The party left the village after several days, feeling like they'd done just about everything possible to enable them to succeed. The rest came down to the new resident's skill and determination.
A decision was made to stay away, for a time at least, from the area where the Tall Trees Company operates. That meant not visiting Blawtro and Southfort, though their many charms could hardly fail to draw a person back in. Tatzleford, at the north end of the lake, seemed far enough away to be able to lie low, but still close enough to keep the promise made to help Stump's people. It was hoped, also, that it was large enough to allow for some necessary training.
Morwen needed to stop partway to Southfort to speak with Dunwick, to ask him to check in on Tal and her friends. He agreed to investigate the area around the village, and to take Tal under his wing. He also provided warnings about danger in the clearcuts on the west coast of the lake: something to be either avoided or investigated.
Arnik and Loria then stopped in Southfort, to purchase knowledge and armaments. Either news of the latest escapade hadn't reached Southfort yet, or everyone's efforts at misdirection and deception had worked: the visit to Southfort was completely uneventful.
Heading north, the weather was pleasant, the sailing easy, and the nighttime forest quiet. The ship rounded the final point before the river at Port Tanner, and came upon a large barge, wallowing in the water like a pregnant sow. Unguided, and unmanned, it drifted aimlessly. Naturally, it needed to be investigated.
No ropes, ladders, nor boats dangled from the side of the ship. Wrenaldo cast about with his new senses, and found that there were two undead creatures onboard, down near the waterline. Some doctrinal discussion between the paladin of the Raven Queen and the priest of Mael ensued about the correct way to deal with this. Mael, Merrin opined, would appreciate the ship being sunk and placed within his realm. The Raven Queen, however, demands that the undead be destroyed as an affront to the natural order. Merrin deferred to Wrenaldo's clear zeal for smiting, as well as the possibility of treasure or a valuable cargo that could be looted.
Morwen the squirrel clambered up and had a furtive look around. There were signs of a battle on deck, and broken railings, but no bodies. In the centre of the ship, there were large cargo doors, and at either end there were stairs that headed below deck. A squirrel head fit nicely in a small gap in the cargo bay doors, but she didn't find any peanuts to steal. The stench of death and decay was nearly overwhelming, and she could hear sporadic shuffle-thump noises down in the hold. A quick investigation of the stairs down revealed that most of the noise was coming from the stern of the ship. Resuming her human form, she tied a rope to a cleat, threw it down to her friends, and joined them in their boat.
Having decided to cleanse the ship, and claim any loot before sinking it, everyone climbed onto the deck. Nobody wanted to go below, so a decision was made to position the scrappier folks at the hatches, throw open the cargo doors and see what happened. Those with ranged attacks stood between the two hatches, ready to lend support where required. Wrenaldo's magical dowsing indicated that these were likely slow shambling undead types, so it was reasoned that it should be safe enough to let the enemies come.
The moment that the hatch doors thudded open, the creatures below erupted into movement. Before anyone could say much more than "uh, oh," a creature was leaping forth from each of the hatches. Perched on the railings which surrounded the stairs on all fours, the creatures, pale as death, brought with them a rotting stench tinged with the acrid scent of acid. Wrenaldo and his thirsty glaive were wanted blood (such as it might be in this case) and immediately levelled a vicious strike at the monster nearest to him, nearly severing its torso from its legs. Alas for poor Wrenaldo, the not-quite-dead monster was now quite annoyed and lashed him in the ankle with its tongue, revealing dissolving flesh and seeming to make all of his other bones turn to jelly. Not letting its burning grip slacken, the monster dragged Wrenaldo below before anyone could react.
Meanwhile at the other stairway, Loria listened to her companion's head thud down the stairs and laid into her opponent. It danced out of the way of the first sword, and caught the second in the thigh. A huge muscular tongue sailed her way in retaliation, but thankfully Loria had seen Wrenaldo's fate and ducked, only being she splattered with a few stinging drops. Arnik bravely sprinted to the stairs where Wrenaldo had disappeared and leapt over the railing into the hold of the ship, landing gracefully among the wreckage of the landing. Wrenaldo was face down in the water, about to disappear behind a stack of barrels and crates. Incanting decisively, Arnik launched three glowing darts at the fiend, which sizzled briefly and collapsed into the water beside its prey.
Morwen launched a dagger of gleaming ice at Loria's opponent, and groaned as it didn't seem to notice that it was now impaled by a foot-long blade. The creatured did notice when the dagger embedded in its chest exploded into tiny razor-sharp fragments. It didn't have very long to notice, as most of its chest became a cloud of crystallized mist. Morwen's celebration ended rather prematurely when she saw that Loria had taken a face full of ice shards and was lying on the deck, unmoving.
A couple of quick healing spells later, and everyone was back on their feet, but wanting off the cursed boat. A thorough search of the boat turned up a whole bunch of tools, and a locked chest. Subtlety cast aside, the lid was sawn off of the chest (thank you tool chest), and the (now sadly deceased) captain's most prized posessions were divvied up.
Significant effort was required to set fire to the soggy water-logged ship, but eventually it was flaming cheerfully. The party sailed as quickly away from the latest spot of trouble as possible. Both Mael and the Raven Queen were hopefully satisfied by the holy works of their servants this day.