Black Sails over Leudendorf
The Pistol of Harrimast
It all begins with the showdown against Zoltan Zaska, one of the most despicable villains we've ever faced. But what then? The adventurers will have Harrimast's sextant, spyglass and pistol, but the ship's bell and the hook remain to be taken. And then there is Yarashad, the fabled island with sands of gold and rubies...which is noticeably absent from the seas right now!
And, somewhere nearby, Captain Morgan Baumann sails the Kraken's Claw in search of her own way to fortune and glory...
Human Druid Barbarian
October 24, 740
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. When they reach the top of the hatch, the remaining four adventurers realize that two more of their companions have been stripped away from them. In addition to Gabriella and Draya, now Aroth and Rook have vanished into the strange, arcane magicks of the portals. Only Ketham, Kari, Romany and Jhondal have reached this chamber.
When they entered the first teleporter, Zoltan removed the two heroes touched directly by deities, the anchorite and the deva. Now he has honed his selection by two more. It seems that he intends to take the body of one of the men, and have the bodies of the two ladies once the deed is done.
But it is not a battle that awaits the adventurers now.
There is no sign of Zoltan Zaska. A woman lies crumpled in the center of the room.
The leader of the Daughters of Darkness is 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!”
When the adventurers spring forward, though, Zoltan shrinks back. He offers them the pistol artifact, which hangs off his belt, but give them a stern warning. “I give you this in place of my life,” he says. “And I have put powerful magicks on this weapon to guarantee that you don’t take both! Lay hands on this pistol, and it will transport you to your ship immediately and erect a magical barrier around this island. You will have your prize, but you can never return here! And none shall ever leave!”
The adventurers face an obvious choice. If they believe Zoltan, and they take the pistol, they must abandon Zoltan’s captives to their fate. Carlotta, seeing that this is even an option, interjects some choice encouragements to underscore the point—”Don’t listen to him! He’ll kill us all! Destroy the gun and kill him!”
On the other hand, if they don’t take it, they face the prospect of killing a creature that’s begging for its life—and then figuring out a way to de-bug the pistol.
Ketham tells Zoltan to put down the pistol.
Romany says that they would destroy the pistol.
Zoltan believes her. It becomes clear that the adventurers are not going to accept the gun. Zoltan says, “Arkabus,” and a teleportation circle opens immediately, leading to Zoltan’s chambers.
The adventurers emerge in a room unlike any they’ve seen inside the castle—completely black. As their eyes adjust, they realize that the darkness comes from drapes, heavy velvet ones, strung around the room, covering the naturally gleaming ceramic. Two pieces of furniture dominate the room: a massive four-poster bed, also curtained, and a mammoth pipe organ, which wheezes out the weird atonal music that fills the atrium below. One Drawler plunks away on the organ, attended by two Haulers, who turn the pages of the sheet music. A pile of flesh-crackers sits on Zoltan’s nightstand.
Zoltan leaps from the curtains, looking and acting roguish, handsome, and charming. Zoltan singles out Ketham as the male who took a major role in solving the various traps, puzzles, and battles on the island and who did so with grace, cunning, and élan. As the male who is not touched by the gods. And as the male who will live a long, long time in a healthy, albeit elfin, body.
Zoltan explains that he has been watching the party closely during their adventures, and they have made a fine impression on him. If Ketham can best him in a fair battle, Zoltan agrees to proudly meet his fate and hands over the pistol. To risk everything on a single clash of blades, what could be more romantic?
But it won’t be a straightforward fight. Zoltan uses the room and his abilities to his fullest advantage, doing wild tumbling moves, running up the walls, and so on. When it becomes evident that he faces all of the adventurers, he uses the pistol, placing a single shot past Jhondal’s ear.
The skull-duggers stays out of the fight, and Zoltan falls surprisingly quickly under the might of the entire party. Romany takes the opportunity to grab up the pistol. When she does, she cries out in pain.
“Shit. Did I just become Zoltan Zaska?”
She looks at the fallen pirate captain in revulsion. Then she sees the ring he wears, and her expression brightens.
Ketham asks whether Zaska is gone.
Carlotta repeats that the gun must be destroyed. Zaska will be back unless the pistol is destroyed.
Kari says that the best they can do is take it from this island.
Carlotta is convinced that the only possible way to be rid of Zoltan is to destroy the gun. She cries that taking the gun away will not work.
Still holding the pistol, Romany tells the skullduggers at the organ to stop their incessant playing.
She says, not knowing whether anyone can hear or will obey, for all descendants of Zoltan Zaska to be escorted safely from the Skull. She also gives the order to stop all “sword production in the sword production facility.”
With no way of knowing whether the skull-duggers are obeying, the adventurers go about searching Zoltan’s room for anything that might help them as they proceed across the Yarasha Isles. A quick search turns up horrid lyrical poetry in Zaska’s hand, but no sort of journal.
Kari sits with Carlotta during the search, telling her that the gun kept Zoltan alive.
Carlotta responds that the gun is still alive. As long as it lives, it will hurt people. And as long as the pistol hurts people, Zoltan will return.
Kari says that they will take the pistol away, and put it somewhere from which it will never return if they must.
Carlotta is resigned. She says that Kari doesn’t understand Zoltan.
The adventurers investigate the large clock in the room. It is unfinished, growing smooth and unworked near the top. Kari suspects that it is only what Zoltan saw as a child.
When nothing of value turns up, the adventurers grow desperate to turn over every stone. And also to ensure that Zoltan Zaska has been defeated. Ketham uses the spyglass of Harrimast to view the room with true sight. There are no secret portals or invisible creatures or objects. When he looks at Romany, though, he sees what they all feared.
A shadowy, humanoid figure claws away at Romany’s aura.
“The creature’s shade is attempting to invade your spirit.”
A quick review of resources assures the adventurers that they cannot drive off the spirit without Gabriella’s help. Romany satisfies herself for the moment with Zoltan’s glittering jewelry. They again turn to discussing what to do with the pistol.
To assuage Carlotta’s fears, and hopefully give Romany a little more time, the adventurers slip the pistol into Kari’s enchanted pouch of holding.
Romany is still worried, and her companions can offer her little to salve her fears.
“Don’t worry. If it breaks through, I promise to make it quick.”
Ketham shakes Zoltan out of his leather armor and pries the hand off the hilt of his cutlass. Then he turns to Carlotta. He speaks to her of asking Ezra for directions, and he assures her they will do whatever Ezra says.
The adventurers leave with Carlotta through the portal.
They find that the evacuation Romany ordered is underway. Skull-duggers escort the people of the Skull to the exit in the Skull’s mouth.
Without hesitation, Romany commands one in ten of the skullduggers to gather food, equipment, bedding and clothing. She also gives orders to the people of the villages to accept these people. There is no sense of whether anyone outside the skull can hear her, just as there was no indication that the skull-duggers had heard her earlier orders. She also says for the skullduggers to start destroying the cursed swords, and to bring her healing and flying potions.
After a few minutes, the missing adventurers emerge from the four headstones. Draya, Gabriella, Rook and Aroth all stumble into view together, remembering nothing after they stepped inside.
Gabriella, upon being brought to speed on the situation, assures Carlotta that Zoltan can be banished and will never return to trouble the island again.
Act II, Scene XXVIII: The Capture Morgan Baumann
Ketham uses the spyglass to scry upon Morgan Baumann. He finds the Kraken’s Claw drawn up alongside the Sea Lion. Baumann is aboard Captain Caladon’s ship. She is smiling and gloating, and Caladon is sporting bruises on his face.
Kari suggests that Romany use the Skull and her new found legion of constructs. The others agree excitedly. Late in the evening, after the evacuation of all the innocent people, Romany brings the Skull into the air using the Pistol of Harrimast. She lines up the skull-duggers in the mouth of the Skull, and flies the Skull to the mouth of the skull-shaped island.
As the Skull descends, Ketham fires an arrow with a paper falcon at the arrowhead from the mouth of the ceramic skull; it lands in the deck at her feet as the first skull-duggers drop from the mouth.
As ceramic golems land on the decks of the Sea Lion and the Kraken’s Claw, Baumann’s crew drops their weapons and surrenders. Baumann smiles grudgingly, showing too many teeth. She says that they seem to have her at a disadvantage.
And just that quickly, Captain Baumann is imprisoned in the brig of the Sea Lion.
Romany commands ten golems on each ship to bolster the crews.
Aroth and Rook descend to the Sea Lion to make sure identification of the stolen items begins, all but the pistol, which Romany holds.
Romany pilots the skull back to the island in moonlight, where it settles.
That evening, Gabriella preaches to the people of the island.
The adventurers sleep that night. And recover.
October 25, 740
Act II, Scene XXIX: The Banishment of Zoltan Zaska
Gabriella performs an exorcism, with Carlotta assisting. For two hours, Zoltan Zaska struggles against the power of Ezra. And then the Mists pull Zaska away.
Romany comes back to herself. Her first act is to throw a celebration for the innocents of the island.
Gabriella takes Carlotta to one side during the festivities, reinforcing the messages of Our Guardian in the Mists that they have discussed in their private sessions.
At the height of the festivities, Romany attempts to speak through the mouth of the Skull, but she is slapped down by Harrimast. All of her powers with the Skull and the skull-duggers is derive from her possession of the pistol, and Harrimast allows no one to become complacent with his regalia.
Ketham tries to carry on in Romany’s stead. “My people,” he says.
“You don’t have to talk like that,” Romany corrects.
“My people,” Ketham goes on. “The time of your testing is passed. It is time to follow the teachings of your leaders and live in peace. I am sending forth a woman named Carlotta to teach you the ways of kindness and humility. She will provide teaching to all of you until it is time to leave this place and go home. You will follow her teachings. You will put down your weapons and touch those black-hilted swords no more.”
Another party is set for that night, to re-integrate the men with the women.
In victory, Ketham steps outside the skull. As the pistol of Harrimast leaves the ceramic Skull for the first time, all of the skull-duggers and the skull itself all die. They age, stain, spiderweb and crack. The dome of the skull collapses into the multi-level atrium. The magic of Zoltan Zaska’s greatest creation is gone.
Also that evening, Carlotta chooses able-bodied sailors to help man the two ships that the adventurers now possess.
October 26 - 28, 740
Act II, Scene XXX: Grim Findings
Items are identified, and Jhondal recovers from the concussion he suffered within the giant skull.
* Baumann’s ruby – Has two uses left, but Lucien cannot determine what exactly it does. Kari looks into it some more and finds that it is a gem of teleportation (Cast at 10th level).
* Zoltan’s Leather Armor +3 of Tumbling (Tumbling proficiency or +4 to its use)
* Zoltan’s emerald Ring of Protection +3
* Zoltan’s cutlass - Alteration (Creature-Affecting). Lucien follows up and determines that it is a Cutlass +2 of Speed. Rook takes the greater blade, and Johann, Caladon’s first mate, is given the magical cutlass the adventurers took from Billy Bones.
* Baumann’s – Salt crystals probably desiccate the wound and make wounds more severe. Kari follows up but cannot determine much more.
The Pistol of Yarash
The Pistol of Yarash appears to be made of polished mahogany, with a barrel of polished mithril and elaborately carved golden inlays on the side that depict scenes from Yarash’s bloody pirate career. The weapon is largely ceremonial, though it functions as a flintlock pistol +3 that never scores a Critical Miss. On a roll of “1” on the attack die, the pistol misses but never needs to roll on the Critical Miss table.
With a Straightforward Conviction Check it can shoot a fireball three times per day as cast per a 10th-level caster.
The pistol’s real value lies in its control over other hand-made creations. You can use the pistol to create or warp a simple item with a Straightforward Conviction Check; a complex item (one with moving parts) requires a Complex Check. To use the creation power, the wielder must supply the raw materials for the item in question, such as steel for a sword, or wood for a boat. Upon a successful Conviction Check (of the appropriate difficulty), the artifact shapes the desired item out of the raw materials, taking roughly the equivalent gold piece value in minutes. The wielder must remain silently concentrating on the task at hand the whole time the pistol constructs the item in question (So, anyone using the pistol to create, say, a fortress would likely starve to death or at least collapse from exhaustion before it was done). Any interruption forces a DC 3 Concentration Check rolled using the endurance proficiency.
The same holds true if the wielder use the artifact to warp or destroy objects. The wielder can’t simply wave the gun, like Yarash or, to a lesser extent, Zoltan, and order a ship to sink. It takes at least a Full Round Action, for example, to warp an opponent’s Small or Medium-sized weapon. To do something larger, such as crack a boat’s timbers till it falls or raze the walls of a fortress, the wielder would have to stand and concentrate for a considerable amount of time—all the while taking fire (most likely) and being forced to make Concentration Checks for every distraction.
Impossible: The pistol holds another power that remains far beyond your abilities. Zoltan found a way to mimic the most singular product of human labor: life. With years of study, he has learned how to use the pistol to encode the specifics of physical life. In modern terms, the pistol can take a sample of blood or tissue and reduce it to a set of algorithms that it then can reproduce precisely; Zoltan uses this to impregnate his concubines. Of late, Zoltan has gone even further, encoding emotions and memories, which can then be deposited into host subjects.
The story of the pistol of Yarash is appalling to everyone, particularly Romany.
“I put this in my pocket. I need new pants. Somebody use the pistol to make me new pants.”
October 29, 740
Act II, Scene XXXI: The Third Isle
The adventurers sail around the third island they choose, deciding to leave the volcanic island for last. The island appears idyllic from a distance. The mile-and-a-half-long, mile-wide island is almost completely devoid of man-made structures, except for a 50-foot-high tower on the island’s eastern end. The 300-foot-high cliffs surrounding the structure render it inaccessible from sea. Grasslands and dense forests, which gradually give way to rockier territory as the land rises steeply to its highest point on the eastern isthmus, cover the remainder of the island.
The adventurers can land rowboats on two places on the island: the cove on the northern edge of the island and the beach on the western end.
As they navigate along the northern side of the island, they spy an inlet in the distance. When their ship sails close enough for a better look, they see a cove that extends inward for almost a quarter mile. Although a number of rocks jut above the water’s surface, they believe a skilled sailor can land a rowboat without much difficulty.
As you round the northwest corner of this new island, the constant flow of the wind lessens a few knots, as if it had expended too much energy traveling to this point and would prefer to rest a bit before continuing onward. The adventurers are left to drift on the strength of the wind’s memory, but that matters little, for what they see before them is one of the favorite sights of any sailor who’s had his share of rough seas: a sandy beach. Not only does the beach look particularly inviting after the journey they’ve had thus far, but it also extends almost the entire length of this end of the island. A blind yeoman could row a skiff anywhere along it and still be assured of a safe landing.
The beach’s sand gradually gives way to hardy grass farther inland. A thick growth of trees that covers most of the land lies beyond. Although it appears that they could probably walk around the trees to go directly north or south, the most direct route would be to head through them.
Considering their options, the adventurers settle on avoiding the beach. They circle the island again, sailing back to the northern cove.
October 30, 740
Act II, Scene XXXII: Isle of the Dead
The adventurers sail to the cove. Captain Caladon sends Lazare with them to row and guard the boat. Characteristically, the sea dog passes the time with bad jokes.
What do you call a cow with one leg? Lean beef.
What do you call a cow with a twitch? Beef jerky.
Coming ashore, they leave Lazarre behind in a secure position scouted by Ketham. Kari gives the man a potion of flying. None of the adventurers has forgotten how swiftly they lost a man in the heart of Moab Cys’Varion’s dungeon. Lazarre is grateful for the shelter and the gift; he promises to keep a wary eye while they are gone.
The slope leading to the island proper gets steeper as they climb, and the rocks and dirt are moist from sea spray. By the time they gain the top lip, they are all quite wet and covered in a lot of mud that is even now beginning to work its way beneath their clothing and into some uncomfortable areas.
From their new vantage point, they can see most of the island— what little of it there is to see. A forest, which appears to have been left undisturbed for hundreds of years, sits to the right. To the left lies an expanse of grasslands that follows the gradual slope of the eastern half of the island. The highest point they can see is a large tower on the far eastern end of the island; it rises at least 50 feet.
But they also notice, closer to the middle of the island, near the edge of the forest, some sort of stone table. At this distance, it is impossible to tell what it is, and what it’s doing there.
The adventurers set out for the stone table.
Before they go, Lazarre calls out one more dreadful joke:
What do you call a cow stuck in a barbed wire fence? Utter destruction.
“Good luck,” he bids them.
On the way to the stone table, the adventurers come across a sunken area, where the ground seems to be depressed slightly. Fearing an animal lair of some sort, they skirt this area, avoiding all of the slightly discolored grass.
Soon after, they reach their first destination. In the middle of the wilderness, an immense stone table rises four feet above the ground. And though they cannot tell the purpose of the object at a glance, the visible weathered bloodstains are enough to put them on their guard. The altar measures roughly three feet by 10 and stands about four feet from the ground. They are balanced on a two-by-five rectangular column of solid rock. Numerous carved arcane symbols cover the entire structure. The adventurers realize quickly that the symbols bear many similarities to the marks made around the ritually sacrificed bodies of both Flint the gnome and the guards at Ezekiel Carthy’s home.
But the adventurers do not get to study the runes immediately: A band of the undead slowly drag a humanoid captive toward the altar. Although the man looks like he has given up hope of escape, he suddenly begins to struggle with the last of his remaining strength when he sees the stone slab. His voice, now hoarse from screaming at the unfeeling creatures holding him, manages a few incoherent utterances. Despite his efforts, his captors do not even break their shambling stride.
When the adventurers intervene, the man flees to the sea. He does not seem to notice the water as he charges headlong into the waves, intent on drowning himself. Romany and Kari drag him back to shore, where he collapses. Even the briefest attempts at conversation reveal that he has lost his mind. More simian than human, the creature shouts random sounds, some of which are actual words. “Blamther!” he cries. “Shahbba-doo! Equus rodentus!”
During this time, the adventurers also inspect the markings on the stone table. Draya uses the markings to identify the lord of this island as Daen Danud.
“This is the brute. He performed the sacrifices.”
For a time, they inspect the forests west of the stone table. Ketham ranges ahead. He spots five more zombies, but he kills them all before they can reach the rest of the party.
Another quarter mile leads to a second sacrificial table, almost identical to the first. But when they realize that the journey is just going to take them back to the beach on the western shore, they turn back for the dark tower, now behind them.
Briefly, they discuss using flying potions to reverse course and travel straight to the tower at the opposite reaches of the island. More conservative heads prevail. They walk to the spire. Along the way, the man wakes, still mad from his ordeal. When given the chance, he turns his back and marches, straight-backed, into the grasslands. Gabriella is worried about the man’s well-being, but she knows that she cannot heal him. The adventurers also know that they cannot take the man into the tower with them.
“If you like I could end its suffering.”
“No, we’re not going to end its suffering.”
The adventurers eat while they walk, bound for the tower rising in the east.
Act II, Scene XXXIII: The Dark Tower
As the adventurers work their way eastward through the grasslands, the island begins to slope upward. The slight grade becomes gradually steeper as they push forward, until they have to bend forward and grasp at the ground to maintain their progress The top of the hill presents a magnificent view of the island below: the gently waving grass, the dense wall of green forest…they can even make out your ship in the distance and a hint of the other islands in the chain.
Behind them, the only noticeable feature is a black tower that rises an additional 50 feet from the ground.
They also notice that the air 10 feet in front of them is shimmering with some kind of arcane energy. It seems to encompass the entire isthmus on which they now stand.
The adventurers test this shimmering field.
Gabriella tosses a rock.
Ketham tosses a rock.
Romany flicks a winged bug from a blade of grass.
With time for reflection, Gabriella estimates that the shimmering rises some forty feet into the air, but the tower climbs even higher.
Using potions of flying from the Skull, the adventurers fly above the shimmering abjuration field and make their way to the uppermost floors of the tower. There, without delay, Ketham uses the spyglass to create a temporary portal into the top chamber of Daen’s lair. The wall repairs itself moments later, and the adventurers are within the nigh-unassailable private sanctum of Daen Danud.
Daen uses this room to spy on his former pirate mates. A telescope mounted on a tripod stands near the southern bookcase. Anyone peering through it during the day can see the other islands and even pick out individual figures. Draya the Blind Potter uses this to confirm that the fourth island is indeed dominated by a volcano. He describes jungles, a volcano. It is an island surrounded by rocky cliffs covered in dense jungles and dominated by a large volcanic cone. He spies the plumes of two settlements in the jungle.
Bookcases contain journals filled with Daen’s observations on the various and sundry activities occurring on the other atolls. These unexpurgated notes reveal the undead captain’s paranoid, unstable nature.
“The stone head descended today. Fools! They worship the weak. They have never felt true power.”
“These abominations he creates. What is their purpose? Many of them cannot even walk, let alone carry a weapon. Let him build his legions. I shall be the victor.”
“What sick ridiculous puppets they are, and what a gross little stage they dance on. Not a care in the world. No idea that they are NOTHING.”
“Master of gorillas? We were to be masters of all. I want to weep with frustration at what we have become. Yarash willing, I will crush these unbelievers and regain our Lord’s trust.”
“Their defenses are not yet rebuilt. I will send more of my fierce legions tonight, and slaughter them with their own dead.”
“Who are these strangers, intruders in our realm, and how did they survive the descent through the Triangle? They are making directly for the islands. If they survive, I may have to meet with them. What lovely wights they would make!”
“The Jolly Roger! I never thought I would ever see it being proudly hoisted at the top of the mast, flapping in the wind to strike terror in the hearts of all who see it! The Kraken’s Claw? Do they know of Yarash, or have they been tainted by Harrimast’s filthy and blasphemous lies? Will they have to be instructed in the ways of our Lord’s glorious pain?”
The room contains over 100 such journals, which would take at least two days for the party to read entirely, and then only if they all spent all day doing it.
Draya suggests waiting for Daen.
They resolve to lie in wait for Daen to come to his study, which allows ample time for studying his written notes.
Daen believes Ezekiel Carthy is alive and living in Leudendorf.
Yarash has not spoken to Daen since they came through Hell’s Triangle. He assumes that, since he was the most loyal to Yarash, the other surviving members of the Full-Fathom Five have not heard from him either.
Daen expects Yarashad will reappear very soon.
Yarash was formerly Harrimast’s “enforcer,” until Harrimast wrongly cast him out for attempting to seize more power.
The unrolled scrolls on the table contain sketchy maps of the other Islands of the Damned, including Yarashad, though it is the least detailed. The maps give the adventurers a good indication of the general topography of each island, which pirate resides there, and where they could beach a rowboat. They cannot glean the relative strengths and weakness of the island inhabitants, nor can they tell what exactly they may be up against.
Romany writes an addendum to the last journal: Today I died.
The adventurers discuss how to hide and prepare their ambush.
Draya warns his companions that, as a knight of staves, he cannot battle Daen until Daen is aware of his presence and can respond in kind.
“He’ll be aware of it after I shoot him in the back.”
Ketham attempts to find Daen with the spyglass, but he is slapped down. Before waking he mutters that all must obey the Sea God. He speaks of opening the temple doors, and the “Mainmast.”
Concerned by this greater reaction to Harrimast’s displeasure, Ketham is ready to put the spyglass down, but then Draya offers to attempt it. However, he is slapped down, as well.
Towards nightfall, Daen comes.
The captain’s entourage comes first, a troop of undead white apes. When the zombies falter at the door, Daen realizes that there is trouble. He shouts for his minions to attack, and then he flees. Four minutes later, the adventurers stand in the burning, broken wreckage of a half-dozen white gorilla zombies, and their true foe has put four minutes of distance between them, putting the entire base on high alert as he went.