Recap: The 5th of Trical brought in floating towers from the landward side of Hallis Island, with golems and undead armies carried on their floating backs. And from the sea, ghost ships were riding hard on the edge of a thunderstorm that pushed away the light.
The Black Holly II put up full sails, and headed south as quickly as it could -- even as a draconic shadow of collossal size joined the towers in flying out to meet the ghost ships -- and destroy them. The towers, and the dragon, were courtesy of Xzax's kin in the Dragon Nation.
Barely staying ahead of the storm, they fled south until the stars were their guides. Underhanded by far with Gunju and Jena safely hiddin the Dragon Nation, Seamus only pushed them until they were clear of the storm, and the crew rested, confident in the Black Holly II's invisibility to undead and nondetection abilities.
Another two days of sail brought them around Rakore, to Thayer's Rock -- and home of Gideon Enterprises. Rial Mhenace was at Mount Basilisk in an emergency meeting with the king, and Thayer's Rock was a disaster area. When the party had fled Thayer's Rock for Hallis Island, the ghost ships that had struck had wrought a great deal of damage to Gideon Enterprise's headquarters.
Understaffed as GE was, there were a few crewmen available that might be able to hire out under Seamus -- considering that their ships were either being repaired in dry dock, or were destroyed during the attack of the ghost ships. Seamus managed to hire Quillenthalia "Quill" Tormir, a linguist, and Thalst Wirebeard, one of the original engineers of the Black Holly II. Quill was a half-elf with a high, squeeky voice that was annoying by itself, but she also liked to talk a man's ears off. On the other hand, she was an able sailswoman, linguist, journalist, and inquirer. Thalst was a short dwarf with a cruel tongue and a cruel mind, but he was also an able-bodied sailor, and a master craftsman and engineer.
From there, they set out for Teras. Seamus promoted Thalst to bosun, and had him hire four more sailors -- entrusting the odd dwarf to find good sailors in his own fashion. In fashion he did, returning with a blood tomanth named Visik, a powerful Amaran warrior named Gheledon Daneir, a cleric of Xoriah named Aust, and a Sholin sea-ranger named Maui. All were at least able sailors, and were eager enough to join under the Black Holly II out of Gideon Enterprises.
Lucian was then kidnapped -- by an old family friend, one of the few people he knew from the destruction of his home village of Terrace. Cleo was captured in the bargain, as well, and it was Alora, Lucian's familiar, that went calling for help.
Aboard the Black Holly II, Captain Seamus had to cut shore leave for everyone. A neon-orange flare into the night sky summoned N'Kara and Xzax from the forests north of the city, and a quick search of the local taverns turned up all the rest of the crew -- save Quill. Unable to find her in time, Seamus had to sail without her.
Alora flew back and forth, between Lucian's kidnapper and the Black Holly II, keeping them on track well into the night, and nearly into dawn. In the darkness, they finally had to stop, as the tributary river they moved through on spells and speed was blocked by pin oaks that had been knocked across the river. Proceeding on foot in near darkness, they hurried as best they could to find Lucian's enemy.
Cleo came to in the saddle, and did not want to try escape. Riding behind her captor was something that raised the hair on the back of her neck. Worse, an eight-legged creature weighing near to fifteen pounds was on her back.
The little rogue finally broke her bonds when her captors stopped in some stables, and ran out as quickly as she could -- even as the undead elf that aided her captor drew a rapier that blazed with a red, unholy light. Cleo fled from the stables, into the woods. Finding herself unhunted, she covered the tip of a crossbow quarrel with some cloth torn from her clothing, lit it, and fired it into one of the burned out elven husks over her head. The fire blazed for several minutes, guttered, and died in the burnt-out husks of Terrace.
The fire was enough to attract the attention of the fast-closing party. The massive, twenty-foot thick cedars of Terrace were dead or dying -- as was most of the forest, save for a greenish patch across the river. Terrace had been burned out during the War of the Undead, and the structures that were left were half-rotted, burned-out husks. Worse, traps had been set all through the city by a cunning, monsterous spider -- a familiar to Lucian's 'old family friend', Beral.
Beral and his undead cohort drug Lucian's wrapped-up body out of the stables, and into the nearest and largest of all the husks of Terrace -- that of the village elder's.
Beral, invisible, fired several magic missiles into the party from the tops of the trees. Detect magic found him, and N'Kara's entangle slowed him down. Xzax's missiles did nothing to the mad elven mage -- as the arrows stopped in mid flight for no apparent reason. A faerie fire spell made Beral visible, after all, and the party began to assume that their attacker was a monk with a wand.
Eventually, Beral had to retreat back into the husk of the tree, where he ordered his undead servant -- Lucian's father in zombie form -- to kill Lucian. Lucian pleaded with his father, hoping to find some spark of the elven spirit within his father's husk. It bought him time, as Xzax, Midnight, N'Kara, and Snowy tried the direct, frontal assault. Cleo and Seamus tried taking to the walkways, while Aust and Maui ran into trouble with traps and trees.
Lucian's father -- an elf named Verdrun -- proved an impressive fencer, with his evil, red-glowing rapier fending off both Xzax and Midnight, and his legwork par excellance. Xzax knew he was outclassed, but few men can stand up to a full-grown tiger -- even undead men. Lucian distracted his father just long enough for Midnight to release the bound spirit, and he died (again) with a gentle smile on his face. Beral, however, proved a more difficult problem. His multiple images made it difficult for the party to hit him, and Xzax expended a number of arrows on the fleeing mage.
It was Verdrun, when Lucian had almost broken through to him, who flicked the spider familiar off of the young sorceror. The familiar very nearly ate poor Alora -- but she was saved by first Midnight, and then N'Kara. Lucian, once freed, wanted Beral's head.
Maui gave chase to the fleeing wizard, and tailed him to the stables. The sea-ranger kept vigilance upon the stables, until the rest of the party caught up with him, including Lucian. Seamus, a little the worse for wear from a run-in with one of the traps, managed to fire his crossbow just as Xzax fired a volley of arrows -- for Beral blasted open the doors of the stables, and attempted to race out. N'Kara, however, had used speak with animals to stop the horse in mid flight. Beral's gloves of missile snaring protected him, even as Midnight leapt behind the destructive rain of missiles onto the mad elven wizard.
The black tiger killed Beral in one blow, snapping his neck. And Lucian wanted Beral's head.
Seamus had to sap the young elf from behind, to keep him from performing the terrible deed.
They left the horse alone, to ride back across the river -- racing across water as easily as land -- to the one patch of greenery in all of burned-out Terrace. Later, they would come to regret this action.
Cleo and Seamus stripped Beral's corpse bare, and under Xzax's fierce guidance, they fled back to the Black Holly II to rest, and recuperate. Thalst, Gheledon, and Visik had maintained the ship while the others went after Lucian, and it was with a grim contenance that they welcomed the party back. All were eager to rest, and return to Teras -- away from that evil place.
Their slow journey back to Teras was painful, especially for Lucian, and it was some days before he was able to set things right again between him and Seamus, and the rest of the crew. Alora was well enough, but it seemed as though a part of the falcon-familiar's spirit had been left behind.
At Teras, they found that Quill had returned to Thayer's rock, and the Black Holly II set sail for the rock. Upon their arrival at Thayer's Rock, they found that Quill had returned to Teras. Seamus, wondering whether to drown the silly half-elf, or keep her on as crew, sent Xzax and N'Kara out on the road to find their linquist, either there or in Teras or on the return trip.
The crew replenished their stores from GE's coffers, and Seamus planned to sail straight to Rilan after that. At Rilan, they thought, they could begin their dangerous campaign of misinformation, and gather information to help them. Seamus and Xzax hoped to rouse the Inquisition into invading the Srik lands, with tales that mages and dragons were using the Srik to their own advantage, even against the Ogre Nations. Perhaps, they could even get Rakore, Kur Maeth, and the Ogre Nations together to join forces and drive the Srik back. Well, back as far as a Srik nest just east of the Gristle Valley -- where the fourth and final shard to the map of Al Mudim lay. The plan was ambitious and cunning, but would require luck, patience, and hard work -- in Rakore, in Kur Maeth, and perhaps even further abroad.
The journey to Rilan put the crew in better spirits, and in better health -- especially with thoughts of relaxation and bar-hopping on their minds.
A day's looking about revealed Rilan to have only two bars -- one for nobles and men of wealth, run by drow, called the Blue Tyven -- and one for the sailors and men of pleasure, with games of Seige, called the Broken Bow. They began gathered information, and spread their lies, until near dusk.
Rumors abounded, but the most important, perhaps, was one about a treasure of gold that had been stolen nearly a year before, and two distinctive characters that might know about it. The treasure and the characters were sought by king and country, for Rakore had a traitor in its highest levels. Someone on the King's Council was working with the Ograns. More interesting yet, a squadron of rocs nearly twenty strong had flown over the border with the Ogre Nations some weeks before -- and not been seen since. The rocs, harbingers of the flying orcs, could mean trouble for all.
N'Kara and Xzax enjoyed a wonderful evening of dinner at the Blue Tyven, and after a bit of confusion between Cleo and Lucian, Cleo and Seamus joined the two. Cleo revealed that her eye had been restored when she was ressurected from among the dead -- and her stunning beauty was matched only by N'Kara's diaphenous gowns.
New friends and allies of the party -- a bard named Tram and a druidess named Rain -- gave aid to the party when a band of dwarven clerics came in and mistakenly got into the elderberry wine. Aust learned from his mistake quickly enough, but the damage was nearly done to the poor elf before he could learn his lesson. The lead dwarven cleric was a woman with straight-razors braided into her beard, and she had earned the name of Loren Razorbraid -- one of the most frightening war-clerics in all Rakore. Tram and Rain put the dwarves to sleep, and the drow helped drag them outside with thankful words. Aust will probably never again play with elderberry wine and dwarves.
The party stayed the night aboard the Black Holly II, and on the morrow, made the arduous day-long journey up to Lok Magius on foot -- supposedly to tank up on magical items rumored to be for sale, to gather information, and to satisfy their curiousity. Lok Magius had been under a fierce thunderstorm for four days already -- localized, and evil-looking, the thunderstorm never moved, but flashed with barely contained lightning. The party would have frozen near to death, had it not been for Aust, N'Kara, and Xzax's use of protection from the elements. Frozen rain, sleet, and icy winds made time stretch in the darkness beneath the cloud, before they found the first and largest of the towers of Lok Magius.
The Guest Tower had, in its basement, the Bad Brew Tavern -- where most of the mages of Lok Magius had gathered to wait out the storm. It took some time for most of the party to adjust to the atmosphere, but the strange humans of all races, as well as a dwarf that thought he was an elf, the tomanth sorceror, and the half-elven mistress of Lok Magius were strange sights indeed. The atmosphere of the Bad Brew proved too much, however, for Xzax, who chose to go back out into the storm.
Stealthy and quiet, and immune to the cold by nature of his half-dragon blood, he set about to study Lok Magius, and the storm that plagued it. He found Prat's Tower, a massive edifice of black basalt. And he also found the center of the storm -- the amphitheatre, already deluged beneat four feet of water.
The rest of the party enjoyed the strange company. A convention of familiars took place at one table, as an argument broke out over the abilities of certain species sometmies allowed them to cast spells -- such as Mistress Brin's familiar, a parrot named Oliver. The privies proved of great interest to Lucian -- and great laughter for Cleo and N'Kara -- for the prives were enchanted as only adolescent spell-casters would do. P'Arkon, the demonic sorceror, proved almost terrifying for Aust. And Mistriss Brin's bored students were more than eager to help the party identify Beral and Verdrun's magical items.
Cleo made the mistake of filching one mage's silver dagger. The dagger took her over, and she plunged it into Lucian's derrier, sapping his energy and transferring it to herself. The owner of the blade used telekinesis to wrench it back, and then hung Cleo upside-down to shake out whatever else she might have stolen. By the time the spell let her down, she had already gathered everything back up, and was intensely apologetic to Lucian as Seamus restored his lost energy with his usual neon-orange power.
Later that night, the party was invited to share dinner with Mistress Brin, and a man introduced only as 'Reed'. Together, they managed to outline a few thoughts and plans for the adventures ahead, without revealing too much information about the quest. Details about the barge of gold were also discussed, as well as the political instabilities of Rakore, and the squadron of rocs that had to be found.
By the next morning (11th of Trical) all of their items had been identified, save one -- an usual key that Cleo had pilfered from Beral's corpse. The key, according to the school's diviner (an Al Fahiman named Selera al Ha'kiel) went to a dimensional shackle -- and the last image the key within it was that of a nymph being shackled in place. Xzax and N'Kara immediately regretted not investigating the one patch of green in all the ruins of Terrace -- and not tracking down the horse that could run on water. Bound as she must have been, the nymph might not have survived the intervening four days.
Mistress Brin promised to send an expedition to the ruins of Terrace, as soon as the storm let up. The storm, she told them, was an accident of one of the students -- and should clear up in another two or three days. Hopefully.
Seamus and Xzax used the signet ring of Firestorm to peruse the armory, but Lok Magius required them to pay for the expenses of the items. A super-quiver of enchanted arrows, a ring of warmth, and some bracers of protection for Snowy were all the party could afford, but they also split up the items Beral had given up in death. They all learned that Beral could not have been that powerful, and many mages wanted his spellbook -- for he was one of the 'new mages' that had somehow found a way to fashion magical items without the great permancy spells used in the past.
Seamus decided to split the party -- with volunteers willing to go on to his homeland of the Stonehelms, and the rest remaining behind for whatever reasons. Lucian hoped to learn about his sorcerous art from the eager staff and students of Lok Magius, while N'Kara longed to return to the ruins of Terrace as quickly as possible.
XP Awarded: 1,800 (total to date is 10,750)
DM's Notes: At the last moment, Tom called, whom I hadn't played with in eight or nine months. Tom crafted a quick cleric named Aust, while Adam brought in a long-thought-out ranger named Maui to replace Gunju.
Tom was pretty quiet, most of the night. Brandy and Philly-Mac both assure me that this is not the normal Tom, so we all think he was a bit shit around so many new faces. Tom did a good job, though, with Aust, and gave me more confidence that I could handle six-and-a-half role-players. (Remember, Harry-Mac's playing two characters, now.)
We had a good time, overall, over at Philly-Mac's place. Mac does do a good job of maintaining the understanding of language barriers, and ensures (sometimes through his own emphasis in Xzax's linguistic skills) that players do not butt in on conversations their characters are not likely to understand.
The whole of the party had a rolicking good time at Lok Magius, and I don't believe I've laughed so hard in a long time. Harry-Mac said his ribs were still hurting, hours later, from laughing so hard. Fred was hilarious, and the situation just seemed to get funnier by the moment. I never realized how entertaining a group of mages could be in their off-hours.
Adam said it was good to see 'old friends' again, for he had played with the players behind Tram, Rain, and P'Arkon. (We miss you Ed, Theresa, and Diego.) A pox upon poor Adam, however. He kept having Maui ask the mages at Lok Magius to enchant his double-bladed sword. He did keep things in character enough to find out that his double-bladed sword was not masterwork, and therefore unenchantable. But the fact that he asked that the bloody thing be enchanted, by mages, has my ire. I don't see any way a Sholin -- or anyone else, for that matter -- would know that mages can enchant blades in a world devoid of mages. Except for that little mistake, though, Adam did a pretty good job with Maui -- whom Pam insists on calling Mooie.
Good, creative spell-casting from Harry-Mac (flare spell as a signal flare), Aust (mending on Thalst's garbage can*), and Pam (speak with animals to stop a horse in mid-flight).
I'd have taken up these matters with Philly-Mac and Adam as soon as they happened, but I didn't think on them until after we had all split up for the night. I apologize for the scathings, here -- where all can see -- instead of in person.
*It's a long-held tradition among Rakoran dwarves, that when working among humans, garbage cans are acceptable methods of camouflage for urban combat. I don't think this crowd had heard of the ploy, though my friends in Korea knew it all too well. It shouldn't have surprised me when it took the party by surprise, but you should have seen their faces when one patron in the bar said, "Better get outta the way -- that garbage can's gotta mean reputation."