On the run from the Last War, the warforged artificer known as Doc Primal – accompanied by his two new companions: the mysterious mage named Glimmer, and the shifter bounty hunter called Haggard Rider – fled to the farthest corner of the continent: the Lhazaar Principalities, a mismash of islands dotting the eastern coast, ruled haphazardly by pirates and other rogues, and thankfully away from the prying eyes of Khorvaire’s warlords. There they found Sasserine, a city struggling to right itself after being under the rule of the nefarious Sea Princes of the northern islands.
Their arrival in the city did not go entirely unnoticed. At the time, a humble half-orc baker named Tusker Whitenose, having recently and inexplicably been granted divine powers by the luck goddess Olladra, found himself the target of blackmail when he was forced to fight – and lose – in a gladiatorial arena for the lives of the innocent children of the Dawnlight Orphanage. His sailor friend, Claudette – herself a former child of the Orphanage, and a young woman descended from the lineage of beings from the Elemental Plane of Water – had investigated the threat with the assistance of her ally, the half-elf shipwright and apprentice druid Darris. They had found themselves the target of a thieves guild, one of the many vying for control of the city in the wake of the Princes’ departure.
Having little choice in the matter, Claudette and Darris chose to enlist the aid of Doc Primal, Glimmer and Haggard in taking down the guild’s evil work. Through a combination of cunning and force, they released the guild’s hold on the Orphanage, and just in time for the reluctant gladiator Tusker to be informed of their victory and win his match, additionally forcing the wicked guild into hiding after their carefully-laid betting scheme fell apart.
Time passed, and the adventurers settled back into a routine of study and work in their city…
A Noble In Need
One day, each of the band of the heroes who had saved the Dawnlight children were approached by a wizened halfling maid by the name of Kora Whistlegap. She bore a letter from her mistress, the noblewoman Lavinia Vanderboren, inviting them to dinner – and the prospect of work for those with their unique skills – the following night. They all accepted (although Tusker, too content with selling his baked wares and quite averse to his newfound fame as an adventurer, did so with a notable lack of enthusiasm), and met that night – on a rooftop designated for their group in times of trouble – to trade information on their potential patron. They discovered that Lavinia was the eldest heir of Verik and Larissa (who had both tragically and recently perished in a fire aboard their newly-purchased caravel), and that she was sibling only to a single brother, Vanthus. They felt slightly suspicious of their employer-to-be, but nonetheless decided to meet with her.
The next night, they met at the entrance to Vanderboren manor, a high-walled gothic manse within a sizeable estate in the Merchant’s District. Ushered into an atrium by Kora, they briefly encountered a group of four people with the look of mercenaries – a tall and well-armoured and well-armed man, an attractive tattooed and robed woman, a dour-faced dwarf dressed in earthen robes, and a jaunty half-elf with an array of throwing knives strapped to his armour. The man traded brief (and mildly unfriendly) words with the heroes before departing with his compatriots.
Kora then escorted the group through a picturesque interior open-air garden to the dining room where they met Lavinia, a young and well-attired woman who welcomed the heroes warmly and introduced herself to each before inviting them to partake in the entrées. When they asked about a portrait of a young bearded man on the dining room wall, Lavinia named him – with some sadness, the perceptive Claudette noted – as her brother, who has been out of touch for some time.
Lavinia explained that while she had inherited her parents’ wealth and land, she was also now responsible for their numerous debts, and needed access to the family vault underneath the city’s prime residence, the Castle Teraknian in the mouth of the harbour. To gain access to the vault, she required a family signet ring – her mother’s had been lost some months ago, and her father’s was aboard their family’s first caravel, the Blue Nixie, which was currently impounded pending payment of owing mooring fees. Lavinia had made payment for these fees direct to a brutish man, Soller Vark, who had been put in charge of the ship by the harbourmaster, but when the time came to claim the ship as her own, Vark and his sailors denied receipt of the payment, and the harbourmaster, the ancient and sickly nobleman Keltar Isalaran, believed Vark’s word over hers.
When Lavinia offered the heroes two-hundred crowns apiece to see about reclaiming her rights to the vessel, the heroes accepted the task with little hesitation.
Trouble on the Blue Nixie
Deciding that immediate action was best, the heroes made for the Merchant docks straight after dinner at Lavinia’s estate. The plan would be to scout the area around the vessel, then have a straightforward word with this Vark fellow and his crew.
However, things weren’t so straightforward. Some distance from the pier, it was clear even in the moonlight that the Blue Nixie wasn’t moored anywhere within easy walking – it was anchored some hundred feet or so from the dock, out in the open harbour. Darris’ keen elven eyes spotted perhaps half a dozen people moving back and forth across the main deck.
The group came up with a new plan. They would sail Darris’ small watercraft, Waveshadow, within a short swim of the Blue Nixie, and Haggard would quickly scout the vessel up close while the others spoke to staff in the harbourmaster’s office about the situation.
Unarmed and unarmoured, Haggard slipped over the side of Waveshadow and swam easily and silently to the Blue Nixie’s bow hull. Once there, he found a rope, pulled himself up to the level of the quarterdeck, and peered over the main deck. Darris’ assessment was right – aroundabouts six crew were active on deck, and were moving crates between there and a stairway leading astern to a lower deck. Satisfied with the scouting, he clambered back down toward the water. On his way back down the rope, his keen hearing picked up a conversation from a cabin within the ship, where a man – Vark himself, Haggard surmised – was talking of making a dropoff of the cargo to an unknown party tomorrow night.
Meanwhile, Claudette and Darris confronted a dozy harbourmaster’s assistant on the Merchant’s District docks. He explained that the caravel was likely to have been put out in harbour for security against intrusion and theft, and – passing the buck somewhat – that Vark was likely to have all of the information they needed on the Vanderboren payment. Disappointed that he hadn’t been as helpful as they’d have liked, the heroes headed back to pick up Haggard, then spent some time gearing up before their next step: storming the Blue Nixie to confront Vark and his thugs.
Darris smoothly piloted her craft up to the caravel just off its starboard stern, enough for Haggard to climb up a rope to position himself on the fo’c’sle with a good view of the deck. Next, she dropped Claudette and Glimmer a way up the main deck, and Doc Primal made his way up the quarterdeck ropes (albeit with some difficulty). Then, still hearing no alert and knowing that neither she nor Tusker could climb as silently as the others, they made their way up.
Glimmer itched for a beginning to the confrontation, but before he could gather his wits enough, Haggard sensed the mage’s impatience and drew his longbow with alarming speed, calling for Vark’s sailors to throw down their arms. The crew were cowed by Haggard’s sheer presence, certain that they were in the presence of a being that meant to do them harm if they but twitched, and could deliver on his dire promise… All, that is, except for Vark himself, a scarred and thin man with a dangerous and self-assured cast in his eye, standing amidships and looking as if he were not in the mood to answer to threats. Glimmer followed up with a spell, and a wave of magical fatigue caught two of the crew behind Vark, knocking them unconscious.
Vark made a move to draw his rapier, and only his reflexes saved him from being shot dead instantly – as it was, one of Haggard’s arrows drew a thin line of blood across his right cheek as he moved. Undeterred, Vark and two more of his thugs moved toward their nearest target – Tusker, who had only just climbed aboard – to use him as cover from Haggard if nothing else. Swords flashed drawn in the moonlight, and the battle was engaged. Claudette managed to wing one of the rogues with a crossbow bolt before necessity forced her to cross rapiers with him, and Darris was saved from being pushed overboard only by the timely intervention of her enormous pet viper, Tali.
Glimmer and Haggard continued supporting the mêlée with arcane blasts and arrows respectively, but found their work hampered by the close-quartered combat. Nonetheless, the heroes won the day – Darris used Tali as a major distraction before dispatching her foe with her sickle, and Tusker viciously defended himself against Vark and his men before running the varlet through with his greatsword, the huge blade no match for Vark’s foolish and overconfident bladework. Claudette then called for the remaining sailors’ surrender, punctuating her threat by defeating her own opponent with a well-placed strike of her rapier.
Doc Primal saw to saving Vark’s life with a magical curative wand before the rogue could bleed out, if only to interrogate him to find out the identity of his employers. But before the remaining crew could make good on their surrender, the heroes heard a series of noises from below, and smoke began to curl out of a hatch on the deck. Doc Primal jumped down through the hatch to investigate and found a strange creature busting out of a cage to rip apart another of Vark’s crew hidden below. The thing looked like an arachnid the size of a pony, with great spindly legs, two arm-like appendages studded with hooked suckers, and enormous mandibles. It had been set to panic by a stuttering fire which had evidently been started by the now-dead sailor in an effort to get rid of the evidence of their deeds – a few dozen cages of smuggled animals in the hold. The enormous insect turned to Doc Primal and attacked in a furious whirlwind of teeth and claws, which the warforged barely defended himself against. As Darris used her woodland skills to calm the panicked beasts and Claudette saw to their new prisoners, the remaining heroes saw to putting down the viciously out-of-control creature.
Once the ship was declared theirs, they piloted it back to dock, and Claudette reported the smuggling operation to the harbourmaster’s office, who immediately called upon the Merchant’s Watch to arrest the surviving pirates. Before the Watch could arrive, Vark was questioned, revealing only information that they already knew – he was too scared of his employers to risk divulging their identities. A quick search of the vessel uncovered the missing fees, and Doc Primal found the missing signet ring under the headboard in the captain’s bunk, along with a mysterious note:
Chimera looks to sunrise Cyclops looks to sunset Medusa looks to sunrise Umber Hulk looks to sunset Basilisk looks to sunrise
The Vanderboren Vault
The heroes immeditely informed Lavinia of their victory, and she was overjoyed at the results, especially the speed at which it was accomplished. Into the wee hours of the morning, Lavinia invited the group in for a middle-of-the-night supper and paid them what they were owed. She immediately followed that up with an offer of regular work as her personal bodyguards and troubleshooters for a monthly stipend. Only Tusker – ever the humble baker – seemed less than enthusiastic about the offer.
Her first new task for the heroes was to have them accompany her to the family vault. She’d never been to the vault before, and rumour had it that the vaults are trapped and guarded by dangers that she might not be able to overcome alone. She arranged to meet the six of them at the estate in the afternoon the following day in order to take a coach to the Castle.
The next day, the coach took them to High Market, and thence on a ferry to the Castle proper. Stopping only to verify her identity with a clerk – via her newly-retrieved signet ring – they were ushered into the vaults: a circular central vault chamber, from which radiated numerous short corridors ending in iron doors. The Vanderboren vault door was inscribed with the family name, and emblazoned with a rune bearing an eight-pointed star.
Doc Primal noticed scuff marks around the base of the vault door, indicating that it had been opened recently. The rune on the door was not one that any of them recognised – even Lavinia – and it did not match her family signet ring’s symbol. The ring was enough to open the door however, fitting into a small depression near the door’s handle.
The chamber beyond the door contained five pillars carved to resemble a mass of coiling snakes, and the same runic sigil on the door was engraved high in the domed roof of the chamber. There seemed to be no other exit from the room. The heroes entered and advised Lavinia to stay outside while they investigated.
Suddenly, Tusker felt a sharp pain in his calf and his muscles seized as he fought off the feeling of poison. Turning, the group were confronted by a hissing iron cobra, an unliving construct guarding passage through the vault. Darris aided Tusker in administering healing magic to fight off the deadly wound as Glimmer pounded it with eldritch fire, and Doc Primal – a construct himself – sizzled it with a deadly artificer infusion of his own. Tali joined the battle, but the viper’s own fangs proved ineffectual against the construct’s heavy armour plating. Eventually Tusker regained his strength and rejoined the fight, beheading the cobra with a final blow.
Searching the room as a group, Glimmer found a hidden switch in the wall opposite the main door, and one of the pillars slid back to reveal an octagonal chamber dominated with a single octagonal pillar in the centre, and topped with yet another eight-pointed star – although this star contained a single red point in the direction that they had just entered. Around the room on the other seven walls were carved depictions of an array of monsters, each with red agates set sparkling in the beasts’ eyes. The canny heroes noticed that each of the creatures had a different number of eyes, numerically increasing around the room – a one-eyed roper, a two-eyed dragon, then followed by a three-eyed aboleth, all the way up to a seven-eyed giant spider. They also found that the central pillar could be shifted on its central axis, changing the direction of the red point on the star above.
Remembering the note that Doc Primal found aboard the Blue Nixie, the group concluded that the message must be a combination to unlock this room within the vault. They counted the eyes of the monsters on the parchment, and, after a couple of false starts (notably determining whether or not to count all of the eyes on each of the snakes upon a medusa’s head) figured out the combination by shifting the amount of spaces on the “dial” corresponding to the numbers of eyes, spinning it to the right initially and switching directions on each different beast. A great rumbling resounded through the chamber, revealing five doorways into separate alcoves around the room, all containing coffers and chests.
Unfortunately, the heroes found that most of the containers were empty, with perhaps only a few coins scattered around in them as if they had been hastily emptied. Searching one final alcove, they breathed a sigh of relief to find a couple of coffers untouched – one containing mixed currency and valuables, and another with a number of ledgers and documents. Lavinia examined the ledgers and found records of uncollected debts – and favours – owed to her family, which seemed to be more than enough to settle their accounts and to make a start at getting the estate back in order. The other documents were written in an elven script which Haggard recognised as Sylvan, the language of the fey woodland spirits, and described the ecology of a far-away jungle island where the Vanderborens had explored and built a settlement.
After promising the heroes a hefty bonus for their duties, Lavinia led them back in the direction of her estate, with their finds in tow. On the way out, she thought to stop at the clerk’s office to ask if anyone else had recently visited the Vanderboren Vault, to which he replied in the affirmative: “Why yes! Your brother, Vanthus…”
Explaining Doc Primal’s group’s escape from the war:
Russel: And at the time we were with a whole bunch of the people who were in my chain gang – other Warforged who acted as redshirts throughout the chase as we made our way along.
Steve: “Oh no, we lost Bill!” “Which one was Bill?”
Talking about Doc Primal’s class level:
Russel: I figure that first level was the war, got up to second level on the run, because, I mean, everyone comes back from the war at first level.
Colin: Yeah yeah. Well, there’s a long tradition of it, because back in 1st Edition, a first-level Fighter was called “Veteran”.
Steve: Yes. Yes. Confused the fuck out of me when I was ten. I was going “WHYYY?!?”
Colin: Yeah! “We’re just starting?!? I don’t get it!”
Steve: I thought that dictionaries had lied to me.
Explaining Haggard’s role:
Steve: (to Kevin) You were hunting us down then. But then you had a change of heart after you killed everyone else in the chain gang. Or something…
Russel: No, after the leader of the hunters was revealed to be a Warforged wearing a human skin.
Russel: [...]He tried to kill you after I tore his face off revealing his robot face.
Steve: That sounds good.
Colin: (cackles) I can’t believe you said that!
Helga: What are you talking about??
Russel: We were on a lightning rail, and we were fighting on the roof, and it fell off, over a massive cliff into a river. And we all thought, “No-one could possibly survive that!”
Steve: And then we went down and punched the river a lot.
Colin: Too much.
Helga: That sounds like it’s from a movie, but I don’t know which one.
Steve: It’s from all movies.
Russel: It’s from every movie.
Explaining their next move:
Steve: I wanted to go to Sasserine because I liked the Ward Watchers and how they studied raw magic… Whatever they’re called. Witch Watchers? Witch Warders? Witch Windows? Witch Window-Washers? Yeah. So I said, “Let’s go to Sasserine. We’ll get on a boat if we really need to run away and I can find out about the Witch Warding.” The Ward Witch. Yeah. Meanwhile…
end tracking – 10:00 (TBC)