Blackwater Adventuring Company

Log 16: Elven Youth

Blackwater advanced carefully and silently making their way back down the stairs to a door for the first floor. Kraiven spotted shadows through the keyhole, but could not make out the words being spoken. Johann pressed his ear to the adjacent wall and heard the diction of Common and the voices of several men. Kraiven opened the door with deft silence and took a real look.

The Glasspine Guardians spoke amongst themselves as they stood behind three Elves kneeling in the middle of the room. Jordan Eran ordered two of the men upstairs to scope out the home. Their lords had come this way, but they have yet to seem them since splitting off at the river. The men advanced forward toward an already open door to come face to face with an initmidating Kraiven. He made it a point to let them know he could have killed them with ease.

Despite their initial terror, they were glad to see Blackwater safe and well. They quickly explained that they had been attacked during their combing of the forest by three Elves. Fenix was immediately wary of their treatment. He knew the Elves were captured, but he also knew this was their home and they were trespassing. The Guardians assured him they only used force that was absolutely necessary.

They continued down the stairs to examine the captives. Johann apologized for the circumstances, Fenix had them immediately untied, and Kraiven inspected them closely. Three Elves knelt on the floor:

Mendir was tall, even by Elven standards, and knelt straighter than the other two. His auburn hair flowed long and his sharp emerald eyes did not display the serenity you’d expect. He, along with the others looked to be very young.

Varandol withdrew slightly when looked at. He was brown haired and blue-grey eyed, but seemed meak compared to Mendir and softer spoken.

Seregil resembled Mendir in height, but was blonde and fairer than the others. She was also arguably more aesthetically pleasing. Her eyes were a fierce blue.

They collected that the Guardians had spotted the Elves in the Eastern portion of the forest before the three reacted violently, attacking the soldiers. The Elves also claimed they had a fourth, an even younger one, that they had lost just prior to meeting the soldiers. There was plenty of reasons for hostility and Mendir specifically seemed very upset by the outsiders.

Diplomacy brought them to a middle ground. They would help the Elves find their companion Eristor in exchange for passage to Tessaran. Mendir was reluctant and even claimed they could be no help of the people of Vanya’laide. They would not find what they seeked, but he did agree.

The group left the home and made their way East along the river. It brought them to the path the men and Elves had taken before. Three smooth white rocks dotted a dangerous bridge across raging waters. It seemed it would be a bit of a task to cross. Johann had no intention of using them.

His jump from a still, standing position was instant. He flew across the waters with ease and landed with a large margin of safety. With grace, he leaned on a tree and offered the other members an expression of self-assurance.

Fenix attempted the same, but with a running start. He proved that the heaviness of his equipment and armor did nothing to hinder his abilities. His jump was the perfect length as he landed on the other side comfortably, bypassing the rocks himself.

Kraiven relied on his balance as he made his way across the rocks. Although small and slick, his movements resulted in nothing close to a slip. His light, adept hops across were just as impressive.

The Elves made their way slowly with Varandol nearly slipping off the final rock. He held on however, but needed a moment to recover. His coughs indicated illness and weakness. Varandol was not well. He did make it across however as did the soldiers after a bit of time.

They examined the area where the scrape between the groups had occurred. Any chance of clues of tracks were decimated by the sheer amount of soldiers that stomped through earlier. They continued Southbound to a split in the forest. They split themselves as a result. Johann with Jordan and most of the Guardians; Fenix and Kraiven with the Elves and the leftover men.


Fenix, Kraiven, and the Elves

The warlord and rogue made their ways Southwest to another split. However, this one obviously led back to shore and the other curved back North toward the river and again to the East. They followed it in the only direction yet unexplored and found a dead end in the trees. It was round and clear with a discarded bag of sorts in the middle. Just past it, they spotted movement.

“Eristor! If that’s you, come out! We won’t harm you,” Fenix said. His assumptions were correct.

Eristor slid out of the tree line toward the bag.

“I saw it first! Get away from it,” the boy shouted back. He looked barely physically mature, standing short and lanky. His hair was a lighter brown and flowed ear-length over only one side of his face. Nevertheless, his appearance was one of determination.

The party made no attempt for the bag, but they neared him carefully. They noticed the bag was just a little too properly placed and seemed suspicious. Kraiven openly figured to let the boy test it out, there was at least something in it.

Before they could speak with the boy further, he picked up the bag. It barely swung around his shoulder before a loud crack sounded and he plummeted fifteen feet into a pit. A blunt rock awaited his fall and pounded into his abdomen leaving him unconscious at the bottom. The sky to the East then erupted in light in a signal, likely from Johann.

The other Elves rushed to Eristor’s aid and the others were ready to make their way toward Johann. In the chaos, only Kraiven noticed the charging bears before it was too late.


Johann, Jordan, and the Guardians

Johann approached the Southeast before reaching another split as well. One went farther South and he surmised with the others that it likely led back to the shore. The Westward path however led to an unexplored and wide open area. The grass was shorter and the fog was lighter. Johann easily determined it was not a result of the arcane.

“These look like hunting grounds,” Jordan warned. His suspicions were confirmed when Johann slid forward and recognized movement in the treeline ahead. The grass was shorter due to grazing – and shined with blood in patches.

“Large cats,” the wizard said. His knowledge of nature recognized the smooth, shrugging steps of felines. The Guardians froze in place. Any sudden movement could make them pounce. Johann brought a signal to the sky in hopes of support before facing these lions, tigers, or jaguars.

The response never came and Johann had no desire to deal with them face to face. He called upon his power of Ghost Sound and executed it perfectly. His resulting carnage of noise terrified even the men of Glasspine as the tigers and dire tiger bolted in pure fear and landed in the ocean on the other side. Their clumsy paddles were frantic.

Johann worried for the others and only made his way a bit more South before hearing the screams in the distance. The others were in trouble. He rushed back toward their original splitting place with the others and headed Southwest. He arrived at the dead end to see the other half of the partying battling two large, brown bears.


Fenix commanded his men and pounded on the bears; Johann lit them up from the grove’s end; and Kraiven sliced rotting wounds into them as he stepped and tumbled about. They were uncharacteristically sloppy in their fighting, but eventually killed the beasts while the Elves helped Eristor. When the battle came to its end, Eristor was awake upon the ground and Mendir showed some appreciation and respect.

He would keep his word and take them to Tessaran, though he insists it is not a good time for visitors. There hasn’t been an unplanned outsider in the city for many years and the he mentioned the terrors of war did never truly come to an end for them.

The forest proved increasingly gorgeous as they travelled a lightly beaten path South, deeper into the island of Vanya’laide. The previous shades of Evergreen merged with hues of yellow and purple. What was once fog became a cool mist, barely obstructing visibility. While the squad of Elves were able to navigate, Seregil explains that the trip to Tessaran was about a day-and-a-half’s journey. They needed to find camp.

Fenix found a perfect camping spot right off the bat and the men and elves began collecting brush and setting up camp. Before long, they sat beside a kindling fire to finally rest.

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Log 15: To Vanya'laide

The Glasspine Guardians awoke at the sounds of struggle, but only found Blackwater standing alone in the hallway. Their explanation was hard to believe, but their stress was undeniable. Fenix ordered shifts of watch over the halls to ensure they would not be surprised again. It proved effective.

The returned to their rest and awoke the next day in the later morning. Guards still manned the halls and they could hear the bustle of the common room below. Breakfast was served and they planned to have some themselves. Downstairs they found citizens of Argrim, crew from the Blackwater, and the Guardians eating comfortably and almost without worry. The effect of the news was apparent. Some of the worst men and women of the region had died in the ruins of the most infamous buildings. Those that did not know did not care how or why, they were just glad to be safer.

There were a few additional recognizable faces as well. Fenix spotted Jadzia Elon, thankfully unharmed from the incident at the Duras Mansion. She was there to thank the men herself for saving her and her half-Orc friend. They fled safely and promised to tell no one of their existence and operation.

They then all came to recognize a couple in the corner. Slowly, however. At first they were of recognizable frame and body. Then they were certainly a man and a woman. The man was impressively well hidden for an open area. Whoever he was, he knew how to blend in with a crowd. It finally hit them.

Callan Dor of the Brotherhood of Thieves and a great assistance at the mansion sat with Nia, childhood friend of Erik. He claimed the party kept him waiting and was about to burst with the amount of coffee he had drank during.

Nevertheless, he expressed his gratitude with their work while he flexed his informational muscles. He already knew the situation, where they were going, and why. He wanted Kraiven for the Brotherhood and safe transport for Nia out of Argrim. The party agreed and he left Kraiven with an encrypted letter to deliver to Giurland Laurent – his main contact in the Northeastern region of Mandragorran. He was in Wolfden Vale as well.

The men finished their breakfasts and loaded up for the journey to the Elven land of Vanya’laide. Coin found them plenty of food, supplies, and recreational drugs for the projected two-week voyage.

It began smoothly. Days passed beneath a beating sun as the men of the ship worked with efficiency. Blackwater was not expected to perform any of the day-to-day jobs and were treated as high ranking guests of their own ship until a cloudier day came.
The sound of distant, grumbling thunder was only slightly louder than the flapping of the masts in the wind.

“So inconsiderate is mother nature, is she not?”, Brasick shouted with a gruff laugh. “I’m going to need everything you’ve got! One of you to the rigging, one below deck, and one with me at the wheel! We’re in for a bumpy ride!”

Brasick’s experienced warning was worth heeding. Fenix took the wheel, Kraiven manned the rigging, and Johann coordinated below deck. The storm raged and the boat swayed. Fenix kept her well on path with the expert rigging done by Kraiven, but hit the occasional wave. The water failed to move the men from their posts on deck, but caused more trouble below. The damage previously done by Diurlig led to several breaches. Johann put use to the oars and prestidigitated wood to keep her afloat. His coordination of the crew ensured swift repair.

They managed the storm with skill and the crew acknowledged that with even greater respect. Food stores and supplies remained intact and plentiful for the rest of the voyage. Brasick informed them that it should only be another few days before they reach the Northwestern end of the island of Vanya’laide.

During the final leg of the voyage, Fenix dreamed of a woman’s voice that said, “I know who you are now. You and your father’s sins. It seems the power he never had is now the blessing and curse you bare. You will love me again. And you will die.”
He awoke unharmed and kept it to himself.


Vanya’laide

The ship neared the Northwestern tip of the island as close as it could. A little over a hundred yards away, they could see the foggy forested coast. The waters were unable to wear away at the green lands of the island surrounding Vanya’laide as nothing resembling sand awaited them. Just the edge of rocky land resembling one side of a giant river. The coast spanned over a hundred yards wide with a grovely beach quickly transitioning into thick grass and dense forestry.

They formed a plan with Captain Jean de Brasick. The Blackwater would sail back to Cenandira and transport Nia to safety there to then continue on to meet the company at Wolfden Vale. It was an order understood and well received. The party then took to the small boats to bring themselves and the Guardians to the coast.

The land proved a bit confusing. Paths were difficult to identify in the thick shrubbery, but eventually they discovered three dips in the treeline. It was the farthest one away that they chose on the other side of three-meter high rocks.

They climbed the boulders with relative ease, though the Wizard found them a bit slippery. The path on the otherside revealed to be wide and well-beaten, splitting in a fork. In one direction was the haze of fog and running water, the other was a bit more hidden. They moved forward to the river’s edge to discover yet more fog, raging waters, and a gargantuan tree on the other side.

There was no apparent way across, so they decided to turn around.

Doing so revealed a small, secondary path extending farther West. They cut through it to see a better view of the giant tree, but revealed another item of interest. It opened another beach-like area, rocky and more muddy dirt than sand. The mud was piled high upon itself as a result of a large beached vessel that leaned quietly on land. It was a simple boat, the wood dark and damp, and was significantly damaged. The masts above flowed lazily as a slight wind slipped through their rips. Its ramp dug into the gravel around it.


The Beached Vessel

The ramp brought them to the deck and immediately revealed four mast poles and a crow’s nest column surrounding the top of a raise roof, likely covering the area below deck. Fenix and Johann took a peek below deck to arrive at a door and Kraiven turned the far corner to inspect the top.

Approaching the corner brought him closer to a mast pole as well as the crownest’s column. He could see a rickety platform where the boat was once piloted from ahead. Only a couple of feet off the ground, the platform housed a damaged steering wheel. In the fog, he also perfectly spotted two dire wolves consuming a rotted corpse of a crewman. He called out to the others and the wolves attacked. The beasts moved quickly, but were no match for their prowess. Their wounds split and festered and they were tossed aside by their force.

They inspected the crow’s nest, but it rested 30 feet above upon a thick column. The last two or so feet of its rope ladder swang below. The rest must have been ripped away.
So they continued below deck. As they descended the stairs a pungent, damp musk hit them. Below deck were two rows of wooden bunk-beds for the crew covered in blood and surrounded by a mess of their previous items. The room continued forward and a portion at the end looked sectioned off.

They continued forward.

They looked into a small room, a bit more lavish compared to the rest of the ship. Well, if it weren’t thoroughly ransacked. The bed’s coverings were mostly coming off and bunched up as well as bloody. The table was covered in different nicknacks, thrown about and broken. A sack lay on the ground across from a heavily scuffed, wooden and bronze chest. Just in front of the chest was a long-dried puddle of blood.

Kraiven took to inspected the chest while the others checked the bag. In the sack was some gold, a thick rag with five holes in it, and three severed human fingers. It was a grim sight to share with the rogue. He continued inspecting the lock while they speculated on a connection. The lock was unpickable, blocked by a layer of steel just beneath the keyhole. Fenix took the lock in his hand to evaluate it himself.

The lock erupted in five spikes into his hand, wounding and poisoning him. It stabilized, but a man of lesser strength would need an amputation. Now they had to figure out what was in there.

They grabbed it in different ways, touched the severed fingers to it, and speculated further. Finally, Fenix had Johann grasp the bottom of the lock with Mage Hand, causing the spikes to eject into what looked to just be air. It released the metal block, allowing Kraiven to pick it with ease. The chest opened and revealed a single, expensive item. A magical grappling hook.
Blackwater took the item and returned above deck. The grappling hook provided them an easy solution to the distant crow’s nest where they found more dead and an unopened crate labeled, “To Argrim”. It would seem this was the missing vessel they heard about when they first arrived in the seedy city.

Inside were whetstones, a death rattle, and a bridle of conjuration. All useful for the coming days. The left the boat of the death behind as they returned to the forested island.


They ordered the Guardians to inspect the rest of the island as they worked their way across the river that once hindered them. The grappling hook grasped the other side and Fenix took hold to keep the rope taught. Kraiven glided across the rope with a deft ease, but Johann found it a bit trickier. He however made it across one Fenix took perfect hold of the rope and provided a surface as firm as ground with his strength. He swung across himself and climbed onto the other side of the river.

The area opened in a field to the East and coastline to the West. North was completely blanketed by dense fog and trees. A home sat in between. Small and modestly ornate, it was not nearly as impressive as the tree it was built beside. Standing well above 200 feet with a trunk width far wider than a home or inn, it dwarfed what now seemed a white shack at its base. Beside the home they found a stone at the base of the tree. It was written in Elvish, but they could decipher the name “Carlinya” and recognized it as a gravestone.

As they neared the structure, they noticed it had two floors, gold colored trimmings, and a painstakingly decorated door. It’s trim was lined with carvings of vines, various felines, and symbols. The two front-facing windows were small, but too had designs in their encasing wood. The entire structure looked fairly new and built with an artist’s attention.

Kraiven jimmied the bolt lock and they burst in to find a home in disarray. A table and chair were tossed to the side, a barrel set atop. The floors were dirty, and a chest sat in the middle upon a crumbled rug. It was open and empty. The home however was built along the tree, allowing it’s back-wall to be the tree itself.
They reached a similar sight at the top of the stairs. The room was barren and dirty, with its few contents pushed messily to the far end. Their search of the home revealed but one item still intact. The journal of a damaged man named Ferindar who lost his wife Carlinya during his time assisting the Elves in the Goblin War.

They read the few entries from the distressed man until they heard a sound from the floor below.

Current Date: February 12th, 1 AGW

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Log 14: Endless Nights
Back to Argrim under a blanket of night.

The wall of ice left by the risen woman still blocked the exit of the cavern, fogging the darkness behind it like a cold window. At least three feet thick, it would have taken quite a bit of force to break. Johann did not see a problem however. Flame erupted from his hands and what was once a wall become but a thin sheet. Yet, after the flames stopped, a rumbling noise continued.

The blurry visage of a soldier appeared on the other side of the ice. He shouted a muffled question. He tapped on the ice and then barked an order to whom must be behind him. Other men came forward and begin to break through the ice easily.

The ice finally gave way and shattered onto the ground. It revealed three men at the opening, with more farther behind. One was especially decorated and stood taller than the rest. He removed his helmet to allow his shoulder length brown hair to fall. He had the scruff of a soldier, but a youthful face. To some of company he almost seemed familiar.

“Heroes of Glasspine, I am Commander Jordan Eran, son of Jasiat. It would seem my father did not underestimate your prowess.” He looked around the room at the carnage.

He scanned the company and when his eyes fell upon Fenix, he stepped down from his horse and knelt before him.

“It is our honor to the serve the Captain of the Guard, Glasspine, and all of Mandragorran. My Lord, we have traveled this distance to aid you and beg your assistance. We come with urgent news.”

The town of Glasspine, which they had once saved from the Warlock tyrant Liam Eldeen, was now under a new threat from the Northeast. Since the rumors of their evil leader and radical change of government had leaked into the rest of Mandragorran, the kingdom of Wolfden Vale had been subject to attacks from strange creatures and the erratic behavior of a stressed king…Allastair Bertram.

King Bertram had threatened war with Glasspine, claiming that which ails his kingdom as their fault. He preaches to the people that The Dark One rises again and resides in Glasspine’s walls.

Jordan explained that was simply untrue. Since the reform, Glasspine had become a peaceful home and was recovering well. Fenix and the company had inspired the people and they had found strength…but were not ready for the threat of the most militaristic nation in all of Mandragorran. This was not like King Bertram. This was not characteristic of the noble Wolfden Vale. They needed to get there as quickly as possible and extinguish the situation.

Blackwater agreed to again help the people of Glasspine, especially since they were under Fenix’s military leadership. Their first step was to head back to Argrim. Jordan had come to the mansion after making contact with their Argrim guide, Bashir – who awaits them at the Swaying Maiden inn with the others.

The same pebbled road they walked in the early evening led them back West toward Argrim. They left Mount Irith behind them through air much warmer than before, marching in front of the Glasspine Guardians.

Night had fallen much earlier. It was a blue and black thicket of shadows upon the path, lit by a full moon and bright stars. Ahead they could see the various torches of Argrim, its population still awake as it usually was.

The stroll was interrupted however by movement in the dark. A few said they saw it to the right, but Fenix focused his vision. Looking to the right with the rest, his periphery clarified. There was indeed movement…but to the left. Out scurried a stern-faced dwarf. His beard as long, black, and ornately braided as his hair. In tattered grey and darker grey garb, he stood straight, almost terrified to see them. They could recognize him as a member of the CS Blackwater’s crew named Diurlig.

He offerred no coherent explanation as to why he walked toward the mountain at night, but he was intent on doing so. Fenix’s hammer and Johann’s calm attempts at diplomacy made no difference. He struggled to get by and a shining twinkle came dangling from his chest. They snatched it away from him.

It was a small red garnet on a golden chain and whichever of the men who held it did not wish to give it back. It inspired an uneasy feeling, just as the garnet they found upon Wilhelm Van Der Pol, but it was intoxicating. They remembered this dwarf was present when they experienced a vision upon the original CS Blackwater, just as they had in the ice cavern. The garnets were a link.

Then they noticed a light rise from Argrim’s docks ahead. Pulsating light – like fire. Diurlig turned to it, turned back to the party, and lunged foaming at the mouth toward Fenix with his crude knife. It was his final action as he the hammer that once pinned him made a quick stew of his head. He collapsed onto the path a headless sack of bones. The Guardians almost gaped at Fenix’s strength as he ordered them to move ahead. Something was wrong in Argrim.

They rushed into town as Kraiven kept to the darkness between torches and alleys until they reached the docks. There the new CS Blackwater remained afloat, their reward from their voyage from Cenandira in yet another commandeered boat. However, its cabin atop was ablaze and was being tended to by the crew.

The party made haste, nearly snatching the buckets from the men. From the ramp, Johann attempted to deter the flames and did so quite well. The others spent buckets of water clumsily into the cabin’s window. Their efforts persevered and the final puff of smoke through the window was the fire’s last breath.

Questions flowed freely between them and their men. Who was on watch? Where was the captain? What exactly was going on?

The men stood timid, but answered the best they could. Diurlig was on watch, but was apparently missing as was the captain. They could not explain what happened, especially after hearing Diurlig attacked the company and lay dead on the outskirts. It was hard to believe. He was a dwarf of integrity, but they supposed he was getting a bit restless from being landlocked. The garnet he once wore proved the truth. Diurlig had worn it often, claiming he found it in a forest near Cenandira with his old mates.

It was the same forest the company had found the first small camp of the blood cult. The cult they followed all the way to Mount Irith where they harvested the sanguine innocence of young women for a demon’s summoning under Wilhelm’s vile influence.

More connections began to take form, but there was little time to ponder them. Captain Jean de Brasick was missing and the only lead they had was the Swaying Maiden inn. They rushed there, navigating the streets haphazardly to mistakenly end up where they had met Woljech and Mikel the day before. It took a second thought, but they remembered the inn was two blocks south.

They stepped in immediately. The common room was dimly lit and quiet. Only a few patrons nursed drinks or rested their heads on their arms upon their tables. Two men played a game of Dice Daemar as quietly as they could up against a wall. One was apparently winning more than the other. No one sat at the bar as Mistress Aybara tended to its cleanliness. She welcomed them all with a knowing smile as her eyes flicked to the left. She pointed out a room with an upturned nod of her head.

“They await you in the private room, Jordan. Let me know if you or your men need anything,” she said.

The company took relief in her statement and asked for the usual comforts. Spirits and food. She provided what she still had at such an hour and the men moved into the room.

Familiar men bickered around the table. Once they entered however, they fell silent and their eyes rested on the company. Their Cenandiran contact Bashrr, Captain Jean de Brasick, and Argrim’s Captain Woljech gave them approving expressions. Jordan Eran came around, grabbed a mug from the table and lifted it.

“To peace in Mandragorran and to Blackwater, the heroes of Argrim!” he shouted despite the time. The men erupted in a grovely cheer, raised their mugs and took hearty sips.

They discussed holding the alliance the war inspired together despite the uneasy politics. King Bertram’s actions against Glasspine were unacceptable and the Argrim and Cenandiran representatives agreed to help as best they could. But still, Wolfden Vale sat some two months away on the Northeastern coast.

Then they got the real bad news. Up to this point, the men had only an idea of the politics and crime involved in all that Blackwater had investigated, but the company finally revealed to them the true evil afoot. They explained what happened beneath the burned mansion; the harvesting of women, the blood cult’s power, and the ties to a Dark Lord they thought was truly myth.

It was a jaw-dropping revelation for the men. Goblins, Orcs, demons, sacrifice. War would no doubt come again soon. The story Blackwater told practically sounded of legends…and it inspired further thoughts of mythical tales.

“I have heard on the seas that the Elves have a path called the Ways,” said Captain Brasick.
“A place they created long ago that brings them closer to their God, but also closer to the soul of Mandragorran. It is said they span Mandragorran’s land in as many days instead of months. I…I do not know if the tales are true, burn my soul. But we may need the Elves anyway if what you say is true. We can be ready to sail by morning.”

It was a stretch, but their choices were limited. That could potentially get them to Wolfden Vale in less than a couple of weeks and possibly again the assistance of the Elves. They agreed to the idea as the men offered their final congratulations and left. The inn was half theirs, enough space for men to double up in various rooms. They played a bit of Dice Daemar for some easy gold and retired to their slumbers.

It was pleasant, much needed rest until Johann jolted awake. He sat up to see a vibrant blue and purple glow beneath his door. He woke the others in their own rooms with his whispered ghost sound. They all awoke to the same sight.

Fenix exited his room confidently and walked toward what resembled an amorphous whisp of darkness surrounded in brilliant glow. It crowded around Kraiven’s door. He offered it a question, but its only response was to split into three whisps that looked like hooded, floating men. They attacked.

Johann stepped out from his room and burned the whisps at the end of the hall as Kraiven attacked with his door and eventually his blade. It felt as if they hit nothing, but the creatures felt pain until they finally experienced death.

The dark whisps became nothing…and left the company pained and damp in the darkness of the inn’s hallway.

Current Date: January 27th, 1 AGW

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Log 13: Wilhelm's Last Stand
A frostbitten battle and a beautiful demon.

Her body raised to his chest. His incantations bent language and song. Once dead weights, her arms sprang at her side as her head jutted back in an audible breath. Her flight raised and brought her up straight as if being pulled out of water. Her presence became an aura and then her aura a glow powerful enough to repel their vision. It released from her in a wave. Their vision returned to the scene after what felt like snowblind faded away.

The beautiful girl, raven-haired in a red tattered riding dress, its high cuts at the hips, stood breathing steady, slow, heavy breaths. Each one emitted no vapor – her breath was just as cold as the cavern. Her eyes glowed as blue, but more brilliantly than the surrounding giant icicles.

Blackwater carefully approached the ledge, trying their best to not echo through the chasm. The woman began to berate Wilhelm. Their best attempts to follow along only brought the occasional recognized word. Whoever she was, she was angry, and was worthy of being treated like royalty. He welcomed her back as if she was once gone and spoke of another plane of existence. His sacrifices had made her reborn.

Johann had seen enough. He waltzed to the ledge and called out to his brother. Just what was all this? What had he become?

The woman was angrier than ever now. Wilhelm had certainly made a mistake and did not tie loose ends, but he welcomed Johann without anger. The War had changed him and he had found a new god. The shadow made his battered body and mind strong again and promised him infinite power in a rain of blood. He would help raise an army…and bring back an ancient demon.

He tried to share it with their siblings Femke and Arjen, but they would not serve The Dark Lord. It was unfortunate, but he had to display his newfound strength…and kill them. But he would not have to do so to Johann. They could rule under a shade of crimson, together.

Johann’s stance stammered in shock. His family was gone and all that was left was a broken man, consumed by evil. Power and knowledge was not worth the death of so many and a deal with a demon. No, he would stop Wilhelm at all costs.

Blackwater sprang into action as they hurried down the icy ramp. Hidden by shadows and ice formations, they approached the Orcs and Ice Mage. Wilhelm, in his tunnel vision of rage fired beams of ice in Johann’s direction while the battle ensued around him.

Orcs met the rest of them upon a bridge of thin ice. Fenix and Kraiven made coordinated, sleek work of them with mace and blade. Their heavy bodies thudded upon the ice, causing it to crack. Godric and Erik advanced swiftly, hoping to avoid the hazard. But Godric knew it was not the only danger. The ice creeped toward heat…and drained a man of life with its cold.

The woman simply watched as Wilhelm’s frustration elevated. She seemed distracted, almost uninterested. She glared at Fenix and finally, after pondering, spoke.

“I will leave you to your…family matters, Wilhelm.” She tripped over her words as she walked toward the cavern’s bright exit, "Do be sure you take care of them.”

She sashayed through the opening, almost disappearing on the other side of the glare. Her hand then appeared again, reaching back in to the cavern. After a “come hither” flick of the wrist the snow surrounding the door trembled and jutted high into the cavern in a wall of thick ice. The opening was sealed and the cavern made slightly dimmer.

Wilhelm had had enough. He raised his hands and looked to the cavern’s ceiling. A loud, thundering crack sounded as an ice formation the size of a pine tree fell. It splashed heavily into the frigid body of water and began to fall toward the men below.

Johann did not allow it. Flames erupted from his hands, perfectly executed and bright as a star. The snow lit up by his power and the structure of ice became warm rain. Wilhelm could only stand powerless below him. Shock set in his eyes as no words came from his gape.

The warmth brought a new weakness to the icy bridge as the final orc fell. It shattered beneath him, leaving Kraiven only half-footed on the ledge and Erik to be drenched in the river of slush. He held on to the same ledge, refusing a full a dive.

A hand of ice erupted above him that grasped Kraiven. It squeezed with an arctic pressure, but cracked under the picking of his dagger. Then a bash of Fenix’s shield made a worthless frozen stump out of it. Wilhelm was surrounded.

He erupted in a freezing cloud, but then took hit after hit as he bled and burned.

He gazed one last time toward his brother as Johann’s ball of flame engulfed him in a bright flash. He was serene and accepting. His form became only silhouette…and then ash that snowed into the stream to rush away.

All that remained was a staff he once wore on his back and a garnet upon a chain. It sat upon black snow. A staff of Fiery Might for his brother. A gift for his partner in conquest. Johann picked it up and sighed a steamy breath. He looked back to a red stone sat where Wilhelm once stood and reached for it. Each member of the party felt suddenly as if they were somewhere else…

The cold and snow faded away and flames crept in. They all sat in a trench eight feet deep that ran as long in each direction as they could see. Men sat beside them. They cried for their wives, their mothers, their brothers and sisters. They clutched their swords to their chests and prayed to their respective gods.

They heard the deep whistle of a large projectile rush overhead. A flaming boulder crashed merely yards away, barely missing their position.

The fear was real. The heat was real.

A figure walked calmly from the explosion toward the trench. He stood above and gazed down. His deep black cloak covered his body and face. His breath slowly steamed from his hood as if it were cold again. Behind him burned the city of Irith, collapsing in on itself. The ground at his boots and directly ahead of them became bodies and skeletons. The sword in his hand ignited in flame.

A blink and a man knelt before the cloaked figure, but faced Blackwater. His hair was long and white and his armor once shone, but it was dull then with a crack running through the wolf’s symbol on his chest. He clutched a stone in his hand that dripped blood upon what was again scorched earth.

The cloaked figure took the man’s head with his fiery blade.

He uttered a coarse whipser that was unintelligible.

But the snow returned. The cold returned. They were back in the frozen chasm overlooking what remained of Wilhelm’s ashes.

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Log 12: The Crimson Cavern
A hive of torture, death...and new life.

The door’s opening pummeled them with a frostbitten wave of cold. The surrounding temperature dropped significantly; they could feel it in their bones (-2 check to all skills and attack rolls). A jagged hallway continued forward for a short distance before splitting left and right. The brave men chose left first.

A short path leds you to another heavy door. Getting close to it revealed a pungent stench as they notice it was closed shut. It did not have a locking mechanism however.

Fenix carefully opened the door to reveal an even darker room. The hum of maggots and flies became audible while the stench became almost palpable. Skeletons, fresher corpses, and separated pieces of the bodies lined a narrow room. They all seemed to be of women.

Nothing other than these bare bodies could be seen upon the floor until they looked upon the opposite wall. There were words, crudely, but almost ritually written in blood upon it. They could recognize it as abyssal. Fenix’s knowledge of Infernal allowed him to translate it, but he had to endure the disturbing surroundings for minutes that seemed an eternity.

“Gda nleeg ba gnootb me geam goomga eaen leng,” he read, “The blood we drink so does taste our lord.”

It was all they could muster. They had to continue.

They backtracked the way they came. The cave winded as they passed the door they had entered from. It widened and split left and right again. However, the right seemed to continue onward as the left already revealed another door.

A heavy, unlocked door just as before.

They could hear three voices, chanting in a synchronized whisper. Keeping his place at the front, Fenix opened the door with confidence. Within was a room only lit by a blue aura emanating from the ground. Three figures stood beside the circular source, entranced in their speech. They did not notice the opening of the door, but Fenix instantly began to feel tired…drained.

Kraiven knew the figures were thoroughly preoccupied and made child’s play of slipping through the door himself, a shadow to them. The fatigue and dread of what felt like hollow ground washed over him.

Johann wasted no time. He wanted to avoid whatever now ailed his allies, and sent a ball of flame between the figures, setting two completely ablaze. Fenix rushed toward the fiery blaze to crack the skull of a figure whose back was still to him. It turned the man around to reveal a robed and well-armored creature of glowing green eyes. A Deathpriest of Orcus. The assassin saw it as well and slid beside one of the Deathpriest’s companions for a stab. He revealed them as Crimson Acolytes.

The Acolytes proved slippery, shifting as they pleased and swiping with heavy scythes. The Deathpriest was more resilient, backing up for only a moment to release a pillar of sickly black fire from his hands. It grazed by the Warlord, reminding him of his own wounds. He called upon his power for newfound strength…but could only muster up a fraction of his potential. The Necrotic Ground beneath drained him of the sweet sensation, leaving him only a taste.

It made no difference. The darkspawn and worshippers of Orcus fell to fire, blade, and hammer leaving the company to take away their intimidating, but well crafted armor and weaponry. It also seemed they were performing a ritual. The scroll found amidst their bodies read “Endure Elements”. They decided to perform it atop the pulsating blue circle on the ground. The ritual seemed to allow them to fight past the bitter cold, releasing the pain from their bone to continue normally…but the circle amplified it further. The cold was a pleasure. They embraced it. It made them stronger.

The divine evil of the situation became clearer and the party continued on past the door to the right path. About to turn a corner, they heard two Orcs’ muffled shouting.

Voice 1: “Oi, it’s yo’ fault! If you didn’t bloody lose the note, we would be able to get in the room! Damn bars could be in any order!”
Voice 2: “I ain’t mean to! I was just washing me knives, they was stained with human blood. She screamed like banshee though, haha!”
Voice 1: “HAHA – that she did, but yo still an idiot. And be careful before you slip and crack your dumb head!

As they turned the corner they revealed a long, ten-foot-wide passage. Two orcs stood at the very end of it, leaning on opposite walls. They continued to bicker normally. Kraiven glided ahead, bathing in the darkness of the narrow passage. He made it to the middle of the hall and placed his last step upon a patch of ice with a slight slip. The hallway was covered in it. No matter, he pulled out his handcrossbow and placed an accurate shot through the head of one of the Orcs – killing it instantly. The other cried only have a roar before the fire mage made dust of him.

A handful of shouts answered from the next room as more Orcs poured into the hall. Fenix power-slid deftly through the ice to stand beside one and bludgeon it with his mace. Dead. He could see the next area now, circular and open with a larger Orc than they had seen so far stood at its center, rushing toward the party. Two leaner ones ahead shut a crude, spiked door to block further passage.

They fought on making festering, sliced, and burned corpses of the Orcs. The large Bloodrager stood last, hitting a wall accidentally to allow water to freeze beneath him. The ice hindered no one as the party surrounded him. A final blast from Johann melted his surrounding ice and set the Bloodrager up for a back-stabbing execution.

They forced the heavy door aside and continued their onslaught.

The cave went on and took a sharp turn left. The path then opened up to reveal a small pond of still, dark, icy water. The area just felt…strange. They could not quite put their finger on it. The path also still continued in a straight line much, much further and became dark before they could see an end.

Remembering the the argument between the Orcs, Fenix inspected the water and its surroundings. The water was slush, tainted with blood. The rocks beside however revealed a piece of flattened parchment. It was scribbled upon with clumsy hands. Five pillars with differing numbers of circles beneath them. The others stood to his right as they passed the opposite wall, ready to continue through the long tunnel.

Blood appeared on the wall beside them that drew itself into a large teardrop, halting them. This must have been what they were sensing. Their knowledge of the arcane told them the ritualistic blood drop of Orcus awaited the right words. They were unsure what they could say.

Fenix uttered, “The blood we drink so does that our lord.”

Nothing happened, but they could all feel he was close. Johann said the end seemed wrong…there was something about tasting.

Fenix tried again – “The blood we drink so does taste our lord.”

The wall dissolved. Behind it was a room locked away by five thick, metal bars. They were far too close together to be squeezed by. They rested a hand upon a bar…and watched it glow a brilliant white resultantly. In fact, each one glowed when touched, but when all five were turned on, they turned right back off.

They tried different orders of activation, even tapping multiple times. They referenced the parchment, finally flipping it upside down to feel they now had it in the right orientation, but their perception of the writing still proved incorrect. They allowed themselves time to study it further.

“The drawn bars are not necessarily the bars we see,” Johann figured, “they are just an order of operations. Steps.”

“I agree,” replied Kraiven. “The circles beneath each column likely indicate a bar itself.”

It clicked. They touched them in the outlined order. The first, the third, the fifth, the second, and last the fourth. They each glowed as before, but then dissolved to allow them access. The room was small and seemingly only used for hidden storage as they found a large chest in the corner. It was full of the Orcs’ spoils from murder and pillaging.

They found:
1. Collar of Recovery (AV pg 151)
2. Bloodthirst Bracers (AV pg 114)
3. Burning Gauntlets (AV pg 132)
4. Gloves of Agility (AV pg 134)
5. Ironskin Belt (PH1 pg 253)
6. Bag of Holding
7. 500 gold

They took their spoils and resumed down the final, lengthy tunnel. The remainder of the cave continued straight for several minutes until they finally reached an end. The small opening led into a gargantuan cavern, round and high. Icicles the size of trees hanged from the top as well as jutted up from the ground like frozen stalagmites. They refracted the sunlight entering from an opening seemingly far ahead…but they could see nothing beyond the towers of ice. Their breath smoked before their mouths. It was colder. They could feel the tingling in their bones, but it only strengthened their grasps.
Their first steps softly pressed upon snow, freshly fallen and undisturbed somehow beneath a ceiling of stone. They could hear the idle grunts, shouts, and labored breathing of orcs. They fought amongst themselves and argued over frivolous things. They sounded in great number.

And then a voice boomed that only one of them could recognize.

“Silence all of you! We finally have what we need. Now it is time for you to see just how capable our Lord is.” He began an infernal prayer of death, calling for blood and reanimation. His words were babbled, mixing tongues and dialects, slowly lowering in pitch. He spoke of lore and myth…and Mojadiin. A demon known only of children’s stories.

As they approached the frozen ledge about fifteen feet high, they revealed a more open area. A small body of frigid water sat below a bridge in its middle. On the far end, Orcs sat in a corner while three others gawked at the man speaking. Tall, bulky, with stringy black hair, Wilhelm Van Der Pol, brother of Johann Van Der Pol, stood beside a glowing circle in the ground. The corpse of a young lady lay in its center as it began to convulse and twitch.

He was reanimating her in the name of Orcus.

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Log 11: Mountain of Darkness
Where the party at?

All the fighting, researching, and questioning finally led to a simple knock upon the mansion’s door.

A servant of the home swiftly answered, recognized men of their hire, and welcomed them in. Of course he had to insist they provide him with their jackets and weaponry. Only Johann and Kraiven managed to keep their weapons with bluffs and concealment. The rest had their items placed into a room they merely got a glimpse of just beside the entrance.

The butler then escorted them toward the bustling ballroom. They passed a large living area with a gargantuan painting of a lovely woman in a pale blue dress. Erik immediately recognized her.

The love of his youth…Nia.
But now was not the time to allow himself to be vulnerable.

The ballroom was filled with dozens of attendees. They crowded in groups upon the beautifully tiled floor surrounding a fine red rug with gold trim. It was narrower, but the ceilings were high, and the room was the length of the previous hallway. To the left was the most important table, backed by a large fireplace to keep the valued attendees warm. To the right was a lovely spread of different foods expected of a port city. Lobster, salmon, shrimp, meats, cheeses – a delicious cornucopia of grub only further enhanced by a wall lined with ale and wine barrels. Jadzia minded the table and setup.

The company got to mingling, speaking to various guests and maintaining their cover. Their patrol disguise now unnecessary, they took to their drug-dealing personalities and made some friends. That is until Kraiven decided it was time for a bathroom break. He did have a ring to find after all. It took some convincing, but the servant finally decided to be his escort. It was a deadly mistake that lead to a blade across his throat and a blood-soaked nap in the bathroom’s tub.

The rest kept their cool in the stuffy room until Spencer Duras tapped a glass and welcomed everyone to the banquet. He introduced Callan Dor, the extraordinary Bard, and allowed the party to continue beneath the sounds of his lute. Fenix took the moment to warn Jadzia of the upcoming danger. Her and Mogh needed to slip away as soon as they could.

The olive-skinned Nia found herself at Erik’s side for a quick conversation, but the pressure of Duras’s gaze split them apart. Erik knew something, but had to stay back.

It was then that Spencer grasped at his chest, gasped for air, and fell upon the ground. Panic erupted as the company took the opportunity. They kneeled by his side and attempted to identify what ailed him. Fenix finally came to realize that it was no mere heart attack. Spencer was experiencing a poison. He convinced an older woman, Ms. Young, to fetch his hammer that yielded healing powers. A clever bluff. She obliged.

It was then that Callan Dor himself fell beside them.

“Forget your foolish mission, gawkers. There is much more afoot here than you realize. Go below and what you find – kill it. Or this war will start yet again!”

They understood at least partially. Callan provided them a cover and escorted them toward the exit of the room.

Kraiven found himself before the door to the stairhall. The ring would likely be in Spencer’s quarters since it was not upon his fingers. It took some skill, but he picked the lock and slipped in just before hearing a blood-curdling scream from the restroom he just “used”. He hurried back, found Ms. Young amidst his murder scene, and ended her life as well. Two down. He left her there with the butler and hurried up the newly found stairs to a crowd of guards arguing over cases of wine.

The company followed Callan to the room that held their weapons beside the entrance. It was as easily opened and entered as their items were to find. Fenix however examined a bust of Spencer’s father, Gabriel Duras, closely. He touched the blue jewel upon its chest and the wall before them slid aside. A secret room was revealed, apparently for Spencer’s private use. The spoils of gambling sat upon a table with a drunken guard in a wine-induced slumber.

Godric and Fenix put an end to his dreams, smashing his head into mush with their warhammers. They took the spoils, the guards keys, and a sword mounted upon the wall. Then they made their way back toward the main hall.

Kraiven decided against the stealthy route and made himself known to the guards. Still in his disguise, he convinced them a murder had been committed (which was not exactly a lie) and insisted they check the bathroom. They insisted he lead. So he did.

The two groups met in the halls, the disguised Blackwater Adventuring Company and Kraiven with the guards. He led them to the bathroom and allowed them in, signaling his friends to be ready. When all the guards entered, so did their firebombs. A moment later, they held the door shut while the men inside were burned alive.

Johann befriended their young pet wolf and they continued upstairs. Besides wine and gold, they found the Duras Family Ring and continued below by the Bard’s words.

The young woman in the painting, the lovely lady that spoke to Erik, stumbled through the stairhall entrance disheveled and weeping. Her mascara lined her cheeks in rivers of tears. She turned around and fell to her knees.

“You ungrateful little bitch!” a familiar voice shouted. “I shielded you from the goddamn war, kept you alive and how do you repay me? You dare poison me, you wench?! You and the child you carry are no longer worth anything to me. I’ll fucking kill you both!”

Nia begged for her life between babled apologies. A flick and snap was heard as a small hand-crossbow bolt pierced her chest and forced her to lay bleeding upon the hall’s floor.

Spencer Duras stepped slowly through the doorway, gazing down upon his bride. He looked up to see them standing on the steps.

“Bastards…” he coarsely whispered. He backed away toward the door behind him, obviously intimidated. He said shakily, “you’re next.”

The sound of a quick gust of wind interrupted him. He began to quiver and bleed from the mouth. He fell to the ground.

Callan Dor stood behind him, grasping a dagger. He quickly kneeled by Nia and checked her pulse at her neck.

“Get down there, goddamnit. I’ll take care of her…and the rest of them. GO!”

Kraiven provided him the Duras Family Ring and Callan tossed Nia over his shoulder. He bolted towards the main entrance and was cut off by three guards. He tossed three spheres at them and jumped through the flames they erupted in out of the company’s sight.

They continued below to the dark basement. Two wolves lay sleeping, but barely posed a threat to their onslaught. The cellar became a mess of blood, fur, and wine. Something was down there and they were determined to find it. Fenix made a hole in the ground to discover a hidden panel leading below. A crudely dug tunnel lead further down.

The tunnel continued on until they found it sealed by boulders. Godric had the strength to move one and even proved quick enough to avoid its trap. The pressure plate triggered arrows toward him that would only find the boulder beside him. The rest passed by unscathed as a result.

The small cave became a vast cavern jutting high into the ceiling and far below to dark, reddish, murky waters. Three paths lay before them: two lining the sides and one straight down the middle.

The left was jagged, rocky, and had two spots in which they would no doubt have to jump. The center was more solid, steady, but also had two gaps that lead to the murky fate below. The right looked well carved, well used, and even ended in a bridge.

They split down the middle and right, clearing one of the obstacles before them. Then, a door at the other side of the cavern burst open. Seven orcs rushed through, shouting about the triggered trap. Blackwater continued their advance and fought valiantly against the Orcs, sending most of them to the waters below. One of which even took care of the deed for them.

They made it safely across and passed through the door into a continuing, windy tunnel. What sort of evil was down here?

Just what would they find beneath the mountain?

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Log 10: The Cold Approach
The adventurers march toward the soiree.

The morning sun rose and Blackwater got to work. However, during their quick preparations, Bashir introduced them to a new agent. Judas was his name and he was to provide additional guidance and intelligence to the operation. Judas had been an active member of the underground before finally meeting Bashir months ago.

The party found it agreeable and headed to the meeting Godric scheduled with the Fighters Guild. It would take them to the heart of the city, but the day seemed to wash Argrim over with a temporary peace. They found themselves at the guard tower’s entrance without issue. A guard stood before it and recognized Godric.

“You picked a hell of a time for inquiries, Dwarf. Go right on in, but you’ll practically have to wait in line,” he said. “Woljech’s already in talks as we speak. Nevertheless, enter at your own risk.”

They did indeed and were met immediately with a perpendicular hallway and a door before them. A heated argument loudly occurred on the other side. Fenix attempted to quietly open the door to lend them an ear.

A deep voice exclaimed, “You think you can just send the brotherhood in there, Mikel?! I don’t care how sneaky you all think you are, you set them off and you’ll the entire operation. Hell, if I had it my way, I’d arrest you and as many of your friends whose names I could get out of you.”

Another voice, accented and presumably Mikel’s responded with, "You may have strength, Woljech – but you certainly lack discretion. My sneaky friends and I can at least tell when someone is listening at the door. Perhaps you should change the subject.”

The awkward moment found its height when the party decided to close the door and pretend nothing just happened. The Captain angrily insisted they come in. It took only a moment for them to clarify that they were the Blackwater Adventuring Company. Woljech knew of their orders, but could provide no assistance beyond what they had already. It was a true risk for the Fighters Guild to interfere with the Duras Family. They were a too large a financial superpower in not only Argrim, but all of Mandragorran. They were the heart of most trade occurring in the continent.

Woljech gave them the only useful tool they did not already have. A new technology found on the black market. Smokescreen explosives. Perfect, metallic spheres that exploded in a thick fog once thrown against a surface with significant force. They no doubt would have use for the confusion it would cause.

Mikel then approached Kraiven with an offer. The young man from the previous day informed him of the group’s heroics and influence, but Mikel saw an assassin’s eyes in Kraiven. He needed a ring acquired from the Duras estate that belonged to Spencer Duras himself. If Kraiven could retrieve it, he could buy himself a spot in the Brotherhood. He agreed.

Their meeting came to an end and the party utilized the rest of the day to prepare. Time passed and the sun began it’s descent. It was time to get moving toward Mount Irith and the mansion that rested at its base.

Loaded with their weapons, Demon’s Dust, and forged invitations, they made their way toward the soiree. The blue nightfall followed them as the air became cooler…but that was not all that followed. Some of the party felt they were being tracked. The rogues took to hiding themselves and the others continued normally. Their pursuers decided to reveal themselves.

Five finely dressed men emerged from the surrounding forest and inquired about their destination. Blackwater quickly admitted they were on their way to the Duras’s party. They had assumed that the men were keeping undesirable folk away. They were right.

The leader of the men, Marcel, demanded their invitations and he inspected each with scrutiny. They each presented their own, but just could not pull it off. Marcel knew better.

“Kill them,” were his last words.

Once the inconvenient highwaymen were killed, the party decided their clothing would be useful. They fancied up with various garb and found a legitimate invitation for the five men. Johann disguised himself thoroughly as Marcel and they continued their advance with confidence.

It finally became dark and an unnaturally deep cold set in. Johann knew it wasn’t just a change of weather. It was Wilhelm. It had to be.

The mansion lay ahead and they neared it without a second thought. Several guards stood watch along with two domesticated wolves. They expressed no alarm, but one guard spoke up. He wondered why the patrol they sent out was back so soon. Johann had to explain that they were coming back from a bit of an incident and needed to head in. The guard understood, but still found it strange. He did recognize “Marcel”, however.

Johann passed him and the others followed suit one by one. A couple of close calls and scrutiny finally ended in Godric being stopped. They employed no Dwarves.

It was their second mistake of the evening, but the last for the guards. Although the wolves proved ruthless, they all met their death beneath the stars. It was a mess, but the party cleaned it up and dumped the bodies in a nearby patch of forest. There was now nothing between them and the front door.

It was time to party.

Current Date: January 26th, 1 AGW

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Log 9: Brawn and Espionage
Blackwater collect intelligence.

Shortly after docking, a man hastily made his way up the ramp onto the Southtown Queen past the protesting members of the crew. They attempted to block his path, but his presence was quickly approved by Captain Brasick.

He was Bashir, operative of the Argrim- Cenandira Alliance and had been assigned as Intelligence Officer for the current mission. He was to provide Blackwater Adventuring Company with all relevant and useful information to assist in the exposure and destruction of the Almeria crime ring.

A Half-Elf of strict business, Bashir was quick to begin correspondence.

“Argrim’s a rough place,” he explained. “The slums are out of control. We had to turn security control completely to the Fighters Guild…and they’re not exactly trustworthy, but are better than nothing. Now, mind you, you are gaining a bit of a reputation, Blackwater. Your Tiefling there alone already has a recognizable face. They’ve plastered portraits of you all over Glasspine. These criminals have a long reach, you keep covered up out there.”

“Also, I have a lead for you. The bigwigs here have a bit of a soiree they hold annually. It’s unclear if the host is Almeria, but key members will definitely attend. What it really turns out to be is a collection of high-end criminals trading everything from art to weapons between sips of wine. They even have the nerve to hold it in the biggest, nicest, and oldest building in the damn region. I can get you boys in there with a bit of work and you can start investigating Wilhelm. He’s your target…well…one of them. I have a secondary target, but he’s not necessary to talk about until we get what you need to get in there.”

“What’s needed so far is simple. Invitations. Now, I can forge them…if I had an original to base it off of. That’s where a third and more immediate target comes in. Jadzia Elon. She catered the party last year and is going to do so again. She runs a small restaurant and tavern in the middle of town called The Kurzon. How you handle it is your business…but we need her invitation within the next two days. The party’s on Saturday. Any questions?”

The company continued into the town to prepare and get the invitation. The Kurzon was the first stop. It was a modest establishment with a small kitchen, a few tables, and a long bar. Jadzia distributed drinks and firm, but friendly looks.

Some members took to the bar to prod with questions while others held back.Kraiven’s keen ears caught wind of a missing ship that was on its way to Argrim. Erik had a run-in with a salty local, but heard the same rumor from another patron. Godric entered the kitchen and met Jadzia’s cook, Mogh. A Half-Orc she nursed to health after finding him on her journey North away from the war. He wasn’t the brightest, but he knew he had to check with Jadzia first before he shared any information.

Before they knew it, they were all ousted and their intentions were made transparent. They needed access to the party so they could investigate and apprehend criminals. Jadzia, being a woman of moral standard, found comfort in their strength and provided the invitation they needed for “only a moment”. The Wizard prestidigitized a copy and they took their leave.

Blackwater returned to the ship and provided Bashir with the invitation. It was a job well done, but there was a development. Brasick opened delayed orders he was provided that state the investigation will no longer be one of espionage. They were to burn the entire mansion down to eliminate as many of these high-end criminals as possible. Innocents be damned.

It was an unfortunate turn, but the company understood their orders. Bashir would have a forgery within hours, but they still had time to prepare. They reentered Argrim and took to the shops, picking up everything from new weapons to poisons. Johann, searching for a discount got word of the shop owner’s cousin’s missing hammer. If he could turn up with it, he could get his new staff.

Kraiven scoured the streets he found comfort in. He neared the School of Argrim in the Northern Slums and looked for some new clientele. He offered some young hooligans some of The Demon’s Dust, but that unfortunately resulted in the uncontrollable seizure-like convulsions of a young man in the streets. One of the Fighters Guild’s guards took notice, but was fooled by Kraiven’s swift tongue. He went off for help and the rogue simply walked away.

Fenix bumped into the fleeing rogue, but didn’t get a chance for explanation before the guard appeared again demanding answers. Another lie later, Fenix was apparently the help for the boy still deathly ill near the school. Thankfully, he was indeed able to stabilize the foolish young man. Lessons were however not learned.

Johann still needed that hammer and after a fruitless trip to the library (other than finding a book on Orcus), he decided to enter the slums as well. He asked around until a kid seemed to have some information. Bad kids can be bought with drugs he figured and he was right. An offer of pipeweed led to a deal. However, the deal did not go smoothly. Johann clumsily dropped the product onto the ground and a guard noticed. Pipeweed isn’t illegal, but giving it to minors is. So Johann changed his form to a child immediately and blended in with the crowd.

Godric investigated the Fighters Guild, but the guard wouldn’t allow him entrance despite namedropping Nolan Eran. It would have to be tomorrow if anything, the leader here was plenty busy. He returned to the boat to prepare for the next day. He returned to an anxious Bashir who tosses the invitation at him. The party was tomorrow, not Saturday!

The rest focused on the child. Kraiven noticed the boy’s thieving nature and rest decided to intimidate him into coughing it up. He finally gave in and led them on the Eastern end of the slums into a dense alley.

An ambush ensued, but was extinguished easily. Young men with barely any weapons training found themselves bloodied and killed. One was inspired so significantly by Fenix himself and their prowess that he swore to change his ways. He revealed the name of his group, the Brother of Thieves and provided Kraiven with as many details as he could. It was another contact…another source.

Tomorrow was a meeting with Argrim’s Fighters Guild and a dinner date with evil.

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Log 8: Wyatt & The Southtown Queen

Everything was so good. Quick prestidigitization to enhance their haphazard meal left Wyatt busy with his plate instead of speaking. The company uttered offers from different ends of the table, anxious to be done with the negotiations. He seemed more interested in how much they had than what they wanted for it.

At that, his blundering sailors from earlier finally found themselves onboard, shivering between steps as they entered their common room on the second deck of the Defiant. Clutching blankets, they stood aside the other two sailors overlooking the dinner table. Wyatt wanted to see…and try what they had on the ship and forced one of the frigid men to sample The Demon’s Dust.

The effect was almost instantaneous. The sailor, who took far more than recommended, ended up a convulsing mess upon the deck, foaming at the mouth. He was finally taken away by one of the others and their conversation could continue. The Dust was rare and worth quite a lot of gold, but the company just wanted an escort to Argrim. It seemed fair to Wyatt.

Dinner came to an end and they adjourned to the top deck, presumably for Wyatt to return to the Southtown Queen. However, upon reaching the top, the expected plank was missing and three men stood menacingly upon the opposite ship’s deck.

“I don’t think you’ll need passage to Argrim,” Wyatt said. With that, the three men fired arrows at the sabotaged sections of the boat. The previous clumsy sailors were in fact performing their duties. Triggered explosives now began the sinking of the Defiant as the company welcomed battle upon their dying vessel.

The arrows did little damage, but Wyatt was sure to bring his best with him. His guards did significant damage with their whip and dagger, but the company did much more. The fighting went on until one of the archers fell to a flaming death and Kraiven took Wyatt’s life with his careful blade. They both tumbled into the calm waters to join Johann who had attempted a jump across.

The Warlord would have no such thing. With courage, Fenix shattered the foot of his enemy, tossed a grappling hook onto the Southtown Queen, jumped off, swung down, grabbed Kraiven, and then successfully ended up on the deck of the enemy ship, surrounding one of the archers. It was perfectly executed.

Alone on a quickly sinking boat, Godric willingly took to the waters as the sea took her. Revealed on the other side was Captain Jean de Brasick upon a raft with their stash of Demon’s Dust attempting to assist his swimming shipmates. The men left aboard the Southtown were quickly extinguished and the remaining members of the company were pulled on board. Godric piloted the ship and enabled the rescue of Captain Brasick, his crew, and their most valuable substance.

Finally safe and armed with a new, sleeker vessel, Blackwater took to examining the decks. Below deck they discovered eight Dwarves, chained to their rowing stations. It would seem Wyatt had a hand in slave trade himself. Johann and Fenix deftly freed them from their shackles as Godric comforted them with well chosen words of the divine.

The waters proved agreeable and the rest of the short voyage was thankfully uneventful. Lives were lost, but mission continued as the jagged horizon of Argrim came into view. The ship slid into dock and Blackwater Adventuring Company readied themselves for the next phase of action…

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Log 7: The Seafarers
A short, but dangerous voyage.

Readying for their leave, the company approached the Cenandiran docks toward the CS Blackwater. Upon a closer proximity, a bald, handsome man took notice of them, smiles warmly in their direction, and approaches with an extended hand.

He introduced himself as Captain Jean de Brasick. The Guard had appointed him as Captain and navigator for their trip to Argrim. He presented himself as a very rigid man that has taken orders for many years. He knew who was going to run the show…and that was Blackwater.

Brasick welcomed the adventurers onto a busy boat. Preparing for the voyage were several men and dwarves loading boxes, bedding, and supplies. Among the crew however seemed to be two characters out of the ordinary.

A cloaked man stood on the deck. His covering seemed to jut in all directions almost too sharply. A closer inspection revealed a man of pure crystal, silent yet speaking. He was Artanis…a travelling Shardmind from another plane. A peaceful Bard, he was hired for the boat’s entertainment and perhaps a bit of a distraction. Artanis effectively presented himself with friendship as his telepathic powers allow. He was acceptable.

The other was another cloaked figure, but not as covered. From afar, one could notice his chainmail, holy symbol…and height. A Dwarven Cleric sat in a corner, reading a book. Artanis approached him with almost childlike curiosity, but the Dwarf was not as swift to be friendly. Business came first.

He was Godric and he knew eyes that had seen war before. Godric quickly identified the majority of the group as veterans and deduced them as hired men. He had his own reasons to head to Argrim, but it sounded like there was coin to be had. Unknowing of what to expect in the seedy city, they allowed a bit of trust in Godric. At the very least, he helped the ship seem less conspicuous. Holy men traveled often.

It became time to depart and the company left Cenandira behind. The waters proved an agreeing lady as the sun began to set. Not many ships had the benefit of a Naval crew to run her so smoothly. They made great time and the crew exhibited alertness and a strong will. Though one in particular seemed more alert than the others.

A dwarf shuffled eagerly and stern-faced toward the company. His beard was as long, black, and ornately braided as his hair. In tattered grey and darker grey garb, he stood straight and saluted. He explains that the Captain had news for the company and must be reported to immediately. His voice was silky and accented with a southern man’s voice (comparable to our Eastern-European and Scottish accents). It was a kind of voice they hadn’t heard in over a year. The south was where they last fought the hordes of goblins against the conquest…

and suddenly they found themselves beside a gargantuan fallen tree. The only sounds heard were screams and flames. No longer on a ship’s deck, they sat upon grasslands once green, but now charred and burned, spotted with chunks of infertile soil. So much chaos seemed just behind them, just beyond the tree, but they felt so suddenly exhausted. They could barely convince themselves to stand.

But they did. All but Kraiven stood quickly, and the newcomers Artanis and Godric did so with perfect skill. Revealed now were a dozen hobgoblins setting a small village ablaze. A cousin of the goblins, the veterans recalled the coalition they once fought that even included the occasional mobs of orcs. It seemed any sentient creature with enough hatred would fight for vast extermination. A child screamed as he was surrounded by the hobgoblins. They readied themselves to execute him.

The native Blackwater members realized they stood within a memory of their own pasts’, now made real all over again…but these new men now stood beside them unlike before. Nevertheless, the danger was real and had to be dealt with. The fighting began with blood shed on each side, but hobgoblins steadily began to fall. Kraiven finally fought past his pains, slid over the tree, and found himself silently behind the largest hobgoblin there. His cutlass supreme made quick work of the creature’s back, carving valleys along his spine.

Flame, blade, and even song rained upon the hobgoblins. Godric’s hammer managed to rain upon the head of the young child laying on the ground to put him in a peaceful sleep. It was a slip of the hand, but the boy survived the attack and was thankfully safe. A village that once housed his family burned intensely as he lay in the glow. He was the last of his community. What was his name? The soldiers just couldn’t seem to remember. The flames grew higher, but began to sound of crashing waves. The ground began to sway…and they were again on the deck of the CS Blackwater.

The Dwarven Lieutenant still stood before them. Wary of their momentary unresponsiveness, he insisted they continue to the Captain after making sure they were well. The company remembered it all as very real. They were all there together and saw the same vision. There was just no time to discuss it. The Captain had important news.

The always friendly Brasick invited them into his quarters and placed a map upon his desk. He explained that the trip to Argrim was going to get a little interesting and they had a decision to make. A large rock formation stood within the path. The West of the small mountain would prove harder to navigate, but the East (a faster route) teemed with pirate activity. It was the company’s choice to make. It was their mission.

They discussed the possibilities and decided finally on the Eastern route. They had enough brawn to handle anything that came their way and wanted to get there as fast as possible. Brasick agreed and dismissed them. A keen eye would be kept on deck to watch out for any foreign vessels.

Night fell, passed, and then welcomed the day. The waters agreed and the mountain slowly passed by. It was afternoon by the time a ship came into view. With no flags it had no affiliation, but approached them directly. It was narrow and much longer than the Blackwater and they could also see why it was so fast…four large paddles on each side helped her along. A man stood with a foot upon the starboard (right) side of his vessel as they approached.

Overly friendly and a bit demanding, a man named Wyatt introduced himself to a ship he was already familiar with. He knew this was (or used to be) the Defiant and where the Defiant was so was The Father of the Ocean. .

He was quick to ask which of them just so happened to be the good Father. Wyatt had never met the man before, so his appearance was a mystery. The company stumbled over the question, but Artanis’ appearance and telepathic power convinced the man that the crystalline entity was the elusive Father.

Wyatt invited the crew to a bit of dinner and business between ships. While originally planned to have it on his ship (the Southtown Queen), the company convinced him to have it on the Blackwater with a few of his crewmen. It was a tough deal to make, but Wyatt finally agreed. For the next hour, the crew prepared to host while the Southtown Queen seemed quiet and almost empty.

“Dinner” approached and Wyatt stood twenty feet across water upon his deck. Four crewmen ready to cross with him, they extended a plank. It seemed the men had very little experience with walking a plank…as two of them fell to the waters even with Godric’s assistance.

Wyatt was not happy with his men’s buffoonery and rushed over the plank himself ordering the remaining crew to help them back on-board before they drowned. He was ready for a meal and business. The company led him and his remaining two guards below deck to the living area. The beds now pushed aside, a dinner table sat in the middle and the additional doors were incidentally blocked.

The snide man had a seat at an empty table and asked what was on the menu. It seemed dinner itself didn’t end up in the crew’s plans as they scrambled for whatever food they had stored. Dried meats, aged cheese, and wine finally plattered the table for them to begin eating. Some of the company had a seat and some stood guard outside the door. Godric walked in with the “Father” and flipped a coin upon the table.

“Let’s talk business, gentlemen.”

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