After fighting off a dragon and closing another rift, our heroes trudge on along the coast to the pleasant seaside resort of Vansor. The weather has taken a turn for the worst, and Vansor is enshrouded in a grey and miserable downpour. The smell of salty sea and fish fills the air (or is that Orion’s feet?).
Our heroes, realising that they don’t actually know the whereabouts of Droog Trakken, decide to head to the tavern and ask after him there. Torrin thumbs through his Good Ale Guide to see if this inn, The Smooth Sailing Inn and Tavern, is listed. “Good quality ale, and with comfy, warm, spacious surroundings, but offset by rude staff and a spooky atmosphere. 3-1/2 stars.”
The barman affirms that Droog is staying at the inn, but isn’t present right now, and may be back later. Our heroes settle down with some smooth ales (unfortunately, cocktails were not on the menu) for the evening to wait for his return.
During the evening, the group is approached by three other patrons of the tavern.
The first is a female half-elf with one blind eye and a gold leaf tattoo on her arm. “Are you here for the trade fair?”, she asks. “Yes”, the group replies in an unconvincing manner, and enquires about Trakken. She hasn’t heard of him. The group learns her name is Terza, who is a member of the Goldleaf consortium. After learning the group doesn’t have anything to trade there-and-then, she leaves to return to her own table, saying “If you need anything trading, you come and let me know”. The group notice she is sitting with 6 others, all wearing some kind of uniform and all with identical tattoos.
The second approaches soon after. “Hi, I am Matthias Creel. Whatever she offered you, I will offer you more.” Torrin bluffs a reply intimating that she was offering to give the group beer. “I will offer you more barrels than you can carry!”, says Matthias. “What did you offer her in return?” “Err… an Orcish dagger… and a ceremonial sword?”, replies Torrin. “Let me know when you’re serious, because trading is NO LAUGHING MATTER” replies Matthias, scornfully, and returns to his table in a huff.
The third is brief, and all that is learned is that he is a Jeweller and Sculptor named Jandhal Phen, who is hoping to sell his wares the next day. Curiously, he has two bodyguards accompanying him.
The hour becomes late, and with no sign of Trakken’s return and having drunk and eaten their fill, the group decide to sleep for the night. Deciding not take any chances in an unfamiliar town, the group elects Torrin to watch whilst the others sleep.
As dawn approaches, slowly, gradually, a strange sound penetrates the pounding of the rain and the howling of the winds. Barely audible at first, it resolves itself into an alien, high-pitched keening. It resounds with loss, with sadness – the lament of a mother who has lost her children or of the sailor stranded far from home (or perhaps the sound of orgasming mermaid, according to some). It echoes from over the waves of the sea and grows ever louder until the storm has receded into the background. It fills the ears, insinuates itself through the mind and the soul, until one can think and dream of almost nothing else. Neither beautiful nor comforting, it overcomes with an irresistible urge to follow the source of the sound.
Marrit, Theren and Orion succumb to the bewitching sound, and rise from their slumber and begin to make their way out of the room where they were sleeping. Torrin wakes Mac, who can by now also hear the sound, but neither are affected like the others. Macdar immediately realises something odd is going on, and that the others are under some kind of outside influence, and that they need to be snapped out of it.
Which he does. By hitting Theren. In the face. With his throwing shield. “Ow! My face! What’s going on?” exclaims Theren, snapping out the trance-like state. Torrin approaches Marrit, to slap her out of it, but hesitates as he doesn’t want to hit an unarmed woman. Mac, of course, has no such qualms, and smacks her using his shield with exceedingly great force. But, to no avail, she’s still under the influence. Torrin instead now chooses to apply his healing skills. Success! Marrit comes out of the trance-like state. “In your face, sound from the sea!”, he exclaims in victory.
Meanwhile, no-one has noticed Orion make his way out of the room and down the stairs. The rest of the group follow after him, where they see the other tavern guests (Jandhal, Matthias, Terza and their entourage) walking in the same trance-like state out the door.
Intrigued by what is happening, our heroes decide to follow Orion and the others – at a safe distance – to see where they are heading. Mac, noticing that the tavern staff are nowhere to be seen, decides there’s no time like the present to continue drinking, and grabs a sneaky tankard of beer to see him along.
As everyone proceeds through the streets of Vansor, the group of zombie-like people turns into a small crowd, with everyone heading towards the sea. As the crowd approaches the shoreline, the first people begin to wade into the water, seemingly without pause.
Alarmed that people may start drowning, Torrin decided enough is enough, and breaks out his Spinning Leopard Manoeuvre to bust some heads and make them snap out of it. He succeeds, including bringing Orion round, but there are still a few people walking onward into the waves. Marrit joins in the violent consciousness-bringing with a Storm Strike, which wakes up a few more people. Unfortunately, by this time, it is too late for the very first people, whose heads have disappeared under the surface of the water, not to return. The raging weather and stormy sea mean it’s too dangerous to try and go after them.
The sound gradually fades out, and those who have been saved look around them in a shocked manner. “What in all the god’s names was that? Let’s get the hell out of here!”, shouts Terza. “We can’t, the roads are all shit now!” replies one of her entourage, in a puzzling manner.
Whilst the crowd begins to converse amongst themselves, Torrin decides that it’s too suspicious that none of the tavern staff seemed to have been affected, so decides our heroes should return to the tavern and make an investigation. Macdar, on the other hand, is all pumped-up from shield-smacking and beer, and decides to form a vigilante mob and riot in a fiery manner through the town until they find who or what is responsible. Unfortunately, he’s not as convincing as he likes to think he is, so is only able to raise a small number of rabble-rousers – three in all.
The remainder of our heroes return to the inn, only to find it all quiet. Whilst poking around the main bar area, Theren spots a strange-looking book filled with what appear to be religious scribblings, but in a language no-one recognises. He swipes it in case it proves relevant later. Meanwhile, Torrin has proceeded to the tavern staff’s rooms, where he wakes up the barman. He has no idea what Torrin is going on about, and insinuates that the group have all been drinking too much, because he hasn’t heard anything and would they please let him get back to sleep. He appears to be truthful, so Torrin proceeds to the next-door room of one of the barmaids.
Startled by a 6’5" dragon-esque form bursting into her room, she screams. The grumpy barman comes rushing out of his room and demands to know what Torrin is doing. “Asking questions!” replies Torrin. “I want you out of here, you’re all bat-shit crazy!” he replies, angrily. Marrit tries to reason with him, but with her unintelligible dwarven accent and his angry state combined, she fails to get him to understand.
Having been chucked out, our heroes decide they need to get in touch with someone in the town who’ll listen. But who? The mayor, of course! So, they begin to head to the town hall…
(For those too young to get the title reference, <cough>Gareth</cough>, see here.)