The Razor Coast: Islands and Pirates

Session 10: The Bullywug Gambit
Lavinia in Peril

In the chaos of Founder’s Day, the party found itself amid a throng of drunken commoners near the Bawd District. At a makeshift open-air tavern, a group of tumblers broke away and suddenly attacked. A lithe woman in a full-body skeleton leotard tumbled by Ono and began to punch and kick the dajobasu, whispering to him, “This is for Rowyn Kellani.” Eight of her comrades were on 10-foot stilts and nimbly maneuvered through the crowd, throwing flasks of alchemists fire. At the same time, someone release a dragon-shaped float and set it on fire. The float careened downhill straight towards the tavern and the party.

Aleister cast web and deftly stopped the flaming float which burned through the webbing but drifted to a slow crash. Ono and Zuka Zuka chased the assassin woman as she tumbled about the crowd, finally beating her into submission. Shea and Crush concentrated on the stilt walkers while Aleister, Keahilani and Bertram dodged the alchemist’s fire and put out flames on buildings. As panic erupted in the square, the dajobasu and Crush knocked down several stilt walkers. Aleister put them to sleep or caused misfortune while Bertram stood back and blew holes into the clownish assassins. Keahilani drew his magic dagger and did battle with those on the ground. After the last one was subdued, the party heard someone cry, “The dragoons are coming!” They raced north to the plantation estates to rescue Lavinia.

They left the noise and laughter of the celebration behind and scouted the estate. Dim lights were seen on the upper floor and two figures paced back and forth. Choosing the straight-forward approach, they walked up to the front door. Keahilani knocked and loudly called for Lavinia. No answer. They walked inside and began heading towards the top floor, only to be ambushed by mucky frog humanoids (bullywugs). Several of the despicable creatures were slain before they made it to to the top floor. Evidence of a struggle were apparent as many of the Vanderboren artifacts were destroyed or otherwise in disarray. Leaving dead bullywugs behind them, the party reached the top floor.

They explored unused bed chambers. Opening a closet door, Zuka Zuka was surprised by three tall alligator humanoids. Ono and Zuka Zuka recognized them as the cursed karikanti, worshippers of Dajobas. The gatormen cut into the party with claws, tooth and tail. Things began to look dire. Bertram blasted holes with his boomstick and Keahilani spent every moment healing injured members. Crush, Ono and Zuka Zuka all fell before the the thick-skinned creatures only to be brought back by Keahilani’s holy power. At that moment, bursting in through another door, a half orc pirate wielding a cutlass attacked them while a drooling bullywug shaman stood back and summoned an ape. Keahilani and others attempted to convince Drevoraz that the pirate queen Harliss Jarvell had sent them, but he wouldn’t listen.

Two karikanti fell, but the shaman continued to cast healing spells while Drevoraz slashed with his cutlass. Ono fell again. Zuka Zuka fell. Bertram’s weapon jammed and the merchant’s son was clawed and stabbed. Keahilani frantically healed party members while Aleister switched from offense to healing as well. In a desperate move, Shea moved in to flank a karikanti with Ono. The beast cut her to shreds, though somehow her clothing saved her from death. The summoned ape proved little challenge and Drevoraz and the bullywug quickly fell without the gatormen.

In another bedroom they found a conscious Lavinia who was gagged and tied up. With her was a dead servant girl and two of the Jade Ravens: Tolin Kientai the ranger and Zan Oldavin the half-elf rogue. Ensuring they were still alive, the party pledged to Lavinia that they would clear the mansion of the remaining invaders and attempt to locate the last two Jade Ravens.

They found a grotesque female bullywug wielding dual handaxes and her bodyguards feasting in the dining hall and smoking cigars. Dispatching the huntress, they finally located the Jade Raven dwarf Kaskus Kiel, a druid, unconscious in a secrete room and clutching a potion. Reviving him, they heard that Kaskus had fled to the secret treasure room in order to find healing potions but had forgot about the magic missile trap. They sent him upstairs to join his comrades.

In the basement, they found the source of the invasion: a split iron grate through which ran a natural stream. Mud covered everything. To the east they heard gurgling laughter and a faint jingling. They found the bullywug chief and his hunters watching the last Jade Raven, Liamae Teslikaria (a sorceress), dance with nothing but a filthy sheet wrapped around her, through which were tied various pieces of silverware. An odd lobster-like bug bit and clawed her; Shea identified it as a Rust Monster. The chief ordered the rust monster and his hunters to attack. Within moments, all of the invaders were dead and the rust monster crushed under heel. Liamae gave her thanks and they returned upstairs.

Lavinia thanked the party and rewarded them generously. Keahilani dismissed the Jade Ravens and told them they could begin cleaning up the mess downstairs. Glares and grumbling were are their backs as the party retreated into the night for a well-deserved drink.

Session 9: The Gambit
Madness in Anchor Bay

The wooden stairwell cracked and shattered under the impact of the flaming ship. Aleister fell face first into the smoky surf below. Ono swung on the rope and clambered down the cliffside. Finding Aleister unconscious, Keahilani stabilized the witch and hid his unconscious form within the coastal grasses. Flames and smoke permeated everything. Wreckage and smuggled cargo were strewn about the beach. While scavenging the few valuables left, the party stepped into a mass of corpses, many of which showed signs of being devoured by other creatures. Cracked bones and puddles of gore led to a tidal cave system.

Scouting within the debris and corpses, several deformed pirates howled and attacked with cutlasses. Some of the creatures sported vestigial twins, others the familiar bone spurs and writhing tentacles. Bertram and Crush were bitten. Ono and Zuka Zuka bashed the diseased creatures while Bertram blew holes in their festering flesh. Keahilani joined the battle with his magic dagger as did Shea’s eidolon, Crush. Keahilani, Bertram, Shea and Crush began to suffer mentally due to the disease they carried. Knowing that time was limited they entered the cave system.

More signs of cannibal feasting were found everywhere. In one chamber, the pirates’ cook happily butchered fellow crewmen. In another, diseased krenshars feasted on their fellow guard dogs. They destroyed these creatures and found themselves in a cave covered in once-beautiful silken tapestries. As he examined the east wall, Bertram was suprised by a lurking diseased deinonychus. The dinosaur erupted from its hiding spot and tore into Bertram, before others in the party could do battle. The reptile proved fearsome and difficult to kill, inflicting gory, diseased wounds. A raccoon-squirrel humanoid glided from the cavern ceiling and attempted to sneak attack Ono. Bertram recognized it as a phanaton, likely a former crew member. Keahilani did battle with his dagger while the other slew the reptile. At last, the beast fell and the diseased phanaton was easily destroyed. In another chamber, a shattered woman greeted them, “Vanthus? Is that you? It’s Brissa? Come here my love?” The diseased woman attempted to bite Ono at which point the party slew her. They found a locket containing a portrait of Vanthus inside it.

They followed the sounds of mad cackling and a female’s cursing, which led them through a maze of stalagmites and to a makeshift bedroom where a gruesome feast had finished. A pirate had made his last stand, killing six former crew members before the others tore him apart and feasted. The cackling continued and they rounded a corner to see a dark-haired pirate captain cursing as she whirled her blades about her,dispatching many of the cannibal pirates. “Who ye be? Join the battle or away with ye!” The party joined the fray, only to realize she needed little help. At last, corpses covering the floor, she introduced herself as Harlis Jarvell, a commandeer of the Crimson Fleet and formerly reporting to Captain Kilgante (Kilgante, she informed them, was the devoured corpse they just passed).

When asked, the party provided their story and the fact that they searched for Vanthus Vanderboren. A stream of profanity left Jarvell’s mouth at the mention of Vanthus. “That scurvy, vomitous pig caused all ye see!” She explained that Vanthus had introduced himself as a trader wishing to buy contraband. Left on his own, Harliss later caught Vanthus setting the bay on fire and attempting to steal a large black pearl she had intended to sell for a weighty price. In anger, she stabbed him with her rapier. As the wretch bled, blood touched the pearl and green smoke and sparks erupted. Vanthus fled overboard and swam for shore. Jarvell had grabbed the pearl and threw it overboard where it exploded upon impact with the water. Green tendrils of smoke infected most of the crew members and animals aboard the ship. The rest, the party had already witnessed. The worst news, however, was delivered by captain Harliss herself.

“I’ll learn that cur what it is t’foul my business! I know who he is! Th’Vanderboren name’s no secret to me. I know he’s got family’n holdings in Port Shaw! I sent me right hand Drevoraz t’deal with yer friend, I did. He’ll do for Vanthus’ sister, his mum and pop, and any other family or friends the bastard has in that dunghill city. Cross the Crimson Fleet and we take everything in your life from ye. Best not forget that, boyo.” The party explained that Lavinia was actually working against Vanthus and wanted him brought down. Harliss seemed skeptical but explained they best hurry since Drevoraz was sent inland to gather “allies” before attacking the manor. With that, she left the party and headed northwest.

The party paused to search the refuse in the tidepool, finding the shattered remains of the pearl and putting it in a large chest. One undamaged ship remained moored in the bay and they swam towards it. The Sea Wyvern boasted a beautiful wyvern figurehead and sails bearing the emblem of a wyvern in flight. The new “pirates” expertly navigated the bay and made towards Port Shaw. Docking in the Tide District, they were stopped by the Dragoons who recognized the shift as belonging to the dread pirate Kilgante. Bertram stepped up and explained they had dispatched said pirate and displayed Kilgante’s unique rapier. With a sigh, the Dragoons left.

A festival was taking place in Port Shaw. They learned it was “Founders Day,” celebrating the colonization of the island by mainlanders and the departure of the elves many years ago. Fighting their way through the crowds and drunken revelers, they found the small chapel of Quell in the Tide District. There they met their friend, Jimmy, as well as the young priest of Quell, Zalen Trafalgar. The trident-wielding blond man healed them of the disease and seemed concerned about the nature of the supernatural taint. He offered to take the pearl into custody, but the party opted to leave it aboard their new ship. Bertram dedicated himself to Quell and Zalen advised that he might need to work for the temple at some point the future.

Keahilani urged speed in order to save Lavinia. The party pushed through the crowd, only to see a float in the shape of a sea serpent careen out of control towards them and the crowd. Street performers on stilts surrounded them while a woman in a skin-tight black skeleton suit tumbled past Ono and whispered, “This is for Rowyn Kellani and the Lotus Dragons.”

Session 8: The Razor Coast
Leaving the Leviathan and the Journey to Port Shaw

Bertram, Ono, Zuka Zuka and Jimmy began to panic as Leviathan island picked up speed and headed west, away from Freeport. The Book of Vael Turog warned them, “Soon it will submerge and won’t be stopped. You must eat the god flesh found inside the beast.” The book counseled Bertram to read page 69 to call upon the deep magic and summon his friends to him. Doing so, Bertram summoned Keahilani, Aleister and Shay. The situation explained, they began to explore.

Aleister identified massive, viny flowers as moonflowers, carnivorous plants that appeared to be in a dormant stage. They avoided these and marveled at the footprints Bertram discovered in the moist soil, part humanoid and part something else. Seemingly the only man-made structures were a series of towers in the middle of the island. Most were ruins, but one tower sported a font of perpetual clean drink water. While exploring the fountain, a series of amoeba swarms and a gelatinous cube attacked. The eidolon, Crush, was engulfed by the cube, but the creatures were quickly destroyed once Bertram realized the swarms were harmed by the pure water.

Another tower seemed empty but intact, with a series of bubble-like windows. They found a trap door and descended into the dank, dripping depths of the Leviathan. The walls pulsated as they entered a veritable maze of soil-like flesh. They discovered the source of the footprints above: a tribe of fish-like mongrelmen who threatened them with spears and told them they weren’t welcome. Ono apparently had enough and attacked. Aleister’s web spell entangled most of the creatures and they didn’t stand a chance against the might of the party. The remaining mongrelmen surrendered, warning the party that when their chief discovered their presence, they would all die horribly. They led the party to the chamber of the god flesh. Blue nodes grew from all walls.

Bertram ate the juicy pod and began to have visions. Eons of travel, the depths of the ocean, other planes of existence and the endless search for…something else. He recovered, babbling, but could not control the beast. Aleister took a turn, eating three pods of god flesh. The visions came and went, but he gained an understanding of what motivated the massive creature. He directed all mental energy to steering the miles-long beast towards the east. As he did so, they felt it accelerate and Aleister knew with certainty that the entire “island” would dive beneath the waves. Aleister also grew one enormous lobster claw and a tentacled foot (later removed with a Remove Curse spell).

They raced to the surface and located the bubble tower. Suspecting that it provided refuge during long dives, the party closed the door and waited. Thankfully, the magic of the tower surrounded them and fresh breezes provided air. After several mind-numbing days of underwater travel, they arrived a half mile from Freeport and ascended. As the island emerged, panic ensued in Freeport and legions of looters and adventurers came to explore. The party sneaked away on a makeshift raft, watching several hours later as beast slowly submerged again, causing yet another wave of hysteria throughout the city.

Regrouping with Lavinia Vanderboren, they reviewed Vanthus’ letters and assisted Lavinia with preparing for the long voyage to the Razor Coast. As Lavinia’s hirelings prepared the Blue Nixie, the adventurers equipped themselves and spent gold freely. Three days later they watched Freeport receded into the distance. The voyage was mostly uneventful, though Lavinia took the time to educate them on the unlawful nature of Port Shaw, the subjugation of the Tulita natives and her need to collect debts from Barrison Hargrove, the mayor and leader of Port Shaw. Her family had a small estate on the outskirts of the city and she urged the party to find Vanthus and explore Anchor Bay while she finished business. She mentioned that she had sent her mercenaries, the Jade Ravens, ahead of the party and that they would keep her safe. Jimmy, priest of Quell, also bid his farewell, saying he must visit a young Zalen Trafalgar, the priest of Quell sent to reopen their small temple.

Docking the Blue Nixie, Lavinia went on her way while the party explored the docks. They witnessed destitute Tulita natives addicted to dragonsmoke and begging in the streets as well as filthy dock workers with glassy-eyed stares. Children attempted to sell fish; Zuka Zuka bought a greyish, smelling snapper and used it to beat away the peddlers who were too aggressive. Whale carcasses could be see on the far side of the harbor and everything stank of rot and decay. Mobs of people attempted to sell Garr Bloodbane’s treasure map, each one slightly different. They pushed their way through the filth and found the “Broken Skull” tavern in the middle of the Bawd district. They quickly learned that the ‘Skull’ was locally famous for it’s unarmed fighting bouts, with a warrior named Jin currently at the top. If they aspired to be the champions, they would need to win two bouts without cheating or compensation. They spent a day talking to the locals and gathering information – see Whispers and Rumors – and witnessed some fiery fiddling by one sea dog who happily kicked in the face of one patron while the crowd continued to dance and laugh. That night, they were visited by the local dragoons, dressed in their blue uniforms, who searched them for Dragonsmoke. With foresight, Ono hid the sample he obtained from a drug pusher inside the floorboards. The dragoons left, seemingly disappointed.

Finally, they hiked towards Anchor Bay, first exploring the village of Thumb’s Reach due to the rumors of its destruction. They found dragoons their who warned them away; bloody swathes painted the sand and gore was spread up one side of a shack. The dragoons told them it was none of their business and to move along. They walked up a cliff side and looked down onto an inferno inside Anchor Bay. Vanthus’ promise in his letters appeared to be fulfilled. Several ships were aflame while figures writhed in the obscuring smoke below. As they pondered this, a group of fanged monkeys attacked. Though they were easily killed, the party looked with disgust on their sore and pus-ridden bodies and unnatural fangs and jags. A rickety staircase led down the cliff. They tied off on a tree and went down in pairs. Lastly, Ono and Aleister descended. But at that moment, one of the flaming ships unmoored and crashed into the staircase. Ono and Aleister tumbled to the water below…

Session 7: To the Edge of the World
Of lich queens, talking books and living islands

Freeport was downright peaceful. Until Simez Rothgazzi’s awakened ape butler appeared. The remainder of the party assisting Lavinia, Bertram, Ono and Zuka Zuka decided to talk to Simez. Though the geomancer reminded them that they were now quite late, he admitted that there had been no other takers. He was also able to secure another ship: the Speedwell.

The mission, he said, was simple. “Travel to the distant isle of Karn’lothra, the abode of the bloodless queen. Retrieve the Book of Vael Turog from inside the Tomb of Qoraz, the minotaur king.” He admitted some danger, given the nature of the undead island and the Queen’s aggressive policy of protection and expansion. But surely the party had gathered exotic animals or other gifts? He provided the Key of Veles, a large green metal key which would open the tomb. In addition, a powerful magic item in the form of a red stick. “Break this and you will be protected from most undead for many minutes. And – don’t read the book!”

Bertram and the brothers agreed, given that Lavinia would not be ready to leave for many weeks. They took stock of their menagerie: six tropical birds of various sorts and four beaver-like rodents. Clearly this wasn’t enough. They traveled to the merchant district and purchased a hairless cat (“she is undead after all”), a flesh-eating iguana (“uh, she’s still undead”) and a toy poodle (“she is a woman after all”). Still, something was missing. To the jungle!

Zuka Zuka’s hunting skills turned up a placid, grey gecko sitting on a rock. It put up little resistance as Ono thumped it on the head and stuffed it into a bag. Several hours later their tracking went awry. A large spotted cat leaped from a tree, tearing into Zuka Zuka. It was quickly subdued and they added a limp jaguar to their collection. For a long sea voyage, they realized they were unprepared to take care of all the animals. With a bit of gold, they convinced their young hired animal tenders to take the voyage with them. Irvingh and Jack clearly thought they’d become rich and helped the party gather food and supplies, especially the 20 pounds of raw meat and extra cages.

They met Simez at the designated dock the next day. He introduced them to the priest of Quell, Jimmy (Swagger). Jimmy seemed very comfortable at sea. The captain of the Speedwell, a lizard man named Captain Gullnipper, was fine with the priest of the sea. However, he had few kind words for the party. “Stay out of my way and that of my crew! Stick to your cabins! If there are pirates, you do all of the fighting!” And so the journey began.

Amid Gullnipper’s insults and Jimmy’s cheery outlook, the journey might have been interesting. However, what ensued was 3 weeks of misery. Each became seasick in turn while most of the animals retched uncontrollably in the hold. Irvingh turned green immediately and the ship soon reeked of vomit and sweat. The jaguar howled and whined day and night which only escalated Gullnipper’s bad temper. The hold would never be cleansed of the smell of cat urine.

He was a good captain, however, and managed to steer them true. One morning, an unnatural fog beset the ship; the perfect cover for a goblin pirate raiding party. The goblins swarmed the ship, led by two abominations: goblin sharks. The goblin sharks vicious bites caused serious bleeding while the goblins howled with joy as they lit fire lances at the crew. As promised, the party did all of the fighting and took out the goblins in quick order. They found the dilapidated ship, looted it and burned its leaking hulk into the ocean. The next day, a small greenish sea dragon approached them. In rough common it asked for gold in exchange for directions. Being a bit lost, the captain told the party they might need help. Ono handed over a sack of 500 gold pieces and the dragon led them to Karn’lothra. They arrived intact, minus 2 birds and one rodent which had perished on the way.

Tombs and crypts littered the hillside of the island, possibly numbering in the thousands. Broken or damaged ships flying a black sail were in the harbor. Nervous, Gullnipper told the party to complete their business and be off. Noticing figures aboard some ships, Bertram hailed them, but most looked away. One whispered, "Best to wait until night. You will not find an audience with her until then. He indicated that they were all slaves of the undead.

At sunset, a ghostly apparition in the form of a nobleman approached them saying, “Welcome to the Queen’s Island and the Harbor of Last Hopes. Why are you here?” They explained they brought gifts on behalf of Simez Rothgazzi and wished to explore only one of the many tombs. The ghost led them into the ruined city at the top of the hill where they surrendered their weapons and wands to a pair of water-logged draugr. Inside, the audience chamber was vast and ice cold. Four draugr stood in front of what would have been a beautiful zombie captain…except for the large rent in her chest where her heart would have been. Behind them, seven feet tall, was the alabaster form of the Bloodless Queen. Her eyes shone like black diamonds and her skin was a white that was almost blue. Otherwise, she showed no sign of decay.

“Welcome to my island. I understand you have brought tribute from the geomancer Simez Rothgazzi. It is about time he paid his respects.” Jimmy stepped up and put on his best smile. They introduced the animals one by one, explaining their merits. There might have been the hint of a smile on the queen’s lips. Finally, she said they were free to explore for one day and one day only and dismissed them.

The party waited until morning to avoid the worst of the undead and climbed the hill. They followed Simez’ directions and looked for the tomb with the correct Ankeshellian runes and the signs of the horns on the door. After several hours, they found it. Touching the Key of Veles to the door, it flashed and opened wide. Tapping at the floor saved them from falling into a deep pit trap. But did not save them from the two vampiric mists. Though deadly, the creatures were destroyed and they moved further into the tomb.

Light was sucked from the chamber as six shadows descended from the ceiling. An open chest glowed in one corner. On the other side of the circular chamber, on a tripod was a sphere of supreme darkness. The sphere levitated off its stand and slowly floated towards them. Bertram told Jimmy to break the stick – warm light infused the party, keeping all but one shadow at bay. The undead drained the strength from Zuka Zuka until he was no stronger than Bertram. Passing around their magical dagger, the brothers finally destroyed it. Bertram and Jimmy attempted a contest of wills with the black sphere. They mentally pushed it to the other side of the room. Reaching the chest, careful to maintain the spell effect from the stick, they found a large tome within. They gathered the Book of Vael Torog and fled the way they came. The black sphere did not follow. When they came to the pit trap, a voice seemed to come from the book, “Stick with me. You’re not exactly my types, but we’ll do great things together until I find someone else.”

The sun was setting outside. After crossing the pit trap and descending about 100 yards, a rotting figure emerged from behind a tree. “Geeve me the booook…it is the queen’s…now.” When refused, the wight attacked with bite and nail. Bertram blew it to bits with his firearm and they fled towards the harbor. There they saw undead spewing from the city as the Speedwell left the harbor. No doubt Gullnipper would attempt to save ship and crew first. Hopefully, Jack and Irvingh were aboard.

The book spoke again, “Quickly. Read page 111.” Remembering Simez’s warning, they hesitated. “Do it now, fools! Or I’ll spend an eternity on this wretched rock.” Bertram flipped to page 111 and struggled through the incantation. Another protection from undead spell went off. “Now, take me to the water and read the last page.” Again, they hesitated but, at the book’s prompting, Bertram read that page as well. The ocean bubbled and an entire island burst forth, slowly drifting towards shore. Realizing they looked on a miles-long leviathan, complete with trees and an ecology on its surface, they swam to the island and “climbed aboard.”

Leaving the undead swarms behind, the book said, “Now you just need to eat the godflesh and steer it.” They watched as the Speedwell drifted far away to the east while the living island swam to the west, away from Freeport.

Session 6: There is No Honor
Near Disaster. The Boss Lady Gets Away.

Picking up supplies and ordering weapons, the party spent three days topside in Freeport. At times they caught glimpses of someone following them, but each time lost track of the suspected Lotus Dragon. Keahilani and Shea escorted Lavinia as she attempted to collect on her parents’ debts. Gupta Tilsdar, a cleric of Belon the Wise, god of Travel, joined them. An old friend of Lavinia’s parents, Gupta had owed them a debt and now intended to repay it by helping the party find Vanthus.

With their new comrade in tow, they decided the entrances to the Lotus Dragon Guildhall known to them might be guarded or trapped. They avoided the well and the abandoned buildings in favor of paying a visit to the taxidermist. Nemian Roblach was easy enough to find, though the snooty taxidermist quickly became disinterested in them once it was apparent they were not paying customers. Nemian advised Zuka Zuka and Ono that he knew of someone who made a skin cream that might clear up their “condition.” For a moment, the party admired the stuffed owlbears, centipedes and wyrmling dragons. Then Ono demanded that Roblach take them to the Lotus Dragons. The shopkeeper dissembled and claimed they were made. However, Bertram, attempting to close a back door, noticed six thugs waiting to pounce.

Bertram pulled shut the door and held it tight. Nemian panicked. Ono and Zuka Zuka lost patience, nearly beating him to death. The taxidermist proved to be a capable wizard and turned invisible. Taxidermed animals began to animate, the owlbear and giant scorpion attacking Aleister and Zuka Zuka. Gupta looked on in horror, questioning the wisdom of beating a shopkeeper, but recovered when he saw the thugs burst into the room. Lotus Dragons dual-wielding quarterstaves began to pummel Ono, Bertram and Zuka Zuka. The dajobasu brothers pummeled the animated creatures, but they seemed invincible. Bertram blew holes in several thugs while Aleister put them to sleep or dazed them. As Zuka Zuka and Ono slew the remaining thugs, Aleister finally realized the taxidermed monsters were illusions and warned the party. At that moment, Nemian reappeared and disabled several in the party with a Color Spray spell. But it was too late for Nemian. Ono knocked him unconscious while Gupta healed Roblach so that he could be questioned.

After many threats, Nemian admitted he took kickbacks from the Lotus Dragons, claiming he was now a dead man for talking to them. He described the head Lotus Dragon as the “Boss Lady” and claimed she had some sort of dragon as a pet. They tied and gagged the wizard and locked him in a closet. They robbed him blind before descending into the Lotus Dragon guildhall.

They found themselves in a part of the guildhall they hadn’t seen before. The tunnel led into a tidepool system connected to the ocean. Gingerly avoiding the carpet of sea urchins, they headed into deeper water where they were attacked by strange, toothy ray-like creatures (later identified as ixixatchitls). Bertram fired his weapon, but quickly fell into the water after their vicious bites. Aleister put some to sleep and Zuka Zuka and Ono began to smash them as Gupta saved Bertram. They found a smuggler’s dock connected to the ocean and reconnected with tunnels they had seen on their prior trip. There was little resistance, thought ten Lotus Dragons did attempt an ambush and were quickly cut down.

Now-abandoned barracks, training rooms and kitchens greeted them. They found a map chamber indicating allies, enemies and centers of profit as well as notes indicating possible jobs; their own names were listed with instructions to Vanthus: “TAKE CARE OF THIS NOW!” On another note were scribblings about a power vacuum in the ambergris trade in Port Shaw. Bertram’s face lit up. In one area, a zombie minotaur attached them but, thankfully, was put down before it could connect with its enormous great axe. A spider-like rhagodessa was locked in a storage closet but was also quickly destroyed.

They continued into the heart of the guildhall and, at last, entered a lavish, larger chamber with plastered walls painted in shades of lavender. A large collection of stuffed animals sat against one wall and miscellaneous trinkets were heaped in another corner. A settee and large table were on the southern wall. Six thugs with quarterstaves blocked their way. A beautiful red-headed human woman sneered at them from the back of the chamber. This was the “boss lady.” “You’ve caused quite a commotion and cost me much. But I’m suitably impressed. How about you join the Lotus Dragons and turn this into something grander?” She began to whistle a catchy tune.

The party wasn’t tempted and insulted the red-head. She sneered again and yelled, “Gut Tugger – do plan A.” They attacked in full-force. First, Aleister cast Web and trapped the boss lady and several thugs. Things appeared easy at first. Bertram left gory wounds in the thugs with his firearm and the barbarian twins began to cut the thugs down. Then Kersh, the treacherous torturer, became visible and began to sneak attack the barbarians, flanking with the other Lotus Dragons. The tide of battle began to turn. Gupta attempted to channel and heal along with Aleister’s wand. Then thugs surrounded Gupta and break every bone in the cleric’s body with their staves. The cleric paid his debt and bled out on the floor. As thugs began to free themselves from webbing, the barbarians attempted to mow them down. Bertram blew open Kersh’s head, finally ending his miserable existence. Two Lotus Dragons remained. One brought down Bertram and another attacked Ono. The boss lady appeared around the webs, finally having freed herself, whistling her strange tune all the while. She plunged her rapier into Zuka Zuka who groaned and fell over, nearly dying. Aleister was able to administer potions to Bertram who gave another to Ono.

As the party began to revive, the boss lady fled around the webs. Waiting for their last healing, Bertram heard the boss lady talking with something beyond the webs. Zuka Zuka heard the sounds of loose coinage and items being heaped into a bag. Bertram and Zuka Zuka chased her down. finding an open secret door on the other side of the webs. She smiled, drank a potion and became gaseous. The gas disappeared into a fissure in the wall. Meanwhile, Aleister was left on the other side of the webbing. The witch jumped backed in horror as a small, green, draconic creature finally freed itself from the webs, ran past him and into the hallway. The party considered giving chase but found themselves too near death. Better to take what they could and locate the Lotus Dragon commander another day. Though there was much loot, they realized that three fourths of it likely disappeared with the wench. Various writings were also recovered and would need to be analyzed.

They cleared out the remaining chambers, finding little of value. However, in Kersh’s prisons they found many corpses and three Tulita men, one still barely alive. He recognized Zuka Zuka and Ono, smiled and said, “You are cursed. Originally we were going to follow you…kill you…but the plans changed. You can be redeemed. You must find the jawbone! Return and redeem yourselves!” The man choked and died. Aleister turned pale as he saw the intricate tattoo on the man’s arm: a black scorpion, identical in nature to the statuette he had found on the beach.

Gathering up Gupta’s body, they returned to Lavinia’s manor. She was devastated at the news of the cleric’s death and arranged for the return of the body to the mainland. Later, she analyzed the papers gathered by the party. A grim look came over her face. “It’s now clear where Vanthus has gone. I only want him brought to justice. I also must go to Port Shaw, though it pains me. It’s a wretched, depressing cesspool, but Barrison Hargrove was one of those that owed a debt to my parents. I would wish you to come with me to Port Shaw to both protect me and end this stain on my family.”

Session 5: There is No Honor
Assault on the Guildhall

Huddling in the dank tunnel, the party avoided the Lotus Dragon snipers. Suddenly, Aoki began convulsing and his skin erupted with vile rot grubs. Unable to heal their companion, the party doused this corpse with fire to kill the grubs. As Zuka Zuka and Ono mourned their lost brother, they heard cries of help from the crocodile lair. Within, they found an attractive half-elf who introduced herself as Shea. She was a summoner, she explained, and told them of the rumors of a powerful magical weapon hidden within these caverns. Shea was quickly captured by the Lotus Dragons and delivered to the crocodile who would have surely eaten her had it not been distracted by the party’s arrival. She summoned her eidolon, Crush, to her side. Along with her sun-tanned azata, she offered her help in wiping out to the Lotus Dragons.

With thoughts of vengeance against Vanthus Vanderboren, the party began to navigate the guild tunnels, exploring strange secret doors and finding all wooden doors firmly closed. Each of these doors made loud scraping sounds as they were opened, serving as an alarm to the rest of the Lotus Dragons. They discovered the hidden snipers in a chamber overlooking the water-filled cavern where they first entered. A permanent illusory wall had hid them from sight. The snipers, trapped, desperately fired bolts dipped in sea urchin venom while Crush, Zuka Zuka and Ono set off more spear and falling rock traps. They dispatched the thieves, even chasing them through the illusory wall and into the water below.

As the last sniper died, more revealed themselves in hidden alcoves. Killing these Lotus Dragons, the party then explored the circular tunnels surrounding the water. They discovered ladders leading to “safe houses” at street level as well as two secret doors allowing access to the true guildhall. Keahilani, Bertram and Aleister largely allowed Crush, Zuka Zuka and Ono to set off deadly spear and rock traps. They entered a torture chamber, with a helpless man strapped to a rack and his torturer nearby. An open iron maiden stood in one corner while racks of torture devices rested in another. The torturer fought with a rusty rapier and was quickly killed. Though suspicious, they freed the helpless man who introduced himself as Kersh. Kersh was dressed in rags with only a small pouch on a worn belt. He thanked the party and offered to help, only asking for the rusty rapier and a sap as weapons. When asked, he explained he was a shop keeper of a modest store selling miscellaneous sundries and sailing supplies. Bertram, still suspicious, quizzed him on his shipping knowledge by giving him fake shipping terminology. Kersh simply seemed puzzled.

Zuka Zuka and Ono opened the torturer’s bed chamber and found a medium-sized cage at the foot of a bed as well as a footlocker full of gold and a nice set of flensing knives. While examining the beautiful, but disturbing, knife set, Kersh suprised Aleister and bull rushed him into the open iron maiden. Screams of pain alerted the rest of the party to Kersh’s treachery. Aleister attempted to put Kersh to sleep but he cackled and shrugged off the hex before slamming the door of the iron maiden shut. The filthy spikes pierced Aleister, nearly killing the elf. Kersh fought for a moment before running back towards the ambush tunnels. Crush, Zuka Zuka and Ono followed and attempted to trap him. Keahilani brought Aleister back from death. Bertram’s firearm exploded and echoed in the tight corridors. Hit by bullet and hammer, Kersh appeared trapped, but risked removing a potion from his pouch and turned invisibile. A cat-and-mouse game emerged with the party attempting to locate the invisible traitor. In the end, Kersh slipped through their fingers and headed deeper into the complex.

As they heard doors open and close to the east, they followed, hearing Kersh’s voice say, “Get them Crusher!” A worg wolf emerged from around the corner and attached Zuka Zuka and Crush. Aleister put the wolf to sleep and they slew the creature. At that moment, more thieves wielding throwing daggers and quarterstaves emerged from a southern door while door noises were heard from Crusher’s lair. Zuka Zuka, Keahilani and Crush continued to pursue Kersh, finding an ambush of crossbow-wielding thieves to greet them. As they heard screams and battle sounds from the south, they left Kersh and his ambush party to help their friends. Ono took quarterstaff blows to the face and nearly fell. Keahilani healed his comrade. Aleister put some of the Lotus Dragons to sleep, but finally took several daggers to the chest. Stumbling, he fled to the north. Bertram blew holes in the thieves’ chest and Shea dazed them with spells. Finally, Ono, Crush and Zuka Zuka whittled them down and killed the last one.

Bleeding and resources depleted, they found a ladder and gingerly climbed to street level. Avoiding the stares of the common folk, they made their way back to the Old District and Lavinia’s estate. Lavinia, ink-smudged and disheveled, greeted them with shock upon seeing the blood and filth. With her permission, the party rested at the estate and purchased supplies over the next three days, preparing for their final confrontation with the Lotus Dragons.

Session 4: There is No Honor
Lotus Dragons

Ravenous zombies unhinged their jaws and scuttled towards the party, led by a huecuva cleric of Orcus. The undead priest made wet, gurgling sounds and muttered about his lost faith and the hunger that consumed him. Zombies bit deep into the flesh of Bertram, Zuka Zuka, Aoki and Ono. Aleister’s sleep hexes proved ineffectual. Keahilani channeled holy energy and began to disrupt the dead.

The huecuva channeled unholy energy to eat the life force of the party and attempted simple spells that failed. Slogging through muck and slime, the warriors hacked apart mindless undead until they took down the priest itself. Pocketing the meager loot, the pushed to the west, through cavernous pools that, fortunately, were shallow during low tide. Finding the local sea urchins capable of inflicting nauseating venom, they walked carefully. Breaking through into a secret room, they found not only lost smuggler’s treasure but the bloated and decaying body of a man clutching a damp parchment. Seemingly the man’s last words, the letter described “Penkus’” undying hatred for Vanthus Vanderboren who Penkus described as betraying him to gain more power in a gang called the Lotus Dragons. The letter begged the reader to enact vengeance upon Vanthus and to let him know that it was Penkus’ doing.

They pocketed thousands of silver and copper coins as well as a few more precious items, including an Earth Elemental Gem. Zuka Zuka and Ono discovered an underwater passage in one pool and deemed it too far to traverse by the rest of the party. Together with Aoki, the water breathers traveled more than 100 feet underwater to emerge in a cove and the open ocean. Bertram, Keahilani and Aleister hauled all loot back to the trapdoor to wait. A nagging feeling troubled the party as they separated. The dajobasu brothers encircled half of the island before finding a spot with a beach. Giant squid harried their every move and the threat of sharks was imminent.

At the same time, the other three started in terror as the earth erupted at their feet and ravenous zombies began to claw towards them. Though slow, there were too many. Bertram clubbed and Keahilani used all spells and abilities that might harm undead before falling to the hunger of the undead. Aleister grabbed the earth elemental gem and crushed it, summoning a giant elemental into the fray right before falling himself. When the dajobasu brothers arrived and removed the rocks from the trapdoor, they found a large elemental standing over their downed comrades. Administering potions and small healings, they used the elemental to help them haul everything from the smuggler’s den and return to the beach.

Aleister and Bertram cobbled together a crude raft made of scraggly trees, old doors from the smuggler’s den and washed up rubbish. The dajobasu brothers hauled them back to Freeport, narrowly avoiding sharks. They made a beeline for revenge after first shopping for improvements for Bertram’s “Rousillon’s Spark.” Instead of debriefing with Lavinia, they looked at Penkus’ letter and the reference to the “Taxidermist Hall.” Hiring an urchin as a street guide in the Merchant District, they made for the Taxidermist Guildhall. However, on the way, another child slipped something into Aleister’s belt. A note warned, “You are being watched by the Lotus Dragons. Your questions will bring you misery – it’s best to sit back and let things happen as they will. Further interference will only bring you tears.” They identified the one who slipped the note in Aleister’s belt and gave pursuit into a narrow alley.

Tanglefoot bags were thrown behind them to block escape, while Lotus Dragon thieves ambushed them from the tops of buildings. Hand crossbow bolts dipped in sea urchin venom inflicted nauseating wounds while the boom of firelances exploded in the narrow quarters. The brothers leaped to action and began scaling the walls to kill the thieves. Aleister threw sleep hexes and spells while Keahilani channeled holy energy. Bertram’s rifled “club” now exploded with angry bullets, emptying the enemy’s chests and skulls. They kept one Lotus Dragon alive and promised him escape so long as he led them to the entrance to their guild.

A well in a little-used plaza provided an entry point. They carefully climbed down into a waist-deep pool of water. Their prisoner advised care as there were unspecified “traps” everywhere. As they crept to the west, the Lotus Dragon made a break for it and began fiddling with a cavern wall while screaming, “Now, boys, now!” The sounds of a chain unrolling could be heard in the distance while water began spewing from a drainage pipe and filling the cavern. Lotus Dragon snipers showed themselves to the east and south while three unseen assailants seemed to fire from the rock itself to the north. The prisoner became frantic as the sounds of a loose chain became closer.

Suddenly, an enormous saltwater crocodile barreled from a tunnel and devoured the Lotus Dragon before turning attention to the party. Zuka Zuka, Ono and Bertram did battle with the beast, beating on it as it grabbed Zuka Zuka and rolled, nearly tearing the dajobasu in half. Aoki, Aleister and Keahilani attempted to deal with the snipers. While Aoki and Aleister were able to kill the two obvious opponents, the ones in the north continued to pepper them with envenomed bolts. Aleister and Aoki fell, healed by the power of Keahilani and Pele’s grace. Zuka Zuka and Bertram finally beat the crocodile to death and gathered the party to them so that Keahilani might heal Zuka Zuka. They hid in the western tunnel, finding the secret door their prisoner had attempted to open.

Why were the snipers unseen and where would they go, injured and spent as they were?

Session 3: There is No Honor
Assault on Parrot Island

Awash in pirate blood on the deck of the Blue Nixie, the newly-formed band of mercenaries (or “heroes”), interrogated their prisoner. He said the hold was full of exotic animals, smuggled creatures to be sold to a nameless buyer at coordinates a short distance away. Scrabbling and thumping came from below. Cautiously, they entered the dark hold.

Going first was Aoki, followed by his brothers, Ono and Zuka Zuka. Bertram and Keahilani came next, followed up by Aleister. A scene of zoo carnage greeted them: dead and shredded birds, rodents and harder-to-define creatures. A few live ones still flitted about. Within the captain’s chambers, Aoki saw only a dim interior…until the spider-like rhagodessa dropped from the ceiling and latched onto his face with it’s vertical mandibles. The giant vermin attached one pedipalp to Aoki and drew him closer. The war priest fell, slashed apart by the sharp mandibles.

Zuka Zuka and Ono came to their brother’s rescue while Bertram began to beat it with his strange cane. They slashed and beat the creature to pulp. Keahilani prevented Aoki’s death and healed him with Pele’s power. Aleister hid in a dark corner, quivering. They looted the ship, finding Lavinia Vanderboren’s payment of 900 platinum as well as her father’s signet ring. A small piece of parchment was tucked into the ring bearing the descriptions of various monsters, from medusas to umberhulks, facing sunrise or sunset. Keahilani pocketed the cryptic note.

Lavinia was impressed with their feat, ignoring the wanton murder of the thugs aboard the Blue Nixie. The note proved to be a combination to the family’s vault in the Merchant District. Matching the number of eyes of each creature on the parchment to those creatures in the vault, the party was able to assist Lavinia in revealing her parents’ savings. Unfortunately, all but one chest was empty. Within this last chest was enough gold to sustain Lavinia as well as letters and documents of debt owed her parents for various jobs. Leaving the bank, they discovered there had been one prior visitor: Lavinia’s brother, Vanthus, also bearing a signet ring.

She asked for one more bit of help: find her brother, Vanthus, and try to convince him of the error of his ways. She explained their joint trouble making during adolescence and their “internships” on the continent to teach them responsibility. Though her own taught her humility and respect, it seemed that Vanthus grew rapidly bitter and resentful. After her parents’ death a few months ago, Vanthus began to argue with her, even slapping her during one argument. He hadn’t been seen since. She felt that her brother was hanging with the “wrong” crowd and could be redeemed.

The first order of business was steering the Blue Nixie back to the docks from its floating wharf. They spoke to the harbormaster, Keltar Islaren, and gave him the 900 pp. The man was too busy to talk and couldn’t offer help, so they made their way back to the Blue Nixie. Though a small crew of six, Keahilani’s expert sailing skills guided the craft back into the docks as smoothly as a shark’s fin cutting the surface.

Doubtful of finding Lavinia’s brother, the party nevertheless took on the mission, going from district to district to inquire of Vanthus Vanderboren. In the Old City, they heard a rumor that Vanthus was often seen with Brissa Santos, a notorious pick-pocket and artist. In another, it was said that he was seen with a known smuggler, Penkus. The two were spotted at a boat shop called “It Still Floats.” Finally, after a long day of searching and interrogating, a skinny, twitchy half-elf introduced himself as “Shefton Rosk.” Keahilani deduced that Shefton’s scratching and paranoid behavior were a result of dragonsmoke addiction. For 5 gp, he promised to take them to Parrot Island and for another 5 gp, to lead them to an old smuggler’s cave on the small island.

Trusting him implicitly, the party let him row them to Parrot Island. Once there, he led them to a rocky outcropping and pointed to a stone slab that covered the entrance to the smugglers’ caves. The party became suspicious and asked Shefton to promise his loyalty. He did so and, as the final party member descended into the shaft with Aleister’s light spell to guide them, they saw a look of surprise on Shefton’s face above…just before he plummeted to his death down the shaft, a dagger stuck in his back. Above them, a face wrapped in shadow spoke, “Say hi to Penkus’ ghost for me while you’re down there! Serves you right for messing with my sister, you thugs!” Briefly, the face from Lavinia’s portrait shone in the sun: Vanthus. They heard the stone slab fall into place and something heavier rolled on top of it.

With nothing else to do, they explored the watery tunnels. Strange zombies quickly attacked them, one biting deep into Bertram. Their undead mouths seems to unhinge and were full of sharp teeth. Dispatching the undead, they entered a wide, open cavern that was partially destroyed in a cave-in. Territorial giant crabs attacked them, but proved to not be a threat. Ono looted a corpse floating in the pool of water and retrieved a silvered dagger. At that moment, shuffling could be heard coming from multiple directions. More of the raveous zombies filled the cavern from other areas, while an undead figure dressed in mold-covered, tattered grey robes emerged, holding a holy symbol aloft. “Sacrilege! Unholy. You shall suffer greatly!” The undead closed…

Session 2: There is No Honor
Siege on the Blue Nixie

Continuing to run the minotaur maze within “the Wash,” the newly-formed party rested near the frozen half-elf cleric of the lost god, Nethus. They discovered the captive son of a continental noble family, Bertram, as well as the brother of Ono and Zuka Zuka, Aoki. Freeing the two captives, they went in search of the remaining two copper rings, led by the crazed human, Nuytor.

Within one viewing chamber, skulks sneak attacked them as the crowd jeered. They took down the nearly invisible humanoids and moved one. Within a much larger circular chamber, they found a maze-within-a-maze. Mites threw darts or stabbed with daggers before slinking behind sliding panels. With some luck and patience, Ono, Keahilani and Zuka Zuka were able to hack apart mites while Aoki fired arrows, Bertram slammed them with his cane and Aleister put them to sleep with hexes. Nuytor claimed he had seen copper rings in this chamber before. They captured one mite and forced the pathetic, wrinkled creature to show them its treasure. With gold and all five copper rings in hand, they made their way back to the frozen half-elf.

Despite Bertram’s navigation experience, they became lost. At last, Nuytor claimed to know the correct path. At the same time, Nala, the white minotaur, appeared and begged them to follow her in a different direction, promising to distract the fiendish minotaur, Argus. Remembering Nuytor’s past bad advice, they followed Nala. At some point, Nuytor himself vanished down a side passage. Entering the saw-trap chamber, the party found itself face-to-face with a snarling Argus. Nala apologized and fled the room while Argus hefted his large battle axe. Ono quickly went to the jammed saw trap and, with Bertram’s help, was able to dislodge the rusty dagger jamming the mechanism, effectively blocking Argus as the saw blades began to whirl.

This time their maze running skills were strong and they located the half-elf “statue.” All five rings on its arm, the crowd roared. Toz ordered them released and met them on the surface level where he grudgingly delivered their gold and told them the name of their benefactor: Lavinia Vanderboren, a member of Freeport’s geomancer guild who lived in the Old City. But he also said their success attracted the attention of a rival geomancer: Simez Rothgazzi, who lived in the Merchant District.

Exiting the maze within “The Wash” neighborhood, they realized they were in Freeport’s most infamous district: Bloodsalt. After dispatching orcish thugs, they made their way to the docks and their free night at the brothel, where even the dajobasu brothers were able to find companionship. The next day, after shopping for gear, they made their way to Rothgazzi. The wizard congratulated them on their experience and promised them each 500 gp if they would but undertake a glorious mission to the mysterious west to the island of Karn’lothra, where several years before a mysterious lich-queen rose to take control and rebuild an ancient outpost of old Ankeshel. A mystery herself, Queen Ilnora (aka the “bloodless queen” or “sleepless queen”) was said to enjoy interesting and fine animal specimens as well as unique magic. If they party would be acquire several interesting specimens and travel towards Karn’lothra, Simez felt certain the queen would allow them to visit an Ankeshelian tomb that only his magical key would unlock.

They thanked him and ignored his warnings against Lavinia Vanderboren (“a naive young girl”) and his instruction to make a decision within 48 hours. In the Old City, they found Lavinia’s estate and waited in a peculiar empty foyer as another adventuring group (the Jade Ravens) sneered and mocked them before leaving. Eager to speak to them, Lavinia told her tale. They discovered her parents recently perished in a freak fire aboard a party barge. Former adventurers and members of the geomancer guild themselves, they had a good deal of wealth within the city’s vault, however it could only accessed with a special signet ring. Her family’s caravel, the Blue Nixie, surely contained her father’s ring. However, the harbor master would not let her on board and the brute in charge of the ship, Soller Vark, claimed she was still several months behind in fees though she claimed otherwise. She asked the party to confront him and, using force if necessary, find her father’s ring and return to her. For this task, she would pay 200 gp each.

They decided to take up Lavinia’s cause. First, they explored the docks and decided against involving the authorities. They found the Blue Nixie not on the dock itself, but attached to a floating wharf 100 yards away. Waiting until night, they rented a boat and rowed towards the craft while the dajobasu swam. Each member deftly climbed aboard the ship and waited for the right moment to attack. It seemed the crew was busy loading and moving crates into the hold.

Aleister cast Sleep and several thugs slumbered. As Ono, Bertram, Zuka and Aoki attacked others, Aleister continued to hex the crew to sleep. Finally, the noise brought out Soller from his cabin. Hefting his cutlass, he yelled, “Let them loose!” into the hold below. Other pirates erupted from the hold and Keahilani called upon Pele’s grace and wrath to heal the party as the dajobasu brothers fell. At last, the pirates were dispatched and Soller’s bloody body signaled their defeat. They took one prisoner who told them everything he knew. He was unaware of a signet ring, only that they were using the Blue Nixie as a smuggling ship to cart off rare animals and that the crew likely released the more dangerous “spider scorpion” things upon Soller’s command. The party heard skittering from the hold below…

Session 1: Welcome to the Razor Sea
Awash in the Wash

They awoke in filth and grime, underneath a grate twenty feet above. Tomatoes, urine and trash descended on them, thrown by the deranged crowd above. As their eyes cleared and they wiped away the after effects of drugs or trauma, they saw minotaurs, humans and stranger creatures jeering and cheering. Some chanted, “Die, die die…”

Aleister, a twitchy elven witch, until recently a cabin boy slave on a pirate ship caught in a storm, grasped the strange scorpion that washed up on the beach with him, wondering at its meaning. Wrecked in the same storm, a serene aasimar cleric of Pele named Keahilani looked in awe at the crowd. He gripped the holy symbol of Pele tight and smiled, purifying rotten tomatoes and eating them straight from the filth. Ono and Zuka Zuka, barbarian brothers, claimed to be Tulita from the Razor Coast. Yet the taint of Dajobas surrounded their scaly skin and clawed hands. Outcasts from their tribe, they knew they were hunted by their Tulita tribe who wished to wipe the dajobasu from the world. Their third brother was nowhere to be seen and they wondered at his well being.

Several of the strangers knew they were in the depths of the Pirate Confederacy in the far west of the Razor Sea. Freeport, to be exact. It did no good to dwell on it. Freeport could not be the destination for any of them. The dajobasu brothers would never locate the Jawbone of Mokoli Ali’i, the sacred cultural relic that might redeem them in the eyes of their people. Keahilani sought the last remnants of the oppressed Menehune race, surely not located within Freeport. Aleister simply wanted to be as far away from pirates as possible and discover the meaning of the strange scorpion and his new power.

Someone called from above, “Hey, Toz! They’re awake.” A minotaur, apparently Toz, bent down over the grate. Interrupting him was a young human woman in a fine dress. Seeming out of place and with a look of disgust, she said, “They will do. I’ve placed my wager.” Looking at the victims, she said, “I have something to even the odds.” She threw a sack through the grate. “If you make it out alive, I’ll have work for you and a safe place to rest.” With that, she disappeared from view.

Toz turned his attention to the kidnapped. “Here are the rules, maze rats. The maze contains many copper rings. If you collect five of these and place them upon the raised arm of the statue of old Vilthalas within three hours, you win your freedom. You’ll even gain 100 gold pieces each, a free night at the Siren’s Song brothel, and all the fame surviving the maze brings you. You might even gain a lucrative job.” The crowd laughed. Toz leaned closer, pressing his face to the grate. “Just so we’re clear: None of us believe you’ll gain these rewards. The gamblers here are all betting on just how long you’ll survive. Well…your possible employer did think you might survive.” He jostled a bag of coins and the crowd laughed. A piercing howl of anger and pain echoed through the maze. Toz grinned. “Sounds like Argus is hungry today. Best hurry and find those rings before he catches you!”

Portcullises raised. The strangers gathered what equipment they had and raced through a gauntlet of filth, enduring urine, fruit and being tripped with boat hooks from above. Fortunately, Zuka Zuka had some survival skills. Using a system to mark the walls, the party went deep into the maze. Whether lost or on the right path, the strangers entered a series of rooms where the audience could watch, taunt and change bets.

One circular chamber was full of toothless man traps, which Keahilani deftly discovered. As he hung upside down from a chain, a pit opened in the floor and kobold archers emerged from small holes. After Aleister put them to sleep, Ono and Zuka Zuka made quick work of a few and threw the rest into the pit, much to the dissatisfaction of the crowd.

Another chamber was filled with giant ants. As the vagabonds rummaged through the room, the audience threw jars of honey on them. The ants became agitated and sought the party out. Zuka Zuka fell to the ants’ mandibles, but Keahilani’s healing and Aleister’s sleep hexes were enough that Xenon could kill the rest. In yet another room, they rescued a rat man from a saw blade trap, enlisting the ratfolk in finding a copper ring. A mostly barren room presented a ship’s wheel and rudder that opened and closed doors. The spokes of the wheel were removed, some holding magic and clues, others summoning goblin dogs or releasing vipers. Zuka Zuka shrugged off a strange contact poison on one spoke and they moved on.

Before they could leave the room, Argus appeared. A fiendish, crippled minotaur with a rusty battle axe, Argus roared in agony and chased them about the room. Fortunately, he was easily avoided. At that point, the party heard raucous music and into the chamber burst nine roachling musicians. The crowd cheered and yelled, “It’s Chamidd and his troupe! Give Argus what he wants!” The roachlings zipped around Argus and taunted the beast, always one step ahead of the minotaur. Seeing a copper ring around a french horn, Aleister put one roachling to sleep while the party stole the french horn and ran for it. The roachling troupe was speechless for a moment and it seemed Argus might smash them. The maze runners saw an opening and left.

Along one hallway they encountered a crazed human named Nuytor. The man raved and asked them who they served. He claimed “the ring” was everywhere and nobody could be trusted. “Are you part of the ring?” He shouted nonsense about Dajobas, Harthagoa and, finally, claimed that Demogorgon would consume them all. The party calmed him and asked him to escort them through the maze. Before long, they met a pure white minotaur who introduced herself as Nal. She only asked that they not hurt Argus, stating he was a troubled creature and in great pain. If they did that, she promised to help if she could.

As Nal left, they found another circular room, this one with moldy tapestries depicting ships upon the high seas. A mosaic of a massive whale covered one wall. A statue of a half-elven man with his right hand pointing away and above stood next to an altar. Keahilani recognized this as an abandoned temple of Nethus, a rumored captured or killed deity of travel and sea voyage. Upon further examination, the statue seemed to be a frozen live being, somehow trapped in time and layered with salt crystals. Clearly this was the “statue” they must hang copper rings on.

With three copper rings, they looked around and wondered where to go next. A shuffling noise came from a far corner…


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