A 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.
The presence of Saryin Nures, a Speaker of the Tide for the Octopus Overlords, is announced by a green and black banner unfurled above the flagship, 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 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.
Lodermulch 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 their 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 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.
Ulfmar 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.
A 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.
Three 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.