The Black Bard was worried about the approaching barge full of refugees. The huge influx of citizens would greatly task their ability to support – they had been planning to resupply on Yovar, which of course was impossible now that Yovar had apparently been destroyed somehow.
Luckily, Convoy was currently near the city of Hillspar. Convoy usually traded with Yovar because of Finnan Krommly’s contacts there. Most islands were reluctant to trade with Convoy, as it is largely viewed as a pirate city engaged in illicit activity. But in these dire straits, the Black Bard wanted to send the party to Hillspar to attempt to negotiate for food and water to see them through the emergency. She gave them a letter of marque to barter in her name and the name of convoy. She tasked the party to find someone willing and able to supply them with the provisions they would need on Hillspar.
Having grown up on neighboring Skalld, the dwarvish homeland, Ingvar knew a bit about Hillspar – it had once been run by a dictator named Maalthir who had expelled all non-humans from the city, but he had been deposed 20 years ago and a merchant council had ruled ever since, last Ingvar had heard. Hillspar was said to feature one major city (called Hillspar), the Cormanthor forest that was home to some wood elves, and the rest was largely agrarian land.
As a reward for saving Dr. Garo and ending the robot crisis, as well as to speed them on their way to Hillspar, The Black Bard offered the party an infant Ship’s Soul, born from the soul of the Tower itself. Ship’s Souls are incredibly precious and rare. She also offered them a small ship to attach it to. They could choose from a frail but swift Pinnace, a slow but strong Cog, or a middle-of-the-road Keelboat. The party decided on the Keelboat.
With that, the party was underway. Perrin, Erven, and Ikki each expended a spell slot to become psychically linked to the ship, with Perrin taking the lead on piloting it. The ship had no concept of language and communicated through pictures and emotion. Perrin explained what direction they wanted to go, and after a few missteps, Tomo got going in the right direction.
The party explored their new ship. Erven chatted with Pebbles, who had a disinterested lounge singer sort of vibe. Perrin chatted with Tomo, and Gareth and Ingvar went into the captain’s cabin to look at maps of the area.
Eventually, the party settled down to sleep. Perrin stayed awake with his loot, keeping the ship company. He was the first to hear the Aarakocra attack. At a flap of wings, Perrin shouted for the party to awaken as they were boarded. The whole party awoke, except for Gareth.
Combat began and the party managed to take down the Aarakocra despite Gareth’s grogginess and their reluctance to use fire-based spells on a wooden ship. When they killed and mutilated the Aarakocra, they found them riddled with the same green pustulence as those Ingvar and Erven had fought on Convoy. Spells and checks to determine the nature of the blight proved fruitless, as somehow whatever it was evaded easy identification. Their best guess was that it was some sort of parasitic infection or virus or plague, and that it might be influencing the aarakocras’ actions in some way.
One of the dead aarakocra began to thrash and Ingvar sliced it up. But then a second head began to vibrate and thrash, and it began to speak in an unearthly voice, despite the fact that it lacked lungs to provide air to its severed vocal cords. It spoke in Aarakocra, which only Ikki understood. It spoke as follows:
_"There is a message from this land’s new master, but it is hidden three-fold.
“The first is at the place where dandelions rise above and cover the people. The virile and the virulent can be one and the same. The infernal one is lost, and then several are found.
“The second runs red with the blood of the roots, where an heiress lies and hides her pain in long wooden boxes. She hides more than that though, but only to keep what is hers.
“The third is at the spring of blessed life, where the haunters protect and the protectors haunt. The water runs on, of course, and must be freed for all.”_
Perrin and Ingvar worked up a plan to save the bodies and use the blood and gore to convince whoever they might find on Hillspar of the veracity of their plight, and to appear beaten down and not much of a threat.
The party took a short rest and used their Hit Die to recover health with some help from Perrin’s Song of Rest ability.
As dawn broke, the party approached the island of Hillspar. They saw a city broken in half by an inlet with 3 bridges spanning the sky between them. In the mouth of the inlet sat four islands, one of which held a tower, and the rest of which held outposts of soldiers standing at attention by siege weapons like ballistas and mangonels. These soldiers wore red uniforms with marching-band style hats with red plumes sticking out of them. There were two docks in the city, a northern one for large freight vessels and a southern one for smaller passenger and mercantile vessels.
Ingvar shouted out to the soldiers that they needed help on their way to the docks, and the soldiers whispered to each other and signalled someone at the docks with a pair of flags. A dockworker waved the party into a slip at the smaller southern dock. He made to tie up their ship, but stopped when he saw them. He told them they’d better leave, as the law said only humans were allowed in the city of Hillspar. This aggravated the party, especially Ingvar, who was getting frisky when a troupe of a dozen red-plumed soldiers arrived.
Their leader stepped forward and introduced herself as Dessandra, a captain of Hillspar’s Red Plumes. She told the party that the Great Law of Humanity barred entry to the city to all non-humans and that if they didn’t leave they would be shipped off to the arena. She told them they could dock at the village around the east of the island where “their kind” gathered. She and Ingvar got into a dick-measuring contest, each threatening the other should they ever meet again, but the party shoved off for the village without further incident.
The party followed the coast of the island east until they saw the “village.” It looked more like a shantytown or refugee camp than a village, filled with tents and ramshackle huts made of driftwood and scrap. The people they saw looked unclean, unshaven, and harrowed. At the far end of the camp sat what looked like a farm settlement, its buildings with bright green painted walls and round roofs painted bright yellow. There was a farm house, a barn, and three big silos all painted with this color scheme.
The party beached Tomo and tied her around a nearby tree and stepped ashore, ending the session for the night.