The firelit skies above Farshore signaled not the promise of an inviting hearth, but of siege and slaughter. Even before the party’s canoes reached the shore, they could see the squat figure of a transport vessel flying the flag of the dreaded Crimson Fleet hunched at dock, and hear the screams and cries of the people of Farshore being carried on the wind.
The group’s Moran canoe captains were both unwilling and ill-prepared for a fight, but were willing at least to take them as far as a pier on which they could disembark and enter the fracas. Of the thirty-nine souls aboard the Sea Wyvern who set out from Sasserine, only nine remained, and far from arriving at their destination victoriously, the grueling ordeal that brought them to this place now seemed as though it would end in still another trial. As pirates ran about the colony cutting down men and women alike, it would have been easy to succumb to despair and a feeling of defeat. The remaining members of the Gang of Five, however, immediately knew without need for a word that these pirates had only picked a fine day to die.
With a lightning-fast assessment of the problem before them, the men split up to tackle the problems before them, assured that each of them would soon spill pirate blood.
Othar’s attention was immediately called to a nearby home, the figure of a single woman barely visible behind the glass through the flames that threatened to consume the building. Using his magics to allow himself to fly and gain a greater command of the field, his first task was to put out the fire that ate away at the structure, extinguishing the blast with a flare of pyrotechnics before sweeping in to rescue the barely-conscious woman inside.
Traxen resolved to come to the aid of a lone man who had been cut down by one of the pirates but still clung to life by a thread, bleeding out on the ground with a bundle of books and papers splayed out beside him. Neatly dispatching the curs who were about to finish the man off, he then administered expert first aid before turning the man over to Amella, Tavey, Urol, and Avner, all of whom Traxen directed to a nearby warehouse that appeared to be a haven others were hiding from the assault in. For Amella, there was a small glimmer of hope as she took charge of getting the others to safety and shepherding the frightening residents of Farshore through the darkness.
With the immediate matters before them resolved, Traxen and Othar both scrambled to reach the nearby chapel, where a group of a half dozen or so pirates manned a ram in an attempt to bash down the double doors and get to the screaming, shrieking colonists inside. The pirates’ efforts yielded fruit before the pair of heroes could reach the colonists, however, allowing the half dozen curs to enter the building before they could be stopped. While Traxen rushed to engage the invaders through the door, Othar believed he had a more expedient solution, and sent a fireball spell to the epicenter of the cluster of pirates, charring them to ash in a flash of magical flame. While this tactic was altogether effective against the pirates, it caused some unfortunate side-effects: not only did the tremendous amounts of smoke created by the spell threaten the safety of the very innocents he sought to save, but the chapel house itself was on fire, the dry wood and hanging tapestries become quick to light. While severely frustrated with Othar, Traxen nevertheless ran into the fire to escort the colonists to safety while Othar, having realized the gravity of the situation, unleashed another flurry of spells to extinguish the very fire he started. While the fire was, indeed, put out, a significant amount of damage had nevertheless been done to the humble chapel. Traxen escorted the frightened and smoke-choked inhabitants to the safety of the warehouse.
Kizziar, meanwhile, immediately ran to respond to a scene that made his blood boil: a snarling, surly half-orc, chasing an attractive, young, red-headed human girl around a building with an axe in hand, shouting lewd propositions at her as he gave chase, his quarry wide-eyed in terror and desperate to escape. “Assholes like this give the rest of my people a bad name”, Kizziar’s internal monologue growled. The report of a pistol stopped the marauding half-orc dead in his tracks, and as he looked around to see where the bullet that had just whizzed past his feet had come from, he saw only a dusty, trail-worn half-orc standing across the road. Without pause, the half-orc broke off his pursuit of the young woman and came thundering towards his rival, his tusks slobbering with anticipation of the bright madness of slaughter.
Thunder roared twice in the form of lead shot, and before he had made it twenty feet, he fell to the ground, dead. The young woman, who introduced herself as Ruby thanked her hero, who could offer the young lady only a wordless tip of his hat before running off to the next melee.
Dorian, lastly, made for a large building which several citizens of the colony desperately dousing with buckets and carrying out armfuls of books, in spite of the carnage surrounding them. Dorian’s efforts managed to aid the bucket brigade and rescue priceless records from the hall until Othar could come up from behind and douse the flames.
All the group’s actions served to drive the remaining pirates inward, towards the center of town, to their leader, and as the chaos on the outskirts of the colony was quashed by the party’s efforts, they then set tjeor sights on the man whom they saw to be in charge: a massive, ugly brute with a missing eye, coiled lengths of ships rope decorated with grisly trophies of human teeth and bone wrapped around his trunk and limbs as a form of ghastly armor, and a symbolic noose around his neck, worn like a necklace. The man, Dorian recognized, was ‘Slipknot’ Peet, a pirate who nearly met his justice at the end of a rope in Sasserine a few years earlier, but had help in getting free and escaping. Peet roared orders to the remaining pirates to stand and fight against the would-be heroes even as he continued his seemingly careless attacks on the villagers – almost as if he believed the men rushing to face him were a group of colonists – and for the first time in months, the party got a glimpse of Lavinia once again, standing near the Jade Ravens and a tall, handsome man with a massive blade who, themselves, continued a nearly hopeless melee with the pirates, who outnumbered them still.
With the combined might of the four men, however, Peet did his dancing at the end of a blade, with Dorian throttling him with the decorative noose the pirate wore, symbolically ending his wicked life even as he literally did so with a well-placed knife to the throat.
As Peet’s blood spilled into the dirt, the other pirates quickly lost their morale. Many ran, and were cut down in a volley of arrows, knives, and spells hurled by the combined might of the Jade Ravens and the Gang of Five, while some chose to stay and fight, and also were quickly cut down.
One, however, simply dropped his weapons and almost comically began to beg for his life. The man’s genuinely funny, bold-faced cowardice was enough to spare him for the moment, it was decided, and he was taken to Farshore’s jail for holding until such a time as he could be questioned.
Lavinia excitedly reunited with her friends and protectors, who explained, with grim faces, the trouble they had encountered in arriving in Farshore: of the disappearance of crewmen Lirith and Skald; of Journey’s End; of the storm that wrecked their vessel and killed most of her passengers and crew; of the Olman ruins and the dangerous jungles full of terrifying beasts; of the warmth and hospitality of the Olman tribes of Mora and Tanaroa; and lastly, of Fogmire, and the tragic sacrifice of their friend, Tobin. Lavinia relayed that she and the Ravens had made it to Farshore nearly a month in advance of them, and explained that this recent and totally unforseen raid by the pirates of the Crimson Fleet was, in truth, only the latest in an endless string of troubles, not the least of which was her power struggle with the handsome swordsman whom they had seen her fighting beside, the wealthy Manthalay Meravanchi.
Uncle to Avner and former traveling companion of Verik and Larissa, Lavinia’s parents, Manthalay had stewarded Farshore through the months between Verik and Larissa’s departure and Lavinia’s arrival, and in that time, Lavinia explained, much had changed. Manthalay’s politics were especially aggressive, his policies harsh: Farshore was safe, but would remain closed off to the surrounding region, isolationist and incapable of growth, until he could be persuaded otherwise or deposed legitimately. Lavinia introduced the man to her guardians, who greeted them with a gruff, dismissive demeanor, apparently convinced that he would have saved Farshore on his own had they not intervened. It was to be the beginning of an ongoing and bitter feud.
Avner, after the initial battle, had made his way from the safety of the stock house to meet his uncle, who seemed unpleasantly surprised to see his nephew among the newcomers. Avner’s pomp melted into obsequiousness in his uncle’s overpowering presence as he came to realize that he was unwanted here, a fact Manthalay made no attempt to hide. Before following his uncle’s command to move his things into the Meravanchi manor house, however, Avner shocked the group by thanking them: “I know I haven’t been easy to deal with”, he told them, “and…I wanted to apologize. You got us all here safely, and it was wrong of me to act the way I did. Thank you.” Leaving the group stunned, he followed his uncle to their Farshore home.
In the hours that followed, Lavinia gave leave to her friends to explore the colony and meet its people, advising them to introduce themselves to the men and women who were responsible for Farshore’s continued prosperity, the so-called ‘ Farshorite Council’: Ulvar Kabbanja, the sheriff and jailor, a hard-minded man who threw his support behind the strongman figure Manthalay; Malfus and Bonne Firewind, owners and proprietors of ‘The Last Coconut’, Farshore’s inn and tavern, and Lavinia’s chief supporters by virtue of the strong relationship they had with her parents; Vesserin Catherly, the half-elf chaplain of Farshore’s non-denominational chapel; Telda Syren, Farshore’s resident doctor and herbalist, a halfling; Doctor Hevrik Aldwattle, a former adventuring companion to Verik and Larissa and an accomplished scientist, and, as it turned out, the man whom Traxen had saved from bleeding out in the dirt when they first arrived; Jeran Emrikad, keeper of the Farshore Hall of Records, a strangely animated, larger-than-life figure for a man with so humble a profession; and Dranys Sellis, the half-blind dwarven master craftsman who operated Farshore’s lumber and pottery mills.
Making the rounds, the group introduced themselves to the people of Farshore, catching up with Amella and Tavey, the former of whom had taken the latter to The Last Coconut and acquired a room for the time being, and Urol, who seemed to be rather taken with the doctor, Telda Syren, and divided his time between the laboratories of she and Hevrik, a fellow naturalist. Most heartening of all was their reunion with Churtle, who in the month since the arrival of The Blue Nixie had been taken in by Malfus and his wife, and had begun working as a cook and maid at the tavern, and for all purposes seemed to be happy with her new position, and was elated to see her friends again.
The following day, it was back to business. Lavinia, Manthalay, Hevrik, Ulvar, Vesserin, Telda, the Jade Ravens, Avner, Amella, and the Gang of Five met in the Farshore hall of records to discuss the attack and plan for the future as the people of Farshore buried the dead, pirate and citizen alike, and began the slow and painful process of grieving and rebuilding. Casualties, it was reported, were mercifully minimal, as the pirates seemed more intent on looting than slaughter, but Othar’s fireball had nearly destroyed the chapel, and the hall of records would also need some rebuilding. It was clear that there were several barriers to having a productive dialog on the subject of Farshore’s future, however: Manthalay’s camp was opposed to Lavinia’s, which included the party, the Jade Ravens seemed to nurture some indignation or outrage towards the Gang of Five and seemed almost disappointed they survived, and Vesserin attempted to restrain his outrage for Othar’s desecration and destruction of the chapel, and all of this was aside from Amella’s attempting to contribute while nearly blind from grief over her perceived failures as captain of the Sea Wyvern and the excruciating torments she had undergone at the hands of Olangru.
Ultimately, it was decided that the wisest course in the immediate would be to speak to the pirate they had captured from the raid, a lanky, shaggy-looking man named Lefty, according to Ulvar, his captor. Manthalay put forth that he be the one to “interrogate the prisoner”, but the Gang of Five opposed what they believed would be his brutal methods, and at an informal vote, only Ulvar, Manthalay, and Avner supported a brutal interrogation. “Fine!”, Manthalay exploded. “Coddle the little murderer all you want. When he tells you nothing, we do things my way.”
With Othar and Dorian leading the interrogation, Kizziar and Traxen stood on as “Lefty” was questioned. A man of about thirty, Lefty wore an eyepatch – though he had both eyes, he kept it for night-blindness – and was missing his left hand, which had been replaced with a crude hook. When approached in his cell, he remained cautiously guarded at first, unsure as to whether he was to be killed as soon as whatever information could be extracted from him was had, but with Dorian’s word that he wouldn’t be killed, Lefty began to relay the events that had lead up to the previous day’s raid: all of the pirates had come from a nearby Crimson Fleet outpost set up in a cove called Rat’s End, where Slipknot Peet lead a modest detachment of about fifty men, about half of whom were low-ranking Crimson Fleet recruits, with the other half – including Lefty – being made up of slaves or victims of shanghai who were forcibly conscripted into the fleet to serve as navigators, deckhands, and the like. Peet, he explained, was – aside from a brutally stupid tin-pot despot and sadist whom even the Crimson Fleet hierarchy seemed to believe was too rampantly, mindlessly violent to be given more command – only supposed to be bringing his crew on a scouting mission at the behest of his superiors in the fleet. The Crimson Fleet, he revealed, had apparently promised a place in the fleet proper to Peet and his men if they could scout the colony in advance of a massive attack force that was coming soon after, but that Peet, seeing the Nixie arrive at port and believing, quite reasonably, that it was a merchant ship laden with goods, decided to cut ties with the Fleet and loot the colony before they could arrive. While this greed and hubris was Peet’s undoing, the news that the infamous Crimson Fleet was sending a massive invading force to Farshore set to arrive in two short months made their victory seem suddenly very trifling.
His tale relayed, Lefty begged for his life, claiming to have repented the choices that lead him to this place, and explaining even that he had taken no steps to harm the people of Farshore, only that he stormed the beach and tried to stay out of the way until things had finished. Convinced that his remorse was sincere and that his knowledge of both the Isle and the Fleet may prove useful in the months to come before the attack, the Gang of Five promised Lefty that they would see his life spared. For the time, however, we would remain in the brig.
Returning to Lavinia with the grim news Lefty had given them, Othar, Dorian, Traxen, and Kizziar met with their patron and the other leaders of the colony to tell them what they knew. The Crimson Fleet, they reported, would arrive in two months time. There was much work to do.