Shadows Over the Moonsea
*Thark watched from his position near the west gate of the city as the Brazen Bollocks embarked out into the countryside. Rumors were that they were doing some more work for Knight Burral and the Black Fist. Thark was glad to know that; as the other rumors related to the Bollocks were more sinister and quite dangerous to the mercenaries. Thark was always on the streets looking out for the city and he had managed to use a bit of his time to keep tabs on the Bollocks as well. They had saved his life on two different occasions and he had a vested interest in helping to keep them alive and to assist them as necessary. They didn't seem the type to do anything altruistically, but the work they had done for various powers in the city had been extremely helpful. At least two different plots of the Dragon cultists had been foiled by the Bollocks and from his experience, extremist groups like that did not take transgressions lightly…
The Bollocks headed out of Phlan to some poorly named and barely known island just off the coast and north of the city a few days to investigate rumors of ghost pirate attacks along the coast. This island was believed to be the next target. They headed swiftly up the coast until they discovered a group of bandits terrorizing a man and his son. The Gray Patriots, as they called themselves, pushed the Bollocks into a fight that they could not refuse. The bandits lost, very badly. The Bollocks rescued the man, who turned out to be a merchant. He travels the coast of the Moonsea selling staples and a few unusual goods. He also works for the Lord's Alliance. They all camped together and traded rumors about the Gray Patriots and Claws of Tiamat, large outlaw forces that were raiding and warring along the Iron Route. The merchant gave the Bollocks some info regarding the island they were seeking and the parties parted ways.
The Bollocks arrived at the ferry to take them to the Island of the Folk. The unpleasant ferryman did not give a good impression of the people who live on the isle of which, he was one. Upon landing on the isle a young woman greeted them with curiosity. Elisande was a young orphan girl who followed the party and watched as they worked. The rest of the islanders were unfriendly and somewhat hostile. A crazy man in a collapsed hut had items in his possession that identified him as a member of the Cult of the Dragon. The Bollocks were tiring of these half-assed dragon worshippers running around the countryside stirring up the locals. They looked into a few other places on the island and prepared some defensive lines to protect the village from the supposed ghost pirate attacks they had been sent to investigate.
The pirates attacked that night. They turned out to be kobolds and humans in poorly made costumes. They were good enough to fool the uninitiated, but the Bollocks had faced several types of undead monsters during their time in Phlan, and these trivialities, were neither undead, nor monster. Also, the villagers were some kind of devil worshippers.
As the last of the "ghost pirates" were slain, a peal of thunder overhead portended the eruption of a massive portal between the island and the Nine Hells, from which a blazing pirate ship and an unnatural, hell-born storm arrived. The Audacity was crewed by the damned souls who landed on this island 100 years prior to hide their treasure. The islanders did not take well to being oppressed by these "outsides" and they summoned up some diabolic powers and made a pact with Tiamat from her abode in the Hells. She granted them the powers to escape from subjugation and to curse the crew of the Audacity to living damnation in the Hells. They held that pact for more than a century, before the Cult of the Dragon arrived.
The Audacity flew from the portal and the storm came with it. Both crashing into the island with dreadful force; smashing apart the ship used by the ghost pirate imposters, and sending it flying. A whirlwind grabbed the remnants and scattered them across the beach. The Audacity collided with the shore and came apart, scattering the infernal crew across the beach. They gathered themselves and set upon the Bollocks at their beachhead. The battle was tense, but the Bollocks prevailed and the hell-damned crew of the Audacity was sent back to their punishment, for good. Another portal and a massive vortex dredged all that remained of the ships and the pirates from the beach. All of the islanders were taken away as well for breaking their infernal pacts. The only thing left, a large statue of a dracolich, half-buried in the sand, its eyes glowing red.
The rest of the island had been whipped by hellfire and would burn from now unto the next Sundering.
The Bollocks explored the island and found the alter where the villagers conducted their devil business. They found several books there with information about the island, the crew of the Audacity, and their victims in life. They wrecked it and took the books and loot. They found a usable raft and ferried back to the mainland. Elisande tagged along, of course. Business concluded, they headed to the town of Kabel's Hill to see if the Black Fist job they had there was worth taking. Damn this rain.
Chaab was traveling with a small band of his fellows, back from near Zhentil Keep, where they had met with suppliers and traded news, before heading back to the base they had established in the old Circle of the Scale Temple. Rumors from the coast were that the Cult of the Dragon was moving their treasure horde, meant as a offering to the Dragon Queen, to a place called the well of Dragons. They were gathering an army. They were growing. Chaab traded rumors of a growing force in Phlan calling itself the Tears of Virulence. They had seen evidence of meetings and heard whispered rumors, but its secrets were not yet revealed. Chaab also reported on the general state of the city. Phlan was bursting at the seams from the influx of people for a variety of reasons. Unrest in the countryside due to bandits, monster activity, lizardfolk raids, and rumors of dragons in the swamp were also pushing people to the shelter of the walls. Phlan was overripe, and any variety of crisis may cause it to burst apart.
Chaab's attention was caught by a flicker of light in the night sky, out over the Moonsea near a small island. He didn't even know people lived out there, but he could see on the beach, the motion of torches that must be held by someone. The flicker of light suddenly grew to massive size and peal of thunder so loud it caused them to clap their hands over their ears, rolled off the water and up to where they were standing on the road like a wave. Fire and lightning tore out of the portal and scoured the island. The light show revealed a ship out on the water and suddenly another ship came flying out of the portal and smashed the floating ship, scattering its bits across the island. Chaab watched the new ship crash onto the beach and scatter, and he saw the motion of the torches become more frantic for several minutes before the whole thing was taken up again by a vortex.
Chaab and the rest of his party looked at one another and silently concluded that they would hide in the woods nearby for a few days and see if anyone came off the island, before they moved in to loot whatever remained.