Monsters from the Sea

North of Banarva, Northern Tarkesh, Sadric 89 Yoarus 12

Moving a little away from the cooling bodies of the unlucky bandits, the three Melnibonéans set up camp. There was some debate as to who was to cook, at the conclusion of which Kira chose to prepare her own food, while Fredyr bent over to talk to his groin for a moment. The demon of desire bound into his codpiece manifested itself into its' humanoid form, a lascivious grin upon its' handsome face, before vanishing for a while, to return with a sizzling pan of roasted game bird breasts.

With dinner done, Malvyr had a try at hunting with his trained eagle, but whether he picked the wrong spot or the desert bird was less able to pick prey out in a forest, came back empty-handed.

Vornskold (click for bigger map)

Vornskold, Northern Tarkesh, Sadric 89 Yoarus 16

Four days later, around an hour from sundown, the three crested a rise to see the village of Vornskold below them. Lying at the head of a fjord, the village was surrounded by fields of wheat and flax, sheep and cows, which faded into grassy hills dotted with pine trees. Kira noted that the number of women in the fields - and visible in the village - was disporpotionately high. Able-bodied men seemed rather scarce; something of which she approved.

A small shingle beach with a pier had several small fishing boats of the local pattern upturned for repairs, with a couple more afloat and moored. A crowd of laughing, happy children played in the surf and on the beach.

The village itself was surrounded by a ten-foot earth bank and ditch. Most of the buildings inside were longhouses, though a barn was visible near one side, and a blacksmith's workshop nearby. In the centre of the village was a statue, around double human size.

Fredyr was staring at the smithy, trying to grasp why it drew his eye, when Malvyr nudged him and pointed. Sweeping in from the sea was a dark shadow, moving extremely quickly, straight towards the unsuspecting children. Standing in his stirrups, Malvyr bellowed as loudly as he could, "'Ware the sea! Get away from the beach!" while Fredyr grabbed his bow from his back and swiftly strung it with practiced hands. Kira spurred her mount over the hillcrest and down the slope towards the village, reaching for her own ordinary bow as she did so.

The Sheal

With a shower of spray the racing shadow surfaced. No more than a glance was needed to identify it as a creation of sorcery or vivisection - perhaps both. A vast blubbery horror, with something of a seal and something of a shark to its' nature, the sheal was covered in rubbery grey skin criss-crossed with scars and patches of fur - and the occasional metal plate rivetted cruelly into its' flesh.

"We don't know what's happening here," pointed out Malvyr calmly. "Maybe the village has offended Lord Straasha, and this beast is his revenge?" Fredyr shook his head. "I don't see the King of Water Elementals using something this ... man-made," he said, and released his first arrow. Propelled by the demon parabow, the shaft trailed an ominous, exultant dirge as it arced over the village towards the monster. As it flew, the beast lunged out of the water towards the children. Already scattering in response to Malvyr's shouts, one was slower than the rest and the monster siezed him in its' jaws, crumpling his pale body up like paper.

A moment later, the first arrow struck, driving deep into the monster's rear fluke as it turned to pursue the rest of the children along the beach. Fredyr had already loosed again and a moment later his second shaft slammed into the thing next to the first. Blood flowed, and although the thick hide had absorbed some of the damage, the creature was slowed as it lurched along the shingle beach.

Kira thundered through the fields past the scattering farmers, hair and dress streaming out behind her. Her hand went over her shoulder to sieze an arrow from her quiver and she nocked, drew and loosed in one smooth movement. Unfortunately, just as she did so, her horse made a small leap over a discarded wheelbarrow. The arrow went one way, and Kira the other, to sprawl among the wheat, her fall fortunately broken by the crops.

Fredyr continued to shoot, his bow now emitting an eldritch, subvocal chuckling as he shot. Another arrow drove into the sheal, this time in the body, then his next glanced off the blubbery hide. Malvyr, content to let the others deal with this one, scanned the shoreline in case there were - as he rather expected - more than one of the beasts. Kira rose to her feet and added her own arrows to the attack, delivering a spectacular strike to one of the pectoral flippers.

The damage was now sufficent to slow the sea-beast down, and the fleeing children were able to escape the beach and reach safety. Balked, the sheal turned again, yomping back down the beach back towards the water and picking up the crushed ruin of its' first victim on the way. Malvyr set his demon steed moving towards the village at this point, making sure to restrict it to a speed matching a trot for a normal horse. Calmly, Fredyr loosed again, and this time his arrow struck the back of the beast's head. Evidently the bone was weaker there, for the arrow vanished inside - barb, shaft and fletchings - and the sheal collapsed right at the water's edge.

Fredyr packed his bow away with satisfaction and rode down to catch up with Malvyr. Down in the fields, Kira was being surrounded by villagers, cheering and waving, patting her on the shoulder and urging her into the village. Only one man reacted differently; a browned, weather-beaten old fisherman, who staggered down the beach to where the sheal lay with the shreds of the child in its jaws and collapsed onto his knees, weeping uncontrollably.

Two hours later, the three Melnibonéans were seated in the headman's longhouse, being feasted by the grateful villagers. Coarse as the fare was compared to that they had grown up with, it was at least plentiful and fresh. The local ale, especially, was pale and refreshing after their journey. Becoming heroes to humans was not something they had expected, and at first they were inclined to be scornful, but as the evening drew on they came to know the villagers of Vornskold a little better.


The headman of the village, Sparn-Math-Degorny was nearly sixty, and showing signs of his age despite his wisdom. Taking the lead in welcoming the strangers, he stood to toast them, and also to raise his tankard to 'absent friends' - the men of the village off raiding on the Skald's Tongue, the village's war-boat - wishing them successful raiding, much booty and a safe voyage home.  



The daughter of Sparn and due to inherit the leadership on his death, Sem-Liss-Sparn was an attractive young woman with laughing eyes and chestnut hair, but already with the air of leadership that characterized her father. Kira settled to talk to her, seeing that she was unawed by the well-dressed Melnibonéan noblewoman. Kira learned that Sem had been betrothed to the smith's son, Basram-Shem-Vadam, but that Basram had broken the engagement off at the beginning of the season. The amount of time Basram spent with his friend Fawl-Elsay-Marig came into new context, and Sem suspected that a woman's touch was not what Basram wanted. Kira sympathized and spent most of the evening gaining Sem's confidence, though whether as a possible bedmate or sacrifice she hadn't yet made up her mind. 



The priestess of Straasha, referred to respectfully as "Sea-mother" by the villagers, Mog-Vorn-Kasan lived outside the village in a hut near the shrine to the Sea King. Old and grey, she was dressed in blue wool with embroidery depicting sea creatures and had her hair in braids to her waist. Despite Fredyr's reluctance, she insisted on divining the three strangers' fortunes with her carved pieces of coral. "I foretell four things, only one of them good. I see a second shadow, with blood and madness in its' wake. I see a dark tooth of land, surrounded by water and leaving a foul stain on the sea. I see reunions, but fraught with sorrow and broken hopes. At the last I see a glittering shower of silver, sparkling with life and renewal. Lord Straasha is with you; you have our blessings and hopes."


The village blacksmith was a giant even by Tarkeshite standards, with a huge black beard and bristly eyebrows. Vadam-Thom-Patan seemed a man of action, and it was clear he opposed many of the headman Sparn's decisions. Conversely, the actions of the strangers met with his loud approval. 



The fisherman who had wept on the beach was introduced to them as Mac-Ghyll-Dosal, and Sparn related his sad tale in an undertone. His wife Mai died ten years ago, giving birth to their second son Val-Mai-Mac, and his eldest son Odd-Mai-Mac was swept overboard six months ago. Now the sheal had slain his last kin and Mac was doing his best to drink himself into oblivion. 

Late in the evening, an old blind bard stood forward to sing some of the songs of the ancient heroes of the Tarkesh people; quick--fingered Lodur and the Mead of Immortality, Vlian-Ham-Hodur and the Demon King. Then he sang a brief piece of his own composition;

The water of the fjord was dark
And the creature made no ripple there
With spray and fury it came
Val, son of Mai and Mac died
But the bright wanderers
Slew it on the marge of the sea

Much cheering and renewed spirits greeted this. He followed it with an ancient saga of an ancient jarl's daughter from their village;

Into the Fang, entrance to Dark Otherworld
crept Sim-Nisa-Malahad; she was not afraid.
The Dragon Prince slumbered in his den
trusting to sorcery for his sanctuary
He was the vain one - Sim proved him wrong!

DM Note: Yes, this is bloody railroading! It's how the adventure was written... Remember this isn't a campaign; it's a published adventure out of the archives to beguile a few weeks between Alair3 and Cyberpunk!

This triggered much conversation as to the meaning of the words. All the fishermen knew of the Fang - a strange, twisted crag on a tiny rocky island four days' sail north of Vornskold. Several connected this with Mog's words of 'a dark tooth of land', and the more it was described, the more it sounded like a structure instead of a natural feature to the Melnibonéans. Adding words of the ancient saga, they realized it was possible it had been built by their own people.

Mac surprised them all by leaping to his feet. Swaying drunkenly, he bellowed; "I will have my revenge on the creators of that beast! My son, my son is dead, and they will pay. I sail for the Fang in the morning. Will you come with me?" Glancing worriedly at Sparn, Fredyr shook his head. "You're in no state," he said. "We'll go; you stay here." Mac glared at him, his eyes clearing for a moment. "Aye?" he snapped. "Can you sail a boat as well as me? We go in my boat. When we get there, you decide how we fight, but on the sea, I'm the fisherman, I'm the captain." Fredyr shook his head. "Chardros take you," he growled, "I don't take orders from humans!" Malvyr interjected more calmly. "Can we ride up the coast and meet you level with the Fang?" he asked. "We don't want to leave our horses behind," he added for explanation. Sparn nodded eagerly. "Yes," he said, "there are other villages along the coast north of here. I'll provide a map." 

The Black Kitten

Kira entrusted her kitten to Sem before the evening ended. "Care for my friend," she asked, "he doesn't like boats." 


Northern Tarkesh - click for a bigger map

Volskold/Osser, Northern Tarkesh, Sadric 89 Yoarus 17

Early the next morning, Mac-Ghyll-Dosal launched his sturdy clinker-built fishing boat, the Mai Queen, and headed off north without another word. Glad to be spared a long sea trip with the grim fisherman, the three Melnibonéans loaded the supplies gladly provided by the village into their saddlebags and rode north along the coast of Tarkesh. The road they'd taken followed the coast, and Sparn had assured them it ran through the villages of Osser, Ulsk, Marla and Voa.

Around mid-day, Malvyr's sharp eyes descried a shape out to sea. By the appearance of it, it was an upturned boat floating and abandoned. Initial fears that it might be Mac's were dispelled by the realization that it was larger, and the ragged sail floating in the water around it was a different colour to the Vornskoldan's.

As the light failed they rode into the village of Osser. As in Vornskold, the interest in the arrival of strangers outweighed any disquiet at their origins; again, Fredyr suspected that this far from the Dragon Isle, even knowledge of the appearance of Melnibonéans might well have been lost. Their welcome seemed genuine, but when the question "What news from the south?" was met with mention of the floating boat, cries of lamentation broke out as the villagers recognized the sail as that of the Gliding Eagle, Nad-Flai-Kodun's boat. 

Despite being the bearers of bad news, the villagers gladly put the travellers up for the night, but all three were glad to leave another place of mourning in the morning.

Osser/Ulsk, Northern Tarkesh, Sadric 89 Yoarus 18

The next day's travel took them to Ulsk, and as soon as they saw the village, they knew there was something different about it. Like the previous two, it had fields on the land-side, supporting crops and livestock, but these were far more extensive and bore signs of having been greatly expanded recently, always to landward. The beach, conversely, had only two boats in evidence, both drawn right up the beach and overturned. 

Conversation with the villagers of Ulsk discovered that, around six months ago, the number of losses had led them to abandon fishing altogether. Two months ago, a Chaos Beast (their words) had come out of the sea and eaten a cow, vindicating this decision. The village's priest of Pozz-Man-Llyr, the Lord of Law revered as the God of the Sea in many of the Young Kingdoms, had gone mad from the strain, believing the village to be cursed by the Gods and praying constantly to Pozz-Man-Llyr for mercy. As the villagers told their tales, the travellers at first thought that they were describing the beast that they had killed, and said so, but as time went on they realized that the creature being described was bigger. Much bigger!

Ulsk/Marla, Northern Tarkesh, Sadric 89 Yoarus 19

The third day took them to Marla, but the map was all there was to tell them what it was called. The village itself was deserted; gates open, boats up on the shore, longhouses empty. All the signs indicated that the inhabitants had simply packed up and left, and it wasn't hard to guess why. Undaunted, the three selected a comfortable longhouse to camp the night in, and set suitable traps as well as keeping watches in case of any attack. Fredyr went down to the beach and fished for a while, landing several large cod but no sign of sea-monsters, to his disappointment. Evidently, the monster or monsters had realized that Marla was no longer a source of food. 

Marla/Voa, Northern Tarkesh, Sadric 89 Yoarus 20

The Town that Went Mad

The village of Voa was slightly south of their agreed meeting point with Mac-Ghyll-Dosal (who they were beginning to think they'd never see again), and they hoped for more supplies there. However, even before reaching the place, it became plain that there would be no supplies. A thick column of dirty smoke stained the sky above the village, and as they emerged from the trees into sight of Voa, they could see that most of the buildings were burned out. Approaching, they noticed that the pier had been burned to the waterline, and lashed to one of the remaining uprights was a human body. No - half a body; from the ribs down, the corpse had been savaged by something with teeth, and most of it was missing. 

The village was a smoke-hazed ruin. Smashed boats littered the shore, while the moat was filled with blood and broken bodies. The wall was smashed in several places, and in the centre of the village the usual statue of Pozz-Man-Lyr was thrown down, a human corpse in the robes of a priest crushed beneath the shattered pieces. Everywhere, drawn in blood or charcoal, crude representations of a Thing with Teeth were scrawled on the remaining walls. 

As they looked around, Kira heard shambling footsteps, and as she turned to look, a dozen or so ragged humans stumbled out from one of the ruined longhouses. All clutched some kind of weapon, mostly improvised from domestic tools, and their empty faces and blazing eyes showed that their minds were gone. Lurching towards the three, they began to hiss with insane hate and brandish their weapons threateningly. Malvyr glanced at Fredyr. "A waste of arrows," declared the slim man, "let's be out of this place." Mounting, the three kicked their horses to a gallop, glad to leave the village of the madmen behind. 

North of  Voa, Northern Tarkesh, Sadric 89 Yoarus 20

A few miles north of the doomed village, the three drew rein and stopped. According to the map, this was where they were supposed to meet Mac, though none were confident of his survival. Never the less, about an hour later, a sail came into sight, and the Mai Queen skimmed across the waves to the beach. "How do you feel?" asked Fredyr as the fisherman pulled his boat safely up the shingle. Mac stared at him. "I'm the last of my family. How do you think I feel?" he asked bitingly. Fredyr - who had meant did he feel able to continue rather than having any concern for the fisherman's well-being - leaned close. "If you mess this up, human, I will kill you," he grated. Mac glared at him but made no response; the tension was broken by the return of Malvyr and Kira, who had taken the horses up to the grassy bank between the beach and the forest. They'd tethered the living ones to Malvyr's demon steed, which he'd instructed to look after them.  

Air Elemental

Before going aboard, Fredyr sketched out a square on the ground, and placed a bowl of water at one corner. He then sat cross-legged in the centre and adjusted his mind to bring it closer to those of the lesser elementals of the air, the sylphs. Chanting in a strange rushing, swirling tone, he incanted for some minutes until a rush of wind announced the arrival of the elemental he had summoned. Focussing his will upon it, he spoke in the ancient High Speech, requesting a service of the creature - to go with them and prepare to save them should the boat sink. 

This done, the four boarded the Mai Queen and set sail for the Fang. 

Offshore, North of  Voa, Northern Tarkesh, Sadric 89 Yoarus 20

After perhaps half an hour's sailing, the light mist that had surrounded them since leaving began to thicken at preternatural speed. Landmarks vanished, and soon the boat was alone in a quiet bubble of fog, despite the continuing light wind. A sense of foreboding settled on each and they scanned the mist constantly, fearing an attack. Yet it was not from outside that the first danger arose. Quite suddenly, each felt an outside influence touch his mind, an alien pressure that caused their darker emotions to flare and exaggerate. For Melnibonéans, accustomed to regular recreation with mood-altering drugs and sorcery, this was not as disturbing, but for a human....

Fredyr's head whipped around at the sound of a low growl, to find Mac-Ghyll-Dosal rising from the tiller, madness in his eyes and hate on his face, his hand reaching for his belt knife. Lunging forward, the sorcerer siezed the fisherman's shoulders, trying to push him back to his seat, but the burly Tarkeshite was too strong for the lightly-built Melnibonéan and Fredyr was thrown back. Turning, the others were in time to see him draw his dagger and advance on Fredyr. Malvyr hesitated, but Kira's prejudices got the better of her and she drew her greatsword. Light as a feather in her slim hands, the demonic blade tore through Mac's leather jerkin and deep into his side. The fisherman dropped to his knees, and blood ran out of his mouth as the life faded from his eyes and he collapsed forwards onto the bulwark. 

The Greater Sheal (yes, I know it's the same picture facing the other way... you have to work with what you can get!)

The three cousins stared at each other. "I only wanted to restrain - " began Fredyr but was cut off as a mighty impact shook the boat. Something huge struck it from underneath, sending them staggering. Mac's slashed corpse tumbled overboard and sank without a trace. In a great shower of spray, a monstrous creature rose from the depths, heading towards the boat at great speed. Fredyr had kept his bow strung and ready, and now he siezed it and loosed two arrows as the shape surfaced - another blubbery monstrosity, even bigger than the first, and equipped with slimy tentacles. Kira siezed her pike and stabbed as it approached, and blood flowed into the water in three places as Malvyr joined them with his own arrows. Then the thing crashed into the boat again, this time sending the elder cousin flying from his feet, fortunately into the bottom of the boat rather than overboard. As he struck, he noticed that there was rather more water in the bottom than there should be....

The greater sheal carried on under and past the boat, turning for another attack, but as it passed the two Melnibonéans still standing struck again, both pike and shaft driving into the weak point at the back of the abomination's skull. Bone splintered as the weapons punched into the monster's brain, and the sea went still as it convulsed once and sank from sight. The same fate appeared likely to overtake the cousins, however, for the boat was leaking badly now. Fredyr called on his summoned air elemental to spread itself against the inside of the hull to seal the inside of the boat and keep them afloat as Kira took the tiller for the rest of the journey to the Fang.

Session Date: 4th April 2012