Marash Monjak, Roosh N’Anceo, Myra Vingo, and Lasitir Clarisian are awoken by a tapping at their window. When each opens their drapes or doors to investigate, they find a middle-aged, gray haired man dressed in opulent silk robes, standing upon the deck of a beautiful sailing ship, smiling at them. The ship is somehow moored outside their window or door, and is surrounded by a swirling, gray mist. There is a fabulously-colored bird perched on the man’s shoulder.
He introduces himself as Captain Hanna, and asks the adventures to consider a proposal. He is searching for heroes that will free his realm from oppression and horror. In return for their aid, the High Congress will give the adventurers wealth, land, and title. However, he is unable to provide further details until the adventurers agree to board his ship.
Each adventurer looks around for their gear and supplies, finding neither, and they realize that they are in nothing but their skivvies. Hanna assures them that they need not worry about supplies, and beckons them aboard. As each adventurer climbs on the ship, they see three other people climb aboard with them (as if Hanna was speaking to each of them at the same time). They are also aware that they are now fully dressed in the same opulent silk robes Captain Hanna wears. All aboard, the mists swirl wildly and the ship begins to move.
Captain Hanna explains that he is an agent for the High Congress of Baharna, a wealthy sea-port located on the Isle of Oriab. Baharna is under the yoke of a vile criminal who has paralyzed the populace with her inhuman acts of violence and threats of terror. Known to the inhabitants as The Harlot, this beautiful and deadly woman has been luring young men away from the city to her dark fortress on Mount Ngranek. Her victims are rarely heard from again, although the mutilated bodies of some have been found at the foot of the mountain from time to time.
To make matters worse, there is a curse on the city; no citizen of Baharna can lift a finger against the Harlot, or the city will suffer the consequences. In the past, interference in the Harlot’s plans has brought disease and pestilence upon the city. For that reason, the High Congress has sought the aid of heroes from outside the realm, hoping to circumvent the curse and rid the city of the Harlot forever. Captain Hanna offers the adventurers 20,000 gold pieces to procure equipment and supplies, plus a waterfront estate and 50,000 gold pieces when they have rid Baharna of the Harlot.
As the adventurers agree to Hanna’s terms, the mists evaporate from around the ship and they behold the city of Baharna. Twin lighthouses of marble and granite, named Thon and Thal, flank the harbor. The buildings are built of marble and the wharves of porphyry. Bridges connect the buildings and arches stretch above the stepped streets. A great canal flows through the center of the city, connecting the Lake of Yath and the Southern Sea. When they make port, Captain Hanna suggests that the adventurers visit Captain Holt’s Might & Magic to procure their gear, and then bids them farewell.
Eager to purchase supplies and start the trek to Mount Ngranek, the adventures walk to the center of town and make their way through the market district to Captain Holt’s Might & Magic. Everything the adventurers may wish to procure is available to them, and they spend a few hours purchasing armor, weapons, magic items, and supplies.
At the center of the shop is the replica of the deck of a ship, and standing upon it is a wild-eyed, elderly man wearing a captain’s outfit. His eyes seem to move independently of each other, and he seems to take in everything that is happening in his shop simultaneously. Behind him on some shelves are a number of colored, exotic glass bottles. Each bottle is corked, and from the cork hangs a string attached to a black gem stone. Myra, intrigued by the display, approaches the man and asks about the bottles. The man introduces himself as Captain Holt, tells her that the bottles contain the souls of his mutinous, former crew, and begins to cackle crazily. Appropriately freaked out, Myra backs away from the counter and asks no further questions.
Well-equipped and ready for adventure, the group embarks on their journey. They travel out of Baharna and make their way slowly in the dark, stopping after four hours to camp for the night. Marash is surprised by a hunting party during his watch, and Roosh sees them again on his watch. Otherwise, the evening passes without incident. By the end of the second day, they are within a half day’s march of the mountain. The evening again passes uneventfully, and the adventurers wake up the next day, ready to tackle the steep climb up Mount Ngranek.
As it reaches the noon hour, the group has come to the foot of the mountain. Looking up, they can see the black shape of the Harlot’s dark fortress jutting from the side of the mountain. Marash’s sharp eyes also see three winged creatures circling vulture-like high in the distance. As they begin their climb, the adventurers come across the mutilated remains of a human male that seems to have fallen (or was dropped) from high up in the mountain. They proceed cautiously.
Half way up the steep slopes, the group steps upon a plateau that seems to wind around the side of the mountain. Roosh moves forward quietly and hears muffled voices and the sharpening of steel from around the bend. Stealthily, Lasitir moves around the corner and beholds four hobgoblins feasting upon the remains of a horse. Channeling the divine power of his god, Lasitir begins speaking to the hobgoblins about healthy eating and a vegetarian lifestyle. The hobgoblins, enthralled by the voice of the cleric, drop their swords to their sides and stand enraptured. Lasitir signals to the others, and they make their way around the bend. Myra shoots magic missiles from her fingertips, hitting two of the hobgoblins and breaking Lasitir’s spell. The hobgoblins engage the adventurers, but fail to land any blows. Roosh brings his sword down through a hobgoblin’s head, and then knocks another off the side of the mountain. Marash gets an arrow in his chest, and Myra tosses him a healing potion. Roosh dispatches another opponent, while the newly-healed Marash exacts some revenge on the hobgoblin that shot him. Lasitir enters the fray and delivers the final blow, knocking the remaining hobgoblin to his death several hundred feet below.
After a brief break to catch their breath, the adventurers begin the more challenging part of the climb. It proves tougher going, and both Marash and Lasitir fall several times. Myra, looking back towards Baharna, beholds a winged creature high off in the distance, seemingly charting their progress up the mountain. After another hour, the group reaches a second plateau. Almost fifty feet above them, they can clearly make out the Harlot’s dark fortress.
Unfortunately, they are unable to climb any further; the cliffs are shear, and the only way to get to the fortress is by riding a crudely-made elevator up the remaining fifty feet. Looking up, they can see the platform and a hand-crank. Myra sifts through her backpack and pulls out a scroll. Touching Roosh, she imbues him with the abilities of a spider. As Roosh begins his climb up the shear cliff-face, Lasitir notices a black, leathery winged creature swoop past him and grab the fighter. The enemy proves too fast for the group and flies away with Roosh in his clutches. Desperate to save their comrade, Lasitir attempts to climb up the scaffolding that surrounds the elevator, while Marash quickly catches his grappling hook at the top of the cliff. After several minutes, Marash, Myra, and Lasitir stand atop another plateau, facing the Harlot’s dark fortress. Roosh is nowhere to be found.
The remaining adventurers stand before a brooding stone edifice constructed of crumbling black bricks webbed by rotting vines. There are no windows; only a set of gigantic double-doors standing fourteen feet high. Carved above the doors is a sign written in a language the adventurers cannot understand. Casting a spell, Lasitir is able to make out the following:
CONVENTO DI SAN FRANCESCO – KINGSPORT, MASSACHUSETTS
The unlocked doors swing open with a groan as the adventurers enter a torch-lit foyer. In the distance, Lasitir can make out a day-lit courtyard, stairways going up and down to his left, and passages to his left and right. Periodically, Marash and Myra can hear whispers, shuffling feet, moans of pain, dripping water, and occasional shouts. Intermittently, they hears squeals of delight coming from above.
Moving to their left, the group makes their way down the passage to a room with a bubbling pool of water. Upon the water are several deathly-white lily-pads. Unable to find a source of the bubbling, they leave the room and walk into what appears to be a library. Myra skims the shelves, looking for a book that is giving off an aura of magic. Reaching up, she pulls out a red leather-bound book titled Nameless Cults. In the back of her mind, Myra seems to remember knowing this book under another title, but she is unable to remember what it was (or if she is remembering something that actually happened).
Moving to the other passageway, they find a supply room and a long-empty kitchen. Passing by an old spider-ridden dining room, both Lasitir and Myra spot furtive movement from the corner of their eyes. Looking back, they behold thirteen elderly men eating from dusty, grimy plates. The scene is familiar – similar to da Vinci’s Last Supper (for a brief moment, both Myra and Lasitir ask themselves, “what is the Last Supper?”).
Following the building squeals of ecstasy up a flight of stairs, Marash, Myra, and Lasitir walk into a bedroom and behold a beautiful, naked woman in the throes of passion with their equally-naked comrade, Roosh. Around them stand several automatons, dressed in priest robes and habits (“What’s a habit?” Lasitir thinks to himself), fanning the lovers.
Marash notches and arrow, and plunges it deep within the naked woman. Angered that she has been interrupted so close to reaching climax, the Hartlot turns to the adventurers and transforms into a disgusting hag. Realizing that he is now fornicating with a foul, pus-oozing hag is too much for Roosh; he screams in terror and blinks out of existence. Lasitir and Marash jump forward, attempting to hit the hag, while Myra burns a hole in the hag’s chest with a well-placed spell. Unleashing a flurry of sharp claws, the hag hits Marash and drains much of his strength. The adventurers put up a strong fight, but the hag is a very powerful foe. The strength-draining blows take their toll on Marash, and the last remaining fighter blinks out of existence. Myra retreats from the room, only to hear someone calling to her from somewhere far, far away (“WAKE UP IVY, WAKE UP!”).
Badly injured, the hag retreats from the room. Lasitir follows and Myra blinks out of existence. Running down the stairs, Lasitir sees the hag run through the courtyard and in to a room shrouded in darkness. As Lasitir enters the courtyard, the vegetation comes alive and several zombies animate. The cleric stands firm as he is pummeled by the zombies and all goes dark…
As each adventurer blinks out of existence in the Harlot’s dark fortress, their counterpart in New York City (Connor O’Shea in Brooklyn, Jonas Markham and Ivy Morgan in Morningside Heights, and Alistair Sinclair at the Hotel Belleclaire) wakes up in a pool of sweat with vivid memories of their first trip to the Dreamlands. Also fresh in their minds is CONVENTO DI SAN FRANCESCO – KINGSPORT, MASSACHUSETTS.
What does it mean?