Burning Sky Session 21

Torrent cast prayer of healing on us, and Ulfgar quickly led us along the trail through the swamp before it could be obscured by the rain.

After a couple of hours, we approached a broad, soggy island covered with bare-branched trees, barren of any birds. Clustered in the center of the small island were four half-sunken wooden shacks, each barely ten feet across, surrounded by a low, uneven fence. A rotted dock stretched out from the island, and a cluster of boats floated nearby, with others propped up on fallen logs. Piles of bones and skeletons lie scattered in piles along the outside of the fence. The shacks were all quiet and dark.

Cyrus suggested we check out one of the shacks, and take a rest inside if it’s empty.

Xireas cast dancing lights, placing one by each of the four shacks.

I gave Crystin my tinderbox in case she needed to light her torchstaff.

Xireas floated one of her dancing lights into the window of the northernmost shack, but nothing stirred. The windows on the next shack were all boarded up. The doors of both shacks were padlocked. The next shack was dilapidated, with the doors hanging to the side. The last cabin also had a padlocked door and boarded up windows.

While we held back, twenty feet from the shore, Cyrus poled his boat to the shore, and Ulfgar jumped onto the island to investigate. As he approached the northern-most shack, skeletons arose from the piles behind the fence.

Ulfgar smashed one to pieces with his quarterstaff and another with a kick before withdrawing toward the shore, calling out, “It’s an ambush!”

“How many were there?” Cyrus asked.

“I've seen three so far,” Ulfgar replied. “I killed two, but I'm sure there's more.”

Instructing Torrent to pole us to shore and Crystin to pole the boat back once Torrent was off, I smashed one on the south-side with my spiritual weapon. Xireas threw a fire bolt, but it flew past the island. As he disembarked onto the island, Cyrus cast frostbite, but it had no effect. Crystin shot a ray of frost, but it sailed over the fence. As Torrent poled us to shore, she hit the southern skeleton with a sacred flame. Jumping onto the shore, I maneuvered in between three skeletons, shouting, “Come at me you bagses of bones!”

Avoiding a skeleton’s blade, Ulfgar smashed two more skeletons to bits with his quarterstaff and a kick. I smashed a skeleton with my warhammer and my spiritual weapon, its sword stroke absorbed by my armor. Xireas hit a far skeleton with a fire bolt. Avoiding a skeleton’s blade, Cyrus shattered one with his longsword. Crystin shot another ray of frost over the fence. From the boat, Torrent hit a skeleton with a sacred flame.

Shattering a skeleton with his quarterstaff, Ulfgar dashed around and finished the last skeleton with another swing.

We quickly began to examine the houses.

One of the middle shacks was dilapidated, containing rotten material. The other three shacks were held closed by old padlocks.

Using the brass key, Cyrus opened the other middle shack and I peeked inside. The piles of hay and personal effects indicated that it was the witches’ sleeping quarters. A dead man, covered with bite marks, was chained to the far wall.

Cyrus used the key to open the padlocked door of the southernmost shack. As he moved to the last padlocked shack, I opened the door and found a red haired woman curled up in the corner, gagged and chained.

“We’ve got a prisoner in here,” I shouted. “Can you bring that key?”

“Angradin, be careful,” Ulfgar warned. “Don't forget they charmed you last time with their song.”

Roused by the dancing lights filtering in from outside, she sat up, wide eyed.

“Are you a prisoner here?” I asked and she nodded vigorously.

“In that case, we're here to rescue you. Don’t cast any spells,” I instructed her as I removed her gag.

“Ah, thank you,” she sighed. “Disgusting!” She spat out the dirt from her gag.

“How did you come to be here?” I asked.

“We were traveling through the swamp when these witches came upon us,” she explained. “Killed my bodyguard, and kidnapped me.”

“I’m Angradin,” I introduced myself.

“It’s an absolute pleasure to meet you, Angradin,” she smiled.

Noting the padlock on her shackles, I called out, “Can we get that key over here?” Then turning back to her, asked, “What's your name?”

“I am Katrina,” she replied as Cyrus brought the key and opened the padlock.

“Where are you headed, Katrina?” I asked.

“I’m headed to Seaquen,” Katrina shared.

“Where specifically in Seaquen,” I pried.

“To Lyceum,” Katrina revealed.

“Do you have a brother,” I hinted.

“I do have a brother,” Katrina’s eyes opened even wider. “Did he send you?”

“He did,” I revealed, “in a manner of speaking.”

“That’s a wonderful stroke of luck,” Katrina smiled.

Cyrus pulled out a scroll and handed it to Katrina. “This is from your brother. I'm supposed to give this to you and make sure you get to Seaquen safely.”

“Oh, thank you,” Raking the scroll, Katrina rose and dusted off her red robes with extravagantly flowing sleeves, which were surprisingly clean and matched her fiery red hair. “This is much appreciated.”

“We're here to accompany you to Lyceum,” I added, noting that she was undeniably attractive.

Katrina unsealed the scroll, and read it eagerly, before rolling it back up. “Well, then, thank you. I appreciate you coming out here on my brother’s behalf. Your timing is absolutely impeccable.”

“That’s what we do,” I bragged. “We are the Ambassadors of the Blue Sky.”

“That’s kind of catchy.” Katrina commented. “These damn witches! Did you kill them all?”

“One of them got away,” I admitted. “When's the last time you saw them?”

“I've been pretty much locked up in this hunt for a while,” Katrina replied.

“Have you seen any in the last few hours?” I asked.

“No, none have come here in the last few hours,” Katrina replied, as she led the way out of the shack. “They have my belongings somewhere in here, if you don't mind helping me find them.”

“Yeah, let's finish searching,” I suggested.

Having just finished inspecting the door of the northernmost shack, Cyrus informed us, “It’s perfectly safe,” and opened the door.

A disgusting smell assailed our nostrils as we peered inside. A massive cauldron, sticky with boiled fat, hung over a wide hearth, and brass vials, glassblowing implements, and more bizarre tools were scattered across numerous shelves, as well as some assorted bones and other body parts.

Searching among the shelves, Cyrus found four small glass globes with what looked like bloody liquid inside.

Searching through the rubble of the dilapidated shack, Ulfgar found six small coffers.

Searching the witches’ sleeping quarters, I found a belt with many pouches containing various spell components, as well as rotted apprentice spellbooks, numerous sets of damp clothes, and rusted weapons and armor.

Noting that the belt was not rotten like most of the shacks’ contents, I showed it to Katrina, asking, “Is this yours?”

“Ah, yes, thank you,” Katrina replied, placing it tightly around her waist. “I appreciate that.”

“Take a look,” I showed her the rest of the contents. “Is any of that other stuff in there yours?”

“Oh no,” she admitted. “None of that's mine.”

“Xireas,” I called, “you may want to have a look in here.”

I made a pile of whatever appeared salvageable, and cast mending where necessary.

Looking through the pile, and thumbing through the spellbooks, Xireas replied, “No, this is garbage. I don’t need any of this. Thanks, though. I appreciate it.”

Searching through the shacks a second time, I found a small key hidden in the northernmost shack.

Gathering everything together, I cast detect magic, noting magic emanating from the four small globes, one of the coffers, as well as from Katrina’s robes and within one of her long leather boots.

I cast guidance on Cyrus as he searched the coffers for traps, which he did not find. I gave him the small key, which he used to open the boxes, each of which contained fifty Shahalesti platinums.

The coffer emanating magic happened to be right at my feet, so I opened it and began searching under the coins until I found a small metal anvil hanging on a sturdy chain, both made of polished steel.

“Oh, hello,” I lifted it out of the coffer. “What is this? Ohh, that's pretty!”

“Nice piece of jewelry,” Cyrus replied as everyone began searching the other coffers in vain.

A symbol was carved on the side of the small anvil, which Ulfgar explained belonged to “Grungni, the Dwarven God of mining, artisans, and smiths. Considered the father of the Dwarves, he is one of the three most venerated of the Ancestor Gods, alongside his sibling Grimnir and his wife Valaya. He taught the first Dwarves how to dig deep into the earth, and how to mine ore and smith metal.”

“That must be what they call Moradin here in your world,” I concluded, putting the necklace on and tucking it under my breastplate. “Moradin must be pleased.”

“I don't know much about religion,” Xireas said, “but can these gods coexist in different places like that? I'm not much of a religious sort.”

“I don't know what limits they would have.” I admitted.

“If they’re gods,” Ulfgar suggested, “don't they exist in all the planes?”

“I never quite bought into that whole mess,” Xireas replied.

“Xireas, I'm at a loss,” I resigned. “I don't even know where we are.”

“Yeah, same,” Xireas agreed. “Well, hopefully that will be useful at some point. What does it do? Can you determine what it does?”

“I don't know,” I explained. “I hope to find out tonight.”

With the night wearing on us, we decided we needed to rest.

After moving the corpse, which I determined had human bite marks, to the northernmost shack, we decided to rest the night in the witches’ sleeping quarters.

The night passed without further incident.

In the morning, I shared, “It seems that I can speak a command word and this will become a full sized anvil blessing the wielder who uses it.”

“That's handy,” Cyrus said. “That's good. We won't have to wait to get to town before you do your thing.”

“Well, it depends,” I considered. “If I wanted to fix my father’s broken sword, I would still need a superheated forge, because it’s made of a special kind of metal. For most other things, I don't even need a forge. I can just use my portable anvil, smith’s tools, and my divine skills.”

“So that the sword that you want to reforge,” Xireas said, “your Pappy’s sword, is that magical, or what’s the deal with it? Is it just sentimental and you wanna make it into something different or like? Can you ever reforge your magical sword? I've never seen that before or heard of that.”

“I sense that there is magic in this blade,” I shared.

“Hmm,” Xireas pondered. “And how would you reforge it without breaking the enchantment?”

“I think I could do it if I had a super heated forge,” I explained. “With the divine power of Moradin, I think I could do it.”

“Ah, okay,” Xireas grasped. “That makes sense. That makes sense. So you channel your divine power while you're reforging this thing in a super heated place, and keep the enchantment on it at the same time. Huh, that's interesting! I have to remember that. It's rather interesting.”

“That's right,” I nodded. “I think I could do that.”

“Certainly worth a try,” Xireas encouraged. “What kind of metal is that?”

“Moznek said it's made out of a special metal called adamantite,” I explained. “I've never heard of it before.”

“Hmm,” Xireas pulled out a little leather bound book, jotted some notes inside it, closed it, tied it back up, and stuck it back in her gear. “Well, that's interesting. I’d like to be there when you do it, to see how it turns out.”

We decided to take two additional boats, and we divided into pairs, Katrina with me, Cyrus with Crystin, Ulfgar with Torrent, and Xireas raising the bite-marked corpse to pole her boat.

Loading the valuables into the four boats, we departed the island with Ulfgar and Torrent leading the way, followed by Katrina and me, Xireas and her zombie, with Cyrus and Crystin in the rear.

As we dredged our way through the swamp, I made conversation with Katrina, sharing how Rantle had helped us out in our time of need.”

“That certainly sounds like good old Rantle,” Katrina acknowledged.

“We are also headed to Lyceum,” I shared.

“You must be pretty able bodied to get yourselves out of Gate Pass,” Katrina commented, “with everything happening. How did you manage that one?”

“We’re the Ambassadors of the Blue Sky,” I quipped.

“That doesn't explain that,” Katrina pressed. “How did you get out? They locked that place down pretty tight. Only a handful of people got out of there.”

“Yeah,” I acknowledged. “It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy getting past the inquisitors, or through the burning forest either, but we managed all of that.”

“You got through the burning forest?” Katrina seemed amazed as I nodded. “That place has been on fire for forty years!”

“It wasn't on fire by the time we got through with it,” I hinted.

“So not only did you go through it,” Katrina questioned, “you were able to douse those fires?”

“You could say that,” I teased.

Wow!” Katrina noted, “That's quite the impressive feat that you performed there.”

“But it did cost this dearly,” I solemnly acknowledged.

“How's that?” Katrina asked.

“One of our companions never came out with us,” I revealed.

“Ah, sorry,” Katrina sympathized. “He got killed from the undertaking?”

“Well,” I hinted, “let's just say he stayed behind. What do you hope to achieve in Lyceum?”

“I hope to go over there and see what aid I can lend to the cause,” Katrina shared.

“It seems like our missions are aligned,” I noted.

“Apparently,” Katrina admitted, “yes.”

“Any information in that scroll?” I asked. “We did not look at it.”

“There were greetings from my brother,” Katrina revealed, “and various familial things that you wanted to express to me. We haven't seen each other in quite some time and I had been hoping that he would join me in my cause in Lyceum, but apparently he expressed his regrets. He wanted to stay behind in Gate Pass to help them there. He and I have always been a good team when we worked together.”

“I can see that,” I nodded, our friendly conversation continuing throughout our journey as she seemed to warm up to me, sharing that she is a sorcerer. She used prestidigitation to clean up the armor, weapons, and dress we had retrieved. After a while I mentioned to her that she reminded me of my good companion, Eyvindir.

Though the conversation was enjoyable, the weather was not, with the mugginess turning into a thunderstorm.

A day later, the storm had passed and we spotted a hawk flying several hundred feet overhead. Thinking it might be a spy sent from the druid of the swamp, I drew my crossbow, but yielded to Cyrus, who warned that we might not want to anger the wizards of Seaquen.

A half hour later, as we were dragging our boats over a dry section of the swamp, we heard a horn blowing in the distance, and saw ruins about 200 feet ahead of us.

As we approached the ruins, a patrol of three Shahalesti soldiers approached. The one in the middle held up his hand, “Hail, and well met travelers.”

We greeted him in return.
“I bid you good day,” he continued as we approached. “My name is Leftenant Thalan. I'm dispatched from the Shahalesti Navy ship, the Osprey. We're currently here to aid Seaquen and offer an alliance, and as a show of good faith we are dispatched here to ensure that no hostiles come through this place and transport illegal arms and armaments. So we're talking to the travelers that are coming through and just checking everybody out as they come to Seaquen. Can you tell me who might you be and what your intentions are?”

“Greetings,” I replied. “We are also here to aid Seaquen. My name is Angradin Hammerforged.

“We're travelers on our way to Seaquen,” Ulfgar repeated. “We've been in the swamp many days, so we're hoping to get to some dry land.”

“Would you mind telling me your business in Seaquen?” Thalan asked.

“Yes, we're here to offer our aid to Seaquen,” I reiterated.

“That's good to hear,” Thalan continued. “In what way?”

“This woman works with the resistance against the Ragesians,” Cyrus indicated toward Torrent, “and we’re bringing her to Seaquen.”

“Do you mind if we take a look at your boats,” Thalan asked, “to see what you’re transporting?”

We reluctantly agreed and Thalan and his two companions looked inside our boats, poking around a bit.

“Okay,” he finally said, “well, thank you for your cooperation. You can move along.”

“It’s our pleasure,” I replied, as the three of them stepped out of the way and let us pass.

“I hope you find shelter in the town,” Thalan added, glancing briefly at the drizzling sky, “Things are bleak there, from what I hear. Encourage those in power to accept our offer. We have the means to make conditions much better for the thousands of refugees who are as yet without homes. May we meet again as allies”.

“We'll pass on the message,” I promised.

“Thank you,” Thalan replied, withdrawing into the ruins. “I appreciate that.”

“Can you tell us,” Ulfgar asked, “before you go, how much further is it to Seaquen?”

“Just about the rest of the day should get you there,” Thalan advised.

“That’s good news,” I replied and we continued on.

Once we were out of earshot, Cyrus asked, “What do you think that was about?”

“I don't know,” I admitted. “I guess I have to take them at their word that they were looking for something illegal. I don't really understand what we could have been trying to smuggle into Seaquen, but I guess if I use my imagination I can think of something. I was kind of afraid they were gonna try and take our stuff.”

We agreed that they had no right to search or stuff, as inconsequential as the transaction had been.

A couple of hours later, we had to continue on in our boats for the rest of the day.

After so many days of gloomy weather and endless water-filled bogs, solid ground finally became increasingly common. Abandoned skiffs, boats, and rafts increased in frequency and we passed a few other groups that had made it through the swamp.

The skies were still overcast, though. The drizzle had not diminished since crossing the Nasham river and did not seem to be ending soon. We noticed that the ground began to rise higher than the waterline and a line of trees in the distance marked the end of the marshland and the beginning of the outskirts of Seaquen.

Abandoned boats littered the sides of the road, dashing our hopes of making a profit off our boats.

Sure enough, we were soon approached by a few burly half-orcs, one of which greeted us, “Ohh, I see travelers coming to the swamp.”

“That's right,” I nodded.

“Glad you made it,” the half-orc continued. “I’m Kor-Natheon. Uh, are you all gonna be using those boats anymore?”

“Are you interested in buying them off of us?” we asked.

“Sure,” Kor-Natheon offered, “I can give you five golds for the boats.”

“We were thinking fifty,” I responded. “These are top notch boats here.”

“Sorry, I can practically get them free here,” Kor-Natheon explained. “People abandon them all the time, and quite frankly I’d be doing you a favor by taking them off your hands. I've gotten many abandoned boats. I've purchased a bunch of boats. That's what I do.”

“Alright,” Cyrus chuckled, “Twetty golds for four boats, yeah?”

“These boats have fared us very well,” I countered. “We took good care of them. These weren't just those run of the mill boats. These were the top notch boats.”

Kor-Natheon wouldn’t budge and we agreed to his price, trading our boats to him for twenty golds.

As the burly half-orcs dragged the boats away, Xireas commanded her zombie to walk into the ocean.

We eventually emerged from the swamp and reached the road to Seaquen, which was cramped on both sides by the scattered tents of refugee camps.
Passing through the camps, we followed the road until we reached the city of Seaquen.

Approaching from the southwest, we could see that it was bustling, growing even more busy closer to the harbor, despite the fog and constant drizzle.
While many went about their business up and down the chaotic streets, lots of refugees were trying to get food and supplies, find work, or had resorted to begging.

“I expected it to be much brighter here,” I commented to Torrent.

“It’s usually much brighter,” Torrent replied. “This weather is very unusual for this place.”

“I suppose we should head to Lyceum,” I suggested.

“I need to go see my mentor, Lee Sidoneth,” Torrent informed us, “catch up with him and find out what the state of affairs is, and then maybe he can get us an appointment to see the Lyceum academy.”

“Does that work for you, Katrina?” I asked.

“I think I'm gonna go and check things out around here anyway,” Katrina replied. “Where are you going to be staying?”

“No idea,” Cyrus replied.

Do you have any contacts here?” I asked.

“Me?” Katrina responded. “No, I'm fairly new, like you.”

“Perhaps we should stick together until Torrent has met her contact,” I suggested.

“I’ll come find you,” Katrina insisted. “I'm sure I can find you. It’ll be fine. I'm going to go off and check things out on my own, and then I'm going to come back and find you guys.”

With that, Katrina walked off confidently, disappearing around a corner.

“I'm gonna go and see if I can track him down and get an appointment with him,” Torrent stated. “Maybe you can find a place to stay.”

“Shouldn’t we figure out a place to stay before you leave?” I suggested. “Or else how are you gonna find us?”

“Do we know where the nearest temple is?” Ulfgar asked. “Maybe we can find lodging there.”

“There's some temples around,” Torrent replied, “but I don't know what the situation is. There's a temple down in the South Harbor, but I'm guessing they're probably all over on this point with all the refugees coming in here.”

Spotting a nearby inn, Cyrus said, “We’re going to stay here until we see you again, and then, if we find a better place… But I need to sit down. I need to relieve myself. I need to eat.”

“I'll tell you,” Torrent reiterated, “I don't know what the state of affairs is here, with all that’s going on, so you are on your own to find a place.”

“Normally I would see about putting you up somewhere,” Torrent apologized, “but I think things are gonna be overrun and I have to figure out what's going on or anything first…”

“Yeah, that's fine,” Cyrus assured her. “Is Lee Sidoneth part of your resistance, or is he just somebody who’s important to you?”

“He’s someone who's important to me,” Torrent responded, as she walked off down the road.

“So, Crystin, what are you doing?” Cyrus asked. “Are you gonna stick with this? Are you gonna take off? Your original request was to bring you and your daddy to Sequen.”

“Thank you all for everything you've done for me,” Crystin replied. “I appreciate you all. My life has changed 180 degrees because of you. You saved me from servitude to my horrible father, which I’m still kind of sad about. But I think it's time for me to go find my own path. I need to go figure out what I'm gonna do myself.”

“Do you have people here?” Cyrus asked. “A family member or…”

“I don't have a soul here,” Crystin admitted, “but I feel confident that I can find my way now.”

“With five hundred golds in your pocket,” Cyrus teased, “I'm sure you can make things happen.”

“That's right,” I added. “Don’t spend it all in one place. Keep it light, Crystin,” I added, pointing to her torch lamp.

“I will,” Crystin replied, giving us each a big hug and a kiss. “Thank you!”

After spending a little time talking with Xireas, Crystin departed with a tear in her eye.

We went to the inn and it was packed, with no vacancies.

Trying several others, they were all the same, even though the list price was ten golds per person per night.

As we walked by the harbor, we could see that it was full of boats packed into every slip.

In the center of the harbor was a massive galleon, painted gold and red, with your large streaming banners dramatically flowing from its masts.

Stopping a pedestrian, Cyrus asked, “Hey, what's that big boat in the harbor?”

“Oh, that's the Wayfarers’ Theater,” they replied. “A floating theater. They're gonna put a show on, I think.”

“Ohh, that's nice,” Cyrus replied as we moved along.

“Why don't we try to find a blacksmith,” I suggested, “so we can sell this stuff.”

We didn’t need to wander long before we heard the familiar sounds that led us to a blacksmith’s shop, The Polished Anvil. The blacksmith and his apprentice appeared quite busy working on horseshoes and weapons, among other works.

Eventually we were able to sell them the armor and weapons we had acquired, mended, and cleaned up for five hundred golds.

He also suggested that Grandma Baker might have room in her barn for us, and gave us directions.

Following his directions, we found Grandma Baker, who agreed to rent us space in her barn for five golds per night.

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