Dark Intrusion

You May Find Yourself upon a Ship...

In which the party saves a ship, explores an island, and catches a boat.

The party passed an uneventful supper at the Captain's table. Each related their tale, or so much of it as they were willing to share with company newly met. And after a time Miroslav bade them goodnight as he went to make his evening rounds. The party finished their meal and soon turned in for the night, expecting another uneventful day of sailing to follow. But that was not to be. The druid, Oronar, found himself awoken in the dark by what appeared to be the sounds of fighting from above. Waking his new aquaintances, they hurried up to the main deck. Along the way, the tossing of the ship made it clear the seas were far angrier than they had seemed when the party entered their slumber. Sure enough, when the party made it topside, both storm and battle raged across the deck. Szarrek emerged from the rear cabin just in time to see the Captain heaved overboard at the other end of the ship. Fitful rain lashed the ship and an errie magical glow illuminated the night as the party joined the fray. The attackers were pirates…a party of humans and halflings, led by a spellcaster of neither race. Charging in, Szarrek the dragonborn brought his battle axe to bear, and the swordmage Gerald skirted the hold to engage one of the human pirates. Meanwhile the sorcerer engaged the halfling slingers on the foredeck from a distance. The party's momentum initially flagged as Szarrek was pulled into the hold by the caster's arcane assault, and a pair of additional slingers hidden on the rear deck began to assail the party form behind. Gerald and the sorcerer fought their way toward the foredeck while Oronar, taking on his primal animal form, mounted the rear deck to engage the hidden slingers. With Szarrek's return from below deck, the tide of battle was turned and the party was victorious. Miroslav re-boarded his ship as the party was investigating the remains of the attackers. Insignias worn by the humans and halflings indicated that they belonged to one of Crabfoot DuBaku's crews. But they usually operate in the far western sea according to Miroslav, and even more concerning was the caster who was neither human nor hafling and not likely one of DuBaku's men…his only obvious accessory being a curious jade necklace. Miroslav rewarded the party handsomly for their service, and was greatly disturbed. If the attack itself were not concern enough, the storm was clearly unnatural, having appeared from nowhere and then abated soon after the battle. Worse, it was clear with the morning light that the ship had run aground upon a sand bar offshore a charted but unnamed island. The island's lighthouse was clearly visible in the daylight, but in the dark of night it's beam had not warned them away from the shoals. Fearing another raiding paerty might come to finish the job, and unwilling to leave his own ship undefended, Miroslav asked the party if they would be willing, as quickly as possible, to make the journey to his hometown of Bremen on another nearby island…there to alert his allies and summon assistance to get the White Sturgeon off the shoal. The party agrees and fords the shallows to the island, First checking out the lighthouse, they find it staffed only by a corpse. Using a recently found scroll of Last Sight Vision, they determine the man was killed by pirates of the same stripe that attacked the Sturgeon. Clearly the lighthouse was deliberately sabotaged…and the boat at the dock has been rendered unusable as well. On their way out, the party runs across a hermit named Jenner…the island's only permanent resident. There to get supplies from the lighthouse keepers, he too has stumbled across the corpse. He leads the party to his forest shack and they tell their tale on the way. When they arrive, Jenner offers thema deal. His wife, he says, was killed by a nest of giant ants on on the north of the island and left there a keepsake stone that she had carved. If the party would retreive it for him, he would be willing to let them use his own boat to leave the island. Having few options and pressed for time, the party readily agrees and travels to the north of the island where they make quick work of the ants after a short pitched battle. The party retrieves the stone and returns it to Jenner who reveals the location of his boat but demurres when the party asks if he'll accompany them. The boat is moored on the south side of the island, and as the party makes their way through the forest, they notice a ruined tower perched above the cove to which they are headed. Pressed for time they continue toward the cove and soon realize that they are not alone. Just as Oronar spies them, a pair of humans on the path ahead break into a run. Changing into his beast form, Oronar sets upon one as the rest of the party rushes for the shore. When the boat comes into view, it is piloted by a halfling slinger and has DuBaku's symbol on the prow…clearly this is not really Jenner's boat! The hafling casts off as soon as the party comes into view, with both pirates making it onto the boat just in the nick of time. Gerald and Szarrek plunge into the water and swim for the fleeing craft as Wilhelm assults the retreating foes from shore. Impulsively, Oronar casts a flame seed at the pirates, and while he succeeds at wounding one, he also manages to set the boat aflame. With almost superhuman effort, Gerald reaches the boat and while he cannot quite manage to get on board, he is able to slow its progress. As the flames subside without destroying the boat, Szarrek catches up, and after a first failed attempt he hauls himself into the craft, displacing the pirate at the back end. With their escape arrested, two of the pirates are quickly dispatched and the third surrenders before Szarrek's imposing might. The party regroups and forces their captive to row to Bremen, where they remand him into custody and alert them of Miroslav's plight. After receiving further payment for their efforts, the party row themselves back to the island. Landing back at the southern cove, the party ascends the bluff and examines the crumbled tower. The structure has obviously lain unused for a long time, perhaps centuries. In the middle of the ruins, however, there is a circle inscribed with arcane runes that Wilhelm identifies as relating somehow to travel or translocation. Depressions appear within the circle, each marked with a carved symbol…one a snake, another perhaps a rat, and the third a stylized representation of an ant. Torches spring alight above the adventurers' heads as they realize the ant carving is the exact twin of the one on the stone they had retrived for Jenner. With grim determination the party sets off for the forest. Reaching the shack, it appears that no-one is home, but movement tells the party that someone is inside. After failing to lure the occupant out, the party bursts through the door to find the shack apparently empty. Noticing a door across the single room, Szarrek cosses to look inside only to be greeted by a cold shaft of steel from inside the closet. An instant later the wounded Szarrek watches Jenner shift into a rat-like humanoid and call out for aid. As Szarrek trades blows with the transformed Jenner, a swarm of rats emerge from a hole in the floor under the bed and menace the rest of the party. Wilhelm hangs outside as Oronar and Gerald deal make quick work of the new adversaries. Bull-rushing Szarrek out of the doorway, Jenner bolts from the closet and vaults through a nearby window to make his escape. But Wilhelm is already outside and rounds the corner to fell the wounded were-rat with an orb of arcane power. As they take a well-needed rest, the party searches the shack and finds a box containing the ant stone, a rat stone, and a rough map of the island, upon which is scrawled the location of what the party only presume must be the snake stone…



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