Standing side-by-side on the dock beside a large, salt cured ship with the name “the Sea Nymph” carved into it’s prow, are two figures as different as complimentary colors. The one, a young, beautiful girl with jet black hair, and the other, a hairy half-hyena, half-man, barely suppressing his urge to pant and drool all over the place.
The crew of the ship bustles about preparing to depart once again, post-haste, and gulls cry as they wheel and turn overhead. At last, the storm has seemingly departed and great beams of sunlight break through the clouds overhead illuminating patches of the ground and sea.
Two equally distinct figures are spotted making their way down the dock towards the ship and it’s crew. The first is an elf wearing various hides and furs, accompanied by an enormous grey mountain wolf striding faithfully at his side, and the second, a young man wearing garments of leather and wood, taking in his surroundings with the alert qualities of a bird of prey, as if he might spread his wings at any moment.
Darius glances at the elf then pets the large wolf beast and says “Its a fine ship is she not! Let us make haste I don’t want to miss a thing!” Darius picks up his pace and approaches the sea nymph with a broad smile.
Ta’kel casts a quizzical glance at Mayuun, then continues at his current pace until he reaches the ship, keeping a close eye on Darius as he makes his way along the dock. He takes in the ship and the dock, looking at the personnel running about preparing for it’s launch. He stops by Darius, taking note of the girl and the gnoll as he does.
He eyes the ship with uncertainty. “Darius, we are to board this vessel? How?”
The sound of the surf crashing upon the shore greets the two as they stride down the dock. To Ta’kel, it sounds like some beast or dragon from a foreign land. He can recall hearing stories of this vast, blue expanse, but he has never seen it in person.
As the four find themselves nearly face to face beside the Sea Nymph, a crew member working on some rigging near the crow’s nest shouts down to his comrades below, “‘Ey mates, we’re movin’ on to Saltbur ‘for too long. How ’bout one of our ol’ favorites to get us in the spirit, eh?” Several shouts of “aye, aye” resound from below and a few sailors begin to clear their throats to sing as they work.
Darius listens as the mariners began to belt out a crude and humorous rendition of a song that is actually quite melancholy in content. Sailors somehow have a way of turning almost anything into a drinking song. Nevertheless, Darius, though not a singer or musician, recognizes the first stanzas from his childhood growing up in Toren. He recalls that this popular ballad is related to the history of Saltbur, but can’t quite remember the details and waits to hear more. The sailors sing heartily in a minor scale as they work…
Ta’kel listens to the strange song and sound of the surf assaulting his ears, and strokes Mayuun’s shoulders absently. He looks at the two standing with them and decides to talk to them. His mission is to learn after all.
He walks over solidly and says, “I am unsure of greetings. I am Ta’kel Umenni-Saia. This is Mayuun,” he says gesturing to his wolf companion, then to Darius, “I travel with Darius, Guardian of Nature. Do you board this vessel?”
Levna is glad to be on terra firma again. She is not used to the sea. She is also glad of the new faces. The sailors are a jovial bunch, but their ribald jokes have been getting old. The gnoll is an interesting creature, but Levna has had trouble striking up conversation with him or is it a her? Levna greets Darius and Ta’kel formally, “Good day, my name is Levna, I boarded the Sea Nymph back in Daradhat. It’s a fine ship!” Levna does her best not to gawk. She’s used to the hyena-man by now, but has never seen a wolf quite so large, nor an elf.
“Well met,” says Ta’kel, “an honor to meet you . . . both. Daradhat? I am unfamiliar. I was born in the Reithpol Mountains.”
Showing his appreciation for the sailors song, Darius smiles and taps his feet. At the end of it all he introduces himself to the nearest sailor. “Hail and well met! Your song took me home for a moment, and I thank you. My name is Darius. I was wondering if I may have a word with your captain, for I am in search of passage, and this ship looks to be the finest in the yard this day!”
Darius calls up to the nearest mariner on deck who looks momentarily surprised at the new arrival.
“‘Course mate, lemme call the crusty ol’ bastard out o’ his hiding place.”
The mariner shouts something towards the helm, but the captain must be busy with some task because there is no response yet. Meanwhile the crew members continue singing the ballad…
After a moment spent listening to the song of the crew members, a commotion is heard on deck and an interesting looking fellow pokes his head over the railing.
“Eh? Someone want’s a ride I hear?”
He eyes the newcomers up and down and then vaults over the edge of the boat onto the dock. He is lanky and lean, standing over 6’ tall and wears worn leather garments died various shades of faded blue and green. A few yellow scarves and patches protrude from his garments randomly, creating the illusion that he is some sort of tropical, coral dwelling fish. He has apparently had some experience as a whaler, because a long, jagged harpoon is slung across his back along with a salt encrusted wooden buckler. His hair, knotted and almost approaching the point of dreadlocks, is tied back with a loose knot.
“Well, you’re a little funny looking, but hey, look at the rest of us. You seem decent enough to ride with a rough and tumble crew like ourselves, and Levna will tell you,” he says, waving at the silent, dark-haired girl, “I make most of my judgements about someone’s character on first sight. Alright, mates, it’ll only be one gold a piece for your passage to Saltbur. I don’t know why you’d want to go there of course, but I’m happy to take you.”
“I’m Spradlock Baddelharrow by the way, and this here’s me parrot Odra.”
All the while, the crew continues their song. As the plot thickens, more and more join in and the performance is now getting quite loud and energetic.
The sailors continue singing the ballad. Now nearly all of them are chiming in somehow (the ones who don’t know the words are just blathering nonsense syllables while trying to approximate the melody) and they are, of course, reciting the violent stanzas with particular gusto. Having reached the climax of the tale, those listening nearby are momentarily held in rapt attention as the sailors pause their work in order to belt out the final verses of the well known tune.
With the music finally ceasing, there are a few solitary cries from the gulls wheeling overhead, and then the mariners return to their work preparing the Sea Nymph to depart in mere moments. Levna, Torgosh, Ta’Kel, Mayuun, Darius and Spradlock Baddelharrow are all left standing together on the dock.
“It’s a silly wives tale if you ask me, but it makes a nice tune for sure,” says Spradlock, grinning. Odra chirps in agreement. “Now then my friends, shall we embark for Saltbur? Oh, I can taste the whortl beer already…” At the mention of the substance, several crew members turn a few noticeable shades greener.
Ta’kel nods sharply at the captain as he introduces himself, then offers the coin requested, then introduces himself and Mayuun.
Darius smiles at Torgosh, but not familiar with gnollish greetings decides it would be best not to show his teeth. “Hunting speed eh’ by the looks of our captain I think she will hunt quite well!”
“Captain Spradlock, thank you for generosity (Darius makes some blessing motions towards the ship), May the winds and tides find you with favor” and hands the coin to the captain. "Can you tell us a little of what to expect on the journey?”
“Well boy, I’d say we be out of the storm system now, and it’ll be an easy journey to Saltbur. If ye ne’r been to sea before, yer in fer a ride, but yer gonna have to experience it fer yerself.”
At that moment there is a call from the crows nest and the captain jogs up the plank to the main deck. He gazes out across the town of Toren for a moment and then turns back to the group standing on deck.
“Seems we’re ready to be gone, friends. Climb aboard, we’re off to the Northlands!”
As they walk up the plank to board, Ta’kel asks Torgosh, puzzled, “Hunt? What do you hunt on the sea? There are fish, yes, but it is not hunting.”
Torgosh chortles. “Home. We hunt home. Like a hunting pack eager to return to their den. We move fast.”
Ta’kel smiles slightly, it is nice to have something he understands, “Ah, yes, I understand. Thank you.”