Norðhyr

Part III

An expedition to The Hanging Lands

Episode I

Upon leaving the mansion of Henrik Van-Baat the heroes are immediately arrested by the Township Sheriff, Stefaan Brigg. It seems that after making good his escape, Van-Baat tipped up at the gaol alledging burglary & assault (he had a suspicious self induced looking head wound!). After some fraught discussion the party allow themselves to be taken into custody & are marched unceremoniously through the streets of Port Gwyrmos.

After being stripped of all possessions, the note from Ratbag is found, bolstering the heroes defence. They are brought before Magistrate Veen who seems to be a fair & just man. It transpires that Van-Baat has disppeared & the magistrate’s suspicions start to turn upon the complainant in the case. Ratbag is a notorious criminal & is wanted for several crimes on Ynys-y-gwyrmos.

When brought to the subject of Relic’s mission, Veen shows the Warforged the portrait of a young man. It dawns on Relic that this is a portrait of his lost master, Jan Hillerbrand. At least the party has an idea of what the lost merchant’s son looks like now!

The heroes are bailed but The Seapig is impounded at dock as surety. Captain Luclaire is not pleased! The party do some investigative work & tips from the Captain’s Supper rooms & the local alehouse point in one direction: the docks.

The party meet a man called Mickey Black who, whilst setting up practical jokes on an old fellow docker, tells the adventurers that Ratbag may have left for nearby Tir-y-crog, ‘The Hanging Lands’, a haven for criminals, pirates & killers. It seems that there was a mysterious, cloaked man with him. Mickey couldn’t see the man’s face but could see his long black beard…

The party returns to Magistrate Veen & persuade him to allow them use of the Seapig to get to Crog. Veen allows this on the condition that Brigg & his men will escort them on the ship to ensure they don’t abscond. The heroes have 48 hours to find Ratbag & return him to Port Gwyrmos for trial.

Luclaire is not willing to risk docking a ship taken from a known slaver at the Crog capital, Tybourne, so the party hires a large raft from Mickey Black (who is once again busily playing pranks on his unfortunate friend). They then return to the ship where Brigg & his deputies are waiting to set sail.

The short trip to Crog is uneventful & Luclaire lets the party off onto their raft a short distance from shore, south of Tybourne. When on land, the heroes decide to go inland but avoid the barrowlands, the old burial ground for executed criminals. They have not gone far before the clamour of battle can be heard ahead. Margretor scouts ahead to get a clearer view from a rocky platform.
Kobold
A group of human bandits surround a pair of kobolds. One with a spear holds off three bandits while the second creature fires arrows into the fray. The party charges in with little planning, simply choosing to fight on the side with less remaining troops! It is hard to tell who is more surprised, the kobolds or the bandits, as an eladrin, a shifter, a warforged & two tieflings bundle into the midst of the battle. The humans are no match for the party & are quickly routed. The spear wielding kobold is killed but the little archer is still standing at the end.

The creature (called ‘Snakk’) doesn’t seem too sure about how to deal with this situation but rewards his saviours with the location of Ratbag’s hideout. The wererat is holed up in a cavern previously used as some form of temple, which is accessed via a watery cove due south. Snakk babbles that they may meet again before darting off into undergrowth & disappearing.

The heroes quickly return to their raft & prepare to sail down the coast. Their quarry is close & hopefully unprepared…

Episode II

The team sails down the coast on it’s borrowed raft & quickly identifies the cove described by the rescued kobold. They enter the mouth of a long cave & as the waters begin to shallow, old stone pillars loom up adorned with lit torches. The party slips from the raft into the cold but thankfully shallow salt water & wades further along a rocky corridor until guards weilding crossbows are spotted up ahead.
Sea lair 22x17
Thankfully, the guards are too busy arguing over a dice game to take much notice of the advancing heroes. As Althea line up the guards for a sleep spell, two other thugs weilding maces burst out of a chamber at the back of the area & attempt to break up what has now turned into a fist fight between the gambling crossbowmen. Althea gladly takes advantage of the bunch of men & drops her spell in their midst. All but one of the thugs succumbs to the magical assault, but not before one shouts for help.

Margretor the rogue quickly skewers the crossbowmen & as the sword-wielding element of the party charges in, more thugs charge up from an adjacent corridor. With a hand to hand battle raging, Althea the wizard hangs back & readies her sword near a set of wooden doors further back from the action. She listens intently & hears nothing… Until the doors burst open & two cowled rogues leap forward. Senichi charges back to protect the spell caster but the brave paladin is cut down by a devastating barrage of steel. Despite being at deaths door, the desciple of Tempus finds the strength from somewhere to rise again & rejoin the battle.

As Skamos finishes off the last thug & runs to the aid of his allies, a familiar figure darts out from behind the cover of a stone sarcophagus & hissing through yellow teeth, throws a dagger at the heroes… Ratbag has sprung from his nest! The vile lycanthrope yelps orders at his rogues (a third has joined the fray by now), “prove your worth to The Gnaw!” he shrieks & streaks into the melee.

Senichi, although weakened & facing skilled & ruthless opponents, ignores the offer of healing from Skamos & soon learns a lesson the hard way. One of the rogues hits him again with a terrible blow & the paladin falls again, this time down & out of the battle for good. The rest of the party are weakened & bloodied but the rogues cannot escape the barrage of attacks from the hearoes. One rogue falls, then another. Skamos hacks away at Ratbag, who tumbles backward, hisses with pure hatred & morphs into dire-rat form. The evil creature darts back into the main chamber & disappears through a small escape hole. The remaining rogue quickly loses his stomach for the fight & darts away into the darkness.
The gnaw
Skamos gives chase to Ratbag but the the wererat is too fast. Daubed on the walls of the main chamber is a rat skull & crossbones, which one party member recognises as a little known street gang called The Gnaw. They shudder to think that there may be a whole army of repugnant beasts like Ratbag working together for nefarious means!

After checking on the still unconscious Senichi, the heroes find a small chest containing gold, & some beautiful, obviously magical, items. They carry their stricken comrade back out to the raft, manned by Relic. They set down Senichi who comes around as they prepare to sail back out to the safety of the Seapig.

Relic, however, just gives a shug. The warforged blurts out the bad news.

“The ship is gone!”

Episode III

A rather confused Relic tries to reason why there seems to be a significant portion of the day missing from his memory. He can vaguely remember a sensation of floating, but this may just be the fact that he has been sat on a raft! The Seapig has simply disappeared and with poor weather rolling in, sailing all the way back to Ynys-y-gwyrmos would be suicide. The party decides to make their way to Tir-y-crog’s capital, Tybourne, to take stock and begin their search for the missing ship and personnel. There is also the small matter of the 48 hour time limit to return with the criminal, Ratbag

After an 8 hour rest and a long debate over which is the safest route, the group decides to travel inland, avoiding the coves that are home to murderers, madmen and tribal gangs. However, their inland route will take them through the Barrowlands and stories of this eerie no-man’s-land do not leave the party confident that they will be able to avoid trouble for long.

As the sun begins to set, the heroes start to see ominous mounds marking the graves of executed criminals. Entering a large wood, their sixth sense picks up on the fact that someone or something watching them. With a thick mist creeping toward them, the party quickly presses on, deeper into the forest in the hope of finding some sort of cover.

The trees of the forest suddenly give way to a large, bare clearing dominated by a weed-choked temple. Its peaked roof, festooned with demonic gargoyles, is largely intact, although its windowless walls are cracked and crumbling. The main entrance to the temple, two mammoth, ironbound doors, yawn open, exposing nothing but darkness beyond. Although obviously abandoned and in disrepair, the structure exudes a quiet malevolence made all the more haunting by the waning light of the setting sun.

The party steps from the fading sunshine into the surprisingly cold darkness of the temple interior, gloomy and shrouded in shadow. The temple’s floor is smooth, polished stone. The ceiling has collapsed in some areas and littered the ground with fallen debris, and in one section, the floor has collapsed, leaving an open pit. The interior walls feature fading murals depicting scenes of butchery, cannibalism, and other profane acts. The temple is divided into two sections by a row of tall, ornate bookshelves filled with crumbling scrolls and tomes. In addition, there are a number of egresses beyond the main door, and two sets of smaller doors along the eastern and western walls.

The murals depict scenes of the Abyss. In addition to the demons in the murals, various types of undead are prominently depicted. Studying the mural closely, the heroes see hints of an older, even more faded mural beneath the existing one. This older mural depicts scenes of vibrant cities; robed, stern-faced clerics preaching to a rapt audience of half-naked savages; diplomatic negotiations presided over by more robed clerics; and in the center of it all, a tall, statuesque woman in blue and silver. The party identifies these images as iconography of the church of Erathis, goddess of civilization.

Two statues along the east and west walls depict a male and female demon, winged and horrible. It is noticed that the statues have been repurposed, and were once depictions of the goddess Erathis and what was likely a cleric or paladin in her service.
Db d1
The northern end of the temple is similar to the other, save it is dominated by a massive statue of a horrid demon: Orcus, Demon Lord of Undeath. The floor around the statue is stained with the rust-colored patina of old blood. To the right of this effigy is a wooden trapdoor. Strong necromantic energy radiates from underneath this portal and after much debate, the party plucks up the courage to investigate.

The trapdoor opens easily with a gentle tug, unleashing a blast of violent purple light followed by the charnel stench of death. A short spiral staircase leads down 10 feet into a small rectory. The room below contains two sets of tables and chairs, a moth-eaten bearskin rug, two unlit braziers similar to those in the temple above, and two small beds with footlockers in an alcove. A small altar sits against the northern wall, and a pair of double doors stands in the center of the west wall.

Three rotting corpses lay in a heap near the two beds in the southern end of the room. Each is dressed in leather armour, now tattered and crusted with dried gore, and they all appear to have been half-devoured. A fourth corpse sits before the altar, legs curled beneath it, head bowed as if in prayer. This corpse is little more than a mummified husk, and its moth-eaten clerical robes bear the dire skull symbol of Orcus. Around its neck hangs a large, black gem on a crude leather thong. The gem glows brightly with a dire purple light that fills the party with queasy dread.

As the heroes begin to examine the room, the rectory is suddenly filled with a low, guttural moaning. To their horror, the four corpses, no longer simply inert flesh, climb unsteadily to their feet. The gem around the neck of mummified cleric pulses brightly as the four undead horrors lurch to the attack.

Despite facing a Deathlock Wight, the party bravely battles the undead menace. Through focussing their attacks they make amazingly short work of the Wight and then dispatch the zombies with only Relic sustaining substantial injury. As the party debates what they should do with the gem (which looks more like some sort of shard of unknown material), their conversation is stopped cold as a loud ‘thud’ reverberates through the chamber from upstairs…

Episode IV

The party warily creeps back up to the main chamber. Senichi continues to investigate the murals and works out a reference to a possible hidden stash. A small niche is found behind the large statue and inside is magical armour that would certainly help bolster the defences of a certain Warforged…

The heroes creep toward the front doors where most of the noise can be heard; a cacophony of agonized moaning and screaming that turns the party’s blood to ice. Through the main entrance of the temple is a truly horrific sight. The forest, lit by shafts of pale moonlight, is alive with rotting corpses clawing their way free from shallow graves. Margretor tries to count their numbers, but soon realizes there is little point. The undead horde appears to approach several hundred, if not several thousand, members. There is nowhere to run; stiff, shambling forms fill the landscape as far as can be seen in every direction. The dubious safety of the temple is now the heroes’ only hope of survival!
Dead by dawn zombie scene
Despite frantic attempts to seal the doors, zombies squeeze through and assail the party. One of the heroes attempts to shore up other vulnerable areas but a run of bad luck means that extra foes manage to find weak points and get in, immediately charging in and pounding their fists at any living creature. Eventually the party cuts down the last adversary and there is a brief respite. They frantically try to plan their tactics and ask themselves if the strange shard like gem worn by the Wight could be drawing the undead to their place of shelter.

All too soon the temple is filled with a cacophony of thick, horrid moaning and the staccato rhythm of hundreds of undead fists beating against the temple doors. Suddenly, a sharp cracking noise echoes through the temple, and the heroes realize their defenses have been breached! More zombies appear, this time emerging from a pit in the floor. They are joined by hideous rotting canines: gravehounds, which howl and lurch in to attack with frightening speed.

This time, the party works quickly on shoring up the weak points in the temple defences, meaning that few other undead can get in and join the fray. The heroes make short work of the intruders, destroying the last zombie in a burst of putrid body fluids. Tired and wishing for dawn the party only have a brief reprieve before there is a clamour at the front doors.

The wooden portals splinter and crack before being torn wide open. Two horrid hobgoblin zombies charge in, followed by zombie ‘Rotters’. Near the entrance, lurking like things from an impossible nightmare are evil Corruption Corpses and behind them, a powerful looking creature, similar to the other undead but with a simmering, dark malice. A vile, pale light shines from this walking corpse’s eyes and mouth and razor sharp teeth and claws, encrusted with filth, promise swift death to all living things.

The creature bellows it’s warcry, hungry for slaughter. The heroes have no time to prepare and nowhere to run. The new dawn can not save them now….

Episode V

A desperate battle for the shard ensues. Relic, who holds the powerful item is immediately attacked by the leader of the grizzly band of invaders: a ‘Shard Zombie’. It is obvious that the undead are draw to the dark power of the shard and the leader bellows its orders to its minion who line up to slam the hapless warforged over and over again. Poor Senichi is grabbed by the hobgoblin zombies, pinning him near the temple doors and preventing him from helping his friends. Skamos charges in and out of the fray but soon is overcome as more zombies pile in through the party’s hastily erected defences. He falls under the sheer weight of numbers and things look bleak. Luckily Senichi still manages to utter a prayer of healing but with Relic crumpling under the weight of blows, it is down to mighty strikes by the rejuvenated Skamos and the pyrotechnics of Althaea to save the day.

As the Shard Zombie finally falls, it seems that the worst is yet to come as the remaining undead scramble for possession of the shard. The Corruption Corpses hurl balls of necrotic filth before joining the fray and it soon seems that the party are over-matched… until the pale light of dawn tears through the temple and the zombies scramble for the darkness of the surrounding wood. With the increasing daylight, the power of the shard fades. The heroes have survived the legions of the undead!

Outside is a scene of utter carnage as the dead are strewn everywhere, in some places piled three or four high. The heroes decide that this shard is too terrible an object to not be destroyed. Senichi re-consecrates the temple and offers prayers to Erathis. With the help of his friends, who tear down the iconography of Orcus, The Lady hears his plea and the shard explodes in a huge flash of white light. The party leave the confines of the renewed temple of Erathis; a place that so nearly became their tomb.

The party heads north toward Tybourne in a hope of finding their lost ships crew and the law men of Ynys-y-gwyrmos. Their 48 hours is now up but the heroes are no closer to finding the elusive criminal Ratbag or the vile fat merchant, Henrik Van-Baat.

As they negotiate the wilderness, the barrowlands recede and before long come into more rocky territory. Suddenly missiles thud into the ground in front of the party and they are surrounded by kobolds! When Skamos calls the name, Snakk, the mischievous creature pops up from his hiding place up on a rocky outcrop.

Snakk makes a bargain with the party: The heroes will help retrieve some of Snakk’s friends, kobolds who for some reason were cast out of his tribe. In return, the kobolds will guide them into Tybourne and possibly help them with a contact or two… With time already against them the party agrees, hoping that in the long run this will make the finding of their shipmates and their quarry easier.

As the party are lead north east by Snakk and his friends, they can’t help feeling uneasy about their new alliance. Kobolds are not known to be particularly trustworthy creatures… and the whispered mentions of ‘the beast’ do nothing to ease the sense of foreboding that hangs over this newest chapter of their adventures…

Episode VI

Brown dragonAs the party carefully sneaks up on a cave entrance deep in the wilds of Tir-y-crog, the beast is unleashed! A brown dragon wrymling bursts from it’s hiding place in the earth and attacks, backed up by a cohort of kobolds from the chambers within. Some of the draconic pests are simply miners and most flee by diving down a rough shaft within the first chamber. The heroes are hard pressed but they deal with their assailants well, quickly dispatching the wyrmling and even avoiding a huge rock fall, set as a trap to squash invaders.

As the dust settles, the party is confused as to why the kobolds would attack them as they were sent to rescue them, not kill them! Skamos, having seen the potential of the kobolds decides that he wishes to try to rech out to the tribe which wanders the island. Whatever his true reasons, it seems that his days of adventure with Althaea, Margretor, Senichi and the strange warforged: Relic are now over. The tiefling bids his comrades farewell and disappears into the wilds!

As they try to understand Skamos’ departure, a cage can be seen hanging from a chain in the shaft. The cage is hauled up and an injured dragonborn is discovered. The creature is healed and his kit retrieved. It seems that this dragonborn, called Nanarkk, came to the island to seek the ‘necro-shard’ hidden in the temple which the heroes had just cleansed! Nanarkk, having lost his kin during a bloody battle in the temple, found himself imprisoned by the kobolds. He is eager to join the adventurers cause, and so a new comrade is found.

Library
Pressing on into the second chamber, corner, the natural walls of the passage abruptly transition into well-crafted stonework. A rock wall that sealed off the tunnel has been pushed down and now lies scattered on the floor, allowing access to a chamber illuminated by a soft blue glow. Two ransacked bookshelves lean against the walls of the room. The contents of the shelves have been thrown into a moldering pile on the floor. An antique desk sits near the middle of the room, surrounded by glowing dwarven runes carved into the floor. Behind the desk is a wooden table covered in alchemical equipment. In the far corner of the room, a humming arcane portal hovers a few inches above a glowing circle carved into the floor.

As a small clutch of kobolds turn to face the heroes, a dragonborn clad in leather armor unsheathes a longsword
and nimbly advances, snarling. The battle is intense, but when the dragonborn is cut down along with several of it’s kobold minions, two of the remaining kobold slingers bolt over to the portal and disappear into thin air! The party turns it’s attention to the warded desk.

Several options are considered, but eventually the wards are disabled and the deask is searched. Within the locked drawers is some red coloured enchanted chalk which never wears out. On the desktop are a few scraps of paper written in a goliath dialect of Dwarven. The paper is yellowed with age, but some writing can be deciphered, including a fragment from a journal which says:

“It is fitting that the lantern’s elemental flame grants access to my library; only the knowledge in these books has granted me the power to tame the elements. My mastery over earth and stone continues to grow…”

The books which litter the floor are in very poor condition due to centuries of abuse by the elements, but with some study it is determined that these books deal with esoteric arcane knowledge, such as the creation of magical items or the history of the Elemental Chaos.

The party Decides to rest and regain their strength. Unfortunately, they do so in the chamber containing the portal. As they settle down they are caught on the hop as the kobolds portal back in to attack! After desperately arming themselves, the heroes fight back and plunge into the portal. They feel their bodies shifted through miles of rock in a moment that feels both instantaneous and endless. Their forms coalesce in a rocky chamber standing in a glowing yellow circle. A hovering lantern stands a short distance away, illuminating the room. Before them is a wooden staircase leading up to the rest of the room. At the top of the stairs stands another dragonborn clad in scale next to a small ballista that swivels, of its volition, in the heroes direction. Numerous kobolds stalk the shadows, including a shaman whose scaly face is covered by a bone mask.
Kobolds
The party is in a bad situation, being on lower ground and out in the open. They charge up the stairs but the shifty kobolds try their best to stay out of reach and use their slings to great effect. The heroes battle valiantly and eventually gain the upper hand. As the ballista and the dragonborn fall, the kobold shaman loses his stomach for the fight. The little beast gives his name as Nibbik, pledges to help the party whilst on the island and explains that the kobolds were thralls to the dragonborn warriors.

One of the party notices a hatch set in the floor. Below the hatch is a set of circular stairs that lead to a small living area that provides enough room for the whole party. It seems that the living area is enchanted, providing individual resting chambers with one of the heroes names written on each of the chamber doors. Desperate for rest after some bloody battles, the party considers whether or not Nibbik and this strange, magical chamber are to be trusted…

Episode VII

Throwing caution to the wind, the party rests in the magical chamber and finds that it’s suspicions were unfounded. Refreshed, the heroes decide to leave the magical lantern in place and take a closer look at the portal. Fine red chalk dust can be seen in cracks in the floor. Using the magical red chalk found in the previous chamber, a line is drawn and the portal flares, changing its hue from blue to red.

After much consultation, the party decides to try the portal and after stepping through, find themselves in a coastal cave which was obviously used as some sort of supply drop-off at one time. Climbing back up the cliff onto land, the heroes see that they are still in the Hanging Lands. Far off to the north, the grey smudge that is Tybourne can be seen. Knowing that the coast can be a dangerous place, being infested with murderers and mad-men, the heroes scout along the cliff lin, eventually finding a dead man with an arrow in his back laying in a small copse. Searching the corpse, the heroes find port documentation for The Sea Pig!

As they press on the party sees woodland to the west. As they survey the eves of the tree-line, a seemingly friendly old crone beacons to the wandering band. Suspicious that this may be a trap, the heroes edge closer. The old lady surprisingly invites them to eat and rest at her dwelling in the woods. The crone seems harmless enough, so the heroes follow her through the wood to a high wooden palisade circling a huge, dead tree. Smoke curls from it’s hollow top and upon entering the enclosure through a large gate, the party sees that a house has been built within.

Killer fgAs they stride into the kitchen, the smell of cooking meat is in the air and a large couldron of stew bubbles on a fire. Stood near the fire, holding a huge, curved dagger in each hand is a pale thin man. His dark eyes dart about the room as he twitches and rubs his nose. The old lady seems to have an unsettling gleam in her eye and the party gets the feeling that they are in a bad situation here! The old lady introduces herself as Ma Spitblood and points out her son, Silus Spitblood, may be able to help the party.

The team nervously inquires about Tybourne and the whereabouts of the Sea Pig crew. Silus simply hands a bone dice to Althaea and tells her to roll it. The Eladrin throws the dice and Silus looks displeased with the result. However, the human begrudgingly points the team in the direction of Tir-y-crog’s only city. Nervous about these twitchy (and seemingly unstable) locals, the heroes quickly back out of the kitchen. Standing outside are three masked psychopaths armed with huge masks! Ma Spitblood cheerfully introduces The Triplets before drawing two ginormous skewers from her apron. Her fixed maniacal grin and wild stare fix on the party as Silus and The Triplets attack!

With mighty, scything blows, The Triplets quickly chop down Senichi and Nanarkk and the remaining members of the party play a cat and mouse game with the Spitbloods slashing away with murderous intent. As two of the triplets fall, Althaea and Margretor withdraw to cover and, to their relief, the remaining Spitbloods take their dead and hurry into the house. This leaves the girls an opportunity to rouse their fallen heroes. The cleric quickly uses his healing powers and the party are all back on their feet again; barely!

Althaea decides to burn the house down with the Spitbloods inside. Unfortunately, this hasty plan backfires and as the door explodes in flame which quickly dissipates, the family charges back out with a venomous fury. The battle resumes, with horrible wounds being inflicted on both sides, however the humans cut down the remaining Triplet, then Ma dies, screeching. Silus is the last to fall and soon the menacing family are seemingly destroyed.

The party searches the house and finds a grizzly ingredient meant for the stew: a human hand! A secret door is located which leads down to a chamber that stinks of death and rot! Cells contain tortured corpses and the ritualistically set out remains of sailors are hung on the walls. One poor soul remains, clinging to the final minutes of his wretched life. This sailor from The Sea Pig manages to explain to the horrified party that he saw Captain Luclaire and Stefaan Brigg making off from the evil family in the direction of Tybourne. The seaman dies before he can say anything further.

NaNarkk utters a silent prayer…

Episode VIII

Injured and badly in need of rest, the party holes up in the Spitblood house for 8 hours to regain their strength. They later check the enclosure and make a chilling discovery… The body of Silus Spitblood is missing! A frantic search ensues and Margretor finds blood leading out of the enclosure. It seems this homicidal maniac is back on the loose.

The heroes leave the house near sunset and trudge (thankfully unchallenged) to the outskirts of the filthy, run-down outskirts of Tybourne, arriving as night falls. Unfortunately, a night-watchman refuses entry at this hour and directs the party to the nearby Shantytown, a rambling sprawl of tents and shacks full of criminals, killers and the destitute.

Shanty townUpon finding a (reasonably) friendly face in a strange witch doctor, the party starts to ask about the whereabouts of the Captain and the Sheriff, but the tete-a-tete is interrupted by a marauding band of half-orcs, who crash through the tents and shacks near where the party is sat. The shouts of “Slavers!” leave the party on no doubt as to the intention of this band. As the half orcs snatch unfortunate individuals away, the heroes stand and holler their challenge! The huge leader guffaws and spits before ordering his troops to attack.

The fight is vicious and bloody, but the increasingly powerful band of heroes quickly cuts down the band of slavers. As the leader runs for it, the party is left standing as the locals immediately pilfer what little valuables the slavers had with them. The heroes return to their fire and the congratulations of the grateful witchdoctor.

At least someone appreciated their bravery!…

Episode IX

The rest of the night passes without incident. The witchdoctor fills the party in on the history of Tybourne and gives some information about the gangs that operate in the growing city. It seems that The Gnaw is causing a lot of strife by making strides to take territory from The Blackhearts, the second biggest gang in the city. It seems that the Gnaw coffers have benefited from a recent injection of gold from a mystery source and this has allowed the street rats to obtain better equipment and some property.
The axe   tusk
When day breaks, the party is forced to part with some gold in order to get into Tybourne. The bribe paid to the watchman grates with Nanarkk. Using a handy map obtained from friends of the witchdoctor, the party decides to visit The Axe and Tusk on Turnkey Promenade – a rough and tumble, spit and sawdust inn favoured by half-orcs – in the hope of finding out more about the slavers the heroes had encountered in the shanty town.

The formidable looking landlord: Mugg, seems tough enough to stay independent of the gangs. He has a little knowledge of the slavers and mentions the name: Hooktooth as possibly being the instigator of the slaver abductions of late. As the heroes gingerly sip the inn’s famous beverage: Grog, Althaea senses that they are being watched. A cloaked female is seen slipping out of the door seconds later and despite following quickly, the party finds that the stranger has disappeared into the city’s streets.

The team moves quickly to the docks looking for more information on Brigg and LuClaire and by chance spots the mysterious woman again, this time ordering deckhands around as they offload cargo from a vessel. The ship displays the flag of the pirate! As the plucky heroes approach the woman, she casts off her cloak, revealing a slightly built young woman. Despite her comely appearance, the woman has an underlying strength and inner power which is slightly unsettling… The woman is Molly B’Damned, a swashbuckler feared and respected by the sea fearing community.

Molly is far from the normal cut-throat pirate (though it seems that she has probably cut her fair share of throats in her time!) and holds freedom above all wealth. Her hatred of the slavers who have over time press ganged many of her shipmates is apparent and having heard of the party’s victory over the half-orcs the night before, the heroes have earned Molly’s respect.

Moving to The Cutlass Alehouse near the docks, Molly hears the heroes’ story. They speak of the disappearance of Brigg and LuClaire and the need to capture the evil Ratbag. It seems to Molly that she may be able to help the party make contact with one of the gangs: The Blackhearts. She has a contact in the merchant quarter of the city: a shady jeweler from Kara-Tur called Ping. Introductions are arranged.

Ping is aloof and tight-lipped but the party (with the help of an expensive gem) persuades the haughty jeweler to arrange a meet with members of the Blackhearts who have recently obtained a couple of hostages whose ransoms are soon to be communicated to interested parties… The heroes are told to attend The Drowned Dog alehouse, deep in Blackhearts gang territory.

The party trudges through the city toward the meet. Hostile and suspicious eyes seem to be ever watching from alleys, doorways and street corners. Finally, with night falling, the inn comes into view. Approaching a crossroads, the heroes are hailed by a grubby looking little halfling who wants to know who the party seeks. Burly looking humans emerge from shadows and the feeling of unease increases for the heroes. As steel is drawn the party realises that it has walked into a Gnaw ambush. The halfling cackles as his face morphs into that of a hideous rat. The humans also turn into rat-beasts and the lycanthropes attack with slashing swords and snapping teeth.

Assailed from all sides, the party has to give its all to survive. The halfling wererat is as fast as it is vicious but as his comrades start to fall he and his remaining gang members make a hasty retreat and disappear into the shadows. As the defeated were-creatures lay in the road, transformed in death to humans again, passers by pay little heed.

It seems that strife and death are no strangers to the streets of Tybourne…

Episode X

The beleaguered party enters The Drowned Dog and after getting numerous hints from Scully, the decidedly unfriendly barman, they make their way warily down into the alehouse cellar. Lit by a single lantern sat on a small table are two objects: a neck chain and a piece of parchment. As the party approaches, menacing knifemen emerge from hiding places in the shadows. The leader: Slasher, offers the objects on the table for the heroes’ inspection. The chain has a pendant of office belonging to Stefaan Brigg and the parchment is an ID paper belonging to Captain Luclaire.

The Blackhearts place their cards on the table. They are ransoming the two captives; 1500gp for Brigg and 2000gp for the Captain. LuClaire is more valuable because of his rich family who are wealthy estate owners from a grand coastal city in Ostead called Portgarda. The party has nowhere near enough gold to pay even one of the ransoms so Slasher makes an offer… Conduct a strike against one of The Gnaw’s safe-houses and capture or kill a mid-level leader and the lawman will be liberated. In order to secure the release of LuClaire, the Blackhearts want the rats’ mystery benefactor, alive and with his or her purse intact and still full.

Although the thought of doing a gang’s dirty work goes against the grain for the heroes, it seems they have no choice. They are advised to seek the Blackhearts’ snitch in Manacle Street, a local homeless man called ‘Monty’. Leaving the alehouse, the party finds the snitch in a dark, stinking alley and NaNarkk uses gold and intimidation to get the information needed. Monty shows the heroes the location of a block of slums which seems to have recently been acquired by The Gnaw.
Skaven
Paranoid that they stick out like sore thumbs in this gang riddled area, the heroes decide to spend the night in the Shantytown. Taking shelter in the tent of the witchdoctor, the party takes a much needed rest to regain their strength and returns to the safehouse in daylight. Staking the building out, the party soon realises that a direct approach is needed. Senichi leads the way by kicking down the front door, only to fall victim to a simple pendulum trap. Shaking off the pain, the shifter piles into the house and into the midst of a wererat gang!

There are four conjoined rooms all full of wererats, including the halfling from the botched assassination attempt the previous evening. The fight rolls through the house and after NaNarkk fells the halfling lycanthrope with a terrific scything blow from his fullblade, the remaining creatures transform into dire rat form and bolt from the building. The exhausted heroes are left in the slum, staring warily at a trapdoor set in the floor of a back room.

Throwing caution to the wind, Althaea pulls back the trapdoor and a stone staircase is revealed, snaking its way down into a chamber below…

Episode XI

Gnaw hideoutDown the spiral stair is a large cellar with a big central meeting table. Provisions, equipment and shining new weapons are everywhere and more unsettlingly, a torture table in a far corner. Rats swarm over a corpse watched by the occupants of the room: slavering wererats in hybrid form, led by a sneering, cackling criminal, Ratbag! As the heroes move in to seize their quarry, more wererats spring from their hiding places and two huge swarms of black rats surge toward the party.

The battle is intense, but the heroes are always hard pressed. A couple of the wererats fall but Ratbag is illusive as every, darting in and out of the fray, always just out of sword’s reach. As the party starts to wane, the wounded start to fall. First down is poor Senichi, trying desperately to help his comrades. The brave knight of Tempus draws his final breath and calls silently to his god before darkness takes him and his time in this realm ends… .

The rats are depleted but the heroes are fading fast. Soon only Ratbag remains but he is strong enough to finally cut down the last standing party member. The vile murderer licks his lips as he moves to the first fallen invader to cut his throat while he lays helpless… Hmm, the shifter is already dead… slowly he moves to the large dragonborn and snickers. As he slowly puts his blade to the creature’s throat, a noise at the stairs makes him start. What the…! more invaders! A bellowing dwarf, lightning crackiling around from his body, charges into the cellar. Ratbag hisses, morphs into a dire rat and darts off, escaping through a small secret exit. The killing can wait for another day…

Domhnall the sturdy dwarven warden curses his luck. He has found the band of adventurers described by Molly B’Damned, but too late to be of help. After saying a prayer to the ancient spirits for the soul of the fallen shifter, Domhnall quickly goes to work on the unconscious heroes. NaNaark is roused and then the others. Although glad to be alive, the party mourns the passing of their friend. They must continue to follow their path though and the dwarf seems to be of a mind to stick around…

As they search the slum, new wepons are found, along with some very nice magical items. In the centre of the large table are the deeds to the slum, signed by the new owner: someone called Kiris Hoyte. The deeds and the loot are snatched up before Senichi’s lifeless form is taken to the sea where NaNaark performs a Ceremony of Passing and feelings of grief are charged with a drive for revenge…

The party decides to search for Kiris Hoyte and moves on to a large inn called The Hangman. Situated near a huge and ancient gallows, the inn seems popular and relitively peaceful. The heroes’ attention is soons drawn to a stranger who is watching them from a dark corner; a mysterious shifter with a black rat sat on his shoulder. The stranger asks after Senichi and looks disappointed by the Paladin’s tragic death. He gives his name as Sharxuul and places a steel necklace and pendant on the table before slipping away. NaNarrk grabs the item and sees that the pendent is shaped like a canine tooth.

The party realises that their fallen friend wore the same type of pendant but no one ever thought to ask why. Why does this Sharxuul know so much about the heroic ban and what can his offering mean.?….

Episode XII

Captain grellConfused, the party decides to investigate the dealings of the mysterious Mr Hoyte by looking into his property purchases. Finding their way to the gates of the ‘walled north’ part of the city which houses the council offices and the residences of the Tybourne power base is easy for the party but getting past the formidable Captain Grell and his guards takes more effort and persuasion. Eventually, the party agrees to peace knot its weapons and enters the office of mercantile and residential planning. The fierce dragonborn Nanarkk attempts to strong-arm the bookish clerk in charge who bears the brand scar of a fraudster. The man just panics and calls for help from the guards. The heroes are roughly ejected from the area. Domhnall silently fumes.

A comedic argument with the wiley merchant, Ping, leads to an unsatisfactory exchange of ‘objects d’art’ for information. Ping swaps a traders licence requiring authorisation by the mercantile planning office for some of the patry’s hard fought for loot. Believing that re-entry to the walled north will require a gentler touch (and perhaps some sneaky magic tricks), Althaea goes alone. After using diversionary magic on the gate guards, the eladrin gets back into the office and bribes the clerk with much gold for a look at his records regarding Hoyte. The wizard sees that early the next day the mysterious Hoyte has a meeting at an office in Gate Street to buy another property in the south docks. With the time and location memorized, Althaea hot foots it back to her comrades.

After spending some time scouting the location for the Hoyte meeting, the party returns to The Hangman. NaNarkk, now wearing the mysterious steel necklace, feels the tooth shaped pendant start to warm next to his chest. Looking around the taproom he spots Sharxuul, once again watching from the shadows. The shifter pulls out a similar necklace, which exhibits a warm glow which intensifies as he moves closer. These pendants seem to be more than simple jewelry. Sharxuul remains cryptic however and soon slips away again… The party spends a peaceful night at the Inn, regaining their strength for the trials ahead.
Kiris hoyt
Rising at dawn, the heroes set up a watch on the enclosed mall inside which is the small council office where Hoyte is expected to make another property acquisition. Unfortunately, with two possible entrances to choose from, the party sits at the wrong one and soon realizes that Hoyte must have slipped in unnoticed. They move into the mall, noticing that among the merchants, shop keepers and customers, there are small groups of rough looking halflings with sharp, mistrusting features…

The heroes surround the office building and soon a tall, thin, balding man with pale skin walks out of the office The thin man is joined by some of the tough looking halflings and as the party tries to surround the man, the toughs start to move in to flank them. The heroes, convinced that they have found The Gnaw‘s secret benifactor, notice that the man is armed. Hoyte stops and stares directly at the heroes and sneers… the sneer turns into a snarl and as the horrified heroes grab for their weapons, Hoyte’s face morphs into that of a hideous wererat! The halflings start to gibber and scream and they too morph into slavering hybrid beasts. Hoyte and his lycanthropic pack draw weapons and attack!.

The door of the office is slammed shut but one of the heroes just catches sight of a cowering figure within; a large, fat man dressed in a cloak, the hood of which covers his face…

Episode XIII

Citizens scatter as the heroes engage the lycanthopic menace whose snapping jaws and flashing blades cause havoc for the party.Hoyte, his true colours revealed, slips in and out of the fray, seemingly untouchable at first; however, as his minons fall foul of the heroes battle hardened fury, Hoyte seems to lose the stomach for the fight. As he morphs back to human form, Hoyte barks an order to one of the rat/halfling minons to rescue the fat man from the council office.

The creature dives into the door and emerges seconds later, half dragging the panicking human with him. Unfortunately for the wererats, the minion is immediately cut down in a crimson spray and Relic, seizing the fat man finds himself face to face with his nemesis: Henrik Van-Baat! As it dawns on the heroes that they may have just captured the true Gnaw benefactor, Hoyte, now exposed as possibly a high ranking Gnaw Lieutenant, is cut down. The vile creature screams promises of redemption before he dies in the street amongst the bodies of his minions.

Seizing their opportunity, the heroes grab the lifeless form of Hoyte and, dragging the obnoxious Van-Baat with them, quickly make their way to the docks and the presumed safety of Molly B’Damned‘s ship. A letter is found in Van-Baat’s cloak which peaks the party’s interest.
Hooktooth letter
They have no time to dwell upon the letter, but Relic, desperate for answers about the whereabouts of his missing master, demands an explaination as to why he and Jan Hillerbrand were sold to the gladiatorial pits on The Razor Isles. Van-Baat’s answer shocks the warforged: “What are you talking about? You never even made it off the boat!” It seems that more gaps in Relic’s memories are appearing!

On board the ship, Molly immediately agrees to hold Van-Baat, however, there are no cells in the ship’s hold. There is however one secure chamber on board… Locks and bars adorn the door and windows of Molly’s private quarters on deck.

Van-Baat starts to vociferously protest until Molly comes nose to nose with the fat merchant. A brooding, dark menace suddenly oozes from her which immediately silences Van-Baat who looks as though he may soil himself with fright. Unsettled by this display, and wondering why there is such robust security for the captain on her own vessel, the party starts to question Molly’s true intentions. The quiet warning whispered by the suddenly appearing Sharxuul holds the heroes tongues….

The party must approach The Blackhearts to negotiate the release of Captain Luclaire and Stefaan Brigg. Taking the dead body won’t be a problem, however, they are aware that they can not possibly hand over Van-Baat as he is part of the party’s (now overdue) bargain with Magistrate Veen on Ynys-y-Gwyrmos. They decide to leave Van-Baat on the ship and chance their arm with just half the demand fulfilled.

The heroes leave the ship and as they walk toward the Drowned Dog, they are approached by hooded men who give a location in the docks where they should meet with Slasher. Making their way to an inconspicuous warehouse in the south dock, the heroes try to remain hopeful about their chances of successfully negotiating for the lives of the hostages.

The heroes enter the large warehouse which is a maze of stacked crates. Armed goons await within and archers lurk on the stacks of crates. As they are led to a large clear area, the heroes are surrounded. Before them is Slasher, his smirking mouth barely visible under his hood. The front of a crate is dropped and the beaten, semi conscious forms of Luclaire and Brigg sit bound in rope within. The body of Hoyte is taken away, but the demands for the benefactor become more and more aggressive. The heroes get the feeling that they have been set up and barely have time to reach for their blades before Slasher finally shouts his orders to the rest of The Blackhearts.

“Kill them! Kill them all!”…

Episode XIV

The heroes explode into action and tear through the gang’s feeble attempts to resist. Althaea makes short work of the archers and the goons and cut-throats are no match for the team’s battle prowess. As his gang members begin to fall, Slasher orders the execution of the prisoners! Killers move in to do the deed but the heroes out manouvre them and, as Slasher finally succumbs to the onslaught, the remaining goons flee for their lives. The hostages have been saved!

Battered and bruised, Captain Luclaire and Stefaan Brigg are returned to Molly’s ship and with little delay, the sails are raised for the journey back to Ynys-y-gwyrmos. On route, a slightly bedraggled looking raft is located at the coast… At least Mickey Black will get his property back!

After docking at Port Gwyrmos, the party, the prisoner and the liberated captives are brought before Magistrate Veen. Henrik Van-Baat is dragged off unceremoniously to the cells. LuClaire declares his wish to return to his Father on the mainland and leaves to find a ship. Veen tells the heroes that LuClaire’s father is a rich and influential figure in Ostead who helps to fund a certain mysterious organisation who have been watching the movements of the party for a while now… While the magistrate and the ever cryptic Sharxuul will not go into much detail, it seems that the organisation or society are looking to recruit the heroes. However, they are to complete one further trail before they make up their minds. The heroes are to go to Thunderspire Mountain on the Týthyen / Norska border to track down and investigate the goblinoid slave traders: The Bloodreavers. There is no time to mull over the offer…

Adventure awaits!…
Nordhyr realm

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