Episode 1: 1/12/08
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger/1
Haroldur, human cleric/1
Sigmund Gorn, dwarf fighter/1
Nineve Floret, human knight/1
Sarek, human wizard/1
First, some background. My associates and I are Keepers of the Grey Covenant, or Greycloaks, for the church of Wee Jas. Essentially, we are one of the tools the church uses to fight unlawful necromancy. We are custodians of the deceased, and also an investigative team that can be sent in to handle any threats to the church or its tenets. We are based in the Tower Macabre, the grand church of Wee Jas in Istivin, the capitol city of Caledon.
We were assigned to oversee the funeral of Lord Ondore, a minor noble and slumlord, quietly infamous for his oppressive dealings with the local poor. A knife found its way into his back, and now his family wants to have him raised. For that, they have to come to Wee Jas, so here we are.
The open-casket ceremony was… interesting. Nineve and Haroldur totally botched the service in front of a large crowd of nobility and the well-to-do. In their defense, there really wasn’t much flattering to say about the late Lord Ondore, and I doubt many of the mourners present were terribly interested in anything except whether he would be raised and how much they stood to inherit if he wasn’t.
In the middle of a particularly uncomfortable speech by Nineve, interlopers led by a man calling himself “The Hawk” crashed the ceremony. Some form of violent outburst was not entirely unexpected, but this group seemed to be reasonably well organized and prepared. Shouting things like “An end to Lord Ondore’s injustice!” and “Vile Lord Ondore will pay for his crimes, even in death!” (humans can be so excitable), a group of miscreants deployed smoke sticks as they moved through the now panicking crowd towards the casket. Meanwhile, the leader of the band bravely hurled haughty insults at us from the relative safety of a nearby rooftop, peppering us with arrows all the while. As we all rushed to meet the coming threat, The Hawk deployed – get this – actual hawks to dive-bomb the casket with alchemist’s fire. This stately funeral was swiftly turning into a cheesy roadside circus. Unfortunately, one of the hawks managed to catch Lord Ondore’s body on fire, so I broke off my attack and rushed to put it out. Just as the flames were extinguished, one of the ground-attack crew produced another vial of alchemist’s fire and with a lucky shot managed to ignite the corpse again. Out of water and patience, I slammed the casket closed and hoped the flames would extinguish themselves. Nineve, Sigmund, Haroldur and Sarek managed to turn the battle in our favor while I was putting out fires, and the remaining brigands beat a hasty retreat. The funeral (such that it was) was over, but the corpse of Lord Ondore was badly burned.
Naturally, the Cabal is not pleased with the condition of Lord Ondore’s body, but it can be salvaged, and at least it wasn’t stolen or completely destroyed. However, if he is raised, his “dashing good looks” certainly won’t be coming back with him!
A few days pass and we are summoned for another mission. Alastor Land, a Seeker, has been missing for 4 days. (Seekers, like Greycloaks, are another of Wee Jas’s tools. They are tasked with research and investigation for the church, however, their role is primarily academic.) We will travel by coach to Diamond Lake, a large mining town in the vicinity. From there, the Greymere Convent will provide us with their ship, The Harkness, to ferry us across the lake to the hamlet of Kolbenborg, where Alastor was conducting his research. There have been rumors of orc and goblin activity in the mountains near Kolbenborg, so we should be on our guard.
We did some research on Alastor Land and his mission before setting out: Alastor moved to Kolbenburg to follow up on another Seeker’s research. Several years ago, a seeker named Ulavant led a band of Seekers into an ancient site he believed to be from the Age of the Imperium in search of relics. They too vanished suddenly. The Imperium was a great empire that spanned the multiverse ages ago. Ruled by enigmatic beings called Spell Weavers, they linked their vast empire together through a strange amalgam of magic and science. The empire stood for millennia, holding whole worlds under its sway until centuries ago, when the Spell Weavers suddenly vanished. Their immeasurable empire collapsed in an instant of terrible destruction and chaos. However, relics from this time are occasionally found, and such relics have served to greatly advance our understanding of magic… Sounds like Alastor Land may have gotten in over his head.
The 3 day journey to Diamond Lake was pleasant. When we arrived in town, however, we found the Greymere Convent abandoned and in disarray. To make matters worse, the Harkness, which is moored at the pier, has been commandeered by a band of ruffians in the employ of Balabar Smenk, a local mine manager.
Further inspection of the Greymere Convent revealed obvious signs of violence. We discovered 3 discarded holy symbols of the church, some dubious-looking dark stains (blood, perhaps?), and someone had taken a greataxe to most of the furniture. This convent hadn’t just fallen by the wayside and slowly dissipated – it had been raided.
Armed with this knowledge, we set about discovering who had done such a thing. In short order we found the man in town to talk to was Lazare, a sage, mine owner, and renowned chessmaster. He claims to be able to answer any question – for a price. We visited Lazare in the afternoon at his nicely appointed chess parlor and found him to be well-mannered and courteous. We chatted for a bit and learned that he too has a beef with Balabar Smenk. We explained about the Harkness and our mission to get to Kolbenborg. At length, we paid his (rather steep) 20 gp fee and asked our question: Who was behind the attack on the Greymere Convent? He told us to come back in a day for our answer.
We spent the next day cleaning the Convent and putting things back in order. At the appointed time, we returned to Lazare’s for our answer. He told us that it was Kullen, Balabar Smenk’s right-hand man, who had led the attack on Greymere. We thanked him for his time and trouble, and immediately set out to report our findings to the local authorities.
We arrived at the Sheriff’s office, and, to our horror, found it to be in a terrible state. Papers were in disarray, and two lazy guards were drinking wine and playing cards (!) at the desk. The sheriff himself was sleeping off a hangover in his office. Nineve, who became rather impatient at this point, may not have made the best impression as she slammed her shield down on the card game and demanded attention. Fortunately, Haroldur managed to smooth things over before too many hackles were raised, and we reported that there had been an attack on the Greymere Convent (which was old news) and that we suspected Kullen (and therefore Balabar) was behind it. They seemed completely indifferent to these allegations of desecration and slaughter! I’m not even sure they filed a report. Realizing these people were useless and we were getting nowhere, we returned in a huff to the Greymere Convent.
As we were tidying things up, I noticed that some of the graves in the graveyard looked to have been recently disturbed. Quickly and carefully, we exhumed one of the disturbed graves to find our fears confirmed – the interred corpse was gone! We decided then that we needed to guard the graveyard at night and attempt to apprehend the culprits. I put the “grave” back in order and, in the gathering dusk, we settled down to wait.
We didn’t have to wait long. Between dusk and dark, we noticed a light bobbing into the graveyard in the distance. Soon, it split into two lights which moved off in opposite directions. Sarek and I headed for one light and Nineve, Haroldur and Sigmund took the other one. We were able to get fairly close before we were spotted by our quarry. Sarek cast a sleep spell and 2 of our 4 graverobbers instantly fell into a deep slumber. The other two sprang to attack, but I handled them easily. I glanced over at the other scuffle and saw that Haroldur and the fighters had their situation well in hand, so I tied up the sleeping survivors. The last graverobber in Haroldur’s group escaped, sprinting off into the night. In all that armor, catching him was out of the question. As Nineve shook her fist at the fleeing ne’er-do-well in frustration, he darted behind a crypt, let out a blood-curdling scream, and fell silent.
We figured he’d gotten his just desserts. After all, he was just a superstitious commoner, cavorting around in a graveyard at night. He probably got frightened by his own shadow and passed out cold! We tended to the fallen (all dead) and I was just re-checking my knots on the sleeping survivors when the real source of the fleeing brigand’s terror became known. Ghouls had sneaked up on us!
Our group was separated, Haroldur, Nineve, and Sigmund being quite a distance still from myself and Sarek. I could hear Haroldur rebuking the foul abberations and the sounds of clean-up – I mean, battle, as I sprang to slay our undead attackers. I cut one down in short order, but meanwhile the other ghoul decided to take his chances with a softer target. I turned my back on him for one second, and the next thing I knew, Sarek was paralyzed! I always forget about that! Cursing my carelessness, I called for backup as I finished off my opponent and rushed to save the helpless mage. The others showed up just in time. Haroldur rebuked the ghoul, who stopped gnawing on Sarek and stood there, awestruck, while the rest of us cut it down.
With the battle in the graveyard finally over, we took the still-sleeping prisoners and their incriminating gear (shovels, lanterns, bodybags) inside and I ran to town to fetch the sheriff. I had a tough time convincing the lazy sots in the sheriff’s office to get up and actually do their jobs. In the end, I had to drag them out of the office by their collars and threaten to wake the sheriff at home to get them to come along!
I arrived at Greymere with the useless deputies in tow. The prisoners had awoken, and were putting up a fuss and whining to be let go. We reported the events of the evening to the disinterested law enforcement officials, and handed over the graverobbers. We were assured that for such a serious crime, they would definitely spend “at least one night” in the lock-up. Talk about justice…
We finished putting things in the graveyard in order and went back to our rooms at the Able Carter Inn for the night. Sarek sent a message to the Ruby Temple relating the events so far:
“Diamond Lake church was found abandoned and in disarray.
Harkness taken by thugs.
Balabar Smenk believed to be responsible for razing.
Bodies stolen from graveyard.
The next morning, we received a reply:
“Please determine more hard information.
Four replacements to be sent in three days.
Your target is in Kolbenborg.
Diamond Lake is a secondary concern.”
Accordingly, we decided to see about securing passage across Diamond Lake. With the Harkness seemingly inaccessible, we needed to find another vessel to take us to Kolbenborg. At the docks, just down the pier from where the Harkness was moored, we found a shabby but suitable-looking vessel being tended by an ancient, spindly-looking man. Ignoring the heckling calls of the thugs on the Harkness, we entered into negotiations. The old man would take us across, but was afraid to cross the lake on his own, for some reason. Because of the ambiguity of our mission, we had originally intended to book one-way passage to Kolbenborg, take care of our business, and arrange the return trip later with a ship on the other side of the lake. However, the skinny little man flatly refused to return to Diamond Lake alone. We offered to arrange for his lodging once we reached Kolbenborg, but he was hesitant to commit to being away from Diamond Lake for an unspecified period of time, and was very concerned about becoming “stuck” on the wrong side of the lake. We told him to think about our offer, and we would give him a day or so to make up his mind.
As we walked back up the pier past the Harkness, the heckling grew more intense, and at last, Haroldur could stand it no longer. He wheeled around and informed the brigands that it was exactly this sort of attitude that had cost them our business, and we’d be paying that other ship to take us across the lake… for a whole gold piece! (One gold! Can you imagine? These country bumpkins had probably never seen so much money in their whole lives! Doubtless they’d sell their own mothers for such a paltry sum!)
At seeing the color of our coin, the thugs’ attitudes changed immediately. They were falling over themselves to allow them to take us across the lake, claiming to be a much better, stronger crew (which was almost certainly true) and asserting that the Harkness was a better, faster and more seaworthy (or maybe “lake-worthy”?) vessel.
However, the damage had been done, and Haroldur rudely informed them that they had missed their opportunity for fame and fortune. Our noses in the air, we began to leave, when one of the brigands shouted, “Let’s get ‘em and just take their bloody gold!”. Burly thugs rushed down the docks at us, and the battle was joined. Sailors on the deck of the Harkness fired crossbows and threw marlin pikes at us as the ones on the dock attacked us with belaying pins. At first, I tried to merely subdue my opponents, hitting with the flat of my blade, but when one thug lunged past me to strike at Haroldur with murderous intent, I sliced him open from stem to stern. The first casualty seemed to enrage the thugs even more, and they attacked with renewed viciousness.
Nineve and Sigmund boldly cut a path of blood through the surging mob, as Haroldur and Sarek traded fire with the brigands on the deck. For my part, I reproached myself for being so rash as to kill that first ignorant thug – death by my longsword, Aernin, Rite of Law, was too good for him – and I resolved to take a different approach. I shoved the body off the dock into the water, in disgust. To my surprise, within seconds, huge, man-eating gar surfaced from the depths and devoured the corpse! This gave me an idea. The thugs that managed to rush past Nineve and Sigmund’s deadly gauntlet were met by me, as I slammed into them and threw them off the docks and into the water. Those who couldn’t swim fast enough learned a final lesson about survival of the fittest.
However, a few did manage to swim to safety, and began to climb up onto the pier. Also, a few of the thugs on the ship leaped off the prow onto the docks (some missed and ended up in the water with the gars). The push of sailors running up the docks through Nineve and Sigmund had thinned, and it seemed the remaining thugs were bypassing the fighters and closing in on our unprotected flank – Sarek and Haroldur. Sigmund and I moved to defend the casters, and we left the indomitable Nineve to deal with the remaining threats running up the dock from the ship. In my haste, I sustained a grievous wound, but Haroldur healed me, and I returned the favor by neatly dispatching his attacker. Meanwhile, Sigmund was bravely battling two thugs, but one managed to slip past him and struck Sarek down! Sigmund and Haroldur finished off the remaining brigands and stabilized Sarek, and the melee at the quayside was finally over.