Black Sails over Leudendorf

Being Zoltan Zaska

 

 

An island inhabited by 150 years of breeding by an undead horror!  Zoltan Zaska, once the most dashing of the Full Fathom Five, has slaked his lust on generations of his own offspring.  Destroying him is about far more than claiming the third artifact of the Sea God’s Regalia.  This is a horror that must be ended! 

 

The adventurers take shelter among the Daughters of Darkness, those fortunate few who have escape Zaska’s notice and live within the walls of his immense flying skull-ship.  With the aid of the Daughters, perhaps the adventurers can make their way to the captain’s personal chambers.  There, a final confrontation will end his reign of terror, and bring them one step closer to the glorious treasures of Yarashad!

 

 

 

 

Ketham

Sakari

Curtis

Gabriella

Fidanza

Dragomir

Draya

Vanev

Romany

Grey

Rook

(Jonathan

“Johnny”

Grey)

Aroth

Elfin Archer

Human Witch

Human Anchorite

Deva Blademaster

Human Gypsy

Human Highwayman

Conjurer

 

 

AND

 

Orlan

MacShane

Tianna

Human Druid Barbarian

Elfin Bladesinger

 

 

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October 23, 740

Act II, Scene XXI: Daughters of Darkness

It is late, and the adventurers are tired after a full day of cutting a trail through the stifling jungle humidity and then battling their way through Zoltan Zaska’s door guards and the Hexagon of Evil.  Carlotta Ramplin takes them to an isolated corner of the catacombs where she and her fellow castaways live within the superstructure of the Skull.  There, she offers them pillows to rest their heads, and warm broth for their hunger.  There is one pillow for each of the adventurers; Carlotta says that she has been waiting for them to arrive.

As they pass an opening in the bone-like walls, a voice calls to them.  Within a side chamber are Rook and another man familiar to the adventurers.  The man is named Aroth, a conjurer who had been imprisoned in the dungeon of Moab Cys’Varion.  After Gabriella and Draya led the prisoners to the surface, Aroth elected to stay with the Sea Lion.  A bit of luck had turned up his spellbook in the dungeon guardroom, along with several other key pieces of Aroth’s personal gear.  The conjurer’s thanks extended further than protecting Captain Caladon and his crew; Aroth had volunteered to accompany Rook ashore when Rook grew concerned over the adventurers’ long absence within the jungle. 

The two had made it only a short distance before being felled by unseen foes.  They awoke here, among the Daughters of Darkness, who had taken them in soon after their arrival in the Skull.  Hidden from Zoltan Zaska, they have been sleeping off their injuries. 

Jhondal greets Rook, “Johnny,” with a sort of surreal expression on his face.  “We had the same namesake,” he says.

Rook greets his ancestor, and Romany makes quick introductions, including a brief explanation of Jhondal’s experience aboard Moab’s ship, and the half-elf’s time among the Full Fathom Five.

Reunited, the adventurers discuss the massive skull, and the massive pistol in the atrium below—all clues to the nature of the villain they face.

 

“He is clearly compensating.  As most human males do.”

-Ketham

 

“Not all of us.”

-Jonathan “Rook” Grey

 

“How many guns do you have?”

-Ketham

 

 

Carlotta gathers the adventurers together in a large chamber strewn with blankets.  There, she says, they can rest.  Other Daughters bring food and drink for them.

Carlotta’s story comes out, somewhat.  She was the cartographer on the Johnny Basilisk, which was sucked into Hell’s Triangle. Soon after they washed ashore, Zoltan appeared in his flying fortress and captured all the women from the crew. He made them drink potions that changed them, made them look like some woman he loved long ago. And night after night, they were taken into Zoltan’s chambers. Eventually they bore his children. Those children in turn became his slaves, raised to be mirror images of Zoltan himself before he released them into the wild.

But Carlotta broke away. She hid in the deep recesses of the Skull, a spot even Zoltan didn’t know about. While she huddled, alone and afraid, she began to dream, which she attributed to being messages from Our Guardian in the Mists.  Ezra told her to wait, to pray, and to be strong; she would send warriors, the greatest that ever roamed the seas, to destroy Zoltan and lead the lost crews back home.

So Carlotta built an altar and founded a congregation. She risked her life sneaking around the concubine quarters and spreading her message. Eventually, she found women strong-willed enough to break away from Zoltan’s lies and hide out in the tunnels, waiting for deliverance. And here is that hideout.

Zoltan, Carlotta says, lives in chambers in the upper reaches of the Skull, behind impregnable defenses, and never comes down to the atrium. The only way to travel upstairs is the teleportation circle Zoltan opens on the hallway platform when he summons a concubine. But Headstones guard the platform on four sides. The Daughters have tried to send spies through before—waiting until a concubine was summoned, and then rushing through the door after her—but the Headstones spotted the assassin each time and burned her to death.

So, the adventurers must make their way to the lair of Zoltan Zaska, past the headstones.  But there is more.  Ezra, Carlotta says, gave her a piece of wisdom about Zoltan: he can’t be killed or imprisoned unless the pistol he carries is destroyed.

 

 

Act II, Scene XXII: Sara Kestrel

While Carlotta answers the adventurers questions, another Daughter, Sara Kestrel, takes Rook aside.  In a quiet room, as she looks about nervously to ensure they are not overheard, Sara speaks of Carlotta and her plan.  Her story is just as painful as Carlotta’s: she was a member of the Eomer Fitzgerald’s crew; Zoltan took her from them, and the Daughters eventually rescued her. She owes Carlotta everything, but she thinks her leader is mad with all this Our Guardian business. Sara wants to be rescued as much as anyone else, but she doesn’t think Carlotta realizes what’s really going on here.

And what might that be? Carlotta, Sara says, thinks these warriors from the Heavens (the adventurers) are going to lead everybody back home. Carlotta needs to open her eyes. The people in the jungle are savages, and everyone inside this Skull is a doped-up slave. These people are unsalvageable. And the gun. Carlotta’s fixated on destroying that gun because Zoltan tortured her with it before she escaped into the catacombs, and she wants it gone from the world for good, no matter how powerful it is and no matter how much it could help.

The real problem isn’t the gun, Sara says. It’s the people. Zoltan has put a little bit of his essence into all of his children on this island. That’s how he’s sustained himself, by spreading out his life essence broadly, so that as long as one of his children is alive, he has some power. Why else would he bother breeding children and keeping them alive? If you want to kill Zoltan, she says, you have to kill every last child he’s sired.

Does Sara really want that? Of course not, she says. She wants to get out of here. But she doesn’t think anyone can leave while Zoltan remains, and he can’t be harmed while his kids are around.

Rook thanks Sara, and he assures her that he will keep her name out of conversations he has.  When he returns to the others, he shares what Sara told him.

Draya says that this message tracks with what they learned of the villages.  After the villages fought, Zoltan rewarded the winner.  The question comes up as to whether the boys are being either drained or inhabited by him.  Ketham suggests that the boys might simply be used as breeding stock until they die.

Ketham suggests that getting everyone out of the skull, and then move the skull off the island, then Zoltan might not be able to pass his essence to another of his children. 

Gabriella agrees.  Undead creatures often have an item that has to be destroyed to remove them.  But that item could be anything from the pistol to every child on the island, as Sara Kestrel said.

Aroth posits that stopping the noise might also be enough.  That noise is constantly emanated.  Carlotta indicated that the noise in the atrium is the echo of the noise that is within Zoltan’s room.  The pistol, the adventurers agree, is in some way related to the mind control going on.  Do they have to destroy it, or possibly just deface it?  The large gun in the atrium is made of wood and gold—perhaps it could be burned.

The conversation returns to evacuating the skull.  The 38 Daughters of Darkness might be able to lead the younger prisoners away.  With the spyglass, a door could be opened out of the Hexagon of Evil, and the escapees could huddle at the top of the mountain, above the winding path of headstones that would burn them.

 

 

Act II, Scene XXIII: Rumors and Intimations

One of the ladies bringing blankets says, “I think Zoltan doesn’t have a body at all. When we’re up there with him, there’s no light and no sounds, not even any breathing—the only thing we ever see for sure is that damnable gun. I think it’s some machine that’s with us, not him. I think his body fell to pieces long ago; I think his spirit’s in the Skull, and the only way to stop him is to find a way back to that engine room and destroy all that machinery.”  

 

“He’s using the gun.  He’s loading it.”

-Romany Grey

 

 

The adventurers return to discussing how to return to the engine room and particularly how to damage the machinery in it.

After a short time, the tone from the atrium changes.  The ambient glow of the ceramic winks out.  The skull goes black.

Ketham uses his Infravision to find the next room.  He asks the Daughter resting there to confirm that the darkness is normal.  This is nightfall, she explains.  Soon, the voice of Zoltan Zaska will call out a name, and that concubine will go to him.  Ketham thanks her and returns to the hall.

The woman calls him back.  “You know,” she says, “I’ve never seen Carlotta around when one of the women gets called to Zoltan’s chambers. She claims she’s meditating alone during that time, but, if Zoltan can change our faces to match some dead woman’s, maybe he can change himself too.”

She elaborates at Ketham’s request.  Carlotta sleeps in “the shrine,” but the woman is unsure how she would give directions. 

Ketham suggests that they should take Gabriella to the shrine so she can venerate it.  The woman is too frightened to help, though.

Sensing that he has gotten as much from her as he can at the moment, Ketham returns to his companions.  His elfin vision carries him safely through the smooth, uninhabited corridors.  Back among the others, he shares what he has just heard.

Jhondal offers to go to the woman’s chamber and attempt to convince her to be more forthcoming, or assertive.  Romany and Kari, foremost among the others, point out that the woman might not trust men, or be interested in male attention after years of abuse at Zoltan’s hand.  Ketham suggests that Romany might be better suited to make the attempt.

 

 

October 24, 740

Gabriella and Romany make their way to the woman’s room while Ketham stands watch in the hall outside.  Romany presses skillfully to get the woman to take them to the shrine.  She says that Gabriella would like to pray before risking her life tomorrow to save the people of the Skull.  After some effort, the woman relents.  Her concerns over betraying Carlotta are strong, but Romany’s points are too well made.  She rises from her bedding and guides the other two women to a chamber that lies beyond many winding turns and oddly shaped portholes away.  Ketham follows, once again relying on his elfin vision to make the journey safely.

From the entrance to the shrine, Romany hears breathing.

Romany tells their guide to leave, and the woman flees.

Ketham, staving off the day’s fatigue, watches the form he assumes is Carlotta, waiting to see what happens when a name is called.  Romany settles down next to him, dozing.  Gabriella holds her position, settling down in her armor to rest till the name is called. 

When the voice of Zoltan Zaska comes, it is impossible to miss.  It swells to fill the very air within the skull.  It vibrates within the ceramic walls and resounds within the breast of every living creature within.  “Sweet Alessina,” Zoltan calls.

The figure in the shrine does not react.

The adventurers watch, realizing that Carlotta is not involved in any of the nightly deeds.  Or, at least, not in all the nightly deeds within the Skull.

Most everyone sleeps the rest of the night; some distance from the shrine, Draya meditates.  Aroth attempts to likewise.  Ketham continues to stay up a bit longer.  He ties a metallic object around Carlotta’s ankle, then goes to sleep, trusting to his contraption to wake him if she stirs.

When “morning” comes, the tone reverts to the sound the adventurers first heard.  Carlotta is not upset when she sees her new visitors.  They were sent by Ezra to help her, after all, and an anchorite is among them.  In fact, Gabriella leads Carlotta through morning devotions.  Carlotta was never faithful before receiving her visions.  There are many small errors to correct, and Gabriella confidently and gently guides her.

Ketham speaks to a woman in a nearby chamber.  She tells her own story of darkness and the gun, on a night when she was called to Zoltan Zaska’s chambers.  She speaks of entering the circle of headstones.  “After he was done,” she says, she was returned to the headstones after she stepped through a portal in Zoltan’s chamber.

Ketham, Romany and Gabriella reunite to resume discussing their options. 

 

“These women know nothing, and my back hurts.”

-Romany Grey

 

 

 

Act II, Scene XXIV: Final Investigations

Several options are discussed:

·        Gabriella could use flame strike on the gun statue in the atrium.

·        An adventurer could lurk on the ramp near the headstones and attempt to enter with the next woman called.  Gabriella could cloak herself in a prayer of invisibility from undead.

·        Ketham or Kari could use the spyglass to try to scry upon Zoltan Zaska using their many portraits that they cannot get out of their heads.

 

While they speak, Daughters of Darkness bring them muffins and drink for breakfast.  Rook’s muffin has a paper in it.

 

I saw you speaking with Sara Kestrel.

Sara Kestrel is never seen when a woman is called.

 

 

The adventurers are beginning to believe that the Daughters are sniping at one another in desperation.  All of the tales and rumors they have heard are likely the product of years of futile whispers and failed escape attempts.  Kari points out that it is dark in the skull at “night.”  No one is seen when a woman is called.

Romany agrees, saying that these women are just pointing fingers at one another.

Not entirely at an impasse, but also not at a resolution, the adventurers turn to the Spyglass of Harrimast.

Ketham prays quietly to Harrimast to bless his next endeavor with the vision of one the sailors aboard his ship.  The glass does not show him Zoltan Zaska, but the effect does not end instantly, either.  Ketham shifts his attention to Carlotta, whom he has a better chance of scrying upon.  He sees Carlotta arranging muffins on the ceramic trays the Daughters of Darkness use to serve one another and their guests.

His next effort, an attempt to spot “Allesina,” proves fruitless.

Sara Kestrel he finds.  She sits alone eating a muffin in a ceramic side-room.  She looks upset as she eats.  Ketham watches for a few minutes, as Sara finishes her meal.  When breakfast is done, she rises and ducks out of Carlotta’s way without being seen.  A moment later, Sara enters the corridor.  She finds another Daughter of Darkness and yells at the woman, who remains apologetic and obviously fearful.  Sara storms off to her own room before dropping down into a bunch of blankets and cushions.

Ketham attempt to find Captain Morgan Baumann, who does not turn up.

Black Jenny Ramsey does not appear either when Ketham attempts to scry upon her.

He also looks in on Lucien, who is writing feverishly in scrolls within the body of the Sea Lion.

 

After Ketham explains his findings, Rook goes looking for Adela, the woman who gave him the muffin-with-a-message this morning.  The conversation is in the same vein as the others the adventurers have had.  Sara Kestrel is splitting the Daughters, Adela says.  Carlotta Ramplin is not doing enough.  Adela’s summation is eerily similar to others that have surfaces.  She says that Sara is never with others when the names are called.  Adela believes that Sara is Zoltan Zaska in disguise. 

Adela tells Rook that Carlotta and she would do anything in their power to help the adventurers.  They would carry infants to safety.  They would guide youngsters.  Anything. 

During this time, Kari speaks with random Daughters of Darkness, Rozalia and Sanda.  The two women tell of the divide between the two groups led by Sara and Carlotta.

Romany and Gabriella approach Carlotta once again, helping her through her morning routine.  They speak of Sara Kestrel and how she jeopardizes the daughters by using the tunnels that lead to the kitchens.  Carlotta sneers.  Sara is impatient.  She risks the lives of all the Daughters.  At the very least, she is clumsy in her efforts to steal rations form the kitchens.  After Sara walks the tunnels, there are no rations to be found.  The Daughters must survive on stores gathered over time.  Carlotta’s own efforts are carefully laid out, delicately undertaken.  When she steals food, it goes unnoticed.  When she rescues a woman from the atrium, the woman is ready to throw off the ensorcelment that binds her to Zoltan’s will. 

Sara, Carlotta says, will grab the wrong women.  She will bring women to the catacombs that are still fully in Zoltan’s thrall, and that would jeopardize the entire group of them.

 

One and two at a time the group gathers again in the chamber they have been given.  They share what they have learned, discussing everything from Adela’s message to the possibility that Carlotta may not be trustworthy herself.  The latter notion seems particularly outlandish, based on what the adventurers have learned.

 

“She knows everybody’s name, and every ship they came in on.”

-Sakari Curtis

 

 

Ketham says that he has an idea that may cut down on research time and see whether there is a traitor in the ranks.  Draya pitches in, saying that they could gather the Daughters of Darkness to discuss their plan to save them.  If Zoltan Zaska is among them in disguise, then he will certainly be in attendance.  Using the spyglass, the adventurers could see which Daughter is the former pirate lord.

Further, using the spyglass, Ketham could sneak about and spy on Sara, to see whether she is a youthful person unable to exercise Carlotta’s patience or an evil traitor in Zaska’s employ.

They formulate a plan:

·        Romany approaches Sara to get a read on her nature.

·        Hold a meeting and use the spyglass to look for Zaska in disguise.

·        Split the party.  Half sneak to the teleportation circle to see how it works.  Others stalk Sara.

 

Romany finds Sara.  “We are in the final stages of establishing this plan,” she says, “and I’m hoping that you can fill in some of the gaps.” 

They talk, and Romany finds Sara to be sincere, if more prone to rash action than Carlotta.  The adventurers have come to suspect that Sara has simply not had the same experiences that have shaped Carlotta’s approach to leading the Daughters of Darkness.  Perhaps, given time, she would come around to Carlotta’s way of thinking.  Or perhaps she would bring down the destruction that Carlotta fears.  Fortunately, neither grim future awaits the woman.  Zoltan Zaska must fall, and soon.

The Daughters of Darkness gather.  Gabriella is nominated from among the adventurers to deliver the message.

While the Daughters are occupied, the adventurers draw out the spyglass.  Ketham draws upon his “conviction” and is knocked unconscious by the power of the spyglass. 

Rook takes the spyglass and attempts the same, but he is also struck down.

Draya, the Blind Potter, is third to try.  He raises the spyglass within the crowded room as Gabriella completes the plan, drawing on the fractured memories of his previous lives, opened to him as a deva.  This time the sea god seems to be pleased with the resolve of the mortal calling upon his power.  Draya sees all illusion, all deception stripped away.  And nothing is amiss; though Carlotta is deeply Lawful and Sara is deeply her opposite.

The meeting ends.  The Daughters of Darkness agree to escort the women to safety when the assault begins.

 

Based on their findings, the adventurers decide it is not necessary to investigate Sara Kestrel any further. 

They will make their way to the headstones as a group.

That evening, the adventurers wait until lights out.  Then they step forward.  Under the protection of Aroth’s fifth-circle spell of seeming, they move to the headstones.  Kari and Gabriella mask themselves, and the adventurers’ deceptions prove sufficient to get them to the headstones.  When they approach, the skulls open wide for the woman that Zoltan has called.  And they remain open for the adventurers themselves.

 

 

Act II, Scene XXV: A Maze of Death

The teleportation circle deposits the adventurers in what appears to be an empty room of gleaming white ceramic. They quickly realize that Gabriella and Draya did not make the journey with them.  The two among their number who have been touched by the gods have not been held at bay.

Just as quickly they spot the new person with them.  In the middle of the room stands a man dressed in full-on swashbuckling gear: a longcoat, tri-cornered hat, and polished boots. The adventurers have seen this fellow before; indeed, it’s Zoltan Zaska, looking as young and roguish as ever.

Zoltan booms out a hearty hello, and he explains what’s going on. The adventurers have done admirably well on all of his tests so far. They have proven themselves superior in mind and body. But now they must prove that they could take on the toughest challenge of all: being Zoltan Zaska. “Can you survive the same challenges I have lived through? If so, you earn the right to meet me face to face!”

“Even being born was a challenge for me,” Zaska says. “My twin sister died in the womb, and as she did, her umbilical cord wrapped itself around my neck. I escaped strangulation and made it into the world by the slimmest of margins. Perhaps you can do the same?”

At that, a section of the wall on the opposite side of the room shimmers away and two chuuls enter. The adventurers attempt to rush Zoltan, but the first gets a bump on the head. The room is filled with invisible walls—completely non-reflective, frictionless glass—that stretch from floor to ceiling. It’s a glass maze!

From the far side of the room, the creatures scurry through the maze, snorting and clicking their hideous claws as they bump against the invisible walls.

After the adventurers crack the lobsters and reach Zoltan, he reveals his secret: he’s not the man himself, but one of the Sons of Zoltan who returned to the fortress to fight his father. Only the chuuls stopped him. He would have died, but for the mercy—and cruelty—of the ghoulish pirate. Zoltan spared his life, but condemned him to guard this maze for the rest of his life.  The Zoltan manque wishes the adventurers terrible luck, waves his version of the artifact pistol at the ceiling, and says, “Arkabus.” Then a hatchway opens in the ceiling above him, leading to the next test on the agenda.

 

 

Act II, Scene XXVI: Toys in the Attic

The adventurers emerge in a nightmare version of a young boy’s room. There’s the normal furniture (bed, writing-desk, dresser, bookcase, toy chest) and mess (toys and books scattered on the floor), but everything is five times normal size.

The adventurers quickly realize they’re not alone. From the far side of the room, a voice booms out a hello. It is another Zoltan clone, sitting on the writing-desk by the window (through which the adventurers can hear waves crashing against rocks and smell salt air).

“Ah-ha,” the Son of Zoltan announces, “you’ve made it through infancy. But what happens when you start to grow and learn and the world starts to crush you? My parents gave me everything, but it meant nothing! I was hollow inside! The only thing that filled me, my only salvation, was the written word—and the lure of the sea!”

Zaska clearly has some issues, but they don’t stay abstract for long. To wit, the toys on the floor come to life and begin attacking! These include a teddy bear, a set of tin soldiers (Maulers in “Nutcracker” regalia) and a marionette dragon.

And the threats do not ends there.  Ketham leads the charge, leaping onto the bed to take cover from the toy soldier’s projectiles.  His arrival stirs up a number of bed bugs, creatures with long proboscis that want nothing more than to latch onto a warm body and drain it of blood. 

Zoltan sits on the desk, kicking his legs over the edge and taunting the adventurers with observations about his cruel childhood.  Before he can provide any additional clues, though, Ketham fires an arrow up at the man, driving the missile through Zoltan’s groin and into his torso, killing him.

The adventurers battle through Zoltan’s toys; relying on their wits in lieu of Draya’s skill as a knight of staves.  Romany and Rook, taking flight by means of potions from the engine room, work together to lasso and drag the toy soldiers through the hatch into the glass maze.  It is a group effort to bring down all of the creatures, from the bear to the dragon to the bed bugs.  When the battle ends, the adventurers peer through the bedroom window, which impossibly looks out over an endless sea that does not surround the Yarashad isles. 

Even without the lengthy tale that Zoltan would have shared, the adventurers are able to make their way to the next stage of the test.  They take the dead man’s pistol, wave it as they have seen, and speak the command “Arkabus.”

A hatch appears in the ceiling.

 

 

Act II, Scene XXVII: At Long Last, Zoltan

The adventurers climb through the hatch and end up the same maze room where they began. The walls have been taken down, and the remains of the chuul battle have been cleared away, but the adventurers are not alone. A woman lies crumpled in the center of the room.  Carlotta.

She’s in no condition to talk, but she mumbles something about being taken into Zoltan’s chambers and beaten with the pistol artifact. At which point a teleportation circle opens on the other side of the room and a stooped, withered creature in tattered finery appears.

“You’ve found me at last,” Zoltan says. “In life I was something to behold. Now look at me! Look at how death has ravaged me, what kind of a creature it has turned me into! Snatching meager amusements from narcotized slaves, like that wretched girl there. Trying to create an heir that might remind me of what I once was.  That’s why I built this island: to create another Zoltan, one who might prove strong and wily enough to confront his father face to face, to prove worthy of carrying on my name.

“And you,” he says. “Out of all of them, you outsiders, have succeeded! I suppose you want to kill me. Here! Do it! Do your worst!”