The journey south through the thick jungle to the lighthouse is punctuated only by the odd sighting of wild life. Aerandir and Denig are too slow with their bows when a small deer is fleetingly sighted. However, later in the day, Aerandir is more successful with a shot at a peccary disturbed by their passage. The small pig felled by the arrow is soon dispatched by Alquatris with his improvised spear and the group pause to butcher the animal before moving on.
Eventually, the party emerge from the jungle onto the coastal plain. The lighthouse in sight, Alquatris bids the party farewell; fearing his presence may aggravate Nasik. But he bids them join him at his camp around the bay, with a warning to not to tarry too long for night falls quickly on the island.
The four adventurers approach the lighthouse but find no-one at home and so settle down to wait for the return of Nasik. It is not long before the occupant returns. Distracted, he barely notices the unusual group before he reaches the main door where they wait. His wild hair floats like a halo around his wrinkled features and he is soon engaged in a prattling discourse on the bird life of the island. Throughout the almost ceaseless monologue Fulton and the others try to discover what he knows about the light at the centre of the island, which seems to be very little. During his monologue he tells the party that there are warnings not to take its treasures, by which he seems to think the birds.
Remembering Alquatris’s warning the party set off with plenty of time around the bay and arrive at the sailors camp round the bay. A small stream runs onto a beach where a makeshift hut stands near to a campfire. Soon they are feasting on the roasted pig meat and discussing plans for the next day. The central peak is still of interest but the explorers feel that a smaller western peak might provide a vantage point that will help with their exploration.
The next day, the party with Alquatris in tow, he is desperate to leave the island and would rather travel with them than miss his ticket off the island. They follow the small stream towards the western peak. At the foot of the peak they discover an abandoned mine. which peeks Dagaard’s curiosity. However, the entrance of the mine makes the party feel uncomfortable, especially Fulton. Seeking divine wisdom, Denig casts around the entrance for any sign of evil, but finds none. Assured, they turn their attention to the western peak. Unlike the main peak that rises slowly to a final steep climb, the western peak rises sharply out of the surrounding jungle. A few hardy trees and plants cling stubbornly to the barren rock face. Lacking an easy way to gain a view of the main peak, Fulton climbs a nearby tree and is rewarded with a better view of the land. They decide to hike across the saddle of the island, through the jungle to the main peak and expend their climbing efforts there.
The day though is passing and the thought of camping in the jungle when there is the potential of a shelter in the entrance to the mine is too much of a draw. Besides, Dagaard is still keen to explore into the depths of the mine to see what treasure lie within. The rest of the party agree, if only to make sure there is nothing that will attack them in the night.
The gloom of the upper workings of the mine are quickly explored. Dagaard is unable to see what it was that was once mined here but a ladder to a lower level suggests that perhaps the upper level was worked out. Although the ladder looks sturdy, Denig is dubious about it holding his weight. So it is that Dagaard makes the first foray down and discovering a network of tunnels below is joined quickly by Aerandir and Fulton.
The light from Dagaard’s miners helmet and Aerandir’s lantern flickers of rough hewn walls as the trio begins to explore one of the side tunnels. Echoes of their movements and whispers bounce back eerily from the darkness. Perhaps it is a sixth sense or a movement in the air that alerts Aerandir’s Elven senses but he turns in time to raise his scimitar and step to one side in an act of self preservation from an onrushing ethereal miner. In doing so he exposes Fulton to the onrushing phantom who is fortunate to be able to raise his cutlass at the cry of the half-elf. The ghost passes through both Fulton and Dagaard, whose weapons pass through with no effect, physically knocking them backwards as it passes through them howling about its treasure.
Within moments, a second phantom miner approaches from behind Aerandir, who again is fortunate to be aware of its approach. He again leaps into the junction of the passage in an attempt to avoid its touch but is not so fortunate as it passes through him and in the act knocks his shield from his arm. In the ensuing mayhem of ghostly miners and recovering the lost shield the trio make their escape towards the ladder. Their progress is not without peril as ghosts appear down corridors blocking their exit. Bravely, they rush through the ghosts shrugging off the discomfort of every encounter. Unfortunately, as he approaches the ladder, Fulton’s shield is knocked from his arm but he chooses to race to safety rather than recover it.
Soon, the party has regathered on the upper workings deeply regretting their encounter with the spirits of the dead miners. All three feel a depletion of vitality by the presence of the ghosts, a feeling not relieved by the prayers of Denig. Dagaard, mildly protests that they should try again, for the ghosts had spoken of treasure, but even his desire for wealth has been muted and he accepts Denig’s assertion that only magical elven weapons will aid them in dispatching these spirits to Arawn’s halls. Morosely, the party withdraw to the jungle outside the mines to set up camp away from the mine.
Meanwhile, Fulton watches his companions from a nearby hill, below him Dagaard kicks stones and waits. Seeing his companions enter the village, Fulton watches as they cautiously explore. He notes the occasional child flitting between buildings but the Half-elf and the Dunlending appear to be in no danger. He is never concerned when they pass briefly out of sight into or behind buildings, as they always reappear soon after; until they don’t.
Seconds stretch to minutes and these expand pause so worrying that he feels that they need to investigate. Calling to Dagaard the pair make their way down to the village edge doing their best to approach unobserved. Around them they hear the occasional snatch of childhood songs and the laughter of children. It soon becomes clear that their presence is known when Dagaard looks over to see a sweet-faced child peeking through a gap in the door way of one of the huts. She beckons them over and fearing some hideous monster to be revealed they make their way towards the hut. Inside another child, a boy, is playing with some stones in the dirt of the hovel.
“Come play with us,” they sing and beckon the two adventurers to follow them to the centre of the village where a lopsided pole stands. Fulton and Dagaard, wary of the centre of the village, move away towards the edge of the village looking for their friends. Very quickly, they are surrounded by a group of singing and dancing children and fall into golden slumber.
The adventurers awake cold, slightly damp where they fell asleep. It is dark and their memories of the recent past are hazy and difficult to recollect. All feel refreshed and freed of some of the concern and travails of the past. They are also very hungry suggesting it has been sometime since their last meal.
Soon reunited and feeling hungry the foursome debate satisfying the hunger they all feel. Perhaps it is the feeling of release from their troubles or that the children have not attacked them but they decide to build a fire on the beach and have a breakfast cook out. Their enjoyment soon attracts the children and when the adventurers next awake the sun is shining in a blue afternoon sky and they are hungry again.
Even though they have forgotten more cares and worries the companions have enough sense of self-preservation to remove themselves from the village before preparing food and discussing recent events. Dagaard offers to deal with the issue by using his war hammer but the others get the sense that these are not merely children and are something more than a weapon could defeat. So they turn their thoughts back to exploring the rest of the island for signs of life, although starting this will have to wait as night is drawing in.
The night passes without an incident apart from Dagaard reporting hearing a ghostly wolf howl during his watch. The explorers decide to attempt to scale the mountain at the centre of the island, reasoning that if they can make it above the tree line of the jungle they will be able to see any habitation and begin to make their way there. As they approach the edge of the jungle that covers the foot hills. The companions notice a flash from the top of the mountain. It does not repeat but they wonder at its significance.
The journey through the jungle is difficult. The vegetation is thick and finding a path is difficult. What is more, the party seem are inconvenienced by local poisonous wildlife. Denig is bitten by a spider whose venom cause him some discomfort for a few hours and Aerandir disturbs a viper which he beheads after being bitten on the leg.
Gaining the flanks of the mountain the wind mysteriously drops and the air stills. The heat of the sun seems to be intensified. The elevation gives the party a better a view of the island to the south. A river flows from a source somewhere in the jungle below and meets the coast as a marshy delta. They begin to trek round the flanks of the mountain looking for a way up as they feel the light they have seen at the top may be a significant part of the island’s protection.
The still air is unnerving and the heat is close as they pick their way through the rocky terrain. Sometime after midday they are alerted to shouts and hollers coming from the jungle below. Looking down they spy a dark-skinned man; wild, wiry hair held in check by a bandana; dressed in ragged trousers and wielding a crude spear making his way towards them.
His name is Alqatris Abayad, a ship-wrecked sailor, who, unsurprising, is very pleased to meet someone new on the island. He has been marooned many months and is naturally keen to take passage off the island. He tells the companions that when he arrived on the island he was cared for by the Dayr Astámo, an elf who tends the Maladh Alsalam in the north east of the island. He claims that he cannot remember the exact location but he assures the explorers that should they go that way Astámo will find them. He on the other hand has preferred to remain on the south side of the island near the shore where he could watch for ships. Here the only other humanoid he meets is an ornithologist called Nasik who he really doesn’t understand and who prefers to avoid.
He agrees to guide the party to the lighthouse where Nasik lives on the south coast. Travelling through the jungle below the mountain Aerandir angers a solenodon that scratches him badly and spits venomous saliva before Denig prays for the rat-sized beast to be calmed and it scuttles off into the undergrowth. Although, he is unaffected by the poison of the saliva, the wounds he received are severe enough to need the aid of Denig and his god.
The breeze is light and the sun sparkles off the water like gold. The Ulmo’s Beard sits low in the water such is the bounty of her provisions and the crew line the deck dressed in new uniforms of blue and gold. At the edge of the quayside, the finest baldachin covers the Amyr and his closest advisors. Aerandir has bid farewell to Vanwa earlier in the day having assured himself that she is happy to remain on the island.
“My Friend and Companion at arms, it is with great regret that I bid you farewell,” announces his eminence Amyr Fatih Albahr across the deck to where Qubtan Alquazam stands. “It is a perilous quest that you embark upon and there is no guarantee that you will be successful. Remember, that it was your actions that brought this doom upon you; that you travel the seas until you return with the cloak of Zahara.”
Ulmo’s Beard slips its moorings and sets sail upon the ocean. The ship and crew travel southwards towards distant shores at Alquazam’s orders. As they do not know the location of the the kingdom with the cloak, he has reasoned that they should first seek rumour of its location. As he explains to Denig on deck one day, it is unlikely that rumours of an island hidden or under special protection will have gone unnoticed by Sea Farers.
After several weeks of sailing from the Southernmost tip of the Mustiq Eali island chain. An island is sighted on the horizon: a welcome distraction from the monotony of days at sea. Is it luck or fate that there appears to be a town on the northern shore? Either way, Alquazam is all for a shore party to talk with the islanders and Captain Reiss wishes to replenish the ship’s water stores and food.
A few hours later, Ulmo’s Beard anchors in the bay of the port. From the port itself there is no sign of life. It has been clear as the ship closed in on landfall that something was amiss; the lack of smoke and sound carrying across the waves. This close it is clear from the lack of activity on the shore and the boats that would be expected to be harvesting the bounty of the sea. Only the lonely cries of the seabirds and surf on the shore can be heard.
The heroes, led by Alquazam, with Chad and Beowulf to man the skiff, form a landing party to investigate the port. Ashore it becomes very clear that the port has been deserted for some time. Dust and dirt have invaded houses and plant life has begun to reclaim the port. The nearby windmill continues to operate, millstones turn without grain to mill. The shore party head to the centre of the port and what looks to be some sort of town hall.
By the small river that runs through the centre of the port, stands a long low building that the heroes think may be a town meeting hall. In front of the steps that lead up to the double doors, stands a bronze statue of a fisherman with a trident and net. Nothing seems amiss in the large dirt square before the hall so the companions cautiously enter the hall.
With some effort, Denig and Fulton swing the doors open to reveal the dark interior of the hall. Light filters down from windows set under the eaves of the roof onto a glittering horde of gold, opal and jewels. The eyes of the party glimmer in interest until Denig advises caution and spends a quarter of an hour investigating the approaches for any sign of a trap. Satisfied, he allows the rest of the party to approach the hoard. Seeing the wealth left unguarded forces them to consider why it has been left untended for so long. Alquazam is most pleased and says that this is a bounty from Wahid Eali. Some of this treasure can be taken with them on the voyage and will pay for supplies and repairs. The rest can be recovered on the return voyage when they return in victory for it will avail them not if they keep it with them at the bottom of the sea. However, Denig and Fulton feel that a little personal wealth is due to them and pocket a small number of gold coins.
Having investigated the treasure trove to their satisfaction, Alquazam gives orders to his fellow lesser nobles. The island is certainly curious and it will help with understanding why the treasure has been left to scout the island for any more information. This is a task for those with experience of adversity. So it is to Aerandir, Denig, Dagaard, and Fulton that he assigns this task. He will return to the waiting skiff where Chad and Beowulf wait and organise the resupply of the Ulmo’s Beard.
Having decided on a course of action the party leave the hall and prepare to leave to scout the island. Alerted by the groaning sound of the bronze statue moving the party quickly come to arms. Aerandir, who is closest, leaps away; drawing bow and seeking to cover his fellow adventurers. Perhaps, thinking that their small petty larceny is the cause of the sudden animation of the statue, both Denig and Fulton run back to the hall to divest themselves of their misappropriated coins. Meanwhile, Alquazam leaps straight into the fray calling on the others to support him in the attack. Only Dagaard follows the call to battle, leaping in with his normal fearlessness.
The battle does not start well, Dagaard is imperiously brushed aside by a blow from the bronze statues trident. Aerandir continues to cover the melee but does not fire. Racing quickly back to the fray Denig leaves the hall and moves to take up a secondary position to support Aerandir in firing on the statue. Ignoring the blows of Alquazam the statue swings towards Denig. Meanwhile, Fulton remains safely in the hall awaiting a chance to escape.
Wondering if the it was his misdeeds that have brought the statue to life Denig flees from the square and the guardian follows with huge implacable strides. Behind them follow Alquazam and Aerandir, neither able to mount an attack against the rapidly moving target. Dagaard remains stunned on the ground, while Fulton hides until the Bronze statue has left the square in front of the hall.
Noticing that the Bronze giant is continuing to follow him and feeling that he cannot out run the fisherman forever buys himself extra time by calling on the power of the bat-winged brooch to haste him. This he uses to pray for aid from Cloch in defeating the animated statue. As the bronze fisherman crosses the river by the bridge an 8ft pit opens in front of it. The lumbering monster manages to avoid the hazard moving to one side to attack the stone man. Desperately, Denig parries the trident thrust at him while Aerandir and Alquazam race to catch up. At that moment Dagaard finally recovers and his able to groggily follow; calling Fulton to aid in the battle. Feeling, he is not the target of attack Fulton decides now is the time to join the battle when there is a chance of attacking a foe from behind.
The battle continues with Denig desperately defending himself against the fisherman. Aerandir risks a couple of shots that do little damage to the bronze behemoth; at the same time, Alquazam hews at the frame attempting to disable the sentinel. Soon he is joined by Fulton and eventually Dagaard, now fully recovered, joins the fray. The combined blows of the three begin to tell on the structure of the statue, Alquazam’s blows being most telling. But, Denig defences are brought low when the statue slings its net and grapples the Dunlending. Trapped, his shield side is exposed and he is badly wounded by the following trident thrust. Fortunately, it is at this point in time that the blows of his companions finally tell and ichor gushing from a final wound the bronze fisherman is finally stilled.
Having healed his wounds and the party having readied themselves for exploration they set out to scout the island. Choosing to travel west from the port, the soon come in sight of a small fishing village. Like the port, the village appears abandoned, but the group decide to scout round the hills. Grudgingly, Dagaard follows the party until they decide that he should remain behind the hills while they observe from a distance. Up on the ridge, they hear the sound of children singing and occasionally glimpse childlike forms dancing through the abandoned buildings. Deciding to investigate a bit closer, Denig and Aerandir move cautiously down into the village while Fulton watches from above.
Approaching the village, Aerandir and Denig are again met with laughing song of children. In and out of the abandoned village children flit alway beckoning them on. Until, finally, a group appear and dance and sing around the pair and that is the last thing they know of the world.
After days of feast held in their honour, it is time for the heroes to turn their attention to other mundane matters. Aerandir, with the honour of an elf wishes to return to the his duties; Denig and Dagaard are keen to set sail for Caras Celairnen somewhere to the North; and Fulton is slightly less keen, given the praise and adulation he receives. Nonetheless, it is a lightly armed party that sets off for the dock and Ulmo’s Beard. The usual mercantile bustle fills the streets of Mustiq Eali. Despite the party’s general alertness, Aerandir feels a sudden tug at his elbow. A shabbily dressed vagrant with an eye patch implores him “Here,! Here! Master there are many attractions in the bayt daeara of Zahrat Allayl! Come, come I show you. If you enter with me, there is a BIG discount!”
With his keen elven senses, Aerandir sees through the disguise the 7′ Qubtan Alquazam has adopted, even with the added stoop.“A word my friend,” he croaks harshly into your ear, steering Aerandir towards a side alley.
Using the natural advantage of Westron in a foreign land, Aerandir quietly tells his fellow adventurers to follow and seeing through the disguise they do so willingly. Alquazam leads the party through a myriad of side streets until he is sure that they have not been followed. Whereupon he tells the heroes of his woes. He has returned as advised but discovered that his wife was still alive, but was receiving suitors in marriage. He is torn. Does he announce himself and discover his wife no longer loves him? In which case he puts her in an awkward position. Is she marrying to protect herself and the son he has not yet seen? This would mean that the suitors are after his estate and would soon see him dead rather than risk his presence derailing their chances. He implores the new nobles to seek news of his wife’s feelings towards him so that he can make a decision.
Naturally, Fulton is pulled by the tale of sundered love and Aerandir by a sense of duty. However, Denig and Dagaard feel that none of this is their problem and that they know nothing of the politics of court. Alquazam appeals to their honour, the shared bond of fighting against the Zilal Ramiditan and the fact that it was his presence that turned the tide in the battle of the night of long knives. They eventually agree, for passing a message is low risk and they could try Vanwa to see if she could find out woman to woman. They talk to Captain Reiss and find the ship could sail he has a potential destination for some cargo. But really the ship needs dry dock and a refit to be fully sea worthy. In her current state she is only good for short runs and pray that there are no storms.
Back at the palace, Aerandir enlists the help of Vanwa, who by some method unknown communicates with Saydia Wafairu (the wife of Alquazam and informs the half-elf that the Sayida is indeed still devoted to her lost husband. Armed with this information the companions make another trip into the port and meet with Alquazam in a quiet alleyway. The Qubtan is relieved to hear the news and presses the heroes to aid him in meeting his wife. There is much debate over the best method to get the seven-foot sailor into the palace unnoticed. Eventually, they decide to hide Alquazam on Ulmo’s Beard while they scout out guard patterns. The plan to smuggle him into the palace one evening as a fellow crew member acting as a servant. Then, knowing the pattern of patrols and using the power of the brooch recovered from Jundiin, which they have observed creates a shadow around the wearer, Alquazam will make his way to meet his wife in one of the many gardens.
It is perhaps a surprise to all involved that the plan is successful. By showing a complete lack of interest in the events and politics at court they manage to avoid rousing the suspicions of the suitors and anyone of note a court. Soon, Alquazam has had a chance to be reconciled with his wife and son; in the process hatching a plan to reveal himself to the Amyr whilst neutralising the risk to his son from the suitors.
Again the Qubtan requests the heroes help. The plan is for Wayfuiru to set a contest for the suitors so that she can choose who to marry. To wed the widow of Alquazam the suitor will need to shoot an arrow through the eye of the swinging axe head that belonged to her husband. The companions need only ensure that Alquazam can get through the cordon of guards to take up the challenge when the suitors have failed.
Following Wafuiru’s declaration that her future husband must measure up to the skill of her late husband in archery, the whole of Mutiq Eali is abuzz with excitement. The day of the contest is a festive affair. Market districts are awash with commemorative memorabilia and food sellers take advantage of the crowds that have come in from the surrounding districts. Crowds push and swirl in constant eddies making progress through the port unpredictable. The heroes struggle to deliver Alquazam to a place where he can enter the arena.
In the plaza in front of the Sultat Almina (Port Authority), an area has been cleared. A pedestal with a short bow and arrows stand fifty paces from the frame where Alquazam’s Axe swings freely. Under the shade of the colonnade, the Amyr and his closest courtiers sit alongside Sayida Wafuiru.
The hot midday sun beats down on the sandy plaza with the ferocity of a hammer on an anvil, conjuring up memories of the earlier encounter beneath the volcano. The noise of the crowd rolls round the strip of plaza cleared for the contest by a wall of soldiers. A herald reads out the challenge for all to hear. There are murmurs from someone nearby that Sayida Wayfuiru has gambled well by setting this challenge but you can’t locate the speaker. The crowd are jostling to get the best position to see as the first suitor, Akhbithkhôr, steps forward and begins to test the bow.Turn by turn the suitors shoot and fail to thread their arrow through the “eye” of the battle axe. Then, Alquazam steps into the arena begging the pardon of the Saydia, he mocks her suitors for their lack of skill. Taking the bow he shoot swiftly; the arrow arcing smoothly through the eye of the swinging axe.
There are gasps from all as Alquazam throws aside his disguise. He walks to the axe and removing it begins to dispatch the suitors one by one. Guards press forward to prevent further blood-shed and protect the Amyr from harm. In horror our heroes step back into the general crowd to avoid being noticed. The silence that follows is palpable. Alquazam, breathes heavily as he eyes the nervous guards surrounding him. The heavy axe in his grip drips with the blood of the suitors who lie scattered on the sandy floor before the steps.
A simple command issues from the shade at the top of the steps, “Hold!” Out of the shade steps the Amyr, resplendent as ever, his face as fierce as a hawk he surveys the carnage on the ground at the foot of the steps. With a look of regret in his dark eyes he turns towards the Qubtan. “Why, my friend, why?”
The Amyr pronounces that Alquazim must may the blood debt to the suitors families but has also drawn weapons in the presence of his Prince. The former he could possibly have pardoned for a loyal and valued friend, but the latter carries the penalty of death. With understanding of the travails of the famous sea-captain, the Amyr instead sets him a task. The legendary cloak of Zahra was worn by the beautiful Zahra when she rescued her love Bialkhati Bayd Wahida (Bold the One-Handed). It is said that the cloak grants protection to the kingdom that possesses it. It is said to be held in a kingdom far to the south, Alquazam must seek it out and return with it in penance for his actions this day. But the Qubtan has need of a ship and brave adventurers to embark on this journey with him. Thus, the Amyr calls upon the Heroes of Mustawade to fulfil their noble duty and provide the ship.
In return for providing the ship Alquazam offers to enable the repairs to the ship, a gift that captain Reiss grudgingly accepts given that it is his ship that the adventurers have just offered for a voyage into the unknown.
Emerging from the portal, Dagaard finds himself on an island of basalt in the middle of a lake of lava. A stepped structure stands before him atop of which he notices the figure of Jundiin bent over an anvil. The sound of clashing swords brings his attention closer to home. On the stairs in the gloom he can just make out the form of Al’Ahmaq battling one of his Zilal Brethren on the stairs. They are equally matched and the stairs prevent the dwarf from aiding the rogue Zilal. He chooses to wait for others to come through the portal and allow Al’Ahmaq to continue the battle alone.
He regrets his decision. Un-noticed, another of the Zilal approaches unseen in the shadows his blow to the dwarf’s shield shatters the elbow joint. Surprised and stunned the immediate future does not seem long for the dwarven warrior. The red stones in the archway glow again. In the nick of time, Aerandir steps through and launches a surprise attack on the Zilal closing to finish the dwarf. Reprieved, Dagaard recovers while Aerandir and the Zilal exchange blows. On the steps, the evenly matched battle continues.
Ready to join the fray again, Dagaard stumbles leaving Aerandir to continue to battle on alone. The half-elf’s defences are not strong enough to hold back the flurry of blows of his opponent and he receives a blow to the side before Dagaard has recovered enough to aid his companion. Unfortunately, he loses his grip on his weapon and juggles it vainly trying to retrieve a firm grip. Fortunately, help arrives in the form of Fulton who steps from the portal and rushes to engage the enemy. Fulton pays the price for distracting the Zilal as a swift sword thrust cuts through the sailor’s defensive stance and slashes the muscles of his lower leg: leaving him on one good leg.
Knowing that he now longer can be an effective combatant, Fulton limps from the battle as Aerandir and Dagaard rejoin the fight. At that moment, Jundiin strikes from the shadows as Aerandir, who is fortunate to only be lightly wounded. Jundiin appears to be wreathed in shadow making it difficult for Aerandir to find his mark. Fortunately, Denig appears through the portal and quickly joins Aerandir in engaging the leader of the Zilal Ramadiatan. More good fortune follows as Al’Ahmaq dispatches his opponent and is able to engage his former master.
With Dagaard able to press matters, having dispatched the last of the Zilal masters, the battle with the shadow shrouded Jundiin looks like it is in hand, so Denig withdraws to attend to Fulton. The opening created allows Jundiin to strike out and sever Al’Ahmaq’s hand from his wrist. Suddenly, events have turned for the worse again. Jundiin takes the opportunity to reposition his two remaining opponents face on and places himself between them and the portal. With a yell, Dagaard leaps to engage and promptly chokes on his tongue leaving Aerandir to fight on alone against the full force of Jundiin’s battle prowess.
Meanwhile, Denig abandons his assessment of Fulton to leap to Al’Ahmaq’s aid, reasoning that the party need their best fighter back in the battle. However, he is unwilling to succumb to the full horror of the Zilal’s wounds and prays only that the hand be joined and not bleed. With a quick word to an uncomprehending Al’Ahmaq he charges into the fray. Blows are exchanged and wounds are taken by both sides until, with a flash of brilliant skill, Aerandir opens up Jundiin’s defences and cleaves clean through the leg. Jundiin drops as the heroes breathe a sigh of relief that battle has finally gone their way.
The first thought of Denig is to loot the body of the Jundiin while his companions recover after their exertions. He finds an amulet that enhances his connection to Cloch and on the cloak worn by Jundiin half of a cloak clasp shaped in the wing of a bat or dragon. He determines that the the brooch has many spells woven into it but the only he is clear on is that it will haste the wearer for a limited period of time. As he discovers this there is a groan and a thud as Al’Ahmaq falls to the floor.
Denig races to his patient’s side and realises that the joining he has sought whilst effective was not complete enough and the damage has caused the wound to bleed internally. The lack of bone or muscle to support the hand and Al’Ahmaq’s inability to understand the instruction have ruined the effect of Denig’s prayerful requests. Forced to petition Cloch again, Denig is aware that he has finally tested his totem spirits patience too far and heals bone and blood vessels before strapping the wrist and hand and leaving his patient unconscious on the floor for safety.
The sudden collapse of Al’Ahmaq causes the party to stop and think about their situation and the threats they face. They are concerned that the portal may collapse and they will be unable to escape, but they are unwilling to pass through with the current number of wounds taken by the part. In addition, they are not sure if they could get the unconscious Al’Ahmaq through the gateway. The again what if the remaining Zilal find the dead masters and come through. The sheer weight of possibilities almost paralyses the heroes from logical action.
Finally, they begin to organise themselves. First, checking the bodies for significant loot, Aerandir takes Jundiin’s scimitars as a trophy. Then, the heroes turn their attention to the shards of Shawat which they find laid out on an anvil at the top of the platform built on the basalt island. The black metal shards appear to have sigils that appear on the surface and then disappear. Again the merits of how to treat the shards rage, but Denig is only interested in their potential to aid him and seeks to discover the abilities contained within. As he examines the shards he feels a promise of great power within but he devotion to Cloch causes him to pause and the inherent evilness of the items are revealed to him. He recoils and insists on the party throwing the shards into the lava nearby. There is still some worry about the chances of this causing the volcano to erupt and the speed at which they might escape. In the end, Dagaard takes responsibility and after a couple of shards have caused the lava to erupt decides to stop.
Eventually, they decide to rest and wait for Al’Amhaq to regain consciousness and ask him what he thinks will await on the other side of the portal. When he does come round his assurances convince them that it will be safe as Al’Amhaq is now the de facto elder of the Zilal Ramadiatan. With Jundiin’s influence removed, he plans to lead his men to Mustiq Eali to swear fealty to the Amyr. With these assurances the heroes return to the training complex and rest and recover.
The return of the Avenger of Tubki and his companions at the head of the Zilal Ramadiatan is greeted with great praise and delight by the Amyr. The Zilal are accepted into the forces of the Amyr and the heroes are feted with many feasts. In addition, the Amyr personally rewards them with the rank, armour and clothing fitting of a minor captain of the fleet.
Rewards and Reputation
The heroes are now ennobled with the title of Qubatan’aqala with the rights and responsibilities of that rank. The party have gained a reputation of being great heroes on the island and are instantly known across the island, especially if Denig or Dagaard are present. Their level of fame is now such that many on the island chain will have heard of the Avenger of Tubuki, Heroes of Mustawdae or The Defenders of the Children of Khalij Aldhahab.
+10OB Scimitars recovered from Jundiin An amulet (x2 PP) Half cloak clasp shaped in a wing (Haste III) Items conferred with the rank of Qubatan’aqala +5OB Scimitar +5 DB normal shield +5 DB rigid leather coat +5 Perception normal metal helm (no perception penalty) A set of clothes suitable for rank.
The heroes travel for several days through the jungle. Guided by Al’Ahmaq the journey is easier but not without its own hardships. Finally, they reach a region where mists seem to writhe though the trees and undergrowth making it difficult to see more than 300′ with any reliability. Clearly, they have arrived at the Wadi Aldabab Alkhafii (Valley of Mists). Breaking out of the jungle they are stopped by a large lake in which stands an island marked by a large cone shaped mountain. Having repeated his instructions for the plan and wished them good fortune Al’Ahmaq disappears into the misty surroundings.
A silence follows Al’Ahmaq’s departure, as the adventurers consider the mile of green steaming water between them and the small islet known as the Phantom Ship. Dagaard declares that there is no way that he will swim and that someone had better have a reasonable boat. Other’s consider consider seeking divine aid. Whereas, Fulton is confident that he could swim the distance but thinks that first they should see if they could build a raft. A plan that Dagaard feels is acceptable but Aerandir and Denig continue to think about seeking help from their respective deities.
Finally, Fulton’s idea takes hold and the party set about foraging for the wood that they need to build a raft to transport them. Perhaps it is the earlier religious devotions or perhaps the bounty of the jungle but there is soon enough suitable logs gathered. Under Aerandir’s watchful eye, the party set about lashing the logs together and creating crude paddles. There is little to do after that but wait for darkness to fall.
There is enough starlight making its way through the persistent mist for Aerandir to confidently guide the raft with the aid of Fulton. Which is just as well as Denig has to sit at the centre of the raft to avoid overtipping and Dagaard refuses to sit anywhere that would risk an accidental swim. Slowly the sailors paddle the raft, until the dark bulk of the Phantom Ship looms out of the ragged strands of mist.
The Avenger of Tubki and his companions are soon on the islet with the raft pulled up for safety. Within a few minutes the exit of the tunnel is located; a small cave covered with loose rock piled to hide it from a casual glance. Upon entering the cave the party are inconvenienced by a swarm of shrew (Zabbat Almawt). Soon beaten off, the shrews flee and only a few minor bites require Denig’s attention.
Healed up and with Dagaard at the vanguard to defend against unexpected attack by virtue of his better eyesight in the dark, the party descend into the dark tunnel. Soon the walls of the tunnel become smooth like glass and the overwhelming stench of sulphur dulls the heroes senses. The darkness seems to stretch for eternity, but apart from a few small fissures the way is clear and eventually the breath of sweet air begins to fill their lungs.
Knowing he has not the skill to scout ahead, Dagaard beckons Aerandir to check the area around the exit. Peeking out, Aerandir finds that the tunnel exits behind an animal barn. He is also acutely aware of a palisade down at the lake edge. Guard towers overlook the water beyond and also into the interior of the island. Deeming it safe to move from the entrance, Aerandir moves from the exit, using the cover of the barn to view the lay of the land beyond. He finds a scattering of dwellings beyond, along with expected barns and sheds. The small hamlet of buildings sits on the ground before the central cone of the mountain that dominates the island. Beyond it he can see a large domed building with a few lights further up the mountain. The training complex that Al’Ahmaq described. The approach is a clear path that runs from the hamlet and makes its way up the contours, until finally zigzagging up to the main entrance. With a quick prayer for guidance to Manwe, his senses widen and he is reassured that the nearby area is quiet.
Aerandir returns to the party and relays the information he has found. The party discuss the best way to approach the training complex about a third of the way up the mountain. Deciding that they need to avoid the path they plan to use the hamlet buildings as cover and then cut up the side of the mountain to come down the complex from the shadow of the mountain peak.
Stealthily, the heroes make their way from the tunnel and across the shoulder of the mountain. The journey is tense as the loose ground constantly forces them to pause and check for detection. Eventually, they are standing at the bottom of the tower where a rope dangles invitingly.
Swiftly, Aerandir scales the wall and drops into the room at the top of the rope. He finds only Al’Ahmaq alone in a simply furnished room. A quick call and the rest of the party begin the ascent. The rope creaks alarmingly as Denig climbs, his heavy mass straining the rope. Nearing the top, the rope gives up its fight with the weight straining on it and snaps. Denig grasps at the window ledge but misses and plummets to the ground below. His stone skin and the low height of the fall mean that the damage is low and easily healed with a dose of herb.
Having climbed using ropes supplied by the rest of the party, Denig is soon in the room and Al’Ahmaq reveals that Jundiin plans the forging now. Following the Zilal master through the darkened corridors the party race to the arena level where in a side room they encounter Jundiin and five Zilal masters. Behind Jundiin, an arch contains a red glowing portal, through which the leader of the Zilal leaves with the brooch and knife shards. The portal winks out. The remaining Zilal attack to protect their master.
The battle doesn’t start well. Denig prays for a personal blessing causing Fulton to hesitate as the rest of the party rush to engage the dual scimitar- wielding Zilal. Aerandir successfully engages and creates an advantage over his opponent. Al’Ahmaq is hard pressed by three of his former brothers at arms. Whereas, Dagaard is cut down immediately with a slice through is carotid artery. The shock to the party as the usually doughty dwarf is cut down is palpable. Fulton rushes to engage the assailant, while Denig races to save the dwarf’s life.
The battle rages on around Denig who prays over the recumbent form of Dagaard. Al’Ahmaq receives several minor wounds but also delivers one of his own. Fortunately, Aerandir manages to gain an advantage causing his opponent to stagger under a flurry of blows. Unfortunately, Fulton receives a serious wound despite using all his weapon skills to deflect the attack as he attempts to defend Denig. He retreats as the a grinning Zilal master follows up on his bleeding opponent. The situation for the heroes looks grim.
At this point the portal glows red again and one of the Zilal masters leaves the fight with Al’Ahmaq and steps through. The portal blinks out as the battle continues. Denig collapses into unconsciousness and the rest of Cloch as the weight of wounds he has transferred take their toll. The restored Dagaard though launches straight into the fray disarming Fulton’s opponent with a swift blow of his war hammer. He then turns his attention on one of the Zilal engaged with Al’Ahmaq leaving Fulton to finish off the now unarmed opponent: a task that Fulton singularly fails to do.
Again the portal glows red and another Zilal master retreats through the portal leaving Aerandir to switch his target. Meanwhile, a woozy Fulton tries to escape his now rearmed foe by retreating into the central arena. The poor sailor looks doomed as blood streams from the wound in his leg. At the moment of highest peril though Denig recovers from his death trance and races to his aid rapidly dispatching the scimitar wielding opponent. Dagaard dispatches another and the final Zilal falls to Al’Ahmaq’s blades. It is too late for Fulton though, as true to form he collapses into unconsciousness.
Denig’s first concern is for the wound taken by Fulton which he prays earnestly will stop bleeding. He then sees to Al’Ahmaq’s wounds relying on Cloch to heal some of the damage and many doses of Draaf leaves to restore his companions to full health. Some minutes later the party are ready to step through the portal. But who will go first? It is decided that the fighters will lead the charge. Al’Ahmaq steps through first and thirty second later Dagaard follows. Aerandir is next to step through followed by Fulton and then Denig.
After the exertions of the night, the heroes rest late into the morning and eat well with their host Alquazam. They discover that he was once a great Qubtan in the Amyr’s fleet, a contemporary of Qubtan Tubki. The pair has sailed with two great fleets to besiege a city on behalf of the Amyr and the surrounding islands when on the return home, Alquazam’s fleet had become separated in a mystical fog. For many years he struggled to return home to his wife and child and on the way had many adventures. In the end, he escaped an enchantress on an island sailing away on a crude raft to return to the only woman he truly loved. However, on returning home he found the house empty but for a single servant. His wife and son had disappeared and fearing that they had died, Alquazam sank into a reclusive melancholy with only his dogs for company and fed by the now near invisible bondsman. The activity of the Zilal is news to Alquazam but he takes this as a sign that all may not be lost, for having raised his blood in their attack and knowing of the death of Tubki, he feels he should return to Mustiq Eali and present himself to the Amyr as would be right and proper.
After being given directions to the estate of the Aismilays Mahma, the party take their leave and set out on the short journey. They arrive and are treated as honoured guests, a state of being that the heroes feel needs to be strung out as long as possible. As a result, their investigations are slow and shallow in nature and revolve around requesting a dinner audience with their host and a picnic with the head of the hunters. They also fear that because of the attack on the road the Zilal know of their presence and have a spy on the estate itself.
Aismilays Mahma is effusive in his greetings and Fulton begins to feel embarrassed by the tall tale he has told that makes him appear to be the hero of the action and the Avenger of Tubki. Denig appears not to be relegated to the roll of an enchanted stone statue servant and the other two lack a role except that of lesser companions. Aerandir relays this information to the rest of the party who do not understand the local language. Although outraged by such a deceit, the companions decide that if it continues to work in oiling the wheels of state and providing them with a meal they will keep up the pretence. In the course of the meal, Fulton also tells of the Night of the Long Knives and of Alquazam’s return from the sea. As M seems slightly alarmed at this information and says that his cousin the vizier will be most interested to hear the news. The fine meal continues: during which As M tells the party of what he knows of the attacks on his estate. He also suggests that taking the cloak to Z is an important task and may also help them discover more information. They ignore this suggestion choosing to leave the birthday gift and returning the young lord to Mustiq Eali to after their mission has been completed.
The picnic with the head of the hunters does also not reveal the location of the headquarters of the Zilal Ramiditan. They do discover a few more details about the killings, including the removal of the hands and feet but do not pursue any additional avenues of enquiry. Instead they load up with supplies and prepare to set off into the jungle to explore a valley that is rumoured to be perpetually shrouded in mist, having first said that they intend to scout a completely different area.
Relying on a sense of direction more than any skills of jungle survival the party follow animal trails or hack a pathway through the dense growth of the jungle for three days. Always moving vaguely in the right direction they feel that they are making progress until even Aerandir and Denig, who have the best sense of direction, feel at a loss. They decide that climbing a tree to the top of the canopy would be a way to gauge direction and distance. Unfortunately, even through he is an able climber, Denig cannot scale the tree due to his weight. Aerandir climbs a few feet before an ill-placed foot sends him back to the ground and so it is only Fulton who manages to make it to the top. The sight of a sea of green and the short distance they have moved up and sideways fills him with dispair. Knowing they only have food for three more days at most the party decide to return to the estate and rethink the plan.
Upon their return to the estate, they pass off the lack of progress as having investigated one area and that after a rest they will continue to quarter the lands beyond until the location of the Zilal is discovered. Returning to their rooms to change and bathe before a meal, Fulton discovers a letter that is addressed to him as the Avenger of Tubki. It appears to be from a member of the Zilal Ramidatan who has become disenfranchised with the leader of the group Jundiin. He bids them to meet him on the shores of the lakes at the northern edge of the estate.
The party are a little concerned at this turn of events and fear that there is a chance of ambush. In spite of the risks though they load up with supplies and proceed to the lakeshore. Here they make a camp and although Dagaard and Aerandir use the tree line as cover they make little effort to conceal their presence. So it is that they are easily discovered by al’Ahmaq who steps out of the dark almost on top of Dagaard who feels himself concealed. Assured that he intends no harm, they listen to his tale.
This al’Ahmaq is concerned that the actions of Jundiin will endanger the whole island and that Jundiin intends to seize power from the Amyr. al’Ahmaq does not want this because he dreamed of joining the great war fleet but since for various reasons he was unable to do so he joined the Zilal Ramidatan who he thought would be secret protectors of the island’s safety. Jundiin has a clasp to a cloak that appears to grant the wearer the ability to travel in shadow. However, it is incomplete and Jundiin has become impatient with discovering the whereabouts of its partner. Instead he plans to forge one of his own. Guided by the shards of a knife, which he says speaks to him, Jundiin will take the knife and remake it into the clasp. To do so he has been creating a forge beneath the mountain where the fires of the earth weep. al’Ahmaq is worried that this will bring catastrophe to the island. Who knows what will happen in the forging or what Jundiin will do if he wears a cloak bound by the two clasp. Especially, as the metal of the knife seems to speak to him with the voice of one called Zigur.
The heroes hear this tale with the weariness of the experienced adventurer. “One does not merely…” starts Dagaard, but the others cut him off before he can continue. They wish to know how they will get into the camp and the forge. They enquire about where the base lies and how four of them, five if al’Ahmaq is willing, defeat a whole army of Zilal fighters? A outlines his plan and the layout of the base which is on an island to one end of a volcanic lake. The heroes can enter the island through a little known escape tunnel that runs from an islet known as the Phantom Ship further along the lake. He will distract the guards who will be at the tunnel entrance and the party can make their way to the main tower. Here he will help them gain entry to the tower through his rooms on the upper floors.
The sun had not yet risen when a squad of palace guards arrive at the ship and demanded in the politest way that the heroes of Mustawdae and the avengers of Qubtan Tubki come with them to the palace. The palace at this hour seemed empty, although the whispered sounds of unseen servants could be heard around Fulton and Denig as they were escorted into the throne room.
It was clear that the Amyr was not there or for that matter any of the other court officials. The throne of state glared at the pair in silent authority. From a curtained side entrance near the throne dais, the figure of the Vizier met on the previous visit to this room arrives to speak with the pair.
He introduces himself as Munajam Murshid, the astrologer to Amyr Fatih Albahr. Fulton translates this for Denig and then listens to the Vizier as he is informed that the Zilal Ramadiatan have become more than an inconvenience with their killing of Eayan Tubki. The apparently random attacks are centred on one-quarter of the island near the Tubuki estate, Thus the Amyr, great is his name, commands them to investigate and cleanse his island of this menace. In the meantime, Vanwa is to be his esteemed guest at his convenience.
He also commanded the pair to deliver the birthday gift they had recovered from the fallen Tubki to his orphaned son, Zahrat Alnajma. However, it would not be right for them to stay there, so the Vizier had arranged from them to stay at the estate of Aismilays Mahma (conveniently a cousin to the Vizier, who has also suffered attacks on workers on his land. A servant is provided as a guide and to attend to the food they need for the day’s journey to the estate of Mahma. They return to the ship to collect their companions and adventuring gear.
So it is that the Avenger of Tubki and his companions stroll along the coast road accompanied by their guide. The sunshine downs on volcanic cliffs that drop precipitously into the crystal clear ocean. To their left, the jungle sweeps down from the mountain in the centre of the island. Sometimes the road pass through deep stands of trees and other out onto open scrubland.
At midday, they enjoy a refined meal, provided by the palace. The servant bustles around preparing the rug for them to sit upon and tea, cold meats and other delicacies. They have never dined so well.
It is getting late and the sun is sinking into the ocean. The party pass through an area where the jungle is running down to the shore. Nearby, an abandoned house sits right on the cliff; the roof eaves almost scraping to the hill it is built into. A small walled courtyard with a broken empty gate gives access to the house via a stair well leading up to the main door.
There is a dull thud amidst a patter of falling leaves. The servant falls instantly to the ground as your party is engulfed in a hail of crossbow bolts.
The party flee back up the road on which they have travelled into a hail of fire. All are hit in the following volley but the heroes are able to continue their flight. However, Fulton stumbles over the rough ground trying to avoid any further injury and his hit again by a crossbow bolt from an unseen assailant. Dagaard, who is closest drops back to provide an additional shield for the sailor as they take up a defensive position by a tree.
During this time, Aerandir has slipped into the undergrowth and Denig prayer for concealment is granted. Both spend time trying to locate the assailants. Aerandir manages to loose a shot at one shadow figure but after that neither can find a target. It is at this point that Aerandir also offers a quick prayer to Ulmo for concealment and blends into the jungle. While he waits, Denig makes is way quickly and carefully to find the dwarf and sailor.
Meanwhile, disaster befalls the two companions by the tree. Despite, the cover and shields, a hail of bolts mortally wound Fulton. In response, Dagaard stands valiantly over his fallen companion calling out the cowardly assailants, when Denig’s voice can be heard, but not seen. He prays for the stricken Fulton and drops into a coma while his god heals him. Restored, Fulton along with Denig make a run for the walled garden in front of the house.
They hold the gateway together waiting for the next assault. Without the fortune of a brief glance behind them into the garden, they would have been surprised by the attackers approaching stealthily to their rear. Fulton parries for all he is worth and soon Dagaard has despatched both. They reason that they need something more substantial between them and the attackers and retreat to the house.
Having entered the house and barricaded the main door. The pair begin to explore to ensure they can escape or cover any other entry to the house itself. A large ballroom with many wide window spaces forces them to consider lower levels as a safer area to hole up in. They descend the long stairs to the floor below, where they encounter three huge hounds. Things do not go well, with Fulton being wounded in the abdomen and bleeding profusely. It takes the doughty dwarf to pull him behind the safety of a door back up to the previous level and away from the dogs.
Dagaard manages to haul Fulton back to a small office near the entrance and applies some basic first aid to staunch the wound temporarily. He barricades the pair against entry from the direction of the dogs on the floor below and sets himself ready to defend the remaining door with his last breath.
While the dwarf and the sailor lurch from calamity to catastrophe, Denig begins to try and hunt the hidden assailants. Aerandir attempts the same thing from a more static position. Neither has any luck in this endeavour except to discover that those who wish them harm are either extremely stealthy or not in the current area. Eventually, they find each other and make their way to the house. Finding the two dead Zilal, they relieve them of the throwing knives and make their way to the main door. It is barred against entry and despite desperate whispers, there are no replies.
Aerandir and Denig decide to try a nearby window. Standing on Denig’s shoulders Aerandir discovers the casement of the window is well made and secure. He decides to break the window and pull himself in through the window. Perhaps it was a mistake as when Denig begins to pull himself in the pair are attacked from the garden by crossbows. Swiftly they duck below the window height. While Aerandir keeps a hidden watch, Denig checks the doors to find Dagaard standing guard over the fallen Fulton.
For a second time, Denig prays to Cloch for the strength to heal his companion at arms. The effort costs him dear, he falls unconscious with the pain and he is unable to take any action for over a quarter of an hour. While Fulton updates Aerandir on the rooms around them. Feeling weary, Denig suggest that they rest in the study for the night, trusting the dogs below will protect one entrance and vigilance the other.
It is not long before this assumption is proven wrong. Zilal in grey flood into the room using windows and doors. The party are hard-pressed on all sides but Aerandir’s bow becomes the decisive factor, crippling several of the attackers and turning the tide.
The invaders dispatched, the heroes set about securing all the doors and windows and in the process reducing the speed at which they can escape if needed. Again they settle down to rest and recuperate and again the Zilal assassins attack, this time with smoke. Rapidly, the rooms begin to fill with smoke and faced with the threat of fire the heroes exit through the rear of the study and down to corridor where Fulton was mortally wounded by a dog.
Below the corridor leads in two directions; a nearby door offers an immediate sanctuary from the patrolling dogs. They quickly enter and surprise a Zilal in the kitchen beyond the door. A single Zilal proves no match for the experienced heroes.
In a room off of the kitchen, cowers an old man, who turns out to be the servant of the Lord of the manor. He thanks the party for dispatching the raider in the kitchen and provides them with information on the manor.
The Lord of the Manor, A, is a recluse who has not talked to his servant since his return from the sea. The only creatures he will talk to are his dogs that he allows to roam the corridor and shore side rooms freely. The servant suggests that if the adventurers want to escape they should follow the coast side rooms. He also tells them that the master spends his time alone in the sunroom by the dock. The party think this might have a ship and provide them with a way of escaping the Zilal. However, the servant refuses to come with them.
Travel through the dining room, hall and parlour reveal that although the house appears abandoned it remains well appointed and cared for; no doubt through the attentions of the servant.
Outside they are assailed again. This time the Zilal have rappelled down the cliff and taken up position blocking the door back into the house. For the third time in the night Fulton suffers a mortal wound and things do not look good, especially as Aerandir is shot by a Zilal crossbow bolt. Dagaard almost single-handedly manages to cut a swathe through the remaining Zilal allowing Denig to heal the fallen comrades. Now though he knows that the divine grace of Cloch is deserting him and he needs sleep and rest.
Those in the party with night vision are able to make out the docks and report a singular lack of a boat. The plan to escape by sea is quickly shelved. Aerandir is keen to try and contact the master of the house, however, although he can hear that someone is in the summer house, is unable to rouse the occupant. The adventurers retire to the parlour, blockading the doors against another potential incursion, they settle down to rest for the remains of the night.
Keeping watch, Dagaard fails to spot a pale blue smoke entering the room from beneath the doors, before the drug-laden smoke has already begun to affect all but Aerandir. However, as soon as he does recognise the now swirling smoke across the floor he rouses his companions in time for them to mount a defence against the Zilal who break in through the two windows of the room.
The rushed assault is clearly aimed to overwhelm attackers who have been rendered less able by the drug-laden smoke. The plan flounders as the Zilal meet a stiffer resistance than expected. Fulton manages to lop the hand off one of the attackers and Dagaard dispatches another from the fight. Still, the weight of numbers, the effects of the smoke and Fulton’s new combat tactic of using full parry make the situation look perilous.
The doorway to the room bursts open, stunning both Dagaard and Denig who are in close combat with a Zilal. Leaving Denig to defend against the original attacker. Dagaard spins to defend the doorway against the new incursion. Meanwhile, Aerandir continues to trade blows with one of the original attackers. As Dagaard rushes to the doorway he realises that there are three Zilal armed with crossbows aimed at the entrance. He ducks back behind the doorway, but one of the fired bolts strikes Denig who is still in the line of sight beyond Dagaard.
The fighting is fierce, Denig and Dagaard still suffering the effects of the blast are forced to defend themselves. The external also is breached, but Fulton, who was closest, manages to retreat further from the doorway and avoid the effects of the blast. It is only when Denig dips into his store of herbs that the battle is turned. Managing to give Dagaard a dose of dried mushroom (Zulsendura), he turns his attention to aiding Fulton and trying to provide a second dose of the mushroom to Aerandir.
A feint opening designed to draw Dagaard into the room beyond or perhaps to allow the other opponents to an uninterrupted line of sight into the room, provides the dwarf with an opening. Popping the mushroom into his mouth the ferocious and hasted dwarf charges into the room easily dispatching his two opponents. Meanwhile, Aerandir has dispatched his opponent and is busy defending the outer door against the attackers. Denig decides to use his dose of Zulsendura on himself and thus hasted dispatches the remaining Zilal in the room with the aid of Dagaard who quickly returns to the chamber.
The battle turning, the party hear the sounds of dogs and roaring from outside. The heroes just feeling they have reached the point of victory, find themselves confronted by a roaring giant of a man in furs and three fierce war hounds. Aerandir and Fulton attempt to defuse combat by explaining that they are sent by the Amyr. Perhaps it is exhaustion or the three near-death experiences of the night but Fulton is unusually underwhelming. Dagaard immediately lashes out at the nearest war hound and it looks like the heroes will again be engaged in battle. However, a final plea from Aerandir pauses the fur-clad man, who is the Lord of the manor.
Through a more rational discussion, Aerandir is able to explain how they came to be in the Lord’s mansion and how they have saved the servant. The party then demonstrate the truth of their story by taking the lord around the mansion and grounds to show where all the Zilal who attacked them lie.
The heroes have successfully survived the close encounter with the magic armour and the process of healing the party’s wounds is over. The sound of the magic armour hacking at the soil around it with its battle axe is a constant reminder of the peril that could await around every corner. So, their approach to exploring the treasure room and the chest in the corridor is understandably cautious.
Fulton, the master locksmith, tackles the chests and recovers a small bag of coins. He lets the rest know that he has found these but neglects to reveal how much is in the bag. Meanwhile, Dagaard runs his experienced eyes over the chainmail shirt and decides it is made durable by its weight. However, it does not fit him and the rest will not wear it. He decides to take it for selling on later. The redwood staff is taken by Denig, who cannot determine its magical purposes, but keeps it anyway. The final item worthy of note in the treasure room is a book written in the local language and so only translatable by Aerandir and Fulton. Both sailors digest its contents and discover much about the traps in the rooms they have passed through. Consequently, the heroes decide not to investigate the treasure room seen earlier fearing that it is trapped in manner described in the book. They also worry about a trap called “The sword of Damoclese” which they have not encountered yet. Suddenly, every doorway has become more of a threat.
The chest in the corridor proves a challenge to open. Fulton takes a full quarter of an hour to release its old and complicated mechanism. It is also really heavy and it is clear why the assassin was struggling to get away. Inside, there is only an array of heavy rocks.
Reasoning that it will be easier to move slightly more empty, the adventurers set about removing the larger ones. Although, Fulton drops one on the armour to see the effect. It has none.
The chest emptied, the party move up the stairs beyond to find they lead out through a book case into a small office. The clerk who is working late is very surprised by the appearance of a stone man with a glowing hand and a short metal clad, war hammer wielding dwarf. Fulton’s attempt to allay his fears fall on deaf ears, in fact he only serves to convince the poor clerk that he is in fact a sorcerer of great power. The clerk flees the room, down the stairs and into the night.
Our heroes discuss the situation that they find themselves in. It becomes apparent, as Denig reveals that he may be viewed as a murder, that they may need to find some way to prove their innocence when they meet the authorities. A quick check of the area reveals that they are outside the port’s walls and should there be an alert, which Denig thinks likely due to his unusual appearance, getting past the guards will prove difficult.
Investigating the passage thrust at them with the words ” Zahrat Alnajma” find a pale blue cloak with gold trim. It clearly isn’t magical but they are at a loss why the man gave it to them. What does Zahrat mean? Aerandir and Fulton know it translates as “Flower of Stars”, but is that a person, place or organisation? Perhaps, it is a code word?
They debate returning the way they came with all the difficulties and even consider swimming out through the submerged chasm until Dagaard points out that he will never agree to such a plan. Once underwater was enough!
The debate is long and finally solved when they exit the offices and discover the clerk has brought the authorities to deal with the sorcerer and his demons who has appeared in his office. They run back the way they came closing the secret entrance behind them and trusting to the chest of stones to buy more time if needed. Across the pit with the magical armour they leap. First Dagaard and then Fulton, loses his footing on landing and bloodies his nose. Then Denig, prepares until Aerandir points to one of the tables in the bedroom chamber and suggests they use that to cross the pit.
The party make their way back across the chasm and through the thieves’ lair. They stop for a brief theological argument about the need for a blessing from Cloch to pass through the magical mist until Fulton points out that it is all an illusion and walks right on.
Soon they have reached the grain silo and are now confronted by a new problem. How to get out? The sides a covered in copper sheeting and the cranes used to lift the sacks are operated from the roof. For the lack of a ladder it looks as is they will be forced to swim after all. Looking around they find some crates which if stacked at he top of the moulder grain should allow the taller members of the party to reach the broken gantry by their finger tips. However, they decide that they need rope for insurance. Aerandir is dispatched to recover the rope.
Finally, the party are out of the grain silo and make their way to the exit where they discover a pair of guards at the crime scene. Denig prays again for a boon; asking Cloch that the guards will not be aggressive.
“Act casual, but don’t look like you are looking casual,” Denig tells his companions but it is not enough. They are spotted and challenged by one of the soldiers in an aggressive fashion. The heroes run but are followed by one guard who they eventually lose by splitting up.
Soon the party arrive at the dockside from different directions and end up hiding in pairs separated from each other. On the dock and the ship are soldiers of Mutasaliq Eali. The crew of the ship are being chained up and Captain Reiss does not look happy at this turn of events. In the bay, the warships look menacing. A midnight escape to sea looks to be unlikely.
Denig decides that the only decent thing to do is surrender as it is he who was seen with the body of the old man. Perhaps, the crew will be released without any need for bloodshed. Handing his weapons and the blue cloak to Aerandir he walks towards the ship.
Meanwhile, Fulton, who is hiding behind some cargo elsewhere on the docks, sees Denig making his way towards the soldiers. He too decides to surrender; reasoning that only he can represent Denig to the authorities, especially as Denig doesn’t speak the local language.
The crew are chained and thrown in prison and Aerandir and Dagaard are forced to spend a few days on the street. In prison, Fulton learns of the demise of one of his crew mates. Laegionof Gondor fell from the rigging and broke his neck. Fulton wonders if the ship is cursed and several of his crew mates would appear to agree this is the case ever since leaving port in Far Harad.
Eventually, the case of the murder is brought before the Amyr. It appears that the murdered man was Qubtan Tubki, a valued sea captain of the Amyr’s warships. He had not long retired to look after his son after the death of his beloved wife. Indeed, it was his son’s birthday the very day he was murdered.
Eloquent as ever, Fulton manages to partially convince the hawk-nosed ruler by claiming that he alone chased the assassin and that Denig merely tried to save the man’s life. However, the crew are returned to prison while an investigation is made into the Fulton’s extravagant claims.
Several more days pass as the claims are investigated and proved to be, at least to those investigating true. Accordingly, the Amyr frees the crew and grants them leave to return to the ship, but not to leave the island. He informs Fulton that there have been cases of these Zilal Ramadiatan (Grey Shadows) attacking others on the island. However, as they were commoners it was thought the Zilal Ramadiatan were no more than rogues or thieves. Amyr Fatih Albahr wishes to speak with the mighty Fulton about this at another time.
The crew are escorted from the throne room. As they leave, Denig sees a flash of golden hair, a woman in silk clothing moving through a room beyond a lattice work screen. He swears he hears the laughter of Vanwa, which would explain why she has not been seen.
Back at the Ulmo’s Beard, the adventurers catch up and compare notes. Aerandir is most perturbed by Fulton’s failure to find where Vanwa has gone, since she should have been with the crew. Even more so when he hears Denig’s news. For now though, all the group can do is settle down and wait for the Amyr’s summons.
The party sail on from Khalij Aldhahab. Captain Reiss has heard that a week away is the island of Jazirat Almutasaliq Aleali and is keen to try and obtain a contract for transporting goods to keep the ship sailing. In Mutasaliq Eali, the port and seat of government, he hopes to find a cargo in need of a ship.
The island appears on the horizon, a great coned mountain dominates the island with a skirt of jungle spreading down to the sea. Mutasaliq Eali sits within the arms of a narrow bay. At the headland, a number of watchtowers guard against unwanted intrusion. At anchor in the bay, three medium-sized war galleys sit amongst the merchant ships. Soon the Ulmo’s Beard is at anchor and while he makes contacts Captain Reiss gives the crew shoreleave.
During the journey, Denig has spent the week in religious reflection and when on dry land feels that the presence of Cloch is strong enough to heal Dagaard’s shattered elbow. Restored, the dwarf sets off with the party to explore the city and purchase new weapons. Vanwa finds some new outfits and accessories, courtesy of Aerandir’s purse and both Dagaard and the half-elf order new weapons.
So it is that as the sun begins to set that the heroes are travelling back to the ship through the warehouse district, Aerandir with a new short bow, and Dagaard feeling more more dwarven with a war hammer hanging at his belt. They pass an old man whistling a jaunty tune who is then brutally attacked some yards beyond them by a grey cloaked man.
Immediately, the heroes give alarm and rush to aid the fallen man. The man in grey dashes into a nearby warehouse. The old man has taken a grievous wound and utters on final name, “Zahrat Alnajma”, while thrusting a passage into Aerandir’s hands. Denig pauses to commune with Cloch over what can be done for the old man. So leaving the package with him, Aerandir and the others set off in pursuit of the grey-cloaked man.
The enter the warehouse cautiously as they fear an ambush in time to see misfortune befall their quarry. Attempting to swing from a suspended gantry to the far wall of the grain silo in which makes up the interior of the warehouse, the gantry gives way plummeting him into the silo itself. Following up, the heroes are in time to see their quarry, unharmed by the fall, dash to the end of the silo and out through a hole in the wall. They quickly follow but pause at the passage because they have no source of light.
Meanwhile, Denig pleads for the man’s soul but finds Cloch unwilling to provide aid in healing the now dead man. Having delayed long enough, the Dunlending picks up the package and follows his companions, who he finds at the entrance to a dark passage.
Praying for light Denig is granted a beam of light into the darkness. The heroes see a long tunnel dug out of the packed earth by the harbour wall. They follow cautiously, which is fortunate as it gives them warning of a skeleton armed with sword and shield in a small cavern ahead. Dagaard rushes forward to engage as his companions surround the single foe. The battle is short lived as the skeleton is animated by hanging from a chain in the ceiling but the noise of the combat will have no doubt alerted anyone nearby to their presence.
A short passage leads from the small cave to a crude wooden door and beyond a narrow room containing just a table and chair before a door to the whatever lies beyond. On the table, six crossbow quarrels are lined in order next to a broken crossbow and a brass hunting horn. The heroes waste more time in preparing themselves to open the door and removing the quarrels from being used by an opponent.
The door opens onto a room filled with mist that is lit by magical, violet lightning. Denig urges caution fearing a lightning strike similar to one he recently experienced when trying to take a ring from a treasure room. Praying for divine protection, Denig enters the mist. It soon clears to reveal two exits. At that moment, the man in grey strikes. A swift blow, stuns the stoneman as the killer flees into the mist and away from sight.
Working at a painfully slow rate, the heroes check first the door, which leads onto a treasure room dominated by a gold throne, which they leave; then the corridor which leads to a small room containing a table and a couple of chairs which are still flickering with small flames. Suspicious, they spend more time looking round the room but only spot a red gem on the table. Denig moves to have a closer look at the gem and is immediately engulfed in flames. He rapidly retreats.
By praying for a wall of water to sit over the gem, Denig is able to counteract the flames from the gem and the party move on. The room leads to another at the meeting of two passageways. A single door provides an alternative exit. The door has a brass plaque on it which they heroes do not read but instead search down the next corridor. Here they find a bunk room and a space used for weapons practice. They discover a few low value coins and a short sword with a hollow pommel but no sign of the killer.
Stumped by the whereabouts of the man in grey, the comrades examine the door. It is locked with no sign of a keyhole. The plaque has a four line couplet which is clearly a riddle so with these clues they reason the door is magically locked and that their quarry went this way. It takes them a few minutes to reason the answer but soon the door is open.
At that moment a glass ball rolls into the middle of the group and explodes. All are stunned and unable to act as the man in grey races past, through the door and up the stairs beyond.
Denig, blessed with the quickest recovery follows up the stairs and is in time to see the man in grey stepping off a two rope bridge across a short chasm. He throws a dagger which glances off the wall in front of Denig, who steps back into cover. The man in grey use the opportunity to cut the ropes of the bridge and flee up the corridor.
The rest of the party make their way up the stairs relying on the faint light of Denig’s “torch”. They assess the ten foot gap in the cave. It is rough and descends to water below. Although clearing the gap is achievable, there is little room to achieve a decent run up. Aerandir attempts to leap the chasm to reattach the rope. His use of acrobatic skills are of no aid as the short run up and low ceiling combine to ensure his jump comes up short. He desperately makes a grab for the far side but fails. Fortunately, the fall causes only light damage before he falls into the water below. Unfortunately, the water is full of cave stingers, jelly fish whose poison raises angry welts across the half-elf’s exposed skin. Climbing out, the wet sailor casts a quick prayer to Ulmo for relief from the stings and is miraculously healed.
Soon his companions are able to join him on the other side of the chasm and they look down the corridor beyond. There they see the man in grey, who for some reason appears to be fiddling with the lock on a trunk. Seeing the heroes he abandons his task and launches himself at the party in a vain hope of using aggression over superior numbers. The battle is short and swift, the man in grey out numbered is soon felled by Dagaard (despite pulling his blow) who relishes in having a war hammer in hand again.
Having looted the body for his weapons, but finding no other clues, the heroes explore the end of the corridor. The chest they leave and explore the room to the right.
It appears to be a bedroom, perhaps for the leader of the rogues who clearly used this space as a hideout. A chest is unlocked and opened by Fulton, who avoids being poisoned by a hidden trap in the lid. They recover a magical scimitar (+10OB), and empty scroll tube and a small pouch of coins.
On the left hand side of the corridor is a locked door, which does not prove too tricky for Fulton to open. Inside a suit of plate armour remains of a stand in the middle of the room. Behind is a desk, a chainmail shirt in the corner and a redwood staff. Having checked for traps, Denig enters to examine the treasure. The suit of armour, battleaxe in hands, immediately attacks the Dunlending.
Heavily injured, Denig falls back into the bedroom where Aerandir, arrow knocked covers the doorway. Fulton and Dagaard strike at the magical armour as Aerandir’s arrow pings off its surface. The magical construct turns its attention on the dwarf whose blow had been the strongest. The battle axe sweeps out and makes contact with the dwarfs lower leg: shearing tendon and muscle. Again the Aerandir looses an arrow to little effect and Fulton’s cutlass strikes with a clang.
Now the animated armour turns towards Fulton, who falls back parrying with all his skill, (he hopes to lure the armour to the chasm behind him). The battle-axe smashes through the sailors defence ripping open his arm as blood flies. At the moment when all seems lost, Denig’s prayers are answered and a pit opens up beneath the armour and it falls out of harm’s way.
With Aerandir’s help, Denig is able, by the grace of Cloch, to heal the stricken Fulton who has now lapsed into unconsciousness from blood loss. Meanwhile, the steady hack, hack of the armour can be heard from the bottom of the pit. Dagaard, hampered by his injured leg must wait for his turn of healing and sits by the chest, while Fulton opens a chest in the treasure room to discover another haul of coins in a bag. The rest of the treasures remain unassessed by the time Dagaard’s wounds are healed.