Expecting the worst within the next room, the group proceeded cautiously. It was all for naught however as the room was empty of any living - or unliving - creatures besides small spiders. Webs covered everything. In one corner of the room was the debris-filled stairway that led up to the altar room. In the other was a trap door leading down. Somehow the spider-webs covering this trap door seemed newer. Almost like the door had been opened recently. (dun-dun-dun!)
Ethan carefully checked the door for traps. Determining it was safe, Delian flung it open to reveal a ladder leading down into the dank hull of the ship. A large amount of debris could be seen floating in the waist-deep water. Using his sunrod, Sterling lay on his stomach and peered into the darkness. The hold ran the entire length of the ship. Nothing could be seen moving aside from the gently lapping water.
Not convinced of their safety, Sterling and Ethan proceed down the ladder. When a small perimeter was secured around the base of the ladder the rest of the group climbed down. In the now illuminated area a large crate floated bearing a stylized letter "A" upon it. Old and damp, it looked to be intact.
Hampered by the watery terrain, the group proceeded slowly toward their goal. However, upon reaching their quarry two ghouls and a corruption corpse burst from the water near the bow! The undead proved to be tough foes in and of themselves but, to make matters worse, the entire ship suddenly shuddered as if being struck by some unseen force. The battle raged on while the party attempted to remain on their feet. Water started pouring in from ever-widening cracks in the hull. At one point the tip of a tentacle could be seen ripping a board from the port wall.
Sensing the urgency of the situation, Sterling turned his attention from the undead to the box floating beside them. With a mighty blow he smashed the lid to reveal a blue, sealed container and a set of chainmail. He quickly snatched both up as the rest of the party bested the undead. Noticing the form of Jonathon under the inky water, Sterling stepped to his comrades aid and pulled him up. All thoughts turned to a hasty retreat lest the group slide beneath the waves with the doomed shipped.
Indeed, had it not been for the assistance of the more surefooted of the group and rope of Ethan, several of the team would surely have met their end here. However, the party was able to make it topside as the Emporer of the Seas listed heavily to port and began slipping to her resting place. The waiting skiff of dwarves braved writhing tentacles and panicked insects the attempted to clamour aboard their vessel as they pulled the party to safety. With a sense of pity, the crew watched as the Emporer finally was laid to rest with all her mysteries of the past several years.
A week later The Soul of the Winter returned to Sharn. Aubreck quickly met the party at the docks and ushered them to a quiet place aboard the ship to learn what had happened. He was absolutley elated at the recovery of his box. He was convinced that it's contents would put him back on the road to regaining his former mercantile glory. He paid the members of the team their owed 100 gp each and instructed them to keep the extra items they had found. He also instructed them to look him up if they ever had need of a ship. It would not take him long to get set up again. With that he bid them farewell.
A dozen days passed. The group rested and went about personal business as they kept an eye out for signs of a job worth of their skillset. It was not long in coming - and it was thrust upon them by none other than their boss Ragnolin.
While enjoying a little down time at the pub, the party seems a messenger burst into the guild hall and rush to the barkeep looking for Ragnolin. He then rushes into back to the bosses office. After several moments, Ragnolin strides into the main room looking angry. With very few others around he points to the group and ushers them into his office.
It seems that the rest of Hi'relle's party (the old man slain by Skamos north of Black Pit) have begun to vanish. Two the group disappeared within Flamekeep and a third never arrived at his destination of Fairhaven. Ragnolin believes that the remaining member - Kartenix - is in extreme danger. Kartenix is enroute from Flamekeep to Sharn via the King's highways. He is travelling with his 8 year old son Tharunn. The best guess to his location is a town called Delver's Dale in northern Breland. Ragnolin wants you to leave within the hour on a chartered airship in order to determine Kartenix' whereabouts and to protect him on the rest of his journey to Sharn. Ragnolin informs you that Kartenix is a very old friend of his and a long-standing, respected member of the guild. He takes any losses to the guild seriously. An adventurer's life is dangerous enough without someone targetting it's member. He won't stand by idly while his friends disappear.
Gathering your things you quickly jump aboard an air taxi hired by Sterling and proceed up to the airship dock. You are not on the ship for more than a minute when it drops its moorings and heads North to Delver's Dale.
The party is dropped off in the northeast corner of the mining town of Delver's Dale. Since an airship is a rare sighting, their arrival is met with curiousity and suspicion. While children stare and point at the retreating ship, the town guard question the group as to their business. After a brief discussion the party learns that Kartenix and his son have been staying that the Rusty Kettle Inn for the past week or so.
Thanking the guard the party begins to head up the street towards their destination. Suddenly a loud bell begins ringing in the lookout tower. People being to scramble and a half-dozen militia being running east through the streets - presumably to the covered bridge marking the entrance to the town. The party overhears something about "It's big! A dragon I think!" and "I heard Ogre" as people rush passed. After a brief discussion, Sterling and Braddoc head to the Inn to check on the whereabouts of Kartenix and the rest of the group heads in the direction of the attack in order to assist.
Entering the inn, Sterling quickly assertains that the young lad looking out the window at the commotion is none other than Tharuun the sone of Kartenix. Sterling bluntly instructs the lad that he needs to see his father immediate and demands to know where he is. After an initial shock Tharunn finds a bit of courage and shoots back that he isn't about to reveal his father's location to just any walking piece of scrap metal and demands to know what is going on. Sterling introduces himself and Braddoc and tells the youngster that his father's life is in danger. The Clifftop Guild sent them to assist him. With that Tharuun takes you to the rented room his father is sleeping in. It seems the man took ill about a week ago and is still recovering.
Kartenix quickly assertains the situation and promises Sterling and Braddoc that, though weak, he and his son would gather their things and be ready to go as soon as possible. Braddoc remained behind in the tavern as a guard and Sterling took off through the streets to assist his companions.
Meanwhile the rest of the group arrived near the eastern edge of the town only to be confronted by a strange sight. Rounding the corner of some warehouses was a wagon being driven by two Hobgoblin Archers and drawn by an Ogre Savage! As one archer fired arrows at any militia, the other was lighting small kegs on fire and handing them to the ogre who in turn flung the bombs at buildings and groups of people. Anyone who got too close was set upon by its massive greatclub.
The group quickly moved into position and attacked the train of destruction. Ethan used his deft moves to gain advantage in combat and began decimating the ogre with precise attacks. Luckily for Ethan, he had received a blessing from Jonathon that bolstered his defense just enough to avoid the deadly crush of the greatclub (dude you barely avoided two hits of 2d10+5 - lucky bastard!) Nenia proved her worth by wisely targetting the explosive wagin with a firey attack. While Delian and Jonathon closed in to assist Ethan the kegs began exploding and damaging the wagon's denizens. It was not long before the archer jumped from the wagon and began fleeing for their lives. The unlucky ogre was unable to unhook itself from its yolk and eventually succumbed to the blows of the group.
As the battle wound down Sterling arrived. It was then that they noticed the warning bell had not stopped with the defeat of the wagoneers. After a moment of confusion, some of the militia began running back toward the center of town. The party followed. As they neared the inn they saw the retreating wagons of more hobgoblin attacked. However the backs of the wagons clearly contained a number of bound prisoners.
Rushing into the inn, the group found Braddoc soundly beaten and unconscious. Several of the patrons lay dead and the inn was in shambles. One of the surviving patrons informed the party between sobs that hobgoblins had burst into the inn. Braddoc had fought like a madman trying to protect them but was overcome by sheer numbers. When he fell and remaining resistance quickly faded. The hobgoblins had quickly bound no less than seven people and dragged them out onto waiting wagons.
Kartenix and Tharunn were among the captives.