Flames and Steel: The Chromatic War

Crustakin Hold's Only Hope...

The Battle for Crustakin Hold was finished. The town was in ruins. Small fires still burned here and there, but as the town’s buildings were mostly made of stone, not lumber. The majority of the larger fires had long been out when Crim, Al’ev “Olive” Reldin, and Velius stepped out into the morning. They were making their way to the ship, a rescue plan still on their minds when they heard a quiet plea for help coming from nearby.

A quick search indicated that the voice was coming from the direction of Mayor McFry‘s house. The three searched through the rubble while calling out to the voice to keep talking. This made it slightly easier to pinpoint which pile of demolished stone and lumber the voice was coming from. Finally locating the voice, Velius called the other two over and they attempted to clear the pile. They were stalled, however, when they came across what had to be the remains of a largely intact roof support beam. The beam just wouldn’t budge even with their combined might. Al’ev quickly realized that time wasn’t on their side and ran back to the inn to get assistance from anyone who was willing to give it.

Meanwhile at the inn, the discussion over the rescue plan was still underway. Sindri Stribog, and Garyuu Reddaile had remained behind in the hopes of assisting with finalizing the plan to rescue the villagers. When it became apparent that any of planning that would be of use had been done, the group decided it was time to get going. Sindri ran up the group’s room and grabbed Desira and Tel’regar and dragged them back down to the entrance of the inn.

The combined group including Guard Captain Morgan, his guards, the rescued ship’s crew, under command of Captain Kirk, and the remainder of the adventuring group nearly ran into a winded Al’ev just outside the inn. Hearing what the three had found on the way to the ship, they all rushed to the mayor’s house and managed to remove the beam and the rest of the debris from the owner of the distressed voice.

It turned out that it was none other than little Jerry, who the group had rescued from Crustakin Keep two days prior. The boy seemed to have recovered quickly from his capture at the hands of the frightening Sea Hag. Telling the boy only a few details of what had happened to his home, they said they’d be back after they had attempted to rescue the townsfolk from the hands of the Sahuagin.

They all made it to the boat with no further incident and set sail for what was decided would be the most likely place to would find the kidnappers. They spent much of the day reaching the destination. With little to do but wait, they kept a weary eye on the waters.

It was mid afternoon when Captain Kirk, announced they had reached the trench. Seeing nothing obvious from the ocean’s surface, it was decided they’d have to send out someone to scout around and determine if they were correct in their guess as to the location of the Sahuagin.

It was a shock to just about everyone when Crim elected himself to be the scout. After taking a swig of the fisherman’s potion, which would allow him breath, talk, and swim as though he belonged in the ocean all his life, Crim was almost ready to go. Al’ev gave him a bit more assistance when he handed the ninja the beacon stone and cast invisibility upon him. The group saw no trace of him beyond his splash into the water for the next several minutes.

Crim began to descend into the depths, seeing nothing but the deep blue water of the southern seas around him. He could only hope that Al’ev’s spell and the potion would prove sufficient to get him out of this alive. He continued to descend for a couple of minutes when he finally started making out shapes below him. There was a kelp forest it seemed, and after a little bit closer of a look, hundreds of Sahuagin swimming in circles just beyond the edge of the kelp forest. He saw no sign of the villagers. With the plan in mind, Crim dropped the beacon stone and quickly swam back to the surface. He was about 170 feet from the boat when the first signs of trouble presented itself to those on the ship.

A dorsal fin was ominously following Crim. They quickly realized that it was actually gaining on the ninja and began yelling at him. Picking up what they were yelling about and only taking a second to glance behind him, he started swimming as fast has he possibly could. Sindri and Al’ev, knowing they would be the first to in a position to help, readied some ranged spells to unleash upon the now closing shark. They both hit it with a volley of magic missiles, but the sea predator just kept coming unfazed despite the obvious damage it had taken. It finally caught up with Crim a mere 10 feet from the boat and bit into the ninja’s leg.

Al’ev wasn’t ready to abandon the ninja to a gruesome death. He leapt from the boat’s side and, pulling out his sword mid-air sliced at the shark, slamming into the slightly red water. The shark didn’t survive this attack for Al’ev had nearly separated its head from the rest of its body.

The pair managed to climb back onto the ship when the rest of the group saw a pair of figures beneath the waves about where they had first spotted the shark. Well aware of the Sahuagin presence below them, and aware that their presence above their enemies wouldn’t remain a secret much longer, the crew began chucking barrels packed with explosives into the water. The barrels disappeared below the ocean’s surface guided by the magically enhanced beacon Crim had dropped.

While this was happening, the pair of figures grew close enough for everyone to confirm their suspicions. It was a pair of angry Sahuagin closing in on the boat. Once more Sindri and Al’ev let loose a volley of magic missiles and again the pair continued on towards the boat as unaffected as the shark had been. When the first of the Sahuagin was reaching the corpse of the Shark, Garyuu saw his opportunity to strike. And strike he did, flipping off the side of the ship and landing a solid elbow with enough force to remove this Sahuagin’s head much like its pet shark. Two corpses floating side by side, only one enemy remained. Sindri wasn’t about to be shown up by these muscle bound showoffs. He let loose a searing ray of fire that struck the final Sahuagin dead on, instantly turning him into boiled fishman with the water around him rapidly evaporating.

The crew continued to throw barrels into the water and they all began to feel the effects of the first barrels making contact. It wasn’t long before the first bodies started rising to the surface. Cheering at their success, Al’ev joined the crew, tossing more explosive barrels into the water. The rest of the adventurers struggled with a strangely obstinate barrel.

In the meantime, Desira was awoken by a dull booming noise of the barrels exploding. Finding herself in an unrecognized ship’s hold she proceeded to make her way to the deck. What was going on here? And why in Desna’s name was she dressed as a panda?! The answers were all behind the next door which opened to the deck where she saw a familiar group of people, most of them standing around a single barrel. The rest of the group appeared to be wearing the uniforms of the guards in Crustakin Keep or clothing of sea faring people. Those were all throwing barrels, which appeared strangely shaped, over the side of the ship. Among them was the now familiar face of the magus she had been traveling with. Seeing the wound the shark had left after biting Crim, she began channeling healing energies.

By this point, almost all of the barrels had been thrown over the ship’s side, with the notable exception of the obstinate barrel of course. In the waters surrounding the ship, numerous corpses, Sahuagin and Sharks, were rising to the surface. There were no signs of the villagers to be seen.

When the explosions had finally stopped, Crim, Al’ev, Garyuu, and Velius decided it was time to search for the villagers. Each took a fisherman’s potion and dove into the corpse filled waters. It took them a bit of effort, but after around thirty feet of nothing but fried sea-people, they finally broke out into open waters. Swimming further downward, they saw a pair of Sahuagin at the edge of the kelp forest. They were doing something a bit odd, putting some sea leaves on their backs before they swam into the kelp. Figuring that the pair of survivors may lead them to those they were searching for, they mimicked the fishmen by putting some sea leaves on their own backs and swam into the kelp forest. They were alarmed when some of the kelp strands reached down to feel their backs and would return to their original state only when they found the leaf upon each back.

Unnerved, they swam through the rest of the kelp forest and came upon a barren area, devoid of all sea life next to the chasm’s wall. In the wall they saw a cave which they decided to investigate when they witnessed the pair of Sahuagin swim into the cave’s mouth.

The cave was long, twisting and completely submerged underwater. They passed numerous nooks and crannies before they finally found one of the Sahuagin. It appeared to be attempting to hide. They were unsure what to think of this, but the creature appeared to be unarmed and quite afraid so they decided to just ignore it and continue on. They found the second Sahuagin a bit further in, also trying to hide and quite frightened. They were puzzled by this. They had not seen these creatures afraid of anything before, even when outnumbered in combat or when having a limb chopped off. Swimming a little bit further in, they saw one more thing that did give Al’ev pause. A school of fish swimming quickly past them in a manner that reminded him of prey fleeing from a predator.

He was beginning to think it may be a good idea to turn back to the ship and get the others. Turning to do just that, he was talked out of it by his three companions. Fearing he knew exactly what lay ahead, they continued on cautiously through the cave.

It was a bad move and they realized this when, upon reaching a very large room, a line of acid shot through them all. The source was a dragon that matched a scale that Crim had found in Crustakin Keep. They were all in a lot of trouble, and they all knew it. Dragons, even younger ones such as this, were extremely dangerous.

Three of them were fast enough to avoid the brunt of the acid spray. Garyuu was not so lucky and was forced to chug the one healing potion the group had with them ever since they had found it in The Crypt of the Eternal Flame.

The dragon was now coming at them. They were all hurting and Al’ev knew that they had very little hope of surviving any fight with this creature which meant it was time for desperate measures. With the anatomy of dragons very familiar to one of his blood, he knew exactly where he had to direct his mage hand spell. It wasn’t a pleasant thought, but it was this or get eaten. He made the gesture with his index finger point straight out and, praying to Cayden Cailean that nobody was watching him, took aim….right for the beast’s anus.

Shock was obvious in its eyes (and disgust in Al’ev’s) when the beast threw its head up and banged into the cavern’s ceiling. Stumbling, the dragon managed to take a swing at Velius and connected. The rogue was lucky it wasn’t an extremely accurate blow. Possibly thanks to Al’ev’s actions, he was still standing.

Taking that as their queue, Crim and Velius swam back the way they came and vanished within a nook where they went invisible. Garyuu had only managed to get a little further down the cave after using the potion. Seeing that the stealthier members would be able to get out of here just fine, Al’ev knew what he had to do. He swam up to Garyuu and cast invisibility on him telling him to get out of here. With all of its adversaries but one no longer visible, the beast swung at Al’ev and connected, managing to bypass even the Magus’s spell shield at the last second.

Now Al’ev was really hurting, but he knew he had to give his friends a few more seconds if possible, even if it meant his life. He retreated a little further and took another stand.

In the mean time, Garyuu, Velius and Crim had managed to put a considerable distance between themselves and the Dragon. Still invisible they continued on.

The blue-green creature took another swing at Al’ev, this time the Magus’s defenses held off what would have likely been a killing blow a few inches from his face. Knowing that he had bought all the time he could, he cast invisibility on himself and swam into an alcove.

The dragon was frustrated, it had lost all four of the intruders and was determined to search until it rid the surroundings of at least one presence. Fortunately for Al’ev, and unfortunately for one of the two Sahuagin they had followed in, that meant it ate the next living thing it found. Apparently satisfied, the beast swam back to it lair. Al’ev knew a chance when he saw it and took this one by making his way extremely quickly out of the cave.

Velius had stopped on the way out to see what became of their friend the Magus. After all, it was Al’ev who had passionately caressed the rogue’s lips in an attempt to “resuscitate” him after his encounter with the sea hag and blue dog. All he saw was slightly reddened bubbles. All he heard was a “rrrruuUUNNNN FFFFOOoollll.”

Eventually, they all made it back to the ship and explained what had happened below the ocean’s body riddled surface. While they were relating their tale, Desira healed the four a bit by channeling some more energy. When they were done saying all they had to say, Crim, Velius and Al’ev headed below decks and passed out. Garyuu didn’t make it that far and fell asleep alongside the obstinate barrel. Desira and Sindri were left to figure out what to do next.

Sindri decided to ask some of the local sea life to assist them in finding the missing people. Summoning his faithful dolphin friend, he related his requests and sent the dolphin on his way. Desira took this time to do her daily prayer hour.

Hours passed quickly and with no sign of the dolphin. Sindri was afraid for his friend and fell asleep by the ships side while listening for any whisper of dolphin chatter. As such, it’s ironic that it was Desira who heard the pod of dolphins who had come to the ship early the following morning. Awaking Sindri, she pointed them out. Sindri dove into the water with little hesitation, using another of the fishermen’s potions. Aware that she had to tell someone else what was happening, she kicked the monk awake and told him what was happening. He made no movements beyond nodding his head. Sighing, Desira took another fishermen’s potion and, after drinking its contents, dove into the water.

Sindri was excited when he discovered that this pod of dolphins was tossing a ball around with one another. But it wasn’t just any ball, but a ball of human clothing. Clothing that looked much like those of the missing villagers. It was apparent that these dolphins had returned to inform Sindri of what his summoned friend had discovered.

Agreeing that this couldn’t wait, Sindri asked the dolphins to show Desira and himself where they had found this clothing. The priest and sorcerer each grabbed the fin of a dolphin and were taken down….to the edge of a kelp forest where the pod was circling an odd pile of sea leaves.

Puzzled, they watched the dolphins for a few moments when one swam through the pile taking one of the leaves in its mouth. Beginning to catch on, they saw it then swim on through the kelp forest. Figuring it best to follow the dolphin’s lead, the pair each took a leaf in hand and, grabbing back on to a dolphin’s fin again, were lead through the kelp forest. Within the forest they were startled when several of the kelp strands began to wrap themselves around the pair until they touched the leaves they had grabbed just outside. Thankful that the dolphins had shown them what to do, they continued on.

They were lead to just outside a cave that matched the description of what the four half elves had told them about the previous evening. The dolphins were beginning to swim in. Mindful of the half-elven story and what likely lay beyond, they rode in along side their dolphins as well.

They quickly ran out of light to see by and after a few moments even Sindri was unable to see much. They put their faith in the dolphins, who had made an obvious effort to slow down a little by this point, and continued to ride it out.

After passing what seemed to be a slightly larger area, Sindri and Desira began to feel what felt like clothing in the water around them. Sindri took some of the clothing and tossed it into the bag of sharing.

It was this point when he heard a deep rumbling. They both felt their dolphins tense up and tried to remain as absolutely still as possible.

After a few moments they decided they weren’t going to find much else out in the dark, they asked the dolphins to take them out of the cave. They did so, cautiously at first, but after a little distance sped up considerably and headed straight for the surface.

It should be noted that upon breaking to the surface, Sindri tossed his glistening silver hair about, sending crystal droplets flying from his silhouette against the still early rising sun’s light.

Nobody noticed.

Seeing that they were still a considerable distance from the ship, they asked the dolphins to take them back. The pod happily did so.

Upon reaching the vessel, Desira thanked the dolphins profusely for all their help and followed Sindri back onto the ship where the half-ling was stringing up clothing on lines all around the ship.

The dolphins danced away playfully. It was as though the wind was whistling “So long… and thanks for all the fish…”

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqY0EY5JL8E

Crustakin Hold's Only Hope...
JAym42

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