Episode 32: Lost at Sea
There had been conversations during my dreams that I did not understand. Many of them had been panicked and frightful, while others seemed almost sedated. The voices came and went, some male and other female, but always there was one individual that sounded the same, time and time again. It was like this for an eternity before I finally felt myself wake in one twisting moment of clairvoyance. I opened my eyes and saw only that I was in a poorly lit tomb. I was resting in a fairly dry spot, but my feet were resting in a pool of water. I lifted my head and saw that the tomb was not a tomb at all. I was inside of a ship’s hull.
The ship had capsized.
I started to remember now, the tentacles, the naga, and the Briny Cutter’s fate. It was hard to try and take it all in so I stopped thinking for a moment, tried to separate the events into smaller pieces that I could manage. Thinking of it, I must have looked like a fool as I ran through the memories, shaking my head and speaking to myself in mumbles as I tried to recall everything that had come to pass.
“Oh, you’re awake then,” said a familiar voice. “Captain Tyler will be pleased.”
I turned and saw the Broken that had saved me from the naga. “I know you.”
“You’re welcome,” the Broken replied. “My name is Erunak Stonespeaker. I’m one of the few survivors from our vessel. Do you remember much?”
“No,” I admitted. “I’m pretty much out of it. The ship was attacked by something… big. I don’t really know what it was though. Do you?”
“It seemed like a large squid of some sort. I can’t imagine that such an animal would have coordinated a trap for our vessels. I certainly believe the naga were involved in this. I have used a considerable amount of power to give you all artificial gills. They will allow you to breathe underwater indefinitely, but that is not enough. Captain Taylor is already sending some of the survivors out to find armaments so they can fight the naga that still linger in the area. It is hostile out there.”
“I can handle that,” I said as I struggled to stand. “Let me out there…”
“Fire is a limited power underwater, mage,” Erunak said with a grin. “However, there is something that Captain Taylor specifically requested you to do for him.”
“What would that be?”
“There are large ocean-dwelling crabs here; a great number of them actually. You harness the power of fire and these soldiers are tired and hungry…”
“You want me to catch food?”
“Then cook it?”
I was about to give him a hundred good reasons why a fire mage was of completely good use under water when a rumble from my own stomach made me realize how hungry I was too. The group had nearly run out of bread and the other food supplies were no doubt washed away. Food was a priority.
“Fine,” I mumbled. “I’ll bring back a few.”
“Excellent,” Erunak said gleefully. “We’ll need our strength. We’re still not even sure of our location. It could be some time before another Alliance ship comes to rescue us.”
“What about water?”
Erunak grinned. “I will boil seawater and filter it so we will have something to drink.”
“No need. Make me some kind of container and I’ll whip us up some ice cold spring water.”
“Sionis, you are a mage, are you feeling like you could teleport?”
Now it was my turn to grin. “I wish I could,” I said. “The problem is teleporting is an exact science. I need to have some kind of a bearing when I attempt it. The magi use their energy to hone targets that I can identify and teleport to, but I’m just a bullet being fired from a musket. If I go in the wrong direction I could kill myself. Even if I swim to the surface and try to figure out where the sun is and I did find my way back to Stormwind by teleporting to the mage tower; I wouldn’t be able to teleport back.”
“We’d be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.”
“Then I suppose you’ve become our cook for now,” Erunak said with a nod that seemed to solidify his statement as fact. “Fresh water and a hot meal will probably help get these youngsters back on their feet. This has been a traumatizing experience for them.”
I looked at the guards that Erunak had been referencing. They were still dressed in their armor, several of them asleep in the dry spots that could be found, others still slumped along the hull with their eyes straight out in front, and a blank stare that only reminded him of death.
“They’re going to need more than a hot meal,” I added as I started to slip in the icy water. “We’re going to need to get a plan together. People without a plan are the people who go crazy waiting. While I get food use your shaman voodoo to get us a way out of his mess.”
“Shaman voodoo?” Erunak asked. “Are you not a fan of my people?”
“Shamanism is being a mage without science. It just doesn’t feel right.”
Erunak chuckled to himself and said, “Yet magi fall to the darkness and become warlocks while shamans remain loyal to our faith.”
“So you say,” I uttered, my head slipping under water. "So you say."
Breathing through the artificial gills was rather troublesome to get used to. The water moved quickly enough that I could feel it passing through my mouth and nose before slipping back out through the slits that somehow grabbed the oxygen to supply my lungs. It felt like an extra step had been added to the process of staying alive. I certainly didn’t like it. I fooled around with trying to use my fire power under water, but realized rather quickly that it just wasn’t going to happen the way I wanted. Instead, I was forced to focus on the skills of water and ice manipulation, crafting sharp spears by freezing the water in whatever form I chose. Once I had that worked out it wasn’t very difficult to catch enough food for the survivors to eat. The water’s surface was so far above them that I didn’t even think about swimming up to take a look. It wouldn’t do me any good anyway. One more spear and I felt like I had enough so I started to reach for the final kill when a sharp trident came down on the hard shell of the crustacean.
“Softskin,” the voice hissed through the water, somehow audible to me and terrifying in the way that it sounded like it had come straight from a serpent. “You will die.”
There was no time to think, no time to react; the trident came up at me in one quick motion that caught me in the shoulder and spun me in the water with my blood creating a red cloud around me. It was the same shoulder that had been bitten by a naga during the Briny Cutter’s sinking. I was quick to recover, catching the trident as the attacking naga tried to impale me. I pulled on all of my energy and felt the water compressing, freezing all around me, and locking the naga into a block of ice that quickly sealed him in. There was a moment before the naga started to float away, the frozen water making a break for the surface. I grabbed up the crustaceans I had dropped in the brief encounter and quickly started back for the sunken vessel where the survivors had taken up refuge. When I reached the hull I was surprised to see several Stormwind soldiers in the water, probably testing out their new gills. I startled one of the soldiers with my approach and I was shocked when they pulled weapons that I had never seen before. They looked almost like the tridents, weapons designed for use under water. They quickly recognized me and lowered their guard. I nodded, at least I tried to nod, and then swam up into the ship where several soldiers and Erunak were waiting.
“What’s this?” asked Taylor. “What are you up to Sionis?”
“You like crab meat?” I asked as I created a fire in the air. It’s dinner time.”
The fire had been fueled by oxygen that I had pulled from the water, a skill I had learned a long time ago. I couldn’t have taught it to someone else if they had asked me to, but I knew the process well enough to keep the ship’s belly full of breathable air while they warmed up at the fire and ate their freshly cooked meal.
“We aren’t just going to stay here are we?” one of the soldiers asked after he had finished a large crab leg. “This is such a mess.”
“No,” Captain Taylor said sternly. “We’re going to move out soon. One of our scouts saw a cave nearby and it’s possible it goes all the way to the surface. They said the air smells fresh and we could build a fire there. It’s probably best if we hole up there and let the mage jump for Stormwind. I’ll let him wrap a few of you boys in his arms and take you back with him. The rest of us will have to hold out here.”
I was about to speak when a soldier’s head popped out of the water and his panicked look made everyone tense up. He took a deep breath and looked to Captain Taylor. “Captain, another ship was just attacked by that beast. It looked like one of the mercenary ships that were set to depart after us. The naga are swarming outside and…”
The soldier jerked and his face twisted into a painful expression. The water turned red and a moment later the soldier vanished under the surface.
“The naga have found us,” Taylor said angrily. “I want everyone in the water now! Let’s take the fight to them before they kill us all.”
Taylor had barely finished speaking when he leapt through the air and went head first into the bloody water with a short blade in his hand. I helped the other soldiers as they rushed to join their captain. Once they seemed to be in the water I turned to Erunak. The shaman was gathering his gear when the hull of the Briny Cutter split open next to him, a wall of water slammed into them both in a fraction of a second. I felt something slam into my chest and my breath went with it. I gasped wildly, still forgetting that my gills would help and finally tried to figure out what had happened. Instead of Erunak, I saw two naga swimming toward me and my instincts quickly took over. I whipped up deadly icicles in the water and thrust them forward, killing the attackers with a single swipe of my hand. I kicked off the remaining piece of the ship’s hull and came out into the open water to see thick black and deep red trails that were swirling up from the corpses of naga and humans alike. The soldiers had held their ground and Captain Taylor continued pressing the attack, even as the naga started to sweep in and take his soldiers. The efforts were valiant but the naga were water-dwelling creatures. They knew how to handle the weapons they made and the Stormwind soldiers were attempting this kind of combat for the first time in their lives. I whipped up walls of sharp icy blades and successfully repelled several groups of the attacking naga but my strength was not eternal.
Then, suddenly, I felt compelled to swim. I had to get to the nearby cave if I wanted to fight. The naga were safest in water. If we could bring them onto dry land we might have a chance. I didn’t know what force had just filled my mind with those thoughts, but I noticed that I was not the only one who had felt it. The group of surviving soldiers, Taylor included, started fighting more energetically, pushing the enemy as we moved toward the cave. One ice spear after another, I gave cover to the soldiers as they pushed for the safety of the cave. I counted; ten, twenty, losing track after thirty naga had been impaled by my weapons. Then, a lucky naga slipped past and grabbed Captain Taylor from behind, dragging him away as quickly as he had appeared. The attack started to lighten after the loss of our captain, and the group soon broke the surface inside of the cave they had found.
“Make a defense line!” I shouted when I came to the surface. “Don’t rest yet soldiers! I will hold the attack from here.”
“Sionis!” shouted Erunak. “There are survivors from the other ship, the one that was just attacked. They need your help.”
“Where are they?”
I felt their location and realized that it had been the shaman that had filled my mind with the thoughts of the cave. I turned and dove under the surface, swimming with all my might back into the open waters where the naga no doubt waited for me. He prepared to hit them with an ice spear, but when I rounded the final boulder I saw that the naga forces had completely fallen back. It wasn’t a good sign; a retreat meant that they would be back with more forces, but right now it was a blessing for us all. I had some people to save.
I swam until I came across a group of three individuals, all trying to help one another as they struggled with a single naga that must have gotten caught up in a fight with them. They were wearing helmets that must have had a small supply of oxygen, but it wouldn’t last them long. I directed my spear, running the naga through and catching their attention. When they realized I wasn’t dangerous I motioned for them to follow and they started swimming my way. Mentally I asked Erunak if there were others, any other survivors from either vessel, and for a moment I thought the question had gone unheard, but then I felt a definite and painful response.
There is no one else.
"They call it Smuggler's Scar," one soldier reported.
“That’s a terrible name,” Erunak replied. “I don’t like it.”
“It doesn’t really matter if you like it,” the soldier countered as he shed the last of his heavy metal armor and tossed it aside. “This cavern is called Smuggler’s Scar. Up at the surface there isn’t much more than a tiny dirt island with a rock. Smugglers lower their supplies down into this cavern and then others come along and get it.”
“So we may find rescue?” asked a woman I had seen before. Her name was Adarrah, I think. “There are over a dozen of us here and not much food to go around.”
“We can make food,” I said. “Catch it if we have to. The problem isn’t the supplies as much as it is the naga.”
“They will come for us eventually.”
“I’ve thought of that,” I replied. “I can produce a shield that should keep them away, but it won’t be a permanent fix. Eventually we’ll have to make a stand or die trying to get out of here.”
Erunak looked as though he was lost in a deep trance and soon motioned for me to come over where he was sitting. I reluctantly headed his way and then looked down at the shaman just waiting for the statement he knew he was about to hear. “I have felt a disturbance in the area. We must be watchful, mage; I don’t think we’re finished here.”
I sighed. “Yeah, I was afraid you were going to say something like that.”