Chapter 5 - Parte 4 - Ancient Leviathan
There comes a day when the party's daily routine of sweeping and sieving the eternal seabed is disturbed. They are picked for 'special duty' and will be going forth to a new dig site determined to be the resting place of one of the lost artifacts. Special Team 'Duty' (STD) will be an amalgamation of Team Woad and Korbin from Team Blood (Ulric and Durkwood will remain at the Spooky Spongeville dig).
The new dig site is a fair distance away from the light and relative safely of the main evacuation area so STD will be escorted by a contingent of Orcish Guards and an Acolyte of Iuz who will supervise the search activity. He bears some device that will help in this endeavor.
The group traverse their way to the dig site without note and are set to work. Team Woad at an area of recently cleared seabed while wee Korbin is sent forth to explore some subterranean caverns that only he is small enough to crawl into. There are 3 such caves to investigate. The day passes slowly with no items being located despite the mad ranting and gesticulating made by the Acolyte.
Korbin has thoroughly investigated one of the caverns and has moved on into the next. In here he discovers something new, a deep trough filled with fleshy, spherical objects. They appear to be similar to frogspawn only bigger, redder and much more succulent. The famished halfing's eyes glaze over and his mouth begins to slaver of it's own accord, he swims down eagerly to feast. As he mingles in ecstasy amongst the flesh sacs of meaty goodness, his keen halfling eyes catch a golden twinkle from the bottom of the cavern. The capricious halfling pushes the fleshy spheres aside and immediately swims down to take a closer look. It's a RING. The halfling's podgy hand reaches forth to grasp the trinket.
Meanwhile outside, Team Woad knows nothing of this. No strands of the One Ring theme reach their blocked ears nor indeed do the more ominous opening deep notes of John Williams 'Jaws' overture which has so recently begun in their immediate vicinity. The first any of the group suspect that anything is amiss is when Brother Kelly looks up from his raking to find 2 of the Orc Guards floating in a cloud of their own blood and entrails. He gestures to the others and looks around the area frantically to find the culprits. Pairs of green, finned humanoids make scything attacks against the orc sentries and members of the party. Another 4 of the Orc Guards are cut down in quick succession and the fighters in Team Woad (Brother Kelly, Baron Quentin, erm....???) suffer numerous trident slashes.
The others, the non-melee types, namely the Bard, Keemor, the Comely but Stern Human Female try to squeeze their gargantuan bodies into the tiny opening that wee Korbin went into. The Bard succeeds in squeezing his frame through the cavern entrance, probably all those years of Yoga and intense sexual proclivities. He takes a few moments to orientate himself and then spies Korbin down in the cavern's depths. He swims down.
Next at the entrance is CbSHF, who decides that letting the Eladrin mage watch her wiggle her copious yet perfect mound of female derriere through the narrow opening is perhaps a bridge too far in the fight for female equality. She steps aside and lets the Eladrin try. Keemor has no such qualms and attempts to get his massive frame into the cavern even if he has to chew his way in!.
The Sea Devils have polished off most of the remaining Orc Guards and the rest appear to be ready to scarper back to the compound together with the Acolyte. The Team Woad Fighters have appropriated dropped orcish weapons and are edging their way to the cavern entrance while on the look out for more of the raiding Sahuagin.
Inside the cavern the Bard and the Halfling decide upon weightier matters, what to do with the Ring. It's clearly magical and with the Bards', erm Bardic Knowledge, it is also clearly the Ring that the forces of Iuz are looking for. But where to they stash it? Answers on a postcard to KorbinandtheBard@Lubeville.com
It's not gonna be pretty so the Bard tells the young and innocent Korbin to avert his eyes whilst he, the Bard, will attempt to 'wear' the ring. Korbin is unsure just what the Bard intends but decides that it's probably safer to turn his back on the minstrel anyway.
A period of squealing later.
Korbin feels a tap on his shoulder and turns to discover the Bard holding out the Ring. 'I'm a giver not a taker!' informs Cearendil defiantly, 'you'll have to do it!'
Do what? asks the naive and innocent Halfling Rogue, his big cherubby eyes looking most big and cherubby.
The Bard leans down and whispers the instructions on the 'Hiding Yet Wearing A Ring' process to the young rogue. He straightens to look into a shocked Halfling face. 'Little boy have big job to do' informs the Minstrel succinctly as he turns his back on a trembling Korbin.
A period of squealing later.
The Bard feels a tap on his buttocks and turns to discover the Halfling offering him the unworn Ring, 'It hurts worst than Farder O'Patrick ministrations' informs Korbin meekly.
The Bard goes to grab the taxing trinket but is distracted by the shocked and disbelieving stares of Keemor the Mage and CbSHF from up above. His wayward hand instead knocks the Ring from Korbin's outstretched appendage and the quartet watch the piece of vexing jewelry disappear back down into the cavern and settle amongst the egg spawn. Korbin is about to go fetch it again when they are drawn by a deep shout from outside the cavern entrance,
Brother Kelly: 'I think we should get going, all the orcs are gone and so is the Acolyte and I think there are more of the Sea Devils around, we need to leave now!
The quartet agree that this is probably the best course of action (for several reasons) and depart the cavern forthwith. Team STD then head back to the main underwater complex and arrive without further incident. They find the complex itself in uproar. Apparently the party weren't the only ones attacked by the Sea Devils this day, the sahuagin have launched raids across the entire evacuation area, killing and capturing dozens of guards and slaves.
Word on the slave
During the next couple of days company after company of elite Orcish soldiery arrive on the lake bed and are billeted in the numerous domes. This makes the slaves lives even more miserable as their living quarters are reduced into a smaller and smaller area with every passing hour. After 3 days the Battalion of Orcs have been fully mustered and preparations for the upcoming attack are made complete. As the Orcish formations prepare to march to the location of the Sahuagin Camp, a conversation occurs between the Battalion commander and Prison Warden...
Orc General: 'I need some bait to draw out the Sea Devils, bring me 30 of your most fattest slaves Warden'
Warden: Why the fattest? They will live longer, I require such...
Orc General holding up hand, 'I need the fattest because they'll bleed more and for longer'
Warden: 'Right you are, I'll see what I can do.'
As the Party are newly arrived they are in no way as famished or emaciated as the majority of the slaves. They are quickly drawn into the group that will go with the Orcish soldiery thou they appear to know not why.
Orc Force One (Delta Force Orc?) march in step and to great fanfare for about a hour before it approaches a massive rock outcropping close to the Spooky Sponge area. Here the group divides up into 6 companies and each form up opposite a ridge of stone that has a great cavern entrance in the middle of it. 4 long columns of coral snake away from the outcropping and the area contains many dense patches of tall seaweed.
To Caerendil's cultured eye the cavern entrance appears hewn and not some natural formation. Before the Bard can mention this the slave contingent is split up into 6 smaller groups and taken into no man's land between the Orcish Companies and the Rock Outcropping. Several of the slaves in each group are then shot with crossbows before their guards retire back to the Orcish ranks and leave the slaves to it.
Brother Kelly and Ulrich are two such oppressed and the Cleric of Heimdall works feverishly to staunch the bleeding wounds knowing how quickly the scent will attract the blood thirsty Sahuagin. He needn't have worried as waves of Sahuagin appear from amongst the seaweed forest, over ridges and a long vanguard darting out from the cavern entrance and take the Orcish companies from all sides. Mass underwater combat is joined!
The Orc regiments release crossbow volleys, the Sahuagin respond with thrown tridents and spears, bodies go down on all sides. The two opposing forces meet and the surrounding seabed and tranquil waters are quickly churned up with dust and blood. In this maelstrom of teeth and sword stand the party members deciding what to do. Some seek out fallen weapons, young Korbin traverses what seems like a Nottingham Forest worth of giant Seeweed to win his daggar. Brother Kelly, the Paladin find spears and crossbows closer to hand and are soon pitted against Sahuagin skirmishers rovering the battlefield picking off enemy stragglers. The others look for refuge, with most heading towards the coral columns spidering away from the outcropping to go hide with the other little fishies. This group comprises Ulric, Keemor and CbSHF.
The Bard attempts communication with the fierce underwater warriors, he accosts one and offers the bemused Sahuagin a fleshy egg (can't remember how you got this?) with solemn and noble sincerity. The Sea Devil takes the offering without note and then slashes the surprised minstrel across the chest with his trident. The warrior then scoots off with his gift leaving the irate Caerendil to mark him for death.
The aquatic battle continues unabated with the discipline and order of the orcish regiments proving unable to withstand the ferocity and deft movement of the Sahuagin battle groups. A few of the orc companies are close to being routed.
Meanwhile Team Little Fishy having reached one beam of underwater coral are spotted and way-hey laid by a Sahuagin Skirmisher. Keemor assumes the form of the manta ray and sinks to the sea bottom and throws sand and grit over himself...all that remains visible are his piercing purple, pupil-less eyes. Ulrich seems distracted by something he's found amidst the coral, leaving CbSHF to deal with the Sahuagin threat. The Sorceress has been trying without success to fight pass the Rune of Binding on her forehead to access the source of her power. This time however, with a sharp trident bearing down on her buxom form, her fingers unleash a cone of eldritch power that sunders the Sahuagin into piecemeal. The cone of power continues along the seabed before striking the hidden Eladrin Manta Ray and sending him flailing across the coarse sands severely abrading his buttockis regions.
Meanwhile at the coral column, Ulrich the Scholar breaks away a section of the protected sea real estate (tut tut) and uncovers...
The dwarf is perplexed. The writing looks Dwarven in origin but of a form he has never encountered before. It looks older than old. It says, in fact he doesn't understand what it says, the words are gibberish, a collection of Khuzdul sounds...'High Energy Overflow Pipe', written vertically upon stone underneath the exposed coral.
The dwarf begins to move purposely along the coral bank looking for more. CnSHF and the sore Keemor noting the serious intent on Ulrich's face decide to follow. The rest of the party note the movement of the trio and deduce that something must be up, and if it is the last desperate clutching of damp straws then so be it. They too head in that direction.
Ulrich works his way along the coral bank and finds another spot where patches of Dwarven writing can be glimpsed underneath. His calloused hands begin to sunder great chunks of coral from around the writings. His labor quickly reveal the Dwarven words 'Access Hatch' and also a strange mechanism embedded into the stone. Ulrich begins to tinker with the mechanism until something clicks under the pressure of his probing fingers.
The dwarf's keen stone sense feels a faint vibration within the coral bank followed by a 'GRRRRRR' sound. A section of stone encompassed by the cleared coral rolls back and Ulrich has a split second to notice a parallel opening on the other side of the coral bank. Then the force of 10 atmospheres of water suddenly imposes itself on his mighty shoulders followed by a roaring whooshing sound as the lakewater begins to cascade through the 2 openings. Ulrich grabs either side of the opening and stubbornly holds fast.
CbSHF and Keemor approach the Dwarf who seems to be standing at the threshold of some cavern entrance. The pair increase the pace of their swimming eager to gain the sanctuary that Ulrich has found. As they near the Dwarf they realise too late that they appear to be caught in some kinda fast moving current and no amount of backpedaling will avail them at this stage. They will impact the Dwarf no matter what they do. CbSHF tries to find purchase upon the approaching coral bank but cannot quite find a hand hole but gets pummeled and bashed against sharp coral for her troubles. She then hits the back of the braced dwarf.
Suddenly Ulrich goes deaf! One minute the thundering roar of water the next, nothing. Is he dead? He peers stealthy about him using his periphery vision. He perceives what looks like massive eyeballs on either side of his head. Something big and nasty has snuck up on the Dwarf and attached itself to his back and Ulrich don't like anything big and nasty sneaking up on him and attaching itself to his back. Moments before going berserk the Dwarf notices the shock of long, auburn hair streaming above his head. He quickly realises what the thing on his back must be and also what is blocking his hearing. Ulrich smiles and gets comfortable 8-)
The other party members converging on this location all eventually get caught in the raging current thundering into and down both openings. Ulric finally looses his grip after further collisions from Keemor and Korbin and the quartet of clustered bodies are carried through the opening.
On the other side of the coral bank, the flailing Paladin, the stout Dirkwood, the eager Bard and the slightly bemused Tekcos are all carried inside in quick succession. Only Brother Kelly manages to grab a hand hold and hang on for dear life right at the maw of the raging torrent. The Cleric's luck as so often before doesn't hold and he senses his hand grip beginning to move. Is it the coral sliding or giving way? With a crack, his hand hold breaks off from the coral bank and Brother Kelly follows where his companions have gone before. In his still clenched hand this is what appears to be the broken handle of some mechanism. The Cleric plunges down a dark stone tunnel as the openings behind him begin to close.