Calistril 28th, 4711 A.R., Moonday
Hex 25.29, Monastery of St. Kyerixus
Clear, cold, light wind
The sun was rising over the bay, the sky was clear and Argento was in the belltower of the monastery when he spotted the warship on the horizon. It was from Wolverton, he’d seen it in the port there. He watched as it approached the monastery, set anchor and launched a shore boat. It rowed toward them. Chem was on the plains nearby with her baby hippogriffs, letting them hunt and hop around, attempting to fly. She spotted the shoreboat, and hustled back into the fortified monastery.
She raced through the monastery halls yelling, “we have visitors! Quick, sweep the floors!” Her message delivered, she began to turn around again – to greet their guests properly. Accolon stopped her.
“Stay inside, we need to man the walls. We should find out who they are before we invite them in,” he said. Ultimately, he had to drag her inside. She waved frantically at the approaching boat, until Accolon closed and barred the front gate, and she eventually capitulated.
The people in the shoreboat beached it, crossed the beach to the low hill upon which the monastery stood, and began to ascend. There were five of them, and a big cat. When they were close enough to make out details, they saw an old undine man, white beard and hair in a ponytail in the lead. He had greenish blue skin, and dressed like a career sailor. With him were two male attendants, a confident-looking oread woman wearing a robe and carrying a staff, and a half-elf with a bow and sword, wearing a cloak. He had a leopard at his side.
The undine man spoke first, spotting them up on the wall. He craned his neck and said, “I’m captain Tulene of the Wolverton navy. That’s the Colossus,” he said, gesturing at the Taldan frigate at anchor in the bay. “We’re looking for fugitives from Lord Lochar’s justice.”
Chem started to say something, and Bellabee silently wished she’d memorized the silence spell. Accolon interrupted her quickly. “We’re adventurers, we claimed this monastery after clearing out the evil we found within.”
Bellabee leaned over and said, “if you have a description of them, maybe we could help.” She sounded sincere enough.
“They were pirates,” the robed oread woman replied. “The ones who attacked Wolverton.”
Bellabee smiled and said, “we know Lord Lochar, he’s a decent man. We’d be happy to help, but we aren’t the pirates you’re looking for.”
“Yes, well… he conscripted us to run the route to Maerh Varza and back looking for said pirates,” the oread woman said.
The captain spoke up, “I’ve sailed these waters for many years. This monastery has always attracted unsavory types, current occupants notwithstanding. I stopped by on a hunch.”
“As the lady said, we know Lord Lochar, and are in good standing with him, and the people of Wolveton,” Accolon assured him, hoping they would leave soon.
“Are you, by chance, Accolong Le Croix?” The undine asked. It sounded like he had another hunch.
“I am,” Accolon said proudly.
The man chuckled, “I lost fifty gold on that joust – you were delightful!”
Accolon smiled, “at least you learned something about betting against a LeCroix.”
“May we come in?” the captain asked.
Bellabee leaned over toward the cavalier, as if to remind him that they were in fact fugitives from Hard Bay, and whispered “what do you think?”
Accolon shrugged and returned her whisper, “I think they’re ok.” He motioned to Garion and Andronitus, down below, and they unbarred the gate. At the same time, Argento – who had been watching all this from his hiding spot in the bell tower, spotted four riders in the distance, along with a giant eagle circling overhead. They were coming from Hard Bay, and he suspected he knew why. He signaled to his friends on the wall.
Accolon, Bellabee and Chem halted Garion and Andronitus from opening the gate, seeing that they had new guests on the horizon. One of the riders blew a loud horn blast – it seemed to be magically amplified. It resonated within the walls of the monastery, and they were sure it was a message to Hard Bay. The riders were closing fast. Rana was behind the gate with her scythe out.
“Do you know who those riders are?” Bellabee called down.
“They’re not friends of ours,” the undine captain answered.
“We don’t know who they are – you may enter, and we will close the gates behind you,” Bellabee said.
The captain, oread, half-elf and his leopard, and their two attendants entered, and the gates were shut behind them. They were greeted by Garion the dwarf, Rana the Ifrit, Andronitus the Cheliaxian – and Chem as she hustled down the stairs toward them, handshaking hand outstretched and a big grin on her face.
They could hear the hoofbeats thundering toward them. “They’re here,” Argento called. The half-elven ranger rushed to the top of the wall, bow out, arrow trained on the giant eagle as it swooped toward them. Andronitus mounted his horse Tauros. The monk, Jade stayed just inside the gate, and captain Tulene took to the wall, to parlay if needed, with these newcomers.
Squinting and shielding his eyes from the rising sun, he looked westward. “Those are Hard Bay’s elite guards, unless I’m mistaken.” The riders bore lances and banners depicting the new symbol of a Lochar-ruled Hard Bay – the three towers that represented the three noble houses he’d installed to rule it. It was intended to be a constant reminder to the pirate rulers he’d replaced forty years ago.
“Let’s not let them inside until we know their business here,” Bellabee said. She sounded collected, but was nervous about how this might play out.
Bellabee hailed the strangers as they approached within shouting distance. “Can we help you?”
Their leader spurred her horse forward, while her three companions formed a line behind her. “I am inquisitor Tavin,” she called. “I am here to arrest the murderers of Clarne Blufont. Open your gates, we know your guilt!”
“That’s a wrongful accusation,” Accolon challenged. “Clarne was involved in an evil cult – we have proof.”
Inquisitor Tavin sat straight-backed in her saddle, gleaming in her silver armor. She was silent for a moment before she replied, “I believe that you believe that. However, you must stand before Clarne’s brother Affric – he is a noble of a Lochar holding. You are compelled to obey this summons.”
They knew that Lord Kendrick Lochar was a vehement supporter of the Taldane traditions. He would not brook anything he perceived as treachery against the nobility. If they could not prove with certainty that Clarne, and possibly Affric were involved in evil cult activities, they would be executed despite the services they’d done for Wolverton.
“Clarne was under the influence of evil forces, which may also be corrupting Affric. For all we know, you are also in league with them,” Accolon said, arms crossed over his breastplate.
“You have committed crimes in Hard Bay, and are under arrest. Did you or did you not break in to Affric’s mansion?” Tavin accused. She seemed practiced at accusations.
“We were investigating a conspiracy possibly involving the Blufonts,” Accolon said.
“Can you prove it? You murdered the guards, so who will you call to testify to this?” Tavin said.
Captain Tulene watched quietly with furrowed brow. He had heard enough. “Inquisitor, I am Captain Tulene of the Wolverton Navy.” He gestured to Accolon and said, “I know this man to be honorable, he is not a stranger to Lord Lochar. I am sailing for Maerh Varza in pursuit of the pirates who attacked Wolverton, and I will take sir Accolon and his companions into custody. They will sail with me, and return to Wolverton where they will stand before Lord Kendrick to give account for their actions. I will take responsibility for them – and if they prove false, the blame is on my head.”
Something in the way he said it seemed to satisfy the inquisitor. “Very well. They’re your problem then. Abadar protect you!” She spurred her horse around, and her entourage followed. They sped away toward Hard Bay, and the tension relieved almost immediately.
Bellabee smiled. “We can expose them now, that actually worked out quite well.” Captain Tulene shrugged, and they all left the wall to meet in the courtyard. They agreed to Tulene’s deal – it worked out well for all of them. They could finally see Maerh Varza, and get free passage back to Wolveerton to expose the Blufonts to Kendrick.
They packed up and boarded the ¬_Colossus_ with captain Tulene and company that day, and sailed north along the eastern coast of Kar-Kaurin. The sky on the distant horizon promised a storm in the coming days.
Pharast 1st, 4711 A.R., Toilday
Hex 27.30 – 23.31, At Sea
Clear, windy, cold
Pharast 2nd, 4711 A.R., Wealday
Hex 23.31 – 19.31, At Sea
Rainy, cold, moderate wind
Pharast 3rd, 4711 A.R., Oathday
Hex 19.31 – 15.30, At Sea
Pharast 4th, 4711 A.R., Fireday
Hex 15.30 – 15.29, Zelkor’s Ferry
The Colossus anchored in a cove, and the party rowed ashore. The weather was foul for sailing, as the deluge continued. Jade and Kryfir were tasked by captain Tulene to pay a visit to the trade town of Zelkor’s Ferry. The river Mauro, which originated deep inland, was rich with trade barges laden with mithril and adamantine mined in the settlement called Chasm, some 100 miles from the coast. If they were lucky, traders in Zelkor’s Ferry would have such metals in stock for trade, and they would carry it back to Wolverton where it would be shipped back to the Lochar lords in Taldor.
They trudged in the dark, rainy shadow of the broken limestone hills on the south bank of the Mauro as the dreary, ominous day wore on. The trail was washed by hundreds of tiny milky rivers running from the hills into the river. Scree chutes and slopes choked the hill passes to the south, while on the north bank a heavy pine forest eventually became a dark, tangled marsh.
Kryfir spotted scouts on the far bank, almost impossible to see with their camouflaged suits. They were hiding in the trees, watching – humanoids, spaced about every two miles along the north bank. They made no move, nor did the party engage them. Jade explained that if they attacked, it would be on their return trip – which they would make in a hired barge to haul their trade goods.
They made the small walled hamlet of Zelkor’s Ferry by evening. The place looked ancient, with worn black stone comprising a surrounding wall. The main gate faced south, and a barge was unloading cargo that passed into the settlement. Archers manned the walls as they approached, silently watching. The place wasn’t built by Reavers, or the Tuathi they thought, though it was too old to have been built by the recent Taldan and Cheliaxian explorers either.
Rana, Argento, Chem, Andronitus, Garion, Bellabee and Accolon headed for the tavern – the Bristleback Inn, where they met a short, squat reaver innkeeper calling himself Odo. Argento made for the fire, silent and watchful. Chem accompanied him, and accused him of steaming up the place with wet dog smell.
Accolon looked over the menu – there was no bacon to be had. In fact, there was no pork at all on the menu. The gruff Odo made no comment on the matter. When his inquiries revealed only obstinate silence, he changed the subject. The cavalier was searching for his father – and from the information he’d gathered thus far, this was where he was headed.
Odo recognized the LeCroix crest, and said that remembered Accolon’s father. He was bound for the labyrinth in search of riches, like all the rest. Accolon hung on the man’s every word. According to the innkeeper, the man had set off into the ‘Mouth of Doom,’ and didn’t return, like so many would-be heroes in these parts. Accolon was outraged, and his instinct was to deny this man’s words. Odo was emotionless. The knight brooded over a stout ale by the fire, and the others gave him room to process his burden.
Jade and Kryfir scored a good deal on their purchase of rare metals at Rasmus Pye’s Trading Post, and met with the others at the Bristleback. Bellabee told them the news, and they kept their distance from the stewing knight.
Chem and Andronitus visited the local apothecary, run by an old man named Ulman. His wares were all suspicious, and Chem deciphered that his craft was part alchemy, part sorcery. His concoctions were unpredictable, but came at a discounted price. Andi asked for advice, and the man simply replied, “don’t go down the well,” but wouldn’t elaborate. Chem fixed one of his experiments, infusing a sulfate with calcination at the proper temperature. In return, Ulman gave her a ‘raise dead’ concoction… she tested it, and found that it might actually work.
Accolon was finished stewing, and had made up his mind. He wanted to follow his father’s steps. He had come so far, and to get this close… he couldn’t walk away. Chem understood, as did most of the others. Odo gladly gave them directions to the ‘Mouth of Doom,’ the entrance to what the locals claimed was a vast labyrinth of unknown origin. Full of wealth and evils to be destroyed, the place was also rife with bandits preying on treasure-laden adventurers. Jade and Kryfir made arrangements to have their trade goods loaded onto a barge, and made ready to transport the following day. Meanwhile, they would see if they could find any sign of Accolon’s missing father.
As they packed up and headed out, the few locals gathered to see them off, chanting ‘Mouth of Doom’ repeatedly, seemingly following some regional tradition. They then began making bets among themselves on the party’s survival. The party bet on their own survival, hoping to earn some extra scratch just for being awesome.
There was an overgrown footpath leading them on to their destination. They trekked southward through forest and broken hills for a few miles before laying eyes on what was clearly the ‘Mouth of Doom.’ The trail led upward, to a tall hill with sheer slopes. On the north-facing side they approached a cave whose opening was the carved face of an open-mouthed demon, identified as the demon lord of the undead, Orcus. His visage was a bestial face with curling ram’s horns and savage teeth, and the tunnel leading down into his gullet descended via black stairs.
Argento approached cautiously, inspected it and declared it safe for passage. Indeed, they thought that this was a relatively well-traveled area after a thorough canvassing. Accolon wedged a tree branch vertically into the craw of Orcus, hoping to prevent the jaws from closing behind them. They carefully descended 40 feet into first chamber.
Six alcoves were set into the four walls of the roughly 30 by 30 foot room. Litter and bones carpeted its floor. Each alcove was decorated with its own unique symbol: a goat’s head, a skull, a pentacle, a hand, a wolf’s head, and the last was undecorated. Argento approached the skull alcove on the eastern wall, into which was set an unremarkable door of rusty iron-reinforced wood. He found no traps on the door.
Chem inspected the alcove decorated with a hand. The wall inside was plain, but she found a pit trap on the floor inside. She spiked it so it would bear her weight, effectively disabling it.
Andronitus approached Argento’s door and opened it. They looked into a long hall, dark and cobweb-filled.
Bellabee became a tiefling – the rest of her companions looked on in horror, wondering what evil spell was upon this place that it could transform her into this. She had, in fact, cast a spell to change into something that could see better in the dark… but still, they wondered: why something devilish? She followed Andronitus and Argento under the sign of the skull. Rana did likewise, and moved into the long hall, stepping carefully.
Jade inspected Chem’s hand alcove. Stepping carefully on the disabled pit trap, the oread monk ran her hands along the back wall searching for secrets. She declared it just a wall. Chem frowned, and after the monk left she looked again. Jade frowned. Chem looked back at the monk arrogantly, maintaining smug eye contact as she pushed a specific stone, revealing a sliding secret door. Jade frowned again. Chem’s helmet candle reduced the sting a bit: it was hard to look too arrogant while it was on her head.
Kryfir, Jade, Chem and Accolon moved into the secret passage, leading west, while Rana, Argento, Andronitus and Bellabee continued along their passage to the east. Nothing had yet reared its head to oppose them, but they knew it couldn’t last.