Captain's Log (Skull & Shackles)
Even though there had been some incidents the first few days, it soon looked as the upcoming month waiting for the ship to be finished would be unbearably boring. Overhearing, Rickety Hack suggested going to Bloodcove. Not having anything more tempting to do I thought we should go there to recruit more dearly needed crew. Rickety Hack offered to lend his galley as compensation for our trouble in Rickety Squibs.
Sandara stayed behind overseeing the rebuilding of the ship. Several others of the crew preferred to remain, but Grok served as acting captain and Fox, Jade, Rosie and I went along. The trip was uneventful and the sailing due east was smooth and easy. Arriving at Bloodcove I saw the strange little town for the first time, even though I had heard stories of it. It's built on the roots of a stub of what I would guess was the biggest tree that ever existed. I pointed us towards the pier where we should dock but we were turned away from there. A woman was waving at another pier, so we headed there.
It turned out she was a powerfully built, scantly clad, savage looking, half-elf woman. Fox jumped ashore with the mooring line. She was aided by the powerful savage and I tied it off using some not so powerful magic. Fox was quick in starting the recruitment.
Surveying the pier I noted a few men handling a big crate and another savage looking man. He was accompanied by a panther. As I steered my steps in his direction he turned to meet me. It turned out he was a half-elf too, named Baako, but didn't know the woman. Just as I had recruited him there were some commotion and a huge flying lizard headed towards us. I recognized the looks of the dragon as it closed in. I barely had time to set up my magical protective armor as the beast descended upon us, or rather the pier. It landed near the crate and a fight broke out.
Both new crew members heartily attacked it in hand to claw battle. I threw some magic missiles at it making it take to the air. Sadly it dragged with it the newly recruited woman in it's beak. She had to drop her great-sword to wrestle with it. Jade rode Ivory that flew after the dragon striking it repeatedly. It turned back and dropped it's prey on the boat probably hoping the fall would kill her, but she was caught by the rigging and tumbled down alive, even though not unhurt. A few attacks more and the dragon came crashing down on the pier. Baako and his puma was quickly there, making sure it was truly dead. I joined him by the creature cutting loose a few claws.
As soon as I got my souvenirs I left Baako that was cutting out the heart of the beast and headed over to the men by the big crate. They were hurriedly leaving. I followed and talked to them. They were working for Aspis Company. Peeking into the crate I could see a dragon baby, thereby understanding the reason for the attack. The men told me I could count on us being rewarded for our bravery. His boss called Kelim Esteban would see to this. He would contact us. I let them continue and returned to the docks. Even though there was a big landmark in the stub, the town was hard to navigate with it's winding roots serving as streets.
Back at the ship Baako had told of his qualities as cook and had already salvaged good meat from the dragon. Not only that, having left a trail of blood on the deck he got to test his abilities as a swab, too. Fox wanted to stay to help out our new recruits. All others followed me to an inn conveniently located in the harbor. It was called The Wichlight, which I kind of liked. We all ordered a round of drinks and even though I didn't really drink mine, the mood was heightened. Some locals wondered who we were so we told our story of the proud ship, the Setting Sun. But then I told of how our captain had been grabbed by giant octopi and dragged off to an island full of the undead. Then almost everyone in the whole inn grew silent and listened to how we raided their watery caves and saved our captain from an awful fate. It was a heartwarming story of how we stood together, camaraderie and the life at sea and how they too could live it if they only signed on. I also mentioned that we were always looking for men and women to fill our ranks. Joining our merry crew was handled by the lovely Grok.
Fox joined us at the inn telling about how she had struck a deal with someone called Kelim Esteban. He wanted us to transport a load of supplies upriver. Fox said we were to leave early the next day. Looking at Grok having a hard time sitting upright, I suggested it could take a little more time to get ready to sail.
The next day, Esteban arrived a little late in the morning. Seeing the state of Grok and Rosie, I didn't wake them and was just about to ask for a little more time, when Esteban beat me to it. We would sail at noon. Hurriedly Fox asked me to join her to go look for a wand of magical armor. We went, but to no avail. There were none to be had but one who could be able to make it with my help. We had to return to the ship til noon, but it turned out Kelim Esteban had some more delays of his own. He suggested leaving the following morning. We were just as happy about the delay as he was unhappy. When he left we woke Rosie and Grok. Grok told us she would stay to continue the recruitment and named me captain for the trip instead. Fox and I returned to try to get the wand made but our persuasion failed.
Truly confident in my new role as captain I took command and early morning we set out, rowing up the river with the rowers supplied by Esteban hard at work. I think he was a little disappointed not to be named captain himself, but he didn't supply the ship. He also brought three guards and an orc in fancy clothes. I put Baako at the helm, testing him, as he had said he had experience at sea. It turned out he did have some skill for it. He had a good hand with the ship as we set out in good speed.
On the starboard side the river was edged by jungle but on the larboard side there was an almost empty desert. The water of the river had through the ages had eaten away the dirt and it snaked it's way well below the surrounding landscape. Only from the crow's nest could the surroundings be seen. Noting a wreckage further up the river we let the rowers slow down and slowly approached. The wreckage was well out on the river bed. We continued until we were alongside the wrecked galley, before anchoring. I noted that it's name, Lady Fortune, didn't give it fortune enough. I sent Fox and the new woman named Nyeka to investigate. I noted that Esteban was very uneasy and wanted to continue. The scouts returned without any clues and we continued on.
We slept our first night uneasy anchored on the river, a little closer to the desert side. We had chosen the position very carefully to avoid any unforeseen events or hit by anything coming down the river, and the night passed without incident. The next morning we found that some tillers were bad but we had it fixed quite quickly, not loosing much time. The first day had been hot, but the second day was really tough. We made sure the rowers had plenty of water to drink to avoid loosing speed from tired, dried out rowers.
Jade noted that there were something stirring in the jungle. She called alarm and we were all prepared for a fight when strange goblin monkeys came swinging onto the ship from the branches of the jungle stretching furthest over the river. I had taken cover and cast my protective magical armor when the fight began. My magical missiles stuck home every time and soon the monkeys were loosing. The civilized orc Farouk tuned out to be a barbarian when fighting. With the help of some grease the goblin-monkeys soon went overboard. They left some poisonous snakes behind that slithered down to the rowers, but my magical missiles were powerful enough to kill them off quickly with the aid of Nyeka who seemed to be immune to their bite.
While continuing up river Farouk and the guard were healed enough to be conscious. We wanted to be prepared when reaching the White Bridge station, in a day. But not long before sunset we saw a boat floating down river, upside down. We heaved to and Baako put us close to the boat as it came up to us. Nyeka jumped over to it and got a rope secured. It was in good shape and called Thistle II. Esteban recognized it as an Aspis Consortium boat. Turning it right side up revealed a back pack stuck in the boat with arrows sticking out of it. Not a good sign. The boat could come in handy and was brought along. We anchored for the night as usual but flet a great deal more uneasy than before. Our big stop on the way and the Consortium's mid-way strong point was just ahead of us and the boat drifting from there was an ill omen.
We hadn't been rowing upstream for long when we saw White Bridge Station in the morning. It rose high over the river allowing ships to pass under it without felling the mast. An impressive construction in the middle of the jungle, not only a big bridge, but it had buildings on top of it, flying the flag of the Aspis Consortium, and it was edged by walls and gates making it into a fortified station, high over the water. There was a landing just before it on starboard side. I ordered Baako to head there. Not being greeted and not even seeing anything stirring at all we grew suspicious. A small group went ashore to investigate. I, as I could turn invisible using my magic, Fox as she was good at sneaking around, Baako as he knew jungle very well and finally Nyeka as the barbarian woman had the power to strike any danger down.
We headed up the stairs up to the entrance to the bridge. There were big ports closed and signs of an attack. There was a looted wagon a little bit up the road. Nyeka was attacked by a bowman on a rooftop I didn't see. She and Fox charged up the walls and started chasing some savages I caught only glimpses of. Instead I climbed a gate and started searching through the looted houses. The savages that turned out to be elves, hadn't understood the value of documents and left them untouched or at least strewn around the rooms. I took both a flag, a badge and several documents detailing the Aspis Consortium's affairs. I wanted to know what they were doing there. Esteban joined us on the bridge and I hid my loot in my back under the coat. Baako told us that the well had been polluted by pigs having been killed and dumped in it. He thought though that the pigs could be salvaged for meat as it wasn't that long ago. Fox had two savage elves that had been taken alive. They were brought aboard and put in irons. Not really sure why, but I let it be done. We left White Bridge Station with a bad feeling and a dwindling supply of water.
Water was a concern. The rowers drank a lot of water, working hard in the heat. Esteban told of a waterfall with fresh water deep in a swamp further up the river. As he was engaged elsewhere I took out the papers I had found and read them when he wasn't watching. It turned out that Aspis Consortium used slaves. I guessed that there would be slaves in the station we were heading towards. We held a secret meeting where Fox, Baako, Nyeka and I discussed how to proceed. I told of my feelings towards slave trade. We decided to free any slaves we would find when we reached Nightfall Station. There was a fetish found on an elf that I studied the magic in. It was somehow a magical item bestowing some power, but at the same time merging with the wearers soul. If worn it should not be taken off.
Our water supply was down to just over a day when we reached Esteban's swamp. I, being the captain, decided we should use the boat, Thistle II, to bring barrels to and from the waterfall deep inside the swamp. We prepared the boat and made plans. I found that Nyeka should row the boat, Baako should join with his knowledge of the nature, Fox as she had magic that could be of great help for the journey and I as the captain had to make sure that we got hold of the very important water.
With the aid of the magic cast by Fox, the barbarian could pull the boat quicker through the swamp, than we could follow walking alongside, so we rode the barrels in the boat. We were well into the swamp when someone noted that the ground to our side crawled towards us. We turned slightly to try to outrun the crawling mass. It turned out to be spiders and lots of them. Fox distributed the bug repellant she bought in Rickety Squibs. We almost avoided the spiders due to our speed but some caught up with us but hesitated at the gunwale. I made them make up their mind by frying most of them with my magically burning hands.
We reached Brimstone Falls much quicker than could be expected. Overlooking a small lake we searched for dangers. I had heard stories that suggested a dragon behind every waterfall, or at the very least a hydra in the lake below. Searching the heights on the other side through the looking glass I found no such things but only some statues and a few lizard-men. The lizard-men were a little strange looking, but I knew that it was the special breed with a more crocodile-looking head, known to be more evil than any other lizard-men.
Finding no other trace of draconic activities I handed the looking glass to Fox and made sure we were ready to cross the lake. Fox got excited about the statues from some religious point. I couldn't see why. Zagyg would place any statues in his honor in a dungeon below ground and most probably set both valuable gems and traps on it. These had neither from what I could tell, and Besmara's followers put the statues in her honor on the sterns of ships. It would be neat to have a statue there with gems and traps.
We crossed the lake without incident and started filling the barrels. Nyeka noted that there were some slimy, totally colorless, things in the water. She identified them as shambling mound eggs. If they found stale water with putrid old plants, a new shambling mound would grow there. It turned out that that very thing had happened as when the lizard-men lost interest in us they went to a cave throwing stones at what turned out to be a shambling mound. As soon as it went after them they ran. Nyeka recognized the behavior as a rite of courage. Apparently both Fox and Nyeka was lacking in that area as both wanted to partake.
At least I got them to finish our task before going on some unnecessary quest. There could be some usefulness in scouting the surrounding terrain as we would spend the night there. There was a spot looking like a landing area from where a path led up the mountain. One of the statues stood overlooking a small yard suitable for a camp. I took good use of the statue by safely securing our boat to it with a magical tie.
Letting myself be persuaded to follow Fox and Nyeka up the path we reached a lesser branch of the river crossing our path. It was clearly a physical challenge that did not feel comfortable to take. Starting to turn back Nyeka stopped me and leaped over the ford, not entirely to my liking. We headed on and noted some lizard-men, hiding further up the path. As we pointed it out one of them challenged us to a duel. Nyeka happily accepted and cut the scaly fellow down with a mighty slash. Fox ran up making sure it didn't bleed out and even used some charges from our wand to heal the little bugger. Next their shaman wanted a magical duel. Fox accepted that challenge and after some failed exchanges she charmed the evil shaman. For being evil they weren't very fanatic at that.
After the lizard-men retreated up a path and we continued on towards the cave of the Shambling mound. Our path were below the cave so the last part were to be climbed. I really didn't like being trapped up there being dependent on others to be able to get away. I stayed below instead, ready to return back from a trip I really didn't know why I ever came along on. The one good thing that came out of it was that when we returned the lizard-men was so non-evil that they even helped us pull the boat back through the swamp, making our four day trip take only a little over a single day.
While waiting, the ship had sent a hunting party into the jungle and returned with a boar. I guess the pigs whetted the apatite. There were even some rum brought out from the supplies. I told of our adventures, how we defeated serpent-people, the fearsome magic wielders. The night grew late and so did the morning after. Continuing up river we tried thinking of ways to remove the shambling mound eggs from the water without scaring the crew, using up all of the old water first. Having an idea about pouring it through fabric we opened a barrel only to find that it floated to the surface when the water settled and was easy enough to just sweep off.
We found a small village not much more than old ruins. Esteban said it was called Nantaomo. The wooden houses had stood on poles but was now abandoned. As the river took a turn and the water was a little wild, we had a slow, steady advance. Nyeka said she could investigate the village and jumped into the river. She could almost keep up with the ship, but caught up with us when we finished the turn. There hadn't been much to see.
When Farouk stepped out on deck, the precious little amount of deck we had on the galley, I noted he was very pale. I told Baako, "Steady as she goes" and started fore, but I didn't get far before he drew his cutlass and attacked anyone close. It was a short but bloody fight and he was cut down. It turned out Farouk had been infected by a Yellow Musk Creeper. Nyeka told us it was a plant killing living creatures in their sleep and turning them into yellow musk zombies. Even if we hadn't been forced to cut him down, he was already dead, just animated by the plant inside his body.
The plant itself was still moving slightly in the darkness of the forepeak. Nyeka demanded magical armor for protection to go inside and kill it. I gave it to her but when she entered the plant released a cloud of spores at her. So much for that protection. She had difficulty reaching it over all personal equipment kept there. Fox sent in lights enabling me to send magic missiles at it. It was soon destroyed but the root had grown through the hull from the bow. It needed further investigation.
Nyeka climbed to the waterline of the bow to examine how it could grow there. The rowers were stirring. Not only was Farouk, the big strong barbarian orc dead, but he had been turned into some kind of undead zombie creature and that scared them. I yelled at them; "Did we not defeated the zombie? Did we not protected them from the snakes? Did we not go out into the swamp to bring them water?". They nodded. "Then what are you complaining about? Ready the oars, you bastards!" As soon as Nyeka was back on deck the order to continue was issued. I wanted the rowers occupied when we discretely discussed where the zombie-plant came from. Nyeka said it was a plant, it had been planted there, that is. It wouldn't have stuck naturally.
We found a sand bank near the shore where the river was wide enough not to allow too easy boarding from the overhanging trees. We laid anchor and prepared for the night. Fox and Nyeka gathered as much fire wood they could and built a bonfire. We laid Farouk on it and I as the captain started a fire with my magically burning hands. We spent a few long hours looking at the blase. A feeling of melancholy befell the whole crew, and especially me, as we watched Farouk turn to ashes and the fire turn into a low glow. I had lost a man.
After Farouks death Esteban grew more worried. He ordered and helped build improvements to the protection of the rowers. Other covers were also improved. His worrying had a bad influence on our mood, but he was right and we soon found out. Steadily rowing up the river, there was a sudden crash and a rumble as the bow rose out of the water and the galley came to a complete stop. We ducked for cover just clearing the rain of arrows heading our way. Nyeka dove into the water looking for what had stopped us. She returned to the surface catching air and telling us of three poles that could be removed by digging them free. Fox, Rosie and a guard dove in, just before elves started to swing down onto the ship from the tree branches stretching far over the water, close to the ship.
I ordered Baako to guard the rudder from sabotage and turned my attention forward. Elves advanced on me and I met them with rays of fire, scorching them. I kept the stern safe from elves for a long time exhausting my most powerful magic in the process, but there was still one left. As I avoided most of his blows, but not all, I had to retreat aft and let him into the cover and all the way to the very stern. I didn't see it, but still felt how the ship got clear. As I maneuvered to get away to use my magic on the attacker I heard the shout "All aboard!" and ducked away from the elf once more, ordering the rowers to get going. After another failed attack and as we picked up speed the elf gave up his attack and dove into the water, leaving me and Baako in the stern, looking back at him swimming.
There were many bodies littering the deck but not many dead. Rosie just barely survived, gravely wounded and bleeding heavily, same as one of the guards. One of the elves had burned to death and one was quite grisly shot by a pistol. Relieved I hadn't lost any more men, we made sure all elves were stabilized and lowered them carefully into the water. The three dead followed the same fate. Considering the state we were in it was a great relief when Esteban said we would soon reach our destination. Even though there might be slaves to rescue we still needed some rest before the next task.
We finally arrived at Nightfall Station. It turned out to be a big stone house with a dock in a big clearing just before the river made a turn. The clearing looked almost devastated, the ground looking like a big mud field. Not even patches of grass, but no more than a tuft here and there. There were a few other wooden houses and stakes with what looked like heads impaled upon them. It reminded me of the cornfield. Not a pleasant memory.
Some guards stood on the dock and we headed there. Esteban started waving at the guards who waved back. It was more than just greetings. They had some form of secret signs. I tried to look at Esteban's signals to be able to imitate them if necessary, but my duties as Captain kept me from catching them. A man stepped out on the dock looking like he was in charge. As soon as we had docked Esteban went up to the man and hugged him heartily. The one hugged was called Gorse and was not as friendly in return. He asked for reinforcements and looked at us. Esteban introduced us as the ones daring enough to bring him up river. Gorse was not impressed and continued to behave distant and suspicious.
Soon the work of unloading the ship was on the way and Gorse and Esteban left, just to be followed by Fox trying to sneak after them. I distracted the guards by shouting all phrases by Krine and Rosie I could remember at the workers for not being careful enough. They completely lacked respect for the ship. When the work was well under way we were shown around houses. I was hesitant at leaving the ship, after all it was my first command, but i followed the rest. There was a room reserved for us across the hall from the guardroom and the guards and our hosts slept upstairs. The other houses included a blacksmith, a morgue, which was actually a shed where they left bodies, and some other houses didn't care about. There wasn't any slave house or not that they told us of and out of all the houses only one was suspected of being used for that purpose. We were invited to dinner and offered to clean up. I retreated to our room and brushed my coat and washed my face. At least it washed away the last remains of the insects repellant. Nyeka freshened up for dinner by throwing-spear practice.
Arriving at the dinner I moved up to Esteban's side and took for granted that we would be seated as pairs. Gorse was of another inclination. He said he didn't trust us enough for that. Gorse, his secretary Pertune, Esteban and two of the three guard sergeants joined Fox, Rosie, Jade, Nyeka and I at the table. Esteban and I sat at an angle at the end of the table almost making us sit as a pair, contrary to Gorse orders.
The seating arrangement and its dispute dampened the mood a lot. There was very little conversation. I tried toasting but it didn't help. After some embarrassing silence I suggested a drinking game but that was frowned upon. Jade tried telling a joke but no one laughed. Rosie tried playing something on her violin, but it sounded awful. Gorse told of himself. It seemed to be the only subject he was interested in. At least we found out that the savage elves that came from the steppe further inland and was led by someone called Arinal. When Fox finally tried something, her dance was uninspired and the dinner ended early. After the fight earlier in the day I was quite content with going to bed early.
The next day I decided to have the ship turned around. If we were to make something stupid, which seemed to me as unavoidable, I wanted the possibility of a quick escape. Walking through the jungle was not an option, not to mention the cost of returning to Rickety Squibs without the galley. I had been a little disappointed at not finding any slaves. Now it was only the word of the elves and some vague wording in the Aspis Company papers I had as evidence. On the other hand the trading station White Bridge had been thoroughly looted and everyone killed or taken by the elves. Not very much pointing in their favor either. Fox and Nyeka decided to head out into the jungle against better judgement. They left while Baako, I and all the rowers were turning the galley. We headed up river just a hundred feet where the river turned. There we used the wider span of the river's bend to get more room to maneuver, turning the ship. As we were closest to the riverbank of the other side we were fired upon by the elves again, but no arrows hit their target.
Returning to the docks I started working on getting the sails in good shape. Even though it was down river and there was no wind, it could change and not knowing if we would be able to bring the rowers it was best to keep as many options as possible. The sails had been stored since we arrived at Bloodcove almost two weeks ago. One of the guard sergeants asked me if I knew that two of my crew had deserted to the elves. I told him that I did not believe that and they were probably just scouting in the jungle. I told him not to attack them when they returned. I spent most of the day going over the ship, making sure there were no Yellow Musk Creepers or worn down tillers. The late afternoon was spent resting until dinner. It was if possible an even more dull affair than before. I didn't make any efforts, but were correct and hoped for it to be over with.
In the middle of the night we set out investigating the large block house. Rosie waited in the room, ready to let us in or bluff the guards. We others chose a route around the fire pans placed around the open area, advancing from the other side of the block building. We climbed the roof and slowly removed a part of the roof. Baako stayed on the roof with a rope to climb to get back up.
There were slaves, and as apparently was common they were severely mistreated. Remembering my own misery my hate grew. Fox, Jade and Nyeka pressed through while I rigged a rope and followed them down. Baako kept guard on the roof. There was a hole in the dirt floor leading down a mine shaft. Going down there Fox cast magical lights that danced down the tunnels. I found a safe box, probably holding gold, but from the weight I guessed it wasn't that much.
There was also a hidden tunnel leading further. We followed it, Fox first, Nyeka second and me taking up the rear. Jade stayed guarding the gold. The tunnel led to what we called the morgue. Before I could get in there the dead bodies started to move. A fight started and I joined in. There weren't many dead elves but mostly humans. After some fighting we retreated down the tunnel.
We now had to decide how to continue. Most probably the mining was done with slaves and couldn't be allowed to continue. That meant most probably that we had to kill Gorse. The elves had been wiping out all humans in the stations they had attacked so far, and possibly taken humans as slaves, if not killing them all. Fox seemed to think that was entirely acceptable, but I can't let slaver do their dirt work regardless of race if I in any way can stop it.
My idea so far were to kill Gorse and then mediate between the humans and elves demanding that the elves let all their slaves go and that the company take all their men down the river. I'm hoping that if we then let people in Bloodcove know of the gold they will go there on their own and dig for it, making it impossible for the Aspis Company to continue their operation.
We all agreed that we should attack Gorse and help his slaves to freedom, but when it came to the slaves taken by the elves we disagreed. Nyeka said that even the merchants and servants taken into slavery by the savage elves were just prisoners of war and rightly so. I disagreed thinking death is preferable to a life as a slave. She sounded shocked when I said it was worse to take slaves than to kill your enemies, but she hasn't been a slave so how could she know. The rather heated discussion ended when Baako suggested talking to the elves. We sneaked out of the camp and into the jungle. It was completely dark and hard to know if you were walking into a tree or worse, but Fox steered me through the darkness. Not being human she could see in the dark.
In the middle of the jungle we suddenly stopped and Fox said we had arrived. I summoned a few lights that lit the groove, dancing overhead. We were far enough into the jungle for the lights not to be seen from the camp. In just about half an hour some elves and their leader Arinal appeared. Fox started talking to him while Baako translated for me. Fox was much more reasonable than the brute she recruited and asked for the taken slaves to be set free. The way the chief agreed, with almost surprise that it mattered, made me believe he would stand by his word. We told him we would in return set free all slaves still alive and stop Gorse from taking any more slaves. Fox left with Arinal to see a shaman of the tribe. Baako talked with the other elves while we waited and I counted the time passing by by constantly casting the dancing lights. I made them look like different things to pass time, a few city guards searching, a crew of a rowboat slowly rowing in heavy sea.
It took almost two hour before we were back in our room with Rosie. She told us that she had been told by the guards that the elves had done something at the shed. Lights had been seen and noises heard. With the captured humans on the way to freedom we set our plan in motion by first making sure the slaves could escape. The plan was that we would sneak them out through the shed towards the jungle by the river, away from the guard towers, before sneaking back into the big stone house and killing Gorse. That meant we first had to go back and destroy the last zombies. We returned to the timbered house and the slaves. Making sure they could reach the wood, we found them to be shackled, but not anchored to anything. That meant that we could bring them out of there, but not quickly. Heading on to the shed Nyeka crawled first in the secret passage way, followed by Fox and then Baako. I made up the rear. When I got up, the others had already destroyed a zombie. I used my burning hands spell burning two zombies to a crisp and badly hurting a third. The remaining two were quickly handled by the others. There had been some ruckus but not no much, but we knew the guards were alerted. I set Baako to work on the wall to open a way out, sent Nyeka for the chest with gold and sent Fox for the slaves. Myself, I tried to make it easier for the shackled slaves to get between the hole in the floor and the hole in the wall by dragging and pushing bodies out of the way.
Fox tried to sneak the slaves over the open area passing impaled heads and firepans. Nyeka watched the guard tower trying to tell when the guards were turned. It didn't work out as planned. Fox, that's usually very good at stealth, couldn't silence the clanking of the shackles. A crossbow bolt went passed them and the alarm bell rang. I reached out with a magical hand and lifted one of the heads from the poles carrying it towards the river. Nyeka grabbed a big rag from one of the dead bodies and ran up to the firepan on the way to freedom, kicking it over and smothering the flames with the rag. Baako shot an arrow into one of the guards in the tower and ran out into the darkness heading for the remaining heads. Fox changed her appearance magically to look like one of the savage elves and headed for the next firepan nearer the guard tower. At least, still thought of as elves, our entrance into the stone house wouldn't be closed off. I peaked around the corner of the shed and cast dancing lights imitating a group approaching from another direction, distracting a few guards from firing crossbows at Fox.
Nyeka charged out in front of the house making the guards retreat into the house and fortify. The house had a tower with firing slits in the corner closest to us, from where bolts started raining. Ducking behind the corner of the shed I cast my invisibility magic and started towards our room. It turned out droves of elves had ran up to the house from the other direction and were climbing through our window. I followed, still invisible. In the room I got my things and continued through the house filled with elves. By the door a fire was starting. I saw Nyeka and an elven chieftain fighting Gorse and one of the guard captains. It was cramped and not really any room for magic so I continued to the store room. The double doors outside was opened and there guards were fighting. Overlooking the stores I continued on to the boat passing Baako defeating a few guards together with several of the savage elves.
Dropping my things I shouted "Captain on deck!" getting the wakening crews attention as they looked around for where the captains voice came from. Shouting orders, still invisible I organized a party to load the supplies back on the ship. While loading there was a big explosion outside the open store room doors. It was magical fire exploding. Baako told that he had found the secretary Pertune and confirmed my suspicions that he was the necromancer. Baako's big black cat tore Pertune to pieces. The fire hadn't been put out but was now spreading. While making sure we got cargo aboard I also made sure there was room for as many passengers as I deemed necessary. I didn't want to strand people in the jungle if I could help it. I knew all to well what that can do to you.
One of the guard captains who had been fighting Nyeka in the house suddenly came crashing out of a window from the second floor. He fell hard on the wooden dock, but was not done fighting. I'm not sure why but I walked up next to him and let my anger take the form of fire scorching down on him. As he rose, burned by the magic, elves finished him off. I'm not sure how much the recruited soldiers of fortune knew when they signed up for this work, or if they were hired blind as we were, but the guard captains were definitely there by choice. I felt no pity for leaving him to the savages, but the guards could be given a chance for redemption. I stabilized all downed guards I could save on the dock and had crew bring them aboard. It was only four. Rose left the house with the servants, making sure they all got aboard safely. Fox had meanwhile tried to talk the guards into surrender and leave alive from the now burning house. She also had some time, joined by Nyeka, to search through the upper rooms, bringing all they could find.
Soon the fire spread all over the house and I made sure the ship set out well before to make sure that the fire wouldn't spread to the ship. It turned out to have been a good idea as the guards held up in the tower made a break for the boat, having cut their way through the inner walls of the house. They leaped out on the then empty dock looking at the ship already out in the river. I waved a good bye as we slowly caught the stream. It was the first time on the river we didn't stop for the night, but rowed slowly down the stream in the dark. Rowing wasn't to increase speed, but to make us maneuverable and only half of the rowers had to keep at it.
At first light we let up on the rowing and drifted down the stream ready cast anchor at first sight of trouble. We secured the hastily loaded cargo and looking through the ship we found Esteban. I greeted him aboard the ship and told him he would have safe journey back to Bloodcove as long as he didn't cause any trouble. The four guards that I had taken aboard was offered to join us or would else be set ashore in Bloodcove along with Esteban. Two choose to join our crew.
In a day and a half we reached White Bridge where we took aboard the prisoners taken by the elves. As we got them we also received gifts from the elves. It was necklaces of some value. Fox persuaded four of the freed prisoners to join the crew of the Setting Sun. We had a growing crew even though the ship was far away and being rebuilt and refitted.
After a journey up and down the river, lasting less than two weeks we were back in Bloodcove and let Esteban, the two guards who didn't want to join and the freed prisoners go. I felt sorry for betraying Esteban. I didn't really know why. He worked for the same people who had kept slaves at Nightfall Station, but somehow that wasn't his fault. I could understand him hating me on the other hand, as I had hated Gorse. We also told the servants from Nightfall Station that they could leave there if they wanted, but risked being drafted back by Aspis Consortium. I suggested to them to catch a ride with us to Rickety Squibs, and told them of Zyx starting an inn there, probably being in need of good servants. Baako persuaded one of the young girls to join our crew helping him out in the kitchen. While in Bloodcove we sold off the supplies we had taken at Nightfall Station and some magical items we didn't find a use for. Then we divided up the loot and bought what items we wanted. Among us officers there was some idea of keeping some things available and therefore not selling them. There was a magical mace that was the only magical weapon we had left since Saga left the crew. There was also loose ruffles that had been worn by Pertune, that I bought, not really wanting it, but it offered magical protection. What I really wanted was to get my magical headband enhanced during the few days we stayed there and that took almost all my money.
Setting sail from Bloodcove under the command of Grok felt very strange. After having shouted "Prepare to set sails!" in one mouth I retired into the aft covers. I had grown accustomed to being the captain of the galley.
Here ends the Captain's log as I was no longer captain of a ship.