Wizardquest Part 9: On a Boat


Chapter 75

 

You always secretly wanted to ride on a boat.

To say that you were disappointed that this was denied you in Feldergrod is an understatement. Growing up in a landlocked little village, you never got the chance to see the rivers that crisscrossed Deleor. As a child, it was something that fascinated you, but you gave up on that dream when you took on the life of a Wizard. To think that you’d be on a boat now… perhaps life can be good, eh?

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

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

It would be nice if you could use your [Port-o-Glass], but the moving water disrupts the ley line connections. Looks like the rest of your magic isn’t affected, thankfully. Not that you’ll need it since this river is frequently traveled by trading craft and state vessels patrolling the waters. Bandits are practically unheard of this close to the capital, and while Monsters are present, they generally keep to themselves. It’s probably fine to just try and relax, right?

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

One of the four crewman, Silvester you think, is 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, clenches a pipe in his mouth while he steers 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 Whale Girl…”

Other than those two, only Veronica is on deck. Hala is below with Blake as he goes over the travel logs while Tabitha is 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 to bully Tabitha 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. She doesn’t seem to notice you however as she leans on the railing, both arms folded, her head resting on her arms as she stares off into the water.

For some reason she’s 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 think that she’s just the only one who fits into the armor currently.

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

“Stupid… Blake and his stupid Monsters. Every time 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. Oh dear, she really, really has it bad for Blakey-poo. Remembering the bruise on your cheek from this morning, you decide to turn right around and find someone else to bother. As you turn about however, you accidentally trip over a length of rope, stumble a few times and let out a little curse.

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

“You want another knuckle sandwich, Wizard?”

Huh, wow, people still say knuckle sandwich, interesting. You hold up your hands non-threateningly and wave them back and forth, speaking quickly,

“Idonwannotrabble!”

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 would be to just leave, maybe ready a book, have a heated bread pouch, catch some zzz’s, but nah, you aren’t going to do this the easy way. That’s the kind of person you are!

“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 shrug. “It ah… comes with the territory.” Shuffling your feet, you rub your neck 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 here, wallowing in your own self-pity is a better alternative then?”

The words just sort of spilled out, unbidden. You snap your mouth shut after that, holding your tongue as your heart races faster. Veronica searches your eyes and then slowly stands up before leaning on the railing with her back, arms up behind her. She’s silent for a few moments before she lets out a long sigh.

“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 has a curious look of anger mixed with fondness on her face, as though she can’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.”

Sighing, she rubs at some dirt on 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 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 and looks up to the sky. “Then Blake just waltzes back, a Wizard and a Wolf Girl in tow, then 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 she would find a suborder that reviles Monsters and offered strong bonds of faith when her love interest was taken away would be uh… attractive.

Veronica looks at you funny, cocking her head as you come back into focus, clapping your hands. “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 below deck. “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 every time I mentioned it.”

You seem to recall something about Lizardmen, how they love to fight and all, but there’s something deeper to it that you can’t quite remember… Something about how if a man beat them they would- Ah whatever, you’ll remember later, or you could just ask her yourself if you get that bored.

She says nothing further, and an uneasy silence weighs between you. Mr. Ed neighs in the distance, and you hear Silvester yawn as the river gently pushes your craft. Goshes, this is 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. Beaming, you pick up the rope that you had tripped over and tie it to the railing over the stern. Veronica watches you as you as you finish removing all your valuables, your [Sack of Holding+1] and [Pocket Dimension] already below deck. Nodding your head, you look over at the water again and then smile to Veronica.

“Solos above… 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 railing, staring down into the water. She freezes when she sees you there, holding onto the rope while you balance on two lengths of ice, shaped into the gear they used in the snowy regions, called “skis.”

Her eyes open wide as you’re pulled along in the wake of the boat. Her mouth twitches for a moment and you’re afraid she’s going to yell at you. Instead, she smirks and lets out a snort before chuckling. You hold out one hand, thumb and pinky extended, and twist the wrist back and forth, causing Veronica to start full out laughing at the absurdity. She has a good laugh, full bodied and rich. You find it an amusing parallel to her normally stern personality.

Testing out the skis, you soon find it a little difficult to stay afloat 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 can use Hydromancy!

With a smile and some effort, you manipulate the waters around you to become choppy, forming turbulent waves. 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. Grinning wickedly, you turn up the funk, creating a loud, “kewoosh” noise as you slalom through the waves.

Kewoosh!” Goes a mighty wave, and “kewoosh!” goes another as you almost do a 180 trying to twist through. You get ready for the next one, preparing to try something crazy when-

 “Snib.

Wait. “Snib?”

You blink and realize you can’t move too well. Looking down, you find that part of your left ski is missing. Your balance wavers for a moment and a wave you made slaps you in the face as you seem too 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 feel your ankles grasped by something powerful, causing you to panic.

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 woman with bright, blue eyes, short brown hair, and modest sized breasts appears. She opens her mouth, and says 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. Your hand still on the rope, you cling desperately as you feel your grip slip. Your body is dragged down to the bottom of the river, and you’re unable to hear any sound save for the hammering of your heart in your ears and the muffled sounds of shouting from above.

 

Chapter 76

 

Everything is 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 your lungs as you try to push away, but the strength in those claws is enough to crush an armored knight. It strikes as you as strange though, that something so powerful has such a delicate body. In fact that dichotomy allows your mind switch gears so suddenly that you have time to reorient yourself and look around.

Your lungs burn fiercely from being dragged under by surprise, but you take in what has you trapped. A lithe, female torso presses up against you, totally nude you might add, and her soft, supple skin is apparent even through your robes. Where her legs should have been however, is the body of a large red crab, with six chitinous legs that drift in the water as she pull you downward with a pair of large, crushing claws. Despite all of this, you can’t help but notice that she’s beginning to hold you closer to her, her face turning red.

As you appreciate this, you also appreciate that you’re going to die before she has the chance to rape you. Pulling tight on the rope you’re still holding in your hand, you’re able to slow your descent despite your grip sliding ever further. 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 would find it odd, but things were starting to really hurt in your chest as you struggle to work out a spell to use.

The Crab Girl seems to take notice of your struggles, and pulls you in closer, her face directly before yours. 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. You become acutely aware of the way her lips form a seal to yours, her tongue questing in your mouth while caressing your own, shivering tongue. Can’t say that you don’t find it stimulating and, against your better judgement and the cold of the water, you can feel your pants start to stiffen.

The odder thing however, is that your lungs suddenly stop hurting anymore. Your eyes grow wide as you realize that somehow, this kiss is imparting oxygen to you. The Crab Girl’s eyes flutter open and look into yours. She immediately breaks the kiss, her cheeks growing red, yet she doesn’t break her hold on you. Bringing up her human hands to her face, she turns away, muttering as bubbles begin to form at her waist, covering up her obviously aching genitals with cleansing suds.

“Oh gosh, I can’t believe I did that! 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 or maybe try diplomacy, but you have 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, so that’s out. Fire magic plain doesn’t work underwater due to aetheric opposites and your Copromancy here is too dilute. Besides, you can’t sense anything you can use, same as your Plagamancy. Maybe if it were a polluted pool or something, but this is a river!

So that leaves Hydromancy, or Glaciemancy- Yes, yes that could work!

Steeling yourself for what you’re 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 with surprise. 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 unbearable 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 upward while still being held, forcing the hand on her stomach to slip down as the other is pulled up. You feel soft, sudsy bubbles, and your fingertips brush against something warm and slick, your middle finger slipping gently inside an 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 fingers. The Crab Girl starts to moan and shift her hips, seeming to invite your fingers further 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 as she is completely and utterly embarrassed.

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

It’s your turn to have flushed cheeks as you realize that either she’s going to want something more than just your fingers, or your “friends” are going to yank your damn shoulder out of the socket at this rate. Guess there was only one way out of this but damn… well, it has 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, hells, 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’re dragged back on board to sputter on the deck, taking deep, heavy breaths. Gaining your faculties quickly, and you look around to see everyone, minus Tabitha, on deck.

Blake, wearing only loose chainmail, helps you to your feet while Hala, barely clothed at all, not that she cares, holds the rope she used to pull you up. Veronica looks horrified at the experience, and she apologizes profusely to you as you shake your head, getting your senses back.

“Dear Solos, are you alright? What happened down there?” Blake asks, checking for a concussion or other injuries.

“Crab battle and-“ You cut off abruptly, remembering what you just did to that poor Crab Girl. Not that she didn’t deserve it, but… damn that was cold of you.

Blake and Veronica exchange glances, clearly taking your silence as trauma. The Hero sighs and helps you downstairs, not that you protest. He has to wave Veronica away as she tries to help, her personality doing a total reversal from before. You’d find it hilarious it if wasn’t so embarrassing.

Thankfully no one asks any further questions about the experience and Blake just drops you at your small room, only asking once more if you’re okay. You wave him away with a feigned tired expression to cover your embarrassment. He closes the door behind him, leaving you to yourself as you sit with wet clothes, regretting your decisions.

 

Chapter 77

 

It takes some time to remove your clothes and sit, huddled in your cabin with blankets to warm up. It doesn’t take long to feel warm, especially with some Pyromancy. Handy being a Wizard, huh? Of course, your magic also gets you into trouble, like earlier. What possessed you do to do that? Were you trying to impress Veronica of all people? A woman?

Groaning, you huddle up in your blanket, feeling quite snug. Unfortunately the adrenaline leaving your system, the late night spent shitweaving, and the warmth all conspire to make your eyelids heavy. Well… sleeping is one way to relieve boredom, though you can’t help but feel that Blake mentioned something you’re supposed to do later on-

You wake up a short time later, the cabin feeling a little darker than before. Blinking in confusion, you wipe drool from your chin and look around. Is it night time? Damn, how long did you sleep? Blake volunteered your party for watch after all-

Ah hells.

Quickly using magic to dry the remainder of your clothes, you dress, grab your gear, and hurry up the ladder to the top deck. As you arrive, you prepare your best excuse for why you’re late for your shift. True, someone should have awoken you for second shift, but it’s always good to have an excuse. They’ll totally buy the, “My rat ate my alarm” excuse. Works every time.

Unfortunately you don’t get such a chance when you realize that night only just fell. The crewmen look at you oddly as you try to hide your embarrassment and act casual. Thankfully they buy it and go about finishing their work to make certain the boat is moored well and not going to float off in the night. You notice Captain Baha supervising all of this with the eye, singular, of an expert seaman, though how extensive a history does a river boat captain have?

Surveying the deck, Tabitha is still nowhere to be seen, but Hala parades about while Veronica sits on a stool, chin leaning on one arm as she tries not to look bored or annoyed by the prancing Wolf Girl. She is failing.

Blake isn’t around either. You assume he must be getting food or something. Well, you came all the way out here, might as well do something useful. So, you go and ready a set of [Hexagrammic Wards] about the deck, much to the sailor’s confusion. 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 as not to take his eye of you, he gently picks up the carrot with his teeth and munches on it. 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 he’s still sick and does NOT want to speak with anyone. Poor little guy, you feel bad for him, but there isn’t too much you can do since your healing skills aren’t adroit at fixing something like this.

Eventually Mr. Ed gets bored of your rubs and he snorts before going back to munching on hay while taking a shit. Awww, so cute. You briefly wonder what he would say were he to have the same familiar bond as Bubs, but you dismiss the thought for now. You feel you’d need a much deeper connection with the horse to do something like that with him and you just aren’t there yet. Besides, you aren’t fully comfortable with all you can do with Bubs anyway. Maybe you can consider this later if you need like, a dire horse.

That actually sounds really badass though…

Reconsidering, you 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. The Wolf Girl snickers and you frown, gently calming down your horse.

“Scared, Wizard-boy?”

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 isn’t here.” She pouts. “Also, that Lizard 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 over her shoulder and you see Veronica staring at you… Well, at Hala. Goshes, is it warm out here or is Veronica’s gaze physically smoldering?

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.” A smile crosses her face as seems to strongly consider the idea.

You bap Hala on the head with your staff. “No. Bad Wolf Girl, 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 those other two came around she’s so on edge. Maybe she’s just fiercely protective- seems to be a streak for most Monsters you feel. This is probably going to cause unforeseen consequences in the future, but what can you do?

Try and stay out of it, that’s what!

With that resolve in mind you head below deck again until your shift. It’s good to stay true to your dreams, right?

You settle down in the now empty galley, Blake having left if he was here, and channel power into your new staff, causing a light far more brilliant than you anticipated to appear in the room. Surprised, you tone down the power and almost feel the staff shiver in your hand. Cocking your head, you take a good look at the staff but… well, it’s just a staff. A very nice staff, but there really isn’t anything suspicious about it. Weird, must be your imagination.

Shrugging, you dig through your bag and pull out your books, pondering what to read to pass the time now that you’ve gotten a nap. Even though you should really get some better sleep, if you get start now, you might make up for not reading the past few days! 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 its 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. 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 Plagamancer, these talents can be used instead to harm, rather than heal.

“A simple example is to take a body which has been compromised and concentrate the magical energy of the practitioner into localized humors, infusing it with vitality. In doing so, the related section 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 however, 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 its effectiveness.

“As should be re-iterated again, this is for academic purposes and should not be used on living creatures without authorization.”

You lean back and ponder this over. Interesting, you always knew about these growths, but never that they could be induced in such a way. It kind of makes you feel a little disgusted to induce something like this though. Hells, if you can induce this, it’s almost certainly fatal, even if it’s long term. Should you really have that kind of ability to induce [Cancer]?

Well, you’ll consider the moral quandary later. Let’s move on to a different subject.

Pulling out your copy of [Defensive Magic: Volume 1], you flip to where you were before. Okie dokie, looks like 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.

“The practitioner who has read to this point should know that 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 task is assigned. While the applications can go beyond purely defensive natures, only a few sigils are shown in this book. The most common is a [Sigil of Endurance], 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, they can be used for 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 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 loops, utterly burning out the practitioner from inside. Also, do not apply more than one sigil to an item, as this will cause undesired effects.”

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. Maybe you should increase the durability of your robes? Or perhaps magical resistance would be good since Franz Jakovitch is back… Ah, but the avoidance would allow you to be less noticed by Monsters… Tough choices since your robes can only hold one sigil.

With a sigh, you put down the book and toy with your staff as you consider the possibilities. The light from the staff changes and dances in your hands, unbidden. Furrowing your brow, you stare again at the staff and chew on your lip. What the…? As a test, you send out some [Fire] through the tip, and it makes a small torch of green flame, which is not at all what you wanted. It quickly changes to red and yellow but that’s enough to make 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 an eyebrow and shake the staff.

Nothing happens.

You poke the staff, tap it against the floor, but still nothing happens. You rub your chin and look at it closely. Words come to your lips, unbidden,

“You aren’t alive, are you?”

Somehow you get the feeling that the staff is… mentally sweating? Is that possible? It’s just a feeling but it’s like the staff is starting to break under your pressure, so you step it up a notch and give it the ol’ lazy eye and-

“WE’RE UNDER ATTA-!”

You snap up the staff in your hand at the outcry and run out of the galley, almost colliding into Blake, who’s busy belting on his sword.

“Wizard! Hurry!” He cries out, running to the ladder. As you chase after him, you notice the door to the women’s bunk is slightly ajar. Tabitha stands 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 wants to stay down here… well maybe she’s the smart one, but you aren’t just going to let things happen up there without your help!

My how things have changed.

Climbing the ladder rapidly yourself, you duck when reach the top rung as Hala goes flying overhead. She crashes onto the deck before flipping about and rolling onto all fours, her teeth bared.

You look about from where she came from to see your wards sputtering and failing as a large form picks one up in a massive claw and crushes it like it’s 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 is Crab Girl for before. She hides behind a much larger Monster which looks similar, but upon closer examination, you notice that she isn’t a crab at all.

This larger Monster has the torso of a human, as many do, with large, voluptuous breasts and long, brown hair that clings to her body. Instead of human hands however, she has large, massive claws that make the Crab Girl’s look small in comparison.

Where her torso would meet hips, instead, she has a long, chitinous body with red plates, six legs and a tail that flares out at the ends. Like some kind of… lobster… Which is odd because this is a river, but no time for that.

The Lobster Girl does not look best pleased as she surveys the scene around the boat. Behind her, the Crab Girl gasps and points at you with both her hand and claw.

“H-hey sis! That’s him! That’s the guy!”

The larger crustacean turns 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 isn’t so bad, you could lie like that, sure-

“By mating with her.”

Oh no.

 

Chapter 78

 

The 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 is terribly awkward. You aren’t used to people looking to you for anything at all. Well, if they’re looking to you to make a decision, then it’s their fault for expecting anything other than what you’re about to do.

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. Licking your lips, you pull out a heated bread pouch and hold it up the way a man would hold a torch in the darkest of night.

“I offer a third option!’

Everyone goes silent and only the cool breeze of the night air, the gentle lapping of waves, and the chirping of crickets in the distance can be heard. No one moves, no one even breathes as the Lobster Girl 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 Girl scuttles a few steps forward 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. The force of it shatters the wood and causes people to jump in alarm. She growls 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. Sighing with content, you lean on your staff, waving the pouch at the crustaceans while doing your best not to have a heart attack.

“That’s a shame, because you’re really missing out here. Look, I don’t want no trouble, and you aren’t in the best of position here with a Wizard, a Wolf Girl, 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. One would question what possible use a harpoon is on a river, but apparently giant lobsters live here so… sure?

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

“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?” Asks the little crab, her voice quiet and afraid. “M-maybe we shouldn’t?”

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

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

“Enough! We figh-!

Rolling your eyes, 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 with feverish speed. The Crab Girl screams as she covers her ears with hands and claws while the Lobster Girl grits her teeth, her eyes twitching as she endures the pain.

In fact, the only person there who doesn’t drop besides you is Captain Baha. The man stands straight backed, laughing like a sailor on shore leave. Has he heard the song before? Or… has he performed the song? This man certainly is an enigma.

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

Feebly, you raise your staff as the Lobster Girl draws near. She raises her claw above you, malice in her eyes, but before she can bring it down, a loud croaking sound pierces the night, causing the Monster to freeze, 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. As he does, three shapes burst from the water and land on the deck with audible squelching noises.

When they land, they become illuminated by your mage light. You can plainly see a short haired, blond Monster 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 wear 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, it’s 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 Girl 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’re sitting there while a giant lobster Monster is going to snab you. Thankfully, the lobster is watching with confused fascination, allowing you to take the opportunity to start scooting away.

She notices you before you’ve gone barely five feet however, and she slams a claw down onto the deck, barely missing you. “Oh no you don’t!”

“Woah, that’s like, totally uncool.”

“Yeah, wow, breaking things? That’s so lame.”

“Not radical in the least.” Confirms Croakly, as the frogs all nod their heads with sagacity. “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 Girl, legs outstretched. Their feet hit her with enough force to send her flying to the other side of the deck and crash into the railing, almost shattering it.

“Oh, sorry about that!” Shouts Croakly as she bounds up the Lobster Girl, putting in a series of punches and kicks, before leaping back as the Monster rises. The next few seconds are filled with scenes of stretchy frog legs, mucus, and a raging Lobster Girl, who seems to grow redder as the fight continues. You don’t do a damn thing because you’re afraid you’re going to get hurt, and you’re mildly enthralled by the scene. Well, not because three very attractive Monsters are jumping around, their breasts coated in a glossy film that reflects in your mage light, but more because it’s pretty cool to watch happen. One could even call it… radical?

Soon enough, the Lobster Girl stumbles about the deck, unable to fully right herself. The three Frog Girls leap back together, fists outstretched as they smile.

“Time to finish her?”

“Sounds good to me!”

“STOOOOOOOPPPP!”

Everyone turns to look at the source of the sound. The Crab Girl stands 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 Girl 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 don’t 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 clacking on the planks as you do. “Look, it’s over. We don’t mean you any more harm if you just leave in peace. I’m 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’s expression falls as she sinks to the deck. “Dollora damnit. I didn’t mean to… I…”

Croakly bounds up and places a hand on her shoulder. “It’s cool girl, it’s 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 Cassie 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, though the effect is lessened due to the half-eaten heated bread pouch in your hand.

“Look, I just, I mean she had me underwater and I- I mean.” You can feel noodles starting to slip from your pockets as you attempt to right this.

“Alright, that’s enough of that boy, let’s 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-” She cuts 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 though they say nothing about it, watching in interest as the captain helps both crustaceans to the side of the boat. Curiously, Cassie bows to the man before taking Lilian’s claw 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.

You sigh and slide down your staff to rest on the deck. Ugh, it isn’t even your shift and you’re already tired again. Around you, your other companions go about, helping the crew put the ship back together. They leave you alone, either in disgust or shame, except for 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 are getting interesting in the world and, to be fair, I really haven’t gotten laid in awhile.” She looks to you at this, eyebrow raised.

“We’ve been over this, Croakly.”

She chuckles and ruffles your hair, which succeeds in coating it in a thick slime. 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 chuckle and hop over to her, the three of them gathering at the side of the ship. Croakly waves at you and says, voice carrying to the whole ship,

“Battlefrogs, out!”

With that, they leap backward, off the side of the boat, and into the water.

Thank the Gods the rest of the evening is uneventful.

 

Chapter 79

 

Morning comes far too early, as it is wont to do.

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

The little guy’s barely been seen since you got on the boat, and every time you try to feel him out you just get a flash of pain and some curses in a language you don’t understand. It has a lot of squeaks though. Yes, you do find a few puddles or rat vomit here and there, mostly in Blake’s bed because he’s a good little guy, but you’re starting to be concerned about him. You hope he’s at least drinking water!

As you put away your beard care tools, you accidently drop a rag onto the ground. Reaching down, you notice under the bed a pile of cloth. Frowning, you pull it out to find Bubs curled up there, shuddering.

{Squeak squeek squonk!}

You hear this blare in your head as you pull out the recumbent rat. Poor little guy, he looks utterly miserable. Gently, you rub one of his ears while speaking mentally to him.

{Hey there little guy, it’s just me, it’s okay.}

{Ungh… Big guy, this suuccckkss. I haven’t been this miserable since 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. The only practitioners you’ve heard of with any proficiency in this field are Illusionists, and there are very, very few of those.

Eh, whatever, thoughts for another time. {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’re honestly okay not having Silvester’s cooking from what Blake told you about it. For now, you just pull out another heated bread pouch and look at it, pondering.

Despite having an impossibly infinite supply, it’s all the same flavor and honestly, you’re kind of getting bored it. Sure, it’s delicious, but it could be MORE delicious.

You ponder this conundrum and try to think about how you made the [Pocket Dimension]. If you recall 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, it required multiple applications of the enchantment in four dimensions. 1d, 2d, 3d, and the flavor dimension, which is technically the seventh dimension, but that’s not important right now.

While you did fill the [Pocket Dimension] with heated bread pouches every now and again, you couldn’t have put this many in there. There’s only one explanation, and it’s that you had cracked a dimensional barrier.

Yep. Only explanation.

Curious, you open your [Pocket Dimension] and peer inside. A pile of steaming and crispy pouches of bliss greet you. You lick your lips absently before looking for the magical signature of your enchantments. Yeah, they’re all there as you put them, even the one on the flavor dimension. Nothing seems out of the ordinary, so you open your [Mage Sight].

It… It’s full of pouches.

That’s all you can-! But you can’t even-! It well-! Your brain, it hurts, you can’t-! Got to close the-!

Release the flavor within.

With every piece of effort you have, you rip your eyes from the bag and shut off your sight, panting with effort. You find yourself drenched in sweat while everything spins slightly. Apparently you’ve fallen against a wall while looking at the bag and drool hangs in thick cords 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 is 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 ad infinitum. If… If you widened the crack… Would it…?

Licking your lips, you carefully wipe your brow and look into the bag again, with your normal sight of course, and see your spell. Shaking with concentration, you gather your power and add a further layer of reinforcement upon the existing spell.

A massive rush of energy causes the whole boat to shudder, and cries of alarm rise up from the deck as everything shakes. Inside your head however, you can only hear a raven screaming about the natural order. Something wonderful and terrible has just happened, you’re afraid.

You hug your pouch as reality rumbles around you. Is this how the world ends, in pursuit of flavor? What a way to go. Thankfully, everything seems to go back into focus as 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 to you quickly 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, you bring it to your mouth and take a bite.

Spicy red sausage and cheese.

You start to cackle madly. Tabitha looks down at the pouch, then you, before she stands up, turns about slowly, and walks back into her cabin, shutting the door and leaving you to devour your pouch alone.

Truly, this is what miracles are made of. As you finish the meal, you sigh, 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 begin to shake once more, this time in horror. N-no. No this can’t be. You were supposed to being balance to the flavor, not destroy it! But this is what it is… In your hubris, you brought your own downfall, for this flavor is possibly the worst ever conceived.

The raven’s screams echoed in your mind as you hold your head in your hands. This is your punishment for your arrogance. You must now suffer with the knowledge that you will not know what pouch you’ll pull from your [Pocket Dimension] until you take a bite.

You stay this way for about fifteen minutes until you finally bring yourself out of your stupor and crawl to the galley. Sitting there, your staff lying beside you, 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 wish she was here right now. Guess that’s what happens when you break reality!

Without enough energy to move your head, you stare at the [Staff of Gregory the Great]. As you stare, you feel something coming from it, a sort of… malice? Is that the right word? It’s not like anything is different about the staff, but you can can’t help but feel that it’s angered somehow.

Shifting your weight, you pick up the staff and feel a jolt run up your arm, shocking you upright. Okay, yes, there is something horribly wrong about all of this. Forcing power through the staff, you push out with your will, restraining it’s magic while diving into its core. Inside you find a writhing network of power that recoils from your invasion, almost as if-

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

Nothing happens for the longest time. Then, inside your head you hear a loud, sighing noise followed by a deep pressure that pops your ears and causes you to let out a gasp of pain.

{Ohhhh, I was really hoping you wouldn’t push this issue.}

 

Chapter 80

 

You stare down at the staff, eyes wide. Fuck everything, it is alive, and it just spoke to you! Your mouth gapes open as you try to think of words to say. A delicate, feminine laugh echoes in your mind at your silly appearance.

{Don’t be so aghast, you suspected for some time. Oh dear though, 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 Fifth.} 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 back to it as it says this. Putting a hand to your head, you stare at the ground, unfocused. “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 it as you get that mental sensation of sweating 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’m just the core of a staff made from a powerful Monster. Not like I actually am one!} The staff goes silent for a moment before saying. {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 probably there.” You scratch your chin, thinking of how to word this. “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 understand why Gregory might have treated her that way after awhile.

Climbing the ladder with some trepidation, you poke your head up the deck and look about only to 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’s short, with long, bluish hair and has a small body covered in glittering blue scales, which covers parts of her breasts and nether regions. Her arms and legs each have long, bony fins which terminate in webbed hands, giving her the appearance of a fish with feet. The ensemble is completed with a long, serpentine tail terminating in split, fin-like projections.

Daring to take a quick look out of the corner of your eye, you see the rest of your crew incapacitated by about ten more of the creatures. One very large and busty Monster of the same variety stands over Baha however, her webbed foot on his chest. How could they have done this without you hearing? Damnit, even Blake and Veronica are tied up, one of the strange fish Monsters sniffing Blake as she prods 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. The one in front of you reaches down to grab you, her face betraying just a hint of anticipation.

{Harmony,} you think to the staff, moving your thoughts on the same connection she’s using. {How do you feel about zapping some bitches?}

{Aww yeah!}

As the Monster’s hand is about to reach you, 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 her up into the air. Multiple, tiny arcs of lighting dance from her body to strike around the deck as she lands, sending jolts through two nearby Monsters guarding Silvester and Hala. They drop to the ground, twitching and flailing as their muscles spasm.

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]. Once fixed firmly in place, you survey the rest of the deck. Yes, your visibility is impaired, and yes, you can’t smell a damn thing in the stuffy confines of this mask, but damn if it isn’t cool.

It doesn’t escape your notice that the Fish Monster you hit with your spell has massive, severe burns from where your lightning struck. She spasms, her eyes unfocused and chest unmoving. Oh hells, did you kill her with that blast?

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. {Er, I mean… sorry…}

You frown as the rest of the Monsters recover from their shock. The big one looks at the dying Monster, a look of horror on her face which quickly turns to anger.  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!”

Waving her weapon out toward you, she cries, “Seize him!”

The six other Sahaguin rush toward you, their weapons raised. You manage to cast a proper stunning [Lightning Bolt] which arcs to another Monster, dropping them both, before you’re forced to quickly jump backward and avoid a trident slice meant for your chest. You flail about as they press in from all sides, however. Trying to get your concentration ready to cast some spells, you’re interrupted by having to dodge a blow, or parry it with your staff. Your breathing grows heavy and your brow becomes thick with sweat, unable to breathe properly in the mask.

Here and a there, 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, forcing you to cry out in pain as you feel four sharp objects press into your back.

“Well, well, well.” Says the larger Sahaugin. 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 ordered 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 do the deed myself, if I wasn’t already a married Monster.”

“In that case, hands off him, bitch.”

Everyone turns to the source of these words to see Tabitha, standing near the ladder to the below deck. Her black coat drifts lazily behind her in the wind as her cap slides down over her eyes. You can see her hands tremble ever so slightly as she looks at the water out of the corner of her eye, but her gaze quickly becomes resolute again as she stares down the Sahaguin leader and asks,

“Well? What’s it going to be?”

 

Chapter 81

 

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 has been separated from you, and the pain is clouding your concentration, you merely watch, waiting for an opening to strike.

The Monster captain cracks her neck and steps 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 takes up 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 make 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 vie for 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 a sword, but man, this is impressive. She darts back and forth, slashing with her blade, while dodging thrusts and sweeps from the longer reached weapon. She manages to score a few superficial strikes when she presses inside the trident’s effective range, causing the other Monster to curse and back away.

Tabitha takes this opportunity to dash in, pressing her advantage. She strikes a flurry of savage blows which are barely parried by the Sahaguin, who curses loudly as she’s pushed to the edge of the deck, the railing stopping her from falling in.

Or well, it would, if she didn’t purposefully push herself over, falling into the water backward. Tabitha dashes to the edge of the boat and stares down at the water in response. As soon as she does however, her whole body goes rigid and she starts breathing heavily, her knuckles turning white as she grips the railing.

This means she’s utterly unprepared for when the Sahaugin captain bursts from the water and comes down at her, trident held straight down in a vicious point meant to skewer the Lizardman.

“Tabithaaaaa!”

The Lizardman blinks and looks up before the form of Blake smashes into her with his shield and sends her crashing to the deck moments before the Sahaguin slams into him. He only barely manages to get his shield up in time, but even still, the force of the impact causes him to buckle and fall. The Monster backflips off his form, and lands behind him, looking about.

About this time you hear a fierce growl and a defiant scream. A moment later 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 have managed to free themselves during the battle and had come in, smashing and slashing the Sahaguin with mace and claws.

Veronica tosses you your staff and you stand, facing the one remaining Sahaguin, the captain. She 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, the rest either wounded or unconscious. Lowering her eyes, she sinks to the deck, defeated. 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. 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 toward 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 in the hells can command these things around?”

“The Sea Queen, Posiphalies, Queen of the three 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 is quite the sailor, but the husband of the great Queen of the sea? That just seems silly!

{Oh yeaaaaah. 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 sighing, “That’s, well that’s something captain, but how is this little scene going to resolve? We just want 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 Monsters, who file together, shakily, and without emotion. The four attacked by Veronica and Hala are okay enough to jump back into the river and the corpse is 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.”

 

Chapter 82

 

“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 make themselves look invisible. Well, except for Tabitha, who lays on her side, staring off into the abyss, but you know what her deal is.

“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, like said fish, manages to produce nothing of value. Desperately he looks around for help, but everyone averts their gaze from him too.

“Ah, leave the boy alone.” Calls Captain Baha, who’s busy searching his pockets for something. “Boy was being fawned over by those three ladies when the ship starts a rocking like a blasted dingy 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 while pointing at his pipe. “You mind?”

You raise an eyebrow and snap your fingers. A small burst of flame appears in his pipe. He nods to you and puffs 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 to 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 recover faster than the others and 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… 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, a few 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. Rolling your eyes, 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. 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. You’re quite certain that they are fairly large, not that you particularly care. This does give you impetus to help her down the ladder however, 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.

As you sit down you realize that you hurt like the hells. You have cuts from the tridents all over you and bruises from when you were thrown about. With a little magic, you [Soothe] the cuts, nothing too serious thankfully, and look up at the ceiling.

“Everyone is busy helping unload crates and being productive.” You say to no one in particular. “But I just got my ass kicked and I helped save their ass. So, don’t I deserve to be spared the heavy lifting?”

{Who are you talking to?} Harmony asks, a little confused. {Are you alright? Do you have brain damage?}

“Nevermind.” You mutter, before sighing out, “Hey Harmony…”

{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’re going to hurt your head if you keep asking this question over and over.

You smirk and stroke the staff who makes no reaction. A sense of confusion comes over the staff before it mentally gasps and then gives the oddest giggle. You roll your eyes. Well, guess staves can’t feel, that’s one mystery solved, but at least it’s nice enough to humor you.

“Harmony, this is going to be a bizarre journey.”

{Yeah, I can tell. But it’ll be fun!}

You’re not certain how to answer that, but thankfully you don’t have to as you hear Captain Baha shout,

“Port sighted!”

 

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