Session 14 - Hags, Harpies, and Haven
32 Planting, 498 TAEntering the common room after dealing with the spider threat, the party found that Zistra had disappeared, while Zendack was sporting a new blackeye. Both of the children were crying and Glimdriss was trying to sooth them, but not having much luck.
Surveying the room, Ell asked, “Where did the elf go?”
Blinking up at Ell, Zendack replied, “She said she was going to her room. I tried to stop her and...she...she punched me.”
“That sounds suspicious to me,” said Ell, crossing his arms.
Jilken spoke up, “We just got attacked by blink spiders, don’t those usually come from the Underdark?”
“Yes, they are usually found in the Underdark,” agreed Denye. “But there may not be a connection. However I agree we should learn more. We should talk to her and see if she knows what’s going on. But maybe we should try talking first….maybe don’t storm in leveling a bunch of threats. I’d really rather not fight anyone else today, I’m tired.”
Jilken smiled, “Then you or Ell should probably do the talking, but by all means, lead the way.” Climbing the ladder up to the second level, the party made their way aft to Zistra’s room. Denye knocked on the door and got a sharp, “What? I’m tired...and I don’t feel well.”
“Not sure if you heard,” said Jilken, “but the ship was just attacked. We’re just checking to make sure everyone is okay.”
The half-elf threw open the door and sighed, “I’m fine, just a little seasick.”
“I’m sorry to hear that you aren’t feeling well,” chirped Denye, “But we do have this other matter to solve. There was a murder onboard and it would be most helpful if we all worked together to solve whatever is going on here. I don’t want to make accusations, but storming off by yourself is a pretty suspicious act.”
Zistra ran a hand over her face before replying, “Look, I had nothing to do with that dwarf, or human, or whatever he was. You said he was a priest? Doesn’t matter, I do not believe I have ever met the man before.”
“I understand,” said Denye, “but my point stands.”
“So then we are at an impasse,” Zistra sighed again. “What proof do you wish? Do you want to search my room? Perhaps a detailed listing of my activities aboard the ship?”
Jilken nodded, “That would do for a start.”
Denye spoke up at the same time, “Well...we’re searching everyone’s room. There were some documents taken, you see. We think that’s the motive. So the captain asked us to search the ship. That would be a lot smoother if everyone was in one place.”
Zistra replied slowly, “I just want to get some sleep. You can search my room if you like and then I promise I will stay right here while you all play detectives.”
Ell and Denye both agreed and Jilken stepped inside to have a look. No documents were found, but there were a couple of small packages. Jilken apologized before opening them but they turned out to be books. The first was titled To Hell and Back Again, a romance novel by A Plumbis. The second book was a philosophical/magical treatise called Divining through Haruspex. Wrapping everything back up neatly, Jilken left the room with a short nod to Zistra.
Denye also apologized and wished the half-elf better health. Zistra just sighed and with a saccharine voice said, “Good luck with your search” before slamming the door shut.
As the party stood in the hall, Jilken leaned down and whispered to Denye, “Do you think you could use that silver thread of yours and put an alarm on her door? If she wants to stay in her room and rest, that’s all well and good, but I’d rather know if anyone comes in or out.”
Denye’s feathers fluffed a bit at the question before replying, “I can….do you not trust her? Or let me put it another way, has she given us a reason not to trust her?”
Jilken just shook her head, “I don’t trust anyone on this boat...with the exception of the three of you.”
“I think I can understand that,” said Denye, “but I wonder how far we’ll get by distrusting our shipmates. I can put an alarm spell on any four doors, but I can’t watch them all.”
“The others haven’t minded gathering downstairs,” Jilken pointed out.
Denye dropped her head and muttered “That is a fair point” before pulling out her silver thread and trapping the door.
Once the spell was finished Ell said, “I think we should take another look around the priest’s room. That appretiance said he didn’t see or hear anything last night….that seems fairly suspicious.” Agreeing Jilken and Denye entered and started looking around. Other than a few changes of clothes and two copies of the Writ of Kandis the room was bare.
Shrugging, the team searched their own rooms before moving onto the bridge. Captain Lonlos was quite effusive in his praise for the quick way the four of them had dealt with the spiders. Taking a look around the party found a few books and maps on the desk, but nothing that seemed to refer to the missing trade agreements.
Ell sighed, “Well I guess we look around downstairs again.”
Captain Lonlos shrugged, “Only other place could be the barges. I know Riktai has been going back once a day to feed the scalebirds.”
Ell nodded, “We may have to, but let’s start with another look through the first floor. I’d rather not try to crawl across those ropes if I don’t have to.” Unfortunately they didn’t have any more luck. In the end Denye volunteered to go check out the barges and Jilken offered to come as backup.
Skirting around the paddlewheel, Jilken felt a momentary pang of regret in volunteering to come along when she saw the 10-15ft gap between the boat and the first barge. Denye however, quickly ran along the rough rope bridge. With a sigh, Jilken just backed up a bit and jumped for it, landing on the other side next to the small Corva.
Ducking under the tarp together, they found that most of the barge was taken up with large bins of a strange black metal with veins of purple and silver running through it. Only a small pathway down the center was clear. Jilken and Denye dug through the ore for almost an hour, but were unable to spot any sign of golden statue or missing papers.
Pushing through the tarp, the two team members could immediately hear the squawking and calls of a large flock of birds coming from the second barge. Making their way over, they found a number of cages filled with what must be the scalebirds, Best described as a cross between a velociraptor and a pheasant, they have the intelligence of a chicken, and are often raised much like chickens for their eggs and meat.
Denye was immediately entranced by these strange new birds and began clucking and trilling at them as she fed them bits of bread. Jilken meanwhile started peering through the cages and spotted something shiny and golden poking out of the straw in one cage.
Calling Denye over, Jilken asked, “Can you come try to distract, I mean talk to this one. I think I see something in the cage.
Denye’s eyes lit up and she nodded. Turning to the cage she opened it and reached in to pick up the bird. She got it out of the cage before it began flapping its wings and nipped at Deney’s talon. Startled, the Corva dropped the bird to the deck. Jilken went to grab for it, but the bird darted between her legs and down to the far end of the barge.
Still shaking the injured talon, Denye reached into the cage and pulled the statue out of the hay. A smallish statue, but with quite intricate detail, it was a man in priestly robes, clearly a Sunpriest. In one outstretched hand the statue holds a seven-rayed sun with a large yellow topaz set into the center.
Jilken, who was still trying to corral the scalebird, asked, “Anything else in there? Maybe the papers?” Denye rummaged around a bit before answering, “No...nothing. We might need to search the other cages. Maybe I should go get Janora, they are better with animals. Can you try to get that one back into its cage...or at least keep it onboard.”
Jilken grunted as she made another dive for the animal and muttered, “Yeah, if they are dogs.” But Denye had already dashed off to retrieve the witch.
Arriving back in the common room Denye collected Janora with Ell following along. As they made their way back across Denye explained that they needed the witch’s help in calming the bird/lizards as they searched the cage. Pulling the statue out, Denye thrust it at Ell and said, “We found the thing, and we think the papers might be in one of the other cages, but we are already having trouble with the one we let out. I’d rather not lose any of them, they belong to somebody after all.”
Janora nodded and cracked their knuckles, “I’ve dealt with scalebirds before, shouldn’t be a problem.” In fact as the party pushed through the tarp, the scalebird made a dash for freedom, but Janora just grabbed it out of the air by the neck. “See, no problem.”
Between the four of them they made short work of the rest of the cages, but nothing but a few eggs were found. It seemed that the papers were still unaccounted for.
Well,” said Ell, “There is still the third barge to search. Might as well get this over with.”
Jumping to the final barge and ducking under the tarp, the party was confronted by the end of a huge stack of large tree trunks. Everyone spent some time poking around in the various cracks and crevices between logs, but still no sign of the papers.
“Well,” said Denye, with her head cocked to the side, “I guess we need to go confront Riktai. He’s the only one we haven’t spoken with.”
Ell agreed, “There was something suspicious about him anyway.”
Making their way back to the boat itself, they headed back down to the engine room. The half-orc engineer was by the haybales, forking the hay into troughs for the dyralls who walked on conveyor belts made from a series of jointed metal plates. Connected to a number of cogs and gears, that disappeared beneath the floor. Presumably the entire thing connected to the paddlewheel behind them, but it would take an artificer to understand it.
“Ho,” Riktai called as the party entered, “How goes search?”
Ell smirked, “Well we are still looking. Do you mind if we look around here again?”
“Be guest, but watch out for gears,” was the half-orc’s reply.
The party glanced around and scanned the workbench, but the smell of the dyrall just brought back too many bad memories and most of the group were just too distracted to make more than a quick search. Janora asked if Riktai could help look and he willingly agreed, turning over the hay and shuffling the full bales around.
When it was clear that there was nothing around, Denye looked at Riktai and said, “We found it, you know. The missing statue.”
Riktai looked puzzled, “If you find it, why look still?”
“We found part of it,” replied Denye,”The statue was in a scalebird’s cage...they are all safe by the way. Now, where are the papers? And more importantly, why would you do such a thing?”
Riktai looked even more confused, “I? I don’t have papers.”
“Well then,” asked Denye, “who else has access to the birds?”
The half-orc shrugged, “Anybody can go back there. Sometimes doors are open and I see, but not always.” Denye persisted, “So any idea how the statue ended up back there?”
“Somebody put there, but not Riktai. I feed birds once a day, no see statue this morning.”
Janora threw up their hands and walked out. The rest of the party followed them into the hall, where they whispered, “This is getting us nowhere. We’ve been up and down this ship and we’ve found part of the treasure, but not the papers. For all we know, they could be floating 20 miles behind us at this point. Let’s just call it a night. Tomorrow I’ll be able to cast Locate Object...that seems to be the most straightforward option.”
Agreeing, the party made their way back to the common room where Zendack was entertaining the kids while Cladniss worked on dinner. The meal was a rather tense and awkward affair, but the mutton pie was delicious. Jilken also got to enjoy her grilled spider steak, which proved to be mostly chewy and bitter. Deciding that they should set night watches to see if anything else happened, the party split the night and sought their beds when they could. The night passed quietly and without incident. Denye snuck back down to the engine room and quietly did a more thorough inspection of the workbench and nearby shelf. She found several pieces of paper, but they seemed to be attempts at poetry rather than trade agreements.
33 Planting, 498TAThe morning dawned bright and promised to be another fine day on the river. After a fine breakfast and confirming that no one else had died during the night, the party began discussing their next steps.
Janora, who had spent some time meditating, offered to cast Locate Object as they had suggested the night before. Asking Zendack for his assistance, the witch told him to picture the papers in his mind as clearly as he could. They then cast Detect Thoughts to get a sense of the missing documents that they could plug into the Locate Object.
Casting the second spell, Janora’s nose filled with the scent of parchment. After walking in a small circle to get a sense of direction they said, “I think the papers are still on the boat.” Nodding to their companions, the four adventurers stepped out onto the forward deck, before Janora continued, “We should take another look upstairs in the back two rooms. I’m pretty sure someone has lied to us. I don’t really think it’s the kid anymore. He let me into his mind without any protest or pushback and he seems genuinely concerned over the death of his mentor.”
Ell asked, “Does anybody have Detect Magic? I feel like we searched fairly thoroughly. Maybe the half-elf used some kind of illusion to hide it.”
“I do,” agreed Denye, “Well let’s go upstairs and see what we can find.”
Making their way upstairs, Janora confirmed that the spell was definitely indicating Zistra’s room. The party arranged themselves to block any escape, Denye cast Detect Magic, but the only spell that was active was the illusion spell around Zistra that she had noted before.
The wizard was about to reach up and knock on the door when Janora stopped her. “Maybe we should go get the captain. Frankly he doesn’t seem to be giving this enough attention, but maybe he knows something more about this woman.”
Agreeing that they should at least let the captain know what the party had discovered so far, Ell and Janora went up to the bridge, leaving Jilken and Denye to guard the door.
The small gnome greeted them as they entered, but Ell was going for the direct route, “What do you know about the dark half-elf?”
Lonlos scratched his head and replied, “She booked passage two days before we left. She came on board shortly before you folks did and has only been out of her room once or twice this whole trip.”
Ell sneered, “And that doesn’t sound strange to you?”
The captain shrugged, “She said she was sea-sick. Can’t quite imagine it myself, but she’s not the first. Clad has taken her up some soup a few times, but the bowls are usually returned untouched.”
Well then,” said Janora, “things have gotten a little complicated. You know that we have found the statue. Well, we also now believe that we have located the papers. We haven’t exactly seen them to confirm, but I cast a spell and it’s indicating the half-elf’s room.” Pausing for breath, Janora continued, “All the evidence points to her, what little of it there is anyway. But before we just burst into her room and shake her down, as it were, we wanted to check with you...it is your ship after all.”
“I see,” said Lonlos, “well you have all proved yourselves capable and your case makes sense. I agree that we should go speak to her.” With that the gnome flipped open a lid on a pipe and called down to his wife below to come watch the wheel.
Returning down the hall, Captain Lonlos knocked on the door and got a shouted “What?” for his troubles. In reply he called through the door, “Ms. Jalorc, it’s Captain Lonlos, I’d like to speak to you for a moment.” With a loud sigh, Zistra answered, “Well come in then.”
Pushing open the door, Lonlos stepped inside and said, “Do you mind if I ask what it is that’s taking you down to Haven? There seems to be a fair amount of suspicions at the moment and I would appreciate your help in resolving it.”
At the word suspicion, her lips thinned and her nostrils flared before snapping, “Well, if you must know I am meeting my sisters. These fine folks already searched my room. What other assistance do you want from me?”
“So that’s fine,” said Janora, stepping into the room, “all well and good, but we have reason to believe that some of what was stolen from the priest is in this room.” As the scent resolved Janora’s eyes narrowed and they went on,” You’re carrying them, aren’t you?”
Before Zistra could respond Janora asked another question, “And what’s with the illusion spell? Is it to hide the stolen goods? And don’t bother with the lies and attitude, think for a moment and tell us the truth!”
Zistra closed her eyes and smiled, “So you would like me to drop the illusion spell? Well perhaps it is time.” Snapping her fingers, her form melted from that of a slim dark-haired half-elf to that of a 7ft tall, grey-green skin monster with long fingers and thick black nails. What remained of her hair was matted and patchy and her clothes seemed to be a sheet, that at one point in it’s life might have white, but now is tattered and covered in many different stains. Opening her mouth to reveal decaying stumps of teeth she smiled again and asked, “Is this better?”
“Quite, thank you for your honesty,” replied Janora, as they cast Hideous Laughter on the now revealed hag who shrugged it off. Jilken just gave a snort as she released a crossbow bolt into Zistra’s shoulder which Denye quickly followed up on with a guiding bolt to the chest and with that the fight was on.
Wiith a loud, “Bitch” Janora cast Hideous Laughter, but again the annis hag was able to resist its effects. Denye followed up with another more powerful Guiding Bolt, this time sending another flurry of golden feathers to strike the hag directly in the face.
With a quick “Thanks” to Denye, Jilken shot another bolt at the now glowing hag. This bolt struck her in the thigh and her leg started to buckle a bit. Ell came running up behind Jilken and cast Cloud of Daggers directly in front of the hag.
For her part the hag hissed at the party before casting Gaseous Form and as a cloud of mist, began floating toward the open door.
Seeing this Janora planted their staff and casting Chill Touch, brought the spectral paw forth, but the cloud simply flowed around it. Denye threw another Guiding Bolt but again the cloud avoided the attack.
Jilken scanned the cloud and attempted to jump and cast Shocking Grasp into the cloud. This time the cloud simply flattened itself against the ceiling and the elven fighter fell short. Ell tried for an Eldritch Blast, but once again the cloud evaded the spell.
Seeing that way blocked, the hag/cloud began moving through one of the outer walls. Unfortunately she was only able to get part way through the wall before the team brought her down. Falling unconscious in the middle of the wall, the hag’s head was on one side of the wall and her body on the other. With a huge crack and a sickening pop followed by a thud on the deck below, the battle was over.
A quick search of the body turned up the missing contracts as well as 21pp and 75gp. Jilken also snagged the books and slipped them into her own bag. Lonlos is quite thankful that the party was able to both identify and deal with this threat.
Leaving the party at the door to the bridge, Lonlos went back to guiding the boat downriver. Our four adventurers, meanwhile, returned to the common room and returned the paper to Zendack who was quite grateful. They spent some more time questioning the young cleric about who could have been interested in disrupting relations between Caisia and the dwarves, but he simply shook his head and said he had no idea. Cladniss interrupted eventually by serving lunch and Zendack went back up to his room for a nap.
Around mid-afternoon, the boat began slowing and eventually came to a halt as Lonlos dropped the anchor. It seemed that a rather large tree trunk had been dropped into the water, blocking the river. The captain sent Riktai to begin moving the dead tree, but about the time the half-orc got to it and begin lifting and moving the log, two enormous stones came crashing into the Kilmallock. The first smashed the paddlewheel at the back while the second came hurtling into the foredeck, where the team had gathered. Ell dove out of the way, but the rock sent Denye flying as it crashed into the deck, leaving a large hole.
Looking up the party found a half-dozen harpies flying over the ship. Several were holding ropes and it was clear that they had dropped the boulders.
Janora was the first to respond and cast Healing Word as they rushed over to Denye. As they did so one of the harpy came in and raked sharp claws along the witch’s back. Ell let out a huge yell to try to get the Captain and Zendack to come help before firing an Eldritch Blast at the harpy who had just attacked his friend. The blast struck a wing sending the harpy tumbling a bit before she righted herself.
Jilken trained her heavy crossbow on the larger harpy who was still flying in front of the ship. The bolt went home in her abdomen as the harpy let out a shriek of pain. Opening her mouth again, she began to sing a Luring Song. Both Denye, Jilken, and Janora managed to shake off it’s effects, but Ell was charmed by the song.
Denye pulled a healing potion out of her bag and quickly downing it, cast Magic Missile, striking the larger harpy repeatedly. Janora meanwhile, gripped their staff near the base, swung the mastiff head into the harpy, which dropped into the water and began floating downstream as it sank.
One of the younger harpies came swooping in to slash at Jilken with her claws. In return the elf grabbed one of the feet and sent a Shocking Grasp up through the creature.
At that point, Zendack opened the door behind Denye and peered outside. Seeing that Denye was looking injured, Zendack laid a hand on her shoulder. Casting Cure Wounds he said, “Here, it isn’t much, but let me aid you.”
Ell stumbled forward, still charmed as the harpy continued to sing. On the other side of the boat, Lonlos slid down the ladder and pulled out a shortbow, sending an arrow through the wing of the young harpy attacking Jilken.
Denye stuck her head out and threw four more Magic Missles at the singing harpy. With a loud squawk, this harpy too, splashed into the river and began floating downstream. Meanwhile, Riktai had been slowly moving the end of the log around to unblock the river. Having accomplished his goal, he turned and saw the ‘Lock under attack and began making his way back to the ship.
Janora ran up toward the harpy on Jilken and swung their staff again. The strike hit and the harpy shrieked and fluttered back. Turning to glare at the witch the harpy swung at them with her club, managing a glancing blow.
Ell, alerted to the sound of wings coming from the back of the boat, swung round and Eldritch Blast at one of the approaching harpies. With another loud squawk, the bolt of blue and purple lightning struck it dead in the chest.
Jilken dropped the crossbow and pulled out her war pick. With a ferocious yell, the elf managed to drive the pick through the harpy, knocking it to the ground, and pinning it to the dead. Pulling the gleaming pick out she kicked the now dead harpy back up against the wall.
Running around the corner, Denye sent another burst of Guiding Bolt at the adult harpy flying up behind. Zendack, thinking this looked like a smart idea, sent a Guiding Bolt of his own into the younger harpy. Unlike Denye’s Bolt, his was a much redder gold light.
Janora sent a Chill Touch spell toward the adult harpy. As the spectral dog paw closed around her and sunk in it almost seemed to absorb the golden light.
The younger harpy started flying back toward the hills and the far shore. Seeing this, Ell cast another Eldritch Blast, knocking the escaping harpy into the river below.
Jilken climbed up the ladder to the second hallway and pulled herself up onto the roof of the boat. Leveling her crossbow, she sent another arrow into the harpy’s leg. With a shriek, the harpy began flying off. As it did so, Denye called out, “Let it go, it’s leaving. We don’t have to kill it.”
“It’s an inherently evil creature,” Janora replied, “They don’t learn lessons. If we don’t kill it, it’s will just attack someone else.
“I don’t believe anyone is inherently evil,” said Denye, her feathers bristling, “Maybe she doesn’t know better, maybe she never learned. But until someone presents me with irrefutable proof that is somebody. It’s running away. We don’t have to kick it when it’s down.”
Janora shook their head, “I’m very sorry Denye, but I think here we have to disagree.” With that Janora sent the ghostly paw out once more and swatted the harpy into the river.
In short order Lonlos and Riktai had begun patching the boat. Little could be done about the paddlewheel, but with luck the current would get them there….eventually.
34 Planting, 498TAThe rest of the trip was blessedly quiet and the party all enjoyed the trip...even if occasionally it felt like it would be faster to walk. But by mid-afternoon the Kilmalllock arrived at the docks of Haven.
The largest city in Ellebore, the port of Haven is a busy, bustling place. The streets of Haven twist and turn through the various districts of the city. Atop a tall hill, three large and imposing buildings overlooked the city from behind high stone walls.
With no motive power, the boat had to be towed in, but eventually the craft came alongside the dock and was quickly tied off. The party escorted Zendack, along with the body of Master Reylant, to his waiting ship. Turning to face the city, the party stopped for a moment to consider their next steps.