The two roused themselves after an hour or so, and found their way to the populated tunnels again. Most of the pirates were now sleeping, collapsing where they sat with a jug of something still clutched in their hands. Thedric filched a few boiled eggs, some papayas, and a jug of fortified wine. The two refreshed themselves after a quick meal, then continued on their expedition.
Presently, their path took them far wide of the main port area, but still close to the dungeons. Hogar’s Harbor was a wide harborage protected by sheer cliffs and jagged reefs, but there were other inlets beyond the east-facing main harbor. Soon, they came upon one of these where there was room for only two or three ships. They looked down from their high vantage atop a ruined tower.
One of the three ships below was a carrack rigged with an extra mast. It was a high-castled slender ship, and the closest the two could see to meet their needs. It also bypassed the main harbor, making the two ships beside it the only contenders for short-distance pursuit. A plan began to form in Tengrym’s mind.
“We could fight through to this harbor,” he said to Thedric. “It’s not heavily manned. If we could sink those two junks, we could have a fighting chance of getting away.”
Thedric nodded in agreement. “Do you think that ship will bear a heavy load?” the young rogue asked.
Tengrym frowned, beginning to understand his brother’s mind. “I’m sure it will — but we aren’t here for loot.”
“I’m just saying…”
scary shadow, raven, bounding down stairs
Suddenly, a flock of noisy crows circled overhead cawing noisily. Thedric turned and screamed in alarm, spooked by something. He tripped backwards and fell over the low wall. Below was nearly a thousand feet of free fall onto the rocks and churning waters of the narrow and dangerous inlet.
“Thedric!” cried the half-elf.
Tengrym leapt forward to grasp his brother’s hand. Due in part to the half-elf’s quick actions and Thedric’s dexterity, the two clasped hands. Gripping the stones with sweat, Tengrym suspended his brother above the deadly drop and began to pull him up.
The crows noisily cawed as Thedric was hoisted. From far below, the pirates of the small anchorage looked up in curiosity.
Once safe, Tengrym gasped, “What happened?!”
“I…I thought a saw a figure standing behind you.”
“There’s no one here now,” answered Tengrym. “Let’s get out of here. More pirates will probably investigate up here…”
The two made a stealthy and circuitous route down into the tunnels again, avoiding any patrols, and finding their way quickly toward the dungeon areas. It was mostly quiet as many pirates were sleeping.
Q5.revelation, betrayal, open book, butterfly in net, angry accusation
Tengrym and Thedric quieted their footfalls as they approached the cells of their comrades. It was time to enact Tengrym’s plan of action and free the crew while the pirates were less active. If he had to deal violently with the few guards, it was something he was prepared to do.
They two stopped around the corner from the dungeon. Tengrym peered in, and to his astonishment, saw Captain Cauhlath sitting outside his cell at the table alone while the crew still huddled together in irons behind bars. There were no other pirates or guards.
The two stepped out of concealment and entered. “Captain? What is going on?” the half-elf asked.
The captain turned to face them with strange milky-white eyes, and two red sores about his temples.
With a word, an illusory wall dissipated, revealing a number of waiting men. Mesh was thrown an the two were netted in stout and heavy cord. A larger man with a thick beard, a wide-brimmed hat, and numerous golden trinkets about his fingers and neck strode forward. He had an evil twinkle about his eye.
“Hiding about the halls of pirates and plotting against the pirate king will get you hanged or worse,” said the man. “It’s written so in pirate law! However, the masked ones are most curious about you. You may be of value to them as hosts or barter.”
“Captain?” shouted Tengrym.
The man only stared back blankly.
“Quit you’re yappin',” said the pirate. “You’ve got a trial with the masked ones. Answer their questions satisfactorily, and ye might live a bit longer, or at least die less painfully!”
A score of spear and cutlass wielding pirates closed in about the two trapped heroes. Tengrym felt a helpless rage. He had to get free!
With a primal growl, the half-elf ripped his sword free from his scabbard and slashed through the thick and heavy cords of his net just as the throng got within arm’s length.
A fierce melee erupted, confusion and chaos manifesting in ringing steel, screams, and spilt blood. Possessed by a unquenchable thirst for vengeance, Tengrym tore through the numbers, severing limbs and disarming pirates one by one. Most were running in terror, until the bearded leader organized another front to face the enraged half-elf.
The fight continued until none dared face the white-haired warrior-witch with the bloody blade. The bearded pirate growled and drew his own cutlass to meet his opponent.
The two met and clashed, trading killing blow for killing blow, checking each on one another’s blade on his own. Tengrym began wearing down on his opponent, who gave up ground, but it was then that many remaining pirates toppled Thedric who still struggled to ward off those facing him with a single knife through his net. Down he went and was disarmed and hoisted as a thrashing mass.
“No!” cried Tengrym who intensified his onslaught.
Steel continued to skirl. However, the pirate leader refused to give up ground, grinning hideously with effort. His own pride swelled. He was a skilled swordsman, lacking the half-elf’s grace in favor of brute force and dirty tricks. However, one of the escaping pirates bearing the cell door keys was grabbed by one of Cauhlath’s men. Men screamed and hands groped for the iron ring of keys as the man was choked.
More blows were exchanged and Tengrym missed a step. A cruel hack of the cutlass found its opening, and Tengrym was knocked prone by a powerful blow that have sliced him in two but for his elvish corselet. The pirate didn’t stay longer and instead, rushed out of the room with his men and the flailing Thedric.
The pirate with whom Cauhlath’s men were grappling broke free and followed after the leader. By the time Tengrym recovered, they were gone.
Tengrym took Captain Cauhlath in his arms and shook him. It was no use. He was under some sorcery or possessed.
Q6.combat, pursuit, light bulb, ray gun, igniting fuel
Tengrym recovered his wind momentarily. The other crewmen from the Sea Spray cried out in cacophony to be released. The half-elf considered it, but realized, despite their plight, there would be no chance of seeing his plan through, as little hope as he now saw in that. Besides, the fate of the men lay in whatever hideous rituals awaited them in the evening, which bought them time rather than running wild among the bloodthirsty pirates for the immediate present and falling one by one.
Tengrym assured himself of his initial course. Despite Cauhlath’s condition, he wouldn’t abandon him or his men — but he also wouldn’t leave without his brother. He couldn’t leave poor Thedric to the likes of the foul illithid.
Leaving the screaming men behind, Tengrym ran into the passages after the pirates. In the meantime, their leader directed Thedric’s bearers forward. The man summoned more men around him. He stood on a stone and addressed them. He was, after all, the infamous Captain Baldogorf, self-proclaimed King of the Pirate Isles, a title he had kept for many years despite numerous coups and plots to overthrow him by many a capable man.
“Find that white-haired half-elf swashbuckler,” he screamed, “and put a blade through his heart and feed his corpse to the sharks! And take that squirming pile of fish food to the masked ones. Now go!”
The pirates, lusting blood in the wake of their hangovers, snatched up their weapons and took torches and ran en masse screaming after any would-be heroes. They cursed and screamed to their patrons and gods, calling on Talos and Umberlee.
Tengrym hastened along the track down which Thedric disappeared. He stopped suddenly when he heard the distant din of voices. Ahead, flickering torchlight illuminated along a bend in the passage. Then, a mob of angry pirates appeared, shouting taunts and curses.
“There he is!” one shouted, and the throng pressed forward.
Tengrym’s eyes widened as he grasped the new situation. He abruptly turned and fled down an adjacent connecting tunnel. Crossbow bolts ricocheted and clacked on the walls about him as he ran, covering his head with his arms.
Steadily, Tengrym pulled away from the angry procession, but found himself at the end of the passage, in what appeared to be a watchtower. There were no other connecting ways, and three gaping windows looked over a rocky drop to churning blue waters far below. Behind came the sound of yells. He was trapped!
Heart pounding, the half-elf controlled his thoughts and recalled a spell. He spoke a few words and produced some dried fish scales from his pouch. He sheathed his sword. As the pirates poured into the watchtower base, Tengrym perched himself in one of the windows and leapt to the waters so far, far below.
The pirates came to a halt in silence and disbelief. Then, they ran to the windows, crowding themselves together to see the fate of the suicidal madman. They watched the long, seemingly slow dive until, with a splash, the figure was swallowed by the waters of the rocky inlet to disappear. They watched for long moments for any sign of a body. It was impossibly long. Anyone holding their breath so long would have suffocated.
At long last, one of the pirates announced, almost with disappointment, “He’s dead!”
The congregation finally dispersed, and the waters continued to churn.
Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of “The Freeing of Cauhlath”…