Chapter #854

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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       +
+   1991-2005 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:           6/7/580 C.Y. (Common Year)                            +
+   Time:           late morning                                          +
+   Place:          the ship _Odyssey_, amidst the Solnor Ocean           +
+   Climate:        clear, cool, and breezy                               +
+   "It just looks like a morgue.  But look out - it could be one         +
+    so easily."                                                          +
+                                      - from _For A Few Dollars More_    +

                       DCCCLIV.  Sargasso

  Almost two weeks have passed since the _Odyssey_ encountered and then
circumnavigated a huge, mysterious whirlpool...

Peyote:  I wish I'd seen it.  I still say it would've been gnarly.
Halbarad:  But you didn't, and it wasn't.
Songa:  What do you think caused the whirlpool?  It hardly seems like
  a natural thing, to be out here in the middle of nowhere.
Halbarad:  I, personally, do not think of such things.  (he turns to
  Leila and Validor)  You two saw the cursed thing - any ideas about
  where it came from, or why it exists?
Peyote:  Or if we can ever go back and-
Daffodil:  (quietly but firmly steps on her husband's foot)
Peyote:  (muttering)  Ow...I was just asking...
Leila:  Where did it come from?  A good question.  Maybe it's always
  been there...maybe it's seasonal...maybe it's the work of some huge
  beast many fathoms below the ocean's surface.  Who can say?
Validor:  Such phenomena can be natural in origin, or unnatural.  The
  former case would include an ocean-floor fissure, perhaps, causing
  the vortex in the water...
Peyote:  What about the unnatural?
Validor:  Some powerful magical effect, left over from ancient times, a
  sunken continent or island maybe...or, as Leila suggested, it could be
  the work of some mammoth undersea creature.  (he frowns)  Of course,
  I'm just speculating.  There's no way to know without going back there,
  preferably with a number of wizards and sages, and spending quite a
  while studying the thing.
Kiel:  That's not going to happen, at least not with this ship and crew.
Validor:  (sighs)  Sad, in a way...since that monster of a whirlpool is
  easily the most unique and powerful phenomenon that exists in the ocean
  today.  However, it's dangerous...too dangerous for us to study.  (he
  regards the map, with its tiny two-dimensional animation marking the
  location of the whirlpool)  We should name it...since we discovered
  it, more or less.
Leila:  I'm guessing you have a name in mind?
Validor:  (proudly)  The Devil's Eye.
Leila:  Ha.  (she works some minor incantation, and those words appear
  next to the moving image on the map)  Done.
Peyote:  (watching the animated map)  Cool...
Halbarad:  Enough of this whirlpool nonsense.  (he turns to Kiel)  So
  where exactly are we?  How far have we sailed, how far beyond known
  maps, and what is our total time at sea?
Kiel:  Practical as always, I see.  (he checks the map) Basically, we've
  ventured about four weeks' sailing time east of charted waters.  That
  interval began just after we fought the three warships from the Scarlet
  Brotherhood.  (he scans the horizon)  Frankly, I'd be surprised if we
  encounter anything originating from any known kingdoms or islands.
Leila:  (nods)  We're definitely out there now.
Halbarad:  Oh.
Peyote:  Why were you wondering, dude?
Halbarad:  I grow...bored.  Surely there are foes out here somewhere,
  who need to be fought and slain.
Kiel:  (frowns)  We're charting new territory out'd best be
  careful what you wish for.

  This prediction proved true enough, for shortly after midday, the lad
in the main crows' nest proclaimed a discovery...

lookout:  Ho!  There's something up ahead!
Kiel:  Given his eyesight and our sails, that means a good hour away...
Leila:  It could be a ship, or an island, or even a landmass.
Peyote:  No, if it's a real landmass, the lad's supposed to say "land
Rillen:  Maybe he's just not sure yet.
Leila:  Maybe we should do another aerial scouting.
Validor:  (nods)  I'll fetch the flying carpet.
Og:  (hefting his axe)  And I'll get the troops ready, just in case.

  As it turned out, what lay ahead was strange, perhaps unexpected, but
not overtly menacing:  a graveyard of ships, floating in close proximity
to each other.  There were about a dozen total, ranging from small cogs
to large galleys.  All were completely abandoned derelicts, with no signs
of life or habitation.  The water between the various vessels was still
and stagnant.

Peyote:  I'm getting a weird feeling about this if I've seen
  something like it before...
Leila:  That's because you have.  Remember the quest for the Water Rune,
  in the waters south of the Azure Sea?
Rillen:  (nods)  I remember that.  (he regards the graveyard of ships)
  Though that other place seemed to have a lot more seaweed.
Halbarad:  (hefts his axe)  It also had a lot of undead.  We need to be
Og:  (grimaces, remembering the pitched battle with the undead all those
  years ago, when the _Victory_ found that other sargasso of ships)  Aye.
Halbarad:  Normally, this many ships do not end up abandoned in the middle
  of nowhere without reason.
Kiel:  Well, maybe this will make things easier:  we're not going aboard
  any of them, we're not going to explore them, and we're not going to
  figure out why they're out here in the middle of nowhere.
Peyote:  We're not?
Kiel:  No.  That's not our mission - we can note this place on our chart,
  and move on.  But to endanger the lives of the colonists aboard...that
  would violate our mission, and be reckless besides.
Halbarad:  (mumbling)  It's a good thing Bosco's not here and in charge
  of this ship.
Leila:  Could we at least stay a good distance away, and examine the mass
  of derelicts from the safety of the air?  There's no risk involved in
  that, and we should at least do a cursory examination of these ships,
  while we're here.
Kiel:  That seems reasonable.  You have an hour.  We'll hold our position
  at this distance.
Halbarad:  (wondering if he could hit any of the abandoned ships with an
  arrow, from here)  I think we're just out of bowshot.
Eyer:  (judging the distance from the _Odyssey_ to the derelicts)  Not for
  my bow.
Leila:  They might be out of range of bowshot, but not fireball-shot.
Peyote:  If something happens.
Leila:  Right.  Not that I think anything will.
Songa:  (to Rillen)  I wonder how these ships all stayed together, and
  in the same spot, over days and weeks, through storms and such?
Rillen:  They may not all be in the same spot - the group of them might
  drift across the ocean.  We'd have to watch them and see if they did
  move, or not...
Leila:  Oh, they're stationary all right.  When we were scouting from the
  flying carpet, we noticed that all of the big ships had anchor lines in
  the water.
Halbarad:  That doesn't mean they're stationary.  And if they are, then
  it means we've found shallows - out in the middle of the world's biggest
Leila:  True.  (to Validor)  Let's have another look around, from the sky.
  While we're up there, maybe we can see if those ships, as a group, are
  adrift or not.

next:      the secret of the derelicts
released:  1/7/05
notes:     Happy 2005!  As I write this arc, it's tough not to imagine
  the plots of various episodes of "Star Trek" (any of the series over
  the years) - there are naturally going to be similarities.  However,
  I try to steer clear of those comparisons by having Kiel constantly
  restate the mission of the _Odyssey_...which, as mentioned again here,
  often means avoiding something to protect the non-adventurers on board.

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