Our Story So Far

Location: Daggerford

Date: Mirtul 1, 1361 DR

Weather: Cloudy and chilly. Showers – 30%

The last of the flowers from Greengrass have been crushed into the mud and the hangovers from yesterday's celebrations have faded to a dull roar by now. It is mid-morning, and you finally have to face up to the fact that you have no money, no collateral and no possibility of work within the next ten days. Perhaps the only thing standing between you and starvation, or a life of crime, is the offer you heard about in the tavern last night.

A merchant needs able bodied young people to act as guards for a shipment by boat, down river at first and then across the Sea of Swords to the Moonshae Islands. The pay is reasonable, for an inexperienced youth like yourself, at least you think it is. And you have gathered in the stable yard behind the Silver Flood Inn off Kauth Alley near the river gate in Daggerford with a handful of other sorry looking youngsters, wondering if you look as young and scared as they do. Presumably they have also answered the call for adventurers.

As you look around the faces, some friendly, some not so much, and wonder who they might be, a well-dressed man, short and stout, steps out of the back door of the inn and looks you all over, shaking his head in sorrow at what he sees.

Despite his age and girth, the fellow looks tough enough. His eyes are shrewd as he gauges each of you in turn and there is a very business like sword strapped to his belt and a number of dagger hilts within easy reach. He wipes the crumbs from his breakfast from his mustache and steps up on a mounting block ladies use to mount their horses so that he towers over even the tallest of you.

"My name is Panthras," he calls out in strident voice, a voice used to being heard at a distance. "I am a merchant. I am seeking a half dozen able-bodied men or women to act as guards for a shipment that is on its way to the Moonshae Isles. I'll tell you what the cargo is when you sign my letter of agreement, but I can assure you it is a legal cargo. No smuggler, me. It is also a valuable cargo. And that's why I need guards.

"If you're interested, I'm willing to pay you fifty gold crowns for a month's worth of work. In addition I will provide provisions and board along the way. It may be a bit rough and ready at time, but you'll eat three solid meals a day." He slaps his own belly in demonstration.

"If you want the job, line up here in front of me and tell me who you are and why I should hire you. If I agree, I'll send you inside for a meal. When I'm done out here, I'll come in and you'll be required to sign my agreement.

"Do you understand me?"

As he finishes speaking a splatter of rain falls on the muddy yard and Panthras looks up in disgust, pulling his hood up to keep his head dry.

The merchant Panthras nods to each of the young bloods that steps forward offering to take on the position of guard for his shipment.

"Good, Good," he says, waving them past him and into the inn itself through the stable yard door. Inside the new recruits find a table laid out with a plentiful breakfast: Bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, jam, hot tea, sliced sausages (some very spicy), several cheeses and cool jugs of summer ale.

As soon as he is finished hearing each of the applicants say why they will be good for the job, though her turns no one away, you notice, he joins you himself and slathers butter on a slice of hot toast and then a big dollop of honey on top of that.

"I'm glad you've joined me," he says around a mouthful of toast.

"I have a simple hiring contract," he places a roll of parchment on the table. The top half is written out in a fine bold hand. Beneath this is an open place for signing. "It's a standard form."

OOC: It is a standard contract form that is very common along the Sword Coast. It makes a commitment that he will pay you the sum he mentioned for your service for five weeks. If any of you will not sign it, he will explain it and if you still do not sign he will shrug and ask you to leave. On the way out the bar tender will ask you for a gold coin to pay for your breakfast.

Once you have signed, or made your mark, he jots his initials down next to each name as a witness and has the bar tender sign the whole contract to witness it.

"That's all the formalities, then," he says, rolling the contract up and placing inside an inner pocket in his coat. "

Eat heart for we sail in an hour. Our cargo is swords. Two dozen swords to be exact, each a masterwork blade worth over 300 gold ducats each. That's over seven thousand gold pieces in value for those who are a bit fuzzy with numbers."

He chomps down on a large spicy sausage while he lets the numbers sink in a bit.

"Our best protection is that no body knows about them," he says at last, washing the very hot food down with a gulp of beer. "That's why I've been so cagey in hiring you without telling you what you are guarding.

"And I've hired you at the last moment. Finish up here and we'll get down to the docks. The swords will be arriving their in about half a glass and I want you all in place to watch over the loading. Then we'll be on the river by midday."

He stands to usher you out, but will answer any questions at this point as well.

Panthras throws saw-dust on the newly signed contract to dry the ink and then rolls it up. He counts out a dozen more gold coins from his purse and places them in the inn keeper's open palm.

"Thank you, Sergoi," he says, nodding at the man in a familiar way. "It's a pleasure as usual. The food was excellent. Perhaps you would wrap up what's left and we'll have it for lunch on the river."

"Not much left," notes the inn keeper, glaring at Chard who is still chewing.

"Very well," says the old merchant, passing him a few more coins. "Add some fruit and cheese to the bundle if you would and deliver it to the ship within the hour. We sail on the flood tide."

Opening the door and waving to his new hires, Panthras calls out to one and all:

"Time to earn your keep, guards. We sail within an hour or so, when the flood of the high tide reaches far enough up the river to give us some lift. Our cargo is stored on a barge that we will ride down stream to the Sea of Swords. There's a tiny way station there, at Lizard's Point where we will transfer the cargo to our waiting ship. The barge cannot sail at sea and ship cannot come up the river. By having them meet in this unexpected way, we hope to confuse our enemies."

He turns to Chard.

"We do have enemies, son. Men, and other kinds of creatures, who would stop our shipment at any cost. Not for the profit of it, but to prevent the hope we bring. Those swords must reach the Cantrev of Aithe in Callidyrr, a kingdom on the the western coast of the island of Alaron by the vernal equinox. There are fell beasts that prowl in the islands and those few men who would stand against them need the very best help we can provide. Weapons for now. Perhaps new fighters when we arrive?" He looks them over with a glance, summing them up as if they were bolts of cloth and he found them threadbare and torn.

"Follow me. There is just time to say goodbye to loved ones and collect some fond possessions. But mark my words, we sail in the hour, and if you are not aboard, it will go poorly for you in this life and the next."

He leads them out of the inn and by narrow lanes to the river gate. The barge is moored at the jetty, riding low in the water with many long wooden crates in the open hold, heavily tarred against the moisture. Only small boats and barges can ply the river, which is shallow, and fit under the bridge around which Daggerford has grown up. The barge is long and ungainly, manned by swarthy river men who wield long poles, presumably to steer and propel the vessel.

Panthras mounts aboard on a rickety gangplank and greets the barge captain. He will introduce whoever joins him to the crew.

OOC: Is anyone going to spend a few minutes in town before the get on the boat? If so, what will you do? (You can email me in private if you wish.)

The River Barge

At some point in the late morning, the barge captain calls to his crew to push off. It is hard for a non-sailor to say why this time rather than another, but there is a sudden flurry of activity on the jetty and on board the barge. Big fat ropes are slipped loose from cleats on the dock and the long cables tossed to waiting men on the barge who coil them up in cunning storage areas, out of the way but ready for use at any moment. Other men use their long poles to push the unwieldy barge away from the dock and out into the slow swell of muddy water.

For several minutes its hard work on the sailors part to dig their poles into the water, reaching down to the river bottom to push the barge farther and farther out into the flow, but then the current catches them and the great long barge starts to run downriver, gathering momentum as it turns lazily in the water..

Now the water men run from side to side, pushing with the poles as the captain calls out instructions in a language that might as well be in the Hill Giant tongue for all the sense it makes to the passengers.

"Quarter up! Down in the withies! Nedly now! Faster! Faster! Hanger soon!"

No matter that it seems like gibberish, the crew seems to know what they are doing and in a few hundred yards, the barge is centered in the flow of the river, sliding along merrily towards the Daggerford bridge. The great arch of the bridge, which always seems so far up in the air when crossing by the road, now looms as the smallest of possible targets as the barge rushes towards certain doom, bound to crash into the pilings and splinter apart on the massive stone supports.

Again the captain and crew prove they know their business. Two well seasoned fellows with shorter, stouter poles stand on either side in the prow of the vessel as they hurtle into the black maw of the bridge opening. They touch the stone as it flashes by lightly with their short poles and keep the barge neatly centered in the flow.

In another moment the barge is past the bridge and out on the wide bosom of the river as it rushes along the last ten leagues to the ocean. Now it seems they are not traveling as fast, but when some children from a nearby farm wave at them and give chase along the bank, it is clear they are moving faster than a galloping horse. Daggerford falls behind and soon lost from view. Farmland gives way to wilder country and within an hour they are in the wilderness.

The river is now doing all the work and only a few of the sailors are needed to keep them on track with their poles. Panthras speaks with the barge captain on top of his deck house where he keeps a careful eye out, and then clambers down to the deck.

"We'll reach the sea by mid-afternoon," he says as he calls you all around for a huddle on the deck. A couple of you look a little green and he passes out small slices of dry toast.

"Eat these," he says. "One a day to stave off sea sickness."

Overhead the rain clouds are moving inland and behind them weak sunlight is peeking through. It's still cold, but not as wet.

"Normally the barge would hug the coast south to Baldur's gate or north to Waterdeep, but we will be stopping at Lizard's Point. It's a tiny island just where the river joins the sea. Just big enough for a jetty. We'll transfer the cargo there from this barge to our ship. By nightfall, we'll be on the ocean proper."

One of the sailors calls out a warning cry and you look up to see a small clan of lizard men standing on the south bank, waving spears at you. One or two of then leap into the river, swimming towards the barge, but they are quickly left behind.

"Rest for now," suggests Panthras. "We are in no danger on the river."

By mid-afternoon the smell of the sea and the piercing cries of gulls fill the air. The barge continues to float swiftly on the river's current but the shores recede now and the speed slackens as the fresh water merges with the salt. Now, in addition to the poles, several of the bargemen are wielding long oars which they call sweeps. The men work these standing up and under the captain' sharp eye they steer the river boat towards an islet on the right hand side of the river.

The land hereabouts is marshy with many waterbirds and low hummocks that support groves of trees. Thick reeds obscure the actual bank, and the bargemen keep careful watch as they approach the island.

As the vessel rounds a small point, the lookout cries a warning and you all can see a sailing ship riding at anchor in a small inlet within the structure of the island.

Even to the landlubber's eye it is clear that the new ship is designed for rough water. She towers above the barge and her profile is rakish, like a predatory animal. Where the barge is propelled mostly by sweeps and poles, the ship has two tall masts, laced with miles of intricate rigging, and folded sails hanging from the spars. A long chain descends into the water and the ship swings around it.

Beyond the placid bay, where the river widens out, you can see the sea proper, with rough waves and cresting white tops. It suddenly dawns on you that you are about to enter a very different world than the one you are used to.

"Up and at 'em, lads and lasses!" roars Panthras. "These crates need to be on board within the hour. I want to be out of sight of land by nightfall."

The bargemen are busy holding their vessel tight against the side of the ship. The crew of the ship lower down a cargo net from a pulley on a spar, but show no inclination to hop down and help with the loading. It becomes clear that Panthras expects his guards to move the cargo as well. He grins at them as he pulls back the oiled sailcloth that has covered the shipping crates so far.

"You didn't expect not to sweat, now, did ye?" he laughs at their expressions. "No worries, my hearties. An hour's hard work and then it's into yer hammocks for a smooth ride across the ocean."

As you look at the crates he's uncovered, you can see there are considerably more that the three crates he mentioned back in Daggerford. There must be fifty or sixty of them, all stacked together, each crate about four feet long, one foot tall and two feet wide. When you go to pick them up you quickly find that while one strong person (13 or above) can lift one, they are awkward and are best managed by two.

As the loading of cargo continues, William Underbank, too small to be of assistance casts his eye across the deck, only to see a number of lizard men climbing aboard the barge. He quickly gives the alarm and battle is joined.

Encounter with the Lizard Men

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Round 4