Players: Daniel Coleman (Amman), Neil McClean (Gellis Tarn), Graham Reynolds (Bruce)
Date: 15 July 2008
Zethusday, 20 Geomyr 1082 PS
The word had been put out that Baron Sarlan, a noble green dragonborn with very deep pockets, is looking for a handful of proficient (yet expendable) individuals to perform a small service for him. Answering the call, are three suspicious types from Karrish’Mhor’s Guild of Mercenaries. They are the stalwart fighter, Bruce; a tiefling cleric of Tiamat named Amman; and Gellis, an elven ranger with a surprising turn of speed.
Amman, Bruce and Gellis attend an interview with Baron Sarlan and his heavily armed minders. The baron is a gaunt and sinister individual, confident in his power and the protection afforded by his position. And if such things are not a sufficient barrier to prevent these mercenaries from acting against him, he has a real one too: a screen of magical force that divides the room, cutting Bruce, Gellis and Amman off from the baron and his guards.
Sarlan explains that there are two matters that require attention. Firstly, and more urgently, a shipment that he was expecting has gone missing somewhere in the Darkenmere. He wants the group to venture out in to the swamp and, using a map he will provide, track down what happened to the delivery and recover the item. Secondly, there is something else hidden in the Undercity that also needs to be found and returned to him. The baron will give the group the details when, or if, they complete the first task.
Sarlan expects the mission to be dangerous, but then the Darkenmere is always dangerous. Importantly he is prepared to pay well for results. It is obvious from Sarlan’s turn of phrase and his mannerisms, that the mission at hand is neither safe nor entirely above board. However, to members of the Mercenaries Guild morality has its own exchange rate, and the promised remuneration is more than enough to assuage any doubts the trio may have.
Once they have agreed to conduct the first mission, Baron Sarlan gives them more details. The item that they must recover is an iron bound chest belonging to the Royal House of Mhor. He stresses that under no circumstances should the party open the chest or attempt to discover what is inside it. Doing so would be a breach of contract, and would have serious repercussions. Gellis assures the baron that they won’t open it. The contents of the box, or why Sarlan wants it are entirely immaterial to them. It’s all just part of the job.
The interview at an end the baron departs (undoubtedly to take a bath and wash the stink of dealing with riff-raff from his body). Taking the map, the party head off to Bartertown to hire a boat and gather supplies for their mission. Gellis feels confident that he can read the map and navigate his way through the Darkenmere. He is a swamp elf after all, the Darkenmere is in his blood (as well as being in his hair, and on his breath).
The transaction in Bartertown does not go off smoothly. The group are accosted by a band of hin street toughs who want to relieve our trio of their purses and their lives. A short and furious fight occurs, that leaves most of the hin dead and the rest running for their lives through the city. Patting themselves on the back and feeling suitably smug at their own powers, the group complete their business and punt their way out of the city.
Amman cautions against over confidence, and dumps a small amount of gold into the murky water to appease his goddess. Neither Bruce or Gellis see the sense in wasting so much potential toad and dreamweed. What sort of nut-job is this guy? Amman sighs, and enlightens his companions on the theosophy behind his faith.
When it comes to the career of “priesting” the most important thing a clergyman can do is keep a low profile: especially if his god is Tiamat. Amman doesn’t worship Tiamat to exult the goddess, or carry her word to the faithless. He worships Tiamat to appease her. Tiamat is such a horrible and destructive god, that Amman thinks the only sensible thing to do is to always be on the right side of her. His actions and his constant sacrifices to her glory, will hopefully mean that she passes him over when she gets around to destroying the world. Either that or he will be the last one up against the wall when the body-count starts rising.
They journey through the swamp for the entire afternoon, until they reach a part of the swamp that their boat cannot traverse. It is a area of solid land. Heaving to and jumping out Gellis says that if they want to continue to follow Sarlan’s map then they will have to carry the boat across the dry land. Amman quickly gets out and instructs Bruce and Gellis on how best to lift the boat.
The swamp’s vegetation is thick here, and the place is obviously full of life. Most of which seems to want to annoy, eat or simply terrify the travellers. Gellis realises something is going on before the other members of the group. Three running drakes (megaraptors) burst out of the growth and attack. Each member of the group immediately falls back on his tried and tested combat strategies.
Amman steps back, allowing Bruce to place himself between the raptor and the cleric. Bruce draws his sword and gets ready for the sort of one-on-one combat that he enjoys so much. Gellis lets fly with a couple of arrows and then legs it. Two of the raptors run off in pursuit. This is not a tactic Bruce has seen before, but he’ll see it quite frequently in any future battle with Gellis.
The ranger runs and shoots and runs. Most enemies can’t keep up with him and get peppered with arrows from a distance. Unfortunately, these raptors are not most enemies and seem to be more than able to keep up and to take large chunks out of Gellis while doing so. Gellis badly wounds both raptors and then, after a lengthy chase doubles back to his companions.
Meanwhile, Bruce has been doing much better. After all he only has one to worry about, and also has Amman’s magic to keep him standing. The matter is slightly complicated by the arrival of a swarm of needletooth drake what were probably the original quarry of the raptors. However, the return of Gellis succeeds in frightening them off. With Bruce’s help, all three raptors are killed. Actually, Bruce kills them while the other two stand and watch.
More than a little worse for wear, Gellis proposes getting the boat to the deep water on the other side of the island and camping there for the night. He slings his hammock high in a tree, in case any more drakes return and goes to sleep. The party spend a uneventful evening being slowly eaten by mosquitoes the size of canaries.
Sunday, 21 Geomyr 1082 PS
In the morning, our heroes press on again. Gellis still confident that they are heading in the right direction. They keep their eyes open for crocodiles and other horrors of the swamp, but the morning passes uneventfully. It is only after lunch that everything starts to go south.
As the day wears on the trio are gripped by the sensation that they are being watched. Eventually, Gellis spotted a couple of menacing goblins hiding in the reeds close to where the boat would pass. Some goblins are friendly to travellers. These are not; they are hordelings: goblins from foreign lands who have made their home in the Darkenmere. Gellis decides to play it safe and shoots both goblins from a distance.
He hits one and the other scampers away. Unfortunately, these way were only a distraction for the main event and somehow the party is terribly surprised by an ambush that they all saw coming. A great sense of timing, these goblins.
The ensuing fight is brutal and far from swift. A horde of the little bleeders charges the boat across the shallow water of the swamp. Some throw spears. Gellis quickly leaps out of the boat and climbs a near-by tree so he can snipe from safety. Amman takes a spear in the gut and falls over in the boat. Bruce hefts his sword and charges the goblins, deciding that the best place to be is in the middle of his enemies.
For a while the outcome is in doubt, but eventually the mercenaries are both victorious and alive, which is considered something of a bonus. Once they force him back to consciousness, Gellis and Bruce torment Amman until he provides sufficient healing magic for them all. Gellis says that they are not too far from the desitination indicated on the map. However, it is only about an hour before dusk. They might as well press on and take a look at it.
Again they have to leave the boat tied to a tree, and move in on foot. The ground here isn’t really what you would call solid, but the water isn’t deep and the trees are growing so close together that would be impossible to bring the boat through. By the dying light of the sun, the trio come across a lagoon ringed by trees, mangroves and scrub. In the centre of the lagoon is a boat, or at least the remains of one. It is half-submerged in the water, and is in the process of being recovered.
Undead creatures – zombies, probably – are putting their slimy muscles to the task of lifting the boat. They are supervised by two other unliving horrors, who have a glimmer of dark intelligence in their burning red eyes. The companions look at one another. This boat is their target. The chest they are looking for is within. It seems that if they want their prize they will have to fight for it.