29 Mirtul 1367 DR
“Hey, did you guys notice this?” Dunkle pointed at silver collars around the necks of the minotaurs and mind flayer. He and Karn were hauling the dead bodies back to the ship.
The heroes examined the collars closely and discovered a discrete latch that opened them.
“Now that is interesting,” said Dexter. “And it explains why mind flayers and githyanki – both known to be mutual enemies – were working toward a common cause. The githyanki enslaved both the minotaurs and mind flayers, using these collars to control them.”
“Bloody slaving bastards.” Dona slammed the butt of her halberd into the corpse of a githyanki, splattering blood about. “Let’s get to that rock off in the distance and kill them.”
“We need to secure the ship first. There could be more below.” Dunkle motioned to Dona who followed him below decks.
The two checked out the first level which contained only sleeping quarters and a galley. Down one level in the ship’s hold, however, they found two collared minotaurs hunched over a large crate, arm wrestling.
Dunkle approached quietly, but a minotaur half turned to regard him. “Not now,” it grunted.
Dona joined the rogue, and they both observed that neither creature was gaining any ground in the arm wrestling match. The barbarian shrugged. “Guess they’re busy. Let’s look at all these crates and barrels.”
Cracking open the crates they found salted meat, and in one a distinctly elven ear lay atop the chunks of meat. Dunkle inspected the meat carefully and announced that it appeared to be the flesh of humans and elves.
“Oh, Nine Hells! They’re all going to die!” Dona stormed over to some barrels and smashed them apart with her halberd. They turned out to contain alien-looking fish in brine.
Up on deck, Lyr had taken up a position in a mast to watch for any approaching danger. As he did so, Karn and Lyr opened the door to the forecastle cabin. Inside they found what appeared to be an interdimensional map room that marked several githyanki “meat colonies.”
As Karn went to inspect the poopdeck cabin, Dexter began to investigate how the ship actually moved. There was no rudder and no oars, and wind on the Astral plane was not something that one actually wished for…
After some time, he discovered that by just willing the ship to move, it slowly began to do so. He surmised that with enough mental energy bent to the task, the ship could be sailed. It was likely, however, that the githyanki, with their psionic abilities, would be better at the task than the heroes.
In the forecastle, Karn found what must be the captain’s quarters: bed and dresser of dark, gilt wood; an expensive tapestry; and a chest. A chest covered with runes in an alien language.
“What do you make of this?” he asked Dexter after calling him into the cabin.
The wizard spent a minute casting a spell to identify the nature of the chest and runes. “These runes appear to be tied to a trap of sorts, I believe. My guess would be an explosion of psionic energy. I’d let Dunkle handle this.”
Down below, the barbarian and rogue opened the final door in the ship’s hold to find two dozen ragged, dirty humans packed into a room. The people flinched back in fear and crushed up against the back wall.
“We are here to help you,” announced Dona. “You know the githyanki that captured you. Yeah, they’re all dead.”
The captives were hesitant to believe it at first, but once they did, they began to hug Dona and Dunkle in turns, blessing them for rescuing them. It turned out the githyanki had raided their village in Sembia, killing many of its inhabitants and taking others captive.
“Rogue! Got a trapped chest up here!” they heard Karn calling down into the hold. As Dunkle went up top, Dona took the captives up to the galley and began to give them fish to eat. She avoided the meat, naturally.
Dunkle approached the chest warily and began to investigate it. After a few moments, he found a spring mechanism which seemed to have something to do with the trap. Once he disabled the mechanism, he took a deep breath and pulled the lid open.
The chest was empty.
“Empty?” The rogue poked at the bottom of the chest and made sure there wasn’t a false bottom or something. “Some broke ass pirate captain…”
“I don’t think one of the githyanki we killed was the captain,” Dexter said. “I’ll bet he’s at their base, and he simply doesn’t leave his valuables on ship when he isn’t here.”
“Makes sense.” Dunkle shrugged. “By the way, we found a couple dozen human captives down below, and two more minotaur slaves with collars on. They are currently…indisposed.” The rogue chuckled.
Karn grunted and hefted his glaive. “Come, Dexter, let’s sort this business out.”
The paladin and wizard headed down to the hold where they found the minotaurs still arm wrestling. Karn removed the collar from one minotaur and said, “You are free. Now –“
The minotaur roared, eyes wide, and shoved the paladin to the ground. Then the beast flew straight up out of the hold, out of the ship, and sped away into the distance.
The sight of the minotaur caused an uproar among the captives in the galley. Screaming in terror, they cringed against the walls and in the corners. It took Dona several minutes to calm them.
“I suspect that wasn’t the reaction you were hoping for, was it?” Dexter asked, a smile creeping across his face.
Karn picked himself up, shaking his head. “Listen here,” he said to the remaining minotaur. The creature stood by the crate dumbfounded, unsure of what to do now that his arm wrestling partner had gone. “I’m going to free you. When I do, you need to help us hunt down the githyanki who enslaved you.”
When the minotaur just stared at him blankly, the paladin sighed and unlocked its collar.
“Free!” the minotaur said in poor Common. “You’ve freed Grull!”
“Yes,” Karn said. “And now you need to help us bring the githyanki slavers to justice.”
“The green skins captured Grull’s clan,” the minotaur said. “If I help, you rescue all clan?”
Karn nodded. The green skins must be the githyanki. “Yes, Grull. Join us and your clan shall be freed, too.”
“Grull accept then.” The minotaur clapped the paladin on the shoulder, nearly knocking him to the ground again.
Karn, Dexter, and their new minotaur ally flew up into the galley. “Great news, Dona,” Karn said proudly. “We have a new –“
The captives once again screamed in terror and began to scatter across the galley again.
“Damn, it! What in the Nine Hells is your guys’ problem?”