Under the nominal leadership of Aengus, a humble and uncertain cork oak farmer elected by the notables, the party sets sail in a small fishing vessel crewed by three local fishermen, none of whom has ever before sailed beyond sight of their island home. The dwarf Delrak represents his clan, who depend upon imports of iron and the solvency of the local feudal nobility for their livelihood; Pinetholos the cleric provides spiritual guidance and is tasked with presenting a sacrifice at the temple of the goddess Vania in Thyatis; Tasis, the young thief, comes as a ward of the cleric and general dogsbody; and Jaric the elf travels for his own inscrutable reasons.
Just before dawn of the second day at sea, the party spies a great flame on a promontory to the north; deciding to investigate, they perceive what appear to be a bonfire lit atop a watchtower. They approach the limestone cliffs in a small skiff and ascend a rocky scree to reach the base of the tower, noting the presence of several caves along the way. A quick inspection of one cave reveals a grisly spectacle: the mangled remains of gnolls, recently felled by some vicious clawed foe.
The tower itself proves to have but one occupant: lieutenant Saluth, sole survivor of a garrison stationed here, an isolated outpost of the city state of Werik 100 miles to the northwest. He, along with the journal of the outpost's captain Andros, tell a grim tale of mysterious, nocturnal creatures preying upon the garrison and the local gnoll population. Saluth, who had barricaded himself in the tower -- its door bears the scratch marks of creatures trying to get in -- begs the party to take him with them, which they agree to do, although Delrak registers his disgust at this dereliction of soldierly duty. After Jaric and Tasis search the tower, the party regains the fishing boat and resumes the journey to the estuary of the Roglaroon. En route, it is noted that Saluth's condition is declining; under questioning he reveals an unhealed abdominal wound that Pinetholos' divine magic is unable to cure. Worried that Saluth may be transforming into the creature that wounded him, the party places the wounded soldier in the skiff to be towed at a distance from the ship.
By midday on the 26th of Halimath, the expedition approaches the port town of Modron (pop. 4,900). Saluth, however, has become unresponsive; he has withered into a dry, bony, ghoulish husk that, upon exposure to sunlight, instantly decomposes into dust. As they drift into the harbour, the party debates what to do...
vial of thick blue liquid