Previous installment: Songs of Desolation
The group was still panting after the skirmish with the sirens. They had lost a crew member, but no one else. The Captain didn’t seem overtly saddened by the loss of his first mate. This must have been a usual occurrence.
“Damn sirens! Thought we’d be going around them. No shipwrecks marked at this part of the Desolation.”
The Captain said, chewing on some dried meat.
“Why would that matter?” Kael asked, curious.
“Shipwrecks? Sirens nest in them. They sea harpies don’t like natural rock formations. That’s why they crash ships. They need houses. Must be a wreck underneath us.”
“Hmmm,” Kael started rubbing his hands, “Any treasure to be found in these ships?”
“Most definitely,” the Captain grinned. “We’re stopping to repair some of the damage on the ship, so feel free to go diving.”
Kael put his hands up. “Not me, but…”
Meowzer backed off as fast as he could, but lucky for the hydrophobic cat, Kenshin stepped forward.
“I dived off the reefs back in Aranzi. I’ll do it.”
“Is this really a bright idea,” Pemnaq butted in. “Could be dangerous.”
“Nonsense,” the Captain chuckled. “Only problem with wrecks are sirens. They’re dead now. Go for it.”
Pemnaq still looked concerned but conceded, allowing the pair of Kael and Meowzer to tie a rope to Kenshin. He dived down, rope following after.
Under the water, Kenshin recognised the ship to be an Agthenfallian longboat. From his knowledge of the raider society, it must have been a treasure ship. He dove to the deck, where he spotted the door to the captain’s quarters.
He forced it open, but the exertion caused him to lose a bit of air. He swam to the surface and then down again. With the door open, he swam in and spotted a large chest. The wood was covered with barnacles, and crumbling, but the silver corners were still shining. It wouldn’t budge. Thinking fast, he tied his safety rope to the handle and then swam back up.
“There’s a chest with silver on it down there. Was stuck closed, so tied the rope to it.”
With that, they began pulling it to the surface. With the help of the entire party, it was easy work. On-board, they were able to get a good look at the container.
The wood wasn’t as damaged as Kenshin had previously thought. Despite being under salt water for so long, the wood and metal had remained relatively intact. Pemnaq hovered his hand over it, singing a little ditty. With a nod, he said, “The chest is enchanted to ward off decay. I also detect something within. Magical artefact.”
“Let’s get the lid off then!” Kael was still rubbing his hands.
Pemnaq still looked concerned, but couldn’t help but huddle in as they started prising the lid up. With a snap, the lid opened and was followed by a whooshing and crash as the sky went purple.
A spire of energy seemed to erupt from the chest. The party backed off as it exploded into the air, darkening everything around them. Then it subsided.
“Trapped mana,” Kael said. “Nothing to fear.”
They advanced again. In the centre of the chest, on a velvet pillow, was a single amulet. It was crafted of silver, with a large purple stone in the centre. Kael hovered his hand over it and nodded.
“A Void War relic. These were common then. Enchanters found that the Void crystals had vitality properties. The one who wears this will be granted a greater constitution.”
Meowzer chuckled. “Then you should wear it, elf. Means I won’t have to keep healing you whenever you trip on a paving stone.”
Kael didn’t balk at the insult. He took the amulet as his due. The party knew it was in their best interest to have a tougher mage. As the amulet was put around his neck, Kael seemed to look healthier already. His usually pale skin bore a healthier tinge and his cheeks seemed less hollow.
The Captain called for the ferry to renew their journey, but before they could lift the anchor, the ship shook. Some lost their balance. Some of the small children on-board started to cry.
“What is it this time?” Meowzer hissed, drawing his rapier.
“There was nothing under us besides the ship!” Kenshin exclaimed.
The water started to bubble, but it still felt cold. Then there was a burst of water, which splashed the occupants of the vessel. Tendrils, towering above the sales of the ship, seemingly appeared out of nowhere. There were three of them surrounding the small ship. They were a translucent black. One felt that they should have been able to see through them, but could not. They were like shadows made into physical objects.
Before they could react, one of them lunged for Kenshin, who was unable to stop it. It began crushing him. Kael reacted immediately, sending a volley of magical missiles into it. Luckily, his magic prowess was enough for the enigmatic foe, which let Kenshin drop into the water.
Pemnaq drew his dagger and threw it at the one nearest to him. The blade just embedded itself in the strange flesh. The tendril didn’t seem perturbed by the shard of iron in its presumed belly.
Meowzer let out a war cry for his God and charged, but was promptly halted as the boat rocked, sending him back and Pemnaq overboard.
Kael responded with more magic missiles, sending some expertly placed projectiles into two of the tendrils. The one which had attacked Kenshin dissipated as abruptly as it had appeared. As it did, the others seemed to grow.
Pemnaq gripped precariously onto the back of the boat. He was content to stay there, for now. Kenshin, meanwhile, was firing arrows into the one tendril, to little avail.
The largest tendril recoiled back, and brought itself down on the ships deck, crushing the midwife. The heroes managed to dodge, just in time. In retaliation, Meowzer went in for another charge, but this time the entire ship was turned on its side. Anyone who couldn’t grab a hold of one of the roof poles or the wheel was turfed overboard.
Luckily, the refugees were of the water stock. They knew how to swim. Meowzer, on the other hand, was devastated. He gripped onto the side of the boat for dear life, his fur soaking wet. The water not inhibiting his magic, Kael let out a wave of fire at the tendrils. It scorched them, and they seemed to scream. The one dissipated and the last survivor seemed to grow even larger.
Kael spluttered. “I’m out of spells!”
Kenshin, quick think as he was, dived down. He saw that the tendril reached down to the surface, from the captain’s quarters. He swam in, the tendril not noticing.
Above water, the refugees were clinging to the side of the boat as Pemnaq had climbed on and charged the surviving tendril. In an attempt to retrieve his dagger, he hit at it with his quarterstaff. This accomplished little. Meowzer had made it on-board again, but a swipe from the tendril knocked him into the water again.
Kenshin, in the captain’s quarters, saw the source of the dark tendrils. A hole had been underneath the chest. The tendril was much thinner at this point, growing as it reached the surface. He drew his katana, and with a professional swipe, severed it.
For those above water, the monster disappeared. Kenshin arose from the depths to many congratulations. Pemnaq gave the group a ‘told you so’ look, but didn’t hold back his praise of the Ronin.
The Captain apologised for his mistake.
“Must’ve been a Void mine. Sorry, lads. Didn’t think they were any left.”
The party didn’t begrudge him and rather sat down to rest. The group of refugees mourned the midwife. Her children, most of all.