Return to Caldera

Session 3: Better the devil you know?
Our heroes trade swords for words, but at what cost?

Standing on the bottom-most deck of the Ghostly Stallion, our intrepid heroes began the day with their backs to the wall, standing tall against a seeming endless flood of pirates and lizardmen, neither willing to give ground. The battle had also been joined by Grimscale, the lizardfolk captain of the Stormseye, the last ship our ladies and lads occupied. He was refusing jovial calls from the deck above to cease the fighting, and giving our heroes a lot of trouble with his power over biting cold.

...Grimscale, lizardfolk captain of the Stormseye...

Utilising some impressive moves and a little luck, however, the incursion force managed to gain the upper hand on the defenders! It was a combined effort from the group – Keridwen, the Deva Invoker, smited Grimscale’s spirit companion with the power of her God. Thoradin, meanwhile, brought Grimscale to his knees after cracking his upper leg with his mighty warhammer. Calitris pounced, lying the scaled shaman onto his back and Ell, ever the opportunist, flourished her sword high before driving it across his chest. Grimscale was dead.

Before they could gut the last remaining lizardman, however, a tall figure with a broad smile joined them, casually eating an apple. Though he was flanked by a couple of crewmen, he made no attempt to engage in battle. Instead, he talked. It didn’t take long for Oranna, the youngest member of the group, to recognise the man as Captain Carmine Blaggard; much chronicled pirate and adventurer! He was either a charming, swashbuckling hero or a foul-mouthed plundering pirate, depending on who you asked. Oranna was immediately besotted, forgetting that they’d just spent a good amount of time felling his crewmen. Blaggart didn’t seem too phased, however, and took the heroes aside so that he could talk with them more privately. He offered them a deal. Basically, they could return with him to the Umbra Isles where he would, indeed, sell off his human cargo, but cut them in on what was promising to be a great profit. They were then free to either continue their journey to Caldera, or stay on with him as high-ranking pirates – they’d certainly proven themselves in battle, after all!

...a charming, swashbuckling hero or a foul-mouthed plundering pirate...

Some were more interested in this deal than others. Oranna and Ell (the latter in a more roundabout way) ended up dining with the captain and a few other pirates in his quarters. There was good food and mead a-plenty. The others were more hesitant, and had convinced Blaggart that they’d like to stay on the bottom deck to consider their options. He tried to dissuade them, but didn’t press too hard, and relented. He did post a few guards on the bottom level. These, he said, were to help them if the hag in the back got up to any mischeif. After a time, the ship went to sleep, leaving only a skeleton crew awake. Ell walked back down to the bottom deck where Keridwen, Calitris and Thoraden had already begun putting their plan into action – they were going to release the hag! Ell fetched Oranna who maintained the portal that ran to the Stormseye, for a quick escape should they need it, whilst Keridwen turned her attentions to the seals holding the hag.

Breaking those seals meant noise, and the crew of the Ghostly Stallion were immediately alerted to Keridwen’s machinations. Thoradin, having previously positioned himself for just such a happenstance, hammered the first of the pirates who raced through the door, breaking the thug’s foot. He wasn’t quick enough to tag the others who flooded in, however, and Oranna joined the battle; her magic missiles tearing through the rabble. Ell, who returned to the group after a brief ‘reconnaissance’ through the portal to the Stormseye, joined in the battle as well. They had to hold off the enemy until Keridwen managed to free the hag. After that, their decision to free her would be shown as wise (meaning that she aides them in felling the pirates) or foolish (meaning that she kills everyone on board, including them).

...when they're either slaughtered or saved by the brooding creature...

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Session 2: Jumping Ship
A teleport, a crone and a not-too-sneaky rogue.

Arr, me hearties! Last session, our intrepid heroes found themselves with a quandry; help the pirates who intend to sell them off as slaves, or aid the unknown critters that seem to be attacking them. Hoping to get the pirate folk onside, our forthinking adventurers chose the former, and started making blue goo out of the misshapen attackers. It was about this time that they were joined by a pair of fellow slav…er… passengers. A stout dwarf named Thoradin and a whimsical human named Nic. Thoradin waged headfirst into the battle. He was blissfully unaware about the motivations of the pirates, thinking they’re merely shipping people to the free lands of Caldera, and wanted to save them from this alien menace. Nic, on the otherhand, identified the attacking creatures as Void Crawlers; chaotic beings that liked to slip into the material plane through rifts left from unstable teleportations. He helped for a little while, before deciding it was more entertaining to sit back and watch the show… and quite a show it was! The pirates were all but decimated by the sudden appearance of the Crawlers, leaving the party to (not unskillfully) mop up the mess.

...this alien menace...

Meanwhile, back in the captains quarters, Ell was busy trying not to get diced by a couple of ghosts she’d managed to unintentionally free from a bottle she was attempting to steal. Her quick, tiefling reflexes kept her in good stead, however, and she managed to dispatch both before they’d done any lasting damage. Still, spooked by the enounter, she ran back to the rest of the party. By the time she’d reached them, they’d polished off the last Crawler and were now standing in a room of damaged furniture, boxes and things, wounded or dead pirates and various puddles of blue goo. She recognised Nic as an old friend, and Thoradin made himself known to the group, hoping to get to the bottom of what they’d just been through.

Keridwen, the Deva Invoker, led the group forward. A blue glow emanating from a door up ahead piqued her interest, and when investigated, she correctly identified the circle of teleportation that generated it. It was a strange thing to find on a ship at sea, being that this particular kind was a short-ranged circle, but they guessed it was linked to one of the other ships in the fleet. Also in the room was Grothic, the large blackscale first-mate of the ship. He was lying on the floor covered in much of his own blood. It seemed the Crawlers overcame him. Thoraden did what he could to heal him, but it wasn’t enough. Grothic hissed angrily at the dwarf as his soul passed toward oblivion. There was no sign of the ships captain, Grimscale.

As the group studied the glowing circle, Ell had Keridwen look at the maps she’d ‘borrowed’ from said captain’s quarters. Things were worse than they thought – they only had a day before they reached the Umbra Isles and the many hundreds of pirates who inhabited them. Determined not to become the playthings of scurvy ravaged sea-dogs, they activated the teleportation circle and stepped through (though Ell stayed behind a moment to make sure there was no immediate danger on the other side).

...a hairy, loin-cloth wearing, dishevelled human...

What they found was a hairy, loin-cloth wearing, dishevelled human who made no attempt to enter into conversation with Nic, who had happily attempted to provide it. Instead he attacked; against the six of them, however, he stood little chance. He was tied up and unconcious before long. This gave the group a chance to look over the room. On one wall was a small shrine dedicated, it seemed, to the red-skinned demon they’d seen in their dream! Knowing nothing good ever came from evil altars, Nic wasted no time in trying to defile it. Ell and Oranna, meanwhile, had roused the hairy cultist from his unconciousness and were doing their best (or perhaps worst) at interrogating him. When he merely laughed and them, telling them that his master would see them burn in the abyss, Ell began to use her dagger to do the talking for her.

Back at the altar, Calitris and Kerdiwen were doing their best to subdue Nic when the former noticed a closed doorway hidden behind the curtain beaing the visage of the red-skinned demon. Determined to have the party focussed on this new find, she sauntered over to their captive and put the man out of his misery with one swipe of her feline-like claws. Ell’s attention now focussed on the secret door, she decided to put her rogue-ish skills to use. She picked the lock, but had to withstand some kind of necrotic feedback after doing so. The door swung open and there, locked in a circle of binding, was the woman from the communal dream. She looked weak and bent over. She spoke to them, pleading with them to help her escape. Keridwen and Calitris weren’t completely won over by the situation, and Thoraden’s natural suspicion of humans served to alienate himself from the prisoner.

Bored with the woman’s cries for aid, Ell and Nic decided to investigate the ship. Ell peeked through the door near where they found the first hairy human; there were two more guarding this door. Deciding to utilise the element of surprise, Ell leapt out, delivering a mighty blow to one of them, seperating a large chunk of flesh from his arm. They immediately returned fire, so to speak, and battle ensued. Back at the, now identified, circle of binding, Keridwen, Calitris and Thoraden were pressing the magically shackled woman with questions. She quickly became angry with them, promising them that they would all be killed by the others on the ship unless they freed her. Hearing the ruckus that Ell had started, Calitris and Oranna left to investigate, leaving Thoraden and Keridwen to watch over the woman. As they did so, the woman’s skin began to peel away; she wasn’t interested in maintaining the illusion any longer, and after a few moments a gaunt, an old crone with midnight blue skin stood woman once did; she smiled confidently to herself, despite still being caged, “You’ll need me soon enough.”

...the woman's skin began to peel away; she wasn't interested in maintaining the illusion any longer...

Calitris and Oranna weren’t the only folk to be drawn by the sound of battle nearby, a haggard, skittish man in the soiled garments of a warlock scampered down the stairs. He became enraged when he saw that his men were under attack, literally tearing out a large clump of hair in his rage. Afterwards, he unleashed a powerful black energy at Nic which burned the bard from the inside, exploding through his eyes and mouth. He and Ell had no choice but to turn their attention to this new entrant into the fray, lest his spells overcome them. Backed up by the rest of the group, they held their ground forcing the spellweaver back up the stairs, and not before Nic got a good swipe in with his blade.

...Nic and Ell were surrounded...

Their respite was shot-lived, however, as in place of the dark cleric, two lizardmen joined the battle! Nic and Ell were surrounded. By this time the battle was joined by all! Nic cut one of the lizardmen in half as it charged for Ell, and also managed to cleave a cultist from cox to crown! Grimscale, the shamanistic lizardman who captained the Stormseye, the first ship our heroes inhabited, meandered down the stairs then. He looked with a distant disdain at the goings on; his easy demeanor offset the chaos around him. Lifting a hand, a great swirl of icy shards sliced through Keridwen’s immortal body. When it had cleared, a small, white-skinned draconic creature remained, snapping angrily at the Deva. The dark cleric could be heard on the upper levels of the ship summoning re-enforcements, whilst still in the circle of binding, the crooked crone smiled confidently…

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Session 1: Ship too sure?
Our intrepid heroes have hopped the last boat out of Halgard. The journey to safety, however, is littered with it's own dangers.

The group began, standing on the deck of the ship, Stormseye. The fear and uncertainty of Halgard was behind them for the time being, and all that was ahead was the promise of something better. There were beautiful blue skies above as the ship streaked through the pristine ocean. At no point in particular, however, they realised that they were the only people on deck – no crew or other passengers. The permeating silence was shattered when a scream of terror exploded from the captain’s quarters. Turning, they saw a beautiful woman standing in the doorway, framed by the darkness. She looked terrified. The doorway slammed shut and there is an audible locking sound.

...a skeletal horse who towered over the party...

Eager to uncover what exactly was transpiring, the group immediately began looking for ways into the captains quarters. All they found, however, was that they became surrounded by skeletons who crawled onto the deck from the sides of the ship! These included a skeletal horse who towered over the party. What’s more, the sky clouded over, turning the brilliant daylight cold and bleak. The skeletons, without warning, attacked! In the beginning, the party made short work of the boney fiends, dispatching them without raising too much of a sweat. As the horse fell, however, things changed. It split into hundreds of bone fragments which, seconds later, reformed into four new, human sized skeletons; each of these parts were as dangerous as their previous whole. Things got deadly. The party was being cut to shreds! Keridwen, the Deva Invoker called on the power of the Gods, smiting her enemies and, finally, turning two into smouldering ash. Oranna was the real hero, however, slowing the skeletons and putting some into a restless sleep with her power over the arcane. The others chipped in when they could and, eventually, were victorious!

The doors to the captains quarters flew open and the woman came running out; “Save me! Rescue me!” She couldn’t say much more, it seemed, but she was certanly terrified and in danger. Before she could be questioned too severely, however, the group was beset by evil once again, this time in the form of a giant demon! It clambered out of the captains quarters and stood tall on the ships deck. It was hard to imagine how it had fit in the small room in the first place. It grinned with evil pleasure at the party before brining it’s flaming whip to bear. It snared the pleading woman who was dragged back through the doors which closed behind her, then it turned it’s attention back to the others. They valiantly fought the creature – Ell, the rogue, did some fine damage in particular – but in the end it was all for naught. The demon lifted its flaming whip once again, latching onto the group and dragging them all towards it’s quickly expanding maw. The party was swallowed and everything went black…

...it grinned with evil pleasure at the party before brining it's flaming whip to bear...

...that’s when they were woken up. Each had just survived a very real, very disturbing dream. What it meant was lost to them, as they were about to learn of other, more pressing troubles. An old collegue of Oranna and Keridwen, a refugee named Bartholemew Trusk, said he needed to talk with them in private as he had some very important news.

On their way to the top deck, the party stopped to attempt to help a small greenscale, one of the crew, who was having trouble winding a winch on the ship. Unfortunately none had the strength to do so, but when Keridwen stood up to a blackscale that came to threaten the greenscale, she gained an ally in the skitterish individual.

...a large blackscale came to threated the greenscale...

Afterwards they went to hear what Bartholemew had to say; “I don’t think we’re heading to Caldera.” This was troubling indeed; if they weren’t going there, where were they headed? It was at this point that Keridwen reverted to a past life where she was, luckily enough, a pirate. She ‘remembered’ where they were heading – the Umbra Isles; a secret pirate hangout, known amongst those in the know as a wretched hive of scum and villainy. The passengers were likely going to be sold as slaves, as meat for the lizardfolk, made to fight for sport or a myriad of other equally sickening ends. Something needed to be done.

Dusk came quickly and the passengers, still unaware of the danger they faced, were herded to the second deck, where they would be locked in to sleep the night. Ell had other plans, however, hiding away so that she could observe the pirates on deck over night. Not speaking draconic, however, she found it hard to listen in to the conversation. She saw Grimscale and Grothic, the lizardfolk captain and first mate, respectively, leave the captains quarters for the lower part of the ship. She made to sneak in to Grimscale’s quarters while they were gone, but she was discovered. Just as she was about to be locked away with the rest of the passengers, however, the boat was rocked by an explosion on the bottom deck. The pirates were so startled that they ran downstairs to investigate, leaving the passengers cage door unlocked. Ell wasted no time in heading back up to the captains quarters, hoping to find something of value. She found some shipping charts which might come in handy. She also had to look through the chests, not being able to contain herself. She found some shiney totems and a particularly interesting looking potion. She tried to pour some of the potion out into another vial, but she mustn’t have been paying attention, because the bottle slipped. It smashed on the wooden floor, and from it a pair of whispy spirits rose up; their smokey, rotting visage did little to hide the malice they bore Ell – they moved to attack…

Meanwhile downstairs, Oranna, who was failing to remain hidden after teleporting away from the rest of the passengers, had been assaulted by Grothic as he made his way down to the bottom deck. The sound of the explosion, as well as the sounds of ensuing battle, had startled the rest of the passengers, and Keridwen, Oranna and Calitrus went to investigate. What they found was the pirates in pitch battle with a group of skittering, teleporting creatures (void crawlers). They tried to talk to the pirates, but they were too busy trying to stay alive. After a nearby pirate was taken down by one of the critters, it was time to make a decision. Fight for the pirates who may try to kill you later, or fight for the alien creatures who’s motivations were a complete mystery? Ah, the decisions of an adventuring party…

...a group of skittering, teleporting creatures...

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