Friday, 28 May 2010

4ed Campaign -- Session 50 -- Sunday 23rd May 2010

In which the Cannith brothers are not entirely denied their prize (albeit at the cost of a spot of family trouble), an old ranger reaches the limit of his patience, and a grizzly pact comes to light in Ashenport...

Roster (Party Level 10th)
Berend - Dwarven Fighter
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard
Finial - Half-elf Paladin
Jonas - Human Rogue/Ranger

In the aftermath of the fight, the party takes the time to search out the rest of the forge and comes across Jelia in a hidden workshop, sweating over a grinding wheel, sharpening some kind of thin dagger or other implement which Jonas takes great delight in pilfering. Faced once again with the party, she tries to dissuade them from destroying the forge entirely, and ultimately succeeds.

Elsewhere, the company discovers the hobgoblin barracks, a filthy pit of a room which has been all-but abandoned, and a larger workshop, where a giant mechanical golem appears to be under construction, a wooden scaffold leaning drunkenly against its body. Elumai helps herself to a few of the choicer gears and mechanisms from the 20-foot monster, and recovers a handful of residuum which, by all appearances, was bing used as lubricant for the more delicate workings.

Outside, they find that the Cannith brothers have already arrived, and in fact have made camp at the bottom of the scree slope. Tendrils of smoke curl from thin metal chimneys atop both of the wagons, but there is no other sign of the brothers other than their butlers, roasting a siazble joint of pork on an open camp fire.

Jonas sneaks down to the wagons and lays low, helping himself to strips of meat while the others make good their escape, traversing along the top of the slope towards the hidden spot where they tethered their animals. Their exit is far from stealthy, and although one of the butlers seems to notice them, he makes no effort to tell his employer, so Jonas settles in for the night, eager to see what will transpire between the brothers and their cousin.

Come morning, the Cannith brothers and their entourage pick their way comically up the slope and venture into the complex, followed by Jonas. They shriek excitedly over every find they make (or at least, whatever has been left in one piece in the wake of the party's adventures there), eventually making their way down to the forge itself, where they wail in dismay at finding Calmachia in pieces.

Jelia, when she appears, receives the full brunt of Parcival's outrage, his chest pumped to bursting as he lambasts her for stealing his research. His cousin is unimpressed, and assures him that Haestus's work was much more complete -- and much more dangerous -- than they gave it credit for. Jonas reveals himself at this point, long enough to taunt the Cannith's about their failure, but in the end leaves them to their own devices.

The party returns to the Shortham's corral, where they spend the rest of the day recuperating. The following morning, only one of the Canniths returns -- Theruk -- who immediately holds conference with Banks and the Very Unroyal Brigade. Before departing, Shortham delivers a short speech, the assembled throng looking nervously at each-other in the face of this apparently uncharacteristic display.

"There's villainy and thievery in my caravan, and I won't stand for it! Should this go on, we'll root out these wrong-doers, leave 'em high and handsome out here in the wilderness, and I can assure you, as I stand here this-mornin', that we won't hear hide, nor hair, o'them again!"
-- Shortham Banks, to those under his charge in the wilderness between Crow's Atoll and Emerandes

Several suspicious looks fall upon the party at this, but only Jonas knows exactly what is being talked about. Unable to help himself, he even tries to persuade the Very Unroyal guard who has been stationed with the Canniths to let him in to see Theruk, but the man on duty is implacable and refuses him entry.

At last the caravan continues on its way. The two days onward to its next stop proceed uneventfully except for the weather, which takes a nasty turn for the worse, the sky clogging with inky clouds promising rain. By the time Shortham has made camp, they've made good on it.

The party learns that Banks's son, Dorian, and two of the Very Unroyals will be taking a wagon of exotic goods (spices and fishing nets, by the looks) for sale at Ashenport's trade fair. Finial, who finds himself in dire need of a blacksmith to forge a new weapon he has in mind, persuades his friends that the diversion could be useful. However, the trip along muddy, sodden roads, which become gradually more disinclined to let the wagon pass as the day wears on, even pulled by two of Wilder's best horses, is one to forget (as are Dorian's lude advances towards Elumai).

Eventually the travellers emerge from a thick copse of trees onto the edge of a tall cliff-face. To the east, the vast expanse of the Windward Sea, a great inland lake known for its oceanic moods, is all-but hidden by a wall of low-lying fog and the curtain of rain falling ruler-straight from the clouds above. Perched on its shores in the shadow of the cliff lies Ashenport, which from up here is little more than a carpet of badly-shingled rooves like a shell over the town.

A winding path leads down into a town which seems to have all but hidden itself from the storm. Faded banners flap too and fro in the storm, some of them streaming wildly into the wind, and the main road, leading from the town gate towards some sort of fenced-off grove in the town square, is a river of mud. The rain beats mercilessly on the rooves all around, gushing out of unkempt guttering and splattering down into the road from every corner.

A passing local, huddled against the downpour, points them in the direction of the Smooth Sailing Inn, and leaving Dorian to stable the horses and secure the wagon, the company goes in. It's welcoming enough, and seems to be made of three smaller buildings from which the walls have been haphazardly knocked out. The barman, a fat, bejoweled and stubbly local, is unhelpful, but points Elumai in the direction of one of the waiters, who tells her that the trade fair looks like it's going to be a bit of a bust, with the weather keeping almost everyone away. He does point at a corner table, however, where a few other patrons -- clearly out-of-towners, by their clothes -- sit having a few quiet drinks.

While the others mingle, Jonas decides to scout the town. He finds not a soul in the streets. The blacksmith, absent from the cold, disused forge they found earlier, is still nowhere to befound. An old woman, peering at Jonas through a crack in her front door, tells him the blacksmith is "on his rounds", and seems unwilling to elaborate ("What am I, his mother?"). Down at the docks, the fishing boats rock crazily in the swells, untended and not likely to survive the night.

Back at the inn, the party has struck up conversation with three other merchants: Terza, from the Court of Coin, here to establish more permanent contracts with the town council; Matthias Creel, a member of the Free Traders' Association and no friend of the Court; and Jandal, a jeweler from across the Windward Sea hoping to make a name for himself at the fair. Talk revolves pretty much around one subject: the fact that they've probably had a wasted trip. As Berend, with ease, drinks Matthias under the table, life in the tavern winds down for the night.

But not for long. As the company retire to their rooms, a great, swelling song begins to fill the air. The sound of the rain seems to recede to make way for it, a high, keening lament, the sound of a mother pining for her lost children, the sound of men gasping for their lives as they drown at sea, the sound of a tsunami smashing onto a crowded shore... it fills the heads of everyone in the party, most of whom shake it off, except for Berend, who joins the other merchants as they emerge from their rooms, and begin to walk downstairs, intent on getting out of the inn and finding the sea.

Between them, however, his friends have no trouble rousing Berend from his stupour, and they corral the other enthralled folks -- none of the townsfolk seem to be affected -- into the basement of the inn, sealing them safely inside. It's about that time when Jonas, who had decided to sequester himself on the roof of the inn to observe the town at night, hears the sounds of a dozen doors opening, and the townsfolk pour into the street, their faces blank as they slosh through the mud in their nightclothes. Curious, he decides to follow.

They walk to the shoreline and out onto the jetties. Behind him, the rest of the party are desperately waking as many of them as they can, but the man in lead simply steps off the jetty into disappears beneath the foamy waters. Jonas jumps in after him, and watches him float serenely down to the bottom with a smile on his face. Under the water, the song is suddenly ten times as loud as in the air, but Jonas resists its allure.

Above, the company has succeeded in rousing everyone else. They huddle around the adventurers, clutching at each-other in the pouring rain. Finial, however, is suddenly unimpressed. The processing of "waking" them from their stupour didn't ring entirely true with him, almost as if this was an act in which they were being made the fools. He confronts the nearest local, a woman whose sodden black hair clings to her face, and rousing the voice of Bahamut, demands to know the truth.

Suddenly afraid, she throws herself at his feet, begging to be saved from "the call". In her rantings, she says that the town has made promises which must be kept in order for their good fortune to continue, promises which require a sacrifice of blood in order to be sealed. Her act is a good one, but Finial's instincts tell him otherwise, and he kicks the woman away. She hisses at him from the pebbly shore: "Interlopers! Heathens! Your fate will be the same!"

The townspeople scatter like cockroaches into the murk, but before the party can follow, a wet, threatening groan cuts through the atmosphere, and they turn to see several tall figures lurching from the breakers at the water's edge. Dragging thick seaweed behind them, the creatures are a disgusting mix of fish and man, with thick scaly skin and pale white torso's, black eyes staring from the sides of their heads, and mouths like cracks in their faces, full of needle-like teeth.

The aberrations heave themselves onto the beach, and the party prepares to defend itself...

1 comment:

Wedge said...

Another Dungeon adventure finds its way into the campaign... this one a little more interesting than the straight dungeon crawl of the Forbidden Forge. As usual, the actions of the party have thrown the chronology of the module out a little bit, but that's just the way we like it.