Title: The Lady of Wolfsmark
Date: Mid Trilan, 1332 Avard
Synopsis: Night spiders attacked a ship known as the Lady of Wolfsmark, but the log indicates the crew might have been more dangerous than night spiders.
Evening of the 11th of Trilan, 1332 Avard.
In the frontier town of Avath, the team rested at an inn known as the Eleven Shields. Greff and Corrin relaxed at the bar, surveying the people. Avath was a rough-and-tumble kind of town with loose rules, yet there was a hard and open honor among its people.
The baroness of Avath was a man-sized handsome woman that, like everyone else, was armed and armored. She talked freely with people, but kept eyeing Greff at the bar. One of the town's toughs, a man with designs on a barony, slipped up to the bar near Greff and slapped the counter-top.
He said to Greff, “No. Don't even think about it,” and then returned to the baroness' table to sit by her side.
Greff shared a glance at Corrin, and Corrin shrugged with a smile.
Greff, a githzerai with a bad habit of brawling and drinking, strode towards the Baroness' table with a fierce gleam in his eyes. The local tough sitting near the baroness stood up and tipped his chair back, and then strode towards Greff with an evil light in his eyes.
The githzerai brawler dislocated the tough's jaw and knocked him out cold without breaking stride, and then took a seat next to the baroness. Greff struck up a conversation with the baroness, and the two began to learn about one another. They had a shared history of hard luck, tough times, and scraping by on will power alone.
The barkeep drug the local tough over to the bar. When his friends went to leave, the barkeep made the friends take the still-unconscious tough out with them.
Corrin, seeing the direction things were going, headed back to the ship. Onboard the Tarnished Torc, she found Arkhan and Aeron already resting from their travels.
Greff awoke the next morning quite sated, despite his lack of sleep. The baroness stopped him before he could leave, pressing something into his hands. Greff thought himself a male prostitute for a moment, and was a bit offended, but then he looked at the gift. It was a hammered-copper ring, just beginning to tarnish with green – with the sigil of the barony stamped on it. If Greff ever needed anything, perhaps the green copper rust in the ring would help remind him that his green skin was welcome in at least one place.
The Tarnished Torc set sail as soon as Greff and several more sheep were aboard. Captain Grel told them that the weather was turning bad, and the river sloop would be lucky to make Rilan. The weather went from bad to worse, and the captain gave the order to tie up ashore just before noon. Thunder roared and lightning arced over head. Rain came down in buckets, nearly horizontal at times.
As the ship went to tie up, through the lightning and the rain, the captain spotted something. In a tributary not far away, the hulk of a ship was leaning at an angle into the river, the hull nearly up on the bank.
Captain Grel turned to the Meridian Explorations team. He let them know they had a powerful reputation – and that he would owe them, if they could find out what happened to the ship. Captain Grel's telescoping eyepiece showed webbing all about the mast and spars – strong webbing, like that of night spiders. If night spiders had taken the ship, then the families of the crew deserved to know about it – and steps could be taken to prevent a similar occurrence. Grel said that they could burn the ship down or claim it, but the log book was property of the state. And if the team could remove any night spiders, then the world would be a better place, in Meridian Explorations' name.
Greff decided to leave his riding horse aboard the ship, but the other mounts were off-loaded by crane in the storm. Aeron and Arkhan's lizards were not happy with the weather, but bore up to the challenge well enough. Corrin's spider did not like the lightning, but seemed otherwise unfazed by rain or winds.
The bank itself was rather muddy, and Greff's leap off of the ship's deck dropped him in mud up to his knees in the pouring rain. The githzerai pulled himself free without effort, but he would never see those sandals again.
Burgereon was the first of the mounts to be unloaded. The draestrier was a red scaled lizard only four feet tall at the shoulders, but nearly twenty feet long from his snout to his tail. The heavy, compact form had golden scales on his under belly and around his eyes. His legs were up under his body, unlike the legs of other lizards, and the short, tree-trunk thick legs held power.
The draestrier sunk into the mud a bit, but his four clawed feet distributed his weight well. Arkhan was happy to climb up into the leather saddle; unlike Burgereon, he sank into the mud of the bank deeply.
Next out of the hold was Justice. The brown and tan hued minotaur lizard was larger than Burgereon, though his legs splayed out like more traditional lizards. Just as tall as Burgereon, Justice was wider and longer, though perhaps about the same weight. The minotaur lizard, like all his kind, had horns that swept forward along his head – horns used to gore competitors as well as prey. Justice was a juvenile of his kind, rapidly approaching adult size.
The minotaur lizard did not sink into the mud quite as much as the draestrier, though Aeron was glad to get out of the mud and into the saddle.
Last out was Demon, who simply crawled out of the hull and onto land. The spider's legs were close to eight feet long, supporting a hairless body several feet across – and an even larger thorax. The exoskeleton of the silik was translucent, even transparent in many areas, and they could see the workings of its guts and lungs and muscles beneath its shell. The only dark spots on the silik were its eight eyes – two of which faced forward and were larger than the others.
The rain helped to obscure the silik, with the child-sized Corrin merely a a small darkness on top of the vegetarian spider.
Captain Grel yelled good luck to them in his gravelly voice, and then the three large mounts moved into the thick brush. They opted to say within the riverside brush and brambles, rather than go into the more open woods. It would be easier to move, further back in the woods – but it would also be the kind of terrain night spiders were more suited for.
The minotaur lizard Justice broke the trail, his horns and larger size letting him move effortlessly over or through most of the brambles. Aeron kept a close eye out for danger, but visibility was sorely limited by the heavy rains. Occasional flashes of lightning were closely followed by thunder.
The team would have to cross a tributary of the Galanus River to get to the ship. She was foundered on the opposite bank, tilted at nearly ten degrees along the banks and some hundred yards up the tributary. What she was doing there was questionable, but answers were what the team had been sent to get.
The tributary was perhaps eighty feet across in its flood stages, and apparently deep enough for the river sloop. The trees and their branches shorted that distance a bit, but only up in the air. Demon, a creature of caves and the dark stretches of chasms beneath the earth, shot a trailer line across to the other side, arcing it high. Despite the high winds, the shot was a good one, and Demon anchored the line to the team's side of the river.
Demon, Corrin riding, crawled across the line with little trouble. Justice and Burgereon simply swam the waters, Justice's larger form undulating more pronouncedly. Greff, just because he could, quickly climbed the tree with a grin. Despite the rain and the lighting and the wind, he walked across the line of webbing, enjoying the ability to do so with relish.
They continued moving through the brush, getting closer to the ship. The spars and the masts were covered with thick webbing, forming almost a tent of webs that rippled in the rain. The deck was covered in thick webbing, and the ship was securely anchored to several trees. From the angle of the ship, and the thick lines that still were across the river, it appeared that night spiders had cast a web across the middle of the tributary, hoping to capture the ship. Once the ship had hit the lines across the tributary, there was enough tension on at least one side to let the current and the lines drag the ship to the shore. Whether the night spiders attacked then, or when the ship first hit the line, was hard to say.
That night spiders had snagged a ship on a seemingly random tributary raised questions all its own.
Burgereon and Justice climbed over the side, pausing when their feet hit the thick webbing on the side. Demon rode up the side, and froze, feeling the webbing, sending danger clicks to Corrin.
The main hold cover was closed, and looked bolted down from what little of the bolts they could see through the thick webbing. The forward and aft man hatches were webbed in the 'up' position. Aeron would shut the aft hatch and close and bolt it, and Greff would bound out to the forward hatch and close and bolt it. That, they hoped, would keep any night spiders trapped below decks, and allow the team to figure out what ship it was.
Near the aft hatch, the only figure they could see was the skeletonized figure at the wheel. Heavy cocooning was about the man, but they could see the wind blowing the webbing taught against skin drawn tightly over bones. The man had already been drained dry by the night spiders.
On signal, Aeron moved Justice. He saw a satchel over the dead man's shoulder, and paused only long enough to cut it free of the webbing before dropping onto the hatch. Aeron began cutting away at the threads binding the hatch open, pushing against the hatch, trying to close it as quickly as he could. Lightning flashed just as the last threads gave way, giving Aeron a view into the hold. The hatch slammed shut, and his boot kicked the latch into place. The image of two chests and very few webs, just under the hatch, was burned into Aeron's mind.
Greff leapt onto Burgereon's back, and then made a long distance leap to the second hatch. While Aeron simultaneously cut at the aft hatch's threads, Greff, using a borrowed knife from Arkhan, cut at the fore hatch's threads. Greff never looked into the hold, kicking the hatch shut and slamming the bolt home.
From above them, in the storm-billowing webbing off the spars, dropped spiders the size of a man. Nearly eight feet across when including the legs, the spiders had shiny carapaces of blackest night. The spiders had been inside cocoons, up in the masts and yard arms, unseen from below. They were not in the holds.
The spiders attacked quickly, several crawling on top of Greff, each sliding knife-sized fangs into the githzerai and pumping him full of poisons. Several more descended on Aeron and Arkhan, attacking them with gusto, eager for more food, attacking even their mounts.
Their chitinous exoskeletons were thick and tough, and the spiders – despite their giant size – were fast and difficult to hit. Justice took quite a few painful bites, before flipping one into the river with his horns. Burgereon trampled over several of them in an attempt to help Arkhan, only the tough spiders righted themselves or crawled on top of the draestrier as quickly as he moved through them.
Corrin slipped off of Demon, and let her silik go toe-to-toe with the night spiders. Corrin moved through the spiders delicately, stepping on hard objects that were less likely to draw the attention of the hunting night spiders. She maneuvered her way to Greff, assisting him in handling the venomous beasts.
Aeron had his holy symbol aloft to provide more light in the darkened skies, and realized that the night spiders were averse to it. Aeron was inspired to focus on prayers that brought forth the light of Yatindar. Arkhan, too, saw the aversion to light, and brought forth the light of Xynos to aid him.
Arkhan, in all his armor, with his shield and hammer at work, defensively held off the night spiders, getting them to attack him, bringing their concentrated efforts down on him. Despite a brief flurry of webs that blinded and immobilized the team in the beginning, Arkhan dealt with more and more of the spiders all on him.
Greff, despite the poison coursing through his veins, was enraged. The brawler in him was too angry to let pain stop him, and his iron hard hands hit, fractured, and then shattered carapace after carapace. Hands that could strike iron and take the blow, struck night spiders with a disciplined fury.
Aeron, Yatindar's faith guiding him, brought down the wrath of saints while simultaneously bolstering his allies. His soothing voice was strong, and served as an anchor for the others beneath the onslaught.
Demon wrapped up another of the night spiders. Larger than the night spiders by four fold and more, the silik easily spun them into its spinnerets, wrapping the night spiders in a tough cocoon that left them trapped. Corrin's blade and her small hand crossbow were a blaze of whirring steel and penetrating bolts, and she expertly maneuvered the spiders into the path of rampaging lizard mounts and the blows of githzerai and dragonborn and man.
And then it was over. The rain washed much of the blood away even as the blood poured from wounds, and Aeron moved to tend to their injuries. Demon provided a fresh batch of bandages that stemmed the flow of blood, and aided the healing processes. The poisons coursing through their veins were extremely painful, but not deadly, and the soothing powers of the saints soon banished the last of the poison in their bodies, and in the bodies of their mounts.
Lightning flashed and was followed moments later by thunder, even as the chilly spring rain hurtled at them sideways.
They made their way below decks, to assess the state of the crew and the cargo. Aeron had a particular gleam in his eyes when seeing the contents of the ship. The hold was full of bolts of wool and barrels of dye, all bolted down and secured to the hull.
Corrin, having already stolen the book from Aeron, began to peruse it in the relatively stillness of the hold, Aeron providing plenty of light. She absently pocketed a ruby the size of a man's fist that had been stashed in a smuggling hidey; the ruby held bands within it that echoed those of the gas giant Maroth. There was also a shiny silver statue of a woman standing in defiance, perhaps a foot tall and solid in silver all the way through. The statue, perhaps a likeness of the ship's namesake, also absently went in Corrin's bag.
The ship was named the Lady of Wolfsmark. The log of Captain Verhon of Kashin was leatherbound with a solid lock that Corrin did not even remember opening, such was her skill at opening such things. The contents of the ship and its ports and destinations were written well, but there was also a simple code, hidden in the odd sizing of certain letters.
The Lady of Wolfsmark was allied with the werewolves in Teras, and Amreth the Gaunt. She was a pirate vessel. The wool had come from a ship out of Chasadan known as the Second Sister, and the ship had been left to drift in the Gulf of Teras. The dyes had come from a ship called the Praise of Karl out of Kur Maeth, and she had been scuttled and sunk to the bottom of the gulf. There was no mention of what happened to the crews of either vessel.
The crew of the Lady of Wolfsmark, however, had perished at the fangs of the night spiders. The crew were cocooned to the deck rafters in the hold, and were the majority of the webbing present. Cutting into one of the cocoons revealed a dead man – with plenty of weapons. All the crew of the Lady of Wolfsmark were similarly armed. Pirates.
The log indicated that the ruby was intended for an unnamed ally of Amreth's in Kashin, as was a chest that had been stolen from Gideon Enterprises.
There were two chests, loose upon the decks and unsecured, though locked. The first chest proved to have the ship's pay in it – hundreds of silver pieces. To this, the team added the gold, silver, and copper they found on the bodies of the pirate crew.
The second chest was all in black leathers with blackened steel holdings. Knowing Corrin's ability with locks, the others urged her to open it. Corrin was hesitant, however. The contents of the blackened chest belonged to Gideon Enterprises – their markings were on the chest. Corrin, raised and trained by dwarves who believed heavily in honor, wanted the case to go to its intended owners.
The gleam in Aeron's eyes seemed out of place, but they urged her to open the chest, anyway. Corrin did so – and was almost stymied. The lock was well designed, and it took her time. When she finally got it open, she had a split second's indecision. Greed almost urged her to take the contents for herself, but the others knew of her penchant for acquiring things. Honor, and dwarven tradition, reasserted itself, and Corrin slammed the lid shut, locking it as she did so.
Inside, they had seen black leathers, and ebonite. Ebonite was a rare metal, blacker than night, that soaked up the light. It was strong, weighed less than steel, and highly prized by any whose craft called for stealth. It was also very, very expensive.
Aeron argued that they could sail to Rilan, and hire a crew to return and take the ship to Chasadan, where they could sell the contents. Corrin argued that the contents belonged to whomever originally owned the cargo, not the pirates. Arkhan at first sided with Aeron, and then with Corrin, before siding with Greff, who argued on letting Captain Grel help decide the right thing to do.
The sight of so much wealth seemed to distract them from their task to go to the Rakanus dwarves near Kashin. They took up both of the small chests, and left the wool and dye aboard. The return trip to the Tarnished Torc was somewhat subdued in the hard rains. The wind had let up some, but the storm was still heavy upon them.
When they returned to the ship, Captain Grel and his crew helped get the beasts aboard and stowed away where they could warm up and dry out. Then the captain heard what the team had to say in his cramped cabin. They left nothing out, at least not intentionally, and waited to hear the captain's side.
Grel said that the cargo and the ship both, did, indeed, belong to the team – first salvage rights were law most the world over. The only thing that did not belong to the team was Captain Verhon's log of the Lady of Wolfsmark; that belonged to the authorities in Rilan, as it was the next port of call. Captain Grel said the cargo and its hold was a decision the team had to deal with – but he supposed that the authorities in Rilan would want to use the ship to try to lure out the contact in Kashin.
With rain drumming on the deck above them, and the light of the lantern illuminating their faces, the team agreed to put the discussion off until they reached Rilan. There was little else they could do, in the meantime.
Greff, on the other hand, was eager to sample a tun of ale he had found on the pirate ship. The tun had a symbol of wheat crossed by a scythe, and seemed familiar. With the storm raging, it would be awhile before the Tarnished Torc set off for Rilan, and time they had aplenty.
Afternoon of the 12th of Trilan, 1332 Avard.
It was interesting to see the group get into a heated debate (for the characters, not the players) about what to do with the cargo. The fight itself went rather well, with the mounts helping to take care of the next of spiders. But the prize itself was a different matter. All manner of suggestions took place, from adding the Lady of Wolfsmark to the Meridian Explorations fleet, to selling it, to returning the cargos to their owners, and so on. Dave's behavior seemed the oddest, though; the barrister character seemed eager to turn a buck, and it may be that Captain Aeron is undergoing a catharsis of sorts while working with (essentially) mercenaries away from the protections of the teachings of his church. Dave, we look forward to seeing how this goes for Aeron. :)
All characters have 32,500XP, and are 12th-level.
In the end we are under contractual obligation to split our findings, and sending the ship back to Chasadan with all of it's cargo is the right move. They pencil-pushers can take care of it, and even the ship alone, minus it's cargo, is a huge monetary gain, should ME choose to sell it.
As far as the authorities wanting to use the ship to flush out a conspirator? Think about it this way, if any other ship and crew had found the ship and taken it up river and does the same thing we plan on doing, would the authorities just take the ship (against the law)? Would they even ask the crew to do it without some kind of reward or favor? I'm not trying to moneygrub, I'm just trying to reason out how the authorities might ask someone to put their personal property on the line to find a person that the crew might not even care about.
Great session overall, though. Looking forward to next week!