From the log of Quic’cz, First Mate aboard Dannk’ss (Dauntless) Trading Vessel
We had taken the journey between Shinumetu and Alnadotzli dozens of times. The trip was not without its dangers, but the water was well known to us. We were not remotely prepared for our return journey.
While in Alnadotzli, we met with a group of traders calling themselves the ‘Silver Linings Trading Company’. The majority of them bore forged armor or other impressive gear. Clearly, they fancied themselves the adventuring type. Those kind always draw trouble, but they were men after my own heart, and I could see the passion in their eyes. I convinced captain Ac’l’co to let them aboard the vessel and he gave them the going travel rate, and mentioning the standard Family deal for coming to the aid of a vessel in distress.
The group asked about hunting a Braid Hydra, a dangerous and rare creature. Our captain sensibly refused the job. Even so, the group accepted the price for heading to Shinumetu. They payed in full for their horses and wagons, but had to wait another week before we would set sail back to our capital. We had trade to accomplish.
While in Alnadotzli, we became aware that the town had seen some dynamic changes. Hiyark Bonesetter found himself imprisoned. Unless the mayor managed to find proof of his innocence, he would be hung within the month for trafficking illegal slaves. Good riddance, I say.
Word was also getting around town that the goods merchant, Ghee, may in fact be a devoted servant of Gloehiba. If true, it would undoubtedly hurt his business.
We set sail on schedule and our new passengers were quick to turn their nose up at our way of life. Instead of marveling at our Fire Engine or asking us to demonstrate the power of our Fire Canon, they instead stuck their nose up at their provided hammocks among the crew. They complained about the ‘filth of the bilge’ saying that the water was clearly ‘full of urine’ and ‘the waste of the ship’. I agree that the smell could get ripe down there, but we had just come from dry dock, the vessel was clean, and they would be spending a single night amongst us. Also, who is peeing in our bilge!? But they were hicks from Ahtenko, their backwards ways could be ignored.
Besides, our captain revealed that he would be taking us to the Grove that we had discovered two years prior. I was surprised that he was willing to make a stop there, sharing the grove’s location with these relative unknowns. But it seemed to be a favorite of his since its discovery and we had made a number of stops there every season since.
This year the grove was even more stunning than the last. The trees we had cut down for ship repairs so long ago had already grown over and the stumps no longer marred the beauty of the sight. Two members of the Caravan, Koho and Talya, aided me in a successful hunt where we brought an enormous wild boar back for the crew.
A Tir elf among them by the name of Dave took to challenging my crew at leaping off the beautiful waterfall and into the crystal clear lake below. I heard tell that Dave seemed quite mad, even for one for the Tir. I noted that we would have to keep an eye out for him in case he sought to corrupt any of the crew.
Their presumed leader, Iktomi, had stayed aboard their vessel, apparently concerned that we would abandon them in this paradise and leave them penniless. But Lokan and Tywon, two other members of his crew, came ashore and helped us prepare the bonfires.
What happened afterwards is something of a blur. I recall carousing with the crew, feasting on the boar, and even taking a after dark swim in the lake. I think perhaps I wandered into the treeline for a scant moment of privacy but…the next moment of clarity was several hours later.
I found myself trapped in a wooden cave with four of my crew mates. My sword had been taken from me and the Silver Linings Caravan company was doing battle with mysterious bright red orbs. Even from my space in the cage the heat coming from the orbs was incredible, yet it didn’t seem to bother our rescuers in the slightest. Though the group was immune the damaging fires of the orbs, they still seemed covered in battle damage. A few had grotesquely seeping wounds about their torso. I had missed some significant action.
The group had recovered my weapon and readily returned it to me. I was told that the lost time was due to the orbs the group had been fighting. Creatures the group had taken to calling Wisps. Apparently they began as blue, luring you in, then turned red, hot, and hostile when threatened. These creatures were apparently the servants of an even larger group?
After sharing this information with us, the group led us through a twisted cavern and into a room full of bodies. Clearly there had been a massive battle in these twisting passages. I saw deceased t’skrang, but all were pale and covered in some kind of fungal infection. Definitely not Namegivers known to me.
Our rescuers partook in a bit of looting, taking a gorgeous scale cloak from the leader of this strange cult, as well as carving out some of his blood charms. It was grizzly work, but the items clearly had value. Though I perhaps would have left everything in this bizarre and accursed cavern.
Along with the new equipment, they had procured an enormous jar that seemed to have the eyes of a Braid Hydra…the very creature they mentioned hunting a week prior…an odd coincidence to say the least. And the most wild among them, a tattooed ork named Koho, had apparently befriended an enormous and malnourished jungle cat.
The spoils in hand, and the crew rescued, we began to make our way back to the boats.