The Guiding Fire
From Captain Abraham’s Log of ‘The Guiding Fire’.
The 7th Day of Flamerule in the Year of the Ruins Reborn.
This is our second visit to the main continent – one which we have only just made by the skin of our teeth. Thank Melora we are safe. This is the first day I have had chance to make anything more than a token entry in the log, and must gather my thoughts and describe the last month or so in full.
We had dropped the landing party by rowboat on the beach. With the fog covering their landing we could see nothing from the ship, and we just had to wait out in the bay for any sign. There were muffled shouts and the boys wanted to jump into the remaining rowboat and help, but we had orders to stand firm.
The shouts didn’t last long and as the fog began to clear we could see the landing party moving off from the beach, heading inland. Anchored in the bay we waited patiently, the agreement was to wait for two full days before we headed back for more provisions.
The lookout raised us during the night. From the deck we could see a number of small flames – torches we guessed – running down the sands to the landing site. From across the still waters we could hear a whooping and screaming, and that guttural chant that I shall never forget.
The men at the landings were cornered – there was no sign of the rowing boats. From what we could tell in the flickering torchlight through our spyglasses, the guards had formed a defensive ring around the rest of the people. The enemy had fallen silent and were slowly advancing.
Whether it was a trick of the eye, luck of the gods, or sheer coincidence, I will never know, but a fog drifted across the guards and enveloped the whole landing party. The whooping and shrilling died down, and even from this far out we could hear a seething anger from the enemy. Then, unexpectedly, they fled into the night.
We sent word to the landing party the next morning, our last rowboat silently slipping over the waves. When it returned, a couple of hours later, the path for us was clear. The landing party were prepared to stay and make fast a home. They were protected by Pelor, so their priest said, and would make a stand here on the continent.
They had need of some extra provisions – they had found stone and trees, and could make strong buildings and defenses with the right tools. We were to leave immediately and return as soon as possible. We set sail that day for home.
We were barely a day’s sail westwards from the continent when the first sightings came. With the summer winds barely a breeze, we had made slow progress, and were only fifteen leagues or so from the mainland. From the topsail lookout came a brief shout and spyglasses were turned to the North.
A single ship with a great striped sail was bearing down on us at great speed. The shape of its mainsail and profile of prow belied the fact it was not one of ours, and we made haste to capture the wind more in our favour. It was harsh going, and the men worked endlessly, but we knew that we were being overhauled hour after hour. We slowed, and prepared ourselves for whatever this stranger may offer.
They struck in the dark, in the early hours of the morning. A vast crash from below and The Guiding Fire lurched from side to side. We heard the splintering crescendo of planks being torn apart by a ram, and feared for the worst.
The ship held firm, however, by Melora’s protection we survived – the prow of the attacker, with its giant iron ram, being torn off as it struck our hull.
Before we had time to gather our wits from the strike we saw grappling irons hit out deck, and the sounds of something clambering up ropes from below. We drew our cutlasses and prepared to stand firm. They came over the side of the deck like a swarm. A mixture of races – orc, goblin, and worse. They attacked with a ferocity we barely withheld. With no option of surrender, only death or worse awaiting us, we fought back as best we could.
One of the last to come up the ropes from the ship below was a fearsome sight, half man, half bull, a huge minotaur, as tall as a man and half again, his horns decorated with jewels and ornaments. A huge metal axe carried in his enormous hands.
The decks became slippery as blood ran freely across the boards. We were fighting bravely, but we were being sorely pressed and the fight looked hopeless. I cut through a raving orc and fell to my knees as I slipped on the deck. As I looked up, the enormous frame of the minotaur captain loomed above me. With a snort of glee he raised the massive axe above his head ready for a killing stroke. My life as a sea captain rushed past before me. Then, the heavens opened. With a glare brighter than any I have seen before, lightning descended from the heavens and struck that axe. The minotaur captain seem to explode before my eyes and the deck was covered by pieces of singed fur. With screams of disbelief and terror, the rest of the attackers began jumping over the side into the sea. They were cut down as they fled by the men.
As we stood on deck, barely a third of us remaining, the rain came down in waves and washed the deck clean. The rains stopped as suddenly as they had come.
We made what offerings we could to Melora, for surely it was She who had protected us in our hour of need, and set our course westwards once again. It was slow going with a skeleton crew and we were fearful of further attacks.
There had been a celebration when we returned to dock. Many thought that the landings had been a true success, and a home could be built on the continent. With Pelor and Melora’s protection, surely the mission would be a success. Others, however, began balking at the cost.
We had to replace two-thirds of the crew of The Guiding Fire, and take another dozen or so guards with us back to the Landings to replace those that had fallen in combat. The requests for extra provisions, tools, anvils, ore and the like we given, but somewhat reluctantly. The message was clear from the Elders that this may be the last help they would offer – any town or settlement that was made on the continent would have to become self-sufficient fast for it to be declared a success. There would be no more precious guards spared, and no more precious raw materials.
However, when we set out eastwards once more, with a full cargo, it was heartwarming to see all those that came to the docks to wave us off. The boys let me know the undercurrent in the inns and taverns of the town – if the Elders weren’t prepared to help, then at least the adventurers looking for fame and fortune would come.
It took a full tenday to sail the seas across to the landing site. The summer winds were still slow, and although it made pleasant sailing conditions, the journey was long. In winter, these winds will make the crossing swifter, but more perilous.
We were able to sail right into the bay on our second visit, with a small jetty being built in the time we were away. There were quite a few that came down to the beach to greet us and help us carry the provisions. The landing party had made great progress whilst we had been at sea – already they had started work on some stone buildings, and had erected defensive palisade walls. Fields had been tilled between the beach and this new settlement, and a great hope seemed to be first amongst peoples thoughts.
We met with His Radiant Servant, Tremak; Barghest, Captain of the Guards; and the head of the merchants, Tymander Small. They had been elected as the Town Council, and would speak and decide on all matters of spiritual, defensive, and economic importance for the town members. The settlement they called Blackengorge.
We have been forced somewhat southward on our return. Three sails we spied as we headed back to the Islands, and rather than risk confrontation we have turned with the winds to the south. We may not be back to Blackengorge for some time. We need to make sure that the sea channels are clear from these pirates. We will need protection for when we return. The boys think that if we can stir up the adventurers in the inns and taverns back home, they’ll join us back across the sea. But we’ll need a couple of ships at least to come back, to protect each other.
Who knows what will have happened to Blackengorge by then. Hopefully, Pelor and Melora will protect them.