Against the Scarlet Sails
In their latest adventure, the heroes of Great Rock had faced mortality for the first time. Despite the devastating loss of a childhood friend, the characters bounced back, meeting this challenge head-on.
Victorious, they returned to Great Rock only to find that their beloved home had been brutally attacked by a band of brigands. Worse still, these pirates had taken many captives from the town, including Duran Fortnite’s new stepfather, Robert Rander. An eyewitness report that identified the pirates’ ship as a sleek, red-sailed craft made the characters’ blood run cold: Great Rock was the victim of the Scarlet Sails!
The attack confirmed the fears held by the characters and others: that the infamous band of slavers known as the Scarlet Sails had returned to activity. Last seen during the Second Goblin War a generation earlier, the Scarlet Sails (including their leaders, an evil cleric named Hearne, the sorcerer Strabo, and the blackguard Conall) were thought destroyed by a band of hearty adventurers. But whether these new attacks represented a return of those slavers or the appearance of a new group using the old tales to heighten fear was moot. The characters knew they had to act quickly, or risk the loss of family and friends.
Some quick investigations pointed the heroes back south to Fort Kavanaugh. There, they used their recent contacts to hire a fishing vessel to search the coastline south of the town, where they hoped to find a hidden cove or secluded beach headquarters.
The plan worked only too well, as the characters stumbled across a slaver waystation hidden along the rocky coast. After besting the juvenile dragon turtle guarding the cove, the characters landed and took on the pirates stationed there. Though the characters were forced to retreat from their initial assault, they returned soon and overcame the band of slavers, including their leader, a wizard named Marissa. Only a single individual escaped the characters’ wrath: a mysterious man in red scaled armor.
Though they recovered their lost family and friends, the characters recovered only the barest of clues to continue their quest. Clearly, this was merely a processing station, a place to store potential slaves for shipment elsewhere. But where was the main headquarters? This question would plague the heroes for months, taking them on a number of dead-end journeys and wild-goose chases throughout the harsh winter.
Along the way, the characters engaged in occasional side treks, including a return to the abandoned elven guard post once used by the evil cleric Maximilian Varro. There, the PCs managed to bypass a door that had resisted earlier attempts to open. Beyond, they encountered elven wights, strange eyeless vampire spawn, and an elven vampire, the long-dead commander who once was charged with protecting the interests of the elven kingdom of Brithonen in this region.
In late February, the characters finally made a breakthrough in their investigations, linking the Scarlet Sails with vessels from Tortuga, a nation located across the sea from Blackmere. This in turn led the PCs to Acosta Shipping, a Tortugan import/export company with ships frequenting Helmsport and nearby ports.
But their investigations brought consequences, and the characters found themselves drawn into a trap. Adarrial Smythe, attempting to pose as a curious buyer, visited Xenophon’s Apothecary, identified as a Scarlet Sails safe house. But the proprietor turned out to be Adamantios Stathis, one of the four Slave Lords in charge of the new incarnation of the Scarlet Sails, and who was quite aware of Adarrial’s identity. But the elusive Adarrial proved up to the challenge, successfully escaping from captivity and returning to his comrades.
Unfortunately, this escape didn’t come in time to protect Alarion and Duran from capture at Stathis’ hands. However, with the help of Jarvis, Seth, and their new friend Thomas (a rogue tutoring at the hands of one of the original band of adventurers who thwarted the Scarlet Sails), Adarrial managed to intercept the slavers before they loaded the captive paladin and cleric aboard a Tortuga-bound ship. In the fight, the heroes slew Adamantios, striking another powerful blow against the slaver organization.
With this newfound momentum, the characters pieced together some of the clues in hand to trace their way to the slavers’ island hideout along the Helm River, scant miles from Helmsport itself. There, they took on a shipload of pirates and barbarians, led by slavemaster Morgan Krell, the sorcerer Jans Harper, and Slave Lord Ximena Acosta, a Tortugan cleric of Kamella, goddess of chance. The heroes even managed to rescue a wyrmling bronze dragon named Verdigris, who had been hiding in the cavern hideout since the slavers slew its parents many months earlier.
They also recovered Slavemaster Krell’s logbook, which confirmed that among the slavers’ earliest captives was the crew and passengers of the Helm’s Pride: the very ship that bore Decius Avan, the younger son of the Duke of the Western Province and whose signet ring the characters found washed up on the beach near Great Rock months ago. The young man was almost certainly alive—but where? Only an enigmatic reference to the “Stockade” suggested the royal heir’s location.
The Scarlet Sails were crippled. Though two of the four Slave Lords still eluded capture—the barbarian warlord Woldemar Skell and the blackguard known as Conallsson (scion of Conall, a lieutenant of the original Scarlet Sails)—as well as their leader, the sorcerer (and now lich) Strabo, the slavers’ power in the region was ended. The characters even managed to settle an old score, when their contacts in the Church of Altius pointed them toward the current hideout of Maximilian Varro, where they quickly dispatched the vile priest of the Dark God Seth.
The characters were the heroes of Helmsport, and the talk of the province. Things couldn’t be better.
Of course, things could always get worse.
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Next: Death Beneath Helmsport
All material copyright Andy Collins 2001-2008.