D&D 5E: The Road Not Taken

Valrak'shi Journal Entry 17

Walking off the ship, it doesn’t take long for Galathalas and I to see the looming wall beside us. The entire port area seems to be fortified, with numerous guards standing atop the soaring walls. Ian says in his experience, something this size would take no less than 150 guards to maintain.

Feeling their gaze upon us we make our way to the northern bridge where most others seem to be heading. Lutien catches up to us not long before we make the turn onto the bridge proper. Everyone we meet seems to be traveling with purpose; no strolling, minimal talking, and definitely no stopping to look at shops as there appear to be no storefronts outside of the city proper!

We get in line behind a small group of people ushering slaves into the city. All are shackled together in a procession, looking sullen and weak, probably fed just enough to keep them alive for sale without “wasting” food on them. Valrak’shi looks to the slavers herding them, thinking how easily he could drive a shortsword through their back, but a quick glance to the top of the walls reminds him to calm his emotions. He knows going into this city that there will be many things he will not approve of, but you can’t fight for those inside if you are riddled with arrows before making it past the gates.

Keeping in a tight group, we enter the lower city proper as one, letting any that look upon us know that we travel as one group and not as individuals to be picked off at random.

Once inside the Fish Market, we can see the primary slave auction off to our left. It’s a large platform with multiple levels and we can see slaves being auctioned off in pairs, as a group or individually, depending on the lot and person.

The one thing that is not easy to ignore is the smell; the Fish Market mixed with the smell of unwashed bodies and vomit. As I look to the next slaves being taken upon the stand, I see one lean over and vomit, a look of fear in his eyes like no other. I have to force myself to look away…I would like to help these people but this is not the proper time and place. We need a strategic strike, not some random rescue attempt fueled by emotion and ill planning.
Scanning the area, it’s easy to see the many guards standing around the area. Some of them seem to be city guards, others personal guards to people walking the area. I spot several guards down near the edge of the water, peering into it, preventing entry in or out from that one seemingly vulnerable area.

We continued up Furlough Street, keeping tight formation but trying not to bring too much notice to ourselves. I hear off in the distance the bang of a club or stick, and someone shout “40 gold!”. Looking to the sound I see a group of slaves being herded off of the platform and the rope holding them together being handed over to a tall human with an air of contempt about him.

Continuing on we see many shops on both sides of the street. Beggars notice us and approach, their hands out begging for coin. I could care less for my coin and would happily give it over to them, but I do not trust they are what they see, nor do I want to draw attention to myself as I attempt to stay within the recesses and shadows as we venture forth. I ignore them as I go and keep a vigilante eye on my belongings.

Galathalas is not so subtle, raising his voice to them to ‘scram’. He continues with them as they recoil from the words, telling them to be happy that they are free, unlike the people we just passed who were being sold into slavery.

Ian on the other hand, his noble heart in the right place, tosses some copper to a few who are close. A gesture that is good in the eyes and heart of a man, but one that became somewhat tedious when they swarmed towards him begging and dragging at him, trying to get him to give more.

As a last ditch effort, he throws some coins up into the air and makes his way into a nearby building right as Galathalas turns to enter a shop called “The Hired Horrors”.

I glanced at Lutien and with a nod let him know I was taking up a lookout post outside the door where Galathalas went, and across the street from where Ian went so as to keep them both in sight. He being the cunning sniper he is, faded back against the opposite side of the door I was near, with a clear line of sight to the building Ian entered.

Later on, Galathalas fills me in on what transpired while he was inside. This was from his mouth:

“I went inside, with the intent of simply checking the place out, but what I found upon entering was an interior altogether different than the outside. It seemed almost comfortable with chairs and tables about, casual lighting and books on shelves. Many men sat around in their robes, writing in ledgers or reading books, feet upon an ottoman. On the one wall to my right I saw a glass, foggy and impenetrable with swirls throughout and seemingly attached to the wall in a very secure way. A gentleman stands immediately when I enter and makes his way over to me.”

“Good day, sir” he says, bowing slightly. “My name is Aurin the Generous.” I return to him a generic greeting and something about the beggars outside, not really even thinking of what I said so confused (and interested!) was I in the building.”

“I see many tomes laid out on a nearby table, presented for customer viewing I would assume. I let Aurin know that I have interest in peculiar things and that I seemed to be in the right place. He didn’t seem surprised by that and motioned me towards the open tomes, a glimmer of pride in his eyes.“

“The first had pictures of various odd looking creatures in it and upon the cover. There seemed to be many variations of creatures, mixed together in unnatural ways. For instance, there was an owlbear with no fur, but covered in scales…and another picture that of a horse with multiple horns and an armored neck."

“The man looked to me and asked if I received my shipment as expected. I was at a loss for words…knew me? I have never been to this hovel of a city before! He must have seen the look on my face as his brow furrowedwhile he tried to decide how best to proceed. I leaned in and asked him who he thought I was, and this bit of intimidation put the man back on his heels, obviously taken aback by my response when he was so sure he knew me. “It was then that I asked you to come inside.”

At this point Lutien and I entered the building, with light instructions from Galathalas to play along and pretend we were reporting to him something important. We entered and did so, noticing the look on his face and the tension in the shoulders of this ‘Aurin’.

Leaving shortly thereafter, I later learned what had transpired.

“After asking if my goods and the shipping were to my liking, and getting the response he did, he backed off and seemed a bit scared. He seemed honestly concerned that he didn’t have a happy customer – but I don’t know this man! He however seemed quite sure he knew me and that I had been here before, and even ordered something!”

After leaving the building, Lutien and I continued our posts against the wall, watching the beggars milling about the street and seeming quite focused on the doorway and windows where we last saw Ian enter. Little did I know at that point, Ian had snuck out the back of the building after doing business with the shopkeeper, only to be slowly making his way down the street towards us disguised as a beggar himself so as to not drawn further unwanted attention. His ratty cloak was quite convincing, I hardly spared him a second glance deep in the shadows – a failing on my part for sure and one that will one day get me killed if I’m not careful!

Eventually Ian makes it down to where we are, he limps up as if he’s one of the common street urchins and asks us for money. We ignore him so as to not blow his cover while he makes his way across the street into an alleyway. There a small boy sees the (what he thinks is) broken man begging for food and money and takes pity on him. The boy grabs Ian’s hand and places a piece of fruit in it, smiling and looking to his mom for approval. She wastes no time in giving it to him, praising him for his good deeds. As they walk away, Ian quite deftly slips a silver piece into the mother’s pocket without her knowing, her good deed going far from unnoticed by Iantorin.

Galathalas has further tales from inside the shop, he continues on as such –

“After composing myself a bit, I leaned in close to Aurin and told him, ‘we have a problem’… at which point Aurin lifts his face and his voice, yelling to the back room at a female half-elf.
“Ysele, Glancer has returned and he seems agitated with our previous service”, the man says. She gets a very strange look on her face as she tils her head sideways looking at me. She then waves Aurin off, and he seems all too happy to be away from the awkward encounter!"

“She then asks me, “are you masked?” To which I respond that I may be.”

“I see her wiggle her fingers and chant a few syllables, then says confidently that I need not tell her, she can tell that I am not. I explain to her ‘the number are up’, continuing with the same crazy line you mentioned when you came in the door. What did that even mean!? Do we want them up? Who is recording the numbers as they rise and fall?”

“Anyway, I digress; she then asked me which package it is that I was dissatisfied with. I explained to her that I have a lot of business and if I could only see her ledgers I would be able to tell her. She agrees and leads me over to the same book we looked at before, only this time it looks totally different. As she reaches for the book, it unties itself and the book flips open by itself. Inside I see many names, dates, inventory numbers and the like; everything one would expect in a ledger of business transactions."

“I looked through the ledger, trying to find any correlation between myself, this new name they called me by – ‘Glancer -, Johadil or any of the tradesmen or ships we are familiar with.”

“While I perused the book I noticed Ysele move away and speak privately to Aurin off in the corner. I take my time and try to learn all I can while I have access to this book. I find no mention of me or any pseudonym that I’m aware of. I do however find the pattern of Johadil and Elkhart trading companies making shipments to Skullport..then after a while, Johadil shipments stop and only Elkhart remains. That damn Hemil, I just know it!!!”

“Once my study of the book is complete, I used Awakened Mind to send a message to Ysele, taunting her that it was rude to speak of someone while in their presence, but whether she ignored me or the message never made it, I have no idea. I made my way out of the front door, shaken to the core that I apparently had been here before. Was it me? Had I forgotten or been made to forget? Was it someone walking in my skin?? What is real and not real!?”

Galathalas went on and on for a bit, many concerns and theories and eventually went silent. He was obviously deep in thought, concerned about his findings. We all gathered up immediately after and he said, “we’re in trouble…” then explained what he learned.

At the end of his telling, Gal slides down against a wall, seeming to get worse minute by minute. Ian steps up and from beneath his ratty cloak pulls forth an exquisite white fur cloak, the exact size to fit the little humonculous. Gal reaches out to Bellamy through their telepathic link only to find the little construct is no longer on the ship where it was instructed to stay, but at a house beside a large blue skinned woman. There are corpses all around and Gal thinks she is familiar to him. He reaches out.

Gal has Bellamy take flight and come towards us so as to figure out where it was. We decided to go visit this person to see what the deal was.

Making our way back down towards the Fish Market and around the stage where the slaves are sold, the scene is no different than before. To treat others like this is…simply wrong. We may not be able to do much to stop the slave trade entirely – indeed I fear we can but put a dent in it – but we can at least disrupt any mention of that roth dung-eater Hemil and his cohorts!

As we approach the building where Bellamy was at, we notice the poor condition of the shop. No different than most others, but this one is adorned with giant meat hooks hanging from the roof and porch. Several fresh corpses hang there or are piled near the entrance. Pieces of what must have once been live creatures seem to be strewn about, like some unused piece of a puzzle, lost by children and long forgotten. It is a truly gruesome sight to behold, but I have heard of those that use the dead in their duties and hold no beliefs (as you my brothers know!) of needing this body once my ki has left it. The shell can be discarded at will so long as my spirit has flown.

There are also two zombies manacled on the left side of the porch, sitting there as if awaiting a command from whatever master they serve. The name scrawled upon the sign says ‘Mhaugh’s Corner Shop”. A woman with blue skin is standing outside and talking to those that pass near. She seemed to be roasting some type of meat over a brazier. I immediately decide it best not to partake of this meat should it be offered…this is one experience I feel I am ok skipping.

Back behind us we hear the sound again and a “sold!” resonate around the area. I glance to see a group of slaves walking from the stage; a quagoth, minotaur, half-elf and few humans being led away. Next up was a large minotaur by himself who seemed to keep most away with a glance. The bidding seemed to start out higher for that one lone minotaur than the entire group who went before.

Iantorin approaches the proprietor of the shop. She seems to be in good spirits and doesn’t shy away as he comes closer. She’s barely covered, allowing her many curves to spill freely from the worn out rags that she wore. Blood stained her attire and skin alike. She obviously cared little for such concerns and stood tall as he approached.

Ian asks her, “do you buy the dead?” To which she nods and says, “I do. What have you for me today?”

He informs her that he saw a body in Trash Alley earlier today, very fresh. She suggests he bring her this body and she would be happy to negotiate.

He then reveals he is in fact no beggar and she assumes he was being sneaky so as to feel out her price. He quickly informs her that he has no interest in the selling of the dead, he considers the dead sacred. He spits the last line with fervor, letting her know without question that he considers the Undead an abomination.

She informs us that the dead are mostly used for jobs that are harmful to living creatures, jobs that simply could not be done by those that breath air, jobs such as getting the bat guano.

He asks her about what use she has of the Humonculous. She initially seems surprised by this line of questioning, catching her quite off guard. She inquires what he knows of such things. At that point, Galathalas has Bellamy flutter in and land on his own shoulder, drawing the attention of the blue woman. She stares for a moment and then bobs her head in understanding.

“Yes, yes…I know your little friend there. You are acquantances?” She says.
“I believe it knows my sister, I would recognize her work anywhere. She has always been quite the hermit and not nearly as business savvy as myself.” She pauses for a moment and then leans in a bit.

“You would be a fool to accept her hospitality in any way” she opines. Ian assures her that he is and will never be such a fool as that. I can’t help but wonder what surprise might await me for having dealt with such a creature, but I will not waste a moment of worry on what I cannot know.

She says that her interest in the humonculous was only as a messenger. She doesn’t speak to her sister much. Apparently there was some type of communication between them because of or through Bellamy, but to what end and how I do not know. Two guards then approach with dead bodies, yellow burn marks across their abdomen and face. She makes to attend them.

Ian thanks her for her time and we move away, having to once again cross the slaver’s market area.

As we walk through, we notice one well-dressed person buys a slave, only to quickly cut his throat in front of the crowd. It seemed to be for no reason other than to show he could or to get a laugh from his equally well-dressed companions. Seeing this and feeling nauseated by the unnecessary killing, I quickly take note of the shadows behind the man and feel their distance, knowing in a moment how easily I could be behind the man and run my shortsword through his back. As I contemplate my actions, I notice the many guards with him, apparently his entourage, as well as the city guards all around. I clench my fist in agitation as I remind myself the folly of such an emotional response. Wait for the proper time… I hear Grandmaster Glorfinn in my head, “Grain by grain a loan, stone by stone, a castle.”

Gal mentions quietly to us the markings on some of the guard’s hands – The Reforged Ring tattoo. Nodding as I take in his observation, I lean over to pass the word to Ian only to find him focused on intently on the display in front of us. With a subtle mouthing of words, I watch as the murderer for no apparently reason seems to roll onto the ground, getting caught up in his fancy purple robes and impaling himself on his own dagger. He seems to be as confused as everyone around him why he would do such a thing, but the gash is somewhat deep and the guards and his “friends” help pick him up and usher him away, blood flowing from his side. I glance back towards Ian and see a prideful smirk on his face as he watches the ilk stumble away. Ha!

We make our way back up Furlough Street, onto the Trade Way area. Here there seem to be less beggars and more vendors off in the street. We partake of a couple of carts, and enjoy some delicious legs of meat and charred mushroom.

We ask around about how to get to The Mortar and Pestle. The first vendor seems to want us to go to another store, one he swears is much nicer and more evenly priced. “Leech’s Quick Cures” he says. As we walk away, Ian tells us that he has a bad feeling about that idea, feels that maybe it is a setup of sorts, so we disregard the advice and continue on.

After many fine drinks and filling our bellies, we get a head not in an upward direction from a couple of Duergar, indicating our destination lies above. Looking back we see many ways up and make our way in that direction.

Before we get far, a rusty colored Kobold by the name of Snarfenia De Gottago tugs at my clothes, he is offering to help us find whatever it is we need. I tell him our destination and he quickly points us in the right direction, telling us that going through Harold’s Meats is the ideal way above. He seems to be wanting payment of some kind so I gave him two of the copper colored coins that I found in my travels, thinking he would appreciate the color since it was similar to his own. He accepted them but seemed somewhat downtrodden afterward…I know not why.

Once we reach the next level, he points us to the shop we were looking for and Ian flips him a shiny coin to which he immediately brightens up. Interesting…

We then walk through what is known as Central Skullport, and easily make our way to The Mortar and Pestle. Along the walkway, precarious as it is, the Kobold is constantly chattering about other locations we may want to check out. One is called Deep Fires that someone named Sean manages. He says he can be found at the bridge sometimes. Another is the Crowing Cockatric. Ian tells him that for now we’ll start with the shop in sight, the kobold seems happy to go along with whatever Ian says.

Iantorin walks into the shop, a female human greets him. She is just putting a broom away from cleaning up it seems but all too happy to have customers. She seems quite friendly and says that Ruuth is her name. Looking around the establishment, I notice many types of minerals and liquids, some scrolls lined up in the back room, vials of many colors no shelves all around.

I inquire as to what she has to offer, being curious what each color smells and tastes like. She seems somewhat taken about with my appearance, I can’t begin to imagine why. I would think this creature would have seen many Drow just like myself in the depths of Skullport. Either way, I allow her her closer examination and prompt her for a response once she has refocused her attention.

She eventually snaps back to attention and lists for each of us what she has to offer. Hearing of a potion that increases how quickly one can fight and accelerating the senses, I immediately am interested in experiencing this. I ask her how much they cost and she ponders a moment. After pondering a moment, she picks through my outstretched hand of coins and takes several. Seeing many left, I ask if she has more than one of them to which she quickly agrees, handing me a second vial of swirling liquid. I let her pick more coins form my palms and bow to her in thanks. Making my way from the counter, I notice Lutien looking at the potion I bought, so as I pass I nimbly toss a vial behind my back at him. Catching the bottle from the air without thought, he perks up with a smile and a nod of thanks.

Ruuth lists out what she has to offer us, as well as items she’s looking to buy should we run across them. One thing to note is a Powdered Humonculous for which she would pay 10,000 coins and another a Beholder eyestalk.

As I back away from the counter and take up a guard position near the window watching our entrance and exit, I see Galathalas make his way to the counter and unfold some items from his backpack, it would seem to ask her opinion on some items he has picked up over time.

Playfully swirling the liquid around in a somewhat mesmerizing pattern, I looked up to notice a short human walking by the storefront, an interesting tattoo on his neck…it seemed to move on its own! Curious…

View
To Skullport (The City of Skullport)

Everything looks as if it is in a state of deterioration, is falling down or being repaired. Most of the structures are made of scavenged materials. Houses are constructed of wrecks of seagoing vessels, ship windows and hulls can be spotted throughout the streets with ship skeletons being overturned to provide roofing. Masts provide support to the overhanging buildings that look to topple over at any time. Ship rigging connects the assorted twisting catwalks that surround the buildings overhead.

Space is a premium so thing are built upward. Rope bridges and catwalks provide access to buildings carved into stalactites and columns of stone. Moisture rots most rope and wooden planks so travel can be precarious.

Lack of light creates issues with judging time. Yellowed lanterns, glowing pools of fungus and lichen emit a greenish glow, torches, braziers of coal and bioluminescent fish provide just enough light to navigate the streets. Pans of large glowworms aluminate various market streets.

The party notices mineralized birds of prey perched atop support beams throughout the city. It’s unclear if these are merely eroding statutes or once living creatures now encapsulated within an armor of sediment. Regardless they seem oddly disturbing and out of place.

A massive waterclock overlooks the lower trade lanes. It charts the day, months and ten-day along with high sun, midnight, dawn and dusk.

Air enters from the gates of the River Sargauth. A one way portal to the Elemental Plane of Air can also be found in Skullport. Fresh water is gathered from deep wells and from drippings of the cave walls. Food is traded with the surface world. Rothe meat is common. Waste flows to the under halls where much is fed upon by the overly grown creatures that dwell there.

Dozens of humanoid statues can be seen around the various parts of the city. After giving some a closer look, it is apparent that they all have a common characteristic. When viewed head on, the statues seem to be as any other statue or monument. They are of knights, sorcerers or humanoid creatures of note from Skullport’s past. Typical of such structures they have a plaque of some sort briefly identifying to whom the statue resembles or pays homage. But viewing the statue from behind, which can be tricky to do because most are mounted tightly in a corner of the streets, there can be seen another shape carved into the statue. The figures are always of some foreboding image; demons, vicious animals, rotting, torture and the like.

The party also notices that all of the stonework gargoyles atop the city buildings have been blindfolded.

View
To Skullport (Skullport Docks)

1_-_Skullport_Port.png

Once inside Skullport, the party sees several men dressed in prismatic robes standing on opposing plateaus surrounding the ship. Their hands rise as if greeting the arrival of the ship. After a moment the ship slows and lurches forward and side to side as it settles upon the now suddenly rising water. The robed figures seem to be controlling the elevation of the water, locks, waterways and guide the ship through various channels until the ship arrives at Skull Island docks. Along the docks, various races of humanoids scamper to and fro, carrying cargo and escorting prisoners. Drow, humans and duergar intermix and everyone seems to be intent on performing their tasks with accuracy and with haste.

1_-_Skullport_Port_2.png

As your gaze rises to the boardwalks and decks above you see why the creatures below might be moving with purpose. A lank inky attired illithid (Xanier’ous) threatens over the balcony, its garment creeping along the planks as if they have a mind and purpose of their own. Protruding from its drawn hood are several tentacles that snake beneath its inspecting eyes. As your ship approaches the dock the illithid turns and fixates on your ship and crew. You notice a hidden mass behind the illithid lurking under the cover of an enormous joist that holds up an overhanging roof. The mass seems to float behind the illithid and repositions to his side as he moves closer to the ships location. As the mass (Silirink) emerges from the shadows cast down from the Gloam, you see a gigantic sphere with a large eye at its center. The eye is now drawing down upon the ship. Several eye stalks keep their gaze on the boardwalk below, ever scanning the traffic and goings on. It is then that you notice several other smaller orbs floating nearby, moving in an out of the buildings, floating up and down steps and moving around in what seems to be random patterns without purpose.

View
Valrak'shi Journal Entry 16

As I watch, Galathalas kneels down beside the broken body of the female pirate, incanting a spell. The words seem to crawl in and around my mind like a serpent looking to escape a prison, making me feel somewhat sick to my stomach. Ian doesn’t seem to be bothered by the spell, standing stoic behind Galathalas. Perhaps his training prevents him from feeling the snake inside his mind.

I break my attention away from his task and focus on where I can be most helpful. Heading many feet north along the beach, I take up a position out of easy view of the wooded trail, and out of earshot of my companions. The one pirate who got away…he ran this way, and who knows where he headed. Did he run north to alert a contingent of sailors to the battle? Or did he just sprint in the only valid direction that increased his chance of not having a sword through his belly? I stand my guard, preparing for either scenario. Glancing back I see Bellamy take flight and head towards the south. Good I think; it must be keeping an eye on our southerly route. Looking up and towards the cliff I see Lutien knelt down beside an outcropping of rock, arrow knocked and looking towards the sea.

After a time, Ian gives out a low whistle to get our attention and motions that they are ready. I quickly make my way back to them and they fill me in on what Galathalas learned.
He tells us of the questions he asked of her spirit. He warns that each answer should not be taken as complete truth as the spirit is under no obligation to be honest with him. He asked her what the crew of The Harpy was doing on Silt island, to which she responded, “finding materials to fix the ship”. He asked her what lies further inland, to which she had no knowledge. He then asked her how many members were still on the ship, to which she replied “14”. His fourth question was to the whereabouts of the Griffin and its rider. She had no answer for that one…and the last question was to the capabilities of The Harpy to defend itself in the current state of repair. The spirit answered that it was not very capable currently.

After a brief discussion, we all decided the best course of action was to make haste back to our ship to report to the captain what we had found, as instructed. I for one was ready to get out of the sunlight. I know my path lead me Above, but I sometimes wonder if that was the wisest choice. I have learned and seen so much in such a short time, with yet many adventures yet to pen, but the constant beating from above make me question this choice time and time again. But, as the Master has taught, “great things do not come from safe caverns”. I will continue as long as necessary.

We soon make it back to our ship and as far as we could tell, nobody from The Harpy spotted us. Climbing aboard though, Lutien notices something far up in the sky. I raise the oar, still in hand and try to use it to shield the light but cannot see what he has seen. I trust in his ever-reaching eyesight though, far superior in this world above than my own! Shaking off the last of the salt water, I stow the oar in the cockboat and quickly vault upon the ship. Ian and I alert the captain and ballista crew to the possibility of an adversary as the others are climbing aboard.

As the spot comes into view for me, Lutien confirms what his initial guess was; it is indeed the Griffin, circling high above us. Lutien wastes no time in plugging it with a couple of arrows.

One can only assume the Griffin would have eventually attacked, we have no reason to think otherwise, but either way once the Griffin felt the bite of the arrows it began a diving descent.

Off to the side, I hear Ian’s booming voice alerting Offensive Nelson as to the imminent attack. He orders the men to ready the ballista. I can see two people moving the giant device higher in an attempt to sight down the incoming attacker, but the Griffin and rider seem to be aware of the limitations of such a weapon. They come in at a very steep angle, diving nearly straight down and well outside of the arch of the ballista, making them all but useless.

I notice Ian is over near the captain now, and from their body language and a few gestures towards The Harpy I assume he is telling him of what we found out on the shore. The captain springs into action, I can hear him barking out orders to the rest of the crew, motioning towards the straight in front of the enemy ship. Half of it is in a language I can’t even understand; common for sure, but the language of sailors all their own. Looking off to the west I see The Harpy still floating there…

The captain comes strolling over to where the rest of us stand, Ian walking beside him. He tells us, “the tides are such, if we’re going to make a run for the portal down from where The Harpy is anchored, now is the time!” He adds with a ‘harrumph’ towards the ship, “Let’s hope your information is good and they can’t get underway to block us!” He thinks 14 is more than enough to man their ship, but we’re taking advantage of getting a jump on them just in case.

Looking back skyward, we can see the Griffin still diving. We all split up a bit and I take a bit of cover behind the mast. Knowing I’m all but useless at this distance, I patiently await the combatant to be down near my level…I clench my fists routinely focusing my ki for a stunning strike should the opportunity arise.

As I gazed skyward, I finally get a good look at the approaching enemy. As the Griffin continued in a steep dive, the rider stood up, looking obviously Drow even from this distance and you can see his hands moving in a pattern. Before I could even respond, I felt the disorienting effects of a spell take hold. My entire body ached as my arms fell limp to my side, the focus of my ki that was at the ready dissipated and the breath was blown from my lungs as I fell back against the mast to steady myself. I glanced around to see a blackish growth clinging to the deck of the ship, and to everyone anywhere near our location. I look just in time to see Galathalas fall to his side on the deck, covered in the sickly fog that seemed to cling to one like a fungus of death. I see the blood running from his nose and realize that I too had taken a serious blow. Shaking my head to clear it of negative thoughts, I wiped the blood free of my own face and focused on the oncoming enemy. Off to the side I could see Lutien still on his feet and awaiting the approach, and Ian looking little worse for wear as he used his sword to scrape the fungus from his now dulled armor. He has a look of determination on his face as he strolls powerfully over towards where Galathalas has fallen.

When he gets there, he intones a prayer and Galathalas lifts himself up from unconsciousness for a second time today. Gasping for breath like one coming up from below the water, he quickly notices the oncoming Griffin and reactively casts a beam of dark energy at him, followed immediately by a second pulse.

Looking up I see the Griffin and rider falter a bit as the momentum and direction of their dive was interrupted by such a powerful blast. I figured this would be an ideal time to cast Faerie Fire upon both to make them a better target; however the Drow rider shrugged the spell off, obviously used to such tactics.

Lutien draws his bow back for a couple of hits against the rider, causing him to lurch to the side a bit but not seeming to slow his progress.

The rider draws closer and right before my eyes Galathalas disappears in a puff of smoke, only to be replaced by a large hog, wearing the same shirt and cloak as he was. I can’t help but chuckle to myself at the sight, thinking of how boring of a life some choose to live when sights like this await those of courage.

At that moment the Griffin lands roughly on the deck, obviously in error as the blast from Galathalas and shots from Lutien threw them off of their course. I waste no time in approaching the enemy now close at hand. Being closer than I was, Ian gets there first and with a magnificent thrust of his rapier and a booming intonation, I see the glowing rapier pierce through the chest of the Drow, thrusting in and up, cutting through him and exploding through his back. The Drow lifts his head in a silent scream but no words come from his mouth as Ian slides the sword back through his now lifeless body. You can see the gaping wound but oddly enough, no blood pours forth as the cold blue of ice surrounding the wound prevents the geyser from happening. The body falls limp on the Griffin but lists to the side, strapped on tight to the saddle. All of this happens in the few seconds it takes for me to make it to the enemy.

Rushing out I draw my shortsword, swinging wide for a slashing cut, only to be thwarted by an errant rope on the decking! I pivot as I pass the Griffin, barely staying out of reach of those giant claws, turning back for a backhand slash but misjudging my distance, missing yet again! Growling to myself in frustration, I strategically retreat many feet away from the beast and its dangling rider, not wanting to give it an opportunity to attack.

As I rush out of the way, I see Galathalas once again on the deck, the spell apparently broken as the Drow’s life force leaves his body. Galathalas sees what has transpired so close to him, and without a word rushes off and down the stairs to the relative safety of the ship.

The Griffin, no longer being controlled by the Drow, is all too happy to be done with this fight. It takes flight with a powerful push of wings, buffeting the deck as it pumps up into the air. With one final thrust, Ian slashes out and nicks the giant beast, provoking a screech as it flies out of range. Once it gets farther away, Lutien takes a couple of pot-shots but the arrows fly wide.

All of this happened while the captain and crew were quickly readying the ship. Before we know it, we are cutting through the waters and closing the gap in front of The Harpy without any provocation. We can see many people on deck watching us but not one single arrow flew near. Perhaps they saw the fight with the Drow and Griffin and decided it best to pick an easier target.

As we cut through the water, gaining speed, the captain directs the ship towards what looks like a solid wall. We can see another ship that looks to have failed to keep the proper course as a broken mast sticks from below the water off to our side. Right when it seems we would smack into the rock face, the ship passes through unharmed. I have no idea if it was an illusion or a portal, but in just a moment the scene changes.

Looking around, we are in an underground cavern. It is large; the darkness is broken by many types of bioluminescence that reminds me of my many years in the Underdark. There are series of waterways controlled and directed by robed figures upon pedestals around the river. They seem to be the gatekeepers, moving their hands in intricate patterns while their prismatic robes catch the glint of the many varied light sources.

Off in the distance we can see many buildings and structures, built like many cities in the Underdark with various levels from the ground up. Hanging walkways and outcroppings, hollows cut deep into the rock, and many types of buildings that seem to be built by the flotsam of many less fortunate adventurers than ourselves.

The captain is no longer steering the ship, having left the helm to come stand with us as the magic (I would guess) of the system directs the ship directly to the dock they want us to dock in.

Once we stop, a handful of Duergar tie us off. We can see many different races all hustling and bustling around the cavernous city. The Duergar put the planks out from the dock and 3 Drow quickly come aboard, making their way to the captain. We carry on with our duties as we were told but keep an eye on the captain and Drow to make sure all is ok.

Once done with this, Gal, Lutien and I go below deck to check if anything else needs done. We see the crewmates putting shackles on to start the ruse of slavery.

Ian is above deck and I later find out that he was keeping an eye on the surrounding areas. He explains that he watched the slaves and workers and how they seemed to be quite organized. How the series of boardwalks and rope bridges went quite high up, segmenting the city into several different layers. A caste system is common in Skullport we are told. Near the end of his report his voice gets a bit lower, speaking of two mighty creatures he saw overlooking each ship. One, a humanoid figure in a robe that seemed to be alive, with tentacles floating out from under its drawn cowl. A second that started hidden in the dark shadows but eventually came forward, which prompted him to come below deck out of direct sight, a floating eyeball with various floating tentacles surround it. He also noticed many eyes that seemed to be darting around the area, up and down steps, across bridges, never straying too far from the monstrosity but always seemingly watching. I believe I know what these beings are from the stories at the monastery, but I have yet to meet either in my life; and I have to wonder if that is an adventure best left until the end.

We notice after Captain Christopher come out from the Litrelle’s bunk, apparently talking with them about the mission. He informs us that the requirements have changed. Instead of being here for 24 hours, it is required every ship stay for 72 hours. We agree to wait until his task is done before heading off of the ship. We decide to bed down and get some rest, all of us quite exhausted from the recent battles.

Later on that day, or evening – one can hardly tell – we see the captain and shipmates readying their cargo and preparing to leave the ship. The Litrelles and Yen are there also, Yen carrying a large sack on his back.

Looking around, we do not see the two overwatchers Ian told us about. I can’t help but feel that is a good thing.

As we watch others depart, the captain tells us that there’s been a huge disruption in the slave trade. Apparently miners are dying off and they are running out of room to put the bodies. There are new slaves coming in from the surface world but things are happening in the Underdark that are causing bumps in their process, hampering the flow of slaves heading out. We can’t help but wonder if we didn’t see part of this issue in our recent foray into the Underdark. The rulers in Skullport seem to be focusing more on a different kind of mining now, looking for surlow around hotsprings and volcanic areas.

He speaks of a faction in the area, one that is somewhat known to us; The Reforged Ring. We have met them before…the group of would be slavers that we traveled with leaving the Underdark. We have seen them even as far back as the bandit camp when this journey first began. What part do they play in all of this…? It seems their reach is far and wide.
Yen also came by briefly, speaking of a group called the Frenzy Miners. They are a faction that oversees most if not all of the mining in Skullport. They were the ones originally digging for Mithril and valuable ores, but have since given up on profitable veins to pursue the surlow near the volcanic vents as well as deep salt from bat guano far above Skullport.
First mate Hunley is on deck standing next to me, the man seems to be staring intently starboard. I realize at that moment that I have never actually spoken to the man, but have noticed his elegant garb and somewhat cultured appearance. He then makes a comment about the ship next to us being his father’s ship. This strikes me as curious, but what do I know of the ways of seafaring families? Looking more closely at the ship I notice many crates aboard, all with a somewhat familiar marking on them. It takes a moment for me to put the pieces together…but then it comes to me like a kick to the face – that symbol…it’s from the trading company Johadil owned. He was found dead and it all now belongs to Hemil, the traitorous wretch that he is…who sent us to our death in the Underdark – we are sailing with Hemil’s son.

I look to my side as my companions seem to piece this together at the same time. We look at one another with understanding, and back at Hunley Hemil…

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To Skullport (Shore of Silt Island)

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The captain says, “Anchor as though we are staying a lifetime, even if we stay an hour.” After the attack the crew quickly starts on repairs.

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Valrak'shi Journal entry 15

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Brothers, I’m going to start right back up where I left off…Lutien had just shot at the approaching ship and set fire to their bladder…and we learned of a potentially undead griffin and rider that could become a problem…

 

As the ship pulled closer, Lutien continued to assault it with arrow after arrow.  They were unprepared for the might of that bow and the skill of its wielder.  I am amazed one can have such accuracy at such distance.  I stood near the railing of the ship, watching him lift the bow towards the stars at the perfect angle, pulling the string back beyond what seemed possible, and then all you heard was “thwip” as the missile released.  I stared ahead at the ship, counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…and then I see someone near the helm double over, apparently hit from the arrow.  Fascinating!

Galathalas relates to us from Bellamy that the gaunt figure seems to be making ready to mount his Griffin.  After hearing this Gal recalls his minion for fear of the Griffin spotting him. 

I decided to try a bit of diversion by casting a light cantrip off into the water a ways out…anything that can mislead them is a shot, especially since I was completely helpless at this distance. 

The Harpy, which we learned from the captain is the name of this ship quickly approaching, is one of three sister ships that have been harassing people for quite some time.  She is living up to her name with her aggressive stance as she hurtles towards us, lobbing yet another bladder skyward.  I watch it come towards us; with nothing to do but be ready should it land at my feet.  The ship rocks slightly as the bleeding edges drip fire along the back quarterdeck, only to be stomped out quickly by the well-trained crew of The Dripping Wet.  How many more can we get lucky enough to dodge?

As the ship pulls closer, I can make out many men standing at the ready with their long ramps waiting to board us.  Useless!  I want to do something, to fight back, but at this range my martial skills are as useful as a barber at a Thayan council! 

Watching the ship closely, I see many people clambering around the still flaming catapult.  Apparently Lutien’s first shot did its job well…they are cutting their losses and pushing it overboard!

Now that the ship is closer I can make out the gaunt figure mounting his Griffin.  It rears back as he climbs across the back, obviously not too happy to be controlled.  Galathalas must have seen this also because off to my right I hear the sharp incantations of a spell and a burst of light pulses from his outstretched hands.  The beam strikes true and hits the Griffin rider squarely in the chest, thrusting him back from his mount and toppling him overboard.  As the Griffin lurches after him, I notice the spell seems to not have completed, as he stretches a syllable out and ends with a sharp note a second beam blasts from his hands to scream unerringly towards someone manning the nearest ballista.  The purple light was the last thing he saw as this beam utterly tore the man’s head off.  I couldn’t see the details from where I was, but the reaction of everyone around him as they swatted at what I can only guess was a mist of blood showed exactly how hard it hit. 

Ian and I look at each other in appreciation for the hit, but with equal frustration as neither of us have yet been able to really help slow down the oncoming ship.  Ian paces back and forth in obvious frustration and impatience, looking over the rails every few seconds to judge the distance. 

Next I see a ballista bolt let fly from their ship, a huge missile that looks almost slow in its lazy arch as it nears our ship, but devastating nonetheless.  It tears a hole into our forward sail.  The Harpy launches another bladder but it falls short this time, missing the ship altogether. 

Finally our ship launches the ballista towards the Harpy, it flies true and rips a hole in their sails…followed quickly behind with a loud “whoosh” sound as a large spiked ball from our catapult is released.  The missile lands with a crashing sound echoed across the water back to us and we can see the bust in their ship, right above the water line.  No matter the outcome of this fight, even I know that that could be a major problem soon enough!

Now that their archers are within range they shoot a volley towards us.  They looked to be targeting Lutien mostly as they must have deduced he was the one responsible for those longshot attacks.  He has ducked into the crow’s nest though and safely avoids the arrows.  One lands near Galathalas but he also manages to avoid being hit. 

Ian sees this and with a frustrated look upon his face, rushes over to our ballista and moves the man over attempting to ready the weapon.  He must have been new and was having trouble lifting the bolt into place, but Ian with his well-muscled arms from years of battle had no such issues.  He aimed the weapon and let fly a bolt, hoping to hit another sail or tear a hole in the ship I would assume but am surprised to watch as that giant bolt tears directly into the person manning the other ballista.  I can only imagine he felt nothing as a bolt as big as his leg tore through him as if he were an errant spider web blocking a cave entrance…

The ship draws ever closer…and now that I have furthered my studies and have more of a feeling for the shadows, I can feel the ship is close enough for me to engage it. But, I don’t want to fight them alone, that is guaranteed suicide…so I picked a point above them, a lookout landing spot that was covered in shadows, then with a nod to Galathalas in the direction I was headed, disappeared  from the Dripping Wet and appeared on their ship, unbeknownst to them.  I landed and stayed completely still, controlling my breath and movements, focusing on not drawing attention to myself.

I glance down and over the side of my perch to see the many men milling about.  Blood all over the ground from the dead bodies that have fallen, one missing a head entirely, one pinned to the deck with a giant bolt in a macabre gesture as if he’s praying to the stars above in his final moments.  I see another take an arrow to the face, the telltale fletchings of my comrade sticking from his cheek as he falls away screaming.

Holding my position, relying on my skills in stealth to keep me behind enemy lines for an eventual attack, I watch as another beam of energy erupts from our ship.  This one hits the captain in the chest, knocking him prone and away from the ship…and then immediately another blasts forward doing the same to the first mate who was reaching for the wheel.  I contemplate casting Darkness on the area near the wheel where the captain and first mate are, knowing quite well that not being able to see would severely hinder their ability to navigate their ship.  Plus, the utter confusion would only help divide the ship…no reason for them to think anyone is actually aboard. 

As I contemplate this action, I hear yelling from our ship and see the oars retracted inside the ship.  Immediately after large steel rods come out that look to be pointing towards the oncoming ship.  I can only assume this is a tactical move to keep the ship from getting close enough to board…a simple yet elegant response!  Obviously The Dripping Wet is not new to pirate strategies.

After this, The Harpy seems to change its mind and lose all interest in our ship.  I hear yelling below as the captain and first mate are clamoring to get back up and call off the attack.  I think they were expecting an easier target and are now rethinking the assault.  Many people have been slain, their captain knocked on his backside, their Griffin rider nowhere to be found, one catapult down and a large break in their ship… a smart strategic move to push away I think.

That leaves only moments for me to decide though…should I chance the jump back or stay onboard and try to secretly infiltrate the ship?  Knowing my stealth skills, I could possibly do some damage without being caught.  However, once daylight came it would be a bit harder to hide out in the open like this… 

Even though I would have enjoyed the thrill of subterfuge onboard, my chances of survival seem low by myself.  Best to get back to the party for now.  I feel the shadows pulling away, about out of my reach so I make a running jump above the heads of the deckhands below, as silent as a shadow…at the end of my jump I blink out of existence and reappear right outside of The Dripping Wet’s railing, landing with a splash in the water below. 

Startled by the shock of cold, it takes me a moment to re-orient myself but I hear Lutien’s voice yell out as he spots me from on top.  I look to the top of the boat and ride the shadows to the edge, grasping on and pulling myself up and over the edge, gasping for breath as I try to calm my mind. 

Once all have been accounted for everyone bustles to put fires out, replace crew members that were killed in battle or wounded, and several people went around the ship mending tears and breaks.

The captain tells us that he’s going to take a roundabout way near the Shore of the Silt Islands to try and avoid them.  It will add some time to our trip but he feels it’s the best thing to do at this point. 

A while passes and everything seems to be back in order.  We are nearing daybreak, I can feel  the shadows slowly shrinking away from the eventual dawn, but I’m thankful for having them close to me now, feeling much more secure within them. 

The captain eventually calls for a halt, drops anchor and points out to us that there’s a ship far off in the distance.  We can’t hardly make it out because of the distance but Gal’s raven confirms that it is indeed The Harpy.  It also sees a large bird on the ship…assuming it is the Griffin rider and mount that must have made it back out of the water.  The captain thinks they must have made a direct line to the location knowing we’d have to cross by here to get into Skullport as there is no other way in by boat.

The captain asks us if we would check the situation out and suggests maybe taking the small boat onboard to the shore.  We agree and all make our way to the shore and follow it up towards where The Harpy is anchored.  As we draw near, we see multiple people on the sandy beach near two small boats, they appear to be loading lumber, most likely for repairs.  Lutien and Gal decide to take higher ground as Ian and I inch closer, sticking to the side of the cliff face on our left as a bit of cover.  We can also hear the sound of voices off in the distance and the sound of an axe falling on a tree, so we know they’re not alone.

I reach down and grab a bit of the wet sand to rub against my body, with the idea of helping blend in to my surroundings.  Inching forward we can make out the features of the two human men, going about their business, so far oblivious to our presence.  I look over to motion my intent to attack the one on the left but before I can catch Ian’s eye I see the one on the right fall face first into the sand without a sound.  His buddy who was in mid conversation turned to see the commotion and seeing his comrade with an arrow sticking from his head, immediately bolted for the treeline where the sound of chopping can be heard. 

Ian bolts for the runner, closing on him fast but just narrowly missing him before he turns the corner.  I broke out into a sprint as well, just making it around the corner in time to pull my hand crossbow and sink a bolt into the runner’s calf muscle.  He yelled out and started hopping around, but his woodly companions heard his shout and went on the ready.

The closest bandit lifts his bow and shoots an arrow toward me.  Standing up into it, I harness the teachings of Master Glorfinn and snatch the arrow from the air, bringing my knee up to meet my palm and snapping the bolt in two.  I stand my ground and eye the assailant, showing him that I was not impressed. 

Ian steps up and fires a crossbow bolt at one of the other two but narrowly misses as the bandit moves out of the way.  The female in the middle, the one that seems to have barked an order at the other two, she bolted back up into the woods and left the two bandits to fend for themselves.  One bandit lifts his crossbow and complies, the other seeing the leader abandon the fray decides to make a run for it also.

I see an opportunity and shadow step past the first bandit with a bolt in his calf, appearing near the other and slash out with my shortsword.  He attempts to parry with his crossbow but I brought the blade back around in an upward thrust, sneaking in under his upheld arms and gashing his stomach open.  He fell to the ground in a heap.

The fight seems to be over as those that are alive have ran off…so the team gathers back up and I attempt to conceal the bodies a bit back down the beach a bit.

While Ian and I are on the beach conversing about the bodies and fight, Gal and Lutien start making their way down the cliff to the beach where the fighting happened.  Out of nowhere, the woman who seemed to be the leader of the group appears and stabs out at Galathalas.  Catching him by surprise, he fails to see the assault coming and she quickly stabs him repeatedly.  We hear the cry of pain as he falls to the ground, but a blast of fire erupts from him and engulfs her in flame.  She screams in agony as her clothing and hair start to burn.  She is backing away and patting herself out as Ian and I bolt towards the location.

We aren’t quite there when she snuffs the fire out enough to close in on Lutien.  Lutien looks frantic as he attempts to backup and get some range on this devilish assassin, knowing that melee battle is not his chosen form of fighting!  He quickly clicks off an arrow, disarming her of her dagger and sword. 

By then I am able to get close enough to spring to his side, lashing out at her with my sword and scoring a couple of small cuts against her left arm.  She thrusts me back after my final attack and snatches up her weapon and tries to retreat from the group.  Before she gets 20 feet away, Lutien unleashes an arrow that takes her through the back, blowing her forward and onto the sand face down and still.

Running past everyone else, Ian quickly checks if Galathalas can be saved.  Feeling life still within him, he puts his hands upon his chest and a brilliant flash of light flares from his open palms and jolts Galathalas back to life, quite literally lifting his body from the sand for a moment as the healing waves of revitalization rush back into his body, giving him breath again.  Galathalas gasps and sits up, blinking manically and trying to sort out where he is…

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Valrak'shi Journal entry 14

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The day has finally arrived.  It seems many cycles have passed since we landed in Waterdeep.  We each have went our own way to pursue our own endeavors, but we all knew it was a short reprieve from the work needing done.

Skullport.  I know of this place by name…even from the depths of the Underdark, it is commonly known as a slaver’s paradise.  I do not share the same feelings as most of my brethren when it comes to slaves.  People sometimes are used as a means to an end…but to take one’s ability away to be free and experience the world, that is altogether abhorrent.

Our contact told us of a ship called “The Dripping Wet” which would be able to take us to Skullport.  We wasted no time in heading towards the Dock Ward where the ship is said to be moored.

We raise a few looks as we make our way along the dock, asking any and all as to the whereabouts of the ship of said name, when finally we come across a large ship tied up.  Upon the ship we see much activity.  A dwarf that looks to have seen many days under the ocean sun seems to be directing the crew; barking out orders constantly – orders that are being obeyed without question.

As we make our way closer, we can see the many crates upon the port side.  I cannot make out the words but they appear to be in some form of Elvish.

Galathalas approaches the person he deems the captain, walking up to him as if he knows the man by name.  He quickly explains to the ‘captain’ that we are looking for passage to Skullport and he instructs us to “get in line”.

We are then shoulder-to-shoulder with several others who are also seeking passage on the ship, for one reason or another.  The man in charge quickly runs through the does and don’ts of the ship, should we be allowed on.  He explains that they’re hiring a temporary crew, it’s a 10 day trip with the possibility of becoming permanent should they like what they see.  Thinking of our group, I can’t help but grin to myself…we will either win them over, or make new enemies, but it’s sure to be an interesting ride.

Ian lets the man know that we are interested in being passengers, but don’t mind helping out a bit as well.  The captain peers over from the top deck down to where the surly dwarf is speaking, motioning for him to send us up.

As we approach, it is easy to take the measure of the man before me.  He carries himself with dignity, a straight back and strong weathered arms that are not used to a sedentary life.  He is at least a foot taller than others on his ship with a brown cloak adorning his shoulders.  His eyes express the image of a man used to being listened to and his deep booming voice only reinforces that thought. 

Gal bows to him, the captain seems to be taken aback for a moment but quickly rights his thoughts.  We explain to him that we are seeking passage to Skullport and the word on the street is that his ship can get us there.  He does not seemed quite pleased that we know this and under his breath mumbles something about “that Pealittle…”  The look upon his face fades though as he takes in our group.  Oddly matched we may be, but we each warrant a second look in our own right.  Ian with his stoic demeanor and shining armor, well-worn sword at the ready.  Galathalas with his unusual movements, twitching from time to time almost as if he’s constantly having an inner monologue, but his dark eyes are quick to dart to the slightest movement as his fingers twitch in anticipation.  Me, a Drow, not typically a welcome sight to most surface dwellers, standing off to the side seemingly to blend into the surrounding shadows.  Then there’s Lutien, he seems the most normal of the group, but his many oddly etched arrows and that marvelous bow indicate he’s more than he seems.

The captain lets us know that there is a mandatory 24 hour waiting period once he gets to Skullport, and Galathalas assure him all we need is to get near enough to hop the ship.

After speaking to the captain, we make our way around the ship to speak to Quartermaster O’Doul and Offensive Nelson, they’re to fill us in on our duties while aboard ship.  Along the way I can’t help but notice how tidy and clean the ship is…is this normal for such a ship?  I have to admit, I have very little experience aboard a ship this size, but I always imagined it being a bit…dirtier.  I did notice their defenses though, two ballista and a catapult in easy view…and at least one small boat secured to the deck as well.

Lutien and I agree to help keep a lookout in the crow’s nest, while Gal takes on some guard duties and Ian is asked to stick closely to Nelson. 

Soon after we get our duties and see our quarters, we meet many of the crew, as well as two large mastiffs that belong to Nelson.  Gal mentions to Nelson he had a dog named Persimmon, or Persephone…he doesn’t seem to remember exactly what the name was, and I’m at a loss as I have not seen  such a dog since knowing the man. 

The following day, we left out of the dock area, feeling the winds on our face and the smell of salt in the air.  This will be my first real journey aboard a ship this size and I look forward to what it holds!  On the way out, we notice another large ship coming in that looks to be battle-weary; blackened sails and damaged decking… I notice the Captain staring intently at the ship, obviously making note of the kind of trouble we may face.  However, is that not the way of a warrior anywhere?  Be it above ground, below or on the open sea?

Once we are clear from the dock and out on the open waters, the sails are changed, the crew members running back and forth, captain barking orders and the sails catch a strong wind, causing the entire ship to lurch forward in a rush.  We hit the initial waves that are choppier near the coast, the spray blasting up into my face many times as the ship speeds towards calmer waters.  It is quite an amazing feeling, I must say!  My brothers, any who are reading this, I would encourage you to make the journey to the surface simply to witness it yourself.

Lutien took the first lookout in the crow’s nest, so I decided to check out the rest of the ship.  On the below deck, I met a man named Yen.  He moves in a somewhat rhythmic way, not unlike the company he keeps; a beautiful tiger of no small size.  I am fascinated by this beast!  I have seen other large cats, but never an actual tiger and never this close.  Yen wears robes and his face is somewhat drawn and calm, with a different look than most humans I have seen.  I introduced myself to him and he was quite friendly, speaking softly of his beliefs in his deity and his desire to please them. 

Looking around the room, I see many instruments used for working out, many things that lead me to believe this man also has some martial training.  I express to him my desire to learn more as I venture through this life and he offers up a few of the exercises he practices to keep his mind, body and spirit all in tune.

Afterward he offers for me to feed his tiger, to which I agree of course…an opportunity not to be missed!  I speak of myself a bit, of my basic training and beliefs in this existence, but I do not speak of details he need not know…the reward for those who find the secrets is the journey itself.  He shows me a couple of ornate tomes he has on a shelf, they’re quite pretty and seem old…but I cannot read them and he offers up no information as to their contents, but I can tell they are important to him.  Looking at his face, he seems quite content, but I have to wonder why he is here.  Is he a slave somehow?  There are no shackles…and I can’t imagine somebody keeping one such as himself slave for long, especially with his pet tiger.  A passenger then I guess, traveling home with the tomes for one reason or another. Maybe another day we can speak further on it, but I left soon after to prepare for my duties.

Above deck, I hear Ian and Nelson speaking as to the dangers on the ocean.  Nelson indicates that it is always dangerous, but looking around at the ship with pride he also adds, “but the ship always comes out better for it.”

I make my way across the deck carefully, feeling the ebb and flow of the ship as I re-center myself.  I climb up to relieve Lutien but he asks to stay on just a bit longer.  I believe the look on his face would be called ‘elation’.  He seems to be at peace up there, perched like a bird upon a tree, with no solid rock over his head and a full range of distance around him. 

I nod my understanding and tumble back down to the deck, rolling up into a handspring and landing on the balls of my feet many feet away.  Looking around I decide to see what Galathalas is up to and make my way towards the captain’s location. 

When I get there, I just catch the end of a conversation apparently, the captain is saying, “…the sea drives truth into a man like salt” as he looks away and into the ocean.  This strikes a chord in Gal for some reason, I can see his whole body go tense and he apparently processes this information, his hands flexing almost uncontrollably.

Later on that day, Galathalas notices some shackles aboard.  This seems to bother him greatly and I encouraged him to speak to Ian on it before jumping to conclusions about the ship.  We have had no indications so far that this ship is a slaver ship.  Ian agrees it is best to get more information before making a hasty judgment, so he confronts Nelson.

Nelson assures us that they are not slavers; they only do this as a façade to trick the inhabitants of Skullport.  Once they are near, they have their own crew lock themselves up so that it appears to be a slaver ship, but they are in fact only blending in.  I can appreciate their move…

Nelson suggests we speak to the captain to help alleviate any doubts, so he hands us off to him.  The captain asks us to follow him to his quarters and once we are inside, pours everyone a drink from a dusty container on his desk.  He sits down and looks at each of us in turn before turning to Galathalas who seems the most troubled by the potential of slavery. 

“It appears that rumors run rampant”, he states.  “There seems to be little use in keeping secrets from this group as you have the air of those that don’t let secrets lie”. 

He explains to us that the two passengers that are on the ship, two that apparently Gal already ran into, they are trying to get some relatives back.  They have tried gold but it did not work, so now they are trying to trade some special tomes.  This is all a farce just to help them retrieve some family members.  Towards the end of his story, the captain turns a bit to shield himself from me and turns his arm towards Gal.  I have no idea what was done because I could not see, but afterward Galathalas seemed to be much more relaxed. 

Afterward we headed back topiside and Lutien was asking about using some flotsam or driftwood as target practice, to which the captain agreed.

By now we are at the end of our second day on the open seas, it has been a wonderful experience so far and has given us all a small respite to reflect, but the calm has come to an end.  That night as Lutien is perched upon the crow’s nest, he whistles down to get our attention.

He indicates a ship approaching and our ship quickly transforms from a peaceful journey to preparing for battle.  Nelson started barking out orders as the captain rings the bells…the shipmates all know what to do.

As the ship approaches, Gal sends Bellamy out to scout.  He reports back the flag that is being flown, one our captain knows of by reputation.  A pirate ship known to these parts to not take prisoners.  We can see little points of fire which are most likely arrows awaiting flight to our sails. 

As their ship gets a bit closer, Lutien looses arrows from his amazing bow, setting one of their bladders on fire that was being prepared for the catapult.  The other bladder they successfully get loosed but it overshoots us.  We can barely see their crew putting out the fire on the catapult that was set on fire.

We cannot quite make out the person from this distance, but Bellamy relates to us a gaunt figure, pale and shirtless near a Griffin that from the sound of it, may have been thrust into undeath.  I find this exciting as I have yet to see one of these as well.  I wonder what its feathers feel like…?

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To Skullport (The Harpy Attacks)

Ship-Flag---The-Harpy.png

The winds have eased off over the night. The ship enjoys smoother waters, easing the stomachs and heads of many of the less seasoned crew. Those still up enjoy moments of reflection and rest. The moon lights the way west as if inviting the ship forward.

As the crew enjoys a late snack of salted pork and mead a crewman in the forward crow’s nest unexpectedly yells out. “Ship off the Starboard port bow. Moving ahead.” The crew direct their attention southwest and can just make out the silhouette of a ship lite by the moon behind it. Crew quickly move below deck to alert others who are bunked. The Captain rings a tethered bell, alerting anyone not woke by the crews efforts.

Crew rush to the catapult and ballista’s. Some take up bows and others climb the masts to get a higher view. And then silence. The anticipation washes over everyone as crew exchange glances as if the answer is held in the eyes of their crewmates.

As the unknown ship draws closer it is apparent that they are either drunk at the helm or purposely approaching the ship. The captain yells, “Ready for attack men, the sea once again tests our resolve.”

As the ships become closer, small bursts of fire can be seen on deck of the unknown ship.

Bellamy flys out toward the unknown ship and can see bladders being loaded on catapults. It also observes the flag and Offensive Nelson recognises it as The Harpy, one of three pirate ships under the flag.

Lutien targets the bladders and is able to open one and ignite it. The other is fired but misses the ship. The ships crew is reloading for another attack as the ship draws within ballista range (450’)

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To Skullport (Ocean Voyage)

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The harbor lay still and silent as the sound of the oars slide out from the portholes and dig into the surface of the water. They pry the ship away from the dock and the crew’s faces change almost immediately with the sudden realization that the future is once again unknown. The ship makes its’ way to the middle of the bay as crew make ready the sails.

As the ship passes the watch towers, both a red and white signal flags are raised, alerting all that the ship is cleared to pass. The ship reaches the end of the harbor and a trade wind along the coast starts gently, without gusts – a huge current of air that slowly begins to move with ever increasing strength as the ship peaks out from the cliffs and stone walls. Suddenly everything comes to life. Spirits rise as the sails fill, the boat heels slightly and moves faster ahead. The crew moves feverishly, tying off lines and setting rigging.

The almost oppressive silence gives way to the sound of the bow cutting through the water. Gone is the sea’s glassy surface, and with it the terrible mornings glare. You hear the Captain cry out, “Close off the hatches and ports, we are home again, bring me the horizon!”

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To Skullport (The Drippin Wet)
A new family.

Ship-Flag---Drippin-Wet-aka-Endless-Tear.png

Once aboard the ship the party can tell this particular ship seems very well maintained. The hull, riggings, mast and sails look almost new. Gear and supplies are neatly organized and secured both above and below deck. Two large masts loom high above you. As you gaze skyward you observe several crew working on riggings and sails high above the deck as if unaware of the certain death below should they lose their grip.

A medium catapult sits upon the forward facing quarterdeck and two ballistas upon the forecastle deck to the rear, along with a small cockboat. Another cockboat is secured to the center main deck.

After a time Waterdeep’s City Guard and Inspectors arrive to inspect the ship before allowed to leave harbor. They will examine supplies, provisions, sails and crew before attaching a sealed inspection document to the main mast which includes what colors to raise on the way out of the harbor. If those colors are not raised the ship will be stopped by whatever means necessary.

As the crew and the party prepare to set sail, the you spot a large vessel entering port. The ship shows obvious signs of major damage even from a fair distance. Two of the masts are blackened and several sails are burnt beyond usefulness. From the crows-nest Lutien can see about a dozen masses covered with blackened and blood stained sails on the main deck.

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