EPISODE 3: “The Blood Sail’s Problem is Our Problem”
Date: 2nd day of Palvelun, (late winter) Westland Year 323
Place: the Town of Saltmarsh,
Our heroes stood in the middle of the town square of Saltmarsh, a coastal town. They looked up into the air to see a covered, round porch hovering thirty feet in the air. The pirates on board the flying platform had bows and arrows ready to rain death down.
With a shout from their master standing aboard the flying platform, the rest of the pirate crew on the docks took up arms and charged into town. Now vastly outnumbered, and suffering from having no cover from the archers hovering above, the heroes split up to seek cover. Xehryon tried to hide in the sand underneath the docks, but was discovered and captured. Oroboros the snake slithers to safety. Argon and the others tried to take cover in a shoppe, but as Eilonwy was trying to get out the back window, her dress got caught. By the time she landed on the ground outside the window, she was surrounded by grinning pirates with ready weapons, and her companions were already captured.
Everyone was put in the ship’s brig after having all their gear stripped from them, and the order was given to get underway. The giant snake and the raven were not seen, and not mentioned by the captives. The crew seemed boisterous and delighted in seeing the captives, taking turns looking at them as if the group was an exhibit. They are fed some, and given a bucket for sanitation, but no privacy. After sailing all day, the ship arrives at Blood Island just as the sun is setting.
Brought up from below deck, the captives see Blood Island for the first time from the gangplank as they are being led down to shore. The pirate’s ship was tied to stone crenelations that run the length of the small island. One presumes someone went to the trouble of dredging the sand away from this sea wall so that ship may tie up directly to this port area. The island is dotted with small shacks and huts, most fairly crude. A few larger structures exist, what looks like a warehouse, an open air kitchen and tap room and a large imposing stone temple right in the center of the small island. The large doors to the temple are blockaded by boulders, dead trees and chains. There were once many trees as evidenced by all the stumps scattered around, but now only a few remain to provide shade. A throng of men met them at the bottom of the gangplank. The whole crowd numbered about a hundred jeering men. The group is led to a warehouse and locked inside for the night. Locked up, they have another fine opportunity to get to know one another.
In the morning, they were brought out of the warehouse to meet Captain Agataki. The whole crowd had grown to almost two hundred men, and there was a second, larger, three-masted ship docked at the island now. The captain was a strange looking man; darker skin, darker eyes that folded at the corner and a small nose. His armor was made of many strips of lacquered wood bound together and his helmet wide, all colored blood red. Even his sword was odd in it’s length and slight curve. His accent was slight, but neither Thrydacian or Britslander like most of the pirates, not from the mid countries that Eilonwy woulnd be familiar with. He was a stranger to these lands, and he has become the leader of the largest band of pirates with the most fearsome reputation the Calamic Sea has known.
The Captain addresses the captives, and gives them a choice. “You can remain bound as you are thrown into the sea, or you can do something for the Blood Sails that we wish to have no part of. On my honor, if you do this deed, I will have you returned to the mainland anywhere you wish to be put ashore, and rewarded as well.” The crowd of bloodthirsty pirates make known they are ready to lay to if the captives should refuse to offer their aid. “The stone temple in the middle of the island predates our discovery of this place. I think that a dark evil lies within, the kind that makes even the bravest Blood Sail give pause. There have been monsters that have come forth from the temple and killed my men, till at much cost of life, the creature was defeated, or simply slipped into the sea to swim away. There is a Darkness in that temple. Destroy it, and you are free. You will never be bothered by the Blood Sails again. Fail, and you will hopefully be seen as an offering to the spirits that dwell below, and they will be placated for a while. We hear, sometimes, the wails of anguish and cries of madness, with the rattling of chains from within that strange place. You are not the first we have sent in. But none before you have ever returned. May all the gods bless you on your journey.”
Captain Agatoki turns from his captives and gives an order. Sailors come forward to return all the gear that was taken, and to loosen the bonds holding the captives. Free now, and armed, they are still surrounded by almost two hundred pirates. Eilonwy is given a heavy sack of salted fish and biskets. Xehryon is given a lantern and a dozen flasks of oil. A sailor approaches Argon to offer a skin still wet with water. With a snarl, a sharp claw lashes out and rends the water-skin. The sailor stands for a moment, stunned, watching the water pool on the ground. “IN!” yells Captain agatoki
Sailors had already been working hard to remove the boulders and barricade material from one of the doors. As the door is pulled open, the unwilling explorers are marched forward at the point of a hundred swords. As they stand inside the shadow of the temples interior, and the door is being pushed closed, Oroboros the snake suddenly darts inside with Culain the raven flapping with him. The door slams shut with a ring of finality. The sounds outside indicate that the Blood Sails wasted no time replacing the barricade against the door.
The building interior was well lit, if eerily so. A dome of stained glass featuring patterns of swirls and circles in shades of dark blue allowed the morning sun in, splattering color on the walls. The walls seemed to be made up of worm like shapes, stacked atop one another, caught, petrified in the act of writhing over each other. The effect of the different colors on the wall texture gave the illusion of movement. Or were some of the worms actually moving, just a little? The floor was stone, and there was no furniture or interior walls. There were however, stone mushroom shapes of various sizes, dotted all around the great chamber. These fixtures had thick stalks and wide caps. Some were suitable for use as uncomfortable stools, some were the size of tables, but given the rounded top, mostly useless for putting anything on top of. The centerpiece of the temple, the thing that most grabbed everyone’s attention when they walked in, were the chains hanging from the dome. Seemingly a hundred metal chains, of thicknesses ranging yarn-thin to anchor chain, of a hundred different lengths hung from the iron frame work of the skylight dome. Most were equipped with hooks at the end. With the opening and closing of the main door, some of the thin chain swayed in the draft, rattling a little.
Eilonwy walks to the center of the area of chains, directly underneath the dome. She recites the words and moves her hands in the fashion that allows her to focus her senses on magic. A few seconds later she reports to the others that there is no magic here.
As everyone spreads out, cautiously exploring the building, Trumble shouts out “There is a crack in the floor here!” Moving the dust away, they group is able to trace a crease in the stone floor in a perfect square around a stone mushroom the size of an end table. Using various tools to pry with, they lift up a six inch thick slap of stone and muscle it over. Underneath is a stair leading down.
Starting down the stair that was hidden under a stone mushroom, discovered in a bizarre temple, Trumble the dwarf leads the way, while sensible Eilonwy takes a moment to light the lantern she carries.
As he tromps down the stair, Trumble verbalizes his observations “No one laid this stone. No one carved it. There are no marks from tools, or joints, or seams. I do not recognize this stone. Some type of granite? I don’t like it!” Running his course hand over the smooth stone wall as he descends, looking for signs of tooling, his other hand absently shifts his grip on his axe several times. At the last stair, Trumble comes to a stop altogether. A wide chamber lies before them, with several thick wooden doors. The floor is dirty and smells of mildew. Some mold can be seen on the corners. The moist dust on the floor shows traffic passes through this room regularly. There are rodents, shod feet, large dogs prints and large bare feet moving in all directions. The doors are all shut, but small gnawed holes at the bottom indicate mice move freely.
The party talks about where to go, and decide left. On coming to a door down a passage, they force it open, with a couple applications of their shoulders. A voice from the other side of the door is hear to yell “The Darkmen come! To arms!”
As the party burst into the room beyond the door, they are attacked by men with various weapons, and desperate faces. “We come to talk to you!” Trumble the dwarf shouts, but the battle is under way. Abraham is in the room first and slashing away with his swords. Argon the six foot tall lizard man rushes in with his spear seeking a target. “Ah! Monsters!” the men in the room yell. Trumble is so insulted by these men’s refusal that he flies into a rage, throwing punches, heedless of his own safety. As Eilonwy enters carrying the lantern, the native men act amazed. “They bring light!” Everyone contributes to the carnage, and in the end all of the original occupants of the room are lying on the floor, dead or unable to move.
Taking stock of the chamber it appears the men were living in this far end of a long wide hallway. Two of the men come to, having only been knocked unconscious by a punch to the face from Trumble. One is called Ramey and the other is called Fish.
They explain that they were once bandits operating in the south of Thrydacia. Their leader heard of a buried treasure placed by the notorious Blood Sails The bandit gang sought the treasure, ran afoul of the pirates, were captured (those that were not killed), brought to Blood Island, and forced onto the temple. Eventually finding the trap door under the stone mushroom, the bandits descended to explore, only to encounter the Darkmen, powerful men who can apparently see in the dark! Fleeing them, the bandits encountered the even more deadly creatures of darkness the bandits call Blackwolves, because the sound and smell like wolves, but also do not need light. Very soon, their food and candles were used up. Trapped, the bandits have survived the best they could eating rats, bugs, mold, and licking the walls for water. The humans tried to explore by feeling along the walls, and once discovered a shaft to the surface that let sunlight in. They tried to make that place their camp, but the Blackwolves came in the night and savagely expelled them. They have also found the stairs they came down, but found the top covered, and could not be force it open. Both the Darkmen and the Blackwolves used the humans as sport. Beating or clawing them when the men were unaware there were enemies in the darkness. Taking away their weapons, then returning them later, rushing into the camp and thrashing everyone, then retreating, the games were always violent to the humans detriment. The howls and growls and shouts and ear piercing shrieking at odd times kept the men on the edge of their nerves. Sometimes the creatures would leave behind a morsel of food for the desperate humans. This led to some bandits making pilgrimages to one stronghold or another to beg for food and water. Though no language was shared, the meaning was clear, and the Blackwolves would often give only beatings, but sometimes gave some salty water and a few rats or fungus to eat, but never without a price. The humans served as entertainment to savage, bestial humiliations and degradation. Sometimes a bandit was carried off to satisfy a more immediate hunger. These men all died screaming. It is unknown how long the bandits have been living and dying in the darkness, but to Ramey’s perception it seems like about three years.
“What’s the big deal about seeing in the dark?” asks Trumble the dwarf “You humans have weak eyes!”
“Sshh!” hisses Eilonwy “I hear something skittering from the other end of the hall!” She moves the shine her light down the wide hall.