I’m still not sure if we are their saviors or if we’ve condemned them to a gruesome fate like Egersund. The truth is, we’re probably a bit of both. These are the first REAL people we’ve met since leaving Egersund over a month ago. They fought by our sides when it counted. In return, they’ll probably have to leave their homes indefinitely. I want to yell, “NO! I haven’t been okay in months!”
“Yes, sorry Greg,” I reply, instead. “Let’s head back; my friends will be waiting for me, and eager to set sail.” Our departure on The Swift has been delayed for several hours since we learned Salithius has a residence in town.
Is it possible that he was in Egersund for years? He’s proven that he can change his form as easily as we can change our clothes. My mind starts to race again. Could we have been friends with him, without even noticing? Why did he choose Tickle Bay? Would he have spared them, if we didn’t intervene?
Amazingly, the townspeople still have a sense of loyalty to him, saying he’s never been anything but kind to them – that allowing us access to his house would be a betrayal. Not that we could have gone in if we wanted to; every entrance was protected by powerful magical wards. I suspect it’s the same house we were transported to from the caves north of Egersund. Thank Helga, we didn’t try to escape through the house, our quest may have ended right then and there.
As we enter the main square, Greg, confides that he plans to evacuate the town after we leave, but asks me to keep this to myself as to not incite panic amongst his people. “I want to give them one more day of celebration before I ask them to abandon their homes and lives.”
The rest of my group been gathering supplies while I walked with the mayor. I offered to set up a series of warding glyphs to protect the townsfolk against the undead, but he declines. They are going to leave soon, and he doesn’t want to get caught in a cross fire. He also doesn’t want to anger Salithius.
“The information you provided me is the best protection you can offer,” he says. “You gave us the opportunity to choose our own fate.”
As I approach the docks, I spot Erik first; he’s literally a head above the rest of the crowd. Aija notices me and gets off the barrel she’s been using as a makeshift stool. She returns my sling and stones – I can see that she has a new bow slung over her shoulder.
“I don’t want to feel as useless as I did last night,” she explained, “Mari has promised to give me some pointers while on the boat.”
“I don’t have all day!” is the only response we receive.
Compared to the other ships along the dock, The Swift is spectacular. It’s larger than any vessel that came into Egersund. Those were mostly barges, tailor made to hold as much cargo as possible, rather than carry any passengers. We head up one by one, on to the boat, and the beginning of the next leg of our journey to Finnsbury.
When I take my final step off the plank, onto The Swift, I exhale; I’ve been holding my breath the entire time. I turn around to gaze at Tickle Bay to see what seems to be the entire town gathered to see us off. I recognize some of the faces, especially those who helped us against the undead abomination last night. I can only pray to Helga that we will encounter more people like these along the way.
The captain doesn’t seem to have any crew except us. I hope he doesn’t expect much from us. I’d be surprised if any of us has seafaring experience. I know that Vegard can’t even swim. He squealed like a farm girl when he fell into Aasland’s creek. I look down at my armor. I’d sink like a rock if I were to fall in. That thought reminds me of something… I tell the others that I can give us the ability to walk on water for an hour – something that may save our lives in the following weeks. I tell them that people need to be within 30 feet of me when I cast the spell; Vegard instinctively takes a step toward me.
Jean comes from below decks, and introduces himself to us, and immediately recognizes that we’re out of our element. He gives us a short tour of his ship, and advises those with weak stomachs to avoid being below deck. We all pick out our living quarters for the trip – all the bunks are fair game, except for the cabin that Captain Jean has marked as his.
We head back up to the deck and prepare to launch. Vegard and I go back down the gang plank and untie the two mooring ropes that are keeping The Swift secure. I take note of the figure eights as I unravel my rope.
Up from above, I hear the captain yells, “Quickly, get back on the ship!”
Vegard and I hurry back onboard. Just as we gather the ropes we just untied, a scream pierces the air. We all turn towards the sound, only to see Mari contorted with blood spurting from her sides. Only, I can’t see anything around he causing it. Is Salithius attacking us? Is this the end? All this way for nothing?
Her blood is beginning to pool on the deck surrounding Mari. Her cloak and armor now slick from the red flowing from her wounds. I’ve never seen someone lose so much blood so quickly. I know the damage is massive, and I pray that I can heal her before she bleeds out. .
“There’s something on me,” she warns. We know there is, but we none of us can see it. Mari frantically swings her sword at the invisible assailant. It seems to be colliding something in the air, but whatever is attacking her is so close it prevents her attacks from having any significant power.
Hans charges and recklessly swings his maul in a desperate attempt to knock whatever it is free of our helpless companion. It works… kind of. The maul makes impact in what appears to be mid-air, but Erik and Vegard waste no time, and attack the same spot. Erik looses as pair of arrows – which head directly towards Mari – one finds its mark and buries deeply into the assassin. Vegard stabs quickly where the arrow shafts are protruding and immediately darts out.
However, unlikely it is, we know that something is physically there. From the direction of the docks, 4 arrows hit the same spot almost simultaneously. The men of Tickle Bay come to our aid again. The weapons are penetrating the creature, but I see no blood.
I concentrate on keeping Mari alive, and pour as much healing energy as I can into her. All of it will be for naught if we can’t get her away from whatever is attacking her.
“Mari, get away if you can,” I plead but she’s nearly unconscious, and she has dropped to her knees.
If we can keep the pressure on, perhaps… fuck.. the arrows floating in space all drop to the ground.
Aija, witnessing her best friend being torn to shreds closes in, brandishes her sword in a protective stance above Mari. It’s almost for show, as the few visual cues we had to tell where our enemy was are now scattered on the wooden deck.
“Jean, do you have any flour on the ship!?” Vegard asks, while still keeping a wide birth of our opponent’s last known position. There’s no answer, he’s probably cowering somewhere. Hell, I wish I could hide right now, but Mari’s counting on us. Vegard is waiting to pounce like a cougar.
Hans takes another swing, this time with a wide arc, almost sweeping for the creature. But we can tell, his maul finds nothing solid. As if to say “You can’t hurt me”, the Hans is knocked forward, blood dripping from his flank.
We are all going to die here. How can defeat something we can’t see?
“Jensa, you keep an eye on Mari, I need to tend to the Hans,” I say, already moving towards my friend. I scan the deck for signs of evil, but I don’t see any auras. What the fuck is on this ship? Was it all a play by the Mayor to separate us? I quickly turn my gaze to the docks to see if anyone watching might be in on this. Just a couple of men, but their auras are not truly evil, I doubt it could be them.
This time both of Erik’s arrows lodge themselves, their heads disappearing at chest height… precisely what Vegard was waiting for. Using the arrow shafts as a focal point, he thrusts several times and bounces back, out of reach. Four arrows fly over his shoulder and pepper the target in front of him. We need some way of seeing it.
“Erik, mark it!” I yell, remembering what he had told me about his ability to apply a magical mark on an enemy.
“I’ve done it, but only I can see it,” he replies while knocking another arrow.
“No, I can see it now, too” Jensa reveals, just in time to see all six arrows be pulled free and tossed aside. Are we even hurting it?
I concentrate on sealing the two gaping wounds at Hans’ kidneys. I can tell the the bleeding has stopped when I finish channeling Helga’s energy into his flanks. I could feel the tissue stitching itself up when I heal.
I quickly pull my attention back to Mari. Aija standing guard, with Jensa trying to keep Mari alive. She’s barely moving, and her face is a turning sickly pale. I have one more big heal left in me. It will leave me exhausted, and I’m not sure if I’m in time, but anything weaker gives her almmost zero chance to survive.
I take a deep breath, not knowing if the I’ll be stabbed in the back and pray for Helga to give Mari signs of life. I can feel Her power well up in and try to redirect it through Mari. In my periphery, I can see Vegard and Hans circling empty space on the deck. However, I spot, suspended in the air between, them four more arrows in a tight bundle. Its still onboard.
The flow of energy from myself to Mari stops abruptly… and she’s closed off… she’s gone.
I look up ready to help the others only to see the all floating arrows fall to the ground simultaneously. We all strain our senses trying to detect where the apparition might be. Erik scans the deck and arrow knocked beside his cheek. Vegard crouched and moving decisively, probing the air with his rapier. I can feel the tension.
“I don’t see the magic anymore,” Jensa says, “I think it might be gone?”
“My mark disappeared when the arrows dropped,” Erik adds.
“Is it safe to come out?” he sheepishly asks. Jean pokes his head out like a gopher and answers my question. “About a month, if we’re lucky.” A month? My heart sinks. It’s not fast enough. I can’t save her. I cast a spell anyways; so she doesn’t turn – especially not in front of Aija.
“Are you guys okay?,” an unfamiliar female voice pulls our eyes to the gang plank. “You’re lucky I was here.” She’s young… younger than any of us. Who is she? She reminds me of little of Mari. She has a bow in hand, and her quiver is empty. Was she the one helping us?
“You’re very good with that,” Vegard compliments her, while gesturing to her bow.
“I know,” she replies. “Maybe I can teach your group how to shoot when we leave.”
Wait, what? At least she’s not glowing with an evil aura. But that doesn’t mean I’m not suspicious.
“Who are you?” Aija asks the question that is obviously on all our minds.
“Oh, I’m Amy,” she replies as though it should be common knowledge. “Like I said, you guys are super lucky I was passing through and was able to kill that thing,” she adds, a matter of factly.
“You could see it?” Vegard asks.
“Yeah, kind of. I could see the outline of it,” she pauses for a second, then adds, “I’ve never fought anything like it,” she adds, as though answering the question in my mind.
Hans interrupts, “We should set off as quickly as possible.” We all know he’s right. But what are we going to do with Amy? We don’t have the luxury of debating. She could have easily taken us without us even knowing, but she didn’t. However, anyone who wants to charge into danger, like Amy seems to enjoy, is not right in the head.
We push off the docks, following all the orders that Jean is barking at us. He’s in his element now, commanding and directing all of us as though he’s worked with us for years. We intrinsically trust his words, knowing that he truly does have our lives in his hands. It’s an hour before the I realize that we can no longer see land on any side of The Swift. Captain Jean explains that it’s the safest thing to do, so we don’t get trapped. He quells any notion that we’re safe on the water by listing the many dangers we could encounter. Pirates, dead heads and giant squid large enough to pull the entire ship under are amongst a few.
We finally have time to discuss Mari, her body wrapped in linens but still on the deck. I explain that my preservation spell will only last 10 days – simply not enough time to reach a temple, even in the most fortuitous conditions. Aija begs me to save her, and there’s nothing I can do. I convince the group that the safest thing to do is to give her a burial at sea. This will prevent her from harming others if she turns.
Aija, holding back tears, says her final farewell to her best friend. It makes me think of Hans, and what I would do if he died. I make a vow then and there, that I would fall first before that happens. Vegard’s behaviour on this trip has been strange. We’ve all changed because of this nightmare, but Hans consistently impresses me with his selflessness, loyalty and bravery. Before we lay Mari’s body to rest at the bottom of the sea, I ask Helga to shelter her, and pray that she is reunited with her family. Perhaps, I think to myself, this is a blessing for her.
When it comes down to it, zombies have been the least of our worries. The walking dead are easily dealt with, given we do not get surrounded. They are dumb, and slow (for the most part). As long as we stick together, we’re safe against the undead. If we want to survive, we have to be smarter. We’re fighting everything as though they are mindless zombies. If it weren’t for Amy, we’d all be dead.
Under a pseudo-interrogation, Amy reveals parts of her past. She was found by a group and rescued from a town named Copper after it was attacked by orcs. She says she’ll try to ask them for help, but she has to wait until the contact her… via magic. During our talks, Jensa notices that she’s hiding something under her cloak. It turns out to be a small snake named Biter, not exactly the most comforting mame for a poisonous snake. She is able to communicate with it, similarly to how Erik talked to the Owl, except permanently. Jensa seems to think it’s harmless, but I count the lie as a mark against Amy’s trustworthiness.
The day’s events finally catch up to us, and a waves of exhaustion pull each of us under, until we all resign ourselves. Though emotionally and physically spent, I find myself laying there, staring at the ceiling thinking about Mari. In the months since Egersund, it’s a miracle that she’s the first to succumb to the dangers along the way. Surely, this is a sign that Helga has been protecting us along the way.
But we have also survived because we have each other. Now, fate has thrust another stranger upon our group. Most of us were strangers only months ago. And yet, we are fighting for a continent of people we will never see. I’ve become so suspicious of people because of the last few months. I must remember who I am, and trust in Helga when she reveals a persons character to me.
My mind wanders again. Why us? We’re so young and inexperienced. Are we the only ones left? What if we fail!? The burden of our quest is overwhelming to say the least. I concentrate first on my breathing, evoking mindfulness techniques that I’ve practiced daily since I was a small child. After a few minutes, my muscles begin to relax while my breathing and heart rate slow. Helga would never ask of me something she knew I could not handle. With that final thought, I close my eyes.
Session ended on 9pm, May 25, 1136.