Ruins of Adventure

Episode XVII: The Auction

Expecting Aeryn to catch up with them later, the party headed down to the docks. Poryphrys Cadorna did not greet them personally – he was too busy overseeing the unloading of a sizable freighter that had just come in from Hillsfar. Then, to the sound of drums and fifes, an entire company of halberdiers in the Cadorna family’s livery marched off the ship and formed for inspection at the docks. With Cadorna and Tarask in the lead, mounted on Calishite stallions, the troops marched through New Phlan and into the slums while the startled citizens peeked out of doorways and windows to watch them pass. The party followed the Cadorna troops to the Textile House they themselves had just cleared – and watched as the halberdiers set up a defense of the structure. Cadorna clearly intended to re-occupy his family home.

Disconcerted and unsure what this signified, the party returned to Nat Wyler’s Bell to discuss the matter. There they met Aeryn, looking unhappy and missing most of her signature equipment. As usual, she refused to discuss it, and after a few token attempts to get her to do so, the talk then turned to what to do with Stutterer’s information. The party decided to disguise themselves (as Orc slave dealers with Aeryn as their slave) and attend the auction in Podol Plaza themselves – in hopes of catching a glimpse of “The Boss” or at least denying him this powerful artifact. While Aeryn re-equipped herself and Ginallath prepared his spells, Wulf asked Nat Wyler to spread the word to the Phlan Thieves’ Guild that the party would appreciate their help. He was soon contacted by a member of the “Welcomers”, who explained that for a mere 2,000 GP the thieves would be delighted to help out. Wulf handed over the cash and waited.

The party then visited the Bivant household to obtain the services of Dak and Rosko to “pad out” their slave stock and provide a little extra muscle. Though not particularly happy to be chained up again, the two adventurers decided that this little jaunt was more exciting than their new jobs as House Bivant bodyguards, and accepted.

The Welcomers did follow through on their deal – sort of. That evening, as the party did a final check of their equipment before heading into the Old City, Wolf returned to his room to find six complete sets of Orc clothing – still stained with the blood of their original owners. After cleaning them up a little, the party put on their new disguises and set off. Their disguises seemed to be working, as they met no trouble with raiding monsters in the Slums, and soon found themselves rubbing shoulders with the great and near-great of Phlan’s evil population in Podol Plaza.

After a few hours of watching the auctions, enjoying rat-on-a-stick, fried dough, and sour orcish beer, and listening for rumours, the party saw the auctioneer bringing out a case which held the item they had heard so much about – a slender balck wand with a hooked claw on the end. Ginallath (as the party’s mage and the only fluent speaker of Orcish among them) asked to approach and examine the wand, and after casting identify discovered it was a wand of fear. A black-bearded sorcerer in leathers named Garwin, was also examining the item, and his eyes narrowed in challenge as he spoke to Ginallath.

The bidding then began with the mysterious sorcerer, an armored Orc chieftain, and the party (bidding through Ginallath) as the top bidders. The item eventually went to the mage, for 4500 GP. With their shot at the item gone and no obvious sign of The Boss, Wolf and Inigo decided to follow Garwin and see what they could find out. Unfortunately, their efforts were less than subtle and Garwin rounded on them after only a few blocks in challenge. As Inigo, spoiling for a fight, drew his blades, Garwin ordered his unseen associate “Budwar” to “break his arms.” A massive ogre stepped out of an alleyway and caught Inigo up in his powerful grip as Wolf drew steel and attacked.

Sensing trouble, the rest of the party quickly handed weapons to their “slaves” and rushed in the direction Wulf and Inigo had gone. Inigo was having no luck with the ogre who, as ordered, was busily trying to twist his limbs off. Wulf turned to attack Garwin, but after a quick charm spell from the sorcerer decided that the fight really wasn’t any of his business. As the rest of the party arrived, Garwin quickly cast spider climb and scaled a nearby building, sniping at them with magic missile as they faced Budwar in the narrow alleyway. The party fell back to the cover of a nearby corner, where Ginallath and MacTavish traded shots with the sorcerer with their own spells and bows while Aeryn, Dak, and Rosko moved in to engage the ogre.

Inigo had almost lost consciousness by this time, but as his vision faded to a red haze, Aeryn managed to flank his tormentor and drive her rapier deep into the ogre’s back. Budwar howled and released Inigo, who scrambled back to Ginallath and MacTavish’s position for some much-needed healing. Budwar, finding that both Aeryn and Rosko were too quick for him to grab, engaged Dak with powerful punches from his ham-sized fists while the tawny fighter held him off with his longsword. As a now healed Inigo rushed back into the fight, Aeryn ran after Wulf, hoping to break through the charm spell and bring him back. Meanwhile Ginallath and Mactavish, although both wounded by Garwin’s spells, shifted their fire to the ogre.

Seeing the danger, Garwin dropped a darkness spell over the alleyway, shielding his minion from the party’s firepower but also providing cover for MacTavish and Ginallath (after ordering Rosko to get clear) to move from their positions to the building from which the sorcerer was throwing spells. As they moved, Dak succumbed to _charm person _ and dropped out of the fight, leaving an enraged Inigo for the final confrontation with Budwar.

Just then, Aeryn and Wulf returned and Wulf, seeing his friends in combat with Garwin and his henchman, shook off the effects of the charm. He and Aeryn ran to aid Inigo, who traded strike after strike with the powerful ogre as Rosko desperately tried to talk some sense into the charmed Dak. Finally, Aeryn slipped her rapier through Budwar’s ribs and into his heart and the ogre fell.

Seeing that the party had dispatched his ogre, Garwin pulled out a fly scroll and began to chant desperately. As he began to rise into the air, Ginallath hurled his grappling hook which tangled itself between the sorcerer’s legs – and pulled Ginallath along with him! Drawing his dagger, the elven mage scaled the rope and was soon face to face with Garwin.

“You fool,” rasped the sorcerer as Ginallath slashed at him. “If you kill me you’ll fall to your death!”

“Then we die together,” Ginallath responded grimly.

As the two spellcasters fought their airborne knife battle, Wulf and Inigo chased after the dragging rope bound to them, trying desperately to catch it and anchor Garwin. They soon caught it, and began to reel the dueling spellcasters in. Ginallath let go and dropped to the street, hurt but alive. The party wrestled down the screaming Garwin and pinned him to keep him from flying away…just as a patrol of five hobgoblins entered the alleyway to check out the noise and commotion.

At first the party tried to bluff their way out, but Wulf lost patience and drew steel when one of the hobgoblins tried to take the wand of fear from Aeryn. As he did, Inigo slashed Garwin’s throat and leaped to the attack, dispatching four hobgoblins in 12 seconds. The fifth ran for his life, and rather than pursuing, the party wisely chose to beat feet for New Phlan.

Episode XVI: Beck Returns

Having safely returned to New Phlan bearing the body of their recently deceased comrade/meatshield Wulf, the party headed straight for the temple of Tyr hoping to get him raised or at least in cold storage before he started to smell bad. They also decided to bring in Rajmani, still in town, as backup for their next expedition to the Textile House.

Bishop Braccio was sympathetic, and quite willing to help the party in view of their past services to the city and the temple, but warned the party that they would need to find the 5,000 GP worth of diamonds on their own. With their recent successes, the group was more than able to pay the necessary gold; the problem was that New Phlan was too small a town to find more than around 1100 GP worth of gems even after visiting all the local jewelers. As a result, the party faced three unpalatable choices: adventuring without their fighter, traveling to Melvaunt to buy more gems, or begging.

Naturally they decided on begging, and dispatched Aeryn to Poryphrys Cadorna’s townhouse. Cadorna was also sympathetic (Aeryn’s good at evoking strong emotion), but was unable to help – he had already sunk most of his remaining funds into “another project” dependent on the party’s success at the Textile House. The party next attempted to tap into Jerome of Melvaunt’s connections – successfully. Jerome was happy to come up with 4000 GP worth of gems…for a finder’s fee and the promise of a favor to be named later. Though MacTavish was hesitant about accepting the deal, he realized there really was no other way to get the gems to raise Wulf, and he accepted. One day later, the gems arrived and by the grace of Tyr, Wulf was restored to life (at 5th level).

Now up to full strength again, the party returned to the Textile House to find it in chaos. With Hwyll’s death, the gnoll tribe had degenerated into a leaderless mob. Discipline was so bad that the party even managed to use the same roof-entry trick they had used in their last try. By sniping from the roof, the party quickly cleared the courtyard again, while Tarask pried up a roof tile to check out the interior of the building below them. He saw the gnolls’ shaman, deep in some sort of ritual,and warned the party of what was occurring.

At this point Inigo, tired of watching the rest of the party kill things from the rooftop, took a mighty leap – and crashed to the floor of the courtyard with a broken rib. Wolf followed after – and thumped to the ground beside him. One by one the party leaped from the roof like lemmings, until only Raj and Tarask were left on the roof. Raj shrugged, and jumped, landing on top of Inigo. Tarask blinked a few times, and carefully climbed down as the party collected themselves. Only Ginallath remained up top, hoping to get a shot at any gnolls which entered the courtyard.

Aeryn was already heading towards the shaman’s quarters, and as she opened the door she quickly saw that the summoning ritual was complete: an evil-looking spider rushed towards her while the shaman readied another spell. At the same time, the shaman’s two acolytes stepped in from another room to defend their master. Wulf, Inigo, and Raj rushed in to support Aeryn, and the battle was joined. Though the gnolls and their summoned spider fought hard, they were no match for the party – the shaman himself falling to Inigo’s deftly wielded blades.

A quick search of the clerics’ meager possessions turned up little except a small pouch fo gold – though MacTavish noted that their gnoll holy symbols of Yeenoghu had been defaced and turned into holy symbols of Bane. The party now moved on into the outbuildings, watching both for any sign of more gnolls as well as for the Cadorna treasure.

Instead, in a workers’ tenement that had been converted into a rubbish midden, they found Beck Darkmantle – quite alive, though filthy and smelling worse than usual. Beck wasn’t sure how he’d gotten there, but he assured the party that his lycanthrope “issues” were in the past. Though Tarask urged the party to slay Beck “just to be sure”, they decided to take him along, while keeping a careful eye on him. Beck and Raj, already respectful of each others’ abilities from the fight at the Orc Camp, quickly developed an excellent working relationship.

After searching several more buildings, the party began to wonder why they hadn’t seen any gnolls for a while. This question was partially answered by the discovery of two mangy and ill-fed gnolls in one of the filthiest of the outbuildings. These were the tribe’s outcasts – referred to by the party as Clubfoot and Stutterer respectively. After a quick prayer to Tempus (and a comprehend languages), MacTavish was able to communicate with the outcasts. Clubfoot turned out to be depressed as well as lame, and asked the party to end his miserable life. Stutterer, conversely, explained (it took him a while) that he had information the party might be interested in – if they spared him (he also revealed that he and Clubfoot had had the unenviable job of carrying Beck’s “body” to the rubbish midden after the rest of the tribe jumped him in the ruins of the city and beat him up). After some debate, the party agreed and left Ginallath to watch the outcasts while they searched the last of the outbuildings.

This turned out to be the main gnoll barracks, where the remaining fighting gnolls and their gnoll-mates and cubs had retreated to make a last stand against the party. Grimly, the PCs waded in and cut down the warriors, and the gnoll women stepped forward to protect their cubs and were cut down by Inigo. Now the party was unsure…should they, could they, bring themselves to kill the young gnolls? Tentatively, MacTavish stepped forward to cast comprehend languages on one of the cubs – and all of them rushed him at once, tearing at him with their little claws and beating him with their little clubs. The ethical dilemma thus resolved, the party moved in to finish the grim task. Beck, unwilling to see the gnoll tribe completely destroyed, wrestled down two of the cubs and threw them into a large leather sack he was carrying.

With the last of the gnolls destroyed, the party made an exhaustive search for the Cadorna treasure, finding it at last hidden in a secret wall panel in Hwyll’s chamber. Tarask took charge of the items while the party released Clubfoot into the ruins, and they all headed back to New Phlan with the rest of their gnoll captives. Cadorna was delighted with their work, happily paying the party’s fee and advising them to come to the docks the next morning to see something “really neat”. With money in hand the party bid a not-so-fond farewell to Tarask, and headed back to Nat Wyler’s Bell.

Nat Wyler was no stranger to “mobile goods”. He proved to have several small holding cells beneath the Bell where the party left the gnolls while they decided their fate. MacTavish (again via comprehend) spoke with Stutterer and discovered that a powerful magic item had recently been discovered in the city and was going up for auction at Podol Plaza to the highest bidder. Stutterer didn’t know what it was, but he knew his chief had been excited about it. Furthermore, it was likely that the mysterious “Boss” would make an appearance, either in person or via an intermediary, to bid on the item.

With this information in hand, the party decided to reject an offer from the Phlan thieves’ guild to buy the gnoll cubs for 6,000 GP and instead release them and Stutterer outside the city early in the morning. Raj, already leaving the city on business of her own, volunteered to take on that job, and in the morning Ranger, Gnolls, and, mysteriously enough, Aeryn were all gone.

Episode XV: Girlfighting, Gnoll Style

With Galon Bivant returned to his family, Dak and Rosko installed in cushy jobs as Bivant house guards, and 20,000 gold in their pockets (minus 500 gp and a +2 dagger for Raj, who bid them farewell), the party set out to spend as much of it as possible on the best new equipment Phlan could provide. Now equipped with magic weapons, new spells, and flashier clothing, the party was soon contacted by their patron, Poryphrys Cadorna and summoned to his townhouse.

Cadorna explained that he’d been grooming the party for their newest challenge – clearing out the ruins of the Cadorna Weavers’ Compound in the Old City and recovering the family treasure. In exchange, he offered 30,000 GP and the services of Tarask, former captain of of the Cadorna house guard.

The party accepted, and set off through the slums of Old Phlan – noting as they did the accelerating pace of reconstruction and resettlement. Tarask, a gruff, grizzled, and taciturn old fighter, soon earned the party’s cordial dislike, but he led them to their destination without incident. A quick reconnaissance showed the walled Cadorna compound had new owners: a tribe of gnolls.

Quick consultation with Tarask revealed that the compound had a weak point – a large warehouse up against the south wall. Using a grappling hook, Aeryn and Ginallath scaled the wall and the roof – spotting six gnolls loafing in the courtyard. The rest of the party followed, and Ginallath, MacTavish, Aeryn, and Tarask trained their bows on the unsuspecting gnolls.

The first volley cut down half of the dog-men, and the remaining three rushed to sound the alarm as Wulf, Inigo, and Tarask quickly descended to the courtyard. As the alarm drums began to beat, gnolls flooded confusedly into the courtyard only to be shot down by the archers on the roof, or fall to the blades of Wolf and Inigo. Wulf chopped down gnolls left and right, while Inigo engaged a menacing gnoll lieutenant and slew him in single combat. With his death, the remaining gnolls fled for the buildings, the party following them to the Cadorna family’s great house.

Wulf and Inigo took the lead as the party began its search, with Ginallath and Tarask watching the courtyard for more gnolls. The first room the party broke into was Hwyll, the gnoll chieftain’s, bedroom – still decorated with the Cadorna family’s mildewed finery. Hwyll himself emerged to challenge the intruders, crossing blades repeatedly with Wulf and Inigo. Finding himself bested by these two warriors, the gnoll chieftain backed towards a doorway to the north, then rushed through it, closing it behind him.

The party paused a few seconds to heal, then Wulf and Inigo burst through the door to find another room decked out in rotting female finery. This was the bedchamber of Hwyll’s three gnoll concubines (resplendent in peekaboo leather gnoll bras) who were waiting in ambush by the door. Their attack caught Inigo by surprise and he was knocked reeling by a club hit while the other two battered Wolf unmercifully. As Inigo staggered dazedly, Hwyll rejoined the fight and finished him off with a few strokes of his axe. Wulf continued to defend the doorway as Mactavish healed the unconscious and bleeding elf.

Meanwhile, Ginallath and Aeryn had discovered a second door from the courtyard to the concubines’ room. With Tarask guarding them, mage and rogue opened the door and began to take potshots at the gnoll combatants. Then, with a battle cry, Tarask leaped into the room and Aeryn followed.

By this time, Wulf had finished off one of Hwyll’s concubines and the maddened chieftain (fortified by a haste potion) was doing his level best to kill him in return. The concubines turned on Tarask as Aeryn hurled a vial of flaming oil at Hwyll. She hit the chieftain squarely, but the droplets of flaming oil fell on one of the concubines’ beds – setting it ablaze. With visions of his employer’s fortune literally going up in smoke, Tarask cursed Aeryn for a “stupid wench” and broke off combat to smother the flames, leaving Wulf alone against all three remaining gnolls. Wolf put up a valiant fight, but Hwyll’s axe crashed into his head, killing him instantly.

The gnolls now turned on Tarask as the party tried to regroup. Tarask managed to take out one more concubine before he fell. Fortunately, Inigo was now healed and ready to get back in the fight – and he tore into Hwyll with a vengeance as MacTavish and Ginallath slew the last of the concubines. Realizing there was no escape now, Hwyll fought like a tiger. Then, with a look of surprise, he sank to his knees and then collapsed with Aeryn’s rapier buried in his back.

A quick check revealed that Wulf was beyond any aid, so MacTavish moved to Tarask, who was badly wounded but alive. After a quick discussion, MacTavish healed him (he was the only one who knew anything about the Cadorna compound’s layout after all) and the group assessed their situation. They were badly hurt, with one party member dead, and an unknown number of gnolls remaining. They therefore decided to return to New Phlan and see what they could do about restoring their meat shield.

Episode XIV: Trumpet Blows Out

…which is often the way things seem before they go terribly, terribly wrong.

In this case, the PCs had not considered that Trumpet might leave them outside the slave pen while he sent in a guard to retrieve their purchases – which he did. Aeryn and Ginallath exchanged a quick look and decided to use the catchall backup plan: violence.

Ginallath quickly fired off a sleep spell while Aeryn made a break for the slave pen. The elf mage’s spell fizzled (pirates roll fine saves, landlubbers), but Inigo and Raj hardly noticed, happy as they were to be doing less sneaking and more pirate killing. Though shocked at first, Trumpet and his guards rallied quickly and Trumpet blew his signature instrument – alerting the compound. The slave pen guards quickly rushed to his aid, leaving rogue, mage, and rangers with 15 pirates and the third mate himself to deal with.

Among those who heard the noise were Wulf and MacTavish, still working for Aard at the cattle pen. As Aard gathered his group to rush to Trumpet’s aid, MacTavish was struck by inspiration. He “neglected” to close the pen, and one quick application of scare later, the animals were bursting out in a mighty stampede. The rampaging cattle cut off any hope of Trumpet’s pirates getting any help – except from Aard and his boys, accompanied by Wulf and MacTavish.

In the meantime, Raj and Inigo had accounted for four pirates between them, but Ginallath was badly wounded by the guards and Aeryn had taken a cut from Trumpet as she tried to slip into the slave pen. Inside, she found herself face to face with the guard Trumpet had sent inside. He froze in surprise as Aeryn entered – just enough time for Rosko to headbutt him in the stomach while Dak strangled him with his chains. Aeryn found the pirate’s key and unlocked the pair, and then Galon Bivant – mission accomplished! If only they could get out, that is. Taking up the dead pirate’s cutlass, Dak positioned himself to defend the doorway while Aeryn readied her hand crossbow.

Outside, the pirates’ numbers were wearing down Inigo and Raj. Bellowing orders to his guards to rush the slave pen, Trumpet personally entered the fray, striking down Raj with a couple of well-placed blows. Now alone, Inigo defended her unconscious and bleeding body while a badly-wounded Ginallath played dead. The sight of more pirates arriving caused the party’s hearts to sink.

Fortunately, this was Aard’s group. As the pirates rushed to join the battle, MacTavish muttered a prayer to Tempus and turned on them, or tried to since his aim slipped and he ended up striking his own shield instead. Aard turned to curse him for a clumsy fool -then fell with Wulf’s blade in his back. Ginallath rose and nailed another pirate with a well placed arrow shot, and between the three of them quickly dispatched the remaining pirates of Aard’s squad before moving in to help their teammates.

Aeryn, Dak, Rosko, and their young charge were still trapped in the slave pen. As Dak heroically strove to defend the doorway, Aeryn carefully sighted her crossbow and let fly. With a snap, the firing mechanism broke, sending the bolt backwards into her face, dropping her (the critical fumble deck is a harsh mistress). Cursing, Dak redoubled his efforts while Rosko and the boy bandaged the now unconscious Aeryn.

Outside, though, the tide was turning. Wolf slew several pirates while MacTavish administered Tempus’ grace to heal Inigo’s wounds. No longer on the verge of death, Inigo made a beeline for Trumpet, and the ranger and the third mate were soon locked in furious combat. Trumpet’s greater experience was no match for Inigo’s raw fury, and the pirate was soon grievously wounded. With his guards dead and Wold and MacTavish moving to engage, he made a run for it – straight for the rampaging steers with Inigo hot on his heels. MacTavish quickly conjured a spiritual weapon and sent it flying after the luckless pirate, and with a few short strokes Trumpet lay dead in the dust.

At this point a furious debate ensued – Wulf, MacTavish, and Inigo all wanted to find Captain Scabbard and challenge him as well. But with Aeryn and Raj unconscious, Ginallath badly hurt, and MacTavish out of spells, the party decided on the better part of valor and escaped with their mission accomplished while the remaining pirates tried to control the escaped cattle.

Episode XIII: A Pirate's Life for Us

With the Thri-Kreen slain and their treasure gathered, the party decided to bury the statue and most of the gold until their return, and move on to the Pirate encampment. After a half-day’s ride, they saw the smoke from the pirates’ cooking fires and soon came into sight of the compound itself – a log palisade with several watchtowers. Captain Scabbard’s ship, the infamous Moonsea Stiletto, was moored in the bay just beyond the walls.

After some discussion, the party decided it would be best to infiltrate in two groups, and then decide what to do after thoroughly surveying the fortress. First in were Wulf and MacTavish, both of whom had some nautical experience and could thus present themselves as potential recruits. Thanks largely to MacTavish’s status as a Cleric of Tempus – after all, a cleric’s often the only thing standing between ye and an eyepatch or pegleg, matey – the pirates quickly accepted them. After an interview with Scabbard himself and his third mate, the aptly named Trumpet, Wulf and MacTavish signed the Pirate articles, received their headscarves and poofy shirts, and were promptly remanded to the custody of a pirate named Aard who set them to work taking care of the pirates’ 30 head of stolen cattle.

Next in were Aeryn, Ginallath, Inigo, and Rajmani, with rogue and mage disguised as slave dealers and the two rangers as bodyguards. They were also received by Trumpet (the Third Mate being Officer of the Day), who showed them the slave pens. The women meant as husbands for the Phlan colonists had already been purchased by buyers from Zhentil Keep, but two stowaways from their ship – the burly blond barbarian Dak, and his wiry dark-haired buddy Rosko – were still available. Aeryn noticed their objective, young Galon Bivant, in the corner of the pen. Dak and Rosko had clearly adopted him and were watching out for him.

Trumpet next showed the “slave dealers” to an open space in the camp where they could pitch their tents while they negotiated prices with Captain Scabbard. Inigo and Rajmani, both of whom had been in the wilderness for a while, succumbed to the shared experience of hunting down Thri-Kreen and nipped off for a quickie while Aeryn and Ginallath made contact with Wulf and MacTavish – more accurately, MacTavish made contact with Aeryn by flirting with her, and Raj gleefully played the part of the overprotective bodyguard by giving him a good slap in the name of “defending her employer”.

The party spent the next day watching the pirates’ routine. Wulf spent most of it shoveling cow dung, while MacTavish had his clerical powers tested on wounded and sick pirates. Aeryn and Ginallath met with Scabbard amid his collection of prized carved figurines, who offered them both Dak and Rosko for a “mere” 8,000 GP. When the party met again (under cover of a “romantic rendezvous”) between MacTavish and Aeryn, they came up with a plan: Aeryn and Inigo would recover the golden Thri-Kreen idol and offer it to Scabbard as payment for Dak and Rosko. Once inside the slave pen, the party would turn on the pirates and liberate Galon.

Later that afternoon, Aeryn and Inigo returned to the Thri-Kreen mounds and dug up the statue. Scabbard was very pleased with it – after, of course, he’d had his sorceress lover Murron make certain it was harmless – and summoned Trumpet to hand Aeryn and Ginallath’s new slaves over to them. With the two of them, Inigo, and Rajmani at the slave pen, and Wolf and Inigo at the corral waiting to rush to their assistance, everything seemed to be going as planned…

Episode XII: We, Thri-Kreen

Evading the furious orc patrols, the party regrouped in the shadow of a low hill a few miles away from the orc camp…whereupon a very angry Girald punched Inigo right in the face. A fight might have broken out, but the group was too worried about escaping to let the rogue and ranger battle it out. Vilanestra solved the problem by offering to teleport the badly-wounded MacTavish, Aeryn, Wulf and the slave escapees back to Phlan . They accepted and spent a comfortable night in the inn resting up, while Girald, Inigo, and Rajmani spent a restless and rainy night in the wilderness hiding from orcs. The next day, with spells re-memorized, Vilanestra teleported them back as well and the party was reunited.

After making it clear that the party owed her, the elf mage gave them a little cash to re-equip, and then she and Girald departed to continue the search for Ren the White, while Rajmani stayed at the inn to rest up a little longer. Most of the party re-equipped at Jerome of Melvaunt’s shop while MacTavish did penance at the Temple of Tempus, after which he was awarded a holy symbol to replace the one he’d lost to the orcs. They were now re-equipped, but unemployed.

Being the proactive type, Aeryn went to visit Poryphrys Cadorna hoping for a free dinner and a commission for the party. After a night of…active negotiation, she returned with both. Apparently, after the clearing of Sokol Keep, a powerful Phlan merchant family called Bivant hoped to capitalize on the now-reopened shipping by importing a boatload of hopeful young women from around the Moonsea to Phlan as spouses to the guards and colonists – and decided to save on costs by transporting their young heir, Galon Bivant, to Phlan in the same ship. Unfortunately, the ship was captured en route from Hillsfar by that notorious scourge of the Moonsea, Captain Scabbard. Scabbard demanded a rich ransom for the Bivant heir, and the problem of recovering him had been dumped in Cadorna’s lap.

At the lure of 20,000 gps (with 5,000 in advance and another 10,000 promised as a bonus should the party be able to deliver Scabbard’s head) the PCs accepted with alacrity and rushed to get themselves outfitted for the day-long journey to Scabbard’s pirate fortress in Stormy Bay. As they did, Rajmani approached them and offered to help out, if the party first helped her deal with a tribe of Thri-Kreen hunting out all the game in the area. Reasoning that a pretty druid/ranger would be an asset against the pirates, the party accepted and they all rode north of Phlan to the insect men’s lair.

The Thri-Kreen village appeared, from the surface, to be a series of seven low and irregular mounds. With visions of insect hordes dancing in their heads, the PCs started to think twice about this side trip, though Rajmani eventually got them moving with a deft combination of insults and flattery. She and Inigo headed into the group of mounds, while the rest of the party waited at the village perimeter. Not long after, a single Thri-Kreen peeked out from one of the mounds – and took an arrow from Ginallath in its shoulder. Chittering loudly, the mantis-warrior leaped to the attack and the fight was on.

Two more Thri-Kreen exited the mounds to attack MacTavish, Aeryn, Wulf, and Ginallath, and a second pair engaged Rajmani and Inigo. Happy at the opportunity to have something to kill, Inigo chopped his opponent down and Raj quickly dispatched the other. Eager to find another opponent, Inigo rushed into one of the mounds. Finding a tunnel leading underground, the elf thought nothing about leaping into it. Raj grinned wryly and followed. They found themselves in a small tunnel system beneath the village, with Thri-Kreen constantly sniping at them with throwing wedges.

As elf and ranger fought underground, the rest of the party finished their opponents and began to move into the village. Ginallath carefully inspected every mound entrance, scattering caltrops to discourage surprise attacks. Their reconaissance was disturbed by a second group of Thri-Kreen, returning from the hunt. This group avoided contact with the party, giving them a volley of throwing wedges before disappearing underground.

The PCs still on the surface were not really excited about going into the tunnels after them (for some reason our group of players HATES tunnels), but one by one they descended – except for Ginallath, who was guarding the rear, or watching for re-enforcements, or something. Reunited with Inigo and Raj below ground, the party searched the winding tunnels until they found themselves at the entrance to a large inner chamber dominated by a large unexcavated pillar, nestled in which was a large golden mantis statue guarded by two Thri-Kreen.

Noticing the party, the guards hurled their throwing wedges and prepared for battle as Inigo, Raj, and MacTavish rushed into the room – only to be ambushed by three more Thri-Kreen and their chieftain, dropping from the ceiling. Wolf and Aeryn soon joined in. The fight was tough and the party was hampered by the low light and confined spaces. MacTavish accidentally banged his funnybone with his mace and dropped his shield, Inigo bumped his head, and Wulf actually stabbed himself with his longsword (they all rolled these fumbles in the same round too…the Fumble Deck got quite a workout). One by one, however, the mantis warriors fell. Raj and Inigo accounted for three of them, Wolf slew the chieftain in a brutal slugging match that left him almost dead as well, and MacTavish finished the last Thri-Kreen after it almost eviscerated him with a single well-rolled crit.

With the Thri-Kreen dead and the balance of nature restored, the party lost no time searching through their loot. Apart from the obviously valuable statue, the mantis warriors had assembled a sizable pile of cash (7000gp), five nice-looking gems, and a store of weapons from the travellers they’d waylaid- some of which McTavish’s orisons revealed were magical. Also clearly magical was a ring they discovered, still attached to a skeletal finger.

The defeat of the Thri-Kreen helped restore the party’s morale as well as its material fortunes, both almost at zero after their defeat by Mace. Loading up the valuables, they began to plan for their confrontation with Captain Scabbard and his pirates…

Episode XI: Fury of Werewolf Beck

Things were looking bad for the hard-luck crew of PCs, with some cowering in a pit from a shower of crossbow bolts and others fighting a desperate battle for the gate. In the end, what saved them was not their skill at arms or mighty spells, but a horrible mistake made by one unfortunate Orc.

This Orc, Hrakh, of the Broken Rock clan of the Plain of Thar, had the misfortune to be stationed in the left ballista tower by the gate when Rajmani and Beck Darkmantle appeared and began slaying the ballista crews. Hrakh had the further misfortune to be just that much more skilled than his fellows: he actually managed to land a hit on Beck.

This was a Bad Thing. For everybody.

Howling in pain, Beck revealed that he’d gotten a lot more than cheap liquor in his fight with Raymo of Phlan and promptly transformed into a mindless lupine killing machine, tearing Hrakh and the rest of the ballista crew into red rags with his claws. Rajmani, realizing she had a choice between jumping from the tower and being torn limb from limb by Werewolf Beck, picked the long drop and placed her fate in the hands of Mielikki. Several broken ribs later, she found herself hurt but alive a few feet from Ginallath and the oncoming orcs.

With a roar, Werewolf Beck launched himself from the tower into the courtyard – and into the path of the orcs. Grishak and his minions froze for a fatal second – giving Rajmani time to revive Ginallath with a healing potion while Werewolf Beck ripped into the luckless orc subchief.

Meanwhile in the pit, MacTavish, Aeryn, Inigo, and Girald had abandoned cover and were desperately trying to climb the sides of the pit. Girald scrambled up nimbly (being a high-level Rogue has benefits) and engaged the guards at that end of the pit while the PCs climbed up and joined him. It was a tough fight – the PCs daggers against the heavily armed orcs – but they eventually prevailed.

As the battle raged, Rajmani and Ginallath opened the gate, letting an extremely annoyed Wolf join the fight. Back to back, the three of them cleared the remaining orcs near the gate while Werewolf Beck raged through the orc camp, killing anything that moved. Out of spells and realizing it was time to go, MacTavish and Aeryn headed for the gate while Girald and Inigo worked to get the last remaining slaves out of the pit to freedom. This became a problem when Werewolf Beck, to whom the slave pit was essentially an Old Country Buffet flung himself headlong into the pit and began tearing apart anyone he could get his claws on. Chalking this up as possibly one of his worst days ever, Girald told Inigo to run for it while he descended into the pit to deal with Werewolf Beck. Inigo, not having any weapons capable of harming a lycanthrope, obliged and joined the rest of the party at the gate.

The party was reunited for all of five seconds before Wulf split off to try and find their gear, only to be discouraged by more orcs spilling out of a cavern system beneath the camp. Running back to the Gate, Wulf was joined by Girald (who explained tersely that Beck was “no longer a problem”), Rajmani, and the remaining five slaves. By this time, Vilanestra and Vola had arrived, and the party withdrew from the fortress under cover of the elf mage’s spells – bloodied, poor again, but wiser in experience.

Episode X: The Rescue

Back in New Phlan, Ginallath had returned to Nat Wyler’s Bell, and discovered that the rest of the party had left without him. In the inn’s common room, he encountered Beck Darkmantle, who had been sidetracked from his original intention of finding the wizard by the prospect of drinking a lot. As Beck finally got around to telling Ginallath where everyone was, they were approached by three mysterious figures – a sun elf noblewoman, a dusky-skinned human woman dressed for wilderness travel, and a quiet, tattooed thief.

Over drinks, the elf woman introduced herself as Vilanestra, a former student of the mage Ren the White. Ren had disappeared into the Old City after contacting Vilanestra via sending, and the sun elf mage had traveled from Evermeet to find her old mentor. Having heard of the party’s victory at Sokol Keep, she had hoped to use their knowledge of the area to aid her search, but they had departed for the Temple of Bane before she could speak to them. The thief, Girald Authar of Luskan, and Vilanestra’s associate Rajmani, a ranger/druid of some skill, had tracked the party into the Old City, and witnessed their defeat by the orcs. Vilanestra theorized that Mace would probably keep the adventurers alive, planning to sell them to an orc tribe outside the city which routinely raided the area for slaves to sell to Mulmaster, Melvaunt, and Zhentil Keep. She offered to help Ginallath rescue Wulf, MacTavish, Inigo, and Aeryn in exchange for his promise to help her find Ren the White. Ginallath and Beck accepted, whereupon Vilanestra revealed that she had hired additional local help: Vola. Naturally, Beck was overjoyed.

Meanwhile, the party awoke to find themselves lying uncomfortably in a wooden wagon jouncing over the rough terrain east of Phlan. Soon, they found themselves approaching a large camp, fortified by rough wooden walls and towers. At the gate, they were met by Grishak, who combined the functions of tribal subchief and oily slavedealer in one unappealing package. After inspecting the party (and checking Wulf’s teeth), Grishak ordered them placed in the slave pen, which turned out to be a 20′ pit topped by logs and guarded by bow-armed orcs. Some of the prisoners turned out to be former New Phlan City Guardsmen, who recognized MacTavish as a cleric of Tempus and turned to him for leadership.

As MacTavish organized the slaves and Inigo sulked, Ginallath and his new allies tracked the Orc slavers to their camp. In the process, Ginallath’s willowy form attracted Vola’s attention, and the elf only escaped becoming another notch on her bedpost by casting sleep on the lusty half-orc and convincing her that something had, in fact, happened. The elf mage then volunteered to disguise himself as an orc (via change self) and reconnoiter the camp, while a similarly disguised GIrald infiltrated the camp and distributed weapons to the party.

At the gate Ginallath was met by Grishak. Fortunately, his disguise held up, and he was taken to inspect the tribe’s current stock while Girald disappeared into the crowded camp. After inspecting Wulf’s teeth (again) Ginallath purchased him from Grishak for 150 gold pieces, and proudly led his new slave out of the camp to safety. Girald, meanwhile, knifed an Orc guard and made it into the pit, where he informed the party of the attempt being made to rescue them and gave them the daggers he had brought with him.

At dawn, the rescuers executed their plan. Vilanestra and Vola provided a compelling diversion (courtesy of Vilanestra’s mastery of Abjuration spells), while Ginallath, Rajmani, Wulf, and Beck assaulted the gate. Their attack was met by javelins from the orcs, as well as the attention of the two ballista crews stationed in the towers on either side of the gates.

Beck swung into action immediately, using his grappling hook to yank Orcs from the walls and towers to their deaths, while Ginallath used his bow and his spells to pick off those that remained. One unlucky orc had the misfortune to be wedged between the right tower’s crenellations and caught. Acting quickly, Rajmani scaled the rope over the objections of the screaming orc. Beck shrugged, handed the rope to Wulf, and followed, as did Ginallath – leaving Wulf standing in front of the gate all alone with javelins raining down on him.

Hearing the commotion at the gate was too much for Inigo. Inspired by the lust for battle, he screamed “Attack!” and hurled his dagger at the guards. Girald watched as the blade sank into the earth at the edge of the pit and swore softly – then he flattened himself up against the side of the pit while the rest of the party (and the guards) blinked in astonishment. With a cry of “The slaves are armed – kill them!” the orc guards began to fire wildly into the pit as Aeryn and MacTavish desperately searched for cover.

Meanwhile on the tower, the rescuers split up, with Beck and Rajmani clearing away the guards while Ginallath climbed down (or more accurately dropped down, since he failed his Climb check) to the courtyard to open the gate. Winded and bruised from the fall, the elf mage looked up to see Grishak and a squad of Orcs rushing towards the gate. Hurt and out of spells, Ginallath braced himself for the end…

Episode IX: The Temple of Bane

Upon their return to New Phlan, the group separated to buy equipment, relax at Nat Wyler’s Bell for a few drinks, and generally hang out. When they were rested and presentable, they headed over to the Phlan City Council chambers to recieve their reward from the harried and sarcastic clerk. They then began the semi-enjoyable task of spending their cash and looking for more work. Ginallath departed to take care of some business of his own (John couldn’t make it), while Aeryn checked with her shadowy contacts in Phlan’s dockyards.

Unemployment was, however, brief. At breakfast the next morning, the party was approached by a messenger boy from the Phlan City Council, who informed them that their services were needed. Beck Darkmantle, happy to have a new source for drinking money, was so happy he carried the kid on his shoulders all the way back to the Council Chambers.

There, they were brought before Bishop Aram Braccio of the Temple of Tyr. The Bishop, reasonably impressed by the party’s efforts to clear out Sokal Keep, asked them to aid the paladin Bassana Rockmantle (whom they had briefly met at Kuto’s Well) in recovering several relics of the Church of Tyr from the abandoned temple in the Old City, now converted by the humanoid invaders into a temple of Bane. Bassana’s group had stumbled upon the location of the relics, but were so badly hurt by a fight with ogres in the ruins that the dwarf paladin needed a new escort group. While the Bishop could not offer any direct reward, he did offer the party full rights to any treasure they might find in the temple – and his considerable powers of patronage. Flush with confidence after their victory at the Keep, the party accepted.

Ginallath’s business continued to delay him, so the party sent Beck to tell him where they were (Cameron had to leave early) and then left, taking their little rowboat up the Barren River (its waters had become mysteriously fouled generations ago) and then across to the Old City, where they picked their way through the orc-infested slums to reach the temple. Hearing what sounded like cries for help, they moved down an alley, only to discover an orc baby abandoned in a pile of trash. Not really sure what to do with a baby, the party picked the smelly, squalling brat up and took it with them.

Shortly thereafter they ran into four orcs in the livery of the Temple of Bane. Thinking quickly, Aeryn tried to convince them that they were bringing the baby to be sacrificed in Bane’s dark rites. The orcs seemed somewhat willing to believe Aeryn, but after a brief conference decided to send one of their number back to clear it with the temple’s priest, whom they referred to as “Mace”. At this point, Inigo’s hatred of Orcs got the better of him and he leaped forward to attack, cutting down three of them while the runner escaped into the slums.

After Inigo was throughly lectured by both Bassana and the rest of the party about the need for self-control, they pushed on into the slums, meeting curiously little opposition, until the ruined gothic spires of the temple towered over them, its beautiful statuary smashed and defaced by Orcs. In front of the massive oak doors stood three guards and an aged orc doorkeeper. Approaching the guards, Aeryn and MacTavish tried the same deception again – attempting to pass themselves off as Banites. The orcs were skeptical of Inigo’s presence (what with his being an Elf), and Aeryn explained that he was their slave -which the guards took great joy in verifying by having the proud Elf Ranger lick their boots and perform other demeaning acts -all of which Inigo submitted to while repressing his growing urge to kill.

Finally, the aged blind doorkeeper hobbled forward and began to feel at MacTavish’s neck. Realizing that the old orc was checking for Banite holy symbols, MacTavish realized the game was up and brained him, while Wulf and a very angry Inigo leapt forward to cut the door guards down and rush into the temple. Inside, the orc temple guardians rushed forth to deal with the intruders, but were outmatched by the party who killed them all in short order. While Wulf and Inigo guarded the door and MacTavish prayed to Tempus, Aeryn and Bassana searched the temple – uncovering the relics hidden inside a pillar, as well as several caches of magic weapons and scrolls. Now they really regretted not waiting for Ginallath – among the scrolls were copies of Melf’s Magic Meteors and Monster Summoning IV, both of which would come in handy against the angry horde of orcs building up outside the temple. Aeryn desperately searched for a second exit – but to no avail.

Lacking magic support, the party decided to barricade the temple door and try to cut the orcs down as they rushed in. Wulf, Inigo, and Bassana took positions on either side of the door, while MacTavish and Aeryn stationed themselves against a pillar with bows trained on the entrance. Soon they could hear the orcs battering at the door while a harsh voice that could only be that of Mace exhorted them to victory in the name of Bane. The carved oak doors splintered and a host of orcs rushed in – only to be cut down by the party wating in ambush. A second group followed and met a similar fate -but the party was beginning to tire.

Mace sent in a final group of orcs, then followed them himself, accompanied by his picked guards. The half-orc cleric of Bane ordered the party to throw down their equipment and the relics and they would be allowed to leave without further trouble, but MacTavish’s warlike god and Inigo’s hatred of orcs made an agreement impossible, and Mace’s troops moved in for the final assault. First to fall was Inigo, spitting hatred to the last. Then Bassana went down, surrounded by a pack of Orcs. Aeryn and MacTavish soon followed, leaving Wulf facing Mace, who moved in to face him himself. The last thing Wulf saw before he collapsed from exhaustion and blood loss was the grinning face of the Banite cleric…

Episode VIII: Return to Sokal Keep

As the party approached the Keep in their boat, they noticed regular puffs of smoke rising from an area near the side of the keep facing the Old City across the harbor. Landing again on the gravel beach, they made their way around the Keep’s walls to the source of the smoke, rightly believing it to be signals from an Orc watch party. The orcs and their hobgoblin officer were quickly slain, but the party had already noted smoke signals rising in response from the Old City. Another humanoid war party would soon be upon them.

Having no other choice, they proceeded into Sokal Keep, skirmishing with more undead guards (their ranks replenished by the Orcs the party had slain in their previous attempt, as well as the tiny and unhappy skeleton of their former halfling companion) as they desperately sought a defensive position. Ginallath, Beck Darkmantle, and Aeryn searched the keep’s old Armory, which had appeared empty when Wulf and MacTavish had last checked it out, but which Ginallath and Aeryn’s more practiced eyes found to actually have an illusionary wall concealing several magical weapons.

MacTavish, Wulf, and Inigo gave fuller attention to the Keep’s Chapel, noting with trepidation that something had drained the life out of several orcs here, leaving them as mere husks. Upon approaching the altar to Tyr there, they found that the force at work was the spectre of Ferran Martinez, last chaplain of Sokal Keep, who fortunately recognized the passwords Wolf gave him. Martinez explained that his final spells were crafted to ensure that the keep would always be guarded; in doing so he had inadvertently bound both his own spirit and those of the original garrison to the place as well as animating the bodies of the dead. Wolf explained that Men again inhabited New Phlan and sought to reclaim the old city, and suggested to Martinez that the arrival of a new garrison might allow the curse to be lifted. Martinez agreed, but insisted that the adventurers must prove the ability of the new settlers to protect the Keep by fighting off the rapidly approaching orc war party. The party agreed, and prepared for battle.

The party rightly suspected that the Orcs would attack the front gate of Sokal Keep, the collapsed gate being the weakest point. To make up for this, the party rigged up several tripwires and concealed spike traps (shallow pungi stakes) in the gateway itself. Inigo mounted the section of wall to the right of the gate, Ginallath the left, and Beck stood near the gate itself, boasting that he would hold it alone. Wulf, MacTavish, and Aeryn stayed in the courtyard to provide support where needed.

The Orc assault force arrived in five ominous black longboats, and began to pour onto the beach – the party counted at least 40-50 orcs and hobgoblins. Immediately, the Orcs rushed for the gate, only to be repelled by accurate archery from Inigo and sorcery from Ginallath. But this was only an initial assault, a testing of strength.

The humanoids’ next assault came in three wings. The largest, a party of orcs stiffened by an elite all-hobgoblin assault team, struck directly at the gate. Some were killed or incapacitated by the traps. The rest faced Beck, who crushed many with each swing of his great two-handed maul. The other two groups each made for a section of wall, hoping to climb over it with grapnels while the defenders were occupied at the gate. The lefthand group’s attempt bogged down into a stalemate, as Ginallath used his spells and accurate sling shots to keep them from successfully gaining a foothold. The righthand group, however, managed to make it up the wall, where some descended into the Keep while others fought desperately to keep Inigo pinned until they could be reinforced.

Wulf rushed forward to help Beck at the gate, and the two of them tore into the hobgoblin elites while MacTavish and Aeryn shot down any orcs who managed to slip past the fight. A squad of orcs from Inigo’s position on the wall rushed towards them, and the defenders of the gate would have been overwhelmed had not the remaining undead garrison of the keep shambled forward to reinforce them. Unable to take the left of the gate, the orcs there resorted to sniping at Ginallath with their javelins, badly wounding him. All of the party was, in fact, badly wounded and MacTavish’s healing spells were gone.

But as Beck and Wulf, streaming with gore, cleaved down the last of the hobgoblins, the warparty’s morale broke and they ran for their boats with a frenzied Beck in hot pursuit. Quickly pushing their longboats back into the river, they rowed frantically home as Beck sent loud insults and a hurled vial of acid after them.

After searching the bodies of the dead, the badly wounded but victorious party returned to Martinez’s chapel, where the spectre gratefully released the keep to the City of New Phlan’s care. He also warned them that they faced further challenges, for the invaders of Phlan 500 years ago had been aided by a magical pool, and a great and powerful general, Tryanthraxus. Martinez advised the party to seek the library of the sage Mendor, then faded away, his task complete.


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