Date: Mid Trilan, 1332 Avard
Synopsis: An ME team is sent to investigate the wreck of the Usher, only to find a monster created by arcane smuggling from Kur Maeth.
Afternoon of the 19th of Trilan, 1332 Avard.
The Usher had been a two-masted brigantine that plied the water ways between Kur Maeth and Chasadan for close to a year. In a storm on the 17th, the Usher struck the cliff-side rocks south of the tiny village of Corbath. There was only one survivor who spoke of a ravenous maw eating the crew and causing the ship to crash. The survivor was sent to the city of Chasadan by the reeve of Corbath, the village elder Jivoise. The leaders of Chasadan learned from the sailorwoman Nadeah's escort that the wreck of Usher would likely not survive another day while it was up on the rocks. The leaders decided to dispatch investigators to find the ship's logbook while Nadeah was being interviewed.
The city leaders turned to Meridian Explorations. The organization was not a conventional mercenary company; ME specialized in odd jobs and unusual situations. One of the ME members was a gnomish artificer that could piece together just about anything mechanical. Several of the members were accomplished wizards, warriors, and jacks-of-all-trades. Several times before, ME had been instrumental in investigations within the city. TThus, an ME team with the artificer as leader was sent to investigate the wreck of the Usher.
Jabe Jesterson was a young man from the town of Rustos. Inspired by ME's intervention in a werewolf infestation in Rustos, Jabe had decided his fate was to join Meridian Explorations. Jabe was an intelligent young man that soaked up information, music, logic, and more.
Wreckless Hammerhand was a dwarf without a clan. He was a warlock, his powers granted him by a pact with a powerful entity. The paladins and priests of Chasadan vouch-safed for Wreckless' intentions, after subjecting him to considerable scrutiny. Wreckless' powers were formidable, drawing on darkness in such a way as to make the light seem harsh.
The leader of the group was Roswyn the Enchanter. A tiny gnome of a woman with short hair, Roswyn could use extensive training in the arcane and in mechanical knowledge to bring the simplest of tools seemingly to life. Always fascinated with things that were shiney or interesting or new, Roswyn also had the hard experience needed to keep combatants alive in a tough fight.
The weather that day was overcast, with low clouds scuttling across the sky. Another storm threatened, and Jivoise warned that the wreck would likely not survive another tide. Maroth was due to rise close to midnight, and with the gas giant would come the tide, destroying the last vestiges of the Usher – and any clues as to her demise.
Jivoise escorted the team to the cliffside where the Usher was wrecked. The brownstone cliffs tumbled steeply down some sixty feet to a beach made of boulders. Though the tide was out, it was not out far, and large waves pushed against the wreck of the ship. The ship was a merchant's brigantine, valued at close to 20,000 gold. She was over a hundred feet long, and represented many months' time in constructrion and resources. For the ship to wind up on the rocks as it did was a disaster for the owner, if not the crew.
There was no sign of bodies, and plenty of signs of damage. The main mast was broken, and there were holes in the hull. Roswyn rode a billy goat that had no trouble taking her down to the beach, even while she was riding. Jabe and Wreckless used ropes tied to the saddles of their well-trained, veteran riding horses to descend down to the beach.
Roswyn took with her the copper letters of U S H E R on the bow, while examining the damage from the listing ship. The vessel was over on its side, making standing on the deck nearly impossible. The exposed keel looked intact, but weakened considerably from its time among the rocks. On the deck of the ship were scars in the planking that were extraordinary – and bits of bone were embedded in the scars of the wood.
The team noticed a strange sand or silt that was not part of the beach, though it was all over the wreck and in its hold. They surmised that the sand had been used as ballast, although such was rarely done. The sand and silt covered the bottom of the ship, as the team looked in a hatch that had been busted down to one hinge and bits of wood. They crawled into the hold, standing on the sand, examining the situation.
They could see clouds through a large hole in the hull, and there were ruined bits of things trapped in the sand: bolts of wool, shipment timbers, and casks. Something black with flecks of green that shown even in the gray afternoon caught their attention.
Before they could investigate the black and green object, the sand shifted – and attacked. Tentacles of sand and silt built up around them, whipping them and beating them, wrapping around them and hurling them at a maw a dozen feet across made of sand and broken bone and rusting blades and sharpened wood. Jabe took the worst of it, nearly going down the maw, while Wreckless turned as insubstantial as a shadow. Roswyn, mounted on her billy goat Moxy, hurled healing bombs at Gabe to keep his skin and bones and body intact long enough to rescue him.
Wreckless the dwarf blasted the tentacles with dark, eldritch energies, and Roswyn struck with bright and shiny arcane powers. The maw sank out of sight, defeated. Jabe could barely grin at their victory, when the maw resurfaced with more tentacles. They kept hammering at the maw and destroying the tentacles of sand, but it was just sand and debris, and Jabe was nearly engulfed again by the maw.
Roswyn, looking at the situation, realized that the sands were enchanted. Some arcane enchantment had created the sands, and Roswyn dove into the hold of the Usher to find out how. Inside of a broken cask, she found remnants of some arcane fluid that could do terrible things. She yelled for Wreckless and Jabe to keep the beast busy while she used her portable alchemy kit to devise a way to unenchant the sand and debris that attacked them.
Jabe, choking on a tentacle and his feet struggling against the maw's edge to keep from going in, could only fight for his life. Wreckless, on the other hand, kept hammering the beats with his eldritch blasts and dark powers. The tentacle choking Jabe fell to sand and Jabe leapt back from the maw, as the maw went underground again, burrowing between the big rocks of the beach.
The sand flowed and poured into the hold near Roswyn, attempting to stop her from her task. It was too late. With a negligent flip, she tossed the corrupted arcane fluids into the maw's depths – and watched with satisfaction as the horror of sand and debris collapsed, destroyed and disenchanted.
The team took a moment to catch their breath and examine Jabe's wounds. The young man would be fine, they decided, though he might limp for awhile. They searched the remains of the ship from stem to stern and found no signs of the logbook. They did, however, find several casks of ale and wine still intact. The black and green object had been one of a dozen ebony chairs, carved in a botanical pattern with green lapis and turquois set in as leaves. The chairs went to a table ten feet long, upon whose surface was carved a giant Tree of Life whose leaves were in matching green lapis and turquois.
After salvaging what they could, they determined to get to Chasadan with their information as quickly as possible. The casks of mutarcanic fluids indicated danger on a scale that was terrifying. Roswyn surmised that the Usher had foundered in a storm and one of the dangerous casks had broken free. The cask would have rolled across the cargo decking and slammed into the wood, seeping into the ballast sand. Whether the ship had foundered on the rocks before or after the crew was killed, Roswyn could not determine, as they had only broken bones to work with and Roswyn was no necromancer. But what caught Roswyn's attention was what the mutarcanic fluid could do.
Rumors had been reaching Chasadan for over a month of cows with six legs, goats with two heads, and other terrible things out near River Crown and the surrounding lands. A drop of the mutarcanic fluid could do such a thing. That three casks of it were being shipped from Kur Maeth to Chasadan was a frightening thought.
Upon the team's return, they found that the priests and the paladins had found out from Nadeah that the casks were smuggled, intended to go somewhere else when the Usher unloaded. Nadeah knew not who, for she only knew that the ship occasionally smuggled cargo in from Kur Maeth.
Near sunset of the 19th of Trilan, 1332 Avard.
Dinner was was, alas, a BYO. Sommer and I had hoped to be broke that night, but alas… House-buying is a distinct pain in the patooty.
With Dave out of town on vacation, the rest of us met for a bit of a one-shot where they could experiment with some new characters or update some older characters to higher levels. Bill got to play a bard, Ross got to play a warlock, and Sommer enjoyed playing Roswyn and Moxy, again. And me… I got to play a nasty lil monster and dangle some story threads in front of the 'wrong' party.
RPG System: Dungeons and Dragons, 4th Edition.
All characters were 12th level.
Wooo! I really enjoyed this one!