Archive for June 16th, 2011

The outer bastions of the Free Port City of the Marquoil

Said to be impregnable, the free port city of the Marquoil juts out into the sea at the southernmost tip of the lands of D Erte. Protected from land by a an extinct volcano, and from the sea by a ship-navigable tunnel, the deep water harbor is surrounded by a natural defensive bulwark. Over the centuries, the city grew from a safe haven for pirates as do most of the cities in the Three Seas region, to become a powerful city, both in trade and in strength of its free booter navy. The port became the lock through which all traffic between the Three Seas the mysterious and wild far east must pass.

Besides the natural defenses, the city has been improved by the construction of a mighty fortress overlooking the harbor from its volcanic precipice. Known as the First Lords Bastion, it is home to the most dreaded weapon in the Three Seas – the Fire Bolter, which is an arcane contraption able to hurl fireballs over half a league. The Free Marines man traditional ballistae and catapults on the rocky clifftops overlooking the cove.

A lighthouse guides ships through the treacherous waters and towards the outer docks, where they may seek entrance into the city. The Free Navy billets its many ships along the same wharf, and ships may dock here, or for a greater fee and inspection, they may pass into the inner sanctum. On foot, travellers may pass through the Free Marine Training Grounds to gain entry into the city, but all cargo has to be floated through the tunnel.

Inside the bulwarks, the great safe harbor is a riot of activity. Three long docks extend toward the center of the bay, with all manner of boats and ships docked alongside them, while teetering buidings form a line down the center of the docks. The Larboard, the Leeward, and the Main, these massive constructions are the life blood of the city, and much of the populace of the free city spend their days and nights on these floating docks.

North of the docks is a narrow strip of built up shore where many of the largest market houses were built of the same local sand colored stone. Above them are two plateaus, on the lowest are the estates of many of the wealthiest of the populace while the highest holds the massive First Lords Bastion.

To the left and right of the harbor two long arms stretch out in an embrace that meets at the tunnel. On the Leeward side (the east) rose three stone castles of the Merchant lords. The first was Castle Tallyman, and it guards the eastern approaches to the city. In the center, built upon piles of sea walls was the hulking structure of Castle Crabstone, and the third was Castle Grey. These massive walled keeps were designed to withstand a seige by enemy or by storm, but the many hundreds of hovels, tents, and shacks that spring up around them are periodically swept away by the huricanes that sweep in from the deep oceans.

On the larboard side the wealthiest house of all, House Samarquoil, had its sprawling palace. The merchant lords of House Samarquoil held the rights to all the wealth of the nearby river delta, and surrounding lands. The soft and hardwoods of the forests to the north, as well as the rare and exotic herbs and spices of the river delta were much prized throughout all known realms. House Samarquoil had wealth enough to construct their own floating colonial outpost near the mouth of the delta, which has become an offshoot suburb of Freepot.

Four great merchant houses rose to power in the city, and they formed an alliance which they named the Marquoil Treaty. Since its signing, centuries ago, the four houses have continued to rise in power and prestige to control nearly all shipping in the region. According to the treaty, one lord is voted by the free populace of the city to become the First Lord. The merchant rules for life, and resides in the fortress. He controls the Free Navy, made up of an equal number of ships from each of the four houses, and the Free Marines.

The current first lord is Arnace Tallyman, who has lived in the fortress for many long years. Some say he will never die, but only become richer and richer until the weight of the gold sinks the fortress into the sea.

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After missing last week due to some emergency dental surgery (ugh) it was nice to be back in the saddle. Since my son (and co-dm) was in the middle of an intense Warhammer 40k battle with one of the players when I arrived, we decided to let them keep playing and consolidated the DnD’ers into one large table of 7. It was a nice experience. I have always favored large groups for Encounters, it was great to have a large table again after so many weeks of playing with 4 or 5. I was also glad to see most of the regulars were back. After standing them up last week, I was sure that they would do the same to me. Thankfully, I was wrong, and it shows what an awesome crew of players I have to put up with my shenanigans and return week after week.

I was sad to miss week 5, since it seemed especially awesome, but week 6 looked good too, so I was caught in a conundrum. In the end, I decided to work both encounters into one, and with the 7 players, it made it possible to combine the monsters, or one notable monster that is.

The party was just waking up from their naps, after spending the night chasing shadows, when a young strangely dressed fellow showed up, begging them to come see his grandmother. He wore clothes with strange patterns embroidered into them, and wide flapping lapels. The paladin knew his kind –Vistani. They were a nomadic people who never stayed one place long, and who were often accused of nefarious activities. This kid seemed honest enough under the paladins glaring eyes, and so they agreed to follow him.

Mother Grivelda met them at a house outside town, and had heard of the heaors exploits. She had one question for them – who was buried in Evards tomb? When they guessed Evard, he chuyckled and told them no, the body was switched and Vontarin was buried in the tomb. She said his old house was nearby, and they they should seek it out for clues to the curse that has befallen the town of Duponde. As she spoke, they heard a long wailing howl of a wolf in the woods outside. She then asked them if they would like to have their fortunes read, and Gale the hunter, Connie the vampire, and one or two others agreed. She told them of dark times ahead, and of the fear of loss, and told the vampire specifically to keep to the shadows. The party then left and made their way down the lane towards the abandoned house of Vontarin.

As they walked, they heard more wolf sounds, this time from closer, and Gale thought she might have seen a flitting shadow, but soon they left the woods behind, and came to a hill atop which the ruins lay. The courtyard was empty, and a fountain with black sludge stood between statues of Vontarin, one on horseback, one on a seahorse.

The invoker stepped forward and tried the door, it was locked. The house was in ruins, with part of the roof caved in, but all the windows were shuttered, and some looked recently nailed shut. Also, there were recent tracks of men and beasts leading to the locked door. This was all the minotaur needed, and he charged forward, slamming into the doors with his be-horned head, smashing the doors off their hinges and 10 feet into the dark, dusty interior. He was immediately attacked by a pair of drakes. If dogs are man’s best friend, then drakes are surely monsters best friend. No self respecting humanoid is without at least one guard drake. In this house were a pair. One was small, but what it lacked in stature it made up for in fangs. Its had fangs hanging out of its mouth, pointing every direction, and it knew how to use them. It charged the minotaur and bit into his thigh. Meanwhile, the other drake was larger and covered in green scaly hide. It sat back on its haunches and its throat expanded like a bull frog’s before disgorging a huge glob of acid that arced across the room and splashed into the minotaur.

The rest of the party moved into the room, except for Gaunt the shadow wizard who moved around one side, and Gale the hunter who kept alert outside the front door. She noticed a shadow flit behind a nearby tree and without hesitation she fired an arrow at a shoulder just visible. A wolf-like howl met her attack, and out of the cover of the tree a half-man half-wolf came bounding. Along the way it pulled the arrow out of its shoulder, and Gale watched with fear as the wound began to close. It then slashed the hunter knocking her down. It bit her too, then leapt into the doorway to take on the others.

Meanwhile, a party of 4 red-skinned demi-humans with tapering horns on their heads – tieflings – stood up from one back corner of the house where they were playing a game of cards. They rushed forward ,and from the other end of the house came a huge tiefling with a flaming bastard sword in his hands. He struck out at the paladin and the rune priest.

Connie the vampire wore a wide brimmed hat to keep the sun off, and as she was hit with a glob of drake spit, the hat began crumbling from the acid. I warned her that it was a good thing she was in the house, since it was high noon outside and her hat was destroyed. On her turn as a minor action, she put on another hat.

The melee was fierce as the allies and enemies crowded into the front room of the ruined manor. The card playing tieflings went down quick, but their boss was harder to kill, and he stood in front of the spitting drake, protecting it. The werewolf tore into the allies from the door, while the tieflings hit them from the other side. But these are heroes, and they turned the tide. After the minions and the chihua-drake were slain, the party ganged up on the boss and the werewolf, and the battle was won. The poor spitting drake was the last to go down, spitting and backing away until it was finally, mercifully slaughtered.

After seeing the flaming bastard sword, the hulking minotaur knew that he would feel inadequate if he continued using his rapier, and he took it with a smile. Now that’s a sword worthy of a minotaur.

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