The Sea Bitch was a fine ship, if a distracting one. I spent much of the last two days in my cabin, training my new body, avoiding the shirtless Elven men who traipsed about. There seemed to be far more of them than could possibly be needed to form a practical and functional crew. Most of them did not seem to know if there was anything they should be doing, or what it might be. Their eyes were hollow, screaming silently, praying for death. But it was not my job to give it to them.
Captain Ahab was an amiable sort, but attempts to bond with him over tales of adventure were received lukewarm. His motivations seemed largely materialistic, and the story I thought he’d appreciate the most I think was taken wrongly as a moralistic suggestion. It was the story of Shastor Arborshate, an Elven rogue and pirate captain who, by the end of his extremely reckless career, had only one of just about every body part that normally comes in pairs. He began as a selfish thief and merciless killer, but by my guidance he learned the error of his ways, and became instead a freedom fighter who warred with slave lords and redistributed wealth to the poor. He was immensely successful, but retired after losing his other leg, afterward going by the name Stumpy and breeding ferrets for fun and profit. He did always love ferrets. Smelly things. Never developed a taste for them.
Anyway, after a little over two days he dropped anchor and told us we had gone as far as he would take us, and the remainder of our journey to the Nereid Gate would be made by longboats. We divided ourselves into two such vessels and proceeded onward. As we rowed toward the gate, we encountered orbs of water floating lazily above the surface of the sea. The clockwork man Gaius approached one first, successfully activating a spell that caused him to experience visions of tumultuous events. A fish fell from within the orb, swimming away into the deep, and Gaius went silent for several moments. When his senses returned he said what looked like a Dwarven King and an entourage of soldiers in strange armor were barricaded in a room, desperately trying to protect innocents from the incursion of an unseen threat. It was not clear to him whether this was a scene from the past, an event occurring in the present, or a projection of the future. The orb then began to speak in a booming voice, though it had been pre-programmed by someone from na order of mages called Enchanters, which I did not recognize, and it was not able to answer most of our questions aside from telling us which direction we should go.
When we encountered a second such orb I attempted a similar interaction, applying my vast knowledge of peculiar objects. Orbs are always tricky and deceptive, I recalled, unlike spheres, which are honorable and can be trusted. Further visions of the Dwarve’s plight came to me, but I was unable to sort them out any better than Gaius. I assumed I too had met success, but apparently I tripped some sort of magical trap. The air turned suddenly cold, and from the icy waters foul undead creatures of the sea rose to the surface and assaulted us in our boats, including several giant sea turtles with razor sharp beaks, and a monstrous Mer-Mantis.
Mer-Mantis. We meet again, my ancient foe.
We dispatched the zombified beasts, but only after our longboats were severely damaged. Though we were not eager to return them to Captain Ahab in this condition they were still seaworthy, and so we rowed on. Before long we reached what was apparently Nereid’s Gate. And a fine gate it was, with a giant lock to go with our giant key. But what was behind it was most disturbing, a massive hole in the sea emptying into unknown depths below. It seemed we would not need to worry about returning the longboats.
The sea-hole emptied into a large, sewer-like tunnel that stretched on for what seemed like miles. We followed it for some time before reaching a crossroad, at which appeared to be a vacant camp, of sorts. Among the oddities and refuse we found child-sized bones, which after closer inspection we realized belonged to Halflings. They were picked clean by hungry fingers and teeth. No sooner did this revelation come upon us than a voice emanated from the darkness. I recognized the language as that of Halflings, but the dialect was strange. It made threatening remarks from the shadows, and I thought I could hear the sound of saliva splattering softly against the cold wet floor as he spoke. I began to question it in formal Halfling, but got little but hungry gibberish. As we spoke, dozens of bright pairs of eyes began to blink from the shadows. We were surrounded by cannibal Halflings. They must have been trapped down here some time ago.
The others questioned where I had learned the Halfling tongue, especially Master Greystone, who seemed uncomfortable with my effort to parley in a language he could not understand. I briefly explained in Common that I had been taught by the heroic Halfling adventurer, Xyrrath Littleknight. But though he had not heard of Lady Littleknight, we had little time. I attempted to impress our capabilities upon the ravenous representative of the many hungry eyes now fixed upon us, making it clear that leaving us in peace was their best option if they wished to go on with their miserable existence in these dank waterways. The savages did not seem to recognize the tale of Xyrrath Littleknight when I mentioned my relationship with her, which I found odd, for her deeds were a source of pride to many generations of Halflings across many lands. The time she rode the Great Wyrm of Tarzlakk into the heart of a storm and survived with most of her toes and a feast of roast dragon meat, enough for the kingdom to eat for a month, is legend. However, I may have only made the cannibals more hungry. A miscalculation.
Greystone and the Halfling proxy were both on the verge of losing their patience when a deep rumbling began to slowly grow from behind us. The Halflings disappeared, and we turned to see a wall of rushing water swiftly filling the tunnels.
Time to run!