New Members to the Party…
Ragnar is a half-orc rogue that lives his life in service to the Black, wrapping himself in shadows to steal what he desires and kill who he needs to. His skill as an assassin and thief have landed him jobs all over the Empire and he “knows a guy” in each city to help him get the job done. After years of planning he recently pulled off the biggest heist a rogue could tackle: break into the Prince of Shadow’s vault. Things between Ragnar and the Prince have been complicated since. The half-orc would likely be dead if the Prince were not so impressed with how he pulled off such a feat. Such trespasses do not go unpunished though and Ragnar now has a debt to pay to the Prince.
Shadow Port Shuffle
Part 2 – This Place Grows on You
Ragnar stood in the corner of a small dingy room with no exit save for one door. He did not like being cornered, but there would be no hiding so long as the Prince had a debt held over his head. A well-dressed Tiefling walked in and sat down at the only table that graced the cramped room. “My name is Samwell Dirrel. It seems you have landed in quite a bit of a mess, now haven’t you?”
Ragnar remained silent. While other rogues might impress people with clever banter and showy tricks, Ragnar preferred to go unnoticed in life. A man with a profession such as his had little use of small talk.
The Tiefling’s face hardened. “Fine. Let’s get straight to business. You owe quite a debt and I am here direct you on how to repay that debt. Succeed and you will find your freedom and perhaps a bit of wealth on the way. Fail, and… Well, I would advise you not to fail.” Samwell retrieved a small pounce from his jacket pocket and tossed it on the table.
Ragnar upturned the pouch and a single coin fell out. One side was defaced with the mark of the Prince of Shadows. Ragnar looked up at Samwell. “What is this?”
Samwell stood up and straightened his cloak, “Present that coin to the doorman at the Pious Gardener. Further instructions await you there. I trust with your knowledge of Shadow Port you do not need directions.” With his business finished the Tiefling turned and left. Ragnar pulled his dark hood over his head and walked out of the Dark Jester Tavern a few minutes later. As he departed he overheard some of the bar patrons whispering about a butcher’s shop disappearing from Thornleech Lane.
It had been several days since the Navale mansion was robbed. Krogar thought it best to skip town while the dust settled and had taken a small job protecting a cargo shipment retuning from Glitterheagan. Traveling through the Empire made Krogar miss the sight of his own home world that he longed to return to. Every night since he was transported here he dreamt of a strange symbol, his only hint at what magics brought him to these lands. As the ferry carrying the cargo pulled up to ports of Shadow Port Krogar located Sheila, the merchant who had hired him. She was handing out payments to the other guards who had accompanied them, but when Krogar’s turn came she frowned. “Sorry Krogar, you’re a fine guard, hate to do this to you.” She placed a single coin in his hand, with the symbol of the Prince of Shadows scratched in the back. “Take this to the Pious Gardener. That’s all I know.” The fighter sighed. He knew what this meant. Gripping his katana, Krogar headed to the east of town. Before he left he noticed a big bunch of ranger types rowing ashore in a tiny boat from the direction of the Bitterwood. They looked to be about serious business. Paying it no mind Krogar continued on his way.
There weren’t many places in Shadow Port that afforded a quiet moment. Gil’Adan leaned his chair back and enjoyed the serenity that The Pious Gardener offered. Most of the attendants in the tavern were elves passing through on business, and the Gardener catered to their tastes quite well. A trellis along the wall and ceiling supported flowering leavy vines that reminded him of the Queen’s Woods. He sipped at his summer wine and was about to pick up his book again when the door to the tavern was slammed open. Captain Danziker staggered into the tavern, clearly three sheets to the wind, singly loudly to all that would hear.
“It’s of dear grog to you I’ll sing, And to dear grog I’ll always cling, I like my cup filled to the brim, and I’ll drink all you’d like to bring. And it’s oh, dear grog, thou art my darling, and my joy both night and morning. Though oft hast made me friends me foes, and oft hast made me pawn my clothes, but since thou art so near me nose, it’s up, me boys, and down she goes!” Danziker upended his flask of grog over his mouth and drank deep. Feeling mighty proud of himself he went to take a dramatic bow, but as he tipped over the floor swam up to meet him.
Krogar was outside handing his coin to the doorman when he heard Danziker’s voice inside. He pushed open the door and barely had time to make sense of the situation before the bartender began yelling. “YOU?! How dare ye show yer face here!” Krogar had no idea how to reply when he realized the old, one-eyed dark elf was pointing to where Captain Danziker was picking himself off the floor. “You stole my ship! You’re not welcome here! OUT!” Not intending to get himself mixed up in the old pirate’s affairs Krogar side stepped past and joined Gil’Adan at his table.
Danziker looked towards the source of the yelling with bleary eyes. “Kiel Xu’bulon? That be you?” His vision cleared just in time for him to duck as a bottle was thrown at him. “Halt! I ain’t cheated! I won that ship in an honest game, you know that. Wasn’t my fault you had three priests to my four dragons. If ye be looking to blame someone fer stealing the ol’ boat blame the Emperor, he took it from under me ages ago!” The bartender fumed and was about to deliver a retort before Danziker pulled a familiar coin from his pocket. “I be here on business, mate.” The bartender gritted his teeth and bit back further words. Very few people in Shadow Port interfered with the Prince’s business. With a sharp jerk of his hand he gestured to the table where Gil’Adan and Krogar sat. Danziker sauntered over and put his feet up. “Aye, mates. What be the business today?”
Before either the sorcerer or fighter could respond a shadow fell over the table. A half-orc dressed in well-fitting leathers and dark cloak had approached their table. By the look of the wicked long knife on his belt, here was a rogue that meant business. From a pouch on his belt the half-orc pulled out the same coin the three of them had been given. He pulled up a chair and sat down. “You may address me as Ragnar. What’s the job and when do we start?”
Since none of them had any indication what their mission was to be, they concluded to just wait for a sign. The bartender continued to bring by drinks, pausing at times as if he had more to say but one look at Danziker always sent him back towards the bar with a huff. After the second bottle of elven wine, Gil’Adan noticed the inside of the label had writing on it. He carefully peeled the label off the bottle and flattened it on the table. On it was the sign of the Prince and an image of a dagger. Atop the seal were the words ‘SACRED DAGGER, Cult of the Sand Crab, Don’t Disappoint me.”
Gil thought back to his time as a Dragonknight. He had heard several passing whispers of the Cult of the Sand Crab popping up all over the port towns of the Midland Sea. Not much was known about them other than they moved around from port to port keeping to themselves. As he related the information to the other adventurers, Krogar spoke up. “If they move from port to port, chances are there is some record of their arrival. I know one of the harbormasters. It’s a start.”
The sun was high in the afternoon as they found their way to the docks. Danziker grimaced at the sounds of the seagulls above. It did not take long until they found their way to the harbormaster, a half-elf named Tippen Merryweather. When Krogar asked if he had any record of newcomers to the port within the last week carrying any religious or arcane equipment, the half-elf smiled and produced a mammoth ledger from below his desk. After pouring through the records, Gil’Adan was able to narrow down the search. “Three ships carrying passengers and cargo fit that description, all docking in the last week: The Concord’s Grace, the Queen’s Gambit, and the Golden Light.”
At the name of the Golden Light, Ragnar finally spoke up. “Golden Light, you said? I know a guy who was on that vessel. The first mate, in fact. He’ll help… for a price.”
“Everyone in this town will help for a price,” Krogar snapped the book shut. “Many thanks, Master Merryweather.” The fighter slipped a sovereign across the table. As long as he was stuck in these lands he made an effort to keep his contacts happy.
They were able to locate the first mate aboard the Golden Light overlooking the loading of cargo before their return trip back to Horizon. After another few sovereigns changed hands, the first mate told them that their passengers were indeed members of the Sand Crab. Rumor had it the cult meet in an old rundown warehouse on the northern docks. The first mate warned them that the Cult of the Sand Crab funded its operations by selling hallucinogenic fungus and sent them on their way. On their way over a drunk staggered into Gil’Adan and grabbed onto his shirt, “The owls! The owls have been seen slouching around Tenderhill district. Slouching I tells ya! It ain’t natural!” Krogar pushed the drunken fool away and the party continued on.
The sun was setting just as they made their way into the northern warehouse district which belonged to the Red Scars. Gil’Adan was about to ask why they called themselves the Red Scars when he noticed every single one of the members bore a vicious looking scar across a part of their face or arm. Krogar noticed Gil’Adan’s gaze and quietly said, “Initiation rites for the gang. Shows strength.” Krogar greeted the Red Scar leader, Molak, with his hand on his chest. “Molak, I need a favor. Have you seen anything or anyone suspicious in the district in the last few days?”
Molak was a scrappy looking halfling who looked like he had seen his fair share of fights. “More suspicious than the usual lot in this town you mean?” When his gang laughed, Molak continued, “As a matter of fact, I have seen some undesirables around. Warehouse twenty-three a few blocks up has had some odd folks popping in and out of it the last two days. At night the strangest sounds echo from inside. Rumor has it that since they arrived strange warm black fungal spores have been falling all over Latchmound district. It ain’t no problem yet, just an oddity. Told me boys to give it a wide berth, get the feeling there’s something unnatural going on in there.” When Krogar went to offer a coin to Molak, the halfling raised his hand. “No need, mate. You been good to us, and we’ve been good to you. Just get rid of our new neighbors, eh?”
The halfling’s directions were accurate. After a short walk they found themselves in front of a large warehouse that long looked abandoned. Passing by, nobody would have looked twice at the building. However, as they kept their distance to case the joint, Gil’Adan couldn’t help but shake a sense of wrongness in the magical aura around the building. “Something isn’t right about this.” Silently, the four of them made their way through the shadows up to the warehouse. Danziker happily applied his set of thieves tools obtained from the Prince of Shadows to the one of the side doors of the building.
The interior of the building was much like any other warehouse: stacks upon stacks of crates and boxes on numerous shelves. Eager to prove himself, Ragnar took the lead of the group. He carefully avoided anything he suspected may be a trap, keeping his eyes peeled for anyone else in the warehouse. Krogar and Gil’Adan followed the half-orc rogue carefully, with Danziker bringing up the rear. When Danziker saw a crate with an unusual mark on the side, curiosity got the better of him. The old pirate slid a knife under the crates lid and popped it open to see what was inside. A jet of buzzing flies erupted out of the crate, surrounding the four adventures and driven them mad from the noise. When the swarm finally dispersed, the party was a bit surprised to find the warehouse quiet once again. No alarms had been raised.
While Krogar looked over Danziker to restrain him from doing anything else foolish, Gil’Adan and Ragnar were able to find a door leading to a basement level. The tingling sensation that Gil’Adan was sensing through the building was much stronger at this one door. The sorcerer was about to open it when Danziker grabbed the sorcerer’s outreached hand. The pirate was glaring at the ceiling where a large bag with a black dripping stain at the bottom was hanging. “Trap”, he whispered. Danizker followed the lead of the line across the ceiling, down the wall, and along the floor. Together Danziker and Ragnar used their talents as rogues to disarm the trap. With the path clear the party descended to the lower levels.
They expected hard stone floor underneath them but were shocked to feel a squishy wet ground. The chamber they were in looked to be a tunnel lined with numerous species of mushrooms. Several of the mushrooms glowed with bioluminescence, offering a soft red light. Gil’Adan pulled what knowledge he had of arcane disturbances together, “If I know anything about hell, I think we just stepped into it. There is strange magic at work here… it feels like we stepped into another realm.” Krogar silently agreed, he had jumped worlds before and felt a similar sensation when he was transported to Shadow Port all those months ago.
As Gil’Adan approached a brightly colored mushroom it began swelling up in size. Moving fast, Krogar grabbed the wood elf and yanked him back just as the mushroom exploded in a spore cloud. From then on Danziker and Ragnar used the knives to disarm any mushrooms that blocked their path from afar. Further in Gil’Adan heard shuffling ahead and halted the party. He gestured toward Ragnar who crept forward, keeping to the shadows. The half-orc rogue found a cultists on his knees, rapidly shoving mushrooms into his mouth. Ragnar crept up behind the man and drew his dagger across the cultist’s neck with ease. As the cultist fell to the floor, Ragnar noted the man’s bulging stomach and grime covered robes – Apparently the cultists had been at this for some time now. Gil examined the body, “I know a bit about cultists, and they’d do anything for power. I’d wager a guess this man was devouring mushrooms to gain some form of power.”
The fungal covered walls eventually gave way to a rectangular room divided in half by a half-formed wall of fungal roots. Four large crates occupied the closer half, with three similar crates barely visible on the other side of the fungal mass. Triggered by the party’s presence, a skeletal hand appeared from the nearest crate, lifting the lid. From each crate emerged a skeletal figure lined with grave rot mushrooms.
Ragnar dodged a rusty sword and with a twist of his cloak disappeared into shadow. Danziker saw his fellow rogue disappear and grumbled to himself about not needing no shadow tricks. Relying on fancy footwork, Captain Danziker danced forward, bringing his cutlass down upon a skeleton that approached and tumbled left before the skeleton could return a blow. He had no clue he had just tumbled right into a monstrously large skeleton until the undead creature raked his bony claws down across Danziker’s back. The creature let loose an unearthly cackle as grave rot set into the wound that would slow the old pirate down.
Gil’Adan knew from his power stolen from the Lich King that destroying the central source of power animating the undead could weaken the remaining skeletons. He began gathering his power and observe the fight. As the battle unfolded, the half-elf sorcerer saw the monstrous creature emerge from the fungal mass and sent Danziker sprawling with a single blow. “There! Kill the large one!”
Krogar turned to engage the monstrous skeletal creature, but found his path blocked as the skeletal warrior swarmed around him. The half-orc fighter cleaved his way through one warrior and into the next, keeping the pressure off Gil’Adan. Meanwhile, Danziker dodged under another blow then twisted his cutlass back up into the monstrous skeletal’s ribcage. Ragnar stepped out of the shadows behind the skeletal horror and sunk his daggers deep into the back of the creature’s skull. Seeing the two rogues making quick work of the monstrous creature, Gil’Adan redirected his energies towards the skeletal archers deeper in the room. A super charge bolt of energy flew out of the sorcerer’s hands and hit his target dead on, sending bones flying as the archers exploded into pieces. Within another round the undead had been put to rest and the room fell silent. Krogar found a vicious looking long sword inlaid with the image of a bear in one of the coffins. It was heavier than his katana, but what it lacked for in speed it more than made up for in might. It would serve him well.
After a short rest the party pressed on. Beyond the undead chamber Krogar, Ragnar, Gil’Adan and Danziker found more fungus infested tunnels. The party narrowly avoided pools of wriggling maggots, exploding noxious mushrooms and attacking tendrils as they made their way deeper into fungal hell. As the tunnel continued impossibly upward, they eventually found themselves on a platform overlooking the mushroom cavern below. The bioluminescence of the mushrooms below cast an eerie red glow over the surrounding area. More red lights seem to float around in the air. In the clearing, amid large mushrooms, were three cultists and an altar. Two of the cultists seemed transfixed, seemingly by the hallucinogenic properties of mushrooms they harvested. The third was standing over the basin of the altar. None of the cultists had noticed the adventurers.
The two rogues knew what to do and stealthily crept towards the two transfixed cultists. As Danziker was about to strike, he felt something hit his head and a spore cloud erupted around him. He had just enough time to register the great hulking fungal demon stepping out from the shadows before his mind went blurry.
Expertly skilled as an assassin, Ragnar had better luck taking out his target. The cultist crumpled at the half-orc’s feet. With a trained eye he noticed that the floating red lights in the room actually belonged to two fungal demons, their black oily skin concealing them well in the dark room. He watched as one of the demons revealed himself and attacked Danziker, but Ragnar was too far away to help. At least he would beat the fungal demons at their own game. When the next free moment presented itself Ragnar stepped into the shadows.
Krogar made to charge the fungal demon, but was stopped as Danziker stepped into his path. The old pirate swung his cutlass at the half-orc fighter, but Krogar raised his new sword to deflect the blow. “What in seven hells are you doing Danziker!?!”
“Confusion,” Gil’Adan shouted. “Fend him off as best you can until he comes to his senses!” The sorcerer started pulling energy together and readied a spell. When the cultists finally joined the fight, Gil’Adan was ready for them. Icy cold winds buffeted against the two remaining cultists as Gil’Adan released an overcharged breath of frost energy towards them. One of the cultists froze solid and moved no more. Seeing Gil’Adan attack the cultists the second fungal demon turned his fury towards the wood elf. Before he could cross the room a dagger protruded from his neck. Ragnar had reappeared.
Danziker finally shook aside the confusing effects of the spores from his head and realized he had been attacking Krogar relentlessly. Thankfully it looked like the fighter had made good use of his maneuvers and sustained little damage. The pirate gave a sheepish grin at the half-orc fighter and shrugged. Apologizes would have to wait until later. Turning, the pirate moved to strike down the demon that had attacked him. Krogar let loose a battle cry and joined the fray.
Working together now, the four adventurers dropped each of their foes. As the fungal demons started decaying before their eyes, Gil’Adan examined the altar basin. A glint of metal caught his eye and he reached his hand within. The liquid was warm to the touch but he was able to pull a dull looking dagger out of it. “I believe I’ve found the sacred dagger. Doesn’t look very special.” As the last drop of liquid dripped off the dagger, the wood elf felt the air in the room shift. The fungus that lined the room darkened and began rotting. With a groan the cavern walls began collapsing. “By the Diabolist’s horns, we’ve gotta get out of here! The entire place is rotting away!”
The four adventures began a mad dash back the route they came. The tunnels were quickly rotting away in large masses of disgusting filth. More than once, on of them slipped on the rotted floor and found themselves covered in grime. Down other corridors they could see other fungal demons rotting where they stood. Several cultists of the sand crab were screaming in terror as their hellish fungal ‘paradise’ died around them. The party finally found the trapdoor just as the last of the tunnels behind them collapsed. Krogar wrenched open the door and heaved all of them up and into the warehouse. As they exited the trap door and looked back down, they could see only a normal basement crowded with crates.
Danziker lifted himself off the floor, “I tell ye true, it ain’t often a pirate admits he be needin’ a bath, you make no doubt of that. This muck is vile!” All four of them did the best they could to get the grime of their clothes but to little avail. Reeking of rotted growth, they made their way back to the Pious Gardener. Several customers wrinkled their noses at the smell as the party walked in. Kiel looked ready to start shouting, but the dark elf bartender held his tongue and looked sideways across the room. There they found Samuel waiting for them as if he knew exactly when the party would be returning. The tiefling took the dagger from them, saying another element of their debt had been repaid.
GM Note – I loved this adventure and like Shadow Port Shuffle more and more. With this particular adventure I added an additional skeleton combat to lengthen the session and to put a bit more pressure on the party. Skeletons fit well with Gil’Adan’s Lich King heritage and the rotting aspect of fungal hell worked with the undead. In keeping with Danziker’s disgraceful reputation, I chose to give Kiel the bartender a history with the pirate. Since the history was troublesome, they had to do their own legwork to find the warehouse rather than having Kiel providing the location of the Sand Crab Cult for them. In addition, I had the adventurers return the sacred dagger to Samuel in the Pious Gardener instead. I liked the idea Samuel being a debt collector of sorts for the Prince and wanted to make him a recurring character. If Kiel needs the dagger to further the organized play plot later, it’s simple to say Samuel gave it to him after the party departed.