Ruins of Adventure

Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 9
Splitting the Party: Lyra's Story


Lyra, Amara, and Brother Rant suddenly appear standing right in front of the gates of the ‘The Waiting’, Phlan’s temple to Tyr, god of justice. Brother Rant looks around, bewildered, as does the white-robed acolyte sitting at his feat, apparently so surprised by your arrival that he fell on his ass. Numerous passers-by, guards, lay worshipers, bureaucrats, shoppers, and adventurers, stand gawking.

Brother Rant reaches down a hand to help the acolyte up, still clearly in pain as he does so, “Sorry about that brother,” then turns to Lyra. “You certainly know how to make an exit, miss.” He takes Amara by the hand, “Things were starting to look quite intense back there. Are you sure your friends will be alright?”


Lyra looks around and sighs. “I’m going to be in so much trouble when Mother hears about this. I’m … not supposed to do that. Even the others didn’t know.”

“They tried to recruit Mr. Shaddup twice, so I truly don’t think they would harm him without direct provocation. As for Mr. Donovan, he didn’t exactly help de-escalate the situation, but he’s quite experienced at talking his way out of problems, including ones of his own creation. The others of Miss Rietta’s group seemed to prefer cooperating with us to additional conflict, but I also think that she was being extra nice to me because I had the books from that room. What was the saying? “A rich man is everyone’s friend, a poor man no one’s.” I might be able to contact them after I’ve had some … time to … rest." Lyra wobbles a bit, unused to expending so much effort at once, and now twice in as many days.

“Can we … go inside? Everyone is staring. Surely people shouldn’t be that surprised at Professor Aumry’s niece suddenly appearing places. And please don’t tell my mother about this. Or if it comes up, at least bring up the ‘threatened by an enraged ogress’ bit.”


“Of course miss,” Brother Rant opens the doors of the temple and heads inside, pulling Amara along beside him. A blast of sound from a large pipe organ, and the sharp smell of burning incense assault you as he opens the doors. He turns to the acolyte as the three of you walk in, “Brother, these girls are under my protection. Can you please run ahead and ask Sister Theymr to prepare beds for them in the women’s dormitory, and then call for Father Aiken to meet me in the infirmary, as I am in need of healing myself.” The acolyte bows and runs off down a side passage. “I’m afraid, Miss Lyra, that around here a minor is strange enough, let alone one appearing out of midair. I don’t know where you come from, but we have only a half-handful of mages of any recognizable power, of which, so far as I have seen, the Professor is the only one capable of traveling in that manner. Also, I am not usually in the habit of lying to people, but I do not know your mother, so it is unlikely that I would tell her about your own impressive displays of power.”

“Now,” he gestures to a passage on the left, “the women’s wing is down this hall. I am not allowed beyond the arch, but if you take a left at the end of the hall and go down the stairs, you will find the dormitories, where the two of you should be able to rest safely. I will send for you once I have had my wounds looked at…”


Lyra takes Amara and heads down the hall, to the left, and down the stairs towards the women’s dormitory, hoping the others will not be long in arriving at the temple, safe and sound.


You come down the stairs into a long, low-ceilinged, windowless room. The walls are lined with rows of single-beds with thick, soft-looking mattresses, satin sheets, and beautifully quilted, white, down comforters, twenty to a side. A single brass hook is set into the wall by each bed, a few with white robes, similar to that worn by Brother Rant, though less blood-stained, hanging from them. Running down the center of the room are two long trestle-tables of polished, white oak. The room is lit by a trio of large candelabras sitting on the tables.

Three white-robed women sit at one of the tables, throwing dice, picking at a large tray of meat and cheeses, and swearing fit to make a sailor’s ears turn red. Each has a small pile of silver coins and a goblet of dark red wine sitting in front of them. At the far end of the room another, much older-looking, woman is turning down two of the beds and whistling along with the tune that can still be heard being banged out on the organ above.


Lyra takes in the comfortable looking beds, the dice, the swearing Sisters, and the giant plate of food. This was going to be a much less boring wait than she had anticipated. She thought it unlikely she would be able to get much sleep before Brother Rant’s healing was completed and Mr. Donovan and Mr. Shaddup returned. She could start reading the books, but if it involved gates and demon summoning this seemed like a poor choice of location. Weren’t lemurs supposed to be fluffy, or was that something else?

Lyra smoothed her skirt and straightened her cloak, clearing her head of all thoughts but the present. “Pardon us, but are you Sister Theymr? Brother Rant said there would be beds for us.”


The women at the table look up, smile, then resume their game. The old woman finished fluffing a pillow, then makes the long walk down the hall to you. “I’m Theymr, pleased to meet you,” she extends a hand, “I’ve got the spare beds all ready for you.” She gives Amara a long, hard look, then smiles. “Who would’ve guessed that that crotchety, old, Zhent-sympathizer would have such a cute niece.”


Lyra ignores the remarks about Professor Aumry and takes the Sister’s hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for the hospitality; I hope it’s not too much trouble.”

She first focuses on putting Amara to bed, although nap, songs, and stories were quickly rebuffed. Exasperated, Lyra settles in to quietly read to her … out of her mother’s spellbook.


One of the ladies at the table, seeing Amara fall asleep, sets down her cup and walks over to Lyra. She peers, squint-eyed, through a pair of spectacles at the pile of books beside Lyra, and inquires, “What’s that you’re reading?”


Lyra looks up from the book, absentmindedly tracing the magical diagram on the page with her thumb.

“This is a book of magical incantations given to me by my mother.” She looks down at Amara. “She’s quite talented, especially for her age. The other two books we found in the ruins. They still need to be checked for wards, runes, or other protections against the unwary. Our companions should be here soon….” Lyra’s gaze returns to the book in her lap, tears starting to well up in the corners of her eyes.


The priestess stares interested at the books for a bit, saying a brief prayer under her breath, casting find traps. Then picks up one of them, “They look fine to me. May I…” only then does she look at Lyra, noticing that she’s crying. “Oh! What’s wrong?” she says, sitting down on the edge of the bed, putting one hand on the shoulder of the crying girl, and absentmindedly flipping through the book with the other.


Lyra looks over at the books as the nun flips through them. “One of my companions died getting those, and one of another team’s men went through a gate that was there to guard it. And I don’t know if the others will make it back safely. But … Brother Rant could hardly walk even if he wouldn’t admit it, and Amara is….” She trails off, starting to hiccup. “Well, I … hic … had to make sure they … hic … made it back safely … hic. That was the right thing to do, right?”


The priestess continues to leaf through the book with increasing interest, only half-listening to Lyra’s story. “Where did you get th…” She pauses, mid-question as she turns to look at Lyra again and realizes the extent of her sobbing. “Oh, dear. Is the little girl alright? She doesn’t look injured…” She gently pulls back the covers with one hand, still holding the book tight with the other, and gives the girl a cursory inspection. “Oh, she’s fine, and yes, you definitely did the right thing in getting the girl and Rant out of danger, though he’s usually pretty good at taking care of himself.” Her eyes widen as she continues to ponder what Lyra is saying. “Oh! You don’t fancy him do you?!”


Lyra turns bright red, and lets out one last hiccup as she stares at the nun, stunned. “Fancy…? We … found him, stabbed by a group of orc lepers. Even after some healing, he could barely walk!”

She turns her attention back to the book. “We found the books in a locked room with a gate inscribed on the floor. Two demons were in the next room. Lemurs? One of them … one of them killed Mr. Gendry. Based on these notes, I don’t think it was supposed to be a gate, but the general theme does kind of explain the demons.”


“Devils dear, not demons. Baatezu to be precise. Judging from what I’m reading, I’m amazed that the author of these was able to summon even a lemure,” she emphasizes the long ‘you’ sound, “let alone create a functioning portal. It was most likely a mistake.” She somehow looks positively delighted at the thought. “Where was this room? In town I presume? The Slums? The other side of the river?”

“Oh, and it’s no shame if you like Rant. He was quite the dashing fellow when he was younger…international spy and all that.” She pats Lyra not-so-reassuringly on the knee. “And never you mind about religious vows or any nonsense like that. It would be unjust to deny someone the opportunity to love.” She winks. “People get all sorts of crazy ideas about Lord Tyr, and I don’t know where from…”


“Yeah, I see flaws in some of the formulae.” Lyra shakes her head. “Not exactly an expert in his – or her – field. We came across a near collapsing building on the way back from the stables near Professor Aumry’s tower. There was a locked door with the books, some laboratory equipment, and the gate. Covered in quite a bit of dust. I assume whoever did this has been … indisposed … for some time now. So — what was that about Brother Rant being an international spy?”


The priestess blinks, apparently having a hard time pulling her eyes off the book. “Rant? Oh, dearie, he’s one of those who harp. You know, a meddler, as most of the people up here call them. I’m not sure where he’s from originally, somewhere down south clearly, but he was up here spying on the Zhents. He apparently was working with the tribes north of the mountains, Eraka they call ‘em, trying to train them to defend themselves against the Zhentarim extremists, and got converted to the worship of Lord Grimjaws—that’s what they call Tyr up there. Apparently he went full-tilt in his worship too, even getting into spirit summoning and other primitive nonsense like that. Quite the guy Rant, tends to throw himself headfirst into everything. So he converts, and then those who harp hear about it and re-assigned him to Phlan, so that he could get a proper education in the faith from Bishop Braccio. He gets a lot more autonomy than many of us here—some special arrangement between the Bishop and the meddlers. The Bishop hires him out as a body-guard sometimes, mostly to councilmembers when they are traveling, and he’s been on duty over at Half-a-Loaf in the slums for the last month or so, but mostly he’s free to come and go as he pleases…and is probably still keeping watch on Zhent sympathizers like Aumry and Mace.” She finally sets the book down and stands up from the bed. “I’d like to peruse those in detail later if you’ll let me, Diabology is a particular interest of mine. We were playing Three Man, care to join in a round?”


“Huh. You’d think a well traveled harper would know better than to get shanked by Xvimlar in the slums.” Lyra sighs and shakes her head, running a thumb down the spine of the book. “As for the book, now is probably going to be your best chance to look at it. I hope my companions will be here soon, though. We still need to acquire supplies for our trip to Melvaunt. Amara’s grandmother is ill, and we are to escort her there and return with supplies for Professor Aumry. Amara was wanting to go buy a candle or something for his grandmother, and I would like to get food, sling bullets, and a change of travelling clothes, and a few other minor things. I’m not well supplied for a long journey after my own trip to Phlan…”


“If you have shopping to do, I could watch the girl. You should be able to get all of those things here in town without having to wander out to the slums again.” She takes the books and stretches out on the bed next to Amara’s. “Sorry girls, I’m out,” she says to the others as she settles in for some more in-depth reading.


“I don’t suppose you would happen to know anything about these, would you?” Lyra carefully removes the items that were hidden in the fireplace from her belt pouch. “The holy water I recognize easily enough, but the powder is unlike anything I’ve seen before.”


The priestess shrugs, “Sorry dearie, not my field,” and kicks back to read. “Aylaran the silversmith offers services in identifying magical items and alchemical substances, though her prices are far from cheap…”


It was worth a try. “Would it be all right if I left some things here until I return? Some of the articles from the ruin may be fragile, and I’d rather not jostle them around in my pack more than I have to.” She wondered how much longer before Brother Rant or the others came. At least doing some shopping, she would be able to look out for Mr. Donovan and Mr. Shaddup coming in through the gates.

She also ought to speak with her mother before leaving for Melvaunt. Now THAT was a conversation she was not looking forward to.


The priestess waves a hand noncommittally, clearly not paying attention. “Sure, just leave ’em wherever. No one around here is going to take your stuff.”


Lyra carefully removes several items from her pack, placing them gently on a nearby bed. Two ceramic pint jars, a tiny vial filled with brown powder, various pieces of alchemical equipment from the ruins, a shortsword, a bokken, a whetstone, two masks of Mask, a set of lockpicks, and sets a pair of minotaur sized boots next to the bed. The last few items were rather … awkward.

“I’ve heard Petroff’s Fine Swords is near the temple of Sune, but do you know where Cockburn’s Grocery is?”


“It’s right out back from the training hall, dearie. About a block parkside from Petroff’s.” She looks up from the book briefly, adjusting her glasses. “Oh, and don’t even bother trying to haggle with Ian Cockburn, dearie, he’s a tightwad among tightwads.”


Lyra shrugs her now significantly lighter sackcloth backpack over her shoulder and carefully arranges her cloak. “I should be back shortly. If my companions or Brother Rant return before I do, could you please inform them that I went to Cockburn’s?”

She curtsies, turns and heads back upstairs and down the hallway, looking around for any sign of Brother Rant before heading outside.


The priestess continues reading through the book, then sits bolt upright. “Tyr Almighty! Who would even think of a spell like this, let alone write it down and leave it sitting out where people could get it!” She jumps to her feet, and runs after Lyra, the book tucked under her arm. “Wait! Miss…what do you intend to do with ”/wikis/finnots-book" class=“wiki-page-link”> this?!"


Lyra stops dead in her tracks and turns around, hands fidgeting with her backpack strap. “Well, it will be a matter of discussion with my companions once we arrive, but my inclination was to carefully rip out and burn the worst of it. Some of it might still be useful, but some of it no one should try to replicate.”


The priestess places a hand on Lyra’s elbow and guides her out of the room. “Let’s talk as we walk, dearie. I’ll show you a shortcut to the grocer’s.” Once they are out of the room, she adds, “I don’t think tearing pages out is the right way to address this kind of information. Having a window into this kind of infernal research would be very useful for my order, assuming we can keep it out of the wrong hands.”


Lyra allows herself to be escorted, considering the Sister’s words. “Immolation does solve the ‘wrong hands’ issue nicely, though. And this research seems rife with inaccuracies. The ability to pierce protections seems rather concerning, and might be pertinent to researching stronger wards, but what value is there in the rest of it?”


“Oh, I was thinking we could gate in a handful of lemures to train the troops. A practical primer on what weapons work against fiends and how to destroy infinitely regenerating enemies.” She steers Lyra up to the sanctuary, out a side door, and across the square towards the Training Hall. “Of course, we’d need to find a mage sufficiently trustworthy to cast the spell only when directed.”


“What if they get loose? What if the trainees aren’t prepared? What if the spell doesn’t even work properly? His notes to complete the last sigil? Based on the physical gate we found, it seemed to end in an unplanned one way trip to the lower planes. Those things killed Gendry. Even if the spell works properly, to summon more into this plane is unconscionable.” Lyra shakes her head. “If you want tactics against lemures, holy water made them bubble away into little yellow wisps of gas.”


As you cross the square, you hear a load “BOOM!” from just on the other side of the wall, and look up to see a large cloud of dust and debris settling over the Slums.


Lyra stops, looking towards the dust plume visible over the wall. “That … may have been the gate.” She looks considerably happier. “And if it was, that means Mr. Shudrigan is safe.”


The priestess blinks once, twice, then shakes her head. “Your friends did that?! I took you for a novice…” she looks ruefully at Lyra, “Sorry.” As she leads the way around the back of the temple, she continues. “I understand that the Council has offered quite a heft sum for clearing the slums, but I thought that meant driving out some of the goblin and kobold riff-raff, not burning the whole thing down…”


“The building was near collapsing anyway. He probably just helped it along. Unless of course that was his weapon. But I don’t remember it kicking up that much dust…”


“Your friend has a weapon that can do that?! He’s not a Gondsman is he?” As they cross the street from the square, she waves a hand. “And here is Cockburn’s.”


“He says ‘Gond rest his soul’ a lot and prays to Gond. Yes, I’m fairly sure he’s a Gondsman.” Lyra spares one more glance at the dust plume and heads inside.


The priestess walks in behind the girl, idly brushing the door chime with her free hand. Seeing Lyra run off to collect her goods and not really here to shop herself, she walks up to the counter. “Good morrow, Mr. Cockburn. We missed you at the Goblin last night. I was hoping to have the chance to win my money back. So how’s business?”


The store is a cramped place. Aisles of tall shelves are stacked with bags of flour, baskets of bread, barrels of pickles and sourkraut, spools of thread, piles of towels and linens, coils of rope, all manner of robes, dresses, and other accouterments, and everything in between. The man behind the counter is perhaps in his late twenties, tall and thin, with sharp features and a rather sideways smile. He gives a level, appraising look at the priestess, “I’m sorry, have we met?”


Lyra goes through the aisles, efficiently collecting a growing pile of rations, camping supplies, rope, and clothing, and a sturdy leather backpack with which to carry it all.


“Ian, it’s me, Winona. Remember, two nights ago at the Laughing Goblin you pulled those three aces and ran me and two of my sisters dry?” She smiles. “We want some Justice. Tonight at the Bitter Blade. Bring your cards and a fat purse.”


The grocer grins, “Justice, eh? Alright I’ll see you there.” He looks at the girl with the giant pile of supplies in her arms, and yells to her. “Hey girl, those candles are BOGO this week.” Then turns back to Winona. “Business is fine for now, but won’t be for long. The Council just shut down the harbor. After this morning’s load off the Wake, they say no more ships are allowed to enter or leave the harbor until Sokal Keep is dealt with.”


Lyra shifts the pile and selects several more candles, bringing the total up to 10, and takes everything over to the counter.

Lyra arranges the items neatly on the counter and looks up at Mr. Cockburn. “Closing the harbor? Why would they cut off more people coming in who could help with the problem? Are ships being attacked or something?”


The man begins sorting through the pile of items and tallying it up using an abacus. “They could probably let the Wake go, it’s a month round trip for the ship anyways, but this past week three fishing boats were attacked. It used to be okay to just avoid the island, the creatures from the ruins did the same, but now, apparently, some orcs or hobgoblins or some such have set up shop on the island, in spite of whatever evil is lurking in the Keep itself. Some of the fishermen even say that the orcs went and stirred up whatever lives in the keep, and that, in addition to the orc raids on the fishing boats, they’ve been seeing things in the water, unnatural things…”


“So with the harbor closed, anyone wanting to go out there is probably on there own, eh? I bet the Council’s raising the bounty on the keep nice and high if that’s the case.” She looks snoopily over Lyra’s pile of purchases. “You look like you’re gearing up for a proper quest, dearie.”


Lyra looks shocked and appalled. “Were there survivors?”

Lyra looks over at the Sister. “My companions and I will be escorting Professor Aumry’s niece to Melvaunt, and it seemed prudent to pick up a few things for the journey.”


“Going to Melvaunt? Careful getting out of town, things have been heating up in the Slums and the area around the old well. Once you’re out though, you should be fine if you stick to the road. I had a shipment come in just two days ago, it sounds like the paladins up at Iniarv’s Tower are keeping a good handle on the lizards and things through the swamp.” He finishes tallying the cost. “Would you like me to bag all that up for you?”


Lyra nods. “Yes, please. How long does it typically take for a wagon to get here from Melvaunt? Do you do special orders? For future reference, of course.”


Cockburn begins carefully arranging the gear in the backpack you purchased, taking the time to adjust the straps to make sure it fits you properly and make sure everything is stowed in the most likely order of it being needed. “The trip to Melvaunt takes about three days, assuming the weather holds out and nothing jumps you. Given the storms that tend to blow up along the coast, chances of flooding through the swamps, and bandit attacks, I usually allow a week either way for a caravan to get through. If there is something special you need I can usually get it within three to four weeks, allowing time for the caravan to get to Melvaunt and back, ordering, assembling the shipment, and whatnot.”


“Thank you very much.” Lyra pulls a sack of coins out of her belt pouch, glancing at the abacus.


Winona waits until Lyra has paid, then heads for the door. “Hey dearie,” she says as they walk out, “you weren’t planning on haul these books all the way to Melvaunt with you, were you?”


Lyra pays and deposits the change back in her belt pouch. “I assumed my companions and I were going to reconvene, divide up our found items, and possibly look for buyers for what we were not intending to keep. Are you interested in making an offer on it?”


Winona grins, “How about an extra hand in a fight, basic healing services, and my expert advice on battling devils, demons, and other fiends any time you’re in town? Oh, and free access to study the books yourself when you want dearie.”


Lyra smiles. “Your offer will be taken into consideration once my companions are back. I have one more stop to make, and we can return to the temple. I’m not sure how long it will take Brother Rant to recover. His wounds looked quite serious.” Lyra heads back outside, looking around to orient herself, and heads for the weapon shop near the temple of Sune.


Winona looks at the sky briefly, “Well, I have to go get ready for a card game. Have fun shopping dearie, I’ll see you back at the temple.”


“I wish you good fortune in your game tonight. It was a pleasure meeting you, Sister Winona.” As the sister leaves, Lyra stares off towards the gate. Searching. But not finding. They just got delayed, destroying the gate and looking for someone to drive the wagons. She should try to look for them again later, after she finishes at the weapon shop. She rubs her shoulder, getting accustomed to the weight of the new backpack. Surely they’re fine, and she’s just … tired. That’s all.

She heads over to the weapon shop, trying not to think about what not being able to find Donovan must mean as she pushes the door open.


As Lyra pushed her way into ’Petroff’s Fine Swords’, she nearly trips over a low figure on its way out. Looking down, she sees an extremely dirty, disheveled, and singed-looking gnome—which is to say, it looks like every other gnome she has seen in Phlan. The gnome shoves a long box into her hands, and only then does she recognize Shaddup. He looks very tired and the side of his face is badly bruised. “That’s your guys’ share,” he mumbles, barely audibly. “Not really the party I was expecting…but I got my research funding.” He stumbles out the door, and wanders off without another word.


Lyra stands for a moment, shocked, and then heads after him. “Mr. Shaddup! Wait! What happened to Mr. Donovan and the others? Come back with me to the temple, you look like you could use some healing.” Surely ‘your guys’ share’ meant that the others were ok, but….


Apparently oblivious to Lyra’s calling after him, Shaddup makes a rather wobbly bee-line across the road, past the Training Hall and other public buildings, and off in the direction of the river.


Maybe he didn’t hear her? She well remembers the ringing in her ears after he used his weapon. Lyra sighs as Shaddup heads off, presumably towards the temple to Gond. She heads back into Petroff’s, intent on finishing up quickly and heading back to the temple.

Lyra finishes up at Petroff’s, and heads down to the clerk’s office to speak with her mother on the way back to the temple.

Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 8
In which the first PC death occurs and the party splits up...


You look through the hole into an ancient residence, looking as if it has been used many times through the centuries. The frame of what was once the main exterior door hangs empty to your left and piles of trash, rubble, bones, and other debris litter the floor. Evidence of looters, both past and present, is obvious—holes gouged in the walls and floor from berks looking for secret compartments or pulling down wall-hangings, ancient paint and plaster chipped away, scratches on the floor from furniture being dragged out. One corner bears a pile of debris haphazardly heaped into a mound with a slight hollow—perhaps the bed of the lizard-thing. A half-dozen old doors, mostly indicated by empty arches with the rusting remains of hinges, lead off in every direction.

A single doorway to the east still bears an actual door, an old, heavy oaken thing, nearly petrified with age and bearing a huge, rusted lock. It is around this door that the other party huddles, watching one of the red-cloaked soldiers fiddle with the lock mechanism. Only the white-wigged priestess, standing off to one side, cradling the now withered stump of her left arm, sees you enter. She waves half-heartedly with her good hand and whistles at the others. “Hey guys, our rescuers are here…”


Gendry ducks a little going through the hole, notices the lack of other monster corpses in the room, and waves his sword at the group picking the lock in a manner meant to be equally greeting and threat, “Good afternoon. Just so we’re clear, two-thirds of anything you find in there is ours…Capisce?”


Shuddup follows Gendry in and watches the red cloak fiddle with the lock.

After a while he approaches the other party flaking an affable grin. “Hi! I’m Shudrigan Nishal Aribostos McPillflup, but my friends call me Shuddup. I was thinking perhaps I could be of some assistance. Your friend here seems a fair hand, but these old Amnish locks can be tricky. Would you care if I try my hand at it? I fear my friend here can be a trifle impatient.”


The ogress looks briefly back and forth between the minotaur’s sword and her already beat-up companions, the nods. “Two thirds it is.”

She smiles—a smile that seems oddly familiar, with her white teeth glinting against her pale-green skin, or maybe its the very large mace she is holding—and shoves the red-cloak away from the door. “One side, Vince, looks like we’ve got a real locksmith…” She waves Shaddup forward. “Nice to see you again, Mr. Gnome, I knew we’d be working together eventually.”


Shuddup stares uncomprehendingly at the ogress for a moment, not putting two and two together, “I’m sorry have we met, mam?” Before really waiting for a response he turns to the lock and begins to inspect it for any unsprung traps before beginning, “Oooh it’s been a while since I’ve seen one like this. These have a tricky half pin about midway through the set that has to come a little forward before they’ll unlock. I’m not sure if that was intentional or a design flaw, but the keys would have a catch on them for it. Either way it’s a fun lock.” He closes one eye as he begins probing the lock and sticks out his tongue as the first pin clicks into place. “Now a dwarven thunder tumbler, that’s a fine lock they have coaxial keys that rotate in opposite directions on a 2/1 gear ratio. A real bugger to pick if you’ve lost the key but they’re a beautiful design…”


Lyra tries very hard not to look incredibly uncomfortable with the exchange between Gendry and the ogress, and stays back near Amara keeping alert for other denizens of the ruins and scanning the area for signs of concealed entrances.


Lyra’s keen elven eyes are drawn, first, to the crumbling remains of the old fireplace and the heap of bricks that mark the collapsed chimney. Light shining in through a hole in the roof (or what was once the second floor) creates the tiniest of glints off of something behind a loose brick just above the old mantle. Secondly, not quite hidden, she notices a fairly recent looking smear of blood and gods-know-what-else leading around a corner to the north. At about the same time, there is an audible shrill rusty “clank” and the lock falls open.


Donovan walks in behind the others and looks around. “Glad to see you are all doing well…mostly.”

He begins walking around the outside of the room, peaking into the various side chambers while Shaddup finishes with his lock work.


Hearing the click of the lock, Gendry stalks forward, still balancing Brother Rant on his back. “Would one of you like the honor of opening the door?” He tries to gesture genteelly towards the door with his sabre, but it looks more like a pirate thrusting his blade at someone to make them walk the plank.


Lyra drops back near Donovan and keeps her voice quiet. “I recognize her from the boat, or at least her intonation, coloration, and erm, mace. A bit taller than I remember, though.” She gestures towards the blood smear. “That blood smear is recent, but I’m not sure what from. And there is some … interesting brickwork by the fireplace.”


Shuddup takes a few steps back sporting a satisfied look, “So are there any theories on what’s behind here?”


The other group stands quietly for a few beats, looking back and forth between each other, Shaddup, and Gendry’s sword. Finally the ogress gives a nudge to the second red-cloak, the least beaten-up looking of the bunch—a plain-looking fellow, whose jaw looks square in an unnatural way, like he perpetually grinds his teeth, and who is holding a loaded longbow with a slight fluttering twitch to the string-hand, “Rahm, do the honors.” He jerks a little when his name is said, shakes his head, and walks up, draws the bow tighter, nudges the door open with his foot, and aims the bow through the opening before forcing the door further with his shoulder…

As the door begins to open, Amara tugs on Donovan’s sleeve, “Ummmm, that’s not a good idea…” Then there is a bright red-orange flash, a faint whiff of brimstone, and Rahm is gone, vanished, bow and all.

The door opens into a vaulted chamber, lit by a pale blue glow that seems to radiate from the walls. The ceiling rises a good 30 feet above the floor. Supporting buttresses meet in the center, as in a cathedral’s dome. Alchemical equipment lines the far walls, while beakers, vials, chalk, a couple of large books, and a locked metal coffer litter a table close to the center of the room. Dust covers nearly everything from floor to ceiling.

Between the table and the door, a magical circle is inscribed into the floor in solid gold plating. The circle seems completely free of the dust that has gathered everywhere else in the room, though some of the traceries of the diagram outside the golden circle are not as immune to the steady accumulation of the years. The traceries form a much larger circle which runs all the way under the table and up to the threshold of the door.


Donovan replies to Lyra, “Yes, I suspect that the ogress is Miss Rietta. She was actively trying to recruit Shaddup for her team before you arrived on Valkur’s Wake. A simple polymorph would do the trick, but that would imply access to some rather powerful magic.” He barely registers Amara’s tug, but then his eyes widen as the man vanishes. He looks down at the girl, “How did you know…”

Then, turning his attention back to the others, he takes a few steps forward and tries to take control before the other party decides to blame Gendry for Rahm’s disappearance. “Those symbols on the floor look like a summoning circle. Not a trap. Perhaps a gate or portal.” He looks past the crowd into the room. “Maybe those books could tell us more…if we could get to them.”

“Shaddup, do you think there is any way to rig up some kind of bridge? Or perhaps we can get a rope attached to those buttresses and swing across to the table.”


Lyra also steps forward, keeping Donovan and Amara nearby. “It appears to be a one-way portal, likely with a specific destination. The corners of the room, and, say, the table, should be safe. I think the rope is too risky.” She looks like she’s about to say something else, but stops.

“Miss Rietta, isn’t it? I think we should check out what’s hidden in the fireplace first, and then see if there is a better way across.”


“Fireplace, huh?” Gendry looks at the crumbling brickwork, briefly ponders knocking the chimney the rest of the way down with his horns, just to see if he can, then decides against it in case the loot is breakable. He sheathes his sword, pulls out the shortsword he took off an orc, and starts prying loose bricks free from the mantle.


With everyone adequately distracted by the fireplace, Lyra whispers to Donovan “Are you truly set on acquiring what is in that room? If you can get everyone out of here, either after whatever crawled off that way, or taking care of our dead lizard thing before some opportunists do, there may be something I can do to help. But I don’t do it with an audience.”


Gendry priest the bricks away to reveal a much older looking stone wall with a small cubby, lined with the moldering scraps of some ancient velvet lining, and containing three ceramic pint jars marked with the holy symbol of Ilmater, the Crying God, two tiny glass vials filled with what looks like a brown powder, and a small, hinged wooden box, maybe two-inches on a side.


Gendry sheathes the shortsword and begins pulling the items out. “Alright, you agreed to two-thirds.” He takes one of the jars and one of the vials ans hands them to the ogress. He then scoops up the rest and hands them to Lyra. “Take care of these, we can figure out what they are later.”


As Gendry take the box out of the hole, it crumbles to dust in his hand, revealing a single pearl of deep golden colour. He [amazingly] palms the thing and passes it into Lyra’s hands without it been seen by anyone save the two of them.

Rietta takes the proffered flasks and nods. “Easy math then. Now, about getting into the other room?”

The other elven woman, who appears to be completely devoid of weapons or armor, looks from the door to the table. “The ceiling’s high enough…with a bit of a run I could jump it.”


Lyra places the objects in her belt pouch discreetly. “If it requires a running start, what about getting back?”


“The tables a bit higher, so I should be able to make it back.” She pauses in thought for a moment, then looks at Gendry and Rietta, “I might need some to catch…”


Gendry sets down Brother Rant, brushes the dust from the crumbled box off his hand, “You’re free to try the jump, and I’ll try to catch you on the way back, but I won’t be held responsible if you miss.” He then looks at the ground and sniffs. “This bloods relatively fresh though, we might want to check it out before anyone tries jumping over an active gate.”

He draws his sabre and follows the blood trail into the other room.


Sawdust fills a metal bed frame without a’ mattress which sits at the far side of this rank-smelling room. Inside the frame lies a corpse, which has been there for some months; the bed that had dominated this room is now squirming with vermin scouring the bones. Other bones, clearly gnawed upon and many gouged and burned by acid litter the floor. The smear of viscera leads to a large closet on the south end of the room.

As Gendry enters, his nostrils flare as his excellent olfactory senses recoils from the smell of blood and offal. He sees something crouching in the closet, mostly hidden save for a large, fleshy knob—like the shoulder or knee of someone extremely obese. The thing moves slightly, as if breathing. A large, gaping wound can be seen on the exposed surface, seeping blood and crawling with maggots.


Donovan nods and whispers, “Alright Lyra,” then pulls out his hurdy gurdy and follows Gendry into the other room, “Your right Gen,” he says much more loudly, “let’s check it out…”

“Come on everyone, we night some fightin’ music!” He begins playing, loudly, slowly, and as annoyingly as possible…

Born high forever to fly
Wind velocity nil
Wanna high forever to fly
If you want your cup our fill
They call me mellow yellow…


Lyra cringes, regretting not also telling Donovan that she needed to be able to concentrate. But a distraction is a distraction.


Similarly cringing, Rietta and her companions follow Donovan and Gendry into the other room, all save the one-armed priestess of Beshaba who at this point seems to be in something of an ecstatic state, contemplating her misfortune.

As the drone of Donovan’s music builds up, there is a sudden lurch from the closet and a pair of grotesque, disfigured blobs of flesh stagger out towards you, their twisted, melted faces molded into expressions of horrid anguish. They move forward with crude claw-like appendages extended, leaving a trail of blood and viscera from numerous large bite-wounds covering their forms—wounds which appear to be closing as you watch.


“Well that’s just gross,” Gendry remarks. “Looks like Mr. Lizard had a self-replicating food source. Also looks like acid clearly won’t do the trick. Any ideas? Fire?”

He steps in front of the others and strikes an en garde.


Donovan keeps singing, and just shakes his head when Gendry glances back, as if to say ‘I have no idea’.


Rietta steps up beside Gendry, mace in one hand, her left hand flipping an electrum coin. “I don’t know what they are, but we have them outnumbered five to one. Even trolls stop clawing if you hit them enough.” She flips the coin one more time and begins chanting something under her breath.

Another of her companions, a half-elven man with dark hair, a creepy stair, and dark robes that smell like he’s been swimming in piss speaks up, in a dispassionate monotone, “They’re lemures. Tortured souls used as battle fodder in the legions of Hell.” He wanders nonchalantly over to the bedframe and looks down at the corpse within. “You’ll want to douse them with holy water…” He pours a vial of foul-smelling water and throws a handful of dirt over the corpse. “Maybe this guy can help…”

Teldicia, the other elven woman, peaks her head in and looks at the things. “Not much I can do to help you guys, other than to say, if it is devils we’re dealing with. Acid and electricity will hurt them just fine, silver works good, fire is useless. Of course, they heal so bloody fast that those are just temporary solutions at best.” She then skips back to the other door. “You guys keep them busy, I’m gonna jump for the loot. Then maybe we can get the hell out of here…”

The white-haired priestess slumps down to sit beside Rant, giving him a wan smile. She pulls a jar of leeches out of her pack and begins applying them to the withered stump of her arm.

Teldicia, runs for the open door to the portal chamber and leaps, springing a good ten-feet into the air and easily clearing the gap to the table. At the same time, the air above the table shimmers. Just as she is about to land, she passes through the wavering field above the table and vanishes, tumbling out onto the ground right in front of Lyra, who now appears to be holding the two books from the table.

The two fleshy blobs surge forward, more undulating than walking. The first reaches out, its snake-like appendage writhing and twisting around Gendry’s defenses, latching a claw onto his forearm.

The red-cloak draws a sword and walks up behind Gendry and Rietta, “Vinny’s got your back, Hornhead.” He then proceeds to jam the sword into Gendry’s back, as promised. “Also…Fuck you and your two-thirds.”

Rietta flips the coin one more time and says something under her breath. The coin vanishes with a flash and the air between her and Gendry is suddenly filled with little, floating, pink hearts that appear instantly and pop out of existence just as suddenly like little balloons.


Gendry drops his sword and collapses to the ground, clutching his side where the sword went clean through and glaring at Vinny. “The Shadowlord smiles on you Vinny, but your timing sucks…” He looks meaningfully at the glassy-eyed ogress.


Seeing Gendry go down to such base treachery, Donovan drops his instrument, pulls the scroll of staves from out of his pocket, grabs a splinter of wood off the ground, and begins casting Decastave.


Lyra immediately ceases concentration. “Are you all right, Miss? Mr. Shaddup, could you please have a look at this?” She walks over and passes off a small locked chest to Shaddup.


Teldicia looks up, slightly confused by her sudden relocation. “I’m fine…looks like there is more than one portal protecting that stuff…must be good.” She stands, brushes herself off, never once looking at Lyra, then notices the commotion from the other room. “Shit Vinny! Rietta I told you hiring the pervs was a bad idea!” She turns and looks at Lyra, Shaddup, and the priests. “Any of you got holy water? It seems like all the fighters are too busy duking it out amongst themselves to worry about the infernal blobs…”

She pauses and looks at the chest Lyra is holding, then back into the portal room. “Well fuck me. Figured out that other portal huh? How ’bout you, me, and the gnome make a run for it?”


“Holy water! Of course! Miss Rietta has one jar, I have the other two. Or we could try to lure them into the portal room and send them back to presumably where they came from.”


Reacting to Vinny’s treachery quickly, Donovan summons forth a ten-foot long staff of glowing, blue force and takes a mighty swing at the back of Vinny’s head. Distracted both by his success, and the enraged ogress, Vinny doesn’t even see the blow coming until it connects with the back of his neck with a loud, sickening crack. He slumps to the ground, instantly dead. Donovan, meanwhile, feels a sudden surge of vigor as Vinny’s lifeforce is sucked through the staff into him.

With Gendry slumped on the floor, the two lemures swing wildly at the next nearest target, Rietta. One manages to catch her across the back, though its soft claws barely break the skin.

Rietta growls and also swings at Vince, just a second too slow. Her huge mace whistling over his head as he falls, spinning her in almost a complete circle and, miraculously, lands a glancing blow on one of the blob-things attacking her, sending a spray of molten flesh against the wall.

Hearing the sounds of combat and talk of treachery from the other room, Brother Rant pulls himself up the wall and hobbles to the the door to see what’s going on. The one-armed priestess, hearing the same, mumbles “Screw this…” and runs out of the building.


Donovan steps up and swings at one of the lemures. “Lyra, get that holy water in here!”


Lyra rushes over to the doorway and carefully removes the two jars of holy water from her belt pouch.


Gendry lies on the ground muttering, “I’m not dead yet…I’m not dead yet…I’m getting better…I feel fine…I think I’ll go for a walk…”


Still amazingly quick, Donovan slams the staff of force down hard on the top of one of the lemures, its head collapsing inward like a fallen cake with a spray of yellow-brown gore. It swings back at Donovan, but flails ineffectually, unable to compete with the reach of his staff.

Lyra runs into the room, holy water in hand, at the same time as the second blob-like creatures throws itself down and forward, a mouthlike orifice opening to bite at Gendry’s prone form. Teeth, or other sharp bone-like protrusions, emerge fish-like from the soup of its waxy body, grinding into Gendry’s flesh.

Rietta fumbles with her pouch for a second, coming up with the other flask of holy water. She pops the cork and spikes the flask, full force, into the back of the lemure lying on Gendry. The sanctified liquid splashes all around, fizzing like peroxide against the unwholesome flesh of the two creatures…

…within moments the two creatures bubble away into nothing but wisps of thin, yellowish fog.

At which point, you hear a triumphant shout from the corner of the room, and the robed man shouts “Sick ’em!” He spins around, pointing at where the lemures were, the skeleton, now animate, rising behind him. When he sees them vanish, he drops his finger and sighs in a completely crestfallen way.

From the other room, you hear a sharp “click”, as Shaddup opens the small chest Lyra had given him. Within is a small fortune in coins; a shortsword with a rather dull-looking edge; a pair of gleaming copper bracers engraved with a lightningbolt motiff; an 18 inch long, 2 inch thick, silver rod with an end-cap shaped like an open hand, the fingers pressed together; and a small, stoppered flask of opaque blue-white glass.


As the yellow blob’s teeth grind away at Gendry, he gives a brief anguished cry, and breathes his last.


Brother Rant crawls over beside Gendry and checks his pulse. Rietta falls down weeping over Gendry’s body, blubbering such nonsense as “Oh! My love! Please don’t die!…blah blah blah”


Donovan looks around in shock as Brother Rant checks Gendry’s pulse and pronounces him dead. He surveys the scene, taking in the wailing ogress, the depressed necromancer, and his friends, before his eyes settle on the gleaming pile of treasure that Shaddup has just unveiled. He walks over and looks at the items lying atop the coins, examining the markings and inscriptions and touching each of them briefly before shrugging. “If there is anything useful, I have no idea what it is.” He looks at them one last time, “If we’ve got an hour I can properly identify one of them.”

He walks over and kneels down beside Brother Rant and the ogress. “Brother, it appears you are relieved of your obligation to our horn-headed friend. However,” he gestures towards Amara, “there is the matter of this young girl that was his charge. Gendry had sworn to protect her on her journey to visit her ailing grandmother in Melvaunt. If you wish to justly discharge your debt, protecting this innocent seems like the proper way…”


Lyra puts the jars back in her belt pouch, lip quivering and holding back tears. “There’s nothing you – or your brothers – can do?” She looks at the ogress and the stinky necromancer. “Your priestess ran off. She looked like she was feeling a bit too blessed by her Lady.”

“If we speak with Mother, I might be able to arrange getting Amara to her grandmother quickly and safely. However, Gendry also has, or rather had….” Lyra looks like she’s about to start bawling any minute as she corrects herself. “…another obligation to Professor Aumry to fulfill.”


Brother Rant sits up, still wincing, and looks at Lyra. “I’m sorry, miss. There is nothing we can do. His spirit has passed on to be with his god. The Bishop might be able to call him back, but is unlikely to do so for a Maskarran, even if I intervened, assuming that his lord would release his spirit into the charge of our order, which is highly unlikely.” He looks back at the corpse and grimaces. “He would probably want to be interred in the manner of his faith, which, morbid as this may sound, means that you should loot his body of all his possessions, making sure to take every last scrap, and then bury him in a shallow, unmarked grave…”

Brother Rant then addresses Donovan, “Mr. Donovan, I would be happy to take charge of the girl and see her safely to her grandmother.” He stands, somehow looking instantly more sturdy, and bows, only a little shakily. “I swear, in Tyr’s name, to see her safely to her destination.”

Rietta continues to weep and wail over Gendry’s body, odd, given that they only knew each other for a few minutes. The green-haired elven woman walks in, straitening her dress a bit, “Ry, the theatrics are very nice and all, but I forgot to bring the black veils.” She looks at Lyra and smiles, sending a chill up Lyra’s spine, “So Beryl ran off, Vinny got his head smashed in, and Rahm went to hell, literally. Our little group is not having the best day, and you’ve lost your muscle too it appears.” Her eyes linger on the books Lyra is carrying. “I’m Teldicia. Care to team up? Six have a better chance of survival than two threes, and I’m sure Sur and Ry would rather be receiving a fifth each of that treasure, rather than a third of a third.”

The moist-robed gentleman walks over to where the girls are talking, the skeleton trailing along, and looks down at Gendry and Vinny’s corpses. “Can I have them?” he asks matter-of-factly.

“Right,” Teldicia interjects, “so, he wants the bodies and Ry will want a full share of the loot. I’ll cut myself out of any arguments over magic items we find, but would like a share of the funds to cover my studies.”


Lyra picks up the silver sword where it had fallen next to Gendry, and then kneels next to his body. Her shoulders shaking and tears streaming down her face, she quickly and efficiently strips him down to just his blood soaked clothes. Her face bright red, she turns to Brother Rand. “When you say loot everything, you mean … everything everything?”


Brother Rant also blushes, “Ummm, yes. Maskarran morticians are more properly known as rag-pickers. The more devout ones will even shave the deceased hair to be sold as wigs and pluck out their teeth to be sold for…I don’t want to speculate what. I think that, as long as you get everything that you believe would be of value, then that will be sufficient.” He pauses, looking slightly disgusted even to be discussing the topic, “If it will make you feel less like a grave-robber, you might try to think of it as collecting mementos to remember him by.”


“Oh!” Donovan interjects, “Horns can be used to make drinking horns and instruments, as decorations, and in constructing high-quality composite bows. Minotaur horn is also ground up and used as an aphrodesiac in some of the less reputable potion-shops. Ox-tails make great stews and broths…I bet more exotic eateries would pay well for a minotaur tail. We could probably sell his testicles too…” He makes a faux-evil grin, but tears are visible in his eyes as he speculates. “You know, getting a nice bow made from Gendry’s horns might be a nice way to memorialize him.”


“I’m sure he would’ve done the same for us.”


Shuddup looks up from the lock box appearing not to have noticed the brief but devastating altercation, notices Gendry on the ground and assesses the situation. His bottom lip starts to quiver, “if you want a bow I’ll see what I can do.”


As everyone stands around discussing what to do with Gendry’s earthly remains, Rietta’s head snaps up. Her face is soaked with tears and her eyes are flaming red, with grief or rage it is hard to say. “WHAT!” she cries. Rage, you think, definitely rage. “That’s my love you’re talking about butchering!” Her gaze falls on Lyra and the sword she is holding. “And what are you doing with that, you bitch?! It’s mine by right as his next of kin! Or…had h-h-he not died s-s-s-sooo sudd-d-d-enly, I would have beeeen his next of ki-i-iiiiiiiin…” The last sentence is barely understandable as she breaks down sobbing again, but stands and readies her mace as she does so. She holds out a hand to Lyra. “Give it back!”

Teldicia takes a step back, looking perplexed. “What got into her?” she asks no one in particular.


Lyra stands back up, sword and scabbard in hand. She speaks softly, with nothing but compassion in her voice. “I am truly sorry for your loss.” She hands her the sword and scabbard. “He meant much to everyone, and they merely wish to honor his service to his god.”

She also hands the scrollcase to Brother Rant and whispers. “I believe these were originally yours, sir.”


Donovan lowers his glowing staff, but keeps it in hand, “Madam Rietta, please cease this unseemly blubbering. Master Gendry was certainly a charmer, but you knew him less than a day, such weeping and wailing is unbecoming a woman of your…stature.” He rubs his eyes and puts on a sterner look. “As to your rights to his belongings, you are no more next of kin to him than we. I saw no clasping of hands, no signing of contracts, no exchange of rings or vows. He did not so much as cast an adoring glance your way. Per your agreement with him, you could be said to be entitled to a third of what we take from him, but no more Madam. Now please, set down the weapon and get a grip on yourself!”


“Mr. Donvan! She’s clearly heartbroken. Clearly you don’t believe in love at first sight.” Lyra steps away from the ogress, not quite hiding behind Brother Rant.


Brother Rant takes the scrolls and tucks them into a sleeve, “Thank you, I should have known that is where they’d be.” As the ogress rises, weapon at the ready, he takes a step backwards. “My apologies, Miss Lyra,” he says to her in low tones, “but I am not in no condition to aid you further at the moment. The gates are not far. I believe I shall take the girl Amara with me back to the temple and leave you all to your grieving. I shall meet you at the gates tomorrow morning to escort the girl to Melvaunt.” He bows politely, keeping a wary eye on Donovan and Rietta, and backs out the door into the other room.


“You shouldn’t be walking with those wounds, and even short distances in this town seem to be dangerous. Please, allow me to escort you.” Lyra follows Brother Rant around the corner. “We’ll be at the temple, you can pick up your shares there.”


Rietta releases one shaky hand from the mace and accepts the sword from Lyra. As Lyra and Brother Rant vanish around the corner, literally, Shaddup peeks back into the other room and there is no sign of them, or Amara, she drops the mace on the ground and draws Gendry’s sabre from the scabbard, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. “What were you saying little man?!” she croaks out between sobs.

Teldicia leans in towards Donovan and whispers, “You probably don’t want to make her mad…she looks a little off her rocker…even more than usual.” She looks over and makes eye contact with the robed guy, makes a subtle gesture, then turns back to Rietta, “He’s right Ry. I don’t know what got into you, but you shouldn’t waste your tears on that horny joker, or Vinny, or Rahm, or anyone else for that matter. Lighten up…” The soggy guy and his skeleton begin to slide around behind the ogress, the man pulling a short-handled scythe, or maybe a long sickle, from under his robes. “…Would your masters really approve of this behavior? You’re on a mission remember. If you’re going to get all blubbery over the death of every swordsman who steps in to help us, how are you going to conquer this tow…”


Donovan watches Lyra and Brother Rant leave and does some quick mental math. Three to two, four if you count the skeleton, did not seem like good odds to him. Of course, Teldicia and swamp-boy and his skeleton look like they might be gearing up to deal with the ogress, which makes it either five on one, or two, and a skeleton, on two, which is somewhat better. And what is this talk of conquering the town? Maybe if…

“You should listed to your friend, Rietta.” he speaks up. “Teldicia’s right, the people of Phlan would never accept a sniveling woman who goes to pieces over every man who falls at her feet as their ruler. Man up and lets discuss your great plans for this city..” Then, looking as shocked as possible, he shouts, “Look! Behind you! More treachery!”

When she, presumably, turns away, he gesticulates wildly at the door, encouraging Shaddup to close the box of gold and run for it.

Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 7
Making a TODO List


You all walk the last two blocks to the barely-standing tower. It looks as though significant work has been done—the braces and scaffolding that are in place hold it roughly upright, and you can see several areas where new stone and mortar have reinforced the old—but it is weeks away from being stable, let alone habitable. Possibly months given how lazy the many workers and guards appear to be. Nearly a hundred workers stand around. By the looks of them, most have been recruited from the Slums locals, with even a few orcs and goblins in the mix. Most of them are just standing around, making no attempt to look productive. Some even appear to be napping. A few lazily shuffle bricks around or hammer nails into the scaffolding, but make little progress.

As you approach, you see one man—presumably the foreman judging from the schematics he is holding—jump up from where he had been lounging in a folding wooden chair. The man has long black mustachios, close-cropped hair, and is wearing a set of well-made banded male with a stylized yellow “Z” emblazoned on it. “You, Stop!” he says, drawing a broadsword and looking at the minotaur carrying a bloody, half-dead body. “Not a step closer…” A few workers turn dispassionately to look as he yells, and a small handful, maybe seven or eight, guards stand up and reach for spears, swords, and cudgels.


Gendry stops just behind the gnome, and mutters under his breath to Donovan and Lyra. “Any idea what the Z is for?” He stands still, keeping his hands on the body, and thus visibly well away from his weapons. “Hey now, no need for the pointies. We’re just here to see your boss…”


Lyra steps forward, also indicating that she is unarmed. “Is this the tower of Professor Aumry of Umber? We are escorting his niece, Amara, at his request.”


The mustachioed man glares at you. “Master Aumry is not here, and even if he was, I don’t know why he’d want his niece coming out to this place…” He pauses for a moment, as if considering before asking the obvious question. "What are you doing with that body?


Lyra continues, despite his obvious skepticism. “’He’s a priest of Tyr, and we’re in the middle of saving him from a small group of orcs, probably Xvim’s followers. We managed to get him stabilized, but need to get him somewhere safer than the middle of the street. And we were headed here to speak with Professor Aumry about the Melvaunt job anyway. Do you know when he’ll be back? He told us to meet him here.”


The foreman’s eyes go wide and he spins on his heel sharply, “BOSS IS COMING!” he shouts. The workers immediately animate and begin looking very busy. The foreman then turns back to you. “A Tyrran huh? You’re better off just turning around and putting him right back where you found him. Xvim doesn’t much like his kind, nor those who help them.”


Donovan speaks up, “I believe our good fellow here is correct, we should take the monk somewhere else.” Then, under his breath to Gendry, “That ‘Z’ means Mr. foreman here is a Zhent, and apparently proud of it, and thus, most likely a Xvimlar himself…” He begins backing away.


Gendry looks down at Amara, “Looks like your uncle isn’t here yet.” He looks back up the street. “Perhaps we can kill some time at the livery over there while we wait…”


As you turn to head towards the livery, there is a loud popping sound, and Aumry appears next to the foreman. “Good afternoon, Captain. Have you made any progress today?” He looks disapprovingly around at the many laborers busily acting like they were busy, and makes a tsking sound. He turns directly towards the tower, makes several large sweeping gestures, and begins chanting:

Eruimus effodientes effodientes effodientes effodientes
effodientes muniunt nostri per totum diem meum
Fodere effodientes effodientes effodientes effodientes
effodientes effodientes est quod vere amo efficio
Nullum dolum est non ad divites vivos
Si fodiat rutrum vel cum foderit effodientes pick
In mea! In mea! In mea! In mea!
Ubi lucere diamonds million!

Eruimus effodientes effodientes effodientes effodientes
effodientes effodientes a mane usque ad vesperam?
Eruimus effodientes effodientes effodientes effodientes
effodientes effodere omnia in conspéctu
Eruimus ex adamantibus score
Mille carbunculorum interdum
Quam eruimus sed quia non potuimus propter
Eruimus effodientes foderunt-effodientes effodientes!

The entire leeward side of the tower rises a foot, jacking the tower slightly closer to a plumb vertical, and the cracked and crumbling stones around the base fuse and smooth over.

“There, I’ve made my contribution for the day. Was that so hard, Captain?”


Donovan pivots on his heel and walks back. “Professor Aumry, we were just about to walk over to the livery next door to ask about renting a wagon and team to haul your component shipment. Would you care to accompany us so we can finish our business?” As they walk away from the tower he continues to speak. “I believe your foreman is failing to drive your workers sufficiently. When we arrived they, all of them, foreman included, were lying down on the job. Perhaps a problem with hiring Zhents. If you would like to replace him, I can recommend a number of competent local contractors…”


Gendry nods his appreciation at the high-speed construction, then resumes walking when Aumry joins them. “It seems to me like you don’t even need all those workers, Mr. Aumry. A couple of those spells a day and you’d be done, right?”

“Also, I think Shaddup here would like to offer his services installing some security measures in your new tower…”


Aumry walks along beside you with a strange, wobbling gait, as if unused to moving under his own power, much like that of a sailor or someone who spends too much time in the saddle. “You are correct in your assessment, Mr. Minotaur, if my teaching duties were not as demanding of my resources, I could, indeed complete the tower largely on my. Unfortunately, I cannot always spare those couple of spells. Still, I do not expect much of the workers. I largely pay them just for show, to discourage less reputable vagrants or gangs from re-occupying the premises.”

When you reach the livery he stops. “I have already arranged for your transport, Mr. Donovan. It will be ready and waiting for you here in the morning.” He reaches into the folds of his robe and pulls out five small pouches, handing one to each of you. Then a pair of scroll cases, which he hands to Donovan. “Half in advance, as promised…”


Donovan accepts his pouch and the scroll cases and immediately opens them up, “I hope you won’t be offended if I count it here…”

He casts read magic and continues to converse as he examines the scrolls, “Do you have any recent news about the condition of the road between here and Melvaunt, Professor?”


Lyra accepts her pouch. “The wagon teams might know as well, Mr. Donovan.”


Donovan cocks an eyebrow at Lyra, “Can you talk to horses and oxen?!”

Donovan reads off the list of spells to Lyra and Amara. “The first scroll has a wax seal that looks like an octopus and bears three spells: Adhesion, Hand of Tentacles, and Protection from Amorphs. The second scroll is also sealed in wax, the seal looking like a pair of crossed sticks, and also has three spells: Divining Rod, Decastave, and Staffspell. Would either of you like one of these?”


Lyra thinks before she responds for far longer than the question would seem to warrant. “No, probably not.”


Amara looks at the scrolls blankly. “Those look funny.” She whispers to her cat, who fades out slowly and then fades back in, like a slow motion flicker. Amara hums a little ditty, and her eyes glow. She looks over the first scroll and exclaims, “Eewy!” She looks over the second and and says, “Boring….” Then she holds up the first scroll, “I like this one better.”


“There are only the usual stories—kobold tribes getting uppity, lizard men raids, bandits. Nothing that the good men out at Iniarv’s Tower can’t keep a handle on.” Aumry waves to the man tending the horses at the stable. When the man walks over, he continues. “Ernst, these are the men who will be picking up the wagon in the morning. Miss Lyra, if you need to hire a teamster to handle the wagon, talk to Ernst, he can direct you to appropriate parties, though any additional hires will be your responsibility. Good afternoon. I look forward to your successful return, but now I must return to my classes.” He pivots on his heel and vanishes with another loud popping sound.


Lyra stares into the empty space that Professor Aumry previously occupied, fingers splayed to try and feel the rush of air filling the previously occupied space. Lyra looks resentfully over at the wagons. “Getting one of those through a swamp is going to be slow going.”


“There is a paved road between here and Melvaunt. Better than the one we’re on actually. We won’t be able to wander much, but we should be fine going through the swamp as long as we stick to the road…” Donovan pauses in thought. “Of course, that means any raiders will know exactly where to look for us.”

He looks back and forth between Ernst, and the rest of the party. “Professor Aumry made a good point. Do any of you know how to drive?”


Gendry shakes his head. “I may look like a draft animal, but I don’t know a thing about them. What about you, gnome, know anything about steering a prairie-schooner?”


Ernst speaks up. “Pleased to meet you folks. Aumry has arranged for some pretty nice transportation for you guys—an eighteen-foot covered wagon, extra-wide wheels for muddy terrain, water-tight keel for stream crossings, and a pair of oxen, single-beam head-yoked for better downhill breaking.” He sticks out his hand, as if expected a shake. “It shouldn’t be too hard to manage, even for inexperienced drivers, but if you do want a good teamster, I’d suggest talking to Jack. Funny looking fellow, even by Slums standards, but,” he looks hard at Gendry, “it don’t seem like you guys have a problem with that. He’ll do pretty much anything you ask him to and works cheap.”


“Ok, it sounds like most of the travel arrangements are dealt with, and we’ve got 10 platinum each and like sixteen hours to kill.” Gendry snorts, then looks a bit embarrassed. “Our todo list right now includes; (a) Go buy some candles for Amara’s grandmother, (b) find this Jack guy and see if he’ll drive our wagon for us, © meet the sailor-dwarf at the Bitter Blade for a pint before calling it a night, and (d) drink several pints. So, what shall we do first?”


“Yes, yes, let’s go shopping!”


“Ernst, where can we find this Jack fellow?”


“Jack has a small shop right by the old Rope Guild. It’s about a block from the wall and about midway between the gates. Walk back down the road, hang a right at the old washer-woman’s place, then go about two blocks. You might want to make sure you go during daylight hours though, as that street is Dogripper territory.” Ernst looks around furtively, then adds. “Or you can go around back of the Livery and ask Huafk for a pass, but those aren’t always cheap.”


“It sounds like we’d better head over there soon, then. It sounds like a dangerous route. Mr. Donovan, where would the best place be to buy provisions, weapons, clothes?”


“OH!” Gendry realizes that he still has the near-corpse of the monk slung over his shoulder. He carefully sets the man down and casts cure light wounds on him. “Sorry guys, I almost forgot we had this joker to deal with…”


The monk coughs suddenly and opens his eyes. He then lets out a ear-piercing scream when he seems a minotaur looming over him.


Lyra kneels down next to the monk. “Sir, please calm down. You’ve been injured by a group of orcs. This gentleman has not only carried you to safety, but mended some of your wounds.”


Donovan quickly addresses Lyra’s questions. “We can get provisions either from Jerome of Melvaunt here in the Slums or Cockburn’s Grocery in the civilized section. For weapons the best quality are from Matteo’s on the far side of the Slums Market, but he usually only does custom orders, so we’re more likely to find what we need at ’Petroff’s Fine Swords’ next to the temple of Sune inside the wall. There weren’t a lot of decent tailors in town last time I was here. Jerome’s and Cockburn’s usually carry basic clothing, or we might ask around either of the markets to see if someone new has set up shop as a clothiers.”

Donovan then kneels down by the monk and tries to calm him. “It’s okay, the minotaur is not going to hurt you. Master Gendry here just healed you, in fact. You were set upon by a group of gray-skinned orcs. We found you unconscious and bleeding. The orcs were dispatched and we brought you here to heal you.” He gives his best, friendly, fatherly smile, and lays a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Please calm down. You are in no danger now. Can you tell us what happened?”


Gendry moves back, avoiding rising to his full height, and quickly turns his head to slip off his eye-mask, stuffing it back into his pouch. “I’m sorry sir, I know my appearance can be frightening…” He turns his back and walks over to see what Amara and Shaddup have gotten themselves up to, leaving further discussion to the bards.


The man stops screaming and looks around at you all, his hands moving to confirm that he is whole and his gaze lingering overly long on Lyra. He takes a few deep breaths then tries to sit up, holding his grimacing noticeably—conscious and no longer bleeding, but clearly far from fully healed. “Um, thanks. Sorry for the screaming. I am in your debt, Master Gendry.”

He takes a few more deep breaths before continuing. “I hope you weren’t too harsh in your reprisal against the orcs. They were infected with ontontis, orcish leprosy. I volunteer at the soup kitchen by the market and they recognized me. They asked me to cure them and became rather emotional when I explained that removing a disease such as theirs was beyond my abili…” He falls into a coughing fit and clutches at his side harder. He coughs for over a minute, and wipes a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth. “They must have hit an organ. I should have listened when Brother Francis insisted that I should always wear armor when outside the gates.” He coughs again. “I recant my previous statement. If you killed them, justice was served, and they are likely glad to be free of their suffering.”

He groans and lays back down. “You have already done much, but if you could do me one more favor, I will forever be in your debt. Might I ask your assistance in getting back to the temple in New Phlan? My brothers there should be able to tend to my other injuries.”


“We have a little girl who is very anxious to go buy a gift for her dying grandmother, and we need to hire a teamster for a trip we are making early in the morning, but given your state, I think we can take the time to get you to your temple.” Donovan looks around at the others. “Agreed?”

“Amara,” he lays a hand on her shoulder, “I’m afraid our shopping trip will have to wait.”

“Gendry, can you carry him further? Or should we find something to use as a stretcher?”


Gendry wanders back over. “Yes Donovan, I can carry him to the temple.”

He kneel down. “What is your name sir?”


The man looks Gendry in the eye, still looking a bit frightened. “I am Brother Rant Harmell of Tyr, Mr. Gendry, and you have my thanks.”


Gendry picks the man up and grins rather evilly. “Well, Brother Rant, I’ve heard much from you Tyrrans about honesty and repaying debts over the years, so I trust one of your order to fulfill a life-debt. I am Gendry FitzTeldar, son of Teldar the Pirate King, and under the watchful eye of the Lord of Intrigue, I expect to be repaid.”

Gendry waves the others on. “I’ll make sure the law-man makes it safely to his temple. You all go on ahead and get your shopping done. I’ll meet you at the Bitter Blade at sundown.”


The man’s face goes white and he struggles weakly as Gendry picks him up. “I’ve heard tell that a Maskaran can turn even the best of intentions to their advantage. I guess this is my second lesson for today.” He continues as they walk away. “I would rather die than aid a criminal, but I am alive…thanks to a pirate. I will repay my debt, Mr. Gendry, but I will not violate my oath to Tyr to do so. A life is worth a life, so I must protect yours, but I cannot vouchsafe your continued freedom.”


Gendry walks towards the gates. “I’m sure you aid criminals every day at that soup kitchen of yours, Brother Rant. The poor and destitute always turn to the Shadowlord. While you might offer a meal, we offer them a way to better their situation in life. By the Shadowlord’s grace, even the lowliest guttersnipe can live like a king.” Gendry snorts. “You don’t need to turn me in for anything, Brother. For now, at least, I am here to help this city of yours. A surprisingly enlightened city, I must say. The Council of Phlan has not only overlooked my appearance, but has given me amnesty for all of my past misdeeds. So, I have no intention of ‘corrupting’ you or making you break any of your vows, but my friends and I do need all the help we can get…and you should consider yourself drafted.”


Donovan watches Gendry walk off taunting the priest, then realizes, “Gendry wait! We’re going the same way.”

He turns and bows, “Thank you Ernst. We’ll be by in the morning.”

“Come on, Lyra, Shaddup, Amara. That Jack fellow is supposed to live in that direction. No need to split up the group quite yet.” He runs after the minotaur.


Lyra follows after them. “Mr. Donovan, you also have the charter, if Mr. Gendry needs to get past the gates.”


Rant stares long and hard at Gendry, looking almost dumbstruck. “You are not at all what I would have expected, Mr. Gendry. You are correct, there is more to Tyr’s justice than just upholding the law, and for now justice demands that I repay my debt to you and your friends.” He stops for breath as Donovan and the others catch up. “As soon as I am able, if you wish it, I will accompany you on your adventures, or provide whatever other aid is appropriate.”

You pick your way through the rubble and refuse and are not more than two blocks away from the stables when you hear crashing and clanging noises ahead. You then hear a deep, yet feminine, voice shouting, “Lípa úp orm! Horpa pyrur andann hunnar! Hlaupa! Hlaupa fyrur lípu pínu!”


Donovan shakes his head. “Any chance you are a linguist, Brother?” Then draws his knife. “I’m fresh out of sleep spells, so lets hope that whatever it is is friendly, or at least that there aren’t that many of them…”


Lyra cocks her head, listening. "Something like … “Hark up worm! Harp <something> breath knob! Run! Run agile floor has a bit!”. Ok, so I’m definitely not a linguist, but that doesn’t sound especially friendly to me."


Gendry turns and smiles at Lyra, “You’re translations are always fun at least.” He kneels and sets down Brother Rant, then rises and draws his sword. “Shaddup, would you mind standing watch over our new friend while I go investigate?”


Shuddup snaps to after apparently daydreaming about life with a small child, shit job, and always being in the run. He looks down at the priest, “Don’t worry I’ll protect you.” With an easy grin. He hands the priest his arquebus, "I may need this if this crossbow doesn’t function properly. "


“Worm…breath…run? Sounds like someone found a dragon or something…” Donovan shakes his head. “I fucking hate these slums.”

“Amara, stay with Shaddup and Mr. Rant. Gendry, Lyra, let’s go…cautiously.” As he walks slowly forward, Donovan casts protection from evil on Lyra and gauntlet on himself.

“Oh, and Amara, is there any chance that one of those secrets your kitten whispers to you could be a highly damaging one? You clearly have some formidable magic at your disposal, but I’m none too clear on the specifics. If you can muster some artillery, it would be very helpful right about now…”


With a loud CRASH, a wall of a nearby building is blown open and the nine-foot frame of a ogrish woman is thrown out through the newly-created hole to slump against a pile of rubble in the street. A pair of men wearing matching chain armor and red cloaks then back out of the hole, shields raised before them towards something inside the building, moving to shield the ogress with their bodies against something inside.


Gendry halts his advance, wondering what could throw an ogre through a wall. “Hey Don, are those the ass-watchers from the boat?”

He looks at the opening, gauging distance to it and line of sight out of it, then moves immediately adjacent to the wall of the building and moves up beside the gap, positioning himself to backstab whatever might come out. He gestures to the men trying to indicate his intent and that they should neither talk to, nor look at him.


Shuddup hands the crossbow to the Tyrian priest and begins dragging him to cover in nearby debris. He then begins scanning the nearby buildings for structural weaknesses in case he can bring one down on whatever is coming thorough the wall.


The building that the lizard-thing is exiting from looks extremely old. The construction is largely brick, which appears to have been plastered over several times. Judging from the uneven roofline, it probably had a second story at some point in the distant past, but is now all one floor. The entire facade is crumbling and it looks as though the wall that the ogre just went flying through was load-bearing. Shaddup suspects that the application of significant force on the far side of the building could bring the remainder of the damaged wall tumbling out into the street in such a way as to be significantly damaging to all in the area. The surrounding buildings are all shanty’s, built of twigs, straw, rubble, and canvas tarps. The kind of things that look like they would blow over in a stiff breeze.


Donovan moves to the side of the road opposite Gendry and calls out in Auld Wyrmish—because hey, maybe it is a dragon and maybe it’s willing to negotiate, “Ho Worm! Is that any way to treat a lady? Sure, she’s a little horny, pun intended, but maybe we can talk about this…”

He holds his magically gauntleted hand up in front of his face in case whatever it is decides to breath fire or acid or the like at him. If nothing else, he hopes to keep the thing’s attention focused on him and not on the minotaur getting ready to shove three feet of steel into it’s backside.


As Donovan begins to call out, you hear a scream and three more people come running around the side of the building, one, a woman in a slightly-askew white wig cradles her left arm, which looks like it has been badly burned or scarred by acid. You all quickly recognize one of the others as the green-haired elven woman from the ship. All three look badly beat-up.

At about the same time, a large reptilian head with four long horns appears out of the hole in the wall, followed by the body of what appears to be a huge, mottled-green lizard, maybe fifteen feet in length, most of that being tail. It looks directly at Donovan with what can only be described as murderous fury, and roars, droplets of spittle bubbling and hissing as they strike the cobbles…you suspect that the creature does not appreciate your sense of humor.


“Acid spit but no wings? Hey, Lyra, you’re an educated young girl, any idea what this thing is?”

Donovan tries to keep up a constant stream of patter in Auld Wyrmish, just in case it actually understood him, to keep the thing’s attention on him and away from anyone who might be able to actually hurt it.

“Come on you overgrown gecko!”
“Is that your face, or does your butt have an acid attack?”
“I find your propensity toward accumulating monetary wealth through violent means of highly dubious sensibility!”
“You are so ugly that even Tiamat doesn’t like you”
“Your skin will make a nice shield!”
“I’ve seen better hoards come from between sofa cushions.”
“You call yourself a dragon? My cohort can fly better than that.”
“You call that a breath weapon? Talk to an ogre in the morning, now that is a breath weapon!”
“Seriously, sharpen your claws. A blind farmer with a dull pitchfork could do more damage.”


Lyra crouches behind a large piece of rubble as close to midway between Donovan and Shaddup as she can manage, and takes out a sling.

Lyra calls out to Donovan as she places a large rock in the sling and starts to build up momentum. “Based on the coloration and presence of acid glands, but lack of wings, I’d say that it is most probably a swamp dwelling subspecies of … big lizard … thing.”


As Donovan continues taunts the thing, it rears back and unleashes a gout of acidic spittle towards him. Donovan holds his mystically gauntleted hand up in front of his face, fingers outsplayed to deflect the worst of it away from his face and vitals.

When they see the lizard-thing turn its attention towards you, the other party heads back into the building, the ogre first, followed by the others. Last to enter, Teldicia waves and throws Donovan a coquettish smile and mouths “Good luck,” before disappearing into the crumbling old building.

Gendry lunges at the thing’s back, his gleaming blade entering between its ribs, through a lung, and out the front. The thing begins bleeding profusely, but collapses dead, choking on its own blood, long before it could bleed out.

Lyra tries to stop her sling and a rock goes flying wildly off into the distance.


Gendry pulls out his sword and grins. “Think that’s close enough to a dragon that I can get ‘dragonslayer’ engraved on the blade? ‘Big Swamp Lizard Thing Slayer’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it…” He then turns and looks at the hole in the wall that the other group just darted into. “You’re welcome!” he yells after them.

“Don, Lyra, what do you think the chances are that those guys just ran back into the building from which the big lizard monster that was kicking their asses came for some reason other than there being large amounts of loot inside?”


Shuddup retrieves his weapons from the priest and emerges from concealment. “Wait. If we’re going in there we need to support the wall here and here.” He searches for a moment for a log that doesn’t appear to be to rotten, then pries loose a cobble stone. “Gendry, can you put one end of that beam in here and wedge the other end against the wall… Here.” He pauses for a moment, “If we had a bell we could run it on a line so if the wall did start to give we could get some forwarning.”


Lyra rushes over to Donovan. “Mr. Donovan, are you all right? We might be able to use some of this limestone to counteract the acid, but without a proper heat source I’m not sure….”

She fusses over Donovan for a bit, checking his injuries before moving to examine the big swamp lizard thing.

“Mr. Gendry, ‘Wyrmslayer’ would typically be appropriate, since this is, or was a wingless variant. Do you think Professor Aumry would be interested in it for research purposes?”


Donovan slumps against the wall of a small shack and shakes the acid from his gauntleted hand as best he can. “I’m…fine…” He winces at the pain of where a small droplet touched his cheek. “Gendry, any chance that your god has some healing left for me?”


Gendry wanders over and picks up Rant. “I have the scrolls Don, but that might be overkill.” He hauls Rant over. “Brother Rant, would you be able to assist me in patching up me friend?”


Brother Rant leans against the wall by Donovan. “I’ll need clean water and something for bandages…”

Assuming the party has anything like those two items on hand, he carefully washes the acid-burns and wraps them up. “There’s not much else I can do with these kind of wounds, but that should help a bit.”


Donovan stands up and looks at the dressing on his wounds, “That feels better, thanks.”

He starts walking towards the hole and smiles. “Well, someone mentioned the probability of large piles of loot…”


Gendry grabs the log indicated by Shaddup and sets it to brace the wall. “Here?”

He then picks up Brother Rast, piggy back, using one hand to steady him, the other holding his sword ready, and follows Donovan.


Shuddup, inspects the log and shoves against it as though he might move it once a minotaur has set it. With a satisfied nod of his head, “That looks good, this beam should support that stone to act as a keystone to hold the wall if anyone applies force from the other side. So now the question becomes do we foray into the ruins with two of our band on the mend or hazard a trip back to a friendly temple? Perhaps it would be wise for us to invest in some herbs and I can make us some home brew that would perk up our spirits… No orc pee, I promise.”


Lyra crouches next to the big lizard thing, and mixes a handful of dust from the crumbling limestone building with a pool of acidic drool near the head, stirring with a large splinter from a shattered wooden beam. She mixes it carefully, then looks at the end of the wood and frowns. “No, I don’t think that is going to work.”

She stands up and runs to catch up to Gendry.

Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 6
Welcome to the Slums

The party arrives at the Parkside Gate, leading to the slums and other uncivilized sections of Phlan. The palisade wall here is heavier than on the sea-ward side, easily four-feet thick, comprised of several sharpened spars stacked together and reinforced with stone salvaged from older buildings. The double-gate is just wide enough for a large wagon to pass through and guarded by ten soldiers in heavy, double-linked chain coifs and hauberks. A heavy wooden bar rests to one side, ready to drop into slots on the gate to bar it, and several angled braces for additional support also stand nearby. Seeing you approach, one of the guards steps forward. “Papers please.”

Donovan hands the gate-captain their charter, looking at Amara distractedly. “How much does a candle cost?”

Amara shrugs at Donovan. “I dunno.”

Lyra shifts her backpack to her other shoulder. “It depends really. They can be pretty basic, or fancy and dyed with incense embedded in it, or marked to tell time. Mother has a lot of that kind.”

The guard looks at the charter for a long time, pulls out a quill and punches a small hole in it, then hands it back. “First day, huh? If you’re going shopping in the market, keep a tight hand on your purse. And keep a sharp eye out—the last group through mentioned that the Redhands have been out in force of late…” The guard sets his halberd against the wall and draws a broadsword from his belt, another does likewise. The two then take hold of the large iron latch-bars and begin to pull the gates open, as the others fan out with their halberds ready and pointed towards the gate, as if expecting a rush of enemies at any moment. When the gate is opened, your noses are assaulted by the stench of garbage, mud, and offal, carried on a sickeningly warm breeze. A press of beggars—children, the blind, the infirm, goblins, orcs, half-breeds, and other unrecognizable things—waits immediately outside the gate. The guards lower their halberds and march three steps forward in unison, forcing a break in the crowd. The guards with the swords wave you through. “Good luck…”

When the gate is opened, Amara wrinkles her nose. “Ew….stinky!”

“Maybe it will smell better if you’re a little above the crowd,” Gendry picks Amara up and places her on his shoulders again. He then walks through the gate and begins edging his way through the press of beggars, one hand steadying Amara, the other on his sword. He begins scanning the crowd, looking for anyone shifty among the beggars—anyone hanging back and not pressing the alms-bowl hard (spies), anyone near the front keeping the hand not holding the alms-bowl low and hidden (ready to pick a pocket), anyone playing up their injuries far too obviously (faking an injured arm or leg or peeking out from under a blindfold), or anyone with a the tell-tale bulge of a weapon hidden under their rags…

Donovan tucks the charter safely into his left, inner vest pocket, says “Thanks,” to the guards and follows Gendry’s wake through the gate. Seeing the press of the poor and downtrodden, he reaches into purse and tries to press a silver piece into every outstretched hand and bowl he can reach—while keeping a tight grip on his backpack where the actual valuables are stored.

After detailing his schematics for the self-cauterizing-bone saw to the clerk and following the group to the gate, Shuddup grimaces at the stench of the masses takes a deep breath and follows in Donovan’s wake.

The guards gently nudge everyone past the gate with their pole-arms, then quickly shut the gate behind them, leaving the party adrift in a sea of unwashed humanity.

As Donovan begins handing out coins, Gendry notices a man in the middle of the pack edging towards Donovan. His hands are down, out of sight, rather than upraised in the typical begging posture. His face is horribly scarred and his left ear is missing.

Donovan continues to press coins into every upturned hand and bowl, quickly exhausting his supply of silver. You are fairly certain that some of the beggars received two or even more, as there is no way to keep track of individuals in the forest of outstretched hands. As it becomes clear to the crowd that the purse that held the silver has been emptied, they begin to disperse. One ancient-looking goblin tugs on Donovan’s sleeve and croaks out in Common. “Huafk has a school. Behind the horse-seller. Tell him Huafk sent you. He’ll teach you to fight good.” You’re certain, contextually, that he said two different names there, but you feel that you don’t know enough goblin to distinguish them…let alone pronounce them correctly.

The rest of the party looks around, past the crowds. A twisted warren of shacks, lean-tos, and crumbling ruins stretches out in all directions. The palisade on this side is covered with graffiti—lewd drawings and slogans in a hundred languages, carved or drawn in chalk, blood, feces, or whatever else was available at the time. The ancient Parkside Road continues to parallel the river here, running north-west, but shows minimal upkeep. The cobbles immediately outside the gate are cracked and worn, and just a few blocks on it dissolves into a mud path with the occasional island of old paving. The road looks barely passable, choked with garbage, debris, and people. Indeed, just a cursory look at the people (and things) milling about on this one street leads you to estimate the population on this side of the wall at at least ten times that of “New Phlan”.

Gendry steps directly into the crowd towards the skulking man with the unfortunate face. As the beggars scatter, he grabs one of the man’s hand and presses something into it—a black silk domino mask wrapped around a single copper piece—and whispers to the man, “The Shadowlord must have his due. Where shall I dump my cargo?” He then lets go and takes a long step backwards out of the mob.

When the man sees the minotaur coming towards him, he turns to flee. The big meaty hand grabbing his wrist nearly pops his shoulder out of joint, then he notices the bundle he’s been given and stops. He turns back and gives Gendry a quizzical look. “Ah, guv’na bull, if’n ye wants t’ be makin’ a donation, finds yerself a well and don’tcha be afraid t’ take a swim, eh.” He jerks free and bolts. Gendry’s superlative ears just hear him whisper, “An’ he sees all ’at ’appens secret…” before the man vanishes down one of the numerous side alleys.

Lyra’s eyes go wide in shock as she follows closely behind Donovan, and holds her pack tight against her chest under her cloak. “How long has it been like this here? That smell…. Is it because the river is fouled and there’s not enough water?”

Donovan finishes handing out coins, and pushes his way past the crowd before turning to Lyra. “Oh, three centuries or more, at least. Phlan has been sacked, burned, and rebuilt more times than I can count, and most of the old city is just ruins on top of ruins on top of more ruins.” He walks, carefully, up the road as he begins lecturing. “These slums are the result of the last few years. When New Phlan was started, the Council came in with military force and retook the old docks and quickly fortified the reclaimed section of the city. Settlers started trickling in, overland from Zhentil Keep and the Dales to the west and Melvaunt, Thentia, and Thar to the east, or else by ship from the south. Civilized Phlan soon reached a limit on space, and expansion seaward has been slow work, so newcomers were forced to build their homes outside the wall—or occupy and try to renovate existing ruins more often…”

He pauses talking to step over a pile of refuse, then resumes. “Any progress the new settlers have made here is quickly washed away by the old city’s long-time inhabitants. Several gangs of monsters run these slums—like the Redhands the guard was talking about. Orcs and goblins have infested these ruins for hundreds of years and they don’t know any other way to live—filthy creatures. Walk around here long and you’re guaranteed to see goblins crapping in the streets. Settlers that manage to build a half-way decent house outside the walls quickly find that they are targets for burglary, vandalism, arson, and beatings. Everyone living out here pays protection money to one gang or another—though I here the goblins are more likely to actually deliver than the Orcs of Kobolds. The adventurers occasionally manage to get rid of one gang or another, but unless someone can make a concerted effort to knock out all of them in short-order, more beasties will just keep coming to fill in the gaps…”

He ducks a low-hanging beam jutting from an old building. “The Council claims that clearing the monsters out of the slums and civilizing it are their top priority right now. BUT, the Council is made up of a bunch of old merchants—not real governors. They refuse to levy taxes (even though they have a few on paper, none have ever been collected), have only one full-time municipal employee, Deborah…maybe two now…and are willing to invest only in the military endeavor of reclaiming the city. Well, that, and building nice public buildings for their own use. Even the military occupations they prefer to carry out via contractors, like us. Which leaves the settlers, citizens, and creatures of the slums to fend for themselves.”

He gingerly steps over a goblin corpse, covering his mouth and nose with his hand to avoid inhaling one of the many flies buzzing around it. “The Council is making progress though. Most of us are just waiting for more of the city to be ‘civilized’. We figure once a sufficient number of people and sufficient land are involved, then progress will accelerate, the people will organize, and the Council will have to concede in favor of a more traditional, service-providing, form of government.”

“For now, most people out here try to keep a low profile and get on with their lives. Citizens can pass through the gates rather freely, but most real day-to-day commerce happens out here in the Market. Adventurers from the City, either passing through to go raid the richer parts of Old Phlan, or else actively slumming, provide the main way of transferring funds from the Council to the Slums. It’s the worst for those wretches by the gates though. If you get injured or orphaned out here, there isn’t really anyone to help you. Luckily the beggars are easy prey for the bigger monsters, which helps keep the population of the completely impoverished from getting too out of hand….”

“Luckily?!” Lyra says. “That’s terrible! Handing out silver, yet valuing their lives so little?”

Gendry reaches up to steady Amara again and make sure she’s okay, “Let me know if you see any wells, eh?” Then rushes to catch up to the others.

Hearing Donovan’s speech he grins. “Sorry Lyra. Really, the Council’s politics sound a lot like my father’s. It seems to me like being nice to the beggars is a good way to stick-it-to-the-man, by which I mean, redistribute the Council’s wealth in a way they would disapprove of, which really has nothing to do with whether or not you care about the beggars’ lives. Plus we just bought two good bits of intel for a handful of silver.”

He looks around, trying to keep a lookout for any possible assailants, while trying to breath as shallowly as possible to avoid the stench. “If the Council isn’t concerned with infrastructure or services, fixing thousand-year-old drainage systems seem the least of their worries.” He grins evilly. “Hey Shaddup? Do you think you could design a drainage system that would deposit all of this soilage right next door to the City Hall?”

Donovan looks a little shocked at Lyra’s outburst and back-pedals a bit, or thinks he is, though his tone continues with the same lecturing quality. “Miss Lyra, don’t take it that way. I just meant that, you know, they aren’t really contributing anything to the improvement of the city or our society. Sure, its sad that they are disabled and a lot of them are kids, but they are beggars, leaches really. You help who you can, but you can’t save them all.”

He steps around another pile of trash and smiles, as if enjoying a personal joke, or just recognizing the irony of his next statement. “Come on. Let’s go find Amara’s uncle and ask for that money he owes us for services not-yet-rendered…” He begins laughing a bit too loudly.

As you walk along, dodging trash and listening to Donovan’s political rant, Gendry suddenly shouts a warning. At the same time a high-pitched, scratchy voice yells out in some unrecognizable, guttural language. “Pooš! Sovetkot!” Donovan turns a little too quickly to see the source of the noise and trips, landing seated in a large tub of filthy water. An ancient-looking woman with waist-length white hair, the sleeves of her dress rolled up past her elbows with a soaked apron over it, stands over him, pointing a loaded crossbow at the bridge of his nose. She continues to scream. “Pooš! Pooš! Pooš!”

The road here is filled with large tubs of water, some dark and filthy, others with a heavy head of soapy foam. Above, the area is criss-crossed with a spiderweb of ropes, from which hang clothes in various states of disrepair, all soaked and dripping. From the old-woman’s stance, you can easily tell that she is trying to block you from approaching a ramshackle old wooden and stone lean-to around which the laundry supplies appear to be arrayed. Her home, such as it is, has a heavy, moth-eaten, woolen blanket for a door and a cloud of black smoke coming from a hole in the roof.

She keeps the crossbow leveled at Donovan’s face and continues to scream. “Pooš! Pooš! Pooš!”

Lyra slips a dried apple out of her bag carefully, so as not to spook the old woman with the loaded crossbow in Donovan’s face. She smiles apologetically, and holds out the apple for the old woman to take, holding up her other hand to show she’s unarmed. She speaks softly, with an apologetic smile. “We’re sorry, we didn’t know this was your home. If you’ll just let him get up, we can be leaving.”

Donovan looks from the woman to Lyra and back again. He then looks at his clothing, dripping with the filthy water of her used washtub. “Excuse me, Ma’am. But, how much do you charge for a cleaning?”

He slowly extricates himself from the tub, sliding himself awkwardly backwards, away from the readied crossbow. He then says, quietly, in Elvish to the others, hoping that at least one of them understands—and that she doesn’t. “I think she’s speaking Orc…or maybe Gnoll…you might want to keep your eyes peeled…”

The woman takes a step back, her eyes darting around. She half-lowers the crossbow, but keeps it pointed in Donovan’s general direction. “Sorry miss,” she addresses Lyra, “I heard this’n talking…” she gestures at Donovan with the crossbow, “…and thought ye were ‘venturing types come t’ steal me laundry agin.” When Donovan addresses her, she finally lowers the weapon completely. “Oh, ye’re cust’mers!” She takes a step back and looks at the horrible purple-brown splotches covering Donovan’s clothing. “Giv’n that ye just dumped yerself in a tub o’ discharge…a copper if ye wants it t’ be brown, or a gold if ye want it to be whatever color it was fore ye took yer bath. An’ I can’t’nt make no promises on the secon’ ’un…”

The woman’s voice is cut off by several deep voices shouting “Sovetkot!” as four orcs come charging from the alley behind her house. “G-ube!” The woman looks absolutely shocked that anyone actually responded to her cry for help…

Gendry swings Amara down off his shoulders with his left hand, drawing his sabre with the right, the perfectly sharpened silver blade gleaming in patchy sunlight peaking through the smog overhead. “Everyone stay behind me,” he yells.

Lyra moves between Amara and the oncoming orcs and continues trying to de-escalate the situation rather than killing orcs that were nice enough to respond to an old woman’s cries for help. “She was just calling for help, and they came! Either they’re here to help an old woman protect her home or she’s all paid up on protection money and they’re upholding their end. Either way, they aren’t the kind of orcs we need to be cutting down in the street! Gendry!”

Donovan circles around towards the middle of the washtubs and clotheslines, hoping to put some obstructions between himself and the oncoming orcs.

He then casts a Sleep spell at the orcs, whispering softly under his breath, dropping some sand to look like dirt he kicked up, and concealing the gestures in his dodging—trying not to draw attention to himself as a caster. Three of the orcs stumble and pass-out, their momentum carrying them forward, leaving one face-down in the washtub from which Donovan had so recently extricated himself, the second tangled in a clothesline, and the third snoring peacefully at Gendry’s feet.

Lyra breaks out into song to try to calm the orcs down. Amara lets Lyra be her shield and peeks around. She waits to see what happens, tapping her foot to Lyra’s tune.

Step one: wear a smile.

Step two: say hello.

A bit late, Shuddup follows the very sensible advice of getting behind the large minotaur, works his back to a corner and drops to a crouching position readying a large metal and wooden tube across a wooden beam jutting out about knee high in the ruins, and touching a match to an opening on its top.

As the lead orc runs past Gendry, the minotaur executes a perfect, deep sideways lunge, driving the point of his sabre into the back of the orc’s left leg. He then slashes upwards, tearing through muscles and tendons to sever the orc’s femoral artery. The orc collapses to the ground in a heep at Lyra’s feet, blood spurting in all directions.

Step three: introduce yourself,

As the last orc falls to Gendry’s blade, a massive ogre runs, skidding around the corner into the alley behind the orcs. It bounces off the wall of an old house, knocking several stones loose, then fixes its gaze on Gendry, its blue-black eyes bulging grotesquely.

To someone you wanna get to know.

Step four: have a conversation,

Ask a question or two.

Making friends can be so simple,

All you have to do is just be you.

You gotta have friends to make you laugh,

Help you feel better when you are sad.

You gotta have friends to make you smile,

Help you feel calm when you are mad.

You gotta have friends so don’t be shy,

Go out and give it a try,

Anyone would be lucky, ooh-ooh,

To have a friend like……

Lyra’s song is cut off by a deafening bang that leaves all of your ears ringing. With a small flash of light, something whizzes out of the end of Shaddup’s tube-thing, right over the heads of the fallen orcs, and catches the oncoming ogre in the stomach. The huge creature is knocked backwards, crushing a small lean-to.

The ogre claws its way upright again, looks at the gaping hole in its midsection and the orcs lying on the ground, and runs weeping back around the corner from which it came…

The old washer-women faints, her crossbow splashing into a foamy washtub beside her.

Gendry steps over the hamstrung orc, casually stabs it in the throat to put it out of its misery, and begins going through its pockets. “Sorry Lyra. I think you’re right about the latter—the old woman probably paid them protection money. Armed gangs don’t just help little old ladies out of the kindness of their hearts. Demanding protection money usually just translates to ‘pay us a regular fee or we burn your house down.’ Dad used to demand ‘protection money’ from merchants all the time. I’ve been involved in my fair share of extortion rackets, and ‘protection’ tops the list of the classics.” He kicks the dead orc for emphasis. “No finesse…”

Everyone can see Gendry’s mouth moving, but all you hear is a high-pitched “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” and the low-pitched, thrumming echo from Shaddup’s portable explosion device, .

The orcs each appear to be wearing makeshift armor, made by sewing or riveting bits of scrap metal to a hide backing, and are carrying a variety of weapons. In addition, each appears to have a bloody rag tied around their left hand. The one Gendry slew has armor that appears to be made from the recently harvested hide of a black and white cow, not even cured, with a large number of nails shoved through it, is wearing a pair of nice steel bracers, was carrying a spear (more a long, pointy stick with no real head on it), and has a decent quality shortsword tucked into its belt.

In the orcs pockets you find 4 electrum coins, 8 silver, and 7 copper.

Donovan slaps his hands over his ears a little too late to avoid the blast. He stands, dizzy and confused, for a few minutes before he starts asking, “Can you hear me now?” When the ringing has subsided sufficiently, he kneels down and begins stripping the orcs of their cash and grabbing the crossbow, and, as an afterthought, fishing the old woman’s crossbow out of the tub and taking it too. “Never hurts to have a spare…”

As he looks to see if they have any ammunition beyond the one bolt each, he addresses (more yells at, since he still can’t hear well) the others, “That boom will probably attract a lot of unwanted attention.” He looks meaningfully at the heavily guarded gate, less than three blocks away, and the, presumably, fleeing mob of beggars. “And the ogre might come back.”

“Anyone want the bracers?”

Amara blinks and sticks her fingers in her ears trying to figure out why she can’t hear.

Lyra stands there looking shocked as Gendry finishes off the fallen orc and starts rifling through his pockets. She shakes her head, and seems to come to her senses, motioning for Donovan to hand her a crossbow.

As you look around, you see the guards up on the wall holding their ears and watching you, but they otherwise have the unconcerned look of people who have to watch killing in the streets from a perch where they cannot intervene every day. The beggars and other slums residents on this street dispersed to whatever hidey-hole they crawled out of as soon as the flow of coins from your purse ceased. Looking up and down the Parkside Gate Road in both directions, the street appears to have been largely vacated, save for a few brave souls peaking out of huts a few blocks up to see what the noise was.

Donovan hands Lyra the better-looking of the two crossbows, and three of the bolts. He pauses for a second, then hands the other one to Shaddup. “Here, you might try using this…it’a a lot quieter and if you keep it loaded you can usually count on getting the shot off before they all drop.”

Lyra hands the bolts to Shaddup, and places the crossbow down next to the old woman, glowering at Donovan.

Donovan looks disapprovingly at Lyra. “Whatever…” he sighs. “You’re going to be wishing you had that once we’re crossing the swamp.” He grabs the bracers and tries them on, then starts walking.

Amara tugs on Gendry’s tunic. “I gotta pee!”

Shuddup eyes the crossbow for a moment, “I need a small glass or ceramic ball no more than two inches in diamiter, and pea-gravel or ball bearings. Anyone want to drink a potion, or six?”

Gendry grabs the shortsword and tucks it in his belt, “for backup” he says to himself. He checks the other orcs weapons, casually holding the one orcs face in the washtub until it stops bubbling, but finds them all to be lacking some way. He then tears down a clothesline and ties the two, still-sleeping, orcs back to back in the middle of the road before heading after Donovan.

As he starts walking he looks down at Amara tugging on his tunic, then waves a hand at the refuse in the road. “Go wherever you like, I guess. Looks like that is what everyone else here does…” He then jogs back and grabs the practice sword, thinking maybe he can teach Amara some basic moves while they are traveling.

You hurry away from the old washer-woman’s house. While the road officially runs strait, you find yourselves forced to divert down alleys and back again to bypass numerous sinkholes, cesspits, collapsed buildings, and areas where people have built their shacks right in the middle of the road. The overall feel, as you skirt around streams of filth and hastily slapped-together buildings made of litter, is one of completely, unrepentant chaos.

Rounding a corner back onto the Gate Road, Aumry’s Tower comes into sight just a few blocks further on. The tower rises seven stories, each floor smaller than the one before, like a circular ziggurat, but leans precariously out over the road. A large scaffolding has been erected around the thing, and numerous workers and guards hang about, most idly chatting, a few sleeping on elevated platforms, and only two or three actually appearing to be engaged in any serious labor.

Nearer at hand, perhaps a block before the tower, on the right-hand side of the road is a relatively new-looking wooden building with a large fenced-off yard, filled with herd animals of all kinds. A triangular sign by the road declares horses, donkeys, cattle, oxen, sheep, and camels for sale.

Nearer still, between yourselves and the stables, five orcs with ashen-gray skin, dressed in rags stand over a body lying in the middle of the road. A large pool of blood spreads out over the ground around the man on the ground. The orcs are arguing loudly in their own tongue, one of them waving a fistfull of papers.

“…eda od ove ora da bde toa!”
“Ḱe se ovde!”
“E, vescte se o!”
“Što? T dur e ože da se pročta!”
“Zošto treba da se od da g ubJat a sveštekot?”
“ToJ e b n g zleč!”
“Da g odese do Mace, toJ ḱe zaat što da pravat.”
“E, Mace ḱe g prezee ste ple za sebe.”
“O ožeb Mace ože da se zleč.”
“A Xvimlar kogaš e se zleč ekoJ bez zeaJḱ aaluvaje…”

Gendry looks around at his companions, “Ok, guys, two questions. One, does anyone speak Orc? Two, there seemed to be some tactical disagreement last time. Anyone care if I charge in there before that guy bleeds out?” He draws his sword.

As they walk, Donovan’s pants and boots make a quiet sloshing sound. His gate widens as he tries to keep the wet cloth from clinging to his nether-bits and chafing, and his face seems to have adopted a permanent scowl. “Drink potions for what, Shaddup? Do you have potions we should be drinking?”

When they round the corner and see the orcs, he scowls even more. “Sorry Gendry, no, I don’t speak Orc. Given that these ones are not charging us, and we don’t know the situation, I vote that we try non-lethal measures first.” Donovan begins casting another sleep spell at the orcs.

All five of the orcs collapse mid-argument.

Shuddup looks at Donovan, “No, should I have brought potions ? I just need the bottles.” He raises the crossbow, “I’m inexperienced with this type of weapon and can’t vouch for my accuracy. With some small bottles I could have modified some arrows to compensate. Nothing to extravagant, just some powder, pea-shot, and a fuse. It’s not like I was going to try to replicate uncle Aldrich’s void arrow experiment.”

Gendry blinks, “Woah you’re fast at that. How often can you do that?”

As the orcs drop, Gendry runs forward. He gently rolls the fallen man onto his back and leans in to check his breathing (and his pockets). He begins chanting a prayer to Mask, to stabilize the man.

Lord of Shadows, Father of Thieves, He who sees all that happens in darkness, hear my prayer.
Look with favor on your servants, these brave souls who would come here to this dark town so that they might line their pockets.
Give us this day our daily loot, and let your will be done in light, as it is in darkness.
Lead us into temptation, and deliver us from the hands of the law-men.

A man lies fallen, gloriously wounded by the treachery of your servants.
Let your grace fall upon him and let him be healed that he might live to steal again.
Staunch his wounds and fill his pockets, that he might in turn fill your coffers.

On closer inspection, the man (who is indeed human) appears to have been stabbed several times, though he is still breathing shallowly. You turn him over to find that he is dressed in, now badly bloodstained, white robes with the holy symbol of Tyr emblazoned on the front. As you pray, the worst of his wounds close. He appears stable, though he remains unconscious and his breathing weak.

The orcs lying asleep around him don’t look much better off. Their skin has an ashen-gray pallor and is rough, and scaly, almost like tree-bark, with small chalky-white splotches and lesions. Three of them have knives loosely gripped in their hands, one of which is still wet with the man’s blood.

Searching the man, you find a silver chain around his neck with the silver hammer and scales of tyr, a long-handled footman’s mace by his hand (apparently unused in his recent altercation), and a scroll case that looks like it was opened a little too forcefully, which is empty.

Lyra picks up the fallen set of papers and looks them over. "I can understand a little Orcish. There were a lot of orcs in Waterdeep. But there was a lot of everything in Waterdeep. Poos is ‘help’. Mace is a name. Does it sound familiar, Mr. Donovan? The closest thing to a sentence I could make out was “Well, Mr. Mace will have assumed the tribes for themselves.”, and a word I think is ‘heal’ came up a lot. I’m pretty sure I misheard the bit about food and dances."

Lyra shakes her head and hands the papers over to Donovan. “Can you make anything of this? It’s not one I’m familiar with.”

Donovan gives Shaddup a sideways glance as he’s examining the orcs. “You seem to be a pretty good shot, and the principles of the thing—point and click—seem reasonably similar to your boomstick. In cases where being quiet is preferable, it may make a reasonable back-up. Also, anything involving powder and a fuse seems likely to defeat the purpose of being quiet…”

“No I have never heard of this Mace fellow,” he says turning to Lyra. “What was that about food and dances?” Donovan accepts the proffered papers and takes a look. It appears to be some sort of clerical notation. He hands the scrolls to Gendry, “You should probably keep these. Just let me know what pocket they’re in—I have some facility with magical devices and might be able to use them if you’re the one that needs healed.”

Lyra replies, "As far as I could tell their conversation was something like:
‘…food from these dances be it!’
‘He will be here!’
‘Well, something about!’
‘What? Major something something to something!’
‘Why should that of Mr. something something?’
‘It is something heal!’
‘To go to Mr. Mace, he will something you to make any.’
‘Well, Mr. Mace will have assumed the tribes for themselves.’
‘Oh something Mace something to heal.’
‘A something something be heal something without something something.’
“I don’t actually speak Orc, but I’ve heard enough bits and pieces to pick out that much. I’m mostly worried about the “He will be here” bit, which implies they are expecting someone, and the ‘Mr. Mace will have assumed the tribes for themselves’. Is this Mace trying to organize the orc tribes? And what does any of that have to do with stabbing a cleric of Tyr?"

Gendry takes the scrolls, returns them to their case, and attaches it to his belt. He begins searching the orcs, casually kneeling with his full weight on one’s throat as he goes through its pockets. “What should we do about this fellow?” He gestures to the unconscious monk. “I’m not a big fan of Tyrants, but having a few grateful contacts in the law is always helpful…”

Amara goes over to look at the orcs and inspect their odd pallor. She sets Whiskers down, who sniffs at one of the bodies and then looks at her.

The orc that Gendry kneels on quickly suffocates. The orcs wear only rags and have no valuables. Between the five of them, you come up with a half-dozen knives, one a long skinning knife, none of good quality, a butcher’s gut-hook, and a flint-bladed dagger for weapons. Getting this close to them, Gendry’s superior bovine nose detects a smell of decay about them, strongly vegetative, almost like peat or compost.

Donovan, nods to Lyra, "I thought I heard something about “Xvimlar”. That’s a common appellation for worshipers of Iyachtu Xvim, a significant rival of Tyr’s…being the actual god of tyrants." He scoops up a few of the knives. “If this Mr. Mace is a priest of Xvim, and is organizing the orc tribes…”

Gendry sighs and picks up the unconscious monk. “Alright…” He draws his sword and stabs the other four orcs. “Let’s get out of the street and revive this guy…see if he knows what’s up with this Mace fellow.” He looks around. “Coast clear? There seem to be a lot of orcs on this street…any ideas where to take him?”

Lyra gestures towards the large tower. “Professor Aumry’s tower is where we’re headed anyway, and appears to be well guarded.”

Shuddup upon hearing “well guarded” gets excited and moves to point. “Ooooh, well guarded usually means traps. What kind do you think we’ll see? I hope they have spring-razors they have some of the most fascinating clockworks…”

Gendry shrugs and heads towards the tower.

Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 5
It's official! We're adventurers!

You walk across the square to City Hall, where, thankfully, the line of people waiting to get in seems to have dissipated. His long stride bringing him to the head of the group, Gendry pushes open the door to the Council Clerks office before anyone can point out that the sign on it reads ‘Out to Lunch’. The inside of the office is dark, quiet, and relatively cramped. The room is dominated by a large oak desk, piled high with papers and ledgers, with two chairs behind it, and barely enough room for the five of you to squeeze in and stand in front of it. A smaller door exits on the north side of the room. The larger of the two chairs behind the desk is empty, the smaller one is occupied…

…by Faelana, who is sorting through a stack of papers and writing comments in a large notebook open before her.

Shuddup exits the training hall after redesigning the machine in his head half a dozen times to catch sight of the party entering the clerks office. He takes off after them as quickly as his little legs will carry him.

Gendry does a double-take on seeing Faelana at the clerk’s desk, and turns to Lyra. “Umm…you didn’t tell me your mom was the clerk?” He backs out the door, “How ’bout we leave the negotiating to you then.”

He steps outside, and seeing Shaddup running up, pulls a handful of slightly-linty sausages out of his pouch. “Here, I saved you some lunch…”

Shuddup pauses long enough to notice his gently rumbling stomach and accepts the sausages grinning sheepishly, “Thank you. Did you say your father turned you into a minotaur? How did that happen? My cousin Winifred, Gond rest her soul, once made a machine to transfer consciousnesses between two bodies using a crystal array she picked up at s great price from a wandering psion. She was really close to perfecting it before she stopped talking to everyone and started hoarding nuts…”

The door chimes as the door closes behind the minotaur. Half a minute later, the door chimes as Lyra steps outside. “Mother said the office is closed, and that we should form an orderly queue outside until lunch is over in ten minutes. Mother doesn’t really … negotiate.” Lyra sighs. “She might be a little more helpful with the paperwork if we tell her we’re fetching spell components for Professor Aumry, though. The only thing she’s more obsessed about than raising me into a proper lady — is magic.”

Amara sniffs, playing with her necklace.

“Great…I guess we’ll just act like a bunch of Brits then.” Gendry queues up by the door, and does his best to look intimidating (not hard for a seven foot tall minotaur), lest anyone try to cut in line ahead of them.

Donovan waits in line behind Gendry, leaning impatiently against the wall, for what seems like forever. Finally, figuring that ten minutes have passed—not that he has any way to tell time—he steps around the minotaur and opens the door. “Excuse me, Madame Beragaion, is your lunch quite finished? I’m delighted to see you here—I didn’t know the Council was hiring a new Clerk—but I’m afraid your daughter, myself, and our companions are in rather urgent need of papers so that we might escort the child Amara to her nuncle’s tower outside the city gates.” He walks in and lays his own proof of citizenship on the desk.

Faelana completes what she was writing and looks up. “First, I need a completed set of customs forms for each of you.” She produces a stack of papers for each person. “For papers to go through the gates, you and your companions will need a valid adventuring charter. It requires proof of citizenship, a completed and notarized citizenship application, or a completed and notarized noncitizen adventurer addendum for all parties, as well as all associated fees to be paid in full. Those applying for citizenship must also register for the militia, or complete an exemption form.” She adds more papers to the stack. “Each form must be completed in triplicate. Falsifying information on any official document is punishable by fines of up to ten thousand gold pieces.”

Amara wanders off towards a nearby alley, looking intently at something.

“Wait. Militia exemption form? I thought the adventuring charter automatically exempted one from militia duty?” Donovan shakes his head, takes the stack of papers, and looks around at the others. “Do you know someone with access to a copy or dictation spell?”

Lyra takes one of the stacks of forms and whispers to Donovan “Mother probably does. She’s been doing magical research for .. seventy years? At least 50. It’s why she left Evereska. I have NO idea why she’s behind the clerk’s desk, though.”

Lyra walks over to the desk and grabs a pencil from a cup near the front of the desk. “Mother, what did you mean by fees? Isn’t the council encouraging settlers and adventurers?”

Faelana straightened a stack of papers. “They are. However, the council wishes to retain certain … expectations … after the initial growth period. As such, waivers are available for import tariffs of livestock, seeds, and certain categories of trade goods, contingent on a valid application of citizenship. There is also a waiver available for the citizenship application fee itself.”

Amara hums to herself.

Faelana hands another stack of papers to Lyra, with the personal property import tariff waiver, the citizenship application fee waiver, and the adventuring charter fee waiver. As an afterthought she adds an arms permit and magic permit. She creates another stack of papers and pushes it towards Donovan.

“Yes, a valid adventuring charter is one of the ways to qualify for militia duty exemption. Paragraph twelve, subsections six through ten detail the conditions for maintaining the validity of the charter after issuance.”

Donovan sits on the edge of the desk and begins filling out papers. “Yeah, I know, as long as the charter is in effect, no other employment within the city of Phlan is allowed. And where is the usual clerk?” Donovan looks up. “Its fine if you feel that you’re supposed to mess with your daughter, but I’ve been advtersisting the rules around here for over a year. Both the adventuring charter and the citizenship application are supposed to grant immediate exemption from all taxes. Likewise…” he says, looking at the application, “the magic and arms permits are already included in the application, we don’t need separate ones…”

He looks over at Lyra, then back to Faelana. “You’re just messing with your daughter, aren’t you? If you have some objection to her registering as an adventurer, you’re better off voicing them plainly than trying to bog her down with fake paperwork…”

Gendry walks inside and crawls his clumsy “G” on a paper that Donovan hands him, then walks out into the alley wondering where Amara went to…

Faelana keeps her expression carefully neutral. “The Clerk should be returning shortly, but in the meantime, I am the Under-clerk on duty. As for my daughter, given her age, my objections, if any, matter little.” She finishes straightening the papers displaced by Donovan. “Call it a test of determination.”

Whiskers reappears, curling around Amara’s leg, her fur standing on end and delivering small static shocks with every rub against the little girl.

Donovan finishes filling out the applications for citizenship and asylum for Gendry, citizenship application for Shaddup, and the adventuring charter registration for the five of them. He looks at Lyra and hands over the charter for her signature, “You doing okay with all of those? I think I have everything actually necessary squared away for the others. Including immigration documents for the minotaur and the gnome—I figure Amara won’t need them since she’s a minor and already has family here.” Once Lyra has signed, he wanders outside to get the others’ signatures. “Hold the line, will you Lyra? I’m just going to get the others to sign this and then we can get out of here…”

Shuddup scans over the documents then signs his name in precise Gnomish lettering.

The Head Clerk, a red-haired woman—her hair done in very tight cornrows—whose dark-circles under the eyes and numerous care-lines make her age almost impossible to determine, walks in, another large stack of papers in her arms. She dumps the papers in Faelana’s lap, the beginnings of a smile—equal parts relief and cruelty—playing about her lips. “Everything going well?” she asks as she drops herself heavily into her seat, with no attempt at decorum. She tugs uncomfortably at the collar of her blouse, though you suspect that the polished, metal corset-like thing she is wearing over it is the real source of her discomfort, and looks around at the people standing about the room with piles of papers in their hands. “What have you been doing while I was out?”

Faelana immediately begins sorting through the new stack of paperwork. "A few more applications for citizenship, an adventuring charter, and one application for asylum.

Gendry turns to see Donovan approaching, rolls his eyes in that very disturbing way that only a cow can, and scrawls a few more "G"s in the indicated places. Hearing a purring noise, he turns back to see Amara’s cat reappear. “Ok,” he says to her, “what is it with your toys and pets disappearing? Do they just turn invisible or are they actually going somewhere?”

Amara giggles, “That tickles Whiskers!” She picks the kitten up, placing it on her shoulders. The cat purrs and licks her ear. Amara giggles some more. “Ooh that’s a good secret!”

When Gendry asks her question, Amara replies, “My friends go to get me things Mr. Cow. Then they come back with presents and secrets!” She giggles again and twirls.

“Can we go shopping now?” Amara asks.

Donovan looks at Amara, “Do you know how to write, Amara?” He kneels down to show her the documents. “If you can, we need you to sign your name here…” he points to a few different lines. “If not, just a picture is fine. Once we’ve all finished putting our names on this, we should be able to go shopping.”

Lyra cracks open the door and sticks her head out. “Are we almost finished?” Her face lights up when she sees the kitten on Amara’s shoulder. “Oh, Whiskers is back! Whoosa cute widdle ge….kitteh”

Amara draws a little handprint on the documents.

Whiskers purrs.

Donovan collects all the papers and walks back into the Clerk’s office. “Here you go Deb. Need anything else?”

The head Clerk (Deborah) takes the stack of documents and gives them only a cursory inspection. “Umm-hmm…” she mutters to herself, “a minotaur who is a known pirate, another gnomish Gondsman, the new under-clerk’s daughter, a minor, and…” she looks up, “Donovan. You know that accepting an adventuring charter invalidates your employment as herald, correct? We’ll need the gnome to register any contraptions he may have brought with him, as well as any he creates in the future, with the chief technologist at the Training Hall…just to make sure he’s not creating anything that could be catastrophically harmful to Phlan, its economy, or its citizens.”

She shuffles through the papers again. “The citizenship, amnesty, and asylum requests look to be in order. Given the minotaur’s proclaimed background, we would like him to make immediate report of any attempts made to contact by the buccaneers operating out of Stormy Bay, as a contingency of his being granted amnesty, and the Council may have additional requests to make of him should such contact be established. The girls’ papers all seem to be in order…” She pulls a long roll of parchment and a stamp out of a drawer in her desk, unrolls it, records your names at the bottom, and then pours some wax from a candle onto it and stamps it. “Here is your official charter. You’ll need to present this to the guards at the gate any time you wish to enter or leave the city through the slums gates. Please make sure a member of your group has this at all times.”

She hands the rest of the stack of papers to Faelana, “Please file these…” then turns back to your group. “The charter gives you permission to bear arms and employ magic within the walls of New Phlan, however you will still be subject to legal action should you bring harm to any of citizen. Good luck, and have a nice day…”

Gendry, hearing people talking about ‘the minotaur’, pokes his head back into the office. “What’s that?” He walks in. “So, you want me to let you know if I’m contacted by other pirates? And, presumably, spy on them if they do get in touch?” He chuckles, “Dad would looove that…”

He pauses, thinking for a moment, “Ok. No problem at all.”

Amara starts tugging on Donovan’s shirt. “Can we go shopping now? Huh? Can we?”

Donovan sighs audibly, “Alright, Amara, let’s go.” He takes charter from Deb and heads out the door, making a bee-line for the Parkside Gate. He looks in his purse as he walks. “So, what do you want to go shopping for? Until we get that advance from your uncle I’m not exactly flush with cash…”

“I want to buy a candle for grandmother,” Amara explains. “It will make her feel better…”

Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 4
Lunch time...

Lyra, Gendry, and Amara

Lyra gestures towards Amara. “Pardon the interruption, but his niece has just arrived in Phlan, and is looking for him.”

The man in the monk robes stops to correct a student’s posture before turning to respond. “A blessed Tyrsday to you sirs…and ladies,” he pauses and looks you over, “fresh off the boat are you? You would do well to direct such questions to the administration desk in the future. If you do not mind waiting, Professor Aumry is currently leading a practicum on advanced tactical invocations—second floor, third door on the right. He is normally accepting of observers, but I would recommend that you wait down here, given the high probability of being struck by a stray lightning bolt if you were to open the door at the wrong time. His class should be out within the hour.”

Amara takes off, following the instructions, running flat out.

Gendry’s arm shoots out as soon as Amara starts and grabs the back of her dress. “Ummm…lightning bolts.” He lifts her easily back onto his shoulder. “Sorry miss, but maybe a more orderly approach would be in order.” He walks up the stairs, keeping ahold of Amara, lest she bolt again. He heads to the door indicated, kneels down cups an ear to the door, listening for tell-tale crackling sounds before opening it.

Amara pulls Whiskers to her face and whispers to the cat. The cat fades out from tail to teeth, purring the whole time.

Lyra comes up the stairs a bit behind Gendry, not trusting the construction with the weight of a minotaur and two girls. “Should we knock?” She looks at Amara “Or perhaps wait for your friend to get back?”

Amara shrugs, “We could wait for Whiskers, but it takes a while sometimes.”


As the others go running up the stairs, Donovan walks over to the registration desk. “Good morning Taleah [she’s the administrator right],” he says to the woman behind the desk, smiling approvingly at the stylishly fake glasses. “I just got back in town and was wondering if you knew of any jobs that might be available?” He looks up the stairs after the others. “I met some promising youngsters on the boat over and was thinking about trying my hand at a few commissions. Any word from the students on where the action is these days?”

He sits on the edge of the desk and leans over it slightly, not disguising the fact that he’s looking down the front of her shirt. “Also, I saw a job posting by Professor Aumry out front. I understand that he’s with a class right now. Do you know when his office hours are?”

Taleah, who is indeed the woman behind the desk, rolls her eyes at Donovan and undoes the top button on her blouse so he can have a better view. “G’morning Don. And that’s Professor Loughgren to you. You never did turn in your final report on Pre-Turcassan Cormyrian Symphonies, you know.” She gives him a wicked smile and pushes the glasses tighter onto the bridge of her nose. “Professor Aumry doesn’t keep office hours—he says they cut into his already limited research time, plus he’s starting renovations on that old tower in the slums. If you need to speak with him, your best bet is to catch him between classes, or look for him at the tower. If you’re just looking for work, Joyce is hiring some folks to guard the new crypts. Just the thing for you, long, late nights sitting alone in the dark while people have fun above your head…”

“Crypt huh? The notice I read said it was guarding the new temple—figures it would be the least desirable part.” Donovan discreetly lays a small bag with 20 silvers in it on her desk. “Thanks Taleah, that was unusually helpful of you. Any chance you can give me directions to this tower? Oh, and may I just say, the sexy-librarian thing looks good on you. Though I miss the tail.”

With a flash of silver fur, a long fox-like tail curls around the legs of Taleah’s chair briefly, then vanishes. “Everything looks good on me Don, and if you ever want to take a class here again, you’ll remember to call me Professor.” She grabs the bag of coins and slips it into a desk drawer without looking at the contents. “To reach Aumry’s tower, just head out the Parkside Gate and stick to the main road. It’s right past Ernst’s Stables. An ugly old lopsided thing, three-stories tall, you can’t miss it.” She gives him a less caustic smile. “Do take care if you insist on going after the easy-money like this. The town would hate to loose such a talented recruiter.”

“Thanks professor, I didn’t know you cared.” Donovan slides off the desk, sneaks one last peak at the priestess’ copious assets, and heads up the stairs.

“Hey guys. It looks like we might have a better chance meeting the professor if we just went to his home. Apparently he’s renovating an old tower in the slums.” He looks at the door with distaste. “I took this class ages ago. The good brother wasn’t lying about those stray lightning bolts. I say we just leave a note that we’re looking for him, go get a bite to eat, and then meet him at his place later.” He turns to head back downstairs. “Oh, and the night watchman gig at the temple of Sune sounds like a total bust.”

Lyra, Gendry, and Amara

Lyra smiles at Amara. “Maybe we can wait just a little while longer, ok?” Lyra walks over to the railing, observing the swordplay below and seeming lost in thought. Her mind reaches out to professor Aumry. “I apologize for any interruption, Professor Aumry of Umber. Your niece Amara is newly arrived in Phlan, and rather upset that she did not see her father at the docks. If you’ve a moment to spare, she wishes to see you.

Professor Aumry responds almost instantly, “…now draw the glass rod over the wool like so and pronounce the final…Oh? A telepath? Interesting. You say Amara is here? I’m afraid I am rather busy at the moment. This class should end promptly in thirty-seven minutes. Please bring Amara to the common room of the Cracked Crown at that time. Oh, and do be careful with the girl, she can be quite dangerous if she gets upset.” The message ends abruptly as the contact is terminated from the other end.

Lyra looks up from where she was staring off. “Let’s eat at the Cracked Crown.” She hesitates, just for a moment. “I think I remember seeing it on the tour earlier, and I liked the sign.”

Gendry, still keeping a, hopefully reassuring, hand on Amara, peeks into his purse. “You buying?”

Lyra considers for a moment, looking over the very well dressed minotaur with a very nice sword. “You can pay me back out of our first job. My purse isn’t that much heavier than yours.”

Amara’s eyes get a little big. “But he’s right behind that door!” Then her stomach rumbles. “I guess I could eat, but we can come find him right after, right?”

Lyra crouches so she is eye level with Amara, her long dress pooling around her feet. “We’ll find him right after, I promise.” She stands up, smooths her skirt, and heads downstairs to join Donovan. “We should have time to eat before class is out. Now which way was the Cracked Crown from here?”


“Do you you think they have Behir steaks there?” Amara asks. “I love Behir steaks.”

Donovan looks at Gendry and Lyra, “Don’t worry, this one’s on me. And the Cracked Crown is right next door.” He heads for the exit. “I’m sorry Amara, I doubt they have behir. The Bitter Blade occasionally buys exotic corpses from adventurers to add to the menu, but that tends to be a whatever they find in the ruins kindof deal—imports of exotics into the city are still pretty limited. The Crown only deals in local meats—mostly pork since that is what the proprietor raises.”

Shuddup seems to perk up at the prospect of leaving the training house and eating, “Food sounds great.” Then adds under his breath, “as does not being in this building. The only thing more dangerous than a magic user is an untrained magic user.”

As if queue by Shaddup’s comment, an explosion rocks the Training Hall. One of the doors on the lower level bursts open, sending sparring warriors toppling and spraying the atrium with flaming shards of wood. A huge cloud of steam billows out of the opening, followed by a stream of heavily singed gnomes carrying scorched tools of all kinds. At the end of the string of fleeing gnomes comes a gnome wearing a leather apron, a broadbelt, and a welding mask, walking as calmly as anything. Once clear of the steam, she flips up the mask, revealing a face that would be beautiful even by elven standards, and shouts “Alright. Good work. Take the rest of the day off…”

Gendry turns his body to shield Amara from the blast and runs for the exit. “The fuck?!” He pauses, ever so briefly, just across the threshold, and stares awestruck at the very idea of a gnome being that beautiful, then runs for the Cracked Crown, telling himself that if a gnome is involved it must be some kind of trick or illusion. Maybe some side effect of that ‘science’ that Shaddup has been blabbering one about…

“So much for science being safer than magic. Power, magic or otherwise, without responsibility is a great destructive force, and the repercussions of its misuse unknown until far too late to rectify.” Lyra takes on her mother’s tone a bit as she recites the warning from memory.

Lyra looks around, making sure no one is seriously injured before following the others out.

Shuddup begins walking toward the stunning gnome, mouth agape, then proceeds past her trying to peer into the smoke, “Ooooh, what are you working on?”

The gnomish woman pulls out a strange-looking iron box with a large lever on one side and seemingly hundreds of raised keys. She doesn’t so much as glance at Shaddup as she begins typing into it with one hand, creating a deafening clacking noise, punctuated by the occasional shrill whistle. “A class project. We’re building a steam engine that should perpetually generate its own energy by smashing together magical stones from the deep Underdark at high velocity, collecting the energy released by the impact, which is then converted to heat, which runs the boilers. The pressure from the steam is then used to propel the stones towards each other again, thus repeating the process. Only 0.0000001% of the stone is fractured off by each firing, and the energy released is tremendous. Once perfected it could run for several million years on only the two stones. According to today’s experiment, I think we need to attach a third cam-shaft to the secondary torsion sprocket on the quarternary accelerator and then reinforce the…” She continues talking as she walks up the stairs towards the far room, continuing to clack away on the box in her hands, and then slams the door behind her.

Lyra, Gendry, Donovan, and Amara

Donovan follows Gendry out the door and turns left towards the Cracked Crown and walks in. Scanning the crowd gathering for lunch for any other familiar faces, he walks up to the bar, orders five plates of sausages and mash, four pints, and a glass of milk, then looks for a table that will seat them all.

Amara looks at her plate and frowns. “But I wanted bacon!” she whines.

Amara sits down and starts eating her mash and drinking her milk. “When can we go to uncle’s tower?”

Lyra sits at the table with her back to the door, taking one of the plates. She prods the sausage gently, as if weighing odds on the meat composition, then takes a bite. “He should be out of class by the time we’re finished eating. We’ll find him after that.”

Amara starts shoveling food into her mouth, talking around bites. “If I eat faster, will he come out faster?”

Lyra sighs. “It takes more than eating quickly to make time move faster.” She takes a sip of her pint and makes a face, clearly unused to drinking.

As everyone tucks into their food, another chair appears at the table out of nowhere, occupied by a rather portly middle-aged man in dark robes. “Amara! Welcome. You’re a little late…” He sticks a finger in the air and a waiter hurries over with a large, steaming plate of roasted vegetables and a glass of rose-coloured wine as if expecting him. Aumry looks hard at Lyra, “I suppose you are the one who interrupted my class?”, then around the table at the others. “Are these friends of yours Amara?”

Lyra shrinks a little under the scrutiny. “Would you rather she interrupted class by running into it? Because that’s what she was getting ready to do.”

Donovan very deliberately ignores the whining from the girls and eats his meal in as much peace as can be had. He carefully slices his sausages into bite-size pieces, makes a nest of mashed turnips on the back of his fork, piles the sausage bits on top, and then douses everything heavily with pepper before taking a bite. When Aumry appears, Donovan is so startled that he chokes, gasps, spits, and sends a spray of sausage and turnips across the table. He looks back and forth between Aumry and Lyra, curious about their brief exchange, then interjects, “Are you Aumry of Umbar? My companions and I met Amara unaccompanied on the ship over and agreed to escort her until a suitable guardian could be found. When her father did not appear at the docks, we thought it best to seek you out.” Recovered from the surprise, he takes another bite. “We also wished to speak with you about the job you had posted outside the Training Hall.”

“No miss, your approach was quite appropriate. The students were not disturbed and no damage was done.” Aumry sips the wine, but pushes the plate of vegetable across the table to Amara. “Thank you all for bringing my…niece here, and welcome to New Phlan.” He looks gravely at Amara, “My dear, I’m sorry to say but your grandmother in Melvaunt is unwell. She has asked for your company in these, which might be her last, days,” then turns his attention to Donovan. “Actually, if you are interested in the job I posted, it would be most fortuitous. Its difficult getting quality spell components out here, so I had a large supply shipped to some relatives in Melvaunt. While mostly worthless to common-folk, they are extremely valuable to my work, and I would pay you handsomely to fetch them here. I say fortuitous, because if you would also escort Amara there to see her grandmother, I would be willing to double the advertised payment.”

Gendry, who hasn’t really touched his food either, perks up. “Double you say? Would the half-up-front still apply?” He downs his beer in one gulp and begins drumming his fingers on the table. “Where should we pick up these components for you? Do you have an address for these relatives? Have the items already been payed for? Need signed for?…”

Lyra finishes her last bite of sausage and delicately dabs her mouth with a napkin. “Am I correct in assuming that we will need to acquire our charter before being able to accept the job? Other than that, if expediency is an issue…. How long does the journey typically take, and what volume of goods will we be retrieving? Are any of the reagents perishable?”

Aumry smiles, “All good questions. I’m glad you’re all so interested. I, personally, do not care if you have a charter, your safe conduct of Amara here is enough assurance of your good-faith for me. You will need a charter from the Council in order to leave the city gates, however. The trip overland usually takes three days—baring incident or bad weather. I will provide a wagon and team to aid in transporting the goods. The reagents should all be properly preserved, but many may be in fragile containers and you will be responsible for their safe conveyance.” He looks Gendry strait in the eye. “And, yes, you will still receive 50% up front to help cover any expenses you incrue on the journey or any personal supplies you may need.”

“Well, Amara, if you’re going to go visit granny on her deathbed, it sounds like you’ve got an escort. Lyra, Gendry, Shaddup—shall we go get ourselves a charter so that we can get through the gates?”

Gendry looks across the table at the empty chair and uneaten sausages. “Umm, I think Shaddup is still at the school investigating that explosion…”

Lyra giggles and sets down her empty pint glass. “Or the pretty gnome that caused it. Either way, he prob’ly needs to be there when we get the charter ’an we need the charter to get back in through the gates.”

Amara tucks into the veggie plate with nom nom noises. As she finishes and the conversation winds down, she says, “Thank you Lyra, that would be good.” Turning to Aumry she says, “I suppose grandmother will need her medication? Where is the apothecary shop?”

Aumry finishes his wine and stands up. “I think your smiling face is all the medicine your grandmother will need, and, sadly, there is not a proper apothecary in town yet. However, if you did want to take along something to cheer her up, you might stop by Wollaeger the Chandler in the Slums Market, I hear tell his scents are quite remarkable.”

“I have another class to attend to. This afternoon need to meet with the contractors overseeing the restoration of my new tower. Its in the northwest corner of the Slums, right on Parkside Gate Road. You can find me there once you are all cleared by the Council to use the gates.” He walks around the table and kisses Amara on the top of her head, then turns to leave.

Lyra looks over at Amara. “Don’t you want to see your father before we have to leave?” She looks back to Professor Aumry before he goes. “She said her father has a shop here. Could you give us directions? Unless of course he’s traveled ahead to Melvaunt to care for your sick grandmother.”

“A shop? Really?” Aumry chuckles. “You could say that I guess. Hasan does have a stall in the Slums Market, but he’s seldom there. You’ll most likely find him in the company of Councilmen Mondaviak arguing about import tarrifs, or else in one of the shops in the city or the slums trying to drum up support for his ’Merchant’s Council’. Maybe if he were more concerned with tending to his business than with organizing the other shopkeepers politically he might actually be able to afford a storefront of his own…”

“He’s a very busy man,” Amara explains helpfully, “He won’t have time to visit grandmother with us.”

Donovan finishes eating, places a gold piece on his plate, and rises. He gives Amara a quizzical look, “…Weren’t you just crying about him not meeting us at the docks?” then shrugs and heads for the door. “Alright, it sounds like we’ll have to go slumming as soon as we’ve got our papers. Lets go collect Shaddup and get in line to face the bureaucrats…”

Amara says, “Well of course I want to see him, he just can’t go with us silly.” She gets up. “Let’s go to the market, maybe he’s there!”

Gendry grabs the uneaten sausages off of Shaddup’s plate and shoves them in a pouch before following Donovan out. “Gnome’s gonna be hungry…” he mutters to himself.

Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 3
We're off to get a charter.


You are all awakened by a loud clanking noise and the more vigorous rocking of the ship, as Nat and the captain crank the windlass to haul the anchors in. The sun is just cresting the ridge of the Galena mountains to the east, and the air is cool and moist. A light breeze blows from the west.

The other passengers also begin to rouse themselves. A few look like they’ve been up for a while. The farmers and settlers in the stern, especially, look like they have been up for a couple of hours at least—they’ve cleaned themselves up to the best of their abilities given the situation, their gear has been re-stowed, and their belongings ordered in anticipation of reaching land. Now, they bustle about tending to their animals; replacing their water and forage, shoveling the last day’s waste over the rail, and calming those startled by the noise of getting the ship underway. If they’ve noticed that a few coins are missing, none of them has acted upon it.

Eddie’s mother, decked out in the full rose-coloured regalia of a ranking priest of Lathander, stands in the prow of the ship, which has drifted to face the east, and recites her morning prayers. A number of the other members of that group sit or kneel behind her, listening and participating in turn—though the lizard man and the halfling appear to still be quite deeply slumbering.

With the anchor weighed, Captain Donal returns to the aft-deck, unlocks the rudder and begins to tack into the wind, turning the ship north-west around Thorn Island and into the bay.


Amara wakes, snuggled up to a small blue pony about the size of a small cat. It has a flowing white mane which she begins to brush as she wanders the ship. She picks up some leftover chalk and draws on the deck a little stable for her pony to play in. She picks up a piece of Shaddup’s charcoal and fills in details. From a bag tied around her waist she pulls a blue stick and draws curlicues around the edges of her make believe barn.

When the Minotaur wakes up she addresses him, “Mr. Donovan, I’m sorry for being rude last night, I was just so tired I fell asleep. Thank you for being so nice. I would like it if you and your friends helped me find father. Lightning here,” she points to the horse prancing around in the stable. “Says you are nice and that I can trust you.” She smiles shyly. “Maybe father will be able to help you with your adventures.”


Donovan looks hard at the pony. “I’m glad Lightning likes me, but, where did it come from?” He yawns widely and sits up, looking around the deck. He stretches and stands up slowly—looking worn, bedraggled, and much older than his thirty-some years. He stretches again, does a couple of deep-knee bends, twists a few times to pop his back, then does a cartwheel across the deck. “Ah! That’s better,” he says, running his fingers through his hair and beard to straiten them. “Now, tell me about this remarkable friend of yours.”


For the first time in a week, Lyra awoke in the same spot she’d gone to bed. Or close enough to the same spot as the boat lazily drifted as far as the anchor would allow. She placed one hand on the railing and stood in one smooth motion, barely hindered by her long dress and cloak after years of getting used to her mother’s insistence on ‘proper’ attire.

She’s a little surprised that Donovan is spry enough for a cartwheel, or that there’s even enough room for one with several of the settlers still sleeping.

Lyra rummages through her pack for something to eat. After yesterday’s grand entrance, she didn’t think she could wait until they reached shore. Dried apples from somewhere in Cormyr, two days ago. A loaf of sourdough from … somethingdale, the day before yesterday. It would do.

With her own meal finished, she turns her attention to Amara and Donovan. Lyra crouches next to the ‘stable’ and holds out an apple. “Are you hungry? I think I have enough for Lightning, too. I’ve heard that ponies like apples.”


The ship is well under-way by the time Gendry wakes. He throws a long, heavily muscled arm across his face to shield his eyes and tries to roll over, away from the sun, but his horns keep getting in the way. “Frack you dad!” He says to no one in particular. “Bad enough that you curse me with this bull’s head, but now I’m forced to sleep on my back forever?!” He grumbles and rises, trying to work the stiffness out of his neck.

He opens his small belt pouch, hoping to find a bar of soap, but has no such luck. He then takes a look at the sails and notices that the boat is sailing at a good clip and realizes that a bath would be out of the question anyways. His stomach grumbles and he yells over the deck, “Hey Nat, I thought you said we’d be in town in time for breakfast?”

He sits back down and looks at his new companions. “So, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m flat broke right now. If we get into Phlan early, what are the chances we can bust up some of those monsters in time to pay for a place to sleep tonight?”


Still watching the clearly magical miniature pony. “You have a good point Gendry. I’m not sure how long it takes to get a license and commission from the Council, but I suspect it shouldn’t take too long, given the liberal policies—nothing like in Cormyr. Really though, all we need is the license. There are usually enough goblin gangs and general ruffians in the slums and other uncivilized districts near to New Phlan that its not that hard to acquire beer money just by taking a stroll out the gates and bashing some heads. There are also usually a few private opportunities as well—merchants, temples, and shopkeeps who have business that they need done.”

“If we’re talking about going out and getting ourselves in a fight this afternoon, it might help to discuss tactics…” He reaches into his bags and pulls out two large spellbooks. “I have a substantial arsenal of spells and incantations designed to weaken, tranquilize, or incapacitate foes, and always carry several such magics ready at any time. So, I can take care of crowd control—though you may want to hold your advances until after I’ve disabled as many as I can, as such spells are not, by nature, precise.” He looks around at the others.
“Lyra, you mentioned that you could scout for us?”
“Gendry, are you confident enough with that sword of yours to keep any assailants away from those of us who are more mystically inclined?”
“Shaddup, what can you tell me about this ‘flaming chain sword’ of yours?”


Lightning nibbles on the proffered apple and whinnies, then unfurls iridescent wings from her sides and flies around Amara’s head. Amara smiles at Donovan. Lightning is my friend! Like Susalia, but she’s a horse. Lightning and Susalia tell me secrets. Lightning told me how to make myself pretty. She rubs her fingers over her eyebrows, spreading the coal dust, chalk and blue powder on them, then rubs it on her cheeks like rouge. She prances around waving her arms and sings,

Sune will make me pretty,
if I sing this ditty!
All the other girls,
will be jealous of my curls!
Everyone will love me,
and think that I am pretty…

She trails off, and her eyebrows and cheeks sparkle like they’re embedded with little sapphires. “Isn’t Lightning the best?” she squeals.


Everyone on the ship pauses and turns to look at Amara, as if seeing her for the first time. For a moment, at least, she seems to have the undivided attention of everyone on board.


Amara curtsies and says, “I would be ever so grateful for your help in finding my father.” Her eyes brighten and exclaims, “I forgot my uncle is also in Phlan! He’s a wizard! we could look for him!” She smiles brightly.


Donovan does a double-take and smiles, recognizing the components of one of his favorite spells. Despite realizing the effect is magical, he is no less impressed, perhaps even more-so, by the lovely little girl. “Well done Amara! Your uncle isn’t the only wizard it seems.” He bows to the girl. “We would be delighted to help you find your father and uncle, and assist you in any other way we may.”


Gendry nods to Donovan. “I was taught to fence by some of the best pirates in the Dragon Reach, and the added reach from growing a foot doesn’t hurt. I should be able to hold my own against anything we come up against, but I’m used to fighting with a full crew and a couple of bombards at my back, so I’ll need you keep the numbers in check. Luckily this body doesn’t bruise easily.” He pulls a small strip of black cloth out of his pouch. “Also, by the grace of Mask, I am able to perform some small miracles, to heal us or bless our actions. I’ll also volunteer for lookout duty—this body’s not exactly inconspicuous, but it’s senses are superb. I hardly ever get lost any mo…”

He trails off as he sees Amara. He had been convinced that she was just a little girl, but he suddenly realizes that she is the most beautiful creature he has ever seen. He considers proposing to her on the spot—surely she’s old enough… Then he realizes what he’s thinking and remembers that a pirate should never let himself be tied down, especially to a child bride. “Ummm…” His normally genteel tongue stumbles a bit. “Miss Amara. We were talking last night…before you fell asleep, remember. Parents suck. You don’t need your father. Just stick with us, it’ll be perfect!” He pauses, watching her for a reaction, then adds, “Please?”


Shuddup huffs and sighs, “lt’s called a self cauterizing bone saw. Once I get it running a small engine runs a bladed chain around a bar and there’s a trigger to inject fuel onto the chain which both lubricates it and causes it to ignite, but in a fight I typically either use a hammer or an arquebus.” He looks around at everyone either displaying magical abilities or spell books, “Is everyone else here a magic user? You know that magic is dangerous and unpredictable. Science is by far the safer option.”


Lyra interjects, “But magic is science, kind of. The bounds of understanding expanded through rigorous research, and experimentation. It’s just that when an experiment goes wrong it can go REALLY wrong.”

Lyra shuffles her feet. “I haven’t exactly finished my magical studies yet. I mean, I can identify spells pretty well.” Lyra inclines her head, subtly indicating Amara. “But I can’t actually cast any yet. Like I said, I could scout. And sing. And play the harp, although I don’t actually HAVE a harp here.”

She sighs heavily, and thinks for a moment. “If it takes a while to get our charter, there are less glamorous ways to work off lodging. Mending clothes, chopping firewood, helping in the kitchen, or whatever other chores an innkeep or farmer need done. I’m not very good at darning stockings, though.”

She turns her attention back to Amara. “Do you know where your father and uncle are in Phlan? Was he going to meet you at the dock? That’s probably the first thing we should see to.”


The other passengers begin to crowd towards where you are situated, clearly fixated on Amara. The crowd murmurs as they approach, “Awww…” “Dear child…” “I’ll take care of you…” Just as it seems like you might be crushed by the press of adoring would-be parental figures, Nat’s voice rings out over the deck, “Phlan ho!”

His voice seems to break whatever enchantment was laid upon the crowd and they instead turn and crowd against the port gunwale to get a first look at the city which will be their home.


“Thank you Mr. Donovan,” she replies. “That is most gracious.” She curtsies again.

Amara flashes a sparkly, dimple-filled smile at Gendry, “Well…maybe father will let me come play with you while you’re in the city? I’m sure if I had friends to keep me safe he wouldn’t mind.”

Turning back to Donovan she says, “I’m not a wizard like my uncle. I just ask my friends for things and they tell me secrets that help!” She holds her hand out to Lightning, who prances to a stop on her hand. She leans down to whisper to the blue pony, “Remember when we made those pretty fireworks? Let’s show our new friends.”

The pony, rears its legs, whinnies and trots around Amara’s head. A small blue disc about the size of a coins appears in front of its head, and the pony is sucked inside – its shape being distorted as if pulled through a wormhole. The hole collapses upon itself behind the pony’s rump with a small pop.

Amara replies to Lyra, “Father said he or uncle would meet me at the dock. Uncle is an important man here, father says. I think he counsels people or something.” She shrugs. “Father will be there I am sure of it!”


Lyra looks over to where the throng of settlers are crowding, then up, to the gulls that should be wheeling over the docks, then turns back towards the railing, closing her eyes and gripping it until her knuckles turn white, chanting the words to her mother’s divination spells almost like a mantra under her breath to help her focus.


As Valkur’s Wake swings around Thorn Island and into Phlan Harbor, you get your first view of the city. The harbor is surprisingly quiet, the gulls, jaegers, and dolphins that had been following the ship abandon it as it passes into the sound side of the island, and dead fish can be seen floating on the water’s surface. Wisps of smoke drift up from various parts of the city, whether from forge, or chimney, or arson is impossible to distinguish. The skyline is dominated by a massive castle of white stone,. a few spires lean precariously in places, but the whole is still gleaming in the early morning light. Donovan explains that Valjevo Castle is the heart of “Old Phlan”, deep within the monster-occupied sections of the city. Around the castle, the once-great city sprawls broadly, split down the middle by a black, mist-cloaked river. The area of the bay near the river’s mouth is a sickly gray color. The buildings that you can see are in various states of disrepair—with a number of large, ancient mansions visible on the north side of the river.

Donovan directs everyone’s gazes away from the river and the old noble’s district towards a small section of the city, not more than a four or five blocks across, near to the water’s edge, which he identifies as “New Phlan”. A high, wooden palisade wall, reinforced in areas by the remnants of much older looking stone towers, has been erected around three sides, with the fourth being the docks. Several large buildings are visible, and, judging from the scaffolding surrounding most of them, a significant amount of construction is still ongoing. The wall appears heavily guarded, with men stationed in twos and threes every thirty or fourty feet along its top. The docks, which you now approach, look like they comprise at least half of this section of the city, with buildings built almost haphazardly on the piers and pilings extending out into the bay. Even now you see signs of construction happening on the outer edges of the docks, leaving only one or two moorings available—not a problem since you see only a small handful of boats, and no ships other than your own.

To the west, just past the palisade, you see that a massive shanty-town, easily ten times the size of “New Phlan” has grown up, filling what look like some of the oldest and most run-down sections of the town and spilling out of the ruined walls of the old city and along the shore.


As Donovan finishes pointing out landmarks and the boat begins pulling up to the dock, he addresses his new companions. “So, step one once we dock, find Amara’s father and or uncle. Step two, talk to the Council about commissions and making sure we aren’t going to get arrested for carrying weapons or throwing spells in town. Step three, PROFIT! Step four, find lodgings.” He grabs his walking stick and slings his bag over his shoulder. “Actually, before we deal with all that, would anyone like a tour of the city…the safe parts at least?”


Gendry looks at the dead fish in the water, the sludge pouring out of the river, the black cloud over Thorn Island, the fleeing sea-birds, the ruined walls—“Nice place,” he remarks. He turns to Donovan, “Yeah, a tour would be nice. I heard that the Shadowlord has a temple somewhere in the city. If you have an inkling of where it is I could probably score us a place to sleep for the night.”

“Also,” he looks down at his feet, as if contemplating how far away they are, “how open minded are these Phlannars? You said they’d give me amnesty for being a pirate…does that extend to overlooking my head problem too?” He cocks his head and points meaningfully at his horns. “What’re the chances that I’ll start a riot just by stepping off the boat?”


Lyra’s eyes widened as the flying pony disappeared. She’d never dreamed of seeing one so close, even if it was not quite what she was expecting.

Wonder quickly gave way to confusion as birds and dolphin turn aside as the ship approached Phlan. “Surely there should be gulls at the dock, or crows picking over those who have fallen in the attempts at reclaiming the old city. How long has it been like this?”

She looked over at the animals on the ship, waiting to see if they showed signs of unease or distress.


Sure enough, the animals start to cry and kick at their stalls as the ship tacks into the sound. Nat, hands on the mainstay, shrugs. “It’s the river. It stinks of death. The animals just smell it from farther away. You’ll find some birds—rooks, pigeons, and the like—deeper into the city, and in the woods, but they won’t go near these waters.” He points at the dead fish floating on the water. “Parasites or no, no self-respecting gull’d eat that, and no fisherman in his right mind would take a fish outa the sound—like to find yourself sprouting an extra head or something.” He spits over the side yet again. “Cleaning up the river and the sound is top priority for the Council—anyone who could figure out how to do that ‘ll be swimming in gold. Of course, the Council has been saying that since day one, and no one’s managed to do a thing about it.”


As the animals grow increasingly agitated, Lyra’s brow furrows in concern. “Mr. Donovan? You said you have spells to tranquilize, didn’t you? Would you be able to put them to sleep so they don’t hurt themselves?”

Lyra approaches the panicking animals, singing softly to calm them.

Well, it’s not far down to paradise, at least it’s not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see
Believe me

It’s not far to never-never land, no reason to pretend
And if the wind is right you can find the joy of innocence again
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see
Believe me

Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free

Fantasy, it gets the best of me
When I’m sailing
All caught up in the reverie, every word is a symphony
Won’t you believe me?

Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free

Well it’s not far back to sanity, at least it’s not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away and find serenity
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see
Believe me

Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free


Shuddup eyes the murky water pondering exactly what’s contaminating it, and begins sketching a pumping system on the deck rail with soot on his finger. “So what’s in the water?”


As the animals begin to calm down, Gendry walks to the rail and takes a big sniff. He stumbles back, nearly gagging. “Talona’s Tits! That’s awful.” He goes to cover his nose, then realizes it takes both hands to cover his large, bovine snout, and looks chagrined. “Remind me to look for a place selling satchets once we have some money.” He turns to Shaddup, “Smells like a mixture of dead fish, sewage, brine, sulfur, and bad vinegar. There must be some monstrous pickle-factory up river…”


Shuddup’s impromptu sketch moves on to include large sequential holding tanks, "Do we have access to any dragons, red or gold would do. Dragon fire makes the best charcoal, really burns away impurities. What’s the source of the pollution? " Anyone who can read Gnomish notices Shuddup writing “Project Purity” on the rail.


Amara runs to the rail looking expectantly towards the docks. A purring noise starts coming from inside her cloak, and she reaches into a pocket and pulls out a small kitten that looks like a miniature blue and white tiger cub. “Oh hello Whiskers,” she exclaims. Amara holds the kitten up to her ear and listens for a moment. She twirls her dress and laughs delightedly and says in a singsong voice:

And now it’s time do do our chores,
And when we’re done something more!
Sing a morning work song,
To help the chores get done!

She begins giggling as little blue lights travel from the top of her head and crawl over her body, cleaning up dust, dirt and grime. They leave a lemon-fresh scent behind. She dances and twirls around her new friends as her little lights begin to crawl up their bodies one by one, repeating the same process.


Lyra smiles and curtsies to Amara as several distinct colors of mud disappear from her boots as the light travels upward. “Thank you, Amara.” She looks at the kitten and curtsies again. “And thank you, Whiskers.”


Donovan shrugs at Gendry’s question, “Given that the Council is willing to let goblins, ogres, and lizard-men in the city, I doubt a minotaur would create that much of a stir.”

He then looks over at the animals, “It seems like you have them well in hand, miss.”

Then back to Shaddup, “If anyone knew what the source of the pollution was, I’m sure the Council would have done something about it by now. If you’re that interested in the problem, maybe we can take a hike up-river and see if we can find whatever is causing it. Of course, that would mean being in close proximity to the river for an extended period of time, and going through some of the worst sections of Old Phlan, AND then tracking through the Quivering Forest. All of which seem like bad ideas at this juncture.” He looks at the plans the gnome is sketching, “What we really need is a boat that could safely traverse the river itself—and some way to protect us against the vapors coming off the water. Then we could just sail right up river until we found the source, and avoid most of the monsters.”


Lyra starts to speak but is cut off by a sharp look from her mother. She sighs, thinks for a moment and then looks over at Donovan. “What about circling around the city and heading upriver, not following the river directly? I understand the old city itself is still quite dangerous, but what about the surrounding area?”


Captain Donal steers the ship towards the wharf, as Nat tosses the mooring ropes to men waiting on the wharf. The ship is soon comes to gentle stop and is tied off. Nat removes a section of the gunwale and secures several planks to make a wide gangway extending down to the wharf. A half dozen men stand below and the settlers begin passing them the crates filled with their belongings, building supplies, and trade goods over the rail. Captain Donal passes the board with the passenger manifest to an officious looking halfling wearing a blue waistcoat. Nat motions that its okay to disembark and the other passengers begin to shuffle down the gangplanks, being careful to give Shaddup and his drawings wide berth on their way out.

The halfling stands examining the manifest for some time, occasionally making little humming noises to himself. Nat comes over to where you are conversing, “You folks are free to disembark at any time.” He walks over and extends a hand to Shaddup and Gendry. “Thanks for your help. If you want that drink I owe you, stop by the Bitter Blade around sundown this evening. It’s in the north-west corner of the new part of town, right by the Parkside Gate.” He then turns and heads down to speak with the halfling and the captain, leaving the five of you on a mostly empty ship.


“Yes, m’lady, the old city is extremely dangerous—adventurers return daily with tales of vicious tribes of gnolls, bugbears, and even giants in the deeper parts of the old city, not to mention trolls, basilisks, and other horrors. Going around isn’t much better though. Attempting to land to the west we’d have to contend with the pirates in Stormy Bay, the Zhentarim, and the various things that prowl the Grass Sea—mostly thri-kreen and prairie tigers. To the east, we’d basically be landing in the swamp, where we’d have to deal with man-eating lizard-folk and the undead that have been coming out of the old cemetery north of the city, not to mention the mosquitoes. They’re worse than anything.”

“I suppose if we wanted to circumnavigate the river and the forest that our best bet would be to sail west. If you don’t mind dealing with buccaneers and slavers,” Donovan looks meaningfully at Gendry, “then we could try landing in Stormy Bay and using Master Gendry’s pater-familias’ reputation to get the pirates to leave us alone. Then cut strait north, sticking to the edge of the forest until we reach the Dragonspines. Borrow a boat from one of the villages along Dragonden Pass, then sail south down the river until we find where the pollution starts. Such a circuitous route could easily take a month or more though.”


Gendry looks at Donovan and shakes his head. “Pirates aren’t a ‘leaving us alone’ kindof lot. My own dad turned me into a minotaur after all. Using his name with the locals would just be asking for trouble.” He shakes Nat’s hand and then follows him off the ship. “How ’bout that tour Don?”


Lyra looks over at her mother, now disembarked and speaking with the halfling.

“There are faster ways, but not entirely less dangerous.”

“Nevermind, Mr. McPillflup. It’s … complicated, and we’d have to know exactly where we’re going first.” Lyra looked around at the settlers making their way off of the docks and moves to disembark. “Amara, do you see your father or your uncle? What do they look like?”


Donovan nods, “Yes, we can finish discussing our plans while we walk.” He rummages in his bags and hands a sheaf of paper to Shaddup. “Here, you might want to make a copy of your drawings. I don’t think we can take the Wake with us.”

He walks down the gangway, looking around at the people on the dock. “Yes, Amara, which one is your father?” Seeing only a halfling and the handful of laborers, he begins to suspect that finding the girls father might take longer than he had planned. He mutters something under his breath and takes a harder look at everyone here.


Shuddup quickly copies his sketch into the paper and follows the remainder of the party down the gang plank whistling a Lantanan sea shanty


Amara stuffs Whiskers back into her cloak pocket and runs down the gangplank, looking around wildly. “Father?” Her voice rises an octave. “Father!?” Then her voice becomes tiny as she sobs out, “Father?” Her eyes get round and her lip quavers, and like a flood gate opening, tears begin streaming down her face. She covers her eyes with her hands, her shoulders shaking. A purring sound starts rumbling in her cloak as if to comfort her. “I don’t see them!” she wails to Lyra and Donovan.


Shuddup taps Gendry on the leg, “Perhaps you should lift her up, sometimes it harder for people like us to find someone in a crowd.”


Gendry stoops down and lifts Amara up onto his shoulder, tilting his head to keep his horns out of her way. “Don’t cry, Amara. Maybe your dad just didn’t get the news that the ship was coming in. I grew up in a port—there isn’t really any way of knowing what day a ship will arrive, and if he’s a merchant, he’s probably too busy to come down and stand on the docks every morning.” He begins shoving his way through the crowd so that she can get a good look at everyone. “Did he give you any kind of address or way to contact him?” Gendry asks, assuming the answer is know and thinking to himself parents suck, why should she even bother.


Amara sniffles, “Maybe…” My uncle is, “Aumry”. She snorts, “Of.” She gasps in a ragged breath, “Umber.” She takes a shuddering breath, “Beholderven”. Sitting on Gendry’s shoulders, Amara pulls Whiskers out of her cloak and holds the cat up to her face to snuggle.


Donovan looks up at the girl and smiles. “I know this Aumry. He’s an instructor at the Training Hall. If we’re taking a tour we should go right past there.” He steps into Gendry’s wake and follows him through the crowd. “Actually, the Training Hall should also be one of our stops if we’re looking for work, since they have a jobs board. We’ll look for your uncle while we’re there.” He thinks for a bit and then says, half to himself, “Aumry. Amara.” He looks up at the girl again, “Were you named after your uncle?”


Amara shrugs. “Dunno,” she says in a little voice.


Lyra and her mother fall in with the others. “Mother will be needing to go to the Training Hall as well, if she’s going to be offering her services as an instructor.”


Donovan scans the crowd with his spell, noticing that most of the dock workers do not appear to have any strong affiliations. The halfling appears to work for the Phlan Council, perhaps as a member of the Port Authority, and the two dwarves, Captain Donal and Nat, appear to be devout worshipers of Valkur, and closely aligned with that church.

Gendry finishes pushing his way through the crowd, the rest of you in tow. Just as you step off the long wharf, Donovan steps into the lead and points to the right, “We are now on Parkside Gate Road, one of the two major thoroughfares through New Phlan. On our right is the Port Authority, which governs all ships entering or leaving Phlan Harbor, and most smaller vessels as well. If we ever need to catch a boat out of town, this is the place to go.”

He turns a sharp left and walks along the docks. “As you can see,” he says, pointing to workers hammering pilings into the bay, “much of the expansion of New Phlan has happened dockside. Due to the monstrous occupation of the old city, most of the settlers have been forced to build their homes out over the water, so the active docks keep getting pushed further into the bay. Luckily lumber is readily available from the forest.” He sweeps an arm to the right, taking in a large pavilion containing an open-air market, “Here you can see the Dockside Market. Most merchants who haven’t yet constructed their own premises can be found either here, or in the market in the slums outside the wall. Like Nat said on the boat, be wary of the fish-sellers, they don’t always put out as far from the river as one would like.”

You walk another few blocks past several wooden tenements and one large tavern, your feet echoing on the boards making up the road. “That’s the Laughing Goblin. Probably the quietest dockside tavern in all the Realms, partly because no ships ever come to call, but mostly because they have a huge hulk of a bouncer. I stayed there last time we made port—the soup’s not bad.” Donovan then takes a right onto another broad boulevard, “This is Traitor’s Gate Road. Parkside Gate and Traitor’s Gate are both on the far west end of New Phlan and open into the slums. I usually prefer to take this way, as the orcs have been known to fire volleys of arrows across the river from the ruins on the north side. I don’t think anyone has ever been seriously injured, it’s a long shot, but you do want to watch your head if your take the Parkside Road. Many of the newer temples are on that side of town—including a temple to Gond which they were just breaking ground on when I was here last.”

Two blocks to the west he stops in front of a large, impressive stone building. All of the stones look like they have been recycled from older edifices, but the building itself appears relatively new and well constructed. “This is City Hall. This is where the Council meets and most of the business gets done.” You see the lizard-man and his companions standing outside the large double doors waiting to get in. “We’ll need to stop by later to get our commission, but for now…” He waves his hand towards the wall beside the gates, where numerous officious-looking scrolls have been tacked up. “…we can at least see what they’re paying for.” He briefly reads off the various proclamations posted.

“Just behind it you can see the House of Justice, where the Council and the priests of Tyr try criminals and malcontents. Punishments range from fines (which are then used to pay adventurers), to being forced to perform a mission for the Council for free, to being thrown over the wall at night with no weapons (for the worst offenses). The Temple of Tyr is on the other side of that, not a great place for fun-loving folks like us, but the Bishop of Tyr is the only one in town able to perform major miracles—in case we ever have need of such.”

Donovan walks you across the square from the City Hall to a large, ornate building, the old stones covered with new bas-relief carvings, and numerous fountains flanking the steps, which are strewn with flower-petals. You hear singing from within, “…that can’t be saved. Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time. It’s easy. All you need is love…” Donovan rolls his eyes, “This, of course, is the temple of Sune.” He hangs a right and walks behind the temple to a long, low building that looks rather haphazardly put together, the walls patched and stuccoed over in several places, “And here, is our destination.” He walks up to the large barn-like doors. “The New Phlan Public Training Hall. Inside you’ll find instruction in all manner of dangerous professions…and hopefully Amara’s uncle.” Several signs have been tacked to the door. He stops and reads those aloud before entering.


Gendry listens as Donovan reads the job postings, then perks up. His head snaps around to look at Amara, almost skewering her in the process. “Hey! Did he say Aumry? That’s your uncle right? Fifty gold a head isn’t quite the thousands we were talking about on the boat, but half up-front will pay for a place to sleep tonight and a good meal before we take on any dangerous stuff…”


Lyra looks over the job postings as well. “Melvaunt? That’s … east? How far is it, and what lies between for guards to cost so much? The graveyard thing sounds easy; from the posting you just have to get close enough to look around and come back alive. Why hasn’t anybody just tried scrying it or something?”


Donovan nods, “Yeah, Melvaunt is about fifty miles to the east. The road between here and Melvaunt is pretty well maintained, since its our nearest trade partner, but they go right through the swamp. The paladins of Iniarv’s Tower patrol the road regularly, but caravans are still attacked by swamp monsters and bands of goblins or ogres from Thar. So, yeah, caravan guards make good money, usually around 20 gold for a one-way trip. This one sounds like two-way—go there, pick up whatever it is, and bring it back—and it seems reasonable that whatever a professor of arcane arts would be shipping would be of greater than average value.” He pauses, thinking to himself, “The promise of payment in magical scrolls is pretty tempting. More spells we could learn, or use in a pinch, would be very nice.”

“As for the graveyard, the coming back alive part seems hardest. I don’t know about the rest of you, but most of my best spells won’t work on ‘formerly living entities’. And we’re not talking just a few zombies here. Reports about attacks from the graveyard always involve packs of ghouls and wights, things cunning enough and hungry enough to attempt to stalk you, surround you, and ambush you, not just shamble forward and let themselves be chopped up.”

Donovan looks over at the temple next door, and a lecherous gleam comes into his eye. “You know, it may only be 3 gold a night, but making friends at the Temple of Sune wouldn’t be a bad thing…”


Gendry smiles, “Getting into Sune’s temple at night could certainly be profitable, though probably not in the way advertised. Seriously though, we have to go find this Aumry guy for Amara anyways, we might as well talk to him and see if he has any more details about the Melvaunt job.” He opens the door and heads inside. “If it doesn’t sound like a good idea, we can always fall black on plan A and go knock together some goblin heads to pay for our supper. Or heck, maybe we can get Nat to take us over to the evil island of creepiness—sounds the Council would pay a ton to know what’s going on over there.”


Lyra seems completely and utterly oblivious to Donovan and Gendry’s intentions. “Helping an order dedicated to spreading joy in the world certainly seems preferable to knocking goblin heads to me.”

Faelana breaks off from the group with little more than a stern look at her daughter, to go see the council about a position in the training hall.


The large barn-like doors open onto a large, open-air atrium. Around the yard, two-dozen students, armed with a variety of swords and dressed only in their street clothes, are sparing in pairs, practicing a variety of parrying techniques. A pair of instructors wander amidst the students. One, an older man stripped to the waist to reveal impressive muscles and a mass of graying chest hair but wearing a bucket-helm with a large crest of red feathers, shoves his way between a pair of sparring partners, such that you’re afraid he’s going to get skewered. He shouts at the students for about a minute, for what you aren’t sure, as they appeared to be doing quiet well, then moves on. The other instructor, a slight man dressed in a monk’s habit, though with the cowl and scapular removed, comes in quickly behind him, praises the students and borrows the sabre from one, showing him an alternative grip and demonstrating a few cuts before moving on.

At the back of the atrium you see a large desk. A sign hanging over it reads “Registration” in common and several other languages, and a bespectacled woman sits behind it, looking up from a stack of papers rather vexatiously at the shouting instructor. Doors lead off from the Atrium to the left and right, and a rather rickety looking staircase runs along the far wall, leading up to a balcony surrounding the atrium, from which a number of other students appear to be watching, with more doors off of that.


Donovan waits until the shouting man is at the far end of his circuit of the room, then walks and strides up to the monk. “Excuse me Brother, do you know where we might find Professor Aumry of Umber?”

New Phlan Public Training Hall Faculty

Name: Aumry of Umber
Professions Taught: All manner of wizardly spellcasters
Average Training Time: 2 weeks
Weapons Taught: Two-handed Weapon Style, Quarterstaff
Non-weapon Proficiencies Taught: Agriculture, Chaos Shaping, Direction Sense, Display Weapon Prowess, Planar Sense, Planar Survival, Reading/Writing (Common), Spellcraft
Magical Paths Taught: Aberrant Path, Apprentice’s Road, Archmage’s Road, Black Road, Path of Doors, Path of Staves, Path of the Beholder, Road of Pentacles, Silver Road

  • This portly wizard claims to be from the Dales, though his outrageous accent places him as coming from somewhere much farther afield. His primary interest is in planar studies, and many of the students suspect that he is not of this world. While a good and efficient teacher, he seems to have little patience for slower students and often complains that his job is taking him away from doing real research.

Name: Manabu of the Burning Mind
Professions Taught: All manner of wizardly spellcasters
Average Training Time: 4 weeks
Weapons Taught: All Blades
Non-weapon Proficiencies Taught: Alertness, Ancient History (tribes of Thar), Arctic Survival, Etiquette, Information Gathering, Languages (Ogre, Orc, Goblin), Spellcraft
Magical Paths Taught: Aberrant Path, Firesight Path, Giant’s Path, Jeweler’s Road, Path of the Bandit, Path of Counterspells, Path of the Mind, Path of Swords, Path of Smoke, Road of Seals and Wardings, Road of True Names

  • One of the first teachers to work at the academy, Manabu comes to Phlan by way of Glister in the land of Thar, and is very well connected with the Council. Manabu looks very old, in the way that only a wizard can be, and is very versatile as an instructor—even teaching some basic swordplay classes. In addition to his interest in history and politics, he is also very well versed on the cultures of the monsters occupying Old Phlan, and teaches a variety of monstrous languages.

Name: Gerrin Wheelbarger
Professions Taught: Rangers, Fighters
Average Training Time: 2 weeks
Weapons Taught: Two-handed Swords, Axes, Two-handed Style, Avalanche Style
Non-weapon Proficiencies Taught: Animal Rending, Astrology, Leatherworking, Hunting, Psionic Detection, Survival, Tracking

  • Exiled by the Yuan-ti rulers of his home city of Hlondath, the Council of Phlan has offered Gerrin political asylum in exchange for his help in training the adventurers and soldiers that protect the town from its many monstrous neighbors. Gerrin has a distinct dislike of all reptilian and snakelike creatures, but yuan-ti and lizardmen especially. Regardless of his contract, he refuses to offer training to any reptilian races.

Name: Hammond of Hillsfar
Professions Taught: Warriors (all varieties)
Average Training Time: 8 weeks
Weapons Taught: All Blades, All Crushing and Cleaving weapons, All Crossbows, Weapon and Shield Style
Non-weapon Proficiencies Taught: Ancient History (Military History), Armor Optimization, Land-based Riding
Special Classes: Hammond offers a special 1-month course that will teach anyone proficiency with the Broadsword. This grants a bonus proficiency to members of any class (doesn’t take a slot, but priest characters are still limited to those weapons allowed by their faith). This is included in the cost of tuition.

  • Hammond is a captain of Hillsfar’s Red Plume mercenary company, on loan to the Council of New Phlan to train their troops. Like many Hillsfarran’s, he has little love of those from neighboring cities, and a strong dislike of spellcasters and non-humans. On top of his prejudices, Hammond iis actually a very poor leader and a horrible teacher, but the Council will put up with him until they can find someone better. While his contract prevents him from outright refusing to teach non-humans, his dislike of the students increases the training time by 1 week for characters with spellcasting ability or 2 weeks for non-humans (these stack).

Name: Shanal
Professions Taught: Runecasters
Average Training Time: 2 weeks
Weapons Taught: Two-weapon Style, Dagger
Non-weapon Proficiencies Taught: Dwarven Runes, Close-Quarters Fighting, Herbalism, Mining, Poison Use, Toxicology, Venom Handling
Special Classes: While such practices are frowned upon by the Council, Shanal offers courses in the creation, identification, and use of poisons. He can teach the Poison Use, Toxicology, and Venom Handling proficiencies, but these are only taught in one-on-one tutoring sessions, costing 500gp per class, and are not included in the normal tuition to train a level. Likewise, the Disease rune must be learned in this way as well.
Runes Taught: Accuracy, Berserk, Binding, Death, Disease, Dream, Hawk, Triumph

  • This dwarf is the newest faculty member at Phlan’s Public Training Hall, teaching classes on herbology, underground survival skills, and rune-based magics. While his morals are questionable, and the Council dislikes some of the subjects he offers on the side, he is a very effective teacher and well-liked by those students who have taken his courses.

Name: Taleah Loughgren
Professions Taught: Clerics, Druids, Mages, Diviners, Runecasters, Bards
Average Training Time: 5 weeks
Weapons Taught: Dagger, Quarterstaff
Non-weapon Proficiencies Taught: Administration, Artistic Ability (painting), Crowd Working, Gaming, Gem Cutting, Grooming, Haggling, Local History (Phlan), Musical Instrument (harp), Reading/Writing (Espruar), Religion, Singing
Runes Taught: Blinding Light, Coyote, Fox, Healing, Love, Wisdom
Magical Paths Taught: Bard’s Road, Enchanter’s Path, Servant’s Path, Stormy Path, Veiled Path

  • Despite rumors that she is actually a were-fox, Taleah is an accepted member of the clergy of Sune in Phlan and serves as a teacher and administrator at the Public Training Hall, where she teaches classes for Bards, Clerics, Diviners, Mages, and Runecasters (thanks to her highly diverse skillset). While beautiful, she is haughty, arrogant, and greedy. She has a particularly spiteful relationship with Hammond, who runs the fighter’s school.

Name: Francis Urslingen
Professions Taught: Clerics, Monks, Fighters, Swashbucklers
Average Training Time: 2 weeks
Weapons Taught: Fencing Blades, Clubbing Weapons, Slings, Single Weapon Style, Fencing Style, Punching
Non-weapon Proficiencies Taught: Ancient History (religious history), Blind-Fighting, Calligraphy, Dancing, Dark Lore, Folklore, Healing, Heraldry, Law, Style Analysis, Tumbling

  • “Brother Francis” is an oddity among Tyrran monks, the second son of Lord Urslingen, he chose to study fencing rather than other martial arts. While has certainly stands out from his brethren, Francis is an excellent teacher, both of arms and of doctrine, and has been teaching at the Phlan Public Training Hall since it was founded. Unlike many of the other instructors, Francis prefers a “hands on” approach to teaching martial skills, and often leads forays into the uncivilized portions of town. His students tend to be extremely loyal and are always impressed by his great strength and skill with a blade. Despite (or perhaps because of) his vows to the contrary, he is well-liked by the ladies.

Name: Swindon Lype (“Swipe” to his students)
Professions Taught: Thieves, Spies, Psionicists
Average Training Time: 3 weeks
Weapons Taught: Bows, Scimitar, Knife, Single-Weapon Style
Non-weapon Proficiencies Taught: Animal Handling, Animal Lore, Animal Training, Appraising, Bureaucracy, Cerebral Blind, Direction Sense, Hunting, Land-based Riding, Languages (Elvish, Orcish), Lock Smithing, Rejuvenation
Special Classes: Swipe can teach up to Mastery level skill with a knife (for those characters able to achieve such). He will perform Psychic Surgery to unlock psionic wild talents, for a flat fee of 100gp, but takes no responsibility for any negative side-effects.

  • This ‘crazy old gypsy’ from the Dalelands teaches courses in safe-cracking, trapfinding, advanced techniques for putting a knife in an enemy’s back, and other skills useful for ‘professional treasure hunters’. He also teaches students to unlock the potential of their minds—either in the form of psionics or just critical thinking skills, and offers classes in animal husbandry for those settlers who are new to raising livestock. Some merchants have complained that his courses in thievery are a little to ‘practical’, but he has thus far escaped any significant retribution.

Name: Sarush Sevenspears
Professions Taught: Crusaders, Clerics, Fighters
Average Training Time: 9 weeks
Weapons Taught: Pole Weapons
Non-weapon Proficiencies Taught: Agriculture, Animal Lore, Battle Command, Direction Sense, Land-based Riding, Orienteering, Prayer, Religion, Storytelling

  • A devout soldier in the service of Tempus, god of war, and a superb leader, Sarush quickly became a local hero in his hometown of Scardale after he helped overthrow the tyrant Lashan. When the locals of Scardale asked him to take leadership of their community, Sarush fled north, unwilling to take on such civic responsibilities. He traveled to Phlan, where has has helped establish a strong following for Tempus, mostly among the soldier he teaches at the Public Training Hall. Despite his leadership skills, he has turned down several offers from the Council of Phlan to command their troops, preferring to teach.

Name: Ankbunkra Arpengast
Professions Taught: Tinkers
Average Training Time: 2 weeks
Weapons Taught: Crushing and Cleaving Weapons, Crossbows, Arquebus
Non-weapon Proficiencies Taught: Artistic Ability (sculpture), Blacksmithing, Carpentry, Cartography, Clockwork Creation, Charioteering, Debate, Engineering, Gem Cutting, Glassblowing, Haggling, Lens Crafting, Languages (Gnomish, Dwarvish, Halfling, Goblin, Kobold, Elvish, Jermlaine), Metalworking, Musical Instrument (harpsicord), Numeracy, Pottery, Research, Smelting, Survival (all terrains), Weaponsmithing

  • A wandering crafts-gnome from Neverwinter, Ankbunkra has taken up residence in the city of New Phlan, where she teaches all manner of crafts and trades, as well as linguistics and critical thinking skills, at the Public Training Hall in exchange for the Council funding her research (mostly in the field of advanced optics)…so far she hasn’t invented anything too dangerous. Ankbunkra is quite attractive, even by non-gnomish standards.
Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 2
In which we are introduced to the rest of the characters and a party is formed.


The sound of clattering dice followed by a loud whoop are heard from the back of the ship. Everyone looks back to see one of the farmers leap up from his seat and punch the air. “That’s it Leitch! Tymora has spoken! You lost!” The other farmers also stand and join in the hollering, “Aye, Donovan, you lost, give us a song!”

“Alright, gimme some space.” The crowd of settlers parts to reveal a plainly dressed man of middle years sitting staring at a pair of dice showing snake-eyes. He brushes the dice aside with the back of his hand, then pulls a large bag towards him from the stack of luggage. He unpacks a thing that looks like a fiddle with a keyboard mounted on the neck and a handcrank attached to a wheel on the soundboard. He begins to turn the wheel, creating a drone like a set of bagpipes and begins to sing. (Playing this)

By the end of the song, all of the settlers have fallen asleep, slumped wherever they were listening, sprawled over crates, sheep, and each other. The man, Donovan, packs up his wheel-fiddle and begins riffling through their pockets for loose change. The captain glowers at Donovan from his perch above the taffrail, but seems used to this sort of thing and goes on about his business.


Shuddup watches Amara’s doll, “What type of power source does your doll use? Something that compact could have a wide variety of applications.”


Done retrieving his “winnings”, Donovan wanders forward to where the girl and the gnome are talking. Overhearing them, he laughs. “Come now Sir Gnome, that doll is clearly no device, but a work of arcane artifice. It looks to me like one of the Bisque dolls popular in Halruaa. Notice the realistic, skin-like, matte finish. Clearly you are not familiar with the thaumaturgical novelties of the deep south.” He smiles and kneels down to be on their level. “Where did you get such a lovely doll, little girl?”


The deckhand stands looking distastefully at the performance, then walks to the rail, presumably to fiddle with some other ropes, or perhaps just to look at something other than the passed-out farmers. As he gazes out at the sea he suddenly coughs, sputters, then shouts, “Man overboard!”

Everyone watching the lizard-man at the prow rush to the rail to see a tall, slender man with the head of a bull floating on a piece of driftwood a good thirty or forty yards off the starboard bow. The lizard-man stops his soliloquy and dives over the rail, vanishing under the water only to resurface next to the floating minotaur. The two are quickly hauled onto the ship and the deckhand gets to work stripping the rescuee of his waterlogged and rather brightly coloured doublet and pantaloons, checking his breathing, and calling for blankets and towels.


Nat wraps the minotaur in a towel and shakes his head, muttering to himself again, “Lizard poets and minotaur fops. What’ll they think of next.” He bends an ear near to the thing’s nostrils to check its breath, then, satisfied, walks away. Ss’thek’niss, the lizard-man,climbs back up on the rail over the sleeping minotaur and perches there, gargoyle-like, looking a bit peevish at having been interrupted by the old man with the hurdy-gurdy.


The minotaur begins to stir, snorts a few times, then opens his eyes. He jumps slightly on realizing that all he is wearing is a towel, pulls the thing tighter about himself and starts looking around wildly for his belongings.


There is an audible pop, a thunk, and a slight yelp of surprise as an elven woman and a pretty, half-elven teen appear on the deck. Or rather, very slightly above it. The copper haired elven woman in a simple grey traveling cloak rolls up the paper she was holding and tucks it into the scroll case held in the crook of her elbow as she looks about the ship.

Meanwhile, the girl rushes to the railing, leaning over and heaving violently.


The minotaur startles the rest of the way awake and jolts to his feet, forgetting the towel. Standing there in his altogether, he isn’t bad looking, from the neck down at least. He makes a couple quick steps towards the young women who has suddenly appeared, forgetting that he is a stark-naked, 7-foot-tall, bull-headed monstrosity. “Are you alright miss?”


Still holding on to the railing, she brushes a strand of hair caught by the wind behind her pointed ear. “Mother thought a spectacle would make it easier to attract students. But I’m far better than if we’d appeared IN the deck. Or a crate. Or one of the … cows.” She trailed off as she turned towards him. The minotaur. And turned bright red. “OH GOD I DIDN’T MEAN IT LIKE THAT I’M SO SORRY.” As she nervously stared at her feet, she also realized what the minotaur was wearing, or rather, not wearing. She was now red to the tips of her ears.


Eddies mother makes a scandalized tsking noise and turns away, shielding the boys eyes from the minotaur’s nakedness. “SIR! There are children present. Please do cover yourself!”


The minotaur looks down at himself, looks around frantically for his clothes, then begins pulling on his still-wet hose with the speed and agility of someone who has clearly had to vacate a lady’s apartments in a hurry on more than one occasion. He pulls a dripping satin shirt over his head, “So sorry miss. I didn’t realize my state…” He grabs a doublet and begins buttoning it up. “Last thing I remember I was falling off a ship.” He reaches down and pulls a pair of ballooning pantaloons over his hose. “Now I wake up and find myself naked, on a completely different boat, with beautiful women appearing out of the sky…” He grabs a belt with a once fine scabbard, now rotting from the moisture, hanging from it and buckles it on. “You can imagine my shock…” He carefully draws the sword from the scabbard, a beautiful basket-hilted sabre with a silver-chased blade, being careful not to appear too threatening, and dries it off with the towel before re-sheathing it. “I meant no disrespect by my ill-garbed appearance.” He gives the maid a sweeping bow, almost skewering her with his long, bovine horns.


Amara looks at Shaddup and Donovan and gives them the stink eye. Susalia is NOT a device! She’s a real person! She leans down and whispers to the doll. It nods, shimmers like heat rising from the desert, and disappears.

She walks over to the girl who just appeared, puking by the rail. She holds up a piece of chocolate. “Here, eat this. It helps you feel better after you teleport.”


“What’d I say, Sir Gnome, that doll is clearly a magical device…”

Donovan looks after the girl as she walks off then turns back to the gnome, “Kids these days! Someone needs to teach that little girl some manners.” He shakes his head. “This is what comes of giving children too much autonomy. When we get to Phlan I’m going to give that girl’s father a piece of my mind!”

His eyes scan the deck, taking in the naked minotaur, the puking girl, and, more interestingly, the elven woman who has just appeared out of thin air. He smiles broadly and practically skips over to the woman. “Madam! That was a truly impressive display of the science of thaumaturgical, transdimensional transitory transubstantiation. Landing aboard a moving ship, quite the remarkable feat.” He reaches into his bag and pulls out a pencil and a thick tome. He rifles through the book until he finds an empty page, then begins to babel out questions, his pencil hovering over the paper like an eager grad-student in a lecture. “Tell me, how did you do it? What was the incantation? How did you manage to anticipate the target location? Have you ever read the Elminster of Shadowdales discourses on Astral Travel?”


The half-elven maiden gracefully sidesteps a horn as the minotaur bows, revealing a simple dress the color of good wine, a black belt, and black boots with the telltale outline of a knife sheath under her hooded grey cloak. She’s slender, and a full two feet shorter than the minotaur.

She smiles warmly and accepts the chocolate from Amara. “I thank you for your concern—both of you. I am Lyrathwen Alethiel Beragaion.” Her name was in lilting Elven, but judging by her common accent, she hails from one of the cities along the Sword Coast. “But really, no one but Mother calls me that. You can call me Lyra.”

The elven woman regards Donovan thoughtfully for a moment. “It seems that I did not err in my estimation of demand for quality thaumaturgical education in Phlan. The calculations to safely arrive at a a moving destination are rather complex. One must account for not where the it currently is, but where it will be at the time of arrival. If you wish for more detail than that, perhaps you should come by once we are settled in.”

Both mother and daughter seem to be traveling lightly compared to the other settlers’ sacks and packs and crates stuffed to overflowing with their worldly possessions.


The minotaur stands up. “Pleased to meet you. I’m Gendry, son of Teldar the Pirate King.” He pauses and cocks his head in profile, raising his chin a little as if silently saying ‘perhaps you’ve heard of me.’ When no answer to his unspoken question is immediately forthcoming, and it becomes disappointingly clear that he has no reputation at all outside of his hometown, he looks around again, and asks, to anyone within earshot. “Say, what ship is this and where are you headed?”


Nat, the dwarven deckhand, bustles down from the taffrail with a clipboard and over to where the new arrivals have congregated. “You three,” he points a stubby finger at the the minotaur, elven woman, and her daughter. “Welcome to Valkur’s Wake. We’ll be making port in the city of New Phlan tomorrow morning. So long as you disembark in New Phlan, you will not be charged for your, albeit short, voyage.” He extends the clipboard. “If you would be so kind as to sign our passenger registry? Just your mark on the line here. Captain Donal will fill in the other necessary details.”

“Oh, and as for you, mister ‘my dad is the Dread Pirate Teldar.’ I’m not gonna ask how you got them horns on your head or why you were in the drink. Your dad is wanted in every port from Cormyr to Thay, and is none too popular around here either. You’d best keep your patrilineal to yourself, or you’re likely to be shipped back to your ‘ol dad on a Zhentish freighter in a pine box. Lucky for you the New Phlan Council offers universal amnesty. When we make port, make sure to present yourself to the Council and I’m sure you’ll be fine. Just don’t go making any trouble on this ship or you’ll be swimming back to daddy…”


The elven woman takes the clipboard and signs Faelana Beragaion in precise Elven script before handing it to her daughter. The girl has a more flowing signature with an artistic flourish.

Lyra glances sidelong at the minotaur pirate and holds up the clipboard for him to take.


Amara look at the minotaur’s horns and asks, “Are those real? Can I touch them?”


Gendry takes the clipboard and scrawls a rather wobbly looking ‘G’ on the remaining line—well, mostly on the line—then hands it back to the dwarf. “So how does this amnesty thing work?”

Seeing the little girl, he replies, “Yes they’re real, I guess, and they’re stuck as far as I can tell.” He kneels down and lowers his head, trying to cock it so that the girl can reach one of the tips. His horns are nearly three feet long, as big around as his forearms, and slightly recurved. Very short, white hair covers his head, face, and shoulders, and the back of his neck and shoulders has a large muscular bulge (to help hold up the horns). A mane of thick, white hair tops his head and hangs slightly over his eyes, looking like it would be naturally curly if it weren’t so wet.


Donovan leans on the rail, watching the sunset and looks around at the other passengers, trying to gauge their reactions to the sudden new arrivals.


You look around to see the captain sitting in his spot above the taffrail, one hand on the rudder, the other shielding his eyes against the late-afternoon glare on the water. Below him the livestock bleat and low in their enclosure and the settlers still lie asleep, whether from boredom, or tiredness, or the magic of Donovan’s song matters little. The Beshaban priestess has apparently given up on converting the passel of teenagers, and has seated herself back by the sleeping farmers where she is now praying over and “blessing” Donovan’s loosing dice, her wig falling slightly askew as she bows her head.

The teens now stand against the port rail, still near the mast, the five of them surreptitiously taking swigs from a very large wineskin one of them has brought—the two girls especially look like this might be their first time drinking. One, a boy wearing a pair of heavy overalls who looks like his hair has been burned off, stands a little away from the group and watches the newcomers intently, his attention seeming split between Gendry and the elven woman.

The two elven ladies, Rietta and Teldicia, have seated themselves on the starboard rail across from the teens. Unlike the boy, They seem to be actively avoiding looking at or otherwise acknowledging the presence of Faelana. The two red-cloaked, chainmail clad soldiers have moved to a position where they have a clear view of Lyra’s backside, without being clearly visible to the girl, and are talking, grinning, and staring (you can easily surmise that most of their conversation consists of phrases like “I’d tap that” and similar appellations), apparently not picky about whether their lewd gazes are directed at full or half-breed elf-chicks.

The lizard man and his spectators have returned to the prow. Eddie sits by himself, watching Amara with unconcealed envy as she courageously touches the minotaur’s horns. The adults (his mother, father, the lizard-man, the halfling, the gnome, and her girlfriend) sit in a circle staring at something the white-armored elven man is drawing on the deck with some chalk and speaking in hushed tones. You can hear Eddie’s father occasionally make rather sharp objections to whatever they are discussing.


Looking over the passengers, Donovan thinks to himself:
This herald gig doesn’t pay nearly enough, but the council shell’s out piles of cash for adventurers. BUT they only give commissions to groups of three or more. AND I’d probably get killed if I went into the ruins alone anyways. So I need to recruit. Who’s available?

The guys in the front of the boat are clearly already a group. As are yonder teenagers. I might be able to hook up with one of them, but that seems unlikely, and I probably can’t convince one of them to bail on their groups to join me. Might have to try those options in a pinch.

The farmers are out. The simple fact that so many of them fell for the Sleep spells I cast means that they are way too weak to be of any use.

Who’s that leave?

The Beshaban—seems like she wants to hook up with the pimple-squad, also not sure I want to have a priest of bad luck following me around.
The two elf girls (hey, that one has a nice rack)—they’re recruiting, and the one with the mace looks impressive.
The two soldier-boys—might be an easy hire if I can get the elf girls first.
Nat—he’s due for some shore-leave, right, and I know he’s good in a bar-fight.
The minotaur fop—if nothing else he’s big and brawny, and he has to go fight anyways if he wants to take advantage of the amnesty.
The gnome—for all that he seems quiet, unresponsive, and easily distracted, he talked a good game.
The little girl? Nah. She’s definitely more than she looks like, but I’d hate myself for even toying with the idea of taking a kid into a dangerous situation like that.
Faelana? If she can teleport to a moving ship she’s waaaaaaay out of my league, but if I can talk her into it…WIN!
The daughter maybe? She’s got a weak stomach. Would probably feint at the sight of blood. But maybe she inherited some of her mother’s magical talent.

It seems like Minotaur-Pirate boy and the two elven ladies are my best bets. I’ll start there.

Having seemingly come to a decision, Donovan walks over to Gendry. “You were asking about the Amnesty, right?” He extends a hand, “My name is Donovan Leitch and I’m a herald for the Council of New Phlan.” He uses his ‘herald-voice’, projecting so that Faelana and her daughter can hear him clearly as well, “The Amnesty is actually quite simple. The Council is looking for able-bodied people to help fight against the goblins, orcs, and the like that have taken residence in the ruins of Old Phlan. They offer full political asylum, a promise from the clergy of Tyr to ignore all past misdeeds, and large cash rewards as well, to any individuals who take up this cause. Anyone seeking employment with the Council in this capacity must present themselves to the Clerk of the Council promptly upon their arrival in New Phlan. However, adventuring contracts, licenses, and commissions (and therefore the legal amnesty) are only given to groups numbering three or more…for reasons that the Council has not bothered to tell me, though I suspect its to limit the traffic of possible lone spies or saboteurs into and out of the city gates.” He smile wryly. “Speaking of which, I was hoping to take on one of the Council’s commissions and would be more than happy to stand witness to your good character. If you get my drift?”


Gendry shakes the man’s hand, then shakes his head as the man lays out the situation. “So, this city that you’re all headed for is so overrun with monsters that the church of Tyr, old Mr. Grimjaws, God of Justics, is offering full pardons?! Wow.” His hand instinctively goes to his sword. “So my options are to get off the boat at Phlan and become an adventurer, get off the boat in Phlan and probably get arrested by Tyrrans for crimes my dad committed, or get thrown off this boat? Not much of a choice is it?”

He removes his hand from the sword hilt and extends it to Donovan again. “So, Mr. Donovan, exactly how large are the cash rewards involved?”

“Also, it looks like we’re going to need a few more swords.”


You can feel the disapproval radiating off of Faelana as her daughter begins to speak.

“Don’t look at me like that, Mother. YOU’RE the one who picked Phlan. And you’ll have no shortage of research assistants after today.” Lyra looks back to Donovan and Gendry. “I may not have a sword, but I can help, really. Even if it’s just scouting for now.”

Faelana does seem to relax a bit at that. She, a bit grudgingly, trusts her daughter’s ability to see to her own safety.


Shuddup finishes a detailed schematic of the ship or rather how it would look were it stream powered running multiple paddle wheels and looks around, slightly overwhelmed by the sudden arrival of so many new passengers. He stands up depositing a small charcoal stick in his pouch and wipes his forehead absentmindedly leaving a long black smear.
Shuddup walks over to where Donovan and Gendry are conversing. “Hi! My name’s Shudrigan Nishal Aribostos McPillflup, but my friends call me Shuddup. Did I hear you say that your the son of the Pirate King? I remember the battle of the Long Cay when the old pirate king was killed. I mean I was really young at the time, working as a deck hand. My Uncle, Gond rest his soul, was the pilot of the ship that sank the old pirate king’s, the explosion could be seen for miles.” Shuddup finds himself smiling reminiscing, before his eyes widen as realization appears on his face. “Er… You may not appreciate that story like I do, huh…. Well what’s something 19 years, 4 months and 7 days ago among shipmates, eh?”


“Well, it’s been nearly two months since I’ve been back to Phlan, so I can’t be sure of what the Council might be hiring for right now, but most jobs pay several thousand, usually in gems for ease of transport. When we reach port we should check in with the clerk. There are also usually jobs posted at the Training Hall.”

Donovan turns and shakes Lyra’s hand. “Excellent, that makes three.”

He turns to the gnome. “Mr. McPillflup, what business do you have in Phlan? Could we possibly interest you in joining us in taking on some profitable commissions of a militant nature?”


Shuddup grins excitedly producing a hand bill that with a very loose interpretation could be interpreted as a party invitation, “I received an invitation to a party in one of the guild halls and I was hoping to acquire patronage for my research there. I’ve discovered that by altering the diet of orcs you can change the chemical properties of their emissions which can then be further refined into chemical accelerant for combustion engines more efficient than simple steam engines. I’ve currently got several prototypes I’ve been working on, all utilizing this technology.” He pauses seeming to realize he’s rambleing. “I typically consider violence to be wasteful, but considering the costs of my prototypes, not to mention anything in a production line and free field testing…. I’m in.” He proffers a small soot covered hand to seal the deal"


Donovan shakes Shaddup’s hand, apparently not at all bothered by the soot stains. “The four of us then.” He looks around the ship, then back to the gnome. “You’ve had a chance to chat with the other passengers, do you think any of the others might be interested in joining us?”


Shuddup thinks for a moment, “Well, I’ve been helping on deck so I haven’t spoken to everyone. Nat is the good sort, hard worker salt of the earth type. Súrion is kinda creepy and antisocial, and he hasn’t spoken to anyone since he climbed the mast. There are the two enthusiastically cursed elven women but they make me nervous. Then there’s the little girl, Amara, She’s traveling unescorted, well except for her clearly magical doll. I’ve told her that until she finds an appropriate responsible adult I’ve informed her that it’s unsafe for someone who hasn’t reached their majority to travel alone so I’ve insisted on continuing to escort her… but she’s not listening to me, probably because she’s taller than I am. Either that or it’s adolescent girl thing. I’ve been told they can be ‘complicated.’ Kind of like my old partner, Hengus, he didn’t appreciate reapropriating his ale casks for my research. I mean he was fine emptying them out until he tried to drink one that I had refilled with my rendered orc urine. But we didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, he was always renaming my prototypes. Like my field medic’s self cautarizing bone saw he always called it that ‘flaming chain sword.’ I don’t know how much that helps, a lot of the people on the boat behave illogically, but those are the ones I’ve directly interacted with.”


Gendry looks down at the little girl, Amara, then looks around. “Are you on this ship alone? Who’s looking after you?” He sits down on the deck beside her, putting his horns back in reach. “You’re definitely a brave little girl, to be sailing by yourself, and also for not being scared of me, but where are your parents?” He sounds genuinely concerned. “Are you an orphan? Or are your parents just jerks like mine?”


Donovan looks over at where Gendry is sitting, trying to talk to the child. “Then we’ll make sure the girl gets wherever she’s going safely. Who knows, maybe her parents can offer some kind of reward for her safe arrival” He gives another look around the deck, then plops down with his back against the gunwale, arranging his bag as a pillow. “As for the rest, it sounds like it’s probably just the four of us then. Probably good, we won’t have to divide the profits too much that way. We can always hire more in town if a job seems particularly tough.” He leans his head back and begins humming quietly to himself. “If you three end up staying up later than me, can you make sure to give me a shake if the bumpkins in the back wake up before I do? Thanks.”


Shuddup, looks quizically at the sleeping, “bumpkins,” shruggs and makes his way aft positioning himself to where if any of them were to move to the fore deck they would have to disturb his resting place. Then curls up and begins muttering his nightly prayers to Gond.


Lyra kneels with her back against the railing, and sets her simple sack backpack, seemingly containing little more than a book and a few small items, next to her. Chin down and sitting demurely with her hands on her knees (not all that far from the knife sheath in her boot), she settles in for the night.


As all of the passengers begin to bed down for the night, Nat and Captain Donal begin securing the ship. The captain sets the rudder and locks it in place with a chain, then comes down to the deck to help Nat untie the sail and haul it up. The two then throw a large anchor overboard. The ship gives a hard lurch as the anchor catches, then settles, rocking slowly on the waves.


Gendry looks at the fading sun and everyone getting ready for sleep and shrugs, “Whatever little girl. Parents suck. Stick with us and we’ll make sure you’re alright.”

He watches Nat and the captain struggling to cast off the anchor. He walks over, lifts the anchor in one hand, and drops it over the rail. “Hey dwarf, what’s all this for? Didn’t you say we’re supposed to reach Phlan by morning?”


“Thanks for the help, Mr. Gendry.” He points to a smaller anchor, “Mind helping with the kedge too?”

He finishes hauling in the brails and trices them off.

“As to your question,” He points to a black spot on the horizon, maybe a mile off the port side. “See that? That’s Thorn Island.” He practically growls the name and spits over the rail for emphasis. “Phlan is right around the sound side, and has a great harbor, but there ain’t no lighthouse and that island is a plague. That cloud over the island makes these waters blacker n’ Phlegethos, even when Selune is at her brightest. If the shoals and rocks around the island don’t get you, the pirates will. If neither of those get you, the walking corpses of all the ships that sank there before will. So, we always put to a few miles out and make for the channel at first light. You all get a good night sleep and we’ll have you in New Phlan in time to break your fast.”

He and the captain wave to the last few passengers still awake, climb up on the stern deck, and start rolling out their bedding.


Donovan sings himself to sleep…

“Thrown like a star in my vast sleep
I open my eyes to take a peep
To find that I was by the sea
Gazing with tranquillity.
Twas then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Came singing songs of love,
Then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man…Snoooooooooooore”


Lyra shifts slightly as the ship lurches to a a halt, not quite awake and softly mumbling “S’posed … keep moving …. safer.”

Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 1
In which we are introduced to three of our heroes.

Archivist’s Note: Logs from the PBM game will be arranged as a digest of all the posts made (mostly for the sake of keeping everyone’s individual voice and not trying to reformat things to read as cohesive prose).


It has been a few days since you boarded Valkur’s Wake. You are glad that you got on at the last stop, and that the voyage should be short, as the old flat-bottomed, single-decked, single-masted cog is quite crowded. The stern of the eighty foot ship has been fenced off and converted into a stable, carrying four horses and a handful of other livestock, with a small, raised deck above the taffrail where the captain or his one assistant man the rudder and sleep. The deck was already filled with people when you boarded, and no one disembarked at your stop. At least the trip is free. The captain, an old, gray-bearded, dwarven merchant named Donal Stormhammer, informed you that as long as you disembark at New Phlan, the council will be paying him ten times his normal passenger fee, so you get a free ride as long as that’s your destination and you give a hand with the lines if a storm blows up.

The thirty-odd other passengers are a motley mix of treasure hunters, monster slayers, a few farmers brave enough to settle in a city known to be plagued by orcs, and those exiles from distant lands with no where else to go. Everyone, at least everyone who’s talking, has their own story of why they are traveling, but they all have one common theme—the promise of free land, fame, and riches in the ancient city of Phlan. During the night, everyone spreads out communally on the well deck, sleeping together cheek-to-jowl. During the day there is a little more space, with people standing most of the time, or else sitting on one of the crates or barrels of stores cluttering the deck or perching on the gunwale.

It is a bright day and the ship makes good speed ahead of a brisk southerly wind. Tomorrow morning, Donal has informed the passagers, you will reach the port of New Phlan. A pod of dolphins splashes alongside the cog.

Chatter on deck today is more lively than usual, with the promise of landfall tomorrow. Near the bow of the Wake, half a dozen people stand about listening to a surprisingly articulate lizard-man doing a dramatic recitation of some poetry, or perhaps a monologue from a play—judging from the spectators’ dress, there is a direct correlation between the number and quality of weapons the passengers are carrying and their level of racial tolerance. Abaft of the performance a pair of elven women—one has pale green skin and bearing a large mace strapped across her back, the other is much taller and more curvaceous than your typical elf and dressed in a simple peasant’s shift—stand watching the dolphins at their play. Across from the elf-girls, a pair of human men in chainmail stand watching their backs, talking in low tones and making the occasional lewd gesture. Near the mast, a woman wearing the stark-white wig of a priestess of Beshaba stands talking to a quintet of teenagers in peasants’ garb, trying to convert them to the worship of the Maid of Misfortune—judging from their wide eyes you suspect that this is their first time away from the farm, though their makeshift-looking weapons set them apart from the actual farmers and settlers who are all huddled in the stern playing a game of chance.


A flustered deck hand passes by you followed by the faint scent of oil and singed hair. as you look down you see that the deck hand is being trailed by a gnome with tussled blond hair and slightly singed eye brows. “…If you would just put the ship in dry dock I know that I can.”

As he passes you he pauses and turns eying your gear appraisingly. After a moment, when he realizes you are staring at him, he looks up at you, smiles, rubs a grease stained hand on his shirt and thrusts it out to you. "Hi I’m Shudrigan Nishal Aribostos McPillflup, but my friends call me ‘Shuddup’ I couldn’t help but notice that you are a prime candidate for my services.

“Looking over your gear suggests to me that I could make improvements for you in some very valuable ways. Obviously I can’t do as much as I could in my shop but thus are the perils of taking your business on the road. I love to travel though always new places to see and people to meet and there are so many people who could use upgrades to their stuff. Yeah, I’m excited. Criers came to Lantan inviting people to join a great party here in New Phlan. One came into my shop and gave me this one. I hope I can find someone to fund my research….”


Súrion Belaralas is roughly 175cm in height and dressed in a thick Dark cobalt robe with a hood. A large seven string lute is strapped across his back. Despite the seas, wind, sand, and aggregate multifarious passengers, about him is the distinct smell of sweet cinnamon-like spices. He takes no notice or concern of the gnome rambling on; playfully tossing the past week’s meat (which was mostly gristle) overboard to the deilf-cairde and looking over the vast waterway. “So much water…”, he thinks. He had tried three times to toss the meat to the ships bitch but each time the bitch’s hackles raised and she retreated to Donal’s cabin.


The flustered dwarven deckhand, perhaps more flustered for being the ONLY deck hand, turns and stiff-arms the gnome. “Ok, Mr. Shaddup, could you please shut up. I’m working here.” He reaches behind Shaddup and grabs the mainsheet to frap the sail. As he ties the rope off, he gives a stern sideways look at Súrion. “And you there. Mr. Creepy. Them dolphins have plenty of fresh fish, they don’t need your stinking leftovers. You don’t want it, Ratcracker don’t want it, them dolphins certainly don’t.”

He hauls one more time on the mainsheet to make sure it’s secure, then turns to the shrouds and martingales. He begins untying one of the lines and then looks back at the two of you. “Hey, you don’t look busy…If you don’t like your food, how ‘bout you give me a hand and I’ll buy you a pint when we make port tomorrow.”


“Old salt ties the hawser that seek to bind the wind… but wind has no master.” Súrion gives a notably distant and disdainful look that indicates only displeasure, but whether that is toward the mention of alcohol or toward the suggestion of helping is unclear. Súrion continues to stare at the dwarf perhaps waiting for an explanation.


The gnome cocks his head quizzically at the dwarf and begins untying a line. “Would I please what? Anyway this system is horribly inefficient. If you would put in a steam jenny you could use it to run a master cog into a gear transfer box and with a few pully systems you could run all the lines from one central location. That would make you much happier in your work.”

Despite his constant prattle the gnome appears to be a compitent hand on deck. “My uncle Horatio, Gond rest his soul, made an entire trireme run from one steam engine and a bank of cams. …”


The dwarf braces a foot against the strake and hauls hard on the shroud before tying it off. He pauses again in his work to give Súrion a hard look. “Ok, Mr. Creepy, I’m thirty-seven, I’m not old by any stretch. If you want to wax poetic about me, the names Nat, and if you want to go anywhere, we’d best be mastering that wind.”

He gives an approving look at the gnome’s knotwork. “From Lantan, eh? I’ve heard ’bout you Gondsmen. Captain Donal could use someone like you. Especially once the port gets opened up for real…”


Súrion smiles and moves up the dolphin spar to check the cordage.


The sound of less-than-enthusiastic clapping comes from the fore of the ship. You look to see the crowd shuffling a bit as the lizard-man leaps up on the prow and begins gesticulating grandiosely with his tail, his hands clenching a roll of parchment. In a booming voice, surprisingly clear of the sibilant lisp normally expected of his kind, the creature begins to exposit:

Be collected:
No more amazement: tell your piteous heart
There’s no harm done. No harm.
I have done nothing but in care of thee,
Of thee, my dear one, thee, my daughter, who
Art ignorant of what thou art, nought knowing
Of whence I am, nor that I am more better
Than S’thek’niss, master of a full poor cell,
And thy no greater father.
’Tis time I should inform thee farther.

Wipe thou thine eyes; have comfort.
The direful spectacle of the wreck, which touch’d
The very virtue of compassion in thee,
I have with such provision in mine art
So safely ordered that there is no soul—
No, not so much perdition as an hair
Betid to any creature in the vessel
Which thou heard’st cry, which thou saw’st sink. Sit down;
For thou must now know farther.

The hour’s now come;
The very minute bids thee ope thine ear;
Obey and be attentive. Canst thou remember
A time before we came unto this cell?
By what? by any other house or person?
Of any thing the image tell me that
Hath kept with thy remembrance…

The two elven girls turn to watch and Nat, the deckhand, shakes his head and mutters, to no one in particular, “Reptilian play-writes? If that’s the best that’s coming along, I weep for Phlan…”


For the first time, Súrion catches notice of the elf girls and stares
awestruck at them.


Súrion looks around and notices 36 people on the ship, excluding himself of course. Nat, the deckhand, and Shaddup the gnome stand nearby, making some small adjustments to the ship’s rigging, while Captain Donal stands in the aft-deck, manning the rudder, with the bitch, Ratcracker, sleeping at his heel. Near the mast, a woman wearing the stark-white wig of a priestess of Beshaba stands talking to a quintet of teenagers in peasants’ garb. Just fore of the mast are the two elven women, and the pair of red-cloaked warriors watching them. At the front of the ship the performing lizard-man is being watched by an elf in brilliant white scale armor, a halfling in a tunic that seems to change colors with his mood, a gnome woman holding hands with a human woman in a way that makes him feel a little uncomfortable, and a woman in the robes of a priest of Lathander with her arm around a man in shepherd’s garb on one hand and an eight-year-old boy on the other. In the stern, near a section of the deck converted to serve as a stable, are a number of humans in peasant’s garb, eight men and six women. The men are presently engaged in some game involving several dice and a bottle of schnapps and the women seem to be spending most of their time casting concerned looks at the Beshaban chatting up the teenagers and even more concerned looks either at the lizard-man or the gnome and her girlfriend (its hard to tell which disturbs them more). Súrion distinctly remembers seeing a young girl on the ship as well, but she seems to have made herself scarce somehow.


A petite young girl sits on a box, swinging her legs and playing with a doll painted a deep cerulean. She wears a blue dress with white lacy frills. A piece of grey slate hangs around her neck with the smudged red handprint of a child on it – perhaps hers. Her hair is elaborately braided down her back. “I hope father is at the dock when we get there Susalia.” She hums a soft tune to herself and brushes the doll’s fine white hair with a small brush.


As the girl sits there, the boy watching the lizard-poet peeks over his shoulder repeatedly, stealing sheepish several glances at her. Finally seeming to have made some decision or screwed up his courage sufficiently, he lets go of his mother’s hand and walks over to where the girl sits, stumbling only once on the gently rocking deck as he makes his way. Barely raising his eyes from the deck, he addresses her “Hi!” The greeting comes out as a startled squeak, and there is an awkwardly long pause before he continues in a rapid tumble of words. “I’m-Eddie-I-like-your-doll-what’s-your-name-where-is-your-family-I-like-your-dress-and-what’s-that-handprint-mean-oh-I’m-Eddie…” He stops for breath and looks ready to bolt.

As the boy wanders off, the lizard-man continues his exposition. You notice a few stifled yawns from those watching, but they keep listening to the rather broken poetry, in the way that only good friends are want to do.

By what? by any other house or person?
Of any thing the image tell me that
Hath kept with thy remembrance.
Thou hadst, and more. But how is it
That this lives in thy mind? What seest thou else
In the dark backward and abysm of time?
If thou remember’st aught ere thou camest here,
How thou camest here thou mayst.

Twelve year since, twelve year since,
Thy serpent was a Duke of Hlondeth and
A prince of power.
Thy mother was a piece of virtue, and
She said thou wast my daughter; and thy father
Was Duke of Hlondeth; and thou his only heir
And princess no worse issued.
By foul play, as thou say’st, were we heaved thence,
But blessedly holp hither.

My clutch-mate and thy uncle, call’d Extaminos—
I pray thee, mark me—that a brother should
Be so perfidious!—he whom next thyself
Of all the world I loved and to him put
The manage of my state; as at that time
Through all the signories it was the first
And S’thek’niss the prime duke, being so reputed
In dignity, and for the liberal arts
Without a parallel; those being all my study,
The government I cast upon my brother
And to my state grew stranger, being transported
And rapt in secret studies. Thy false uncle—
Dost thou attend me?

The elven girls quickly loose interest and begin to wander aftwards, speaking in low tones, easily drowned out by the canting lizard and the lapping waves. They shiver noticeably as they pass Surion and cast him quick glances that are equal-parts curiosity and fear before determinedly moving to the other side of the deck.


The girl looks up, her chestnut hair elaborately braided in a wreath around her crown, allowing the rest of her hair to flow freely. “I’m Amara”, she says softly. She holds up her doll, “This is Susalia.” She then adds, “We’re not supposed to talk to strangers.”

Amara slides down from her perch, and walks over to the elven women. “Excuse me,” she says to them, “Does that man scare you too? Susualia here will protect you too if you want.” She holds up her doll to show the women.


The boy, Eddie, his worst fears apparently manifest at being thus rebuffed, walks back to the front of the ship crestfallen.

A shiver travels up Amara’s spine and she feels a distinct sense of foreboding as she approaches the two elven women. At her question, the taller of the women laughs and speaks in beautifully lilting Common. “Yes little girl, he does scare my friend here, but in a way that seems all too common for travelers on this craft.” She waves a hand at the green-skinned woman. “Rietta and I were just discussing the self-selecting nature of travelers on this ship, and the unusually high concentration of freaks,” she cocks a meaningful eyebrow at the lizard-man, “would-be heroes,” she waves a hand at the group of haphazardly armed teenagers, “and cursed individuals such as ourselves…”

At this, the green-skinned women, Rietta, breaks in with a sharp laugh, unusually deep for an elf. “Aye. Just before you came up here, Teldicia was inquiring as to which category you fell into?”


Shuddup finishes tying the last line and turns to observe the ither passengers. Upon noticing the young girl speaking with the elven women he approaches the girl, “Excuse me, young miss, but you appear to be human. Judging from your appearance you haven’t reached your age of majority in any of the human cultures I’m familiar with. As such I have to ask, where is your responsible adult? It is unsafe for someone of your age to travel unescorted, therefore I must insist upon escorting you until a more suitable adult is found.”

He pauses for a moment apparently deep in tuought before continuing, " I’m Shudrigan Nishal Aribostos McPillflup. I was just thinking if we can find a hand crank, billows, a cam and a steam whistle we could make you a personal alarm should you find yourself in peril."


Amara cocks her head, considering the question posed by the elves, “You were cursed? I’m just meeting my dad in New Phlan. My mother put me on the boat. He owns a shop!”

As the gnome comes up, the eyes of her doll seem to track him. Amara looks at the gnome and holds her doll up. “Susalia is my protector. Mother gave her to me to keep me safe.”


Rietta laughs again, “Not were cursed, child, are cursed. A good curse is not the kind of thing one gets over. Even our kind suffer unfortunate side effects when delving too deeply into the magical arts.” She smiles and looks very closely at the doll. “If you’re dad is bringing you to Phlan, then I think you must be in the latter category as well.” Her eyes drift to the boy, Eddie. “No sane parent would bring their children to Phlan…and a parent willing to put his children at risk is its own kind of curse. You’re best off not setting a foot off this boat, plopping yourself up by Captain Donal, and taking the first available trip back where you came from.”

The other women gives you a condescending pat on the head and your stomach clenches up. “If you don’t believe us, take a look over there.” She points in the direction you are heading, and you see a small island in the distance, a speak of utter blackness in the otherwise clear, sunny sea, with no light touching its shores.


Amara’s eyes widen at Rietta’s comments. Then she says, “Daddy and Susalia will keep me safe!” She nods her head firmly at her doll, and it nods its head back in return.


Nat the deckhand steps up to the rail, keeping well away from Teldicia, and spits over the side. “Don’t let these elf-wenches scare you, little girl. Thorn Island might look scary, and the Council talks about it being a problem, but nothing scary ever set foot off the island to trouble us. Now the river, that’s another matter.”


Shuddup looks wide eyed at the deckhand, “What comes out of the river?”


“That rivers as black as the island and twice as foul-smelling. Nothing grows on its banks and the only fish that come out are huge things just as likely to eat you as be eaten. The Council’s been offering a hefty pile o’ coin to anyone that can find out why the river’s like that. Won’t do no good though. No one could sail up the river even if they wanted to. The waters’d eat yer planking right out.” Nat steps a bit farther away from the elves and spits over the rail again. “If Valkur was paying any attention I’m sure that he’d be right pissed.”

He pulls Shaddup aside and lowers his voice. “I know you’re here for a party, but keep your wits about you. There’s a lot of money to be made in Phlan, but the Old City is a dangerous place. You don’t want to go sticking your neck under an orc’s axe, if you know what I mean,” he casts pointed glances at Surion and the elven women, “…and you want to be careful about who you take along to watch your back.” He raises his voice. “Besides, I still owe you that drink when we go ashore tomorrow.”

Rietta gives the doll a double-take. Teldicia grabs her elbow and the two walk towards Surion. “Hey, half-breed…” she starts. Rietta interrupts her, “No offense sir. We just had a proposition for you.”

Teldicia starts in again, “Word from the Captain is that the Council has rules about not giving adventuring charters to groups of less than three. Something about keeping spies out. If you haven’t already linked up with someone, we could use another sword-arm to round out a charter, and you smell like the right kind of creep that wouldn’t mind being seen with the two of us.”

Rietta rolls her eyes, “Again no offense intended. What do you say? You wanna hook up?” She gives another backwards glance at the girl, and in a somewhat mocking tone says over her shoulder. “You too Susalia. Care to join us when you’re done babysitting?”

Súrion turns away from the girls, climbs up the rigging, and broods by himself.


Amara replies, “We’ll have to ask Daddy when we get to the city,”

Amara runs to the rail and leans over the side. “Is that the city? I can see the dock!”


The two elf girls shrug and walk off, resuming their hushed conversation. Nat the Deckhand walks over by the little girl, “Strange folk,” he mutters. “Sorry little girl, that’s just the Island. We won’t be in sight of the city until we cross the sound tomorrow.” He mutters something under his breath about unaccompanied minors and this being no place for children, then speaks up again. “So, who’s your father? Given how few ways there are to get into the city, I’m pretty sure I know every shop-keep in Phlan.”