Events so far: The PCs have been broken out of jail and hired to serve the British Crown's interests in Spanish-controlled Caribbean in 1588. Specifically, they've been hired to ferret out answers to three mysteries: 1) Find the new source of gold flowing into Spain's coffers, 2) discover the identities of the hooded, robed dwarves seen in the company of prominent Spanish officials, and 3) figure out why the Spanish are so interested in the pirate legend of the "Black Chest." Accepting their commission (and a pair of enchanted spectacles), the PCs decided to begin their investigation by tracking down the source of gold. Recalling that the Spanish treasure fleet collects wealth from Veracruz, Cozumel and Cartagena de Indies, the PCs booked passage aboard the sloop Soiled Dove for Cartagena, reasoning that it was closest to their current location.
Aleister Northrop, an English occultist-in-training and distant relative of Edward Kelley, assistant and scryer to Dr. John Dee
Francois de Vallons, a French mariner, carpenter and swordsman
Bear Who Stands in Rivers, a Native American, formerly enslaved by the Spanish, freed by pirates, now dedicated to killing Spaniards wherever he can find them.
Cartagena appearing on the horizon, the PCs looked forward to disembarking. Aleister was approached by Captain Richard Cartier, who asked if he might convince the PCs to stay on and work longer, as he admired their work ethic. When Aleister declined, Cartier nodded, said "I thought you might say that," and ordered several of his men, armed with heavy clubs, to attack.
Francois was knocked unconscious in the first round, while Aleister was lightly battered and Bear unscathed. Aleister fired his pistol into Cartier's face, and Bear went blood-mad with an axe, swinging wildly at any who came near him. Drawing a second pistol, Aleister dispatched the man who'd clubbed him, then found himself under attack by the bloodied but not-yet-dead Cartier, gashing the young occultist brutally across the thigh with his cutlass. Dropping to one knee, Aleister drew a third pistol and emptied it into Cartier's groin. Bull-rushed over the side of the ship, Bear managed to grab the rigging and swing himself around, somersaulting back onto the deck and burying his axe in another man's throat.
With that, the rest of the crew surrendered, turning over cash, powder and shot to the PCs in exchange for their lives. The PCs disembarked at Cartagena without further incident. Arriving at a tavern called the Cup and Crown, Francois began spinning a tale of his heroism in the face of Captain Cartier to any who would listen, while Aleister and Bear listened for any rumors of gold.
Aleister overheard two men discussing a trio of strange "Englishmen," dressed all in black, who showed up at the slave market every week, buying slaves with newly-minted gold bars, one inch by three inches by 1/16th of an inch. He also heard rumors of hooded dwarves, Inquisitors possibly, who had taken up residence in the governor's mansion and were running him ragged with their demands.
Bear, meanwhile, overheard muted discussion of sightings of Asmodeus, the demon prince of lust and revenge, near the edge of town, especially around the garbage pits on the western side. One old woman voiced considerable frustration that the Inquisitors and the Church had done nothing substantial to root out Satan in the New World.
Conferring among themselves, the PCs decide that Aleister and Francois will check out the slave market while Bear examines the ground outside of town for any tracks that might belong to this "Asmodeus." There's vague plans that if Bear resembles the sorts of slaves these strange "Englishmen" buy, they'll attempt to sell him to them to infiltrate their number.
Speaking with one of the auctioneers, Aleister and Francois learn that there doesn't seem to be any pattern to the purchasing of the slaves by the Englishmen, but they do get a glimpse at one of the gold bars -- and Aleister is stunned to realize that the maker's mark imprinted on the bar is a series of glyphs in Angelical - the language of angels identified by Dr. John Dee. He manages to hash out a rough translation as "Melchizedek."
A quick consultation with Dr. Dee (via the spectacles) reminds Aleister that "Melchizedek" was, according to scriptures, the high priest of God Most High, and that Jesus Christ was the High Priest of the Order of Mechizedek.
Bear, meanwhile, discovers unusual tracks, long and narrow, with a cluster of four squarish toes at the end. He's not sure what made them, but he follows them a short way into the forest and discovers a number of different tracks of various sizes, suggesting not a single "Asmodeus" but possibly a family group.
Come Saturday, the PCs show up at the slave market, and put Bear up for auction. While waiting for him to come up on the block, Francois notices the strange, grinning Englishmen, dressed identically in plain black clothes and looking like triplets, all three grinning maniacally. At this point, Aleister is accosted by a guardsman asking him to come and be questioned by an Inquisitor regarding allegations of witchcraft. When Aleister resists, he's punched in the nose (with a mailed gauntlet, natch) and nearly dragged to see the Inquisitor.
Aleister is carefully questioned by the lean, vulturine Jesuit priest whose eyes burned with unsupressed fanaticism, his body examined for evidence of a witches' tit. Satisfied, the Jesuit returns Aleister's clothes and tells him he's free to go.
Meanwhile, Bear comes up on the auction block, and to Francois' horror, the grinning Englishmen make no motion to bid on him. He rushes to begin talking up the qualities of Bear as a slave, in hopes of influencing them, and finally one of the three stiffly raises his arm in a bid.
Aleister returns just in time to find the grinning Englishmen loading their purchased slaves (among which he does not see Bear) into a wagon and driving off. Finding Francois, he confirms that Bear was purchased by the Englishmen, and then they rush to buy a wagon and a blunderbuss with which to pursue the Englishmen.
A short while down the narrow road through the forest outside of town, Francois and Aleister are interrupted when a trio of Spanish guardsmen, unarmed, bloody and panicking, spill out of the forest, begging for help and babbling about Asmodeus and the Gadarene Swine. It's clear these men are near death from their injuries, and unconcerned for their welfare, Aleister and Francois drive on.
Shaken and bloody, they continue on, following the wheel ruts of the Englishmen's wagon in the soft loamy soil. The tracks lead directly into a cliff-face, as if the wagon had driven into solid stone.
Francois easily spots a fake rock and, fiddling with it, manages to open it along a hinge, revealing a complex mechanism of silver and brass levers and gears. Fiddling with it, he manages to trigger the device and a panel of stone recesses and slides to the side in the cliff face. As this happens, Francois hears the muffled clank of steel on steel, but as he turns to look, a third, larger swine-thing erupts from the greenery, snuffling and grunting, tackling Aleister to the ground.
As Francois raises his sword to hack at the swine-thing pawing at his friend, the beast suddenly erupts into a cloud of fine, white ash. Turning, Francois sees a lean, vulture-like Jesuit priest, a crucifix in one hand and a curved wand, an intricate affair of silver and glass, the tip smoldering, in the other.
“I’m afraid, dear adventurers, that this is as far as you go on your own free will. If you will be so kind as to throw down your weapons, I would be happy to accept your surrender.” He says is slightly-accented English.
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