Murder in Thaarstead

The sprawling port city of Thaarstead stretched out haphazardly around a great natural deepwater harbor, tall, the proud merchant ships seeming oddly out of place against the backdrop of haphazardly placed buildings and neighborhoods, as if the city was built with little rhyme, reason or overriding purpose beyond the desires of individual builders, and local lords guiding the neighborhoods that surrounded various longhouses.  Haerak found the cheerful chaos of the place oddly comforting, this seemed to be a city where a man like Haerak could make his mark.
After finding suitable lodging for his company, and enjoying a well earned night’s revelry and morning’s rest, Haerak began the search for transport to Silverbridge.  He soon found that few ships headed for the great city, as many recent ships had been lost, whether to piracy, or something worse, depending upon which rumors one bent ear to.  The only suitable transport was a ship called the Vaar, a great southern vessel commanded by a hard, but seemingly fair captain.  His price was steep, and worse, the stories told by his men brought back ugly memories of Theobold Kline’s treatment of Haerak’s underdark allies.  Still, with no other option presenting, he negotiated a possible passage fee for himself and his companions.
The following day, the barbarian was approached by a messenger, he was asked to meet with a powerful timberman named Raeval.  Raeval, accompanied by a small, but confident and well equipped halfling named Jecklen, informed Haerak that the shipping losses had primarily been among those vessels transporting loads of timber, and that the timber consortium was offering considerable reward for whoever could stop the attacks.  Further, the halfling informed Haerak that he was employed by a wealthy merchant of Silverbridge, who had lost several ships to the attacks.  Though Haerak was sympathetic, and interested in the considerable sums they mentioned, he was unconvinced what use he would be in the investigation, and further, why they were interested in his help at all.
Upon further reflection, Haerak surmised that word from Lastinn may have reached Thaarstead of his adventures there, and, if that were the case, Raeval and Jecklen would at the very least likely be able to trust that he was not allied with whomever was taking these ships, as they surely had agents within the city identifying the ships with heavy loads of fine timber.  Haerak also knew that he could be of great use to Jecklen with the power of his mind reading cloak, not to mention the strength of his arm, and so he offered to help the little halfling with his investigation on the morrow.
Haerak and Fjensir awaited the little man, but, some time after the agreed upon hour had passed, Jecklen had still not arrived at the Skittering Crab.  Worried that something might have happened to the little investigator, they found the inn where Jecklen had been staying, and quickly learned that he did not return to his room the night past.  More worried now, Haerak began to search in earnest, soon finding a trail of clues that led to the markets, one stall in particular, where they found a shabby merchant, clearly selling goods that had belonged to the halfling.  With the aid of the Ilithid cloak, Haerak easily determined that the man had purchased the items from a dangerous, scar faced man named Geirr.
Haerak and Fjensir returned to the Skittering Crab for backup, finding K’larsh enjoying the attention of several barmaids.  When the great orc learned that the little halfling may be in grave danger, he immediately insisted upon assisting in the search, the kindness of the smallfolk in Pebbleford clearly in his thoughts.  They tracked Geirr to a rotten, shabby bar, where, for a small bribe, the barman abandoned all thoughts of loyalty to his renter and explained the situation.  Geirr had been warned of their impending arrival by the merchant, but had left in such a hurry that he had not taken the time to gather his things from the shabby room he had rented.  More clues lay within, including the halfling’s fine blade.  Wasting no time, they began tracking Geirr further, eventually finding him seeking safe transport from the city.  Upon spotting Haerak, the warrior fled, leading the three companions on a short chase through the confusing streets and narrow alley’s of Thaarstead, eventually though the back kitchen of a local drinking establishment, where he was attempting to rally his countrymen against the foreigner’s who meant him harm.  A strange incantation from Fjensir caused the scar faced warrior to double over laughing, nearly rendered helpless by the spell.  Haerak quickly joined in the laughter, and dropped gold on the bar, calling for drinks for all.  They then dragged the guffawing warrior out of the bar, into the alley behind the bar.
A savage beating, combined with the power of the cloak informed them of the sad truth, that Geirr had murdered Jecklen in return for the small bag of gold on his hip.  The man was defiant, cursing Haerak, and refusing to name who had paid him for the job.  Haerak offered Geirr a choice, he would beat him to death, or, he could offer up the name, and Haerak would give him a fair fight, one on one, for his freedom.  Geirr chose the latter, and spat out the name Garth Brunnel.  Haerak drew his flail and nodded at Klarsh and Fjensir, who released the murderous scum.  Even disarmed of his greatsword, Geirr was a brutal opponent, with decades of experience fighting, but he was hurt, armed with only daggers and facing and enraged Haerak, fuming with hatred from seeing the mans callous murder of the friendly halfling in his mind.  Haerak knocked Geirr from his feat and punished him with powerful blows from his flail, and, when the warrior struggled back to his feet, Haerak knocked him back down and smashed him a second time.  With that, Geirr had had enough, he yielded.
Still enraged, Haerak only barely redirected his killing blow through a red mask of hatred, he brought his flail down on the murderers knee, rather than his skull, leaving him ruined and crippled, but, for now, alive at least.
Garth Brunnel proved to be nothing but a cowardly fisherman, easily cowed by the still angry Haerak, he explained that he had been bought by pirates to identify the ships that left harbor carrying timber for a man named Korrod Fisheyes, and had paid for the murder of Jecklen so that he could continue his treachery without the halfling’s prying.  Haerak learned what he could from Garth, and then brought him to Raeval, for whatever punishment the timberman thought fair for betrayal and murder.
Haerak and his allies made plans to attack the ship of Korrod Fisheyes, a garish red merchant vessel called the Scourge, when it arrived, as was expected to happen soon.  They had reason to hope that one of the pirate leaders might accompany the ship, an elf named Niram Renotal, who was purported to be the ship’s owner, and was often found buying strange components from the local wise woman.  Indeed, within a few days the merchant trader the Scourge arrived, painted a garish red, crewed by pirates and led by the man Korrod Fisheyes.  Haerak, Fjensir, K’larsh, Grestmaul and Rain moved to the ship, Haerak dropping all pretense of guise, called for unconditional surrender.
The pirates were seasoned warriors, and they outnumbered Haerak and his friends by two to one, they immediately attacked.  The battle was fierce and bloody, K’Larsh immediately leapt onto the ships deck, driving the magical axe into the nearest pirate, paying little heed to the pirates that swarmed around him, slicing and slashing with their curved blades.  More pirates fired down on the unarmored Rain with crossbow and dagger, wounding the wizard before he could throw up a magical protection.  Two of the pirates who had been unloading the ship moved to flank the party, but were met by the heavily armored Grestmaul, their clumsy gaff hooks boucing harmlessly off of his heavy steel plate.  Another swung down to the dock from the ships rigging, nearly catching Fjensir by surprise, but the canny skald caught the blow on his shield at the last moment.
Haerak moved up onto the ship to backup K’larsh, who was bleeding from a number of wounds, though he seemed to feel them not, Haerak carved a great bloody swath through the pirates with his greatsword.  The barbarian swept the head from the shoulders of the nearest pirate with his opening blow, and nearly cut down one of the ships lieutenants with his followup, the man twisted away from the worst of the blow, but it left him bleeding badly.  The next moments were a blur of battle, K’larsh and Haerak raging on the ship, hacking and tearing through the men who stood against them, while their companions mopped up the rest of the pirates with sword, axe, and magical shock.
Fisheyes was the last to die, his cries for aid from Renotal cut short by Haeraks sword opening his gut, then K’Larsh’s burning axe splitting his spine.  With their leaders gone, the three remaining pirates dropped their weapons and begged for mercy.
Haerak and K’larsh made for the wise woman’s shop as quickly as they could, hoping to catch Renotal there.  They found the wizard, but, before they were upon him, he disappeared with a snarl, snatching a wand from the wise woman’s hip.
The Scourge was theirs, and within they found sea charts leading back to the pirate cove where Morgan Krell, the captain of those men, made his base.  On a hunch, Haerak had Fjensir take a closer look at the ship, where, he discovered that the Scourge was, in fact, the badly re-painted, stolen ship the Sea Hawk, the very ship that Evald Ferrier, Jecklen’s employer had sought.
Haerak and his friends then resolved to find a crew, follow the sea charts, and put an end to the pirate threat on the merchants of Thaarstead and Silverbridge, collecting two fat bounties, and a pirate’s cove worth of loot in the process

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