The soothing notes of one of Zack’s songs seem to comfort the others as they thrash restlessly under the sway of Ghoul Fever, leaving Sendara and I to sit and tend the fire as we make camp along the cliffside that night.
“Do you suppose we could come up with an herbal remedy?” I ask hopefully.
“Without divine intervention I’m afraid all we can do is prolong the time before…” she shakes her head and stabs at the fire with a stick, the thought of her friends waking as ghouls to painful to voice.
“Jack, is that you? Where did you go, brother?” Zack mutters before launching into a coughing fit and huddling beneath a blanket.
“He’s first mate on Besmara’s crew now, and in good hands,” I assure him gently as I check his brow. Damn… I think he’s getting worse.
“May Besmara have a place for us all,” Sendara adds quietly.
“Until then, I’d settle for our boat getting here,” I reply as I stare out over the water. Wait… there…what is that? I pull a small signal mirror from my pouch and do my best to reflect the moonlight across the water. After a few moments a light flashes again, and I whisper a quick thanks to Besmara for not needing us just yet.
“Looks like our ride is here,” I smile as I take a battered tricorn hat from my pack and dust it off with a quick cantrip. “You’ll be wanting to look your best, I imagine.”
Sendar’s eyes widen in surprise and she grins as she adjusts the hat to just the right angle. “I do believe I’m feeling better already.”
“Good,” I smile as I clap her on the shoulder. “Now let’s see if we can help them do the same.”
A skiff arrives manned by one of the Rahadoom sailors who helps us load Priest, Zack and Drago on board. A quick incantation of Dancing Lights softly illuminates our way as we row back to the ship in relative silence over our sick friends. About a mile off the island, however, I can’t help but notice that the lights are glinting off of something metalic in the water. I do my best to look without tipping the skiff and swear I can see a ship wrecked on the reef below, about 40-50 feet down. Definitely worth exploring… but not until we’ve taken care of our friends first.
Cheers go up about the ship as we return with Sendara and many of our missing crew. Cogsworth reports in that the Rhadoom are quite good sailors for a bunch of godless heathens, and that the repairs to the ship are now completed.
“I hear you’re good with the medicine, Priest,” says Sendara as she waves the Rhadoom carrying the others down below decks. “Why don’t you help me below and we’ll get you and the rest of these fellas top shape again.”
“Meanwhile,” I say to myself as I unload the sacks of frog and crab meat, “I think we all deserve something other than tack and sea biscuits for a meal. I’ll be in the kitchen making preparations.”
Thanfully the illness seems to break after a few days of rest and better food… leaving them with a few bad nightmares and some general weakness (Priest likes to say Amelia a lot), but otherwise no worse for wear.
The next morning after breakfast I inform the others of the ship I saw beneath the waves. “You never know what we might find… could be treasure, could be good salvage we can use for the ship.”
“Could be sharks,” Drago snorts.
“What happened to your sense of adventure, Captain?” I joke as I refill my cup.
“It’s feeling a bit waterlogged right now,” he smirks. “The thought of gold might dry me out a bit though.”
Once we’re over the spot that I remember we tie a heavy weight to the bottom of our rope and I cast a light cantrip that it makes it glow softly. “A little light to guide our way…” I turn to our perpetually glum doctor and hand him a bag from my pouch made of sealskin. “And a little present for you, Priest… only thing wet gunpowder is good for is frustration.”
“Look… you can just make out the ship now… looks like it’s split into three parts,” Zach says to the others as he leans over the side.
“That will make it easier to search then,” I reply. “We’ll tug the rope if there’s trouble.”
“May your strength and courage be enough to bring you back,” the Rahadoom sailor mutters. I smile and touch my fingers to my head in a salute before looking to the others.
“May Besmara guide our way…” and with a splash we’re gone into the dark waters below.
Priest makes the swim a little easier for us with his divine magic as suddenly it’s much easier to breathe. Once the ship becomes clearer, a quick detection cantrip reveals a large gargoyle head at the fore, and a 15×15 cage on the deck with its bars bent and pried apart.
“Looks like it was called The Infernus,” Zach notices as he cleans off seaweed from a nameplate.
“This is an ungodly Chelish ship,” warns Priest. “We should take care and leave.”
“Yeah…” I reply distractedly as Drago’s summoned dolphin twitches in agitation not far away. “I think you’re right.”
I’m just finishing the incantation for a mystical shield when a large Moray Eel strikes from the shadows and swallows the dolphin whole.
“Blast it!” I yell as I launch a burst of missiles at it. Zach screams and the eel reels back as if struck from the harsh sound. Priest dives forward with his guns blazing, striking it in the side before the eel’s jaws whip around to snap closed around his torso.
I strike the eel with my cutlass and manage a deep gauge along it’s throat that begins to bleed heavily. I quickly follow it with another missile barage that finally convinces the eel to free Priest from its jaws.
“There’s too much blood,” warns Zach as the eel convulses in pain. “Sharks won’t be far behind.”
“I don’t think he’s sticking around for us to finish the job,” I reassure him as the eel swims away in a panic. “Hopefully the sharks will follow his trail and leave us alone long enough to take care of Priest and finish our task.”
A quickly downed healing potion allows Priest to recover enough that he’s able to cast his own healing magic to help finish the process. “That was close… but my God has no need of my personal services yet.”
“Good… let’s see if we can finish up so we can write some good stories about the scars you’re going to get from that then,” jokes Zach as he claps his shoulder in support.
The thought of sharks encourages us all to move at a quick clip… and after some searching we come away with some expensive chopsticks made from manticore spikes, three bottles of Chelish perfume, and an odd-shaped urn with a worn plaque and the remains of the word ‘Captain’ on it. Ashes of former captains, perhaps? It’s only about the size of a beer stein, so I store it in my backpack for later investigation. Everything else seems rusted and beaten to hell and back… so we all agree to head back to the ship.
We camp for the night and the next morning move on to explore the mesa, partly for salvage and supplies, partly to assuage Zack’s belief that his brother Jack might have washed up on shore.
“I’ve found a narrow path through some dense brush that leads up to the top,” Priest informs us after he comes back from his scouting. With a quiet nod we pack up our gear and gesture for Priest to lead the way.
“Looks like we might be intruding,” Drago whispers as we crouch down in the bushes to observe tall wooden walls, stockades, and a spring in the distance.
“I see no movement… no guards at the gate either, which happens to be open,” says Priest.
“Well then… we might as well investigate, right? Either we’ll find company or whatever killed them…”
“Strange…” mutters Priest as he moves to investigate a weathered spyglass fixed to the interior wall by the gate.
“What is it?”
“It seems that this spyglass was set here to observe one position only…the entrance to the watery cave of the grindylows.” He mutters a low enchantment and his eyes begin to glow with a white aura. “I recommend caution.”
Zack and I move to investigate the large tree in the middle of the encampment as Priest and Drago continue to search the small fort. I step cautiously around the gnarled roots of the tree and peer closely at the wood in the hopes of finding any identifying runes or marks… when suddenly a mass of vines shoot out from between the bark straight at my face!
I swiftly raise my arcane shield and stagger back as the plant mass slams into my barrier, soon followed by a creature with vine-like hands and feet. I swing at it with my sword as it crackles with electricity and cut the plant creature in twain before it disintegrates into ash. Before I can turn to Zack, however, another vine shoots from the tree and lashes across my cheek leaving a smear of red and the faint taste of copper to my lips. Drago charges at the creature entwined in the tree with his spear and with a gurgle the vines go limp.
“You ok?” he asks worriedly. I nod and he grins before whispering to Jabber and climbing up into the tree branches to investigate. After a few minutes he yells “Found something!” and tosses down an Elven femur with faint runes carved in it that gives off a slight glow of magic. Perhaps a proper burial will help whatever spirits that still inhabit this tree to finally get their rest.
“Let’s leave this tree alone and go check on our friends, shall we?” I say with a sigh as I wipe the blood from my cheek.
“We found some barrels of water and even some passable rum,” Zack says excitedly as we rejoin the rest of the party. “Not to mention this room… I think it belonged to the Captain or something.”
Zack pushes open the door to reveal a single chamber with ornate scarlet and dark wood furniture. “This looks very similar to what we found on the Infernus,” I comment as I take in the elegant writing desk and bed.
“I don’t recall the bloated corpse hanging from the ceiling before… did I miss that part?” Drago snorts before turning slightly green at the smell.
“Ugh… yeah… I think I’ll leave the investigating in here to you two,” ads Zack before he and Drago leave the room.
“I swear… you’d think they’d learn how to breathe through their mouth after being forced to clean the bilge tanks,” I joke as I search the writing desk.
“Did you hear that?” asks Priest as he stops to look around. “I think something tugged at my ankle!” I look around, but all I can see nearby is a metal collar with a chain running down to an eyehook in the floor.
“GAH! It’s biting me!” Priest yells as he sinks to one knee.
“What is? I can’t see anything!” worries Zack before he casts a spell causing a burst of glittering dust to fall over the room. “Dammit… that was supposed to help!” he mutters.
Priest grabs at his medallion and mutters a prayer before a wave of positive energy radiates through the room. For a moment I can see it… a hunched humanoid figure with red eyes crouched over Priest’s leg. “Die, abomination!” I scream as I swing my cutlass and channel a spell of disruption through the blade that causes the creature to shriek in pain. I hold my sword out in front of me and stand back-to-back with Zack as I search frantically around the room, as the creature has disappeared from sight once again.
“Do you think it’s dead?” Zack whispers.
“One way to be sure,” Priest groans as he concentrates over his medallion once more. The positive energy radiates through us and I can feel it’s healing warmth… but I can no longer see or hear the red-eyed creature.
“I think we’re safe… for now.” Priest moans and grabs his leg as Zach puts an arm around him to help him up. “In the meantime, we’ll get you back to the ship for care and search through what goodies we found while some of the crew moves those barrells for us.”