Greetings, dear reader!
Last Sunday was the first session what I hope to be a long-running campaign for which I will be DM’ing. I plan on sharing this experience with you, since writing from the perspective of the DM should be an interesting change of pace. To reflect this perspective, this story will be written in the present tense, in a narrative style similar to what I would sound like talking to my players.
However, summarizing and editing last Sunday’s D&D session is proving to be more work than I had anticipated. Rather than to beat myself up over not being able to keep my self-appointed deadlines, I thought it would be fun to just share what I have right now. I estimate this to be about 1/5 of the content of the first session, which is to be broken up into two parts, meaning this would be the first half of the first half.
So, without further ado, I give you: The Maiden’s Voyage, Part I.
Once, humanity ruled the world. Lead by the legendary Sorcerer-King Hurumar, the then-young species united under a single banner to drive the ancient races out of their homelands, as they laid claim to the continent that would henceforth be known as Hurumar.
After ages of Human dominion, the Sorceror-King’s bloodline thinned and His empire fell into decline. The diaspora of the older races returned to what were once their homelands to re-establish the ancient order as it was before the rise of humanity. Whole stretches of the once great empire were reclaimed by nature; entire cities swallowed by jungle, overgrown with vines, or buried in sand or snow. Only a small fringe kingdom now remains, a mocking reminder of an age long gone, a glory lost.
Now the wheels of fortune spin once again as the new status quo is still in flux. In the west, smaller kingdoms are expanding as they lay claim to more and more land; to the west, the New Wilderness continues to encroach on civilization, swallowing roads and cities whole.
It is precisely this chaos that attracts adventurers of every ilk from across the world. Whether it be for fame, fortune or some other, personal reason, exceptional people are drawn to conflict like moths to the flame, and one particularly crafty dragonborn by the name of Whitehorn has made his fortune hoarding these people, uniting them under the banner of a mercenary company named after himself.
Four such exceptional people are on their way to the continent of adventure, having applied to the position of independent operative. A rickety caravel carries them across the Kragsfel Sea to Kragsport, where Whitehorn awaits their arrival. The journey will prove to be quite eventful in and of itself.
Meet Little Ice and Ingvar Sunbrooke, two best friends from frozen lands. Little Ice is a small snow tabaxi, with all white fur but for a little black spot by his eye. Energetic and cheerful, this curious kitty always carries a tome with him and spends hours reading (or pretending to) when he’s not getting into trouble. His pal Ingvar is an imposing human from a clan of vikings who never seems to to take off his well-polished armor. This cleric of a frigid war god has an extreme distaste for filth.
These two enterprising fellows decided to work for their cross, foregoing the luxury of a cabin with a bed to work on deck instead, sleeping with the crew in hammocks. Little Ice’s nimbleness makes him a natural climber; Ingvar’s keen animosity to filth makes him a most meticulous deckswabber.
One other chap who works for his cross is Benjamin Dawnsurge, a hulking aasimar with a sunny disposition who has a fondness for telling tall tales. His strength certainly comes in handy pulling various ropes and weighing the heavy anchor.
The final of the four bonded by fate is one Seamus macArdan, a mysterious, barefooted, bearded human in fine robes, wielding a wooden staff. Fond of comfort, he has bought a passenger’s ticket and enjoys the luxury of a cabin with an actual bed. He spends his ample free time peering into the ocean and meditating.
These four are our actors; the ship, the stage. What will our greenhorned sailors encounter on the unruly Kragsfel Sea?
The first time the whole crew and all her passengers are together is during the first night’s meal. The dining cabin is horribly cramped; the table only has enough seats for the captain, the first mate and the paying passengers; the crew has to eat standing. The food itself is a gray, undefinable goop that smells like it has already been eaten once and hurled up by a dog. A rabid dog. With pneumonia.
Before anyone can dig in, the captain – a nasty-looking, busty half-orc woman with an eye-patch – raises her glass and taps it with her hook, calling everyone’s attention.
“Allrrrright, welcome aboard tha Maiden’s Virtue,” the captain says, stressing every r. “Me name be Babette Riptide, and I be yer captain for this ‘ere voyage. I hope yer enjoying tha free supper tha’ was included in tha prize of yer tickets?”
Hearing this, a plump, middle-aged halfling woman picks up her spoon to stuff some gruel in her mouth. She coughs; her eyes tear up; but still, she manage to squeeze out a polite “Aye, a lovely meal, thank ye cap’n”.
Captain Babette flashes a gap-toothed grin. “Glad ta hear it. Now, it not be all dinner parties aboard tha Maiden. Thar be rules, and I tend ta enforce them. Strictly. Rule number one: On this ‘ere boat, me word be law. There be no higher authority than yer cap’n. Forget about yer kings or gods; ye listen ta me now. Rule number two: No one sneaks around at night; ye stay in yer cabin and ye especially don’t wander around tha upper deck. Ye don’t want tha sea harpies to get ye. Tha’ be all. Any questions?”
The cabin turns silent. The sailors know better than to ask questions and most passengers seem to have picked up on this vibe, except for Little Ice, who brazenly raises his paw.
“What are Sea Harpies?”
Truth be told, no one apart from the crew had ever heard about Sea Harpies before, either, but they weren’t stupid enough to ask. Babette narrows her one eye – the other being covered by an eye-patch – and approaches the feline. “Ye don’t want ta know, lad,” she says threateningly, “all ye need to know is that, if one spots ye on me deck, they’ll be swoopin’ ye up fer snacks.”
“Aye,” a sailor says, “it happened to me cousin once.”
“Sea harpies,” says another distantly. “The scourge of the salts.”
“Ye all have yer orders,” the captain says, “Off with ye.”
Benjamin Dawnsurge has the first night-shift. He sentries with conviction, keeping his eyes at the sky, looking for the aforementioned sea harpies. If any show up, they’d have to content with his broadsword. Good luck picking this hulking bulk of armor up and carrying it off to your nest. Ha!
He tries to converse with the captain, who is behind the wheel, but the salt-grizzled half-orc keeps a silent vigil. “Sea harpies,” is the only thing she’ll say.
Below-deck, Seamus macArdan discovers that he is sharing his cabin with an impeccably dressed sailor. Unlike most salty lubbers on deck, this half-elf charmer has a sailor’s uniform with not a single blemish on it .The shanty singer spends the evening playing the accordion; and. rather than to ask his neighbor to pipe down so he can get some shut-eye, Seamus instead joins the jam, whipping out a wooden flute.
Before long there is a knock on the door. The halfling woman from before enters the cabin. Seamus figures she must be over a hundreds years old, well into adulthood for a halfling. She wears her graying hazel hair in a neat bun and is adorned in a modest, yet tasteful dress. Two younger halflings accompany her: A surly fellow with black bangs covering one of his eyes, and a chipper fair-headed maiden of about the same age.
“I don’t want to be a bother,” says the older halfling, “but do you think you could keep it down just a notch? We’re trying to sleep.”
Seamus approaches the woman and smiles. “Now, what is this? I thought you halflings were renowned for your revelry. I have never known one to pass up on a party. Come! Let us be merry! The night is still young.”
The older halfling woman fumbled with her dress for a moment. “Oh, I dunno…Well, I suppose…? Jade, m’boy! Fetch the elven wine!”
“It’s Jaden, mom,” scoffs the surly son, “gosh. Jade is a girl’s name.”
The sound or revelry resounds throughout the whole boat; it’s only a small caravel, so when anyone gets loud, everyone hears it. The sailors, many of whom had already been already drinking, stumble out of their hammocks and swagger their way over to where the party is, inviting Little Ice and Ingvar, who had been failing to fall asleep, to come with them. The tabaxi seems eager, but his human friend has a more cautious nature. The cat goes alone.
Benjamin Dawnsurge, however, is still on deck, and to get to the festivities, which are being held in the passenger’s quarters below-decks, the partying party will have to sneak past him. The aasimar is ever vigilant about enforcing the rules; when the captain says nobody is supposed to be sneaking around at night, you can bet your kaboose that nobody will be sneaking around; at least, not on his watch.
Many a drunken sailor is stopped and shoved back in their cabin by Benjamin, but ultimately some escape his grasp, including the stealthy white cat. Dawnsurge wants to warn the captain of this insurgence, but when he looks up he sees that Babette has vanished; at her wheel stands the first mate, the black-bearded Ironbrow. The dwarf spots the rowdy sailors swaggering onward, smiles, shakes his head and lets them have their party. Seeing this, Benjamin holds his position, not bothering to give chase now that the party-goers had the blessing of the first mate.
By the time Little Ice arrives the party in Seamus’ cabin has spread out to encompass pretty much all of the lower deck. Sailors are guzzling foul-smelling brew while the halfling woman shares her fine elven wine with Seamus. She introduced herself as Lily Petaltoes, a cook traveling with her son, Jade, and his fiancé, Hannah.
“I am looking to open my own restaurant in Kragsport, you see,” Lily tells her drinking buddy, “the boys should have already finished building it by now.”
“As a restaurateur by trade,” replies Seamus, “what is your professional opinion on this tonight’s supper?”
Lily does her best to maintain her polite smile, but can’t suppress a visible cringe. “I’d call it…hearty.”
“Come on now, no need to be humble. I bet you could do much better. Why don’t you take over cooking for this journey, for the sake of all of us?”
“O, no, I wouldn’t want to impose…”
“Nonsense! Everybody will be better for it. Let’s have a chat with the chef tomorrow.”
“Alright then! Yes! Why not!”
Meanwhile, Little Ice, who had been failing to sing along with some obscure verse of What shall we do with the drunken sailor, has gotten into a heated argument.
“I’m telling ye, there be only twenty-two verses!”
“Nonsense! Me pappy taught me at least thirty-six! Are ye callin’ me pappy a liar?!”
“Fellows, fellows!” Little Ice intervenes, “Can’t we come to some compromise? How about…” Little Ice tries to do some quick math, and comes to: “Twenty-eight?”
“Blasphemy! There be only three true verses!” spits a rather stern purist. “Any more than that is apocryphal!”
“Come now, don’t be unreasonable,” says Little Ice, “these guys-”
“THAR. BE. ONLY. THREE,” bellows the pirate as he socks Little Ice in the face. His knuckles connect, finding their way to the poor feline’s cheek, sending him flying. Little Ice lands on his feet, curves his back and hisses. He lunges towards the sailor with claws drawn, but the drunken brawler dodges with a simple sidestep. The sailor takes another swig from his drink, stumbles towards his opponent and smashes the bottle on the tabaxi’s head, dousing his fur in spirits and glass.
The sailors, who have little respect for the lowly landlubbers whose inexperience they have to tolerate above deck, gather around the two combatants to cheer their guy on. Here, below-deck, the true pecking order could be established, by way of cracking knuckle and broken bottle.
Seamus, however, doesn’t feel like fighting – he feels like partying and a brawl is not his idea of a good time, especially not in his cabin. “Fellows!” he says, calling their attention, “If you must fight, do so outside – do not frighten the civilians with your battle.”
“Aye, take it outside!” yells one of the sailors as they start herding the duelists outside into the hallway were there was more space.
Little Ice, his pristine white fur now stained red, snarls as soon as his adversary turns his back on him. Calling on some eldritch power, he hurls a bolt of blue magical energy at the sailor; it hits him square in the shoulders, sending him tumbling forwards. As soon as he regains his balance, the sailor curses and charges at the tabaxi, knocking him out cold with a swift blow to the temple.
To be continued!