So thats the map as you know it folks
We sailed across the bay, beached upon the shore and were greated by foul creatures and mishap. Now we have entered the cliffs and battle our bloody way through dark halls that moan a song of dread. This room to room searching may be the doom of us all. So far there are few clues to the whereabouts of our quarry. Nought greets us but more danger and evil creatures who offer no welcome save death by their claws, teeth and weapons. We have gleaned some treasure from these halls. The sword I fractured through my own clumsiness has been replaced with another of some finer craftsmanship and charmed with power to wit. It has proven itself worthy against werekin already.
I pray our party remains strong together and that we prevail to escape these woefull halls and find our quarry soon! I have other business to attend to that must not wait forever and dying in this place does not figure in my plans.
So our hired boat dropped us off at the Ruined Wharf. It was interesting to see that this structure though obviously still of Human workmanship had been built with some real pride and attention to detail.
I admit their designs of flames and bones make me somewhat nervous, the symbolism is hardly reassuring but then again whom am I to just an alien race?
The wharf was deserted when we arrived there the wreckage of what turned out to be (maybe the last?) a funerary Barge filled the eastern berth. Three ominous looking towers warded it in times past but they like the rest of the structure had fallen to ruin perhaps a hundred years ago. The wood of the towers fighting platforms had been savaged by the damp conditions but I saw that somebody had set fire to the structure’s first speeding there destruction. Strange, as I had thought the place had been attacked from within by Lizard folk, that shun fire most often?
Two things struck our eyes almost immediately. Before us lay some large vaulted doors of weathered but still sound, made of wood and iron set directly into the cliff face behind the central tower. These had been heavily barricaded at some point this last year as locks and chains secured them to four heavy Iron bars that had been set into the cliff face sometime this year. Short of a siege weapon there would be no entering the place through that rout – or so we thought at the time!
Walking up the wharf towards the eastern spur of the cliff we passed the sunken funerary barge. Ti and Calistra elected to investigate while the rest of us stayed on the dry stone of the docks. They had not even reached its sodden railings when a cry went up from Master Flamebutte.
Two of the hated vampire birds had dropped from their roosts high on the cliff above us. One swept past my ear! But thanks be to Berronar the high collar of my dwarven plate foiled its strike at my neck! Master Clancy was less fortunate however. The other had fastened its slender beak into the soft flesh at the back of his neck and was seconds away from trying to drain the poor halfling of his very blood!
Fortunately for him my loves reactions and decisiveness came to his aid immediately. With a delicacy I can only envy Hella swept the foul thing from his back with a single well placed move with her blade. Stunned the creature flopped to the floor, Where it was slain a moment later as it tried to regain the air.
Master Ti with a grace I again can only envy (For give me Goddess grace of body was never my gift) Dove past me and his sword spitted the creature that had tried to make a meal of my blood but seconds before.
After we had tended master Clancys scratch Ti and Calistra again attempted to wade the short distance out to the barge. I prudently stayed clear of its rotting waterlogged deck and stood shoulder to shoulder with my beloved Hella lest anymore vampire birds dropped down upon us while they searched for clues.
As commotion caught my eye as they moved to examine the glint of metal laying by the deceased casket. Some kind of great sea worm had taken up residence in the barge! How lady Calistra is so at home in the water I shall never know but a swift stabbing blow from her spear skewered the thing but thought the creatures dark blood flowed freely from the wound it still found the strength to recoil in a counterstrike that fastened its hideous rounded teeth upon her leg.
Worse, the fighting had disturbed the serpents mate from beneath the barge. A second grey flattened head with tiny eyes but gaping maw filled with thousands of small razor-ed teeth broke the surface near the ship. But it was here master Clancy redeemed his previous startled cry. A snatch of arcane tongue and a violet bolt darted from the Wizards finger and blew a hole through what on any other creature might have been its neck. Dead before it knew what hit it the leech like creature flopped back to its watery lair dead as a stone.
Aboard the barge master Ivarr had daringly dashed across the wet steps down onto the rotting hulk and it swiftly fell to his and the others assault.
Again after a moment to inspect her wound (it was but a scratch) the three now balanced upon the barge commenced there search. A scrap or two of Armour possibly salvageable was recovered as was a flask of some spirit by Mistress Calistra. best of all was a waterlogged chest of sorts, which while largely filled with drifted sand and sea wrack still held a large Golden goblet and a silver arm ring of reasonable quality. A part of me was pleased at these discoveries while another horrified that we were likely taking the last burial goods of some poor soul.. Still I said a brief prayer of his bones and asked that Berronar forgive me any trespass. I t was perhaps fair exchange his gold for driving off the creatures that were defiling his remains yes?
Once these spoils of war had been safely stowed away (Though I am at a loss why master Ti decided to saddle himself with that large rusty shield) we passed onto the far end of the wharf where a pair of impressive but not overly strong looking doors lay just inside a small recess cut into the stone. These we found to be open and we cautiosly peered into a large hallway set with fine marble upon the floor inlaid with small runes of corroded copper.
Leading from this Runed hall were two other doors one north and the other south as well as we could just make out a passage continuing further east into the side of the ancient cliff. A high pitched whistling sound was faintly discernible in the air. Like wind in the trees heard from across a field I thought, but there was no draft or gust that would explain this phenomena to me.
But these all would have to wait. Laying in the center of the floor were three long dead bodies, well weeks dead in any case. Lady Calistra knelt by the nearest one to examine it and to my lasting horror the cadaver groaned and flopped over its claw like hands reaching for her throat!
Never before had I encountered one of the living dead! I fumbled for my holy symbol having been well drilled what must be done in such a pass but the confounded thing was within my jerkin! And by the time I retrived it the Zombie had been hewn down by my companions. My darling Hella kicked the next one and like its unholy companion before it this sprang to life raking at her with claw and broken fangs. One claw drawing a single trail of blood through her armors leather seams! Outraged I stepped forward but my lack of grace prevented me again and before I could thrust my Holy symbol into its insane face the creature fell to sword and Ax.
Master Ivarr decided that prods and kicks were no way to treat these creatures and made to strike the lasts head from its shoulders. But the polished marble of the floor betrayed him as he swung and his foot turned and his sword crashed into the stone and broke off its tip. The menaced creature again rose to its feet, but this time I was ready! With a boldness I did not feel I commanded it to flee in the name of our Goddess and the warmth of the fires of my land filled my spirit and burst forth as divine rebuke. Recoiling with its rotting hands covering empty eye-sockets the thing recoiled. And as it cowered My Hella removed its head properly this time.
With the creatures down and dead in truth we turned our attentions to the northern door. It was thick heavy wood and in good repair but fortune again smiled and at Ti’s touch it swung open revealing a room illuminated by a flickering torch or two. Three men stared back at us as surprised to see us it seems as we them. Two were in the process of about to break open a new door against the rooms eastern wall with a bundle of discarded lumber from among the rooms detritus.
Suddenly Ivarr called out. “Step into the light ans show yourself!” to whom I could not see but from out of the corner a savage elf strode his bow drawn tight and aimed at master Ivarr’s heart! With her warriors heart the sight of a sworn companion so menaced was all Hella needed! Her ax spun across the room and buried itself in the elfs breast, not before he could loose his shot but the sight of four and a half pounds of savage dwarf steel aimed at his face evidently spoiled his aim and the arrow sped past Ivarrs ear.
In moments we were upon the other three. Cutting two down bleeding from our blades. The last dropped his weapon and raised his hand showing some wisdom. As it had been ourselves that had struck the first blow naturally I accepted his surrender and we disarmed him and divers members of our group saw to the wounds of his unconscious fellows. To my surprise they all lived though the elf kin just barely. Still with a few days rest he would likely mend though he’d carry the mark of my loves accuracy with him for the rest of his days I’d warrant!
Looking about the room in the aftermath we could see no further threats, Though master Clancy espied a pair of leavers set into a recess in the wall near where the elf had stood. He proceeded to examine and attempt to fathom there purpose. At one point we thought a faint shift and tremor in the wall occurred perhaps indicating some machinery had been set or released? But we could not be certain that his efforts had drawn any result for now.
As I tended one of the fallen I half heard mistress Calistra interrogating our prisoner. Then the sound of a cry and a swung weapon distracted my chirugy. The fellow was fleeing for his life! But my outrage wa snot for his breach of parole! Nay rather I could see that Mistress Cal had struck at him with her weapon for what reason I could not discern but evidently she had attempted to dispatch the fellow!
he did not get far, as although his desperate rush had carried him past Ti and Ivarr and myself. My love lowered her pole ax and barred his escape. His moments hesitation was his undoing as the next time Calistra swung she blasted the fellow the floor with crushed ribs.
While master Ti checked his pulse we exchanged some strong words as to why a prisoner should be treated thus. But mistress Cal looked through me and merely shrugged suggesting we investigate the “Wizard” that these fellows had claimed to have cornered in the room yonder. Setting aside our disagreements for a while at least we eventually forced the door and inside a ruined and overturned armory a single defiant man in Wizardly robes challenged us to stay back lest he blast us with his power.
Assuring him I meant no harm to him as yet I offered to speak with him and after a few minutes conversation became convinced he was no more a wizard than I! More loon than Sage I deem the man had perhaps fallen foul of a Mage in the past and had aped his ways for his own benefit I deemed. His story and that of the rogues we subdued in the room without hardly matched but he mentioned having been “schooled” in his art by One Dark Odo a villain from our warrant! At least it seems we had confirmation that we had indeed found the location of one of the villains we were sent to apprehend! He claimed much in short, but seemed at best an unreliable witness. He did not strike me as the sort that a known Enchantress would share details of her art and the secret ways into her base (which he also claimed to know).
Clearly we had much to discuss (for I was still uneasy at the treatment of a surrendered man) so it was here we set our camp and braced the door while Master Clancy broke out some field rations and I tended the prisoners. After a rest perhaps we shall press on further int this pace or perhaps we should send these likely villains back to the proper authorities at Newsandport?
We Are In The Middle of Nowhere.
It seems the female dwarf has an intended. At least, he thinks he is, where as she thinks he isn’t.
Calistra seemed to glide across the decks with ease. Her movements in sync with the rocking motion of the ship. Breathing in deeply, she loved the smell of the salty air and the taste of it on her tongue. The kinship she had with the ocean ran deep. The blood in her veins pulsated with each wave that surfaced the blue waters. She could feel a vibration running through her body.
It wasn’t just a coincidence that she became an initiate of Manannan Mac Lir, it was her calling. Just as this voyage was setting her on a path with a group of bounty hunters, she herself becoming one, it was all a part of what was to be. Her “special” skills were being put to the test and she would except nothing less of herself than to fulfill the quest that had been set forth for her by the Guardians of the Temple. She would regain what was stolen and return the Golden Trident back to where it belonged. This would secure her place and prove her worthy of her God.
Calistra leaned over the side of the ship and was greeted with a refreshing splash of water to her face. Calistra let out a laugh and longed to swim within the inviting depths of the sea. While enjoying the scenery, Calistra’s attention was pulled away when she heard what sounded like someone in the throws of relieving themselves of their lunch. She saw for the first time in her life a female dwarf. This was very exciting and if she was more of the type to introduce herself first, she would have done just that. Instead, Calistra pulled at the linen scarf that concealed her hair and wrapped around her neck, half out of habit, and half to make sure that it was secure. Deciding it was as good a time as any to try to find the person that belonged to the name that she was given as a contact from Priestess Ala. Having memorized it by saying it over and over again in her head, the name Ivarr Greenhair sat on the tip of her tongue. She didn’t know much if anything about him other than he was the holder of the warrants.
Walking across the decks, the wind kicked up, licking at the skirts of her blue tunic dress. Calistra turned her head toward the prow and knew quite suddenly that she was looking at the person that she seeked. His long green hair was what gave him away.
In the distance Calistra could see that the shoreline was beginning to swell up around them as they were getting closer to landing. A sigh slipped past her lips as the thought of stepping back onto land entered her thoughts. Lifting her head up high she started to walk toward Ivarr. Just as she was within range of being able to speak to him a gust of wind tugged at her scarf, sending it for a ride through the air.
“Oh no” Calistra called out as her bluish green hair was freed and tumbled loosely down her back.
Calistra caught the scarf in mid-air and was about to tie it back on when she saw that Ivarr’s green eyes were now looking at her.
After some agonising hours (at least from the dwarfs point of view) the walled seaport town of Newsandport comes into view. High walls of stone surround a modest sized settlement and grisley dessicated corpses of some kind of non human decorate gibbets placed a bowshot from the walls.
Part of the delay was the Captains insistance on waiting on a pilot boat from within the harbor. Many of the senior guildmembers insisted that they sail right on in but the crusty sea captain simply stared them down and pointed to the two huge arbalests mounted either side of the harbours breakwaters. Shuddering you see his point a hit from one of those things would stave a hole the size of a cow in the side of your ship.
Hella hanging grimly from the side gazed at the walls and roofs of the town critically. Mostly very new construction She thought. Not even as old as she was, hastily done too as so much of human architecture seems to a dwarfs practiced eye. Her attention is dragged away from her critique by Senior Guildmember Leonardus calling the apprentises over.
“As you can see, and much to your relief no doubt, we’ll be making port within the hour. The Idlewind itself will be in port about a day maybe two replenishing the water stores and doing abit of minor trading. Soon after that we’ll be off again heading for Kingsport on the far side of the Island for our own missions. I have been here once or twice and while no metropolis it has the basics for your comfort! A decent pub as well as a blacksmith and even boasts a small library for those so inclined.
One thing you especially need to know, the folks here abouts have little sence of humor, especially with non humans you’ll be largely ignored I guess, at least the two stouter memebrs of your squad intially. Think nothing of this, these people are still hurting from when an invasion of Lizard folk sacked there older settlement down the coast some fifty years ago. There is a bounty on Lizard folk tails of about 50 gold a peice if you get the opportnity. Gaining a few of these may go a long way to winning you some genuine respect and co operations with the locals in general perhaps.
Our information is that a the group you have been assigned to track and bring to justice, disembarked here and almost immediatly got into a dispute with each other about something. It is likely they split up, but some may be still hanging around nearby either under there own names or under alias’s. Once you get the locals to talk to you you can find out more I surmise. I presume by now you have each studied the Warrants entrusted to Inarr here and have some idea of whom your looking out for? If not, do so immediately!
There is a small but powerful church here of a sect called the Church of the Life in the flame. Don’t know what there about they seem to be a purely local religious group. Still they have real power so their god or demon or whatever it is has some authority. Try not to antagonize them, its from them the bounty on Lizardman tails gets paid I should point out. Get in good with them and they may help you further.
Now any questions before we hit port?” he concludes, looking each of you in the eye in turn.
Ivarr stood alone near the prow of the ship and breathed deep the salt sea wind. He closed his eyes and reveled in the feel of the wind and sun on his skin and the cries of the sea birds. This was his first time at sea, but it haunted him like the great Northern forests he called home. It was so different from the forests, but he loved it already and could imagine spending an age at sea.
The heat he could do without. He had stripped to the waist and let his warrior’s tattoos drink in the cooling sea wind. He was comfortable with the wind on him, but he dreaded donning his gambeson and haubergeon of mail and the thought that the wind might die down on the island that was coming into sight. It seemed so innocuous and a lovely shade of green. It was their destination. Rakhan Island and a new job as a bounty hunter.
This was certainly not what he had envisioned for himself, but the giants had changed that, hadn’t they? The terrible memories came rushing back like a seizure. Thunderous footsteps, booming voices, evil laughter, his mother screaming, pleading. He shook the memories away and gripped the rail with all his strength, his eyes flashing open and locking on the sea and the island in the distance. They would feel his wrath. The Frost Giants would suffer for taking his family, but first he must build his strength and skill. He must become a powerful warrior indeed before the blood debt would be repaid. He must find one of these vermin on the list of hunted. The one who had led the giants to his home.
He took several slow, deep breaths and listened to the sea, the sounds of the ship and crew. He felt pity for the poor dwarf whose stomach had long since emptied, her body now trying to vomit up her toenails. The sea was not a happy place for a dwarf. Soon they would make port and she would feel better thereafter.
The island was coming closer. Time to gather his gear and arm himself for the job ahead. Time to focus his mind. Time to earn his keep as a ranger. Time to track men and bring them to justice or send them into the next world.
Ti watched the guild leaders with half an eye, waiting a moment when he could liberate some of the rum that had once belonged to the captain of the Idlewind for himself. He could hear the sounds of the female dwarf loudly being sick, though he had been trying to keep as much of the ship as he could between him and her unpleasant retching. It seemed incongruous that something as rare as a female dwarf should be found to be doing something as mundane as heaving up ship’s rations over the rail.
He didn’t particularly want the rum, or at least not a lot of it. But claimimg it unnoticed was good practice. Claiming it was more fun than even drinking it.
It was the same with the bounties, he reflected. The money might, or might not, be worth the trouble of tracking down the heads those bounties were attached to. But some of the bounties were placed by people who wanted their property back. Their stolen property.
And Ti knew, a thief didn’t just steal once and stop. There would be other interesting valuables above and beyond what the guild wanted returned to the “rightful” owners. So whatever the bounties possessed that the warrants didn’t specify, was as far as Ti was concerned, fair game.
And, almost assuredly, far more interesting than Bounty Hunter gold.
“Oh Moradin help me,” she muttered. How did I get here? Nothing had ever frightened the dwarf like the sight of the endless blue sea. It looked so quiet and peaceful but Hella knew it was not, in the blink of an eye it could turn ugly and swallow up things and people without any qualms. It’s pitching and rolling was a hundred times worse than riding the smoothest pony but worse that that, Hella was convinced that it was truly bottomless; a pit opening directly to hell.
“No!” She told herself, don’t go there! Think of something else! Now! She commanded of her wayward brain. The mission, think of the mission. And your companions, you can think of them she told herself. Although she was not sure if traveling with elves was really something to look forward to.
Instead her brain wandered back to her last conversation with Gwenidan. Conversation? Not really she thought, more like a kick in the head. For the hundredth time Hella wondered if Gwenidan had spoken the truth or if she just wanted Hella gone. Why, all of the sudden, did joining the Maidens of the Ax require an initiation? To Hella’s memory no such requirements had ever been spoken of before. Never had anyone heard that in order to join the clan of the female warriors one had to go out into the word of elves and men and what ever else stalked the land and prove one’s self. So why had Gwenidan, as the new head of the clan, required that Hella and the other three new supplicants had to leave the mountains. What could possibly be learned out here?
The ship rolled again and Hella leaned over and executed several dry heaves. She had run out of anything to throw up long ago. And that thought in turn reminded her why she wanted to join the maidens in the first place and why she found herself on this retched excuse for a means of travel. Grimwalden. That was his name and the grim part of it described it all. Hella was not sure if the shudder that wracked her body was because of the sea-sickness or because of her memory of the day her father decided that she should marry that beardless, brainless, half a dwarf!
“Land Ho!” Came a shout from somewhere above the dwarf.
“Oh thank you,Moradin for answering my prayers.” Hella said out loud. She hauled herself up and half folded, half wadded the blanket and stuffed it into her worn pack. Let’s do this thing she thought, Grimwalden be damned, Gwenidan be damned, Father be damned, elves and their half measures be damned! I am going to make the most of this!