The Escape of Master Murphey

It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Seven

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

[Avast! Spoilers ahead.]

7 Goodmonth, 570

Tyrius, Aurora, and Barnabus held a hushed strategy session over breakfast. They sat by themselves at a different table from the other three party members, and they stopped talking whenever Ruth appeared from the kitchen. Tyrius reiterated, “We simply need to appear before the town council and tell them what transpired in the haunted house.”

Aurora shook her head emphatically, “You are being naïve!”

Barnabus agreed, leaned forward, and hissed, “No one needs know anything until we have determined the disposition of the recovered smuggled goods! We are in possession of bolts and bolts of silk, casks and casks of fine brandy. This is a fortune, and it belongs as much to us as to anyone. As soon as the council learns of this windfall, they will seize the goods without a second thought!”

Tyrius objected, “There is what is right and what is wrong, and I choose to be on the side of what is right. I will not be a party to theft, even if it be from thieves and smugglers. Surely the council members will appropriately reward us with a portion of the recovered goods, which is more than we had yesterday and as much as we deserve.”

Barnabus smiled impatiently, “Listen, noble knight. We can report everything we found in the cellar, down to the last gold earring if you want, but we are better off keeping what was found in the sea caves a secret until we find a way to move the goods to Seaton and sell them there, for the benefit of the whole party—equal shares all around. After all, we are the ones who risked our necks, not the council.”

Tyrius’ face darkened. His voice took on a note of firm resolve. “I will not lie, or hide goods for simple monetary gain.”

Aurora tried a more subtle approach. “Whomever was receiving these smuggled goods,” she explained, “is likely to be both wealthy and powerful. If they are not on the city council themselves, they are likely to have allies, eyes and ears, on the council. For all we know, the council itself could already be aware of the smuggling ring and be using it to enrich the town at the expense of the king!”

Barnabus nodded emphatically. Aurora continued, “I’m just saying that we have to tread Continue reading “The Escape of Master Murphey”

Sanballat’s Trap

It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Six

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

[Avast! Spoilers ahead.]

6 Goodmonth, 570

Sometime during Babshapka’s watch, first Tyrius and then Larenthal regained consciousness. Both remained in considerable discomfort, but the elf was relieved to find them lucid. Babshapka spoke to them softly, gave them water, and attended to their needs before encouraging them to rest longer. By morning Larry felt strong enough summon up enough of the Oerth’s power to work spells of healing for his own wounds and also for those of his companion. Tyrius, in his turn, invoked the name of Pelor to lay healing hands upon himself and the dwarf. Through rest and the power of spells and prayers, they recovered their strength, but the effort cost them all their magical potency, and the party was not keen to return to the house with their spellcaster at “empty.” They decided to let Larenthal continue to rest for the morning and then set out in the afternoon.  For his part, the dwarf was content to spend the morning communing with sky and land, earth and sea, and the living soul of Oerth rather than returning immediately to the house of giant vermin and blood-sucking stirges.

The rest of the party spent a leisurely morning in the fresh sea air, enjoying a generous lunch. Nadine did not have food to contribute (her supplies having been taken along with her clothes), but she did provide assistance with gathering wood, cooking, and washing up, so the party did not begrudge her the two meals. Thanks to Tyrius’ careful planning, they had purchased a week’s worth of supplies, and they were in no danger of running short soon even with one extra mouth.

In mid-afternoon, the party broke camp and returned through the woods to the house. Arriving there, however, they found it surrounded by townsfolk! Mostly the young and spry, but people of all ages had gathered—many having brought a picnic lunch with them. They were spread out along the road and camped on high spots so as to see over the wall—a few youths were even perched in trees, studying the house. None had dared cross the wall or enter the garden, however, and Aurora noted that they stayed well Continue reading “Sanballat’s Trap”

Haunted House of Saltmarsh

It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Five

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

5 Goodmonth, 570 (afternoon and evening)

[Avast! Spoilers ahead.]

“That one’s got to pay! He didn’t want to be a guest here last night, and he’s not eating for nothing today,” Ruth warned severely, nodding toward Barnabas as she set a luncheon out for the paying customers.

“Not to worry, Oh Fairest Flower of the Azure Sea,” Barnabus said with obviously feigned obsequiousness. “Bring me an ale with this luncheon and I shall pay for what I eat and drink with a song worth twice the amount.”

“We’ll pay with coin for what he eats,” Tyrius hastened to add.

Aurora hoped that Ruth might offer a more sober telling of the tale of the alchemist’s house than the version offered up by the children of Saltmarsh. Ignoring the whole exchange about whether or not Barnabus would pay for his food, she inquired, “Ruth, what can you tell us of the alchemist’s house? The children you chased off told us that it’s haunted?”

“Like as not it is haunted,” she admitted as she ladled up the broth into their bowls.

“Would it be meet to say the spirits haunting it are a threat to the town?” Aurora pursued eagerly.

“Hardly!” she said with a dismissive laugh. “It’s four miles east of the town which is a long way for a geist to go a-creeping. It’s not even likely any of the ragamuffins ye spoke with has ever actually laid eyes on the place. It is indeed a lonesome house, just off the old coast road and looking out to the sea.”

“We intend to exorcise the spirits that haunt it as a service to the people of Saltmarsh,” Tyrius explained as he counted out coin to pay for Barnabus’ food. “What can you tell us about it?”

Madam Ruth put down the ladle, a grave expression settling over her plump features. “Oh, I shouldn’t be poking my nose into things like that if I was ye. I can tell ye this. Until some twenty years ago, when I was yet in the flower of youth, an aged alchemist and magician did reside there, and he did indeed have a sinister reputation—as anyone who practices magic deserves, really. The townsfolk mostly shunned the house because of the Continue reading “Haunted House of Saltmarsh”

In Search of Adventure

It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Four

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

5 Goodmonth, 570

Tyrius, Thokk, Larry, and Aurora awoke to the smell of fresh bread and batter-fried fish rising from The Mermaid’s kitchen. Babshapka had been awake for hours already—elves do not sleep like other races. He spent the early morning seated near the open window of the bedroom he shared with the half-elf girl, staring out over the town and to the water.

At breakfast, Aurora continued the discussion she had initiated the night before, exchanging stories and manipulating the conversation toward a resolution to form an adventuring company. Tyrius was reluctant to commit to anything long-term. His goal was to get Larry to the Moot of the Great Druid, and he recognized that he would need coin to accomplish even that. Why should I doubt the light of Pelor? If these two elvish folks want to help me get coin by doing some noble deeds, so much the better. They were still talking when visitors arrived—Lieutenant Dan of the town watch, and several of the watchmen that Tyrius encountered the previous day. He cast a curious eye over Babshapka and Aurora, letting his eyes linger perhaps a few moments too long on the pretty half-elf. Then he turned to Tyrius and addressed him with a stern and non-nonsense tone, “I’ve come to meet you all and see that you found yourselves some honest lodgings. I want to see that you have paid Ruth here with good coin, and that you understand you now have six days left to find either employment or a patron.”

Tyrius sighed a nodded. Thokk picked at his teeth and sniffed at the air.

The watch officer levelled a finger at the half-orc Continue reading “In Search of Adventure”

Arrival in Saltmarsh

It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Three

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

4 Goodmonth, 570

Standing among their gear on the docks of Saltmarsh as they watched their former ship set sail, Tyrius, Larry, and Thokk contemplated their options. Or, rather, Tyrius contemplated while Larry and Thokk returned the open stares of the passers-by. The dockworkers seemed rough-and-tumble men, and if they were taken aback by the newcomers in town, they did not let on. The inner harbor, however, was lined with a dirt road that ran all along the shore. Judging by the number of commonfolk stopping and gawking, the town did not see much in the way of huge half-orcs, grubby dwarves, or noble paladins. Tyrius could not have guessed which of them made the bigger spectacle. Keoish manners seemed to prevail, however, and the bystanders did nothing more provocative then staring and whispering to one another, occasionally cuffing the bolder children who would have spoken to the strangers had they been permitted.

With the decision-making left to Tyrius, it seemed meet that they should first thank the gods for their safe arrival. Enough of the commoners sported the dusky hue of the Flan that Tyrius dared ask about a temple to Pelor, but the look he received spoke louder than the answer itself. Overhearing the exchanges, an old man who sat mending nets nearby remarked that anyone who had any sense would thank Osprem for a safe arrival after a voyage at sea. He motioned a hand toward the back of the harbor, where what was obviously a temple stood overlooking the water.

The temple was of limestone without, decorated here and there with bits of coral. Inside were simple wooden benches without backs for pews, and a stone altar in front of what looked like a marble-lined wading pool that smelled of saltwater. No clergy were present, not even novices, so Tyrius offered what he hoped was an appropriate prayer. He looked up just in time to stop Thokk from entering the pool. The half-orc argued that they should collect the coins and pearls from the pool and use them for drinking money; Continue reading “Arrival in Saltmarsh”

Naïve scholar, moody elf, and scallywag halfling

It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Two

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

Aurora never knew her father, but his elven blood left his mark upon her unmistakably. Her mother spoke fondly of him often, but only when her own father was not about. Grandfather was a wealthy human merchant of Tringlee, the capital of the Duchy of Ulek, and Aurora was born and raised in his household. As the girl had grown from babbling child to discreet young maiden, her mother had explained that her father was a soldier, a guard to an Ulecki elven nobleman sent in a delegation to the Duke, on a diplomatic mission that lasted all of one glorious summer. They met; they fell in love; he returned home before either knew she was with child, and they never saw each other again.

“When you are older,” her mother would say, “When you are a young woman, you will understand such affairs of the heart.”

“Why didn’t you go after him? Why not write to him or try to find him?” Aurora would ask. Her mother never answered directly, but always with a tale or lesson about how some parts of the Duchy were forbidden to humans, about how her grandfather was a good man but was still subject to all the prejudices of men, about how she had known more than one person undone by the deaths of their children, and it was a sad truth that Aurora would surely die before her father did. Always the lesson was different, until Aurora did not know whether the true reason was one of these or some or all or none.

Aurora matured into a highly intelligent child, and quickly surpassed any tutor that her grandfather could provide. A month shy of her twelfth birthday, she saw a mendicant illusionist doing cheap street theatrics in the market square. She had dragged her maid home early from shopping, politely slipped into a business meeting with her grandfather, and announced her intention to be a wizard. His pale Suel skin grew beet red with embarrassment and anger, but his temper subsided quickly, and he sighed with resignation, “Ah, well. Blood will out.”

With her grandfather’s permission, Aurora obtained an apprenticeship with a local Master of History and Magic, an ancient human sage with a lifetime appointment to the Duke’s Court, though one without much power or prestige (which was, he later told Aurora, just how he preferred it). Like all his other apprentices, it seemed she studied just as much history as she did magic, and did more text-copying, book-searching, and scroll-filing than anything else. Yet, over the years, she mastered one spell after another, and delighted in practicing them.

Like all students of history, she knew about the Twin Cataclysms (the Invoked Devastation and the Rain of Colorless Fire), which had, a millennium ago, destroyed the Continue reading “Naïve scholar, moody elf, and scallywag halfling”

It Started in Saltmarsh

Chapter One

Dirty dwarf, disgraced paladin, half-orc fugitive

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

At three years old the child was developing like any dwarven infant—he could crawl and babble but not yet walk or talk. He had come into the world in gilded halls deep beneath the Cyrstalmist Mountains, born to a wealthy, prosperous clan of mountain dwarves. But the happy parents did not have long to dote over the Dumathoin’s gift. They were among those chosen to pioneer a new colony, for their clan looked to expand its holdings by starting daughter colonies and exploring new mines. They set out overland with the child still in his mother’s arms.

What should have been a short journey to an already-secured fortification instead turned into a nightmare and tragic end to all their aspirations. A raiding party of ogres, bugbears, and goblins boldly ambushed the caravan. A long, bloody, and desperate battle ensued. The child’s mother was the last dwarf to die, which she did bravely, but not until she had hidden her son beneath some bundles in a mule cart.

The goblins began leading the live mules away while the ogres feasted on the dead ones. The child would certainly have been discovered had not, by chance, a huge bear came Continue reading “It Started in Saltmarsh”