Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Evil in Elmshire - Chapter 5.2

Chapter 5 - Parte 2 - Low Berths

The next few days pass slowly. The party's captors keep their prisoners cooped up in the cramped, dark and increasing smelly hold. Chances for an escape are slim to nothing, as the sole exit from the hold is a hatch in the ceiling and it is only opened for a precious few seconds each day. During which, food (in the form of fish entrails) and buckets of water are lowered inside. A metal grate covers the hatch opening at all times.  Protestations by the hold occupants or attempts at conversation are uniformly ignored.

Trapped and thoroughly caught, the party members have plenty of time to assess their current situation and gleam a few hard facts...

Starfast Chaos-Destroyer is not with them (and is presumed killed after his and Korbin's desperate yet epic flight from the Sewer ambush). Erlan Geobells, Ulrich's henchmen is also missing but no person present can shed light on his current whereabouts or predicament. Ulrich however has a sinking feeling regarding his erstwhile retainer.

All hold members are bereft of every piece of equipment or weapon or personal effect that they ever owned or stole. Everything, E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G! (said in that crazy Gary Oldman kinda way from Leon), bar scraps of clothing to cover their bare essentials (loincloths for the men, loincloth bikinis for the women and a 'loincloth thong' for the Bard).

Everyone in the hold that possesses the ability to cast spells bears a strange mark or rune on their foreheads. Of the party, Caerendil, Sir Quentin, Brother Kelly, Keemor the Mage and Teckos Tik all bear this rune. It is some weird sigil inked in black that no one has ever seen before. It is definitely arcane, impossible to remove and it's purpose soon becomes apparent when anyone so adorned tries to cast a spell.

A wave of sickness engulfs the spellcaster. From their perspective, it feels like some taint lying over their source of power, like an oily film upon water, the more they reach for their source of power the stronger the waves of nausea, the smell of death, the 'maggots crawling on their arm' imagery becomes. All who try casting a spell within the hold succumb to this sickness.

The people of a more martial bent, Ulrich, erm....Ulrich 8-), and the two halfling rogues I guess, bear no rune but are so weakened by lack of food they would be hard put to fight off a syphilitic cockroach in their current condition. Thus the reason for the Halfling initiative to tithe food from the rest of the other hold occupants and then gorge on fish guts until the weakened condition can be arrested. Ulric after trying the fish and then witnessing the Halflings consume their entrail repast decides that being in a weakened state isn't so bad afterall.

There are other people present inside the hold besides the party members. A group of Elmshire halflings and a couple of humans who stem from Greyhawk.  One of humans is an incredibly comely woman but one who seems to prefer her own company. She answers any pertinent inquiry succinctly but any attempts at more 'informal' conversation are met with an icy stare (and if you haven't guessed it already, she is Mr Morgan's new character 8-))

Time passes in the hold. The only way the party can keep track of the days are the regular meal times and changes in the shafts of light that drift into the hold through numerous minute cracks in the ship's hull. There comes a day when there is much activity on deck. The movement of many hurried feet amid loud shouts extolling urgency. Many of the party members move to side of the ship's hold to peer out of the cracks between the hull's timbers.

A small fleet of ships appears on the horizon, Keemor with his keen Eladrin eyesight, sees that the trio of ships fly the naval flag of the Duchy of Urnst, a country allied to the City of Greyhawk. Salvation muses the Mage, as he smugly sits back down whilst keeping the knowledge of the fleet's identity to himself. Cearendil the Half Elven eventually regales this exact information to the rest of the party some time later (as the fleet draws closer still 8-)).

The slaver ship unfurls sails and flees northwards hotly pursued by the Duchy Squadron. Time passes and try as they might, the Slave ship's lead is inexorably whittled away by the approaching naval armada. Another day passes in the chase and come the morrow, more ships appear on the horizon. These however bear the White Skull emblem of Iuz the Old and they number four. Undeterred the Duchy ships maintain pursuit of the Slaver, so eventually at midday with the lake waters at an emerald calm and the hot sun blazing down from an azure sky, naval battle is joined! Cry Havoc and let slip the Eight Tentacled Cephalopod of War!

The many vessels in this area of the lake converge around the slaver and engage. The Duchy ships although outnumbered show their naval spurs in expert seamanship and quickly disable one of the Iuz ships. The Iuz navy appears to be manned by orcs, goblins and other nefarious folk who obviously have no aptitude for naval combat as another of the black sailed ships is left dead in the water by the fast maneuvering Duchy vessels. There will only be one outcome to this battle and the Slaver captain acknowledges this by turning his vessel northwards and seeks to flee once more. The flotilla of Duchy vessels pay him no mind as they steer towards the remaining Iuz ships and a certain victory.


With a massive buffet of air, three large shadows pass overhead and then unleash a cloud of burning rain onto one of the Duchy ships.  A flight of black dragons roar overhead. Burning, screaming sailors tumble off the stricken ship and into the waters of the lake as the dragons wheel in tight formation and then dive down for another pass. The two remaining Duchy ships turn quickly to disengage and retreat from this draconic onslaught. The passage of one of the ship is blocked by the bow of an approaching Iuzian ship. The three airborne shadows angle towards the vessel and another blast of burning acidic flame falls towards the trapped Duchy ship. It's valiant Captain steers his doomed craft into the midsection of the intercepting enemy ship and the maelstrom of flame quickly consumes both vessels.

As the sounds of battle diminish slowly into the distance, the observing party members drop from spy holes to sit stunned and shocked by this sudden twist of fate. There will be no rescue today. No quick end to their captivity.

Two more days pass in sullen silence within the ship's hold before the Slaver ship approaches a vast structure floating upon the Nyr Dyr lake. A great pall of dark smoke sits above the ominous edifice and as their vessel draws nearer still, the party members discern the structure to be composed of a myriad of smaller ships moored and then lashed together.

Upon these wooden ships, a vast array of new structures have been haphazardly constructed and from these issue forth a cacophony of noise (hammers on anvils, strange thunk thunk sounds - ooh Mr Atwal you spoil us with your mastery of English). Smoke belches forth from numerous funnels thrusting into the sky and the surrounding atmosphere is thick with ash and other noxious smells. Crawling upon this vast armada like ants are countless orcs, hobgoblins, goblins, kobolds, etc the full rogues menagerie of D&D evil bad guys.

The slaves are brought roughly forth from within the innards of the ship and then pushed and prodded onto an adjacent pier. The sound of a gong draws the attention of the group towards a sinister looking human standing on a raised balcony. He is dressed in the garb denoting a Priest of Iuz.

Welcome to Helleron, he begins, You are now chattels of My Lord Iuz. Accept this willingly and you may live. Escape is impossible. The Priest gestures to the east, the south and the west. Look about you and see the waters of the Nyr Dyr Lake, land is 7 days sailing in all directions. Even if you could steal a ship you would not get pass My Lord Iuz's Navy nor his Dragon Flight. To the north lie My Lord Iuz's realm and if you would reach it's shores my blessings be upon you as you will most certainly need them. He smiles a wicked smile. So contend yourselves to being good slaves and your lot will at least be tolerable.

The Bard snorts at this statement. His reward is to be backhanded across the face by a burly orc, the blow breaking the Bard's nose. Cearendil falls to the floor clutching the ruin of his face. If he is expecting sympathy he gets none as the same orc then thunders a kick into his exposed mid drift. The Bard doubles up in pain but wisely remains silent.

The Priest of Iuz ignores the commotion and indicates to his underlings to proceed. Several party members help the Bard to his feet as the slave group are lead away to a different part of the docking area.

They arrive at an wharf containing some strange mechanism that holds a large metal cage suspended on a hefty length of rope. The slaves are lined up and then lead to a waiting bureaucrat seated at a desk. He looks to each slave in turn and then indicates either left or right. The slaves lead right have their bodies liberally plastered with a red dye, those lead left are similarly adorned but with a blue woad. Ulric and the 2 halflings are smeared in the red dye whilst the rest of the party are arrayed in blue. Once all the slaves have been processed, the large metal cage is lowered to the deck and the slaves then prodded inside followed by their guards.

The Priest at the desk then rises and indicates to his underlings to proceed. A group of lesser acolytes begin to chant a liturgy whilst spraying the occupants of the cage with a foul inky liquid. The Paladin quails from it's touch as it appears to burn his flesh. The lead Priest begins reading from a book, his voice carrying over the chanting of the acolytes... 

Apipoula, ilo caupo man Hila’y’am Deo Tokemata. Sän ligunaï’dalat on din ekbat oum Luc ilo Milla ilo tenon brakt manna. Mavana mektetet zhit hila foun’dé oum Hila’y’am Deo Tokemata imanétaba zhit meto’ligunaï ilo din mechtaba , Me o chon man baraniba mino assin’omektan pan...

The slaves are startled when the cage is suddenly hoisted aloft once more. Many tumble to the floor as the mechanism moves the cage from the deck and suspends it above the waterline. The party look to each other and then at the priests in some confusion. The ritual of the Priest draws to completion and as the final echos of the chanting liturgy fade away the cage slowly begins to sink into the water with a loud clanking sound. As their bodies are swifty submerged by the chill waters of the Lake of Unknown Depths, the faces of the cage occupants become constricted in terror.

Down (bubbling sounds).

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