December 19, 2016 - January 15, 2017
The Spoils of War
Saturday October 28
Everyone stands there, looking at the sack full of gold coins and then to the numerous other bulging sacks filling the chest, then to the other unlocked chest. Arn tries to say some words, but nothing intelligible comes out. Seeker and Silver, both oggle the vast amount of coins and then find places to sit and rest, their recent bout with poison having taken a heavy toll on them.
Wulda breaks the silence, “Well, I’d be happy taking that one sack right there off yer hands. Lemmie walk outta here with that one, and we’re all said and done, thank you very much. You won’t see me bothering ya no more.” The broad shouldered mercenary nods toward the open sack of gold coins and smiles.
The Ellyl, recalling his recent brush with death, glares at Wulda. “While it is just possible that the dwarf will pay you from the kindness of his generous heart with his own money that treasure is not yours, and it is not ours. If you want to see any of it pass your way the strategy most likely to succeed is to offer to carry it to the owner now that some of the others have tender feet.”
Wulda nods at Fortis, “You got it, little one. I’m happy to help carry. We gonna take the sacks out or find some poles to haul these chests?”
Arn looks at both Wulda and Fortis’ comments. “P-P-P-Pay him out of my share?!!! I don’t think so!” Arn shakes his head and tries to clear his throat. “I said Wulda could be paid from the Lady…… I will suggest this perhaps, that for his help and effort, that Lady Lavinia consider paying him for his services, as he has done us no ill or harm since the conclusion of the battle.” Arn secures his equipment as he talks and starts moving bags to secure them better. “Aye, we should use poles or something to carry these out. We just need to get this stuff back to the good Lady and then we can all figure out where to go after that.”
Fortis considers the wisdom of the plan and, nodding, conjures two sturdy wooden poles out of thin air to hand to Arn. Each one is sculpted to fit the hands of the intended bearers and weighs about five pounds. “Do not let go of these poles or they will evaporate. Even though they can be recreated if we really need to do so I would prefer not to have to repeatedly exert myself.” After providing what help he can to the treasure bearers Fortis returns his attention to the wounded Grimbor, bringing the severed hand with him as he goes. “Hrag, I’m sorry about your hand and I’m going to try something to help, but it is risky. Please lie down and lay very still. I need to align your hand and wrist as accurately as I can.” Fortis props the severed hand against the stump in as close a position as he can to what he thinks it should be if it were to miraculously reattach but getting the angle a bit wrong and then concentrates on a major healing spell, hoping to get lucky. While the healing spell clearly works as it was supposed to, the hoped for miracle is, quite expectedly, absent. “I’m sorry I can’t do more for you Hrag.”
Hrag continues to look fairly pathetic for a 500lb, 10’ tall spiked gorilla. He cradles his wounded arm, occasionally picking at the newly bandaged end. When Fortis flits away from him, he looks down at his severed hand lying there on the brick floor, makes a coughing/ grunting sound and then reaches across with his good hand and smashes it. After hitting it a few times, he picks the detached extremity up and flings it across the room. He again lowers his head and continues making a quiet moaning and crying sound.
Fortis is a bit disappointed by his inability to help Hrag and concerned with the current state of the team. “Silver, Seeker, are either of you capable of helping carry the chests? I’m not sure we want to split up, but I don’t see any way to carry all of this at once. I mean, if we only had a wheelbarrow, that would be something”! Fortis looks around for any way they might be able to get out of this all at once and together. “Valinya, Do you think Hrag would drag one of these chests through the corridors for us? It’s not like we can’t offer to bribe him with a regeneration spell or something, right? I might be able to craft a sledge that he could pull if it made a difference. And what are we going to do once we reach the surface? Is Hrag going to be incarcerated in a zoological exhibit? Or released into the wild? Or get a job?” I’ll bet once he has his other hand back he’d make Red’s work a lot easier… if the workers can be convinced he isn’t dangerous. I wonder if we could file down those spikes. “We have an awful lot to carry out of here, remember we need to bring Rosk’s corpse too. I suppose I could always summon Brutus and his identical cousin Crutus to carry one of the chests. They are fairly strong. I wonder if we should start employing bearers. Too bad I can’t overtake control of the bearman zombies, they are definitely strong.
Arn looks back at the pathetic looking Hrag. He thinks for a moment and speaks up. “Fortis, Er….Frump, I think I have an idea for poor ol’ Hrag here. I recall a story my uncle told me once of one of the older dwarfs from back home had suffered a terrible injury in battle to an Orc tribe. They let him go as a warning as they killed off the rest of his band. They took his hands, leaving him with just the stumps. Rather than let him suffer and become useless, the master forgesmiths got to work and created appendages for him. On one hand they fitted him with an enchanted pick, and on the other arm, an enchanted hammer. This dwarf was now not only able to work as a smith once again in the forge, but was also able to defend our home in combat. He became one of the most capable warriors in our clan, Dorin Silverstone. He lived a long and fruitful life and his clan is one of the more notorious smithies in the northern mountain realms.” Arn looks back to Hrag. “I bet we could do something for Hrag here, get him a new appendage, and maybe even have Red put him to work as both labor and a guardian for Lady Lavinia.” Arn thinks more….”hmmm, do we still have that enchanted axe, or any other weapon we haven’t used? Perhaps we can fit Hrag with an enchanted appendage?”
“That prosthesis is possible, but I can’t do much for him right now, and the axe is not feasible. In the first place we sold it and in the second he is already frightening enough. We do not want to further burden him by making the people he will have to assimilate to fear him even more.” Fortis thinks for a minute. “I’m not overly familiar with the construction trades but I assume that being able to grip and control things is important to placing them correctly. If our aim is to allow Hrag to earn a living helping that foreman you are sweet on then I believe that the surest way is through regeneration.” This planning is a good exercise and may prove to be very important, but we really need to understand his temperament and desires once he is no longer artificially loyal to Valinya. If he reverts to a hostile state we may have no option but to put him down. I really do hope he is a peaceful as Valinya thinks he is.
“I still have hope of being able to heal his hand … or re-grow it. Or something. I’ll have to work on that but right now I need to recuperate some. I’m not too fatigued, well not excessively so, and my mana will recover as well but for this I need my inner muse to guide me in crafting a spell-song. Having just done so recently … it’s hard to explain. Maybe by tomorrow though.” She gives Hrag a comforting pat and a reassuring nod.
Fortis looks around at his companions and concludes that they are not going to be able to haul out all the treasure alone. “I’m fairly eager to leave this place. Seeker, Silver, If you could let me know about 20 minutes before you will be ready to move I have an idea on how to help us recover this load, but I want to make certain to expend the effort at the appropriate time.”
Silver puzzles over the logistics problem. “Well, if we can get these to the boat it would be easier from there. I could drag something probably, but that might cause problems in another fight.”
Fortis agrees. “Yes, but we still have potential adversaries out there, so I was cautious to recommend either splitting up or overburdening ourselves in case of a need to fight.” The Ellyl looks at the dragon’s harness and considers an alternative. “Silver, if I could get the chest to roll over the floor, would you be able and willing to pull it along with the tether to your harness?”
“As long as I can unhook it in an emergency, then sure. But only until the boat!”. Silver looks at each companion in turn, daring them to make some quip about beasts of burden...
As the problems of transporting the loot are discussed Valinya gives Hrag an appraising gaze … then shakes her head. Then she ponders other magical options. Weight reduction … no. Shrinking? Probably too difficult. Teleporting … too risky. Extra-dimensional space … that sounds very exciting but in reality I have no clue. Enchant the chests to lighten the weight … I don’t have the patience for enchantment. Guess we’re back to mundane muscle.
Fortis spends a few minutes thinking about the cart he will need to make. A simple flat frame, two axles and four tiny wheels. Actually, it doesn’t even need to be that complicated. If the front is supported the back could just drag on the reinforced corners of the chest… it’s not like we care about the floors and the steel bolsters should hold up for a few hundred feet of dragging.
Something nice and simple held in place with a few nails and with enough of a yoke on it to keep touching Silver while she pulls it.
Arn listens to Fortis’s ideas and nods in agreement. “Aye lad, if ye can figure out some sort of cart, even I can lend my shoulder into helping pull it or push it along. That would be most ideal. And, if any buggers want a fight while we’re pushing it, perhaps a rock or something to block or lock up the wheel so it don’t go runnin’ away from us as I beat in some skulls.”
While everyone is discussing possible ways to remove the treasure from the underground location, Wulda slinks over to the second chest and runs a finger across its top. “What about this one? Anyone even interested to see what’s in here? How bout them two crates and them other smaller boxes? Gotta be something valuable in em to hide em back in that treasury, right?”
The Ellyl looks at Wulda. “While I think we are operating on that assumption I’m not sure it matters what exactly is in those containers. We can certainly check them if you like. But a complete inventory will have to wait until we are someplace safer I think. What do you say friends? Would you like to rest some more and we can perform a more thorough analysis or we can move to a safer location and rest there?”
Arn speaks up as the others kick around ideas about hiding treasure. “My concerns at this point are: 1: Will any of the Harpies come back to try and raid any treasure? Which, I am totally fine with a fight after we are rested. And 2: What if someone comes investigating down here after the fires up top in the city area? Do we want to deal with those kind of legal entanglements? I would rather get the stuff out of here as soon as we can, but I will go along with whatever the majority of the group wants to do.”
Fortis nods “I share your concerns. I can sneak out and go get help transporting this load if the rest of you want to stand guard until I can bring help back. Otherwise, perhaps slow and steady is the way to do this. If Arn, Seeker and Wulda take one chest out to the boat, under guard from some of the rest of us and row back to the manor then they can either bring help back or make multiple trips until we have everything we want from this place. What are your preferences? Either way we ought to get moving soon.”
“It might be a good idea to cover what we’re hauling with an illusion. Maybe something that gives the appearance of a haul of fish. And not a particularly popular one, something common. And smelly. That would help us not stick out too much. Just a thought.”
“I’m fine with holding down the fort until we can get additional helpers in here to transport the load. Then we will have additional bodies to protect us when we do transport it. But we better get moving on it, I feel every bit we delay, we are putting ourselves in further danger of a counter attack.”
While the others play engineer, Seeker spends some time to check out the other potential valuables in the room. They must be worth something to put them in here, after all. He gingerly opens the second chest and inspects the contents.
The second chest is also filled with sacks of coins, much like the first one, though not quite as full. Each of these small sacks is different though, than the rough burlap sacks in the first chest. These sacks are fine silk bags embroidered with the emblem of House Vanderboren. This chest looks to contain 10 or so of these sacks. A couple smaller pouches can be seen stuffed down along the inside of the chest.
Ah, the missing Vanderboren family funds. Lavinia will be relieved. Seeker shuts the chest and takes a few moments to inspect the crates and boxes. I wonder what else the Lady Lotus has hidden in here.
The crates are nailed shut tightly and will require proper (or improper) tools to open. The 3 smaller boxes though, are easy enough to open. They look like small wooden books with a top that opens, though each one is tied up with string to prevent the tops from opening. It looks like they may have been wrapped in paper as well, but only some few remnants remain.
Seeker takes an axe to one of the crates to see what it contains. The sudden loud noise startles the discussion at the far end of the room. “What? I’m just seeing what we got here. Better to know what is in here so we know what we can leave behind and what we should take. We probably won’t need half your potential strategies if we take a few minutes to get some actual information.” He commences tearing open the box.
The wooden crate falls apart revealing what looks like 100s of hats packed in with straw. The hats look in very good condition and of varying styles.
Seeker picks up a nice tricorn and puts it on. He takes a peek at one of the small wooden boxes. The top seems to open like a book cover. I wonder what’s in here?
Seeker unties the string holding the little box closed and opens its lid, revealing a nice collection of what he immediately knows are cooking spices. A sniff check of the other two indicates that they too, are spice cases.
Excellent! Seeker takes the first box of spices and puts it into his satchel. He eyes the other two greedily. Usually worth way more than their weight. Maybe we can put them into the Vanderboren chest - it’s got some room. He grabs the other two spice boxes and tries to jam them into the Vanderboren chest. Just barely, but they fit! Yes!
He looks over the goods and starts parcelling out his rope. “Okay, folks, help yourself to a hat if you want one. Arn, you and I can drag the two chests. It’ll be slow going, but we’ll be able to stay together and defend ourselves if we need to. Valinya, you need to figure out how to get us through that cave-in. And take good care of your friend, too. This will take longer than one hour. Silver, you get point, so if someone surprises us they get met with a blast of your flame. Brother, you take the six. If we head back the way we came there are only a few places we need to worry about other Harpies having come in behind us. If we did this right, we should be able to get these in the boat and get out of here.”
Seeker lashes rope harnesses to the two chests and hands one to Arn. “These should be easy to drop if trouble finds us. Let’s see if we can get as far as the cave-in. I have a feeling we’ll get a chance to rest there.”
“Ummm…. Seeker, are you going to have Wulda do something else or can I load him up with some other items?”
Wulda picks out a floppy yellow hat and fixes it to his head then looks at the other unbroken crate. “I guess I could lug that one out for ya. Probably more hats, right? Still loot.”
Seeker shrugs. “Sure, let’s get outta here with what we can. Wulda, you could earn our gratitude, possibly of a monetary nature, by carrying that box, dropping it and fighting when necessary, and using whatever pull you might still have as the Lady Lotus’s enforcer to get us out of here with a minimum of fuss. If we have to split up, show up tomorrow at Vanderboren Manor and we can straighten things out. Clear?”
Silver looks at the collection and picks out a feminine-looking hat design with sparkles to it. “This one shouldn’t squish too much… “ She jams it into her pack, then looks at the rest of the stuff. “Were those nails special or anything? Ah whatever, we should probably start moving again soon. Can I get a healing spell, or should I be drinking potions?”
Okay, let’s give this a try. Seeker slips into the rope harness of the second chest and leans into it. A searing pain shoots up inside him as he tightens his core to handle the weight. Quickly, he eases off and sits down, breathing heavily.
He looks around. “Hey, Val, don’t know what kind of shape you’re in for more healing, but I won’t be able to budge that chest as things stand right now. That poison really took a lot out of me.” He hears Silver’s plea, and repeats it. “Sounds like Silver could use some, too.”
Fortis moves to tend the injured dragon’s injuries. “Let me help you with that.”
“Hmm …” Valinya seems to ponder something. “Snarkle Purff! I knew I would get busy and forget that. Remember when I created that song for neutralizing poison? I neglected to work that out musically so I could cast it again. I’m sorry, boys. I’ll do that as soon as possible.”
After some further discussion, Seeker is eventually healed up by Valinya to the point that he can pull the chest and the group heads out, making their way slowly and carefully toward the underground boat lagoon. As they round the corner out of Rowyn Kellanis’ chambers, Fortis looks at the heap of burned bodies lying in the corridor to the north and remembers that he wanted to bring Shefton Rosk’s body along to turn over to the authorities. Looking at the mess of bodies, he is unsure which one is actually Rosk’s body since apparently someone had pushed all the bodies back into a pile away from the intersecting hallway.
Looking at the corpses Fortis thinks to himself. Well, we have a heavy load, and if the watch is interested in summoning Rosk’s shade they may as well do it at the site of his death. The connection to the spirit realm will be stronger here anyway.
Arn secures the harness and starts hauling off things with Seeker. But not before he took a dark brown derby-style hat for himself as well. Ready to haul and get this part of the job over with.
The Ellyl, waiting until no one in particular is watching, shifts his Illusionary Disguise to a small box and perches on top of the chest Arn is hauling. He rests from his exertions healing Silver while waiting to give any opposition a very nasty surprise.
Accompanying the company in the flesh for a change, Valinya keeps an eye out for anything concerning. Or interesting. Or with pretty colors.
Upon seeing more or less everyone to start moving, Silver addresses everyone. “Are we retracing our steps or finding another route? I didn’t think to look at how caved-in the passage was that had me buried for a while. I’ll head back that way so we can check it out, unless there’s any other suggestions?” Silver pads over to the exit on her still slightly tender feet. Since the party is going to be moving relatively slower, she carefully checks each next passage and room before entering. Hmm, when to armor up. Have they all broke and run, or will there be some greedy ones left over trying yet another ambush or trap? Can’t maintain the spell if these chests take forever to be moved, will have to see how long this exodus is going to take.
Silver heads out first, scouting the way while the others follow more slowly behind with Seeker and Arn dragging the heavy chests and Wulda carrying the remaining unbroken crate. The opened crate of hats is left on the floor of Rowyn Kellani’s bedchamber, though most everyone found a suitable piece of headgear for themselves. Fortis was a bit perturbed that none of the hats came in an appropriate size for him to wear. Silver had picked out one for herself but ended up eating it instead.
Valinya speaks gently to Hrag the one-handed Grimbor and has him follow the party. Wulda eyes the beast cautiously and keeps a good distance from it. After a few minutes of travel, Silver comes back to the group and announces why Kruncher had not rejoined the group. The Worg had apparently died of its wounds back in the training center and would no longer be an issue. Silver also announces that the door from the training center out into the hallway was now open, not how the group had left it when they continued on in search of the Lady Lotus.
The unremarkable crate balanced on the chest Arn is dragging waits patiently to see where the group will go next. I don’t recall the door being opened, but then again, there are many explanations for the chance in its position. Well, either way, the sooner we are out of this place the better. It feels like I’ve been down here for a month already.
Seeker grunts. “Well, Silver, we’re *uhn* going back to *uhn* the boat. Same way out as in. Val will have to to get us through the cave-in.” He continues in silence for a while. “We don’t know other ways to get out, and with these chests, it’s gonna be slow going. Once we get to the boat, we can load them up and then cruise back to the manor. Clearer?”
Silver takes a long look at their magically-induced ally dead on the floor. Hmm, I wonder what Worg tastes like? Too bad we don’t have more time… She shakes her head “Well, at least we don’t have to worry any more about Kruncher eating innocents.” To Seeker, she says “Right, back the way we came it is.” Silver moves up to the next corner, and pokes her head around quickly. “Still looks good this way.” She moves up to check around the next corner, checking the way they are going to travel. Since the chests are moving slowly, she takes the opportunity to check the side passages as well… at least to the next corner.
Silver claws her way over the bodies of the dead Sea Harpies still lying on the floor and makes for the open door. She stops just inside the door, cocks her head to the side, sniffing the air that still hangs heavy of burnt flesh and Worg hair. She puffs out a little mouthful of flame into the hallway then darts her head out quickly, looking from side to side. Seeing no threats, she heads out into the hallway and makes her way back to the right, toward the exit. The others slowly follow.
The Harpy’s secret lair seems to be all but empty now with the exception of the slain thugs that lay in various places about the complex. Silver pokes around ahead while Moonscar watches the rear of the slow moving treasure train. Eventually, after some time, the group makes it back to the site of the first explosion and cave in. The dust is thick about the room, having mostly settled now after the cave in. The rocks, earth and bricks go all the way up to the ceiling it seems.
The Way is Blocked
Fortis looks at the situation and, seeing that they are relatively safe, decides to alleviate some of his boredom. He shifts his illusion back to Frump and places a gossamer hand on Arns shoulder in a conciliatory way and says softly. “It's too bad we'll have to wait for an Elf to use her magic to get us out of this cave in. This isn't going to sit well with my simulated Dwarven pride. I can't imagine what it must be doing to your sense of self worth. If you want I can conjure a pick-axe or shovel for you so you can at least claim to have helped.”
Walking past the illusionary dwarf Valinya rolls her eyes and shakes her head but resists making a comment. Standing before the rocky mess she eyes it and scrunches up her face. “This .. may take awhile.” Glancing back to the “dwarven duo” she says, “You know, it might help to get all hands on deck. Or claws. I can reduce the larger pieces to air but the smaller debris shouldn’t be too challenging to move aside. Perhaps an inter-racial effort would be the best way to tackle this. BUT … that depends on how deep this goes.” Valinya tries to guess how deep the blockage goes and does her arcane mathematics to determine if it would be easier to reduce to rubble and remove or just do multiple castings to allow everyone to walk through the stone.
Arn stifles a chuckle and then growls over at Fortis, “So I can claim to have helped?! Who the hell knocked down all of the doors and took up point to engage and take on the initial attacks and dangers over everyone else? I hope ye are merely cracking a joke, especially after everything else that has happened before this most recent venture.”
Arn drops the chest, sits back and pulls forth a drink. “I suppose this chest carried itself here too….not that I helped much.” After taking a good long drink Arn lets out a good and loud belch. “Before we worry about creating a pick axe, I’d sooner see us conjure up some beams to shore up anything Valinya can vanish. I’d be worried more about a secondary cave in without it. Now if Valinya can shape the rock instead of just making it vanish, that would be a much safer and more effective use of her talents. I could help possibly in showing her where to shape the rock for better leverage”.
“Right you are, I should have been more specific and said “helped to get us out of this cave in.” You certainly are very helpful dragging are one that chest and I shouldn't have left any ambiguity in my statement where you might think we don't all appreciate your skills dragging heavy loads. I dare say I have only seen a feat like that performed by an ox, and you did it even better than it did. Well done Arn!” Fortis smiles at the freshly burped dwarf. “Now as to creating beams, tray would be quite heavy and require not only a large effort to create but also someone to stay behind and continue to give it substance with their touch, and since we are in need of your load dragging services I'm afraid we can't afford to leave you behind in a partially collapsed tunnel holding onto a heavy overhead beam that would vanish and allow the overhanging rock to fall the moment you stopped touching it. Sorry.”
Silver climbs up the pile to near the ceiling, and tries to see how thick the blockage is at the top. She starts digging at the top, grabbing large chunks and tossing them down further into the room, narrowly missing the others, and interrupting any chance of another monologue with the periodic crash of stones being thrown around.
Inspired by Silver’s active attitude Fortis shifts his illusion back from Frump to the box and recreates Frump as a Phantom, dressed in work clothes and carrying a massive shovel. The phantom Frump, looking as solid as anyone else here, digs into the rubble.
Seeker nods at Valinya’s wise words and moves up to join Silver, his large paws scooping out the debris in tandem with the impatient dragon. Good to change things up - those chests are … unwieldy. He ponders for a moment. Sure would be great to have some of Mina’s Dolabria with us. They’d have this cleared in no time, and shored up so it wouldn’t cave in again soon.
Break on Through
For several hours, Silver, Arn and Seeker work at clearing out the tunnel. Wulda is eventually encouraged to help as well, though the mercenary seems none too happy to do such work. The illusion of Frump works faster than everyone, though the earth he moves does not seem to pile up the way the others do. This is a considerably slow process fraught with numerous dangers and frequent cave-ins and landslides.Valinya uses her Earth Shaping magic to make the passageway as safe as they go. Fortis and Moonscar remain vigilant, watching to the south to make sure no stray Sea Harpies or other dangers sneak up on the working crew, but none do.
Finally, after some time, several cave-is and a few minor injuries, Silver pokes her head through to what looks like the corridor beyond the the rockpile. She is assaulted by the happy licking of Sings to Moon, who not generally a big fan of Silver, seems happy enough to see her now. It takes more considerable time to get the chests up and over the remaining rubble and out to the corridor leading to the beach, but eventually the task is done and the companions drag their recovered treasures out toward the underground beach. Moonscar flops around on the beach with Sings to Moon, obviously just as happy to see her as she is to see him. Once everyone is out on the beach and they get their bearings, they see the next obstacle they will need to overcome. The boat is gone and the sea door is open.
Seeker thinks, Well, hells, someone stole my boat!
Looking around at the boatless area Valinya wipes a swatch of dust from her face and frowns. “Why is this not surprising?”
Fortis looks around at the vacant stretch of beach where their vessel once lay and the massive cargo load they need to find some way to transport along with all of the people, assessing the amount of space needed and sadly absent. “Well, this is easy enough to solve. Why don’t you rest here and guard the chests whilst I go fetch us some transportation. Try not to have too much fun while I’m gone.” With that he flies out of the sea door and reconfigures his illusory disguise into a familiar gull.
Just after Fortis zips off, Silver checks the shoreline quickly looking for any sign of enemies. Following that, she turns to the others “Those stingrays seemed to like sinking boats - let me check if our boat is just at the bottom here somewhere.” Silver slips into the water, and pokes around in the cave area (and just outside, but underwater and out of sight), keeping a lookout for the rays, but also looking to see any evidence of a sunken rowboat, or anything else of interest.
Finding nothing of interest other than a dead stingray floating in the lagoon, she snatches it and drags it back onto the beach. While they wait, she spends a bit of time “cooking” the ray with her fiery breath before beginning to tear large chunks from it to eat.
Arn finishes moving stone with the others. He is none too happy about the slow and arduous task they just completed with digging out of the cave in, only to find that their boat was missing.
“By Belimar’s Ball-sack, that figures….” was all the dwarf would comment. Arn sits his pack down, and his equipment, pulls out a small cask to drink some ale, and a bite of smoked jerky. Arn that props himself up against the wall and closes his eyes to rest. Not long after his eyes shut, the dwarf is off snoring softly beneath his thick beard.
Seeker looks at the team, taking a well-deserved break after an arduous night. With a shrug, he takes out his sketchbook and some charcoal. First, I think, the Lady Lotus. Beautiful, for a human. Tattoos. And don’t forget the flute! He draws quickly. Soon he has a fairly decent picture, with an eye both for accuracy (in case he has to say “Have you seen this woman?”) and style.
Casting his eye on the scene around him, he sees Valinya comforting the monstrous Hrag. The creature seems withdrawn, traumatized by his injury. Valinya has taken him under her wing, in a most maternal fashion. Seeker takes up another piece of paper and commences to quietly capture the tableau before him. Maybe even work a snoring Dwarf into the background.
Valinya turns to Hrag and steels herself for a frank conversation, with the help of her language spell of course. Once done she says to Hrag, “Soon we get to island. I would like to heal your hand but it take some time. Maybe few days. You wait? What you do now … go home? We will help if we can.” She gives what she hopes is interpreted as a winning smile filled with compassion. I really am fond the big guy but once the loyalty spell is gone I don’t want anyone hurt if he rampages. That’s the downside of spells like this - the aftermath. Still, the goodwill we’ve shown and freedom from his captivity will hopefully be remembered.
Hrag continues to be withdrawn and forlorn as Valinya speaks to him. He nods and agrees though doesn't say much but mutters “thank you” before sinking off to sit in the confined shadows of the tunnel leading from the beach into the Sea Harpy lair.
As the group sits and waits, it is clear that the temperature out in the harbor has dropped considerably as the night has gone on. The air blowing in is much cooler than it was earlier and the water lapping up on the sandy shore has a bit of a chill to it.
Valinya ponders a moment after Hrag’s response. She didn’t blame him; she’d be forlorn as well in his situation. She decided to let her Loyalty spell fade and not renew it. Better to have any negative response here where we can contain it rather than around other folks who might get hurt. Doing mental calculations, she determined how much time before the spell wore off and decided to be ready to cast another language spell the moment it did … just in case she needed to do some fast talking.
After the ray is reduced to a stain in the middle of a scorch mark on the beach, Silver wades into the water, and floats to the far side. From there, she keeps a lookout above and below water, and otherwise stays out of sight while she waits for Fortis’ return.
Valinya feels her Loyalty song fade and trying not to telegraph the change she watches Hrag closely out of her peripheral vision to see if he gives any active signs of a … change of heart. The Gift of Tongues is … well, on the tip of her tongue, ready to be sung. Hopefully nothing stronger is needed. Hopefully the acts of kindness have created some friendship bonds, a foundation. Glancing around she says calmly, “Just to let everyone know - please don’t look at him - the song of friendship I cast on our multi-armed friend is now gone. Hopefully all is well but I wanted to you know so you can be cautious. But please, let’s assume all is well before reacting in some way that might tip the scales away from ‘friend’ if we can.”
Hrag looks up for a moment and stares around at everyone right as Valinya feels her spell wear off, but then the beast lowers his head again and stares down at where his missing hand used to be.
Valinya pauses a moment then lets out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. She felt a bit lighter of heart as that burden was released. Still, she felt more comfortable keeping an eye on their friend while waiting.
Sitting on the beach, Seeker reflects back on recent events. Man, that cave-in was a pain. Hmmm… Wait a minute - that was the only way back here through the tunnels. How did the boat thieves get here to steal my boat? He starts looking around for tracks, sniffing for anything that could give him a clue.
The sand on the narrow beach is fairly churned up, but he sees no new tracks anywhere between the doorway and the water. He does find quite a few boot prints right at the waterline around where the boat was left. Some disturbances in the sand in the shallow water indicate that maybe another boat pulled up here, some folks got out of it and then stole the unmonitored boat.
Valinya relaxes more once the Hrag concern is gone and starts focusing on learning the songs she created with her special talent, starting with the one that neutralizes poisons. Pretty sure that one will get used again, she thinks.
A Late Night Flight
It has not been several hours since the party set out dragging the heavy treasure chests from Rowyn Kellani’s private bedchambers and it is believed to be nearly midnight or so when Fortis flies away out through the open sea door. As he flies out, the smell of burnt wood hits his nose and he gains some altitude to assess the business of the fire. It seems to be all put out, though a big portion of the island has been destroyed. All the buildings around Dead Dog Plaza and the Taxidermist’s Guild Hall have been leveled. There are still some few folks out, mostly looking like scavengers looting through the burnt out buildings. A few city guards can be seen patrolling the perimeter of the burnt out area.
This part of the city appears to have finally gone off to sleep after the excitement of earlier in the day.
Noting the late hour and slumbering condition of the city, Fortis heads for the cargo shipping docks to see if there are any crewmen on watch wou would be interested in waking their shipmates to row a pair of small boats for two hours at a handsome fee. Surely some poor captain or mate has had a less than successful trading voyage and would be eager to earn a few more coin for a few hours of safe work.
Fortis feels the cold, night air as he flies. The wind is still blowing strong out of the north and his thin, transparent wings tell him that a few more degrees colder and things might start freezing. While the many docks of the Sunrise district are dark and quiet, he knows that he can find some activity on those jutting from the Merchant District to the north, especially if he heads around to the opposite face of the island.
Fortis quickly spies a pair of fellows, one Human, the other a Half-Orc, unloading some heavy looking sacks from a wide, flat, barge-like skiff onto a Merchant District dock in the narrow channel between Merchant and Azure, just a few blocks due east of where Vanderboren Manor lies.
The Ellyl perches on a nearby bollard and waits until their attention is entirely occupied with their cargo before dropping his illusory disguise. When they finish moving that particular parcel Fortis addresses them. “Good evening gentlemen, I can see you are busy, but appear to be nearing the end of your task, if you have the energy to row about the harbor for a bit tonight I can supply you with coin to make your efforts well worth your while. I'll need someone with a craft, such as yours, who can move a few people and some parcels, which you appear to complete with proficiency, and someone who can maintain control of their tongue. If you are such men I'd be happy to employ you, provided you are willing to give an oath to not discuss the people you will meet on the journey. Do I have your interest?”
The Half-Orc jumps and nearly falls into the dark harbor. “Algor’s piss! What the hell's?” The Human giggles at his companion's reaction. Both men look around for the source of the words then the Human spots Fortis and points.
“Aye, lookie der, Jeg. That what be yammering about and makin ya shit herself. Ha. One ah dem talking parrots er sumtin I wager.”
Jeg, the Half-Orc, snarls at the other, crouched down then flings something small and fast in Fortis's direction.
Fortis smiles and flicks his hand in an unconcerned gesture as the object is deflected by the missile shield. “Should I interpret your response as an uninformed act of fear for which you are eager to apologize or as a challenge to deadly combat from which you will emerge a corpse?” The Ellyl glares at the thrower. “I have been nothing but polite to you and you see fit to respond this way? Consider your next words carefully trudger, they could alter the course of your life.”
The Half-Orc stares incredulously at Fortis, “What?”
The Ellyl looks at the longshoreman impatiently. “Would you like a job, or would you like to fight?”
“Huh, a job? Well hells, why din ya say so, little fella.” The Half-Orc turns to the Human and says, “Ya hear that Ferg, the little talkin pixie wants to hire us.”
The Human snorts, “Yea, I ‘eard em. What kinda money a tiny thing like you carrying around? I don’t get paid in pixie dust, you know. Ya got gold? What kinda job you gots in mind, there?” Ferg says back to Fortis.
Thinking about how to get through the haggling most quickly Fortis says “I need someone who can move a few crates worth of cargo and a half dozen persons. As I recall, the last time we hired a water taxi it cost 5 silver, but that was a more normal arrangement so I'd be willing to go no higher than 10 silver, but that would require you both to give Oaths to not speak about this job or anything you experience while undertaking it.” He gauges the reaction to the offer and adds “I'm in something of a rush, so if that price doesn't satisfy you I will bid you goodnight and seek transportation across the harbor”.
“You must be out of your tiny little mind there,” the Human calls up. “Say we’ll do it for 10 gold, up front. And no way yer castin’ any ah that witchy fairy magic on me, no sir!”
“Ya know, this ain’t even our job, hauling folks round in the middle ah the night. We’re loaders, we haul cargo. Gots contracts and such. Where’s this job at? Lemmie guess, over on Sunrise? Near where them fires was raging earlier? Sound’s a bit fishy to me little one,” Ferg, the Human loader says. He stands up straight on the docks and starts looking around as if trying to find someone in a crowd.
The Half-Orc speaks up again, climbing from the boat up to the dock, “We’ll do it for 8 gold, 4 apiece, but YOU can’t tell nobody we did it. We can’t afford ta get ourselves in trouble for doing taxi work without being in the Gondoliers Union, ya know! But like Ferg said, no magic tricks or no deal!”
Fortis mulls it over for a moment, “I can accept your refusal to back up your promise with the simpler and gentler magical enforcement in lieu of your option to be hunted by a tribe of vengeful fey should you break that promise… in fact it might even provide some satisfaction and entertainment. You did almost cause a feud with that earlier attack, so taking the risk of unintentionally letting slip some sentence that betrays your promise and invites retribution could offer a sense of closure, I admire your sense of adventure. As to your price, I will only be able to pay you half up front to engage your services and then the balance upon completion of the task.” He reached into his coin purse and withdrawals four shining gold coins, showing them to the bargemen. “Shall we be off?”
Not seeming to hear most of what Fortis just said, two dockworkers eyes go wide at the sight of the gold coins, especially since they look soo much bigger being hefted by Fortis holding them up with both of his spindly arms. “So where we goin’ again? And what’re to be hauling around? How long will it take, ya think? It’s getting cold and I know someone at home’ll be waitin fer me to get home,” the Human Ferg says, reaching out for the coins.
Fortis drops two coins into each of the rowers eager palms. “We are, as you have correctly surmised, headed towards the Sunrise district and the, now extinguished, fires. I will guide you, so follow closely. As to the duration of this task, we will move there, quickly load up, and return to very near this spot… the faster you row the shorter your task.”
The men pocket their gold coins, throw a tarp over the sacks they had just unloaded and hop back into the boat, pushing off and following Fortis over the dark, choppy waters of the harbor. After a short while, they arrive at the pier with the secret sea door beneath it. The men give each other uneasy looks as they follow Fortis under and through the door.
Don’t Miss the Boat
After some time, Fortis returns leading two men, one Human and one Half-Orc, piloting a good sized skiff. The craft barely fits through the space between the pier pilings and squeezes through the open sea door. The two sailors look around wide eyed as they approach the crowded beach.
Fortis smiles widely and, spreading his arms to their maximum extent, exclaims “Good to see you again my friends. If you would like to leave this place let us load our gear and be away without additional delay.”
Seeker nudges Arn, who awakes with a snort, and starts moving the chests into the skiff. He nods briefly at the hired help, giving a greeting in Gobbley to the greener of the two. He eyes the transportation, hoping that there will be enough room for their enhanced crew as well as the loot. Wulda and Hrag are both gonna take up a bit of room. But Valinya doesn’t count, and Brother is but half a Human-sized passenger. We should be fine.
Seeker does keep his eye on the morose Hrag. He seems subdued for now, but were he to have some sort of sudden outburst, the Grimbor could do a lot of damage. He wanted to be ready.
Silver silently watches the boat enter from the water to the west of the cavern entranceway. She remains still, and very low in the water, only her nostrils and top portion of her head above water in the shadows. I suppose I should decide if I’m swimming back or not. Probably better if I do. She slowly ducks her head under the water, and looks around there again, keeping an eye out for those pesky Rays. She silently drifts closer to the wall to stay in the shadows, and continues to keep an eye out as the group begins to load the skiff.
Ferg and Jeg look around the chamber, their eyes wide as they take in everything. “What is this place?” Jeg asks as he steps onto the shore. They move to start loading the crates as Valinya leads Hrag out of the shadowed hallway. Ferg nearly drops his end of the crate. “Wha-wah-No. Nope. Nope. Sorry. What the Set is that? Where’s it’s cage? It ain’t getting on this boat! No way, you didn’t say nothin about no giant beasts! Bad enough you got these wolves and such.” He shakes his head in disbelief.
Seeker nods, acknowledging the problem at hand. “Val, could you work your magics on Hrag and have him float with you back to base?” He turns to Ferg. “If we make other arrangements for him, are we still cool? I’d hate to have to unload what we’ve already loaded.”
Without taking his eyes off of Hrag, Ferg nods his head, “Yea, that’s fine but can it stay over there?” He turns and looks at then up at Seeker and takes a step back. “Yea, he wouldn’t even fit on our skiff with all this other stuff. What’s in here anyway? Um, nice hat by the way.” He gives Seeker a weak smile then notices that everyone else is wearing fashionable hats as well. He chuckles uncomfortably.
Seeker brightens. “Thanks. You want one? We got a whole box.” He leans in. “I’m not sure you really want to know too much about what else is in there, friend.” He hefts the other end of the box Ferg is working on and muzzle-points, “After you?”
Fortis flies over to Moonscar and quietly asks, “you made sure all the potential clues from Rowyn’s bookshelf made it out here to be loaded, didn't you?” The Ellyl then flits over to their newly hired transport and perches at the prow of the skiff, overseeing the remainder of the loading silently.
As the loading continues, Silver decides to make her way out of the cavern to the underside of the pier beyond. Don’t want to get caught inside if someone decides to close the gate before I could follow. She moves slowly, usually staying completely submerged when moving.
Once outside and behind a piling, Silver surfaces as before, and listens for any activity above or nearby. She also positions herself to not be in the way of the skiff when it exits again.
Arn finishes loading up the crates and chests onto the skiff. He looks at the half-orc with a slight glare in his eye and then goes back to securing the packages and tying them down. He looks up at the human as he talks, and says “This hole used to be the hideout of some thieves, and we kicked their arses and are recovering stolen property to return it to its rightful owners.” Arn then adjusts his derby on his head. “The hats were a bonus.”
While the others start loading Valinya walks slowly over to Hrag. Best explain this, she thinks as she softly sings her song of non-babel. Once able to communicate she says to Hrag, “Time to move. You get special treat - get to become like cloud … like me! Me sing song for you and you be like cloud. Then we get to float in sky and have fun. You can tell your kids you flew like cloud! OK?” She puts on her best “this will be SO fun” face and nods her head, using her skills to encourage people to see things her way and hopes Hrag and be open to this very new and potentially scary thing.
Speaking slowly and calmly to the injured Grimbor, Valinya is able to convince him to let her cast the Body of Air on him. Once the spell is cast, Hrag is immediately disoriented and begins drifting all over the place. It takes Valinya a few minutes to direct him in the proper ways to move around as a “cloud.” When he finally gets the hang of it, he seems quite happy and at ease with the situation. The two sailors watch in amazement as they finish lashing the cargo down on their skiff. “These boxes are pretty heavy, I dunno if there’s gonna be room for the other big one,” Jeg says, glancing over at Seeker. “The Dwarf probably weighs as much as one of these crates as it is.”
Fortis addresses Jeg and Ferg. “Now we are finished loading. Unless you wish to remain here longer I invite you to bring us back towards the dock where I encountered you.” As the skiff gets underway Fortis adopts a bold pose on the prow, peering into the dark beyond.
After a few last minute preparations, the group heads out. Fortis, Arn, Moonscar and the wolf, Sings to Moon, ride in the skiff with Ferg, Jeg and the loot while Silver and Seeker swim in the cold water of the harbor. Valinya leads the airy Hrag along just behind the skiff, keeping low to the water to avoid being blown away by the frequent strong gusts of wind blowing in from the north. After a short time, the skiff arrives back at the dock that Fortis struck up the deal with the two men. Ferg and Jeg unload the cargo and accept their pay. Valinya leads Hrag immediately back to the Manor house, finding no reason to hang around on the docks and wanting to get the Grimbor, even in airy wind form, out of sight.
After idly swimming along with the skiff at a distance, Silver looks around at the dockside where it finally arrives. She picks a place nearby but dark and out of sight, and swims there, again mostly keeping underwater. Once she gets in place and finds a means to climb out, she concentrates and transforms back into her elven form.
After climbing out of the water, she takes a moment to shake some of the water out of her clothes and hair, and digs out her black cloak, which is also sopping wet. She spends a bit of time squeezing water out of that as she listens to the group begin to unload the skiff’s cargo.
Eventually, she gives up on getting the cloak any more dry, shrugs, and puts it on anyways. She tucks her silver-colored hair into the hood, and makes her way over to the others, with less care taken to be stealthy. She arrives just as the unloading of the skiff is wrapping up. “Shall I help here, or go look for a cart?”
Fortis addresses Jeg and Ferg as they place the last crate on the dock, looking them each squarely in the eye for a few heartbeats as he speaks to them. “Remember to never speak of your good fortune for an easy job with good pay tonight. I wish you a long and happy life of secret keeping. It is much better than the alternative.” The Ellyl then flits over to Silver but waits until the hired help are pushing away before whispering “There was at least one wheelbarrow at the constructions site.”
After climbing out of the water, Seeker watches as Fortis concludes his business with Ferg and Jag. He waits a few moments, then hustles after them for a few words. It looks like some coin is exchanged, and the conversation is over in a few minutes. He returns to the group. His hackles are raised, but he says nothing.
Valinya and Hrag have a jolly good time of it, eventually pretending to dive bomb the boats. Valinya has to be creative to keep him interested and distracted, making up new games as they go to pass the time away. When Fortis flies near with a whispered message she nods at him sagely.
Silver nods to Fortis. “Yes, I recall there being a couple of them. I’ll go get one.” She heads off in roughly the right direction, wrapping her sopping wet cloak around herself and pretending to be cold.
Seeker joins Silver as she heads to the manor. “Company in such matters is important.”
Silver does a double-take when Seeker joins her. “Are you sure? If anything might be in danger it would be the boxes and chests that we brought back, no? While I’m sure the others could defend well enough, they’re not quite so… imposing.”
Seeker grins. “Aw, gee, thanks.” He nods, then says “I still feel it’s best for any of us not to go alone. Arn is still there, with Wulda and Brother. The goods should be safe enough.” He frowns. “Besides, I need the walk. It was pretty cramped down there.” He takes a deep breath. ”I just need a bit of fresh air.”
Silver shrugs and starts walking, then continues, somewhat quietly. “Well, Wulda is one of the ones that needs watching out for.”
The group finally makes it back to the under-construction manor house and lets themselves in since Lavinia had told them they could use it as a base of operations while in Essanos. Even with the carts, transporting the heavy chests is difficult and slow. The streets of the Merchant District are quiet at this hour, but not altogether abandoned. There are plenty of folk out and about and even though the group tries their best to be discrete, it is impossible to think that no one saw them making their way to Vanderboren Manor.
Once back at the manor and secure, the loot is done through carefully even though it is late and everyone knows they should probably get some sleep first. The excitement is too much deal with. Valinya spends most of her time continuing to console and speak gently with the wounded Hrag after finding a place for him to bed down for the night. She desperately hopes the workers do not find and surprise him in the morning or worse, the Grimbor gets anxious and wanders out of the confines of the manor. It was deemed best to wait to summon Lavinia in the morning instead of waking her in the middle of the night.
Arn and Seeker focus on sorting and counting the coinage recovered while Moonscar and Silver look at the other mundane goods. As the items are gone through, it is discovered that there was a small velvet bag tucked at the bottom of the Vanderboren chest that contained a few magical items. One is a silver frog ring and the other is an amber and gold brooch. Fortis focuses on these items as well as a few other items and potions recovered along the way.
Finally, everything is inventoried and counted. It takes Fortis quite a bit of time to identify the magical items and the sun is coming up at this point and eventually everyone crashes out and falls asleep. Fortis even remembered to cast a mystic mist around their sleeping area before it was too late.
Cast of Characters:
+Arne Jamtgaard plays Seeker, a teenage Wolfen Warlord
+Mike Biancone plays Arn, a surly Dwarven Warrior
+Amergin O'Kai plays Moonscar, the esoteric Kankoran Druid