Coastal Aquatic Lands: Sea Stories
Being a mercenary and then a Purple Dragon for many years, and having had the opportunity to travel a great deal, I've had the occasion to hear a few tales about mysterious and interesting things happening along our coasts.
The Scardale Slayers
The village of Scardale had a rather bad run of dead farm animals to contend with. Farmers would come out in the morning and find their animals had been mutilated. There was a great deal of talk, both open and whispered, that suggested many reasons for the killings. There was an expedition sent out to comb the area for new monstrous lairs and the like, but nothing came of it. Before a reason could be found, the killings stopped. Over time, the incident was largely forgotten about until the past year when the incidents started up again.
The theory getting the most attention is that the creature responsible for this is coming from the sea. The previous exploration efforts on the land to find the lair of the mysterious creature failed to find anything - so now people are turning their attention to the waters. Complicating this theory is the fact that no traces of the usual kind are left behind by visitors from the sea. No creature I'm familiar with could walk ashore that distance and not leave seaweed, scales, or some other souvenir.
The village has offered a hundred-gold-piece reward for the eradication of this mysterious menace.
The attacks always come during the night, but never in any discernible pattern. The corpses are mutilated, but not eaten. The animals slain are generally small, about wolf-sized or smaller. The attacks never happen in the village itself, only on isolated farms.
The town of Surd is a weigh point between Tulbegh and Yhaunn. As such, it sees a lot of caravan and merchant traffic. There was a story of a most unusual merchant passing through Surd I must relate.
A wagon came into the market, and a stand was set up that sold sahuagin and locathah jewelry. The pieces were beautiful, and among them was a coral sculpture that was as tall as a dwarf. This impressive collection was worth a lot of money, yet the merchant was selling the objects at prices that were but a fraction of their worth. Still, this was expensive for the people of Surd. He heard greater prices for his wares could be had in a larger city. He declined, saying that he wanted to bring the beauty of the sea to a town like Surd, and he wanted the people there to be able to acquire things they might not otherwise have the chance to own.
This was a noble cause, to be sure, but it raised skepticism nevertheless. If the objects were so inexpensive, the people asked, how could they be authentic? All they had was the merchant's assurance. A few pieces were bought and he went on. It turns out that the merchant was telling the truth, that the pieces were authentic. However, it was not long before the people of Surd got word that a tribe of sahuagin were seeking the return of their stolen items, including the dwarf-sized sculpture. A reward is offered for the return of that particular piece, and the people of Surd as well as Yhaunn and Tulbegh are offering rewards for the capture of the merchant, who has damaged relations with the sahuagin.
The descriptions of the merchant vary, but the characteristics that are commonly listed are: human, short, dressed in robes, and wearing at least two magical rings.
I believe that the merchant isn't really what people say he is. My thoughts are that the magical ring he wears casts some illusion upon his person to make him look human. I think a grander plot is afoot, one that involves stressing the relationship between the sahuagin and the human settlements. What would be accomplished by doing this is unknown.
Wrecks and Strange Ships
No tales delight people and bait adventurers - such as myself - more than the tales of lost ships and their precious cargoes. Naturally, many such stories cover an area as large as the coastline, and that is the subject of my discourse.
Gondegal's Severed Neck
Gondegal, that legendary lost king, is believed to be alive by a great many people. Whether he is, however, is anyone's guess, but there is no shortage of activity attributed to him.
Two years ago during the winter, a large sailing vessel was attacked by pirates as it passed through the Neck on its way into the Lake of Dragons. The vessel was boarded by pirates who outnumbered the crew two-to-one. During the melee, the captain of the ship under attack came out on the deck to join in the melee. One of the pirates proclaimed that the captain was Gondegal himself. This caused a brief pause in the battle, for the sighting of Gondegal would be a legendary thing indeed. Taking advantage of this pause, the captain dove into the water and was able to make his escape.
The cargo was taken and the ship was sunk, for it was in too poor condition to be of any valuable. Adding credibility to this sighting was the fact the ship was carrying nothing but weapons, swords mostly. They were of goblin design, and given that Gondegal used a large percentage of such demihumans in his assault on Cormyr, the connection was made that he was attempting to reinforce his army and begin his campaign anew.
Some of the crew of the vanquished ship admitted to knowing that their captain claimed to be Gondegal, but they could not say where his base of operations was. They also said that Gondegal had amassed a fortune and was going to use it to hire the troops he was planning to arm. The location of the fortune was known to the captain and the first officer only, for the first officer seemed to be a very trusted individual as far as the captain was concerned. The first officer of the ship was captured and questioned, but he escaped, taking knowledge about his captain and the fortune with him.
The only clue as to the alleged Gondegal's whereabouts is that he was believed to be heading for Westgate, and that he is human but has red, dwarflike hair.
The Specter Ship of Urmlaspyr
During the fog that sometimes rolls into Urmlaspyr, the sighting of a mysterious ghostly ship seen plying the waves from west to east against the wind is sometimes reported.
The ship is old and tall and is of a design unfamiliar to any that have seen it, though a scant few have said it resembles a design of a kingdom far to the east. Strangely, there seem to be no oar ports or the like. It flies no flags or banners.
The rigging and sails are silent, as is the crew, but a strange creaking is heard from its ancient planks. The creaking is very ominous, as I can personally attest. These sounds, when I first heard them, reminded me of the opening of a wooden coffin lid. Others have likened it to the popping sound made by burning wood. The only indication that the ship is actually there is that one can also hear the lapping of the sea against the hull. The crew seems to be working steadily on the deck. But one can't get a good look at them, and they appear only as misty blobs through the fog. The ship travels for some miles, then disappears into the mist.
The story would end here were it not for a most unnerving experience I had a few days after my sighting. I was in Urmlaspyr searching for a prisoner who had escaped the king's dungeons. Urmlaspyr guards said that they had captured him, but that he had died while in their care. I had to see the body to make sure they had the right person. When they opened his coffin, the creaking from the uprooted nails exactly matched that sound made by the ghost ship.
I feared the person might be the target of something unnatural, so I had the body burned that night. A fog rolled in, but I could not go to the coast to see if the ghost ship was there.
A merchant vessel from a place far to the east was sunk in a storm about a decade ago. Dragoneye Dealing, a merchant house in Marsember, is intent on finding the wreck. The story has leaked that an especially valuable piece of cargo is aboard. It isn't precious like gold or jewels, but some kind of device used for navigation. It has leaked that the device makes sailing as easy as finding one's way in a city.