Friday, September 13, 2013

The Freeing of Cauhlath, part 3

The 9Qs: Questions 7-9



Tengrym could have verily died in that brave and reckless maneuver. The terrain beneath the roiling waters was impossible to ascertain and he was no experienced diver. The shock from hitting the water was stunning, but the spell he had uttered was one of water breathing. In order to throw off pursuit, he had to remain underwater to make the pirates believe he was truly dead.

Under the waves, among the lazy sharks and colorful fish, Tengrym slowly made his way underwater, seeking a channel into the rocks or other submerged tunnel. There were many, and at last he found one that lead to an underground pool somewhere within the bowels of the pirates’ fortress.

He pulled himself out of the water and allowed himself a moment to re-acclimate. His elvish vision quickly adjusted to the lightless area, and he found his way out of the grotto into other, more familiar parts.

My plan can still work, he thought. He first had to find his brother before freeing the crew of the Sea Spray and capturing the carrack — and he knew exactly where to find him.

Hastening through now familiar tunnels, Tengrym found a passage running to a balcony level of the auditorium where he and Thedric had first encountered the masked ones. He quietly approached the viewing point and peered down.

There were the five illithids, wearing their masks standing in row and facing the pirate leader and his gang. The sickly one still lay unmoving on the altar. The middle most of the masked horrors stood a little in front of the others. Standing before it was Thedric, who was restrained between two burly pirates. He shook his head and kept screaming, “No, no! NO, I tell you!”

None were speaking, and simply stood quietly watching the spectacle. “My name is Feldor, I said — not Drowsbane! I…I’ve never heard that name before. I swear!”

Tengrym felt sick to his stomach as he realized his half-brother was undergoing a telepathic interrogation by the silent illithid. Now was his last chance before Thedric was destroyed our used as leverage by the mind flayers against their drow enemies.

Three words of power and a flourish of the wrist, and suddenly, a billowing mist quickly enveloped the room in a thick screen. Tengrym drew his sword and leapt over the rail of the balcony to the chaotic scene of obscured screaming pirates below. His blade gleamed angrily with a pale witch-fire, and he stepped forward with desperate ragged breaths toward Thedric’s captors. With two deft strokes, the half-elf cut down both men before they knew what was upon them. Thedric bent down as Tengrym took his hand and snatched up one of the pirate’s cutlasses and they were off running down a connecting corridor.

padlock, cracked egg, dancing ritual

As the two made their escape, the pirate king held up hus cutlass and shouted out, “After them!”

The pirates poured after the two. As they did, the five illithid formed a circle again around their sickened companion. They began a ritual, chanting in low tones through inhuman lips.
In the meantime, the two heroes continued to run.

“We have to get to the crew and make it to the ship at the inlet,” panted Tengrym.
The two made their flight back to the dungeons, keeping the pirates seeking them in chaotic groups. They burst into the guardroom, where Captain Cauhlath still sat outside the cells with his blank expression through strange milky-white eyes.

“Captain,” began Tengrym. “I don’t know what they’ve done to you, but we are leaving!”
Thedric had already got the cell door open and the crew poured out. They picked up any weapons they could get their hands on among the dead pirates that still littered the floor.
Tengrym took Cauhlath by the arm, but suddenly the man convulsed, doubled over, and clutched his head with his hands. The half-elf stepped away in concern and trepidation. The man screamed and some sort of metamorphosis was overtaking him. Gruesome sounds of fluids spewing and ripping tissues accompanied his anguished screams. His own crew backed away in fear and horror. When the man withdrew his hands, four small tentacles writhed around his lips, having ripped through the flesh of his face. The man now took on the aspect of one of the illithid, if not fully developed and still largely human.

Cauhlath stood tall again and stared blankly at Tengrym. The tentacles wriggled and assaulting waves of psychic blasting shot out from his head.

Somehow, Tengrym sensed what was to happen and rushed forward, ducking under the invisible attack. The half-elf came up and smashed the pommel of his sword down on Cauhlath’s head. The man immediately slumped to the floor. Tengrym picked up the limp form and commanded everyone out. Thedric found a few knives lying around as they evacuated, stuffing some in his boots and belt. Then, the crew and heroes made their departure.


the enemy takes aggressive action against the heroes, ID card, tunnel and stairs, laughing
Tengrym, Thedric, and the crew raced along the periphery of the pirate citadel toward the auxiliary harbor. They met no resistance along the way, and the half-elf’s sense of hope surged — escape seemed possible!

They exited the tunnels, entering the quays of the separate narrow harbor. The sun gleamed down, signaling Highsun, the height of the afternoon. Wandering around, Tengrym saw only a few dock hands. Still with Cauhlath over his shoulder, the half-elf sounded the charge, eying the tallest mast of the carrack he had seen moored from above.

All of the sudden, dozens of pirates appeared, brandishing cutlasses and other weapons. They were lined along the stairs from other points of exit from the tunnels, and overlooking from battlements floors above, crossbows at the ready. From another blind, the pirates’ leader appeared, grinning in satisfaction.

“It appears there will be no escape today!” the man laughed evilly. “I am Baldogorf, King of the Pirate Isles, and none have ever escaped my hideout. I have an entire navy at my command, and five thousand swords at my disposal. Escape is impossible — you are defeated!”

The pirate king laughed, watching the meager crew squirm under the realization of their plight.

“However,” Baldogorf added after regaining his composure, “I am a tolerant and reasonable king, as pirates go, and I’m willing to make a deal.”

Tengrym eyed the man intently, enraged by the pirate’s gall. “What is your offer, Baldogorf?”

The bearded man’s grin disappeared and he became a cold and calculating negotiator. “Your crew and ship I release to you, and even a half of your cargo.”

“In return?”

“The masked ones keep the Sea Spray’s captain — Cauhlath is now one of them…and, you hand over the young one known as Drowsbane.”

The crew turned to Tengrym with measuring eyes. Thedric was nervous, and fingered one of the knives at his belt.

Tengrym didn’t answer at once. Slowly, he lowered Cauhlath from his shoulders and turned to face Baldogorf. Thedric’s shoulders hung in defeat.

“Your answer?” prompted the pirate king.

“Our answer,” the half-elf began, taking a long dramatic pause. He used the silence to bring to mind one of his more powerful spells.


A flourish and a complex chant later and a hemispherical shield of solid ice materialized between the crew and their surrounding ambushers. The early afternoon sun shone brilliantly through the smooth glasslike surface, distorting the figures on the other side as blurred shapes. All at once, arrows struck the other side futilely and shouts erupted. Pirates struck against the icy barrier or tried to find ways around it.

Thedric and Tengrym turned to run across the quays toward their awaiting ship. Two crewmen picked up the incapacitated captain as the two heroes led the way against the few deckhands on the docks with the fierce crew of the Sea Spray joining the charge just behind them.

The crew swept the docks free of any remaining opponents and boarded the carrack, a vessel named Umberlee’s Fury. However, it was then that the combined might of the pirates broke through the barrier and the great canopy if ice tumbled with a crash. It seemed there were hundreds of irate pirates crawling like ants over the debris to get to the escaping crew.
Tengrym ordered the crew to toss the lines free and to mount sheet on the jib. The ship did not pull away from the quay before the assault fell upon them, but the enemy had access only via a single gangplank. Thedric and Tengrym met them and did battle long enough for the ship to pull away and the plank to be cast into the sloshing waters. One of Thedric’s knives buried itself in the eye of one pirate, dropping him in the water with a scream after which sharks immediately swarmed the bloody water. Tengrym met two more, taking their blades on his own and keeping them occupied until the ship distanced itself and dropped eight more men to the shark infested waters. The other pirates lobbed spears or fired crossbows across the intervening distance with no success, and taunted uselessly until Baldogorf ordered them to hasten to the remaining two ships.

Soon, Umberlee’s Fury pulled into open waters where more sheet was piled on every available line. The ship gained speed cutting through the blue waters. Slowly, the two other moored ships gave chase, every square inch of deck filled with blade bearing pirates.
Tengrym and Thedric leapt to the aft castle to watch the pursuers. One of the two ships began to gain on the escaping crew. The half-elf fixed them with his eye and calculated the intervening distance. He waited until the distance was halved, but not quite within bowshot range. He produced some bits of fleece from a pouch and a crystal. He intoned an arcane formula, taking the time to intone the spell accurately. White lightning flickered and cracked, shooting across the distance from his fingertips, striking the ship, but doing little damage other than to blacken its forecastle.

Tengrym screamed at Davan Kreeg, Cauhlath’s first mate. “Can’t you get this ship to go any faster?!”

However, there were not enough hands to properly mount sail and see to everything. And quickly, their pursuit closed. They could almost see the whites of the pirates’ eyes. He could also make out Baldogorf standing at the fore, ready to vault across with his men.

“Get yourself ready,” warned Tengrym. “We will have to battle them hand to hand.”

Already, crossbow fire swept the deck, and all were forced to take cover. Flaming pitch and hooks were catapulted across the narrow emptiness between the two vessels. Tengrym called out a warning to the crew. The ship lurched violently as their pursuit rammed into them. Pirates swung across on lines, and battle was upon them!

Thedric leapt forward to meet a fork-bearded lad with an ear full of brass rings. A deft off-handed knife throw lodged a blade in the man’s neck, dropping him dead. Two more swung on lines as the ship rocked again. This time, the young rogue had a cutlass in one hand and a knife in the other. The pirates hacked savagely, but Thedric was the quicker and more agile. He dodged their clumsy blows and knifed their bellies or pinioned their feet to the deck with a throw of the knife, cutting them down with a heavy saber hack later.

It was much the same throughout the deck, with only one crewman at the till, for whatever good that did. The rest grappled with they enemy, trading blow for savage blow.

More arrows continued to rain from the deck of the other ship, hitting friend and foe alike. Tengrym had another deadly spell readied to help clear the enemy ship’s deck. With a pinch of sulphur and a crescendoing chant, he completed the incantation as chaos reigned around him. He readied to release great gouts of flame from his fingertips, when a heavy blow knocked him hard to the ground from the back of the neck. Magical energy diffused in a harmless display of purple dancing sparks. He saw stars as he shook his head to regain his senses. Tengrym had the presence of mind to roll, avoiding a powerful slice that scored the deck. He landed on his back to see the contorted face of Baldogorf himself.

Tengrym tried to flip onto his feet. The pirate king hooked his boot under Tengrym’s knee and sent him hard to the deck again and knocked his sword free and opened a bloody and grievous wound along the half-elf’s sword arm. The hero cried out in agony, clutching the wound with his free hand. He was defeated, his blade out of reach, and inconsequential anyway now that his primary hand was useless.

Baldogorf stood above him, silhouetted against the bright afternoon sun. The pirate extended his blade, poising it over Tengrym’s heart.

“I grant my enemies no quarter,” the man said with an air of satisfaction in his voice.
“I asked for none,” Tengrym answered evenly, waiting for death to take him.

Suddenly, the pirate’s eyes went wide. He lurched unsteadily and tried to reach for something behind him. The man turned. Tengrym saw a knife handle protruding from the center of the man’s back. Behind Baldogorf, Tengrym saw Thedric standing there with a look of shock. the blow should have dropped any normal man. The young rogue was without any knives remaining, and only the rusty cutlass clutched clumsily in two hands to ward off the pirate king. Baldogorf took another lurching step towards Thedric. Tengrym had to do something.

Another spell came to mind, this one uttered in two words and an “S” sign drawn in the air with one  finger. It was a lesser spell, for the half-elf was in no position to intone a mightier one. Three orange balls of light flew like sparrows from Tengrym’s fingertips, striking Baldogorf as he readied a cruel blow against Thedric. The pirate stumbled and fell to his knees, tumbling forward onto his face without moving. Thedric had fallen backward in spite of himself and sat stupidly on his rump while staring at the dead man before him, and then at his wounded half-brother.

Someone yelled out, “Baldogorf is dead!”

Quickly, the tide turned for the crew, and many of the pirates lost their fight. Those that continued were repelled, the lines cast off, and somehow, the pursuing ship was set ablaze. Umberlee’s Fury caught the wind again as her sails were trimmed. The second pursuing vessel fell behind, and Cauhlath’s men were free from the pirates at last…


21 Mirtul, Year of the Shadows

The crew sailed capably for two days, keeping a course due west. On the second evening when five ship’s lights appeared on the eastern horizon, marking the pursuit of the dead pirate king’s men, Umberlee’s Fury happened into a Sembian naval patrol. The pursuing pirates abruptly called off their hunt and Cauhlath’s men were escorted to the port city of Selgaunt at the mouth of the Arkhen in the safety of the Merchant Kingdom.

There, they were greeted and questioned. Cauhlath, who had been mostly incapacitated during the voyage, except during the nights when he paced the deck agonizing over his ailment, was attended to. The master port-warden expressed deep concern over the captain’s condition and handed over his fate to the master watch-warden’s responsibility. This, in turn, sparked a debate between Selgaunt’s authorities about how to deal with Cauhlath, who they all agreed was implanted with an illithid larva, being slowly transmuted to a feared and dangerous mind flayer himself. Each crewman was questioned by each authority regarding the pirates’ activities and the illithid presence on the islands there. Thedric and Tengrym were forced to give their true identities, since the entire crew had heard their true surname spoken while on Braghor’s Isle, but the heroes requested that any official reports be discreet. However, they had little means to direct the matter, being at Sembia’s mercy and indebted for their navy’s actions at sea.

Tengrym, who recovered with the assistance of magical healing, was rewarded by the city a sum of five hundred gold pieces for the slaying of Baldogorf. The half-elf argued with the officials to keep Cauhlath under his care until he could find wizardly assistance to rid the captain of his parasitic infection. The city agreed, but accompanied their every movement while about the city. Eventually, Tengrym enlisted the services of one Valthauvis Redwand, a notable wizard who excised Tengrym’s entire reward sum, which the half-elf happily paid (much to Thedric’s dismay). The half-elf reminded his brother that they still had some wealth in the form of the fallen pirates’ personal effects, including Baldogorf’s many rings, which they had divvied between the ten surviving crewmen. It was still enough to last them a good while on the road, and Tengrym was anxious to be gone.

Valthauvis was successful in removing the growing embryo from the captain’s body. The captain would recover slowly, but completely, the young ambitious mage assured. When he regained consciousness, Cauhlath thanked the two heroes for living up to their word and promised to keep the secret of their names secret, as well as honor their true friendship.
He had also explained that he knew something more about the Illithid plight because of his telepathic connection to them. The six (originally eleven) beings were outcasts of a hive somewhere in the north portions of the Underdark because of some non-dismissible crime, and had been cursed by their former brethren with an incurable ailment that rotted their brains. The outcasts had made their way via magical teleportation to the Pirate Isles, where they had struck a deal with the pirates, and sought various rare medications among the pirates’ prizes. They had devised the strange magical masks that they wore to slow the disease’s progress until a permanent cure was discovered. Through prying in Thedric’s mind during his brief encounter, the masked ones discovered his true name, and knew something of the great Moonsea family’s legacy. No doubt, they contacted the dark elves of the Moonsea in order to barter for a cure.

The heroes listened to everything Cauhlath reported with a growing sense of dread. It was truly time to slip away. The two left Selgaunt that night by foot. The north’s darkest eyes were now firmly fixed on southern Sembia, and trouble inevitably lurked ahead.

Where their road actually led them is another story…

That concludes this Chapter of my Drowsbane solo saga. Stay tuned for the next chapter: “The Stone of Boalnor”.

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