The Westgate Campaign Chronicles - serial


Slaver Isle

Returning to the Vulture's Roost, Darrow, Shanni and Dermot ancily waited for their companions to arrive in the common room. Aerikoth descended and joined them first, his studies completed. A while later Rahnee entered, stamping the snow from her boots. She informed them that during her visit to the headquarters of the Order of Kainen, she had received a polite reception, but had learned little of substance. Darrrow, Shanni and Dermot then explained about the "job" they had been able to obtain via Barzog's introduction. Dermot described their new "employers" as having dodgy shipping, guards looking the other way, and their fingers in local government. He also confirmed that they used the Astorians' mark.

After some light banter to lift their spirits - from everyone except Aerikoth - the companions finalized their preparations for leaving the inn, retrieving their necessary gear and in Dermot's case asking the bartender to refill his hip flask. They rapidly made their way through the cold night to the northern docks, where Red Ortho was waiting for them impatiently. The first mate of The Blind Man was pleased enough, however, to receive the Astorians token from Shanni and 100 gold from Darrow. (This must have been contributed by the dwarf in place of the gold the adventurers had been asked to "acquire" from the councilman, along with the token. It seems that they have invested a goodly sum in their quest already, certainly more than the rewards received. I do not believe this is typical behavior for adventuring companies. --C)

Red Ortho then explained the rules of the ship to the adventurers, which were simple enough. They were to put themselves up in the cabins, selecting two of them for the group. They were also welcome to gamble with "the boys" in the common cabin spaces if they liked. The group was not to show themselves on deck until the ship made landfall or unless called for. They were also ordered to stay out of the hold, unless someone called them there, which would not happen until after they picked up the "shipment" if at all. Dermot Kenner asked if they would be out at sea long, to which Red Ortho replied that they should be at their destination around sunup.

Per their instructions, the five companions headed for the cabins, which at least were warmer than the outside air. There, they were warmly greeted by Pincer, the head of the ship's guards, and introductions were made. A number of guards were either sleeping or conversing in low tones in the main cabin area, with a bunch of bedrolls close to the wall by the entry door. Pincer mentioned that additional guards were in the ship's hold, cleaning up, and clued them into the fact that Red Ortho actually ran the ship, with the captain just doing the sailing.

Pincer had already heard of Darrow, as the dwarf's recently-acquired fame as a pit fighter in Starmantle proceeded him, and he eagerly asked the dwarf about the fights. The two then chatted about Darrow's experiences, Pincer's enthusiasm being evident, along with his disappointment at having missed seeing the fights. Darrow casually mentioned that they had not received much detail about their current job, leading Pincer to explain that the adventurers were there in case "something heavy" came their way; they made good profits, so hiring a little insurance made sense. Pincer then inquired what they had done for Red Ortho in order to get hired, which Shanni and Rahnee deflected without truly answering.

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After The Blind Man got underway, the companions picked two of the available cabins, conversing among themselves about their situation prior to going to sleep. The ship kept on a steady course during the night and the companions were up around dawn on Alturiak 30. Shanni was the first to brave the main cabin, quietly moving past a sleeping rank of guards and then striking up a conversation with the guard on duty by the door.

Once Shanni had finished getting what she could out of the guard, she returned to her cabin and checked on Rahnee, who was apparently seasick. After a while, sounds of activity were heard from the cabin deck. Shanni, Darrow and Dermot came out of their respective cabins to see a group of guards moving out, with their overseer commenting that the hold wouldn’t finish cleaning itself. Aerikoth meanwhile remained in his room to study, unconcerned about the guards’ activity.

The other three briefly went up on the deck, observed a pair of half-orc guards, then retreated to the men’s cabin to discuss things privately, leaving Rahnee to privately moan and groan. Shanni mentioned that she had not been able to obtain much more detail about the ship’s “cargo” from her earlier conversation, as the guard had become suspicious of her questions. Hearing some muffled voices outside, Darrow put his ear to the door and relayed that the talk was about the ship arriving at an island in two hours, where their cargo would be picked up.

After some further discussion, the group was hungry enough to go see what was for breakfast, announced by a thud and some cursing. Pincer by then had joined the two half-orc guards, who were now manning a cauldron filled with food looking vaguely like oatmeal. He helpfully pointed out that the food was at least well-cooked, with nothing possibly being alive in it. Shanni, apparently both the hungriest and bravest, tentatively tasted a bowl of the glop, then shrugged and finished it off. Dermot and Darrow then followed her lead.

As soon as they had finished their food, the larger of the two half-orc guards, called One-Eye, asked Darrow if he was a gambler. Having heard of Darrow’s reputation as a brawler, One-Eye challenged him to a fight, with fifty gold as the stakes. Darrow, not being one to turn down a good fight - or a bad one, for that matter - deposited his stake with Dermot and stripped himself of weapons and armor, as did One-Eye, under Pincer’s supervision. Aerikoth emerged from his cabin and stood at the door, watching the two prepare.

With the rules being simple - no killing, no leaving the deck’s open space, and the last one standing wins - Darrow and One-Eye got to it, after exchanging some verbal barbs. The scarred half-orc had the swagger of a veteran and after planting his feet, got in a vicious right hook to Darrow’s jaw, snapping the dwarf’s head back. Darrow shrugged it off, however, and then stepped in to start pummeling the half-orc’s torso. One-Eye could not keep up with the flurry of blows and Darrow laid him on the floor with a blow to the head. The half-orc struggled up for a moment, but then his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he fell back down.

Darrow collected his winnings as One-Eye’s companions revived him. Pincer was suitably impressed by Darrow’s fighting prowess, commenting that this was why he thought it was good to hire “specialists”. Shanni pulled out a handkerchief to dab at Darrow’s cuts. Pincer was noncommittal in response to a question from Dermot about their jobs, saying he would return later with their orders.


In order to pass the time, Dermot suggested a bit of storytelling, as both he and Shanni were interested about how the adventuring group known as “Helm’s Shadows” had originally got together. Aerikoth and Darrow took turns talking about their adventures, explaining how they had first joined the group and describing the different enemies and encounters they had together. Aerikoth’s story focused on the group’s discovery of and struggle against the ancient lich Ashnakzeroth, while Darrow’s tale featured their descent into the Clan Ironhelm Deep Delves and the recovery of the clan’s legendary axe, named Haelgrim, which Darrow bore.

As Darrow finished his tale, Aerikoth excused himself and went into the cabin he was using in order to study his spellbooks, shutting the door behind him. Rahnee then staggered out of her cabin, looking pale and complaining that the grog Darrow had given her must have been off, because she does not get seasick. The dwarf in response just shrugged and pithily observed that “Sometimes ye get th' troll, sometimes th' troll gets ye.”

Pincer arrived and invited the group to come up on the main deck, although he had no intention of bothering the wizard at his studies. Shanni and Rahnee leapt at the chance of getting some fresh air and were followed up to the deck by Darrow and Dermot. The dwarf expressed his amazement at the amount of water visible, as Pincer pointed out that their island destination was visible at a distance off the starboard bow, through the fog. Dermot briefly disappeared down the ladder to the hold area, but was observed by Pincer, who called Dermot back immediately, advising him not to try the captain’s patience, since the hold was off limits.

After the group had a chance to catch their breaths and adapt to the movement of the ship, Red Ortho clambered up from below deck. He said they were more or less on schedule to land at their “resupply island” in two hours. He described how the ship captain would need to time the tide and then beach the ship in some soft sand by the island, there being no pier or other facilities for the ship to dock. Shanni questioned whether that would harm the ship, but Red Ortho reassured her that it would not, if done right.

Red Ortho then moved on to describe the situation they would face. He related how the last time the ship had been at the island, they had encountered problems on land. Three of their camp guards had disappeared at night, with no sign of a struggle or anything else that had happened to them. Dermot threw in a jest about giant tortoises, but Red Ortho was not amused. He added that some of “the boys” had felt something cold during the night, but that was all; he noted that the island was not very big. When Rahnee incredulously questioned how three men could have simply disappeared from camp, Red Ortho cursed and said that was why the adventurers had been hired, to tackle the problem.

Following some additional questions about the island and the three guards’ disappearances, during which it was spelled out to Shanni that the ship was run by slavers, the four fell to discussing what could have been responsible, with speculation running from invisible dragons to shades. Some color commentary was also provided by One-Eye, who came up from below decks to puke his guts out at the ship’s rail, one of the lingering results of his fight with Darrow.

Pincer at this point came up on deck and offered to show Darrow something in his cabin. After several minutes, the dwarf returned and casually motioned his companions over where they could speak privately. Whispering, Darrow told them that Pincer had provided some additional information on the incident with the guards. Apparently two of them had decided to take a girl from the slave pen and had gone off with her into the night. Later, however, the girl had returned alone and screaming, unable to say to anyone what had happened. Despite the guards being doubled, another one of them also disappeared. The four companions considered the ramifications of this, speculating that a desire for revenge might be behind the actions. (Pincer privately volunteering this information is an indication that not all the slavers are necessarily alike in their depravity, although you will have to judge for yourself whether justice is served in the end. --R)


After The Blind Man had been successfully beached near shore by the captain, Aerikoth came up on deck to observe the results. Rahnee decided to remain on board to try and investigate further on the ship, while the others debarked for the island. Aerikoth, Darrow, Shanni and Dermot were rowed the short distance to shore, with Pincer and a number of guards following.

Even though by now it was mid-morning, the fog remained thick. The four started exploring the immediate vicinity, with Darrow filling in Aerikoth about the additional information the others had obtained on the circumstances of the guards’ disappearances. Dermot observed what looked like an underground stream relatively near the shore, otherwise the area was unremarkable.

After moving some distance away, the four ran across a slave pen and a couple of bored guards. The slavers were willing enough to answer questions, but were of little help. The slaves appeared listless and Darrow noted that one in the corner appeared to be dead. One of the female prisoners, seeing Shanni observing them, wandered over and spoke to her in a low voice, but then moved on. As the four companions walked away, Shanni mentioned that the prisoner had asked if they were going to help. (I can only imagine the desperation felt by those poor souls, held captive in a slave pen on an island with no real hope of escape, and willing to grasp at any possibility of assistance that comes their way. --C)

The four retraced their path to the underground stream, debating on the way how they could best deal with the situation. While the others were still talking, Dermot unstrung his bow and handed it to Darrow, then took off his cloak and boots and waded into the deep pool at the head of the stream, his head quickly disappearing. After a few short but anxious minutes, Dermot re-emerged, spluttering water, to explain that there was a cavern on the other side. Although he had no light to tell how large it was, he said that by the air movement it felt like a large space. Dermot had thought to affix a rope on the other side, which would help their passage through the water-filled tunnel.

Aerikoth offered to cast a light spell on Dermot, who after consulting with Darrow asked the wizard to enchant a dagger. Aerikoth took the dagger from Dermot, spoke a short word activating the light spell, then handed it back. Dermot then quickly plunged back into the water, with Shanni following him as soon as she divested herself of her own boots and cloak. After a much longer period of time than before, Dermot reappeared, followed by Shanni. He explained that the cavern extended for a long way and they had found signs that someone man-sized had been sleeping there. They also had found three sets of humanoid remains, along with some dead birds. Since further investigation was obviously needed, Darrow relieved himself of his armor and other encumbrances, at Shanni’s suggestion putting them in a sack and tying it to the rope. The four then entered the pool, one by one, with Aerikoth bringing up the rear.

Once all had emerged into the underground cavern, somewhat tired from the effort, it took them several tries to pull the rope and its attached burden to them while fighting the current. After Darrow and Shanni had re-equipped themselves, the group advanced into the cavern’s gloom. Dermot led them back to see the space at the end, where whoever (or whatever) had slept there had a mat on the floor, also passing the skeletal humanoid remains and bird carcasses.

Returning back along the cavern floor, Dermot thought he heard something, off in the dark. Shanni and Darrow then quietly said they had heard a hissing sound. Dermot drew his sword, the sound echoing off the nearby stone. Aerikoth waited silently while the others attempted to greet whatever was in the darkness. After a pause, a voice whispered, "Do you come to kill me?" Strangely, it did not sound upset at the prospect.

The four adventurers strained to hear more and Darrow lit a torch to try and see what was out there, but the voice had fallen silent and nothing could be seen. Eventually, Aerikoth declared that he would return to the ship and inform Rahnee of what had happened; he also needed to tend to his familiar and begin some spell preparations.


Some minutes after the wizard had left, the others thought they heard something again, in the dark. Shanni advised Darrow to keep any light source doused, in order not to frighten away whatever it was. The voice in the dark suddenly began speaking again, asking if the adventurers would help it. In response to a question from Shanni, it explained - only partly coherently - that the slaves were its friends and that it was satisfied with the “bad men”. It described what had happened to it with a series of word images: movement, fear, blood, pain. After this terrifying experience, it had awoken in the dark, with a desire to hurt the bad men.

The voice continued, saying that there was one in the slave pen with whom he had felt a connection. Before disappearing, the voice asked them to return that night. Shanni, Dermot and Darrow were somewhat taken aback by what appeared to be an offer of assistance against the slavers, not knowing what to think of the offer or whoever was behind it. As they made their way back through the cavern, they encountered a sopping wet Rahnee, who had found the underground stream entrance per Aerikoth’s instructions, and filled her in.

The four then made their way to the slave pen, to see if they could identify the person of whom the voice had spoken. Once there, Dermot alertly spotted a male prisoner with his hands tied behind his back who had not been visible before. One of the guards ordered the man, a wizard called Kain Graves, to come to the fence and share anything of use that he knew with the adventurers. The two guards on duty, stomachs rumbling, then asked the adventurers if they would stand watch while the two got some lunch. Darrow was happy to agree to the idea on behalf of the group.

Under questioning, Kain revealed that he had special knowledge of the undead, thanks to coming from a family of necromancers. He explained that he had been on his way to Candlekeep when he had been drugged and captured after spending the night at an inn. Shanni empathized with his situation. Kain mentioned that he had tried to come up with an escape plan, but one of the half-orc guards had taken his magic gem, which contained his familiar’s sleeping place.

The four were satisfied that Kain was the one they were looking for, although they were split on how best to take him with them. Rahnee advocated simply spiriting him away, while Shanni thought it more prudent to ask permission of the slavers. Darrow agreed and volunteered to do the asking. When the two guards returned from lunch, he approached them and explained that the group wanted to use Kain as bait for whatever was hunting the slavers and would pay them back if he were damaged. The guards had no problem with this arrangement. A dark-haired female prisoner, the same one who had talked to Shanni before, walked up to Kain and briefly whispered to him, before he was let out of the slave pen.

Once they were out of sight and earshot of the pen, Darrow sat down and gave Kain a quick intro to the group, also mentioning Aerikoth’s presence on the ship. Darrow next asked if any of the other prisoners were sailors. Kain said that he thought one was, having been picked up from a sailor’s tavern. The wizard also mentioned that when his spell books were taken, he heard something about them being taken to a lair in a deep forest, which Kain thought must mean somewhere on the island. He further described the magic gem, containing his familiar named Xorn, that had been seized.

Dermot then informed Kain of how they were secretly working against the slavers, while having been hired to find whatever had been killing the guards on the island at night. Dermot commented that it might be a vengeful ghost, but they truly had no idea of what it was in reality, and could use Kain’s help. Kain in turn promised his assistance against the slavers, although he cautioned that he was limited to the spells he had memorized, without access to his spellbooks.

The group asked Shanni to go back and query the guards at the slave pen about the spell books, given that she had what Rahnee termed the best rapport with the slavers. Kain pointed out that if the books were on the island, so was the lair he had heard them mention. The guards it turned out had no information for Shanni, but pointed her towards Pincer, who was with the main guard group by the boat landing.

The five of them trooped over to the landing area, finding Pincer behind a group of guards. Leaving their companions a short distance away, Shanni and Dermot approached him and broached the topic of the spellbooks. Pincer indicated they could not be retrieved any time soon, since they had been sent away to “the lair”. However, he quite approved of their stated plan to use Kain as bait. The two then returned and informed the others.


By that point it was getting on towards late afternoon on Alturiak 30. Having finished his business on board ship, Aerikoth returned to shore and spoke briefly with Pincer, who informed him that the others had acquired a slave to use as bait and should be nearby. Aerikoth set off into the interior of the island and quickly ran into Rahnee, who had been dispatched by the rest of the group to fetch the wizard.

At the entrance to the underground stream, Aerikoth was introduced to Kain Graves, the “slave necromancer” as Rahnee dubbed him, and given the latest on their encounter in the cavern. Aerikoth’s companions now thought the creature likely to be a vampire, but uncertainty remained high, as none of them had even been able to see it. Rahnee explained that Kain had agreed to assist them in return for his eventual freedom, or for cold steel between his ribs if he betrayed them. (As a member of our Order, I must condemn all association with necromancers. The use of this one under the circumstances, however, appears to have been expedient to the party's cause. --C)

Deciding to venture into the cavern once more while it was still daylight, the band of six descended into the pool and pulled themselves underwater, with Darrow going first and Aerikoth bringing up the rear. Having already made multiple trips, Dermot by this point was tired and had the most difficulties of all of them, but nevertheless managed to fight past the underground current.

The party then slowly made their way back to where the voice had first appeared, near a rocky ledge by an underground pool. Kain was put in front, presumably so the creature would recognize the slave with whom it had the connection. After waiting for a short while, several of them heard a faint splashing and the voice reappeared, observing that they had returned, although it was not yet dark. The voice also noted that they had brought “the one who speaks with the dark”, by which it meant Kain. It said that Kain “had the taint” and asked for his help, in a forlorn wail.

Kain in turn asked what the creature wanted. Semi-coherently, it said that it would be satisfied with a “red night” and for the “bad men” to pay. Shanni cannily inquired what would happen after there were no more bad men. The voice replied that it had thought of this, since their last meeting, and would be satisfied with one of the bad men…alive, to keep.

The creature’s offer of assistance against the slavers threw the party into some confusion, given the implications of massacring their enemies. Rahnee took the direct approach and asked the creature what and who it was. After a moment, it appeared before them, a pale creature looking as if it had once been a man. He called himself Tuli.

Tuli said that he had no need to breathe and could hide in the water, in order to kidnap someone; however, he could not defeat the slavers alone. Rahnee asked if he were a slave and how he had come to be like this. Again, Tuli was not fully coherent, but described how “one” had come on the ship, followed by red and coldness, then he awoke. Tuli stated that the one was not with the ship, this time, as he would have felt his presence. (This description appears to describe the relationship between a vampire spawn and its sire. Tuli evidently does not yet have the full powers or characteristics of a vampire, otherwise he would be able to dispatch the slavers on his own. This situation also makes for more confusion in terms of the moral choices to be made by the party, although in the end this is resolved with some finality. --R)

Discussion now shifted back to Tuli’s proposal. Tuli said that they would have to act that night, as the ship would be gone by morning. Shanni suggested that they should work out how best to help, promising to return at dark to share their plans; Tuli agreed to await them in the cave. Before the group departed, Aerikoth approached Tuli, who looked ready to bolt but stood his ground after the wizard promised not to harm him. Aerikoth studied the creature and asked him again what he remembered, getting the same response. Tuli then dove into the water and disappeared.

The adventurers decided to regroup back by the stream entrance to the cavern, as they had much to debate. Shanni and Darrow expressed strong reservations about giving one of the slavers to Tuli. Rahnee reminded them that their primary concern should be finding Janatha. A consensus emerged that at least they would need to preserve one of the slavers, perhaps Pincer, who knew where their lair was, as well as take control of the ship.


After the group had reached their preliminary decision to take on the slavers, Rahnee decided to return aboveground, in order to more thoroughly scout the island and determine the full extent of the slaver presence. The others continued to refine their battle plans and Shanni was particularly interested in the idea of constructing some traps. With the ship being a key target for them, Shanni volunteered to make the tiring journey out of the cavern and check on its status. After a while, wet and exhausted, she returned to report that it was still beached; there would be at least several hours before high tide, with sunset perhaps an hour away. She then attempted to construct a trap with some of her possessions, but failed.

With night nearly upon them and Rahnee not having yet returned, the five decided to go inform Tuli of their plans. They once again went deeper into the cavern and Darrow made some noise to attract Tuli’s attention; however, Shanni suspected that the creature had been listening to them all along. Tuli appeared and listened to Dermot outline their plan, which amounted to defeating the slaver guards in separate groups. The adventurers would first take the slave pen guards, then head for the boat on the shore. Tuli’s role would be to lurk in the water offshore and attack the ship at an opportune moment. Shanni emphasized that they needed to move soon, before the slavers decided to take the boat back to the ship.

All of them then headed for the underground stream exit. Once back on the surface of the island, the adventurers made for the slave pen, while Tuli silently slipped into the stream, heading underwater for the shore. At the pen, the night guard shift was being changed and the four guards present were easily taken after Darrow engaged one of them in conversation then attacked with a blood-curdling battlecry. Shanni roused the freed slaves and had them make noise, in the hopes of attracting additional guards away from the main body at the boat. Among the guards’ bodies, Kain was able to find his gem and immediately summoned his familiar Xorn, who turned out to be a shadow.

The five adventurers formed up and headed for the boat, Aerikoth by this point having summoned a huge dire bear to accompany them. When they arrived at the main guard camp, Pincer’s eyes widened at the sight of the bear and he asked if that was the creature responsible for the guards’ disappearance. In response, Aerikoth cast a spell at him, attempting to polymorph him into a small helpless creature, but it failed. Pincer then called for the others to attack and the battle was on.

Although the guards had the advantage of numbers, the party was more fearsome in combat, Darrow’s axe and the bear’s claws wreaking havoc close in, while Shanni attacked from the flanks and Dermot tossed choking powder and employed his bow. Aerikoth’s next spells, hurled quickly after the first, succeeded in exploding a fireball among a group of slavers and then striking fear into several of their enemies, most crucially Pincer, who was in fact the last slaver left standing. Dermot noticed this and the ranger cried out to Aerikoth to call off his bear, while Shanni yelled at Darrow to try and break the dwarf’s battle-rage, which calmed once Pincer formally yielded. The slaver was then quickly disarmed and tied to a tree.

Dermot went off to round up the freed slaves. Meanwhile, Darrow took the lead in taunting Pincer, softening him up in order to make him more responsive to their questions. Dermot returned and reported that the slaves were fine, the ranger also observing some movement in the distance on the deck of the slaver vessel. Shanni did a more thorough job of tying Pincer up, to prevent an escape while the group headed for the ship. Aerikoth then commanded his summoned bear to guard Pincer, both to protect against his escape and to prevent any of the slaves from taking immediate revenge on him.


The five adventurers moved to launch the boat from shore, then somewhat awkwardly paddled the short distance to the slaver ship. Once they arrived and boarded the main deck, they saw by the bodies there would be no resistance. Descending to the cabins, they found more bodies and Tuli locked in combat with one remaining slaver guard, who shortly afterwards succumbed to the creature’s natural weapons.

Tuli hissed that there was one more remaining, behind a closed and jammed cabin door. Shanni volunteered to try to open it, but Darrow took matters into his own hands and chopped the door open. Behind the door was Red Ortho, who immediately began begging for his life. He said that he had thrown the ship’s charts away, so now he was the only person who knew how to navigate back to the mainland. Shanni checked the chest in the cabin, finding no charts but several gems and other valuable items. (The slaver - and pirate? - Red Ortho here demonstrates the survival qualities of cunning and an ability to switch sides when necessary, at least temporarily. His willingness to seize an evident opportunity for personal gain ultimately determines his fate. --R)

Red Ortho offered to guide them to Westgate, Teziir or Starmantle, wherever they liked. Shanni responded by telling him they wanted to go wherever they were taking the slaves, so Red Ortho announced their destination would be Westgate. Dermot said they also wanted the location of the forest where the operation was based; Kain mentioned that it would be the same place the slavers had taken his spellbooks and other magic items. Red Ortho said that they could not take a ship there, so their destination would have to be one of the cities.

Dermot queried whether Westgate or Teziir were closest and Red Ortho answered Westgate. So that they could gain some privacy, the group directed Red Ortho to the inside of a cabin and set Tuli to watch the door. Shanni wondered whether it would be better to hold their conference on deck, but then Dermot pointed out it might not be a good idea to leave Tuli alone with their prisoner. Aerikoth observed that before deciding anything, it would be good to locate Lady Roaringhorn and obtain her input. Darrow raised the idea of taking the former slaves to Baron Pahar’s domain, sparking an animated discussion about what to do with them and their two slaver prisoners.

Dermot recalled that they had not yet examined the ship’s hold and went to check on it. Shanni then decided to explore the cabins some more, warning the others against traps after she found and disabled one. Dermot returned and advised the others that the half-orc Barzog was alone standing guard in the hold, but was not looking to cause any trouble.

At this point a nearly-naked and very wet Rahnee literally appeared before their eyes, asking wryly if she were late for the party. Her face was severely bruised on one side and she explained, somewhat woozily, that she believed she had fallen out of a tree. Before she could say anything further, Shanni suddenly recalled they had left Pincer back on shore and ran up on deck, diving off into the shallows.

Arriving at the tree where they had left Pincer, she found him still tied to it, with Aerikoth’s bear looming over him. The former slaves had gathered round the area, although leaving a respectful distance between themselves and the large animal. The woman who had previously spoken with Shanni at the slave pen, whose name was Nina, approached and greeted her. Nina was assured by Shanni that all was well and the slavers were all dead, except for Pincer and one other who were prisoners. Nina mentioned that some of the former slaves had looted the dead guards’ bodies, obtaining weapons and armor.

Shanni waved at the ship, to try and attract the others’ attention. After a short while, the adventurers aboard ship used the slaver boat to row back to the landing area and join Shanni. Nina and Kain greeted each other, evidently pleased and relieved that each of them was safe. Seeing the prisoners gathered around, Aerikoth prompted Darrow to inquire if any of them knew how to sail a ship. An older-looking, bearded man named Tomas answered affirmatively, saying that he thought they should be able at least to sail the ship to the coast, even with the lack of a real crew.

Aerikoth, after closely inspecting the unconscious Pincer’s ropes, dismissed the summoned bear. Rahnee then came up to inspect Pincer’s wounds, declaring that he was in poor shape and they would at least need to staunch some of the blood flowing from his wounds. Dermot carefully untied him and laid him on the ground, applying a healing poultice and then offering Pincer a potion once he had regained consciousness. Pincer stood up briefly and was derisively greeted by his captors, before slumping back down to the ground.


Shanni began the serious part of questioning the slaver by stating that they had a problem: their vampire ally wanted someone to keep, who might just be Pincer. The fact that the creature on the island was a vampire and that the adventurers were on its side seemed to stagger Pincer, who expressed his incredulity. Shanni explained that they had no interest in selling the slaves - what Pincer had originally assumed - but wanted him to tell them the location of the slavers' base of operations. Pincer pointed out that if he told them, they could then feed him to the vampire anyway. Shanni replied by saying that something could likely be arranged, looking at the others. Dermot then put it to Pincer that either he or Red Ortho would be their guide. Pincer declared that it might as well be him, saying he would talk more once back on the ship.

As the adventurers started escorting Pincer to shore, they passed a group of armed former slaves who spotted the slaver and started moving toward him in a threatening manner. Dermot backed them down with commands to stay away, while Rahnee made sure that they saw her blade at his throat. Nina pointedly asked why Pincer was being kept alive, but was satisfied with Dermot’s explanation, helping calm the others.

After a short delay while Darrow had difficulties boarding the small boat, the group pushed off and headed back to The Blind Man. Pincer noted the bodies of the crew on deck and exchanged more verbal barbs with Shanni. Once below deck, they saw that Tuli remained on guard with Red Ortho. The creature asked which of the two slavers would be his prize and was told that would depend on their questioning.

Dermot went back on deck to start the process of transferring the former slaves to the ship. The rest of the group then began questioning Pincer, who confirmed that he would be able to lead them to the forest lair, which was in a hidden location off of Traders Road. Kain inquired whether his spellbook might still be there, which Pincer thought was likely. Rahnee then brought up Janatha and described her, prompting Pincer to declare that they must be working for Council Member Queron Ulanthar, Janatha’s father. Pincer said that he had known about Janatha’s kidnapping, although not the details, and would assume that she had been taken to the lair.

The group then turned to Red Ortho, implying that he had lost the competition and would become Tuli’s victim. The shipmaster, sputtering, reminded them that he was the only one who could sail the ship back to civilization and that it was not his fault that the lair was in a forest and not on the coast. Shanni and Rahnee raised the possibility of giving the half-orc Barzog to Tuli, but the creature replied in a chilling voice that he wanted a human. After this exchange, Dermot stepped forward and whispered in Rahnee’s ear, asking her if she thought they could take the vampire in a fight. In a low voice, she replied there was only one way to find out.

Red Ortho continued to bluster, trying to save himself, while Dermot and Rahnee carefully positioned themselves in the cabin area, all the while eyeing Tuli. Darrow had just distracted the creature, asking him which of their prisoners he would choose, when suddenly Rahnee struck at Tuli from behind with her magical sword. He spun around and immediately engaged with Rahnee, but was unable to fend both her and Dermot off, shortly afterwards falling to the ground and remaining still. (I am relieved that the threatened use of one of the slaver prisoners as chattel for a vampire spawn did not come to pass. Yet I admit to being disturbed by even the contemplation of the prospect, as part of the party's temporary bargain with Tuli; they seemed to seriously consider it. Killing the creature in the end, of course, was the only option. --C)


Although the rest of their companions had been surprised by the sudden attack on Tuli, they saw the logic in it. Kain advised Rahnee on how to ensure Tuli would not rise again, by staking its heart - Rahnee used an arrow shaft for that - and destroying the body, with which Dermot assisted. Aerikoth, with an unusual slight grin on his face, commended Rahnee for her ruthless efficiency. Rahnee returned a not very nice smile at the compliment, as Darrow exclaimed that he would never want to give Rahnee a reason to doublecross him. Shanni seemed the most upset by the sudden development. Rahnee made a point of telling Red Ortho and Pincer that both of them owed their lives to the adventurers, which they acknowledged. She also reminded them that they would be traveling with a large number of former slaves who would like to flay their hides from their bodies.

For the final disposition of Tuli’s body, Dermot and Darrow carried it up on deck to the boat and with Shanni’s assistance - although she was careful not to touch the corpse herself - rowed back to shore. They had borrowed a torch from one of the prisoners, which was then used to set fire to the body. Meanwhile, Kain had conferred with Nina on deck and the prisoners were then brought below deck in order to rest for the night.

Once back on board, Shanni had the idea of rousing Barzog and bringing him into the fold, as it were. The half-orc was eager to follow orders from the new masters of the ship and help with the sailing, having seen the fate meted out to his former companions. He in fact became positively ecstatic after Darrow passed him an ale, although he obviously preferred to perform duties, such as being the deck lookout, which kept him out of their immediate vicinity.

With the press of action giving way to the relative calm of night, the group sorted out their watch order. Aerikoth chose to remain on deck first and would be replaced by Darrow. Meanwhile, Shanni and Rahnee stepped aside from the others and ironed out their differences over what had happened with Tuli. After Aerikoth returned from his watch, they sorted out their sleeping assignments - not an easy task, given the limited space and the mix of adventurers, former slavers and former slaves occupying it.

The first day of Ches dawned early, it seemed, as the ship’s complement slowly awoke after sunrise. Rahnee was evidently still feeling the effects of the previous day’s blow to the head, so the others left her to rest in the back of one of the cabins. Once the other adventurers were up, Shanni and Darrow woke Pincer, who was disappointed to discover that the previous day’s events had not in fact just been a bad dream.

They took Pincer out on deck and Darrow yelled for the sailor. Tomas, yawning and still groggy, came out to see what the yelling was about. Tomas ruefully observed it was raining and then inspected the hull’s waterline, after Pincer informed them that the ship should be refloated now that the tide was in. Aerikoth and his raven familiar joined them on deck, the wizard silently observing as was his wont.

Tomas said that they would need several hands on deck during the refloating of the ship, in order to watch for dangerous rocks and such. As Tomas went to inspect the rigging, Darrow went to fetch Red Ortho, as he knew the most about the ship. The former slaver thought it would be best to have the adventurers serve as lookouts, given the poor condition of the former slaves.

Once Red Ortho had confirmed there was no damage to the ship, he asked that people be stationed at the bow, stern, and both sides of the ship to act as watchers. Barzog, who had remained on deck the whole time, and Tomas would let the sails out when the time was right. Red Ortho estimated it would be about a half hour before the tide was high enough. He advised them to break their fast in the meantime, informing them where crates of food were stored.
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