Shields of Sularil: Book One
When a dragonborn exile recruits a ragtag band of adventurers from the quiet streets of Cold Harbor, he has no idea they will stumble upon a plot that could shake the foundations of the country of Torniel. What is the strange mark branded upon a pack of wolves? Where has all the silver in Hourglass been taken? And why is one of the moons always full? Join a group of budding heroes on their first four adventures as they tackle the mysteries of the missing silver, the vanishing of Lullaby Island, the rustling of majestic pegasi, and the kidnapping of two of their own.
In the four-book Shields of Sularil series, journalism and fiction mingle to tell the tale of a role-playing adventure years in the making. Author and game master Adam Thomas builds the world, the players live in it, and these pages contain a chronicle of their early capers, as they move from obscurity to the halls of the most powerful people in Sularil.
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Nadarr was still locked in combat with the pirate captain, and neither was giving an inch. Captain Naryn, clinging to the rigging above the smaller pirate vessel, dispatched a second sharpshooter. Elendithas unleashed her wave of thunder a second time, knocking one pirate over the railing into the water. Norros took out another with a well-placed arrow. The pirate captain looked around. His last remaining ally dropped his sword, and the captain followed suit.
“Your other weapons, too,” said Nadarr. Two daggers from his waist joined the scimitar on the deck.
“Is that all?” said Captain Naryn with her sword to the pirate’s throat. He grunted, reached down to his right boot and pulled a third dagger.
“Is that all?” Reina asked again.
“Yes, that is all,” said the pirate captain.
“He’s lying,” said Elendithas.
Captain Naryn stomped on the pirate’s foot and a fourth dagger shot spring-loaded from a secret compartment. Satisfied, she tied the captain and his remaining companion to the mast. “Now talk,” she said.
“I’m not saying a word,” said the pirate captain.
“That was five words already,” said Elendithas. “Look, we can play this game: we’ll tell you to talk, you won’t, we’ll threaten to hurt you, you’ll say you can handle it, we’ll actually hurt you, and you’ll end up talking or dying. Now, I have no stomach for torture, so why don’t we skip all that and you just tell us why you attacked the Archon and who sent you.”
The pirate captain softened during Elend’s speech, her natural charisma doing more than a hundred threats would have done.
“Look, I honestly don’t know who hired me. I got the job from Corbus in Smugglers’ Cove. Don’t know who he got it from. Don’t care. And we’re not really pirates. Just mercenaries on borrowed boats.”
“And you know about the cargo?” asked Reina.
“The silver? We were to deliver the silver to Corbus; after that, I don’t know what was to happen. I assume it was headed for shipment down the Glassrun.”
“You got a name?” said Nadarr.
While they interrogated the pirate captain, Danath and Norros searched the other boats. They were strangely empty – like they had been scrubbed clean right before the mission.
“What do we do now?” said Elendithas when they were all back together.
“We could go to Smugglers’ Cove and see if we can figure out where the cargo was supposed to go,” suggested Nadarr. “See if we can get a look at who’s behind this whole thing.”
“Or we could stay on the Archon and finish delivering her safely to Port Eldasin,” offered Danath.
“I think you’ve earned your keep today, friends,” said Captain Naryn. “Once we’ve passed the Shoals, it’s easy sailing to the port. We’ll be fine.”
“To Smugglers’ Cove then,” said Norros. “Sounds like my kind of place.”
“Just one hitch,” said Danath. “Does anyone know how to sail?”
“He does,” said Elendithas, gesturing to Cullun. The mercenary grunted at her.
“All right, big guy,” said Norros. “Looks like you’re coming with us. But let’s get you out of that armor first. I’m dying to try it on.”
“If I’m risking my life through the Dread Shoals with four novice sailors, there’s no way we’re taking my boat,” said Cullun. “We’ll have to take the skiff.”
“It’s ironic to me,” said Danath, “that we’re the ones who actually stole things from the Archon.”
It was dusk when the skiff nosed into the dilapidated jetty at Smugglers’ Cove. Not a proper town, the cove was a small collection of permanent tents and shelters. Under the shelters were stacked various boxes, crates, barrels and bags – all stolen goods, no doubt.
“You two scout ahead,” said Elendithas to the half-elves. “Nadarr and I will keep Cullun company here on the boat.” Nadarr’s idea of company involved his axe menacing the mercenary’s neck.
Danath and Norros slinked up the jetty as full dark descended, though the perpetually full moon shed enough light to see by. Two tents had candles lit within them, and they crouched by the one with a pair of silhouettes moving about.
“Cullun should be back any time now,” said a gruff dwarven voice. “He better have succeeded. If this deal goes south, I don’t know what Wyle will do to us.”
The second silhouette answered in a silky, precise voice. “Calm down, Corbus. If this deal goes south, you’ll have to answer to me before you answer to Wyle. Think about what I’ll do to you.”
A fist slammed against a table. “That’s it,” said Corbus. “I’m going to see if they’re back yet.”
Danath and Norros had just enough time to sneak away before a pair of individuals lit by torchlight exited the tent. The human woman was tall and whip-thin and she walked with commanding presence. The dwarf slunk along beside her muttering to himself.
The half-elves were only a minute ahead of Corbus and his companion when they returned to the boat. “We’ve got company,” said Norros. “Corbus and a woman are on their way here.”
“What do we do?” said Elendithas.
“I’ll go distract them. You guys think of something.” Norros made to walk back up the jetty.
“What are you going to say?”
“These are my kind of people. I think we speak the same language.”
In the half-light, they could see Norros approach the two figures. “Greetings. Is one of you Corbus? Cullun said Corbus was coming to meet the shipment.”
“I’m Corbus. Who the hell are you?” The dwarf moved the torch up and down to get a better look at Norros.
“I’m Steven. Me and my crew were guarding the silver shipment on the Archon. Your ‘pirates’ attacked us. They lost. We came back here with Cullun – who’s grievously injured, can’t talk, poor bloke – to see what could be done about the situation. See what kind of coin is involved.”
“I’ve never seen you before, ‘Steven.’” The woman drew her sword. “As a rule, I don’t like people I’ve never seen before. If you wanted to be helpful you should have brought the silver with you. Turned on the crew of the Archon and taken it. But here you are, with a worthless skiff and –” she glanced aboard – three friends, plus a fake pirate wearing only his undergarments.” She tapped Norros’s shoulder with the flat of her scimitar. “This does not inspire confidence.”
“We couldn’t bring the cargo on the skiff because there were too many crates. And we couldn’t take the larger boat because there weren’t enough knowledgeable sailors to pilot it through the Shoals. We thought we could boost the silver in transit once it’s offloaded at Port Eldasin.”
“And why should I trust you?” The woman moved the scimitar to Norros’s cheek.
Just then, Elendithas dropped her lyre. As she stopped to pick it up, her fingers brushed the strings and she whispered a few notes and Corbus’s name. Then she walked to the front of the boat and said, “Corbus? Is that you, my old friend? It’s me, Elendithas from back in the day. Fancy meeting you here.”
Corbus turned to the bard, a confused look further scrunching his already close-set features. “Elendithas? I, uh, I’m sorry I didn’t see you there. It has been a long time.”
“Too long. Guys, this is Corbus. We go way back. Corbus, who’s your friend?”
“Friend? Oh, you mean Frea. She’s nobody’s friend. You can’t have friends and run Smugglers’ Cove. The two things don’t mix.”
“You know this waif, Corbus?” asked Frea. “She looks like she’s fresh from her exams.”
“Oh yes,” said Elend, “We used to get into all kinds of scrapes, didn’t we Corb?”
“I suppose so…Yes.”
“Well?” said Norros. “Satisfied?”
“Not quite,” said Frea, and then she called out. “Cullun, what do you have to say for yourself?”
Nadarr’s axe dug into Cullun’s back, prompting a desirable response. “It’s all true, Frea. They beat us. We had no idea the Archon would be guarded. Got caught flat-footed.”
Frea stepped aboard the skiff, and glanced disdainfully at Danath who had an arrow drawn back ready to fire. “There’s no need for that, Master Half-Elf,” she said. “Don’t see many half-elves in these parts, and now two in one evening. Must be my lucky day.”
Frea stalked to the back of the skiff where Nadarr and Cullun stood. “You failed me, Cullun.” Her voice was a purr. A menacing purr. “Did you really think you could show your face in Smugglers’ Cove after such a disastrous performance?”
“Frea, please, I…”
But Cullun didn’t have time to get out more before Frea slashed him across the chest and kicked him into the murky shallows.
“We’ll talk more in the morning,” she said to the stunned adventurers. “Come on, Corbus, we have to figure out how to get that silver.”
Their torchlight wandered back towards the tents. Norros blew out a sigh of relief. Danath slackened his bowstring. Elendithas said, “I can’t believe that worked. I’ve never tried to charm anyone before.”