Lamashan 28 Fireday waxing moon
Teeth of Araska/Brinewall
On Fireday the storm clouds finally break allowing the sun to shine down upon Bunyip Bay and the Teeth of Araska. It is mid-morning when the ship comes in sight of the mouth of the Steam River. Jagged cliffs face the bay and dense woodlands can be seen atop them. Brinewall Castle itself is a large and intimidating structure of gray stone. Although only two stories tall (with the exception of one three-story tower), the squat castle looks all the larger for its position atop the bluff south of the river mouth. It looms over the surrounding regioin with a commanding presence.
Captain Grudge decides it would be best to anchor in the bay and take one of the longboats ashore. Of course Captain Grudge, Ishana, Selis, and Jethrik are picked to explore the ruins and find Jethrik’s friends. Eight other crewman including Solemn Jack and Tubbs are also picked to go ashore.
Take us up t’ river, Solemn Jack,” Captain Grudge calls out to the boatswain who is piloting the small craft. “We’ll see if we can spy a good place t’ land. There is supposed t’ be a village hereabouts.”
As they row upriver they see that on the left bank there lies the empty shell of a stone lighthouse. It’s roof has long since caved in. As they round the bluff they find that just before the lighthouse, also to starboard, a naturally deep harbor has formed. Two ruined piers extend into the only relatively shallow portion of the harbor. Both piers are now mostly collapsed, the westernmost one has what appears to be a relatively recent visitor: a Linnorn Kingdoms longship is tied to the pier. The longship seems relatively new, but the vessel is partially destroyed and half-sunken. To the south of the pier and the sunken longship there is a collapsed bridge that once passed over the entrance to a small algae-choked lagoon. All around the lagoon and the two piers to the east of it are the ruins of Brinewall Village.
Captain Grudge has the longboat drawn up alongside the longship. Looking it over reveals significant damage to the ship in the form of tremendous claw marks and what appear to be scorch marks, perhaps from a bolt of lightning. Captain Grudge has one of the pirates, Slimney, climb up into the longboat and look around, but he finds nothing.
Satisfied that there is nothing else that can be learned from the longship, Captain Grudge has their longboat made fast to the pier. They disembark and look over the small village. Just past the collapsed bridge, lying half on the northwestern shore of the lagoon and half submerged in the water is a rotting carcass of some winged bright green reptile. It is larger than a horse and has finned wing-like arms and a draconic visage. Neither Jethrik nor any of the others had ever seen or heard of anything like it before. From where they are standing it cannot be seen what may have killed it.
As for the buildings, they all seemed empty and overgrown with weeds. The two largest ruins were just to their south. One seemed like it may have been the town hall, and the other seemed to be a cross between a temple and an observatory, probably a place of worship dedicated to Desna, the goddess of dreams, luck, stars, and travellers whom the people of Ravenmoor had believed they were worshipping. Past that was the dense overgrown forest.
“Well now,” says Captain Grudge to Jethrik, “where do you think we’ll find your buckos?” To all he says, “And we best keep a lookout for t’ Ulfen raiders who came in that ship. They may still be about.”
“Where are my friends? I have no idea. We’ll have to look for them. Hopefully they are keeping a good watch and have already seen us come up the river.” Jethrik replies. “For now, let’s investigate this village. Besides my friends, there is a mystery and a treasure here… because there is always mystery and treasure in dangerous abandoned places!”
“Sure t’ is, me bucko,” replies Captain Grudge. “Lead t’ way.”
The town hall and temple of Desna, for that is indeed what it is, are empty of anything of interest, at least upon a cursory initial inspection. Across the road from the temple a rickety wooden fence surrounds a clearing beyond. The gates of the fence are of iron and flanked on either side by statues of a beautiful woman with butterfly wings depicting the goddess Desna. The clearing itself consists of a low hill containing nearly two-dozen graves. A stone crypt sits atop the hill to the east. The entire graveyard is unusually well tended – the grass appears to be weeded and the gravestones are quite clean.
“Anyone else creeped out by the beautifully manicured graveyard in the ruin of a village?” Jethrik worries. “I’m thinking we need to check out the graveyard or at least the crypt before we turn our backs on it.”
‘Oh man,’ think Jethrik, ‘I am in a ruin hundreds of miles from civilization with highly uncertain allies and no way to get back on my own!’
Ishana spits into the street. “Or else we should leave it alone and not provoke whoever the caretaker may be.” She eyes the cemetery warily. The other pirates look to their captain.
Captain Grudge nods slowly, “Arr! I’m with t’ gnome on this one. We can’t leave an enemy t’ our stern. And perhaps t’ caretaker has seen the wee one’s buckos… or knows where the treasure is. Lead on,” He nudges Jethrik across the way towards the gates.
The gates are not locked, and so Jethrik and the others pass through without any hindrance. Walking among the gravestones they see nothing out of the ordinary aside from how well kept it all is. The crypt contains only one body in a stone sarcophagus, that of Admiral Mercatio Kiameleu, Brinewall’s founder according to an inscription. Captain Grudge has Solemn Jack and another pirate open the sarcophagus but inside they find no treasure but only a skeleton. Past the crypt at the northern edge of the cemetery apart from the graves is a small well-tended shrine to Desna that consists of a marble statue of the deity holding aloft a small copper bowl. Three flasks full of rainwater have filled the bowl. Neither Jethrik or the others discern any magic in either the statue, the bowl, or the water.
Ishana empties her flask and fills it with water from the bowl. “It is possible that the goddess has blessed this water.” She passes the bowl to Solemn Jack who does likewise. He then passes it to Tubbs who fills his own flask with the last of the rainwater. He passes it back to Ishana, who carefully restores it to the arms of the statue.
“There’s nothin’ more t’ see here,” says Captain Grudge. He leads the way back out of the cemetery. “I say we head up t’ t’ castle and look around. If there’s any treasure hereabouts it will thar.” Then to Jethrik he says, “Oh, and o’ course that’s where your buckos may be.”
“Wait!” Jethrik shouts in a commanding manner. “I’m doing this all wrong! First of all my friends aren’t here yet. They were traveling by caravan. I don’t see a caravan! A caravan would be a very difficult thing to hide! Second we can’t stay here. I don’t know what that draconic thing is. But look what it did to the long boat. Something here killed it. I don’t see any bodies around it. So there’s something really scary here.”
Captain Grudge turns on Jethrik and says, “Now look here you little pipsqueak. I give t’ orders around here. We don’t need t’ wait for your buckos t’ look around for whatever lost treasures may still be in that castle. If we find it first, then its ours. Their fault for comin’ too late. And as for that,” he gestures to the dead thing in the lagoon, “I’m tellin’ you now thar be nothin’ here more dangerous than me and my crew. Now be you with us,” his hand drifts down to the hilt of his rapier, “or against us?”
“You seemed to want my opinions before.” Jethrik grumbles, a little hurt. “I agree that you are very dangerous. I just hope that whatever else is here is as afraid of you as I am.”
Captain Grudge laughs, “If they are not, they soon will be.” He then leads the away team up the overgrown path towards the castle. The pirates in their red bandanas and shirts troop after him. Jethrik sticks his tongue out at Captain Grudge after his back is turned. (And no one else is around to see) And then quickly catches up to the pirates.
As they reach the rusted iron portcullis of the gatehouse they heard the cawing of very large crows, though none are in site. The portcullis is down and locked. The levers that unlock and open them are inside the gatehouse. The gates have not been maintained in years and are in very poor condition, so the pirates easily force the portcullis up and raise it by hand between the eight of them. The gatehouse itself has a floor of packed dirt and numerous wooden beams for the stone ceiling above. Wooden ladders on either side of the far gate climb up to the roof above. The cawing continues for awhile and then dies down as Captain Grudge has his men raise the portcullises on both sides of the gatehouse with the winch.
Past the gatehouse is a barren courtyard of hard-packed earth containing clumps of tough-looking weeds, furrows in the ground as if made by taloned feet, and chalky white mounds of dung the size of human heads.
“Be ready!” Jethrik whispers harshly drawing his rapier “I have heard stories of creatures that leave signs like these. Dire Corbies! They are a form of man-like crows or some sort. They normally live underground, maybe they could be up on these walls ready to leap down and attack. They are incredibly fierce and will not break off. If they attack, they will kill us or we must kill all of them. Gods give us the strength! They have darkvision, and so, might attack after dark.”
Captain Grudge nods and draws his own sword, holding up his other hand to keep the other pirates back as he stands at the exit of the gatehouse. “Aye, I’ve heard of such thin’s. They could also be Tengu. Some o’ them live in t’ Shackles and the Sodden Lands. Uncanny thin’s. They be said t’ have come from t’ other side o’ t’ world.”
Selis adds, “I too have heard of these Dire Corbies, but I’ve never seen them. I wonder if they are related to the Tengu.” He shrugs and whips out his wand.
Jethrik indicates that he is going to go up the ladder. Captain Grudge allows it with a nod. Jethrik nimbly climbs up and stops to listen before opening the trapdoor onto the roof. He hears nothing. He looks back down at the pirates waiting at the foot of the ladder and the entrance to the courtyard then pushes the trap door open just a bit with the tip of his rapier.
Atop the roof of the gatehouse he sees two muscular creatures, the size and shape of men but covered in oily black feathers, glittering eyes, and sharp beaks. They are wearing no clothes or armor and bearing no weapons. At the moment they seem to be watching the courtyard from behind the battlements. One of the things catches site of Jethrik peering at them and lunges for him with a loud squawk.
“We mean no harm!” Jethrik cries as he lets the door drop back. He immediately starts down the ladder. He will keep the rapier raised above him.
“Speak for yourself me bucko! I do mean harm. I mean t’ harm anyone who gets in the way of finding whatever treasure thar be in this pile o’ rocks!” He turns to his men and says, “Get up there and clear out this roost!”
At Captain Grudge’s command, six of the pirates clamber up the ladders, two on each side, daggers in their teeth.
“What if they can help you find the treasure?” Jethrik asks.
Before Captain Grudge can reply, Ishana screams in fear, something few if any of the crew had ever heard before. Creeping towards her from the courtyard is a spider the size of a man, though its long legs make it appear even bigger. She turns and runs towards the outside gate and Captain Grudge, to his credit, lunges at the spider to keep it away from her. He pierces its side and it recoils but turns it attention towards him. Solemn Jack also springs into action, drawing his cutlass and swinging wildly, disorienting himself in the process.
Jethrik calls out in a light-hearted tone “Everyone hack off a leg! We’ll make short work of this won’t we?”
A phosphorescent bolt slams into the spider from Selis’ wand. Jethrik turns and sees that Selis has retreated to Ishana’s side by the outer gate.
Above the battling pirates both trapdoors are flung open. The dire corbies, croaking unintelligible battle cries that sound like cries of doom, hurl themselves down upon the pirates on the ladder causing the ladders to tumble down taking all the pirates on them down as well. They all fall in a heap to the floor of the gatehouse and begin scrabbling to regain their feet.
The spider backs away from the gatehouse and then flings a web from its spinnerets at Captain Grudge, who is caught fast in it. He tries to pull it off but is unable.
Ishana can be heard calling upon Calistria to send aid.
The pirates and dire corbies all regain their feet while Solemn Jack and Tubbs try to keep the spider at bay with their cutlasses, though neither dare advance on it.
“Looks like the birds are here to take care of the spider for us!” says Jethrik as he moves to Captain Grudge’s side to see if he can help pull the web off of him.
Selis sends another bolt that hits the spider right between its mandibles. The creature seems greatly agitated but it is a lethal blow. Suddenly a mist coalesces behind it into a frog large enough to swallow a human child (or a gnome) whole. The frog’s eyes burn with the fires of the Abyss and its razor sharp teeth bite into the bulbous abdomen of the giant spider. The spider curls up in death and the fiendish frog summoned by Ishana proceeds to devour it at leisure.
Captain Grudge, however, even with Jethrik’s reluctant assistance is still unable to get the sticky strands of the web off of him. Captain Grudge’s curses are of such ferocity that is almost seems that he could open another gate to the Abyss just by the strengths of his blasphemous oaths.
Meanwhile, the pirate crew surround and begin hacking at the dire corbies with their cutlasses, blood and feather are everywhere but the dire corbies are far from finished as they lash out with their own wickedly sharp claws.
“Good work guys, I guess at dinner we’ll find out if they taste like chicken!” Jethrik quips.
Captain Grudge, with the help of Jethrik and Ishana finally manages to throw off the spider’s webs.
Both dire corbies finally fall to the ruthless pirates, though three of them were lightly wounded by the crow-men’s claws and a fourth moderately wounded. Blood from their lacerations runs down their arms and chests.
Outside a new foe has appeared even more grotesque than the giant spider. A hideous purple creature races across the courtyard at the enormous frog chittering in rage. It latches its mandibles into the frog but the frog shrugs it off and clamps down on one of its sickle-shaped claws. The blotchy purple thing sinks its mandibles into the frog again and tears into it with its other claw. The frog releases its grip and disintegrates back into a mist that fades away in seconds. The purple thing with the head of a spider and claws for hands turns its multi-faceted eyes upon Captain Grudge, Ishana, Jethrik, and Solemn Jack who are still just within the inner gate. It chitters and then speaks in the Common tongue, “I will kill you all for what you have done!”
“I’ve heard that before.” Jethrik shrugs
The spider-man leaps up onto the wall of the gatehouse just to the left of the courtyard gate and scuttles up the wall out of reach of their rapiers and cutlasses. In order to kill it, the pirates will have to go into the courtyard and shoot it down with their crossbows.
The pirates all look to their leader. Captain Grudge points out to the courtyard saying, “There’s only one o’ whatever it is. Bring it down me buckos.”
The pirates pour out into the courtyard and sheathe their cutlasses and take up their crossbows. While they are loading their bolts, Selis fires another magic missile from his wand at the creature hitting it in the back. The creature responds by spewing down a web from its spinnerets. Just as Captain Grudge was before, the elf is entangled in the creature’s web.
“Did that thing just shoot this gunk at me from its ass! Damn it, get this off of me!” yells the outraged elf.
The other pirates, having loaded their crossbows fire upon the creature. Three bolts strike the creature, two in its back and one in its spindly legs. It chittered again in pain and scuttles over the battlements out of sight.
At the same time there is a sound of ropes snapping and wood cracking and splintering from the roof of a flat-topped building on the north side of the courtyard. Dire corbies squawk in pain and surprise as the catapult they just launched a boulder from tears itself apart. The boulder arcs over the courtyard, hits the ground, and rolls into Ishana hard enough to bruise her leg. As the pirates turn their attention to this new threat the dire corbies leap down from the roof and begin racing across the courtyard croaking imprecations of death and destruction upon the invaders of Brinewall.
“Kill those damn fowls! We’ll pluck and roast them and have ourselves a feast tonight we will!” commands Captain Grudge.
The pirates quickly load and fire their crossbows at the charging dire corbies. Ishana quickly moves out of their way and back into the guardhouse, where she can also keep an eye on Jethrik. All three of the corbies are hit, one of them twice. Two of them are have obviously received mortal wounds but they continue to stagger towards the pirates. The third continues its charge, ignoring the bolt in its leg. Selis hits it with a magic missile from his wand, but even this does not stop the creature. The pirates reload and fire again as Captain Grudge continues exhorting them to slaugher their foes. Each dire corby is hit once more by the second barrage of crossbow bolts, but even this fails to stop them, though all three are now staggering and screeching in agony. They leap into the pirates and tear into Solemn Jack and Tubbs with their claws. Selis fires another missile from his wand, but the creatures have entered a berserk rage wherein they do not seem to feel any pain. Selis shoots and again into the melee as the pirates surround the creatures and finally chop them down. Ishana and Captain Grudge leave the fighting to the pirates, though at the end Ishana moves in quickly to offer prayers to Calistria to keep Tubbs from dying. Tubbs was the only pirate to fall, but Solemn Jack and couple of others have nasty wounds from the fight.
“Great job!” Jethrik cheers as he helps Tubbs by casting cure light wounds upon him, which revives him. Tubb’s ribs however, are very sore from where the crow creature’s claws tore into him.
“Thanks Jethik, you’re a good lad,” says Tubbs.
“All right lads, enough playin’ around,” says Captain Grudge. “We’ve treasure to look for. In we go!” He leads the way to the double doors leading into the main hall of the castle and flings them open. With a crack of her whip Ishana brings up the lead, ensuring that all the other pirates fall into line and follow the captain, including Jethrik.
Beyond the doors is a long hall 20’ wide and almost 100’ long. Rotting, faded banners hang from the walls depicting a stylized castle sitting on a seaside cliff. Thick stone pillars support the ceiling and a rotted threadbare carpet runs between the pillars from the door to an old wooden throne at the far end of the hall, its back carved to resemble the towers of a castle wrapped in the coils of a serpentine dragon. Sitting on the throne is a wild-eyed man with a bristly goatee, deep red skin, and a prodigious nose. He idly toys with a strange weapon – a combination sickle and weighted chain as four dire corbies caper before him. The dire corbies are running in a circle squawking and flapping their arms up and down as though they were wings. When Captain Grudge strides in the man on the throne cackles in delight and says,
“Welcome, be seated,” he gestures to some benches along the walls. “You are just in time for the conclusion of my latest masterpiece. It is a short play about a flock of ravens who woke up one day to discover they were trapped in flightless human bodies.”
“Stuff and nonsense!” Captain Grudge retorts. “Clear t’ way or we’ll cut you down!”
“Ah, now we come to the part of the play where the ravens vent their rage upon those who cursed them.” He stands and points at the pirates. “And there they are!” Instantly the dire corbies stop, turn as one and glare at the pirates. With a shriek they charge down the hall with their talons raking the air before them. In the Common tongue they yell things like, “You took my wings, you flying things!” and Bring me their eyes, and sorrowful sighs!” Jethrik, at least, can tell that these are not actually being said by the dire corbies, rather the strange man at the end of the hall is throwing his voice.
Captain Grudge calls out, “Have at them me buckos. We’ll do for these as we did for t’ others!”
The man by the throne begins to leap and dance about, cackling in glee as the battle begins. Selis strings his shortbow and nocks an arrow while five of the pirates push past Captain Grudge into the hall and fire their crossbows. The bolts nick two of the four dire corbies but all four of them veer away and take cover in what is apparently an alcove or hall to the left of the throne. They disappear from sight.
Grudge laughs and says, “You’re men have deserted you! What now you prancin’ fool. Tell us where t’ treasure be and we’ll let you live.
The strange man shrieks, “That’s not in the play! You’re ruining it all you hideous apes!” As he screams at them his form wavers. His red skin turns to black feathers and his long nose becomes a black beak, but unlike the dire corbies or tengu black wings burst forth from his back. He runs off to the right out of the hall.
Jethrik is reminded of a card from Koya’s deck called The Crows. On the card a creature like a tengu but with wings watches over to two men in crow masks seated at a table laden with jewels, piles of gold coins, and sacks full of more gold and jewels. Jethrik remembers that Koya did a reading back in Sandpoint at which this card appeared. ‘If there are crow-men here there may be gold too!’ Jethrik keeps this to himself of course.
Captain Grudge laughter echoes down the hall. “Well that was easy enough. Let’s go find him. But be careful. Check behind those doors. I don’t want enemies getting’ in behind us.” Captain Grudge indicates a door 40’ in on the left side and a side hall on the left side about 35’ down the main hall. The side hall ends after 25’ in double doors and there is also a door 15’ in on the right side of that smaller hall.
“Careful of the winged one. He can cast magics. That was his voice making the corbies appear to talk.” Jethrik warns.
“Ho, ho! I caught on t’ that little trick already me bucko. But we have magics of our own don’t we,” he flashes a smile at Ishana and Selis. The other pirates grin as well. “As do you, you little trickster.”
“Nothin’ over here,” Tubbs calls out as he peers into the door on the left side of the smaller hall on the right. “There’s another short hall here with a door on either side.”
Solemn Jack is not so lucky. Despite his caution opening the door two scaly gray humanoids with long tails and crests on their heads leap out of the shadows and club him to death in the blink of an eye. A horrible stench roils out from the room and all but Ishana and Selis have to cover their mouths and start gagging. Jethrik remembers that he had heard of such creatures before. They are the feral, savage remnants of reptilian race that once may have ruled empires on the surface world but who now dwell in the upper reaches of the endless caverns of the underworld.
Selis looses an arrow and wounds one, and it is wounded again when the pirates fire their crossbows into the doorway, but they are mere scratches. The troglodytes retreat into the room but their menacing hissing can still be heard.
“After them!” roars Captain Grudge. “Don’t leave a one breathing!”
The troglodytes slam the door shut on the pirates. Slimney says, “Captain, please… give us a moment. I feel like I’m going to heave. I don’t think I’m the only one here who needs a moment.”
Captain Grudge, who is also puffing his cheeks and trying not to vomit nods, and so the skirmish is over for the moment.
As the pirates recover from the troglodyte’s stench, Tubbs listens at the double doors down the short side hall. “I think I hear someone yelling! It might be that winged tengu.”
“You three, cover that door,” Captain Grudge commands three of the pirates. “And pull Solemn Jack body away from there. We’ll give him a proper burial when we’ve cleared this pile of stones. The rest o’ you follow me.” He leads the way to the double doors at the end of the side hall and flings them open. Inside is a circular room about 30’ across with a ring of pillars supporting a balcony 15’ above. A flight of stairs winds up to the balcony just to the right of the double doors along the southern wall. Faded paintings of dancing elves decorate the walls, spattered here and there with ancient bloodstains. Up on the balcony across from the doors is the winged tengu, still ranting and raving in Minkaian, the land that Ameiko and Toshio’s families came from that Jethrik has also learned to speak. He is furious about the interlopers who ruined his play. As soon as he sees Captain Grudge enter the room he points and evokes a searing beam of fire from his finger that hits Captain Grudge across the back as he swiftly ducks away and takes cover behind a pillar. Captain Grudge then runs into the center of the room and hurls his whip up at the creature shouting, “Tie and knot!” The creature is too fast, however, and easily slips away as the whip lashes out to grab him. Selis and the pirates follow this up with their own attacks with bow and crossbows but the creature has already ducked behind the balcony railing. It pops up again and with another short incantation it fires a coruscating light that hits Captain Grudge before he can take cover. The Captain pales and slumps but is able to make it back to safety under the balcony directly beneath the creature. Selis and the other pirates fire again. Only Slimney hits. His bolt pierces the creature’s leather armor in the chest. The creature squawks and falls behind the railings and is silent. However, when Selis and Slimney go up to loot the body they find no sign of it. The creature has completely disappeared as if it had never been there at all. Captain Grudge recovers his whip and returns with Selis and Slimney to the floor of what may have once been a ballroom.
Ishana runs to Captain Grudge’s side. “Are you all right? What did that thing do to you?”
“I’m fine. Its spell weakened me. I just need to rest bit. Let’s get out o’ here. I’m in no more mood for games and we’ve already lost one of our company. We better see that he has the proper rites. Maybe we’ll bury him in that graveyard down t’ road.” Then Captain Grudge looks up to the balcony and yells, “But we’ll be back! Rest assured we’ll put an end to your games!” That said, Captain Grudge leads everyone out of Castle Brinewall, with the body of Solemn Jack carried back by Tubbs and Slimney. As the pirates exit the gatehouse and head down the path back to the village they hear the cawing of the dire corbies. At least four of them are up on the roof of the gatehouse firing crossbows at the retreating pirates. Fortunately none of the bolts come anywhere close to hitting them and they soon come to a turn in the path and the trees screen them from the gatehouse.
‘Dire corbies can use crossbows?’ Jethrik wonders. ‘Doesn’t fit with the psychotic, bloodthirsty, mindlessly violent berserker schtick they got goin’ on.’