The ship traveled the rest of the way toward Ashenport without as much as a gull in the air or a fish in the water. The night passed quickly for Nethri, who had no energy to fight the exhaustion of the Kraken confrontation. He slept soundly, enjoying the first peaceful night of sleep since before he left with the Underdark expedition.
Nethri slowly opened his eyes, though he felt strangely aware of who called his name. The tone never seemed to change. The presence of his god roused him to his unconscious senses. Focusing on the deity’s power, Nethri sent out his thoughts, “Yes, m’Lord?”
“You venture into dangerous territory in Ashenport. We have been forsaken there, though for what reason we cannot tell. The people of,” a stammered pause caught Nethri off guard, “Melora…“ and the spite was understood, “…are no more. Discover the reasoning.”
“Yes, m’Lord. Any else you ask of me, for I willingly carry out your will.”
A comfort overtook Nethri as though he was a child again embraced in his father’s strong arms. A small smile began to form in the corner of his lips.
“I am aware of your dedication. And your faith will watch over you in Ashenport.”
Two hands escaped from the blanket of nether, winding through the nothingness of Nethri’s subconscious. Upon reaching the Dwarf, each clasped the side of his head, the spindly palms covering his ears. The power emanating over his head caused Nethri to stumble briefly before he caught himself.
“May it protect you, my young disciple.”
The grey clouds hung low in the sky, suffocating the ship and all those aboard. The sun was lost behind the thick clouds with sparse trickles of light reaching the water’s surface. Rain had begun to fall, though it was sparse. The mages lessened the magic into the sails, bringing The Avenger to steadily slowing propulsion. Sailors barked directions as the ship carefully navigated the unknown waters before them. Small waves lapped up against the hull of the ship as it set into the harbor of Ashenport.
“Reefs! Ten yalms,” shouted the sailor stationed in the nest. Quickly the sails were dropped and oars plunged into the waters. The loud clank of chain on chain rattled through the air as anchors were tossed overboard. “Small skiffs only, Cap!”
Nethri emerged from the sleeping quarters onto the deck and was greeted with the bustle of deckhands. Adasunu and Luc were already topside, standing at the edge of the ship, talking. Walking over, Nethri’s boots caught their attention, and both started to speak at once.
“Seems we can only –,“ started Luc.
“Can only reach the town with a small craft, Sir Nethri,” overtook Adasunu. The look on Luc’s face was that of a child who had his toy taken away one too many times. It quickly disappeared though as a Marine passed by Nethri, being replaced by a slight blush.
“We need to decide who is going ashore,” continued the Drow. “I think we would be more than enough to handle the search, but Luc here, feels we should take a few Marines and sailors. I keep telling him they would only be trouble, but he seems insistent.”
Nethri thought a moment, not wanting to navigate these waters. “Though we are probably more than capable to handle the search on our own, Adasunu, we could use the extra manpower should we need help bringing whatever we find back.”
“I have more than capable means of taking care of that.” Luc made no effort to disguise his disgusted sigh.
“Then let them replenish the supplies lost in the battle with the Kraken, or search for supplies we may have forgotten. We should not be troubled with such trivialities.”
“Ah, good point. Let them take care of the menial tasks. Very well, we shall take eight sailors and ten Marines.” Adasunu turned to Luc, “That shall suffice.”
“Fine, let’s just get going,” and Luc started off to the skiff, calling over eight sailors and Marines. Telling them their orders for when we reach the town, Luc led them into the skiff. Behind him appeared the Warlock, having teleported from his spot on the ship. Picking up an oar, Nethri tossed it at the Drow before jumping down into the small craft.
“Hope you can pull your weight, ‘Lock.” With that, Nethri picked up another oar and thrust it into the water, joining the cadence of the others, propelling the skiff through the water toward Ashenport.
Putting in at a dock, Nethri couldn’t help but notice how thick the rain had gotten. Halfway through the trip from the ship to the docks the rain turned into a seemingly unnatural downpour. As soon as they secured their craft, they took off to find the Inn, wanting to get out of the rain more than anything.
Heading through the town Nethri noticed that very few people were out. A couple of men on the docks, but through the rain and the tightly pulled hoods, they could have been sea turtles for all he knew. “Must be the rain keeping them inside. I know that’s where I’d like to be…” As they sloshed along the muddy thoroughfare, rain pounding their heads and wind beating their bodies, the crew found a sudden distaste for Ashenport.
“This weather is most unnatural. How do you people stay up here, and why?”
As a sign of protest for the Drow’s comments, Luc thrust off his hood and threw open his arms in a welcoming embrace. “What? This?!” Spinning on his heel, the young human continued, “This is wonderful! The freedom, the openness, the constant reminder that you’re alive! How do you do it with your stuffy holes and lightness days?”
“I was talking to the Dwarf…”
If one listened closely enough, the sound of Luc’s ego deflating could be heard amongst the beating rain.
Through luck or divine guidance, they finally happened upon the local tavern. Or maybe it was the wind that hurried them along to their destination. Regardless, they quickened inside and took refuge at a few tables. Spread around were two other groups of men, sailors themselves by the look, keeping to themselves. The mood was rather, sullen. Adasunu approached the owner, Pewter, and inquired about Master Shu, the man the expedition set out to find. Luc latched to the Drow’s hip, making sure he heard every word discussed. He would not be bossed around if he could help it. Nethri, seeing an opportunity to partake of the local cuisine, took a seat with a few Marines and ordered some fried potatoes and ale. So engrossed was Nethri that he did not notice Luc leave. He did however, notice when he came back.
“Sir D’Orinda, I need a favor.”
Froth of ale dribbled from Nethri’s lips and speckles of potato clung to his beard. He raised his eyes to meet Luc’s, while wiping away the food with his sleeve. “What is it?”
“I need you to vouch for me. I, uhh…” Luc’s head sunk into his chest as his fingers began fidgeting, “…need you to tell the Mayor I’m related to Shu.” If Luc could fit his head inside his shoulders, he would have.
“Wait, what?! Ya want me to lie for you?! I cannot! I will not! A person of my devotion cannot do such things! How dare you mock me!”
Luc shrunk before Nethri. “But, but, but, it’s to gain entry into Shu’s house. It’s the only way to get in legally. I wouldn’t want to break in…” A small smile started to creep into the corner of his mouth.
“Don’t put that on me, Luc! Gah, did ya ask Adasunu? I’m sure he could get ya in.”
The smile flicked out like a candle in the wind, replaced by a sneer. At the mention of his name, Adasunu’s ears perked and he strode over. “I’m sure I’d be able to assist you in your troubles, Sir D’Urban. The Dwarf is right, surprisingly. I can solve most things that you could not. I shall take care of whatever you need…”
Turning to Luc, Nethri grabbed his shoulder and made for the door. “Let’s go.”
The lock clicked and the door swung open with loud, creaky hinges adding to the atmosphere set by the howling wind. Luc and Nethri slowly entered the abandoned home of Master Shu. Suddenly a candle flickered in the middle of the room.
“About time you two arrived. I’ve been waiting for quite some time.”
“Hmph, I told you that you could’ve asked him.”
Adasunu passed the candle before Luc, whose face contorted in the flickering light.
“How’d you get in,” Luc demanded.
“Don’t worry yourself with such things.” Gesturing to the room around him, Adasunu set a few more candles aflame, holding them aloft with his magic. “Shall you begin searching for clues?”
“You mean you haven’t already scoured the whole house?” Nethri didn’t bother biting his tongue, figuring the Drow’s skin thick enough to handle the comments. It was rather refreshing for the Dwarf to drop the façade of absurd politeness that being a Highborn demanded. Being able to speak relaxed eased his mind, and Luc didn’t seem bothered by it. Adasunu started rambling on, causing Nethri to chuckle as he began sifting through maps and tomes.
The group left Shu’s home with nothing of value. The house looked like no one had been there in years, dust coating everything. Whatever clues as to where Shu could be was not going to be found in his house. Returning to the inn, Luc and Adasunu began to questioning Pewter about Shu. The innkeeper seemed to avoid the questions, which frustrated them. Nethri, seeing nothing gained from staying up, decided to head to bed. “Maybe this storm will lessen by the ‘morrow.”
The gentle clang of brass on brass sounded off in the distance. The vibrating hum echoed though the streets of the town, cutting through the rain and wind, weaving its way into the ears of those sleeping in the tavern. Permeating into the minds of Adasunu and Luc, their dreams took a turn for the enticing, conjuring forth images and feelings that ignited the fires of their hearts. Sitting upright in unison, they both swung their feet over the edge of their beds, feet landing on the floor, and stood. Slowly they crept out of the room, entranced by the sounds of the bells. They didn’t notice the faint aura glowing around the head of the Dwarf.
The sound of the door clicking stirred Nethri awake. Opening one eye, he saw the other two companions head out of the room. “Where are they going?” In the doorway, a few of the sailors could be seen moving down the hallway. “What’s going on?” Curiosity aroused, Nethri jumped out of bed and hurried to the door. Looking down the hallway, he saw four Marines standing in their clothes, mouths agape.
“What’s going on,” asked Nethri. The Marines shrugged, shaking their heads. “Damnit! Go get your stuff and get out here! Something isn’t right…” Nethri took off down the stairs and saw a mass of people heading out the door into the rain and wind of the night. Running down to a sailor, Nethri halted. The man’s eyes were vacant, staring off into nothingness. No expression graced his face and his mouth stood slightly slack. Shaking his shoulders did nothing to rouse the man from his stupor. Nethri, almost desperately, smacked the man across the face, forcing spittle across a nearby table.
“Huh? Where am-”
Muttering a sharp curse, Nethri turned to the other men at the top of the stairs. “They’re in a trance! Smack as many as you can and take them to Shu’s house. I don’t trust this place.” Hurrying outside, Nethri met the crowd head-on. His height hampered him as he pushed through bodies looking for Luc and Adasunu. He arrived, en masse, at the docks to a horrid sight; people were walking straight off the piers into the ocean. “They’re drowning themselves?” Nethri ran, arms outstretched, weapon and shield in hand, knocking people over and hitting others over the head. Slowly they all regained their wits as Marines and sailors took them back to Master Shu’s home. Nethri kept searching, getting precariously close to the piers. “Where are they?! They couldn’t have gotten that far-." Before he could finish his thought, Nethri found the two wayward warriors climbing the steps to the top of the piers. Rushing forward, he grabbed a hold of Adasunu and paused a brief moment. A curious grin swept across the Dwarf’s face, as if relishing this unique moment. Nethri reared back and, as hard as he could, smacked the Drow upside the head.
“…and I shall she you…Huh? What am I doing outside? Sir Dwarf, what…,” but Nethri had already turned to Luc.
Slapping the young D’Urban, bringing him out of the trance, Nethri shouted through the howling wind, “We’ve got to get back to Shu’s home. Wake as many as ya can, but we’re rendezvousing there.” With that, the Dwarf dove back into the crowd, knocking people over on his way back to Shu’s house.
Back inside, Nethri explained the situation he happened upon – people trudging through the town and walking right off the piers. Some of the men admitted to hearing a faint sound of bells, and those who had been in trances acknowledged noticing a faint ringing. Nethri, on the other hand, could not verify that he heard such a thing.
Luc and Adasunu decided to head back to the tavern and question Pewter. Nethri followed, looking for a source of bells, but finding nothing within the town. He did, however, see a small church on a hill to southeast, just outside the town. “I wonder…”
Pewter could not be found inside the inn, raising suspicions of the party. Adasunu claimed it was a trap, and claimed it would be a wide course of action to burn the devious device. Luc took exception to the outright and blatant suggestion, tackling Adasunu and snuffing his candles whenever he lit one. As Nethri watched the confrontation unfold, he mulled over the Drow’s words. Deciding there was some validity to his claim, the Dwarf took out his craghammer and struck the base of the nearest wall, sending debris flying through the interior. Luc wheeled at the sound of another crash.
“What are you doing, Sir D’Orinda?!”
“There is some support to his claims. This building seemed to be the origin of the trance, and should be demolished.”
“But, that isn’t right! Where would people stay? Who will pay Pewter for the loss of his business?”
“Well, you have a choice. They can stay here and walk off the pier, or they can stay in another building…” He laid his weapon into another plank of wood, sending splinters flying through the air. “I’ve made my decision, you should make yours.”
Luc stood up and left, decision made. As Adasunu and Nethri continued to demolish the inn, wind and rain swept into the room, extinguishing the candles around the Drow.
“Finish this up, I’ll see to the others outside.” Stumbling slightly, Adasunu headed out, leaving Nethri to finish off the building. The Dwarf lost himself in the wonton destruction, his inner being resonating with the destructive force of his hammer, the blows matching the cadence of the melody in his heart.
Mighty hammers strike down all
Forging metal, shaping stone
The hammer rings its mighty tone
Dwarven hammer caresses strength
Knowing from which all life grows
Caring not for the surface rose
Brittle is the sign of weakness
Swaying – a sign unsure
Return all with a hammer’s blur
The Dwarf stepped outside into the rain, the fury of which caused mud to splatter upon his boots. Striding over to an external corner support beam, Nethri swung his craghammer, smashing the final piece holding the building up. Within a minute, with the aid of the wind, it fell, plopping into the watery mud at its base. Fitting his hammer back into its sheath, Nethri clapped his hands together, indicating his satisfaction with his work.
“Did you have to, Sir D’Orinda?” Turning around he found Luc, grimacing at the sight behind him. Nethri didn’t hear him; instead he darted past Luc and grabbed a hold of Adasunu, hitting the side of his head with bony part of his palm.
“Again, you blasted ‘lock? Get out of it!” Adasunu shook off the sound of the bells and grabbed his head, feeling for the forming lump. “Luc, the others!” but the Fighter was already off. Turning to the men still present, Nethri told them all to stay in Shu’s home before heading through the town toward the docks.
The Dwarf pursued the men lumbering toward the piers, hoping to catch the last few stragglers of his crew before they plummeted to their demise. Adasunu pursued as well, cutting through the western side of town toward the docks while Nethri hurried after an exuberant Luc, who was already making his way through the center of Ashenport.
As he ran into the main thoroughfare in town, the beach appeared. The shore was awash with waves, which battered the sands, pulling them back into the ocean. The combined forces of the wind and water lashed out at the buildings, straining the foundations, threatening to rip them from the ground. The screams of people broke through the torrential elements, alerting Nethri to the fate that awaited those men on the pier. Waves swelled and crashed, white foam jettisoned into the sky, falling like snowflakes on the muddy sand before being whisked back into the endless sea. Between each swell, Nethri could see the heads of men bob up and down in the water before they became overtaken by the following wave. “Such useless, needless death!” thought the Dwarf. Anger and frustration began to swell within Nethri, matching the rise of the waves. With a confused, primal rage, the Runepriest called upon his god.
And then the emotion crashed, broken upon the shore of the beach like an afternoon wave. The fury flittered away in the wind, washed from his mind with the rain. The bobbing heads of men, who he thought were drowning beneath the waves, were growing, slowly, steadily, as they emerged from the crest of the water’s surface. The head, neck, and shoulders rose out of the water as the body’s swayed in unison with the waves. Flaps of skin on the neck could be seen opening and closing, as if regaling in the strength of the storm. From their backs stood fin-like spines, following along their vertebrae, undulating with each breath they took. The bodies, aqua blue with touches of emerald green, caught the small traces of light and reflected it in a dazzling display. If not for the large, gaping mouth and glassy, unblinking eyes, they could be considered beautiful by some.
Spears, points rusted, appeared beside them, seaweed hanging from their shafts like jungle vines. Strange webbed hands held the spears fast, as the hunched bodies continued up the shoreline, looking to intercept the adventurers. Their legs quivered with their steps, adjusting to the effect of gravity on land. Their large, finned feet spread out and flexed upon the muddy sand, allowing them to stand unhindered. Tatters of clothing hung from their frames, billowing in the gusts of wind that rattled the shore.
“By Dumathoin’s beard…” gasped Nethri, as his craghammer fell from his limp hand.
Luc raced toward the closest of the beasts, removing his swords from their sheaths as he went. With cat-like agility he swung one sword, parrying a thrust, spun, and sliced through the torso with a follow-through from the second. Nethri grabbed his craghammer and chased after the overzealous Fighter. He engaged the nearest creature, Luc having moved on to the next, and swung his weapon, striking the chest squarely.
The beast let out an eerie gurgled scream, half-drowning, half-shrieking. Nethri pulled back quickly, raising his shield in time to deflect a strike from the spear. A second creature appeared behind him and thrust with its spear, a blow the Dwarf knocked aside with his weapon. “Damn, too close.” Shifting along the muddy ground, Nethri backed up to a house, hoping to keep his attackers in front of him. One turned around and struck Luc, who happened to be engaged with a third; the other came at the Dwarf.
“I can handle things here,” shouted Luc as a spear nicked his shoulder. “Go and save the men!”
Nethri struck at the knee cap of one of the assailants. “Are ya sure, D’Urban?”
Dodging another blow, Luc nodded. With a grunt, Nethri took off down the street, cutting through some brush by a building. “With two of them crippled, he should be able to handle himself for a while. Just don’t do anything stupid…”
On the other side of the brush, he could see the pier, and men falling into the tumultuous waves. Two more of the creatures stood over a crumpled body on the pier, one’s spear stuck deep in the body’s flank. With a quick tug, it removed the spear and a pool of blood washed over the wooden planks. “No…”
“Adasunu!” The body didn’t stir, but the yelling achieved Nethri’s other goal. Both creatures turned at the sound and started toward the Dwarf. Once they were off of the pier and safely away from the body, Nethri closed his eyes. Fully concentrating on his energy, the Runepriest triggered a rune on his chest and sent forth the healing energy. Finding Adasunu’s body, he sent the energy in and held it there until he felt him stir. Opening his eyes just, he barely caught the spear with his shield, deflecting it from his chest to his left shoulder, where it grazed him. Moving against a nearby house, he hunkered down waiting to see if Adasunu would rise.
The second creature joined the first and soon Nethri found himself fending off attacks from multiple directions. Checking on Luc behind him to make sure he was safe, the Runepriest saw the butt of a spear check into the Fighter’s kidney. Luc staggered and slipped in the mud, catching himself before falling to a knee. Nethri fended off two more blows before closing his eyes and sending out a wave of healing energy to Luc. Quickly enveloping him in the aura, Nethri moved into the brush, hoping to continue to evade the assailants. One circles around through the brush effectively cutting off his pass. Cursing under his breath, Nethri braced for another blow.
Suddenly a flash of light split through the downpour and struck one of the beasts in the back, igniting on impact. As its body became consumed in radiant light, its flesh sizzling in the falling rain, Nethri noticed Adasunu wobbling off the pier, leaning heavily on his staff.
“If you say anything, Drow, I’m never healing you again!” bellowed the Dwarf. Turning to face the remaining foe, Nethri absorbed a blow, the rusted spear piercing his armor just below the ribcage. Pushing himself away, he made for Luc, still battling three beasts. “If you can, take this one, too! I have to get to Luc!”
Charging from the brush, Nethri struck one of the creatures flanking Luc, shattering its skull beneath his craghammer. Luc turned and gestured his thanks before skewering the one in front of him. From the direction he came, the Dwarf could make out the flash of light again, and another gurgled scream. “Great job, Adasunu!” The final creature fell to Luc and Nethri, offering little resistance once its cohorts had been vanquished. Searching the bodies revealed another disturbing occurrence. The creatures were adorned with defaced symbols of the goddess, Melora, and some even possessed the garb worn by the sailors and Marines.
Collecting themselves briefly, the three companions searched for any survivors, but found none. They promptly returned to Master Shu’s home, where one of the rescued merchants decided to make a run for it. Luc tried to stop him, but was unsuccessful. Pondering their next move, huddled inside a broken down husk of a home, Adasunu mentioned the defaced Melorian symbol. He admitted to receiving strange reactions from Pewter when mentioning Shu, and had an uneasy feeling regarding the use of magic in the town. He also found that Shu was not acknowledged as a practitioner of the magical arts, something the town seemed to desperately want to disassociate themselves from.
Wanting to explore the reasons for this, and simultaneously learn more about the town, the group decided to pay a visit to the church on the outskirts of Ashenport. Making their way through the relentless wind and rain, they came to the desecrated church. The rain had washed away the path, requiring the adventurers to slog up the hill to the entrance. Luc and Nethri made it up without a problem; Adasunu however, slipped, ending up with his face caked in mud. Nethri waited for the Drow while Luc climbed to the insignia on the top of the church.
By the time Adasunu reached the top of the hill, Luc had rejoined Nethri. “It’s seems this place is dedicated to Melora, but it’s been completely defaced. Whatever happened here, they weren’t going to spare this place. It might have even been the target of their animosity.”
Catching his breath, Adasunu suggested that they explore inside. “Perhaps there is something there that can tell us of the intention of the residents of Ashenport. Or, at the very least, what those things we fought were.”
Nodding in agreement, Luc joined the Warlock inside. Nethri knelt before the entrance to the church, communing with his god. “Dumathoin, by whose hand did this desecration occur?”
The recess of Nethri’s mind swirled and manifested into an image. A huge ocean ebbed and flowed before him, and the voices of hundreds of men echoed in the Dwarf’s head. A storm overtook the scene rapidly, throwing the setting into turmoil. Wind, not unlike the one that whipped around Nethri outside the church, howled and lifted the sloshing waves higher and higher into the air. A furious rain beat down on the shore, pelting it like rocks in an avalanche, leaving craters in the muddy sand. Lightning flashed in the distance, prompting Nethri to refocus on the raging sea. Power resonated from the depths of the waters and a sickly green began to overtake the surface. Bubbles rose and burst as the water parted slightly, and a slowly emerging head of the beast Nethri had just encountered appeared, followed by another then another. Within seconds, scores of creatures where striding out of the waters toward the shore. A crack of lightning over the sea snapped the Runepriest from his communion. A shudder accompanied the cold sweat pouring over his quivering body. The image of lightning seared the Dwarf’s mind, causing him to rack his brain for a connection. “Kord?” muttered the Dwarf. The doubt lingered, but there was no other connection he could make.
Inside, Nethri made his way to the altars where Luc and Adasunu stood. Reaching the light of Adasunu’s candle Nethri found several placards with varying god and goddess’ emblems. “None of the Dwarven deities?” Quickly locating the fist holding the lightning bolt, Nethri removed his weapon.
“Forgive me, Kord.”
Striking with his craghammer, he shattered the stone insignia. Luc jumped back in surprise, while Adasunu made a grab for a Sehanine emblem. Luc reacted and picked up Melora’s insignia and stuffed it in his pack as Adasunu grabbed an Avandra sigil.
“What are you doing?!” demanded Luc. But Nethri didn’t hear him; he was already leaving the church.
Back outside, Nethri felt like throwing up. “No deity deserves to be blatantly disrespected, no matter the reason.” But Nethri had his sign, and his devotion won out over his better judgment. Sliding back down the hill, he started back toward Master Shu’s house. Luc and Adasunu eventually caught up just outside of the home, where Nethri was talking to the merchant who had fled earlier. Seeing his friends approach, the Dwarf turned to them, a somber look upon his face. “It seems that the further ya get from the town, the worse the storm gets. Impassable a few clicks out. Auster here had no choice but to return.” His face contorted in disgust. “It’s not natural I tell ya!”
“What about the ship?” asked Luc, “Shouldn’t we head there?”
“Not in this weather. There’s no passage in the sea, ‘less we risk our lives.”
“But, my crew might be in trouble. I will not lose another crew.” Luc’s head sank as he recalled some memory from the past. “They’re my responsibility…”
“I have a way to locate them if you need,” offered Adasunu. “But I can only do this every so often.”
“Please, Adasunu. I need to know that they are ok.”
Adasunu traced a pattern in the air, an arcane symbol appearing amidst the rain and wind. “I will try to locate Blend. Since she was on the ship, her location should tell us where the craft is.” Concentrating on the symbol, the Drow moved it with his hands across the landscape of the sea. He paused briefly due north, but moved on after a moment, his shoulders tensing in frustration. Opening his eyes, worry crept into his voice, “They are not at sea. There is no ship. Or rather, at least, no Blend within five miles.”
“That’s impossible!” cried Luc.
“Not considering the weather. The ship could easily have moved out of Adasunu’s range. Let us not trouble ourselves with that and instead focus on what we can control – the present situation.” Nethri’s works calmed Luc.
Looking about, something struck Luc. “Wasn’t today supposed to be a festival of sorts, Adasunu?” The Warlock nodded, confirming the Fighter’s suspicions. “Something about this place troubles me, Sir D’Orinda. I haven’t seen a single person since yesterday. Could the town, if it is a trap, be wholly abandoned?” With his thought expressed, Luc charged into a nearby house.
Annoyed by the brashness of the young man, Nethri turned to Adasunu. Starting a casual conversation to try to learn more about his companion, the Dwarf was struck by the Drow’s apprehensiveness. Through his answers, Nethri suspicions began to rise. Holes in his story and his reluctance to head into a house without candles, made the Dwarf question who exactly was behind the mask.
Luc emerged from the house a little scraped up. “No one is inside and it didn’t look like anyone had been for a while.”
“Then we should plot our next move. I say inside though, this rain is uncomfortable.” Once inside Shu’s home they instructed the remaining forces to stay within the building. “I think the answer lies at the shore,” offered the Dwarf.
Luc thought on this a moment. Mumbling lowly to himself, he started to piece together the clues. “The ship is apparently gone…The creatures wore the insignia of Lencian Marines and sailors…the people vanished into the sea…” Luc’s eyes widened as the connection was made. “Those beasts…Those beasts were our crew!” His head sunk into his hands. Nethri, sensing the young man’s pain, walked over and laid a hand on his shoulder.
“It’s alright, lad. Nothing ya could have done.”
Just then Luc’s head rose as three Marines made for the door; Adasunu wasn’t far behind. Nethri leapt at Adasunu, removing his mask to confirm his suspicions. A face of a Drow stared vacantly back. Replacing the mask, the Dwarf knocked him back into his senses as Luc grabbed the Marines.
“It wasn’t just the inn, it’s the whole blasted town! Luc, the shoreline is the best place for answers now!”
But Luc was already out the door. Nethri followed in close pursuit with Adasunu on his heels. As they rushed through the slippery streets, Nethri passed one of the corpses of the creatures they had fought earlier. Suddenly an image regarding of the Shadowsea struck Nethri. Skidding to a halt, Nethri turned over the carcass to get a better look. The fish-like characteristics had not seemed significant to him earlier, but now, with the desecration of a church of a younger deity, Nethri understood. “These are Kuo-toa…”
“No….It can’t be…” Nethri broke into a full sprint, calling after Luc and Adasunu. The rain and wind increased their fury, beating down the Dwarf, causing him to slip with each step. Hurrying to catch up, Nethri knew his time was short. “We’re in trouble…”
Waves crashed on the beach as Nethri caught up to the others. Luc was screaming to the heavens, swords drawn, demanding answers. Nethri swung his shield off his back, an eerie sensation rising within his gut. The waves of the sea crested once more, pushing water up the shore and overtaking their feet. They all sunk in the softened sand as another wave crested. However, this wave continued to rise, not crashing to the shore but falling to the wayside, dripping from the tentacles emerging from the sea. A large, thin head surfaced, mouth gaping, rows of razor-sharp teeth gnashing at the air. Two massive limbs, tipped with claws sank into the breaking surf, pushing the monstrosity higher and higher in the sky. As the god rose, towering not only over the warriors, but the whole town, Nethri uttered a barely audible word: