For a Few Gold Pieces More

Anywhere but here
aka, Getting the hell out of Dodge.

Three individuals come onto the Azure District’s docks one late morning, each seemingly eager to leave the city post haste. They consist of a small male halfling, a Dwarf, and a lithe female figure. Unfortunately for them, activity is low, as winter in Sasserine does not offer much in the way of ocean outlets and transportation is limited.

Other than a few whaling ships hoping for one last kill, there are only 3 vessels looking as if they might leave before the weather thaws. The small group goes to the dock of each seeking passage. The first ship is the Mellveil, and its excited captain Shadwik will be going sea serpent hunting because “everyone knows these beasts ‘carry great treasure within their bellies.’ Finding one is ‘like faling into a mithril mine.’” When asked if he has ever actually killed one to prove this rumor, Shadwik admits that, “I haven’t yet, but I’m getting close!” Then he shows off some peculiar looking scratches on the side of the hull…

The dwarf in the group is eager to sign onto the Mellveil but Shadwick is still several sailors short of ‘Lucky 13.’ Yet Shadwik is confident he will “soon find more brave souls looking for glory and gold,” and then depart when he does. This is in sharp contrast to the few crew already on deck, at least one of whom is missing an arm while another appears to be carrying on a conversation with his mop.

The hooded female figure heads down to the ship on the far end, a larger almost galleon-esque craft. The boarding plank is guarded by two men at arms who ready their short spears when she approaches the ‘Far Reaching Justice.’ One of the lieutenants is summoned and in no nonsense terms explains that the current mission is to track down the pirate captain Alabaster and destroy her lead ship, The Bloody Smile. Between both the lawful and perhaps too good nature, our female figure demures, moving to the middle ship where the other 2 members have already gone.

This “venerable but seaworthy vessel” is the Albers. A “handsome blond man steps forward to greet them” and introduces himself as First Mate Huxley. After a brief inspection, Huxley is obviously unsure of any of the group’s qualifications as sell-swords. Although he is impressed when the Dwarf dips a mug into the ocean and then makes the sea water drinkable. So Huxley agrees to have Captain Fenn meet them all at Elle’s Tavern later on that evening. The Dwarf, very confident in knowing where the establishment, says he can get everyone there and they proceed off.

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Isn't it supposed to be half the fun?
aka, Its not the destination, its the journey.

Elle’s is notable for being in other cities thanks to the success of its menu. And the raspberry paste cakes, when they’re in season. So with some brief introductions, Thaddeus the Dwarf leads Mel the halfling and the female Sythe through the streets. After going over two bridges to get to the island he believes Elle’s is on, (and ignoring the apparent temptation of the Bloodthirsty Pelican along the way) Thaddeus comes to be unsure of where the place actually is. Offering free drinks to a passer by enlists his aid as a guide, so they turn down Bait street and start heading up.

A pair of tough-looking men is approaching with weapons out from up the road; one has two swords the other a bow drawn. After a few paces, one yells, “STOP, criminal!” Right then the surrounding area suddenly becomes black but as quickly daylight is restored. Sythe has gone, Mel has moved off to the side, and Thaddeus is crouched. There is a crashing sound behind them, as a figure has tripped over a stall.

Once more a thick darkness surrounds the area, and once more daylight is restored. The archer releases an arrow which sails by Thaddeus to crack at the feet of the figure behind him, releasing a gas that causes him to choke. “Please help me,” is all he has time to beg before going limp.

The men identify themselves as bounty hunters, produce permits, and wait for the guard to come. (giving the unconscious man a kick in his side and binding his arms) The Azure Watch shows up a few minutes later, handing the now-identified bounty hunters a bag which jingles full of coins, and he is carted off. But not before making it a point to securely gag the long-haired man, and kick him once more.

This is all too much for the ad-hoc guide to handle (indeed he hadn’t even so much as moved during the whole encounter) and he sets off quickly to return to work. So the group, once joined by Sythe who had taken to the shadows, continues onward. However, they still can’t find Elle’s, although there is a place called ‘The Empty Grave’ and they try that.

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Under New Management
aka, The city guidebook needs updating.

The group enters the little establishment and takes a seat at the table closest to the hearth. The proprietor, Gregor, is anxious to serve them- once he sees the coins produced by Syeth. The menu is still from Elle’s, so Syeth proceeds to order up a mini feast for her and the others. Rabbit sausages, roasted chicken, sugar waffles, cheese pudding pies, eggs & diced vegetables. To be washed down with some Elf’s Apple cider.

Right on time, Huxley and Captain Fenn arrive. Fenn makes says a few times that ”’The Albers ain’t no pleasure cruise.’” Despite still no being secure with the three would-be sell swords, the two seamen seem happy to at least partake of a fine meal. Fenn mentions Elle’s policy for ‘adventuring types: tell a story, win a meal.’

The tavern’s work seems mainly to be done by young Peden, whom the party later learns is the nephew of Gregor. Most of Gregor’s anger is directed to the boy, and he is “constantly ordering Peden about, and ‘complains how shiftless and lazy the boy is.’ Syeth eventually seeks to stop the yelling at Peden, to which Gregor apologizes in horrible Elven. Syeth replies in kind, that they have no need for more food. Gregor responds again, “his Elvish accent is atrocious,” parroting ‘more food, more food’ and a short while later proceeds to bring out, food. The misunderstanding is then played out, with Gregor’s anger becoming apparent, before he offers to make amends. ”’Please, gracious guests, do me the honor of tasting this fine vintage, prepared from my own humble vineyard.’”

Everyone, led by an enthusiastic Thaddeus, takes a round and then the trouble begins.

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The Enemy of My Enemy is a Frenemy
aka the prisoner goes to the side of good

Thanks to excellent roleplaying and good arguments, the party convinces the prisoner to join their cause. {MINOR PARTY GOAL of 150 XP}

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Guh-guh-guh-ghost Ship!
aka, Dead men do tell tales.

Captain Huxley orders the Albers to close with the listless vessel and be brought alongside for boarding. Drifting in the fog, with “her main mast’s sails and riggings disturbingly absent,” there was no apparent activity on the deck. Albers wanted the swordhands (PCs) to investigate and are sent as the boarding party, to search for survivors. And a possible salvage claim. Huxley maneuvers the Albers so a gangplank is raised to bridge both ships.

With Thaddeus in the lead, the PCs plus Peden traverse the plank. A quick-moving Mel catches Peden before he falls, but some torches get dropped. Once everyone is fully over, the group moves slowly over the slippery deck, which is “caked with wet sea scum.” The front of the ship is checked, but holds little than debris and dripping water. Near the mast, thick chains and a rusted lock bar the trap door to the hold. The band decides to explore what they believe to be the captain’s quarters at the rear of the ship.

Thaddeus pulls open the door, not noticing the unnatural bulge, as if “some great pressure was being exerted upon it on the other side.” A stacked pile of rounded stones comes spilling out onto the main deck. Thaddeus is briefly struck in his leg, Mel deftly avoids the mass, and after rolling past, “a few stones embed themselves in the rotted deck. A few others continue rolling until they take out the railing closest to the Albers. This brings some surprised cries, but fortunately the ship itself is not struck.”

Thaddeus peaks into the now-opened door, spying a figure lounging in a chair. The group enters the room to find a skeletal figure propped up, “a rotted jacket of the old style lies in tatters on his frame. A decayed crossbow assembly rests dusty by his side.” Thaddeus examines the body, while Logan checks the “old rotted frame of a bed.” The dwarf finds a soaking book under the crossbow and “an antiquated bronze gadget,” both of which he hands to Syeth. The elf recognizes the device as a compass, and that as an antique it might be worth something. (Thaddeus thinks its worth zilch) Logan turns up nothing after checking the bed. The book itself is something else, however…

Branded into the interior of the ruined leather cover was the following inscription: ‘Captain Orlando of the Sea Maiden, Worthy Vessel of the Merchant Alliance.’ Opening the journal released a damp, rotted odor. And while most of the early portions were destroyed by salt water, there were 6 readable entries in the waterlogged book that detailed the final days of the Sea Maiden.

A hidden compartment behind the frayed map conceals a strongbox with an audible ‘clink’ of coins. {MINOR PARTY GOAL OF EASY 30 XP for finding the various clues and a LIGHT PARTY GOAL OF 20 XP for KEEPING Peden alive}

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Into the Maiden's Belly
aka Do you REALLY want to go down into the dark, death-smelling water?

The hatch to the hold is bound with a chain and lock, although Logan can tell the way the links are placed it was set more to keep the hatch barred from opening outward. That is, not to keep people out of the hold but to keep something in…

Mel offers to explore the watery hold. Lowering a torch and himself into the darkened space he sees some bodies. The torch goes out, Mel panics, and frantically tries to get out. The water is murky and the halfling’s fear quickly gives rise to terror. He begins desperately moving back and forth hoping for an exit. Thaddeus climbs down to help but isn’t able to offer much comfort. Mel is finally taken out only to find Logan unconscious- apparently having sprung a trap on the strongbox. Thaddeus carries him across the gangplank and the group retreats to The Albers. {MEDIUM PARTY GOAL OF 50 XP for this}

Once there, Thaddeus calls upon divine aid to purify a barrel of water. This water seems to rinse clean not only the stink but the taint as well. Syeth reads the 6 legible passages from the Maiden’s Log out to the party. And come to learn that its captain had locked his crew in the hold because they were behaving dangerously.

{HARD MINOR GOAL OF 100 XP for this}

The party then begins a much-needed rest.

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And then there were 15
aka where'd the night crew go?!

Party decides to ‘quarantine’ themselves, in case they had brought something bad from the Sea Maiden. Sythe discovers the night crew missing, the group investigate, finds some blood stains, and the day crew is awoken to take over.

Mel petitions the Captain to let Vincenz free and join their efforts. The Captain agrees, but says Vincenz is their responsibility.

{MEDIUM MINOR PARTY GOAL of 50 XP for this}

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The ties that bind become frayed
aka the Albers crew talks openly of mutiny

The party wakes up late the next morning. Mel talks to Old Pete about the Sea Maiden, and the aged crewmember has heard of the ship being lost. He recounts what was believed of the ship- ‘namely that it was destroyed in a violent storm somewhere around these parts. After being prodded, he also remembered that an eclipse preceded the storm.

{LIGHT Minor Party Goal of 20 XP for this}

Meanwhile Thaddeus attempts to lift spirits with, well, spirits. He breaks out some mugs and ale, and with Peden’s help, offers them to the crew as they come in for a meal. Some openly state that they don’t trust any of the swordhands and refuse the drink. But both Huxley and Tomas sit for awhile. Huxley admits to being unsure as to what to do and worried about the state of the ship. Tomas is very glad to be taken a break and confides his plan to serve aboard a ‘dream vessel’ once they leave port. Problem though- the disappearance of the night crew has cause the Albers to drift at least a day off-course.

{EASY Minor Party Goal of 30 XP for this}

Interrupting the morale-boost are sounds of an argument. Shouts come from below deck, so the party goes to investigate. ‘Several of the crewmembers hold both Huxley and Ox from each other. Ox hurls fearsome threats at Huxley, calling him a murderer and a traitor as he points at Captain Fenn’s missing glass eye staring out from Huxley’s cabin trunk. Huxley shouts back that he didn’t put it there.’

More of the crew come down.

‘Some of them, led by Ox, shout that Huxley should be thrown in the hold or worse; others, like Old Pete stand by their new captain.’ Thaddeus points out that anyone could have placed the eye into Huxley’s trunk dispersing the potential combat. But the crew is obviously now distrustful of each other. ‘The mood above deck changes.’ {LIGHT MINOR GOAL OF 20 XP for this}

In the words of Vincenz, “It looks like things are getting even more interesting.”

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Look Shaggy, a Clue.
aka our group goes investigating

The party decides to see if they can figure out who poisoned Captain Fenn. They make a list of all the places on the Albers that has not been searched: their own quarters, the hold, the store room where Tomas is using, and as Vincenz points out, the brig. They start with the brig first, Vincenz apologizing for not wanting to return to his old ‘accommodations.’ Mel pokes around, but doesn’t find anything. Thaddeus checks the band’s room, going through everyone’s belongings. Selene comes in and interrupts him, but he explains himself. Thaddeus doesn’t discover anything apparent, although he does come across the journal Sythe had borrowed from Peden. It seems to have notes in the side made in her own hand, however as they’re in Elven, he doesn’t know what they say.

This leaves the hold, so the sword hands go to ask Captain Huxley for permission. The visibly nervous new captain has his hand near the cutlass when they go into his quarters, and denies their request. His explanation is that the goods are in his custody, but not legally his, so he cannot let anyone other than their rightful legal owners go in. He does admit that if the rest of the crew finds out that the hold is being searched, it could upset them.

Mel asks Old Pete what the party should do; whether it is right to go against the orders of the captain. The sea dog explains that while he always follows orders, the party is not truly part of the crew- they’re hired for the journey but to protect the ship. And as such they should do whatever it takes to ensure that.

So they hatch a plan to break into the hold. Logan is still very much feeling sick, but Vincenz offers his assistance and using magic, opens the padlock. The party sets up watchers and then Sythe and Thaddeus go in to have a look around. “Within lie various crates filled with wares ordered by the next port’s merchants, such as bolts of thick cloth, containers of spice, and various glassware products.” They eventually discover one that is partially opened. Inside are “ornate alchemical bottles packed in straw. Several of these bottles appear to have shattered.” The straw packing absorbed a lot of this liquid, but two bottles remain intact.

The bottles and packing are brought out for inspection. Vincenz suggests that at least one is of a ‘venomous nature’ but also finds a raised seal on the bottom of both vials. The party tries to come up with ways to see what this is; soot, candle wax, etc. Finally, Mel borrows some ink from Tomas, and they use parchment from Peden’s journal to press the inked surface into. A small symbol can be seen. Thaddeus identifies this as the marker for the Empty Grave- the tavern back in Sasserine.

{MEDIUM Minor Party Goal of 50 XP for this}

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“Never take the antidote before the poison.”
aka wasn't there a guy in the hold?

The group goes over what they have learned in the privacy of their cabin. Selene stirs when her name is mentioned but does not wake during the discussion. They talk about who could have access to the poison but come to no definitive conclusions. The band goes about their routine, with Vincenz again seeming to use a spell to gain access to Tomas’ quarters. Vincez comes out and reports seeing a latch in the floor, probably leading to the hold.

The party decides to plant someone in the hold, to set a trap for whomever checks on the poison. After some haggling for more of the pirate gold coins, Logan agrees to go in. He goes in with Thaddeus and takes a position, hiding behind a roll of carpeting.

Meanwhile tensions continue to rise on the deck. Worse, the wind slows, eventually coming to a stop. The PC’s get back to their routine trying to help out where they can. But everyone can’t ignore the ship still looming on the horizon. The atmosphere is tense and unsettled.

Mel hearing from Thaddeus about the writing in the side of Peden’s family journal, questions Sythe. He asks her if she has made any progress, and she says ‘no,’ but seems flustered. Sythe hurries off to her position in the crow’s nest so Mel uses the opportunity to check her belongings. He doesn’t find the journal, but reasons she has it hidden upon her person.

So a day and a half goes by.

Things continue as is.

Finally, Peden asks about checking on Logan. Thaddeus assures him that the rogue is alright, but Mel goes down to check. The halfling re-enters the hold to look for Logan. He calls his name, yet can neither see nor hear him. Mel goes to get Thaddeus and together they return.

Logan’s body is where he last hid, his face/eyes showing signs of being poisoned. A plate of half-eaten food and some dried vomit lie nearby.

{30 XP each for attempting a goal Minor Part Goal of EASY}

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