Having return to the small town of Saltmarsh after their most unsuccessful stake-out of the cavern below the “haunted house,” the companions are hurriedly hustled to an emergency council meeting summoned by the Constable. Forced to wait while the town officials gather themselves, they try to answer Monieus’ deep questions.
“What do you think the smugglers were doing down there?” Monieus asks in his usual rapid verbatim.
“Smuggling I suppose?” Tamull answers, beginning to question the man’s level of intelligence slightly.
“Yes, but smuggling what? Did you see anything?”
Ornith relays to Monieus that they primarily just saw casks and bolts of silk cloth. After finding out the bolts had no markings on them Monieus jumps up excitedly and lets them know that he will “take care of this!”
Within a few more moments the meeting is called to attendance with the members seemingly outraged and concerned that such smuggling has happened right under their very noses! Lars placates them a bit however by explaining that the smugglers had been able to keep their actions secret by playing upon the townfolk’s superstitions with the “haunted house.” Deducing that there must be a larger ship that makes the deliveries with a smaller boat running between ship and shore the council requests the aid of the companions in dealing with the law-breaking ruffians. The companions agree to this, but insist that lookouts be assigned to watch the waters at night. After some grumbling the Constable finally states that the Pross brothers can be of help. With the council members seeming to feel that all was well in hand the meeting is adjourned and everyone returns to their beds…whether they be their own or someone else’s…
The next dawned bright and sunny, with the Pross Brothers coming to see what it was that’s required of them. There is some brief confusion as they talk to Ornith, which is soon cleared up when she realizes there is no actual look-out post of any kind. With the brothers staring at her as though she is the daft one Ornith quickly loses her patience and becomes quick short with the brothers.
“Well, what do you want us to do then?” the brothers look at each other and shrug.
“When its night, when its dark in the sky,” Ornith’s voice is full of condescension “go out on the water in your boat with a torch and signal to us if you see a ship.”
“Alright ma’am, can do, but you don’t have to be such a harpy about it.” Ornith decides it is just simply not worth her time. Feeling as though they at least have some kind of look-out established she walks to the edge of town where she can peacefully sit and watch the ocean below.
Meanwhile, Sasha descends to the docks where she questions the local fishermen, attempting to ascertain if there have been any sightings of an unknown ship or of strangers in town. Hoping that perhaps if coin is offered she’ll be more profitable with answers the young rogue is chagrined to receive only head shakes and shrugs in answer to her questions and the offer of payment quickly turned down. Disappointed in the lack of news and sightings she turns to the inn where she is able to add the feeling of disgust to the list as she discovers that while she was out questioning and Lars was researching spells with Tamull that Ragnarok is across the street tupping the widowed fishwife…and while the fatherless child is home on top of that!
Several days pass with no torch signal from the Pross Brothers. Then, on the 10th night, peering out over a vastly dark landscape, Ornith sees the blinking of a light in what is clearly a code signal of some kind. Watching it for a few moments longer she turns and runs back to the inn and her companions to tell them the news. After discussing it briefly the companions realize that the witnessed code matches up with some of the notations on one of the parchments they took from the cavern. Deciding to grab a signal lantern and see what they can turn up the companions return to the shoreline and blink out the next signal listed on the parchment. Receiving some kind of signaled response they quickly make their way down into the sea cavern below the “haunted house” to wait and see what comes their way.
The companions don’t have to wait long before they hear the creaking of wood and soft voices floating out over the water.
“Ey! Where’s te light at?!” one of the smugglers yells out over the water. None of the companions answer however, still hedging on the element of surprise.
The sound of the boat being hauled ashore is soon heard, as well as one of the smugglers ordering the others to start unloading the goods while he goes and sees what’s going on. Tamull bursts forth suddenly and demands that they surrender, the smugglers see only one man however and decide differently.
“Oye! An ambush! Get ’im!” the four smugglers immediately descend upon Tamull, easily in reach of Lars’ sleep spell as he craftily sends two to slumber quickly.
Tamull makes quick and easy work of one man, knocking him unconscious while Ornith wounds another with Ragnarok knocking him to the ground.
“Please don’t hurt me! I surrender!”
The companions quickly tie up all the captured men, with Ragnarok jumping at the chance to intimidate them into giving up valuable information. Everyone is subsequently quite impressed when Ragnarok successfully intimidates them, eventually turning the questioning into “good cop/bad cop” as they separate out the most intimidated of the prisoners. Tamull manages to strike a deal with the man in which they will help him when put before the Constable as long as he takes them to the ship and keeps his mouth shut. With the prisoner eventually agreeing to such a deal the companions quickly set off toward the ship.
A few minutes ride later the companions find themselves alongside the ship with a rope ladder visible at the top of the railing. With little work the prisoner is convinced to call out to the sailors above to throw down the ladder. After much “Uhh”-ing and shabbily put together lies the ladder is thrown over with a loud splash in the water. Wanting to still retain the element of surprise Lars decides to cast the spell “Ghost Sound” and make it seem as though there is arguing coming from the bow of the ship. With the men on deck distracted Ornith and Sasha silently move up the ladder with the grand scheme of silencing the remaining man standing near the railing. With her rapier held aloft and a hand ready to cover the man’s mouth Sasha leaps toward him…only to trip over a coil of rope and send her rapier clattering on the deck. Surprised the man turns and is about to call out, except for the fact that two of Ornith’s arrows have silenced him forever. Quickly signaling for the others to join them the two women quickly hide behind the jolly boat lashed to the middle of the deck. Not wanting to tip off the other man soon to return and using the dark night to his advantage, Tamull stands at the railing in imitation of the previous sailor. Calling out to his companion sailor, but only receiving Tamull’s noncomittal grunts, the other sailor soon approaches to within a few feet of Tamull where both Tamull and Sasha take him down, but not before he utters a muffled yelp.
“Ey! What’s goin’ on down ther!” another sailor’s voice calls down from the crow’s nest above the companion’s heads. Thinking on her feet Ornith calls up to the man, attempting to lower her voice in imitation of a man’s.
“Ai! Nothin’s goin’ on down here!” Realizing that they should get the man to come down so they can silence him as well Ornith continues with her charade. “The Capt’n wansta see ya! Get down here!”
Hearing the man’s grumbling above them as he descends, Tamull and Ragnarok move the closed doors at either end of the main deck, and check the bow of the ship for any other sailors, seeing none Ornith takes a shot at the man descending from the crow’s nest, hitting him just hard enough to send him clinging from the rigging by his fingers and allowing him yell in surprise. An answering yell is heard from the helm, causing everyone but Ornith to charge up onto the stern of the ship. Tamull causes the man to collapse with one blow from his hammer while Ornith muddies up the capturing of the sailor stationed in the crow’s nest and instead sends him toppling to the deck below, wincing as the cracking sounds of bones breaking is heard.
Deciding to explore the ship methodically one door at a time Tamull begins with one of the doors near the stern of the ship, after ensuring there are no sailors or otherwise in the room he motions for Sasha to come in and search as he moves to another door. With Sasha hard at work unlocking several drawers and boxes Tamull stumbles across a cabin with three sleeping occupants in hammocks, their weapons resting below on the wooden floor. Sneaking in and removing all the weapons Tamull is just about to start attempting to tie up and gag the inhabitants when the sight of a large newt entering through a hole in the wall stops him.
The amphibian quickly ambles up into one of the hammocks and begins making a most insistent clicking noise, soon rousing the inhabitant, a fishman of the likes the companions had previously encountered! It immediately launches itself at Tamull and begins attempting to bite and scratch the paladin, but to little avail. Ragnarok meanwhile pulverizes two of the other creatures while Tamull knocks unconscious the others, leaving Ornith to apologize to the newt for the murder of his friends. During the conversation with the newt however she is able to determine that there are no more fishmen aboard and convince the newt to hide itself away from any danger.
Meanwhile, having happily located 500g in the locked box Sasha then turns to pick the lock on the only locked door on the main deck, freezing however when she hears the soft sounds of conversation from within. Curious, Ornith stealthily listens at the door, a look of both confusion and concern coming across her face as she listened to what was being said behind the closed door:
“Yes m’lady, I am recovering from the trance.”
“What is the status of my cargo?”
“The captain received the signal and is offloading it now. He expects it will take two days.”
“Captain Sigurd continues to disappoint me. Tell him to make haste.”
“The captain insists on caution. He assures me it will be done in two days.”
“I have no patience for this. Tell that man to do what it takes to get my cargo delivered quickly. If he wont, I want you to handle it yourself.”
“Yes m’lady, but its the Captain’s ship and his crew is loyal – I dont know what I can do with only the three… “
“Hear me now. The master has returned and there is a new power rising in the Eight Kindgoms. If you do what is asked of you, you may find yourself on the right side of it.”
“Do not fail me, Ketah. I am not one who forgives… Report to me as soon as my cargo has been delivered ashore.”
Alarmed at what this conversation could mean, not only for themselves, but for the nation in general, its decided that Sasha give up picking the lock and Tamull and Ragnarok perform the “double kick” move against the door, bursting the door inward in a crash of splinters.
A human figure seated at the desk jumps in startlement at the abrupt entrance of the companions, soon though it is apparent that this figure is no mere man. His body is covered in gleaming scales and what was originally thought to be arms are in fact tentacles! Raising his tentacles into the air above his head the room is suddenly filled with a darkness, visibility that much harder. Ragnarok charges forward in an attempt to engage the new opponent quickly. The companions are baffled to see Ragnarok suddenly change direction and run for the small porthole, claiming that a nice refreshing dip in the pond is what he requires. Trying to stop him, Ornith misses in the darkness and crashes into the wall and all watch in disbelief as Ragnarok dives into the porthole, wedging himself securely in the middle of the small circular opening. With Ragnarok out of the fighting the others attempt to focus all their energies at the creature, hoping to knock him unconscious and not kill him. With the darkness pressing down upon her Ornith takes aim at the creature, but her arrow flies wild, finding a secure target in that of Ragnarok’s nicely framed rear end. Seeing his friends struggling to bring the creature down Lars immediately casts “Burning Loins,” pleased to see some effect as the creature smolders slightly.
Fairly certain that the tentacles of the creature are nothing to worry about, Tamull is quickly proved wrong as a sudden tentacle whip leaves his arm burning from acid. Watching as Ragnarok finally wriggles himself out of the porthole and down into the ocean below the companions redouble their efforts, with Ornith accidentally killing the creature with a well-placed arrow. With the battle now over the companions search the room for anything of significance, disappointed but unsurprised when Ragnarok reports that the small boat and sailor they had come across with are missing. Finding little of interest in the room aside from a smooth, circular, white stone which Lars identifies as quartz, the companions leave the room with more questions than answers.
Perhaps the rest of the ship will hold more information.