Skull and Shackles
The Vanderboren Plantation
That night, the citizens of Sasserine were woken from their sleep by whispers of fire, and murder. As I heard cries of terror from far away, I put on my clothes and went to look. Once outside, I saw plumes of smoke rising from the shore, and when I arrived at the docks, I saw three ships burning, and several guards and the quartermaster dead, their throats slit, and nailed to a wall. I also saw people in terror, and my new friends, all troubled with these new events. I went back to bed thereafter but could not seem to sleep. Later, I would hear that the murders had been the work of the Lotus Dragons, who had used this show to claim Sasserine as theirs.
The next day, I tried to ignore the events of the night before and readied myself to go to the Sunrise district. First I was going to stop at Bullet’s room, and found he had a guest. I first thought he had a lady friend, so I tried to peek into the slit of the door but could not see. Bullet first tried to hold me off, but then he sighed and let me in. A sailor stood inside his room and Bullet said he was an informer who had news of the Lotus Dragons. But while we were making some conversation, Bullet said it did not really matter if I knew or not (I did not know what he meant). Then, the sailor snapped his fingers and transformed into a young guy dressed as an arcanist. He introduced himself as Varon Islaran, the son of the murdered quartermaster. He wanted to join us in our fight with the Lotus Dragons. I thought ‘Safety in numbers’, so smiled at his request. After that, the rest arrived at the mansion, so I decided to delay my druidic lessons.
The plan was formed to leave for the Vandenboren plantation along the river, a few miles outside Sasserine. It was the place where according to Lavinia, Vanthus had changed so much. As we went to find a boat, we saw a group of working men shouting on the docks, with one guy in the middle, trying to calm them, but to no avail. Ilona asked around and she and Bullet went to the guy – a merchant of sorts – to secure a river boat. In the end, they could make a deal: they got a boat for free if they would deliver a message to Castle Rakim. Merchants and loggers were harassed along the river – food and materials stolen and sails cut – and Castle Rakim did nothing to prevent this, which was normally their job. I suspected trouble at the castle.
The boat trip would last a day and a half. The first day was uneventful, save for crocodiles following our boat for a while. I charmed one of the creatures and convinced it to follow us. After tending to it and feeding it, I thought it would be docile enough to take as a pet. I named him Snapjaw. While I trained him, the others spoke of the trouble in Sasserine, Vanthus, and the cult of Demogorgon. Then we slept.
In the morning, we woke to find our food stolen and crumbles leading to Bullet, his chest full with eating rests. My initial reaction was surprise at his gluttony, but then he reminded me that if he would have stolen food he would have done a better job at cleaning himself up to avoid suspicion. I guess he had a point. So I went with my new friend into the woods around our makeshift camp and started foraging for herbs and berries. It was an easy enough tasks as fruit was common in these parts and I found a certain plant that made for fine tea. In one of the trees I saw a bat, a rather large one, who hung undisturbed, even when I grasped into the tree to get fruit. I gave the animal some food and examined him closer. It did not seem to be a normal bat, so maybe it was an animal companion. Big was my surprise when it flew up, hung on my shoulder and started to speak directly into my mind. It asked me what I was doing here, and – baffled – I explained my reason to be here. I asked it what it was and it responded to explain it was a bat but it had encountered a druid once and now it could speak and think as men.