A Gathering in the Cold

Third Sunday of Inaware, 342nd year

Everyone is suddenly roused from slumber by a loud rapping. Ta’kel is the first to rise and after opening the door is confronted by Nynd and two or three other servants. She pushes a bucket of hot water into his hands, and another is provided for Levna who has just emerged from her room across the way.

“Quickly, wash up. The runner has come from Lord Atlroth and he says it’s urgent. It’s just before dawn and your meeting is to take place in mere moments. When you’re ready, the runner will be waiting for you just outside of the inn. It was a pleasure meeting all of you and may Whaythrad bless your journeys to come.”

Nynd smiles shyly, lingering for just a moment before leaving.

Darius quickly washes ups and changes into his Druidic robes. Darius also tries to remember the proper greeting and how to address Whaythard clergy.

Before the day begins, Darius pays Mayunn a Visit and uses cure light. Darius kneels down and strokes Mayuun’s head gently with one hand. He holds out his other to her wound, which closes partway, fused and sutured by glowing, golden light. Mayuun looks up with thanks at her healer.

Darius searches his memory banks. It’s been a while since he spoke directly with holy men and women of the Whaythradian order, but he seems to recall that the post-position “of the Light,” (ie. Darius of the Light, etc.) while not required, does create a favorable impression when speaking with members of the clergy, especially those of higher rank. As with most religious organizations, presenting a small gift or donation to the temple is also appreciated.

Ta’kel takes the water and grins slightly as he closes the door.He rouses the others who are not awake and washes his hands and face.

He thanks Darius for using his gift and strokes Mayuun’s head, “Feel better?”

Ta’kel gathers his things and heads downstairs to get a look at the runner.

Still rubbing the sleep from their eyes, Darius and Ta’kel make there way to the entrance of the Dog-Whale, followed by Mayuun. They are greeted by an extremely frigid winters morning and immediately set to shivering and shaking. A thin, twig of a boy, wearing dirty street clothes and an old, beaten cap greets them.

“Mornin’ mates! I thought there be more of yeh. Not from these parts are yeh?” He says, seeing their discomfort. “M’Lord tol’ me ta bring yeh these. They’ll help fer now, but yeh should probably find some warmer clothes when yeh ‘ave the time. They be gifts of Lord Atlroth o’ course.”

He tosses them two thick, Slold fur greatcloaks which they gratefully wrap about their shoulders. Suddenly aware of Mayuun the boy becomes slightly nervous and looks at Darius and Ta’kel for reassurance.

Nynd pokes her head out of the door and speaks with the boy about Levna and Torgosh, who haven’t emerged from their rooms. The boy tells her to send them quickly to the docks at the harbor if they do happen to rise, but in the mean time, he must take the others, for the matter at hand is urgent. Waving goodbye one last time to Nynd, the company sets off at a moderate jog down the hill towards the icy docks.

They arrive at the same dock on which they arrived and are immediately confronted by a small gathering of armed men and Atlroth, wearing the same rusted, brown armor.

“Greetings friends. There is trouble in Saltbur. Last night pirates, most likely from that same crew of the Spirit, raided town. They looted some residences in the Nobles district and made off with a handful of hostages… I’m afraid I must ask for your aid, for though I do not know you well, I am in great need of brave and honorable men and women in these parts. I am sending a small expedition to the nearby Isle of Skelik where we believe the pirates are in hiding. We seek to recover the hostages and to scout the location in anticipation of driving them out. Captain Spradlock and some of his men will row you quickly to Skelik while we are still under the cover of darkness. Please, will you help us defend Saltbur from these brigands of the sea? There will certainly be rewards in it for you, monetary and otherwise.”

“Now, allow me to introduce some other shining souls who have offered their service to the citizens of Saltbur, Rhomack Delgrish and Aramas Rainen.”

Atlroth steps aside to reveal two righteous looking men clad in well-kept armor.

“Both are holy men, one of Whaythrad and the other of Sabanis, and we are blessed to have their aid in defending our town.”

Rhomach Delgrish nods to Lord Atlroth and then addresses the company. The large muscular young man with shorn brown hair in splint mail has a shield stapped to his back and a long sword in scabbard at his side. He wears a thick winter cloak and the full backpack at his feet appears as if he is ready to embark immediately. “Greetings travelers. The need of your assistance is grave. I am Rhomach Delgrish, a Priest of Whaythrad and I shall accompany you to the Isle of Skelik if you choose to go. Some of the hostages taken were followers of Whaythrad and worshiped at the Greater Temple of Whaythrad. The High Priestess Eya Chethpol sends her appreciation for your earlier deeds at sea and beckons you to aid the town of Saltbur once again. She warns that there may be more to this than a simple pirate raid. Aramas Rainen and I are prepared to go alone if we must, but with only the two of us, it could be our last mission. May Whaythrad bless you and light your way.”

Rhomach bows his head and says a silent prayer to Whaythrad.

Togorsh awakens with the dawn, slightly surly and makes his way down to the tavern room, looking for some breakfast.

Ta’kel takes the great cloak, with thanks and wraps it around himself, adjusting his equipment. Seeing the boy’s apprehension, he places a hand on Mayuun’s back, “Do not worry, you are not an enemy. Mayuun is my friend. You have nothing to fear.” With that, he effortlessly climbs on Mayuun’s back and rides to the docks and dismounts when he nears the group.

He listens to Lord Atlroth and Rhomach’s statements intently and greets Rhomach and the others with nods, that can be taken as bows. Barring any objection from Darius, “I am Ta’kel Umenni-Saia . Many members of my tribe have been taken at times. It is a tragedy. We,” he says, gesturing to Mayuun, “would be honored to lend our aid.”

A tall young man with a half smile steps forth and bows before the others. “Greetings. I am Aramas Rainen a knight and ambassador of The Sacred order of Sabanis. It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance’s.”

Most who interact with Aramas immediately notice there’s something different about him. Its not that its anything objectionable or disturbing, quite the contrary he brings about a sense of peace and ease with his presence. His large scale is contrasted by an almost meek tenderness. But its obvious to all that he is a man driven. His complexion pale, his social skills without pretense or airs. He is direct and his words and actions are careful.

“Our mission is urgent and I think it best we make haste in our departure. As my friend Romach has stated this may be more than just a kidnapping by pirates, but just in case it is the sooner we catch up to them the better chance we have of bringing the victims home alive.”
Aramas turns toward the ship and a large morning star can be seen strapped to his side. The handle of which bears various religious symbols carved into the wood. As he moves it rubs against his mail making a sound similar to that of coins rubbing together.

He turns back to the group “Shall we then?”

Ta’kel looks at Darius and holds up his hand at Aramas’ request to leave and speaks in stilted Ryn, “More coming. Should wait.”

Darius although used to natures cold is still respectful of her moods and gratefully accepts the cloak. “It is good to meet you my brothers of light, I am honored to be your company” Darius then takes a deep breath,closes his eyes and lifts his head towards the warmth of the sun. “Let us pause a moment, and gather our strength, I sense it shall be tested.”

Panting and huffing, the large, dog-faced Torgosh Ragthorn and the small, beautiful, dark-haired girl Levna, arrive after jogging the short distance from the Dog-Whale. (Nynd instructed them both where to meet the others and they rushed off to catch up to their friends).

A colorfully garbed man steps forward and addresses Rhomack and Aramas.

“An’ I’m Captain Spradlock Baddelharrow, pleased ta meet yeh. Don’ worry about ol’ Torgosh there,” he says with a wink, gesturing at the gnoll, “’E’s a little rough about the edges, but we go way back an’ yeh can trust ‘im. Now friends, we best be off ’for we lose the guise o’ darkness.”

With that, several of Spradlock’s crew members clamber onto a small, oared boarding vessel. As people shuffle about the dock, preparing to follow suite Spradlock steps aside with Torgosh for one moment and presses a small pouch of coins into his hands.

“‘Ere yeh go mate. I almost forgot. Yeh did well as one o’ me crew and I’d ’ave yeh back anytime,” he says under his breath.

The pouch contains 20 gp and 4 sp, wages for Torgosh’s time at sea.

Lord Atlroth speaks up one last time.

“I want to thank you all again on behalf of the citizens of Saltbur. You’ll land on the south side of Skelik. The island will gradually slope upwards til you reach the top of the bluffs on the northern edge. Take note of the location of the ship and any visible encampments on the ground. If you think you can be covert about it, please try to recover the hostages. I’m guessing they have them tucked away in a cave in the bluffs, but I could be wrong. May you go in the light of Whaythrad.”

Ta’kel and Mayuun take positions at the bow of the craft Ta’kel at the very front if there’s not crew member there. If there is, Ta’kel takes the position directly behind the crew member. He flex and stretches his arms and fingers, warming against the cold and unslings his bow from his back, making sure it is warmed up from the cold and ready to fire.

Torgosh smiles his lupine grin at the money. There are many gnoll leaders who would conveniently forget about share of spoils. In high spirits, Torgosh finds a nice vantage point either fore or aft, wherever there’s room. He checks to make sure his bow and arrows are wrapped tightly in their oilcloth and appls a fresh coat of weapon oil to his sword.

Rhomach addresses Captain Spradlock Baddelharrow, "Well met Captain. Any friend of Saltbur and follower of Whaythrad is a friend of mine. May you also go in the light of Whaythrad.”

Rhomach brings Torgoth and Levna up to speed, again thanking them for their earlier deeds and expressing the need for further help. Afterwards he boards the vessel with his gear and offers to row.

Aramas stands to the side as the others board the ship rocking in the cold grey waters below. A chill that seems to envelope his whole body sends bumps across his skin. He lifts his eyes to the skies above surveying the pre-dawn sky while whispering a small prayer.

“Guide and protect us as we serve the good people of this town.”
He lowers himself into the craft nodding to the Captain as if to signal his readiness.

Levna is warily fascinated by the new arrivals, faithful of Sabanis. So proud they are, and sure of purpose. How comforting that must be! She thinks on her own past with fear and doubt, uncertain in the future. As they introduce themselves, Levna snaps out of her introverted musings and extends a hand in greeting with a lush smile and warm voice. “My name is Levna, I am a user of magic from Peruth, just northeast of Daradhat in Ildrissor.” Aramus and Rhomack see an attractive young woman with raven hair and deep blue, almost purple eyes. The weeks at sea have darkened her normally pale complexion. Her robes are showing definite signs of wear, but were originally fashionable though not extravagant. In contrast to her comrades, she is clean and smells of perfumed soap.

With everyone on board, the boat pushes away from the dock and the crew drops the oars into the water. Atlroth watches from the shore as the vessel vanishes into the darkness. A hush falls on the passengers, and the only sounds are of the oars splashing into icy water and the hull slapping against the waves, which grow steadily as the boat progresses farther from land. After nearly an hour of rowing, the Isle of Skelik looms in the distance, a hulking behemoth or dragon from the deep, shadowy and ominous in the fading dark.

The crew lands the boat on a long stretch of beach on the southern side of the island. As the nighttime retreats, the sky begins to show traces of orange and red. The group disembarks with Spradlock, who instructs his crew to anchor the boat and wait on the beach for the return of the expedition. The beach can be seen to stretch for miles in either direction, and at the extreme edges, steep bluffs can be seen rising over the tumultuous, rocky ocean below. The main part of the island rises directly in front of the group in a long, steady incline, and consists of a flat slope, grassy in the summer time, but currently barren of growth.

Torgosh sniffs the air as he disembarks from the boat. The cold air seems to invigorate him as he looks about. Clear of the water, he unwraps his arrows and seats them in the quiver. Next, he unwraps his bow, strings it, and tests the pull. Satisfied, that all is in order he moves about 20 yards in front of the group and crouches down, scanning the area up the slope and the ground around look for signs of habitation—tracks, dropped refuse, maybe even a wisp of smoke from a campfire.

Ta’kel, bow ready, mounts Mayuun and strides up the slope about 10 yards to the right of Torgosh and scans the area as well. Though she can sense his intent, Ta’kel asks Mayuun to use her senses to guide them.

Torgosh is able to spot the tracks of small, hoofed animals, probably Slold goats which he knows to be indigenous to this region of the Northlands, as well as what appear to be their droppings. Mayuun also takes interest in her wolfish manner, sniffing about, but obviously not alarmed at the findings. Other than that, the slope is plain and barren, nothing but earth, still frozen from the cold winters night.

Darius in a hushed voice, “Captain Spradlock, what can you tell us of the geography of this island? Is there a source of fresh water nearby? If so that is where Id be…If I be a pirate camping on Island.”

Rhomack steadies himself as he climbs out of the boat. He scans the sky and the horizon for enemies and finds comfort in the dawn. He feels Whaythrad smiling down upon them. Finding a dry place to kneel, he prays again to Whaythrad for his spiritual spells that he feels will best carry the battle for him and his new found companions. He prays for the safety of the hostages. This will be his first battle outside the practice rings and the time he killed the zombie that was his father. Resolve wells up in him with the memory. He is ready! He strides forward shield ready and sword drawn for battle.

Captain Baddelharrow listens intently to Darius as the morning vapors rise about them, the first rays of sunlight having just struck the cold earth. He unslings his jagged whaler’s harpoon from across his back and replies to the concerned follower of nature.

“All I can say ‘bout this isle, mate, is there’s a cove o’er top o’ that hill there, and that’s where Atlroth thinks the Spirit is anchored. That damned ship. I’ve crossed paths with the captain one too many times. A nasty fella named Imryn Tarr. Ne’er was any good in the devil. If yeh ask me, e’s made a hideout somewhere in the bluffs by the cove, an’ pro’ly that’s where you’ll find yer water source. If this venture leads to the end of ‘im, I tell you, this world be a better place for it. I’ll let you folks lead the way. I’m still gettin’ me land legs back (either that, or still workin’ off the grog from last night).”

Ta’kel rides quickly back to the group at the shore.

“Nothing so far. We should go. We’re wasting time.” He looks to Rhomach and Aramus then rides back to Torgosh and starts forward up the hill at an even pace. When he reaches the top, he will slow and break right taking cover and survey the cove before entering, looking for the bluffs, the ship, any activity.

Levna subconsciously gravitates toward the center of the group, taking note of everyone’s remarks and tactics. She momentarily loses herself in the stark beauty of the landscape and begins to hum. The dark looks of her companions bring her back to the lethal task at hand. She hunches her shoulders in silent apology and continues advancing with the rest of the party.

Torgosh trots after Ta’kel, bow at the ready, about 5-10 feet behind and on the opposite side of the “trail” (for want of a better term) look for movement. As Ta’kel nears the top, Torgosh “coughs” to get his attention and jogs over.

“Never stand on top of hill. Everyone for miles ’round see you. Like this.” He motions for Ta’kel to dismount and then crouchs low, dropping to the ground as he nears the top and slowly crawls forward to look over the crest of the hill, keeping his head down.

The group moves cautiously up the face of the hill with Ta’kel and Torgosh leading the way. A strong, bone-chilling wind picks up as they pass through the center of the small island, and some dead clumps of grass still clinging to the earth are whipped about in the gust, as are the garments of the shivering explorers.

After a good forty-five minute hike, the party reaches the top of the hill. For about fifty feet the ground levels off before suddenly dropping in a sheer, rocky cliff face that now confronts the group. Ta’kel and Torgosh drop completely to the ground so as to keep a low profile and crawl forward to get a better view. (Mayuun also crouches down beside the mountain-elf). Seeing them do so, the rest of the group halts a short ways behind, waiting for some indication of how to proceed.

Seeing a couple of good sized rocks jutting up towards the sky, the two scouts position themselves behind the obstacles and peer out at the landscape below. Sure enough, a large Nylack rests anchored in the middle of the cove. A stretch of beach runs along the water for miles at the bottom of the bluff. Directly below the group, a small landing vessel, similar to the one they rowed from Saltbur, has been hauled up onto the pebbly sand. Looking about them, Ta’kel and Torgosh see that the cliff face is about 150 feet high. A short distance to the immediate right is a less rocky section of cliff and what appears to be a footpath leading down to the beach. To the left the bluff becomes much rockier, with many boulders and protrusions, and a more jagged, twisting face. The bluff proceeds in a horseshoe shape around the cove, with an opening out to the North Sea at the northernmost point.

Rhomach whispers to Captain Baddelharrow, “How many pirates usually man a ship of that size?”

Crouching low and listening for any activity below, Rhomach prepares to follow Torgosh and Ta’kel down the path.

“’Bout 50 men, mate,” mutters Baddelharrow, without further elaboration, gazing out at the cove with concern from behind a rock formation.

Aramas stays on guard watching and listening in the direction of the footpath. He will wait for a report from the others as to what they have seen over the cliff to suggest a course of action.

Ta’kel is not happy about their options. They will be exposed traveling down the path and most likely have to travel single file, but it seems the only way down. He grunts disapprovingly.

Ta’kel speaks to the group at the top of the hill, "What of the small craft? Means men are near the beach, yes? Perhaps the cave is below us. We go down the path? Seems the only way. Dangerous, though. Torgosh, me, Mayuun, Rhomack in front, Levna, Darius in the middle, Spradlock, Aramas in rear? What say you?

With the approach of daylight Aramas suggests that party lay low and wait till dusk at which point we could venture down the path carefully and quietly.

“If we choose to venture down there now we will surely be seen and stand little chance of surprise. I wish to rescue the captives as quickly as possible but not at the expense of our own lives. None would benefit should we be killed or captured.”

“I have to agree with Aramas, The risk is too great, we need to wait until conditions are more favorable. In the meantime I think we should observe and try to find a weakness or pattern that we can use to our advantage.”

“Yes, night better for this. In, out, under cover of night. I watch.”

Torgosh crawls back over to his vantage point and will take (mental) notes of guards and people he sees over the course of the day, warning the party of anyone is approaching.

Ta’kel nods in agreement. He will stay with Torgosh taking turns watching the cove below and the path coming up.

“Someone should watch the rear. The rest should be concealed.”

The group decides to sit tight and observe the cove until nightfall from the top of the bluff. Levna, Darius and Aramas sit on the slope a short distance behind the others, while those at the front huddle behind rocks and continue to take stock of the situation below. All the while, the cold Northlands wind blows up the hill and out across the water. Occasional flurries of snow drift past as the group holds their position.

After some time, another boat is lowered from the side of the Spirit, and about five pirates slowly row to shore. They disappear from site just below the group, concealed by the edge of the cliff face. After a short while, they re-emerge and row back to the Nylack anchored in the middle of the cove. Those watching observe that it takes approximately 5 minutes to make the trip between the pirate ship and the beach.

Though the sun is now rising into the center of the sky, the temperature has remained extremely cold, and the constant blowing of the wind worsens the matter. Almost at once, the group members realize that Aramas, Darius, and even Torgosh, have all taken to shivering violently. Prepared for this sort of thing, the gnoll removes his thick winter blanket from his pack…

Despite his chilled state, Torgosh continues to survey the scene. Eventually, he scans the surrounding bluffs again and realizes, thanks to his keen skills of observation, that the rocky portion of cliff face to the left just might conceal someone brave enough to try to scale the face from observers below (he notes again the 150 foot height of the bluff).

Just as he is realizing this, Ta’kel and Rhomack both lift their heads and hold up their hands. Several long seconds pass and then the sound of voices drift up from below. With horror, it dawns on everyone that a group must be climbing the footpath.

Seeing Torgosh pull out his blanket, Ta’kel pulls out his own and tosses it to those who need it.

With enough blankets to cover everyone afflicted by the cold, Aramas and Torgosh are able to stave off their chattering, but Darius is unable to warm up.

Torgosh readies his bow, taking what cover he can and preparing to fire from a kneeling position.

Rhomack eyes Levna, Darius and Aramas to make sure they are aware of the approaching pirates. If not, he will creep over to tell them. Otherwise, he readies his sword and stands next to Torgosh, concealed from line of sight by large rocks if possible. He listens intently to try to make out the conversation.

Ta’kel is thankful for the blanket and doesn’t notice the smell. He’s best friends with a wolf after all.

Ta’kel lays on the ground and peaks slowly around the rock to get a look at those on the path. He tries to get a count and see how far down they are. Then pulls back slowly and relays the number by a show of fingers and pointing toward the path. He then raises his bow and waits for the newcomers to come into view. He fires on the first in line.

The blanket seems to warm Aramas instantly. If there’s time he will find suitable cover all the while preparing for a fight.

Levna says, “They must not know we’re here, else they would not ascend so loudly. Let us retreat and observe where they are going. At least let us ambush them after they have crested the hill so that their comrades below will not see and hopefully will not hear what is happening.” If there is nowhere to adequately conceal the party, Levna concedes it is best to keep the high ground and rain down missiles.

As the voices draw nearer , it becomes clear that the party has been camped on something of an overhang and the footpath must run just underneath it as it winds down the steep cliff side. Unable to see the path itself without standing in full sight of the shore, Ta’kel and Torgosh train their bows on the point at which the path emerges on top of the bluff. Spradlock crouches beside them ready to hurl his harpoon and the draw his jagged cutlass, while Rhomack also crouches with sword drawn. Several boulders at the cliffs edge provide partial cover, but standing would risk being spotted.

Aramas, Levna and Darius are about 60 feet from the footpath. The only cover close at hand is in the opposite direction from the footpath. If they dash in that direction, they might be able to make it before the owners of the voices arrive.

The first words become audible, and the climbers are just around the corner…

“‘Aye, that one’s a looka’, mate.”

And then, with what Torgosh recognizes as a distinctive Direfrost accent: “I thinks ta have me way wit’ her, ‘fore the cap’n does.”

“Well, first we hafta find some grub. A nice fat Slold’ll do the trick,” says a third.

Levna remarks, "It’s just a hunting party, so there’s no benefit to follow them. We’re in a good position and ready. Let’s use our advantages as they are. Levna does not engage immediately, waiting to see how the fight develops and if it can be handled with conventional weapons.

Rhomack readies his shield in his left hand while grasping his sword in his right. The thought occurs to him to dispatch this hunting party and disguise himself and friends as the hunters, even carrying a goat along the path later tonight as a ruse. Preferably, they won’t be seen at all.

He refocuses, concentrating on the task at hand. Eliminating this small band will make the larger battle easier. “Whaythrad guide my blade,” permeates his thoughts.

Torgosh growls softly and mutter, sotto voice in Gnollish, “And if my line should die, it dies with its teeth at the enemy’s neck, with its teeth in the enemy’s throat. And we shall kill each other in the Afterworld a thousand times undefeated.”

Darius trys to find some cover not being the upfront in the fight kinda guy. worse case Darius has no qualms running in circles as the archers take shots at his pursuers!

Aramas positions himself with as much cover as he can to surprise the party at the top of the trail.

Aramas crouches low and moves as quickly as he can to join his comrades who are about to ambush the group coming up the footpath. Meanwhile, Darius dashes for some boulders to the left, a bit farther from where the action will take place. Levna, not wanting to be left alone on the hill side, follows him and ducks behind the rocks also.

Everyone waits with bated breath as the first two pirates step onto the bluff, a disheveled looking seaman and a hulking, scarred gnoll.

In the blink of an eye, Ta’kel releases his first arrow which finds it’s mark in the chest of the human pirate, piercing his tattered leather armor and sending him toppling back into whoever was following him below. Both of them tumble from the cliff face screaming, their swan songs ending with a sickening crunch. Torgosh also fires, but his arrow goes wide, while Spradlock sends his harpoon into the gnoll’s torso. The beast manages to keep standing for a second longer, just in time to be dropped by Ta’kel’s second, expertly placed arrow to the throat.

Cries go up from those still below the edge of the bluff but they remain out of sight.

Torgosh runs forward with a howl to make sure the Direfrost is dead. And also to look down the trail at what the party is facing.

Rhomach rushes to Torgosh’s side, shield raised, trying to get a better look at the pirates. If they turn to run, he will pursue.

Ta’kel steps out and covers Torgosh. He moves laterally toward the trail as he fires. He fires at the pirate farthest down the trail first.

Torgosh, Ta’kel, Mayuun, Rhomack and Aramas rush forward to top of the footpath. Several pirates are shouting in alarm as they scramble and slide down the steep path, which consists of a series of sharp switchbacks and loose rocks and pebbles.

Rhomack charges forward but begins to loose his footing and skids down part of the path, arriving behind a small creature scrambling to escape. With no solid footing, he swings his longsword and misses. The little beast shrieks, and the glowing, phosphorescent tips of it’s tiny horns shine brighter in alarm as it continues to flee.

Ta’kel and Torgosh fire at the farthest escapees, who have just rounded the first switchback. They both manage to aim through the cluster of boulders and the cloud of dust rising, and they each drop one of their targets, despite the poor visibility. They can still make out one more pirate farther down the path who is desperately trying to make his get away while crying out to any comrades he might have below.

Aramas arrives behind Ta’kel and Torgosh, but is unable to get past them. Meanwhile, Spradlock pulls his harpoon from the dead gnoll’s torso and joins Aramas behind the other two.

Levna and Darius are still hiding behind a boulder back on the bluff. They can make out very little of what has transpired other than the general confusion and missile fire.

Rhomack points to him while mustering the power of Whaythrad and Commands loudy, “Come!” and then continues toward the same pirate.

Rhomack pulls out his short bow and fires at the easiest target, preferably the one farthest down the trail.

Torgosh growls in disgust and sends and arrow after the feeling pirate.

Ta’kel lets out a soft Scharr curse and fires at the last pirate on the path.

He looks at the boulders above the cave quickly to see if the can be pushed down on the pirates. If they are right on the edge look like they can be budged he enlists Torgosh and the other to try.

If not, he starts down the path, their cover is blown might as well press the advantage. If he can fire will descending, he’ll fire at any pirates that come into view as he travels down, if not, he draws La’saan and continues down.

Rhomack pursues the horned creature, attempting to slice it with his long sword when close enough.

Levna glances down at her deteriorating garments. Robes are meant for study in musty libraries, not for adventures in the field. She’ll have to do something about them later. She ventures from behind the boulders as it seems the party has the battle momentum. If/when she sees the horned creature, she’ll magic missile it. Otherwise she’ll just watch and won’t engage unless the battle turns to the party’s disadvantage. She’ll advance with the party, but stay well back of melee range.

Darius and Levna break cover and run to their comrades at the edge of the bluff just in time to see Rhomack cut down his blue-horned adversary. Ta’kel calmly releases one more arrow which strikes the last fleeing pirate, putting an end to his days of terrorizing the high seas.

Ta’kel keeps his bow at the ready as he descends the path. They need to act quickly to recover the hostages before more pirates arrive. He looks along the beach and out over the water to the ship in the cove to see if there is activity. If any pirates come into range, he will fire on them while moving if he can do so without any checks. Otherwise he will stop. If there are no enemies in sight or in range when he reaches the bottom he will pull La’saan, survey the area and proceed to available cover from the cave, wait for the others, Torgosh at the least and proceed cautiously into the cave, keeping in contact with Mayuun to help catch the scent of pirates or hostages. ( they will probably smell differently.)

Ta’kel explains his basic plan thusly, “Get in, find hostages, get out back to boat.”

Torgosh nods vigorously in agreement, sending spittle flying. “Is a good plan. In and out fast, like a duck.” He chuckles at his (bad) joke.

" Well these pirates will soon be missed Id give it a couple hours or so before anyone starts to wonder what happened. It seems our schedule will have to be pushed ahead and we still don’t know where the hostages are being kept. We need to get a closer look, a MUCH closer look. Ill Return soon with news."

With that, Darius’s form begins to shift into a large golden streaked hawk. Darius takes Flight and begins to circle the area from above. Eventually if I determine the pirates to be non-hostile (to hawks!) Ill land on the mast of the spirit and take survey with both eyes and ears trying to pick up on clues.

Slightly startled, Torgosh takes it stride. “Maybe we wait on what bird sees?” Torgosh himself peers at the cove below to see if any alarm has been sounded. If it looks quiet, he stows his bow and prepares to go with Ta’kel, sword in hand.

Ta’kel stands in stunned silence as Darius flies off.

Ta’kel, still taken aback, raises his eyebrows and nods once to Torgosh.

Torgosh quickly strides over to the Direfrost and insures that he is dead with a quick thrust to his heart. Cutting off the corpse’s braid, he tosses it to the Cap’n saying, “You wear on coat in town. The People know you are enemy to the Direfrost.” Looking down at the Direfrost, he moans with regret, “No time to get liver.”

Leaving everyone shocked and bewildered, Darius suddenly hurls himself from the cliff face. Rather than falling to his death below, he rises on an updraft of cold air, his arms sprouting feathers, as he shifts into the form of a gold streaked hawk.

Reveling in flight once more, Darius surveys the cove from a lofty vantage point. Indeed, just below the group, at the bottom of the footpath, lies a large cave opening in the bluff side, about 200 feet across. Coasting out across the water to a position over the Spirit, Darius wheels in a bit closer and finally decides to land on the mast. What he can see on deck is most curious…

A group of pirates is gathered there, but none seem to have spotted the activity on the bluff. Instead they are focused on a meeting that has just transpired between two hooded figures and the large, devilish looking man who appears to be the captain of the pirate vessel. Just as Darius lands, he can make out the final exchange.

“Tarr, you made a foolish mistake when you attacked that ship, for now your presence is known. At least we are aware of the new-comers. Whether they pose a true threat is uncertain, but we must take caution. Make no further move until you hear more from us. We must remind you once again that you will be duly rewarded for your efforts on our behalf…” says one of the shrouded figures, apparently speaking on for the other who remains dead silent.

With that, the two lower into a small craft at the side of the ship and push off towards the coves opening, rowed by several others who are similarly garbed.

Feeling the strength of his totemic transformation begin to dwindle, Darius takes flight once more, and quickly returns to the group on the shore.

Darius returns to the group, obviously winded from his flight and relays the above info. Was Darius able to see into the cave and did he recognize the accent of the hooded speaker?

Upon Darius’ return Ta’kel says, “Um, might be good to know you can do that, yes? See any more?” With an answer in the negative, he proceeds down the path as previously stated and enters the cave.

Torgosh chuckles and follows.

Rhomack says a brief prayer to Whaythrad for redemption of the pirates souls. For the creature, he cares not.

He will follow Torgosh and Ta’kel down the path, sheathing his sword and readying his short bow.



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