After spending several days in a strange stone chamber that I don’t know how I ended up in—beyond glass I saw Ahlset wandering around beyond. I called and called but heard no one. I don’t know what happened or why, but after a time I can’t measure, Asakku and I appeared in a strange city in a great crack of lightning. I thought it was Burrowton, though Asakku assured me it was Southport.
After several minutes, my hearing returned, and I began to take in my surroundings. We stared at each other in confusion. The only conclusion I could come to was that our friends had switched places with us, given the charred spaces on the ground around us and our method of travel.
We agreed to take a ship up the Stone River to Pebble Island—halfway between us and my destination of Drangorn, the Capitol City of the kingdom. All we could do was hope the others would find us as we nearly found them. I can say that Ahlset has some answers to provide the next I see him.
Given that I was carrying all our treasures with us, we at least were not lacking on funding. After liquidating our goods and collecting our gold, Asakku and I sought passage up the Stone River. When we approached the first man, he greeted us with distrust until I realized it was my armor that offended. I hadn’t realized the effect it might have; I should have. I offered to trade our skills to their defense in exchange for passage up the river.
A child approached me, begging for coins. When I provided a gold, a second child attempted to steal coin purse much to my irritation. Asakku caught him and sent him on his way. I set aside some coin in a separate pouch to give hungry children without endangering our party’s gold.
For the next few days, I spent time in the slums, tending to the sick and wounded while we waited for our transport up the river. Asakku wandered the city, seeing what there was to see.
We left on time, heading north up the river without much ado. At the crossing to Pebble Island, however, we ran into trouble. A scaled, crocodile-like creature lunged out of the water and grabbed the orc bowman who hired us to do the job. Without thinking much about the consequences, I dove into the water after him. Without my heavy armor, I can swim quite well, to be honest. I can hold my breath for a very long time.
I saw the death of the orc, and the monster turned his beady eyes to me. I swam for the surface as swiftly as I was able. As I broke the surface, I saw Asakku and the captain in the ship. At least there weren’t more of them. Asakku hauled me onto the ship, and the beast lunged at my legs and clamped his jaws into my shins.
I escaped his hold, and he climbed onto the boat and charged the captain, hurling him into the water. Asakku and I pursued. The captain died a terrible death, and the beast vanished into the murky darkness. With heavy hearts, Asakku and I continued on to Pebble Island, where Asakku’s order had sent him.
A small village met us on the shores of the island, and we docked. Ferries filled the docks around us, and Asakku and I took a moment to see if we could find the name of the captain and any next of kin. We discovered a shipment of silvered weapons and an order to seek for lycanthrope activity in the area between Landfall and Pebble Island. Ferries have been attacked with disturbing frequency of late.
Asakku studied the order and turned to me, telling me of a lycanthrope problem in Grey Reach. There are occasionally severe outbreaks here and there—at least five times in the last thousand years—and one of the significant difficulties is when bitten people contract the disease. It spreads like wildfire in hell, though it can be cured if treated properly within three days. Born lycanthropes can control their urges, but those bitten do not have control over their actions on the full moon. A few times through history, an order of knights or rangers appeared to handle the lycanthropy problem. This may be one of those times.
Perhaps that crocodile creature was one of them. I couldn’t tell for sure, but it did concern me since the creature bit me. My stomach sunk a little when Asakku told me of them.
In light of my concern, Asakku and I spent the day searching the woods for wolfsbane to stop the transformation and give me the opportunity avoid becoming one of them. About an hour after consuming the tea he made, I was violently ill. I could only hope it worked. I have no wish to repeat that experience… though I am more fearful of turning into a beast.
Asakku sought the mayor of the town. We discovered he was out for a swim. Asakku and I shared a look, considering that the folk here may be lycanthropes as well. Particularly given the letter and Asakku’s missive. I tried warning the guards about the crocodile man, but they refused to listen. They claimed the bites on my legs were from sharks and that I was somehow imagining what I saw. Insanity if I’ve ever seen it. Either they are so dim that they do not see the reality of the situation.
The mayor said something was stealing children and objects from the town. They got most of their trade from fishing and the inns, but they tried to keep taxes fairly low. He told us few people venture far into the island; most of it was uninhabited. He told us of some elven ruins further in, claiming the island was once the center of the elven kingdom before the war.
We purchased some rations and prepared for our journey into the interior of the island. During that time, I asked about some myths and legends. Folks claimed old ghosts haunted the swamps and caves—they also claimed the ghosts were of old witches slain over the years. Asakku found out there was a cave about a mile off that seemed the source of some local legends. He told me Grey Reach had issues with extremists deciding to go on witch hunts which then spread to all arcane arts. At least three times in the last nine-hundred years, folks were murdered. Pebble Island had, in the past, been a refuge for arcane practitioners due to its remote and unpopulated nature.
From there we hiked through the wilderness toward the cave Asakku heard about. When we arrived at the cave, we saw a great deal of dry blood near the entrance and heading into the cave along with piles of small, humanoid bones. Drawing my silvered sword, I guarded Asakku while he investigated the bones and blood to learn as much as he could about the nature of the deaths. It looked to me far too much like the bones of children for comfort, and my heart tightened in my chest.
Asakku told me the blood could have been there awhile—at least three weeks—though there was fresh blood mixed in. A medium-sized creature had been gnawing on the bones with sharp, carnivore teeth. The jaws weren’t huge.
From within the cave we heard the sounds of sobbing. I lit a torch and headed to the mouth of the cave, and within we saw a woman trussed up and begging for help. The hair on the back of my neck stood up in response to the situation, and I let out a slow breath and asked her what happened. She said she was gathering herbs in the forest and was attacked and dragged into the cave. We freed her and told her to go to town as swiftly as she could, and she fled.
Asakku and I moved deeper into the cave and discovered a large amount of money, some semiprecious stones, masterwork weapons, potions, a bookcase, candles, some other odds and ends… a gods-be-damned catapult…
I gathered up the money and gems, and Asakku and I began to track the creature that inhabited the cave. We followed the freshest sets of tracks, and the freshest sets were two barefoot tracks: one going in, and a second set (the girl’s) leaving. We elected to track the girl’s footprints nearby to town until they stopped at a tree. From there, we saw clawmarks ascending into the tree.
Asakku climbed the tree, and I readied my bow with silver-tipped arrows. Asakku said there were scratch marks in the trees toward town. I took off toward town, moving as quickly as possible. Asakku caught up to me, and we agreed to split up. I took off to try and gather everyone into a single building to defend them from whatever this girl was. Assuming they’d listen.
They listened, thank goodness, and gathered into one of the inns. I distributed the silvered swords and arrows and gathered the women and elderly into the most protected parts of the inn. I posted the guards at every door I could and had armed men on each floor.
Once everyone was bedded down, I began to patrol around the tavern, keeping my eyes peeled for anything out of place. Asakku called an alarm from the roof, and I charged inside with my weapons drawn. I arrived just in time to see a monstrosity burst out of the fireplace and rip one of the villagers to shreds.
The same uneasy feeling I felt in the cave rippled over my skin a second time as I faced down the monstrosity. Fury rose in me as I thought of all the children who had died and been eaten. She sunk her teeth into my shoulder, and I could feel the burn of her teeth through my armor. I roared in pain, and Asakku slunk up behind her and into position to strike.
We did some damage before she vanished up the chimney. Asakku retreated to the roof, and I headed outside when he called that she was heading down the building. I met her outside and fired an arrow at her just in time for her to vanish up the side of the building. I returned inside and headed to the second floor as swiftly as I could move.
Asakku launched off the roof and dropped down a story to grab onto the hag as she scrambled to try and hold onto the building. The two of them fell toward the cobbles. Asakku twisted and put her beneath him, and he landed on her on the ground with a horrific noise of crushed bones and organs.
Over the next few days, Asakku and I explored the island and tended to the burial of the children who were slain. The innekeeper told us we could stay there whenever we needed without payment, and we thanked him for his kindness. Heading north with the barge, we took to the river to deliver the goods to BlackWater as had been ordered to the captain. It felt right to complete his journey for him. It wasn’t much good, but it was what we had.
It took us about four days to reach Blackwater, and from there we delivered the cargo and received five-hundred gold. From there, we followed caravans up toward Drangorn. We stopped briefly in Dawnside for Asakku to visit a friend.