Chapter 6 - Dr. Ornrik to the O.R....Dr. Ornrik to the O.R. STAT!

Viselys was awake before either Diamondback or Adameus. He picked up the bowl of, now, cool water from the floor next to his bed, walked over to Diamondback, and poured a small amount out on her head. She sat bolt upright with a scream that awakened Adameus. The rogue realized instantly what was coming, and pulled the cover over his head.

“Naw, I’ve got something else in mind for you,” Viselys said, “When you least expect it.”

After they’d had a bit of a laugh, and Adameus purposely poured water over his head to freshen up, they headed back to the Sea Wyvern.

At first light, the crew was bustling about getting ready to set sail. They retracted the gangplank, weighed anchor, and hoisted the main sail. Soon the Wyvern and the Blue Nixie were back on course for Farshore.

Up on deck, Adameus noticed Father Feres holding his side and staggering a bit. “Hey there, padre, what’s wrong? You haven’t seemed prone to sea sickness since we left Sasserine.”

The slightly diminutive man leaned against the mast and wiped his brow. “No, I don’t think that’s it. I am a bit nauseous, but there’s this pain in my side. I feel dizzy and … well, I just don’t feel right.”

Knowing he was way out of his league, Adameus knew he need to get the man appropriate help immediately. He looked around and , although there were plenty of people on deck, none were the one sought. So, he settled for the one that he perceived was the quickest, “Tara, go get Ornrik!”

Diamondback was demonstrating tumbling to Viselys and she wasn’t sure what to do, “Um, well, we were…”

“Tara, now! Please! It’s an emergency.” Adameus wasn’t unkind, but firm.

In a blink she was off and, in short order, was back with Ornrik, nearly dragging him.

“All right, all right. What’s all this?” Ornrik said, a bit agitated.

Adameus indicated the priest of Ascerion, who was now almost doubled over. Feres did his best to repeat his symptoms to Ornrik, but Adameus filled in, here and there, when the pain caused the patient to wince and take long gulps of air.

“Let me see where the pain is,” Ornrik said.

Feres lifted the right side of his shirt and winced. What Ornrik saw did not require any medial training to diagnose. There was a large moving bulge in the man’s stomach – something foreign and alive.

Ornrik pulled the shirt back down quickly before Feres became aware of the full extent of the situation, which would likely cause him to panic. Then he looked at Diamondback and Adameus, “Get him below deck.” Then he turned to two sailors (he didn’t take time to note whom they were, specifically) who did not appear to be urgently occupied and pointed, “You and you – I’m going to need your help.” His voice was so authoritative, they did not even question him, but stepped forward. He turned and started towards the stairs, “The priest is very sick and he needs surgery right away or he will die. I’m going to need you two to hold him down. Do you think you can handle that?” He almost added “…without getting sick or passing out?” but realized that they might be offended by that. So, he just hoped they understood the full meaning of what they were being asked to do.

Ornrik needn’t have worried. These two were not new to sailing and had, in fact, assisted in a shipboard surgery like this before. Attacks by pirates were common in these waters, and losses of limbs were almost as common as the loss of life in such encounters. The two swabbies rushed ahead of him to prepare a table for the deed.

By the time Ornrik had retrieved his Healer’s Bag, a table had been cleared and the two sailors had already laid the priest on it with a bale beneath his head. One stood at his head, the other at his feet, though neither had restrained him yet. The one at his head held a wooden spoon . Ornrik had to admit that he was impressed.

Ornrik found a box and stepped up on it next to the table. He looked at Father Feres and explained, “Feres, you have something in your stomach; something alive and growing. I don’t know exactly what it is or how it got there, but I have to get it out of you or it will kill you.”

The priest’s eyes became huge and he started to struggle. The sailors held him and the one near his head reached down and picked up a masonry bottle. He was about to give the priest a drink when Ornrik stopped him, “No, you can’t do that. It’ll make him bleed more.” Then he said to the priest, “I’m sorry. I’m very sorry, but this is going to hurt.”

Ornrik looked up at the sailor at the head and nodded. He put the spoon into the patients mouth and closed his jaw so he was biting on it. He stood back a bit so the scared cleric couldn’t see his face and locked eyes with Ornrik and just shook his head.

Ornrik understood, but wouldn’t accept it, “This isn’t going to be pleasant, but I’m telling you, I will SAVE FERES.” With that he began to cut.

The screams through gritted teeth, around the wooden spoon, could be heard throughout the ship. Secretly, everyone involved wished the man would mercifully pass out. To Ornrik’s credit, however, he worked very quickly – as much to minimize blood loss as to shorten the man’s suffering. Although it seemed like forever, from initial incision to extraction was less than a minute.

What emerged from Feres’ side was shocking. It was a slimy, leathery egg, like the kind laid by reptiles. It was about the size of a melon and it was pulsing. Actually, it wasn't so much pulsing, which would infer a steady, rhythmic undulation – something inside was moving. Now that he saw it, he knew what this was. This was a slaad egg. He wasted no time in dropping it to the deck and jumping off his booster box onto it causing it to rupture in a splat of sickly greenish yellow ichor. Father Feres did, finally slip into unconsciousness.

It was just then that Avner Meravanchi burst from his quarters, “What in all the Abyss is going on out he*” and he stopped suddenly in mid word. He scanned the scene in front of him. There, on a table was an unconscious man, his tongue lolling out, and his mid section splayed opened – entrails visible but not spilled. Blood was all over, running off the table and onto the floor where it mixed with what appeared to be oil and puss. The dwarf, standing in the middle of the worst of the mess on the floor, held his hands with fingers pointing upwards as blood ran down his forearms and dripped from his elbows. Avner felt bile begin to bubble as his stomach threatened to eject its contents. He slapped his hand over his mouth and made a dash for the deck – fresh air and the side rail.

Ornrik cast a spell that healed the wound in the priest’s side, but because of the blood loss, he knew his patient would sleep for some time. The sailors began cleaning the mess while Ornrik went to clean himself.

Back in their quarters, Viselys pulled something from his pocket and handed it to Ornrik. “Here,” he said to the dwarf, “Governess Juliana gave me this in gratitude for all we did for them. She claims it’s magic, but didn’t know what it did. I must admit that I couldn’t even hazard to guess.” The object was a monocle on a gold chain.

Ornrik brought it to his eye, but quickly realized it had no corrective or magnifying properties. He looked at Viselys and nodded. Then he reached into his bag and pulled out a pearl for use in the identifying spell

When Father Feres awakened, he was feeling much better. However, that was about to change.

Adameus, Ornrik, Saris and Viselys had had time to discus this odd little priest. Adameus had wondered why a cleric couldn’t heal himself. Ornrik defended that Feres might be a novice, but had noticed several things over the past week that didn’t seem right for a devotee of Ascerion. Saris wanted to know where Feres had been the previous night, what he had been doing, and what he may have eaten or drunk.

The more Feres spoke, the more incongruous he seemed. Eventually, through debate and intimidation, the story came out. Feres was not a priest of Ascerion. Neither was his name Feres. He was Conrad Horst, a two-bit swindler who had been running a con on old women; romancing them and stealing their life’s savings. He had accumulated quite a bit of ill-gotten gains, but the guard was on to him and he needed to get out of Sasserine fast, which is why he took passage on the Sea Wyvern. In order to hide his identity, he took a courier job from, what he believed to be, the temple of Ascerion in Sasserine. He was given a package to deliver to the sister shrine at Fort Blackwell. In return, Horst was given 600 gold pieces and a new identity with a few imbued spells to help him maintain the illusion of being a priest. He was strongly instructed not to open the box which, apparently, he did not.

Viselys promptly arrested the thief and created a makeshift brig cell of a storage room in the cargo hold. As he locked the door, he turned to Adameus, “Go to his quarters and find that gold. We can’t just leave it lying around.”

While Adameus was doing that, Viselys, Ornrik and Saris went topside to discuss what action they could take to warn Fort Blackwell that something bad may have been delivered to the shrine and that it should be investigated.

“We should go back,” Ornrik suggested.

“If we do that, we wouldn’t even be back by nightfall,” Saris pointed out. “Effectively, we’d be losing about two days.”

Viselys shook his head, “I understand your concern, Ornrik, but I’ve made a vow to Lavinia. My duty is to her first.”

“Besides,” Saris added, “it could all be nothing of any importance, or it could also be too late.”

Ornrik wrinkled his brow in thought. “I could cast an augury; effectively receiving a divine answer to a single question that can be answered in the affirmative or negative.” He concentrated and mumbled a chant. Then he lifted his eyes to the sky and called out, “Would turning back now prevent great evil?” The answer jolted him slightly and he looked at his companions with a raised eyebrow, “The answer is ‘no.’”

Viselys and Saris both shrugged, but Ornrik did not feel he had exhausted all his options. He magically sent a message to Liamae on the Blue Nixie. He told her what had happened, what he suspected, and suggested that she have Kaskus use his nature abilities to send a message back to the port with a warning. That, then, was all he could think of to do.

With that done, Viselys wondered why Adameus had not returned. He went in search of his comrade. He wasn’t on the crew deck, so he went down to the cargo hold. There he found Adameus arguing with the prisoner.

“It wasn’t there. Did you lie about having the money or did you lie about where it is?” Adameus was saying.

“I’m not lying,” Horst protested. "If the money wasn’t there, then somebody stole it!”

“What’s going on, here?” Viselys raised his voice.

Horst started to speak but Adameus held up his hand to him and he spoke to Viselys, “I went and looked through his stuff and I did not find a sack of gold.”

“It was there!” Horst argued, “I think he took it himself,” he pointed at Adameus.

Adameus puffed and looked at Viselys, “Yeah, I took it. I took a sack of 600 gold pieces and stuffed it down my pants.” He held open his vest as if to show how ludicrous the suggestion was.

Viselys shook his head and looked at Horst, “You are a thief and a liar, so I have no cause to believe anything you say. For all I know you brought the mephit aboard as well as the slaad.”

Horst rolled his eyes, “Oh, yeah, what a brilliant mastermind I must be. I’m trying to kill you by smuggling a slaad egg aboard in my own gut so I’ll be killed when it hatches.”

Adameus shook his head, “Exactly. Is that any more stupid than delivering a package without finding out what you’re carrying? You never stopped to consider that if it is so secret, somebody might be willing to kill the messenger to KEEP it secret?”

Horst scoffed, “The priests of Ascerion?”

Viselys and Adameus just stared at him in silence for a moment. Horst returned their gaze defiantly, but slowly his expression changed as a new thought materialize in his mind, “They weren’t priests of Ascerion, where they?”

“What was your first clue, genius?” Adameus puffed.

“Whatever happened to that gold, you will not be keeping it, I assure you,” Viselys stated. “It will be turned over to the proper authorities when we reach the next port. If it does not turn up by then, you will be no worse off.” Before Horst could protest, Viselys closed and re-locked the door.

Continue to Chapter 7...

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