D&D 5E: The Road Not Taken

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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