Chapter 19 - They're coming...

“So what are we going to do about it?” Adameus asked.

“I want to get all the civilians up into the Rope Trick where they’ll be safe,” Ornrik stated.

“How long does that spell last?” Viselys said, clearly thinking through strategy.

Ornrik started to answer, and then stopped to think, doing a quick calculation in his head, “I can make it last 12 hours.”

“That’ll get us through the night,” Saris commented. “I’d also like to use some of the pitch and lumber from the hold to make torches to light up the perimeter. If these things are water creatures, maybe fire will repel them. If not, we’re no worse off, and maybe it will improve our chances to spot these things in the fog.”

“That pitch thing isn’t a bad idea,” Viselys considered, “Let’s get a small container of pitch and a torch for each person who has a bow. If you dip your arrow tips in pitch, you can light the ends before firing. It won’t be as devastating as the standard flaming arrow, but maybe it will help a bit.”

“We have to free up Ornrik so he can rest and recover his spells,” Saris mentioned.

“I’ll give Malcolm a Wand of Magic Missiles,” Ornrik suggested. “Then if the battle goes well, I will sit out until I’m needed.”

“We need you fresh when day breaks,” Viselys warned the dwarf.

With that, everyone began rushing about preparing to hold off an invasion. Like the encounter with the Fire Tolls, they knew that danger was coming. Unlike that battle, however, they didn’t really know the nature and number of their attackers. Still, they would be better prepared then the crew of the Rage, thanks to that ship’s captain and his log.

By the time the shadows on deck began to grow long, Saris and several of the crew-members had managed to stake dozens of five foot tall torches around the ship, posted into the seaweed at approximately ten foot intervals. Using two hand-held torches, Saris and Amella started together and went in opposite directions around the ship, lighting the torches as they went, meeting on the other side. (Checking to see that they were unobserved, they snuck a quick kiss when they came together). Then both hurried back up to the deck.

Fog was beginning to rise around the ship as Ornrik cast the Rope Trick spell and hustled the passengers and crew up into it. After everyone was in place and there was room for only one more, they bid the captain in as well.

“No, I’m staying and fighting to protect my ship,” she argued, taking a step closer to Saris.

“All right, then. Everyone, take your places,” Viselys ordered.

And as the last rays of sunlight disappeared from the horizon, they waited. The darkness seemed to come more quickly and completely than they had expected, due in large part to the thickness of the fog. It was so thick that nobody, not even the dwarf, could see more than 30 feet in any direction. The torches around the ship were little more than blurry globes of light, like distant lanterns across a moor.

And the silence was maddening. There was no sound of water lapping. No wind at all; not even the flapping of an insect’s wing, for there were no insects. No birds, no fish as far as they could tell – no life of any kind.

Then, perhaps only because it was SO quiet did they notice, the subtle sound like someone dragging a mop across a wet floor. First they heard it in front of them, then behind, then from both sides. Every eye looked sharp for anything – any movement, a shadow passing in front of the torches, anything.

That’s when it happened. The static lights from the torches jiggled slightly, and suddenly, all at once, the misty glow of the flames began to sink lower, lower until the lights disappeared with a sudden hiss.

“Myrival, preserve us!” Amella whispered from her position at the wheel.

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“There’s one!” Adameus said as he fired a shot to port.

Avner quickly turned the ballista in the direction of the tiny flicker of Adameus’ arrow and fired, “I got it!” he said, squinting, “I’m pretty sure.” Banaby and Quenge were already loading another bolt.

“There’s another!” Amella said firing aft of starboard.

Malcolm peppered the first of the creatures – which nobody had yet seen clearly – with Magic Missiles. Whatever it was, it seemed to dissolve back into the weeds.

“There’s another!” Saris indicated from the other side of Avner, who swung the ballista around.

“Where?” he asked.

“Hold,” Saris held up his hand. “It’s already to close to the hull, out of your line of sight. If these things can climb, and I have no reason to believe they can’t, you can nail it point blank when it gets to the rail.”

Meanwhile, Ornrik was casting an Enlarge spell on Cedric, who was preparing for battle with the thing crawling up the starboard stern. Amella was raining arrows down on it, but it wasn’t her weapon of choice and she couldn’t seem to score a hit.

Behind them, on the port side of the poop deck, Viselys waited. Diamondback cleared the distance to him in a blink, leaping up and over the rail, more than ten feet, with little apparent effort. “What’s wrong?” she asked him.

“I will not attack an adversary until I, myself, am attacked,” he replied, somewhat frustrated, “It is against the Kensai code. Besides,” he muttered little more than to himself, “maybe they are just coming to bring us candy,” he said casually, giving the slightest of grins towards Diamondback.

Avner was all set to fire the moment something came over the rail, but he thought he saw something to his left and he pivoted and fired. With not enough time for his servants to reload, he was unprepared when the creature came into view.

It was roughly humanoid, but there any commonality with a human ended. It was either covered in or comprised of sickly blackish green seaweed and made a disgusting wet slapping sound as it moved. It immediately lashed out at Quenge who collapsed under the assault. Saris sliced out with his glowing red rapier and Ornrik let loose a blast of magical flame.

With the ballista now useless, Avner stepped back and evaluated the situation. He drew his sword and watched Saris, trying not to look afraid or useless, though if he were honest, he felt both.

On an opposite diagonal, another creature crawled up to face Viselys and Diamondback, the latter letting out a flurry of punches. The creature seemed not to be phased and returned the favor, hitting her hard.

Cedric had taken a lot of hits from the creature, but he was giving as good as he got, thanks in part to his magically granted size. Amella maneuvered to find a better position, while Saris, having seen his creature drop, moved to her side. Together, the trio finished off the third seaweed creature.

Diamondback was in bad shape, but now the full force of the defenders was turned at the last of the attacking plant things, which they dispatched in short order.

“What now?” Amella asked.

“Now we prepare for the next wave,” Viselys said, ominously, as he checked Diamondback’s condition.

Continue to Chapter 20...

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