Shieliah

Chapter 1 - A New Threat

Let the adventure begin!

In North Pit Garrison, training center for the Iron Wind, newly trained recruits were gathered to receive report from their mentor and trainer, Lieutenant Falko. Three promising yet untested recruits, Sir Cyril Amylene, Ozman Court, and Altadore, were in attendance. They learned of an “incident” on Caspire Island, a small and minimally significant isle principally known for an ancient Watchtower still in use there. A small Sheilian garrison and fort was established there years ago to safely guide trade ships towards Tela Tal’Fyn, capital city of Estor Shieliah. The Garrison hadn’t been heard from in some time. Kobolds, commonly held to be reclusive yet harmless, are known to inhabit the island and their craft had been seen in the area. Could this be a new threat to the peace Estor Shieliah has long enjoyed?

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The aspiring recruits set off on the Pearl Cutlass, a 3-masted cutter of famed repute, on a 3 day journey to the island. Shortly after arriving Ozman, Cyril, and Altadore were dispatched on a skiff to reconnoiter the island. From their skiff they witnessed the Pearl Cutlass shockingly burst into flames, sunder in two, and sink beneath the waves. In the light of the ship’s dying flames a kobold catamaran was briefly seen sailing away.

The three adventures made their way north towards the fort and garrison where they found the gate open and unbarred. Inside, carnage awaited them. 4 bodies, bloody and broken, were found surrounding the well in the center of the camp. ~12 more bodies were found similarly deceased in their bunks, some with bites taken out of them.

Upon further exploration of the fort the team found themselves in the storeroom below the Watchtower where a secret entrance was revealed. Clambering from it came a deadly Choker which the team narrowly dispatched, with both Ozman and Cyril taking grievous wounds. The secret door led to a clammy chamber in the bowels of the island directly below the garrison’s well. Here in an alcove a few more bodies were discovered, one of which distinctly unique from the others. With fine black armor unfamiliar to them it was certainly not stock used by Shieliah military. Clearly, the team had found a valuable clue to the fate of the garrison above and the loss of their ill-fated cutter. The adventures stopped to reflect on events thus far, and divvy out the loot!

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Chapter 2 - Of Kobolds and Lizard Men

With Ozman and Cyril in dire need of healing the adventurers rested for 2h. When they woke they deliberated the situation. Bereft of their boat, the Pearl Cutlass, they felt their only recourse was to continue the quest which led them here, and find some answers. This was no longer a simple scouting mission.

By early evening Ozman, Altadore, and Cyril decided to head south towards where they understood lay a Kobold settlement. They passed through trees reminiscent of home, tall robust Keora trees, resplendent in the evening sun. Soon the troupe noticed totemic carvings adorning various trees, increasing in prevalence the further south they went. Ozman opined that these were Kobold totems, shamanic carvings placed there to ward off aggressors and essentially mark the group’s passing into Kobold territory. Over time the forest gave way to dense scrub which was replaced by soggy marshland. Ozman and Altadore took the changing environment in stride. Cyril whined like a bitch. He HATES getting wet, especially his feet.

After some time Cyril and Ozman perceived… something. A noise? Something coming towards them? Altadore didn’t have a clue. For a Ranger his perception thus far leaves much to be desired. The 3 adventures entered into stealth mode and took cover. Suddenly a pair of ragged, bedraggled, half-crazed Humans burst from the brush ahead. Running at break-neck speed, with white-fear and desperation in their eyes, it was obvious they were running from something or someone. Cyril didn’t fail to notice the broken manacles on their wrists. Also, though faded and grimy, these 2 wore the same black armor as the corpse found next to Foss Binways below the watch tower. Cyril, rather fresh in his role as officer, decided to step out from cover and confront one of them. This proved to be a rather rash decision.

Battle ensued and Cyril managed to disarm one. Despite this he again took a significant affront to his Vitality before Ozman could render the foe unconscious with his Sleep spell. The foe’s partner also advanced but Cyril was once again spared certain death thanks to Altadore’s prowess with a bow. With one escapee slain and the other unconscious the team gathered around. A quick inspection of the prisoner and his deceased friend revealed both bore a cryptic and unfamiliar tattoo on their left torso.

Just as they were inspecting the bodies another sound, almost imperceptible (and certainly not heard by Altadore) was heard from the south. Looking up they noticed a middle-aged Kobold, calm in demeanor and sure in his standing, observing the group from a break in the scrub. Other Kobolds then also made their presence know, these were obviously who the prisoners were running from. The Kobold, adorned with a distinct red sash, simply nodded to the group and walked back whence he came. The group followed, with their prisoner in tow.

They soon came upon the Kobold village and were ushered into the largest hut at the center. A wizened old Kobold shaman, in guttural Common tongue, introduced himself as Stonethroat – leader of the Salt Fen Kobolds. The creature who led them here was introduced as Ironhowl, essentially captain of the guard. The adventurers shared their story with Stonethroat and had some burning questions answered. It seems that the Kobold boat that attacked the Pearl Cutlass was none other than Stonethroat’s favorite catamaran, recently stolen by a band of highly trained raiders. Stonethroat’s guards managed to capture 2 of them during the raid however the rest escaped, and his son was sadly slain in the encounter.

While the group accepts Stonethroat’s proffer of a delicious soup and locally fermented wine he further shared how the 2 prisoners came to escape. 6 Lizard men of unknown affiliation infiltrated the camp at night and brazenly set the men free. Before skulking back to their lair they were overheard advising the prisoners to head north and rendezvous with the catamaran to secure their escape. The shaman did not know the location of the rendezvous, however, he did know where the Lizard men reside. In short order a deal was agreed upon and after a much needed rest they headed further south towards a partially sunken abandoned watch tower on the coast to confront the Lizard Men and learn the location of the rendezvous. If they succeed they may yet make it home to Tela Tal’fyn.

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Chapter 5 - Force Push
The novel way to be thrown off a cliff

It was midday. Ozman, Cyril and Altadore left the hospital’s east wing after wishing Mr. Io good health and a fast recovery. The team was left with enticing clues and were incrementally piecing together some fascinating lore… yet were still flummoxed as to what to do. They convened by a fruit stand looking south off Market Spire and took a moment to review what they knew:

  1. Over the past several weeks/months there had been a large influx of money into the cities underworld
  2. Gang activity (extortion, blackmail, and bribery) continues to expand throughout the city
  3. The Navy continues to lose vessels at sea

All the evidence was leading to Bico. Is he a distant relative of the last of the Storm Crows? Mastermind of their resurgence?

To the group, confronting Bico directly seemed too bold a move at this stage of the hunt. Indeed it was felt that they would be greatly outnumbered should they try a direct approach. The option of infiltration was mute for Bico seemed to know the group’s identities, in unnerving detail. Over the course of what seemed like hours it struck them. What if there was another way into the Leaning Lady? The spires of Tela Tal’Fyn are rumoured to be riddled with hidden passage ways and covert entrances and exits. Perhaps they could access Bico’s through stealth and subterfuge? Such a tactic would certainly be keeping with the group’s inimitable style.

But where to start? How could they find such a passage? The group devised a plan whereby they would impersonate Structural Engineers and “inspect” the buildings surrounding Bico’s Bar. With luck, they may find a hidden passage. After some exceptional acting Cyril convinced the lead Archivist of the National Archives (Tela Tal Fyn Chapter), to show the team what an official City Inspection Permit looked like, which they forged forthwith.

Armed with their phoney inspection permit and some city-worker livery, of which Cyril found rather discomfiting, the group set forth to find truth in these fabled hidden passages. The first target that required “structural integrity assessment” was a small beaten-down shack just below The Leaning Lady. After knocking on the door they were greeted by an aged human who was rather nonplussed about the possibility that his house may be in danger. Unfortunately, this building was found to be detached from the rock face and so no such passage would be found here. The ploy was not in vain, however, for the gentleman knew of an old wooden door just down the walkway from his home. Perhaps this could help the group in their “inspection”?

The team found the door easily enough. Sequestered into the rock wall along a rickety rope walkway hanging off the spire wall it was large, old, and quite effectively locked. Made of fire-hardened Oak and Maple it would not be easily (or quietly) chopped down, much to Altadore’s disappointment. Ozman inspected the lock for traps and, with a LOT of luck, found a tiny hole just above the keyhole whereby a dart or something similar could be triggered to fire upon the unwary. This clearly called for someone with lock picking skills… and a set of lock picks, neither of which was in good supply. Ozman opined that his father may know where to obtain such tools and so they headed to his parents house. As they were walking down the alley Ozman noticed a rather unexpected sight. A Warmech, standing nonchalantly against the side of a house, was obviously watching the Court household. Ozman led the group past the observer and then doubled back through another entrance to his parent’s house so as not to be seen. The group advised Ozman’s parents of the Warmech outside however they had already noticed him and were not concerned. Ozman advised that such observance may not be in the family’s best interest and they should be cautious. Ozman then discussed with his father the need for lock picks and he immediately recommended the group speak to Hamath, quartermaster of the Solan Warders. Hamath was happy to oblige the prodigal son of Mr. Court and so the group eagerly returned to the large door to try their luck. And luck they would need for the group had limited experience with picking locks. But how hard could it be? Ozman felt he may be their best bet so upon finding the door again he made his first attempt. This proved to be an abysmal failure. Indeed, such was the ineptitude of his fingers there was immediately the distinct sound of another lock, likely a dead bolt, falling into place behind the door. Curses! Ozman, undeterred, made a second attempt and this time had much greater success. Alas, the door was stolidly, mockingly, heart-crushing locked tight. The team would not be gaining access to Bico’s this way.

Suddenly there came the hurried sounds of feet running and shouts of, “Their trying to get in the door!” The dice had been rolled and lady luck was off having a piss. Quickly Ozman, Cyril, and Altadore retreated across the bridge to another spire with their pursuers close behind.

The group just had time to find some cover when four slightly armoured, and familiar, men clambered down the bridge towards them. Indeed, three of the group were the same humans that had been watching them at The Brass Flask. Taking full advantage of the element of surprise Ozman and Cyril made quick work of the first of them, downing the poor sod before he could even cry out in alarm. Altadore, making excellent use of his new bow, harried the foes still on the bridge with covering fire. With the élan of a Sylvan Warder he knocked them prone with a finely placed concussion barrage, critically wounding one of them.

The largest of the 3 remaining foes attained even ground with Ozman and Cyril and moved in to engage. Cyril had other plans and summarily disarmed the brute, tossing his sword over the precipice as if it were a piece of wood. After some initial shock at the efficiency of his disarmament he brazenly grappled with Ozman instead. Locked together they tumbled to the ground. With calm desperation Ozman cast Force Push, not entirely sure it would help disengage his attacker. It did. Very well in fact. The brawler flew 20 feet through the air and over the cliff edge. His shriek of surprise changed to howls of helpless terror, which faded as he fell, and were suddenly silenced.

Meanwhile, Altadore continued to harass the remaining two attackers on the bridge, quickly sending one to an early grave. The last, grievously wounded, surrendered. With little need for coercion the prisoner told how there were only a few remaining guards in Bico’s bar. Perhaps lady luck had returned from her ablutions, for this was a great opportunity! If the back door could not be opened perhaps the direct approach was now a viable option. Indeed it would have to suffice, for they were now left with no other options.

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Chapter 6 - Besting Bico

With the muffled curses/screams of the surviving assailant fading in the distance the adventurers pressed onward. As they approached the main entrance to the Leaning Lady they slowed. A calm quickly settled over the group, like a warm blanket soothing unspoken fears, broken only by the rasping dyspnea of their adrenaline-infused lungs. Opening the tavern door they breached the threshold confidently, weapons drawn, blinking rapidly in the sudden light. In the barest of moments the Halfling barkeeper squeaked and ducked under the bar out of sight. Shortly thereafter the bustling tavern broke into turmoil as the patrons grasped the situation and made for the only exit. At the far end of the common room the Goliath doorman, proud in his loyalty and imposing in his banded mail armour, hefted his battle axe to the ready and moved to block the curtained entrance to Bico’s gambling room.

Ozman and Cyril advanced while Altadore prepared a fresh quill. “We’ve come to arrest Bico”, proclaimed Ozman. “Step aside”. The Goliath made no such move. Taking the initiative Ozman attempted to cast Sleep in hopes of avoiding what could very well be a brutal encounter. It failed to strike true. With the Goliath’s Will being more resilient than anticipated he was instead stunned for a brief moment in time. All the time in the world. Ozman opened with a biting Sneak Attack to the Goliath’s ribs, critically debriding him of his flesh, making putty of the dazed creature’s armour. Cyril, seeing an opportunity, elegantly relieved the brute of his weapon, while Altadore maimed and stunned the brute yet again. And so it went. With nary a chance to muster his own attack, the doorman quickly faltered and fell before the trio’s vicious assault.

After taking a brief moment to loot the corpse of his 140gp the group turned aside the velvet curtain and entered the gambling room. At last, after all this time, Bico stood before them. And he was not alone. Standing at his side, in resplendent crimson robes adorned with shimmering unearthly embellishments, was a Mage. He sneered in contempt and fury. With alarming speed the mage set forth a fiery assault the like of which the group had never encountered. Soon both Ozman and Cyril were aflame as firebolts screamed from the Mage’s out flung hands. Undeterred, Ozman stunned Bico and the group focused fire on the mage. Be it from steel, psionics, or arrows, cloth makes for pitiful protection and the mage’s firestorm was doused before further damage could be incurred. Shedding their sooty tattered rags Cyril and Ozman engaged Bico. Harried thusly, he retreated to the far stairwell. After a superb pounding by Altadore Bico appeared to stumble as if critically wounded. Incredibly, impossibly, something altogether unexpected took place. With an ear-splitting roar Bico the human was rendered, morphed, into Bico the giant Naga! Cyril, with his near-Ustinov repertoire of language, heard the serpent screaming in Draconic, cursing the group’s arrogance and vowing to destroy them. Ozman and Cyril leaped forward and, though landing blow after blow with their enchanted weapons, they were seemingly unable to breach the thick scaly hide of the Naga. Once again it fell to Altadore and his composite longbow to turn the tide. Round after round his volleys landed true. Rapid Shot, Focused Shot, Deadly Shot, they all found their mark and Bico took devastating damage. Finally, Cyril was able to find an opening in Bico’s hide and finished him off with a decidedly poignant thrust into the Naga’s heart. Bico, scourge of Tela Tal’fyn, was destroyed.

Cyril performed a cursory inspection of Bico’s thrashed body and despite the impressive bloody hole in his thorax one could clearly make out a large tattoo etched into his chest. The tattoo of the Storm Crows. Is this the end of them? Does the lineage end here with this beast? Has the lynch pin fallen or will the order rise anew? Criminal organizations are often replete with redundancies, no doubt another will take Bico’s place. Indeed, was Bico even at the head of the scheme? Are there others like him out there? Pondering these questions the adventurers continued on their quest and descended the staircase. There they found a dressed-up room bathed in the soft white light of a glowing magic orb encased within a single candelabra. The room was one made to look like a common bedroom however the dust belied the scene. This room had never been slept in. Ozman perused the bookshelf which quickly yielded interesting results. A hidden passageway was discovered along with 3 valuable tomes which Cyril pilfered for his own collection. Taking the glowing orb in hand the group entered the dank dark passage. Through the other side was a lab of some sort. Alchemical apparatus; alembics, flasks, acids and crystals adorned a table next to numerous sealed barrels. An ancient tome, a “recipe” book, was found on a shelf earmarked to a well-worn page. Cyril had great difficulty translating the text for it was written in Old Draconic however he was able to determine the recipe’s title, “The Rot”. There was also a desk, a chest, a bookshelf, and more glowing orbs. The chest contained 3 gold bars, a short pewter rod, a chain, and a claw grasping a gem which was deemed to harbour necrotic magic.

On the desk was a ledger. A very hefty ledger, one detailing the numerous transactions and accounts of Bico’s gang activity throughout the city. Jackpot. There are apparently 2 gangs in the city, those that bear the rings are called The Grimms and those dedicated to transport are called The Dirges. This was the evidence they needed to completely untangle the mysterious web of crime that has befallen Tela Tal’fyn. Grarder’s name was noted along with various payments for shipments of rare ingredients. Reading further there was one particular entry that seemed to recur very often. With the letters “LB” being the only identifying mark each entry detailed the transfer of large sums of money. In addition there were lists of boats, dates, and names associated with them. Aymes Finne and Pholas Rue in particular appeared to have meaning to Altadore. Lastly there were towns listed. Could these be destinations? The value of this discovery went beyond all their expectations. It must be delivered to Ennel Hansey for review.

Along the short side of the room there was another door leading to the antechamber where the vexing barred door, so unsuccessfully picked earlier by Ozman, taunted them. Ozman opened the door and retrieved the wounded, gagged assailant off the bridge. Questioning him proved fruitless, he had never been in this room before. The antechamber had 3 doors in total, that which they had entered in, the large oaken door, and a side door much more ornate than any previously seen. Ozman, finding no traps upon it, clasped the door’s delicate handle and eased it open. Within a deep red light suffused what appeared to be a lush, carpeted room rich with tapestries and murals. An inhuman voice called out, “Back sso ssssoon?” There upon a raised blood-red bed lay await a female Naga. Not so large as Bico, yet decidedly more imposing in her own right, she raised her head up from what appeared to be dinner. What appeared to be Jane! Her wickedly forked tongue tasting the air between razor sharp bloody fangs the Naga hissed angrily. With the agility innate to all serpents the bitch emitted a vile black venom at Ozman’s face, sending him into terrible darkness, blind as a bat. Battle ensued and the situation appeared dire. Ozman, sightless, was next to useless flailing his weapon in the serpent’s general direction. Cyril took grievous wounds however his blade hummed with the song of victory, Altadore filled her with holes, and before long the Naga fell at their feet. Too late, however, for poor Jane.

Mustering the last of their strength the group closed up shop, claiming the Inn for their own, and returned to Ennel Hansey to make a full report. Cyril decided to keep the alchemical recipe book for further study. And then, after a night not soon forgotten, they slept. Fitfully at first, for the ledger implied that tomorrow there was an interesting delivery scheduled. Finally, however, they allowed the deep to settle in.

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Chapter 7: On to Caldore

Chapter 7
A mist blanketed the surrounding streets as the overnight rainfall abated. Thunder rumbled far off to the west, the neighbouring county was up for a drenching. Ozman, Cyril, and Altadore reconvened in the mess for a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and kippers followed by fresh baked bread. It had been a long night. A young boy, some new initiate to the ranks, approached them and advised that Ennel Hancey would see them. Mopping up the last of the porridge the group returned to Hancey’s office. The ledger was no longer there, being poured over by the garrison’s Analytics division, however much had already been elucidated from the accounting book. It seems there were at least 3 other gangs operating in the city beyond the 2 discovered the night before. Under the auspices of the Storm Crows these gangs were but a small piece to the puzzle. As such, Hancey indicated the group’s efforts would be best focused elsewhere.

Indeed, Hansey had other news for the group. Merv, the big friendly Goliath, was offering his services to the group to set up and run the Leaning Lady, with Hancey’s blessing. He felt the Tavern was an excellent acquisition and would make a valuable base of operations for the group. More pressing, however, was word of increasing activity up the Caldoran coast; a few weeks travel North / Northwest of Estor Shieliah. Innumerable vessels were seen plying the waves. Were these shipments related to the Storm Crow accounts?

The group took their leave of the Captain and decided to run some errands on their way back to the Leaning Lady. First stop was the bank where they deposited their bounty from the previous night including the 3 gold bars. They kept the rest of their new possessions which included the Alchemical Treatise, 4 wooden tokens, the pewter rod, and the silver ring. Into his safety deposit box Cyril placed the 3 tomes he had pilfered from Bico’s library; Ember in the Foul, Empire of Thought, and The Laughing Cavern. The adventurers then split up briefly, Cyril needed to have his newly acquired spell runes etched onto his knuckles, and they reconvened at the Tavern. There they found Leafy, the perky little Halfling Bartender, sitting somewhat forlorn (and most definitely apprehensive) upon the steps of her prior place of employment. She staggered to her feet and, in breathless staccato speech, offered her services to the group; should they wish to keep the place running that is. Ozman advised that the Tavern would indeed continue to operate and he agreed that they would do well to retain her services, which greatly assuaged her fears. Visibly calmer Leafy advised that many of Bico’s gangs were still active and not yet aware of his death. Indeed, a delivery was being made later that evening. Apparently, The Dirges along with all the other gangs make scheduled weekly drop offs and tonight would be no different. The adventurers immediately began planning to intercept this shipment. To do so, however, they would need to clean up. Here their Goliath friend Merv was most helpful as he brought in 2 of his brothers to help out.

In the meantime, Ozman attempted to contact Jane’s father and advise him of his daughter’s demise. He approached the house/store just down the street from The Leaning Lady, bracing himself to relate the ghastly news. There was no answer. Using his newly honed lock-picking skills Ozman easily gained entry to the quiet establishment and, tragically, discovered Jane’s Father’s corpse upstairs, his throat slit from ear to ear. The body was at least a day old implying it must have happened at the same time Jane was abducted.

Returning to the tavern Ozman and the others continued to prepare for the night’s ambush and they arranged to have some of Hancey’s men join them in case things got out of hand. There was time to spare, however, so Cyril made for Premus Kerator, his preferred salon. If there were to be 2 battles in as many days Cyril thought he had best be prepared.

Dusk settled and the common room began to fill with regulars and newcomers alike, all unaware of the carnage that had transpired not 24h ago. It had taken Merv and his brothers considerable effort to clean the Goliath Doorman’s blood off the floor. They were none to please with that task however it paled in comparison to the morbidity of chopping up not one but two giant Naga and disposing of their remains. Merv was going to need a bonus for his efforts.

With Hansey’s men occupying a table in the common room, Cyril disguised himself as a human at the bar. Altadore casually rested by the door while Ozman retreated behind the velvet curtain and awaited the arrival of the gang. They were ready to spring the trap. Soon after nightfall a tall Elf accompanied by two humans (one an impressive Barbarian) entered the tavern. Dressed in crimson velvets and sporting a fine golden sash he walked with a swagger and arrogance only a petty thief above his station could pull off. He approached the bar preparing to do his business and Leafy gave the signal. These were the louts they were waiting for and they had no idea Bico was dead.

Leafy directed the Elf to the back room behind the curtain. Still at his ease the Elf left the humans in the common room and pushed aside the curtain. There Ozman was waiting while Cyril and Altadore followed close behind, blocking the fools exit. His eyes widened in alarm and a terrified quiver took over his legs. With his constitution failing him a wet salty puddle formed at his feet. A dull thud was heard as the punk dropped a heavy purse; his delivery for the evening. Payments made to Bico for this weeks “protection”. Needless to say the Elf talked and with little encouragement the adventures learned his weekly shipment derived from businesses in the mercantile district on the next spire over. Cyril picked up the coin purse – an impressive 200gp was within. After further questioning the Elf was determined to be one Amir Gimladin, representative of The Rubies gang, an affectation based on the ruby rings such gang members wore. Being of such low rank in Bico’s scheme Amir had little else to offer the group and so was placed in manacles and taken to North Pit Garrison by Hansey’s men. It seems there would be a reprieve from any bloodshed, for this evening at least.

With the encounter coming to an unexpectedly peaceful end the group set forth to complete their tavern clean up. Suddenly an earth sundering BOOM shook the foundations of the entire building sending dust into the air and glassware to shatter on the floor. Before anyone could utter a word a 2nd explosion could be heard further away followed by 4 more further still. Was the city under attack? Was it the Storm Crows? The adventurers rushed onto the street where they witnessed the fiery remains of Jane’s store, heavy girded beams rent in two as the foundation collapsed in on itself. Merv dashed out of The Leaning Lady yelling, “Come on!” and he raced off in the direction of The Middens. As the group followed Merv to the Barracks they traveled through chaos. Men and women screaming in all directions, cries of terror echoed down the lane, supplications to the gods going unanswered. At the Barracks they met Hancey as he directed the response efforts. Hancey looked pissed.

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