Although the heroes had fulfilled their mission--Sea Sprite's charts and logbook were in their possession--the allure of adventure beat strong in the party's breasts.
While they debated their next move, Horsa quickly flicked through the logbook to get a sense of what doom had befallen Sea Sprite. It seemed the ship's outward bound journey and trading had gone well. However, the return journey had turned into a nightmare. Three weeks after setting sail, on the night of the full moon, the murders and disappearances had begin. They had continued sporadically as the ship sailed home. The log ended with Captain Paavo, lashing himself to the wheel as Languard's lights flickered enticingly on the horizon. His fate, and that of his crew, was now plain.
With this knowledge in hand, and desirous to recover as much cargo as possible for their employer, the party plotted their next move.
To the fore of the captain's cabin a short flight of steps led down into the ship's bowels. Bringing forth magical light, the party bravely descended the stairs. At their base lay the ship's partially flooded hold. Water filled the hold to a depth of about three feet, coming through a jagged hole on the starboard side. Crates and sacks bobbed forlornly in the gentle swell. Forward, a patch of dark water betrayed the presence of a set of stairs leading deeper into the ship.
Rats scuttled about the various chests and barrels, and to the party's right two doors pierced the wall. Pushing open the doors, the heroes found a kitchen in much disarray. Another door--this one locked--seemed to lead into a smaller cabin. Using the keys from the captain's ring, Artur forced his way inside. Within, he found a small room. The shelves in here had collapsed, killed a man who lay buried under them. Atop the pile, out of the water, huddled a small boy in ragged, bloodstained clothing. Sobbing and seemingly terrified, the boy barely acknowledged the party's presence. Only when Artur, accompanied by Hell'en and Grand Silvertongue, carried him up onto deck did he begin to calm down.
Down below, Horsa sent his octopus familiar into the flooded lower decks. Within the redoubtable octopus found a chest. Horsa and his companion's mind were one and the wizard set to forcing his companion to drag the chest as close to the stairs as possible.
At this juncture, several of the heroes noticed the rats' behaviour was changing. Until now, they had seemed content to ignore the party, but they suddenly changed their demeanours. Gathering into a half-dozen packs they launched themselves at the heroes.
For a short while, the heroes were sorely pressed. Horsa blasted them magic while Dennan, Artur and Colzo hewed mightily with their blades. On deck, Grand Silvertongue watched over the boy who stared fearful at the nearby stairs and flinched as the clamour of battle welled upwards.
When Hell'en arrived to help her friends, she was jumped by the badly injured ratman who the party had almost killed earlier. His surprise attack was ineffective and Colzo quickly put him down with a blast of magic missiles.
With the ratman's death, the remaining rat swarms quickly dispersed. Scores of hacked and slashed rat bodies now floated in this hold, and the seawater turned pink with their blood.
With their enemies once again dealt with the party retrieved the chest from the flood hold using Luther's magic rope. Within the chest they found bags of pearls and coral and a foul statuette of a naked orc whose mouth was opened impossibly wide. Horsa and Hell'en both identified the statue as a depiction of the foul orc cannibal god Ukre’kon’ala. What it was doing on the ship, none could say.