Chapter #197

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                                +
                              +   +
                            +       +
                          +           +
                        +               +
                      +                   +
                    +                       +
                  +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                    +                       +
                      +      Epic II      +
                        +               +
                          +           +
                            +       +
                              +   +
                                +



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+    The various characters contained in these writings are   +
+  copyright 1994 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any   +
+  persons or characters either real or fictional is utterly  +
+  coincidental.  Copying and/or distribution of these tales  +
+  is permissible only under the sole condition that no part  +
+  of them will be used or sold for profit.  In that case, I  +
+  hope you enjoy them...                                     +
+                                                             +
+                            Thomas Miller                    +
+                            tmiller@cimmeria.oit.gatech.edu  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   THE PARTY:                                                +
+                                                             +
+   Alindyar      15th level dark elven mage              (N) +
+   Arnold        11th level human warrior               (NG) +
+   Belphanior    12th/14th/14th level high elven w/m/t  (CN) +
+      small immaterial wispy thing                           +
+   Ged           14th/14th level grey elf priest/mage   (NG) +
+   Lyra          12th level female dark elven mage       (N) +
+   Mongo         16th level dwarven warrior             (CG) +
+      Gorin       7th level dwarven warrior             (CG) +
+   Peldor        18th level human thief                  (N) +
+      Bosco       8th level halfling thief              (CN) +
+   Rillen        16th level human warrior                (N) +
+                                                             +
+   SPECIAL GUEST STARS:                                      +
+                                                             +
+   Halbarad      13th level human ranger                (NG) +
+      Zephyr     large wild tiger                       (NG) +
+   Peyote        11th/12th level half-elf warrior/druid  (N) +
+      Blok       earth elemental                         (N) +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   Date:    1/17/574 C.Y. (Common Year)                      +
+   Time:    midday                                           +
+   Place:   somewhere far south of the Azure Sea             +
+   Climate: cold                                             +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+   "Very few escape my grasp...even in death."               +
+                          - the Loc-Nar, from _Heavy Metal_  +
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





                   CXCVII.  The Sargasso





  After sailing for a month, venturing farther south than
anyone ever has before, the adventurers, aboard the huge
warship _Victory_, have reached a strange sargasso of
seaweed-covered ships.

Peyote:  Whoa!
Leila:  By the gods...there must be a whole fleet's worth
  of vessels here.
Ged:  Yea...

  As far as they could see, to left and right, the ocean's
waters ended and the seaweed began.  The obscured forms
beneath the layer of vegetation were barely recognizable;
ships and boats of all sizes and makes could be seen.  There
were galleys and coasters, caravels and cogs, longboats and
dromonds.  Some of the ships had unusual or even ridiculous
shapes.

Belphanior:  (sniffing the air)  That's odd.
Halbarad:  Agreed.
Bosco:  Huh?  What's agreed?
Belphanior:  For ships that have been here as long as these
  have, there's no smell of rotting or decay.
Halbarad:  Maybe some force is at work, keeping the vessels
  from rotting away and sinking.
Alindyar:  Perhaps a chemical property of the seaweed, or
  the water...most intriguing...
Lyra:  (staring at the greenish mass ahead)
Peldor:  So the Rune's somewhere in there, eh?
Belphanior:  (again consulting his magical compass)  Yep...
  about a half-league or so.
Mongo:  Hell, that's not...far at all!  (he reels, sweating
  buckets)  Cripes, it's hot!
Bosco:  Not far at all...
Ged:  Well, let's get in there and find the damned thing
  then.
crewmen:  (looking around fearfully)
Og:  Want to use the marines?  We can get a hundred of us
  in there, search the place within hours.
Rillen:  I don't think that would be a good idea at all.
  The place looks like a maze...too many people would make
  it a noisy, confusing maze.  We should send a small party
  instead.
Leila:  Agreed.  And we should leave some of the more
  powerful spell-casters behind...just in case.
Ged:  You know, you're right.  Why don't you stay behind
  and leave the exploring to us?  (to a crewman)  Let's get
  a boat into the water.  I want to go into that mess.
Leila:  Oh, no you don't.  I have as much right to go as
  anyone else.
Og:  (to Leila)  Actually, your first responsibility is to
  the ship...as is mine...
Leila:  No!  Other magi can remain here...
Alindyar:  Not likely.  I fully intend to go aboard that
  maze of trapped ships.  Some of them are centuries old,
  you know.
Lyra:  (smugly)  And where he goes, I go.
Ged:  (shrugs)  As for me, that's why Ravel sent me - to
  help get the Rune.  I simply _can't_ stay behind.
Leila:  (looks at Belphanior)  You can stay-
Belphanior:  Just try and make me.  (he begins casting a
  spell)  Time to go airborne.
Leila:  (pouting)

  A brief discussion ensued, and it was decided that the
following people would comprise the boarding party:  Ged,
Mongo, Belphanior, Rillen, Alindyar, Lyra, Arnold, Peldor,
Halbarad, and Peyote.  Gorin and Bosco, as well as Zephyr
and Blok, would stay behind; the former pair were deemed
rather inexperienced, while that latter pair were deemed
too bulky.

Gorin:  (quite angry)  Argh!  (he storms below decks)
Bosco:  (trying to think of a way to stow away aboard the
  party's boat)
Peldor:  Relax, Bosco.  We'll be back before you know it.
Belphanior:  (helping lower a longboat)  Let's go for it,
  guys!
Peyote:  (gesturing toward Lyra)  And gal.
Belphanior:  Oh, yeah.  Right.
Mongo:  (staggers)
Rillen:  Are you sure you can go with us?
Mongo:  I'm not...staying behind, dammit!
Rillen:  Suit yourself.

  They boarded the small boat and prepared to set out for
the seaweed-covered masses.

Quinn:  Be careful, y'hear?
Leila:  (still slightly perturbed)  Especially you, Ged.
Ged:  Have no fear, we can handle this.
Og:  We'll wait here for your return.
Leila:  (staring at the seaweed jungle)  I don't like this
  at all...the place is cursed...
Mongo:  Bah.  We'll be fine.  (he sits down to rest, and
  promptly vomits over the boat's edge)
Peldor:  See, we're fine.
Talbot:  (supervising the boat launch)  Er...good luck.

  With that, they left the side of the _Victory_ and made
their way toward the nearest moss-encrusted hulk.

Halbarad:  I would assume that the decks of yonder ships
  are safe to walk upon.
Peldor:  You know what they say about assuming...
Ged:  We shouldn't have any problem getting from ship to
  ship - they're mostly within five or ten feet of one
  another, it would appear.
Belphanior:  Yup.  (he sweeps the nearest ships with his
  gaze)  No souls yet...(he coughs loudly)
Ged:  What the hell's _wrong_ with you?!?  You've been
  coughing for weeks, no, months now!
Belphanior:  I guess I'm sick...but I feel fine, don't
  worry.
Halbarad:  (due to his ring of truth, he senses that the
  elf is lying)  Are you sure?
Belphanior:  Positive.
Halbarad:  (feeling less than positive about the matter)
  Hmm.
Peyote:  Ho.  (he reaches out and prods the seaweed-covered
  hull of the ship with his sword)  Well, it's not alive.
Rillen:  You can tell just by looking at it?
Peyote:  Well, I _am_ a Druid...no, actually, I already
  cast a spell, to speak with plants.  These guys aren't
  sentient, man.
Arnold:  (looks relieved)  Good.  We might get hungdry.
Peyote:  (looks shocked)

  They tested the seaweed that hung from the ship's railing,
and found it to be tough and resilient.  Everyone climbed
over the side, then, except for Belphanior, who remembered
that he had cast a spell of flying.  The elf took to the
air, followed by the wispy thing, and sailed over toward
the greenish ship.

Belphanior:  (regards the wisp with surprise)  Hey!  Where
  have you been?
wispy thing:  (grins)  Pffffffsss!

  The adventurers boarded the ship, which was a large war
galley.  Its sails, like those of all the other vessels,
were merely tatters now, but the galley's deck was sturdy,
as Halbarad had theorized.  They had no trouble walking
upon the moss-covered planks.

Alindyar:  Moss?  Or is it algae?  Or seaweed?
Lyra:  Yes.
Ged:  (looks bemused)
Peyote:  Actually, the stuff's a sea-borne algaic moss.
Alindyar:  (confused)  Eh?
Peyote:  Well, you asked...

  They made a brief search of the ship, but didn't go below
decks, for they wanted to find the Rune of Water and get out
of this place.  Belphanior led the way, using his magical
compass; he was backed up by Mongo and Halbarad.  Ged and
the two drow formed the middle rank, with Rillen and Arnold
close behind.  Peldor and Peyote brought up the rear of the
marching order.

Peyote:  In the back?!?  With Peldor?
Peldor:  You should be honored.  Just sit back and leave all
  the work to me.
Rillen:  Not likely.
Belphanior:  (in the front, as mentioned)  This way.  (he
  points to the next ship)
Mongo:  That's barely three feet...even _I_ can jump that!
  (in his mind, doubts begin to creep up, due to his current
  weakened condition, but he keeps them to himself)
Peldor:  I could do it...
Rillen:  (muttering to himself)  Or you could be punted
  across...
Halbarad:  Let us go, then.  The Rune is near.

  They crossed several more ships, making cursory searches
of all, but nothing of value was found.

Peyote:  I still think it's cool to look around this place.
  It's chock full of ancient history...just look at these
  ships!  They must span millenia...
Ged:  Yea, they're old, all right.
Alindyar:  A veritable museum.
Lyra:  (looking around in awe)

  They proceeded for well over an hour.  Had this been a
simple land journey, they would have reached the rune in
a mere twenty minutes; however, the omnipresent seaweed
and obscured footing necessitated a bit of caution while
wandering the derelict ships.
  They noted various items scattered about - mops and
buckets, bits of rope and cloth, belaying pins, even a
broken sextant, on one ship.  These things were common,
of course, on any seagoing vessel, but the layers of
moss that covered them on these ships seemed to hint at
the extreme age of some of them.

Ged:  Well, that settles that.  If anyone lives on these
  vessels, they sure don't care to maintain them anymore.
Alindyar:  Perhaps that is because they are monsters, not
  men.
Peyote:  Way to boost morale, man.
Peldor:  Let's just find the Rune and go...
Arnold:  Yah.  I adgree.
Belphanior:  Shouldn't be long now...(he leads the group
  of ten across a large plank, onto a massive galleon)
Halbarad:  I wonder where all the people are?
Mongo:  Maybe they've been dead for awhile.
Rillen:  (examines the plank as he walks across, near the
  rear of the party)  The moss on this board isn't thick
  like the rest of the moss...hmm.  (he looks around with
  a wary eye)
Alindyar:  (to Belphanior)  You are certain that no one
  is about?
Belphanior:  No one with a soul...
wispy thing:  (flying alongside the elf)  Ssss.
Ged:  (gripping his fire wand in one sweaty hand)  Boccob
  will see us through this.
Lyra:  Let's hope so.
Peldor:  How far now?
Belphanior:  No more than a hundred feet...holy shit!  I
  believe the Rune's in the hold of this very ship!  (he
  consults the compass again)  Yup.  It's down there, all
  right.
Peyote:  Well, I'll be damned.  (he hefts his bastard
  sword)
Mongo:  (exchanges glances with Halbarad)  Well...
Halbarad:  (finds a large wooden hatch, and he and Rillen
  grasp it, edging the weakened Mongo aside)  Ready?
Rillen:  Let's do it.
wispy thing:  Bffft!  (flies under the hatch)

  They pulled the hatch open, revealing a wide set of steps
leading down into the galley's main cargo hold.  The place
was as dark and gloomy as a crypt.

Peldor:  You know, I'm kind of glad it isn't night yet...
Rillen:  I understand.
Peldor:  (finds his green torch and holds it aloft)  This
  ought to help, at any rate.
Arnold:  (brandishing a lantern)  Ah-nold is ready.

  They descended into the darkened hold with great caution,
for a sense of danger pervaded the entire ship.

Alindyar:  Hmm, odd.  No spiderwebs...
Peldor:  So?
Halbarad:  So, either spiders cannot live here-
Belphanior:  -or someone _else_ is already living here!
Rillen:  (hears a footstep on the deck overhead)  What was
  that?
Belphanior:  (looks around wildly)  Souls!  Dozens!  From
  all directions!
Mongo:  (hears scuffling sounds from below)  Fuck!  We've
  got to get off these stairs...we can't fight like this!

  Everyone rushed down the stairs, but no sooner had they
reached level footing than a horde of rotting creatures
poured into the hold, from both its deeper recesses and
the hatchway above.  Skeletons, zombies, ghouls, ghasts,
even a wight or two - all shared one thing in common:
their bodies and clothes (where applicable) were coated
with seaweed and moss.  Presumably this was an effect of
the long time the creatures had spent amidst the sargasso.

Ged:  By Boccob!  Undead!  (he looks at the fire wand in
  his hand, now useless in this confined space)  Dammit!
  (he fumbles for his holy symbol)
Lightbringer:  (speaks for the first time in quite awhile)
  Yes!  Slay them!  All of them!
Peyote:  (draws his sword, which, being a flame tongue,
  blazes with pale flames)  We're there, dude.

  All suddenly and undeniably became chaos then, as the
undead swarmed upon the party from all directions.

Belphanior:  (slashes a zombie, severing an arm)  Back!
zombie:  (gropes at Halbarad, but misses)
Halbarad:  (chops and stabs the undead with his axe and
  dagger)  Away, fiends!
ghoul:  (claws at Halbarad, drawing a bit of blood)  Sss!
Halbarad:  Argh!  (he resists the paralyzation)
Mongo:  (being short, and in the forefront of the action,
  and also severely weakened, he goes down under a mass
  of undead bodies)  Oof!
Halbarad:  Uh-oh.  (to those in the rear rank)  We are
  being overwhelmed!
Rillen:  (bashes a skeleton with his staff, smashing it
  to bits)  Hai!
Peyote:  (shears a ghast nearly in half, driving it back)
  We've got problems of our own back here, dude!  (he looks
  up at the undead pouring in from the deck above)  I think
  we're, like, surrounded!
Peldor:  (invisible, he backstabs the ghast, dropping it)
  I think you're right.  (he narrowly dodges the swipe of
  a ghoul's claws)
Arnold:  Ah-nold!  (he slashes at some zombies, knocking
  them back a bit)
zombie:  (one of the many undead that tackled Mongo, its
  eyes cross a second before its head pops off; Mongo's
  hammer, grasped in one fist, appears from within the
  pile)
Mongo:  (his voice muffled)  Out!  Lemme OUT!!!
skeleton:  (sails off of the pile)
ghoul:  (knocked back into Belphanior)  Sslth?!?
Belphanior:  What the fuck...?  (he whirls and stabs the
  thing in the head, driving it away for now)
Mongo:  (pummels his way out of the pile, sending undead
  flying in all directions by virtue of his giant strength)
  Free!  (he looks around at the undead, death in his eyes
  and Stormcrest in his hand)  Grr...
ghoul:  (surprised that the dwarf resisted its paralyzing
  touch)  Grnk?

  Just then, a new wave of undead appeared, and swarmed over
the front and rear ranks of the party.

Lyra:  By the gods!  We really _are_ surrounded!
Ged:  Not for long...(he holds up his holy symbol)  Begone!
  Begone, by the power of Boccob!
various undead:  (dissolve into dust)
Halbarad:  (he cuts down a ghoul that just got exposed by
  the destruction of the other undead)  You have made an
  opening!
Alindyar:  More importantly, you have cleared away those
  foes which threatened us magi...enabling me to do this!
  (he casts a Web at a far side of the hold, pinning about
  a dozen undead against the moss-covered wall)
Lyra:  (manages to launch her magic missiles, pummeling a
  zombie into pulp)
Belphanior:  (grumbling about not being able to use his
  Fly spell in this low-ceilinged hold)  Fly...fly...
random ghoul:  (leaps from the top steps, tackling the elf)
  Ssslth!
Belphanior:  Huh-  (he falls, surprised)
wispy thing:  (trying, but failing, to distract the ghoul)
  Pfffffffs!
Rillen:  (wallops a wight with his staff, forcing it away
  from Peldor, whom it had been menacing)
Peldor:  Hah!  They all run from the mighty Peldor!
skeleton:  (gropes at the thief, wounding him)
Peldor:  Argh!  (he spins around, ducking, and TKs the
  thing into another skeleton)
skeletons:  (both collapse into piles of bones)
Peyote:  (ducks a flying armbone as it whizzes by)  Whoa!
  That's not humerus!
wight:  (gropes at the half-elf, draining some life energy)
  Haaaagh...
Peyote:  YIE!  (he reels from the shock)
Rillen:  Hold on!  (he smashes the wight with his staff)
wight:  (its skull split, it flagellates about, brains
  leaking from its rent head)  Grbraaaa...
ghoul:  (gropes for the dangling brains)  Mmm...
Peldor:  (truly disgusted, he backstabs the wight, finally
  slaying it)  Ick.
Mongo:  (wallops a zombie with his hammer, pulverizing it
  instantly)  Yeah!  (he staggers weakly, and vomits upon
  a zombie)  Ugh...
zombie:  Slurp!
Ged:  (lashes out at a ghast with Lightbringer)  Die, foul
  scum!
Lightbringer:  Yes, die!
ghast:  (complies, though not of its own will)  Blrk!  (it
  becomes a cloud of dust)
Belphanior:  (grabs the ghoul atop him and tosses it away)
  Bah!  (he leaps to his feet, whirls, and faces a zombie)
  Come get some!
wispy thing:  (flying around rapidly but not really doing
  much)  Sssssss?

  The battle continued for long minutes, but the party was
triumphant in the end, and eventually, all the undead had
been dispelled or slain.  The adventurers rested for a few
minutes; most of them (all, in fact, save the magi) were
tired and wounded now, as a result of the skirmish with the
undead.

Halbarad:  (finishes binding an arm wound)  Come, we must
  move on.  If more fiends lurk ahead, they will surely be
  waiting for us...and time is running out.
Mongo:  I agree.  (he falls to his knees weakly)  Argh...
  this sucks rocks...
Ged:  (casts a spell of curing disease upon his friend)  Go
  easy, Mongo.
Mongo:  (feeling a slight bit better)  Land...must get to
  land...after this crap's over...
Peyote:  Soon, man.  (he points ahead)
Rillen:  Let's go.  (he kicks down the large wooden door
  that blocks their progress, exposing a second hold)
Bosco:  Uh-oh.

  This second hold was a bit larger than the first, though
its occupants were less in number.  Within lurked a group of
strange monsters, which even now advanced on the party.  In
the front, closest to the adventurers, were several zombie-
like monsters, whose eyesockets glowed a pale green.  Behind
these were a pair of shriveled husks, things that might have
once been human, but were now something less.  Over these
foes towered a ten-foot giant skeleton, which carried an
enormous battleaxe.  Also in the hold were a half-dozen
disembodied skulls, with fanged mouths and eyesockets that
glowed bright crimson; these were strewn about the floor,
but yet stared at the intruders with great malice.
  Behind all of these things stood a thin figure, swathed
in torn, rotten robes.  Though its flesh was whole, not
like the undead, the thing's skin was a pale white color,
and an aura of great power emanated from it.  The creature,
whatever it was, clutched in one hand a translucent blue
stone of some kind, from which seeped droplets of what
looked like water.

Belphanior:  (points at the blue stone)  The Rune!
Ged:  (somewhat dubious about the relic's appearance)  Are
  you sure?
Peyote:  Yeah, man, that's it!  That's exactly what it's
  supposed to look like!
Mongo:  (looking at the pale white form which stands behind
  the slowly advancing undead)  What's your problem?
pale white thing:  (speaking in a low, monotonous voice)  I
  am surprised that you survived until now...but we don't
  want you here.
Ged:  Relax, pal - we just want the Water Rune.
Peyote:  Before someone else comes to take it from you, that
  is.
pale white thing:  Noooo...no one must take it from us...(he
  gestures at the adventurers)  Slay the mortals!
green zombies:  (four of them, they advance)  Aaaaaa...
shriveled husks:  (two of them, they lurch and jerk toward
  the party with a sound not unlike that of dried leaves
  being crushed)
giant skeleton:  (lumbers after its smaller allies)
red skulls:  (six of them; all rise into the air, snapping
  their fangs with glee)  Rrrrrrrr...
Mongo:  (looking around)  Fuck!  (he hefts his hammer, but
  weakly)  Ugh...
pale white thing:  (clutching the Rune of Water in one
  skinny claw, it cackles and dances)  Kill, kill, kill!

  Both parties charged one another, and battle was joined!

Belphanior:  Die, ugly!  (he slashes at one of the green
  zombies, severing its arm at the elbow)  Hah!
green zombie:  (gropes at Belphanior with its remaining arm,
  digging bloody grooves in the elf's side)  Braaaa...
Belphanior:  Argh!  (he starts to back up)
severed arm:  (grabs Belphanior's ankle, tripping him up)
Belphanior:  (falls)
Mongo:  Fuck this!  (he lashes out, bashing a green zombie
  so hard that it sails back into a moss-covered hold wall)
green zombie:  Arr...(sinks to the floor as slime oozes from
  its smashed body)
Mongo:  (carried by his own momentum, he spins around a
  couple of times)  Whoa...
Halbarad:  Fiends!  (he hacks and stabs at a third zombie)
green zombie:  Gaaaa...(recoils, batting at the ranger but
  failing to injure him)
Halbarad:  (grins)  Thank the gods for high-quality magical
  armor...
Ged:  If you say so...(he brandishes his holy symbol)  Time
  to dispel these things...(he addresses the various undead)
  Begone, foul monstrosities!

  Amazingly, each and every undead in the hold continued to
attack, heedless of the elf's activities!

Ged:  By Boccob!  They won't be turned!
Lyra:  Sometimes you just have to do it the hard way...(she
  finishes her spellcasting, and a wall of ice appears in
  the rear ranks of the undead, corralling one of the two
  shriveled husks, three of the red skulls, the giant
  skeleton, and the pale white thing)  Hah!
wispy thing:  (flies over the wall's edge, peeping within)
Alindyar:  Good work.
Rillen:  Truly.  (he readies his staff as a red skull sails
  toward him)
red skull:  Rrrrr...(it gnashes its fangs as it whizzes
  toward the warrior)
Rillen:  Hai!  (he bashes at the thing)
red skull:  (avoids the attack, and clamps its teeth into
  Rillen's shoulder)  Rrrrr!
Rillen:  ARGH!  (he reels, trying but failing to tear the
  thing off of him)
Arnold:  (slashes at one of the shriveled husks, slicing
  it neatly into two halves)  Ah-nold!
shriveled husk:  (falls, unmoving)
Peldor:  (invisible, he circles around to the rear of the
  undead ranks)
red skull:  (sails right onto the thief's back, biting
  viciously)
Peldor:  (becomes visible)  Yeaaargh!
Peyote:  (deflects a green zombie's claws on his hide armor
  and whirls his bastard sword in a mighty arc)
green zombie:  (its head is split asunder; indeed, the wound
  extends to the middle of its chest)  Aaaaa...
Peyote:  Sorry, man, but you had it coming.  Believe me.

  At this point, there was a strange sound, almost like
boiling water...and Lyra's wall of ice vanished!

pale white thing:  No spell of water can withstand the Rune
  of Water...fools!
Lyra:  Aie...
giant skeleton:  (lumbers down and swats Rillen, sending
  him crashing into a wall)
Rillen:  Urgh!  (he falls to the deck, the red skull still
  locked onto his back)  Aaargh!
green zombie#1:  (the one assaulting Belphanior; it gropes
  at the downed elf again, tearing bleeding furrows in his
  shoulder)
Belphanior:  ARGH!  Get off of me!  (he stabs the thing in
  the face with his sword, but it keeps clawing at him)
green zombie#2:  (the one that Mongo bashed away earlier)
  Graaar...(it rises to its feet)
Mongo:  Shit!  (he hurls his hammer at the thing, knocking
  it down again, its chest caved in)
green zombie#2:  Glarrrrk...(it yet twitches)
Mongo:  Damn...fuckin' things won't die...
Halbarad:  (chops at green zombie#3 again, driving it back)
  No joke.
Arnold:  (turns to face shriveled husk#2)  I alreaby killed
  your brother...now it's your turn!  (he charges)
shriveled husk#2:  (throws itself upon the warrior)
Arnold:  Yah!  (he tries to dodge the attack, but the foe
  still makes contact with his bare skin)  Aaaaa!  (the
  warrior withers and shrivels himself, and falls to the
  deck unmoving)
Ged:  Arnold's down!
shriveled husk#2:  (rises, and lurches toward Halbarad)
wispy thing:  (orbits the creature's head)  Bfffa.
red skull#2:  (still gnawing away at Peldor)  Rrrrr...
Peldor:  Aaaargh!
red skull#3:  (sails toward the thief, latching onto his
  thigh)  Rrrrr...
Peldor:  AARGH!
red skull#4:  (sails at Mongo, but bounces off of his
  armor)  Rrr?
Mongo:  Hah!
red skull#5:  (latches onto the dwarf's left arm)  Rrr!
Mongo:  Argh!  (he staggers back, batting at the thing
  with what strength he has left)
Alindyar:  (completes his spell, and launches a Prismatic
  Spray at the rear rank of undead:  the giant skeleton,
  red skull#6, and the pale white thing)  Let us see how
  you enjoy this display, foul ones!
red skull#6:  (struck by a yellow ray, it shatters instantly
  and explosively)
giant skeleton:  struck by green and blue beams, it seems
  unaffected)
pale white thing:  (struck by an indigo beam)  Eh?  You
  can't hurt us...(it waves the Water Rune)
Peyote:  (staring at the dazzling colors)  Far out!
remains of red skull#6:  (come to rest at the half-elf's
  feet)
Peyote:  Cranium!  (he whirls, and charges the green zombie
  he wounded earlier)  You!
green zombie#4:  Aaaaaa?  (already split from head to mid-
  torso, it ambles around, oozing slime and looking rather
  comical; it turns, but too slowly)
Peyote:  (slices at the thing, severing an arm and shoulder
  with ease)  Be fore-armed, dude.
wispy thing:  (flies toward the pale white thing)  Ffffff!
red skull#4:  (flies toward Alindyar)  Rrrrr...

Belphanior:  (grabs green zombie#1's remaining arm and
  tears it off)  Hah!  (he hurls the gory limb away, gets
  to his feet, and discards the armless zombie)
green zombie#1:  (writhes on the ground)
severed arm:  (the one Belphanior severed earlier, it is
  still locked around the elf's ankle)
pale white thing:  (waving the Rune)  Die, mortals!  (a
  Cone of Cold issues forth from the Rune, and strikes
  Belphanior and Peldor, as well as their current foes)
Belphanior:  (manages to leap aside, avoiding the brunt
  of the blast)  Urgh!  (he recoils, shivering)
Peldor:  (protected by his magical tattoos, he survives
  the spell, but still has two red skulls latched onto
  his back)
red skulls#2 and 3:  (immune to the cold, they continue
  to gnaw away)
Peldor:  Argh!  Urgh!
Ged:  (spellcasting)
Alindyar:  (likewise)
red skull#4:  (lands on the drow's arm, gnawing away)
  Rrrrrr!
Alindyar:  ARGH!  (his spell is ruined, and he falls)
Lyra:  What?!?  (she whips out her staff of striking)
Mongo:  (watching green zombie#2, who has gotten to its
  feet _again_)  What...the hell...?
green zombie:  (dripping gore from virtually all parts
  of its body, it yet marches onward)  Raaaaa...
Mongo:  Fuck this!  (he whirls, and hurls Stormcrest at
  the giant skeleton, which is about to attack the
  unsuspecting Ged)
giant skeleton:  (smashed by the hammer, as a thunderclap
  is heard, it reels, broken bones flying everywhere)
Mongo:  Yeah!  (he reels, falling to his knees, and barely
  manages to catch his hammer)  Argh...
Rillen:  (leaps backward into a wall, smashing the red
  skull that is latched onto his back)  Argh!
red skull#1:  (cracked)
Rillen:  (repeats the maneuver)  Get off of me!
red skull#1:  (still locked on)  Rrrr...(it gnaws at the
  warrior)
Halbarad:  (having kicked away the wounded green zombie#3,
  he now brings his axe down upon the red skull on Rillen's
  back)  Hold on!  I shall dissuade the thing!
red skull#1:  (shatters)
Rillen:  Ouch.  (he grabs up his quarterstaff)  My thanks.
Halbarad:  Think nothing of it.  (he turns, and charges
  toward other areas of the battle)
Peyote:  (turns away from green zombie#4 and slashes at
  the giant skeleton, smashing through ribs)  Aha!
giant skeleton:  (chops the half-elf with its huge axe)
Peyote:  ARGH!  (he sails backwards in a spray of blood)
Mongo:  Fucker!  (he hurls Stormcrest at the skeleton
  with all his might)
giant skeleton:  (shatters utterly, bones and pieces of
  bones strewn everywhere)
Mongo:  And stay down!
Bosco:  Geez, you don't look that weak to _me_!
Mongo:  (spits up vomit)  Don't...be so sure...
Ged:  (completes his spell, and a Flame Strike appears in
  the rear of the hold, right on top of the pale white
  thing and green zombie#2, who had been knocked back that
  way by Mongo, earlier)  Burn, fiends!
green zombie#2:  (instantly ignites)  Ooooo...
pale white thing:  Hah!  (ignoring the flames as they roll
  away from its body, while the rune glows bright blue)
wispy thing:  (divebombs the foe, attempting to provide
  distraction)  Pffffs!
Ged:  Fire!  That's the key!  (he can't, of course, see
  that the pale white thing isn't being affected by his
  flame strike)
Belphanior:  No time for fire...(he hacks at the legs of
  green zombie#1, and quickly renders it quadraplegic)
green zombie#1:  (basically helpless now, though its two
  severed arms are both locked on Belphanior's ankles now)
  Aaaaa...
Belphanior:  Holy shit!  The thing never learns!
Lyra:  (wallops the red skull on Alindyar's back, with her
  staff)  Leave him be!
red skull#4:  (dazed, but not deterred)
Rillen:  (steps in front of Lyra)  Let me try.  (he bashes
  the skull)
red skull#4:  (shatters)
Alindyar:  Argh!
Lyra:  Oh!  (she helps her mate to his feet)
shriveled husk#2:  (gropes at Halbarad)
Halbarad:  (dodges the attacks)  Aie!  (he has, of course,
  seen what the thing did to Arnold)  Away!  (he chops at
  the foe, tearing chunks of dried tissue from its body)
shriveled husk#2:  (recoils)
Halbarad:  Stay back, fiend!
Peyote:  (now standing, though he bleeds profusely)  I'll
  help you out, man...(he slashes at the husk-thing from
  behind, sending dried matter everywhere)
shriveled husk#2:  (falls to pieces)
Halbarad:  Good move, friend.
Peyote:  Yup.  (both of them turn toward Peldor, with his
  two red skull attackers)
Peldor:  (trying but failing to tear the attackers off)
  Argh!
Rillen:  (already there)  I know how you feel.  (he bashes
  one of the things, cracking it)
wispy thing:  (sails into the air)  Pfaaaa!
pale white thing:  (emerges from the flames, unscathed)
  Bah.  (it waves the Rune around like some kind of flag)
Ged:  Boccob!  The thing lives!
Mongo:  (remembers that a red skull is still latched onto
  him)  Huh?  (he ignores the thing and its bite, and hurls
  his hammer at the pale white thing, smashing it in the
  hand, and knocking the Rune away!)
pale white thing:  Noooo....!  (its wounds stop healing,
  and it cries in despair)  Aie!
Rune of Water:  (bounces around, coming to rest near Lyra)

Peldor:  (thinks about going for the Rune, but then gets
  bitten again by the red skulls on his back and shoulder)
  Argh!
Ged:  (whips out his wand and points it at the screaming,
  pale white thing)  Axui!
pale white thing:  (engulfed in flames)  AAAAAIIIEEEE!
Halbarad:  (he and Peyote grab green zombie#3 and hurl it
  toward the blazing foe)
green zombie#3:  Aaaaaa...(it collides with the burning,
  pale white thing, and ignites)  Aaaaaaa!
Peyote:  I kinda thought that would happen...
Halbarad:  Aye.
Alindyar:  (still bleeding from the red skull's attack,
  he casts a Web upon the pair of burning foes, not only
  binding them in place but also feeding the fires that
  engulf them)  Excellent...
Lyra:  (dashes over and grabs the Water Rune)  I've got
  the damned thing!
Ged:  Good!  Let's go, then!
Mongo:  (bashes the red skull on his arm, smashing it)
  Ow!  (he looks around)  Yeah, let's get the hell out of
  here!  (he grabs up Arnold's limp body, struggles a bit
  before getting it balanced, then heads for the first
  hold of the ship)  Come on!  Let's go...
Rillen:  (smashes the other red skull on Peldor, smashing
  it into bits)
Peldor:  Whew!  (he gets to his feet and sprints for the
  exits)  Whoa...(he spots the corner of a dull golden
  chest, near a door behind the blazing pale white thing)
  What's this?
Rillen:  Come, now, we have no time for-
Belphanior:  Treasure!
Peldor:  (dashes toward the chest)
Ged:  Eh?  Let's get it, if we can!
Rillen:  Bah.  (he heads for the exit)
Halbarad:  (he and Peyote kick the helpless green zombie#1
  aside as they flee)
green zombie#4:  (walking around, split in half from the
  waist up and missing an arm)  Arrrrr...
Belphanior:  Cripes!  (he dives, rolling into the thing's
  legs from behind and tripping it)  Hah!  (he rolls to
  his feet and continues running)

  They headed for the first hold, and, attaining that, they
climbed the stairs leading to the deck above.  The light of
day shone upon their faces as they emerged topside.  Then,
for some unknown reason, the ship listed to port, causing
all aboard to slide toward the rail.  Quickly, though, the
vessel righted itself, then leaned the other way, rocking
as if a storm was present.

Ged:  By Boccob!  It's sinking!  Quickly, back to the
  _Victory_!
Belphanior:  Brilliant plan...
wispy thing:  (sailing ahead of the party, presumably to
  scout)
Mongo:  (carrying Arnold's body over his shoulders)  Go!
  (he stops short of the next ship)  Shit!  I can't jump
  this with Arnold...especially not in my condition.  (as
  if to punctuate his words, he staggers and falls)
Belphanior:  I cast a fly spell earlier - let me take him.
  (he grabs Arnold's body and takes to the air)
Peyote:  (thoughtful as always, he has the warrior's huge
  sword, which was dropped earlier)
Mongo:  Huh.  (he gets to his feet, weakly, and crosses to
  the next ship, almost falling in the water)
Rillen:  (helps the dwarf across)  Come on.

  As they made their way from ship to ship, among the green
hulks of ancient ships, the ship of undead suddenly tilted
on end, and sunk into the ocean!

Halbarad:  Beware!  (he runs yet faster, helping the slower
  Alindyar and Lyra along)
Mongo:  What?  Why?
Rillen:  That ship is pulling the others down with it!

  Sure enough, the sunken ship, attached to the others by
myriad strands of seaweed, was dragging them down into the
ocean's depths.  As the adventurers ran, however, they saw
that they weren't in any real danger, for only those ships
directly adjacent to the sunken one were being tugged down.
They were already far enough away to be out of peril.
  Suddenly, though, a new peril presented itself:  flying
in the air above the sunked undead-ship was the pale white
thing.  Badly burned, and oozing black blood, it yet fought
on.

burned pale white thing:  You'll never make it!  My legions
  will stop you...(it begins waving its arms wildly)
Peldor:  Legions?  (he runs along, catching up with and
  then passing the others, one by one, the small golden
  chest under one arm)  What legions?
Ged:  Legions...I don't like the sound of that...
Halbarad:  Me neither.  Look!

  From the depths of the ships now emerged hordes of undead
of all types.  Skeletons, wights, zombies, ghouls, wraiths,
mummies - all these and more now chased the adventurers.
Some of them, in fact, were actually ahead of the party,
but thankfully, most were at least a short distance behind.

Ged:  (spies a half-dozen ghouls blocking the way ahead)
  Away, by Boccob!  (he waves his holy symbol, and the foul
  ones disintegrate into dust)
Mongo:  (hurls his hammer at a wight that closes in from
  one flank, knocking it overboard)  C'mon, hurry!
Rillen:  (looking back at the two drow, who have stopped)
  What...?
Alindyar:  (he and Lyra, now surrounded by vengeful undead,
  are spellcasting)
Halbarad:  Perhaps they seek to cause a diversion.
Peldor:  Well, they don't have to get killed doing it!  (he
  TKs a zombie out of his way)
Ged:  No, look!

  The drow both flew into the air now, barely eluding the
mob of undead on the decks of the ship they had been on.

Lyra:  Bye now.
Alindyar:  Hmm.  (they both fly above, providing air support
  for the others)
Halbarad:  ...and they also drew away a large number of the
  things which pursue us.
Peyote:  Excellent, dude.  (he finds his way blocked by a
  lone skeleton)  Oh, come on...(he slashes the thing into
  two halves, and keeps running)
Belphanior:  (flying ahead, with Arnold, he sights the
  _Victory_ ahead)  Ah, home at last...eh?  What the hell?

  The wrecked ship that the party had left their boat tied
to was now overrun with undead.  Indeed, some of these foul
things were even now swimming toward the warship!

Belphanior:  Oh, shit...(he quickly flies toward the deck
  of the _Victory_)

  Below...

Leila:  Hold your fire - it's one of them!
Belphanior:  (lands, and hands the withered body of Arnold
  to a crewman)  Get this man some clerical attention!  And
  get the troops ready!  You've got undead coming in from
  all sides!
Og:  Even worse than I thought...(he points to several small
  boats which are now being rowed toward the _Victory_ by
  undead)
Talbot:  Aie!  (he rushes away to warn everyone)
Leila:  (begins spellcasting)
Og:  (to various soldiers)  Shoot those boats!  Knock 'em
  out of the water!

  The grizzled dwarven general's troops were well-trained
and efficient, and by the time the adventurers had reached
the derelict where they had left their boat, the soldiers
had successfully repelled all of the undead boats.  Three
were now sinking, while four had already dropped beneath
the surface of the waves.

Bosco:  (appears on deck)  Look, it's the guys!
Quinn:  Ay, they be trapped o'er there!
Gorin:  We've got to go get them...maybe a small boat...?
Leila:  Don't worry about it.  (she passes along orders to
  move the _Victory_ over, next to the ship the party now
  stands on)

  As the warship moved over to rescue them, the adventurers
prepared to make a stand, for they were now surrounded by
undead.  Mongo, Peldor, Ged, Rillen, Halbarad, and Peyote
were standing on the deck of the old ship; Belphanior,
Alindyar, and Lyra were airborne.

wispy thing:  (appears from within the small chest Peldor
  carries, and looks around)  Pffffs?
Mongo:  (facing undead)  We've got to hold 'em off until
  the others can mount a rescue!  (he hurls his hammer at
  the foes, clearing a swath as various undead are bashed
  aside)  Let's get them!  (he promptly falls to the deck)
  Dammit...
Rillen:  (sidesteps the dwarf, and goes to work, whirling
  his staff in deadly arcs)
skeleton:  (chooses to test the warrior, and approaches,
  a shield held in one bony hand, a sword in the other)
Rillen:  I've got a bone to pick with you...(he bashes the
  thing, knocking its shield arm clean off)  Hai!  (his
  backswing shatters the skeleton's skull)
Halbarad:  Nice.  (he chops and stabs at a ghoul, driving
  it overboard)
Peldor:  (reluctantly sets the small chest down and draws
  his sword)
zombies:  (two of them, they lurch toward the thief)  Raaa.
Peldor:  (slashes the throat of one foe, but gets grappled
  by the other)  Aie!
Lyra:  (from the air, she blasts the zombie with a volley
  of magic missiles)  Hold on, Peldor!
zombie:  (its head becomes pulp as the missiles hit it)
Peldor:  Yuk.  (he kicks out, sending the body back into
  those undead behind it)
wispy thing:  (distracting a wraith)  Bfaaa?
wraith:  Eh?
Peyote:  (his sword ablaze once more, he chops a wight,
  cleaving a terrible wound in its chest)  Get back, dude.
  I won't tell you again...
Ged:  (bashes a wraith with Lightbringer)  Take that!
Lightbringer:  Die, foul thing!
wraith:  Whaaaaaaieeee!  (melts into goo)
Ged:  Phew, that stinks.
Lightbringer:  They all do.
Belphanior:  (from the air, he sends down a Flaming Sphere,
  which he rolls around selectively, igniting various of
  the undead mob)
mummy:  (swipes at Mongo, but fails to inflict rot on him)
  Graaaa?
Mongo:  (knocked to the ground, his helm glowing brightly)
  Argh!  (the helm, of course, saves him from the mummy's
  rotting touch)
mummy:  (closes in)
Peyote:  Yah!  (he slashes at the mummy, setting it ablaze
  with his flaming sword)
Mongo:  Thanks...(he staggers to his feet)
Alindyar:  (casts a Web, pinning about a dozen zombies and
  ghouls)  Someone ignite that web, please.
Belphanior:  gotcha.  (he rolls the flaming sphere into the
  web, setting it ablaze)
Mongo:  Shit!  Now the ship's burning!  (he swats weakly at
  the mummy with his hammer, but misses, then whirls around)
  What the hell...?
Ged:  It's them!

  The _Victory_ was now directly alongside, and ropes were
being thrown down.  The adventurers, covered by Belphanior's
flaming sphere, grabbed these ropes, and were pulled aboard.

Peldor:  Don't forget the chest!  (he TKs the thing off the
  deck and into his hands)
zombie:  (watches in confusion)  Glaaar?
Leila:  (casts a Burning Hands at the undeads' ship, and
  ignites several foes)  Beware - they're still coming!
ghoul:  (darts between the flaming sphere and a burning bit
  of the ship, and grabs a rope, climbing fast)  Graaaa!
Gorin:  (appears above)  Forget it!  (he chops the rope with
  his axe, sending the ghoul into the icy depths)
Bosco:  (imitates this trick on another rope, one with a
  skeleton)  Yeah!
Lyra:  (from the air, she casts a Cone of Cold, bombarding
  several ships of undead below)  Whoa!
Alindyar:  What is it?
Lyra:  As we suspected...the Rune amplified a water-based
  spell...look, it covered three ships!
Alindyar:  Most intriguing.
Blok:  (acting according to certain general directives from
  Peyote, it moves to the ship's side, leaning over to face
  more undead who are climbing upward)
zombie:  Graaaalk...
skeleton:  Clk-clk.
wight:  Heh heh.
Blok:  (reaches down and punches all three undead at once,
  knocking them into the water)
ghoul:  (manages to clamber aboard)  Sss...
Zephyr:  (whacks the thing with one massive paw, gutting it
  and propelling it overboard)  GRRAAAAR!

  Shortly, everyone was back aboard, and the _Victory_ moved
away, leaving the surviving undead on the derelict ship.

Mongo:  (hurls his hammer at a swimming ghoul, crushing its
  head)  They're still in the water...everyone watch out!
Og:  (orders his troops to shell the ship, and any others
  in sight, with catapult and ballista fire)
Mongo:  (catches his hammer, and almost falls over)  Fuck,
  I'm weak.
Alindyar:  Hmm...(he begins spellcasting)
Ged:  What are you doing?
Alindyar:  Something that should have been done a long time
  ago...(he casts a Fireball, and the entire derelict ship
  is set aflame)
Lyra:  Wow.
Belphanior:  Hey, that'll ignite the other ships for sure!
Alindyar:  Precisely.

  As they sailed away, the sargasso became engulfed in flame
as the fires spread.  Undead perished by the scores, and the
escape seemed assured.

Leila:  Do you have the Rune?
Ged:  (to Lyra)  Yea, let's see it.
Lyra:  I-
burned pale white thing:  Not so fast, mortals!  (it flies
  onto the deck, a black nimbus surrounding its bony hands)
  That belongs to _me_ and I will-
Og:  (standing to one side, he hurls his heavy axe at the
  thing's head)  Die!
burned pale white thing:  (its face disintegrates, and it
  falls to the deck, oozing black gore everywhere)
Og:  (catches his axe as it returns to his hand)
Mongo:  Hey!
Og:  (walks up, and kicks the skinny white body overboard)
  And good riddance!

  Thus, they sailed away, having defeated the sargasso's
inhabitants and their fell master.  Wounds were bound, the
injured were cured, and the Rune was examined.

Lyra:  (holding up the thing)  This isn't a stone...
Alindyar:  Indeed, it appears to be ice.
Belphanior:  But it's not cold.
Leila:  This relic is rumored to have powers over all things
  of water...as well as certain healing powers...
Ged:  Hey, that reminds me!  Where's Arnold?
Leila:  (leads her brother to a cabin, where the big warrior
  sleeps in a bed)  He was...emaciated, thin as a reed.  But
  alive...we managed to restore his health.  You said that
  an undead did that?
Ged:  Yup.
Leila:  No type of undead we've ever heard of, then.
Ged:  Nope.
Leila:  He'll be okay, but he needs some rest.
Ged:  Let's leave him be, then.  (they leave the cabin)
Rillen:  What about Mongo?
Gorin:  Asleep in his cabin, too.  He needs the rest, I
  think.
Peldor:  No argument there.

  Shortly, as the _Victory_ was sailing northward at top
speed, the adventurers had gathered in Leila's ready room.

Ged:  I suppose we should use the Boccob medallion to return
  to Ravel Disander, in Greyhawk.
Leila:  Sounds good.
Og:  We'll be able to make it back to Onnwal just fine...
  even without you people's considerable power.
Quinn:  Aye!  The ship ain't been built that can stop us!
Belphanior:  Well...I guess we'd better get going.
Bosco:  Aw, already?
Halbarad:  All good things must come to an end.
Leila:  True...(she embraces Ged)
Mongo:  (half-asleep, he sits at the table)  Hmph.

  Hasty farewells were said, Arnold's sleeping form was
brought into the chamber, and Ged grasped the medallion.

Ged:  Hmm.  (he concentrates, and the medallion's central
  eye opens, bathing the party in flickering purple light)

  There was a bright flash, and they were suddenly standing
in a snow-covered field.  It was midday, and the sun shone
brightly above, though its warmth did little to help them
adjust to the sub-freezing temperature.

Belphanior:  (sneezes)  Hey, this isn't Greyhawk!





next time :  this bizarre turn of events is explained

ftp site  :  ftp.cs.pdx.edu in /pub/frp/stories/adventurers

notes     :  Whew, long episode.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


--
Thomas Miller                        tmiller@cimmeria.oit.gatech.edu
Systems Support Specialist II          Georgia Tech Network Services

"What good is being a hammer when you can't find a deserving nail?"





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