This adventure began after Dalva left her group behind in Daro when their previous mission came to an end, and several other of their companions departed for Mariscora, leaving Condesa Rosalín as'Quanada -- posing as a local commoner named Rosa -- in their care. With the group now committed to guarding a caravan bound for Aleton, Shale naturally took command of the group's activities.
On the way to meet the caravan, Gilbert went with Siege to Sedric's temple to see if he could get his notes copied in order to give them to Ora to take to Mariscora, but they were out of luck. The two joined their companions -- Shale, Rakeor, Emi, Rin, Maialen, and Rosa at the caravan. A pair of Halflings -- Arteck, the caravan's organizer, and Solidus, a priest of Varice who served as their healer -- greeted them. The priest ruffled a few feathers when he cast detect evil on those assembled without warning, saying it was part of the caravan's rules, along with some other strictures that rankled the Dwarves. They were then told to report to the head of the guards, a Halfling named Arby Culver, who assigned their guard positions. Rosa asked if she could ride in one of the carts, and she was directed toward the hindmost cart, a vehicle filled with mining equipment which belonged to a pair of Dwarves named Bix and Dix and was driven by a Human named Eckhorn. Once she and Maialen were situated, the caravan departed.
Daro to Cardimer
As the caravan set out along the Sandilaht Trail toward its next stop in Cardimer, Arby went around to the newest members of the caravan to assess their defensive capabilities. Rin, atop one of the chicken cages on Annie's cart, flustered Arby, so he moved on to talk to the two Lastini in the rear cart. His many questions didn't sit too well with the two women, but they did their best to mollify him, although Maialen cast know history on him as he returned to his post. Elsewhere, Siege and the two Dwarves chatted with Chauncey, the lead teamster, who filled them in on some of the hazards of the region, both from the desert and from Shark's Fin Bay. Meanwhile, Gilbert and Solidus chatted about their previous experiences and a neophyte guard named Carawin joined in briefly.
A short time later, Arby asked Siege to run up to tell the two scouts, Emi and a mounted Human named Brik, to rejoin the caravan as they were stopping to water the mounts. As they rested, one of the ponies became entangled in a patch of grab grass. Brik attempted to lift it out, but injured his back, leaving Shale, Rakeor and Solidus to free the animal. With the pony and Brik resting in the carts, the caravan continued on until nearly sunset, when Siege (who had replaced Brik at point) spotted a large shell alongside the trail. After cautiously approaching it, Solidus shot the shell with a sunscorch spell. Rin then said that the water told her it was a giant clam, and Shale prised it open. While one of the drivers, Flo, was removing the meat inside, she discovered a pearl.
The caravan then pulled off the trail and set up camp, and Rin built a diorama of the party within the clam's shell, which she pushed into the bay as an offering. Eventually, everyone gathered around Solidus' fire to hear Maialen tell stories about her patroness, Nacyera. Among those in attendance were a pair of odd-looking bats, which hovered above the fire until disappearing after the entertainment ended.
The next morning, the party awoke to find Rosalín gone, having left a note with Maialen indicating she didn't trust the party to keep her safe, and thus she was returning to Daro. Rin found her offering had been rejected, which she attributed to Rosa's departure. The caravan moved on, and while they were stopped for lunch a figure approached them from the south. It turned out to be Illiger, who had already picked up her belongings from Daro. Although there was some grumbling from the Dwarves and others regarding her brief term as a pirate, there was little they could do to keep her from tagging along with the caravan as it pulled out. As they traveled, Illiger told the Dwarves that the pirates put her off the boat in Cardimer after discovering that she had been spying on them, but that did little to clear the air.
The caravan soon arrived in Cardimer, where it was inspected by the city guard. As the caravan was led into a nearby corral, Shale and Rakeor brought Brik to the temple of Sedric to be healed while the rest of the party walked over to the nearby Shady Retreat Inn to arrange lodging. While there, Siege purchased a pin from Z'Quilla, the inn's proprietress, that allowed him to read while anywhere in the inn. The group reviewed some maps to plan for the next day, and Gilbert decided to check out an establishment called FreeForm.
After the healing was done, the Dwarves returned to the corral, where Chauncey told them a few things about the city. They decided to head to a tavern near the docks called Knucklebones, where they might have be able to find food more to their liking than the government-approved food at the Retreat. They stopped at the Shady Retreat to inform the others and get some food to bring to Brik. On their way out, they ran into Illiger hunting for scorpions, and she tagged along. When they got to the corral, Solidus asked Illiger if he could cast detect chaos on her. Instead, she simply told him she was chaotic, and the three went on to the pub. After paying a drunk to lead them there, they settled in to throw dice with another Dwarf named Bex and some other patrons. They noticed one of the patrons wearing an odd amulet around his neck, but thought nothing of it.
The next morning, the Halflings prepared to head into the marketplace. Shale and Rakeor noticed Carawin wearing the same amulet, and she said she bought it from a booth just outside the corral. Carawin told them the proprietor said it would fight disease, but she got nervous when she mentioned sea zombies. Siege arrived to take his guard shift while the Dwarves headed to the inn.
Meanwhile, those at the Shady Retreat departed for the marketplace, where they spotted a woman with a tail and odd ears performing illusions. After she was chased off by the guards, Emi spotted her watching the group as they were buying lunch. Rin bought her some baklava, and she introduced herself as a kitsune named Makoto. Afterwards, they returned to the inn, where Z'Quilla was speaking to someone. When Gilbert heard her mention FreeForm, he approached her. When the woman, a song mage named Lorelei, heard his name, she immediately expressed her joy at meeting the composer of "The Ballad of Nevyn". She also recognized Maialen's holy symbol, as she had spent time in her home of Boniesca. She then promised to vouch for them to get into FreeForm that evening. Gilbert and Maialen agreed to participate in the evening's entertainment, and Lorelei left to spread the word.
After his shift, Siege joined the Dwarves, Illiger and Eckhorn for a bite in the marketplace, then returned to the inn while the others went to the corral. After overhearing her discussing some of her exploits in the desert, the Halflings hired Illiger as a guard for the caravan. Her first task was helping to pack up their goods before returning to the corral.
After Siege returned, he, Gilbert, Emi and Maialen went to the business district to look for bookstores. The first one they visited, The Legal Eagle, specialized in non-fiction, and Siege bought a pair of books to help him learn to read while Gilbert bought one on the history of the area. At the second, History's Misstories, Maialan purchased a biography of a famous local dancer, and the party discovered that the owner, Ya'Shara, would be performing at FreeForm that evening.
After finishing up at the corral, the Dwarves and Illiger, accompanied by the drunk they'd met the night before, returned to Knucklebones. Solidus went along after hearing tales of the fire-breathing bartender, Flaydjin. Shortly after their arrival, one of the locals started mouthing off at Rakeor. He also got under Shale's skin to the point that she punched him in the face. A brawl briefly broke out, but Flaydjin ended it when Shale tried to use a chair as a weapon, and the party members were kicked out.
Over at FreeForm, Gilbert and the others listened to the end of a performance of "Heart Against Head - The Legacy of Caliph Kapoc" as he and Maialen waited to perform. Siege went back after Gilbert's performance so he could use the reading room, but the rest remained for a while.
Back on the road
The next morning, the caravan left Daro, continuing on its northward course. Shortly after leaving town, however, they discovered that Sillik had fallen asleep in one of the carts. After being told to return to the city, he told them there was another creature was in the cart. Indeed, a fox emerged, which turned out to be Makoto. Illiger did not react well to her, claiming that she must be a dragon -- and just then, a dragon-like shape appeared, heading toward the party over the sea.
Those guarding the caravan formed a defense while the non-combatants took cover behind a nearby rock formation. Rin, viewing the scene from above, noted that the creature was a yellow dragon, and that it was actually headed for the rocks rather than the caravan. Makoto, Siege and Maialen all endeavored to warn those in peril, and as they ran back to the caravan the dragon burned a message into the rock ahead. Maialen translated the runes as "You have betrayed the mighty untranslatable. Prepare to meet your end."
After some discussion between all those present, nobody came up with anyone they might have betrayed who would be powerful enough to summon a dragon, and the caravan set off. Discussion continued, and Illiger revealed that she had briefly been part of the crew of Redbeard's pirates. This led Arteck to call for a halt, and Illiger told her story, after which he decided it would be premature to make any decision. He did ask Illiger to keep an eye on Makoto, who would join her at point.
Over the course of the rest of the day, discussion about the perpetrator continued, with many possible suspects and scenarios being bandied about. Later that afternoon, a yellow lizard-like creature attacked the forward scouts, nearly killing Makoto. Quick action by Illiger allowed her to be healed, while Brik held the thing at bay until the other guards arrived to drive it off. After healing was done, the caravan continued for a few hours before stopping for the night.
The next morning, Ora contacted Emi to tell her she'd arrived in Mariscora, and Emi told her about Rosalín's departure. While Gilbert attempted to identify Carawin's charm, a ship began approaching from the south. It turned out to be the Tijara al'Amar, captained by their old acquaintance Wyndel al'Amar kaf'Daro. He told them he'd picked up Sillik, and asked about the inscription on the rock he'd passed earlier that morning. After learning they'd been present, Wyndel came ashore with Sillik, a bodyguard and a mage named Isu. She told them that she recognized the language as that of the Dark Elves, and that the untranslated rune was a title: "Voidbringer". The party speculated that since Dark Elven was the language of the Onyx Empire that it might be connected to Jerome.
Wyndel offered to transport them to Agropthos on his boat, and after some discussion the party decided to send Emi, Gilbert and Rin ahead to try and secure them some work in the city. They agreed to try and use Ora to pass messages through Emi and Siege to coordinate their groups. Isu decided to travel with the caravan, and the Dwarves paid Wyndel to take Sillik away. Later, Ora contacted Emi and then Siege. Siege, not being used to such contacts, spoke out loud while discussing their concerns about Jerome and the pirates, which caught Chauncey's attention.
Looking for a place to stop for the night, Chauncey recalled some nearby caves, and Illiger, Makoto and Brik went ahead to scout them, with Solidus jogging up behind. While they were dealing with some bats, they found a jackal carcass, and Makoto barked out a warning. Brik charged in, but tripped and fell on it, causing his torch to set fire to a couple of the bats. Brik became ill after swallowing meat from the dead animal, and as he recovered the carts were moved into position.
While the others were making camp, the caravan leaders spoke to Siege and Shale, concerned at some of the information that Siege had revealed. Arteck wondered if the party might be endangering the caravan, and also told Solidus to detect evil on Isu. Thinking her a powerful mage, he asked Shale and Rakeor to protect him, but all the response Isu gave him was a scratch cantrip on his backside.
Once everyone had settled in for the night, guard duty began. During the second watch, Siege heard a spear whiz by his head, and he turned to find a bulky, fish-headed humanoid attacking him. The creature bit him, and his yelp brought the other guard, a Karis named Akhae, around. The rest of the company began to wake up as more creatures came up from the water, and in the ensuing battle two were killed, but Akhae was also lost. Some healing was done, and more guards were added to the watch as the caravan leaders met. The guards discovered and destroyed a bone ladder, which the creatures -- identified by Makoto as kuo-toa -- used, then settled in for the night.
Parting from the caravan
The next morning, Solidus observed an ill omen in the sky. When he told Arteck, the caravan leader replied that the drivers had decided to turn west and go cross-country to shorten their journey, albeit across rougher terrain. He also expressed heightened concern over the possibility that the party was being targeted, and that perhaps it was best they go their separate ways. After conferring with the others, Shale agreed. In a message from Varice, Solidus learned that he needed to atone for his recent chaotic behavior, and must also go to Agropthos to perform a ritual there.
The two groups parted ways, with Bix, Dix and Eckhorn joining Shale's group, as their mining camp lay along the northern route. The party discussed pursuing the kuo-toa, but decided against it in favor of leaving warning signs for future travelers. As they walked, Eckhorn told them what he knew about Satoll, the next town, which laid two days north along the trail. The wind continued to strengthen, and a likely dust storm was spotted on the northern horizon.
The next day, the storm drew closer, and visibility became more and more limited. Mid-afternoon, Illiger spotted a figure approaching, and the caravan stopped. The figure, a desert ranger named Hafsa, led the party safely to Satoll's temple of Sedric. Khirren, the priest in charge, invited the party to dinner and to spend the night in the common area. During the meal, they discussed the party's encounters on the trail. Hafsa told them that a group she had been guiding was ambushed near the Dwarven mining camp, and everyone other than her had been killed or carried off. She intended to return to her home of Agropthos, and asked to accompany the party. That night, the group encountered a man in the common room. When Solidus attempted to cast detect evil on him, the man threw a knife at him.
The mining camp
The next morning, with the storm no longer raging outside, the group departed. They soon reached the area where Hafsa's party had been attacked, near a rock formation called The Spire. While investigating the area, Makoto found a dagger partially buried in the sand. Upon examination, it was identified as being of Dark Elven make, with an unknown crest on the hilt.
A short time later, the party reached Bix and Dix's destination, their mining camp. They learned that since the two had departed, their coworkers had encountered a strange presence, which had killed one miner and injured another. The group was brought to the survivor, Geode, by Rikter, another miner. The Dwarf's arm had been severely damaged by what Shale guessed to be acid. At Geode's mention of a slimy trail left by the thing, Isu suggested investigating, and several members of the party went down into the mines with Rikter and an exterminator named Gillek.
As the group entered the next part of the mine, a piercer landed on Solidus, injuring him badly. Isu and Illiger were able to dispatch it while Maialen and Shale performed healing. They proceeded downward until they reached the location of the attack. As Isu examined the slime, a gelatinous cube approached the party. Between Shale's eye of fire and Solidus' produce flame spells, the cube was quickly dispatched. While waiting for Isu to retrieve the cube's contents, Gillek leaned against the passage wall, only to fall through it and into a secret room.
The rest of the party passed through the illusionary wall to find what seemed to be a shrine, complete with an altar with a glowing bowl atop it and shackles on the wall coated with fresh blood. Illiger found a glowing symbol on the wall outside, looking much like a purple-and-red version of the skull symbol on the amulets the party had seen in Cardimer. Isu examined the bowl, poking it with a wooden spoon, until she suddenly vanished. The same happened to a rat that Illiger threw into the bowl.
A shaken Rikter left, returning with Toloth, a priest of Dazhak, and Tang, Gillek's assistant exterminators. As Toloth speculated on the nature of the magic, a hooded figure appeared next to the altar. He asked those present about their intentions, and several of them drew weapons in response. The figure quickly touched the bowl -- now obviously a portal of some kind -- and vanished again. Now drawn to investigate, Makoto tied a rope around herself and went through, but the rope cut off behind her, leaving her on the other side.
After a brief discussion, the rest of the party decided to follow while Toloth worked to consecrate the altar. They found themselves in a mausoleum, and were soon rejoined by Makoto, who reported that she'd followed Isu's trail to the wall of the graveyard in which it was located. When Hafsa, the last one through, exited the building, she quickly recognized that they had arrived in the city of Agropthos after all, and she led the group to the Inn of the Shifting Sands to meet the members who had gone ahead.
Cast of characters
This adventure was run by Shelley Proulx. Below is a list of characters who have been involved at one point or another:
- Emi - NPC
- Gilbert Sullivan - run by John Proulx
- Illiger - run by Penelope Romero
- Isu - run by John Proulx
- Maialen - run by Penelope Romero
- Makoto - run by Lou McLeary
- Rakeor - NPC
- Rin - run by John Proulx
- Shale - run by Lou McLeary
- Siege - run by Phil Vlasak
- Solidus - run by Phil Vlasak
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