Thud, thud, thud. “Open up! It’s Yuldra and I come with urgent news.” The mid-morning sun filtered in through the grime covered window, ash from the explosion and fire coated the exterior, piling on the sill, and accosted the weary adventurers’ eyes. The events of the previous day were still fresh on each of their minds; the explosion of the colonel’s outpost, the midnight meeting with Eric Ali, the Fanjakana soldiers, led by Colonel Sebastian, working to restore order.
Slowly the group rose from their bedrolls and greeted Yuldra. She informed them that they’d cleared the rubble of the outpost and that Colonel Sebastian requested their presence. Leaving them to get their items, Yuldra went down to the tavern to wait. As they were getting ready, Jiàntóu once again spoke to S in infernal, asking an innocent question about what they should do. Still frustrated from the events of the previous day, S was unable to hold back his disdain for Jiàntóu’s use of his language and he struck Jiàntóu, telling him, in common, not to speak to him in infernal. Jiàntóu retaliated by pulling a dagger and gashed S across the shoulder. S responded by drawing his own blade and cut Jiàntóu across the side, trying to knock his weapon out of his hand. Jiàntóu responded by using his newly found powers granted by the Great Old One, causing excruciating pain to echo in S’s head. Shaking off the noise, S drew his longsword and readied himself to strike. Jiàntóu, stepped back and raised his hands. S hesitated then sheathed his sword, saying that they’ll settle this another time and that Jiàntóu is not to speak to him in infernal again.
Yuldra was surprised to see the state of Jiàntóu and S when the group arrived downstairs, but there were more important issues at hand. She lead the group through the town to the ruins of the outpost. There were several canvas tents raised and Fanjakana medics were tending to the wounds of soldiers and civilians alike. Yuldra brought them to the tent nearest the outpost where Colonel Sebastian was standing, head hung, next to the nearly unrecognizable body of Belegorn. Sebastian was wrapped in bandages and had burns on his hands and arms. As they approached the tent Yuldra explained that Sebastian had led the way in rescuing people from the outpost, rushing into the fire without regard for his own safety. Many within the outpost during the explosion were seriously wounded, but only Belegorn had perished.
Sebastian welcomed the adventurers, feigning the exuberance they were familiar with, but the sadness of the previous day was too heavy to hide. He lamented that none of the clerics in chepstow were knowledgeable in resurrection and he knew nothing of the druid that performed the same rites for him. Sebastian then shared what they’d learned from Belegorn’s notes, which had been left with a scribe. Belegorn had uncovered that the Mandrata was moving a magical item through Chepstow under the cover of the festival and that a ship had beennreported leaving at first light. Belegorn believed that the destination was Turbury via Pashiavo, which was a long journey by boat. S asked if the notes mentioned the Black Claw Mages and Sebastian told him that Belegorn had written, “can’t let the mages get it” in his notes, but he knew nothing of the mages. That was enough for S to agree to chase down the boat and recover the item. The rest of the Falconiers agreed to follow.
Sebastian told them to go to the dock where they’d find the Silver Strike, a large war boat of the Fanjakana. He informed them it wasn’t the fastest boat, but it was well stocked with supplies and able soldiers. When the adventurers arrived at the dock they discovered there were three boats there. The Silver Strike was a large, and seemingly slow, military barge with a large crew. A few slips away was the Veiled Shadow which was being loaded by a crew of tough and seedy looking men. In the last slip was a small, streamlined boat gilded with gold and decorated with ornate carvings of horses. “Graham Fairmount’s The Pedigree” was written on the cabin.
Vigo couldn’t resist the decadence and immediately boarded “The Pedigree”, followed by Jiàntóu. As they boarded the captain asked them what they were doing. Jiàntóu said that they’d been given permission to commandeer the vessel. When the captain asked for credentials, Jiàntóu pulled out his crossbow. Terrified, the captain fled the ship, but the crew was busy preparing the ship and did not see the captain leave. Jiàntóu announced that they were going to use this ship for official Fanjakana business and that they crew should get in their rowing positions. He then positioned himself behind the wheel and set the boat off. Trying to remember his time as a youth on his father’s boat, Jiàntóu attempted to steer the boat out of the dock, gouging the side of the boat along the pier. After another attempt the ship was away and it’s appearance of speed proved true.
The crew of the Graham Fairmount was well trained and, despite Jiàntóu’s difficulties captaining the fast vessel, they powered the boat down the river on the first leg of the long journey towards Pashiavo. They floated for several uneventful hours, seeing nothing more than the thick forests and muddy banks of the Riandrano River. Rade kept a sharp lookout, though, and spotted something unusual amongst the floating logs and vegetation near the right bank. It was a creature altogether unique, one he’d never seen before. At first glance it appeared to be a bit of floating log with vegetation on it, but it was actually the head of a humanoid-sized creature, its ears hanging down the side of it’s head, its thick, reedy hair hanging like rotting vegetation into the slow current, its eyes squinting in the sun, watching the boat as “The Pedigree” passed. As they got closer, S noticed that Jiàntóu was drawing his crossbow from it’s holster. S was too late in his attempt to stop him from taking a shot and Jiàntóu placed a bolt into the neck of the creature, which immediately disappeared under the water, leaving only the tension between S and Jiàntóu.
As the ship continued down river the crew grew more weary. They rounded another bend and entered a series of shallow canals and hammocks. Navigating the boat through the narrow passage, the adventurers spotted a low hanging branch with a dozen small, winged reptiles perched on it. It was inevitable that the boat would knock the branch. Rade shared that these were pseudodragons and that they tend to be skittish around larger creatures. Rolen, standing at the front of the ship, cast an illusion of a dragon flying overhead which caused all but one of the small creatures to dart away into various burrows. As the boat grew closer Rolen was suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to feed the remaining pseudodragon, a plump and slovenly looking one, a sandwich. Quickly running to the cabin despite the questions of the rest of the groups, Rolen started grabbing any food he could find. Jiàntóu fired a bolt at the tiny red dragon, but it remained on the branch, wounded and bleeding. Rolen hurried back to the front of the ship and held out the food. As he approached the tiny creature he felt a surge in his magical powers. The pseudodragon ate as it swore fealty to Rolen by way of broadcasting images of many future meals provided by Rolen’s hand. S stepped forward to pull the bolt from the small dragon and, as he laid his hand on the creature, a healing force unexpectedly surged through his arm and the wound of the creature healed. Rolen continued to hold the dragon as the group continued down the river.
Walking back to the cabin, S saw a series of puffs of smoke rising into the air. Concerned, Rolen commanded his familiar, a hawk, to fly back and investigate. Upon it’s return Rolen informed the group that the creature that had been spotted swimming in the river was on the shore making smoke signals. Alarmed, the group began searching the shores for any movement. Rounding another bend in the river, the group saw the wreckage of another ship along the bank. Vigo, who’d taken command of “The Pedigree”, piloted the ship carefully next to the battle-worn vessel. The name “Jeremy Belmont” was painted across the back. The hull and deck was gouged with long gashes, many looked to be from a large beast while a few had the appearance as if a blade had slashed them.
The Falconiers explored the Jeremy Belmont, discovering an encrypted Black Claw Mage scroll, a map with the route marked out and the phrase “Amon Sur - The Red Dawn” written in the margin, and a strip of velvet fabric with red piping. As the group examined the scroll, Jiàntóu summoned Hooch from the small onyx dog statuette they’d received in Cloudmouth. Hooch was able to determine that the blood was spilled just two hours before and that the bodies had been dragged into the river.
Further searching turned up no additional clues and S urged the group to press on. Jiàntóu, still fuming from their skirmish in the morning and the attempt at stopping him from shooting earlier, pushed S while he was walking past. Unsuspecting, S was taken off-guard and began to fall overboard. At the last moment he reached out and grabbed Jiàntóu, pulling him over as well. As they dropped into the water, a strong undercurrent quickly pulled them out into the deeper area of the river towards a rocky area where the river was running rapidly. Seeing that S and Jiàntóu were heading toward the rapids, Rolen quickly cast a water-breathing spell on the group. Jiàntóu and S were swept into the rapids but were luckily able to grab hold of the rocks and signal to the group to come after them.
Vigo grabbed the wheel again and set the ship into the river. Moving quickly The Pedigree swept past the two feuding Falconiers into a calmer alcove in the river. However, as the boat slowed, the Falconiers were surprised to discover the alcove was full of creatures similar to the one they’d seen earlier in their journey. Each creature, roughly the size of a man, had long, muscular arms and an elongated face with drop ears like a hound. Their hide was a mottled, greenish brown. They had long, dread-locked hair that started on their head and ran down the back of their long, hunched necks. The hair had a greenish tint from the algae that was growing in it. The creatures’ legs were shorter than their arms, and their claws were webbed. The bit of clothing they wore consisted of pieces of hide and woven reeds, with necklaces of skulls, bones, and claws. The sound of their language that reached the Falconiers over the water consisted of clicks and guttural sounds. It sounded like they were saying “gulo gulo klo klo” and Gulo was the name for them that eventually stuck.
Four canoes, each with four Gulo surrounded the boat while on shore several more were wrestling with a large net spread spread out over thrashing water. As the Falconiers assessed their present situation, a large hook was cast down from a nearby cliff falling just short of the boat. Quickly a Gulo on the cliff pulled the hook back in. Jiàntóu, still clinging to a rock amongst the rapids but in position to see the rope, shot his crossbow, causing the rope to split in half. As the hook was being pulled back, eight of the Gulo in the canoes jumped into the river. Seeing this, S let go of the rock and used the rapids to drive him toward the boat. The Gulo under the water were focused on boarding the ship and did not see S arrive behind them. Taking a dagger, he drove it into the back of the closest Gulo to the rear of the ship.
Jiàntóu followed S down the rapids and soon appeared above water, crossbows pointed at the closest canoe. As he prepared to pull the trigger he was immediately filled with the same overwhelming sense of curiosity that had washed over him at the Temple of Tem-Et-Nu. His mind reeled as a will outside his own overcame him with a desire to see these creatures more closely and study them. He rushed dangerously close to the enemy canoes and found himself investigating the gulo. After a few moments of this Jiàntóu was able to wrest back control of his body, regaining his own will, and quickly jumped back into the action.
Leaping from the ship at the closest canoe, elbow outstretched, Mamul landed on the craft and catapulted the two Gulo onto the deck of The Pedigree. The Gulo quickly struck several of The Pedigree’s rowing crew, killing them easily. The Falconiers did not hold back, slaying the creatures through sword and sorcery. At the same time, Rolen unleashed a well placed magic missile, severing the hook which sunk quickly to the bottom of the river. The Gulo on the shore let go of the net they were holding when they saw the hook was severed.
Unembumbered by the net holding it back, large creature rushed towards the boat. From the deck, the Falconiers could see that it was a very large, reptilian beast with a long neck. From under the water, S was able to see that it was a plesiosaurus and it was preparing to strike the boat. Drawing his sword, S swam forward and drove it deep into the sternum of the beast, causing it to rear back in fear. Drawing on his training, he withdrew and then struck the beast again with such ferocity that the creature recoiled.
While the battle with the plesiosaurus raged in the water, the rest of the Falconiers were battling the remaining gulo in the canoes and climbing aboard the boat. Rade made use of his command of ice and shattered several of the creatures. Jiàntóu was accurate with one crossbow bolt after another. Vigo, drunk with strong mead and the fervor of battle, sang a song of one of the Falconiers of legend, a cantankerous dragonborn wizard, ending it with the casting of a cloud of daggers, a favored spell of the legendary wizard. The gulo on the cliff began chanting, causing thorny vines to grow from the deck of the ship, piercing anyone who walked near them.
Mamul climbed back onto The Pedigree, passing several of the gulo in the process, so that he could battle the biggest foe, the plesiosaurus. At this point, S had landed blow after blow, gutting the beast, and had begun hacking at the base of its long neck. Grabbing a javelin, Mamul leaped from the boat and drove the point of the spear into the blowhole at the top of the plesiosaurus’ head. Held fast, Mamul took a small hand axe and gouged out the left eye of the creature. As it reared back in pain, S unleashed a mighty strike, slicing through the bone and tissue of the creature, severing its neck from it’s body. The weight of Mamul carried the head and neck forward towards the ship and as he came down Mamul landed on his feet and used the momentum of the fall to hurl the long neck over his shoulder, much like the suplex maneuver used by the wrestlers in the empire courts.
At the sight of the slain creature, the remaining gulo began to flee. Rolen cast another round of magic missiles, but as he aimed the bolts a great, uncontrollable power surged through him. Instead of the small surges of energy he had expected, a great explosion of lightning erupted from his fingertips, burning through the remaining gulo on the ship and nearby.
Looking around, all the remain gulo had fled and the Falconiers were faced with a surprising calm in the alcove of the river. The body of the plesiosaurus faded away, revealing itself to be magical in origin. With nothing else to fight, the Falconiers disembarked from their ship and followed a well hidden trail through the woods. Along the way they found the marks of small, webbed footprints dragging several larger objects. Hooch could smell the scent of the crew from the Jeremy Belmont and followed the trail to a small tributary. The Falconiers discovered a small bone statue on the path and used it to decipher the scroll, revealing the message “Amara, we have found the Treasure of the Frost Plains. We hope to arrive in Turbery in three months. Will send news if we can arrive sooner.”
The Falconiers arrived at the tributary to discover two canoes and the marks of two more that had recently been pushed into the water. Boarding the canoes the Falconiers set off, hoping to recover this “Treasure of the Front Plains” from these strange new enemies by whatever means necessary.