Atlas Rules Resources Adventures Stories FAQ Search Links
The Three Starflowersby Francesco Defferrari from Threshold Magazine issue 4
by Francesco Defferrari (Sturm)
The story of a slavers hunter
An adventure for PCs of any level fighting slavery in the Known World
This adventure was inspired by these few words written by me on the Vault of Pandius quite some time ago: http://pandius.com/kwslave3.html
This adventure pits the PCs against pirates and slavers as they strive to locate kidnapped loved ones and avenge the freedom fighter known as the Seagull.
In Act I, they will meet Nahi, the Seagull's protege and learn the sad tale of his life. With his very special ship and crew, they’ll travel across the Sea of Dread to reach the slavers hideout.
In Act II the PCs will go against the infamous slavers ship Black Octopus and its powerful captain.
In Act III the PCs will finally learn the truth about the Three Starflowers.
A city on the shores of the Sea of Dread.
The adventure can begin in any city that has a port on the Sea of Dread, although it is better if set in Karameikos, Darokin, Ierendi or Minrothad, or even in Davania.
It could be any time of the day or the night, when the PC’s will see a middle aged and simply clothed man being ferociously beaten by a group of men. These men will run away once the PC’s spot them or yell. If the PC’s are high level, the men will get away by magical means.
Once the PCs run to the unmoving beaten man, they will spot a red gem beside him. That’s a delayed fireball, and the PC’s will be hit if they do not run away quickly (if they are low level, the DM should time the explosion before they are too near). PC’s can immediately realize powerful magic was used, as really nothing is left of the body of the beaten man, and that was obviously done to prevent a raise dead spell.
Naturally, a huge number of people will come in the street too see what’s happening.
PCs should now notice a small steel medallion with the exquisite engraved image of three flowers with five petals each.
Among the people flocking here there is a running girl, that suddenly will stop and will start to cry silently among the crowd. Guards will arrive too, and PCs should be able to give them a partial description of the men (simply clothed like locals, dark or brown haired). They could however be able to recognize them if they see them again (roll on intelligence). Guards will know nothing of the medallion but if the PCs show it, they’ll insist to keep it to investigate.
The girl, young, dark haired, simply clothed and apparently unarmed, will eventually walk away. PCs should stop her and ask if she knew the beaten man.
“Everyone knew him. He was The Seagull”, she says soberly.
PCs should have heard such a name, either because the DM has introduced stories about him before or simply because obviously characters know more of their world than players. The Seagull has become famous in recent years as a pirate hunter. The stories say that the pirates he caught were killed and left with cocoa grains inside their mouths, and he also was known to free captives and slaves whenever possible, but PCs do not know much more about him.
The girl will try to leave. If the PCs ask her name or how she knew The Seagull she tells them her name is Nahi and is an Ierendian, but doesn’t have the time to talk now. She has to search for the men who killed The Seagull. If the PCs offer to help or point out that it’s dangerous to do so alone, she will look at them and ask why they want to help. If the PCs explain that they oppose slavery, she will let them follow her (she trusts her ability to detect lies) but if they give another motivation she’ll ask bluntly if they do oppose slavery, and if their answer is not straight she’ll try to continue alone. PCs who do not immediately gain the trust of Nahi could skip the next part of the adventure and meet her again later (go to Story of the Seagull), or search the killers on their own, as below, and meet again Nahi later.
Searching for the killers
Nahi will begin to visit all the nearby inns and taverns, asking the owners if they have seen men like the one who killed The Seagull. She’ll whisper, in case the men have accomplices nearby, and offer a good bribe to obtain information. She’ll ask the PC’s to do the same in other establishments, urging discretion and caution. In the fourth attempt, the owner of a dirty and loud tavern called The Rotten Squid will tell her (or the PC’s) that those men just came to take their stuff, pay, and then went toward the port. One she hears that, Nahi will rush to the wharves but the men will be nowhere in sight. She’ll ask the local sailors patching nets, port guards and anyone nearby, but everyone will tell that such men didn’t come recently to the docks.
She’ll comment that the men could have exited the city in some other way, or went away by magical means, but she’ll also say she has a good idea on whom they could have been.
Story of the Seagull
(If the PCs have not followed Nahi in her investigation above they could meet her again now, scorned and sad, and ask if she has news). Nahi will tell the PCs she has a story to tell and could use some help. She’ll specify that there is no reward in that except for the satisfaction of doing the right thing. If PCs are interested, Nahi will lead them to a quiet local tavern she knows to tell all of her story.
I have to begin with my story to explain how I knew him. Two years ago I was travelling by ship with my younger sister and many other people from Alcove island to Ierendi city to sell some necklaces we made at the time, when the ship was captured by pirates. They sold us all into slavery in some Minrothaddan port, unknown to me. I was separated from my sister and sent on another ship, toward Thyatis.
Somehow, the Seagull intercepted it and freed us all. That’s how I came to know him, and almost immediately I asked for his help to find my sister. He agreed to help me, at the time I didn’t know yet his story, and that it was way more terrible than mine.
He never told me his real name, he said it was as dead as the man he once was. He said however that he lived in a small village on the coast, and he was a happy man with a beautiful wife. They had three children, three female triplets, a very rare event. When his wife was in labor he picked up for her three starflowers, without knowing yet they were about to have three daughters. That’s the reason why he called the little girls “my starflowers”. The girls were only three years old when his home village was raided by pirates. All his family was captured. He fought, in vain, and was heavily chained in the ship. He fought again, and was beaten senseless for almost all the trip. He was sent to a fighting pit somewhere in Thyatis but survived and, after some months, he managed to escape. He was able to track down the people who had bought his wife, but she had already died, from a common malady. He began to kill slavers and slave owners, while searching for his daughters in all of Thyatis. Eventually he was forced to leave the empire with soldiers on his trail, but did not give up. All that happened twenty years ago.
Nahi continues the story, explaining how the Seagull never stopped searching for his daughters, becoming an expert on the routes and means of slavery and on the people involved in it. He killed pirates and slavers, he freed slaves with force or just by buying them. He built an organization spanning different nations, the Brotherhood of Freedom, to help slaves escape and gained the aid or the sympathy of many people and churches willing to fight slavery, but he never found his daughters.
(DM’s wishing to expand the Brotherhood could link it also to Lathan Lancehand (Male elf 4), main character of XSOLO, Lathan’s Gold, a Calaari elf of Karameikos, sworn enemy of Ludwig Von Hendriks and the slavers of the Iron Ring).
Since he freed me I aided him in all the ways I could. - Nahi explains, then her eyes become wet and her look sadder - I think he became a sort of second father to me, and I became a sort of daughter to him. We looked and looked for my sister and his daughters and finally, just a month ago, we had a breakthrough. We found The Black Octopus.
Again, PCs could have heard the name, as it’s an infamous pirate and slaver ship, reputedly commanded by a vampire, or a necromancer in some stories. Nahi and the Seagull found out that The Black Octopus was the ship that kidnapped both Nahi’s sister and the Seagull’s family. The ship has always been elusive to the fleets of half the world’s nations, that have hunted it almost everywhere for years. It has huge bounties in the Shires, Ierendi, Darokin, Sind, Karameikos and even far away Yavdlom and the Savage Coast.
We did it by following the cocoa trail - Nahi explains - that’s why he left cocoa grain in the mouth of the pirates and the slavers he killed. Because his daughters were sold for three sacks of cocoa. He always said “Think about the tragic irony, Nahi. We never ate cocoa in our lives, before they took us. So many nights I wondered, are my daughters still alive? Do they know cocoa now?”.
We discovered indeed that cocoa coming from the south is often used as payment to slavers by Thyatian traders, and following that route we managed to find a stray sailor who was on the Black Octopus and knew its favorite hiding place. He also saw a girl similar to me in that place, a lone island in the southern Sea of Dread, and that could be my sister. I have a map, a ship, a crew with good warriors, but I need more help to assault a pirates’ cove. Would you come with me?
Nahi eventually would like to alert a fleet or a personality known to fight pirates (like Devon Hyraksos or Zandra Sulanov in Karameikos) about this hideout, but cannot do it right now. She explains that pirates have many spies in all the major ports, and if a fleet leaves to engage them they are often warned before, at least two thirds of the time. She prefers a lone ship and a small group to scout the place and, hopefully, free her sister. She’d also like to capture the Octopus’ captain or one of his officers, to ask them what has become of the Seagull’s daughters. She feels she owes that to him.
Nahi also points out she’s risking much by trusting the PC’s, as the men who killed the Seagull could have allies everywhere, but she needs help immediately. The Seagull had many enemies, but he could have been killed now exactly because he discovered the Octopus’ hideout, and the place could be vacated soon. It’s important to go there right now.
If the PC’s need time Nahi could agree to wait two hours, but not more, or she’ll search for somebody else. If the PC’s accept, she’ll lead them or meet them at the port, by The Hope of Freedom, Seagull’s ship.
The Hope of Freedom
On the ship, PCs will get to know the crew, almost entirely made up by former slaves the Seagull freed. Obviously when they arrive all the crew will be sad and angry over the death of their beloved captain.
The Hope is a small, quick sailing ship (attack 4, movement 7) (similar to a caravel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caravel) with a crew of 19 people. They are all warriors, sailors and even rowers when needed.
The ship has Attack 3 and Movement 8 with the naval battle rules of the Ierendi and Minrothad Gazetteers. - One is Nahi (Ierendian female, 21 years, Thief 3, freed 2 years ago), the others are:
- Julius, the second (Thyatian male, 38 years, Warrior 5, descends from generations of Thyatian slaves, freed 19 years ago, gruff, fights with two swords, in an apparently casual relationship with Herja, but she’s the first woman he really loved),
- Teur (Ochalean, male, 29 years, Warrior 6, born a slave, freed 5 years ago, jovial and kind, he rarely relates the horrible scenes he witnessed in his life. In love with Nahi, but hasn’t yet found the courage to tell her),
- Iana (Ierendian, female, 34 years, Thief 6, taken 20 years ago and freed 10 years ago, beautiful and regal, the informal cook of the crew, is devastated by the Seagull’s death as she loved him, often hides to cry),
- Selan the boatswain (tanned skin, he was taken as a child and doesn’t know where, male, 27, Warrior 4, freed 16 years ago, very gallant with all women but secretly in love with Kala, eager to avenge The Seagull),
- Kala the helmswoman (Pearl Islander, female, 33, Warrior 5, taken 14 years ago and freed 12 years ago, always friendly bickering with Selan, smiling and strong, every sunset she throws a flower in the sea in memory of her slain husband and lost daughter),
- Dragan (Kerendian of Traladaran origins, male, 41, Wizard 6, sold by his parents 35 years ago and freed 10 years ago, always carries silver pieces for the poor everywhere he goes, fearless in battle. He loved Patricia from the moment she saw her, but didn’t tell because he considers himself too old),
- Shine (Ierendian halfling female, 44, Thief 8, a sailoress taken in the seas 20 years ago and freed 18 years ago, knows the sea, winds and currents better than anyone, has infiltrated countless slavers’ houses, in a happy relationship with Abir),
- Patricia (Thyatian female, 22, Cleric 4 of Tarastia, from a rich family of slave owners she repudiated 3 years ago, kind and always willing to help, attracted to Kalb and Dragan but feels guilty about it as she thinks it would be like indulging her vanity, and is unable to choose),
- Kalb (Ylari male, 25, Warrior 4, 10 years a slave, freed 1 year ago, proud and serious but friendly, selfless in defending comrades in battle. Likes Ansel much, but cannot admit to himself that could be more than friendship),
- Ansel (Darokinian male, 39, Warrior 7, a free man of Akorros who joined the cause for idealism 2 years ago, was part of an adventuring group but left them because they didn’t want to challenge the laws permitting slavery and serfdom. In love with Kalb, but thinks he’ll never reciprocate),
- Ailyn (Minrothaddan female, 18, Cleric 1 of Calitha, 5 years a slave, freed 2 years ago, apparently fragile, often praying, wakes up crying in the night, Patricia and Shine often hug her. Knows Ajeet likes her, but she feels too weak to have a relationship),
- Cedric (Dunadalian male, 23, Warrior 3, all his family was taken by Alphatian slavers, he has a long story of escapes and struggles, freed two brothers now returned home, while mother and father died. Likes to joke, drink and party, but deadly serious in battle. Likes Ailyn, but is uncertain if is a good idea to tell her),
- Arafrid (native Heldannic male, 34, Warrior 6, family sold for rebellion by the knights to Thyatians 15 years ago, still searching for two sisters, mother dead, melancholic, drinks too much when at land, is considering telling Ellada he likes her even if he knows it’s very unlikely she would reciprocate),
- Herja (Vestlander female, 36, Thief 3, taken and sold as a child by Ostlanders, freed 3 years ago, never told anyone about her slave years, apparently hard and casual about her relationship with Julius, but she’s really in love with him and deadly afraid of losing him in battle). .
- Ellada (elf female, 115, Elf 7, she was taken as a child and doesn’t remember much, has been recognized by other elves she met as probably Wendarian, was kept as concubine by a powerful Thyatian wizard for decades, escaped after he died. Had an attraction for the recently deceased Sergej but didn’t tell him and anyway she feels really older than the humans and thinks only Abir can partially understand her),
- Saryan (Cypric Alphatian male, 27, Thief 4, crooks sold him into slavery 4 years ago, ended in the Isle of Dawn, then on a ship directed to Davania and was recently freed by the Seagull. Always been a scoundrel and a womanizer, likes Ellada, Ailyn and Patricia, but hasn’t yet chosen the first he’ll court),
- Abir (male gnome, 59, Warrior 3, an excellent artisan and smith, grew in the house of a rich Ylari merchant, treated very well. Didn’t even realize he was a slave until his master died and he was sold 4 years ago. Fortunately, the buyer was the Seagull. Doesn’t know his origin, he doesn’t even speak gnomish. He’s in a happy relationship with Shine and close friend of Ellada).
- Ajeet (Sindian male, 19, Warrior 2, taken 3 years ago and freed recently. His family exterminated, horribly tortured and burned by slavers, even if Patricia and others of the crew are trying to cure him, he’s sick with the desire of revenge and he’s the most likely to do reckless things. In love with Ailyn, but will not admit it as he’s ashamed of his looks. Practices with the sword maniacally).
These people come from all the Known World, all have interesting and sad stories, they were sold by pirates, enemies or crooks, all of them were uprooted and lost their families, most of them were tortured and saw others die. Many are experienced (the DM could also raise or lower their levels to better match the PCs) but the older ones can easily explain how what they do is dangerous by pointing out that more than half of the crew was composed of different people 5 years ago, now all dead fighting slavers. They lost a comrade, a Karameikan named Sergej, just ten days before, during a Thyatian mission.
All the personal relationships of the crew are deeply tragic as they are all ready to die for the cause and know that could happen quite soon, particularly if they have to engage the powerful Black Octopus.
The Sea Voyage
200 miles south of Trader’s island The Hope will meet Typhoons island and pass far away from it, as ships are frequently sunk near it (location of AC10 adventure Isle of the Storm Giant). Nahi will not consider the idea of investigating on the way to the pirates hideout, as time is too important.
170 miles south and 25 west of Typhoons island The Hope will meet the No Name island, aka the Island of Dried Skins of the Shark-kin (PC3), a volcanic island with a high mountain. Shark-kin and Weresharks live on the island, they are wary and threatening, as this is their sacred island and they had to fight pirates encroachers in the past, but could be approached and talked to, depending on the PC’s action. If PC’s are not menacing or arrogant, in fact the Shark-kin will talk, as they consider the PC’s ship too small to be a real threat. They know by sight the Black Octopus (if the ship is described by Nahi) and they can confirm they have seen the great, dark ship pass by directed to the south. (The Octopus can carry up to a 200 people crew and an even greater number of slaves, treat it as a galleon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galleon).
Pirate’s rock is 150 miles south and 25 east from No Name island, 420 miles from Trader’s island. The Hope, if the wind is favorable and the weather good, could cover the distance in just 4 or 5 days. (Water movement modification table for weather in Rules Cyclopedia page 90).
The trip could be uneventful or the DM could use encounter rules (here modified from Rules Cyclopedia), rolling 1d6 for each day. If the result is 1, an encounter occurs, 50% of the time it will be another ship, roll 1d12:
[Table1: Ship Encounters]
Small ship of adventurers, could be allies or headed to a complete different mission, as per DM’s decision
Merchant ship, probably will just signal to salute, but PCs could sign to communicate with them or even buy provisions
Pirate’s ship, could try to attack, see Pirate’s Rock below for a list of them
Special ship, as one of the floating islands of the lizardmen described in Gaz4 The Kingdom of Ierendi, page 53, or Kron, see X7
The other 50% of the time the encounter will be with creatures of the ocean (1d8 with 1-2 flyer, 3-8 swimmer). For flyers see Rules Cyclopedia (a result of 6 could be a dragon as per appropriate table), for swimmers roll 1d12:
[Table2: Creature Encounters]
Any of these encounters could be hostile or not depending on the DM’s decision or the reaction table.
The lone Sea Giant and the Mermen will both be agents of the Twaelar Empire. They will demand the ship’s direction and purpose and they will tell PCs that they are entering the dominion of the Empire. They could be satisfied by several answers, even by the truth, or by a “donation”, provided that PC’s aren’t arrogant or menacing. They know about Pirate’s Rock and affirm that the island belongs to them. Slavery is legal in their empire too, but they do not care about the PC’s actions against other surfacers, as long they do not disturb the peace of the empire. If the giant or the mermen become hostile they could attack in force and the Hope of Freedom will risk sinking, and PCs and crew could be killed or captured (see below the Twaelar Empire box).
[Sidebar: Twaelar Empire]
The Twaelar Empire is the heir of the ancient dominion of Adhuza, that in the remote past ruled over the Thanegioth archipelago and beyond, up to the shores of the Known World. The masters of Adhuza were the kopru, but eventually the more numerous mermen rebelled and took control of the Empire, renaming it. The mermen of Twaelar are not peaceful as those of Undersea, they have learned cruelty too well and are ruthless rulers of the sea that aim to expand their dominion to the north and the south. All the other races of the Empire are second class citizens and they use slavery too. Wereshark and wereseal slavers are used to capture, transform and enslave surface dwellers. They consider pirates useful to disrupt trading routes of the surfacers. Their ultimate goal is to find a way to develop the ability to stay on the surface for extended periods (developing temporary legs as the shark-kin do and the ability to breath air) in order to conquer all the surface of the Thanegioth archipelago, and more. They claim rulership of Pirate’s rock and have in the waters east of Pirate bay their northernmost fortress.
Overcoming winds and currents
It’s very difficult to reach Pirate’s Rock, and that’s the reason why it has been an haven of piracy for so long. Nahi and The Seagull were lucky to find a sailor willing to share the vital sailing information required to reach the island. They consist in a series of maneuvers to avoid dangerous winds and currents that could otherwise push a ship off course. A full day, in addition to the normal trip, is necessary to perform all these maneuvers.
Several governments would pay handsomely for such information, but Nahi would give it freely to anyone willing to attack the pirates. (See Full attack on Pirate’s Rock box)
The island has been in the hands of pirates for centuries. Even if all the Known World fleets know of its existence, only a brave Ierendian admiral once managed to find it decades ago, but his ships were sunk and all his men were enslaved. The reason is the difficulty in reaching the island and also navigating around it without precise maps, as it is surrounded by strong winds, currents and dangerous reefs. The Seagull discovered that there is a safe way to approach the island, from the north, but Nahi will want to do that at night, as by day is much more difficult to remain undetected.
From a distance the island appears exactly like a rock on which waves break continuously. The rims of the island are high cliffs, treacherous to climb, with many submerged rocks beneath. However there is a beach on the northwestern side, with a small cove nearby where the Hope of Freedom will drop anchor and, hopefully, remain hidden. With a small boat the PC’s, Nahi and 11 other members of the crew will disembark on the nearby beach and begin their exploration of the island. 7 of the crew will wait on The Hope.
General Geography and History of the Island
Roughly 20 miles long and 8 wide, the island is so hilly and rugged that getting lost is really easy (1-3 on 1d6 each half-day) and the movement rate is just 3-4 miles a day. With a local guide, it could be increased to 5 miles a day. Even if the external cliffs are bare of vegetation, the interior is an incredibly thick tropical jungle full of insects (and beetle swarms), snakes, lizards (some poisonous), marine birds, ducks, parrots, cranes, herons, flightless birds (like the weka or the dodo), rats, mice, bats and small wild pigs. There are also more dangerous animals, like giant draco lizards, pit vipers, stirges and even some hydras, but they aren’t the most dangerous creatures of the island. In fact several intelligent peoples inhabit the island and claim parts of it.
The first people, who claim to be the most ancient inhabitants, are in reality a mix of races that includes medusas, cyclops, harpies, giants, phanatons, and fairies. They warred in the past but now have forged a stable alliance that dominates the northern part of the island. The second people are the lizardmen that live in the eastern part of the island. The third people are the humans of mixed Makai and Tanagoro descent that live in the south west and in the smaller eastern island. The fourth people are the pirates that include men from all the Known World, Makai, Pearl Islanders, Yavdlomians, Sindians, lupins, rakastas, tortles. The fifth people are the mermen and the other races of the seas they dominate, i.e. knas, sea ogres, sea giants, shark-kin, tritons, weresharks, and wereseals. All of these five people claim to be the real masters of the island, and it’s hard for an external observer to know who’s telling the truth.
All these people now have an uneasy truce, but they had several wars in the past and they also defeated several other people who tried to live on the island but were eventually destroyed and have left only traces now, and that includes fire salamanders, gyerians, crabmen, chameleon men, carnifex, neanderthals, rakastas, Oltecs, Blackmoorians, Taymorans, Nithians, and Milenians.
The waters around the island house an incredible variety of jellyfish, lobsters, crabs, fish, dolphins, seals, more dangerous creatures as sharks, water termites and sea snakes and really dangerous creatures such as sea hydras, sea dragons and the people of the Twaelar Empire.
Walking the Island
From Fairy Beach to Pirate Bay is just a 7 mile walk through the south east, a two hour walk in normal conditions, but due to the impassable vegetation and the rugged terrain the PCs will never be able to walk in a straight line, will have to climb in several places, cut vegetation, cross streams and ravines and will risk getting lost. During the first day they will hear laughter and movement in the jungle, but they will find nothing except for wandering monsters (even a hydra if they are unlucky). In fact the fairies are observing them from the start. If the PC’s do not get lost (and there is a small chance of that, see above), they will reach the outskirts of the village of Sharath by the first evening. If they get lost they could arrive near Gukluna by the first evening or near The Grumbler in two days, or be truly lost in the jungle in the direction of the bay. Either way the fairies will manifest by the end of the second day.
Flying, even if PC’s have the means to fly with other 12 people, it is a very bad idea not only because it would provoke attacks from stirges, hydras and maybe even the dragon Kumatun, but also because the lookout in The Strong (see below) will surely spot them. If the PCs have the means to fly all invisibly, the fairies will stop and confront them anyway, as described below, as soon as they land near the bay.
This village is mostly built on trees, in one of the rare plain areas of the jungle. The inhabitants are phanatons, pixies and other creatures that resemble small rakastas and gyerians (pookas) and treants.
This village of wood huts is inhabited by a particular race of giants probably unique to the island, and by some pixies, treants and harpies. The giants in the past mixed with humans, ogres and neanderthals, so they are only 9 feet tall and have brown skin.
The First People
Wherever the PCs arrive after one or two days of walking, a delegation of the First People will confront them, probably composed of a treant, a pixie and a pooka or a giant. They will ask PCs, kindly but firmly, why they are here on their island and what are they doing. If the PCs speak with them, they’ll explain that they have a sort of agreement with the pirates and they’ll insist that the PCs speak with the Snake Queens.
If the PCs agree, the fairies will lead them, in a days walk, to Medusa Cape. If the PCs escape or fight, the fairies will run away but shortly after they’ll begin to harass them to drive them toward the south, outside their territory. The fairies will avoid kill or be killed situations, but if the PCs somehow manage to kill some of them, they will retreat to attack later in full force (i.e. numbering in the dozens) until all the PC’s are exterminated. Excessive violence would be a very stupid choice on the PCs part and Nahi too will oppose it at any cost as it would compromise the mission.
Probably accompanied by fairies PCs will pass near to
The still active volcano has a cloud of smoke hanging over it, even if it hasn’t erupted for decades. In the past flame salamanders came out of it and tried to invade the island, and some say they are still a threat in the area. The DM could add a salamander encounter if he wishes, as they could attack (not lethally) the fairies and the PCs in order to harass them. If the PC’s have somehow arrived here escaping from the fairies the salamander could be friendly and even aid them in reaching The Strong through underground passages, if they are willing to aid the salamanders in killing the medusas.
They will see a bare area full of caverns, rugged hills, cliffs and sand dunes, inhabited by medusas, cyclops, giants and harpies. The medusas, called by the other of the First People the Snake Queens, will meet the PCs with veils on their faces. There will be three of them. If the PCs tell the truth, the medusas will explain that, after many wars in the past, they made an agreement with the pirates. They trade with them but don’t consider them friends, so if the PCs would like to try to enter The Strong and fight the pirates, the First People will not interfere. They will point out, however, that the fortress and the town of Hideout have a thousand inhabitants and, even if most of the pirate captains hate each other, they will fight together against an external enemy. Besides, they know that the captain of the Black Octopus, simply known as The Masked One, is a powerful wizard. The medusas are willing to help, as they could obtain from the pirates any individual slave or any information, but only if the PC’s will steal an idol in a human village of Tuawo-ki, in the south, or, alternatively if they will aid in killing the dragon Kumatun.
The PCs could discuss the proposal with Nahi and the others. They want eventually the capture of the Octopus but, for now, could settle with the freedom of Nahi’s sister and information about the whereabouts of The Seagull’s daughters, as they all feel they owe at least that to him. Nahi will suggest asking the medusas also all the available info about the other ships now at anchor, as some pirates could be allies in future battles with the Octopus and its crew (see descriptions of the ships below). If the PCs agree they’ll have to choose one of the two missions, if they refuse the medusas will simply let them go and the fairies will escort them to the northern...
With approximatively a diameter of three miles the bay houses in its lower half the pirate town of Hideout, dominated by a tall fortress, The Strong. As walking on the beach PCs could be easily spotted from the towers, they’ll have to go back into the jungle to continue south. The next destination is the village of Kamawi, 9 miles away. With a pixie guide, the PC’s can reach it in two days. The pixie will leave them before the village, they’ll have to reach Tuawo-ki with a local guide, as he won’t enter human territory...
This large town of wooden houses that resemble overturned ships, located in the larger plain of the island, is inhabited by brown skinned humans that look similar to Ierendian Makai and Pearl Islanders. In fact they are a mix of both people and many others, therefore some of them even have fair eyes and hair. They will be suspicious but not outright hostile. If PCs say they are here to meet the high priest of Tuawo-ki, they will warn them of his evil ways, and the reaction will be identical if PCs say they are after the green dragon Kumatun. They do not have much in weapons and magic, and are too scared of the priest or the dragon to accompany PCs, but they’ll offer food, water and everything they have (even magical objects, if the DM wishes). They could also provide a guide to lead them to Tuawo-ki in just one day and half.
This town is similar to Kamawi, but larger and built on the northern shore of a small lake (1 mile long, half a mile wide). The people inhabiting it are apparently similar to those in Kamawi, but the truth is that the priest and several other chiefs and warriors are aranea in disguise. The people of Tuawo-ki know that their leaders are aranea and, as followers of Korotiku, they are proud of it, but do not share this information with foreigners. PCs will be quickly lead to the high priest, who will be willing to share information about their neighbours. He’ll tell them that the medusas, the pirates, the Twaelar empire generals and the dragon Kumatun are all power hungry psychopaths that would like nothing better than to conquer and pillage all the others, but they can’t as their powers are, at the moment, balanced. He’ll also tell them that the humans of Kamawi are dangerous cultists of undersea monsters who perform human sacrifices at the first chance they get, even if he, the high priest, has done his best to redeem them. All this is perfectly true. If the PCs say they are after the pirates or after Kumatun, the high priest will offer any aid he can, as provisions, potions and scrolls, but will warn them about the power of the dragon and of the black wizard that leads the Octopus.
The idol the medusas want stolen is kept in the high priest’s house and it’s what has kept the town safe for centuries, as it has the power of boosting the abilities (+3 to all characteristics and rolls) of any person born within 300 feet from it. The large high priest house is almost always inhabited by him, his wife, two children (teenagers), all of whom are aranea, 2 acolytes and 3 warriors (all humans). During the night the aranea will be in their natural form. The idol is also protected by a magical alarm and it’s a spider figurine weighing 10 pounds, so stealing it is not an easy task. If the PC’s manage that anyway, they could be chased by the inhabitants, but a few moments before they are surrounded a portal will open in the earth below them and a pixie and a pooka with lead them to safety through it. The medusas were in fact scrying them.
The Kuma Swamp
If instead PCs have accepted the other mission, to slay Kumatun, or hope to gain the aid of the dragon against the pirates (the high priest of Tuawo-ki will tell them that’s possible) the swamp could be reached in a 1 day walk with a Tuawo-ki guide, who’ll leave them on the fringe of it. By day, lizardmen warriors will soon surround them and lead them to the dragon. By night, they could try to sneak to his lair, which is not an easy task.
The lair is a deep ravine in the swamp, hidden by trees and surrounded by a town inhabited by lizardmen, troglodytes and gatormen. Kumatun is a 13HD Large Green Dragon, who will call his minions immediately if attacked, unless PC’s find a way to seal his lair. Even so, he has items and magic and shouldn’t be an easy fight. If they kill him, however, the scrying medusas will provide them with a portal to escape (and will also dispose of the corpse to avoid resurrection).
If PC’s instead talk to Kumatun, he’ll offer to accompany them himself (in human form) against the captain of the Octopus, provided that they’ll aid him in a little mission. The waters south of the island house a Dragon Turtle that controls several sea snakes, bitter enemy of the Kraken, served by devilfish, who inhabits the water near Kamawi (to whom the local villagers offer human sacrifices). The PCs, provided with water breathing, would have to attack several sea snakes, impregnated with the Kraken’s odour (a disgusting white liquid that Kamatun minions obtained with many losses). This will lead the Turtle against the Kraken and the two, Kumatun hopes, will kill each other. No matter how that goes however, the dragon will aid the PCs against the pirates if they do that for him. If they accept, PCs will have to fight at least three Sea snakes 12 feet long, with 6hd each.
[Sidebar: Pirate’s Rock Locations]
Other locations in waters around the Pirate’s rock
The Ruins: Mermen say they are old as the sea. This lost city was a Blackmoor fortress before the Great Rain of Fire, rumored to hold wonderful and dangerous secrets.
Admiral’s graveyard: Centuries ago a Thyatian admiral managed to find Pirate’s Rock, but didn’t really reach it as pirates and mermen led his ships to their fate among the reefs, now dotted with derelict ships.
The Blue Wind: Constantius and his famous ship sank here during a battle between pirates for the control of the rock. The derelict ship is rumored to hold still his treasure, and be haunted.
North Reef: Years ago a strong ship armed by Ierendian and Karameikan merchants to strike back at pirates sank here, where many other older derelict ships also lay.
The Pirate’s fate: The stories say that once a pirate wanted to secretly attack the island and kill the other captains, but his ship was sunk by monsters and he still wails under the waters on the darker nights.
The Monsters sea: This area is inhabited by the Kraken and the Dragon Turtle and their minions, see the paragraph on The Kuma Swamp for more details.
Seamen bed: This tower of the Twaelar Empire has 50 mermen warriors, and it watches comings and goings, and activities of Pirate’s Rock. It’s so called by pirates because several ships who displeased the Empire were destroyed here.
Red Water: Has this name for the same reasons as above, that’s the main castle of the northern border of the Twaelar Empire, 500 mermen strong plus 200 between shark-kin, tritons, sea ogres, and sea giants
Shwun and Dwyshe: These communities of the Twaelar Empire have 7,000 and 1,000 inhabitants, belonging to all the undersea races, and many slaves, including some former air-breathing people now turned into weresharks.
The Town of Hideout
At last PCs should arrive at Hideout (2 days walk from the Kuma Swamp), dominated by the fortress known as The Strong. The town is inhabited by a thousand people, half of which are usually the crew of pirate ships. The others are “civilians” who live in the town, women and children included. These people, as the crew of the ships, come from all over the Known World and beyond it, and can belong to any race. Some are slaves, some convicted criminals, some are lost children, some are unscrupulous traders, some are spies for governments or rival captains. The town has a lot of shops, inns, taverns but no law except for the historical custom, surprisingly respected by almost everyone, that all should behave well in Hideout, and not kill anyone except in a formal duel. In the rare case in which someone doesn’t respect the custom, the locals and the crews enforce it. The town even has a temple, dedicated to all immortals and never very crowded. Entering Hideout unnoticed isn’t very hard, but if the PCs visit shops and inns and speak to people, or even if they just linger for some hours, spies will eventually notice that they aren’t from one of the accounted crews and they’ll report it to their masters (the captains, the Twaelar empire, the medusas, the aranea, and Kumatun). Once recognized as outsiders they’ll not be exposed, but rather contacted by people interested in using them against an enemy (see The Ships and Characters of Hideout, below).
The Ships in the Harbour
The Black Octopus, fast large vessel, attack 8, movement 7, 200 people crew, painted black and with black sails, heavily guarded, the crew on board will not reply to any question and will threaten who ask. Only thirty people are on board at any given time, the rest is around the town or inside The Strong, see below.
There is a 40% chance that each of these ships are in the harbour too:
(Names of these ships came from GAZ4 and GAZ9 and from this excellent article in the Vault that gathered them: http://pandius.com/mfleet.html. Also check the Pirate Lords article by Colin Wilson in issue 3 of Threshold magazine for more pirates and ships!)
The Raging Dragon, fast large vessel, attack 9, movement 6, 150 people crew, with a wooden dragon prow and somehow shaped like a dragon, with a crew of rakastas, phanatons and lizardmen, is rumored to be the ship that connects the inhuman races of the Thanegioth archipelago in trade and alliances. Captain Shanir (rakastan female F10) and her crew hate slavers.
The Joyous Star, double hulled makai ship, attack 5, movement 8, has a crew of up to 70 Thanegioth natives, Makai and Tanagoro, Captain Whaka (human male F8) and his crew hate slavers.
The Blackbeard, small, fast galley, attack 3, movement 8, Ierendian, Captain Koon Blackbeard (human male F12) and his crew of 50 men hate thyatians but occasionally engage in slavery.
The Buccaneer, a small, fast galley, attack 3, movement 8, Minrothaddan, crew of 50, Captain Sian Kevran (human male T10) hate the Blackbeard and the Octopus, rarely engage in slavery.
The Swashbuckler small fast galley, attack 4, movement 7, Minrothaddan, crew of 50, Liansee Silveroak (female water elf 8) really hates and fight slavers.
The Cutlass large galley, attack 7, movement 6, Ierendian, crew of 120 men with two strong wizards, Captain Valen Richards (human male T14) has no loyalty to anyone but hates slavers.
The Seahawk large galley, attack 7, movement 6, Karameikan, crew of 130 men, Captain Yuri Kiros (human male F9) did engage in slavery in the past but has now become an enemy of slavers. Prefer to attack Karameikan and Thyatian ships but has Karameikans of Thyatian descent in the crew.
The Sea Hag, attack 3, movement 7, small sailing ship, Karameikan, several women in the crew of 70, rumored to be controlled by inhuman creatures with mysterious purposes, it’s unclear if Captain Saira (apparently human female MU10) engages in slavery.
The Revenge war galley, attack 9, movement 6, Ierendian, equipped with ram, artillery, wizards and clerics, it’s the most powerful pirate ship of the Sea of Dread, with 200 men. Captain Arteos the White (human male F13) hunts slavers and has tried to kill the Octopus’ captain several times.
The Renegade, large sailing ship, attack 6, movement 6, Darokinian, captain Moana the Beardless, the Queen of the Sea (human female, T9), has a crew of 200 with many tough women, occasionally deals in slavery.
The Barbarossa, large sailing ship, attack 5, movement 6, Thyatian, captain Calia Barbarossa (human female F7) claims to be the descendant of the famous explorer Rory. Her crew of 200 has women, dwarves and halflings. They are loyal Thyatians and don’t oppose the empire, but do not engage in slavery.
The Pride, small sailing ship, attack 3, movement 7, Captain: Crommor, "The Hammer" (halfling male 7), has a mostly hin crew of 60 that opposes slavery.
The Bounty, small sailing ship, attack 4, movement 7, Captain Red Rory Hackskull, "The halfling as tall as a dwarf” (Halfling male 9), and his mostly hin crew of 65 oppose slavery.
The Storm Bird, large sailing ship, attack 5, movement 6, Captain Jalassa Longwinkle, "Jalassa of the Long Whip", (halfling female 8) and her mostly hin crew of 210 oppose slavery.
The Bloodsail, small sailing ship, attack 3, movement 7, Captain Mulgor Loberlinn (halfling male 9) and his hin crew of 70 oppose slavery but are ruthless with enemies. The Captain plans to retire soon.
The Tortuga, small sailing ship, attack 4, movement 7, Captain Pablo Silverleg (human male F10), known as the richest pirate of the seas, and his crew of 100 are from the Savage Coast, sometimes engage in slavery.
The Thorgrim, longship, attack 3, movement 8, Ostlander, Captain Arik Red Eye (human male F11) and his crew of 60 happily engage in slavery.
The Sigfrygg, longship, attack 3, movement 8, Ostlander, Captain Viktrum (human male F10) and his crew of 50 engage in slavery but really hate The Black Octopus, that have fought in the past.
The Magnussen, longship, attack 3, movement 8, Captain Jutrun, a Soderfjord fugitive, hate Ostlanders but engage in slavery sometimes.
The Audacious, small sailing ship, attack 4, movement 7, Captain Nicola the Red Handed is a Minrothaddan female, cleric 10 of an Outer Being, with a crew of 60. She could be convinced to become an ally against the Black Octopus, if she finds it somehow convenient1.
The Cutpurse, small sailing ship, attack 3, movement 8. This really fast Karameikan ship with a 50 men crew and his captain Shiana (human female T12) used to be “the naval force” of the Specularum thieves guild, but recently struck a deal with the Karameikan government to spy on pirates.
The Esperanza, small sailing ship, attack 3, movement 8. Captain Donovan Keir (human male F8) and his crew of 60 from the Savage Coast occasionally engages in small slavery.
The Stormrider, large sailing ship, attack 7, movement 6, Captain Firebrand (human male W10) and his Alphatian crew of 150 has a lot of magic and engages in slavery.
The Black Pariah, longship, attack 5, movement 8. Captain Olev the Black (human male F7) and his 80 raiders came from Karameikos, Sind and the Northern Reaches, and they like slavery.
Characters of Hideout
Krun: A big male orc, Krun is the head slaver of Hideout. Despite his fierce appearance, he’s not cruel at all and has fired several overseers for sadistic behaviour. But he’s not against slavery either and will report anyone he catches plotting against the town and the captains.
Ian: (NM) a boy of 14 years from Ierendi caught on a beach, Ian is a slave now “employed” as a longshoreman. If he has the chance, he’ll beg the PC’s to bring him back home to Aloysius, where he has a family desperately searching for him.
Akakios: (C8) A priest of Protius from Kastelios in his mid forties, he manages the little town temple for any immortal followers and provides healing if needed. Does not like slavery much but considers it an unavoidable part of life, so he’s not willing to fight it openly.
Kai: (T5) Her name means sea in Makai, but Kai is a 19 year old girl girl of fair skin and black hair who doesn’t know her origin, as she is the daughter of a famous prostitute, former owner of the local brothel. Her mother recently passed away and she owns it now, with 36 girls of different ages, almost all slaves or indentured servants, and 10 more people, mostly older women and former prostitutes, that clean and keep the house. Beautiful and delicate but as loud mouthed as the worst sailor, Kai displays wealth and happiness but doesn’t really like her life and her trade, even though it might be really hard to get her to admit it.
Demetrio: (W10) Owner and landlord of Demetrio’s Den, the biggest and best inn and tavern of the docks, this big man of almost fifty years is an institution in Hideout and the unofficial mayor of the town. A former experienced warrior, he also enforces the informal laws of the town if needed. Known to firmly oppose anyone who mistreats slaves and underlings, but doesn’t oppose the institution of slavery.
Krag Skraddle: (T7) Arrived from Minrothad a few months ago in search of the treasures of dead pirates, Krag, who has a talking parrot named Paco, has become a sort of provider of everything on the island, through carefully cultivated relations with everyone, particularly Medusas. He also proposes treasure hunts on this and other islands. (Krag is a possible PC in XSOLO, the others listed on page 11 could also be used as characters of the island).
The great fortress that dominates Hideout was built originally by a forgotten culture (Nithians) and rebuilt several times by another people (Milenians) and pirate captains. It’s now a sprawling castle with a hundred rooms managed by Syvin, a strict, 35 year old woman of Darokinian origin that rules over 50 people between servants, wenches and guards. As in the past The Strong was a prize coveted by many pirate captains and attempts to conquer it provoked much bloodshed, it was established centuries ago that each captain can apply to occupy The Strong in turn, providing they offer a feast to the others and they welcome them to hide in it, in case the island is attacked. During this month The Strong belongs to the Octopus’ captain, and The Feast for the others is due in three days. Captains who hate the Octopus will not join the feast.
In the days and nights before the Feast, The Strong will be occupied by the Octopus’ captain, his crew, and 1d6 other captains of the ships mentioned above (provided they do not hate him), with a few members of their crew, who have matters to discuss with him and will dine with him.
Alaula: (19 years, T1) Nahi’s sister lives in the Strong as a servant under Syvin and could be encountered randomly in many locations. The castle’s staff is treated and fed well, but must comply to almost any captain’s desire, a condition Alaula suffers much, therefore she will be extremely relieved once she sees her sister and will want to leave the castle with her immediately.
The Black Octopus Crew
The Captain: (Vampire, C7, M15). A former cleric of Nyx, he betrayed the goddess and joined the church of Thanatos many years ago. His true purpose beyond piracy and slavery is, eventually, to accumulate enough knowledge and magic to reach immortality himself, and become even more of a true terror of the sea in the process. He also plan to vampirize other captains to turn them into his servants. No one knows his original name, but that hasn’t any magical meaning, it’s just that he found it was no longer necessary. He owns a meticulous diary that records all his life and researches and therefore also where and to whom he sold the Seagull’s daughters (in Pilion, Hattias, see below).
Morg: (Ogre, O10). The second, and the Captain’s bodyguard, Morg is a really big ogre from the Thanegioth archipelago, his bronze skin covered in tattoos. Surprisingly fluent in Thyatian, Makai and Magoro (the dialect of the archipelago), Morg is however, terrible in battle, unyielding and extremely loyal to the captain.
Shadi: (Minrothaddan female T11) An accomplished assassin, and former slave, Shadi however feels no sympathy toward the enslaved nor remorse toward her victims. As beautiful as she is dangerous, Shadi loves to pose as an escaped slave to stab the enemies of the crew in the back. She has a true friendship with the captain and has a strange yet working relationship with Andrei.
Alexius: (Thyatian male W9). The slave overseer on the ship and generally the one that looks after everything, Alexius is around forty years but looks much younger. Beautiful and charming, he’s probably the most wicked and sadistic of the entire crew, and loves to inflict pain and suffering. One of his favorite pastimes is to push a slave toward a truly heinous action in exchange for freedom, only to take back his word at the last moment. Sometimes The Captain and Morg scold and punish him for unnecessary cruelty.
Andrei: (human male T7). The head cook and provisioner of the ship, Andrei is supposedly of Traladaran origin but has no loyalty towards his countrymen. Cross-eyed, short, bald, with a broken nose and a shorter leg, he is anything but beautiful, yet extremely agile (and therefore often employed in difficult mission or almost impossible repairs of sails and riggings) and the chosen lover of Shadi. Andrei isn’t really cruel, but worships Shadi and the Captains as gods, and would commit any crime if they order it.
The rest of the crew: The Black Octopus has a 200 person crew. Around 50 of them, (43 males and 7 females) are experienced (Lvl 3-8) warriors or thieves from all the Known World and beyond, that will fight for the Captain to the death or near to it (morale 10-12), as he always treated them very well. The other 100 of them (85 males and 15 females) are mostly sailors with not much experience of fighting (Lvl 1-2). They’ll fight with the rest of the crew but will bolt in difficult situations (morale 6-8). The last 50 (33 males and 17 females) are former slaves, castaways, prostitutes or very young ship’s boys (Lvl 0-1) who will try not to fight at all or will mount only a symbolic defence (morale 3-4). As the ship is a sort of moving village there are even two toddlers and 5 children (less than 10 years old, 2 males and 3 females). PC’s should realize that only a minority of these people (20%) could be considered evil, even if almost all of them are aware of the nature and the patron of The Captain. A few of them are even known to be compassionate with slaves, but not to the point of betraying the ship by freeing them.
Only a small minority of the crew (around 5%) is truly unhappy on the ship and will escape if given the chance, but another 25% could betray the Captain if offered enough money.
In these days 15% of the crew will be guarding the ships in the harbour, 10 of them experienced warriors, 35% of them will be in Town (but will sleep at The Strong) and 50% will be inside The Strong, 30 of them experienced warriors. Night shifts of 15 experienced warriors will always be awake during the night, as The Captain is (because he sleeps by day), reinforced by 10 resident guards of the castle.
How the PC’s can win
Besides accepting the medusas help (a course of action that would however earn the PCs the dangerous hostility of the aranea and the dragon), PCs could kill The Captain, steal his diary and/or destroy The Black Octopus in several ways. Many of the people and captains described above could help in a secret, by night attack on The Strong (an open attack is prohibited by the informal rules of the island), but the only things PCs need to do to fulfil their initial purpose is to free Aluana and read the Black Octopus’ diary. If they steal the diary the Octopus will eventually be able to track it and will pursue them with his ship, if the PCs weren’t able to damage it somehow. The Hope of Freedom is as fast as The Black Octopus, so he could fail to reach the PCs, depending on navigation’s random events and incidents. PCs could choose to do battle, but only if they have obtained the help of other captains, otherwise it would be a suicidal choice given the superior strength in crew, artillery and hull of the Octopus.
Eventually, whenever they go, the Octopus will reach them to retrieve his precious diary. Clever PCs may also be able to negotiate with him, but remember that the final goal of the Hope of Freedom crew will be the end of the Black Octopus and the death of its captain. However, if the PCs free Aluana and look at his diary, but do not steal it, or leave it behind somewhere in Hideout, the Octopus will not bother to pursue them (he’ll simply attack them if he see them, or the Hope, again somewhere). He’ll pursue them if they kill one of his lieutenants mentioned above (Morg, Shadi or Alexius, that he consider friends) or more than five people of his crew, even ship’s boys.
If confronted about slavery, the Octopus will reply with utter disdain.
“Ah, do you paladines think that I’m the Evil? You do know that slavery is a lawful trade in many countries. And do you really think the nations that forbade slavery are free of exploitations? Do you really think that if you kill me today, another one will not do the same things I do, right from tomorrow, but with much more cruelty? I care about the slaves more than nature, or the Immortals, care about each living being. And why should they? A single living being is irrelevant. If you do not realize that, you’re just so stupid and clueless you deserve to die.”
Surprisingly, if asked about the three girls, the Black Octopus will remember them.
“That’s all? You could have asked. We sold them in Pilion, Hattias, to a merchant by the name of Batzas. That was because he had a decent reputation, the others of that batch were sold in Terentias.”
The information is completely true.
[Sidebar: Attack on Pirate Rock]
Full attack on Pirate’s Rock
If, after the adventure, the PCs involve one of the Known World fleets in a full scale attack on Pirate’s Rock (Karameikos, the Five Shires, Ierendi and Darokin would be particularly interested, as they are often victims of piracy), that could lead to a major naval battle involving also the Twaelar empire (probably allied with the pirates), maybe Thyatis and the inhabitants of the island. Anything could happen in this scenario that could provide plenty of opportunities for adventurers.
Whatever happens for now with the Octopus, the PCs and the Hope should eventually go to Pilion, Hattias, to retrieve The Three Starflowers, The Seagull’s daughters. As the Hope is considered an enemy ship in Thyatis, Nahi will suggest changing/concealing the name or to dock outside the city. Random sea events could apply to this trip too, see above.
Pilion port, Hattias, Empire of Thyatis
Pilion is an average port and a medium city of more than 10,000 inhabitants, at the mouth of the river of the same name. Weapons and similar, like wands, cannot be carried around the city, and magic cannot be cast, but knives and daggers are permitted. A calm city, Pilion has however a busy market right by the docks, where the girls, only three years old, were sold twenty years ago to a merchant named Leon Batzas.
Batzas is still alive, now over fifty, and very well known in town. His house is prominent on the market plaza and it usually has around twenty slaves of various ages (usually from babies to forty years old, sometimes older, even entire families) and 20 other people between clerks, guards, his personal slaves and his family. Forget the cliche of the fat, slimy slavers with overseers equipped with nasty whips and slaves in chains or cages, because Batzas is thin, well dressed and the very image of civility and politeness, his guards are discreet and slaves usually aren’t even bound, but simply watched by the guards or kept in closed rooms. They aren’t indeed displayed openly to the mob, a thing Batzas consider inappropriate, but only to motivate buyers inside the house. If PCs go to him, Batzas will offer them wine, tea or coffee and, if they tell him who they are looking for, he’ll be happy to help and will go looking in his older records.
If confronted about slavery, Batzas will maintain that his trade is legal in the empire and he always did his best to treat slaves well. Also, he’ll point out the <insert the PCs nation> hasn’t slavery, but has several forms of serfdom that could be even worse. He’ll eventually remember the little girls and explain they were indeed sold to him by shady people and, while he was almost sure that the sellers were criminals, he bought them anyway because he feared leaving them in their hands. The girls were afraid but were able to explain that they were captured with their parents, but as much as he tried, Batzas could not locate them in the city and the girls weren’t able to explain from where they came. (True, as their parents were sold in Terentias, where their mother soon died of illness, while the Seagull was soon sent to Machetos).
He decided to sell them only to childless women, hoping they would adopt them and doing his best to check their stories, as he is sadly aware that sometimes people buy children with such excuses but very different intentions. In short Batzas could very well be defined an hypocrite, but for the PCs could be difficult to label him as evil, as he is an outstanding member of the city, he does a lot of charity, freed many slaves, is esteemed by his peers and beloved by his family (wife, two sons, four daughters of which two are adopted slaves) and employees, and even his slaves speak only good of him. Killing him would obviously be seen as an heinous crime in the Thyatian Empire, one that authorities and relatives will go out of their way to punish, like sending bounty hunters after the PCs to foreign countries. That could also show PCs how much slavery becomes a grey area where it’s legal.
Finding Irina (Irene)
Irina, the first daughter, according to Batzas, was sold to a rich woman of the city of Hattias in her forties, who left a name, Agathe Arendt, and an address. There is a 32 mile long road, good and safe, from Pilion to Hattias City, only 1 day walking. Hattias City has more than 30,000 inhabitants and is the major centre of the region. The locals are a bit distrustful of foreigners, but if the PCs are polite and respect the local laws they’ll have no problems. The city is unwalled due to an old rebellion against the Empire, but there is a guard post on the road where visitors must leave their weapons and armor, including knives, wands and even spellbooks. It’s also forbidden to cast any magic, except in official temples or in the small local wizard’s guild. It’s not impossible to sneak into the city, but guards will stop people carrying weapons and arrest them. At the address the woman gave Batzas there is a butcher. If asked, he’ll explain his family lives here for 50 years, so the woman gave a false address. The butcher has never heard the name, but Arendt is a common family name and he can point PCs to such a family. Indeed, on a nearby street lives the tailor Augustus Arendt. A friendly man, he’ll immediately ask his wife and daughters if there is an Agathe among their numerous cousins and relatives, but they cannot think of any, not even among the in-laws.
The family name seems to be a dead end, but clever PCs could think of asking in local inns and taverns about notorious women named Agathe who live in the city. This way they can discover that at least two exist: one is Agathe Von Brun, wife of a famous magistrate. The other is Dame Agathe, owner of “Die Zuflucht” (The Refuge), a high class brothel. A quick inquiry near Von Brun house will prove that there isn’t any Irina inside: the couple has two sons but no daughters and they never had a servant named Irina. At The Refuge however there is a 23 year old girl named Irene. If PCs ask Dame Agathe about her, she’ll say she didn’t buy her, but rather saved her from wandering the streets as an orphan. That’s a lie, Irene, an extremely beautiful, pale, red-haired and elegant girl, is indeed Irina, one of The Seagull’s daughters. Dame Agathe obviously didn’t adopt her. She did keep her well fed, dressed and educated, but she also pushed her to prostitution very soon. Irene is now one of the stars of the house, adored and covered in gifts by clients, but she does not really like her life. Yet, she doesn’t know anything else but the house where she grew up, and never thought to go away.
As Dame Agathe will be soon suspicious of the PCs intentions, and she has 7 well trained and armed guards, and many friends among the authorities and the powerfuls, PCs should find some clever way to speak freely with Irene in private. That’s not very difficult, as she is free to, and often does, walk around the city by day, alone or with other girls. To prove she is The Seagull’s daughter, Nahi will show Irene his diary.
The Seagull’s Diary
An old, worn out leather book with many pages, the diary not only describes in detail all the voyages and missions of The Seagull and The Hope, all the allies, the enemies and the lost members of the crew, but also all the details he could remember about his wife and daughters.
It’s obvious that this section of the diary was compiled painfully and maniacally by him for years, as he tried to remember, with many corrections, and describe all the minute details of the family he lost. How each child smiled, the first words each one said, the hue of their hair, many good sketches of them, down to a map of the birthmarks of each girl. Irina indeed is described as having a small one on her left cheek, as Irene has. The section also contains three dried out starflowers and a nursery rhyme each girl will be able to remember. In fact this particular memory led all three of them to become very good singers (bards).
Irene will be incredulous at first but eventually she will accept reading the diary, and then she’ll be devastated. She’ll leave The Refuge immediately, not even taking clothes, to hide anonymously with the diary in an inn by the outskirts of the city. Nahi will leave the diary with her, but Irene, even if offered, will refuse hospitality at the PCs inn and disappear for two days. In the meantime, Dame Agathe will be worried and angry. She’ll track the PCs and will ask them about Irene. She’ll not be satisfied by any answer and will send authorities to search for them, will be present at the search and will ask for their arrest. If PCs remain calm, the guards will not arrest them, but they will post a hidden guard to follow them.
Now the PCs should try to retrieve their possessions, leave the city with Irene and reach The Hope in Pilion’s port as fast as they can. After the two days alone, she’ll be eager to escape and start a whole new life. Irene is still technically a slave, so she’ll be labeled a fugitive, and risk several lashes if caught, at the very least. The Empire is well known to go out of its way to retrieve fugitives, as they’re considered to be harmful to social order.
Finding Dara (Clara)
Dara, the second daughter, was sold by Batzas to the Korbhild, a rich Hattian family that lives in Port Hatti. The Hope could reach the city, but now the ship will be even more likely to have been reported to port authorities throughout the Empire, so Nahi herself will suggest docking at some distance.
Port Hatti has more than 10,000 inhabitants, roughly like Pilion, but it has more traffic as is well connected with Hattias City and just in front of Thyatis City, on the other side of the sea channel known as Vanya’s Girdle. As in Pilion, daggers and staffs are the only weapons people can openly carry in the streets.
The Korbhild are well known in the city and any passerby could point PCs to their big mansion in a hilly district. Servants of the house, and guards, will however chase PCs away, obviously disgusted by their foreigners looks, and will not answer any question. They’ll have to use stealth.
Dara lives inside but is now called Clara. She is very similar to Irene and can be easily recognized. Once a day, in the morning, she goes to the market with Ymir, a tall blonde slave from the Northern Reaches, and Karin, an older free woman, head cook of the house. Karin however cannot be bribed and will send away anyone approaching Clara. Ymir is very strong but has no weapons. The easiest thing to do would be to kidnap Clara, and Irene will insist the PCs do that, but they could try a different approach, like slipping her a note explaining the story.
However Clara gets to know her story, she’ll be initially as incredulous as Irene was, yet she’ll believe if she reads The Seagull diary (because a birthmark she has on the thigh is described and she also vaguely remembers a red haired woman, her mother). Clara however doesn’t want to leave. She is in love with Julius Korbhild, the younger heir of the house, and they have had a secret relationship for seven years. Julius has promised to free and marry her, or escape with her if his parents do not consent.
Irene will insist on taking her away nevertheless, she’ll do her best to convince the PCs and if they still do not want to, she’ll even try to seduce one she thinks is the leader to take him to her side. She’ll maintain stubbornly that the one Clara thinks is her lover is just her master, taking advantage of her naivety.
Unfortunately, Irene is completely right. In a year, Julius will marry a noble girl, and plans are already in motion. He just wants to keep Clara as a servant and mistress. The problem is, once Clara discovers that, she’ll not escape or give up, but will insist that Julius marry her, to the point of appealing to Jon and Silvia, Julius’ parents. The couple has always treated Clara almost as a daughter, but she is indeed too candid. The two are Storm Soldier sympathizers and will have her secretly killed rather than see their son mix their blood with a slave.
PCs should find a way to open Clara’s eyes, because if they bring her away by force, she’ll run away at the first chance she gets (The Korbhild will not search for her too much, as she’s only a slave to them, but will report her as a fugitive to the authorities). In the end Clara will be devastated to realize that Julius and his parents do not really care about her, and it will take many months for her to overcome the delusion. Irene will try to comfort her newfound sister as best as she can while Clara struggles with depression.
Finding Lilyana (Lidia/Lucianna)
Lilyana, the third sister, was sold to Corelius Antinoe, a well known mediator from Thyatis City who purchased her for an undisclosed buyer. Batzas accepted that only because he received several official assurances and recommendations about the unknown buyer from his friend Corelius and from the highest magistrates of Pilion. Indeed the mediator bought Lilyana for one of the most important families of the Empire, and they adopted her as their own daughter, never telling her the truth. As the adoptive mother of Lilyana was red-haired too, she could easily pass as the natural mother, and no one ever disputed that. As she also feigned pregnancy, only she, her husband, a trusted maidservant and the mediator knew the truth. Since then all these four people have died, and the secret died with them, until now.
Marcus Antinoe, son of Corelius, lives in one of the best districts of Thyatis City and does the same work his father did. The truth PCs are searching for is buried in his old archives. Marcus will not grant access to them, for any reason, unless there is the written order of a magistrate (hard for PC’s to obtain, but could be done with an handsome bribe). Marcus himself will not accept any bribe, either, but he can be blackmailed, as he has several night vices (masochism and drugs) he doesn’t want the world to know. A third way could be to break into his archive, a feat a good thief could manage, as Marcus’ archive has good locks and even one trap, but no magical alarms. Either way the archive just says Lilyana was sold to a woman that signed the deal as Costantina Teklanis. She, now deceased, was the trusted maidservant of a very important family, and her name can be traced to them in public state archives. Now it is up to the DM to decide the true identity of Lilyana:
Lilyana as Lucianna Torion
Lucianna, wife of the emperor Eusebius Torion, and empress from 1012 AC, was officially born in 975 AC, married in 993 AC and has two sons, Coltius and Gabrionus, born in 994 and 999. If the DM has set the adventure in 1000AC Lilyana can be Lucianna, just assuming that the three girls are 25 instead of 23 years old. In 1000AC Lucianna isn’t empress yet, but is the wife of the official heir to the Empire, so one of the most powerful women in Thyatis.
Lilyana as Lidia
If the DM doesn’t want to use Lucianna or if he has set the adventure years after 1000AC, Lilyana could simply be Lidia, daughter of a powerful, conservative senatorial family. If the DM wishes to add a complication and if the adventure is set after 1014AC, Lidia could be the official fiancee of Coltius, or Gabrionus, therefore making her a possible future empress.
Life and fate of Lidia/Lucianna and her adoptive parents
Either way, the adoptive parents of Lilyana loved her more than the world, as their only, precious daughter, and she loved them back as well. A great tragedy struck the family around eight years ago, when Julian, Lilyana’s adoptive father, an admiral of the navy, was killed fighting pirates in the Sea of Dread. The pirate that killed him was the notorious Seagull. Antonina, Lilyana’s adoptive mother, a strong woman with magical abilities that was an adventurer in her youth, was devastated and could not find peace. She left her young beloved daughter (Lidia/Lucianna was around 15 years old at the time) with the only people she trusted completely, the imperial family, and armed a ship to hunt her husband’s killer. Eusebius, who considered Julian and Antonina precious allies, prayed in-vain to her to wait for a full fleet to be armed, but she had fresh clues about the Seagull’s location and didn’t want to lose him. Eusebius sent ships after her almost immediately, but it was useless. Antonina found The Seagull first, almost sank his ship and killed half of his crew, but was ultimately defeated. Several in the crew of The Hope remember very well the battle and “the mad, fiery woman” who accused them of murder. Lidia/Lucianna was obviously devastated to lose both her beloved parents. Only the love of Eusebius/Coltius saved her from complete despair. She and her future husband made a solemn vow to eventually find and kill the damned Seagull. They tried for eight years, and finally succeeded some days ago. A great feast is in preparation in their house to celebrate the event.
The simple feat to reach such a powerful woman and speak to her will be quite difficult for the PCs. Kidnapping her could be almost impossible and extremely dangerous. Depending on PC’s actions or to DM’s discretion, the PCs could discover the true story of Lidia/Lucianna before they speak to her. That should advise them to be very cautious, as they could very well imagine she hated The Seagull more than anyone else in the world. If they manage to contact her somehow, maybe with a letter, Lidia/Lucianna’s reaction will not be good. She’ll mobilize almost the whole empire to capture the PCs, and her first desire will be to have them tortured to deny what they’re saying. She would also want to see the Hope’s crew beheaded to the last man and woman.
But even if she manages to capture them, she’ll stop just a moment before doing that, providing she is able to read The Seagull’s diary (and that should happen, either if the PC’s send it to her or if she simply seizes it) and she sees her sisters. In fact of the three girls, Lidia/Lucianna is the one who remembers better her natural parents, the nursery rhyme and the two sisters. She always tried to convince herself it was just a child fantasy, but now she cannot deny the truth anymore.
The truth however will strike her as a mountain of lead. Her natural father, who she didn’t even fully remembered, killed her adoptive parents, whom she loved so much. It’s up to the DM to decide what would be her final reaction. Will she decide to kill the PC’s and the Hope’s crew because they know the truth? That action is quite unlikely because, despite all, she couldn’t bear to kill her two newfound sisters, and they do know the truth too. Will she decide to use the magical resources of the Empire to erase the memories of her sisters and of the PC’s? Will she decide to have the Hope’s crew killed anyway? Or will she understand that slavery caused the whole tragedy and she’ll begin to re-think her whole life, and become a powerful abolitionistic force within the Empire? How will her husband/lover Eusebius/Coltius react? Will he support her or this will cause a rift in the couple? Anything could happen, and PCs could be rewarded or imprisoned for some time, or even hunted by the whole might of the Thyatian Empire.
Irene, for her part, has already decided she’ll fight slavery to the end of her days. She very much wishes her sisters will follow her, but she’ll fight them if she has to, and certainly she would not ever forgive Lidia/Lucianna if she has the PCs or the Hope’s crew killed.
Clara is now too broken-hearted to decide anything, but eventually she’ll follow Irene and fight alongside her and the Hope’s crew. Less willing than Irene, however, she still wishes to marry and have children one day.
Regardless of what she’ll decide about the Hope’s crew and the PC’s, Lidia/Lucianna will however use her powers to have her sisters freed immediately and, as much as she wishes to welcome them in her house, she’ll let them leave if they want, even if they’ll leave as enemies.
To My Starflowers (Last page of The Seagull’s diary)
Sometimes it happens that slaves are treated well. Sometimes they even earn their freedom. Every night I pray, my beloved daughter, that this happened to you. I pray you are happy somewhere, and loved, not remembering me at all. If I found you so one day, I could be tempted to leave without telling you, and be relieved at last. But if you are a slave still, my beloved daughter, and your life is sad as so often is the life of a slave, please find in your heart the strength to forgive me. I did not rest one day in my search for you. I looked everywhere for you and I raged and cried every night for you.
I pray to find you before I die, my beloved daughter, but if I die before I find you, I pray others will rescue you for me. And if they cannot find you either, then the world be damned, the immortals be damned, I be damned and may I return as a vengeful spirit to burn the souls of those who did you harm.
Every night I pray, my beloved daughter, that you may one day know I loved you so much it hurts.
Yes, my beloved daughter, I know the world has slavery and has evil, but it also has Hope and it has you. Mostly I pray, my beloved daughters, that you are united, or will be united again one day, because if you stay together and trust each other, you’ll be so much stronger than any evil.
Please, Never forget that.
Your father, from a faraway place and time.
1 See Depth and Destruction from the Deeps by Geoff Gander for more information http://geoffgander.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/death-and-destruction-from-the-deeps-more-followers-of-the-forbidden-for-your-campaign/)