Twenty days ago the world changed. For over a week there's been whispers of a death curse on the streets--a wasting curse that settles into any who have been revived from before. Rumors of people growing weaker, thinner, slipping toward deaths cold hands. There are rumors who have already fallen to the curse--how they cannot be returned, saved, revived. Rumors of famous adventurer's and heroes who cannot be returned to save a city once more. Templars, scholars, clerics do not understand just what is going on--only that for now, death seems permanent.
You have all been hired by a once famed adventurer Syndra Silvane. For the past several weeks Syndra Silvane has been traveling between Chult and her home in Baldur's Gate preparing to send out an expedition into the jungles of Chult to search out the source of the curse. Today she plans to meet the final members of the expedition -- Korine and Kulan. In Chult she has informed the remaining members hired on to the expedition to meet at Port Nyanzaru at noon.
As Korine and Kulan arrive at the home of Syndra Silvane they are greeted by a uniformed attendant. He leads up into a large foyer and up a grand staircase to a wood-paneled room with a crackling fire settled into the fireplace. The walls bear maps and sea charts aplenty, routes for trade and older maps marked up from adventures. A heavy table settled into the room has wine glasses already filled, a bottle settled on the end. There are racks, shelves, and cabinets full of various trinkets and even more maps and books. In a plush chair in front of the fire is a person of undiscernable gender. A large, heavy blanket is wrapped completely around them. All you can see as an embroidered hood and a silver mask that conceals the wearers face.
Their voice is dry and raspy; it cracks a bit as they speak.
"Welcome, friends--if I may call you that. Please, sit and have some wine."
Chult is a bustling, thriving city in the midst of a jungle--hot, humid, but colorful and attractive. Bright awnings settle around buildings that are painted in colorful motifs and bright paints. Vines and pieces of the jungle have begun to overcrowd parts of the city, carefully maintained by Chultans to ensure they don't compromise the structures and defenses of the city itself. Even as the rain pours down, a light drizzle for Chult, people move back and forth and bustle around the city. The markets are full of hawkers and loud noises as people talk over to one another -- most of the words in the native tongue of soft clicks, whistles, and breathy sounds. Children laugh as they rush through the streets and the docks are full of merchants and shipman alike.
It is not quite noon, although the time is getting fairly close. Syndra Silvane has yet to arrive with the last members of the expedition.
Cor'avin was comfortable in the city, more so than in the jungles of Chult where she currently found herself residing. The half-elf loved the chaos that so many different lives brought. The city was always alive and thrumming with energy. What Cor was not entirely comfortable with was bringing Jilwyn and Larken to the city with her. Normally Jil would stay behind and study her boring books while Larken would hunt. That left Cor to her own devices, which usually meant going into the Port, alone, and procuring things.
But today was different, as was evidenced by her two companions. They had to be patient and wait for their employer to arrive with the last of their party. By the gods, waiting was so boring though. Cor'avin forced Jilwyn and Larken to stop at one of the dinosaur racing pits. She had to do something.
Drunkards were some of Cor's favorite people. They were loud and boisterous, and not terribly observant. The ex-thief 'bumped' into one, her fingers fumbling at his coin purse. The damn thing was double knotted, who double knots their purse? "I'm sorry sir-"
"Wha' in the seven 'ells are you doing?" He caught her wrist, his heavy breath reeking of alcohol. He had a vice grip on her, and looked as if he was about to start throwing punches.
Jilwyn loved the races. She loved watching the variety of creatures try to outdo each other. She loved the excitement of the crowd. It was a nice change from the quiet libraries, of which she spent most of her time. Normally, on a day like this, she'd be pouring through multiple texts in the temple of Savras, or what books she could manage to get access to in the temple of Gond, but today, she was surprised that Cor insisted she come with her and Larken to the races.
Jil leaned against the railing, waiting for the next races to begin. She was tired today, and fatigue was written on her face. Later, she promised herself, she'd get some rest. If the races would keep Cor happy, she was willing to join. As she was standing there, lost in her thoughts, she heard a commotion.
"Wha' in the seven 'ells are you doing?" Jil looked around and saw a drunk man grabbing Cor by the wrist. "By the Goddess," Jil said and quickly made her way over. "Gentlemen, blessings of the Goddess," she said to the men yelling at her friend. "Please, calm yourselves. I'm sure this is all a misunderstanding. Allow me to remove her from your presence." As she spoke, she laid a gentle hand on the man's arm, encouraging him to release Cor. Her soft voice and soothing words worked, and soon the drunk loosening his grasp on Cor. Jil put an arm around Cor, and gently pulled her away from the group. She gave Cor a disapproving frown, but said nothing.
Larken hated the city. The noise, the smells, the people... it was always too much for him. But Cor wanted to take him to the racing track, and he quickly found it was easier to do as she asked than to argue. The track was overcrowded, much like the rest of the city was, and he found his eyes darting from one group tot he next. Since Jil's death he'd always been on the lookout when in the city. He notes the actions of Cor and Jil, but says nothing. They almost work perfectly in that regard, and Jil was quick to smooth any rough situation. If she failed, it would have been his turn.
He watches the races silently, easily towering over most of the crowd.
"Normally drunkards don't double knot their coin purses," Cor said nonchalantly, as if that explained everything. If the half elf had been on her own, she would have probably been able to handle the situation. She didn't need Jil to intervene on her behalf, and the look on her face... Cor would rather have dealt with it herself.
She missed the simplicity of going to the city alone.
"Clearly the races are a bust today," Cor'avin said lowly. "C'mon, let's get something to eat. I could kill for a good pastry."
Kulan sits down as directed. He eyes the mask of his host. Probably afflicted with that curse that he heard rumours of - most nobles wouldn't wear something like that in their own homes unless horribly disfigured, he thinks. He turns down the wine offered to him - he found that even the smallest drink could throw off his ability to formulate strategy.
"You certainly may, if we may also call you friend. I presume you are Lady Syndra Silvane?"
Syndra Silvane laughed; it sounded like wood in a fire with the way it cracked.
"I am no Lady," she shook her head. "Merely an...entrepreneur." She sighed, and you could see the blankets shift about her as she adjusted herself in her seat. "I...digress. I have asked you here for a reason, after all, no?"
Syndra does not reach for a glass of wine, or even shift much from her position in her seat beneath the heavy blankets that obscure her form. The only portion of her that moves, aside from the occasional shuffle, is her head.
"Let me...tell you a story." Syndra tilts her head back and sighs. "After all, the Harper's suggested you to me. Perhaps you...mm. Let me tell you a story, shall I, my friends?"
Jil looked at the dinosaurs starting to line up and get ready for the next race. She really wanted to see it, but food sounded nice as well. "Might be nice to sit for a moment," she agreed. She touched Larken lightly on the arm, then followed Cor. Her movements were slow and much less graceful than they once were. "Find us somewhere nice, Cor," she said, wearily.
Larken was more interested in how the dinosaurs moved and what instincts they portrayed while sprinting down the field. When Jil touched him, his concentration broke and he gave her a soft look. "Yes, food would be good," he replied. He gave one final glance to the dinosaurs before following the other two to a 'more' quiet place to eat. Hopefully it wasn't one of those places that over-spice the meat. He couldn't understand what the locals obsession was with spice... it was on everything! Just drop a large, raw pile of meat on the plate and he would be happy.
He watches Jil as she moves. Her once graceful gait has been changed. Her smell changed too, but he'd never tell her that. She always had a certain smell that reminded him of soft underbrush in moonlight. It was all but gone now in this place. Replaced by something... else.
Korine arrived at the house of her new sponsor shortly before the appointed time and found she was not the only one invited for this particular meeting. A half-orc warrior was there as well, with an entourage of some sort following along. She nodded in greeting, but did not introduce herself yet. The time for pleasantries would come soon enough. They followed the servant inside, the warrior waving off his men, and bidding them wait outside. Korine looked about with interest as they were led through the house. The maps and trophies she saw told the story of a lifetimes work. She had no doubt it was s fascinating one.
Entering the sitting room, she immediately notices the seated figure, the blanket, the fire. The day isn't cold by any means, but as The figure speaks, voice cracking with apparent age, it makes more sense. Korine sits as bid, fingering a glass of wine and taking a polite sip as the half-orc responds to her. "Indeed," she offers as well, "better to start a new relationship as friends than enemies." Shetakes in the response. "Mistress Silvane then. We merely wish to show proper respect, of course." At the mention of the Harper's, she glances at her companion. So, other factions seek to involve themselves in this mystery as well, she thinks. Good, I'm afraid it will take a concerted effort to solve the mystery of this mysterious curse in the end. "Yes, please do tell us why we are here. How may I serve?"
Syndra sighed. For a moment she said nothing. For a moment her mask faced the fire, her thoughts obviously a whirlwind. You could hear a faint sort of hum, and then another sigh.
"As you may have heard, twenty days ago something happened. The dead stay dead. The risen are wasting." Syndra's mask turned towards them. "In my youth as an adventurer I faced untold perils. One of them claimed my life." She rasps a bit, makes a bit of a cough to clear her throat, and continues. "I sought out clerics and healers alike, but none could make heads nor tails of what is happening. I...do not know how long I will last."
Syndra looks off into the fire again.
"I sought out my contacts within the Harper's. They've given me...rather grave tidings." Her mask tilts down. "They have learned that this curse...is caused by a necromatic artifact known as the Soulmonger, and that it resides somewhere within Chult."
"Chult, eh? I think I see what you're getting at, but it'll take a while to get there by boat, won't it? And I don't think two people would have much luck finding it. Chult's a pretty big place full of threats from what I've heard, and my cousins here aren't really combatants."
Kulan contemplates what Syndra is suggesting. Are there others that she has already recruited? In any case, he hopes she wasn't expecting the five people she was meeting with now to be all who ventured into the jungle.
Korine all but felt the "click" in her head as the words came out of Syndra's mouth. Soulmonger. Chult. Her dreams has shown her flashes of verdant jungle and the dread creatures within, but without context they were always so infuriatingly vague. But now she knew. This was where she was being sent next. There were times she felt like little mord than a piece on a gameboard, but she knew that she served a higher purpose. This was her reason.
"Chult, of course. I have heard the rumors of this strange new affliction and those I serve with desire to put an end to it as much as your Harpers do. I will gladly aid you, Syndra. By the grace of the gods, you shall be rid of this curse in due time. I only pray we are not too late."
Not that either of you could see, Syndra smiled. Wonderful questions. At least here she hoped, perhaps, this group might make it.
"I have worked with dozens upon dozens of journals, sea charts, log books and tirelessly assembled what I could together in a map. If you accept my mission I will provide these materials and some starting gold to set you on your course. As for travel..." Syndra chuckled. "I can teleport us. We will leave as soon as you are ready for Port Nyanzaru." She coughed for a moment. "You need not worry about the spell. I have been to the port several times over the years."
Syndra sighed, and her voice rasped a bit more. You could faintly hear a wheeze.
"I will be staying with Wakanga O'tamu. He is one of the seven Merchant Princes that rule the city. You will have to find your own lodgings." Syndra sucked in a breath. "Please, enjoy the drink while you think it over. If you have any questions, ask. I...hm, I will do my best."
Korine turned to her new companion, eyeing him appraisingly before nodding with approval. She offers her hand to the half-orc. "So. It seems we are off to Chult, eh? I am Korine Thunderfist, a humble servant of Torm. Well met." She turns back to Syndra. "We'll gladly take the map and whatever other guidance you gave to offer so far. There are others beyond the pair of us, I expect? They'll be joining us in the city?"
Already knowing that his cousins always wanted to visit Port Nyanzaru, Kulan speaks, "I have no reason to turn down your request Miss Silvane. Pleasure to meet you, Korine Thunderfist. I am Kulan, Son of Ghurdokk Blood Axe, servant of Ilneval, and these three are my cousins, Faladur, Shirel, and Zevitar."
Syndra nodded her head, pleased with the results before her. Perhaps these several aspiring adventurer's could do what others before them have not. She had hope. She had to have hope. Her days were numbered after all--as were everyone's. Syndra got to her feet, blankets wrapped tight around her, and shuffled over towards a desk nestled off in the shadows. Her gait is slow, a little unsteady as she moves. She shoves aside some papers, and then picks up a rolled piece. A map. She moves back to the adventuring party of two for now.
Her hands are thin, the skin pulled taunt over bone.
"Here is what I have gathered of Chult. Your...party that awaits already has a copy they've made." Syndra hands the map over. "You will be joining Jilwyn Brightwood, Larken Kalman, and Cor'avin Haesiln." Syndra shuffles away. "Anyone else is of your choice."
She makes her way over to a small safe and pulls out a hefty bag of coin, which she deposits on the table with the glasses of wine. "Fifty gold to get you started." She breathes in as deep as she can. "When you have succeeded...let us say that I have many treasures from my time as an adventurer myself. You may have one item of your choosing, magical or otherwise, upon successful return of your quest."
"Nice is my middle name," Cor'avin grinned before turning around and beginning the short walk to one of her favorite locations in the city. She started off weaving through the crowds, but remembered after a minute that she wasn't actually alone. She adjusted her normal walking pattern, now going in an uncomfortably easy to track straight line. The trio passed by many colorful buildings, eventually stopping at a tiny, two story shop painted in lime green that appeared to be wedged between the buildings on either side.
"K'nikatu, how have you been!" Cor greeted the owner as she burst through the door. There was only one table in the entire shop, and it was empty as always. "I will take three of your best cinnamon rolls please."
While Cor ordered for them, Jil eased herself down into a chair at the bakery's only table. It wasn't a long walk, but she was still slightly out of breath. She leaned back into the chair a moment, watching Cor. She just seemed so unaffected by anything that happened around her. Those drunks could have easily pounded her into the dirt, but she brushed the incident off. Jil rested an elbow on the table, and her head on her hand. It was quiet here, and it seemed as if the bakery wasn't visited very frequently by the locals. The peace was nice, and Jil closed her eyes. I'll just rest for a moment, she thought. Just... a moment...
Larken eyes the offerings in the bakery. A cinnamon roll? That doesn't have any meat in it...
As they sit down he just looks at the roll. After seeing how quickly Cor'avin inhales hers, he pushes his towards her. After a brief moment, he says, "This is taking too long. We could be out in the jungles already." The waiting is disastrous. Every single day they wait, Jil gets weaker. "Who says these others will even care to put this... Soulmonger on their list of priorities. We should be searching for it now, not waiting."