Welcome to a new segment of The Long Shot: Free Agent Reporting! In this series, i’ll be reporting on news in and around Stormreach through the eyes of Longshotist, a newly-minted Bard on the Sarlona server. The character is specced without any of the usual considerations like combat, acceptable CON, the Toughness feat, etc. Instead, the character is imagined as an objective reporter. So naturally, skills like Listen, Search, and Spot were given heavy investment. Additionally, one of the rules i’ve set for myself is “no fighting.” So he won’t be swinging a weapon and slaying evil-doers willy nilly. Instead, if investigative reporting carries him into a quest, i’ll be obtaining hireling contracts to do all the dirty work. That being said, to avoid 100% piking, i’ve a mind to build him into a Spellsinger. So take note, Sarlonians: if you invite Longshotist to your party, you can expect to receive buffs and whatever healing support he can muster – but that’s about it. On the other hand, you will have a chance at fame via the character’s reports here at The Long Shot. The format for these reports, categorized under “DDO” and “Free Agent Reporting” are thus: the Volume tells you Longshotist’s level at the time, and the Issue refers to the sequence of reports throughout that level. Now, without further ado, is Longshotist’s first field report…
From the bow of the airship “Heart of Wind”
My editor at the Khorvaire Chronicle set me up for a long-term assignment on the mysterious continent of Xen’drik, far south of my home in Aundair. The contract for the job includes a nice stipend and all expenses paid, as well as an exclusive Lightning Post account with which to submit my reports. In addition, I’ve been secured passage on an airship christened Heart of Wind with a luxury cabin to whisk me away to jungle continent’s port-of-call, Stormreach – a frontier city on the Skyfall Peninsula. Once there, I’m to meet with Tessa Aster, a fellow Free Agent and editor-in-chief of the Stormreach Chronicle, a sister publication. From what I understand, she’s got her finger on the pulse of the so-called “City of Dungeons” and will be an invaluable resource in my reporting and research.
It was while relaxing in my cabin that I was summoned to the deck at the request of Thealeh Auryath, a crew mate that wished to speak with me. And that’s when everything went sideways.
No sooner did I emerge from the lower decks did I witness a sight terrible to behold – a large white dragon swooping about the airship! The fearsome beast appeared to be stalking the ship. One of the crew, a minotaur whose name I never learned, boisterously proclaimed he could handle any dragon attack if the wyrm chose to engage. From the upper deck, I heard the erstwhile Captain Korvyn d’Lyrandar shouting orders to his navigator (and relative?) Eylu. Something about “hard to port” and so forth – nautical terminology has always escaped me.
And then the air grew suddenly frigid, as the fell dragon dove at our small vessel from the skies above…
Heart of Wind – what was left of it anyway.
I awoke, who knows how long later, on a beach littered with the remains of devastated ships, both the air- and sea-faring varieties. As I came to, the shrill voice of a halfling beckoned me closer. Identifying himself as Jeets Shimis, age unknown, the bespectacled fellow explained that I was the only survivor of the Heart of Wind. Sparing no sympathy, he offered me a weapon with which to defend myself against the dangers of the island I’d landed upon. He called the place Korthos, but I had my doubts as to the veracity of his statement. I had read about the isolated fishing village located in Shargon’s Teeth of course, and it’s position as a point of trade between Stormreach and the local sahuagin tribes, but wherever I was, this was not the tropical island of Korthos. Snow drifted continuously from the sky and the waters were choked with jagged blocks of ice. And let me tell you – clad only in the ragged remains of my formerly high-fashion Khorvarian attire I could certainly feel the chill! Nevertheless, I accepted my fate, as well as a moldy staff proffered by Shimis. What use had I for swords and axes? A sturdy walking stick would prove much more practical to this reporter.
The staff given, Shimis dashed off from the shore, calling for me to follow to his camp. Before leaving the beach, I reflected a moment on the tragic events that had brought me here. It was then that I noticed a small parcel at the water’s edge. Given to me by a very important person as a parting gift, I was instructed to open it when I made landfall. Retrieving it, I thought wryly that this wasn’t exactly what they’d had in mind. However, at this point I could use a bit of good cheer. Inside was a curious mask, a small figurine in the shape of a panther made of onyx, a vial of some shimmery liquid, and a book. No explanation was given as to the purpose of these items. Donning the mask, I felt an immediate sense of…something. As if I were better equipped to tackle whatever challenges came my way. Thumbing through the book, I saw that it was a guide to tips and tricks for an adventuresome life, an odd gift choice for one such as I, who disdained the often violent life led by “adventurers” – whatever that means. The remaining items’ purpose was beyond my ken, but I resolved to discover their uses in time. For the nonce, I had only a single path to follow – I would have to trust this Shimis fellow.
Jeets Shimis. Something tells me this fellow is a rogue.
At the makeshift camp, Shimis waited for me with a friend of his, a warforged named Talbron Tewn who stood silently on the path leading further into the island’s interior. Shimis explained that I ought to give the staff a few swings to test it’s mettle. Against my better judgement, I did as he suggested and smashed a few of the barrels and crates scattered about. Coins spilled out from more than a few of them, and Shimis either did not notice or care when I pocketed them. I did not know how long it would be until I could contact the Chronicle offices again, and if I was going to survive for long, surely I would need some of the local currency. And I must admit – it did help relieve some of my stresses to smash those containers. Is this what a life of adventure entails – destroying mundane receptacles on the off-chance they contain coin of the realm? If so, my guess is the true wealth in this world belongs to the coopers.
And then the truth came out. This Shimis character had an ulterior motive for assisting me – he wanted my help.
“Head on up to the Grotto,” Shimis said. “My friend Cellimas is waiting there. I need you to relay a message for me – tell her I’ll be on my way just as soon as I finish this salvage job.”
So I’m to be a messenger now. They weren’t kidding when they told me I’d find Xen’drik a primitive place – haven’t they heard of a lighning post here? Looking about, it becomes clear to me that the containers that lay strewn all about are the cargo from the various ships that lay destroyed here. It appears to be Shimis’ intention to loot them for whatever his diminutive hands can carry. Salvage, indeed.
If he’s a sorcerer, why is he reading a spellbook? The mystery deepens…
Tewn offers to show me the way to the Grotto where this Cellimas person waits. I find myself wondering why he does not relay the message himself. But that is the least of my concerns at the moment. Reaching whatever passes for civilization in these parts is paramount in my mind, and for now this appears to be the only way forward. Along the path, Tewn suggests I smash a few more barrels in case there is anything useful inside. I acquiesce, and manage to procure a few bottles of a red liquid that he explains are healing potions. While I don’t intend to sustain grievous injuries, I reason that it’s better to have them and not need them than the other way around.
Arriving at the entrance to what Tewn explains is the Grotto (little more than a cave), he gestures for me to enter, saying that he will remain outside to wait for Shimis. Tentatively, I step inside the darkened space and just ahead stands a sealed door. Next to it, a heavily armored woman whose shield bears the symbol of the Silver Flame. I have no love for the zealots of that faith, but resolve to keep my opinions to myself and remain professional. I surmise this is the Cellimas I’m to relay Shimis’ message to.
Clerics – can’t live with ’em, can’t get resurrected without ’em.
Cellimas Villuhne immediately confirms my notion regarding her sect’s temperment with her violent talk of smiting sahuagin and bloodying my “weapon.” Before giving her Shimis’ message, a little investigation reveals that she is a mercenary employed to wipe out the sahuagin plaguing Korthos. She will not reveal her employer, who wishes to remain secret, but assures me she is working “on the side of good.” She is also quick to add her love of gold, and the rewards she was promised for the bloody task at hand. (Editor’s note: see what I mean? Something about these “clerics” just doesn’t seem right).
With her thirst for violence unable to be contained any longer, Villuhne decides to proceed further into the Grotto on her own…with me in tow. Before heading through the door she casts a spell on me that she assures me will protect me from death. I start to explain that I have no desire to do any fighting or killing – or dying – and that she ought to wait for her companions. But she’s already thrown the lever to open the door and rushed through to the other side.
The room beyond is flooded with the chill waters of a dank cave up to my knees. I take a moment to splash my face and wipe the grime away, while Villuhne examines a barred gate blocking the path deeper inside. She instructs me to climb the nearby ladder and search for a way to open the gate. Hurriedly I dash off, mostly to be away from her angry temperament but also to take some active role in my own escape from this creepy place.
At the top of the ladder is a platform, but there is no visible means of opening the gate from there. Villuhne suggests I travel further ahead, and thankfully I remember enough of the acrobatics training I received as a child to make take the jump down the other side without injury since there is no ladder. Why she could not do the same is beyond me – perhaps her heavy armor makes such athletic endeavors impossible.
Mustering whatever powers of stealth I can manage, I slowly make my way forward. Ahead, in the light of the luminescent crystals scattered about, I spy an aged sahaugin standing next to a lever that I hope controls the barred gate. The creature looks tired. Perhaps his kin assigned him this guard duty as a courtesy so that he felt useful to the tribe. Left alone in the corridor, he looked unfit for any sort of combat. To put him at ease, I began to sing an old sea shanty that I recalled from my bardic education. The notes of it seemed to fascinate the aquatic creature, and he was quite oblivious when I approached and threw the lever. Bloody my weapon, Villuhne had said. To that I say why bring about unnecessary bloodshed, when music clearly soothes the savage beast? I smile to myself…
…And that’s when the three adventurers – Shimis, Tewn, and Villuhne – charge down the tunnel with a shout and proceed to slaughter the poor creature. My first instinct is to protest, to admonish their violent nature. But, in the interest of objective reporting (and to avoid them turning on me) I keep my mouth shut.
Further into the cave, we reach a small alcove that Villuhne explains will be safe for us to rest a moment before pressing on. Impressed with my musical success, I take the time to recall some other tunes that may prove useful, and regale the others with my rendition. Emboldened by the score, the three of them rush ahead into another large chamber. It was Tewn who made the assessment that it appeared to be a terrific place for an ambush. And that’s when the attack came.
Sahaugin lept down from the ledges above, where they’d lain in wait. How they knew to expect any trouble, I’ll never know. Perhaps someone had tipped them off to Villuhne’s secret employer and the plan to exterminate them. For my part, I kept to the shadows while spells and daggers flashed in the center of the chamber. It was over in a matter of moments, the party of three victorious.
A sealed door prevented us from moving forward, until Tewn discovered a hidden switch that opened a gate in the floor. Beneath it was an underwater passageway that led to the sea. This must be how the sahuagin came and went. At the bottom of the watery passage, something glittered and, once again, none of the three intrepid adventurers was willing to investigate. Again proving myself useful, I dove into the icy water and retrieved the shiny object, which turned out to be a key that opened the very door leading forward. Convenient, no?
We traveled ahead cautiously, ready for another attack that never came. Instead, we were met with an obstacle that allowed Shimis to display his special skills. A clever mechanism built into the rocky walls released a spring-loaded trap – jagged metal plates that would surely end the life of this reporter. Thankfully, Shimis was able to disarm the thing, and we reached the doorway that lead to the object of Villuhne’s mission. It seems her ultimate goal was the slaying of a sahuagin High Priestess. If her intelligence was correct, the figurehead and her minions lay in wait beyond in this final chamber.
Villuhne’s quarry – a worshiper of the Devourer
Without delay, Tewn threw the switch that would lead to their party success or demise (and mine!).
“Charge!” Shouted Villuhne, and the three of them bolted into the priestess’ chamber. She was not alone, and the two elite guards with her put up quite a fight against the small group. Encouraged by my earlier music however, they made quick work of the sahuagin. If I’m honest, the whole thing came as a bit of a shock. Where was the parley? The banter? These adventurers did not even give the sahuagin a chance to explain. It was all very disquieting. In the aftermath, I spoke with Tewn privately to get his perspective on the situation since he seemed the most sensible of the bunch.
“It’s the cursor, you see,” Tewn said. “It’s part of the adventurer’s code. ‘If it’s red, they’re dead.'”
Meanwhile, Shimis was occupied with what he considers the primary goal of any adventure – the treasure – and this excursion was no different. He had already opened the priestess’ chest and taken what was his wont, leaving what he thought was best for me: a Ring of Waterbreathing, a worn shirt of chainmail, and a shortbow enchanted with the element of fire. Obviously, these three had learned nothing of my character during this adventure. Nevertheless, I took the items with gratitude. If I was to be stuck on an island for any length of time, I suppose a magical ring that allowed me to breath underwater would prove useful. As for the armor…it was better than wearing rags. And who knows, maybe I’d find a use for the bow that didn’t involve planted clothyard shafts in anything.
It was then that I noticed there were no doors leading away from this room. As I turned to retrace my steps back to the beach, Shimis called to me from the far end of the chamber.
“Something seems off about this wall,” Shimis said. “Why don’t you take a look?”
Perhaps he thought my half-elven eyes would see something that he could not. I was pretty observant, afterall. Shimis’ faith in me paid off when I detected faint outlines in the worked stone that turned out to be a secret door. Traveling through it, we found ourselves in what appeared to be the basement of a human dwelling. This confirmed the party’s suspicions that the sahuagin had some secret means of entering the village undetected. With congratulations all around for a job well done, the three of them dashed off for what Shimis declared his other great loves: a pint of ale, and a tidy lass.
For my part, I remained in the chamber alone for a moment of reflection. What was to become of my assignment? I had not yet even reached my destination and had already been waylaid by a dragon that destroyed an airship and killed everyone aboard but me. Stranded now on an island cursed with unnatural cold, fate had thrown my lot in with a small group of adventurers who seemed more concerned with bloody execution and loot than anything else.
I resolved that I would make my way to Stormreach, somehow, and attempt to make contact with the Free Agents there. Perhaps they could aid me in establishing myself and getting in communication with my editors back in Khorvaire. With little else to go on, that became my plan. Now, to see what this Korthos Village could offer in the way of respite, for this bardic reporter was surely the worse for wear.
Emerging from the basement, I was met immediately by a man identifying himself as Randall the Traveler, who advised me to visit the Wavecrest Tavern there in town and speak with the Spirit Binder there. Somewhat shaken by the events of the day, I wearily stumbled off in the direction he indicated. Along the way, my mind whirled with more questions. The Traveler, just like the Devourer, is one of the Dark Six – gods cast out of the Sovereign Host who represent the insidious forces of both civilization and nature. Was this “Randall” of their followers, or was that simply a descriptive moniker? A mystery worth investigation.
With more questions than answers, I felt that my assignment on Xen’drik would prove much more exciting – and dangerous – than I could have imagined.
And I’d definitely renegotiate my contract to include hazard pay.