Our story opened with the damaged frigate slipping past the Anarchy, both ships having fired their bearing guns just before the pass in old sea tradition. Onboard, the party came to grips with the message Arndt had just sent, and wondered at the identity of the shrouded figure they could see on his weatherdeck through the spyglass. In short order, as the frigate and its escorts retreated, the Vengeance came alongside the Anarchy, bringing the party aboard by small boat.
Once there, the group greeted Arndt and caught up for a bit with him and his crew before turning their attention to the shrouded figure waiting in the captain’s cabin. She introduced herself as Talia Carsindan, former paladin and descendant of Arturo Ducet, now fallen from grace and among the most powerful of Ducet’s followers- and the namesake of Talia’s Vengeance. Though her very presence put some of the party on edge, they group found her more agreeable and forthcoming with information than Ducet had ever been. In their conversation, she told them a bit about her history and her work alongside Ducet (whom she somewhat creepily refers to as “Father”). She informed the party that her interest was piqued with Finn’s communication to Arndt about their plans- she had been aboard several days at that point, seeking a way through the Black Fleet perimeter and get enough information about the commander in Haralin to target and remove him, per “Father’s” wishes. And thus, she offered a partnership. They breach the shore together, then go their separate ways. She would help the party as it suited her plans, but her goal was only to kill the commander of forces ashore in Haralin, and make it messy and terrifying. Once the party agreed, Talia hired Thuli and the Anarchy on temporarily to help with the plan, and they waited for darkness.
Having moved along the shore a good distance from the scene of the battle, their ship made for a wide cove as the last vestiges of sunlight slipped from the sky. A rowboat transferred them a short way before they moved farther on their own. Moving closer, they spotted two watchposts close enough to have a chance to make them out as they moved through the surf. Using a series of spells, the party slipped undetected between the watchposts and up the short, rocky cliff that formed a natural barrier between the beach and the island beyond. As they made their way farther inland, they spotted a disturbance at one of the posts as what could only be Talia attacked the guard there and disappeared into the night. Discretion being the better part of valor, they moved quickly to put distance between themselves and the confused sentry or possibly dead body that would soon be discovered there. Consulting their rudimentary map, the party decided to head for the road on the far side of the island and use that to proceed south toward the city. After a safe distance had been covered and they were thoroughly embedded in the wild spaces of the island, the group settled in to camp for the night.
During the night, whistling sounds from far away in the south could be heard on the air, but were not easily assignable to any particular source. As day broke, Zayn summoned horses to speed the party’s advance across the island. Much of the first day of travel, both overland and on the road, was uneventful. At one point, Tarsus inadvertently sprang a trap left in the road, taking bad cuts along with a little bruising to his ego, but nothing life-threatening. The trap consisted of a smattering of small blades and used a drawn sapling to provide spring energy- it seemed to have been set quickly with few materials, but was nonetheless effective at convincing the group to travel more carefully. Camp that night went peacefully, all things considered, with only more mysterious noises in the night from far away south.
On the second day, travel along the road was going smoothly until the group came upon a small marine scout patrol. Trying to assert their way past the patrol, the group’s efforts were firmly rebuffed by the leader. He barely got out a direct ultimatum when Sindar and Tarsus both attacked him. The patrol’s two archers were ready for the attack, and returned fire immediately. A lot of blood was spilled in a short time, but the group came out decidedly on top, with only the patrol’s leader left alive. The group questioned him, and he remained uncooperative, but professional. Deciding against more of a body trail, the party knocked him out and left him as they proceeded south. Moving off the road slightly, they traded some movement speed for increased safety from other patrols. It took several more hours to reach their first goal, the village of Sado, where they hoped to check on the locals and perhaps gain some intel on the marines. Instead, they found only death.
It seemed the entire village had been massacred. A shallow mass grave was filled with the bodies of the former inhabitants, covered over with lime chalk. The village had been pillaged and stripped of valuables, as well. Swallowing their disgust, the party took what time they could to deal with proper funeral rights before moving on. Two hours later, they came upon the nearby village of Berin. There, the scene in Sado was repeated with stark efficiency. It seemed that the Black Fleet took their motto very seriously- “Clear the way”, indeed. The only difference in Berin was that the mass grave was slightly outside of town, near a scene that looked like the villagers had tried to form a defensive line with whatever they had for weapons. After the same routine as they had taken in Sado, the party moved on again.
After several more hours, they came to Hoppis, a small hamlet carved into the rock of the low hilly range that marked the island’s west shore at this latitude. And again, they were greeted only by a long, shallow ditch full of dead bodies covered in lime to mask the smell. After doing what they could for the lost souls of this village, the group decided to bunker up in one of the stone slab buildings and rest for the night. Setting out the next morning, they made quickly for Haralin. Part way through the day, the group came upon a strange patch of road, only to discover immediately that it concealed a fire trap that was lit by a nearby archer. As soon as the searing arrow was away from his bow, he ran into the woods. Pushing through the mediocre damage of the trap, the party gave chase. Seconds later, the real trap was sprung as more archers revealed themselves from elevated positions when the party chased their prey into a gully. Scout marines with swords rushed the party at the same time, and the fight was on.
These soldiers were not looking for prisoners, opening up with a flurry of slaying arrows meant to kill lesser foes outright. The party responded in kind, but the superior position of the archers began taking its toll in a hurry. Finn did his level best to keep everyone on their feet, but some members of the party came very close to collapsing. Tarsus left an impressive trail of dead melee fights as he worked his way across the battlefield, but only stayed standing due to a last-second heroic intervention from Finn. This perceived weakness baited some of the remaining archers to abandon advantageous positions for better killshots, and Sindar and Zayn capitalized on the mistake, wiping out the remaining marines. Searching corpses, they found written orders to kill Sindar and capture Tarsus. It seemed they party had probably not found everyone from that earlier scout patrol, after all. Someone had make it back ahead of them to report in, and it was unlikely to be the nearly crippled sergeant they left behind.
Deciding they were a little too light on intel to proceed safely, Finn used a Speak with Dead spell on one of the dead soldiers to try an glean some information. He learned the names of the overall commander of Imperial forces in Haralin, as well as the scout commander that penned the orders they had found. Finn further discovered a few key tidbits about the details of the wall defenses of the inland sides of Haralin.
Our story closed as the group removed what useful things they could find before burying the soldiers’ bodies and moving on.
The vote has been tabled in the Asad while missing delegates are searched for and rescued. An automatic procedural clock of 60 days started when they went missing, with 12 days now remaining before the delegates are declared dead and replaced.
The Black Fleet has been spotted in Riyaqan waters, moving east along the southern coast.
Quote of the Day
“I have only visceral objections to consensual polymorphed bestiality.” -Tarsus