Dates: January 24th to 31st 1000 PCE.
Adelle Mirodar (Jayne’s companion)
Captain Zachary Thorpe
Lilith Johnson (First Mate)
Herschel Dupree (insurance banker)
Freeman Skinner (Quartermaster)
Thaddeus “Tad” Tillerson (Bosun)
Jaun Silva (Master Carpenter)
Forbidden Zone Raiders
The Silent Sea aboard the SS Hawke, Farport Outpost
Experience Points Awarded:
Awards not yet disbursed for this adventure.
“The situation has changed.”
After a night of rest alternately fitful and placid, Orphea and her guard Tashtego came on board the Hawke for a meeting of the expedition crew. She shared quiet words with Captain Thorpe before addressing the crew, and anyone witnessing their exchange could plainly see the tenderness that passed between them.
Orphea proceeded to explain to the crew that the strange crystal orb recovered from the Vendetta was actually an ancient artifact of immense power. Originally known as the Lifebringer, the artifact had been brought to Merika from the Forbidden Zone by the original progenitors of the Vidal family. According to Noirlan lore, the Vidals used the orb’s powers to purify the fouled lands and waters of Norland and render the region habitable for the first time since the Cataclysm. As a result of this miraculous intervention, the city of Noirlan was soon thereafter founded upon what had before been an unlivable wasteland. Following the edict of an ancient directive, the Vidals carried the Lifebringer across the Skylands of the western continent and used its powers to reclaim new homelands for the rapidly growing population of survivors.
Later in history, during an invasion of Norland by the Hidden Empire of the Princes, the descendants of the Vidal family discovered a way to use the Lifebringer as a weapon and successfully deployed the artifact against XHAN and his Steel Legions.
In the aftermath of victory, however, the Vidals and their Larada allies discovered that the Lifebringer had been permanently tainted by the dark powers they had unleashed. Its power to heal, renew, and even transfigure living matter had been lost, replaced now with a malevolent and uncontrollable deathforce that sought to corrupt and putrefy life in all its forms. Living things that came into contact with the artifact were at constant risk of suffering spontaneous mutations that would warp flesh and fiber into grotesque parodies of nature. The victims of these aberrant transformations were invariably driven to uncontrollable rages of murderous insanity ended only by the cruel mercy of a miserable death.
Realizing that the artifact’s destructive effects could be triggered by negative emotional impulses and thus could never be controlled, the Vidals resolved to keep it locked away for safe keeping and repurposed an ancient Precursor vault beneath Noirlan for just this purpose. Renaming the orb “Deathbringer,” they kept it safely hidden for over three hundred years.
This situation changed in the last year when Orphea’s delinquent brother Oliver successfully breached the Vidal Vault and stole the Deathbringer. Seeking to stop him, Orphea recruited a band of mercenary adventurers to counter Oliver’s schemes. After a series of investigations and encounters, Marsala and his companions eventually recovered the artifact and apprehended many of Oliver Chastain’s associates. Oliver himself, employing his chosen nom de guerre, “Marius,” managed to evade capture.
Finding herself blamed for the inexplicable horrors unleashed by the Deathbringer, Orphea Chastain determined to find an end to the horror. Under Orphea’s direction, some of Marsala’s Men took the Deathbringer Orb to Megiddo, sorcerer’s island, in search of a way to end the corruption of the Deathbringer and neutralize its threat. Oliver ambushed the party, however, and in the process unleashed the orb’s mutating effects. With Orphea’s party all either dead or driven mad by the deathforce, Oliver seized the Deathbringer and slipped away.
After relating these events, Orphea at last revealed her hidden motivation for assembling the Thorpe expedition to the Forbidden Zone. The survivors of the Megiddo ambush, though physically crippled and driven hopelessly mad by exposure to the Deathbringer’s powers, yet lived. Rather than end their lives, Orphea vowed instead to save them. The current scion of the Vidal family legacy, Armand Vidal, told Orphea a family legend concerning the purported source of the Lifebringer artifact: a golden citadel, the fabled jungle city of Eldorado. Confessing her true purpose, Orphea declared that she ventures to the Zone not for gold or riches but seeking the original source of the Lifebringer’s power, a power she hopes will reverse the deathforce and undo the evil her brother has unleashed. To this end she quits any claim to whatever fortunes the party recovers during the expedition and seeks only the knowledge necessary to save her friends.
The realization that Oliver Chastain is also seeking Eldorado is a definite complication for the expedition. According to Oliver’s journal notes he seeks to use the Deathbringer for truly horrific ends, perhaps even to bring about an apocalyptic genocide. Alerting the party to this emerging threat, Orphea implored them to help her not only find Eldorado but to do so with haste lest Oliver find it first and use its secrets to fulfill his own demented will. Edmund Andrews objected to Orphea’s deceptive lack of full disclosure and declared he wanted no more part in the expedition. He moreover expressed a mistrust of Juan Silva and twice accused Chastain of being a liar. Orphea struggled to justify her methods and agreed that Edmund was well within his rights to quit the journey once the party reached the western shores of the Zone.
“I’m not sure how to say this.”
Orphea appealed to the altruism of the other crew members. She insisted that whether they knew it or not they were already within the grip of a power far greater than themselves and further claimed that if Oliver goes unchallenged now it may be impossible to stop him later. At this point William Benjamin spoke up and related a dream he had had the night before about a hidden vault in the jungle accompanied by a vision of Oliver Chastain’s dead body lying in William’s own cabin bunk aboard the Hawke. William added that he had a score to settle with Oliver Chastain but declined to say anything more about it. Thorpe and Orphea exchanged knowing glances and Jayne proceeded to report a similar dream involving a cabin in the jungle and a young girl running through an open valley before a sudden shroud of darkness ended the vision. The men realized that their visions shared similar details and Orphea claimed it was the pull of Eldorado drawing them forward on an unseen path.
“It showed me what I wanted to see.”
Hearing this, Everest Bell announced that he too had experienced a similar dream, though he refused to trust it because he believed the vision had merely shown him what he wanted to see. Everest clarified this opinion by saying he was a seeker of Precursor knowledge and that his vision had shown him images of what he most wished to find: a golden city replete with technological wonders. This observation cast a palpable moment of reflection upon the party and seemed to subdue some of Orphea’s renewed enthusiasm. By the conclusion of the meeting, however, she was visibly relieved that none of the other crew members expressed any desire to leave the expedition.
“Think whatever you like, but right now I need you on this crew.”
After the meeting Captain Thorpe set about continuing the voyage. Bosun Tillerson, bunking down in the cargo hold, had fallen ill and was rendered unable to perform his duties. Realizing that Edmund was the only party member with any seamanship to speak of, Thorpe approached him and asked him to take over for Tillerson. Edmund accepted duty as acting bosun and went to assist Freeman Skinner in plotting the next leg of the voyage.
“I know a thing or two.”
Later in the day Skinner asked Everest about his interest in Precursor artifacts. After revealing that he was something of a gearhead himself, Skinner asked to see the metal rod Everest had recovered from the glass pyramid back in the sargasso. Upon examining it, Skinner explained that it was called an “antenna” and used for receiving modulated transmissions of invisible waves passing through diaphanous air. He called them “radio waves” and claimed that the Precursors used these waves to transmit information across long distances. Skinner then loaned him a book on mechanical engineering along with an offer to explicate the text if necessary.
“Let’s do some shootin!”
Edmund made good on his pledge to run Herschel through firearms drills and every day the air redounded with white smoke, powder bursts, and the scent of sulfur. Skinner inspected Herschel’s kegs of black powder and closely monitored every session. By the end of the week, the banker demonstrated a much greater confidence in his weapons and in his ability to use them.
Meanwhile Matthaeus made a discovery in the galley: certain provisions had gone missing from the larder and he couldn’t recall where he’d put them. After a brief sit and a ponderous think, the cook went to Captain Thorpe to report the missing vittles. The captain being preoccupied with other matters paid little heed to Math’s concerns and seemed simply relieved to have done with the conversation when the cook wandered off to search the ship which he did to no avail.
“This man isn’t what he says he is.”
Edmund had a further objective in mind. Perhaps discomfited by some of his shipmate’s behaviours, he harboured a suspicion regarding Juan Silva. He decided to keep a close eye on Silva for the remainder of the voyage and tried to casually observe Silva’s comings and goings without being spotted. This being done, Edmund noticed nothing out of the ordinary.
“How do you tie ropes again?”
The next morning brought ill tidings. A rising gale prompted Captain Thorpe to prepare the Hawke for a storm. When worsening weather necessitated a trimming of sail, the captain called the crew to action while Edmund took the helm. Shouting instructions and obscenities, Thorpe called his inexperienced crew to climb the rigging and secure the sails lest heavy winds strain and heel the ship. Buffeted by the violence of the seas, the crew rose to the challenge. Amid the peril Rob, Marsala, and Everest were all thrown from the masts, the latter nearly falling off the edge of the ship and into the open sea. Matthaeus too was nearly swept overboard by waves breaching over the deck.
“One hand for yourself! One hand for the ship!”
Scudding swiftly before the gale the Hawke fell upon a rising wave, washing the deck with a big sea. The surging water sent Skinner and Johnson flailing across the deck and only Skinner managed to hang on to a rail and prevent himself from sliding into the ocean. Lilith on the other hand was now swimming. Seeing Johnson go overboard, Edmund made a snap decision to immediately begin tacking the Hawke back against the gale in an attempt to keep Johnson within view. He realized that a man overboard under these conditions would be as good as dead once the ship had passed beyond sight. With the beam of the vessel now dangerously exposed to the tempest, however, another surge of green water immediately crashed athwart midships and caused the Hawke to heel perilously under the raging current. As the crew held on against the impact, few had the wherewithal to track Johnson’s position. The mighty Matthaeus hauled Skinner back on board but scanned the churning waters in vain looking for a sign of Johnson.
“I’m diving in!”
Jayne, still perched midway up the mainmast, managed to spot Lilith struggling in the water at the edge of lamplight. He took hold of his coiled rope and dropped a loose end down to Matthaeus. Without hesitation Jayne wound the other end of the rope around his forearm between hand and elbow and dashed across the narrow sail spar in a running jump from the edge of the yardarm. After moments hung in the arc of a prodigious leap, Jayne came to land over thirty feat away from the ship and nearly directly on top of Lilith’s thrashing figure. Having nearly lost sight of the ship and about to lose all hope of rescue, Lilith grabbed hold of Jayne and held on for dear life.
Dragging full sore upon the helm, Edmund maneuvered the vessel out of a close haul and completed a 360 degree turn across the wind to put the Hawke roughly back on its original downwind heading. The rest of the crew hoisted Jayne and Lilith back on board, finished securing the deck, and made for safety down below. Captain Thorpe unable to spot the Arcadia nonetheless stayed and kept watch on the quarterdeck with Edmund until the storm abated.
“We go onward.”
In the aftermath of the storm, Thorpe and Silva began to assess the damage while Skinner and Edmund attempted to determine the Hawke’s current position. The Arcadia was nowhere to be seen. Whether it was also driven off course or wrecked, there was no way to know and the thought of it her fate clearly weighed upon the captain. Since the Hawke was herself already driven a day off course Thorpe saw no use in trying to search for the Arcadia and declared that he would instead make for Farport and hope to rendezvous with Orphea and her crew there. Thorpe made it a point to shake the hand of every crewman and offer a sincere thank you for their efforts to save the ship. He extended a particular commendation to Edmund, whose work at the helm was surely critical in the crew’s survival.
Lilith Johnson, visibly shaken by her near-fatal mishap, relaxed her tomboyish mien and expressed her own particular gratitude for Jayne’s daring rescue. Something in Lilith’s smile suggested a desire to express more than gratitude, but, before conversation could linger on the subject, Adelle, visibly jealous, interceded and distracted Jayne’s attention. If possible, Captain Thorpe seemed even less impressed than Adelle by these developments but said nothing.
Before beginning a new course, Thorpe decided to consult with the Hawke’s resident houngan about their new heading. Marsala responded absentmindedly, as if already in the middle of a conversation with unseen interlocutors. After a brief pause to confer with a concealed coterie of spirits, Marsala responded with a single word: “Weal,” a word meaning “well-being,” “happiness,” or “prosperity.” Thorpe understood that Marsala was only indicating if the proposed course would lead them to Farport, but he wanted to believe that Marsala’s “weal” signified more good fortune than this.
The Hawke found the coast of the Forbidden Zone on the morning of January 31st, 1000 PCE in the 13th Year of Union. It marked the first time in fourteen years that a Merikan ship had successfully traversed the Silent Sea and reached Farport Outpost.
The crew sighted the lighthouse of Farport but the Arcadia was nowhere to be found. Thorpe gave orders to make ready for port.
The party noticed the lighthouse beacon ignite during their approach but were puzzled that no one came out to greet them. As Tillerson and Silva tied off at the pier, the port, small but well constructed and seemingly well maintained, remained void of any signs of habitation. Herschel Debrun remained busy down below getting dressed in his finest clothes in order to introduce himself to the inhabitants of the settlement. At this point Jayne noticed a faint purple aura emanating from the beacon light. Moments later the light became utterly extinguished. Looking around, the PCs realized that the other crew members on deck were staring at the beacon and frozen lifelessly in place. Unable to rouse their comrades, the PCs stowed them below deck and told Herschel to keep guard over them and Adelle, who cowered behind Herschel on the stairs.
As the PCs approached a small outbuilding on the edge of the wharf, a trio of archers emerged from the windows of the lighthouse tower and started firing down at the party. Most of the group was taken by surprise, but Jayne realized what was happening and responded first. Rather than take up his bow and skirmish with the attackers, he drew out his blades and dashed up a loading ramp towards the lighthouse. Charging headlong, he threw his weight against the door of the lighthouse which didn’t break open under his momentum. Seeing their ally run in alone, Edmund and Matthaeus followed close behind Jayne in support. They were swiftly intercepted by a mob of axe-wielding thugs wearing animal skins and imposing iron masks. Within moments the attackers had charged out from behind the lighthouse and started surrounding the forward party.
The masked men were led by an imposing pale skinned warrior wearing a blackened breastplate and carrying a curved sword. He growled guttural commands at his followers in an unfamiliar tongue and swaggered forward with a confident gait. His skin bore tribal markings and he was garbed in black feather jewelry and an assortment of decorative baubles. The PCs observed a subtle miasma of shimmering distortion warp and weave around him as he muttered incantations and made obscure gestures. Seemingly bolstered by the presence of their leader, the axe men viciously hacked at the forward party and tried to cut them off from their allies. Taking the worst of the enemy action, Edmund suffered a gruesome chop to his flank and fell dying under the blow.
“How much experience do we get for this ramp?”
The rest of the party tried to follow behind the vanguard, but the ramp proved a formidable opponent, toppling Marsala during his first attempt to scale it. Undeterred, William scrambled up and loosed a critical shot to the neck of one of the axe men. Everest took a look inside the wharf house before following up the ramp and firing a skirmishing shot of his own that felled a second opponent. Rob successfully took aim at one of the axe men but soon found himself engaged in melee and trying to edge himself away from danger.
“My Voodoo Stick”™
Taking fire from the tower, Marsala engaged the archers with a spiritual weapon. Having finally made it up the cliff he proceeded to offer healing support to his allies and a hexing evil eye to his foes. In the meantime, the houngan’s ghostly morningstar emerged from the aether and struck with metaphysical force knocking one of the archers dead from the tower.
Noticing Marsala’s display of mystical prowess, the enemy leader prepared to join the fray…