Beneath Aetherian Skies

Dominus Episode 1: Welcome to Saltmarsh

Wherein guards are dodged and friendships are forged.

The game begins well into the night, rain battering the cobblestone streets of this rundown gothic city.Those without homes of their own or establishments to take refuge in, duck into the abandoned buildings in Saltmarsh's docks district.

  • 11:00 P.M.; Rusty Cleaver tavern, Saltmarsh docks district


    • The scene opens with one Jason Silversun deep into his cups; the young half-elf has been drinking for the past two days, having spent a gold piece's worth on alcohol; he has managed to crash the ship he'd 'borrowed' into port, getting it impounded with the city's Thieves Guild demanding an exorbitant fee of 10,000 gp for the return of his aircraft.
    • His crewmate and the ship's navigator-minstrel Basil Garreth finds the young half-elf at the bar and proceeds to chew him out, scolding him for his carelessness and lamenting that this will further delay his plans to travel to some better locales and perform his music there.
    • A drow calling himself Ron Cutler abruptly enters the conversation, having just arrived at the tavern. He introduces himself as a traveler from the Underdark in search of new and interesting dishes around the world, blatantly demonstrating his passion for the culinary arts.

      • Basil meets this with some suspicion but entertains the newcomer with some conversation, very quickly displaying his penchant for racist and lewd remarks.
    • A tall, attractive tiefling named Damaia provides the evening's entertainment as a lounge singer, dancer and fire eater; she notices the bit of commotion at the bar and discreetly keeps an eye on them.
    • Z.E.C.H.S., a traveler from the Far East, has been spending his time simply relaxing at a corner table—he hasn't a single coin to his name for purchasing his own food and drink. He opts to remain quiet and also watch the bar conversation from afar.
    • After a string of insults, Basil gives in to Ron's insistence on trying out 'local food' by shoving him the remains of Jason's most recent meal: Some bread crumbs and ale (that he is charged an entire gold piece for). The dark elf almost retches at the horrible flavor.

      • He implores the bartender to tell him where the good food is, and receives a sarcastic remark that only the Thieves Guild is wealthy enough to actually enjoy good food in the city. In response, the drow raises his coin purse, proclaiming that he has ten gold pieces on him and will willingly pay for the best food and drinks in the establishment.
      • The bartender's eyes grow wide and Damaia hears him muttering that ten gold is literally more than the entire tavern makes in a year on average. Well aware that she also stands to earn some coin from that as well, she ends her set and plants herself a few seats away from the drow with a ladies' drink in hand while flashing him 'the eyes'. Meanwhile, the bartender sends one of the wenches down to the cellar with orders to fetch something from 'the special stash'.
      • Ron approaches the tiefling lady and manages to impress her with the amount of gold on his person, with lewd commentary from Basil all throughout.
      • Their 'special order' arrives, a bottle of suspicious liquid that looks as clear as drinking water. The bartender proudly proclaims it as rare Barovian wine from a distant continent, pricing it at 8 gp.
    • Jason makes a scene over the price, having spent the past two days on a single gold piece; he calls the bartender out on the sudden price spike and is simply told that there has been an increase in demand. The commotion (and his accidental mention of his being a pirate by profession) draws the attention of the authorities; four guards begin crossing the tavern towards the bar, clad in the city watch's signature trenchcoats and tricorn hats.

      • Z.E.C.H.S. suddenly gets up and attempts to talk the guards out of this potentially violent action; they simply leave one of them to pay attention to him as the other three continue their walk towards the commotion at the bar.
      • Damaia manages to distract the guards by inviting them over for "drinks at my place", urging them to meet her in the alleyway out back. They take the bait and all four guards exit the tavern through the backdoor. Basil and Jason make their own exit while the tiefling has the guards' attention.
    • Ron stashes the Barovian wine in his pack during all this, then heads over to Z.E.C.H.S. and commends him for his altruistic action. 

      • Introductions are made between the two: Ron telling his tale of the culinary quest out of the Underdark, Z.E.C.H.S. introducing himself as a traveler from the East who can't quite remember all that happened. He also gives Ron some 'surface street wisdom', advising him to not go around telling people how much gold he has; especially in a town like Saltmarsh where majority of the populace is destitute.
    • Ron and Z.E.C.H.S. exit the tavern, following Jason and Basil out into the rainy street.

      • A few brief words are exchanged (most notably Jason explaining the deal with the ship and 10,000 gp) before Damaia manages to barrel straight into the group, knocking over her, Basil and Ron. She is clearly in a foul mood over having earned a single copper piece for tonight's performance, but informs the party that she has distracted the guards long enough for them to make a quick exit.
    • Running out of options, the group decides to follow Damaia's lead; she's clearly a local. She starts leading them towards the boarding house she stays at, also within the docks district.
  • 12:15 A.M.; a rundown boarding house, Saltmarsh docks district

    • Ron decides to get a better view of the district and casts Jump on himself in an attempt to get up on the roof. He manages to get just high enough to see into an open window—right as an elderly woman is undressing. She shrieks, which draws the attention of a nearby patrol.
    • Damaia guides everyone away from the scene towards the address she'd listed on her note to the man from earlier; it turns out to be an abandoned house, large enough for everyone to set up camp but with no comforts whatsoever.

      • Everyone sits down and Jason begins to take a nap and try to sober up.
      • Ron lays down his cooking pot and utensils, then asks if anyone has rations to spare while producing some dried fish from his pack. He receives a combination of a bit more fish, some bread and some cheese from Z.E.C.H.S. and Jason.
      • The next hour goes by with the drow making a stew from the ingredients and offering it to the entire party. Everyone except for Damaia accepts (she'd just had dinner at the tavern) and is flat-out amazed at the quality of his cooking. (DM's Note: The party except for Damaia gains an Inspiration.)
  • ​​​​​​2:00 A.M.; abandoned house, Saltmarsh docks district

    • Z.E.C.H.S. tells the party his story: That he's a traveler from Rannouchi, glorious capital of the Eastern empire—he also relates how he remembers invaders from the Dragon's Grave desert taking the capital. He himself was once a member of the Satsugaidan (which he translates into Common as "Murder Force"), the city's elite guard; he was knocked out during the initial attack and somehow woke up on the other side of the continent, thus his being in Saltmarsh.

      • The rest of the group does remember hearing news that the East is currently at war, but somehow not having the detail of how long the war has been ongoing.
    • Damaia decides to try the food upon seeing how everyone seems impressed by it. Being a traveling performer who has been in some of Dominus' upscale cities, she immediately notes that it is of gourmet quality, good enough for a restaurant frequented by nobility.
  • 3:00 A.M.; abandoned house, Saltmarsh docks district

    • The man from the alley arrives, immediately putting everyone on their guard with his outfit's similarity to the city watch (made worse by Basil and Z.E.C.H.S. having no darkvision; their only initial sight of the stranger is a silhouette framed in the doorway by a flash of lightning. Damaia takes the lead in talking to him and he asks: "Are you hunters?"
    • Jason immediately expresses suspicion at the man hiding his face and asks who he is. Before even stating his name he draws his quarterstaff and makes a small cut in his palm; the blood then flows out of the wound and the droplets swirl around the staff before abruptly setting themselves aflame, without actually burning the staff itself. He then lowers his collar to reveal that…he's nothing more than a very slim human.
    • The man introduces himself as Dave, and explains that he has no noble house or family attached to his name; he was born and raised as a man of Saltmarsh's gritty streets.
    • The group agrees to hear his proposal. He explains that he wants them to bring in the bounty on a half-orc named Uruuk Shaataz, who is convicted of murdering General Hein Pharamond: a fabled war hero who helped the current king of Dominus' central Windspear Region win the throne.

      • The bounty on the murderer is a staggering 15,000 gp, and is to be turned in at the Windspear capital: Illuminias, the literal center of Dominus' civilization.
      • The prey was last seen working as an enforcer for the Thieves' Guild, guarding one of their safehouses in the Central Saltmarsh district. He is known to work the night shift and leaves at roughly 6:00 A.M., normally relaxing at a tavern in the area before heading off to bed.
    • They agree to the quest after some discussion, though Damaia claims that she won't settle for less than a 4,000 gp cut out of the 15,000. The group does agree that they must proceed with utmost caution; the Thieves Guild are known to be the effective rulers of Saltmarsh, a.k.a. not someone who they want out for their blood.
    • At the very end of the conversation, Z.E.CH.S. demonstrates his bizarre ability to divide into five smaller copies of himself; everyone immediately notices that doing so also divides his physical and mental capabilities, to the point that it takes the efforts of all five to coherently attack as one man. He also reveals that his name is an acronym for the five individuals: Z, Earl, Char, Harry, and Stream.
  • 4:00 A.M.; abandoned house, Saltmarsh docks district

    • The long conversation ends and the party gets ready to leave for Central Saltmarsh; the walk there will take a couple of hours, and no one is able to afford one of Saltmarsh's carriages. Dave departs as mysteriously as he came, seemingly disappearing in an instant.
    • En route, they go over their plan: Z.E.C.H.S. will stealthily tail Uruuk to wherever he goes to sleep, and they'll assassinate him from there; the group themselves will split up but follow Z.E.C.H.S. from a distance. 

      • Ron makes it very clear that he is very interested in meeting with the Thieves Guild (despite Damaia advising him that this is a foolish proposition) in order to sit down with them and enjoy a great meal.
  • 6:00 A.M.; Central Saltmarsh

    • The group sees the safehouse just as it was described to them, with Uruuk himself just about to end his shift: He is a tall but teenaged half-orc clad in plate mail carrying a shield, with a battleaxe on his belt and a greataxe on his back.

      • The stealth part of the plan is botched when Uruuk manages to spot everyone in the group, pointing to them one by one and calling them out of hiding. 
      • When pressed by Ron for a meeting with the Thieves Guild, Uruuk questions him and explains that majority of public meals with the Guild are poisoned; they are a faction filled with internal strife and poison is one of their favorite assassination methods.

        • This sends Ron into a brief stupor as he begins to reconsider his life choices.
    • In order to not arouse suspicion, Uruuk keeps the entire group walking as he explains his situation: He is merely working as hired muscle for the Thieves Guild for money, but his real goal is to end General Hein's true murderer—also someone in the capital.  In fact, he offers that if they take him back to Illuminias and help him with this kill, he can give them more than the bounty's reward off of the kingdom's treasury.

      • Damaia suggests that they can get into the capital just in time for the kingdom's Jierdan Eve Classic, the Windspear region's premiere joust — which also comes with a massive festival, with the best chefs and entertainers being permitted entry to the castle.
      • Upon being pressed for more details, Uruuk reveals that his target is none other than the crown prince of Illuminias. According to his tale, he witnessed the deed and the prince had him framed for it (resulting in the bounty). He also explains that he has a personal stake in this because General Hein was killed alongside his war comrade and Uruuk's father, Colonel Dabbert Shaataz.

        • The party calls Uruuk out on the foolhardiness of his plan; he seems to be asking them to come with him and help him raid the capital, to go against the royal family and murder the prince. They notice that the young half-orc is only intent on his revenge and fails to see the ramifications of his plot: The current king of Illuminias is well-loved by the people, and offing his prince would undoubtedly case a whole new level of instability in the realm.
    • The party agrees that they're better off just taking the bounty on Uruuk's head, and moves to engage in combat. They then realize that he had distracted them with the conversation while backing them into a corner; he now stands blocking off their escape from a narrow alleyway.

      • The fight is ended quickly by some backstabbing from Jason and a daring jump attack from Ron that nearly costs him his life, with Basil stepping in to heal the drow just in time. 
    • They set to work looting Uruuk's corpse while making sure to hide the body after beheading it for their claim on the bounty.

      • The falling attack destroyed his armor but the shield, battleaxe and handaxe are all intact.
      • Basil tries to con Z.E.C.H.S. into searching the half-orc's orifices and fails; he decides to search on his own and manages to dig out a sizable portion of his shit, which is then stored in the chest within his diplomat's pack. He also decides to castrate the corpse and store the cock with all the shit.
      • Basil does manage to acquire a piece of jewelry: The ring from Uruuk's mouth piercing.
    • Ron sets off for the marketplace to gather ingredients to pickle Uruuk's head, to preserve it for the three-week trek to Illuminias. Basil opts to come along and have Uruuk's cock pickled too.

The player characters gain 100 experience points each for this session.
Character sheet changelog for the first session.

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