Swords for Adventure

Machinations of the Sky Citadel

circleroom.jpg
Mordecai, Illya, and Marquis landed quite unceremoniously in a dark room after having leapt into the teleportation circle in the sky citadel they had just fled. When Mordecai got to his feet he gestured with his hand and bead of bright white light illuminated in his palm. Looking about the room, it was clearly quite old and hadn’t seen any visitors in ages. The walls were very skillfully tiled in various mosaics depicting some battles of old although some patches had clearly fallen free over the ages. It was a typical sized atrium one sees associated with teleportation circles. When he turned and looked at the circle and examined it, it still seemed to be in working order although dusty and unused for possibly centuries. What looked to be the exit of the room was blocked by some type of cave in. It would be impossible to tell where they were.

Illya spoke first. “I think I am going to wretch.” and she promptly bend over and did so. Marquis was on his back with his eyes closed just breathing and he spoke. “Don’t try and move much, just lie still with your eyes shut, it helps.” Leaping into a teleportation circle with the final destination rune spinning and random was bound to have ill effects on the uninitiated. It was also supremely to attempt at all, and in particular with multiple people, no guarantee of going to the same location, of having all limbs attached, of not swapping limbs upon materialization, etc. All in all their escape was quite remarkable in that regard.

Marquis opened his eyes and looked up at Mordecai. “That was very harrowing, wasn’t it?”, “Oh goodness no, these artifacts were constructed by the most skilled and intelligent arcane artisans of old, we were quite safe.” Mordecai lied. “Thankfully although we are clearly sealed in this room, and quite unoccupied, the device still appears to be functional. I should be able to enter some location runes and get us on our way.” He went on to explain while looked at the circles command orb on its pedestal. “We can go back to Tal Afaya and free uncle.” Illya exclaimed. Mordecai smiled sympathetically and tried to not be too condescending. “A noble goal indeed young lady but you have not all explained to me what precisely has happened in Tal Afaya, and we lack shall we say, reinforcements for re-taking a throne.”

Illya’s expression sank. “You are right mage, the three of us are not going to be sufficient. As to what happened, we do not know their true identities but some travelers from afar came to my uncle with word of the sky citadels teleportation circle. They offered to share in its wealth. My uncle agreed, but when the portal was opened the first group did not return. This happened several times and then we two began to see changes in uncle. One night late our fears were realized. I had crept down to uncle’s private study to watch him. He was standing with some scrying stone in his hand speaking to someone. It was then before my eyes he changed into a strange dark humanoid. I did not hear the rest of the conversation because I was caught by some mystical beast he had lurking in the study and he captured me, and then poor Marquis was taken in his sleep.” Illya explained.

necroarmy.jpg

Mordecai listened and was confused by what he had heard the guards saying when he freed Illya and Marquis. “Why did your captor guards speak about trading you? If the group already holds the throne in Tal Afaya I don’t understand.” He asked. Illya went on. “These devils are deceitful and honorless to one another as well. After we were taken to the citadel there was some kind of fight, or mutiny I suppose. It was obvious the fiends on the citadel were bargaining with those still in Tal Afaya.” Mordecai considered her words. “Interesting, that is something we can exploit.” He said. “Where is your uncle and why did they keep you alive?” Mordecai asked as well. “I believe he is held by the beasts in Tal Afaya, and as to why they all want us alive, that lies beneath Tal Afaya. After the end of the Necro War, the nations of free peoples that formed the alliance his away the relics from the nether world in a vault that was constructed under Tal Afaya. The only key was an ancient sword forged and used in the war in those days, and it requires a ritual that only the bloodline of the rulers of Tal Afaya can perform. It requires more than one, and as result, they did not slay us, and were bargaining with each other over all of us.” Illya explained.

talafayavault.jpg

Mordecai considered her words then spoke. “On your feet, both of you, we’re off.” Mordecai commanded taking out a journal from his satchel and leafing through it. “Where do we go now?” Marquis asked hesitantly looking at the portal and holding his stomach. “This trip will be intentional and a great deal less disorienting. We go to someone that can help.” He explained. “This person has an army?” Illya asked sarcastically. Mordecai looked at her and smiled. “He does, more than one after a fashion, and he would find a sky citadel filled with trolls, orcs, and doppelgangers to be a jewel worth taking.”

View
Debauchery *Explicit Content Warning*
*Explicit Content Warning*
27th Ches (March) , The Year of Star Wanderers (1490 DR) DR (Dale Reckoning)

Smee wiped some of the sweat from his brow after setting down one of the many barrels of supplies being loaded into the ships store room preparing for the voyage. He had not asked the crew to help as he wanted to give them a small furlough to enjoy the port before setting sail. He took quick stock of the inventory and was sure there was enough stuffs for at least a month, likely a little more. He flexed his left hand, feeling the strength and vigor of a younger appendage. He already missed Ira’s Sentinel; without doubt one of the finest weapons he had ever owned. He used it to pay a healer at the Blackstaff Academy to replace his missing hand.

He sniffled and wiped his nose with a kerchief, it had bled spontaneously ever since he indulged in the magic powder from the orb. He laughed thinking about how all of his companions had tried the orb’s powder hoping for the potential boon Robert’s master had spoken of. Erza was the only one who received such a prize. Lucky prick, he was quite jealous of the little guy. “Good things happen to good people, that’s why you’re changing your ways,” Smee thought to himself.

Smee emerged from the ship’s hold and basked for a moment in the warmth of the sun’s rays with a smile. It was another calm day, but outside the sun it was cool and there was a brisk breeze blowing in from the sea. He heard a familiar voice call out from the dock which he knew to be Algares.

“Hey there Smee! I know we have an arrangement that you’ll smuggle for me and I provide you with hookers. But your men are animals! One of my girls almost quit! Can I at least see this special hold to ensure what you say is true?”

Smee thought for a moment before answering, beckoning Algares onto the ship with his right hand as he fingered his belly button with the left. He chuckled as Algares, for all his nimbleness, stumbled slightly as he stepped onto the deck. “Your sea legs will come swiftly I am sure. Faster than Erza I think! Aye I guess that’s fair. Maybe your women shouldn’t be such whiney bitches, they be hookers after all! Not like they respect themselves. Come down with me.”

He led Algares into the hold and towards the stern. He opened up a hidden hatch and motioned for Algares to look inside. After a moment, Algares stood up and nodded. “That’s a great spot, well hidden! Of course, I could have found it on my own,” he stated with a slight hint of smugness.

“Oh I have no doubt my friend. You must be a great thief as the others say; I have yet to see you lift a thing. I have no doubt to this point you’ve picked up this and that, and I do not begrudge you for it. But if I catch you stealing from the group I’ll flay your tiefling hide and pack you in salt,” he laughed and clasped a hand on Algares shoulders, “but for now, Godfather, let us look to our own needs. The ship is ready; let’s have one more night of debauchery before we set sail!”

They met up with the group at The Gales. They indulged in drinks, food, music, gambling, and singing. Into the night they partied and carried on. As Smee became more and more inebriated, he began hefting out coins to the women who began to flock around their table. As the group let loose and their inhibitions faded, Smee noticed that the other patrons were all glaring at his companions. One sailor, a wide and strong man younger than Smee, slammed his drink onto the table and knocked over his chair as he stood up.

“What gives, you bloated walrus?! Don’ you see the rest of us ‘ere? You’re hogging all the meat!” he screamed pointing at Smee. The music stopped and the quartet faded into a corner as the rest of the sailors turned and began to stand as well. Smee lifted the young woman who had been straddling his belly pouring wine down his gullet to the floor before clumsily rising. He looked awful, there was sticky wine and chicken flesh stuck in his beard. His chest was slick from wiping his hands on his skin to clean them and gleamed sickeningly in the firelight from the grease.

“You’s all got a prob-hiccup-lem with me an’ me pards? belch Well how’s ‘bout we have ourselves a lil’ wager?” Smee said, holding onto his chair for support.

The sailor who had approached continued to stare down Smee, “what wager that be?”

Smee belched and scratched under one massive breast, “is called balls chicken!” Smee continued with the most basic rules of the game; first you sit across from each other and keep your gaze up, the first to flinch was the loser, if neither flinched in time they both lost. With such a simple explanation he could see the man was intrigued by this game and agreed to the terms.

“Good, sit down o’er there ya git!” he bellowed as he dragged his chair to sit opposite his opponent. The young sailor looked nervous as he stared into Smee’s eyes. Without so much as a how do you do Smee placed his hand on the man’s right thigh and began to slide inwards towards his groin. The sailor screamed and lept up, and Smee let out a hearty laugh and proclaimed “looks like I won you sissy little impotent shit!”

“You sick fuck! Get ‘im ladz!” and the brawl was on. Smee grabbed the sailor by the groin and the back of his nape, pushing his face into his chest and twisting so his man tits bounced on his head. He gave a little squeeze and laughed as he knew the lad couldn’t breathe.

“Look out!” Erza cried as he took a running leap into a sailor coming at Smee with a chair. He delivered a devastating spear tackle that drove the man’s skull into the upper ledge of the fireplace knocking him out cold. Erza lept onto a nearby table in a hand stand and whirled around kicking assailants in the face if they came near.

Smee let go of his victim’s groin, pulled his head back, and delivered a few fierce blows before dropping him to the floor. “Great job, ya wee git!” he cried out to Erza as Smee took a 2×4 upside the face. Back at the table Algares had taken his clay mug and begun wielding it with a dagger he had up his sleeve. When he saw Smee take the blow, he round house kicked the nearest sailor and flung the mug on the follow through, nailing him in the back of the head. As the man stumbled forward wiping clay chards from his hair Smee took advantage to grapple the man’s skill under his arm and pile driver the poor sod. The man’s unconscious body lay amongst a pile of splinters after busting through a sturdy table.

Handur had turned into a donkey and let out a mighty neigh as he charged forward smashing tables and chairs. He swung his might neck side to side knocking people to and fro. At one point he rammed a man into the bar and bit him in the unmentionables. Algares called out “behind you, Handur!” as he saw two men approaching. With a snort Handur reared back, still biting their friend’s genitals, and kicked them both through the opposite wall.

Mordecai drew himself back in a corner using his powers to slow his assailants down before using his staff to knock their heads in at his leisure. Being the most level headed of the group, he called out “to the streets! We must get out of here you fools!”

As they made their way outside followed by the screams of pain and horror from sailors and whores alike, Smee motioned them all to his ship where they could sleep off the fog until morning.

View
Escape and Betrayal on the Citadel

skycity5.jpg
Mordecai pressed himself against the base of the urn as the trolls passed by. They shuffled along, hulking in their armor, snuffling at the air as they walked. Mordecai thought they may have gotten some hint of his presence by scent but the dullards were too dim witted to realize he was slipping up past their guard posts invisible to their eyes. When the last patrol lumbered past carrying their enormous iron shod wooden cudgels he slipped at last into the main tower here on the sky citadel. He had spent nearly half of a hour slipping past them and he knew his enchantment would not hold for hours on end. He needed to find the Emir’s niece and nephew quickly. First though he needed to scout the tower a bit and develop some sort of escape scenario. He had seen large numbers of trolls, as well as, heavily armored orcs and hobgoblins throughout the main tower grounds. He was not certain yet though who may be commanding such a diverse horde of fel humanoids.

trolls1.jpg

The inside of the tower was not suitable for trolls, and aside from a pair of orc patrols he was able to move between floors fairly quickly. He did manage to locate a level he had seen from the outside that also appeared to have wide balconies that served as landing platforms for more winged mounts. He made for that level hoping for the possibility of another teleportation circle. His efforts were quickly rewarded and on that level he did find an atrium, not all that dissimilar to the Emir’s palace with a circle contained within. There was also a contingent of heavily armored and unusually large orcs standing watch. Satisfied with his discovery he hastily made his way downward to what he hoped might be cells in the lower levels. Mordecai was again favored by fortune. There was a small dungeon with several large open cells. In the cells he saw two young humans, quite similar in appearance to the Emir himself. In the hall as well was a table with several of the armored orcs as guard. They were gambling with dice.

orcsgambling.jpg

“Ya think Modin will barter these two, or turn them?” One of the orcs asked his companions. Another that had just rolled some dice and he answered. “Barter ‘d be my guess, turning them would draw the Emir’s eye more than he’d like I imagine.” Mordecai had no clue who precisely Modin was but the orcs obviously knew they had his kin in their possession. Clearly they were in the final stages of some scheme and he needed to free the two while he had the chance. Given his enchantment was about to end shortly Mordecai began to softly speak arcane command words. The Emir’s kin were in a cell far enough away from their guards Mordecai was reasonably certain of their safety, or at least the fact they would suffer not lethal injuries. When he finished he flashed into appearance much to the shock of the seated orcs. A blue ball of light streaked from his outstretched hand at the center of the table. There was an explosion of frost and shards of ice as if a winter blizzard had just unleashed itself in the midst of the orcs. All were thrown out of their chairs against the walls and cages of the cells.

Mordecai leapt forward, four of them were obviously dead with shards of ice embedded in their eyes and throats, two struggled to get to their feet. When Mordecai ran past them he stretched out his hands and lighting arced into the two trying to stand and spun their now lifeless bodies about. He ran to the cell with Illya and Marquis. They were both talking at once. “Step back!’ Mordecai barked and the two complied. He stretched out both of his hands and icy fog erupted from them quickly covering the cell lock in ice. Mordecai kicked the lock and it shattered, the cell door swinging inwards. The sister and brother rushed out. “Who are you?” Marquis shouted. “There is no time, your uncle sent me, we have speed and surprise, and that is all, we have to go now, quickly.” Mordecai blurted out looking at the entrance he had come in from for reinforcements. The brother and sister glanced at one another and then Illya spoke. “We will follow, but are you certain it was our uncle?” Mordecai’s head snapped around and he paused a moment. “It was who I have come to believe is your uncle, we will have to discuss if we are speaking of the same person later, for now, follow me.”

The trio raced up the stairs. Mordecai was fortunate to only have to dispatch a single orc patrol before they reached the teleportation circle room. When they did however there was a bell that started ringing, some alert of the escape no doubt. Mordecai hurled another freezing maelstrom into the room which dealt with the gathered orcs there. The three of them were about to enter when he heard a voice from the stairs above call to him. “How convenient you are all here to meet your ends.” Mordecai glanced and saw a red robed human caster just finish and incantation. He pushed Illya and Marquis into the atrium from the stairwell just as the mage hurled a ball of fire at them all. Mordecai threw up a barrier and the last second which blocked the blast of the spell but threw him backwards into the wall next to the door leading to the teleportation atrium. Mordecai in turn launched a barrage of shards of mystic ice at their attacker forcing him to flee back up the stairs. In that moment Mordecai turned and sprinted into the room.

teleport1.jpg

Illya and Marquis were crouched behind the circles control pedestal. Mordecai waved his hand over it and said a typical activation command and the circle activated, more good fortune. He then grabbed the brother and sister by their hands and ran to the circle. He gave the coordinate ring a hard spin and the vortex illuminated and was changing colors wildly, as were the various runes around its circumference. “What are you doing?” Marquis shouted over the roar of the device and discharges of power it was giving off. “I’m not locking a destination, I don’t want them following. Together now, one, two, three…….” Mordecai yelled in return as he held the two close and dragged all three of them into the portal simultaneously. Not one of his better thoughts, but it had more chance than fighting an orc and troll army in a sky citadel.

View
Peril on The Sky Citadel

skycity4.jpg
Mordecai appeared through the portal and stepped forward a bit shaky on his feet. His view didn’t help his balance as it was of wide open sky. When he got his footing he looked around and realized he was in a covered atrium open to the outside and as he looked about he realized he must be on one of the edges of the sky citadel. Out of the atrium he could see a number of platforms that were likely used for flying mounts of one size or another was his guess from the perches. He moved to a stairwell that switch-backed upwards towards the upper levels of the citadel from the looks of it. The structure was obviously ancient and weathered, but still fairly clean. That wasn’t surprising since it was floating what looked to be at least a league above the ground. The architecture was granite clad in marble of shades of white and pale blue. It had a distinctly elven feel to it, but that wasn’t completely accurate.

While climbing the stairs Mordecai’s view was both breathtaking, as well as, unhindered. He took out his spyglass and scanned the world below. He had hoped to establish some notion of where the citadel was, but he couldn’t discern much except that it was not over the Greater Arad desert and its islands. The terrain below was greener, and there were mountains. He saw no real sign of habitation except a few suspicious smoke trails rising from the greenery. It was full daylight with a bright sun high in the bright blue sky. If he was here at night he might be able to take some sightings of stars and develop and idea of his location. For now at least he chose to focus on the task at hand, finding the Emir’s nephew and niece.

skyview.jpg

Mordecai reached the top of the staircase and it opened to an avenue that made its way upwards towards the tower in the center of the structure. There were buildings lining either side, with some face masonry having fallen off the structures but even still they were in remarkably good condition. He saw nor heard any sign of habitation and it seems to have been vacant for some time. Who exactly built the citadels was not really clear, and they were in different times used by different races, and some all at the same time. Each of those races in turn would generally leave their own mark on them which is what gave the architectural impression. While Mordecai progressed and was taking note of significant detail he heard a roaring noise, not of a beast but more like a raging river. That made little sense until the avenue he was on came to a ‘T’ intersection which opened his view between this level and the next. He was astounded by his view. He stood on a railed walk overlooking a channel, or canal, or river, he wasn’t sure what term was best, but in any event it was a raging torrent of water coursing in front of him. He was certain the citadels would receive an abundance of rainfall and could easily harness it for the needs of inhabitants, but rain did not explain his view. Surely there was some arcane source for the massive effluence he was seeing.

city.jpg

Mordecai used a bridge and crossed over the canal to the next tier of city that ringed the central tower and continued his journey upwards. He wasn’t certain of his course but he felt as though a pair of naive young adventurers would likely have been drawn to the most significant structure and center of the citadel. He was on a avenue that circled upwards on the second tier when he heard something else he was more certain of and which startled him. Mordecai ducked into a building off the avenue and made his way to a second floor vantage, hidden but overlooking the approaching avenue. What came into view was decidedly not what he expected, he saw a trio of armored mountain trolls stomping down the avenue towards the direction he had come from. They were muttering amongst themselves as they approached.

Olog_hai_troll.jpg

They were speaking common tongue so Mordecai caught some of their conversation as they passed. “…..dunno, he didn say, Ah didn ask….” one of the lead trolls said to the one in the back. “Theys gots ta be somethin wha for sendin us.” the one in back replied. The other in the front spoke as they passed under the window. “Coulda spose its like tha last 2 what came through tha magic hole.” he said to the other two. The one in the back answered before Mordecai couldn’t hear. “Ah spose, hope he lets us eat this lot, dont see why we couldn’t eats tha last ones…” and the rest of his comments trailed off.

Mordecai learned a good bit from the exchange between the beasts. The Emir’s nephew and niece had not yet been digested by the troll guards and Mordecai had selected the correct path to finding them, which was good. However, someone or something more clever than a mountain troll was apparently cognizant of the activations of the teleportation circle, that was bad. Mordecai decided a more stealthy approach was called for, and he quickly cast an incantation that made his body appear to himself as a clear crystal object, to others he would be indiscernible at all. He then made his way out of the building he had hidden himself in and up the way the trio of trolls had come from.

The situation had become far more dangerous than a simple find the lost children quest and have a look about the ruins Mordecai had envisioned. This floating ruin was clearly being used by someone or some group aligned with evil. To what end Mordecai was not certain, but what he was certain of is that he needed to get the Emir’s family out as quickly as possible.

View
The First Voyage
15th of Ches (March) , The Year of Star Wanderers (1490 DR) DR (Dale Reckoning)

True to sailor grit, none of the men were worse for wear the next morning. Smee rose before dawn knowing that Falnor was going to arrive with updated weaponry. The sea in the morning was the most glorious smell on this plane he thought standing on the bow looking back over his ship with a smile and a chew. The docks were fairly quiet so the sound of the dwarvern carriage rolling heavily down the cobblestone streets onto the wooden docks was quite easy to identify. He walked over to the loading area and gave a hearty laugh, “well met this morning, Falnor! I am glad you are here, tis our first voyage today! I want the crew ta practice with these beautiful ballistae!”

“Goodmornin’ Smee, I know you’ll enjoy these here weapons! Finest dwarvern made, don’ let der small size confuse ye! We also have ‘ere ‘round 100 bolts of the finest craftsmanship. Want me ‘n my boyz to load them up?”

“Not necessary, me and my men can do it. I’m sure you have more important things to be doing now don’ ye? What with the new technology I have provided! Keep me in your thoughts should ye and yers need any seafaring services, won’t ya?”

“We will Smee, best of luck.”

“Same ya git!” Smee yelled with another hearty laugh. He could hear his men waking as the cart pulled away, 1-2 at a time the women were coming from the hold and scampering off into the city. Quron came up and stood with Smee looking at the packages.

“What are they, captain?”

“Those, mate, are dwarvish ballista with which we can protect ourselves! Let’s get those fucks up here and get ‘em installed!”

Smee was quite happy with how well the ballistae fit. They placed one on the storage compartment near the bow to raise it up slightly above the rail line to improve its arcs of fire. The other was placed at the stern on the highest part of the ship overlooking the ship wheel. Each needed a crew of 2 to operate.

The men were all hard workers. They were a ragged bunch of scoundrels to be sure; there was no uniformity to their appearance. As Smee glanced down at himself, he figured that was perfectly fine by him. He would prefer it to be this way and not a stuffy military operation. He sat watching his crew get the ship ready to push off as he lost himself in the multitude of opportunities available to him now.

The ship had previously been used to smuggle goods and transport cargo into and out of Waterdeep. They would also ferry folks between cities near the sea. But with weapons now, he wondered if he could perhaps take bounties on other pirates and pirate them instead. This made him smile as he leaned against the ship wheel as Quron brought him back to the present.

“She’s ready, captain,” he stated calmly. Smee felt the deck heave a hoe lightly in the gentle waters.

“Right, lower the sails and let me see what this ol’ scow can do!”

Around 6 hours later, the crew returned to port. Smee was quite proud of how well they worked together. The ship proved to be quick, the ballistae accurate, and the hull strong. He was able to communicate what was needed and there was no questioning or delay in the carrying out of his orders. He respected these sailors. He bid them all farewell and headed towards the Blackstaff Academy to see his contact Robert Black about the Isle of Death.

View
The Crimson Snake
10th Ches (March) , The Year of Star Wanderers (1490 DR) DR (Dale Reckoning)

Algares had led Smee to a buyer in his home town of Waterdeep for the lantern they had procured from there last adventure. The buyer needed money to pay off his sharks, so the deal was pretty good. Before leaving the man informed Smee he would alert his crew and would send them to the ship. Though he knew it was possible that he may have to hire a new crew anyway, he figured it best to at least give the current men a fair shake. They knew the ship well, and it’s always a bonus with a new ship to have some experienced hands on deck until one was able to familiarize.

Smee stepped onto the deck of the Crimson Snake and breathed deep the salt air. He unfurled his ships identifying flag, which was a field of crimson with a black snake in the middle and smiled. His own ship! He had noted her midnight black paint job all around, including the sails. He inspected the riggings and two masts of his schooner. They were slightly aged but well-kept all around showing no hint of wood rot. The deck was a decent length coming in at 150 feet of useable space, but it was slightly narrower than others of its kind. The previous owner had stated she was rather quick, and the loss of width was made up for in depth of the hull as he had custom built a lower hidden cargo hold for smuggling.

The ship wheel was on a slightly elevated platform near the back of the boat, and another raised platform sat behind that one butting up to the stern of the ship. She had an elegant curvature about the design which Smee enjoyed. She was definitely fairer in construction than the Sea Bitch was, but the Sea Bitch was built to be a floating fort so elegance was secondary to functionality. Nearer the bow was another slightly elevated area that was basically a built in compartment.

Before going below deck he glanced over the two small crew boats on either side of the grate leading into the hold. They were in good working order, also painted black. As he lifted the grate and descended the stairs he noticed the paint job was not contiguous throughout the ship. The wood was a rich tan color and the smell of lacquer was intense. However, the hold was nice. There were beds for 18 people. The brig area had been replaced with an enclosed wooden room that was used for storage of crew and passenger necessities. There were multiple sconces in the sleeping area along with a large table. Some hammocks were hung as well. He could envision having some great celebrations in that part of the ship.

Underneath this area was the cargo hold. It was quite expansive with enough room to fit a nice size quantity of goods. But his favorite part of the ship was the hidden cargo hold which the seller stated no one but he and his first mate knew about. It could fit about half as much as the cargo hold, but was built in the very bottom of the ship. Whereas Smee could stand in the cargo hold, he had to crouch to get into the hidden hold. But it was very well hidden, so much so that even when Smee replaced the cover he could barely see it.

He sat down at the table and poured a drink out of the blue dragon’s ball bag as he contemplated his future. He had a ship, the ship had a crew already, and that crew was made of theoretically respectable sailors. The crew were smugglers on the side, but it was not clear if this was well known or not within the city. Smee looked into his coin purse, which had grown terribly light of late, and contemplated how long he would have to be legitimate before his ship was ready for the pirate’s life once more when he heard several pairs of heavy footsteps above him.

They crew were laughing and hurling insults at each other in sea jargon which put Smee right at home. He clamored up the stairs into the sunlight to the astonished faces of the elf and 6 humans he figured to be the crew of the Crimson Snake. He recognized the first mate Quron from the description given by the seller. He reached for Quron who accepted his gesture with only slight horror in his eyes and the two shook hands.

Smee stepped back and smiled. “Greetings, sailors! My name is Smee. I have procured this ship through trade, and no doubt your previous Captain has given you that news. I hope ye’ll stay on with me for at least a crank and see what kind of Captain I am. I’ve been on the sea me whole life on a privately owned vessel in the Shadowlands, so I do not only need to learn this ship but also yer currents and weather here. I will tell ye I’ve never been captain before, I was a quartermaster most of my life. But I know what I am doin’, and with you seasoned lookin’ lot shan’t be much different. Tomorrow I think we should take her out and see how we work together. I also have some upgrades I intend to bring on board which should be here tomorrow. Firstly I’d like for us all to get to know each other, so my treat let us feast!”

With that the men whooped and they caroused to the nearest tavern, The Gales. Quron definitely had the bearings of an experienced sailor and leader, and the others clearly looked up to and respected him. Shade, Tuhl, Meeker, Eivan, Lirdal, and Pestochovy were all fine men and experienced sailors, but all uninspired. In an orgy of gluttony Smee drank more ale than all the other sailors combined and downed three whole chickens. They gambled to their hearts content in games of dice, skill, and cards. At the end of the night Smee purchased the services of 8 hookers and took them all back to his ship.

View
The road to Waterdeep

In the past week or so of travelling Smee found himself becoming quite familiar and close with his new companions. The Feywilds always perplexed him, but he had only ever been in their oceans. On land he was astounded by the beauty all over. He had never felt so free. The sights rivaled the smells in their beauty, death and decay did not pervade the countryside like in Shadowfell. Hopefully he could cut out a piece of this land for his own near the seas one day.

Algares had easily become his favorite; he was the right kind of scum after Smee’s own heart. The gnome Erza was an interesting individual. He reminded Smee of Buckley from the Sea Bitch, an unfortunate soul who had suffered major head trauma and had been mentally retarded yet invaluable ever since. The paladin was a fair man, and though Smee could sense that Thamar did not exactly approve of his traveling companions he knew there was a mutually beneficial reason he was still here. He tried to jib with the paladin but he rebuked his efforts, though Thamar did seem quite interested in his pistols and life within the shadowfell of which Smee was all too grateful to explain to his new acquaintance.

He was not as rich as he was used to, but the score from this last adventure had been a decent chunk of payment indeed. A few more such forays could proffer enough coin for Smee to obtain a boat. The group converged at the city gates and decided that they would spend a couple months within the relative safety of its walls before sailing to some island in the sea. Erza and Algares spoke of potential for great treasure there and have been eager to go since they found a map fragment in a former companion’s possession.
Smee drew a greater appreciation for the democratic affair that decided their next destination. Algares and Erza had spoken of another dragon they had fought in some small town called Thundertree who guarded a great hoard of treasure. Smee felt that was the more prudent move, to gain the riches therein and utilize the group funds to buy a decent ship but he was outvoted 3-1.

As the group turned to head up the road and enter Waterdeep, Smee clasped Algares by the shoulder.

“Matey, might ye know where I can find an adventurer’s guild in the city that relies on seafaring trade and parties that have expert craftsmen? I know that tis a specific request, but I got me a plan.”

View
The Rescue

talafaya1.jpg

Mordecai made his way through the Tal Afaya palace compound towards the tower used by the Emir’s court mages. The Emir had said he had information related to the existence of one of the sky citadels of ancient times. They were rumored to still exist, being used as homes by both cloud and storm giants, various elder dragons, even some fabled held by spell-casters of vast power, orders of mages, etc. None had actually been seen in centuries as far as Mordecai was aware, so the opportunity to reach one and have a bit of a look around was far too compelling to pass up. Mordecai had no illusions and was certain there was something the Emir wanted from him while he was there. The only way to know regardless was to see what the Emir’s mages had found.

Secretflame1.jpg

Mordecai entered the tower and was quickly escorted through the main hall to the upper levels. He passed by a number of rooms where various experiments and alchemical processes were being pursued by the magic users of the court. Finally they arrived at the atrium that was the kingdom’s teleportation circle. It was a very well laid out and maintained arcane apparatus. Mordecai had used many in the past, some very ancient, this one was obviously cared for. The ring of runes encircling the device gave the users the ability to dial in the coordinates to any other circle in the multiverse and with the proper combination transit to that location. There were a number of guard rooms surrounding the atrium as well, to stand ready should some enemy learn the location and attempt to force their way into the city via the circle.

teleport1.jpg

Mordecai entered the room and saw Mouge with a number of other robed figures, as well as, the Emir. As he approached the Emir called out to him. “Master Mordecai, we are ready if you are. The keepers tell me the gateway is open to the citadel and stable.” Mordecai bowed slightly to the Emir and spoke. “I’m delighted to go your majesty as you know my passion for exploration, however, I don’t think you’re just indulging my passion.” He paused with a quizzical look on his face. The Emir paused and spoke. “You are correct master Mordecai, it is not just simple exploration driving my desires. I have a nephew and niece, who share your enthusiasm for exploration but not your skills, nor your patience and respect for authority. The two learned of the citadel, managed to glean the workings of the circle several days ago, and left for it. They left a note stating they would only go briefly and return by sundown our time. That was six days past.” The Emir explained.

“Once again master sorcerer, my vaults are open to you, gold and gems mean little stacked against the lives of my departed sister’s children.” Mordecai bowed again. “Of course I will do what I can your highness.” The Emir smiled and spoke. “They are 18 and 17 years of age, headstrong and too inquisitive for their own good. Their names are Illya and Marquis. Here is a royal signet ring, they will know you are my word and hand with this.” Mordecai took the ring and secured it in his satchel. He turned and faced the portal. “I will find them or news of them your highness.” Mordecai said before plunging into the arcane maelstrom and disappearing from the room. The Emir made the sign of peace and good fortune saying a quick prayer to himself.

View
The Ring of the Blue Havens

bedroom.jpg
Mordecai rose and dressed in the morning. He had arrived in Tal Afaya the day before and given the High Emir back his treasure family heirloom that Mordecai had recovered from an ancient tomb of the Necro Empire. He had chosen to avail himself of the Emir’s hospitality, as well as, very intriguing offer of information about an alleged sky citadel that actually still existed. This morning however he sat down to a breakfast of dates, several kinds of shelled nuts, some grapes, a sweet cheese on some fresh black bread and washed it down with a goblet of mead. He then took the ring he had also recovered from the tomb and headed out to the college district of Tal Afaya. He meant to seek out an arcane sage that could aid him in its identification. The fact it was enchanted he was certain of, what precisely it performed, he did not know, but he would.

talafayastreets.jpg

The main palace was at the top of the tallest hill in the center of the city. It was in turn surrounded by enormous ornate formal gardens that had also had a nearly magical fountain system resulting in cascading falls from marble basin to marble basin on each level. Mordecai made his way out the west gate and down towards the colleges district. It was in this area of the city one could find all manner of house of higher learning dedicated to one form of study or another. There were a number of private libraries, as well as, the royal library here as well. In addition there were a number of arcane orders represented in the city to include the Psijic Order, which was who Mordecai was seeking out. They made the cataloging and understanding of all items magical their main interest publicly. Mordecai knew privately they took it upon themselves to investigate any items or artifacts that might pose a risk to the world at large and take whatever steps necessary to mitigate that risk.

Mordecai made his way through the streets in the academic quarter. Even here all manner of street vendor would ply their wares in an effort to make coin. Tal Afaya lie on the western coast of the Greater Arad Desert, which in turn was the main geographical feature of Zakhara, the sub-continent of Faerun. It was not situated precisely on the coast, however, the river Malanon did flow past the city and it was the extremely wide and deep, allowing for heavy barges to move goods and people to the port city of of Tal Jara. Mordecai bought some sweet fruit from one vendor, they were berries from far north, all the way to the Sword Coast, and they had been sweetened with a thick desert honey called Maj. Mordecai munched on his treat and finally found his way to the Psijic Order’s estate. It was a fine looking structure of fairly modest size with well kept gardens surrounding it. Mordecai walked to the front entrance and entered.

library.jpg

Once he stepped inside Mordecai looked around. The ceiling soared overhead for a distance that was clearly not possible with the structure he had seen from the outside. In addition several halls lead off the entry rotunda into directions that stretched to the near limits of his unaided sight. He looked and there was a steward at a desk in the rotunda. He went to speak to him and his face must have had a very common question on it for the steward spoke answering before he asked. “Yes, it is in fact bigger on the inside.” Mordecai was a bit shocked and wondered for an instant if the steward was a mind reader and then he realized he was likely one in a long line of persons with the same question.

Mordecai skipped the obvious and asked about why he had come. He took the ring out and showed it to the steward. “I was hoping I might be able to speak with someone who might have a bit of knowledge about enchanted rings.” He requested. The steward took out a jewelers eye and examined the ring. “Quite nice. I’m sure brother Quinn could be of help to you. He’s quite learned in all things arcane and related to jewelry.” The steward pointed down one of the halls off the rotunda and said. “53rd door on the right.” He then put his head back down into his ledger and continued writing. Mordecai set off down the hall and began counting. When he reached the appropriate door he opened it and entered. From what was a interior seemingly too large, into a room that needed a spring cleaning about three centuries ago. The door bumped into a set of boxes and would not fully open. Mordecai did manage to squeeze in and close it behind himself. The office was small, and absolutely jam packed with boxes and stacks of books. Behind the desk was a make gnome with white hair and thick glasses. He looked up and smiled before speaking. “Good day to ye sir and how might I be of humble help?” He inquired.

wizard-s-study-4-12783722.jpg

Mordecai took out the ring he had found and spoke. “I was hoping you could give me some information as to what this might be, I’m certain it’s arcane but as to what it does I am baffled. I’d of course pay for any help….” Master Quinn cut Mordecai off. “Keep your money lad, I’d be robbing you. That’s a Ring of The Blue Havens. They aren’t exactly common, but they are highly coveted. It’s an arcane focus and reservoir. It will contain whatever enchantments you see fit to bestow within it until you summon them. Quite a nice prize.” Quinn answered. Mordecai was impressed how easily Quinn could know what the ring was. Quinn spoke again. “Simply clear your mind, close your eyes, focus on the ring and cast whatever incantation you please and the ring will hold it until you call it forth. Quite simple.” Mordecai bowed and thanked Quinn. “If I may ever be of service sir.” he said. Quinn smiled and shook his hand. “Not at all, good travels to you, and enjoy your trinket. It’s perfect for a zappy whizz popper caster such as yourself.” Mordecai smiled and asked “You can tell the sort of caster I am?” Quinn laughed. “Lad, you’ve got zingy zappy adventurer written all over you. I’m sure whoever you acquired that from got what he had coming.” Mordecai chuckled and took his leave.

ring.jpg

After leaving the Psijic Order’s manner house, Mordecai made his way back towards the palace. The Emir had invited him to luncheon. He wanted to liven up his normal “boring” court functions with Mordecai, as well as, discuss the sky citadel had mentioned the day previous.

View
The Court of Tal Afaya

talafaya.jpg
Mordecai looked up at the city of Tal Afaya, it had been in view now for almost a day as he approached the outskirts on his way back from the Tomb of the Necro Empire. He had been able to take some rest several days ago when he began to come upon the outlying settlements and villages leading towards Tal Afaya. He had been in the date palm groves, orchards and vineyards leading to the city that lined along the Malanon River, a wide mighty river that was the only true year round source of water in the Greater Arad Desert wastes. Now however he was nearly to the outer gates of this most ancient and splendid of human cities. It was one of the few human metropolis’ to stand the test of time. It had not fallen during the Necro War, it had not fallen during The Great Cataclysm, consequently its institutions of higher learning and arcane study were some of the finest in all of Toril. It also boasted some of the greatest of all museums in the world as well. He rode up to the main gate area which was manned by nearly a company of medium infantry. He showed his credentials with the royal seal and was immediately given access to the high road which led to the palace in the center of the city proper.

talafaya1.jpg

Mordecai rode for about another half hour before finally arriving in the outer court of the palace. His horses were taken by stable hands and he was led into the main reception hall of the palace where he met a court steward. Upon showing his the royal orders the steward hurriedly escorted him into the main audience hall to the office of the court chancellor. His name was Mouge, a tall, thin bald headed human with tattoos. He had been a Red Mage in days past but had pledged himself to the Emir some decades ago in repayment of a blood debt. When Mordecai strode in he stood and greeted him. “We had feared the worse, you were some days overdue and no ravens came to report after you arrived at the oasis and wadi headwaters.” Mordecai shook Mouge’s hand and responded. “It became quite dynamic and circumstances unfolded rapidly, and I’m afraid lethally in Guilsin’s case. The ravens were dead.” Mouge nodded and led him out of his office and further into the main audience hall. “His excellency will be most pleased, when we heard you had reached the outer settlements he was excited. However there was no word of your mission.” Mouge said looking quizzically at Mordecai. “I thought it best to leave the results of the quest shrouded. The keepers of the tomb clearly had operatives here in the city and I didn’t want to show my hand.” Mordecai answered.

wallpaper_Portrait_4.jpg

They strode finally into the throne room. The Emir was seated on what was a fairly modest settee at the head of a long meeting table. There were a number of court ministers gathered at its head discussing some matter of state. When they Emir caught site of Mordecai he waved them all to silence and leapt to his feet yelling. “Master Mordecai, I’m so happy you aren’t dead. Tell me of your adventure.” he boomed. Mordecai walked straight up to the Emir, bowed slightly and took the scimitar he recovered in the tomb from beneath his cloak handing it to the Emir handle first. “Your family heirloom your majesty, as promised.”

throneroom1.jpg

The Emir slowly reached out and unsheathed the blade holding it up to the light. “Nearly a millenia ago my grand sire lost it in the final battle of the Necro War in the Greater Arad. Now it comes back to my line.” He roused himself from his musing and looked at Mordecai. “Are you sure all you want is that silly damn blank book?!” he asked incredulously. Mordecai smiled and spoke. “Yes, your excellency, the silly blank book will do nicely.” The book in question was a blank tome of inscription crafted by Mordenkainen himself. There were not more than some dozens ever made and left in the world and they could be used in all manner of ways by an arcane user. To have one opened a myriad of possibilities for Mordecai. The Emir sighed and shook his head. “A fleet of ships with gold and he wants a book, so be it, I should probably read more.” Mouge smiled and reached inside his robe, withdrawing a black book and handed it to Mordecai who quickly tucked it away in his tunic.

Emir.jpg

The Emir was waving the scimitar around when he looked back at Mordecai. “Will you choose to spend some time in court here master Mordecai, or are you off across the seas?” He asked. “Oh, I’ll be quite happy to spend a bit of time in your splendid and sumptuous court your highness. 8 weeks of desert travel broken by a number of life or death struggles and I am quite ready to take rest and avail myself of your unmatched libraries, colleges, and museums.” Mordecai answered bowing. “Brilliant then, I might have something for you to do as well, heard the tales of the Sky Citadels?” The Emir asked with a twinkle in his eye. Mordecai paused and cocked his head a bit to the side answering. “Of course your highness, wonderful childrens tales based loosely on truth. All were lost in The Cataclysm an age ago though.” Mordecai answered. “Really? So if I said I might have come across a portal circle inscription leading to one, that wouldn’t interest you at all, being a child’s story and all?” Mordecai paused. “I would be very interested your highness.”

skycitadel.jpg

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.