Black Sails over Leudendorf
They have the sextant—the powerful relic that can pierce the barriers between the planes—but they cannot use it. Time is running out to meet the conjunction beyond Hell’s Triangle, the one that leads to fabled Yarashad. The adventurers must make their way to Libertyville, where the vile Billy Bones holds Lord Carthy prisoner. They must overcome the deadly leader of the cult of Yarash and then convince the old nobleman to share what he knows of the ancient sextant. The old man may be the key to everything, or this may just be the beginning of the end.
Human Druid Barbarian
October 7, 740
Act I, Scene XV: Libertyville
The sun has set. It is nearly 7:30, and the window to reach the Sea Lion is rapidly closing. The adventurers’ only hope lies in using what they learned from the captured cultist to strike the cult of Yarash swiftly and rescue Lord Carthy before Billy Bones can mount a proper defense.
The boat Rook hired comes ashore, and the adventurers have scarcely disembarked before the pilot is heading back for benighted waters. The air is thick with smoke, bringing to vivid clarity the letter in the “Leudendorf For Um” that complained of the terrible stench coming off Libertyville. This close the stench is undeniable. Billy Bones and his cult followers have burned not just the buildings of Libertyville, but also the bodies of its people.
Forewarned by the prison Kari and Romany interrogated, the adventurers plan to deal with the one posted guard as discretely as possible. They know that the entrance to Billy Bones’ lair is within the only stone structure still standing, the old guard house. A few plans are brought up and found faulty, including the use of sleep venom and an arrow fired at range by Ketham. Ultimately, the adventurers break into two parties. The smaller group, comprised of Ketham and Romany, creep wide to the west, circling near the entrance to the settlement’s overgrown garden. The rest march on the stone guardhouse more directly, hoping to attract attention to themselves if the guard is watching. Tianna stays behind at dock with Lucien, who still clutches the urn holding Flint’s ashes.
“The sleeping stuff takes five minutes to set in. So…”
“He’s going to know there’s an arrow in him.”
The plan goes awry when a pair of carnivorous vines, incredibly long roots as thick as a grown man’s thigh, rise from their resting places just beneath the surface of the weedy soil. As the vines snake upward, grasping, they cause the thick, hardy scrub to reach and stretch with them, coiling about the legs and grabbing at the arms of the adventurers. Though most manage to escape, suffering only minor injuries, Orlan and his mountain lion companion Malikier are bound within the entangling vines. Orlan, burning with a fiery shield of divine magic, focuses his efforts on the vines, and Malikier—at first intent on aiding the druid—finds himself trapped in the vines. Orlan must divert the power of his shield to free the lion before they can both escape the region animated by the vines.
By this time, the battle against the lone occupant of the stone guardhouse is well underway. Rook blasts the lock from the doorway, and Draya leads the charge inside. Outside, Romany and Ketham scale the exterior wall, seeking to surprise the guard from the rear while he pours boiling oil on the intruders below. Kari advises as best she can, opening windows and shouting warnings when it seems the guard might be changing focus to return to the archer and the gypsy.
Gabriella, seeing the situation well in hand against the lone guard, turns her attention to the fact that their information stated the entrance to Billy Bones’ subterranean lair was in this building, and there are no exits aside from the main door and the trapdoor to the ceiling. She begins the search for the secret door that seems inevitable.
Though the guard proves resilient, and well-prepared with his poisoned crossbow bolts and pots of boiling oil, Ketham and Romany bring him down the moment they reach the rooftop. Ketham deals the fatal blows, rolling onto the roof, drawing his bow and loosing a pair of elfin arrows in a fluid action.
When Romany hurries to the guard’s side, she finds herself distracted by a large, wooden wheel affixed to a raised stone ridge across the roof of the guardhouse. When she turns it, the wall before Gabriella begins to grind and shift, ultimately moving to reveal the doorway she had been within instants of spotting.
Ketham and Romany tie off the wheel using a fifty-foot coil of rope and two adjacent windows on the guardhouse’s south wall. Then the adventurers turn their focus to what they know lies beneath, and what mysteries still await that the drugged cultist did not reveal.
Malikier, wounded, slouches to the dock, where he will guard Lucien alongside Tianna. A short time later, Orlan will return from the depths to lend his aid to that effort, as well. This is the Isle of Agony, after all. The multiple attempts to construct Libertyville have failed for more reasons than cults devoted to Yarash.
Act I, Scene XVI: Beneath Libertyville
Gabriella could see a series of metal rungs set into the side of the five-foot diameter shaft leading into the darkness.
With his infravision, Ketham is able to see that the bottom is some fifty feet below. The adventurers still hope to move with some element of surprise, despite the loud and lengthy conflict that just ended. Ketham leads the way down the ladder, not accompanied by any light. Unfortunately, he quickly encounters one trap that Kari did not manage to glean from their prisoner at the Scholar’s Quill.
When Ketham places pressure on the wrong rung, the entire series of rungs slams into the wall, ending flush with the surface of the shaft. Ketham avoids having his fingers crushed as they recede, but that results in a fall of some twenty feet, ending in an additional ten-foot drop onto a quartet of sharp spikes. Only one of the spikes cuts him, as the others fall aside in their loose moorings.
It takes a moment for Ketham to get his bearings. Then he listens, and he senses that the guards positioned in the nearby barracks have not seemed to have heard his fall. He whispers into the shaft above him, trusting to the stone walls to convey the message to his companions’ sharp ears. “Ladder was trapped. Spiked pit trap at the bottom. Use rope or find another way down.”
Then Ketham climbs out using the loosened spikes as aids in the slick stone walls.
Draya follows soon after, descending a rope. Unfortunately, he slips and falls twenty feet into the pit, as well. Again, though, the hall remains silent. If the guards heard, they have not rallied.
Ketham helps Draya up.
Above, the companions reassess the ease of climbing down a fifty-foot length of rope.
“If you’re going to fall, don’t scream.”
Rook drops the torch and Draya plucks it out of the air.
Draya and Ketham move out of the narrow entry passage and shine their light down the corridor they know leads between the cultists’ twin barracks.
With the archer and the blind potter watching the exit, the others descend. Rook ties a rope around Gabriella, and then the companions lower the armored anchorite to the floor below. Kari is next, also lowered down.
Rook brings up the rear, bracing himself over the pit while Gabriella intones a prayer to detect traps.
When Gabriella clears the first thirty feet of the passage, the adventurers move forward slowly.
Much further along than they anticipated, Gabriella warns of the broad pressure plate that will release a pair of portcullises dropping to trap intruders between them. From within this deathtrap, cultists could emerge with their poisoned crossbows and exterminate the deadliest of opponents. Rook produces chalk, and Gabriella marks the triggering stone on the floor.
One by one, the adventurers send their stealthiest allies past the barracks doors. Their plan is to turn the cultists’ planned ambush into a trap of the adventurers’ own making. The last person to attempt to creep past, Kari, scuffs the floor just loudly enough to be heard by the cultists waiting on the far side. Kari hears an exclamation from just beyond the door on her right, and then that door jerks open, revealing a pair of crossbow-wielding, tattooed cultists beyond.
Thinking quickly, Romany jams the lock on the opposite door with the blade of her dagger, expertly jamming the lock and apparently trapping the cultists within. A dull thud from the far side reports on one man’s failed attempt to force the iron door open against its hinges.
The battle seems to have been won before it begins, but then secret doors behind the heroes begin to swing open, and Gabriella begins to count the number of cultists involved in the battle. She had taken note of the number their prisoner had reported were present in the barracks, and suddenly the battle is on again. With a several spellcasters hurling divine magic within the enemy ranks, the adventurers are unable to wade through the men in front of them. Those with missile weapons or spells of their own must focus on ruining the efforts of the enemy priests while the melee fighters press a growing advantage against the cultists wielding cutlasses and crossbows with more envenomed bolts.
When the battle ends, Orlan departs for the dock, intending to offer his aid in defending Lucien with Tianna and Malikier.
Romany leads the efforts looting the barracks and adjoining armories. The hidden chambers belie the true age of the underground complex. Pole-arms lie on the floor, but the slightest pressure snaps their hafts like brittle straws. One, an eight-foot glaive, has weathered the years better than most. Expecting it to be enchanted, Rook agrees to carry the weapon with him, alongside the musket already slung over his shoulder.
Leaving the others to the search of the cultists’ holdings, Gabriella and Ketham continue on to make full use of her prayer of trap detection. Their efforts are rewarded. They find not only a pair of stalagmites rigged to fall with as simple push, but also a deadfall a short distance along the underground river. If not carefully avoided, the deadfall would trap trespassers in the flow of the river, which would quickly back up, flooding the small space and drowning victims. Gabriella marks these as she did the pressure plate between the barracks.
When the others are ready, Gabriella waits with the others while Ketham again leads the way in the darkness. By means of his infravision, he is able to sneak up to the next guard station without alerting the enemy to his presence. What he finds, though, is that their prisoner may have spoken honestly at the Scholar’s Quill, but he did not speak clearly. There are two routes to Billy Bones’ inner sanctum. One is haunted by an ooze. The other lies beyond a cavern opening some twenty feet above the cavern floor, and the only route to it is a rope ladder currently coiled at the top.
Worse, the stalagmites were long ago cleared from the floor of this cavern, leaving the lower chamber open as a deadly killing floor for the crossbowmen overhead.
The adventurers make their way into the trap, again reversing their fortunes when Kari deftly extinguishes the light as soon as all of the adventurers have some idea of the terrain. Draya leads the charge, and when he spots the rope ladder at the opening, he drops it without a second thought, allowing Kari and Romany to follow swiftly behind. Between the blademaster threatening them in melee and the archer and highwayman supporting with missile attacks from below, the guards are overrun. Two attempt to flee; one escapes for a short time.
The adventurers catch the last cultist in the next cavern. The man attempts to fire a crossbow and then charge in zealous rage, but the adventurers lay him low in short order. Then, a short search of the cavern reveals an unlatched trapdoor leading into a region of finished stonework below.
Using another rope ladder, the adventurers descend into a large, octagonal chamber. Ancient artworks of frolic and fertility have been defaced with the five-star images of Yarash and the vile ranting infamous within their graffiti. A single door leads out of this chamber, and a sense of pure dread and malice fills the air. Gabriella senses that the evil presence is a concentration of divine evil, and that the worst of it is not here. It is beyond the closed door.
The door opens to reveal a long hall, decorated with the same defaced imagery of bucolic countryside and pastoral idylls. At the far end is a raised dais where Billy Bones stands, drawing fumes from a glass atomizer affixed to a series of tubes and vials on his belt. Before the altar, faintly breathing and lying in a pool of his own blood, is Old Man Carthy. Almost a dozen of Yarash’s cultists lurk behind the many pillars lining the hall.
Billy Bones curses and spews vitriol. He demands that the adventurers turn over the sextant, and they refuse.
Billy Bones points a wheel lock pistol at Carthy, and the adventurers respond in sudden violence. Arrows from Ketham cripple the pirate’s arm. Billy Bones retreats behind the cover of the defaced altar, where a priest waits to grant him healing. But the heroes are quick, and a hail of arrows and bullets ruins that priests incantation, as well. Billy Bones is left with one arm hanging limply at his side.
Not long after, Kari intones a spell that slows Billy Bones and most of the cultists nearest him. These villains are not removed from the fight, but their influence is greatly reduced while their fellows must take the offensive and hold the door.
For a moment it seems that they just might overcome the adventurers without the aid of Billy Bones and his vile magicks. A priest’s cry to Yarash to paralyze several of the adventurers under the dark god’s mighty coils leaves Ketham, Draya and Romany lying on the ground, helpless. Only through luck is Kari able to dispel this dweomer, and even then only after her allies are able to position the victims so that the abjuration reaches all of them.
Gabriella stands in the center of a quartet of cultists throughout this exchange, while arrows and bolts and bullets fly around her. Cultists strike at her with their cutlasses and the dark magicks of Yarash, seeking to blight her, disease her, unravel the power of Law that surrounds her, bring chaos to the blows she deals, and paralyze her. She resists all, and responds with righteous fury to the bald priest who proves to be her chief nemesis.
“Our Guardian in the Mists protects me. For the deaths of the innocents, we bring order back to this place!”
-Gabriella Fidanza to the bald cultist of Yarash
Billy Bones is not to be sidelined for long, it seems. As his minions fall before the heroes second push, he imbibes a potion through his unique atomizer. The potion counteracts the spell Kari uses to slow his actions. Just as it seems he might become a greater threat, though, Rook blasts at him again, tearing away an ear and a cheek, leaving his face a bleeding wreck. Billy Bones cries a bitter, “Fack it!” and then charges into the fray.
Draya meets the cult leader.
Billy, badly wounded, seeks to reverse course. He calls out to Yarash to take him a place of safety. It is a brief incantation, taking no more than six seconds to complete. Draya reaches the cult leader, leaving an array of disoriented cultists in his wake, and deals the final blow in an instant.
The remaining cultists do not go easily. They are too zealous to surrender of accept any fate other than a perceived glorious death. But they do go.
The adventurers scale the steps to the altar. Kari holds the old man’s hand, confirming that he’s still alive. When the witch offers some curative herbs, the old man declines. Carthy declines all healing, in fact, except for some bandages from Gabriella. Thereafter, he sits up, gaining his bearings despite his injuries, and he thanks the adventurers for coming to his rescue.
When Carthy learns that they have come with the sextant, he grows morose. He laments that he did not cast the thing to the bottom of the Sea of Sorrows many years ago. He beseeches the adventurers to do it for him.
Ketham speaks, stating that the cultists of Yarash will find it there, and they will use it for their own purposes.
Carthy seems to resign himself. He admits that the cultists will keep coming now that they have found their way. The only course is to go forward.
Ketham obliquely references Black Jenny Ramsey, the woman depicted in one of the two paintings that had hung in Carthy’s study. The elf’s well-intentioned words bring Carthy no respite, though.
“If you’re alive, then so is she.”
“…It does not matter.”
After Carthy has proven all right, the adventurers go about looking for treasure—not overlooking the hidden cache they learned about from their prisoner at the Scholar’s Quill. The total haul comes to:
* 340 gold coins stolen from different coastal domains.
* 600 silver coins stolen from different coastal domains.
* Billy Bones’ magical coat: Abjuration (Wards), Alteration (Creature-Affecting), Enchantment (Item-Affecting), CR 11 –See additional notes below
A long black captains coat with broad collar and polished buttons. Broad pockets adorn the outside, and the heavy cloth appears well-suited to chill nights on the Sea of Sorrows.
* Billy Bones’ magical cutlass: Enchantment (Item Affecting), CR 6
This cutlass has a whalebone basket hilt bristling with thorny protrusions that threaten an unexperienced wielder’s wrist and forearm. The blade is broad and sweeping, with an expansive edge that gleams in any light.
* Billy Bones’ first magical potion: Alteration (Creature-Affecting), Enchantment (Item Affecting), CR 3
You hold a sealed, cornflower-blue glass jar. The fizzy fluid inside is orange-brown with an odor of urine. A careful taste test promises a flavor of thyme and leaves you feeling as though your arms and legs are nearly weightless.
* Billy Bones’ second magical potion: Illusion (Figment), Enchantment (Item Affecting), CR 3
You hold a sealed, cornflower-blue glass jar. The fizzy fluid inside is orange-brown with an odor of garlic. A careful taste test promises a flavor of pear and makes your skin a bit pale for several seconds.
* Billy Bone’s two wheel lock belt pistols.
* The armory’s magical glaive: Enchantment (Item Affecting), CR 6
This glaive was well crafted many years ago. Though it appears to be little more than a well-made pole-arm, it has survived the centuries that left others made at the same time hollowed husks broken to sawdust by the slightest pressure.
Notes: While Lucien cannot give the adventurers much information on the other items they brought out of the cultists’ hideout, he does recognize the magical coat from “piratical lore.” At some point during the voyage to Hell’s Triangle he shares the tale of the item, revealing its properties and abilities. The captain’s coat grants a -3 bonus to Armor Class and grants a +8 bonus to all swim non-weapon proficiency checks. Further, the wearer of the coat suffers none of the usual penalties to melee combat when fighting underwater.
And then they are back to the dock, where Lucien, Tianna and Orlan wait. Aboard one of the cultists’ rowboats they sail to the waiting Sea Lion, where Captain Caladon is prepared to begin the voyage to Hell’s Triangle.