From Captain Abraham’s Log of ‘The Guiding Fire’.
The 28th Day of Flamerule in the Year of the Ruins Reborn.
We set sail today for the main continent, and Blackengorge, with joy in our hearts – barely a week since we returned from there. The Elders have supplied us with provisions aplenty for the outpost. So much so, in fact, that a sister ship is to join us laden with the goods. We will be the escort, ensuring that no harm befalls the Epideixis on her maiden voyage.
The Elders have supplied us with cargo that will help Blackengorge immensely – livestock, provisions, seed, ores, and cured timber are just to name a few. The Epideixis is large and slow, but carries all of this with barely a change in the water line.
As escort, we are expected to defend and protect against any black sail we spy on the horizon. As such, we have taken on board a full company of sea-hardened veteran guards. The Elders see Blackengorge as a huge investment, and it seems they will protect it at all costs. Something, or someone, appears to have changed their minds about the risks of sending goods across the sea.
However, it has been made very clear to me that this journey must be a success. Murmurings about the taverns and docksides suggest to me that not all the Elders agree on this mission, and that there is dissension and disagreement between them. If the Epideixis does not reach Blackengorge untouched, then it will definitely be the last help they do send.
We have made great progress Eastward. The Epideixis may be cumbersome and heavy, and painfully slow to turn, but when a fair wind blows and it gets a full sail, it fairly skims across the waves.
We have been drilling and practising our manoeuvres around the Epideixis, ensuring that we can defend her where possible against boarders. The constant readiness of the crew is taxing, but we feel we are ready for all eventualities.
Almost as if on cue, we have spotted a black sail far to the northeast. From the high masts of the Epideixis our scouts can spy far into the distance – much further than can those of the black sail. We have altered course slightly to the south, and will see if we can keep our distance from them.
The morning light has brought us bad news, and the black sail has turned toward us. Although the Epideixis is swift in a line, the speed of the black sail will surely be quicker. We must practise, and practise, and make ourselves ready for the inevitable.
As the sun began to set yesterday eve, the black sail approached. With their large rams we expected them to come amidship on the Epideixis, and made sure we were in position to block their passage and use the angle of our prow to turn away their thrust. With grapples and irons ready, we would then board as they passed by our side and our company would storm their ship. Victory would be ours.
They must have sensed this, and did not man the oars to ram. Instead they brought in their sails and came to, mirroring our speed and direction from some distance. I ordered archers to the port side, and lit a brazier on the foredeck. With pitch arrows, we would give them a surprise if they came any closer.
From the black sail began a slow chanting, heartbeat-like, rhythmic and slow. We could hear the clash of spear on shield echoing across the smooth summer waters, backed with a barking chant, taunting us.
Across the water from our port side, protecting the Epideixis, we could see bronze helmets on goblinoid faces leering back at us, rasping and wheezing their maddening calls. Towards the rear of the black sail, on the poop deck, three large, horned figures, all clad in shining bronze could be seen, baying and leading the chants, pointing with their axes towards the fo’c's’le.
One large bellow from the largest of the three minotaurs, then silence.
The change between that guttural chant and deathly silence was mesmerising, and it took us some moments to spy the shadowy figure crawling up and onto the fo’c's’le. Spindly it was, dressed in rags, human in shape, but the fear in our hearts told us it was not of our kin. Slowly it climbed, until it was right above the figurehead. Arms outstretched towards the sea it began an eerie keening.
Piercing it was, hurting our ears and eyes, and chilling our souls. None can say how long it lasted, nor when it finished, but again came that deathly silence.
We began to breathe again. The silence interspersed with murmurs from the crew on what had just transpired. Suddenly, all around us, the sea began to boil.
Bubbles and froth arose around us as the sea appeared to explode. The Guiding Fire began to sway and list as the very sea beneath it roiled and shuddered. The Epideixis fared worst of all, it’s very bulk acting against it on an uncertain sea.
Then, from out of the froth, black, oily, and snake-like came a tendril larger than a tree. Aiming upwards alongside the vast wall of the Epideixis and slithering up and onto its top deck. Other huge tendrils followed, curling up and out of the foam, each grabbing a hold somewhere on the great ship. The sea below the Epideixis became black and solid as some untold creature rose slowly upwards, clinging to the ship. A large eye came above the waterline, staring uncaringly at us from its inky, black depths.
We all stood dumbfounded on The Guiding Fire as we heard the first of the splinters. Great cracks echoed across the water, as beams hewn from the greatest trees were split apart like kindling. Joints and metalwork crafted by master smiths came apart like eggshells breaking. With a gasp and vast crescendo the Epideixis was dragged under the sea as though it never existed.
Slowly, as we watched, paralyzed by what we had seen, we heard the rhythmic chanting and crash of spear on shield once more.
Awakening us from our standstill, a vast breeze hit the main sail, cracking it sideways.
“Melora sends us a wind,” shouted the First Mate. “Outrun them lads, sail for your very lives!”
Everyone snapped back into action, as the First Mate’s words rang out. He saved us that very day from the same fate as the Epideixis, as the crew made way in fear and desperation, heading south and then westwards back to port – the Epideixis and the provisions for Blackengorge lost forever.
It is well that that wind came, as we made a good head start on the black sail, and saw it fall behind us rapidly. We were still not sure what we had seen on that sea, but had no want to see it again.
Midsummer falls tomorrow, and we are docked at home once more. The winds sent from Melora were blessed, and drove us home at speed. The Elders will meet before the Midsummer festivals, and with the loss of the Epideixis, surely they will not send us again. Many do not believe what we saw at see – some of the crew do not believe what they saw with their own eyes.
Blackengorge is on its own for now. If there are similar creatures of such strange power abroad on the continent, I pray to Melora and Pelor that they are safe.