14th of Tertius, 1668 – Clan MacKensie (Northwest, Highland Marches)
After freeing Gillian from the thrall of Bodicea the witch, the group of heroes gathered around Colurn, the leader of Clan MacKensie while Gillian mixed together a small cure for him. They began to regale him with stories of their travels in order to keep him alert long enough for the cure to be made and administered. They decided to regale the clan leader with a tale of adventure they had most recently embarked upon…recovering the sword Oidhche Tonn from the sea monster, Iku-Turso in the Maw…
One week ago…
8th of Tertius, 1668 – The Maw, Off the coast of Gottkirchen (Gottkirchen, Eisen)
Captain Reynolds laughed as the heroes asked him if their trip could be diverted into the Maw, as they were searching for the legendary creature known as Iku-Turso. While he refused to endanger his trading vessel and crew to such folly, the exchange of many guilders persuaded him to sail to Gottkirchen, where he assured them they would find a captain brave – or foolish – enough to take their coin. The 2 day trip to Gottkirchen, Eisen was uneventful and while storm clouds could be seen to the north and east, they never interfered with the Dawn Trader’s voyage. Captain Reynolds gave the heroes 4 days to return, at which time he would assume them dead and continue his trade route to Kirkwall in the Highland Marches.
As time as of the essence, the group made their way to the docks, asking dozens of sailors about any ships that were headed into the Maw or that could be purchased for sure a voyage. One lead looked promising towards the end of the afternoon as Stefan, the first mate of a ship he claimed could weather the trip, was about to arrange for down payment.
“I wouldn’t trust that one not to leave you marooned on an island north of here,” came the good natured warning from behind the group. Turning at once, they saw a devilishly handsome man dressed in black leather pants, a maroon shirt, and black vest. Upon his head sat a black wide-brimmed hat with a purple feather sticking up from it. His rakish grin heralded his introduction by Dr. Blackwell, “This is Captain Jack Harkness…a most capable captain.” After brief and flirtatious introductions were made, Dr. Blackwell explained their need for a ship and crew. Of course, Captain Harkness was amenable to his old friend and arranged for the heroes to leave with the evening tide. After a brief tour of the ship, the captain presented Dr. Blackwell with a list of necessary items, including netting, hooks, pikes, and strong rope. Fabian and Bonny used some of their riches to purchase the items, while Dr. Blackwell sweet talked a local merchant’s daughter into providing the rest. Outfitted for adventure, the heroes set sail upon Donner-Riss, “Thunder Crack” in the Eisen language, heading north into the Maw.
The heroes made their preparations below decks during the first night, doing their best to keep their meals down as the ship rocked back and forth. Fabian had a particularly hard time of things, needing to visit the railing of the ship several times. The unguents created for softening the creature’s skin were distributed to Zhennya, Bonny, and Dr. Blackwell, while the lanterns designed to creating a flashing light were given to Fabien, Silvia, and Dr. Blackwell. The next morning, the call was given that Iku-Turso had been spotted several miles away towards the north. Unfortunately, there was also a bad storm brewing in that direction and the creature seemed to be basking in it if accounts were to be believed. Knowing the time was close, the crew and heroes set sail for the storm under the direction of Captain Harkness.
Rain pelted the deck of the ship as it neared the beast, which took notice of the approaching vessel by sinking to just above the surface which gave the creature clear line of sight to observe. As the ship drew nearer the creature, Iku-Turso sank beneath the water and erupted next to the ship, letting out a loud bellows which would have shook the resolve of lesser men and women, but not those of Captain Harkness’s crew, nor the heroes gathered upon the deck. As lightning flashed among the clouds overhead, Zhennya and Bonny both noticed that lightning seemed to crackle along the masthead of Captain Harkness’s ship, a masthead that resembled an androgynous figure holding a lightning bolt in each hand. Though startled by the sudden appearance of such a beast, everyone leapt into action. Dr. Blackwell had set himself up on the starboard side of the ship, secured his lantern to the railing and began to flash the light into one of the sea monster’s eyes. Bonny was on lookout and noticed the hilt of a sword stuck into the creature’s left side just below the neck. She called this information out to Dr. Blackwell and threw her unguent at the creature’s side, having transferred it from the waterproof pouch to a glass jar provided by one of the crew. Zhennya, never one to be let men do the hard work, leapt off the bow of the ship into the water near the creature upon getting the news. Fabien, not being trained at sea travel, had wisely secured himself to the railing of the ship with a rope. As he tried to get his lantern flashing, he was knocked to his feet. Silvia readied her lantern and after seeing Fabien take a fall, directed her lantern’s light into the creature’s other eye. The two oscillating lights seemed to freeze the creature’s motions and it sank quickly beneath the water. This created a whirlpool near its body, which Zhennya rode down to find herself pressed against the side of the gargantuan monster.
When the beast sank, it recovered its senses and the tentacles extending from its neck began to flail at Zhennya, smacking into her several times and dealing terrible wounds. Zhennya managed to keep hold of her breath as she grabbed hold of the hilt in the side of the creature. Her grip tightened as she began to get violently shook, Iku-Turso spinning around several times to dislodge her as it swam under the ship. On deck, the crew was busy trying to keep the ship sailing in such turbulent conditions, rushing to tend to a fire that had started on the aft castle when a bolt of lightning struck the ship. Fabian regained his footing and prepared his lantern, while Silvia moved towards the starboard side, anticipating the emergence of the creature there. Dr. Blackwell, too, aimed his lantern to that side of the ship. The heroes did not have long to wait as Iku-Turso quickly emerged on the starboard side of the ship, reared up with Zhennya hanging on its side by the hilt of the sword still embedded in its thick hide. Zhennya realized that the single application of the unguent was washing off, so added hers to the mix, rubbing it into the creature’s side. The sea monster was not to be trifled with as it turned its body so that Zhennya was facing the ship, and it slammed into the side, causing a shudder to rock the entire vessel. At the same time, the huge tail of the beast rose on the port side of the ship and swept across the deck, splashing water upon the deck. Crew were knocked around, though the heroes maintained their footing and retaliated. Fabian and Silvia worked together to shine their lanterns into each eye of the creature, which again caused it to seize up and sink beneath the water. Dr. Blackwell through a rope out to Zhennya, which she caught before sinking beneath the waves. Remembering to secure the rope to the mast of the ship, Dr. Blackwell turned upwards at a terrible sound. There was also a loud crack as part of the main sail tore loose from its bindings with the onslaught of the beast against the hull, sending several topspin onto the deck. The ship became somewhat unstable and several crew were swept overboard.
Underwater with the creature, Zhennya struggled to hold her breath, keep a grip on the sword and tie off the rope around her waist. As the creature’s tentacles continued to buffet her, she strained at the hilt, using her stored strength and slowly began to wrest the blade from the side of the beast. On deck, Dr. Blackwell and Bonny began climbing the rigging to help reign in the sails and get them attached again to the yardarm. While climbing, they were able to see the crew who’d been swept overboard and direct the rescue efforts. Realizing he could not direct his lantern properly, Fabien recalled some sea shanties he had once read about and started rousing the crew to action with a song. Silvia, for her part heard cries of a hull breach from below decks and rushed down to lend her aid. She managed to gather up some wood and pitch and with the help of several sailors got the hull repaired, but not before being knocked around by several heavy crates. Iku-Turso, not looking for a fight, began to swim away from the ship. Having repaired the sails, Dr. Blackwell and Bonny returned to the decks, with Dr. Blackwell tossing a rope with a grappling hook at the back of the creature, tangling it in the seaweed extensions rising from its back. Bonny, sensing Zhennya may need help, dove into the water and swam towards the Ussuran. Back on deck, Fabien stood ready to cut the rope attached to Zhennya as he watched it tighten with the creature’s movements. He also directed the Captain to come about to this starboard to best keep pace with the beast’s movements. Underwater, Zhennya continued to call upon hidden reserves of strength, sliding the sword slowly but surely from the beast’s side.
As the storm raged overheard, several things occurred at once…Zhennya with a final act, drew forth the sword from Iku-Turso’s hide…Bonny grabbed hold of her and began to swim towards the ship…Fabien gave a call for sailors to help pull the rope back on board…and Dr. Blackwell remembered to let go of the end of the rope he was holding as it was ripped into the waters…Iku-Turso continued to swim away as Zhennya and Bonny were brought on board. Silvia and Dr. Blackwell tended to the wounded by Fabien helped organize repairs and tending to the sailors who’d been knocked about. “I hope you got what you came for Doctor. We won’t be repeating that!” called Captain Harkness, giving the orders to set sail for Gottkirchen and out of the remaining storm…
Back at Colurn’s keep, the group watched as Gillian’s cure began to reverse the effects of the curse. Though it would be several days’ time for the effect to be completely reversed, there was hope that the cure would work. Getting enough of the ingredients would prove a challenge, as estimates would put some of the older men dying from this curse within a week. Bonny made the decision to send each member of the group to a different bannerman’s lands to obtain the ingredients needed. To each, she provided a signed writ, explaining what was needed and that they acted with the clan leader’s authority.
Zhennya was sent to Clan Ainslie, lead by Angus Ainsley and his wife Seogan, and one of the more rugged and self-sufficient of the bannermen clans. Zhennya was to retrieve several bushels of angel wings, and while available anywhere, there were fields in the Ainslie lands known for growing it in the quantities needed. Upon arrival, Zhennya was spotted by several scouts, all woman, and only a few who appeared to know how to use their bows. Zhennya found Seogan in control, as Angus had taken ill with his rapid aging, though he was a younger man in reality. Zhennya presented the writ and explained she could also aid Seogan with training of the clan’s women in the use of the bow and arrow. While Seogan professed her concern that Clan MacKensie seemed to have neglected the well-being of Clan Ainslie and they felt they could be self-sufficient. Zhennya was invited to stay the night and enjoy hospitality and in the morning she would be escorted to where the angel wings grows and could harvest what she needed. The next morning, Zhennya was taken to the field, only to discover that it had recently been set aflame, scorching the remaining plants. She returned angrily to Seogan and told the young wife a story of Matushka and the ungracious hosts. Once, Matushka visited a man and his wife as a beggar and asked for hospitality. The couple, not wanting to share their goods, nonetheless agreed. They baked bread with their finest flour and ate it themselves, offering the beggar the poorer quality afterwards, declaring it “the best we have to offer.” The couple then drank their best wine and instead offered the beggar poor quality swill, declaring it “the best we have in our home.” When Matushka revealed herself to the couple they apologized, but the damage had been done and they were both turned into swine to roam the countryside living off the scraps of others. Zhennya used this to teach a lesson to Seogan, who seeing she had been wrong, relented. She gave Zhennya the angel wings and Zhennya still agreed to return and train her warriors for a week.
Silvia was sent to Clan Caldwell to retrieve some corpse dust. While she had been given a writ as well, she undertook a clandestine mission. She first gathered some sheep and cow carcasses, set them ablaze and recovered the dust and ashes into several sacks. When she arrived at night into Caldwell lands, she stealthily made her way to the clean leaders keep, where jars of fallen clansmen’s ashes were stored as part of remembering their deeds. Instead of using the writ, Silvia snuck in, waited for Hamish Caldwell to finish his evening prayers and fall asleep upon his throne of bone and wood. Quietly, she replaced the ashes from three of the urns with the cow and sheep ashes and slipped out without anyone the wiser.
Dr. Blackwell was sent to Clan Swinton, known for their agricultural knowledge and healing. Upon arrival by carriage, he took found the clan in the hands of the woman, who took him in willingly. He presented his writ and explained that he needed several containers filled with aloe to be extracted. Though Malcom Swinton was being treated by the woman, his wife, Rhona assured him they would comply. She did however, press him several times upon the formula for the cure, of which Dr. Blackwell only hinted or gave vague answers. Rhona insisted the doctor join them for supper while things were prepared, and when he awoke in the middle of the night – not remembering having fallen asleep, he was joined by a young woman of the clan. He felt his senses dulled and realized he must have been drugged. As the young woman asked him about the formula, he felt himself giving up the secrets of its creation. Before he had given up all the information, he reached into his soul and strengthened his resolve, clearing his mind of the haze from the drugs. He gave false information to the woman, who left him to his own devices, believing him still under the effects. Angrily, he confronted Rhona and demanded the aloe which was promised. Though they tried to delay while making the cure, the doctor was finally able to secure his ingredients on the carriage and left with all haste that very night.
Fabien took Clan Frazier as his choice, knowng the clan to be more closely aligned with Clan MacKensie by blood and knowing it to be one of the more worldly of the bannermen clans. Instead of presenting his writ to the official channels, Fabien spent some time listening, questioning, and locating someone in the underbelly of the clan who might deal in elicit goods. He soon discovered Callum and his daughter Malina. Fabian explained he sought a quantity of aniseed oil for some experiments he was doing. As evidence, he produced a book on the occult to Callum and fast talked the man into believing his words. Callum, eager to seem knowledgable, agreed. As Malina was preparing the oil, Callum spoke with Fabien about the clans and how they were now suspicious of one another. He mentioned it had been since the clan’s Highland Games several months ago. He did not attend personally, but when Jamie Frazier returned, there was much discussion about whether the Fraziers even needed the MacKensie’s. Callum had not heard talk of separating form the family before and it worried him. Operating as he did would be harder with only a single clan to service with elicit goods. He explains that Jamie and others in the clan suspected Clan Ainslie and Caldwell of cheating at the games, since Frazier usually came in the top two at the games. After getting this knowledge, Fabien left with the aniseed oil, paying a handsome bit of coin for it but getting it accomplished without bringing in the clan leaders.
Bonny herself visited Clan Monteith, the clan at the coast where the red sea clay was in abundance. Tristan Monteith remained in power and was quite resistant to giving his aid. While he conceded the clay was plentiful, he felt that Clan MacKensie had not paid much attention to his clan on the outskirts until something was needed. Bonny would not reveal the formula for the cure, though Tristan pressed for several times. In the end, he relented, not ready to announce his plans to leave the clan and take their trading and fishing expertise with him. Bonny was able to gather the clay, though Tristan offered no aid from his men or women. As she made ready to leave, she noticed she was being followed by two women from the clan. Confronting them, Bonny threatened them with punishment should they follow her back to Clan MacKensie or attempt to learn the formula for themselves. Despite the threats, they followed her back, their fate unknown.
With the ingredients gathered, Gillian became preparations to make enough of the cure to remedy all the men in the clan. It was Bonny’s hope that they were not too late to save every last man, and discover why the bannermen had become so fractured in their support and alliance with Clan MacKensie…
Rewards: 2 Experience (bankable), Connection (Captain Jack Harkness), Connection (Callum) [Fabien], Local Reputation: Highland Marches (Wise) [Zhennya], Local Reputation: Highland Marches (Unyielding) [Bonny], 1 Free use of "Handy" [Silvia], 1 Free use of "Cast Iron Stomach" [Dr. Blackwell]