Black Sails over Leudendorf
The Thing in the Harbor
With the Eye of Bane turning the night sky crimson, the navies of four domains clash in Leudendorf harbor. But the blazing cannons of countless ships will be the last thing mentioned when the sun rises the next morning.
Human Druid Barbarian
Lucien, Draya, Romany, Ketham, Rook, Gabriella, Aroth, and Kari
November 17 - 27, 740
Act III, Prologue: Return to Leudendorf
Ten days ago, Captain Caladon restocked the Sea Lion and the Kraken’s Claw on the jungle island once ruled by Ahunatum, the pirate queen formerly known as Black Jenny Ramsey. Then, with holds full of supplies and hundreds of thousands of gold, silver, and precious stones, the two ships turned with the wind in their sails and left the Isles of Yarashad behind. As Lucien had suspected, the winds knew the way back to port.
When night fell seven days later, the moon that rose was red and baleful. The following morning, a thick mist settled over the seas. The adventurers had returned to the Sea of Sorrows. Captain Caladon estimated that they were not far afield of Hell’s Triangle. He charted a course for Leudendorf. And three days later, as the Eye of Bane reddened the sky above them, the pirate town appeared on the horizon. But all was not well. The harbor was congested, and ships from all the coastal domains had come to play. The roar of cannon shook the air, and more than one sunken wreck already made its way towards the inky depths.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Caladon gave his crew orders to hoist the colors of Leudendorf. The pirate town had given sanctuary to the Sea Lion and its varied, hunted crew, and the hearty sailors aboard her would not stand idly by while Leudendorf was put to the torch.
The Leudendorf navy sails out to meet the combined navies of the maritime Core.
November 27, 740
Act III, Scene I: Closing In
When Ketham hears Captain Caladon’s words, he urges the captain to hoist two flags. He reminds the captain of Harrimast’s permission to fly the pirate god’s colors. Caladon does as requested, and the sight of the pirate flag, the three mercenary ships in the amassed navies immediately change their colors as well. The captains do not change their flags; the flags they were flying magically change as the captains side with their returned deity. Two of the ships have sustained severe damage, but all three side with the pirates.
At the same time, all the flags of Leudendorf change to the pirate flag, as well. The black sails have begun to fly in the habor.
At the same time, seeing the three navies aligned against Leudendorf, the adventurers agree to release Morgan Baumann from her prison in the hold. Rook, Aroth, Tianna and Orlan complement the crew of the Kraken’s Claw, with Baumann once again in charge of her own ship.
Act III, Scene II: Battle in the Harbor
As the Sea Lion joins the fray, the adventurers quickly see that there is strife aboard nearly every ship in the battle, regardless of origin. Cultists of Yarash have insinuated themselves into all of the fleets in this battle. The prophecy about the return of Yarash is about to come true, and they have made sure that they are right in the middle of things. The cultists have revealed themselves and begun fighting for their god. They hope to prove themselves worthy to him, as he returns to the Lands of Mist. Then the world will know the meaning of fear.
Leudendorf’s flagship, The Black Watch, falls in the initial surge, as does a Dementlieuse ship, The Arrogant. Worse, the fighting continues to rage on the other vessels in the harbor.
The Sea Lion and the Kraken’s Claw sail into the fray
Act III, Scene III: The Return of Billy Bones
The leader of the cult insurgence, none other than Billy Bones—whom the adventurers killed outright in Libertyville—climbs to the top of The Black Watch’s mainmast near the center of the battle.
He bears an ancient silver horn and a powerful scroll. Perched above the battle, he reads from the scroll. As he does so, the waters surrounding his vessel become a sprawling sargasso.
As Yarash’s forces make their presence known, the ships they take become the target of all navies. The Leudendorf and Dementlieuese navies both fire upon the Black Watch, and the Leudendorf forces are largely responsible for sinking their own flagship to stop the threat. As the Black Watch is swallowed by the deeps, Billy Bones rides the flaming wreck into the locker, and he blows the magical horn he holds.
All in Leudendorf harbor and the town itself hear the sound of the mighty horn. Hrooooo, hroooooo, hrooooo. Its three deep calls drown out the sounds of battle. Time seems to stop, as all the combatants look about them, unsettled by the thunderous noise. The sea begins to roil and splash violently. Something is rising to the surface!
A tall, dark tower of stone emerges from the seaweed-laden water. It spikes though the water and rises toward the sky, breaking apart an unfortunate ship as it does so. The adventurers have seen this structure before, back on the other side of the Hell’s Triangle. They saw this tower, the tomb of the dead god, on Yarashad.
As the tower completes its rise to the surface, they hear a loud splash, followed by a hideous, low-pitched bellow. All eyes in the harbor turn toward the sound, and see a creature thought only to be a sailor’s nightmare or a bedtime story to scare young children. Impossibly huge, its gaping maw and deadly tentacles effortlessly destroy a nearby ship. Its great red eye rolls about in their sockets, and hardened sea dogs know what it is to be afraid. The Son of Yarash—the kraken—has come, and it’s about to turn its malice upon the living!
Worse, through a thick blanket of Mist, appear other horrors of the deep, including ragged ghost ships, aloft through the dark will of Yarash himself, despite gaping wounds in their hulls and tattered sails flapping about cracked masts. The fleet of the damned has arrived to join the fray.
The Mists thicken in dark, disorienting patches across the harbor, and in places the waters begin to whirl and drop away into yawning depths.
The fighting cultists are far from defeated. Two more flagships, those at the fore of the Dementlieuese and the Mordentish fleets, fall to the cultists.
It is a battle of the forces of Chaos and Evil against the mortal realm. As allegiances shift, the flags of all ships not overrun with cultists turn to Harrimast’s colors as the combined navies join against the forces of Yarash.
The adventurers sail into the mix, angling towards the derelict mercenary ships, which also leads them into battle against the one flagship not overrun with cultists. The Darkonese Revenant. Kari uses spells to turn invisible and fly from the Sea Lion to the deck of the Revenant, as it maneuvers. She anchors it using a magical feather token, which will leave the Revenant still in Leudendorf harbor for a full day. It will not survive that long, but its relentless and fearless gunners will prove a threat to more than one vessel before it sinks.
Act III, Scene IV: The Damned Begin to Feed
The adventurers notice some crews fighting amongst themselves on various ships. The cultists on each ship want the kraken and other sea monsters to eat them, so they can join with their god. They do anything they can to prevent harm from coming to the kraken. If the heroes move to another ship during the battle, they may have to fight off the cultists, as well as the beast.
The Mordentish flagship steers into the waiting maw of the Son of Yarash, while the ghost ships begin to prey upon the other surviving mortal ships. One Dementlieuese ship, unable to steer around the prison tower, sees a massive disembarking of the crew; screaming the name of Yarash as they swim toward the Son of Yarash.
When the kraken destroys the first ship, the adventurers spot something else. The hideous beast’s maw scoops up the survivors of the downed ship, swallowing them whole. As it does so, they are drawn to its eyes, which crackle with a dark blue energy. Suddenly, a beam bursts forth like a lightning bolt toward the tower in the middle of the sea. The tomb of Yarash absorbs the beam and glows with a dark blue light.
At the same time, the carried artifacts begin to glow with the same dark blue light.
One by one, the damned ships and sea creatures bring down the ships of the amassed navies, preying in particular on the relatively helpless crews of the derelict, battle-damaged vessels.
But the forces of goodness are not to be swayed. The flagship of the damned fleet, the Delusion, is a ten-masted horror that threatens to dominate the fray. But it is the tin Sea Lion that brings about its destruction. Guided by Lucien Buche’s knowledge of “all things piratical,” Captain Caladon outmaneuvers the Delusion, blocking its line of fire against other ships—particularly the Kraken’s Claw—while remaining unharmed in the process. The final blow comes as the Sea Lion and the Kraken’s Claw flank the Delusion, and Baumann’s ship opens up with a full broadsides, with every cannon hitting, and sending the Delusion into the deep.
Act III, Scene V: The Return of Yarash
The tomb has absorbed enough souls. A powerful bolt of energy leaves the kraken and shoots toward the tower, followed by a great thunderclap that nearly deafens all in the harbor. The tower begins shrinking, collapsing in on itself, as the energy surrounding it grows brighter. Suddenly, the artifacts that the adventurers have carried from beyond Hell’s Triangle are ripped from their grasp—including the sextant, which Kari had retrieved from her magical pouch of holding for fear of the pouch being destroyed by the artifact within. The artifacts dart through the air toward the tower.
The tower disappears, replaced by a ball of dark blue energy about 20 feet across. As you watch, the ball explodes outward with a blinding flash of light. In its place is a grotesque creature from some twisted nightmare. It is huge, with a wingspan of at least 10 feet. Six tentacle-like arms protrude from its scaly body, each of them ending in a set of wicked claws. Its head rears back, revealing a large mouth filled with razor-sharp teeth. There is a glowing mark upon its forehead. By now the adventurers know what these skulls mean. It is the mark of the Full-Fathom Five.
Each of the five artifacts is absorbed into one of the skulls on the creature’s forehead, and the device glows with a dark blue light. Then, in a booming voice, the thing speaks, “ELF! DEVA! YOUR RETRIBUTION COMES FIRST!”
The final confrontation with Yarash has begun. The avatar tears the remaining mast from the Sea Lion and focuses his massive tentacles almost entirely on Ketham and Draya. But that is not the only danger facing Caladon’s ship. Teodor, the Lamordian sailor who spent so long in the crow’s nest with Ketham over the last couple months, reveals his true colors. The cultist shouts the name of his deity and suddenly shoves hard against Ketham, attempting to knock the archer out of the crow’s nest to the deck below. When the mast breaks away, it is Teodor who falls, though; Ketham nimbly descends the rigging to the deck.
Teodor rises and occupies Gabriella for several minutes while the demi-god threatens the remaining adventurers. The anchorite does not want to kill the man who has been her friend these past couple months. Her first thought it to break some sort of curse or compulsion over him, and her next is to paralyze Teodor in divine power. Teodor, through will and madness, denies her best efforts, shooting Gabriella and attacking her with his cutlass. Finally, Gabriella erects her Shield of Ezra, rendering herself immune to steel, and Teodor turns his attention against Old Griz, who stands nearby, firing lead balls at Yarash. Griz deflects the attack, and ultimately helps Gabriella bring down Teodor.
In this time, the adventurers have begun to despair. Morgan Baumann has veritably anchored the Kraken’s Claw next to the Sea Lion, and her expert gun crews have been pelting the demi-god with cannon balls. Aboard the Sea Lion, Ketham and Draya and Romany and Kari and Griz have been doing everything in their power to stop the demi-god, but they have barely been able to make it winded before it quickly heals back all its injuries. The adventurers try everything they can imagine. Romany uses a magical silver dagger, Kari enchants Billy Bones’ cutlass to a stronger degree, Ketham fires carefully clustered shots to diminish Yarash’s resistance to injury…nothing does the trick.
The Avatar is a tough opponent, he does have one rather serious Achilles heel, which Ketham finally discovers. An arrow to the Full-Fathom Five tattoo on Yarash’s forehead identifies the seat of the demi-god’s life force. While he regenerates—or ignores—wounds easily, those delivered to the massive tattoo inflict lasting injuries.
With renewed hope, the adventurers strike at the demi-god’s weak spot.
A new haunted ship emerges from the Mists. The Sea Lion is attacked by another vessel laden with cultists. It has traveled through the Mists, bringing a cargo of vicious warriors to fight on Yarash’s side. But Skrunk, who has been working feverishly on inventions throughout the battle, finds preternatural propulsion. With impromptu rigging and masts, he causes the Sea Lion to skid away from the damned ship, which is promptly sunk by the combined navies. Yarash’s call for reinforcements has been foiled before it could be fully answered.
Act III, Scene VI: Yarash Falls
The final blow has dimmed the light emanating from the tattoo on the creature’s forehead and it lets out an ear-shattering scream of pain. The waters nearby begin to churn into a powerful whirlpool, as an unseen force lifts the creature’s body. It hovers over the swirling waters for a moment, and then it is hurled into the maelstrom. As it falls beneath the waves, it speaks its final words, “DEATH IS ONLY A BEGINNING, I WILL RETURN, HARRIMAST. I WILL ALWAYS RETURN.”
As the whirlpool subsides, the battle ends. The cult has been defeated and the avatar of the evil god Yarash has been vanquished. Even the Eye of Bane looming in the sky overhead cannot drive men to violence in the wake of what has befallen tonight.
When all is done, the avatar of Harrimast speaks to the heroes telepathically.
I knew ye had it in ye. I thank ye for takin’ care of that cur for me. Don’t you worry about him returnin’ though. If’n he does, it’ll be well after your time. It’s tough to kill a god, ye know. Ye have me thanks for savin’ the world from the scourge of that black hearted villain. I will grant ye each a boon: ye can each call on me once. Once only, mind ye. If’n I can help ye, I will. I bless ye all! May the wind be ever at yer back and the waters calm before ye.
In the end, there were two, and every pirate had to choose between them. If you worked a merchant vessel or took to the oceans for pleasure, you made a sacrifice to Harrimast, the great god of pirates. Weigh down a few kegs of choice ale and wine, waterproof a chest of gold and potions, sprinkle the whole collection with a few drops of captain’s blood—and maybe, just maybe, Harrimast would intercede for your vessel and spare it from the corsairs. If you didn’t pay proper obeisance, you’d better pray that whatever god you did worship was on your side. Because Harrimast would turn the full fury of his followers against you. And they didn’t come any wickeder or more ruthless.
Except when they got a visit from Harrimast’s first mate—a bony, hollow-faced figure wearing a faded naval uniform, with a shoulder full of epaulets and medals on his breast. This apparition would rise from the seas like mist, gliding across the decks to the captain’s cabin. In a stern voice, commanding but compassionate, he would remind the corsair that even on the open sea, there are codes. Mercy toward the weak. Observance of oaths. And fealty to their god.
The ghost stood in the thick of the fight when corsairs boarded a vessel; one glimpse of him could blunt your blow. He appeared to captives quaking in the hold of a ship, waiting to be ransomed. And when the pirates pulled into port, in the city they had created, he awaited them on the docks, in the council chambers, and in the courtrooms to remind them that the freedom they enjoyed had to be tempered by justice.
Eventually, he became the patron of that city. He protected its heroes and raged against its villains as the city struggled to rebuild after war and riot. For the mountain men, struggling to find an equal place for themselves, he came to them in dreams, counseling caution and restraint above their baser impulses. To the Captains’ Council, struggling to choose a Sea Lord and weed out vile infiltrators, he became a spectral presence at every roundtable. The hundreds of merchants and commoners trying to begin their lives again pressed his image into lockets, and clutched at his weary face when the world overwhelmed them. And the bitter remnants of the maritime fleets, some of whom had become corsairs themselves, met him for the first time, carried onto their decks with foaming waves. “Before you find your profit on the seas” he told them, “you must know its laws.”
All of them—whether they knew him as a scourge who snapped their masts or the savior who guided lifeboats to port—call him Truekeel. He had another name, an older name, but the only creature who still knows that name speaks little these days. This creature has good reason to keep quiet. Once, this villain had himself been Harrimast’s first mate; he had commanded dread and respect from every seafarer in the world. He towered above their decks, tall and black and fearsome, with a half-dozen clawed arms and broad, thick wings. But he betrayed his master.
The first time, Harrimast banished him beyond the reach of his followers; the second time, the pirate lord decided on a rougher fate.
So now, before every service in the Temple of Harrimast in Leudenforf, the presiding cleric walks to the back of the lectern, rubs a small gold coin nailed there, and whispers, “Listen close, little one.”
And if the priest stares close, he can see a change come over the face pressed into the coin—the bony jaw grinds into a snarl and the hollow eyes grow wide and red with rage. A patch of the forehead seems to glow angrily too; if the nail weren’t pounded through it, you could almost make out the tattoo of a skull ringed with five stars.
Then the priest speaks the name Truekeel three times. If the temple is completely silent, and the priest is true to Harrimast in his heart, he hears a distant dim hiss from the furious face on the coin.
“That name! That name! I curse it to the depths of the hell—and I will wipe it from world! I am not finished yet! Do you hear me, so-called Truekeel? I will find a way out of this prison and come for you. I will kill your lord, that craven Harrimast, and I will hunt you across every ocean in infinite space if I must. I will hang my black sails over Leuendorf, and I will string you from those banners. I will carve your crimes on your forehead so that the world knows what to call you when they come to howl and spit at your carcass.
See the stats for the NPCs who aided the adventurers in their battle against the Thing in the Harbor!