Saturday, August 25, 2007

Thennin Leads to Black Bart

In the early part of the search for Razaq, the crew made camp for the night and posted watches.

During Murgosis' watch he was given a vision of a Ship of the Dead, whos crew gave him dire news from home. The land of Egypt was in great peril due to the traitor priest Amhotep, who had struck an unholy bargain with the king of the fire giants. The Dead bade him to seek help from the Red King, else the land of Egypt would be lost.

During Winston's watch a human wizard strode into the camp--cautiously, with a lantern held in one hand and the other in plain view. He struck up a conversation and even produced a tea set with which he made a fine tea. He called himself Thennin. He seemed to know a great deal about Winston's personal history and current quest, but seemed to have to dredge names and places up out of a deep memory.
Winston asked how Thennin came to be here. In the way of wizards speaking to non-wizard folk he said that his path led him through here, and that he must take this path because the easier path lead to madness like the madness that gripped Razaq.
They finished pleasant conversation and then Thennin was on his way.

Then the crew went forth to slay Razaq in his many forms, as we have seen. They were on their way back to the village--lead by the native Ochobo and trailing the no-longer-toad-but-elf-again Laina--when they encountered Thennin again, only this time in something of a rush.
He ran full tilt out from behind a sapling too small to conceal a man, yet from out behind it he sprang.
He skidded to a halt in front of the crew and puffed "You! You're--hah--here! Help me fight off these Mantis Men and I'll help you find Bloody Bart! No, wait, Black Paul! No, that's not right either--just help me and I'll lead you to one of the men you're looking for!"

The crew agreed and was quickly set upon by Mantis Men! They were quick and hard-shelled! Nary a blade could pierce their exoskeletons! Ignored many a mighty magick did they!
In the end, they all died of course. They faced the crew of the Maelstrom! YARRR!

Thennin was true to his word. For two days he lurked in the prow, pointing this way and that, until a ship that flew Demming's colors was sighted. Much skulduggery was planned and discarded for meeting the enemy boat, but in the end both ships came to broadside each other and board. Boom went the cannons! YARRR went the pirates! Battle was joined. Black Bart revealed himself to be an expert pistoleer, firing with both hands, then pulling two more pistols and firing those in quick succession, wounding Laina grievously. A mirror twin of Mad Addy joined in and finished Laina off, but aside from that the battle went in favor of the Maelstrom. Bart sought to escape into the hold, but a fireball from Adannaya followed him into what turned out to be the powder room.
Murgosis and Jenna, not to be cheated of a kill, dove into the water to recover Bart's effects. Murgosis found him swimming away, unhurt by the explosion!
He was not left unhurt by Murgosis. Bart faded away upon his death, as did Addy. Sure and Bloody Paul must be getting close now...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mad Wizard Island

There is an accursed island some 8 days sail east of Midport and 4 days sail sou-souwest of Feyport. This isle is cursed because it attracts all manner of wizards and sorcerers, whether they be mad as hatters or just mad like regular wizardin' folk are like to get. Some say there be magicks that work only on the Isle, or that there be doorways to other worlds hidden there. Others say there be siren's a-callin' there, and only the mad may hear 'em.

Regardless o' the nature of the attraction, the Isle has played host to mad wizards for nigh on 200 years. The crew o' the Cutlass, and later the Maelstrom, have seen enough o' the weird and unnatural on Mad Wizard Island to never want to go back, and aye, they only been there twice! From the dreaded Pengurangulions to swimming owlbears to shifting landscape to multiple Razaqs, the crew has had a bellyful of hazards brought about by mortals mucking about with things that Should Not Be, or Things That Should Be Left Alone, or Things That Should Be Toilet Trained, or... well whate'er.

One thing the crew encountered that was not so disturbin' was a village o' natives what had taken up residence in a snug harbor. They be a small brown folk that seemed to be curiously unaffected by the unnatural blights that plague the Isle. Most humans what see them call 'em dwarves, and most dwarves what see 'em call em human. Could be they was dwarf or human stock what adapted to survive the Isle. In their language, they be Po-Chuk Tua (the People of the Isle).

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Mad Wizard Razaq and the Way of the Black Mirror

Wanting to act quickly on the information provided by the second Mad Addy, the crew quickly sold off the Pig Iron and collected a bounty for the death of the first Addy. Then they set sail once again to Mad Wizard Isle, home of the swimming owlbears and gods know what else.
Finding somewhat on Mad Wizard Isle is a problem, since the topography of the island changes week to week and sometimes day by day. The crew had no choice but to sail around the beaches until they found a suitable harbor--which they did after a half day's sail. A harbor, complete with a small village of natives, was sighted on the south end.

The Captain had the ship anchored and took a boat ashore with his most fearsome crew members. They were met by the unafraid tribal chief and perhaps a score of the small brown villagers. The chief chuckled when asked if they could point the way to the mad wizard Razaq. "Many wizards here. Many wild spirits. Swing a dead cat. Maybe you hit the one you want."

With no other options presenting, they gave the chief a small sum of gold to feed the crew remaining on the ship and headed inland. It seemed that while they searched for the wizard, the wizard searched for them, for he was waiting for them on the very path they took! He was a pale scantily clad man that obviously hadn't seen a bath in many a month, with wide staring eyes and a horrible moving growth on his neck. As they watched, the groth twitched and opened an alien eye. Immediately, he assailed them with mad wizard babble:

"I have seen you, I have seen the Ways! I know the ways, they are my ways and they are your Ways, but they are not your Ways! HAHA! What do you know? You know nothing!"

Whereupon he loosed his minions on the crew; horrible tentacled scorpion things that screeched and charged with wild abandon. But that wasn't enough; for soon another Razaq appeared, equally repulsive and mad as the first!

Battle ensued, made horrible by the fact that the Razaqs and their minions seemed to have no regard for their own safety. More horrible still; the tentacled monstrosities that he summoned exploded in a shower of acidic gore and viscera, causing great pain to those unfortunate enough to be caught in its effect. Jenna in particular was sore wounded once the fight was done.

Captain Winston struck the deathblow on the last Razaq and was strangely afflicted thereafter. He seemed to feel a pull deeper into the island, and could occasionally be heard muttering about the wizard's Ways. Nor would he take a step back towards the village or the Maelstrom, indeed, he seemed pained to even think of it.

They made camp and pressed on into the next day, where they met battle with another pair of Razaqs and their abominable minions. Once again Jenna was brought to death's door by the exploding monstrosities, and only a days worth of prayers and rituals performed by Marik the Storm Priest kept her from slipping the mortal coil.

They day after that they came upon possibly the most disturbing sight of all: Razaq copulating with a tentacled unnatural version of Adalaine Scoldaria. Both were quickly cut down and burnt, and neither seemed to even take note of their impending deaths.

But overlooking this unnatural event was... The Black Mirror!

Imagine if you could carve out a table top from a starry night sky, but it was 20 feet long and 10 feet tall. Jam one side into the flank of a hill, and there you have the Black Mirror from a safe... well, what we'll call a safe distance. From a distance it hurts the eyes, since on the one hand it looks like a great sheer slab of black glass but it also looks like you're looking up into a clear night sky.

From a not-so-safe distance, one who is not mad can get a glimpse of the Ways that Razaq goes on about. A mere glimpse can leave you wondering if you saw your reflection, a tree-lined path, a demon, an angel, or a reflection of yourself that is not really you. One who is not mad will get an impression of a gateway, a convergence of many paths. One who is not mad may not be able to resist the unnatural allure of the Black Mirror... as Murgosis was not able.

At first, 'twas Jenna that seemed caught by the Mirror, but when Murgosis went to pull her away the Mirror caught his eye... and showed him home. Not just Egypt--although it was unmistakably that--but his home where he grew up. Indeed, there was his father, and his mother... and himself. There was a reflection of himself that moved as he did, but as he moved closer to the Mirror his reflection seemed to change and become more real.

This doppelganger, this Mirror twin, wore the robes of a priest. Not a warrior-priest as Murgosis was, but a true Cleric of the Egyptian gods. Closer and closer the twins came, until they reached out a finger to touch the Mirror and--

There was a sound like breaking the surface of the water after an underwater jaunt. For Murgosis' part, he was uncertain if he was above or below the water but there was his priest twin, on his side of the Mirror with his crewmates.

This was not a freindly meeting. Priest-Murgosis seemed to know a great deal about our Murgosis and was for the most part, disgusted. Our Murgosis, quick to answer challenges about his conduct (and, dare we say it... bull-headed) with his fists made up his mind to settle this--his way. Priest Murgosis presented his ankh and sought to smite this heretic with the power of mighty Ra--but got more than he bargained for.

Meanwhile far, far away on the isle of Feyjounaisse, Laina Silverleaf strode about the wooded streets of Terre Du Plom. She had been fretting lo these many weeks about the disappearance of her half-brother, whos continuing absence made her so concerned she was actually pondering how to search for him outside of Feyjounaisse without getting on a boat. As she walked and pondered, she heard a voice call out "Cristo," which is what the other elves called her brother Christopher.

She hurried toward the voice in time to round the corner and see--was it Christopher? A man in robes like Christopher would wear walking through a glowing portal. The portal was held open by a tall, bald human man with mad eyes--whom she will recognize later as Razaq. She rushed towards the portal but Razaq grew angry and held up his hand. "This is not your Way!" he screeched.

The world tilted and did a little dance for Laina. This might have been fun, but the world seemed to be stepping on her feet a lot and she fell up. Or sideways. It was hard to tell for a moment, but then she managed to figure out down from sideways and everything was going to be alright and she tumbled forward into the sun and grass and sea air--

A furious beam of sunlight rocketed down from the heavens and transfixed both Murgosis and his twin. Both minotaurs were locked in place; the priest brandishing his anhk, the warrior with sword poised.
Laina tumbled out of the Mirror, not 5 feet from the Murgosi, landing on her skinny ass. "Uh," she said.
The rest of the crew...blinked. "Where'd the elf come from?" Marik asked.

From the south came Ochobo the Spirit Warrior. He was a small brown man from a village of small brown people. It was his duty to hunt down wizards such as Razaq, and he thought the crew of the Maelstrom would lead him to one. After all, from what he could tell, they had killed several wizards and their minions already. And here was something unnatural, this slice of night sky jammed in the ground--that bodes ill. Before he could even call out to the crew, the Mirror twitched and--

A pair of Razaqs stepped out of the Mirror, one right next to where Laina sat being stunned. Tentacled monstrosities followed.
There was a mighty battle. Laina pitched in on the side of the crew, and so saved herself the fate of being gutted like a trout. Ochobo proved himself an ally. Another Razaq joined the fight a few moments after it started. Jenna fell (again).
After all was done, there was one Razaq that did not fade to nothingness as the others had done. Finally, Razaq was done.
But what of the Mirror?

The Capture of Mad Addy... and also: The Capture of Mad Addy (July 07)

The elvish city-state of Feyjounaisse (Feyport, to non-elves), boasts a wide harbor with high walls, sheltering visiting merchant ships from inclement storms and sea. It is the only port worthy of the name for fifty leagues in any direction, and its major rival in trade and military power is Midport, far to the sou-southwest.

The port town was pleasant enough, for it sported enough ale and whorehouses to satisfy the rough and tumble in addition to the more (or less) legitimate trade businesses one would expect in a port city. The town Watch keeps order with more subtle methods than the bully-boys of say, Midport.

The crew of the Maelstrom took in the sights only long enough to get the lay of the land and start casting about for any sign of Demmings. After some investigation, they discovered a ship in port that had traded a large quantity of suspiciously gnome-like goods, with a skipper that sounded suspiciously like Mad Addy in disguise. More footwork revealed a favorite drinking house for said captain, and an ambush was planned post-haste.
Addy had picked a spot in the corner of the building, with a handy man-sized window within five or ten feet on either side... but it did her no good. The crew of her boat that surrounded her was no good match for the crew of the Maelstrom, so Addy made herself invisible and dove out the window... but of course she had no knowledge of Dagon's Lantern of Revealing. While out of sight of the rest of the crew, Dagon followed Addy out the window and pummeled the very visible woman to death, then stuffed her in the same portable hole that contained the Red Shield.
Quickly after this victory, the crew made their way to Addy's ship, the Pig Iron. The remaining crew there was no match for our bloodthirsty killers, and in a trice they were dead or captured. Once the fighting was over the solidarity that served them so well failed. A great lot of bickering about what to do next ensued, so much so that the crew of the Maelstrom was easily ambushed by... Mad Addy!
For if it weren't Mad Addy, mayhap it was a twin? Where the dead Addy was fair-skinned, the new Addy stabbing Murgosis in the back was dark-skinned, with shining black hair--but with the garish pink and red clothing attributed to Adalaine Scoldaria.
The battle, while not as lopsided as the first, once again went against Mad Addy and her crew. When she saw it was going badly, she leapt to the railing and called for parley while balanced there. Winston called for her terms, and she offered thus:
"We'll tell yeh what we know about Demmings, then get oursel' arrested by yon pointy-ears." Then she smiled. "We further promise we won't break out for a fortnight. I'll take Blood Oath on it... provided tha' yuir lot leave us be, o' course."
Winston took the Blood Oath, and the second Mad Addy related the tale of Paul Demmings and the mad wizard Razaq...

"Twas the wizard Razaq what gave Bloody Paul the power to track the wee folk in their underwater boats," Addy began. "Sure and it were a mutually beneficial relationship for the both o' them, since the wizard kep' comin' back fer more. First he gae Paul a gnome wizard ta play wi' in exchange for a virgin girl child--an' leh me tell yeh, virgins are a sight harder ta come by than yeh might think.
"Twas from the wee wizard that Bart tortured the spells for trackin' the trade boats. Once our wizards learnt em, well, they was child's play ta plunder.
"Then the wizard offered to copy us all--e'en Paul, though o' course he had none o' that. Heh heh. Paul, he liked the idea o' havin' extra Addys and Barts and Ellies and Wallys about, so he started ta scour the sea for its full yield o' virgins. It got harder ta find em, though... the wizard kept wantin' more and different sorts o' virgins--old nunny crones, pure hearted paladins, that sort o' thing.
"These days there be so many o' Bloody Paul's lieutenants runnin' about I cannae keep track of em all--cept for me own, o' course. There be six... well, now there be five o' me. We're like sisters, yeh see. We know who come afore us, and who come after, and we can all tell when one o' us gets hersel' sent ta hell. Oh yeh, I see yer faces... this'll mean Bloody Paul knows too, yeh can wager on that.
"Eh? Oh, aye, last I knew, Paul was on Mad Wizard Isle, makin' mad pacts wi' a mad wizard. Happens there a lot, I unnerstand. Ha. Razaq, he hasta stay there. Tis the only place he can work his Black Mirror, he says. Oh, and dinnae go askin' me about the wizard's Mirror. I dinnae know anythin' about it."

The second Addy appeared true to her word (and as Jenna pointed out, she would be truly mad to violate a pirate's Blood Oath); she and her surviving cutthroats were arrested for setting fire to an inn shortly before the Maelstrom shipped out... to Mad Wizard Isle.