A Necessary Alliance

Earning Favors/First Descent

Durog follows the mysterious summoning to the furthest end of the city, arriving at a faceless, doorless tower. While inspecting it, a shimmering outline forms on the outside of the pillar revealing a new passage inside, allowing the runaway to enter. Carefully making his way up the steps he first sees strange equipment, equipment that reminded him of his former captors. Next his gaze falls upon a female figure in ornate garb seated facing away from him. She bids him to approach and introduces herself as Amara Greystaff and that being the only mage for miles around, sensed the presence of another user of the craft no matter how minor. She then inquires how Durog came across his skills. It is decided that the best way to get the whole story if for the sorceress to cast a spell into the orphan’s mind and once the tale is gleaned, Amara apologizes for the cruelty of Durog’s former master and vows to show him a better path to power…once certain tasks are accomplished of course. She provides him with a proper spellbook and asks him to enlist his traveling companions to assist in retrieving a small box left behind in the barrows just outside the city. He is given the description of the diminutive black and red metal coffer with strict instructions not to open it. The normally sullen apprentice seems truly thankful for this outreach and asks one last favor. He knows not where his companions might be. The lean and lithe enchantress rises from her seat, towering over Durog and quite possibly even his paladin companion. She asks for a personal effect from one of them. He digs out a dagger given to him by C’haill and after a short incantation their location is revealed. The other three are in the city’s gaol. Durog sighs and sets off to remedy this turn of events.

Hours earlier, as Durog met his new preceptor, Alexandre, C’haill and Gruntu find themselves standing over the dead bodies of Vinepul Margali and most of The Order of the Griffon. Gruntu takes a quick moment to relieve Vinepul of his possessions when suddenly the order member who was spared cries out “Murder!”, which brings the city guard running. The lot of them are arrested as Alexandre tries to make it known that he is not in fact a half orc, taking out his fake teeth. They tell their side of the story and despite the paladin and the others’ protests, they are taken to the city’s jail and placed into holding cells while the surviving member of The Order of the Griffon is escorted elsewhere. After a time a woman in gold trimmed flowing white robes enters the cellblock and asks to speak with them. She identifies herself as a priestess of the goddess, Melik, the patron of truth. She speaks to each of them in turn. Alexandre, who has become withdrawn from the turn of events, sheepishly agrees to be truthful and begins to tell the diviner the story of the Order’s deception and begs his questioner to understand that he is an honorable warrior and would never deceive her. She has a slight look of surprise followed by a furrowed brow before speaking. She tells them she must now speak with the sole survivor of the order before rendering a final decision. She asks them to be patient and departs.

Durog arrives at the prison and after casting invisibility, creeps around inside the cell block and makes his presence known to his companions. Before a plan can be hatched, the priestess of Melik returns and demands that the men be set free. Their words have been given the ring of truth and the member of the order found to be a liar. Alexandre and C’haill are freed immediately but Gruntu was found with the possessions of Vinepul on him when arrested and carries the additional charge of corpse robbing. Gruntu finds the fine unacceptable and decides to wait out his sentence. The priestess informs the others that their presence has been requested by city administrator and vassal to Lord Sulescu, Declan Marley. The druid and paladin reunite with Durog after they are released and after weighing their options, decide to visit Marley first.

Declan Marley, a handsome and imposing older fellow, apologizes for their brief incarceration and asks where their fourth is. They explain the situation and the vassal becomes enraged, saying that he set no conditions upon the party’s release and sends a man off to the prison to have Gruntu liberated. In the meantime he speaks highly of the party’s revealing of The Order of the Griffon’s deception and that the people need heroes. The blow to the city’s morale would be too much to lose the force that they felt offered them protection without someone rising to stand in their place. He offers them paid employment as protectors of the city but is interrupted by Alexandre who explains that they already have jobs. Declan tells him that this is far more glorious…and better paid. The party agrees and Marley tells them of their first task. Attacks against the city have been emanating from the Barrows of Marduk which lie not far outside the city’s walls. They are tasked with clearing the barrows so that mining and other production can resume there. The vassal explains that horse and carriage will be arranged when the party is ready and bids them adieu.

The party returns to the gaol just in time to see Gruntu released and inform him of the task ahead. He reminds them that the dwarf they stood up for at the inn made an offer of weapons and they agree to head there. They follow the instructions given to them to the address of “Weapons by Rudrik”, the faint image of the name “Roger” has clearly been scrubbed from the door recently. Inside they find the now jovial dwarf who again thanks them for their kindness and offers them a choice of mastercrafted weapons from his stock. Amidst small talk, their destination is revealed and Rudrik asks a favor of them. Would they bring back some adamantine ore from the barrows? If a sufficient amount is brought back he offers to craft for them weapons that could carry an enchantment if brought to the right source. They agree and set off to the office of Declan Marley to retrieve the promised horse and cart.

Declan’s word is kept, the party finds the horse and carriage available for them as the arrive at the vassal’s abode. They make haste to pack their provisions and set off to the barrows beyond the city walls. A short time later they find themselves at the mouth of the only known entrance into the barrows, a cave on a slight decline, heading downwards. With Alexandre at the fore, the partly carefully heads into the caverns. Coming to a ledge, the party attempts to scale down a rope over a small drop. Durog and Gruntu have no trouble navigating the passage but Alexandre and C’haill come tumbling down, falling hard on the cavern floor below. After dusting themselves off and assuming a marching order they decide to head east towards a sizable expanse in the near distance. C’haill sends her bat companion, Ialtag, into the space to scout. It barely flutters back after being wounded inside. It warns the druid of danger before the hidden attackers are revealed. Four gnolls attack the party but prove no match for their might. Looting their lair, the party finds ten thousand silver pieces and 13 unknown liquids in various vials and beakers. Heading back towards their point on ingress, they decide to continue downwards before exploring the western side of the barrows. The steeper decline proves less of a challenge and the party makes their way down to the next landing. Heading west, they march for a time before coming to another large opening in the barrows, this one appears to be empty. Gruntu doesn’t trust this and fires a flaming arrow into the room. It illuminates the carrion crawler hiding on the ceiling and the creature begins to move down the wall to advance on them. After taking some pot shots at it , they move to engage the beast and through repeated hammering on the head and body and great physical cost, bring the large armored insect down. The party decides to make camp to heal and replenish spells before moving on hours later. Heading downwards, Gruntu attaches his grappling hook to the rope to help ease his companions’ way. This serves it’s purpose as the decent directly into the next underground pocket, the lair of the carrion crawler which after the sludge is sorted through, yields a shield, an amulet, a vial of liquid and a sealed tube.

After inventorying their new finds they once again head further down into the barrow. The grappling hook fails its purpose as Alexandre and Ch’aill tumble once more into a darkened cavern. Alexandre dusts himself off and sees an orange glow coming from the opposite side of what turns out to be an enormous chamber. An investigation reveals a number of small beings huddled something hidden by their numbers. Once they get close enough, the beings are snapped out of their trance. It is sixteen goblins but their eyes blaze with coral flame. They immediately advance on the party and a brutal skirmish begins. It looks grim at first, the party seems overwhelmed by the sheer numbers but heroic efforts by Gruntu and Alexandre bring the fight to an end just as the party begins to succumb to their wounds. Potions, healing spells and Alexandre’s faith based healing are all that save the assemblage from total ruin. The spoils of their effort however are grand; a fine sword, a number of sling bullets and two hundred platinum pieces.

Another rest session follows out of necessity before they move on, ascending to the first level of the barrows to continue their exploration. Though C’haill and Alexandre suffer on the rope, they make it to their goal without serious injury. Heading westward, they spy another large open area ahead. A horrible gurgling, snorting sound emanates from it. Durog decides that now that his involvement in the craft has been revealed, he might as well use his newfound powers. Casting invisibility once he is beyond sight, he sneaks into the cavern to find an ogre passed out on a bed of filthy but coin laden straw. Drawing his dagger and moving slowly, he edges towards the bed. The ogre does not stir at his approach and Durog takes the opportunity given to him and slits the ogre’s throat.

Calling to the others, the budding mage begins picking the few gems he can see out of the disgusting straw mat. The others arrive and begin to help stripping the room of its valuables. The coins collected, though not all familiar to them, hold tremendous value and they are packed away before moving on to the next chamber beneath them. This next chamber is explored first by Ialtag who reports no threat. What a bat constitutes as not a threat is revealed as the chamber, once descended into, floods with nearly a hundred common bats. C’haill, who had gone in first, is overwhelmed by the throng of flying mammals. The druid searches her memory for a spell and casts entangle. The sparse brush on the cavern floor begins to swell and grow, wrapping many of the bats within its expanse. The shrieking of the immobilized ones warns the others to retreat and the cloud of creatures make flight for the high ceiling. Once cleared, the expanse yields no wealth so after a nearly hidden decline is uncovered, they move along. C’haill once again leads the way, her eyes seeking the presence of heat in the cold dark. She begins to hear something but her infravision reveals no correlating presence. Sneaking around further she spies a skeleton which turns to advance on her, she turns to run and rejoins the others with a warning. The others gird themselves for battle when a dwarf stumbles out of the darkness, his hands raised. They try to speak

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Rats in the stew

En route to Sulescu, the captain of The Lioness, Weela Nysis, pays a late night visit to the cabin of Alexandre. Pushing her way in, she begins to initiate a saucy conversation which is entirely misunderstood by Alexandre who continues the conversation not realizing the inferred meaning in his words. Delighted by what she supposes is a man more sexually adventurous than any she has known, she drops her bodice and begins to advance on the paladin. Alexandre makes it known that there is a terrible misunderstanding and that he is not ready for this. She had found him in the midst of prayer. She caresses his face, calls him a sweet boy and heads for the door. He stops her with an offer to pray together and says it’s ok if they keep their tops off. Weela, long since tired of the men of her crew, takes the bait and remains to pray with Alexandre. What she did not count on was an instantaneous connection to the lore of Jerndame, she finds herself completely drawn in by the sincerity of the paladin’s prose and plans are made to explore the faith further after landfall.

A few nights later The Lioness makes dock at Sulescu. Weela thanks Alexandre for opening her eyes to Jerndame and pledges to continue her spiritual journey before the group disembarks from the ship. No sooner than they have left the dock, Gruntu spies a wanted poster with approximate drawings of all their faces. In the weeks since their initial capture, most of their appearances had changed quite a bit and therefore were generally unconcerned about being recognized, Alexandre’s stature notwithstanding. Gruntu also pointed out that it was a slaver’s bounty and not a true wanted poster and therefore anyone trying to detain them would be met with the utmost resistance. As the party discussed this new development, the sound of a large bell cut through the morning air. Locals began shuffling out of their houses and heading towards the center of town, many have livestock in tow. Durog finds higher ground and observes a marketplace being assembled in the town square, animals being bought, traded and sold. After determining that the bell meant no threat, the party heads over to the local inn, The Dolphin, to rent rooms for the evening.

There, the owner of the Dolphin, Deet, offers the giant paladin a job helping out with security. The others offer their skills as well and both Durog and C’haill manage to secure employment; Durog redesigning a more sturdy buttress for the building and C’haill in the kitchen. While there they learn of Sulescu’s curfew, in place because of a spate of vampire attacks inside the city as well as the existence of werewolves outside the city walls. Early in the evening a dwarf enters the bar, the sighting is unusual as this is the first demihuman they have seen . The locals take to heckling the diminutive man, calling him “Roger” and patting him upon the head. A scuffle ensues with the party giving defense to the dwarf and for having given him respect, learns his true name: Rudrik and earns the promise of dwarven crafted weapons.

At one point in the evening Alexandre is approached by a shady individual who introduces himself as Louie…“Lucky” Louie. The thief explains that the paladin’s stature is sure to attract attention to the bounties posted around town and that, for a fee, a real disguise could be arranged for him and what Louie assumes, his companions as well. Alexandre is given an address and a time…a time after nightfall. True to the cutpurse’s words, a gang of drunks identify Alexandre and attempt to subdue him. The attempt is spoiled by Gruntu driving his sword through the head of the lead assailant. The other attackers panic and beat a hasty retreat and Durog, disgusted by the attention the party is bringing upon itself, leaves the inn and heads towards the nearest tavern, The Spar, for distraction.

While Alexandre, C’haill and Gruntu endure the inevitable investigation by the city militia, Durog finds himself in a bar full of sailors, smoke, and rum and scans the room until he finds a suitable companion and makes his play. It is successful and the pair head towards a ship on the dock for more privacy. After the rest of the party is cleared in the bounty incident they head out into the night, against the advice of their employer. While en route to their secret destination they run into a group of armed warriors, outfitted with stakes and silver. Their leader, Vinepul Margali, steps forward and identifies them as The Order of the Griffon and warn that it is unsafe on the streets after dark. After admonishing the party, they move along to seek their prey. The party makes its way to the address given them and find what appears to be an abandoned building. Louie makes himself known and ushers them inside through a secret door before beginning the work of disguising them all.

After the work is done and the rogue paid, the now fully disguised party steps out into the night. Only a small handful of moments pass before the night is pierced with a horrible scream. Alexandre, now dressed as a half-orc, tears off at top speed to investigate. What he sees confuses him at first. The members of The Order of the Griffon all crouch around a newly slain corpse, some making puncture marks in neck of the victim while the others empty the pockets of the unfortunate soul. C’haill and Gruntu arrive on the scene as the Order attempts to talk their way out of the situation. After that fails, swords are drawn and the Order finds themselves overpowered by the righteous fury of the giant holy warrior and his companions. All lay slain save one. A few blocks away, Durog finds his evening with the anonymous pirate come to an end and slips off the ship as his fling slept. Straightening his coat, he hears a forceful female voice in his head, beckoning him to come. Whether it is through curiosity or compulsion, Durog finds himself following the summons.

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An offer rejected

With Alexandre at the helm of the Windswift, the vessel makes dock at Fletcher Island and make their way towards Korsakov Tower. Along the way they run into some slovenly soldiers guarding a warehouse who point them up the hill with little more than grunts. Upon reaching the tower, the party makes the acquaintance of the corrupt guardsman in charge of Korsakov Tower, Myslek Byormyn; a man so distasteful he nearly oozed grease. After the assemblage hands over Red Razor, Durog feels his business is concluded and leaves immediately, heading towards the dock. Myslek addresses the others and tells them that he cares not for the sword and desired only to take it away from Ruza. At first he even offers them the sword but asks that they help him with dealing with the Makai tribe, an all female band of warriors, who refuse to submit to his rule. C’haill is most forceful in her rejection of the idea, though the others concur as well. Myslek disgusted with their answer, snatches the sword back from them and slams the heavy door in their face. Frustrated, Alexandre pounds his mighty fists upon the entryway and not realizing his strength in anger, smashes the door off its hinges and knocks Myslek to the ground, pinning the unscrupulous soldier underneath its weight and forcing him to lose grip on the case that contains Red Razor. The enclosure breaks open, sending the blade skittering across the floor. As this is happening, a sparrow flits onto C’haill’s shoulder. The sparrow speaks with the voice of a young woman, saying “Thank you for your kindness sister”, and in a pair of heartbeats a dozen Makai warriors storm the tower. The guards outside are ruthlessly slaughtered and the leader makes herself known as Kinjo. The sparrow that spoke to C’haill perches upon the Makai warrior’s shoulder as she explains the actions of the men of the tower. Byorman’s men had enslaved and murdered them, this was justice not vengeance. Gruntu, after retrieving Red Razor, points out that Myslek still remains trapped under the door and Kinjo crouches down next to it to confirm. She immediately draws her spear and jams it straight into the skull of her oppressor. Other Makai begin to set the tower alight which attracts the attention of the crew of the Windswift and Durog. The unlikely mage argues that the ship should depart immediately, their business is finished here but the ship’s cook Gustus insists that C’haill’s well being be looked after, grabs his cleaver and sets off the boat in search of her. Durog begrudgingly accompanies him. They come across the warehouse and the badly mutilated bodies of the men who watched over it. They stop in their tracks as warrior women start to emerge from the brush. At the tower, Kinjo again thanks the party for their conscience and offers her sparrow, named Kito, to C’haill as a gift. C’haill enthusiastically accepts and they sets down the path. They narrowly make it upon Durog and Gustus before they are attacked by the Makai. Kinjo tells them to stand down and they are given leave from the island. Alexandre once again takes the helm with Durog and Mortin’s assistance and the assemblage heads back to Kurutiba to report back to Ruza. They journey is mostly uneventful, though a heavy storm forces them below deck for a time. After docking at Kurutiba, they return to The Rusty Hook where despite the party’s best attempts to be inconspicuous, Alexandre reveals the whole of the experience. With their bargaining chips on the table Gruntu offers her Red Razor in return for a guarantee of safe passage to the mainland. Ruza is delighted at the return of her treasured blade and the fate of Myslek Byormyn leaving her to heartily agree to their terms. She tells them she has arranged passage on a vessel named The Lioness, helmed by its captain Weela Nysis. They are given the option of two ports the ship will be passing through, Sulescu or Vorloi. After determining one to be of more convenience to the whole of the group, a port is chosen; Sulescu.

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Deals under duress

The party makes its way into the only business on the island, adjacent to a moderately busy dock, The Rusty Hook, and make acquaintance of its owner, Ruza. The tavern owner, once she has learned something of the strangers, decides that an honorable holy warrior would be a perfect trustworthy individual to deliver her beloved sword Red Razor to its new owner, Myslek Byormyn, who has charge of Korsakov Tower. Ruza arranges for the chartered ship, Windswift, and its crew to shuttle them across the sea. Durog takes a moment to engage Ruza regarding an unfamiliar card game, Kavek, he had seen her playing and while learning the fundamentals of the game, also finds out that Ruza had won the Rusty Hook and lost Red Razor in a game of the ornate placards. En route to the ship, C’haill has an unpleasant encounter with a sailor that goes from bad to worse as she knocks herself dizzy while Aleksandre fails to catch the awkward maiden, leaving her crashing to the ground. Once Windswift is located the party makes its way onboard, meeting Captain Percis, navigator Mortin, rope and sail man Jomby, chef Gustus and shipboy Kip. Tasks are assigned to all the passengers and are engaged by all but Gruntu, who waves off the barked orders of the diminutive shipboy Kip. The trip is largely uneventful for the first several days, though C’haill learns Kavek from Gustus who reveals that he and Percis have been on the seas for 30 years together. The calm is broken when a strange race of flying bat-like tiger men attack the boat. The captain and Aleksandre hurry everyone below board before making the move to the stairs heading below. Unfortunately Captain Percis is horribly and mortally wounded before he can make it to safety. Aleksandre is horrified that the only crew member who seemed receptive to his religious proselytizing is dead and carries the man’s body below the deck and immediately begins blessing and preparing the body for consecration despite the threat above and the fact that the ship’s wheel is wildly spinning. Durog cuts two small holes in the roof above them, leading to the deck, and fashions a rope and pulley system to operate the wheel from safety. Gustus is enraged that his childhood friend has been killed and marshals support from most of the others and they head above deck and avenge the captain. Once the enemy lay dead, Aleksandre goes back to preparing the body for burial at sea and does not take the ship’s wheel until that task is done. With the help of Durog and Mortin, the paladin is able to guide the vessel back on course and within a matter of hours their destination becomes visible on the horizon, Korsakov Tower.

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Forced Introductions

-Gruntu, on a heist in Mirros, is betrayed by the thief Lynnis and sold to the Iron Ring
-C’haill observes a group of men camped on the outskirts of the woods and while she manages to avoid detection by the main group, gets grabbed by a slaver that wandered off from the main group to take a piss. She is drugged and cast aside while the men eat.
-Durog is still on the run after being forced out of his master’s home in Verge. His path leads him through the Radlebb Woods where he witnesses the kidnapping of C’haill. He attempts to sneak around and observe the slavers actions but steps on a small branch. The snapping of the branch gives away his position and soon Durog is overwhelmed and with the druid, taken aboard the Black Scorpion.
-Aleksandre, after having been initiated into the Order of the Iron Rose by Patre Spurvius, is sent to Penhaligon to train under the land’s feudal lord and chief instructor for the Order, Lady Arteris Penhaligon. The lady finds favor in the gentle giant from Rugalov and assigns him tasks from time to time. On one such occasion, Aleksandre is told that he is to be receiving a shipment of weapons for the school down at the docks. So as to not be late, he decides to sleep at the docks and is awakened by the arrival of the first ship of the day. The master of the ship is greeted and told by the paladin of his task. Unbeknownst to Aleksandre, this is not the ship he seeks and the captain lures the giant aboard the ship with a simple ruse, sending him below deck. 15 men make their attempt to subdue him. They succeed but not before Aleksandre guts one of them. He is taken into the hold and chained with the others.

They make the acquaintance of the two other prisoners aboard, the thief Chort and the knight, Sir Kyre of Alfheim. They escape through various means, slay the slavemaster and prepare to take command of the ship when it wrecks on a hidden reef, sweeping them out to sea where they cling for life as the sharks begin to circle. The swells of the sea push them toward land and with some luck, they are washed ashore on a strange island. They kill a surviving slaver, loot the beach, retrieve their equipment and begin the search for food and water. They travel for two days, trudging through naught but sand and heat while whittling away their precious supplies before finally sighting a dock town. The sign reads: Kurutiba: Home of the Rusty Hook

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