The sound of clattering dice followed by a loud whoop are heard from the back of the ship. Everyone looks back to see one of the farmers leap up from his seat and punch the air. “That’s it Leitch! Tymora has spoken! You lost!” The other farmers also stand and join in the hollering, “Aye, Donovan, you lost, give us a song!”
“Alright, gimme some space.” The crowd of settlers parts to reveal a plainly dressed man of middle years sitting staring at a pair of dice showing snake-eyes. He brushes the dice aside with the back of his hand, then pulls a large bag towards him from the stack of luggage. He unpacks a thing that looks like a fiddle with a keyboard mounted on the neck and a handcrank attached to a wheel on the soundboard. He begins to turn the wheel, creating a drone like a set of bagpipes and begins to sing. (Playing this)
By the end of the song, all of the settlers have fallen asleep, slumped wherever they were listening, sprawled over crates, sheep, and each other. The man, Donovan, packs up his wheel-fiddle and begins riffling through their pockets for loose change. The captain glowers at Donovan from his perch above the taffrail, but seems used to this sort of thing and goes on about his business.
Shuddup watches Amara’s doll, “What type of power source does your doll use? Something that compact could have a wide variety of applications.”
Done retrieving his “winnings”, Donovan wanders forward to where the girl and the gnome are talking. Overhearing them, he laughs. “Come now Sir Gnome, that doll is clearly no device, but a work of arcane artifice. It looks to me like one of the Bisque dolls popular in Halruaa. Notice the realistic, skin-like, matte finish. Clearly you are not familiar with the thaumaturgical novelties of the deep south.” He smiles and kneels down to be on their level. “Where did you get such a lovely doll, little girl?”
The deckhand stands looking distastefully at the performance, then walks to the rail, presumably to fiddle with some other ropes, or perhaps just to look at something other than the passed-out farmers. As he gazes out at the sea he suddenly coughs, sputters, then shouts, “Man overboard!”
Everyone watching the lizard-man at the prow rush to the rail to see a tall, slender man with the head of a bull floating on a piece of driftwood a good thirty or forty yards off the starboard bow. The lizard-man stops his soliloquy and dives over the rail, vanishing under the water only to resurface next to the floating minotaur. The two are quickly hauled onto the ship and the deckhand gets to work stripping the rescuee of his waterlogged and rather brightly coloured doublet and pantaloons, checking his breathing, and calling for blankets and towels.
Nat wraps the minotaur in a towel and shakes his head, muttering to himself again, “Lizard poets and minotaur fops. What’ll they think of next.” He bends an ear near to the thing’s nostrils to check its breath, then, satisfied, walks away. Ss’thek’niss, the lizard-man,climbs back up on the rail over the sleeping minotaur and perches there, gargoyle-like, looking a bit peevish at having been interrupted by the old man with the hurdy-gurdy.
The minotaur begins to stir, snorts a few times, then opens his eyes. He jumps slightly on realizing that all he is wearing is a towel, pulls the thing tighter about himself and starts looking around wildly for his belongings.
There is an audible pop, a thunk, and a slight yelp of surprise as an elven woman and a pretty, half-elven teen appear on the deck. Or rather, very slightly above it. The copper haired elven woman in a simple grey traveling cloak rolls up the paper she was holding and tucks it into the scroll case held in the crook of her elbow as she looks about the ship.
Meanwhile, the girl rushes to the railing, leaning over and heaving violently.
The minotaur startles the rest of the way awake and jolts to his feet, forgetting the towel. Standing there in his altogether, he isn’t bad looking, from the neck down at least. He makes a couple quick steps towards the young women who has suddenly appeared, forgetting that he is a stark-naked, 7-foot-tall, bull-headed monstrosity. “Are you alright miss?”
Still holding on to the railing, she brushes a strand of hair caught by the wind behind her pointed ear. “Mother thought a spectacle would make it easier to attract students. But I’m far better than if we’d appeared IN the deck. Or a crate. Or one of the … cows.” She trailed off as she turned towards him. The minotaur. And turned bright red. “OH GOD I DIDN’T MEAN IT LIKE THAT I’M SO SORRY.” As she nervously stared at her feet, she also realized what the minotaur was wearing, or rather, not wearing. She was now red to the tips of her ears.
Eddies mother makes a scandalized tsking noise and turns away, shielding the boys eyes from the minotaur’s nakedness. “SIR! There are children present. Please do cover yourself!”
The minotaur looks down at himself, looks around frantically for his clothes, then begins pulling on his still-wet hose with the speed and agility of someone who has clearly had to vacate a lady’s apartments in a hurry on more than one occasion. He pulls a dripping satin shirt over his head, “So sorry miss. I didn’t realize my state…” He grabs a doublet and begins buttoning it up. “Last thing I remember I was falling off a ship.” He reaches down and pulls a pair of ballooning pantaloons over his hose. “Now I wake up and find myself naked, on a completely different boat, with beautiful women appearing out of the sky…” He grabs a belt with a once fine scabbard, now rotting from the moisture, hanging from it and buckles it on. “You can imagine my shock…” He carefully draws the sword from the scabbard, a beautiful basket-hilted sabre with a silver-chased blade, being careful not to appear too threatening, and dries it off with the towel before re-sheathing it. “I meant no disrespect by my ill-garbed appearance.” He gives the maid a sweeping bow, almost skewering her with his long, bovine horns.
Amara looks at Shaddup and Donovan and gives them the stink eye. Susalia is NOT a device! She’s a real person! She leans down and whispers to the doll. It nods, shimmers like heat rising from the desert, and disappears.
She walks over to the girl who just appeared, puking by the rail. She holds up a piece of chocolate. “Here, eat this. It helps you feel better after you teleport.”
“What’d I say, Sir Gnome, that doll is clearly a magical device…”
Donovan looks after the girl as she walks off then turns back to the gnome, “Kids these days! Someone needs to teach that little girl some manners.” He shakes his head. “This is what comes of giving children too much autonomy. When we get to Phlan I’m going to give that girl’s father a piece of my mind!”
His eyes scan the deck, taking in the naked minotaur, the puking girl, and, more interestingly, the elven woman who has just appeared out of thin air. He smiles broadly and practically skips over to the woman. “Madam! That was a truly impressive display of the science of thaumaturgical, transdimensional transitory transubstantiation. Landing aboard a moving ship, quite the remarkable feat.” He reaches into his bag and pulls out a pencil and a thick tome. He rifles through the book until he finds an empty page, then begins to babel out questions, his pencil hovering over the paper like an eager grad-student in a lecture. “Tell me, how did you do it? What was the incantation? How did you manage to anticipate the target location? Have you ever read the Elminster of Shadowdales discourses on Astral Travel?”
The half-elven maiden gracefully sidesteps a horn as the minotaur bows, revealing a simple dress the color of good wine, a black belt, and black boots with the telltale outline of a knife sheath under her hooded grey cloak. She’s slender, and a full two feet shorter than the minotaur.
She smiles warmly and accepts the chocolate from Amara. “I thank you for your concern—both of you. I am Lyrathwen Alethiel Beragaion.” Her name was in lilting Elven, but judging by her common accent, she hails from one of the cities along the Sword Coast. “But really, no one but Mother calls me that. You can call me Lyra.”
The elven woman regards Donovan thoughtfully for a moment. “It seems that I did not err in my estimation of demand for quality thaumaturgical education in Phlan. The calculations to safely arrive at a a moving destination are rather complex. One must account for not where the it currently is, but where it will be at the time of arrival. If you wish for more detail than that, perhaps you should come by once we are settled in.”
Both mother and daughter seem to be traveling lightly compared to the other settlers’ sacks and packs and crates stuffed to overflowing with their worldly possessions.
The minotaur stands up. “Pleased to meet you. I’m Gendry, son of Teldar the Pirate King.” He pauses and cocks his head in profile, raising his chin a little as if silently saying ‘perhaps you’ve heard of me.’ When no answer to his unspoken question is immediately forthcoming, and it becomes disappointingly clear that he has no reputation at all outside of his hometown, he looks around again, and asks, to anyone within earshot. “Say, what ship is this and where are you headed?”
Nat, the dwarven deckhand, bustles down from the taffrail with a clipboard and over to where the new arrivals have congregated. “You three,” he points a stubby finger at the the minotaur, elven woman, and her daughter. “Welcome to Valkur’s Wake. We’ll be making port in the city of New Phlan tomorrow morning. So long as you disembark in New Phlan, you will not be charged for your, albeit short, voyage.” He extends the clipboard. “If you would be so kind as to sign our passenger registry? Just your mark on the line here. Captain Donal will fill in the other necessary details.”
“Oh, and as for you, mister ‘my dad is the Dread Pirate Teldar.’ I’m not gonna ask how you got them horns on your head or why you were in the drink. Your dad is wanted in every port from Cormyr to Thay, and is none too popular around here either. You’d best keep your patrilineal to yourself, or you’re likely to be shipped back to your ‘ol dad on a Zhentish freighter in a pine box. Lucky for you the New Phlan Council offers universal amnesty. When we make port, make sure to present yourself to the Council and I’m sure you’ll be fine. Just don’t go making any trouble on this ship or you’ll be swimming back to daddy…”
The elven woman takes the clipboard and signs Faelana Beragaion in precise Elven script before handing it to her daughter. The girl has a more flowing signature with an artistic flourish.
Lyra glances sidelong at the minotaur pirate and holds up the clipboard for him to take.
Amara look at the minotaur’s horns and asks, “Are those real? Can I touch them?”
Gendry takes the clipboard and scrawls a rather wobbly looking ‘G’ on the remaining line—well, mostly on the line—then hands it back to the dwarf. “So how does this amnesty thing work?”
Seeing the little girl, he replies, “Yes they’re real, I guess, and they’re stuck as far as I can tell.” He kneels down and lowers his head, trying to cock it so that the girl can reach one of the tips. His horns are nearly three feet long, as big around as his forearms, and slightly recurved. Very short, white hair covers his head, face, and shoulders, and the back of his neck and shoulders has a large muscular bulge (to help hold up the horns). A mane of thick, white hair tops his head and hangs slightly over his eyes, looking like it would be naturally curly if it weren’t so wet.
Donovan leans on the rail, watching the sunset and looks around at the other passengers, trying to gauge their reactions to the sudden new arrivals.
You look around to see the captain sitting in his spot above the taffrail, one hand on the rudder, the other shielding his eyes against the late-afternoon glare on the water. Below him the livestock bleat and low in their enclosure and the settlers still lie asleep, whether from boredom, or tiredness, or the magic of Donovan’s song matters little. The Beshaban priestess has apparently given up on converting the passel of teenagers, and has seated herself back by the sleeping farmers where she is now praying over and “blessing” Donovan’s loosing dice, her wig falling slightly askew as she bows her head.
The teens now stand against the port rail, still near the mast, the five of them surreptitiously taking swigs from a very large wineskin one of them has brought—the two girls especially look like this might be their first time drinking. One, a boy wearing a pair of heavy overalls who looks like his hair has been burned off, stands a little away from the group and watches the newcomers intently, his attention seeming split between Gendry and the elven woman.
The two elven ladies, Rietta and Teldicia, have seated themselves on the starboard rail across from the teens. Unlike the boy, They seem to be actively avoiding looking at or otherwise acknowledging the presence of Faelana. The two red-cloaked, chainmail clad soldiers have moved to a position where they have a clear view of Lyra’s backside, without being clearly visible to the girl, and are talking, grinning, and staring (you can easily surmise that most of their conversation consists of phrases like “I’d tap that” and similar appellations), apparently not picky about whether their lewd gazes are directed at full or half-breed elf-chicks.
The lizard man and his spectators have returned to the prow. Eddie sits by himself, watching Amara with unconcealed envy as she courageously touches the minotaur’s horns. The adults (his mother, father, the lizard-man, the halfling, the gnome, and her girlfriend) sit in a circle staring at something the white-armored elven man is drawing on the deck with some chalk and speaking in hushed tones. You can hear Eddie’s father occasionally make rather sharp objections to whatever they are discussing.
Looking over the passengers, Donovan thinks to himself:
This herald gig doesn’t pay nearly enough, but the council shell’s out piles of cash for adventurers. BUT they only give commissions to groups of three or more. AND I’d probably get killed if I went into the ruins alone anyways. So I need to recruit. Who’s available?
The guys in the front of the boat are clearly already a group. As are yonder teenagers. I might be able to hook up with one of them, but that seems unlikely, and I probably can’t convince one of them to bail on their groups to join me. Might have to try those options in a pinch.
The farmers are out. The simple fact that so many of them fell for the Sleep spells I cast means that they are way too weak to be of any use.
Who’s that leave?
The Beshaban—seems like she wants to hook up with the pimple-squad, also not sure I want to have a priest of bad luck following me around.
The two elf girls (hey, that one has a nice rack)—they’re recruiting, and the one with the mace looks impressive.
The two soldier-boys—might be an easy hire if I can get the elf girls first.
Nat—he’s due for some shore-leave, right, and I know he’s good in a bar-fight.
The minotaur fop—if nothing else he’s big and brawny, and he has to go fight anyways if he wants to take advantage of the amnesty.
The gnome—for all that he seems quiet, unresponsive, and easily distracted, he talked a good game.
The little girl? Nah. She’s definitely more than she looks like, but I’d hate myself for even toying with the idea of taking a kid into a dangerous situation like that.
Faelana? If she can teleport to a moving ship she’s waaaaaaay out of my league, but if I can talk her into it…WIN!
The daughter maybe? She’s got a weak stomach. Would probably feint at the sight of blood. But maybe she inherited some of her mother’s magical talent.
It seems like Minotaur-Pirate boy and the two elven ladies are my best bets. I’ll start there.
Having seemingly come to a decision, Donovan walks over to Gendry. “You were asking about the Amnesty, right?” He extends a hand, “My name is Donovan Leitch and I’m a herald for the Council of New Phlan.” He uses his ‘herald-voice’, projecting so that Faelana and her daughter can hear him clearly as well, “The Amnesty is actually quite simple. The Council is looking for able-bodied people to help fight against the goblins, orcs, and the like that have taken residence in the ruins of Old Phlan. They offer full political asylum, a promise from the clergy of Tyr to ignore all past misdeeds, and large cash rewards as well, to any individuals who take up this cause. Anyone seeking employment with the Council in this capacity must present themselves to the Clerk of the Council promptly upon their arrival in New Phlan. However, adventuring contracts, licenses, and commissions (and therefore the legal amnesty) are only given to groups numbering three or more…for reasons that the Council has not bothered to tell me, though I suspect its to limit the traffic of possible lone spies or saboteurs into and out of the city gates.” He smile wryly. “Speaking of which, I was hoping to take on one of the Council’s commissions and would be more than happy to stand witness to your good character. If you get my drift?”
Gendry shakes the man’s hand, then shakes his head as the man lays out the situation. “So, this city that you’re all headed for is so overrun with monsters that the church of Tyr, old Mr. Grimjaws, God of Justics, is offering full pardons?! Wow.” His hand instinctively goes to his sword. “So my options are to get off the boat at Phlan and become an adventurer, get off the boat in Phlan and probably get arrested by Tyrrans for crimes my dad committed, or get thrown off this boat? Not much of a choice is it?”
He removes his hand from the sword hilt and extends it to Donovan again. “So, Mr. Donovan, exactly how large are the cash rewards involved?”
“Also, it looks like we’re going to need a few more swords.”
You can feel the disapproval radiating off of Faelana as her daughter begins to speak.
“Don’t look at me like that, Mother. YOU’RE the one who picked Phlan. And you’ll have no shortage of research assistants after today.” Lyra looks back to Donovan and Gendry. “I may not have a sword, but I can help, really. Even if it’s just scouting for now.”
Faelana does seem to relax a bit at that. She, a bit grudgingly, trusts her daughter’s ability to see to her own safety.
Shuddup finishes a detailed schematic of the ship or rather how it would look were it stream powered running multiple paddle wheels and looks around, slightly overwhelmed by the sudden arrival of so many new passengers. He stands up depositing a small charcoal stick in his pouch and wipes his forehead absentmindedly leaving a long black smear.
Shuddup walks over to where Donovan and Gendry are conversing. “Hi! My name’s Shudrigan Nishal Aribostos McPillflup, but my friends call me Shuddup. Did I hear you say that your the son of the Pirate King? I remember the battle of the Long Cay when the old pirate king was killed. I mean I was really young at the time, working as a deck hand. My Uncle, Gond rest his soul, was the pilot of the ship that sank the old pirate king’s, the explosion could be seen for miles.” Shuddup finds himself smiling reminiscing, before his eyes widen as realization appears on his face. “Er… You may not appreciate that story like I do, huh…. Well what’s something 19 years, 4 months and 7 days ago among shipmates, eh?”
“Well, it’s been nearly two months since I’ve been back to Phlan, so I can’t be sure of what the Council might be hiring for right now, but most jobs pay several thousand, usually in gems for ease of transport. When we reach port we should check in with the clerk. There are also usually jobs posted at the Training Hall.”
Donovan turns and shakes Lyra’s hand. “Excellent, that makes three.”
He turns to the gnome. “Mr. McPillflup, what business do you have in Phlan? Could we possibly interest you in joining us in taking on some profitable commissions of a militant nature?”
Shuddup grins excitedly producing a hand bill that with a very loose interpretation could be interpreted as a party invitation, “I received an invitation to a party in one of the guild halls and I was hoping to acquire patronage for my research there. I’ve discovered that by altering the diet of orcs you can change the chemical properties of their emissions which can then be further refined into chemical accelerant for combustion engines more efficient than simple steam engines. I’ve currently got several prototypes I’ve been working on, all utilizing this technology.” He pauses seeming to realize he’s rambleing. “I typically consider violence to be wasteful, but considering the costs of my prototypes, not to mention anything in a production line and free field testing…. I’m in.” He proffers a small soot covered hand to seal the deal"
Donovan shakes Shaddup’s hand, apparently not at all bothered by the soot stains. “The four of us then.” He looks around the ship, then back to the gnome. “You’ve had a chance to chat with the other passengers, do you think any of the others might be interested in joining us?”
Shuddup thinks for a moment, “Well, I’ve been helping on deck so I haven’t spoken to everyone. Nat is the good sort, hard worker salt of the earth type. Súrion is kinda creepy and antisocial, and he hasn’t spoken to anyone since he climbed the mast. There are the two enthusiastically cursed elven women but they make me nervous. Then there’s the little girl, Amara, She’s traveling unescorted, well except for her clearly magical doll. I’ve told her that until she finds an appropriate responsible adult I’ve informed her that it’s unsafe for someone who hasn’t reached their majority to travel alone so I’ve insisted on continuing to escort her… but she’s not listening to me, probably because she’s taller than I am. Either that or it’s adolescent girl thing. I’ve been told they can be ‘complicated.’ Kind of like my old partner, Hengus, he didn’t appreciate reapropriating his ale casks for my research. I mean he was fine emptying them out until he tried to drink one that I had refilled with my rendered orc urine. But we didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, he was always renaming my prototypes. Like my field medic’s self cautarizing bone saw he always called it that ‘flaming chain sword.’ I don’t know how much that helps, a lot of the people on the boat behave illogically, but those are the ones I’ve directly interacted with.”
Gendry looks down at the little girl, Amara, then looks around. “Are you on this ship alone? Who’s looking after you?” He sits down on the deck beside her, putting his horns back in reach. “You’re definitely a brave little girl, to be sailing by yourself, and also for not being scared of me, but where are your parents?” He sounds genuinely concerned. “Are you an orphan? Or are your parents just jerks like mine?”
Donovan looks over at where Gendry is sitting, trying to talk to the child. “Then we’ll make sure the girl gets wherever she’s going safely. Who knows, maybe her parents can offer some kind of reward for her safe arrival” He gives another look around the deck, then plops down with his back against the gunwale, arranging his bag as a pillow. “As for the rest, it sounds like it’s probably just the four of us then. Probably good, we won’t have to divide the profits too much that way. We can always hire more in town if a job seems particularly tough.” He leans his head back and begins humming quietly to himself. “If you three end up staying up later than me, can you make sure to give me a shake if the bumpkins in the back wake up before I do? Thanks.”
Shuddup, looks quizically at the sleeping, “bumpkins,” shruggs and makes his way aft positioning himself to where if any of them were to move to the fore deck they would have to disturb his resting place. Then curls up and begins muttering his nightly prayers to Gond.
Lyra kneels with her back against the railing, and sets her simple sack backpack, seemingly containing little more than a book and a few small items, next to her. Chin down and sitting demurely with her hands on her knees (not all that far from the knife sheath in her boot), she settles in for the night.
As all of the passengers begin to bed down for the night, Nat and Captain Donal begin securing the ship. The captain sets the rudder and locks it in place with a chain, then comes down to the deck to help Nat untie the sail and haul it up. The two then throw a large anchor overboard. The ship gives a hard lurch as the anchor catches, then settles, rocking slowly on the waves.
Gendry looks at the fading sun and everyone getting ready for sleep and shrugs, “Whatever little girl. Parents suck. Stick with us and we’ll make sure you’re alright.”
He watches Nat and the captain struggling to cast off the anchor. He walks over, lifts the anchor in one hand, and drops it over the rail. “Hey dwarf, what’s all this for? Didn’t you say we’re supposed to reach Phlan by morning?”
“Thanks for the help, Mr. Gendry.” He points to a smaller anchor, “Mind helping with the kedge too?”
He finishes hauling in the brails and trices them off.
“As to your question,” He points to a black spot on the horizon, maybe a mile off the port side. “See that? That’s Thorn Island.” He practically growls the name and spits over the rail for emphasis. “Phlan is right around the sound side, and has a great harbor, but there ain’t no lighthouse and that island is a plague. That cloud over the island makes these waters blacker n’ Phlegethos, even when Selune is at her brightest. If the shoals and rocks around the island don’t get you, the pirates will. If neither of those get you, the walking corpses of all the ships that sank there before will. So, we always put to a few miles out and make for the channel at first light. You all get a good night sleep and we’ll have you in New Phlan in time to break your fast.”
He and the captain wave to the last few passengers still awake, climb up on the stern deck, and start rolling out their bedding.
Donovan sings himself to sleep…
“Thrown like a star in my vast sleep
I open my eyes to take a peep
To find that I was by the sea
Gazing with tranquillity.
Twas then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Came singing songs of love,
Then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man…Snoooooooooooore”
Lyra shifts slightly as the ship lurches to a a halt, not quite awake and softly mumbling “S’posed … keep moving …. safer.”