The group decided to follow up a lead that the merchant Perang had a daughter who was working in a tavern in a remote part of the harbor, and that her mother was from Inixon. The idea was to hang around the tavern for a while and let people overhear that they are planning to sail to Inixon and hoping that she would approach them about it. When they started trying to make some more obvious hints to the woman working behind the bar, she became worried and disappeared into the back rooms and said something to a big man working in the tavern.
Finan went around the tavern to see if she would come out at the back, and Alamar and Fhareza hung around on the street to keep watching the front door, while the rest returned to the ship. A while later, three men from the tavern approached Alamar and Fhareza to warn them that they are having an eye on them and don’t appreciate them them snooping around the tavern. Alamar dragged Fhareza along to do some more searching behind the tavern, where they were discovered by several men who told them they had been warned to stay away. Alamar and Fhareza made a run for it, and after shaking their pursuers returned to the ship as well.
As they had planned to rob Perang’s house and leave the port the same night, before someone came looking for them about the killings in the Lockbox, it was decided to forget about talking with the daughter and instead come up with a new plan. Finan, Ilmari, and Fhareza went to hide at the bridge connecting to Perang’s island and ambushed two of his guards as they left the house at sunset. They quickly took them back to their ship, which was already anchored nearby, and Sagari had the others put him into a locked room on the ship with one of the prisoners. He charmed the prisoner as he was waking up and told him that someone had captured them to get information about Perang’s house, but he didn’t know anything about it. The charmed prisoner was easily convinced to draw a simple map of the main floor of the mansion that they could give to their captors.
With this new information, they returned to the rocky island and broke into a locked door at the docks, that looked to have been unused for years, and was presumably leading up to the kitchen’s basements near the top of the spire. At the top of the first stairs they came to a small room that had a little bit of moonlight come in through tiny windows with iron bars, when suddenly everything became pitch black and they were attacked by small flying creatures jumping them from the ceiling. Two of them grabbed on to Sagari’s and Finan’s heads and tried to strangle them, while Haren and Ilmari were successfully fighting off two more of them in the darkness. As the creatures were getting hit by their blades, the darkness lifted and they were revealed as dark gray flying squids with long tentacles. After a dangerous fight in which darkness filled the room a second time and Sagari was quite severely beaten up, three of the creatures were killed and the last one escaped through the window into the night.
The next morning the group returned to the mansion of the pirate queen Farah, while across the harbor smoke was still rising from the burned masts and charred piers. She wasn’t too pleased with the disturbances of last night, but Kamar was dead with nothing to point towards any involvement by her or her henchmen. So she handed them a splint of bamboo wood with half of Jiub’s name of it, telling them to take it to the Lockbox where he would be released to them. When asking Farah’s servant who was escorting them back outside, they were told to simply ask any of the sailors down by the water for directions, as anyone in Tual would be able to tell them the way to the Lockbox.
After crossing half the town, they came to the end of the wooden walkways and bridges, where they were pointed to a nearby rocky island with steep cliffs on all side. Taking a rowboat across the water they arrived at a small deserted dock and climbed up shaky wooden stairs to a heavy door reinforced with bronze. On their knocking the door was opened and they presented their bamboo splint to the scruffy looking guards. After checking it with the other half they had in a small office nearby, the leader of the guard told them to take the elevator down to the prison, where another guard would take them to Jiub’s cell.
At the bottom of the elevator they found the prison to be completely silent with only a single sputtering oil lamp providing any kind of light. Taking out their own lanterns they went to go looking for the guard but came upon two prisoners who told them they had been left alone in the darkness without food and only the water they had for probably days, after they had heard screams further down in the prison. Claiming that they had just been taken to the prison only days ago for snooping around where they were not supposed to, they got the group to let them out of their cells and join them in finding out what was going on.
Deeper into the dark dungeon they came upon several dead prisoners locked in their cells, which had apparently died only recently, but without visible causes. Alamar was peeking inside one cell and tried to reach to the person on the floor with his telepathic powers, which causes the prisoner to start screaming and jump to his feet, Other cells that had not been locked were thrown open and several escaped prisoners came charging at the group with clubs and knives. Three of them were quickly disabled with a sleep spell and the other two knocked out with little trouble. Once they woke up again safely secured in cells, the group began to question them and discerned from their ramblings that the prison was in complete chaos with people fighting for their lives.
As they continued to explore the dungeon, they came upon more dead prisoners both inside cells and in the hallways, but also some that were still breathing but otherwise showed no signs of life. Eventually they arrived at a cell were a man was lying on the claw surrounded by three small creatures looking like horribly starved and diseased monkeys, running their claws over his body. Alamar tried to shot them with magic, but they quickly hurried away into the shadows outside the light of the lanterns and disappeared. In a nearby cell they found a small hole that seemed to have been dug through the wall, but none of them was inclined to try crawling into it.
When the group discovered four dead men who had been killed by blades and stripped of most of their clothing, two more of the small creatures jumped from their hiding places and tried to reach for Alamar’s and Fhareza’s lanterns. Alamar managed to pull his lantern away, but Fhareza’s was thrown to the ground, causing it to break and igniting the spilled oil. But quickly the two creatures were slain and the group discovered Jiub alive and reasonably well in a nearby cell. They told him that they wanted to sail to Inixon and that they heard he had taken ships there before, and he was more than willing to take them there in exchange for his freedom. As they continued to explore the dungeon, they heard a deep and rumbling voice calling them. Two huge hands appeared grabbing the iron bars of the small window in the door of a cell, and as Alamar raised his lantern, the large head of an ogre came into sight. The ogre claimed that his name was Hai and that he had been in a fight with some of Farah’s henchmen. Since there was nowhere for him to hide on Tual he let himself be taken to the Lockbox, and made no attempt to break out of his cell since he couldn’t leave the island port without a ship. He promised to serve the group if they could take him out of the prison and away from the island.
The group returned to the elevator but got no response when they shouted for the guards above to get them back up. Hai gave Haren a lift to reach the whole in the ceiling and he managed to scale the shaft to the top, getting the others back up after him with the elevator. They discovered that the men they had met when they first came to the Lockbox were gone, and so was the boat with which they had arrived. Even though the next island was nearby, the waters throughout Tual were infested with sharks of all sizes that were feeding on the many bodies being thrown into the harbor. But Sagari was able to use the bond his people had with the creatures of the sea to convince the shark to let him swim towards the next island without attacking him. Once he got another boat he returned to the Lockbox to ferry over the rest of the group and they quickly made their way back to their ship to plan their next move.
Haren was selected to be the captain of their new ship and Kevan was able to find a crew of 8 trustworthy sailors in the taverns of Abil, as well as a Sui warlock who wanted to accompany them on the journey.
Nolin pointed out that a group of sailors had been hanging around near their ship since shortly after they arrived and so Haren, Finan, Ilmari, went over to them to see what it was about. The sailors seemed to be interested in their ship, but appeared to have some of their concerns eased at the explanation that they just recently took the ship from some pirates. The sailors still told them that the weather seemed very fine for setting sail and that such an opportunity should not be wasted. Once the men returned to their new ship, the sailors returned to their spots on the crates and send one of them to make a report.
Nolin wasn’t able to get any useful maps showing the precise location of Inixon. While the areas of Sulay closest to the mainland were pretty well charted, the locations of islands further out in the Endless Ocean was often nothing more than ruomor and guesswork. He guessed that the best shot at getting an accurate map would be in Tual, one of the few major ports among the countless of small islands.
Day 12: 6th Day, 8th Month, Year 507
With no more business in Abil, the ship set out the next morning to sail to Tual with the goals on getting some maps or other useful information about the specific location of Inixon.
Day 13: 7th Day, 8th Month, Year 507
Another ship was spotted in the distance, but it soon disappeared without getting closer.
Day 17: 11th Day, 8th Month, Year 507
5 days after leaving Abil and 11 days after leaving Orlane, the ship arrived in the notorious pirate haven of Tual. Instead of a real island, Tual turned out to be a group of rocky spires reaching out of the surrounding sea, covered in small wooden huts and connected by precarious walkways and bridges, with disturbingly large numbers of sharks in the waters below.
After docking their ship, the group started to walk around town to search for hints regarding someone who might be able to provide them with the means to reach the mysterious island Inixon. They ended up in the Beached Whale, a large tavern build inside the hulk of an overturned cargo ship that had been thrown on the rocks in a typhoon many years ago. The first name they got was of a navigator named Juib who claimed to have to the Island several times, but he had disappeared recently, with rumours having that he’s been having some trouble with the Pirate Queen of Tual.
There was also word on the street that a pirate captain named Kamar was planning to sail to Inixon in search of a treasure, and that he had been trying for quite some time to buy something from the merchant Perang, apparently unsuccessfully.
Day 18; 12th Day, 8th Month, Year 507
The next morning, Sagari took the group to the mansion of the Pirate Queen Farah on top of one of the rocky spires and use his connections with the Sui nobility of Sulay. The well armed and disciplined guards at the mansions gate let them through into a grand entrance hall, where an elderly servant was asking about their business. Sagari told them that they wanted to talk with Farah about Jiub, and unexpectedly the servant returned a minute later, ordering them to follow deeper into the mansion. Sagari and Alamar explained that they had business with Jiub and would like to negotiate for his release. While Farah wasn’t usually open to such requests, the arrival of strangers completely unknown in Tual happened to come at a very convenient time for her. She had a problem with Captain Kamar and wanted him gone from her port, but she couldn’t afford to risk her position of neutrality and respect among the other pirates in Sulay. But if Kamar ended up dead in one of the many common fights among pirates in Tual, nobody would be batting an eye. So the Pirate Queen proposed to them that if Kamar were to be permanently gone from Tual, she would release Jiub on the condition that they take him with them and he never returns to her port. A proposal that the group was willing to consider.
While still considering what to do about Kamar, the group decided to make a visit to the mansion of Perang, to see what business the two men were having with each other. Perang had a spire all for himself, with a small dock at the base and a cargo elevator going to the house at the top. But with the elevator up and nobody in sight, they had to take the stairs all the way to the top. When they arrived at the gate of the mansion, they found three lazy thugs sitting in the sun at a small table, who never bothered to get up from their seats as the newcomers approached them. Only when they told the guards that they wanted to talk with Perang about Inixon did the largest of the trio send one of the others to get inside. A few minutes later a well dressed Fenhail man came from the house to ask them if they had been send by Kamar, and he still didn’t get the message that his master doesn’t want to trade with him. Alamar tried to explain that they had nothing to do with Kamar but were interested in the same purchase, but the servant told them that his master was not interested to sell to anyone and told them to leave. The group tried to play it tough and pointed out that those three thugs wouldn’t be able to make them, but the servant responded that they clearly had no idea whose house they had come to. Not wanting to start a fight over the this, they returned back to their ship to discuss their further plans.
They decided to try and catch Kamar at the Beached Whale that evening, with Sagari trying to charm him and make him tell what he knows about the location of Inixon. If that failed, they could still try to have Finan and Ilmari shank him in a bar fight caused by Haren. When they made it to the Beached Whale, they found Kamar with some of his pirates sitting at a table, and Alamar put on a new face and walked over to them to ask to join them for a game. They were happy to offer him a seat and Sagari got in position at a nearby table. Unfortunately his attempt to charm the pirate captain failed and he gave the signal to the others to go ahead with the more direct approach.
Haren started a fight at the bar and while everyone was distracted, Alamar used his Staff of the Adder to bite Kamar under the table. Unfortunately he only nicked his leg and didn’t manage to poison him. Finan and Ilmari moved up to stab him from behind while he was still distracted and getting up from his seat. As the whole taverns was descending into a brawl, Haren knocked out a sailor next to him and made his way over to his friends at the pirates’ table. Even after several hits from Finan and Ilmari, Kamar was still coming at them until Haren came to their help. Seeing the fierce fighting, Sagari decided to stay out of the fray but charmed two nearby sailors to go help his friends. Meanwhile Alamar was using his eldritch magic to make one of the pirates to drop dead in sheer terror. When the captain fell under the combined assault from Haren, Finan, and Ilmari, the remaining two pirates turned to make a run for the door. Kamar’s large bodyguard fell soon after and Ilmari managed to knock out the last pirate before he could get away. As he was struggling to drag the body towards the door, Haren simply threw him over his shoulders and they made their escape while Sagari filled the entire tavern room with heavy fog to cover their retreat.
They took their prisoner to a nearby alley to wake him up, and as the pirate was still coming to Ilmari used the golden Mask of Charming, this time with success. The pirate was happy to tell them that Kamar had wanted to look for a treasure on Inixon and even had a map that supposedly could take them there, but they had been sitting in Tual for weeks while he was trying to get an object from the merchant Perang that would help them get passed the dangerous reefs around the island. After he helpfully told the group that there was currently only a handful of pirates on their ship, with most of them being in various taverns around the town, Haren quickly dispatched him from behind with his axe.
Seeing an immediate opportunity, the group went straight to Kamar’s ship before any word got there about his death. While the rest of them were keeping out of the way among some crates, Alamar took on the face of the sailor they had just questioned and ran towards the ship, shouting to the pirates that their captain was in trouble and needed help. Not noticing the unknown voice on the familiar face in the dim light of a few lanterns, the leader told four of them to stay and guard the ship, while the rest of them started running towards the Beached Whale, with Alamar following behind them for a while to keep up the deception. Once they were out of sight, Haren, Finan, and Ilmari raced up the plank to the deck and killed the four pirates without any trouble. Sagari went to search the captain’s cabin and found both sea charts with the location of Inixon, as well as a treasure map and a chest with the pirates’ loot. Grabbing the maps and the chest, they turned over some barrels with lamp oil in the cargo hold of the pirate ship and set it on fire.
They returned to their own ship with their haul, with none of the pirates that had seen their faces left alive.
After resting in Orlane for a day, the group returned back to the cult hideout in the caves with the two rescued sailors Kevan and Nolin and their three goats. Haren, Alamar, and Ilmari went to set up an ambush for the sailors that were expected to arrive in the night to pick up the next shipment of slaves.
With the moonless night being pitch black outside, they waited in the underground dock until they saw the light of a lantern approaching over the water. Alamar put on the purple robes of serpent headed staff of the priest to greet the four sailors that stepped out of the boat. When the leader of the sailors asked why they didn’t hang up the lantern to find them in the dark, Alamar told him that they were busy recapturing prisoners that had escaped from their cell. Which would get done much quicker if the sailors could help them with that. The leader of the sailors was not happy about the delay but sent one of his men back to their ship to get more people to help with the hunt.
The sailor demanded to be taken to Garban and Alamar led the three men deeper into the cave where they were ambushed by Haren and Ilmari, who managed to overpower and capture them after a fierce struggle with the leader. When the boat returned with another load of sailors they repeated the same procedure and captured five of them alive, with only one dying in the fighting.
After questioning some of their prisoners, Haren felt quite certain that these men where not more victims of some kind of enchantment, but rather regular pirates who had been hired to smuggle slaves, and that they should be dealing with them accordingly. They learned that the captain of the ship waiting outside was called Satar, which wasn’t one of the names they recognized from the letter they had found on a priest’s desk.
Alamar suggested that they should be using the golden mask to charm one of the pirates to learn more information. Haren and Ilmari approved of this idea, but Haren insisted that Ilmari would be the one to use it. Unfortunately, the attempt to charm Satar failed, so Ilmari made him an offer that they would spare and release him if he cooperated with their questions. He admitted that he was working for another pirate leader named Mazdak, whom the priest Garban had been writing a letter to, and that they were delivering the slaves to another man called Tsorasz on Inixon near the pirates’ hidden base.
Haren wasn’t happy that Ilmari had promised the pirate his freedom, but was determined to honor it. But all the other pirates were still guilty of raiding ships and helping in the kidnapping of slaves and would certainly be put to death if they handed them over the the elderman in Orlane. So he decided to take it on himself to behead them. The grim work was quickly done and the bodies burned on a pyre. Satar was allowed to leave without his weapons as promised.
The next step of the plan was to capture the ship of the pirates and everyone got into their rowboat, including the sailors Kevan and Nolin and the three pack goats. When they reached the ship waiting outside the cave, Alamar shouted up to one of the remaining pirates that the caves where under attack and they had to flee immediately. When he climbed up the ladder to the deck with Haren and Ilmari, the leader of the remaining pirate asked who they were and where any of the other pirates were. With only three pirates and a big monkey on the deck, there was little need for further deception and a fight broke out immediately. More pirates and another monkey came up to join the fight from below, but they were all easily defeated. One of the pirates jumped for his life into the water, and as the fighting came to an end, Haren managed to capture one of the monkeys alive and put him into an empty fruit crate.
Day 7: 1st Day, 8th Month, Year 507
After a quick look over the ship, Kevan concluded that with the seven of them, they would be able to make it to the next port, but he didn’t want to dare sailing away from the coast without a full crew of sailors. So they set out to sail south to make a first stop in Abil to hire a crew.
Day 9: 3rd Day, 8th Month, Year 507
After three days of slow progress the ship finally made it to Abil, which turned out to be located inside an enormous sea cave. Kevan left to search the taverns for trustworthy sailors and Alamar excused himself for a few days to make some visits.
After having slain the priests, Alamar decided to put on the high priest’s robes and take his serpent staff and walk into the room behind the great doors at the end of a brightly lit corridor. The rest of the group stayed behind in side passages to observe what happens and come to aid him as soon as a battle started.
Opening the door and stepping through it, Alamar entered a chapple that also looked like a throne room, and on the raised platform on the opposite wall of the chamber were two cultists sleeping at the feet of a figure dressed in red robes and a large snake over its shoulders.
Alamar tried to impersonate the dead priest and tell his mistress that intruder are in the temple. With a gesture of her hand the two cultists rose from their cushions and the snake started to move forward, and in a moment of panic Alamar reached out with his newly developing telepathic powers. Surprised, the priestess signaled her servants to halt, and Alamar heard her speaking into his mind as well, asking who he is and why he has come to this place. Sensing that his deception had utterly failed, he ran back to the others, and seeing that the game was up, Haren the group in a charge into the main chamber.
The two cultists were easily knocked down and Alamar unleashed a telepathic attack against the priestess. Dazes from the attack, the priestess rose from her seat, revealing the tail of a great serpent instead of legs. She removed her mask, revealing a face covered in green scales, and as her robes fell away she transformed into a giant snake.
Fighting off an assault from Haren and Karim, Finan landed a deep strike with his blade and one of Ilmari’s arrows stuck deep into the neck of the great snake. Haren landed a mortal blow with his axe and continued to sever the serpent’s head.
When the two cultists awoke they told a story of having been taken from Orlane and brought to the hidden temple, where they had been brought before the priestess and became convinced to loyally serve her and the Great Serpent. Others managed to resist and were taken back to their cells, to await being taken away on a ship as slaves. Those who died during their imprisonment were being fed to crocodiles.
Picking up the golden mask, the group returned to loot the treasure room and the priest’s quarters. They freed all the cultists they had locked into their sleeping rooms and found them in an equal state to the first two they had questioned. A bit confused and appalled by what had happened to their fellow villagers who had resisted the power of the priestess. Though of the cultists that had been guarding the main entranace to the hidden temple there was no trace to be found.
After resting from their ordeal, the group loaded the treasures taken from the temple on the pack goats kept in the stables and led the freed cultists back to Orlane. Kamir inspected the golden mask for magic, which it clearly was holding, and Alamar and Haren got into a long fight over whether they could risk using it and falling under a curse. The possibilities that the masters of the golden priestess could send their minions and use powerful magic to recover the mask was also worrying. Alamar was insistent that the mask might come very useful in the future if they were to attempt infiltrating another serpent temple, and with the robe and staff taken from the priest he had a perfect disguise.
Despite Alamar’s protests to keep their possession of the mask a secret, Haren and Finan went to the witch Remi to learn more about it’s power. After studying it and performing various divinations, Remi told them that the mask had strong influence over the weak minded. Even someone without any mental powers could use it to bend the minds of others, but its powers would be much greater for someone who already possesses magical abilities of this kind. Alamar saw great potential in such an object, but Haren was not trusting him with such power.
As the sun was setting, the group visited the elderman of Orlane, who was crowded by freed cultists who were telling him of what had happened to them. The elderman inquired if there was anything they could do to find the people who were still missing, and one of the former cultists mentioned that the ship that was taking away the slaves always came during the darkness of the night of the new moon. The next one of which would be two days from now. A plan was made to ambush the crew of the ship when it arrived at the secret temple and then take their ship to reach the stronghold of the cult’s leaders on Inixon. Taking the helmsman of the ship prisoner and forcing him to take him there was not considered reliable enough, and so a freed cultists named Kevan volunteered to steer the ship for them, as he had been a sailor in his youth, and more than eager to help the people who had freed them from the cult’s control to save the still missing slaves.
Haren decided to check on the smith of Orlane who had reacted to their questions so violently when they first investigated the village. One of the smith’s sons answered the door and recommended that they don’t disturb his father, as he had always been an ill-tempered man and had finally started to calm down today. A quick visit to the temple revealed that the corpses from the battle had been cleared away during the two days they had been gone and the captured cultists set free. As they returned to the inn for the night they discovered that their prisoners there were gone as well, and somehow nobody had seen the innkeeper and his lackeys since then.
During the night, Alamar snuck from his bed to quietly take the mask from Haren’s pack. He put it on to study its magical energies for several hours, and found it to be just as the witch had told them, with no signs of dark or malicious powers. He managed to put the mask back into its place unnoticed and returned to his bed with nobody being the wiser.
The party decided to use their limited funds to store up on healing potions and then set out with a boat in the late morning to travel down the river to the abandoned town by the sea.
By the evening they reached the coast and left their boat behind when the first roofs appeared in the distance and continued to the ruins on foot. Finan and Ilmari scouted ahead and found some other boats dragged up the shore next to a collapsed bridge and an overgrown road leading up to a nearby hill. They came upon a group of cultists that had set up a guard post at the edge of the ruins but didn’t put much effort into actually guarding.
The group decided to simply circle around the cultists and follow an old path up to the top of the hill. The path led to a series of caves that housed a giant bee hive, that the people of the town used for harvesting honey. They tried not to disturb the giant bees as they descended into the caves, but Ilmari slipped on a slope covered in honey and landed in a honeycomb wall, which greatly agitated the bees. The giant bees were easily fought off, but Ilmari got stung and fell to the ground paralyzed.
Once Ilmari had recovered and night had fallen outside, the group continued to an old wooden door that had been mostly covered up in wax and honey. Haren managed to break through the door with relatively little noise and they discovered a passage leading into a larger network of tunnels. The only people they encountered awake were two people busy in a large central cave serving as a kitchen and three guards watching the main entrance, none of which had taken notice of their presence inside the tunnels. Finan and Ilmari killed two acolyte in their beds without raising a noise, and the door to a room with sleeping cultists was quietly blocked by several sacks of grain from a nearby store room.
Eventually their luck ran out and Ilmari peeked inside another bunk room where two cultists happened to be awake. They didn’t buy his story that he was a new arrival from Orlane and looking for kitchen, so the group had no choice but rush in and overpower the four residents. With the acolyte in the next room already dead, still no alarm appeared to be raised, and Alamar learned from one of the captives that their priests were all residing in the lower tunnels.
Taking a dark and apparently rarely used passage in the deeper parts of the tunnels into the lower caves, the group crossed a creaking bridge over an underground pool and where attacked by two giant eels. Ilmari and Karim were badly bitten and starting to bleed out, but Haren and Finan managed to kill one of the eels and drive the other back into the dark depths of the pool.
The walkway led to a small underground harbor that connected to the sea, which had been covered up by a mud coated tarp to hide it from ships getting close to the shore. Down there they discovered a group of prisoners who told them of a mute priestess with a golden mask who had turned the other captives into loyal followers. All of them had resisted her magical gaze and they had heard the cultists talking that they would be taken away by a ship to serve as slaves. They freed the prisoners and told them to take the boats hidden in the cave and travel back up the nearby river to return to Orlane.
They continued to explore the lower tunnels and found the rooms of the priests. Fearing that their assault would be discovered soon, Haren and Alamar started to search one of the rooms and woke up one of the priests, but with only his mace in reach he stood little chance against the two of them. At the same time Finan and Ilmari sneaked into the room of another priest trying to assassinate him in his sleep. He woke up just long enough to reach for his serpent staff next to his bed before the two of them shanked him to death. Searching the quarters of the priests, they discovered a recently written and unsent letter addressed to a captain, which revealed that the missing captives were being taken to a place called Inixon and that the priests were afraid that the raiding of ships near their hidden temple would draw the wrath of the local smuggling gangs.
After having defeated the priest, the party searched the rest of the temple and discovered two prisoners in the basement guarded by a large snake.
The two had been ambushed in the inn two days ago and had been kept in the temple since then.
They looked out the windows to see that the remaining acolyte had gathered more cultists in the temple grounds that were guarding the only two doors with two large guard beasts. They came up with a plan to open the main doors of the temple to lure the cultists inside the main hall, where the rogues and warlock could shot at them from a balcony at the upper level while Haren and Karim were keeping them from getting deeper inside the temple. (And Tarani guarded the prisoners.)
As the cultists rushed inside the first ones went down in the arrows and magic raining down on them. But they kept coming and piled up in a heap at Haren’s feet. Alerted by the noise of fighting, the cultists guarding the back door came running around the building and the two guard beasts rushed through the door just as the last survivor of the first group made it out. One of the best tore into Karim and had him collapse on the floor, so Alamar jumped down from the balcony to save him. In the end, the last three cultists standing turned around to retreat, but Haren managed to knock one of them out before he made it through the temple gates.
The surviving cultists were all tied up and taken to a store room and Alamar decided to interrogate the two acolytes, who confirmed earlier information that the headquarters of the cult were located at an abandoned town where the river ran into the sea, and that they had been capturing and converting villagers and travelers for the last two months.
They decided to interrogate the deranged priest in the main temple room that was still covered in corpses. But before they could get him to tell them anything, he simply used his magic to command them to release him. They untied his hands and he made a run for the door, but wasn’t able to make it to safety before Ilmari came to his senses and shot a blast of ice after him. Unfortunately he had not been able to heal himself while he was tied up and so died on the steps of the temple.
The remaining prisoners were taken to the basement and the cages of the guard beasts and given food and water while the party returned to the elderman’s house to report the events at the temple. The plan was made to spend the night at the empty house of Brian and to take a boat down the river the following day.
Inixon is a D&D 5th Edition campaign based on the classic adventures I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God, and X1 The Isle of Dread. This record covers the first two sessions.
For over a hundred years, a seemingly unending series of typhoons and thunderstorms has been plaguing the lands of Kaendor, slowly but inevitably weathering away the old Bronze Age civilizations with floods and landslides. Fields are turning into marshes, bridges and mountain paths are being destroyed and never rebuild, and whole cities are slowly crumbling into the sea. Towns and cities are being deserted as people flee into the vast forests of the hinterland to survive on wild plant and animals and roads are being blocked by fallen trees and quickly overgrown by the always encroaching wilds. Villages become isolated and depending only on themselves, and what trade still exist is limited to the coasts and rivers that are reachable by ships.
The wilds of Kaendor are littered with the ruins of cities, but scholars know that many of these have laid empty for thousands of years, and that their own civilizations are not the first ones to fade from the face of the world. Floods and landslides reveal previously hidden vaults and tombs beneath the empty cities, drawing to them scavengers who are searching for the riches left behind when their owners abandoned their homes.
Day 1 (11th Day, 7th Month, Year 507): The Inn
Tarani and Haren were visiting to the small town Orlane, searching for a man named Brian who has not been responding to any messages for the past weeks. They are joined by Finan who was send by his boss to find the whereabouts of a shipment of poisons that never got delivered by a merchant from Orlane.
As they reached the town and asked some locals for the home of the elderman, they discovered many of the people to be weary of strangers and a mood of uncertainty being over the town. Even the elderman was not very forthcoming with any information and merely let them know that people have been leaving in search for a better life elsewhere for many years. That some seemingly left over night without telling anyone is certainly strange, but people have been quiet about their business for some time now.
The inn made a shady first impression, with a suspicious inkeeper and unfriendly locals quietly sitting with their drinks in the common room. Haren decided to get beds for the night anyway.
As they explored further through the village they visited a small trading post for traveling merchants, where they got another offer for beds for the night. Which was an option to consider, but they decided to decline.
Tarani searched the northern parts of the town for magic and discovered traces of abjuration coming from a path leading into the nearby woods. Tarani and Haren came upon the hut of an old woman named Remi who described herself as a herbalist and gave them advice to be careful around the inn, as the innkeeper is hanging around with other unpleasant people like the smith and the carpenter, and shady looking strangers that have come to the town a while back.
In the east part of the city, Finan discovered that the store of the merchant he was looking for had burned down and none of the locals seemed to know anything about his whereabouts. The smith next door turned out to be an excessively angry man who threatened them with violence if they don’t leave him alone immediately. The carpenter across the road had his workshop in complete chaos and seemed barely able to follow the conversation with the strangers asking him questions about the town.
They headed over to Brian’s house near the temple and found it empty, but it appeared like Brian’s family had left almost everything behind.
Clearly something was very wrong with this town, and it seemed to have something to do with the Inn. So Haren and Tarani decided to return there and stay for the night, while Finan set himself up in an abandoned house across the road to monitor the comings and going throughout the night. Late in the night, three men came down the road from the eastern part of the town and went into the darkened inn, so Finan decided to follow them inside.
Haren and Tarani had been expecting trouble, but Haren had a very difficult time staying awake. Five men were bursting into their room with clubs, but Tarani took half of them out immediately with a sleep spell. Finan heard the fighting from the common room and ran into a woman in armor in the hallway. The woman’s mace hit him with magical power and injured him badly, and the innkeeper and the cook came from their rooms to join in the fight. Haren was able to overwhelm the remaining villagers in the room and with Tarani’s magic attacked killed the woman. The innkeeper was subdued quickly and the cook was caught trying to climb out a window.
While Haren and Tarani were tying up the unconscious men, Finan found a box of poisons in the kitchen and searched the upper floor, where he discovered the smuggler Nazim in a locked room, who told him he was captured by the innkeeper’s men a week ago, and all his goods stolen.
Tarani used her ability to detect magic on the tied up attackers and discovered than all but one of them were under some kind of enchantment.
The Storm Priest Karim was found trapped in another room, having been captured by the people in the inn the night before. He joined the others in their attempt to find out what is going on in Orlane.
They took the one man that showed no signs of magic to another room and began questioning him. He told them that the other people who were with him were members of a cult that worships the Great Serpent. He was taken from his bed in the inn two months ago and taken down the river in a boat to a hidden underground lair. There he was kept with other villagers until they were brought before a priestess with a golden mask. Some stopped to fight and argue when she started them in the eyes, while those who continued to resist were dragged back to their cells. He decided that it would be better to play along, but he does not have any of the fanatical devotion to the priestess and her deity like the others. Getting a free room, food, and drink simply for kidnapping some villagers now and then seemed like a pretty good deal to him, but now that the game is up he just wants to be on his way and never get close to Orlane again. Whenever they captured travelers in the inn, they would keep them there until a dark night and then take them in a boat across the lake to the temple on the other side of town. He assumes they are taken down the river and to the priestess later, but he doesn’t known and never asked.
Tarani and Haren got Remi to come to the inn and take a look at the captured men. She confirmed Tarani’s suspicion that they were under some kind of spell, but a regular charm spell would not be able to control that many people for such a long time. Some much more powerful magic must be behind it.
They then explored the basements of the inn and discovered a hidden meeting room that connected to a small series of tunnels where they were attacked by several snake, one of which dropped from the ceiling on Finan and almost managed to strangle him. They came to a small underground shrine with a bronze serpent idol and Haren threw his cloak over it before Tarani checked to see that there was no magic on it.
It was decided that they would rest in the inn for the rest of the night to regain their full strength and go talk with the elderman the next day. The smuggler Nazim asked if he could go and seek shelter at the trading post, as he didn’t want to get involved in whatever dangerous business they were planning.
Day 2 (12th Day, 7th Month, Year 507): The Temple
As they went to the house of the elderman, some of the villagers were watching them from the distance, but it was impossible to tell if this was any different from the reactions they had gotten the day before. When they knocked on the door, Tarani checked the elderman for magic but found that he wasn’t affected by it. They told him that some kind of cult was behind the recent disappearances and that the innkeeper was part of it. The elderman told them that the armored woman was one of the two priestess of the local temple of the Three Keepers of Fields, House, and Herds, which supported the information they got that the people were being taken to the temple.
Hoping that nobody at the temple would recognize them, the group walked up the hill and straight through the gates into the main temple hall. The acolyte they encountered eyed them suspiciously and a present servant quietly disappeared through a door soon after their arrival. While the others claimed to be praying at the altar, Finan snuck out to take a look around the temple grounds. He found the gardener who told him to stop snooping around and either return inside the temple or leave. Tarani quickly excused herself to the outhouse to prepare herself to search for magic in the temple and the people who were present, and found the acolyte to be enchanted as well. She let the others know that they were leaving and outside the temple building they decided to split up and attempt to silently take out the gardener and search his shed. Haren and Tarani went around the back, but they discovered that the gardener had disappeared when they ran back into Finan and Karim. As they searched the shed they discovered the gardeners room and the cages for two large arags.
Assuming the gardener went inside the temple building through a small side door, they decided to try to follow and came into a small store room just as the gardener was coming back with three other men. A fight broke out at the side door, just as the acolyte came around the corner of the building with more men. The group all rushed inside and killed and knocked out the men. Finan quickly bolted the door shut behind them and then raced through the temple building to get to the main temple doors which he blocked from the inside as well. Three more man with clubs were quickly defeated and the group headed up the stairs to the upper level.
Quickly searching through the rooms, the found the other priest and another acolyte who were waiting for them with protective magic in place. Haren and Finan rushed in and quickly knocked out the acolyte, while Tarani and Karim hurled magic at the priest. Haran ordered the priest to get down to the floor, but the priest told him “No, you all get to the floor!” with a command spell. Haren went down, but the others continued their assault. Haran quickly rose back to his feet and fought with the priest, deflecting his magically charged mace with his shield and knocking him out as well.
I returned to university last year and right now it doesn’t look like classes will resume until may at the earliest. So I really can’t pass up on the opportunity to get a new online campaign off the ground.
And this is as good a time as any to finally make use of my old idea to combine I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God, and X1 The Isle of Dread into one big B/X campaign. Combining my three favorite modules is really quite easy. The Forbidden City replaces the ruins in the volcano on the Isle of Dread, and the Reptile God is an emissary of the Dwellers trying to establish a foothold on the mainland.
All of this will be set in my Green Sun setting, which I recently decided to give a little update to make it more interesting and conductive to adventures. I finally overcame my aversion to post-apocalyptic settings and decided to take inspirations from the Bronze Age collapse. The world of Kaendor is now set in the days after a century long period of increasing storms and rainfall, that has caused much of the farmland to become too swampy for local crops and many of the coastal cities to be lost to erosion. There are now only a dozen city states left with most people living scattered in small villages in the forests, where they can get by with hunting, fishing, and foresting.
The old trade networks that enabled the large scale production of bronze have collapsed, but fortunately old bronze can be recycled very easily. When the first cities were abandoned by their people, nobody saw how great the scarcity of bronze would become, and much of it was left behind for being too heavy. Now these forgotten stockpiles of bronze ingots are worth their weight in silver and a draw for many treasure hunters. But buildings that have collapsed in typhoons or landslides also uncovered large numbers of previously hidden vaults and tombs.
In the jungles of the south, the ancient serpentmen are sensing the fall of the younger civilizations, and many of them remember their old dreams of their return to power and reclaiming the lands of Kaendor for themselves. Currently there seems to be little chance of that ever happening again, but that doesn’t stop ambitious snake sorcerers from sending their minions north.
And deep beneath the sea, the primordial aquatic horrors and the fishmen are watching the events in the world above.
And given the source material, I need to have an NPC cook named Zeb. :p
Three months back I wrote about giving quest givers some kind of existing relationship to the PCs to make adventures more personal and to create a stronger sense of the party having their own place in the world, and also make it feel more plausible and natural that of all the people they get picked to deal with the situation. Hiring some random dangerous vagabonds to deal with very sensitive matters always feels forced to me, and even more so that said vagabonds can make a career out of these jobs.
What I didn’t really adress back then however, was what exactly the PCs do as their day jobs. How did they become qualified to deal with roaming monsters, hauntings by spirits, and demonic artifacts? Since the Kaendor setting is designed from the ground up to provide opportunity for encounters with spirits and supernatural forces, and I deliberately avoided adding military conflicts or endemic banditry, I feel that the setting is really lending itself to to parties that are well equipped to deal with spirits, demons, and curses. While a campaign about adventurers who make their bread and butter with exterminating bandits and goblins, with the occasional evil wizard or giant thrown in, does feel implausible to me beyond the point that I am happy to ignore, a group of specialists who are called upon when their services are needed, does feel more believable. It’s not even much of a stretch that they might go on extended “patrols” beyond their home turf now and then, to see if more remote settlements might be in need of their services.
Armed travellers looking for opportunities to make money through violence shouldn’t really look that different from the bandits and raiders they are regularly fighting to most villagers. But groups of clerics and druids with their retinues of guardians present a completely different picture from demons or other supernatural horrors. It feels much more justified that people would welcome them with relief and approach them to plead for their help.
It does actually change very little when it comes to how adventures are prepared and played out. Just avoid having regular bandits, monstrous raiders, or normal wild animals as threats. The rest would be very much the same. But it’s the context that changes.