Chapter 28: The Wooden Squid
They met briefly with Queen Sarissa and told her what they’d found on the ship. Roon noticed she did not sit on the throne, but made no mention of it.
“The Krakens, you say?” The giantess said thoughtfully. “I’ve never heard of the group.”
“So, you don’t know why they’d be after your father?” Kilian asked, disappointed.
She shook her head.
“This Drylum fellow said they were in the Trackless Sea,” Roon added.
“That’s a very large area,” Sarissa said, “but I suppose you’ve come to the right place, seeing as we’re in the Trackless Sea.”
“That does help,” Thia said, “though I am a bit surprised these Kraken people didn’t take your father further away.”
“Perhaps they couldn’t,” the Queen said darkly. “It’s not so easy to kidnap a storm giant.”
“What about the airship?” Kilian wondered. “They’re still back in Yartar.”
“I suppose I can send you back to them,” Sarissa suggested.
“I guess we’ll have to,” the sailor nodded. “We’ll let you know if we find your father.”
She nodded, then led them into the room behind the thrones. Moments later, they were back on the deck of the airship on the outskirts of Yartar.
“You really need to send some sort of warning,” Marteen admonished, holding his chest in surprise as they appeared.
“How’s Beatrice?” Roon asked, trotting toward the tressym.
“Your winged cat is fine,” the captain assured him. “Well, do we have a destination in mind?”
Kilian nodded. “The Trackless Sea.”
“That is a very large expanse,” the captain said uncertainly. “Have you nothing else to go on?”
“Not yet,” Thia said. “We’ll need to do a lot of searching.”
Marteen nodded, then turned back to his men and gave the orders. Soon, the airship was lifting higher into the sky, leaving the city of Yartar far behind.
The trip took several days which was helpfully sped along by Kilian’s control over the winds. Flint spent most of the time writing their adventures in a large, leather-bound book, which he occasionally set aside to blow a few squeaking notes into his bagpipes, only to return frantically to scratching quill on paper. The rest of them kept busy with various activities aboard the ship. Kilian helped the crewmen, Roon and Thia read their books, Opal spoke to the birds, and Evelyn played with her collection of oddities and trinkets.
Finally, the expanse of blue appeared on the horizon. Roon tried several times to sit cross-legged on the deck holding a small mirror in his palms so he could scry on Hekaton, but every time he felt his magic was blocked. “There’s something around him,” Roon told the rest. “Something that’s keeping me out.”
As they passed over the sea, Opal and Roon transformed into beasts of flight and took to searching the skies, which were luckily clear and free of storms. The rest scanned the waters with spyglasses. “What if they’re invisible?” Opal wondered one evening as they sat down for supper, it being too dark to continue their search.
“They would need to be incredibly powerful to keep an entire ship, perhaps a fleet of ships, and a storm giant invisible,” Thia said wisely.
“If that’s true,” Roon said, pushing his potatoes away with a fork, “then we’ll never find them.”
“Great,” Evelyn said, and they spent the rest of the meal in depressed silence.
The following morning, Marteen’s men pointed to a cluster of islands.
“Are they populated?” Kilian asked the captain, scanning the islands as they flew toward them.
Marteen shrugged. “Not much. A few miners, perhaps some trade business. I’m not all that familiar with the area.”
The party agreed to fly around the islands in search of ships. If nothing else, Opal offered to land on one of the islands and speak to the wildlife to see if they’d spotted anything unusual. They scanned the islands for half a day and saw nothing, so Kilian asked Marteen to land. Soon enough, the ship dipped from the skies into the water, and their group took a rowboat to the island.
Kilian and Thia rowed them in. The island’s beach was small, and the green jungle behind it looked dense and uninviting. As their boat hit the sandy shore, something shimmered and changed. Kilian hopped out and began dragging them in, and Roon noticed a slightly larger boat appear next to theirs.
“Wh—?” Kilian jumped back and held up two electrified hands.
“Where did that come from?” Opal gasped, staring at it.
“It must have been under an illusion,” Roon said admiringly.
“It’s empty,” Thia said suspiciously, though they could all see it for themselves.
“Let’s tread carefully,” Kilian cautioned, dragging their boat further onto the shore.
Opal walked past him and bent to the jungle floor, speaking her weird, airy language to the plants. They all stood around their druid friend, watching the boat, the jungle, and their airship where it sat in the sea. Roon noticed the plants around Opal were moving subtly, waving this way and that. Then, they all seemed to point in one direction toward the sea.
“HO THERE!” A man’s voice shouted from the trees.
Opal stood quickly and they all stared at the man as he came rushing out of the jungle with a shovel. He had scraggly black hair and a long beard, and through his stained shirt showed a portly belly.
“Stop right there,” Thia warned, drawing her sword.
The man eyed them all with glowering eyes. “What are you all doing here?”
“What are you doing here?” Evelyn demanded, both swords out.
“I work in the mines,” the man said.
“This is your boat?” Kilian asked, pointing to it.
“Aye,” the man said.
“Interesting spell you have over it,” Roon said, arching an eyebrow.
The man looked genuinely confused. “Aint’ got no use for spells.”
“Perhaps it’s something to do with the island,” Thia whispered. “Like some sort of natural protective magic to keep people away.”
“What’s that, then?” The man shouted, squinting at her.
“Nothing,” Thia said, maintaining the grip on her sword. “Have you seen any large ships in this area? Perhaps with a giant aboard?”
The man shook his head stupidly.
“We stopped here to resupply,” Flint told him.
“Won’t find much here,” the man replied, “except grumpy miners and a whole mess of trees.”
Kilian nodded. “Thank you. We will take our leave.”
The man, seeming to find it not worth his effort, nodded and backed a few steps away, watching them cautiously get back into their boat and push off the shore. He stood as they rowed out, then turned back into the jungle, shaking his head.
“That was strange,” Roon said. “I didn’t like it.”
“Oh, but the plants told me where we need to go!” Opal said quickly, as if just remembering.
“Where?” Kilian and Thia asked simultaneously.
“They saw a giant wooden squid headed south.”
“That could be the ship,” Kilian said, looking more excited than any of them had felt in days.
“We have a lead,” Flint grinned, then began humming a cheery sailor’s tune as Thia and Kilian rowed them back to the ship.
Marteen steered the airship southward and Roon kept a keen eye out, using his spyglass to scan the horizon. It wasn’t more than a few hours before he spotted white sails in the distance. “I found them!” The gnome shouted, pointing.
They all turned with their own eyepieces and searched. “You’re right!” Kilian grinned. “We’ve got them!”
“Ha ha!” Flint threw a victorious fist in the air, then waved to Opal to return.
Opal flew down and landed on deck, transforming back into her genasi form.
“What’s our play, here?” Roon asked. “Perhaps we should approach the ship as friends. One of us could disguise themselves as Castier Drylum.”
“Ooh, I could make myself an octopus,” Opal offered.
“I like that idea,” Thia said approvingly.
“What do we tell them?” Flint asked.
“We could tell them, as Castier, that we’ve met some adventurers who somehow found out about them and are looking for Hekaton.” Roon said. “We just need to improvise enough that we make them trust us.”
“I could sneak around,” Flint said, “and look for signs of Hekaton.
“It’s a good plan,” Kilian agreed, and they all nodded.
The sailor walked to Marteen to explain their plan, when suddenly something slammed into the bottom of the airship. It rocked dangerously in the air.
“MAN THE BALLISTAE’S!” Marteen shouted, “WE’RE UNDER ATTACK!”
“What—?” They all rushed over to the edge.
There was movement on the ship beneath them. Somehow, it had come under them, moving quicker than Roon would have thought possible. “They have a magic user aboard!” Roon shouted, and as soon as he said it, he was sure.
On the deck of the very large ship lay the unconscious, chained-down form of a gray-skinned storm giant. “It’s Hekaton!” Opal gasped.
Another shot rocked the ship and they heard wood splinter as a massive bolt stuck into the bottom of the airship. Roon saw ropes stringing the two ships together. The ship below them had a large wooden kraken on the front of it, but it was too far to make out the name painted on the side.
“Cut those ropes!” Kilian shouted, shooting bolts of electricity from his hands at the tethers. Thia quickly did the same, and Flint loaded his crossbow.
Roon closed his eyes and began muttering a spell. He heard an explosion. “Good shot, Kilian!” Flint shouted. Roon peeked and saw one of the ballistae’s in flames. Men were screaming aboard the ship. He felt the deck shift as Marteen angled the airship down.
Focus, Roon. Focus. He closed his eyes again and muttered the spell, feeling the energy rush up beneath him. He threw open his eyes and pressed his hands out, and felt the weight spreading in his fingertips. He gritted his teeth and pushed.
A great wave rose up from the sea, higher and higher until it reached the peak of the ship’s sails. Men screamed and shouted commands. Roon forced the water up until he could no longer hold it. Then, he shoved, and the wave crashed over the Kraken’s ship.
Wood splintered and cracked and, when the water cleared, the ship had been overturned, revealing its barnacle encrusted underbelly.
Flint whooped in victory.
“How did you do that!?” Kilian asked, aghast.
“Nice work, Roon!” Thia grabbed him and shook him.
“Uh, shouldn’t we save the King?” Evelyn asked curiously, watching the shipwreck.
“Right!” Roon squeaked.
“Stormgiant’s can breathe underwater, luckily,” Thia assured him. “But we should probably still help him out of those chains.”
“Here,” Opal turned to them all, touching a finger to each of their foreheads. When she touched Roon, he felt a strange, airy cough choking his lungs. “Water breathing!” She declared.
“Marteen,” Kilian said in a strangled voice, “drop lower. We’re going in!”
Although Roon could still breath air, it felt uncomfortably hot and dry. It was a relief, then, when they broke the surface of the salty water and swam toward the upended ship.
Roon controlled the water around them, propelling them toward the ship where Hekaton was chained and unmoving. They passed drowning men but paid them no mind. It was the King they wanted.
They reached the ship and saw the chains binding his legs, arms and torso were thick. Evelyn took out her crowbar and tried breaking through the band around his wrists. Flint swam over to help. In their urgency, Roon saw Thia and Kilian trying to use magic to break the other chains, but nothing happened. Roon tried to cast polymorph on the King to reform him temporarily into a smaller creature, but his magic was blocked.
“There’s something blocking our spells,” Kilian said in a gargled, underwater voice just as Roon thought it.
“How do we break it?” Opal asked frantically. “I tried to dispel the magic around him, but it won’t work!”
“The chains won’t be broken!” Flint said through gritted teeth, swimming back and trying to hammer against the chains with his axe.
Kilian swam up to Hekaton’s peaceful face and tried shaking him awake, though his movements made very little impact while fighting against the resistance of the water. He pulled out a dagger and cut the King’s face. The skin split open and red spilled out, but still he did not wake.
There’s something keeping him asleep, Roon thought, then swam to the giant and pressed a hand to his chest. He sent a restoring magic through the giant’s huge form, but it was ineffective.
“It must be the chains keeping him unconscious!” Roon gargled.
“They’re magical,” Kilian realized.
Roon’s eyes widened and he reached into his hilt, pulling out Nightmare. It was the dagger his god handed to him. “You will know when to use it,” Baravar had said.
Roon nudged Evelyn aside where her crowbar was wedged into the chain. He dug the sharp edge of his blade against the metal, and it cut through it like butter.
“Ha!” Flint shouted, “very clever!”
Thia drew her sword and sang into it until it glowed, then pressed the blade against the chain locking Hekaton’s other wrist. It cut through it easily. Evelyn was already slicing through one of the leg chains with her glowing sunblade, and Roon had moved down to the last one. As Nightmare seared through the metal, Hekaton’s eyes flew open and he roared. His voice was not muted in the water as theirs was. It was deafening.
“We’re on your side!” Flint shouted, swimming out of the giant’s aggressive swing.
“We saved you!” Roon shouted.
“Sarissa sent us!” Thia said.
Hekaton stopped and blinked, floating there. He stared at them. “My daughter sent you?”
“We’re The Giant Saviours!” Roon yelled. “We’ve been looking for you for a while.”
Hekaton turned and looked up at the overturned ship where he’d been tethered, then down at the floating chains. With three great strokes, he swam up and broke the surface of the water to survey the wreckage. The rest of them followed cautiously, and Kilian shouted up to Marteen in the airship, which hovered ten feet over the water. “It’s alright, Marteen!” the sailor declared. “We got him! We saved the King!”
They left the Kraken’s ship and all the men who clung to the bottom of it, coughing. A well-dressed wizard was amongst them, waterlogged and looking helpless as he treaded water.
“Should we help them?” Opal asked, ringing water out of her colourful hair.
“They are kidnappers and thieves,” Hekaton declared in a low, rolling voice, then turned and walked to the bow of the ship.
“The islands aren’t far,” Roon whispered to Opal. “With that wizard to help them, I’m sure they’ll be fine.”
“Well,” Kilian said, looking around at his friends, “I suppose we should return.”
The airship was again high in the clouds, moving toward the mainland.
Opal reached into her bag and pulled out the conch. “Ready?”
Roon set Beatrice on the deck and the tressym trotted off indignantly to stand at Marteen’s side. Opal looked up at the storm giant, who nodded his assent. Then, she pressed her lips to the conch and blew a low tone. The bubble formed around them, and they were once more transported to the palace under the Trackless Sea.