Arcanis: Gonnes, Sons, and Treasure Runs (COMPLETED) - Page 14
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    Cast Upon Tides of Weal and Woe - Part 11: Fair Winds and Following Seas

    Vlad unfolded the newspaper in Thralen’s dining room. It read, “Foreign Heroes Blacken Blax’s Eye in Warehouse Brawl.”

    “The jeers will be audible all the way to Censure,” he said.

    “And yet Captain Blax got what she wanted,” said Ilmarė.

    “What do you mean?” asked Beldin.

    “I’ve decided to take Emric back to Milandir,” said Thralen. “There, he can be properly educated and tutored amongst other young val’Ossans. Freeport is no place for children.”

    “I agree,” said Sebastian, gloved fingers folded before him.

    “Before you go, I would like to give you a gift,” said Thralen. “You will find pins next to each of your plates. It is a symbol of favor with the Milandisian branch of House val’Ossan.”

    Vlad’s pin was noticeably missing. The message was clear: they were even.

    Kham snorted. He had Zainat’s pistol and bullets out on the breakfast table.

    “What’s so funny?” asked Cal.

    “Zainat wasn’t kidding,” he said, still chuckling. He held up one of the ten bullets between thumb and forefinger.

    The letters: “C”, “A” and “M” were etched into its side.

    “So who is this Sycorax*, exactly?” asked Vlad.

    Thralen stroked his chin. “There was once a beautiful maiden in Freeport by that name. She was a descendant of the great corsair Francisco and a priestess of Yarris. But Sycorax was young and loved unwisely.”

    “Unwisely?”

    “Her fickle lover spurned her for another. Sycorax’s revenge was terrible. Her vengeance twisted her, such that it is said she was cursed as a horrible sea hag.”

    “Oh, that Sycorax,” said Kham. “The mariners of the Pale Sea make sacrifices to Yarris to keep their vessels away from the shoals of her island.”

    “So Sycorax switched the two children at birth,” said Ilmarė.

    “What kind of a mother does that?” asked Bijoux.

    “The kind you don’t want to meet,” said Kham, nodding towards Calactyte.

    The big lizard twitched his tail but didn’t say anything for a moment. He looked back and forth between Ilmarė and Kham.

    “Fine,” said Ilmarė, “but this is the last time.”

    When Cal finally sang what he was holding back, he belted it out so loudly that the others jumped.

    “WHO LIVES IN A GROTTO DOWN UNDER THE SEA?”

    *To learn the likely fate of Camring, see the Wikipedia entry for The Tempest: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tempest_%28play%29

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    All That Glitters - Introduction

    This is the third soft point of Year 2 of the tournament module, "All That Glitters," written by Jeff Johnston and set in the Arcanis setting. You can read more about Arcanis at http://www.onaraonline.org. Please note: This adventure contains spoilers!

    Our cast of characters includes:

    · Ilmarė Galen (Elf Brd4), played by Amber Tresca (my wife)
    · Calactyte (Ss’ressen Bar2), played by Joe Tresca: http://www.creepyportfolio.com
    · Bijoux (Fihali 2/Drd1), played by Melissa Gendron
    · Sebastian Arnyal (Dark-kin Sor 3) played by George Webster
    · Beldin Soulforge (Dwarf Ftr3) played by Joe Lalumia

    I was Dungeon Master for this session: http://michael.tresca.net

    This was a straightforward treasure hunt, which is rare in Arcanis. As a result, the session went very quickly. So quickly, in fact, that I fleshed out the cave part of the adventure on my own. I also got to use more props: a pirate game called “Morgan’s Revenge” and a pack of 100 fake gold coins worked out nicely. And a rubber spider.

    I moved some of the encounters out of order for two reasons. For one, there’s no explanation as to how the characters come into possession of the rubbings. The adventure’s written for new players rather than experienced PCs. So the beggar king of Freeport made for a nice foil (I used his optional encounter from Cast Upon Tides of Weal and Woe). Two, no experienced adventurer in his right mind is going to bump into someone on the street and then let the guy “pay them back by apologizing.” They certainly wouldn’t take a swig of any drink offered from said gentleman off the street. So I had to set the adventure up differently to get people to take a swig of the tainted drinks, and the only way it even worked is because we actually had drinks in our hands at the gaming table to toast with.

    This adventure ranged from laughably easy (watch Beldin decapitate the main bad guy in one shot!) to meat grinder-hard (watch Calactyte go down…TWICE!). That said, the party took it all in stride and worked hard for their experience points. They started working better together as a team: Beldin began protecting Sebastian in melee and Bijoux’s spells saved the party from a trap. Speaking of traps, there were so many traps and encounters in the cave that it was enough to boost just about everyone up one level too (for the sake of the story flow, I didn’t cover all of them here).

    The weekend afterwards, Vlad, Quintus, and Kham got together again for a bit of a reunion. Find out what they were up to in the next story hour chapter.

    Oh yeah, I (briefly) got to use my inn set up.
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    Last edited by talien; Thursday, 6th October, 2005 at 06:25 PM.

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    All That Glitters - Prologue

    The area of Freeport that Beldin and Sebastian had entered looked particularly seedy. Citizens were despondent and sad, barely even lifting their heads to see where they were going. No one would meet their eye.

    “Friendly place,” said Beldin, the dwarf.

    Good portions of the people present were gnomes, doing little to hide their obvious deformities.

    “Oh I don’t know,” said Sebastian, adjusting his robed with gloved hands. “I think we blend right in.”

    Undir watermen from the far south, Myrantian exiles from their doomed and bleak land, and Pengik tribesmen seeking a better life away from their barren coast all mingled freely. Each people seemed to have claimed a portion of Scurvytown as their own, save the gnomes, who were routinely ousted from even the meanest of dwellings.

    “Didn’t Kham tell us to avoid this place?” asked Beldin.

    The city guard was particularly absent, though there were signs of criminal activity everywhere: broken heads, beaten bodies, and bloody beggars.

    “He did indeed,” said Sebastian, brushing aside a wisp of white hair from his face. “We are in the Freebooter’s Quarter. I wanted to see what the Ymandragorians were up to.”

    “We were supposed to meet Captain Baldric at The Goodly Fisher…what’s this?” Beldin reached for his axe as a strange man, even for Scurvytown, approached.

    Amid the squalor and filth capered a swirling madcap figure: a tall, gangly man in a great cloak of multicolored patches and motley garments trimmed with yesterday’s silks, tattered grimy lace, and moth-eaten rabbit fur. Turning in mid stride, he pushed his way through the crowd to Beldin and Sebastian.

    The figure stopped in front of Beldin. A broad, perhaps mad, grin beamed out from the shadows of his hood.

    “Easy,” said Sebastian, “he does not appear armed.”

    The beggar held a long, slender stick of birch in his right hand.

    “Would you be interested in a game of chance?” the man asked in a lilting voice.

    The exact same approach had been used a dozen times on the pair when they tried to cross a street in Scurvytown. Beldin was about to brush the strange man aside when Sebastian put one hand out. “And what kind of game is this?”

    “A game with much for me to lose, and much for you to win,” he said with a cackle. “And the pot is very high indeed: some rubbings from a stone!”

    Beldin’s bushy eyebrows went up. “Stone, you say?”

    “Ah, I see I’ve piqued both your interests. Come, come, sit, sit,” he pulled up a barrel and pointed at a box and a pile of rope. “The pot isn’t much, a mere five imperials each.” In this case the pot was literally a pot, pulled from beneath the barrel and placed on top of it.

    “Your game can’t be very popular,” said Sebastian. “You’re not offering any gold.”

    The beggar pulled strips of parchment with words rubbed on them in black chalk. He tossed one into the pot. “You are correct, and so they lose out. My game has much higher stakes.”

    Beldin and Sebastian tossed five gold coins each into the pot.

    “Now then, spin the dreidel if you can. Or not. It will determine our fates.”

    Beldin struggled with the top the first few tries, but he eventually snapped it. The dreidel spun madly about on the surface of the barrel, rolling a sudden stop.

    “We all put coins in!” said the beggar. Only he didn’t put any in.

    Beldin and Sebastian exchanged looks and dropped another gold coin into the pot.

    On Sebastian’s turn the dreidel landed on “TP.”

    “You win!” said the beggar. He pushed the 14 gold coins and the rubbing towards Sebastian.

    “What kind of beggar so willingly gives up his gold?” asked Beldin, staring at the pile before Sebastian.

    “A beggar who has more to lose than gold.” Sebastian plucked the rubbing from the pile and held it up in the sunlight. “How many more of these do you have?”

    “Enough,” said the beggar with a twinkle in his eye.

    “We’ll play you for all of them,” said the dark-kin.

    “You know, if you keep going on like this I know exactly what is going to happen,” said the beggar.

    Beldin harrumphed as he tossed more coins into the pot. “What’s that?”

    “Someone will be in for a nasty surprise, that’s what.”

    Sebastian glanced over his shoulder. “Let’s hope it’s not on us.”
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    All That Glitters - Part 1a: Nikko’s Flophouse

    The basement establishment was typical of that part of the docks. It was a run-down affair, almost unnoticeable amidst all the other buildings. If Baldric hadn’t told them about it, they would never have been able to find it.

    Inside, it was much the same. They were sorely out of place, but nobody seemed to care—the few other patrons were absorbed in their own alcoholic intake.

    Captain Baldric waved them over to a series of round tables in the back. Ilmarė sat with them, an expression of mild distaste on her face.

    “Well, we’re in the right place,” said Sebastian to Beldin.

    They pulled up stools to join the haggling at the table.

    “I know ye’ve heard me talk about Captain Wendron Krubach,” said the grizzled captain, stroking his eye patch. “But I haven’t told ye th' whole story. Th' Captain tookst more than me eye. He took me treasure.”

    “And you want us to take it back?” asked Ilmarė, crossing her arms.

    “Aye. But we’ve got t' find 't first. Krubach buried his booty an' now that th' Black Egret sailed' down, 't’s mine fer th' takin'.”

    “So where is it?” asked Beldin.

    “I don’t know,” said Baldric with a sigh. “Krubach’s mistress had a stone left in th' lass' care, detailin' 'ere th' booty could be found. We…caught up wi' th' lass'.” He looked uncomfortable. “That’s how I came by this.”

    He tossed a single scrap of parchment onto the table. Ilmarė squinted at it.

    “Captain and his seven officers
    Each takes a share and one for the crew
    Captain chooses first of nine but
    Nothings left when he is through.”

    “Does 't mean anythin' t' ye, lass?” asked Baldric.

    Ilmarė shook her heard. “No, I’ve never seen this before.”

    “Maybe this will help,” said Sebastian, tossing several tattered pieces of parchment with black chalk marks on them. They were rubbings from a stone with a variety of letters.

    “That’s from th’ stone!” shouted Baldric, pointing at the pieces. “’ere did ye find these, lad?”

    “It was the strangest thing,” said Sebastian. “A beggar gambled them away.”

    “A beggar, hmm?” said Ilmarė. “What kind of beggar?”

    “He had a great cloak of many colors and fabrics,” said Beldin.

    Ilmarė’s almond-shaped eyes widened. “You met Emperor Oswald, the Beggar King of Freeport. He rarely talks to outsiders except to demand his imperial largess. Oswald must have a good reason for getting these fragments into your hands.”

    Sebastian pulled Baldric’s parchment over to look at it. “There’s five words at the bottom: Freeport, Temple of Althares, and Krubach. So I’d say the Temple would be our first stop.”

    “Nay so fast,” said Baldric. “We’ve got t' come t' terms first. What be Krubach’s belongs t' me, so I an' th' crew be havin' starboards t' th' booty.”

    Ilmarė crossed her arms. “I don’t see why we should do this for you. We stay put in Freeport until we hear from Quintus. Besides, there’s nothing Krubach could have that I want.”

    Baldric winked at her. “Don’t be so quick t' judge, lass. Krubach traveled wi' Garniss th' Sage, a noted diviner an' researcher o' many new an' unique spells. Legend has 't that Garniss hid his notes wi' Krubach’s booty.”

    Ilmarė peered at the captain sideways. “Hmm. Perhaps we have time for a short diversion. Fine, Baldric. You get the gems and jewels, we get everything else.” She looked at Sebastian.

    Sebastian nodded. “The Beggar King gave us a gift. It would be impolite to waste it.”

    “Then ye’re in!” said Baldric. “Let us toast. May we find Krubach’s booty an' waste 't all on lasses an' wine!”
    The other crewmembers, Sebastian, and Beldin raised their mugs in salute. Ilmarė had not touched hers.

    “To the treasure!” they shouted. Then they all took a swig.

    “Where are the others?” asked Beldin.

    The elorii’s gaze flickered to the door, but no one came out of it. “I’m not sure myself. I told them all to meet us here.”

    There was a thump at the table. Ilmarė sneered down at the greasy hair of an unconscious Baldric. “Stupid human pirates,” she said.

    Then a litany of flesh on wood echoed around them as pirate after pirate fell where they sat, blissfully snoring away.

    “That’s some drink,” said Beldin, wiping his lips. He didn’t seem affected in the slightest.

    Ilmarė sniffed her mug. “That’s no normal drink. That’s oil of taggitt.” She unsheathed her elven thinblade. “We’ve been tricked!”
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    All That Glitters - Part 1b: Nikko’s Flophouse

    “Terribly sorry about that,” said a tall, well-dressed man with narrow features. “My name’s Japheth.” Three hired thugs fanned out behind him. “You’re new to the city, aren’t you? You may have heard that the city is full of crude, mannerless pirates,” he nodded towards Baldric, asleep in his drink, “but that’s all changing.”

    “I prefer pirates to assassins,” said Ilmarė, blade out. Sebastian and Beldin had their backs to the wall. “At least when they betray you, it’s with a naked blade instead of a poisoned drink.”

    “Ah yes, well, I find it makes things easier,” said Japheth, looking genuinely embarrassed. “Now if you’d be so kind as to give me those little scraps of paper on the table, we can all move on with our lives.”

    Sebastian vaulted himself onto the table from the floor. “No,” he said. Sebastian pointed one palm at his assailants. “Fuco aspergo!”

    A vivid cone of clashing colors sprang forth from his hand. Japheth ducked beneath the cone, but it sizzled past him, engulfing the three thugs. They slumped to the ground, unconscious.

    Japheth’s blades were out instantly. The thief was crouched low, ready to spring at Sebastian, when he saw Beldin’s axe.

    “Oh sh—“ was all he got out as the blade swept upwards, separating Japheth’s head from his body. There was a gout of blood, and then silence.

    Ilmarė resheathed her blade. “Where is he?”

    “Who?” asked Sebastian, trying not to stare at the headless corpse that lay beneath the table.

    “The innkeeper. Someone poisoned these drinks, and I didn’t see Japheth until just now. That means he had an…” she peered over the bar. “…accomplice. Get up.”

    A brown-haired, portly man crept out from behind the bar. “P-please don’t hurt me!” he whispered.

    “Who are you,” said Sebastian, “and why did you poison our drinks?”

    “I don’t know anything!” said the bartender.

    Beldin picked up Japheth’s head, an expression of surprise still etched in his face. “Really? Perhaps you’d like to talk to your friend about it.”

    The man broke out in a sweat. “My name’s Nikko, but I know nothing, I swear! I was hired by Japheth to drug you.” Nikko licked his lips. “He said I could have your purses. That’s all.” He looked over at the headless body of Japheth. “Nobody was supposed to get hurt!”

    Ilmarė shook Baldric, who didn’t budge. Then she slapped him, hard, across the face.

    Baldric woke with a snort. “Nay now darling…” He blinked and looked around. “Wha?”

    Beldin dragged Nikko over to him with one hand. “This fellow drugged you,” he lifted the other hand, which held Japheth’s head by its neatly cut hair. “And this one tried to take the rubbings.”

    “I be seein’,” said Baldric, rubbing his good eye. “A double-cross.”

    “We’re going to the Temple of Althares. We’ll meet you back at the Shrike.”

    The captain nodded. His other men were coming around.

    Beldin wiped the blood off his axe with Japheth’s shirt. Ilmarė paused at the doorway as the three of them filed out of the tavern.

    “Make sure he cleans this mess up first,” Ilmarė pointed to the expanding pool of blood beneath the table. “With his tongue, if necessary.”

    “Well, we know how t' take care o' all this.” Baldric grinned with jagged teeth. “We’re pardoned men, but we’re still pirates at heart.”

    Nikko whimpered as Baldric and the crew circled him.
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    All That Glitters - Part 1c: Nikko’s Flophouse

    Vlad arrived to find the Goodly Fisher empty of all inhabitants but one. Kham sat in the corner, feet propped on a table, a bottle of wine in one hand. He was staring at a note in the other.

    “Where are the others?” asked Vlad, looking around.

    “Not here. I’ve been waiting for over an hour,” said Kham. “But a messenger just left a note. Looks like Quintus found the kid…finally.”

    “So, do we alert the others?”

    Kham nodded at the empty stools. “We don’t have time to look for them. I’ll leave a note with the proprietor of this fine establishment. Whenever the rest of the circus arrives, they can catch up.”

    Vlad frowned. “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.”

    Kham lifted his feet off the table and adjusted his bandolier. “It’s not a good idea. But after all the trouble we’ve been through, I’m not waiting anymore. The next ship out of Freeport to Coryani leaves in an hour, so we better get going.”

    He scribbled something on the back of the note and pinned it with a dagger to the bar. “There, that should get their attention.”

    Then he walked out the door. Vlad sighed and followed him.

    Something was dislodged from bar by the force of Kham’s dagger: Nikko’s arm flopped out from behind it.

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    All That Glitters - Part 2: The Temple of Althares

    The Temple of Althares was, surprisingly, one of the grander structures in Freeport, nearly rivaling the nearby Temple of Yarris. Massive pillars stood in a double row down the center of the enormous vaulted room, and shelves of scrolls and tomes stretched from floor to ceiling, interrupted only by the walkways that formed the second floor.

    “Whatever possessed the Altherians to build such a repository here?” asked Sebastian.

    “Humans worship their gods in the strangest of places,” said Ilmarė. “They’d build a temple in a sewer if it wasn’t for the stench.”

    Bijoux wrinkled her nose. “This whole city smells like a sewer.”

    She and Calactyte had joined up with them as they were leaving the Nikko’s place. There was still no sign of Kham and Vlad.

    A young acolyte watched them from behind a desk just inside the entrance. “My name is Brother Norton,” he said. “Can I help you?”

    Sebastian thrust out the piece of parchment. “We found these rubbings,” he said. “One of them mentions this temple.”

    Brother Norton squinted at the rubbing. “Ah yes! We used to allow people to make rubbings of the original stone. But it’s very soft has started to crumble, so we don’t let anyone touch it anymore.”

    “In that case,” said Ilmarė. “we’d like to see the stone.”

    “I’m really not the one to ask,” said Brother Norton. “Brother Oriku has made a study of it, but he hasn’t been able to decipher the text. I’ll have him stop by.”

    Brother Norton disappeared into the cavernous temple, only to be replaced by a rotund, pleasant-seeming little man of middle age with a large bald spot on the top of his head.

    “You must be hunting for Captain Krubach’s treasure,” he said.

    “We know of him,” said Sebastian.

    “Legend has it that he plundered a treasure fleet carrying treasures from Khitan, just before the beginning of the rainy season. He hid the treasure and set off for one more raid, but…” Oriku shook his head. “He never returned.”

    “We found the remains of his ship, the Black Egret,” said Bijoux. “He won’t be back for his treasure.”

    Oriku took off his spectacles to polish the lenses. “We haven’t had anyone interested in the carving for awhile.” He peered at Ilmarė. “The last group was going to speak with a Loremaster they knew in Altheria. If memory serves me right, they took a rubbing with them.”

    “You mean these?” asked Sebastian, showing him the pieces of paper.

    “Ah yes, that looks like them. They’ve been a bit mistreated, I see. It’s no wonder you had to come to look for the original. How did you come by these?”

    Beldin grunted. “We won it off a beggar.”

    “Do you know where he got them from?” asked Oriku, nonplussed.

    “We were hoping you could tell us that,” said Sebastian.

    “I lost track of the rubbings after they were made,” said Oriku, “but I can show you the stone, if you like.”

    With Oriku’s consent, he led them over to another room containing the stone. The room was filled with blanks sheaves of paper and parchment, chalk and charcoal. The stone hung on one wall, protected by a glass frame. Covering another wall was a map of the area surrounding Freeport.

    “This makes no sense,” said Sebastian, studying the stone fragment. “It’s letters, but not in any form I can understand.”

    Beldin stepped up to the frame and looked over the various letters. “It’s in Low Coryani, but I can’t make heads or tails of it either.”

    Ilmarė peered over his shoulder. “It’s a riddle. What did the verse say?”

    “Captain and his seven officers,” said Sebastian. “Perhaps it is every seventh letter?”

    “Try it,” said Ilmarė. Behind them, Calactyte took up a piece of chalk and begin scribbling on a blank piece of parchment.

    “No,” said Sebastian after a moment, “that doesn’t work.”

    “If we denote the first letter as the captain, then count seven letters after that...”

    Sebastian shook his head while Cal scribbled furiously.

    “No, that won’t work either,” said Sebastian.

    Ilmarė bit her lip. “Well, the captain also chose the first of nine. So let’s try every ninth letter.”

    “Hmm,” said Sebastian. “I think we may be on to something. The first word is ‘at’ and the second appears to be…’isles’? Calactyte, what have you come up with?”

    The big lizard stopped scribbling to blink back at the smaller sorcerer. “Huh?”

    Bijoux sighed. “Cal can’t read. Or write.”

    Cal beamed with all his teeth and displayed his sketch. It looked vaguely like a boat. And a pirate.*

    “That’s helpful Cal, thank you,” said Ilmarė without skipping a beat. “For the rest of us who can read, I think I’ve got it,” she said:

    “At isle’s northernmost point,
    Serpent overlooks the whale.
    Seek the serpent den below.”

    “I’m confused,” said Bijoux. “Do serpents and whales normally live together?”

    “No,” said Sebastian. “It’s a code for something else. I think we’ll need to journey northwards.”

    “But northwards where?” said Beldin. “That could take years to find.”

    Ilmarė glanced behind her. “There,” she said, turning around. “There’s a whale marked on that part of the island,” she pointed one long finger at the crude drawing of a whale that was inland.

    “Interesting,” said Oriku. “I thought it an error of cartography.”

    “But I don’t see a snake,” said Sebastian.

    “Here,” said Oriku, pointing at the bottom of a compass rose near the whale. “The ‘south’ direction looks strange.” He adjusted his glasses and peered closer. “It’s not just an ‘S’…it’s a serpent. Yes, I can see its tongue now!”

    Ilmarė squinted. “Yes, I see it. It does look like a snake.”

    “Then we know our destination,” said Sebastian.

    They turned to leave, but Oriku blocked their path.

    “I know I’m just an old man,” said Oriku, “but this mystery has been gnawing at me since I joined the Temple. To be able to see it to the end…it would mean a great deal to me.” He ran a hand through his remaining hair and straightened up a bit. “I won’t slow you down. And I have learned a few tricks, even if I’m not a priest.”

    Sebastian looked him up and down. “Fine,” he said. “But if you betray us, you will not live long enough to regret it.” Then he brushed past him.

    Oriku looked shaken but nodded at Sebastian’s back.

    “Why was Sebastian so mean to that man?” Bijoux asked as they exited the temple.

    “Ymandragorians put him on edge,” said Beldin.

    “Freeport will do that to you,” said Ilmarė with a smirk. “I’ll be glad to leave this cesspool behind for a few days.”

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    All That Glitters - Part 3: Two if By Sea

    Captain Baldric stumped his way over to Ilmarė. “I be seein' ye found some o' yer companions. Good. So do we know 'ere we’re goin'?’

    “Yes,” said Ilmarė. “Up the western side of A’Val.”

    “How far up?”

    “About 50 miles,” she said.

    “That’ll take a good three days. Who’s this chubby swabbie?”

    Osric cleared his throat. “I am Brother Osric, from the Temple of Althares.”

    “I bet ye be,” said Baldric. “I don’t like th' looks o' ye.”

    Osric blanched.

    The crew crowded around the doughy man. “So we’re goin' t' put ye t' a test…”

    “Oh for crying out loud!” shouted Ilmarė. “Just have the lizard sing it and be done with it. Osric won’t be with us for that long.”

    Baldric harrumphed. “Fine, fine.” Several of the crew shot sideway glances at Cal, who was staring out at the ocean and sniffing the air. “We’re gettin' sea sick o' th' lad singin' that song anyway.”

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    All That Glitters - Part 4: A Watery Grave

    It was too dangerous to sail at night so close to the island, so the Shrike released two rowboats to approach the cliffs. The cliffs were slick with spray, roiled continuously by the rising and ebbing tide.

    As the two boats rowed closer, Osric pointed upwards. “There!” he said. “That’s where the serpent was on the map.”

    “Are you insane?” asked Ilmarė. “That’s a sheer cliff!”

    Osric adjusted his glasses and rechecked a smaller version of the map from the Temple of Althares. “I’m afraid that’s the location.”

    Ilmarė looked over at Bijoux. “Well, one of us has to scale that cliff.”

    “Don’t look at me,” said Beldin from the other boat. “Dwarves were built for digging, not—“

    He didn’t finish his sentence as something rammed the rowboat, hard. Beldin went over with a SPLOOSH!

    “Swimming?” asked Ilmarė.

    “I think he meant climbing,” said Sebastian with a sigh.

    “Shark!” shouted Bijoux, pointing at a disappearing fin.

    Cal put his axe down. “I’ll take cUHRK!?” He was suddenly frozen, rigid. He fell backwards into the boat.

    “Magic,” said Sebastian. “There!” He pointed at a barely visible fish head, one webbed hand extended and pointing at them.

    “Sycorax sends her regards,” burbled the fish-thing.

    “Well then,” said Sebastian, “here’s our thank you note: magicus telum!” A searing bolt of magical energy flew from Sebastian’s outstretched finger into the fish-thing. It dove down into the water out of sight.

    “I know how to deal with sharks,” said Bijoux. She began to purr.

    “So do I,” said Ilmarė. “Im can am igaearon faer!

    Two porpoises dove in and out of the water in response to the magical call of their mistresses.

    Bijoux looked at the elorii in surprise. “I didn’t know you could do that.”

    “Osalian’s children are everywhere,” said Ilmarė. She addressed the porpoise, which was surrounded by a faint golden glow. “Stop the shark!”

    Beldin managed to struggle back into the rowboat before he became shark food.

    The fish head bobbed to the surface again, and was met with Sebastian’s chant: “magicus telum!” They played a game of cat and mouse for several minutes as the two porpoises relentlessly stalked the shark. And then neither fin nor fish head surfaced again.

    “That was one of the fish people who raided the warehouse in Freeport,” said Sebastian.

    “I was afraid of that,” said Ilmarė. “Looks like Sycorax will not forgive and forget so easily.”

    Beldin grabbed hold of his beard and twisted, wringing seawater out of his hair. “Now for the hard part,” he said, pointing at the cliff.
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    All That Glitters - Part 5a: The Hidden Cave

    “So now that we’re here,” said Osric, taking in the surrounding countryside, “where is the serpent?”

    One scaly claw, dripping seaweed and brine, struggled over the edge of the cliff. Calactyte was the last to reach the top of the precipice.

    “He doesn’t count,” said Ilmarė. “Dig in this time Cal, the last two times you tore off half the cliff with you.”

    Calactyte didn’t spare her a glance as the big lizard heaved himself up onto what remained of the dirt outcropping. He slumped over and caught his breath.

    “Well, I think we found the serpent,” said Sebastian, staring up at a tree that loomed over them.

    The jungle thinned somewhat, but even at the edge of the precipice, an ancient tree grew. It leaned out over the ocean and curved into an “S” shape.

    Cal’s large snout turned to face them as he rolled over. “I know where the whale is.”

    “If you sing that song again,” said Ilmarė, “I will kick you off this cliff.”

    Calactyte didn’t open his eyes. “At the base of the cliffs,” he panted, “water arcs through holes. Like a whale.”

    “Like a whale, hmmm,” said Sebastian, stroking his chin. “That means there are underwater tunnels here. There should be a cave entrance nearby.”

    “Closer than that,” said Bijoux. She pawed at the base of the strangely shaped tree and removed some foliage.

    Beldin took his axe off his back. “Finally, we’re going into my kind of terrain.” Then he ducked into the cave opening.

    Cal craned his neck to look down at the cliff. “Well, it’s got to be better than the ocean.”

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