Hurley: It is dawn. The Knight, an older human man with a clean-shaven face and thinning black hair (use Knight stat block - MM 347 - for checks/combat), from the previous evening comes to your cell with a much younger man (character sheet) in tow. “Prisoner,” he says gruffly, addressing you. “It would appear the Goddess has chosen to stay your execution.”
[Wait for response]
The knight sighs. “I’ll let the initiate explain.”
The younger man, a cheerful-looking lad with auburn hair, introduces himself. “Hello there. I am Knight-Initiate Mitcham. This is my mentor, Knight-Sergeant Sartoris. And I had a dream about you,” he says, his last words in a somewhat awed whisper. He flushes and immediately begins speaking again. “Not specifically about you, er, you were there, but so were several others. *ahem* The goddess came to me last night in a dream and told me who I should bring with me on my final initiation mission.”
[Wait for a response]
Knight-Sergeant Sartoris responds before the initiate can stumble over any more words. “Late last night, a missive arrived from the palace to this garrison that Citadel Breakwater, nearby, has gone silent. As a Knight of the Crown, I claimed the missive and investigation as mine to use as the initiate’s final test before I deem him worthy of knighthood. I have given him leave to choose his companions, but instead of choosing guardsmen from the garrison, he claims to have been given a vision from Goddess Meren. Your life has been spared by this vision, so I hope you are grateful. Now,” he unlocks your cell. “I will only be coming with the initiate to assess his performance, but if I deem it necessary, I will kill you, devil. Do I make myself clear?”
[Wait for response]
“Good. Come along. The initiate has to gather the rest of the party…”
Thaylock and Amaath: You two awaken around the same time as each other and both take breakfast in the inn’s dining area. [allow for a perception check DC 5 if asked]. You both make your way separately (or together if they noticed each other and struck up a conversation) to the Museum of Mythology and Ancient History.
The museum appears to be a rather old temple that has fallen into disrepair. [allow religion DC 15 or perception DC 10 checks]. As you enter, you see a desk in the middle of a large area. The building is dimly lit by outside light filtering in. The desk is unoccupied and the only other people appear to be an old man and a young man studying a large wall mural and talking to one another. The desk has a little sign on it that reads “Back at midday.”
Over an opening to the left is a sign that reads “Library”, the way to the right is blocked off, and the way forward appears to be a large room holding artifacts.
[What do you do; respond as necessary]
Some time later, the two of you are approached by two human men in armor with a shackled genasi walking between them. [Allow any questions/responses] [explain further]
The initiate, Mitcham, says “And the vision told me that you two would find what you seek if you came with me.”
[Allow for response]
Sartoris grumbled. “Let’s not tarry. According to the Initiate, we have a further two to gather for the cause, supplies to requisition, and a ship to charter out to the Citadel.”
Tala: As you arrive at the Vynn Barracks, you see a group of five men - two human, one who looks human with blue skin in shackles, a half-orc, and a fellow goliath - approaching from the direction of a large building of old stone. The older human appears to be arguing with the younger one. “Initiate, we started here, why did we not just wait here for the others before getting the scholars here?”
“Because, Knight-Sergeant,” the younger man explained, “I’m following what the vision told me, and the vision to said to come back here for the other two.”
The older man sighed and shook his head skeptically before stopping dead to stare at Tala. “Well I’ll be damned,” he muttered.
[explain if necessary, allow for response]
“One more,” the initiate proudly states.
Issi: After you wake up and get ready for your daily training regimen, you are stopped by one of your officers. He tells you to report to the war room for reassignment. You’re a bit confused by this order, since you only just were assigned your current posting in the new garrison, but since you don’t want to be discharged from the guard, you just nod your head and pack your few personal possessions. When you arrive at the war room, you see a strange collection of characters huddled around a sand table; two humans, the knights who arrived from the capital a few days ago, another almost human looking man with blue colored skin in shackles, two hulking figures with stone-grey skin hunched to keep their heads from brushing the ceiling, and a half-orc. They all look up at you when you enter.
[Allow for introductions, explain base mission to Jenny if necessary]
To all: “This,” says Initiate Mitcham, gesturing to the sand table, “Is the town of Vynn and the seas to the west. Here is Citadel Breakwater, on the last habitable island of the Coral Crown. It’s about 50 leagues from Vynn. The ocean between here and there is mostly deep water. Only military supply ships travel out there. None of the merchant ships can.”
The knight-sergeant spoke up here before you can ask questions. “Their hulls are meant for the shallower waters around the townships and the capital.”
The initiate nods. “There is, however, a deeper sea vessel in port preparing to leave soon. Not one of the military suppliers. The knight-sergeant suspects they might be miscreants. Unfortunately, we can’t be picky. My hope is that with promised coin and perhaps a temporary pardon, they’ll allow us passage.”
The knight-sergeant looks disgruntled at this, but says nothing. Initiate Mitcham continues. “The ship looks to be fast enough. If we convince them to leave in the morning, we would arrive early the next day. We can use the remainder of today to procure our own supplies and requisition equipment from the armory. Questions?”
[Allow for response and answer questions as needed; give assignments strong or charismatic characters go with the initiate to convince pirates to travel]
“If that’s all,” the initiate says, “We have our assignments.”
He pulls five envelopes with the seal of the Order of the Crown on them. “These letters of marque will inform the armory officer here to let you get what weapons or armor you need that can be provided by the armory. They will also give you an allowance of Sharksteeth to purchase any further supplies from the town itself. I expect you all to return here before Daysend so we can board the ship and be ready for departure in the morning.”
[allow for any further questions or checks]
He turns to the genasi as the others leave and/or stay. “I’m sorry, sir, but the knight-sergeant insists that he remain with you at all times and that you remain bound.”
[Allow persuasion/charisma check if asked]
[Ask what everyone does; narrate for NPCs and histories as needed]
Convincing the pirate captain:
Captain Titus J. Dennison - use bandit captain stat block for check/combat (MM 344)
[Allow conversation to unfold normally with Initiate and any chosen PCs; allow persuasion checks DC 10]
[Success] Captain Dennison begrudgingly acquiesces to the use of his ship, The Merrow’s Spear, for passage to and from Citadel Breakwater.
[Failure] He immediately declines the group’s request. Initiate Mitcham offers three times more the original agreed upon price as well as any plunder, should the citadel (goddess forbid) be full of nothing but chum.
Captain Dennison also requests that all passengers put the same amount of work into the voyage as the crew, it seems he “lost” several men to the gallows for crimes committed after they put into port a fortnight ago and could use the extra hands.
[Allow a second persuasion check if attempt to renegotiate monetary costs; DC 15; advantage]
[Success] The captain agrees to the new terms with a sigh.
[Failure]The previous arrangement stands.
He spits into his hand and offers it to the initiate (or PC who made a successful Persuasion check) to shake. The Initiate does the same with a look of moderate disgust. The captain laughs as they shake on the deal.
[go back to other characters to continue preparations and/or checks]
Letter of marque contains:
Requisition for level 1 character equipment packages
a pouch containing 2d10x10 gold pieces
All armor is stamped/marked/colored with the Royal Trident in coral pink on an ocean blue background
That evening, you all return to the Vynn Barracks for final departure preparations and head to the harbor to board The Merrow’s Spear.
[Call for Perception checks as they cross the docks DC 20]
[Success] You can see the burnt out hulk of a ship sitting slightly out of the water in the harbor as the sun’s light fades.
[Failure] Notice nothing in particular.
When you board the ship, you’re greeted by a lone sailor bearing a hooded lantern. “Ahoy there, landlubbers. Cap’n said ye’d be along this evenin’. ‘E’s already turned in for the night; likes to sail the Spear hisself in an out o’ harbor. We’re settin’ sail with the tide in the morn. Be sure to be awake afore then, aye?”
[allow for responses/questions]
After your acknowledgement, the sailor leads you down into the hold, where a few sailors are sleeping in hammocks. “Yer bunks be this way. I recommend keepin’ yer gear clutched tight. Some o’ the boys got sticky fingers, if yeh catch me drift.”
He leads you to a small grouping of somewhat cleaner canvas hammocks tied to the support beams a little ways away from the rest of the crew. “Cap’n felt ye shouldn’t be gettin’ too chummy wit the crew since yer only gonna be wit us a day or three, so ‘e decided to set yeh apart. Sleep tight,” he chuckled, heading away and snuffing the lantern.
[allow for responses/descriptions of what they’re doing]
You awake the next morning, early, to the calls and stomping of the sailors abovedeck. [Perception check DC 5]
[Success] You notice the two hammocks where Mitcham and Sartoris slept are empty, denoting they must have woken earlier.
You head groggily to the deck just as The Merrow’s Spear is pulling into the harbor. The sun is beginning to crest the horizon.
[Perception check, DC 10; Dan gets advantage]
[Success] The crystal waters of the harbor are only marred by the remains of a ship burned at anchor a few days ago. The sailors, Captain Dennison included, have all gone silent as they pass the wreck, offering it a silent salute.
[Failure] The crystal blue waters and shilly salt air and quite a bit different when experienced from a ship as opposed to the shore. The ship’s crew goes strangely silent as the ship leaves the harbor.
As the ship clears the harbor and turns west into open water, they all jeer at one another and resume their work. The knights are nowhere to be seen. The captain passes command of the ship’s wheel to a waiting sailor and saunters down the staircase to the main deck to greet you. “Ah, good morning, dandies. LOVE the armor. Did the local spinsters knit it for you?” The crew nearby laugh raucously. “I trust your naps were pleasant? Not feeling sick are we?”
[allow for response and questions]
“I know I said I would need you lot to fill in for missing crew during this voyage, but to be perfectly honest, those knights you brought with you work as hard as two men apiece. Besides, if I put those two on a mast, they might break it,” he jokes indicating the Goliaths. “When we’re fully under way, I won’t have any work for you aside from making sure the deck doesn’t dry out. and whatnot. So take your ease, enjoy the views. It’s a full day and night’s sailing until we get to Breakwater. Skies are clear as far as our lookout can see. If you have any question about the sea, let me know. I’ll be in my cabin.”
He walks through an open door underneath the bridge.
[Allow for responses, checks, questions; ask what they’re doing]
Sometime after midmorning…[Anyone at the railing make Perception check; DC 15]
[Success] You see shapes that appear to be scaled like large fish splashing in the waters to either side of the ship.
[Failure] The ocean is dark, now that the ship has entered deeper waters. You wonder briefly what the depths hide.
[If Success; call for Nature check DC 10]
[Success] The shapes appear to be...merfolk? You call out to the captain to ask if you’re seeing things, because surely merfolk are a myth.
[Failure] You can’t tell what they are, so you call the captain over.
“Oh merfolk? No, they’re no myth. They just tend to stick to the deep waters and away from surface-dweller settlements. Seeing them here is a good omen for the voyage,” he pauses to regard the shapes for a few moments. “I’ve never seen any that look this scaly and mean though. Let me know if they do anything out of the ordinary.”
He walks away again. After a short time [d20]
[1-10] the merfolk swim away from the ship, heading south.
[11-20] the “merfolk” attack the ship! 6 Merrow use hooks to begin climb over the railing.
[Treat Crew as 8 Bandits with same initiative]
[After combat, the merrow bodies are rolled back into the ocean, their weapons gathered up by two of the crew to add to the ship’s weapons store. If questioned.]
The captain shakes his head in disbelief. “I named the ship after these creatures, but I haven’t seen one since I was a boy. This is a bad omen. Keep a close eye out. If we’re in merrow waters, we can expect another attack later today.
[allow for a short rest if necessary, medicine checks instead of spending HD to recover lost hit points]
The rest of the day passes without incident. Before sundown, the man in the crow’s nest calls out that there are dark patches on the western horizon, possibly patches of seaweed. During the evening meal, (if battle - impressed with your group’s performance during the battle) the captain asks your group to take rotations with the night watch.
Sartoris, given his age, is tired from the day and declines to join the night watch. Mitcham volunteers to take the first watch with whichever party member decides to take it as well.
Two for second watch.
Two for third watch.
[First watch Perception check DC 17 ghost encounter in the seaweed]
[Second watch Perception check DC 10 ghost encounter in the seaweed]
[Third watch Perception check DC 5 ghost encounter in the seaweed, 19 or higher can see Breakwater on the horizon, shrouded in mist]
With break of day, the Merrow’s Spear pulls slowly into the dock of Citadel Breakwater. This wood and stone dock is, strangely enough, attached to a rocky outcropping a few hundred yards from a cliff face on an adjacent island. There are no structures here save for a little lean-to on the dock itself, and three vessels larger than the Spear are docked.
[Allow for checks and questions.]
[Perception 17 or greater see a wheeling cloud just visible on the other side of the island; if asked, the captain or a crewman reveal it appears to be a large flock of seagulls]
The knights come up to deck, fully armed and armored. The sailors are all silent; the only sounds are the lap of waves against the rock and hulls and the creak of the gathered ships. Knight-Initiate
Mitcham looks apprehensive and nods at Knight-Sergeant Sartoris, who reluctantly unlocks the shackles on the genasi. As the group disembarks, the captain stops [highest Charisma] with a grip on their arm. “Listen,” he whispers quickly. “You are not the leader of this mission, but I trust you more than the others. There is something ill at work here, make no mistake. We will wait here for you. That was the bargain, after all, but if you are not returned before sundown, we will leave you here.”
He lets go of your arm and turns to whisper orders to the crew. The knights are inspecting the ships.
[What do you do? Allow for responses, checks, etc.; Investigation or Perception checks DC 10 reveal no signs of struggle, DC 20 reveal a man’s body in the water - you cannot tell how deep the body is, but there appears to be no way back on the dock if you dive in, in the body’s mouth is Meren’s holy symbol; the words “Traitorous Mortals” is carved on its chest]
Inside the lean-to is a single hammock, a simple desk, and a large ledger - shipments to the citadel - upon it. [Investigation/Perception DC 15 - a drawer’s false bottom can be pulled away to reveal a small pouch containing 10 pearl farthings and a small ledger of shipped contraband]
The dock islet is connected to the main island by a stonework causeway. It’s twenty feet wide and runs from the dock to what appears to be a large stone and steel door set in the cliff face. The causeway is old, but undamaged in anything more significant that a little weathering.
The door: The steel and stone doors, twenty feet tall, ten feet wide each, appear to be locked and cannot be picked by anyone not proficient with or owning thieves tools. Sartoris pulls thin silver chain from around his neck. On it is Meren’s holy symbol, an ornate crest indicating rank in the Order of the Crown, and a large iron key. He hands the key to Mitcham, who uses it to unlock the doors, which swing inward smoothly at a touch.
C1 - Entryway
The chamber beyond is a fine piece of architectural engineering. The entry is a finely carved room twenty feet on all sides furnished with a few tables and chairs, a weapons rack, and some training dummies. Much smaller doors, human sized, are set in the west (unlocked), north (unlocked), and south (barred/impassible) walls. [allow for checks]
As opposed to the dock, this room is very much in disarray, as though someone fought in here. There are no indications of wounds (blood, fingers, etc), but the broken and scattered woodwork and weapons are very much a sign of violence.
This is a storage room, as indicated by barrels and crates of miscellany. [Perception/Investigation DC 15 - a crate inside another crate contains three bottles of Old Vynntage, a wine worth 10 sharksteeth each to the right buyer, and a small, blank book.]
This door is barred shut and the handle appears to have rotted away.
This is a short tunnel. There no signs of struggle here. Sconces on the wall may have once held torches, but they’re missing.The tunnel ends after 60 feet in a staircase leading up.
C3 - Training Yard
This is a large open air training space, 50 by 50 feet. Behind you is a natural rock wall with overhanging plants, the other three walls are masonry. There are racks of wood and steel weapons against the walls every 10 feet, targets, and training dummies. [if perception checks] The sandy dirt is scuffed by many footprints, though from struggle or just soldiers training, you cannot tell. There are many doors set into the three constructed walls. You can hear the cries of a multitude of seagulls from the west.
C4 - the 8 doors on the north and south walls - Barracks
These doors lead to a short hallway connecting barracks chambers and recreational rooms. Just like the entry chamber, there are signs of struggle - broken furniture, discarded weapons and armor, etc. [Perception/Investigation check DC 10 success] It is in these rooms that you see the first signs of bodily harm: a few spatters of dried blood in the dirt floors. [DC 20 success] One of the recreational rooms (north) has a hidden panel in a cabinet containing crystal goblets and a half-empty bottle of Old Vynntage. A second check (south barracks, same DC) reveals a pouch, containing 10 small, rough jewels worth 5 sharksteeth each hidden inside a mattress. The hallways have spiral staircases leading down at either end, but 3 are blocked by stone rubble, the fourth by the remains of what looks to be several iron and wood doors.
C5 - Staircases
These two doors open to a pair of staircases leading down twenty feet. Burned out torches sit in sconces.
C6 - Dining Hall
A large room which once contained several long wooden tables and benches neatly arranged for the soldiers to eat at. There are two doors each on the north, west, and south walls. Now, the tables are turned on their sides on the north and south ends of the room, their tops resembling pincushions from arrows embedded in them. Dried blood is spattered around the floor behind both barricades. [Investigation DC 10 success - the north barricade hides an unused Healing Kit under a discarded shield]
C7 - Officers Barracks - north
The two doors on the north wall lead to a series of officers bedrooms, largely unspoilt. Only one room appears disturbed, furniture thrown about and broken. The other three rooms remain largely untouched. [Investigation/Perception DC 15 success - false back in the cabinets of each of these rooms reveals hidden shrines to a god of which you aren’t aware. Religion DC 20 - Wyndus] The east and west ends of this hallway end in rubble-choked spiral staircases leading down.
C8 - Priest chambers and C9 - chapel to Meren - south
The priest chambers has three bodies in clerical vestments lain on the floor amidst destroyed furniture and a wrecked altar. All three humans (one male, two female) appear to have been kill from slit throats. Strange symbols are carved into the flesh of their faces [Religion DC 20 - holy symbols of the old gods]. Paper - pages from holy books - have been forced into their mouths.
The large, vaulting chapel to Meren may once have been a beautiful place. Now, colored glass shards and iron work litter the floor around stone benches, the remains of stained glass. [Investigation/Perception/Arcana check DC 15 - there are scorch marks around the stone frames, blasted away by divine magic it would appear]
C10 - War Room
A small, undisturbed war room with a sand table similar to the one found in the Vynn Barracks. There is a door on the west wall. [Investigation/Perception check DC 15 Success] Unlike the Vynn war room, this sand table has some ornately carved miniatures on it and a velvet pouch laying nearby.
C11 - Office
A medium sized office with desks and books. The books have been torn apart, pages scattered on the floor, but the desks remain undisturbed. There is a door on the west wall.
C12 - Hallway
A short plain hallway with double doors on the west wall and two doors on the east wall, including the one you just came through. The double doors have bloody handprints covering it. Even through the door, the calls of seagulls is almost deafening.
C13 - Courtyard
As you push open the doors, you’re greeted by a living carpet of seagulls. Their cries combind with their brethren circling overhead is enough to drive one mad [Sanity check DC 10 - failure, temporary insanity - 1 minute or until the calls stop]. Stepping into the courtyard sends the birds up in a cloud of feathers to join the hurricane of seagulls above. Their departure also reveals the grisly truth behind Citadel Breakwater’s sudden silence: the courtyard is littered with the bodies of slain soldiers and sailors, the dirt is still muddy with dark blood and expelled waste. [Constitution save DC 15 failure sickened 2 rounds]
[At any time during this event, players can make Religion checks; if the monk or cleric spent time studying in the museum before departing Vynn, they gain advantage; DC 20]
In the center of the courtyard, standing in an unsullied circle of dirt, a boy and a woman hunch over a bowl, tossing sticks into it. Each -klink!- of the sticks feels like Death hammering on your soul. You hear the woman swear audibly. A soldier falls, screaming, from the cloud of seagulls. His impact on the ground is announced with the wet snap of shattered bones and sudden silence. The boy looks up, grinning, and notices the group with black, empty eyes. His grin widens.
Seeing this, the woman also looks at the group, her heterochromatic silver and gold eyes contrasting painfully with those of the boy. She is not beautiful in any conventional sense, but no one would not call her handsome. Her eyebrows lift as she regards the seven of you.
“Meryre,” she says, two voices, overlapping man’s and woman’s, spilling from her lips. “You will anger the others if you involve these in your game. You know this.”
“I care not, Lyso,” the boy shouts in response, his voice empty. “They chose to involve me in this. They borrowed my power and yours in this ridiculous play of theirs and I will have my fun any way I wish.”
“You intend to make them play this gamble against you? What makes you think they have faith greater than these others?”
“Enough!” Sartoris shouts, cutting off the two in a surprising show of rage. “Your devilry ends here. I shall smite you in the name of the Goddess-Queen Meren!”
A booming laugh echoes through the courtyard and a middle-aged man with piercing red eyes in full plate armor drops down from the southern wall. “Your false goddess has no power here, human. Not anymore. She ousted us from our rightful place centuries ago with foolish and wicked magicks. She broke divine laws that hold sway over this planet. She sentenced herself to death.”
“I will stop you,” Sartoris shouted, his voice faltering a bit. “I will!”
He rushes forward and swings his sword in a powerful arc, up and to the left, the blade shatters upon impact with the man’s armor. “You have sentenced yourself, mortal,” the man whispers darkly. With a simple stroke, he pulls a greatsword from behind his back with one hand, slices Sartoris’s head from his shoulders, and sheathes the blade again. The knight-sergeant’s body falls lifeless to join the others.
“Do any of you wish to break divine law in support of a false goddess?” the red-eyed man booms.
[allow for response]
The man strides through the corpses to stand next to the woman. “Where are my siblings, Mother?” he asks of her.
“I suspect they will arrive before too long. They are heavily invested in this series of events. In the meantime, I believe The Firstborne wishes to play a game against one of the mortals.”
Smirking, the boy regards the group. [Perception DC 20 success - his eyes appear to glass over faintly] He points at the genasi. “You. You look like a gambler. Play a game with me.”
[Charisma saving throw DC 15 failure - compelled to move forward and join the three at the bowl in the center of the courtyard.]
[Success - allow to approach of own accord, make responses]
“You and I are going to play a simple game, much like dice or flipping coins.” He rattles things in a pouch that appear to sound like hollow sticks. “Best two out of three. Each of the gambling pieces has a marked side and a blank side. We roll once each round, and whoever has more marked sides facing up wins. Sound fair?”
He grins, waiting for your response. [gamble - roll 6d6; 1-3 is blank side, 4-6 is marked side]
[if genasi is tied after round 2] You feel energy well up inside you, and, miraculously your third “roll” comes up with all marked sides.
[Win] The boy fumes angrily. “I know you helped him, sister! You cheated!”
A cherubic middle-aged woman with messy platinum hair appear next to you, giggling. “Nonsense, Meryre. It was luck who favored him.”
She gives you a wink and twirls to stand next to the red-eyed man. Behind the group, an elderly man leaning on a staff is led through the doorway to stand with the others by a young man with fire-yellow hair. Behind them, a pale auburn-haired young woman leans against doorway. She is small of frame, but you get the foreboding sense that to push past her would be your end. “We are gathered, Mother,” the old man says. “Are these they who are brought by the visionary?” he asks, squinting at the group.
The dual-voiced woman nods and smiles sadly at the group. “Mortals. We come to you in great need. Many centuries ago, our throne was stolen by a human usurper. You would call her Queen Meren I. The blow tore our energies asunder and only now, with the help of the Firstborne and the few remaining faithful, have we been able to return to our world.”
“We need our vengeance,” the red-eyed man growls.
“We need the balance restored,” the platinum haired woman says.
“We demand blood,” a chilly voice sound from the girl behind you.
“The arcanely corrupted blood of the false goddess,” the old man confirms.
“To brighten the future,” the young man claims.
The boy crosses his arms and scoffs. “Young people these days,” he mutters. “To shape the world as Mother said it should be, not because some upstart mortal wanted to change things.”
Mitcham gulps and lowers his blade and asks, “Who are you?”
The dual-voiced woman smiled broadly. “We are the true gods of humanity in Lysios. And we are come home.”
She waves her hands and the world goes dark. When you come to, you are laying on Citadel Breakwater’s dock. You feel power coursing through you and are more sure of yourself than you’ve ever been in the past.
[Heroic Blessing - Add the following to any 5 ability scores to a maximum of 20; 3, 2, 2, 1, 1]