Dirge for Ammad

Prologue

It is late fall in Ammad. It has been raining for a week, a cool non-stop drizzle typical for the time of the year. It has been days since the sun has been last seen. The city seems to be in a lazy stupor, and according to the newspapers even the rest of the world is in a stupor. Work is scarce at this time of the year as evildoers are taking a sabbatical, and merchants need less protection than normal.

A soaked note is attached to a board in front of a tavern. The note reads: Adventurers wanted. Inquire at the Cat’s Lantern. Ask for Mister Dux’nn.

Since you are in need of money you make your way to the Cat’s Lantern in the Brick Ward. Against the steel gray sky you see a hanging sign featuring a wispy looking black cat with bright glowing eyes walking around a chalice. Its glowing mischievous eyes stand out against the dim, dreary surroundings.

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Off To A Good Start...We Hope

We all met in a back room. There was a dwarf that smelled funny—he wore armor that glowed hot like a furnace…He gave me a metal card with his name etched on it, but I don’t read Dwarven runes. For a few minutes, he tried to help me pronounce the words on it, but then he was annoyed and just told me that his name was Thor. Not Thor with the “th”, but Thor that sounds like “tore”. And then there was a lady…She was dressed in red silk, and her ears were kinda pointed. Her name is Alana, and she seems pretty nice. Another lady came in, wearing strange leather clothes and with eyes that shifted in color. She told us that her name is Sin. Sin is very pretty, but her eyes scare me. The half-orc that had been at the bar up front sort of half-fell into the room, and then Mister Dux’nn walked in.

He seemed like he didn’t want to tell us much until we accepted the job. Not like I really had a choice. It was either find work or Kahdir said he was gonna kick me out of the house that I stay in. But anyway…after we said yes to the thousand sovereigns (each!), he told us that there was a ship that brought a cargo and it was sitting in an abandoned warehouse. That was kind of a little vague, I thought. We asked if he knew where the warehouse was, and Thor wanted to know who had been using the ship. Mr. Dux’nn didn’t seem to think we needed to know that. Sin thinks that Mr. Dux’nn is working for somebody, but we can’t figure out who.

We split up for the better part of the day, and each went to our separate tasks. I went to see where they put the guards by the warehouse while Serkan – that’s the drunk (only by now he was sober) half-orc – went to the docks. He found out that the cargo had its own double-dozen of guards. One odd thing: they’re all halflings! Sin and Alana tried to find out stuff about the halfling guards that came on the ship, but the only thing they heard was that they weren’t local. My trip the the warehouse was enough to find out that they kept guards on the roof and on two sides of the building. The back and far side were not guarded, since there are canals right along the edge of the walls.

After we figured out a plan, we all went down to the warehouse again. Serkan sneaked into the burned-down rubble next to the alley, and then a small airship went into the loading doors at the back. There was a big bang when the door closed. Sin forged papers that would make her look like a building inspector, and Alana was going to pretend to be a representative of one of the high houses. They were going to go to the front door to distract the guards and try getting into the warehouse. I jammed the back loading doors shut to make sure that the cargo we were supposed to deal with didn’t up and leave before we could get at it.

Alana and Sin kicked up a fuss out front, and then started fighting with that huge Goliath and the halflings. I went up to the roof and got rid of the guys up there while the others were on the ground beating up on people half their size – but with twice the meanness – and getting beat up in return. In the end, we managed to kill them all, but I crawled into the upstairs office and peeped into the main warehouse area…there are at least twelve more halflings, along with a dwarf that looks like he’s the one really in charge and one extremely dumb-looking ogre.

Now, we have to get inside. It won’t be a problem for me. I can climb the wall back into the office. But the only way I could figure for the rest of them to get in would be if Sin could pretend to be the Goliath – I found out that she can do that (don’t ask me how, we don’t have time) – and go inside herself. Then she can tell them to drag all of the bodies into the warehouse to clean up, and then we can take them by surprise from inside! Of course, Serkan and Thor are going to have to drag the Goliath and dump him in the canal…and won’t Sin have to put on the Goliath’s clothes?

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Leave No Witnesses

Okay…so maybe we might not get paid. The whole thing just did not work out the way we thought it would. Before anything could really be agreed upon, Thor picked up the dead Goliath’s body and got ready to ram the door. A couple of other people that Mister Dux’nn had hired arrived just then, and when they saw what was about to happen, we all agreed that it would be best if we got into the window quick as we could.

Inside was all confusion. Thor was using the body as a shield, and it slowed him down a lot. He had a hard time, I think, but mainly because once all of the halflings finished unloading into the body, the ogre decided to use him as a doll. The dwarf ran off into the next room, and I tried to imitate his voice and make the ogre follow. All he did was toss Thor around and stomp on him. I know that I’m not very smart, but boy was that thing a dummy. Other than Thor getting shaken and stomped like an unfortunate toy, we did manage to kill a lot of the halflings.

I got onto the rail for the block and tackle, but that didn’t work out very well at first. It was too easy for them to hit me. Hiding behind boxes was much better. Once we’d gotten rid of the first group of halflings, and beaten the ogre into a crying pathetic mess, we went into the next room. There were more halflings there, and the dwarf. That was pretty expected, but not the freakish-looking elves. They were creepy, and the way I figure it, they’re the slave-gathering pirate elves that I’d heard of since I got here. They disappeared quickly into the back room and locked the door. We saw a chest that might be the cargo, so Dak’xav secured it for the most part and we eliminated the people that had been holding it.

Then it was back up onto the rail for me, and I went scouting into the next room. The airship was still in there, but they were trying to open the cargo bay doors. By then, the elves had all gotten onto the ship, and the halflings were turning the crank to open the doors. I jumped down on the one turning the crank, and I squished him on it, which was good, but the elves were getting away. They were already gone when I heard a really loud noise from back in the other room.

There was no time to pick the lock, so I went back on the rail and found the others fighting these weird…things. It was like a bunch of cargo crates had grouped together to make barely man-shaped creatures, and were pounding the snot out of everybody. We eventually managed to beat them up enough that the crates fell apart. Thor said it was a spell, and that it happened when they opened the chest.

Inside the chest was a bunch of gold. Now, that didn’t make sense. If you’re being all sneaky about your cargo, it has to be something special, not a box of gold. Under the gold was a box. It was carved all over with runes and there were gears and little shiny things all over it and inside. Thor said it was a timer to release a spell. We couldn’t figure out why it would have triggered, or when, until we read the letter that Hawkeye found on the dead dwarf.

It was real bloody, but we managed to make out that that the chest was probably the rest of whatever payment the dwarf and halflings were supposed to get for delivering the cargo. So if that was their payment, does that mean that the spell was meant for them? So that there would be no witnesses? Mal’tir used to say that witnesses might come back and bite me in the hindquarters, so I guess that makes sense from their point of view. But now we’re left with no information about the cargo other than that the freaky elves wanted it, it was three medium-sized crates (give or take one or two-the guys at the docks were non-specific), and whoever ordered the cargo delivered didn’t want witnesses.

The best lead we have looks like the spell box. Thor knows people who make stuff like that, so I say we go and talk to those people. We still have a day. Who’s with me?

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Enough Rope to Hang Ourselves With

Not long after we had limped away from our ordeal at the warehouse, we made t back to the Cat’s Lantern and promptly went to sleep. It’s tough being shot at…smacked around…and nearly squished by spirit-possessed boxes. There was still some time, so we split up and tried getting a bit more information on the halfling guards, the box, and maybe the freaky elves. That didn’t really turn anything up, so we went back to the inn to meet with Mister Dux’nn.

He seemed sort of interested in the box and the letter, but we didn’t really find out anything more about them. Dux’nn is going to look into that. Alana asked if there was anything more we could do for him, and he asked if we could be available in the future on an on-call basis. Since it looks like we all need the money, we agreed. Not being kicked out of where you’re staying is good, but not having to worry about it is better. A couple days later, he was back.

Mister Dux’nn asked us to accompany some professor to a wrecked ship. We were supposed to meet her at a place called The Fifth Wheel. It’s a machine shop or a mechanic’s workshop…or something like that. When we got there, we met the owner, Hadrik “The Fist” Forgebeard, a dwarf that seemed pretty grumpy, but knowledgeable. In a back room, we met the professor. She was talking to a brain in a jar. The brain introduced herself(?) as Akar, Mr. Forgebeard’s wife. She was very polite, but soon disappeared into the other room to deal with her husband.

Once we had introduced ourselves, we decided to take advantage of the bad weather to get a look at the ship before the Jade Swans made it out there. As soon as the weather breaks up, they are supposed to go see what happened to the boat. Mr. Forgebeard took us to the area in an airship, but couldn’t get us straight to the wreck.

We ended up getting dropped off somewhere about a half mile away from the wreck itself, but since no one was really paying much attention, we got lost in the trees. After a while, we were attacked by lizard men, and were really close to finishing them off when some half-elf popped out of the trees to call truce. She said that she would take us to the boat if we helped her to get rid of a dragon…worm…thing. It was all kind of vague, and none of us thought we had time to go killing random forest creatures.

So we politely refused and went on our way. Then we got to this gorge. Or maybe it was a fjord. Whatever it was, I couldn’t jump across, but we got a grappling hook well stuck in the rocks on the other side. Maybe it was because it was sort of my idea, but I went first. Not too hard, but the winds were rough. They were too rough for Alana, and she very nearly got killed, even though we strung a second rope across so that she could put her feet on it. The professor didn’t want to go on the rope, but she finally did.

Hawkeye is really heavy, so it took a while getting him across, but at least he didn’t uproot the tree that the rope was tied to on the side we came from. That was Thor. He would have gone down the fjord into the water if I hadn’t cut the one rope that was still tied to the tree. When we finally all got across, we caught our breath and took a few minutes to bandage up the rope burns on Alana’s hands and on her neck.

Now we have to go down to the wrecked ship. All aboard?

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Seafood Fights Back

The boat was taken over by fish creatures. Hawkeye said they’re called Kuo-toa, but they just look like giant wall-eyed pike with legs to me. They were not very nice, and had a tendency to skewer us with harpoons and pull us in so that they could bash us in the face. Like I said, they’re mean. By the time we had taken a few of them down, I started wondering what they would taste like when battered and fried. They seem like it would be good to have them with…a curry sauce.

But as bad as the fish guys were, with their harpoons and odd magic, the tentacles were so much worse. Hawkeye got picked up and shaken really hard, and a couple of other people got slapped around by them. When there were no more fish on deck, we went below. Some did that faster then others, mostly by falling through holes in the deck. There were more of the fish below, and they were crawling on the walls and ceiling, popping up from holes in the floor and trying to stab everyone.

Finally, when it was all over, we went to the lower level, since Professor Finch just had to examine everything on the ship. But we are not going to complain. Mister Dux’nn is paying good money for this. Then again, the entire floor is covered with blood, and it’s squishing between my toes, and there are these creepy ruptured egg sacks hanging from the ceiling…with huge veins running to the floor. Did I mention that the eggs don’t have anything in them anymore?

Hey, Professor, what’s that hissing sound…?

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1 Fish Stick, 2 Fingers, 3 Eyed Psychic Squid Thingy
This time, it's personal!

(Figured I’d take a stab at writing the log since no one else had.) Towards the bottom of the ship in an area filled with pools of blood and ruptured egg sacks. We got into a fight with a bunch more Kua-Toa, including one guy who had screaming fish on a stick. I didn’t know fish screamed, you learn something new everyday I suppose. There was also a living (or at least moving) blood blob thing, which I got stuck into. The teachings I follow indicate that life is an eternal learning experience about oneself and the world. Here I learned not to jump kick blob monsters and also, don’t let blob monsters crawl up your nose and take control of your brain. Well okay I probably already knew that.

Eventually we took them down and found the Captain’s cabin, which had collapsed into the bilges. Cahya crawled in and retrieved the log book, although ultimately she got stuck. Hawkeye and I pulled her out, and accidentally sent her flying across the room. An aboleth then surfaced behind her and told us (in our minds) to tell the “warped ones” that it had done as was agreed and then it allowed us to leave.

We then met with Duckson (I would have thought his dad was a deva, not a duck) and he paid us for getting the professor back safely. Apparently the log indicated that the crew of the ship had disappeared after investigating where the homeland of the pirate elfy mutant people (warped ones) was supposed to be, and finding nothing there.

A bit later Duckson had another job for us. A box had been stolen from someone important, the thieves had been killed by assassins but a man involved in the theft, named Two Fingers (a Tiefling with guess what, only two fingers)absconded with the box. We went to a tavern so seedy it might have been mistaken for a watermelon. Note to self, area of inner being needing improvement, analogies. At any rate, a bit of coin persuaded the bartender to divulge the location of Two Fingers’s (Two Fingers’? Curse you apostrophe!) home. To be continued, Same Squid Time, Same Squid Place!

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Falling Thugs and Flying Buttresses
Tonight on Fox, When Roofing Attacks!

In investigating Two Fingers’s house we found that he’d apparently used a teleportation circle to stash the box some place (although that’s just a guess based on what we know). Meanwhile thugs decided to come at us with weapons drawn. I may have acted hastily in knocking two archers off of a roof but I believe that when confronted with a vicious gang of thugs a boot to the head is often necessary. After the hurlyburly was completed we questioned a surviving thug who indicated that Marrik, who is the boss in these parts told them to stop anyone hanging around the place. We also found out that the most likely place Two Fingers would be hiding is the haunted orphanage known as the Cinders.

This orphanage had been sealed up but it quickly became apparent that the rumors of haunting were no mere rumors. Burning smells, pools of blood, the sound of tiny feet running away, all in all rather like my Uncle’s attempts at barbecuing. On one of the upper floors, we found Two Fingers, whose name is apparently due merely to his having two fingers as a necklace rather than any lack of digits on his part. He did not seem particularly aware of us but would dodge out of the way whenever we attempted to catch him. He was fast, faster than even I am, which upsets me. I gather based on this and his state of mind that he was probably posessed. Which is cheating in my book, you should have to master mind and body to go that fast, not simple let some sort of malevolent force take control of your body. I doubt he was that fast before or he wouldn’t be considered a two bit thief as he moved so fast he was nearly invisible while moving. Well I suppose he could manage to be that fast and be a two bit thief if he was a complete moron. I’m probably obsessing a bit too much about this, but he’s faster than me and it looks like he cheated. Hmmm maybe I probably need to reflect on this a bit, I may have as much a problem with pride as the old farts who rejected by admittance to their monastery. Its probably getting in the way of my achieving inner peas, why I need to make my spirit like a green vegetable is something of a mystery, I’m guessing its some kind of metaphor for something. Oh and now ceiling beams have fallen down and are attacking us.

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Maybe we should have left a trail of transdimensional bread crumbs.
The Evil Ghost Orphanage from Another Dimension: A Sci Fi Channel Original Picture

So we were attacked by this giant lump of fire and ceiling beams. The teachings I took from the monastery didn’t say anything about not punching things that were on fire and it seemed to work out, although there was a note about “Never pet a burning dog.” At any rate after that we surrounded Two Fingers, with Cahya and I jumping out the window to prevent him from escaping. We also rigged up a tripwire to aid in catching him. Cahya hid herself somewhere inside near the door while I waited for him to come out. He did not however and eventually there was shouting and I rushed back in. We ended up fighting some sort of clawed dwarf thing and some demon woman thing. She Threw Two Fingers against a wall, although Cahya had already retrieved the box at that point. However, Sin indicated that it was vital that we catch him anyway, so that when he bolted for the door Cahya went after him. We finished pulverizing the demon lady and dwarf thing when many dark hands began to emerge from the floor so we fled the building. Two Fingers had somehow turned to dust and we were trapped in some other dimension by the house. Oh I forgot to mention that didn’t I. Yeah we seem to be stuck in some kind of nightmare world thingy. Oh and here’s some kind of puppet thing come to talk to us. Maybe it knows the way out from this creepy place?

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Got Sunscreen?
That's what we get for hiring Pinocchio as a tour guide.

Well, I can honestly say that I’m not gonna try getting a straight answer out of a puppet again. We talked to the puppet for a few minutes, but all it really told us was that we needed to go to the Twisted Tower. That, and to find some man named Marcus. Hmph. So much for that.

We went into the city, and dawn was approaching. The streets cleared out real fast, and we didn’t understand why. Then we found a huge lizard sitting on a statue. It said that dawn was coming, as if we didn’t already know, but then it just stared at the horizon and wouldn’t say anything else. There were more of those lizards, but they were starting to make cocoons around themselves. That’s no lizard I’ve ever seen. Maybe they’re part spider? But they only have four legs, so I don’t get “spider” off of them otherwise. Whatever.

When the sun came, it was burning up. Really. The buildings weren’t catching fire, but they smoldered like embers, unless you counted the ones that grew. I mean, they shot up like magic building trees. An interesting way to make new real estate, but with the climate problems that we had discovered when the sun rose, I think they’d have problems filling the new space.

It was when we started getting closer to the Tower that things really got weird. Statues sprouted eyeballs in every place but where they were supposed to be, huge spider-like creatures jumped out of shadows, and wraith-like creepy crawlers came out of nowhere. And all that happened after three buildings came up out of the pavement to block the way to the Tower.

We beat down on all of the baddies, and then the eyes disappeared off of the statue and it was normal again. Not sure, but I think somebody doesn’t want us near the Tower.

Mental Note: Ask Mister Dux’nn if he pays trans-dimensional mileage. This was so not in our contract.

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We Sleep Now
In case of Emergency Break Glass Coffin.

So after many many battles, we made an attempt to rest in a house in this strange dimension. A giant bug monster thing with lots of faces on it that was merged with the house objected, strenuously, that is to say, with scything blades and acid. I guess bug monsters aren’t big on just asking politely. As per usual with things that attempt to put extra holes in us, we beat it until it died and then slept. We then made our way to the twisted tower around which fish of varying sizes swam, including some sort of strange barracuda like fish that vomits up its entire stomach to catch smaller fish. We found several doors with various animal insignias on them and found that only particular people could open them and once they entered the room they were apparently transported elsewhere. The exception being, there was no door for Cahya, who fell asleep and then woke up in a room with a stairwell and another set of doors with the same markings. She opened these doors letting the rest of the group out. Once we were all in the central chamber, all the adjoining doors opened, revealing loot of various sorts.

After acquiring the loot we went up the stairs and found a glass coffin with a woman of an unidentified race inside it. Surrounding this coffin were pedestals upon which rested busts of an unidentified man. I suppose we ought to open the coffin somehow and let her out, as she doesn’t appear to be dead or at the very least she’s been magically preserved. I think I heard a story about this somewhere, a prince is supposed to kiss her or something. I don’t think we have any princes in the group though. Maybe we could create our own kingdom in the next room and then have somebody kiss her or the coffin if we can’t get it open? Maybe the bust is one of a prince? I suppose there’s always the more conventional ways of glass breaking like hitting it or singing a high note.

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