The year is 4004.
Winter is just over the horizon, making itself known by a bitter cold chill in the air. You and your companions stand on the oak deck of The Harpsichord, watching the town of Bone Bay go about it’s nightly business before docking in at the port.
The rush of the sober sailors from the sand ship to the nearest inn died down almost as quick as it started, leaving our three heroes stood together; hungry and tired. A very weasely looking human with a bandaged wound upon his head, wormed his way toward the trio.
“Ah! Weary travellers, welcome to Bone Bay! My name is Roddik and I’m a merchant of all things. How was your travel on the great Bone Sea?” He grinned towards the only one in the group who was grinning straight back.
“Hello good sir! How kind it is of you to greet us so warmly on this cold night! We are well, and upon strong sea legs. Here, let me introduce you to my travelling friends!” The happy traveller stepped to one side and pointed at first to a tall elfish looking woman.
“This is Meriele, of Eladrin descent.” The high elf smiled and nodded her head slightly as not to seem rude but did not move any other muscle.
“This is Sandor, a fine Drow!” Roddik had only ever seen Drow in books and found himself staring at the deep black skin of the dark elf before him.
The cheery fellow took a step forward, “and I!” He boomed, quite loud for how late it really was, “I am Kalamar! Tiefling and proud, traveller and your friend!” He was donned in traditional Tiefling garb laced with brilliant blues and heavy blacks. Truly magnificent, Roddik thought.
“It is very good to meet you all; Meriele, Sandor and Kalamar.” Roddik started, but was interrupted by a loud call of his name.
Mars and Cupid, the town’s own war-forged watch, marched towards the new acquaintances. They were tall and broad, chest plates glinting in the moonlight. Cupid, named so for his choice of weapon and not for his involvement in love, was the tallest of the two. He was silent but had yellow piercing eyes that said more in a stare than lips could in a sentence.
Mars was shorter and squatter, the rust around his face showed his age. He was loud and bossy but seemed friendly towards our heroes. This couldn’t be said for Roddik.
“Roddik, are you bothering these travellers before they’ve even got off from the ship?” Roddik coward in to himself and averted his eyes from that of the militia’s.
“No Mars, I was merely welcoming them to our fine town. Nothing more.” The metal pair looked at the group for a moment until Mars lifted his arm and pointed towards a building at the end of the bay. Like all the other buildings, it looked to be made of bone. Mostly whale but there were bones none of them could recognise. Perhaps that of old monsters. The moon was low and shadows cast from the buildings gave the town an eerie look; like the bones were alive and dancing upon the floor. The thought sent shivers through the friends.
“That’s Serpent’s Gate, the town’s inn.” Mars turned to Roddick. “We’ve got our eyes on you.” With that, the police walked away.
“I have jobs, if you’re looking for work. Come to the inn with me and we will talk over dinner and ale.”
The sounds of owls and howls were drained out by the songs of The Harpsichord’s sailors, already drunk and some unconscious.
“Before you make your proposition, Roddik, I must have a drink of tea!” The Tiefling laughed and made his way towards the bar while the others found a table, moving drunken sailors from underneath. A short while passed and Kalamar returned with a steaming little pot, like a small cauldron and 4 cups. He passed the cups round and poured hot water and soggy leaves in to each. The tea seemed to be enjoyed by all, Roddik especially.
“Now, are you strong looking travellers interested in a job?” Roddik picked about at the leaves left in his cup. One troublesome leaf however, had somehow become stuck to Sandor’s dark face.
Meriele looked interested, and she was. Between the three of them, they had not one piece of gold. “What kind of job are we talking, old man?”
“Nothing difficult or tiring. Just a well paid favour, if you will. You see, some stock of mine has been stolen and I’d like very much if you could retrieve it for me from the tower in the east. You all look strong and capable.”
“What’s your offer?” Sandor piped up, his sudden speech throwing Roddik a little off guard.
“Er…5 gold pieces. Each!” The three heroes stared at the short man with raised eyebrows. “Okay, 6. 7. Okay, 9 but that’s my final offer! OKAY TEN! And that’s as high as I’m going!” Ten gold pieces sounded very good but Meriele thought to push her luck, reluctant to spend 5 gold pieces on a room for the night.
“10 gold pieces each – upfront, a room for the night and breakfast in the morning. For that, we we’ll retrieve your stock as soon as breakfast is over.”
“Results guaranteed!” Kalamar laughed in to his tea.
Roddik thought about it but not for too long. He agreed and told them the whereabouts of his stock and who this thief, known as Ellik, was.
Then, with no words other than ’I’ll be about’, he rose from the table and went to the bar. Kalamar could see through the screen wall that Roddik seemed to be arguing with the young bar keep but couldn’t hear what was being said over the noise of the drunken slurs. This confrontation went on for a short while until Roddik stormed out, arms in the air.
The rooms were empty and bland, with only straw beds to lie upon and thin, smelly blankets to keep warm. Sleep was difficult for the three friends; Meriele tossed and turned all night and both Kalamar and Sandor were woken by the howling of a wolf or stray dog out in the night.
Breakfast was grey cold meat left over from the night before and thick, stodgy gravy with dry bread to dip; mould and all.
Mars and Cupid were at the bar talking to Patto, the inn keeper. Kalamar, Sandor and Meriele left most of their breakfast to move closer to hear what was being said. Mars, as usual, was the one doing the talking.
“Had anyone left the inn late last night or in the early hours of this morning, Patto?” Patto couldn’t answer and shook his head but both Meriele and Sandor spoke up.
“We both saw Roddik leave very late last night. He didn’t look happy, more angry. Infuriated even.” Meriele confessed.
Sandor agreed. “I don’t know what was bothering him.”
Mars looked at Cupid. “Interesting,” he said “Cupid, we should find Roddik.” They turned around, almost in unison, and left the bar.
No more than 30 minutes had passed and the three were already at the tower in the east that Roddik had told them about. A wood elf guarded the the tower door, pacing and looking important.
He noticed the travellers and drew his wooden bow from his back.
“Stop!” He ordered, unsure who to point the arrow at, “Who goes there? State your doings!”
Kalamar took a brave step forward, oozing with charm. “Ah, my good friend! We’re here on strict business.”
“We’re here to check Ellik’s stock. Orders.” Meriele joined in.
“If you know Ellik, you’d know he doesn’t want anyone in this warehouse.”
“If YOU know Ellik, you’d know he’s sent us on business. Business to check stock levels.”
The guard lowered his bow, looking confused.
“Er… I guess you’d better come in then.”
The first floor was just a small room but scattered within it were wooden barrels and old books, more on the floor than on the shelves.
Kalamar, being the bookworm of the group, ran straight to the shelves in excitement at what he might find. A short search brought forward a very interesting looking book, bound in hide and with a musty smell. Kalamar recognised the language in which it was written as Orcish; a language that none of them could read, but he had a strong feeling. Something told him he should keep it with him, either to sell or to find a translator.
Rummaging through older and less beautiful looking books, the Tiefling felt a cold upon his fingertips. A glass jar was behind a pile of books. Kalamar picked it up, curious and wary. The contents glowed with magic. It was an odd, thick purple liquid. After having no luck with finding a label, Kalamar placed it inside his bag along with the Orcish book, and carried on searching through the shelves. Though he had found much more interesting things, nothing brought more joy to Kalamar than when he found the mint leaves on the bottom shelf. ‘They should call me a Tea-fling’ he giggled to himself.
Meriele and Sandor were not so lucky in their nosey search about the tower’s first floor.
Teaming up to open the biggest barrel in the room, they both fell backwards as the lid lost suction and came loose with a SQUELCH. The foul stench of stinking, rotted flesh filled the room instantly. The air was thick with the smell of disease and death. Covering her face and holding back her breakfast, Meriele peered in to the barrel. To her horror, she found the whole container to be filled with deep red, congealed blood with body parts bobbing around inside it. Hands waved and eyes peered back as she slammed the lid shut. She was curious now, and slightly angry at both Roddik and Ellik. Her anger took her downstairs where she assumed all secrets would be kept.
Being a mage, Meriele conjured mage hand and guided it, along with a burning page from a ruined book, in to the darkness of the lower floor. A brown sandy floor, two half eaten corpses and a strange sound greeted her in the darkness that the mage hand couldn’t reach. She ran back up the stairs, interrupting whatever conversation her male companions were having.
“There’s bodies and something alive down there, in the darkness and my God, it sounds BIG.”
On returning down stairs, along with Sandor and Kalamar, there they found a multitude of vile looking rats; some quite large with intimidating gnashing teeth, already on the move towards the stairs.
The battle was on. Quick thinking Meriele created a diversion by imitating the smell of fresh blood in the centre of the floor. Just a few stupid rats followed and were quickly killed when their hearts stopped by the thought of falling down a bottomless pit, pushed in to their minds by the high elf’s great magic.
Sandor drew his long black bow and reached for the metal arrows in the quiver on his back. He pulled back and shot, sending an arrow straight through the closed mouth of a nearby fat rat. It’s teeth shattered, leaving them sharper than before. The rat screeched as the arrow lodged itself in the back of it’s head. The rat was alive but in immense pain.
Sandor regretted his decision to shoot, as rats overwhelmed him, biting at everywhere and anywhere until Sandor fell, on the brink of death.
Kalamar created the most amazing shroud of fire that engulfed his whole body, making himself look almost god-like. Walking towards a group of rats, he drew his blade of epic proportions and swung back. He looked so awesome.
The strength of his swing was almighty but slow and clumsy. He missed every rat he swung at; not once, not twice but three times, getting more and more frustrated. Some rats were hit by the fire covering his body and perished. The Tiefling sucked the souls from every dead rat until a live one that had been crouching behind a rock, lunged itself at Kalamar’s neck and sunk it’s teeth as deep as they would go. A strong whiff of rotten rat breath pushed it’s way up in to Kalamar’s nostrils, causing him to choke and gag as the rat hung from his throat. He could feel himself start to heave until he was throwing up in powerful blasts in the corner. The rat, although still chomping on Kalamar’s tendons, soon died from the heat of the flames that surrounded him.
Only one rat was left. Filled with despair and adrenaline, Meriele killed it with a quick sharp blow to the head. As soon as she was sure all the rats were dead, she healed her friends and felt safe now that she was no longer fighting alone and her companions would be okay.
The three, now feeling a lot better, decided to inspect the 2 half eaten corpses that were laid on the dusty ground. All their bones were broken in a way no mere rat could do. Fear filled the room.
Searching the bodies for clues, Meriele found a set of rusted lock-picks and Sandor, a piece of gold. However, it was what Kalamar found that was most interesting.
It was a browned and slightly torn diplomatic looking letter with a broken wax seal upon it. Not one of them recognised the seal but they all knew they had to find out what was going on here and this seal was their first clue.
The game is afoot.