In which we find an opportunity for transportation and uneasy acquaintances...
With a modest raft exchanged for the lives of some of its previous owners, the band of Morella the Necromancer with two zombies shambling alongside, Elsinore Blackheart the Pirate, Natasha of the Southern Kingdom, Igor of Uberwald with her undead liege Elizabeth Bathory, and Xenia of the Seventh Kingdom set out with Zadoh, the runt from Lethberg. The slow, winding waters carry them toward Lethberg, in the waters of which Zadoh was first nabbed. Zadoh, rather taken with the diminutive but uniquely attired Igor, swam about in the sluggish waters through the night. When aboard, he was cagey about his home, but swore of a boon that would be available to them. Through the tall trees of the swamp Lethberg came into view, shadowed by the rising sun at their backs.
They were met by a small crowd of similarly wide mouthed, large eyed locals, skin blended with various green and pink scales. Largest and leading them begrudgingly welcomed Zadoh back onto the floating village. Zadoh referring to the lawman as Custodian Ajrough. At the mention of reward for bringing Zadoh back, he scoffed, insulted Zadoh, and offered them audience with the Priestess of the Cove, Mazra. Near the oceanside of the village a circular, half-sunken dome rose. Guards opened the way wordlessly.
(Image Credit: Turkish Coffee Set from FairTurk.com)
Within, the room was dimly illuminated by single orb of light which, when its suspension was followed, led to a hulking, rotund figure half submerged in water. The edges of the hut were lined with bones, some fish, some terrestrial, and at least one humanoid. Mazra, cryptic but generous, offered Elsinore a ship if she would only extinguish the lights of three nearby lighthouses. Mazra explained that the lighthouses frightened the fish that they survived on. A ship would be made available to them, though no such vessel seemed ported outside. While uncertain, the party agreed. Ajrough explained the locations of the three beacons: One to the north on a spit of land at the very edge of Port Capital's reach run by a dwarf, a second to the south in the village of La Boiselle, and the third on the island of Tuga a half day out from La Boiselle.
So with their bartered raft and through the chop of the sea, they ventured north.
~ ~ ~
The beam of the lighthouse cut into the twilight to the north. Morella understood at a glance that the vast sheets of ice and snow capped peaks lay beyond. It was night's domain and from here the horizon was star-speckled indigo. Not yet, she thought, not quite yet.
Having made no attempt at stealth, and two grumbling undead trailing them, the dwarf spoken of by Ajrough could be seen standing on the front step of the tower. His sun-kissed skin contrasted with the gray stone and chilly surrounding, though he wore robes or a single, lengthy bolt wrapped and tied ingeniously about him. His beard was banded in straight twin streams down his front his hair bound to match.
He offered hail and welcome, saying he had just made coffee and would be happy for guests with which to enjoy it, though the shambling dead would have to wait outside. Shrugging, the party entered. Within, fine wood furniture and a rug lay about the room, adorned in the geometric styles of the Southern Kingdom. With various chitchat, the dwarf introduced himself as Aldigo and he was bound, through some odd means, into service by Yvette Solio, the de facto mayor La Boiselle. He seemed rather unappreciative of the service and that if a unique doll, somewhat like a soldier with a scimitar at its belt, might be returned he would be free to leave.
While pouring coffee to the charming dwarf, several of the party members spied short, blunt horns beneath his hair and a a certain sharp smile on Aldigo's lips. Igor, interested in the lighthouse itself, asked for the tour, to which Aldigo agreed. Natasha delayed a moment to gain arcane sight and could see the presence of illusion all about, with more radiating out from Aldigo himself. In the upper chambers was a bed chambers, also in the southern style, and above the torch-room itself.
Morella, her blade and arms hungry for combat, was particuarly intrigued by the light. She approached, its pillar of flame seemingly contained in a warm membrane. Mirrors along the outer wall rotated in a circular track, sending the yellow-orange beam in either direction of the sea. Aldigo stepped back as Morella prodded the membrane with her finger and was blasted with the barely contained flame forcing her back. Natasha, however, could see the chamber itself was luminous with the magic of the membrane, the column of flame, and Aldigo himself.
Heavy with the sense of mystery, they lightly acquiesced to recovering the doll for Aldigo. They walked from the tower whispering of what his illusion may conceal.
~ ~ ~
Rafting through the evening and night, they came upon the beacon of La Boiselle in pre-dawn darkness. They tied off the riverrats' raft, evaded the snoozing harbormaster, and entered the sleeping market square. Eager to learn of the locals' medical abilities, Igor led the others to the temple of healing and the lower hall. The edges of the room were open to the seawater which provided a distinct chill and reduced the odor of the three corpses there. They had been adorned with oils to prevent their further rot, especially one cut where his neck met his torso, by a fairly dull instrument. While useful, the medicament array may prove too volatile for hasty travel.
(Note: We used the nearby image as a map while ditching many of the location names and treating the castle as both the Solio mansion and the lighthouse. The cemetery also became a public garden. Image Credit: www.alexandersingleton.com)
From the temple, they spotted the earliest of risers heading to the docks for fishing. The baker, as well, could be seen hard at work within. Xenia, eager for some morning pastry, entered. Via, the baker, was a round, older woman who was short to pull from the oven fine pastries decorated with red berries and cheese. The others soon entered to dine on the danish and offered aid, though Via assured them that she had her duties under control. Except for unloading yesterday's bread which lay stacked in a small boat. Via chatted as she worked, saying that Solio would be expected delivery soon of her morning pastries. The party, not particularly charming at this early hour, only proved themselves by unloading the day old loaves on Berrick of the Rook's Nest just up the street. (Igor was unable to sort how to make off with the large copper sign of a bird flying into, or out of, its nest.)
Guards at the Solio mansion at the top of the hill allowed the now disguised villains in with three unique trays of pastries. They were shown the servants' entrance through the kitchen where a cook in clean whites and a servant boy spiced the roast to be prepared over the course of the day. The servant boy showed them into the dining hall where he arrayed a silver tea set, a single luncheon plate, and straightened every unintended ruffle.
Elsinore, eager to explore, attempted to enter the main hall. As she did she, she was halted by the sight of none other than Yvette Solio, still in her fine and flowing nightgown, descended the stairs. Elsinore, without missing a beat, held the door. Solio, a round elven woman of some decades, hardly noticed the abundant deliverers, especially when Natasha spun magic in the air around with silken words, charming Solio. Her attitude shifted and she invited our villains to dine with her and insisted they have tea as well.
Eager to find the doll Aldigo described, Natasha asked about the mansion. Solio began giving them a tour, though the first stop was in her chambers where she might change to better host her guests. The upstairs bedroom at the top of the stairs was bisected by a folding screen, behind which Yvette changed into proper attire. She regaled them with stories of her adventures with Elsa of Uberwald, Grigor the Snitch, and Flynn Fairielion the halfling healer. On the interior wall was a ledge lined with various trophies and it became clear that Solio had been an adventurer some time before settling in La Boiselle. Igor noticed a twitching hand in a glass case, noticeably devoid of sound. Xenia spotted a book on a nearby stand of silver and gold pedigree and pages of immensely fine character, though it was entirely wordless.
When Elsinore spotted a few coins of peculiar, but familiar, gold hue, with just a hint of oily violet, she could not help but ask. Yvette, quickly concluded her story of the treasure mound in the southern kingdom where she had come across the doll--and Elsa had lost her hand, though Flynn had been able to attach it again, even if her fingers never did quite work right again--to recall when she'd come to the coins.
(Image Credit: Innsmouth Gold Coins https://campaigncoins.com/innsmouth-gold-coins-10/)
There had been an island in the southern ocean, some distance from Port Capital. Her voice wavered as she spoke. Its stones seemed to writhe with the drying sea water from which it had arisen and the kelp or oil shifted in the light. It appeared like a city, somewhere one might become irrecoverably lost, but they soldiered onward, intrigued. There had been a massive stone double door and despite its immeasurable weight it opened for them. Like so many dungeons before, they descended into its dark. But the dark was so dark, the steps were unusually steep as if built for some other sort of creature. And the walls pulsed or ran with water as they descended.
Then there was that massive chair, a throne, and Grigor had to look upon it, see what was sitting there...
Elsinore, who had sent more than one crew to that island, pocketed the coins. Xenia claimed the book. Natasha set a hand on Yvette's shoulder who roused in a daze.
The doll. Let's go find the doll.
They descended the stairs toward the central hall and veered to the left, opposite the dining hall. Natasha gesturing to her wrist about the time of her charm. Yvette, suddenly back to herself, opened the doors to reveal a sitting room with a fireplace at its center and a davenport and chairs arranged around it. The walls were lined with books where they were not windowed, but sitting in a finely crafted wire cage sat the doll. Its fabric flesh a bright red, its sword shimmering as if of silver, and blunt horns coming from his head.
Yvette finely finished the story she had been telling of the southern treasure. Saying plainly that Aldigo was no fiend, but a genie, an efreeti no less!