Breaking the back of the island complex’s external defenses had been a harrowing endeavor, forcing the Party to put a small army of fanatical mercenaries to the sword. Were they still the conquering heroes as they wished to believe, or had they become something darker along the way? Certainly the slaving operation was in its death throes, with the bulk of its manpower gone, and only the innermost sanctum of the island’s compound not taken.
The lead slaver, Grusenomar Vleddril was still elsewhere searching for the Group, while his primary client, the Brolenese slave trader Melnul Corguld and his consort Uziah sat chained in the hold of the liberated slave ship. The wicked pair’s slave rowers had been freed, and now aided the Group against the allies of their former owners. If ever a time existed to lay down one’s sword, it had surely come and gone…and yet those within the final building remained.
Godday, Twenty-seventh of Mid-season Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
Taxed nearly to the limit after the hellacious outer fighting, the Party decided regrouping was the better of their options and withdrew from the complex, once more returning to the freed slave ship and placing the vessel in the Bay, but within striking distance of the island. Watches were set to maintain vigil for incoming reinforcements – or escaping slavers – while the majority on board the ship went about their sleeping habits.
The passage of night proceeded peacefully enough, with the Group soon rejoined by Grond Plonnor and “Architect” Norforn. The pair arrived during the first watch, their approach spotted by Maldus and their tiny dingey quickly hoisted aboard. The brothers through marriage reported that the rescued women were safe on the “Audacious” but that they displayed rattled nerves, resulting in minor squabbles with Captain Alon over accommodations.
With their report given, the two men found a quiet spot below decks and drifted off to much needed sleep while Brendolm occupied himself with discussion of the Creator and religion amongst various unchained slaves on the main deck. Stoat and Hilg took second watch, their shift being both safe and uneventful. It was the third watch, that of Relmir and Zeph where the calm of the night was broken, and blood would once again be spilled.
Intending a wide ‘net’ for detection, the two warriors walked separate paths, with Relmir patrolling the ship’s stern, and Zeph covering the bow. As the fighters made their rounds, a pair of arrows loosed from a single bowstring, flying directly toward Zeph in the black of night. Activating his gauntlets, the burly warrior reflected one arrow back into his attacker, but was unable to stop the second. The unreflected projectile found its mark, piercing his throat with poisoned tip.
Falling to his knees, Zeph gasped for air as another arrow entered his body, delivering a second, fatal dose of poison into his system. His eyes rolled skyward and he landed hard upon the deck, his form now lifeless. The shouting of a freed slave called Rarnok Suvok Vofa (who had come on deck) alerted Relmir to the situation, but there was nothing the towering warrior could do. Zeph was slain, and the assassin gone. A hasty alarm roused the ship’s occupants.
Unable to find the assailant after an exhaustive search of the vessel, the Party reluctantly ordered a return trip to Cosolen. The delay would most assuredly grant their enemies time to prepare, but Zeph’s combat prowess would be invaluable in the coming engagement. Rendezvousing with the “Audacious”, the Group turned southward, toward the capital.
Veshday, Twenty-eighth of Mid-season Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
Purchasing the required material components for a reincarnation spell, Hilg set about conducting the ritual as the remainder of the Party entered The Estates to report to Prince Sevlen. The slave trader Melnul Corguld and his consort Uziah were presented and the facts of their involvement were exposed. In exchange for their freedom, the pair pledged to locate and return as many of the kidnapped women as possible, a task agreed to be overseen by the Golden Alliance.
Folikar Pateris, guild master of the Cosolen branch of the Alliance offered his aid in the mission and assured His Highness that no effort would be spared until all possible citizens of Cosdol had been returned. In order to facilitate the transport of the women, the slaver’s ship was returned, but his gold and slave rowers remained forfeit. Being in a position to do little else, the Brolenese acquiesced and exited under guard and Golden Alliance escort.
With the slaver’s business complete, the Prince turned to Brendolm, bidding him come forth. He explained that the Paladin’s holdings in the hamlet of Tigden had been made ready, and that the time had come for him to take his place as Lord and Protector of the tiny settlement. The Party’s own reports listed the island menace as all but defeated, and as such Sevlen insisted that the Group would be capable of completing the mission without him.
Ordered to name a champion to journey onward in his stead, the Knight Paladin selected the recently freed slave Rarnok Suvok Vofa to succeed him. The pair’s discussions of religion on board the slaver’s ship had proven the gnome honest enough, and his sounding of the alarm in the face of the assassin’s attack had shown his willingness to act as a member of the Group. His ability to fit into Brendolm’s suit of halfling-sized armor made the choice all but preordained.
Elsewhere, Hilg’s reincarnation of Zeph was completed, albeit with one minor issue. The new body created by the spell was that of a halfling; hardly a suitable form for the previously bulky warrior. Declaring his capability as a sword for hire decimated, the fighter bid the Party seek out a new companion. As with Malmir before him, Zeph found work at the Academy, following a recommendation from Stoat. He would now instruct swordsmanship alongside Frenid Rolcon.
Diaday, First of Replanting, 1044 Y.K.
Attempting to recruit a solid replacement for Zeph, the Party remained in the capital, tending to other smaller businesses in the meantime. Hilg at long last received his Dragonscale Cloak, while Relmir devoted a considerable quantity of gold for two permanency scrolls towards Dokari’s plans for her crystal ball. As nightfall neared, the illusionary elf had another announcement to make, Grusenomar Vleddril had entered Cosolen!
Maintaining periodic scrying on the slaver as promised, the elven illusion had spotted him in a large city, which at first glance she did not recognize. However, as her monitoring continued, landmarks and buildings became more familiar, and soon she realized his location: Cosolen. Unable to give his exact position at that moment due to his being inside a structure, Dokari vowed to inform the Group of any update.
Pelsday, Second of Replanting, 1044 Y.K.
Fearing that the island slavers might slip away if they delayed any longer, the Group met with Captain Alon, who readied his vessel for sail. Whilst the Party packed itself aboard the ship, Stoat made a quick stop to the office of Forberon, antiquities dealer, and broker of magical items for the wizard’s guild of Cosolen. As had been promised in the days before, the Infiltrator’s shortbow had been magically augmented, and was now ready.
The Group made good time, the day’s sail being set to clear skies and and calm waters. By late afternoon the familiar port at Cunvden had been reached, and only a handful of hours were needed to allow darkness to fall before making their final attack on the slavers. Once again leaving the “Audacious” safely away, the Party approached the island’s final obstacle from the north, hoping their enemies would assume another attack from the south.
A token guard-post outside the final building fell quickly, allowing the Group entrance into the main structure. As they moved inward, Stoat separated himself, climbing to the roof and entering from above. Inside the main front-rooms lay the prepared defense the Group had expected. A formation of heavily armored shield bearers defended a rear line of pikemen, and additional assassins sniped arrows from hidden positions.
With the fighting coming to a head down below, Stoat crept about the upper level, picking off guardians and searching rooms. The passing by of the enemy leader flanked by an assassin bodyguard halted his advance, forcing him into hiding to avoid detection. He followed the pair, soon coming overtop of the main battle through a secret passage. The wizard leader placed himself well behind his minions, and engaged the Party with spells from afar.
Using spells of their own, Maldus and Hilg cut a swath through the shield line and opened a hole for their melee counterparts to use, granting them access to the rear formation. His presence still unknown, Stoat ambushed the enemy leader, sending him scrambling away in a desperate attempt at survival. A mad dash for a rear exit ended with the conjurer’s demise. Seeing his employer felled, the assassin bodyguard fled the scene, leaving the lesser followers to perish.
Having achieved final victory at long last, the Party reveled in success, and began to plan an exit strategy for the many captive women. The trip back to the capital would seemingly be a crowded one.