Ontharr has secured the party passage on a sailboat, the Silver Swan, heading down the Chionthar River from Elturel to Baldur’s Gate on the coast. The river is broad and deep, its waters murky and cold even in the warmth of a summer day.
The journey takes three days. On the first day, the boat passes orderly, well-maintained farmland, dotted with cottages. The northern bank of the river hosts a well-marked and maintained road. Over all of this, the silver light of Elturel shines. Towards the end of the day, the light finally fades over the horizon and the farmland gradually gives way to untamed wilderness, while the road to the north fades into a set of wagon ruts. When the sun sets, the adventurers are able to see the stars again at night. As they finish their dinner, a shooting star streaks overhead, going north.
Passing Time on the River
For his part, Garrett wandered what there was to wander of the boat, happy to sleep most of the first day and get away from the unceasing light of Elturel. As it turns out, there’s only so much to explore on such a ship.
He hovers near the group and pretends not to listen to Beryl’s stories (he might be hoping she drinks a little before telling them).
Hurk doesn’t really like sailing (bad experiences on boats as a youngster) so if he looks a little more green than usual, that’s the reason. Consequently he drinks more at dinner to suppress the seasickness (paradoxical, but hey, orcs) and cheerfully (as cheerfully as Hurk can be, at least) recounts some of the hilarious follies of his old mercenary company, the Right Bastards, before their destruction.
- Various initiation rituals for new Bastard recruits that typically involved awful acts with monster corpses, such as “romancing the bugbear.”
- One disastrous escapade against a lair of Sword Coast pirates, wherein the company arrived to make their assault only to discover that the pirates were being preyed upon by an unprecedented flock of sea hags. The end result was a lot of dead hags, some grateful and repentant pirates, and an unexpected amount of recovered loot which was mostly turned over to the authorities.
- One hilarious tale involving an excursion into the Underdark where a nymphomaniac drow matron of an outcast house attempted to trick the men of the company into becoming her personal harem by conjuring the illusion of an encroaching army of umber hulks, which fell apart when one of the other sergeants vehemently protested that umber hulks were just an old wives’ tale and didn’t exist, which resulted in the illusion failing and the matron giving up on her tryst.
- The punchline to the Underdark adventure is the part where on the way back, that sergeant fell into an umber hulk nest and lost a few fingers to the hulk hatchlings he found there. As the rest of the company worked to extract him from the nest, the sergeant maintained his belief that umber hulks didn’t exist and insisted that being underground drove him bonkers and he bit off his own fingers to keep himself anchored to reality.
… okay let’s just all admit that Hurk thinks these stories are a lot funnier than they really are ..
The second day of the party’s voyage down the Chionthar River is overcast, with a light breeze out of the north and the occasional drizzle of summer rain. Around midday, the Silver Swan passes through a narrow section of rapids on the river. Recent rains have clogged the passage with deadwood and debris, making it difficult to steer a safe course. The captain calls for all hands to help.
The party manages to help the Silver Swan successfully navigate the rapids without incident, allowing to stay on schedule for arriving at Baldur’s Gate on the evening of the third day. That night, the captain shares some brandy with them in thanks.
By the time the third day dawns, the rains have moved on and summer is back in full force. It’s hot enough that people might get fatigued wearing heavy armor. Around mid-morning, the adventurers glimpse a few ancient elven statues peeking out of the mud on the banks of the river.
Beryl and Raeyanne feel as if the statues are watching over them like protectors. Hurk and Garrett, meanwhile, feel as if the statues are scowling at them as if they were trespassers.
The Hand of Fate
The Silver Swan enters port at Buldur’s Gate in the evening of the third day. Garrett pickpockets a Neverwinter timber merchant outside a tavern, splitting the 53gp with Beryl, who asks no questions.
On their way through the city, they encounter a fortune teller who reads their fortunes in the cards, which tell him about their pasts, their present and their futures.
- Past: the Demon’s lantern, misaligned: ordinarily an unfortunate card, in this spread it signifies one find the single safe path amid the darkness,.
- Present: The big sky. represents an oppression being lifted, either from the individual or from someone else
- Future: The Twin. Uncertainty clouds the future, representing either opportunity or danger. Two seemingly similar paths could lead to divergent ends.
- Past: The Carnival. Represents getting caught up in the show. Garrett was forced to dance to another’s tune, either an individual or an organization.
- Present: The Publican, misaligned. Ordinarily a card representing order, commerce and good fortune, instead it signifies that Garrett is in an unstable position with little good social standing.
- Future: The Desert, misaligned. Ordinarily a card representing wisdom and the discovery of knowledge, misaligned it suggests that Garrett will be unable to find the information he seeks or will get only false answers. (Garrett gives him two silvers for that reading).
Hurk (paid for by Garrett):
- Past: The Beating, misaligned. Ordinarily a negative card, in this spread it signifies that the blows levied by live have only left him stronger. (“Clearly,” the fortune teller adds, sizing Hurk up).
- Present: The Joke. This card represents good fortune and camaraderie. Hurk is surrounded by people he can rely on and who will look out for him.
- Future: The Eclipse, misaligned. Ordinarily this card represents the loss of all hope, but misaligned it signifies that there is hope even in the darkest of moments. (“You are blessed by fate, my friend,” the fortune teller says.)
- Past: The Mute Hag. Represents conspiracies, dark secrets, and misfortune, suggesting Raeyanne was caught up in all three. Raeyanne thinks of what happened to her parents and her joining the Harpers.
- Present: The Winged Serpent, misaligned. Ordinarily a card signifying justice and virtue, misaligned it suggests that Raeyanne surrounded by injustice, cruelty and danger.
- Future: The Marriage. This card represents the union of two seemingly disparate parties to create something neither could on their own. It suggests that their could be an opportunity for an unexpected alliance or a solution involving two very different ideas.
Meeting the Merchant
As they approach the Blackgate District, Garrett hears two porters arguing over whether they saw a black half-dragon behind the curtains of a palanquin being carried through the streets.
The party then meets up with the shopkeeper Ackyn Selebon, who fills them in on the details for the next leg of their journey. In it’s role as middleman on the Trade Way, Baldur’s Gate forbids wagons or beasts of burden within its walls. As a result, most northbound caravans simply offload their goods at the southern end of the city. The goods are then carried by porters up to the north side, where a new caravan is organized. That’s what has happened to the Cult’s stolen loot, and there’s an opportunity for the party to infiltrate the caravan as hired guards.
The following day, with Ackyn vouching for them, the adventurers go out to try to impress merchants into hiring them on as guards for the next caravan. Hurk is quickly hired as the personal bodyguard to the loquacious moon elf Noohar Selim and his mute brother Selvek. Garrett is hired by the half-elf merchant Beyd, who intends to sell his cargo of ale to the other merchants as they travel north. Beryl is hired by the wood elf Edhelri Lewel, who is very curt with people but kind to her animals. And Raeyanne ends up as a guard for the argumentative Oyn Evenmor, who can talk to exotic birds.
After a day of preparation, the caravan departs, having been joined by the cultists leading wagons for the “merchant” Jogan Toyn, who Beryl recognizes as a cultist brutalizing slaves at the raiders camp.
During the first few days of the trip, the party comes to hate a nobleman named Gilas, who is constantly mistreating his horses. Matters come to a head when one of the horses collapses and Gilas starts beating it. Raeyanne confronts him and he backs down. Edhelri quietly rewards her with 5 gp, while Garrett asks Beryl to work with Edhelri on sneaking treats to the poor horses.
Although Gilas’ treatment of the animals marginally improves going forward, Garrett notes that the man partakes of Beyd’s ale and makes discrete inquiries about obtaining a laxative. One of the passengers, Green Imsa, promises to harvest some herbs if she encounters any on their travels.
During the journey, the party also gets on the wrong side of another caravan guard, a shield dwarf named Eldkin Agetul, a perfectionist who has made this journey several times before and wants everything to go right. She criticizes their equipment and their behavior, ultimately storming off in frustration.
Ambushing the Ambushers
On the 8th day of the journey, as the caravan passes through the field of the dead, they come upon a wagon being besieged by hobgoblins. The merchants debate what to do, with Jogan pushing strongly to leave the wagon to its fate. The party volunteers to intervene.
Thanks to the drizzling rain, they are able to approach the hobgoblins unawares. Raeyanne picks off one of them and then proceeds to elude a squad of them, appearing and disappearing amid the storm. Hurk, Garrett, and Beryl, meanwhile, isolate and attack the other squad. A hobgoblin gets a lucky blow that cuts deeply into the half-orc, while Garrett discovers to his frustration that beneath their wolf furs, the creatures are wearing chain mail.
Beryl heals Hurk’s wound and the mercenary takes advantage of the distraction Garrett created to lop off a hobgoblin’s head. The remaining hobgoblins rally around their leader, who calls for a truce. “You’ve won, the field is yours. Let us retreat in peace.”
The adventurers make a show of force, but allow the surviving hobgoblins to withdraw in good order. The merchant whose wagon was being attacked thanks them for their courage and explains that those hobgoblins were Urshani, a particularly vicious and dangerous tribe. The party’s reputation within the caravan rises after this incident.