The beginning of the first session
It is 01. 07. 1112., the evening of the second year since the Island and the Saltpans had been reclaimed from the Mist. Townspeople are gathered on the main square, celebrating. Today is also another anniversary – whole year since the belfry has been rebuilt and it’s magnificently crafted bells reinstalled, after Tuck constructed the crane to pull them back up, out of the depths of the salt lake.
A group of men are singing song to praise their towns heritage, written a year ago by priest Kael. They sing of the bells that guide the ships, that celebrate the weddings and say farewell to those who leave us forever, they sing of bells that warn about storms and teach us our history; that serve both mortals and God himself.
(this is how it sounds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkXEYsm-nlA )
Their song is beautiful, and is also final event tonight. As they end their performance, there is an applause, especially by girls in front, fascinated by local show-off and a leading vocal – Wiss’el.
PCs are tired, and plan to go to bed just now, Darwin additionally grumpy and irritated by not being able to find his pipe. But as the song dies, they hear a sound of bells, from afar, out on the sea.
(There is a ship approaching, and since the island is surrounded by fog, every incoming vessel must call for guidance. They send a man to the belfry to sound the bells, and help sailors navigate the ship.)
It is odd, for no ship was due to come for two more days. And nobody ever sails at night. Together with Kael, they decide to go down to the docks and welcome the unexpected visitors.
But when they finally reach the bottom of the high Sea Stairs and come all the way to the water’s edge, they realize that the ship emerging from the mist is not at all steered. If they don’t board it and control it, the prescious steam engine will crash into the rocks and sink.
At this point they all get scared, and Kael is the only one who dares to jump into the water, climb the ship and grab the steering wheel, thus saving their mutual investment.
When Darwin, Roland and Amadeus finally join him, they see that there are two corpses on the deck.
Both familiar faces belonged to the Ulsan sailors, and Darwin’s successful heal check tells them one of the unfortunate men had been dead for several hours. The other was slain only minutes ago, by sword.
They split up and search the ship, fearing the murderer might still be aboard.
It is a cargo boat that usually brought their supplies, but virtually empty. Nor coal nor food had been loaded.
Amadeus Wons takes his time, and discovers that there is a double bottom in a drawer, in captains quarters. It has been laid with lead, to block magical auras. Žbica the wizard takes the key from inside the box, and soon realizes it is a skeleton key, magically altered to fit all the locks (DC up to 28). It is a prohibited item, and they intend to place it in the safe as usual.
While others search the cargo space, Roland leaves to examine engine room. He looks at the engines, and everything seems O.K. But as he opens the coal bunker, two hands leap out of it and grab him by the throat. An old man pulls him down by weight of his own body, towards his own, madly distorted face, choking him, crushing his windpipe. Roland manages to pull a knife and stabs the old man. The man yells, but does not falter. Roland stabs him again and again, darkness in front of his eyes thickening. Finally, the unnaturally persistent grip on his neck loosens, and Roland falls down on his knees, gasping for air, clutching his neck, watching life ebb away from the body on the floor. Long white hands relaxed, eyes fell out of focus, but expression of horror never left the old man’s face.11
The rest of the team heard noise, and they all barged into the engine room, just to find their flushed friend fighting for his breath, and a corpse laying next to him.
“I had no choice”, said Roland in a hoarse voice.
“He caught me off balance, and wouldn’t let go. I am sorry.” 12
The rest of the party, along with Kael, took the bodies of unfortunate men out of the ship. Amadeus sent for more guards to help them, and they carried the remains of slaughtered sailors up the Sea Stairs, all the way to the town, and into the Guardsmen’s Tower. They laid them down onto the three long, wooden tables in the dungeon. They also, albeit with some regret and only after making a sketch of it, gave Kael the skeleton key they found on the ship. He disposed it in a safe where other such items are kept, until destroyed.
Amadeus gathered the guardsmen warning them of the killings on the ship, and ordering them to patrol the streets. They must be careful tonight, for whoever killed the sailors is probably on the island.
At the same time, Žbica the wizard is fascinated by a imprisoned sleeper, Bartol More. Kael failed to heal him of what he believes to be a demon possession, and will burn him at the stake tomorrow. Bartol is quite obviously not in his right mind. He sits in his cell, hands around his knees, swinging back and forth. Staring at them and yelling something gibberish, over and over again, louder and louder, he leaves Kael no choice but to ask them to leave, so he could use magic to appease Bartol.
One of the party members, however, realizes that the words coming out of old lunatic’s mouth aren’t gibberish at all. 13
Soon they leave the dungeon, and as they stand at the square discussing this evenings events, one of the local legends – Mist fighter Stipe “Hawk Eye” Lon – notices a shadow flying out of the tower window towards the continent.
“What was that, Stipe?” asked Darwin.
“Dunno,” said Stipe, “but methinks ’twas a bird of some kind.”
“You didn’t see? No longer hawk-eyed as you used to be, eh?”
“You fool! The hawk couldn’t see it in this light, either!”
Darwin continues to provoke the old fighter when Mate, one of the guardsmen, approaches them.
“Boss,” he adresses Wons, and is apparently uneasy. “There’s about thirty untouchables down on the new salt pans. It was my task to pick them up, and I thought I’d do that after the song’s done. But since this ship came in… Well, I think I wouldn’t be clever to go out there alone.”
“I’ll do it,” says Darwin. Amadeus and Roland agree to come with the dwarf, along with a young druid, Leylana. But Žbica says he’d rather stay in the town and have a good night’s sleep, since he is drop dead tired. 14
and here ends the first session
there are numbers at the end of some lines. they mark places where some details have not been shared, due to the fact that they are spoilers of sorts. until the campaign is over, or some of the PCs dead, these are to remain hidden.
THE JIG IS UP.
Well, most of it is. So I can share the spoilers.
Here they are:
11 And now, when he watches it, Roland recognizes the old man. Not long ago, Hubbert, his associate, ordered a set of new personal documents to go with this man’s picutre. Roland made the forgeries for a nice compensation. And now the man was dead. His unfortunate new name: Gustav Mart.
12 Of course, Roland is lying. He had a choice, but the man touched his face. He was dead before the knife was even pulled. This way, at least, the old man will take Roland’s secret to his grave.
13 The old man is yelling: “Your body isn’t shackled, it’s your mind!” And Roland doesn’t know what to make of this.
14 Now it is the gnome who is dishonest. He is fascinated by Bartol – naturally, for Žbica the gnome is having dreams, too. He is a sleeper, and this is a unique chance for him to inspect another of his kind, and learn more about the grim sleeper’s fate that awaits him.