from the journals of Ignatius Calmwater:
“Still waters do not make great sailors.”
The phrase was a favorite of Melias Woolencroft and rarely would a lesson pass in which he did not invoke it. If ever an acolyte complained about a task, Master Melias would launch into his favorite sermon.
“From your studies, you know that Iomedae herself met with 13 challenges before she was granted the divine spark. She did not face these challenges ever expecting to be rewarded the Spark; but, rather, was rewarded for not only meeting each challenge, but also for the methods she employed in surmounting each. It was, however, the very challenges themselves that elevated Iomedae to the heavens. Without The Acts, Iomedae may have been little more than a mercenary, a sword-for-hire, or had even returned home to raise sheep again. Instead, in the face of incredible odds and seemingly impossible tasks, she stood her ground. She found a way; and, in doing so, she showed us and the very gods themselves what we were capable of. ”
“Still waters do not make great sailors, my pupils. We are shaped by the obstacles that lie in our way and the storms we must weather. Rise to each with valor and honor in your hearts. Use each challenge as a blacksmith uses his anvil and hammer, and forge your own greatness. Follow in Iomedae’s footsteps and show those around you what mortals are truly capable of.”
It is strange what goes through your mind in a time of crisis, but it was the words of my old mentor that came to me as Aaaaggg and I struggled with the rudder during the storm. If ever in my life I had felt helpless, it was in the fury of that storm. In the darkness of that night, with the wind howling all around us and the raining stinging any exposed skin, the whole of my world seemed to be no more than a few feet on either side of the rudder. We had to strain to hear Auni’s reports shouted down from the crow’s nest (I can’t even imagine what the storm had been like up there) and we fought the raging sea for even the slightest of course corrections needed. I know that the crew and the others were as busy as we were, but I could do little more than focus on what we were doing.
The storm battered The At Least It Floats most of the night; and, in the end, it seemed nearly miraculous that the ship remained true to its namesake. Nearly the entire crew (those not slain by the slaves or the cultists) had been taken by the storm; and we had lost one of our three masts, while another was badly damaged.
When the first rays of the sun broke over the horizon, its light found us exhausted and limping towards the nearest port. Before we could take our rest in shifts, several tasks remained in need of completion and I needed some answers.
First, Seraph and I made a quick assessment of our craft. We were taking on a bit of water, but not enough to become truly concerned… yet. It was during this inspection, however, that we discovered another score of slaves chained up in the lower hold. Another slave revolt would surely be the death of everyone aboard.
Before word of the discovered slaves could spread, I gathered everyone on the top deck and inquired about who had released the slaves. Anafa, to her credit, claimed responsibility right away. I told her that should she try that again, I would personally throw her overboard. I do not generally like to fall back on threats, but it had been an extremely trying day and I may have been a bit more abrupt than I would have liked to have been. In an attempt to explain my displeasure, I told Anafa that the blood of the 27 people (crew and slave alike) was on her hands.
She replied with a shrug and said, “I can live with that.”
I was absolutely flabbergasted. I did not know what to make of her reply. Was she so insensitive? So callous to the deaths of others that such truly meant nothing to her? If that were the case, why had she released them in the first place? Had she done so merely to create chaos? Had bloodshed been her goal? Was she insane? My mind reeled at the possibilities. To make matters worse, I had sensed no evil in her, but if she was true to her claim, I could not see how that was possible. Perhaps she had some magical means of cloaking her evil?
Seraph chose to share the information about the second group of slaves we had found and I watched Anafa closely. While I had felt bad about delivering the threat, I had every intention of staying true to my word; but it did not prove to be necessary.
That business concluded and as we were seemingly out of danger (at least for the moment), we began to rest in shifts.
Some time later, land came into view and we made for a smallish port. Nami, the navigator and highest ranking of the remaining crew, said that it was the island of Crete and that she believed the port was the town of Menkos.
From the time we sailed into the port, and even before the mooring lines were tied off, I did not like the place. It was a dirty and wretched place, full of pirates, and its only temple was to one of the lesser known deities, Umberlee… also known as The Bitch Queen. The entire place reeked of evil and apathy. I wanted little more than to be rid of this town as well… although, I must admit, I did not really know where I should go. With the destruction of Peipom, I had lost the only home I had ever really known.
Coming off The At Least It Floats, we all seemed to be headed off in our own directions. With yesterday’s adventure behind us, we really had little reason to stay with one another and more than a few reasons to walk away. Still, it seemed that the small town of Menkos had but one inn and so several of us ended up there.
Within the inn, I heard that Anafa and Alfonso had purchased a great many of the slaves and released them. I’m not entirely sure what purpose they believe that this action served, but I hope the results prove as pure as their intentions. The pair, as I heard it, also went and visited the priestess of The Bitch Queen. I found this action even more baffling than the releasing of the slaves. I do not believe the pair of them plan or consider any actions beyond what they will do next. It is a dangerous habit and likely to get themselves, or those around them, killed.
Auni, in a similar display, deigned it proper to take up with a group of pirates, drink vast quantities of rum, and carry on… loudly. I have very little experience with gnomes and druids; but the display was unsettling.
With the trappings of my faith clearly visible, it was obvious that I viewed as a nuisance and generally shunned; but the innkeeper still served me dinner and took my coin for an evening’s stay. The next day I hoped to put Menkos behind me and perhaps find a better, and more inviting, place to call my new home.
“Still waters do not make great sailors.” The words went through my mind again just as a man approached the table where I lunched alone.
He introduced himself as the mayor of Menkos and asked me to look into the disappearance of his daughter, whom had apparently vanished the day before. As I was beginning to ask questions, Anafa inserted herself into the conversation. I’m not sure where she came from, but I found her behavior extremely rude. I do not even know why she was close enough to overhear the conversation; as, with our numerous disagreements, there had been little but tension between the two of us.
Not wishing to overwhelm the surely-distraught man, I returned to my meal, but politely listened to the conversation.
The girl had gone with her betrothed to one of those places that young couples go to “be alone”. The place was apparently popular for this type of activity, though it was a two hour walk from the town. The lovers had left the night before and had not returned. Now her father feared the worst and was offering 500 gold pieces for her return.
To make a long story short, the group found itself together again (I’m not entirely sure how this happened) and on the road towards this Lover’s Grove and directly into an ambush.
It seems that the remaining cultists from the black ship had made their way to Menkos ahead of us and concocted this story to lure us out into their trap. It worked well enough, but they underestimated our abilities and, despite a well-laid trap, we emerged victorious.