Chapter 2: Windfall, lost in the wilderness
Windfall llc. left the cursed town of Surebrook with the pirate Gorebag. His armada took on supplies from the slowly-reforming-from-a-life-of-murder townspeople and set sail on the Midnight Sea. The adventurers were on board the living ship Bountiful Harvest, captained by the mad Dryad Verbena.
The heroes were at sea for weeks, locked in their cabins. The ships sailed in the absolute blackness of the Underdark, feeling their way through narrow passages between rock and stalagmite. No lights were permitted outside the ship for fear of attracting the horrors that dwelt in the underneath.
The armada stopped at the Necropolis of Vaash to take on fresh supplies and to deliver goods and mail. The Vaash were an old people who lived above ground before the Empire came. They were amazed to meet Elves and Dwarves and were consumed with jealousy at their long lifespans. The Vaash retreated underground and formed a monastery on the Midnight Sea. They hollowed out stalactites 13-stories tall and filled them with libraries, laboratories, research teams. They discovered the path of Undeath and accepted it freely.
After hundreds of years, the Vaash's city of the undead spreads across dozens of stalactites, linked by rope bridges. Every building researches something different and new. Petitioners find their way to the Necropolis every day seeking answers. But the price is steep: one year of labor for every answer given. The question is asked, the contract is signed and the work begins. The seeker may quit at any time, but to do so is to forfeit all the time spent.
As the Bountiful Harvest approached, Windfall saw a thief cast from the upper tiers of the stalactite building plunge into icy, shark infested waters. The Windfall group took an opportunity to stretch their collective legs on the dock of the necropolis and questioned the skeletal clerk supervising the intake. Would the Vaash be able to help with the leaking seal below their tower? Perhaps, but could they afford to wait a year? Guy attempted to broker the service of the town of Surebrook, but the clerk was uninterested.
On the dock, Geon spied a familiar face--or rather, head--in Didion Greytongue. Didion cursed at the Windfallers for wrecking her plans and attacked. The Clerk--who forbids violence of any non-research sort--cast her into the water. Windfall had a quick conference and decided to save her from the numerous sharks. Orzul pelted them with a hail of arrows. Taru walked amongst them with her water-walking boots and stabbed with her lightning glaive and Rangrim used his practiced seamanship skills to rope Didion and drag her on board the boat.
Didion told Rangrim and Guy and Mokshel her story: her father had been taken from her at a young age by the Duke for political reasons and imprisoned in The Pin--an island fortress prison far off the coast. She had working to secure Stonecutter to bust him out, but when Windfall stopped that plan she had pledged herself to the Vaash in exchange for answers regarding the prison's security systems. But that was all ruined now. Guy pledged that Windfall would help her, after they fixed the seal.
The Raven Queen came to our heroes in a dream. She said that the Windfallers were in danger of being catspaws of the Gods. There was a game afoot. She also implied that she would look after them; that the Duke was her enemy.
After another week at sea, the armada arrived at the secret underground port at ArcAngel.
* * *
ArcAngel was for many years a prosperous, Dwarven mining town--formerly named CragHang. It was conquered by the previous Duke for the Empire and the city became integrated. A minority human population built up on the Eastern side of ArcAngel, running the usual merchant concerns.
At the secret port Gorebag introduced the adventurers to Khel Moonsong, a morose half-elf who managed a bar in town. Khel lead the heroes through a winding rock passage up to the bar where he worked. The bar was occupied with cranky, mutinous Dwarves who did not warm up to Orzul's advances.
Windfall did not like ArcAngel. Desperate to find a way back across the hundreds of miles of snow-covered mountains to their home, their tower, and their leaking seal, our heroes resisted getting sucked into the treacherous politics in the town.
They were approached by a leader of the Dwarves, Madbeard Barleycorn, who wanted them to cause a distraction at the mines to lure away the guards from City Hall. While the leader of the Blue Temple, High Priest Vilkata wanted them to pacify striking miners.
What they didn't know was this: The Blue Temple, a predatory banking institution, had set up shop in ArcAngel. They moved against Dwarven interests raising taxes, raising prices, and fixing an election. Deep within the Blue Temple the God of conquest, Bane, was pushing for an all out war between the Dwarves and the Duke, with the Blue Temple secretly pushing both sides. The Duke's army didn't know what they were getting into, thinking it was a minor labor dispute. And the Dwarves had been chafing for decades, ever since their loss.
The Dwarves had made deals with Duergar and Giants who dwelt under the mountain. The Duergar would provide spies, assassins, muscle in a war in exchange for Dwarven women to breed with. The Giants prepared the mountains themselves as weapons.
Windfall stumbled into the middle of this and tried to play both sides by going to the mines. It was an ambush. Elite soldiers of the Temple attacked them. Windfall collapsed the entire mine upon their heads.
* * *
The Windfall group fled from the cave in and were spotted by some air guards. Windfall killed the guards--one escaped--and Orzul managed to tame a hippogriff. The Windfallers worked out that there was a ledger somewhere with the names of the mounts. Perhaps in the headquarters of the Duke's guards?
The entire regiment was drawn away by massive rioting and fires down in ArcAngel, so the Windies crept in unnoticed. They killed several guards and witnessed a band of peons be dissolved in a gout of acid. A dragon was nearby! At the end of the day, our ragtag band of rebels found themselves in a dusty alcove, covered in blood, staring at a scribe surrounded by piles of books.
* * *
Our heroes fought off Madbeard and his Duergar guards, but the mayor died in the process. Mokshel wielded Stonecutter against the Duergar with lethal effectiveness. Afterwards they caught more Hippogriffs and fled.
* * *
Fleeing the riots in ArcAngel (where Bane the God of Coquest had made his presence known) on the backs of stolen military hippogriffs. They passed the Shrike--the Duke's go-to guy for wetworks--and decided not to get involved. The Shrike was a short, thin, blonde one-armed man carrying only a longsword on his back.
The Windfallers followed a river that would lead them back to Briarton, back to their tower and back to the leaky seal. Those who were attuned to the tower could feel a distant unpleasant sensation, like centipedes in their trousers.
Atop a snowy mountain the adventurers came upon a band of drunken and bewildered men standing outside a hunting lodge. They explained that one of their conquests hadn't been as dead as they'd thought. Grudgingly the Windfall group entered the lodge to investigate. Inside they found the bodies of a few hunters and an enormous, injured Bulette. The armored land shark attacked. Rangrim taunted it as only a Dwarven sailor could and provoked the beast to focus on him while the rest of the adventurers unloaded everything they had on the beast. Orzul fumbled while trying to throw alchemical fire on the beast and set herself on fire, for the second time in as many months. Windfall succeeded. The beast was slain. The hunters happily carved it up for dinner while Mokshel searched it's stomach for treasure.
Many miles on our heroes came across a merchant caravan being devoured by an enormous Purple Worm. Windfall distracted the beast and saved the merchants and guards, leaving the horses as worm food. They deposited the civilians at a dusty roadhouse not far away and camped outside. Taru used a new ritual she had learned to summon the spirits of internet memes to craft the perfect campsite. The spirits spent far too little time on campsite creation and far too much time singing the Peanut Butter Jelly Time song.
In the morning the team mounted their stolen military vehicles and flew to the crater where Surebrook once had been. Tears were shed. Everyone stared at the scenic outlook. Guy poured a 40 out for his homies. And then it was on to Briarton!
(End of Chapter 2)
At Briarton our heroes found their tower surrounded by a military encampment. More of the Duke's army. They had invaded the tower and dug deep into the earthbeside it with the help of sub-contracted Dwarves. Windfall hid their mounts on a local farm (owned by their old landlady, Susan) and gathered for a good think.