Friday, May 29, 2015

Far Isles Session #1 - Urchins of Death

Following rumors of great wealth to be found in the newly revealed Far Isles, a motley assortment of would be explorers and adventurers assembled on the Fogbound Quays in the city of Xin; Orm the aquamancer, Azimer the calmonari, Casper the midget vivimancer (riding on the shoulders of his henchman, Conch the calmonari), Gormus the specialist/thief (with Vilius the cleric) and Fiona the musketeer. After a look around to get their bearings, Gormus suggested heading for the biggest ship they could see and look for work. This they did, moving down the dock toward a black vessel with red sails called "The Serpents Revenge". It was still early morning and few were out and about, but Casper was elected to call out to one of the sailors on deck and see if there was any work to be had. Once the sailor figured out they were looking for work as adventurers, not sailors, he headed off to find the captain. He proved to be a big man, Thorgrim the Fat; over 6 feet tall, built like a barrel, and dressed in the flashiest of clothing. Yes, said Throgrim, he was indeed headed out to the Far Isles and in need of a replacement landing crew. He invited the party aboard, but refused to disclose his destination until they agreed on terms and the party had been hired. Thorgrim didn't want them refusing his offer and then jumping ship with top secret information. After some back and forth, they settled on a 60/40 split of treasure between the ship and the party, and the understanding they might all have to sail the ship for him if he didn't make enough gold to pay his crew!

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Thorgrim explained that on his previous (and first) trip out, he'd discovered a ring of small rocky islets, like the rim of an old volcano or crater. In one they'd found a large sea cave, so he sent his landing crew in to check it out. No one came back, except for the party's magic user, who floated out to the ship the next day. Obviously drowned, but clutching two fists full of gold and silver coin. So there's treasure in there; the party will just have to better than the last group if they want it.

Deal struck, Thorgrim finished repair and resupply of "The Serpents Revenge", and weighed anchor the next morning to sail for "The Anchorage". This was a small island with a sheltered cove where the exploring ships tended to gather and use as a home base. There they could go about their work without going back to the mainland and dealing with customs officials, greedy rulers, lawmen and others who might put a crimp on the exploring and plundering business. Three days of fair wind and they arrived at the small island, to find two other exploration vessels ("Divine Providence" and "Pearl of Heaven") and a pair of merchants at anchor. Quizzing Thorgrim, the party found out the island is pretty much deserted except for Bellaphrone the Incantatrix [a creepy witch who lived in the woods behind the beach, and had been on the island when the first ships arrived] and Nilex of Velas [a whiskey priest currently passed out beneath a pine tree on the strand]. There was some interest in visiting the merchants and Bellaphrone, but a check of coin purses revealed a need for gold. So at Throgrim’s suggestion, they stayed the night and then shipped out for the caves.

The rocky ring proved to be just a day's sail away, roughly south. Thorgrim guided "The Serpents Revenge" around the perimeter the ring until he reached the southernmost isles, then sailed inside the rocks and dropped anchor. He pointed out a small shingle beach, over which loomed the cave entrance. "There it is. Get at it" he said, and called for the jolly boat to be lowered and the party transshipped to the beach. Shortly, they were standing on the narrow strip on shingle; torches and gun matches were lit and the party formed up to enter the cave. A short distance through a tunnel lead into a large cave of rough black stone with wet shingle covering the floor. Keeping to the wall, they circled the room, discovering three other exits along the way. Heading into the middle of the room, the party found numerous small tide pools filled with crabs, starfish, and other sea life. Which prompted a check for the high water mark, thankfully found only a few inches above floor level.

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While most of the party played around in the tide pools, Gormus was shocked to see an odd figure emerge from the nearest tunnel. A creature with the body of a man, naked and cut up badly, with a large starfish in place of his head. At Gormus’ shout, everyone turned to face the visitor, whose starfish head now turned its arms towards the party, seemingly ‘looking’ at them. Conch and Azimer used their aquatic telepathy to send impressions of peace and ‘we mean no harm’, then tried speaking to the creature in both Common and Calmonari. Neither of which the creature seemed to understand, but it now decided it did not like these intruders and made moves to rush the party. Orm, Fiona, and Gormus fired their pistols and muskets in a blast of fire, smoke and deafening noise, but only Orm’s pistol shot connected. Conch used an old fashioned crossbow and also scored a hit, while Azimer’s javelin went wide. This onslaught caused the thing the reel back down the tunnel, only to be finished off by another of Azmiers’ javelins. Orm and Azimer went over to examine the body, and the aquamancer performed a quick dissection to see what the thing looked like inside. It proved to be all man from the neck down, and starfish above. Very curious.
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Stepping over the body, the party formed up again to see from whence it came. The tunnel lead roughly south and Fiona noted almost at once that they were starting to descend. This caused some anxious moments as they observed the line of slime and scummy rock that marked the tide line rising higher and higher on the wall of the tunnel.  They relaxed a little when it seemed to level out at about the 2 foot mark. The tunnel soon dumped them in another chamber, this one notable mostly for the mess of invertebrates (starfish, sea cucumbers, sea slugs and worms) flopping and squirming across the shingle. This chamber, like the last, had three more exits, all roughly at cardinal points of the compass. Checking the southern exit, the party found it ended abruptly at the edge of a chasm, which was wide at this point but narrowed to a small crack to the left and right. Azmier dropped a stone to see if there was water below, but the sound of rock on rock came back after an estimated fall of 50-80 feet.

Still worried about being trapped by the tide, the party decided to look for dryer ground. Checking the eastern exit, they entered another chamber. This one was occupied, by seated circle of little rubbery looking humanoids with conical shells on their backs. Azimer and Conch again sent out their telepathic ‘good vibrations’, and several of the little men turned to look at them with large black eyes.  The party could now see the shell-men were smashing open shellfish with crude stone and driftwood tools, that being the only thing they appeared to have apart from some sort of harness woven out of kelp and seaweed. The little men seemed unconcerned with the party’s presence, and went back to smashing and eating. Orm, Azimer, and Casper/Conch decided to carefully circle around the group to see what was at the other end of the chamber; Fiona, Gormus and Vilius stayed to guard the rear. At the other end of the chamber were two more exits, leading north and south. The south one narrowed, and just as the quartet was discussing whether they should enter, a trio of the little shell-men wandered out, glanced at them, and then passed by the join their compatriots in the circle. Figuring they would find nothing but more shell-men, the four rejoined the rearguard. After some discussion, the party decided to backtrack to the entry chamber to explore the other exits rather than risk getting trapped deep in the cave by the tide. They did explore one addition chamber on the way back, empty but for a odd phenomena. Fiona discovered anything she said would echo back in some strange, unknown tongue. The other tried it out as well (Gormus singing a raunchy sea ditty), and discovered their words repeated in what seemed to be the same strange language. Fiona did a loop of the room, looking for anything unusual in or on the walls which could explain the echo, but found nothing.

Backtracking to the entry chamber, the party chose the largest opening in the east wall, which led into a strange almost star shaped chamber. The floor here was covered in black sand, which made Orm nervous. So he and Azimer went back to haul the body of the starfish-man down to the chamber and pitched it into the room, suspecting a trap. But nothing happened, so in the party headed.  Some geological cataclysm in the past had left long fissures in the rock. In several of these the part found evidence of old campfires, most many years old, but one more recent (in the last few weeks). Vilius found a long dead skeleton in one, its skull smashed against the rock, while in another Azmier discovered a newly dug hole with rotten leather sacks and a few coppers scattered around it (which she pocketed). Done in this room, the party headed further into the caves, leaving via a tunnel on the western wall. It suddenly descended sharply, and Vilius slipped on the slick sand and went flying off into the darkness before coming to a bloody and painful stop against a rough rock wall. The grumbling cleric climbed back up the slope to the rest of the party. Who now followed his path much more carefully into another large room. Little distinguished his room, apart from more black sand and a scattering of larger bones, both aquatic and mammalian.
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Pushing on, they headed south down a long tunnel (and explored a dead end branch, where Orm searched for secret doors, but found nothing) before finally entering another room with a black sand floor. This room was also occupied, by five large sea urchins clustered around and on top of something on the floor. Orm walked over to have a closer look, and used his trident to try pushing some of the critters out of the way. They didn’t like that, and a volley of urchin needles followed. Orm was hit and wisely backed away, and the rest of the party one more responded with gunfire and other missile weapons. Alas, few hits were scored, and another volley of needles dropped Orm, dying, to the floor. Fiona and Gormus were also scratched by needles, and promptly feel into a deep slumber. Vilius rushed over to cast a cure spell on Orm to bring him back from deaths door. Azimer and Casper/Conch turned their attention on the urchins. Capser summoned a spore cloud which incapacitated three of the urchins, while Azmier caught one in her throwing net.  The last one retreated down another tunnel, leaving the remaining four to be butchered by the victors. Gormus, now awake, cut one open and inside found a small black pearl-like gem. Which led to a flurry of additional cutting and pearl collection from the other three. They also now saw that the urchin had been clustered over a dead human body, relatively fresh and dressed as an adventurer. The party also noted a pool of fresh water in one corner, from which the very weak Orm drank in the hopes of it being some mystical cure. Alas, it was just cool fresh water.

Deciding to not push their luck any further, and with at least some treasure to show for their efforts, the party picked up the dead adventurer and headed back to the beach. Signaling the ship, the jolly boat soon approached and the expedition was soon back on board “The Serpents Revenge”. There Throgrim identified the body as one of the previous landing crew, and praised the party for recovering some treasure. But when will they be going back for more?

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