The Alexandrian

Ptolus - In the Shadow of the Spire

IN THE SHADOW OF THE SPIRE

SESSION 7B: BLOOD IN THE DEPTHS

May 5th, 2007
The 23rd Day of Amseyl in the 790th Year of the Seyrunian Dynasty

 LINECH’S JOB

After lunch the party headed back to the Ghostly Minstrel so that those who had changed for the occasion could switch back to clothing which would make them appear more like the rough-and-ready wanderers that it sounded like Linech was looking for.

Linech, it turned out, owned an entire burrow in the Rivergate District. Everyone living there worked for Linech – either directly or indirectly. In truth, the entire place was basically a walled compound. They could see several armed guards scattered here and there amidst the buildings.

Entering the lower level of Linech’s place of business, the group was greeted by a young man with his hair pulled back into a ponytail. He asked them their business and, when they told him they were here for the job, he led them upstairs.

Asking them to wait outside for a moment, the man headed through a door. They couldn’t hear what the man said about them, but they did hear the bellowing voice which replied: “Well what are you waiting for? Get ‘em in here!”

Ptolus - Linech CranThe door opened and the group was ushered into a large office that had been garishly decorated. Perhaps the most arresting sight in the place was the life-sized gold statue of a nobly-dressed man which stood opposite the door. Behind a large desk covered in papers they saw the half-orc Linech. He bore an uncanny resemblance to his brother – he even seemed to be mashing the same brand of cheap cigar between his teeth.

After some discussion the group had agreed, with some trepidation, that Agnarr should be the one to talk. As unlikely as it seemed, he was the most appropriate person considering the circumstances. (“You’re all on Agnarr’s team now.”) So when Linech demanded to know who they were and what they wanted, he stepped forward: “We’re delvers. We’re here for the job.”

“Delvers, eh?” Linech said. “How do I know you’re cut out for this job?”

Agnarr grinned. “Cut out for the job? Just look at us. I’m a barbarian, he’s a priest, he throws spells, she’s got a sword, and she’s a sneaky elf. We’re exactly what you’re looking for.”

“Fair enough. All right, here’s the deal: I love my daughter dearly. I sent her on retreat to an estate I keep on an island off the coast. A week ago someone attacked the resort. They burned it to the ground and she was killed. I sent a ship to retrieve her body so that she could be buried with full rites in the Necropolis. But last night, when the ship was returning to Ptolus, it caught on fire and sank in the harbor. I think somebody attacked it. I think somebody is trying to hurt me. Why, I don’t know. But it’s important to me that my little girl be given a decent burial. So I want somebody to go down to the wreck and retrieve her coffin. And I want somebody who can defend themselves if it comes to it. For this, I’ll pay you 1,200 gold pieces. How’s that sound to you?”

The group said it sounded fine and that they could go down to the wreck first thing the next morning.

“That’ll be fine,” Linech said. “But no later. And there are two more things: First, I’ll be giving all of you a potion of water breathing so that you can reach the wreck. Second, Seanus here—“ he shook a thumb at the man with the brown pony-tail “—will be accompanying you, just to make sure you don’t take my potions and run. You get paid when I get the coffin. You got any problems with that? No? Good. Now get out of here, I’ve got a business to run. Oukina! Come here!”

The party turned to see that a large woman with scanty, waif-like clothing was loitering in the door. At Linech’s summons she scurried over to his side as Seanus escorted them out of the office.

They made arrangements with Seanus to meet him on Wharf Road at dawn the next morning and then they left.

From Linech’s they headed down to the Temple of Asche in the Temple District. Concerned that they might have been followed from Linech’s, the rest of the group sent Dominic into the church alone to report to Mand. (“Okay, you go and pray! Just like you do every day! We’ll wait here!”)

An acolyte led Dominic from the main chapel up to Mand’s personal office. Once there, Dominic quickly described the group’s meeting with Linech. Mand listened carefully and then asked several clarifying questions.

“Can you think of anything else, Dominic?”

“No,” Dominic shook his head.

“Very well. Lord Zavere?”

Zavere’s deep voice filled the chamber. “We have no way of knowing what Linech’s true purpose may be here. It may be innocent… but then again, it may not. Retrieve the coffin and see where this leads.”

Dominic was startled by the sudden appearance of Zavere (or, at least, his voice). “Of course.” He leaned in and whispered to Mand, “I’m sorry! I didn’t know he was here!”

Mand smiled. “He does like the dramatic. Once you’ve delivered the coffin to Linech, come back here and report what you’ve discovered.”

Dominic nodded and then excused himself. Once he’d rejoined the rest of the group (“Did you have a good time praying?”), they all headed back to the Ghostly Minstrel.

BLOOD IN THE WATER

(08/24/790)

The next morning they woke well before dawn. To break their fast they had to make due with the cold remains of the dinner from yesternight, as the morning cooking had not yet begun. They left the Ghostly Minstrel as the false-dawn was lighting the eastern sky and arrived at the Docks just as the true dawn was beginning.

Seanus greeted them with a friendly smile and a wave. He had tracked down a place called Sard’s Boats – a little stall on Pier Eight that they could rent a boat from. Sard turned out to be an old man with a toothless grin who was just opening for the day. They rented his largest rowboat (since the smaller boats seemed too small to accommodate the coffin they needed to pick up and the sailboats were too expensive), paid a deposit, and head out into the harbor.

Agnarr and Seanus maned the oars. “Did you find out where the Arrowhead went down?” Seanus asked. Tee and Elestra smiled – since they’d watched it happen, they were certain where the ship lay.

Tee got a little turned around trying to navigate on the open waters, but Elestra guided them true. When she was fairly certain they were in the right spot, Agnarr mounted his oars and dropped over the side. It was hard to see in the dark waters of the early morning, but he could make out the dark bulk of the sunken ship perhaps a hundred feet to the south. Agnarr came back up for air and they moved the row boat so that it was directly above the wreck.

The Arrowhead had sunk just off the shelf of the harbor. This was good news for navigation, but it was going to make things more difficult for their recovery of the coffin – the ship lay nearly 200 feet below the surface. Without their potions of water breathing such a dive would have been impossible, and even with the potions it was going to be difficult getting the coffin back up.

All of them stripped off their armor and began to plan. It was decided that Ranthir would remain in the rowboat with Seanus to make sure it didn’t drift away. The rest of them – Agnarr, Elestra, Dominic, and Tee – would swim down to the wreck and try to find the coffin. They had a goodly length of sturdy rope between them, so they tied one end of it off to the rowboat. Tee would carry the other end of the rope down to the wreck, where they hoped they would be able to bind the coffin and then haul it to the surface.

While the others finished planning, Agnarr gulped down his potion and dove under the water again. Looking around he spotted a shark about a hundred feet off to the west. It looked to be circling around them to the northeast – it might be a threat, but didn’t seem to be an active one for the moment. He came back up to the surface and warned the others of it.

Tee and Elestra rolled over opposite sides of the rowboat and began to swim down towards the Arrowhead. Dominic followed, but the hapless priest floundered for a bit before getting his bearings and beginning his dive. By the time he started down, Tee and Elestra had opened up a lead of at least sixty feet.

Agnarr, meanwhile, stayed near the surface and kept a watchful eye on the shark. It was well he did, perhaps, for as soon as Dominic began to dive the shark abruptly turned and began swimming rapidly towards the rowboat.

Agnarr drew his greatsword and gently drifted in the ocean currents, awaiting its approach. When it came the battle was fast and bloody: Agnarr’s sword lashed out and gashed its side but the shark sinuously twisted through the water and came up at him unexpectedly from below. Agnarr twisted out of the way of the gnashing teeth and tried to bring his sword to bear, but the shark was quicker yet: It darted up through his defenses and its powerful jaws clamped down on Agnarr’s shoulder.

But at that moment, Ranthir – watching the battle from the rowboat above – sent down a bolt of eldritch force which sizzled through the water and exploded against the shark’s back. The creature spasmed and rolled, trying to escape the sudden pain… And Agnarr’s sword came up in a great, sweeping strike, gutting the creature.

The shark’s blood billowed through the water, creating a great cloud of scarlet which obliterated Ranthir’s view of the scene below. Agnarr kicked up his heels and dove…

Tee and Elestra were far below the surface by now. The Arrowhead was coming more clearly into view… clear enough that they easily spotted another shark swimming out of the wreckage. This alone would not have worried them, but the shark was followed by two strange and serpentine humanoids.

Ptolus - SahuaginDominic, meanwhile, was having no success in matching the pace of the two women. He had fallen far behind them now and he was still struggling. He was hoping that, once Tee reached the bottom, he would be able to simply pull himself down the rope she was trailing.

The serpentine creatures wielded sharp, pointed tridents and were capable of swimming at astounding speeds – they easily matched the pace of the shark at their side, and Tee and Elestra scarcely had time to orient themselves and draw their weapons before they were set upon. The serpentine creatures came straight at them, but their shark swam around behind them and harried them.

The odds were not favorable for them: They were outnumbered and flanked and the serpentine creatures seemed at home amidst the waves while Tee’s and Elestra’s blades felt slow and languid.

Agnarr, seeing what was happening below him, felt his blood pulse with a hot rage. His powerful legs drove him swiftly through the water. He seemed to fly past Dominic…

… but he was too late. Tee and Elestra had been beaten into unconsciousness, their blood a black stain against the watery depths. The serpentine creatures and their shark swam up to meet the dangerous barbarian. They darted in and out in a lithe and merciless dance; their tridents drew blood again and again; their shark circled and struck whenever Agnarr was at his most vulnerable.

Dominic, meanwhile, swam around to the unconscious, floating forms of Tee and Elestra. If he could revive them, they could go to Agnarr’s aid and…

…but he was too late. Even as his holy energy pulsed into Tee and brought her to groggy consciousness, Agnarr fell.

Tee positioned herself between the rapidly approaching serpentine creatures and Dominic. She was hoping to buy enough time for Dominic to revive Elestra. In this she was somewhat successful: She gave Dominic a chance to revive Elestra, but the wound she took in doing so sent a red haze of pain across her vision… and then she slipped again into blacky nothingness.

Elestra had scarcely regained consciousness before the serpentine creatures were upon her. Dominic was even less fortunate: As he turned from healing Elestra, the shark took him full in the back, seized him by the neck and shook

Elestra brought her blade up and slashed. Green blood oozed from one of the serpentine creatures. It hissed fiercely and gave a warbling cry… A trident was thrust forward… Another… Teeth closed about her neck…

… four bodies floated in black waters.

* * * * *

Far above, Ranthir stared down into the black abyssal depths. His friends had disappeared from sight before the battle had even begun. He had no idea what had happened.

He could see naught but blood in the water.

NEXT JOURNAL ENTRY

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