“But, sarge, I’m tellin’ you, I saw somethin’ out on that ship,” Ruden said again.
“An’ I’m tellin’ you, rookie, there ain’t no way you can see that far in the dark. You ain’t no elf or no dwarf.” The grizzled sergeant shook his head, then stopped in surprise when he spied the longboat being rowed by a solitary figure towards the pier seemingly in a direct line from the ship. “Well, I’ll be…Boys, we may be needin’ to call this rookie Owl or somethin’.” The group of four watchmen strode out on the pier to meet the rower.
Once the smugglers were secured and Lady Vanderboren’s ring and money were found, the group decided to send Desmond to get the watch. While he was gone, the rest tried to come up with a plausible sounding story for why they were there, since they were trying to keep the Vanderboren name out of it. The watch came on deck and the sergeant sent a practiced gaze over everyone there.
“Alright, what’s goin’ on here?”
“Well,” Rodric stepped forward, “it’s like this. We were out in our boat rowing across the harbor, and we started taking on water.” He gestured to Sparrow and Leland, indicating their still damp clothes. “We made for this ship as fast as we could, but when we got on board, these guys were already here.” Soller Vark looked about to protest that he worked for Keltar Islaran, the Harbormaster and representative on the Dawn Council, but Rodric’s next statement made him quiet down. “And we found out these guys are smugglers. there’s animals all over the place. They attacked us and we defended ourselves and then we sent him to get you.”
The sergeant grunted noncommittally. “We’ll let the Harbormaster decide when he gets here.” After several long minutes, Islaran did indeed arrive and the sergeant repeated what Rodric had said happened. After looking at the bloody mess that was the spider creature and glancing in the hold to see the remains of the other animals, Islaran shook his head at Vark, clearly disappointed that he had misplaced his trust.
“Thank you,” he told the group quietly, almost wheezing. “I had hoped my people would help keep me from losing control of the docks, but it seems some of them are helping the other side. We’ll get you to shore.” Then he turned and climbed back to his own longboat, leaving the watch to clean up and get the ship back to the pier.
“We should go now,” Sparrow was saying to the others as they walked the streets. “She’d want to know.”
“Good news goes better over free breakfast,” Leland said plainly, but he seemed to be getting outvoted.
“She’ll probably be asleep,” Desmond said.
“We should get paid,” Seamus chimed in. It wasn’t long before they were standing outside the Vanderboren manor looking at a darkened house. Sparrow led the way to the door and knocked several times before Kora answered dressed for sleeping.
“What are you doing back here?” she demanded grumpily.
“We need to see Lady Vanderboren. We got her stuff back for her.”
The halfling sighed, then motioned for them to come in and wait in the atrium again. She shuffled herself upstairs, presumably to wake Lavinia.
DM Note or to get a wand of fireball to chastise them for waking her up
“Why do you think she didn’t send the Jade Ravens?” Sparrow asked no one in particular, and no one had an answer. “We need a name like the Jade Ravens. Someway to present ourselves to people who might hire us like Lavinia.” Again, no one seemed to share her enthusiasm for naming themselves yet.
It was not too much longer before the lady of the house came down the broad stairs into the atrium. A green ribbon held her hair away from her face and a green robe tied at the waist covered her white nightgown. She hurried to greet her helpers even as she rubbed some more sleep from her eyes.
“From your faces, I gather things went well?” The story was related to her quickly, and her concern for those injured was obvious. “I knew they were using my ship for something illegal. Thank you all for your help. I’ll go get the money I promised.” She took her original payment for the dock fees and her father’s ring with her when she left, and it wasn’t long before she was back with five pouches which jingled nicely. Lavinia thanked each person as she gave them their payment. “Oh, and could you come back, er, later this morning. I have another task I may need your help with.” The group agreed (Leland’s effort to decline over-ridden by Sparrow’s enthusiastic “Of course!”) and left their patron to get some more sleep.
In the early morning, Desmond rose, dressed, and went to his Temple to buy some potions of cure light wounds. It appeared that the company he found himself in would need them. Seamus also found himself in a temple, asking his cleric to cast one of the spells he uses to patch him up.
Once again at Vanderboren manor the party assembled. Lavinia was waiting for them, dressed in a deep red gown, the skirt of which was actually made of many, many strips of cloth to allow freedom of movement. She was pulling on elbow length gloves as she explained what she needed.
“My parents’ vault is under Castle Teraknian. Most vaults are prudently trapped on the inside just in case someone is able to get a signet ring and get past the clerk. My education in Thenalar did not include how to get past any traps my parents might have installed, and they did not confide what might be in there to me before they died. Would you help me investigate my family vault and deal with any trouble?”
Unsurprisingly with the pay they have already received, the group agreed to help out this noblewoman once again. Lavinia had hired a coach to take them all to the castle, and the time was passed in idle chatter. Under the castle, Lavinia led them to a clerk behind a desk where she showed her ring and proved who she was. He led the group to a small room with several small hallways leading off.
Seamus checked out the door, but found nothing, then tried to open it using the signet ring, but it wouldn’t budge. He handed the ring back and Lavinia tried it herself, and the door swung open on creaky hinges to reveal a darkened room with two wings. The alcoves had lower ceilings and a big column carved in the likeness of coiling snakes supporting them. The central portion contained five more columns carved into the walls.
The party moved Lavinia to the back as Seamus moved in to scout around a bit. He bent down to look at something on the floor and was suddenly attacked by a three foot long metal cobra. Fangs pumped venom into his leg, and he could feel himself getting weaker. Desmond surged forward to help after Seamus yelped, and the snake caught him, too. Desmond was able to land a heavy blow with his sword in return, but it didn’t seem to be as bad as he thought it should be.
Rodric started singing courage to his allies as he moved into the room. Leland took a shot with his bow, but the arrow skittered off the metal hide of the snake. Seamus swung his short sword harmlessly over the snake’s head. After that, there was much maneuvering, but not much actual hitting of each other in the fight, despite the boost they received from Rodric’s stirring song. He stopped singing to cast a spell that would help Desmond against the snake’s poison. Lavinia slowly crept into the room as the party had the snake almost completely surrounded.
Their weapons seemed strangely ineffectual against the metal monster – hard blows left only scratches and strikes that should have done something were turned away without causing any harm. Eventually, Leland dropped his bow and went to his battleaxe. The snake tried to free itself from the surrounding enemies, but it was finally cut down by several of them when it tried to move.
After a short pause during which Lavinia made sure everyone was able to continue, the group fanned out to look around the vault. Things were looking grim until Seamus managed to find a hidden switch that caused one of the columns in the wall to actually split open into an arch. In the next room were seven pictures depicting various monstrous creatures and another pillar, this one with several deep grooves running from floor to ceiling around it.
Eventually, the group figured out that the pillar turned and that the riddle from the paper inside the ring told them how far and which direction to turn it. Completing the combination allowed five alcoves hidden in the room to spin around with a soft rumbling.
Giving a soft, “Yes!” of excitement, Lavinia moved to the first alcove and flipped open the chest there only to inhale sharply in dismay. “It’s empty,” she reported sadly, then moved to the next one. When that one also proved to be empty, she began to look worried. After the third one contained nothing, Lavinia was visibly pale and trembling slightly as she moved to the fourth.
Sparrow, hoping to spare her friend somewhat, but also impatient to see, went to the last one and opened the chest. Therein laid several soft pouches filled with gold coins and gems. “Here!” she cried out, and Lavinia rushed over, relief on her features. She squeezed Sparrow’s arm in thanks, then sighed over the chest. A small coffer off to the side contained several ledgers and a journal.
“This is written in my mother’s handwriting, but I don’t understand the language,” Lavinia said of the last. “These others…apparently, my parents did jobs for others and left the accounts uncollected until they needed them. There are some guilds and a few nobles who owe me money.” They gathered up all the money and paperwork and headed back out.
“Oh, by the way,” Lavinia paused to speak to the clerk. “Has anyone been to the Vanderboren vault recently?”
“Ah, yes,” the clerk answered after a few moments checking. “It seems your brother has been here several times over the last few weeks.”
“But…he’s been missing for over a month,” she said in confusion. The clerk was very apologetic and agreed to let her know if he tried to access the vault again.
At the manor, Lavinia paid the group a bonus for helping at the vault and asked them to come back the next day.
“We’re going to have to find her brother,” Rodric said. And the next day, Lady Vanderboren did indeed ask them to find her brother Vanthus so she could try to talk some sense into him and get him away from the bad crowd he had taken for companions.
There followed two days of intense pub crawls in search of Vanthus Vanderboren across several districts of the city. When it was learned that he is sometimes seen in the company of a local artist named Brissa, she was added to the list of people being searched for. Unfortunately, there was scant news of either of them until Desmond found himself in the Plucked Parrot.
“Hey, you lookin’ for Vanthus?” a nervous half-elf with ragged armor said quietly from a shadowed wall as Desmond walked past. Desmond paused and looked him up and down. “Vanthus Vanderboren?”
“Yes. Who are you?”
“Name’s Shefton, and for the right price, I might know where he is.” Shefton kept his eyes moving around the room as he spoke.
“You will be sorry if you lie to me,” Desmond offered as he reached for his pouch.
“Hey, you don’t want to know, it’s no skin off my nose,” Shefton held his hands out and started to move away.
“I’ve got ten gold.” Shefton paused, then reluctantly held out his palm for the coins.
“He’s staying out under Parrot Island in some old smuggler’s tunnels. For another five, I’ll take you to the secret entrance he uses.” Desmond paid him while giving him another stern look. “Meet me outside here two hours after sundown.”
Desmond met up with the others and relayed his meeting. They made sure they had whatever equipment they wanted with them, then headed out.
DM Note Desmond’s player had Desmond be so sure about Shefton not lying to him that I had to start calling the half-elf “Shifty”.
At the appointed hour, the group met up with Shefton who had already appropriated a row boat to get them out to the island. Once there, he led them up an overgrown trail to a small clearing. He pointed out the stone covering the opening, then stood back while the characters found a rope hanging down and slowly climbed their way into the shaft. Thirty feet down, the group found themselves in a small chamber with a hall leading into darkness.
Suddenly, from above there was a startled exclamation, then a cry of pain suddenly cut off. A whooshing sound was followed by Shefton slamming into the ground in the middle of the group.
“Are you really the best my sister could find?” Vanthus’ voice trailed off into mocking laughter. “Good luck down there. You’re going to need it.”
“Your sister just wants to,” Leland started, but the sound of the stone cover slamming back cut him off. “talk.” More sounds of a heavy object being placed on top of the cover followed.
There was silence as those trapped looked at each other for a moment, then Rodric said, “I think I stepped in mud.”