The Unknown: A Game of Fear, Ignorance, and Adventure

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Shocked by Mark's story, Mareck decided to turn away and leave, after looking at the observation that he wasn't the only one shocked. As he walked along, he saw people gasping, a knight trying to offer bravery and even a painted elf was crying; and for once, Mareck felt sympathy for their species. As he walked, he passed by two dwarves who were on the expedition as well, including the one he had talked to before. They were conversing, but Mareck only got a glimpse of what they were saying. Something about beer and the other voyagers on this journey.

He left the room and went for the decks. The sun was still blazing in the thick, afternoon sky, sending heat down on the shapes of the ship in a rhythm as constant as a breeze. A fine, salt water air was upon him, pushing the drunk out of him, as he looked around. There was the painted elf who had been crying (It seemed as that he had left as well) and a human who seemed to be in conversation with him, as well as a gnome looking out at the sea. He decided to give it a try himself.

He went to the back of the ship, and stared out into the abyss. Land was already a faint line on the horizon, and waves whipped at the ship like this voyage was whipping at his heart. This had been the first time he had been out of The Merchant's Water for about 6-7 years, and he was starting to miss it already. A salty breeze struck him, getting him out of his distracted state, as he tried to drown out this reminiscence of his former life, and carried on to stare out at the sea, as if he was searching for something very specific, but he coudn't quite tell what it was yet.

The conversation continued in fits and splutters as the meal was consumed and the sun arced across the heavens. The adventurers joked and glared, were grim and jolly as their natures took them. The ship sped on evenly under a bright, hard sky, cutting through waves like a smooth knife.

Deslock smiled. Everything seemed to be going smoothly. The first day of an expedition set the tone for the rest, and with a few exceptions this one looked to be pretty well off.

One shall slay on golden dreams
And one on nightmares pure...

Eventually the day ended, as they always do, and the members of the Expedition took to their beds. Captain Grummond was the last to leave the deck for his cabin, after making sure the sailors on the night watch were at their posts. He set the lantern to make sure other ships could see them, fastened the clamps on the wheel, checked the anchor chain and finally when he could think of nothing else to do went to his bed and collapsed.

He was woken by a desperate pounding on his door. The sailor there, usually a stoic man, looked like he had stared into the face of death.

"Someone's killed Feron," he said.

Grummond threw on his coat and all but sprinted out. Five minutes later he was staring grimly down at the body of the man who had been standing watch at the prow of the ship, the deck slick beneath his feet. Everything glistened by the pale light of the moon, blood running down the deck and through the cracks in the planking.

And in the middle of it all lay poor Feron, his throat cut and the top of his head slashed open. The captain tried to analyze the scene dispassionately, and found it to be almost impossible. Little details kept jumping out at him: the way the bone shone white through the gore, or the way someone had thoroughly and neatly removed the brain from the skull.

The sailor who had found the body was busy throwing up over the side. Grummond took the dead man's cloak and covered the body with it. The least he could do now is show the man some respect in his death.

"This," he muttered to the midnight air, "is a helluva way to start a voyage."

_______________________

They didn't see each other, but they were there, the thieves and the watchers and the assassins. Some searched for a weakness or a clue, some played pranks and deadly games, some used magic and some used poison.

And one used a blood-stained knife.

Far away in the air over the water, three birds flew to three destinations, bearing messages for hidden eyes...

Metagame: Results of the Night:

This is the visible results of the night. By morning all the sailors will know about the murder, and the Expedition members will probably hear of it in short order as well. Rumors travel fast on a ship at sea, and sailors are a superstitious bunch.

It is now morning. I hate to cut off all the conversations and whatnot, but it has to be done. You may continue them over breakfast.

I must say, I really liked the stuff that happened during the night. A lot of the secret actions conflicted with each other in interesting ways, which is what I was hoping would happen. It looks like a lot of the elements of the plot are going to be generated by the actions of the players, such as tonight's strange death. I am gleeful at the moment, I assure you.

Day two begins with a murder. Whodunnit? Conspiracy theories ahoy!

Jonas awoke exhausted. But by the judge of the candle it had been too long already. He pushed out of bed. The ship bobbed underfoot. He paced to the door and opened it.
There were raised voices squeezing through the planks now, sounding urgent. Jonas turned to his bunk to grasp his sword - he had forgotten it! - and ran. The ship rocked steadily, but still too much for Jonas: he struck his head on a wall as he came up the stairs onto the deck.
The sun and sky were bare and calm. Warm yellow and light blue, with no clouds as far as Jonas could see. Cresting the stairs, he cast about for the commotion. Sailors were tangled together in a bunch a few dozen yards away, chattering amongst themselves. The source of their clear unease couldn't be seen through the crowd so Jonas hurried to them.
Elbowing his way through too hastily, his foot struck something hard, yet soft. He looked down. There lay a man, clearly murdered in the most gory fashion Jonas had seen outside a battlefield. Blood pooled above his head in a manner that in a moment of macabre whimsy Jonas took for a lone blood-red thundercloud. Jonas turned to find a source of authority, someone who had taken command and would know the facts best they could be. He found the explorer Deslocke and the orc captain Grummond.
"What happened here?"

"Okay Let's go over this again," Deslock said, rubbing tired eyes. "This guy was out on night watch, like usual. When the next shift comes he's dead, with a cut throat and no brain, and in the middle of the night on a crowded ship no one heard anything. Am I right?"

"Yes," Grummond said tersely. He'd been up since midnight trying to figure out what had happened, his sailors were already muttering of claws in darkness and ghosts, and now Deslock was running through the same thoughts that the captain had been pondering all night. He'd hoped that the explorer would have some fresh insight, but rather than seeing something Grummond hadn't Deslock was blearily repeating questions and statements that had already been suggested.

"Do you know who did it?" the explorer asked.

"If I knew who did it, the murderer would already be feeding the sharks," the captain growled.

"Ah," Deslock said with a yawn. "Right." He stared at the body for a moment longer, covered in its faded grey oilskin cloak. "All gods damn it," he muttered. "Things were going so well, too..."

Jonas Thrace, pushing through the bunched sailors, almost tripped over the body. The blow dislodged the cloak just enough to expose the full horror of the shattered head: the one-armed man stared for a moment before turning to look for someone with answers. He found Deslock and Grummond instead.

"What happened here?" he asked. Grummond grunted sourly at the repeat of the question he'd been hearing all night, leaving Deslock to reply.

The explorer sighed wearily. "Damned if I know," he said. "There's a body, there's blood everywhere, and that's the whole story as far as anyone can tell."

He paused to tug the cloak back over the dead man's head.

"Whatever killed him, it means bad news for us, that's for sure."

Mareck was asleep like a very patient brick in his bed. Not moving a single muscle a single inch distance, to the point where you would think that something was seriously wrong with him. He stayed this way throughout the night, and only rose after being rudely awoken. By a scream. A particularly loud scream as well, and one which he was sure the others had heard as well. And this specific scream didn't sound like a good one.

What was that?!

He rose up and jumped off the bed, before getting his clothes on in a major rush and fiddling at the door out of sheer panic almost as if he was still drunk from the tavern two days before. He ran down the corridor, and turned at the open door to see two humans talking with the ship's captain. One of the humans he instantly recognised as Deslock, as for the other one, he struggled to recognise, as he wasn't at the tavern.

Something like... Jonas Thrace?...

Nonetheless, he stepped forward and decided to put on his powerful voice when asking the following question:

"What the hell's going on?!"

Marneus was awoken by the scream, much like Mareck. Hoppping out of bed, he tripped over his helmet.

"Damn helm..."

The realization hit him like a warhammer, he was wearing his helmet when he went to sleep. His trunk was also unlocked, despite him having locked it the night before. He grabbed the helmet and looked at his reflection in it.

Someone had drawn a moustache on his face.

Growling, Marneus wiped in off with his bedsheet and stormed out the door, only stopping to pull his sword out of the floorboard and put his helmet back on. One thing you never want to see is an angry knight with his sword drawn, therefor it was understandable when several sailors backed away at his arrival.

Noticing the body, Marneus spoke.

"It would seem, captain, that this ship is woefully unsecure. I awoke to find someone had been sifting through my belongings."

He spoke the word captain vehemently, glaring at Grummond.

Whatever killed him, whoever is more like it. I'm sure Deslock wouldn't appreciate me eavesdropping but it's good to know what goes on in the heads of the higher ups. He's the final authority around here, so I need to get on board with whatever his plan might be.

Keeping my head down seems to have been the right plan. This poor fucker must have stuck his neck where it didn't belong. In between the sword and the chopping block to be specific. We'll see just were this pans out to. Maybe I can't keep staying the course myself. I need to rethink my strategy and integrate. I need allies, and I need to make sure that if I'm next that I am sorely missed.

I wasn't the first to see the body but I'd be lying if I said I hadn't been the first to see it all coming.

I can only hope that Deslock is wrong. One's normally die a lot easier than things.

Remember, was informed by fellow sailor of appearance of strange being stalking the expedition. Could be rumor, keep eyes open. Someone on this ship is responsible for this death, either by proxy or by direct action. Someone is harboring secrets.

-An entirely mental note

Keil awoke at his usual ungodly hour and began to get dressed, deciding on a grey double breasted coat, a white shirt with a black ribbon tie and navy, fitted pants.

Another day on this cramped ship. Oh well, it should be interesting. Derlan seemed nice, at the very least. I wonder what will ha- His musings were interrupted by a sudden scream, causing him to quickly finish his preparations and exit his room, while still attaching his eyepatch.

Upon arriving at the scene of the clamour, Keil stopped in shock. There was cloak on the ground, with a body sized lump in it and red where the head would be. Nothing else registered. He did not see the large, aggravated knight nor the other shocked crew members. He sunk to his knees, his face blank, his eyes unfocused.
""No no no no no no nonononononononono no no NO!"

With his final, aggravated exclamation, Keil stood back on his feet. "I am sorry for that. I just... Excuse me, I will be right back."

Keil quickly went back to his room, then returned with an ornate rapier resting in its scabbard on his hip.

"Sorry about that. Now, tell me. What happened?"

Marneus shifted his gaze to Keil, and chose to ignore his outburst. "It would seem the security on this ship is horrible enough to allow for a man to be murdered and someone to sneak into my cabin."

He sheathed his sword, if only to prevent the nearby sailors from fainting from fear of decapitation. "I can only imagine how many of our fellow expedition members survived the night."

Marneus turned to Deslock and gestured to the corpse. "When shall his funeral be?"

Derlan awoke to a scream, he jumped out of bed and threw his clothes on. Running to the deck he saw a dead body and a gathering of people, the body had a cut on the throat and the top of the head removed.

"Christ, what happened here?!"

Derlan saw Keil looking at the gruesome sight, he walked over to him and pulled him away from the body.

"Nothing a young man like you needs to see." Derlan looked at the group of people, "Who to trust, who to trust? I can trust you can't I?! What do you say we form a bit of an alliance? Not a blood bond or anything, but merely watching each others backs, at the very least promise to not kill each other!" Derlan laughed, "So waddya say?"

"Derlan, I promise not to kill you."

Keil paused mid flow, thoughtful.

"Unless, of course, you attempt to kill me first. In that case, I will have to consider our alliance invalid.
But yes, you can trust me. I, oddly enough, trust you as well. I will watch out for you."

Keil extended his hand to Derlan, a hint of a smile on his face.

Hmm. Maybe, just maybe, I have made a friend on board here.

"I wise decision my boy, or is it?!" Derlan laughed as he shook the boys hand, "I would expect you to kill me if I tried to kill you, but that problem should not arise any time soon, hopefully never!"

Derlan glanced back at the body, then looked out into the sea,

"Now who do you think did this? A pretty gruesome crime to have the culprit walking around on the ship. And why?"

[Just to clarify, how old is Keil?]

The gentle rays of the morning sun beamed through the dusty porthole illuminating Raven's cramped quarters. The man himself was still asleep, nestled chin deep under a blanket dreaming of dreams in far away lands. It wasn't until the footsteps of the people on the upper deck grew incessant did he finally awake with a start. "What in the name of Orfik's beard is going on up there?" he growled to himself as he stared up at the wooden ceiling. The sound of heavy boots against the wooden floorboards still echoed through his cabin and mingled in with the natural groaning of the ships timber against the seas. It was enough to make a grumpy man grumpier and Raven was just that man in the morning.

"Oh Sod it all!" he spat out a silent curse towards the owners of the pair of feet that had woken him up from his slumber. It wasn't everyday that Raven gets to sleep in late and he was rather looking forward to the opportunity to catch eighty winks on this voyage and to wake up just in time for supper. Today it seemed, was not destined to be that day. Within minutes he was on his feet and dressed in his usual faded blue cloak. He hastily splashed some water on his face and swallowed the contents of a bottle marked 'Allusian Breath Freshener'. He checked his teeth against the reflection of a spoon, satisfied, he walked up to his bed and pulled out his sword that he had kept hidden under his pillow. The blade glistened in the sunlight, it's edges dulled with time and use. He gave the weapon a quick twirl from his wrist, satisfied by the swooshing sound it made as the blade sliced the air.

He wasn't particularly excited to walk amongst the other members of the expedition again, he had very little trust in them and their words, but if anything this was going to be a long voyage; contact seemed unavoidable. He let out a sigh before sheathing the sword behind his robes, "Let's hope I don't have to use this anytime soon"

The morning sun was barely fighting off the nights chill as he stepped onto the deck, the sea seemed calm, only a gentle breeze was in the air. Several figures, including Deslock and Grummond, were huddled in a corner standing over a grey cloak. The rampant activity on the main deck seemed to have ceased, a quiet had settled over the ship. Too quiet it seems!. Raven made his way silently to the gathering of people and the cloak that lay on the ground, curiosity drew him on. As he got closer he noticed the telltale signs of a body concealed beneath the cloak, a slick pool of blood nearby revealed the occurrence of either a murder or a massive accident involving a hemorrhage. The amount of blood spilled on the deck was a clear indication that the event was undoubtedly fatal for the victim. He turned to look at Deslock and Grummond; the concerned look on the faces of the explorer and the captain told him that they were just as clueless as he was about the nature or reasoning for this crime. There was little sense in asking them what happened. The gathering crowd around him spoke in hushed whispers or echoed aloud his own thoughts and questions.

"So who's this then?" Raven finally asked nodding towards the body under the cloak.

"Crewman Feron, he was on night duty the last time I saw him alive" came the grim reply from a nearby sailor.

His words had hardly left the mouth when a sudden gust of wind swept over the ship. The gale was strong enough to cause the ship to lurch and blow the cloak away from the corpse, revealing the brutality of the murder to everyone once again. Raven inhaled sharply at the sight of the body, the throat was cut and the head was split open, the brain was removed with precision from the skull; this clearly was not an accidental hemorrhage.

"Ethain caedo hal!. Erhisthu unad, Feron. Erhisthu unad!" he uttered a simple prayer as he grabbed the fluttering cloak and placed it over the body once again.

He got up slowly and turned to the gathering mass of bodies before him. "Should we not bury him at sea?. Or do we return him to his family once we get to Tyb?"

Deslock groaned inwardly as the deluge of questions arrived, falling like hail on his ears.

"What the hell's going on?!"

Ask a question that hasn't been said yet, why don't you.

"It would seem, captain, that this ship is woefully unsecure. I awoke to find someone had been sifting through my belongings."

Oh, wonderful, more shit in the night...and yes, looks like Grummond took offence, it's gonna be a while before he's calmed down enough to help...

""No no no no no no nonononononononono no no NO!"

Aaaaaand yes, there's the noble-born kid, completely losing it. Right on godsdamned schedule.

"Christ, what happened here?!"

Okay, I think I can understand now why Grummond was so annoyed when I asked him that when I saw the body. How many more times am I going to hear that question today?

"Should we not bury him at sea? Or do we return him to his family once we get to Tyb?"

...you know, that's actually a reasonable question. Good to see someone kept their wits about them.

Unfortunately, the answer is "I don't know."

Deslock sighed and rubbed his eyes, feeling a headache coming on. He needed more sleep, he really did.

"All right," he said. "We have a murder. I don't know what we're doing with the body--that's Grummond's call, and it looks like he's busy glaring at the knight. I'd say we'll probably send him to his family from Tyb, since we should be there soon."

The explorer warmed to his theme, his thoughts starting to come in something other than a slow, stunned trickle.

"We have a murder. If anyone knows who did it, or has any information that might help us, come and tell me or the captain. The sooner we figure out who did this the better."

Who was it who wrote that poem? "What joyous days are these / when we sail on waters green / and the nights alive with laughter / and warm starlight on the breeze / blah blah etc"

Yeah, I'd say the night is alive with something other than laughter and starlight.

"Gak!" came a sudden squeak from the crowd. Something small was pushing its way through the crowds, ducking and weaving through the wall of skin and armor that was before him.

"Coming through!"

"Dwarf on a mission!"

"What are you looking at you half breeder? Come down here and say it to my face will you?"

"Get out of the way!, can't you see I'm trying to move to the front?"

Alexis managed to push through the crowds just as the man called Raven was placing a cloak over a prone body. "What's all the ruckus about eh?" he began oblivious to the horror before him "Do you know that it's still in the wee hours of the morn- OH!" The fleeting glimpse of the body before the cloak concealed the savagery of the attack was enough to silence Alexis.

"Who is he?. What happened here?" was the first question that chimed to his head but he refrained from jumping to those questions yet. It was clear that everyone on the deck was gathering their composure and collecting their thoughts, the looks of mixed emotions and clueless stares was self evident. He turned to find the other dwarf Mareck but failed to spot him amidst the crowds, turning again he watched Raven say a short prayer in a foreign tongue to the deceased body before asking aloud "Should we not bury him at sea? Or do we return him to his family once we get to Tyb?".

Deslock was the next to chime in, " I don't know what we're doing with the body--that's Grummond's call, and it looks like he's busy glaring at the knight. I'd say we'll probably send him to his family from Tyb, since we should be there soon. We have a murder. If anyone knows who did it, or has any information that might help us, come and tell me or the captain. The sooner we figure out who did this the better."

"A murder?. On this ship?!"Alexis stood looking around with his jaw open. "Who could have done such a thing and why and how?. Why did no one hear anything? he said turning around looking for someone to speak to.

"You there sir!" he walked around the corpse to address the man in the blue cloak. "I heard they call you Raven, my name is Alexis Moonspear" he said hastily extending his hand. He wasn't sure who to trust at the moment and he had never trusted humans before but either because of the rush of adrenaline pumping through his blood or the entire barrel of ale from last night, he felt strangely compelled to talk with this man. "Looks like someone was busy last night! What a mess huh?. Do you know anything about this or hear anything funny and this maybe a bit of a weird question but, are you a priest of some sort?" he asked looking up at Raven

Mareck listened patiently to the others talking after his, fairly obnoxious statement. The corridor was a riot of people curious about what had happened and if it happens again, to whom it would be done unto. He stood there patiently, looking up at Explorer Deslock eagerly awaiting his answer.Eventually the noise and swelling of voices died down and then became silence, as Deslock prepared to speak on behalf of the captain.

"We have a murder. If anyone knows who did it, or has any information that might help us, come and tell me or the captain. The sooner we figure out who did this the better." Mareck looked up, slack-jawed from shock as if he had broken his jaw the night before and did nothing about it. He stayed like this for a minute or two, before trying to think rationally.

Okay, I need information, and fast! But what to do? I never needed to worry about this before. That man was killed in his sleep for no apparent reason, that could easily be me next.

He glanced about frantically, as if this information he was after was a treasure hunt of some kind. He stayed in this state of panic and paranoia for about a minute, before starting to try and think rationally about it.

He looked down at the bloodied floor of the deck and the remains of the crew member. Whilst he knew virtually noting, one thing was blatantly obvious: He wasn't the only one potentially in trouble.

Marneus looked to Derlan. "I know you are the one who snuck into my cabin last night."

He turned, not waiting for a reply, and headed down to his cabin. Retreiving a bag of horsefeed from the chest, he made his way to the hold. Approaching his horse, he fed him before starting his morning training session.

Drawing his sword, he slashed away at imaginary targets and tested every slash and stab he knew.

Moving on to parries, he acted as if his blade was clashing with another.

Sheathing his sword, he lunged forward and grabbed a phantom ice elf, slamming it down into his knee. A fake painted elf came at him, and he swung around and launched a fist into its chest. It fell to the ground, and he stomped on its skull. An orc charged him, and he dodged right, simultaneously kicking at its legs and grabbing its head. Breaking the neck of the imaginary orc, he headed to go get a cup of water.

Absorbing the scene in front of him, Mark wasn't really surpised. The people around seemed rash and crazy, and Mark figured a tragedy would happen. The body didn't gross him out, he'd seen enough of disfigured corpses in his time, and he just stared at it with an unemotional look.

"I know you are the one who snuck into my cabin last night."

"Wait? The elf broke into your room? I'm not surprised, those fuckers are always destroying everything. If that little shit is robbing people, whats stopping him from murdering people?"

As the ship lacked any kind of investigator - or perhaps it didn't? who could tell on this ship of rogues? - Jonas decided he would enter the role as best he could. He stooped beside the body and examined the poor man's head - or rather its remains. Perhaps the wound could relate the weapon.
Holding back the desire to vomit (perhaps the wound, or perhaps something else) he scrutinised the line of the beheading, and of the slit throat. He checked whether the cut had been quick or drawn out, even more of a hacking affair; whether the throat had been slit in a swing of the blade or a long drawing across the jugular (a sign of whether the killing blow had been stealthy or direct and quick); whether it had pushed in the bone at the point of impact or had simply sliced it - a crude check for the sharpness of the murder weapon, and the manner of its use.
Finally he passed over the wound. He observed the man's apparel and rummaged through his pockets; he patted the man down for any hidden trinkets; he checked the man's sword, whether it was still fully in the sheath or he had had the time to draw it some ways.
All these things he inspected, and more.

Grummond stared as Jonas began examining the body.

"What the hell are you doing?" he demanded, starting forward only to be cut off by Deslock.

"What does it look like he's doing?" the explorer snapped. "He's trying to figure out how and why your man was killed, Grummond."

The captain subsided into a solid, glowering presence on the deck. Jonas, looking up only briefly at the exchange, continued his examination.

Deslock massaged his temples with his fingertips, trying to rub away the headache that was trying to erupt in his skull. Damn...now he'd got Grummond mad at him, too. Wonderful.

This was going to be a long, long day.

Reeko's eyes were closed, he was still in his bed, ignoring the swarm of voices from outside his cabin. "You would think at least a Dwarf could keep his mouth shut until a reasonable hour." He lifted his hand and rummaged through his vest, pulling out a small handful of tropical nuts. "Breakfast."

He sat up and looked out a porthole, he figured it was about twelvish. Reeko pushed himself out of his bunk and slumped out of his cabin onto the deck. He noticed the large group of people and walked over, "Good evening, you louts what's all the commotion about?" A sailor pointed at the corpse getting manhandled by Jonas.

"What does it look like he's doing? He's trying to figure out how and why your man was killed, Grummond."

"You don't need a detective to examine that body to know why and how he was killed, it's easy if you know anything about Painted Elves. Certain tribes back in the Jungles kill like this, you can tell because someone took his brain, it's all very ritualistic you know. I don't know much about it, but I've seen it a couple times before. Yup, it's pretty clear that a Painted Elf did this."

"No really, an elf?" Kirk scoffed from the edge of the crowd. "Well, why need it be a ritual then? I've never seen one of you need a reason to try something funny." He spat on the deck.

"But, my past experience with elves aside, who's strong enough to shatter a skull like that? Hell, the most I could probably do is give it a nice crack, but shattering it like that takes some muscles. Or some kind of magic."

Delan came back into the conversation,

"That definitely needs strength to do, not many people have that many muscles. Except of course Orc's, and I believe there aren't too many of those board."

Derlan looked at the group, there was panic and people were starting to blame other people.

Pretty soon everyone will be at everyones throat, I had better watch my back

BoVinE:

Tickyvanillius watched the hubbub quietly, his arms crossed on his chest. Questions were fired, answered, asked again, and someone began examining the body. Ticky rolled his eyes; desecrating a body. The nerve of these barbarians.

Ticky wove through the crowd and tugged at Grummond's shirt. Leaning down, Ticky whispered something in the man's ear before nodding and stepping away. Ticky slunk to the back of the crowd, watching dispassionately as the men cavorted about the poor man's corpse.

"How sad. The poor boy had done nothing wrong. As far as I know... he might have had a tag on him from some syndicate. Hell, I'm sure everyone on this boat has run into trouble with some organization." Ticky sighed, scrubbing his hand through his hair. "I'll need to get to work tonight..."

Glancing about the deck, Ticky sought Tiber's Elfin form. The need had arisen, and services were required.

Jonas, having pored over the body, reluctantly stopped, and stood up. He kept his eyes pointed at the sad mangled remains of Feron, as if he expected more clues to emerge. He sighed, and looked towards Deslock and Grummond.
"I'm no detective, but I've found a few things. Whether they're of any value, though..." he trailed off, then continued, "The scene is quite neat overall. No signs of struggle that I can fathom. There are many footprints in the blood-pool, but too many to learn anything useful. The throat wound is quite ragged, but the weapon was clearly sharp enough to have done the job smoother. Either the killer was rushed, amateurish, or very bloodthirsty."
Jonas then gestured towards the skull, or what was left of it, "Which makes the scalping all the more perplexing: it's quite good, in a grotesque way. A very neat job. I can only imagine that the attacker was very strong and handled this Feron in a rough manner during the actual slaying, but then worked on him in a manner befitting a barber-surgeon. But there could be any number of explanations. Perhaps Feron had the time to struggle as his throat was cut. Perhaps the killer isn't experienced. I don't know..."
Jonas paused a time, then looked lower down the body.
"His trappings are what can be expected. Liquor, assorted coins, a knife and a lock of blonde hair. I assume his wife was blonde?"
Jonas crouched down again and lifted one of the dead man's hands.
"This is the most interesting clue. You see? A missing finger. There's little blood, but it's still a recent wound. I can't guess its importance though."
Jonas stood up again.
"I'm afraid that's all we have to go on. If there's anything else I certainly didn't find it."

Raven stopped short from replying when he heard the voice of a dwarf addressing him. "Alexis Moonspear?..yes, I vaguely remember you from the tavern at Buron" the man nodded in a distracted manner. "I am Raven, Raven del Cid" he said shaking the dwarf's hand.

"Did I hear anything?. No, nothing except for this morning when I was woken by the sound of feet rushing about, guess that was the deck crew discovering the body. Odd that no one heard anything when the actual murder happened though!. No scream, no sound of a struggle, I guess the poor guy was in the wrong place at the wrong time" Raven sighed as he looked down at the corpse that was now being studied by Jonas.

"The nagging question to me is why?. Why him?, Is it a message to us?..a warning perhaps?. Or did someone genuinely have a grudge against Feron?. Why remove the brain and finger?. Questions, riddles, voices in the dark!" Raven stroked his beard in a thoughtful fashion, eyes turned towards the eastern sky. The sun was now passing its high quadrant, given the time spent at sea, Raven estimated that the ship should be approaching Tyb soon. After a moments silence he turned back to the dwarf suddenly,

"A priest, master dwarf?. What makes you think I am a priest?" he asked suppressing a chuckle

"The nagging question to me is why?. Why him?, Is it a message to us?..a warning perhaps?. Or did someone genuinely have a grudge against Feron?. Why remove the brain and finger?. Questions, riddles, voices in the dark!"

Alexis listened to the man speak, there seemed to be a cold logic to his thoughts. The thought that he was a small fish in a really big pond suddenly crossed his mind, this wasn't like dry land, if a murderer was loose on the ship ones options are severely limited.

"The sooner we find this culprit the better it is for everyone onboard and like you say, we better find out why this happened in the first place!" Alexis followed Raven's gaze out to sea.

"A priest, master dwarf?. What makes you think I am a priest?"

"Oh!, I heard you say a small prayer in some language, for our recently departed . I just assumed you were a priest of some sort. I take it that I am wrong then?"

"Oh!, I heard you say a small prayer in some language, for our recently departed . I just assumed you were a priest of some sort. I take it that I am wrong then?"

Jonas heard this over his shoulder and turned.

"Not every praying man is a preacher, master dwarf."

Jonas cast about the group, noting crazy gibbering loons, painted elves (probably the same), the seriously deranged, a man who would live in stifling heat at all times by wearing plate armour even at the dinner table, rogues, thieves, bawdy sailors who did gods knew what in the hold on long voyages - and somewhere amongst them, a killer. He turned back to Alexis.

"Though perhaps he is when the rest of us are all godless heathens."

"I am not a man of the gods, let alone a humanitarian" Raven said with an amused smile. "Like our friend Jonas pointed out not all those that pray are fit to preach. Verily, many that preach often don't practice their own creed. So no, master dwarf, I am not tasked with a mission from the gods" he said looking at the corpse of Feron for one last time.

"I do have a simple belief though, that a man robbed of his life should have in the very least a prayer as a proper sendoff from this world, to ensure that the soul finds it's way to the Encallyn fields for eternal rest. Especially when the death is not of the peaceful kind. It's the least that can be done for this chap, besides finding who did this and why".

"As for the language Master Dwarf, Tualin is a bit obscure for those that haven't studied ancient history. Even back in the days of the Zancharian Empire, Tualin was only a sub language spoken by the elves during ceremonial councils but then Old Jack happened, and well, the rest is history. Very few speak Tualin now, only those that have visited the tribe in the Illarym mountains and those that have studied ancient history can figure out what's being said"

Raven paused to look back at the crowds around him. They had begun seeking one another, plots, alliances, conspiracies, no doubt the death of one man is enough for everyone to sleep with an eye open from now on. The only problem was that one of them could be the murderer, plotting his next move and victim. He turned to Jonas and Alexis

"So any theories, speculations about this?" he gestured to the corpse

Raven gestured towards the corpse, "So any theories, speculations about this?"

Reeko's ears had perked up earlier at the mention Tualin, and he had been eavesdropping since its mention. As Raven finished his statement Reeko forced himself into the conversation giving Alexis a pat on the head at the same time, "Well I've already said my piece about the murder. And, really the only kind of people insane enough to do something like this would have to be a Painted Elf, myself excluded of course, or an Orc... or a Human... or a Dwarf." He laughed at his own realization of the depravity of other races, "At least we can rule out or good friends Ticky, Tiber, and Old King Ko'el." He paused, thinking to himself, "We can also count out everyone's favorite adventurer Reek Jalbrook."

He smiled and looked expectantly at Raven, "I do believe my good sir that I've made the case a thousand times easier for you and any other would be detectives, as such I demand a reward, but not just any reward no," Reeko kneeled down and took Raven's hand staring him in the eye, "I would like for you to be my wife, good sir."

Alexis stared after the painted elf that suddenly intruded into the conversation. "Bah!, trust a painted elf to bring some enlightenment into a conversation. And look what the lad is doing now!, proposing to the human no less?!"

"Excuse me laddie!" Alexis began as he stepped next to Reeko who was kneeling before Raven

"But how exactly have you made this investigation any easier?. All you did was point out that everyone is a suspect except for your friends...who might I add, I don't trust very much and neither should anyone else."

Alexis scratched his head before continuing,

"Any why do you want this man as your wife?"

While the Expedition members had been talking, Grummond had stalked to the helm of the ship and now paced behind the helmsman.

"We're taking the river, sir?" the helmsman asked, his voice not revealing what he thought of the idea.

"Deslock insists," the captain growled.

"Ah," said the helmsman, and the two shared a look that said without words their opinion of landsmen and their knowledge of the ocean.

"He knows about the pirates, even," Grummond said wearily. "Says we have some clinger on board that we can throw at them. Seems to think that'll somehow magic the pirates away."

The helmsman made no comment, hands posed on the wheel. Grummond growled an orcish curse.

"Head for the river," he said, and the helmsman spun the wheel. The ship turned in its ponderous course and headed for the shore of the huge island that formed the majority of the Merchant's Water, moving carefully for the mouth of the river Ferios, haven of pirates and mercenaries.

____________________________________

From the shoreline beside the river mouth men watched through hidden telescopes. They read the name of the ship, saw the crew on deck and the crowd gathered, clumped and talking. They recorded it all and sent off a messenger with a report.

They were so focused on the larger ship that they missed the black-marked boat trailing behind it.

Metagame:

I'm going to be away for a few days for the Fourth of July. On Monday I shall return, and stuff will happen.

In the meantime, keep roleplaying.

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