Wizardquest Chapter 9: On a Boat

Your travel was already arranged, and you load up without issue, pulling out of the city before the afternoon is up. It’s a gentle ride, and you have plenty of space aboard the small little riverboat, you being the only passengers on this voyage. As the sights of the city fade from view as you pull down the river, you wonder briefly if you’ll ever get to see it again. Heh, look at you, getting moody. Ah well, plenty of time on the boat with no real responsibilities, and sadly no access to ley lines over running water.

You had always secretly wanted to ride on a boat.

To say that you were disappointed that this was denied you in Feldergrod was an understatement. The fact that you started a gang war and earned the wrath of a crispy sorcerer not withstanding. Regardless, you were on a boat now and all was good.

Or well,you thought it would be good, but after about 10 minutes or staring off into the swishing blue currents of the river, you got bored of it. Maybe if you were on like, an ocean faring ship, that would be cooler, but this boat was… Weeellll. It was what it was you guess.

You lean on the railing of the ship, a simple little wooden beam and sigh audibly. Bubs, apparently sick to his little rat stomach, was down in the passenger quarters probably vomiting up Bubby snacks or something. Good thing you were a copromancer or it would be utterly miserable down there when Blake found his bunk full of rat vomit. He’d never shut up about it!

You grumble about not being able to use your fancy new [Port-o-glass] as the moving water disrupted the ley line connections, and magic in general. You’re sure you could pull off some simple stuff okay, but it would take some extreme effort to cast something like, [plasma blast]. Not that you’d need it since this river was pretty frequently traveled by trading craft and often military vessels. Bandits were basically unheard of this close to the capital, and monsters were present but generally kept to themselves. You could probably just relax a little.

Except you were so boooorrreeeed! Studying sounded awful right now, and the rocking of the boat would make enchanting a rather risky process, so you look around the deck to see what’s what.

One of the the four crewman, Silvester, you think, was cleaning up after your horses and checking their feed like a good little swabbie. The captain, Baha, a grizzled old fart with a white beard and an eyepatch clenched a pipe in his mouth while he steered the ship. You think he used to be some kind of pirate or something, on account of his peg leg, but when Hala asked about it, he just grumbled, “accursed white whalegirl….” He was actually pretty chill though.

Other than those two, on Veronica was on deck, Hala was below deck with Blake as he went over the travel log while Tabitha was hiding in her shared cabin since the journey began. When asked about how she was by Blake, she merely paled and turned away, hands shaking. Hala poked fun at her for abit, but Blake dragged her away before anything escalated.

You briefly ponder about picking up where Hala left off, but decide not to. Plenty of time for that if you choose to interact with her, but for now, let’s see about raising some social links otherwise, eh?

You swagger up to Veronica, and yes, you do swagger because you’re cool, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, and she doesn’t seem to notice you. She is leaning on the railing, both arms folded, her head resting on her arms as she stares off into the water. She is still fully armored, something that ol’ Baha said was the stupidest thing next to fried kelp, but she insisted that the armor was enchanted to be lightweight while still protecting the occupant. Apparently Saint Celestine had a habit of leaping, or “flying” at monsters, which prompted her being gifted with such armor, being passed down to gifted young female warriors of the Order. Secretly, you thought that she was just the only one who fit into the armor currently.

As you approach, you pause as you hear her murmur something, frustration in her voice,

“Stupid… Blakey and his stupid monsters. Everytime I turn around he’s done something stupid like that, and now he says he has a girlfriend. What does he even see in those creatures? Maybe if I was a…no, no that’s heresy.”

You gulp a little. Oh dear, she really, really had it bad for ol’ Blakey. Maybe you should leave her alone now that you thought about it… Yeah, yeah that sounded good, let’s just…

You turn to go and accidentally trip over a length of rope, stumbling a few times and letting out a little curse. Jakoooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Veronica whips about, hand at her mace, and she stares at you before narrowing her eyes before raising a fist.

“You want another knuckle sandwich, Wizard?”

Huh, wow, people still said knuckle sandwich, how interest… Anyway! You hold up your hands non threateningly and wave them back and forth.

“I don wan no trabble!”

She blinks at you and tries to decipher your words. You cough into your hand and say, in some approximation of common speech, “I apologize, I didn’t mean to offend you, especially beforehand. Please accept my uh… Apologies? Yeah. Sorry.”

She narrows her eyes again and then lowers her hand, shaking her head before turning about and leaning on the railing again.

“Whatever, just go away, I don’t really feel like talking to anyone at the moment.”

You scratch your magnificent beard. The easy answer is to just leave, maybe ready a book, have a heated bread pouch, catch some zzz’s, but nah, you weren’t going to do this the easy way. That’s what kind of person you were!

“What about Blake, would you speak with him?”

She looks over her shoulder at you, gaze smoldering. “You lead with an apology, and then go back to this again? You aren’t very good with women, are you?”

You shurg. “It ah… Comes with the territory.” You shuffle your foot before asking, “What is your history with Blake anyway?”

She rolls her eyes. “Ugh. Look, I don’t really want to talk about this.”

“So standing her, wallowing in your own self-pity is a better alternative then?”

The words just sort of spilled out, unbidden, and you snap your mouth shut after that, holding your tongue. Veronica searches your eyes and then slowly stands up before leaning on the railing with her back, arms up on the railing behind her. She’s silent for a few moments before she growls something and sighs.

“Fine… Blake and I were in the same training class, alright? He was the star trainee, and everyone looked up to him, including me. We became fast friends and I sort of…” She shakes her head. “Anyway, Blake would always get into trouble with women, either trainees at the hall, or monsters in the brothel, and once even a few Hospitaliers, but I was always there to bail his ass out of trouble.” She had a curious look of anger mixed with fondness on her face, as though she couldn’t stand to be mad at him for long.

“When we finished our training and were elevated to full Hero status, Blake went on to perform a few little quests here and there, speaking about the monsters he saw, fought, and…” She purses her lips, “fucked, before being called off to this ‘most important quest’ to find you.”

She sighs and rubs at her armor. “It was about that time that I was approached by the Chantry to consider taking the oaths of the Paladin, to serve under the banner of Solos and repel monsters wherever they are found, as per his divine commandments.” She puffs up some at this, speaking with more fervor. “They had good words, and the tight military practices felt better to me than the simple, clumsy ways of the Heroes, so I took the oath and became and Aspirant, on my way to full Paladin.”

Veronica laughs some and looks up to the sky. “Then Blake just waltzes back, a wizard and a wolf in tow, and gets whisked off on some big quest to kill the Monster Lady of all things…” She chuckles. “What a world…”

You stand there, thoughtful. Sure, that answered your question, but you didn’t really need to know about her little crisis of faith or anything. She didn’t say it, but even you could figure out why an suborder that reviled monsters and offered her bonds when her love interest was taken away would be uh… Attractive. But yeah, wow, that… That’s answers questions you didn’t ask alright!

Veronica looks at you funny, cocking her head as you come back into focus. “Uh, okay! That’s something alright!”

She frowns, “did you even listen to me?”

You wave a hand, “I did, I did, just uh, processing and…” You shake your head. “Actually, do you know what the deal is with Tabitha?”

Veronica looks to the ladder leading belowdeck. “Came by few months back, before Blake left, wanted a challenge for her skills, said we were the best. She challenged Blake to a duel and he accepted, wiping the floor with her.” She smirks at that before looking concerned. “Of course, immediately afterward, Blake went around getting people to swear that he cheated, even though it was fair and square. Didn’t sit well with Tabitha, who’s been waiting for him ever since he left on his journey to find you. I kept telling her that Blake beat her and that she should just leave, but apparently that just made her more determined, smiling Everytime I mentioned it.”

You seemed to recall something about lizardmen, how they loved to fight and all, but there was something deeper to it that you couldn’t quite recall… Something about how if a man beat them they would… Ah whatever, you’ll remember later, or you could just ask her yourself. Meh.

She says nothing further, and an uneasy silence sort of weighs between you. Mr. Ed neighs in the distance, and you hear Silvester yawn as the river gently pushed your craft downstream. Goshes, this was awkward, you needed to find something else to…

You look down at the water again, an idea forming in your head. Veronica traces your gaze and looks at you, curious. You beam and pick up the rope that you had tripped over and you tie it to the railing over the stern. Veronica just watches you as you work, and you stretch out before setting down your staff. Your [sack of holding+1] and [pocket dimension] were already below deck, so you just look over at the water and then smile to Veronica.

“By Solos, what are you doing.”

“Having a little fun, dear Aspirant.” And with that, you vault over the edge of the boat.

Veronica dashes to the side of the boat, staring down into the water, but she freezes when she sees you there, holding onto the rope while you balanced on two lengths of ice, shaped into the gear they used in the snowy regions, called “skis.”

She looks at you as you are pulled long, and she smirks before holding her side and starting to chuckle some. You hold out one hand, thumb and pinky extended, and you twist the wrist back and forth, causing Veronica to start full out laughing at the absurdity. She had a good laugh, full bodied and rich, and you found it an amusing parallel to her normally stern personality.

You moved about some on the skis, but soon found that it was a little difficult to stay afloat on the skis with the comparatively slow speed of the river craft carrying you along. You frown, wondering if you’d have to go back up, when you remember that, duh, you could use Hydromancy!

With a smile and some effort, you manipulate the waters around you to become choppy, forming turbulent waves, and you start moving through them back and forth, picking up momentum via the waves you send toward yourself, and Veronica claps at your little performance. You grin wickedly and turn up the funk, creating a loud, “kewoosh” noise as you slalomed through the waves.

“Kewoosh!” Went a mighty wave, and “kewoosh!” Went another and you almost did a 180 trying to twist through. You get ready for the next one, good to curve about, and “snib”

Wait. Snib?

You blink and realize you can’t really move too well, and look down to find that part of your left ski is missing. Your balance seems to waver for a moment and a wave you made slaps you in the face as you seem to heavy to avoid it.

“Snab”

You blink again, water running down your face, and find that your right ski is broken, feeling a little afraid, you start to reel yourself in via the rope, when you feed your ankles grasped by something powerful, causing you to panic some.

As you look down, you see two, very large, red claws attached to your legs, somehow only applying enough pressure to keep you locked in place. A pocket of bubbles forms on the surface of the water near you and suddenly the upper torso of a young looking woman, with bright, blue eyes, short brown hair, and modestly sized breasts appears. She opens her mouth, and speaks in a quiet voice,

“Hey. Don’t do that.”

Your eye twitches. “I…am sorry?”

The next thing you know, you’re pulled under the river’s surface, the cold embrace of the water compressing in on you as powerful claws pull you into a soft, warm bosom. You hand is still on the rope, and you cling desperately as you feel your grip slip, and your body dragged down to the bottom of the river, with no sound by the hammering of your heart in your ears and the muffled sounds of shouting from above.

Everything was cold, wet, and confusing. You flail about in a panic, the water around you throwing your senses into overdrive as you desperately try to find a state of equilibrium. Unfortunately, the only constant you can find is the soft embrace of the warm body you’re pressed up against, and the powerful yet gentle set of claws holding you in place.

You gasp, precious air escaping from your lungs as you try to push away, but the strength in those claws was enough to crush an armored knight. It was strange though, that something so powerful had such a delicate body. Infact that dichotomy made your mind switch gears so suddenly, you had time to reorient yourself and look around.

Your lungs burned fiercely from being dragged under by surprise, but you take in what has you trapped. Your body was pressed up against that lithe female torso you saw before, totally nude you might add, and her soft, supple skin was apparent even through your robes. Where her legs should have been however, was the body of a large red crab, with 6 chitinous legs that drifted in the water as she pulled you downwards with a pair of large, crushing claws. Despite all of this, you couldn’t help but notice that she was beginning to hold you closer to her, her face beginning to blush some.

As you appreciate this, you also appreciate that you’re going to die before she has the chance to rape you, and you pull tight on the rope you’re still holding in your hand, slowing your descent as your grip slides ever further down. The crab girl, or whatever she’s called starts muttering something under her breath, and you find it odd you can understand her at all, being underwater and all. Or well, you could find it odd, but things were starting to really hurt in your chest as you struggled to work out a spell to use.

The crab girl seems to take notice of you fully then, and pulls you in closer, her face directly up to yours, and she mutters quietly, “Uhm, sorry about this, but…” She stops talking and presses her mouth to your own.

You feel her forcing your lips open with her mouth, the shock of it causing your defenses to drop, and you are acutely away of the way her mouth forms a seal to yours, her tongue questing in your mouth, feeling at the contours of your oral cavity, caressing your own, shivering tongue. You couldn’t say that you didn’t find it oddly stimulating, and against your better judgement and the cold of the water, you could feel your cock rising in your pants.

However, the oddest thing was that your lungs suddenly stopped hurting anymore. Your eyes grew wide as you realized that somehow, this kiss was imparting oxygen to you. The crab girl’s eyes flutter open and look into yours, and she breaks the kiss, her cheeks growing red, yet she didn’t break her hold on you. She brings her human hands up to her face and she turns away, muttering as bubbles began to form at her waist, covering up her obviously aching genitals with cleansing suds.

“Oh gosh, I can’t believe I did that, oh was it cool? I don’t know, but should I just rape him now? Oh what would sister do? Ohhhhh.”

You would blink and act surprised and maybe try diplomacy, but you had a chance now to try and escape. Okay, so, crab, right. With all this water, normally you’d just electrocute her and be done with it, but that would almost certainly kill you too this close, so that was out. Fire magic plain didn’t work underwater, not even to make steam. Don’t ask why, it just doesn’t, something about aetheric opposites and whatever. Your Copromancy here was too dilute, and you couldn’t sense anything you could use, same as your Plagamancy. Maybe if it were a polluted pool or something, but this was a river!

So that left Hydromancy, or Glaciemancy… Yes, yes that could work! Steeling yourself for what you were about to do, you look the crab girl in the face and place your free hand on her stomach.

She gasps and looks at you, and you can feel her pulse, even from your hand’s position as it skyrockets from your touch. Damn, she’s so warm it’s almost unbearably how comforting it is. But no, you grit your teeth and start to channel power to cast [ice].

Suddenly, you feel a great jerking motion from the rope in your other hand, and your body is pulled upwards while still being held, forcing the hand on her stomach to slip down as the other is pulled up. You feel soft, sudsy bubbles against your fingers, and your fingertips brush against something warm and slick, your middle finger slipping gently inside some kind of opening.

Your heart skips a beat as the crab girl tenses up, her face going beet red. You try to retract your finger, but you start spasming instead, all control seemingly lost from your finger control. The crab girl starts to moan a little and she shifts her hips, seeming to invite your fingers into her bubbly opening as you desperately try to pull away.

Another jerk up on the rope forces your hand to pull roughly, and the crab girl gasps before shivering and pulling her human hands over her eyes completely, utterly embarrassed.

“O..oh! He..hey, don’t be so forceful! It’s very sensitive!”

Your cheeks flush this time and you realize that either she was going to get tired or your fingers, or your “friends” were going to yank your damn shoulder out of the socket, so you needed to get her off you quick. Guess there was only one way but… Damn, it had to be done.

Gulping, despite your situation, you channel energy into your fingers and cast [ice].

The crab girl freezes. Not literally, but she stops moving, hell, stops breathing as pure cold radiates from her most sensitive place. You can feel her claws slipping from your body as a look of pure pain and horror crosses her face and she almost seems to go unconscious at the shock of it. You slip your fingers out of her hole, and grasp the rope with both hands, pulling at it.

Her claws slip enough that when the rope jerks next, it quickly drags you up and out of the water, and you take a massive, gulping breath of air. Shouts and exclamations are heard from above deck, and you quickly climb the rope to sputter on the deck, taking deep, heavy breaths. You gained your facilities quickly, and you look again, seeing everyone, minus Tabitha, on deck.

Blake was wearing only loose chainmail while Hala barely had any clothes on at all, not that she cared, as she held the rope which pulled you up. Veronica looks mildly horrified at the experience, and she apologized profusely to you as you shook your head, getting your senses back. You get enough faculties to get belowdeck, with some assistance, and you quite acutely get Blake to restrain Veronica from forcefully caring for you. Ugh… These women!

You take some time to take off your clothes and sit, huddled in your cabin with some blankets to warm up as the afternoon dragged into evening. It didn’t take too long to feel warmer, but you almost just wanted to go to sleep right then and there. Still, there were things that could be done, and Captain Baha mentioned that there were occasional attacks at night, and extra watch personnel would be nice. Blake offered your party’s services, of course.

So, you had the second watch, and not much to do until then since the boat would be moored for the evening. You look to your [sac of holding+1] and wonder

You climb out if your bunk after drying your clothes with some fire magic to find that the rest of the passengers were making their way from the galley (not that it was more than a stove and a table) off to their cabins or to the watch.

Blake nods of you as you pass by and Veronica seems to pale some before nodding to you as well, then following Blake upstairs. The first watch was Hala and Veronica, since no one could be trusted to be alone with Blake besides you or the good captain. Since Tabitha was… Indisposed,it actually fell that the second rotation was yourself and Blake, with the third rotation being Baha and His crew as they made ready to move the craft out again in the wee hours of the morning.

Feeling a little famished for something other than heated bread pouches, a concept you found disturbing, you brushed past the cramped little corridor to the galley and found Silvester starting to clear plates. He looks up at you, blinking, and then smiles a snaggle toothed grin, and it was obvious that he was missing some teeth as well.

“Well now iffin it isn’t the wizar? Wantin some food uh?”

You look over at the pot on the range and the plates on the table. Apparently dinner was some simple gruel and bread with some boiled vegetables and a light broth. Charming. Simply…. Charming.

You shake your head, rethinking your earlier plan. “Uh, no… No, I’ll be fine. Just… Just saying hello!”

Silvester’s grin widens further and you can smell something dying from his mouth.

“Well nah, that’s just the nicest thing i say!”

“Yeah, I… Yeah.” You pause for a few seconds. “Welp, gotta go, thanks!” And with that, you dash out of the galley back onto the deck, munching on a heated bread pouch. Truly, this was ambrosia.

By now, night had fallen and people were finishing their work to make certain the boat was moored well and not going to float off in the night. Captain Baha supervised all of this with the eye of an expert seaman, and you briefly wondered how extensive his sailing history truly was. Tabitha was still nowhere to be seen, but Hala was parading about deck while Veronica sat on a stool, chin leaning on one arm as she tried not to look bored or annoyed by the prancing wolf girl. She was failing.

Blake wasn’t about, and you assumed he must be in your cabin, resting some. You should probably do the same, but despite your little near rape experience, which you still felt dirty about, you weren’t that tired. So, you go and set up a set of [Hexagrammic wards] about the deck. Then, with deliberate ignoring of your party members, you walk up to Mr. Ed, who is munching on some hay, and offer him a carrot from your supplies.

He looks at you, chewing on the hay, and you can feel his gaze searching your own as he swallows. With careful movements and not taking his eye of you, he gently picks up the carrot with his teeth from your open palm and munches on it slowly. He shudders and makes a loud neighing sound before nuzzling your hand, looking most pleased.

You smile and continue to rub his head and the rest of his body. Bubs would be jealous, but his little sick rat business was still in progress, and he did NOT want to speak with anyone, Poor little guy, you felt really bad for him, but there wasn’t too much you could do since your healing skills weren’t as adroit at fixing some idiopathic condition. W…whatever that means.

Eventually, Mr. Ed gets bored of your rubs and be snorts before going back to munching on hay. Awww, so cute. You briefly wonder what he would say were he to have the same familiar bonding ritual as Bubs, but you dismiss the thought for now. You had him as long as you did Bubs, but you didn’t quite have that same level of bonding with the guy. Besides, you weren’t fully comfortable with all you could do with Bubs anyway. Maybe you could consider this later if you needed like, a dire horse.

That actually sounded really badass though….

You smile and turn around, to find Hala’s face next to your to your own, causing you to jump backwards in surprise. Mr. Ed looks at you and then snorts in annoyance. Hala snickers a little and you frown, gently calming down your horse.

“Scared, wizard-boy?”

Really? You rub at your forehead and sigh. “Hala, it’s been a long day, what do you want?”

She shrugs. “Nothing much, just bored and Blake is sleeping.” She pouts some. “Also, that lizard girl is really, really annoying. She keeps muttering about, ‘the cold’ and ‘can’t see’ and ‘not again.’ It wouldn’t be so bad if the armored one wasn’t always glaring at me. She looks behind her and you see Veronica staring at you… Well, at Hala. Goshes, was it warm out here or was Veronica’s gaze physically smoldering?

You sigh again and shake your head. Whatever, not worth getting in to. “Hala, just leave Tabitha alone, she’s obviously afraid, and if you don’t flaunt yourself around in front of Veronica, she’ll probably leave you be.”

“But she keeps looking at Blake! Honestly, were she a monster, I’d tear her throat out.” She seems to strongly consider the idea.

You bap Hala on the head with your staff. “No. Bad wolfgirl, bad.”

She narrows her eyes and then sniffs, sauntering away to crouch in the corner and stare off the side of the boat. Honestly, what is with that girl? Ever since these other two came around she was so on edge. Guess she was just fiercely protective, seems to be a streak for most monsters you felt. This was probably going to explode a little in the future, but what could you do?

Try and stay out of it, that’s what! With that resolve in mind, you resolve to do just that, and head belowdeck again. Sure, you were like, just up there, but you really didn’t want to talk to either of the girls on watch for now. Nah, better to find somewhere quiet and read.

As the light began to transition totally to darkness outside, you settle down in the now empty galley and channel power into your new staff, causing a light far more brilliant than you anticipated to appear in the room. You blink and tone down the power, and you feel the staff seemingly shiver in your hand. You cock your head and take a good look at the staff but… Well, it was just a staff. A very nice staff, but there really wasn’t anything suspicious about it… Weird, must be your imagination.

You dig through your bag and pull out your books, pondering what to read tonight. If you got started now,you’d have plenty of time during your shift to read a bunch! So, might as well start with something rousing, eh? And for that, you have [Plagata de Roux]

Let’s see, you’ve covered humours, going through the motions of infection, miasma… Oh, this looks interesting! “Humoral growth and it’s consequences.”

“Though the humours are located in central points in the bodies of all living things, the best understood are those of humans and monsters. The humours, as have already been discussed, keep a body in health. However, as is known, should these humours be disrupted, the body is then susceptible to all number of ailments, which an adroit Plagamancer can take advantage of. One such ailment that can be induced in the susceptible is the rapid proliferation of the body’s tissues.

It is well known that certain older humans may suffer from growths due to the body’s natural humoral breakdown, and removing these growths can be dangerous and often unsuccessful unless performed under the right circumstances with a skilled healer. Through careful study, it has been shown in some cases that selected tissue, normally the skin, can be induced into hyperaccelerated growth in a manner similar to biomancy and healing magic. In the hands of a palagamancer, these talents can be used instead to harm, rather than heal.”

“A simple example is to take a body who has been compromised, and concentrate the magical energy of the practitioner into localized parts of the body, infusing it with vitality. In doing so, it receives the signal to grow, and will do so, either over a period of time, or rapidly, depending on the power divested. This can be a long term proposal!”

“Internal body systems are much more resilient to this form of magic, and require extreme humoural imbalance in order to adequately affect the body in this way. However, should this be performed, even the humours themselves may be grown large, and the body can suffer as it is strangulated from the inside. This is a very insidious technique and is not recommended to be used, as the magical signature of the Plagamancer will be evident for anyone magically attuned. Studies on monster species are inconclusive as to it’s effectiveness.”

You lean back and ponder this over for awhile. Interesting, you always know about these growths, but never that they could be induced in such a way. It kind of made you feel a little odd to induce something like this. Hell, it was like putting a time bomb inside someone, but rapid growth may end up being very, very useful if for nothing other than the shock factor!

>You learn [Cancer]

>Your magical talents are now so improved, it gives people cancer.

You put down the book and toy with your staff as you consider the possibilities, and the light changes and dances in your hands, unbidden. You stare again at the staff and chew on your lip. Seriously, it’s a little weird that it’s doing this… For a test, you send out some fire through the tip, and it makes a small torch of green fire, which is not at all what you wanted. It quickly changes to red and yellow and you open your [Mage Sight].

Magic dances along the edge of the staff, as is expected, but it seems to… Well, stop moving as soon as you look at it. Like it KNOWS somehow that you’re watching it. You raise and eyebrow and shake the staff.

Nothing happens.

You poke the staff, butt it against the floor, but still nothing happens. You rub your chin and look at it closely.

“You aren’t alive, are you?”

You somehow get the feeling that the staff is.. What? Sweating? Is that possible? It’s just a feeling but it’s like the staff is starting to break under the pressure and you give it the ol’ laaaaaazzzzyyyy eye.

“WE’RE UNDER ATTA…!”

You look up from the staff suddenly, and run out of the galley, almost colliding into Blake who was belting on his sword.

“Wizard! Hurry!” He cries out and you run past to the ladder to the deck. As you move through, you notice the door to the women’s bunk was slightly ajar and Tabitha stood at the doorway, her face utterly pale.

“W..what is this?”

“Under attack, hurry!’ Shouts Blake again, as he vaults up the ladder. You look back to Tabitha, who holds onto her sword with white knuckles.

“I…I cannot.”

You shake your head, but spend no more time on her. Whatever, if she wanted to stay down here… Well maybe she was the smart one, but you weren’t just going to let things happen up there without your help!

My how things had changed.

You climb the ladder rapidly yourself, and as you reach the top rung, Hala goes flying overhead, and crashes onto the deck before flipping about and rolling onto all fours, her teeth bared. She had left long furrows in the deck where her new claws had bit deep as she tried to slow herself.

You look about from where she came and see your wards sputtering and failing as a large form picks up one of the wards in a massive clawed hand and crushes it like it was made of paper. You fully extract yourself from the hole and raise your staff, illuminating the scene with a burst of light.

In front of you, there are two monsters. One was the crabgirl for before, who was hiding behind a much larger creature which looked similar, but closer examination, you noticed that she wasn’t a crab at all.

This larger monster had the torso of a human, as many do, with large, voluptuous breasts and long, brown hair that clung to her body. However, instead of human hands, she had large, massive claws that made the crab girl’s look small in comparison, although this may be due to the pure size difference. Where her torso would meet hips, instead, she had a long, chitinous body with red plates, six legs and a tail that flared out at the ends. Like some kind of… Lobster… Which was odd because this was a river, but no time for that.

The lobster did not look best pleased as she surveyed the scene around the boat when the crabgirl recognizes you.

“He..hey sis! That’s him! That’s the guy!”

The larger crustacean turned to you and snaps her claws. “You? You’re the one who mistreated my little sister? I will snib everything on this entire ship for such a disgrace, unless you submit quietly and apologize.”

Oh that wasn’t so bad, you could lie like that, sure

“By mating with her.”

The little crab girl blushes furiously and starts to foam bubbles. Everyone on the boat looks directly at you and time seems to slow as you realize that how you handle this situation could cost the lives of your party or the crew.

Well this was terribly awkward. You aren’t that used to people looking to you for anything, so it’s a little strange. Oh and the fact that you could either fug a snib or start a battle with a giant snab. That too.

You take in a deep breath through your nose and slowly reach into your [pocket dimension]. Everyone on board tenses up as you do so, and you lick your lips as you bring the deliciously warm morsel of Solos’s true love for man up so all can behold it.

“I offer a third option!’

Everyone goes silent and only the cool breeze of the night air and the chirping of crickets can be heard in this distance. No one moves, no one even breathes as the lobster stares at the heated slice of sustenance. She slowly opens her mouth, and everyone tenses, hands on their weapons.

“What…. The fuck…. Is that?”

The lobster scuttles a few steps and clacks her claws angrily. “I offer you a chance to forgive your sin and you dare to offer this… This pastry?”

“Ah, but it is not JUST a pastry! Truly, you have to try it to understand!”

“Fuck your pastry, and fuck this entire craft!” She says, slamming her one of her claws into the deck, shattering the wood and causing people to jump in alarm. She grows and clacks her claws again.

You, trying not to sweat balls, slowly take a bite of the heated bread pouch, savoring its delicious flavor and warmth as it flows through your body. You sigh contentedly and lean on your staff, waving the pouch at the crustaceans.

“Thats a shame, because you’re really missing out here. Look, I don’t want no trouble, and you aren’t in the best of positions here with a wizard, a wolfgirl, a hero, a paladin, and an angry seaman with a harpoon.”

You gesture over at Baha, who is holding a baroque harpoon, its point obviously cared for meticulously. You wonder what possIble use a harpoon is on a river, but apparently giant lobsters lived here so… Sure?

The said lobster spits out a string of curses and looks around before narrowing her eyes and straightening her back, her cheeks flaring red in obvious embarassment.

“No. No i will not take these paltry concessions, nor will I be intimidated! If this is your answer, then i shall be forced to snib everything!”

“S…sis?” Asked the little crab, her voice quiet and afraid. “M..maybe we shouldnt?”

“No! I will not allow your honor to be sullied! I would rather die!”

You look around at the rest if the crew helplessly. Aww come on, this was just… Come onnnn.

You sigh and shake your head. “Look, she doesn’t want this, please just let it go. Look I’m sorry for making waves, literally, so let’s just drop it? I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

“Enough! We figh…!

You let loose the [Irate Frog Song]

Everyone on deck drops like a rock, covering their ears as they grit their teeth in pain. Hala is outright howling while veronica recants prayers. The crab girl screams as she covers her ears, her crabby body down on the deck, doing her best to get low. The lobster grit her teeth, her eyes twitching as she endured the pain.

Infact, the only person there who DIDN’T drop besides you was Captain Baha, who stood there, laughing like a sailor on shore leave. He seemed to be used to the sound, like he’d heard it before, or hell, even performed it! What a man. He didn’s seem much inclined to move though, which was kind of odd.

You feel your lungs become devoid of air and the song drops, leaving you panting and out of breath. The lobster was wobbling some, but she manages to keep her balance and begins to step towards you slowly. This was unfortunate because you were a little out of breath and not at all prepared to cast spells. Oh, and you also incapacitated your meat shields. Good for you.

You feebly raise your staff as the lobster draws near, and she raises her claw, malice in her eyes, but before she can bring it down, a loud croaking noise pierces the night sky and she freezes, looking about wildly.

“Ahahaha! I figured there were some of them round here! Boy, you just called in the frogs!” Laughs Baha, who points his harpoon towards the starboard deck just as three shapes burst from the water and land on the deck with audible squelching noises.

As they land, they become illuminated by your mage light, and you can plainly see a short haired, blond woman with bulbous fingers and toes, flanked by two similar monsters, their tongues lolling from their mouths as they search the deck with hungry eyes. For some reason, in addition to those strange waterproof undergarments, they wore pads over their knees, for… Protection?

The blond one surveys the scene, but when she spots you, a large grin splits her face.

“Hhheeeyyyyy, radical! Look, its that wizard I was telling you about!”

One of the other frogs rubs her chin, a thin trail of mucus sliding from her fingers. “Huh, yeah, you’re right Croakly, he is pretty attractive, and he can sing? You really should have raped him.”

Croakly rolls her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, but he’s already taken, and i don’t want to fuck with that, aight?”

The other frog girls sighs and rubs at her forehead. “What are we going to do with you Croakly, you haven’t gotten laid in agggeesssss.”

You look at the frogs, a little terrified that they would talk so openly about Selene, but also a little terrified that they are just sitting there when a giant lobster monster was going to snib you. Thankfully, the lobster was watching with confused fascination, and you take the opportunity to start scooting away from the creature.

She notices you before you’re barely five feet away, and she whips a claw where you were, shattering the deck. “Oh no you dont!”

“Woah, thats like, totally uncool.”

“Yeah, wow, breaking things? Thats so lame.”

“Not radical in the least.” Confirms Croakly, as the frogs all nod their heads sagely. “Guess we should help out, huh?”

The other two frogs nod their heads and speak as one, “Righteous!”

In one astonishing burst of speed, all three frog girls spring toward the lobster, legs outstretched, and their feet hit her with enough force to send her flying to the otherside of the deck to crash into the railing, cracking it severely, but keeping the lobster on the boat.

“Oh, sorry about that!” Shouts Croakly as she bounds up the lobster, putting in a series of punches and kicks to the lobster, before leaping back from the monster as she rose. The next few seconds were filled with scenes of stretchy frog legs, mucus, and a raging lobsted, who seemed to grow redder as the fight continued. You don’t do a damn thing because you were mildly enthralled by the scene. Well, not because three very attractive monsters were jumping around, their breasts coated in a glossy film that reflected in your mage light, but more because it was pretty cool to watch happening. One could call it… Radical?

Soon enough, the lobster was stumbling about the deck, unable to fully right herself, and the three frogs lept back together, fists outstretched as they smiled widely.

“Time to finish her?”

“Sounds good to me!”

“STOOOOOOOPPPP!”

Everyone turns to look at the source of the sound, and finds the crab girl, standing alone, tears in her eyes as she wipes them without much effect. She trembles and says, her words stuttering as she cries.

“D…don’t hurt m…my sis! S..stop it!”

The lobster coughs, staggering to the side before regaining her balance. “Lillian… I won’t… I can’t let anyone taint your honor…”

“Oh stop it Cassie! You’re going to d…die if you keep this up! I dont care about honor, i just care about you!”

Cassie blinks and puts a claw to her head. “Lil…I…”

You walk up to Cassie, your staff clinking on the planks. “Look, its over. We don’t mean you any more harm if you just leave in peace. Im sorry about earlier, but this serves no one. All you’re doing is hurting your sister.” You wave your staff at Lilian. “Look at her!”

Cassie does and her eyes drop as she sinks to the deck. “Dollora damnit….i didn’t mean to… I….”

Croakly bounds up and places a hand on her shoulder. “Its cool girl, its cool. Sorry about the beatings. We thought you were just attacking him for no reason and jumped in.” Croakly looks to you and shrugs. “What did you do anyway?”

You balk and try to think of a good answer when Cassiee mutters, “He froze my sister’s nether regions.”

All three frog girls stare at you, aghast.

“Not cool.”

“Lame”

“Totally not righteous.”

You hold up your hands in a defensive gesture, which looked kind of odd since you held a heated bread pouch in one hand, which was rather cool now. Gross.

“Look, i just, i mean she had we underwater and I… I mean.” You could feel noodles starting to slip from your pockets as you attempted to right this.

“Alright, thats enough of that boy, lets get these ladies back home.” Says Captain Baha as he steps up to Cassie and helps her stand. She looks at him curiously before her eyes go wide.

“By Dollora, you’re…” But shes cut off when he puts a finger to his lips and makes a gesture for silence before winking. Only you and the frog girls seem to notice this and they say nothing about it, watching in interest as the captain helps both crustaceans to the side of the boat, and they nod to him, Cassie even bowing before taking Lil’s hand and diving into the dark river, leaving the boat once more in silence.

“Heh. Never thought they’d come this far upriver, she must be mad or something.” Says Baha before he walks away, not explaining a damn thing. Whatever, you were too tired at the moment.

You sigh and slide down your staff to rest on the deck. Ugh, it wasnt even your shift and you were already tired. You notice your other companions go about, helping the crew put the ship back together, and everyone leaves you alone, except Croakly who hops over to you.

“Sup.”

“Hey.”

“Did you really… You know?”

You shrug. “Heat of the moment. What are you doing out here anyway?”

She smirks. “Felt like getting out, you know? Things getting interesting in the world, and to be fair, I really haven’t gotten laid in awhile.” She looks at you, eyebrow raised.

“We’ve been over this, Croakly.”

She chuckles and ruffles your hair, which succeeds in coating it in a thick slime. Ugghhh. This, of course, makes her laugh.

“Anyway, didn’t think I’d find something so fun here. Pretty rad to run into you again man, but i think we need to bail.”

You nod to her. “Yeah, safe travels.”

She smirks again and waves to her friends, who are currently fawning over Blake while Hala growls at them menacingly. They shrug and hop over to Croakly before nodding.

“Battlefrogs, out!” And with that, they leap backwards, off the side of the boat, and back into the water. The rest of the evening is fairly uneventful, and you spend your night shift reading through Sam’s notes while Blake mumbles about girls and making his life miserable. You find this hilariously ironic.

The notes, once again, show that Sam was insane and brilliant, but honestly, all of her theorems have to do with amplification of magical energy via Chakrandas’s blood. The more you read, the more you were convinced though that it wasn’t just because it was her blood, but because it was rich with dark energy, which could be used to fuel all sorts of things, such a raising the dead. You shudder as you remember the tailbone ring and you thank Selene for destroying them. If those things still had a fragment of her power… Well, nevermind that.

You don’t find too much else, although you have yet to get to any specific formulae, before your shift ends and you head to sleep, exhausted, and manage to sleep through breakfast even before Blake rouses you. You find find this terribly miserable, but it probably was best to get up. You were due to arrive at your destination this evening. That, of course, left the question of

You drag yourself out of bed and rub at your eyes before rubbing your chin. Mhm, yep, time to fix some of those rough edges. You spend some time grooming with your wonderful beard care kit before sighing and looking around for Bubs.

You had barely seen the little guy since you got on the boat, and every time you tried to feel him out, you just got a flash of pain and some curses in a language you didn’t understand. It had a lot of squeaks though. Yes, you did find a few puddles or rat vomit here and there, mostly in Blake’s bed because he’s a good little guy, but you were getting kind of concerned about him, you hope he was at least drinking water!

Taking some time to search about the cabin, you find Bubs nestled into a pile of cloth under one of the bunks and you gentle pull the pile out.

“Squeak squeek squonk!”

You hear this blare in your head as you pull out the recumbent rat. Poor little guy, he looks utterly miserable. You put a hand on his head and rub one of his ears.

“Hey there little guy, it’s just me, it’s okay.”

“Ungh… Big guy, this suuccckkss. I haven’t been this miserable since one of the rat girls tried to play catch with me as the ball.”

“That… Sounds awful.”

“Blurgh, tell me about it. I can’t believe this, my family has a proud history of being ship rats and look at me, puking my brains out.” You feel an acute sense of disappointment from the rat, “ol’ Pa would never forgive me for the shame.”

You smile and ruffle his fur before giving him a small, ratty massage. “You know what, you may not be the best on ships, but I bet your Pa never scared dogs or became a dire rat, huh?”

“Actually, he was known for killing Great Danes, which is why there was..”

“Shhhhh. Shhhhhhhhh. It’s fine, it’s fine.” You soothe, mildly alarmed. What kind of rat went around killing massive dogs like that? Did all animals have secret family histories like this?

“We’ll be in port tonight, okay?”

“Bluh, sure there’s nothing you can do now?”

You perform a <fast scan> again and find that Bubs does have some humoural imbalances near his abdomen, but there’s no definitive cause for his sickness. You right the humours in a swift motion, but you can visibly see them slip back out of balance, despite your efforts. Briefly, you wonder if it’s something in his head, but when you scan it, you see nothing.

Apparently, the mind is much, much more resistant to tampering than you expected, which might make sense, as the only field of magic which generally seemed to effect it was illusionist workings and there were very, very few of those. As far as you knew, the illusionists were sorcerers, but you began to wonder if they were something else instead, one of the “other” categories.

Eh, whatever, thoughts for another time. You shake your head to Bubs. “Sorry little guy, it’s out of my power. Just hang in there for a little longer, and try to drink some, okay?”

“Y..yeah. Sure thing, boss.”

You leave quietly, shutting the door to the room and look down the small hallway to the galley. Breakfast was probably served ages ago, and you honestly were okay not having Silvester’s cooking. For now, you just pull out another heated bread pouch and look at it, pondering. Despite having an impossibly infinite supply, it was all of the same flavor, and honestly, you were kind of getting bored it it. Sure, it was delicious, but it could be MORE delicious.

You ponder this conundrum and try to think about how you made the original [pocket dimension]. If you recalled right, the original concept was a bag of holding enchanted to keep the items inside warm and crispy at all times. A fairly easy spell to do, but in conjunction with the folding dimensions of a bag of holding, requires multiple applications of the enchantment in four dimensions. 1d, 2d, 3d, and the flavor dimension, which was technically the 7th dimension, but no time for that.

You did fill the [pocket dimension] with heated bread pouches every now and again, but you couldn’t have put this many in there. There was honestly only one explanation, and it was that you had cracked a dimensional barrier. Yep. Only explanation.

You open your [pocket dimension] and peer inside, seeing a pile of steaming and crispy pouches of bliss, and you lick your lips before looking for the magical signature of your enchantments. Yeah, they were all there as you put them, even the one on the flavor dimension. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, so you open your [Mage Sight].

It…. It’s full of pouches.

That’s…. That’s all you can. But you can’t even. It well. Your brain, it hurts, you can’t. Got to close the. (hooooot poooocckkkeeettt)

With every piece of effort you have, you rip your eyes from the bag and shut off your sight, panting. You were drenched in sweat and everything was spinning slightly. Apparently you had fallen against a wall while looking at the bag and you had drool running down your chest.

What the fuck was that? It was… It was like seeing something so vast that your mind could not comprehend it’s power, and it almost killed you as you tried to rationalize it. The one thing you could say for certain was that despite everything you saw, it was all delicious.

“By the gods…” You breathe out slowly as you stare at the bag. “I’ve breached the flavor dimension.”

That’s precisely it. Your spell to keep your pouches fresh, when placed upon the flavor dimension managed to create a crack in reality and allow in but one flavor of heated bread pouch. If… If you widened the crack… Would it?

Licking your lips, you carefully wipe your brow and look into the sack, with your normal sight of course, and see your spell. With trembling hands, you gather your power and add a further layer of reinforcement upon the existing spell.

A massive rush of energy causes the whole body to shudder, and cries of alarm rise up from the deck as everything shakes. Inside your very head, the sound a raven screaming echoes, forming soundless words, “THE NATURAL ORDER!!”

You hug your pouch as reality rumbles around you, wondering if this is how the world ends, in pursuit of flavor. What a way to go. Thankfully, everything seems to quake back into focus and the rocking of the boat subsides, leaving you panting and coated in another thick sheen of sweat.

Tabitha busts open the door to her cabin, and looks around, seeing you slumped in the hallway. She walks over to you and kneels down, feeling your head.

“Wizard, you’re pale as a ghost. What’s happening?”

With trembling hands, you reach into your [pocket dimension and pull out a heated bread pouch. Slowly, your hands shaking, you bring it to your mouth and take a bite.

Spicy red sausage and cheese.

You start to cackle madly, and Tabitha looks down at the pouch, then you, then she just stands up and turns about slowly, walking back into her Cabin, and shutting the door, leaving you to devour your pouch alone. Truly, this was what miracles were made of as you finished the meal, you sigh and reach in for another one, and take a bite.

Fillian steak and cheese.

You stare at the pocket, and drop it, your hands unable to hold such a thing as they began to shake once more, this time in horror. N…no. No this couldn’t be. You were supposed to being balance to the flavor, not destroy it! But this was what it was… In your hubris, you brought your own downfall, for this flavor was possibly the worst.

“NATURAL ORDER!” Echoed in your mind, and you held your head in your hands. This was your punishment for your arrogance. You must now suffer with the knowledge that you would not know what pouch you would pull from your [pocket dimension] and the results could be disastrous.

You stay this way for about 15 minutes until you finally bring yourself out of your stupor and crawl to the galley and sit there, your staff lying beside you, as you ponder the choices that led you here. What would Selene say if she knew you tamped with reality like this?

You head sags to the side an unexpected tide of emotions rushes through you. Wow, you must be really out of it, because you actually kind of wished she was here right now. Guess that’s what happens when you break reality!

Your head sagging to the side, you stare at the [Staff of Gregory the Great] and you narrow your eyes as you feel something coming from it, a sort of… Malice? Is that the right word? Its not like anything is different about the staff, but you can can’t help but feel that it’s angered, but for what reason?

Shifting your weight, you pick up the staff and you felt a jolt run up your arm. Okay, yes, there was something horribly wrong about all of this. You force power through the staff and push out with your will, restraining the staff and diving into its core, where you find a writhing network of power, that recoils from your invasion. You snap back out of the staff and stare at it, teeth clenched

“You are alive, aren’t you?” You hiss, preparing a spell to freeze the staff solid.

Nothing happens for the longest time before you hear a loud sighing noise in your mind, followed by a deep pressure that pops your ears, and forces you to press your head in pain.

“Ohhhh, I was really hoping you wouldn’t push this issue.”

You stare down at the staff, eyes wide. Fuck everything, it WAS alive, and it just spoke to you! Your mouth seems to gape open as you try to think of words to say, when a slight laughing sound echoes in your mind.

“Don’t be so aghast darling, you suspected for some time. But dear, Gregory wished me to keep silent, I feel like I’ve betrayed the poor, dead bastard somehow.”

“W..who… What?”

“I am nothing, merely the aetheric core of a staff. However, I was created from a feather of the Thunderbird queen, Harmonius Desalo Filado the Vth.” The staff seems somehow smug about that last part, which is… You know what, you just broke reality, why are you complaining?

“Uh… Hum.”

“Never met a talking staff before huh?”

“Uh…hum.”

“Hey… Hey are you listening? Hey, listen!”

You snap into reality as it says this and you put a hand to your head. “I just. Wow. This has been a very difficult day for me today.”

“Tell me about it, watching you tamper with that bag without being able to say anything and then you go and fawn over some other wo…” The staff cuts off abruptly, and you eye if, it seeming to do that sweating thing again.

“A…anyway” it continues, trying to avoid the subject. “Pleased to meet you! Been too long since I’ve been used. So, we’re going to slay monsters? Sounds good to me!”

“But you were made from a mon…”

“Pshaw, I just have the core of a powerful monster and a similar personality I’m told. Not like I actually am one!” The staff goes silent for a moment. “I don’t think anyway. It’s very ambiguous.”

“Tell me about it.” You say, leaning back. “So… Thunderbird?”

“Harpy that shoots lightning and stuff. I was made to amplify Gregory’s power over storms, but I can do other stuff too!” It sounds proud of this, like a child that found the largest bug.

“O..okay then. Well uh… Hmm. I guess if you’re ‘alive’ then you need a name?”

“Name? Uhh, I was just called, ‘hey staff’ beforehand, so I guess I don’t really need a name.”

You rub your chin. “No, no that won’t do. Let’s see, you were from a monster named Harmonius, right? How about Harmony?”

The staff goes silent for a moment and you… Can staves blush? It answers slowly. “O…okay.”

“Well that settles that. Let’s head up deck, I think everyone but Tabitha is up there. I guess we can.. Talk about things later?”

“Works for me! You’re much nicer than Gregory, he always told me to shut up.” Says the staff cheerfully, and you hear a light humming in your head. Somehow, just somehow, you think you understood what Gregory went through. But if it could amplify electricity….

You climb the ladder with some trepidation and when you poke your head up the deck, and look about, you freeze instantly as a trident is forced in front of your face.

Slowly, you look up to see an impassive faced monster holding the weapon in front of you. She was short, with long, bluish hair and a mildly childish looking body covered in glittering blue scales, which covered parts of her breasts and nether regions. Her arms and legs each had long, bony fins which terminated in webbed hands that gave her the appearance of a fish with feet, and the ensemble was complete with a long, serpentine tail terminating in split, and fin-like ear projections.

As you take a quick look out of the corner of your eye, you see the rest of your crew incapacitated by about 10 more of the creatures, with one, very large and busty looking one standing over Baha, her webbed foot on his chest. How could they have done this without you hearing? Damnit, even Blake and Veronic were tied up, one of the fish girls sniffing Blake as she prodded him.

“Another one?” The large one says, looking your way. “Mmm he seems fairly well built. We’ll take him back too, along with our special guest here.” As she says this, she pushes her foot down on the captain’s chest.

“But maybe we’ll have ourselves a little taste of the other men before we go, hmm? What do you say girls?”

“Yes, captain!” The other monsters say at once and you realize that the monster before you is reaching a hand down to grab your robes, probably to pull you up and have her way with you.

“Harmony,” you think in a flash, ideas coalescing together “how do you feel about zapping some bitches?”

“Aww yeah!”

As the fish lady’s hand is about to reach your face, you drop backwards from the ladder, and shove Harmony into her face with a defiant roar which your staff echoes.

“Zzzaaaaaap!”

A bolt of pure electricity slams into the monster, throwing up up into the air, and causing multiple tiny arcs of lighting to dance from her body to strike around the deck, sending jolts through two nearby monsters guarding Silvester and Hala, and they drop to the ground, twitching and flailing as their natural body systems are inhibited by the shocking power.

You take the opportunity to leap back up the ladder, onto the deck, and quickly take out your plague mask from your [sack of holding +1], fixing it firmly before surveying the rest of the deck. Yes, your visibility was impaired, and yes, you couldn’t smell a damn thing in the stuffy confines of this mask, but damn if it wasn’t cool.

You can help but notice that the Fish girl you hit with your spell had massive, severe burns from where your spell struck, and she spasmed, her eyes unfocused and her chest unmoving. Baha closes his eyes and groans, “You blasted fool…”

“Harmony…” You think as you watch in horror. “I… I just meant to stun her, not… Gods she’s going to die.”

“Whaaaaat? That’s no fun at all. You really need to tell me these things before you go and channel power through me, you know? I wondered be why you sent so small a current.” The staff seems somewhat abashed from her comments. “Sorry…”

You frown as the rest of the monsters recover from their shock and the big one looks at the dying monster, a look of horror on her face which quickly turns to anger and she points her trident at you, pure rage in her words. “YOU DARE ATTACK THE SAHAUGIN?” She grits her teeth after this outburst and growls, “When I’m through with you, you’ll be begging me to cut you up into fish bait, you worm!”

She waves her weapon out toward you and cries, “Seize him!”

The six other Sahaguin rush towards you, their weapons raised, and you manage to cast a proper <taser> which arcs to another monster, dropping them both, before you’re forced to quickly jump backwards and avoid a trident slice meant for your chest. You flail about as the press in from all sides and try to get your concentration ready to cast some spells, but whenever you start, you are interrupted by having to dodge a blow, or parry it with your staff. Your breathing grew heavy and your brow thick with sweat, unable to breathe properly in the mask.

Here and a here, a lucky blow slashes at your robes, causing a few tears and flashes of scarlet blood which spray into the midday sun. You cry out in pain and stumble as one sahaugin rushes you and manages to smash the shaft of her weapon against your chest, causing you to double over and fall to the deck, gasping for breath. In an instant, you feel a wet and scaly foot slam into your back, causing you to cry out in pain as you feel four sharp objects press into your back.

“Well, well, well.” Says the larger sahaugin, and you watch as she saunters over to you, her hips swaying as she twirls her trident before slamming it into the deck in front of your face.

“You’re going to pay for what you did here, you know that? We were just here to collect someone for the sea queen, and maybe have a little fun, but you had to go and make things personal.”

She reaches down and pulls off your mask, then lifts you up by your hair with little effort. “Matsuho was a good friend of mine, you piece of shit. But I won’t just kill you, no, I’ll have my girls here have their way with you, and then maybe we can discuss your death. I’d almost due the deed myself, if I was already a married monster.”

“In that case, hands off him, bitch.”

Everyone looks over at the source of this new sound and you see Tabitha, standing near the ladder to the below deck, her black coat drifting lazily behind her in the wind as her cap slid down over her eyes. You could see her hands tremble ever so slightly as she looked about at the water out of the corner of her eye, but her gaze quickly became resolute again as you stares down the Sahaguin leader.

The larger monster narrows her eyes and turns to Tabitha, still holding you by the hair. “What was that, bitch?”

“You heard me you salt sprayed slut, drop the wizard.”

The Sahaguin leader’s lip curls and she throws you to the deck, the impact causing you to gasp out in pain before more finned feet pin you down again. Since Harmony had been separated from you, and the pain was clouding your concentration, you merely watched, waiting for an opening to strike.

The monster captain cracked her neck and stepped towards Tabitha, her trident in hand. “Ah, so it looks like someone wants to die huh? I’m in a foul mood, so let’s make this quick.”

Tabitha’s expression never changes as she draws her sword and stands in a two handed stance, ready to fight. The two square off against each other, moving in a slow circle, each judging the other’s movements as they slowly made small steps in and out, trying to find the right time to strike.

Suddenly, Mr. Ed neighs and the Sahaguin’s eyes widen before she dashes forward, her trident a blur before her. But before it can connect, a blinding flash from Tabitha’s blade catches the pronged weapon and stops it cold, the two monsters vying from control against each other, testing their strength before both leap back, then dash forward again.

You literally met Tabitha two days ago, and you figured she must be okay with the sword, but man, this was impressive. She darted back and forth, slashing with her blade, dodging thrusts and sweeps from the longer reached weapon, and managing to score a few superficial strikes when she pressed inside the trident’s effective range, causing the other monster to curse and back away.

Tabitha took this opportunity to dash in, pressing her advantage, and she struck a fury of savage blows which was barely parried by the Sahaguin, who cursed loudly as she was pushed to the edge of the deck, the railing stopping her from falling in.

Or well, it would, if she didn’t purposefully push her self over, falling into the water backwards and causing Tabitha to dash to the edge of the boat and stare down at the water. As soon as she did, her whole body went rigid, and she started breathing heavily, her knuckles turning white as she gripped the railing.

This meant she was utterly unprepared for when the sahaugin captain burst from the water and came down at her, trident held straight down int a vicious point meant to skewer the lizard girl.

“Tabithaaaaa!”

The lizard girl blinks and looks up before the form of Blake smashes into her with his shield and sends her crashing to the deck as the Sahaguin slammed into him. He only barely managed to get his shield up in time, but even still, the force of the impact caused him to buckle and fall, and the monster backflips off his form, using her trident as a focal point, and she lands behind him, looking about.

About this time, you hear a fierce growl, and a defiant scream and the pressure on your back vanishes as the bodies of Sahaguin fly away from you, splattering your back with blood. You push yourself up and see that Veronica and Hala had managed to free themselves during the battle and had come in, smashing and slashing the Sahaguin with her macs and Hala’s claws.

Veronica tosses you your staff and you stand, facing the one remaining Sahaguin, the captain, who looks around her, then growls and tosses her weapon to the deck.

“Damnit, damnit all to the hells, it wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

“Well, maybe if you had just asked for me to return home, then this wouldn’t have had to happen.” Says Baha, rubbing his back as he walks up to the other captain.

She looks down at the forms of her companions, one dead, and the rest wounded or unconscious. She lowers her eyes and sinks to the deck. Baha puts a hand on her shoulder and shakes his head. “I’m sorry she made you do this. But she must know that I am like the sea itself, I cannot be contained, and she has to remember this every now and again.”

“What will become of us if we return Empty handed?”

“Oh, I’m sure she’ll throw a fit, but you’ll be fine. Still, I’m sorry for your loss.” He says,looking towards the dead Sahaguin, then to you.

For your part, you stare, confused as hell. “I uh… Didn’t think that it would be so uhm.” You rub the back of your head. “What is going on?”

Baha sighs and stands up, stretching his back. “Well, it seems my wife has gotten quite angry with me deciding to leave home for abit to do some work on the river. Guess she sent someone to bring me home.”

Hala scratches her head next to you and furrows her brow. “Uh. Now, I don’t know much about fish and stuff, but who the hell can command these things around?”

“The sea queen, Posiphalies, Queen of the 3 oceans and my wife.” He shakes his head, “She can be a little possessive. Probably explains why there were lobsters in the river.”

Everyone is stunned by this revelation and your eye twitches as you try to comprehend this. Yes, the old captain was quite the sailor, but the husband of the great queen of fhe sea? That just. But it. How?

“Oh yesaaaaah. I have some vague memories of Posey.” Says Harmony as she hums in your hand. “Impressions really, but Harmonius spoke with her a few times. I think she’s kind of really needy, you know?”

“Makes sense…” You mutter before signing, “That’s, well that’s something Captain, but how is this little scene going to resolve? We just wish to come safely to port.”

He waves a hand at the scene of destruction before you. “I think it’s already resolved. I didn’t expect you to fight my battles, but since you already did, we’ll have to reap the consequences.” He turns to the sahaugin captain. “Return to Posey, and let her know I’ll be coming home after this voyage, okay? No need for people to get hurt.”

The Sahaguin bows her head and everyone helps rouse the other Sahaguin, who file together, shakily, and with out emotion. The four attacked by Veronica and Hala were okay enough to jump back into the river and the corpse was taken too, to be prepared for a proper water burial. The captain gives you all one, long and hard look before pointing her trident at Tabitha, who stands there, glaring.

“You fight well, for one of the lizard people. Perhaps sometime we can duel again.”

Tabitha’s lip twitches. “Lizardmen never turn down a duel.”

The sahaugin nods and dives into the water, leaving the deck quiet again. All eyes go to Baha, who pulls out a pipe and clenches if in his teeth before shrugging.

“What? The river be a cruel mistress.”

You are due to arrive in port in three hours.

>You reach level 7!

>Your wizard power level is retroactively 90%

“Okay. Would anyone like to explain to me what just happened here?”

Everyone on deck averts their gaze from you, doing little gestures and movements to try and them themselves look invisible. Well, except for Tabitha, who laying on her side, staring off into the abyss, but you knew what her deal was.

“Anyone? No?” You point Harmony at Blake. “How about you sir? Care to explain how a pack of mighty warriors was caught totally by surprise and incapacitated?”

Blake rubs at the back of his head, embarrassment clear on his face. “Well. You see, it’s like… The water it…and the uh…”

He fumbles for words like a fish on dry land who needs to speak his last rites, and manages to produce nothing of value. He looks desperately around, but everyone was looking away from him too.

“Ah, leave the boy alone.” Calls Captain Baha, who seems to be searching his pockets for something. “Boy was being fawned over by those three ladies when the ship’s starts a rocking like a blasted galley out in a typhoon, and the Sahaguin came and caught us with our sails at half mast.”

He frowns and sighs, looking over at you and pointing at his pipe. “You mind?”

You raise an eyebrow and point a finger, and a small burst of flame appears in his pipe, a he begins to puff it, taking in large breaths before pulling the pipe out and exhaling smoke rings.

“Ah, that’s the stuff. Can’t get it often enough beneath the waves you know?” He smiles and clenches the pipe again. “As I was saying, me wife loves to send out those Sahaguin to do her dirty work. Probably wouldn’t have been much of an issue had you not ah…” He waves his hand and makes a little explosion. “Well, it’s a shame, but that’s the price the pay for acting like that. I’ll have to bring me honey something nice to make her forget all this.”

Everyone just stares at the captain again as he puffs out more smoke rings. You seem to recover faster than the others and you rub your forehead before sighing. “I apologize, it was not my intention to kill her, there was an aetheric feedback which amplified my spell.”

He shrugs. “Probably just miscast or something. These things happen.”

“Uh… Y…yeah. Okay. But, wait, why is someone so important out here anyway?”

“I told ya already, I’m just having some time away running the river boat. It’s a nice vacation unless some heroes and wizards start causing trouble.” He winks at you. “Anyway, three hours or so until Derrick, let’s get some things ready, alright men!”

His crew nods in the affirmative, going back to their work like nothing happened. You just shake your head and look at Blake, who seems horribly abashed before you walk over to the now recumbent form of Tabitha. You poke her with Harmony and she blinks, focusing on you.

“What?”

“Thanks for the save.”

“Uh huh.”

“You uh… You going to just stay down there?”

“My legs don’t feel like working at the moment.”

You rub your head and look around to see everyone busy at work getting things prepared to move to Derrick and offload quickly. You sigh and look back down at Tabitha.

“Fine,I guess I’ll give you a hand.”

She balks at this, “Hells no, I am a proud Lizardman warrior who..”

“Is terribly afraid of water and now can’t stand because of her fear, yeah yeah whatever, come on.”

You reach down and pull one of her arms over your shoulder and she grunts, allowing you to lift her up. Together, you make your way over to the ladder for the belowdecks, and she wobbles a little, pressing into your chest. Despite the clothes she wears, you can distinctly feel her soft breasts pressing against you, and you’re quite certain that they are fairly large, not that you particularly care. This does give you impetus to help her slowly down the ladder and into her cabin, where she takes a deep breath and nods to you.

“Thank you wizard, I think I shall go rest now.”

“No problem.”

She looks back at you one last time and cocks her head before blinking. “Wizard, do you know how to use a weapon?”

“Why? I can use magic.”

She considers this for a moment before nodding and closing the door to the cabin, leaving you alone with Harmony. You look at the staff and shrug before heading back to the galley and realizing then that you hurt like hell. You had cuts from the tridents all over you and bruises from when you were thrown about. With a little magic, you [mend] the cuts, nothing too serious thankfully, and look up at the ceiling. Three hours huh? Fuck it, you just sort of saved everyone kind of, so you earned not helping with the crates and things and such.

Yes. Yes you were totally deserving this time to study.

So you pull out your copy of [Defensive Magic: Volume 1] and flip to where you were before. Okie dokie, that’s something on improving magic circle strength, alright, so what’s next is… Rune sigils? You look carefully at the chapter and realize it’s the last in the book of any value. Might as well read it.

“While the practitioner who has read to this point will know, runes form a crucial focal point of any defensive magic. Even the basic circles are powered by runic focal points, and the knowledge and application of such runes can make a nigh impenetrable defense. However, this is not the limit of their uses, for runic sigils, larger and powerful runes, can allow portable or enchanted defenses.

A runic sigil is formed by directly inscribing a sigil rune into the object of interest. Once transcribed and infused, this rune will flare into life before vanishing, creating a nexus seen only by other mages or if the sigil is broken. Once imbued with purpose, the sigil can perform the purpose it is assigned. While the applications can go before purely defensive natures, only a few sigils are shown in this book. The most common is a sigil of endurance, upon which is often linked to multiple smaller runic foci to spread the protection to greater surfaces. This rune will increase the durability of the subject material greatly, making it much more resilient to harm.

Another sigil is the sigil of warding, which makes items much more resistant to magical assaults, and can even turn away minor spells. When inscribed to scrolls, can be used to minor dispelling properties, (see volume 2). Finally, the sigil of avoidance, which can be used to help conceal something from attention, although the effects are limited.

There are many, many sigils, many unknown from ancient times, which have varying effects such as creating barriers of flame, or creating thorns when attacked. Many magical theory books will have new sigils, so look about for new enchanting and defensive means! Do not attempt to transcribe a new sigil, as past attempts to create new sigils end in magical feedback looks, utterly burning out the practitioner from inside. Also, do not apply more than one sigil to an item, as this will cause undesired effects.”

>You learn [Sigil of Endurance]

> enhance the endurance of items!

>You learn [Sigil of Warding]

>Enhance the magical resistance of items!

>You learn [Sigil of Avoidance]

>Enhance the stealth of items!

Sigils huh? That’s pretty cool. It’s a cheater’s way of enchanting items, but it’s so much more stable and hard to read unless someone is looking for it. That’s really cool! Maybe you should increase the durability of your robes? Or perhaps magical resistance would be good since Jakovitch was back… Ah, but the avoidance would allow you to be less noticed by monsters… Tough choices since your robes could only hold one Sigil…

“Hey Harmony?” You think and the staff shifts.

“Hmm? Oh, if this is bout before, I’m sorry, I didn’t think it would happen like that, honestly!”

“I’m not mad or anything about that, although we may need to speak a little bit about how we will work together to stop that from happening again.”

“O…okay. Sure!” The staff almost seems relieved. Can staves feel fear? You were going to hurt your head if you kept asking this question over and over.

“Anyway, do you know of any sigils?”

“Well, yeah, of course. The sigil of lightning is pretty standard for monster witches of my Cali…” She stops then and seems to consider. “Well, of Harmonius’s caliber. I mean, I’m not her, I just remember and… Anyway, I can teach if to it, it electrifies whatever you transcribe it to. Not too great for weapons though, but it makes good traps and armor!”

You smirk and stroke the staff who makes no real reaction. Actually it kind of has no reaction at all, then seems to realize it should have a reaction, and starts do giggle. Guess staves can’t feel, that’s one mystery solved.

“Port ahead!” Echoes down the hall and you stretch, putting your books away. Guess it’s time to head out then…

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