Leaving behind Goldshore under the command of a Pirate Lord, the party’s first real challenge was their now infamous heist at Kataria’s Keep. What follows here is an account to the best of the memory of those present.
Brandon Rockheart was never as feared by the common folk as others among the pirate lords, a measured and level headed man, slow to anger and careful who to cross, his place on the council was secured through a drunken bet with his former captain Karahil (of whom far more shall be written before this tale is done), and not through deeds. That Captain Rockheart was new to the political manoeuvrings of Freeport was well known to his rivals, and a fact he kept hidden from his young new protege, Aramis Barbcock. In those early days, Bran and his apprentice were known to fall out, prone to spats and arguments. Aramis, never one to take orders from another man, was consistently outraged by the menial tasks chosen for him by the captain. Scrubbing decks, lookout duty and moving cargo were hardly optimal uses for the particular talents of Aramis, and before too long Bran saw an opportunity to strike a blow against his rivals, and claim a treasure for himself with the help of his new crew.
The war between the two great Imperial powers now seemed inevitable, and the far weaker Tirrimese navy were busily securing it’s historic island forts across the continent, long since abandoned to bandit factions and smuggling rings. This was taking its toll on the business of Freeport, with many of the safe harbours around the northern landmasses suddenly rendered hostile, piracy was made a more dangerous business. Here Bran saw an opportunity to seize the wealth stored in one of these fortresses from under the Empire, winning a bounty for his own uses, and weakening the Tirrimese in the process. He commanded the fledgling crew to assault the Kataria’s Keep, an ancient fort now occupied by the Sorcerer Regent Vizira, a bastard daughter of Hirisian nobles who had escaped her fate as a courtier to become one of the Petty Kings of the northern isles. Amassing wealth by supplying pirate ships, her personal bodyguard of orc mercenaries, the Red Tooth Gang, were rightly feared by those making port on the island. The mission was simple, land on the quiet south side of the island as Tirrimere attacked, ascend the ruins along the cliff edges, cross the main courtyard before Order Leonis and take Vizira’s ring, an artefact allowing the wearer to walk upon the water’s surface, along with any other loot the party could find, and get out before the Tirrimese worked out they were there. As is the often the way where Barbcock and his band are concerned, the plan did not work as totally as expected.
Arrival on the island was hampered by a small detachment of ships which had been sent by the High Paladin with the same plan in mind. Bran’s ship was rammed and boarded, and the first test of the mettle of his new crew began. Mattheus was as fire, sweeping through the ranks of the boarding knights, and causing panic as he tossed them (along with their heavy armour) into the choppy sea below. Olo, swinging from the rigging could barely be touched as he drove his blade between the armour of the attackers. Glanwolfe and his wolf companion moved with care through the fray, finding openings where they could, and healing the crew where needed, while Gweth and Aramis provided support from behind. Bran, stoically manning the ship’s wheel had not expected such ferocity from his new crew and with the attack repelled, he ordered the ship onwards to the cove ahead, and to his prize.
After mooring at the cove, the party began their upward ascent. From the ship, the crew watched on impatiently as Olo effortlessly lept across gaps and crumbling ruins, while Glanwolfe and Mattheus struggled behind. At one point, to the shock of all watching, the stairwell beneath the party gave way, crumbling into the ocean, and with it Gweth, who barely missed his chance to grab Aramis’ hand before plummeting some hundred feet into the raging sea below. Aramis, without hesitation slipped out of his jerkin and leapt into the water after him. Gweth, no natural swimmer, was sinking for seconds before Aramis emerged from beneath the sea with his comrade over his shoulder, coughing up water. The crew cheered, as Aramis dragged his friend to the docks, both of them badly injured from the fall. Although my report was passed to me by those who saw it, the bond between Aramis and Gweth was always strong, and I’m told this moment marked the beginning of that friendship, which so tragically ended under not dissimilar circumstances some years later, and under my own watch.
Atop the harbour steps the party found themselves in a maze of dungeons and barracks, members of the Red Tooth gang playing cards and preparing for the oncoming attack from the Tirrimese. Despite the protestations of Olo, stealth was eschewed almost immediately as Mattheus kicked in door after door, slaying all those he found within with his trusty sword Mr Freeze. The group emerged on the other end of the tunnels battered and bruised from combat, presented with a room full of captive slaves. Mattheus, still covered in orc blood and roaring fiercely, had to be held back and stopped from killing every soul present. The slaves were promised freedom if they did not alert the rest of the mercenaries to the party’s presence. Looking out into the courtyard beyond, Olo reported the situation, grim faced and frightened. An ogre, armoured and wielding a great glaive held the courtyard against enemy attack, alongside some dozen orc mercenaries. The party, faced with this new and grave challenge, and with the sorceress still lying in wait in the chambers beyond, began to hatch a plan.
Much can be said of the fairness of the party led by Aramis Barbcock, where many pirates revel in unnecessary violence and wanton destruction, the group is known for its willingness to parlay, and seek fair terms. The same however cannot be said of Aramis himself, whose fearsome reputation is sustained by irregular fits of cruelty. The demand that the slaves rush the ogre and the orc mercenaries to afford the party a distraction is perhaps the first of these acts, the second was the execution of a woman who begged to be set free with her children. Needless to say, the rest of the men and women fell into line, and while these crimes are hard to justify, it is possible that without them the world may have been robbed of Lord Barbcock at this early chapter.
Along with a mass of poorly armed slaves, the party charged the ogre and its bodyguards, Mattheus himself stepped forward, challenging the creature to single combat. Despite inflicting grave wounds against the creature, Mattheus’ thick armour took strike after strike, his sword deflecting the great glaive as best he could. In the end it was the arrows of Olo and Aramis which brought the beast to its knees (although Mattheus was forever adamant he had done it all himself). Outside the gates, the hosts of Tirrimere began to shout and prepare the ladders for siege. The party, not stopping to count the dead, pressed on to the chambers of the Sorcerer Regent.
The fight with Vizira was swift. With barely any time to react to the pirates who had snuck into her chambers, the group was upon her. She fought fiercely, and despite her power far outmatching Gweth’s she could not defeat the group, and eventually succumbed to wounds before the first paladins of the empire crossed the walls. The party claimed her ring and the hoard of treasure she had amassed. A great stained glass window lay at the back of her throne room, but no one had enough rope to make the descent down the walls safely, and in the end Aramis simply walked out through the door through which they had come, flirted with the commander of the Tirrimese knights, played music for her and her men, then simply walked out of the fortress through the main gate. The only assurance I can offer the reader is that this is the report which was passed on to me by all present, and to remind the reader that when someone like Aramis is concerned, reality may sometimes be assumed to be governed by the rules of fiction.
Returning to the ship, the party passed on the ring of water walking to their captain, received a fair share of the loot. Congratulating themselves on a job well done, and drinking the night away with the captain, the crew set sail for their next adventure, where surely greater fame and fortune awaited them.