Saturday, May 11, 2013

Chapter 13: The Sea Queen Escapes part 1

    The Founding-Day celebrations were in full swing and the streets filled with celebrants of all ages. Our Heroes found themselves at the outdoor theater where Alexander was to debut in the role of Shadankin in the play "Shadankin & the Mer-Queen, a tale of mysterious love."
   The young wizard told his friends he would be adding a bit of pizzazz to the show. Lars and Tarek knew this would give them an opportunity to fleece the crowd. Quite a crowd had gathered to watch the performers, and the actress portraying the Mer-Queen was a sight to behold. Alexander found himself having trouble remembering the few lines he was supposed to say in her presence. As the tale reached its climax Alexander cast two spells in succession under his breath.
The spells themselves would have no outward effect on the crowd or show, but their mercurial effects caused two things to happen.
   First the moon rose at midday and blocked out the sun, the crowd gasping in awe! Second as torches and lanterns were lit they were extinguished by an eerie gust of wind! Alexander grinned pleased with himself and saw Lars and Tarek begin to move on marks they had spied out earlier in the crowd.

   The actors continued the show even though they were all a bit unnerved  by the weird events. The Mer-Queen stepped forward looked at the crowd, and screamed!!!!! The ground began to shake, buildings rattled, fruit carts overturned, horses and animals panicked. A strange blue green light framed the pretty woman as her body lifted from the stage a few feet into the air. Her eyes glowed with a strange malevolence and from her throat a strained bubbly female voice spoke to all assembled.

"Trapped! Heed my call! Shadankin and I even now burn the last vestiges of our powers to hold back the cataclysm. That which was shall be again and Modron will fall, unless you help us! My love and I thought we could return both our realms to the glory of long ago, but we have ruptured time and space. Seek the key in the Pinnacle, find your way to us quickly, time is short!"

   Wailing once more the actress drops to the stage as the tremors subside. Alexander aids the girl and returns  her to her friends as he cancels his magic. The crowd is abuzz with murmurs of Shadankin returned, the Mer-Queen Cealheewhalool, a forthcoming cataclysm!!!  Raising his staff into the air Alexander get the crowds attention and says, " People of Modron, those in need have cried out for aid through time and space! We the Heroes of Eros shall take up this challenge and bring the aid lost Cealheewhallool and Shadankin have asked for. We will stop the cataclysm from destroying Modron a second time!"

   The crowd roared in unison as a cheer for the Heroes began!

   Within an hour the group assembled and set out along the old coastal path towards the pinnacle of rock that served as the Shadankins lair a century ago. Crossing a bridge of natural rock to the top of the spire they discovered solid door of stone. After minutes of pondering how to bypass this portal it was little Moep that discovered it needed only a light push to open! Within was an entry cave decorated with fabulous mosaics formed from sea-shells and small stones. They depicted a man dressed in sea-green robes roaming the sea and casting spells, feeding, and summoning from the depths many assorted ocean creatures. A shark mouth shaped archway framed stairs the descended deeper into the rock. Chauncey spied a wet footprint of a man-like thing at the top of the stairs.
"The fish men of Cthulhu!" shouted Chi the elf-child when she saw the print.
  As the party lit torches and a lantern in preparation to descend the dark steps, Moep feverishly pried a handful of pearls from the mosaics.

   The stairs ended at a landing overlooking a gloomy chasm, illuminated from below by a blue green light. The chasm drops about forty feet to a large lagoon of dark rippling seawater. At the opposite side of the chasm a second landing awaits. Hanging in the air leading to that egress a ten large sea turtle shells laid out in a zig zag pattern. Ancient magic obviusly keeping them aloft. But for how long....

   Tarek decides to go first and test the floating shell pathway. Securing himself with rope that his companions will play out after him the nimble thief  leaps ten feet to the first shell. The party let out a combined sigh of relief as Tarek and the shell stayed aloft. With amazing cat-like grace the thief bounds nimbly from the first to the second shell, his feats of athletic grace becoming more fantastic with each leap! Landing on the sixth shell caused something interesting to happen. Two primitive spears whizzed past the young man from either side of the chasm. "He must have activated a trap!" cried Tyrrian. "Obviously no one else ever made it that far across." observed Alexander as he began casting a spell.

  "I'm Okay!" Tarek yelled back to the others. He looked over the seventh shell, trying to discern any obvious trigger. "Must be motion sensitive." he thought, "Ah well, nobody lives forever!" With a bound he lands squarely on the seventh shell, "Ah, no spear..AGH! By Corrno's quick fingers!!" Again two spears wing their way across the chasm and strike the thief, the pain and wounds cause him to slip and at the last second hold onto the shell. "Creatures! In hidden alcoves!"

  Hearing this the party looks and just catches a glimpse of inhuman limbs hurling the deadly missiles at their friend. Alexander formed his mystical energies into a large flaming blue hand and used it to grab then propel Tarek to the far landing. Meanwhile Rubie and Chi fired missiles at the lurking fiends! It is quickly decided that the Wizard will use his magic hand to ferry the party to the other side as quickly as possible. The first group to go are Rubie, Chi and Moep. Missile fire is exchanged with the enemy as they are carried over to the waiting Thief. Next Tyrrian and Chaucey are ushered across to hold the hall beyond against attack that must surely be coming. As Alan and Max are going across a spear strikes Alan with deadly accuracy severely wounding his leg! Alexander lets loose a barrage of blue axes that give the group a bit of respite from their attackers. Finally the Wizard and Cleric join the others on the far side of the chamber. As Alan's wound is tended Tyrrian notes he hears many approaching footsteps coming this way, and Chauncey proclaims the same from the opposite direction. A wall of force is used to block the passage to the rear of the group and they array themselves for battle with Tyrrian in the lead. Moep hurls his torch down the hall to reveal a throng of glassy eyed fish men charging them. "Fish men of Cthulhu, I told you!" mutters the elf-child drawing he bowstring taut. Tyrrian counters the fish man charge and takes down two of them before he is overwhelmed, the bulk of the creatures pass him by and two engage the young warrior. The party fires missiles into the oncoming bunch then follow up with melee attacks from Max and Chauncey. Now only two creatures remain harassing the Tiger cloaked warrior. Chauncey races to aid him and slay one of them as Tyrrian "Rings the Bell" of the last.
   Turning to the Force guarded hall, the group of fish men there seems to have lessened, though at least a half dozen remain. Alexander moves the wall enough so Tyrrian can charge through and he bulldozes the collected creatures knocking them about like bowling pins. Max and Chauncey quickly follow and the fish men are made short work of. Ten minutes are spent then binding wounds and tossing the searched corspes of the fish men into the lagoon below. Following the hall to the left first brings the group to a door. They decide that before opening it, they should go back to the right hand passage and make sure nothing remains there that could surprise them later. In moments they kick in another door and find a group of Fish women protecting two large baths full of eggs! A quick battle is fought, the fish women are dispatched, the hidden alcove that looks out upon the chasm is discovered, and Moep fills a waterproof sack with a multitude of eggs for later! They quickly return to the door in the left hand hall and proceed to open it. A chamber filled with large fish hung from the ceiling by iron hooks is revealed.The floor slick with jellied guts and blood, as more fish men lurk inside this foul larder. Another quick and decisive battle is fought and won by the Heroes as they wish to spend as little time as possible in this room! Beyond a short hall and stairs are discovered leading deeper into the spires depths.

    The stairs end at a swollen door which is ajar. Pulling it open the party reveals an old sanctum in a state of disrepair. Bedroom style furniture lies in crumbling rotting piles, covered in algae. On the walls only a single mosaic remains mostly intact from the ravages of time. One of the walls catches the attention of the party, it shows Shadankin surrounded by some force standing before a giant clam. Within the clam lies a spiral horn. Moep immediately begins to pry the mother of pearl from the wall that forms the horn. An alcove by the only other exit from the room contains four small barrels, one of which has been broken open. Hanging from the breached barrel is a dried flaking skin-like membrane about the size of a man. Another of the barrels is opened and stirred. a milky white swirl of something is seen within. After much pondering the party figures the barrels contain some sort of magical underwater suit. Opening the final door they traverse a short hall that leads them to the lagoon.

   Above them they spy the turtle shells. The lagoon itself ripples calmly with the motion of the incoming tide. Only about twenty feet deep or so they can see a large clam shell in the center of the lagoon. It is decided that Tarek, Chauncey and Alan will don the remaining jelly-suits and walk across the bottom to the clam. At the last moment Moep ties a rope about Alan and Lars strips down and swims out into the lagoon. From the landing the rest of the party watches as their friends walk across the bottom towards the giant shell. Alexander and Tyrrian both see a large dorsal fin break the surface on the far side of the lagoon and it quickly speeds towards their friends. "Lars! LookOut!" the party shouts, and the thief bobs in the water looking back at them. The Wizard uses his magical hand of force to pluck the swimmer from the water. Below the surface the three companions are faced with a very large problem.

  The thirty foot monster rushes the jelly-suited trio, surprising them with its swiftness. The trio makes to stand back to back wielding daggers and a poleaxe among them. Suddenly, WHAM! the shark strikes catching  young Alan in its maw!!!  Hanging above the lagoon in the magic hand, Lars sees the shark and poor Alan. Without hesitation Lars judges the distance, waits a second then dives into the cold water just as the shark passes below him. Clinging to the dorsal fin through sheer determination the smuggler begins to pierce the giant beasts back with his dagger repeatedly!!! The frenzied monster shakes itself to dislodge the intruder on its back to no avail, Alan however is being shredded by the teeth and barely clinging to life. From the shore Moep struggles to keep hold of the rope attached to Alan, "We need a bigger boat!" the halfling screams as he is almost jerked out into the lagoon. Sally and max lend their strength to hold the line. Gauging the distance from the rope and fin breaking the surface, Alexander uses the magic hand to actually grab the shark by the tale, then with extreme concentration he actually lifts it out of the water about 5 feet. Thrashing wildly in mid-air, Lars clinging to it still and bellowing, "YEE-Haa!" and still stabbing it, the shark struggle for its life! Alan is flung free of the gnashing jaws and quickly reeled to the enbankment by his friends. The young thief id feared to be beyond hope as his limp from is pulled from the water. The shredded jelly-suit peeled off easily and slung to the side. Chi clasps the boys pale face in both hands, "Alan! Oh no, don't die!" she cries tears streaming down her face. "Let me see him, there may still be hope." says Sally pulling the remains of his shredded clothing aside to get a better look at the wounds. Just then Alan coughs up a huge amount of bloody water looks at Chi and says "There's a big shark down there." The boy passes out from his injuries but he is alive, thought he will forever walk with a limp and bear the scars of this encounter.
   Below the surface Tarek and Chauncey inspect the giant clam. Tarek realizes this is like working with a chest, and draws his dagger. After a few moments he finds and severs the tendons holding the clam shut. Chauncey is then able to lift the shell up and retrieve the gem encrusted spiral horn that lays within. Back on the landing the party inspects the spiral horn and figures this is the first step in the quest to Shadankin and the Mer-queen. An inscription upon the horn reads, "Sound me over waters deep to raise the treasures that you seek." Obviously a sea voyage is in their future. It is then the decided that the shark is to be skinned and harvested for trophies.

    As dusk is setting the party returns to Modron and a cheering horde! An impromptu feast is held in honor of the Heroes defeating the "Devil" of the bay, as the giant shark was called by the locals. Knowing they have  perhaps only hours to a day at the most to stave off disaster they prepare to leave at dawn for the open sea.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Modron, gateway to the sea.

   Tarek leaned against the wall in the afternoon shade. He reveled in the sights, sounds, smells and purses of Modron. These last weeks travelling with Marcus from Tegel to the port City-state had been everything he hoped it would in both good and bad ways.
   The battle if it could be called such, with bandits just outside the village of Sunlitten had energized them all. The bandit leader turned out to be wanted and was sold for a sack of gold to an Altanian bounty hunter. The strange sea-trade affected by the "fishermen" there was a new expierence as well. The encounter in Seastrand with the Jarls chief thane Rangott, had put Tarek ill at ease. Memeories long supressed had risen and the young thief fought an innner battle to not put his friends at risk.

    Young Tyrrian found the port especially exciting, for Sashu had a dominate temple here. The Temple boasts a small coliseum from which justice is dispenced in the open air for the public to see.Much of his days and some nights have been spent there conversing with the Priests.

   Moep has gained quite the noteriety as a celebrity Chef of unique cuisine. Marcus allowed him full run of the villa's kitchens and since the first night a stream of local high ranking Merchants and Guildsmen have been clamouring to be invited for a chance to sup with Marcus and the "Heroes of Eros".

   The rest of the party have wiled away thier time in the comforts of the villa itself or roaming the shops and markets of Modron. The ability to squander coin on luxuries that a few months ago were beyond the wildest dreams of a peasant have overcome them.

   Alexander has been surprised to find how popular he has become amongst the common citizens of Tharbrain descent. It seems he has been likened to an ancient wizard called Shadankin. The live eel living inside his glass staff has been a favorite among the children. The leader of a troupe of performers has begged the young wizard to join them onstage in the part of Shadankin himself, as they tell the old stories in honor of the Tharbrian founding festival of Modron.

    Lars gains a few notable contacts through introductions from Marcus among the back alleys of Modron. An entire network of black market dealers, smugglers and fences are revealed as well as how to deal with corrupt city officials.

It seems good times are to be had by all.....

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Legend grows

  The rain was coming down in thick sheets and we could barely make out the approaching caravan. At last we rejoiced in knowing this would be a good haul. The two heavily laden merchant wagons rolled slowly along the muddy track. I took lead and sent the boys in, easily we overcame the four attendants. It turned out we had stopped ole' Marcus the Decent! "Should have paid me what I wanted last time!" remarked Karg our leader as he backhanded the smug Gish trader. I then noticed a third wagon we had missed because of the rain, it must have fallen behind the others.
"Karg, a third one approaches. They have no idea!"
"Take four lads and get it too." Karg turned to Marcus, "Everything you have will be mine this time."

   Spreading the lads out before me to better command them we walked calmly towards the oncoming wagon.
"What's the trouble?" the driver called out to us.
"Stuck in the mud, we need help." one of my boys replied.
I knew we had only minutes to catch him unaware. I hand signed the boys to break into pairs, two in the front of the wagon to get the driver and the second pair to run along either side to the rear and take anyone else quickly. I hung back just out of sight to provide support if needed.
What happened next was completely unexpected. Larno made a rude comment about the drivers companion, who I realized must have been female when his guttural laugh was cut short as he started making an odd sucking sound. It was the arrow that pierced his throat that dropped him quicker than a quail. I started to draw my blade when I saw a small dark shape emerge from under the wagon. A halfling that I thought for sure would break for the woods as he was unseen by Bors. To my surprise the little blighter drew two short swords and proceeded to hamstring then gut poor Bors! The girl next to the driver fired a crossbow at Clem which caught him in the shoulder, that was quickly followed by the driver with the biggest poleaxe I've ever seen. Those weapons are a bit slow and Clem dodged it easily. I moved around to see how Dakk was faring thinking he would kill the little bastard that killed Bors. My blood stilled as I saw Dakk face to face with a warrior draped in a scarlet tiger skin cloak. He held a magnificent jeweled hammer in one hand and a shield with a snowflake emblem in the other. The warrior moved so quickly Dakk had no chance and his skull shattered like a ripe pumpkin at festival time.
  I ran as fast as I could back to Karg and relayed what happened. Intrigued, he looked at Marcus and said, "Well you thought a few hired blades would stop me 'eh?". Karg commanded the rest of the men to him and we set ourselves to take them. Rushing back to the scene of the slaughter we were able to see Clem who was running back towards us, "To arms! they have gold and wome-!!" His last word was cut short as a stone half the size of his head smashed him face first into the mud. A shabbily dressed beggar stood over Clem, removed the stone from his corpse and held it up so the last of the rain could wash it clean. There were thirteen of us arrayed in a semi-circle facing the bandit-killers. The shabby man seemed to be the leader, backed by a red-haired wench, the wagon driver with the polearm, a cute girl with a crossbow and the Scarlet tiger Warrior. The little halfling must have run off seeing we outnumbered them. As Karg bellowed for us to charge I wondered who had fired the arrow that killed Larno.
  The Red-haired wench must have been a priestess for she threw back her cloak revealing a dark iron breastplate emblazoned with the symbol of chaos! Myself and three men found ourselves suddenly battling the very roots of the earth itself as we became entangled and unable to move. As the men attacked these obviously seasoned fighters a handful of the lads circled about to get the wagon from behind. A small white-haired elf girl appeared and sent two large ferrets to attack Karg while the Scarlet tiger warrior advanced upon him. I struggled in vain with vines and roots all the while watching as my brothers were being slain. A terrible screech caught my attention as the halfling sprang from the underside of the wagon gutting another of my fellows. The three who had made it to the rear of the wagon threw back the flaps and their expressions went pale as an arrow shot out grazing Gimm, a long slender blade pierced Harg through the heart, and then a half dozen glowing blue hand axes rendered Fargg and Gimm into fish chum!!!! That damnable Marcus was traveling with a Wizard and his retinue.
  My attention was drawn then to the halfling who had now approached the four of us. Looking over us as a butcher does a pig, his small swords still wet with the blood of our companions. He skewered poor Jeld then stole his coin purse!!! Fleth next to me began to scream and the vile halfling ended his life as well. I then heard the shabby man with the rock call out "We only need one!" I noticed he meant Karg, our obvious leader, but I had information I knew Karg would never give up. "I know where our loot is buried!" I said to the halfling that now stood before me blades dripping blood.
  Eventually I found myself with Henk and Karg being clapped in irons and walked into nearby Sunlitten. I was very lucky that the Altanian bounty hunter was in town and bargained for Karg. With my illustrious leader out of the picture I was able to get a private meeting for myself with the Wizard and his lieutenants at which I craftily bargained for my own safety. I led them to our encampment in the woods and showed them the location of the chest Karg kept the bulk of our loot in. Having fairly upheld my end of our bargain the Wizard deemed I should be let free, much to the chagrin of the wild elf-child. I think she wanted to feed me to her vermin. Bidding the group farewell I turned and sauntered off into the woods away from the Wizards party and Sunlitten.
 Since the time of my encounter I have come to find out that this band of adventurers are known as the "Heroes of Eros", and I would tell you that unless your band of cut throats outnumbers them ten to one, I would dare not cross swords with them. I tell you now that I plan to make sure I never run into them again.

This account was overheard in a dark back alley tavern.