Chapter #856

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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:           midday                                                +
+   Place:          the ship _Odyssey_, amidst the Solnor Ocean           +
+   Climate:        clear, cool, and breezy                               +
+   "Are they trying to kill us?"                                         +
+   "Yeah, but they're going to have to do a lot better than that."       +
+                                             - from _The Park is Mine_   +

                       DCCCLVI.  Fish Food

  While undertaking some cautious exploration of a sargasso of derelict
ships, the _Odyssey_ has been attacked by vicious fish-men...

fish-man #45:  (leaving the bloody corpse of the warrior behind, it now
  heads for the nearest sail, its sharp claws dripping with the slain
  man's blood)  Grrrrr...
Eyer:  Not so fast, fish-face.

  The elven archer was perched atop the lowest platform on the middlemast
near the ship's bow, and his longbow was ready for action.

fish-man #45:  (suddenly finds its throat pierced by an arrow)  Grunk?
  (it flails wildly as black blood jets from the wound)  Gruuurgh!  (it
  reels for a moment, then falls, clawing weakly at the arrow as the
  puddle of blood grows)
Eyer:  (spots another foe climbing over the rail, and hastily readies
  another arrow)
fish-man #46:  (surmounts the rail, roaring in triumph)  GraaaaaaAAAA-
  (it stops, wondering why there's an arrow sticking out of its right
  eye)  Grnk?  (it topples, dying)
Eyer:  (nocks another arrow, and looks around)

  The elf wasn't the only one dispatching the scaly foes...

Peyote:  (chops the arm off of a charging fish-man)  Stay back, you!
Daffodil:  (free to work spells while her husband defends her, she
  blasts a trio of attackers with a small lightning bolt, frying them
  and knocking them off the ship's rail)
Og:  (leads a band of his warriors who defend the wheelhouse)  Keep
  at 'em, boys!  (he lays about with his notched battleaxe, driving a
  foe back with cleft face, then whirls and guts another monster)
Thorlok:  (keeps up a steady barrage of magic missiles, not slaying the
  enemies as much as distracting them to make it easier for warriors to
  slay them)
fish-man #35:  (leads several of its fellows as they toss one defender
  overboard, rip another's head off, then clamber onto the deck, grunting
  menacingly all the while)  Gruuuurg.
Leila:  (drops a web over the entire group of fish-men, holding them in
other wizard:  Nice work.  (he blasts the webbed attackers with a small
  but powerful ball of flame, causing them to scream in pain)
third wizard:  (uses telekinesis to push the flaming mass of webbed foes
  overboard before they can ignite the wooden deck)
Kiel:  (having drawn a longsword, he helps protect Thorlok and the other
  spellcasters)  Good work, everyone!  Keep it up!

  Meanwhile, Halbarad and the others were working hard to keep the deck
free of fish-men...

Halbarad:  (cuts down an attacker as it charges, then whirls to dodge
  the claws of another)  Die, you vermin-
fish-man #28:  (rakes the ranger across the back with one clawed hand)
Halbarad:  Aaargh!
Songa:  (spears the foe, and swings it around and over the rail)
fish-man #28:  Glurk.  (it falls back into the water)
Rillen:  (to Halbarad)  Are you okay?
Halbarad:  I'm fine...just mad.  (he lashes out at another monster that
  had been sneaking toward him, thinking him direly wounded)
fish-man #31:  (recoils, but not in time to avoid the axe that shears
  off half of its head)  Glgg...
Halbarad:  (to Songa)  Thanks.
Songa:  Don't mention it.  (she stabs at another fish-man, slicing a
  shallow gash along its side)
Rillen:  (whacks the thing across the face with his staff, knocking it
  back and down)

  The attacking fish-men were determined, and didn't lack for morale, but
they didn't have spells or ranged weapons, and they couldn't fly.  It
wasn't long before the defenders aboard the _Odyssey_ found themselves
without foes to fight.

Peyote:  (surveying the gory mess that covers the ship's deck)  Gnarly.
Songa:  Where the hell did they all go?
Halbarad:  Back into the water.  (he peers over the rail into the murky
  depths)  Far underwater, too.
Eyer:  (hops off the mast platform from which he was shooting foes, does
  a neat somersault in the air, and lands lightly on his feet)
Rillen:  (regards the elf quizzically)
Eyer:  (chuckles)  I've had some special training.
Kiel:  (barking out orders to the crew)  -don't care about the blood and
  guts on the deck!  Get us back away from those derelict ships, now!

  As the _Odyssey_ put some distance between itself and the sargasso,
speculation ran wild...

Peyote:  Who were those weird dudes?
Validor:  I'd guess some kind of meat-eating aquatic humanoid with enough
  intelligence to use old ships as a lure, but not enough intelligence to
  work magic.
Peyote:  They were fishing...for us.  (his eyes widen)  Whoa.
Daffodil:  Well, they're out of luck.
Kiel:  Doubly so, now.  (to Leila)  Prepare a fireball - I want that whole
  group of derelict ships destroyed.
Leila:  But we haven't explored them-
Kiel:  And we won't, especially now that we know they contain hostile
Eyer:  I don't think those things lived _in_ the ships...maybe _under_
Kiel:  No matter.  Their "lure" has to be destroyed, and we'll mark this
  spot on our map, just in case.
Og:  (wiping black gore from his axe)  What we really need is a way to
  destroy whatever lair they have underneath the ocean's surface.
Kiel:  That's a damn good idea.  (he turns to Thorlok)  Figure something
  out, and quick.

  By the time Leila had fireballed the derelict ships into a mass of
brightly-burning wreckage, Thorlok had come up with a solution to the
challenge posed by Kiel.  With the _Odyssey_ a safe distance away from
the smoldering wreckage of the dead ships, the war-mage had taken to the
skies aboard Validor's flying carpet.

Validor:  I hate to participate in the murder of a new aquatic race, but
  under the circumstances...
Thorlok:  Don't lose too much sleep over it - I'm the one doing the
  destruction.  Besides, they asked for it.  (he holds a small metal jug
  in his hands as if it were an egg)  Ah...
Validor:  Explain this again?
Thorlok:  (chants some words of magic, and the inside of the jug begins
  to glow)  Basically, it's a delayed blast fireball, transferred onto
  or in this case _into_ an item.  In this case, a waterproofed item.
  (he quickly caps the jug)  Then, the designated item is dropped at the
  appropriate time.  (he eyes the jug, counting silently in his head)
  Which should be  (he drops the jug into the water near
  the burning wreckage of the derelict ships, then leans over, watching
  the waters intently)  Come on...come on...

  The jug landed in the water with a "plop" and quickly sunk...and then,
a moment later, there was a huge, muffled explosion from beneath the
water's surface.

Thorlok:  Mmm.
Validor:  (nods, watching the mangled bodies of fish-men float to the
  surface)  I'd say it worked.
Thorlok:  I'd hope so - I've been formulating this particular variant
  for quite some time.
Validor:  Well, congratulations.  You've created a...a depth charge.
Thorlok:  (eyeing the floating corpses below, he nods, pleased)  Indeed.
  Though maybe next time, I'll try filling the jug with metal shrapnel...

  With the sargasso burning and countless fish-men slain, Kiel and Og
were confident that the threat of the fish-men was ended.

Kiel:  Enough of this.  (to the first mate)  Get us underway and back on
  course.  (to the second mate)  Get a group together to assess any hull
  damage we might have sustained.  (to the third mate)  Get some cleaning
  crews to work on all of this blood and guts.
Peyote:  (to Halbarad)  Man, it sucks to be the third mate.

next:      something, where there should be nothing
released:  1/21/05
notes:     I wonder if I should have done a more complex fish-men plot,
  involving an underwater base and maybe captured humans used as bait,
  if not food.  But, I don't want to linger too long on any subplot for
  this arc.  I know it's been 6 episodes (thus 6 weeks of real time) so
  far, but it's been months of fictional-world time.  I think they're
  going to reach their destination soon - at which time I'll switch to
  other arcs for ~20 episodes.

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