|GM Umbral Ultimatum|
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SO WE'RE DOING THIS AGAIN!
Welcome back to Orthos's insane attempt to run a Savage Tide campaign using the Gestalt rules. Like my now-completed Kingmaker campaign before - which I will be completing the journal for, eventually! when I have time! - this game is set in our homebrew world of Finiens, specifically in the country of Olympia and its adventurer-founded and adventurer-heavy southern port city of Port Haven in place of the standard starting location of Sasserine.
Aidan Trembell - TN M Human Harbinger [Crimson Countess]|Oracle (Life) (Player: Aszimar)
Audra Volante - CG F Halfling Swashbuckler [Inspired Blade]|Magus [Bladebound, Kensai] (Player: Scintillae)
Nashota - TN M Half-Giant Aegis|Soulknife (Player: Kamon Ishako)
Rin - NG M Human Investigator|Slayer (Player: Edward Falcona)
Twila - CN F Changeling Invoker (Star Pact)|Oracle (Theurge) (Player: ebon_fyre)
For quick reference: Audra's player played Elegy in Kingmaker, Twila's played Lilith, Nashota's played Takeshi, and Aidan's played Derrick. Rin's player is the new guy in the group, though an experienced player previously in his own right.
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ACT I: THERE IS NO HONOR
"Crime is a logical extension of the sort of behaviour that is often considered perfectly respectable in legitimate business."
~ Robert Rice, The Business of Crime
Part 1: "Throw the body in the rowboat. I know a taxidermist."
At the request of a letter sent to each of the prospective employees, the group of disparate pit fighters, Academy students, and wandering mercenaries gathered at one of the larger homes in Port Haven's Market District, the central and most occupied part of the city; specifically, Vanderboren Manor, home of a wealthy merchant-noble couple who had recently passed away. Greeted by her housekeeper Kora, the group waited for a short time in the foyer until a quartet of experienced-looking travelers emerged from within; they bid the "new help" good luck before departing, and Kora explained they were the Jade Ravens, a group of mercenaries who had worked for the surviving Lady Vanderboren's parents and were headed north to Olympia for some errand.
Shortly after their departure, the group was invited into the sitting room and introduced to their prospective employer, Lady Lavinia Vanderboren. She explained that her parents' untimely demise had left her with a fair number of debts about to come due, and to pay them (and the PCs) would require access to her family's vault; however, the keys to said vault are on her family's ship, the Blue Nixie, which was being held by the harbormaster's right-hand man Soller Vark, a scarred brute who had taken her previous payments for the ship's mooring but apparently not passed the news (and possibly the money) on to the harbormaster himself, resulting in the ship being seized until full payment is made. After a little discussion, she encourages the adventuresome hirelings to do whatever it takes to get the ship back and deal with Vark, but to avoid killing or damage if possible, if only to dodge legal trouble.
The party decides to head to Docks District shortly before nightfall and attempt to reach the ship after sunset. Sending Rin and Audra ahead to scope out the area, they find the Blue Nixie not at its proper mooring but rather some distance out into the Haven Bay, anchored and occupied by a small group of people. Curious and certain this bodes ill, they acquire some rowboats from nearby and make their way stealthily out to the ship with Aidan, while Twila and Nashota - utterly incapable of being stealthy due to general weirdness and massive size respectively - approach in a second boat to draw attention.
The people aboard the Nixie threaten the approaching Twila when she hails them and command her to return to shore; she continues trying to converse with them, and Nashota simply stands to allow his full size to register with the men and women aboard the ship when they attempt to get violent. As Rin and Audra board and get into position, a fight breaks out when the boarders begin shooting crossbows at Twila and Nashota, resulting in the two stealthier party members returning fire from within and Twila starting to throw blasts of magic around at harder-to-reach targets. Nashota clambers aboard with ease, summoning weapon and armor from nothingness, and begins cutting into the hostile smugglers; Aidan fails to climb aboard due to the slickness of the ship's hull, but seemingly without making contact or gestures or even words seems to have the ability to siphon life away from enemies within his line of sight and redistribute that health to his allies at the cost of his own.
Halfway through the battle, one of the smugglers manages to summon Vark to the deck, and he and Audra almost immediately end up in a duel. The little halfling holds her own for quite some time while the rest of the party mops up the remaining smugglers, killing or scaring off several, before Rin finally sneaks up behind him and delivers the finishing blow from a flanking position.
Sometime during the fight, a crash from beneath caught the attention of Aidan and Twila, who ducked down belowdecks to see what was going on and were greeted by a few small fires, a dead smuggler, and a gigantic spider creature on the loose. The pair barricaded the entrance, letting the rhagodessa make a mess of the creatures inside, while the other three party members cleaned up or scared off the last of the smugglers on deck and made their way down. Nashota entered the area below, easily blocked the entrance with his girth, and destroyed the rhagodessa with a single blow of his gigantic spectral sword.
Rin and Audra then proceeded to search the ship from top to bottom, finding a few more stored animals, some hidden treasure (likely the stolen payments from Lavinia), and a signet ring with a riddle on a page threaded through it. Assured this was what they'd come for, they returned to their rowboats and head back to shore, with Rin deciding the group should bring along the rhagodessa's remains and have it taken to a taxidermist he knew - one Nemien Roblach, purveyor of a shop on the southern edge of the Market District - and stuffed as a trophy of their first group victory.
With the ship now under their control and the rowboats hooked to it for towing, Nashota and Audra weigh anchor and manage to barely get the Nixie moving and properly moored, then head ashore. Nashota and Aidan wait in the ship to make sure none of Vark's men decide to come back for round two, while Audra heads back with the ring and paper and the stolen platinum to report to Lady Lavinia. Meanwhile Rin departs to inform the harbormaster of the situation, and Twila... disappears somewhere, ostensibly to "go shopping".
By the time Audra returned, joined by Twila along the way, the ship is surrounded by harbor guards.
Apparently, in a massive failed attempt to explain the situation, Rin had given the harbormaster the perception that he'd taken his "crew of miscreants" and attacked one of his employees and the workers beneath him unprovoked. Lavinia, arriving sometime shortly after, took the man aside to explain the situation and present him with the payment Vark had failed to deliver; Audra meanwhile approached some of the guards with a deck of cards found belowdecks from one of Vark's men and she, Rin, and Aidan wile away the time with a game of poker until the matter is properly settled.
Finally free to go about their business, the group dropped the rhagodessa corpse off with instructions and payment on their way, then returned to Vanderboren Manor at the behest of their employer. Lavinia offered to allow the group to use her spare rooms and a longer period of employment with increased prospective pay, to which all the party agreed with a fair amount of enthusiasm.
Their next task would be to accompany Lady Vanderboren the next day to her family's vault, to deal with any guardians her parents may have left and see to the recovery of the money she needs to make good on her family's debts.
Twila: "I've got a knife!"
Rin: "Who the hell gave you a knife?!"
Audra: "That rum isn't making it off the ship, is it?"
Rin: "Throw the body in the rowboat. I know a taxidermist."
|Magic 8-Ball says...|
Part 2: "I think I just got suckered by a crazy person."
The party headed to Towers District, the richest part of Port Haven, with Lady Lavinia with the intent of opening up her family's vault and reclaiming the stored treasure and wealth there. Lavinia confided in the party that she vaguely recalled that her parents had left some sort of guardian, probably a construct, that the party might have to deal with.
This was quickly proven true when they arrived and Lavinia used the signet ring found on the Blue Nixie to open the vault entrance, whereupon Rin and Audra entered first to scout out the place and were immediately spotted by a pair of gigantic metal snakes - Cobra Constructs, one of mithral and one of adamantine. The snakes latched viciously onto Rin, nearly tearing the scout apart and forcing him to retreat to the rear of the group; Audra kept them distracted with evasive activity while Twila shot eldritch blasts at them from the doorway, before Nashota finally squeezed his way into the room and crushed both serpents with a single blow apiece. Lavinia sighed, made a note to herself about getting them repaired, and then turned her attention to the locked door of the vault chamber itself.
Guided by the note found on the Blue Nixie, which described a series of creatures "moving to sunrise/sunset", combined with the wall frescoes depicting several monstrous creatures surrounding the inner chamber, the party was able to figure out that the note was a complex coded combination to the vault lock, and were eventually able to get it to open. Unfortunately, unsealing the vault only revealed that most of the alcoves within were empty, stolen away by someone before Lavinia could reach them. The last few remained untouched, still containing coffers of coins and gems as well as a large folio of IOUs; from this, Lavinia confirmed she would be able to settle her debts, and started by giving her new employees their full payment, plus a bonus.
Mixed in with the IOUs, Lavinia also found a journal written in her mother's hand and elven letters, but in a language she couldn't read. Twila could, however - much to Aidan's confusion after a lengthy discussion - and discerned that the book was written in Sylvan, and at Lavinia's request agreed to translate it. This became her project for the next few days as the group returned to Vanderboren Manor and the rest of the party went about their business.
It was during this time that Rin returned to the taxidermist to retrieve the completed Rhagodessa, taking Nashota along to do the heavy lifting. When they returned and knocked at the door, Lavinia's housekeeper and majordomo Kora answered; seeing the gigantic spider before the two adventurers carrying it, she shrieked and slammed the door, then on Audra's advice about the "huge monster spider outside" locked and barred it. This prompted Rin to try to pick the lock to get in... during which, the local watch happened to pass by, notice a man picking at a locked manor door, and come to investigate. All this while Nashota stood there, a gigantic figure clearly not completely human, with an equally-gigantic spider at his side. It was only when Rin and Nashota were at the brink of near-arrest that Audra finally opened the door and allowed Lavinia to explain what was going on.
After this point the spider was casually left in front of Aidan's door, who had been sleeping in that day. He was rather nonplussed when he awoke, and took the rhagodessa into his room, from whence it did not emerge for a while, until it was needed for a... later idea.
It was only after Twila completed the project, a couple of days later, that the party discovered she'd translated it not into Common, but rather into Aklo. Which, she protested, they'd never told her what language to translate it into.
With her finances now under control, Lavinia turns to the next problem on her mind: her brother, Vanthus. Upon leaving the vault and questioning the guards, she and the party had learned that Vanthus had indeed been here several times fairly recently, gaining access through another signet ring (which Lavinia revealed was probably her mother's, which she'd thought lost, while the one recovered from the ship had been her father's) and departed with boxes and bags with the help of hired porters. She put the party immediately to the next task: tracking Vanthus down and bringing him back, alive if possible.
The party scattered throughout the city, each going about their own methods of trying to track down information. Aidan went to mingle among merchants, Audra headed down to her haunts in Docks District near the dueling rings she favored, Rin skulked about in the alleys and backstreets of the city's darker corners, Nashota - a non-local - remained at the manor just in case Vanthus showed up back at home, and Twila likewise remained, working on a proper translation of the journal into Common now that the party had specified what they wanted; once that was done, she meandered out into the city to catch up to the rest of the party.
Audra was the first to get lucky, hearing word of Vanthus moving about the district with a smugger named Penkus that she was passingly familiar with from the fights. Twila struck fortune next, being approached by a shifty half-elf named Shefton after she'd poked around a bit in Temples District, who said Vanthus had hired him to help do some work in smuggling on a small islet off the Haven Coast. Both returned to Vanderboren Manor - Twila with Shefton in tow, and quickly leading him straight to the kitchens for a solid meal - and shared what they'd discovered with the party; Nashota was able to identify the islet Shefton mentioned as Parrot Island, and the group quickly gathered their belongings and set out to attempt to corner Vanthus or at least examine his hiding spot and see what he'd been up to.
The group rented a boat and rowed the short distance to Parrot Island, then after a little searching discovered a hidden trapdoor among the foliage that concealed a descending shaft, complete with hanging climbing rope, deep into a cavern tunnel within the isle. The party slowly and carefully descended, Rin and Audra making use of monkey fish spells to aid their climbing ability, with Nashota squeezing down to take the rear. Once the half-giant was halfway down, however, someone above cut the rope, cutting off the party's ability to ascend back out of the shaft. A silohuetted face appeared above, insulting the party and warning them to stay away from "my sister", which was enough for them to prove this was Vanthus. When Rin and Audra tried to make use of monkey fish to climb back up the tunnel, Vanthus shut the trapdoor and pushed boulders atop it, preventing even them from escaping.
Forced to explore the tunnels below, the party found several semi-flooded rooms inhabited by hungry crabs and shambling zombies. Each of the undead corpses was marked by a tattoo of a serpentine dragon wrapped around a flower - Audra identified this as a thieves' guild mark associated with the Lotus Dragons, one of the underworld movers and shakers of Port Haven. They made their way through the undead-thronged halls, killing zombies as they encountered them, and at last ran into the thing that had raised them: a shambling huecuva, which tried to seize the party as they swam through one of the more flooded parts of the tunnels. It, like the zombies, fell with relative ease before the party's onslaught.
In the deepest chambers of the tunnels, they found a bloated and diseased corpse clutching a note that identified it as the remains of Penkus. The scrawled message was a damning accusation against Vanthus, including betrayal, murder, thievery, and an intent to rise swiftly through the ranks of the Lotus Dragons, perhaps even to usurp their guildmaster, the unnamed Lady Lotus. Beyond Penkus, they managed to find a sealed chamber containing a fair amount of smuggled treasure, which they claimed as their bounty for this exploration.
They then sent Rin and Audra through a series of flooded, tiny narrow tunnels that did eventually wind out of the isle and back into the open ocean; once free, they removed the boulders from the trapdoor, re-tied the rope, and assisted the other three party members in ascending the shaft with their treasure in hand before returning to Vanderboren Manor with the latest news.
Aidan: "I think I just got suckered by a crazy person."
Twila: "The translation's in Aklo."
Audra: "She translated it into Aklo?!"
Twila: "Nobody said WHAT to translate it to!"
Aidan: "I take [the taxidermied rhagodessa] to my bed."
Part 3: "When the screaming stops, we have to wait a little bit, then we can go in."
Thanks to the note they found on the remains of Penkus, the party learned that the Lotus Dragons had a commonly-used entrance via the very taxidermist they'd done business with mere days prior, one Nemien Roblach. The group discussed and debated their course of action for some time, before Twila simply headed off on her own and entered the shop and began examining Roblach's goods.
The merchant recognized her when she mentioned her companions bringing the rhagodessa for him to work on, and was eager to speak with and do business with her on the chance that he'd have an opportunity to work on something else equally interesting. After discussing a possible job and making arrangements, Roblach departed into the back of his shop to seek something from his storerooms, and the rest of the party entered the building in his absence. By the time he returned, the group was ready to ambush him, and quickly had the merchant tied, gagged, and stowed away in a locked storeroom with Twila's bizarre familiar - a strange cat with far too many eyes and far too many limbs in odd places, which Twila gleefully introduced to the party as "Fluffy" - as a guard. She also confiscated the entirety of his available taxidermy stock, happily chattering on about using animate objects on them for funsies.
Searching the back rooms of the taxidermist's shop led Rin and Audra to find a hidden door leading down into a series of manmade tunnels and halls beneath the city streets, quickly determined to be the hidden guildhall of the Lotus Dragons they were searching for. The party was able to keep stealth on their side for the first few minutes, and a lucky selection of chosen doors led them to what appeared to be a sort of practice room filled with training dummies. Rin was able to discern some of the dummies to be actually people in disguise, and a fight quickly broke out; when the other half of the dummies also revealed themselves to be living people, Twila finally decided she'd had enough and summoned a swarm of rats. The party quickly evacuated the room and had Nashota hold the door shut, preventing the Lotus Dragons inside from escaping; Twila simply encouraged the party to "wait out" the screaming and once silence had been established for a few moments it would be safe to enter again.
Upon re-entering the room, they discovered a few of the bandits had managed to escape via the door on the opposite side of the chamber rather than become food for the rats; Nashota broke the now-locked door (likely the reason why some of the bandits had not survived by a similar escape) open before Rin convinced him to let him pick the locks on the rest they encountered along the way. Passing through a set of narrow hallways led them to another chamber; within this one they found the corpses of the escaped Dragons, having fallen prey to a different, much more dangerous predator: another rhagodessa, this one trapped in the room by a chain attached to an iron collar around its thorax, but given enough let to reach every corner of the room and happily munching on the remains of the unprepared thieves who had stumbled into its lair.
The party decided discretion to be the better part of valor in this case and retreated back to the training room and to the halls beyond, closing the doors behind them as they went (and Nashota even upturning a table to block the door he'd broken open).
This time they reversed direction and headed back toward their entrance, then explored in the other adjacent halls, eventually finding their way to what appeared to be a makeshift barracks. Only two Lotus Dragons were off-shift and sleeping here, and the party quickly bound and gagged them before they could wake, then left them securely there tied to their beds while they turned their attention to further exploration.
After discovering that one adjacent hall led to a room that smelled far too strongly of dog, they turned their explorations south, and found their way into a large room adorned with a massive table and accompanying benches. In the corner of the room, a large cage full of birds began to trill and sing, eagerly seeking food and attention; half the party quickly tried to quiet them for fear they'd alert other thieves, while Rin followed a slight sound he'd heard to the south, where a kitchen and pantry were connected. Searching the area found the door rigged with a simple but efficient trap; disarming this and exploring around inside found a kobold woman hiding in the laundry.
After a few moments spent by Rin, Audra, and Aidan convincing her that she wasn't in danger and they had no ill intent for her, they convinced the woman, who introduced herself as Churtle, to spare them a little food and some information. Churtle explained she'd worked for the Lady for years, mostly out of lack of alternative options, and that she served as both the guild's poison-brewer and cook. This immediately got Rin's attention, and the two became embroiled in a conversation in deep detail about working with poisons and alchemy.
During this time, Aidan, Nashota, and Audra decided to retrieve one of the barracks prisoners and start quizzing them for information. They selected the woman sleeping on the west end of the room, brought her back to the kitchen, and made her an offer - her life for information about the guild and its leaders. She managed to negotiate this to being allowed to flee the city, as the Dragons that might remain, other guilds, and the local watch would all be interested in stringing her up if given the opportunity, especially if she talked in the case of the first two. The party seemed reluctant to concede this, but at Rin and Twila's encouragement eventually the more recalcitrant teammates acquiesced.
The woman explained that the chambers beyond the chained rhagodessa were the private rooms of the Lady Lotus or the Dragon Mistress (which title is used is more based on the woman's mood than anything else) and that she has some kind of pet dragon she keeps close like a watchdog. There was also a worg kept around the lair somewhere that served a similar position. The other two officers in the guild she could actually name - Kersh Reftun, a known thug and racketterer, and the subject of the party's searches himself, Vanthus Vanderboren. She couldn't say for certain where either were at the time, but noted that Vanthus had been sharing the Lady Lotus's bed for some time (which came as a bit of a surprise to some of the party, especially Audra, whose earleir searches had pointed Vanthus toward spending his time with a painter and ex-con artist by the name of Brissa Santos). She mentioned also that there had once been Zhanther, a bugbear who had also been sort of a bodyguard for the Lady Lotus, but he'd been "removed" due to pilfering her coffers a few months prior.
The party pushed forward, and with Nashota in the lead swarmed and overwhelmed the chained rhagodessa before it could send them to share the fates of its three previous meals. In the halls beyond, Audra found herself ambushed momentarily by a zombiefied bugbear - clearly the fate of the unfortunate Zhanther - wedged into a corner of the room where it shouldn't have been able to fit; the party took a few heavy blows from the creature but were able to overwhelm it and put it down.
It was near this chamber as well that they found a large board covered in notes, many in various languages, but most notably one listing the party members all by name and accompanied by the message, "VANTHUS! FIX THIS NOW!!" After some discussion among the group, Twila erased the names present and replaced them with forgeries associated with other local gangs, hoping to point the Dragons that might survive what they were about to do in very much the wrong direction.
In the rooms at the end of the hall, they found the Lady Lotus awaiting their arrival, stealth apparently having failed them along the way. She greeted the party warmly if curtly, informed them she was quite aware of their status as Lavinia's hirelings and searching for Vanthus (who she informed them was NOT currently at the guildhall), and was so bold as to offer them a job in her employ instead. The party didn't even consider this offer for a moment, and Lady Lotus instructed her hidden draconic pet, named Gut Tugger, to "do his thing"; the crested felldrake hiding underneath the cushions piled in the corner of the room lunged into the fray, giving the guildmistress a few moments to draw her weapon and get into an advantageous position.
It was not enough, however, by far. Outnumbered and with far too limited maneuvering space, she fell to a stab through the heart from Audra mere moments before Gut Tugger took a crushing blow from Nashota to join her in the afterlife. The party quickly turned from the battle to begin ransacking and rifling through her private belongings, with Rin quickly discovering a cache of treasures behind a secret door and Audra finding a hidden pile of letters from Vanthus that not only confirmed his cooperation with the Dragons having gone back several months, but also informed the party that he had set the fire on their ship that had claimed the lives of his and Lavinia's parents, hoping to be named in their will as sole heir and executioner of their estate despite Lavinia being the eldest, then beginning his plan of infiltration and theft upon discovering his expectations denied.
The party gathered up the treasures and texts they found, and at the recommendation of Churtle and their bandit informant, took the bodies of Lady Lotus (who Audra was able to identify as Rowyn Kellani, firstborn daughter and heir of the wealthy but sketchy Kellani merchant family), Gut Tugger, and the rhagodessa on a roundabout route through the halls of the guild lair to be dumped in a room the bandit woman called "The Crucible". She then led the party back around to an adjoining chamber, where a one-way illusionary wall allowed them to view the center room without being seen from inside; a massive crocodile emerged from a side tunnel to consume the corpses, quickly destroying any remains of the guildmistress and her pets.
With the Lotus Dragons effectively defunct despite the group only having explored a fraction of their lair, the party retreated, taking Churtle with them back to Vanderboren Manor and parting ways with the bandit woman (and her now-conscious, formerly-tied-up barracks companion) without looking back. They immediately reported to Lavinia with the letters, bringing the knowledge of Vanthus's murderous actions to her attention before passing them on to the watch.
With this knowledge in mind, she tasks the party immediately to finding Vanthus, wherever he's fled, and bringing him to justice as soon as possible. According to those same letters, he intends to be at a place nearby called Kraken's Cove within five days of the date of the Lotus Dragon infiltration; the party begins making plans and preparations almost immediately to meet him there.
But in the time between, something may come up to occupy some of those spare days...
Twila: "We're not stuffing the taxidermist!"
DM: "Across the room, another adar joor."
Rin: "My logic is useless in the face of puns."
Twila: "When the screaming stops, we have to wait a little bit, then we can go in."
Nashota: "I close the doors behind me as I leave."
DM: "Then you get to the last door and realize you can't close it [because he ripped it off the hinges]."
Nashota: "That's okay. I just set up the table sideways in the doorway."
DM: "I like that door. That's a nice door."
Nashota: "He wishes he had a boulder...."
Audra: "THE BOULDER appreciates your enthusiasm!"
DM: "Bugbears have a knack for squeezing into places they shouldn't fit, like under beds and into closets."
Audra: "And into skinny jeans."
ACT II: WAR OF THE WIELDED
"I gave 'em a sword. And they stuck it in, and they twisted it with relish. And I guess if I had been in their position, I'd have done the same thing."
~ Richard M. Nixon
Part 1: "They are not my lovers! Stop saying that!"
A couple of days after their return from the Lotus Dragons' hideout and a couple of days prior to the scheduled meeting where they intended to ambush Vanthus, the employees of Vanderboren Manor were approached by an unexpected figure. The man introduced himself as Damien Khross, scion of the well-known and well-connected Khross family of merchant-wizards and officer of Port Haven's Duelists' Guild. It was in the name of the latter that he approached today; apparently, someone had been holding numerous illegal, unsanctioned duels around the city, and at least three lives had been claimed in the process. He wished the party, as theoretically unconnected citizens (their only tie to the guild, outside Khross hiring them, being Lavinia's father's former membership), to see to investigating. He offered the group a payment of a thousand gold pieces each and a writ of allowance from the Watch to be able to go about their search uninterrupted, theoretically in their name, to sweeten the pot. The party, not without some reluctance admittedly, did eventually agree.
They parted ways and spent the afternoon searching the city, with Audra scouting out the Docks District, Aidan the Temples District, Twila the Towers District, Rin the Market District, and Nashota the Gates District. It was Rin and Audra, right on the back-alleys where the exact borders between districts were more blurred, who eventually discovered evidence of their quarry; Rin quickly ran to fetch the rest of the party while Audra began shooing off curious onlookers who had stumbled onto the scene before them. By the time the rest of the group arrived, she'd cleared a space around a half-elven man's body lying slumped and dead not far from a city well.
The scene was all the stranger for the complete lack of any blood - on the ground or environs as well as within the corpse.
The watch soon arrived and cleared out the crowd completely while the party investigated in more detail. Audra found multiple signs of a battle being fought here, against an opponent with a longer reach and a lighter step - an elf or a woman, she theorized. Twila, on the other hand, decided to get a look from a better vantage and, with help from Nashota, scaled up the side of a building... and found none other than Shefton Rosk lurking there, having watched the altercation from his hiding place above. According to Rosk, the illegal duel was between the dead man and a human woman, the former using a silver short sword and the latter using a gem-studded rapier. She'd gotten in a few hits and while she'd never visibly appeared to wound her opponent much, the man had slowed significantly after every successful strike; Twila and Audra determined there was some sort of draining or debilitating enhancement put on the weapon to cause such a result. Rosk informed them that the man had staggered over to the well and dropped his sword inside once it had become obvious that he was not going to win this battle; the woman, outraged, had stabbed him multiple times, producing zero blood, then fled the scene.
The mystery of the killer and her strange weapon were put on hold for a moment as Rin and Aidan puzzled how to retrieve the sword and why it would have been tossed away like that even on the brink of death; Rin eventually just descended down, fished around below, and came back up with the weapon in hand - a finely-crafted silver blade with a pommel shaped like the head of a bird of prey. He showed to the party and claimed it as his own once it was no longer needed as evidence... and the sword spoke aloud to the entire group, exclaiming its satisfaction at the sudden declaration and its willingness to aid him in "avenging my former wielder against those Cabanite harpies".
After the group got over their initial shock, they learned a bit about their new possession/companion. The weapon introduced itself as Sabrehawk, and explained that it was allied with a group of like-minded intelligent weapons and warriors willing to wield them known as the Oquon. They were locked in battle with a malevolent group with similar composition, the Cabanites, which the party also recognized as one of the underground groups of dubious legality not unlike the Lotus Dragons - in fact, the party had deigned to use the Cabanites as their fall guys for their incursion into the Lotus Dragons' guildhall before they ultimately decided to just disrupt everything about their operation by killing Rowyn. Sabrehawk was quite pleased that the party was already passingly familiar with his enemies and not inclined positively toward them, and spoke grandly of how they needed to be culled for the well-being of all... but first, he desperately needed their help in saving one of his own.
Sabrehawk, still in Rin's possession, pointed the group toward Towers District's Featherwhisper's Bathhouse, a rather upper-class sauna that he claimed had connections to the Cabanites. They would be gathering there later that day, not just for their usual scheming but also for a special occasion - the destruction of one of the Oquon blades which had fallen into their hands, which Sabrehawk had been attempting to mount a rescue for before his former wielder met his demise in the alleys. With significant reluctance especially from Audra, he managed to convince the party to intervene, and the group set out for Towers, attempting to come up with a plan.
Twila, eager to enjoy the luxuries of the bathhouse, got ahead of the group and arrived first, paid the entry fee, and slipped comfortably in as a customer. The rest of the party was less casual, attempting to get answers out of the receptionist and - at least initially - not interested in playing along. Audra even tried to use the writ Khross had given them and the inherent connections to the Watch it implied to get them inside without payment; however, this seemed to just make the receptionist even more reluctant to cooperate, and she summoned the on-shift manager to deal with the "disruptive visitors". The man was far firmer with the party, and his utter refusal to acknowledge any other reason for their entry beyond paying the usual fee eventually led Rin, Audra, and Aidan to surrender and pay their way in; Nashota, on the other hand, took being talked to in such a manner quite harshly, and made good use of his size and bulk to intimidate himself a free entry. The manager and receptionist allowed him to pass mostly for fear he might hurt someone and to put an end to dealing with these troublesome people who were clearly either adventurers or mercenaries (or both) and thus more trouble than it was worth to get the Watch involved (and, more importantly, unwilling to summon the Watch down on their business and potentially disrupt customer comforts).
While Twila actually took advantage of the offerings of the Bathhouse, Aidan and Rin crept into the garden behind the building to investigate and eventually discovered a locked door at the back with a sign reading "Mud Baths Closed for Maintenance". Rin picked the lock with ease and, after urging Sabrehawk to be silent, cracked the door open to see inside... discovering several people in elaborate noble outfits or ritualistic robes, all standing around the three open mud pits, and one holding a greatsword that Sabrehawk urgently informed them was his missing Oquon companion, Hoardcutter.
After retrieving Audra and Nashota (and trying and failing to find Twila), the group burst into the room, threw down some smokesticks, and plunged into the ensuing calamity. Rin quickly dislodged Hoardcutter from its Cabanite captor and passed it to Nashota, and the half-giant made swift work of the more aggressive Cabanites that attempted to attack him with the greatsword in-hand. The Cabanite leader, a half-elven gentleman carrying the rapier that had killed Sabrehawk's prior wielder, spent most of his time fumbling through scrolls or casting spells that went off-target due to the smoke while the rapier, Czarina Valora shouted orders and threats in a shrill, hostile voice.
The battle was an utter rout, and while many of the Cabanites escaped, all those who had engaged in actual battle had been slain with ease by the party, especially once Hoardcutter had gotten involved. Czarina Valora and three other Cabanite blades - two venomous daggers called the Duchessas, a staff that could transform into a dire flail by the name of Countessa Invicta, and a shortsword called Lady Anakara that Rin also seized - were collected up, and the bodies of the dead Cabanite warriors were tossed into the mud pits and concealed with the very scroll of transmute mud to stone that the Cabanites had been intending to use to entomb Hoardcutter. Unsure of what to do with the Cabanite blades at this time and frustrated by their increasingly-vocal arguing with and threatening of the two Oquon swords (and their arguing and threatening in return) and the party members, Audra stashed the five new weapons in her haversack as they departed, slipping as quietly as possible out of the Bathhouse, hoping the fracas had gone mostly unnoticed... which, apparently, it had, outside the adjoining room where Twila had been soaking in a sauna with two (now-unconscious) Cabanite assassins. (Who had completely ignored her as another customer when she made no effort whatsoever to join in the battle going on in the next room.) They exited via scaling the garden wall, which necessitated a bit of teamwork on both sides to heft over the two unconscious Cabanite survivors, then quickly abandoned the area.
Leaving Twila to her entertainment and trusting she would join them when she tired of the Bathhouse or it closed, the rest of the group made their way to the Dueling Guild's headquarters with their bag of captured Cabanite instigators and two unconscious Cabanite wielders, stopping only a few times to hush Sabrehawk and Hoardcutter due to their incessant insistence that they be destroyed. Khross recognized them on sight as soon as they entered, and bid them come in and explain the situation; however, he seemed more perplexed and alarmed by the full details of what had been going on, and utterly without an idea of how to address the situation.
It was then that a new face entered the room - a grizzled older man, a career warrior by the look of him, dressed in full plate but armed with no visible weapon and carrying an empty scabbard at his side. His presence immediately silenced all the blades in the room, Oquon and Cabanite alike; he introduced himself as Larcos Dengrin, ex-paladin and former warrior for both sides of this conflict, and that he was here to see the battle between these two groups of intelligent blades put to an end at last.
Audra: "So you're fighting with your girlfriends..."
Sabrehawk: "They are not my lovers! Stop saying that!"
Audra-OOC: "Why is the retreat sword speaking in a French accent?"
Twila: "I'M going to get a massage!"
Part 2: "Because even with Twila and the talking butterknives, you are STILL the craziest person here!"
After a few moments, Larcos eventually convinced Khross to leave the rest of the situation up to him and to take the two captured Cabanite humanoids to the Watch, then ushered the party members present into another room so the Cabanite and Oquon weapons couldn't further overhear their conversation. He explained that he had once been a warrior dominated by the blades on both sides of this conflict; his actions under their command - and at times, control - had cost him his paladinhood and, after years of time in prison for his actions and even more years traveling and experiencing, convinced him that the conflict between the groups would only cease if all the intelligent weapons were destroyed. Tossing them into the ocean or burying them in some vault would only delay the problem until someone inevitably discovered and recovered them, and the battles would begin anew, only with new puppets to carry the blades into their war.
The party seemed to be following along well enough, and the behavior of the weapons thus far corroborated with his story closely enough, so Larcos felt comfortable elaborating further on his plan. He had spent time constructing a cart that contained a large wooden and leather cage, and planned to head out into the Titans the following morning. With the party's help, he wished to delve into a spot in the range's foothills known as the Corroded Caves, where was said to lurk a gargantuan rust monster known as The Kogoloxen. With it in-hand, he would lure the remaining Oquon and Cabanite wielders and blades still not in custody to a meeting place, using himself and their captives as bait, then release the Kogoloxen while trapping the two feuding factions in the building, unable to escape their incoming hungry destruction.
And the party just stared at him as if he'd grown a third head.
The party spent several minutes arguing the problems of the plan with Larcos, who in turn shot down every alternative they had - claiming for various reasons they wouldn't work or explaining how he had deemed them unfeasible or insufficient - until they finally, very reluctantly, agreed.
... until they returned to Vanderboren Manor to fill Twila in. Twila, who had headed straight back to Lavinia's after Featherwhisper's had closed, immediately declared the idea stupid and decided she would get the groups to talk out their differences. The rest of the party agreed that forcing the two clans that had been prosecuting a bloody and secret war for centuries into close quarters together was safer than trekking out into the mountains to attempt to capture a metal-eating bug the size of a small warehouse.
Twila, with aid from Rin and Aidan, spent the following day in conversations with all the various captured swords, mostly one-on-one or with small groups. The odd little arcanist was surprisingly persuasive, and in the end convinced the present Oquon to accept the surrender of the Cabanites and declare themselves the victors in the long ongoing struggle, and likewise persuaded the present Cabanites to accept surrender instead of destruction... except for Czarina Valora, the captured Cabanite leader-blade, who continued to insist that Twila wield her or return her to her underlings and allies and rally the remaining loyal to recover the other Cabanite blades and restart the war. She even went so far as to attempt to dominate Twila in an Ego competition to force her to do her bidding.
Twila shoved the surly blade back into the box and told her she could wait there until she was less cranky.
The following morning Twila gave Audra a letter - penned by Rin at Sabrehawk's dictation - to deliver to a drop point where it would swiftly reach the Oquon leader, Solo Hand, explaining the situation and the negotiated surrender of the Cabanites in exchange for survival. However, en route to the drop point, she spotted Larcos wandering about Market District as if looking for someone. After delivering the letter and remaining (hopefully) unseen in the process, she slipped out into the open some distance from the drop point and allowed Larcos to "find" her.
The frustrated ex-paladin demanded to know why the group hadn't been at the arranged meeting point earlier to begin their excursion to capture the Kogoloxen. Audra managed to not let slip that the group had arranged for a peaceful resolution to the situation and planned on letting the weapons survive, but instead quite bluntly placed the blame for the disrupted meeting on Larcos's own mental instability and frankly ridiculous scheme to solve it. After some time arguing they parted ways, Audra annoyed and Larcos visibly nearing anger, and the former returned to Vanderboren manor to pass on a summarized version of events to the group... after, once she was sure she'd lost Larcos's attention, following the Oquon messenger at the drop point to make sure the letter was on its way.
Nothing much happened for the rest of the day, other than the party going about their normal daily tasks: Audra visiting home and practicing her stances, Twila working with Lavinia on (properly) translating the journal from the vault, Rin tinkering with his alchemy, Aidan visiting the markets, and Nashota... being Nashota, whatever that might imply. But early the next morning an anonymous message was left at the manor from Solo Hand, arranging for a Docks meeting that night to discuss the terms of the surrender in person. The group went in force, with Shefton Rosk tagging along for the heck of it and the captive Cabanites now actually held openly except for Valora who remained in the haversack.
The Oquon met the party on one of the quieter piers and Solo Hand addressed them directly, calling on Sabrehawk to identify his new "allies" and get an updated recollection directly from Twila on the nature of the surrender agreement. He seemed skeptical at first but with Aidan and Rin backing her up she was able to convince the Oquon leader that the surrender arrangement and ceasefire, including the survival of the captive Cabanite blades, was a superior option to many more years of ongoing conflict. Valora was brought out again one last time to make the surrender official, but when she once more refused and attempted to seize control of Twila she was shoved into a weapon case one of the Oquon wielders had brought just for that purpose, and her authority was passed - at least, by and for Twila - to Countessa Invicta as the seniormost present after her, who agreed to the terms as Twila had negotiated.
Some of the weapons were passed out to new wielders, but after some discussion many from both sides elected to remain with the party. Sabrehawk and Lady Anakara remained in Rin's possession, Twila took Countessa Invicta as her own, and Nashota kept Hoardcutter. Aidan declined the option to claim a blade, and Audra was presented by one of the Oquon wielders with a obsidian-crystalline rapier they'd found among the Cabanites' stores, which he described as a "baby Cabanite" whose personality had either been very recently created or awakened from a long-enough slumber to forget its former self completely, other than its name: Princessa Cathandra. The little magus claimed the Black Blade as her own, both as a companion and as her spoils from the conflict.
The remaining cooperative unclaimed blades from both sides, upon the terms of the surrender agreement, were passed into the hands of Port Haven's Watch, under strict orders from Twila to cooperate with their wielders and not make trouble for them or for the city as a whole, else she would drag them out personally to meet the Kogoloxen or some equally-uncomfortable fate. For how long they will acknowledge and abide by this agreement is anyone's guess, and that's not even considering the problem of Larcos Dengrin still being out there, and his hatred of the Oquon and Cabanites unlikely to cool.....
Larcos: "What part of the plan do you have a problem with?"
Audra: "The part where you're insane. Because even with Twila and the talking butterknives, you are STILL the craziest person here! 'Oh, let's go march out into the mountains and box up a RUST MONSTER the size of a WAGON!' That's what logical people do, right?!"
Twila: "So, you're gonna surrender. Okay?"
Czarina Valora: "NEVER. HOW DARE-"
Twila: "Okay!" [closes the box] "You get a time-out!"
Twila: "I am not (other characters). I have a little bit less sanity and a lot more charm."
ACT III: THE BULLYWUG GAMBIT
"My trouble took the strangest form. I could not persuade myself that the men and women I met were not also another Beast People, animals half wrought into the outward image of human souls, and that they would presently begin to revert, to show first this bestial mark and then that. ... I do not expect that the terror of that island will ever altogether leave me."
~ H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau
Part 1: "I swear it was on fire when we got here."
At last the time had come - on the eve of the Haven's Heroes Festival, the celebration of the city's founding - for the group to depart, heading east along the Haven coastline bound for the infamous pirate lair and smuggling hole known as Kraken's Cove. The group managed to secure the aid of a dwarf-and-gnome pair - the former a fisher, her partner a tinker who had outfitted their ship with a steam-powered engine of some sort - to transport them most of the way to Kraken's Cove and trim the several-days trek through Sombersong Wood and the adjoining swamplands that an overland route would require down to a mere ten hours. Due to the dangerous reefs and submerged cliffs that prevented the authorities from sweeping the area clear of piracy and smuggling, their transport wouldn't get close enough to actually enter the bay; furthermore, Rin and Audra noticed strange sights of half-devoured animals and smoke in the distance that only added to the eerie atmosphere as they reached a jutting-out cliff that the party could ascend and make their way the rest of the distance to Kraken's Cove on foot.
And oh what a sight greeted them - no less than four ships adrift in the bay, three of which were ablaze as was a large section of the water courtesy a visible sheen of whale oil spilled from one of the doomed vessels' cargo. Before they could investigate in more detail, however, the party was beset by a group of screeching monkeys from the nearby trees... monkeys that were in almost all ways not truly monkeys, with hooked barbs for teeth, wriggling suckers instead of fingers, bony protrusions on their tails, and a feral hunger that should not have been present in such a fertile ecosystem. Furthermore, when the party fended off the hostile creatures, their deaths caused them to explode in bursts of acid. Only Twila, who had wanted to keep one of the bizarre creatures as a pet, lamented their destruction; Rin took samples from the creatures' burst corpses for later examination.
The party swiftly approached the shore, moving along an old and rickety rope-and-plank bridge strung along the cliffside, but the swaying and burning ships in the bay threatened their walkway and Nashota was not swift enough to make it to the other side of the bridge before one of the ships broke free and careened in a flaming battering ram of destruction into the causeway, causing it to snap in half and catch flame. The half-giant instead did an impressive swandive into the deepest part of the bay, away from the crumbling ship and the spreading oil-flame. Thanks to one of the Aegis enhancements he could place on his ectoplasmic armor, he was able to breathe and swim beneath the bay just fine, and began slowly trudging toward shore... stopping only a moment to pick up several shards of what appeared to be a peculiarly-shattered fist-sized black pearl.
The rest of the party made it to shore before the bridge was destroyed, and Rin's keen ears caught the sound of movement behind one of the shattered ships that had run aground before the burning began. Crouched behind its cover were four men dressed in the tattered rags of Crimson Fleet pirate uniforms, but that was all that remained recognizable of them - the rest of their bodies were just as warped as the monkeys, featuring vestigal heads, clawed hands, sharklike mouths, bulbous amphibian eyes, taloned feet, jutting bone spurs, extra limbs, prehensile tongues, and many, many other hideous mutations. The four ashore adventurers swiftly launched a brutal ambush and put the disgusting creatures down, though not without taking a few bites in return. Nashota arrived just in time to help finish off the last of the batch, and the group continued inland after letting Rin take more samples.
The cavernous interior of Kraken's Cove immediately split into a fork; Rin scouted left first and discovered a large galley where three of the mutant pirates were sitting impatiently at a claw-mark-ridden wooden table while a much larger fourth - most notable for the gargantuan sharklike mouth that now dominated his stomach, in addition to the fanged maw of his face that he shared with his fellow aberrants - hacked away at an unmutated corpse with a rusty cleaver. The right path led to a large cavern filled with billowing silk sheets, which he determined the group should leave to investigate after clearing out the dining area. Bow and spell launched the attack, followed by Nashota and Audra moving into melee when the angry mutants charged for the chance for fresh meat. Audra and the ranged attacks swiftly took care of the three lesser creatures while Nashota fed the shark-gut cook the full length of Hoardcutter.
During the battle, a fifth mutant joined the fray - a halfling-sized creature that may have once resembled a cross between a racoon and a flying squirrel, but now also possessed mutations that added piranha and squid to the mix, turning one arm into a mass of tentacles barely managing to successfully clutch a kukri and causing eyes and jaws too large for his head to jut out at improbable angles. This creature, the first to speak more than one or two words at a time, spoke in a slathering voice, begging the party to "Come to me, meatbags, just give me a mouthful of your tasty pink flesh!" Nashota and Audra opted to feed it steel instead, putting the thing swiftly down.
The tunnel from which the fifth mutant had entered the room led up into the silk cavern, where Rin advanced ahead to scout out the much larger chamber. Unbeknownst to the investigator, he in turn was being scouted - and as he was concealed within the silks, the party was unaware of this until they heard his cry of pain as a monstrous creature leaped from the shadows to attack, nearly flaying him alive. He managed to scramble away just as the other four came to his aid, where they found him pursued by a mutated dinosaur! Once a deinonychus, the thing now had a mouth full of needlelike teeth, a distended lower jaw, oversized forelimbs with fingers with no less than three extra joints in their extended length, and its back covered in wriggling, pus-oozing tendrils. The beast - named Ripclaw by the pirates, as they would learn later when they found its shattered cage - lunged at the party, giving up stealth for the time being with so much prey in sight, and badly wounded both Nashota and Audra (and Aidan, by proxy of having to sacrifice lifeforce to heal everyone else faster than he could sap life from Ripclaw to replace it) before the party collectively did enough damage to it to finally put it down.
While the party regrouped and recuperated from their injuries, Rin - fully back in fighting form by this time - resumed his place at the head of the party and scouted forth once more, finding a room off to the side of Ripclaw's lair that appeared to have once been a laboratory. He waited a short time for the rest of the party to catch up before entering, but once inside was caught unawares by the Violet Fungus lurking around the north side of the chamber, where it had mostly absorbed the corpse of some poor gnome that had stumbled into the room or possibly even owned the place before it slew him. The party was able to exterminate it, however, and Rin gleefully collected several samples from everything in the room, including the fungus itself and several illithid larvae stored in a jar.
Just beyond the laboratory was another room, this one full of cages with more mutants trapped inside, though a few stripped and shattered skeletons gave evidence that some of the inhabitants may have once been something more normal. Fortunately for the party, these mutants - despite their hideous forms - seemed to be unable to escape their imprisonment, and merely rattled their bars and snarled and sputtered in vain as they struggled to reach the group. Aidan slowly siphoned each and every one dry, restoring much of the vitality he'd lost healing the party in the battle with Ripclaw.
Continuing forward, they made their way into what was clearly a treasure or trophy room for the local pirates, and beyond this a chamber where equipment and weapons were stored, though predictably nothing within compared to the potency of the Oquon and Cabanite blades the party already possessed. The chamber beyond that hosted a pair of krenshar mutants, still bound by the chained collars that held them to the west wall; Aidan likewise drained these to restore the last of his own vitality and top off the energy of the rest of the party before moving on, rather than fight them directly.
In a fork to the right of the krenshar room, the party discovered yet one more mutant... however, this one both was different from the rest and confirmed the horrible truth of the origin of these creatures. The figure was a woman in clothing common among Haven Docks dwellers, tattered and torn by her transformation, wherein she'd developed a froglike face (though still possessing the shark-toothed maw all the mutants seemed to have) and her hands had transformed into anemone-like masses with hook-clawed fingertips. She was in the middle of tearing open sea urchins and devouring their interiors when the party intruded on her silence; her vision apparnetly was impaired by her metamorphosis, as she asked repeatedly if the newcomers were none other than Vanthus himself! After battling and slaying the starving mutant woman, they were able to quickly identify her as Brissa Santos, Vanthus's (former?) lover and an ex-smuggler turned semi-legitimate artist who had been spotted with him a few times before the incident on Parrot Island.
With only one path left yet to investigate, the party backtracked to the trophy room then traversed east, moving through a series of narrow corridors winding and backtracking among stalactite pillars and craggy outcroppings, cutting and blasting their way through more mutant pirates along the way. This eventually led to the bloody scene of one pirate's death in what appeared to be his own bedroom in a desperate last stand; however, investigation into this chamber was quickly interrupted by the sounds and shouts of battle in a section of the caves just slightly further east. The party hurried to come to the aid of what sounded like a survivor, and found themselves faced with the most dashing battle scene any of them had ever witnessed.
A lone woman in pirate leathers, a cutlass in one hand and several knives in the other, dashed and weaved among a crowd of no less than eight mutants, cutting and stabbing at impressive intervals, launching knives across the entire chamber to catch a distant opponent in the eye, and all the while talking to the monsters equal parts threats against their current monstrous nature and lamenting friendly comments toward what was surely her recognition of former friends or crewmates. She spotted the party not long after their arrival and quickly urged them to take action, saying "Get in the fight or stay outta me way, buckos! These things're lookin' to die, and I plan on obligin'!"
There was little more encouragement needed, as Audra immediately slipped into the fight alongside the woman - who she just as swiftly recognized as none other than Captain Harliss Javelle, one of the most notorious Crimson Fleet pirates of all time - while Nashota tackled those closer within reach of the entrance and Rin, Twila, and Aidan did their thing from a distance. Within less than a minute the last remaining mutants were put out of their misery, and the party found themselves at a standoff with Javelle, who was clearly exhausted and wounded from her battles but no less ready for a skirmish with the locals if there was further trouble to be had.
The party managed not to irk the pirate further, however, and after a short discussion learned from her that the hideousness that had claimed hold of Kraken's Cove was the fault of none other than Vanthus Vanderboren himself, having done something that triggered magic within a black pearl Harliss was smuggling at the request of her superiors in the Fleet (and Nashota made a point of not revealing he was carrying the remains of said pearl) that caused all the transformations in the area. She gleefully informed the group, however, that revenge would soon be hers; she'd known Vanthus had family in Port Haven, and had sent her first mate Drevoraz and "some hired help" to the city to seize his "family holdings" and wait for his return, at which point he'd be properly dealt with.
This, of course, was unexpected and upsetting for the party, and they swiftly informed Javelle that they'd been sent by Lavinia Vanderboren to find Vanthus as well and either bring him to justice or put an end to him; if anything, Lavinia and Javelle should be allies, at least in their mutual hatred for and desire for vengeance against Vanthus. Swayed by the party's impassioned declaration and their willingness to jump into the fight with her earlier (and Aidan's healing... okay mostly Aidan's healing and watching Audra fight alongside her), she gave the halfling swashbuckler one of her Marilith-shaped earrings, claiming it was an agreed-upon code between her and Drevoraz that whoever came with it in hand was authorized to speak on her behalf. She then warned the group that they'd best hurry, her first mate might not be as patient as she and if Vanthus didn't return before that patience ran out... well, she left that hanging as she dived into the channel and swam away from Kraken's Cove, bound for parts unknown.
The party in turn quickly gathered what things they felt needed to be taken immediately, leaving the rest for later scavenging, and made their way back to where their escort ship was waiting, pausing only long enough to note one of the ships in the bay had avoided burning and escaped destruction, and Nashota immediately claimed ownership of the vessel, swimming out and with Audra and Rin's aid bringing it closer to shore and anchoring it properly before they departed, bound back for Port Haven as swiftly as their ride's engine would propel them....
Twila: "Aww. I wanted to keep one (savage monkey)."
Rin: "No! We're not keeping one!"
Twila: "But... but they explode! Into acid!"
Rin: "Exactly! They explode into acid!"
Twila: "They'd make great guard pets!"
Audra: "I'm naming mine Nitroglycerin! Why? You'll see!"
Audra: "I swear it was on fire when we got here."
Aidan: "I'm going to drain all of them. I need to get health back. Healing all you guys after the raptor messed me up."
Audra: "We just need to carry around orange juice and a bag of cookies for you."
Nashota: "Not a lot of room to fight in."
DM: "Nope. These are narrow, windy corridors."
Audra: "The realtor said 'cozy'."
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What can I say? There's been a helluva lot of stuff going on. Sue me if I miss a bit.
We made it back in time, no thanks to the damn carnival running through the streets of Haven. Me and Rin took to the roofs (thanks for the boost, Nashota!) while the others weaved through the crowds so we could put down the stiltwalker clowns. That's not an insult - I mean literal clowns. I shocked a lass dressed like a skeleton pretty well with Cathandra, and she bowed out. We'll probably regret that we didn't chase her down, but the boss being under attack kinda took priority.
The manor was broken into when we got there, overrun with boggards. Nasty frog things, and I was bite-size. But, stab enough of 'em, and they learn to stop that s--t pretty quick. We got to Churtle first...well, Rin did. Good thing it was him 'cause I don't think the rest of us would've lived. He barely saw the first trap, and once she realized it was us, Churtle told us there were lots more in the kitchen. She joined us as we moved on through the house, still looking for Lady Lavinia. We did find her - and the Ravens and the rest of the house staff. All alive, if smacked around a bit. Put down their chief pretty handily, thanks to Nashota and Cathandra. Harliss' earring did the trick - it got her goon to give up the fight...though I think we'd all have preferred a surrender to a swan dive out the window. Oh well.
The guys asked Churtle to keep an eye on the boss while we finished clearing the house. I'm still not sure how Shefton got in, but I'm pretty sure he's sweet on Twila. I'm also pretty sure Twila has no idea. I'm also pretty sure it will not be safe to use any room Churtle's been in ever again. So many knives...
So, the boss lady asked me a couple days later to teach her how to use a sword. I mean...I'd never taught anyone before, but how often do you get paid to swing a blade at the hand that feeds you? She picked it up pretty fast. Should've figured things were getting too cushy for us in Haven, though.