was.  Finally, as if she had enough reassurance that they were exactly as interviewed, she took a deep breath and said, “Well, gentlemen, it’s been another real pleasure.  I will see you again soon, I am sure.”

They all stood and gathered their equipment as quickly as they could. Candice looked as though she was pretending to put parchment scrolls here or there, waiting for them to go.  One by one they marched out the door without goodbyes, except for Telchar, who was still trying to get out from the cushions of his chair.

Captain Cellinor’s “Request”

         “Based on the advice of our counselor, I’m requesting your assistance in a matter of the utmost importance to the ship. We haven’t heard back from the group we sent out for the resupply cache on Okracoke Isle, and if we don’t retrieve that cache, our expedition could be in danger until the next resupply.” The Captain nodded seriously at his first mate, who continued for him.

“Look, we know you weren’t hired on for this kind of thing, so there will be some extra coin for you.  The Lighted truth in this is that we can’t afford to lose any more Shields for the sake of the defense of the Song should we need it, and you are….well, you are…”

“Expendable….,” finished Telchar, who looked around at the elvish Cleric of the Flame, from the Inner Wilds, to the Orstman with his bare feet, and finally to Kassim, the dark skinned warrior from the Sea of Sands.

“What does expendable mean?” asked the Orstman.

“It’s you my friend, it’s the Celn word for Orst.”

The party agreed to terms with McGrady under the condition that they earn a reprieve from Candice’s sessions.  “Remember, the cache is located here, at least it was,” the first mate pointed at the map, “We aren’t sure where the crew has gone who was sent to bring it to the beach, but keep your eyes open for them.  They may be stuck somewhere, or otherwise unable to complete the task.”

Okracoke Island

They set off in the early morning light, and arriving at the beach, immediately found the tracks of those previously sent. Soon they found themselves in a thick jungle.  Finding a path, they followed it deeper and deeper into the shady foliage.  All manner of strange birds, and creatures darted here and there.  Unfamiliar flowers grew.  “Touch nothing here if you value your life,” muttered See Bo, “Some of these plants are unknown to my people and yours.”

“I don’t know about the flora, but the fauna looks like good eating,” declared Thaedron. He picked up a snail, which had a well decorated shell about the size of an opened hand.  “My people would pay handsomely for a bag of these.  A delicacy to the Greens.”

“Yeah, well, you go right ahead,” Telchar laughed hacking through a vine, “ if it ain’t got legs, it ain’t worth eating says my kin.”

As the day wore on, they continued on.  “The path meanders in a way that makes no sense,” said See Bo.  “However, it continues northward, I suggest we go that way.”  They followed the advice of the Orstman and after nearly an hour in the jungle found themselves standing on the edge of a long sandbar that seemed to cut the island in two.  On either side were deep drop-offs or so it seemed from their vantage point. A few hundred yards wide, the sand bar ended against another swath of dense jungle.

Footprints in the Sand

“Look!” Kassim whispered, “The tracks continue northward through the sand.”

“But they stop in the middle,” answered Thaedron.  “As if they just had no where to go, but how? There are no tracks back.”

“Perhaps, they are stuck in the sand,” replied Kassim, “in the great Sea, my people often tell of natural traps like that.  This may be a case of an accident.  We should investigate but be careful.  If you have rope, take it out, in case, one of us needs help.”

Slowly, they crept across the sand, step by step, coming closer and closer to the center, where the tracks ended. Thaedron thought he saw something in the sand, perhaps a trick of the eye, “Did you see,” he began and stepped a single step backward. In the sand, were what looked like several weathered and  stark white bones.  As if by magic, they clinked together, and a skeletal arm followed by a skull and ribcage burst from the sand. The arm was holding an odd axe of somekind. Silently, it lunged at Thaedron.

“Duck!” Roared Telchar, who in a single motion whipped out his axe and struck the thing directly in it’s chest. It’s bones splintered and flew apart in all directions.  But more of the things were climbing out of the sand. Soon, the entire group was surrounded.  Kassim, although an expert with the use of his polearm was felled when several of the creatures slashed at him from many angles.

“For the Sake of us all,” whispered the Cleric, and from his hands shot forth a dazzling light, much brighter than even the daylight they stood in.  Kassim’s eyes opened once more and he continued the battle.

Kassim boldly fell the last of their enemy, “Move shipmates!  To the edge, we are closer there than to the Southern side of this bar! Perhaps, we can give a signal to the ship!”

“It looks like we’ve got something they can see from the ship  all right, it’s right behind us,” Telchar pointed at a huge mound of sand swaying back and forth.  A gigantic skeletal claw was reaching out, and then another.  A horned skull followed.

“Time to check out the North side of the island,” grinned Thaedron sarcastically, who began to run over the sand. Behind him, the giant skeleton emerged and clawed in the sand, just missing the heels of the others. He wasted no time, and the others followed.  Jumping into the shrubbery, the creature followed them right up to the edge, wading through the sand as if it were water on the shoreline.  Just out of their reach, it dropped back into the sand, leaving only a large mound as evidence it existed.

Fight and Flight

         “Well, that was a big boner,” cracked Telchar, and without skipping a beat added, “Looks like you’ve found the buffet Thaedron.”  All around them were more of the snails like they had seen earlier, but this time, there were snails even larger, and many of them.

“What can make a snail that big, I wonder?” Said Kassim, who began walking in the direction the snails were slithering. He didn’t go far before he found his answer.  “The Cache!” he yelled to the others. “Of course, look at them all! They are eating our food!”

In a clearing, just a bit north of the sand bar, the cache was lying, at least what was left of it.  All over it, slithered hundreds of snails, many as large as a small dog.

“BOOM!!!”

“What in the Light is that?” Thaedron cried.  “Is that what I think it is?”

“It’s the ship’s Can Non,” said See Bo simply.  “It’s the first warning for departure, but why would they….”

“Leave? Not sure my Orst friend, but it’s one of the deepest  Dwarven hells to be trapped on an island full of elf food,” said Telchar bluntly,  “Let’s get the cache and get back!”

“I’d love to, but I don’t think HE would like it very much!” Thaedron pointed at the side of the cache. From behind it, a snail emerged. But unlike the others, it was the size of the captain’s quarters!  In front, it had club like appendages, flailing in all directions.  It moved in their direction.

Almost without a word, they formed a plan.  From in front, they pelted the creature with arrows and bolts, while one of them reached the cache and removed necessary items.  After several minutes, they had managed to kill the beast and had at least some of what they hoped the ship would need.  Quickly, they rushed through the jungle and coming to the sand, they stopped.  Another boom echoed and shook birds out of the trees! “I have an idea,” yelled Kassim, “follow me!”  Kassim stepped onto the sand and followed some invisible pathway.  Miraculously, they made it across the sand! Into the jungle they ran, stumbling over logs, and jumping over rocks. “It’s going to be close!”

Out onto the beach they burst, only to see the ship sailing away!

         “No! Come back!” Each of them roared to the ship to return, but it was in full sail.  They waded into the water, waving their hands, to no effect.

“You can’t leave us here!”

“Not here with the Snails!”

Each tried anything they could think of to bring it back, but nothing would work.  As if it was wasn’t disheartening enough, Thaedron narrated what he saw with his elvish eyes, one of the men he recognized, Celkik, who has been sent on the first expedition, talking to the Captain. But they were all facing out to sea. “Look back!” Yelled Thaedron.

And just like that, the first mate did!  For he had seen Kassim’s smoke signal on the beach.   Soon the ship had returned, and they were aboard.  It didn’t take long for them to learn of the treachery which had nearly marooned them!

Celkik and the Pirate Code

              “Well Celkik, this seems a bit odd.  Bones, check this lot would ya?  I’m assuming if they aren’t zombies, perhaps, we’ve been lied to a bit…,” the Captain looked over at the four of them.

Bones just smiled, “No, Cap’n, they are indeed not zombies.  Guess they must have performed some miracle to come back to life, Sir. Look Celkik, they came back to life and made the ship after all. Aren’t you glad, you were so worried!”

Celkik was sweating profusely despite the brisk and cool breeze.  The Captain turned his back to him and spoke to the lot of them, “I see you’ve found the part of the cache that Celkik here assured us had washed into the sea.” He smiled, and continued, “You’ve done us all a great service, on this important mission for the Realm, and his Majesty.  Do you have any requests?”

“I wish to invoke the Pirate Code,” said Kassim, Telchar, See Bo and Thaedron at exactly the same time.

To be continued…

Session 2: Having Friends for Dinner

Fame leads to fortune, and sometimes fortune leads to fame. But on a ship in the middle of a windless sea running low on rations and ettiquette, fame and fortune gets you one thing.  A load of dirty looks.  The Captain was quite happy and so were the officers, but the sailors, those who slept in what they called the ‘lowdecks’ began to resent the “Heroes of Ocracoke Isle”.  And the fact that they consisted of an Orstman, a Maden, a dwarf and an elf only made it worse.

A Nut Job

It had been a couple of miserable weeks after Okracoke Isle, they were still in the doldrums, and it was getting hotter and more humid.  Men had been taking turns doing oar work and with only a limited dry ration after all that exertion, it wasn’t going over well.  But one afternoon, a light breeze sprang up and calls from the topdeck for ‘open sails’ brought cheers from the men.  Soon, they were whipping through the sea, going farther in a couple of hours than they most likely had in over a day and a half of oaring.  If they could make their next refuel soon, full bellies would lead to calmer heads and softer criticisms.

Thaedron, See Bo, Kassim and Telchar were up with most of the officers enjoying the sea breeze, when a bolt from a beam loosened and struck and killed a man.  When those closest ran to help him, they saw he had died instantly. His neck was snapped and his spine was twisted.   He had been none other than the architect of the ship, a man named Horton Everbloom.  Everbloom had come along to observe the Song and take notes that would help in the creation of the next series of ships in the king’s fleet.

This was a bad sign, and many of the men whispered it as such, only softly though for the Captain didn’t go for such talk. By the time they fixed the beam, the wind had also stopped and the men became anxious. All on ship knew that the Order would not raise Horton, despite his importance to the realm. They were too far from home, and there was only so much flame to cast over them, should another sickness break out.  Horton would be returned to the sea, but his journal and notes taken back to Cillandar.

That would have been a minor occurrence, if it hadn’t been for Telchar who noticed the men couldn’t find the nut that had come loose. “What do you mean you can’t find it lad? Your nuts don’t just walk away, you damned fool!”

The boy he spoke with tried to look serious despite the dwarf’s rather crude attempt at humor at the wrong time, which was typical of Telchar. “Master Telchar, it should be on deck, but it isn’t.  It’s like it disappeared.”

The Captain overheard their conversation and came to stand by the dwarf.  He looked intently at his face and then back at the boy. “Ship hardware doesn’t disappear, boy.  It’s obviously gone over the deck.  Send for a replacement part to be shopped in the repair room.”

“Aye aye.”

Once the boy was gone, he turned to Telchar and in a voice that they could only hear murmured, “It disappeared huh? Why don’t we have that dinner we talked about when you all came back on board from Ocracoke? I’ll tell Francois to prepare something special.”

“Aye aye, Cap’n,” said the dwarf and he left to inform the others.

Sid Hopper and his After Dinner Show

       That evening, the Captain and Bones joined them as Lord Governor Canton hosted a dinner with their four heroes.  When they entered, they hung up their weapons, most of them anyway, and walked to the Captain’s table just as Francois began complaining about a small creature that had been invading his kitchen. “Completely untidy, this cooking on a ship business is!”

It was a large honor to eat with Canton’s personal and realm reknowned chef, Francois.  Canton provided more than the meal though, for an aperitif he gave free insults. It began with the dwarf, Telchar, who was always the most obvious to ridicule because he refused to leave his axe with the other weapons. “In civilized lands, master dwarf, we leave our weapons elsewhere.”

See Bo, as he often did, spoke as if he were simply talking with the common sailors, “Well elf, I couldn’t help but see your sword is still attached to your hip.  Sorry, I know the Celns consider that a sword.  It’s a dagger were we in Orstland.”

“My Orst friend,” began Bones, “Here on His Majesty’s ship, we call the governor, Lord Canton.”

“Thank you, Mr. McGrady, but the savage was just speaking his mind, as all savages do,” began Canton in his usual drawn out tone. He emphasized certain syllables to give the impression of a Cillandrial accent, even though Cillandrians would rarely put such emphasis as he often did.  “I have quite some experience with that, having traveled with a few myself some years ago on the Crown Isles.”  Canton sat with his entire front side covered in a dainty napkin which had a print of the king riding a griffon fighting the black dragon. He finished his retort,  and then he simply looked away, and muttered something to the first mate about the “hostile cultural takeover” going on in Celn lands followed by the manner in which his sword was gifted to him, in service to Lord Genoran, the King’s son.

“I realize this may be the first meal you’ve had in the Cillandrial Fashion friends, so I would like to point out that in the great city we use the outside spoon for the….”

“Hellllpp!!!!!!!!!!!!! Help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Into the room, ran a large man, with keys and whistles dangling from all over his body.  He was slashed and bloodied nearly everywhere above the waist, and behind him, eyes blazing, were several creatures that one would never expect to see on a ship, much less a ship’s dining hall!

Francois was just coming out of the kitchen carrying roasted snail proudly when he saw the man running into the hall.  He stood in the middle of the saloon partitions, and dropped the serving tray with a crash. “Lions!  Boars! And…”

“Oh my,” said Canton, who began to unbuckle his sword from it’s scabbard.

Before any of the others had time to react, the lion clawed the man to pieces right before their eyes. Thaedron remembered that his name was Sid Hopper, and he was a collector of rare specimens for the games back home in Cillandar.  He had forgotten that these animals were below decks in cages. The lion looked up, and jumped on one of the farther tables. Slowly eyeing them and pacing side to side, it looked emaciated, hungry and angry. It was followed by two boars, which bulled their way in, knocking chairs and tables aside, and separating them from their weapons on the opposite wall!

Telchar, who had refused to give up his axe at dinner, moved fast and slashed his great weapon at the lion.  See Bo attempted to jump to the lion in an effort to block and protect the Captain but instead he fell. The lion saw him on the ground and moved back to spring upon him. But See Bo used some magic to push the table off him. It went flying through the air, and the lion went with it!

Although the boars and lion wounded several of them, the outlanders soon struck them down.  See Bo was just about to inspect the lion when the lot of the creatures, as if trained to do so, sprang to life and before anyone could act, had surrounded the captain!

These creatures were only playing dead!

“No!!!!” Roared Thaedron, but it was too late.  The creatures moved in for the kill and just as they were about to strike, Bones launched himself over the Captain, pushing him to the ground.  He was torn to shreds by the tusks of the rushing boars, just as the others killed the beasts once and for all.

At that exact moment, Canton pulled his sword free.

The Leftover Bones

Later that night, in the Captain’s chambers, the four of them met with the Captain, and Isaac Brack, chief of security.  “He gave his life for me, Isaac,” said the Captain clearly holding back any expression for his own dignity, “and I intend to get to the bottom of what is going on.”

“Sir, the issues we have had with the food has gotten worse.  The kitchen staff reports even more theft. We can no longer afford to feed the wing properly. Sir, you know what…”

“Quiet Isaac, let me think,” the Captain said raising his hand and staring at the floor. He looked up at the others, and seemed about to say something. Then he stopped.

“Captain, the ship is in imminent danger, as is the mission, are you sure you wish to have this conversation in front of…”

“Yes,” interrupted the Captain, “in fact, I am sure I do.  You four are now given clearance for all areas of the ship besides the specialized weaponry rooms.” He nodded to Isaac who had looked upset, but seemed appeased now after hearing this.

“I want you to get to the bottom of what is going on.  And to extend my gratitude for once again placing yourselves below the mission, I am assigning you all honorary officer status.”

Talking to Animals

“I’m going to throw a game of Spottle,” said Thaedron. “See what I come up with.”

“I am going to talk to the animals. Want to come anyone?”

“A game of Spottle or talking to animals,” the dwarf furrowed his brow deliberately.  “Hmmm….”

“To the animals,” muttered Kassim as if this made perfect sense, “In the sands, my people talk to the wind. I’ll come with you.”

“I’ll go with the kid,” said the dwarf. Who turned Thaedron around and made a motion with his hands towards the others as if Kassim and See Bo were crazy.

Kassim and the Orstman went belowdecks to the holding area where the lions and boars had been held.  There they met with a few of the Shield members, who were quite despondent and at first relunctant to talk to them. Their badges however, sealed with the Captain’s insignia seemed to change their minds.

“The cages were open! And other doors sealed.  It was like someone wanted them to have a direct shot at the officers dining hall! But who would…”

See Bo though wasn’t listening.  “Other animals are kept here, In the back, yes?”

“Maybe, how’d you know? Besides, you can’t…”

“I have the Captain’s orders,” See Bo spoke so directly and stood so much taller than the men. He seemed quite serious, and they simply backed off. He rounded a corner, and he and Kassim couldn’t believe their eyes.

A Game of Spottle

Telchar and Thaedron  knew before they arrived belowdecks, that it would be tough talking to the secondhands again.  Resentment had built against them, and rumors spread on board a vessel faster than piss off the railings passes into the sea. The first to spot them coming down the deck ladder was none other than Angry Davies. The very same who had been giving them a hard time since they “rescued the entire ship”.

“Well, well, Lads. Lookie who we got here. Please, Master Thaedron, take my seat down here ‘lowdecks.  We wouldn’t want to take up the space allotted for you and your royal outlanders now would we?”

“We ain’t here for trouble Davies.  And we didn’t ask for any rewards. Just here to throw a game of Spottle.”

“Well, if you think you’re still commoner enough, let’s throw.  I’ve got a mind to take your little reward for myself.  Buy me a nice little tavern over in New Realm. Keep a bunch of outlanders to take out the rubbish, make the grewl.”

They each took out their own Spottle dice and gave them over to the Spottle Master, who was Preston more often than not and tonight was again.  Shagrac joined in and the game began. Like all Spottle games, the frog first cleared the dice of magical enchantments that were typically used by cheaters.  Each player dipped their dice into a container of fly wings, easily acquired on the ship, and fed it to the frog.  When they received the dice back they were clean, and ready.

Thaedron threw a great first game, but Angry Davies got lucky.  Soon he had the entire ‘lowdecks howling.  Everyone knew Angry liked the girls in port.  And they were without mercy in their comments about how he could now afford half a girl. But Angry loved it.  Before long, the new “officers” had lost quite a bit of coin.

Telchar decided to use the situation to his advantage. “You know Angry, it’s been hard sleeping in the sea breeze up on top. No critters running around disturbing us. How’s you all getting on with those little crabs Davies picked up in New Cellione?”

“Those little bastards are all over the ship now!  You can’t catch a one of um.  Except for ‘old Pennypacker over there. He caught one the other night. And man is that thing weird looking!  Got the thing in a box.  Gotta remind myself to show it to Evo.” said Shagrac. He made a disgusting face.

“Yeah, well, I doubt she wants to see anything you keep in your box!” Yelled one of the men, and the others howled.

“You say you caught one, eh?” Said the Dwarf who just couldn’t quite pass not caring about it. It was almost comical the way he made it look, and instantly several people around the table knew it had peaked his interest.

“Yeah, we got it’s body like I told ya? Why, you interested in it?”

“Nah… not really,” said Thaedron who again made such a poor attempt to hide his expressions that Davies knew he had something going here. Nonetheless, Thaedron, being young and knowing no better asked, “So let’s say we wager that for the next game.  That little creature in a box. I’ll throw in a gold piece for it.” And he casually flipped a coin into the ante pile.

“Oh no. I don’t think so “gentlemen officers”. We’ll wager that if you like but the price is a bit higher than you can afford. I’m sure.  How’s about a hard drink, for me and every lad here?”

“You blasted fool Davies,” roared Telchar.  “We need to see that thing. It’s ship business.”

“Oh, ho. Well, maybe your Royal Highness didn’t read the Ships’ Code recently.  Officer rules don’t work down here in the ‘lowdecks.  What’s a matter, all that gold given to you by the Cap’n and you can’t buy a drink for the very men who put you upstairs?”

They tried to explain things again to the men they had worked with these many months, but it didn’t make any difference. Soon, they were being laughed right off the deck, nothing else would be said that could help their search.  Back on the mezzanine, Telchar told Kassim and See Bo about what they found.

“But where do we find enough hard drink for 100 men on a ship that is starving?” Asked Kassim.

“If there is any hard liquor left on this vessel, it will be possessed by one person,” said See Bo in his matter of fact way.

Together, they both groaned and said, “Canton!”

A Game of Pockens

They found Lord Canton in the officer’s “club”, the area in between the cabins on the mezzanine. He was having a lively discussion with Johr Winthrop, about the likely imperfections of the strange empire to the West, despite their technological advances.  Such a society would never understand the gentleman culture that the Realm had grown, modeling it after true heroes and a sense of purpose.  This of course is why the Trebians, the Madanese and the Orst, needed the Lighted Order to advance their society.  Although annoyed at being interrupted, he was only too eager to accept a wager. “I propose…,” began the high elf with his usual disgusted look at their garments, “a Cillandrial gentleman’s wager. I hold here a key to the liquor cabinet, a cabinet I may add which is completely empty now, except of course, for one casket.”

“Let me guess, it’s yours.”

“Excellent detective work, master dwarf. It is, indeed, mine. In fact, it isn’t any ordinary casket. It contains 6 bottles of the finest Crown’s Rum from New Alpha in the Crown Isles. It is of course, the finest rum known to Realmkind. And as a true gentlemen of the games, I am willing to wager it all, for a proper bet.”

Getting right to the point, Thaedron asked, “Your terms?”

“Ah, yes. My terms, are simple.  Indentured servitude, for a period not to exceed three cycles is my wager. And I’ll accept nothing less for such a prize as I keep.”

“Three cycles!!! I’ve never heard of such a,” hollered the Orstman. But he was silenced quickly by Kassim who gave him a knowing glance.

“We know nothing of these Cillandrial wages, as we are of course, mere savages,” the Maden interrupted. “Let the boy and the dwarf make the wager.”

The elf took a sip of his elvish tea. “As you wish, gentlemen, I hope you don’t mind you two if I call you that, please place your initial bets.  I’ll call my errand boy to shuffle. Boy!”

The game began and the pockens cards were dealt. Thaedron received the Hero in the Sky card.  It featured, as it always did in some version, a warrior atop a winged steed. In his hands he held a barrel. This card was always a good sign to the receiver, and tradition held that the barrel, which must contain ale of course, take a drink when he got it or suffer bad luck, even though it would give his hand away.  Thaedron did and studied his other cards nonchalantly. He was surprised at having the White Dragon card.  This could be a boon if he could use it at the right time.  As all knew, the white dragon card was a turning point in the game, and redirected the direction of play.

Telchar had never played an elvish version of pockens before. And he tried his best to keep his disgust at the card’s imagery to himself.  What a retched way to draw what his people considered art, for pockens was quite popular in dwarvish culture.  For example, The Castle card was  nothing more than a weak and slender set of towers by a river with a blue sky. In the dwarvish version, as all dwarves knew, it was put to siege, with wonderful depictions of siege machines assaulting strong walls. Whether the art was good or not though wasn’t going to help him anyway. He had too many Virtue cards.  And those could only be used in certain instances.  Sacrifice. Compassion.  These cards meant little if Canton had even a fair hand.

As for what Canton had, they could only guess. The elf had a Pockens face for the ages. They each played a dragon card to begin, and Thaedron, who played the Black, went first. The game continued until the last round, Lord Canton was indeed an excellent player, and had the winning hand nearly the entire game.  As his score began to surmount theirs though, a sense of dread settled in. Three years toiling for this man in whatever manner he wished. What had they been thinking? He decided to play the Trickster, and reached out to collect the pile. He was unable to keep his pleasure to himself. “As you can see gentlemen,” he began to a couple of the officers who had come to watch, “Pockens is indeed a Cillandrial game of nobility, simply not meant for the commoner. Boy, fetch me my pen and quill, I have a couple of contracts to draw up.”

“Not so fast,” said Thaedron.  “I have one more card to play.”

“There is no card you can play that would matter outlander, unless of course, you….”

“My last card, is the Silver. Ryu.” Thaedron let the card drop from his fingers, and hit the table.  He looked up with a smile at Canton, whose rage was turning his pointy ears purple.

“How?”

“Patience, Lord Canton, it’s a virtue.”

Session 3: A Titanic Discovery

 

Together, the adventurers, now turned detectives,  returned to the commoner’s deck and passed out the hard won drink.  Soon, talk turns to the last time the men had all had hard drink, which was before the brewmaster, “Barthalomew” jumped overboard.  According to the sailors, it was only a few weeks into the voyage, when one of the carpenters left a note describing his lack of will to live, his suicide.  He was a deaf mute, and was a very strange looking fellow.  All assumed he was an Outlander.  They learned too that Pennypacker didn’t just find a creature, but he also found the last of a former bunkmates’ best ale, which was kept in a very odd bottle. Getting drunk, he was about to uncork it and swallow his fill, but Thaedron convinced him not to do so.      The party immediately noticed it seemed magical and may in fact be a potion. As they begin a round of Spottle, they learn several other clues.  First, See Bo, the druid, takes the creature and examines it privately.  Little sticks protrude from it’s sides, but upon further examination, these little sticks are actually tiny spears! What could have made them?

Thaedron meets a fellow elf who although noble, has decided to spend his money on the commoner’s deck.  Unfortunately, he is losing badly, but decides to join in the cause.  Thaedron challenges H.E. Pennypacker to a game for the bottle, and wins!  Having a second prize, the party leaves and inspects the kitchen. There they are confronted by the chef, who denies them access.

To the captain they go.

In the captain’s cabin, they detail what they have discovered, but he is not impressed.  A man is brought in during the conversation, an officer. He has been brutally assaulted by a member of the lower ranks but not a soul below will give him over.  Food is running scarce, and the doldrums are running high.  The captain says it’s only a handful of days until the resupply, and something about his manner is off. The party wonders if the resupply isn’t further than he is letting on.  He needs the party to keep searching.

They decide to examine the lower warehouse, getting a tip from rumors during the Spottle Game.  But on their way down, they are stopped by a group assembling in the game’s room. Several officers, and several sailors, who normally do not fraternize are doing so.  In no uncertain terms, they ask the party to join them.  A man named “The Lawrence,” Edward Teach and two key officers decide the party can’t be trusted.  They believe that the officers and the Captain are hoarding the food in the special weapons section.  Several officers, have seen food being taken there. The cards have been played, and the outlanders would’t bite.  “Boys, do what you have to do,” orders Teach twirling his dark black moustache.

A fight ensues, and the party defends itself honorably. During the battle, The Lawrence, shouts to the other mutineers, “Do not give up the ship to these scoundrels”.  Theoner, the elf, finds his niche, and blasts Edward Teach with a series of magical missiles. In between arms and torsos they fly striking their target on his left and right sides, sizzling his black hair and causing it to smoke.  In bold fashion, they knock out the lot and tie them to the posts.  Now they have big decisions to make.

“Mutiny is upon us!” Says Telchar.

“It is time for me to find a few last clues,” says See Bo. And he changes into a rat.  Scurrying through the corridors, he discovers a few important things.  He first attempts to enter the captain’s chambers, but once there, finds the captain is already tied up and his cabin is being searched for orders.

“Where are the blighted orders, Capn?” But the captain isn’t telling.  The men, composed of a makeshift crew of enlisted men and officers, is anything but well organized.  See Bo decides he needs to inform the others of what he is learned without risk being caught.

He then returns but on the way down finds tracks leading to the warehouse, these are not the typical small tracks. Now that he is smaller, he determines that these are actually tracks of a small person! Once back, See Bo informs his company of what he has seen. The party decides to move down to the warehouse. Perhaps, they will discover a supply of food, or perhaps, they will discover who is behind the murder of the ship’s architect and why the Captain was attacked.

But entering the warehouse, they are confronted by two guards who want it for themselves. It doesn’t take long, and they’ve killed the guards, and sealed the warehouse.  Almost immediately, See Bo locates a box, where the tiny tracks lead. Moving it aside, they see a secret  door, that obviously leads into the beams below.

“Time for a drink?” Asks Thaedron.

“Another so soon?” Groans Telchar in his sarcastic way. “I’m tired of elf grog and hocus pocus.”  But he reaches out, and takes a swig.

“Let’s see where this rabbit hole leads,” says See Bo.

Growing smaller, the boxes around them grow taller, and eventually, the tiny door is just the right size.  Climbing down a small ladder, no bigger than that made by toothpicks, they discover a series of wooden bored tunnels right in the wooden beams of the ships.  Telchar notices indentations in the wood, at the bottom of the tunnels made most likely by something heavy being pulled through.  They follow the holes and find a door, again no bigger than a Pocken’s box.  Opening it, they find the last thing they would expect. A room full of a pile of bolts and hinges, metal braces and beam hardware.  Thinking of the accident in which the bolt came loose with the architect, Thaedron wonders, “Why would someone want all this hardware in one place?”

“It’s not putting it here they wanted, it’s taking it from there,” says Telchar, and his stomach seemed to churn.  “Feel for yourselves.”

They looked down at their feet, and noticed the creaking of the beams. So hard to notice before, but now that they were small, they could tell each time the ship swayed, the spaces in between the joists expanded much larger than they should.

“You don’t think,” began Theonor, the elf.

“I try not to spend too much time thinking elf,” replied the dwarf.  “Today I am going to spend more time killing whoever is leading us on here.”

“And we better do it soon. All our lives are in danger now.”

“Perhaps if we can stop who is doing this, we can convince the ship and right things once more.” Theonor wondered, and looked at each of them.

He’s new, thought Telchar, but out loud he answered, “We shall see. First let’s spill some blood.” He gripped his axe and was about to turn back into the tunnel.

But just then a long spindle of thread shot out from the pile of metal.  It struck Telchar on his breastplate and immediately he was dragged backward off of his feet towards a horrid creature lurking there.  It had giant mandibles, and a gaping mouth, out of which was the thread that had struck him.  It was the same as the creature they had won in the game, but now of course was much bigger!

“To arms,” roared See Bo and shot forth to stab at the creature with his pole arm.

Before they could act, Telchar was dragged inwards into the pile, yelling and screaming, until he disappeared.  His yells came out in an echo, reverberating off the metal parts.  The others tried to follow him inside but couldn’t fit. From the outside, it sounded like there were three dwarves instead of one.  Later, Theonor would relate it to beehive, except each winged bee was instead a grumpy old dwarf. But he never said that when Telchar was around! Inside the pile, Telchar raged and with a mighty swish of his axe, he killed the beast.  With his legs and body twisted around, he pulled himself out while the others looked at him.  His unmistakably usual stoic face had been fearful for just a second, and it made everyone quite uncomfortable. He fought to keep his dignity, as only a dwarf covered in guts and blood, inside a pile of gigantic nuts and bolts can.  Pulling on his beard this way and that, he glanced at the others and tried to stand up straight, but this only caused him to slip on the now blood covered metal bits. Slightly off balance, one leg raised, he stood there and looked around at each of them. One by one, they moved their eyes away from him, anywhere but him. Thaedron actually whistled.

Nonchalantly, Telchar cut off one of the claws of the beast, and filled it with the creature’s blood.  “Well lads, let me teach you something.  We call these beasts cave fishers, in our sunken lands. Their blood is fantastic, and is often fermented to make a drink worthy of a dwarf like me.” He pulled his head back and took a long swallow, wiping his mouth with his gloved hand.

“And now for the main event, lads.  I want the blood, the blood of a tinyman.”

Into the tiny bored corridors they progressed, cautiously. They could tell something big was about to happen, and they were right.  Theadron stalked forward, feeling uneasier by the step. The creaking had grown worse, and they began to consider who might be up ahead.

And then they saw him.

A dark man, with dark hair, up ahead in the passageway in very dim light.  Thaedron could see him opening a box, and as soon as this happened, a wind picked up. Two evil eyes emptied from the box, and winds swirled around the man. He was wearing an emerald ring, which glowed brightly. He motioned with his hand and the creature, made of nothing more than air, flew off through a vent, or hole. The man moved to another box, and began to lift the lid.

“Blast this! Get him!” Roared Telchar who pulled his axe and charged down the tunnel.  But he didn’t get far!

A second wind elemental flew forth from the box and with red eyes gleaming flew into their midst. It picked up Theadron, and twisted him around like a rag doll, banging him here and there.  Finally, his body, as if moving on it’s own struck the wall of the tunnel, and he fell to the ground. Shaken, he tried to stand. He was badly hurt, but still in the fight.

“Kill the wizard!” Yelled See Bo.  “This foe is greater than us, but he is not. We must kill the wizard!”

Telchar was already on his way, while the beast took Thaedron, he had rushed through it, and charged the wizard, striking him.

The man, known to them as Bartholomew, spoke in  a strange way, in an accent they couldn’t understand. He used his hands to motion the elemental, but when Telchar struck him, he called forth magic and thrust his hands outward. A fire erupted all around the enraged dwarf and sizzled Telchar’s body.  He fell to the floor, dying, shrouded in flame.

At this moment, from somewhere above them they could hear cheering from what they presumed was the men of the ship. They were celebrating the return of a wind, and raising sails.  The party knew better, but they didn’t!

“The ship will be torn apart,” screamed Theonor, “This was the plan all along. We are too late!”

“We have bigger things to deal with,” yelled See Bo, whose hair and robes were flying all around him.

“Thaedron! We need you,” yelled See Bo. The Orstman was trying to move through the invisible creature step by step.  Each time he was knocked back, in front of him, blurred by the windy beast’s motion, the wizard waited to finish off the dwarf. He cackled and spoke in his eerie way. He was mocking them.

“By the Light of the Flame, is justice restored!” hollered Thaedron, arms outstretched, radiant light shone outwards towards each of his friends, and just as the wizard was about to finish off Telchar, something incredible happened. The dwarf stood up. Bartholomew had gripped his axe, thinking the dwarf dead.  When he saw the dwarf stand, he conjured  sizzling magic which was flowing through him into the axe and into Telchar. Surely, this would now be his death.   But Telchar, had been gifted the power of the Flame, and could not feel the pain of this new energy. He grinned at the wizard who was now being engulfed by his own magic, sizzling his robes around him.  Telchar looked him in the eyes, his trusted axe in both hands once more.

“This, my friend, is Vengeance. And IT IS MINE!” And with that, the dwarf struck the villain down!

Immediately, the air creature came to protect the body of it’s master but it was too late, reaching over, Thaedron pulled off the ring and placed it on his finger.  He called the demon to move, and it obeyed! The battle had been won!

“We aren’t out of the woods yet! Look!” He pointed to a hole in which they assumed the other air creature had gone, but now it was pouring water and flooding the chamber.

And just then the floor began to slide out from them, pointing down, their feet slipping.

“It’s time to leave men, this ship is being torn apart, without the hardware, it will not stay afloat much longer!”

“Wait, wait, we must search the foe, he must have magics on him to return us to our previous form, we will need it!”

They searched quickly, and frantically, and it was Theadron indeed who found a familiar bottle, but this time the liquid inside was of a different hue! “I’ve got it,” said Thaedron, the air creature now swirling around him.  He grabbed a sack inside the box, placed the bottle inside the sack and began to run for the warehouse.  “We must get there before we take the potion!”

On the run, through streams of sea water, and the cascading flood, up the ladder and into the warehouse, which was now so many times larger than it had been.   Water was pouring in from in between the wooden planks, and the floor on one end was rising, boxes were tumbling all around them. Each the size of a house!  One flew at them, and just at the last moment was pushed aside by the air elemental!

“Drink!” Yelled Theadron who took a gulp and handed the bottle to Theonor.  Each in turn drank, and it was See Bo who last took a swig. A box the size of a mountain was hurling down upon him, Larger and larger he grew until the box was now smaller than him.  It struck his leg with a whack, but bounced off.

“We’re too late,” said Theonor.  “The ship is lost.”  The water roaring through the warehouse door was now a torrent, and filled with all manner of ship debris, things floated in it, some were bodies of their former shipmates. The water around their feet began to rise and the angle of the ship tilted so precariously they could no longer stand their ground, they slid downwards until they were bobbing in the water sideways from what they should be, amongst the sunken and floating things.  Down, down they felt their stomachs give way, as the ship’s speed to the depths increased.

“Use the ring, Thaedron!  The ring!”

Theadron took a moment to make the connection, and he closed his eyes.  Protect us, he thought.  The creature which had earlier tried to kill him, smothered them all instantly.  It swirled faster and faster around them, until soon it grew into a sphere of motion and wind.  Water was pushed outward of the sphere, inside as the water rose all around them, they could still breathe, and then the little air sphere was all they had left. The warehouse had become a sunken tomb. They were encased only in this bubble of safety.

The descent continued, until Bang!  The ship hit what they assumed must be the bottom of the sea, with a jolt.

All was dark.

For several minutes, they stood there. Not saying a word.  Each was certain, they had found their death.  And then, miraculously, a single ray of light shone through a porthole from outside the murky water of the sea. It illuminated in a beam several objects now drifting in the sunken warehouse outside their bubble.  Theadron could’t believe what he was seeing. He moved to the edge of the sphere and gazed out to see the source of light, but instead two almond shaped eyes appeared in the tiny round window.  The eyes swept away quickly and were followed by strands of hair. He caught just the outline of a pointy ear!

Several minutes passed, leaving them all to wonder.  There was then a groaning sound, minute at first, but then clearer, from underneath their feet, inside the wood perhaps and around them.  Bubbles appeared in the water of the warehouse, and magically seemed to grow into larger and larger bubbles before combining. These larger bubbles began to coalesce until there was more and more air inside, eventually drips and slushes fell outside the elemental’s sphere of safety, and eventually they found themselves standing in only a few inches of water. It was as if all the liquid had been sucked out the cabin. They knew they were not above the sea though, for the portholes around them were still dark and blue.  More light appeared from under the warehouse door, which opened but unbelievably, behind it was a wall of shimmering water, a wall that simply stopped at the entrance! Dark shadows appeared on the other side of the water.  One moved through it and into the air space that had been conjured somehow.  It was a magnificently garbed elf, he held a trident and wore a crown upon his head.

“Welcome, to the Kingdom between the Spaces of Darkness and Light.  Welcome friends of Lyra.”

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