Synopsis: On the trail of the stolen artifact known as the Sword of Lust, the party booked passage aboard the halfling-crewed magical riverboat , for the two-week journey to Kaer Maga . But the Aspis Consortium can reach even into the wilds of Varisia, where the party had a terrifying encounter with daggers in the dark!
Wealday, 16 Abadius 4708, night
The party returned to Heidmarch Manor with with the missing Pathfinder agents in tow. Venture-Captain Heidmarch was quite pleased to see the return of three of the missing agents. The party also reported that they had found evidence of another agent’s demise. They then shared the letter they had found in Black’s office that seemed to indicate that Black has already sent the Sword of Lust to Kaer Maga. Halfred mentioned that, while he had never been there, he knew that the City of Strangers was a two month journey away.
Heidmarch congratulated the party on successful completion of this mission. “With this, I think you have proven yourselves enough to receive a probationary field commission.” She then presented the four Sandpoint Heroes with their own wayfnders. “If you can successfully recover the Sword of Lust, I will promote you to full field agents.” She then said that she may be able to cash in a favor to get the party to Kaer Maga significantly faster than usual. “If I can work this out, unless that Aspis courier has access to teleportation, you just might be able to get there first!” She asked the party to meet her at Dock 9 in Ordellia on Sunday.
The party spent the next three days in Magnimar.
Sunday, 20 Abadius 4708, early morning. Ordellia, Magnimar
The party found themselves on a dock in the Ordellia neighborhood, standing beside Heidmarch, who was talking with a halfling. “This is Orthlo Janke, captain of the Lucky Jenny.” The child-sized man fixed each of the Sandpoint Heroes with a warm smile and clasped their hands firmly. Heidmarch continued, “This river rat owes me a favor, and he’ll bring you straight up to the City of Strangers.” He smiled at her, “Well, that favor plus that bag of gold you gave me! We’re even on that count, Shiela, but don’t hesitate to call me if I can be of service in the future.” He doffed his hat and bowed.
The Lucky Jenny was a 60-foot long flatbottomed river boat that was 20 feet wide. It had four passenver cabins. The exterior of the boat was painted a garish candy-apple red. Its most prominent feature was the 15-foot diameter paddlewheel that ran the width of the boat. “Um, what makes that thing move?” asked Halfred. “Magic!” was the enthuasiastic reply. “Well, gentlemen, climb aboard and you can each claim a cabin. You’re our only passengers. We’ve got a bit of other cargo, but you’re our main delivery this run!” The party boarded.
Checking out the cabins, our heroes made the discovery that all of the accommodations were sized for halflings, not humans. Janke half-apologized for the size mismatch but mentioned that they would be putting in to ports at night whenever possible, and that his passengers could seek lodging at inns along the way. “It won’t be every night, but it will be most nights!”
The boat got under way about an hour past sunrise. Halfred, who had traveled by Ulfen longboat in the past, marvelled at how fast the Lucky Jenny could move— especially upstream! Aside from the boat’s incretible speed, the day passed uneventfully. The adventurers marveled at the crew of the boat— all were halflings save the boatswain. The boatswain was a pink-haired female gnome named Ara Voingvleet. While both Janke and Voingvleet spoke Taldane with the adventurers, all of the rest of the crew seemed to speak Halfling exclusively. Just as the sun was getting low in the horizon, they made it to the hamlet of Marlon’s Eddy, and the party stayed at the hamlet’s one inn (“The Guest-House”) for the night.
Moonday, 21 Abadius 4708, Yondabarki River
The Lucky Jenny embarked shortly after dawn again. On this day, the land grew marshy and there were no settlements to be seen. “We’re in the Mushfens now. Nobody live here save goblins, lizardfolk, and trogs,” explained Voingvleet, “Cap’n will find a more-or-less solid bank of the river tonight to tie up. He’ll also expect you to assist on the watches, as you’re probably more ready for trouble than we are!” She winked at that. And her prediction proved true: Janke found such a bank, dropped anchor, and tied the boat to two sturdy-looking trees along the riverbank. Despite some unexplained noises from the swamp, and a freak thunderstorm, the night passed uneventfully.
Toilday, 22 Abadius 4708, Mushfens
The boat continued it way up the Yondabarki River through the Mushfens. The weather had also turned bad: hovering a little above freezing, a steady rain fell all day. Again, there was no town to put into at nightfall, so Janke found another bank to put in to. The night passed uneventfully, save that the Sandpoint Heroes awoke with very sore backs from sleeping in such cramped and damp quarters.
Wealday, 23 Abadius 4708, Wartle
After charging through the Mushfens all day, the adventurers were a bit surprised to come across a town by late afternoon. They recognized it as Wartle— a town they had overnighted in twice over the previous autum (on the way to and from Turtleback Ferry). The whole town rested on platforms raised above the muck of the Mushfens on posts— some seemingly more sturdy than others! They stayed at the Lean-To Inn again, and Halfred again drank a bit too much of that establishment’s signature beverage the locals called Bog Grog: a thick, dark, smoky stout flavored with peat instead of hops.
The next morning, upon returning to the boat, the party made a very unpleasant discovery in each of their staterooms. A bloody, decapitated chicken had been placed under each of their pillows. Pinned to each bird was a note: Turn back now if you know what’s good for you. This is your only warning. While the crew had been on watch all night, none reported anything amiss. Zandu and Halfred checked around the boat for tracks, but did not find any. Undeterred from their mission, they continued their journey after an hour.
Oathday, 24 Abadius 4708, Aelham
As the Yondabarki River left the expanses of the Mushfens, the land grew drier and more open. As the sun was setting, the Lucky Jenny pulled into the hamlet of Aelham— a very poor community with a very poor excuse for an inn (just called “The Inn”). Still, it was more comfortable than the boat, and at least the locals were friendly.
Fireday, 25 Abadius 4708, Sanos Forest
Before noon the next day, the river entered the mysterious Sanos Forest. As the party remembered from the last time they’d traveled through these woods with a mystical connection to the First World, the place was strangely quiet and always a bit disconcerting. Only the ship’s boatswain seemed to really enjoy being there. Janke found a steep riverbank and tied up the Lucky Jenny to some trees.
Starday, 26 Abadius 4708, Sanos Forest
Another day passed as the Lucky Jenny continued up the Yondabarki through the Sanos Forest. Again, no towns were seen at all along the river, although they passed two barges that were heading downstream. The night passed uneventfully.
Sunday, 27 Abadius 4708, Whistledown
Just after noon, the trees of the Sanos Forest thinned out, and the Yondabarki River cut through rocky moors. By late afternoon, the boat paddled into Lake Syrantula. High hills rose to the south of the lake, and Janke followed the norther shore a mile or so to the town of Whistledown. The sound of the wind off the lake played a tuneless yet melancholy song. The town was inhabited by at least as many gnomes as humans, and the party foud lodging at an inn called The Restful Chimes— whose front porch was festooned with dozens of wind chimes of various designs. Indeed, most buildings had four or more wind chimes attached to them. Despite the sometimes unnerving sound of the wind and the chimes, the night passed uneventfully, and they continued their journey the next day.
Moonday, 28 Abadiuds 4708, Lake Syrantula
Rather than keeping to the shore, Captain Janke steered the boat straight across the lake. After most of the day had passed, the party noticed that they were heading to a very small island, with just a few trees. “I usually put in here for the night on the lake— it shaves half a day off keeping to the north shore.” Zandu used his eyes of the eagle to look around, and noticed ruins on the southern shore of the lake, perhaps ten mils from the island. “Don’t know,” replied the captain when asked, “they have a very bad reputation, and us skippers avoid the southern shore of the lake. There are no settlements, but you can tell that something lives there. Best to avoid it.” Despite that somewhat disturbing exchange, the night passed without incident.
Toilday, 29 Abadius 4708, Melfish
By late afternoon, the Lucky Jenny was approaching the eastern shore of Lake Syrantula, and making way toward a large town. Halfred noticed the Yondabarki bisected the town, which had many piers and docks in the lake, and also many factories powered by waterwheels turned by the river. A very large drawbridge crossed the river. When he asked the captain, Janke scowled. “The town of Melfish makes a very pretty profit on tolls and taxes on boats traveling up- and downriver. As this is the only water route to and from Kaer Maga, we all pay the toll, but that doesn’t mean we like it!” Janke ordered the boat to put in to one of the public docks. A dockmaster came over, and they immediately started negotiating prices. The party disembarked to find an inn.
Melfish was about two-thirds the size of Sandpoint, and was easily the largest settlement they’d encountered on their journey. A large and well-traveled road led to the southeast of town— locals explained that the road led to the town of Baslweif, which was the northernmost point on the navigable Falcon River, which was the fastest way to get cargo to and from the city of Korvosa, just a houndred miles southeast of here. Indeed, the party noticed that the coinage in circulation here in Melfish was mostly Korvosan, and bore an image of King Eodred III.
After asking for lodging recommendations, the Heroes of Sandpoint chose to stay at The Happy Traveler, the largest and nicest of the town’s three inns. Larger than the either Rusty Dragon in Sandpoint, or the Shield and Sheepdog in Magnimar, the Happy Traveler boasted luxury private rooms for travelers of means. Feeling that they deserved to stay in comfort for at least one night of the journey, they party opted for those rooms. They had an excellent dinner in the inn’s dining room, and retired fairly late.
Well after midnight, Zandu awoke in his bed with a start. Glancing around the room, he saw a masked, black-clad figure with a dagger creeping toward his bed! He grabbed his magical kukris from under his pillow and surprised the assailant, shouting a warning to everyone else. Halfred and McGregor were both awoken to the pain of being stabbed, yet luck was on their sides, as both of them happened to stir in their sleep just as an otherwise-fatal blow would have struck! Shouting warnings to each other, the three adventurers each struggled with their unknown would-be assassins! Halfred managed to wrest his opponent’s sword from him, and ran him through with it in a fit of rage. McGregor blasted his opponent with a jet of flame, catching him on fire, and sending him running back out the door. The wizard blasted him with a lightning bolt (which awoke the rest of the guests in the inn), killing him. Zandu grappled with his assailant, and in the struggle, he threw the would-be assassin through the window, and the stranger plummeted to the cobblestones three stories below. He did not get back up. The three then went to check on Declan.
Entering the room of their priestly friend, the heroes found a grisly sight. Declan’s blood-covered corpse still lay in bed, his throat slit from ear to ear!
[To Be Continued…Next Week!]