Q1.new goals, aggressive action against the heroes, masks, amoeba, cough
17 Mirtul, Year of the Shadows
Thedric and Tengrym wandered the torchlit halls of the strange mountain ruin in their pirates’ garb. They passed numerous groups wandering this way or that, most of whom were rum-soaked misfits. The disguises held up, and the two were taken for regular pirates.
They wandered further along the confused labyrinth until they came to more heavily trafficked areas and living spaces. The number of pirates inhabiting the places, they discovered, could have truly filled a small city; and so Hogar’s Harbor seemed to be.
Upon one of these ways entering onto a larger street of shops, festhalls, and brothels, the two fell in behind two pirates, a brutish fellow clearly with orc blood, and a fiery-haired wastrel.
“It’s no good,” said the smaller lad with a pubescent crack of the voice. “There’s no medicine in the cargo hold of that ship out of Ravensbluff!”
His half-orc companion grunted.
“The masked ones continue to ail and rot, Darchon,” the young one chirped, answered by another grunt.
“I know what you’re thinking, Darchon, but who knows? The crew of that ship would make fine slaves and fetch a pretty coin, but for the masked ones’ tempers. They are to be sacrificed tomorrow nightduring the full moon. Until they get their prize, they still chant to the dark ones and repeat their old rituals… When will we get our share, eh, Darchon?”
Tengrym pulled Thedric aside into an alley. Nearby, a noisy brawl broke out with a shatter of glass, roars of anger, and taunting laughter.
“This is no good, Thedric!” the half-elf whispered. “We have to find a way to free Cauhlath’s men!”
Thedric reflected a look of shock on his handsomely roguish face. “You were serious with the captain?! We are free, and you should thank Tymora for that! We should think about stowing ourselves aboard one of these ships… Save yourself!”
Tengrym shook his younger half-brother firmly. “Think about what you’re saying! I gave the man my word, and I cannot give it back nor condemn twelve more men to die. We must save them and soon — I have a bad feeling about these ‘masked ones.’”
Thedric’s face wrinkled up. “Well, alright,” he said reluctantly at last. “At least let us walk away with some booty. I’m sure this pirate haven must be full of gold.”
“Stay focused, brother! Do not jeopardize our efforts. Let us map the least traveled way from the dungeons to the docks. I have low hopes for escaping a fleet of pirates. We also have to mark the lightest, swiftest vessel in the harbor.”
The two kept their stolen hats low above their features and worked their way surreptitiously through the throng of revelries and duels. They avoided all attention, but for a colorful parrot that perched on a broken wall top, intrigued by a familiar hat that bobbed through the crowd.
Q2.intrigue, octopus, commercial building, reading
The heroes continued their trek through the pirate hideout. They had lost all sense of direction, trying to make their way down to water level where they expected to find the harbor.
At one point, they wandered into an area with few pirates. “This is the wrong way, Tengrym,” Thedric muttered, examining one darkened corridor.
Suddenly, Tengrym stopped and listened. His half-brother did the same, and the two heard some sort of unison song or chant. The half-elf was inexorably drawn to the sound, finding a passage from which the sound seemed the strongest.
“Tengrym!” whispered Thedric. “What are you doing?!”
The half-elf did not answer, but continued down the passage. At the end, a strange light seemed to pulsate, first green, then lavender, then red. Closely, his brother came after, drawing his two knives. The passage stopped abruptly at what looked like a balcony overlooking a strange subterranean courtyard or amphitheater of some sort — round with stairs raised around its edges. At the center of the chamber a dais of five steps was raised upon which was some altar.
Five tall and gaunt figures in strange dark robes and large masks chanted in a strange tongue. At the center within their circle lay another similarly garbed figure was still and positioned along the altar. The light seemed to be sorcery of some sort, coming from nowhere specifically. The two peered down at the scene in horrific fascination, watching as the ritual unfolded. Thedric touched his brother’s shoulder to urge him away from the scene, having been too much a part of such diabolical rites since he was abducted from Hillsfar so many tendays gone. However, Tengrym wouldn’t be moved.
The chanting continued, but one of the figures stepped forward and removed the prone figure’s mask. The shock and horror the two felt caused a gasp to escape their lips. The figure’s face was all but human, appearing like some twisted sea-inhabiting nightmare. Four slimy tentacles writhed from a bulbous face looking like an octopus or squid. Two luminous milky white eyes stared vacantly up. A whiskered maw opened and closed beneath the tentacles like a fish’s. Still fascinated, Tengrym looked closer. The slimy flesh of the thing glistened, looking a sickly color, and was splotched by gray-white masses. The thing appeared to be sick or incapacitated.
Suddenly, a group of three men appeared below, entering the amphitheater. Two escorted a third, who wrestled against their brawn, screaming in horror. “Stealing from the pirate king will not go unpunished, Lod,” said one man with a grunt of effort.
The circle of chanting horrors parted, and one of the creatures lifted its mask, letting its facial tentacles writhe. Suddenly, the protesting man went stiff, and eyes went blank. The creature quickly replaced its mask and ushered the spellbound pirate into the circle. He was directed to lay directly on top of the sickly creature, whose tentacles found the head of the dazed victim. The tentacles bore into the man’s skull until the top of his head gave way, and with a sickening sound, the man’s brain was ingested, with very little blood. The lifeless body rolled to the ground, pooling blood on the stones.
Thedric pulled himself away, sweaty and panting. Tengrym, too, turned away from the horror and retreated some steps.
“What…what was that?!” stammered Thedric.
“The illithid,” answered Tengrym uneasily. “They are sometimes known as mind flayers — terrible monsters of the underdark. They probably have the pirate isles under their control, and seem to be seeking some medication or sorcery to help one of their kind.”
“I don’t care!” said Thedric. “Let’s get out of this place!”
Tengrym nodded. “Let’s keep seeking the docks…”
Q3.combat, betrayal, shooting star, low fuel, hide and seek
18 Mirtul, Year of the Shadows
The two withdrew and wandered more tunnels leading away from the illithids’ chamber. Their chosen path took them into more populated areas again, and an exit onto a rampart overlooking the bay. Lights twinkled from the many anchored and moored ships under a blanket of stars with a few low clouds.
“It’s late,” remarked Tengrym. “We must make a plan to escape during the day. Come!”
The two found a stair that descended to the quays. They passed several bleary-eyed pirates and made it to the piers. They looked around cautiously. Many ships were inhabited by crewmen — many more so than the two would have liked.
They took in the vast navy of ships, seeking a small swift vessel that might serve as their escape craft. They found none, and spent too much time wandering. The eastern horizon began to grow more luminous with the approaching morning, and the two were both weary.
The two were about to turn a corner, when they heard voices approaching. “At least one, perhaps two escaped from yesterday’s capture aboard the Sea Spray,” said one in a crude voice.
Quickly, Tengrym and Thedric flattened themselves against crates of stacked cargo.
“Ned and his two foolish friends ought not to have been napping!” snapped another.
“They can’t have gotten far!” said a third.
The heroes remained quiet, waiting for the group to pass their location, when a loud squawk pierced the silence. Tengrym started and looked up. There bobbing gleefully was a colorful bird.
“Squawk! Ned’s got a felt hat! Ned’s got a felt hat!” it repeated.
Tengrym was mortified, realizing he was wearing the hat to which the parrot was referring. He tried to shoo the bird away, but that only encouraged it further as it noisily gave away the heroes’ position.
Four mean pirates turned the corner to see what the hubbub was about, torches in one hand, and cutlasses in the other. The shortest, a fat man with one good eye, looked up at the hat one Tengrym’s head. That’s when the scene erupted into chaos.
With word and a wave, Tengrym let a brilliant spray of color to fan from his fingertips. Meant to knock them senseless, the four pirates fanned out failing to work on all but the short and far one. Thedric had his knives out as one advanced with a toothless grin. One knife flew out end over end, dropping the man.
In the meanwhile, the two remaining leapt toward the half-elf. “He’s got magic!” one warned needlessly. Tengrym whisked his sword out with a flourish. The blade gleamed vengefully along its naked length.
There was a blindingly fast exchange and the skirl of steel. Two pirates fell to the half-elf’s steel in but moments.
In the meantime, the parrot continued to squawk, “Ned’s got a felt hat! Ned’s got a felt hat!”
In the distance, more pirates gathered and drew arms. Intrigued by the disturbance, they approached. Thedric had retrieved his knife, and then the two sped away with an angry mob of cutthroats in tow. Tengrym tossed away his black felt hat and followed after his brother, gleaming sword in hand.
The two leapt and ran through confused streets, through taverns, and through barracks, and finally lost their pursuit. However, Tengrym dropped when they were in a quiet dark tunnel from exhaustion, slumping against a wall where he stood. Thedric was also tired, but was more hale than his half-brother.
“We will stop for a while,” Thedric said. “I’ll keep watch while you rest.”
“Not long,” Tengrym managed to say between gasps. He didn’t stay awake long.
The two had a short respite while the pirates sought the escapees. Time was running out, and in short time, the sun peered into the cracked walls of Hogar’s Harbor.
Stay tuned for the next chapter…