The northern coast of Korvosa Bay – underground
The 22nd day of Calistril, 4712 AR – late morning
“Are you ready, Lord Sarani?” Igmar asks.
“Aye.” Akorian slips his rapier back into its scabbard before turning to face the others. “Anyone else interested in coming?”
“I should not leave your side.” Albia’s eyes are very serious. Akorian cannot help but sigh.
“I know you mean well, but we’re going to do this quickly, and quietly. Anyone else?”
“I’ll go.” Eiko steps forward and grins. “I’m told I’m quiet as a mouse. May I come?”
Akorian grins as well. “Certainly. We’ll follow Igmar; put your hand on my shoulder, and let’s go.”
And thusly the dwarf leads the way into the darkened tunnel. Akorian follows Igmar, with a hand on the dwarf’s shoulder. Eiko follows Akorian, doing likewise. The tunnel around you is as black as pitch; thusly the going is slow, and it seems to take forever to reach the four-way intersection that Igmar found earlier. Listening, you can all hear shouts and laughter from the southernmost tunnel, just like before. You pause a moment, listening intently, and then slink north, towards the cave where Igmar saw the fancily dressed man. Shortly thereafter you spy light ahead, and come to the mouth of the cavern itself.
For a moment you watch the man, still seated at his desk. You hear his quill scratch across the parchment, and watch as he pauses a moment to dip it in the inkwell, and then continue to write. Igmar trades a glance with Akorian, who nods. He eyes Eiko, who nods as well. She takes a step forward to begin her approach, and that, my friends, is where everything goes terribly awry.
It is dark, You see. And Eiko is merely human. She does not see the tiny stone on the ground at her feet. Her toe nudges it, and it clatters noisily across the cavern floor. You all see the fancy man stiffen at the sound, and then quickly move to stand. Akorian is the quickest to act; he raises a hand, and the surrounding shadows seem to leap to do his bidding. They wind about the slender man, and try to bind him in place. He contemptuously waves them aside with a simple gesture, and moves to reach for his spiked chain.
Igmar sees to it that he does not succeed. The dwarf raises a hand, and intones words of power. The chain glows white hot, and the sour-faced man cannot reach it. Igmar then draws his scimitar and charges, eager to get in close to strike. He almost does not get the chance to do so, however: instead the man raises a hand, and speaks words of power of his own. Igmar pauses in his advance, and seems to grow woozy, and distant. Then the man grunts in agony as Eiko slices him across the back. How this wee slip of a girl got in so close to the wizard is uncertain, for neither of you saw her approach him!
The wizard turns and glowers at Eiko, who merely smiles and raises her sword to strike once more. The wizard raises his hand, and once more intones words of power. Akorian is the only one far enough away to be unaffected when the fireball detonates – in a brilliant flash of heat and light, the three of them vanish, and Akorian is knocked aside. He looks up, singed, and sees that the desk and most of the furniture within the chamber is charred and burning. Igmar lays nearby, stunned. The wizard, now badly burned and tottering on the edge of death, stands with a dagger pointed directly at Eiko’s throat. Her lovely almondine eyes show not one meager trace of fear.
“Don’t you move!” the man barks. “Now, both of you: drop your weapons.” He waits until both Akorian and Igmar drop their swords to the cavern floor. “Now. Who are you, and what are you doing here?”
“Just looking for answers, friend.” Akorian holds up his hands to show that they are empty. “We heard the place was haunted, and came here to find out the truth of the matter. I’d say we were right to doubt those old rumors.”
“You have a smart mouth, boy.” He presses his dagger in tight against Eiko’s neck, and a tiny trickle of blood is seen to flow. Memories of another time, and another dagger at another woman’s throat come to your mind, unbidden.
“Let her go, friend.” Akorian forces a smile to his face. “We’ll leave, as easy as you please. There’s no need for anyone to get hurt.”
“I don’t think so.” Akorian sees the muscles and tendons in the half-elf’s fist tense, and realizes he may have just run out of time. The words to the battle-spell come to him unbidden, and through ease of long practice. He gestures, and a bolt of light speeds from his finger to pierce the wizard through the forehead. The man staggers a bit, and Eiko breaks free…. Only to see the wizard totter over, dead.
“We need to get back to the others,” Igmar grumbles. “The men I saw down that other tunnel are certain to have heard all the noise we just made.”
“Aye, let’s go.” Both Akorian and the still-badly wounded Eiko pause a moment to eye the dead mage, and then join Igmar as he withdraws. They do not get very far before they hear the loud clatter of a number of men approaching from the southern corridor. Moments later the glimmer of lamplight can be seen from that way as well.
“This way!” Igmar Akorian summons witch light to illuminate the surrounding rock and together the three of you dash up the northern tunnel. But then Akorian pauses a moment about 40’ down the hall, and waits until he sees the glimmer of the approaching lamplight once more.
“What are you doing?” Eiko calls.
“Giving them something to think about. You two go on ahead.” Akorian chants the words to his most powerful spell, and yet another flash-roar of superheated air flows past you as the fireball ignites back the way you came. Men scream, and one dashes forward, ablaze. The stench of roasting flesh assails your nostrils, and then Akorian and the others dash onward, and soon rejoin the rest of the party.
“We heard screaming,” Kymrych says once the party is together once more. “Were you having fun without us?”
Igmar breathlessly tells the group what has happened. So informed, the group reforms with Albia and Kymrych in the front. Nadine pauses a moment to heal the worst of Eiko and Igmar’s burns, and then you set off, weapons ready. The stench of burned flesh is thick in the smoky air by the time you return to the spot in the tunnel where Akorian’s spell detonated; the slender confines of the passage served to channel the fireball in such a way that none of the men within it ever had a chance of survival. Their smoking remains lay upon the tunnel floor, charred and reeking.
“There are five men here,” Talathel notices. “How many were chasing you?”
“I can’t be sure,” Igmar replies. “But I’m sure there were more than five. I saw at least seven men down here, other than the wizard we killed.”
Albia presses the group to continue. And so you do: upon rejoining the four-way split, you immediately turn south, and investigate the guardroom and mess hall Igmar detected earlier. No one is present, and both rooms have the look of being hastily abandoned. A large pot of stew is found over the cook fire in the mess cave; Talathel removes it from the fire to keep it from burning, and sets it aside for later. Your kit bags are growing light, he mentions, and no one has taken the time to go hunting. Perhaps you can raid the stores here for food later.
The group takes a moment to return to the now fire-damaged quarters of the fancily dressed wizard. His flame-spell has ruined all the papers and documents that were on his desk. His spell book is also found, and also ruined. Variel does find a leather sack containing four large opals under the bunk, which he slips into his pouch for later. Another of those strange silver coins is found on the dead man as well, nearly identical to the one you found in the bedding belonging to the half-orc jailor.
Next you head south, and begin to explore the winding cave complex further. Hours pass as you search chamber after chamber, some of which contain bunk rooms, also hastily abandoned. Other caves contain stacked crates containing wool, cloth and dried herbs. Each crate is marked with official-seeming tax stamps bearing the Chelaxian Imperial sigil. Suddenly suspicious, Talathel cracks open a crate of wool and upends its contents onto the floor. Bundles of arrows are found within; checks of other crates net you piles of longbows, more arrows, and wicked, two-handed curved swords of the finest orc manufacture. Other crates contain armor, shields, and other weapons of various types and styles.
A cave nearby appears to have been the quarters of someone very important. This chamber is about 40’ in diameter and seems very comfortable. You see a heavy trestle table to two heavy wooden chairs. Both bear the carved sigil of the Arrani family, and were likely looted from the ruins above. Along the north wall is a large bed piled high with pillows and sleeping furs. To one side is a heavy desk, piled high with papers. Some of you immediately get to work looking through the documents. Albia and Kymyrch stand guard at the cavern entrance while the papers are riffled through. One pierce of parchment that Nadine finds documents the planned course of the Naughty Nymph, as well as details of its cargo of Chelish gold bullion, destined for the vaults of the Church of Abadar in Korvosa. Another log book contains tide charts with the low tides underlined. The third document of note is a map leading to the wreck of the ship; this map contains numerous notes and scribbles.
“Here. Look at this.” Igmar holds up yet another sheet of parchment. On it are lines penned in crisp, neat Infernal.
“What does it say?” Talathel asks.
“It is another Chelish legal contract,” Akorian replies. “It reads in part: “…the human band known as the Crimson Hand has reached an agreement on this date with the underground tribe known as the ‘Iych-shar.’ Over the next six months, the band agrees to provide the tribe with the following weapons:
300 orc-make falchions of the finest steel
100 long spears
40 fishing nets with metal hooks
150 metal daggers
100 stout longbows
In return the tribe will agree to provide the band with 60 Chelish trade bars (with a free market value of 6,000 gold pieces) plundered from the wreck of the Naughty Nymph. The gold will be transferred in six equal payments, one each month.”
“There are personal sigils here that signify the identities of the signers, but I cannot read them,” Akorian finishes. “Now. Is there anything else?”
Nothing else comes to mind. Moving onward, you search several more caverns, and find nothing but more stored contraband, food stores and personal items left in abandoned bunk rooms. A quick count of the remaining bunk space suggests that another 15-20 men had been quartered down here. You are just heading down a steeply sloping tunnel when the distant sound of crashing surf is heard just ahead.
It is Albia who first realizes that dim light can be seen in the murk ahead. You stifle your various light sources and creep on ahead with weapons drawn. The tunnel slopes down and opens into a large, rough-hewn chamber that is at least 80’ wide. The scent of low tide is overpowering and the gentle lapping of water on a beach can be heard. About half the chamber contains a sandy beach; the rest is water. The cavern appears to exit to the bay – ahead you see a largish opening that shows the open sea, and murky skies beyond. Markings in the sand at your feet suggest that until recently three jolly boats had been pulled up on the beach; looking at the sand more closely, you realize that the ground is well churned by the passage of many booted feet. Someone was here just recently, you decide. But they are gone now, and have left you with more questions than those you had when this all started.
With this in mind, it is now decided to leave the tunnels, and take a moment to investigate the lighthouse above. As you withdraw from the now thoroughly searched tunnels, you pause a moment to fill your haversacks with bread, cheese and salted beef from the smugglers’ larder. Then you withdraw to the world above, and ready yourselves for yet another possible battle.
The wind is bitterly cold as you file from the front entrance to the ruined manor house. The sky above is thick with clouds that threaten fresh snow. Two slat-ribbed dogs snarl at you as you file by the dead harpy, which already shows signs of being stripped clean by scavengers. Variel takes a moment to edge close to the cliffside, and peers down at the rocks below. He is interested to note that the sea cave you found earlier is not visible from this angle, suggesting that perhaps other seaside entrances to the caves below may exist.
For now, however, the group continues on to the lighthouse proper. The door at ground level is painted black, and stands in gross counterpoint to the stark white facade of the tower itself. Igmar fits the key that Mistress Arrani gave you in the lock, and opens the door. Albia and Kymrych are the first to enter with swords drawn; beyond the door is a comfortable interior complete with with a pair of plush lounge chairs and wooden end tables. The place is clean, well-ordered, and seemingly abandoned. The rest of you enter the place, and immediate get down to searching the place fully. For her part Nadine uses her powers to seek out the hateful, negative energies put out by undead creatures, and finds nothing. There is no ghost here, she tells you – or so it would appear.
With your relative safety assured, the rest of you quickly and expertly search the premises. You find living quarters, a small but tidy kitchen, a storeroom stocked with all manner of supplies including a great quantity of lamp oil, and the beacon room, located at the very top of the tower. Climbing all those stairs is an onerous task, but necessary. Albia, Eiko and Variel are the ones to make the climb, and thus stand upon the rail overlooking the enormity of Korvosa Bay. The chill wind tugs at your long cloaks as you stand atop the tower, gazing out the sea.