The adventurers wake up early the next morning, and have a hearty Ransom Hills breakfast, provided by the old man and his daughter, Speargirl Shaniqua. Jerica mentions that she would, if possible, still like to take her sister and her nephew and niece to see the falls. The Cleric agrees, and they begin to head out, leaving the rest of the party behind, only taking Synergy, Jerica, the two children Rio and Starla, and the procurer Richard. On the way, the party discusses strategy, and agree that now is the time to take back Lyons. There is some debate as to whether they should take the bridge first, but Rouge is insistant that they have enough people to retake the town. Once this picnic is done, they’ll go back to Chantelle, see whether any of the town councellors decided to aid them.
They get near the falls, only to be surprised by a trio of Crying Cods, who shoot bursts of water at them. The party draws their weapons and kill the fish, receiving several Aqua Pearls for their efforts.
They join Jerica, Synergy, and the children for the picnic, and the view from the falls is refreshing and inspiring to everyone, especially Jerica. (DM Note: I should’ve given everyone a +1 bonus to all rolls after being inspired by the falls. They learn that Jerica is not happy with the way her life has gone so far. The tavern works her to the bone, she keeps long hours, and has almost no social life to speak of. She’d love to just take off one day to explore strange new lands. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before. Synergy agrees with her, and tells her she should do it. She loves her husband and her children, but she said if she could do it all over again, she would wait and go see the world a little bit more before settling down. Jerica then asks the adventurers if she could join them. The adventurers decide that they could use a good cook, and agree.
The children, playing up on the hill overlooking the falls, along with Richard and Rogue, are disgusted by something, and tell them to come take a look. Cleric goes, and below the falls, on the other side, is a huge pit, with a spider web draped overtop of it. Below some of the people see two shiny objects inside the pit, along with a few skeletons. The web and surrounding area is covered by Cliffcreeper spiders.
The Rogue wants to see what those shiny objects are, and the adventurers hatch a plan to kill the spiders and find out what those objects are. Pouring oil all along the side of the ridge, the Rogue throws a torch into the web, burning it and attracting the Cliffcreeper’s attention. The creatures start to swiftly move up the cliff face. As they get to the top, Rogue sets fire to the oil, burning the spiders. Some of them manage to climb up onto the ridge and attack them, but eventually, all the Cliffcreepers are killed before they can do any real damage. The adventurers then climb down the pit, and grab the two shiny objects, which happen to be magical rings. They decide to eventually take them back to the camp and ask Francine what sort of rings they are.
The trip back to the old man’s house, where they pick up the rest of the party, and the trip back to Chantelle went by without much incident. They run into some Bush Sheep, but decide they needed to save their energy for the fight to retake Lyons, and so pass up an opportunity to acquire some wool and meat.
As they enter Chantelle, a girl named Paris asks the adventurers if she can join them for the invasion of Lyons. She happens to have a few spare swords, and had gathered up some volunteers. Rogue asks if they all have weapons, and a bearded man with red hair named Billy replies he only has an axe. Rogue insults him, making light of his intelligence and telling him that an axe IS a weapon. Billy tells him to stick it where the sun don’t shine, and that he isn’t going to beg to help them out, and leaves the group. Cleric reprimands Rogue for losing what might have been a valuable contributor to the liberation.
The party then stops off at the basement where the town counsel is hiding and hoped they had finally resolved their in-fighting and could give them an answer. As they get there, Sheena and Preston are leaving the other way, and they say the situation is useless. They walk back into the room, and find Esmarelda, Mayor Conway, and Smokey having another heated discussion about the union, the pirates, and whatever else they can use to insult each other with. Conway apologizes and tells the adventurers that Smokey is still tying up the decision with his antics. After the rest of the counsel walks out, Preson and Sheena get the attention of the adventurers, and lead them to a different room in the house. They tell the adventurers that they are sorry they had to get involved in this situation, and to please take some of these weapons they had found to aid them in the liberation of Lyons.
The party thanks them for their contribution, and then head to Lady Genevieve’s castle. They pick up their troops, but Gregory tells them the guy with the spear is on vacation, and they will have to make due with a swordsman instead. He also tell them the Lady was kind enough to allow him to join them for the attack, and together, they head towards the carts and get ready to leave, followers in tow. They decide to leave Emerson, and Jerica behind, but take all the others.
Just before they head out, Smokey approaches the adventurers, and asks if he can join. He apologizes for having to leverage the situation to look after the interests of his union, but tells them that the vineyard owners have been known to abuse and mistreat their workers, and that it was necessary. The adventurers agree to allow Smokey to join them, but they are to watch their backs, and not lead the attack. Smokey tells them he will do anything he can to help. Of concern, there is an overweight kid named Archie who also wished to join the attack, but Smokey tells him he can come, however, they will not suffer to lag behind because of him.
The party shows the two rings they found in the spider pit to Francine the jewelcrafter, and she tells them one is the Ring of Tough Luck, which improves their luck, (Roll two dice, and take the higher of two rolls.) and a Ring of Vigor, which restores some life on a touch command for the wearer.
After some final preperations, the party, along with Lady Genevieve’s soldiers, Paris and her friends, Smokey’s band, and some Ransom Hill Griffons, they head out early evening towards the Ransom Hills and the secret passage to the inside of the town that Chief Charleyhorse mentioned. They hoped to take the town by surprise late at night.
Chief Charleyhorse leads the way, and helps navigate the often dangerous Ransom Hills, using his skills as a tracker to avoid the Iron Chain Snakes and Cliffcreepers that make their homes there. Eventually, they come to a river as dusk settles and twilight begins to linger. They hear voices, cheering. “Yess! You made it across! This is a much better path than trying to get across at the Dew Bridge.” The Rogue and Hernandez sneak up to the edge of the river, hiding in some bushes.
“C’om Romel, we’ve gotta get going,” a voice shouts out.
A dark young man jumps onto a horse drawn cart, and the group of people head in the direction of Lyons.
“Dammit!” Hernandez curses under his breath. “That was my brother!”
Rogue and Hernandez return to the rest of the party, further back of the river, to discuss the situation. The Black Dragon Pirates had found another less dangerous way across the river. There were four foot soldiers along the edge of the river, and they were watching their rafts, filled with people and supplies, float across the river. Suddenly, a violent surge jolted the raft, and the people aboard were overturned, plunging all on board into the murky water. A glimpse of a horrible looking creature with rows upon rows of razor sharp teeth thrashed below the surface of the water, followed by screams from the people aboard.
“That’s the fourth raft we lost today,” one of the men on along the river bank exclaimed.
“Well, it’s a lot better than the amount we lose at the bridge, that’s for sure,” another replied.
As they watch the people trying to bring their supplies across the river, they come up with a plan. Rogue would sneak behind them, and then charge out, with the rest of the party surprising the pirates from the side.
Rogue sneaks behind the bushes near the river’s edge, and spots several large, white eggs sitting in a nest-like structure. Ignoring them, he decides to concentrate on the task at hand, waiting till one of the pirate guards’s back is turned. Before that happens, he hears a low pitched growl from behind him. turning arond quickly, he narrowly misses the snap of the angry Rippersnapper, a medium-sized crocodile-like lizard with a sharp tusk growing out of its lower lip. Rogue panics and run out from behind the bushes, running past the startled pirates. The rest of the party charges out, and the fight between pirates, crocodile, and adventurers ensues. In confusion, the Rippersnapper lashes out at the first thing it sees, and a pirate is impaled upon the tusk of the angry reptile. Several more rounds of fighting go by, with Rogue attempting to push more of the pirates towards the creature. Eventually, all pirates are slain by the adventurers, and the Rippersnapper dealt with, but not before chomping down on some of the adventurers. Cleric heals who he can, and the party continues on the road to Lyons.
The party decides that this area should be watched in case more pirates decide to cross the river, and they ask Smokey and his band to stay there and make sure no one else gets across. He tells them he would rather join them in the retaking of his hometown, but is finally convinced to stay and guard the river.
Hernandez tells the party that the reason why he joined Black Dragon was to make sure his brother didn’t have to. He had hoped to make enough money to send his brother Romel to school, so he could have a better future than the one he painted himself. He asked that they not kill his brother. The Cleric tells him that his brother will be safe if he decides not to atttack them.
They get to the tunnel that Chief Charleyhorse mentioned, and begin to enter. It is shortly after dusk, and the tunnel sheds no light. Deep inside, they can hear the scurrying of several legs, and some of the party members feel a bit uneasy. Using a dancing lights spell, Rogue lights the hallway, revealing a few clusters of Rock Krunchers, small rock automations in the shape of crabs. They attack and try to eat anything with metal, and because they did not want to take off their armor, they decided to fight their way through.
They continue into a long dark tunnel with water up to their ankles. When they walk a distance, Chief Charleyhorse points up to the ceiling of the tunnel and tells them the secret entrance into the town is up there. It used to be an old outhouse, and the hole leads directly to a storage shed. Lifting each other up, Rogue is able to get up the tunnel with only a few falls and minor damage. Rogue looks around and hears several people talking outside the shed. The large shed looks like what was once an alchemy shop, is filled with dirty empty bottles and rickity old wooden shelves. The rest of the party lift Francine up into the hole, since she was also one of the lightest, being a halfling like the Rogue. Together, they lift up a few other people in their group, but Dwarf Fighter (Meldox) falls a couple of times before they finally pull him up. Rogue listens through the door, and he can hear the pirates speaking casually about expecting an attack tonight. Using ghost sound, rogue calls them away to an area further down the alley.
Carefully opening the door, they see that they are about 80 feet away from the castle where Clegg is keeping watch. Gregory suggests that if they capture Clegg, the rest of the pirates might surrender. Gregory would take the rest of the party and block the door while the adventurers rushed inside to deal with Clegg. Led by Dwarf Fighter, the party begins to sneak from the storehouse to the castle, but voices from inside break the stillness of the night.
“You’ve gotten soft, Clegg! This traitor deserves to die, yet you keep her alive?”
A woman screams and pleads for her life.
“Viper, I told you I would deal with her!” A gruff voice sounded increasingly agitated.
Cleric tells everyone that they need to move now, and starts to run into the castle. The rest of the party follows behind. Two of the archers on the second floor of the castle start to shout, and they begin to shoot. The archers from Lady Genevieve’s castle fire back, killing one of them, but barely missing the other. The adventurers rush inside the castle, and turn the corner, only to see a grren haired man with a mohawk slash the throat of Tawney, the girl who decided to betray them. Clegg and Viper, both on a balcony, are in the middle of an arguement, and perhaps attempted coup by one of his followers. Clegg lets out a blood curdling scream, and in one fell swoop, beheads Viper. Viper’s head seems to jump off his neck, hitting the stairway and tumbling down, leaving a trail of blood. Tawney struggles then her body lays motionless.
A bell sounded, and in the distance, torches began heading the way of the castle. Clegg demands to know how they got into teh city, and the rest of the pirates draw their swords. Hernandez steps into the castle, and his eyes meet with Romel’s.
“Romel! It’s me!”
“Brother, what are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to liberate this town. Don’t fight back! I’m with these guys!”
Romel freezes as his companions charge the adventurers. Lights, arrows and blood fly around the large room, in a dance of carnage and fury, as magic and martial weapons are released upon the fighters. Chief Charleyhorse fights fiercely with the adventurers, killing several pirates. The pirates call into the basement, and several other fighters emerge. With a mighty roar, Clegg sprints across the room, jumps, and attacks Rogue, narrowly missing. Before he follows up with another attack, he stops dead in his tracks and says “It’s you!”
Outside, Gregory readies the party for a pirate group of ten soldiers running towards the entrance.. With a thunderous jolt, the pirates charge into the crowd, trying to get through to Clegg to help him. The line holds, and the fury of the fighting at the gates of the castle is only matched by the battle inside. As more pirates emerge from the night, they hear a battle cry from further in the town. As the torches get closer, the cries get louder and more pronounced. It is Smokey and the rest of his band. With another battle cry, they charge the pirates attempting to enter the castle, sandwiching them between their enemies. Smokey dives into the melee, swinging his sword savagely and fighting with all his might. The carnage both inside and outside the castle turns the surface of the area crimson with the blood of the combatants.
The adventurers, successful in killing most of the other pirates, turns to deal with Clegg. With great swings of his greatsword, he bloodies the adventurers, but seems to make a point of not attacking Rogue, though he is given plenty of opportunities. A pirate cleric runs towards the battle, casting restoration spells on the leader of the pirate band. Romel, now with conviction, turns towards the cleric, and imales her in the back with one of his spears. Clegg, now beginning to weaken, eventually gasps, “I surrender.”
Dwarf Fighter raises his waraxe, and tells Clegg to drop his weapon. Clegg complies, and with a clang, the mighty sword falls from his hands. The gruff dwarf, not being satisfied, demands that he kneels. Clegg complies immediately, and Cleric asks him to call his men off.
Moving towards the exit, Clegg bellows over the fighting. "Men, stop your fighting. This town has been retaken, and I don’t wish anyone else to die in vain. Rogue demands that the rest of the pirates surrender, but some of them, refusing, turn to run. They are cut down with arrows to the back, courtesy of the soldiers for Lady Genevieve’s castle.
The adventurers tie Clegg up and round up the rest of the pirates, placing them in the jail in the basement of the castle. Romel and Hernandez embrace each other, glad to know they are ok. Cleric runs towards the stairwell, where Tawney laid, and was extremely surprised that she had stabilized on her own. With what remained of his cure spells, he revived her. Hernandez and Romel tend to her, while the rest of the people helped clean up the carnage and look after the wounded.
At the front of the castle, where the town counsel normally held their meetings, was a large pile of Epona, the drug used to create the Marii Tea. As the pirates were rounded up and put into jail, the sound of several horses could be heard outside. It was the town counsel, and after congratulating the adventurers for a job well done, they began to debate what they would be doing with all the jailed pirates and their leader Clegg. They sit him down and interrogate him. He tries to make a deal with them and offers them information in exchange for his life. He agrees he will answer some of their questions, but will hold back some other answers as leverage.
They ask him about the mirror they are carrying, and he tells them about the Paramour, a powerful Mermaid who came to this area not too long ago.
“The paramour came to this area about a year ago. She made her home base in the caves in one of the islands near Stormfrost.”
Clegg continued. “Now, everyone has heard about the destruction of Atlantia, right? Well, what most people know is Atlantia itself was destroyed, but the fish people weren’t completely wiped out. They are fish – they could just swim away an’ all. A lot of them scattered across the rest of the world, and one of them ended up on one of those islands.”
Conways asks, “The fish people, you mean the Merma?”
“Yeah.” Clegg says flatly. “The Merma, or whatever. They are good fighters, and they have some messed up powers.”
Preston presses the half orc for more information. “Who do you work for? Why are you here?”
Clegg continues with his explanation. "Francini was the admiral of our fleet, and he said that the Paramour guided him to her, whatever that means. As you know, Rakkum the Regent of Stormfrost, is my former captain. I am the commander and second in command of the Francini Pirates.
“So this Paramour told us that she would give us riches beyond our wildest dreams if we would just help her rebuild her empire. She said she could control people, and make them do what she wanted. She also told us how to make Marii Tea and get people addicted to it. Francini knew this was an opportunity to advance our own plans, so he took the deal. The only guy who was smart enough to say no was Billy the Red. I admire the guy for sticking to what he knows best – the sea.”
Gregory then asks “So where is Billy the Red now?”
Clegg, his green skin sweating great beads of sweat, carries on with his story. “He’s gone off on his own. He knows that if we get too powerful, we’ll probably turn on him, so he’s laying low for now. The only one who would know for sure is his cousin, who’s also named Billy. He works in the lumberyards in Hope. Billy looks exactly like Billy the Red.”
The adventurers groan, as they realize Rogue insulted Billy and as a result, Billy returned to the town of Hope. Cleric critisizes Rogue for being fast and loose with his tongue. The town counsel continues pressing Clegg for more information. Especially important, Cleric asks the half-orc about the mirror the Paramour wanted so badly.
“The Paramour also wanted this mirror. She could appear in it, even though she was on the island. But with crystal balls, you can only see so much, and the image is distorted. With this mirror, you can see the other side right clear like she was there in front of you. She said that when you get wasted on this Marii, she could gaze into the souls of the person. And after that, you were hers! She could take over your mind, see what you are seeing, hear what you hear, and control you wherever you are! Her hold on people naturally wears off after a month, but that’s not a problem for her, because she could just control the person and get them high again, and then look into their souls for another month of control.”
A moment of silence, as Clegg stopped to catch his breath. “That’s why we are trying to harvest as much Marii Tea as possible. There is a tea house in Stormfrost, and people are always going there to trip. I dunno how many other mirrors she has, but she wants the mirror you guys are carrying real bad. Because she can control a whole city with just that thing. She threw everything she had, and didn’t care how many of us died to get at it. I wasn’t about to invade Chantelle with only 20 guys. That would be suicide. So I held this position even though I was ordered by her to invade anyways. That’s why I’m as good as dead. I disobeyed a direct order from the Paramour. And that’s why I need to go see Billy the Red. Rakkum told me some of the other pirates are not happy with this alliance. She wasn’t suppose to use her mind control on any of our people, but just a few moons ago, his daughter’s favorite retainer was found lying dead in a pool of her own puke in the Stormfrost Tea House. We don’t know how far up in Black Dragon she has reached, and she is beginning to scare some of us with her powers.”
The adventurers then ask Clegg about the missing girl Jewel, and he tells them they would get that information if they agree to release him and let him see Billy the Red. They continue to press for more information, but Clegg stubbornly refuses to answer any other questions.
Back on the main floor of the castle, an argument had broken out over what they planned to do with the Epona. The crop was most likely going to fail because of the time it took to reclaim the town, and they would not have enough food for the winter. Smokey was in favor of selling it back to the pirates, but the rest of the counsel refused. The adventurers told the counsel they should not sell it, because of the Paramour using it to put mind control on people. But what choice did the town have, explained one of the counselors. It was either that, or half the town would starve and may not make it through the harsh winter.
A decision was made to send Sara the gardener into the fields that night, along with two guards, to check on the crop and see if it were still salvagable. Sara said she would probably return late, and she will give her report in the morning.
The adventurers decide to rest for the night.
They were soon interrupted, when in the middle of the night, a frantic knock on the door of their room. It was Jimmi, one of the people assigned to guard their wagon. He told them that there was a commotion down at the castle, and the counsel needed them immediately. Getting dressed, the adventurers headed down. When they reached the castle, there was Chief Charleyhorse, along with a few of his friends, insisting on buying the Epona from the town. The adventurers explained to him that no, the Epona was not for sale, and they had better leave. Some tense moments passed as Chief Charleyhorse sized up the situation, then decided to leave.
Since all was calm again, they went back to the Inn and tried to salvage the remaining night.
In the morning, the town of Lyons looked busy, as people started to pour back into town. Many people thanked the adventurers, and soon, the title The Heroes of Hope began spreading among the citizens. A caravan with several of the King’s guards came into town, picking up Gregory and the rest of the soldiers who had joined the invasion. The town counselors gathered in the center of the town square to decide how to best deal with the situation. They had a dwindling food supply, a large group of prisoners they did not know how to deal with, a dangerous and charasmatic pirate leutenant being held captive by them, a bridge that was about to be completed by the pirates, and a potential gold mine’s worth of drugs that could buy their way out of winter starvation. The counsel continued to argue, and at that point, the adventurers had had enough. They decided they would let this town deal with their own problems, and made the decision to leave for the town of Hope, where they would attempt to go back and explore what was in the cave where they found the mirror, and find Billy, to ask him to contact his cousin Billy the Red.
But first, they decided they were going to confront the Paramour. They took their caravan out on the way to Hope, and in the middle of the wilderness, they stopped, and asked everyone else to step away from the area. Taking the mirror, Fighter, Cleric, and Rogue hopped into the covered wagon, and rubbed the mirror. A few seconds later, and a beautiful woman appeared in it, the same woman they had seen earlier, in the mines.
Her charm seemed to intoxicate the area, but the the adventurers were having none of it. They told her they knew what she was up to, and to stop what she was doing. She replied and told them that humans had destroyed her home and that she would build a new empire from its ashes, using humanity as her tools. Atlantia would be rebuilt, using the crushed bones of mankind.
Rogue said that he would hunt her down and kill her. The Paramour replied that she had his father, the pirate leader Francini, and if he got close to her, his father was as good as dead. The other adventurers were stunned! They had been travelling with none other than the son of the leader of the Black Dragon Pirates. She also threatened Fighter’s mother and father, and knew that Cleric had a child coming. Could they keep them all safe? She told them to return what was rightfully hers to her, and she would make sure none of them came to harm.
Rogue told her to watch this. He took the mirror out of the caravan, lifted it above his head, and brought it down violently against the nearest large rock. But it failed to shatter, and in fact, did not seem to even make a dent in it. The Paramour laughed at him, and Rogue, defeated, returned the mirror to the wagon. Cleric said that guarding the mirror and wagons would take a higher priority from now on, and they were going to make a bigger effort to be careful with the priceless artifact.
They continue on to the town of Hope, with more questions now than answers. But with time, and a little luck, they had hoped to solve them.