Deal struck, Thorgrim finished repair and resupply of "The Serpents Revenge", and weighed anchor the next morning to sail for "The Anchorage". This was a small island with a sheltered cove where the exploring ships tended to gather and use as a home base. There they could go about their work without going back to the mainland and dealing with customs officials, greedy rulers, lawmen and others who might put a crimp on the exploring and plundering business. Three days of fair wind and they arrived at the small island, to find two other exploration vessels ("Divine Providence" and "Pearl of Heaven") and a pair of merchants at anchor. Quizzing Thorgrim, the party found out the island is pretty much deserted except for Bellaphrone the Incantatrix [a creepy witch who lived in the woods behind the beach, and had been on the island when the first ships arrived] and Nilex of Velas [a whiskey priest currently passed out beneath a pine tree on the strand]. There was some interest in visiting the merchants and Bellaphrone, but a check of coin purses revealed a need for gold. So at Throgrim’s suggestion, they stayed the night and then shipped out for the caves.
The rocky ring proved to be just a day's sail away, roughly south. Thorgrim guided "The Serpents Revenge" around the perimeter the ring until he reached the southernmost isles, then sailed inside the rocks and dropped anchor. He pointed out a small shingle beach, over which loomed the cave entrance. "There it is. Get at it" he said, and called for the jolly boat to be lowered and the party transshipped to the beach. Shortly, they were standing on the narrow strip on shingle; torches and gun matches were lit and the party formed up to enter the cave. A short distance through a tunnel lead into a large cave of rough black stone with wet shingle covering the floor. Keeping to the wall, they circled the room, discovering three other exits along the way. Heading into the middle of the room, the party found numerous small tide pools filled with crabs, starfish, and other sea life. Which prompted a check for the high water mark, thankfully found only a few inches above floor level.
Still worried about being trapped by the tide, the party decided to look for dryer ground. Checking the eastern exit, they entered another chamber. This one was occupied, by seated circle of little rubbery looking humanoids with conical shells on their backs. Azimer and Conch again sent out their telepathic ‘good vibrations’, and several of the little men turned to look at them with large black eyes. The party could now see the shell-men were smashing open shellfish with crude stone and driftwood tools, that being the only thing they appeared to have apart from some sort of harness woven out of kelp and seaweed. The little men seemed unconcerned with the party’s presence, and went back to smashing and eating. Orm, Azimer, and Casper/Conch decided to carefully circle around the group to see what was at the other end of the chamber; Fiona, Gormus and Vilius stayed to guard the rear. At the other end of the chamber were two more exits, leading north and south. The south one narrowed, and just as the quartet was discussing whether they should enter, a trio of the little shell-men wandered out, glanced at them, and then passed by the join their compatriots in the circle. Figuring they would find nothing but more shell-men, the four rejoined the rearguard. After some discussion, the party decided to backtrack to the entry chamber to explore the other exits rather than risk getting trapped deep in the cave by the tide. They did explore one addition chamber on the way back, empty but for a odd phenomena. Fiona discovered anything she said would echo back in some strange, unknown tongue. The other tried it out as well (Gormus singing a raunchy sea ditty), and discovered their words repeated in what seemed to be the same strange language. Fiona did a loop of the room, looking for anything unusual in or on the walls which could explain the echo, but found nothing.
Backtracking to the entry chamber, the party chose the largest opening in the east wall, which led into a strange almost star shaped chamber. The floor here was covered in black sand, which made Orm nervous. So he and Azimer went back to haul the body of the starfish-man down to the chamber and pitched it into the room, suspecting a trap. But nothing happened, so in the party headed. Some geological cataclysm in the past had left long fissures in the rock. In several of these the part found evidence of old campfires, most many years old, but one more recent (in the last few weeks). Vilius found a long dead skeleton in one, its skull smashed against the rock, while in another Azmier discovered a newly dug hole with rotten leather sacks and a few coppers scattered around it (which she pocketed). Done in this room, the party headed further into the caves, leaving via a tunnel on the western wall. It suddenly descended sharply, and Vilius slipped on the slick sand and went flying off into the darkness before coming to a bloody and painful stop against a rough rock wall. The grumbling cleric climbed back up the slope to the rest of the party. Who now followed his path much more carefully into another large room. Little distinguished his room, apart from more black sand and a scattering of larger bones, both aquatic and mammalian.
Deciding to not push their luck any further, and with at least some treasure to show for their efforts, the party picked up the dead adventurer and headed back to the beach. Signaling the ship, the jolly boat soon approached and the expedition was soon back on board “The Serpents Revenge”. There Throgrim identified the body as one of the previous landing crew, and praised the party for recovering some treasure. But when will they be going back for more?