Uneasy Lies the Head

Session 5 Adventure Log
The three faces of the mountain

The afternoon was drawing to a close on another day of fruitless surveying. On the beach, the makeshift fortifications were taking on a more permanent character. From the wreckage of the forest a party could be seen approaching the camp. 10 men and 2 women, led by a young man with a copper tipped spear who greets the group in a barely comprehensible form of Archaic Doni and gesticulates towards the pig that was slowly turning to dinner over the campfire. Blank faces all around and the man repeats his statement – spinning his spear in a circle around his head. This time one of the sailors pieces together the recognizable fragments: it appears that all pigs, indeed everything out to the reef, is theirs and payment is due for the animal. Tomasso, nodding, passes his steel dagger to Mathias who makes an elaborate and extremely well received presentation of the gift to the leader who nods and, through the sailor’s translation, says that this is worth a number of pigs and they are welcome to them. Matthias asks what keeps them here and the man chuckles sardonically and tells them that there is no leaving the island, it is cursed, and that they are welcome to come to the village which they will need to join to earn their keep. The mention of the curse elicits different reactions from the band, perhaps not everyone subscribes to the leader’s view and, as the band departs, one of the two women looks back at Matthias with a measure of interest and grudging respect.

The next morning the group heads off by skiff taking the opportunity to survey the shore between the camp and the village. Tomasso now has enough of the shoreline surveyed that he can make calculations and the conclusions are not heartening. The island is large and very close to circular, at least 100 kilometers in diameter, judging by the curvature of the shore. The reef, impenetrable at every location that he has so far surveyed, runs parallel to the shore. It seems likely that the reef rests on the caldera wall of the current volcano’s much larger antecedent. It appears that there is nothing else to it but to visit the village and see what can be learned about islanders and their history.

Walking up the strand afforded a good view of the whole village, surprisingly intact considering the damage that Szilvia had witnessed. Obviously the inhabitants were used to these events as various pre-fabricated pieces of hut were being added to repair what damage still remained. Disconcertingly, the skulls adorning the doorways are no longer goat skulls but unmistakably human. The populace does not appear threatening, however, and the party is greeted by a crowd of onlookers including the young leader and woman from yesterday. She looks glad to see the group’s arrival. An old man, thin and bearded and with a retinue of young children moves to the front and begins addressing the party in even more archaic Doni. The party is able to piece together the general meaning of the greeting which appears to involve thanking providence, or possibly a godlike figure, for blessing the village with the stranger’s presence. Matthias and Szilvia, in an attempt to get a response from the woman and to figure out how current the village’s news of the outside world is begin by introducing themselves as members of the Sarkad family. This draws blanks from all except the woman who appears more interested than ever. They offer the services of the party to assist in any rebuilding tasks. The elder nods appreciatively and reiterates the welcome. They are free to explore the village and the environs and a meal will be provided later in the afternoon.

The group divides up to see what can be learned. The village is larger than first thought, maybe 400 people, and borders a fresh stream that winds its way down from the mountain. The stream has been cleverly dammed in several locations to divert the flow into paddies for cultivating rice. The forest, though worse for wear from the storm’s attentions, is thick and lush and filled with a multitude of the semi-feral pigs that the party had already partaken in. The strand separating the village from the lagoon holds several catamaran-style canoes designed for net fishing. Work is proceeding apace on the homes, Vida impressing the local womenfolk by routinely picking large things up and putting them down where required. In the process of doing so he notices the ceremony surrounding the reinstatement of the skulls above the newly reconstructed doorways. The skull is brought forth from a hiding place and then after a short ritual of thanks is placed in the archway. After witnessing several of these Vida asks the man who has just finished mounting the skull: “Father?” The man grins at him and says “Grandfather!”

Szilvia, meanwhile, manages to converse with the woman who exchanges a series of pleasantries but refuses to tip her hand. She appears to be speaking with an assumed accent and Szilvia suspects that she can speak much more modern Doni than is letting on. The woman explains that she is adept at repairing boats and fishing, thus explaining her position of some prominence in the village hierarchy, and she does not appear at all pleased to hear about the party’s maritime proficiency. She explains that the young man from yesterday’s expedition is the deputy war chief and the old man of today’s introductions is the deputy lore chief. It is difficult to tell with the language barrier exactly what this implies but certainly no one is mentioned who has deputized either of these two. Mathias meanwhile has struck up several conversations with local men, one of whom appears more forthcoming than most telling him that there are two other villages on the island. These are not talked about and it appears that there may be some tensions between rival clans. Responding to Matthias’ prying about the island curse, he states that the village is a good place, a rich place, they are protected and refuses to be budged from this viewpoint or offer additional information. From these and other conversations Matthias gathers that there may be a number of inhabitants who are being pressured into maintaining the appearance of linguistic purity: perhaps survivors of other shipwrecks?

The afternoon progresses and it is now time for the daily meal. Benches are whipped out from under the huts and rapidly formed into a circle large enough for who will be dining. The deputy lore chief stands up and begins droning some incantation of thanksgiving for the received bounty and food begins to make its way around. The fare consists primarily of rice biscuits and some form of meat pate. Szilvia asks one of the serving girls whether the pate is pork and she looks confused for a moment and then realizes what’s being asked saying “Pig, yes. Goat only after dark” and walks away smiling. The meal takes some time and the day is coming to a close. Dusk is fast approaching and the deputy war chief comes over to the party and tells them that they are welcome to return tomorrow but they must leave now before nightfall. They agree, not wanting to remain here after sundown, and on returning to the boat sail back across the lagoon and around to their camp. It is an uneventful night undisturbed by any sounds of drums.

Having made little headway into the nature of the curse or the villagers’ religious practices, the party decides to survey the island in the hopes of finding the other two settlements. Several pigs are smoked and fresh water is loaded and the boat sets off. The weather is calm and the lagoon between the shore and the reef is placid and easily navigable. As they leave the village behind signs of inhabitation quickly drop off. In the afternoon the procession of small rocky points, pristine beaches, palms and other vegetation changes dramatically to a barren and inhospitable shoreline of cliffs jutting out into the lagoon. The weathered rock appears in danger of crumbling and indeed the base of the cliffs is a mess of jagged boulders and debris. With no safe anchorages in sight, Tomasso urges the boat onwards and by nightfall they have passed the cliffs and are back into a lush valley stretching from the base of the mountain out to sandy and inviting shores. This valley, however, has no signs of habitation or running water. There are also no traces of the pigs that were so common in the previous valley, the local wildlife restricted to various tropical birds. The ship is moored just off one of the beaches and the party settles down to a dinner of freshly caught fish and smoked pork.

The night’s watch is uneventful and indeed the next two days pass in remarkably similar fashion. They pass two more valleys, without habitation, water or significant fauna, and broken up by the same ancient lava flows that extend the volcano right down to the lagoon. The next day, however, they pass by the broken cliffs and into a singularly uninviting valley. By this time the trip has taken them to the very north of the island and the mountain casts a long shadow that carpets the valley in a gloomy half-light. A stream flows down the mountainside, past a myriad of caves and onwards into towards the lagoon. There is no sign of inhabitation. As night falls a faint sound wafts down from the heights: the whispering and whistling of wind through the caves. In the windless calm of the lagoon there is little to drown out the noise and it drones on, hour upon hour. In the morning, a haggard party makes ready to leave. Each one has spent a night dreaming of emptiness, of an un-fillable void, and no one is the slightest bit rested.

Unwilling to explore the valley further at present the party moves on. The sixth and seventh valleys are unremarkable but the eighth looks promising. A stream flows down from the mountainside and what looks like a village, at least some form of habitation, can be seen up near the mountain’s edge. At this time there is no interest in exploring by land so they continue on past the last two non-descript valleys arriving back at the sea-side village they first encountered. Making landfall they are again greeted by the inhabitants but there is a new undercurrent of reserve. The young war chief appears to want to make issue with the continued consumption of island resources but the lore chief makes a gesture whose “why rush the inevitable” meaning is pretty plain. Vida notices the young women, previously quite taken with him, are now more reluctant to display any interest. The woman is nowhere to be seen. The party sails back to camp and spends a night before deciding to head back to the eighth valley and see what can be learned from the villagers in the foothills.

After anchoring, they debark and move up through the valley. Closer to the foothills Szilvia slips ahead and is making her way through the brush when she spots a band of men, faces painted in a similar manner to the skulls adorning the houses in the first village. They are carrying copper tipped spears and appear to be attempting to maneuver so as to cut her off. Turning around she sprints back to the group and quickly leaves the chasing men behind. They abandon pursuit when it becomes obvious that she cannot be caught. Night falling and discretion being a large part of valor, they retreat to the boat. With the arrival of darkness the hillside lights up in a pattern of bonfires, blazing then dimmed and sometimes going out altogether. It is difficult to discern a code but obviously one exists. Unwilling to let the opportunity slip by, a group rows to shore, lights a bonfire and sets about repeating the signal from one of the central caves. Immediately all the other bonfires go out and the remaining fire blazes bright and repeats the same signal back. They repeat the same pattern again and, in response, the cave fire roars to life and stays brightly lit for the remainder of the night. They fix the position on the hillside and set out in the morning to find its source.
From the valley floor to the caves is a steep climb through a thinning forest that reveals several Yaol clumps at no great distance. This is the first time that most of the group has seen the living tree and the sight of the dense, dark copses perched improbably on craggy outcroppings leaves an impression. Scrambling through several sections of treacherous loose rock they reach plateau and the signal fire at the mouth of the cave. The fire is a barely smoldering ruin of its former self and has clearly not been tended all day. The plateau is empty but, coming from the cave mouth, the sound of drums drifts up from within the mountainside. Vida is winded from the trip up and, unsure of what awaits within, the group pauses by the signal fire to let him catch his breath. As they sit and wait the drumming begins to rise in volume and in pace. They are wanted within. Rising, they light torches and proceed into the darkness.

The cave is smaller than expected, almost a hallway, leading down into the mountain. In the dancing torchlight painted wall figures seem to take on a life of their own. Matthias stops to puzzle over their sequence and in a moment of ethnographic inspiration, manages to piece together the disparate parts. The drawings appear to depict a chronology that begins with a group of small stickmen. There follows symbols for bad or evil occurrences and then a larger man with goat horns appears and leads the stickmen. The stick men multiply in number and are shown bowing to the horned man—more symbols for bad times—a reduced group of stickmen take horned skull to the volcano. Feeling slightly wiser the party proceeds onwards and enters into a much larger cavern. The space is partially natural, stalactites hang from a high ceiling, but evidence of some excavations can also be seen. The walls are covered in a multitude of different faces and creatures visible in the light of three great fires. Two of the fires blaze in pits on the floor. The third is further back in the cave on an elevated platform. In front of the fire sits a tall and spindly horned figure. From his position a huge horned shadow stretches forth to touch the entrance that the party has just walked through. Behind the third fire drums thunder and echo in a shroud of darkness. The goatman stands and raises a long stick above his head. The drumming increases in tempo and he snaps the stick in half. Immediately he takes one broken half and, placing it to his lips, drinks deeply whatever is contained within. After finishing he throws the other broken half down to the group. Matthias and Tomasso both drink from the offered branch while Szilvia and Vida abstain. The liquid is a silky white substance with a taste unlike anything the two have experienced before. The drumming takes on a more rhythmical, trancelike quality. Vida, leaning on his meditative training, resists the hypnotic effect of the drums and watches as the figure on the platform dances in various evolutions. Looking over at his charges he sees Szilvia sinking into a reverie. Both Matthias and Tomasso are swaying slowly and completely oblivious to their surroundings.

Sunk into the trance Matthias finds himself floating into wall. The stone feels warm and comforting as he moves towards the center of the volcano and he feels a sense of oneness with the mountain. Slowly he begins to rise up, out of the rock and high into the sky. At these immense heights he can see the entire archipelago stretch out before him. Over the wind come voices chanting his name over and over. Suddenly he is in another cave—he is now a small child. Simultaneously he has the sensation of being in this moment and being a great way off. He sees his grandfather kneeling in vigil over the body of a handsome young man. His body has some markings of Sarkad heritage. He is dressed in flowing black robes open and revealing a chest with a set of drawn markings Matthias cannot distinguish and a large spike through the heart. His grandfather is trying to pull out the spike—Mathias moves to help him. They strain but they cannot pull the stake free. Outside of his dream and in her own reverie, Szilvia perceives Matthias and Tomasso sliding into the walls. She races towards them and grasps at her brother trying to pull him clear but he is unresponsive and oblivious to her pleas.

Meanwhile back in his vision Matthias heaves with his grandfather at the stake and suddenly the vision wrenches free of this cave—he is now in blackness—drums all around. A face with the snout of a goat appears in front of him and says “I will now answer your questions three”. Matthias thinks for a moment and then asks “What is the safe way off this island?” The head replies: “there is no safe way but when he wakes your friend will know of a way.” Matthias then asks “what must I do to heal my kingdom?” to which the head answers “you must help the cause of the good man”. Finally Matthias asks “how can I help you?” Again the voice replies “by helping the cause of the good man.” The head fades into the mist and Matthias lapses into unconsciousness.

For Tomasso, the dream begins with the sensation of being carried over the water, the deck of a ship under him. The scene solidifies and he is at Trade’s Increase’s tiller. The vessel feels perfect underneath him, its already excellent qualities improved upon to such a point that he feels she could sail across the breadth of the sea. Knowing now with absolute certainty a path through the reef he charts a course away from the island. As the land recedes, however, there is a feeling of loss of an opportunity missed and he feels he should turn back. Before he can do so, the crew turn around, all goatmen now—Tomasso is no longer captaining the ship—a storm is brewing behind them. The ship flies before the wind, skipping terrifyingly from wave to wave and he feels almost sick. Then the storm is upon them, the wind howling and sea spray flying in his face. Suddenly all is calm—they are in the heart of a purple storm. On either side of the ship huge columns of clouds billow only to vanish in haze and lighting. In the calm a woman’s voice, perhaps Elena’s, speaks to him: “two boons you can have, sailor, if you feel you deserve them.” Tomasso replies “I do not deserve them. A man should make his own destiny.” At this he has the impression that the embodiment of the storm arches her eyebrow in surprise, impressed, and suddenly there is peace as he slips into sleep.

They wake much later to an empty cave. The fires are low and there is no sign of the horned man. Making their way out of the cave, Matthias glances at the same mural story he read on entering and this time his attention is drawn to an image whose significance he had not grasped earlier. The tall goat man is being attacked by a large man in stylized gothic plate and stick men are crying all around. They make their way down the hill and through the forest back to the boat. In the light of day, Szilvia notices that Tomasso has a birthmark on the back of his neck, faint, purple and shaped like a kiss. She’s pretty sure she’s never seen it before but can’t be certain. They board and Tomasso sets a course for the haunted valley. Vida has brought one of the stick ends back from the cave and passes it to Mo who examines it and finds the sap already hardened and no evidence of how it could have been liquefied. He suspects some form of reverse grafting that allows preparation to take place while still attached to the Yaol tree.

Several uneventful days later, the weather still cooperating, they arrive at the fifth valley and drop anchor. The crew, left to their own devices, sets up a small camp on the shore and the party sets out to ascend the mountain to find the third community of the island. The valley has a slightly less haunted feel and as they leave the forest floor behind the mountainside does show traces of habitation. Here and there among the Yaol-wood clumps are caves whose entrances look slightly too uniform to be completely natural. The climb steepens and coming to a particularly difficult section Matthias and Szilvia stop, winded, for a needed rest. Tomasso and Vida proceed up the path a ways trying to construct a rope walk to help the other two in their ascent. In the process they notice that they are being watched by a group of unarmed young men farther up the mountainside. The men make no gestures of welcome but nor do they appear hostile. The rope walk is completed and the party resumes the ascent. Another full day of climbing and then it’s Tomasso and Vida’s turn to be left behind as they succumb to exhaustion and stop to rest. It’s as Matthias and Szilvia are proceeding ahead to set up the ropes that they are met by an elderly man guarded by the same young watchers seen the day before. The man asks “What do you seek?” and Matthias replies “We seek the truth of the island.” The man replies “Why should I share this with strangers?” He moves closer and looking into Matthias’ eyes says “I see you have witnessed visions, a shadow of the truth.” His eyes grow misty “I have some access to this power. Your people have called them devils and that again is a shadow of the truth. I tell you that any power has a price and you must tell me what you are willing to pay. If you are truly willing to sacrifice you may gain some tools to aid you on your journey.” Avoiding the question, Szilvia asks about the goats and their symbolism. The man answers “It is difficult to sacrifice when you are rich. They are surprisingly loyal, not unlike a family member.” Matthias asks how they can proceed and the man informs them that there are two ways to ascend: the inside and the outside paths. Both are perilous but the outer path’s dangers are more physical and will take you to the summit before going down into the crater to the garden at the heart of the mountain.

None of the party seem particularly interested in making the exchange but Tomasso is keen to press on, suspecting that he might find answers at the summit. Vida and Szilvia decide to remain and Tomasso and Matthias complete the punishing climb to the summit. It’s a brutal ascent that both, not the strongest of athletes, are lucky to complete. The view, at least for Tomasso, makes it all worthwhile. From the peak the entire archipelago stretches out before him. He takes in the sight and glimpses a long, straight reef several days sail from the island: Sword-Gash Reef! A second marking on the handkerchief!

While Tomasso is surveying the sea, Matthias investigates the huge crater. It is difficult to tell how far down the pit extends but the precarious staircase that winds its way down the crater wall descends a good 500 feet and disappears into the murk below. Matthias gauges the possibilities of making the decent without breaking his neck and, finding them to be slim, returns to Tomasso. For his part Tomasso wants to spend the night up on the summit and watch the dawn so Matthias heads back down to meet the party. They descent is more difficult than the climb and losing his footing at one point he smashes his right arm against a rock breaking it instantly. He limps back to camp, blinded by the pain, and Szilvia asks the old man to do what he can to heal him. The man applies splints and bandages but doesn’t seem confident of a full recovery and says to Szilvia “everyone sacrifices something”. Tomasso makes it down the next morning fortunate to have avoided the same mishap.

In the meantime Vida has decided that he will try the inner path and enters the mountain through a doorway in the back of the sage’s house. Moving along the path he is assaulted by a series of spirits but ignores them by sinking into a meditative state and proceeds onwards. The cave widens and soon he arrives at a gushing underground stream. The water cascades out of a hole in the ceiling, down a steep rock wall and onwards into blackness. From above there is a faint gleam of daylight and Vida senses that he must make it through to continue his journey. The water, heated by the volcano, is far too hot to endure for more than a few moments and he must make a decision. To proceed will require a concession in exchange for progress in the Dervish way. Vida decides to let go of the memories of his past and, as they slip through his fingers, he begins to feel a magical force within him. With only a nascent understanding and control of this power he moves into the water, successfully wrapping the force around him to inure himself to the physical pain. The water is too fast, however, and though he tries he cannot ascend the stream into the heart of the mountain. Defeated in this, but enlightened for the effort, Vida returns to the entrance and the hut and meets Szilvia and the remainder of the party.

The trip down the mountain and back to the valley is uneventful, each unwilling to break the others’ silence. They arrive back at the boat and set sail, Vida desiring to re-visit the valley with the ceremonial cave once more. He has questions that he seeks from the old man. They anchor there for the night and Vida ascends to the cave. Unlike the earlier trip there is only a faint hint of accompanying drums, the cave is cool and the fires are banked low. He finds the old man and asks him for one of the sticks with the dream-sap. The man gives him a penetrating gaze and Vida can feel him reading the events of the last several days. For a while the man is silent and then he makes a dismissive motion saying “There is nothing for you here”. Vida returns to the ship.

Tomasso pilots a course along the lagoon towards their original landing and the village. Approaching the village they anchor some ways off shore, curious inhabitants crowd the beach to witness the events. Matthias yells that we are going to make an attempt to leave the island and any who wish to come are welcome. Initially there are only exchanged looks between the villagers but then one woman, the fisherwoman Szilvia met in earlier visits, drops the net she was working on and makes a run for the surf. The war chief takes his spear and with deliberate aim throws it clean through her shoulder. The woman staggers and falls but gathers her strength and plunges into the waves. Szilvia draws her bow and lets fly an arrow which flies true striking the war chief in the face. Amid the screams of rage on the beach the lore chief begins cursing the party. Lost in his chant he is oblivious to the arrows burying themselves in the sand around him. By this time the woman has made it to the boat and been hauled over the gunnels. Having now missed the lore chief three times, Szilvia abandons the attempt and he finishes his curse. A garden variety malediction only as, thankfully, no arrow made it home transforming it into a death curse. Tomasso tends quickly to the woman’s wounds and then steers a course for the section of reef known to him from the vision. There gap, though present, is navigable only through a combination of speed and timing the swell and there will be no second attempt. Lining the craft up with the tide race he orders the crew to loose the sails. Trade’s Increase picks up pace, speeding towards the reef, and with a few quick pumps on the tiller they emerge, unscathed, into the sorrowful sea.

Session 4 Adventure Log

Trade’s Increase sails past Al Thasdun just after dusk two days later. It had been a choppy, if not particularly eventful, journey and one that the party would need many hours of solid land under their feet to regain their bearings. For some this is the first sight of the city, for others, more of a homecoming. Stretching the width of the bay and sheltered by the mountains that blunt the Southern winds and make the cities existence possible, Al Thasdun is a study in contrasts to Aramviso. The city gently flows down the mountainside, a cascade of lit terraces, to the lower city and the sea. Te massive Emir’s palace occupies the central heights, its darkened upper portions, the pleasure gardens and apartments are a missing jewel in the city’s crown. Small streams flow down the hillside, their courses engineered to flow through the villas of the wealthy before moving on to the abodes of those less well off.

The ship anchors in a cove ten miles to the South, sheltered only by scrub and brush but providing a decently concealed anchorage. From here goat paths twine through the hills to reach the back of the city in the Palace district. Wanting a quicker passage to the inn, however, Tomasso instructs the crew to ready the boat for departure and rows the party in. At the docks a little subterfuge and some quick distractions allow the group to appear as if they have not just hopped off a boat at 2am but are coming from the night’s revelries. The streets are better light and busier than would be normal in Neu Ungren at this time and they set off for the inn which their uncle had indicated as the meeting point.

The Flag is a sprawling complex in the Southern style that looks as if it has seen better days. Making their way into the courtyard and then into the atrium there is no sign of anyone and a gong situated near the bar is considered and discarded as too intrusive. They move over to what appears to be the innkeep’s suite and knock quietly. Almost instantly a man answers from inside and comes to the door. Matthias introduces himself and Szilvia indicating that they are here to meet Roberto. The proprietor, a large man of obviously Northern extraction with huge drooping side whiskers ushers everyone into the atrium. Introducing himself as Hank, Hakim around these parts, he arranges two rooms and when questioned about the current situation and their uncle’s whereabouts goes to put on a pot of coffee.

On his return Hank outlines the current situation. The city is in a bad way. Yusuf Kuzbak, titular prince of the city and a venal rogue has been assassinated in a very public fashion, his decapitated head thrown into the marketplace. Despite the very public nature and 6 months elapsing the prince’s killers have not been apprehended. The city is now under the rule of a very lax, and nominally Kuzbak-loyal judge (Qadi) and has descended into squalor. Rival families and gangs are taking the opportunity to settle old grudges and there is very little civic investment. Rumor has it that the Kuzbakids have sent “a man” down from the mountains to sort the city out but no evidence of this actually transpiring has yet been forthcoming. To make matters worse a significant current of anti-Kuzbak sentiment, especially within the old families, is being inflamed by preaching at the local Jebbabs and is merging into a general hostility towards foreigners. This, obviously, has not been good for the inn’s business. Hank recommends that they do not stray far from the inn tomorrow (their uncle should arrive within two days) as it is a prayer and meeting day and foreigners are even more likely to be harassed. Exhausted and willing to leave business until the next day the party retreats to their rooms to get a comfortable sleep in well turned out, if not recently used beds.

The next morning breakfast is served by one of Hank’s daughters, a gorgeous woman combining the best features of her mother’s Southern looks with those of her father. Heeding Hank’s advice, and in any case still mostly unsteady on solid ground, the day is spent lounging at the inn. In the daytime the courtyard takes on new life as a local marketplace and general watering hole. Nothing of particular interest, a man busy proving that there was almost no market for donkeys the primary entertainment until Vida moves into the courtyard to start his morning training. It soon becomes apparent that there is an over large number of young men loitering with a vengeance. All wear some form of grey hooded robe and direct suspicious glances at Vida, the rest of the party and especially the innkeep. Shortly thereafter an argument begins between Hank and some of the young turks. Szilvia, moving closer to overhear, learns that Hank is being pressured to explain why he was not at the Jebbab this morning and to hold a poetry recital. The inn, says a cloaked spokesman, has been the site of these events since time immemorial and they are requesting the chance to continue this tradition. Hank seems most unwilling to acquiesce and after dismissing the men for the moment, moves back into the inn. On questioning some of the guests it’s discovered that these are primarily sons of middle class nobility attempting to throw their weight around out. They dislike Hank for his foreign birth, his refusal to worship and most importantly his refusal to force his daughters to marry certain local gentleman of good standing. Vida, still practicing, is challenged by one of the men for his lack of attendance at worship but he replies “it is through practice that we improve and through improvement that we come closer to the truth” and the cloak, who cannot think of an appropriate retort, retreats to his group.

The day moves forward, with numbers of cloaks coming and going but showing no sign of reducing in numbers and looking increasingly hungry for any pretext to start setting about with their large staves. The arrival of food in the late afternoon passes unnoticed and it appears that a confrontation is inevitable. It’s suggested to Hank that they consider calling the bluff. Setting a fire would attract the guard and it’s unlikely that the cloaks are bloodthirsty enough to fight at those stakes. Hank agrees and Tomasso sneaks around back, disguised in a grey cloak, and sets fire to a set of damn blankets and other garbage, returning without detection. The smoke rises and the alarm is sounded. Hank’s daughters are screaming, his wife playing the part of a long suffering and persecuted woman and Hank himself storms into the courtyard demanding how this all has come to pass. A bucket chain is arranged and the fire is dealt with. In the courtyard an inebriated man, unnoticed until now, stands up and weaves his way to the front. “Alright boys” he says “it’s time to go”. His words appear to carry great weight and no one gainsays him. When the guard arrives demanding what has happened he tells them that perhaps there was some light arson. Hank, on being questioned, proclaims that he’s sure it wasn’t these young gentleman here. The young gentleman in question are invited for a chat at the constabulary, the guards seeming oblivious to their protests of who their parents may be. A small, scrofulous guard notices Tomasso and mutters something to one of his partners. Tomasso indicates he’s seen the exchange and the guard approaches and says “come with me, it will be easier this way”. In the proceedings the drunken man seems to have disappeared though Tomasso swears that he sees him at the bar for a second as he is leaving with the guard.

The guard introduces himself as Khnobi, and proceeds to talk the entire way to the palace grounds while saying absolutely nothing of worth. Tomasso is lead into the lower palace complex, evidently serving as the guard headquarters, an imposing building of reddish stone and rusting metal. They wind their way through the foreboding tunnels and hallways on a path that feels suspiciously circuitous. The walls appear hewn out of the rock rather than constructed and the place has the air of professionally inflicted despair. Khnobi arrives at a door, knocks, and is let in by a brute of a man who stands back revealing his twin and a spartan room consisting of an unused divan and a desk with a thick man sitting at it.

The man thanks Khnobi and dismisses him and the two guards who scowl at Tomasso as they leave. Without pausing from…eating is the wrong word for his treatment of the fowl…processing, he introduces himself as Irfan stating “You bought the Black Widow”. Tomasso nods. Irfan nods and proceeds to outline a deal of the take it or leave it variety. In exchange for turning a blind eye to all dealings he wants a 50% cut of the profits and the names of contacts and manifests for all shipments in and out of the city. If this is not forthcoming and Tomasso attempts to continue business in Al Thasdun then violence will be visited on his person, most specifically in the testicular region. After weighing the situation, but none too pleased by it, he accepts the deal. Khnobi will be his contact locally. He returns to the inn.

Later that evening Roberto makes his appearance looking significantly worse for wear. Gone is the fat, amiable man, he is now gaunt, wiry and haggard looking. Nonetheless he is overjoyed to the see the heirs announcing that he’d feared he would never see them again. Matthias assures him that they got the message in time to save both Alberto and Shuh from separate attacks. With relief but with no sincerity whatsoever he says that he thought Alberto would survive to get the message through.

Not wasting any time, Roberto outlines the current situation. Yanos has not crowned himself yet but is styling his rule as a regency. Quite who this regency is on behalf of has been kept purposefully vague. The heirs inquire about the wellbeing of their mother and discover that she is being kept under house arrest (and heavy guard) in a fortified manor several hours ride from Aramviso. Their step-sister, who Yanos is blaming for the murder, has fled to the Rogebok family estates and has gone to ground. Roberto is unsure of Yanos’ next move but suggests that he may have a problem on his hands with his daughter. The heirs remember Katrina from childhood as a precocious, brat, a poor loser in all games. Time has apparently not altered her character; she has matured into a highly unpopular know-it-all. A woman who would stoop at nothing to be queen and who is not afraid to display her feeling that the crown should be hers.

Opposing Yanos, and thus potential allies for the heirs, are two of the kingdom’s most important personages. The first is Gabor Prokotnik, the old warhorse and scourge of the emirate. A brilliant commander he bears a personal grudge against Yanos for his last, and almost his only, defeat at the hands of the Kuzbakids. Prokotnik believes that Yanos is actively colluding with the Southerners and sold him down the river, directly leading to the campaign’s failure. The hatred is made more bitter by the death of Gabor’s son in that ill fated expedition. After the old king’s assassination, Gabor has retreated to his lands. He and his retainers remain entrenched in what is likely the most fortified position in the entire island. He remains an important political figure, recognized for his martial prowess, his loyalty and he retains the fealty of a large number of men at arms. If the heirs wish to endear themselves to him Roberto suggests that they consider the close personal friendship Gabor had with their grandfather. Mo inquires what manner of man was he and Roberto describes Godor Sarkad as a magnificent bastard, a wencher, a great man to have next to you in a fight: a man’s man who couldn’t run a moderately sized village and only lucked into his kingdom by the grace of his seneschal Oltan Capetti’s steadfast devotion to seeing Godor’s whims achieved.

The second possible power broker is [Firstname] Gurtochuk. Unlike Gabor who is personally out to wring Yanos’s neck, Gurtochuk’s beef is much older and with the Sarkads in general. Apparently at the time of the departure of their grandfather’s expedition he had believed himself more of a social equal and compatriot rather than a subject. Godor seized the monarchy, cut a deal with the southerners and then failed to implement any meaningful distribution of authority by sanctioning only the most neutered of parliaments and the Gurtochuk family has been nursing a grudge ever since. He derives most of his power from his immense wealth and he is owed money by a large part of Aramviso’s nobility which, in uncertain times could be to his advantage but also means that a good deal of the nobility would be very glad if he were shown the door of the kingdom.

The heirs discuss the options and the party offers some opinions. Matthias is strongly in favor of Prokotnik for his martial assets as well as his reputation for loyalty. There seems to be little interest in Gurtochuck. Roberto advances that he also has extensive contacts with the local thieves guild that would be, for the right arrangements, willing to invest a substantial amount of money to certain “causes”. Mo also discusses the future of their partnership with Mathias. He is very much interested to know what future there will be for his research projects and Mathias promises him that funds will be diverted and also that there should be ample opportunities for such a skilled engineer in their exploits to come. The heirs decide, that the first priority should be rescue mother before any possibility of word from Neu Ungren reaches Aramviso. It’s thought that springing her loose in such a bold and decided manner will also be beneficial in negotiations with Prokotnik. The earliest window for news arriving in Aramviso would be seven days from now. Travelling by land would be two days too slow. Sailing would take approximately six days on the Al Thasdun → Tunna → Aramviso route but could be affected by a lack of wind or storms. There is a third and much riskier way, sailing directly along the coast, but this would require the navigation of treacherous uncharted shoals. No one sails that route…

Half a day out of Al Thasdun the ship is embayed near the mouth of the Arvil river. Tomasso makes several unsuccessful attempts to find a path through the shoals but with a wind coming up he is forced to beach the boat and take stock of the situation. Surveying the surrounds in his skiff he discovers a path which may allow them to continue the voyage. It’s either that, dismast the ship and row her up the Arvil to the foothills or turn tail and sail back to Al Thasdun two days the poorer. Surveying the shoal he pegs the chance at little better than a coin toss of passing over with the hull unscathed. Tossing the dice, the crew is ordered to shove off and they set sail for the gap. With a flick of the tiller the ship crests the top of a wave and rides it momentarily, only a few seconds but enough time to clear the gap and into the next lagoon. A silent prayer of thanks to fate, Tomasso steers the ship through the remaining reefs and into the clear waters off Aramviso.

It’s with the walls of the citadel in sight and the satisfaction of a difficult voyage managed that the party’s path takes an unexpected left turn. Out of nowhere a massive gale, not quite a purple storm but definitely lurid pink, ambushes the boat and lays her on her beam ends. Orders are given to drop all the sails and with a scrap of canvas serving as a storm jib Tomasso and the crew struggle to keep the ship as close to their destination as possible. Staying afloat is the greater priority, though, and the ship is forced to fly before the wind. With no bearings and with the ship travelling much too quickly for sounding, Tomasso has little recourse but to post a man at the bows to yell if any obstacles should heave into sight. A wet, miserable position, and the crew rotates bell after bell to give each man a break. After 12 hours of scudding blindly across the sea the storm blows itself out and as first the wind then the rain lets up it reveals a small island no great way off.

The ship appears to be rocking gently in a large coral lagoon and a quick glance at the reefs does not reveal any easy exit routes. With little other option, they beach the boat in the delta of the small river feeding the lagoon. While the sailors, under Mo’s direction, set about digging a trench and erecting a small defense of sharpened sticks, Tomasso sets about investigating the reef with his skiff. A more thorough investigation does nothing to improve the initial survey. After several hours he is no closer to finding a safe passage. It’s disconcerting that the island is so…native…it would suggest that they may be significantly farther from Aaramviso than he had thought possible. Bobbing on the lagoon and trying to fix their relative position, his thoughts drift to his router describing the approaches to Isla Malarta. Something trips a memory of a “hooded island” surrounded by shoals marked “xxx certain death – Avoid!” and, suddenly, he remembers the same symbol combination appearing in Elena’s handkerchief. At that moment he turns and, looking back towards the shore, sees a column of smoke rising. Taking precise bearings of the smoke’s origin, about two hours walk into the forest, he returns to the beach to tell everyone that they’re not alone.

Consternation and a decision to scout out the other settlement, for the smoke Tomasso had seen was clearly more than a small campfire. Szilvia volunteers to scout ahead and with backup about half an hour behind in the forest. Creeping up on the forest edge she spies a village of huts, the architecture unmistakably riverlands Doni, and a number of people milling about. The village appears to be a farming community and the wild pigs that roam the forest likely descendants of earlier domesticated ancestors. Oddly, Szilvia notices that most of the huts have one or more goat skulls adorning the doorway. The skulls appear to be marked with patterns in a ruddy brown substance that could be blood. Apart from that the only item of interest is the apparent preparation for some form of feast later tonight. Several bonfires are being heaped up in anticipation. Szilvia returns to the backup group to report the findings and indicates that she will go back to watch the feast and see if there is more intel to be gained.

When she makes her way back to the clearing dusk is already falling and the festivities appear to have started. The village is lit by numerous fires with one large bonfire near the centre. At the very centre, however, there is a dias with a garlanded goat on it. The villagers appear to be treating the goat with significant respect and reverence. The party continues with the consumption of significant amounts of liquor from a communal bowl. A little while later the drumming starts and to Szilvia it feels more potent than drumming normally should. Looking back at the village it is no longer clear exactly what is happening on the ceremony grounds. The dancing humans now appear to be taking on goat like qualities, this fades in and out but gradually becomes more consistent. The goat on the dias now appears to be a garlanded human surrounded by dancing goatmen. Finally the ceremony reaches its height, to Szilvia it’s now completely clear that this is a village of goatmen sacrificing a man. One of the leaders approaches and cries out in a mixed tongue that includes some recognizable Doni such as “for saving us, for the master, a little bit of power”. He then sacrifices the garlanded man with a vicious looking blade and a shower of blood, far more than would be expected bursts forth. The goatmen surge forward and begin painting their faces with the same markings as Szilvia saw earlier on the skulls above the hut doors. The goatman who led the sacrifice picks up the corpse and brings it over to the fire. Goatmen start dancing around the bonfire, some in an extasy begin cutting themselves and splashing the blood on the flames. The leader tosses the corpse onto the bonfire and as it is consumed a shape forms momentarily above the flames before dissipating. Szilvia falls asleep and when Vita and Mathias come to investigate several hours later they find her sleeping blissfully and so deeply that she is undisturbed when Vida picks her up bodily and they return to the boat.

Back at the boat there is consternation when, in the morning Szilvia wakes up and explains to Matthias that she knows that the village populated with human sacrificing goatmen. After getting the full story of the previous night’s festivities the party is thoroughly disturbed. They set to improving the makeshift stockade as much as possible. Tomasso, more motivated than ever to find a path through the reefs, starts dragging his skiff down to the water’s edge. Everything would have to wait, however, because near the water’s edge Tomasso stops, the hair on his arms prickling. The breeze, previously so steadily blowing on shore, has stopped. The air, now dead still, feels cooler. It is as if the warmth of the day is being sucked straight out. He looks over his shoulder to the South/South-West. The day is clear, the sea calm. A a bank of cloud, so low to the horizon as to be almost invisible, reflects the sun’s rays. For the briefest of moments the white band flickers purple. Tomasso runs up the beach yelling frantically to the crew to start dismasting the boat.

With no time to explain he simply points to the horizon and says “purple storm”. The crew look in disbelief and then, recognizing the signs, redouble their efforts to make all fast. The boat being seen to, Mo sets to widening the trench that had been their palisade. They would dig themselves in, like Neu Ungren marines, and pray for the best. The storm’s approach is now unmistakable. In the course of five minutes the squall line has advanced across the sea, the clouds progressively building in height. The ship dismasted and made as fast as limited preparation could make her, Tomasso sets to lashing her to a series of trees with a hawser run out from the capstan. He manages to round three wide trees and is lashing the rope back upon itself when with the storm upon them Vida leaves the shelter and drags him bodily back to cover. In an instant, the sky is a lurid purple and the waves start pounding the beach. Suddenly all is calm, and there is a moment of complete silence and then wind hits the shelter. An incredible roar so deep that it shakes the walls of the trench, buffeting those crouching within. Time and space lose all meaning. The flashes of lighting appear now near, now far, but nothing else can be made out in the wall of swirling noise and water. The air is oppressive, choking, difficult to breathe. Vida, sitting cross-legged in the trench, begins to meditate, appearing to grasp some manner of inner truth among the chaos.

And then, as suddenly as it came, the storm is gone. The sky clears, the sea settles. The air, so oppressive just moments ago, now tastes clean: scoured. The party emerges from the waterlogged trench, stunned and deafened to take stock of the damage. The beach is littered with debris, the forest inland has been devastated. Scarcely a tree remains undamaged, many have been uprooted. Two of the trees the boat had been lashed to have suffered this fate and are no longer to be seen; tossed somewhere deeper inland. The third, however, remains fast. Inexplicably the ship lies where she was left, overturned, but looking for all the ruin and destruction like she had just been run up the beach for some light repair work. The hull has been scraped completely clean. Overwhelming happiness, relief and gratitude wash over Tomasso. Fortune doesn’t often come in bigger does than this.

The cleanup begins. The sea is now calm and the breeze slight and while the crew is setting the ship to rights and the party sets to rebuilding their camp Szilvia heads through the ruin of the forest to see how the village has fared. The settlement is a mess, most of the huts are flattened. The inhabitants, however, seem to be coping remarkably well. Most are moving about gathering the scattered wood and the rebuilding process seems to be already well in train. Meanwhile, back at the beach, Tomasso rows out to the reefs hoping to find that the storm has broken or shifted some reefs; perhaps there is now a passage. To his regret he finds that the bay is exactly as he surveyed it yesterday. He remembers the sailor’s tale of hooded islands surrounded by reefs so strong and impenetrable that they cannot be shifted even by such storms. The islands of these stories are invariably wealthy, crammed with nubile women and perhaps a curse or trial to overcome for the shipwrecked sailors to gain their freedom. What will the party need to do to gain their freedom? At the very least there should be time to spare since the Santoni ship which would bring news of their departure from Neu Ungren will likely have turned back in the face of these two storms.

Session 3 Adventure Log
But really who can tell what's wrong and right on this new maritime frontier?

With the exception of the Sorrowful Sea lapping at the shores, a mountainous hinterland, a tiny river, more or less breathable air and solid ground all conspire to make Tunna as unlike Neu Ungren as possible. Despite this it appears that the best efforts of the expat community have been devoted to minimizing, as much as possible, these significant differences through a combination of preposterously dense zoning, a complete disregard for urban sanitation and a building style whose ramshackle and temporary nature suggested, despite all evidence to the contrary, an architect who believed the building might at any moment disappear a swamp. And, if Tunna is distillation of Neu Ungren then the Grassello Canal is a distillation of Tunna with its seven precariously balanced stories looming over the narrow street, each shorter and more sloped than the last.

Tomasso’s debarkation had been rather unhurried. Sorrigio had informed him of the two Mastelli contacts in town: Giordano Ahoney (a useless functionary) and Titus Vero (the unofficial and more useful contact and successful pawnbroker). On request he also produced a token for Tomasso’s services entitling the bearer to one pay docket care of Sorrigio Mastelli. Tomasso was now free to explore the town and set about arranging rooms for the party at the Canal, the expat inn, a more likely retreat than its competitor and local haunt: the Red River. The common room, bustling with people, he moves over to talk with the inkeep, obviously an expat with an accent of the new city who introduces himself as Fat Frank. Rooms arranged, Tomasso returns to the common room in time for the communal meal of fish soup served for guests and dinner patrons. A fantastic dish differentiating itself from stews of his youth by both containing gobbets of actual fish and by its spicy flavors. Obviously the Canal prides itself on its fare to a degree rare in Neu Ungren establishments of the same price range.

Before long it is time to return to the Mastelli warehouse and free the rest of the party from their shipping containers. The neighborhood between the Canal and the docks is unusually quiet and there is a conspicuous absence of bystanders. The tense atmosphere matches what Frank had told him earlier about an ugly feeling and reports of violence directed towards the expat community. Clearly the ring of concerned citizens he had seen around the Canal earlier are a wise precaution on the innkeep’s part. For all the precaution, nothing untoward occurs and Tomasso safely releases his compatriots from the warehouse. It is only on heading back to the canal that they hear cries from several streets over: pleas of help and the sounds of a fracas! Matthias suggests this might be a possible avenue for getting more insight into the local situation and the group proceeds to the scene of the rumpus.

They are greeted by a strange tableau. A storefront, whose battered sign can still be seen to read “Jimines Import/Export”, hangs above a shattered door flanked by several local toughs. Inside, several more men of the same persuasion are conducting an inventory audit with extreme prejudice. The proprietor, identifiable by his location under the boot of the gang leader has clearly lost the engagement and is trying to regain some high ground through the shrill repeated delivery of herbivore-related sexual invective while his son and wife look on. On seeing the group arrive the leader, a feral man of local Tunna extraction, removes his boot from the proprietor’s throat and moves over to the doorway. He introduces himself as Alvaro Arojo Irenez Sant Michael y Crystobal, a volunteer canvassing donations in the neighborhood for the glorious war effort of Nikolai Sarkad. Don Jimines here had apparently been disinclined to donate to the cause and is being taught a lesson in the rewards of charitable giving. The siblings look at each other. Apparently news of their father’s death is not yet common knowledge in Tunna. It appears that Vida’s presence has tipped the balance of somewhat and, sensing that Don Alvaro does not seem interested in armed confrontation, Matthias proffers a small contribution to the war effort. The skud in hand and the message clearly delivered, Alvaro bows, bids farewell to the proprietor’s wife and, on being invited to fuck off, departs with a flashing grin that reveals two vicious looking metallic canines.

The boy, having been knocked down when he offered resistance, now receives his father’s attentions and praises. Vida inspects the boy and pronounces the injury to be minor. Meanwhile, the wife introduces herself as Anna Jimines and thanks the group for arriving in time. She explains that Don Alvaro, known to be a cruel and not particularly tactful sort, is a local gangster setting himself up against the Podesta. The Podesta, Branato Marcellotti, is an Espiere creature of sorts. According to his nephew, Tomasso, Branato has a well earned reputation for being a duplicitous slime-merchant who would not stoop to selling his grandmother if it would personally profit him. Normally he can be expected to keep a modicum of order in Tunna and ensure the trade flows and he is not without resources, having a cadre of Espiere marines at his disposal. However, in the matter of Don Alvaro and his organization, the Podesta has yet to lift a finger. Her husband, Anna says, may have been specifically targeted for avoiding trade with Aramviso so as not to pay the swinging customs duties of the Sarkad regime. Matthias inquires about the political situation and Anna responds saying that while the South may be embroiled in internal struggle, the border between Sarkad and Emirate territory is currently stable. Don Jimines then comes over and offers his thanks. He and Matthias fall to talking and it’s agreed that that he should invite the local notables together for a dinner meeting the following night to discuss what can be done. Also Don Jimines indicates that he is in the party’s debt and should they wish he would be happy to convey them to Al-Thasdun. Seeing little else to be done the party leaves the Jimines family in the shattered remains of their foyer and proceed back to the inn. On the way through the common room they pause to watch an impressive belly dancing performance by a Southern woman accompanied by an accordion playing chimp. After the show Vida introduces himself and discovers that her name is Leila, the chimp’s Albert, and that they will be staying in town for at least a few more days. They retire, some to their first proper rest since they left Neu Ungren.

The next morning everyone is woken up to a terrific din of “Breakfast” coming from the common room. Mo the Engineer is prostrate from the voyage and decides to remain in the room devising some form of ear-plug. Sleep now impossible they stumble down to discover half of Tunna has arrived for the morning fare consisting of some amazing crepes and a delicious jam from fruits unknown. Limit two crepes per person. The meal having restored some humanity after the stupor of sleep, the discussion turns to future plans. Brief note is made of the fact that no one seems to know where Szilvia has gone off to but this is accepted as the normal state of affairs. Shuh is convinced that Don Alvaro’s organization is either wholly or at least receiving subsidies from Janos as an effort to assert increased Sarkad control in Tunna. Shuh also indicates that he would like to get to Aramviso as soon as possible. He has contacts there among the nobles who will shelter him while he begins gathering information. Apparently there are several local families of importance including the Foccini, Evora, Tranbuscatti and Ahmad who run regular trips to Al-Thasdun but not a regular traffic to Aramaviso. The Jimines family could also count themselves among this group once but seem to have fallen somewhat from past heights.

There follows a curious discussion between Matthias, Vida and Tomasso whose reasoning pattern can be summed up as follows:
1. We need to get on a ship
2. Ships can carry cargo as well as people
3. The southern rebels will pay huge money for weapons
4. Let’s assume for the moment that we can avoid customs and revenue
5. Profit!!!

So, in an perfect demonstration of the cart before horse approach, Tomasso goes out to discover how many crates of weapons he can convince to fall off the back of a wagon. Feelers are put out and it’s determined that a sizeable quantity of 5 crates could be made to tumble at appropriate times for the price of 16 Skud per accident. After concluding that this purchase can be transacted at a future time of convenience he turns to securing method for actually conveying these goods. The broker informs him that there are currently two ships on the market, both coastal skiffs. The first can be had for 20 Skud and is a serviceable and sturdy, if not youthful, craft. The latter, for the bargain price of 7 Skud, will be ready to put to sea “any day now” but on inspection, that day appears to be a great way off.

In making these enquiries, however, Tomasso happens upon a rumor that a third vessel might be available for purchase. The terms are rather unusual : an auction five days hence at the Red River inn, only discerning individuals of means need apply. The boat in question is the Black Widow, a smuggling vessel of great renown captained by a woman of the same name. It appears the Widow is looking to exit her line of work and is selling the boat to buoy up her retirement savings. Overjoyed, Tomasso returns to the inn to relay the good news. He suggests to Matthias that this could be a golden opportunity to purchase not just a vessel perfect for the transport of uncustomed wares but also the local knowledge of coves and contacts that could set such an enterprise on sure footing. They decide that Tomasso should try to arrange a meeting with the Widow prior to the auction to discuss such a transaction. After working a significant number of local contacts he is “invited” to show up at a nondescript tenement. Entering the well appointed apartment he is greeted by a woman in her fifties, obviously once incredibly beautiful but now bearing the marks of three decades of salt, wind and more than one purple storm. The conversation begins with small talk and old sailor’s tales. The woman gives her name as Francesca and Tomasso introduces himself with his real name which gains him a quick knowing glance. Pleasantries concluded, Francesca outlines the non-negotiable offer: 200 Skud for the business or 300 for everything plus her accompaniment on the first voyage. The package will include the vessel, knowledge of all the secret coves that she has used in Tunna, Al-Thasdun and Aramviso’s vicinity, an explanation of the best routes and acceptable places to shelter from storms, letters of introduction to individuals who have previously conducted business with her as well as a list of likely candidates for bribery and any of her former crew that decide they wish to continue with the venture. The only proviso is that the purchaser must rename the vessel and can, in no way represent themselves as the Black Widow’s successor. The offer is available for 48 hours.
Meanwhile, Matthias and Vida have returned to the Jimines residence for the agreed upon dinner. An impressive amount of work has been accomplished to remove all traces of last night’s surprise audit. There are less notables there then Don Jimines represented but an agreeable conversation is struck up. Throughout the course of the evening several items become apparent. First, according to all present, Don Jimines is a man of his word and will stand by his promises to the bitterest of ends. He would, it is suggested, make an excellent generalissimo (cough: figurehead) for the city or any political organization or right thinking gentleman that might yet be formed for the betterment of commerce and the protection of the city. The second current of discussion is that a substantial sum of money, at least 100 Skud but perhaps significantly more, could be made available in the case of Don Alvaro’s timely demise. It is thought that his girlfriend, Rebecca Santos, a city woman whose tastes did not extend to hiding in mountain caves, could be a useful lever in negotiating Alvaro into a vulnerable position. The dinner concludes with no firm commitments and Matthias, still under the assumed name of Lazlo, yet to reveal his identity.
Returning to the inn, Matthias, Tomasso, Vida and Shuh fall into discussion about the proposed purchase of Black Widow LLC. Shuh is entirely in favor of the arrangement since it will provide him a reliable and discreet method of getting to Aramviso. Matthias takes Shuh aside and conveys his discomfort with parting with such sums without Tomasso swearing fealty. Shuh responds by indicating that the Neu Ungrenite is unlikely to swear to anything but should be made to sign a contract outlining the terms of the arrangement. They return and the party falls to negotiating satisfactory terms and after some amicable discussion Shuh draws up the following contract:

Tomasso, hereafter referred to as the captain, will be granted the rights of captain of the vessel formerly known as the Black Widow and now provisionally named Trade’s Increase herafter referred to as the ship, and sole discretion about the sailing, manifest, crewing and any transactions in respect to the necessary taxes and customs to be levied on any delivered merchandise. Ownership of the vessel and its operations, hereafter referred to as the venture, shall remain with Matthias and Szilvia Sarkad, hereafter referred to as the owners. 70% of total proceeds from the venture, minus maintenance for the vessel and all other operating costs shall be granted to the owners who will be responsible for paying an appropriate share of this profit to other individuals as are required to be employed in the sailing of the ship, hereafter referred to as the crew. The remaining 30% of proceeds to accrue to the captain but this division will occur only after the owners have received back the initial sum of their investment of 200 Skud in initial profits. At any point during the lifetime of the contract the venture can be purchased entire from the owners by the captain for double the sum of the original investment. At the termination of the contract, should the owners be unwilling to renegotiate a new contract the captain shall have first right of purchase. The contract is binding for 5 years or the lifetime of the ship.

The contract signed, Tomasso will return to Francesca in the morning to deliver the funds and oversee the handover. Before retiring for the evening, the party is again treated to a performance by Leila with accompanied by a more anxious and jarring performance by Albert on the accordion. If Leila is feeling any of the same apprehension she does not display this when Vida invites her for a drink after the dance. During their conversation, conducted in the Southern tongue familiar to both, he asks her what her current plans are. Leila indicates that she had been hoping to gain passage on a ship heading South but that she finds herself without the resources to do so and it’s unlikely that the proceeds from playing in the inn at Tunna will change this. Asked about her past she confides that she is an escaped slave, a harem girl whose master, a Kuzbakid supporter, was murdered by the Lion Cubs. She had some little savings and has managed to escape Al-Thasdun. Vida discovering that the passage would cost her in the neighborhood of 30 Skud promises to investigate how he might be able to help her intending to raise the matter with Matthias in the near future.

The following morning Tomasso returns to Francesca with the agreed sum and departs to view the newly purchased arrangement with several maps of safe coves and contact lists in his possession. They head down to a small boat and head out of the harbor and up the coast stopping at a cleft in the cliff that Tomasso could have sworn did not exist until they were actually within the channel. Inside the small cove, a staircase heading up the cliff towards a fishing village above, lay the vessel at anchor and so protected that the worst storm the sea could deliver would scarcely disturb the rigging. A beautiful sleek black craft, her timbers soaked with tar and her sails and rigging all black giving her a sleek and predatory air. Going aboard Francesca demonstrates the four concealed cargo compartments, two for large goods storage, one for a small chest and an ingenious compartment hidden in the paneling of the prow sufficient for a person to remain concealed with breathable air for time enough to pass close inspection. Inspection concluded, Francesca introduces the two crew that had chosen to try their hand with the new venture: a taciturn man of significant size called James and a small, talkative man going by Black with dark skin but black Magyr hair. Francesca then removes her possessions from the cabin, the nameplate from the ship and wishes Tomasso good fortune. With the former owner departed, the new captain appoints James as the first mate and requests Black find several new crew, intending to sail short-handed for the first few voyages.

Preparations are made for Shuh’s departure to Aramviso. Vida suggests that Matthias meet with Leila as a potential useful contact who might have better success plying her trade in the Sarkad capital. Matthias interviews the dancer and outlines a proposal where she can get free passage to and from Aramviso if she can provide him with letters describing the current state of affairs. Leila seems amenable to the offer but suggests that she would need a small seed fund to better situate herself in the city. Matthias agrees but cannot shake the feeling that there is more to her story that has been divulged so far. If nothing else, Leila appears far more worldly than her reported backround of a freshly escaped harem slave would allow.
No other business to conclude, the two passengers depart for Aramviso, boarding Trade’s Increase at single anchor in Tunna Bay. The weather is perfect and an ideal passage gives Tomasso a chance to appreciate her sailing qualities. An extraordinary craft, certainly the finest he has ever sailed, he stays on deck throughout almost the entire journey, unwilling to relinquish the helm, savoring in the exquisite pleasure of the moment. The joy is soon replaced, however, as on the second day Aramviso comes into view and the realization of the momentous journey ahead sinks in. The imposing, dark stone walls of the city rise up from the tall cliffs that line this section of the coast. A ludicrous position to place a city from the point of coastal trade but practically impregnable. At the very cliff’s edge the citadel, flying Sarkad colors and buttressed by a pointed star of internal walls further isolating it from the city proper, soars into the sky. A large and impressive cathedral at the other end of the walled city provides an elegant rebuttal to the citadel. And they were going to try to take that throne?

The passengers debark at the hidden cove, part of a stream bed ten miles to the east of Aramviso and located in one of the king’s hunting preserves. Bidding farewell to Shuh and Leila, Tomasso sets sail for Tunna. The winds unfavorable this time they spend four days beating up, tack upon tack but without further incident gain Tunna bay once more and dock the boat in its home at Deep Cove. Tomasso promises to arrange an ex-gratia payment from the owners to the crew for their services on this necessary but unprofitable first journey and orders them to make her ready for the trip to Al-Thasdun.

Session 2 Adventure Notes
My kingdom for a ship?

The session begins with the party holed up in sewer maintenance closet CCLXVII and needing to find passage to Isla Malarta. Three navigatorial families, Mastelli, Santoni and Espiere, possess routers to the archipelago and could possibly offer passage. On Darian Shuh’s counsel the first family to be approached was the Mastelli, whose router window opened in less than a fortnight and would represent the fastest exit to the city. Shuh arranges a meeting for the next day and the party is informed that litters will be sent to pick them up. Much consternation occurs when Szilvia realizes that the break in to Shuh’s residence has left her without the necessary jewels to appear in polite society. She sets out to acquire them from a social contact of hers who is told they are needed for a secret tryst.

Prior to the first Mastelli meeting Mo the Guildsman (a name other than Guildsman having been arrived at through inter-party discussion) proceeds to one of the known corpse collection zones in the sewers with the hopes of finding a body sufficiently close to his own with which to fake his death. His arrival scares off a woman who had been searching one of the bodies. On searching the professionally eliminated corpse it turns out to be the fixer that Tomasso had seen arrange for the murder of Alberto and the theft of the seal. Believing her to have been interrupted mid task he takes a closer look and discovers a note indicating that a reward will be provided (no details of by whom) for the murder of Matthias and the recovery of Szilvia. Mo proceeds to locate a correctly proportioned corpse and, outfitting it in his old Guild attire, crushes it in one of the sewer pumps and discards it in a location that is likely to be discovered by regular patrols.

The next day two litters arrive to pick up the party. Matthias and Szilvia are greeted in person by Gian-Lorenzo Mastelli who greets them with the respect due to the nobility and ushers them into the first litter and introduces them to his daughter, and presumed protégé, Ellena. The remainder of the party are ushered into a second litter with two decorative ladies. The litters escort the group to a luxurious and totally concealed restaurant in the tenements of the new city. The restaurant, indicated only by a lily on the door, is a sumptuous two story affair with walls of Yaol wood paneling, string music and elegant dancing. The hangers-on are entertained downstairs with the two ladies who, on closer acquaintance, prove to be highly skilled bodyguards concealing an impressive array of weapons. Mo, whose previous culinary experience did not extend significantly past rat, decides that after such a meal there is some merit in becoming a gastronome.

Gian-Lorenzo spends the evening wining and dining Mathias and Szilvia in a private booth upstairs, putting on a clinic on charm and courtesy for his guests as well as his daughter. At the end of the meal, he gets down to business and offers the Mastelli proposal. In exchange for 100 clumps of Yaol wood they will ferry the party to the archipelago. Mastelli agents will provide the local manpower to extract the trees and, of course, ship the product, but the Sarkad’s will not be able to harvest any Yaol until the contract is complete. This request represents between a third and a half of the remaining clumps of Yaol that are thought to exist in Sarkad controlled territory. The evening ends with no commitment but thanks on all sides and an indication of future discussions.

The following day the party travels to the Santoni residence to hear the second offer. The Santoni compound is clearly a working manor with trade goods and bills of lading laying about. Szilvia cannot resist taking one. The party is ushered into a room to meet with Abramvel Santoni, the patriarch of the family who will conduct the negotiations, and Osti, the younger scion and newly minted head of Neu Ungren’s secret police.

After almost no ceremony and without any deference to noble rank Abramvel tables the Santoni offer. The Sarkad heirs will commit themselves to protecting the Santoni supply of material to the city of Doran (and through Doran, the Orangemen rebellion). This will be done through the provision of a series of warehouses on Malarta whose contents (and movement of goods) the Sarkads will remain ignorant of but for which they will be responsible to provide protection. The Sarkad heirs will also provide security in the form of a notorized letter in which they commit to this arrangement and support of the rebellion. This will be held in Santoni possession to be used as leverage in case the heirs consider reneging on the deal. No commitments are made and the party leaves the manor. On the way out Szilvia is quietly relieved of her appropriated papers by Osti and the party is greeted by Lucca Santoni in the hallway as he emerges, in underwear, from a room with a women’s corset on the door handle.

The next day sees the party, sans Tomasso, at the Espiere manor for the final offer. The mansion, a monument to the vast (new) wealth, and complete lack of taste of the clan. All surfaces that could conceivably be gilded are and then adorned with expensive collected art. The group is lead past paintings of previous family heads (some suspiciously new) to the grand salon and their meeting with Jonathan Francis flanked by a pair of impressive Northern bodyguards (brother and sister). After listening to Jonathan prate on for rather longer than is quite agreeable about the his merits and other closely related topics an offer is tabled. The Sarkad claimants will commit to fully honoring the monopoly of island trade that was promised (but never fully delivered) the Espiere by their grandfather. As a surety that it will not be reneged on this time they would sign notarized documents that, should the agreement not be honored, would make two of Jonathan’s children the largest land owners in the archipelago. The grant would be of sufficient size that it could only be accomplished by quickly conquering the remainder of the island or handing over almost all current Sarkad territory.

On their return, the party compares the merits of the three deals. Neither of the heirs seem to be enamored of the Santoni proposal fearing the consequences of providing such a permanent piece of blackmail material. Likewise the Espiere deal is considered and found wanting. Szilvia points out that it’s equally likely that Jonathan Francis will be happy if the deal succeeds as if it fails. The profits gained from a monopoly are not necessarily more important to him than the status that could be gained in the Empire by becoming a significant land owner. As well there is Shuh’s future plans to use Tomasso’s illegal router to milk the Espiere trade for customs revenue. In the event of the Espiere’s being granted a monopoly there would be more trade to tax, certainly, but the leverage the family would have in extracting payment (with the land grant hanging over their heads) might be greatly diminished.

This leaves the Mastelli deal and its issues. As mentioned the 100 clumps requested represents a significant part of the remaining Sarkad stock and the inability to sell any Yaol until the Mastelli have extracted their due might cripple the new regime’s finances. Set against the other offers, however, its felt that this the least worst of the three. Tomasso compiles a reasonably comprehensive document outlining the current state of Mastelli trade in the archipelago (see: not good) which is hoped will provide an advantage in the future negotiations. A further meeting is arranged.

In the meantime Vida has sent a note to the Espiere household requesting a chance to test his mettle against such impressive warriors. An evening meeting at Kinfy between him and the woman Anushka Vardar is arranged. Szilvia decides she would like to go as a spectator, dressing the part as a noblewoman looking for an evening of bloodsport and Tomasso accompanies her in the capacity of a bodyguard. The bout is short but eventful as the two meet on the copper colored sand of the arena, Anushka a stunning, if imposingly large, specimen of oiled skin, muscle and tightly bound breasts. Vida manages to block the first jab and scores the initial blow of the match by overpowering her defense of a shot to the left arm only to be destroyed, moments later, by a feint and a ferocious blow to the torso. Stunned to near unconsciousness, the bout is over and Anushka, salutes the crowd’s lewd proposals with single finger salutes. She completes two more fights before meeting Vida in the dressing rooms and congratulating him on a well fought bought. Szilvia loses a skud having bet on the wrong horse and is propositioned by a patron who has been amused by discovering that he has pickpocketed some useless and humorous trinkets from her pocket.

Having decided that the Mastelli offer represented the best chance of success Shuh sends a message to arrange a new meeting. Several days later the litters again approaches the residence. This time the destination was one of the sluice gates at the edge of the swamp and, embarking on a barge, the gate is lifted by several Guild members and they proceed out into a dark and foggy wilderness. The destination, what you would get if you asked Capability Brown to design a druidical dell on an island in the swamp, takes approximately 10 minutes to appear through the murk. Alighting they are directed to a sub-grove of tastefully arranged stumps where they are served by elf-like hostesses who flit in and out serving light refreshments, Gian-Lorenzo giving the impression that this is as ordinary as a pie served by your standard tavern wench.
The conversation turns quickly to the proposal with the heirs introducing Tomasso and providing him the floor for an outline of their understanding of the current Mastelli fortunes on the island. Quite smoothly Gian-Lorenzo taps out of the ring leaving the Tomasso to be handled by the second and more appropriately suited member of the Mastelli tag-team, Ellena. The arrived at compromise surprises both parties, Gian-Lorenzo obviously being slightly surprised at the concession of a reduction in the quantity of clumps from 100 to 90 and the agreement on a two year schedule which leaves control of the timeline for harvesting more firmly in Sarkad hands than originally suggested. Tomasso, on reflection, is surprised to find that he had been so “managed” by someone who he would have sworn had not understood spillage or balance of payments when the conversation began. Concessions that had seemed both logical and probable beforehand seemed to slip through his fingers in a smooth series of semi-satisfactory but oh so reasonable objections. Regardless, a deal concluded, the parties agree to meet at the Mastelli residence the next day to conclude the arrangement and return to lighter fare.

The Mastelli residence; a sprawling compound grown organically to include numerous adjacent properties and festooned with a curious number of aquatic trophies, and the party are greeted by Gian-Carlo Mastelli to conclude the paperwork. Having availed themselves of the services of Neu Ungren’s pre-eminent legal mind not currently on private retainer to a navigatorial house they examine the contract for the agreed upon deal. Finding that the terms are all as outlined, the legal scholar opines that the contract is sufficiently tight that should this arrangement not be concluded neither heir nor any of their future subjects would be able to trade a groat for anything, anywhere, to anyone, ever again. Arrangements are discussed and it is agreed that it would be best if the party were loaded as cargo in well appointed boxes and were to remain in the hold for the duration of the journey. In the interests of peace of mind, Tomasso is to be enrolled as a sailor for the duration of the journey and will represent the party interests should any need representation. The journey should take three weeks and the vessel captained by Sorrigo Mastelli.

Final preparations are made for the voyage. Lacking any reliable lieutenant, Shuh reluctantly shutters his operations to be resumed later when an acceptable individual could be sent out from Malarta. Vida presents a letter to the Espiere mansion thanking Anushka for the combat and regretting that he must depart but perhaps their paths would cross again. Tomasso requests an advance from Shuh for services rendered and with 15 skud, quite likely the greatest sum he had possessed up to now, proceeds to the docks and purchases a small block of unworked Yaol wood. This he presents at the Mastelli household with a note for lady Ellena of “To a profitable and successful future”.

Only 10 days since the receipt of the signet and the letter, the heirs, Vida, Mo, Alfonso and Shuh are packed into the hold of the Mastelli ship with Tomasso waiting on the quay. Anchors weighed, sails sheeted, the vessel slips out of the harbor into Neu Ungren bay with all on board praying for a kindly weather and a quick passage. Some, seasick for the first time, praying more fervently than others.

Shortly after leaving Neu Ungren, Tomasso discovers that in the jostle of getting the ship unmoored someone had slipped a handkerchief into his pocket. The cloth is embroidered with seemingly nonsensical words inscribed in router notation. No amount of re-arranging and comparison to their surroundings (since they are sailing the Mastelli router to the archipelago) reveals any hidden meaning but Tomasso is convinced that a message of significance is encoded within and is determined to discover their meaning.

A week out the vessel makes an impromptu stop at a small island and the captain, along with several crew, leave in the launch for several hours. They return with the largest tuna that Tomasso has ever seen and the Sorrigio is seen to be in a noticeably improved mood. Tuna for all and the head is sent to one of the officers quarters to be preserved for display at the Mastelli mansion.

Approximately halfway through the voyage a stowaway is discovered in the hold after Szilvia notices missing food from their stores. On questioning she is discovered to be the same woman that Mo had seen examining the corpse of Alfonso’s murderer’s contractor, Georggio. A less than satisfactory line of questioning identifies that the woman was definitely fleeing from Neu Ungren for reasons that might be related to her husband or lover but that she might not be truthful in saying that she is not currently in the employ of some unknown party. Not wanting their arrival in Tunne to be announced and hoping to arrive in Al-Thasdun prior to the Santoni ship which could be the next possible source of intelligence that they had fled Neu-Ungren, an arrangement is made with the captain. The woman, apprehended in the hold, is instructed to remain below for the duration of the voyage and to return with the ship where she would be given a serving position in the Mastelli household.

And thus to Tunne, a town as unlike Neu Ungren as is possible without being completely landlocked. Tall palm trees, a climate not actively trying to kill and the scent of coconut, rum and illicit profits on the air. It’s hoped that passage to Al-Thasdun will be had less dearly than this last voyage.

Roberto's Letter

Dear kids,
As ever, I owe you an apology for not writing more or sooner. I missed you dearly these many years but for an islander like me, who does not really trust these ship things, it is hard to even imagine this wide world into which you have been exiled and even harder to conceive that these words on paper will somehow make it to you out there.

I wish I could say that I have simply changed and that I am writing simply to inquire as to how things are, now that you have almost grown up and if Daril lets you out from under his wing now and again.

Alas, what made me write is that I believe you are in deadly peril as is the kingdom itself.

I doubt the news will have made it before this letter as I am picking the most direct ship to send it along on. There is no easy way to put it:
your father is dead.
Not simply dead either but murdered.

Your uncle Janos rules now having assumed regency. He accuses Rogebok and your little sister of murder – Nikolay’s body was found, ostensibly, in her chambers. He does not even pretend to answer how a 12 year old girl would go about murdering a strong, fit Magyr man nor what benefit Rogebok would stand to derive from for a decade showered them with privileges above and beyond what they could have ever hoped for.
Finally if Castelan intended to claim regency he certainly did not seem ready to act on it.

At least, by some miracle, girl and her mother fled Aramviso that same night. Whatever disagreements you have with their kin, I would hate to imagine their fate in Janos’ hands.

As you can imagine, more then a few people suspect Janos himself of the deed and even some rumors from the palace seem to confirm it. People are restless and are waiting to see if he goes whole distance and crowns himself. Katarina is publicly egging him on but, so far at least, he has resisted. He reigns as a “regent” but for whom he is holding the regency remains unknown.

As you can imagine this has made a bad situation here on the island into a worse one. Myrahi rebellion continues unabated and good half of them do not seem to desire any peace short of kicking every one of us permanently off the island.

At the same time almost none of the grand magnates actually likes Janos very much and a few, Gurthochak and Prokhotnik, in particular, veritably hate his guts. Katarina is not making it any easier by telling all who would listen what she would do with old Gurthochak if she were in charge. If things keep on the way they are it is possible that we will have a civil war even in our side of the island.

What is even worse are the other rumors I have heard from the palace whereby Janos or Katrina or both of them are plotting to remove you two from the picture. Neu Ungren, they say, is full of assassins who will do a dirty deed for a handful of copers and a bowl of soup.

Even if these later rumors are untrue – and I unfortunately doubt they are -, I beg you to come home.

By rights one of you is a rightful ruler (many people do not believe those vile lies about your mother and she, bless her soul, never confessed anything even if it meant all these years of inprisonment. Come home then, rally people and show Janos and his jump-up daughter what the true Sarkad monarchs are made of.

I am enclosing your father’s seal. In one of last conversations I had with him he told me how to easily get it out of the palace if something were to happen to him. At the time I believe he worried more of Leopard Cub armies then fratricide but I figured I’d disrespect his memory if I did not make sure it makes its way into your hands. If nothing else, it should make those sailing leeches of Neu Ungren take you somewhat seriously.

When you make it over do not head for Aramviso – Janos has every inch of it watched.
I am well ensconced in Al-Thasdun. Seek me out in the “Flag” tavern. Innkeep there is one of ours and as honest a man as you could wish for. He will know where to find me.
As for eventually getting to Aramviso and Janos – do not worry. Boundaries have many holes for those with some coin – even in wartime.

Above all kids, be careful. I probably need not tell you, but these matters could not be more serious and, very likely, even deadly.
On the other hand, do not let Daril talk you into hiding. If all else fails remind him that as rulers it would be in your give to free your mother and reward her loyal partisans.

In most sincere hope of seeing you both soon – safe and sound, yours ever so loving

Session 1 Adventure Log

Watching ships dock is not the most glamorous nor the most exciting of occupations. To be sure, ships entering Neu Ungren often carry interesting news and cargo from places foreign and to an unaccustomed eye there would be an eyeful simply in the riot of colors and bulging caps as the debarking crew eagerly made their way towards the row of supervised heaps (storefronts being entirely too kind a word) ready and waiting to part them from their capsack full of bric-a-brac.
To an accustomed eye, however, there is nothing especially remarkable about the Mastelli ship. A disappointing cargo, to be sure, unless the market for pilaf had skyrocketed, but the ship bore no markings of a particularly difficult crossing and Tomasso settled in for another disheartening afternoon of note-taking. It was very much like watching a party through a window; the guests known, the music familiar but all inaccessible. A different world, very much his own, but denied to him by the cruel combination of ill-luck, a bad name and powerful enemies.

As if perfectly timed to wipe the brooding away, down the gangplank walks the most improbable character he had yet seen in the city. It would be difficult to be any more emphatically rural than the thickset man trundling down to the dock; he screamed “peasant”. Tomasso eyes him with interest and put his purse’s life-expectancy at approximately 2 minutes. The man, clutching a small package tightly to his chest, stops for a moment and, like a bull preparing to charge, quickly takes stock of his surroundings and then strides off. Tomasso’s contract with Darian Shuh called for him to report on all matters of interest relating to ships arriving from the archipelago. It was an odd request but easy work and provided some much needed coin. This man’s appearance definitely fits squarely in the “interesting” category and he sets off in pursuit.

Neu Ungren’s docks are not famous for their hospitality but they are a child’s fairground compared to the neighborhood behind them: the Back O’. Either unaware or unperturbed the peasant cuts a direct path into the back o’ as if he was making directly for the bridge and the new city. Tomasso, out of his element, is pretty sure that the man has spotted him already but he does not appear to be interested in altering his course. If the man had spotted him, Tomasso has definitely spotted a group of local characters trailing him. He is attracting all the attention you’d expect from a steak thrown in among hungry dogs. Quite suddenly a man he did not recognize appears and has a hurried conversation with one of the trailing dogs; they disappear only to be replaced by significantly tougher customers. Clearly the man is carrying something of interest. Tomasso, hoping to warn the man and perhaps learn more about his mission, cuts across an alley and sprints down the next street so as to bump into him accidentally from the other direction. Too slowly, for he rounds the corner just in time to see the peasant, accosted by two men and with three more coming up the road, reach under his cloak and stab one of his attackers in the gut with a vicious looking farm implement.

Later on, Tomasso liked to think that he had considered his choices before plunging into the fray. This would be a lie. He was angry, watching the docks always made him bitter, but more so he hated an unfair contest. The man was clearly a competent, if uncomplicated, fighter and given just the two opponents he might have stood a chance. Five on one, however, was no fight and Tomasso felt his blood beginning to boil in rage at the cowardice of the assailants. He charges in and stabs the unwounded attacker with a quick thrust of his dagger. The peasant seems momentarily surprised but then, comprehending the tactical situation if not the reasons behind it, sets to his opponents once more. The three attackers, their chief among them, move up but by that time one of their men already lay dying on the ground. A furious melee ensues ending, inexplicably, moments later with the hurt or dying attackers on the ground and Tomasso and the man standing there unwounded. “Where are you going?” Tomasso asked. “None of your business” replied the man angrily. Tomasso represented that the man’s actions to this point had been suicidal, he was clearly going to the new city but could not have done it in a more conspicuous or dangerous manner. Moreover, the man owed him his life! He wasn’t leaving without knowing the man’s mission. “I have a package for Darian Shuh” the man replies simply. Tomasso grins; perhaps lady luck was turning his way. “Come with me” he said and they race away towards Shuh’s mansion.

It’s bad luck to run into a guildsman and generally he could count on an undisturbed journey through the familiar sewers. The guild habit, tough leathers and mask, once as comfortable to him as a second skin, were stifling. He wanted out of the guild in the worst way, perhaps this Shuh character would be able to help. He had come recommended as one with reliable smuggling connections. He was near to Shuh’s house now, a small villa in the new city, when he heard the footsteps of a large party of men moving in his direction. Ahead, at the intersection, he sees a band of thugs hurry by. Two of them are carrying a man, quickly trussed up with rope; it was Shuh. Shuh looks down the hallway and, seeing the guildsman, yells “find the kids at the crown tavern”. The group is too large to stop, they would easily overpower him, so he moves to the sewer entrance to see if there was anything to be learned about what had just transpired. Standing there looking at the shattered door of Shuh’s residence he is almost run down by two men, one obviously local, the other foreign in the extreme, running up to the residence. They had clearly been intending to go into Shuh’s house. “Excuse me” he said “Are you looking for Darian?”. Tomasso looks at him, nonplussed. What the hell was a guildy doing above ground, and how did he know Shuh? But the residence was clearly ransacked and this man might know about it. “We are” he said. “I just saw him being dragged into the sewer by a band of men. He said to find the kids at the crown tavern.” Off to the tavern.

The patrons of the Crown are an odd bunch and the arrival of two men, one in Milluric pesant garb and both reeking of sewer does nothing to change this. Their entrance is noticed by a tall, well built man at one of the tables who sizes them up with obviously professional competence. The barkeep, a suspicious cove, does not seem willing to provide any help with finding “the children”. On hearing this, though, a young man stood up from the corner booth. Recognizing the island clothes of the peasant he comes over to meet them. The young man, obviously of good birth, is joined by a young woman who had been lounging indolently at one of the other tables. The man, probably their bodyguard, stands up. The peasant, on questioning by the woman, introduces himself as Alberto with an urgent delivery for Shuh. He had gone to his house but found it ransacked and Shuh apparently kidnapped. Recognition all around as the young man and woman introduce themselves as Matthias and Szilvia Sarkad, the wards of Shuh. Alberto, pleased, says that as they are the ultimate intended recipients he can fulfill his duty and he reaches under his cloak. The man at the table, clearly their bodyguard, tenses before relaxing as Alberto withdraws a small package and presents it to the siblings.

While introductions continued, the bodyguard Vida, being introduced by Szilvia and Tomasso introducing himself as a having business dealings with Shuh, Matthias retreats to open the contents of the package. These turn out to be a letter addressed to the pair by their uncle Roberto and a soft pouch containing a heavy lump. Roberto relays the unfortunate news that their father is dead, murdered in all likelihood, and the killer unknown. In the turmoil Janos, their uncle, has assumed the regency and is accusing their half-sister of dispatching her father. Janos is, Roberto warned, looking to clean house and logically this would involve liquidating anyone with a claim to the Sarkad throne. The letter, he hopes, would arrive in time to warn them of Janos’ intentions . They should get to Malarta as fast as possible, looking to Shuh for help in all matters of transportation, and meet with him in Al-Thasdun. From there they would be well placed to plot the downfall of their uncle and the return to power. Should they run into an doubters or have difficulty securing passage they were to show the pouch’s contents to prove the authenticity of their claims. Matthias opens the pouch and out dropps the signet ring bearing the Sarkad royal seal.

Sensing that this was neither the place for such discussions and noticing some increased interest from the barkeep, Vida suggests that they leave at once. Tomasso confirms that they have a compatriot waiting outside who might be able to help and the newly joined party descends into sewers to meet with the guildsman. Seeking a place where they could continue deliberations on Shuh’s rescue and their future away from prying eyes, they head to one of Darian’s safe houses. Safe hole might be the better term, since, on arrival they discover that Shuh’s hideout is sewer maintenance closet CCLXCVII. Not the most elegant of accommodations but, the lock having proven no difficulty for Szilvia (to the guildsman’s surprise) most adequately furnished for their purposes. An ornate map of the archipelago pinned to the wall, arms, a suit of armor perfectly fitted to Vida hanging on a dummy and a chest which Szilvia eyes hungrily but Vida cautions might be trapped.

A second round of introductions proceeds. Goals are discussed and found to be mutually compatible. The siblings need to leave Neu Ungren as fast as possible and get back to Malarta. Tomasso and the guildsman simply want out, destination unimportant and are willing to sign on. It is decided that recovering Shuh should be the first priority. Szilvia is confident that she could recover the majority of his hidden assets given time but that may be days they can ill afford. Besides, Shuh has been a loyal and reliable guardian for the pair and his knowledge and talents would certainly be useful in the days to come. Feelers are sent out and word comes back that Shuh’s captors are holed up in a warehouse in the docks. Time being of the essence, the party decides on rolling the dice, figuratively, and literally kicking down the front door.
The warehouse, a squat complex of linked buildings backed onto one of the many canals leading down to the river. Surrounded by fencing broken by a large rolling gate on the ramp leading to the water up which the laden barges would be winched to be unburdened of their cargo. A quick reconnaissance shows that the property is patrolled by a set of dogs and armed guards with more likely in the upper stories of the center building. The party is discussing how to get in with the least disturbance when, to their amazement, the guildsman pushes on a series of levers in quick succession and the ramp gate noiselessly glides along its mechanism. The way is open.
Vida charges up the ramp and towards the men guarding the warehouse door. Szilvia, vanishing before the eyes of a startled group, heads to reconnoiter the back of the property. The dogs, howling, charge the group and attack Vida and Tomasso. They’re quickly dispatched but they have stalled the group long enough that the men on the gate have almost succeeded in closing the heavy warehouse door. The guildsman fires a powerful shot from his crossbow, the first time anyone has seen this fearsome weapon in operation, and the bolt blows through the warehouse wall approximately at head height for those frantically closing the door on the other side. It misses, unfortunately, but seems to have a wonderful tonic effect on the men motivating them to bar the way all the faster.

Vida moves forward and with help forces the door open. They proceed to cut down one of the guards and move through the warehouse towards the central building. Szilvia, meanwhile, has snuck round and opens the door to the main room. Still concealed she watches as the group of thugs starts descending from the floor above. One carries Shuh, still trussed up like a loin roast, on his shoulders. The party floods into the room and blows are about to be exchanged. Matthias, sensing rightly that the thugs are unnerved by the imposing presence of Vida in his full knightly regalia, suggests a parley. The negotiations wind their course and the thugs, slightly richer, still alive, but definitely Shuh-less are allowed to depart.

Session 1 Notes

It all began with a letter.

A router had arrived from Isla Malarta, and a peasant from the island disembarked. Soon after he was set upon by a group of thugs who seemed inclined to take his possessions and his life, and they likely would have succeeded were it not for the intervention of Tomasso Marcelli who had been watching the shipment. Together, the two of them managed to kill, or drive off, the assailants. At this point, it was revealed that the peasant, one Alberto, was carrying a message to Darian Shuh, who Tomasso was in the employ of. Knowing where Alberto was headed, the two left together.

We then move our attention to a presently unnamed Engineer of the Neu Ungren Guild of Imperial Engineers. Unhappy with his present affiliations, but also quite cognizant of the only retirement package, and desiring a third option, he was seeking out Darian Shuh, who he knew to be one of the few people in Neu Ungren to be engaged in smuggling. He arrived just a touch too late, however, and proceeded to be a witness to his kidnapping at the hands of an unknown party. He did, however, hear Darian’s plea, to protect the children, and where they could be found.

Heading topside, the Unnamed Engineer came across Tomasso Marcelli and Alberto, who had also arrived a touch too late to meet Darian Shuh. He informed them of what had just transpired, and relayed Darian’s message to them. Tomasso knew where the pub was, and while the Engineer stayed in the sewers, Tomasso and Alberto went to meet the children.

Arriving in the pub, and requesting to meet people only identified as “the Children”, the island clothing of Alberto, as well as the term often used for them by Darian, swiftly led to their recognition. And so, while their faithful bodyguard, Vida watched over these newcomers, the siblings Matthias and Szilvia Sarkad soon set about finding out what the arrival of these folks portended. With Szilvia speaking with them, while Matthias took the letter and read it. It is at this point that they discover that the messanger and the letter are from their Uncle Roberto, bearing news that their Father had recently been murdered, with their half sister having been framed for it, and their Uncle Janos having named himself regent, and looking to remove all possible threats to his power. However, they had also been gifted with the Royal Seal, giving them a powerful claim to legitimacy.

Realizing the danger they were in, Matthias confirmed that the signet was present, and noticing that the bartender was suddenly very interested in what they were doing, decided to head to a safer location in order to plan their next move. Tomasso then took them to the the Engineer and together, the six of them went to a safe room in the sewers that Darian had rented, complete with a proper set of weapons and armour for Vida.

Here, the siblings confer briefly and agree that they’ll go back to make their claim to the Throne. And then talk with their companions, to see both what they want, and what skills they possess. After finding that all of them would like to leave Neu Ungren, the next step is a decision to attempt to rescue Darian, hoping that the Engineer’s knowledge of the sewers would give them the advantage. His knowledge of the streets of the city is peerless, and through his knowledge and his contacts, Darian’s location is quickly found. It’s decided that at this point most of the thugs in question are likely still out looking for the royal children, and so a frontal assault would be best.

The early assault works well, with a knight in full armour causing a minor panic. However, the bulk of the men are able to form a more solid defense in the interior of the warehouse, and soon a standoff occurs with the thugs threatening to kill Darian. At this point, Matthias negotiates with the thugs, managing to work out a bargain, 60 Scude for the old man’s life, and everyone walks away. With a possibility for an additional deal, 10 Scude for the identity of the people who put out the order for their capture.

With Darian back in their care, the party returns to the bolt hole, there to finally rest and start making proper plans to leave Neu Ungren and return to their home.

Welcome to your Adventure Log!
A blog for your campaign

Every campaign gets an Adventure Log, a blog for your adventures!

While the wiki is great for organizing your campaign world, it’s not the best way to chronicle your adventures. For that purpose, you need a blog!

The Adventure Log will allow you to chronologically order the happenings of your campaign. It serves as the record of what has passed. After each gaming session, come to the Adventure Log and write up what happened. In time, it will grow into a great story!

Best of all, each Adventure Log post is also a wiki page! You can link back and forth with your wiki, characters, and so forth as you wish.

One final tip: Before you jump in and try to write up the entire history for your campaign, take a deep breath. Rather than spending days writing and getting exhausted, I would suggest writing a quick “Story So Far” with only a summary. Then, get back to gaming! Grow your Adventure Log over time, rather than all at once.


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