A few weeks later, G-Watch gains a new recruit an ex-military ranger called “Richard” and (while drunk) Ulysses reveals his first name is really Gaston.
The ancient gnomish alchemist, Ebeneezer Sprackleroot keeps pestering Gaston to sell him more of the magic mushrooms – it seems only a few mushrooms have the right spores to reproduce. At first he wants to go into business with Gaston (hoping to gain immunity to prosecution through his ties to the Watch, as well as protection from “Herb” the half-orc, the local well-known drug peddlar). Gaston doesn’t want to become a full-time drug dealer but is still happy to make a one-off sale and he pushes up the price until Sprackleroot is paying over 1,000 gp for the rest of the mushrooms.
Gaston brings the money back to the Watch Station in a pair of big rucksacks and stashes it in his locker. Abraham and Mulan know about the deal, but refused to get involved, the only other people who know are the Alchemist and his young human assistant “Becky” (also known as “I’m a different girl!” as Gaston had made himself pretty unpopular with her on his first visit to the Lab and demanded she be sacked).
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One night, soon after the Ranger joins the squad, they are all woken at about midnight by a howling storm and messengers from the Watch calling them to help out at the Harbour.
Reluctantly, they turn up to find the terrible storm has cracked open a few of the cargo ships and the locals are risking life and limb to fish out the bumper harvest of crates from the heaving seas.
More importantly, the Doc Watch captain tells them that the magical beacon on Beacon Isle has gone out and they must commandeer a boat and get out there to fix it!
- * * * * * * * * * * *
Everyone in the City knows a bit about Beacon Isle. It is about half a mile out in the estuary, a small island with a copse of trees and a couple of ancient buildings – a ruined watchtower and a sort of small manor house on whose roof is the magical Beacon. The beacon sends a pillar of greenflame into the air when all is well and the flame turns red when danger is approaching – typically if Orcs are crossing the estuary or pirates are approaching the harbour. It hasn’t gone out for more than a few minutes in living memory and currently the beacon is off.
Gaston (as a noble of the city) knows that the Isle is the property of the Justinian family who get an annual rent from the City. In exchange they keep one of the family on the Isle to tend the flame, with a couple of servants and guarded by a small squad of the Dock Watch. The current family member on the Isle was “Tristan Justinian” considered a black sheep of the family, a handsome young bard, always getting in trouble with husbands and fathers of local beauties.
Abraham and Mulan have spoken with some of the longer-serving watchmen from Dock Watch and have heard more recent news. Being stationed on the Isle is very boring and used to be considered a sort of punishment detail for six months at a time. However, a couple of months ago, Corporal Claudius Winkleman volunteered to do a second term on the Isle! Apparently he had taken up fishing and reading and liked the peace and quiet. His 3 squad-members had gone along with him for a second six-month term.
- * * * * * * * * * * *
At the docks, none of G-Watch had any familiarity with boats so they needed to find a skilled sailor to get them out to the Isle. Luckily William Barnacle was one of the people illegally scooping crates from the raging sea and passing them to a bunch of thugs on the pier.
With the help of their new Ranger, they persuaded the thugs to back off and commandeered the boat (and the reluctant Barnacle Bill) without the need for violence.
Despite their lack of experience, they managed to help row the boat across to the Isle and Bill dropped them off and took his ship further out to sea to await their signal. The Isle itself seemed to be the focus of the worst of the storm. The little boat belonging to the watchmen had already be shattered to splinters and the storm raged on, clouds obscured the moon and the Isle was only lit by occasional flashes of lightning.
Mulan and Richard crept up to the manor house. Its gates stood open and one of the barn doors was flapping open in the wind. Goats bleated and chickens were squawking from the barn. They crept in to find the butler dead in the kitchen, gutted by a big curved blade. Further in they found the housekeeper, similarly slashed by a curved blade. There were wet barefoot footprints on some of the floors.
In the rooms used by the Watch they found evidence of long-term digging – heavy boots, ropes, spades etc. Their beds had not been slept in that night and it looked like they had all left, expecting to return.
In the rooms of young Tristan, they found his Lute, some valuables and a journal covering the last several months.
9 months earlier, Tristan was moaning about his exile to the Isle. Then he started to glimpse things out of the corner of his eye. The shape of a slender young woman, outlined in the spray from the ocean or in rain. She seemed to be drawn to listen to him when he played music.
Somehow she seemed to guide him to some sea caves at the Isles eastern edge. Unfortunately, there had been a rockfall there and he couldn’t get in. He had come to believe the sea spirit was trying to lead him to the fabled pirate treasure supposed to be under the Isle.
The sea caves were only exposed for an hour or so each day so he enlisted the help of Corporal Winkelman and his troops to try and dig down from above instead. He was pleased when Winkelman agreed to only take a third of the treasure for himself and his men.
It took them longer than expected as the Isle is mostly granite so they have been digging and cutting their way into the caverns below for months.
The last entry in the Journal was from the previous afternoon, they have finally broken through and are about to explore the caverns. He hopes to prove to his family that he isn’t a wastrel after all.
First things first, they decide to try and re-light the Beacon – apparently lighting a lantern under the magical lens is all it takes, however, when Richard climbs up to the roof, and tries to light the storm lantern, it is suddenly doused with salt water and Mulan glimpses the form of an invisible girl on the roof, outlined in the rain.
They decide to use a magical light instead and Abraham casts light onto a torch. When the torch can’t be lit and the green pillar of flame rises, the invisible girl leaps from the roof to attack Abraham.
There is a fight between our heroes and the invisible sea spirit during which they hear her faint voice, little more than a whisper, calling them Murderers.
Mulan tries to reason with the creature who is clearly distraught and angry. It seems she thinks they are murderers because they are wearing the same tabards as the other watchmen and Mulan and the others guess that she means that the Watchmen killed Tristan (her beloved) and the storm is a product of her grief and rage.
When they ask her to show them what happened, she says they must go below and she vanishes into the storm.