After the tsunami, and the climactic combat with Depora Azrinae, the party relaxed and performed some mercantile activities for the next few weeks. Although they were eager to investigate Devils Elbow, the damage inflicted by the tsunami and the number of other expeditions already underway meant they could not find passage.
First order of business was finding a buyer for the Gold Goblin. John Dalton first approached Clegg Zincher, but no answer was forthcoming. The local manager of the Gas Forges, Tromard Roldheim, approached the group with an offer, though – an overall price of 20,000 gold, with 8,000 up front, and another 1,000gp a month. Also, in addition to cash, Tromard offered goods from the forges at a discount of 20% off the normal price, such as Adamantine. Since this was the first time the group had the luxury of selling off a large number of items, and in turn stocking up, stock up they did on a number of improvements to the group’s gear.
Once the shopping was done, Kwava approached the group again with a request. His superiors had been in contact, and had asked if the party would investigate the Drow installation on Devil’s Elbow for them. To aid with this, they had hired passage on a vessel named the Flying Cloud.
The captain of the Cloud, one Josper Creesy, invited the party to dinner on his vessel to get to know them better. Over dinner, the captain regaled the party with the tale of Devils Elbow, and Virashi’s Curse. The group were fascinated by the tale, but as it drew to a conclusion, Vanessada and Arras noticed a crackling noise from outside. A voice called out ‘Fire! Fire on the Docks!’
Glancing out the portholes, it was immediately noticable that the fire had caught on the rigging and sails. On shore, some helpful people were already cutting the hawsers holding the Cloud in place. Standard procedure at the Riddleport docks is to cut burning vessels adrift, to avoid any danger of the fire spreading to other ships. However, most of the group discerened that the people cutting the lines were likely doing more than their civic duty. Segnar opened fire from the porthole, and the rest of the group ran outside to give chase. After a short but brutal battle, the attackers were dealt with, and the fires extinguished. Still, damage had been done, and a day was required to repair the rigging and replace the sails.
Once the repairs were complete, the 5 hour journey to Devil’s Elbow was uneventful. Sailing up to the island, the impact site was obvious – a crater hundreds of feet wide, surrounded by an even larger swath or burnt trees that had been knocked flat in a burst pattern around the impact site. The region’s frequent rainstorms and damp conditions had prevented the fire from consuming the entire island, yet in all nearly a quarter of the island’s forest was destroyed by the impact. No signs of life were visible, with the exception of a thin plume of smoke roughly midway between the two lighthouse towers, at the height of the island’s ridge.
Captain Creesy was very nervous as his vessel approached the island. He told the group that he would rather not stay in the region, and instead arranged for a pick-up date. John Dalton agreed to a day a week away, with the proviso that he be able to contact the Captain earlier by magic if required. Captain Creesy agreed, noting the 5 hour trip time from Riddleport. As this arrangement was made, a bright light flashed out from the peak of the island’s central tower, a sparkling blast of pyrotechnics that lasted for several seconds before expiring.
The Cloud sailed up to the old piers to allow the group to disembark, with the Captain saying they would not stay a moment longer than required. As the part made their way to the docks, a voice called out from the seemingly abandoned warehouse buildings. The speaker turned out to be Gravin Goldhammer, the leader of the Gas Forge expedition. Accompanying him were two other dwarves and two humans, all with torn and filthy clothes, looking tired and haggard. Gravin immediately stated he’d had enough of ‘this cursed island’, and requested passage back to Riddleport. A short interrogation of Gravin revealed that they had been attacked by low, fast monsters – none of the survivors of the 13-man expedition had gotten a good look at them. However, some of the expedition had been bitten or slashed, after which their wounds had gone bad. in Gravin’s words ‘Some sort of sick got in them, and then, when they died, it came back out their faces. Torag’s scars, but that were a sight I’d like to unsee. Came right out of their faces like they were tongues, and then my own men attacked us.’ Gravin reported that the men were put back down, and the bodies burned. He urged the group to get back on the Cloud and return to Riddleport with them. Being made of sterner stuff, the group set off into the wilderness.
A short hike up the overgrown path lead to the main village of Witchlight. No repeat of the earlier lights had been seen, but turkey vultures could be seen circling overhead. Five crumbling buildings comprised the remains of the settlement, perched on edge of the island’s central ridge. The only intact building appeared to be the central tower – the other stone buildings were still standing, but none of them seemed to have an intact roof. As the group approached the tower, they found four corpses strewn in the path between the buildings. The fact that the circling scavangers had not yet landed to feed indicated something unusual was happening with the bodies. An examination showed they were slain by numerous slashing blows and what appear to be bite marks. More horrifying, however, was the mutilated nature of their faces. Each body was missing the lower jaw – in its place was a nauseating gray-green, twitching tendril that looked almost like a bloated tongue. As the group approached for a closer look, the bodies all rose up and attacked. Although they reacted more slowly than the party, they still seemed to move much quicker than ‘normal’ animated corpses. However, the sorcerer was sure they were still undead, and attempted to attack with Disrupt Undead. This spell worked, confirming their nature.
After a short combat, during which the ‘zombies’ were eerily silent, the corpses were again laid to rest, and the bodies burned. The group moved on again to the central tower.
The fifty foot tall circular watchtower, standing on the edge of a steep slope overlooking the sea, was made of stone. However, no seams or individual blocks were apparent – it was as if the entire tower had been formed from one block of stone. An enclosed octagonal platform protruded from the tower roof. A small, reinforced barracks was attached to the bottom floor of the tower, and the only entrance appeared to be through here. The outer door, once made of solid oak, collapsed entirely as soon as touched. The room inside was empty, but spattered with blood and other signs of combat.
The group approached the internal door, which was made of solid iron. Unsure what else to do, they knocked. The viewing portal slid back, revealing a pair of familliar green eyes. Samaritha Beldusk opened the door, exclaiming her relief at seeing familliar faces.
Inside the tower, Samaritha explained to the group what had befallen her. Apprenticed to Fenella Bromathan, Samaritha had accompanied her new master on the Cyphermage expedition to the island, along with 10 other minor wizards. In the first two days of the expedition, the Cyphermages made camp in the ruins of Witchlight, and looked for signs of skymetal. There did not seem to be ‘enough’ skymetal, considering the number of craters on the island, which the mages initially put down to the activities of other prospectors. Now, the survivors have come to suspect other reasons. Two nights before the group arrived, the mage’s camp was attacked by large numbers of creatures, and were torn apart. The few that survived, including Samaritha, did so by retreating inside the watchtower and barricading the door. They could do little more than watch as the bodies of their dead, left in the rubble, rose and staggered off into the surrounding woodlands.
Fenella was among the first to die on the night of the attack. Since then, Samaritha has taken charge of her fellow mages. Periodlically, she travels to the top of the tower to fire off an eye-catching pyrotechnics spells, in hopes of attracting the attention of the others on the island for help. When Goldhammer’s men arrived late yesterday, the cyphermakges thought they were rescued, but could only watch as the men refused to approach the ruins further without being met outside – a tactic that ended poorly for them as they were ambushed and slaughtered by the creatures lurking in the nearby woods. When the mages sighted the Flying Cloud, Samaritha did her best to attract the ship’s attention with another pyrotechnics spell, and had been considering a risky flight down the mountainside to seek aid. Fear of the creatures, and a sense of duty to her fellows too injured to move kept her in the tower until now. She suspects the creatures have noticed the party, and might well be massing for another attack.
Not knowing what to call the creatures, she has described them as best she can. John Dalton recognised them as Akatas, and is aware that they are resistant to magic and venomous, laying their eggs inside the fatal bites. Samaritha finishes by practically begging the party to heal her injured companions and then lead them off the island to safety. After the group explains that the ship will be some time in returning, she says she wishes to remain holed up in the relative safety of the tower until the ship returns, especially now that night is falling.