13th Voyage

30 - Sons of the Deathless Slave

The tale of the salt-cursed necromancer.

The venturers plunge into the battle on the Iron Triangle docks. The brine-dripping undead spread out in a line across the harbor, striking down some of the islanders who resist. Beyond them, a pair of enemies works to secure each slagthrower. Each of these duos is dominated by a nine-foot zombie, like a drowned ogre, under the command of a living sailor. The sailors, also soaked with seawater, seem to have gills on their necks — feathery on the half-elf, shark-like on the human.

Aya starts a push to the southern dock and its slagthrower, backed by Kismet and Wind-of-Embers. Abd moves to the north, catching the zombies there in a pincer as several of the Twist of Fate warriors join in from the ship’s side. Wind-of-Embers sends an errant flame javelin that nearly catches Aya, but follows up with a second that blasts a hole through two drowned men. With the undead now badly scattered on the south side, Aya takes advantage of the opening to send a chilling wind at the slagthrower. The half-elf curses and leaps back as the slag he’d been loading suddenly cools, and ice creeps up to halt the engine’s mechanisms in place.

The women close with the half-elf and his hulking minion. He drinks a reddish fluid from a flask at his belt and belches out fire over Aya and Kismet. It does not save him. The half-elven raider is swiftly cut down, just before Kismet leaps into a lethal sword dance and hews the drowned ogre limb from limb.

The islanders continue to struggle with the undead, but the pearl-diver Ruska closes to distract the enemies at the other slagthrower while Notch places arrows in the unliving ogre. Aya lifts into the air, gliding onto the Twist of Fate and again onto the opposing quay to assist. Kismet follows suit, using the chain of a dock crane to quickly reach the ship’s yardarm, swing down, and slice up the remaining ogre even further. Wind-of-Embers changes tack to triage, saving what lives she can as the others finish the remaining opponents.

The Iron Triangle’s villagers cautiously thank the venturers for their intercession, but the orc leader asks bluntly if the invaders came in pursuit of them. Tiyesha speaks up from behind Abd, saying that it was actually Hajuda they came for, just as they’d come for her. The two women were targets to reach their husband Barbafir. The orc snorts. “I warned you about that piece of shit,” he says to Hajuda. She nods ruefully.

Captain Tairasha asks if they are to pursue the Deathless Slave, and swiftly thereafter the Twist of Fate unfurls its sails and departs the dock. The Izir ship is already pulling out to sea, with its oars out for added speed. But with much of its drowned crew dispatched, the Deathless Slave has only ten oars — no match for a ship with the wind at its beck and call. Aya recalls a similar Izir vessel’s evasive maneuvers, and easily anticipates their prey’s movements. Soon enough, the Twist of Fate is within boarding range.

The venturers are first to leap aboard. With the remaining undead still belowdecks on the rowing benches, a paltry eight living deckhands and the wizard-captain are the only ones able to resist. Rhanud the Salt-Cursed pulls away his veils to reveal graying skin and crystallized, sharp spurs of salt growing from about his joints.

Kismet and Abd leap into the fray and begin cutting down the Izir sailors. Rhanud flexes his arms, and the cobra-engraved bracers on his forearms spray a green poison into the salt crystals on his hands. Aya catches him with a freezing wind, and he retaliates by conjuring a small cyclone of salt to cut at Kismet. Then he falls back and pulls away the canvas from a large form on the deck — revealing an undead crab the size of a lifeboat, which rises at his command and attacks.

The hulking creature snips at Kismet with claws as long as scimitars. It wounds her badly as the others come to her aid. Abd slices down two of the remaining deckhands and pushes into the fray beside her. Rhanud takes advantage of the chaos to strike Wind-of-Embers with a desiccating bolt.

Abd channels the power of Jalisa and strikes the crab with full force, shearing away one of its foreclaws. The undead crustacean lurches, spraying necrotic fluid from the stump; some of the fluid falls on Aya and Abd, seeping away at their vitality. A horrified Aya sends a bolt of cold into one of the cracks in its shell, freezing it solid from the inside.

The furious Rhanud smashes into Kismet with his knuckle-spurs. Her wounds pulse with the agony of both salt and poison. She dances back, her compass scimitar a glittering flash of light. Rhanud takes another step, pauses, and then blood pours down his neck, crystallizing into rose-colored spikes across his chest before he crumples to the deck. With that, the Deathless Slave is taken.

Abd moves belowdecks to destroy the undead rowers, while Kismet leads Wind-of-Embers and Aya to Rhanud’s cabin in search of plunder. They spot a chest that seems to be marked with a curse and ample coffers of coin. They also take the cobra-engraved bracers from Rhanud’s corpse, chipping away the salt to get them free. The bracers seem to be of the Serpent Emirs’ crafting, and are certainly enchanted.

While the process of searching the Deathless Slave is still playing out, and the venturers are still deciding what to do with the captured ship, Captain Tairasha moves across to join them. His face is ashen as he reports that he’s just received a magical sending. Mashaar the Golden-Fingered has been stabbed in her own offices — and according to the witnesses, the would-be murderer was Abd.



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