Chapter 1 - “Anybody hear that? It's an... It's an impact tremor, that's what it is... I'm fairly alarmed here”

- or -

"...don't eat the tourists"

“Wow, look at it all!” Gidrick Talbot exclaimed, creeping a little closer to the pile of treasure spilled across the deck.

“Leave it alone,” his mother scolded, pulling him back and closer to herself, “It’s not yours.”

Meanwhile, everyone who was on deck began to form a crowd to see the amassed wealth. Even the sailors on duty were distracted by the spectacle. People began to filter up from the crew quarters.

Eventually even Avnar Meravanci strode up to see what the commotion was about. He was, however, somewhat disappointed, “It’s a bunch of coins. What’s the big deal? It’s not even a lot of coins!” Then, as he returned to his quarters, some heard him mumble “Probably still try to frame me for stealing it or some foolishness…”

Meanwhile, Viselys was pondering what to do with it all. He gave the scroll and book to Ornrik and he asked the dwarf to appraise the non-coin items. When they had an estimate of the overall value, he then had to decide how to distribute.

“I’d like to give something to the entire crew. Maybe a few gold each?” Vilselys speculated to his companions.

“A few?!” Saris scoffed, “I think you grossly underestimate the value of a g.p. to a commoner. One gold would seem like a fortune.”

“One it is, then,” Viselys agreed, “per passenger and crew member. The rest we divide amongst ourselves.”

Skald, who usually kept silent in such matters, stepped up, “Who do you consider ‘ourselves?’” He then gave a sideways glance to Diamondback.

Viselys furrowed his brow, “Well, you, me, Saris, Diamondback, Adameus, and Ornrik.”

Skald raised an eyebrow, “I think Mal and Cedric might not take to kindly to that arrangement. They were there for the battle with the Mother of All and waded in just as deep as the rest of us.” His tone seemed to say that it made no difference to him either way, but he was just pointing out a possible point of contention.

Viselys nodded, “Okay, them too.”

Ornrik spoke up, “Now, wait a minute, I thought that anyone beside the original party only got a half share.”

“Why would that be?” Skald asked, “Are they risking any less in battle than you are? Do the creatures we fight say, ‘Only attack these four, because they are the First Four,’? You should have badges made up – a big four in a circle over your heart.”

“Well, that’s just how we always did it,” the dwarf stammered.

Then Skald turned to Viselys, “And Mal and Cedric might wonder why the treasure from the expedition to the heart of the Sargasso is being shared with anybody who wasn’t on that expedition anyway.”

“We contributed!” Ornrik became angry. “We stayed here to protect the ship and the crew! There were some of those plant zombies…”

Skald held up his hands in defense, “I’m just saying. No sweat off my brow either way.”

“Ultimately it falls to me to decide. We will split it 7 ways – Adameus, Diamondback, Skald, Mal, Cedric, Ornrik and Saris. I forgo my share.” It was a compromise, and his tone made it clear that the matter was settled. “We can sell the silverware when we reach Farshore. I’ll put it in the Bag of Holding.”

Three days of clear skies and smooth sailing later, a call came down from the crow’s nest, “Land ho!”

Captain Amella turned to Urol who confirm the heading. The gnome smiled back at her, “Yep! It’s the Isle of Dread!”

The crew prepared for a slight course change that would arc the Sea Wyvern to follow the island’s eastern coast. Meanwhile, Viselys distributed the gold he had allocated. As promised, always true to his word, Viselys made sure everyone got a gold piece.

Well, at least the gold piece was offered. Not everyone appreciated the gesture.

“What am I supposed to do with THAT?” Avner sneered down his nose at the proffered coin.

Viselys was taken aback, but not entirely surprised, “I decided that everyone should have a share in the treasure we brought back.”

“Did you now?” the nobleman asked, sarcastically, “And everyone’s getting one gold piece?”

“Yes,” Viselys said, a bit guarded.

“Really? Including ‘Shadowboren’ and Van Sky and Elfboy and Shorty Greybeard and your Diamond Girl?”

“Well, no. You see…” Viselys stammered

“Oh, I see, alright. Your friends get the lion’s share and you appease the rest with crumbs,” he indicated the coin that Viselys was still holding out. “Tell me, why does Sourface the Midget get a percentage of treasure you found while you were out strolling? And Van Sky, for that matter. They weren’t part of your expedition. What did they do to rate?”

“Well, they contributed by staying behind and defending…” Viselys trailed off. He was about to say ‘you’ but suddenly thought better of it, “…the Sea Wyvern.”

“And did I not? I am the ships gunner! I ‘contributed every bit as much as your dwarf friend.”

“Alright, if you want an equal share…” Viselys began.

“I don’t want your money,” Avner blasted, knocking the coin out of Viselys’ hand, “I just want to show you what an arrogant hypocrite you are.” With that, he stormed past the stunned guardsman to return to his quarters.

Meanwhile, Saris stood over Urol, looking at the navigation maps. He pointed to a discoloration in the northeastern coast just off the coast north of a bay, “What’s that?”

Urol squinted, “That would appear to be a reef.”

“A reef?!” Saris shouted and ran to the bow, grabbing the sounding line as he went. He cast it and took a reading. “Captain, bring us ten degrees port!”

Amella, who was at the helm, called back, “What’s your reading?”

“Greater than 20, but the map shows that we are coming up on a reef and we should give it wide berth!”

Amella immediate threw her weight into turning the wheel as she addressed Urol, “Is there a reason I am not hearing this from you?” Her voice was clearly irritated. She received no reply, nor did she expect one as the question was intended rhetorically.

After passing far south and east of the reef, Jacob approached the captain, speaking in a low voice and pointing towards the shore. Amella nodded and called Saris to her.

“What can I do for you, Captain,” Saris said in a low, sly tone as he slid up to her, eliciting a smirk in return.

“I’m going to take us in a bit closer to the shore. Jacob has spotted a wreck and it could be the Nixie. He’s going to see to the sounding and anchor if you want to get a landing party together to investigate.”

Saris suddenly became serious, “We’ll row out in one of the dingies.” He turned and assembled the usual suspects: Adameus, Viselys (with Diamondback in tow), Ornrik and Skald.

“Want to come, too!” Ural said, grabbing a satchel.

Viselys shook his head, “I don’t think so, little friend. Not on this trip. We aren’t going exploring, we are going on a rescue mission and I have no plans to leave the beach. You stay here for now.” Ural was disappointed, but relented.

They were preparing to lower the rowboat when the Captain stepped up, “Hold on, I’ll go with you.”

This time it was Saris’ turn to resist, “Amella, you should stay with the Wyvern. Your duty is to this ship…”

Amella held up her hand and boarded the rowboat, “The Wyvern will be perfectly safe anchored here. You’ll need my experience to assess the damage over there and perhaps determine what happened.” She paused to confirm they were in agreement, “And I don’t need you making decisions regarding my safety, if that’s what you’re thinking.” She directed the comment to Saris, but it was implied argument from all quarters, and it worked.

As they rowed close to the ship they could see that it was actually grounded on some rocks not far off shore, sitting almost above the water line at low tide. It was also leaning at a steep angle – anyone standing on deck would either slide off into the surf or have to hang on as if climbing uphill, but there was no one on deck. In fact, there was no activity to be seen at all about the ship or the shore.


“It’s the Blue Nixie, alright,” Amella pointed out what had now become obvious, but she continued with greater insight, “but that gash in her side didn’t happen here,” she pointed to a hole that had become visible as they came around the far side, forward of the midline. “They couldn’t have gotten far with a breach like that, but they could have gone a few miles – far enough to decide where to land safely – and this is just the sort of spot I would have chosen to land in an emergency. Sure, they could have been blown here in a bad storm, but then the damage would have been much worse. No, if I were to guess, I’d say they ran afoul of that reef back there.” She directed her last comment to Saris, the look on her face clearly expressing that, had Saris not recognized the danger and taken action when he did, they, too, could have ended up wrecked.

Viselys was the first one off the rowboat when it slid up close to the wreck. He was followed closely by Adameus. They climbed into the breach which placed them in the cargo hold. They were then followed by Ornrik and Saris. Amella and Skald stayed with the rowboat.

“Lavinia!!” Viselys called out. “Lavinia!!” He stumbled as quickly as he could towards the steps that led to the crew deck, Adameus and Ornrik on his heels. Although he noted that he saw none of the Nixie’s passengers, alive or dead, as he went, he was heading directly for Lavinia’s quarters.

The door hung open and the bed had slid against the far wall. The room was a mess, but one thing caught Visely’s attention – a small, leather bound book sat on the relatively smooth covers of the bed. The angle of the room’s skew was not quite enough to cause the book to slide to the wall, but neither could the book have remained if jostled as roughly as would have occurred when the ship hit the rocks. The book had clearly been placed here after the ship had come to rest.

Viselys had just picked up the book when Adameus and Ornrik arrived at the door. “What did you find?” the dwarf inquired, holding onto the door jam to keep from sliding into the room.

Viselys held up his hand in an indication to wait as he opened the book. It quickly became apparent that it was a journal and the stylized “LV” embossed on the front cover made it a sure bet whose. He flipped through the pages and the book naturally fell open near the middle. It became instantly apparent to Viselys why the book had opened where it did – a good number of pages had been removed. The page on the right was the last entry. It indicated that after the Nixie had crashed, there had been very few survivors (clearly Lavinia had been among them) and they were heading south towards Farshore on foot.

Viselys looked up from the book. He turned to Saris, “Go tell Skald to take the boat to the beach and see if he can find any indication of anyone going into the jungle. Footprints, anything.” Saris nodded and was gone.

“What does it say?” Ornrik asked, more earnestly than before.

“It’s Lavinia's diary,” he replied, with a far away tone in his voice. He check for any indication of what might have happened to the missing pages and, in doing so, he found a split in the binding at the inside back cover making a sort of pocket between the leather and the supporting board within. Inside he found two pages of a different paper kind than was contained in the main part of the book. Pulling them into view, he saw them to be letters, both with broken seals. The signet had been a stylized “S.” He immediately put the letters back.

“Let me see,” Ornrik said, holding out his hand.

“No, I don’t think that would be appropriate,” Viselys said, closing the book, “It is clearly Lavinia’s personal diary.”

“Why do you get to read it an nobody else?” the dwarf persisted.

“Only because I was the first to find it. Once I realized what it was I stopped reading,” he defended. He was, however, a bit surprised that he was having this discourse with Ornrik rather than Adameus, though.

In fact, it was Adameus who helped put an end to the matter, “There’s no spells in it, wizard, so there’s nothing to interest you anyway. Just the girlie chatter of an aristocratic.”

Before Ornrik could express his outrage, Adameus was off to investigate other rooms. They searched everywhere but found no signs of the bodies of those who had not survived.

They eventually reunited with Saris on the main deck, “I found the captain’s log,” he informed them. “Apparently they ran into another storm after we became separated. Based on my rough estimates, had we not been held up in the Sargasso, we probably would have run into the storm as well. In any event, that was the last entry, so I’m thinking that the storm was pretty bad, not affording the captain a chance to update the log. I would also guess that the captain was dead by the time the Nixie stopped here, again because there is no further entry.”

“Lavinia survived as did a few others. They set off for Farshore on foot,” Viselys added to their collected information about the events.

“How do you know that?” Saris asked.

“It’s the last entry in Lavinia’s diary,” he held up the book.

Amella was returning, alone, with the rowboat. The absence of any concern on her face indicated that Skald was fine and that she was returning to ferry them to his location.

Viselys continued speaking as they climbed down to the boat, “The way the diary was left, it was clearly meant to be found, perhaps by us, but I don’t know why she didn’t just leave a note. A bunch of pages are torn out, so they clearly contained something she didn’t want to share, but why leave the rest?”

They were all seated in the boat by this time, “Why does anyone keep a diary at all?” Adameus asked, then answered his own question, “To be a testimony to your life – your thoughts and feelings, dreams and ideas – to be read after you die. She knows it’s dangerous out there and she might not make it.”

Viselys nodded, “The last entry did indicate that she thought it unlikely that we would spot the wreck. She must have left this ‘just in case.’”

“But then why tear out a bunch of pages?” Saris asked as he rowed.

Amella began to answer by way of a question, “The pages that were torn out – recent entries?”

“Yeah, why?” Viselys responded.

She answered with another question, “And what is the last entry before the torn out pages?”

Viselys looked and skimmed the last entry, “Just before we met her. She had already met Adameus. Says he reminds her of an old friend of hers and how much she … likes him …”

Now Amella had enough information to complete her explanation, “She wants her diary found in case she doesn’t make it to Farshore, but incase she does, there is some personal stuff, probably related to you lot, that she doesn’t want you knowing.”

“Yep, that’s what I would have done, too,” Diamondback confirmed.

“Well, it’s a good thing we have women to explain women to us,” Saris interjected.

Skald met them at the shore and helped pull the boat up the beach, “I found where several people must have entered the jungle – couldn’t have been more than a few days ago.”

“How many?” Viselys asked.

“At least four,” Skald replied, “but possibly more.”

“How far could they have gotten in that time?” Viselys asked.

Skald raised his brows at the scope of the question, “I can’t say with enough certainty. It depends on how long ago they started, what the terrain is like, and how quickly they are moving.”

“Best guess,” Viselys requested – almost ‘demanded.’

“They could be half way to Farshore by now,” Skald replied quickly, “Best case scenario; they are closer to Farshore now than they are to here.”

Viselys nodded silently and turned away. As he moved away from the group, he took Adameus by the elbow and tugged him away to some relative privacy.

While those two had their own confab, Saris and Amella discussed the fate of the Nixie and the Wyvern.

“There is still some cargo aboard the Nixie, and some that has washed ashore here,” Saris pointed out. “Our mission is to get these supplies to the settlement. We could transfer what’s left of the cargo to the Wyvern and complete the mission with one ship.”

“The Fire Troll is much smaller and I can sail it much closer to the shore,” Amella added. “Still, I can tell that a rescue mission is brewing here,” she indicated Viselys and Adameus who had gone off a ways, “and I’d like to go with you.”

Saris shook his head, “Your responsibility is to the Wyvern. Now you have the cargo of TWO ships to see to Farshore. There are people depending on those supplies. The stakes are even higher now. You get everyone safely to Farshore and I’ll meet you there.” He smiled at her.

“You don’t want me with you is that it? Your first chance to get away from me?”

Saris was shocked, “That’s not it at all! Look, I don’t like it any more than you do, but we have a job to do. When that’s done…”

“Yeah?! And what if when that’s done, so are you, huh? What if I’m sitting waiting at Farshore and you never make it out of that jungle? What then? Where does that leave me?” She was really angry.

“Hey,” Saris cajoled, “Nothing’s going to happen to me. I’m Saris Van Sky, remember? The ‘Lord of Sasserine’!”

“Well, ‘My Lord,’ enjoy your walk” she spat, storming away from him towards the dingy.

“Hey, Amella, wait!” Saris started after her.

“Sorry, can’t,” she said, without breaking stride, “I have a cargo to move. Schedule to keep. Busy, busy!”

She was faster than Saris would have thought possible and was several length out into the surf before he even reached the water. It was too late unless he swam for it, which he thought better of.

Meanwhile, Viselys was conferring with Adameus. He reached into his pouch and pulled out what appeared to be a charm bracelet, “Adameus, I have here the means to teleport to Lavinia’s location.”

Adameus stepped back, “How? What is that??”

“It’s a magical device that I obtained back in Sasserine. The wearer can transport to the location of any other person instantly…”

“More secrets?” Adameus challenged, “You just take the cake! Well, what are you waiting for, just go!”

“Well, I was going to, until I found this,” he held up Lavinia’s diary, “From what I’ve read, you win.”

“‘I win’? And what exactly have I won?” Adameus mocked.

“Her heart,” he replied, sadly, and he opened to the last entry before the extracted pages, reading it aloud to him.

“So she likes me! I remind her of an old school friend of hers. Big deal! That doesn’t mean I ‘won her heart.’ Besides, I did not know there was a competition.”

“Wasn’t there? You mean to tell me you haven’t been vying for her affections as I have?” Viselys countered.

“As you…” Adameus interrupted himself to chuckle. “Okay, yes. Not that it is any of your business, but I do have very strong feelings for Lavinia, but, no, it is not a completion. She is not a prize to be won. If ever I am blessed with her affection, I shall be the happiest man on Corwyn, but I KNOW there are better men than I, and I care enough about her to put a higher value on her happiness than my own.”

Viselys smiled, but his eyes were still sad, “Nonetheless, I want you with her right now.” He handed Adameus the charm. “See to it that she makes it to Farshore safely. We will follow on foot and, if possible, meet up with you along the way. Otherwise, we will reunite at the settlement.”

Adameus pursed his lips, but took the charm and put it on.

“And you might want to return this to her,” Viselys held put the diary.

Adameus looked at it and considered, “There’s still no guarantee that we’ll make it. Maybe you should give it to her at Farshore. Besides, she meant for one of us to read it, if not both.” When Adameus saw that Viselys was confused he explained, “She left it out on the bed to be found. By who? Us. Well, whose gonna read it? You’re the leader, so my money would be on you – and I’d have won. I would give me longer odds, but still better than the others. At least that’s what I think she thought.”

Viselys wasn’t sure he followed the logic, but he hesitantly put the book back in his pack. When he brought his hand out, he had something else in it, “One more thing. It may be too late, but perhaps this makes some amends.” He placed Rowyn’s illusion casting hair comb in his hand, “Who knows, you might need it. Who knows what circumstances you might find yourself in between here and Farshore?”

Adameus accepted the object silently. He noticed that Ornrik was hovering nearby, clearly trying to listen in on the conversation.

“Damn nosey Dwarf,” Adameus spat, “Do you have no concept to privacy and personal boundaries. Are all Dwarves as ignorant as you are? I have never in my life….”

Ba-BOOM!!! The ground vibrated beneath their feet.

Ba-BOOM!!! Puddles on the ground rippled with the vibration.

Ba-BOOM!!! What ever it was it was getting closer and everyone on the beach started moving together defensively.

Then a screaming roar pierced the skies as something big burst out of the jungle. It stood about 20 feet tall on two huge muscular legs. Its long tail slapped back and forth tearing up foliage thicker than saplings. It opened its gigantic mouth large enough to swallow any one of them whole and bared teeth the size of swords as it roared again. A dragon? Not quite, but the resemblance was unnerving. Whatever it was, they had to kill it fast. One bite from that thing and someone would probably be very dead.


Ornrik was quick with the scroll he had recently obtained and attempted to cast “Hold Monster” from it. However, either the spell was too high a level for him, or the beast was just too strong, because it had no effect.

Saris, still flushed from his lovers’ quarrel, and not thinking entirely clear, charged the beast. It was only when he was within striking distance and looked up that he realized what a bad idea his tactic had been. Viselys saw the tactical error and acted to correct it. He called out battle plans and deployed his comrades, allowing Saris to move back to the group. Adameus, Diamondback and Skald peppered the beast with arrows, many of which never pierced its scaly hide.

The creature had had enough and it sprang forward with what seemed like unnatural speed for its size. It bore down on the nearest target, which happened to be Visleys and it bit down with a snap. Viselys screamed in pain as the teeth sunk into his midsection, his top half inside the creature’s mouth. The smell of rotting flesh was sickening, but panic enhanced his strength as he somehow found the power to wrest himself free. It was a miracle, and he knew if this thing got another opportunity, he would not survive.

The realization came to everyone and they fought with a focus wrought from a desire to live. That, coupled with a great deal of luck, allowed them to fell the beast before it had another opportunity to strike. Nobody could have been more amazed than they were themselves.

Ornrik moved to tend to Viselys’ wounds.

By the time Viselys was able to stand again, the Fire Troll was pulling alongside the Blue Nixie. A cargo winch was lowering, but on the wrong side. Soon it began to lift again and, from around the far side came what had been lowered. First, Thunderstike, with Avner on her back, splashed through the surf like a Kelpie. In her wake, a small rowboat bearing Avner’s two servants, Quenge and Barnaby, and the gnome navigator, Urol slowly paddled ashore.

Everyone on the shore turned a shocked look to Amella, who could be seen standing at the rail of the Fire Troll. She returned their gaze with an exaggerated shrug.

Viselys and Saris met Avner as Thunderstike emerged from the water on the beach. Viselys was the first to speak, “My Lord, what are you doing here? What are you all doing here?”

“I am here because Lavina is in trouble,” Avner replied in a boisterous declaration. “If there is to be a rescue, then I must join you.”

“Lord Meravanchi, with all due respect, it is likely to be very dangerous. It is also likely to be very difficult and uncomfortable travel. You are needed to protect your investment aboard the Sea Wyven…”

Avner jumped down from Thunderstrike and strode right up to Viselys, standing uncomfortably close, “First, my only reason for investing in this ridiculous excursion is because I’m trying to score with Lady Vanderboren, so my ‘investment’ is out there!” he indicated the jungle. “Second, I’m tired of being on that ship as is my horse and the walk would do us both some good. Third, with no respect due, whatever your name is, I’m tired of your presumptive, know it all attitude and on land you’re not in charge anymore. I’m going and that’s final. What you say doesn’t matter to me.”

“Your servants too?” Viselys hoped to minimize his losses.

“They go wherever I go,” Avner said, handing off the rains to one of them.

“You know,” Saris spoke up, “He’s right.” Viselys’ gaze snapped to Saris in shock. “Yeah, he knows what he wants and who are any of us to say no?” Viselys was still shocked so Saris smiled and looked past Viselys to the corpse of the giant lizard. Suddenly Viselys got it.

“See, leave it to a nobleman to speak sensibly,” Avner said in a more relaxed tone. Then he added, “Even if he is a MINOR noble.”

Viselys rolled his eyes, landing his gaze on Adameus, “Now.”

Adameus nodded. He flared at Avner and disappeared.

“Hey!” Avner shouted, “Where did he go?”

Viselys didn’t even look at him, “Nothing I would say would matter to you anyway, so I’ll just save my breath.” Before Avner could retort, he moved on to the Gnome, “Urol, I really don’t think now is a good time…”

Perhaps emboldened by Avner’s display, Urol interrupted, “Look, I many not be as big as the rest of you, and I may not be as good with a sword, but I am the only one here who has been to this island before and I am your best shot at navigating it safely.” With that, he jumped out of the boat and made a beeline for the monster corpse. “For example, this incredible specimen is called a Dinosaur. The word comes from ancient Elvish and means ‘Terrible Lizard.’ Specifically, this is Tyranosaurs. They don’t come more dangerous than him.”

Avner, having the carcass pointed out to him, gulped hard, but then he steeled himself, “See? If that’s the worst, and you were able to handle him okay, we’ll be fine!”

“It’s not just predators,” Viselys continued his earlier argument, “We have days of travel ahead of us. Maybe as much as a week! And the only provisions we will have is what we carry with us. The more mouths there are to feed, the more we have to carry.”

Urol stood and held his arms out, “What do we need that the jungle cannot provide? This guy here could feed us for a month if we could preserve him. Cooked, it could last several days.”

Avner nodded, “Sure, it probably tastes just like alligator.” He was serious.

“What does alligator taste like?” Skald asked, not really expecting an answer.

But Anver acknowledged the question. He turned and replied, “I hate to sound cliché, but it tastes like chicken. Well, maybe more like pheasant.”

Urol became excited, “You know, that makes perfect sense. Reptiles are actually very closely related to birds.”

“I’ll take a drumstick,” Saris quipped.

Viselys could see it was a losing fight. “Okay, but if we’re going to do this thing, Thunderstrike carries the provisions.”

Avner thought about it – the option was that he might have to carry something. “Agreed,” he replied.

Skald began butchering “Big T” while Barnaby and Quenge collected firewood for cooking. Viselys was very eager to get moving, but he understood the need for provisions, and he didn’t want to draw from the already depleted stores bound for Farshore. As soon as they had cooked the meat, though, they were wrapping it in canvas and oil skins and taking it “to go.”

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