15 August 2007

The Plunder

Yeah, there was a lot of good stuff in the hulk of the Sea Wyrm. A lot of it was bulky, and Qaramyn cast Bull's Strength on Breygon, Gwen and Alric to help them with the lifting and carrying. Arcane scrolls rock.

Rather than merely give the PCs an itemized and notarized list, I thought I'd give them a narrative.

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Plundering the Sea Wyrm

The sun was a little past its zenith when Gwendilyne plopped herself heavily down on a convenient, moss-covered log. She was exhausted, but nonetheless nocked an arrow and cast an eye around the glade. Just as a precaution; after all, it had been a busy morning.

Behind her, Alric and Breygon grunted under the immense weight of the vampire’s coffin. Although the lid had been smashed, the remainder of the wood was sound – which was just as well, as they had decided to fill it with the tarnished silver ingots taken from the wrecked chest in the nightwalker’s lair. Qaramyn, examining the ingots, had whistled softly, explaining (in his usual “By Mirros, I’m smart!” tone), that the hammer-and-tongs symbol stamped into each of the bars was the mark of one of the ancient royal mints of Nondelvin, and that as such, the silver was likely exceptionally pure and valuable. “Jeweller’s silver, not coiners’,” he had said approvingly. Each member of the party obviously had their own ideas about what to do with their new-found wealth – except perhaps Gwen, who for once was too tired to care.

She watched the wizard as he prowled around the outskirts of the growing pile of plunder taken from the ruins of the ship. They had found a wealth of stuff, most of it mouldered, rusted and fallen away to wrack and ruin. But there had been a few pleasant discoveries. She patted her vest contentedly, feeling the soft bulge of the zippered leather packet of dwarf-made files, pincers and lock-picks she had hidden away. Her own tools – which were among the best her people made – were rough and clumsy by comparison, and she felt certain that with these new implements, she would be able to open locks and disarm traps more or less by looking at them. Good for more than picking locks, too, she reflected with a smile. Especially the tweezers.

She had also taken advantage of the party’s heavy work to examine the elaborate silver, amethyst and crystal belt and necklace taken from the remains of the poor old dwarf they had found stuffed headfirst into the ship’s squatter. Her practiced eye told her that while the stones were only semi-precious, the workmanship made them things of some value. Not my style, she thought, eyeing the typical rectilinear dwarven designs; but a little spit and polish and these might be worth hundreds.

Finally, she had taken a close look at the small, intricately-carved wooden box recovered from the dwarf’s much larger chest (the one fitted with the false and hidden locks – fabulous craftsmanship! she marvelled). The heavy box contained five rolls of coins wrapped in waxed parchment; breaking one open revealed finely-stamped gold coins of double-weight, marked with the same symbol as the silver ingots. Each roll contained fifty of them. Money! She thought gleefully. She glanced around the, noting her friends resting and examining the booty. Then, after a brief struggle with her conscience, she closed the box and replaced it in the pile. There was plenty to go around. She took four of the ten-pound silver bars from the coffin and began to juggle them easily, tossing them dozens of feet into the air before catching them lightly again, enjoying the sensation of super strength. Whatever the wizard had done to her and the others, she mused, she could certainly get used to it.

Alric kicked through the pile of plunder with a smile, and then grimaced; smiling hurt. Gwen had picked most of the shards of crystal out of his face, but the wounds were still seeping. He hoped that he wouldn’t catch anything from being hit by pieces of exploding skullball. But his concerns quickly faded; there were arms enough here to sate even the greediest warrior. They had discovered hundreds of spears, javelins, arrows and bolts stored below, along with dozens of cutlasses, boarding pikes and axes. Most were in dreadful condition, of course, but with his warrior’s eye, he had picked out those that seemed to be in reasonable shape.

One of the curved sailor swords was in excellent condition; its blade had been carefully oiled, and it was gripped in sharkskin and silver wire. Alric judged it a masterwork weapon, a cutlass. Not a replacement for the priestess’ skull-crusher, he thought, but nice nonetheless.

He had also identified, and carried out of the wreckage himself (with many a grunt and groan), an armourer’s crate – a heavy wooden barrel with solid, oil-soaked staves. Breygon had stared at him curiously as he removed the wedges and withdrew the end-plate from the barrel, revealing a densely-packed pile of oil-drenched sawdust. Beneath this mess he had pulled, one after the other, a full half-dozen of finely-made and perfectly preserved chain shirts. Although clearly sized for humans, the tiny rings and their dark, impenetrable bluing identified them as dwarf-make.

Alric had laughed at Breygon’s delighted grin, resealed the barrel, and rolled it over to where they had piled the two other sets of armour they had found – the dragon-scale patterned leather armour of Elven design that Joraz had wincingly extracted from the spiders’ nest; and the ornate gold and azure-enamelled half-plate armour that had been worn by their foe. Qaramyn, without a moments’ hesitation, had declared this latter item to be also of Elvish design – in fact, the panoply of a High Guardsman of the Third House of Harad, a match for the sword the vampire had been wielding, and an antique.

Although he admired its workmanship and beauty, Alric did not touch the plated armour; he wanted nothing to do with anything that freaky blue-faced monster had worn. He’d wear Viloriannis' anatomically-accurate breastplate first. Instead, he contented himself with going over the rest of their martial discoveries – a nice little light mace, with sharp silver studs set into its leaden head; the composite shortbow with the exceptionally heavy pull discovered in a cabinet near the vampire’s coffin; and a heavy chest of armourer’s tools, all of them dwarf-made, in good condition, and evidently of high quality. “Nice,” he muttered to himself. But he still liked Viloriannis’ head-wrecker the best.

Just for fun, he picked up one of the rusty cutlasses they had discovered and bent it into a pretzel-shape. And then he laughed, and laughed, and laughed…

Breygon glanced briefly at the chortling warrior, and smiled to himself; after the day he’d had, Alric was entitled to a little levity. The half-elf wiped his brow, still feeling weak after having been taken under control and gnawed on by the monstrous blood-sucker. He took a swig from his waterskin, patted the oddly-patterned, but well-made and nicely balanced, dwarven shortsword now hanging at his side.

He walked over to where Qaramyn was paging idly through a heavy, leatherbound book – for once, not one of his own. “What have you got there?” he asked.

“Ship’s log,” the wizard replied briefly. “She was Jarlin – the Søorm, or ‘Sea Dragon’, bound for Falkenhavn in Jarla with a load of general cargo – brandy and oil in barrels, bales of woollens, hard lumber. Captain’s name was ‘Rant Strongale’.”

“How long ago?” Breygon asked. The wizard shrugged.

“Can’t tell,” he replied. “Look at this,” he indicated a passage. The faded ink was barely comprehensible. “They use different month names.”

“What does that mean?” the Half-Elf asked.

“The Kindred Calendar has been set literally in stone for centuries,” Qaramyn replied. “That ship has been down there a long, long time. Less than a thousand years, because Jarla only came into existence after the War of the Shadow; but certainly more than five hundred.”

“Why five hundred?”

“Falkenhavn was destroyed five centuries ago,” the wizard replied soberly. “Wiped out by a landslide.”

“How do you suppose she ended up buried in a swamp?”

“I have a few ideas,” the wizard replied, “but they’re all pretty ridiculous. Let me think about it.”

“Let me know what you come up with,” Breygon said. Qaramyn nodded, closing the decrepit book and placing it carefully into his pack. “Anything else?”

“Plenty,” the wizard answered. “Look here.” He bent and carefully opened a large leather satchel. Inside were a dozen bone scroll tubes, carefully sealed with wax, each marked with a runic inscription. Breygon noticed that the wizard seemed to be handling them with especial care.

“What are those?” he asked.

“I don’t know…yet,” Qarmyn replied. “But the inscription reads ‘Ronath of Gorvejle’. That's in Jarla, too. We found them in the same cabin where we found the mace. Could be just about anything. Or how about this?” He drew Breygon’s attention to an ornate ball of tarnished silver attached to three long chains, joined by a single ring.

“And that is…?”

“It’s a censer,” Qaramyn explained with a self-deprecatory snort. “Benefits of a clerical upbringing. I spent much of my youth walking behind loud-mouthed, babbling priests, swinging one of these things around like an idiot, and choking in the fumes.” He gave the thing a tap with one fingernail. “I don’t recognize the symbology, but I’ll tell you this – it’s valuable. Solid silver.”

“I wish there were someone left at the Shrine to make use of it,” said Breygon. “Anything more?”

“Just that,” the wizard answered, indicating a long, flat wooden box, badly decayed. He kicked the lid open with the toe of his boot, sprinkling chips of decayed wood here and there.

“Ah,” said Breygon. Inside the box lay a beautifully-crafted scabbard of dark-blue leather and gilded fittings, the exact shape and size of the Guardsman’s Glaive he had recovered at File’s mansion the night before. “Very nice.”

“Indeed,” said the wizard. “That should save you a few nasty cuts.”

Breygon surveyed the lot. “We’ve done well,” he said.

The wizard nodded. “We did well to survive,” he agreed. “We seem to have a talent for finding ourselves with our backs to the wall.”

“Best-laid plans,” Breygon said, with a rueful shake of his head. The wizard snorted agreement.

“You might want to look at this, too,” he said. Breygon raised his eyebrows as Qaramyn reached into a pocket and withdrew a small packet of cloth. “Do you remember that body we found sprawled across the table in the wardroom?” The Half-Elf nodded. “Take a close look at it?” the wizard asked. Breygon shook his head.

“Well, I did,” Qaramyn went on. “Fresh. Killed no more than a couple of weeks ago. Human. Rich clothing, but badly torn up; eaten, I suspect. He was wearing this, but didn’t have a chance to draw it.” With one toe, the wizard prodded a silver-plated dress belt bearing a finely-crafted dagger in an bright silvered scabbard. “Note the lack of tarnish. He hadn’t been down there long.”

“So?” Breygon asked.

“So, this,” the wizard replied. He flipped the cloth off the packet in his hand. Breygon stared in amazement. “I recovered it from the dead fellow’s belt-pouch while Gwennie was busy fondling the silver,” Qaramyn added. “What do you think?”

“It’s stunning,” the half-elf said. The wizard was holding a fabulous golden necklace, studded with enormous pearls and set with a brilliant ruby pendant. It was easily the most exquisite piece of jewellery he had ever seen – and given his experience trundling empty-headed nobles around the hunting forests of Aeryn, that was saying something. “What do you figure…”

“Thousands,” Qaramyn replied. “Maybe more. I’ve never seen anything like it either.” He flipped the cloth back over the necklace and pocketed it again. “The problem is, whose was it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Think about it,” the wizard said. “Fresh corpse, killed pretty recently, probably not far from here. Everything else aboard this ship is centuries old, but this isn’t. So somebody’s going to be missing this fellow, and probably really missing this necklace.”

“Good point,” Breygon replied. He glanced around the marshy terrain near the cavern entrance. “Meanwhile, we’ve got a lot to do.”

“And not a lot of time,” the wizard interjected. “The transmutation of puissance won’t last much longer, and we’ve a heavy load to transport. I suggest we get this stuff to the forests’ edge; at least then we can bring the horses and wagon down from town if we need to. We won’t move that coffin any other way.”

“Certainly not,” Breygon agreed. “By the way, did you count it?”

“Count what? The silver, you mean? Hundreds,” the wizard replied.

“That doesn’t seem like much,” Breygon said sourly.

Bars, my dear Sergeant,” the wizard replied. “Hundreds of bars.” He grinned at the half-elf’s wide-eyed stared. “How does it feel to be wealthy?”

“Truthfully?” Breygon asked, glancing around the swamp, and at the forest wall a mile away. “It makes me nervous.”

Qaramyn’s smile vanished, and he nodded soberly. “And so it should,” he said.

Breygon hesitated for a moment, as if he wished to say something more. Qaramyn noticed this and raised a querulous eyebrow. “What is it?” he asked.

“The remains of that skull,” Breygon said softly. “I saw you looking it over.”

“What of it?”

“Did you take it?”

The wizard regarded the half-elf expressionlessly. “Are you afraid I forgot it,” he asked softly, “or afraid I didn’t?”

“Answer the question.”

Qaramyn folded his hands into his sleeves. “My fascination with the arcane is boundless,” he replied, shooting a cold glance at the ranger. “But so is my respect for powers I do not understand. I’m not a fool.”

Mi scusata,” Breyon muttered under his breath.

Non dolor adsuma,” Qaramyn hissed back. “Think nothing of it.” The wizard's eyes glinted. “Lovely Gwendilyne will never have to spend an hour using her brand-new lock-picks to dig enchanted shards of crystal out of my face.”

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