After the Sultan and Prince’s departure, the group gathered around Gail.
“I hope you guys realize the honor given to you. Few in Ryll can claim to have met the Sultan, let alone earning his direct praise.” Said Gail.
It was Innathia who spoke first, “It is not lost upon me, nor will it be forgotten.”
Bast still looked stunned to have been in his ruler’s presence, while Bex just smiled at Gail and nodded.
“Now, have you given my offer more thought? All is prepared and the ship will leave first thing tomorrow, but I would feel better knowing capable adventurers like you were going with it.” Said Gail.
Without hesitation Bast said, “I will go, the Sultans visit here shows the gravity of the situation. If Sahar means to make further attacks on Ryll then I must do my part.” Gail placed his hand on Bast’s shoulder in thanks. Bast continued, “As for my reward, I have not forgotten my quest against the Underbelly. After I do this I would ask for your help in tracking them down.”
Gail pondered this, “Yes that is possible. I don’t know a lot about them but I can go through my contacts and see what can be turned up. You said the leader escaped, yes?” Bast nodded, “Then someone must have seen something. By the time you have returned I will have the information to at least point you in the right direction.”
“Thank you, that is all I can ask.” Said Bast, bowing to Gail.
“And the rest of you?” Gail asked turning to Innathia and Bex.
“I will withhold my request for a later time.” Said Innathia. Gail gave him a nod and turned to Bex inquisitively.
“Well,” Said Bex pondering the question. “A falcon! Can I have a falcon?”
Gail smiled at her enthusiasm. “I think that is within my capabilities. I will have it ready for you when you return. And if your other companions turn up again tell them my offer is there as long as they need. Oh, I almost forgot. There is a manor in the northern district, it is now yours. Hanks family has already moved in.”
Smiling Bast said, “Thank you.”
“Now, met me tomorrow at the docks, the ship is set to leave first thing in the morning. Look or the Givers Mark.” With that Gail began to make his way into the citadel.
Early the next morning the group was met at the docks and caught their first sight of the Giver’s Mark, Bast was barely able to contain himself with excitement. As a young boy, he always dreamed of becoming a sailor. As the young boy, he once visited the Port Wajadat with his uncle and was able to take a short jaunt out on a trade ship. Ever since then all he could think about was becoming a sailor and eventually owning his own boat.
In drydock crews were already at work to patch up the Dixie Whick, laborers climbing around it like spiders busy working on the repairs. The Givers Mark was equally as busy, crewmen going up and down the gang ramp loading supplies and performing last minute checks. Gail was standing in front of the ship talking to another man who Bast assumed was the captain of the ship. Surprisingly he also sees Reoul nearby, looking out towards the bay.
Innathia and Eldeth stand by as well, looking packed and ready to go.
Turning at their approach Gail greets Bast and Bex as they arrive. “Ah perfect, everyone is here now. Let me introduce you to Captain Linn, he is one of Ryll’s most accomplished pilots.”
Bowing in greeting Captain Linn says, “Your efforts in the city are on every one lips these past days. I make me feel better having you aboard. There are a few more things I need to look into so we can talk more on the ship, were shoving off in five minutes so don’t be late.” With that Linn began making his way to the ship.
Gail turned to the party, “You are in good hands, I look forward to your return.” With that Gail began to oversee the work on the Dixie Whick.
Bex walked over to Reoul, “It is good to see you! What are you doing away from the Island?”
Reoul smiles down at Bex, “Likewise little giant. Because of you guys I am able to have a more visible presence in the city. I am here to guide the ship and ward off any merrow. I need to warn you, the last several days the merrow seem to be worked up. Careful on your journey out there.”
Bex thanked him and gave him a hug. Then made her way back to her friend as they began to make their way onto the ship.
The first thing they were greeted with was a shouting match between Captain Linn and another older bearded man.
“It’s my ship quartermaster and my orders will be followed or you can find yourself back on land sitting on your thumbs. Now, give me that bottle!” yelled Captain Linn.
The older man glared daggers at the captain, before shoving a bottle into his arms and storming off, “See if you can find my other bottles, you green eared bastard.” He said muttering to himself as he walked past Bast and the group.
Realizing he had a crowd Captain Linn turned towards the group and apologized, “I am sorry you had to see that. Quartermaster Achin Uz-Ebba is one of the best but he’s also the saltiest bastard in Port Durst. I recommend keeping away from him for the journey. My first mate Kent will show you guys to your berthing.”
Before the captain could leave Bast asked, “Sorry to interrupt captain, but I was wondering if I could help. I have always wanted to learn to sail, and I hate to be merely cargo.”
Captain Linn appraised him for a second before saying, “Very well,” Turning to Kent, “After you show them to their berthing, go over the basics with the kid.”
Kent smiled and gave a nod before gesturing for everyone to follow.
It took five days to reach their destination. As the island came into view the Captain gathered the party on the deck.
“Mar here will take you guys the rest of the way in the dingy. The ship is going to drop anchor a little way off the from the island. If you guys encounter any trouble there is little we can do, so be careful out there.”
As the boat made its way closer to the island the party could pick out better details. There was a long strip of beach that lead up to an imposing wall. But the closer they got they were able to see large holes and been opened up in the wall. Behind the wall a tall central keep could be seen.
“What’s that on the shore?” Whispered Eldeth.
The beach was littered with what appeared to be corpses. But from where they were at they couldn’t tell of what exactly.
“We must tread with caution.” Said Innathia, “Whatever did this may still be around.” The boat was close enough now that they could jump out and Innathia did so. Landing in knee high water he stealthily made his way up the beach, crossbow ready.
Bex who had been swimming along the boat surfaced silently, always more at ease in water than on land. She drew her great axe and began to follow Innathia. Hanging back, Eldeth waited until the boat made it a little closer but mistimed her jump and fell splashing into the water. Sputtering she surfaced and glared around at every one, daring them to laugh. To hide his amusement Bast dropped behind the dingy and helped Mar push it onto the beach, and then began making his way over to the nearest corpse.
Innathia made it up to the wall and took out a grapple. After securing it to the wall he effortless made it up the wall. He was greeted with a view of the inner courtyard where even more bodies littered the ground. In the center, there was a central keep. There was no movement, from what he could see the prison looked abandoned.
Bast caught up to Bex as she was looking down at a corpse on the ground. As Bast approached she looked up, “More Nephilim, but look.” Gesturing to the wounds that had killed the Saharan, “It looks like claws. If these are the ones that attacked the Dixie Whick something else returned the favor.”
Bast examined the body closer and saw that she was right. Looking up he motioned to another corpse further up, “I don’t think we have to guess anymore. That’s a Ryll uniform.”
Soaking wet Eldeth nodded, “I don’t like this. Look at the bodies. Some are fresher than others. The Dixie Whick would have been killed a while ago but these Saharans look fresher than others. Less than a week ago I would say.”
“We should keep moving. I feel too exposed out here.” Said Bast, nodding in agreement the group began moving towards one of the holes in the wall. Innathia slipped back down to their level. “The inner courtyard is full of more corpses. There doesn’t appear to be any outer buildings, everything must be in the inner keep.”
“I say we scout out the keep, maybe even the island a little more. There are too many variables that we don’t know.” Said Bast.
By the time they had finished, night had fallen. The island appeared to be abandoned, with only the prison being on the island.
“Something isn’t right about this place. This prison is built like a fortress.” Said Innathia.
“I don’t have much experience with prisons but I would think this isn’t too different than other ones.” Said Bast.
“It looks like the only thing to do is go in.” Said Innathia. The group skirted around the keep and then made their way to the main gate. “Ok, let me check for locks.” At the same time
Bex pushed on the door and it swung open, creaking as it opened up. “Or not.”
“Sorry.” Said Bex looking embarrassed.
Inside the keep it was dark, they could see more slain Nephilim. “Is this all we are going to find? Not that I am upset about it but it is getting kind of creepy.” Said Bast.
Innathia motioned him for silence before replying, “We don’t know what is in here, a little more caution would be appreciated.” Moving into the central keep they saw to passages, the right one lead up and potentially further the higher levels, and the path to the left descended down into presumably the dungeon.
Eldeth motioned to the right, “We are here looking for a potential prisoner. Maybe the Nephilim locked the crew down below before whatever killed them showed up.”
“As good a choice as any.” Said Innathia as he began to make his way down. The party began to descend down the stairs, at the end of the stairs they could see a light at the end of a pathway were an iron gate blocked their path. Innathia stealthily made his way down the tunnel, glancing back at the party to see that they were ready, he then attempted to open the door but it was locked. Taking out his tools he began to work on the lock.
The party waited expectantly behind him, when a telling pang announced the pick had broken. Sighing Innathia stood up, “Would anyone else want to give it a go?”
“Ok said Bex,” Taking a step forward and kicking the door as hard as she could. The hallway echoed with a loud clang but the door remained un budged. Looking back at the party Bex smiled and shrugged, “I thought that would work.”
From the other side of the gate they heard movement, going silent the party waited expectantly. Through the door a voice came out in a language Bast didn’t understand. Bast looked back at the group questioningly. “Any one?”
Innathia nodded, “He asked, Friend or Foe?”
“This could either way then, get ready.” Said Bast.
Innathia walked over to the door and spoke in the same language as before saying, “We serve Ryll.”
There was a loud clang as the door was unlocked from the inside, it swung open and revealed a one-armed Nephilim inside addressing Innathia he spoke, “Hail cousin, what brings you our new home?” He asked with a smile.
Scowling Innathia said, “We are here looking for the crew of the Dixie Whick. Perhaps you know something about their whereabouts?”
“Ah yes, well we did chase them to this sad excuse of an island. Alas they all died in a foolish last stand. Our leader took their ship and left us here to secure the island.”
“That’s not the full story. Those bodies are fresh, less than a week old and we know that the Dixie Whick had to have been taken closer to three weeks. So I will ask again, what has been going on here.”
The Nephilim chuckled, “Very good cousin, it heartens me to see that our kin haven’t are not all fools. After securing the island we were attacked by merrow. They have been overly aggressive in these waters lately. We repelled their first couple of assaults but they outnumbered us ten to one. When we could no longer hold the outer wall, we retreated to the keep. When the keep fell we locked ourselves in here.” He said motioning to the dungeon as he walked. As they made their way further down they saw that they had finally made it to the dungeon proper. Strewn throughout the room where wounded and prone Nephilim, all showing signs of brutal fighting.
“As you can see, we chose a slow death over a quick one. That is unless you’re willing to make a deal.”
Innathia looked at him appraisingly, “And what could you offer us?”
Still smiling the Nephilim replied, “It is foolish to show all your cards at once, for guarantee of safe passage off this island for my men and myself, I will tell you the rest of my tale.”
Innathia turned to his companions and relayed what he had just heard, “Well, I don’t see that we have much choice.” He motioned around to the wounded men, “I doubt these men will pose much of a threat.”
Bast glared around the room, “I don’t like it, I am not helping the people who killed the crew of the Dixie Whick.” Bex nodded in agreement.
Eldeth looked around before replying, “We don’t have to kill them, but neither do we have to help them. We haven’t explored the rest of the keep, maybe the survivors are upstairs. We should look at that avenue before we agree to any terms with them.”
Innathia sighed and turned back to the one-armed Nephilim, “We can’t make any deals yet, give us some time to consider your offer.”
The Nephilim’s smile dropped a little, “Very well. I will show you the way out. But remember, the merrow are still around. Best of luck finding your lost crew.”
With that the group made it out of the dungeon, the sound of the gate being locked behind them echoing through the chamber. Bast looked back at them, “Let’s explore the rest of the keep and see what we can find, I don’t trust these cut throats to be telling us the full truth.”
The rest of the keep showed further signs of violence, blood pooled on the walls and floor, but no bodies had been found yet, Nephilim, merrow or even of the Dixie Whick.
Bex opened up a door and was greeted with a horrifying sight of a pile of human corpses. Letting out a sigh she went in to see what she could find. Most of the wounds on the bodies were deep slashes from what she has been able to recognize as wounds caused by merrow. As she was about to leave she noticed something odd about one of the corpses. One of the bodies had a wound that looked too clean, and the coloration around the flesh showed that the wound was made when he was already dead. Intrigued Bex walked up and examined it closer, seeing something protruding from the wound she stuck her hand into the wound and felt around.
Bex pulled her hand out and examined what she had found, upon examining it she determined it was written in code. Giving the room one more glance around she closed the door and left.
Bast found the wardens room, where five sailors in officer’s uniform seemingly made a last stand. From the look of them he could tell it was not merrow, but the Nephilim who had killed them. Grinding his teeth in anger, Bast continued to explore to the room searching for any clue of what happened to the rest of the crew, the captain was still missing which, he might still be holed up somewhere.
Eldeth stood before a strange door, there didn’t seem to be any handle or even a lock and yet it wouldn’t open. Even when she knocked on it no sound emanated from it. She examined the strange runes written along the door, but they were in a language she didn’t understand. Not the first time she considered how she had ended up in this situation, every day those bastards in the Underbelly moved her friends further away from her. She just hoped she had made the right decision in recruiting the help of Gail and that her party would be capable of helping her with her quest.
Innathia made his way back to the ground floor of the keep and looked around, he had little hope of finding anything in the rooms upstairs, knowing that the Nephilim would have been thorough in the clearing of the keep before the merrow attacked. But something still wasn’t right with this prison and that intrigued him. As he explored the room he found what he was looking for, some of the bricks didn’t match the rest of wall. He began to look for a trigger or passphrase but the way to open the door eluded him. Cursing Innathia left to go find the sea giant, when subtlety fails strength may prevail.
The party was gathered in front of the hidden door as Innathia explained what he had found. “The secret to opening the door eludes me, I was hoping the sea giant would be more successful.”
Bex looked at him questioningly before understanding grossed her face. Shouldering her great axe, Bex walked up to where the hidden door was and felt around for a second before taking a step back and gave the stones a solid kick. Her foot instantly pierced the stone, knocking in stones. Several kicks later a doorway was revealed to them. Covered in dust and rubble Bex turned and smiled at her companions, enjoying the destruction she had wrought.
Innathia walked in past her, “Good job Bex.”
The room looked like it hadn’t been disturbed in a while, and was lined with shelves covered in scrolls.
“What is this room? Why hide a library?” Said Bast as he examined the shelves.
“It’s obviously information they didn’t want found.” Said Innathia as he examined a scroll,
“This one here looks like a detailed map of Ryll, albeit a little out dated, it still has Port Durst as the main naval base.” He said as he put the scroll back up.
Bex looked up and noticed a chain that was attached to some form of platform. Hauling herself up the chain, Bex found the mechanism to lower the table. With a loud clang, it slammed on the ground making every one jump. “This looks important,” Said Bex with a large grin.
Eldeth looked over the table, and saw the seal of Ryll on the table, “Well at least now we know this was endorsed by the kingdom and not some shady hole of knowledge. But why wouldn’t they say anything to us?”
Innathia barely heard her as he saw something behind the shelves. Pulling it out it appeared to be a bag. “I think I found something,” He said holding it up, “Bex, let me see that torch.”
Handing it over Innathia proceeded to drop it into the bag, where the torch disappeared into, after waiting for a couple of minutes Innathia reached in and pulled out the torch that was now unlit. “I have heard of these, magical bags that store things in a different plane.” He looked around at the scrolls, “We can use it to bring these with us.”
Bast examined a cluster of scrolls and found that each was a detailed map of several major cities of Ryll. Looking around he put them into his bag for his own keeping, Bex noticed him and he signaled her for silence. Shrugging she continued helping Innathia put the remaining scrolls into the bag.
When they were all done packing up the scrolls they took a final stock of the room.
“That looks like everything, I feel that we have found all we are going to find.” Said Innathia.
Bast turned to him, “We still have not finished our main mission, and that was to find survivors or at least what happened to them. I think we should talk to those Nephilim again, they were holding back on us. And it doesn’t sit right with me to leave the people responsible for the death of the Dixie Whick behind.”
“If anything, we should help them, leaving them is as good as killing them.” Said Innathia.
“And what is wrong with that?” Asked Bast, “These are Saharan soldiers, these are the people responsible for the attack on Port Durst, for killing the crew of the Dixie Whick, and if they hadn’t been in such dire straits they would have tried the same to us.”
“They were just following orders, and at this time they are no real threat to us. I have no qualms about fighting armed combatants but I will not kill wounded soldiers that have done is no wrong.”
“Are you mad?” Said Bast getting more worked up, “The evil of Mer-Jin has warped your kinsmen, at this point any that have no explicitly forsaken the dark god are our enemies. If Thrandiul was here he would tell you the same. These may not be the same troops who attacked Port Durst but they were involved in the plot. Because of their actions they made what should have been a joyous reunion into blood bath. Wounded or not we can’t leave Saharan forces in Ryll territory. We already had to let their army march through an undefended country side, I won’t make that mistake again.”
The whole time Bex and Eldeth just stared at the two, neither wanting to jump in the argument. It was Eldeth who spoke up first, “Before we continue we should make it back to the Giver’s Mark, and inform the captain what we found. It is his ship so even if we wanted to take one of the Nephilim we would need his permission.”
Innathia and Bast glared at each other before finally agreeing. The group made quick time to the skiff and began to head back to the ship. As they got closer they saw that something was awry with the ship. There was no one standing watch, and blood was in the waters near the ship.
Bex rose out of the water and signaled that it was clear in the waters, “If there was an attack either they succeeded and everyone is dead or they repelled the attackers. We should move with caution.”
Rising effortlessly out of the water, Bex began to climb up the ship and was greeted with voices. Peering over the side she saw the first mate arguing with the quartermaster. The first mate was of the mind that they should set sail and get away from the island as soon as possible, while the quartermaster was arguing for them to remain and finish out their mission. Nearby the captain stood pondering his options.
As Bex pulled herself up and over the rail, the captain jumped and began drawing his cutlass. “By Norvell, you scared the hell out of me.”
“What has happened here?” Asked Bex looking around the deck which showed signs of recent combat.
“Merrow. We were hit pretty hard but we were able to repel them.” He gestured to the two arguing officers, “When we hadn’t heard back from you we were stuck with what choice to make. Stay and find out what happened to you or head out. I am glad we remained, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if we had condemned you to the mercies of the merrow.”
As they spoke the rest of the party made their way up. Relaying what they had found on the island. The captain took it all in before asking, “And these Nephilim? You believe they are holding something back?”
“He did give off the impression that he was with holding something. A last bargaining chip I would surmise.” Said Innathia, “But they are wounded and no threat. If we offer them passage off this island I am sure they will cooperate with us.”
Bast scoffed at the notion, “We can’t trust them, how do we know they don’t have some means to signal their allies when they recover a little more? And who are we going to commission to send them where they want to go? Would this be a duty you want to take up Captain?”
“No, I would not. As per the prince’s word and that of Gail, although Ryll has not made a public declaration Sahar has. We are at war with them and I will not leave behind nor carry a force of Saharans in my waters.” Turning to the party, “I want you to return and take them out, whatever way you deem. And if they are hiding something find out that too. You said you never found the captain’s corpse, perhaps they know where he fell or what has befallen him. I will give you one day to perform the deed but we need to get heading out, I doubt we can keep repelling the merrow if they attack with the same numbers as before.”
Innathia’s posture straightened at the order, and he slid his owl mask down. “Yes sir, it will be over soon then.” Bast looked over at Innathia in surprise at his sudden change demeanor.
“Very well, let’s get on with this then.” Said Bex.
Once again, the party stood before the gate, Innathia knocked. After a while a response came in elvish.
“You change your mind?” asked the one-armed Nephilim through the door.
“We are still undecided on that part. It will depend on what further information you can give us. We know the captain didn’t die upstairs, do you know his whereabouts?” Asked Innathia.
“We figured that would be your answer, so I will tell you. Either you help my men and I off this island, or we kill your captain.”
Innathia sighed, “How do we know you even have him?”
“I will let you in to see that I speak the truth. But only you and no weapons.”
“Very well, let me convene with my companions.” Said Innathia turning back to the party.
After hearing what Innathia had to say Bast cursed, “I told you these bastards couldn’t be trusted. Innocent my ass.”
“That is beside the point, how are we going to handle this?” said Innathia.
“We will do what they say, you will go in unarmed but not alone. I will make myself invisible and go with you. When we get eyes on the captain, and are able to ensure his safety we will strike.” Said Bast.
Eldeth shrugged, “Sounds good to me, not much else we can really do.”
Bex looked concerned, “I don’t like you guys going in alone. How do we know if they are telling the truth about their numbers, this could be a trap?”
“We don’t have much choice, we can handle this.” Said Bast.
Innathia returned to the door seemingly alone and knocked on the door. “I accept your deal, let me in.”
The door cracked a little and the Nephilim peaked through the crack to make sure Innathia was alone. “I am glad you’ve come to your senses cousin. Come inside quickly.”
The one-armed Nephilim lead Innathia past the cots where the wounded lay into a cell further in the back that Innathia didn’t see before. Inside was an older human male who Innathia knew fit the description of the captain, behind him stood another Nephilim only a little better off than the others.
“As you can see I spoke true. Now, do we have a deal?” asked the Nephilim with a smug smile on his face.
Bast stood behind the Nephilim with the knife, and plunged his dagger into his neck while at the same time restraining the hand with the blade to the captain’s throat. Gurgling in surprise the Nephilim went immediately limp as blood gushed from his wound. Yelling in surprise the one-armed Nephilim began to raise his fist as Innathia wiped out the dagger he had hidden in his sleeve and plunged it into his heart. His face as lifeless and cold as the owl mask he normally wears.
Standing over the fallen Nephilim, Innathia turned to Bast and the Captain, “Get him to the others, I will take care of the survivors.” Lowering his mask Innathia strode into the chamber.
As Bast examined the captain he noticed the bandages around his eyes. “Can you hear me? You’re going to be ok, Gail has sent us.”
The captain turned his head towards the sound, “Gail? Good to hear the Wolf of Ryll is still around. But how did you know I was here?”
“Sahar attacked Port Durst, they used your ship to set up an ambush and were working with Luhi to attempt an assassination on the prince.” Said Bast, as he untied and began to administer to the captain’s wounds.
“What? My wife, is she okay? She owns an inn in Port Durst?”
“Your wife is ok, and she is going to be happy to see you back.” Said Bast, as he helped the captain make his way out of the room he noticed Innathia standing at the far end of the chamber, bloodied knife in hand. Turning towards Bast he said, “How is he?”
Bast looked around at Innathia’s quick work and nodded, “Relatively ok, the bastards took his eyes.”
Innathia walked up to the captain and put his hands on his chest, divine energy crackled around his hand and poured into the captain who stood straighter as his wounds healed.
“Unfortunately, your eyes will need to be looked at by some one more powerful then I.”
A smile came to the captain’s face, “Thank you, I feel better all ready. Now get me off this Norvell forsaken island.”
As they made their way back to the skiff, the captain relayed his tale to them.
“We knew something was off when we got our orders. The Sultan had ordered us to this island, which was odd because this place has been abandoned for decades. In fact, it’s not even really a prison, rather it was a fortress meant to hold secret knowledge as well as protect the door you found. Legends say that within holds a scale of the Leviathan. But that the door can only be opened by a sea giant of the same lineage as those who locked it up.”
At this Bex remembers the book she had found and told the captain about it.
“Ah good, it was a code book. I hid it when we knew we were going to be over run. That potentially has the key to unlocking the door, if legends are true then that scale could be used against the Leviathan.”
In the skiff, they finished up the tale of the attack on Port Durst, and the killing of the half-dragon.
“That bastard is the son from the dragon queen herself they say. Sahar is mobilizing forces to unleash a new stage of the war. If what you say is true than they are in league with the dragons now. Ryll can no longer stand by while others fight.”
At last they made it to the ship and helped the captain up, as he reached the top he smiled towards the companions, “It feels good to have a ship below my feet again. Thank you for your efforts, although I made it out alive the fate of my crew will always stay with me. But I will not rest until I have revenge against Sahar and the Sultan for betraying us.”
Linn made his way and greeted the captain warmly, “It is truly a blessing to see you again friend.”
The captain returned the embrace, “I already feel better knowing our journey home is in your hands.” Further down the ship raised voices could be heard arguing and he turned his face towards it questioningly. “Is that the quartermaster?”