The Voyage of The Várka

Session 003 - Menkos and the Ambush

from the journals of Ignatius Calmwater:

“Still waters do not make great sailors.”

The phrase was a favorite of Melias Woolencroft and rarely would a lesson pass in which he did not invoke it. If ever an acolyte complained about a task, Master Melias would launch into his favorite sermon.

“From your studies, you know that Iomedae herself met with 13 challenges before she was granted the divine spark. She did not face these challenges ever expecting to be rewarded the Spark; but, rather, was rewarded for not only meeting each challenge, but also for the methods she employed in surmounting each. It was, however, the very challenges themselves that elevated Iomedae to the heavens. Without The Acts, Iomedae may have been little more than a mercenary, a sword-for-hire, or had even returned home to raise sheep again. Instead, in the face of incredible odds and seemingly impossible tasks, she stood her ground. She found a way; and, in doing so, she showed us and the very gods themselves what we were capable of. ”

“Still waters do not make great sailors, my pupils. We are shaped by the obstacles that lie in our way and the storms we must weather. Rise to each with valor and honor in your hearts. Use each challenge as a blacksmith uses his anvil and hammer, and forge your own greatness. Follow in Iomedae’s footsteps and show those around you what mortals are truly capable of.”

It is strange what goes through your mind in a time of crisis, but it was the words of my old mentor that came to me as Aaaaggg and I struggled with the rudder during the storm. If ever in my life I had felt helpless, it was in the fury of that storm. In the darkness of that night, with the wind howling all around us and the raining stinging any exposed skin, the whole of my world seemed to be no more than a few feet on either side of the rudder. We had to strain to hear Auni’s reports shouted down from the crow’s nest (I can’t even imagine what the storm had been like up there) and we fought the raging sea for even the slightest of course corrections needed. I know that the crew and the others were as busy as we were, but I could do little more than focus on what we were doing.

The storm battered The At Least It Floats most of the night; and, in the end, it seemed nearly miraculous that the ship remained true to its namesake. Nearly the entire crew (those not slain by the slaves or the cultists) had been taken by the storm; and we had lost one of our three masts, while another was badly damaged.

When the first rays of the sun broke over the horizon, its light found us exhausted and limping towards the nearest port. Before we could take our rest in shifts, several tasks remained in need of completion and I needed some answers.

First, Seraph and I made a quick assessment of our craft. We were taking on a bit of water, but not enough to become truly concerned… yet. It was during this inspection, however, that we discovered another score of slaves chained up in the lower hold. Another slave revolt would surely be the death of everyone aboard.

Before word of the discovered slaves could spread, I gathered everyone on the top deck and inquired about who had released the slaves. Anafa, to her credit, claimed responsibility right away. I told her that should she try that again, I would personally throw her overboard. I do not generally like to fall back on threats, but it had been an extremely trying day and I may have been a bit more abrupt than I would have liked to have been. In an attempt to explain my displeasure, I told Anafa that the blood of the 27 people (crew and slave alike) was on her hands.

She replied with a shrug and said, “I can live with that.”

I was absolutely flabbergasted. I did not know what to make of her reply. Was she so insensitive? So callous to the deaths of others that such truly meant nothing to her? If that were the case, why had she released them in the first place? Had she done so merely to create chaos? Had bloodshed been her goal? Was she insane? My mind reeled at the possibilities. To make matters worse, I had sensed no evil in her, but if she was true to her claim, I could not see how that was possible. Perhaps she had some magical means of cloaking her evil?

Seraph chose to share the information about the second group of slaves we had found and I watched Anafa closely. While I had felt bad about delivering the threat, I had every intention of staying true to my word; but it did not prove to be necessary.

That business concluded and as we were seemingly out of danger (at least for the moment), we began to rest in shifts.

Some time later, land came into view and we made for a smallish port. Nami, the navigator and highest ranking of the remaining crew, said that it was the island of Crete and that she believed the port was the town of Menkos.

From the time we sailed into the port, and even before the mooring lines were tied off, I did not like the place. It was a dirty and wretched place, full of pirates, and its only temple was to one of the lesser known deities, Umberlee… also known as The Bitch Queen. The entire place reeked of evil and apathy. I wanted little more than to be rid of this town as well… although, I must admit, I did not really know where I should go. With the destruction of Peipom, I had lost the only home I had ever really known.

Coming off The At Least It Floats, we all seemed to be headed off in our own directions. With yesterday’s adventure behind us, we really had little reason to stay with one another and more than a few reasons to walk away. Still, it seemed that the small town of Menkos had but one inn and so several of us ended up there.

Within the inn, I heard that Anafa and Alfonso had purchased a great many of the slaves and released them. I’m not entirely sure what purpose they believe that this action served, but I hope the results prove as pure as their intentions. The pair, as I heard it, also went and visited the priestess of The Bitch Queen. I found this action even more baffling than the releasing of the slaves. I do not believe the pair of them plan or consider any actions beyond what they will do next. It is a dangerous habit and likely to get themselves, or those around them, killed.

Auni, in a similar display, deigned it proper to take up with a group of pirates, drink vast quantities of rum, and carry on… loudly. I have very little experience with gnomes and druids; but the display was unsettling.

With the trappings of my faith clearly visible, it was obvious that I viewed as a nuisance and generally shunned; but the innkeeper still served me dinner and took my coin for an evening’s stay. The next day I hoped to put Menkos behind me and perhaps find a better, and more inviting, place to call my new home.

“Still waters do not make great sailors.” The words went through my mind again just as a man approached the table where I lunched alone.

He introduced himself as the mayor of Menkos and asked me to look into the disappearance of his daughter, whom had apparently vanished the day before. As I was beginning to ask questions, Anafa inserted herself into the conversation. I’m not sure where she came from, but I found her behavior extremely rude. I do not even know why she was close enough to overhear the conversation; as, with our numerous disagreements, there had been little but tension between the two of us.

Not wishing to overwhelm the surely-distraught man, I returned to my meal, but politely listened to the conversation.

The girl had gone with her betrothed to one of those places that young couples go to “be alone”. The place was apparently popular for this type of activity, though it was a two hour walk from the town. The lovers had left the night before and had not returned. Now her father feared the worst and was offering 500 gold pieces for her return.

To make a long story short, the group found itself together again (I’m not entirely sure how this happened) and on the road towards this Lover’s Grove and directly into an ambush.

It seems that the remaining cultists from the black ship had made their way to Menkos ahead of us and concocted this story to lure us out into their trap. It worked well enough, but they underestimated our abilities and, despite a well-laid trap, we emerged victorious.

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Session 002 - Mutiny on The Várka

from the journals of Ignatius Calmwater:

We had just finished off the second group of cultists when we heard calls for Seraph behind us. A human (in the clerical garb of Shelyn) and an angry-looking halfling in a shirt of animal hides and platinum coins ran down the road towards us. They did not appear threatening, though the snarling halfling did little to assuage my battle-tuned senses (I had always heard that halflings were such a happy folk).

As they approached, Seraph informed us that these were the other two bodyguards she had hired for the journey. After they day we had been having, I was more than pleased to receive some reinforcements.

No sooner had the two caught up with us, another pair of cultists appeared, as if they were stepping out of our surrounding environment. These were more skilled than any of the others we had faced thus far. It was good to see that we now rated more than mere shock troops. While obviously of superior stock, they were found wanting. This group of strangers I had found myself with was proving quite formidable.

Behind us, the lava flow had reached the far side of the city; while, below us, the docks swarmed with those seeking to escape the coming doom. If we did not hurry, there would be no vessels left and we would be stuck between the unforgiving sea and a tide of molten stone. Formidable as the group may be, we could not stand against such power.

We reached the docks without incident and found what was perhaps the last vessel (The At Least It Floats) with available berth for us. The blackguard captain (called Ajambo), wanted 400 gold per passenger! It has been a long time since I have seen such blatant privateering and I would have struck him down for his crimes, but the ensuing battle would have cost us dearly in lives and time. We paid his blood money and took our places on the ship.

It was heart-breaking to leave so many behind. The scene will be seared into my heart as long as I live.

As we reached deeper waters, a strange cloud formation descended upon the ship and, as it cleared, revealed a djinn! I am not very familiar with the creatures, but I have heard that they wield incredibly powerful magics… even great enough to grant wishes to certain individuals.

This particular djinn seemed to have business with Captain Ajambo. Apparently Ajambo had run out on some deal he had made with the djinn. The fool had likely tried to barter for wishes or power, and found himself on the more disadvantageous side of the bargain.

The djinn proposed a riddle contest. For every riddle Ajambo missed, a crew member would be taken away. At this, Ajambo relaxed and the writing on the wall became very clear… despite the 400 gold he had taken from each of us, the villain planned to use us to cover his losses as well.

Yet again these new companions proved formidable, this time with sharp minds instead of strong arms. We answered the djinn’s riddles, but he decided not to leave entirely empty handed. In a rush of wind, he took up the captain and left the ship with us.

We thought to turn back to see if we could save any more from the docks, but I deemed the risk too great. I could not, in good conscience, risk the lives of all aboard this vessel for the off-chance that we could save a few more. It was also at this time that we noticed the pursuing ship. It was black and bore the insignia of The Eye of Thoth.

I began shouting orders and, fortunately, the crew took them. We would try to outrun the pursuit, but I had little hopes it would be possible. Thus far, the cultists had proven very resourceful and it would like come down to a fight. Still, any extra time we could manage to help prepare would be helpful.

Aaaaggg and I began to check the cargo, seeing if there was anything we could dump overboard to lighten out load. We found a great deal of wine and devilgrass. Brother Alfonso (the cleric of Shelyn) took a couple bottles of wine (I presume for some religious sacrament of his order) and the rest went into the sea.

Next, I went below decks and discovered a score of slaves chained up. I find the custom of slavery to be somewhat distasteful and would never claim to own a free-thinking being myself, but it is not an unlawful practice. As I had no time to investigate the legality of their enslavement and I did not wish them underfoot in our crisis, I left them as I had found them. They were safer where they were.

Back on the main deck, we reported what we had discovered below. I should have been paying closer attention to the reactions, but my mind was what I believed to be a more immediate threat.

While Alfonso, Aaaaggg, and I stood on the aft of the ship, attempting to determine how much time we likely had; we heard a commotion break out below deck. Alfonso volunteered to investigate, so Aaaaggg and I returned to planning our defense.

Within moments, Alfonso screams could be heard just below decks and we raced to his aid. The slaves had been released and had apparently decided to kill their way to freedom. Alfonso held the bottom of the blood-streaked stairs leading to the main deck, but many slaves were managing to push passed him. Aaaaggg, the crew, and I formed a second line of defense; holding the slaves below deck and attempting to push them back. Auni and Anafa (the angry, little halfling) were somewhere below decks and beyond my vision.

Having no desire to kill the slaves, I struck with the flat of my blade again and again. It was a mercy, but it was likely that any slaves that survived this would be hanged later.

It was a bloody affair, but the attempted mutiny was quelled. We lost several crew and a majority of the slaves in the process . Rather than spending time preparing for an assault from The Eye of Thoth, we had lost roughly 30 lives and those surviving were now more fatigued and suffering from wounds.

A call from the aft of the ship told us that a raiding party was speeding our way. We patched ourselves up as quickly as we could and raced aft to face the next wave of trouble.

Humanoid shapes sped through the water with the ease of great fish and, within moment, cultists were scaling up the aft bulkhead of the ship. We did our best to repel them, but they managed to climb aboard and yet another battle began.

It was a hard fight. We were exhausted and spent; but, once again, we managed to prevail. More crew had been lost and I had even nearly been knocked unconscious during the fray; but the last of the assailants was driven back off our ship.

The black ship seemed to be giving up its pursuit, but we were not out of danger yet. “Storm ahead,” came the call and any dreams of rest vanished in an instant.

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Session 001 - The Fall of Peipom

from the journals of Ignatius Calmwater:

It began in Peipom in an innocent enough manner.

A young, elven woman, called Seraph, approached me as I ate my supper in the Gilded Lion . She claimed to be in need of bodyguards for a journey to parts unknown. As she seemed to be of goodly intent and I had no other conflicting obligations, I agreed to help her. That decision likely saved my life.

When we met the next day, I found that she had also recruited a gnomish druid and a half-orc ranger. She claimed that there were still others (at least 2 I gathered). As we prepared to wait for the late comers, the first earthquake hit.

It was not a long event, but it do some structural damage to the buildings around us. Seraph appeared extremely shaken by the event and said that we could wait no longer.

There was a great deal of panic in the streets. While I wished I could stay and help restore order, I had accepted a different charge and I would not break my oath.

As we moved for the interior gates, a greater quaked struck. It was if the earth below our feet had come to life and was trying to shake us off. Buildings cracked, crumbled, and fell and the already panicked denizens went nearly insane with fear.

When the quake subsided and we managed to regain our feet, we found that the gate before us had fallen in upon itself. People stared at the wreck gates in dumbfounded horror.

The half-orc, Aaaaggg (not sure of the spelling for this), suggested scaling the wall and dropping down on the other side. We could have stayed and (maybe) cleared the gates, but a sense of urgency compelled me to move on. I had sworn to guard Seraph and she was my first priority. My heart went out to the people that worked at removing rubble from the gates, but I could only hope that those that were able would see the route we took and follow.

On the other side of the wall, we found the main thoroughfares choked with people heading out of town. Some of the side-streets appeared nearly deserted, so we took to those to move unimpeded.

A short time later we saw a band of armed looters smash their way into a small shop and attack the family within. While I could do little against the forces of the gods, I could stand against common brigands.

I charged forward and was somewhat surprised (and quite pleased) to see that the others (including Seraph) followed. The fight was short, but most of the family made good with their escape while we kept the looters busy.

Upon leaving the store, we found another group of well-armed men waiting for us. They had the stench of evil about them and it was plain to see that it was us (or rather Seraph) that they were looking for.

Once again, we met the challenge head-on. These individuals proved much tougher than the previous fight and my poor tactical decisions nearly got me killed (it is important to remember not to stand between two thieves). Were it not for Auni the Gnome and her healing magics, I would have likely perished.

At last we were victorious and discovered that these were members of a cult known as The Eye of Thoth, a group that Seraph had apparently pilfered something of great importance from. Seraph also claimed that the cult may very well have something to do with the disasters that had struck Peipom. Were that truly the case, protecting Seraph and the item became all the more important.

Onward we traveled. As we came in sight of the out gate, a great flaming mass of rock struck the gate, collapsing it into a mound of fiery wreckage. Behind us, the great mountain bellowed smoke and fire, while molten rock spilled down its slopes and towards Peipom.

Time was of the essence. We had to get down to the docks and find a ship away. Peipom was lost and there were countless lives I could do nothing for. I focused on the job at hand and did what I had to do.

Over the wall we went again. This time proved a little more difficult, but we made it all the same.

The docks were now in sight, as was another group of the cultists. They stood below us on the road, watching the flaming gate (where they expected us to come through).

I managed to pry a large rock loose and sent it tumbling towards the cultists and we followed closely behind the rock. The rock plowed into the unsuspecting cultists and the fight was joined again. Despite the long and arduous day we had been through, we found ourselves more that up to the challenge.

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