Chapter 10 - “Sleeping is no mean art: for it's sake, one must stay awake all day.”

“Everybody, back up the steps,” Viselys suggested, “They may not be able to follow us, and we would certainly have the advantage even if they can.”

“Hey, I’m all for picking them off from a distance,” Saris commented.

“Right, why get your hands dirty if you don’t have to?” Avner added. Saris had to look to see the nobleman’s grin to determine that he was being serious and not sarcastic.

Before the three giant crabs could even reach the first step, one was dead, pelted with flaming arrows and magical projectiles. The other two, having taken several arrow-inflicted wounds, realized their meal would not come easily and backed up into the water, which provided them with partial cover. This did little for the second crustacean, who died right there in the shallow water. The other moved a little way along where the cliff met the water and seemed to climb further down, clearly having found a deeper area.

The party moved back to the shore to examine their options. About 50 feet separated the beach and a rocky shore from which a carved path led up the cliff face. “That path and this beach were probably joined at one time, but centuries of erosion have washed away any land bridge that might have aided us,” Urol observed.

“Well, we can’t just swim it with that giant crab hiding under there,” Saris noted. “I’m going to see if I can get a lay of the land – er, underwater. Whatever; you know what I mean.” He waded out, and found that the water came up to about his neck at the deepest point near the beach. He ducked his head under to see what he could see. About 25 yards out from shore, the ground dropped away into far deeper depths. Also, as they had surmised, there was a depression near the cliff into which the remaining giant crab must have retreated. It was about thirty feet across, but he couldn’t tell how deep – certainly not from this vantage. He drew his sword, and stepped a little closer. Suddenly, when he was within ten feet of the depression, two giant pincers darted out and tried to grab him. He tried to step back, only to realize that the resistance of the water severely hampered his efforts. Swinging his sword was equally useless.

Saris was about to head back to shore when he realized that Ornrik was coming to join him. The dwarf had grown to about twice his size, which was good, otherwise the surface would be well above the diminutive wizard/priest’s head. Saris dropped his head beneath the surface, and moved up to the edge of the giant crab’s hiding place. As it emerged to try to nab the dwarf, Ornrik let fly with a volley of Magic Missiles, finally doing the crab in.

Saris, having witnessed the exchange, called out to the others. “The third crab is dead. If you follow me, I can lead you around the deep spot, and we can actually walk to the other side. We’ll have to move quick, though. Injured as we are, we're sending out a dinner call to every shark within a mile."

Urol was far too short to walk the distance underwater. Instead he rode Thunderstike, with Avner’s begrudging consent. Saris was able to float the bodies of the two retrievable giant crabs, one at a time, to the rocky shore where the party was regrouping.

“If we cook the meat, these should go a long way to restocking our food supply,” Urol noted.

“My thought exactly,” Saris responded.

While Urol began clearing some stones creating a hole in the shore which filled with seawater as he worked, Viselys began to protest, “We have wasted far too much time as it is. We need to move out.”

“We won’t get very far without food,” Ornrik noted. “The meat from the dinosaur at the crash sight is nearly used up – what’s left won’t last more than a day.”

“And we are still many days away from Farshore,” Urol added as Saris and Ornrik moved to help him move rocks.”

“How far would you guess it is?” Saris asked, not stopping his work.

Urol, on the other hand, had dug as deep as his diminutive stature would allow, so he stood to consider the question, “Well, if we follow the shore, and we have relatively clear terrain – AND assuming we are where I think we are – about six days?” Before Viselys could interject, Urol added, “But without food, we will begin to slow down in two and we will succumb to exhaustion in four. There is no guarantee when, or if, such a food supply will present itself again, and even if it does, it will likely require time to hunt, trap or otherwise obtain, plus preparation time.”

Viselys considered this for a minute, “Okay, we’ll stay and prepare the crab meat for travel, but then we move on at a quick pace. We really push it to make up time. Agreed?” The response he received was somewhat noncommittal grunts and mumbled “whatever.”

When a pit large enough to accommodate the two crabs had been cleared, Ornrik cast his flaming sphere and submerged it to boil the water. The crustaceans popped and hissed as they boiled, and it was no small bit of work to cut open the outer shells, but when they were done, they had gathered about 60 lbs. of cooked crab meat – enough to last for days.

Skald led the way up the incline, but he stopped in his tracks when he reached the point where the ledge evened out – about half way up the cliff.

“What is it, Skald?” Saris asked.

“Um, I think you guys need to see this,” He said, pointing at the cliff face to their right.

As the others came up to where he was they all saw it. The rock wall was stained with fresh blood. It wasn’t a random spatter, either. It was a message:


“This couldn’t be more than a few hours old,” Urol noted. “I can’t tell you the source of this blood, though. I haven’t the right equipment with me. In any event, these “winged ones” could be gargoyles. I’ve heard rumors of a settlement across the bay.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Viselys said, “It’s just all the more reason to keep moving.”

The path was rather clear. What may have been as much as an 80’ wide ridge at one time had eroded over the centuries and, in some places, was no more than 10’ wide. Still, that was plenty of room for them to traverse, even with a horse. “The Olmans dug this path out of the rock. Ingenious work of engineering. I can’t even imagine how they did it. It must have taken hundreds of men.”

“Well, there’s been some upkeep,” Ornrik noted, referring to the occasional rotted wooden supports they occasionally passed.

“Clearly,” Urol agreed. “This is, perhaps, the best evidence that I’ve seen yet to indicate that there must be some remnants of the Olmans still living on this island. After we get to Farshore, I intend to form an expedition into the island’s interior to try and find some active Olman settlements.”

As night began to fall, the party began to look forward to stopping for the night and making camp, but Viselys showed no sign of stopping. “Hey, aren’t we going to bed down?” Avner asked.

“We agreed to push it if we took the time to cook the crab meat. We push on through the night. Besides, if there are gargoyles lurking about, I’d rather us all be alert if they attack at night.”

There was some grumbling, but they continued through the night. The path was more difficult, and they had to slow down for fear of walking off the edge. By midnight there were loud yawns at regular intervals. A few hours before dawn, the murmuring grumbles began. By the time the sun was coming up over the horizon, the party was spent.

“That’s it,” Avner announced, “We’ve marched all night, just like you wanted. Now it’s time to get some rest.”

“No, we have to keep going,” Viselys argued.

“Look, I hate to admit it,” Ornrik stated, “but I have to agree with Avner. We’re all tired, and we need to sleep. If I don’t get eight hours of uninterrupted rest, I cannot prepare my spells.”

“And without rest,” Urol contributed, “fatigue increases exponentially, and efficiency decreases at an inverse rate. If combat should occur while we are fatigued – well, it could be bad.”

Avner already had his bedroll spread out, getting comfortable. Urol, too, was settling down to sleep.

“Look, I know you are eager to find Lavinia,” Ornrik said to Viselys, “but you won’t do her any good by driving everybody to exhaustion.”

“Okay, trying to sleep here,” Aver called out.

“She already has at least three days on us,” Viselys responded to Ornrik, “and we’ll never catch up if we don’t make up that time.”

Ornrik sat down, and started going through his duffel, “All I’m saying is that we can’t keep going non-stop for days and days.”

“All I’m saying is I’m TRYING TO SLEEP!” Avner shouted.

“Fine!” Viselys said, in a snit.

In short order, everyone was quiet except for scattered snoring.

* * * * *

Ornrik was the first to wake, and he immediately pulled out his spell book to study. Urol awakened shortly after, and started preparing a meal for everyone. This quickly roused the rest of the party.

Suddenly, the peace that had been theirs for hours was broken, “Aw, for gods’ sakes! That’s disgusting!” Avner exclaimed.

“What is?” Saris asked, strapping on his sword.

Avner indicated behind himself – back down the path the way they had come, “I was stepping back to take a leak, and I saw this bunch of dead birds.”

Saris looked at the indicated scene, “These weren’t here when we walked by.”

The birds were seagulls, and they had been killed recently, as the blood was not yet coagulated. Indeed, each bird was missing a head.

“I don’t think this is a random collection either. Look.” Urol stated. “These are arranged in the exact same pattern that we slept in last night.” He pointed at each in turn, “Me, Ornrik, Saris, Viselys, Diamondback, Skald, Barnaby, Quenge, Avner …” he reached down to pick up two birds that had been sewn together, “…and Thunderstrike.”

Skald shook his head, “Okay, that’s creepy. And for ME to say that, you know it’s disturbing.”

“So we’re being watched,” Saris noted.

“Do you think this could have been done by gargoyles?” Ornrik inquired, “They can fly, after all.”

“I don’t think so,” Urol stated, “At least not by the method you infer. First, we would have heard its wings flapping. Second, it would have had to land to arrange these, and there are no footprints. Whatever did this did it silently, and without leaving a trace.”

“Roll ‘em out!” Avner stated, as though he needed absolutely no convincing.

“What’s your hurry?” Viselys said in a clearly mocking tone, “Let’s stay, eat, rest. It’s a beautiful sunrise. Maybe we could go for a swim.”

As Ornrik began to verbally spar with Viselys, Avner turned to Saris and grumbled, “Commoners. Right? You know.”

Saris hated to admit that he had no cause or means to disagree with Avner, so he nodded in agreement.

“No, I want to make sure I’m not pushing you all too hard,” Viselys was saying. By this time everyone had their duffels packed, and were lining up to start walking.

Avner was one of the last ones to pass Viselys, who was stubbornly still sitting on the ground. Avner paused to look at him, “You really are a whiny, immature child, aren’t you?” he asked Viselys rhetorically.

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