The next morning, Xil-ta arrived at Boccob’s Barge just as the crew woke from their sleep. He inspected the helm and revised his estimate of the repair time down to just three days. Of course, that did not mean it would be less expensive, much to Sumner Redhorn’s disappointment.
As they discussed the repairs with the Arcane, First Mate Rexor reported that several of the crew did not show up during roll call: Bo’sun Zorag, Kagark, Corva, and Pallas. In the meantime, Xil-ta reported to Captain Straxius that he needed to return to his shop to retrieve some supplies and had his next favor to ask of the crew: travel to a world called Eorôe and retrieve a crystal of ice from there. It was more than simply frozen water, however, as large as a man and they would probably have to deal with the giants on the world in order to retrieve it. Xil-ta didn’t know in which sphere Eorôe was, however; the crew of Boccob’s Barge would have to locate it, and figure out how to keep the crystal intact on their own.
They had a few days to mull over the details, though, because there was a matter of their missing crew. Rexor figured they weren’t deserters, as all their gear was still in their footlockers. Veya, Flint, and Zinni were certain Kagark wouldn’t just abandon them, especially his precious Veya, so they decided to hit the taverns to look for them after Straxius paid a visit to Red Ríognach’s Pleasure Barge.
Red Ríognach was more than just the madam of a brothel; she was one of the Rock of Bral’s premier information brokers. Drunk, oversexed sailors have loose lips, and no one (with the possible exception of Luigi the Beholder) knew more about the Dwarven, Elven, Human, and others’ fleet movements than Red. Her information on Illithid, Neogi, and Beholder fleets were limited however, since the crew of those fleets didn’t frequent her brothel.
When they entered The Pleasure Barge, they were greeted by Red’s major domo, Murray, the Demonic Talking Skull. After his usual tirade of bluster and regret (“There’s so much tasty here and I have no lips and no arms!”), he got down to determining if they were punters or dark seekers. After sussing out “dark seeker” referred to a client of Red’s seeking information, they were permitted to pass through to see Red.
Information she didn’t have was as good as gold to Red, so she accepted Straxius’s account of the Mind Flayer-Beholder battle at the edge of Realmspace in exchange for the location of Eorôe. It was in a sphere called Patria, approximately fifty-eight days away at standard cruising speed through the Flow currents (Radiant Flow à Arcane Inner Flow à Casa Flow. Due to the direction of the currents, the return trip would be about five days shorter.
Their first stop after the Pleasure Barge was the Rock Rat Tavern. After buying a round of drinks, especially for the giff from the HMS Mandragora who were looking for a fight, the crew determined that Kagark and Zorag were drinking there the night before, and overindulged. They were dumped in a couple of rooms upstairs, but were gone when the barkeep kicked all the hungover drunks out in the morning.
The crew decided to split up to cover the remained taverns the ship’s crew commonly frequented. As they did so, Straxius and Sumner noticed someone follow them out of the Rock Rat Tavern. Straxius cast a quick suggestion spell and lured their tail over. Thanks to the enchantment, he revealed he was Van Sallus, a former member of the Red Knives who overheard the crew of Boccob’s Barge inquiring about their missing crewmates. He said he, too, was looking for a missing friend: his sister, Gwen. He believed they were all abducted by the Red Knives, a group of thieves and thugs he left when he found out they were diversifying into selling slaves to vampires for food. Furthermore, he told them the Red Knives main headquarters was under The Red Bull Tavern; the tavern was just a front.
Straxius recalled Flint, Veya, and Zinni as Van explained that going in through the front was a bad idea and he knew of a back entrance that lead directly to the holding area where any prisoners would be. He led them to a decrepit, abandoned church in the Middle City called the Church of Tenebrous. An aura of unease surrounded the building and it was only through sheer force of willpower that they were able to proceed into the building.
The Church of Tenebrous was dusty, full of cobwebs, and falling apart. Plaster fell from the ceiling in chunks as they made their way through the pews and flickers of apparitions appeared in the periphery of their vision as otherworldly moans filled the air. They pressed on, eventually finding the door that lead to the crypt, just as Van Sallas described.
They followed the stairs down, down into the crypt. Flickering scones lit the chamber in dim yellow light as they picked their way through the resting places of the dead. Rats scattered underfoot. Eventually, they reached a dead end where they found the secret door Van Sallus described. It opened into a portion of the Rock of Bral’s sewer system. Following his instructions to stick to the level path, they waded through the muck to another dead end.
Another secret door and a quick passage through rock and they found a wooden door. Beyond that: a small living area. They heard voices coming from a chamber nearby and, after verifying no one else was in the living chambers, they burst in on the meeting.
Five ghouls, three Red Knives, and a Mind Flayer were gathered around an oubliette discussing prices. Veya charged in after hearing Kagark’s voice from the depths of the oubliette and the battle was joined. The illithid immediately began casting a spell that was interrupted by a counterspell from Straxius and the three Red Knives laid into Veya, wounding the barbarian woman severely. Flint turned the ghouls with the power of Sune.
The illithid opened a portal and stepped through, leaving the ghouls and Red Knives to the crew of Boccob’s Barge. One of the ghouls was unaffected by Sune’s power and paralyzed Flint. Straxius cast a suggestion at one of the Red Knives, convincing him the battle was won and he should celebrate at The Laughing Beholder. The remaining ghoul and two Red Knives were slain and when Flint recovered, he herded the cowering ghouls to the back bedroom where they were locked in.
The crew helped the half-dozen prisoners out of the oubliette. Kagark, the three missing crewmembers, Gwen, and one other were all there and greatly relieved. So too relieved, were the dead Red Knives, of their possessions, that is, among them a magical marble elephant (a figurine of wondrous power), a wand (a wand of binding), and clockwork-embellished short sword (a giant slayer). They also found invoices proving the Red Knives were dealing in slaves and planned to frame the Jugglers for it. Straxius turned the papers over to the town guard who indicated they would follow up with them at their ship tomorrow.
They returned to The Laughing Beholder, intent on dealing with the Red Knife they sent there, only to discovered he never arrived. A mystery for another time….
A bit of investigation and a bit of combat made of a rousing second session. Either I’m more into the game right now than I’ve been in a long time, or running my own material is much easier now than it was a couple of years ago. It’s possible 5E’s ease of preparation is making it better for me than Pathfinder was, even though I was running an Adventure Path. The fact that I don’t have to read, read, learn, and read someone else’s material is possibly another factor. I just flat-out told everyone I intended to be more generous with the magic items than Hoard of the Dragon Queen was. I think part of that is I love the quirk tables included in 5E for magic items; I plan to expand them.
While writing up this synopsis, I discovered I printed out the wrong version of the Flow map to put under the plexiglass on my table. Oops. Oh well, it’s accurate enough for now until I get around to sending the proper version to Staples. The next session should see the crew getting back into Wildspace… unless they get distracted by the Rock of Bral some more….
As an aside, I did seriously consider calling the campaign “Brain Eaters and Beholders.” “Favors of the Arcane” is a little more sophisticated, I think.