Steamboat, Secrets and Stew
A quick note about Game Master (GM) notes for campaigns. These notes are the GMs has made about running his campaign, and thus can continue information not known to the in-game characters.
After a harrowing flight from Gregorian DelShonar's undead, the six adventurers began following the river north, in the hopes that Port-a-Lucine would come more quickly than the last few days had gone. They began walking, keeping an eye on the gorge in the hopes that the mysterious Nathan Timothy, the steamboat captain that DelShonar had mentioned, may come along and offer them aid. (1)
After a few hours of weary trudging through the forest, a low whistle began to fill the group's ears. Turning back to the river, Daimonion spotted a white ship with a bright red paddle-wheel flowing slowly down the river. Cheering in joy, the swashbuckler directed Dario and the others to the sight, as the ship's steam whistle blew a resounding response. Looking closely, Dario noted a placard on the ship's side: The Crescent Moon. (2) Truly, this was the ship of which DelShonar had spoken.
A well-dressed man in a towering captain's hat came to the prow of the Crescent Moon and hailed the group with a flourishing bow, then asked them who they were and where they were heading. Daimonion quickly gave introductions, then told the man that they were traveling to Port-a-Lucine. The captain smiled and introduced himself as Nathan Timothy, then told the group that, while he was not heading as far up-river as Dementlieu, he could take them as far as the Richemuloise port town of Mortigny. He also informed the group that such passage would cost them a substantial amount of gold—more than they could afford, for the most part. Most of the group tried to negotiate the price down, but Timothy would have none of it.
However, the gold that Sik found in the destroyed town hall of Verbrek proved to be a windfall. The 200 mournepieces she found in the master bedroom covered the costs, but placed the rest of the group in her debt. (3) One of the mates tossed a rope to the waiting, tired adventurers, and the group boarded without difficulty.
The first day aboard the Crescent Moon proved to be a fairly dull experience. The ship's crew, aside from the gregarious Timothy, proved to be tight-lipped. (4) Daimonion spent most of his time on the foredeck, watching the river, while Tallorn, Dera and Dario all slept for most of the first night, attempting to recoup the massive blood loss that they had suffered against the mosquito-creatures they had fought, prior to meeting Gregorian DelShonar.
After several hours of travel, the group grew hungry. Having no food, after their flight from DelShonar, the corps asked the first mate where they could attain something to eat. Speaking only sparingly, he indicated the mess-hall, below deck. Shuffling back down below, all but Dera, who had some trail rations to spare, headed to the mess-hall, where a greasy, bald man with flaking skin stood stirring a massive cauldron. (5) Inside, a thick brown stew simmered, and he ladled out servings for the five.
Following the brief dinner, the majority of the group simply went back to their much-needed rest. However, their sleep was not as restful as most had hoped. All but Dera experienced horrific dreams. Before them set a massive feast of meat and red liquid in clear goblets, which they gorged themselves on lustily. However, as each eater looked up the table, they saw it filled with human body parts, all roasted and cooked, which they themselves fed upon. (6) At various times, each of them woke up, covered in a sheen of slick, wet sweat.
The next day brought nothing short of paranoia. After comparing their dreams, the group was shocked to find that all were so similar, yet they could only wonder why this had occurred. The day passed, similar to the first, but Dario, Sik, Rimo and Tallorn began to keep more watchful eyes on the all-but-silent crew, as well as watching their own actions. After another dinner, Rimo and Tallorn spent some time in private discussing what they could do about the dreams. Both agreed that some investigation was needed, and a time was set for the coming night.
Unbeknownst to them, both Sik and Dario each had their own plans for the evening. Well after midnight, Rimo and Tallorn found Sik outside their door. Quietly, they asked the lithe rogue what she was doing. Sik replied that she was attempting to speak with Captain Timothy, whom the crew told her only truly likes to navigate at night. Seeing this as a worthy plan, Rimo and Tallorn slowly made their way into the shadows with Sik, and climbed the stairs to the main deck.
Before them lay a sight that none could have anticipated. As the trio peeked over the rail, looking across the deck, a massive form of a half-wolf, half-human stood with two paws on the wheel, steering the ship upriver, into the light of a brilliant crescent moon. (7) Upon this creature's head sat the tall cap of a ship's captain—without a doubt, this horrible creature was that of their captain, Nathan Timothy. Wordlessly, they swiftly made their way back downstairs, so that they could grasp what this hideous sight portended.
Meanwhile, Dario had made some investigations of his own. While Daimonion and Dera slept, he crept quietly down to the lower hold, to see what lay down below. Passing the kitchen, the young rogue slid down the hall to the end room, where a slight cool breeze swept around the door jambs. Deftly picking the lock, he swung open the door, only to be witness to his own horrific vision. Dozens of human corpses, all hanging from hooks, dressed and sliced like cattle, as if for some inhuman feast. Gasping in fear, he quickly closed the door and returned to his bunk, just as Rimo, Tallorn and Sik returned from their venture.
Swiftly, Dera and Daimonion were awakened. Information was shared amongst the group, which chilled all to the very marrow of their bones. None knew what could come of these discoveries. However, as time went on, all agreed that nothing could be done that night, and the group drifted into another sleep of vile, cannibalistic dreams.
The next morning, few out of the group were enamored of another round of the stew, especially after knowing from where it came. Sik even described a dream in which she pulled the entirety of an eye from a human face, and then proceeded to peel it in order to suck out the gelatin within. (8) Such disgusting visions revolted the group, only further disillusioning them from Timothy and his crew. Trying to avoid the stew, Sik and Dario asked the surly cook if he had something other than stew to eat. Eventually, they persuaded him to give up two raw potatoes, but Sik was unable to remember whether raw potato was poisonous or not, leaving both wondering. (9) After a few minutes of deliberation, the pair decided to risk it and began to eat. Rimo, meanwhile, asked the first mate's permission to fish from the side of boat. He was granted the luxury, but was unable to come up with any food of use.
However, during the day of rest, Dera and Tallorn had gained quite a bit of new- found strength. Their regenerative properties began working, and their blood was nearly all replaced. Captain Timothy, however, asked to see all six on the main deck during the day. After some discussion, the group decided to take Timothy up on his offer, despite their fears. However, Timothy only wished to tell them that the Crescent Moon had made good time, and that they would reach the outskirts of Mortigny by the following afternoon. (10)
If any chance were to be made to escape, it would seriously be placed into question now. With only a day left, few knew what to do. Dario, however, had a plan already in mind. Taking Sik with him, late after midnight, the pair began searching the larger of the bunks, hoping to find some token of Timothy's to prove their story. Sik had little luck picking the locks on the doors, while Dario managed to make his way into one. Slowly padding across the room, he began rifling through a desk. However, as he pulled open the center drawer, a cloud of cloying, green gas began to fill the room. (11) With a single breath of the gas, Dario fell unconscious to the ground. Sik, hearing her comrade fall inert, covered her mouth, closed the door and pulled Dario back into their bunk. After Rimo and Tallorn's ministrations, Dario regained consciousness, yet remained stiff and pained for several days thereafter.
The final day arrived, and none too soon. The Crescent Moon slowly drifted into a small dock, about 5 leagues distant from Mortigny. As the crew prepared to tie the ship in, Timothy addressed the adventurers. With a knowing smile, he wished them a good journey. Dario, Rimo and Sik all addressed him as the vile creature he was, but the captain merely laughed and posed them with their few options. Grinning openly, he wrapped his arm around Rimo's shoulders, then winced as his arm quickly tore into its wolf-form, then flashed back just as quickly. (12) Harrowed and confused by the whole ordeal, the adventurers swiftly made their way off the boat and back onto dry land.
Still gaining their bearings from their voyage with Timothy, the group was surprised to find a young man along the path they were traveling, dressed in the garb of a huntsman. They hailed the fellow, who introduced himself as Stuart Joshi, a constable- in-training of Mortigny. Upon their asking, he told them of a possible job that might be found within his hometown—one which required the utmost secrecy. If they were interested, the adventurers were to specifically go to the home of one Sir Balric Traven, the mayor of Mortigny, and speak to no one on the way. As they agreed to this, Joshi left the adventurers on the road, as they headed towards the city. (13)
Sik, however, had other ideas. She quickly made her way to one of the local drinking houses, while the others dealt with Traven. After a brief stay in the mayor's study, while he took supper, they met with Traven, a hawkish, tall man, who had much to tell them.
Apparently, the town of Mortigny was beset by murders of a most mysterious sort. Four people had died—3 in outlying regions, 1 in the city itself—of wounds that could only be described as animalistic. Normally, such things could be taken care of— adventurers were hired, and the killings seemed to abate for a while. However, nothing had changed. The groups of mercenaries, one headed by a Barovian knight named Robert Radanavic and another headed by a Darkonian nobleman named Reginald Jordan III, had both had no luck with the killings; not even leads. However, because of the group's fees, the Mortigny town budget was running slim, and results must be attained posthaste. The group's job, should they accept, would be to continue the investigations, as well as attempt to understand why the two other groups had been having so little success in their investigations.
When asked about the bodies, Traven referred to one Dr. Jonathan Garnet, who served as a physician and coroner for the town, who was holding the latest victim's body for examination. Also, Traven referred them to one Warden Cartwright, an anchorite of the goddess Ezra, who may be able to assist them if the source of the killings turned out to be something supernatural. Finally, the mayor offered them free room and board at a local tavern, the Green Griffon, where both mercenary groups were staying.
Wishing the adventurers good luck, he escorted them to the door. From there, they met up with Sik and arrived at the door to the Green Griffon. Upon the opening of that door, their lives would change forever. (14)