The castaways rested. By the time they felt ready to press on, they could hear scratching at the top of the collapsed shaft. The prospect of facing more goblins or orcs convinced them to make haste.
They followed the tunnel behind the secret door to a vast underground chamber, its walls beyond the range of Alistina’s light of Lunia. To the east they saw three niches, similar to the storerooms above; one section of the south wall looked like smooth, worked stone.
Theronna, now recovered from her ghoul fever, started toward the first niche, the others trailing behind her. A brick wall separated the chamber from the next niche; it contained an upraised slab of stone in its exact center. Idly touching the tender wound on his chest left by the crossbow trap, Zeke moved closer to the slab, saying “Somebody with keener eyes’n mine should check this out…”
Eilir, who’d been standing behind Zeke, nodded and moved to examine the room. Alistina moved to the second niche, where she found a similar slab, with the body of a man upon it.
He was dressed in rich blue garments and dulled scale mail. A bastard sword lay by his right hand; a golden coronet adorned his brow. His flesh was pallid, yet undecayed, with old cuts and bruises still vivid. His eyes were open, unmoving.
Crudely carved into the slab was this message:
Tamed the Islands
Laid Low by Pirates
“There’s a body over here,” Alistina called to the others. Zeke stopped Eilir with an outstretched hand, and she grabbed his arm.
Eilir readied her wand. She, Zeke, and Theronna moved around the brick wall to the second niche to see what Alistina had found. “What in the Hells?” Zeke muttered. Theronna drew her sword as Alistina drew closer to the body – and suddenly the king’s eyes turned upon her, and he lurched off the slab with a dreadful moan.
Viledel clawed at the woman, but she was too quick for him. Theronna closed the distance in a flash; her upswing sheared off the back of the Sea-King’s skull and pivoted him around to face her. Zeke aimed his blow for where Viledel would have been, falling short of the mark. Alistina blasted him in the chest with the light of the Heavens, and a low groan issued from what was left of him.
Another figure shuffled into view from the third niche, the vestige of Liala, the Sea-King’s wife. She lunged at Eilir, who seared a magic missile right through the zombie’s skull.
Theronna took a blow to the jaw from Viledel, spoiling her attack. Zeke’s strike severed both of the zombie’s outstretched arms; he kicked Viledel between the shoulder blades, causing him to keel over and expire with another terrible sigh. Once sure Viledel was down, Zeke ran over to the queen, trying to get between her and Eilir.
Alistina snatched the sword from the slab and swung it at Liala in one fluid motion, nearly severing her leg. The zombie snarled and rounded on Alistina, but the reach of her new weapon kept the creature at bay.
Eilir forced her way between Alistina and Zeke, scorching the zombie with a burning hands spell. At once Liala was wreathed in flame; she crashed against the brick wall and slumped to the ground, burning back down into death.
Alistina looked down at the sword in awe. It felt right in her hands, like a gift from Helm himself. The name “Khaven” was engraved upon the blade in Dwarven runes.
Zeke looked at Eilir. “Ya didn’t have ta… we were gonna… Thanks.” He put his sword away.
“I just wanted to help,” replied the wizard.
“I’d say ya did.” Smirking, Zeke nodded at the burning corpse. Eilir smiled and blushed lightly.
While Theronna busied herself with stripping off Viledel’s scale mail, the others returned to exploring the chamber. The third niche contained another stone slab with another crude inscription:
Laid Low by Pirates
Rests Beside the Sea King
This last niche had a brick wall to the south, which wrapped around the corner and continued into the main chamber. Along this part of the wall they found a plaque which read:
Here Lies Prince Horedel
Brought Down by Illness
In the Twentieth Year of Viledel’s Reign
“Did Osric mention this Horedel?” asked Zeke.
Eilir nodded. “Viledel’s son. And my father told me stories about them when I was younger.”
“I don’t remember when I was younger,” said Theronna, strapping herself into her newfound armor.
“This wall’s different from the others,” Eilir said, her fingertips brushing along the bricks. “I bet the Prince is behind it.”
They searched, but found no way to get through the wall. Alistina wandered over to the smooth section on the south side of the wall, where she found a lever. A great crashing sound boomed forth when she pulled it, and the smooth wall broke up into its component stones, tumbling out into the ocean. A great blast of cold wind and rain sliced into the chamber – and it was nearly dark outside.
“Oh,” said Zeke. “Good.” He leaned out to see if the boat lay outside the chamber, but saw nothing.
Eilir asked for Zeke’s help with removing the plaque from the brick wall. Scowling, the farmboy asked “Ain’t we wrecked enough crypts yet?”
“This might help us find the boat, Zeke. Please?” She batted her eyelashes at him; with a noncommittal grunt, he moved to help her. The wall gave a hollow ring as the plaque scraped against it. Zeke kicked at the wall, and Eilir bashed it with the plaque, but did little damage.
As Theronna and Alistina approached, Eilir shouted “The JAVELIN!”
“From the library!” Alistina was already backing away from the wall. “Good idea, Eilir!”
“Wait!” hissed Theronna. Her longsword was already in her hand. “I hear something!”
Eilir cocked her arm back to the javelin, but froze at Theronna’s warning. Voices carried from the far end of the tunnel. Were they speaking Orcish? Goblin?
“We’re getting out of here now,” announced Eilir. She threw the javelin toward the wall, shouting “TALOS!” at the top of her lungs. The missile transformed into a brilliant bolt of lightning which blasted the wall into rubble, sending dust and huge chunks of brick all over the room. Through the dust they saw a small galley, about thirty feet long.
“The boat!” Theronna cleared a path through the rubble to reach it. “We’ve got to drag it to the water.”
“Perfect,” said Eilir. “I’ve got the navigational charts; I can get us out of here. Come on!”
Zeke followed, a bit dazed, saying “It turned inta… inta lightning.”
“That’s magic for you, farmboy,” Alistina said with a chuckle.
Eilir climbed onto the boat, where she saw a body at its center, wrapped in linens and surrounded by grave-goods. She saw some chests, a suit of chainmail, and some weapons – but more importantly she saw a well-oiled sail and sturdy oars. This boat was seaworthy. “There’s another body up here,” she said.
Getting into position to push the boat, Alistina yelled “Get rid of it!”
Eilir rolled the Prince off the boat, and the body hit the ground with an undignified thud. “Sorry, fella,” said Zeke, carrying the body to one of the stone slabs, “matter a’ life ‘n’ death.” The voices of the humanoid pirates were drawing closer.
“ZEKE!” Theronna shouted. “Get back here and PUSH!”
Finally, the boat splashed into the water, and the castaways clamored aboard. “Wind’s against us!” Eilir said. “We need to row! We’ll be all right once we’re out to sea!”
They took to the oars and rowed with all their might. A huge force of orcs and goblins appeared in the chamber once the ship was about twenty yards out; they launched a flight of arrows at the boat, most splashed into the water, but a few stuck into the hull, the mast, or the oars.
Suddenly the wind shifted. The castaways hoisted the sail, lifting the boat out of range as a massive wave crashed into the tomb.
- – - – -
The boat rocked in the storm. The sky above was utterly swallowed by storm clouds. They could still see the island, as if lit by a faint glow.
“Is that a tornado?” Theronna asked, pointing at the sky above the island. It was, and only the first of many. They descended from the mantle of clouds and stripped great tracts of territory up into the air, disintegrating the ruined village, the manor, the barracks, and the stable. The orc and goblin ships were torn to pieces, their crews swept out to sea or dashed against the cliff sides.
By the time the boat was a quarter mile out to sea, the rocking had subsided. A great whirlwind of rocks and scrub and sand and sea rose to scour the island, and when it was done, the isle was gray-white and smooth, with no features to remind them of the island they’d shipwrecked upon only yesterday.
Then, all at once, the seas were calm and still. The clouds cleared, allowing the moon and the stars back into view. Their world became silence.
Zeke was the one to break it, simply saying “Dang.”
“All right,” Eilir said. With Theronna and Alistina exploring the ship, she asked Zeke to take the helm so she could plot a course.
“Right!” he said enthusiastically. “What’s a helm?”
“Hold this big wheel looking thing, and make sure we don’t go too far left or right.”
He did so. Once Eilir knew her course, she took the helm again, her fingers lightly brushing his. When he didn’t pull his hand away, she said “I was right, you know.”
”’Bout what, Miss Eilir?”
“I learned to navigate from my father. So, in a way, Daddy is saving us after all.”
Zeke was too exhausted to argue.
Eilir steered the ship toward Daggerford, and the sails found a favorable wind, speeding them toward home.