Kora Whistlegap shuffled her old bones into the Empty Grave, suppressing a shiver at the name of the tavern. Her mistress had sent her here with an invitation for an old classmate of hers at Thenalar Academy and two of her friends. She peered around for a moment before spying someone that fit the description Mistress Lavinia had given her. “Excuse me, young miss, young masters, but are you Lily, Leland, and Seamus?”
At their nods, though a sour look did cross the young lady’s face, the Halfling went on, “My Mistress has an invitation for you.” She handed each of them a folded parchment sealed with the Vanderboren signet.
“Lavinia!” Lily exclaimed. “I haven’t spoken to her since I left Thenalar. Of course I’ll come.” The one Kora believed was Leland seemed ready to say no, but Lily added, “and he will, too.” Leland gave a tired sigh and agreed, as did Seamus.
Kora smiled slightly and bade them farewell, moving to deliver the other two invitations. At the Pearl and the Parrot, in the Noble District, Kora found the other two for whom she had invitations. A paladin of Heironeous named Desmond and his minstrel friend Rodric. “Sure we’ll go,” Rodric said before Desmond even finished reading. Thoughts of possible riches and adventure jumping through Rodric’s head. As well as a good excuse of escaping from his “night shift on the watch that Desmond had a habit of volunteering both of them for.”
Desmond turned and looked at Rodric, “Can you give me one second to finish?” After a moment Desmond turned to the halfling, “We would be honored, ma’am, to accept your Lady’s invitation,” and Kora went home to begin preparations for the next night’s dinner.
DM Note My players should feel free to edit these logs and add their characters thoughts and perceptions to the story as it unfolds. It’ll help everyone understand where each character is coming from.
Before coming to the dinner, Seamus did a bit of scouting around to find out what information might be available about Lavinia Vanderboren, and reported back to his friends that the young woman's parents had been killed in a ship fire several months before. “I didn’t know that!” Sparrow exclaimed. “How could I not know about that?” But she had to acknowledge she hadn’t exactly kept up on her old friend’s family doings. “I feel bad about not at least sending a note. I suppose it’s too late now, right?”
“At least you know not to show up and ask, ‘Hey, how are your parents doing?’” Seamus responded.
“That would be an awkward moment,” Leland agreed.
The gates in the wall surrounding the Vanderboren manor house were left open in anticipation of the guests’ arrival. Desmond and Rodric were not greeted by anyone until they took the short walk to the front door, whereupon the Halfling servant met them. They were shown inside and asked to wait in an enormous great hall with smooth, white marble stonework. Two oak stairwells with burnished brass railings ascended to an open first-floor landing. Tapestries depicting a beautiful and savage frontier of sprawling jungle landscapes and an eerie shoreline hung from the upper landing. A glass chandelier was suspended from the atrium’s ceiling.
DM Note I know I didn’t describe the atrium this well, but I forgot I actually had a description of it.
A few moments waiting and Sparrow, Leland, and Seamus were shown over to Desmond and Rodric. There were a few moments of awkward introductions (involving in part some posturing about how Sparrow and Leland, from the East Azure District, could smell the whale blubber on Rodric and Desmond, who hailed from the West Azure District) before another group of people strode across the floor from somewhere deeper in the manor. The last, a tall handsome man slowed and looked the invitees over before offering a brusque, “Hmm, you must be the help Lavinia’s brought in to do the chores. Good luck to you.”
They look like adventurers! Sparrow thought to herself. “And who are you?” she asked, only to be told that they were the Jade Ravens. And then they were gone and it was time for dinner and the offer. “We need a name like that if we’re going to be proper adventurers,” Sparrow remarked to Leland.
The private dining hall was comfortable and cozy, softly lit by wall lanterns. Standing before a portrait of a handsome man with a short beard was a rather attractive human woman in a flowing blue dress. Her honey-colored hair almost glowed in the lantern light as she turned gracefully from the portrait. A warm smile bloomed on her face, touching her eyes, when she motioned you to sit.
“Greetings, I’m Lavinia Vanderboren,” she said. “I know a little about each of you, which is why I have an offer for you. But I don’t know how much you know about each other.” She turned to Lily. “When last we spoke, you were going by ‘Golden Osprey,’ was it? Have you settled on an adventurous sounding name yet?”
“Actually, were you Finch back then?” Leland prompted, and the elf woman agreed.
“Now I am trying out Sparrow Meridian. I want to say I am sorry about your parents. They hired me for their ships when I left school and were very good to me.”
“Thank you.” Lavinia saddened for a moment, but then recovered and turned to Desmond. “You are Sir Desmond Celidon of Heironeous. I asked at your temple if they had anyone who might be able to aid a noble in need and they gave me your name, and that of your friend, Rodric, the minstrel.”
“Desmond must be the low man on the totem pole at the temple,” Leland whispred to Sparrow.
Rodric made a face. “I actually prefer bard, milady.” Lavina nodded in understanding as Kora began filling wine glasses for the guests, then turned to Leland.
“And you are Lily – I’m sorry, Sparrow’s long time friend Leland. A woodsman, if I am not mistaken.”
“Yes, I try to keep her out of trouble for her family,” Leland stated plainly. Sparrow rolled her eyes. The noblewoman turned to Seamus.
“And you are a man of many skills, I hear.” Seamus raised his wine glass with an enigmatic smile and a helpless shrug.
“All the ladies say that about him,” Lily added under her breath.
Upon that reference, Rodric leaned over to Desmond saying in a whisper, “A good way to say he’s a thief of sorts”.
Kora began serving dinner as Lavinia began explaining. “Now as to myself, as you may have heard, I recently inherited my parents’ estate. Along with this house, unfortunately, came a fair amount of debt owed the Dawn Council, the harbormaster, and quite a few guildhalls. It seems my parents, for all their success as adventurers, were not as skilled at finance. If I’m to get these taxes and debts paid, I’ll need access to my family’s vault under Castle Teraknian. And therein lies the problem I need your help with. The vaults are magically sealed and keyed to special signet rings given to the owners. My parents each had rings, but my mother lost hers a few months ago. She had a new one commissioned, but it won’t be done before my debts are called due. My father kept his hidden on one of their ships, the Blue Nixie. The harbormaster has seized the ship until someone pays the back fees for four months of mooring. I paid the man Keltar Islaran has put in charge of my ship, an unscrupulous lout named Soller Vark, but when I went to claim the ship, Vark’s men wouldn’t let me on board claiming I hadn’t yet paid the fines. Vark denied I had, and Islaran trusts his man too much for him to do anything about it.”
In the middle of serving Leland, Kora gave a snort at the injustice. “I think Vark and his men are up to something on my ship. And I need to get on there to find my father’s ring. Talking to him is about all I can do, and that didn’t work, so I would like you to find out what is going on. If you can do that, and even better, recover the hundred platinum I already paid, I’ll give each of you two hundred pieces of gold once I can get into my family’s vault.”
The group agreed there was some sort of plot a-brewing and become partners in this venture, and dinner was finished with minimal conversation. Along the way, Sparrow made sure to ask, “Do you want us to kill Vark and his men?” This drew some surprised looks from the others before she continued, “because I don’t think I’m up for that.”
As they were leaving to go meet about how to proceed, Desmond turned to Lavinia. “Milady, would it be possible for you to give me a letter stating that I have your permission to board your ship?”
Lavinia gave a puzzled frown. “Such a letter would do no good, I am afraid. They will not even let me onto my ship; a letter from me will not get you onto the Nixie. Also, though I do not like leaving you out like yesterday’s laundry, it would be better if my name is not involved in this if at all possible.”
Desmond nodded slowly, “I wanted the letter first because I then would have the permission of the true owner of the Blue Nixie to board her, and also to possibly use the letter as a distraction with me going up the main gangplank. Then Milady I ask for your verbal permission.” After receiving it, Desmond then left with the others to meet at the Bloodthirsty Pirate nearby.
But before they could get there, the idea of scouting out the ship came to them, so they went to pier 5 and saw to their confusion that the ship was not there. After a moment of looking around and counting to make sure they were at the correct pier, Sparrow’s eyes caught the outline of the ship, but it was moored out in the middle of the harbor. “Well, maybe they are up to something,” Seamus offered. Sparrow shrugged and began taking off her boots, and Rodric followed suit, ready to take a swim out to the ship.
“Why don’t we borrow that rowboat?” Leland asked with a nod of his head towards a nearby boat tied to the wharf. When Sparrow failed to hear the suggestion the first time, Leland sighed and began to take his own boots off—after all, if she was going to jump in the water, he felt obligated to her parents to make sure she didn’t drown. A second suggestion by Seamus and Desmond, however, did catch her attention. Sparrow had the good grace to look sheepish as she put her boots back on.
It was approaching the middle of the night before Desmond had rowed them out near the Blue Nixie. “Oy, there!” one of the two sentries called out. “Come no further!”
Desmond pulled in the oars and let the boat coast on its own momentum. “So much for some covert surveillance,” Sparrow sighed.
“Steer us towards the one the that spoke,” Rodric whispered, then he swung his mandolin into place and began to play. The music had a sort of drone to it, and the bard seemed to gather it and throw it towards the sentry like a fishing net, ensnaring him in it and making him go slack-jawed.
Desmond began rowing again and the guard at the other end yelled out again. “We said stop! ALARM!” He fired his crossbow at Desmond, the bolt thunking solidly against Desmond’s armor. The paladin knew he would be heavily bruised in the morning.
As the rowboat bumped into the side of the boat, Sparrow, determined to go swimming, and Leland, determined to follow her, slipped out of the boat to try to get closer to the guard that was still attacking. Seamus scrambled up the closest rope as Rodric turned and leveled his own crossbow back at the sentry and dropped him to the deck with a bolt to the stomach. Realizing they no longer had to reach the far end of the ship, Sparrow and Leland began climbing up to the deck, as did Desmond and Rodric. Seamus threw a dagger at the remaining sentry, who was now coming out of his daze. The dagger only grazed him, but the guard panicked and jumped over the side of the ship.
“Surrender now!” offered Desmond, not realizing everyone on the deck was down or fled.
“Do you have any other friends?” Seamus asked Rodric. “Because I don’t think this one’s going to last long.”
The group realized it was strangely quiet on the ship considering the alarm had been raised. They made their way to the downed guard who pleaded for his life. They bandaged his wound and asked him where Soller Vark was, and they were pointed towards the captain’s quarters aft.
DM Note My rolls for the thugs’ Listen checks were abysmal at first. It was actually Desmond’s offer of quarter that woke up Vark and the other thugs.
Seamus moved quietly through the ward room and listened intently for a moment at the captain’s door. Hearing murmured conversation, he turned to signal the others to wait, but Desmond strode forward, reached around Seamus and opened the door himself. Torchlight fell across Soller Vark who instinctively thrust forward with his rapier, catching Seamus full on. Seamus, hurt grievously, slid away from combat even as another door opened into the cramped ward room and two more thugs appeared. Vark, realizing he was outnumbered and pinned in, screamed out, ”;Burn them! Burn them all!” even as Desmond was able to stick him with his greatsword.
Leland was able to put an arrow in one of the other brigands trying to enter the fray. “Again, surrender and live,” Desmond offered. This time, they complied, but the smell of smoke began filling the air. From below decks, there came animal screams, a loud clang and then the shriek of a woman cut off suddenly. Rodric moved into the captain’s cabin to tie up the prisoners there. The sounds from below got louder and then from out on the deck, Seamus yelled, “Uh, Leland! A little help!”
Onto the deck came first another of Vark’s thugs, but he actually knelt down to surrender. Up from below came a nightmarish spider creature the size of a pony. Enormous jaws, coated with blood, clacked hungrily as it seemed to scent the air. In a blur of legs, the thing moved on the kneeling flunky and bit him clean in half. Leland sent an arrow into the creature’s thick hide as Seamus, still holding his side, scrambled back. Desmond skirted past Leland and moved to block its progress, the bruise in his side making him wince.
The creature scented more food and lunged forward, trying to take down Desmond. The paladin managed to shrug off the legs of the thing when they attempted to grab him and pull him into those huge jaws. A mighty swing of the greatsword dropped the big bug in a bloody mass on the deck.
Rodric and Sparrow, once the prisoners were secured, managed to find Lavinia’s original payment to Vark and the Vanderboren signet ring. The ring had a small piece of parchment rolled up inside it, but no one could puzzle out its meaning, though Sparrow thought it might have to do with the ring somehow.