Diamond Shores

Book One: Chapter One
The Death of Sergeant Scotts

Our story begins with two row boats approaching a small, hilly island from opposite directions. On one boat is Captain Oak Stouthart of the Paladian Guard of Del Finti, and his doomed companion of two years, Sergeant Scotts, both stalwart defenders of the Teichan Empire. On the other boat, the curious halfling Sillian Goldenbrew, the plucky, yet fashionably attired thief and explorer from the ghettos of Del Cara. The sun is shining, the wind is warm, the ocean is calm, and the circumstances are suspect.

Oak had recieved official orders through Imperial channels to investigate this unnamed island and make contact with whomever might be inhabiting a keep atop the hills there. Sillian was given a note via courier that said his Uncle Weschester had passed away, and that he had left an inheritance of a house on this unnamed island. Two contradicting story about this spit of sand and rock in the middle of the Argnaro Archipelago, both signed by a mysterious Ulysses N. Owen.

After a brief introduction, Oak, Sillian, and the red-shirted Scotts decide to have a look around the small, square, stone building that appears neither home nor keep. Inside, they discover an open air room, with no roof above, a working well, and ivy clinging to the walls. Oak is quick to note that ivy should not exist naturally in the island chain, but that it is only found on the mainland to the west. Sillian tests the well, and as he winches the bucket down, then up, the whole island begins to rumble and quake. Sillian follows Oak outside and discovers not only that their ships are sailing away, but that the dinghy Scotts anchored to this beach is quickly drifting away.

The halfling swims out to recover it, but soon decides that he can’t swim fast enough to reach it. Recognizing a dire situation when he sees it, the paladin calls for his trusty Sergeant. Instead of coming as called, Scotts screams in terror. Going in to investigate, the pair can find neither hide nor hair of their companion, until they hear him scream once again from within the depths of the well. They deliberate for a moment and decide to go into the well after him.

At the bottom, they discover something peculiar: the well water is fresh, and it is giving off a soft green light. Sillian notices the rope and bucket near the tunnel to the next chamber of the cave, evidence of the good Sergeant. Following the only path, the pair come into an s-shaped tunnel, flanked on either side by the strange water. Sillian steps lightly across, but Oak, in heavy steel armor, clanks through. The chamber rumbles and from the soft stone beneath them emerge a quartet of writhing, thick vines that take the human by surprise. Whipping against him, mostly fruitlessly, these plants are quickly dispatched. This gives these heroes pause, making them consider better what absconded with Scotts.

They continue through to the next area and are set upon once again by a tough pair of larger vines and a pair of wall-hugging thron-spitting flowers. Utilizing superior tactics and making the most of the stalagmites as natural cover, their botanical foes fall in short order.

Moving forward, they come to a large cavern almost completely flooded with the fresh, green water. As the thief swims deftly through the pool, Oak is forced to try to walk across the bottom with only his head and shoulders above the surface. The island quakes again, and the water level lowers slowly before rising at a rapid pace. Suddenly, an enormous tentacle-vine wraps itself around the armored Captain and holds him aloft, crushing him in it’s thorny grip. Sillian’s attempts at slashing through it are fast proven futile, so he scales the trunk and leaps from stalk to Oak to help the warrior free. The human, given his background and keen sense of the natural world, discovers the tip as a weak-point, and uses his sword to saw through the six-inch vine sapping his health from him. Cutting free and falling to the bottom of the water, the tentacle-vine retreats back under the stone floor, allowing the duo to press on.

In the final chamber of this queer cavern, the source of the botanical monstrosities is revealed: a hulking, gargantuan mass of vines, leaves, and thorns, suspended above the ground by impressively thick roots dug into the walls and ceiling. Accompanied by several other vines, big and small, they witness this creature pulling the skeleton of poor Scotts from its horrid form. Developing a plan to draw the vines to them, not wanting to just charge in, Oak and Sillian succeed in dispatching one of their enemies outside the main chamber. The others, however, go back to form a defensive line in front of the hanging flora. The humongous ball of plants deploys an obscuring cloud of spores and blinds brave Oak, if only momentarily, before the two close on it and, through the power of divine Bahamut and the cunning of the halfling, prevail, vanquishing the carniverous Florian. Upon its death, the thing rips down the wall behind it and falls to the ground lifeless.

Emerging through this new passage, a small ship and crew is discovered loading crates in a dark cove. The sailors are stupified, and the dark-skinned Captain Hatt comes to greet them above deck and learns their story. On revealing the name signed on both missives, Ulysses N. Owen, he tells them it is a common way to sign anonymous mail, sounding like “unknown”. He offers to take them to Diamond Shores to meet Lieutenant Hague, an expert forger, handwriting analyst, and finder of missing persons. Oak and Sillian are welcomed aboard, and they depart for the vast blue sea on the smuggling ship “Wayward Sun”.

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Book One: Chapter Two
Halflings Like to Steal Things

Six weeks after the Wayward Sun left the island of the abberant plant monster, Oak Stouthart, Sillian Goldenbrew, and Captain Hatt stand leaning over the railing on the bow of the ship. The Captain informs them that they are only three days out from Del Juli and their destination of Diamond Shores, the island’s capitol. He, however, regrets to tell them that his ship cannot enter port without risking his arrest, but is willing to part with a dinghy to take them ashore. Oak, not wanting to part with this good-natured smuggler just yet, suggests a plan that, to any other captain, would sound downright daft. Hatt grins and loves the idea immediately.

On the morning the ship is bound to make its way into the city, Oak meets with Hatt once more below deck. With the sincerity of an angel, the paladin expresses concern for the Captain, who lost seven years to Lieutenant Hague, in addition to losing touch with his illiterate wife. He suggests to the dark-skinned smuggler that he perhaps ply his trade in a more meaningful, and legal, way. Hatt jumps to the conclusion that he wants him to ferry refugees out of Del Cara. Due to Oak’s well-developed talent for persuasion, Captain Hatt seems willing to consider his idea, but he wants to find his wife first. They agree to meet back on the Wayward Sun in three days time.

As this ship pulls into the port of the great white city of Diamond Shores, the economic hub for the Teichan Colonies, the sailors begin tossing lines to the pier and the dock hands fasten the ship to enormous metal cleats. The presence of this famous smuggling ship has caught the eye of port security, however, and soon a squad of twelve men clad in white and silver uniforms come running to the gangplank, now lowered. On deck, Oak and Sillian stand ready to answer questions and enact their deceptive plan as a lone officer ascends to them and introduces himself as Captain DeWitt of the Diamond Shores Guard.

Oak struggles to find his words, as lying doesn’t come naturally to him, but Sillian is willing and able to decieve this man, who is curious as to why the Wayward Sun is here, and wants to know where the infamous Captain Hatt is. Oak catches himself and explains that he and his halfling companion slew the Captain and sailed his ship here to inform the guard of the good word. Stunned, in disbelief, Sillian puts the last nail in this coffin of lies by showing DeWitt the grand and feathered hat of the Captain (a gift to the style-conscious thief). Apologetic for his accusatory tone, DeWitt welcomes Oak and Sillian as heroes and offers to let their newly aqcuired ship dock for free.

With this, Hatt departs the ship, disguised as Yeoman Chapeau, shortly after Oak and Sillian go to find a hospitible hotel – the Oak and Crossier. On the way, the thief spots a beautiful jade dagger tucked into the belt of a red-sashed gang-member. Pretending that the paladin bumped into him, he uses the opportunity to lift the knife… poorly. The street tough stops the pair and accuses Sillian of stealing from him. Oak, none the wiser as to what just occured, defends the halfling and insists the man must be mistaken. Sillian cannot convince the man he did not see what he thought he saw, and very plainly drops the dagger on the ground. The man is ready to strangle the larcenous creature, so Oak intervenes and talks him down from violence, but the gang-member demands satisfaction after retrieving his blade, and insists on twenty gold pieces to make him forget this ever happened. Sillian doesn’t want to pay, but Oak and the victim of the theft are adamant on the price, and he drops twenty gold coins into his meaty hand.

At the hotel, while Oak spends some time cleaning his awfully soiled body and tending to the mild case of scurvy he contracted while at sea, Sillian picks the lock on the human’s bedroom door and decides to leave a small present for him in a very sweet, and not at all misguided show of friendship. He quickly leaves and finds himself in the common room of the inn, drinking a few pints of his family’s famous Goldenbrew ale.

When Oak has finished with his bath, he meets Sillian in the common room, and brings him back upstairs. There, he expresses a concern that he identified himself to Captain DeWitt as a Captain of the Paladian Guard. Both believe they should maintain a low-profile, especially if the mysterious Ulysses N. Owen was able to send him official correspondance through Imperial channels. Regardless, they agree they still need to speak with Lieutenant Hague about the letters, but Sillian refuses to let his human friend go meet with such an important official in the shabby garb provided by the hotel. A trip to Leviathan Cross and the shopping district is on his mind.

After a few minutes of searching, they come upon Red’s Threads, a clothier specializing in silks. As Oak goes inside to get fitted for a new outfit, Sillian enters the shop unnoticed while the owner and his assistant Raul take Oak’s measurements. Sillian surreptitiously steals slacks and leather boots for his friend, as well as an ugly white canvas belt before slipping out.

Now the pair, looking stylish and respectable, decides to inquire with the locals about this Hague character. After an hour and a half of shoddy investigating, they learn that the poor, criminal folks in the Pavillion despise him because seven years ago, he got caught forging documents and, to save his own skin, sold out several of his friends. Lt. Hague is now an officer of the Guard, in charge of missing persons cases, and is an expert in handwriting analysis. They learn that he typically works alone, and he was last spotted in the Table following a lead. Oak and Sillian decide that now is the time to go have a word with Hague, and journey up the sloping city to the Table to find themselves at the doorstep of the Headquarters of the Diamond Shores Guard.

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