[May contain spoilers for the Adventure Module “Scourge of the Slavelords” –ed ]
The slaves weren’t in the best position for knowing all about the operations of the ship (the Ghoul), but they heard some stuff.
- the Ghoul apparently works (worked) for people called the Slave Lords; despite the name, the Ghoul didn’t usually trade in slaves, just used them to haul their cargo around.
- sometimes, the ship would load and unload from a city at night, and the purple sail would be changed for a white one. Signals of some kind…
- one guy said the Slave Lords are super rich, and even built themselves a city of gold somewhere.
- another said the Slave Lords must have their headquarters inland, because the cargo always arrived packed for land travel. I guess that’s the kind of thing an expert would know.
- the Ghoul mostly sailed between Highport and Elred…but it also traded as far away as Crimp in the Great Kingdom, and Blu in the Pamarj. And I used to think Veluna was a far-off, mysterious place…
- one of the guys said he believed the Slave Lords were controlled by an Evil demi-god or something – like maybe even the Old One himself. Another guy shushed him, and insisted that was just a rumor. It would explain some things, though.
Mikael dug around on the ship, and discovered an armory on one end of the hold – with leather armor, plenty of crossbows and quarrels, and more short swords. I told Heiron that, since he’s so big and strong, he should wear the chainmail and use the long sword we found (Lydia says they’re both magical), and I’ll use a crossbow for now.
The hold is full of silk and other fabrics, with a few barrels of hard drink and some little boxes of spices. According to the log book, they sometimes trade raw gems, too, but we haven’t found any of those.
We did find their cash-on-hand, though…almost four hundred pounds of gold, which Ezekiel says should come in very handy for buying better equipment. We just have to make some bags out of this fabric, which Ezekiel is not so good at (Raven is surprisingly good with a needle and thread, though).
We told the slaves they can have any of the cargo they can carry — they might need something to sell to get them on the path to home. Although, some of them say they’re from around here, so it won’t be quite so long a walk as for the others.
Mikael left not long ago, in bird form, to scout out the nearest village. It will have (some) shelter, and let us know where we are. Ezekiel and I have looked at the sea charts, but I’m not really used to that notation. We all agreed that, while we could theoretically row the ship, it’ll be better if we travel on land (though Mikael was excited to summon a couple whales to pull us. Is that power going to his head??).
One other thing Ezekiel found in the ship’s log — the Ghoul received a “message” about a week ago to go take on a cargo somewhere north of Fax. Mikael says that matches when he noticed them turn around and head north. It’s not much, but it’s more than we found in the rest of the log.
Ezekiel thinks we were sent here to take down the Slave Lords (though he didn’t say it in so many words).
We’ll see if it’s that simple. I’ve been forced to a realization lately. I’m used to orcs and goblins and their kind attacking people for no reason, and enjoying cruelty for cruelty’s sake. But now I see humans and even elves can be just the same.
Clearing out the Temple of Elemental Evil, it was somehow easy to call it “those” people – the ones deluded enough to worship a squishy slime being…to trade their humanity and decency for power, or money. Now I see they aren’t just gathered in a Temple for easy classification.
They walk the roads with us. They sit at dinner with us. Even advise our rulers and hold power over us.
I have no one to talk to about this, since Ezekiel would go into a long diatribe about the nature of legality and the theory of authority, and Lydia was helping the women tie rations into bundles last I saw, unless she’s flipping through the captain’s spell-book again.
Guess I’ll help Heiron row rescued prisoners to shore.
Once we had everything off the ship that we wanted, Lydia helped Mikael set it on fire. As Lydia said, we can’t do anything with it, and as Ezekiel said, this way our enemies won’t benefit from it, either. (L says she feels useless without her reagents, but she sure knew exactly where to pour the lamp oil to send the whole thing up in a blaze. This is not disturbing at all…)
Ezekiel and Mikael tried to use the rod on the captain (so they could ask him questions), but it didn’t work somehow. Maybe because he’s an elf. Just as well, since we don’t really have anything to do with him after questioning him.
The village Mikael led us to is small, but they were able to tell us where we are in relation to the big towns. Most of the rescued slaves are forming groups to travel in various directions, and Ezekiel is passing out extra rations. I’m not sure where he’s getting them…he says it’s a “cleric” thing.
The rest of them will be heading with us toward Fax. Sounds like it’s a major port, and they hope they can scrounge passage on a ship to take them closer to home. Tafosi says he has great experience rowing, and maybe that will be a point in his favor.
We also hope to get some better gear in Fax. There are a couple longbows in the village, but their owners don’t really want to part with them. Once I have a real bow in my hands, I will feel much more equal to facing the rendezvous north of Fax…assuming the people haven’t given up waiting on the Ghoul by the time we get there.
So apparently Fax is run by an old pirate named Captain Skulljack. The guy we were talking to as we came in said the captain’s favorite expression is, “Wear a sword, ’cause anything goes!”
In some ways, it reminds me of Greyhawk – although it’s much dirtier overall. The main wall seems like it would do its job…but there are houses and shops piled up on both sides of it, and Raven says anyone with “hand-foot coordination” could climb it easily.
I think there are guards at the gate, but it’s kinda hard to tell…they didn’t ask us for tolls or anything – just kinda glanced at us as we came through. Everyone is armed with something, which might be why everyone is so polite. We found an inn that seems well run, and a fletcher and blacksmith’s shop where we could upgrade our gear a bit. Ezekiel even found a shop with children’s games, and bought a stuffed sheep. Guess he was lonely?
He and Mikael have gone to the temple of Xerbo, who’s apparently a god of the sea and commerce worshiped by the Suluese. They hope that will be a “friendly-ish” place to ask questions about the Slave Lords.
The rest of us tried to keep our ears open in a couple inns. Most of the barmaids seem more comfortable talking to Heiron than to me, but he keeps looking at me to tell him what to say, so our progress is pretty slow. Lydia turned a piece of the silk into a new veil, so she’s playing the old “hard to get” game…maybe she will have better luck that way.
Here’s what we have learned:
- rumor has it the Slave Lords are based in Highport (way to the south)
- there are actually twenty “Slave Lords” who meet together as a council, but only they know who each other are.
- another rumor: the Slave Lords have a temple in Highport where they base their operations. Lines up, if they serve some kind of demon-deity. Still just a rumor, though.
A long time ago, somebody else went all over the place asking about the Slave Lords – and last the people of Fax saw him, he was heading toward Highport.
Ezekiel finds all this very suspicious. In any case, we’re heading north first, to try to intercept the Ghoul‘s rendezvous (a meeting it will never make, now).
North of us, the Welkwood runs down close to the shore, with the road running between. We heard all kinds of rumors about the Welkwood – humanoids live there, defensive elves live there, there’s even supposedly an ancient Suluese city of treasure in there, next to the Jewel River – but that’s not our concern right now.
Mikael says he heard rumor of a druid circle of Obed-Hai, far north, beyond the Welkwood, near some town called Cantona…but I don’t think we have time to go that far for their help. Not if we want to catch the Ghoul‘s accomplices.
Ezekiel was kinda stressed about this, but I pointed out that I am great at following foot-prints – and I’m much better than I was since Elmo and Master Otis have been testing and challenging me. And if the accomplices are looking for the ship to pick up their cargo, they’ll be somewhere along the shore. How hard can that be?
[sketch of coastline]
Had enough gold left over to buy some horses, so travel should be a breeze. Of course, I’m mostly walking anyway, so I can see the ground better. We also haven’t been able to stick to the road entirely, since it veers away from the coast from time to time.
Still no unmistakeable signs of a loading zone for cargo, nor of regular traffic to the shore. I suppose this close to Fax, most ships prefer the convenience of the docks to load their boxes.
A few days out from Fax, we picked up a few tag-alongs.
I was having the time of my life, reading the story of the dirt, when we came upon a dwarf, a human, and a halfling lunching by the side of the road. The dwarf wore platemail and a broadsword, while the human wore robes and carried a wand.
When we exchanged pleasantries, they said they used to be adventurers, but now they “farm.” I kept my laughing on the inside – since, after all, the philosophy of Fax and its surrounding area seems to be “wear all the weapons.”
Mikael came right out and asked them what exactly they farmed — the human (Targl, who did most of the talking) said, turnips and sheep.
Ezekiel probed a little farther, and they said they didn’t have a cart because they were negotiating contracts. When we asked them about the Slave Lords, they said the SL paid well enough – if you were the “type” to work for them.
Ezekiel blurted out, we’re Good adventurers “on the hunt” for the Slave Lords, and were they for them or against them?
Targl said, their village was destroyed by the SLs, so now he, the dwarf Agnar, and the halfling Bornthene were traveling around trying to get clues about the SLs. Apparently they “know” (or know about?) the ship with the purple sail where we spent a miserable week.
I asked why, if they wanted the Slave Lords, they weren’t heading to Highport, since all the rumors we’d heard indicated they were based there. I didn’t really hear their answer, because Ezekiel piped up and declared his opinion that Highport is a honeypot to throw people off the scent, and invited the threesome to join us.
The halfling rode Ezekiel’s horse with him, while Targl rode with Mikael. Agnar the dwarf seemed a little heavy to double-up, so Raven let him ride his horse (Raven is just as fast on his own feet, anyway).
Later that afternoon, I found tracks that led to a cave close down near the shore. It’s plain from the marks in the sand that crates have been set there – although Mikael thinks the tide would come in, and make it too wet to store them permanently.
I believe what he says about the tides, but it’s been too long to tell how recently someone had crates there (hours? days? weeks?)…or whether they moved them toward the road, or toward the shore. Depending on how they sent messages to the Ghoul, it’s even possibly they know something happened to them (like with magic, or animal friends, or something).
Since Highport is the only real lead we have left (unless we continue combing the coast northward), even Ezekiel agreed we should check it out. He thinks it’s very likely a trap, though.
The threesome say they will travel with us as far as Elred…they say there’s an inn where we might get some more information, although they’re afraid they overstayed their welcome last time by asking too many questions.
[written in Lawful Good]
Raven said he wanted to correct the spelling of some of the names on my map, but actually he wanted to write in Lawful Good. Apparently Buffy the bat told him Mikael said that Ezekiel said that Bornthene the halfling said that the other two can’t be trusted. Also Bornthene spoke in Lawful Good, so we can trust him.
Unless he’s an assassin, but as Raven says, I think everyone is an assassin. I think Raven is an assassin, so this is absolutely true.
We had some quibbling about the riding arrangements. Now I am riding all the time, too, there’s not so much free space, and Agnar the dwarf thought Bornthene should ride with him because he has the right “leg-room” or something.
By the time we got to Fax, though, Raven had been talking with the horses, and said they were nervous when the strangers rode them alone. Maybe Wild-Coast-ians never learned how to properly guide a horse. (Thank you, Alpheus!) Anyway, each of them is riding with one of us, now, and Raven is riding, too, so the horses don’t feel so nervous.
I am teaching Heiron a song to pass the time:
“Heiron! I’m your best friend!
That’s what I am to you.
“And we’ll be together
‘Til the part where it’s o-ver!
“Because we are brothers,
“And not Bad!”
Find the previous entry here.