Chapter 19 - Quadrille With A Mock Turtle

This chapter was provided by special guest writer, Patrick, the player of Duxsil!

It was good to be out in the fresh air after what seemed like weeks underground. Everyone thought so. The dampness and dark, particularly when combined with the sickening smells and the nauseating visions of madness that they had been subjected to in recent days, had seemingly settled into their very bones. Emerging into the sunlight had been almost painful in its intensity, yet each of them had relished the sun's embrace as though it were a long lost loved one. And now, slicing through the waves and the wind on their way back to Farshore was almost as gratifying as their victory at the ziggurat.

Yet, while the others celebrated and looked toward home, Duxsil wrestled still with unfinished business. Despite their recent experiences together, he was a newcomer. How could he ever hope to make them understand? Coming down from both the excitement and rigors of an adventure, he couldn't imagine that they would be willing to take on something else now. Not so soon, and with their deal with the creature barely a month old. Indeed, it was highly unlikely that Viselys would buy into such an excursion at any time, now that the deal had been brokered. Not unless there were no other choice. Not unless the beast broke the bargain.

There was no guarantee that Duxsil would be in this position again. He knew neither the party nor Lavinia Vanderboren well enough to know whether they would seek his employ now that the task was complete. And without a ship and competent crew, any hope that he had to destroy the villainous Glutton once and for all would be gone. As he stared out across the sea, brooding over the situation, an idea came to him. It should work. It could work, of that he was certain, but the other passengers could not know. They must not.

The afternoon wore on, and he bode his time. A magnificent sunset came and went, but he was too deep in thought to notice. He planned and schemed until nightfall, and retired to his rack - tomorrow would be a busy day.

The wizard awoke unusually early, and carefully selected and prepared his spells for the day. His meditation felt rushed in his eagerness, but he was meticulous. In the pre-dawn stillness he moved quietly onto the upper deck, and took up a position near the helm. When the opportunity came, he was sure that none would notice. He sent a ghostly hand up the underside of the mainsail and released the flag - their sole identification as an ally of the Glutton, and the only thing keeping it from attacking them, per the bargain that Viselys had struck - from its ties.

Nothing happened at first, as the cloth blew silently away on the morning breeze. In fact, nothing happened for hours, but he was confident that the beast would eventually take notice. Just as Duxsil was beginning to nod off in the warmth of the afternoon, it struck.

Every member of the crew was caught completely off their guard. Stunned expressions adorned every face, as they tried to understand what had caused the ship to shake violently and lurch to one side. When the lookout spotted the gargantuan shell moving beneath the water and called the alarm, it was already wheeling around for another run. All at once, men were running and shouting. "Man the ballistas! Helmsman - hard to port!", cried captain Amella. She signaled to turn the vessel and take evasive maneuvers.

Viselys saw that the flag had disappeared, and understanding dawned on his face. "Wait! Emraag - Glutton! Wait! We had a deal with you but a few weeks back! You agreed not to attack us! Our flag has gone missing, but we are the same - stop your attack and honor your bargain!" The dragon turtle snorted and attacked again. Instead of ramming the vessel a second time, it lurched its massive head upward and spewed forth a great cloud of steam across the main deck. Liamae and Urol were nearly burned to death before the scorching vapor dissipated. His answer was clear - there would be no further agreement. Even Miranda's magical music did little to help dissuade it.

As she wove her spell, a thin green ray of light streaked from somewhere behind the helm. Duxsil, finger outstretched, had cast a disintegrate spell. Naturally the beast's armored body made the thing nearly impervious to such an attack, which did minimal damage if any at all. "Fool!", he thought to himself, "disintegrate!? It's a *turtle* for goodness sake! Cunning. Cunning! Breathe and follow the plan!"

As if to emphasize the point, Emraag dove beneath the ship. A half second later the entire vessel was thrown so violently that Duxsil thought it would be torn in two. Most of those above deck were thrown to the boards - only Roarke, Saris and Duxsil managed to keep their feet.

Chaos ensued. Most of the sailors dove into the water, expecting to survive better away from the rolling ship. Others slid across the deck to climb into the longboat as best they could: Roarke and Liamae first, followed by Amella and Urol. Despite the attempts at help, Miranda the bard was nearly knocked senseless several times, as she tried to make it to the smaller boat without being thrown from the larger one.

To the rising starboard of the capsizing craft Viselys donned the Cloak of the Manta Ray. Drawing his sword, he dove into the water. Above him, Duxsil cast another spell toward Emraag. The beast seemed put off by this wave of negative energy as it looked about for another victim. Most of the combatants were now on the far side of the craft, and the monster seemed to be deciding what to do. Putting his sailor's instincts to work, Saris Van Sky followed the slope of the deck toward the highest point, balancing upon the top as it rolled.

The battle seemed to pause for the briefest of moments. With Saris balancing, Viselys transforming into a Manta Ray, and the monster pausing for lack of a clear victim to attack in the confusion, Duxsil muttered quietly, making waving motions with his hands. The water began to move unnaturally. It rose, then, and like a wave slammed into the turtle, not once but twice. That was all that Emraag needed. The elemental was a clear enemy, and the turtle went after it with all of its renowned rancor. It bit into the other-worldly being viciously, tearing with the massive teeth inherited from its dragon ancestors, while slicing with claws the length of swords. The water creature, wounded but not out of the fight by any means, withdrew to prepare its next surging blows.

A shadowy figure like a manta swam below the now distracted Glutton, testing the turtle's vulnerabilities unsuccessfully. The rest of the crew could do nothing now, so they cut themselves from the still-rolling ship and began to row away. At once Saris noticed the fleeing rowboat, and dove from the ship's side into the water below before pulling himself up into the small craft with his comrades. But Duxsil was a different matter. As soon as he had completed the conjuration of the elemental, he took to the air, freeing himself from the ship. Flight enabled him to stay away from the breath cloud, but remain close enough to strike. Seeing the damage the great beast had done to the water creature in the first attack, Duxsil began another spell. A large ball of what appeared to be blue flame manifested itself in the wizard's hand, and he threw it toward the Dragon Turtle. The turtle howled as the sphere hit it, injuring it more than it had yet been. Immediately the water surrounding the creature began to freeze. Six inches thick, the flow covered most if its body, trapping it.

The elemental attacked yet again, slamming the beast with its full weight. Viselys swam beneath it, attempting to harm it but with only minor success. Perhaps more useful were the arrows of Saris, and the Magic Missiles from Liamae, as they streaked from the small row boat and embedded themselves into the creature. More enraged now than before, Emraag gave a great bellow and shattered its prison if ice. After a final round of blows were exchanged, the turtle lurched forth and enveloped both the water mound and the Kensai in hot steam. That nearly finished the water elemental, which fled from the turtle, hoping to right the boat as the one that had called it had wished. With an outstretched claw the Glutton finished it off.

And that, when the situation looked most bleak, was where the battle turned.

Duxsil sent another ray of light streaking toward the turtle, this time to bring it to complete exhaustion. In it's weakened state, Saris' arrows and Viselys' sword found their tasks far easier, and they fairly disappeared into the creature's flesh. It turned to attack Viselys, but its head was no longer clear. It did far less damage than it might have, and as it turned again for the last time, Duxsil sent a massive arc of lightning directly into the beast. Within a second a barrage of Saris' arrows sprouted from the listing creature, and Emraag the Glutton was no more.

Continue to Chapter 20...

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