Sometimes, things were not intended to work out. It may be necessary for the rest of the plot, or it could just make a better story that way. A triumphant success is typically preceded by many failures, some of them disastrous. There’s a concept in gaming called “failing forward” where failing at one objective unintentionally accomplishes or reveals another. It doesn’t always work out, and it’s usually left to the GM to figure out (after all, a game writer can’t tell exactly when and where and how the dice will roll). But I try to work it in when I can.
Skitters, scurillian archmage
Yang Hou, human sailor
Theodore, human archmage and emperor
Isla Dios, the home of the Inquisition
Caribdus, a drowning world
The Story So Far:
With Blackbeard’s fleet defeated and the famed pirate well and truly dead, the group set off to rescue their friend Tressa the Red, Caribdus’ last archmage before Skitters and Ted improved their skills. Tressa had been captured by the Inquisition and was being held at Isla Dios, Torquemada’s fortress where his previous prisoners had been brought. Although Emperor Ted had imprisoned Torquemada himself, his movement had developed such a strong religious fervor that they merrily continued in their work without him.
Several days into their trip – still, unfortunately too far from the Kieran Empire – Carifax the parrot, Tressa’s familiar, collapsed and fell still on the deck. When Skitters attempted to rouse him, the parrot spoke not with his own voice, but with Tressa’s. She – or rather, her ghost – revealed that she had finally been killed by the Inquisition. She asked them to come and retrieve her body, whatever it took – she had used magic to turn her own heart into a powerful relic which would aid in their fight against the Sea Hags.
Resigned, the group continued their trip to Isla Dios, within the Kieran Empire. They approached the fortress from land, hoping to catch anyone there off-guard. They left the majority of their fleet in the deeper waters outside Isla Dios, the shallow bay far too hazardous for all but flat barges to pass. Entering through a back door, the party found themselves confronted by several very alarmed and confused off-duty Inquisitors. The “holy” men were promptly slain, distinctly burnt by Ted’s bolts of fire. They continued onwards towards their objective.
They stopped to speak to a servant girl, who was rather willing to help, albeit skeptical that Ted was really the new Emperor. She indicated that most of the Inquisitors would currently be busy at work “interrogating the mages”, which everyone understood to be torture. She informed them that the mages they killed were buried in a graveyard off to one side of the fortress. Hoping to get in and get out without attracting too much notice, the group made their way in that direction. They passed by the living quarters of the Inquisitors, which were spare and plain; they assumed that they’d find no valuable treasures there. They did pass by a naked Spaniard, hunting for his robes, who attempted to flee when he saw them coming. Skitters “followed” him out a window, landing in the lawns leading to the graveyard.
Grimly, they exhumed Tressa’s body, knowing the awful deed they had to do. Much to their surprise, however, when they reached her remains, they found a clear, visible wound sewn shut across her chest. They confirmed what they most wanted to be false – her heart had already been taken. At that moment, alarm bells sounded across the valley and the bay. Rushing to see what had happened, the group ran up to the walls only to see Torquemada’s barge coming into the bay, blasting its way through the Kieran cutters they’d positioned there. Even from this distance they could see something small and red and glowing hanging from the rigging above Torquemada’s seat – Tressa’s heart.
Emperor Ted was able to maintain a peaceful parley with Torquemada for a brief time – he rejoined him once more to step down and cease this torture of innocents; Torquemada refused. When it became clear that no amicable solution would be found, both parties retreated to their bases – Ted with his party atop the walls, and Torquemada to his barge – to commence the battle they’d both known was coming. A flood of men swarmed from the regal barge, crashing to shore amidst the low waves and heavy sand.
Skitters was able to deal with these foolish men quite quickly, by boiling zones of water, burning and scalding the soldiers. Unable to continue, these men were left boiling in the sea, the stink of bubbling flesh filling the air. Yang Hou went after a group of them who continued onwards towards the opening in the half-wall, which only protected the fortress at the front and sides. He swung his pair of enchanted swords with the grace and agility of a true martial artist, using his trained sweep to knock out multiple foes at once. Ted stayed atop the wall, and then in front of it, throwing gouts of flame at his foes.
Finally, when only Torquemada himself was left, the party approached and quickly found him immune to their magics, none of their elemental attacks seeming to affect him in the least. Yang Hou cut him down with sharp, easy blows, granting him the quick death that he would never have granted to any of the mages of Caribdus. He climbed up into the rigging to claim the heart, which glowed and pulsed softly in his hands, as if still beating. Tressa had told them that it would grant the mages great power for 17 minutes during the final confrontation with the Sea Hags – a minute for each day that she had endured Torquemada’s torments.