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 Gametable Adventures I: The Tinstone Warrens

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The House of Ainsley
Keeper of the Dark Mirror
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Male Number of posts : 2006
Age : 45
Location : The Dark Heart of Bardosylvania

PostSubject: Gametable Adventures I: The Tinstone Warrens   Mon Oct 26, 2009 3:36 pm

Prologue


Five days.

Five days at sea, five days of winding around the coasts and reefs of the Northern Empire's reaches.

But that is as Lord Darrovan demands, for their...lair beneath Saturninity Hill was hardly palace or fortress, but it could hope to be one. And for that, supplies would be needed. But who would bargain with those who no longer lived nor breathed?

Those who answered no greater principle than hard coin, that's who.

And those unsavory sorts grew as blades of grass around the den of smugglers and pirates and all other sorts of villains...a den called Harhagg's Cove.

Their guide, an Ainsley himself, had known the cove in bygone years as a young man. But he was hardly a man anymore. Naked fingerbones scraped the insides of his rust-flecked steel gauntlets as he dipped the oar to the water, rowed and withdrew the oar for the next stroke. Fifty years past, he had piloted a goodly windrunner across the seas. Now his windrunner lay at the bottom of Blueridge Deep, and the ship behind them belonged to none but the drunkard they were lucky enough to hire.

But Corwin had ambitions for another ship and another crew...soon. Soon. Perhaps Harhagg's Cove had that to offer him as well.

The shady fellow seated across from him rowed to match Corwin's pace. He, too, had ambitions...ambitions and greed. The kind of greed which denies all morality in its endless hunger for gold. Among those of Harhagg's Cove, he would surely be kin. He too had come his own way into the House of Ainsley's web. The spilled blood of scoundrels back in his native Karkova, an invitation meant for another but answered by him...and he had come all the same. He was only known as Raven, for he trusted none other with the name of his birth. And yet Lord Darrovan addressed him as "Hennbauer" when they first met, and regarded him as a lost comrade....

There was promise of ample gold if he continued in his services for the House. "Your aid has been invaluable in years past," Lord Darrovan said, "and it is good that we should finally meet, for I must truly come to depend on you for the time to come...."

And so this dark-clad man had come, as certainly as the two lithe elven figures who graced the prow of the dinghy did. Sisters they were, but alike they were not. The elder sister built a house of undeath; the younger lived within it.

As so many wood elves are kindly and joyous with the gift of life, so Sylvea and Ariean once were. But beloved Ariean was taken by Death near her hundredth year--quite young for an elf--and Sylvea's once-warm heart turned bitter and cold with the wound. But the loss, advised the priest who sought her out, need not be forever.

"Though loved ones be parted, love shall not. And Death shall have no dominion."

Evening Glory, the goddess of love beyond death, could return Ariean from the grave. But each sister would have a price to pay in this bargain. Ariean returned from death but did not return whole; thickened yellow teeth, freakishly stretched limbs, long hands and feet which ended in thick-jointed digits and curled claws where nails once were, and the milky white pallor of lifeless skin...these all, a mere shell for a ghoulish hunger so depraved that any flesh--living or dead, fresh or bloated with rot--would serve the appetite equally.

Sylvea beheld what Ariean had become and her heart remained a shade of coldness. Still, a sister warped by ghouldom was better than no sister at all; vile though she may be, Ariean provided a small spark to warm that cold heart. And so, in the bargain which brought her sister forth, Sylvea agreed to serve Evening Glory, mending love wherever it lay sundered by death until the end of her days.

The quarantined city Palemare loomed behind them, the cackling of plague victims fading with distance. And another doomed love awaited the sisters on their return to the temple: a noble daughter to the cruel Lord Stang of the Karkovan wildlands, her husband lost to disaster and uncertainty when the House of Ainsley met a horrifying end one year past....

From watery grave, from pestilent city, from a trail of blood and betrayal, the four had all come to the fallen House, their lord scowling in darkness and clutching at shadows of his former domain. Clutching at hope against hope. At promises of new servants and materials. At rumors of a lost passage through the Tinstone Warrens to Harhagg's Cove.

In centuries past, the Tinstone Mines had been an abundant source of iron, lead and thrice as much tin, with the odd cropping of amethyst or citrine. Passing entirely through the mountain which separated Blacksand Cove from Harhagg's Cove, the mine provided ample trade for the shops of Harhagg's Cove back in her lawful, legitimate years.

But in chasing a vein of tin ore the heedless miners dug too deeply, and the sea came in on them. Those who survived soon returned to reclaim the mine. But loping creatures who smelled of the deep moved in through the sea and took the mine for their home, stalking and slaying their perceived rivals. "Sahuagin," one miner gasped before a coral-headed arrow ended him. And rumors of darker, more sinister things even deeper below raced swiftly from tongues to ears.

Three times the mine's foreman hired mercenaries to drive the creatures from the mines, and each time met a stiffer, more populous resistance. The sea people were multiplying.

Surrendering to his losses, the foreman abandoned the mine to its squatters. Those tunnels were no longer the Tinstone Mines, but had become the Tinstone Warrens, home to a breeding and thriving colony of scaly seafolk who were far from willing to share the mines with any others.

Perhaps the passage between the coves remained intact. And it would need to be, for Konegheim's Navy had imposed a blockade on Harhagg's Cove. No ships could enter the mountain-ringed cove, and no ships could leave it. Yet the pirates and beastmen and brigands of Harhagg's Cove lived, and they had shown no want of giving themselves to Duke Eowuld's mercy.

What could be sustaining them?

The ship's captain, Brogunn, had taken Lord Darrovan's coin to bring the four envoys there to find out. Captain Brogunn himself was a smuggler and a scoundrel in need of gold to pay his way out of a grave debt, and he too seemed frightened as he piloted the Silver Hound into the waters of Blacksand Cove. "'Tis not the warrens themselves," Brogunn warned, "the cove itself be haunted, I tells ye! Pray, do nuh delay."

The Silver Hound entered the cove to find a pirate ship already at anchor there, its black flag snapping in the wind, warning others to stay away. Tents on the shore and a flickering fire among them hinted at the presence of the crew, but how many pirates were encamped and how many had remained on the ship...such answers came not promptly.

"Pirates...bah! I dare go no further in," Brogunn snorted, ignorant of Corwin's heritage as he and his meager crew ushered the four aboard the dinghy. Averting his gaze and never once glancing into Ariean's sunken eyes or the unholy pinpricks of light dancing in Corwin's hollow eye sockets, Brogunn aided his crew in lowering the small vessel into the water.

"Lord Darrovan paid me well to see ye four here an' back," the captain explained in a craven tone, "but he didnuh pay me near enough to court death or prison for ye. If'n a Navy patrol or more pirates happen by as ye're dodderin' aboot on shore...fah. Ne'ermind. Safe venture to ye."

Oars in hand, Corwin and Karnoz plodded the boat into the heart of Blacksand Cove. With Ariean's eyes on the camp and Sylvea's eyes on the pirate ship leaning towards them, perhaps the pirates would not see them first.

Four gazes now survey the dark, rocky beach for a suitable point to land should the time come. And the scalable net descending from deck to sea offers a means aboard the pirate ship, should they dare to take it.

And here our tale commences in earnest.


[To be continued next weekend, on Gametable!]
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