Evening, the 12th of Cal, 1331 Avard.
That evening, while the rest of the group recuperated aboard the Dellistar, Hadarai spent time studying the circlet that had nearly cost them their lives. By morning, he knew that powerful magics were incorporated into the circlet, though more than that, he could not say.
In the morning, the party met above decks to discuss the evening's terror. Captain Nallya approached the group and handed Hadarai a mage's token, explaining that Master Horbe had given it to her to break when they had retrieved two of the four items. Hadarai studied the token for a moment, and then broke the token – activating it. He knew that no mage at Lok Magius had the power to transport an entire ship from one place to another, but that seemed to be Horbe's promise to Captain Nallya, that he would transport the entire ship back to Teras.
If it did happen, then it would shave a good two months off their trip, and time had become important. But whether the transport happened or not, it raised a great many questions – such as 'just how powerful was Horbe?'.
For two days, nothing happened, and the party settled in for a long, long voyage. And then with the blink of an eye, they were… elsewhere. The entire ship had been transported, such that they were a good 20 degrees north of the equator – where before they had been a good 10 degrees south of the equator. Sunalor and the First Mate, Corbitt, who was also the ship's navigator and star-gazer, confirmed their new lattitude. Lattitude was one thing, but their longitude was equally important – and they had no idea where they were.
Without any more data, Captain Nallya set course south; she figured that if they had enough supplies, they could hit 10 degrees North, and then strike East and hopefully find Rakore.
The next day, with Hadarai and his Eladrin eyes in the crow's nest, spotted a sail on the horizon at dawn. Captain Nallya set off after the sail, and Hadarai realized that it was a Sholin vessel. As they drew closer and closer, they began to make out five men on a catamaran of a type they had never seen before.
When the catamaran began to attempt to flee away from the Dellistar, Hadarai grew frustrated enough to send a mage bolt skipping across the waters right into the mast of their small ship. It got their attention, and they were somewhat more willing to talk. Dolon and Hadarai rowed out to them in the longboat, with some of the crew manning the oars. With Dolon as translator, Hadarai was recognized as a 'maku' of some sort. A small fight broke out on the raft among the five Sholin sailors, and one was bloodied enough to make Hadarai intervene.
After several discussions and much confusion, it was learned that the sea-going Sholin called themselves the Soha'in, and were a caste-based society – with a dedicated, lower caste for dealing with foreigners. Unfortunately, all of the other 'poana' were dead. Indeed, the Soha'in 'illin' – the fishermen – thought of themselves as dead, as well. Hadarai hesitantly checked for a pulse, and found one, but he and Dolon began to realize they were dealing with a people broken in spirit. All of their priests, or kohaka, were dead. All of their puaki, or nobility, were dead.
Their city was only a day's sail away, and they were on their way back with a large, dead shark in tow to feed people with. Roughly 100 days past, a pilikua nui – a monster of some sort – attacked with many undead, and slaughtered their 'tahgo', or warrior caste. Since that time, the pilikua nui would send its minions into their city each night, and one person would be taken – either killed outright or drowned at the edge of the city when the pilikua nui's minions would go beneath the surface. Those who tried to fight, were taken first. Only one per night was taken, but with two hundred Soha'in left – all illin farmers and fishermen – their spirit was completely destroyed.
Hadarai felt they had to help, but Captain Nallya was afraid of undead sea-going creatures attacking her ship. She agreed to lend a longboat for the expedition, though she would keep the Dellistar well away from a city with water-born undead.
They followed the fishermen back to their floating city, which was as alien to them as another world might have been. The Soha'in lived on a floating forest of kelp, its air bladders making the whole thing buoyant. The Soha'in illin would go out and bring back the catch of the sea, and the wastes of the Soha'in fertilized the kelp forest and its ecosystem. Many unique species lived within the kelp, including a fish that secreted a silk-like material that was the 'floor' of the whole city. The illeniki fish was used to make the water-born equivalent of concrete, and much of their city was made of the silky material. Walking on the kelp forest was difficult, if not impossible, but the illeniki silk turned it into an easier affair, though footing was treacherous for land-lovers.
The poana typically dealt with outsiders, but they were all gone, and there were so few of them to begin with. The illin that had spoken with Hadarai through Dolon had been forced into the poana caste, and he accepted it as his only salvation from the pilikua nui. Kiamani ('Mani' to Hadarai and Dolon and the rest) showed them what he could, but the party was continually thwarted by the acceptance of death by the people of the city, and thwarted again by the customs and caste-based culture. They were outsiders, and many feared they would only upset the pilikua nui and cause it to kill even more of them, rather than just one a night.
One old man within the city, named Omianaree, was willing to stand tradition on its head, and accept the party into his yurt-like home. He fed the party through his family, and the younger children instantly fell in love with Liffey – an adult their height and build, and yet still an adult, and with a great shaggy beast as her friend!
By nightfall, the party had grudgingly been allowed everywhere in the city except the center, reserved for the puaki nobility and the kohaka priests. The center of the city was deserted, though it held the largest of the yurt-like tents in a moated area filled with glow-in-the-dark fish and squid.
Most of the attacks happened after the middle star, or midnight, and so the party set in to rest as much as possible – save Liffey, who patrolled the city, circling it several times. All of the Soha'in were reserved to their fate, merely hoping that it was not Their tent the pilikua nui would send its people to.
Hadarai left the tent in the still of the night to pace. The Soha'in's culture was anathema to him, in many ways. He simply could not wrap his mind around a people willing to accept death as these people had. He spotted the zombies slowly moving through the city along one of the avenues. In the darkness, there were over a dozen of them – and armed and armored zombies of some sort behind them, directing the mindless undead.
Hadarai sounded the alarm, and Dolon and Sunalor raced out of the tent. Liffey, being on the other side of the city, leapt across the moat of the 'River of Stars' and into the puaki and kohaka center of the city. She made it, just as the battle was enjoined.
Sunalor in his plate was heavy enough to sink into the illeniki floor, and water swirled around his shins, though it barely covered the ankles of the rest – and Liffey was bothered not at all by it, standing above the water when not mounted.
The battle was brief, and Hadarai's fire and Sunalor's weapons did the most damage. Suddenly there were only two of the armed and armored zombies remaining – and they cut holes in the illeniki floor and sank into the kelp forest below. One tried to take Dolon with it, but the linguist managed to stay free of the creature's grasp in time for Hadarai and Sunalor to haul him out – and just in time, too, as an undead shark broached the surface, trying to get at Dolon.
Hadarai used his spells to mend the nearest tear in the illeniki flooring of the city, but they knew that the pilikua nui itself was still out there. Hadarai kept his burning sphere lit, steam slowly rising up from under it as it floated in midair near the water's surface.
It served as a beacon for the pilikua nui. It surfaced, tearing through the illeniki and attacking them all. It was made of the undead parts of many different creatures, and undulated like a terrible thing, making limbs or mouths as needed out of whatever spare parts were within it. It belched necromantic acids at them, and released horrible gases of putrification that left them wretching and weakened, even as it used it many-parted form to attack them.
Dolon, surprisingly, seemed to do the most damage to the creature, his shortsword slicing off bits and pieces quickly. One of the zombies in armor seemed to be leading or guiding the massive, mindless creature – and he was quickly destroyed, leaving only the beast itself to be defeated. It was over, quickly, though in its dying gasp it let loose a putrid stench that nearly killed Sunalor – and then it sank into the hole it had made in the illeniki flooring, and was gone.
The old man, Omianaree, was grateful, though he knew the city itself would be some time recovering. With the puaki and the kohaka dead, and the tahgo gone, the city would have to get help from another Soha'in city.
Hadarai left the village in disgust at their narrow-minded view of the world. As they left, though, Omianaree gave them a large bag, saying not to open it until they were well aways from the city. Breaking with tradition, the old man had looted the temple district for them as a reward of sorts.
Kiamani went with them. His fall from illin to poana made him have little left in the city worth staying for, and he felt he owed the party a debt of some sort for saving all of them from the pilikua nui.
The rowers from the Dellistar took them back to the ship. Omianaree, inside of his tent, had hieroglyphics detailing their location. They had only to sail southwest to reach land, perhaps two weeks distant by catamaran, if that.
Within a week, the Dellistar spotted land, and was able to compare it to their charts. It was Mad Dog Island, on the northern side of Rakore – Horbe had, indeed, managed to get them home – if a little off-course.
Hadarai and Dolon knew of the vague rumors surrounding the Tower – an ancient object so powerful that it could teleport whole ships, whole navies, even. The Tower had been taken over by the ograns during the War of the Four Winds, and used to teleport in a whole fleet of Nabrolian triremes and their crews. That Horbe had used the Tower of Mad Dog Island to teleport them all the way from where they had been… It spoke volumes.
The nearest town – one of only two allowed on the island – was Avris, a garrison town with some 200+ troops, plus fishermen and farmers to support them. The Dellistar put in at the docks next to the heavy galleon The King Snake, armed to the teeth and ready to sail at a moment's notice. An armed party met the gangplank, and the town's Baroness, a tomanth by the name of Srissik, granddaughter of Visik the Elder, met them ready for combat.
Captain Nallya was known, as was the Dellistar, and so the party was left to their own devices, though warned against causing trouble in the town.
The first place they went was the armory, where the armorer insisted that everything was intended for the garrison, and could not sell anything. Then he sold Dolon a rapier for twice was it was worth.
Outside was a leftnenant in the army, named Gregory of Lena. Leftnenant Gregory had them follow him to his office, where he handed over several letters in confidence. One of the letters was written by a man known to Leftenant Gregory, a Sir Zacchory Kantor of Takanal. Sir Kantor vouch-safed for the man carrying the letter – a drow. The drow himself had given Leftenant Gregory another letter describing Garet Fellhaft, Cephus, Draelien Bloodbanner, Dolon Uther, and Hadarai Jelenneth, as well as the crew and sails of the Dellistar, in some detail. The drow had asked Leftenent Gregory to give them a sealed letter.
Dolon broke the seal on the letter, only after Hadarai made sure that it was not enchanted, and they read a message from the drow Xennith telling them that Horbe worked not for the Bat, but for Doom Rex – the right-hand man of the Traitor, Duke Herod. The Traitor had been responsible for the War of the Four Winds and the ogran invasion; he had master-minded much of it, and Doom Rex had accomplished much of the preparations necessary for the near ogran victory.
Xennith claimed that the Bat had been captured by Doom Rex, and his wealth and knowledge were being tortured out of him. He knew not what the party was doing for Horbe in Doom Rex's name – but he felt sure that they had to be warned.
Leftenant Gregory knew nothing of the contents of the letter, and the party kept it that way. They were beginning to wonder who they could trust, if anyone.
They wanted to find Captain Nallya and set sail without even telling Horbe – for he was there in town, waiting for them at the one inn. But when they went to the inn, they found Captain Nallya already there, talking with the mage that was their master.
Bracing themselves, they went in and talked with Horbe. Figuring they could either take him or break him, they handed him the letters and let him read them.
Horbe appeared dismayed by the contents of the letters, and ushered them all up to his room. There he cast a spell to protect them from eavesdroppers or scryers. Master Horbe told them candidly that he had thought he was working for the Bat, and that the Bat was one of the good guys. At that stage, though, he didn't know what was going on – but felt it best to get to Lok Magius and find help.
The party agreed, and Hadarai believed him enough to trust him to analyze one of the two items they had retrieved, the dagger. Horbe confirmed what Hadarai already knew, and also let them know that the items were probably keyed to specific individuals.
They left Avris immediately, bound for Teras on a seven day journey through the waters there. They arrived in weather growing more foul by the moment, and a heavy, steady rain set in. Sunalor paid his respects to the altar of Arpelos that was maintained by the Teras City Chaplain. Liffey went exploring. Kiamani stayed aboard the ship, with Hadarai and Horbe. Dolon went and found Eglin Bandylegs, his information contact, and relayed what had happened to them.
Liffey heard a wicked voice from the shadows. “Hey, little girl.” And then a small crossbow dart struck her. She turned and fled on her wolf Lorcan, and was hit with another small dart in the back.
By the time she made it to the ship, Sunalor was also back aboard, as well as Dolon. They recognized the dart as being drow in nature, and Hadarai thundered for the drow to show himself and stop being so cowardly, but he never did.
Below decks, Master Horbe began to scry for the other pieces like the circlet and the dagger that the party had retrieved. He found an armlet in Chasadan, not too far down the coast, in the duchy of the Janis Plains given over to the Kur Maen defectors during the War of the Four Winds. Horbe then found the shield placed into a wall, and the ring on a corpses' finger, exactly as they were on the map Horbe had been given by his contact for the Bat, a man by the name of Toirin.
Dolon let them know that Eglin had news of Xennith. Though many had sworn he was good, he had committed heinous acts of violence and murder in Teras since they had left, and the authorities were on the lookout for him. Xennith, it appeared, was one of the bad guys. Which only led to more confucion, especially with regards to the letters he had left with Leftenant Gregory of Lena. The party sat down to think. Either they could leave Teras in the mornin – though with little luck, as Captain Nallya had already tried to find them a ship – or they could leave in the middle of the night.
Bastard, Sunalor's warhorse, was in poor shape after months at sea. The same was true of the other horses. The Horse Master would be awake, or one of his apprentices, even at that hour and in the rain; Thayer's Rock was only five miles west of Teras, and was the heart of Gideon Enterprises, and open at all hours. The Horse Master could probably trade them horses, and get new horses for Horbe and Sunalor – and then they could leave in the middle of the night.
While travelling with their mounts through the city, though, they were ambushed by men in the livery of the guards, and a drow on the rooftops. The battle was fierce, with Master Horbe and the drow focusing on one another, and the party dealing with the faux Guards. Two of the guards were taken down, before Hadarai managed to push the drow off the roop tops and down to their level. Dolon was wounded severely, and Master Horbe was unconcious, as the drow and two of the guards raced down side alleys, escaping the party.
The real city Guard finally arrived, and offered their help in the situation. Several of the Guard escorted them to a nearby Guard House for interrogation, and sent for the chaplain to tend to their wounds. When the Guard realized that the party had been attacked by Xennith, they went into action to track the foul drow down and bring him to justice.
Evening, the 3rd of Dacal, 1331 Avard.
Each player received 1025 experience points for playing, including a 500 point bonus for completing Master Horbe's first quest. Hadarai and Dolon now have 3145 experience points each, and Sunalor and Liffey have 2700 apiece.
The following notes represent the 'behind the scenes' and 'post op' actions of the players and the Dungeon Master.
We met at my place again, on March 7th, 2009. Fred cooked dinner – pork chops marinating in cream of mushroom soup and put in the crock pot for many hours, served over white rice, with veggies on the side. It tasted good, though I was so hungry smelling it cook slowly that I just inhaled the first serving and worried about tasting it later.
The combat was interesting. I expected the pilikua nui to give the party more of a tough time, and yet despite Fred and Tiffanee having one of those nights where they couldn't roll well to save their lives, the pilikua nui was defeated relatively easily. Danny might say otherwise, as he was at about 4HP when it was all over.
Special thanks to Jared Ho for the concepts of the Soha'in, and to Todd Antill for crafting the pilikua nui.
Food was effin delish and the story is getting more and more intense and its awesome that we have an assassin after us now. cant wait for more of the story to unfold.