Leaving Twisting Halls was easier than I thought it would be. Once outside, however, I was faced with an innocently blank forest, which was doing its best to deny that anyone had ever been able to navigate their way through the bushy undergrowth. Despite all my skill at tracking I could see neither hide, nor beard of Yawn, and I despaired of ever finding the dwarf again. He moves very quickly for a little fellow – I blame those blasted stilts he wears around the place; they lengthen his stride too much. Never-the-less, I am a determined fellow! I wasn’t about to be out done by a sulky dwarf in high heels. I pushed onwards.
A few hours later, just as the light was beginning to fade away, and the sun stretched languorously across the horizon, I spotted something. In the deepening shadows of the forest I saw a glow of light headed roughly in the direction of Fallcrest. I knew, of course, that it had to be Yawn. No one else would be stupid enough to wander around advertising their location like that. I found the dwarf still lugging all of the loot from Twisting Halls (the rug, the stone sword and whatnot) on his floating disk, which he had also illuminated. Yawn seemed surprised to see me, but he was willing to hear me out. I explained in some detail what had happened after he ran away, but it was not easy to win back his allegiance to the group. He was not entirely satisfied with Zephyr’s actions, claiming that even though the wizard did not kill Moosook, his continued blood-lust in this and in previous encounters was distasteful and ‘gloomy’ and that Yawn didn’t want to hang around with ‘gloomy’ people.
To be honest I don’t know why I argued so hard. Yawn has been a pain in the backside since day one, and his stupid Pelor worship is so embarrassing – not to mention his ‘greater than thou’ attitude. I suppose it would have been a pain to go and find a new cleric, and even though Yawn is one candle short of a birthday cake he is harmless enough. I finally managed to win him back by pointing out that Zephyr was mending his ways, but that he needed a good influence around, especially with Bastian in the group now. Oh yes – I wasn’t silent on Bastian’s role in the drama. Yawn himself pointed out that the strange appearance of the suspicious Eladrin occurred at precisely the same time as Fenstrom reappearing. He does not believe this to be a coincidence, and considering that Bastian was trying to corrupt Zephyr before I left, I am inclined to agree. I never thought Yawn could be so perceptive.
Well we had been walking and talking, and all the while the sun had been busy setting, and we had hardly noticed. I blinked my eyes, surprised to find that Yawn’s small light was the only thing illuminating the path. For half an hour or so we blundered back the way we had come, but we must have veered off course during the argument, for Twisting Halls was nowhere to be seen, and the forest looked quite unfamiliar. We were just discussing the practicality of setting up camp for the night when there was an ominous creaking noise overhead. Fearing that a branch was about to drop off a tree and crush me, I dived headlong to the ground, and crashed into something painfully solid. After a tense, confused moment, nothing happened. There were a few further wooden groans, and I replied in kind, prodding gingerly at my wounded head as I rose to my feet. Bringing the light over, I realised that the thing I had crashed headlong into was an anchor. Although it was as tall as a full grown elf, it was cast iron, and thus melded well with the darkness, hiding it from my keen vision. Stranger still was the thick, rusty chain that was attached to it, which disappeared up into the canopy of the trees.
Taking a step back, and then another, I peered up, trying to see where the chain ended. A light gust of breeze rocked the treetops gently, and all of a sudden I made sense of what I was seeing. Silhouetted against the moon-bright sky, and perched gingerly in the tops of the trees, was a giant ship.
It had two fin shaped masts in the middle and back of the ship, and was fronted by a square rigged mast. I can’t say I recognised the style of ship, for to be fair I am an elf not a… mermaid (although I have been told I have a singing voice that would make men want to throw themselves into the ocean), and ships are only something I have read about in books. Well there is one thing books tell me, and it is this: Ships = cargo = treasure. I convinced Yawn that we might be able to see Twisting Halls from the look out, and naturally, infused with hubris as he is, Yawn couldn’t resist the idea of climbing to the very tip-top of the lookout.
The climb was a little tricky for Yawn, being more naturally a ground dweller, but for my elven limbs it was as easy as climbing a tree, which is as easy as walking along flat ground, which is as easy as – well I am sure it is clear by now. It was easy. Now I am no expert, but the ship looked less like a wreck, and more like a fully functioning, recently well scrubbed vessel to me. There was even a modest lantern shedding light on deck, shielded from the ground. It was an oil lantern too, with plenty of fuel left. I was pretty sure then that the owners of the ship must be nearby, so I took a furtive glance around but I could see no one. Yawn was slightly less subtle in his approach, opting to call out salubrious salutations. I froze up, but still there was no reply. Feeling more ill at ease now than if we had been beset by enemies, I quickly scouted out the ship. There was a dining area, with food and drink set out on the table. The food was still warm but the ship was empty. Yawn couldn’t explain it, and the food seemed too modest to be magic’d (why make a slightly burned roast when you could have a luxurious banquet?) so we tucked in. For a moment, before I took the first bite, I could swear I heard a voice carried eerily on the wind – ‘THEREN! DON’T – TOUCH – ANYTHING!’ but I disregarded it in favour of the clearer message coming from my stomach.
There were some interesting spices on offer – salt, pepper, and some weird sparkly substance. I tipped some on the roast and it started to float. Yawn seemed quite agitated and took the sparkly substance away, claiming it wasn’t edible and shouldn’t be wasted. Well it tasted okay to me when I had some of the floaty roast but nothing ‘magical’ like Yawn claimed. Bah, how was I supposed to know it was special residuant… residual… resideeum or whatever? seriously who keeps that next to the salt shaker?
After my dinner I returned to the upper deck. A thick layer of mist had swept over the tree tops, and it looked just like a white, frothy ocean. It fair gave me the creeps. The mist was lapping silently against the ship, which creaked and groaned as it shifted in the treetops, no doubt blown by the wind. Given then thick cover and the dark night, however, I didn’t like Yawn’s chances in the crows nest of finding our way back. Turning my mind to more reassuring things, I decided to enter the captain’s room in search of treasure.
The room itself was rich enough. Everything was done up as pretty as you please in waxed wood and leather. There wasn’t an awful lot that was easily lootable however… and that’s saying something because when I put my mind to it, there are very few things I would class as ‘unlootable’. I did manage to obtain a spyglass, which looks much more cool useful than it does expensive, along with a captain’s hat with puffy feather that I think suits me very well indeed. There was a heavy compass on the desk that looked entirely useless, as the needle was spinning lazily around rather than pointing anywhere definite. It seemed to be made of precious metal though, but that was difficult to gauge in the gloom of the cabin. Feeling somewhat tired after all that plundering I decided to give the captain’s chair a little try out. It was just as comfortable as it looked. Snuggled into the plush, warm cushions, it was all I could do not to fall asleep on the spot, especially with the day’s activities that I had endured. Feeling secure, I decided that perhaps a small nap might be appropriate, after all I wanted to be sharp when I got back to Twisting Halls.
I swear I only closed my eyes for a second or two when Yawn came bursting into the room, shouting something through his beard that, in my ‘just woken up’ state, was indecipherable. What I did note, however, was that the boat was pitching and swaying so much I feared that it would topple out of the trees and smash to splinters on the ground below. In the lurching light, provided by Yawn, I realised that the top of the desk was engraved with a map – a treasure map! I hadn’t seen it before in the darkness – indeed, I had been resting my boots on it as I slept, and I would never have realised had not Yawn brought his light with him. There was no time to take down the details, however, as (much to my dismay) Yawn and I had to flee the ship.
Back on deck an eerie green fire licked at the rigging, running up and down the masts. All about us, the mist pitched and broke like a ghostly ocean, and I began to fear that the boat was trying to take us to the lands of the dead or some other, similarly fearsome place. I was convinced that we were on a cursed voyage, while Yawn argued that it was just a storm rolling in. Either way, we had to get off the ship fast. The anchor was mysteriously pulled in, and neither Yawn nor myself had any idea when or how that had happened. There was a real gale whipping up around us, so we both heaved the giant anchor and it’s heavy chain over the side of the ship. The chain went slack, indicating the anchor had hit the ground, so Yawn and I began to descend. We slung the lantern over Yawn’s back, and I sent him down the chain before me (if he fell, I didn’t want it to be onto my head).
Although the large metal links provided easy hand holds, it was no simple feat getting down. With all that wind rushing in every direction, it was only my hold on the chain that told me which way was down. I swear I was floating, as if swimming in water, and I could not breathe. I feared I was going to drown in mid air, but I knew that I had to get to the ground before I was swept away with the cursed ship. As soon as my feet touched solid ground, I felt much safer, and almost as though a fearsome force had passed over me, but only just. Yawn seemed to have made it down with little to no trouble at all, and as soon as we were both on solid ground we fled as fast as our feet would carry us, as we still worried that the whole ship might soon come crashing down.
Once we were some distance away, we could no longer see the ship, what with the mist, the dark, and the wind. I decided to move the compass from my belt to my pouch, and I noticed that it was pointing back the way we had come. I deduce from this that it must guide the user to the ship, but I cannot be certain until I put that theory to the test. If I ever managed to gather the courage to board the damned ship again, perhaps I could make note of the treasure map, but in truth I have never had such a fright put in me. Yawn saw my compass as I was checking on it, and the blasted dwarf only then recalled that he had the Minotaur dust with him. Honestly if only I had known that from the start then everything would have been so much simpler! We found an area with shelter from the wind (although the wind quickly died down after the danger was over) and took out a pinch of dust, placing it on Yawn’s hand. We watched carefully, and took note of the direction it was pulling, letting it guide us back to the halls, which were only about a five minute walk away, just over a small hill.
Yawn thinks that we must have blundered in a big loop back towards the halls before we found the ship, but my personal suspicion is that the ship was flying, and that we managed to escape only in the nick of time. Imagine if we had waited any longer! We might have been taken anywhere. Yawn and I are about to enter the halls to meet up with the others now, I wonder if the ship will still be there when we get out? Last I saw, the anchor was tangled up in some trees, but with such a fearsome wind at its tail, I have little doubt that the ship will win free eventually.