Departure day came for the Dashing Stag, and all was in readiness. With passengers aboard and the last of the supplies carefully stowed below, the sleek ship slipped her moorings and headed out of Bartertown. The great city was soon left far behind, with the countryside speeding past far below. The first day was uneventful, and Dremnin enjoyed his post at the helm as they followed the course he had laid out for them. At the end of the first day, the ship settled into her anchors for the night, and the guards had no experiences throughout the entire night.
The next morning, the ship’s crew was up early and had her under way at dawn, so as to make the most of daylight that second day. The ship coasted along with following winds to cross the old Theran Road and continue on to the end of the mountain range. Here she turned north to skirt the western edge of the forest, and during the entire period sailing in close proximity to the vast woodlands, no forest creatures arose to challenge the ship as she passed. By late afternoon they had entered the old canyon that cut through the mountains, and about half way through the pass a sudden, violent storm arose which buffeted the ship about with high, changing winds and blinding sheets of rain. In spite of having sent observers forward to advise him of treacherous rocks ahead, the winds pitched the new navigator about and he inadvertently swung the ship in towards a rocky pinnacle that threatened to lay the ship’s beam open from stem to stern.
The sudden intervention of captain Stilicho caused the helm to be put hard to lee, saving their vessel from the rocks, but pitching her around so that her deck slanted down and off into the gloom of the storm. The line on a lower spar snapped at the extra strain put upon it, causing the boom to swing suddenly and freely across the deck. This caused crewmen to duck out of the way while still trying to save themselves from being lost overboard. Alas, captain Stilicho and the Unchained’s young troubadour, Suulin, both lost their footing and began to fall over board. Seeing the tragedy unfolding in front of him, Dremnin leap to the rail on the ship and grabbed a loose line of stout rope. As he moved forward he quickly wrapped the line around his waist and then disappeared over the railing. Thinking they had lost three of the core members of the group, Master Scout Quinn took the helm and steadied the Dashing Stag, bring her back on an even keel. When the crew looked overboard to see if they might spot what had become of their three comrades, what met their eyes was nothing less than astonishing.
There dangling from the unsecured line was Dremnin, holding Stilicho in one arm and Suulin in the other. His face was contorted in pain from the weight of the captain in full plate armor and the line cutting into his midsection. The crew made haste to throw lines over to the captain and the troubadour, while hauling a distressed Dremnin aboard. It was nothing short of miraculous, but alas it was not enough, as it was learned that one of the new deckhands had fallen overboard at some point, a young woman named Veranda. With Quinn at the helm to steady the ship on course, and Dremnin resting on deck to watch and learn, they made it through the rest of the pass and held on station while waiting for the storm to abate. When the winds died down, the vessel put about and retraced her course to locate the remains of their fallen crewman. And indeed a flash of metal below marked the location where she landed. She was taken aboard with care, and the ship again turned about and made for the safety of the plains.
It was near dusk when the Dashing Stag found a safe nitch in the mountainside and set her anchors for the night. The crew built a Cairn for the crewman’s body, and Quorra advised the captain on some fine words to say over her. This spot was marked on the map as Veranda’s Cairn.
In the morning the ship’s crew was up early as usual, and she was under way at dawn on the final leg of the voyage to Haven. The day passed uneventfully, and at dusk the ship pulled into the dock at Haven, mooring to a tall dock holding only one other ship. As her mooring lines were made fast, a large troll came up to the ship and called for the captain. Stilicho answered the call from the impressive troll who turned out to be the Harbor Master, named Sealak, and after a few questions, Stilicho permitted the dock master and his assistants to come aboard for a brief inspection. After the payment of a tax of 20 silver, he pointed out the nearest inn and the warehouse of the town’s mayor. Mayor Torgak, he stated, was even bigger than he himself was, and would be easy to spot.
The monastic passengers they carried, led by the ork Roinak, soon agreed with Stilicho that they should get out at Haven and walk into Parlainth. They said they would be back in four days, and would meet the ship here at the docks where they were disembarked. They quietly slipped into the darkening skies as night fell upon the town.
The Unchained soon left the ship for a trek in to visit the inn and look up the mayor, to whom Urgral was tasked to seek out for delivery of a letter. Once in the inn, our heroes found a table next to a huge troll sitting in a chair, leaning back to rest on the wall next to the fireplace. He took no notice of the newcomers and continued to puff on his pipe. The Unchained sat down and ordered drinks, including one for Torgak. The Unchained drank dwarven stout, except for Skram who ordered a fine wine, with Urgral picking up the considerable tab. He even ordered a drink for the mayor, but just as it was delivered, the giant troll got up and made his way out past the Unchained. In route, he dropped a small piece of paper next to the table where Urgral sat. When he read it, Urgral passed it around, and it informed the heroes to come to meet him at his warehouse.
It was a short walk to the warehouse, with Skram and Suulin hanging back to see if they were being followed. When they saw that it was clear, they started to make for the warehouse but spied a shadow moving quickly in a dark alley. When they looked for it again, it was gone. So they joined their companions at the door. A large ork admitted them to an awaiting mayor, who thanked them for coming. Urgral delivered his message and Torgak said that there had been 12 murders in the past 30 days, with the murderer leaving bloody symbols at each scene. Several questions passed his way, which he answered clearly, and ended by stating that he was no longer sure of his own people. He soon had to leave, but first stated that they should only contact him again as a last ditch action. He then had the ork let them out, after promising to have copies of the writings sent to the Unchained’s ship that night. Skram suggested they carry an empty crate back to the ship, as though we had met to make a secret purchase. A clever cover story, which took them back to the ship.
Later that night, the drawings arrived and were examined. It was concluded that they were crude, unintelligible, written in blood and made by small hands. Perhaps more could be learned the following day, so the ship settled in for the night. The night passed quietly… and still.