13th Voyage

02 - The Fate of the Faithful Ox
The tale of a ship gone missing in the Necklace.

In bustling Sithwa, City of Sails, Mashaar the Golden-Fingered sends her youngest messengers on an errand to collect certain of her allies.

Attsu Tsarran, the ancient warrior with the body of a jinn-crafted clockwork, favors meditation in the high places. The young messenger scales a way through the sail-and-rigging-draped rooftops before finally finding the metallic cat that is Attsu in one of his forms.

A child pushes her way through the crowd at a pit fight to deliver another invitation. Abd al-Rashid, the soldier who lost his soul, stands there as an overseer, stepping in whenever the contestants look prone to get carried away and injure one another more seriously than intended.

Aya, daughter of a djinn and late of the court of the Queen of Birds, reclines in a small plaza where poets gather, listening to one young fellow proclaim ode after ode of romantic verse. A few more of the verses seem to be aimed directly at her before the urchin arrives with a message.

The three meet Mashaar for the midday meal. The Golden-Fingered merchant queen explains that the trade ship Faithful Ox has failed to arrive in port, which is cause for concern; the ship is not one of hers, but it was carrying a special item for her. It most likely ran aground or was captured in the Necklace, the archipelago stretching north of the coast. She asks the three to board the Twist of Fate and locate the Faithful Ox, in particular to bring back the rolled white carpet within. The relic inside the carpet was earmarked to travel upriver to Umal Baat, where it would be put to good use against the evils there. The three accept the commission.

Abd, Aya and Attsu board the Twist of Fate the next morning. They meet Captain Tairasha, famed for the curse that has stricken him, and stone below his right knee. A gregarious desert elf sailor named Kismet attaches herself to the three, and shows them around the ship, also introducing them to the gnoll archer Notch and the orcish pearl diver Ruska.

The ship’s first stop is Rakhmal’s Hold, a drakhan fortress on the eastern edge of the Necklace that provides some protection against corsairs. Kismet talks with Captain Huthrakh, a blue-scaled drakh who admits that they never saw the Faithful Ox. If it reached the Necklace, it clearly didn’t exit the archipelago along its expected route.

The Twist of Fate then sails to Children’s Reef, an island farther west where only children are active by the day. Abd is most concerned about the curse that compels the adults to sleep during the day, but the children seem to have things well in hand. Attsu spends time in his full cat-form, fascinating many of the children. A few inquiries reveal that they saw the Faithful Ox pass by; it made it around the three-peaked island called the Trident without issue. Based on the time that the children saw the ship and the timing of a bad storm that recently tore through the Necklace, the group calculates that the Ox was probably passing through the heavily jungled islands called the Ogre’s Comb when the storm hit.

A morning’s search reveals the Faithful Ox half-listing in a small cove, on one of the Ogre’s Comb islands. The ship is not alone, though, as a goblin outrigger sits next to it. The adventurers recognize the heraldry of the Rotten Tooth, a would-be corsair tribe of scavengers, plunderers and raiders.

Abd, Aya, Attsu and Kismet take one of the boats out toward the ship, the elf shouting threats at the goblins as they advance. Arrows fly back and forth between both parties, including a few from the Twist of Fate, and a commotion comes from within the ship itself. As the boat draws near enough, Aya focuses for a moment, and then lightning leaps from her fingers, electrocuting the outrigger’s occupants.

The four clamber on board the Ox, and more goblins come running out from within. Attsu’s cogs whirr, and he unfolds into his larger, half-cat humanoid war form, tearing into the goblins with newly extended claw. Abd stands beside him, striking down the weaker combatants as Attsu blocks the stronger ones. Aya joins in, exhaling a blast of cold unlike anything felt in the desert.

Some of the goblins scramble after Aya as a larger warrior bears down on Abd. Kismet flickers in and out of the fight, her blade licking at the goblins’ backs. A brutal back-and-forth ends when Attsu takes both of his opponent’s wrists and bites out his neck, hurling the corpse aside. Another howling exhalation of frost from Aya, and the large goblin goes stiff, sliding down the incline and tumbling over the rail. A lone goblin flees the fight, diving overboard.

The adventurers move to the railing after the goblin. They see it swimming for the outrigger, when suddenly it jerks down underwater with a squeal. The water churns viciously, and a flow of blood rises to the surface.

“So… keep out of the water,” says Kismet.

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01 - The Vultures and the Oil Merchant
The tale of the cursed caravanserai.

News of trouble reaches the Golden Venture headquarters in Adwa. A caravanserai on the Beggar’s Table badland has fallen under a curse, or so go the stories. Stragglers arrived in the nearby village of Sedwani, talking of murders in the night. As the trade route it sits on is not as valuable, the emir is not prioritizing its resolution. Mashaar, on the other hand, has a valuable ally on the other end of the route, and therefore requests that the holy warrior Abd Al-Rashid and the genasi sorceress Aya investigate the matter.

They set out for Sedwani, where they find a number of displaced people from the caravanserai. A little inquiry reveals that the “curse” set in the night after a nasty brawl in which an oil merchant was lethally stabbed. Most assume it was his ghost. On the first night following, a stablehand and three guests were killed; on the second night, a visiting caravan carrying linens and fine porcelain lost four guards, with the other residents and merchants fleeing during the melee.
The caravanserai’s master, Jedar the Flint, made it safely to Sedwani, but there has been no sign of his son Rufiya.

However, a harness-seller admits that the oil merchant turned out to have the paraphernalia of a wizard on him — clearly disobeying the edict that all wizards must openly dress the part — and in fear, the caravanserai’s staff hastily buried the body and stored his goods away. In addition, a scarred woman named Jasta contacts Aya, claiming to recognize someone else who’s crossed the Ascending Flame. She mentions that she suspects the oil merchant was a covert member of the Flame, and she counsels caution.

Aya and Abd react the caravanserai the next evening. Dozens of vultures are roosting on the structure’s roof, facing inward to its courtyard. Aya sends her familiar, currently in a mustard yellow plumage, to fly over the site and report. It comes back with a tale of bodies lying in the courtyard, and with great saluki-sized scorpions feeding on them.

Her familiar attracts the attention of the vultures. Three of them detach and approach her, an old blind vulture and two younger ones that flank and assist it. The old one speaks in a human tongue, greeting Aya as one of the Queen of Birds’ notables. He requests her assistance — if she and her companion remove the scorpions so that his clan may eat, he will tell her what they know of the disturbance. She and Abd agree, and enter the courtyard. The scorpions are aggressive enough to attack new intruders, but there are only two, and Abd and Aya have more intelligent teamwork (to say nothing of a fine sharp scimitar and elemental sorcery).

The elder vulture thanks them and recounts the story. The killings were carried out by “inedible ones” that emerged from a hidden cellar where the false oil merchant’s goods were stored. The vultures show the two adventurers the location of the cellar, and Abd is able to make out thin, fleshless footprints leading in and out. They also notice, in a depression behind the caravanserai, a small white object hovering over the earth — a skull, by the look of it. They choose to ignore for the time being and proceed to the oil merchant’s wares.

The sun is setting by the time they open the cellar. In the far corner sit a dozen oil jugs, each one about four feet high. As the sun sinks out of sight, the stoppers of several jugs come open. Out of the jugs come a band of animated skeletons, with scimitars in their hands, save for the one that has a crossbow. The undead immediately fixate on the two living people, and rush to the attack.

Abd speaks an invocation against the unliving, and his faith surges through him. Several skeletons fall to pieces as the holy wave washes over them, and the others quail for a moment. With the numbers now more even, Aya and Abd dispatch the unliving assassins.

They also destroy the hovering skull, which turns out to have been watching over the wizard’s shallow grave. They find that the wizard carried a unopened satchel marked with runes, though clearly they have no enchantment. WIthin the satchel are two potions of healing, a small locked box with intricate decoration, and a small scroll containing an address in Saramanda. Abd theorizes that the address must have been an assassination target — the skeletons were likely enspelled to leave their jars at nightfall and slay the first person they found, unless they received a countermanding order from the wizard transporting them. When the sorcerer died in the brawl, he could no longer compel the skeletons to remain safely within, and they carried out their duties.

A quick survey of the caravanserai reveals a survivor — Rufiya, the missing son, who’d barricaded himself in the pantry and survived the last few days and nights on the stores. They escort Rufiya to Sedwani the next day, and from there set out back to Adwa. Abd resolves to visit the address in the slain wizard’s possession, and find out just who was marked for death.

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