Arcanearth

Session 1: Nininsnal

Spring of 389 AR (Age of Rebirth) AE-session1-PIC-Nininsnal_20180107.jpg

The rune-cursed refugees from Fort Scylia are lost amid the vast Earthsea where the small coastal galley was never meant to venture. By the second day the mast and sail is repaired, but no one is skilled at sailing or navigation. One the fifth day a storm blows up, capsizing the vessel which fortunately continues to float. The foundering ship is soon blown up on the rocks of an unknown shore, a narrow strip of white sand beach backed by dense jungle. In the distance a watchtower rises from the jungle along the coast.

After salvaging gear and equipment scattered along the shore, the adventurers head north toward the watchtower, passing a few small fishing villages carved out of the jungle. From the inhabitants Leelo and Mesmer learn that the settlement to the north is Nininsnal, a frontier city on the southern fringe of the Sheaim empire. Lodermulch trades a few bronze spears for local salted-fish, bread and fresh water. Three coastal cogs are anchored offshore. Ulfmar identifies Calabim, Illian and Svartalfar flags.

Guards atop the watchtower stare down in wonder at the approaching gaggle of ship-wreck survivors. There is no toll at this gate. Nothing lies south of the city except a few fishing villages and the vast jungle wilderness. This is Nininsnal, population ~4000, originally a far-flung colony established by monks from the Elohim Empire 45 years ago. In the year 368 the colony was conquered by the Sheaim after a short war with the Elohim, but retains some aspects of Elohim culture such as language, architecture and religion. It is truly a rough and tumble frontier town with all types of visitors from far lands coming to seek their fortune in the ivory or fishing trade and other more adventurous enterprises. Even stranger creatures are known to frequent the muddy streets, shadowy alleys, shabby inns and ale-houses, including devil-spawn, cambions, githyanki and in the last few years, fiendish visitors from the newly-established infernal empire far to the east.

Nininsnal hosts many establishments catering to hunters, adventurers and prospectors exploring the jungles to east and south. The sigil-heroes sell or trade much of the salvaged equipment and weapons in exchange for new gear, food and lodging. Steel weapons and armor are rare and expensive, most often made from strangely-lustrous iron imported from Infernal lands. Keelo uses a detect magic spell to determine that the green pearl and contents of the two bottles are magical. Tasting proves the potions to be healing and heroism respectively. Leelo notices the pearl is now dull, more like a typical if unusually-pigmented pearl, where it was positively glowing during the escape from Scylia. The antique silver sword is mundane, though still quite valuable. Leelo mentions she might be open to a trade with Mesmer, but the wizard bides his time.

A day of wandering around Nininsnal provides more details about the situation. This frontier city is far from the Sheaim administrative capitol in Galveholm, where the Grand Arch-Mage Tebryn Arbandi rules with a mostly-even hand, interspersed with bouts of terror when Os-Gabella goes on a binge. Slavery is a pillar of the Sheaim economy. Most live in miserable conditions, though skilled gnomes captured during the brushfire-war with the Luchuirp often gain privileged positions as high-caste engineers, tinkers and mechanics. But they are still slaves. The empire is represented only by a governing Marquess and garrison of archers, slaves and animated skeleton warriors shepherded by necromancers and lesser acolytes of the Veil. The Marquess and her retainers mostly keep to the fortified compound at the center of town. She seldom interferes in local affairs other than taxes and major projects. At present these include a nearly-completed log palisade enclosing the town and the beginnings of a breakwater and jetty to protect a future harbor.

Tensions between the local population and the Sheaim Marquess are high since the Ashen Veil is unpopular here. Krag discovers that a majority of the citizens still practice worship of The Order as preached by the original Elohim monks decades ago. Nantosuelta, the Goddess of Faith and War, is still popular. There are no major temples to any of the gods or religions, only small shrines and private worship.

Finch

PC_Finch_portrait_Alex.jpgThe Warlock Finch arrived ten days prior disguised as a Sheaim merchant prince from the far north, with attendant carriage, driver and footman retained to look the part (at 10 silvers per day). The factitious merchant is covertly approached on the fifth day by the agent of an unspecified ‘local merchant lord’ looking to sell a special item, a magical fruit said to be capable of bringing the dead back to life. The asking price is a staggering 10,000 gold! A fully crewed sailing ship could be had for such a fantastic sum. The agent, known only as ‘Todos’, dodges questions about the source of the fruits, but Finch manages to extract the following:

  1. Four different fruits are received yearly from a confidential source, each in a different season and with a different power (spring=life;summer=healing;fall=sleep;winter=death)
  2. Todos purchases the fruits from a bandit captain operating along the roads between Nininsnal and Kuldevind to the north.
  3. Todos is nervous and in a hurry to unload his mysterious merchandise…he’s picked a settlement on the ass-end of nowhere, far from the established centers of trade where sums like 10,000 gold are bandied about like so much pocket change.

A few days after Finch meets with ‘Todos’, he discovers a group of adventurers sojourning at a dockside inn of poor quality, the Drunken Mermaid:

  • A warrior from northeastern Sheaim: Talgen Hucrele.
  • A young wizard, the sister of Talgen: Sharwyn Hucrele.
  • A knight, likely an itinerant Bannor paladin, who arrived with Finch aboard the Tar Velas out of Cahir Abbey 10 days ago: Sir Pelor of Braford (very likely a pseudonym).
  • A silent half-elf ranger from the northern marches of Elohim: Karakas (likely a pseudonym, a place or a family name).

This group is planning to head north up the ‘Low Road’ toward Kuldevind to investigate reports of bandits, goblins, and a huge sinkhole that recently opened to reveal a buried ruin. The low road is no longer maintained or patrolled since completion of the better-engineered ‘High Road’ several years ago. Finch attempts to insinuate himself into the group, thinking to tag along and see if he can locate the bandit chief and source of Todos’ magical fruit. Finch fails to truly gain their confidence, or perhaps they don’t want to split treasure five ways. In any case, the group departs silently in the dead of night, leaving Finch twiddling his thumbs at the Drunken Mermaid.

Todos and Yandroon

On the third day of their sojourn at Nininsnal, the six original rune-heroes spot Finch getting out of his carriage along the main street in front of an expensive private wine-shop: a striking young man with piercing eyes of electric blue, dressed in the rich purple and gold costume of a Sheaim merchant-prince. A glowing blue run hovers above his head. Finch is about to meet with ‘Todos’ for a second and probably final time if he can’t produce a wagon-load of gold. Finch and the rune-heroes stare transfixed at one another across the main street. The Warlock thinks fast and uses the gift of his unnameable mentor to message Leelo, “Quickly, into this wine-shop as my guests”. Thinking to gain advantage from these newcomers, Finch relays the essential situation to Leelo, who whispers it to her companions.

Four brawny guards, two men and two half-orcs, wearing expensive iron chainmail with bronze axes and short swords are sitting in the antechamber to the shop, obviously retained by Todos. The guards were not present at their first meeting. The main party takes seats in the posh common room of the private wine-bar while Finch proceeds into an adjacent private room where he finds Todos already waiting. Leelo and Ulfmar can see the pair through a window between the rooms, though only Ulfmar is close enough to catch the gist of their conversation.

During their conversation, Todos commits a few blunders that reveal he is not an agent, but likely the principle in this matter. He’s in more of a hurry than ever. ‘Todos’ admits to selling three of the magical fruits since the summer of 388, all obtained from the Bandit Chief Sizymondo ‘the Great’. He’s been unsuccessful at learning Sizymondo’s source thus far. Finch is not able to divine who Todos in turn sells the fruits to (at a huge margin). With a flourish the false merchant prince presents a forged promissory note against a major bank from the far northeast of the Sheaim empire. To distract Todos from inspecting the note too closely, Ulfmar begins belting out a sea shanty from the common room. In annoyance, Todos quickly accepts Finch’s forgery. The two men agree to meet and finalize their transaction at the guild-hall in the keep of the Marquess eight days hence, allowing time for the note to be validated.

Later Finch asks around town about Todos. He soon determines that Todos fits the description of the notable merchant lord Yandroon Kuldevind (of the same name as the city to the northeast) who has been frequenting Nininsnal of late. Why would such a wealthy and connected merchant lord be slumming it in a frontier city where he is most unlikely to find a buyer for such fantastic magic?

Back in the common room Leelo notices a small inconspicuous man in a gray cloak utilizing subtle signs to warn other rogues in the wine-shop that he is a high ranking member of the local assassins guild, the ‘Black Stars’. An undisclosed number of additional operatives are in the area. Leelo later acquaints herself with ‘Draven’ and learns something of the guild, currently a small operation with no fixed premises, mostly engaged in protection and espionage for both Sheaim and foreign merchants. From one of Draven’s operatives Lodermulch discovers contacts in the local thieves guild where he might be able to replace thieves tools lost in Scylia. However, money to pay for such luxuries is a problem at this point.

Leelo and Lodermulch shadow Yandroon to the somewhat-comfortable inn Finch knows him to frequent. After Yandroon retires to the second floor, Leelo scales the alley-side wall. She falls and sprains an ankle, but Krag is there to heal her. A night-watch consisting of 20 armored skeletons and six living guardsmen troops past, but they fail to notice Krag and Leelo. On the second try she reaches the open window of an empty chamber being aired out. The elf picks the reverse lock on the interior door. Finch uses his telepathic speech to communicate the coming and going of customers and servants. Leelo is unable to locate the correct chamber until Lodermulch discovers the name ‘Todos’ scrawled next to a number in the innkeeper’s key drawer. Finch relays this information and Leelo is soon inside Yandroon’s chamber. The merchant-lord is not present. In fact the chamber is entirely unused. The heavy window shutter is wide open to the city street below. The only evidence of occupancy is crumpled paper in a somewhat-soiled chamber pot.

The papers record various accounts and personal notes from which Leelo confirm Yandroon’s identity and his reason for coming to this far settlement. It appears Yandroon has grown fearful regarding the purchaser of the first three fruits, who he has come to suspect is “the Queen of Storms.” Finch is able to recall that this is a common sobriquet for the immortal Queen Os-Gabella, arch-terror of the Sheaim Empire and many another. This goes far in explaining Yandroon’s festering fear and extravagant precautions. When one sups with the devil…

The seven rune-heroes spend a sleepless night at the inn. Mesmer conducts a ritual to summon his familiar, something he hasn’t bothered with until now. The crow sits outside the open window of Yandroon’s chamber all night, but the merchant never returns by means mundane or magical. Nor does he appear in Nininsnal over the following days. Either he’s away personally validating Mesmer’s note (which of course will be revealed as a forgery well before any meeting at the Marquess’ keep), or has truly flown the coop.

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Session 0: Debacle at Scylia
Sailors on the Seas of Fate

AE-session0-PIC-FortScylia_20170930.jpgA diverse group of heroes from across Arcanearth arrive one by one at the island of Scylia, southernmost of the Atlantean island chain in the center of the Earthsea. A small fort and nearby town serve as a trading outpost on this southern fringe of the Amurite empire. All things considered, a fairly unremarkable place. Most are destitute upon reaching Scylia with few prospects and little understanding of the geas or curse that has driven them to this remote location. The cursed rune-heroes wander the town and trading fort for several days. With the exception of Mesmer and Leelo, they fail to encounter one another until a surprise raid by a Lanun fleet on the 3rd day…

Dark roiling clouds fill the normally blue skies over Scylia. With no warning a line of ships appear off the coast, accompanied by towering water spouts and flashes of lightning. Three massive copper-plated warships are surrounded by a cluster of lesser vessels. Black corsairs of the Lanun pirate empire! Lanun Evokers ensconced in armored crows-nests doubtless concealed and sped the approach of their fleet. There have been troubles between the Lanun and Amurites for decades, both empires competing for control of the trade routes across this single vast ocean of Arcanearth, but a raid was not expected so soon. Terrified inhabitants flee toward the trading fort above the town, but too late.

AE-session0-MAP-FortScylia_20170930.jpgThe presence of Saryin Nures, a ‘Speaker of the Tide’ for the Octopus Overlords, is first announced by a green and black banner, then a massive rolling wave of water approaching the shore and growing taller every second. The defenders of Scylia are barely assembled when the unnatural tsunami blots out the horizon. The coastal town is smashed as a tower of water crashes over the shore. The massive wave pounds up and over the low cliff below the fort to batter down the south ramparts. A grotesque tangle of people, animals, carts, merchant stalls and soldiers are left behind as the waters recede. Monstrous water spouts trundle across the shore to roam about the remains of the broken town, blocking all hope of escape. The fort with it’s wealth of trade goods is left comparatively intact. Small boats packed with Lanun raiders begin to beach on the tattered shores well east of the fortress, probably to circle around and approach from the landward side.

Less than a minute later, foul shapes of once-human beings rise from the submerged shoreline to shamble forward over the shattered breakwater. They are accompanied by spitting rain and tattered fog blowing in with the onshore wind. Surviving townsfolk and merchants catching sight of the approaching creatures scream in terror. Some are swept up by the giants of living water as they flee through the gates in panic. Those few defenders still manning the walls begin to break and run. Above the wail of wind and rain can be heard panicked shouts of “Drown, the Drown are here…flee for your lives!” (1)

A squad Amurite Firebows and at least one sorcerer are stranded and unable to flee from a tower now isolated by destroyed connecting walls. Fiery arrows and streaks of flame glimmer through the haze of rain and mist. No less than 3 massive bolts of lightning strike down from the turbulent sky to crown the tower with a nimbus of cracking white fire.

Krag & Lodermulch

PC_Krag_profile_Chris.jpgKrag arrived at Fort Scylia ten days ago with little money and no friends. Fortunately, half-orcs are in high demand as guards and enforcers among the Amurite magocracy. Krag was quickly identified as an exceptional specimen and soon became embroiled in local intrigues of the House of Almeriaq in Scylia. The bemused half-orc was soon scapegoated and subsequently imprisoned in the dungeons beneath the keep. He now sits staring at a tiny man crouched as far away as possible in their shared cell.

PC_Lodermulch_profile_Chuck.jpgLodermulch was nabbed while trying to rob the home of a neighboring sorcerer. Unfortunately his lack of familiarity with magical wards of the sort used by Amurite sorcerers cost him his last penny. It would be no more than simple decency to put that monstrous half-orc in another cell! Though it seems we’re both cursed with the same magical rune.

When water begins to flood the dungeon, both halfling and half-orc spring into action. The half-orc guards out of sight down the hall are arguing loudly about what to do. Lodermulch attempts unsuccessfully to pick the cell lock using only the bent handle from a nearby water bucket. Krag tries to bend the heavy iron bars, but they are beyond his strength. By now the water is up to Lodermulch’s neck.

The halfling notices crumbling bricks in the ceiling. He and Krag are able to pry the rotten masonry apart once the water floats them high enough. Krag shoves the halfling through the gap. Beyond is a chimney flue filled with soot and smoke. Seawater pours down the hole, quickly extinguishing the fires below. Krag and Lodermulch manage to crab-climb up the filthy conduit.

The unlikely duo emerge upon a high parapet to witness the unfolding disaster in the courtyard and town below. Clearly there is no safety within the fort or hope of escape inland. Krag grabs a bronze-bladed halberd lying nearby. Lodermulch finds a sling abandoned by some terrified lad of the fortress guard. They sprint forward through blowing rain to the south end of the keep where they spy an abandoned galley beached on the shingles to the west.

Ulfmar & Keelo

PC_Ulthmar_profile_Chris.jpgUlfmar the dwarf bard has been making a good living at the Green Hag Tavern inside the trading fort walls. The trip hasn’t been too hard on him financially, so he’s managed to hang on to his precious iron battleaxe and other valuables. Also in the Green Hag is the elven druid Keelo, reduced to near-poverty with only a dirty robe and wood staff to his name. He sits distrustfully nursing a mug of small ale. Both have noticed the rune floating above the other’s head, but bide their time.

When the east wall is battered down by the unnatural wave, the tavern is quickly swarmed by terrified patrons, guards, merchants and refugees from town. A wild-eyed and ill-prepared young officer is making an ineffectual attempt to restore order and get people down into the cellar (which is still dry). He’s clearly making things worse. A fearful clamoring is heard over the din and even more panicking refugees squeeze into the tavern, some screaming in terror and bearing ghastly wounds. Ulfmar and Keelo find it impossible to easily exit the tavern at this point.

PC_Keelo_profile_Brian.jpgKeelo jumps up on a nearby table and successfully enspells the officer despite being pulled down by the mob. The charmed lieutenant is lost in the throng. In a burst of fury Ulfmar grabs a bench and batters a path to the doors while singing a sea-chantey at the top of his lungs. Keelo sees his opportunity and falls in behind the bellowing dwarf. At the doors to the trading yard they confront a scene of destruction left in the wake of retreating waters. Even worse, scores of undead thralls from the deep are clambering over the broken masonry and pushing the screaming survivors in this direction.

Mesmer & Leelo

PC_Leelo_portrait_Brian.jpgA few days after arriving in Scylia, the elf rogue Leelo found a kindred spirit in the disgraced wizard Mesmer. Neither acknowledged the glowing blue rune hanging above the other’s head, both thinking they might gain some future advantage by keeping it to themselves. The pair worked out a plan to rob the chambers of the sorcerous Baron Almeriaq of Scylia. After successfully infiltrating the keep, the thieves became trapped in an unused servant’s chamber just down the hall from the Baron’s chambers.

PC_Mesmer-Almeriaq-of-Scylia_profile_Chuck.jpgThree tense hours later the keep shakes to the impact of Speaker Nures’ destructive wave. Mesmer and Leelo observe a troop of elite guards arrive to ransack the Baron’s chamber, departing with a heavy pay-chest and various other articles. Undoubtedly sent to retrieve the choicest items for the Baron! Cursing this misfortune, both race from their hiding place to the open doorway.

Within the dim chamber is a heavy canopy bed, a wardrobe with contents scattered across the floor, open/empty chest and ornate writing desk harboring a maze of compartments, cubbys and drawers. On the wall above the desk hangs a shield and silver sword. Urged forward by the sounds of mayhem outside, both dash for the desk to see if any valuables or magic were overlooked by the guards. Mesmer waits impatiently while Leelo searches for and finds a poison trap in one locked drawer. She disables the trap and picks the lock with ease. The pair jostle one another as they greedily snatch for the items within. Leelo is quick as a serpent and comes away with a lambent green pearl of considerable value and a stoppered bottle of scrimshaw whalebone. Mesmer shoves the elf aside and manages to grab a glass bottle of fuming blue liquid and small purse filled with gold. While Leelo checks for hidden compartments, Mesmer crumples stacks of scrolls and other papers into his jacket. Who knows what bits of magic might be found within the Baron’s correspondence?

Both look up toward the silver sword firmly affixed to the wall above, then at one another. Without hesitation Mesmer clambers up onto the desk. With a sneer of disgust Leelo springs across the room to check the ransacked wardrobe for hidden compartments.

Mesmer stands atop the desk. He fails to notice the brush of leathery wings. Also he’s forgotten to ward himself with mage armor. The gifted wizard exerts his considerable physical strength to snap the gleaming sword from it’s cast-iron mountings. A valuable find indeed! How to keep it from that scheming little elf? Hopefully she’ll be entranced by some worthless bauble in the armoire and we won’t have to dice for it.

A moment later, Leelo is alerted by Mesmer’s strangled cry of terror. A tiny leather-winged demonling has appeared out of thin air…undoubtedly the Baron’s imp familiar. For a few seconds Leelo watches to see how things turn out. In a fantastic feat of desperate dexterity the screaming mage blurts out a spell of shielding and avoids the deadly whip-tailed sting, but his newly-won sword clatters to the floor. Mesmer’s will to survive is most impressive! Such an ally could be useful in the trying times ahead. She makes her decision and dances across the room in a whirl of mithril blades. The chittering little horror is quickly sliced into sizzling segments which soon evaporate in tendrils of stinking black smoke.

Mesmer lies sprawled across the desk in an undignified posture. Falling to the floor, the sweating wizard scrambles on all fours toward the blade. Leelo laughingly snatches it up and dances a jig of triumph across the room. Mesmer bounces to his feet, shouting “Its an odd-numbered item, dice for it you little devil!” Leelo’s face briefly twists into a leer of hate dark enough to eclipse the sun, were it not already masked by the magic of Saryin Nures. The thieves produce their respective dice and make a toss. Leelo’s cube balances on one corner, then inexplicably falls with the ‘6’ facing up. Leelo squeals in delight and repeats her victory dance around the room, “Mine all mine, silly wizard! hahahaha!”

Terrified servants flee from their path as the pair race through the keep and out into the ground floor feast hall. Mesmer lacks any weapons. He spies a pair of black obsidian mauls mounted above the double doors opening to the trading yard and pauses briefly to climb a table and wrest one of the barbaric implements from it’s mountings. Mesmer and Leelo step out of the hall into the stormy half-light of the courtyard. A half-dressed guard is being rended limb-from-limb by a hideous green and yellow-scaled zombie out of submarine nightmare. Dozens more perform similar grisly work all about the courtyard, slowing pushing the panic-stricken survivors toward the north gate. Those who flee out the gates are quickly sucked up by towering spouts of living water roaming the grounds around the castle and the shattered town below.

At this fateful moment the six sigil-cursed heroes spy one another. They are easily identified by the brightly glowing blue runes hovering overhead, apparently visible only to others similarly afflicted by the curse. Krag waves his arms from atop the keep’s south parapet and points his halberd west. Ulfmar and Keelo run to meet up with the tall ebon-haired noble and slight green-eyed elf who just stepped from the castle keep into the courtyard, smashing and dismembering a few Drown (1) along the way. The long-lost siblings Leelo and Keelo recognize one another, but there is no time for celebration as the four heroes fight their way toward the remains of the western wall.

Lodermulch slings accurate stones from the parapet above, smashing the putrid brains out of two icthyoid zombies blocking the path of those below. Krag tosses a discarded spear from the walls and pins one fishy monster to the flagstones where it spins in circles. Leelo lops legs, heads and arms from the clumsy Drown like an elf-powered fruit ninja. Seeing no Drown in the vicinity of the abandoned galley, all six clamber over the rubbled wall and race down the beach.

After successfully launching the ship into a stormy bay, a mysterious offshore squall blows up out of nowhere and drives the galley far out to sea. Lanun ships are nowhere to be seen through the swirling mist and rain. Night settles. The next day dawns clear and bright with clouds scudding across the horizon. The single mast is broken and only three oars remain aboard…not enough to scull effectively. Five days of food and fresh water are found in the hold, along with weapons, tools and supplies. (2)


(1) The Drown: humans, elves, humanoids and others transformed into undead thralls of the Overlords through secret rituals. The victims assume icthyoid characteristics including greenish-yellow scaly skin, protuberant eyes with nictitating membranes, webbed hands and feed. They can tread water as well as they can walk, or plod along the submarine surfaces of lakes, slow flowing rivers and shallow coastal waters. Otherwise they resemble zombies.

(2) 4 shields, 1 great-shield (+3AC, 20lbs), 8 spears, 2 military forks (reach/1d6/5lb), 2 knives, a short bow + 17 arrows, a short sword, 2 helmets and 3 shirts of heavy mail, a few tools and supplies: saw, 3 hammers, auger, nails, 100’ of rope, 3 square yards of sailcloth, jar of oil, jar of shellac.

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