Chapter #814

previous chapter (#813)                                                                  next chapter (#815)

                                   +   +
                                 +       +
                               +           +
                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +       Epic V      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of Wizards of the Coast  +
+   which has in no way endorsed or authorized their use.  Any such       +
+   property contained within these stories are not representative of     +
+   Wizards of the Coast in any fashion.                                  +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2004 by Thomas A. Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons        +
+   or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.       +
+   Copying and/or distribution of these stories is permissible under     +
+   the sole condition that no money is made in the process.  In that     +
+   case, I hope you enjoy them!                                          +
+   Daffodil        11th level human female druidess of Obad-Hai          +
+   Halbarad        15th level human ranger of Ehlonna                    +
+   Peyote          12th/12th level half-elven fighter/druid of Obad-Hai  +
+   Rillen          18th level human warrior monk                         +
+   Songa           13th level human huntress                             +
+                                                                         +
+   Eyer            13th/16th level wood elven fighter/acrobat            +
+   Leila           12th/12th level female grey elven warrior/mage        +
+   Kiel Morgan     14th level human warrior                              +
+   Og              16th level dwarven warrior                            +
+   Relmar          18th level human high priest of Pelor                 +
+   Validor         11th level human wizard (sage/astrologer)             +
+   Date:           3/8/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           late morning                                          +
+   Place:          Scant, capital of Onnwal                              +
+   Climate:        warm and clear                                        +
+   "There are ways, and there are ways."                                 +
+                                           - Colton, from _Breakout_     +

                        DCCCXIV.  Departure

  As he stood at the bow of the great _Odyssey_, leaning on the thick
wooden rail, Rillen could hardly believe that the voyage was finally,
truly underway.

Rillen:  Wow.
Songa:  (looking down on the docks as they glide by)  This is a big
  damn ship.

  It was indeed, and its departure had attracted the attention of
hundreds, who lined up at the docks to watch the vessel set sail.

Rillen:  Isn't it possible that a spy could be somewhere in that crowd?
  If I was one of the parties that wanted to see this mission fail, I'd
  surely be tracking its every step.
Kiel Morgan:  Undoubtedly there are spies, or perhaps even saboteurs.
  That's why we didn't waste any effort trying to keep this ship or its
  departure a secret.  (he gestures to them, then to Peyote and Halbarad
  a short distance away)  And that's also why we have so many skilled
  adventurers along.  There will surely be challenges along the way...
  and whether they must be met with sword or spell, we've got it covered.
Songa:  For your sake - and all of ours - I hope you're right.

  Eyer and Relmar stood near the front mast, reminiscing about old times
and adventures they'd had.  Eyer was a wiry, lean-muscled forest elf with
long, light brown hair topped with a forester's cap, from which protruded
a single red feather.  He was clad in well-worn boots and cloak, beneath
which could be seen leather armor.  An ornate but light longsword hung
at his left hip, a dagger at his right.  The wood elf was a warrior and
a thief, one with an uncanny agility and sense of balance.  Those who had
seen him in action before - Peyote, Daffodil, and Halbarad - knew that he
had unusual (and highly useful) acrobatic skills.
  As for Relmar, he looked more like a warrior than a priest, much less
a high priest.  A tall, broad-shouldered man with white hair tied back
in a ponytail, he wore white robes emblazoned with the sun-symbol of his
deity Pelor.  Beneath these glinted the links of a suit of chainmail,
and at the priest's side was a mace of iron with silver trim.  Halbarad
and Peyote had met the high priest on a previous adventure, though that
had been before Daffodil met Peyote and became his companion and wife.
  Nearby, the sage Validor was gazing up at the sky, both gnarled hands
on the rail, his long white beard flowing in the wind.

Rillen:  What's his story?
Kiel Morgan:  Validor?  He's a wizard who specializes in astrology, the
  stars and such.  He's also a sage of no small ability.
Songa:  Are his spells of use in a fight?
Kiel Morgan:  Doubtful.  His magic is more for finding our way, and then
  figuring out its nature.  Still...who knows?  That old fellow may yet
  have a trick or two up his sleeve.
Rillen:  (watching Halbarad, as the ranger stares into the waves below)
Kiel Morgan:  Trust me, this voyage is the best thing for that man.  He
  needs some time away, and feels that he needs to renew his sense of
Rillen:  If we find land-
Kiel Morgan:  When.
Rillen:  -then his skills will come in handy.
Songa:  As will mine.  (she decides that her tracking and hunting skills
  are probably better than most of the scouts aboard the ship)
Kiel Morgan:  (points to the open sea ahead of them)  Clear skies, good
  wind...the gods have surely blessed the outset of this voyage.
Rillen:  Bah.  For every happy god, there's another who's angry.
Kiel Morgan:  We shall see.

  They sailed south, taking advantage of the good weather to quickly
put Onnwal and the Headlands behind them.  Days passed, turning into a
week, and then another.  They left the Azure Sea, passing through the
neutral waters between the Olman Islands and the Scarlet Brotherhood's
secretive lands.  It was just after this, as they entered the Densac
Gulf and the first non-friendly waters, that trouble reared its head...

lookout:  (cries an alarm)  Sail ho!
Kiel Morgan:  (quickly appears on deck, an odd-looking spyglass in one

  Halbarad had just happened to be on the main deck at the time, and he
followed the captain to find out what was going on.

Kiel Morgan:  (raises the spyglass, which telescopes out all by itself)
Halbarad:  Trouble?
Kiel Morgan:  (keeps looking through the spyglass at the specks on the
  horizon)  Quite probably.  There are three ships, spreading out to
  flank us eventually.  They fly no flags.
Halbarad:  Well, that probably rules out pirates.
Kiel Morgan:  Any surprises they have for us won't stay hidden...this
  spyglass is magical, and I can see the ships' decks as if they were
  right here next to us...aha.
Halbarad:  What?
Kiel Morgan:  Monks!  These are Scarlet Brotherhood vessels.
Halbarad:  A fight, then.
Kiel Morgan:  Yes.  (to a deckhand)  Alert Leila and Og.

  Within minutes, the _Odyssey_ was a flurry of activity.  Catapults and
ballistae were readied, as other warriors massed below and prepared to
repel boarders, if it came to that.  Several wizards came above to take
the measure of the enemy and prepare for battle.

Peyote:  (tagging along behind Leila)  Why not just blast them to hell
  from here?
Leila:  I'm not your friend Belphanior.  We have to verify their hostile
  intentions before we attack.
Halbarad:  (hefts his axe)  You do that.  I'll be ready to defend the
  ship when they attack.
Kiel Morgan:  You're all forgetting something:  The closer they get to
  us, the deadlier any spells we cast will be.
Leila:  (to Peyote)  See?  There is a plan.
Peyote:  Err...yeah.
Daffodil:  (chuckles)
Halbarad:  (watches the three approaching ships, which are closing fast)
Rillen:  (to Songa)  Why don't we just try to outrun them?
Songa:  This ship is huge, and so it's slower than most others.  Also,
  they're probably small, much faster ships.  Since there are three of
  them, they could outflank us.  Better to be ready to fight.

  Rillen took note of the fact that neither Kiel nor Leila seemed overly
worried about the apparent attackers.  A short time later, as the first
missiles from the nearest ship landed more than a hundred yards short of
the _Odyssey_, he fond out why.

Leila:  (discussing something with a tall, thin wizard)  It's time.
tall, thin wizard:  (walks over to a catapult and begins casting a spell
  on the large, round rock that sits, ready to be launched)

  Moments later, the wizard stepped back, nodding, and the triggerman
pulled his lever, launching the heavy missile into the air.  Though his
aim was true, the distance was too great...but the rock suddenly began
glowing as it hurtled through the sky.

Peyote:  Whoa!

  Guided and propelled by magic, the missile hurtled through the sky
and landed squarely in the deck of the nearest ship.  The sound of the
impact carried across the water, and then a great fireball exploded in
the distance, marking the doom of the attacking vessel.  Already, the
tall wizard was working his spell on another catapult, while the crew
of a third waited for him to enchant their missile.  The first catapult
was already being pulled back and reloaded, a task made easier by the
fact that it was fastened to the deck by ropes tied off to stanchions.

Leila:  (helpfully)  Thorlok here is a war-mage.  He specializes in
  magic of the sort used to enchant the catapult missiles.
Peyote:  Ah.
Kiel:  (looking through his spyglass)  The other two ships are trying
  to turn and flee.

  Just then, the second catapult fired, and moments later, a second of
the attackers was hit and ablaze.

Kiel:  (shouting to his crew)  Fill the sails!  Full speed ahead!  The
  last one mustn't get away!

  It took two shots, but the third ship was soon hit and sinking.  Kiel
had his steersman resume the ship's original course.

Rillen:  (gazing into the distance, where a plume of smoke marks the
  third ship)
Kiel:  We don't have the time or the inclination to rescue any possible
  survivors, nor the space to hold them, nor the men to guard them.  To
  put it another way, anyone who bothers us does so at their extreme
Rillen:  Oh, I wasn't complaining.

  The other wizards on deck were congratulating the war-mage Thorlok
on his swift and decisive victory.

Peyote:  (walks up to Rillen)  Kinda makes you wish we were pirates,
Rillen:  Not really.
Peyote:  I always wanted to be a pirate.  With the right magic, it'd
  be a cinch to cripple ships, then take them-  Hey!  Where are you

  Rillen had stalked away angrily, and Songa quickly followed him.

Peyote:  Guess he didn't like the idea of being a pirate after all.

  Nearby, Songa grabbed her husband by the arm, forcibly stopping his
walk - a feat that not many people would have been able to accomplish.

Songa:  What are you acting like that for?
Rillen:  (testily)  It's the same old thing, don't you see?
Songa:  What?
Rillen:  We - you and I - deal in swords, staves, or fists.  Yet we
  continue to get involved in adventures and situations where others
  fire spells that can destroy entire ships or buildings, or wipe out
  scores of foes.
Songa:  Maybe, but remember that we're on this ship right now so that
  we can try to escape all of that.
Rillen:  (calms down somewhat)  Yes...a good point, but I find myself
  wondering if there really is any escaping of these things.
Songa:  At least we're making the attempt.  No one can do anything more
  than that.  (they both stare out at the calm ocean waters)

  Things were quiet for several days, and then another ship made another
attack.  This time, Leila led a couple of the other magi on an invisible
flying scouting mission, which ended with another sunken enemy vessel.
Apparently, this one had a wizard or two aboard as well, and these had
detected the invisible wizards and launched an attack.

Leila:  (mopping sweat from her pale brow)  This ship, too, flew the
  flag of the Scarlet Brotherhood.
other wizard:  It seems that they do not care for visitors in the waters
  around their peninsula-kingdom.
Kiel:  You did the right thing.  We can't allow anyone to attack or even
  interfere with this ship.
Leila:  I wonder what they're trying to protect.
Eyer:  Or hide.
Relmar:  (nods)  Those in the know have been collecting reports of odd
  things afoot in the Brotherhood's land.  They are definitely massing
  their forces for something.
Halbarad:  It sounds like you want to go in there and do something about
Relmar:  Hmm.
Kiel:  Any other time, we could and would...but not now, not with this
  voyage underway.  It must fall to others to unravel and perhaps combat
  the schemes of the Scarlet Brotherhood.

  Whatever those schemes might have been, they no longer involved the
_Odyssey_ or attacks upon her; the next ten days were quiet except for
two small thunderstorms and the sighting of a pod of large whales.  The
Densac Gulf was left behind as they sailed through the Tilva Strait and
passed into the Lordship of the Isles, stopping at the coastal port city
of Ekul to stock up on supplies.

Rillen:  I thought we were carrying everything we needed?
Kiel:  We are, within reason, but we've been at sea for a month, and it
  makes good sense to replenish our supplies at any major port we pass.
  (he gazes up at the blue sky)  Once we pass the Lendore Isles, far to
  the east, we probably won't see any more port cities.
Rillen:  Good point.  I just hope we don't attract any sort of unwanted
  attention while we're docked here.
Kiel:  It's always possible, though less likely in a non-hostile area
  such as this.  Truthfully, there's no foolproof way to conceal or hide
  this ship's appearance or existence from everyone nearby.  There comes
  a point when we simply have to rely on might and magic to keep foes at
Rillen:  (ponders this, frowning)

  The pause in the journey only took half a day, after which they were
underway again, now sailing toward the northern tip of Hepmonaland,
domain of the savages.  None of the adventurers present had any way of
knowing that less than a month later, Belphanior and his crew would be
sailing through these same waters as they made for a secret, evil place
hidden within the savage land.
  The _Odyssey_ rounded that tip of land, sailing due east; this course
took them around the south side of the Lordship of the Isles and right
into the vast expanse of the Oljatt Sea.  They were steering clear of
the isles and unwanted attention, though they did have to stop several
times to identify themselves to patrols from the Lordship.  Piracy was
frowned upon in this region, and all unauthorized vessels were routinely
stopped and questioned.  Fortunately, Kiel and the _Odyssey_ had the
backing of some powerful people back in the central Flanaess.  Through
means unknown and unasked, the word had been spread, and the big vessel
was always allowed to continue on its way.
  A few days after the last encounter with a patrol, the ship turned
slightly to the north, now heading northeast toward the Lendore Isles.
These smaller bodies of land were the easternmost bastions of inhabited
land before the great Solnor Ocean; whatever lay beyond was unknown and
undocumented to even the wisest sages.
  Of course, first they had to get there, and that meant surviving any
perils that awaited in the heart of the Oljatt Sea...

lookout:  (high up in the crow's nest, he begins yelling and screaming

  A commotion spread throughout the ship like wildfire, and scant moments
later, everyone who was anyone stood on the deck, ready to find out what
was going on and then act on it.

Kiel:  (gazing through his spyglass)  By the gods!
Rillen:  What?  What is it, man?
Peyote:  (scanning the waters ahead and to starboard, one hand cupped
  over his eyes)  Whoa...
Songa:  (squints)  Is that, that can't be right.
Kiel:  I'm afraid it is.

  They were looking at an approaching fin as it cut the water, rapidly
and smoothly.  The only thing was, the fin was far too big to belong to
any normal sea creature.  In fact, even at this distance and without any
reference point, it was clear that the fin alone was around twenty feet

Eyer:  A giant shark...
Kiel:  Not just a giant, but a titan...a giant among giants.  If that
  thing attacks the ship, it could do serious damage.
Halbarad:  (unconsciously grips his axe's handle)  Well, it's heading
  right for us.

next:      the behemoth of the seas
released:  4/2/04
notes:     Eyer's "acrobat" class is a throwback to the good old days of
  1st edition, when they released the _Unearthed Arcana_ hardcover and it
  was the greatest thing ever.  I still remember that era fondly.  As for
  Validor and his "sage/astrologer" wizard subclass, I just made it up
  especially for this story.  I have no doubt that 3rd edition makes it
  a lot easier and logical to have these specialist classes, but since
  I've forsaken all official rules now and am just doing what I want, I
  think it best to write as I have.
    For those who have asked, I don't anticipate this arc lasting as long
  as the previous one with Belphanior and the Xusia lair.  Probably when
  I get this crew way out into the unexplored reaches of the ocean, I'll
  take a break from them and launch the Greyspire arc with Mongo...after
  which I'll begin Belphanior's exploration of Xusia's gateways and the
  hidden lairs and secrets therein.

previous chapter (#813)                                                                  next chapter (#815)