One does not merely…

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 Night of the Long Knives

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-Thief-of-Bagdad
by BriGht-liGht-NSH

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.

Calvin Chua Art Station

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.

Act casual, but you know not too casual.

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.

Back past the scary skeleton (woo), through the mist (stumble stumble), past the fire gem under the ice wall (szsh szsh), up the stairs (trudge, trudge) and up to the chasm. Oh no! The rope is on the other side! Aerandir makes the leap (run, run, leap). It is simple to untie it and wrap it round his waist. Then back to the party. Over the chasm (run, run, leap), down the stairs (trudge, trudge), past the fire gem (szsh, szsh), through the mist (stumble stumble), past the skeleton (woo, woo) and back to the party.

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. Laegion of 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.

Murder most foul!

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.

Medieval Fantasy Port
by LotharZhou

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.

Daniel ZromPRO
Fantasy Artist & Illustrator- danielzrom@hotmail.com

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.

Bridge jump
by mattforsyth

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.

At the bottom of the deep blue

Sketch for “A Mermaid”
John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)

His miner’s lamp casts a weak glow around the grotto of the pool. His companions appear to have deserted him and Dagaard dare not follow. The enmity between Ulmo and Aule over the creation means no dwarf has ever learnt to swim. Indeed, even if he could swim and was not wearing chainmail, he would not enter the realm of Ulmo such is his kindreds fear of water. So he sits and waits. Presently, a foam like the surf on the beaches that Dagaard has seen more than he would wish on this journey, forms on the surface of the pool. A beautiful female form rises in the water and looks at him quizzically. The Gwingil questions Dagaard in a teasing way, it is clear she knows why he will not enter and after some discussion she offers to grant him passage if he will release her from the binding that holds her in the pool. Dagaard agrees to slay the priestess of the cult and banish the Maia of the dark depths of the volcano.

Stripped of all but armour and sword, Dagaard stands nervously on the edge of the pool. The Gwingil reaches up to kiss him and with a sudden jerk, the dwarf is plunged into the depths of the pool. Water rushes by him, but he is held fast in an embrace and what feels like and eternal kiss by the Gwingil. When he fears the worst he is suddenly released and propelled through water to break the surface, gasping for air, in a pool similar to the one he entered. Urgently, he scrabbles out of the water and looks around for his companions. Damp footprints indicate which direction they have travelled and he calls out to them down the torch lit corridor.

Meanwhile, Denig is studying a doorway for traps prior to opening when the door opens. Before him stands a Black Reiver, apple in hand. In desperation, Denig charges striking in one swift blow as he draws the handaxe from his belt. It would seem that they may escape detection if he continues to be lucky, when Dagaard’s holler echoes up the corridor.

Soon our heroes are outnumbered and hard pressed by Black Reivers. Fulton runs to the corridor to summon Dagaard. Or is that shelter behind the warrior’s impressive skills with a two-handed sword? Aerandir and Denig at the other end of the corridor retreat into a kitchen area. The superior fighting skills of the group begin to tell against their opponents. Several Black Reivers are wounded mortally and others begin to break fleeing through a doorway. Unfortunately, disaster strikes as Denig and Aerandir seek to pursue. A freak stroke from a Reiver engaged in combat with Dagaard shatters the dwarf’s elbow. His heavy weapon drops from his hands as his weapon arm hangs loose at his side.

The arabian warrior
BY rebel07bloodhound

The killing blow expected by Dagaard does not fall as the stone form of Denig charges the triumphant Black Reiver, who turns to meet the new threat. Dagaard staggers to safety and unseen the cowering Fulton leaps forward to lash out with his cutlass. Quickly, the opponent is cut down and while Denig sees to Dagaard’s wound (which is no more than a bandage), Fulton chases after his comrade Aerandir.

Meanwhile, Aerandir is forced to fight against Black Reiver’s in restricted doorways delaying his pursuit. As Fulton arrives, Aerandir is assessing the safety of a room in which he fears an ambush. He is right and using the gathered information launches a sudden assault with Fulton at his back. One defender is quickly dispatched as the other flees through the nearby door. Fearing another ambush the pair push cautiously onwards through a series of rooms until they come to a robing room.

Again they flush their quarry from the room and pursue him down a corridor until the arrive at a great hall. The sacred space is bathed in blue and green light. A large dias occupies the wall near them and in front of it is an altar on which the beautiful Vanwa is laid. Around her priests and a priestess chant with a chorus from a large congregation of acolytes further back in the hall. Guarding them are a number of Black Reivers including one enormous man who is receiving instructions from the fleeing warrior. Aerandir at the front pauses before urging his comrades to retreat.

Denig heads for a doorway that he believes will take him back to where Dagaard waits. But very quickly it becomes clear that this has led them to be caught in a corridor between two groups pursuers. Immediately, Denig beseeches Cloch for some divine aid, a barrier to prevent further reinforcements. Despite, recent events Cloch is still prepared to help his follower and grants two walls of wood securing one front of the party.

Meanwhile, Dagaard moves to the corridor to see if he can aid his comrades but only draws the attention of one of the Reivers now prevented from attacking Denig by the wooden wall. He flees before the Reiver, charging through a doorway and triggering a trap. A wide blade slices across the armour of his chest breaking ribs in the process. He turns and using his strength to hold the door against the disfigured warrior who is following him. It soon becomes clear to the dwarf that this impasse cannot continue for ever. He dare not leave the door and flee because he does not know where the corridor leads and the his opponent will soon cut him down. Nor can he hold the door forever for either his comrades will be cut down or others will join the warrior outside and his own death will swiftly follow. In desperation, he releases the door, bracing his might sword against his body with his good arm and hopes his opponent will impale himself on the point as he falls through the door.

Perhaps today Aule has mercy on his child for although not as effective as he planned the force of entry bludgeons the entering warrior rather than impaling him. It is a matter of moments for Dagaard to finish off the surprise and downed foe before sneaking back to the corridor to find out what has become of his comrades.

Things look desperate for the rest of the party. Aerandir at the front can do nothing but parry the blows of the huge warrior who swings his two-handed sword in vicious arcs that keep the half-elf penned in the corridor. At the same time a priest calls down unholy powers on the sailor forcing him to rely on the grace of Ulmo for protection. Fulton and Denig swap places to allow the Dunlending a better chance to use his bow. Which he does in one opportunity forcing the great warrior to fall back. The heroes press their advantage. Denig swallows a dose of Zulsendura and providing another to Aerandir. Gifted with unnatural haste the two set about attacking their opponent. The half-elf holds his own against one Black Reiver and the Dundlending launches a volley of arrows against the large warrior striking hard into his thigh.

Despite the advantage of speed, Aerandir is not able to dispatch his opponent and the priest is still free to call down unholy support for his servant warriors. Into the fray leaps Fulton, cutlass swinging he removes the hand of the priest as he gestures in prayer. The stunned priest stares at the end of his arm unable to comprehend what has happened. Meanwhile, Fulton leaps onto a bench, in the process flanking Aerandir’s opponent, and bringing his blade down on the unprotected shoulder dispatches this opponent rapidly. Having left the giant warrior looking more like a pin cushion, Denig steps into the room and, sighting a priest in the room beyond, looses and arrow. It flies and strikes the corrupt cleric straight through the arm.

The immediate threat neutralised, the party move back to the baneful temple. Within the worshippers appear to be finishing the rites before the sacrifice of the elf maiden. Aerandir races in to rescuer with Fulton close behind. Denig draws his bow ready to aid them. Again disaster strikes. With a swift dismissive gesture the priestess causes Aerandir to fall into a deep, dark, troubled sleep. Fulton leaps at the priestess in response to the new threat as Denig intones a prayer for a swift awakening of the sleeping sailor. Fulton’s attacks are ferocious and effective driving back the priestess. Soon he is joined by Denig as Aerandir frees Vanwa from the altar. Having freed Vanwa, Aerandir spies the children held in a pen across the room and he sets about freeing them while Fulton and Denig engage the priestess. Facing two worthy fighters is a task to great for the priestess who soon falls to the blades of both.

If the heroes thought killing the priestess would end their problems they were very wrong. Through the doorway two Black Reivers held back by the wood wall appear and with her last dying curse, she calls “Qadim min alzalam aleamiq!”

Tentacles
BY Trishkell

The worshipper who had already been unsure whether to attack or flee fall back in fear as out of the pool at the top of the dais dark purple tentacles grope into the temple. Fortunately, Fulton and Denig manage to evade their grasp but this is not so for the unfortunate guards who have just entered. With screams of horror the Black Reivers are pulled into the pool as other tentacles take their place.

The heroes, along with the rescued children, flee. Fighting past the now panicking worshippers, some of whom provide tasty targets for the tentacles, they make their way through the temple complex. There is no way out through the pool so they seek an alternative route of escape. Fortune favours them as they find a route that follows some volcanic vents to some ruins on an islet in the atoll. The night stars shine down on them as they drink in the fresh air and let the children sleep.

Come the morning, the party discover a large war catamaran, clearly used by the Reivers in raids. Loading the children aboard, along with a vigorously protesting dwarf and attempt to row back to the port. As they launch, a number of foaming waves being to form, soon to be replaced by the form of the Gwingil of the pool. She smiles and waves at Dagaard before propelling the catamaran on a magical wave towards the heroes goal.

With children given into the care of Eimlaq at the mosque and refusing the small reward. The party board the Ulmo’s beard for captain Reiss to inform them that he has heard that there may be a chance of earning some needed coin carrying goods to a nearby port. Soon the goods, a number of high quality carpets, are loaded into the hold. Dagaard has his shattered elbow re-set by Denig, who uses his only dose of Bursthelas to aid the healing. The sailors are soon occupied in preparations for departure.

An’ I earn my livin’ oot o’ the sea.

The hideous creature roars causing rats to scuttle back into the safety of the room behind the rotting door. It lunges for Denig who earnestly entreats Cloch for protection. His prayers are heard and a wall of shimmering air issues from the very rock hindering the Umaia’s attack as it tries to rend the stone-skinned Dunlending limb from limb.

Meanwhile, Dagaard presses and attack from the side and scores some effective hits with his two-handed weapon. That is until he has become an annoyance and the Umaia swots at him causing a light wound and forcing the dwarf to stagger back.

With the monster so closely engaged, it difficult to Fulton and Aerandir to engage with missile weapons. They take their chance with bow and dagger but both are wide of the mark. Aerandir seeks an alternative exit for both himself and Denig (split as the party is) but to no avail. The exit into the toom beyond is barred by fixed bars embedded in the surrounding floor. Then misfortune strikes. Denig is rendered unconscious by a blow and the wall of air fails. Seeing his companion at risk, Dagaard leaps in to press an attack and protect his fallen comrade.

With the fortunate blessing of Cloch, Denig awakens and is protected by a wall of water drawn for the surrounding stones. The force of its churning mass again blunts the attacks of the hideous demon. Dagaard finds it difficult to hit his mark but it is Aerandir who scores a fortunate hit and the Umaia dissipates in an oily cloud of noxious gas.

While Denig prays for healing for Dagaard’s minor wounds the rats begin to emerge from the room but are quickly discouraged by oil from Dagaard’s pack. The party press on with their exploration; returning to the locked door by the stairs and, after some quick work by Fulton, to the rooms beyond.

Denig finds another trap and disarms it with some ease allowing the party passage through to the next room, which itself is uninteresting apart from leading onwards. The corridor beyond leads to two doors but while checking for traps Denig also notices that the wall to one side has curious features. They quickly check the doors. One leads to a changing room, a number of street robes are piled neatly on benches. Above the other door is an inscription which says

Leave the light
Dive the depths
Meet your god

Beyond the door is a pool. The pool itself is deep and full of brackish sea water but the party spy a passageway and beyond it what appears to be the light of another room.

Leaving the pool grotto for a moment, they party turn their attention to the wall outside. The wall itself is old and slick with slime but it only takes Denig ten minutes to discover a hidden entrance undisturbed for may years. Soon the door is opened to reveal a small alcove in which a statue of a Gwingil (Sin. Mermaid). At the foot of it is a small inscription.

Walk right through me
Never see me
Always need me
Kiss me and release me

It takes some false starts before Denig reasons that the riddle is about air and takes the plunge and kisses the lips of the Gwingil. A sudden gush of liquid enters his mouth and pours down his throat. Within moments, the healer is choking and unable to breathe. Taking this as a sign that he can now only breathe underwater he races to the pool and plunges straight in.

Within the pool of water, Denig discovers he has failed to think through or safely check the real depth of the pool as his stone-skinned body begins to sink. Then suddenly, he begins to sink faster as he is grabbed from behind by strong arms.

On the surface, Aerandir observes Denig being grabbed by a Gwingil and races to the statue to receive a gift of potion before abandoning his bow and racing to the Dunlending’s aid. Fulton is not far behind his crew mate in diving into the pool. However, Dagaard with his race’s fear of water and the sea refuses to enter.

The battle beneath the water is not going well. Denig suffers some damage from the Gwingil’s bite and finds himself unable to escape from the grapple. The arrival of Aerandir forces the Gwingil to release her captive who then continues to sink into the depths. Aerandir and the Gwingil dance through the water neither being able to cause and significant damage.

In desperation, Denig prays for a way to stay afloat and is granted the ability to walk on water. At the surface, he is forced to stand on the water and bend over to put his head back into the water to breathe granting him a bird’s-eye view of the battle below where Fulton ineffectually tries to stab the guardian of the pool.

Swift and agile in the water the Gwingil proves a tricky adversery and injured and stunned in one class Aerandir makes for the tunnel through to the next room. It is with this distraction that Fulton makes a miraculous strike and given a moment of freedom he too makes for the tunnel. At the surface, Denig also sees the opportunity and with a croak to Dagaard to follow releases the ability to walk on water and in a controlled fall aims for the tunnel.

As Denig’s stone form arrows towards the tunnel he realises he has misjudged the angle and he is doomed to miss. With one desperate lunge he grabs at the edge and through a herculean effort pulls himself into the tunnel. Only now he becomes aware that he is now reliant on the air in his lungs. With what feels like an explosion in his chest, he crawls through the tunnel to the room beyond.

The sodden heroes pull themselves out of a pool in a torch lit room. Two exits are available one guarded by a door and the other through and archway. Both have inscriptions written over them in what would appear to be a corrupted form of Adunaic.

The archway has a symbol similar to the medallions recovered off of the cult members and says:

Mortals
walk-on land are
more than fools.

Above the wooden door the inscription says:

The unfaithful
must bow before me.

The lightly armed party decide to take the open corridor, while cautiously checking for traps. They soon arrive at a longer corridor on which are several doorways and one set of double doors decorated in blue and green stone and mosaics of undersea creatures.

A Blue Monkey and a Lion

Things do not look good for the band of adventurers. Denig and Aerandir have taken shelter behind a wall of wood gifted by Denig’s deity. In itself it is not the sturdiest affair and they know they will have to go on the attack again. Imploring for more aid, Denig heals Aerandir and himself, while Aerandir perches on his back to target the attackers with his longbow over the top of the wall. Faced with the wall the foe have decided to retreat with their fallen companions and within a matter of moments the street is empty.

Meanwhile, things are not going well for Dagaard. He is mounting a desperate defence in the doorway of the hana. When suddenly, his opponent retreats. The dwarf rushes forward to make full use of his two-handed sword and dispatch the dark-cloaked stranger but over extends himself and immediately is forced to retreat. Stumbling out through the doorway and into the street. Fortunately, his opponent does not press the advantage but follows the woman with a ruby ring and the coin seller out of a back door. Dagaard, still reeling from fumbling his weapon, drags the unconscious Fulton towards what he hopes is the safety of a wooden wall in the street, where Aerandir is peering over the top.

All is quiet. In the distance, the night time hubbub of the streets of Khalij Aldhahab begins to resurface. Cautiously, Aerandir and Dagaard sweep the area while Denig tends the unconscious Fulton. The area is deserted. The assailants have disappeared. Alqurad al’azraq, the Blue Monkey, is empty.

They check the bodies of the two fallen attackers who remain unclaimed. Their appearance, pierced body parts with and filed teeth, indicates that they are Black Reivers. They have little of note apart from a bronze medallion that appears to show some kind of tentacled, octopus-like creature. It is late and the decide to go back to the Alsuwf aldhahabiu (The Golden Fleece) to rest and recuperate.

Tajir the Spice Merchant snores in one bed in the corner, but Aerandir is happy to sit on the floor and meditate as the sailors do not need to be back aboard ship until the morning. Despite the late hour, Fulton spends some time in the market nearby watching for observers and getting a sense of the local trade. Returning to find no bed in which to sleep, he decides to make his way back to the Ulmo’s Beard and his berth there.

On boarding the vessel in the early hours, he is met by Hirlonde, navigator, who tells him that Vanwa has gone missing late in the evening of what is now the day before. Apparently, she had gone ashore and appeared to be looking for something before she was bundled away by some hooded and cloaked figures. Some members of the crew had tried to catch up with the kidnappers but were unable to rescue her. Alarmed, the love-lorn Fulton races back to Alsuwf aldhahabiu to tell his companions the news.

Roused from their slumber the companions are not amused by either the hour or the tidings. Aerandir is hopeful that Vanwa may have more about her than she has shown but he is not confident. Denig suggests that they all rest for what remains of the night and then prays for some divine guidance as to where Vanwa may be.

Denig’s dreams are disturbed with visions of the elven princess being in chains in a dark place. Near to her are a number of smaller shapes, possibly children, who are likewise in chains. They are all waiting with a sense of fear. Nearby, a deep blue light, as with water glows beyond a barred portal.

Awaking, Denig relays his dreams to his companions and they set about trying to locate anything with blue windows or that might have a motif similar to the bronze medallions. The best part of the day passes and they begin to realise the futility of such a search without local knowledge. They ponder other avenues of enquiry for a long time. Denig prays for divine inspiration and is rewarded with a perfect recall of all the conversations he has had. Picking through these they decide to revisit Hasa the stone merchant.

Hasa looks unpleasantly surprised to see them but engages them in a sales patter as they have arrived pretending to be interested in a purchase. However, as they question him, Hasa becomes more and more nervous. Eventually, he offers them tea and bids them sit in the shade, dusting off chairs. He goes upstairs to make the tea and the adventurers hear lots of sounds of movement followed by silence. Quick thinking, Aerandir races lightly up the stairs in time to see the rope of knotted sheets go slack as Hasa reaches the bottom. He climbs down after Hasa while shouting for his companions. They set off in pursuit through the town. Hasa trying every trick and bit of local knowledge to escape. He even throws away his treasure box, but the crowd do not impede the heroes, nor does the thought of money halt their progress.

They are gaining on the fleeing merchant until they come to Sahat al’asad (Lion Plaza) once more where he suddenly disappears. The determined adventurers are confused and cast about looking for signs of his passage. Finding none they turn their attention to the plaza. It is Denig who makes a connection with the fountain and a possible method of casting blue light into a room but he is disappointed to find no such window in the fountain itself. They do though spend an hour carefully searching the fountain for a secret entrance and are rewarded with locating the mechanism in the Lion’s mouth that release a section of the fountain to reveal steps leading down.

In the cellars below the city, the adventurers soon adopt their usual pattern of exploration. Dagaard, wearing his mining helmet is able to aid the party’s vision with the attached lantern. Aerandir, bow in hand covers the rear and Fulton armed with his cutlass stands near to aid his crewmate. Denig now takes up the roll of scout and trap clearance, as he seems more able to survive the blows when he fails to detect them. A fortunate choice, for despite finding and disarming one spear trap, he misses a second and manages to survive the blow of a spear thrust.

They come to a door to a room which contains a pack of rats and rather than try and defeat the swarm shut the door against it. However, the door itself is riddled with holes and the rats begin to pour through. It looks like a game of whack a rat is about to start, when Denig remembers the staff he has acquired will summon a creature to him once ever day. He casts the spell with thoughts of the town’s best ratter in his head. But the shape that forms is not the hoped for cat but a hideous eight foot monster with fangs and vicious claws at the end of webbed hands. Denig commands it to eat all the rats but the graug (Umaia) bays for the blood of Denig.

Where have all the children gone?

Ulmo’s Beard limps on through the Southern seas, charting a course by the stars and relying on Ulmo’s grace and favour to find a secure port. Some days later, a small atoll is spotted, the start of a chain of low lying islands. Captain Reiss orders the crew to set a course to follow this bread crumb trail of islands in the hope of finding a safe port to effect repairs.

The atolls slip past until the look out spots a small fishing village on an island in the latest atoll and Ulmo’s Beard’s journey is halted as the Captain send the First Mate, Azruzagar, and a shore party to inquire about the local area. Azruzagar orders the First Watch, which includes Fulton and Aerandir, to man the skiff ashore. He invites Denig and Dagaard to join the party reasoning that their sense of danger is more finely tuned than that of the sailors and it never hurts to have a dwarf with a big sword.

On the island itself they find that misfortune and calamity have struck the poor fishing village. They have been brutally attacked and their children have been taken by disfigured pirates out of myth and legend. Black Reivers who would feast on the flesh of the islanders and took the children to sacrifice to their dark god. Denig, looking at the disfigured limbs and faces of the victims, takes pity and heals those he can help. The heroes discover during this time that an Imam at a Mosque in a nearby port, Khalij Aldhahab, may know more as he is known for caring for lost and orphaned children. Information gathered, and poor fisherfolk aided the Ulmo’s Beard set sail for Khalij Aldhahab, a port a days sailing to the north and where legend says the Black Reivers once occupied.

By the grace of Manwe, the ship slips through the azure waters arriving at Khalij Aldhahab as the sun begins to set. The atoll island is occupied mostly by a walled town with a coral breakwater forming a harbour that will provide some shelter from the ocean swell. Around the walls a shanty town of stalls and refreshment establishments swell the number of those who live on the island. The sounds of a call to prayer ring out across the water as Ulmo’s Beard rests at anchor and the crew prepare to rest before starting repairs in the morning. However, the call to prayer also appears to signal a call to activity and the sounds of the shanty market continues well into the dark hours.

The next day, work crews are assigned. Fulton and Aerandir are to go with the First mate to purchase rope and chandlery to repair rigging and replenish ropes lost in the storm. Denig and Dagaard decide to go ashore to talk to the local Imam. Vanwa asks Aerandir if he will take her to buy some clothes more fitting than one of his spare shirts. Aerandir gets permission to do so providing the ships supplies are collected. Likewise, Denig and Dagaard realising that they will need either Fulton or Aerandir to act as translators decide to lend a hand to get the job done quicker.

On the shore, the party is immediately surround by a crowd of hawkers and pedlars. A coin merchant offers them decent rates of exchange, showing his wares and immediately apologising for giving them a coin not of the realm. Looking at it Aerandir is struck that some of the motifs on the coin faces are similar to something he has seen recently but he is unable to recall exactly what. The journey through the market allows him to pick up something more fitting for Vanwa and she asks him also about the coin they had just seen. She thinks it would make a nice piece of jewellery. In response, and perhaps misunderstanding, Aerandir purchases a few coins for her.

Vanwa returns to the ship with Azruzagar to change and because going to a place of worship and talking to a priest is not of any real interest to her. The rest of the party having asked a few locals make their way to the mosque of Eimlaq Latif.

The mosque has seen better days. Money for its upkeep has clearly not been available. Within the clean and empty confines the party meet a giant of a man, Eimlaq, whose open smile soon has the adventurers sat down and enjoying a simple meal with some orphans who Eimlaq cares for. The imam shares his worries. He cares for the lost and orphan children within the town but some have gone missing and he fears to let the rest of his charges roam far from his gaze.

The Old Mosque

Eimlaq has not been idle in trying to find his missing charges but has met a dead end in his enquiries. Perhaps it is that his face is well known in the port. He has been attacked once with a poison dart which suggest that there are forces at work in the area who do not welcome his questions. The brave heroes volunteer to be his eyes and ears as he outlines the extent of his investigations. They are provided with three lines of inquiry to follow, shadowy cloaked figures sighted around the port; Hasa the stone merchant; Tajir Tawabul the spice merchant and Hulq the barber. The latter is a well known storyteller with many a tale of the days before the unifications of the Juzur Almuhit.

Following Eimlaq’s advice the group first go for a hair cut. They argue over who should sit in the chair. Dagaard will not let the dwarfish barber near his beard. Denig is more concerned with revealing his stone-skinned nature. Aerandir pointedly remarks that his long dark locks are not for cutting and so it is Fulton who hops into the chair for a trim and a shave. They all listen to the tale of Dhuki and the pirates; a tale that echoes some of the reports from the Island of Lost Children.

Having heard the tale there are discussions about which line of inquiry to follow next. They decide on the spice merchant and seek out his stall only to find it abandoned. Enquiring around they end up chatting with a Sijada a carpet seller who tells them that Tajir is a terrible merchant and is currently drowning is sorrows in a a sorry excuse for a hana (tavern) called Alsamak Al’akhdar.

The hana sits on stilts towards the less developed part of the shanty town outside the walls of the port. The heroes clamber up a ladder into a bar where the only light is provided by gaps in the haphazard planking. A one-eyed barman glares at the foreigners who have tumbled into his bar. The only customer is a small, thin man, a head crowned with a few strands of greasy black hair, slumped on a table and a cup of spirits in his hands. The interlopers appease the owner by buying large quantities of the local spirit, rough as it is and set about trying to get information from the inebriated Tajir.

It turns out that Tajir has kidnapped a child but only in extreme need and the act haunts him; hence the drinking. The time is getting late and the party decide to sober Tajir up with kindness taking him to the Alsuwf Aldhahabiu which has previously been recommended by Eimlaq. Denig and Dagaard stay with the spice merchant and Aerandir and Fulton return to the Ulmo’s Beard for the night. It is only in the morning that Denig and Dagaard realise the mistake of not keeping one of the translators with them but manage to hold out with gesture and coin until the two sailors return.

A more coherent Tajir provides little more detail than already gathered and so the party plan to return to Sijada to question him. However, they are unsure of the best approach reasoning that asking directly will be unlikely to elicit a confession. They briefly consider offering their services as a ship for hire but Fulton points out that Sijada is not the sort of merchant who would contract such services. The idea of posing as child traffickers sits uncomfortably with most of the party and so they opt to follow him at the end of the day.

While they wait for the day to end the investigators decide to question Hasa the stone merchant, who according to Eimlaq, took delivery of a large quantity of black tiles but never sold them. Hasa is rather evasive and tells the adventurers that he sold them to some woman. Pressed he tells them he does not know where she lives but gives them a description of her and that he may have seen her in the Alqurad al’azraq, a hana near the Sahat Al’asad.

So it is that as the sun sets and the shadows deepen in the alleyways the adventurers arrive at the Alqurad al’azraq. Inside are a number of patrons including the woman described by Hasa. What luck they think! Not so Denig who prays for wisdom over the alignment of not only the woman but also the other patrons and discovers that the room is full of those with evil in their heart. The party make a rapid exit into the alley outside the hana.

Exiting the alley, Denig is hit by a dart delivered by a silent weapon. Quickly, he spots the would be assassin and sets off in pursuit down an alley opposite. However, the rear is attacked by the patrons inside and Dagaard is forced to defend the retreat of Aerandir and Fulton. Now the party is split. Fulton and Aerandir find themselves ambushed as they exit onto the street. Dagaard is forced to hold the door fending off two attackers and a priestess whose curses call down stunning bolts of divine power on the dwarf. Fortunately, the dwarf’s pragmatic outlook shrugs off most of this religious mumbo jumbo.

Market Ambush by Darren Tan

In the street, Fulton soon falls to an attacker and Aerandir’s whip proves to be an ineffective weapon. Meanwhile, down the dark alley Denig is ambushed by two foes and only through divine intervention of a wall of wood at his back is he able he buy time to dispatch the opponent in front. The battle does not go well. Doughty Dagaard still holds the door alone his back unprotected. Aerandir is forced to retreat tumbling away from two opponents and leaving Fulton’s body unprotected. Denig extricating himself from his opponent manages to join Aerandir in the street and again is granted a wall of wood to hold the attackers at bay while he heals Aerandir and himself.

Lightning doesn’t strike twice. Does it?

After another night spent on the ledge, Denig, Dagaard and Fulton set out for the ship dragging Roc chick on an improvised sledge lashed together by Aerandir, who remains on the ledge with Vanwa. On the way through the valley the party come across Chad who had been abandoned in the chase up the mountain to rescue Fulton. He was hungry and chilled from being alone for two days in ruins but fed on spare cooked Roc he was soon well enough to return to the ship.

The return of the foraging party, even with food, is not greeted in the best manner. Captain Reiss, reprimands Fulton as a senior crew member for his lackadaisical approach to communication and ship discipline. The loss of one of the “guests” of the ship and the absence of one of the crew; along with the two day absence, are not something that the Captain takes well. However, Fulton’s charm works wonders and with a promise of some treasure to contribute to the ship’s running costs, the food and water from Shadim and the news that they have also rescued an elven princess the Captain becomes more amenable.

It is agreed that Dagaard and Denig will return to the ledge to escort the princess back to safety and Fulton will lead a party to Shadim’s cave to arrange the delivery of water and grain.

Shadim is most pleased to here of the dispatching of the Roc and has noticed the lack of the giant bird in the sky over his flocks over the last two days. Willingly, he agrees to supply Ulmo’s Beard with water, grain and a little goat’s milk to supplement their provisions and the Captain and Fulton return with the giant and supplies only to discover that the other party has not returned. The Captain is furious with the failure to follow instructions and that Aerandir as crew should not be following his orders. Consequently, he dispatches Fulton, who argues for travelling in the morning, to ensure that all are back on the ship before midday on the next day.

Fulton, ears ringing with the Captain’s orders, makes his way back to ledge. Meanwhile, Denig, Dagaard, Aerandir along with Vanwa at his side, re-enter the underground complex with the plan to investigate the stairs up. However, before they do so, the party look again in the library paying careful attention to the book cases. As a result, they are rewarded with entry into a secret room with three chests, a box on a pedestal, another pedestal with a golden ring surmounted with a fire gem and a staff.

Denig cautiously investigates the room for traps and once assured that it is safe picks up the staff. Examining it he determines that it grants the user increased prowess in battle and will magical summon an animal once per day. Having always wanted a staff the shaman healer claims it. He then turns his attention to one of the chest which he discovers is locked. Thwarted, he asks if either Dagaard or Aerandir can unpick locks. Fortunately, Dagaard has some skill with locks, thanks to his trade as a jewel smith and familiarity with fine tools. Unfortunately, Dagaard tires of trying to work out the lock after 10 mins declaring that Fulton would be better at this sort of thing.

The chests abandoned, Denig along with Dagaard turns their attention to the pedestal on which sits a purple cushion holding a gold ring with a Fire red jewel while Aerandir keeps watch with Vanwa outside. With all due caution and attention to traps, Denig picks up the ring from it’s resting place. Lightning arcs out and strikes the stoneman. His skin bubbles alarmingly and he drops the ring as he staggers back. Hurriedly, Dagaard makes an exit and refuses to re-enter on the grounds that lightning and chainmail are not a good combination. Aerandir at the door looks at his missing finger in with regret. After a few moments healing, Denig tries again using an arrow with similar results. He decides that if lightning strikes twice he needs another approach but in the meantime the wooden box on the plinth might be more interesting.

After careful examination, Denig is convinced that moving the box on the plinth will open up a hidden door on the far side of the room. However, his eagerness to open the doorway is tempered by his previous experiences and he chooses to push the box using his newly acquired staff. A crackle of magical energy causes his forearm to break and drops the staff in agony. It is while he is healing that Dagaard remarks that they may have found a good way of clearing the room of traps with the apparently indestructible stoneman. Aerandir suggests moving the box by hitting it with an arrow shot from his bow, a feat he achieves with ease. The box falls to the floor and breaks open to reveal three rune paper parchments. A recovered Denig swoops in and scoops up the prize. He attempts to decipher the first but in doing so triggers the spell, thankfully with no ill effects.

The shaman decides to leave the remain two for later. He then suggest that they leave the room and the chests for when Fulton returns and they explore the stairs. Following the stairs up the party find themselves in the ruins of the Valley of Diamonds. “Oh look a short cut,” remarks Aerandir. “Bloody slow one,” retorts Dagaard.

As the explorers take a rest in the sunshine, Fulton has started to descend back underground. Only being a sailor he is not equipped for underground exploration and without Dagaard’s lantern, he is forced to improvise with a glowing log. Consequently, his passage down is long and slow and is lengthened even further by the need to explore every turning in the hope of locating his companions. So it is that as if ascends they descend from above to make another attempt on the chests. The first proves tricky even for Fulton, but with time it is opened; the other follow far more quickly. Two chests contain more coins than the adventurers could ever carry. Unfortunately, these are all low denomination coins. However, the third chest provides a better haul with a few gold and silver coins stashed among the bronze. The treasure is shared out with a portion reserved for the Captain and, at Aerandir’s suggestion, some of the copper coins for the rest of the crew.

Satisfied with their haul, and forewarned by Cloch of the peril of attempting to take the ring, along with Aerandir’s cautionary tale of magic rings on fingers, the adventurers return to the ship. Vanwa is given the Captain’s quarters as a courtesy. Where upon the crewmen, take to their duties and with a wave to the shore-bound Shadim and Dagaard clinging to the mast down below, The Ulmo’s Beard sets sail once more.

Rewards and Reputation

The party have gained a reputation with the crew for being daring adventurers but Captain Reiss considers Denig and Dagaard to be disruptive to the smooth working of his crew. They have earned the gratitude of Vanwa for releasing her. Aerandir has become a focus of her attention.

The Spectral Warrior’s Two handed sword
+10 OB Quarterstaff of Summoning animals
8 GP
50SP
300BP
An ancient coin minted thousands of years ago. The coin’s features are nearly worn smooth such is its age.
Silver dagger, bowl and tripod from the cursed altar.
A number of healing herbs.
A number of books including one book of open essence spells in Haradric.
Several Rune papers two of which have unknown spells and two of Lesser Umaiar and one of Control Umaiar.

This way a dark madness lies.

Aerandir acts as translator for Vanwa as the party question her on what she knows of this place. However, she is as ignorant as they are. She tells them she has never been beyond the magical circle and knows no more of the sorcerer who dwelt here than that he desired her for a wife. During the exchanges, Fulton, entirely understandably, casts amorous glances at the beautiful elf princess and later entreats Aerandir to teach him elvish so that he can also converse with Vanwa. Reluctantly, Aerandir agrees that on the ship he will teach Fulton some elvish (but neglects to tell him which tongue it will be).

With little more to be gained from questioning Vanwa, the adventurers press on with further explorations, Denig taking a cautious lead in searching for traps after the loss of Pick. A store room of reagents is discovered behind the last door off the entrance room. Although Denig shows some interest in the shelves he decides to leave and closer inspection to a later time.

From the storeroom, a corridor leads past the one where Pick met his demise. Denig successfully disarms a trap he discovers but this turns out to be a ruse and a second more cunning trap springs a small poisoned blade at the back of his unprotected calf. Luckily, his stone skin protects him from harm.

The corridor ends abruptly at a stone wall. The party reason that a dead end would not be protected so heavily with traps and set to searching for a secret entrance and are rewarded quickly with entry to a large room. The ceiling and floor and marked with black scorches and there is a sulphurous tang in the air. Spending over an hour to ensure that the room really is safe, Denig finally lets the party into explore its contents.

Abandoned in one corner is a chainmail shirt with links fused by heat and some tallow like substance congealed inside. Denig is immediately drawn to trying to determine what has happened. Meanwhile, Aerandir searches one of the two work benches and finds a secret compartment with a transparent gem that is shot with glimmers of gold. This immediately becomes the focus of the adventurer’s attention. Denig and Fulton spend some time sizing up its magical properties before Fulton eventually puts it in his pack for the group. There is also a big sack stuffed with a range of dirty and scorched clothes and rigid leather breast plate. The latter is assigned to Fulton as future armour.

Magical lab – Visual novel Background by Gianop

On the other workbench, they discover a small wooden box with an ancient coin and a stone beaker. Praying for divine insight into the nature of the objects discovered, Denig becomes aware of evil curses on both the breastplate and the transparent gem. However, it is too late for Fulton who loses his connection to the Song of Arda and his magical abilities.

Having explored as far as they can from the entrance hall, the party return to hall of portraits that was left unexplored on the previous day. With great care, they enter. The portraits, all of dark skinned men win sable hood robes each holding a curved silver knife with a drop of blood at its tip, appear to watch the slow search for traps. Down a corridor a locked door briefly prevents further progress before yielding to Fulton’s skills.

The room beyond is lined with statues of robed men in various scholarly and worshipful poses. Denig cautiously inches past each one before the rest of the party enter. Aerandir at the rear, hovers protectively next to Vanwa whilst covering the party with his bow.

An ebony-black door, similar to the one into the room, bars entry to the room beyond. Fulton’s lock picking skills are tested to full and are found wanting. A faint puff of air from the key hole leaves the sailor writhing on the floor in agony from poison. With alacrity, Denig calls on Cloch for aid, taking on his stone body the agony of Fulton and being granted healing for his sacrifice.

With a little more care and time, Fulton releases the lock and the door beyond opens out into a room of black marble. A dais with an altar toped by silver utensils sits within a circle of silver arcane symbols. Those near the room are assailed by voices that swell and fade. Denig and Dagaard are sorely pressed by the voices calling for a blood sacrifice and hover near the door torn between entering and a more rational caution. From the entrance to the statue room Aerandir continues to guard Vanwa and watch over the party with bow drawn.

Fulton alone enters the room and carefully explores the surrounding. Finding nothing suspicious he mounts the dais and examines the altar pieces. A silver tripod stands over a copper bowl: beside it are a small silver knife tipped in dried black blood and a silver bowl containing congealed blood. The silver items Fulton recovers and returns to those waiting in the room beyond. It is then that Denig decides to inspect the altar more closely and enters the room. The voices swell to a crescendo and drawing sword he rushes to obey the compulsion for a blood sacrifice on the only target he can see the half-elven Aerandir. At the sight of the onrushing Dunlending (sword drawn), Aerandir shuts the door and draws Vanwa back to safety. Fortunately, Cloch intervenes and the compulsion his withdrawn as the stone god’s grace flows back into Denig.

Closing the door on the unholy sanctuary, the party vow never to return and turn instead to the remaining unopened doors. The first, off the menagerie room, is quickly picked by Fulton and reveals a corridor and stairs leading upwards. The adventurers leave exploration for a later time. Instead they turn their attention to the doors in the room with the balance lock. It is clear that the doors are secured against entry by their failure with the unusual lock mechanism. After some discussion, they decide, much to Dagaard’s regret at not using Denig, to use a stone statue as a battering ram and eventually break down one of the two doors.

Beyond the door is a small office with a desk and a few writing implements but nothing more of interest. However, leading off from this and connecting back to the other door is a small library magically lit with small motes of light that bob and swirl as the heroes enter. They spend some time looking for a secret entrance behind a curtain before exploring the library shelves where they net a number of tomes from spell books to legends.

Another day has nearly passed and the party decide to retire to the ledge again for the night. There is some discussion about the next course of action. They all want to explore the final passageway but Aerandir points out that the party have been away for two days on a small island and the Captain may fear that they are lost. At this point, they have forgotten about the injured crewman (Chad) waiting by the ruins in the Valley of Diamonds. Denig thinks that they need to transport the Roc chick to the ship to avoid spoilage if it is to feed the crew. He is also keen to see Shadim to inform him that the Roc is dead and wishes to set off immediately. Fulton suggests that he stays with Vanwa on the ledge until the rest have seen the captain; as he thinks an attractive scantily clad elf might be too much of a distraction for the crew. That is until Aerandir points out that he is the only one who can communicate with her and it should be him that stays.

A fire lit Denig, Dagaard and Fulton begin to drag the large, heavy, unbutchered chick to the mountain path down to the valley. It soon becomes clear that they will not complete the journey even with dwarven night vision or supernatural aid before the night is out and so return to Aerandir and Vanwa.