Regrouping after having killed the beast, the party made camp for the evening. An uneventful night passed, and they began their journey again, with Gergle swimming ahead of the ship at a speed only an Agulan could maintain. Within an hour, Gergle returned to the ship and told Simon, “Our course is taking us near to Sentinel Island, from which Sentinel Swamp gets its name. The remains of a giant statue are all that is left of the civilization that lived here in Journeyman times.”
As the ship floated downriver with the current, Simon and the others gathered at the railings to catch their first glimpse of Sentinel Island. As it hove into view, the only remaining legacy of the Journeymen was an enormous carved, sandaled foot. “Brine, pull in closer,” said Simon, “There’s something odd at the bottom of the foot.”
Within moments, the ship was anchored adjacent to the island, and the party stood at the entrance to a cavern system that had been dug underneath the foot of the statue. There were bones of various animals strewn around the entrance of the cave, and such light as filtered into the cavern showed that more bones were within. One curious feature of the bones was that there appeared to be no complete skeleton anywhere. All were missing at least one element, a head here, a torso there, indicating that the bodies had been torn apart. A brief search of the exterior area of the cavern revealed manacles lying in amongst the bones; some were broken and rusted, but others were newer, and had what appeared to be blood stains on them. “Looks like someone has been leaving sacrifices,” said Trish.
“Let’s check it out,” said Simon, “Gergle, is this the same direction the creature came from yesterday?”
“It would seem that it might have come from this direction, but once it hit me with the fear spell, I sort of lost track of a lot of things,” replied Gergle, “but I would certainly deem it possible that this is its lair.”
Entering the cave, Simon could tell that it wasn’t a large system, but it would take the party a few minutes to search, due to the carpet of bones that blanketed the room. Nothing was found in the main cavern, but to the rear of the cave was a room that had no bones of anything that was once flesh and blood. It contained a treasure trove of bones of magical equipment. Shields, armor, swords, tomes, wands and various other implements lay scattered around the room, all of them obviously magical at one time, and each one just as obviously damaged beyond repair. The creature apparently relished the destruction of things, whether living or crafted. A detailed look through the discarded equipment revealed that the only piece in the room that had not been irreparably damaged was a horn, carved from ivory with iron bands on the ends, and covered in Journeyman’s runes. Simon put the horn to his lips and taking a deep breath, blew into the horn. The horn produced a melodic note, which made the entire party have an overwhelming sense of well-being, but no other effect could be found. The euphoria wore off quickly, and turning their back on the lair of the beast, the party boarded the boat and continued their journey down the river. The rest of the morning was filled with the calls of the colorful birds that flitted among the canopy of trees over the waterway. Brine pointed to the birds, naming them in the Agulan tongue and even showed the party how to watch for the larger reptiles that were sunning themselves on the banks of the river. Around late afternoon, Simon and Walac both had a feeling that something was wrong, and even as they were standing up to try and get a bearing on what was amiss, Gergle shouted and disappeared under the water as creatures leapt out of the surrounding water onto the boat. The creatures looked like some strange combination of human and fish, and as they boarded the boat, they tried to grab whoever was closest to where they landed. Put on alert by Simon and Walac’s initial alarm, the party, while not ready, were not as surprised as they might have been otherwise; Trish even managed a stunning blow to the side of the head of the one nearest her, as she lashed out with Oblivion. Trish sidestepped and brought Oblivion down in a sweeping arc, and cut the fishman in half. Meanwhile, a spell cast from somewhere on the bank narrowly missed Simon, exploding in a cascade of multicolored sparks when it hit the mast. As Simon attempted to locate the spellcaster, a skull came flying from the bank to shatter at his feet, with a ghost rising out of the shards and reaching for him. Before he could engage the ghost, an enormous, sticky, pink tongue flicked from the bank and wrapped around Simon’s midsection and began to pull him off the boat. Using the tongue as a point of reference, Simon could now make out a fishman shaman sitting in a saddle on a giant toad, whose tongue was rapidly pulling him over the side. Quick as a thought, Simon teleported to the bank, and cut down the toad before the creature could pull his tongue back from the railing of the ship. Simon found himself immediately surrounded by a group of enslaved humans, armed with sharpened sticks that thrust and jabbed at Simon halfheartedly at the insistence of the shaman. As the shaman dismounted his now dead toad, Simon somersaulted over his head, landing behind him, and wounding him with a swipe of his flail.
Trish rushed into the space vacated by Simon when he teleported and a slash from her runesword caused the ghost to dissolve with a mournful howl as it was banished back to the halls of silence. Walac gutted one of the fishmen with his rapier, and avoided the attacks of the other near him as the body of the one he killed toppled into the water. As he engaged the remaining fishman in the bow of the boat, the one he killed leapt back aboard, having regenerated itself in the water. In its haste to hit Walac, the regenerated fishman missed the scampering Lir, severing the head from its hapless comrade. Lasheur shot and killed the fishman that was attacking Itcherat, and the goblin hacked the head from the creature as Trish killed the one that remained with Walac in the bow of the boat. Drawing his bow, Walac fired an arrow, distracting the shaman when it lodged quivering in his armor. Brine flung his anchor over the side, and moments later followed it into the water, coming up on the bank near the shaman and attacking with his trident. Simon reached into his pouch, and flung a vial of acid at the shaman. The vial broke, with smoke rising from the wound where the acid hit the shaman’s arm. Simon then blew the horn he’d found from the stash earlier, inspiring everyone near him, as Lasheur loosed a fatal arrow into the skull of the shaman, dropping him instantly. As the party watched the death of the shaman, two of the once dead warriors leapt over the railing back into the ship, and badly wounded Itcherat, who fell to the ground bleeding from a slash that went up into his guts from his genital region. As the slaves began to continue their attack on Simon, the shaman stood up, pulled the arrow out of his head and advanced once again on Simon. The shaman began casting another spell, and Simon lashed out with his katana and the rune metal flail and began cutting the shaman to ribbons. He kicked the pieces of the shaman away from each other, but he could see them slowly sliding across the ground towards each other. Aware that the shaman was finally defeated (if not dead), the slaves dropped their sharpened sticks and fell to their knees around Simon, bowing and thanking him for saving them. Simon looked up from the slaves in time to see one of the warriors that had critically injured Itcherat catch Walac with a chance swipe of his sword. Lasheur downed one of the warriors with an arrow as Simon teleported back aboard and cut the last standing warrior in half. Simon then went to Itcherat’s side, and cast a heal wound spell to stabilize the wounded goblin. With all of the combatants out of the fray, the party went to the shore to help the slaves to the boat, and search the body of the shaman. The only thing the shaman had on his body was another of the ghost skulls, and Trish destroyed it with her rune sword. While they were completing their search, Gergle arrived back, having killed the fishmen who had ambushed him. “Gergle, perhaps you could use some more crew members for your fishing, once Brine comes with us?” asked Simon.
“That’s an excellent idea,” replied Gergle, “if it is something that they would be interested in. Where do you hail from, my good man?”
The leader of the slaves said, “I’m not sure. The only thing that I can remember with any certainty is the fact that the Lazuri sold us to the fishmen about a week ago and were making promises to them about riches and more slaves.”
Simon shook his head, “This is not uncommon with the slaves of the Lazuri. They use a combination of drugs and magic to keep their slaves in line. If you can’t remember where you’re from, it lessens your desire to escape, because you have no idea where to escape to. It’s one of the many crimes that I will enjoy making them pay for!”
Once again underway, it was about dusk when Gergle came back to the ship and told Brine to beach it as quickly as possible. Clambering aboard out of the water, he told Simon, “There’s a warship ahead.”
Walac, Gergle and Simon crept up the beach to check out the warship, and once they were close enough, could see that it was a Lazuri vessel. There were Lazuri warriors on board, as well as many of the human slaves, with the same Yatahay markings as the ones they rescued from the fishmen. Gergle did a quick underwater check of the river, and found that the area where the warship was anchored was next to an island of sorts. Simon and Walac went back and got the rest of the party, leaving the still injured Itcherat with the slaves. Following Gergle, the party came to an area where they could observe the beach without being seen. There was a small hill with a cave in it, and the slaves and Lazuri were going into and coming out of the cave. It appeared that they were carrying a large number of crates and supplies in, possibly for storage. After about a half hour of this, the activity started to taper off, and a Lazuri female, wearing a grey sash, arrived and talked to the lead of the detail working on the cave. After a couple of minutes of discussion, the camp leader shouted some orders, and the slaves were beaten into a line. Then the slaves and Lazuri followed the grey sash off into the swamp. Moving up to the cave, the party could tell that it was a supply cache for the Lazuri. It appeared they would be in the area for months, at least, based on the amount of material in the cave. Prominently placed in the cave was an ornate looking chest. Walac’s whiskers were twitching as he walked up to the chest, and he checked around it for traps. He couldn’t find any, and he sat on his haunches and began working on the lock with his nimble fingers and lockpicks. There was a small click, and suddenly gas began to pour out of the chest. The gas rapidly filled the cave, and Walac, Simon and the others came running out of the cave coughing at roughly the same time as a surprised Lazuri patrol came around the side of the cave area. Within minutes, the Lazuri patrol was lying dead on the ground outside their supply cave, and Simon decided to go a more direct route to open the chest. Taking a vial of acid from his pack, he applied it to the lock of the chest, which fell off within moments. Opening the chest, he found it to be full of gold. Simon had Brine assist him in moving the chest away from the cave, as Trish and Walac began to destroy the supplies in the cache, with Lasheur on top of the hill as a lookout. As Trish and Walac completed their sabotage, another Lazuri patrol came from the beach and attacked. The trio made short work of this patrol, and before long Simon returned with Brine. “Go get your father, and bring the ship. I don’t think there are too many Lazuri on the ship now, and it would make me very happy to destroy their transportation,” said Simon. The party went to the ship, found that there were no Lazuri left on board, and that it was a slaver ship, with a hold full of manacles and space for about one hundred slaves or so. There were only about twelve slaves left on board, and as Trish and Walac worked on freeing them from their manacles, Lasheur and Simon worked the ship out into the current after pulling up the anchor. After about twenty minutes of drifting with the current, Gergle and Brine caught up with the slaver ship, and after transferring the former slaves to Gergle’s ship, Simon set the slave ship on fire and let it drift with the current. It wasn’t long until the flames of the sinking ship were extinguished and became the bright lights of the port of Ard.