Death and Duplicity

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heir lunch finished the two men turned back to the recently felled redwood, its length easily topping one hundred feet and wider at its base than Kraag was tall. Removing the larger branches to prevent them catching during the trip to the mill would take most of the afternoon and as they began Kraag once again took up his story…

The morning started with the thunder of boots on the stairwell, when the door was opened it revealed a troop of Danes men here to escort us to the Red Keep to see The Butcher himself. We were taken up to the keep and shown in to see Dane where, after some discussion, he told us that he only trusted those that had either shed their blood protecting him or shed others blood for him. To prove that we were trustworthy he proposed that we remove Marder as it “vexed” him that he did not own the largest ship in Slavetown. With Marder dead the crew would be free to swear fealty to him, if they knew what was good for them.

After our meeting we returned to the inn to break our fast but on our return found it empty save the presence of Trysta who revealed that she would like us to instead kill Dane. While she talked Kalieb and Watcher snuck out the back door and used the spirits to evade Trysta’s troop that were stationed behind the inn; from there they proceeded to the rope works and then down to watch Marder’s ship, the Black Swan.

After Trysta had left Cassandra attempted, and failed, to follow her. The rest of us headed down to Seteph’s vessel to share that we had learned the desired guards name, in return he shared that it was indeed elves that had brought Chendra but they had not left on the ship but had instead outfitted an expedition and trekked inland, their only possible destination the Tower of Elements. We also explained Dane’s request to kill Seteph’s ally and the fact that we were considering faking his death to try and lure Dane out of his keep. Seteph instead offered that we still kill Marder but instead let him claim the ship and then present it to Dane so that he would then owe us a favour. Loyalty was obviously not high on his list of personal attributes.

As we left the ship Kalieb decided to throw a piece of wood at the stern window of the Black Swan but failed to break the thick glass there. He did get a reaction from the crew leading first to insults and taunting then weapons being drawn and object thrown; he dived into the sea to avoid them and eventually made his way down the docks and then back on shore. While the guards were distracted Watcher attempted to board but was noticed during the ascent and had to retreat. The rest of us then returned to the inn.

There followed much discussion on what course we should take, kill or not kill Marder or Dane or just cause a distraction and free the slaves. Some form of distraction seemed needed but the method was hotly debated and much was from the personal ethics of the group.

As the evening drew near Kalieb once again went to annoy Marder’s men, this time enraging them enough that many followed him into the rope works allowing Watcher to once again attempt to climb on board the Black Swan. This time he succeeded and hid himself on the deck waiting for some sign of what to do next. While he waited Julian’s bird returned with the news that the Lady Luck with arrive late the next day. With that news we decided that we would wait until the following evening to put our plans into effect. Kalieb and Watcher returned to the inn and we settled down to wait.

The next morning dawn bright and clear and we set about our plan, by the end of the night Marder would be dead, the ship given to Trysta and while Dane set out to take it we would use the confusion to cross a bridge across the maw and free the slaves and escape. We set out to but some oil to help prevent guards from crossing the bridge after us and then went to check the slave pens one last time before the evening’s mayhem. Along the way we found men gathered around Arcost, it seemed that Trysta had captured and dealt harshly with him, he had been mutilated and then crucified. Drawing near the pens one of Danes men mentioned that we would have to get our bids in soon as a ship was arriving that day to purchase them all. They would be moved before the afternoon passed.

Cursing whatever malevolent being caused this shift in our plans we immediately moved our plan forward, Julian’s bird was sent to bring Bentil and his ship down immediately, Cassandra went to get Trysta and the rest of us headed for Marder and the Black Swan. Leaving Watcher to warn us of any danger from our rear, Kalieb set up to cover us from a distance and Templar, Azo, Julian and I headed for the ship, as we approached a group of Marder’s men formed up to deny us access to the boarding ramp and archers above drew their bows firing down on us but failing to do any harm. As they did the men by the ramp charged forward their weapons swinging into our shields and armour.

As Templar met their rush the rest of us jumped up and boarded the ship and Kalieb cast a ball of sickly green fire into one man sending him shrieking to the ground causing the archers to begin volleying their arrows at him. While both the men on the dock and the ones on the main deck attempted to strike Templar, Azo and me, Julian headed up the steps to the stern deck where the archers and a few other sailors waited and hid within the wheelhouse which also hid a new set of stairs leading downwards. Templar followed our path up the side of the ship and as the sailors turned to swarm up the gang plank Kalieb braved another hail of arrows to send a second ball of green fire at the access way, sending it plummeting to the sea below.

From below the wheelhouse a crashing sounded as a door was thrown open, the master of the ship, a huge bull of a man with a shaven head and many tattoos, stormed up past Julians hastily cloaked form and bellowed a demand to know what was happening on his ship. I charged up the stairs to his right attempting to bash my way through two sailors there and then shove the three archers over the rail and into the sea below but the weight of numbers prevented me. While Templar struck out about him bringing sailors to their knees Azo bellowed out a challenge and charged up though the gap I had made and leapt at Marder his sword slashing out to open twin gashes in the captains arms. Julian seeing an opportunity struck out from behind but the weight of the axe threw off his swing causing him to miss.

Once more the archers fired at Kalieb and missed as did Marder’s great sword and all the rest swung various weapons at Templar and me, one managing to open a small wound on my shoulder. Roaring more in anger than pain I seized the reckless pirate and threw him at his companions knocking one over and distracting the others as Kalieb sprinted from where he had been taking cover and leapt high to grasp the rail of the top deck and swing on board. Below Templar swung about and in a flash of blades cut down another 3 men as they, Azo, Julian and Marder all failed to wound each other. Templar looked around and as he realised that he had succeeded in clearing the main deck he saw a ballista had been swung around on the fore deck and a harpoon was fired at him hissing by just a few inches.

Behind Kalieb released another foul ball that engulfed the remaining sailors on the stern deck as within the wheelhouse Azo gathered himself and drove his sword in a short, brutal lunge that powered through Marder’s defences and then his body bringing the fight to an end as his men saw their leader fall.

It was only a few minutes until Cassandra, Trysta and twenty of her men arrived and Trysta claimed the Black Swan as hers. We were glad that we had sent Cassandra to her in advance because while they were still boarding we heard a commotion from down the dock and shoving through the dock workers came Mileen, Kuragga and 30 of Dane’s men. Reaching the ship Trysta informed them that she had already claimed the prize but Kuragga roared out a challenge, one on one and to the victor goes the ownership of the Black Swan.

Calmly accepting Trysta leapt to the dock and set herself at one side of an impromptu circle, her spear at the ready. With another roar Kuragga charged swinging his maul straight over and down in a move designed to kill Trysta in one swing; Trysta dodged and as she brought her spear around to stab she was stunned by the back swing of Kuragga’s maul as it clipped her temple. As she fell to the deck the maul again lifted high to finish the fight when an arrow sprouted suddenly from his skull. Moving faster than thought Danes second in command had drawn and shot her bow with deadly accuracy.

While everyone looked on stunned Mileen crossed the circle and tenderly helped Trysta to her feet, after a brief hug they turned to everyone and laid out their plans which basically consisted of cutting off the keep from the rest of the town to draw Dane out. With the uncertainty of when Bentil would arrive we decided to throw our lot in with them and help battle Danes men. After six hours of bitter fighting Trysta’s troops had been forced back and Dane finally made an appearance, calling for her to come out of the building we were in and finish it.

Dane approached the warehouse with his sword and shield in hand and a large troop in support, to meet them came Trysta, who made a beeline for Dane, Azo to her right and Templar to her left with me holding the end of the line and Cassandra, Julian and Watcher in the middle.

While the warriors among us fought Dane and his mass of men, Cassandra summoned up a dense fog to shield us from the archers that were firing down from nearby buildings and Julian caused a horrific demonic visage to appear causing large sections of Dane’s men to flee and not a few of Trysta’s to follow. Following the first few seconds of this furious engagement many of Danes men had fallen while Dane himself sported a few minor wounds and Azo had taken a deep cut to his shoulder that I had called on the spirits to heal.

As his men fell a space cleared around Dane and Templar was able to score a deep wound before the next wave hit. While Templar, Julian and I cleared out the fresh troops the others continued to hack and slash at Dane. Watcher tried and failed a series of bare fisted strikes and grapples and Azo managed another hard blow but Danes armour and shield were warding off all but the strongest thrusts. Cassandra tried to scare off more of Danes men with an illusion of Trysta’s reinforcements. Then with a cunning twist of her spear Trysta flicked Danes sword from his grasp and as it flew over her head Templar took advantage and thrust deep bringing Dane to the ground. Reaching down I collected Danes sword and handed it to Trysta who, with a final swing, removed Danes head and held it aloft with a cry “The king is dead!” After a few minutes Mileen was able to approach and greeted Trysta with a smile and the words “My queen, the keep is yours.”

It took a few more hours to organise the city but at the end peace had fallen and we were able to talk with Trysta and take possession of the slaves and some supplies to feed them. We learnt that the elves arrived on the strange galley and had visited a few times before, by all accounts the raid on Garra’s village was at their insistence and Dane had received inside information prior to the attack. We decided that the best course of action would be to have Bentil head directly for the Tower of Elements and once we had caught up let Bentil then take the villagers home while we rescued Chendra.

With the tree ready for the mill Kraag finished that part of the tale and wearily the two men headed back towards town, with the amount of work done dinner tonight would be at an inn.

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Death and Duplicity

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