Chapter 16 - Oh My God! It's A Giant Squash!

Lavina greeted the group immediately upon their return to Farshore, “Oh, thank Shua you have returned! Things are not going well.”

“What is the trouble, my lady?” Viselys inquired with concern.

“It's Mathalay,” she replied, “He has been campaigning like a dervish since you left. He is using fear as a tactic, convincing people that the coming battle will be the death of everyone unless we retreat to the mainland. I've seen several independent polls, and they are not good. They show support for Mathalay at two to one and rising. I can't get enough people to work on reinforcing our defenses because so many believe it to be a lost cause. It may well be since, if we lose this election, we will most likely be abandoning Farshore before a single shot is fired.”

Captain Ulvar Kabbanja, who had accompanied Lavinia and remained silent until now, took this moment to speak up, “Support for Lady Vanderboren is, indeed, weak, and the expectation is a Merivachi victory. What they do not realize is that his plan is to subjugate the Olmans, which will require combat, and he will likely institute a forced draft.”

Hoping for SOME good news, Viselys noticed Zan. “What's the word at the Warehouse?”

Zan was clearly frustrated. He rubbed at the tension in his neck while clenching a fist with the other, “I've patrolled the warehouse night and day. I've even enlisted the assistance of Captain Kabbanja, Tolin and several militia. I've booby-trapped every door and window. I've even thrown down sand and dusted with chalk in case the culprit was invisible, but none of it has stopped the rat bastard.” By this point, he was almost frenzied. Zan, who had never really cared about any cause but his own, was given a challenge that, at the beginning, he accepted as a kind of puzzle or game. However, as particularly difficult puzzles can inspire, Zan had become obsessed.

Kabbanja felt it necessary to add, “There are rumors beginning to spread about the matter. Specifically that the Council is responsible. And, of course, Mathalay is trying to use it aganst Lavinia, too.”

Viselys had heard enough, “All right, that is where we will start. This matter of thievery must be dealt with immediately. Then we will use it as a point FOR Lavinia – to demonstrate how, when she puts her mind to it, she gets problems solved. Tonight, Saris and I will join you, Zan, at the warehouse.”

* * * * *

Telda Syren, the apothecary, approached Ornrik, accompanied by the Jade Raven, Kaskus Keil, “I am glad you are back,” She said, “I had been wanting to talk to you again about your ideas for increasing the efficiency of the infirmary.” Ornrik remembered no such ideas, though he did seem to recall vaguely a prior discussion with Thelda generally related to the infirmary. “Would you have some time over the next week to work with me, “ she asked him.

“I had an idea while you were gone, brother,” Kaskus spoke up, “I should probably have brought it up with the gnome, but I wanted your input first. On the way here, we had a few run-ins with some of those giant lizards that seem to be indigenous. Well, I know there is a nature spell related to bestowing sentient intelligence on beasts. If we could do that on some of them, we might convince them to help us in the battle. What do you think?”

Ornrik was feeling very uncomfortable. Since he had lost his holy magic, he was effectively handicapped, and he was not too keen on revealing this shortcoming. He thought quickly, “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea, Kaskus. Why don't you go ahead and talk to Urol about it and put a plan together. Telda … um, I'll see what I can do. Right now I have to go. I got a … thing …”

He had barely gotten thirty paces before he ran into Vesserin Catherly, the spiritual leader of Farshore, “Joyus day to you, fellow clergyman,” Ornrik felt his heart sink. “I was eager to inquire if you had given thought to my request for aid in the ministries. If the cemetery could be sanctified, I believe it could be of strategic benefit in the coming battle, not to mention the effect on morale to the community. As you know, there is always a danger of unholy forces co-opting the bodies of our dearly departed who are not fully at rest in unconsecrated ground.”

Ornrik had no idea how to respond, “Well, I, um, that is, er, you see…”

“Also, if you could assist in the regular ministry duties – leading worship services, prayer gatherings and healings, I know that, too, would boos the morale of the community.”

Ornrik breathed a heavy sigh. He knew he couldn't hide it any longer, “Vesserin, I don't think I can help you. I've lost my connection to my gods.” And he made his confession to the priest.

* * * * *

That night, Saris took one side of the warehouse and Viselys took the other while Zan walked the middle ground. They repeated Zan's efforts of trapping the portals and dusting the floor and other surfaces. They waited … and waited. One hour, two, three four …

Finally, well after midnight, Saris' attention was drawn by a soft “pop” sound. What he saw threw him into cognitive dissonance. It was about human sized, but there any resemblance to a human ended. The body, if such a term was appropriate, was shaped like a giant gourd, wide at the top, and narrowing to a rounded top. It looked like it had two mouths – one in the midsection and one at the top of the tapered end. Around those mouths were features that might have been eyes, or just dots – it was hard to tell. It supported itself on an appendage that, for all the world, looked like an arm with a four-fingered hand. Finally, there were four longer, much skinnier appendages that looked more like the branches of a sapping than arms. Saris had seen all kinds of vile creatures, but he had no point of reference for this aberration. “Holy crap! It's a giant squash!”


The creature was alerted instantly. It grabbed the nearest object, which happened to be Zan, in it's twig-like appendages and “popped” away again. By this point, Saris was close enough to feel the slight rush of air from the vacuum the creature's departure made, suggesting teleportation rather than invisibility. Viselys arrived, having leapt over a stack of boxes, just too late to see the thing. Although Saris' description seemed ridiculous, the missing lumber was undeniable. They decided that it was unlikely that the creature would return that night, but now finding their companion had upped the ante on the situation. Saris and Viselys immediately began rousing their companions to formulate a plan.

The group, including the the remaining three members of the Jade Ravens, sat in the nearly empty Last Coconut, listening to Saris recount what he had seen.

Urol spoke up hesitantly, “I can't be certain, since I've never seen one before, but based on Saris' description, It sounds a lot like an Ethereal Filcher; an extraplanar creature that appears to be fascinated by things of our plane and likes to collect them. If that's what this is, it's going to be very tricky, as you may have guessed. It can pop in and out in an instant.”

“We've dealt with teleportation before,” Viselys noted.

“Aye,” Ornrik spoke up, “Which is why I have been working on a new bit of magic, ever since that ape-demon. If this is a plane-shifting beastie, as Urol suggests, I may be able to anchor it in place temporarily. That would give us enough time to strike, or capture it, or whatever.”

“But we need to find out where it has taken Zan. We have to get him back,” Viselys said.

“And all the other stuff he took,” Saris added, practically.

“Not to slight the importance of the missing rouge,” Tolin said, “recovery of the missing building materials would be helpful in both the repairs to the Nixie and building up the defenses of Farshore.”

Viselys was pleased to hear that Tolin was thinking about the town's defenses. It meant that Tolin was on his “side” in that regard – not necessarily a given. He didn't verbalize any of this, however.

Kaskas interjected, “I can scry for the lad. All I need is a pool of clear, fresh water.”

Since locating Zan was the most time-critical matter at the moment, they all adjourned to a natural spring just outside of town. There the green-clad dwarf mumbled something, moving his hands over the water. Then he peered into the pool as if it was a window. To everyone else, it was just a pool of water, but to Kaskus, it really was a window.

“Zen is chained to a stone wall,” he explained. “He’s in a huge chamber. The ceiling looks to be about 50 feet high at its domed peak directly above a rectangular, dark pit in the center of the room - maybe 10 feet by 20 feet? Toward the walls. the ceiling is more like 40 feet up. The room is watched over by four hideous statues standing in alcoves, two on either side of the room. They are facing the pit. Zan is chained near one of those statues – it looks like a demonic ape. Anyway, that statue is on his left. To his right is a big dais – maybe twenty feet square with three steps leading up to it. There is a statue base on the dais, but no statue. It would have been the focus of the room, it seems – the base is larger than that of the other statues At the far end of the room, opposite the dais, there are stairs exiting the room down, about 5 feet, to huge double doors – I can’t tell if they’re bronze or copper, but metal of that hue. I can’t tell how deep the pit is – it’s so black inside, I can’t see any features. The room isn’t very well lit, either.”

“That sounds exactly like the temple of Demagorgon in Fogmire, where I was held captive.”

Viselys still looked over the dwarf's shoulder as though he could see something, “Tell Zan to hold on. We're coming for him. Hope can keep him going until we get there.”

“He can't hear me,” Kaskas said. “All I can do is see the area he's in.”

Viselys thought a bit. “Fogmire is actually along a convenient path to the Temple of the Jaguar,” he noted. I will leave immediately in the Fire Troll. Lefty, of course, is coming with me. I'll also need a crew for the ship…”

“Two more should be enough, Capt'n,” Lefty suggested.

Viselys nodded, “Saris, you take some men and stake out the warehouses again. See if you can't capture that creature. Then put a crew together and take the Sea Wyvern to repair the Blue Nixie.”

All parties agreed and they were off.

That night (and the next three nights) found Saris, Ornrik, Tolin, Kaskus and Liamae all on high alert in the warehouse. On that fourth night, Saris and Liamae both heard the “pop” sound as the creature blinked in. Tolin caught movement from the corner of his eye, and Kaskus was facing the wrong way. However, Ornrik quickly turned in the direction of the noise and cast his spell. Saris ran up to the creature which became clearly agitated as it tried unsuccessfully to jaunt away.

“Ha!” Saris mocked, “What do you have to say NOW? Tell us where you took our friends and you might live!”

The bizarre creature flailed its stick-like appendages and made a noise that sounded like babbling, but clearly afraid.

“Oh, a smartass, eh?” Saris said and ran the creature though.

Ornrik rubbed his chin, “Well, so much for capture.”

Saris wiped the green ichor from his blade, “Whatever. Tomorrow we'll set sail for the other side of the island.”

Continue to Chapter 17...

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