The smugglers cave on Freeport’s Western shore, although long ago used for rum running between the Elven Bastions and the Imperative, became a place avoided by even the roughest of pirates after the minotaur took up residence. Rumoured to be the bodyguard for a cult of the Old Gods, the minotaur that dwelt in the catacombs behind that ancient cave was known to feed on careless smugglers and children who strayed too far from the city walls. It was into this lair that the party now ventured, to uncover the plot against Captain Bran’s life.
Aramis, Olo, Matheus, Gweth, Glanwolfe (with wolf companion) and their guide Steve ventured into the dark of the cave, torches lit and spells of illumination cast. Within, the scattered bones of sailors, and carapaces of reefclaws lay about the floor, picked clean. A large fire pit full of warm ashes triggered a moment of pause from the crew. Bran had completely failed to mention any stories of a Minotaur in the cave, but Steve knew the tales, and spoke up in protest, begging to be left at the mouth of the cavern. Aramis refused, pressing the crew onwards into the darkness. Steve again pleaded to be left behind, but the reply came again “No.”
In the gloom of that cave, the party could barely tell stone from brickwork, but Gweth noticed all too late that the back of the cove had given way to the city beneath. As he motioned to inform the party, there was a cracking of fragile stone and a tremendous crash, as the ground beneath his feet crumbled sending him and Glanwolfe tumbling into an open pit below. A heavy breathing sounded from the dark. Aramis and Olo began lowering a rope as the beast, cloaked in the darkness of the tunnel stepped forward into the faint light. A roar, the spray of hot bestial breath, and then the pounding of feet on stone. The minotaur was upon them. Matheus, keen to get into the action lept down into the pit, expecting the beast to leap down into it. Instead, it leapt over the gap bringing its mighty greataxe down into the head of Steve. His cry was short, as his body fell limp to the ground. Glanwolfe clambered out from the pit and drew his family’s ancient waraxe, bracing himself for battle. Aramis and Olo loosed arrows into the monster’s torso, leaving it reeling and bleeding. Gweth set the tunnel before him aflame, setting its meagre clothing ablaze. Enraged and damaged, the minotaur lashed out, striking Glanwolfe clean across the flank, sending his severed torso and legs crashing into the wall in a splash of red. Horrified, the party fought on, desperately loosing arrow and magic at the now bloodied and frenzied creature. Matheus at last managed to enter single combat with the monstor who had slain his comrade, and Glanwolfe’s loyal wolf companion was torn apart in a vengeful attack on the towering hulk. When at last the minotaur fell dead, the party were beaten and bloodied, worse still, they had lost Glanwolfe. Aramis ran over, tears in his eyes and blood smeared across his face, over the severed corpse of Glanwolfe, to the body of Steve. That day the party say he swore vengeance, that from that day on he had a fire about him that never truly died. What stirred this change in him I have never truly known, but his affection for Steve was always one of unusual depth and purpose.
After collecting up the remains of the dead, and pilfering Steve’s dreamdust supply, the crew made their way deeper into the tunnel, loss now heavy on their hearts. Deeper and deeper still the tunnels went, no light or lantern marked their passage. At last they came to a grand hall, a circular well at its centre, about it, unlit candles and scraps of old parchment in indecipherable language. Stepping closer to the well, the crew wondered aloud what malice seemed to eminate from its dark waters. Aramis, still grieving the loss of his guide, reached a hand into the pool. Some alien torpor took him, his arms and legs falling numb and moved by a will not of his own. Aramis, without a word, leapt into the well and began to descend. Olo, panicked, reached in and seized his coat, along with Gweth. The pair dragged him out from beneath the slimy water, but not before Aramis saw it. Three red and luminous eyes atop one another, peering out from the inky depths below. Slender tentacles reached up to seize him, but Aramis emerged safely from the well, and was cast upon the stones, suffocating. Quickly, Olo grabbed a bottle of the water of the well and held it to Aramis’ lips. His ability to breathe air was gone, and his skin was turned a translucent blue. The party backed away from the well as fast as they could, and resolved never to return to that grim place as long as they lived.
Carrying Aramis out of the well on Matheus’ back, the crew returned to Freeport, details of the plot against Bran had eluded them, but suspicion of something far more sinister now festered in their minds. Bran heard tell of the party’s encounters in the caves, and a funeral was held for both Glanwolfe and Steve. The party say Aramis wept that day, looking wistfully up towards the clouds and making vows to avenge Steve. He demanded to keep the cloven skull, and gave it pride of place above his hammock in the crew quarters. It stayed with him for the rest of his journeys, until their reunion many years later.
With the death of a party member, more sorrow followed. Matheus had found work aboard another ship. The pay was better and the work lighter, and so he said his farewells to the party, hoping to see them one day soon. It would be many years until their paths crossed again. Left now with only three crew members, Bran put out a call for new hands, for a no-hoper seeking riches and plunder to join his crew of misfits. As fate would have it, the man who answered that call was none other than Tyrnn Holyhand.