The companions barely have time to set their things down before the crew of the Bloody Vengeance push off to navigate down the River Path. The ship has seen much use of late, ferrying fleeing civilians down the river, and the crew wishes to get as far away from Everstand as they can. Of note, the number of sailors has been bolstered, with many escapees from the prison joining the crew.
The Vengeance strikes a heady pace down the river, managing to stay slightly ahead of the chromatic blue dragon, which harries the ship constantly. The Vengeance’s journey, however, is temporarily halted by a barricade of barbarian ships near the confluence of the River Path and Lake Encarthen. The companions disembark to discuss terms of passage.
The leaders of the barbarian tribes, sensing that their trade route along the River Path has been sundered with the fall of Everstand, attempt to recoup some of the lost trade by way of charging an exorbitant tariff to those wishing to pass. The companions are unwilling to pay the toll, so they retire to their ship to discuss their next course of action.
While on ship, the group learns that the elven armies have continued to progress and are now approaching the blockade. Further, a large contingent from the orc horde has travelled down river from Everstand. It seems that the companions have been successful in achieving Besmara’s vision – war is brewing, and the companions are uncomfortable being at the epicentre.
A plan forms quickly – the companions, accompanied by the crew of the Vengeance, head for the shore. As the armies near, Anton performs the summoning ritual for the Iron Tower, planting the edifice on a grassy knoll just back from the water. Safe inside, the companions witness the forces converge. Several days of carnage ensue, with all three armies taking heavy losses. The elven and barbarian armies are eventually concede, and both retreat into the surrounding hillside pursued by the chromatic blue dragon. The orc contingent, bloodlust sated for the time being, march back n the general direction of Everstand.
The threat level reduced, the companions set the refugees from Everstand free before reversing the ritual to return the tower to its card format. The card is given to Freight for safekeeping until such time as it can be returned to Besmara. With the barricade sundered and the dragon likely to return at any minute, the group return to the Bloody Vengeance and sail to the mouth of the river where awaits the Shadow Swift.
As the Vengeance rows into the harbour, the companions note a white flag hanging from the mast of the Shadow Swift, and a small boat is dropped into the water. Unsure of what to do, the Vengeance pulls up a hundred feet off of the portside to await the visitors. Soon thereafter, Mario Poffal himself is aboard the Vengeance. He appears sickly, and wasting no time on pleasantries, launches immediately into an update. There is some sort of unexplainable sickness afflicting the crew of the Shadow Swift, as if chaos itself has someone spread onto the ship. An altar has been built mid-ship, where Thwicket, Northeaster Face, and Annabelle attempt to purge the crew by combining their arcane, divine, and oracle powers. The theurge has resulted in some progress, as the sickness has been expelled from certain crewmembers at a cost – each has had to give up something of importance in return. The companions advise Mario that this may have to do with the child – Mario is visibly shaken when he hears of the child’s near death. He is furious at the companions for putting the child in danger, and further, blames them for what has befallen the Shadow Swift.
Action is required before the dragon returns. The companions instruct the Bloody Vengeance to return to the River Path to search for the Kraken’s Spite while the group return to the Shadow Swift with Mario. Before they can board, Poots and his animal companion Scoots are forced to accept terms and sign on as crew for eternity. Both appear excited for the opportunity to join such an illustrious group of sailors. Poots is graced with a king cobra tattoo on his left hand, which Scoots appears to approve of.
As they get closer to the Shadow Swift, the companions note a sickly aura that seems to permeate across the ship. Topside, the handful of crew that can be seen move sluggishly as if ill. Boarding the Shadow Swift, a dark purple translucent tentacle attaches to each of the companions, working its way across the skin causing open sores. The companions are afflicted with visceral visions, their bodies attacked by a chaotic matter. Not surprisingly, each is affected in a different way. The influence, however, cannot be articulated, instead each companion is on their own to deal with the dark taint in their own way.
A shout from the crow’s nest breaks the unnatural silence, two ships have been sighted on the horizon and are closing quickly on the Shadow Swift.