Emotions Rise by the Oceanside
Chapter Ten, Part Three
Percy unsheathes his long sword and shouts, “Evenliir!” The tip of his blade points at Arturus, as he closes in on her.
“Fortune smiled upon you by granting good final use of your organ while in ASU, Arterese,” Rastorn says. “Melias, are you going to refer to him as ‘sister’ now?” He giggles and holds his stomach, asking, “So, if Evenliir was to bear your child, would that make you the child’s mother?” Tears stream down his face and he holds back the uproarious laughter welling inside him.
Arturus looks at Rastorn and says, “I can still put an arrow through your heart old man. Don’t mock me, or you’ll be playing with your own corpse.”
Rastorn stops laughing.
Percy has moved behind Arturus. He is ready to attack, but instead looks from one party member to another, confused by their reactions.
Arturus ignores him.
Melias places a hand on Percy’s shoulder and another on his chest. “Easy, big boy. I know she’s good looking – as are most women of my race – but she is Arturus . . . or, maybe it’s Artina now?” He winks at Rastorn. “I would know my own sister if I saw her. I might actually be romantically intrigued by Artina, if she weren’t so amazingly tall.”
Rastorn covers his mouth and turns around to keep from laughing.
“It’s still Arturus. I don’t care if I have boobs, or not,” Arturus says. “I need to find a way to correct this problem.” He takes off the girdle and flings it into the sea.
Percy sheaths his sword. “Are you so certain this is not a trick? Evenliir has changed forms before and Arturus did claim to have seen her recently,” he whispers to Melias.
Melias shrugs and walks away to place the new magic items on the Sheet of Smallness, not eager to blindly test any of the other items. “How does this thing work?”
“Just wrap them in it, but not the non-magical items, they aren’t affected,” Rastorn instructs Melias.
“Arturus, if that is you, I am sorry that this has happened. I will do whatever I can within my power to have this curse reversed and regain your manhood. You have my word,” Percy tells Arturus.
After taking care of the items and moving to the lean-to, Melias explains their predicament. “I know, waiting sucks, but at low tide we will see the rocks we need to cross on. We have to be patient and wait it out.”
Soon the group is gathered in the lean-to and settling in. The forest is at a higher elevation, so they have a decent view of the beach and can watch the tide. They can also see where the ship sank and easily spot any Saltwater Scrags that might come for them.
Rastorn reclines against a stump and falls asleep.
Pulling the top of his shirt out, Arturus looks down at his new chest. He smiles, then frowns. He pulls his sword, then asks Percy to spar, adding, “And don’t you dare treat me any different because I look like a woman. You got that?”
As they spar, Arturus discovers her strength and agility have not changed. She has to adjust for the change in how her weight is distributed and her armor fits tight in some places and loose in others, but most things are the same. But, even a sword stabbing at her head, she learns, cannot help her from agonizing over the loss of her penis.
After a few minutes, Percy stops sparing. “I hoped to show you how to use the two-handed sword, Arturus. Here, let me show you a few things.” He hands his two-handed sword to Arturus and starts instructing her how to properly stand when using the weapon. It is heavy and requires more strength than agility. It gives her something more complicated and new on which to concentrate. Arturus can feel her breasts bounce under her leathers as she moves. It is an odd sensation, but not at all sexual. She shakes her head and has to take a break.
“You have my pledge as well, Arturus,” Orjulun says. “Although the only way I know to break the enchantment is with a powerful Wish spell, and there is no Mage in Dumas capable of that. Perhaps our travels will allow us the opportunity to locate one.”
Arturus thanks Orjulun and Percy for their vow to help him. “Next time I come across a belt like that I sure won’t put it on so hastily. I thank you both.”
“Heh, I wonder how being a woman will affect Arturus in the long run. The next chance we see to turn him back he – ahem – she may just want to stay a woman by then,” SeLiem tells Claire, although within earshot of everyone else.
“I warned you,” Claire says, barely able to keep her laughter in. “That’s all I have to say about the matter. I warned you. You’re going to need someone to Wish it off.” She tosses her pack and instrument case next to her and sits on the ground, hands clasped loosely around her knees. “Actually, you’re kind of attractive now,” she tells Arturus, as she walks by.
Arturus looks at SeLiem and says, “I wouldn’t count on that. As soon as I can get myself restored I’ll breathe easier and be a lot less aggravated.” Then she turns on Claire and says, “I sure in the Nine Hells don’t need some newcomer telling me she warned me.” She grabs her gear and strides toward Dumas.
Claire falls silent, chastened by the remark and annoyed by it at the same time. Newcomer indeed! Had she only listened to Claire, she’d still be a man! She rummages around and takes out a leather-bound book and a pen she had purchased for the journey and begins composing another song. She thinks she can get a good three ditties out of this incident alone! Fino was right – this group will be great for songs.
Melias frowns. It seems to him to just be a Curse. Someone should be able to remove a Curse with more ease than casting a Wish. At the very least, she shouldn’t be afraid of putting on any future magical girdles they came across. He jogs after Arturus, grabbing her arm to slow her down. “Where do you think you’re going? One set-back and now you’re all offended and running off from your troubles? Take a look at yourself, Art. Your problem is going to follow you no matter where you go. Stop letting it get the better of you, and behave like a rational Elf. We still have a problem facing us that’s bigger than your missing penis. You’ll be an embarrassment to all Elves if you run away from it right now because your pride is bruised.” He crosses his arms, awaiting a response.
“I don’t need some newcomer mocking me. She didn’t tell me anything except a story. Heading to Dumas is the right thing to do. I can find someone to reverse this damn Curse, pay them what I can, and owe them the rest or work it off. I’m through being some idiot on a damn fool quest.” She leans against a tree and says, “I don’t need to be around people I know who knew me as I should be. Until I’m back to normal I can’t travel with this group. Maybe if you
turned into a woman you’d understand.”
Rastorn lazily opens his eyes when he hears the arguments. All he can see is Percy standing by two lanterns, holding his two-handed sword. The others are out in the darkness. “Is Arteres leaving us? Pity . . . we could use her sword-arm and bow. Oh, well.” Then he closes his eyes again and falls silent.
Percy calls out, “Arturus! Come now, that town is dangerous! T’is full of drunken madmen! No offense, Orjulun. Hold on, if he draws them to us won’t Orjulun be in danger? Arturus, the glory is in moving forward, not back! Darn it!” He tosses his two-handed sword down, grabs a lantern, and wanders toward where the ship sank.
Without opening his eyes, Rastorn asks Orjulun, “The Elf is probably just taking a walk, right? So, at first light, you are going to Identify one of those items, huh? Which one? We only have an hour or so until the sun rises. I’m most curious about the helmet. I mguh nfre blgmmph . . . ” and he dozes off.
Claire sighs and puts her book away. “Well, after that, I figure my work’s done. I’ll keep watch for the time being. I’m interested in the ring, though.” Crossbow in hand, she takes a position where she will be out of sight, but still able to see attackers. “You know,” she says, half to herself, “If more people would just get used to slightly more experienced members of society saying ‘I told you so’, maybe we wouldn’t have so many problems.”
SeLiem looks at Claire. “Well, ya know, at least we know your story was true. Arturus is just a little uptight. Probably not enough sleep.”
Melias’s disapproving look grows even more disapproving as he listens to Arturus whine about her predicament. “First of all, if a Wish is the only thing that can help you, then you’re not going to find that back in Dumas. Secondly, if you go to Dumas, you’re putting us all in jeopardy, you fool! Is that what your intent is? Do you want us all to fail just because you can’t handle being the fairer sex? I thought you were stronger than that, but I see you’re more concerned with yourself than anyone else.” He turns his back to Arturus. “Go on, then. Run away from your problems and bring death to us all.” He walks back toward the party’s lean-to, muttering “Hard to believe that sneaky curr Rastorn is more trustworthy than you.”
“Yes, now I have the warm feeling of satisfaction that one only gets when she knows she was right. It’s good to have another woman in the mix, at least,” Claire says, looking at SeLiem. “Is he usually this sleep-deprived?”
SeLiem whispers to her, “Not usually, but then again, I haven’t been in this party too long myself. For the most part, he just gets angry easily.” He yawns, “But he cools down quickly. I think.” He shrugs.
“I doubt he’ll ‘cool down quickly’.” Claire whispers back. “Marten was pretty mad when it happened to her, too. It was about a year and a half before I saw her again. She’s still riding out the effects, last I heard.” She laughs. “Although, she’s taking it better now.”
Seliem pauses. “Well, he was asking for it, he should have waited.”
Arturus shrugs and starts walking toward Dumas, to where all this began, in hope of an answer to her problem. She mumbles, “To the Hells with them if they can’t understand. Some things are just more important and when everything that made you changed, well that overrides any other obligation.” She shouts, “Whatever, Melias, have a nice life!” Then, in Elven, she says low enough so only Melias’ sensitive ears can hear, “I will miss you, brother.”
Percy sits out by where the ship sank, looking into the canal. He hopes a Troll crawls out. He is lucky one doesn’t, for they are skilled at moving quietly and would have advantage in the dark.
An hour later, the sun rises and the tide changes. Percy begins his morning ritual of prayer, practice, and polishing, while many of the others still sleep. They had not gotten enough sleep to renew their spells, but at least they felt refreshed.
Looking toward Dumas, no one sees any sign of Arturus.
It is almost time to continue the quest and one of the original members of the team is not present. Everyone packs with little conversation.
“Are you going to cast Identify one of those magic items now, Orjulun?” Rastorn asks, his voice weary.
As he pulls out his scroll, Orjulun remembers the one he had for Seliem. He walks quickly over to the Cleric and hands him the rolled parchment. “Here,” he says. “I believe you can use this.”
Melias believes with Arturus off down the road – throwing all of their necks in the noose – there is no time to waste. He stands where he can see the water tide effects and hopes and prays Arturus will suddenly turn invisible and silent and insubstantial so that no one but the gods themselves can interact with him. If he falls into the wrong hands, a few hours of torture would be all it would take and then the whole lot of them were in trouble, and perhaps The Realms themselves. An Undead War is on the horizon. Why can’t Arturus see how important it is to stick with the plan? Why can’t he see just how needlessly dangerous it is for him to go crying about his condition to the very people who hung his old companions when it all started? Melias forced himself to put his faith into the gods and their puppetry, that they would see the party through, no matter what sort of rash actions Arturus elects to do. Melias has to see this through. He can’t let his whole race be blackened with the shame that the Elves couldn’t handle the task at hand. Surveying the water and the three faces, Melias says, “I think now is as good a time as any to push on. At low tide-when stone faces cry . . . that’s when we need to go. It’s three jumps and a leap of faith, according to the poem.
Orjulun wakes up an hour before sunrise and casts the Fourth Level Identify Spell off his scroll. He displays each item in turn, while he explains their uses. He does not wear the items as he handles them.
“The helmet is a Helm of Underwater Action. Lenses pull out from the sides that allow you to see underwater. If the Command Word – ‘Donho’ is spoken, a bubble forms around the wearer’s head, allowing him or her to breathe underwater.”
“The ring is a Ring of Levitation. It allows the wearer to rise straight up in the air twenty feet when the Command Word is spoken. The Command Word is ‘Noitisnt’.”
“The magic pearl is a Pearl of the Sirens, which allows the possessor to freely move and breathe in water.”
“The first potion is a Potion of Giant Strength. If imbibed, it grants the strength of a Frost Giant. It works only for Warriors. The effects last for about an hour.”
“The second is a Potion of Water Breathing. If imbibed, it grants the ability to breathe underwater. The effects last for over an hour. There are four doses in the container.”
“The spear and pick grant slight advantage in battle.”
“That is quite a spell you are using there, Orjulun,” Rastorn comments.
SeLiem says, “It makes sense a sailor would have a treasure chest with three items that let him breath underwater.” He looks at the Ring of Levitation and says, “This ring would be helpful for any of us who cast spells and need to stay out of a physical fight.” He hands the ring to Rastorn.
Percy says, “I don’t know how to use a pick or a spear and I have no need to go underwater. The only thing that interests me in the least is the Potion of Frost Giant Strength. Although, if Arturus returns and wants it, I would gladly give it to him, since the desire to have great strength is what caused him to place the belt on and . . . you know. I’m pretty strong as it is, too. You know what? If you could, just leave it for him, in case he returns. Place a note on it or something, so no one else takes it.”
Rastorn looks at Percy and shakes his head. After a few seconds of staring in disbelief, he looks down at the items and says, “Let it be known that though my sorcery was paramount to the retrieval of these powerful magical items, I will not claim any for myself. Instead, I will settle on taking all the non-magical items that were within the chest. By the way, Orjulun, have you ever heard of any mines around Dumas? I’ve lived here my whole life and never heard of any.”
Percy looks off to the ocean for a moment, then interrupts,”We don’t have time to sort treasure now, the tide is almost low. Quickly, let us follow Melias!”
“Here, Bard, stuff this in your bag,” Rastorn tells Claire, as he folds up the items in the Sheet of Smallness. “And don’t forget where that sheet came from.”
“Hurry, Claire, adventure awaits!” Percy shouts with a huge smile, as he trots off toward the end of the canal.
“I know exactly where it came from, Wizard. I’m not likely to forget,” Claire mutters in Elven. Rolling her eyes at Percy’s puppy-like enthusiasm, she asks, “Percy, are you always this cheerful? Because if you are, we’re going to have some problems down the line.” They walk together toward the canal, where Melias awaits.
Melias studies the end of the channel that spreads from the ocean. The ship which sank within the waters fifty yards or so closer to the ocean, is still not visible, so he guesses the bottom is much deeper further from the ocean. The sheer cliff Rastorn had climbed several hours ago made up the far side of the canal and curved around to encompass the end of it as well, ending at the forest to the west. At the end of the waterway are three giant Human faces carved from the stone of the cliff. Each wears a flat helmet and has a large nose sticking out further than the brim of the helm. Their eyes are too large for their heads and their long beards spread down the rock face and fuse with its natural shape.
Melias climbs the rocky area between the water and the forest and reaches an area level with the tops of the stone heads. The cliff rises up from there above the faces, but he can see across the top of the carvings to the far cliff. Each carving is about fifty feet long and ten feet apart, with the last one ending about ten feet from the sheer cliff. They stick out about ten feet at the helm and fifteen feet from their noses.
He wonders how they must have been carved. Although the top of the first head is within jumping distance, the artist would have had to repel down from the high cliff to carve the faces. During high tide the faces would be almost completely under water, but at low tide – which is fast approaching – it would be a deadly drop down to the swirling waters far below. There is certain to be a strong undertow right below the faces.
Looking to the end of the canal, he can see the water has lowered to the point where a natural rim can be seen separating the canal from the ocean. The rushes back and forth from the rim to the faces, without showing any signs of slowing.
The faces have some water still streaming down from when the water level had been higher, but they don’t seem to be crying. They are mostly dry. Melias looks at the party. Everyone is waiting for him to act. He looks past them to the beach and forest. Behind a tree, just within the range of his sight, he spots Arturus lurking and watching the party’s movements.
Looking back down at the carvings, he can see what may have been referred to in the poem. Water returning from the ocean has begun to actually flow faster and strikes the carved mouths with great force. The water splashes through the hole in the mouths and drips out of the holes in the inside corners of the eyes. They do seem to be crying. It is time to act.
Arturus watches the group. She is feeling stupid and embarassed over what happened to her, but she knows Melias was right about so many things and that she has friends who vowed to help her. She knows most of them would risk their lives for her and she for them. She realizes she was stupid for not waiting to try on the girdle and her greed got the better of her. She is more worried that she’ll be a woman for the rest of her life and after a hundred or so years she might not really remember what it was to be a man, and that frightens her. For now, she has to roll with the punches and get with the picture. She has a group of friends to join up with and help out. With that thought in mind, Arturus runs to the group, a broad smile on her face. “Alright, let’s get one thing straight, I may look like a woman, but I’m still all man! If I hear one of you refer to me as a she, her or anything like that I’m going to slap someone on the back of the head. So, what’s our situation and who do we need to kill to get the treasure?”
Percy smiles and gives him a pat on the back. “Good to see you, my Elven friend! We’re about to risk a horrible death from falling one hundred feet into deadly currents – want to join us?”
Claire notices there is no sarcasm in Percy’s voice and looks horrified.
“Are we expected to follow?” Orjulun asks no one in particular. “If so, I suggest we take some precautions, such as using ropes. “
SeLiem says, “We could use the Ring of Levitation, but let’s see how Melias makes out first.”
“I have a spell which could help one person, as well,” Orjulun says.
Rastorn looks at Arturus, gives him a quick, small smile and looks back to Melias preparing to leap onto the first head. “What spell do you speak of, Orjulun? I may not be able to make that jump.”
Melias balls his hands up into fists and then slowly releases them. He does it again, shifting his feet, and taking deep breaths. After a swallow to submerge the fear of failure, Melias takes a running leap at the nearest head. Since it is within jumping distance, Melias figures it must be the three heads that needed the three jumps. At least, he hopes so. Landing on the first head, he looks toward the next closest head and hopes he will be able to jump to it as well.
Grumbling about Rastorn receiving the ring she wanted, Claire walks to the spot from where Melias had originally leapt.
Orjulun shakes his head in disgust at party members discussing the treasure division. Don’t they know one of their own is risking his life jumping from head to head on the giant stone figures just ahead? Don’t they care? He tightly clenches his jaw, as Melias leaps to the second head.
Percy reaches Claire and asks her, “Don’t you like happy people?”
She scowls at him.
Rastorn hands the ring back to SeLiem. “I appreciate the offer, healer, but I already said I don’t want any of that magical treasure and I can’t see how a ring that just makes one go straight up will help us to go sideways. Why don’t you just focus on watching an injured Elf jump to his death, like the rest of us?”
Arturus wasn’t sure what he should do, but he knows he can’t let Melias do it alone. He steps next to Claire, takes a step back, then takes a running leap onto the first head.
Percy looks at Orjulun and says, “No rope for me! I haven’t had luck with that the last two times!” and jumps across to Claire and Arturus.
“Well, if that walking armory can make the jump, so can I,” Rastorn says, more to himself than to Orjulun. Without hesitation, he leaps to Percy and the others. Looking back, he tells SeLiem, “I think your suggestion to let Melias go the whole way first went unheeded, SeLiem. Don’t worry, I’ve gotten used to having my ideas ignored, I’m sure you will, too.”
The group moves closer to the far end of the first head, to make room for the others. Percy shouts some encouragement to Orjulun. “It isn’t as far as it seems! Just don’t look down! If you look down, you’ll start thinking about how it might kill you if you hit that water from this high or about the undertow drowning you and I think that’s the last thing you want to be thinking about when you jump!”
Rastorn can’t help but look down then. He looks over the edge, then steps back, planting his back against the cliff wall. With a voice pitched high with terror, he chokes out the words, “Percy, you son of a . . . ”
Orjulun takes a deep breath, then makes the jump.
Claire detects a shift beneath her feet. Looking around, she realizes the carving had slid down the face of the cliff about six inches.
Seeing where she is looking, Arturus notices the same thing.
“Do . . . do we go all at once, so we are . . . together or . . . do we need to go separate, Mel . . . Melias?” Rastorn asks between gasps and gulps.
Percy looks around and asks, “Melias, where are we going? These don’t lead anywhere.”
“I can’t deal with this, unless I have control,” Rastorn says, still leaning on the wall. He takes half a step forward, removes his boots, slings them over his shoulders by the laces, and casts Spider Climb. “That’s better!” he announces, the strength back in his voice. Then he climbs up the side of the wall like a spider, heading for the next head.
Melias smiles at Arturus and nods. “I knew you wouldn’t let me down,” he says, then makes the third leap. “Look people, I don’t know how much weight these things can take. Spread out. I’m not even sure if this is the right way just yet. Three jumps and a leap of faith . . . that’s the direction I have. So, unless someone has a better idea, I’m pushing forward.” He looks at Orjulun and then down to the churning waters below, “Orjulun . . . some of you might want to start using some of those new magic items. I think I heard you say something about underwater activities. We may end up there on the leap of faith. Best to get ready.” He looks for a hint at where this leap of faith was supposed to be. Lacking some obvious clue, he asks SeLiem if he might be able to Augury an answer whether jumping in the same direction as the line of heads is a good idea.
Seliem nods, then says, “I’ll wait until someone else gets to the second head.”
As Arturus lands on the second head he tells Melias, “You should at least take one of the items if you’re going to do a blind jump off into nothing.”Hells, I figure I had nowhere else to go. I’ll tell you more about it after we’re off these damn heads.”
Melias smirks and says, “Look at me.” He emphasizes his wounds from the most recent battle from falling off the ship. “These jumps are excruciating. If I fall from this height, I won’t have to worry about drowning. It’s best you cover yourselves.”
SeLiem casts Augury. He asks, “What happens if we jump three times on each of the stone faces before us then take a leap of faith down to the waters below?”
Rastorn drops down next to Melias on the third head, as Arturus and Claire watch from the middle head. Percy backs up and gets a running start, then jumps, making it onto the second head with room to spare. Orjulun and SeLiem leap in succession onto the second head.
This time they all notice how the faces carved out of the rock move down a little lower once more than one person stands on top. SeLiem looks over to the third head and notices that it is still a little higher, then looks back and notes the first one is moving back up!
Melias sees nothing to jump onto, no secret or concealed passages, and nothing around him but the deadly fall. He waves the rest of the group to him and they all quickly gather on the final head.
When Melias asks SeLiem about the results of his Augury, Rastorn barks, “Augury? He has a bloody Commune he still hasn’t used!” Then he lowers his voice and asks SeLiem, “Could you please start using some of those fancy scrolls you’ve got? I’d haunt you as a Ghost if I ever died when you had the means to keep me from death and failed to use it. Please. Pretty please. Use all your resources.”
SeLiem looks back at the second head. It is already starting to raise back up to its original position.
Percy grabs at the side of the cliff and shouts, “Does that mean we need to hurry up and make a decision?”
“Well, you did say ‘a leap of faith’, Melias. Maybe this is magical in some way and Augury will make it not work,” Rastorn suggests, with little conviction.
SeLiem shares the answer he received.
“If time you waste,
When danger faced,
Then wat’ry grave,
And Undead slave.
If brave and quick,
Then fate you pick,
Still may ye fail,
On chosen trail.”
“You should take that Ring of Levitation. That way if you just plummet you can activate the ring and slowly rise back up,” Arturus says. “Besides, if you go over so will I, because I’ll be the fool who reaches out to grab you.”
Claire asks SeLiem what the Augury answer means.
“Gah! Nothing that makes perfect sense to me.” He tries to think of what to do, then he repeats the Augury again.
Melias reaches out his hand. “Claire, give me the Potion of Waterbreathing. Take the ring. I know you wanted it, anyway. Split the rest up quickly. Percy, do you want the helmet? Someone take the pearl. I’ll share the potion with whoever is without a means of breathing underwater. This is in case the leap of faith takes us to an entrance beneath the waves. I think it is best to be ready for anything.” He feels the head start to shift downward. “The way I figure it, this head is a sort of trigger. It is required to open a portal somewhere. If we jumped without activating the trigger, we’d fall to our death. If we wait too long, then something else bad will happen. So, as soon as you’re all ready, we need to take the leap of faith.”
He takes a deep breath, exhales, and looks around once more. Having nothing more than gut instinct to point him in the right direction, Melias says “I think we should keep going in the same direction, for lack of a better idea. Any objections?”
Everyone’s attention is drawn behind them, as the second head rises back to normal level. The head they stand on is at the lowest point and Orjulun turns wide-eyed toward Melias and says, “I don’t think we have time for all that preparation right now.”
Melias smiles at him, turns, and jumps out toward the cliff. He disappears before he reaches it. The moment he jumps, everyone feels the structure they are on shake. Sensing their doom, everyone readies themself for the jump. One at a time, they all jump into nothingness.
Continued next week!
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