Adventure on the high seas. Conspiracies to overthrow the government. Racial tension. Everything is getting a little too real. This week’s conclusion to our Two-Score Tale will fray your nerves and terrify the unwary. Get ready for some naval excitement!
We sailed for two days. Two days of empty ocean on three sides, and the occasional fishing village passing us by on the coast. It was not long after boarding the ill fated vessel that I learned the crew had terrible taste in music. Even my most popular standards were met with the steely gaze of the sailor’s indifference. Never before has there been a people so deprived from such an early age, of the world’s greatest tradition: gnomish music. At some point in the future I will have to petition the Council to sponsor a musician sail-along program, to properly inculcate our mariners with the tunes that move our nation.
Not long after the I rose on the second day, the lookout called out. They had spotted something large in the water, but they couldn’t tell what it was. Sensing danger, I dashed from the gunnel (where I had been relieving myself) straight down the stairs. My weapons were stowed next to my hammock, below-decks. As I descended the steep stairs to the hold, I saw Aëlla rush over to the very spot I had vacated, eyes on the placid surface of the sea. This rapid movement was the last straw for her fragile stomach, and she spewed forth a torrent of partially digested breakfast (a hardy fish stew the crew prepared before sunrise).
Scenting something foul in the wind, Mathers released a rumbling growl and drew his weapons. He eyed me as we crossed paths on the stairs. In the dark of the hold, I could discern several of the ship’s crew dashing to open barrels of gunpowder and wrestle iron balls from their heavy rope netting. Crouched in the low space, his metal exterior glinting in low flicker of lanterns, William singlehandedly prepared a cannon. Dodging through the swirling crowd of sailors, I managed to secure my sword-belt, crossbow and my small quiver of bolts. Turning on a dime, I darted along my previous path and back into the morning light.
In the few moments it had taken everyone to prepare themselves, what previously was a light morning mist, had thickened into a substantial fog. I ran to Aëlla’s side, head darting side to side in search of some threat. Before I laid eyes on anything, however, Aëlla cried out and pointed: emerging from the mist was a mass of tentacles nearly as large as our ship. Behind it, the outline of another vessel was obscured, but their skull and crossbones flag projected above the thickest layers of fog. Reflexively, I fired my crossbow toward the foe. Everyone else readied themselves, as the mantle of a huge kraken breached the waters surface near the centre of the seething mass of arms.
My crossbow simply did not have the range to strike the oncoming pirate ship, but our vessel’s cannons were now loaded. As our gunners lined up their weapons, I did the thing at which I am best: I sang a song of inspiration. The Tale of Captain Sparrow rang across the waves, and our cannons marked a booming tempo. Probably sensing the waves of bardic magic emanating from my slide-trumpet, a gigantic tentacle reached over the side of the ship and struck me down. The battle was now fully underway, and everyone present and armed was swinging at one of the violently flailing tentacles. A blast even greater than the rest rocked the ship, and the triumphant call from Will of the Smithy confirmed that he had struck his target.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a shadow cross the low-hanging sun. Turning my gaze up, I spotted the swooping giant eagle at the last moment. Leaping to the side, I put the ship’s main mast between the bird’s talons and me. From the other direction, Mathers appeared and swung his sword, dismembering the avian attacker. His tail was a blur behind him. This dog loved to fight.
Another series of booms from our cannons reminded him and I there were yet more foes. Spying cannon balls arcing across the sea, I watched as they crashed through the pirate’s hull. Splinters rained from the sky around the other ship, and now the frantic motion of their crew was visible through a crater in their hull.
The eagle had escaped after its first pass, and now descended on me again. I tried to evade, scrambling around the mast inches away from the creature’s razor sharp talons. I wasn’t fast enough, though, and I felt claws rend my back, strips of flesh torn away. I quickly roll over and loosed a bolt at the bird, but only manage to clip a few feathers. Dropping to perch on my chest, the eagle brought its beak down to tear out my throat. Just before it could feast on my blood, a blade pierced the beasts chest. Mathers had impaled my assailant, and howled as he flung the dead creature away. Before it could hit the deck, the body disappeared. Meeting my eyes as he handed my a healing potion, Mathers was thinking the same thing as I: summoned creatures.
Bounding up the stairs, William slapped me on the back as he passed. A healing wave of energy washed through my body. My wounds knit themselves together with a holy glow. As we three spun to face the lashing arms of the kraken, one of the deck cannons sounded. Aëlla stood in the drifting smoke of the discharged weapon, staring at the bloody hole the cannon ball had punched through the tentacular creature. It shimmered and disappeared as it died, leaving only the enemy vessel to oppose us.
The two ships had almost entirely closed the distance between them, and were now easily within boarding range. A spark of magical power flowered on the deck of the enemy vessel, then shot into the water. A huge white and black creature appeared. It was like a porpoise, but its massive, conical teeth screamed out for our flesh. William of the Smithy had pinpointed the source of these summoned creatures. On the deck of the enemy ship was a scruffy man, arms moving, voice incanting words of power. This was our summoner.
Before anyone could move, William grasped a rope hanging from the yard-arm and swung across the narrow gap. He landed with a crash next to the magic man who had made our lives so miserable. Simultaneously, Aëlla pointed and called forth a rolling ball of flame from the elemental planes. It hurtled toward the enemy ship and, though it didn’t crush any enemies, it ignited everything in its path. As the deck bobbed beneath it, the flaming ball rolled back and forth, leaving a burning trail behind.
Suddenly a water elemental spun into existence next to the enemy ship and spewed liquid toward the flames. The resulting veil of steam enveloped everyone present. It is in this blinding cloud that I must leave you, fellow travellers. Please return next week for another of my Two-Score Tales.
What will happen next week? I have no idea, but stayed tuned, because it will probably be pretty crazy.