Abdul el Abdul (Fighter 1)
Azimer (Calmonari 2)
Chaff (Vivimancer 2) with henchman Herb (Swashbuckler 1)
Einer (Fighter 1)
Villius Paticus (Cleric 1)
Thorgrim had his crew hoist sail, and the "Serpents Revenge" captured a strong south wind which soon had her racing north at top speed. Fast enough, in fact, that they reached the anchorage in just a single day. Rounding the isle and coming around to the small sheltered bay, they could see it was a busy place. Torgus' Traveling Tavern was bustling on shore, and at the northern end of the beach a huddle of lean-to's had appeared. Five ships lay at anchor, and it took all of Thorgrim's skill to squeeze his vessel into the bay. Disembarking to hunt for rumors and information, the party learned about the ships:
- "Valorous Star" was still in port, hawking fine elven goods;
- A second merchant had arrived as well, the "Barbaric Wind" under the command of the swarthy Dravos;
- A large junk by the name "Pearl of Heaven";
- A small cog "Two for Trouble"; and
- The storm battered and tattered carrack, the "San Lorenzo".
First stop on shore was pretty much the only stop on shore, Torgus' Tavern. They skirted the fight underway between crew members from the "Pearl of Heaven" and "San Lorenzo", and went about their business. Chaff immediately got into his cups, and Herb had to spend the night keeping the little vivimancer from trouble. Abdul el Abdul starting making the rounds of sober(ish) adventurers and crew, hoping to wheedle some maps and information out of them. He had some luck with a man and wife clerical duo by the names Niro and Vysera. They were part of the exploration party for the "Two for Trouble", and seemed pretty flush with gold. Heading back to the mainland with the "Two for Trouble", the pair planned to leave the ship for some unexplained reason, and were a little more open to discussing where they had been than the rest of the tight-lipped lot. Trading stories, they told Albdul el Abdul about an island, covered in impenetrable jungle, but with a set of mysterious bronze doors set amongst the trees. They'd passed through the doors and found rich treasures after some hard fighting, but were coy about what exact dangers they'd faced. Niro told Abdul el Abdul the island was about 3 days good sailing to the north-east, and that as far as they knew, no one else was yet aware of it's existence.
While Albdul el Abdul worked the crowd, (and picked up a new fighter, Einer, to join the party) Azimer swam along the beach, sizing things up from that angle and reveling in the cool salt water. The calmonari encounter a pair of glum sailors huddled around a fire, about halfway between the tavern and the shantytown. The two were pretty gruff at first, but eventually explained to the fishy intruder they were sailors off the "Savage Sisters", left behind when that ship sailed off to search the unknown. It further emerged they'd been passed out drunk under the trees at the time. They were able to give Azimer some rough idea of sailing directions to the pyramid topped with golden statues (south-east), and muttered something about the first mate being a brutal ogress. All in all, they weren't too upset about being left on the beach, figuring they'd make their way back on another vessel at some time. Swimming further down the beach, Azimer noted Thorgrim scoping out the shanty-town, which struck the calmonari with foreboding. Waiting until the captain left, she/he emerged from the water and sought out the de-facto leader, an older man by the name of Boras. From him Azimer learned that Throgrim had offered to ship the refugees back to Xin for essentially free! Knowing how tight Thorgrim was with money, and his past life as a slaver, the calmonari immediately sensed a scam. He/she warned Boras about the captain, and convinced him to send a couple of men to size up the ship and note the slave shackles in the hold. And then with that good deed done, Azimer slipped backed into the water.
Everyone gathered back at the "Serpents Revenge" for the night, and next morning arose to restock and resupply for their next voyage, whatever and wherever that may be. Chaff had somehow figured out, in his drunken stupor, how to summon a familiar. So off he went to the new merchant to buy some questionable lab supplies from Dravos. Azimer and Abdul el Abdul tagged along, and learned pretty quickly that questionable goods were Dravo's specialty. As were high prices, except oddly enough on arms and armor. Stocking up on weapons, Azimer then shipped over to the "Valorous Star" to get a load of oil and some other basic gear, and to also check for any potions or scrolls the dandy Lifjin might have. Alas, she had no magic items, but did indicate she could help identify the magical crystal heart the calmonari carried. But the 300gp price was too steep for Azimer, so he/she settled for basic gear only, also turning down the fancy blued chain-mail the elf had on offer.
Rejoining the rest of the party (now expanded to include Chaff mangy looking parrot familiar), the question became what their next steps should be? Thorgrim was making noises about just giving up on this exploration business and heading back to Xin on "honest trade". None (well, almost none) of the party was interested into going into slaving, so Abdul el Abdul laid out the information he'd learned the night before. He also pointed out that the mysterious magical crystal he'd found was pointing back in the direction of the previously explored caves, possibly to more treasure(?) While discussing those options, they suddenly realized they'd heard nothing about the battered ship, the "San Lorenzo". Back to shore, they asked around, and found that the captain of the ship was looking to recruit a party for some sort of special mission. Intrigued by this, the party headed for the "San Lorenzo" and soon found themselves in front of the dignified older captain of the vessel, Higo de Moncada. After some pleasantries, Captain de Moncada laid out his mission for them. He served the Duke Don Fernando Alvarez, a powerful noble of Castrillo. The Duke was a curious man, and when he heard of these "Far Isles", equip a pair of ships to go and explore, bringing family and household with him. Unfortunately, they had not explored far when the two ships encountered a vicious storm and the Duke's ship was wrecked on the shore of a small barren island. It was surrounded by reefs so the "San Lorenzo" could not approach very closely. And besides, his own cowardly and superstitious crew refused to make any attempt to land anyway. So Captain de Moncada turned about and headed back to the anchorage to look for some professional to help him save his Duke and family. The party inquired as to pay, and the captain assured them the Duke would undoubtedly offer a reward from his own wealth, and the party was certainly welcome to keep anything else they recovered on their mission. Captain de Moncada also hinted that the Duke was looking for a suitable suitor for his youngest daughter ...
Well, that sounded like a better deal than riding with a slaver, so the party headed back to the "Serpents Revenge" to gather their gear and take their leave of Thorgrim. After another day of repair to the "San Lorenzo", they sailed out of the anchorage and turned to the south-west. Fighting headwinds, however, they made slow progress. Late on the first afternoon, they spied another ship approaching through the spray on the starboard bow. The lookout yelled down that she seemed a deserted wreck. The party convinced Captain de Moncada to let them take the gig across to derelict, appealing to his honorable nature by selling it as a possible rescue mission . None of the superstitious crew of the "San Lorenzo" was about to go near the thing, so the party rowed themselves across. Once alongside, they could see what the lookout meant. The ship was stripped of masts and rigging, and the batter hull was coated in a thick rime of salt. Cautiously, they threw grappling hooks and rope to the rail and hauled themselves aboard. The deck was a shambles, and the skeletal remains of the crew lay scattered about, covered in salt. They moved down the deck towards the stern, aiming for the stern cabin door which flapped back and forth in the wind. Peering inside, it too was all a-shamble. But then suddenly, a pair of shadowy figures drifted into view. At first, the party stood it's ground, holding tight and waiting for Villius to call an his shadowy god to drive away the fiends. Well, that didn't work, so the over-cautious cleric made his way back to the gig as quickly as possible. The rest of the party backed away a bit, weapons ready for any eventuality. Herb fired his pistol point blank through both figures, and Einer struck with such a mighty blow they all thought one of the spirits was gone. But neither had any affect, so the party hustled back to the gig, cut the lines and made for the "San Lorenzo" at high speed. No losses except a couple of grappling hooks.
There were another few days of fighting head winds before they picked up a favorable breeze. On the fifth day out from the anchorage, and according to Captain de Moncada within striking distance of the isle they sought, they came across more wreckage. This time, a couple of rafts lashed together of spars, lines, barrels and other flotsam. One carried a single sailor, the other a pair. They claimed to be survivors of the "Golden Thane", a trading vessel out of Cha'nrk on the Langushur shore. While the presence of two rafts rather than one was odd, Captain de Moncada none the less took the trio aboard the vessel, then turned back to the south-east and onto the cursed isle they sought.
What greeted the party was a inhospitable sight. A island less than a mile long, windswept and barren, and surrounded by rocky reefs. Through the sea spray could be seen the only distinguishing features of the island; a pair of towers or rock pillars side by side in the center. de Moncada pointed out a small beach with the wreckage of a ship; the Dukes flagship, "La Juliana". The party loaded the gig with gear and then pulled for shore through the rocks and waves. Once on the beach, the first thing Azimer did was unload a massive pile of oil and rations which the calmonari proceeded to bury above the tide line. No way the party was gong to run out of oil this time! Meanwhile, the rest of the party examined the wreckage of the ship. It lay battered and and already half buried in the sand. Inside was a jumble of shattered and ruined supplies, from which Abdul el Abdul extracted an intact cask of some liquid but there as little else to find.
A search of the area uncovered no signs of tracks and paths, unsurprising given the bare rock and howling wind. Chaff sent up his new familiar for a view of their surroundings. Apart from the two pillars/towers, the vivimancer could also see a nearby patch of greenery, a couple of rifts (one of which was spewing steam or smoke) and a cluster of ruins. He could also see what appeared to be a bridge spanning the tops of the two towers. Relaying this information to the rest of the party, they decided to trek across the island towards the smoking rift, checking out as many of the other locations as possible along the way. First stop was the patch of greenery, the only plants visible on the isle. They found a group of strange, blue-green vines dotted with what looked like cabbages. Before getting too close, Einer tossed a rock at one just to make sure it wasn't sentient. It appeared not, but closer investigation didn't provide much more details. Except it appeared someone had recently hacked off a large swath of thevines.
Moving on, they passed the two tower/pillars. These looked to be mostly natural, but with signs of being worked by some being. The first tower had a number of openings, including one at ground level. The second had no entrances except some openings near the top. The party passed on for now, heading for the rift. As they approached two figures emerged from the smoke plume. They spied the party and headed towards them. The two appeared to be human males, massively muscled, completely bald and completely naked. These showed no overtly hostile signs, but pushed past most of the party, stopping in front of Einer and Abdul el Abdul. "You must come and join us in the ritual of Manakata" the two bluntly ordered the fighters. Einer and Abdul el Abdul tried to squeeze more information out of the two brutes, but got little but gibberish about the power of Manakata and a lot of barely constrained 'roid rage. The two fighters asked about the rest of the party; could they join the ritual? Told they were free to come but were not worthy of Manakata, the party decided to follow along since they were going towards the ruins which the party was ultimately going to explore anyway