1 Flamerule, Year of the Warrior Princess (1489 DR)
The Sword Coast
Xander Wayfinder barely avoided being drenched by a bucketful of waste thrown from a window above him.
Looking up, he noticed an elderly woman mouth an apology then quickly slam the shutter closed behind her.
Xander looked farther down the street. He could just make out the southern gates leading out of Chasm, the area of Neverwinter named after the immense gaping crevice which divided the city’s southern district in half. Despite being early enough in the day, the streets of Chasm were already becoming congested with people of all races and professions.
Xander was eager to leave Neverwinter. He had been in the city for two days but could not find work as a sailor. He could no longer afford to stay in Neverwinter either. Rooms and food cost coins. He checked his belt pouch despite knowing he was running out coins.
He heard there were jobs to be found in Waterdeep, the City of Splendors. He tried to avoid walking the two hundred miles it would take along the High Road, but with no ships willing to take on another sailor, even to work off his passage, Xander had no other alternative but to walk.
He was fortunate enough to have met other travelers who were headed south along the High Road. He stayed with them until late in the afternoon when the last two travelers took a trail headed east.
Xander knew that a lone traveler on the High Road was an easy target for bandits, or worse. He was skilled enough with the rapier. But even he knew he wouldn’t last long against several opponents at once.
As the sun began to set on the first day of his journey, Xander spotted a small square building along the road. It was barely twenty feet on each side and lay in ruins. it didn’t have a roof. It may have served as a shrine, a traveler’s rest stop, or someone’s home at one point.
Xander saw smoke rising out of the building. Someone had clearly started a campfire inside the stone building.
Not sure if whomever was in the building was friendly or not, Xander carefully made his way to where a corner part of the building had collapsed.
He saw a male half-elf sitting by a small fire inside. The half-elf was picking the strings of a yarting. The half-elf’s belongings lay on the ground behind him. He was also chewing on some rations.
Xander had previously met a half-elf only once before. It was when he first sailed out of his homeport of Baldur’s Gate. The half-elf, who was neither welcomed by the humans nor the elves on board the ship, always kept to himself. Xander tried to befriend him, but the half-elf preferred to be left alone. He always wondered if all half-elves were the same.
“Well met traveler,” the half-elf announced. “If you mean no harm, you are certainly welcome to share the fire with me.”
“A bit warm for a fire don’t you think?” Xander remarked as he walked over to join the half-elf.
“It helps keep the bugs away.” the half-elf said. “I’d offer some fresh meat, but unfortunately my skills are lacking in the art of hunting.”
“I’ve got rations.” Xander said. He took off his own heavy backpack and lay it down next to him. “I’m Xander Wayfinder. I’m headed to Waterdeep. Where are you headed, friend?”
“I’m Osric Drakespeare…” Osric paused wanting to let his surname sink in. Unfortunately, it didn’t. “You’ve never heard of Drakespeare?”
“Should I have?” Xander asked.
“You should have. My great uncle was William Drakespeare, the most famous bard and playwright in all of Faerûn.”
“Sorry, but as a sailor, I didn’t have much time to read or see plays.”
Osric was disappointed. “Well, you will soon hear of my fame after I open up a playhouse in Waterdeep. I plan on being more famous than my great uncle.”
“Sounds like an expensive dream,” Xander said. He took out some dried meat, a piece of hard bread, and several slices of moldy cheese. He scraped most of the mold off and took a bite. “You’ll need gold coins, and plenty of it.”
“I plan to stop by the nearest town I come to and perform there to earn some money. Perhaps even perform at some of the other towns or villages along the way to Waterdeep.”
“What about you?” Osric inquired. “What are your plans for your future?”
“When I reach Waterdeep, I plan to sign on as a sailor on a ship. I hope to become a captain someday. I’d like to have a ship to call my own.”
Osric smiled. “Now there’s a dream worth a lot of coins, my friend.”
“Have you ever been along this road?” Xander asked changing the subject.
“Never,” Osric replied. “I’ve stayed in and around Neverwinter mostly.”
“Well, tell you what,” Xander offered. “It’d be safer to travel together. I’ve been told to be careful of bandits along this road. So, let’s stick together and make our way to Waterdeep. We can stop along any town and village and see what coins we can earn. What skills do you—”
“Shh!” Osric interrupted. The half-elf was looking around. “I heard someone or something outside.” The bard slowly got up and peered into the area beyond where the fire from the campfire illuminated the road and the surrounding grassy field. His darkvision allowed him to see well enough in darkness.
He didn’t see anyone.
Xander moved up and stepped into a nearby corner next to a small arrowslit. Suddenly the fighter spotted something moving just outside the narrow window. In the firelight, it looked like a slim person. But it was the eyes and its mouth that told the sailor that whatever it was, it was not, or no longer human. Red pinpoints of light shone in its eyes. And its mouth was covered with rows of sharp teeth that resembled those of sharks he’d seen in many of his voyages in the Sea of Swords.
Knowing it had been spotted, the creature suddenly hissed at Xander and rushed to attack them both.
In the campfire’s light, the creature was no less frightening. Its skin was ashen in color. It wore bits and pieces of torn clothing and remnants of what may have been leather armor at one time. Its hands looked more like claws, with blackened, dirt-crusted, nails that looked sharp enough to tear through any armor.
Both adventurers nearly gagged at the stench emanating from the creature. It smelled like damp earth from a cemetery and decayed matter.
“Phlesssh…fooood..,” the creature hissed in common.
Xander drew his rapier and attacked. It screamed as Xander’s blade cut a deep, thin slice across its arm.
Osric, drawing his own rapier, stabbed at the creature, striking it in the stomach. Dark, putrid-smelling blood oozed from its wounds.
Angered, it tried to rake at Xander who barely managed to avoid being disemboweled by the thing’s sharp claws.
Both fighter and bard pressed on the attack, wounding it further. Any other creature would have fled at this point, but the thing’s hunger needed to be satiated.
It lunged at Osric. The bard struck the hilt of his rapier against the thing’s extended arm, batting it away.
Xander quickly moved to flank the creature. Seeing the creature’s attention momentarily focused on Osric, Xander slashed with all his might. His rapier sliced through the thing’s back, cutting through skin and muscles.
The creature arched its back and screamed in agony. It then fell to the ground, twitched once, and lay still, dead once more.
Osric and Xander caught their breaths and made sure there were no more of the foul creatures lurking about. Satisfied there weren’t any, both dragged the body far enough away so as not to smell it.
Both asked but neither knew what the creature was.
Satisfied that they were safe enough, they both settled in for the night.
Each took his turn on watch, hoping to never to run into whatever that thing was, yet wondering what other dangers lurked on the two-hundred mile journey to Waterdeep.
Xander Wayfinder (Human Fighter, Sailor)