Chapter 14 - If Two Heads Are Better Than One...

For most, morning seemed to come far too soon. The price of all the merriment the night before was some painful headaches and very sensitive eyes and ears. When dawn came, there were fewer people on deck than usual, and were very quite and most had deeply creased brows.

That is to say for everyone but those who didn’t drink (or over drink). Viselys, Diamondback and Adameus hadn’t touched the rum, and if Ornrik experienced any deleterious effects, they were not severe.

The first thing that Viselys noticed was that Jacob was still at the wheel. He climbed the stairs to the poop deck and crossed to the tall, dark skinned man, “Jacob, have you been standing at the helm all night?”

He was clearly tired, but stalwart. “Yes, and I will be until relieved. I will not fall asleep on duty. Never again.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, my friend,” came a voice from the stair. “That was not your fault. It was the magic spell cast on you by an assassin,” Ornrik explained.

“If you say so,” Jacob replied, his eyelids clearly heavy.

Adameus and Diamondback were halfway up the stairs when Urol arrived, “Um, I’m sorry to bother you folks, but I thought I should inform you that there is a pretty nasty storm on the horizon, and we’re heading right into it.”

They all looked and saw that he was right, but Adameus spoke first, “I’ll go get the captain.”

Viselys shook his head, “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”

Adameus continued walking, “Look, I know she tied one on last night, and I know she ain’t alone, but that doesn’t matter. She’s got responsibilities and I’m fixing to call her to them.”

Viselys looked at Ornrik, who returned his gaze and shrugged.

“Captain?” Adameus spoke not too loudly as he knocked on the door directly beneath his companions feet; the door to Amella’s quarters. When he received no answer, he pounded and nearly shouted, “Captain, you’re needed on deck!”

The door swung open just wide enough for Saris to stick his head out, “What is it?!”

“As I said, the Captain is needed on deck – right now!” He pushed the door open slightly more, not trying to enter or push past Saris, but to speak directly to Amella.

This, Adameus quickly discovered, was a big mistake. Beyond Saris, the captain was splayed out in her bunk exposing far more of herself than decency would permit. “Oh!” he said as he quickly looked down … right at Saris swinging sword – and NOT his rapier. “Um, Saris, you … you aren’t wearing any pants!”

“No, I’m not,” Saris said, standing back and resting his fits on his hips, not really caring that he was exposed.

Adameus turned away for fear of going blind – or wishing he would, “Just wake her up and get her on deck.” Then he quickly added, “DRESSED, first!”

Amella was still fastening her belt as she emerged on deck, “What in the Underworld is going on?”

Jacob spoke up first, “Squall, Captain.”

The captain snapped into action, shouting orders, “Alright. Secure the sails, baton the hatches, and lock up everything that’s not nailed down!”

Viselys turned to Jacob, “How long do you think we have before we hit that storm?”

Jacob squinted and took a few moments to consider, “The winds haven’t turned towards us yet. I figure a couple hours, but that could change real quick.”

With that answer, Viselys turned quickly to Diamondback, “Get the carpenter, and a couple male civilians. I want to get that ballista from the new ship and secured here before the storm hits.”

While Diamondback dashed off to fulfill Viselys’ orders to the best of her abilities, Adameus addressed several of the crew asking if the other ship, being towed by the Sea Wyvern, would stay with them through the storm. The best guess was that it would be okay.

There was not enough time to properly install the ballista, but there was enough time to transfer it to the Sea Wyvern and lash it down. Then all non-essential personnel held up below deck. Saris remained on deck because he had seamanship skills.

The storm was quite violent, but the captain’s skill kept the Sea Wyvern on course with no serious damage and the Fire Troll’s ship was still securely lashed astern. The clouds broke and the sky cleared, but the Blue Nixie was not in immediate site. Then a shout from the crow’s nest indicated sighting the lead ship in the distance. Apparently they’d been blown off course in the storm. Within the hour, they were reunited. The crews of both ships exchanged calls to be sure that all was well with the other, and the journey to the next port continued.

The ballista was mounted on a swiveling base on the prow. It seemed likely, given the journey thus far, that the siege weapon would be put to use before long.

Adameus found a moment to speak to Saris in relative privacy in the days spent traveling to Fort Greenrock.

“Saris, I hope you realize it was my intention neither to embarrass you or the captain, nor to cause you any kind of grief by knocking you up, but clearly the need of the hour was a priority,” Adameus offered sincerely.

Saris scoffed lightly, “What’s to be embarrassed about? I don’t mind it being known that I past the night with the lovely captain. I’m quite proud of that fact.”

Adameus nodded, “Right, yeah, well, I kind of wanted to talk to you about her. I know it’s none of my business, but I’ve spent some time with Amella and I think I understand some of what she’s been through. She’s had quite a history and she’s seen tragedy. I don’t really know what I’m getting at, but just don’t hurt her. She’s a good person and she deserves happiness.”

Saris nodded, “I didn’t know you’d taken a shine to the captain, yourself.”

“No, that’s not it,” Adameus protested, surprised. “I just don’t want to see her hurt…”

“Well, if you’re not interested in having her scratch an itch for you, what do you care?”

Adameus just shook his head, “Look, all I’m saying is that there is more pleasures a woman can bring you besides rutting. She can bring you real happiness if you treat her right.”

“Oh, I treated her right. And she DID bring me real happiness,” Saris chuckled salaciously.

Adameus puffed hard, “Right,” and he walked away.

A shout from the crow’s nest announced that Fort Greenrock was coming into view. However, as they approached, it soon became apparent that something was very wrong. They pulled alongside the Blue Nixie to discuss options. By the time they were close enough to the other ship to communicate, it had become apparent that Fort Greerock had been sacked. There was no smoke or other indications of a recent attack, but it had clearly been raised and there was no indications of life.

Viselys, Adameus, and Ornrik wanted to go investigate, but Lavinia didn’t want to lose too much time. So Viselys decided that they would take the Fire Troll’s ship which was lighter and faster. They took Diamondback and Skald with them. Viselys also invited Conrad Horst, giving him another opportunity to prove himself.

About half way to the shore, they felt something bump the hull.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Adameus bemoaned.

Then, in front of the ship, arose a serpentine head … then another and another!

“By the Fates!” Horst exclaimed, “A whole school of sea serpents!”

But as the heads emerged, it soon became apparent that this was not a host of creatures, but a single monster with multiple heads.

“A hydra!” Ornrik shouted.

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Adameus looked at Diamondback and there was some unspoken agreement regarding strategy, but Saris and Viselys had already taken up the choice positions at the rail. Adameus shook his head – not that he disapproved, but to tell Diamondback that their initial plan was out. He held out his hand indicating for her to stay back and he pulled out a crossbow. Skald, for his part, just began firing arrow after arrow. Horst wanted to help, but he had no idea what he could contribute.

As Saris and Viselys drew their swords, they were both taken by surprise. Both bladed weapons were glowing with flame. Saris’ sword flickered red and Viselys’ was blue. Viselys was not very happy with this turn of events, but Saris didn’t want to take time to think about it as he lashed out at the hydra.

The hydra, for it’s part, had a surprise weapon, too. While two of the heads snapped and bit as Saris and Viselys, the others breathed out a plume of steam scalding those in its path. Adameus and Diamondback nimbly dodged the superheated water, but Horst and Ornrik were not as lucky. Horst was badly scalded, losing consciousness. Ornrik had to pull him to relative safety and try to stabilize him.

Suddenly, without warning, something flew over their heads and splashed into the water beyond the hydra. Those that could, looked back in the direction the object had come from to see Avner Meravanchi at the ballista on the Sea Wyvern.

Skald and Adameus were doing what they could with their own missile weapons as were Saris and Viselys with their glowing swords. Diamondback, however, was frustrated at not finding an obvious way to assist. Ornrik was only slightly better suited as he cast a spell on Saris causing him to grow to twice his size, giving him greater reach and strength. It also pushed Adameus back against the rail.

For a moment it seemed as though Adameus would go overboard, but he leapt up with a flip and stuck a landing balanced on the rail. It looked quite spectacular, but afforded him no strategic advantage.

Saris was able to score more hits and do more damage, but he was also a larger target. He soon realized he was in serious trouble and pulled back.

“Saris, what gives?” Adameus shouted from his perch on the rail, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you retreat before. Which is it – are you scared or tired?”

But there was little time for humor when Ornrik pointed out that the creature was regenerating. They would have to take it down fast.

Sure enough, the creature did look pretty bad and a few more hits probably would have done it, but another ballista bolt arched over their heads and impaled the creature right at the point of the body where the heads branched off. The hydra was dead.

Everyone turned and saw Avner punching the air in victory. Adameus, still standing at a higher point then the others waved his thanks, leading Avner to re-aim the siege weapon again for some reason. The captain interrupted whatever he had planned by slapping his arm and saying something angrily to him.

Adameus dropped his crossbow and said, “I’m going to dive down and see what I can find. I doubt we are the first to be ambushed by this beast, so there might be some sunken ships down there and who knows what they might have been carrying. “ He dove, taking the form of a manta as he hit the water.

Indeed there were several vessels submerged here. On the deck of one, he found some prayer beads. He swam into the ship’s hold and found a closed chest which he could only guess contained something valuable. He then swam over to the other ship and found the body of an elf dressed in amazing armor that did not look at all as though it had been submerged under seawater for years. The deceased elf very much spooked Adameus and he almost expected it to turn and look at him.

With no hands to grab hold of anything, Adameus swam back to the deck of the first ship, hooked the prayer beads with his tail and swam back to the surface. He flicked the beads up onto the deck and then leapt out himself. Back in his natural form, he described the chest and the armor and the problem he had with recovering them. Saris suggested taking a rope with him and tying it around the chest.

“Great idea,” Adameus said sarcastically, “How do you suggest I do that with no hands?”

“Good point,” Saris replied.

Ornrik had a suggestion, “Take the cloak off. Dive down using those gloves of swimming, tie a rope around the chest and around yourself and then put the cloak on.”

That worked. In fact, Adameus doubted he could have swam to the surface with the heavy chest without being in manta form. A second trip and he was able to secure the magic armor as well.

While Ornrik evaluated the magical treasure, they continued ahead towards the ruined fort.

Continue to Chapter 15...

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