A Journey on the River Styx

Here’s a bit of description I wrote for the Savage Tide game I’m running. Feel free to borrow it or use it for inspiration for your game’s journeys through the underworld.

And so the journey begins. Throwing off the mooring ropes and raising the anchor, the Sea Wyvern leaves the docks and sails upstream on the river Styx.

Thick fog blankets the moors and cliffs of hades. As the hours pass the cliffs to the right fall away and the flow of the Styx slows. The sky above is black, broken by several orbs of different sizes – some large as platters, other smaller than Greyhawk copper half-pennies. Sarial’s skeletal styxian linnorm and conjured hell-wind continue to propel the ship upstream through the swamps. Green, gray and black foliage stretch out as far as can be seen. Hunger and thirst come to some, sleep to others, but there is no measuring of days here. No sun ever shines in the middle underworld.

But eventually there is a dawn, of sorts. The swamps run against a range of moutians, and the river you sail upon flows down out of a valley between the peaks. A stronger wind is summoned and the ship sails up into the mountains. Behind the peaks the sky is lit by a fiery radiance. As you sail into the mountains you see a bleak and lifeless landscape, punctuated by pits in the ground. Atop one of the mountains you spot a iron fortress with horrible winged things aloft above it. You have returned to Pazunia – the plane of infinate portals. Soon a braying of hounds is heard echoing against the steep rocky slopes. A pack of wild dogs, their bodies aflame, run along the ship for a time snarling, barking, and aventually stop to let their tongues of flame drape over their fangs.

More days pass sailing across this barren hellscape. Eventually the river’s course winds into a mountain-side cave, and you sail in. A wind picks up and quickly escilates to a howling roar. Conversation is only possible by shouting, and Sarial’s conjured wind fails. Only the linnorm’s tireless swimming pulls the ship against the sometimes raging current in the tunnels you now navigate. Some take refuge from the wind below decks but even in their fitful sleep’s dreams the wind screams.

After a maddening eternity of deafening wind the tunnels you follow open up onto the middle of a steep cliffisde. Rock looms above to to port. The river runs along a jagged channel on the steep slope, and to starboard a vast void is filled with twisting rivulets of flame, floating rocky debris, and globules of liquid, all constantly stirred by a whipping wind. As you sail beside this sight the elemental mixture you see changes constantly, fire becomming water, only to vanish into air, then to solidify into stone again.

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Hailing from an vanaran island culture, Tipene is a trained shaman who has studied martial arts. He and his companions seek information on “floaters,” human pirates that once ransacked ports on their home island. Tipene is very academic and dry around new faces, but warms up and tells plenty of war stories once he gets to know those around him. He maintains a skeptical, scientific eye on most things. Even his deep-rooted spirituality has an explanation! But you’ll have to get to know him in person to learn more.

True Neutral Vanaran Rogue 1 Shaman 8
Natural Scientist, worshipper of Zaius

HD: 8d8+1d6+18
HP: 51
Init: -1
Speed: Walk 30 ft., climb 20 ft.
AC: 17 (touch 12, flat-footed 16)

Attacks: hands +6/+1 1d8 20, masterwork war claw +7/+2
Damage: 1d3-1, 1d6-1
Base Attack Bonus: +6/+1
Vision: normal
Face / Reach: 5 ft. / 5 ft.

Special Qualities:
Sneak Attack +1d6
Ancestor Domain – Summon ancestor
Travel Domain – Freedom of movement 1/day
Improved Unarmed Strike
Animal Companion – Monkey, Claudius
Spirit Sight – see ethereal creatures
Rebuke Undead
Spirit’s Favor – charisma as a bonus on all saves

Saves: Fort: 5, Ref 5, Will 12
Abilities: Str 8, Dex 8, Con 14, Int 16, Wis 20, Cha 10

Appraise: 8
Concentration: 12
Craft (Bookbinding): 11
Decipher Script: 10
Diplomacy: 4
Handle Animal: 2
Heal: 10
Hide: 0
Knowledge (Arcana): 6
Knowledge (Religion): 7
Knowledge (Spirits): 6
Knowledge (Planes): 7
Listen: 9
Move Silently: 0
Profession (Bookkeeper): 6
Ride: 1
Sailing: 2
Sense Motive: 10
Spellcraft: 14
Spot: 10
Survival: 11
Use Magic Device: 3

Great Teamwork
Coordinated Attack
Karmic Twin (Tarapiki, fellow Vanaran and travelling companion)
Quicken Spell

Travel Domain:
1 Longstrider
2 Locate Object
3 Fly
4 Divination

Ancestor Domain:
1 Detect Undead
2 Ancestral Vengeance
3 Speak with Dead
4 Dimension Door

Mana : 62

Spells per Day: (levels 0-4): 10/9/8/7/4

XP: 40,175

Spirit Tongue

GP: 14
PP: 7

roc feathers
scarlet brotherhood robes
bag of holding (type 1) full of a necromancer’s collection of items from her skeleton
ivory carving – elephant
wooden tiger figurine
masterwork war claw from a coatl
chain shirt +3
deck of illusions (jack of spades already drawn)
elixir of sneaking
elixir of hiding
elixir of fire breath
dust of appearance
explorer’s outfit
2 potions of cure moderate wounds
white wood staff with a diamond and silver setting (magical)
black cloak with silver trim

Tipene was cursed by an evil bat god. Ever since then, he has taken on a palsy that has permanently reduced his Dex by 6 points. In combat, he usually casts cause serious wounds and uses his great teamwork feat to flank his opponent with his companion, Tirapiki.

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Who Left the Portal to Hell Open?

              A Savage Tide Interlude, Told From the Perspective of KorShoth
by F.J. Kim

When Captain Harlis Tovel was gone, KorShoth turned to the others and spoke in pidgin Common, "We see that one again. Wild fever take her soon. Maybe not, but cursed is she."
"What do you mean?" Flit asked as she hovered six feet above the sandy cave floor. Her wings beat so fast that they formed a nimbus of blurred movement around her back. Earlier, in the morning sunlight outside the caves, he had seen that the wings distorted the air around them to such an extent they formed shimmering rainbows. A faint humming emanated from them.
KorShoth admired how she could weave her chirping melodies into the light bass of the humming wings to symphonic effect. The full sounds were unexpected from such a small creature. Perhaps that was why her songs filled him with equally unexpected prowess in battle.
Truly a magical creature, thought KorShoth. Aloud, he answered her query in sardonic Draconic, "After the black pearl shattered on the deck of her ship, she said it felt as if a dark presence occupied her mind. For a time she did not know herself. Hmph. A demonic being rode that one! And we are fools to let her walk out of here alive."
KorShoth sighed. For his race, that meant a sibilant expelling of breath through his large nostrils."My master Morkoth, who is no more, could have read the signs perhaps." The tall lizardman whipped his fearsome head from side to side in agitation. This peculiar reptilian gesture was his race's form of a nervous gesture. KorShoth did not like the idea of a demon loose on the earth one iota.
While the lizardman was distracted feeling sorry for himself, Mpata Mbata turned to Fundiani, "What'd he say?"
The elven druid translated.
"We don't know that it was a demon," Mpata Mbata rumbled in his deep voice that reminded KorShoth of the enchanted tumbling rocks in the Broken Country. "She might have been delusional. Did you hear how she went off at the mention of Vanthus' name? Hell, with all that rantin' and ravin' and swearin'...I'd say she suffered a con-cuss-ion. When it comes to Vanthus she's no fan—thus she'll never be on his side."
Something about the way Mpata Mbata spoke made KorShoth think the dark softskin intended other meanings. But what? If only he had more acumen with the Common tongue...
"Well standing around here yakking about it isn't going to solve anything," pointed out Tina to the whole party, "Let's get to the ship already. We need to warn Lavinia about Tovel's first mate."
Without waiting for assent from the rest, the young wizardess began walking towards the exit. Linus followed her out. As they left the cavern, he could be heard asking Tina, "So show me your spellbook, T. I bet you've acquired some sweeet spells since you left the Academy."
They quickly devolved into thaumaturgical jargon as they exited the caves.
"I'll be happy to just get away from this awful place," muttered
Fundiana. Kes gave an approving squawk and flapped her wings for emphasis.
KorShoth sang in Draconian as he strode to the waiting ship. It was
his favorite canticle from the BhalShaloth epic. Since the time he'd been an unsure youngling, struggling against everyone and everything with a primal anger and defiance that burned in his belly, the canticle had given him hope and a savage equilibrium. Without its balancing influence on KorShoth's nature, he would have destroyed himself long ago.

###Wide awake, sides scrape
over sand and sun-warmed rock
~through swarms of water moc~
to lose along the way, the spark that set the flame
to flicker and to fade, of this the longest day.
~The wind go through to my heart,
the wind blow through my soul.
~Give yourself to this, the longest day.
Give yourself, give it all away.###

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Savage Tide Chronicle: Kraken Cove

Collected below are several character’s impressions of Kraken Cove, a small pirate port that they have come to in search of Vanthus Vanderboren.

Fundiani’s and Kes’s account

Once Dervish had been taken to the only surviving ship to recuperate we set out to discern our next course of action. No sooner had we begun then did one of the lizard-folk rise from the water, he too seeming to be marked by the curse. Even before i could say ‘what’s your name’ in the lizard-man’s native tongue of draconic did Mpada Mbada stab him though the neck. His aim was true but the lizard-folk are hardy and though the blur of those first few moments he heard my call in his native tongue. Flitteran too could sense the beast-man’s motives and called for a pause in action. He was emboldened with the need to avenge his kin who had been altered by the curse that has taken this place. I could feel his anger and grief when he emerged from the water. Tina could also speak draconic but she was growing impatient of our delay and eager to leave this place which I too hate with all my power and Linus held back judging the outcome.

We made a rocky truce with the strange new-comer and almost immediately after the mutated dinosaur that had been inside the cave feasting on the flesh of his own kind came out to attack. Llinus stopped it in its tracks with some sorcery of his while we gathered our senses. Tina managed to enfeeble the beast somewhat but still Mpada Mbada and the lizard-man were hurt. Luckily the bravery of Flitteran brought Mpada Mbada, her dear friend, back to our aid and thus gave him the power to inflict one of the finishing blows that would bring down that disturbing monster. Thus he lashed in his death throws and burst into the acid remains of his spent body.

Enraged over his brutalized kin the lizard-man with out fear walked into the the very cave the felled beast had just come from. Upon entering he began cutting down the silks that had hung from the ceiling of the voluminous cave covering the floor with the delicate cloth. Then a shadow moved behind him and when he turned what he looked upon was once maybe a halfling but now his fingers where boneless his body black-rashed and bleeding from the those tell-tale bone spurs and his mouth could speak only of the flesh he so yearned to eat. The rest of the company where still entering the cave when the fight began, however it didn’t take long for crossbow bolts and arrows to sing and for Kes to find his true self and attack with all his fury this fouled thing. Mpada Mbada and the lizard-man fought together and Tina stayed back consulting her books as Flitteran judged from above what her best place was. Swiftly did we dispatch this shell of a halfling and soon after we where scouring the cave and checking the remains.

But the day had been long and the night half gone and so, after much convincing of the lizard-man, did the company retire with Dervish on the ship. Mpada Mbada used his natural cunning to heal the wounds of the party and all were held in the gentle arms of sleep, all except one. While the company rested as they are bound to do I searched. And as morning broke I waited for my companions on the beach with the stench of those mutated and mutilated bodies all around and the nights rest behind.

Kes and I have started to adapt to the horrid feeling of wrongness in the air, at least enough to fight our way back out as we know we must. The night before when I had searched those changed waters and found something that seemed to be at the heart of the savage chaos; a black pearl the size of a man fist lie broken on the ocean bottom. This and some useless finery i recovered for my company from the ravaged ocean floor. The learned ones tried to find its old power but could not and Dervish excited over the finery as we set out to search the caves for some clue or treasure that could lead us to Vanthus.

We first came upon a room that had trapped within it four caged creatures, oh how Kes and I did cry out at the sight of such torture. Mutated they where by the curse and desperate and trapped but the lizard-man and I waisted no time or words and quickly dispatched these half dead beasts out of decency.

The next room required breaking down the door and when the inside was revealed we saw that it was filled with fungi and lichen and some potions of sorts everywhere. We entered thinking ourselves safe and then we turned to see a human sized tentacled mushroom coming for the lizard-man; but he is strong and the mushroom only vegetable matter. After the shock was over the mushroom beast had no chance and was cloven in two in a minute. Inside we found poisons and a dead gnome.

The last room we searched was a trophy room. In it many treasures were found. Old maps from Sasserine’s beginning, crossbow bolts, dragon turtle teeth, gold and other metal coins, weaponry, and when put all together some kind of history of the pirates that had once occupied Kracken’s Cove.

But there are still rooms to search and treasures to uncover……

mPata mBata’s Memory

As we stood on the shore contemplating the dusk, an alligator crawled up on shore, then stood upright. It suffered from the same savage fever affliction as the other beasts, monkeys and pirates of the land, so I attacked it before it could bite us. He then shouted something at my comrades in some slithering tongue. Fundiani treated (too kindly) with it, and it shouted something back in its alien language. It sounded rather mad, the blood shooting from its neck spewing onto the sandy beach.

Then from the mouth of the coastal cave, a dinosaur let out a roar. We jumped and a few of us ran to the cliff to gain higher ground. It charged and we charged, flanked it, swung madly, I was clawed and bitten to pieces, falling over in a lump of manflesh. Flitteran popped over and healed me in a flash while the others (even our new lizard friend in his chain shirt) kept the beast contained. I jumped up with my sword and stuck it in the neck (a common attack this day) and through our collective diligence the beast fell. I removed a few of its teeth while we healed up.

Then we decided to head deeper into the cave. There, in a silk web-encrusted chamber, we came upon a ghost of a man, who leapt upon the lizard man, gnawing at his flesh. I charged it and the others jumped in as well. We finally subdued him and then retreated to the ship moored just off shore to stay overnight. I healed all the companions’ surface wounds, even our new reptilian companion.

From the oral remembrances of KorShoth (told in the song and bladedance tradition of the lizardfolk hunters of SpekShaPunkt):

anger (fearfulaspect of Semuanya destroys). softskins kill kill them all rend flesh from bone chew intestines

hated detested stinking softskins profaning sacred hunting grounds###YurbothShin group ATTACKED
Black magic raced across land and all of Semuanya’s creation perverted.

beasts were wild. BLOOD DEATH MADNESS! the YOUNGLINGS ~
young suns extinguished in early night….lament ~

MorKoth advised return to village. short mourning ended by beginning of long return trek.
Tree cats. Fiercesome fury. AMBUSH! MorKoth fell but claimed two for his own. Ren Moc roared and other cats bled for Semuanya.
###lament for passing of MorKoth’s wisdom ^ MorKorth’s kindness###

lost angry wandering jungle time Ocean
fire ships in night
stench of blood/death

SOFTSKINS! dead alive
~ swim for vengeance and tall dark one stabbed through Ta’ Skitch.
RED FURY! Blade fire BLOOD
….but the thin one spoke the words of Semuanya — poorly
Not them! Not them! One called Vanthus is responsible. They hunt him too. Semuanya’s vengeance seeks Vanthus.
The one called Tina spoke in the base tongue of softskins ~ perhaps not Vanthus perhaps… (how stupid they are always
underestimating Semuanya’s children)
Kill the rare earth lizard kill the deformed half softskin kill the entrapped mad softskins kill the wild plant that hungers for flesh
More blood to sate Semuanya’s anger
But where is the softskin Vanthus? Is he the one?
Semuanya’s holy justice be done ~ by claw by fang by Ren Moc by will

Linus’s Journal Entry: Not much to say really, it seems to me this Vanthus fellow has bitten off more than he can chew. He must be dispatched soon, else more will choke on his mouthful of trouble. I wonder what secrets lie in the fact that this strange magick only blights kingdom animalia… My limited education on the matter allows me naught but little room for conjecture, but one can only hope that there may be an antidote outside of the ministrations of priests. The excitement and danger of the current adventure is a nice distraction, but I long for an evening over a cup of wine (outside my feduciary means) to ponder over the matter with my newfound compatriots. No matter. I am sure once we overtake Vanthus, justice will be served; and I can go back to orchestrating my vendetta, still years away…

Linus contemplating Sasarine’s Skyline

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Mpa-Mda Mba-Mta (Pada Bata)

A slave brought to Sassarine from the inlands, his name means “fight person, burn death.” After years as under these conditions, he broke his bonds, escaped, and is now an outlaw. Mpa-Mda survives as a swordsman and swashbucker, his towering physique providing an amazing reach for his rapier. A fugitive, he must hide his face in public with his hood. Another reason for hiding his face in the city is that he has some nasty scarring on both sides of his face and down his back from years of being beaten.

He lives in a small camp on Parrot Island (off the Shadowshore) and rides the tides at night on his makeshift raft, living off fish and what he collects along the shore. He has befriended a cadre of homeless kids from Shadowshore who bring him information and small goods in exchage for warrior training and occasional protection.

There are those who call him Death itself. When he finally hunts down Captain Adelard and his men, he will indeed bring about their deaths. This is his number one goal.

Recently Pada had a run-in with the slaver that originally brought him to the area and sold him to Captain Adelard. After helping some other slaves to escape, Pada ended up with a new friend: a grig who calls herself Flitaround Jumpkins. Flit now lives with Pada in his cave on Parrot Island.

Mpa-Mda Mba-Mta (Pada Bata, as most people don’t pronounce the leading m)
Medium-size Male Human
Fighter 2
Hit Dice: (2d10)+5
Hit Points: 25
Initiative: +2
Speed: Walk 30 ft.
AC: 14 (flatfooted 12, touch 12)
Attacks: *Rapier +0; Base attack +3;
Damage: *Rapier 1d6+3; ;
Face / Reach: 5 ft. / 5 ft.
Special Qualities:
Saves: Fortitude: +4, Reflex: +2, Will: +0
Abilities: STR 16 (+3), DEX 15 (+2), CON 13 (+1), INT 11 (+0), WIS 11 (+0), CHA 8 (-1)
Skills: Appraise 0; Balance 2; Bluff -1; Climb 7; Concentration 1; Craft (Untrained) 0; Diplomacy -1; Disguise -1; Escape Artist 2; Forgery 0; Gather Information -1; Handle Animal 0; Heal 2; Hide 3; Intimidate 0; Jump 5; Listen 0; Move Silently 2; Ride 2; Search 0; Sense Motive 0; Spot 1; Survival 1; Swim 5;
Feats: Armor Proficiency (Heavy), Armor Proficiency (Light), Armor Proficiency (Medium), Combat Reflexes, Martial Weapon Proficiency, Shield Proficiency, Simple Weapon Proficiency, Toughness, Tower Shield Proficiency, Two-Weapon Fighting, (one other)
Challenge Rating: 2
Alignment: Chaotic Good

Possessions: Chalk (4 pieces), Crocodile Tooth Necklace, Hooded Robe, Leather Armor, Leather Belt, Pouch (Belt), Dual Rusty Rapiers, Sandals, Whetstone, Dagger w/boot sheath, Semi-ornate sheath (empty), healing potion, (better) healing potion, potion with wavy lines, brown earth elemental gem

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Savage Tide Campaign Chronicle

Hi there, fellow roleplayers!

Today I’m starting a new feature, a Campaign Chronicle. These posts will detail the events that have transpired in actual games we’re running, as they happen. The first in this series is from a game I’m running for some friends. We’re playing Dungeon Magazine’s amazing Savage Tide adventure path. Here’s the events of the first two sessions as told by me and two of the players.

It should be noted that this post contains spoilers for Savage Tide’s first adventure: “There is no Honor”. If you don’t want to know what players may face in that adventure, don’t read on…

Of course, it all started for each of you in that alley in Shadowshore. It was midday and as fate would have it each of you was passing through as you tended to your day’s affairs. As is common in Shadowshore a merchant had set hit wares out to display there on the street, only to pack his illicit goods away and appear in another spot should too much scrutiny appear.

Today, in this alley, in the long shadow of the looming black basalt cathedral of Kord, the merchant was Morga “Blacklash” Harlis, slaver. A few shackled humanoids sat in the dirt of the alley at his feet, miserable and bearing the marks of his namesake. On a crate to Morga’sside stood a small cage, a rarer captive languished. At your approach, the slavemaster prodded the creature within and began barking out it’s virtues: “a tiny minstrel for your lady’s parlor! Sweet melodies to woo your woman! This tiny faery sings so sweet, for only 50 gold,” he shouts moistly.

For Pada Bata, your first glimpse of Blacklash makes your blood run cold. You pull your cowl closer about your scared face, remembering the sting of his whip as he brought you here to Sassarine from the inlands. You move to the other side of the alley and hope to pass by without being recognized as one of his that managed to escape. You can’t help stealing a glimpse at the other unfortunates he is selling today, hoping and also fearing to see a familiar face.

Morga begins extolling the faery’s virtues, and the tiny prodded thing begins to sing, accompanied by it’s tiny violin and a strange cricket-like chirping. The song is a mournful one from the first few notes, and your fear turns to pity. A you catch a glimpse of the poor thing and something startling happens: you rush up and, towering over your former master, confront him, demanding he release all these people.

Blacklash responds with threatening motions with his every-handy whip, words become louder, and violence ensues. A cage is broken. A man is relieved of his whip and left unconscious. None of you is too sure why you helped those slaves escape that day, but afterwards, you barely took time to acknowledge each other before you went your separate ways, hoping to slip away before Blacklash’s associates arrived.

News of the event made the rounds in the taverns for a few days, but then was mostly forgotten. Until each of you received a letter inviting you to the Vanderboren estate.


About a week after the fight in the market at Shadowshore, a messenger boy approached Dervish Swinton with a letter. The letter was from Mistress Lavinia Vanderboren of the Vanderboren Estate. Curiosity more than anything set Dervish’s feet towards the estate. An old serving woman greeted him at the front door and ushered him into the waiting area of the mansion interior. Dervish was slightly surprised to see the scarred face of the would-be hero who attacked the slavemaster in Shadowshore. The tiny faery minstrel was there too. And a shady looking fellow with cunning eyes who had also participated in the brawl at the slave market.

Shortly after making everyone’s acquaintance, a group of seasoned adventurers entered the room. One was obviously a warrior of some sort and seemed to be the leader. An attractive woman had the traits of a sorceress or magic-weaver. They introduced themselves as adventurers in the employ of Lavinia Vanderboren and then took leave of the guests. Dervish got the sense that they were on their way to board a vessel, destined for a formidable sea voyage.

The serving woman returned and escorted the guests into a Mistress Vanderboren’s office. Lavinia Vanderboren was a young woman. Her face had lines of worry etched on its attractive features. After making introductions, she revealed that her parents had recently died in a tragic fire aboard a new ship of theirs. The ship had been in the middle of the harbor when the fire had broken out. It burned to the waterline before the remains of the vessel had slipped beneath the waves.

Lavinia was now facing several problems in managing the financial affairs of the family. The Vanderboren’s only remaining seaworthy vessel was now impounded by the harbormaster. One of the harbormaster’s thugs was keeping a close eye on it and would not release the vessel until the fines owed on it were paid. Lavinia had sent the payment but the harbormaster’s people claimed to have not received it. To make matters worse, the rest of the family wealth resided into the Vanderboren section of the city vaults. The only way to access them was to use her parents’ signet rings. The one her mother had possessed was lost. Her father’s ring was kept on the ship that was currently impounded. The harbormaster would not allow Lavinia to board her father’s vessel to retrieve the ring.

The reason for this meeting was now clear. Lavinia needed the group’s help in getting her father’s ring back. She also wanted the group to find and reclaim the money she had sent as payment for the fines on the ship. After some haggling, Dervish negotiated a price that he thought was adequate for the job and agreed to sign on. The others accepted too.

Taking leave of Lavinia, Dervish and the others followed the serving woman to the mansion’s kitchen to plan out their next move.


*narration from my character Mo*

I wasn’t sure what to do with the letter. What could a wealthy noble want with a waif like me? Does she have a share in the slave trade? Is this a vengeance-motivated trap? Or could good deeds actually bear rewards? As one not too familiar with good deeds, either receiving or committing them, I had no real basis on which to rely. But I didn’t have much to lose other than my “life”–if that’s what you could call my existence– so I decided to take a chance. You can’t win anything if you don’t roll the dice. I showed up at the estate on scheduled next day, surprised to see familiar faces from the fiasco the day before.

Upon receiving our mission, and also being offered more gold than I’ve seen in my entire life, I decided that perhaps good deeds do pay off. I may consider that when future opportunities arise.

We decided to start first by snooping around the docks. The faerie-bug (whom I later found out was called a “grig”) hid on the rooftops while Dervish and I asked around. Dervish, the more personable one, did most of the talking while I kept my eyes on the ship, which lay only about fifty feet into the harbor. We saw armed guards milling about, but they didn’t seem to have any purpose. Dervish set us up as potential deck hands, and we were told to talk to the harbormaster’s main man, who could be found on the impounded ship. We stuffed the grig into my backpack and caught a gondola to the ship. The plan was to provide a distraction long enough for the grig to slip out and look around.

We came to the side of the ship and hailed the guards. We told them (quite truthfully I might add) that we had been advised that this was the place to come to look for jobs. Noticing the arms and armor of the deck hands, we improvised and posed as potential security. An ugly brute of a man, their leader and the harbormaster’s head of security, invited us aboard, albeit suspiciously, and questioned us further. He must have gone too long without bashing any heads in, because he proposed an interview for the position of guard. A physical interview. Now I’m not small, but I could tell this brute had at least fifty pounds on me. His thick arm reached for his rapier, probably unconsciously, but he then declared a fist fight. The guards gathered around, leering excitedly, eager for a little excitement on the sun-beat decks. Dervish and I looked at each other (and also noticed the grig slip out of the bag that I had conveniently put down outside of the circle of guards), and I stepped forward. I didn’t like this fatty looking down on me, and I wanted to take him down a notch.

I tossed aside my sword (though I still kept my hidden daggers… can never be too safe) and put up my fists. This man could easily overpower me, and he looked like he knew it. He walked towards me confident in his size, strength, and fighting experience. He had every reason to be smiling viciously… but he didn’t know that I grew up in Shadowshore. I learned to fight before I learned to talk. Though I favor blades, I’ve done whatever it takes to survive thus far. Bricks, planks, and fists have had to suffice more often than not. I began my fighting dance, staying on my toes, watching my opponent’s moves. The brute came forward lunging, as expected, and I easily side-stepped. He was quicker than he looked, but still not quick enough. After feeling him out, I warned him that I fight dirty. I had to remember that I wasn’t fighting for my life, that knocking him senseless and slitting his throat would not further our goals (well it might, but I’d also end up on the gallows). The cocky bastard ignored my warning and came at me quick. I feigned an opening, and when he came in as anticipated, I jabbed him in his unprotected side, right in the kidney. Though he’d probably pee blood for a few days, he recovered from the shock and kept his mind about him. After dancing a few more circles though, his pride got the better of him (he must have remembered that his crew was watching) and he came in strong again, attempting to knock me off my feet. I side-stepped again, and this time I clipped him on his throat.

Not being able to breathe has a way of taking the fight out of people, and this time was no exception. He ended the fight, both to my relief and distress. Playing off his defeat in a predictable manner, he said that we had some skill and that if we wanted work we should go to the harbormaster’s estate. Inwardly nervous, I noticed that the grig had still not returned. I coughed loudly to signal her, saying that the fight took more out of me than I thought. Dervish and I stalled for time by asking questions about the ship, about specific work opportunities, etc. It could only last for so long before the brute expected something though, so finally we shrugged resignedly and climbed down the rope ladder to the waiting gondola. Fortunately (I mean purposely… yes, purposely) I forgot my bag on the ship. The not serendipitous and completely pre-meditated act bought enough time for the faerie to return, and as I grabbed my bag and set out down the ladder again, she came running along the side of the boat and slipped into my bag unnoticed. Returning to the dock, we sat in the corner of a less-seedy-than-I’m-used-to tavern and listened to what the faerie learned.


Flush with our success in recovering the Vanderboren signet ring and Lady Lavinia’s platinum, we set out the next day to the city vaults. After recognizing Lavinia as the authorized executor of the Vanderboren estate, we were led to a round chamber underground with 12 passages spoking outwards. Down one of these spokes we came to a sealed door. Lavinia placed the signet ring against it and it opened for her. Inside was a dark room. Several pillars supported the main dome of this room. To each side were smaller open chambers with lower ceilings than the domed area.

The place was definitely trapped. Erring on the side of caution, we wedged one of Mo’s daggers under the open door to prevent it from shutting behind us and trapping us inside. Then we entered the room. In hindsight, the multitudinous snakes carved into the pillars should have been our first clue to the nature of the trap.

I was standing next to one of these pillars, shining my lantern around one of the smaller chambers when a metal snake creature slithered close to my leg and gave it a sharp bite. The pain was bad, but the burning sensation from its venom was worse. I could feel the strength leave my leg. I turned about and struck at it, but my rapier merely glanced off the creature’s metal hide with a loud clang. Mo joined in the attack but his weapon proved equally futile in penetrating the creature’s metallic hide. I retreated to just out of the creature’s striking range as my entire body began to burn and weaken from the spreading venom.

In a bold move, Flit moved right up to the creature’s face and attempted to fascinate it with her otherworldly music. Unfortunately, this serpent was not swayed by the strains of her song and instead bit her savagely. I could see the venom affect Flit as she dropped a couple of feet in altitude. Desperate, I yelled to Lady Lavinia, “See if your ring can stop this creature.” Mo added, “Try to command it!” Lady Lavinia, pointing the signet ring at the creature, firmly commanded the creature to desist.

Success! The creature ceased its attack. Lavinia then ordered the creature to return to its hole and guard against unauthorized entry. The metal snake slithered away.

We then spent several minutes searching this area for chests, lockers, or another door since there was no obvious sign of the family’s money. After some searching, Mo discovered a carving of another serpent with an extended tongue that was a sort of lever. Moving the lever triggered a column of intertwined snake carvings to part and form an arch, revealing a hidden portal to another room.

The next room was octagonal. Each face had a carving of a monster. We quickly realized that starting with the wall immediately to the left of the entrance, and proceeding in a clockwise fashion, each monster had successively one more eye. One eye, two eye, three eye, four, and then some more. In the center of the room was a wide pillar that descended from the ceiling to just a few inches above the floor. The ceiling had a symbol of a black 8-pointed star with one arm a crimson color. Rotating the central pillar moved the red arm of the star around the room. A cryptic note that had been found in the cabin of the Vanderboren ship gave us the clue we needed to solve this particular puzzle.

This chamber was a giant combination lock. We merely had to rotate the pointer to the correct number of eyes according to the note and we would open the safe. We did so and the back wall of the chamber opened to reveal several chests.

Unfortunately most of the chests had already been plundered! Lavinia was shocked. She quickly searched the vault and discovered that only a fraction of her wealth was unplundered. One piece of luck in our favor was that the accounting ledgers were still there. Lavinia collected those and prepared to leave. I searched behind some of the chests and found a partially sodden bag. Several broken vials lay inside it, their liquid contents had drenched the bag and given it a particularly floral scent. One vial remained unmolested.

Upon leaving the family vault, Lavinia questioned one of the employees of the city vault. She discovered to her astonishment that her estranged brother had been in the vaults some weeks ago with a signet ring that could only have belonged to their mother. It appeared that he had emptied the family coffers and then departed.

Once we returned to Lavinia’s manor, she entreated us to find her brother and tell him that she wishes to meet with him. After further questioning, it appeared that her brother was the black sheep of the family. As children, he and Lavinia had been very close. But after a prank they pulled had gotten them in deep trouble, they were separated by their parents. Lavinia was sent to a private school in another city and her brother was sent to a plantation on the outskirts of Sasserine. From there he had grown to be a despondent, angry youth who began running with some bad crowds. Lavinia had seen him last shortly after their parents death. By then she realized that a deep gap separated them from the bond they once had as children.

We searched her brother’s room in the manor and discovered only a mug that came from a favorite tavern near the plantation where her brother spent his early adolescence. We also discovered that he was frequently seen in one of the “red-light” districts of Sasserine. Our search would have to continue there.


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