Tales of The Brunch Club 041 “Pirates & Portals”

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Welcome to Episode 41 of the Rescued by Dragons fantasy fiction podcast, Tales of the Brunch Club:

My name is Brian Messmer and I am not only your storyteller but the dungeon master behind the homebrew Dungeons and Dragons campaign this adventure is based on. Please join me as I tell the tale of how my players, and the dice, ruined and improved my perfectly laid plans.

But first, a quick recap…

In episode 40, the Brunch Club intercepted Captain Santiago and the last two surviving pirates as they fled from a failed assault on the gnoll encampment. The group learned from the battered pirates that they managed to kill a few gnolls before the Flind smashed their cannon and annihilated the rest of their crewmates. When the pirates insisted on continuing toward town, Jory revealed who he was and chased Santiago down. The Brunch Club killed the remaining pirates. Drusilla took a single sending stone off Santiago’s body.

They dragged the bodies off the trail into the woods, hoping hungry owlbears would consume the corpses. Three animated scarecrows emerged from the trees and began dragging the bodies away. The Brunch Club destroyed them and took one of their burlap heads hoping it would help Saberhagen scry on whoever sent them.

In his scrying bowl, Saberhagen saw the image of Rajat giving orders to the Flind in front of a twenty-strong Warband of gnolls. “Burn it to the ground” was his final command before he transformed into an elk and galloped away.

Chapter 41 “Pirates and Portals”

Saberhagen’s inner sanctum was filled with the type of anxious quiet that precedes a powerful storm. Each of the room’s occupant’s silently contemplated the news the wizard had given them.

Drusilla was the first to speak. “We should evacuate the town,”.

“How?” Elora asked. “We’d leave the townsfolk exposed on the road. They’d be easy targets.”

“Can we teleport them to the library?” Salys asked Saberhagen.
The cat shook his head. “No. Without a library card, they’d be disintegrated the moment they stepped out of the teleportation circle..”

“Wow. I don’t even want to know what their late fees are like,” muttered Diesa.

“I could,” continued Saberhagen, “transport them a thousand miles away to a remote desert location, but I don’t think they’d like that since I’ve been using it as a litter box for quite a few years.”

“Wait a second,” Salys said, squinting at Saberhagen and thinking about their first time in his inner sanctum. “Is that where you sent the dead gnoll we interrogated after the first Wheaton attack?”

The cat nodded and Diesa chuckled.

“Why don’t we send a call for aid to Kalavar and Solania?” Salys asked.

“Would it get to them in time, and would they even answer it?” Jory wondered, and looked towards Saberhagen for his opinion.

The cat let out a sigh of resignation. “Elnor has little regard for Wheaton, and I would never assume I know the inner workings of the mind of a dragon.”

“We know they’re coming this time, we could always fight,” Drusilla said.

The group looked at her and weighed their odds against twenty gnolls and a Flind, even if they had Wheaton’s able-bodied citizens fighting alongside them.

“The Rod’s Curse does have cannons,” Elora said as a hint of optimism crept into her voice. “That would even the odds.”

“Hells yes!” Diesa exclaimed. “I vote for killing the rest of the pirates and taking their cannons.”

“Um…” Jory began cautiously, “As far as the town knows, that’s just a ship in port. If we go kill them and steal the cannons, we’d probably be arrested for murder.”

The rest of the party considered Jory’s point, as well as their other ideas, and formulated a plan. Saberhagen would teleport Salys to the Library where she would try to get a message to Solania and Kalavar. The rest of the Brunch Club would ask Mayor Gladstone for permission to commandeer the cannons. On their way to the Mayor’s, they would send carrier pigeons to Elnor just in case Salys’s message didn’t get where it needed to go.

“All right! Let’s do this!” Salys said eagerly as she stepped into the center of the teleportation circle in Saberhagen’s inner sanctum.

When the remaining members of the group descended the stairs into the Sun Spot’s shopping area, Drusilla noticed a gleaming round shield. It had a pristine black finish with delicate silver filigree along the outer rim. “A shield with a minor protection enchantment,” Saberhagen told her.

“If this isn’t the time for an upgrade, I don’t know what is,” Drusilla said as she counted out the hefty amount of gold for the bulwark.

They stocked up on healing potions as well in preparation for the impending battle.

“You gonna fight with us again?” Elora asked Saberhagen on their way out.

“Mmmm… I don’t like the odds,” the wizard said, unapologetically, before jumping the steps back up to his inner sanctum. “I’ll be in the aforementioned desert waiting this one out.”

The mayor listened to the Brunch Club’s warning, as well as their plan, and request to board the pirate ship. He looked exasperated and worried but kept a pragmatic demeanor. He dashed off a quick note on parchment and handed it to an aide. The aide had a worried look on his face and left the office with haste.

“I will order all able-bodied citizens old enough to lift a sword to get ready to defend their home. All others will begin evacuating immediately,” Mayor Gladstone told them decisively. “I have just sent orders to the Captain of the Guard to commandeer the cannons from the Rod’s Curse, and let him know you will be meeting him at the docks right away to offer your assistance.”

They thanked the Mayor and hurried to meet the Captain at the docks.

After a flash of light, Salys found herself standing in the Crystal Spire Library. She nervously looked at her hand and was relieved to see the library’s sigil glowing beneath the skin of her palm. Reassured she would not disintegrate, she stepped confidently out of the teleportation circle.

She looked down each of the long rows of shelves that spread out around her in a concentric circle, with her at its hub. Far down one row, she saw what looked like an elderly wizard leafing through a stack of books. He had several more books stacked by his feet. Two open books floated next to him at waist level.

“Excuse me,” Salys called out as she rushed up to him. “I need to get a message to Solania or Kalavar. It’s very important. Can you help me?”

The wizard looked at her but seemed to answer a completely different question. “If you don’t get the incantation right, you will not be able to control the demon once you summon it,” he told her sternly.

“Um, that makes sense,” Salys replied. “But I don’t need to summon a demon. I need to get a note to Solania or Kalavar.”

“Summoning spells are tricky!” the wizened librarian insisted. “You. Must. Get. The incantation. Exactly. Right!”

Salys let out an exasperated sigh and left the wizard to his books in search of a more helpful, less insane, librarian.

She saw a figure in the distance down another long row placing books carefully on the shelves. As she approached she realized he was smaller than the other librarians – her size, in fact.

A sense of hope replaced her frustration when she saw this librarian was a young gnome. “Can you help me?” she asked him.

The gnome turned. His eyes opened wide, and his head jerked slightly in a startled movement.

“What?” asked Salys, feeling suddenly self-conscious.

“Oh, uh sorry,” the librarian said. Embarrassment made his cheeks flushed. “We don’t get many people like you in here.”

“Gnomes?” Salys asked.

“Young gnomes,” he smiled. “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m Devon.” He held out his hand.

Salys took it and smiled back. “I’m Salys.”

“Aaand what can I help you with?” Devon asked after an awkward moment of silence.

Salys jerked her hand away, realizing she’d forgotten to end their handshake. “I need to get a message to Solania or Kalavar right away.”

Devon listened to her story. The happy expression on his face gave way to one of serious attention. He wrote down everything she told him and promised he would do his best to get the message where it needed to go.

“Wait!” Salys called to him right after they started hurrying in opposite directions. “What do you know about wild magic?”

Devon smiled. “Quite a lot! And what I don’t know, I can find in here!” he held his hands out, indicating the volumes of information in the library.

“If I make it back, would you teach me about it?” Salys asked.

Devon smiled hopefully. “It would be my honor.”

Salys smiled and hurried back to the teleportation circle.

The Brunch Club stopped at Druron’s blacksmith shop to warn him about the upcoming attack, and to request as many pounds of grapeshot he could make for the cannons.

Salys caught up to them on their way to the docks to meet the Captain of the Guard.

Three guards were waiting for them. Elora, Drusilla, and Salys recognized the Captain as T’Hard, the commander of the town watch in Boughmoor.

He introduced the two soldiers with him as Damien and Jollup.

Drusilla introduced Jory and Diesa to T’Hard and then asked him, “What brings you to Wheaton?”

He turned and looked toward the west as if he was hoping to see across a great distance. “Boughmoor’s been abandoned,” he told them. “The bad dreams started coming back about a month after you left, and with the spectre of the Bog Hag lurking nearby and no one willing to hunt it, the people eventually started to leave.”

“I told Vorjhon we should have gone back into the bog,” Elora said. Drusilla and Salys did not bother to acknowledge that wasn’t exactly how their exit from Boughmoor went down.

“What about Anne and Cooper, Ulrich, and Raif Brenton?” asked Drusilla.

T’Hard let out a long, sad sigh. “Anne took her own life soon after her daughter’s… I don’t know what to call it. Death? Possession? Transformation? Anyway, Cooper left town shortly after that. Brenton stayed behind until everyone got out safely and as far as I know, Ulrich is still there. He said he’d put down too many roots to leave.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Drusilla said softly. Her voice then grew more cheerful. “But I’m glad we have you here to help us now.”

“Let’s get this party started,” Elora said as she placed her Phoenix Arrow on her bow.

The eight of them approached The Rod’s Curse. A number of pirates were buzzing about on deck, looking like they were moving with haste. When they reached the gangway, Captain T’Hard announced to the pirates on deck that the cannons were to be commandeered for the defense of Wheaton per order of the Mayor.

Illia, the first mate, peered down at them. “Fuck off,” she snarled, then kicked the gangway off her ship, sending it crashing onto the dock. A couple of sails dropped and the Rod’s Curse began drifting away.

Damien tried to leap the short distance to the ship but fell short. He grabbed onto the gunwale and started pulling himself up. Drusilla, remembering the effectiveness of her plant growth spell in her greenhouse, cast it on the seaweed beneath the ship in hopes of slowing it down.

Salys attempted to burn the sails with a firebolt but it merely shot through the sail leaving only a small hole with smoldering edges, doing little to slow the ship.

As Diesa and Elora fired arrows, Jory sprinted along the dock and made his own attempt to jump onto the Rod’s Curse. He also fell short but was able to grab onto Damien’s legs before plunging into the ocean. Damien maintained his grip on the side of the ship.

“You little halfling shit,” they heard an angry woman’s voice say above them.

They both looked up at Ilia, peering over the side, recognition in her face as she stared at Jory. She kicked Damien in the face, knocking him into the frigid ocean near Jory.

Salys ran along the dock trying to keep up with the ship. A door opened upwards from the side of the hull. The pirates slid a cannon through the port and fired. The cannonball did not hit Salys, but the immense concussion of the close blast knocked her unconscious.

Captain T’Hard growled with frustration. He sprinted along the dock and successfully leaped aboard the deck of the Rod’s Curse. Ilia whirled around to face him.

Two crewmen shot crossbows at the dock. Ilia screamed at them. “Ignore them, get the rest of the sails up!” she commanded as she parried a sword thrust from T’Hard.

After the crossbow bolts stuck in the deck at his feet, Jollup shouted, “I’ll get back up!” and ran toward town.

Drusilla hurried to Salys’s side and revived her with a healing spell. The cleric then summoned a spectral raven that appeared on the ship’s deck and began attacking Ilia, who was starting to get the upper hand on Captain T’Hard.

At the base of the ship, Damien’s chain mail was pulling him under the water. With Jory’s help, they made it to a ladder on a nearby piling. Exhausted, Damien told Jory to go ahead without him. The halfling scurried up the ladder to rejoin the fight.

With the sails now fully up and the Rod’s Curse ready to clear the dock completely, T’Hard found himself flanked by Ilia and another pirate. He inflicted deep cutting blows on Ilia but was tiring, and had taken some serious cuts himself. As he raised his arm for another attack, he heard Elora shout, “Don’t be a hero, T’Hard!”

“You know what?” he shouted back, “Good idea!” He leapt from the ship and landed safely on the dock before the ship sailed past it.

Salys, newly healed and very angry, cast a lightning bolt into the smoking cannon at the rear of the ship. She couldn’t tell if the cannon was still usable, but the loud, agonizing screams of the two gunners from below decks filled her with a feeling of vengeful satisfaction.

The small fires Elora’s Phoenix Arrow and Salys’s firebolt had started in the ship’s sails began to grow larger and hotter as the ship picked up speed. Despite the burning sails, the ship was now nearly out of reach. Most of the crew had taken cover below the gunwales, leaving only the helmsman for Elora to target.

“No! They’re getting away!” Jory shouted, panic and frustration rising in his voice, “What do we do?”

“Shit shit shit shit,” Salys muttered to herself, weighing her options. “Jory!” the sorceress shouted suddenly. “I can portal us onto the ship!”

“Just us?” Jory asked.

“Yes! You’re the only one small enough I can take with me. But you have to be willing!”

Jory looked back and forth between the speeding ship and the tougher members of the group they’d be leaving behind. He took a large swig of mead from his wineskin and answered, “Yes! I’m willing!” and made his way as quickly as he could into the sorceress’s arms.

Salys opened a portal in front of them and pulled Jory through behind her. In an instant, they found themselves on the deck of the pirate ship. Their appearance startled the crew. Before they could charge the diminutive intruders they were startled again by an agonizing scream. Everyone on deck saw the horrible sight of a spectral black raven pluck Ilia’s eyes from her sockets as she crumpled to the deck, too far gone to save.

Seeing the horror on his former crewmates’ faces, Jory stepped forward and said, “Santiago’s dead. Illia’s dead. You’ll never find the treasure without them. You might as well give up.”

“Fuck you, drunkling,” the pirate at the helm shouted back. Before the others could attack, they were again startled by two hatches being flung open. Two burned, smoking, angry pirates crawled up from below decks and charged at Jory.

Jory was able to take them out while Salys fired a barrage of magic missiles at the other pirates. They managed to wound a few, but they were still outnumbered, and the remaining crew began to close in around them.

Back on the dock, Drusilla healed Captain T’Hard.

“I think they’re slowing down,” said Elora as she took another shot at the helmsman, even though he was barely visible.

Drusilla noticed a fast-looking twenty-foot sailing skiff on the other side of the dock. “Can we commandeer that?”

“Yes,” said T’Hard.

“Great, can you sail?”

“No,” T’Hard grunted, shaking his head and grimacing from his wounds.

Jollup arrived back at the dock with five more town guards.

“Can any of you sail?” Drusilla shouted as they approached.

After one of them raised their hand, they all piled into the skiff, pushed it away from the dock, and chased after the Rod’s Curse, hoping Salys and Jory could stay alive for just a few more minutes.

Our tale will continue in Episode 42

Episode 41 was written by Dominic White, Bethany Powers, and myself, Brian Messmer.

The audio recording of our DnD game session that inspired this episode will be available on our podcast channel this Thursday under the name, Brunch Club LIVE!

Valuable contributions to the story were added by the role playing of:

The recording of our Dungeons and Dragons game session that inspired this episode will be available on our podcast channel this Thursday under the name, Brunch Club LIVE!

If you enjoyed this podcast, please help us out by sharing it with your friends and rating and reviewing us on your favorite podcast platform. We’d really appreciate it.

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Thank you for listening, and please join me next week to see what my players’ choices, and the roll of the dice, have in store.