Delivery From Evil
17 November 2010
Starring: Adrian (Hector III), INdran (Ariel), Marc (Eradina Darkwood), Neil (Durral)
Caladay, 18 Gentle Days 205 LE
At dawn the party decide that enough is enough and the time has come to open the box. Durral examines the artefact carefully searching along its smooth length for anything that might resemble a lid or a lock. Hector opines that it is obviously a magical box, and it will take more that five minutes of long-fingered tomfoolery to gain entry. He hasn’t finished speaking by the time Durral has undone the latch and is sliding the lid off.
Inside the box, and wrapped very carefully to keep it from moving about is a large opalescent sphere roughly a foot in diameter. It looks like a giant pearl of some sort, although Ariel says that it is much more than that. A cursory look with the detect magic spell reveals strong divination magicks. Durral, who is holding the orb looks over his shoulder to the sea. What would happen if they did get it wet?
The conversation bats back and forth, but in the end they decide to wrap the thing up and carry on hoofing it south to Ellasensa. Durral seems a little disappointed.
South of the Wall, Daukoth is transformed. It is no longer a verdant tropical paradise, but a land of rock and sand and mangroves that stretches out into the Sasheenie . This is a fractured land, divided into hundreds of tiny islets, and at the mercy of the tides. Areas of solid land disappear at certain times of the day, and even the land that is high enough to survive the tides is cut through with shallow salt water channels: an easy avenue for ocean predators to approach the shore.
It is not long before the party get a glimpse of such a monster. A huge predatory whale perhaps fifty feet in length drifts past them in the clear water. It is a peculiar thin beast, sleek but still ill-adapted for the narrow channels. Its presence makes the occasional wading between areas of higher ground all the more dangerous. Halfway across one channel the party are alarmed by the chatter of tree-dwelling monkeys announcing the approach of danger. Eradina is about to throw the box in the water and draw her axe, until she realises it is not the beast but Ariel’s crocodile companion, Rippersnapper, returning to his mistress.
A little later the party comes face to face with its first obstacle. Their route through high ground takes them across a small sand-bank and across a wide but narrow channel and onto the rocky beach beyond. The tide is coming in and the sand bank will disappear in a few hours. This would not be a problem, but for two things. Firstly the whale is circling the area, and would have no issue in attacking them as they tried to cross the channel. Secondly, the reason for the whale’s appearance is a trapped brontothere in the middle of the sand-bank.
The amphibious, rhino-sized creature had evidently been trapped on the sandbank by the whale that is now waiting for the tide to recede. Ariel says that brontothere’s are notoriously violent creatures, and one in such a state of agitation will only be marginally less dangerous to the party than the whale. She doesn’t fancy her chances of calming the creature.
Time is not on the side of the group, and they discuss their course of action. Eradina is not surprised when Hector announces that he has no magic that will get them out of their current predicament. But Ariel notices something. The whale is not particularly patient. It is making a number of runs at the sand-bank trying to get at its meal. Even though the brontothere can (for the moment at least) easily evade such clumsy attacks, they are enacted with such vigour that the whale is in danger of grounding itself. Ariel says that they need to pick their moment, and then make a run for it.
By any standard, it’s an appalling plan. However, with nothing better on offer the group decides they’ll give it whirl. Hector is confident that he’ll be able to outrun Eradina while she’s carrying the box, after all.
Soon the moment is upon them. The whale makes a rush at the beach that is so violent, that it beaches itself on the sandbank. As the great beast tries to fidget itself back into the water, the party charge across the sand bank. The brontothere, which retreated from the attack of the whale, sees them coming and immediately interprets them as another attack.
Hector and Ariel manage to dodge nimbly across and get to the water on the far side. The slow-moving Eradina makes more of a target. Fortunately, Durral is on hand to distract the brontothere. Bouncing a rock off the beast’s forehead he draws the massive herbivore toward him.
Eradina stares in disbelief as Durral runs at full-pelt toward the charging brontothere in a game of chicken that can only end with Durral as little more than a damp smudge on the sand. But Durral has a plan. Using his uncanny acrobatics, he intends to somersault over the beast wrong-footing it and dashing to safety. It is a bold plan, and one that immediately fails.
Mistiming his leap, Durral instead jumps straight into the waiting horns of the brontothere. His three companions watch has he is catapulted several dozen feet into the air, and lands on the far side of the sandbank with only his chin to break his fall. Eradina scampers over, picks up the unconscious Durral in the arm that isn’t carrying the lead-lined box and proceeds to wade across the channel to join her fleet friends.
She just manages to get across before the whale frees itself, and drops her burdens to the ground. She leaves Ariel to pump some of Thotik’s healing potion into the acrobatically-challenged rogue. Once revived, Durral seems more disappointed than traumatised.
After recovering from their near-death experience, and noting that if they were being followed by the red kobold, he can’t possibly be following them now, the party continue their journey south. It is not long before the next obstacle is upon them.
Further down the beach, the sand looks as though it is moving. A closer inspection by reveals that it is heaving with thousands upon thousands of crabs. The swarm seems to be picking over the remains of a number of humanoid figures who are lying sprawled on the beach. The ravenous little creatures are too busy to notice the approach of the party, but they are acting as a barrier to further progress.
Hector smiles an oily smile and says that this time he has the means to rescue them from their predicament. Rummaging in his becoming man-bag he produces a tattered scroll that seems to have seen better days. The wizard reveals that this is a scroll of fireball that he has been keeping for just such an emergency. Normally he wouldn’t be able to cast such potent magicks, but he thinks he can summon up enough of a boom to deal with these crabs.
While the rest of his companions take shelter behind some rocks, Hector unrolls the scroll and successfully casts the incantation. It is, without doubt, the least impressive ball of fire that anyone has ever seen. A burst of flame barely strong enough to light a barbecue engulfs the carnivorous crab swarm. Fortunately, they are very small crabs, and the blast is enough to pan-fry the lot of them. Smugly aware that he has not only destroyed their foes but also provided a wholly superior midday meal, Hector hoists his staff onto his shoulder and swaggers in the direction of the bodies.
It becomes quickly clear that the bodies on the beach were not killed by crabs. Although now slightly charred it is still obvious that these are the bodies of nenedhel, or sea elves. Although amphibious they seldom venture onto land, and these seem to have come read for battle. They are wearing coral armour, and carrying an assortment of deadly weapons: short swords, tridents and crossbows. Eradina crouches down and picks up one of the corals. All of the weapons are coated in a form of alchemical silver. What were these creatures coming to fight?
Durral is checking the bodies more closely. Each sea-elf has been disembowelled by some sort of heavy bladed weapon, possibly an axe of some kind. It is then he hears a groan. It seems that one of the elves has survived the axe-attack, the crabs and Hector’s fireball. Ariel has heard it too, and she is helping a female nenedhel to sit up. And application of Thotik’s healing potion later and she is ready to speak.
The sea-elf is called Amendra, and she and her five companions had come to shore to do battle with a terrible devil. “The monster had been responsible for the murder of many of kin, including by brother Cassim. We discovered that it is bound to the old tower on the island of Ellasensa and cannot leave it for long. We thought that we had the numbers to face it. What brings you this far south?”
The party exchange worried looks. Eradina makes an executive decision to tell Amendra everything. She explains the mission to the tower, and the delivery that they have been commissioned to make. Amendra is shocked. “I know nothing about the Wayfarer, yet I would not have suspected he was a devil-worshipper.”
Eradina says that she wouldn’t have thought that either, and shows Amendra the contents of the metal box. Amendra immediately knows what is within. “This is an Sashelan seeing-stone,” she explains. “How did you come by one?”
The party shrugs amiably.
“The seeing stones,” Amendra continues, “are gifts from Sashelas. They warn us of danger and threats even if they are far away. Of course, they do not work in the open air.”
Taking the hint, Eradina picks up the stone and before anyone can stop her she dunks it in the surf. As the sea water covers the stone, she, Amendra and the rest of the party are struck down by a profound and disturbing vision.
Each finds themselves standing back in the Old Village. The white mansion house is burning, and the village is village with dark-skinned assassins who are indiscriminately slaughtering villages. Thotik is fighting them, armed with a sword in each hand, but all seems quite lost. In the sky there is a celestial alignment. Two stars shine brightly in a circle of seven other stars. And then the vision is over.
There is confusion, although Eradina is fairly sure of what he saw. “It was a vision of the future,” Amendra confirms. Hector agrees. The two stars in the centre of the circle were Khirad and Zhudun: both harbingers of doom. They do seem to be moving into alignment, although they are not there yet. A worry for the future and not for now. Hector makes a mental note to be very far away from Daukoth when this celestial alignment occurs.
“You cannot take this stone to the devil,” says Amendra simply. “It needs to be returned to the delphions of Sashelas. I can return it, if you will permit it.”
Eradina is all for this. She thinks the party should take the empty box to the Tower, entice out the devil and then kill it with the silver weapons that the dead sea-elves left behind. Then they’ll head back across the island and have things out with Thotik. Durral isn’t entirely sure that they have the power to take on a devil, even with all these silver weapons. After all, they didn’t do the elves much good. Ariel sides with Eradina in this matter, they can’t suffer a devil to live even if it means Eradina’s untimely death. Hector thinks the world has gone mad. His spells won’t work on a devil, which largely reduces his combat effectiveness to one wooden stick.
The decision made, Amendra thanks the party. She sounds a little ashamed when she says that she cannot help them against the devil, although more nenedhel will come to collect the bodies of their fallen comrades. The sea-elf then departs leaving the party with an empty box (which is just as heavy) to lug to the tower.
An hour later they have waded their way out to Ellasensa. It is a barren, rocky island no more than a few feet above sea level and a few hundred yards in length. It is testament to Hadradan engineering that the Tower has stood for as long as it is. It is a windowless cylindrical tower, standing about a hundred feet in height. The exterior walls would once have been covered in the intricate iconography that is common in Hadradan architecture, but that has long since been worn away by the elements. There is no door, but one large open archway at ground level. The interior is dark.
The increasingly alert group move as furtively as they can into the interior. There are no floors above them, only a stone ceiling high above with a single hole in its centre that would once have been covered by a trap door. The ground floor is suspiciously clear of detritus. In the middle is a round dais, about ten feet across. At the centre in an indentation that seems the exact dimensions of the box that Eradina carries. The dais is surrounded by a foot-wide moat, filled with a strange off-pink viscous liquid.
Approaching the dais they notice a small idol stands in front of it. The icon is carved from coral and depicts a monstrous shark. Ariel recognises this. It is a representation of the barbarous sahuagin god, Sekolah. Its placement here only deepens the mystery.
Standing well away from the altar, Durral, Ariel and Hector watch Eradina move forward. She steps over the moat, drops the box on the altar and then jumps back. The moat begins to ripple and hands that seems to be made of liquid flesh extend from it and try to grab Eradina. Fortunately, she is already out of range. Unfortunately, a dark shadow has fallen across the party. They turn and see standing in the door that creature that made such short work of the sea-elves.
The creature that stands before them is seven feet high with fetid green skin, and elongated mockery of a face filled with uneven teeth. A sickly beard matted with filth and woven with jagged razors hangs over its hunched torso. It’s limbs are long and end in vicious claws, and in its hand is a saw-toothed glaive that it swings with worrying precision.
It smiles at the group. “Prepare yourselves,” it urges. Puzzled by the creature’s sense of fair-play the party quickly make what preparations they can before battle is joined. The fight does not start well.
Eradina charges the beast only to be impaled on the glaive and flung aside. Durral ducks under the weapon but his attack is singularly unimpressive. Hector fumbles with the silver quarrels, and quickly uses his crossbow to pepper the walls. Ariel makes use of a potion to wake up Eradina, who leaps back into the fight.
Using Durral as a distraction, Eradina closes into mêlée range and scores a palpable hit. The devil drops his glaive and fillets Eradina with his claws, finishing with a ostentatious sweep of the head that draws his wicked beard across the diminutive paladin’s body. She falls to the floor again.
The battle now settles into a familiar pattern of Eradina wounding the beast, being almost killed and then being revived by Ariel as Durral distracts the beastie and Hector demonstrates his utter lack of skill with the crossbow. It’s touch and go whether the devil’s resolve will run out before Thotik’s healing potions, but in the end Eradina prevails and the devil is despatched.
As he falls Ravnos gives a whoop of triumph, as if he was really quite pleased that he was defeated. His body then explodes in hellfire almost killing everyone.
Morday, 20 Gentle Days 205 LE
After an uneventful trip back across the island, the party return to the Wayfarer’s Mansion in the Old Village. They are standing in Thotik’s plush study, and wayfarer has just spent the last five minutes listening to all the nasty things that Eradina has to say about him. It’s infuriating that he is still grinning.
“I’m not a devil-worshipper,” he says simply, “and I am glad that none of you were killed. If you want to know any more then you have a decision to make.” He opens his desk draw and retrieves four heavy pouches that he throws onto the table.
“There’s 250 sestiri in each of those bags,” the Wayfarer continues. “You can take it and our association ends here. You take the money and you leave Daukoth – I can get you on a ship to Crimstott. You can live in the lap of luxury for as long as it lasts…. but you never come back to this island. If you don’t take the money then you can stay here, you can hear what I have to say and you’ll work for me. I promise you that I’m not the bad guy here. I only want to protect this place. What’s it to be?”
There’s something in Thotik’s manner than induces the party to accept his proposition. Hector takes a while longer to warm to the idea to the others, and he has the bag of gold in his hand and is halfway out of the door before he changes his mind. Assurances that he will never have to work with Eradina again are required to assuage his misgivings.
Thotik puts all the gold back in his drawer, pours the party a drink and begins his tale. He says: “The creature Ravnos came to Daukoth months ago. It said that it had a force of devils under its command and it would refrain from wiping out all life on the island if I was to provide him with certain items. I don’t like being blackmailed, but I needed more time to assess Ravnos’s power, and also figure out who he was working for. Someone summoned him, and I still don’t know who. Now I may never know.”
“The items the creature wanted were all foretelling devices of some sort. The Sasheenie Seeing Stone – which I bought on the open market, and didn’t steal incidentally – as just the latest in a long line. I sent a box of Aegir casting stones, a very nice set of gub-gub sticks…. you know the sort of thing.”
“Of course, I’m concerned about why these items were wanted in the first place and I’m still looking into that. It doesn’t bode well for the island and I’m going to get to the bottom of it, and not you’re going to help me. Won’t that be fun?”
Welcome to Taratega!