Finding themselves short on funds, three freelancers who had worked for the merchant Harald Cleftstone—Afa Willowherb, a musician who performed at one of his fancy parties, Riaeki Stormdaughter, a blade for hire who guarded one of his caravans, and Gibrun “Scrapscrape” Tulsk, who designed and created a contraption to automatically measure and mix spices—separately decided to turn up at his residence and demand answers. After informing them that he was late on payment because his ships had been mysteriously vanishing, Harald offered to employ them again, promising ten times what they would have earned from their previous jobs if they could find out what was happening to his ships.
With some reluctance and distrust, the party signed the contracts, witnessed by none other than Larethian Ryslein, head of the Merchants’ Guild. With little more than a vague direction of the disappearances, they set out to investigate.
Inquiries at the docks and a tavern called The Hungry Unicorn led them to seek a sea elf named Aoife, who they were told could transport them to the islands off the coast. Upon visiting her usual place among the Oldmarket fish merchants, however, she was nowhere to be found. In her place, a young member of her clan named Brendan volunteered to take them.
Once over on the islands, the group decided Aoife’s disappearance was suspicious, and set out searching for her. They found her on a small, deserted island, near where the ships had been disappearing. Attempting a friendly conversation, they failed to convince her to let down her guard, but did notice some strange irregularities in her appearance that gave them cause to be suspicious. Convinced she was possessed and seeing no other way forward, they attacked when she tried to leave, nearly killing her. Upon Aoife falling unconscious, it was revealed that she was being possessed … by the ghost of a mermaid named Alasharesheiya, who had been murdered by Harald Cleftstone as part of his illegal trade in the flesh of sentient but “animalistic” beings. Horrified and disgusted, the party vowed to help bring him down in any way they could.
They returned to the mainland, where they met up once more with the sea elf chieftain, Kenner, who had directed them to Aoife in the first place. As a sometime employee of Harald, he was also shocked and appalled by what they had discovered, and recommended they approach Reka Ossan, the orc who runs the countinghouse at the docks.
The party proceeded to Reka’s home, where they made the discovery that he had been betrayed by his assistant, Thomas … whom they had insisted leave the room before they had their conversation. A knock on the door revealed that Thomas had run straight to Harald, who sent two of his personal guard. A fight ensued, which left the two guards dead and the party fugitives, lacking the evidence they needed to confront someone as powerful as Harald Cleftstone. Reka’s wife, Dreya, suggested they hide with her cousin in the temple district, and the party fled across the city, toward an uncertain fate.