I found a tough-looking street kid to deliver my message, figuring that he would have a better than even chance of breaking the quarantine, and sent him off to the Fiery Flagon. I could have sworn that I’d seen him somewhere before… Oh well. I just need him to get through and inform the others that I could use a little muscle from Greevus or Rhogar. I didn’t have too long to wait at the barricade I had specified before I saw both of them heading through the streets. Well, I saw Rhogar first – he is ridiculously big in that new armor of his. We headed back to the docks and the Thirsty Sailor. I felt certain that Grittle had something he wanted to say and I wanted to find a way to get him out of the tavern. I wrote out a note telling him that we could help him and guarantee his protection if he came and met with us, and gave it to Rhogar for delivery. It took him awhile, but he finally came out with a satisfied, toothy smile on his scaly face, and informed us that the message was delivered. Judging by the grin, he was probably held up extolling the finer virtues of life at great length. I’m sure that went over well in a place like the Thirsty Sailor.
At around the designated hour we saw Grittle shuffling his way around the corner. He saw all of us and looked a bit impressed (or worried – like I said, Rhogar is huge) but seemed to believe that we could protect him from Grumus if necessary. He told us about his brother Makka who had run afoul of Grumus. Grittle was worried that Makka had tried to settle a score by entering one of Grumus’ “fights”, and he hadn’t seen him in a few days. I was disappointed. I didn’t care about Makka – I just wanted to figure out where this plague was coming from. Greevus, however, was intrigued by the idea of these fights, and decided to go investigate the idea. I’m not sure what transpired, but he emerged from the tavern later that afternoon with a grin on his face and some sort of gladiatorial combat on the cards. Not having much else to go on (but agreeing that this Grumus character is suspicious) I decided to go with Greevus as backup later that evening while Rhogar would try and get into the tavern through another door and do some of his own investigating.
Are You Not Entertained?
We left Rhogar hacking his way through the backdoor in the alleyway, while I followed Greevus (at some distance) through the tavern and down several levels below the surface. The corridors opened up onto a wide room, where risers fashioned from rough wooden planking loomed over an excavated pit. The stains and bits of equipment littering the floor belied its purpose, and it was very evident that Grumus was running an underground (quite literally) fighting club. There was already an eager crowd surrounding a grubby man I could only assume was a bookie, and I worked my way in to put a bit of my gold on Greevus to win. After a couple undercards where beefy dockworkers thumped away at each other with ill-made weapons, Greevus’ hour arrived.
Where they managed to find an opponent to match Greevus I’ll never know, but it seemed clear from the beginning that the two fighters were well-matched. Greevus settled into his now familiar fighting stance and before long his opponent was bleeding from a hundred slashes, but Greevus has never paid much attention to his own defense and the dark-clad gladiator was able to land some massive blows. I saw Greevus stagger a bit and his stance faltered as he began trying to stanch some of his own wounds. His opponent did not look much better and I knew that it might come down to whoever landed the next big blow. It took all of my strength to resist a bit of surreptitious healing. I knew Greevus wouldn’t forgive me if I interfered, so I held my ground as the foreign fighter beat down Greevus’ sword one last time and landed a weak strike. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to knock Greevus to the ground. The crowd cheered (or booed, depending on the books) and there was a rush towards the bookie. Two of Grumus’ hulking thugs moved towards the fighters and picked up Greevus’ body. I was starting to get a little concerned as they began to drag his body out of the pit and towards a door behind the stands, so I risked a healing prayer to get him back on his feet. One of the brutes noticed Greevus rousing and, seemingly surprised, delivered a blow to the back of his head that knocked him unconscious again.
The Plan Backfires
Now I knew something was wrong. There was more to this than just an illegal fighting ring. I began to muscle my way through the press of bodies, but knew that I wouldn’t get to the door in time. I needed a diversion, and remembered what Kelemvor’s avatar had told me when he had granted me his divine hammer. I decided to take a chance. I prayed for Kelemvor’s blessing, and probably for the only time asked that he would give me a foe to fight. Had I known what was ahead I may have refrained from this last request, but it worked better than I could have expected. The radiant maul appeared in my hand, and with it a dark swirl began to form nearby. Some sort of wraith took shape and began to pulse with necrotic energy. A dark fear fell on the crowd, as everyone attempted to shift direction and escape. One of the two brutes guarding the door abandoned his post and ran, and I charged towards the remaining one, calling down the fear of Kelemvor upon him. He turned and ran down the corridor and I followed, ignoring the streaks of blood that had fallen from Greevus moments earlier. I reached a split and turned into a dark room, tripping over something immediately beyond the doorway. I recovered and began to make sense of my surroundings and received a great shock. Bodies! The room was full of bodies. Some were stacked like cordwood, and others still were laid out on litters, but most with some sort of membrane covering their faces. I looked around wildly and located Greevus. He had been tossed to one side and the same sticky film had been placed over his face. As I stepped over to him, I heard a splintering noise and saw a familiar flaming sword coming straight through the door on the other side of the room. I had no idea how Rhogar had managed to get here, and didn’t know why he decided to chop the door down instead of kick it in, but it was a welcome sight. I went over and gave the door a blow from the inside, and between the two of us we made short work of it. He stepped inside, uttering as much of a curse as I’ve ever heard from Rhogar at the sight of the bodies, as I returned to Greevus. I used my healing arts to their maximum effect to knit together his wounds and restore some of the energy lost to his recent trials. He was still groggy, and we propped him up as we went back out to take care of the wraith that had been so effective a diversion. We stepped through the door at the end of the corridor and saw the wraith moving away from a body on the floor; we moved to engage it. We had hardly begun to fight when two bodies on the floor began to blur and by the time the first blows had landed there were two more wraiths at our backs, identical to the first! This deal was getting worse all the time. With just myself, Rhogar, and one of the gladiators present, this “quick cleanup” was quickly turning into a desperate fight for survival. Eventually, our searing radiant energy parried the concussive necrotic vortices from the wraiths and we were able to gain victory. We left it to our newfound compatriot to take credit and went back to the body room.
With a little investigation I found that many of the people in the room were in fact unconscious rather than dead. It seemed that the membrane was designed to preserve life in those who had not yet died, but when I removed it and applied healing they were able to recover. Some had been in there for a while and would obviously take a long time to regain their strength. Rhogar had his wits about him and went around asking if “Makka” was present. Thankfully, we found him in corner – he had been one of those who was merely unconscious and he was beginning to revive. Makka said that he had suspicions Grumus was storing these bodies for passage on a ship, and that he had seen a ship’s officer in clandestine meetings with Grumus. This seemed a bit of a stretch, but I was livid at the disrespect shown to the dead and wanted to avenge my god by any means necessary, so I decided that we needed to check the ships that I had visited to see if we could find this unknown officer.
A Sea of Death
With Makka in tow, as he said he would recognize this contact of Grumus, we headed towards the Lonesome March. The same officer I had seen before met us on the gangway, and Makka immediately identified as the contact. He clearly wanted away from there, so I told him to go fetch the watch and bring them to the Thirsty Sailor, now that there was a hole in the wall straight into the body room. Meanwhile we pressured First Officer Lake, and he finally cracked. He admitted that they had been trafficking in dead bodies, and making good money doing it, when their employer started wanting “mostly dead” bodies. My blood started to boil when I heard this. By Kelemvor, this was dark stuff. He went on to say that they hadn’t seen Captain Kaid in a few days and were worried. One of their shipmates had gone in to talk with him and never came out, and there was something going on in the hold as well. We had a decision to make. If we left to wait until we were recovered we may lose our chance, as Lake was clearly on edge and whatever evil was contained on the ship might break free. Despite our fatigue and injuries sustained in battle with the wraiths, we decided to press forward and told Lake to keep the crew in their quarters while we entered captain’s quarter at the rear of the ship.
There was no answer from the captain so Rhogar forced the door and we made our way inside. There was a grim smell and we were immediately set upon by an undead monster. Clearly the captain had succumbed to this mystery plague and had brought the crewman who tried to speak with him down as well. We were more than a match for them, but it was disturbing to see this once-hale man brought to such depths. We found Kaid’s log, which laid bare all of the sordid dealings. It seems that our captain had second thoughts towards the end, but that it was too late. Something had awakened in the hold and it had infected the captain. We also found the deed to the ship and the ill-gotten wealth from this abominable trade. Not trusting Lake, we took the lot to see what Harbormaster Rasheen would make of it later. In Kaid’s trunk was also a glove, which he described as key to the mechanisms of the ship’s healing powers. However, one of the pair was missing, and apparently he had lost it while trying to activate the ship’s magic. Great. Our job was not yet done.
We entered the hold of the ship, noticing that all of the crew had abandoned, probably as soon as they heard the fight commence in the Captain’s quarters. The hold was remarkably cluttered and it was clear no seamen had been down there in a while. There were a few of the undead wandering around and we dispatched them, although we wasted precious time. They were tenacious and managed to grab hold of Greevus, dealing him a heavy wound before Rhogar was able to pry the zombie loose. I was impatient, and had a deepening fear about the whole situation. I left the other two grappling and continued through the belly of the ship. As I stepped through a wave of foul stench blasted into me, and I almost gagged. There were three enormous cages in front of me, each barely restraining a seething mass of undead filth. I ran forward, evading their reaching hands, and reached the center of the hold where the crew had slung their hammocks in a better time. There was a writhing horde of corpse rats in a small room and I shut the door, hoping that this was not where the captain had lost the glove. I didn’t want to have to dive into that mess. A powerful undead being came around the corner, and uttering a prayer to Kelemvor I charged. He gave me strength and I was able to dispatch the lesser undead and hold off the more powerful beast until Greevus and Rhogar finally made it through the gauntlet between the cages.
We thought we were in good shape but even while we were fighting several more of these myrmidons entered the fray. The situation looked bleak. We had each expended all of our resources and we still had not finished off the threats in front of us, while the cages holding back the masses of undead were looking increasingly flimsy. We managed to fight our way around and run into a room surrounding the root of the mainmast as at least one of the cages gave way. We had reached the healing mechanism. I sealed two doors with the last of my nails, and we barricaded the remaining door. Even though there was still a random zombie in the room that the others were fighting I thought we were safe. But upon examination, we needed the other glove to operate the magic. I had hoped that one would be enough. I told the others what I had seen in the room that I closed off, and we concluded that if the glove wasn’t there we had lost anyway. I decided to create a diversion while Rhogar went in search of the glove.
It was one of the scarier moments of my life, and all seemed to go quiet as I charged around the corner, yelling and blasting the light of Kelemvor into the undead mass. I breathed a prayer to Kelemvor and he gave me strength; the plan seemed to be working. I fought my way back through the room, keeping two steps ahead of the undead, and came out through another door by the cages. Figuring that I couldn’t distract them any longer, I sprinted over to see what Rhogar was doing. It’s a good thing I did. He was standing in the middle of the room with rats swarming all over him, the remaining glove clearly on the floor at his feet. I’m not sure what he was thinking, but once I pointed it out to him he grabbed it, tossed me a healing potion and sprinted back out of the room. The healing potion smashed on the ground – I’m not sure what Rhogar was thinking – and I followed him out of the room. We re-barricaded the room and Rhogar attempted to figure out the workings. I was trying to point out to him some of the finer details (he seemed to be having some trouble) when I noticed the Greevus did not look well. We were all obviously injured, but he had some deeper malady at work. I did what I could to stave off the evil creeping through his body and prayed that Rhogar would be able to activate the ship’s healing before it was too late – both for Greevus and for all of us as the doors were beginning to splinter. At the last gasp, blinding waves of light began to wash over and through every fiber of the ship. We had triumphed. It was the closest I had come to that last walk of the soul, and while I will welcome that day when it comes I was glad that it was not that day. Not until I am avenged on Thay.
We staggered back out of the hold as the Watch were arriving. Exhausted, I recounted what we knew of Grumus and the plague. Rasheen had been woken and we told him we would settle up with him on the morrow. We made it back to the Flagon and slept the sleep of the dead. Later we went to the Harbormaster and gave an account of the dealings of Captain Kaid and Grumus. We presented him with the deed to the ship. He didn’t show much interest in cleaning these matters up, and informed us that for 3000 gold to pay for the transfer of the deed and the renewal of the docking arrangements we could keep it. This seemed a good deal, and although none of us was in need of a ship at the moment, we accepted the offer and paid for it out of Kaid’s wealth. Our departure now was cleared, although Greevus will need much rest before he is able to accompany us again, if indeed he ever will. The defeat in the gladiator pit followed by his near death at the hands of the ghouls may have laid to rest any desire for further adventure in his life. We will see.