Chapter #852

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                                   +   +
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                             +               +
                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      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 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                 +
+   Thorlok         11th level human war-mage                             +
+   Validor         11th level human wizard (sage/astrologer)             +
+   Date:           5/21/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                           +
+   Time:           morning                                               +
+   Place:          the ship _Odyssey_, amidst the Solnor Ocean           +
+   Climate:        dark and stormy                                       +
+   "You scared?"                                                         +
+   "Nah."                                                                +
+   "You should be."                                                      +
+                                   - from _Showdown In Little Tokyo_     +

                      DCCCLII.  The Perfect Storm

  Several days after sailing into uncharted territory, the _Odyssey_ is
headed for a storm...

Peyote:  (scanning the black clouds ahead and above)  Damn, this looks
Rillen:  Is there any way we can turn back and outrun it?
Kiel:  Not a chance - it's too big, and it's moving too fast.  (he shouts
  an order to some nearby crewmen)  Daffodil, I take it you've tried to
  influence this weather with your druidic magic?
Daffodil:  (nods, frowning)  The storm's just too big...there's nothing I
  can do.
Songa:  (grimaces as her hair blows in the wind)  It got colder, too.
Kiel:  That's normal when a storm is nearby.  (he puts a hand out)  It's
  starting to rain.  Damn, this is going to be a bad one.
Eyer:  What can we landlubbers do to help?
Kiel:  Stay out of the way, belowdecks.
Halbarad:  To hell with that.  We want to be in the main cabin, in case
  we can help.
Kiel:  Well, I'll give you credit for trying...and for knowing that there
  may well be _nothing_ you can do to help.  (he shifts his gaze to cover
  all of the adventurers)  Very well, you can come to the steering-cabin
  with me, and I'll use you if I need any help.  If you do have to go out
  on deck during this storm, remember that the winds and rain will be
  damn strong, and the ship will be rolling hard.  You should tie ropes
  around your waists, and double-check the knots - your lives will most
  definitely depend on it.  If you're out on deck, make sure you're tied
  to something.  Sailors get swept overboard all the time, and in the
  middle of a storm, there's no way to look for them, much less rescue
Halbarad:  (nods)
Kiel:  For now, go below-decks and see if there's anything you can do to
  help those people - battening down hatches, securing loose cargo and
  supplies, checking the hull, and so forth.  The _Odyssey_ was built to
  be the best and the strongest, and its hull is reinforced in all ways,
  but this is its first real storm.  (he looks skyward)  I sure hope the
  old man knew what he was doing when he designed this ship.

  The storm was upon them within the hour.  Those of the adventurers who
had thought to run about and help were shocked and disappointed.  In the
face of a massive, raging sea-storm, there was little that they could do;
nature's fury was far greater than any sword, axe, or spear.  Even the
wizards and priests could do little to help, for the ship was constantly
rolling and pitching, making spellcasting impossible.  For once, the fate
of the ship was in the hands of normal people:  crewmen who didn't know
about swordplay or monsters or dungeons.  They did, however, know about
sails and rigging and hatches, and how to secure a ship for a storm and
keep it secured.  Oh, there was damage, and broken masts, and lost sails,
and a leak or two.  Crates and barrels were tossed around, smashing each
other and hapless people.  The constant motion, sideways and up-down,
resulted in seasickness for many of those aboard.
  Worse still, this storm wasn't a short one, and it wasn't a small one
either.  The winds, rain, and high waves continued their assault on the
ship and its people for the entire day, and then the entire night!  The
occasional burst of lightning lit the stormy sky, but no one had time
to take in the view, since they were all fighting for their balance, if
not fighting to keep the ship afloat.  The elements took their toll,
physically and emotionally; more than one person collapsed in exhausted
despair at some point.  All in all, the ocean storm made life thoroughly
miserable for everyone aboard the _Odyssey_ for a good twenty hours...
and they were long, wet, painful hours.  For many, it was the single
most frightening experience of their lives.  Even the adventurers on
board couldn't help but feel powerless before the violent fury of the
  Morning found the _Odyssey_ in a state of tired chaos; to a casual
third-party observer, the ship would have appeared to have been swamped,
then pulled back above the water and set afloat again.  Everything and
everyone was completely waterlogged.  The sails were destroyed, and two
masts snapped.  Numerous railings and windows were damaged, as was the
rudder at the ship's stern.  The hull was cracked in several places, and
someone seemed to find a new leak at every turn.  As for the people on
board, very few had escaped without some sort of injury.  These ailments
ranged from the fatal (a broken neck and a crushed skull) to the serious
(broken arms and legs, twisted ankles, snapped ribs) to the minor (cuts
and bruises, soreness.)  A number of crew and passengers had also taken
sick with sneezes and coughing, for the water had been cold, and the
outside temperature was still well below its pre-storm level.  The ship's
priests had their hands full, and some people went untreated for now as
more serious injuries were tended to.

Kiel:  Damn...who would have thought that a dozen priests wouldn't be
Halbarad:  True, but who would have thought that we'd run into a storm
  like that?
Validor:  (nods)  There have always been rumors among the sailors of the
  Solnor Ocean...rumors of an area just beyond charted waters, where
  storms of unearthly size and strength brew.  They call it the "Devil's
  Eye."  (he chuckles)  I suppose we just found it.
Halbarad:  We may not be out of trouble yet...there are dark clouds on
  the horizon, it's still cold, and there's been light rain on and off
  since dawn.
Leila:  (walks over, catching only the last sentence of the conversation
  and looking concerned)  That's not all.  (she looks around, as if she
  doesn't want any regular crewmen to hear what she's about to say)  We
  have a problem.
Kiel:  Well, that's something new.
Halbarad:  What is it?
Leila:  The navigator reports that we're off-course and have been for
  hours, probably as a result of being in that storm for most of the day
  and night.
Kiel:  That's to be expected-
Leila:  No, there's more.  (she frowns)  He says that even now, with
  the sails under repair, we're not moving due east as we should be.
Kiel:  Maybe the rudder's broken...or he mis-read the position of the
Leila:  That may be true, but he doesn't think that could account for
  the northward drift we're experiencing.  I'd like to fly out in that
  direction and have a look.
Kiel:  Good idea.  You do that, and take someone else with you as well.
  Meanwhile, I'm going to talk to the navigator and check the rudder.
  This doesn't make any sense.
Leila:  Sounds good.
Validor:  I shall accompany you.  Mysteries of the sea never fail to
  interest me.
Leila:  Very well.  (she prepares to cast a flying spell)
Validor:  Oh, no need for that.  I have a flying carpet.  (he wanders
  away)  Wait right there - I'll be back in a flash.
Leila:  Um...okay.
Halbarad:  (shaking his head)  Be careful up there - the weather hasn't
  cleared yet.
Leila:  Don't worry, we'll be fine.  (she smiles)  But we'll be careful
Eyer:  (thinking to himself that flying into a stormy sky is nothing
  short of insane)

  Shortly, Validor had returned, lugging a thick, rolled-up rug.  With
the help of Halbarad and Eyer, the wizard-sage unfurled the thing on the
deck, revealing it to be a sizable carpet with weird, intricate designs.

Validor:  (proudly)  Behold, my flying carpet!
Peyote:  Man, that looks like fun.  Can I tag along?
Leila:  (shakes her head)  I think there's only room for two on this
Validor:  (nods)  Stability must be considered, and maneuverability.
  Too many passengers will spell trouble.  (he gets onto the carpet,
  followed by Leila)
Peyote:  Nuts.
Leila:  We'll be back before too long.

  The carpet slowly rose above the ship's deck, picking up speed along
with altitude.  As it moved northward, the _Odyssey_ seemed to shrink
below them.

Leila:  This is a nice flying carpet.  I'm not feeling the rush of air
  as we fly, and we can breathe and talk normally.
Validor:  (beams)  Thank you, my dear.  This item is one of my most
  prized treasures.  As long as we sit atop the carpet and don't make
  any sudden moves, we're completely safe.

  They lost sight of the _Odyssey_ as they flew along, many hundreds
of feet above the ocean waves.  Leila wasn't concerned about finding
her way back to the ship - there were spells to take care of that.  As
for their direction of travel, Validor had commanded the carpet to fly
along a certain heading, and it did so, unerringly.

Validor:  What are we looking for?
Leila:  Anything...maybe a landmass, or another storm, even a gigantic
  sea monster.  Something is causing our ship to deviate off-course.
Validor:  Another storm, would be my guess...though a big island might
  have some unusual tides, and-  whoa, what's that?
Leila:  Eh?
Validor:  That rippling, in the distance...something's going on out
Leila: you hear that sound, from that direction?  Like a low
Validor:  Come on, let's see what there is to see.

  The carpet changed course slightly, heading toward whatever it was
that Validor had sighted.  Leila wondered at first if the older man's
eyes were playing tricks on him, but then she saw it too...something
to the north and east, shimmering in the distance.  They flew through
the cold, wet sky, drawing closer to the weird area...

Validor:  Hmm.
Leila:  That almost looks like...(she squints)  No.  It can't be...
Validor:  What, gods above!
Leila:  This is...impossible...
Validor:  (his hands tremble as he realizes exactly what lies ahead and
  below the flying carpet)
Leila:  (speechless, she merely gapes in awe and terror)

next:      facing the inconceivable
released:  12/24/04
notes:     A Christmas cliffhanger!  Happy holidays!

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