The Quiet Sea: The Calm Before The Storm

The Elven Village
from the diary of Haroun ibn Hamad

I write this as we debate a momentous decision. The Elves of the High City hold our ship and our crew hostage and claim the orb in our possession.

The Wood Elves revealed themselves after the fight with the ghouls. There was an initial misunderstanding as to our intentions, as they accused us of nefarious designs on an Elf Village not far from where we had inadvertantly led a horde of undead. After we had apologized and explained ourselves, the Wood Elves were much more amenable.

They offered that an Elder from the village was very learned in the arcane arts and might be of assistance in understanding the orb which we had bound to us. Zap and I formed the delegation to meet with this Elven lady.

I confess that our recent experience with betrayal had me jumping at shadows, and I was persuaded that this frail lady before us would betray us, or be assassinated, or simply die unexpectedly. She did not, and was able to provide some useful guidance. As a matter of fact, a great Elven hero, from before the waters, resided nearby and was responsible for locking the orb away initially. She suggested that we explore his tomb nearby which may contain additional information on our quest.

She was also able to research a spell which would permit us to contain the power of the orb. The downside was that she would have to uncover the orb to cast the spell, and that the spell would take a minute to cast.

We and the Elven scout troop, together with the village guards, took steps to minimize potential casualties while the mage cast the spell. Elven artisans erected a rough palisade while Zap and Svin cast protective spells on the sage. We also contacted the villagers and warned them to stay indoors while the scouts and the guards were deployed to block access points to the village. The rest of us assured bodyguard duty to the mage.

I will not go into the detail of the battle. The undead do not employ strategy, and simply attempted to overwhelm us by numbers. The palisade was very effective in limiting the threat. Suffice to say, the spell was cast, the orb was locked and the undead were neutralized.

Our battle in arms with the Wood Elves fostered a level of trust between us. The Wood Elves admitted that they felt that the High Elves had gone too far in their all-out war and that they had been assisting the orcs in their resistance against the High Elves. They also believe something else is afoot: the High Elf King has not been seen the war started, and the Crown Prince disappeared shortly thereafter. The General is third in line to the throne. The Wood Elves lay much of the blame for the barbarity of the war at his feet.

My friends and I got a sense of the ends to which the General was willing to prosecute the war shortly afterwards. We received a message from the General in which he advised that he had had us followed into the woods and had learned that we had recovered the orb. He also advised that he had taken our ship and crew hostage in exchange for the orb, which he hopes will enable him to finally smash the resistance to High Elf rule. As I mentioned in the opening, we are currently debating how to free our ship and crew while minimizing the potential loss of life.

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The Temple
Excerpts from the journal of Haroun ibn Hamad

Having realized we were being followed, we debated whether we should take action to reveal our pursuers. Ultimately, we decided to let sleeping dogs lie. My suspicion was that our “guide” had been tasked with keeping a surreptitious eye on us even after we parted ways. Nonetheless, I could not shake the vague impression that if the wood elves had been infiltrated to the same extent as the government of Eladris, we were putting ourselves at risk of an ambush should we successfully locate the Orb.

We penetrated further into the heart of the forest. Given that our best efforts at stealth were frankly dismal, we managed to attract the attention of every type of undead for leagues around. We fought spectres, wights, zombies, zombie ogres, ghouls, skeletons, a skeletal horse and a banshee. This experience has convinced me of the necessity to forego my bulky armour in favour of something lighter which will facilitate scouting and occasional discretion. Luckily, we came across some studded leather (but I get ahead of myself), and I will request it from my comrades as my share of the spoils of our adventure.

In any event, we came upon a temple surrounded by zombies at the heart of the woods. Unwilling to engage in needless battle (at least one thing we learned from our foray), we distracted some of the zombies and attempted to slip past them into the temple. The plan was a partial success: while we separated some of the zombies from the herd, our attempt at discretion was not successful. In the ensuing battle, I wish to commend Del for clever use of the environment: he climbed a tree which permitted him to rain quarrels on the zombies without retaliation. It brings to mind the aphorism of Tacitus, that well-known tactician, that the most successful battle is the one that is not fought.

The temple contained an orb similar to the one on Eladris and bearing the same inscription. Seeing the orb triggered a flash for me as I recalled Argyll intoning some eldritch invocation prior to releasing magical energy from one of his stones. The effect of his words were to dim the orb, which seemed to de-power or de-activate the artifact, at least temporarily. The orb was protected by some sort of undead spellcaster, however, Svin’s invocation of his patron goddess (augmented by some spellcasting on my part) made short work of the guardian.

We thus took possession of the orb, which turned out to be a rather cumbersome treasure. The orb was the source of the green fog, which became centred on us, and the undead of the forest are drawn to the orb, so that very soon we had an army of undead congregating just out of our reach.

We performed some preliminary experiments on the orb, and this is what we have concluded to date:

  • the orb radiates extremely strong magic, and seems an artifact of great evil;
  • we do not seem to be able to control the undead with the orb (though a more skilful student of the arcane arts may be able to);
  • the orb seems resistant to physical attacks, even augmented with divine power. i did not try my alchemical compounds on it, but I suspect it would be fruitless to do so;
  • undead seem to be attracted to the orb: so long as we keep it covered, the undead will simply follow us, but they swarm if we uncover it;
  • repeating the invocation used by Argyll does not seem to have any effect.

In short, the orb left us in a rather inconvenient position. For obvious reasons, guests who bring hordes of undead with them are considered persona non grata in any civilized (and uncivilized) gathering. We can’t take the orb with us, we can’t destroy it, and we can’t leave it unprotected.

Our experimentation had the unfortunate side effect of causing us to be attacked by a cadre of entreprising ghouls. It was at that point that our mysterious follower(s) revealed him-(them-)selves. Apparently, a rather large squad of wood elves, led by none other than the captain himself, had been following us. My candle is sputtering so I must interrupt this chronicle…I will continue at a later date.

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Braaaaaains
Svin murdered my horse

I caught up with the group just before they reached the border of the deep forest. In my absence, Svin had slaughtered an unarmed prisoner and my brother had adopted a goblin. I had better not get sick again, as these guys are ridiculous without me.

At the edge of the forest, Zap released the goblin and Svin gave him some money to assuage his guilt – or was he trying to buy back our respect? Whatever. I don’t trust that guy, or his little ball that he plays with all the time. It’s super creepy.

The woods were far too thick for us to bring our horses in, so we had to let them loose. I had started to get quite attached to mine, so while I did understand why we had to leave them, I was still pretty upset.

We decided that, since the wood elves were liable to be suspicious of people sneaking around in their forest, we should probably make ourselves obvious. I led a fun rendition of some of my favourite woodsy-folksy tunes, but nobody wanted to join in. Dad would have sung along. I miss him.

Eventually the wood elves found us (dozens of them, and all pointing arrows at our heads!), and we explained our mission (such as it is) to the guy in charge. He seemed pretty underwhelmed by our prospects of success, and treated us pretty cavalierly, in my opinion. His lieutenant, however, seemed like a pretty cool guy. I know that he would have helped us out more if his boss hadn’t been such a stinker.

We were told of an orb (very similar to the one that Argyle had) that lies in the centre of the deep forest that, according to common knowledge, has caused for a great many undead creatures to rise. The wood elves have been plagued with these creatures for a very long time, but none of the raiding parties that have been sent to deal with the orb have returned home. We declared our intention to seek out this orb (although what we will do when we get to it is beyond me), and he basically told us that it was suicide but that we were free to go should we want to. His lieutenant seemed to want to help us, but he was quickly silenced. Maybe he’ll find a way to send support. I hope so. I have a feeling that we’re going to need it.

We asked them about their relationship with the high-elves from the city, but they got all weird and cagey about it. They flat-out refuse to talk about it. I figure that there’s some story there, and I hope that we learn it someday. Despite their lack of hospitality and no social skills, my gut trusts these guys more than I do the high elves. I can’t explain it, but that’s how I feel.

So wood-elf boss man finally agreed to send us with a guide so at least we wouldn’t get lost running around in circles. We walked through the woods with this guy for a few days and got into some pretty epic fights. He was a bit useless and refused to teach me any songs (bet he was tone-deaf anyway), but at least he led us in the right direction despite the fact that the place was super foggy. I’m glad that I was finally able to perfect the “Rhea’s-super-fantastic-awesome-hut” spell, so we were able to have a safe place to spend the night. At one point, the guide refused to continue on and he left us.

These woods were filled with branch-creatures, walking trees and crazy undead zombie-soul-sucking dudes. Zap liked to stand back and cast his spells (some of which were actually pretty cool) from a great distance, letting me take the hits. Mom would freak out if she had seen that! But you know what? I’m finding that I’m actually pretty good at fighting, and I’m really enjoying it. And I’ve noticed that Del always seems to have my back. I have a lot of fun hanging out with him. He’s the only real friend that I have anymore (other than my dork brother – who spends all his time with Haroun now anyway).

During our last fight, we had to deal with the regular cohort of zombies and whytes (although one zombie was an orc, which was pretty awesome until he killed Owl), but there was also a skeleton horse which was the COOLEST THING EVER. I wanted him for my own so badly. I’m sure that I could have tamed him. I know that I could have, if only I had been given the chance. But he was violently taken from me by that horrible little man. I hate him. I hate him so much. Del tried to make me feel better by letting me watch him steal 10gp from Zap to pay him back for allowing Owl to die, which did help a bit. Actually, it helped a lot.

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Journey to the Deep Forest
Excerpts from the journal of Haroun ibn Hamad

Upon our return to the Elven capital, we met with General Thaltius concerning our successful mission. My initial misgivings concerning our involvement in one side of this war were exacerbated by his rather categorical claim that peace would only be achieved with the destruction of every orc settlement and the driving of the orcs into the sea. I log a note here for future reference that General Thaltius claimed that the orcs had gotten more organized about 70 years ago. It may not be relevant, but such a fact is at the very least curious.

General Thaltius agreed to provide us information concerning our principal mission of locating Argyll and disrupting whatever his mad scheme is. He advised that the Elven archives had turned up a symbol identical to one of those found by us in the subterranean font where Argyll put his scheme into motion. The symbol was on a parchment discovered on a dead orc at the edge of the Deep Forest, where the wild elves dwell. Svin saw evidence in this that the orcs are in league with Argyll, but I confess that I am must less certain.

The initial symbol was on the font that was preventing passage across the seas. Why? Did some wise council in the past decree the seas impassible to ensure that Heradrin could not invade the islands? If so, the symbol would be a propitious one, not an ominous one. In the alternative, the font itself could be a dormant source of power for the Haredrin cult itself, awaiting activation by some sufficiently foul deed performed in its presence. We are also unaware as to the reasons the symbol was carried by the orc messager. Was it a warning? A symbol of identification? Without more information, our speculations are like a snake endlessly swallowing it own tail.

We decided to head to the Deep Forest, hoping that the wild elves might lend useful counsel. Our hosts furnished us with mounts, principally due to the fortunate intercession by Dalrium, an Elven noblewoman who seems to have some pull with the General. It is early to tell, but she might be more amenable to less drastic resolutions to the conflict that the general.

The Deep Forest is about two weeks away from the Elven stronghold. We encountered a hungry ogre on the way, but successfully dispatched him without excessive difficulty. I was happy to have the opportunity to essay some of the combat moves I was practicing on the ship. Although more training is necessary, I am optimistic about the progress shown.

We bivouaced that evening at an Elven camp just outside of the road. They were pleasant enough, but I retired early knowing that we yet have a long road to travel.

The next day, we came upon an orcish village that had been devastated by the Elven army. For once, my vocabulary fails me, but devastated is not a sufficiently accurate description. We found piles of bodies, not only orcish warriors, but women, children and the elderly. As we left the village, we were set upon by what appeared to be a scouting party of orcs who claimed to have been following us for some time. The combat itself was not difficult, and we took two prisoners, a goblin and an orc.

We separated the prisoners for interrogation, with Zap interrogating the goblin and Svin the orc. I initially let the others proceed, as I had received a nasty bite from one of the wargs and wished to rest, but events soon required my intervention. Svin’s interrogation seemed less like an interrogation than an angry berating. I argued that the methods seemed counterproductive, but Svin insisted that he knew what he was doing. In the moment, I had assumed that he was goading the orc on purpose in the hopes that he would let slip something he would not otherwise disclose, but subsequent events proved me wrong.

The discussion turned to what to do with the prisoners, with Svin angrily pushing for summary execution of the orc he had been interrogating. Svin was unwilling to entertain any other option, and capped the evening by purporting to pass judgment on the orc (presumably for the sins of his race) and murdering him on the spot. At that moment, I failed to intervene. I should have intervened and I don’t simply mean that I should have argued more forcefully for an alternative. I have misjudged Svin. I will keep a closer eye on him in the future to ensure that there are no repeats of this event.

The goblin is a prisoner for now, and Zap has undertaken to free him once we reach the border of the Deep Forest. I agree that this is the most prudent course of action. I will write more once we meet with the wild elves of Deep Forest.

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Orcs Ho!

After two weeks at sea, the crew of the Blue Horizon is relieved to finally see land. The Silver City, capitol of the Elven Island of Feyanor, shines as a beacon, guiding them to shore. Soon however, the crew notices two groups of ships converging on them.

Much smaller, but greater in numbers, the two groups of ships quickly engage in combat. Identifying them as Elves from the capitol and Orc raiders from the shore, the groups quickly begin their assault on one another. The Orcs seem to take the upper hand, sinking several of the Elves, despite losses on their own side. Encouraged by the captain of the nearest Elven ship to head to the capitol, the Blue Horizon sets sail, sneaking in the occasional Fireball from its cannon towards the remaining Orc fleet. With the remaining Elven ships disabled, the Orcs pursue the crew towards the capitol, only to have its formidable magic defenses cut them down. The crew of the Blue Horizon manage to capture a few of the surviving Orcs, while also saving any remaining Elves, before continuing on to the Silver City.

Once there, they are greeted by the High General, Thaltius. After a few formalities, the group is taken to the castle, to speak more of the Orcs, and possible diplomatic relations. Quickly, they learn that the King, Maenus, has fallen ill, and that Thaltius has taken charge of the kingdom in his stead. They are then filled in on the details of the war with the Orcs, and how it has been waging on for quite some time. During the meeting, a messenger notifies the general that the Orcs have just taken over a mine outside of the city. The mine, which is used to gather Silvermass, the material in which the majority of the city is constructed of, is critical for the Elves continues prosperity. Short on man power, the General asks the group if they may investigate and take back the mine from any occupying Orcs. Hoping this will help push diplomatic relations forward, the group agrees, and soon set out with a small accompaniment of Elves.

They are greeted by several Orcs and Goblins which have now taken the mine. Pushing through their numbers the group descended to the lower levels. Working through narrow corridors and choke points, the group is finally confronted by a local Orc chieftan, Grom. After a final battle, the group manages to down him, much to the surprise and joy of the accompanying Elves.

Before leaving, the group surveys the mine for any remaining forces. Upon close inspection, they find that all the equipment used in the mine seems to be made for Orc use…

Treasure Found:

1 Emerald valued at 1000gp
3 Aquamarines valued at 500gp each
A pouch with 500gp

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Ambushed Students of the Sea

The day started with a knock on the door.

Rather than the usual token visit from an officer of the royal guard asking how things were going, entering were Wilshon, several guards, a knight by the name of Sisarkal, a surly looking eye-patched dwarf called Harbret … and the queen herself, Veralise Aristra!

A charming, witty, and incredibly beautiful monarch, she sat down and calmly explained to the PCs why they had been luxuriously detained:

With a kingdom already bordering on panic and delight from the sudden calming of the sea, the crown could not allow the PCs to tell people of Argyll’s betrayal and the discovery of some new evil. The PCs, should they be inclined (she wasn’t really giving much of a choice in the matter, but she is the polite type) were to set sail and travel the ocean and island nations to both act as ambassadors and discover what happened to them in the last thousand years, as well as try and track down Argyll and discover what or who Haredrin was.

But first, they needed to learn HOW to survive on board a sailing ship, and this is where Captain Harbret, leader of their expedition, came to become both friend and grueling taskmaster to the team.

And so they trained. And trained. And trained some more. For several weeks, they climbed and swam, and cooked, and familiarized themselves with navigation and ship protocol. All onboard their drydocked ship: The Blue Horizon, a magnificent boat with sleek lines and a single very powerful magical Fireball cannon that could act as ranged artillery from both sides of the ship.

Near-exhausted at the end, and with no time to rest, they were confronted by an ambush from several cultists, a devil, some hired thugs, and Sisarkal himself … a man who had been charged with guarding the ship construction, but instead turned on them just as Argyll did.

The PCs very nearly did not survive, but in the end proved not only victorious over the wave after wave of enemies, but even ended up capturing one of the cultists for questioning later. Although it would be some time before the PCs allow themselves to get off the boat again … apparently, a double doze of betrayal can make one paranoid.


POST GAME:

The cultist that you captured alive and gave to the royal guard finally DID talk. Apparently, while he was indeed a bit of a crazed masochist, he finally broke once the guard tracked down his family and threatened to torture THEM instead. While Wilshon is an honorable man, he’s gotten sick and tired of having people betray him and started bending a few rules to get answers. He fully intends to atone for a few days for being forced into this position. He didn’t actually tell the PCs how he extracted the info, and has been stubborn in his refusal to talk about it.

This is what you learned:

Sisarkal (I may have misspelled that … don’t have my notes on me) was not actually a cultist, but had accepted a pretty sizeable bribe to provide the cultists with information. And as he got in deeper and deeper, he went from informant to enforcer.

The cultists had no idea who the party was until the day the queen spoke to them, with Sisarkal hovering nearby. Once they discovered the true intent of the voyage, they made plans to take the whole party out. They waited until the PCs were near exhausted from the intense training, and then used Sisarkal to reduce the number of guards that evening, and then quietly killed the rest.

And then attempted to use overwhelming force to take out both the PCs and the ship: a ton of cultists, a summoned devil, three hired thugs, and finally, Sisarkal and a cult leader. They figured this would be more than enough to take care of business.

They were wrong. Good Guys 1, Bad Guys 0.

Two weeks later, in a grand ceremony attended by thousands in the capital’s port, the Blue Horizon rolled off it’s dry dock and into the ocean where it has now set sail …


Treasure:

- 200 gold pieces
- 1 potion of water breathing
- 1 potion of necrotic resistance
- 1 potion of greater healing
- 4 scrolls of the 1st level spell Identify. The spell has been reshaped so as to require amethysts rather than pearls.
- 4 amethysts worth 100gp each

- 20 additional common healing potions
- An uncommon non-attuning charm for each PC that would prevent them from sinking should they drop into a body of water. Essentially, a magic life preserver.

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Betrayal at Kalor!

All great epics start with humble beginnings. Life learning experiences and the unfortunate knowledge that even trusted and respected officials may have ulterior motives. This is such a tale.

Like many such stories, the adventurers first gathered at an inn. Hired as mercenary bodyguards, each had their own reason for being there. Truth for knowledge, a desire to make one’s mark in the world, insatiable curiosity, or the simple desire for gold. In the end, all would lead to a years’ long tumultuous friendship that would lead to the greatest adventure any of them would ever experience.

But they were not alone. Several other young men and women also gathered there. Some were fellow sellswords, while others were members of the royal guard.

Two notable names would lead the group: Malcolm, the dour yet competent lieutenant of the royal guard, and Argyll, the charismatic and genial royal archivist tasked to retrieve some mysterious artifact from within the storm-surged former capital of Kalor.

Their trek would lead them east. Kobold bandits did attempt to waylay the group, but they were rapidly dispatched. Regrettably, one of the guards would not survive the ambush.

As they approached the old capital, they would experience first hand the terrible magic that animated the oceans: a veritable hurricane of a storm would batter the adventurers as they approached their destination: the main temple to Pelor in the center of the vast metropolis. Unfortunately, what they would not know until the had nearly reached their destination is that a different race had moved in and called Kalor home: the Kuo-Toa.

Fighting and then running as hundreds of fish-men converged on them, three more would lose their lives before they were able to seek refuge within the temple and bar the heavy doors. Within, they finally found the secret trapdoor that would lead them underground and into a nest of skeletal undead.

With the team split to search the series of tunnels for the artifact, the adventurers would meet but very efficiently deal with a small wave of skeletons. As they would head the other to way to meet up with the rest of the party, they would discover yet more skeletons (and the unfortunate bodies of more of their group) lying defeated.

Finally, they would come upon a small enclosed room at the end of a corridor. At the opposite end, they would spot a brightly yellow glowing orb, with Argyll eying it, Malcolm and the two remaining guards at his back. Two tiny crystals had also been placed on the orb’s pedestal.

With a mischievous grin, Argyll would utter a few short words, and a magical barrier sprung up between the six adventurers and Argyll’s group. Malcolm and the guards drew their blades in alarm, but it was then that Argyll’s true nature was revealed. With the kind of grace and speed only found in rarest of warriors, Argyll’s staff would split in half, from which two bright magical rapiers would emerge. The two guards would die within seconds, and while Malcolm put up a valiant fight, the adventurers would be forced to watch helplessly as Malcolm would be robbed of his life as well.

Behind the adventurers, many many more skeletons would attempt to rush them, but before the party could get overwhelmed, all skeletons would fall to dust and bones on the ground. Argyll had pulled the orb from it’s pedestal, uttered a few words, and the orb’s intense light would dim to a mere glow. With a bow and a word of thanks for cake, he would disappear into a magic portal, leaving the adventurers trapped in a temple with no way out.

Fortunately, the magic crystal powering the magical barrier would not be strong enough to last, and after two days of pacing and searching, the crystal would shatter and the magic would dissipate. They would analyse the pedestal to see the words inscribed: “May the evil of Haredrin never return!”. Mysterious words that would remain a mystery over the next few months.

When they emerged from the temple, they would be shocked to discover bright sun under a blue sky, with the waves lapping gently along the coast for the first time in a thousand years! With a confused Wilshon, captain of the royal guard, patrolling the city, wondering what the hell happened.


POST-ADVENTURE:

Following the disappearance of Argyll and the story provided by the player characters, all the PCs were detained by Wilshon, the captain of the royal guard, while they investigated their claims. Argyll was never found, and all scrying attempts failed, but the royal guard did find mostly burned remains of scrolls and diaries making reference to the Haredrin Knights, a cult they believe, among his possessions. They had also found a few those tiny crystals, but none of them had any spells locked within. Sadly, and much to the chagrin of the court mages, none of the spell scrolls used to create these interesting new spells have been found. The royal guard believes there may be more cult members around, but they have no clue as to who they might be.

Unfortunately for the PCs, while the royal guard no longer believes they are responsible for what happened, and the royal guard DID raid your homes to be sure (sorry, guys), they have not allowed you to leave Taris for fear of you spreading the word of what happened and causing a panic among a justifiably jittery people. After all, the seas did calm after a thousand years. They have allowed you to send letters of correspondence to your families to ensure them you are alright, but they have read all of them.

You have all been kept under guard in a lush home near the palace. The royal guard keeps watch on you 24/7. And while you are certainly not lacking in comfort (REALLY not … some of you may be getting fat), you do feel yourselves become a little stir crazy.

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