The Arcanamirium’s Response and the Landing
Our heroes raced aboard the Titanis to the distant Ustalavan city of Illmarsh, where Orin’s fellow gillmen had disappeared. Through use of the Frozen Heart of Orphys, Orin had come to believe that the skum tribe besieging his hopeful triton allies were protected by a magical barrier whose origins lay within this mysterious town. Now he hoped to determine the exact nature of what protected the vile skum, and with any luck, find what happened to his own people who had traveled there. He had a single clue, a single word sent magically by the gillmen before they disappeared: “Fineas”.
The Titanis plotted a non-direct route, hoping to skirt the border of Numeria, where the Technic League ruled. Daily stops were needed to resupply and rest, and it was on one of these stops that Orin was confronted with an interesting sight. A blue-feathered raven stopped in his path as he returned to the ship from a river bath, clutching a missive in its talons. Retrieving the letter from the recalcitrant bird, Orin opened it eagerly, expecting as he was a note from the Arcanamirium, where he hoped to attend for a semester to hone his wizardry.
The letter was indeed from the Arcanamirium, and Orin was not surprised to learn that he had been accepted. To his chagrin, however, the school’s high demand had placed him on an admission list 5 years hence. Unperturbed, Orin determined to find another way to gain entry, or else learn somewhere else, when his next task was finished.
The Titanis arrived at the outskirts of Illmarsh ten days after they departed Brevoy. It was a simple matter to locate a hiding place among the woods outside the town. Before departing, our heroes discussed their plan of entry and attack. Orin, at first, was fully prepared to enter the town with a bang and a flash, tired as he was by now with surface dwellers who insisted on aiding his enemy. The others, however, talked him down. They had no notion how corrupt the town was, and who was innocent or not, and preferred to take a more subtle approach until they could come to understand the extent of the town’s evil. Orin accepted this plan, albeit begrudgingly.
Disguising themselves as a small troupe of fishmen looking for work, our heroes departed the Titanis and headed for Illmarsh’s gates.
The Merchant and the Foreman
Illmarsh had no gates, they soon discovered, and only a sign for the town once known was Baytown to greet them – and that in disrepair.
Even disguised as rabble, their unknown faces drew immediate attention from the withdrawn populace. Unaccosted, they made their way into the town and were soon hailed by a merchant eager for their outsider coin. Stepping into his shop, they were promptly introduced to Glishmad Hashilane, the town’s premiere merchant – or so he claimed. Indeed, his shop was filled with items both magical and mundane, though to keep their disguise they feigned little interest in the former. Of note also was Glishmad’s own delivery service, knick knacks and supplies being packaged up and prepared for delivery around the town.
They learned little from Glishmad that they did not already know, but for one piece of information: the mayor of the city was named Beolain Fineas.
After receiving directions from the merchant to the fishing docks, our heroes took their leave.
The docks were in little better shape than the rest of the village, and they were soon directed by other workers to Foreman Larmuk. Larmuk informed them that anyone doing work in the town did that work on behalf of Obadiah & Sons. Fooled by their disguises, Larmuk took our heroes for just tha – prospective employees. After a short interview, he instructed them to appear just before the dawn the next morning, where they would be put to work.
With little else to do for the day, our heroes decided to check into the local inn and get their bearings in a more private place.
Meet Anthony Arkwright
At the Hoary Fish Inn, the blind innkeeper Cornyllis was more than happy to pass over a few keys for rooms for the rare sight of travelers from out of town. Yet our heroes were surprised to find that they were not alone in the inn. A gentleman had already taken up residence and was aspying them from his reading chair near the inn’s hearth. Taking the more straightforward approach, our heroes approached the man directly, and were introduced to Anthony William Percival Arkwright III, Esq.
To their dismay, Anthony saw through their disguises straight-away but promised to keep their secret a secret. He pressed them for more details about their arrival here, and they answered in vague terms, dubious of Anthony’s motivations. Anthony admitted he was a cleric and a scholar from Absalom, at the Arcanamirium, on sabbatical to study strange cults. Unable to trust this stranger, our heroes took their leave and retired to their room to consider their options. However, their talk with Anthony did reveal one clue: the gillmen had stayed in this very inn during their time in Illmarsh.
Finding the door to their old room locked, Orin use his dimension door spell to carry Thorgur and him into the room. They found the room at odds – it was clean and empty, yet the bed sheets were mis-made. Further investigation yielded more clues: an arcane mark in the chest of drawers, a heavily-used bathtub, and a recently replaced window that appeared to have been torn from the outside-in. The pair returned to the party’s room and shared what they had learned.
It was then time to poke into another room – Anthony’s. Yet Orin quickly discovered that the room was protected by a spell – a spell of forbiddance, which would prevent his teleportation spells as well as harm anyone who attempted to gain entry whose alignment did not match the cleric’s. After a pitiable trick on Hudson, whose chaotic neutral nature saw him suffer harm from the door when Orin tricked him into attempting entry, Orin attempted it himself – and was pleased to find that, although he could not unlock the door, nor was he injured. The cleric and Orin, it seemed, shared their alignment.
Our heroes entered into palaver with Anthony once more, now closer to believing Anthony’s claims that they shared a purpose. Anthony revealed more of his: that he was on a forced sabbatical when the Arcanamirium came to despise his research into the Black Truth and its adherents. Deciding to help our heroes, Anthony introduced Astrid to the Baytown Library and Archives, and the two set off there to research together. Hudson and Thorgur, in the meantime, decided to head to the tavern, the Old Man and the Sea, to see what local color they could find. Orin stayed in the inn to prepare for what lay ahead – and take a long-needed bath.
In the library, Astrid and Anthony discovered two interesting facts about the town: the mayor, Beolain Fineas, had won an election in a startling upset nearly 12 years past, after which the town council was shortly abolished. Following that, the same year the derelict chapel on the cliffs at the edge of town was torn down and rebuilt into the Seaside Chapel.
While the studious duo pondered their newly gained knowledge, Thorgur and Hudson were meeting with cold stares at the Old Man and the Sea. They found only one man willing to speak with them – a priest named Oreon, who drank unusually heavily in a dank corner of the bar. Oreon revealed that the town was led by the Church of Azlant and worshipped “the gods of Azlant” every night at dusk, but his bitter aspect made him a poor speaking partner. They soon left.
Our heroes reconvened to pool their discoveries just as the town’s evening bells rung. Anthony retired to his chamber, citing concerns about being out at night, but our heroes decided to take this opportunity to see what the townsfolk were really getting up to. They found a great procession heading towards the Seaside Chapel. Orin flew overhead, invisible, while the rest mingled in the crowds.
And they gathered at the foot of the chapel, listening to the orations of the priests as the waves crashed upon the nearby cliffs. And Orin’s heart fell when he heard that familiar refrain echo from the mouth of the lead priest: the admonition to Obey, that great call to worship he would remember all his life – for it was the call of the Aboleth.