4th of Sarenith 4713
We arrived in Eleder near mid-morning today, the 4th day of Sarenith, on the pirate ship The Last Hurrah. The previous two weeks had been spent resting, healing our various wounds and otherwise recovering from our endeavors on Smuggler’s Shiv.
When we had exited the lighthouse following the destruction of the snakehead altar, into the bright sunlight of a tropical afternoon, Aycenia was at the bottom of the stairs chatting casually with Aerys and Jask. Phi immediately headed toward the fern-haired fey. From the little I overheard, she seemed to be asking the dryad for help in curing Toshe of her latest curse. Aycenia shook her head sadly and Phi made her way over to Toshe to give her the bad news. The two then disappeared back into the lighthouse as we informed the rest of our friends of the altar’s destruction.
Over the ensuing week, Aerys, Jask and Ishirou continued their work on the lighthouse lamp and, after seven days of hard labor, with an ear-splitting screech the large brass mechanism atop the lighthouse tower began turning. That night, a bright beam of yellow light once again stabbed out into the darkness above Desperation Bay.
A lookout from the Last Hurrah must have seen it as, the very next morning during breakfast, a small band of pirates marched into Thrunefang. They were led by a tall, red haired woman with a large starburst tattooed on her forehead. She walked with the confidence and swagger worthy of the most powerful lord of Cheliax. A long sword swung in a leather scabbard at her hip.
“I am Kassata Lewynn, Captain of the Last Hurrah. Who is in command here?” Her voice echoed across the courtyard.
We looked from one to another helplessly. Finally, Mwembe spoke up.
“No one is ‘in command’. We make decisions as a group.”
“As a group? That seems woefully inefficient. Can’t run a ship that way.” Captain Lewynn replied.
Mwembe shrugged. “We are not on a ship.”
The captain inclined her head. “Point taken.”
At that moment, one of the others spoke up. “Can you get us off this damnable island?”
“I can. Though we’ll be wantin’ to search it first. Seems there should be a lot of treasure on an island no one could leave for all these years. And us bein’ the first ones here, it belongs to us by right. We leave in seven days.”
There was some grumbling at this, but there was no choice but to accept the captain’s conditions. The two score members of the Last Hurrah’s crew fanned out across the island in search of anything of value. When they assembled outside the lighthouse a week later, their number had been reduced by six. Apparently, some disagreements had arisen over ownership of some of the riches.
But eventually, the time for departure came. Sasha and Gelik had come into Thrunefang early that morning, and as we headed up the gangplank, Captain Lewynn noticed the tattoo on Sasha’s back. Immediately, her eyes went cold and, stalking stiffly over to her, she grabbed Sasha’s shoulder, turning the red haired woman to face her. She slapped Sasha hard across the cheek and stalked off across the deck in the direction of Aerys. As the two talked quietly, it became clear they had known each other prior to this chance meeting.
As Mwembe and Phi came aboard with their companions, Phi carrying the young flying lizard she’d raised from an egg, the Captain paused in her conversation with Aerys, frowning. “Your pets will have to be caged down below. Don’t want a bunch o’ wild animals roamin’ me ship.”
Phi’s eyes blazed. “If Fi must be caged, you must cage me, too!” she protested indignantly.
Captain Lewynn shrugged. “Hm. Have it your way.” She turned to Mwembe, “What about you?”
“No. You do not need to cage me. But I will stay below with Rarsk.”
Captain Lewynn nodded, then turned to the mate. Nodding toward Phi and her pets, she said, “Put those three in the big cage.”
The first mate, a large man with a thick neck and a thicker gut, looked to the druid and her reptilian companions. “C’mon, then.” he rumbled, and headed for the hatch. Reluctantly, they followed him. A moment later, Mwembe and Rarsk headed in the same direction, disappearing into the dark hold of the ship.
Finally, the others came aboard, Toshe heavily cloaked and hunched behind Jask and Ishirou, trying to attract as little attention to herself as possible.
After we had all been shown to our quarters, the ship’s mate came along with an invitation to dine with the captain that evening. Mwembe and I eyed each other nervously. Vague memories of our last dinner at a Captain’s table flitted through my mind. I can only assume the same was true of my friends.
Following the meal, we recounted our adventures for Captain Lewyn and her officers. When we finished, she said, “Sorry that silly seahag put ya out like that.” She shook her head ruefully. “Witches and serpent gods. Bad business. But…this Saventh-Yi ye’ve been talkin’ about…if you happen to decipher the location of such a place, I’d hope ye’ll take me and my crew with ye. You can go first, to lead the way. Our caravan can go behind; help ya carry out the loot.”
Seeing our hesitation, she added, “I’d pay 1,000 gold apiece in advance, if ye accept my offer.”
As delicately as we could, we answered that we would have to think on it, and discuss it among ourselves. Reluctantly, she agreed. “Well, be sure to let me know as soon as you decide.” That effectively ended the dinner and we all returned to our berths.
By the morning of the next day, we had sighted the harbor of Eleder. A dark haze of smoke hovered over the city proper, while thousands of gulls wheeled and dove around the harbor.
As the sun rose toward noon, we disembarked onto the wharf. Immediately, we were assailed by heat, noise and the stench of sweat, dead fish and worse.
Captain Lewyn was nice enough to point out the major hostelries and eating houses, saying that she and her crew would be staying at an inn called the Coachman’s Mug, though most of the crew headed for a decidedly different type of house for the night; a place known as the Retired Sword. I however, at the first opportunity, hunted down the nearest establishment I could find offering a bath, a shave and a haircut. The others scattered throughout the city.
Jask headed directly for the Capitol, papers in hand. Aerys went off with her apparently old friend Captain Lewyn, while Sasha ran down the nearest alleyway, taking a direction away from the rest of us.
Later, feeling refreshed, and cleaner than I had in weeks, I began to make my way to the south side of the city, to the home of Mwembe’s old friend, a man named Max. Before reaching my destination, however, I was stopped by an officer of the town guard.
“Are you Andy Flinn?” he asked gruffly.
“Who wants to know?” I replied guardedly.
Matter-of-factly, he said “Baron Utilinus.”
“Oh. Who’s Baron Utilinus?” I asked.
“The Grand Custodian. He wishes to speak with you about your companion, Jask. If you would come with me, please?”
Shrugging, I allowed him to lead me through the dusty, twisting streets of the city, to a large stone building that could only be the Governor’s Palace – though “palace” seemed a bit of an exaggeration in this case. I was ushered into a large room with a thick wooden table at one end. Behind the table sat a well-dressed, middle-aged man I took to be Baron Utilinus. To his right stood a younger man in the uniform of the Sargavan military. Near the wall stood Jask, once again in shackles and looking miserable.
Before the Baron could utter a word, the military man spoke up. “Can you vouch for this…monkey’s freedom, and these papers?” he demanded.
Taken somewhat aback by the slur and the man’s hostility, I answered honestly. “Yes. I can. I was with the group of castaways who found the papers in the wreck of the Brine Demon. They were locked in a small chest in the captain’s cabin.”
The man only growled and gave me a dark look before turning an even darker look on Jask.
“You must excuse General Havelar; he is a military officer charged with defending our fair city from native rebels. He sometimes speaks with less tact than he should.” The Baron gave Havelar a slightly disapproving look. If the General noticed, he did not show it. The Baron went on, “Now. With that matter settled, what I really summoned you for is to make you an offer.”
“An offer?” I had not the slightest notion of what he could possibly offer me, nor what he would expect in return, but all was soon made clear. It was an offer similar to that which Captain Lewyn had proposed, though this seemingly applied to me alone. In short, in return for leading a caravan owned and manned by the Sargavan government to the ruins of Saventh-Yi, the Baron was prepared to offer me 1,000 gold pieces, as well as some undefined tract of land outside the city and a noble title. In addition, he would throw in a squad of Sargavan soldiers to be under my personal command.
I’ll admit I was tempted at first, and not wishing to anger the Baron, I informed him I could not make such a decision rashly and asked to be allowed time to think it over. This I had time to do on the long walk to the home of Mwembe’s good friend Max. As I walked through the heat and noise of the city, I realized I had no use for a noble title, nor any desire for any amount of land in such an inhospitable country. And thinking of my Andoran parents, I could not in good conscience assist such a repressive regime as Baron Utilinus’. But most of all, I could not desert my friends.
Later I learned that the others had received similar offers. Toshe was apparently approached by the Aspis Consortium, while Mwembe met with representatives from both the Pathfinder and the Red Mantis Societies. Based on what Mwembe told me, the latter had initially stopped Phi on her way to Max’s home, but she immediately turned tail and ran off into the jungle, leaving the assassin no chance to make her offer. Eventually, the Mantis representative found Mwembe.
With few exceptions, the offers were the same: one thousand gold pieces, a trinket or other valuable to sweeten the pot and a caravan for supplies and assistance removing any treasure or other valuables from the ruins of Saventh-Yi.
I must admit, it makes me more than a little uneasy at how quickly word of our discovery had seemingly spread throughout the entire city of Eleder and possibly the entire country of Sargava.
Eventually, my wanderings brought me to Max’s dwelling. It was a small, well-built wooden bungalow, painted a bright green, with a fenced yard in front. The house backed up almost to the very trunks of the jungle trees. Max himself was a Colonial, sandy haired and fair, though of more recent immigration. His accent said he was not from Cheliax. His wife Jennie was preparing dinner for her unexpected guests. She was tall and blonde, apparently of Ulfen stock, and her cooking was exceptional.
After the meal, we each told of the offers we’d received and debated which, if any, we should accept. Phi argued vehemently for accepting the assassins’ offer; inexplicably, given her apparent terror of even a single representative of their society. Toshe felt the Aspis Consortium’s deal was best. I cannot cooperate with either of those institutions. Work with the Red Mantis Assassins? Unthinkable. They are a collection of murderers, or worse. Better to accept assistance from Captain Lewyn and her crew of “honest” cutthroats.
As for the Consortium…they are nothing more than slave traders and looters, governed only be a desire for profit. For me, then, that leaves only the Pathfinders and, after some heated debate – with Phi vociferously arguing for the Mantis’ – it was decided. We would accept the assistance of the Pathfinder Society. I sighed with relief. If any other decision had been made, it would have necessitated leaving the group and going my own way.