Arcanis: Gonnes, Sons, and Treasure Runs (COMPLETED) - Page 101




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  1. #1001
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    Isles of the Damned: Part 5c – R’lyeh

    “I just had an unsettling thought,” said Beldin. “I thought that the mountain range was intended to keep people out. But I’m starting to think it’s meant to keep things in.”

    The island landscape spread out before them was a tableau of pure evil. A forest sent black-barked trees high into the mists—trees that seemed to tremble and groan without wind to urge them on. Beyond the woodland lay a roiling, steaming marshland, blood red in the dim light and giving off a sulfurous stink strong enough to reach them halfway up the mountain. In the middle of the fetid bog rose a black spire.

    “That’s where he lies,” said Harry. “The wicked one! That’s where the good lord flung him. He keeps him locked up fast. Buried like a pirate, he is—with a treasure chest on top!”

    The forest began at the mountain’s base and spread to occupy about a third of the valley.

    As they stepped into the dense wood, the air filled with familiar creaks and groans.

    “That almost sounds like…” began Beldin.

    ”A boat tacking against the wind,” finished Sebastian. “But no boat should be here.”

    The noise was grotesquely appropriate. The trees weren’t made of solid wood, but planks, the kind that made up the deck of the Naoke, grown thickly together and bound with brass collars. Jutting out from the north face of every last one of the oaken monstrosities was a figurehead—a leering, cowled figure with clenched teeth.

    As Vlad stared closely at one, its eyes sprung open. For a moment they appeared to be black, but he realized they had no iris at all. An emblem—a tentacled skull with five stars—crowned the head.

    “Talk not to the trees,” warned Harry. “They got nothing good to say!”

    Take the artifacts off of the island,” whispered one of the figureheads, “and Leviathan will linger here forever, his evil leaching off into the world. But if you revive him…he could destroy you once and for all! Think of it!

    Beldin answered the figurehead by burying Windcutter in its face.

    Think of how you’ll spend the rest of your days!” another figurehead whispered to Vlad. “You defeated the mightiest pirates who ever sailed, but when you had the chance to battle their master, you turned and ran. How will you live with yourself?

    “I’m sure I’ll get over it,” said Vlad.

    Fulfill your destiny!” A figurehead addressed Kham. “He will welcome you back to the fold; he will make you Lord of the Oceans—and he will make her love you again.

    “What are they talking about?” asked Beldin.

    Kham shrugged.

    Halloo there, little captain!” One of the figureheads directed its attention to Harry. “Have you finished your raft yet?

    Harry chuckled. “Ye have no idea.”

    Watch carefully, little captain, for you’ll see your new friends hanging from the gibbet soon enough!

    “I’d set fire to this place, but it’s not worth the energy,” said Sebastian. He spread his wings and flew into the air over the trees.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Isles of the Damned: Part 5d – R’lyeh

    As the forest started to break up, Beldin pointed out a deep, ridged furrow in the earth.

    “Looks like claw marks,” he said, “the same as in the tunnel.”

    “Howled all the way, he did!” said Harry. “The ground didn’t stop blazing for ten winters!”

    They followed the trench out of the forest. As the forest fell away to marshland, the ground turned to brackish, rust-colored mud that bubbled and oozed, sending off heady clouds of sulfur. The stink was overpowering.

    “Bled himself dry, he did, when he tore through here!” observed Harry. “Mark the ground well—the rest of his wine, as willful and wicked as it were when he lived! Look lively now, else ye’ll melt down into the earth yerself!”

    Finally, they saw it.

    The spire rose some three hundred feet from the marshes, jet-black in the sulfurous mists, covered with ridges and crenulations and crude sculptures of tortured faces. They looked curiously at an immense carved door with a familiar tentacled skull bas-relief. It was like a great barn door; and they all felt that it was a door because of the ornate lintel, threshold, and jambs around it.

    “Can’t decide if it lays flat like a trap-door or slantwise like an outside cellar-door,” said Beldin. “The geometry of this place is all wrong.”

    Beldin pushed at the stone in several places without result. Then Kham felt over it delicately around the edge, pressing each point separately as he went. He climbed interminably along the grotesque stone moulding. Then, very softly and slowly, the acre-great lintel began to give inward at the top; and they saw that it was balauced

    Kham slid down the jamb and rejoined his fellows, and everyone watched the queer recession of the monstrously carven portal. In this phantasy of prismatic distortion it moved anomalously in a diagonal way, so that all the rules of matter and perspective seemed upset.

    The aperture was black with a darkness almost material. That tenebrousness was indeed a positive quality; for it obscured such parts of the inner walls as ought to have been revealed, and actually burst forth like smoke from its aeon-long imprisonment, visibly darkening the sun as it slunk away into the shrunken and gibbous sky on flapping membranous wings. The odor rising from the newly opened depths was intolerable.

    Beyond the door lay a narrow iron stairway that coiled around a central shaft until it reached the top of the tower. More faces lined the stairwell, wrought into the iron of the walls and steps. Vlad and Beldin led the climb, Harry in the center, and Kham and Sebastian behind.

    One of the faces addressed Harry in a croaking voice. “Thank you, maroon, for bringing me fresh meat…I will save you a shank or two, rest assured.

    Harry chuckled. “Pay it no mind.”

    The dark-kin can’t be trusted,” whispered another face. “He’s a devil worshipping liar. He’ll kill you if he gets the chance.

    When nobody reacted, another voice chimed in. “The dwarf doesn’t trust him. Who would? His allegiance isn’t to his friends, it’s to his forge. He’d sacrifice you all if it meant completing Elabac’s life quest!

    Beldin snorted but kept climbing.

    Remember the old battles the Full-Fathom Five fought,” said one face to Kham with barely controlled rage, “remember the glory days! You have no idea what I will do to you—and to her—if you refuse.

    Kham ignored it.

    As Vlad rounded the bend one of the larger faces fixed on him. It said but one word. “RAPIST.

    Vlad drew a dagger. “That’s it!”

    “Forget it!” Beldin grabbed him. “Forget it, it’s just a stupid statue!”

    “I did not touch that girl! She lied!” He addressed Kham. “You were there!”

    Kham shrugged. “I don’t remember much these days.”

    “What?” Vlad started to say more when they heard clicking from both ends of the staircase.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Isles of the Damned: Part 5e – R’lyeh

    They reached a circular room at the top of the stairs. An enormous pit was in the middle and a creepy, expressionist sculpture at the other end.

    Vlad wiped ichor off of Grungronazharr. “Those were some big scorpions.”

    Beldin beat his chest. An ugly purple wound bulged from one of his forearms. “Dwarves don’t poison easy.”

    On the other side of the hole sat what appeared to be a grotesque sculpture of black iron, a collection of limbs twined horribly and grasping at the air with long, wicked claws. Forming a backdrop for the misshapen array were a pair of wings, torn and broken but still spanning over a hundred feet. Between them, hanging monstrously below the ribcage on a serpentine iron neck, was a face. It was a bare black skull with six long tentacles in place of its maw. Burned into the forehead of the villainous visage were five stars.

    “There he lies,” said Harry. “The wicked one himself!”

    “Leviathan, you mean?” asked Vlad.

    Harry nodded vigorously. “Aye. Cadic flung Leviathan into this island, and then piled his cult’s ill-gotten gains atop him. When Cadic ripped the island out of Arcanis and set it wandering, he coated Leviathan’s body with molten metal, and he made a tower of the same. The treasure lays straight down there,” he pointed down the hole, “hundreds of feet. But beware, horrible things await anyone who tries to take the booty.”

    “We don’t want the treasure,” said Sebastian. “We’re here to stop Leviathan.”

    Something rustled behind the remains of Leviathan, cutting off Harry’s reply.

    A host of black figures, dressed in cultist robes, stepped out from behind the remains of their god.

    Very clever of ye!” roared the ironbound skull. “Ye have done what my Five could not. Return the weapons that were rightfully mine and I shall give ye the greatest honor imaginable. I will allow you to sail at my side. Together we shall rule the oceans of the world and chain Cadic the Coward beneath the waves! Refuse, and you will haunt these chambers for all eternity!

    “The Boney Lonesomes! Fer the love of the good lord’s galleon, don’t meet their eyes!” cried Harry. “They’ll kill ye with a look, they will!”

    Beldin hunkered down behind his shield. “The Leviathan Bell can stop them!” He turned to Sebastian. “Use it!”

    Sebastian took the bell out of a pouch. “I think I can try to control them…”

    “They’re too strong for ye, damn all!” shouted Harry as the things advanced. “Surely ye must have some item that can lay them low!”

    “Control them?” Beldin yanked the Leviathan Bell out of the dark-kin’s hands. “Give me that!”

    He rang the Leviathan Bell. A single peal rang out, pure and true. The undead cultists immediately began shrieking, clutching their heads. They slowly melted back into the ground.

    Ye have won nothing!” barked Leviathan. “By challenging me, ye have steered into the wind! I will not forget ye nor what ye have done here. I am not through with ye…

    “Looks like there’s only one way to go.” Sebastian launched himself over the pit and disappeared into the darkness. Kham dove in a second later.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Isles of the Damned: Part 5f – R’lyeh

    As Beldin and Vlad climbed their way down to the treasure chamber, they encountered more iron faces that lined the shaft.

    Do you really think he’ll let you leave with it?” one face asked Beldin. The dwarf ignored it.

    Don’t think I won’t find a way out!” snarled another. “And when I do, I’m coming for you!

    “Come after me,” answered Vlad. “I’d like to wipe that sneer off your face personally.”

    They finally reached the bottom. Nothing could have prepared them for the sight.

    “This isn’t a king’s ransom,” whispered Beldin breathlessly. “It’s a god’s ransom!”

    The wealth of ten thousand years of shipwrecks sat before them, arrayed in great swelling dunes that nearly scraped the ceiling of the low, circular room. Piles of coins, gems, jewels, and masterwork items filled the room.

    Kham was already there, counting a pile of coins. Sebastian stood impassively, arms crossed, surveying his surroundings.

    Vlad yelped with glee. “I could buy an army with this! Hell, my own kingdom!” He ran over to one of the piles.

    Sebastian rolled his eyes.

    Kham cackled. “I’m going to outfit a ship. An Altherian ship. With lots of cannons. I’ll be the scourge of the seas once more!”

    “Since when do you care so much about gold?” asked Sebastian. “Isn’t your family rich?”

    Kham didn’t reply, he just kept counting out gold.

    The dwarf had even succumbed to temptation. “With this…” he let several diamonds fall through his fingers, “I could pay a thousand forgers to work on Elabac’s perfect item. I could have the finest armor and weapons known to man and dwarf…”

    Beldin was so enamored with the loot that he didn’t see a mound of glittering gold rise up behind him. Its eyes were rubies, its fingers scythed out in the form of jewel-encrusted daggers and swords.

    “Ah ah!” Kham waved the Leviathan Pistol in the air. “As Lord of the Oceans, you’ll do my bidding!”

    The animated mounds of treasure, twelve in all, shambled towards Kham.

    “Uh…” Vlad backed up, sword and shield at the ready.

    The mounts kneeled before Kham and bowed what might have been their heads.

    “Now,” said Kham. “Start climbing.”
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    Isles of the Damned: Part 5g – R’lyeh

    The piles of treasure climbed up the shaft one by one, dragged themselves across the island, and loaded themselves onto the Naoke.

    When they were back on board the Naoke, Harry cleared his throat. “I believe there’s a stowaway in this crew,” he called out, pointing at Kham.

    Kham drew the Leviathan Pistol at lightning speed and had it aimed at Harry’s head. “I agree, but you should be pointing at yourself.”

    Father Peg-Leg gazed at Harry’s attire, his face, his bearing. “What deity be in that frame, I’m doubtful, but fer sure some deity be there. Whoever ye are, be gracious, bless our labors, and forgive these fellows!” he shouted.

    Harry shook himself, as if he were shedding a cloak, and suddenly a divine being glittered before them. He appeared as a charming young man with a roguish smile and icy blue eyes. His rich, dark hair waved about him, and on his strong shoulders he wore a purple robe.

    They were in the presence of a god.

    The crew was overcome, some going blind at the sight of him, others howling with madness and fear. Beldin and Vlad fell to their knees. Kham crossed his arms. Sebastian took a step back.

    Father Peg-Leg kneeled to the ground. “Bow yer heads, fer ye are in the presence of Cadic! The Dark Hand of Illiir, Master of the Darkness, Keeper of Secrets, the Thief of Joy, the Bringer of Lament, the Lord of Epics—“

    That’s enough,” said Cadic. “You may know me as Oswald the Beggar King, or Deolpholis, the blind prophet…

    “That was you?” asked Vlad.

    I said you may know me,” corrected Cadic. “Those are merely forms I adopted. You’ve been through much. And I salute you. But nobody goes forth on the waters without paying Cadic his due. All I ask of you is a promise—to answer my call if I need a job done in the world of men. One promise, and you’ll be wealthy beyond an admiral’s dreams and you’ll sleep well the rest of your days. Refuse, and you’ll never spend a copper of that haul in peace.

    ”I don’t want it,” said Sebastian. “We never asked for the treasure.”

    “Do what he says, fool!” snapped Peg-Leg.

    Turn your backs on me now,” boomed Cadic, “and bad luck will follow you so long as you keep that lucre. Ropes will snap on you, the wind will forever be on your face. Swords will slip out of your hands and there’ll be a set of claws waiting for you whenever you go through a door. And just try to spend that haul of yours and see where it gets you. The same cursed luck that befalls you will befall anyone who handles those coins. You’ll be chased out of every town you settle in, you’ll be hounded to places where they’ve no use for gold.

    “I do so swear to answer your call,” said Beldin.

    “As do I,” said Vlad.

    Kham looked warily at the god, unafraid. “Keep your end of the deal and I’ll keep mine,” he said.

    Cadic stared at the dark-kin.

    “Fine,” said Sebastian. “But we were told we would stop Leviathan and he seems to be quite harmless. Why did you lead us here?”

    Leviathan’s minions on the other side were a clever bunch. When they worked their wicked business in Freeport, it was like a punch to my guts. For a few moments I forgot myself, forgot my place in the order of things—my responsibilities. That’s how Leviathan’s cultists discovered old Carthy. And that’s what afflicts me now. They cut the rope that binds this body to Cadic in the heavens! I remember some things…how to wreck things and how to curse them. But putting things right…curing the treasure…that’s much tougher work, and that eludes me. If you can put me in my right mind, I’ll fix you up and set you windward.

    “We used the Leviathan Spyglass to enter the fortress, the Bell to defeat the Boney Lonesomes, and the Pistol to retrieve the treasure,” said Vlad authoritatively. “It’s time to use the Leviathan Hook.” He fished the Hook out of a bag and placed it on the deck.

    “But to use it,” began Sebastian, “you’ll need to…”

    Vlad lay his left arm on the deck gestured to Beldin. “Let’s do this.”

    “Are you mad?” asked Sebastian. “You’re a warrior! Without your left hand you’ll be useless!”

    Cadic watched, silent.

    “I can always strap a shield to my arm.” Peg-Leg offered him hemp rope. “Have a little faith.” Vlad bit down on the rope and nodded at Beldin.

    Beldin lifted his axe over his head with both hands. “I’ll try to make it clean,” he said.

    The shadow of Windcutter cast a long pall over Vlad’s features…
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Isles of the Damned: Conclusion

    The city of Freeport loomed before them, a welcome sight after spending so much time at sea.

    “That was quite a risk you took,” said Beldin. “There was no guarantee that Cadic would restore your hand.”

    Vlad nodded, flexing his fingers. “But he did. That’s all that matters.”

    “The artifacts stopped working,” sighed Kham. “The Pistol won’t even fire. I tried it.”

    Captain Baldric clumped by, muttering about reckless sailors.

    “Fortunately,” said Kham a little louder. “I loaded the treasure into chests. There’s enough for the crew and all of us too.”

    “Now what?” asked Beldin, staring at Freeport’s docks.

    “I am deeply unsatisfied,” said Sebastian. “I find it hard to believe that Cadic manipulated us across so many years merely to lift a curse with an artifact that was in his grasp the whole time. If that even was Cadic.”

    “Whether or not that was Cadic, I can’t stay in Freeport,” said Vlad. “With war brewing on the continent, Duke Adolphos will want me at his side. I’m hopping the first gate to Milandir.”

    “I’ve requested arms and armor from Master Elabac. I suspect he wants me to return home as well,” said the dwarf. “But I agree with Sebastian, whatever Cadic’s got up his sleeve has not yet been fully revealed.”

    Kham shrugged. “I’m done with this place. I’m going to buy myself a big Altherian gunship. And then I’m going to drink and whore my way into unconsciousness like any good pirate should.”

    “You’ve changed,” said Vlad. “You seem more…hedonistic.”

    Kham spat. “Bah. I’m merely embracing my inner pirate. We just encountered a god. We’re lucky to be alive. If I were you, I’d forget this whole war nonsense. I could use a first mate…”

    Vlad chuckled and shook his head.

    “Besides,” said Kham. “I’m not the only one who’s changed. Sebastian’s been acting strange too, ever since he touched that Bell. I think he’s cursed.”

    The dark-kin merely crossed his arms. “The power of the artifacts have unlocked access to powers I did not know I had. But I am hardly…” he said the word with distaste, “cursed.”

    “You nearly forgot the most important treasure of all.” Kham tossed Sebastian a tiny box that had contained the gaseous form of von Grebel. He smiled up at the noontime sun.

    Sebastian smiled back. “We are technically in Freeport, as I swore by Sarish.” He lifted the lid over his head.

    “Now wait a minute,” said Beldin. “You can’t just—“

    Sebastian opened the box. Nothing happened. Von Grebel was not inside.

    “He must have left in the middle of the night,” said Sebastian, disappointed.

    “Looks like he took Skiz and two of my pistols with him.” Kham looked in his haversack. “Oh well.”

    As they ship slid up to the dock, a longship flying the colors of the Khitani horde.

    “The invasion’s already started,” said Beldin.

    “No. There’s a white flag of truce,” said Sebastian.

    A contingent of twenty Freeport guardsmen looked on, keeping the passersby and the curious away from the moored longship.

    As they docked and unloaded their cargo, they passed four men arguing on the boardwalk beside the ship. Two were obviously Tcho-Tchos, while the other two were Freeporters.

    They argued for a few minutes more and then the two barbarians turned angrily away and climbed up the ladders onto the longship, which quickly dropped its oars and began to make its way out to sea.

    Two armed guardsmen then joined the Freeporters and turned towards the Old City.

    Vlad stepped off the Naoke and flashed his Order of Drac symbol. “What’s going on here?”

    “Them barbarian bastards threatened the council, they did,” said one of the guards. “They want the Freeport navy to join ‘em in the war.”

    Sebastian landed next to Vlad, startling the guards.

    “And how did Freeport respond?”

    Kham cleared his throat. “I think I can answer that.” He flipped a diamond to a paperboy at the docks and snapped the page up so Sebastian could read it.

    It read: “WAR COMES TO FREEPORT!”
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Chapter 63: Crisis in Freeport - Introduction

    This scenario is from the adventure “Crisis in Freeport” by Chris Pramas, Robert J. Schwalb, and Rodney Thompson, adapted to the Arcanis setting. You can read more about Arcanis at Onara Online. Please note: This adventure contains spoilers!

    Our cast of characters includes:

    · Dungeon Master: Michael Tresca (http://michael.tresca.net)
    · Beldin Soulforge (dwarf fighter/dwarven defender) played by Joe Lalumia
    · Sebastian Arnyal (dark-kin sorcerer) played by George Webster

    A lot of DMs have puzzled over how to deal with the events in Black Sails Over Freeport, which inevitably places the PCs at a much higher level than the events in Crisis in Freeport. Since both adventure involve riots, I simply mixed and matched the two and upped the critters considerably.

    Kham and Vlad’s players weren’t able to play in the beginning (Kham showed up later), which meant I was Dming for two. Here I had boosted the adventure to be tough against four high-level PCs, and only two showed up. Surely, they would be massacred, right?

    Not at all. In fact, things worked out for the best, because Sebastian and Beldin went on mini-quests of their own in dealing with Freeport’s unrest. Additionally, Sebastian’s sudden change in personality (brought on by the Leviathan Bell, in case anyone’s wondering) ends up actually causing many of the events that lead to the riots. In other words, Sebastian recreated the strife and unrest without any help from me.

    Although I would have liked a bigger audience for the adventure, I thought that it wrapped up nicely. You’ll see a cast of characters harkening all the way back to Chapter Eight. Which is ironic; back then, I didn’t even want to DM that module. Who knew the events that took place in that adventure (Emric and Camring) would wrap up the campaign!
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Crisis in Freeport: Prologue

    Beldin checked in to the Last Resort.

    Bobbin Brandydale met the dwarf at the door. “Hello Beldin.” He wore a morose expression.

    “Hi Bobbin. How are things?”

    “Well enough, considering Freeport’s threatened by war. Any news from the front?”

    Beldin shrugged. “I’ve been away. Judging from today’s newspaper, I’ve been away longer than I thought. Heard from Kham?”

    Bobbin shook his head. “Last I heard, he was leaving for Altheria with his fortunes. Something about buying a gunship.”

    “And Vlad’s gone off to war.” Beldin missed his friends. “Has my package arrived?”

    Bobbin nodded and led him to a table. “Yes. The crate arrived a while ago. But there was a note on it…” Bobbin fidgeted. “And…well…maybe you should read it yourself.”

    He grabbed a mug of beer from the bar and handed it to Beldin. “On the house.” Then he handed him the note.

    Beldin sat down and sipped his beer. Judging from Bobbin’s expression, it would not be good news.

    “Beldin Ironsoul,” it read in Elebac’s flowery script. “You are hereby summoned to Solanos Mor to prepare for the defense of the Forges. This armor has been forged specifically for you with the assumption that you will wearing it, posthaste, to serve your country and kin.”

    Beldin gulped. It was dated weeks ago.

    His brooding was interrupted by a familiar character who walked straight towards him.

    “Clem?” asked Beldin. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

    Without speaking, Clem began to sniff Beldin.

    “Smell him…yes…he is…he will be…”

    “What?” Beldin grabbed Windcutter off the table. “What’s wrong with you?”

    He took a better look at Clem. His previously ragged frame had filled out considerably. A large axe dangled from one hand.

    Bobbin advanced on them. “Everything all right?”

    “Stay back,” said Beldin. “I’ll handle this. Clem, what’s wrong?”

    “Give it to me,” whispered Clem, rocking on his heels. “Death…blood…gurlewok…agantio…”

    “Give what to you?”

    “Crush…kill…destroy!” Clem grabbed his axe with both hands. “NYAAAAAAGH!” he screamed.

    Beldin dove backwards as the axe came down, smashing the table in half.

    Patrons screamed and dove underneath tables.

    Bobbin rubbed his forehead. “Not again.”

    “I hears…he be…get it!” shouted Clem.

    Beldin unstrapped his shield. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you Clem, but I don’t want to hurt you.”

    “Leave…huriobl…og no ilbort…we need him!”

    Beldin blocked a numbing blow from Clem’s axe with his shield. He swung Windcutter in a glancing arc. The blade bit deeply into Clem’s thigh, but the madman showed no recognition of the wound.

    “Leviathan…frega…ohm…” shouted Clem. He leaped up on a table, frothing. “Leviathan…frega…OHM!”

    Beldin circled around the table. “Everyone, run to the exit. He’s after the Leviathan artifacts!”

    Patrons ran screaming. Clem tracked Beldin’s every movement with his head.

    “The lord calls…frega…hak…”

    With another roar, Clem launched himself from the table. Beldin rolled out of the way as he landed, splitting another table in half.

    This time Beldin didn’t hesitate. He hacked at the man’s ankle, severing it at the foot. Clem attempted to take another step forward and slipped on the bloody stump.

    “I come…char…near…power…wanting…needing!” Clem kept coming, swinging his axe in Beldin’s general direction. The dwarf stood his ground.

    “You’re going to force me to kill you if you don’t stop this madness right now.”

    Clem swung clumsily at the dwarf. Windcutter bit deep in the madman’s torso. Blood spurted across the floor.

    Bobbin called for a serving wench to get a mop.

    Finally, Clem’s frantic attack slowed as the blood drained out of him. “Coming…frega…power rising…death…” he gasped, “blood…joy!”

    With a final spasm, Clem expired.

    “I knew we shouldn’t have picked up that maroon,” said Beldin.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Crisis in Freeport: Part 1 – The Orc Rabble-Rouser

    A crowd of over one hundred orcs had gathered in the Field of Honor in the Eastern District. Sebastian decided it was the safest place for him to stay. Thanks to Finn’s protection, few dared hassle the dark-kin. That, and his bat-like wings, stinger-tipped tail, and dusky features provided ample warning that he should be left alone.

    An article in the Shipping News didn’t help matters. Whatever Letah had told her father, C.Q. Calame, was taken as fact. Or at least, printed as a possibility. And thus Sebastian knew all about Beldin’s request for armor because C.Q. speculated that the Solani dwarves were siding with the Rebels. Or that Vlad was a ravisher of women, to be avoided at all costs. Or that Kham was a drug dealing ghoul, returned from the dead after an aborted rescue attempt from the Hulks. It apparently never entered C.Q.’s mind that maybe Kham had simply survived and that the Sea Lord found it more convenient to list him as dead rather than acknowledge a potentially embarrassing situation.

    As for Sebastian, they labeled him a devil-worshipping serial killer. Sebastian hadn’t killed anyone recently, and he certainly didn’t worship devils. But he didn’t mind the way the Freeporters treated him. And so, like a gargoyle rousing itself, he perched on one of the buildings overlooking the Field of Honor.

    A crowd of over one hundred orcs had gathered there, making passage difficult. They clustered around Drak Scarbelly, dressed in his usual blue captain’s coat. Even from a distance he was unmistakable: eye patch, tricorner hat, wooden leg, and a bright red bird that sat on his shoulder. He stood on a crate, screaming to the throng at the top of his lungs.

    “Now be the time, me brothers! We’ve been oppressed fer too long! Th’ Captain’s Council revoked th’ Law of Succession just to prevent an orc from sittin’ on th’ throne! We must rise up before it’s too late.”

    The crowd applauded his words and shouted encouragement.

    “We aren’t going to war! We can stop it! We march to th’ Fortress of Justice and make ‘em hear us!”

    As he stepped down from the crate to lead his followers on their march, a large contingent of Sea Lord’s Guardsmen armed with smash sticks entered the plaza from one end. A group of elorii wearing dark green tunics with a golden harp emblazoned on them and wielding clubs entered from the other. Together, the two groups outnumbered the orcs almost two to one.

    An uneasy silence settled over the plaza, as if no one knew what to do next.

    Sebastian recognized the gold harp symbols as belonging to Arias Soderheim, the sole elorii on the Captain’s Council. He launched off the rooftop and landed next to Drak. The elves and guardsmen began slapping their clubs into open palms.

    “What’s this about the Law of Succession?”

    “Sebastian,” shouted the orc pirate. “Ye got me sextant?”

    Sebastian folded his wings. “It’s safe, but I cannot give it to you now. Not here.”

    “Was in th’ Shipping News today. Th’ Captain’s Council is afraid of us!” The crowd roared its approval. “Did ye know that the Council is closing a deal with th’ elves to join the war?”

    Sebastian’s brow furrowed. “Who told you this?”

    “One o’ the barbarians told me, but that doesn’t matter. Gimme the sextant!”

    “No. Don’t push me, orc. I am not to be trifled with.”

    “Bah!” snorted Drak. “Kenzil blew off me leg and me eye. If ye think ye can do worse, yer welcome t’ try!”

    Sebastian tried a different tactic. “Would siding with the elves be so bad?”

    “What?” The crowd booed. “Side with elves? We’d rather die than hand Freeport over t’ the elves!” Drak spat on the ground in front of Sebastian.

    What ensued was a rainstorm of spitting, as the orcs all did likewise.

    One orc near the elves was a little too overzealous. He spat a phlegmy glob that spiraled in slow motion to land on the boot of the captain of Arias Soderheim’s guard.

    There was a collective gasp among the elves.

    “Attack!”

    The elves charged forward. The Sea Lord’s Guard charged forward. Sebastian took to the air.

    “ENOUGH!” He strafed the ensuing clash between elorii and orc. “Incendiares globus!

    A ball of flame engulfed both orcs and elves as they clashed, incinerating those at the forefront, immolating the luckier ones. Both sides ran screaming as the flames blasted them backwards.

    That didn’t stop the Sea Lord’s Guard. The orcs routed, the Guard rounded up the stragglers, including Drak.

    Sebastian flew higher. From his vantage point, he could see orcs running off in different directions throughout Freeport.

    Within moments, the streets were abuzz. Cheers went up from men gathered on a nearby street corner, while a shop owner shouted them down in turn.

    It was then that Sebastian realized he had unintentionally ignited a riot.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Crisis in Freeport: Part 2 – The First Signs of Trouble

    Crowds of men argued in the street, and where once trade and commerce took the forefront, it seemed as though everyone was more interested in the council’s decree. Sebastian flew over the city, taking it all in.

    Shops that were usually open for business were curiously vacant, their windows still shuttered from the night before as their owners and operators discussed the situation. The normal hum of noise that filled the city’s streets was dulled and in its place was uncomfortable, quiet conversations and worried looks passing silently between vendor and buyer. Even the normally bustling docks were curiously calm, and sailors and deckhands leaned against the rails of their ships, lost in their own thoughts.

    He finally landed on the rooftop near the Shipping News office. A paperboy threw a copy to someone.

    Sebastian pointed at the flying paper. “Magis attrecto!

    The paper changed its course and flew into Sebastian’s hands. To the paperboy, it looked like he had overshot his target. He threw another one that reached the customer unimpeded.

    Sebastian snapped the paper open. It read: “CAPTAIN’S COUNCIL REVOKES LAW OF SUCCESSION IN POWER GRAB.”

    The man who read the same headline gathered two of his comrades and stalked down the street towards the paper’s office, a crumpled up copy of the newspaper in hand. Sebastian tracked him from the air.

    The low murmur of conversation filled the street in front of the office belonging to the Shipping News. The building was nearly completely surrounded by disgruntled-looking citizens, many of whom clutched copies of the special edition in their hands. Occasionally, an angry shout went up from a person in the crowd, but the general mood was that of simmering unease rather than outright anger.

    After a few minutes, the door to the office opened and a short, round man in garish clothing stepped out into the street. With his appearance, the crowd became much livelier, and within a few seconds, the entire street was filled with the deafening roar of hundreds of shouting people.

    Cries of “shut this rag down!” and “tell ‘em the truth, C.Q.!” went up, with a chorus of cheers and jeers accompanying each one. Stepping up onto a wooden crate, C.Q. Calame waved the crowd into silence, clutching a tattered cigar between his plump fingers.

    “Good people of Freeport, be calm and hear me! Today’s edition of The Shipping News is but a window into the inner workings of the Captains’ Council, and I, your humble public servant, seek only to enlighten the masses as to the recent folly of the council’s members. I know that many of you are upset or frightened, and it is as you should be, fore there are those on the council that seek only to fatten their own purses by crushing you under their boot heels. For those of you that disagree with the columns in today’s special edition, I thank you for your patronage but urge you to remember that I am but the messenger.”

    Several people in the audience began arguing loudly with one another. Then suddenly a ripple of violence spasmed the crowd, as fist fights broke out between the two rival groups. Fists flew, blood sprayed, ad the air was filled with a cacophony of terrified shrieks, clashing blades, and angry shouting.

    The startled newspaperman was caught in the middle. He turned to the door but discovered it locked.

    C.Q. leapt down off his box and hammered desperately on the door. “Let me back in!”

    To angry citizens grabbed C.Q. and pulled him down into the crowd.

    Sebastian sighed. More violence.

    He spread his bat-like wings, casting a long shadow over the crowd. “ENOUGH!”

    The crowd began kicking C.Q.

    “I said…” began Sebastian. “Incendiares globus!

    Flames blasted the crowd, igniting the offices of the Shipping News. People screamed and stumbled away, struggling to put out their flaming clothes.

    Sebastian landed in front of C.Q. and helped him to his feet.

    Although he had a bloody nose and a swollen left eye, C.Q. managed to compose himself. “Ah, the inimitable Sebastian Arnyal, I presume.”

    Sebastian nodded, arms crossed. “And you are C.Q. Calame, father of Letah Calame and owner of The Shipping News.”

    C.Q. lit his cigar off of one of the crowd members who had tried to kill him. The man was face down, his head ablaze.

    “Gang members.” He pointed at the jagged tattoo around the dead man’s neck. “The Cutthroats started this fight.”

    Sebastian sniffed. “Your article about me was untrue. I am no serial killer.”

    “Of course not, of course not.” C.Q. took a puff of his cigar. “My daughter is the apple of my eye, you know, but she can…exaggerate, from time to time. But you ARE a killer and a good one at that. I swear by Sarish that you’ll get no more negative press out of me. For you or your friends.”

    “Good,” said the dark-kin with a slight smile. “You just saved your own life.”

    C.Q. coughed. “Speaking of saving things, would you mind being a hero and saving The Shipping News?” He pointed at the spreading fire behind him. Smoke poured from the windows. The staff that had barred themselves inside were banging at the doors to get out.

    “Oh, right.” Sebastian turned with open palms facing the offices. “Algor conus!

    A freezing blast of ice and snow engulfed the building. The flames went out immediately, although they had already spread to other buildings.

    “Thanks.” C.Q. adjusted dusted off his vest, sprinkling soot on the ground. “You may want to split, the Sea Lord’s Guard are on their way.”

    He turned, but Sebastian was already gone.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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