With Friends Like These

In which the party learns there's a traitor in their midst.

As we’re walking through Gloomwrought, we’re attacked by a host of beings—among them golems that rise from the street itself. We manage to defeat them all, save one, and attempt to question him. Jack asks the remaining archer who he’s working for and receives no answer. He attempts to heal him, but is unable to do so. He then continues attempting to question the archer, this time trying to scare the guy into talking. This also fails.

Aideena comes over and soothes the archer, which seems to work. He looks more at peace and willing to speak. When Aideena asks him why we were attacked, the archer replies that it’s his job. Aideena and Jack both ask who the archer works for and he replies that he works for the Borderlanders. He then promptly dies, which means we’re not able to find anything else out.

Aideena wonders aloud why the Borderlanders have followed us to Gloomwrought and Targoth wants to know why they’re out to kill us. Unfortunately, we have no answers and we’re in need of a moment to regroup. We look around and see that we’re in a low income, mixed residential and commercial area. Eben suggests that we take some refuge and we find an abandoned warehouse.

Once inside, I look around to make sure the room is defensible. Meanwhile, we discuss what we’ve just learned. We wonder if the Borderlanders have followed us, and then we reach a logical, though uncomfortable conclusion: there must be a mole.

There’s no other way that the Borderlanders could possibly know where we were headed since even we didn’t know where we were going until just before we left.

Daren asks us if these are the same Borderlanders who are viewed as an aid group in Easar and Jack answers that yes, they seem to be following us.

Somebody notes that one of the attackers got away, unfortunately.

We brief Daren on our history with the Borderlanders and mention Morage, the mysterious leader of the group. Daren remarks that he’s heard of Morage. He continues by saying that the Borderlanders approached the halflings about using their ships for aiding and trading. The halflings—or, at least, the Windrakers—declined, but Daren mentions that they were approached some time ago.

We question Daren a bit more on whether it’s possible to sail between Easar and Gloomwrought and he agrees that it is possible. Dangerous, he says, but also lucrative.

We then wonder if the Borderlanders might be involved in the kidnapping, but we don’t have any theories other than speculation.

Because we had success in tracking in the Dust Quarter, we wonder if the guy who got away from us can be tracked. We determine that it’s not possible. We’re no longer in the Dust Quarter, after all, and any evidence there might have been to follow has been destroyed.

We decide that our best course of action is to continue onto the House of Sterling, as was our plan before being attacked.

With that decision made, we leave the abandoned warehouse and continue to the House of Sterling, which is in the Drowned Quarter and is the headquarters of the Veiled League. We wait outside for a moment, debating how to present ourselves, when the door opens for us. It seems we are expected.

We enter a grand parlour and are greeted by a member of the Veiled League. He gives us a spiel about how we’re in the right place for any pleasure of this or any other world and that everything can be bought for the right price. He tells us all we have to do is name our vice and he will name the price.

Most of us are uninterested in the more salacious vices implicit in his speech and he then asks us why we’re at the House of Sterling in the first place. We explain that two nobles have been kidnapped and we’re trying to locate them. We are trying to find their whereabouts and learn who kidnapped them in the first place.

He then explains that information is yet another thing that can be bought at this establishment, telling us that the Bearer of Secrets can answer our question and that it lies below.

Targoth asks for clarification of what the man means by below. Instead of answering, the man tells us to follow him and then he leads us down a staircase. We don’t see anyone, but we’re on guard given the ambush we walked into on our way to the House of Sterling.

When we reach the bottom, it’s cold, but there is light. We continue forward until the man leads us to a door and it opens. Inside is a humanoid shape, but the incredible smell of decay is overwhelming.

The Bearer of Secrets lifts its shrouded head in a thoroughly unsettling manner. The man tells us that the creature is an incunabulum, that it came from Glimmer, which is a city in the Shadowdark, and that the creature and others of its kind are the ultimate secret bearers.

Targoth asks what he means and the man explains that these creatures collect secrets, but are persecuted and despised because of what they do.

When the man finishes speaking, the creature looks at all of us. It then opens its mouth and speaks in an incomprehensible language, which the man translates for us by turning to me and saying that the creature seeks the tome I carry.

I pretend that I don’t know what they’re talking about, saying, “What tome?”

The man then says, “The diary. It has knowledge that the creature does not possess.” The man then tells us that in exchange for me allowing the creature to see the diary, it will give us knowledge to help us find the kidnapped nobles and answer one question that I ask.

I’m still tempted to say no until the man explains that I will get the diary back in the same condition I handed it over when the creature is done with it. Still, I only reluctantly agree to the proposition and hand over the diary. The man takes it and hands it to the creature who then takes it and leafs through it. As the creature does this, the writing on the pages seems to soak into the creature, as though it is absorbing the knowledge from the page. The process is deeply unsettling and makes me nervous until the creature returns the diary and I look through it to make sure it looks the same.

To my relief, it does. At this point, I’m told to ask my question. I only hesitate for a moment before asking, “Is he alive?” In my mind, I see a room that looks like a cavern, filled with light from what appears to be reflected firelight.

Chained to the wall is Jalmari. His head is hanging low so that I’m unable to see his face or eyes, but his chest is moving.

The vision dissipates and I’m left to flounder in a sea of mixed emotions. The creature speaks in his incomprehensible language. The man tells us, “They are waiting for you,” and it’s clear that the creature means the beings holding Jalmari, rather than Jalmari himself.

Before I have much time to digest this vision, I have another. I see a tiefling and a shadar-kai bound to columns in a wooden room. Both men are sagging against the columns and I’m not able to see their faces. I can hear water and the vision pulls out to show a ship that’s sinking near the Shattered Isles. I don’t recognize the ship, but a single word pops into my mind: Nobletide.

The vision dissipates and the creature lowers its head, no longer appearing to be animate or alive. Jack asks me if I saw where we need to go to find his sister, but I answer that no, I did not. I’m still shocked by both visions and very aware of my surroundings as we begin walking back up to the opulent parlour.

Targoth asks me where we need to go next and I respond that we need to head for the Shattered Isles. Targoth then asks if that’s where they are and I answer that yes, they are. Plus, I add urgently, we don’t have time to waste since there’s no way to know if they’re still alive. I’m not only talking about the two men—who are our ticket to the hells—but also about what I saw in the first vision, though I’m not sure if anyone else picks up on that.

Eben, meanwhile, initiates a conversation with the man called Arras about communicating with the Raven Queen and how he might make that happen. Arras responds by saying he’d be more than happy to accept payment and then kill Eben to allow him to commune with the Raven Queen. Eben realizes that this may not be beneficial to him and declines Arras’ offer.

Arras then tells us that if we seek the Drowned Quarter and the Shattered Isles, we need to get there in a certain way and provides us with directions.

We then take our leave and make our way to the Drowned Quarter. When we get there, what we see puts us in mind of what happened at Cendriane, Tas Tarsel and Essend, and the Sunken City of Tarnebolge. Whatever destroyed this place was massive and some part of that horror clings to the place. Though we are reminded that Viri was behind similar destruction we saw elsewhere, here, it is well-known that Prince Rolan and his deva consort Feria played the key role in the creation of the Shattered Isles. We’re less sure, however, what power she channels or what god she serves.

As we stand on the quay, we see an assortment of strange and vacant people who all have the appearance of those who have let their bodies and minds begin to break down. Many of them have nervous tics and compulsively scratch at themselves.

The others ask for an explanation of what I saw and I told them that I saw the ship, which I know is called the Nobletide, wrecked on a rock in the Shattered Isles with the two kidnapped nobles, Addis Kadal and Ulan Tenebre, tied up and left to die.

From where we stand, we can see some of the Isles and we’re able to spot two ships. One of them, the one that’s further away, is broken, half of it missing and the other half run aground on rocky shoals. This matches pretty closely with what I saw and, despite our distance, we’re fairly certain this is the Nobletide.

The other ship is much closer and there appears to be activity at this one. We can see a large party of men and half-orcs around and on the ship. We know this is an unusual sight in Gloomwrought, especially because the ship has the look of a Dakkoni smuggling ship. These ships are very fast and designed to outrun any pursuits. The sails are also black or dark blue to provide camouflage.

A closer look at the men and half-orcs leads us to believe that they’re not Shadowfell denizens; none of them have the look of those who spend extended amounts of time in the Shadowfell. All of them also appear to be busy with their tasks and are taking no notice of either the other boat or us. In fact, they appear to be in a hurry, more than likely loading contraband onto the ship and preparing to depart.

As we stand there and watch this, we see five men stride along the quay, walking with purpose. They are not paying us or any of the shamblemen any attention and walk towards a rowboat that is tied to the quay. Three of the men get in and begin to row out to the smuggling ship while the other two continue walking. Jack and I decide to follow them and see where they’re going and begin to walk along the quay and amidst the shamblemen. As we walk, we can see where some of the shamblemen—who are clearly addicted to some sort of substance—have died from their addiction, their bodies left to rot and the stench clinging to our nostrils unpleasantly.

Jack and I carefully walk along the quay, trying to keep our distance from the shamblemen while also discreetly following the two men. When we’re about halfway along, however, two of the shamblemen whip out their daggers and start fighting in front of us.

We pull out our weapons to defend ourselves and the rest of the party come running, but it’s not until Daren screams Jack’s name that the attention of the shamblemen is drawn to us. We’re then pulled into the encounter and forced to fight the drug addicts.

While fighting, Targoth is inadvertently dosed with the drug, which unfortunately begins to affect him.

As we’re fighting, though, darkness coalesces around us and two women appear. We all recognize them as Jack’s older sisters, who kill the remaining drug addicts. Marja sticks one finger into one of the dead person’s mouth and tells us about the drug addling them—Fiend’s Breath. She then accuses Jack of dithering. And Berthe chimes in with her own accusations that Jack is taking too long in accomplishing what he needs to do. Jack explains that we’re tracking the ones that we’re trying to save the ones that can get us to hell to help save Helena.

The sisters then say that they bring instructions. Marja is disdainful, but Berthe shows a bit more patience by cryptically saying that Jack needs to move further towards solving both dilemmas and that he needs to do what needs to be done.

Jack, unsurprisingly, is confused.

Marja snaps at him to figure out, which provokes Jack into yelling at her to help or leave. Marja leaves, taking some of the darkness with her. Berthe tells Jack that he must rely on his allies and that she’s unable to tell him more than that. She also says that he needs to work this out and that he should think carefully about what he’s able to do. She tells him that he can follow two threads or follow one and allow the other to spiral out of control. This is his choice to make. She then implores Jack to find Helena before leaving, taking the rest of the darkness with her.

Jack turns to Aideena helplessly, saying he has no idea what she means. Aideena replies that she hasn’t any idea either. And then Jack replies that he knows he’s not the best at plans and he desperately needs help. Aideena then takes a stab at it and says, “Maybe we need to follow two paths.”

Jack latches onto this, even as he begins to panic, saying, “Yes, two paths.” He then turns to Eben and says, “I’m supposed to lean on you.”

“They only talked about Helena and the toxin in the city,” Daren pipes up, probably upset that Jack would talk about leaning on Eben in any capacity.

We all then wonder if perhaps the Borderlanders are supplying the Fiend’s Breath somehow, but it’s really all speculation at this point. By now, the rowboat we’d seen earlier returns and the men who are in it climb out and walk away. Jack, seeing this, jumps into the boat to begin heading out to either one of the two ships. I follow immediately, and then Aideena and the others climb in as well. Daren offers to steer, which is probably for the best since he’s the most familiar with ships, and we begin to make our way out towards the Nightrunner—the smuggling ship—and the Nobletide.

As we row out towards the ships, we argue about what our priorities ought to be. I’m in favor of going straight to the Nobletide since the situation didn’t look good for the two we are trying to rescue, but I’m outvoted and we decide to try and destroy the Nightrunner. Aideena attempts to set the ship on fire, but the fire does no damage despite the fact that Aideena aimed at the sail. We realize that the ship is enchanted to resist fire. I again argue that the Nobletide should be our priority, but I’m outvoted and we decide to attempt to board the Nightrunner and stop the smugglers.

We circle the ship as we decide, but as the deck is cleared and there’s a handy ladder to climb aboard, Daren steers us up the ship and we begin boarding. We make our way up the ladders as stealthily as possible and reach the deck. No one is there so we have Eben guard the stairs and quietly descend to the next level.

Down there, we see boxes of cargo. Jack stealthily breaks into one of them and pulls vials of Fiend’s Breath out. From the size of the boxes and the vials, it’s clear that there’s an overwhelming amount of the stuff being shipped.

What surprises us, though, is the fact that Fiend’s Breath is being smuggled away from Gloomwrought. The only place it could be going is the prime plane. We wonder if it’s possible to destroy the cargo, but Aideena can tell that they’re being arcanely protected.

Jack hauls the box up to the deck and tosses it overboard and I help him open another crate to toss more boxes over the side. It’s clear, though, that this is not really going to solve much as it will take far too long to dispose of the cargo this way. Also, we’re not even sure the cargo will be destroyed in the water. Jack is adamant, however, that we need to stop this from making its way to Dakkon.

We decide that we need to head further down, where the crew of the ship appears to be. Jack goes first, shoving Eben out of his way and quietly going down to the next deck. From here, we can more clearly hear the crew, who are one level below us, as they work. There are more boxes on this level, as well as a pair of grates through which we’re able to see what the crew is up to. There are so many boxes and the number of vials this represents is truly staggering.

From what Jack is able to observe, there are six men working below us. He is able to hear instructions that one of them, presumably the captain of the ship, is giving to the others. Jack can hear that the ship is bound for Easar.

He leaves the grates to tell us this, but the men can hear us and they come up to investigate. We have only a little time to prepare before we’re under attack.

I’m able to convince one of the first that we’re actually his ally and that he needs to head back downstairs and stop the rest of the crew from attacking us, but unfortunately this only works on him and no one else. We’re then in a fierce battle not only with the crew, but the captain and also a necromancer that they’ve brought with them.

As we’re fighting, the captain recognizes Jack and Targoth and mentions them by name. Jack asks him what his name is and the captain says it and mentions they’re with the Borderlanders. Targoth then realizes that this is what they wanted the halfling ships for and the captain says, “You’ve figured out our little plan. Now you must die.”

He exhorts the crew to kill us and tells us that Morage wants us dead.

The battle continues, though, and we begin to get the upper hand until we’ve killed some of the sailors and the captain is gravely wounded. That’s when one of the sailors surrenders. Another one then surrenders.

Aideena has primarily battled with the necromancer and surrounds him with fire before attempting to talk at him through it. Unexpectedly, the flames turn toward the necromancer and speak to him in an unknown language. When this happens, Aideena turns into the being of fire.

This all terrifies the necromancer, who promptly surrenders. Aideena accepts it for the moment and extinguishes the fire. She then asks him why this cargo is headed for Easar. The necromancer replies that it’s the task they’ve been given and that it’s what Morage wants. Aideena wants the necromancer to take us to Morage, but he doesn’t know where Morage is.

Aideena then tells him that we’re searching for some missing nobles and that we know where they are and they’re not far, but we’ll need a boat to get there. The necromancer agrees to assist us with this and tells us to let the captain die. We also discover that the necromancer doesn’t serve the Raven Queen.

Eben heals the captain to question him and he confirms what we already know: that the drug shipment is bound for Easar. We then ask why the Borderlanders are trying to kill us and the captain replies that Morage sees us as a threat and that the Borderlanders are in many places. He says that this is all part of Morage’s plan. We ask the captain who Morage is, but he says that he’s never met him.

He and the necromancer then get into a bit of a pissing contest about who is higher ranking in the group.

We then want to know how the Borderlanders knew where we were headed and we’re told that there’s an informant. We demand to know who this is and he says he’s never seen the informant himself, he only ever receives letters or emissaries. We find out, though, that the Borderlanders plan to take the city over and he hands over a note from Druuk authorizing him to have passage.

This information makes us wonder if Morage is in Easar, but we’re not sure.

We then question him about the kidnapped people we’re trying to rescue and the captain claims not to know anything about that. After we’re done questioning the captain, we decide we need to dispose of the cargo and make our way over to the Nightrunner to rescue the kidnapped people.



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