February 23, 2014

Magic: Not for the Faint of Heart

D&D Next with Ben Robbins.
Start from the beginning: Slave Galleys Suck
Previous Session: Communication is Hard

The residents of Port Halke were wary, paranoid, angry, distrustful, and at times fearful. None of which made getting the answers about what had happened easy. Apparently, the relationship between Port Halke and the natives had always been rife with tension and an uneasy truce. However, that truce (if it ever existed) was recently broken when a forging group encountered a particularly hostile group of natives that forced them to retreat back into the relative safety of Port Halke's stockade walls. The residents of Port Halke vowed to not be pushed around by the natives so they mounted a counterattack, which turned into a bloodbath. One of the fallen was Rusbach, a knight-captain that had been in charge of the military at the Port. The natives were so enraged that they managed to storm the stockade walls and set fire to a number of the buildings. Some of which were still smoldering when the Osprey landed.

Visage was able to determine that their irrationally hostile behavior towards the crew of the good ship Osprey was because of some magical tinkering that was afoot and that had tainted their minds. Only time would be able to wear down the effects that were affecting the townsfolk. In the meantime, the crew, Kelti, Visage, and Titus settled in at the Shorehouse, while Master Peleus and Korlav stayed with Salazar, an important personage in the Port.

One thing that piqued the trio's attention was mutterings of the especially odd behavior of the resident wizard, Morrow, who had not been seen by anyone for several days after being more erratic than usual, which was a surprise to everyone that it was even possible. The townsfolk were a superstitious and grumpy lot that reacted astoundingly negatively to the trio's offer to investigate Morrow the Wizard's dwelling. The trio decided to go have a look anyway and use the cover of night to hide their intent.

It wasn't difficult to find the wizard's hut, which was well built and had a door that was magically locked. They each tried their hand at getting inside, but to little effect besides a slightly bruised shoulder on Titus' part from trying to break down the door. They had neglected to bring any implements for light so Kelti went back to the Shorehouse to grab a lantern. In the meantime, Titus and Visage decided to wander over to the town square, where a group of men had gathered and were heatedly discussing whether or not to go back out into the woods to seek revenge on the natives. They kept on mentioning that someone named "Wallach" wanted to mount an attack, but several wanted to wait for Gephart, the magistrate, to weigh in with his thoughts before taking action.

Visage, on the off-chance that they would be able to get into the wizard's hut, decided to go back to the Shorehouse to see if any bags could be found to hold any useful things they found. When they all met back up at the hut for their second try, this time armed with useful tools, Kelti decided to put her acrobatic tumbling past to the test and attempt to slither down the chimney, which looked to be their best point of entry. They were hopeful at first that Visage, with some light, would be able to undo the magically locked door, but it was quickly determined that the runes on the door handle would take Visage several days of study to make heads or tails of it. Titus went up on the roof with Kelti, just in case she got stuck. Luckily, the weeks of jungle living had primed Kelti for this particular task and without too much trouble, she made it into the hut, covered in soot, but without any other mishap.

When all three were inside, a quick look around made it obvious that the wizard had gone to great lengths to appear as normal as possible. Titus noticed a well-placed rug (what type of person would decide to bring a rug purely for decorative purposes in a Port hundreds of miles away from proper civilization? Certainly not anyone as practical as a wizard) and upon further investigation, there was conveniently a trap door hidden under the rug.   

Titus went down first and Kelti passed the lantern down towards him. As the lantern reached Titus, it seemed as if the light shone not quite as far as it had above ground, though he shrugged it off as a trick of his imagination. He also thought he saw movement in the room further in, but again, chalked it up to a trick of the light and wisely decided to wait for the others before venturing any further.

Once all three were safely in the small underground alcove, Titus and Kelti started forward into an inner room. Visage hung back, taking a quick look at the odds and ends stored in the shelves built into the walls of the alcove and more wary than his compatriots of the dangers of a wizard's secret lair. As soon as Kelti and Titus set foot in the inner room, they both felt a wave of unbridled fear and unease wash over them, but, foolhardy as they were, they were able to clamp that shit down and continue further into the room, which appeared to be where Morrow did all of his magical study and work.

And where Morrow still was. Unfortunately he was also dead. He sat sprawled in a large and heavy high-backed chair, an expression of extreme terror distorting his face. Titus and Kelti shouted for Visage to come and take a look, but the moment that Visage stepped foot into the room, he knew beyond a doubt that going further into that room was the last thing in the world that he wanted to do. An overwhelming need to get the hell out of dodge consumed him and he was barely able to let out a strangled yelp before rushing out and up the trap door without a backwards glance.

Kelti and Titus looked at each other for a second before immediately springing into action. Titus patted Morrow down but found nothing of note, while Kelti very carefully picked the largest and most ornate book on the wizard's table. Titus was not as delicate, using one of his large and muscular arms to quickly sweep as much of the wizard's stuff into a blanket that they had fashioned into a crude carrying bag. All manner of books and scrolls and mysterious powders and jars tumbled into the bag.

Visage, the minute he saw his companions' heads appear out of the trap door started towards the door, stammering incoherently about the danger that they were in. Only when they were across the street did he take a deep breath and stand shaking like a leaf with his hand covering his eyes for several moments. Kelti and Titus looked on, dumbstruck by his reaction but deferring to his magical expertise. When he finally looked up, he looked startled and asked them if they had been followed out. He was met with confusion and some amount of pity, neither of them noticed anyone, except for the extremely dead body of Morrow. Visage blinked several times before slowly telling them that he saw someone look out the door of the hut before the door closed of its own volition.

They carried their awkward bundle of loot from Morrow's secret wizard lair back to the Shorehouse, and tried stowing it under the cots, where it was painfully obvious. Luckily, the crew of the Osprey were preoccupied with their discontent at being kept in a ill-fated port and spared them a few weird looks, but kept to themselves. Visage needed somewhere quiet to look unmolested through the loot and make sense of it, so they decided to offer to take the next shift at standing guard on the ship, where they knew they would not be disturbed.

Their plan would have worked without a hitch except for the fact that Titus and Kelti both fell soundly asleep and were only woken when the next group of sailors came to relieve them of their shift. They were unable to warn Visage, who had holed up in Master Peleus' cabin to study the books, scrolls, and journal that they had recovered. Visage, once he realized what had happened, cursed his luck and looked around him. The cabin smelled strongly of chemicals and various strange colored powder covered the table and ground. He tried his best to clean it up, but wizards are not particularly good at being orderly. A glance at the jumble of loot made it obvious that stumbling out of the cabin with his arms full of a misshapen lump would appear highly suspicious so he resorted to hiding the majority of the loot and taking only a few of the most important books.

Before he opened the door of the cabin, he steeled himself to put on a masterful performance and at the same time guide the books using Mage Hand around the ship to the dock. His performance was indeed masterful, successfully convincing the sailors that he had fallen asleep studying, but it ran a little too long, as evidenced by a splash that could be heard from the side of the ship. The sailors turned quizzically and with some amount of fear and trepidation towards the splash, and Visage quickly tried to assuage their concern by attributing the splash to dolphins.

Dolphins? At this time of the night? But the sailors, knowing they were in unfamiliar waters, shrugged and were all too eager to accept Visage's innocuous explanation. Kelti and Titus, after 20 minutes of anxiously watching the ship for signs of Visage, were about to head back to the ship and try to smuggle him out when they saw him walking with a defeated expression down the dock towards them.

When he confessed to what happened, they both looked at him like he was crazy and Kelti said, "You mean, the best magic stuff is in the ocean, and you left the crappy stuff safe in the cabin?" She shook her head in confusion and threw up her hands in disgust. Wizards...they operate on some weird logic.

Before they turned in for the night, Visage recounted what he had found in Morrow's journal. It turned out the wizard was an alchemy scholar and made very neat detailed notes about all of the various metals and elements that he had found on the island, all of which was dry as shit, but near the end of the journal, right around the time that the townsfolk mentioned his weird behavior, was an entry that was scrawled in unfamiliar cursive handwriting. A chill fell over them as they listened to Visage recite the journal entry from memory even though the tropical night air was pleasantly warm.
"Voices in the jungle
Black beacon burns
I close the shutters, but the dark comes in
I pressed rags in the cracks but the dark comes in
No candles. No candles or they will see the light"
The next morning, Kelti decides to comb the beach to see if she can find the books, convinced that they float, even though Visage told her that they were pretty heavy and had metal capped edges. Titus, agreeing with Visage, decided to swim around the boat and try to find the books on the ocean floor.

For once, Kelti was right and she proudly brought Visage the tattered and waterlogged remains of the precious magic books. Visage pales when he catches sight of the ruined books, but doesn't have time to properly despair at their condition because a crowd of townsfolk ran by them at that moment and someone tells them that they found someone who died mysteriously overnight, a look of abject terror etched on their face.

Visage, Kelti, and Titus looked at each other, each asking the unspoken question - did they unleash something that was now literally terrorizing the Port?

Next Session: Death Becomes You