D&D 5E: The Road Not Taken

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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