Posted on April 9, 2014
Castaway Diary, Day 36 cont.Shit, I forgot to update this on Tuesday… Here is what happened:
So we left mostly everyone mostly tied together at the base of the cliff: inching their way carefully along the narrow ledge that kept getting battered by the irregular surges of the sea. As it was, the sea seemed to have lost its fury and though it swept a few people, they were able to cling on as the Rope of Climbing snaked forward. Safely reaching the curve in the cliff-face the narrow ledge broke down into a few scattered rocks at one end of a short sandy cove. The cove would be nigh inaccessible from above, beyond some awesome rappelling/parachuting/falling and breaking your neck. As it was, it provided a pristine little beach beneath the looming faces of the cliffs and was far enough back that the crashing surf was reduced to serenely lapping waters.
Eyeing the far side of the beach, they could see another ledge in the rock, but this one angled high immediately, creating a steep path well out of the way of the waves. The sharper eyes among the party spotted that a rope ladder had been stowed up on the ledge and beneath this, a flat rock held a conch shell. Moving over to the flat rock they deduced that the conch had been deliberately placed there, so they decided to blow it. Sounding the conch shell – WHY DIDN’T I HAVE THAT PROP READY? It is the only prop I have… – they waited a little and before too long a straggly head popped around the cliff face high above. “Who are you and what do you want?” the old man shouted down. He was a spry-looking weathered old Mwangi man with tufted grey hair turning to white and a little in the way of clothing, which I guess is one of the perks of being a hermit. Actually that’s maybe how other people make you a hermit.
The gang introduced themselves and told them that they were there on behalf of the Pathfinder society, Victor laying down the smooth and nuanced diplomacy he is capable of when he puts his mind to it. the old man – N’Kechi, for it is he – told them he had retired, but he relented and agreed to at least talk it over. He told them to come up slowly and carefully, so Uun leapt up the cliff face and bounded up the path as quick as he could. Fortunately, his eyesight was as keen as his unwillingness to take advice from oldballs there and he spotted the spring trap just before he set it off. N’kechi was working his way along the cliff face, disengaging the traps and came forward to gently set off the spring before it put the poisoned spike through anyone’s face. Others arrived slower and carefully as they were asked to, finding the end of the path to be a ledge in front of a small cliffside cave some 2/3 of the way up. The open sky was shut out of a small cave that had been walled across with bamboo and N’Kechi held the door open to allow everyone through.
Inside the small cave, N’kechi had his little hermit setup, where I assume he writes angrily out of touch letters to the editor of his local newspaper. Anyway, he acknowledged that he was indeed the africanized-bees-knees at guiding people across the face of the Mwangi expanse. But so sorry, he had given that up and devoted the remains of his life to his god/goddess, to go back on that devotion would require some clear sign from Gozreh… So he had two tasks – one Test of Water, one Test of Air that would show whether Gozreh even believed their quest was worthwhile. Their first test would be retrieve a rare black pearl from the oyster beds some distance south of here. It was a fair hike, so he advised them to get going asap. He’d let them use his rope ladder to the clifftop, at which time they should journey south until the cliffs drifted down to beach coast. There they’d find a village of pearl fishermen that were friendly enough. It should take them most of the day to get there. Retrieve a black pearl and bring it back and he’d give them the second task.
They set of up the rope ladder and down the sloping clifftops, with Floki leading them because this is still close enough to the sea that his sailoriness helps. They made good time and by early evening they spied the fishing village, a selection of wooden huts and rafts near the shore. At the sight of the foreigners, the people of the village stirred, several tall men reappearing dressed in banana leaf cloaks, interposing themselves between the party and the village.
The villagers were friendly although maybe a bit nervous at having these prodigiously armed northerners descend on their village. However, their attitude changed after they learned that they were on a mission from Gozreh at the behest of N’Kechi and these strangers pretty much just wanted to find one pearl. They struck the deal that the pearl divers would help them out with equipment and a boat in return for all the pearls they found barring the black pearl, which IF they found it – the villagers aware how rare those things are – the party would take back to N’Kechi. Agreeing to this deal, the villagers only quibbled about the time; there wasn’t much daylight left and they’d be better trying the next morning when they could spend longer in their search. Also, their dinner was just about ready… But the party stood firm on wanting to get out and pearl diving ASAP and for the price they were offering, they’d be nuts not to.
So they launched a shallow but well made reed-boat, something like a very large dinghy with a single sail and set out to some beds that hadn’t been touched for a while. They set air barrels down around the coral beds then set their anchor and outfitted those diving – who had stripped out of their armour – with net bags and brick shoes to help them move around the sea bed. The waters were very clear, but the divers warned against underestimating the top current here as it was evidently very strong and dangerous. They also warned against the very sharp coral. And the bends. Basically everything down there is conspiring to kill you.
Anyway, Floki, Uun, Malicia and Victor had stripped to their skivvies – or in Victor’s case, the chaste 1920s bathing suit he packed – while Percy and Orny stayed with the divers on the boat. The others held on to the last of the weighted air barrels and leapt in, plummeting to the bottom of the sea. Getting their bearings, they hopped across the sea bed on their brickshoes and began looking under the edges of the coral where the divers assured them the oysters lived. In this they were aided by a fiendish octopus that Orny had summoned.
Malicia proved quite adept at this, moving quickly along the oyster bed before her breath ran out, hauling oysters out and shoving them in her bag. In fact initial success was so good, between Floki, Uun and Malicia that it seemed possible they might make up for Victor who was having a terrible time, not able to see what was what and freaking out a little at the aquatic critters that scuttled and sneaked through the coral. When he felt something move beneath his hand he jerked his arm back and caught it on the ragged yet sharp coral, tearing open his wrist. Slapping his hand over the wound and Laying On Hands sealed the appalling wound up quickly but not before a billow of blood escaped and drifted around him. He got back to it, but almost cut himself open again when a rock looked suspiciously like an eel.
After only a minute of searching, (a mere minute!), without having to resort to the backup air in the barrels, Malicia had turned up the black pearl and turned to start getting everyone’s attention. It took her a second but no-one was too far away to miss seeing her dancing around. However, they rapidly had other things to consider as a school of sharks cut through the deep waters, driven by promise of 100% pure Paladin blood.
Victor kicked off his brick shoes and propelled himself upwards, trying to get to the surface as quickly as possible. The sharks were on him in an instant and the sea turned red as the fish tore into the diving party members. Malicia swam/scrambled past/over Victor but the top current caught her and tumbled her. From the boat, Percy cast Spiritual Weapon and sent it against the selachimorphs (yeah, I think Percy would know that word, he’s a word guy), while Orny summoned his own shark to pile into the melee. Victor and Floki heaved themselves over the side of the reedboat and to relatives safety as Orny started sending sharks to sleep left right and center. One by one their grey forms cruised off into the distance. Victor created a decoy blood-soaked rag and threw it off into the distance, hoping to draw them off Uun and Malicia who now struggled beneath the surface in the vicious current. Floki lashed rope to his shovel (unwilling as yet to risk his waffle-iron, which he is hauling around with him) and cast a line out to the two beleagured swimmers. Uun grabbed the struggling Malicia and put himself in harm’s way as the sharks Orny hadn’t yet dismissed continued unrelentingly. The heroic barbarian managed to shield Malicia with his body long enough that she could catch the rope and be hauled into the reed boat. She held the pearl out for all to see. Percy channeled healing energy while Victor readied himself to pull Uun on board before the rapidly approaching shark took him.
Which is when Orny took the opportunity to put Uun to sleep. The barbarian went limp in the water and the shark, speeding in behind him delivered the killing, crushing bite. The two disappeared beneath the water in a gout of blood to the surprise and anguish of the others looking on. Only Malicia spotted the look of malice on Orny’s face as he had cast his hex.