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Kestrel Langstaff's personal journal, written aboard the Prosperity, sailing to the Western Seas.
The last day ashore was very busy.
On 8th Ruthern, in the small hours of the Morning, I was accosted in an alleyway by two Thugs, hired to do violence over the matter of a Woman, or rather, Two Women. I conversed with them on the Brevity of Life, and, having a sharper wit, put to them certain Points to which they had no Rebuttal. I left them in the alley and proceeded to the house of the ladies in question, namely, Lady M____ and her daughter G____, and dallied there with them a while.
At noon, to the West Sea Trading Company's offices, where I was invited to join the complement of the Prosperity, sailing that very next morning. Spent much of the afternoon gathering Supplies for such a voyage.
A man came to my room at the inn, claiming to be from a certain Merchant House and having a Proposition. He offered certain monetary incentives for me to provide this House with a navigational Journal and such strategical observations as would be of Worth. I balked, whereupon he added more money and an unsavoury magic Item, and I felt it best to appear to acquiesce with vague promises, with the which he did seem satisfied. Leaving the inn, I said my goodbyes to my Friends, and particularly to lemans Ravahana and Alihana, offering such Consolation as I could before my Departure. After midnight turning to 9th Ruthern, I took my leave of them and made my way to the Docks, and thus aboard.
I share my berth with an Elf, who speaks but little and whose Accent is rustic. He says he is an archer and a Hunter, although he does not explain why he joined our Company. He seems never to have seen a Ship before.
It being the third hour of the morning, and high tide, Prosperity cast off and made sail. In retrospect a momentous Occasion; but my presence not required on deck, and the day before having been most Strenuous, I was in my berth and slept through it.
First morning aboard Prosperity. Much merriment in the Wardroom at the expense of the newcomers, including myself--to wit, "Here be our new Dragon Slayers!" and so in the same vein. Reported to the Captain who assigned me as Supernumerary Landsman--not consonant with my years of Experience, but he is content with his Officers as they are. I shall assist the Boatswain and as lookout.
The food aboard is of full measure and good quality, and we are daily provided with a cup of the juice of some fruit from the Western isles, sweet and very pleasant to the Palate.
Two days out, we sighted Silver Rose, a vessel out of Waterdeep, and she followed us when we changed course to the Southwest. Prosperity has the heels of her, though, and sailed her under the horizon.
It being the afternoon Watch, the commander of the ship's marines, being of a mind to test my Mettle, did invite me to the forecastle where we crossed swords. He being a very dedicated swordsman, he bested me, albeit not so easily as he had Thought, nor with his own doublet untouched. He finished the bout with a very handsome Disarm which I hope to learn, although at the time, I more feared that my Weapon should fall in the sea.
The contest being done, Lord V____ presented himself as a challenger, and I his opponent. I privately thought it ill to duel with such a man, judging him not like to take Defeat with good humor, but he insisted. He has a very pretty Blade but not the eye to go with it. I scored one touch and thence kept my thrusts short, feigning that I missed because of his Skill rather than mine. After a time he tired of this, and turned to the marine commander, who was not amused but V____ would challenge him regardless. They went through several Passes, each taking and giving Touches and each growing vexed. The marine commander finished with a stroke not to the Body but rather to the Hilt. This seemed to do no harm, yet Lord V____ seemed troubled, and retired from the match and so to his cabin, blaming the roll of the ship. H____, the first officer, went with him and they spake vociferously although I, being in the foremast rigging, know not what was said.
In truth the waves are rougher today than yesterday, and the Landsmen suffer thereby, particularly our Scholar. It is nothing to trouble a sailor, although I judge there is Weather ahead.
Went to the Great Cabin for a task which the Captain had set me, transcribing certain Figures. The Cabin holds not one binnacle but two, the Second being closed. A strange quiet tapping came from inside it, which made me think of twigs, but I do not know what what manner of Creature was inside it; I thought it ill-advised to open the Case, it being the Captain's. Whilst engaged in transcribing the figures, the gallery Lights being open, I Heard Mr H____, who being much distraught, spake with someone at the taffrail, that Lord V____ might take the Ship. I do not understand why he thought so, as Lord V____ is already part owner of the ship.
The Captain also provided a list of Ma'ri words and their translation, as a start to the ethno-linguistic investigation of the Ma'ri, a business in which our scholar and I have joined. The list is scant, but is a beginning; and a few of the common sailors are eager to tell of certain words of the Ma're vocabulary, which may be of use to me although they make our scholar blush.
Was ordered to report to the Lady, our Healer, who examined the magic Item given to me by the agent of that merchant House which had hoped to suborn me.
After support, played the mandolin in the Wardroom until Lord V____ called through his cabin door for quiet, after which, to the deck and an more appreciative Audience. And so to bed.
The Lady returned the magic Item, pronouncing it of no danger, being a charm for swift running. The forenoon Watch passed quietly albeit the sea rougher. Merchantmen sighted but not Silver Rose, a good sign.
Joined the officers at the quarterdeck for the noon Sight. As we worked our calculations, the weather being fine and the ship steady, a topman gave a loud Cry and fell from the mainsail yard. The first officer flung himself over the side after the man, and rescued him, climbing the line up the ship's side with great Speed and Certainty although burdened with the sailor under his arm.
I saw that the Sailors in the main top were much disturbed, and proceeding there, inquired amongst them, viz, for what reason had the man fallen? They all said that there had been a Ghost, or misty Figure, skeletal in visage and chartreuse or pear in color, and the Topman, being startled, had fallen. Returned to the deck and reported to the Captain.
As we discussed this and the Lady ministered to the sailor--our scholar being below decks, and slow to respond to the summons--lo, the Apparition appeared again, this time on the deck at the weather rail. This being opposite the aft hatch from me, only a few steps away, and thinking it best to show the Men by example that Courage would serve them better than Fear, I immediately took Sword in hand and attacked the thing. My blade passed through with no resistance, as did I as well, feeling no Chill or other Ill Effects, and perceiving that my blows had no effect on the spirit neither. I then put my dagger, the which is Silver, to the thing, and it vanished, whether because of my stroke, or the Lady's prayers, or of its own volition, I know not. The men were nervous afterwards, but I spoke with them, cheering them and strengthening their Courage. In the wardroom, I was hailed as Ghostbane.
The Lady examined me Privately and found no ill effects from my encounter with the Ghost, although this did provide the opportunity for jesting, as she is the only Woman aboard.
One of the wardroom Goblets is missing, and it is thought that was the work of the junior midshipmen, albeit no Reason was advanced as to why he might. Discussion in the wardroom, with the thought that the goblet might be used in spell casting; as the lad is no Wizard (all were amused by the thought), this made it seem likely that some Other might have taken the goblet, the mystery being, Who and Why? One officer advanced the idea that Lord V___ might have hidden it in the lad's belongings as a cruel Joke to shame the boy; that however being a side of Lord V____'s Character that I myself have not seen. For reasons not explained, the first officer called for Lord V____, and him not responding to their Shouts, they determined to enter his Cabin. I opened the Door, tickling open the Lock by use of certain Tinker's skills which learned from my dear old Da. The two Men stepped forward, and exclaimed that Lord V____ was dead.
Lord V____ having been found dead, the Captain was sent for with haste. He, apprised of the happening, returned with the Lady and I to the Great Cabin for a privy conference, and summoning the elfin Hunter as well, the Captain warranted us to investigate. There is a Second binnacle in the Great Cabin, and concealed therein is a Device of rare design. Perceiving that one of the Latches of this devyce was Undone, I asked the Captain what was it? Whereupon the Phantasm appeared and rushed at the Captain. The Elf cut at the Phantasm, but it took no harm thereby, nor did it work any ill upon the Captain. The hunter saw some little sign of movement by the door, and slashed at it with the dagger, drawing blood from an Unseen foe but not enough to lead to capture.
Examined Lord V___'s body, finding a bruise on the Head and a stab into the liver, which wound was, from the blood trail, inflicted as he lay in his cot. There was also a strand of caterpillar Silk. The Wound was covered by his shirt, which was not pierced through.
Upon questioning various officers and marines, I believe the story to be thus:
Shortly before noon, someone told the senior Midshipman to pass the word that the Lady wanted to see the captain's Clerk in the herbarium--a fool's errand.
The marine Sentry at the Wormerie door reports that Lord V____ entered after the Clerk left. Neither the Sentry nor his Relief saw Lord V____ leave.
The noon sight, with the captain and first officer in attendance, and myself and the midshipmen, the noon sight being one time when it is certain the Captain will be out of the Great Cabin. The phantasm at the yardarm frightened the Men, and one fell into the sea, attracting the attention of all on deck. The man being rescued, a second phantasm appeared at the rail, which I attacked.
The Captain, Lady and I went to the Great Cabin, where the Lady sought whether any Magick was imbued in my blades. I expect if someone unseen was in the Cabin, the Lady would have become aware of the enchantment rendering the lurker invisible.
Blood spots were found by the Second binnacle, and a hair from Lord V____; a further blood spot was found by the Wormerie jamb, and the ladder to the wardroom, and a blood soaked bread crumb under the wardroom table.
I believe Lord V____ entered the Great Cabin to look at the Marvellous Device, but was struck down by the unseen Assailant, who then used the Phantasm to distract the sentry and others on deck. The Assailant then carried V____ down to his cabin and slew him, but covered the wound. The Assailant then returned to the Great Cabin as he had opportunity, until the Elf heard him.
Questions which trouble me:
How did it happen that both Lord V____ and the mysterious Unseen both picked the same time to enter the Great Cabin? Noon, yes, as the Captain would be at the noon sight, but still it is a Coincidence which troubles me.
Why would the Unseen attack Lord Ventir at all, instead of remaining hidden?
Why carry the dead Lord back to his cabin, instead of opening the stern lights and dropping him out? Mere distraction would not be enough to remain unseen. But the blood trail leads that way. Why did the Unseen expect to remain hidden?
Why is there a crumb with blood under the wardrobe table?
Why try to conceal the wound?
Things to do:
Keep the Lady safe, as she is able to detect magic and lies.
Examine every man for the knife wound which the Unseen got by the elf's hand.
Hide in the Great Cabin by whatever strategem, and lay in wait for the Unseen to enter.
Last night late with much busyness. Discussed our plans first with the Lady, after which posted a marine at her door with thought to keep her safe in the night.
Young Raynald, midshipman, remarkt that when V____'s body was Found, the senior mid, Mowbray, was sent to fetch the Captain, but took an uncommon long time returning from the Great Cabin, the which is only a few steps and a ladder from the Wardroom.
After reporting to the captain, was taken aside by our Scholar who advised that V____'s neck was broke and that likely the cause of Death, the wound in his side being Bloody but not fatal.
And so to bed. Whereupon heard ghastly Whispers, viz, You will all die, the sea will take you as it took her, etc etc. Investigated but found nought save the first officer, very irritable, and the purser likewise. Still puzzled over why V_____ had a knife Wound, with his neck being broken. Slept with this Paradox in mind, rather than a pair of doxies, as I should Prefer.
Up in the morning for a grey wet dawn watch at the masthead, the Dawn scarce being seen through the brooding Clouds. Then to breakfast, where the company's mood was dismal despite my endeavors to Light it. Many heard the whispers in the night and were Troubled thereby.
Summoned the officers, midshipmen and others to the Great Cabin, where the Lady called for a blessing of truth. I asked questions of those gathered, Know ye how V____ got his wounds and died?, What manner of thing is It which the Elf wounded with his Knife in the great cabin?, Mean ye any Harm to the ship or any one of its Companie, and Have ye been Evasive in answering these my Questions? The senior mid, Mowbrey, could not answer clearly Yea or Nay. It was seen that the Purser touched him upon back or Shoulder when he struggled to answer. Some Spells, we know, are effectual when the Caster touches the Victim. Perhaps the purser has wrought some Magick to control the senior mid? Who, being a Lackwit would be easy to control. Perhaps V____was controlled in the same Manner?
One of the Marines admitted that, while standing sentry at the Wormerie door, he found himself asleep, at noon, the which explains how Lord V____ came out from the Great Cabin unseen but does not answer Why nor who Slew him.
No villain having been unmasked by the Questions, we had all doff their shirts, save the Purser who insisted, by right of age and dignity, to do so Privately, the Captain accepting this. We then paraded the Men on the forecastle and examined them, but found not suspicious Marks nor wounds.
So with no Suspects, we devised a Plan of the captain shewing himself upon the Quarterdeck so that the Unseen might think empty the Great Cabin, wherein we lay in ambush.
After a time, the Door opened and shut, and the latches of the Device moved. We saw no one and could strike nothing, but a thick Fog formed around us and we knew that our Enemy was there. The Lady summoned a Light, and the keen eyed Elf, discerning a Shadow among the beams overhead, shot it with three Arrows, and it cried out. The Shadow being high up, I vaulted upon the stern Bench and leapt Up, sticking it with my Rapier, drawing forth red Blood in plenty. Whereupon the Thing scuttled across the ceiling with great rapidity and out of the Great Cabin. The three of us gave Chase, not stopping for the clerk and sentry who were Asleep, our Hunter following the blood trail down to the Berth deck.
We met there an Unnatural beast, like unto a clawed Crab the size of a Bull, and slew it by blade, arrow, and lance of light. Its blood or ichor was a sickly Grey, so we knew this was not the Unseen from the great Cabin. The Hunter traced the red blood down to the lower deck and bow, where the second officer also an elf, keeps a nest, and there indeed we found him unconscious. The Lady and the ship's Carpenter brought him Out to the herbarium, whereupon Raynald found us and said that strange things were happening on the weather deck and desiring that we should go thereto.
We found what seemed to all to be the Second Officer, who we had left unconscious in the herbarium, but now seemly awake and ordering the jolly Boat lowered. The men having done this, he descended the ship's side and into the Boat. We called upon him to Halt but he did not, nor gave explanation. Knowing this was some Imposter, and having neither catapult shotte nor Dwarf to drop through the bottom of the Boat, I gave the word and the Hunter did shoot him with arrows. The imposter fell wounded, but nonetheless he was able to speak arcane words, and our vision went dark. When I could see again....
When we recovered our sight, the imposter had cut loose the jolly boat and drifted astern. I ordered the Men to swing out the yawl so that we might pursue. Ghostly voices confused the crew, and some tenebrous Fog covered the quarterdeck. The Elf and I went to the taffrail in hopes of Sighting the jolly boat before it passed beyond arrow shot, but it was Invisible.
The Marine captain and the Lady, having taken to the yawl, cried to us to join them (and two sailors, and the Lady's otter), it being adrift and the Prosperity surging past it, therefore I caught up a Line and swung down. The Elf demurred, I know not why, but speculate not for want of Courage; for he is no sailor, and likely could not shoot well from a small boat in the open Sea, and may have thought instead to take Aim from the quarterdeck. But as we in the yawl pulled away, a mighty Thunderclap smote the ship, coming, as it seemed, from the wardroom or the Great Cabin, the lights of which blew out with spray of Glass and stench of vile Alchemy. The rudderhead was sundered, and I know not what further Hurts the ship may have suffered; for Prosperity being rudderless was unable to Wear, and, sailing on, was soon lost to our sight in the Rain.
We in the yawl espied some Flaw in the veil of invisibility over the jolly boat, and our brave sailors pulling lustily at their oars, we drew closer. I flung several sling bullets at the dimly seen shape, but know not whether I hit. I believe, though, that I must have discommoded the imposter, for he rose up and cast a bolt of black fire, and then another, the both of which hit me and burned, but not too severely. We drew closer, and it seemed we would soon be able to leap into the jolly boat and finish the matter, but the imposter hurled some thing which, landing in our boat, was shewn to be a dozen Snakes, who struck at us. We slew them, but the men having taken Venom, were unable to pull at the oars, and we drifted further away from our Prey. The otter, however, being in the water, knew where the jolly boat was, and discerning this, I, with the Lady's blessing, leapt into the water, and swam with the Wings of the Sea. Upon reaching the jolly boat, it was Out Steel, up over the Transom, and have at him. His blade was the longer, but I slipped past his point, and put him down with one thrust. Thence it was a simple matter of binding and gagging him, and steering back to the others. Him being unconscious, the false visage faded from him, and behold, the magician was the hapless Mowbray! The Lady tended his wounds, and he awoke, and would have stirred, but I vouchsafed to him that, I having once thought hard on whether to bandage him or to put a dagger through his eye, and having made the one choice, I should, an he gave me cause to rethink it, be inclined to try the other choice. He took my meaning at once, and subsided. Prosperity still being beyond our sight, and maybe sunk by the injury done her, we took counsel. We stepped the mast, and set course as best I could for the Moonshaes, the wind being from the northeast and favorable, and that being the nearest land, and further a likely choice for Prosperity to seek repairs if she is able. By good fortune I had foodstuffs in my haversack, and was able to give sausage, cheese and brandy to all, and a bit of chocolate to the Lady, who had never known it before, and thereby given a great revelation. Night is falling now, but the rain has let up, the wind is fair, and we sail to the sunset.
Spent the night at Sea in the boat, alternately, Wet & Cold, then Cold & Wet, then Drenched & Cold & In Fear Of Capsizing, then Cold & Drenched, etc etc. The next day, in the forenoon sighted a reaver Longship, whereupon we, with some effort, stepped the second mast and made all speed toward the Coast. Continued wet, cold, sleepless, & hungry, but as the Lady also was cold, and wet, and wearing nought save thin silk, I enjoyed the sights and thought it not mete to complain on what Fortune gave.
Discovered the said coast was inhospitable, viz, breakers on Cliffs & no place to land. Uncertain of position, but as a Storm brewed to the south, we sailed North. Found a break in the cliffs and a hidden Cove. The boat, being lifted by a Swell onto a submerged rock, did Capsize, but by clinging to oars, we came ashore without loss. No sign of Habitation nor shelter, but used the Oars, cloaks & branches of certain Trees to form a rude Lean To against the rock face, giving some little shelter against the Rain which has continually beset us.
Spoke with Mowbrey, who, he says, was an agent of a Merchant House, sent to discover that device in the Great Cabin. He says he was discovered by Lord V____ in the Great Cabin, and, being attacked by the latter, stunned him, whereupon, he says, the lord through mischance fell and broke his neck, whilst also driving his own Dirk into his side. Some fraction of this Tiradiddle could be, I suppose, in some wise true--albeit not much. He spake also of his magickal Belt, the which I have taken as spoils, and which, upon the speaking of certain words from an Elvish lay, reveals pockets, of the same likeness as my haversack albeit better hid and less capacious. There are divers vials, flasks, and tools therein.
Secured the Yawl and a mast through some effort on the rocks and in the water, then slept. The Men are still weak from Poison, and cannot walk any distance. We must consider whether to send one or two of us west to find a road, or north where the Lady hopes to find a moonwell, or all to put to sea again. And what is to be done with Mowbrey? I favor a moment's work with a bodkin but the Lady thinks ill of it.
It is now the second Morning after leaving the ship. I write this by candlelight as we await the dawn.