Chapter #855

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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                               +
+   "Where the hell are we?"                                              +
+   "I don't know...but we aren't dead, and they aren't angels."          +
+                                                  - from _Deep Waters_   +

                 DCCCLV.  What Lurks Within the Sargasso

  The _Odyssey_ has come upon a strange phenomenon:  a graveyard of
derelict ships, floating in close proximity to one another, apparently
laying at anchor despite being in the middle of an ocean!

Halbarad:  (eyeing the abandoned ships critically)  At least we're in
  bowshot range now.
Kiel:  But this is as close as we'll get.  Leila can eyeball things
  from the sky, but I see no point in actually investigating the whole
Peyote:  Actually, dude, I disagree.  We're on an exploratory mission
  here, and we're deep into unknown waters.  This is exactly the sort
  of thing we should be checking out.
Kiel:  Possibly, but consider this...what if we send a boat out to have
  a closer look, and say, something happens to it, and then we have to
  send out another one...then suddenly we're here longer than planned,
  maybe it's night by then, in which case we have to post guards.  (he
  shakes his head)  No, it just gets more and more complicated once we
  stick our foot in.
Peyote:  Foot?  (to Daffodil)  What foot?
Daffodil:  (smirks)
Peyote:  But checking those ships out would be so _cool_ and-
Kiel:  And that's why they put me in charge of this voyage, and not you.
Peyote:  (muttering to himself)  Bogus...
Eyer:  Well, one thing's indisputable:  those ships stink, and badly.
Songa:  Tell me about it.  Either they're rotting, or something's died
Rillen:  Or both.
Daffodil:  I could cast a spell to freshen the air up.
Peyote:  A nice, clean scent, borne on the breeze.
Eyer:  (regards the half-elf with a critical eye)
Kiel:  I wouldn't waste the time or energy.  We won't be here that long.
Rillen:  (to Songa)  If it was my choice, I'd sink all of those ships
  right now, and then we'd move on.  They can mean nothing but trouble.
Songa:  (nods in agreement)  Better safe than sorry.  If we're going to
  use the safety of this ship and its noncombatants as an excuse, then
  we should go all the way and take pre-emptive action.
Halbarad:  True...a fireball or two would take care of it.  (he regards
  the derelict ships again)  Nothing but trouble.
Peyote:  Hey, it's too bad Belphanior isn't here.  With that sword of his,
  he could sniff out souls on those derelicts...I mean, if there were any
  souls there, which we don't know and actually never will-
Kiel:  If Belphanior was here, he'd loot those ships, kill everybody on
  them, and sink them.  And maybe not in that order.
Rillen:  As I said, that would probably be best.
Halbarad:  (nods)  Belphanior's not a bad sort to have around.  Although
  his priorities can be a bit misplaced at times, there's nobody I'd
  rather have at my side when the battle gets going.
Peyote:  Aw, man!  After all the fighting we've been through together,
  and you go and say that!
Halbarad:  You know what I mean.  Hell, we could use the elf on this
  trip, that's for sure.
Peyote:  Trip...what a long, strange trip it's been...(he wanders away
  toward the ship's stern, mumbling to himself)
Daffodil:  (follows)
Eyer:  (to Halbarad)  Is something wrong with Peyote today?  He's acting
Rillen:  There's always something funny about Peyote.
Halbarad:  Actually, I think Daffodil mentioned something about some
  unusually ripe mushrooms in Peyote's breakfast this morning.
Eyer:  I see.
Halbarad:  He's right about Belphanior, though.
Kiel:  I disagree.  We don't need a loose sword on a voyage like this.
Rillen:  That loose sword is also a fast sword...a dangerous sword.  But
  I'm not going to stand here and debate it with you.
Kiel:  Well, that's g-

  The banter was interrupted by shouting from several places:  Leila and
Validor on the flying carpet above, the lookout in the crows' nest, and
several random crewmen on the port side of the _Odyssey_ which faced the
cluster of abandoned ships.

Kiel:  What?!?  (he spots something, and points)  Look!
Halbarad:  (smiles thinly, and checks his bowstring)  I knew it.

  The water around the _Odyssey_ churned madly as dozens of scaly, green-skinned humanoids surfaced and began trying to clamber aboard.  They were
true fish-men, their bodies covered in thick scales, their hands and feet
both webbed and clawed.  They didn't have tails, but several small fins
sprouted from each slimy body, most prominently along the center of their
backs and atop their heads.  Sharp, nasty-looking teeth filled their wide
mouths, gnashing as the things tried to get aboard the ship.

Songa:  (hefts her spear)  Finally, some honest action.
Halbarad:  Aye.  (he considers the attack, and turns to Rillen)  Our
  bows aren't going to be much use at these short ranges, aiming over
  the ship's rail.
Rillen:  Agreed.  (he hefts his quarterstaff, twirling it)  I can fight
  more effectively with this.
Halbarad:  A shame, that we have no foes within bowshot, but I don't see
  any of them on the derelict vessels.
Rillen:  Maybe those ships are just a decoy.
Eyer:  Or a lure.  In any case, I'll stick with my bow.  (he dashes over
  to a middlemast and begins climbing, as deftly as a monkey)

  By the time that Halbarad, Songa, and Rillen had darted to the ship's
rail, there were fish-men halfway up the hull.  Despite the great strength
and durability of the wood used to build the _Odyssey_, the monsters were
able to find purchase, their claws sinking into the side of the ship as
they climbed.

Halbarad:  This will not stand.  (he readies himself, securing his axe
  to his hand using the short leather loop at its haft)  This will keep
  me from losing my weapon, should it become lodged in the slimy skull of
  a foe.
Rillen:  What if it gets stuck and then _you_ get pulled overboard,
  rather than your axe?
Halbarad:  Better that than me losing the axe.
Songa:  Enough talk.  (she stabs downward with her spear, at the face of
  a climbing fish-man)

  The huntress' spear was the longest weapon wielded by the three warrior
companions, so she had the greatest reach.  Better, her spear's steel tip
was razor-sharp, and lacked barbs - it was a simple stabbing and slicing

fish-man #13:  (shrieks, an odd gurgling sound, as its face is sliced
  in half by the attack)  Gaaaaarggglk!  (it lets go of the hull and
  falls back into the ocean)
Songa:  First blood!
Rillen:  My staff lacks a blade, but I'd bet it can be just as effective.
  (he pokes at another climbing attacker, smashing its nose in a great
  spout of black blood)
fish-man #14:  Grrrunk!  (it also falls, knocking a third foe off of the
  ship's side)
fish-man #15:  Grung?  (knocked loose, it falls, scraping shallow furrows
  in the side of the ship as it slides down)
Halbarad:  (chops at another fish-man with his battleaxe, splitting its
  skull in two and knocking it back into the ocean)
fish-man #16:  Grk.  (it falls, dark gore spraying from its cleft head)
Halbarad:  I may not have the reach of you two, but my solution is more
Rillen:  Whatever works.  (he pokes downward at another foe, cracking its
  slimy skull)
Songa:  Enough talk, you two - concentrate on the fighting!

  Meanwhile, the grizzled dwarven general, Og, had wasted no time in
mobilizing his squads of warriors to defend the ship.  They had formed a
loose perimeter around the deck, working together to identify, engage,
and dislodge any attackers that neared the deck.  The ship's defenders
were good - especially the adventurers - but there were hundreds of the
fish-men, and not all of them were dislodged by attacks.  Their morale
and sheer tenacity were incredible, and it wasn't long before they began
to break through the defenders and clamber aboard the _Odyssey_, here and

fish-man #45:  (lands on the main deck with a wet "plop")  Gruuuuur!
warrior:  Die, monster!  (he slashes at the foe with his sword)
fish-man #45:  (sliced across one shoulder, it retaliates with a sweep
  of its clawed, webbed hand)
warrior:  (falls back, shrieking, his face and neck gouged with deep
  furrows that spurt copious amounts of blood)  Aaaaaaargh!
fish-man #45:  (heads for the nearest sail, its sharp claws dripping
  with the slain warrior's blood)  Grrrrr...

next:      plenty of battle
released:  1/14/05
notes:     No need to speculate about what these fish-men are, because I
  just made them up.  No need to speculate about why these fish-men are
  attacking the ship (or what the sargasso is all about) because those
  answers are coming in the next episode.

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