Grand Duchy 82

Grand Duchy of Adventure

Session 82
March 17, 2016

The Tale of the Traldar

Tserdain 27 Yarthmont

Guri Benkaal, the Traldar Leader
The following morning, the members of the Grey Company are taken before the leader of Traldar people of Ronkan. Guri Benkaal greets them and thanks them for their assistance in dealing with the mutts. He tells them the tale of the Traldar people. It is a sad tale of servitude and slavery at the hands of the mutts, or Hutaakans, as it is finally made clear. He explains that the Hutaakans have used magic and violence for a long time to keep the Traldar as slaves but some time ago, the Traldar were able to rise up and fight for their freedom. 

He also explains that recently the Traldar chased the Hutaakans out of this village of Ronkan and they have been routed into the valley. In revenge, the Hutaakans have unleashed hordes of undead upon the Traldar. In addition, they have summoned an evil and powerful creature, known only as the Killer in the Dark. The Killer in the Dark has been plaguing the Traldar of Ronkan for quite some time, to the point that they have become deathly afraid of the dark and will not travel farther than half a days distance from the shelter and protection of their village. Only a few groups have braved the farther reaches of the valley, one being the patrol group that discovered the Company a few days prior.

Benkaal shows the Company around the village and tells them about their day to day lives but before too long, sentries posted along the wall cry out that a horde of skeletons and zombies are approaching the village. Farmers and workers outside the wall are quickly recalled and the Grey Company assists the poorly equipped and tactically inefficient Traldar defend their home. The battle rages for most of the afternoon and eventually they are all destroyed or run off. 
The undead attack Ronkan
Impressed with their combat prowess, Benkaal asks the Company if they will help the people of Ronkan be rid of the undead menace once and for all. He tells them that if water from a place called the Singing Pool is placed in the golden bown in the great temple, the magics powering the undead will be undone. When asked for more details, he explains that the Singing Pool is several days travel to the south though the great temple is not more than a mile away from Ronkan. He takes them to a rooftop at the northern end of the village and shows them the ruined temple built into the steep, rocky wall of the valley no more than a ten minute walk. 

Hoping that this temple and undead problem might just lead them toward whatever it is they are looking for, the Grey Company agrees to check out the temple. After a little preparation, they set out on the dusty and rocky road to the north. The Traldar, thankful to their new protectors, wave and some even cheer as the Company heads out of the village toward the ruined temple.

The ancient and ruined temple might hold the clues the Company is looking for
Once they reach the temple, it is evident that some major damage had been sustained, possibly from an earthquake or other such catastrophe. The large front doors are barred and not able to be opened but Griffin spots a gaping crack in the domed roof above. While he readies his rope, Draven and Iris prepare flight magic to get to the top. Without much trouble, the trio of adventurers make it to the top of the temple and look down into the darkness below.

Cast of Characters: 

Garrett "Griffin" Constantine, a Thyatian rogue of a gambler from Penhaligon rolled by +Arne Jamtgaard 

Draven Rickart, a Thyatian Acolyte of the Church of Karameikos ministered by +Jason Packer 

Iris Vardaa Thyatian explorer and historian searching for answers and adventure, guided by +Alex Safatli 

Remar Umerusan Alphatian battle mage that escaped forced service in the Thyatian army currently marshalled by +Patrick Kelly 

and +Jason Woollard as The DM


Sundered Lands 8

The Sundered Lands of Palladium

Session 8
March 28 - April 10, 2016

Ship Shape

Thursday October 26

Clearing the Deck

Essanos Harbor
After a quick walk through of the ship, it was determined that there were no more immediate dangers besides the possibility of the blue-furred Coyle who had transformed into a Body of Water and seeped down into the bilge of the ship. Fortis was relatively certain he had hurt him severely with quite a few on-target Sunbolts and assumed that he had fled the ship. He did have the mage’s staff, though, to try a Seeker spell to make sure.

Silver did a quick fly-by of the water surrounding the Blue Nixie and was able to spot the three fleeing sailors, two Coyle and one Human. Arn and Moonscar continue making a below decks search while Seeker deals with the prisoners. There were quite a few of the sailors still on the ship as well, including 2 Coyle and 4 Human sailors. They were all rounded up and brought into the nearly burnt cabin on the main deck. 

Valinya considers how to best deal with the magical fog. She knows that she can dispel it but it would take considerable energy and time. Counterspelling would not be as taxing, require many, many more small castings. Very little energy requirement but much greater potential for a critical failure while casting. 

Searching the Blue Nixie is going to be a daunting task. The ship itself is about 15yds long and 10yds wide at midship, and the upper decks are still covered in an obscuring, confusing magical fog that makes everyone feel uncomfortable. There are 2 foredeck cabins, both about 3yds by 7yds. One the sail locker and the other a rope and chain locker. There are three aft cabins, one that was badly burnt (3yx4y), one that appears to be the blue-furred Coyle’s residence (3yx3y) and the stateroom (4yx5y) which has a broken out window and blood splatters everywhere from when Moonscar bit the side of one of the sailor’s necks open.

Down below, the Nixie has a galley that is about 8y wide by about 10y long, the main hold is about 10y wide and about 23y long and packed full of all manner of junk, ruined cargo and hundreds of exotic animals in varying states of health, the crew quarters which is 8yds wide and 7yds long, and the storage and bilge access area which are both about 3y by 6y. Of course there is also the bilge down below the hold which fills the entire bottom of the ship, is only about 3 feet high at best and filled with about 2 feet of disgusting, slimy black bilge water. 

Not sure that the fighting is really over yet, Silver stays in her regular form for the time being.  She comes back from her flight around the ship and tracks down Fortis.  “Don’t suppose I could get a healing spell or two?  One of those furballs was getting lucky with his axe.  Hey, I thought of something interesting about those blue guys.  When I first spotted one, he was standing in one of those buckets of water.  I’m guessing he gained some sort of benefit by standing there.  Any ideas?”

“That is a great observation Silver. I’m not certain what it means, or even if it has any thaumatological significance but let me think about it for a few moments. It could turn out the, upon seeing a dragon approach he simply placed himself in a location to quickly douse flames, or, since he has obviously displayed some skill with water spells, it could be linked to his magic in some way. What do you think Valinya?” says Fortis.

Silver continues with “Well, there’s buckets all over the place along the rails and in a few other places by doors and such, it seems to me that water was kept nearby practically everywhere.  I doubt it was there to put out fires, or it would be a common thing on other ships.”

“Hey, a couple of things to do here. We should let Lavina know what’s been going on, and I think you’d be the best for getting there and back fast.   She might have ideas for where to search.  I’d like to get that fishing boat returned -- I can do that and fly back -- unless we still need it for something?  Also, we should figure out what to do if someone from the port authority comes out to figure out what’s been going on here.”

 Fortis looks at the injured dragon, a bit taken aback by the implication of the request “Of course I will help you heal, Silver. Let me tend to that right away.” He concentrates for a few moments on his healing spell and then pats Silver on the snout and says “There, that went quite well. Feel better I hope?” He turns his attention back to the rest of his companions,  “I am going to need a few minutes to rest before flying back to shore though. That fight was tiresome. I also don't want to leave that Coyle too long or he might get a chance to heal himself. I'll need to move on to finding the wily Coyle fairly quickly. He’s crafty, but probably not any kind of super genius.” Fortis shakes his head. “He probably does have friends though. We should be on the lookout for whatever pack of miscreants he normally deals with to be sure we are not taken by surprise.”

Arn sets forth to search rooms, lockers, chests and bunks.  He tries to be as thorough as possible, looking for hidden alcoves and places folks would hide money or jewelry.

After a quick search of the crew quarters, Arn has come up with a  good handful of coins, several knives and lots of empty liquor bottles. He then heads up to see what else is going on.

As the group is settling in to what they need to do and moving about the ship, both Fortis and Arn experience some difficulty with the magical fog. Fortis finds himself stunned for a short time while Arn actually faints and passes out for about 6 minutes.

Before Valinya can do any type of magical work on the ship, she tells the others that she needs to sit and rest, the Teleportation and Create Water spells really took a toll on her. She estimates that she will be fully rested in about 30 minutes. Everyone else agrees that they too are tired and could use some rest.

Silver responds to the chorus of ‘rest’ with “OK then, I could use some too I suppose.  You guys rest where you can keep an eye on those guys.  I’ll rest up on a spar where I can keep a watch out for any more trouble coming our way.”  With that, Silver will make her way up to where the original lookout was, and perch herself there, switching sides of the ship every few minutes, but otherwise attempting to keep a low profile and remain unseen in the dark.

 While taking advantage of the brief restful interlude before the inevitable return to activity Fortis looks at the magical axe, splayed on the deck where its previous wielder forsook its protection. “Arn, do you think you would use a magnificent axe like this or, since it may be a little unwieldy for you, should the group try to sell it and divide the money? If you wanted to keep it in sure you have enough saved up to purchase our shares right?”

Its a nice weapon.  Solid craftsmanship and build, but its larger than my standard one-handed axes I use and can throw.   I can use it, but not near as effectively as my beloved mace.   I think we are better off selling this or giving it to Seeker..

Fortis starts thinking about the relative benefits of selling trading and using the axe.  ”Well that might be very good news, could you estimate the price of such a weapon? It may be better to sell it since I think Seeker already has a large sword effective at damaging the demons we may again encounter. Although… do you think it would be too big for Moonscar to handle?”

Some time later in a strange moment when no one else seems to be talking Fortis addresses the spellsinger. “Valinya, I was thinking that we may want to just leave the Mist until it expires. Unless someone who was inside the spell while it was cast returns to engage us there is really no advantage to spending the energy. Any law enforcement approaching might delay until it clears and that should give us some more time to conduct our searches.” The Ellyl tries to reason with the laziest part of Valinya, playing up the effort that would be required to dismantle the spell which will end itself in due course anyway. “Perhaps our energies would be better spent tracking down the blue Coyle with a Seeker spell… and then perhaps with an actual Seeker.” He nods to the largest and fluffiest member of the group. “I’m not comfortable letting him regain his strength and choose the next battlefield. Whatever he was protecting is, in his mind at least, worth killing us over and that leads me to conclude we will not have seen the last of his miserable carcass.” This turn of his own phrase strikes him as intriguing. “Not to offend, but would it upset anyone if, once we defeat the blue Coyle, I have his hide tanned to turn him into a rug?” Fortis glances around at the expressions his companions wear. “What? It would match my wings. Although, now that I’ve had more time to consider it, I’m not sure where I’d keep it. It really should be displayed in front of a cozy fireplace somewhere and we currently lack such amenities. Do you think we could get permission to stay in the manor house as it is being rebuilt or are we going to stay at the inn the entire time we are here? I don’t want to move aboard the Blue Nixie, it has a foul ambiance.”Realizing that he has been talking for about 4 uninterrupted minutes Fortis takes a deep breath and looks around. “Did you want to say something?”

Everyone, besides Silver, crowds into the recently burnt cabin under the aft deck. Seeker sits on the floor near the door leading out while Arn leans menacingly against the door to the captain’s stateroom. Valinya sits cross legged next to Seeker, still in airy form, her eyes closed. Moonscar leans casually against the mast where it runs down through the ceiling to the floor while Fortis rests on the remnants of a shelf above him. For the next 20 minutes, no one says anything. 

I'll Ask The Questions

Seeker stalks over to the prisoners, growling. “Okay, guys, here’s the deal. As we rowed up to this ship to have a chat, one of you shot me.” One of the Humans pipes up, “It wasn’t...,” but Seeker’s paws slam down on the deck on either side of him, making him squeak. “I didn’t say you could talk yet!” He stands back up, towering over the bound pirates.  “Now, in a few minutes, I’m going to start tossing you over the side. It’s up to you whether you do that with your hands and feet tied or not.” He flexes one fist, claws springing forth. “Who wants to help improve my mood? Where’s Vark? What’s up with that Coyle spellslinger? And what in the nine hells is going on here, anyway?”

After resting Valinya leaves the disposition of the sailors to Seeker’s tender ministrations and says, “I will go and work on clearing away the mist on the deck while  leaving it visible from the shore, like a cloak around us.  It will take time as I will need to cast a strenuous spell and rest.  As for the other mage, after I’m done I could go down for a chat.  I have some water magic that could be useful.  I’m sure I can reason with him … or otherwise coerce cooperation.”  With that she floats off to take care of business with her song of Dispelling.

After she's done, Valinya returns to the cabin where the others are but moves on through to the smaller cabin off to the side to rest quietly some more … after a visit to the galley to scrounge up some much needed food.

While crouching on the highest spar of the ship, Silver thinks over the fight with the Coyles, trying to decide what she could have done to be more effective.  If only that bite to his head had succeeded, I could have perhaps gotten him out of the fight sooner.  Seems like I need to work on either getting sneakier at things or get faster somehow.  Need to remember to ask Seeker about it, he seems to be good at that.  Having been on one side of the spar for a while, she flies over to the other side, settles down and watches the other direction, continuing to think.  Also need to learn more about the Rituals path.  Seems like it would be useful, given our fight with Demons before.  Yeah, would be good to have a way to hurt them next time too.  I wonder if I could learn to enchant my teeth or claws someday.

After resting the Druid puts his cloak back on, formal side out and wanders over to watch Seeker work the crowd. He leans against a mast and picks lazily (actually, very carefully,) at his teeth with the tip of his long, black knife, spits in disgust and flicks something away across the deck softly, though still clearly audible, murmuring, “I never did get his name. . .” Speaking up a bit he says, in Wolfen, “I don’t want to break your stride here Brother, I just have a question to add before you commence with the swimming lessons. . .”

The two Coyle scowl and whimper, and immediately agree to talk while the Humans seem a little more tight lipped, though maybe that is because they are looking quite pale and weak. One of them appears to be passed out and another in the corner looks to be in very bad condition. The sailor next to him looks at him and nudges him then recoils back in shock. “Oh, shit! Neb, Neb, are you ok?” He gingerly reaches out and nudges Neb, who in turn pitches forward onto the deck at an awkward angle, unmoving. A large puddle of blood can be seen under and behind him. The gash in his neck, now visible due to his angle, is dark and bloody. “Oh, no, Neb’s dead. Who’s gonna tell his wife? His kids? Please, don’t hurt me, I’ll cooperate!” He puts his face into his dirty, blood soaked hands and starts crying. 

Seeker gulps, but tries to keep up his scary facade. “Then if you want to be the one to tell Neb’s wife what happened, start talking. You know what I want to know. Who’s going first?” He looks the prisoners over. “What about you?” He points at one of the Coyles. “Or you?” He snaps his fingers under the Coyle’s muzzle and barks in Wolfen. “Where’s Vosk? What’s going on here?”

Interrogating some prisoners

The Coyle looks only too happy to respond. He speaks to Seeker in Wolfen, which everyone in the room happens to speak fluently. “You talking about Vark? I guess he's gone. Went over the side rail in the fight I think someone said. We're just here to move some cargo. He hired me and my clan brothers a few days ago. We've worked for him before. Easy job. Move some cargo. Keep an eye open for trouble. Not looking to tangle with a Dragon or the likes of you all. None of us hired on to die. Just moving some cargo without the blessing of the Dawn Council.” He looks to the other Coyle then the Human sailors, “we don't know what you want but we'll be no trouble at all.”

From her perch above, Silver hears one of the sailors wailing down in the cabin and wonders what sort of interrogation techniques Seeker and Arn might be employing. She then considers Fortis and his arsenal of tricks. The Dragon winces and turns to face a different direction for a while. As she settles herself in so she can scan the north and east approaches, she sees several low, sleek boats moving in from the direction of Castle Teraknian to the north. Silver estimates they should arrive at the Blue Nixie in less than 5 minutes.

 Arn looks on with a grim disposition, approving of Seeker’s interrogation techniques.   ‘I would have caused some pain first’ the Dwarf thinks to himself, but the young wolfen seems to have gotten results just the same.

We’ve Got Company

Silver watches for a moment to try and get a sense of how many boats there are and perhaps how large.  Once she has a better idea she glides down to the broken window in the stern, squeezes through once again, and trots over to the doorway to poke her head in the crowded room.  She glances around at the situation, pauses, then continues in Elvish “We have a few pretty good sized boats coming our way from the castle.  Hurry up with whatever it is you want to do.  They’ll be here in maybe five minutes.”

The Ellyl perks up at Silver’s pronouncement about the incoming boats and speaks to his companions in Elvish. “Well, that does sound like our most pressing concern. Does anyone have any ideas about how to proceed? I would suggest diplomacy for either the representatives of the Dawn Council or the partners of these smugglers. Either way, having a Dragon up our sleeve could make for a handy surprise, especially if Silver were to approach from behind them.”

Silver responds in Elvish once more. “Well, the boats are pretty big, and they seem to be coming from the castle.  I’m guessing it’s a unit of guards.  They probably won’t take kindly to threats either, and there’s more of them than these guys.  Frankly, I’d like to get to use that nice room at the inn.  Why not tie up these guys and let the guards just find them.  I’m sure we can sort out getting back here later.”

Seeker straightens up, almost hitting his head on the low ceiling. “Five minutes? Crap. Okay, let’s see.” He looks around the room. “Arn, you get that fishing boat back where it came from. If we get arrested, best to have our lawyer on the outside.” He thinks again. “Silver, you go let Lavinia know what’s happening. She needs to get out here - it’s her boat after all. We’ll try to stall until you get back.” He looks at the prisoners. “These guys aren’t going anywhere - Val, you and Fortis search. Start in the cabin there,” and he gestures to the big cabin through which he and Moonscar entered. “We were kind of busy when we came through. Fortis, when the boats get here, hide up in the rigging - you’re a decent ace in the hole.” He looks at Moonscar. “Brother, you search the other room on this deck - I’ll watch these guys.” He looks at his comrades. “Well? What are we waiting for, people? Move out!”

Once people start moving, Seeker checks out Neb. The poor Human has indeed bled out. Remind me talk to Moonscar about non-lethal takedowns. He pulls his first aid kit out of his satchel and sets to work on the other wounded - bandaging those who are seriously hurt. Two are not too bad off, but one has already passed out.

Arn nods at Seeker and hurries back through the stateroom. Moonscar follows him and quickly readies his rope and grapnel, hooking it to a support beam before throwing it out the window. “Aye, thanks,” Arn intones as he slides backward out of the window, hastily wrapping the rope around his body and arm. He begins lowering himself, slowly at first, then a little faster, bouncing off the salt encrusted planks of the Blue Nixie. As he approaches the bottom, he loses his grip on the rope and it slips from his hands, causing him to fall the final few feet into the small boat waiting for him. Hope I didn’t put a hole in ‘er, he thinks to himself. 

Row, Row, Row Your Boat… Again

 After making his way into the small boat, he once again gets moving on the oars and rowing. He tries to circle back around to avoid encountering the boats of the authorities making their way out to the Blue Nixie. Arn takes his time, rowing quietly and steadily. He knows that he has the endurance to row the craft for the duration needed. He laughs to himself as Seeker referred to him as their “lawyer”, but it is true, Arn knows a bit about Law and customs. Now if they can just keep out of trouble long enough….

“Row, row, row your boat….” Arn mutters to himself. He makes his way through the waters, initially concealed by the magical fog around the Blue Nixie, but manages to get further out past the ship. His slight bit of night vision offered by being a dwarf helps him see enough to avoid encountering the approaching vessels that could be the harbor authorities.  

It takes him a bit longer to navigate around, but with only himself in the ship, the task is an easier one.    Eventually Arn brings himself around to the docks and pulls up his boat to the pier.    Some minor late night activity seems to be going on as longshoremen and other workers off load a fishing boat that came in late.    

Silver Heads for Shore

Silver pulls back into the cabin with the windows and carefully roots around in her pack to dig out a healing potion, and drinks it.  After stashing the empty vial in her pack, as she climbs back through the window and takes off into the night.

As she turns towards the docks to the south she thinks to herself.  Hmm, how do I get there without too much attention?  Either go high and come down in a dark area nearby, or fly close to the rooftops and hope I’m fast enough that folks wouldn’t see me crossing streets and such.  More altitude would keep the street lights from shining on me as much, I think I’ll go with that.  While still over the water between the ship and the docks, she starts circling and climbing up higher until she’s pretty sure the lights from the docks and streets below wouldn’t shine on her much, then heads in the direction of the house Lavinia was staying in.  As she approaches, she looks for a nice dark alley nearby to quickly drop down over and land in.

As she is landing, Silver hears several hoots and hollers from nearby, possibly indicating that someone had seen her approach. As she morphs into her Elf form and slips from the alley, she spies several dark clad figures moving toward the mouth of the alley. They pause for a moment when they see her, the leader eyeing her coolly but then move on through toward the alley. She can hear them whispering about “saw it go over here,” and “where did it go?” 

As she walks on down the street, Silver hears curses coming from the alley behind her. She smiles a bit and hurries her pace. She quickly realizes though that she had misjudged her location at some point and is in fact, not in the right spot for Davendows residence. 

She starts looking around, trying to orient herself to the landmarks but cannot because she has not had the time yet to learn them all. She struggles with deciding upon her next course of action. Does she take the sky again and risk being seen or chased, does she walk and risk being accosted on the street alone after dark, does she ask for help or directions or try to find it on her own. As her mind turns all these possibilities over, she notices a nearby shop with a sign out front depicting several potion vials of various sizes and color painted on it. An alchemist's shop. She decides she should at least try to remember where this place is. Fortis at least would be interested in checking it out.

Staying off to the side of the street a moment, Silver takes a moment to look around to get her bearings again.  I need to get myself a cloak, dammit.  OK, landmarks... where’s the water? The nearest bridge?  Which direction is where I came in from?  Now I think about it, I wonder if I got the look from that guy because this is that area where all the whorehouses were.  Any of them around? Is the street quieter or busier than I would expect? 

There are some people out on the streets, though not many. Most of the shops and stores are closed at this hour but taverns and other houses of food, drink and entertainment are still open. No one in the immediate vicinity seems to be in any sort of panic or rushing off to get a glimpse of the commotion going on out in the harbor. Either they don’t care or are too far removed from the harbor shoreline to know. Silver sees some water ahead, to the west she thinks. One of the narrow canals that crosses the islands of the Merchant District. Need to head back to the left, she thinks to herself, but I'll just check in here to be sure.

Silver steps into the shop and looks for the proprietor.  “Excuse me, I’m in a rush, but I’ve been turned around.  I’m looking for an Inn, what’s in the area?  I thought I’d ask here, since I have a friend that would be interested in your wares, and I’d like to find my way back here tomorrow.”

“Oh, what's that?” an older Human female says. “We're not open dear, sorry. But be back bright and early next morning. You say you're looking for an inn? The Fox and Hound is nice. Just a ways that way,” she points a shaky finger in the direction Silver had initially thought she needed to go. “You want to take the Potion Street Bridge across the canal then turn left and go across the Travelers Street Bridge. Follow Travelers Street and you can’t miss it dear. Shouldn’t take you any longer than a few minutes stroll.” She moves to the door, probably hoping to lock it as Silver leaves. “And do come back in the morning. I can sell you something to help with those dark rings under your eyes,” she says.

Silver smiles and says “Thanks very much!” as she heads out the doorway.  On hearing the comment about her eyes Silver turns back with a puzzled look on her face.  She raises a hand to touch just below her eye.  “Dark rings?”  She blinks each set of eyelids in turn, causing the old lady to jump slightly with an “Oh!”.  Silver shrugs at the surprised and perhaps slightly concerned old lady, and turns to head off in the direction indicated.

Once she gets further away, she makes sure she has her bearings of which way to go to get to the Davendow’s residence, and she starts to jog to get there quickly.  Might attract a bit of attention when in such a hurry, should slow down and turn a couple of corners and make sure nobody is following me before actually arriving there…  I really need to get a cloak or something.

Silver does her best to move through the streets of Essanos without drawing attention to herself. In the course of her travels, though, she ends up running into the same several people multiple times. She is pretty sure they have no interest in her, nor do they realize that she keeps running into them, but it does stand out in her mind that maybe she should practice her skill at moving discretely, as well as try to remember the layout of the city better.  After a few minutes, she comes to the Fox and Hound.

Silver looks at the Fox and Hound, and almost passes by, but decides at the last moment to turn and step inside the common room.  Before she reaches the door, she checks back along the way she came, to see if those people she keeps running into are around…

Stepping inside, she pauses just inside the entranceway, and scans the common room, checking to see if Lavinia is here or not.  One of the serving girls pauses near Silver and asks “Looking for someone in particular?”  Silver focuses on her a moment and says “Yes, but I don’t see her.  I’m in a bit of a rush, sorry.”  Having familiarized herself with the building layout earlier, Silver heads through the common room, down the lower hallway, and out another door that she saw earlier.  She stops there another moment to inspect the alley for any lurkers, before circling around to the bridge leading towards the Davendows.

It is a nicely appointed house, nowhere near as big as the Vanderboren Manor, but regal all the same. Looking around, Silver begins to think that she may have taken the long way around to her final destination and could have instead started out due east and arrived here as well, avoiding the detour and several bridges to take her past the Fox and Hound. The streets are nearly empty in the general vicinity but numerous lights shine from surrounding windows and on top of metal lamp-posts at most corners.

Silver’s knocks bring a servant to the door and though the hour is late, Lavinia is summoned. She listens to Silver’s tale and is both excited and upset about the events of the evening. She quickly grabs her cloak and follows Silver back to the docks. Upon reaching the docks, Silver realizes that she does not have a way to transport Lavinia out to the Blue Nixie then she hears a familiar sound. Arn is sitting on a stack of crates nearby, drinking from a wineskin and singing a duet with Lefty, his bedazzled gauntlet.

And Again with the Rowing

“Arn? Oh good, you took the boat back, right? I think we need to get Lavinia out there so she can sort things out with the guards.”  Silver looks around for the fishing boat that we borrowed previously, and back to Lavinia.  “We borrowed this without permission last time, I think we may need to do so again.  Any objections?”  Having no such objections, Silver makes to get the boat ready to leave back towards the ship, calling up to Arn “Are you coming too?”  Waiting for Arn to argue it out with Lefty, Silver looks back towards the ship and tries to get an idea of what’s going on out there as Lavinia climbs down into the boat.

Arn grumbles something about rowing the boat out again, and then having to bring it back… again, but he climbs down and dutifully grabs the oars and begins rowing. He looks at Silver and gives her a sharp look as he strains to row the boat, having expected an easier trip with these two girls, not realizing that Silver weighs more than the average Elf maiden “Bah, must be a current pushing us in or something,” he says. 

Ignoring him, Silver looks out toward the Blue Nixie and points, directing Lavinia’s attention to it. Silver can see what she assumes is at least one of the three boats she had seen approaching around the port side. She cannot see the other two, either they moved on or are on the far side where she cannot see it.

Arn continues to row the fishing boat back to the Blue Nixie. He looks at Silver and then to Lavina. “Lavnina, there were several men and Coyles aboard. There were up to something sneaky and no good. Is there anything you can recollect or reason why they were involved on the ship?”

Arn keeps pushing the fishing board forward, closer to the Blue Nixie. He hopes that he gets there before trouble starts with the authorities.

Silver speaks up first “The hold was full of cages with all sorts of creatures in them.  I’m sure the others have gotten some answers out of the thugs that were there by now.”  Looking ahead she adds “It looks like the other boats have arrived already.  I don’t think I see any fighting going on.  Given that they’re not being sneaky with all the lanterns and big show of force, I’m pretty sure it’s someone official.”

 “This should prove interesting”, the dwarf grumbles as he continues to row the fishing craft closer to the Blue Nixie. Arn nods his head off in the direction of the ships with lanterns and the banner upon them. “Harbor watch I bet”. He looks over at Lavinia, “I hope ye got some papers of ownership or some kind of identification to make this process go a lot less painful for everyone.”     

Lavinia smiles and looks at Arn and pats a satchel that is slung over her shoulder. “My good Dwarf, if my mother taught me anything, it was to be prepared. I’ve got all the paperwork I could find on the Nixie as well as copies of correspondence between myself and the Harbormaster. Sadly, I don’t have the actual papers of ownership, those are probably in the family vault under Castle Teraknian, which we can’t get to without my father’s signet ring. But I hope that your friends have located it, and if not, we should be able to take possession of the Nixie, at least long enough to make the search.” She looks away from Arn and past him, out over the darkness of the harbor as his strong Dwarven arms and back bring them ever closer to their destination.

Silver continues watching the goings on by the ship.  “Our companions had things in hand when I left, hopefully they’ve had a chance to look around…. Oh! they have floaty archers, neat!  Hmm, we should probably call out to them before we get too close, in case they’re jumpy.  I don’t want to get hit by an arrow when I’m like this.”

Poking Around the Blue Nixie

Meanwhile, back on the Blue Nixie…

But of course we only have five minutes, Valinya thinks to herself.  Wouldn’t do for Fate to grant us some mercy.  Oh well.  Make soup with what’s in the cupboard.  Not wasting another moment Valinya begins to search has Seeker has directed, using her keen vision to look.

The Ellyl is surprised by his immediate acquiescence to the orders, as he does not normally think of Seeker holding authority over him. “Oh well, he is right about what needs to be done, and there really isn’t time to argue. Now… if only I had a See Secrets spell. Hmmm… the next best thing is an inspection from an unusual angle.” Fortis flies under the desk and around the chair looking for hidden catches to compartments and similar signs of concealed objects. 

As the group fans out through the ship the druid searches the adjacent cabin.

Valinya, now back in normal, solid form, searches through a stout wooden trunk shoved up in the corner of the room. Half the time she holds her nose as she digs through the filthy and stinking rags that double as clothes for one of these pirates, the other half of the time she considers justifying the energy expenditure of casting a spell that would remove the odor altogether. Just as she is about to give up, she finds an interesting parcel tucked into a side area of the trunk. A piece of thin leather is wrapped and tied about what feels like a sheaf of paper and some coins. By it’s weight, it is a considerable number of coins.
What's in the package?

As she turns to Fortis to tell him what she found, he smiles and lets out a cry of victory as he pokes and prods at the headboard of the captains bunk. He has to use the butt of his spear to leverage what seems to be a disguised button in the woodwork. He hears a quiet click as he pushes it in and nearby, a small, carved panel folds out, revealing a secret compartment in the headboard. It is several inches long and only a few inches deep, lined with a soft, purple velvet. Fortis considers hopping in and taking a quick nap, it looks so comfortable. Resting in this secret compartment is a ring, just as Lavinia described her father’s signet ring. Threaded through the ring is a scrap of rolled up parchment, about 4 inches wide.

Valinya watches Fortis uncover the ring’s hiding place as she absentmindedly unties the parcel she holds. Several coins, shiny platinum ones, fall to the floor before she catches the others and sets the parcel down on the bed. There are about 40 platinum coins and more gold ones as well. The papers seem to be some sort of bill from the harbormaster, signed by Keltar Islaran while the other paper is a letter from Lavinia to the harbormaster, submitting her payment, just as she said she did. The number of coins here seem to match up with the numbers on the paperwork. This seems to be absolute proof of what she told the group earlier that evening.
The Vanderboren family ring

The satisfying click of the secret compartment catch releasing brings a joyous smile to Fortis’s face. Grinning triumphantly he reads the note then pops the ring and note into his satchel. “Valinya, put those in here too in case we get searched. We don’t want to end up losing our newly found treasures to some unscrupulous scoundrel.” 

While in his satchel he pulls out his scribes kit and jots a hasty note to leave in the hidden compartment; “Good luck recovering your trinket. You’ll never be able to track me through the Land of the Damned.” Signed “The Coven” Tucking the misleading taunt into the compartment he smiles again as he closes the secret chamber with another satisfying click. “I’ve no idea who might want to come after us but any confusion to them is a boon to us.” 

Realizing that they are almost out of time Fortis prompts Valinya. “Hey there spell singer, we need to get back to the group and position ourselves to deal with the incoming boats and their crews. I suspect we are going to have a lot of explaining to do. So we should go find Seeker”. With that pronouncement and a last minute chuckle at the mischievous note replacing the ring Fortis flies out the door in search of the most ‘take charge’ member of their group. “Perhaps we should formalize his position with a title… ‘His Magnificent Fuzziness’? … no, makes him sound fat, even though his is big … ‘His Puissant Flufficance? … no, too semi-pornographical … ‘His Great Growliness’? No, the alliteration seems to detract from the implied menacing authority. I’ll have to keep thinking about it. Oh, no I’ve got it! ‘The Grand Barker’ it just has a certain air of command about it.”

Over in the other room, Moonscar starts to nose around. This room was clearly the bunk room of one of the Coyle, and by the blue hairs he finds everywhere, it was the spellcaster’s. He knows he does not have the time he would like to conduct as thorough a search as he would like, but he will make the best of the time he has before the other ships arrive. 

The Kankoran gets to rummaging through the cluttered and crowded room, and besides the large trough of water against the door, a ratty hammock and a supply of dry blue power and semi-mixed paint paste, he manages to find an old chart book tucked away on a high shelf; a badly tarnished silver picture frame in the shape of a little heart with what looks like a painting of two blonde haired children, one a boy and one a girl; a long, curved bone knife with some Coyle tribal carvings on it; 23 gold coins in a wooden bowl filled; and 3 small vials with a deep blue liquid in them.
an interesting knife

Walking back to Seeker with Fortis Valinya muses out loud … “So what instead of hanging around and explaining we just make a discreet exit?  You can fly and I have the Body of Air song.  But I could also cast that on Seeker and Moonscar; they could join us in a fun flight back and hopefully avoid any questions.  What do you think?”  Then in silence she thinks about it some more … It might be fun to have others join her in the airy experience, though it might get challenging to maintain … Hmm ...

Fortis replies to Valinya’s suggestion. ”I had briefly considered a similar solution as well. It has many merits, but a few vulnerabilities that make it less than ideal. If those are the authorities we don’t want the only answers they get to be from our prisoners, who are not inclined to tell the truth most beneficial to our cause. Further, We are in the right here. That ship was being held illegally by a treasonous city official and used by him to circumvent the law. We stopped that. coolNow, as to your suggestion about a vertically unrestrained exit strategy for our group… I think that has a lot of potential to save us some time in the future. Since we are constrained by the least mobile member of our group it makes sense for us to have a way, in emergencies at least, to let us all fly. Similarly, if we can all move at the same rapid pace we won’t have to leave anyone lagging if the need arises to flee. We should discuss this with the group when we have a chance. I’m thinking potions, limited use amulets, perhaps a wand… something allowing us to grant flight to the poor landbound in an emergency.”

Filtering out Fortis’ immaturity as he always does, Seeker listens, nodding. “Sorry, Val, but I feel Fortis has the right of it this time. We were attacked first,” and he gestures to the crossbow bolt still sticking out of his shoulder, “and were investigating something for Lavinia. This ship is not where it was supposed to be, being enchanted and used for things it was not supposed to be used for. If you want to slip away, Moonscar and I can stay and try to talk things out. Just leave us the documents and Lavinia’s fee.” He looks out the window. “With any luck, Silver’s on her way back with her - if she’s like most nobles, the guard will get an earful.”

“Hey, Val, if you’re leaving, better scoot. If you’re not, one of these guys is in pretty bad shape. Think you could help him out with some magical healing? Guards are happier when they don’t have to carry people.” He smiles.

Heaving a sigh Valinya nods.  “I agree, though I don’t have confidence in the integrity of the city officials after our brief experiences here.  But hopefully we can persuade them to see things in the appropriate light.”  Lightly touching the crossbow bolt in Seeker’s shoulder she says, “I assume you’re hanging on to that painful wound as ‘evidence’ but as soon as possible I’d like to get that healed up.  We need you whole and strong.”  

Some Explaining To Do

Valinya, Fortis, Moonscar and Seeker meet-up out on the main deck and quickly go over the items that were found during the search, in addition to the loot that Arn scrounged up from his earlier search of the crew quarters. Fortis and Valinya both eye the three vials that Moonscar has found, noting that they appear magical. The bone knife that he displays has some enchantment on it as well. 

The three approaching ships arrive quickly, aided by a bank of several oars on each side. Two of them move around to either side of the Blue Nixie while the third stays back a bit, near bow, starboard side. Bright lanterns can be seen along the decks of these ships and the the banners of Essanos can be clearly seen. Quite a few people can be seen on the decks of each boat, many of which are archers with bows pointed toward the Blue Nixie.

Fortis hovers in front of the gigantic Wolfen’s muzzle. “Well, if you’d like to speak with them I can make you appear as whatever you like, do you have any preferences? Or do you think we ought to play this straight?” The Ellyl backdrafts a bit on an errant breeze and restabilizes a little farther away from him. “I could also, or perhaps instead, try to make their leader more Loyal to your goals.”

Seeker shakes his head. “That doesn’t make any sense. The prisoners have already seen us. I can answer their questions if you guys want to bug out. I think we should just play this straight for now.” 

Fortis nods at that sensible statement “OK, good point, we don’t want to invite more scrutiny than we already merit. Would you like me to ‘nudge’ their opinion of you?”

Seeker grins. “What, I’m not already loveable enough?” He smiles. “Nope, playing it straight means we play it straight. Save the spells for when we are in the wrong.”

Based on Seeker’s long experience with the mercurial spellcaster he suspects, quite correctly, that his companion is headed for a pout, but is fortunate enough to be spared one of any significant duration as the Ellyl acquiesces. “I don’t have to like that you are right, but I do have to respect it. Sometimes I just want to make things easier for us. Better living through Thaumatology.” Shaking off his disappointment and refocusing on the task at hand he suggests “Shall we welcome our guests and help them aboard? I think I saw a Jacob’s ladder rigged over the side there.”

Seeker looks like he’s going to says something, then lets it go. “Right. Be careful, that fog is still potent. The guards may have to come in through the windows we did.”

Adding another suggestion the Ellyl proposes a solution “Perhaps hailing their boats and offering suggestions on a safe approach would allay their fears and make the situation somewhat less tense for them?”

As Fortis says this, almost as if on cue, someone from one of the boats yells up loudly, “Hail, crew of of the Blue Nixie! This is the Sparrowhawk of the Essanos Harbor Watch. What is going on out here? Is everyone ok? We request permission to board.”

Realizing that their time to plan is up Fortis flits up to the rigging and conceals himself in the fold of a stowed sail where he can observe the deck and eavesdrop on the conversations there. What should I prepare for? Are they really from the CIty Watch? Probably, but what if they aren’t? If they are, of what do we need to convince them? That we represent the legitimate owner of the ship? That Vark is a treacherous scoundrel engaged in an illegal and disgusting enterprise endangering rare animals? That the appropriate fees were paid? That they should now be waived as compensation for the unlawful seizure of private property by a representative of the City Watch? Or, better yet, that the fee is paid as it should be but the city compensate the owner for loss of use due to the illegal action of its representative. That should actually net out a bit of coin for Lavina unless the docking fees are usurous compared to the usefulness of a ship in generating income. 

The druid looks around for a moment considering the situation then adds, “I think I should take a better look at the “cargo”. Somewhere there ought to be an inventory log, but even without it I can likely offer assistance in identifying and dealing with any of the more hazardous passengers should the harbor watch be unfamiliar with them.” As he starts for the nearest entry to the hold he pauses and comes back, “I think I should probably wash my face before our guests arrive. . .” After getting as much of Neb’s blood off of his muzzle as a quick wash will remove he proceeds to the hold to prepare his part of the briefing for the approaching authorities.

As the Watch boats prepare to board, Moonscar heads down the ladder into the hold to do a quick inventory of the “cargo.” As he descends, the cacophony below decks rises. Bird, mammal and other beasts begin crying out in their cages. The large spider creature and dead Coyle remain slumped against the port side of the hold. The Kankoran looks around and frowns. Even a “quick” look down here is going to take some time. Several quick passes back and forth across the room and Moonscar has at least an idea of what he is dealing with. There are well over 100 cages of various sizes. Birds, mammals, reptiles, insects and a couple of things he cannot identify. Some are caged individually, others are caged in groups. He is quite unfamiliar with pretty much every species present but would guess based on their coloring and plumage, they are from some more tropical climate. At least a quarter of all the specimens were dead and a few of the cages were even empty. As Moonscar begins poking around in the clutter around, under and behind the cages, he hears some loud talking above, alerting him to the fact that the Watch has arrived on the Blue Nixie.

More puzzled than anything else, Moonscar makes his way back topside. Noting the direction of the voices he uses whatever access is closest and announces his presence by climbing back up in a very noisy fashion.


Realizing the inevitable, Seeker sighs, hunches down, and makes his way through the aft stateroom to the windows. “Hallo the Guard! The ship is quite a state due to the brigands who were occupying her. I’d advise coming in through these windows - there is magical fog on the deck that you might not like.”

Giving Seeker the lead here, Valinya follows at his side to provide moral support and if needed to help provide some diplomatic influence.  Preparing herself she considers some options if needed, like Mind Reading to get a feel for what the leader of the boarding group is thinking in response to their story or maybe Persuasion to help grease the gears.  Hopefully those would be last resorts.  

Hiding in the rigging Fortis hopes he will be able to observe the proceedings and intercede if circumstances warrant. 

While sitting up in the rigging, Fortis realizes that when he showed everyone what he had found, he had forgotten to show the note that had been tucked into the ring. It must have fallen out in his magical purse. He adjusts himself to a more secure position then opens his capricious coin purse to find the piece of parchment and re-read it. He pulls it out, and at 4 inches long, was nearly as tall as he was. Slowly he unfurls the stiff piece of parchment. The back is  blank but the other side contained an interesting note written in an elegant, strong hand.
A monstrous riddle

Fortis scratches his head as he reads the note out loud to himself:
Dragon Beast looks to sunrise
Bogey Man looks to sunset
Tusker looks to sunrise
Harpy lovers look to sunset
Grimbor looks to sunrise

Fortis begins to let out a curse over this seeming bit of nonsense but then realizes that the Harbor Watch is beginning to board the Blue Nixie. He quickly rolls it back up, not an easy feat for one of his stature, and shoves it back into his pouch, diverting as much of his attention as he can spare on the deck below.

The Harbor Watch

The Harbor Watch had ignored Seeker’s advice about boarding through the stateroom window and quickly it was seen why. The remaining magical fog that was resting on the boat slowly rises up off the deck and lifts until it is about 10 feet off the deck. Fortis marvels as the fog moves up to his level, but smiles as he sees that his perch above had been right above the hole that Valinya had made in it earlier. He still had a clear view of the deck, though his line of sight to the other boats had been seriously cut off. 

A handful of archers from the nearest boat rise up, magically levitated above the deck of their boat until they are just a little higher than the deck of the Blue Nixie, their bows at the ready but not trained on anyone in particular. Rope ladders with grapple hooks are thrown up from the nearest boat and 4 nimble marines clamber up and take up positions on the deck before two officers climb up and approach the gathered party. 

Seeker watches the troops deploy to the sky and up the sides of the boat with admiration. Now THAT’S how a team should work! He ponders, I wonder if Valinya could do that for me when I need a sniper position? Or if she could have done that for Arn when we were trying to board this boat?

“I am Commander Dania Vilasek, of the Harbor Watch,” says a tall, stout woman with dark brown hair pulled tight beneath her cap. She wears a gilded cutlass tucked through her sash (that Valinya and Fortis immediately recognize as magical) and speaks with an air of unquestioned authority. 
Commander Dania Vilasek

Fortis keeps an eye and an ear out for goings on down on the deck below while pondering the cryptic paper in the back corner of his mind. Five subjects defined by facings… hmmm, All East or West, alternating each time. Could it be a clue to unlock whatever the ring conceals? 

Ohh… nice looking cutlass. Actually, nice looking lass entirely, at least I from up here. 

So a clue to be used with the ring somehow, but what is a Grimbor? I suppose I should think about that one some more. 

Dania Vilasek seems to be in charge, but appears to be young for her authoritative position. I wonder if that is a statement of competencFe, or an indication of something political.

All of them are monstrous beasts… wait… Harpy LOVERS? Not Harpies, but specifically Harpy Lovers… that could be significant. I wonder if that means two copulating Harpies or something that loves to hunt or eat Harpies?

Most underlings seem under equipped when is comes to magical weaponry, but then again, most underlings don’t wear that bearing of command. 

Maybe a Grimbor is a local name for some monster with which I am acquainted, or perhaps it is something unfamiliar entirely. I should ask about it at the Witchwardens. 

I wonder what else she is wearing?

“Commander Vilasek,” Seeker gives a short bow, then takes a parade rest, “my name is Seeker. This is Mister White, and Valinya. My friends and I have some very disturbing news. It seems that the Blue Nixie had been stolen from the docks and commandeered by some miscreants. When I and my friends discovered it anchored out here, we came to investigate, whereupon we were attacked,” and he gestures at the crossbow bolt in his shoulder, wincing. “The ship supposedly being held for delinquent docking fees was full of strange animals and foul magics. We secured the ship, and were just about to contact the authorities when you arrived. I’m sure you have questions, ma’am. I’ll try to answer as best I can.”

As the newcomers arise and board Valinya works hard to avoid letting her surprise show on her face, putting on her plastered smile mask she cultivated while working the inn as a girl.  Never let them know how you feel … everything is just fine … don’t look at me.  She marvels at the lifted fog, wondering if the casting mage was involved or if one of the newcomers was responsible.  She looked them over to see if she could identify any spell casters.  How does one hijack another person’s spell and how do you manipulate even your own mist once cast?  Very curious.  When the archers levitate aboard she again wonders about “how” … casters or do they have some sort of magical item … yes, give the number that seemed more likely.  When Dania speaks Valinya focuses on her, noting the magical cutlass.  As Seeker introduces them, Valinya has the stray thought about names … Mr. White is obviously a cover, Seeker seems like an adopted moniker … maybe she should think of a pseudonym for herself.  Hmm.  She quickly files that away for later so she can focus on the conversation.  She carefully watches Dania, focusing as much on her expressions and body posture as what she says, watching her as she watches them trying to gauge her reaction to Seeker’s comments.  

The Commander listens as Seeker speaks, nodding and looking around. “So, just the three of you, eh? Took the ship from how many you say? Where are these offending pirates and what proof do you have to your claim?” She steps forward a step, crossing her arms, clearly not intimidated by the towering Seeker, whose head nearly touches the bottom wisps of the magical fog floating above their heads.

Down in the harbor, Arn maneuvers the fishing boat closer, now unable to avoid the harbor ship that has pulled itself alongside of the Blue Nixie. Another of the harbor craft can be seen out past the Nixie on its other side, only partially visible past the larger ship.

Silver can see several figures floating in the air directly above the harbor ship, pointing bows at the deck of the Nixie. She then notices several crewmembers on the new craft looking out in their direction, one of them points and several archers move around to take aim on the approaching fishing boat. 

Everyone onboard the Nixie hears someone call out to the approaching fishing boat, though none of them can see it from their current position on the deck. The second officer on the deck steps up to Commander Vilasek and speaks quietly, though loud enough to be heard, “Commander, the Ghost Spear reports that a small fishing boat is approaching from the Merchant District docks, due south, It appears a Dwarf is rowing two women toward us.”

Vilasek turns back to Seeker, Valinya and Moonscar, “friends of yours?” she asks. 

Seeker shakes his head. “No ma’am, it wasn’t just the three of us. When we had the ship secured, we sent a couple of us to get the ship’s owner. Her name is Lavinia Vanderboren. From the sounds of things, that would be them now.”

“As for the pirates, there are a pawful of them in the aft cabin.” He hitches a thumb in that direction. “ I’m sorry to say one of them did not make it. Also, the ringleader, Sollen Vark, and his second, a blue-furred Coyle, have managed to elude us. The sailors told us that Vark slipped over the side as we arrived.”

“We also found the docking fee that Lady Vanderboren paid, and a receipt. Mister Vark claimed that she had not paid it. Probably so he could continue misusing her property.”

Mention of the blue-furred Coyle catches Fortis’s attention and returns it to the grave matters under discussion. I should start a search for that Coyle, and soon. Finding Vark would be nice, but I suspect the Watch will provide him with plenty of distraction. That faux fur freak is dangerous. 

“This might be a good place to point out that the aforementioned Coyle is, as far as we know, still might be at large hiding in the bilge under magical means.  Though it’s likely he’s already slipped away … just wanted you to know in case”  Having said her piece she looks at Seeker, hoping that draws the attention back to him.  

Upon seeing the reaction from the other ship, Silver calls out “Ahoy, don’t shoot! We’re not hostile!  We have business with the Blue Nixie.”  She turns to Arn and says “Stop rowing for a minute Arn, they have twitchy archers looking our way.”

Arn slows his rowing and the fishing boat drifts peacefully in the dark harbor, the archers on the Harbor Watch ship continue watching but make no aggressive moves. 

Up on the deck of the Nixie, Commander Vilasek considers all that has been told to her. “Blue furred Coyle mage, you say? Sounds like one of those Crashing Wave mages.” She turns to the other officer, “Call Harkell up here. They say there may be a rogue mage down below. I’d like to know for sure before we progress any further.” She turns back to the others and continues, “you say you have some paperwork and payment meant for the Harbormaster? I would see that please, though if you would like to wait a moment, we can have this Lady Vanderboren brought aboard, get this whole business sorted out.” She looks to Seeker for his acceptance to this proposal.

Seeker looks to Valinya and Mister White and, seeing no objection, gives a  nod, “Of course, ma’am. If you’d give the all-clear to your folk, let’s get all the relevant parties here to get this resolved.” He turns to Valinya, who hands him the platinum and the papers she had found. “I haven’t had a chance to look this over myself.” While they wait for Silver, Arn, and Lavinia, he glances over the papers.

Seeker looks over the pawful of papers, hmm-ing and nodding his head as he scans the markings, trying to give the impression he knows how to read them, though the letter of the Eastern Human tongue have never made much sense to him. Valinya clears her throat a few times, nodding her head toward the papers, but Seeker continues his ignorant perusal of the documents. Finally she reaches out and takes the papers back from him, making a point of turning them over, rightside up, before wrapping them back in their leather binding. 

Moonscar observes the proceedings quietly, polishing the lenses of his goggles with his gloves (and hoping he managed to get all of the blood off of his face,) showing no reaction until the very end. The commander’s reasonable response and proposal then elicits a slight raising of his eyebrows and slow nod as if to say, “Okay, I like this one.” Once the matter of immediate procedure is agreed upon the druid speaks up, “Ma’am, if I may, the hold could pose some risk to your agents should the mage still be aboard. They appear to have been planning to deliver a large number of exotic, tropical animals to a vessel waiting nearby outside of the harbor. We haven’t learned its position, but given how long it would take to transfer the cargo it’s likely to be well inside of your territorial waters. If the animals themselves aren’t illegal to trade in they were, at the very least, attempting to circumvent payment of whatever taxes, custom fees or what have are held due for the transaction and/or cargo and, according to those who surrendered tonight, have been using this ship to do so for quite some time. In light of the fact that they were willing to accept the loss of money and business reputation, attempting therefore to set the ship on fire, destroying all of the evidence, rather than surrender it, I would surmise that the cargo is highly illegal, of such nature as to incur far greater consequences if discovered than those which might arise from their failure to deliver it.” 

He stops wiping his goggles for a moment and pauses with the expression of someone trying to recall something before continuing, ”Oh, but I digress. I’m very sorry. Anyhow, the point is that they have already released one, a very large arachnid of some sort, in an effort to hinder us. While I am unfamiliar with southern fauna I believe many of them are likely to prove quite dangerous as well.  Should the Coyle indeed remain close by he may well then release others. While, sadly, they have been grossly ill-treated and are in poor health and starving, well, they are starving. . . Of course he might also attempt once more to destroy or sink the ship and its contents.” He then takes a step back once more with a slight bow of his head.

The commander listens intently to Moonscar’s assessment of the situation, nodding occasionally. Finally she thanks him and assures him that her people will take care of the situation with the utmost care. “We have experience in things like this. The exotic animal trade has been booming in recent years. The nobility of Phi,” she pauses for a moment, her face ashen at mention of the now lost island nation, “and Lopan have long associated exotic animals from the southern lands as badges of honor and status. With the newly opened waterways to the Sea of Scarlet Waters, things have only gotten worse. We have has some recent incidents involving highly dangerous animals smuggled into the city and our main goal is to monitor and insure the safety of the city. Most imports aren’t illegal, per se, but the Dawn Council has enacted certain restrictions and licensing fees for these animals. Many smugglers have tapped into this situation by providing a market easier access to these animals. This has unfortunately led to improper shipping and handling practices like you saw below. Again, we thank you for your diligence and assistance in this matter, though I am sure the Harbor Watch could have addressed it directly.”

Hearing the comment about those “Crashing Wave” mages Valinya purses her lips in thought.  That may be something worth investigating.  Water mages?   

Silver waits for some response from those in the boats.  She calls out again “Oy, are you going to let us board the Blue Nixie?  We’re here to help sort things out.”  What the heck is going on up there?  

After a few more moments, Silver sees one of the people on the nearby longboats signal for them to approach.  “Arn, it looks like they’re inviting us forward again.  Turn starboard a bit to go around.”  She keeps an eye on the archers and others on the boats as Arn rows them up to the side of the Blue Nixie.  When they come up beside, Silver calls out “Coming aboard!” and methodically climbs up the netting on the side of the ship, and over the rail.  She stops briefly looking at the situation on deck.  “Nice job with the fog!”  She then turns to see how Lavinia is doing, and promptly gets out of the way when she sees that Lavinia was right behind her.  Once Lavinia is on deck, she says “All you now.  We’ll back you up as best we can.”  Silver looks below again, and sees Arn fiddling with ropes again, so leaves him to it.  She turns to follow Lavinia, meeting up with others on deck.

Arn finishes up securing the fishing boat to the Blue Nixie once again.   He secures his equipment one more time and calls up to the upper deck, “Make way, 2 coming aboard, Arn Ironfist and Lefty.”    Arn chuckles to himself at his madness.    ‘Those bastards should know I count as twice as many as a normal being in the first place’...

Arn makes his way up and notices a handful of archers with their bows trained loosely in his direction as he makes his way on board.   He chuckles again, “Ye lads are gonna need more than those toothpicks if you want to stop me from getting up here.”    Noticing little reaction from the guards, Arn makes his way past them, swatting one of the bows aside with ‘Lefty’ telling the guardsman “Move aside lad, I told ye I was coming aboard”.  Arn continues to make his way over with Silver and Lady Lavinia.   Arn then looks over at Seeker, Moonscar and Valinya and asks them, “Okay, What’s going on here now?”

When Lavina boards Valinya gives Arn a wink and says, “Commander Vilasek, may we present Lady Vanderboren, as requested.”  With a wave of her hand she directs attention to Lavina and waits.

Commander Vilasek bows slightly to Lavinia and greets her with a “milady” and Lavinia responds likewise. Lavinia steps forward and explains the situation. Commander Vilasek listens intently, nodding and giving quiet affirmative sounds. Valinya gives Lavinia the documents and payment. She quickly shuffles through the documents and shows several to the officer of the Harbor Watch. “Yes, yes, this all looks to be in order. On behalf of Master Islaran and the Harbor Watch, I apologize for this situation. I can take these documents and the payment to the Harbormaster myself and do what I can to clear this up. On my honor I will not let this situation deteriorate further, though I completely understand if you would like to present it to him yourself. And I hate to do this, but I will need to impound this ship, temporarily of course, and at no further cost to yourself. I shall task my crew to begin dealing with this immediately, though I would ask that you and your companions return to shore. I can have the Morning Mistress deliver you to the dock of your choice.” Vilasek’s manner and demeanor seem to be honest and forthcoming, truly apologetic. 

As she speaks, the one she named as Harkell arrives. He appears on the deck next to Commander Vilasek, materializing out of thin air. He is unlike any mage any of the gathered companions have ever seen. Just as tall as Commander Vilasek, but much thinner, standing on two thin, yellowish legs that appear to be nowhere near sturdy enough to hold even his slight body. He appears to be some sort of bird-man, with dark feathers poking out in several places from his dark blouse like covering. This strange creature has a belt with several potions and items hanging from it and wears small golden spectacles low on his beak.  She relays the short version of the story about what is down in the hold and the possibility of the Coyle mage hiding out in the bilge. He nods and then disappears again.
Harkell, an avian wizard of the Harbor Watch

Seeker bows. “That’s very nice of you, ma’am.” He turns to his comrades. “Okay, now that we’re all friendly-like, I think it’s time I got rid of Exhibit A. Val, if you could?” He gestures at his wounded shoulder. Valinya steps forward quickly, and, laying hands on the bolt and Seeker’s broad chest, extricates the bolt even as she sings a song of healing.  Hoping his query is covered by her singing, he looks down at her and whispers, “Did you get it?” Valinya pauses, then smiles and gives a slight nod. Seeker breathes a sigh of relief. It’d be a shame to have gone to all this trouble and not accomplish the mission! 

Once the medical necessities are done, Seeker looks at his friends, “Guys, Lady Vanderboren, why don’t you take the Commander up on her kind offer. Arn, you’ve done enough rowing tonight. I’ll get the boat we used back to the dock.” He pitches his voice slightly louder. “Then we will all meet up back at the Fox and Hound.” Hope Fortis picks up on that.

Silver listens as Seeker declines the offer of transportation then starts a bit when he makes to leave.  What about the signet ring? Did they already find it?  Silver asks Seeker “We have no further business then?”  Reading Seeker’s readiness to leave, she turns to the others and adds “In that case, I’ll keep Seeker company.”  She follows Seeker when he makes ready to leave.

With that, Seeker grabs the staff and the axe and moves to the side of the Nixie and hop over, easily climbing down to the fishing boat. He mutters a little as he undoes the knots that Arn used to secure the line, but gets it loose. Soon he is speeding the small boat back across the harbor to its home moorage.

On the small boat with Seeker, Silver keeps watch as they head off towards the dock.  Once out of easy earshot of the Watch’s boats, Silver asks “Since you didn’t want to stay there, I’m guessing we found the item we went looking for?”

Seeker keeps strongly pulling on the oars, but nods to Silver. “Val told me they found it while she was healing my arrow wound.” 

“Ah good.” Silver says.  “I guess all of this was a success then.  I suppose that will all be sorted out back at the Inn.”

Fortis takes the opportunity to make his departure using the spar, furled sail and proximity to the mist to obscure his movement. He takes his cue from the comment Seeker made about returning to the inn and heads back to the Fox & Hound making certain he keeps his flight path well clear of any watch boats. On his way he puzzles over the new information he has about avian races and the types of mage they might produce. When he gets back he adopts a cautious approach and circles the perimeter of the establishment, looking for any suspicious characters. I’m betting our blue fuzzed nemesis made it off of that ship. We’re going to need to run that bitch down. The Commander seemed to think he was a member of some sort of brotherhood of water magi. I wonder if the Witchwardens have anything interesting to add to that hypothesis. Catching up with him while he is surrounded by a pack of ne’er do wells would not be an ideal reunion. Finding nothing suspicious he turns his attention to the problem of the escaped coyle mage and his sartorial imitation. I need to plan out a way to track down the blue bitch and put an end to its miserable life. Reviewing what he knows of scrying he formulates a plan. First a History spell to see what the staff has been witness to, than a Seeker using the staff as a material link. I may need to use a Simple Illusion to display the revealed scene to others more familiar with the surrounding area. 

Before attempting to board the commander’s boat Valinya transforms into her safety net form, Body of Air, and gracefully floats over, remaining in that form for the duration of the journey.  Almost to herself she said, “Well, I thought that ended rather well, considering how it started.”  Once aboard Valinya kept herself busy watching the crew and listening to conversations in case she might pick up something noteworthy.  

Seeker and Silver row the fishing boat back to the dock while the others ride along on the Morning Mistress and everyone reconvenes back at the Fox and Hound. Lavinia takes possession of her paperwork and the payment for the harbormaster as well as the charts and maps that Moonscar had recovered. She says she will get her family ring in the morning, not having it for a few more hours will make no difference, she muses. She bids Valinya, Arn and Moonscar good evening, saying she wants to get a good night’s sleep before heading to see the Harbormaster in person. She then plans to go directly to Castle Teraknian to her family vault. She asks if the companions will accompany her, and of course, they agree. She tells them she will meet them an hour after sunrise, thanks them again and then bids everyone a good night. She is escorted home and then everyone heads for the Fox and Hound.

Planning a Dish Best Served Cold… After a Hot Meal

Forts, arriving first by air travel, greets his companions as they return in groups. “Welcome Friends, We’ve had a bit of a long day so I asked the proprietor to lay out a meal for your enjoyment.” The Ellyl sweeps his tiny arm in the direction of a laden table covered in oddly scented Southern fruits, pungent cheeses, a moderately sized haunch of some kind rubbed in spices and still sizzling on the platter. As expected when serving our particular group there is also a tapped cask of alcohol, in this case the pungent pale ale favored by the natives. “Please come sit and refresh yourselves while we plan our next maneuver. There should be enough here to sate any of our appetites.”

After the group digs in Fortis launches into another rapid fire monologue about the things whirling around in his skull. “Well let’s see. We need to find that Coyle, and he may have company… magical mundane or both. Did anybody think to get his name from our prisoners whilst interrogating them? I think we’ll need to do a bit of magical sleuthing to track him down. I was tentatively planning a History spell in that staff, which I should thank you for bringing Seeker. Thank You. We might need to use multiple items to get enough impression from his aura. Did you retrieve the knife and ceremonial paints Moonscar? Anyway, once we know where he is I am inclined to pay him a visit he will remember for the rest of his life, but if the rest of the group thinks we should turn him over to the watch I could be persuaded to let them apply their own, probably insufficient, justice to someone who tried to kill us. Perhaps we’ll even find ourselves some reward or recognition.” Seemingly without needing to inhale Fortis continues on. “In addition to that little mess we also need to get all the detail we can about the locked chamber our dear ward inform us of. That reminds me, there was a clue scribbled on a note stuffed inside the ring when I found it. It read ‘Dragon Beast looks to sunrise, Bogey Man looks to sunset, Tusker looks to sunrise, Harpy lovers look to sunset, Grimbor looks to sunrise’ I’ve thought about it a bit and my best assumption is that there are some movable portions of this lock that need to face East and West for the mechanism to open. So, I think we should prepare for an excursion as soon as we are done with our new adversary.” He pauses briefly and looks around at the group. 

Moonscar eats quietly as the Ellyl chatters, nodding at times to the points he brings up. Once done he chimes in, “There is one other detail I would really like to be certain of. As I mentioned on the way out tonight, it would be only too convenient for our opposition to impersonate someone whom we’ve never actually met in an effort to draw out the few of us who remain. . . I hope it’s just my darker thoughts, but I would appreciate it if someone could ascertain whether or not our friend is in fact who she says she is and, if so, if she is indeed our friend. I would really hate to find we’re handing over whatever her family wished to share with us to the others when we help gain access to the family vault. After all, if she isn’t really our ally, she would still be, as Uncle Colwyn said, ‘the key to the matter’.”

The companions sit and eat heartily, famished after such a trying ordeal out on the Blue Nixie. Healing is made available for those still wounded in the encounter. In no time, Fortis has moved off to the side and begun working his magic on the staff in hopes of tracking its previous owner down. The tiny mage sits rapt for a few moments after casting his spell, both miniscule hands resting on the carved wood of the staff. Fortis sees a flashing blur of a week’s worth of time from the perspective of this staff. It seems to travel everywhere with its owner, the blue furred Coyle. He sees a city on the sea, a rocky coastline, some docks. It does not look like the protective harbor of Essanos. The Coyle works on a whaling ship. Then he meets with an ugly Human with a scar on his cheek. They walk through this town, through a gate in a high wall then through some more city streets until they reach the Essanos docks. The Blue Nixie is moored at the end of a pier. They board the boat and look around. It is empty except for some sailors, Human and Coyle. They all give the staff wielder a wide berth. The ship appears to be in disuse. The sailors are cleaning it up. The blue Coyle summons some water that swirls around the deck, helping to clean it. He is shown a cabin in the aft deck. He sees the ugly, scarred Human talking to someone else, but cannot see any details of this other person, though he is standing right in front of him. The ugly, scarred Human gives him a large sack of money then the other turns to leave. The crew readies the ship and the Coyle leans over the side, leaning the staff against the rail. The Nixie heads out into the harbor where it drops anchor and sits. Each morning and and evening, the Coyle raises a magical fog around the Blue Nixie and over the course of a few days, during the few hours of the day that the fog is not present, the sailors receive shipments from other boats and ships. All animals. They are stored in the hold. It takes several sailors to move the cage with the large spider creature in it. One sailor is badly hurt by it when trying to feed it. The Coyle occasionally leaps from the side of the ship and swims around the harbor, with the staff in hand, as a body of water. The only other place the Coyle goes, also as a Body of Water, one day is a tavern across the harbor built at the base of a pier with a sign featuring a parrot with no feathers. He drinks some drinks there alone and does not socialize with anyone The other place he goes looks like an apothecary shop. He buys some blue powders and a jar of something there. He also buys the three magical potions. He returns to the Blue Nixie through the water and the next 2 days are similar to the others. Some helping with cleanup on the ship and casting the two fog spells daily. Whenever he casts a spell, he steps into one of the many troughs of water he had had placed around the deck of the ship. Mostly just watching the animals being brought on board from small jolly boats. 

Seeker is quiet during dinner, eating almost as much as Silver or Valinya, while he listens to Fortis natter on. After the history report, he says “Geez, Fortis, I’m glad you’ve got a new hobby and all, but we have a job to do here supporting Lady Vanderboren. Chasing after some petty criminal is a colossal waste of our time.” His powerful jaws crack open a bone to get the last bit of delicious marrow, then continues. “The intel you’ve gathered might prove useful if we ever run into him again, but I don’t see a need to go looking for extra trouble. I suppose you can take some consolation in the fact that we have his staff.” He leans back and belches. “Of course, that’s just my opinion. I wouldn’t dream of telling you what to do with your time.” He looks around at the rest of the group. “I’m for hitting the hay.  We have to meet up with Lavinia in the morning.” 

Arn enjoys the meal and the ale Fortis managed to acquire for dinner.    Arn takes in everyone’s input.    “Aye, Talks-to-Rocks has a point about making sure the good Lady is who she is.    It wouldn’t be the first time that someone has tried to pull a trick on us before.    We need to focus on the mission at hand and not get too distracted with revenge.     Yes, I know ye will have a hard time thinking that I said it, but it’s true….we need to make sure that we are going the right direction.”

“Once we finish up here, I want to give my armor a coat of oil to protect it from this salt sea air and such, and then get some sleep.    We can reconvene in the morning over breakfast and get ready to meet Lady Lavinia once again.”

Silver eats quietly listening to the various opinions.  Once she has a chance, she voices her opinion.  “Fortis does have a point though.  Not for our revenge, but to keep them from enacting revenge.  From that vision he described, there’s some shadowy guy that Vark seemed to be working for.  It seems reasonable to follow these leads unless Lavinia has something more pressing to attend to first.  If we leave them be, they’re likely to strike back at us or Lavinia.”  Silver takes a sip from her glass and finishes with “But probably not tonight.  Sleep seems like a good idea.”

Seeker chuckles as he takes a pull off his tankard of the pale ale. “Really, Silver? They got their asses handed to them pretty handily tonight. If they’re hired thugs, their revenge should probably be against Vark, the guys who set up that little dance party and then bugged out at the first sign of trouble.”

Silver smirks at that.  “Well there is that.  It was probably him that started setting fires behind them.  But I was referring to Vark himself and the mystery guy Vark works for.  Maybe the blue guy, maybe not.  They lost a payday tonight, and probably several future paydays because of this.  They might try to round up more thugs.”

Throughout the discourse Valinya soldiers through both dinners and dual desserts.  A balanced mean means even numbers, right?  Finally finished she nods and chimes in.  “We lose sight of our mission and the greater schemes at work, I agree.  The fact that the face of someone was obscured in the vision may be concerning as perhaps someone is protecting himself or herself against scrying.  We have, as Fortis pointed out, a clue in the rhyme and a locked chamber to enter too.  Hopefully we can solve the riddle, but if not perhaps we can force entry another way.  I think that before calling it a night I’ll cast a divination, see what insight we can get.”

 “Aye lass, we need to focus on the mission before getting caught up in all other kinds of nonsense again.”  The dwarf grumbles.  “We tend to lose our course and caught up in many of fights.    Sometimes they are unavoidable, and we should be prepared for a counter attack in the next day or two.”

With much to think about, the companions head to bed, hoping to get a good night's sleep. Valinya remains awake for a while to cast her divination, finding a quiet spot on the roof to do so.  

Cast of Characters: 

+Arne Jamtgaard plays Seeker, a teenage Wolfen Warlord
+Ben Zittere plays Fortis, an Ellyl trickster and Mage
+Stephen Kolmetz plays Valinya, an Elven Wildsong Mage
+Mike Biancone plays Arn, a surly Dwarven Warrior
+Amergin O'Kai plays Moonscar, the esoteric Kankoran Druid
+Daniel White plays Silver, a young and curious Dragon
and +Jason GURPS as the GM